THE FOODIE BUCKET LIST
Food, glorious, food - it goes so far beyond just being a means of fuel and nutrition.
It’s an anchor that brings us together to celebrate, socialise and connect. It has deep cultural ties; reflecting not only a countries history, but its beliefs, values and lifestyle too.
It can be nostalgic, helping us understand more of our family and roots; a mouthful taking us back to a moment. It can be an expression of heritage, with traditional foods, skills and techniques being passed down generation to generation to generation - a way to preserve history, through taste.
Different foods - their availability and preparation, as well as our dietary habits - vary so significantly, both between and within countries, that getting immersed in the local food scene is an educational experience in itself!
Just for fun - here’s a collection of mini essays on food adventures and famed global dishes, because my foodie hat really is my favourite to wear.
EAT: BLACK (CUTTLEFISH) RISOTTO AKA CRNI RIZOT
Pitch black, and almost a little scary looking, crni rižot is a seafood rice dish that’s as intensely flavourful as it is aromatic. It’s arguably not for the faint-hearted, possibly polarising, but ultimately an art and delicacy - it’s an absolute must-eat when venturing to Croatia.
With the base quite typical to a classic risotto recipe (exempting the addition of diced cuttlefish), the midnight black hue comes from richly dense squid/cuttlefish ink, added nearing the end of preparation (best when using fresh ink from your cephalopod of choice!).
Being seafood-derived, the dish is traditionally and commonly found in coastal Croatia, widely served across the endless restaurants dotted up and down the coastline.
Of course, no one makes it better than your family or second best being a small local restaurant. We had it cooked lovingly by relatives with freshly cooked bread to mop up all the black risotto - domaci (homestyle) is always unbeatable.
VISIT: BOROUGH MARKET
If you’re short on time during your stay in London, Borough Market tops the list as your foodie must-visit. As London’s most renowned food and beverage market, impressively dating back to at least the 12th century (but legends say more like 1012!), it’s the mother of artisan markets - a cornucopia of gourmet global goodies, homegrown-and-made food producers and high quality ingredients.
Snake through stands of fishmongers and butchers; towering loaves of breads and smelly cheeses, delectable patisseries, and colourful food stalls selling fare inspired from all four corners of the world.
It’s the perfect outing no matter whether you’re on the hunt for the latest food trend, shopping for ingredients to cook up a storm, or are just plain old hungry (make sure to get a visual on the biggest paella pan you’ll ever spy!). Top tip: it’s noisy and crowded, so come earlier in the day for shorter lines and a little breathing space, especially on the weekend.
This was a favourite spot to visit while living in London. I’d load up my belly at the market while simultaneously collecting an extravaganza of snacks - single slices of cheesecake, homemade chocolate truffles, takeaway tubs of exotic mushroom risotto - to take on the tube home for later. Find Borough market at 8 Southwark St in London.
EAT: CREAM TEA
Cream tea has nothing to do with adding cream to your cuppa, though one might suspect. It’s a sweet twist on the classic afternoon tea, consisting of a pot of freshly made tea served with scones topped with clotted cream and fruity jam - and a rightful British institution it is!
For proper cream tea you must abide to the following: the scones should be warm and ideally freshly baked, and the cream always always clotted - that being, a silky, yellow cream with a distinctive surface crust - over whipped. While sure, you can switch up the jam, strawberry is the much loved reigning champion of cream tea jams.
There are regional variations to how cream tea should be served, and if you want to start a great debate query this in England. The Devonian method involves topping the scone with clotted cream and THEN jam; while the Cornish method involves topping it with jam and THEN cream. Talk about a question to prod the bear!
My cream tea experience was kinda hilarious - I had a scone and tea (in a takeaway cup though, sadly) in the garden at Buckingham Palace after a State Rooms tour. As for the scone…Devonian method!
EAT: FISH AND CHIPS
Fish ‘n’ chips are claaassic kiwi tucker - I’ve eaten many of the newspaper-clad takeaways in my lifetime. However, despite long-standing popularity in our neck of the woods, they’re actually of British heritage. They first appeared in the UK in the 1860’s, quickly becoming a prominent takeaway, being an appealing mix of cheap, easily accessible, tasty, comforting and filling.
Preparation wise, there are a few considerations for nailing traditional fish and chips. Chips are usually cut thick. The fish batter is just a simple mix of water and flour, with a little baking soda and vinegar for lightness. Cod and haddock is most common seafood used in Britain (but expect snapper or gurnard on the menu up in the North Island of NZ!). Once freshly cooked, and piping hot, the meal is often smothered in salt and soused with vinegar - and don’t forget the side of mushy peas too!
My fish and chips experience was at Hook in Camden Town, London - a Lonely Planet guide recommendation. They work 100% with sustainable small fisheries and ethically-focused food suppliers across UK, and their menu is scratch-cooked daily on site - delicious!
Picture perfect and notoriously tricky to make, at least for me.
‘Mack-a-ROHNS’ consist of two sweet meringue-based cookies (a concoction of egg white, icing sugar, granulated sugar, ground almond, and food colouring), that deliciously sandwich either a ganache, buttercream, caramel or jam - easy enough to scoff in just a few bites.
They’re delectable, dainty, and very ‘fairy-tale’ looking; often presented in a plethora of soft pastels and every flavour under the taste bud rainbow; from classic chocolate and pistachio, to wilder variations like sesame matcha. Texture-wise, the shell is hard but totally easy to sink your teeth into, with the inner having a slight chew to it.
Travelling through Paris you’ll have zero trouble finding macarons…they’ll find you at one of the many Parisian patisseries. These pretty thangs were from the quintessential Ladurée - Champs Elysées, Paris. Très délicieux!
In the motherland of gelato, there’s no better accomplice on a dreamy Italian summer’s day than a scoop (or two, or three…) of the good stuff itself.
However, in the name of the good stuff, not all gelato is equal. Preparing it is a craft and skill, and just because one’s enjoying a scoop in Italy doesn’t mean it’s necessary authentic, or even that tasty - and boo to sub par gelato when in Rome! Some gelateria will pass off average, factory-made as the real deal; when what we’re after is gelato that’s artisan, fresh and hand-made anew each morning. When the hunt for your next icy treat always, always:
Avoid bright or fluorescent colours, and instead go for muted - a high proportion of natural ingredients means little or no added colouring. Banana’s aren’t bright yellow, so neither should be banana gelato!
Check if the fruit flavours are in season - they should be!
Keep an eye out for ingredient list on display - a clear sign of a gelateria’s commitment to quality.
Look for gelato served in flat metal tins, ideally with lids and avoid plastic tubs. Lids are a good sign as it showcases respect for the product - the gelato is being held at the perfect temperature.
This gelato was from FataMorgana in Rome - the basil flavour had real specks of basil in it!
Carbonara is total hedonism in a bite. Pasta & pecorino cheese, what’s not to love? It’s the ultimate comfort food, with a forkful enough to make me throw my head back to the foodie gods in pure sublime bliss.
Carbonara came to fruition in the middle of the 20th century, with competing theories around origin. Some vouch it’s a Roman dish, created from food rations distributed by Allied troops in WWII after the 1944 liberation of Rome - that being powdered egg and bacon. Another is name-related, in that carbonaro (the Italian word for 'charcoal burner') was first prepared as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers (with a spin-off theory being that the abundant use of coarsely black pepper resembles coal flakes!).
While carbonara recipes have great variation, there’s a basic conscience on the dishes fundamentals - pecorino romano (a hard salty cheese), eggs, cured fatty pork (typically guanciale, an Italian cured meat made from pork jowl or cheek) and black pepper. To prepare, raw eggs, cheese and pepper are mixed with hot pasta (away from direct heat to avoid curdling) to begin cooking the eggs. Earlier-fried pork is added next, and together with the egg yolks (a powerful emulsifier) they bind to create a sauce with a silky smooth texture and no separation - delizioso!
While you’ll find cream added to many carbonara’s worldwide don’t be fooled thinking this is traditional. When in Rome we made this dish with a local Italian, who basically told us “if we ever added cream to carbonara he’ll have the Italian police arrest us”. Noted.
Tiramisu is a glorious coffee-flavoured Italian dessert, with the literal meaning of ‘cheer me up’. I concur.
Traditional tiramisu is made from a concise short list of ingredients. Ladyfinger biscuits (a dry sweet sponge) are dipped into coffee, and then layered with a whipped yellowy, rich, velvety mix of eggs, sugar and mascarpone cheese, that have been flavoured with cocoa powder. Sometimes alcohol will be added, often marsala a sweet red wine. When constructing, a rectangular or square pan works well for ‘tiling’ the skinny and uniform rectangular ladyfingers, but a round dish is more traditional!
Flavour-wise expect a spoonful of tiramisu to be sweet but not overly, being balanced with just the right amount of bitterness from the cocoa and coffee. So dreamy.
We ate much tiramisu in Italy. These were from a must-visit in Rome - ZUM, who we visited twice. To. die. for. good.
EAT: MANUKA HONEY
While there are hundreds honey types in circulation globally, NZ is world-famous for one in particular - the queen (bee) of honey, and ever popular, mānuka.
Mānuka is a monofloral honey (honey made from the nectar of one plant). produced from the mānuka tree, aka Lepotospermum scoparium. This tree is indigenous to NZ and strongly intertwined into Maori traditional and natural medicine.
Mānuka has a special reputation regarding potential health benefits, particularly its antibacterial power, supported by an extensive range of scientific studies. Because of this, there’s an industry-led standard that grades a mānuka honey’s purity and quality, found on a products label - check this out as the UMF or MGO rating. As the rating on the jar increases (e.g. UMF10+ UMF 12+, UMF 15+…) so does the antibacterial power of the honey.
Looks wise, mānuka is markedly viscous, or thick; with a golden amber colour. It has a characteristic aroma, a mix of nutty, damp and earthy; and is, of course, sweet - but with a slightly bitter aftertaste. In the kitchen, spread it the classic way on toast, use in baking to sweeten and add depth of flavour; add to drinks, like a hot lemon and ginger over winter; use to balance marinades and sauces; or even just enjoy a sneaky teaspoon direct from the jar. We’ve alllll done it.
As a tourist, eating haggis is a rightful contender on any Scottish bucket-list. Like visiting Loch Ness to spy Nessie, it has to be done - at least once!
If you’re yet to encounter haggis, it’s a savoury concoction of sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs) minced together with spices, salt, oatmeal, onion, suet and stock; that has been boiled/baked/deep-fried encased in an animals stomach. Sure, it may not sound the prettiest - but I can vouch, it’s offal-y good (ba-dum-tss).
As the national dish of the country, it’s suggested to date back to the 1400’s, where its roots were possibly food-waste related. Cooking the quick-spoiling offal near the site of a hunt - by chopping it up, stuffing it in the animals stomach with whatever fillers were on hand, and then finally boiling it - ensured these parts weren’t wasted before taking the rest of the home kill back to base.
Haggis is traditionally served with ‘neeps’ and ‘tatties’ (parsnips and potatoes) that have been boiled and mashed, along with a dram (a glass of Scottish Whisky). We ate it at a traditional Scottish restaurant in ever-charming Edinburgh and loved it!