After our sojourn in Greece we headed northwest to Italy, specifically Brindisi which is on the Adriatic coast. There is not much to see there, but about 40 minutes away is Ostuni, nick named the White City. This is not to be missed, as they say, however, we did skip it, because previously on a bike trip to Puglia we spent an afternoon there. So on this trip we chose Lecce for a cooking class visit. Lecce was also about 40 minutes from the port.
I was looking for a tour guide in Lecce when I found that there were cooking classes offered in private homes. So I booked one, not knowing what to expect. Our driver/guide, Andrea, arrived at the port in a nice car, and as it turned out he was the husband of the cook, Angela. His English was excellent, although I threw in a little Italian. I always like to practice, even if sometimes I get way off the track, and say something totally opposite to what I plan.
We were supposed to have visited a market with Andrea, but that day it was closed. If you have ever travelled in Europe it is fun to visit the local markets, but impossible to know when they are open as every little town has different days. Thanks to Google it is slightly easier to find these details. However, in this instance, we stopped at a small farm and picked up produce that had been ordered earlier by Angela. We also walked around, tasted prickly pear and fresh delicious figs, and noted the cars stopped on the highway outside the road to the farm, with people purchasing produce. Must be good.
roadside market fare
Angela and Andrea’s house turned out to be charming, even beautiful, and I believe also used as a B&B. Andrea ran bespoke bike tours as well as acting as a guide from time to time for the famed Butterfield and Robinson bike tour company out of Toronto. Charles and I had taken many trips with that group, even one on our honeymoon. So there was a lot to chat about en route.
Angela welcomed us warmly, and we immediately hit the kitchen to learn what was on the menu for the lunch that we would be cooking. A little Rosé wine was offered along with some cheese. The plan was to make stuffed eggplant and two kinds of pasta. We started with tiny about (5 inches long) eggplants and cut them in half, width wise. We then scooped them out and saved the insides for the filling. We sautéed a mixture of ground veal and pork in a frying pan with olive oil, parsley, chopped olives, garlic, smoked cheese, oregano, some breadcrumbs and red wine. We fried the empty egg plant boats in hot oil then set them aside while we made the above filling which we mixed with the cut up eggplant from the insides, and then stuffed the little boats. The oven pre-heated to 350F was ready for baking. We covered our servings with tomato sauce and some grated cheese. They cooked for about 15 minutes and then left for about 20. My mouth is watering as I write this. The leftover meat and eggplant mixture that didn’t fit into the boats, we made into small meatballs for nibbling before lunch. No wasting goodies.
charming house in Lecce
Then we made two kinds of pasta using semolina flour, and barley flour for the orchiette or ears, and just the semolina for the sombreroni or sombreros. I was much better at making the sombreros and Charles nailed the ears. We mixed equal amounts of the flours with the same amount of warm water and a pinch of salt. We worked the dough and left it to rest for about 30 minutes and then formed first the ears with a knife, kind of rolling it off the edge. I just couldn’t get this, but the sombreros I loved making. Again we worked the flour mixture until smooth only using semolina and then rolled it out, cut it into crescents, took that and made a cone shape and stuck this in the neck of an empty beer bottle. And lo and behold you had your little hats.
happy cook, Angela
After all rested on a pasta screen for about 10 minutes, we then cooked the pasta in boiling salted water until it floated to the top and was ready. We covered this in tomato sauce, but one could use any sauce of choice. We used some tomatoes that had been from Angela’s garden, stored last year from fresh cherry tomatoes, with basil, mint, onions, garlic, chili peppers and fresh oregano mixed all together, and then put in sterilized bottles. She opened these for us and cooked the sauce in a pan and then poured it over the pasta.
eggplant boats in deep frying pot
Charles and his ears or orchiette
pasta drying, Capocollo slicing, tomatoes on display
We also sampled Capocollo that Andrea had sliced very thinly on his electric slicer and served with fresh figs as we sat outside on their airy porch. We sipped red wine and ate the pastas and then the scrumptious eggplant. We were too full for desert, but very content. We had made new friends as the conversation ranged over many topics way beyond food, and learned that Angela’s grandmother was 106, her secret; she had smoked every day and had whiskey every morning. Hmm.We enjoyed the warm weather and the satisfaction of cooking a delicious meal and savouring it. Andrea then took us back to the ship. It was definitely nap time, and that evening I planned to wear that Greek dress bought in Monemvasia, to see if it really was a bargain. See: https://suddenly70.ca/2018/10/16/wonderful-cruise-to-greece-croatia-and-a-little-bit-of-italy-2/ We had a light supper, then went out on deck for some entertainment by our cruise director, Chelsea, and her assistant Anna.
very happy cooks and diners
If you are interested in any adventures with Angela or Andrea in Lecce or thereabouts, you can contact them directly at http://www.experience-path.com. I think it would be very worthwhile and fun too.
The next day we were headed to Croatia, specifically to Dubrovnik. Once again I used trip advisor to find a private guide and we were delighted with the results. The company is called Private Guides in Croatia, and all involved were super. We started with a yummy breakfast outdoors and looked at the gorgeous view, much like what is in the picture at the top of this blog. I discovered corned beef hash on the hot buffet and although I have to watch my salt, I couldn’t resist and had two soft poached eggs on top. It was a marvellous treat.
the tender and gorgeous Croatia
We took a tender into the busy Dubrovnik port in the Adriatic Sea, and it was easy to see our guide, Ivana, who was over 6 feet tall, with long blonde hair and a bright pink striped sundress. She was charming and knew her history well. We stopped at a map that was on the wall near the port and she tried to explain the complicated story of Croatia. I wouldn’t want to have an exam on the details. There have been so many wars and governments that it boggles the mind. It was once Yugoslavia, then fought over by the Serbs and Montenegrins, and well best to go to the link. Currently, although Croatia is part of the European Union, they do not use the Euro. This has proved to be somewhat difficult for tourists and the Croatian economy, but judging by the masses surrounding us it didn’t seem to be a problem as credit cards rule.
with Ivana and the many views of Dubrovnik
even Charles looked up to Ivana
We walked around and viewed all the pertinent sites including the famous, because of Game of Thrones, steps that I understand was called the walk of shame. I never got into the series but obviously thousands come to Dubrovnik to see where it was filmed, or at least many parts of the series were filmed. We passed by a small door with a sign that indicated it was a synagogue. It was locked, as are most synagogues in Europe. We could have found someone to open it, but it looked quite simple and plain, perhaps just a small room, as apparently there are only a few practising Jews in Dubrovnik.We did go in an adjacent store and purchased a charming card with the Jewish New Year in mind, to keep for my sister. The town with its cathedral, back streets and picturesque corners is quite beautiful though,and there is a wall around it. We decided to save that for later in the afternoon when the crowds thinned out.
We then walked up a hill onto a busy street and waited for the second half of our tour. Ivo, the driving tour guide, arrived and we headed off to a small town by the sea, called Cavtat. There were lots of cafes with outdoor patios and I was dying for a coke. I never drink coke, but I was hot and for some reason it appealed. We sat with Ivo and learned more about the country and wandered with our ice cream cones in the charming small town, and gazed at the massive private yachts with helipads. We returned to Dubrovnik after an hour or so, said goodbye to Ivo, and started our walk around the famous ancient defensive Walls of Dubrovnik with views everywhere; big walk with lots of water to drink, and fortunately not too many people, and not as hot as earlier in the day. And it was worth it as the views were incredible with the sparking blue of the Adriatic as the backdrop. The exercise was good too.
views from the wall in Dubrovnik
many more Croatian views from Dubrovnik
not open though
and more of Dubrovnik
Back on board, we had a delicious dinner and some music in the bar, readying ourselves for our last day aboard. My Greek dress looked great with big peasant earrings.
The ship is small enough to dock in the centre of the town in Zadar, a very pretty, quiet place. We walked around and marvelled at people lying on concrete and tanning themselves by the sea, and occasionally walking on the sea organ that plays music by way of sea waves and tubes located underneath a set of marble steps. This is not easy to describe, but it is a haunting sound. Check out the link.
ice cream waiting for us in Cavtat
seaside at Cavtat
The sun shone brilliantly all day, and there was a deck farewell from the officers, with music, lots of yummy appetizers, like sashimi and beef tenderloin, champagne flowing, and a nice joyful feeling as we all wandered on the pool deck.
We had a delicious dinner, thank goodness for my morning swims and all the walking in the towns, with a double portion of caviar and some veal with an excellent red wine, I would soon be ballooning. Then we went to a comedy show and an announcement from the captain that it was well worth our while to rise very early to see the lights in Venice on our arrival there. I think we got up at 5:00 or even earlier, I put on my robe and we went to the Observation deck where they had opera playing with great tenor voices ringing in the sea air, so apropos for the occasion on an Italian arrival. The lights on the water in the dawn where we could see all the famous Venice landmarks as we sailed into port, were truly magical.
dawn arriving in Venice with us
We were escorted to the airport later that morning, and met there by a Seabourn rep. Normally we stay a few days after a trip and head off on our own, so we were very impressed with our treatment by the cruise line delivering us to our plane expeditiously. In fact we like this line so much that we have booked another trip for next July. We used to book a cruise every two or three years, but as Charles says in this chapter we need to travel as much as we can. Who am I to argue?
Speaking of travelling, I am writing this after we have loaded the car, and the glider sits ready to roll in the driveway for our trip, or rather our migration to Florida. I have written about this at length. See:
https://suddenly70.ca/2016/11/14/the-great-migration/. This time Oscar, our dog, is staying glued to us in case we forget him. In fact as we were packing up the SUV, he jumped into the front seat and watched Charles like a hawk. At any rate, O’ dark hours in the morning will come soon enough, and we will depart.
Oscar and suitcases ready to depart for Florida
I will probably post this after we arrive. We have arrived!