Tuesday, 13 November 2012

All around the world in the docklands of London

 I am just back from The World Travel Market - the largest event you can imagine. It takes place in the Excel building in London’s Docklands and every region of every country is represented.  It’s like walking through a sophisticated souk where everyone has something with which to tempt one – sweets, dates, drinks with magical properties, cds of music, pens, hats, sunglasses not to mention the piles of brochures.
The purpose of the World travel exhibition is for tourist boards and suppliers of all aspects of holidays to display their wares to operators like us.
It’s very exciting and of course I can come back dying to show everyone dozens of new places – they all sound so amazing and the suppliers are always so surprised to hear about our activities.
As ever I am excited about far too many destinations to introduce them all in 2014 – they need editing but here’s a sneak preview of what got me excited.

Looks great – attractive villages, coast and monasteries in mountain landscapes.  Flights to Dubrovnik.

Avignon is a region I know from my old cycling days. It’s rich in its art history in addition to being very beautiful – it’s never cheap!

The southern coast looks good for walking and painting with vineyards and nice towns – flights to Venice.

La Gomera
A great winter destination – I was always put off by the need for a boat to the island and the possibility of this being cancelled!  I am now reassured this never happens. Great walking and painting landscapes away from the crowds.

Sri Lanka
This is Linda’s favourite and my wife can’t wait for the chance to get there.  Great historical buildings, temples, train journeys, rural villages and crafts, wildlife parks and a chance to see whales. Another winter destination.

Good quality accommodation away from the beaches and very friendly agents and tourist board. Food should be good and there are lots of flights there.
Istria -the North West corner– near Italy – looks good for painters and walkers but not a big selection of flights. Dubrovnik region is good for flights and the islands are accessible for day trips or for a few nights.
So there’s what’s got us excited for 2004 – there’s obviously too many ideas to introduce them all in 2014 so do please let us know your thoughts and in particular which of the places would excite you.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Beef Tagine...

Beef Tagine


• 600g stewing beef
• Olive oil
• 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
• A small bunch of fresh coriander
• 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
• 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
• 800ml vegetable stock, preferably organic
• 1 small squash (approx. 800g), deseeded and cut into 5cm chunks
• 100g prunes, stoned and roughly torn
• 2 tablespoons flaked almonds, toasted

For the spice rub

• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 level tablespoon *ras el hanout spice mix
• 1 level tablespoon ground cumin
• 1 level tablespoon ground ginger
• 1 level tablespoon ground cinnamon
• 1 level tablespoon sweet paprika

*Ras el hanout (Arabic for "top of the shop") is a blend of the best spices a vendor has in his shop. The mixture varies depending on who is selling it, but can be a combination of anywhere from 10 to 100 spices. It usually includes nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, aniseed, turmeric, cayenne, peppercorns, dried galangal, ginger, cloves, cardamom, chilli, allspice and orris root.


I like to think of a tagine as a sort of stew with attitude. It’s really all about the spices and the slow cooking, giving all the wonderful flavours time to develop. What’s great is that you don’t need an authentic Moroccan tagine in order to recreate this beautiful food – a saucepan will still give you great results. Having been to Marrakesh and learnt all the principles, I now feel I'll be able to rustle up an endless variety of tagines at home. Give this one a try and you’ll see what I mean.

Mix all the spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Put the beef into a large bowl, massage it with the spice rub, then cover with cling film and put into the fridge for a couple of hours – ideally overnight - that way the spices really penetrate and flavour the meat.

When you’re ready to cook, heat a generous lug of olive oil in a tagine or casserole– type pan and fry the meat over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add your chopped onion and coriander stalks and fry for another 5 minutes. Tip in the chickpeas and tomatoes, then pour in 400ml of stock and stir. Bring to the boil, then put the lid on the pan or cover with foil and reduce to a simmer for 1½hours.

At this point, add your squash, the prunes and the rest of the stock. Give everything a gentle stir, then pop the lid back on the pan and continue cooking for another 1½ hours. Keep an eye on it and add a splash of water if it looks too dry.

Once the time is up, take the lid off and check the consistency. If it seems a bit too runny, simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, more with the lid off. The beef should be really tender and flaking apart now, so have a taste and season with a pinch or two of salt. Scatter the coriander leaves over the tagine along with the toasted almonds, then take it straight to the table with a big bowl of lightly seasoned couscous and dive in.

Why not enjoy some of the delicious local cuisine for yourself on one of our holidays to Taroudant or The High Atlas in Morocco in 2013.

Source: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/beef-recipes/beef-tagine

Thursday, 1 November 2012

John's recent trip to Turkey - his thoughts

Distant Goreme and the entrance to the Valley of the Pigeons
 I have just returned from a wonderful 9 days in Turkey with my son Arran. While there I was preparing a new holiday for 2014 and he was practicing his photography, doing homework and playing on his Ipad – actually in the reverse order.

Anyway the good news is that we have met a great local guide with wonderful knowledge and fluent English. Together we explored Cappadocia, the south west coast and Istanbul. Cappadocia and Istanbul were wonderful – the coast was a horrible pile of concrete – or at least that’s my view!

We started by flying to Kayseri and after arriving at midnight awoke to a dawn display of 50 balloons drifting over the strange landscape around Goreme. Over the next few days we went in and out of dozens of hotels, walked peaceful paths through the eroded landscape of fairy chimneys and cave dwellings and took a lot of photographs. The good news is that we found a lovely village, away from the over-developed Goreme, to act as our base with a choice of three good hotels. The village is called Uchisar and it is famous for the hundreds of thousands of pigeons that were kept in the caves and whose guano was used to fertilise the fabulous Cappadocian wine. There are lovely walks up pigeon valley and images everywhere for the painter or photographer.  
Original frescoes in cave church - an inspiration
After a 12 hour transfer, passing though very varied landscapes including an apple growing area that made Gloucestershire’s orchards seem miniscule, we reached the hotel selected for us in Fethiye. Sadly it was raining which did not help but the place was a bit too Spartan. Visiting the coast the next morning showed me that we had landed in an area that has basically been built in the last 20 years. There may be burial chambers in the cliffs from millennia ago but there is no old village. I suppose the occasional earthquake has taken its toll but I suspect developers did their worst. Later that morning I ran away, choosing to spend the remainder of my time learning about Istanbul.

The one thing I did discover is that the boats known as Gulets are huge and a hundred times more comfortable than the old sailing boat I used to have. They can of course sail away from the concrete and there appear to be many pretty bays in which to anchor and swim. As the waters are protected there is no rolling and the en-suite bedrooms are really quite large. I wonder how many guests might enjoy them as a base for singing, painting, walking or photography. If it appeals to you do please let us know.

Then it was time for an internal flight to Istanbul – Turkish airlines are great.

Istanbul was a treat – masses of intense action if wanted (great images for photographers) but calmer quieter areas for others – Mosques, courtyards, gardens, seaside, bazaars both big and small, boat trips on the Bosphorus, sweet shops and hundreds of fishermen.

As ever days were spent in and out of hotels looking at the pros and cons but there was still time to discover the Blue Mosque, explore the Grand Bazaar, and eat great food in magical locations. The Galleta bridge is a wonderful location for a restaurant and as it is two stories high the road users and fishermen are on the top and the restaurant goers on the bottom. This means that as you sit at your table the weights of the fishing lines swung from above come surprisingly close to your table – it was all I could do to stop my son giving the lines a quick tug! 

In love on the Galetta bridge
While we there it was the festival of Ede which made things busier than usual. One wonderfully visual image (though ultimately a sad one) was of the makeshift shooting galleries on the rocks by the sea. These are made by placing bottles, beer cans and strings of balloons on the rocks by the water and then selling 4 shots with an air rifle for one Turkish Lira. The balloons constantly need replenishing – a job one by young boys. The image of the children amidst the balloons is initially wonderfully colourful but there is a sad poignancy about young boys working in setting where the balloons do not represent happiness and the bottles of Coke are all broken.

Children replacing the balloons in shooting gallery on the Bosphorus
The sea plays a huge part in the images and history of Istanbul and you can never forget its significance as there are so many ships constantly passing through the Bosphorus from the Mediterranean to the Black sea (or the other way). It’s great to hear the horns sounding and to see the constant movement of ferries back and forth across the water.  
Ships waiting to pass through the Bosphorus

After 5 days it was time to celebrate the success of our mission and the completion of Arran’s homework – so luckily we found that Galatasaray (Istanbul’s equivalent of Manchester United) were playing at home and we joined them in their 75,000-seater stadium. 
John's son Arran - a new supporter of Galatasaray

Fortunately they won 3-0 so it was all smiles on the trams back home and then next day, with smooth flights, we were walking our dog in rural Gloucestershire – what a rapid change!

Let us know if you would like to be updated on plans for Turkey. info@authenticadventures.co.uk