Wednesday, 31 July 2013 Italian classic, best made at home!

Image by Fiona Rigby - pesto ingredients

We love Italy at Authentic Adventures.....

We've had a wonderful year selling many, many holidays in Italy - it's an ever popular destination. Our clients never tire of the beauty of the country, our wonderful guides and tutors, and of course the food. Personally, I'm a lifelong fan of Mediterranean food in general, particularly salsa verde and pesto, made with fresh herbs (lots of them) and local additions. Pesto, now a staple food cupboard jar, was once unfamiliar and appeared in Britain around the 80's - we all know it's not the real thing, but who can be bothered to make it for themselves? Well it's worth the effort - an easy quick mix in the blender and 'hey pesto', a sauce for, not only pasta, but fish, meat and salads. A blast of Italy straight to the tastebuds. If you're lucky enough to be one of our clients joining our first Cooking Holiday to Lecce in Puglia this year, you'll undoubtedly have the chance to not only sample, but probably make a version of this pesto recipe. The magical thing with Italian cooking is that it's not just regional, every 'Mamma' has her own version - it doesn't just belong in Genoa. There are walnut ones from the North, tomato and almond ones from Sicily. There are global versions too - Thai style and Mexican, but I'm a purist - they're not for me. My flat mate in Pisa, Cristina, used to make an eye wateringly potent version using lots of tiny chilli's - pepperoncino - birds eye chilli's. I grew to love it.

Patience Gray quotes in her well known book 'Honey from a Weed', "Pounding fragrant things - particularly garlic, basil, parsley - is a tremendous antidote to depression..." All of your home-made versions of pesto will last in the fridge for a few days covered in cling film. You can pound, or you can whizz in a blender - it's up to you. But remember what Patience Gray said about the pleasure of demolishing the ingredients in a pestle and mortor - cathartic! Best way to serve: spread onto lighted toasted focaccia with a drizzle of olive oil.

Mint & Almond pesto

60g toasted almonds
4 cloves garlic
80g mint leaves
40g flat leaf parsley
3 tsp runny honey
juice of a lemon
300ml extra virgin olive oil

Put all the ingredients, except for the olive oil, in a food processor, season and blitz to a puree while adding a steady stream of oil. Check the seasoning and transfer to a bowl with a thin layer of oil over the top. Job done. Weights as above are never followed - better calculated in 'bunches' and 'handfuls' of wonderful herbs.

Calabrian pesto

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 large red pepper, halved, deseeded and diced
half a small onion, very finely chopped
50g of aubergine, diced
1 plum tomato, halved, deseeded and chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
generous pinch of dried chilli flakes
60g ricotta cheese
40g blanched almonds
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
10g basil

Heat the oil in the pan, add the pepper and onion, cook until slightly caramalised. Add the aubergine, cook for a further 10 mins. Add tomato, garlic and chilli flakes, cook and stir until soft. Scrape everything into a food processor with the ricotta, almonds, extra-virgin olive oil and some seasoning and puree. Add the basil and pulse. Check seasoning. Transfer to a bowl, cover with clingfilm and more olive oil and store in the fridge.

Buon apetito!

Our Cooking Holiday brochure will be available in mid-September - be quick to book - limited places available. You will be cooking orechiette (little ears, speciality of Puglia), sagne n'cannulate and taralli......!

Details coming soon on our website....

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Celebrating 15 years of Authentic Adventures in Andalucia - where it all began!

Happy Jo!

Happy Birthday us!

At the beginning of the year, we launched a competition to win a holiday to Andalucia to celebrate the fifteenth birthday of Authentic Adventures! As many of you already know, John started the company after a life-changing walking holiday around Southern Spain. A former career as an outward bound teacher and Steiner trained teacher, John cleverly brought together his strengths and love of travel, to bring people to special places "off the beaten track" whilst teaching them something at the same time. Thus his very specialist brand of holidays was born. Jo Carter, our resident walking guide in Grazalema, was one of his first guides and has a deep and passionate love for the Sierra de Grazalema since moving there when she was twenty one. I asked her how she came to live there, and what has kept her there all this time,
"I first visited Grazalema when I was twenty one, with my then partner who'd bought an old water-mill here. We started restoring it, and then rented it out for holiday lets, and then eventually moved out to the village in 1999, being ready for a complete lifestyle change for ourselves and our children. A healthier climate, a child-embracing culture and a quieter, simpler life all-round. 
That was when I started taking people out on walks. Guests staying in the mill wanted to know where they could walk. They were worried about trespassing, coming across a dangerous Spanish bull or merely getting lost and not having the language skills to find their way again. It was easier to show them the footpaths rather than explain them. I wanted to extend my knowledge of the Sierra and started talking to local farmers, hunters and shepherds. I talked and walked with another guide in the area and together we found more and more routes. I'd always been intereted in wild flowers but only knew the ones I'd seen in Norfolk during my childhood. Again, because people asked me, I began to look them up and identify the amazing variety of flora we have here. Likewise with birds, though I prefer flowers - they don't move so much!
Now I have a good selection of hikes that I love doing, however many times, and I suppose that the enthusiasm rubs off on the people I take out into the beautiful Sierra of Grazalema. Now I'm married to Fernando, a leather-worker, who worked for Authentic Adventures for the first time this year as a back up for the painting group."
Jo Carter, our fabulous walking guide. She guided a trip in June this year including Rachel Beard, the winner of our 15th anniversary competition. 

One of Jo's fans wrote this poem to help comrades keep up the tempo whilst walking:

"Jo's a splendid walking leader
Pretty good at naming blooms
We climbed so high
Saw eagles flying by
Watching the vultures flying high
We were always laughing
Playing silly games
Now we ache, that's just too bad - Grazalema thinks we're mad

Written by Patsy Perrin who has travelled with us TEN times!!

Our anniversary supper on the final night of the trip! Rustic and thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Always time to relax

Taking you to places you'd never find on your own....

If you love walking, join us in 2014 for an exciting programme. We've got lots of new locations to inspire you....walk with us in the gorgeous scenery of the Gers region of France, where we will stay in Frances only, privately owned medieval walled village - a real treat. We have also found a very special 17th Century mansion in North West Portugal belonging to the wonderfully charming and eccentric Conte Castellieros - from there we will explore nearby Ponte de Lima and the unknown landscapes of the region. Puglia is a brand new location for us next year, and it's seaside location will provide a new perspective for walking - enjoy fantastic food and wine and routes through villages of tradition stone trulli. How about a flower walk in Bulgaria? It is a Grade 4 walk for more adventurous walkers. For more details on any of the above, please call our office and speak to Linda, Judith or Di - they will be more than happy to chat to you!

We are in the process of designing our 2014 brochures, which will hit your doormats in the Autumn. To pre-order yours, log on to our website.