Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Buon Anniversario 22 Anni

This week Domenico and I reached our 22nd wedding aniversary.We have known each other since I was 16 years old, 26 years later and with 3 children thrown in along the way, I'm still crazy about him!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Linguine Con Vongole

This is one of my favourite pasta dishes, light, quick to make and slightly picante.

You will need:
Vongole (Clams) make sure they are very fresh
1 Onion
1 Garlic Clove
Fresh Parsley
A few salted anchovies

1. Cover the Vongole in salt water ( a good handful of salt) and leave for a few hours, if the vongole are still alive they will open up and spit out any sand still in the shells.
2. Sauté finally diced onion with the garlic, pepperoncini and anchovies.
3. The anchovies should melt to add to the seafood flavour.
4. Cook the pasta
5.Drain and rinse the vongole and add to the simmering onion mix. Add a dash of white wine, chopped cherry tomatoes, salt, cracked pepper and a little water then cover, leave until the shells have opened.
6.Drain the pasta well and add to vongole sauce, I usually make this dish in the Wok so I have the depth to toss everything together.
7.Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Austria- Christmas Holiday 2

Before returning to Italy we decided to stop a few days in Austria, as soon as we reached the border into Austria the skies cleared as if on cue and before us we could see the Alps where we were heading. We decided to go to the Gastein Valley near Salzburg as it wasn't too far from our route back to Italy and luckily had a substantial covering of snow considering the rest of Europe was still waiting. We hadn't booked any accomodation though did leave an email with the information centre for any vacancies to be texted to us. Luckily we found one of two self contained apartments (Hausebengut) in an Austrian families house on the mountainside at Bad Hofgastein.

View up the valley from our terrace

Domenico, Liana, DJ & I
It was just perfect and had everything we needed and at 45euro a night for four of us it was a real bargain. The Wallner family were extremely hospitable greeting us with a glass of Schnapps and then bringing us some homemade christmas cookies.
The next day we headed to the ski resort for a day of skiing and snowboarding. The conditions were perfect, DJ took off with his snow board and we didn't see him for the rest of the day, whilst Liana, Domenico and I tried to stay together. It didn't take long to get the hang of it again, though Domenico had a bad fall at one stage and lost his confidence so spent the rest of the time cautiously snow ploughing down the pistes.
After yet more sausages (yes we are all sausaged out now!) and a couple of mugs of hot mulled wine we were on our way again, our skiing suddenly improved with some alcohol in our systems! and we had a fabulous time meandering through the forest on a 7km run. I was exhausted by the end and my legs were like jelly, though it was a great feeling.
The following day we spent around the town of Bad Hofgastein and Bad Gastein which are part of a thermal area full of health spas and underground caves reknowed for there therapeutic qualities.
We really loved this area in Austria and will certainly return one day for a longer stay.
Bad Hofgastein

Though a bit of advise to any one travelling with their car, make sure you buy the road tax sticker for the autostrada and expressway 7 euro. After travelling through the rest of Europe ( apart from Czech Republic) we didn't realise it was necessary and got a whopping 120 euro on the spot fine when crossing the border back into Italy. No amount of pleading helped and they said they would take our car if it wasn't paid!

Prague- Our Christmas Holiday 1

After a really early morning flight from Ciampino we eventually arrived at Stansted. Looking down from the plane the countryside was covered in a blanket of frost, I haven't experienced this since I left England, it was lovely and crisp and brought back lots of child hood memories.
After picking up our car we checked into the hotel at Docklands then made a quick dash to the underground to the centre of London to make the most of the the rest of the day. By the time we had wandered the streets, checking out the shops, we were ready for dinner. We stumbled across a fabulous communal Thai restaurant 'Busaba Eat Thai' in Piccadilly and indulged in a fantastic feast, it had been 2 years since our last decent Thai meal (apart from my attempts at home).
The following day we rose bright and early to start our trip to Prague. We took the ferry from Dover to Calais ( a word of advise.. you save alot of money by booking prior or buying the ticket from the agency advertising cheap tickets before you reach the terminal) and then drove through France,Belgium, Netherlands and Germany, reaching Prague 12 hours later.
Prague-Mala Strana from Charles Bridge
My first impression of Prague was that it felt really eerie, as a low cloud hovered over the city the whole time we were there, preventing the sun from shining through and the air was very still and bitterly cold.
With our thermal underwear on and 'Time Out' in hand we went to explore the city. The old quarter of Prague (Stare Mesto) was really delightful, the quaint little streets were full of christmas lights and decorations and several Christmas markets were scattered throughout the old squares.There was plenty of activity and alot of tourists around browsing through the little shops full of crystal ornaments, Czech dolls and plenty of woolly hats. Others were keeping warm huddled around the wood fires which were roasting hams on the spit, drinking beer or Gluwein (hot mulled wine).
Christmas Hams

Castle Grounds and the Old Market Square

We followed the route which took us over the Charles Bridge and across to Mala Strana, the area between the river and Prague Castle, then proceeded to the castle grounds. Unfortunately we were too late to look through the castle.
Mala Strana area

Prague Castle

Statue St John of Nepomuk, photo taken 1st crossing the bridge then again on our return

To keep warm we spent alot of time in and out of shops and pubs, the feeling was blissful as we entered from the cold that had penetrated through to our bones into the warmth. We also ate a great deal of Czech sausages, and drank alot of Pilsner beer and Gluwein which I became addicted too and brought several bottles home with me. Though it doesn't quite have the same effect drinking it in a warm house.
The Czechs are a very quiet bunch preferring to keep themselves to themselves, though were more than willing to help with advice as most of them have a good knowledge of English.
We were in Prague for 5 nights and it was plenty of time to take in and explore the city.