Ham off the leg!

How often do you have a chance to see this in Tokyo?

A rare sight in Tokyo!

A rare sight in Tokyo!

I’d certainly never before! Raw ham can be very expensive in Japan, and so when you see it, it’s rarely an entire leg! One of our newest hosts, Fernando, managed to get a hold of this beauty for his first Tadaku session in Tokyo recently, which also proved to be a big success. Fernando is from Albacete in Spain, and has been teaching Japanese people how to cook Spanish food in Tokyo for the past 3 years.

Fernando-_0008_Layer 3a

Knives from Fernando’s hometown

I was lucky enough to get a spot in Fernando’s class before it filled up, and I was quick to notice his passion for food and cooking! Fernando had clearly taught before, ensuring all of his guests had some way to help out at all times. He also holds great knowledge about Spanish food, culture and history, and so was a great person to learn from.

Helping chop potatoes

Helping chop the potatoes for the omelette.

We learnt that there are many things to keep in mind while slicing ham from the leg – the direction you should slice, the thickness of the slices, the best way to eat, and perhaps most importantly, to keep your spare hand out of the way!

There are many things to keep in mind when slicing raw ham.

There are many things to keep in mind when slicing raw ham.

Fernando also taught us a lot about the different types of ham in Spain.

Fernando loves ham!

Fernando loves ham!

We also learnt how to make Spanish omelettes. All of the guests were surprised at how it could taste so great with so few ingredients – just egg, potato, onion and salt!

Spanish omelette

Spanish omelette

All of the guests had a wonderful time despite the snow storm, and some were very happy to practice their Spanish with our enthusiastic host.

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

Fernando’s session is available to book anytime in Tokyo.

Romanian Ruxy

I can’t say I was that familiar with Romanian cuisine a week ago, nor do I think many of those residing in Japan are, which is why we took up the opportunity to organise a special cooking session with one of our newest hosts, Ruxandra, on her trip to Tokyo last week.

Ruxandra is an entrepreneur living and working on her own “interactive business planning” startup in the Romanian capital of Bucharest. She and her Italian partner Manu joined forces to teach some of the more common traditional Romanian dishes to 7 local guests.

Ruxandra grilling the eggplant.

Ruxandra grilling the eggplant.

Ruxandra started by introducing herself and explaining a little about her cuisine before entering the kitchen. While she’d never taught cooking before, everyone found learning about a new cuisine fascinating, particularly one they knew very little about!

Everyone got involved!

Everyone got involved!

The first dish we learnt to make was called sarmale, which is minced meat, rice and parsley wrapped in pickled cabbage leaves. Originally found in the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire, sarmale is now considered Romania’s national dish.

The sarmale complete and ready to eat!

The sarmale complete and ready to eat!

Next on the menu was mamaliga, which is a yellow maize flour porridge, similar to Italian polenta, and often served together with sour cream and goat’s cheese. The dish often accompanies sarmale.

The mamaliga!

The mamaliga!

Finally, we made the appetizer of eggplant salad, which is made of grilled, peeled and finely chopped eggplant, onions and mayonnaise, and served on bread, often with sliced tomato.

The eggplant salad on bread with tomato slices

The eggplant salad on bread with tomato slices

Romanian food is known to take a particularly long time to prepare, but with Ruxandra’s pre-preparation of a couple of items, we spent about two hours cooking together, before sitting down and enjoying the lovely meal together. The hard work was well worth the efforts!

Time to dine!

Time to dine!

It was wonderful to have Ruxy in town, and we will gladly welcome her back next time! Ruxandra’s menu is available for guests in Bucharest anytime, so book a session on your next trip!

Icelandic cuisine

Iceland had been at the top of my ‘places to visit’ list for a while, until I made the spontaneous decision to go with a friend last September.

The Blue Lagoon

The famous “Blue Lagoon” geothermal spa.

The plan was to spend 2 weekends in the capital, Reykjavik, with the days in between travelling the country by car. As expected, the scenery was breathtaking, like another planet; within minutes in the car, the landscapes would change from green rolling hills with sheep and cattle, to endless black sand beaches, to fields of boiling mud pits, to dramatic glaciers, to rocky lunar plains.

Hverir

The boiling mud pits of Hverir.

The goal of the trip was to experience as much of this spectacular scenery as we could, and it turned out to be one of the highlights of my time in Europe.

One thing we didn’t expect, however, was much from the cuisine – it certainly wasn’t a reason for our visit.

It turns out we were pleasantly surprised. Icelandic cuisine is very simple in many ways, but almost every meal we had was really enjoyable.

Seafood makes up a large part of the diet in Iceland, like in other parts of the Nordic region, with fresh fish being eaten all year round. The most common seafood eaten is salmon, herring, haddock and shrimp.

Icelandic Salmon

A simple Icelandic salmon dish with roasted potatoes, onions, red peppers, tartar sauce and lemon.

Iceland is also very famous for its lamb, and we found most of the lamb dishes to be a real treat.

Icelandic Lamb

This grilled marinated lamb dish with garlic, herbs and spices was particularly memorable!

The most common vegetables in the Icelandic diet are potatoes, cabbage and turnip. Most often the vegetables are boiled in a simple fashion and served with a main of seafood or meat.

We also came across a couple of other interesting treats we hadn’t seen elsewhere, such as black lava salt – sea salt that has been mixed with activated charcoal, which is known for its detoxifying effects and aid with digestion. While at first we felt it was a little gimmicky, it did have a distinct taste, and a pretty unique appearance!

Black Lava Salt

Black lava salt is seen across Iceland.

Icelandic cuisine is very simple, with most dishes focusing on very natural flavours, but I think it’s fair to say this should be one more reason for your visit to Iceland.