Each week we run a section in the Guardian newspaper's travel section, asking for readers to send in tips on a particular subject. The best tip wins a digital camera courtesy of Jessops. Find out more here
________________________________________________________________Cooking the rural way in southern Italy
Posted by EmmaJamieson
Halfway through our trip round the lower Cilento region, two hours south of Naples, we were invited to lunch at the Nido della Luna guesthouse and working farm, home of farmer Rafaello, at the foot of towering, rugged Mount Bulgheria and over-looked by the ghostly medieval hill village of San Severino.
We pulled up in the driveway of a large farmhouse complete with vegetable patch, stables, and billy goats bleating in a field. In the open porch under a brilliant sun, a smiling old lady in apron and slippers stood, in front of an open brassier with a cooking pot hanging over a roaring wood fire. This was Rafaello's mother, and as a means of sharing some traditional recipes of the region with us she'd lit the fire in the outdoor kitchen and laid a large oak table with traditional cooking utensils for us to play with. This is how I'd really like to cook everyday!
On a large wooden platter were heaps of sliced local aubergines and a pot filled with stuffing mix. We were to make Melanzane M'buttanate, a simple peasant dish packed with the rich flavours of creamy home made ricotta cheese, fresh eggs and fresh parsley.
She guided us through the cooking process, all the while bringing bits and bobs to the table for us to sample as we fried the aubergines: local bitter strawberries jam, honey from their backyard, still warm mozzarellas from the neighbour and a basket of mushrooms and wild greens picked in the surrounding hills with which to make a soup.
We ate with the family, two silent, but softly smiling old goat farmer in flat caps and checked shirts - Grandpa and Great Uncle, Rafaello and his wife, and the parents, who refilled my wine glass with their own-grown thick, nectary red so often I barely remember arriving at pudding! Had we stayed longer, we would have been taught to make ricotta, helped with fruit picking and no doubt cooked up some more delicious Cilento peasant dishes.
In payment for this feast, we were asked only to recommend their beautiful farmhouse b&b to others, so here's the mention. I can't recommend their hospitality and the delightful setting in Italy's most prized secret region enough!
Il Nido della Luna
Via Stazione, 24
Cilento - Salerno (CA)
Tel: (+ 39) 0974/934093-(+39) 347/6540872
You can get a train to Centola from Salerno, or Naples. Driving, take the A3 motorway Salerno - Reggio Calabria, taking the Battipaglia exit, SS. 18 in the direction "Costiera CIlentana".
The nearest beach is the exquisite Palinuro.
________________________________________________________________Thailand and Vietnam
Posted by slismore
Why limit yourself to a cookery course in one country? With budget
airlines now operating in most countries it’s easy to do a cookery
course in two separate countries over the course of a week. I spent
the first part of the week in Chang Mai, Thailand learning about Thai
spices, visiting local markets and cooking delicious curries and
stir-fried noodles with Chef Sompon Nabnian at the Chaing Mai Cookery
School. Make green curry, Pad Thai, Tom Yum soup and your own curry
paste! Afterwards I received a beautiful cookbook with some recipes I
hadn’t even made. From there I took an easy flight to Bangkok and then
to Saigon, where I spent a day at the Saigon Culinary Arts Centre. The
setting is beautiful and students are encouraged to use traditional
methods and taught about rice flour, the Vietnamese culture of cooking
as well as cooking five dishes. Make spring rolls, pork in clay pot,
cloud-egg soup and tofu. Afterwards all students sit together and eat,
which is a nice touch. Worth it just for the 60+ year-old
owner/translator of the course who bosses the poor chef around while
flirting with all the students! All students receive chopsticks and a
cookbook of recipes made.
________________________________________________________________Mokoia Island - Kinaki Wild Herbs Tours
Posted by bryow22
Charles Royal runs these tours and he enthusiastically showed us the numerous wild plants that are edible on the island. He explained that the Kawakawa tree, Maori Bush Basil or Maori Pepper have many uses and gave us little sachets of the crushed, prepared leaves he said we could use to spice up many dishes. Charles told us there are seven edible varieties of ferns and pointed out the Hen and Chickens fern, which is surprisingly soft and sweet to the taste.
When we'd done exploring and sampling, he took us back down to Hinemoa's pool, where we sat dabbling our feet in the warmth as he produced on a camping stove, like a magician bringing a rabbit out of a hat, a selection of quick-cook courses, made with some of the herbs and ferns he'd just shown us.
It's an amazing experience of a Maori tradition and way of existing with the land that is truly wonderful.
Charles Royal, Kinaki NZ, PO Box 1030, Rotorua, Aotearoa, New Zealand. 0064 7 345 3122, www.maorifood.com
________________________________________________________________The Three Elephant Cookery School
Posted by chaosclaire
Thai cookery - been there done that? Why not try Lao? Different enough from Thai to feel like a real adventure.
Great Lao guys teaching you to cook Lao food! $25 for the day, go to the market in the morning, cook all day then eat what you've prepared (washed down with a Beer - Lao of course!)
I thought it was one of the best value things we did in Laos. We cooked chicken laap (salad), coconut curry and jeow (chilli jam-paste-type thing) which required 50 chillis for a 2-person serving!
And can absolutely agree with the tip about the Tamarind Cafe. We ate the 'beer snacks' there and came back for more pretty quickly! Carolyn was fantastic and really helped with finding a cookery course. They do pretty advanced stuff at their school (and we are amateurs!) so she recommended Three Elephants.
It's advertised all over the place - you can't miss it. If you do, enquire in the Three Elephants Cafe or Tamarind cafe. Have some beer snacks while you're there!