Shipscook’s Italian Job – Out and About in Sorrento

So after being woken by the fog cannon that went off every half hour to celebrate St Anne’s name day, we got taken on a free walk around Sorrento by the Thomson rep.  Actually it was more of a wander around their preferred retailers, but there were free drinks involved, so off we went. Taking our lives in our hands we crossed the Via del Capo outside the hotel, to the side of the road that actually had some pavement and carried on downhill, until we arrived in Sorrento’s main street, the Corso Italia. The Corso is where you will find all the flash shops are, along with loads of ice cream parlours, restaurants and even a peaceful lemon grove.

Corso Italia

It’s also where the locals go arrayed in all their pomp to passeggiata after dinner, when the Corso is pedestrianised.

Fantastic Brand ID for National Police - Corso Italia

After a brief snifter at O Parrucchiano – the birthplace of cannelloni (more on that later) we were led towards the city walls.

Originally built by the Greeks who settled in this part of Italy during the seventh century BC, then rebuilt by the Romans, the present walls were engineered by the Spanish, to keep Saracen pirates out, during Spain’s rule of Naples in the 16th Century.  Taking the brief walk along the top of the conserved walls is great at night, when it is lit up with flaming torches and best of all – it’s free. Close to the Wall is the Parco Ibsen. Suzy, our rep, proudly showed us the Thomson information desk and a furniture shop, but neglected to mention the Norwegian playwright that it’s named after. Ibsen stayed in the nearby Hotel Tramotano, where he wrote parts of Ghosts (1867) and Peer Gynt (1881).

Sorrento is famous for its lemons

Lemon Grove off the Corso Italia

which get made into stuff like soap, confectionery and the region’s local drink Limocello. In the oldest part of town, known as “The Drains“, because it’s where the rich people’s sewage used to flow through on it’s way to the sea, we got to sample some at one of the many shops that specialise in all things lemony.

A range of local liquors - many made from lemons

If I ever wondered what lemon scented toilet duck would taste like I think I now know. There is also a cream version which tastes as I imagine lemon scented Jif would. The Drains are a regular rabbit warren of little alleys, full of shops (mostly full of tat) , restaurants, bars and little churches.

The Drains

One of the larger churches we were shown is dedicated to Sorrento’s patron saint, St Antonino.

St Antonino and his whale

He reputedly rescued a child that was being eaten by a whale, by killing it (the whale not the child). The whale on the statue looks like a dolphin to me, but the church has the alleged whale’s jaw bone nailed to the external wall and I’d say it must have been a much bigger creature, the sort that eats tiny fish and krill, but not children.

St Antonino's Whale's Jawbone

We found this charming fresco of the event, above the door of one of the nearby apartment buildings.

St Antonino - Whale Killer

Personally I think there is a touch of the mythical hero about this, with the saint taking on the role of a former pagan demi-god like Heracles. Close by is another church, this time dedicated to St Francis. It has really gorgeous cloisters that are popular for weddings and classical recitals.

St Francis

I could not help but notice the offering room, where believers could buy votive objects to leave in the church – much the same as in pagan times so nothing changes.

Our final stop was the Foreigner’s Club, overlooking the sea. Very useful place this as it has a free public loo and an information centre. The Foreigner’s Club was used by British and American soldiers during World War I, hence the name. at this point Suzy left us to our own devices so we high tailed it back to O Parrucchiano to try some of that cannelloni, but that is another story.

Shipscook has a Brazilian – with Salto Cachaca

Well there’s nothing like a cheap laugh to draw readers in is there? However the sort of Brazilian I had in mind has nothing to do with hair removal.

No more to do with this stuff – Salto Cachaca, which the nice people at Salto asked Shipscooksstuff to sample.

Salto Cachaca, two strengths - 27% and lethal

Cachaca is the national spirit of Brazil. Like rum it is derived from sugar cane, but where rum is usually made from molasses, cachaca is made from fermented sugar cane juice which is then distilled. I have never been to Brazil, but I first sampled regular cachaca in a Caipirinha or two in Ibiza about ten years ago. Salto is different to regular cachaca as it has a citrus flavour added which means that a Caipirnha made with the spirit will have a far more intense lime flavour. Salto also comes in two strengths. The stuff in the green bottle is 24% while the clear bottle is 37%.

So what’s the stuff like?

We tried it as a shot first. The 24% was quite pleasantly lemony, while as you would expect the 37% was similar but with more of a kick. Overall opinion was that it was better on the rocks though as the lemony taste didn’t cloy so much as when drunk neat. A change from tequila or vodka, but it would not be my first choice as a shot, I think it’s more a spirit for mixing. Next up was the Brazilian classic cocktail the Caipirinha

Salto Caipirinha

So how do you make a Caipirinha? Cut a lime into wedges and place two in the bottom of a tumbler, add two teaspoons of brown sugar and muddle together. In other word give it a bit of a bashing with either a muddler or a pestle. Then top up the glass with crushed ice and add the cachaca. This was very nice with an intense lime flavour nicely offset by the sugar, just the thing for a hot summer afternoon. Overall opinion was that the 37% worked better as the ice tended to dilute the alcohol too much to get a good hit off the drink with the 24%.

So finally the Brazilian. this is a long drink usually made from cachaca and lime juice topped up with lemonade. This we agreed was quite refreshing, with an intense citrus hit, a great drink for a long hot summer afternoon in the garden so long as you are not operating any machinery. We did give it a go without the lime and it worked equally well that way too.

So overall this stuff works well drunk over ice, as the base for Brazil’s national cocktail or with a mixer. As a shot though I found the citrus flavour too cloying. So would I buy it? Well to be completely honest I don’t think I’d bother with the 24%, it’s pleasant enough, but I do like booze to have a bit of poke and in a long drink the 24%  just does not do that.  The 37% is a different matter altogether and with the added citrus flavour it’s a great cheat for making summer cocktails.

Guf, Skum and Plopp

I always like to bring home some sweets from my travels abroad to share with my workmates. Some people might think these Danish treats were a load of Guf

Guf

Well these are, they are like giant Jelly Tots, only some of them are liquorice. These are quite fun too

Skum Bananers

They are sort of fake bananaish, but the Danes still have a long way to go before they catch up with this Swedish classic chocolate bar I brought back from Stockholm.

Plopp

Rude Veg – childish but still funny

I bought this today. It’s some horse radish root

Horse Radish Root

I know what it looks like.

It’s destiny is to be grated and steeped in vodka for a month or so to create horse radish vodka, which will hopefully be  similar to the one we had in the Shinok Restaurant in St Petersburg where these lovely Ukranian women sang a song to us, which also may have been quite rude.

Lovely Ukranian women at Shinok in St Petersburg

Lincolnshire Poacher and Cote Hill Blue

As you probably know by now I’m a great fan of our monthly Farmer’s Market. Aside from the wonderful cheeses from Wobbly Bottom Farm I also like to stock up on these.

Lincolnshire Poacher and Cote Hill Blue

The two hard cheeses come from the Lincolnshire Poacher, while the soft blue cheese is Cote Hill Farm. Both of these producers use unpasturised milk from their own herds of Holstein cows.

Poacher has a firm texture a bit like some of those hard Swiss and French cheeses like Comte and tastes a bit like a well matured cheddar. There are a couple of varieties, the standard Poacher is matured for about 14 months while the Vintage is for 18 to 22 giving it a deeper flavour. There is also a version cold smoked for 24 hours over oak chips.

My favourite though, is the Double Barrel, which is matured for up to three years for a really strong flavour.

The Poacher farm has been completely organic for ten years. Most of the cow fodder is grown there using only the fertilser that comes from the cows. Lincolnshire Poacher’s philosophy is that happy cows make better cheese, I don’t know whether that is true or not but the cheese is pretty good and I’m glad for the cows anyway.

Cote Hill cheeses are rich and creamy like a Brie or Camembert. They are matured for 12 weeks and there are two varieties the Gold and the Blue.

Keep a look out for both of these cheeses at your local farmer’s market, you won’t regret it.

Breakfast in Edinburgh – Square Scottish Sausage Shortage

Try saying that and not developing a bad case of the Sean Connery’s, or better still:

“Sir Sean says severe square Scottish sausage shortage is serious”

I love a good Scottish breakfast, with Lorne sausage, bacon and black pudding,  just add eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and beans to this and you are away.

Heart attack waiting to happen

However not very practical when you are staying in the Travelodge, so where are our favourite breakfast places in Edinburgh?

Olly Bongo’s is right on Teviot Square, which makes it very handy during the festival  and popular with students from Edinburgh University.

Olly Bongo's Cafe

This is a great little Turkish cafe, a full Scottish is about £6 and comes with sausage, egg, bacon, mushrooms, beans, tomato and toast. For the more adventurous there is a Mediterranean breakfast with feta cheese and olives and a selection of bagels and wraps .

Full Scottish at the Rabbie Burns cafe on the Royal Mile comes with haggis and a potato scone too.

Full Scottish at the Rabbie Burns

It’s a great way to start a day wandering around the old town and pretty good value at £6.95, but it does not open up very early, which is a pain if you have an early morning train or an excursion bus to catch.

The Rabbie Burns

The Southern Cross in Cockburn Street, however is good for that quick getaway.

The Southern Cross

As you can guess from the name, this place is popular with Aussies and Kiwis, many of whom stay at the nearby Edinburgh Backpackers Hostel. It’s also used by the drivers and guides from the local excursion office. Full Scottish is £5.95 and includes haggis as well as hash browns, eggs, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, sausage, bacon and toast. The staff are mostly students and if you don’t fancy one item are quite happy to swap it for another.

However having also enjoyed Scottish breakfasts in Glasgow and Dundee, the thing that puzzles me is the missing square Scottish sausage in Edinburgh restaurants, perhaps Sir Sean is right to be concerned!

How to cheat at Paella

I bought two boxes of this stuff in Salou last year.

Paella cheating spices

Inside the box are five sachets containing; garlic, bay, saffron, paprika, thyme and pepper (along with other things probably best left unimagined) and you just empty the sachet into the pan when you add the water. It’s a great little cheat, but I only have one sachet left and I won’t be visiting Spain for ages. so if anyone knows where I can buy some in the UK, let me know.

I will post my Paella recipe soon.