Whenever I tell anyone that I have been to Portugal they immediately presume that I have been to one of the many tourist hot spots in the Southern half of the country. It seems that very few people (in Ireland anyway) know anything about what the Northern half of the country has to offer. For me beauty spots like this one near Soajo which is within the boundaries of the Peneda-Gerês National Park has a lot to offer. There is a very old world charm here with picturesque villages dotted throughout the park. Below is a photo of one of the native cows waiting for the farmer who was following a short distance behind. Something I noticed about him and most other people I met was that they all had an umbrella with them which was immediately put up the second there was even just a single drop of rain. As an Irish person living in a high rainfall area and someone who does not even own an umbrella I found this rather amusing.
The Peneda-Gerês National Park has more to offer than cows and goats. Over the last few years there has been the reintroduction of both the Iberian Wolf and the Iberian Lynx. Some of these animals may have come here from the Spanish side of the park where they also have a reintroduction program. I didn’t have the chance to see either of these wonderful species this time but I now know someone who can guide me in the right direction next time.
If you are interested in wildlife or hiking I highly recommend you use an experienced guide. I was very short on time but I did get to see some wild Garrano ponies. In this case my daughter was my guide. She knows the mountains where they were and she knows horses. Thanks to her knowledge we found them pretty quickly.
These ponies roam wild in the mountains of Northern Portugal but they are also a popular breed as both a working pony and a riding pony.
Above is a 3 year old Garrano pony which has been broken and is being trained as a riding pony. He had his first outing to a local fun jumping competition while I was there.
These dogs are a mixed breed but are part Cão de Castro Laboreiro which is a breed of dog which was used to protect livestock from wolves and other predators in the mountains. These two were meant to be given the job of looking after the goats but they decided that they preferred to stay home and play with the other dogs and horses.
This blog started out as a way of me discovering what other countries have to offer while I am not in a position to visit them. It has been fun but I feel that I have come to and end with it so this will be my last post for a while.
Thank you for joining me on this journey and hopefully I will be back again in the future.
Austria is a country that has so many options for someone like me that there are far too many for me to go into here. It has a wonderful landscape that is home to a wide variety of Wildlife and many hiking routes to suit all levels. One place that struck me that I have to visit is the Kalkalpen National Park. This is the largest forest in Austria but the trees here have been left to mature, die and regenerate in a natural way. This provides a very important habitat for many creatures including insects which we often take for granted or just completely ignore but have an extremely important role in keeping the balance in nature. The park has many canyons, gorges, rivers and lakes as well as the forest providing a variety of habitats and I’m sure that you will find something to please you here.
Vienna is the city that is top of my list. When I was a kid like most young girls I wanted a pony but I was very happy when I got a book about horses from around the world instead. One of the pictures in this book was of the Lipizzaner Horses being put through their paces in the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. I was completely taken with them and it would mean a lot to me to be able to visit there with my now grown up daughter. I grew out of the wanting a pony phase as I got older but she didn’t. She now has her own horses.
If you are not interested in horses there are lots of other things to do in Vienna. Anyone who has an interest in art, history or food will have plenty to keep them entertained.
For this weeks dish I chose Tiroler Gröstl. This is a dish that is very popular with hikers in the Alpine region. It is very simple to make and is tasty and filling.
500g potatoes peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
400g bacon rashers (cut into pieces) or lardons
1 large onion chopped into bite sized chunks
2 teaspoons of paprkika
Fried egg (optional)
Chopped parsley to garnish
Boil the potatoes until cooked but still quite firm. Fry the onion and bacon until cooked through and the bacon is nice and crispy. Add the potato, mix together with the bacon and onion and also the paprika and parsley (I couldn’t get parsley) and cook until the potato is fully coated and starting to get a little crispy. Serve with a fried egg on top.
Join me next time for Mexican night
When I was in Australia I spent 6 months with 9 Japanese students. One thing that struck me about them was the huge respect they have for others and especially their elders.I decided then that at some point in my life I would have to visit Japan and discover as much as I can about this country and its people. I hope that if I do manage to visit that some of these students will be able to show me the real Japan. However even if they do there are a few places of interest and things to do that I have on my list.
When I was a young child I saw a poster of Mount Fuji in Japan and I was instantly captivated by it. Some people might say it is just a mountain with snow on top but to me there was something very magical about it. If I ever manage to visit Japan I will definitely have to visit Mount Fuji. Japan is full of hiking trails for all levels so I am pretty sure there will be one to suit me near Mount Fuji.
Kyoto is a city that I want to visit. It is famous for its Cherry Blossoms but also for its Temples and Shrines. Not far from here is the rural city of Koka which is the homeland of the original Ninja warriors. This is well worth a visit for anyone who has even the slightest interest in martial arts.
I’m not a fan of snow but I a must for anyone interested in Wildlife is a visit to the onsen (hot springs) on Mount Arashiyama on the outskirts of Kyoto. Here you can see Japanese Macaque bathing in the hot springs during the snows of winter. Another magical winter wildlife experience is to see the endangered Red Crowned Cranes gathering on the lakes at dawn.
Tokyo is a huge city but despite its size it has many green spaces well worth a visit. You can view the city by helicopter ride or from one of the many viewing points around the city such as the Tokyo Skytree. Another way of seeing a different side to the city is to take a water bus. One experience I cannot miss is Sumo wrestling in Ryogku. Of course in a city of this size there are many places to find great food to suit any taste.
When I was in Australia I was spoiled for choice when it came to international cuisine and Japanese food was easy for me to get. Here in Ireland not so much especially where I live. As a result I chose Chicken Teriyaki. Normally I like to try to make as much as possible from scratch but in this case the Teriyaki came out of a bottle. While it was nice it was not as good as the Japanese food I used to get in Australia and no doubt very different to the food I would get in Japan.
Chicken fillets sliced (pieces boned but with skin still on are better)
1 jar/bottle of Teriyaki Sauce
Sesame seeds for garnish
Spring onions sliced for garnish
Rice (I used brown)
Place the sliced raw chicken in the Teriyaki overnight or a minimum of 4 hours. Cook the chicken until cooked through (time depends on thickness) and sauce is thick and sticky. Serve on a bed of rice, garnish with the sesame seeds and spring onions and enjoy.
Join me next time for Austrian night.
Technically I have been to Malaysia. I had a 2 hour stop over on my way to Australia so I can’t really count that. However I would like to go there some day as I have a very good friend there. As she was born in and has lived in Kuala Lumpar for most of her life she will definitely have to be my guide. There is nothing like local knowledge when it comes to experiencing local culture and activities that you may not know about otherwise. There are 2 things that I would like to do in Kuala Lumpar and they are to visit the local markets (something I like to do no matter where I go) and the other is to pay a visit to the KL Bird Park.
Away from KL there is the Mount Kinabalu Via Ferrata. Rock climbing is one of the things on my bucket list and the Mount Kinabalu Via Ferrata is a great way for a beginner to have that experience.
The Cameron Highlands is another must for me. Here I can go kayaking and Wildlife watching while enjoying a variety of habitats.
Malaysian food has been influenced by a number of different cultures so it should be easy to find food to suit every taste. Rendang is one of the most popular dishes and so I have chosen Beef Rendang. I like to cook everything from scratch as much as possible but in this case I cheated and used a paste from a jar. It was very easy to make this way but I am sure that it would have tasted much better from scratch.
Beef Rendang (Serves 4)
400g beef cubed
1 jar of rendang paste
1 can of coconut milk
50g of desiccated coconut
oil for frying (I used coconut oil but any oil will do)
onion sliced and fried for garnish
coriander for garnish
Basmati rice (60g – 80g per serving)
3 tablespoons of fresh coriander finely chopped
3-4 cardamon pods
salt and pepper to taste
First heat the desiccated coconut on a medium heat until browned. You will not need oil for it as it produces its own oil as it starts to heat up but do keep it stirred otherwise it could burn easily.
Next heat some oil and brown the meat all over. Add the paste and cook for 5 minutes (or according to recipe on jar). Add the coconut milk and the toasted coconut keeping some of the toasted coconut back as garnish. Cook on a low heat for 2-3 hours until the sauce has reduced. (This recipe is meant to be quite dry but mine didn’t reduce enough so still had quite a lot of sauce)
For the rice cook according to instructions on packet adding the coriander and cardamon pods.
Serve the Rendang on a bed of rice and garnish with the fried onion and toasted coconut (kerisik)
Join me next time for Japanese night.
Costa Rica is high up on my list of places to visit. Apart from the beauty of this fabulous country for me the attraction is the Wildlife and the Environment. There are 52 species of Hummingbirds and of course the Sloth just to name a few. If you enjoy outdoor pursuits then there is certainly lots to choose from here. Whitewater Rafting is a must for me and a ride on the Zip Wires. The landscape is incredible with the Rain forests, Volcanoes and the rivers such as the incredible blue Rio Celeste. Somehow I don’t think just a week or two would be enough for me here.
Costa Rica has a mixture of South American and Caribbean style food. I decided to go with Casado which can be South American style with black eyed beans and rice with red peppers and onion or the Caribbean style which has rice and peas (rice cooked in coconut milk and mixed with kidney beans). I went with the South American style. Of course as always there are several variations on this dish. Typically what they have in common is a serving of black eyed beans, rice with finely red pepper and onion, fried plantain, a salad of some sort (usually tomato and cabbage) a variety of meat (normally at least 3 meats) and sometimes a fried egg and chips. This is far too much food for me to handle so I just went for the rice, beans, plantain and just 1 pork chop.
Casado (My Style)
1 Pork Chop
1 serving of canned black eyed beans
1/2 cup brown rice
1/4 red pepper finely chopped
1/4 onion finely chopped
Grill or roast the pork chop (or your meat of choice)
Cook rice. When rice is cooked and drained add the peppers and onion. The heat from the rice should cook the pepper and onion enough but you can cook them separately and then add them if you prefer. Fry the plantain on a medium heat or you can grill or bake it with the meat. Heat beans until piping hot throughout. Plate up, sit back and enjoy.
Join me next time for Croatia night.
This is not a part of the world that I am familiar with and I have never eaten food from here before. My only experience is from watching movies as a child where I saw incredible deserts and oasis and of course camels and the magnificent Arabian horses.
Saudi Arabia looks after its Wildlife and as a result there are many Wildlife Reserves including the King Khaled Wildlife Research Center in Thumamah. As a Wildlife Rescuer and Rehabilitator this is somewhere that I would love to work in. Here they specialize in the captive breeding of endangered species and the reintroduction of endangered species. Of course you can see Wildlife in its native environment too. Even the deserts have some wildlife but the many oasis and springs are home to a variety of species.
When it comes to food the only thing that immediately came to mind was dates so when I discovered the dish Meat and Walnut Nadi with dates I just had to try it. As per usual there are many variations of this dish some with Dibis Raman and some without. I couldn’t get Dibis Raman or even just Pomegranate juice to make my own so I had to do without. However even though I really enjoyed the Nadi without Dibis Raman I will definitely try it with it sometime in the future.
Meat and Walnut Nadi with Dates
500g minced beef
3 tablespoons of butter
30g of chopped coriander
3/4 teaspoon allspice
pinch of salt and pepper
125ml hot water
5 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of grated lemon zest
75g chopped walnuts
100g chopped dates
30g dibis raman (optional but recommended)
Heat the butter in the pan then add the meat and cook until brown. Add the allspice and coriander and cook for 2-3 minutes. Next add the water and lemon juice bring to the boil and then cook on a low heat for about 20 minutes. Add the lemon zest, walnuts and dates and cook for a further 5 minutes. Serve on a bed of rice (I used brown rice but white rice is more traditional) and enjoy.
Join me next time for Costa Rican night.
We all know that Italy is well known for food, the arts and of course love. When I lived in England I had the pleasure of working with many Italians from several different parts of Italy including some of its islands. Working with them certainly proved to me that Italy is most definitely a land of food and love. Italians have got to be the warmest, friendliest and most loving people I have met so far and like so many other Mediterranean countries very very noisy .
Tuscany is a part of Italy that has always appealed to me. There is something very magical about the landscape here especially with the fields full of Sunflowers in bloom in the summer. It’s a great place for either walking or cycling holidays and also Wildlife. There are many different species of wildlife to see here but something quite rare in this area apparently is the porcupine.
Over the years I have cooked a variety of Italian based dishes on a regular basis but my favorite is Fusilli with a Tomato sauce, bacon and mushrooms. I always thought that this was called pasta with a Milanese sauce but it seems that I was wrong. If anyone can tell me what its proper name you can let me know in the comments section.
Fusilli with bacon and mushrooms
Pasta (I used dried fusilli)
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 stock cube (I used chicken stock cube)
Streaky bacon diced
Cook the pasta according to pack instructions (make sure it is al dente)
Meanwhile saute the bacon and mushrooms then add the tomatoes and simmer on a reduced heat for about 10 minutes or until sauce has reduced slightly and thickened a little.
Pour sauce over pasta and serve with a green leaf salad and grated cheese and a dash of love.
Join me next time for Saudi Arabian night.