Jordan, a little bit of slice of peaceful heaven in the middle of the conflict area of the Middle East. Jordan isn’t involved in any of it! They do however harbor a lot of refugees from the surrounding countries. Jordan has a tradition of welcoming visitors: camel caravans walked the legendary King’s Highway transporting frankincense in exchange for spices and Nabataean tradesmen, Roman legionnaires, Muslim armies, and Crusaders all passed through the land, leaving behind these impressive monuments. Things you didn’t know about Jordan:
- Aqaba is the Red Sea destination you probably haven’t considered. But as question marks continue to hang over Egypt’s coastal resorts – Sharm El Sheikh in particular – this little urban nugget at Jordan’s southern tip is a plausible alternative. It has a pleasant ambiance in its bars and cafes, hits the temperature sweet-spot of the upper Twenties Celsius during October
- It may be one of the oldest cities on the planet, in fact. Archaeological evidence suggests that what is now Amman witnessed human settlement as early as the 13th century BC. It was also established on the surface of our world so long ago that it features in the Bible (as Rabath Ammon).
- It is arguably the most memorable scene in the Indiana Jones movies – the moment at the climax of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade when the Indy lays eyes on Al-Khazneh, the rock-carved Treasury building in the “lost” Nabatean city of Petra (which is masquerading on screen as the resting place of the Holy Grail).
- Sitting 1,200 meters above sea level, Ajloun Forest Reserve in northwest Jordan is five square miles of hills and valleys where you can camp among wildflowers or stay overnight in one of the log cabins, leaving the days wide open for wandering among oak, strawberry, carob, and wild pistachio forests.
The tahini sauce however simple it goes perfectly with the kofta!! I served it with couscous but a nice salad will do very well of course! I used fresh mint in the kofta because I have lot’s of it on my plant on the roof terrace, but you can just as well use dried mint.
Tokyo, to me Tokyo represents the town where anything can happen, from the strangest food combinations like sushi kebab to the extremely traditional rules of some sushi chefs who elevate making sushi to a form of art! And not just food-wise also the fact that there is an entire neighborhood to dedicated to manga art! (it’s called Akihabara). Temples that several centuries old are next door to high tech robot restaurants. Geisha and Sumo wrestlers!!! There so many sides to Tokyo that it’s impossible to see all of them in one trip!
Things you didn’t know about Tokyo:
- Founded as Edo once upon a time (in the 12th century), Tokyo’s literal translation means “East(ern) capital.
- As the annual Cherry Blossom Festival nears, television and radio reports include information on the “cherry blossom front” (sakura zensen), or the advance of the cherry blossoms across the different regions of Japan.
- Capsule hotels (hotels that contain rooms roughly the size of a large refrigerator) can be found around Tokyo. Most rooms include televisions, wifi, and an electronic console.
- Despite its popularity as a worldwide landmark and part of Tokyo’s backdrop, Mount Fuji is actually visible fewer than 180 days per year due to clouds and Tokyo’s air dust concentration.
- Tokyo contains over 100 universities and colleges, giving it the world’s highest concentration of higher learning institutions. One-third of Japan’s university students attend school in Tokyo.
Tsukemen or dipping noodles as they are also called, are soo good and the perfect dish for a light hot summer meal! You can keep it simple or use as many condiments as you want. But it’s a lovely meal to share with friends or family passing around the little bowls. The sauce is what it’s all about, the best word to describe it is umami, it is sweet and spicy at the same time and just utterly delicious! I served it with leftover jerk chicken from the Jamaica recipe but you can use any left over meat you have, or roasted pork belly would be ideal!
Hiroshima has been through a lot, recovering from the atomic bomb as I hope everyone knows, and if you don’t please read up on your history!!! But really that’s really not what I want to talk about! Hiroshima is located on the island of Honshu. Nowadays Hiroshima is known as the street food paradise of Japan, especially the tiny island of Miyajima that is a 10-minute ferry trip from the city center. Miyajima is also known for the deer that just roam the village freely, not scared of humans. If you’re lucky you can even pet them!
Things you didn’t know about Hiroshima:
- Hiroshima has been farming oysters since the 1500s. Today it produces 25,000 to 30,000 tons of oysters a year, 60 to 70 per cent of Japan’s total production. Known locally as sea milk for their nutritional value, they are eaten boiled, fried, grilled, with rice, in stews, or raw.
- After the war, Hiroshima needed to get its transport system up and running fast. Tram cars were donated from cities all over Japan and even abroad, earning them the nickname Mobile Museum. Today the tram fleet ranges from pre-war clunkers to the futuristic Green Mover Max. It’s the cheapest, easiest and most eco-friendly way to get around town.
- Kumano, a village 20 kilometers east of Hiroshima, produces 15 million calligraphy, makeup and artist’s brushes a year. That’s 80 per cent of Japan’s production. Of the town’s 27,000 inhabitants, 1,500 are brush craftsmen, hand-making brushes the traditional way. Visit on September 23 when 10,000 brushes festoon the streets for Kumano’s spectacular Brush Festival.
Okonomiyaki is a very popular takeaway dish in Hiroshima, you can add any ingredients you want so great for using up veggie leftovers! It would also be the perfect drunk food!!!! However, let someone sober make it for you because the transferring from pan to pan will be pretty hard once you had a few drinks.
For me when I think about Jamaica, Bob Marley is the first thing that comes to mind. And I’m gonna guess I’m not the only one. What you didn’t know is that Jamaica is a divided country and has been divided since the days of slavery, there is a small minority that controls almost everything, and then there is poor majority, less connected and left out. Jamaican cuisine is a reflection of the conflicted history. Bread fruit, salt fish this used to be slave food, cheap long lasting filling. Still all these years later the division between rich and poor is still very very clear.
Things you didn’t know about Jamaica:
- African slaves imported to Jamaica brought their own form of religion, Obeahism. Obeahism is a form of voodoo that is still practiced on the island. However, it is kept quiet, since the practice of Obeahism is punishable by death. People who practice this form of voodoo believe that the Obeah man can use evil spirits to bring good or bad luck to others.
- British writer, Ian Fleming is famous for his 007 James Bond character. After designing his dream home, Ian Fleming chooses to have it built in Jamaica and name it Goldeneye. In Jamaica, he wrote ten of his world renowned James Bond spy thrillers.
- In 1988, Jamaica became the first tropical country to enter a Winter Olympic event. It was the bobsled event. The movie, Cool Runnings, tells the story of the Jamaica’s first foray into the Winter Olympics. Only the United States has won more Olympic and World medals than Jamaica.
- Jamaica is one of only two countries in the world that has no colors in common with the flag of the United States of America. The other country is Mauritania
- The stunning Blue Mountains in Jamaica are named for the mist that covers them. From a distance, the mist appears blue. The second moon in a month is called a blue moon; however, there have been half a dozen sightings of sapphire colored moons in the past 40 years.(green and yellow). Libya used to have a solid green flag but has since changed it to include red and white. The Jamaican flag is green, yellow, and black.
I was so looking forward to finally trying out the real Jamaican Jerk Chicken, and it was everything I dreamed it would be! Perfectly balanced spice and sweetness! And no this chicken is NOT BURNED, people!!! That is simply the spice rub that is caramelizing, and the most delicious part of the entire dish
Boy oh boy do I have some story about Rome… Last year I went to Rome with my 2 sisters and my brother. Apart from Rome being an amazing city with epic food! To do as much sightseeing as we could we decided to rent 3 scooters, I was sitting in the back of brother’s scooter. In the beginning, everything went great, just the 4 of us cruising through the eternal city of Rome… but then after lunch, things started to go south… While eating our pizza we were discussing where to go next. My little sister was going to read the map, I don’t remember exactly where we were trying to go, but the point is we got lost and just a little lost, very very lost! My little sister managed to get accidentally get us on the highway during the freaking rush hour, with cars honking beside us!! We took the first exit we could find, to a parking. My brother was livid, my older sister panicking, I was calm as day (no idea why), but my little sister has this very annoying habit that when she gets nervous or stressed she starts laughing hysterically and can’t stop.
Which managed to piss off my brother, even more, this kick-started an enormous fight between them. We tried to find our way back to the hotel, getting lost over and over again, my brother getting angrier by the second! Eventually, my older sister stepped in, I got in a cab and asked the cab driver to drive me to the hotel while my brother and sisters followed. I have never been so happy to get back to a hotel!
Things you didn’t know about Rome:
- Tradition has it that throwing a coin over your left shoulder into Trevi Fountain will ensure a trip back to the Eternal City, but it also helps feed the needy. The Catholic charity Caritas collects the coins and uses the proceeds on a supermarket program that provides rechargeable grocery cards to Rome’s low-income citizens. Over a million dollars worth of coins is tossed into the fountain each year, or over $3,000 a day.
- In September 1870, Rome found itself under siege by the Italian army and was formally annexed by the Kingdom of Italy on October 2nd that year. The wars leading to the unification of Italy had already been going on for decades, and essentially ended when Rome was captured and made capital in 1871.
- Almost everyone has heard the saying that “all roads lead to Rome.” In fact, Romans would have flipped that saying on its head. In their view, all roads led from the Milliarium Aureum, or Golden Milestone, erected by Augustus in the Roman Forum. The Romans had an impressive network of highways and roads, necessary not just for trade but for military transport. Many still exist, including a section of the Appian Way.
This pasta really is as simple as it gets! But it’s hella good!!!! Cheese, black pepper and butter three of the best ingredients in the world in my opinion! Pasta Cacio e Peppe is basically the elevated version of the pasta with cheese you craved as a kid. And a great option when your broke 😛
Every time I hear Sicily The Godfather theme song starts playing in my head! Sorry for the stereotyping… but after the research I did I am apparently not that far off. Sicily is still largely ruled by the Mafia, and I don’t think it’s as romantic and exciting as it sounds… It just means lots and lots of corruption. The Mafia is an everyday part of life in Sicily, I mean over 80% of businesses in Palermo pay pizzo (protection money). The strangest thing is the government only recently (1992) started fighting back against the mafia, before that no one really cared… Imagine having your country been taken over by organized crime and no one actually giving a damn about it. Nonetheless, the island of Sicily is supposed to be extraordinary, and I really really really wanna go there especially since Palermo the capital has been awarded the title of best street food capital of the world!!!
Things you didn’t know about Sicily:
- According to Greek mythology, ships that pass to the Messina strait between Sicily and Calabria are in danger of being attacked by Scylla and Charibdys, the monsters that guard either side of the narrow passage. This myth gave rise to the expression “between Scylla and Charybdis,” a local equivalent to “between a rock and a hard place.”
- The Sonnet! The most famous of all traditional poetic forms, consisting of fourteen lines written in iambic pentameter with an elaborate rhyme pattern, was originally invented by a poet from the Sicilian school, Giacomo da Lentini. From Italy, the sonnet was taken to France and England, where writers such as William Shakespeare made extensive use of the form.
- The hilltop town of Corleone has become synonymous with the Mafia: the place where bosses Salvatore Riina and Bernardo Provenzano were raised was also chosen by Mario Puzo as the home town of his characters in The Godfather.
- While the Invasion of Normandy, or D-Day, is celebrated as the great turning point of World War II, it is also true that the invasion of Sicily by the Allies in 1943 was an earlier victory that began turning the tables on the Axis powers. Codenamed Operation Husky, the battle lasted for 38 days and culminated with a decisive victory for the invading Allied forces.
- Sicily is rich in ancient Greek ruins, and many say that they surpass in beauty those found in modern-day Greece. For a long time, the ancient Greeks controlled a large part of the island, mostly in the eastern region around Syracuse, where the famous mathematician Archimedes was born. Well-preserved Greek ruins still remain in Syracuse, Taormina, and near Agrigento. The latter is the location of the famous “Valley of the temples,” a collection of seven different temples dedicated to different Greek deities.
This is basically my twist on Pasta a la Norma/caponata, Sicilians love eggplants any way they can get them so almost every Sicilian dish contains them. No problem for me since I really like eggplants. This is pasta I have been making for years, one of the first recipes I came up with myself, by simply being broke and working with what I had laying around… Back then I used canned roasted eggplant and canned tomatoes and all the spices were dried and that works fine as well but fresh veggies are just so much better believe me. And on the plus side, it is really quick and easy.
Florence a city I have yet to visit but is on the top of my list ever since I read Inferno by Dan Brown. It’s been a year since I read it and it still haunts me almost every day… and please don’t go and watch the movie, please just read the flipping book… I love Tom Hanks just as much as the next girl, but Inferno… naaaah not his best work. Sorry people! Too bad because the story had so much potential to be one of the most influential movies of all time.
About Florence,… Florence brought forth so incredibly influential historical figures that it seemed strange to me not to choose Florence as one of the 4 areas I am discussing in Italy. Italian icons like Leonardo Davinci, Dante, The Medici family (who ruled over Florence for 200 years!), Botticelli, Donatello just to name a few… The height of Florence was during the Renaissance, actually, Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance!
Things you didn’t know about Florence:
- Between 1865 and 1870 Florence was made capital of the newly united kingdom of Italy.
- It was Hitler himself who rescued The Ponte Vecchio of Florence from being destroyed during the World War II. He thought it was beautiful…
- Florence was the birthplace of pavement! In 1339 so before Rome, Venice, the first paved streets have been invented.
- Stendhal Syndrome has been born in Florence and acquired the name of Florence It is the state of mind when someone becomes lightheaded or dizzy because of the outstanding art. As strange as it sounds it is really true.
- Florence is the birthplace of the Italian language. The famous Florentine – Dante Alighieri is said to create the standard Italian language that the whole country speaks nowadays.