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.
It’s been over 2 weeks and the image and taste of this cake are still floating around in my head. I’d wanted to make it for ages, since I heard so much about it, and I was pretty nervous when I started. So different from any other cake I ever baked before, so light and fluffy. My Christmas was epic, my mother and I cooked for days, and we really brought Christmas to another level this year. But for me this cake was one of the highlights, so I will share the recipe with you guys! Because I know this is a cake that makes everybody yearning for more.
Guinea has a very tough history! They’ve gone through many struggles over the centuries. Nonetheless they are a very brave nation. During their struggle for independence one of their slogans was: “We prefer poverty in liberty to riches in slavery!” and who can blame them. Freedom is one of the most important basic human rights! But when the French let them have their independence they immediately cut off all financial and physical support which let to a disastrous fall into poverty. After gaining independence from France, Guinea turned to the Sovjet Union for support. The first president introduced a socialist government. Thousands of people were killed or tortured during this time. Today, the country is trying to become a democracy, but the process is not easy. At this moment there is still no light on the horizon for Guinea. The most recent disaster was the Ebola virus which wiped out a chunk of Guinea’s the population.
- Guinea was a part of the Mali empire between the 13th and the 15th century.
- Guinea was the first country gaining independence from the French on October 2nd 1958
- The literacy rate of Guinea is very low.
- Guinea has a rich musical tradition like other West African countries.
For Guinea I made an African snack called puf puffs. You can compare them with beignets only there is onion in them which strongly seems to work perfectly!!!!
Ingredients: 2 cup of all-purpose flour,, 1 and ½ cup of warm water, 1 tbsp of dry yeast, ½ cup of sugar, 1 tsp of salt, ½ tsp of vanilla extract, 1 tbsp of finely grated onion (optional)
- Dissolve the yeast in the water and pour on the flour. Mix it really well .
- Add the sugar, salt, vanilla extract and onion. Cover with a napkin and let it rise for at least 2 hours
- Heat the oil and use your hand or a spoon to drop the mixture in the oil, fry until each side is brown.
- Tips: To get the puff puff right make sure that the batter is not too thick nor too thin. And the also the temperature of the oil is important. The oil should be hot enough but not too hot.
Guam and Northern Marianas a few tiny dots in the middle of the ocean. Famous for being close to the Mariana Trench which is the deepest part of ocean anywhere in the world! Scientists say there are so many fish and other sea creatures that are undiscovered. Guam’s economy survives on Japanese tourists who come to visit these exquisite dreamy tropical islands! As Micronesia’s most populous island, Guam is about as ‘cosmopolitan’ as it gets in the middle of the ocean.
Some people are against it since the shopping malls are everywhere and the traditional Chamorro language is barely spoken on the islands. But then again if you think about it it’s kind of amazing, shopping malls in the middle of the ocean!
Things you didn’t know about Guam:
- Guam has the tallest mountain in the world 11 277,6 meters! Mount Lamlam is 1,332 feet above sea level. But thanks to the Marianas Trench (the deepest part of all the world’s ocean), it’s underground base becomes the greatest change of elevation on Earth compared to the height of Mt. Everest.
- Brown Tree Snakes are pests to Guam. They are not indigenous to Guam. It has been theorized that they stowed away on ships from Australia and Indonesia and sneaked their way onto the shores of Guam. Since they are not naturally from Guam, they do not have any predators. Therefore killing Brown Tree Snakes is socially accepted, so if you see someone smashing a snake it is considered normal.
- Guam is part of the USA!!! I never knew this. It’s closer to the Philippines then to US but still it’s part of the USA.
Finland, home of Santaclaus, his reindeers and his elfs. Finland is the only country in Scandinavia I haven’t been. History proves that the Finns are tough people, tough enough to fight of nazi’s during the Second World War and the Russians, and don’t forget the climate with freezing long winters and very short summers. What else is Finland famous for; sauna’s of course their national obsession! They even organize the world championship saunaing (is that a word? I don’t know). The Russian contestant died and the winner was Finnish and had 3th degree burns all over his body. Kind of taking it a little to far there.
Things you didn’t know about Finland
- Finland is referred to as the Land of a Thousand Lakes, but that number doesn’t even come close. There are an astonishing 187,888 lakes within Finland – the most of any country in the world. If you’re more comfortable roaming around by foot, there’s a total of 179,888 Finnish islands to explore.
- Are you fast and furious and mega rich? Then you better not get caught zooming through Finland. The cost of traffic and speed violations is calculated by the offending driver’s annual income. One unfortunate, mega rich dare devil was once fined over 200,000 dollars for a single speeding offense.
- The North of Finland is the least populated area in Europe
I made this tart for my friends, I was really nervous about it coming out properly from it’s form since I transported it from Amsterdam to my friends in Utrecht by train. But it was perfect!
This Blue Berry Tart is amazing! It’s sort of like a cheesecake more tart like, healthier and quicker.
Ingredients Pastry: 100g butter, softened, 50ml sugar, 1 egg, beaten, 200g plain flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Ingredients Filling: 400g blueberries (fresh or frozen), 50ml milk, 200ml sour cream or 200g cream cheese (full fat versions!), 50g sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
- Make the pastry – cream everything into a smooth dough. Press over the bottom and sides of pie dish – don’t worry about it being a little rough, the rustic look is part of the charm.
- Sprinkle the blueberries into the pie dish. Mix the milk, sour cream/cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. Pour slowly over the berries.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the filling is set (it should wobble, but not look runny). Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Serve cold.
This week another isolated archipelago, The Faroe Islands. They are autonomous islands under the protection of Denmark. They are not part of the European Union and they speak their own language. A lot of Faroese would like to be independent. Half of the Faroese population lives in the capital Torshavn. The problem with the Faroe islands is that the young people all go to college in Denmark, most of them stay there. Despite being so far away from the rest of the world, the music, art and culture scene in the Faroe Islands is booming! They have a lot of music festivals.
Things you didn’t know about the Faroe Islands:
- Soccer is really popular the 1 in 20 men is semi soccer pro! The country’s football team won their first competitive match against Austria in September 1990, which prompted a massive Faroese party.
- The Faroe Islands are one of very few countries in Europe to have no McDonalds. You can, however, find a Burger King, in Torshavn if you’re in need of fast food.
- There are three traffic lights on the Faroe Islands. All are in the capital Torshavn and are very close to each other.
- The weather in the islands changes so quickly and frequently that a well-known Faroese saying is ‘If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes’.
- The Faroese drink in sheebeens, known as key clubs – set up in secret when alcohol was banned on the islands. These dens were so popular they stayed open when prohibition ended. There is an Irish pub called, imaginatively, ‘Irish Pub’. It is said to serve the best beer on the islands.
Wash and cut the washed rhubarb into fine slices. Cut about 1/2 inch cubes.
In a large pot add the rhubarb, water, sugar and a stick of cinnamon. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Reduce heat, put the lid on the pot and cook the mixture for about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on the rhubarb because you want the rhubarb tender but not mushy.
Next, combine the cornstarch with 1/4 water in a small bowl. This will be used to thicken the rhubarb porridge
After the rhubarb has cooked for 5 minutes, turn off the stove. Remove the cinnamon stick out of the rhubarb mixture.
Add and stir in the corn starch mixture. Add a little at a time and the rhubarb mixture will start to thicken.
Taste to see if it is sweet enough. If not, stir in a little more sugar.
Pour into a heatproof glass bowl to cool down. Sprinkle sugar to prevent a skin from forming. Cover and chill in the refrigerator.
Once ready to serve ladle into bowls and garnish with either milk or cream. Enjoy!
Estonia I had no feeling at all when I heard Estonia before researching it this week. For 50 years Estonia has been suppressed by the Sovjet Union. Estonia has a history of been suppressed by a lot of countries like Denmark, Russia and Scandinavia. Luckily the city of Tallin remained untouched in it’s medieval glory and is now put on the Unesco list. In 1991 Estonia finally became independent again, despite the suppression they managed to stick to their own culture. After the liberation of Estonia a lot of Russians stayed behind, in hope of a better future, since the economy in Russia was breaking down. Even now 40% of the population of Tallin consists of Russians. Together with Lithuania and Latvia they are called the Baltic States. Estonia is the smallest of Baltic states with only just over 1,5 million inhabitants.
Things you didn’t know about Estonia
- The Estonians are one of the most tech savvy nations on earth, for instance you can pay everything by phone and they invented Skype!
- Zero tolerance policy for drunk driving. The sale of take away alcoholic beverages in shops is prohibited after 10pm. After this time alcohol can only be purchased and consumed on the premises of restaurants and bars.
- Remember as a kid you used to try and swing over the bars and it never worked? That because the design of our swings. In Estonia however swings are designed differently. . Essentially they built a better frame, designed solely for the purpose of going all the way over the bars—and doing so is basically the entire point of the sport. It is extreme, insane, and incredibly cool. It’s called Kiiking
- Every single year, several European countries get together for a rather strange sport, called “wife-carrying.” The sport sounds pretty odd, and it is exactly as odd as it sounds. The idea is that the male contestants actually carry their wives or girlfriends, and try to get the best time possible on the course
I think this is one of the best things I have baked ever! Delicious and it looks spectucular! Like a pro made it! I made the filling extra rich because I was so enthusiastic.
Ingredients filling: chocolate covered pecan nuts (or chocolate chips and nuts), marzipan, cinnamon, sugar, butter (measurements of the filling is very personal! But I put in a lot!)
You start by preparing the dough. Put all the ingredients for the dough in a large bowl and knead until you have a soft compact cough. Make a ball and allow to rise for 1 hour in a warm dry place. After 1 hour it should have doubled in size. Tear up the marzipan by hand until you have tiny crumbs and sprinkle with cinnamon. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to give a rectangular shape as regular as possible and scatter over the marzipan crumbs and the rest of your filling! Roll up de dough so it looks like a giant Swiss roll. Slice open in two your roll but leave one end whole. Twist the rolls around each other and then close the ends together. So you have a nice circle. Brush a little egg yolk on your beautiful creation and put in a preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.