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08 Jul

A perfect place to escape from daily life

By / on Food and Health , Journal

It was as if my brain had stopped working for 4 days; I stopped worrying about work and I completely forgot about my daily routine, no planning and thinking about the day. For my Birthday I had a wonderful experience at this place called Serragembetta, an Agritourism in Castellana Province of Bari, Italy (Check out more about my culinary experience at Serragembetta herehere and here). It was like going back in time given the well decorated old rooms, authentic food, organic agriculture and the refreshing Mediterranean atmosphere. A quiet place where one can appreciate nature, learn to make home-made pasta or gnocchi di patata:), relaxing by the pool, reading a book, maybe reflecting on a new creative project, or visiting its surroundings.

On our first night we were greeted by the owner Domenico. Although it was very late, we were welcomed in a cosy kitchen with a dish of warm baked pasta, a glass of red wine and some fresh cherries. His friendly nature made us feel at home right away. The welcome was a taste of what was to come; we started our days with an amazing breakfast and after some sightseeing tours, we returned to Serragambetta for dinner. We used to enjoy these dinners so much that in the evenings we stayed in, getting to know other guests from different countries and enjoying sweets and liquors. I suggest this place to anyone who wants to stop time for a while and take the time to live the mediterranean life to the full!

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Getting spoilt after dinner with a variety of home-made liquors. Difficult to choose from all the flavours; coffee, loquat fruit, cherry, cinnamon….

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Owners of Serragambetta

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Anna making pizza dough

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Pizza Dough

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Pizza with mozarrella di bufala, basil and tomatoes. We couldn’t stop eating:) do you blame us?

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Aubergines with omelette. Divine:)

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Typical Puglian Dish. Fava Bean Purée/thick Soup with Vegetables. Vegetables can be also blended with the rest of the soup. Amazing!!! Check recipe: http://www.rusticocooking.com/puglia.htm

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Our room at Serragambetta:) Unique.

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Loved my bed:)

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Map of Province of Bari

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01 Jul

Blog Me, Draw Me!

By / on Blog Me, Draw Me

This week’s Blog Me, Draw Me was drawn in the early hours of the morning. I’m sure I’m not the only one to get ideas at 5/6 AM and have to get up and put them on paper right away (oh yeah, and that’s the only time I can afford to draw something for myself :) ). So I got up and started looking for cool fashion / lifestyle bloggers to draw. Few minutes later I came across Rebecca Aiezza’s blog “Atypical Look“. At first glance, her blog looks like your common wordpress fashion-blog. But upon closer inspection, one realises Rebecca’s awesome sense of style. Rebecca’s style is very laid back but she always has just the right amount of accessories / colour / texture in her outfits. Although it’s a very overused word in the fashion industry, I would definitely call Rebecca’s style effortless. Rebecca’s a student in Melbourne, Australia who blogs “about fashion because no one wants to hear me talk on and on about it”.

This is actually one of my favourite from Rebecca’s outfits:

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http://atypicallook.com/2013/06/08/what-is-accounting/

However I chose another outfit to draw for my post, because I just really REALLY liked the pose, and thought it would make for a great drawing in general. Today’s drawing is a bit more detailed than the ones I did in the past two weeks. I love drawing quick charcoal sketches, but for this one I wanted intricate, almost technical looking pen & ink lines and strokes. I finished it off with a fuchsia digital render and a few strokes here and there, for composition’s sake.

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I don’t usually post my solo ‘traditional’ drawing, but here it is anyway!

 

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29 Jun

Work in the Workshop

By / on Journal

I finally got around unpacking the work I did during the workshop which I mentioned in my last post. I don’t know how I managed to forget completely about them when I came back.

None of these works are finished art pieces, but I feel that they are the beginning of something new. One of the biggest challenged I faced while creating this work, was the fact that I only had the material which was provided to use as I did not take any media with me. To be honest I missed my trusty oil sticks, but I found new things which either I don’t usually use, or else completely forgot about. I feel that sometimes it is important to almost start in a tabula rasa manner, and see what comes out.

I also discovered a new love for glitter. Bring on the shiny things!

 

Good old ink paired up with acid colours. I loved them!

Good old ink paired up with acid colours. I loved them!

 

A collage made from various German postcards.

A collage made from various German postcards.

Glitters!!!Glitters!!!

Group work.

Group work.

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22 Jun

Blog Me, Draw Me!

By / on Blog Me, Draw Me

‘Blog Me, Draw Me!’ is a weekly post that features a sketch of an inspiring fashion / lifestyle blogger. (Read more about the purpose and inspiration for Blog Me, Draw Me! in my first post). Today’s blogger is the beautiful Daniela Goncear, ‘Danna’ from Mondedanna. Danna is a “Russian, english, french, italian, romanian speaking, 21 years old blogger living in Milan.” who uses her blog as a diary to share her thoughts, favourite looks, ideas and events. I like that Danna’s photos are always accompanied by her thoughts at the moment, as well as information and history about places in Milan, particular brands, so you never know where a picture of a photo session is taking you!
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Daniela’s shots are so dynamic that quick drawings suit them best. I therefore decided to give this week’s post, last week’s treatment, i.e. having three drawings rather than one. I wanted to capture Daniela’s energy through the chosen three poses, but although she’s a lover of colour, I love these drawings in just charcoal, without being touched by digital rendering.

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http://mondedanna.wordpress.com/

 

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18 Jun

Cherry Heaven

By / on Food and Health , Journal

As I have mentioned in previous posts, a few weeks ago I was in Puglia, in an Agritourism place called Serragambetta. One of the things that I am still missing from the trip is the abundance of fresh organic cherries that I was eating on a daily basis (no complaints!). Fresh cherries are widely available and consumed in  most places in Puglia. Seeing fields covered in cherry trees was quite an amazing sight, so you can imagine how difficult it was to resist eating huge bowls of cherries everyday. I usually had them with fresh yoghurt for breakfast (still addicted to it!) and a variety of home-made sweets made with fresh cherries for lunch and dinner:) So through this post I will be sharing some snapshot of how cherries are fully exploited at Serragambetta and also some cherry recipes that I have come across in other places in southern Italy. I was practically in heaven. I love the sweetness of cherries, they are simply delicious. They are also very healthy and where I live ( in Malta) they are quite pricey, so I took the opportunity to eat as much as I could:)

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Gina (at Serragambetta) pitting buckets of fresh cherries everyday.

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Fresh home-made yoghurt

Fresh home-made yoghurt

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Almond cake with cherries at La Taverna del Duca (Locorotondo, Province of Bari)
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g1056127-d1607141-Reviews-La_Taverna_del_Duca-Locorotondo_Province_of_Bari_Puglia.html

Almond Cherry Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 12 ounces cherries (about 2 cups), pitted, rinsed, & dried
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9- or 10-inch spring-form pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in almond extract.

Reduce mixer speed to low, and gradually add flour mixture. Mix just until combined. Do not over-mix.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Scatter cherries and almonds over the top of the batter.

Bake 45-50 minutes, or until a pick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 http://www.bakeorbreak.com/2013/05/almond-cherry-cake/

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http://www.bakeorbreak.com/2013/05/almond-cherry-cake/

Cherry Sorbet Recipe

  • 4 cups pitted sour or sweet cherries, fresh or frozen (not thawed, see Tips)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2-4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar or superfine sugar

 Directions

Puree cherries, water and sugar to taste in a blender until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible (Discard solids).

Process in an ice cream maker according to the  manufacturer’s directions until firm and slushy. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.

 

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/cherry_sorbet.html

 

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http://foodienextdoor.blogspot.com/2010_08_01_archive.html

 

 

 

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17 Jun

A Colourful City: 10 Days in Berlin

By / on Journal

Last week I was lucky enough to be one of thirteen participants from different European countries, in an art workshop organized by TransInterQueer in Berlin. As one can imagine, this was not just an opportunity to explore new roots for my work and to meet new people, but also to visit one of the most culturally prominent cities in Europe!

I spent hours just walking around, exploring and simply appreciating the surroundings. What struck me most was the colour which is used all over the place. People actually make an effort to decorate everywhere! It was so refreshing to be in a place where colours other than grey exist are used in every street and every building.

I fell in love with the strong graffiti culture.

I fell in love with the strong graffiti culture.

It was all over the place!

It was all over the place!

Colour is everywhere.

Colour is everywhere.

Treptow Park Flohmarkt, a good opportunity to browse for some second hand bargains.

Treptow Park Flohmarkt, a good opportunity to browse for some second hand bargains.

A vintage German camera I bought, along with accessories. A great bargain!

A vintage German camera I bought, along with accessories. A great bargain!

The East Side Gallery; the remains of the Berlin wall.

The East Side Gallery; the remains of the Berlin wall.

And even more colour...

And even more colour…

I sure love Berlin!!!

I sure love Berlin!!!

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16 Jun

Victoria Sponge Cake

By / on Food and Health , Journal

So I was having a little break at work, just scrolling through Facebook on my iPad when I see that Thekitchn have posted a beautiful cake picture, describing the Victoria Sponge Cake as the cake this summer because it’s so light and fluffy. Then they linked to several sponge cakes and I was immediately struck by The Saveur recipe which is essentially the classic Victoria Sponge Cake. I have been wanting an excuse to combine smooth strawberry jam and Devon clotted cream since my scone-eating days at University in the UK, so this seemed to be the perfect opportunity.

Looking at the ingredients of the Victoria Sponge Cake, it is evident that this is quite a no-fuss cake. No crazy ingredients, but simple, specific ones. I don’t think this cake would taste the same without the Devon Clotted / double cream for instance, and without really good strawberry jam. On the other hand the recipe does require quite a lot of beating time, and I’ve only used half this time and still achieved great results. I have also used an electric mixer as suggested, and since the recipe asks for high speed beating, I don’t think manual beating will achieve the same texture.

Recipe: (source: http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Victoria-Sponge-Cake-)

MAKES ONE 8″ CAKE

“This delicious cake, popular at afternoon teas in England, was named in honor of Queen Victoria.”
This line just makes the cake even more special :)

  • 3⁄4 lb. plus 1 tbsp. salted European-style high-fat butter, 
   softened (I actually used unsalted Irish butter and this worked out well)
  • 
3 cups plus 1 tbsp. self-rising cake flour
  • 1 1⁄2 cups granulated sugar (just normal sugar)
  • 
4 eggs
  • 
1 1⁄4 cups double Devon cream (I used Devon clotted cream)
  • 
3⁄4 cup high-quality strawberry jam
  • 
Confectioners’ sugar (just normal icing sugar for dusting)

1. Preheat oven to 360º (Gas Mark 4/5). Grease two 2″-deep 8″ round cake pans with 1/2 tbsp. butter each. Dust each with 1/2 tbsp. flour; set aside.
2. Beat remaining butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed for 5 minutes. Add granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Combine eggs and 6 tbsp. water in another bowl. Add half the egg mixture and half the flour to butter–sugar mixture. Beat well for 1–2 minutes. Add remaining egg mixture and flour; beat batter for 5 minutes.
3. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 35–40 minutes. Invert cakes onto a rack, remove pans, and let cool completely.
4. Beat cream in a medium bowl until stiff. Put 1 cake layer on a cake plate, spread top with half the jam, then cover jam with the cream. Spread top of remaining cake layer with remaining jam and place it, jam side down, on top of cream. Dust cake with confectioners’ sugar.

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This is the cake the next day, still awesome but the cream was much softer

The only problem I had with this cake is the crazy hot weather that we had the day I made it. This is a definitely a cake that you have to make and serve immediately especially if you live in a warm climate. Apparently refrigerating sponge cakes dries them up, but also leaving the cake out of the fridge melts (or softens) the cream, especially in summer. I finished my cake in the evening and had a slice the following day. I did not refrigerate it because it wasn’t as hot at night. In the morning it was still delicious, although the cream did soften a bit. During the day I still had to put the cake in the fridge because it was just so hot.

BUT the taste.. oh my god! The cake tasted fantastic. Honestly one of the best cakes I have ever made, and it’s crazy because it’s so simple! I took some of the cake to my parents and they couldn’t stop eating it, and trust me they are hard to please! The texture is fluffy and light, and the combination of the cake with the cream, strawberry and light sprinkle of icing sugar is to die for. I would recommend serving this with fresh strawberries and mint, and of course, a cup of tea :)

 

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15 Jun

Blog Me, Draw Me!

By / on Blog Me, Draw Me

‘Blog Me, Draw Me!’ is a weekly post that features a sketch of an inspiring fashion / lifestyle blogger. (Read more about the purpose and inspiration for Blog Me, Draw Me! in my first post). This week’s Blog Me, Draw Me! blogger is Audrey Rogers from befrassy.net. Audrey started her blog when she was still a University student, and it has now become her full time employment; her own brand. Audrey is an American who “grew up all over Europe”. She is now living in beautiful Paris, the obvious choice for a fashion blogger!

For Blog Me, Draw Me! I always email the chosen bloggers for permissions to use their images as reference for my sketches. Since Audrey’s pictures are taken by her photographer friend, I was in stock photo heaven. Audrey’s photos were fantastic to work with, and obviously not just because of the quality, but mainly because of her awesome style choices. Needless to say I was extremely happy that Audrey gave me permission to illustrate her photos.

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Charcoal & digital rendering

Because I had so many photos to choose from, I decided to do more than 1 sketch of Audrey. I grabbed three of my favourite looks and scribbled them down in charcoal. I’m quite happy with these because my aim for these sketches is always to simplify as much as possible and still capture the blogger’s personality and style.

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www.befrassy.net

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One of her latest posts, check out more here: http://www.befrassy.net/2013/06/moschino-look-6.html

 

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13 Jun

Eating fresh prawns and oysters in Italy

By / on Food and Health , Journal

On our last day in Puglia we decided to revisit Polignano al mare (Peghegnéne in Bari dialect) one more time,  a town in the province of Bari, Puglia, southern Italy; a breathtaking place surrounded by see, rocks, sand and fresh air.   Since the economy of this place relies heavily on fishing, one can find a variety of fish and seafood restaurants. I choose one at random and luckily the one I selected called Carpe`had something quite unusual, at least for me. The fish and seafood are mostly served raw.

As soon as they brought my  dish of raw seafood, I realised why the waitress used the words “frutti di mare vivi” (alive seafood) while she was suggesting the specialities. Stupidly enough I thought that she was explaining how fresh their fish is.  At  first I wasn’t completely convinced by the idea and maybe I risked al little bit  too, since eating raw seafood is not highly recommended;  you can never really tell its origins. Nonetheless I think  it was worth the risk. I felt like I was eating the sea in every bite, especially when trying out the raw oysters and prawns. I wasn’t very keen on the raw octopus as it was quite heavy on the stomach, but the rest was fantastic. This amazing lunch was accompanied by a cold local white wine and a beautiful view of the beach so it was quite a unique experience.  The texture and taste of the raw shell fish and prawns is not for everyone and the dish was a little bit on the expensive side, but the portions were huge (actually a little bit to much for an “antipasto” and a “primo”). However they also serve cooked fish for those to prefer, and besides seafood, they also serve other selections of local food.

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10 Jun

My first experience with Pasta making in Puglia

By / on Food and Health , Journal

For my birthday I decided that I needed a short break from my hectic life, and so I headed to this place called Serragambetta, an Agritourism in Castellana Province of Bari, Italy. This has proven to be an excellent choice. Aside from all the great food and the refreshing Mediterranean atmosphere, I was really impressed by the talented staff of Serragambetta, who give practical lessons in pasta making, Puglian cooking and organic farming. The cooking demonstrations are held in a traditional warm and colourful kitchen, surrounded by beautiful pottery and rustic kitchen equipment. I really believe that the best way to familiarise with the culture and traditions of a country is to get to know the secrets of some of their dishes.

I attended one of the lessons in pasta making. Gina showed us how to make the orecchiette from scratch; these are a type of home-made pasta typical of Puglia. Gina is one of the gifted cooks at Serragambetta. She is incredible! She cooks, takes care of the organic farming and she is also a talented pottery maker. Her pasta-making skills are pretty much perfect, and obviously it was not very easy for the rest of us to get the same results. I tried my best though, and after a lot of patience from Gina and some determination from my part I managed to make something that looks like an orecchietta:) I am hoping to refine the technique by producing more at home.  These orecchiette and fresh pasta-making practical lessons are also done by Nonna Rosa or Zia Nina who are part of the family who owns this place. A few hours after our pasta-making sessions, the pasta was of course served as primo for dinner, accompanied by fresh tomato sauce with basil and local cheese. Perfection:)

http://www.serragambetta.com

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Cutting the dough and shaping it in small orechiette. Looks really simple but in reality it’s not. The more you practice the more you get the gist.

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Ingredients (similar recipe)

  • 2 cups semolina flour, plus more for baking sheet
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour or whole grain flour (preferable)
  • 1 cup of warm water, divided, plus more if needed

Directions

  1. 1.  Mound semolina and all-purpose flours in a big ceramic bowl
  2. 2.  Using your fingers, swirl ingredients together until combined
  3. 3.  Gather flour mixture into a pile, and create a well in center. Pour 1/2 cup water into well
  4. 4.  Gradually incorporate flour mixture into water using your fingers
  5. 5.  Once all the water is absorbed, continue adding water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until mixture begins to form a dough
  6. 6.  Start to gather and knead dough, working it until no dry flour remains on work surface
  7. 7.  Continue to knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
  8. 8.  Divide dough into 16 equal portions, and cover them with a clean, damp kitchen towel.
  9. 9.  Roll 1 portion of dough into an 18-inch-long rope.
  10. 10.  Use a knife to cut and drag a 1/3-inch piece of dough from end of rope facing you — a grainy wooden cutting board helps grip the dough.
  11. 11.  Holding knife at a 45-degree angle to work surface, press and roll dough toward you.
  12. 12.  Unfurl each piece of dough over your thumb in the opposite direction to form a concave shape, and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet lightly sprinkled with semolina flour. Repeat with remaining dough. Orecchiette can be stored at room temperature in a single layer overnight; cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap.

Source: http://www.marthastewart.com/925955/step-step-orechiette

 

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Domenico (owner of Serragambetta) helping with the teaching

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Finally!!:) A plate of orecchiette with fresh organic tomatoes. Divine!!

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