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Lisa Watson
Food, Wine and Travel
Food, Wine and Travel


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A fried treat from eastern Italy!

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Strolling Through Noli

The Ligurian coast in Italy is full of surprises! I don’t know how many times we have zoomed along the motorway on the way to Turin and passed by all its secrets. Recently, we decided it was time to start exploring a bit of this coastline. We planned our visit carefully by placing a pin in a map without looking (a paper one; not one on the computer), and Noli became the next place on the list to find out about. When we got there we kicked ourselves for not visiting it before now!

Noli is a small coastal village, not far from the larger port city of Genova. The facade of the village facing the sea is made up of an almost impenetrable wall of buildings. There are low arches every so often that let you access the maze of narrow paths (called caruggi ) that wind through the village. Some of the paths are barely large enough to walk through, let alone swing a cat in. I did some research to find out why the spaces between the houses are so narrow, but haven’t had much luck. My guess is that the village was made that way to fortify it from pirates and invading hoards (not that that stopped Napoleon from taking it over). If you can’t be more than one abreast, and absolutely can’t lift a sword, I think it would be very difficult to fight and overcome the resident population.

To see more photos of Noli and find out about its fascinating history you can go to:


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Hokey Pokey Candy From New Zealand

Hokey Pokey has been New Zealand’s best kept secret (or maybe second best, after the fact that NZ has beaches to rival those in the Caribbean) up until recently. It seems to be becoming more known now thanks to the internet. It is an incredibly easy candy to make at home, and it only needs three ingredients. In New Zealand, we made it in science class at high school as the baking soda reaction is quite spectacular!

Hokey Pokey is also the name of a dance. One that you probably did on camp, or when you were at school. Some call it the Hokey Cokey, but I like to think that it’s related to this sweet somehow. Maybe the original makers of hokey pokey, sang the accompanying song, “You put your right foot in. You put your right foot out. In, out, in ,out and wave it all about” while they were waiting for it to cool down.

The candy makes a great home-made Christmas present!



White Sugar - 120g (10 Tbsp)
Golden Syrup - 50g (4 Tbsp)
Baking soda - 2 tsp
Grease a plate or pie dish.
Heat the sugar and golden syrup in a medium-sized pot at a medium-low temperature. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon or a whisk until the sugar has melted.
Stop stirring and let the mixture come to the boil.
Take the pot of the heat and immediately add the baking soda. Stir madly and watch it foam up (very exciting for the kids!).
Pour it STRAIGHT AWAY on to the greased plate/dish and leave it to become cold and set. DO NOT TOUCH IT WHEN IT'S HOT (it'll stick to your fingers and burn you).
Break it into pieces and eat it!

You can find out the important tips for successfully making this Kiwi candy here:



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If you didn't buy our cookbook to raise money for charity, now's your chance before Christmas gets here!
Foodies+ Christmas Charity Cookbook

2 years ago, around 12 foodies+ members came together to compile this Kindle book full of Christmas goodies from around the world. All proceeds went to Action Against Hunger, and still do.

Makes a great Christmas present, and help a family eat when you purchase a copy.

The link below will allow you to sample a few pages, and on Amazon UK. Just do a search for the book title on your respective Amazons.

See it on Amazon UK:
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Cure Your Own Olives At Home

The olives that grew on our few olive trees were so large and juicy-looking that we couldn’t just leave them there. But, what to do with them once they were picked? We could take them to the local olives mill where for 5 euros they will grind 10 kilos of your olives to give you 1 litre of oil. That sounded like a good idea until we started picking the olives, and realized what a long and tedious job it would be to get a whole 10 kilos. If we drove to Italy and bought a bottle of oil in the supermarket, it would cost about the same, and take about the same amount of time to get.

My 80 year old neighbour, who knows everything about nature, gave me a simple recipe for curing olives in salt water (saumure), which I thought I’d try out on our big olives. We'll see in two months if it has worked!

I bottle 3.5 kilos of olives, which is all we could be bothered picking. The recipe below is for each kg you have.



Fresh uncured olives - 1 kg (2.2 lbs)
Water - 1.5 L (6 1/2 cups)
Salt - 150 g (1/2 cup)
Glass jars with screw-top lids


Pick the olives, sort through them and remove any bruised ones or ones with insect holes in them.

Put them in a large container with a lid and cover them with water until they start to float.

Put the lid on the container. Put it in a shady place.

Change the water every day for 10 days.

To Brine the olives:

Boil the 1.5 L of water and the 150 g of salt for 10 minutes then leave to cool.

Sterilize the jars you have collected by heating them with their lids off in a 200 oven for 15 minutes. Leave to cool.

Boil the lids in water for 10 minutes and leave to drain and dry. You can add
herbs such as thyme or bay-leaves to the salt water if you like.

Drain the water off the olives and pour them onto tea-towels to dry them.

Check through the olives again for any rotten or blemished ones.

Fill the jars with olives to within about 2 cm from the top of the jar.

Pour in the cooled salt solution until it gets to the top of the jar.

Screw the lids on, label the jars, then place them in a dark place.

Wait for two months before eating.

The olives should be rinsed before being eaten.

Find out more about curing olives, and other things that my neighbour tells me here:



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Pasta With Radicchio, Bacon, and Olives

I often throw radicchio (sometimes known as Italian Chicory) in pasta dishes, but that’s because it’s one of my favourite vegetables. It has a slightly bitter taste that I love when it is paired with bacon, or with cheese like gorgonzola. If you don't want to add bacon, try the pasta with a few crumbled walnuts instead.

I made this pasta dish with a curly pasta called “cellentani”. It can also be called “cavatappi”, or “corkscrew” in English (for obvious reasons!). I like this type of pasta for this sauce as the bits of radicchio, pancetta (bacon) and olives stick well in the spirals of the pasta shape, however if you can’t find this type of pasta, any short pasta with work fine. The sauce is very flexible in that you can add extra ingredients and it will still taste good, such as a sprinkle of chilli flakes, or halved cherry tomatoes. It is an unusual pasta sauce as most sauces for pasta have a base of cream, egg or tomato. When you make this one, the “base” is a little bit of oil. It’s important to add the oil, otherwise the pasta and sauce will just stick together in one gloopy mess.



Cook Time :15 minutes
Yield : 4 people

Short Pasta - 400g (14.1 oz)
Shallot - 1
Pancetta/Bacon - 75g (2.6 oz)
Radicchio - 1 head
Black Olives - approximately 10 - 15
Good olive oil - 4 -5 Tbsp
Parmesan Cheese - 30 - 40g (1 oz)


Finely chop the shallot. Slice the radicchio into strips. Roughly chop the olives.

Boil a large pot of salted water. Cook the pasta per packet instructions.

While waiting for the water to boil, start making the sauce. Heat 3 Tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat.

Saute the shallot for a few minutes until it becomes translucent.

Add the pancetta and saute until it starts to brown.

Add the radicchio and olives, then cook them until the radicchio wilts. If the sauce is ready before the pasta is cooked, just take it off the heat.

Drain the pasta well. Add the sauce mixture to the pasta, along with the good olive oil and the grated parmesan cheese. Stir well to mix everything together, then serve.

You can find out more here:



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Black Olive Tapenade
French Friday

Tapenade is a delicious olive recipe that you that graces every self-respecting aperitif table in the South-East of France during the warmer months. I shared this a few years ago, but decided to ressurect it for French Friday on Foodies+!

Over the last month, in the fields all over Southern Italy, and on the Cote d’Azur in France, people have been whacking trees with sticks. This may seem like strange, and relatively cruel treatment for some poor trees who did nothing but stand there and help to prevent the warming climate from speeding along like an out-of-control freight train, but such is the life of an olive tree full of shining black olives in the Fall months. Nets are rolled out below the trees and then long sticks are used to knock the olives into the nets, so it’s easier to gather them into buckets. They are then either taken to the mill to be turned into olive oil, or cured so they they can be made into delicious spreads, such as this tapenade (olive pâté).



Black Olives - 200g (1 1/2 cups)
Garlic Clove - 1
Capers - 40g (2 Tbsp)
Anchovies - 3
Olive Oil - 5 Tbsp
Lemon Juice - 1 Tbsp (optional)


Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend them until you have a smooth mixture.
Serve as an aperitif with crusty bread or bread-sticks.
Tapenade will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge.

You can find out more about olives in the South of France on:


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The Lowdown On Whale Watching In Quebec, Canada

You may remember from another post I wrote recently, that I spent my Summer holidays in Canada. We stayed for a few days in a small town called Tadoussac, nestled on the banks of the enormous St Lawerence river. From about May to November, this is the place to be to go look at whales. There are all sorts of types of them all over the place! Apparently, if you’re lucky enough, you can just look in any direction towards the river or the Saguenay fjord, and you can find them floating around. I did try that method, and had luck with it to see lots of Beluga whales, but I’ll tell you about that a bit further down the post. To see the big guys, we didn’t have time to spend hours gazing out to sea, so we went for a ride in a not too small boat to go and search them out.

The tours out from Tadoussac were quite expensive, but we discovered a whale-watching company that is owned and operated by the First Nations people (the Innu) that goes out from the village of Essipit, just a bit further up the road. Not only are they cheaper than the Tadoussac tours, but you leave the coast from nearer to where the whale action happens, so there is less time spent traveling to see the whales and more time spent actually watching them. We decided to take an afternoon tour to try to avoid the possibility of morning fog. As the kind woman on the desk told us, after she had recovered from laughing at us for thinking that the whales are more active in the morning, the whales have to breathe day and night so they are always active. The time of the day doesn’t matter one bit. So, now you know, so you won’t look as silly as we did.

We donned bulky survival suits, fleece hats, gloves, and life-jackets to go for our trip. The water is a balmy 4 degrees C, even in the middle of Summer, so it’s not something you want to fall into. If you go, make sure you have some really warm clothing to wear under the waterproof coats and pants. The temperature if fabulous for the whales and seals, but not so great for humans. We saw mammals galore: fin whales (the second largest in the world after the blue whale), minke whales, lots of inquisitive seals, and our absolute favourite, a very agile humpback whale called Tic-Tac-Toe (that's her tail in the photo below). Tic-Tac-Toe sacrificed about 20 minutes of her eating time to dance for us. She flipped her flukes in the air, rolled over and over on top of the water, and as a grand finale, swam along upside-down, slapping her tail on the water. It’s easy to forget the cold when you can watch something like that! The only whale we missed was the blue whale. Apparently there’s one that comes and goes, but she didn’t happen to be in the St Lawrence when we were there.

To see more photos of the whales, and to find out all about why there are Beluga whales living there when they should be actually living 1000 km further north, you can visit my blog:



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Fave dei Morti -
Italian Cookies For All Saints' Day

This is an old post that I shared a couple of years ago, but I thought it was interesting to post it again since All Saints' Day was yesterday. I decided not to translate the name of these biscuits in the title, Fave dei Morti, as I’m not sure how many people would want to read about cookies called “Broad Beans of the Dead”. They don’t sound very appetizing in English! The almond cookies are traditionally made in many regions of Italy at the end of October to be eaten during the period of Ognissanti, or All Saints’ Day.

The biscuits were originally made with broad beans, but the main ingredient was changed to almonds as broad beans can be very toxic for certain people. In many Mediterranean countries, such as Italy, there is a hereditary condition called favism. For these people, eating broad beans leads to nasty symptoms and possible death (so the cookies were actually very aptly named once upon a time). The name fave has stuck, but now pretty much everyone can eat them without worrying about their health afterwards.


Prep Time :15 minutes
Cook Time :10 - 15 minutes
Yield : 45 cookies


All-purpose flour - 150 g (1 1/4 cups)
Peeled almonds - 250g (8.8 oz)
Pine-nuts - 50g (1.8 oz.)
Icing sugar - 100g (3.5 oz.)
Eggs - 2
Lemon zest - from 1 lemon
Cocoa powder - 2 tsp
Red Food Colouring - a pinch or a drop


Heat the oven to 180°C /350°F.

Use a food processor to blend the almonds and pine-nuts into a "flour".

Beat the eggs until they become thick.

Sieve the flour and icing sugar, then add to the eggs and mix well.

Break the dough into three pieces.

Knead the lemon zest into one ball, the cocoa powder into the second, and the food colouring into the third, until they are evenly coloured.

Roll the dough balls into long sausages.

Line a baking tray with baking paper, then break off bits of dough a little smaller than the size of a walnut and roll them into a ball, then flatten them very slightly. Place them on the baking tray with at least 5 cm/2 in distance between the cookies.

Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until they are slightly browned.

The cookies can keep for a week in an air-tight container.

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