The world on a plate at Christmas with my Pasteis de Nata from Lisbon

When I travel it’s the food that often creates the lasting memories that I bring home. For Greece it’s the home-made stuffed tomatoes that I associate with sitting under a leafy pergola with a view of the sea, from Texas it’s the fish tacos that remind me of the food trailers of Austin and from Portugal it’s the Pasteis de Nata custard tarts that bring back mouthwatering memories of a weekend in Lisbon.

Pasteis de Belém from Lisbon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Pasteis de Belém from Lisbon

With Christmas approaching it’s always good to have a few alternatives to the mince pies that can be whisked up at short notice so it was great timing that I was asked by Expedia to come up with my favourite world-on-a-plate recipe with a Portuguese theme. If you’ve not visited Lisbon, you may not know what you are missing in these creamy, vanilla perfumed custard tarts enclosed in a crisp, flaky pastry that are sold in every bakery and at every hotel breakfast buffet.

While there are plenty of Pastelarias or cake shops around Lisbon where you can buy the tarts, locals and tourists alike swear by the ones that are sold close to the Monastery of Jerónimos at the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém where the cakes are simply known as the Pastéis de Belém. To get there you take the tram from downtown Lisbon to Belém, getting off at the stop before the monastery and look for the queue of people snaking out the door waiting to buy them warm from the oven.

I made some of the tarts this weekend as a try out for Christmas week when we will have plenty of family staying with us, so that I can serve them either as a teatime treat or as a desert with ice cream. I had to practically fight off the family from eating them all before I photographed them, so you could see what the result was.

My home-made Pasteis de Nata Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

My home-made Pasteis de Nata

This is the recipe I used for the Pasteis de Nata which is a hybrid of various recipes I found online and makes up to 24 small tarts or 12+ bigger ones.

Ingredients

1 pack of ready made puff/ flaky pastry
500ml milk/ single cream – I used 300ml milk + 200ml cream
6 egg yolks
300g caster sugar
50g flour/ cornflour
A cinnamon stick or 1/4 tsp of powdered cinnamon
2 strips lemon peel
½ tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod

First make the easy custard

1. Put the flour in a pan off the heat and slowly whisk in enough of the milk/cream mixture to make a thin paste with no lumps
2. Gradually whisk in the sugar, then the egg yolks and then the rest of the milk/cream mixture.
3. Add the vanilla essence or pod, the stick of cinnamon or powdered cinnamon and the stips of lemon peel
4. Heat slowly over a low heat whisking constantly as the custard heats through. If the heat is too high or the stirring not constant the mixture may turn into a horrible lumpy, scrampled mixture although it will probably still taste good.
5. Once the mixture turns into a thick custard, take off the heat and allow to cool.
6. Remove by hand the sticks of cinnamon, vanilla pod and lemon peel before using the custard

My home-made Pasteis de Nata

My home-made Pasteis de Nata

Bake the Pasteis de Nata

1. Roll out the flaky/ puff pastry as thinly as possible
2. Take a round pastry cutter or glass to cut rounds of pastry that will fit neatly into your individual tart tins which you have already greased
3. Bake at 180 degrees celcius for around 25 minutes but check after 20 minutes. The pastry should be golden and the custard nicely browned.

Serve while warm from the oven or as a desert with vanilla ice cream – they won’t last long!

When we were in Lisbon a few years ago we stopped at the bakery like the rest of the visitors on their way to visit the monastery and because it was raining we ventured past the queue at the front of the shop into the rabbit-warren of cafe rooms behind. They stretched quite a long way back, so by going from room to room we eventually found a table that was free and ordered our Pasteis de Belém with a coffee.

The story goes that in the early 19th century the monks of the nearby monastery sold the ancient recipe to the bakery and the tarts have been made there since 1837, with the recipe remaining a secret, only known by three of the chefs at the bakery. If you visit Lisbon around Christmas time, look out for the Bolo Rei or King cake, a ringed cake topped with colourful crystalised fruits. The cake is eaten up to the epiphany on 6 January and it sometimes has a little token buried in it for one lucky person to find, just as we might put a sixpence in a christmas pudding.

Bolo Rei of King cake in Lisbon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Bolo Rei of King cake in Lisbon

It you’d like to visit Portugal and Lisbon to try out the Pasteis de Nata for yourself, check out the holidays to Portugal that you can find at Expedia and look out for other interesting foods in their world-on-a-plate series.

Antiga Confeitaria de Belém in Lisbon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Antiga Confeitaria de Belém in Lisbon

More things to see in Lisbon

Having my Pastéis and eating it in Lisbon – Portugal
Podcast – an autumn weekend in Lisbon
Modern luxe at Hotel Heritage Av.Liberdade in Lisbon

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

This article was brought to you in partnership with Expedia as part of their world-on-a-plate series

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A one-day sightseeing guide to Tallinn in Estonia

If you are visiting Tallinn for a short time or perhaps as part of a cruise excursion, you’ll want to use your limited time to make the most of the wonderful attractions available in Tallinn. This guide from our guest author, Brian Schweitzer will give a rundown of the best way to see Tallinn to make the most of your precious time.

The perfect day sightseeing in Talinn, Estonia

What to See in Tallinn

Old Town – This is the best place to start  your day in Tallinn as there are many different attractions located inside Old Town. Tallinn’s Old Town belongs to UNESCO’s World Heritage list since 1997 and is a medieval fantasy land that will take you back in time to the 11th – 15th century.

Sightseeing in Talinn, Estonia

Sightseeing in Talinn, Estonia

Town Hall Square – Also called Raekoja plats, the Town Hall Square has been in existence since 1322. The square is famous for an open air market for souvenirs and the Christmas tree display, which is over 570 years old. This is a great place to buy traditional Estonian souvenirs.

Town Hall Pharmacy – Also called Raeapteek, it is one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe and has been in operation since the 15th century. The strange array of medicines available throughout history includes mummy juice, unicorn horn powder, bat powder, and hedgehog powder. Inside there is a museum displaying medieval medical instruments and chemist tools. This is another place to buy interesting souvenirs.

Town Hall Pharmacy in Talinn, Estonia

Town Hall Pharmacy in Talinn, Estonia

Toompea Hill & Castle – The Estonian parliament is located here and the hill offers visitors several viewing platforms for taking amazing photos with Tallinn in the background. This was one of the first inhabited areas that is now known as Tallinn and the natural hill offered a stronghold that would be used throughout the history of the city.

St Mary’s Church – Located on Toompea Hill, the church is also known as Dome Church and is the oldest church in Estonia. The original wood church was built in 1219 and numerous famous people throughout history have been buried here. It was originally a Roman Catholic Church but in 1561 it became a Lutheran Church.

The Dome church in Talinn, Estonia

The Dome church in Talinn, Estonia

Kiek in de Kök & Bastion Tunnels – Kiek in de Kök was the Baltic’s most powerful cannon tower defense and construction lasted from 1475 to 1483. The name literally means “peek into the kitchen” as the guards could actually peer into the kitchens of the houses below. After viewing the tower defense you can head underground into Bastion Tunnels. Construction started in the 1630’s and with a purpose to secretly flank any enemy trying to take the city. These secret underground passages helped guard the city during the time of Swedish rule.

The Bastion tunnels in Talinn, Estonia

The Bastion tunnels in Talinn, Estonia

St Nicholas’ Church – This church was dedicated to St Nicholas, the saint of sailors and fishermen. Inside the church is a branch of the Art Museum of Estonia which focuses on medieval artwork. The church is also used as a concert hall because of the excellent acoustics inside.

Town Wall – Also known as the Margaret Wall, it was ordered to be constructed by Queen Margaret Sambiria in 1265. Walking along the walls visitors will have another great chance for memorable photos.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – This is a beautiful Orthodox church built in Russia style between 1894 and 1900. It is Tallinn’s largest orthodox cupola cathedral and was dedicated to Saint Alexander Nevsky, who was the prince of medieval Rus.

Kadriorg Park & Palace – After leaving Old Town, head out to Kadriorg Park on the outskirts of Tallinn, Kadriorg Park and Kadriorg Palace was founded in the beginning of the 18th by the order of Peter the Great of Russia. The park is a great place to walk in the fresh air and includes several interesting buildings including the Presidential Palace, Kadriorg art Museum, KUMU (one of the largest art museums in the Baltics), and the Peter the Great museum. Kadriorg Park also includes Kadriorg Palace, which was built in baroque style by Peter the Great for Catherine I in 1718.

The Kadriorg Park and Palace in Talinn, Estonia

The Kadriorg Park and Palace in Talinn, Estonia

Where to Eat in Tallinn

No day in Tallinn is complete without a medieval feast. Old Hansa restaurant in Old Town offers traditional medieval Estonian cuisine that makes you feel that you have gone back to medieval times. The atmosphere, attendants, music, and menu are all meticulously created to showcase the “Golden Age of Tallinn.”

Souvenirs to Buy in Tallinn

Take something home to remember your Tallinn shore excursion with these recommended souvenirs:

Vana Tallinn – Based on a traditional Estonian recipe this liquor is based on Jamaican rum and includes natural spices including citrus oil, vanilla, and cinnamon.

Juniper – Kitchen items crafted from juniper trees can be found inside the Church of the Holy Spirit and around Old Town. When cooking they emit a sweet, aromatic smell.

Kalev Chocolate – This is the largest chocolate maker in Estonia and includes a large variety of chocolates including some stranger variants such as white chocolate with blueberries.

Wool Clothing – The traditional choice of clothing in medieval Estonia, you will find wool clothing available throughout Old Town with a large selection of items from socks, sweaters, and hats.

About the author: Brian Schweitzer is a travel writer for Travel Guru – A smart travel community dedicated to connecting travelers and saving them time and money on their travels.

For more European adventures:

Cycling by the sea in Istria – in Croatia
Culture and clubbing – my 18 year old daughter hits the town in Budapest
Thermal springs and rubber rings at Hévíz – in Hungary

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Hiking the Dry Stone Route in Mallorca – from Deia to Lluc monastery

November 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Europe, featured, Leisure, Mallorca, Nature, Spain, Walking

My friend Julia and I spent a few days in Mallorca this September, walking the GR221 Drystone Route that runs along the west coast and through the Tramuntana mountains. Having walked the Tour de Mont Blanc together over the previous four years, we were ready for something a little gentler this year. Mallorca seemed to fit the bill with autumn sunshine, some challenging mountain walks combined with sea views and comfortable hotels to stay in rather than a communal dorm in a mountain hut. You can read here about the first two days of our walk starting at the pretty artist’s village of Deia when we walked to the mountain monastery at Lluc.

Heather and Julia ready to set off on our walk from Deia in Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Heather and Julia ready to set off on our walk from Deia in Mallorca

We’d flown in to Palma late the previous evening and after breakfast in the pretty courtyard of Hotel Born, we hoisted our rucksacks on our backs and walked through the narrow streets towards the bus station at Placa d’Espanya. There is an excellent and regular bus service joining all the major towns of Mallorca and we took the bus 210 which passes through Valldemossa, Deia and Soller which are all convenient points to pick up the Dry Stone Route – timetables and more information on the tib.org website.

From the bus we could see Valdermossa, a picturesque town surrounded by mountains with views of the sea in the distance, where the writer George Sand spent a winter in 1838 with her lover, the composer Frederick Chopin. They had an uncomfortable and unhappy time and she wrote a rather scathing account of the Mallorcan people and customs in her book “A Winter in Mallorca“. We got off the bus at the next stop of Deia, a hilltop town which became popular with writers and artists because of the writer Robert Graves who made his home here. Exploring the small streets off the main road we discovered the village shop where we bought a few provisions for lunch and some water before starting our walk.

Dry stone route from Deia to Soller, Mallorca

Dry stone route from Deia to Soller, Mallorca

Further along the road from the bus stop, we soon picked up the signs for the GR221 which took us along the hillside winding through olive groves with views towards the sea. Seeming easy at first the path then crossed a few stiles and became quite rocky, so I got out one of my walking poles to avoid twisting an ankle. We snaked down the valley and followed the road for a short while before turning up steps between two houses and joining a path that ran parallel to the main road below.

This stretch was very pleasant as we walked in the shade, with cicadas chirping and the scent of pine needles in the air. The path was now taking on its ‘dry stone’ character, with stone terraces containing olive trees, the occasional stone built house and the retaining walls by the path making a grey patchwork with the stones fitting together perfectly.

Around 2 hours after walking out of Deia we came upon Can Prohom, a gorgeous large Mallorcan farmhouse with an outdoor terrace serving fresh orange juice and home-made lemonade with an array of quiche, meringues and almond cake. This was a taste of the wealthy country houses of Mallorca with an old carriage on display in the entrance and a mural of local costumes above the kitchen and we were perfectly happy to sit for a while on the terrace to take in the views over the valley.

Can Prohom between Deia to Soller, Mallorca

Can Prohom between Deia to Soller, Mallorca

Feeling refreshed, we walked down below Can Prohom, following the road for a while before it turned into a path that took us through fields and scrubland, until we came over a rise and could see the sea in the distance. A little further and we caught a glimpse of the Far des Cap Gros lighthouse and a small cruise ship just below the point at the entrance to the bay of Port de Soller. We stopped at the Rifugi de Muleta, a solid stone building which was once a telegraph station but now offers simple accommodation and refreshments for passing walkers like us. Never one to miss the opportunity for a drink of fresh orange juice or a terrace with a view, we sat here for a while before walking down the hill past the whitewashed lighthouse.

Far des Cap Gros lighthouse above Port de Soller, Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Far des Cap Gros lighthouse above Port de Soller, Mallorca

The point where the road reached the lighthouse and Refugi de Mulata offered fabulous views over the bay and was clearly a favourite spot to walk up to for a photo opportunity for the more adventurous holiday makers of Port de Soller. Our Hotel, Citrix Soller was a modest establishment set on the same small road just above the resort, so we checked into our room and relaxed there a while before walking down to explore the resort, which encircled the bay with the usual selection of shops, bars and restaurants aimed at the tourists. Along the seafront stretch of sand were kayaks, pedalos and a marina at the far end of the bay with the old fashioned tram going up and down the promenade.

Admiring the view over Port de Soller, Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Admiring the view over Port de Soller, Mallorca

The vintage tram ran every half an hour from the seafront at Port de Soller to the older town of Soller and took us to the Placa de sa Constitucia surrounded by outdoor cafes and the 17th century church of Sant Bartomeu. We decided to have dinner in Soller, enjoying the authentic, Mallorcan feel of the town and took a recommendation on Tripadvisor to find the charming Café Scholl down a side street. This pretty cafe had the retro feel of a Viennese tea house, with cakes and light veggie dishes – perfect for morning coffee or a light lunch but also open in the evening. We sat on the covered patio at the back and enjoyed a delicious meal of beetroot gazpacho and fluffy ricotta ravioli with an orange Aperol Spritz that has become my favourite aperitif since I tried it in Italy.

The tram to Soller and our dinner at Cafe Scholl Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The tram to Soller and our dinner at Cafe Scholl

We made an early start the next morning, taking the taxi into Soller where the Saturday market was just setting up with a van selling cheese and sausages and some clothing stalls. Picking up the GR221 signs from the central Placa, the walk soon took us away from the residential streets, through the orchards and orange groves for which this valley is famous. Soon we were approaching the Binibassi, all green shutters and bright pink bougainvillea and then on to Biniarix, another pretty village with old stone houses, a couple of bars and shops and a communal washing house at the end of the village.

Walking through the lemon groves outside Soller in Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking through the lemon groves outside Soller in Mallorca

Looking back towards Soller, the mist was still hanging over the valley as the sun tried to come out to burn off the haze. Below us the fields were terraced, with figs, water melons and tomato plants irrigated with fat black pipes fed from stone reservoirs at the corner of each field.

View back towards Soller in Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

View back towards Soller in Mallorca

Now we were at the start of the Serra de Tramuntana with craggy stone peaks rising ahead as the path became a broad series of cobbled steps snaking up between orange and grey sandstone cliffs. It was striking how the sides of this valley were terraced everywhere we looked and I wondered how they could maintain the walls, terraces and even houses so well in such an inaccessible place. Many of these terraces are centuries old and the Mallorcan government has put a lot of investment into maintaining and developing these walking paths in recent years, in the drive to develop rural tourism.

We passed a mule coming down the path, laden down with paniers on either side, perhaps filled with the olive harvest. Since no roads go up this far, this seems to be the only way to transport goods up and down to the few small houses that the farmers use when tending the land.

Walking on the dry stone route from Soller to Cuber, Mallorca

Walking on the dry stone route from Soller to Cuber, Mallorca

After following the path steeply uphill through a place where the gorge narrowed, we finally reached a viewpoint at the top where we sat under a tree to eat our late picnic lunch. The path continued through dense woodland and finally opened out to a spot where we could glimpse the Cuber reservoir below us in the distance. Plenty of walkers passed us from that direction, since it seemed to be a popular day-hike to take the bus up from Soller and get off at the reservoir, then walk downhill back to Soller, a much easier incline than our arduous uphill struggle!

View towards Reservoir Cuber in Mallorca

View towards Reservoir Cuber in Mallorca

The path led us through an open valley grazed by sheep and horses and along the side of the milky blue reservoir. The water looked inviting but we didn’t dare pause too long since we were heading to the carpark at the far end of the valley where the bus was due to pass through only once that afternoon. The GR221 continued from here to the more remote Refugi de Tossals Verds where we would have loved to have stayed, but it was closed for renovation, so we had no option but to take the bus on to the Lluc monastery where we had booked for 2 nights.

View towards Reservoir Cuber in Mallorca

View towards Reservoir Cuber in Mallorca

We arrived in good time at the car park and waited there for some time, since there was no official bus stop, hoping that the bus would come and we wouldn’t be left stranded. Eventually it did and in 20 minutes we were entering the gates of the imposing complex of Lluc Monastery, one of the major pilgimage sites of Mallorca. Stay tuned for my next article about our stay at Lluc Monastery and the final stages of our walk on the GR221 Dry Stone Route in Mallorca.

If you’d like to walk the Dry Stone Route

Trekking in Mallorca GR221 guide

Click to buy on Amazon

If you plan to walk the GR221 Dry Stone Route I recommend the guide book that we used Trekking through Mallorca – GR221 The Dry Stone Route by Paddy Dillon published by Cicerone.

To transfer from Palma airport to the centre of Palma we took the airport bus No 1 which runs every 15 minutes and will leave you at Placa d’Espana where you will find both the train and bus station. Cost around €3 one way.

Information on routes, timetables and costs of the excellent regular bus service throughout Mallorca, visit the www.tib.org Mallorca Transport website. We used the bus to get from Palma to Deia, from Cuber to Lluc and from Pollenca to Palma.

You can buy the rather uncomplimentary account of Mallorca “A Winter in Mallorca” written by George Sand about the winter she spent there with her lover, the composer Frederick Chopin.

We stayed at Hotel Born in Palma, Hotel Citric in Soller and Santuari de Lluc. In Soller we ate at Cafe Scholl.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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