This Balkan side dish is one of my absolute favourites. I’m not a fan of mashed potato but this is so much more than that. A mixture of potato, kidney and cannellini beans and pancetta this is simply truly delicious! Plus, it’s incredibly easy to make and goes well with meat, sausages, fish and salad.
Check out the recipe below…
600g maris piper potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
240g (1 tin) of cannellini beans
240g (1 tin) of red kidney beans
250g diced panetta
150ml sour cream
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender (it should take about 20 minutes)
Meanwhile fry the pancetta until crispy
Drain the potatoes and return them to the pan
Add the butter and sour cream and mash until smooth
Add the beans and pancetta into the potato and stir
This winter has been one of the most severe in recent years so it has been important to keep warm and eat plenty of hearty food. One of my favourite recipes sure to warm you up and originating from Slovenia in the Balkans, is Pašta Fižol. This bacon, bean and pasta soup is rich and has a touch of spice. Plus, it’s incredibly easy and requires just one pot to save on washing up! Simply serve with some chunky bread (preferably rye) to enjoy a fabulous winter warming meal.
500g pancetta lardons (or smoked bacon)
1 tin of red kidney beans (240g drained beans)
1 bay leaf
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp tomato puree
20g plain flour
600ml chicken stock
125g small pasta shapes
2 tsp marjoram
2 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp cider vinegar
Heat the bacon and onion in a large stockpot
When the bacon and onion are thoroughly cooked, add the garlic and stir thoroughly
Stir in the tomato puree
Add the flour gradually
Pour in the stock and stir
Bring the boil (constantly stirring to prevent sticking)
Reduce heat to a simmer
Add pasta, marjoram, beans and bay leaf to pan and cook for 10 minutes or until pasta is cooked
Obviously, Slovenia is one of my favourite countries in which to holiday so I was excited to hear that for 2011, specialist tour operator, Just Slovenia, is offering short breaks over New Year to the pretty, medieval town of Radovljica, where the fourth generation of the Štiherle family welcomes guests to the charming Kunstelj inn for traditional celebrations and gourmet dining.
With its classic architecture, pavement cafes, healthy sub-alpine climate, several interesting museums, plus numerous footpaths, Radovljica has much to offer visitors, including spectacular views of the majestic Julian Alps, Mount Triglav and the River Sava running through the valley below. It is also just 10 minutes’ drive from picturesque Bled, where pletna boat rides across the stunning lake, kremsnita cream cakes and the 17th century castle are among the attractions.
On New Year’s Eve, visitors to the historic Kunstelj inn, where guests have been welcomed since 1873, will enjoy a delicious five-course gourmet dinner. Then it’s off for a drink or two and some live music and singing in the local bars, or maybe a short drive to Bled where food stalls, music and a firework display will help to see in 2011 in style.
Based on two people departing on 30 December for three nights, the price of £488 per person includes return flights from Stansted to Ljubljana, car hire, bed & breakfast, a welcome drink, three gourmet meals including dinner on New Year’s Eve and a traditional Slovene meal on New Year’s Day.
While I was in Belgrade I visited The House of Flowers, Tito’s Mausoleum. On entering the museum and while buying my entrance ticket I was excited to spy a copy of Tito’s Cookbook.
The book, written by Anja Drulovic is a compilation of Tito’s favourite recipes, alongside images of him meeting international dignitaries including Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and the Kennedys, famous actors such as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and even ruthless dictator, Saddam Hussein.
It’s certainly an interesting read, with some fantastic photographs. Priced at 3000 Serbian Dinar I think it’s well worth buying for those with an interest in food and history.
This December Maribor in Slovenia will start to glow in festive atmosphere with the switching on of the Fairy’s Ball Festive Lights throughout the old town. The Colourful December festival offers a rich event programme including numerous art productions and concerts in a number of cultural institutions and churches, street performances and open air music concerts of popular artists, a lively children’s programme, festive fairs and the biggest live nativity scenes in Slovenia. The Festival’s highlight is the popular New Year’s Eve Celebration in the Maribor’s old town core with the top Slovenian ensembles and soloists and a large midnight fireworks show. Check out the programme in full below…
Colourful December 2010 Programme:
3rd December: the festive switching on of the holiday lights
3rd – 5th December: St Nicholas Fair
11th – 25th December: a Christmas – New Year Fair
10th – 30th December: a Colourful December program for children
20th – 30th December: street performances
25th December: a Christmas concert
28th – 30th December: concerts by Slovenian music stars
31st December: a big open-air New Year’s Eve celebration with the best Slovenian ensembles and soloists, as well as a firework display at midnight
Christmas Markets are a true highlight of the advent period and are sure to get everyone into the festive spirit. Head to one of the many markets in Eastern Europe to enjoy some real festive fare including local wine, beers, sausages and artisan crafts. Here’s our top ten…
During Advent Vienna is a city of nostalgia and romance with many concerts, nativity displays and traditional Christmas markets taking place throughout the city. The most renowned markets include the Viennese Christmas Markets on Freyung, at Spittelberg, at Am Hof and in front of the church of St. Charles Borromeo (Karlskirche).
Prague, Czech Republic
Christmas is a special time of year in Prague and the Christmas markets (Vanocni trh) are a key ingredient in the Czech festive magic. The Prague Christmas markets bring visitors and locals together to share the holiday spirit in a true ‘winter wonderland’ setting. The main markets can be found at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square with smaller ones at Namesti Republiky and Havelske Trziste. Open 9am to 7pm daily.
The Festive Fair, held in the Town Centre (Breg and Cankarjevo nabrežje embankments, Prešernov trg square) is well known for its vibrancy and cheerful atmosphere. Festively decorated green stalls, designed specially for the fair, sell a fine choice of products suitable for giving as gifts including food and drink, clothes and fashion accessories. Open from 10am to 10 pm daily.
Each festive season Nuremberg’s Old Town is decorated in its Christmas regalia and the tempting aromas of mulled wine, sweet roasted almonds, sausages and gingerbread create a truly unforgettable atmosphere. The Christkindlesmarkt is situated in the heart of the city which is steeped in more than 400 years of tradition providing an international showcase for all Franconian and German Christmas Markets. While younger visitors can enjoy the Kinderweihnacht (Children’s Christmas Market) where historic steam-powered merry-go-rounds and other activities are waiting for them. Open from 9.30am to 8pm Monday to Thursdays, 9.30am to 10pm Fridays and Saturdays, 10.30am to 8pm on Sunday.
Cologne holds an impressive seven Christmas Markets. The four largest Christmas markets are located at Cologne Cathedral, on the Alter Markt (Home of the Heinzel Christmas Market), on the Neumarkt and on the Rudolfplatz (Fairytale Christmas Market). Every year these four markets attract almost 2 million visitors. Open every day from 11am to 9pm.
With well over 50 Christmas Markets and advent bazaars every year, Berlin features prominently on Germany’s calendar of Yuletide events. A popular market is situated next to Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church amidst the bustle of shoppers on the high street between the Kurfüstendamm and Tauenzien. The Berlin Christmas Market shown on the map on the left is WeihnachtsZauber situated on the Gendarmenmarkt. This is probably one of the most popular markets in Berlin and is well sited in terms of nearby hotel accommodation. Open 9am to 9pm daily.
One of the most popular Christmas fairs in Europe awaits the lovers of winter programmes this year again in the heart of Budapest, in Vörösmarty Square. There are more than 100 wooden pavilions, which sell unique high quality folklore and applied arts products. Christmas decorations, small presents, candles, gloves, woollen hats, wrought iron and woven products are also sold here, as well as other special articles that cannot be found anywhere else. You can experience the real wonders of winter while enjoying traditional products that have been evaluated by a jury, and satisfying your appetite at typical Hungarian buffets, which offer mulled wine, kürtoskalács (sweet Hungarian pastry), roast chestnuts and other market snacks. Open 10am to 8pm daily.
Sibiu Christmas Market is one of the most popular events of the year in the city. Being the first traditional Christmas Market opened in Romania, it was first held in 2007, in the Little Square located in the downtown area, with a total number of 38 wooden cabins. In 2008 and 2009, Sibiu Christmas Market took place in the Large Square, one of the best places to be visited in the historical center of the city. Open from 10am to 9pm daily.
Cologne in London, UK
Once again Londoners and visitors to the city can enjoy a taste of Cologne this Christmas at the London Southbank Christmas Market. While wandering about, look for and find unusual Christmas presents such as amber and silver jewellery, hand-crafted toys, fragile glass ornaments for your Christmas tree, hand tatted laces, tin toys, candles in all shapes and sizes, hand-made ceramics and creative metal design. Sip on a glass of glühwein or bottle of Kölsch” and nibble on some gingerbread hearts, roasted almonds and candies or even a delicious crepe. Open 11am to 8pm Mondays to Thursdays, and Sundays, 10am to 10pm Fridays and Saturdays.
Estonia’s medieval capital is inherently festive and though temperatures do dip quite drastically this time of year, the city’s celebratory atmosphere does well to dispel the cold. Tallinn’s Christmas Market may be one of the most recently established but it is now among the most well-loved in Europe. December’s darkness is dispelled with colourful lights, music and an abundance of activity. Head to Tallinn’s Town Hall Square, Raekoja Plats, and visit more than 50 merchant stalls featuring products by local artisans. These stalls surround a beautiful Christmas tree. Open daily from 10am to 6pm.
If you are looking for a winter sports experience with a difference, then head to Slovenia where two new self catering properties have been launched by Slovenian Retreats in the Julian Alps area, close to Kranjska Gora, Slovenia’s best known ski-resort and home to annual world cup slalom and ski-jumping events.
Villas Planina and Nebina offer great value ski accommodation for either those looking for individual apartments or for big groups of up to 20 people wishing to hire out the whole properties. Villa Planina is situated on the edge of the charming rustic village of Ratece. Each apartment within the villa are finished to an extremely high quality, with luxury features such as underfloor heating, flat screen TVs, DVD players, wireless internet and a shared pool table and ping pong table, as well as a kid’s communal soft play area. The villa is situated in a unique location with uninterrupted panoramic views from each apartment towards the Julian Alps and snow capped peaks of Jalovec and Mojstrovka mountains. Local facilities in the village offer a range of restaurants, traditional taverns (or ‘gostlinas’) and a supermarket, and the villa is just a five minute drive from central Kranjska Gora or even less to the slopes at Podkoren. Prices start from €60 (Euros) per night for a loft apartment sleeping between two and four people and based on a minimum stay of three nights.
Villa Nebina has been designed in more of a ‘farmhouse style’ holiday rental property and has been reconstructed on the site of a farmhouse originally built over 150 years ago in the traditional Slovenian village of Ratece, just 5 minutes drive away from Kranjska Gora. The property includes four apartments and many of the original features of the building, such as vaulted ceilings and a traditional enclosed wooden balcony, have been retained at this high quality accommodation. The four apartments are furnished and equipped to an extremely high standard with alpine solid wood furnishings seamlessly combined with contemporary facilities such as flat screen TVs & DVDs. Apartment three has its own balcony access and other apartments have shared balcony access – with magnificent mountain panoramas. Prices start from €60 (Euros) per night for a ground floor apartment sleeping between three and five people and based on a minimum stay of three nights.
A Special Launch Offer from €69 per person, per week is available for house parties – Villa Planina can sleep between 12 and 20 people and Villa Nebina can sleep between 12 and 18 people so both offer great value ski accommodation for big groups. If you wish to get a discount on renting the whole of either Villa Planina or Nebina, then there is a special launch offer available. An offer of seven nights for the price of six is available if you book the whole of Villa Planina or Nebina for a week.
So, a week hiring out the whole of Villa Planina would start from €1,380 (discounted from €1,610) – this works out at just €69 per person, per week based on 20 people sharing – and for the whole of Villa Nebina it would start at €1,740 (discounted from €2,030)- this works out at just €97 per person, per week based on 18 people sharing. This offer is not valid for New Year.
Flights from London Stansted to Ljubljana with Easyjet are priced from £22.99 per person, or from London Gatwick with Adria. Another airport within an hour’s drive of both villas include Klagenfurt in Austria (serviced by Ryanair).
There are so many reasons to visit Slovenia and this September there are some fantastic events taking place which will not fail to lure you to this bountiful Balkan land. First up is the Maribor Music Festival which is taking place between the 3rd and 12th of September. The festival offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy a traditional international festival of chamber music against the historic backdrop of Slovenia’s second city, Maribor.
Comprising 17 main concerts together with several accompanying events, the festival will feature performances of masters such as Dvorak, Beethoven and Rachmaninov, as well as world premieres written for the event. They will take place in some of Maribor’s most impressive venues, such as its 12th century Gothic-style cathedral and Maribor Castle, which was first mentioned in the 1100s. Visit www.festivalmaribor.si for more details.
Next up is Bohinj Cow Ball! The Kravji Bal or Cow Ball takes place on 19 September at picturesque Lake Bohinj in the heart of the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park, and celebrates the return of the cattle to the valley after a long summer pasture. Cows are decorated with wreaths and bells and paraded through the now dry Govic waterfall accompanied by herdsmen, dairy maids and cheese-makers; stalls sell wicker work, wooden products and herdsmen’s cheese. Plus there’s traditional entertainment with folk music, dancing, sling shooting, horse-shoe casting and log sawing.
With lakes, mountains, picturesque coastal towns and a buzzing capital city, there really is something for everyone in Slovenia! For more information about this Balkan gem visit Slovenia.info
The Old Vine Festival, held in Maribor and the surrounding winegrowing regions takes place between the 18th and 26th of September 2010. The festival honours the city’s 440-year-old vine (of which there is a permanent, all-year exhibition, where visitors can learn about the vine) officially the oldest in the world. The festival itself is a celebration of local food, wine and folk music. However, the most significant event is the traditional grape-gathering ceremony which takes place on the final day of the festival.
The events take place on Grajski Trg and Glavni Trg (main town squares), around the old Lent district of the city and on the surrounding wine roads. Here you can purchase fresh regional produce from the street displays. You will find all manner of local produce on offer, including pumpkin seed oil, potted plants, flowers and fruit. Plus you will have the change to taste traditional Slovenian recipes cooked up in cauldrons by local chefs.
Nights in Ljubljana Old Town is a mini festival closing the summer in Ljubljana Old Town festival and symbolically concluding Ljubljana’s summer event season. Taking place between 24th and 28th August, it traditionally features outdoor concerts accompanied by a diverse mixture of other cultural and entertainment events taking place in the streets and squares of the old part of the city centre. Entrance is free so if you find yourself in Ljubljana at the end of August, make sure you take full advantage of the festivities.