One fantastic way I keep the spirit of travel alive during this time stuck at home is by recreating some of my favorite recipes I have had abroad. My son and I have taken cooking classes around the world, and we try hard to find classes that are practical so we can make dishes ourselves. It is always a great way to relive an adventure!
Below is a list of some of my favorite cooking schools/experiences along with a few favorite recipes from our travels.
I’m a huge fan of visiting Northern Italy in the fall (see my blog post). The food (TRUFFLES!) as well as the wine are all worth making this a destination in and of itself. There is a small hotel in the heart of the wine region called Hotel Castello di Sinio, which is run by an American who is a remarkable chef. The truffle dinner I had there in October years ago is still a highlight for me. She shared a recipe for a spice blend that enhances EVERYTHING, even her scrambled eggs (with the addition of cream cheese — try it, you will be blown away). I now always have a jar of it on hand - works great to season a steak.
Castello “Magia” Seasoning Mix:
½ cup fine sea salt
½ cup natural sea salt (such as Murray River or Himalaya)
1 tsp each whole dried black pepper, white pepper, green pepper, and pink pepper
¼ tsp each garlic powder, onion powder, and dried thyme
In a mortar and pestle, pound all the dried peppers and thyme until fairly fine. If using granular salt, add to the mortar and pound a little bit until the grains are a bit finer. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together well.
A few hours outside of Chiang Mai is a tremendous cooking school and genuine ecotourism property called Khum Lanna . It is fantastic in that you get to wake at dawn and bike into the local market with a chef and learn classic Thai dishes in their hands on classes. I made a dish called Khao Soi, which is a coconut broth with noodles. All of us loved it and I found this wonderful recipe from Bon Appetit that is terrific.
I encourage every client to consider Peru, and I insist that everyone spend at least 24 hours in Lima just to eat. The icon of Peruvian cooking is Gaston Acurio, whose restaurant La Mar has now spread across the globe, even with outposts in Miami and San Francisco. His classic Leche de Tigre is an essential to Peruvian Cuisine. Bon Appetit featured this famous dish in an issue a few years ago that I always follow.
In San Miguel de Allende, the Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada is my favorite property for sure. Mainly because it feels like it could not exist anywhere else. They have a wonderful cooking school called Sazón. You can sign up for classes even if you are not guests of the hotel. My son and I had a wonderful class where we first visited the local market, then came back to cook classic Fish Tacos.
Tacos de Pescado
1 small head of cabbage
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp oregano
5 tilapia fillets
2 ½ cups wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp chicken broth powder
Salt to taste
½ cup of oil for frying
1 kg corn tortillas
Slice the cabbage and jalapeño. Add vinegar, salt, oregano, and lemon. Toss and set aside.
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, chili powder, chicken broth powder, and salt. Then add the eggs and mix. Pour in beer until the mixture is slightly thicker than pancake batter.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Using a fork, transfer the tilapia fillets to the batter and coat.
Once oil is hot, fry the tilapia until golden brown.
Heat the tortillas and serve your fish tacos with the cabbage mixture, pico de gallo, avocado, and green salsa.
My recent trip to India was a foodie's dream. I made the trip with a handful of Brownell Travel Advisors and we were hosted by our wonderful partners at &Beyond. Almost everyone went in to the trip nervous about the food, but we all left completely addicted to one (if not many) of the dishes we grew to love. When we send clients to India, we try to combine the luxury of the Oberoi properties in India with some smaller family-run estates. The Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur made a dish that I fell in love with! This shrimp dish has many ingredients, but it is worth trying out.
Ajwaini Kadhai Jhinga
7 oz prawns or shrimp 7 oz tomato 7 oz onion 3.5 oz capsicum (bell pepper) 2-3 garlic cloves, chopped. 2 teaspoons ginger, chopped. 1 teaspoon green chilies 1.8 oz chopped tomato ¾ teaspoon caraway seeds ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds ¼ teaspoon coriander seeds 1 dried red chili 1 teaspoon red chili powder ¾ teaspoon coriander powder 2 Tablespoons butter 1 or 2 fresh fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) 1.5 Tablespoons ghee 1 teaspoon fresh coriander 2 teaspoon salt
Dice the onions and bell pepper. Finely dice the tomato. Set aside.
Heat ghee in a heavy bottom pan. Add dry red chili, caraway seeds, cumin seeds, and coriander seeds. Sauté until it sputters.
Add the chopped garlic and ginger and cook until golden brown.
Add the powdered masalas (spices) and cook until oil surfaces. Add diced onion and bell pepper.
Add the chopped tomatoes and cook on low until oil comes to the top.
Then, add finely diced tomato and cook. Once the sauce is thickened, add prawns and cook through.
Adjust the seasoning to taste and finish the dish with butter, kasoori methi, and fresh coriander.
Argentina Pulpo, or octopus, is a staple in Spain and most parts of South America. My all-time favorite preparation is at the restaurant Elena at the Four Seasons Buenos Aires. When I lived in Santiago, we used to go to Buenos Aires often and we always stayed at the Four Seasons because of the fantastic sommelier (who introduced us to some terrific wines) and this preparation of Octopus. The chef was kind enough to share the recipe with me and I make it all the time now at home. I have made Octopus so many different ways, but this is my foolproof go-to recipe. You need to prepare this the day before you plan to serve it.
4.4 pounds of Spanish Octopus (always frozen but that leads to better texture) 14.2 oz of Onion 10.5 oz of Carrot 7 oz of Celery 7 oz of Leek 1 Bay Leaf 2 Whole Garlic Cloves 1 Small Cinnamon Stick 1 Clove Directions: 1. Chop all of the vegetables into 2-inch cubes. 2. Rinse the octopus under water for about 10 minutes 3. Place octopus in baking pan and incorporate all the vegetables and spices. Cover very well with aluminum foil in order to keep in all of the steam. 4. Cook at 350 degrees for about 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes until you can insert a fork in the tentacle and it comes out easily. 5. Leave it to cool down covered and then refrigerate overnight or until completely cooled. 6. When ready to serve, remove octopus from the pan. Season with chopped herbs and olive oil and grill quickly on a very hot surface until you get a crust. Enjoy!
I am obviously eager to help my clients get back into the excitement of planning their next trip, but in the meantime, I'll cook to keep me connected to adventure.