At Barbados Food & Rum Festival, a renowned chef shared her secrets for creative, sustainable food (as well as the treat she can't travel without!)
"The smell of happiness is, for me, frying plantain in Barbados."
Shelina Permalloo is a British-Mauritian chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author specializing in Mauritian cuisine. She's known worldwide as the first woman of colour to win BBC's MasterChef competition in 2012, but when I met her, she was thrilled to simply be an attendee of the Barbados Food & Rum Festival (just like me!)
Permalloo first visited Barbados after finishing university (she reports: "There were 16 of us... and the island knew when we arrived!") That initial trip made some lasting impressions, as the large group quickly made friends with locals, got invited home for homemade dinners, and provided the future chef with an abiding love of Barbadian (Bajan) cuisine.
During the Food & Rum Festival's Chef Classics event (an intimate series of cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs), Chef Shelina shared her thoughts on elevating traditional comfort food, embracing sustainable ingredients, and the special treats she can't live without when she travels.
Coffee, cake, and community spirit make me very happy to visit the Lucky Bean Cafe in Montague, Prince Edward Island.
Every now and then when I travel, I come across a little cafe that I love so much, one that makes my travels so much better, that I can't help but write them a bit of a love letter here on the blog. Remember when I found the latte of my dreams in Maun, Botswana? Prepare to meet its Prince Edward Island match, so to speak: the Lucky Bean Cafe in Montague
This charming, delectable little spot has become my go-to cafe whenever I'm leaving or entering PEI via the nearby Wood Islands ferry terminal. It's too good not to share! If you're taking a family trip in the area, or perhaps hiking the Island Walk and need a little fuel, or you simply just want a darn good latte on Prince Edward Island, this is your spot.
I should note that the Lucky Bean has a second cafe in Stratford, PEI, which I haven't visited yet - another spot to add to my travel list! All the photos used in this post are from Lucky Bean's Facebook page (and used with permission). As I never seem to have my camera with me when I go, I appreciate having access to their images.
Whether you're in Montague for several days or just blazing through on route to the ferry, here are nine things you'll appreciate about this cozy cafe.
This virtual Moroccan cooking class is perfect for travellers. It's fun, easy, and - best of all - delicious!
There's nothing so lovely as a homemade meal when you're travelling and I learned firsthand just how delicious a Moroccan tagine with chicken, potato, zucchini, carrots, preserved lemon, and saffron can be when you share it with friends. But I wasn't in someone's home and I certainly wasn't in Morocco! Yet that's what it felt like when I took a virtual Moroccan cooking class with Khmisa and Kawtar, a mother-daughter team based near Rabat.
In pre-COVID times, Khmisa and Kawtar hosted in-person cooking classes. However, like so many small business owners, they've had to pivot with the times and now people from all over the world can join them in their kitchen - virtually, of course - to cook and chat with them. While I would have dearly loved to be cooking with them in person, connecting with them over Zoom was an absolute delight. I was the only person in the class and it felt like I was enjoying a wonderful time with my new girlfriends. In between instructions to marinate my chicken, prepare a delicious appetizer, and get my spices just right, we spoke about what foods are popular here in Ottawa, the challenges of lockdown, and - of course - food.
I booked this experience through Airbnb (you can see their class here) and it only cost me about $23 with the exchange rate, making this one of the best travel deals I've ever enjoyed. And I didn't even have to leave my house! Here's what it was like in my virtual Moroccan cooking class.
This easy-to-make chickpea and sweet potato stew is perfect for travel, whether you're making dinner at the cottage or campground, contributing to a hostel potluck, or just need a quick meal at home after a long road trip.
This delicious, easy-to-make flexible chickpea and sweet potato stew is the perfect travel meal. It comes together in about 20 minutes and it freezes beautifully. All of the ingredients are very frugal and available just about anywhere in the world. You don't need any special equipment at all and you can make it in the most humble of kitchens. Oh, and did I mention that it's delicious!? This is wholesome, hearty, stick-to-ya kind of food that will have you reaching for another bowl.
I have to confess that, while this is the ideal dish to make in an RV or at campground or in a rental home or cottage or hostel kitchen, I consider it an old reliable standby for when I'm actually home. If you're about to go away for a few weeks and you're staring at a sparse fridge and considering takeout, this stew will save you. The same can be said for when you return. The fresh ingredients (primarily a sweet potato and an onion) can live in a crisper forever and everything else hangs out in your pantry indefinitely.
Once upon a time, I left for aweek in Bulgaria and Ryan departed a few days after me to head to the US. I had 48 hours at home before I had to hit the road again and meet up with him in New York and then HE returned home and I followed a week after him after spending time near Niagara. Suffice to say that we weren't exactly doing a lot of grocery shopping with all this coming and going and we were getting kind sick of take out food. Chickpea and potato stew to the rescue!
After nearly nearly two years of research, we're finally ready to crown a winner! These are Ottawa's best chicken wings.
My quest to find Ottawa's best chicken wings began in the early summer of 2020, when restaurant patios were just beginning to reopen - temporarily, as it turned out. I revelled in the simple joy of sitting outside and ordering the kinds of foods that always taste better from a restaurant. I loved every bite of those meals but it was the chicken wings that made the strongest impression. They were so delicious! Had chicken wings always been this crispy, this juicy, this tasty? I was so enamoured that I decided to try as many wings around the city as possible.
I envisioned myself as a kind of Ottawa chicken wing hero, giving the public the kind of much needed independent wing assessments they've long craved, all while delivering sub-standard wings the evisceration they've long deserved. Little did I realize it would be a hobby that would hold me in good steed through many a lockdown.
This creamy bowl of loaded baked potato chip dip is just for you - and perfect for chilly winter nights when you're curled up with your favourite travel books, planning your next adventure.
When the world is a dark and scary place, there is one thing you can count on. Dip. Dip is your friend. Dip is delicious. Dip is the perfect companion when you want to settle in for a long, cozy night of travel planning and dip is a stalwart when you need to shore up the courage to cancel your travel plans. Thanks, pandemic. Dip isn't just a condiment. It is a relationship and I, for one, am fully committed.
Dip is also a crafty way to use up odds and ends from your fridge and create something magical. And loaded baked potato chip dip is easiest of all the I-can't-believe-I-made-that recipes. An admirable mix of creamy, salty, and sharp flavours, it's the perfect choice for a quick treat.
Alas, like nearly all dip recipes out there, the ratios for loaded baked potato dip are always designed to serve an army. It's high time for chip dip recipes that serve one person (maybe two, if you're feeling generous, which I am not). I didn't want to share my dip before COVID-19. I sure don't want double dippers now! These proportions are just begging for you to make yourself a tasty weeknight treat. Dig in!
Ottawa bakeries showcase a delicious side of the city! These are some of my favorites.
I know bakeries. If there's one thing I'm good at, it's tracking down baked goods. And eating them. I am VERY GOOD at eating baked goods.
It's not just the obvious deliciousness I enjoy. Bakeries are a fun, accessible, affordable way to explore a destination. I have vivid memories of my very first backpacking trip in Europe, way back when before the common Euro currency was in play. I was determined to use up all my coins before I crossed borders (rendering them all but useless). As such, I soon became very adapt at buying the exact thing at a bakery that corresponded with the precise amount of coins left in my pocket. I still remember a train station apple pastry procured in France moments before I hoped on a train to Italy! The sweet filling was almost as satisfing as the knowledge that I had used every spare cent.
It's this kind of deep seated bakery love that had me jumping at the chance to investigate Ottawa bakeries. I know first hand that my local favourites make treats every bit as delicious as those fancy French spots that had me carefully counting my pennies all those years ago and I am eager to spread the word about just how much creative baking talent is right here in our hometown. Some of these destinations are long-loved special spots that I can't believe more people haven't heard about yet, while others are new to me, discovered this year as part of the #Invite2 campaign. And some, I must confess, aren't strictly bakeries per se but more like cafes that specialize in their own baked goods. What can I say? The heart wants what it wants. And so does my stomach! I'm sure you will love these sweet destinations as much as I do.
PS: Of course, this is but a tiny sampling of the bakeries the city has to offer, focusing on the places I know well. I hope this is a list that will only grow over time!
This avocado mango salad is the perfect snack to have on a plane, roadtrip, or picnic.
I have a secret to confess about this avocado mango salad. You're looking at a stolen recipe.
Once upon a time, I hosted a potluck dinner and one guest brought a date - who brought this incredible concoction of deliciousness. She described it as a salsa and served it alongside tortilla chips and it was just about the most magical thing I ever tried.
There was only one thing to do. I stole it the receipe and claimed it as my own.
Actually, there were three things to do. First, steal the receipe. Secondly, rebrand it as a salad, not a salsa. Thirdly, enter it in a recipe contest with a local produce store and win a $50 gift card. Done, done, and DONE, thank you very much.
You could say that this receipe is criminally easy to make. You don’t have to get too hung up on precise measurements for it to taste great. It’s sophisticated enough that a seasoned entertainer will be proud to show it off, yet simple enough for a new cook to conquer. Most importantly, it's SO travel friendly.
You could pack a cup of this as a rich, healthy, flavourful snack for the plane or the train. You could easily mix it up at a hostel or rental apartment without needing any special equipment. This avocado mango salad is great for potlucks and it stores well in your cooler for camping trips. The lime juice keeps the avocado from turning brown (though you can always prep the other ingredients in advance and add avocado at the last minute for maximum colour.)
Connecting with my Istanbul instructor, I learned about killing onions, feeding neighbours, and always adding extra olive oil.
There's an old-fashioned tradition which dictates that, if you cook something especially fragrant while preparing Turkish cuisine, you must share it with your neighbours. After all, you never know who might be particularly roused by your aromatic fare. Perhaps there is an expectant mother who has a craving or an elderly person who isn't able to easily visit their favourite cafe.
There's a second part to this tradition. If you are so fortunate to receive a sample of your neighbour's cooking, you must return the cleaned plate with some cooking of your own. It's simply poor form to return a dish empty!
I first heard about this cozy custom from Aysin, my cooking teacher in Istanbul. Under her tutelage, I learned more about Turkish culture and cuisine than I thought possible - and we did it all as a virtual experience, cooking side by side even though we're half a world away.
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