Trancoso dreaming – why we loved Brazil!

Without question, the number one perk of running a streetfood business (and the number one reason for holding off on bricks and mortar!) is the freedom it gives you to shut hatch and travel the world.

We get so much inspiration from our travels and playing around this evening with a tapioca pancake recipe, a smoked tofu feijoada and a yummy Biribando salad for our new book, has reminded us of what a magical time we had in Brazil last year.

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First stop was Rio, perhaps the most beautifully situated city we’ve ever visited.

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We stayed at the seriously gorgeous Mama Ruisa http://www.mamaruisa.com in the artsy Santa Teresa hood and had a ball from the moment we arrived.

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It was a whirlwind few days, hoping in taxi after taxi to visit Christ the Redeemer, to stroll among the palms at the Botanical Gardens, to whizz up Sugar Loaf, to eat healthy food in Leblon, to stroll along Ipanema beach, fresh coconut in hand, to get lost amid the old colonial buildings of Centro; making a trolley dash at the Granada apothecary http://www.granados.com.br and stuffing our faces with pao de queijo at the Confeitaria Colombo http://www.confeitariacolombo.com.br

 

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It was hard to tear ourselves away, but a short flight to Porto Seguro and we were heading towards Trancoso. We arrived after a slightly hairy drive and a rather long detour down a dirt path where, nerves frayed by the impending dusk, torrential rain and total solitude, we argued slightly as we debated at what point to accept we’d gone wrong and to head back. Still, as soon as we saw the twinkling lights of the Quadrado at night…

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…and were ushered into the sanctuary of Uxua http://www.uxua.com, hands down the most super stylish place we’ve ever had the good fortune to stay, the journey was quickly forgotten. ‘Why on Earth did you drive yourselves?’ asked Carlos (head concierge and one of the best people we’ve ever met). It was a good question.

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Bunkering down in our little blue house directly on the Quadrado, we weren’t too lucky with the weather, but made the most of short spells of sunshine at the heavenly pool or down at the beach club.

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We woke every morning to see the local fishermen chatting on their way down to the beach, we watched the most romantic wedding ever take place at the iconic church, we did yoga, we skipped capoeira but learnt how to SUP, we felt part of the village as evening fell and everyone came out into the Quadrado to chat, to play football, to set up trampolines for the local kids, to eat flan; but mostly we just lounged around, hypnotised into torpor by the slow pace and fantasising about the pink house that was for sale.

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A weekend in Baden Baden

I don’t know quite why but I’ve always had a real urge to visit the spa town of Baden Baden (on reflection, maybe the spa bit has something to do with it!). Black Forest Gateaux might also come into the mix or perhaps my occasional longing for what’s probably a highly romanticised idea of the gentility of days gone by.

In search of such gentility, there really is only one place to stay, and that’s the epically luxurious Brenners Park http://www.brenners.com. Given that it was Valentine’s weekend, I upped the ante and treated us to a room there and what a true delight it was with fresh cut flowers and divine macaroons and medjool dates to great us. And a mini bar full of kombucha!

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Bliss was found sipping cappuccinos in ludicrously fluffy robes on our lovely balcony overlooking the Lichtentaler Allee, the kind of place where you can’t imagine anything bad ever happening.

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We had a lovely walk in the Black Forest before hitting the famous spas in the afternoon.

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We visited the Caracalla spa http://www.carasana.de/de/caracalla-therme/ which had the most incredible array of thermal baths, steam rooms and saunas but I perhaps wouldn’t recommend visiting on Valentine’s Day! Even with prebooked tickets, the queues were around the block and, at full capacity, the total nudity expected (which we were braced for from previous visits to German and Austrian spas) was a little more intense. We got through most of the heat stations but drew the line at sharing a tiny jacuzzi with 10 other naked people! So despite being keen to visit the Fredrichsbad the following day, we instead retreated to the rather more private spa facilities at the hotel, which was definitely a far more relaxing experience. Brenners Park has a seriously top notch spa and I loved the morning yoga classes and wished we were staying longer to enjoy more of the wellness activities.

The food was also extremely good. We generally find these kind of old school hotels have very little for vegetarians, but there were a number of (even vegan) options on the menu at the Wintergarten and Rive Gauche. But mostly we saved our appetites for the sweet stuff. The absolute highlight was the ridiculously indulgent Cold ice-cream Soufflé Stephanie which has been served at the hotel for over 135 years! Taking this to be a recommendation, we tucked in like small children to the ludicrous concoction of trifle, ice cream, cream and raspberry sauce. I think it’s meant for 4 but we managed to polish it off though we were grateful to only have a short journey upstairs to bed.

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We couldn’t leave without a slice of Black Forest Gateaux and the best ones we found were at Brenners or the delightful Cafe Konig, another deeply comforting old school establishment.

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By the time we got home, we were happy but a little cream caked out, so here’s our raw and vegan interpretation of the famous Schwarzwalderkirschtorte! It’s delicious!

Raw Black Forest Gateaux

For the filling:

2 cups cashews

¼ cup agave

¼ cup maple

½ cup water

¼ cup raw cacao butter

¼ cup coconut oil

1-2 tsp coffee extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

seeds of ½ vanilla bean

pinch of salt

1 cup cacao powder

10oz bag of frozen cherries

 

Blend everything together except the cacao powder and the cherries.

Once at a creamy consistency, add the cup of cacao and cherries by mixing with a whisk.

 

For the crust:

½ cup brazil nuts

½ cup shredded coconut

salt

1 heaped tbsp cacao powder

1-2 tsp agave

1-2 tbsp cacao nibs

seeds from ¼ vanilla bean

 

Process brazils, coconut, salt, cacao powder and vanilla seeds until mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Add agave and cacao nibs and blend again until sticky.

Press into a springform pan.

Pour over the filling and chill for about 3 hours.

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Happy days and seaweed tea in Margate

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We are just getting keener and keener on Margate. Great places to eat, great places to shop and doggie heaven for our pup Jaffa whose new first love is foraging on the beach (and getting made to measure collars at Doggie Apparel http://doggieapparel.squarespace.com).

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We’ve had some lovely stays at the dog friendly (always a sign of a top place) Albion House http://www.albionhouseramsgate.co.uk just down the road in Ramsgate where we sigh and dream of owning one of the Regency townhouses.

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And have loved walking the coastline from Ramsgate to the blissful Viking Bay in Broadstairs where a stop at Morelli’s http://www.morellisgelato.com always makes us feel better about the world. Dog friendly, very pink, lots of Lloyd Loom  and they serve some of their sundaes in REAL Murano glassware. You can’t help but smile after a pitstop there.

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We’re dying to try Wyatt and Jones http://wyattandjones.co.uk but they’ve been closed every time we’ve visited (mostly on Monday afternoons and out of season so totally understandable). We’ll just have to make a return trip.

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It’s a pretty long walk all the way to Margate so we’re always in desperate need of a cup of tea and some hearty food by the time we reach the Lido sign.

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The Greedy Cow http://www.thegreedycow.com or the (again super dog friendly, why aren’t all places?!) GB Pizza CO http://greatbritishpizza.com are both fantastic but we also really love Forts http://www.fortscafe.co.uk followed by a spot of retail therapy at Plinth http://plinthspace.com and the incredible Haeckels http://haeckels.co.uk.

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You can’t help but think a lot about seaweed after a visit to Haeckels and their seaweed tea is on sale in the shop and on the menu at Forts. It’s a delicious blend that mixes the seaweed with elderflower, citrus and fennel and it’s absolutely brilliant for the digestive system as well as for providing lots of iodine which supports the thyroid and thus helps to ensure lots of  happy cells and a healthy metabolism.

We went searching for our own bladderwrack on the beach to recreate this mighty brew at home!

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Heaven!

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Guethary and Padron Peppers

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Perched on the Atlantic coast between Biarritz and St-Jean-De-Luz, Guethary has to be one of our favourite places that we’ve visited over the past few years and is ideal for a quick break from city life. A wonderful mixture of seaside living and slow paced countryside, we wound down very quickly and eased into the low key surfy lifestyle we’d love to live, if only we could stand up on the board! I’ve tried surfing before without much success but was determined to give it another go and eagerly signed up for some group lessons on the beach at Bidart. I was already in a wetsuit before I realised that the other people on the course were aged between 5 and 7 and that it was going to be conducted in French (which I can’t speak!) but still, I almost got up a couple of times and enjoyed frolicking in the waves, so all good!

We loved our stay at Villa Arguibel http://www.arguibel.fr, looked after by the very charming Francois. Slightly inland, it was a place of pastoral bliss , extreme quiet and VERY comfy beds. We sat contentedly, on our sunny balcony, watching the sheep graze the rolling hills and let time while itself away.

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Food, to be honest, was a bit of a low point on this trip, as it was clearly of the highest order everywhere, but there just wasn’t much on any of the menus for veggies. Still,we loved Hotel Le Madrid http://www.lemadrid.com, the beating heart of the village, for a morning espresso and a bit of people watching. And though we’re obviously very far away from being able to take on the legendary Parlementia wave on nearby Plage de Cenitz, the stylish cafe there was another choice spot for enjoying a light lunch watching the waves roll over the pebbly swathe below. Hétéroclito with it’s patchwork tiles and mish mash decor and Bahia Beach were our top spots for watching the sun go down with a few bowls of tapas.

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Our favourite of which, were the mighty padron peppers, which we’ve been addicted to since our return. We were very pleased to find them on the shelves at Waitrose!

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Simply heat some olive oil in a large pan, whack the padron peppers in until they start to blacken slightly and season with salt and cracked black pepper. Delish!

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Also sensational were the Macarons from Maison Adam in St Jean de Luz. Our version coming soon…

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