The Amazing Scallop Pie

The Australian meat pie is one food item that is deemed to be a truly local culinary meal. It is also an iconic snack that goes hand in hand with Aussie Rules Football. I like the idea of pies, they are such a comforting and traditional food, especially when well anointed in bottled sauce, but as I don’t eat meat, the native version is not for me. I’m also not a fan of football, but as the AFL Grand Final is today, I may watch a short segment of the match, perhaps the last 5 minutes, as I eat my very untraditional Australian scallop pie. Two Victorian teams will be battling it out, they tell me, the Cats and the Tigers: I may keep some earphones handy and listen to music as it’s the sound of football I dislike the most. I don’t mind a few close ups of the lads climbing all over each other in their attempt to get their hands on that leather ball. As the state of Victoria remains under strict lockdown, the finals match will be played in Brisbane, Queensland, a state that has managed to avoid the plague so far.

Heavenly scallop pies

During this extraordinary year of the pandemic and consequent very strict lockdown, I’ve developed my pie making skills, thanks to the discovery of a base recipe by Australian chef Neil Perry. I’ve discovered that the success of a good pie, which in my case is either vegetarian or seafood, comes down to the flavour and texture of the glutinous sauce which binds the ingredients together. I’ve played with Neil Perry’s base sauce recipe many times now and have adapted it to the ingredients and herbs that grow in my garden. So far, I’ve made pumpkin and carrot pot pies, leek, potato and cheese pies, and these wonderful scallop pies. Once you master this sauce, you can add anything really. The pie filling can be placed in a ramekin dish and topped with puff pastry, or you can use pie molds for a complete top and bottom pastry lined traditional pie. It’s worth spending a little extra on very good commercial puff pastry, especially if you’re planning to fill them with expensive, seasonal Bass Straight scallops.

The saucing makes all the difference.

I’m breaking this recipe into a few parts. The first part deals with the binding thick gravy. I’ve adapted the original recipe from Perry and switched to stock for the liquid ( the original used milk). I’ve also added mild curry powder for these scallop pies, but use Dijon mustard for other vegetable versions.

Very adaptable thick pie gravy recipe, enough for 4 pies

  • 80 gr butter
  • 1 1/2 Tb EV olive oil
  • 1 leek, white and pale green parts, finely sliced
  • 2 Tb wild fennel herb finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • sea salt, freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • cayenne pepper, a pinch
  • 1/2 cup plain ( AP) flour
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups stock, made from stock cubes or powder, warmed
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of mild curry powder such as Keens
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • zest of 1/2 lemon, optional
  • small handful of flat leafed parsley, finely chopped

To make the sauce, heat the butter and olive oil in saucepan over low heat. Add the leek, fennel herb, garlic, a pinch of salt, white pepper, cayenne and cook over low heat for 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Stir in the flour and curry powder and cook until the mixture bubbles and becomes grainy, stirring as you go.

Gradually pour in the wine, stirring well, then gradually add the warm stock. Continue stirring until the mixture bubbles. Add in lemon zest and parsley, the taste and check seasoning.

The filling and pastry for scallop pies, enough for 4.

  • 300 grs fresh scallops, remove hard digestive tracts on side, cut large scallops in half
  • 1 potato, around 120 gr or so, peeled, diced and cooked in water for 10 minutes
  • 1 pkt of good quality butter puff pastry sheets. You’ll need four sheets for encased pies or two sheets for ramekin pastry topped pies.
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 Tb milk, whisked together for the pastry glaze

Putting the pies together

After you’ve made the pie gravy, add the raw scallops and cooked diced potato to the mixture. Cool the mixture while defrosting the puff pastry sheets.

Grease some pie tins and line with pastry cut to shape. Fill the pies with cooled scallop mixture. Top with pastry lids cut to shape and crimp well, joining top to lining. Brush the egg glaze over the pastry. Pierce or fork the top of each pie to allow the steam to escape. Place the pies on a baking tray and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200c or 180 c FF. Bake the baking tray in the centre of the oven and bake for round 20 minutes or until pastry is golden.

If you make a version of these pies, using the special thick and flavoursome gravy recipe, let me know. I’m keen to collect more good versions.

Below is a collage of my week in Instagram pics. Instagram is a lot less demanding than blogging, especially now that WordPress has changed its editing programme. Am I the only one struggling to adapt to this new geeky block editor?

Mussels Galician style

There’s no shortage of good quality fresh fish and seafood in Melbourne, but getting your hands on it at a reasonable price is another thing. Under the State of Victoria’s present regulations for controlling the spread of Covid-19, there’s a 5 kilometre rule in place which limits the distance one may travel to do essential shopping. My nearest fresh seafood market is around 30 kilometres from my home; it has been 2 months since I’ve enjoyed good fish ( sounds like a confession opening)  and I’m beginning to feel like a deprived fish junkie. There was one small window of opportunity back in late July, when my favourite fishmonger offered a fabulous home delivery service: I promptly formed a local group, placed a huge order, then shared the $20 delivery fee. Sadly this fishy opportunity came unstuck when my trustworthy fishmonger closed due to Covid issues. We all cried. In the meantime, I can honestly say that the fish and seafood offerings at my local major supermarket are disappointing. Here’s what’s on offer:- flabby farmed Barramundi, farmed Tasmanian salmon, with its bright pop of pink synthetically dyed flesh, chemically dyed and smoked imported cod, ordinary defrosted New Zealand ling and nastiest of all, Vietnamese Basa, white, bland tasting catfish farmed in suspect ponds around the Mekong river. If local fish turns up at all, it’s ridiculously expensive, grey and tired looking. Shopping for fish at a supermarket is a frustrating business. There are only two questions you may ask: has this fish been defrosted and what is the use by date. The staff behind that deli window display are not fishmongers. Most of the other seafood –  prawns, scallops, etc- are thawed in trays daily, the stock trucked in from a national depot somewhere in Australia. None of the offerings reflect locality or season.

But there’s one option on a lucky day that warrants a quick sideways glance when scuttling past that fishy display – the vacuum packed bag of fresh mussels.  ( Yes, I know, more plastic). Local black mussels are a sustainable choice. Farmed on long ropes in pristine seas around Victoria, mussels cannot be fed or fertilised; this means the whole production process is totally natural. The only important thing to check is the use by date on the bag when purchasing. Try to obtain mussels that have just been harvested- the longer they’ve been in the bag, the less appealing they become, even if they haven’t yet reached the magic use by date.

Mejillones a la Gallaga – Galician Style Mussels.

  • 1 kilo of fresh black mussels
  • 1/4 cup white wine for opening the mussels
  • 2 tablespoons EV olive oil
  • one onion, finely chopped
  • two garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of Spanish smoked pimenton/paprika- hot or sweet
  • 1/4- 1/2 teaspoon of saffron threads
  • one can diced tomatoes, including juice
  • ground pepper
  • chopped parsley
  1. In a wide, deep frying pan or non stick wok, heat the oil and add the onions. Cook on medium heat until they soften, about 6 minutes, than add the garlic, and cook for another minute.
  2. Add the saffron threads and pimenton. Toss through the onions then add the can of tomatoes. Turn the heat down low and cook slowly to thicken.
  3. Meanwhile in another large lidded pan or pot, open the mussels with the wine. They should all open within a minute or two so stand by with your tongs, ready to remove them as they open. Place the opened mussels in a bowl. Pour the remaining mussel juice through a muslin cloth lined strainer, over another small bowl to catch the juice.
  4. Add one cup or so of the strained juice to the tomato mixture. Turn up the heat and bubble the tomato mixture/mussel juice to thicken. You my wish to add more juice as you go.
  5. Remove the top shells of the reserved mussels. After cooking and reducing the tomato mixture for around 10 minutes, check it for seasoning. when its ready,  add the mussels and turn through the sauce to heat them.
  6. Add chopped Italian parsley if you wish and serve with crusty baguette, or cooked bomba rice or small shaped pasta.

Spanish pimenton varieties for that real smoky hit.

If you like eating fish, support a fishmonger before they all disappear.

In My Kitchen September 2020

The season has been fruitful, especially with an abundant supply of all kinds of citrus, though this colourful presence is slowly coming to an end, with Blood and Valencia oranges the last varieties to pick. In Spring, the trees will return to flower and leaf production for next year. We have around 14 citrus trees but there’s always room for more. Most were planted around 10 years ago, with productivity hampered  by drought, wind, rabbit infestation and severe frost. They’ve now reached a stage of maturity where they can withstand most conditions.

There are two citrus trees producing oddities. These knobbly, thick skinned fruit grow on thorny wild trees. One wild tree used to be a grafted Kaffir lime tree. After dying in the recent drought, it re-sprouted, reverting back to old root stock below the graft. Although incredibly bitter to taste, the fruits are exotic, brightly coloured and decorative. They remind me of the Renaissance fascination with formal citrus gardens and the collecting of rare and unusual specimens. The paintings by Bartolomeo Bimbi and Giovanna Garzani, reveal this fascination for depicting bumpy, disfigured lemons and other rare agrumi. 

On that subject, The Land Where Lemons Grow, by Helena Attlee, documents the history of the Italian fascination with citrus and is a great read. Thank you Beck, at In Search of the Golden Pudding, for recommending this. In terms of food writing, it’s up there with Delizia! An Epic History of Italians and their Food, by John Dickie and Honey from a Weed, by Patience Gray.

Seville Marmalade Orange Cake

In My Kitchen there’s always cake: the peasants have no fear of starving. I make a cake weekly: in this cool weather, it keeps well under a glass dome sitting on the kitchen dresser. I often halve them and send some away to other cake loving peasants. Most double as pudding: a couple of slices gently warmed in the remaining heat of an oven, served with something wet ( cream, icecream, custard) have kept us sane during winter and the lockdown. I’ve now made two versions of the Seville orange marmalade cake, pictured above. The recipe can be found here. The second version pictured below is a classic Middle Eastern orange and almond cake, glazed in marmalade. I think I prefer the first version. Excess marmalade can be used as a glaze in many ways. Maybe a chocolate cake could turn Jaffa-esque when topped with an orange marmalade glaze? Or a little Seville marmalade stirred through a rice pudding? Served with Halloumi? Liquified then added to a G&T?

Middle eastern Orange cake glazed with Seville orange marmalade

The little pasta dish below looks quite plain, belying the richness and intense lemon/orange flavoured sauce hiding within its folds. The sauce includes fine slivers of peel from an orange and lemon, which are boiled to soften, and the juice, a little onion, a knob of butter, cream and seasoning.

Tagliolini alle Scorzette di Arancia e Limone, recipe included in the book mentioned above.

The egg noodles from Mantovanelle come very close to those made by hand at home. These tagliatelline are my favourite comfort food. Cooked in five minutes, this gives you just enough time to quickly construct a sauce. Once the pasta hits the boiling water, my large non- stick wok is fired up and ready to go. In goes the EV olive oil, a little garlic, followed by fresh things from the garden, small stems of broccoli, young leaves of kale, some herbs, a few tiny unshelled broad beans, a dash of wine, perhaps some smoked salmon chunks, a few dashes of cream, seasoning and finally the cooked noodles. It’s a merry little dance around 2 stove jets. When the long lockdown ends in Melbourne, I look forward to returning to my favourite food shops which are further than 5 kilometres from my home. Since early July, strict travel distance rules have regulated movement in Melbourne. This pasta will be at the top of my shopping list.

I love this egg pasta and cannot wait to be allowed to drive further afield to buy more supplies.

Tagliatellini con salmone affumicato e verdure

The winter garden has kept us in fresh greens and now that spring is here, broad beans are slowly appearing.

Garden pickings for a pasta lunch.

Another day, another pasta. Rigatoni paired with a vegetarian ragù. The sauce included some mushrooms, dried porcini, herbs, left over thick lentil soup, a little miso, and tomato passata.

rigatoni con ragu’ di lenticchie

In these times, I often find myself looking back rather than forward. I cannot think of anything at present to look forward to- no short drives in the country, a family gathering, dinner with friends, travels overseas, visits to the city, a Vietnamese meal, a trip to the library- it’s a life without anticipation. Often, our next meal is the highlight of the day. The arrival of a book in the post, or a food order from Mt Zero Olives, is an added bonus. In this era of hard lockdown, the future has become blurred. Last night, as we were eating dinner, a spaghetti cacio e pepe, the conversation inevitably led to Rome. Where did we eat that last Roman cacio e pepe, where would we stay next time, an apartment in Trastevere again ( too busy) or over in Testaccio ( interesting suburb) or in centro? Through reminiscing, we came to the realisation that we would not be returning to Italy, or indeed Europe, and perhaps not to our favourite haunts in Asia. This is not meant to be a maudlin observation: I am a pragmatist at heart. Looking back over some of my old posts has given me a chance to relive some of those travels: like writing a detailed journal, blogging is a worthwhile pursuit in this sense. Unlike Facebook or Instagram posting, blogging provides a permanent and accessible log into the past. In the same way, participating in the monthly In My Kitchen for the last 7 years has produced another kind of documentation. Over the years my kitchen posts have gravitated towards seasonal food and simple dishes. My previous September posts expose another story: I’m usually away. Thanks Sherry of Sherry’s Pickings for continuing this series: it has been an interesting journey.

Melbourne’s Six Seasons

Put away your trumpet, there’ll be no fanfare for the dawning of Spring. In Melbourne, the month of September is changeable, windy and unpredictable. Sunny days are often preceded by blistering cold. Gale force winds rip through the hills, bringing down branches from bare winter trees while the ‘darling buds’, the blossom on fruit trees, bravely hang on. There’s nothing especially attractive or romantic about Spring: the arrival of Primavera is invariably disappointing. Early Spring is like a moody teenager: all that white and pink confetti blossom helps to create a sense of hope and promise, yet the new season is accompanied by immaturity and mood swings. It’s a season on hormones. I’ve often returned to Melbourne in late September to be disheartened by the cold and windy weather.

This year I experienced my first Melbourne winter for 10 years and was surprised by the vibrant colour in the garden and the calm weather throughout late July and August. It isn’t surprising to learn that the Wurundjeri – Melbourne’s indigenous people who have lived around what is now Melbourne for thousands of years- have a calendar consisting of 6 seasons. The period from late July to the end of August is a distinct season in the indigenous calendar: it’s the time of nesting and first flowers. This year, this pre-spring season has been remarkably clement, sunny and still, with many joyous picnic kind of days.

One version of a graphic attempting to depict the Wurundjeri calendar. http://www.herringisland.org/seasons1.htm

 ” The division of the year into four seasons comes from Northern Europe, and does not fit Melbourne. We still think of winter as an unfavourable season for plants, when northern European trees drop their leaves and become dormant, but for our native plants, especially the small tuberous herbs, winter is a season of growth. At this time the bush is green, and the temperatures are rarely low enough to stop growth. The unfavourable season is high summer, when water is scarce, and much of the ground flora becomes brown and dies off. “¹

In the last two weeks of winter, I’ve observed new seasonal birds in the garden, attracted by the early pink/mauve flowering Echium. New Holland Honeyeaters, Eastern Spine Bills and Wattle birds have feasted on this large bush while on still days, hundreds of bees have had their turn. Once the honey eaters arrive, a seasonal indicator of sorts, I start sowing seeds, knowing that the sun’s angle will be perfect for germination inside my north facing window.

Native wattle trees have been in flower for weeks, with different species taking turns to paint the distant landscape with bright yellow patches of mini pom poms. The blue green leaves of the eucalypt drape and sway gracefully from tall healthy trees. They are in their prime in late winter. The native purple flowering creeper, hardenbergia violacia spent winter snaking its way along a fence while the mauve flowers on the tips of the silver leafed Teucrum Fruticans hedge have enjoyed this pre-spring season. Some non- native plants have also thrived in late winter, especially the euphorbia, a startling lime green show off, while the jonquils and daffodils, now spent, are a late winter pop up. One lone flag iris emerged under a pear tree. The citrus trees fruit in this little wedge of time between winter and spring- Navel, Washington and Blood orange fruits brightened the season. Now that Spring has arrived, they’ve finished their fruiting cycle, with energy directed to leaf and flower.

The late winter vegetable patch has supplied us with bitter salad leaves, chard, kale, turnips, green onions, leeks, broccoli, fennel and parsley. Spring will push these plants sky high: it’s now a race to eat as many of these liver cleansing greens as we can before they bolt to seed.

This year’s pandemic and subsequent isolation forced me to regard winter with new eyes: I can honestly say, it wasn’t so bad. And now, let’s see what this season throws at us. Life has become as unpredictable as Spring. 

¹ There are many diagrams and charts illustrating aboriginal seasons, each one varying from place to place. The diagram above best illustrates Melbourne’s seasons. Diagram and quotation from http://www.herringisland.org/seasons1.htm

 

The Best Seville Orange Marmalade Cake

The search for a neighbourhood Seville orange tree began back in May. I’d just made a few batches of lime marmalade and had passed a jar on to a friend in our village. This inevitably led to a conversation via Messenger, ( aren’t all good conversations held this way during the pandemic? ) about the need to find some elusive Seville oranges to make the epitome of all marmalade, Seville Marmalade. I went as far as inquiring about Sevilles on our local community Facebook site. A respondent replied, an artist from the next village, who paints beautiful studio studies of seasonal fruit. In her walks, she had noticed some productive Seville orange trees and sent me monthly updates on the state of ripeness. Not only that, she picked 5 kilos, carried them to my daughter’s house, who then delivered them to my place. This season’s Seville Marmalade is now happily in jars, though plenty are walking out the front door.

The point of this simple little tale of two villages is that throughout this pandemic and months of lockdown, community consciousness has developed and now includes the sharing of major shopping trips, the cost of delivery services, spare garden produce, tools, and knowledge. Much of this is done through social media, which can be a tool for social change when used well. If there’s an up- side to the pandemic, it is this.

Seville Marmalade Cake

Ingredients
• 100 gr coarse-cut orange Seville marmalade ( approx 1/3 cup)
• 175 gr butter, softened, plus extra for greasing the pan
• 175 gr sugar
• 2 teaspoons grated lime zest ( optional) 
• 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
• 3 large eggs at room temperature
• 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
• 190 gr all-purpose flour
• 7 gr baking powder
• pinch fine sea salt

Glaze/icing

  • 30 gr icing sugar
  • 100 gr Seville marmalade ( approx 1/3 cup)
  • knob of butter

Preparation
1. Heat oven to 175º c. Grease a 23 cm by 13 cm loaf pan. Line with baking paper.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together softened butter, sugar, lime zest and orange zest for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Beat in the marmalade and orange juice. ( Tip: if the mixture looks like curdling when you beat in the eggs, add a little flour as you go) 
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Fold dry ingredients into wet until just combined.
4. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake until surface of cake is golden brown , about 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer pan to a
wire rack. Cool for  10 minutes before glazing.  then turn cake out of pan and place on rack right-side up. 
Glaze/icing. Heat the marmalade in a small pot over low heat until melted; whisk in icing sugar and butter until smooth. There are two approaches to adding the topping. EITHER  invert cake onto a tray, turn right way up then add the jammy topping which will run down the sides OR add the glaze to cake in the pan, which will concentrate the flavour to the top, though some will sink through and down the sides. When completely cool, lift from pan right way up. 

Keeps well for about 5 days

Notes.

Use any orange marmalade if you don’t have Seville, though that sweet bitter taste will be missing. Omit lime zest if you don’t have limes on hand and add a little more orange zest. I’ve left the ancient non-measurement, knob, because I love the sound of it. A knob could be anything you wish it to be: it’s also a crude  term of abuse in Australia- Don’t be a knob! A knob only applies to butter and is similar to that wonderful Italian cooking measurement qb or quanto basta, which means ‘as much as is enough’, or ‘to taste’ or as much as is needed to achieve the desired result.

Last few slices. The cake didn’t last long.

For a look at Kylie’s beautiful fruit painting, see @kyliesirett on Instagram or https://www.kyliesirett.com.au/

Dead Poet Tourism. Retrospective Travel/5

One of the highlights of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, was a visit to Du Fu’s Thatched Cottage. Our friends, Tia and Carol, (their chosen Western names) recommended this visit and I’m so pleased they did. That visit, in August 2015, sparked an interest in the poetry of the Tang Dynasty. Lasting for 400 years or so, (7th to 10th century CE ), the Tang Dynasty is regarded as the Golden era of Chinese literature and art, comparable to the Renaissance era of Italy and Europe. Over 48,900 poems penned by some 2,200 Tang authors have survived to the present day. Skill in the composition of poetry became a required study for those wishing to pass imperial examinations while poetry contests were common among guests at Imperial banquets.

Du Fu ( 712-770) is regarded as China’s Shakespeare: he is revered as one of China’s greatest poets. His poetry is studied at school and is recalled fondly by Chinese adults. They enjoy sprouting a few lines of Du Fu’s more famous poems, akin to Westerners dropping a few lines from Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet in order to sound erudite. It’s also interesting to know that many non-Chinese scholars are dedicated followers of the Tang Dynasty poets, as work continues on better translations. Translation into English (or any other language) is painstaking work and requires a 4 step process-

  • translating the more stylised characters used by the Tang poets into the modern form of Chinese logosyllabic or logoraphic script,
  • writing this in Pinyin, the Romanisation of Chinese characters based on phonetics, including stress indicators for tones,
  • producing a translation that includes elements of the original sound and structure, as well the encapsulating the imagery and meaning of the original.
  • polishing this version until it is harmonious and accessible. A worthwhile translation of a single poem can take years of work. Versions vary greatly and after studying this field, you may find your preferred translators/ translations.

Du Fu’s cottage and museum is set inside a 24-acre park, situated on the outskirts of Chengdu in Sichuan Province, China. It was created in the early 16th century during the Ming Dynasty and extensively renovated in 1811 during the Qing Dynasty. In 1961 the Chinese government established Du Fu Thatched Cottage Park as a National Heritage site. The park is beautiful to wander through, providing a break from all those dead poets.

The park consists of several areas:

  • Du Gongbu Memorial Hall (工部祠Gōngbù Cí), where the life and work of Du Fu is displayed, including some rare Song dynasty wood carvings.
  • The thatched cottage of Du Fu. A reconstructed thatched hut partitioned into a study, a bedroom and kitchen, recreating the living and working environment of Du Fu’s time.
  • The Hall of Great Poets (大雅堂Dàyǎ Táng). An exhibition hall with a 16 meter long by 4 meter tall mural painting portraying scenes from Du Fu’s poems: “My Thatched Hut Wrecked by the Autumn Wind” and “A Song of War Chariots”. There are also statues of twelve prominent Chinese poets, including that of Li Bai, Du Fu’s friend, and drinking companion. There are also panels displaying different styles of calligraphy.
  • There’s also a bookshop and library. As a traveller, I had to resist the temptation of buying these beautiful but weighty books.
  • Panels of Poems, Du Gong Bu memorial Hall, Chengdu.

Another ancient style.

Two beautiful poems by Du Fu

Rain

Roads not yet glistening, rain slight,
Broken clouds darken after thinning away.
Where they drift, purple cliffs blacken.
And beyond — white birds blaze in flight.

Sounds of cold-river rain grown familiar,
Autumn sun casts moist shadows. Below
Our brushwood gate, out to dry at the village
Mill: hulled rice, half-wet and fragrant.

Full Moon

Above the tower — a lone, twice-sized moon.
On the cold river passing night-filled homes,
It scatters restless gold across the waves.
On mats, it shines richer than silken gauze.

Empty peaks, silence: among sparse stars,
Not yet flawed, it drifts. Pine and cinnamon
Spreading in my old garden . . . All light,
All ten thousand miles at once in its light.

Self Portrait with calligraphy.

And another, which reminds me of our time in isolation during this pandemic,

Spring View

The country is broken, though hills and rivers remain,
In the city in spring, grass and trees are thick.
Moved by the moment, a flower’s splashed with tears,
Mourning parting, a bird startles the heart.
The beacon fires have joined for three months now,
Family letters are worth ten thousand pieces.
I scratch my head, its white hairs growing thinner,
And barely able now to hold a hairpin.

Dear Reader, Do you read poetry? And if so, who is your favourite poet? Do you find that reading poetry provides you with a silent space for reflection?

References for further inquiry.

  • Hawkes, D. (1967) A Little Primer of Tu Fu. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
    Hinton, D. (1990) The Selected Poems of Tu Fu. London, Anvil Press Poetry.
    Hung, W. (1952) Tu Fu: China’s Greatest Poet. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press.
    Watson, B. (2002) The Selected Poems of Du Fu. New York, Columbia University Press.
  • An example of the translation process at work, using the poem, Spring View, can be found here. http://www.chinese-poems.com/d15.html

and some sites consulted,

Order and Harmony in China. Retrospective Travel/4

In China, where everyday life is busy, complex and often crowded, order creates harmony. It enables Chinese life to function smoothly. Orderliness can be seen in the cleanliness of the streets, the hygiene applied to food preparation and the public behaviour of Chinese people. The ancient principles of Confucianism,  a philosophical system of norms and propriety that determine how a person should act in everyday life, underlies many aspects of Chinese modern society. Later overlays include the philosophical and religions values of Buddhism and Taoism, along with the modern political system of Communism. You can see these values at work in your travels throughout China, not just in grand temples or fine restaurants, ancient walled pedestrian towns, or beautiful calligraphy and design, but also in ordinary everyday things- in the placement of a small straw broom, in the tiered arrangement of bamboo steaming baskets in a busy take away street stall, or in the beautiful designs on front doors. 

Steaming baskets, Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China

Street recycling containers and below, not a leaf out of place. Around Kunming, Yunan Province, China.

Colourful street bollards, Kunming

Photos from travels in China, August 2015. Adapted from my post of June, 2017. More virtual trips to China will be aired this month as I never really did write much at the time. That was a busy 4 week schedule, travelling by train through Yunnan Province, and then with friends through Sichuan province by car, leaving little time for writing. 

Rome’s Jewish Quarter, Retrospective Travel/ 3.

Rome’s Jewish quarter is a thriving and busy precinct within the centro storico. It is both a cultural and culinary attraction, with Jewish bakeries, delis and trattorie lining the busy streets, as well as synagogues, the Jewish Museum and other important historical markers. These days the area has become a little too popular: spruikers now work the narrow lanes with their menus and intrusive spiel while locals and tourists form long queues at bakeries and delis. The precinct is best accessed via the bridge, Ponte Garibaldi, over the river Tevere ( Tiber) from the inner suburban district of Trastevere.  A good time to visit would be early morning on a weekday.

Jewish quarter, Rome, Sunday!

The Roman Jewish Ghetto was established as a result of the Papal Bull by Pope Paul 1V in 1555 which required the Jews of Rome, who had lived as a community since pre- Christian times, to live in the ghetto. The area became a walled quarter with its gates locked at night.

The papal bull also revoked all the rights of the Jewish community and imposed a variety of new restrictions such as prohibition on property ownership and practicing medicine on Christians as well as compulsory Catholic sermons on the Jewish Sabbath.

In common with many other Italian ghettos, the Roman ghetto was originally referred to in documents as serraglio degli Ebrei or claustro degli Ebrei, both meaning “enclosure of the Hebrews”. Various forms of the word ghetto came into use in the late 16th century, most likely via Venice.

It is thought that the word ‘ghetto’ is based on the Venetian word, getto, meaning  foundry, given the first Jewish quarter was located near a foundry in Venice in 1516. Another interpretation is that the word derived from the Italian word borghetto, the diminutive of borgo meaning ‘borough’. There are other theories about the etymology of this word, but the first seems most likely.

Carciofi.  Time to eat that classic Roman Jewish dish, Carciofi alla Giudia and the best place to find them is close to the Jewish Quarter in Rome.

More information about the Jewish-Roman community throughout history may be found here.

This is an edited version from my archives, January 2018, based on my last visit to Rome. Will I ever return? Things will be rather quiet in Rome now. In 2018, 61.6 million tourists visited Italy. It’s hard to imagine how devastating that will be for the Italian economy this year and into the future.

Vigevano and the Renaissance

Today I’m heading back to Vigevano, a beautiful Renaissance city in Lombardy around 45 kms from Milano. So close to the largest industrial and most polluted city of Italy, and yet it feels so far away when you’re there. Vigevano retains its Renaissance aura, despite this proximity. I like to imagine the Sforza family of the 1400s travelling between their castles in Milano and Vigevano, and the pageantry of the tour. Or of the condottiero, Francesco Sforza, and his mercenary troupes arriving on horseback, returning from battles and diplomatic deals around Northern Italy.

Portrait of Beatrice d'Este by Leonardo da Vinci

The original post was published at the beginning of 2019, based on my visit to Vigevano in November 2017. It took a year to write. After visiting the enchanting Castello Sforzesco, I became immersed in the lives of the famiglia Sforza, especially that of Beatrice d’Este, the beautiful and well educated wife of Ludovico Sforza, who held court to gather around her learned men, poets and artists, such as Castiglione, Bramante,  Leonardo da Vinci and others. I’m still in search of a well written biography/history of the Sforza family.

Open for full post by clicking VIEW ORIGINAL POST below.

 

 

ALMOST ITALIAN

In a country brimming with Renaissance architecture, it would be hard to choose which town might be considered the most beautiful, the most ideal Renaissance city. Maybe we could just settle for a short list? What is the framework for making such a claim? Do we choose on the basis of architecture, famous art, sculpture, painting, churches, piazze, harmonious urban landscape, civic pride or all of the above? Tourists in search of the Italian Renaissance in situ might put Florence near the top of the list, given that city’s fame. I personally find Florence dark, uninviting and not so harmonious when it comes to all things Rinascimento. Florence is crowded and many tourists are happy to see the fake David and Donatello, wander over the Ponte Vecchio, traipse through the Uffizzi for hours, catch a Masaccio or Giotto in one of the smaller churches, get in the queue to wander…

View original post 746 more words

Retrospective Travel Week. Skye

On rare occasions, an old travel post reappears on my daily statistics page. When a blog reader visits an old post, I am reminded of it and often revisit it too. I relive the day, but also feel the tug and emotional connection to that place, as well as the drain experienced in writing it. I know that recipe posts are far more popular and have an ongoing life of their own. It is not unusual for one single recipe post to re-emerge in the daily statistics with a reader run of 1000 or more per month. Meanwhile, my well researched travel posts get read once then are lost in the archives. For those who don’t blog, the world of daily and monthly statistics on WordPress is one tool that fascinates me- I’m sure this is true for most bloggers. I know that approximately 5000 people visit my blog per month, and most readers come from English speaking countries with India in 5th position. If I take June as a typical month, there were 4871 visitors, with only 78 of those readers visiting my travel posts. So it’s time to re-categorise my travel posts, and give them a new airing.
This week I’m picking my 5 favourites. You may have already read these, but if not, come along on the journey. The following post was written in 2017 when staying for some time in a lovely old stone cottage on the Isle of Skye. The post will open fully by clicking VIEW ORIGINAL POST.

ALMOST ITALIAN

I’ve thought long and hard about how to write about Skye, and about that young girl, Marion, who left Breakish on Skye during the clearances 180 years ago, and the voices that I hear down by the stream of Maelrubha, the Irish red-headed bald monk who came to preach to the Picts in 671 and the healing water of his well. And about the Norwegian Viking princess who was buried, along with her servants, on top of a stark mull in the Cuillins, and of the warrior queen, Scáthach the Shadow, who lived in the Dunscaith castle on the edge of wild sea at Toravaig in Sleat. Legendary figures surround me, they seem to live and breathe.

Dunscaith Castle, Toravaig, Skye

I am struggling in my search for superlatives: none will do. My English language doesn’t fit this place: it’s too modern and limited and fails to describe what I…

View original post 355 more words