How to cook pasta like an Italian

Chances are, you’ve been doing it wrong all these years. Cooking pasta the right way is trickier than you thought – but Rome-based food writer Rachel Roddy shows us how it’s done.

One of the most useful lessons I’ve learned is one I had no idea I needed: how to cook pasta. I was incredulous when, after a few weeks of meeting and cooking together, [my partner] Vincenzo suggested that I might like to do things differently.

‘What?’ I said, placing the pan gauntlet quietly on the table in the old flat. ‘What should I do differently?’ To which he replied: ‘Do you really want to know?’ There was a lengthy pause, during which my pride, irritation and curiosity had a serious tussle before my curiosity and the anaesthetizing effects of a new relationship won out.

‘Tell me,’ I replied. There was another long pause while he lit a cigarette, inhaled, then exhaled towards the window. ‘Use a bigger pan and more water, add more salt, but not until the water boils, stir the salt into the water, start tasting 2 minutes before the end of the recommended cooking time, drain the pasta 1 minute before the time is up, always save the cooking water, and never overcook the pasta.’ In short, a list so long and comprehensive, so infuriating and so obviously true, that I was silenced and we didn’t have pasta for lunch.

A few days later, I did the most familiar thing in an unfamiliar way. I took the largest, lightest pan, the one that holds 6 litres, and for the first time ever I measured the water into it. The rule of thumb is 1 litre water for every 100g pasta, so for 400g spaghetti I needed 4 litres. It was more water than I’d ever used.

I brought it to the boil, which took less time than I thought, then weighed out 40g coarse salt – more salt than I’d ever used – stirred it into the water and tasted. It was, as promised, pleasantly salty, which is precisely what pasta, which doesn’t contain any salt, needs. I checked the time and added the pasta, gently pressing it down with the back of a wooden spoon before re-covering the pan until it came back to the boil.

I stirred and tasted in good time, drained the pasta quickly and saved a cupful of water for loosening the sauce if necessary. It wasn’t. I’d warmed the serving bowl; I tossed the pasta first with cheese, then with tomato sauce and served it. I’m not sure what I expected. After well-behaved initial thanks, what I got was silence as Vincenzo and Carlo wound the spaghetti round their forks and ate.

This is a long story for a task that’s usually too obvious to mention, but it’s one that’s executed badly so often, by me at least. In short, pasta needs lots of water and space to cook correctly. Too little water and it’s sticky, overly starchy, claustrophobic and quite simply the pasta won’t cook properly.

The water must be well salted or the pasta will be sciapa (without salt), a mistake nearly as grave as scotta (overcooked) pasta. This brings us to al dente, which means ‘to the tooth’ and refers to the firmness of the cooked pasta that is so desirable. Now, generally speaking, the further south you travel, the more al dente pasta is eaten. Vincenzo is from nearly as south as you can go in southern Sicily and would ideally have his pasta so al dente that it’s as stiff as a Scottish guard and, to some, raw.

I am an Englishwoman who, before moving to Italy, cooked my pasta in much the same way my grandma cooked vegetables: for too long. We have found a middle ground, and it’s usually a minute and a half before the end of the recommended cooking time, when the pasta has just lost its white chalky core, has bite and engages the mouth, but not excessively.

Tagliatelle with ragù (Shutterstock)
Tagliatelle with ragù (Shutterstock)

Recipe: Fettuccine al ragù

Just the thought of making ragù makes me happy, not least because if you’re adding a glass of wine to the pan, it would be careless not to have one yourself. This recipe takes inspiration from Elizabeth David and her interpretation of a traditional Bolognese ragù: that is, a rich, slowly cooked meat sauce made with olive oil and butter, given a blush of colour from just a tablespoon of tomato purée, depth from red wine and soft edges from the milk.

Its rich, creamy, yet crumbly consistency can come as a bit of a surprise if you’re used to redder, tomato-rich ragùs. Rest assured, it’s glorious, irresistible stuff. Like most braises, it’s infinitely better the next day. I almost always make a double quantity, half to eat with fettuccine (fresh if I am in the mood) and a dusting of Parmesan, the other half in rather more English style.

I have adopted the Bolognese habit of sprinkling the grated Parmesan over the pasta before adding the sauce; the cheese, which melts in the warmth, seasons the pasta deeply and helps the sauce cling to it beautifully. This mixing is best done in a serving bowl, which you can then bring proudly to the table along with a bottle of good Soave.

Serves 4 generously

1 white onion
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
50g pancetta or unsmoked bacon
50g butter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
400g minced beef
300g minced pork
200ml red or white wine
1 tablespoon tomato concentrate dissolved in 100ml warm water
150ml whole milk
450g egg fettuccine, tagliatelle or farfalle, ideally fresh, but best-quality dried if not
5 tablespoons grated Parmesan
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Finely chop the onion and carrot along with the celery and pancetta. Some people like to do this in a food processor.

2. In a large, heavy-based saucepan or deep frying pan with a lid, heat the olive oil and butter, add the vegetables and pancetta with the bay leaf and cook over a low heat until they are soft and fragrant, and the pancetta has rendered much of its fat and is starting to colour. This will take about 8 minutes. Increase the heat slightly, then crumble the minced meat into the pan and cook, stirring pretty continuously, until the meat has lost all its pink colour and has browned evenly.

3. Add the wine, turn up the heat and let it evaporate for a couple of minutes before adding the tomato. Simmer, covered, over a low heat for 30 minutes, by which time the sauce should have deepened in colour and have very little liquid. Add a teaspoon of salt, lots of black pepper and a little of the milk.

4. Cook slowly, covered, for another hour over a low heat, every so often lifting the lid and adding a little of the milk until it is used up. The sauce should be rich and thick with no liquid, but not dry either, so keep a careful eye on it. When you’re ready to eat, bring a large pan of water to a fast boil and, if it isn’t already hot, gently reheat the ragù.

5. Warm a serving bowl. Once the water has come to a fast boil, add salt, stir, gently drop in the pasta and cook, stirring every now and then, until it is al dente. For fresh fettuccine or tagliatelle this will only take a few minutes, but farfalle will take slightly longer. For dried pasta, check the timing on the packet and start tasting 2 minutes earlier.

6. Drain the pasta and turn it into the serving bowl (reserving a little pasta-cooking water), sprinkle over the cheese, then add the sauce. Stir carefully, lifting the pasta from below with two wooden spoons, so it is well coated with sauce. If it seems a bit dry, cautiously add a little of the reserved pasta-cooking water and toss again. Serve.

7 Sienese recipes

Sample Sienese cooking at its finest with these recipes full of Medieval influences but packed full with modern flavours from seven of the Italian city’s finest restaurants.

1. Tomato bread soup with mussels and cuttlefish

Serves: 4


1kg fresh mussels
½ kg fresh cuttlefish
1 onion
500g canned tomatoes
Sprig of basil leaves
1 ground chilli pepper
300g stale bread
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste


1. Fry the onion adding the tomatoes, basil and chilli pepper. Leave to cook for 15 minutes, add the bread and carry on cooking on a low heat for another 15-20 minutes.

2. In the meantime, steam the cuttlefish and lightly sauté the mussels in a pan with parsley and extra virgin olive oil.

3. Serve the bread soup putting the cuttlefish in the centre of the dish surrounded by the mussels.

Recipe supplied by Liberamente Osteria

2. Pappardelle with wild boar sauce and black olives

Serves: 4


2 bay leaves
1 garlic clove
1 onion
1 carrot
1 celery stick
250g wild boar meat
250ml red wine
1 tbsp tomato concentrate
10 black olives
260g pappardelle
Salt to taste
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Finely chop the vegetables, garlic and bay leaves and lightly fry in the oil over high heat.

2. Add the wild boar meat (previously minced), season with salt, add the red wine and reduce.

3. Cook for three hours. Half-way through the cooking, add the tomato concentrate. Cook the pappardelle in rapidly boiling salted water for about five minutes.

4. Drain and sauté the pasta with the wild boar sauce, adding the black olives.

Recipe supplied by Ristorante Pizzeria Due Archi
Address: Pian dei Mantellini, 48

3. Mushroom and pigeon risotto

Serves: 4


300g rice
50g porcini mushrooms
1 pigeon
Half a white wine onion
50g butter
50g grated pecorino cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Lightly fry the onion in four tablespoons of oil and half the butter in a saucepan until transparent.

2. Add the pigeon cut into quarters, season with salt and pepper and brown well. Pour some of the wine. When the wine has evaporated, baste the pigeon with a little stock, leave to evaporate and continue adding stock until the meat is cooked.

3. Bone the pigeon carefully and put the meat in the saucepan again.

4. Add the mushrooms, previously left to soak and then chopped up, and the rice, cooking everything by adding stock.

5. To serve, add the rest of the butter and sprinkle with pecorino cheese.

Recipe supplied by Trattoria Fonte Giusta

4. Pan-cooked rabbit

Serves: 4


500g boned rabbit
2 carrots
3 onions
2 celery sticks
3 garlic cloves
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 sprig of parsley
15 juniper berries
Chilli pepper to taste
750ml white wine
3 slices of ‘rigatino’ bacon (or normal smoked)
1 sausage
3 tbsp of tomato concentrate
1 cup of stock
Extra virgin olive oil


1. Lightly fry the carrots, onions, garlic, celery, parsley, rosemary, chilli pepper and juniper berries. When browned, add the bacon (cut into small pieces), the sausage and rabbit. Brown well.

2. Add the white wine and leave to evaporate; add the tomato concentrate, stock and leave to cook on a low heat for 40 minutes.

Recipe supplied by La Taverna del Capitano
Address: Via del Captiano, 6/8

5. “Cinta” pork fillet with speck and braised radicchio



4 “cinta” pork fillets, 5-6cm thick
4 slices of speck (Tyrol smoked ham)
1 red trevise or radicchio lettuce
250ml white wine (eg Vernaccia)
Vegetable stock
Cocktail sticks
Salt to taste
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Line the pork fillets with the slices of speck, roll and hold with a toothpick.

2. Put everything in a pan over a high heat, with a little of the oil.

3. Brown for some minutes, discard excess oil and and add the white wine, heating until nearly evaporated. Add the stock and carry on cooking for seven to eight minutes.

4. In the meantime, sauté the radicchio, thinly sliced, in a pan with some oil. Turn into the serving plates by placing the fillet without the toothpicks on a base of braised radicchio.

5. Serve alongside roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

Recipes supplied by L’Osteria del Bigelli

6. Beef fillet with pecorino cheese, mayonnaise and pears

800g fillet of beef

2 pears
3 egg yolks and 1 whole egg
50g grated ‘romano’ pecorino cheese
50g grated, well-seasoned ‘toscano’ pecorino cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp mustard
1l vegetable oil
½l extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste



1. Put the three egg yolks and the whole egg in a round-bottomed bowl, adding a pinch of salt, the lemon juice and slowly start stirring with a whisk adding the vegetable oil first and the extra virgin olive oil after, until the right density is reached.

2. Add the half teaspoon of vinegar and after that the mustard. Leave to set in the fridge for half an hour and after that add the cheeses by stirring from the bottom to the top with a wooden spoon.

3. Leave to set in the fridge for a further 15 minutes.


1. Peel and slice the pears and put in a bowl with water and the juice of half a lemon. We recommend the preparation of the pears while the fillet is in the oven because if the pears are left too long in the water and lemon, they will lose their flavour.

1. Grease a non-stick pan with extra virgin olive oil, heat and brown the whole fillet on all sides, season with salt and pepper. Once it is browned stop cooking and leave to rest on a grid placed on a baking tray for about five minutes.

2. Put the fillet with the baking tin and grid in an oven, heated to 200ºC, for about eight-nine minutes and after that, slice the fillet into 12 rounds, making sure the internal temperature is about 34-40ºC.


1. With the mayonnaise, make three circles with a diameter slightly larger than the fillet rounds, place the fillet in the circles, placing a slice of pear on top. Serve.
Recipe supplied by La Sosta di Violanta

7. Duck in red wine


1 duck
300g chicken or duck livers
250ml red wine
3 tbsp tomato concentrate
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 sprig of parsley
1 celery stick
1 sprig of rosemary
1 chilli pepper
A few sage leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste


1. Finely chop the onion, garlic, parsley, celery, rosemary and put in a pan with the olive oil and the chilli pepper. When the vegetables are well-browned add the skinned duck. Add the chopped chicken or duck livers.2. Brown everything together and after that pour in the red wine. When reduced, add the tomato concentrate. Cover with warm water, salt and carry on cooking on a low heat for about an hour.

Recipe supplied by Trattoria Papei

Address: Piazza del Mercato, 6

These recipes have been taken from Great Sienese Cooking, which features 96 mouth-watering dishes born in the Middle Ages and are now part of the gastronomy of the new millennium thanks to the chefs of the city of the Palio. An original book with splendid photos by Bruno Bruchi, colourful graphics by Alessandro Grazi, publishing coordination by Barbara Latini, and made in collaboration with the Comune di Siena.

Top 12 trips to take… for food

Tantalise your tastebuds on the world’s most delicious departures – whether you want to learn to cook or just eat the spoils.

1. Mexico

Find flavours and fiestas

Intrepid Travel’s Real Food Adventure: Mexico was designed with help from Thomasina Miers, cookery writer and founder of ‘market-eating’ restaurant chain Wahaca. This means the trip is a true foodie treat, exploring some of Mexico’s best culinary regions. Visit Oaxaca’s aromatic markets, eat late-night tacos in Mexico City and learn to make Puebla’s chilli-chocolate mole poblano. There’s also time to see pre-Colombian ruins and take a foodie walk around the capital.

Who: Intrepid Travel
When: selected Fridays, Apr-Dec 2013
How long: 8 days
How much: from £820 (excl flights)

2. Thailand

Combine culture and cooking

Discover the tastes of Thailand on Tell Tale Travel’s Tamarind and Spice solo traveller orientated group trip. Explore four different regions as you travel from Bangkok to the Central Plains and Chiang Mai, ending on the Andaman coast.

As well as learning to cook traditional dishes in each location, there’s time to visit markets, see the sights and even learn some jungle survival skills.

Who: Tell Tale Travel
When: 23 Nov 2013, 1 Feb 2014
How long: 15 days
How much: from £2,225 (incl flights)

3. Japan

Sample sushi and then some

Inside Japan’s Japanese Gastronomic Adventure packs more than just sushi into its mouthwatering itinerary. Highlights include breakfast at Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, dinner and drinks at a traditional izakaya (Japanese pub), a noodle-making class in the castle city of Matsumoto and a private tour of a sake brewery in Kyoto. The trip also includes stays in a Buddhist temple lodge (with authentic Buddhist Shojin cooking), and in a ryokan (inn) in the rural craft town of Takayama, before finishing amid the bright lights of Toyko’s Shinjuku district.

Who: Inside Japan
When: tailormade departures
How long: 13 nights
How much: from £1,999 (excl flights)

4. Italy

Pedal for pasta in Piedmont

Explore the vineyards and views of northern Italy’s foodie mecca, Piedmont. Headwater’s Gastronomic Barolo Cycling trip will have you pedalling past historic castles, frescoed chapels and medieval villages in between stays at the chicest hotels and meals at the region’s tastiest restaurants.

Who: Headwater
When: various departures, May-Oct 2013
How long: 9 days
How much: from £1,479 (excl flights)

5. Cambodia

Feast on a frenzy of flavours

Cambodia is mouth-watering, its cuisine influenced by its French colonisers, Asian neighbours and beyond. Selective Asia’s Cambodia with Spice trip gives a taster, from local cooking classes to visiting Kep – home to the best seafood on the planet.

Who: Selective Asia
When: tailormade departures
How long: 10 days
How much: from £756 (excl flights)

6. India

Combine curry and culture

Learn the art of Keralan cuisine on TransIndus’s Flavours in Kerala trip. You’ll stay at Ayesha Manzil – a beautiful homestay by the Arabian Sea in the former spice-trading port of Tellicherry – where Mrs Moosa will teach you the secrets of preparing a Malabari feast.

Who: TransIndus
When: tailormade departures
How long: 7 days
How much: from £1,525pp (incl flights)

7. Jordan

Munch in the Middle-East

Jordan Holiday Architects’ Tastes of Jordan trip offers three different cookery courses: at a traditional home in Amman; at the Petra Kitchen (after exploring the city); and pizza-making by the Dead Sea! You’ll also tour a winery and the Roman ruins of Jerash.

Who: Jordan Holiday Architects
When: tailormade departures
How long: 9 days
How much: from £1,660 (incl flights)

8. Spain

Walk and wine-taste

Explore’s new Wine, Walks and Tapas tour journeys on foot from Bilbao to Barcelona through La Rioja, Montsant, Priorat and Cava, combining gentle walks with wine-tasting. Follow the coast and strands of the Camino, sampling innovative Basque, Catalan and Riojan tapas along the way.

Who: Explore
When: set departures, Apr-Oct 2013
How long: 10 days
How much: from £999 (excl flights)

9. Georgia

Enjoy heavenly hospitality

Legend says that God thought Georgian food was so good, he gave its people the best land. Decide for yourself on Regent Holidays’ Cheese & Wine Tour of Georgia, which includes vineyards, cheese, local guesthouses and fine hospitality.

Who: Regent Holidays
When: tailormade, Apr-Oct 2013
How long: 9 days
How much: from £2,030 (incl flights)

10. Sicily

Creative cookery in the Mediterranean

Explore the very best of Sicily’s diverse cuisine and culture as part of Peter Sommer Travels Gastronomic Tour of Sicily. Take part in cooking classes designed to teach you a range of specialities, shop in local markets accompanied by culinary experts and walk on Mt Etna with a volcanologist.

Who: Peter Sommer Travels
When: 5 Oct 2013
How long: 7 days
How much: from £2,495 (excl flights)

11. India

Dine like a local

Delve into the culinary diversity of Northern India on Travel the Unknown’s Delicacies of North India tour. Get to grips with the region’s real culture by dining with locals and shopping in village markets, savouring a range of cuisines along the way.

Along the way, visit North India’s iconic sights, including the Taj Mahal at sunrise, forts of Jaipur, Amritsar’s Golden Temple and colonial Kolkata, as well as cooking in family homes, palace gardens and in the Himalayan foothills.

Who: Travel the Unknown
When: 9 Nov 2013
How long: 15 days
How much: from £2,795 (incl flights)

12. Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam

Immerse in culinary diversity

Bamboo Travel’s Culinary Delights of South-East Asia Tour provides you the chance to indulge in some of Asia’s most exciting foods while exploring the immense history of the region. Touring three countries and visiting some of the best cooking schools, the trip will set your tastebuds tingling.

Travellers start their journey in sumptuous Siem Reap, working their way through pepper farms in Kep and freshly-caught crab on Rabbit Island. Floating markets, cooking masterclasses and a palate of different flavours await in Vietnam. The trip finishes up in bustling Bangkok, home to a raucous range of tastes and specialities.

7 tricky European cities for vegans

Struggling to avoid animal products abroad? If you can manage in these cities, you can manage anywhere, writes strict vegan Rosie Driffill.

Hummus may be catching on across Europe, but eating well as a vegan isn’t just about getting your basic needs met. On holiday, as at home, a little variety doesn’t go amiss, but choice is seldom the order of the day when it comes to vegan grub. One might be forgiven for snubbing seaside towns, cities with sub-zero winters and, well, anywhere where folks will flesh out their menus with as much meat and fish as tradition dictates.

In my personal experience, places like these tend to show the least mercy to the travelling vegan. But before you forgo any destination in favour of playing it safe, consider the following survival tips that won’t see you starve…

1. Naples

The Bay of Naples, where fresh fish and locally-sourced mozzarella are on hand to satisfy the non-meat eater, doesn’t have a great deal in the way of vegan food. Save from removing the cheese from an otherwise vegetable heavy – and rather humdrum – ensemble, chefs’ means of accommodating the vegan diet are satisfactory at best. It’s also typical for Neapolitan waiters to pass comment on your dish of choice, or, when requesting something suitable for vegans, to stare and cry oddio! or perché!?

How to get by: If you don’t want incredulous waiters to scoff while you… scoff, it’s worth doing a little planning before ordering a pecorino salad without the pecorino. In terms of eating out, some of the few vegetarian restaurants like Sorriso Integrale (Piazza Bellini) do serve up tasty vegan options, while specialist pizzerias like Da Michele (Via Cesare Sersale) offer pizza alla marinara, whose three ingredients – tomatoes, garlic and oregano – make for a delicious vegan bite. Lunches on the go can be managed if you stop by any small deli and stock up – most sell fresh baguettes and interesting fillings like olives, oil-soaked artichokes and sliced aubergine.

Need to cool down? While cities such as Florence and Venice have embraced soya ice cream like it was going out of fashion, only Caffe Augusto on the nearby isle of Capri serves up soy gelato.

2. Dundee

To say Dundee was the worst town in Scotland for vegans would be unfair, but for its size, the range of options isn’t great. Where stodgy meats and butter-soaked pastries are plentiful when winter creeps in, you’ll be hard pressed to find a roasted vegetable wrap atop the bakery stands. Small cafes and take-away stands won’t have much in the way of vegan dishes, unless you’re prepared to eat baked beans for the duration of your stay. And as for soya milk – forget it. Unless you fancy being branded a hippy and chuckled at shrilly, stick to black coffee.

How to get by: Vegetarian B&B Alberta Guesthouse (Forfar Road) makes for a good base, as vegan breakfasts, complete with mushrooms, tomatoes, toast with soy butter, potato waffles, beans and Linda McCartney sausages, can be easily adapted from the vegetarian version. As far as lunch and dinner goes, look to specialist stores, such as The Health Food Store (Commercial Street), for bags of tortillas, pulses, and dairy-free dips, as well as vegan cheese and cereal bars. When dining out, try Italian restaurant Bellini Dundee (Commercial Street): for vegans, starters such as focaccia ai pomodorini e oregano (focaccia with tomatoes and oregano), and mains like penne arrabiata (without the spicy sausage) are both tasty and filling.

Want to chow down on some haggis? The vegetarian version is becoming more widely available, but most recipes require eggs as a binding agent. Try asking Drouthy’s (Perth Road) if they’ll adapt their vegetarian version to suit a vegan diet – some places are willing to prepare an alternative if you request it in advance. Failing that, they do rustle up a lovely hummus and roasted red pepper sandwich…

3. Riga

When it comes to choosing a city break, the chilly Latvian capital might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but among vegans, it’s likely to fall even lower on the must-see list. As in many former Soviet countries bordering Russia, it can be tricky to order a meal without meat, let alone without dairy: here, mayonnaise, sour cream and butter find their way into almost everything. A friend of mine once visited Riga and tried to get by on a lactose-free diet; he lived, but he ate that many pistachios in place of proper meals he noticed an outbreak of calluses on his fingers from all the shelling.

How to get by: To avoid nut-induced repetitive strain injury, make the most of the vegan/vegetarian restaurants available. According to this blowy Baltic city has one of the former and four of the latter, meaning a varied diet is possible on your trip but not exactly cheap. If you want something on-the-go, street food is not to be snubbed: a piping mug of borscht soup (without the almost inevitable drizzle of cream – make sure you utter a well-timed ‘nyet!) or a doughy piroshky with a cabbage or berry filling are great for tiding you over.

4. Scarborough

After trawling round this seaside town for what seemed like hours in search of vegetarian chips (most chips are fried in beef dripping, not vegetable oil), I wonder if my inclusion of Scarborough is more a nod to my aching, frozen limbs than a warranted feature. On a serious note, British seaside towns are awash with fish terrines and battered meats, but don’t always cater well for people on vegan diets (coeliacs might struggle too – chips are often coated in gluten as a result of their being fried in the same oil used for fish batter).

How to get by: To its credit, Scarborough has a fantastic all-vegan restaurant and take-away called C-A-L-F (62 Eastborough Road near the seafront). Diners will find bagels, hot meals and a range of sandwiches, not to mention indulgent vegan desserts. Cafe Venus (Ramshill Road) serves vegan options as well. However, the fried food, chewy candy and ice cream remain largely the preserve of the omnivore; only Small Fry on North Street serves chips in vegetable oil. For picnic food, try stocking up in Fairchild’s Green Shop (Victorian Road), where you’ll find organic and locally sourced fruit, vegetables, jams, spreads and juice.

5. Faro

The number of vegetarians in Portugal was estimated at 200,000 in 2012, a figure somewhat dwarfed by the number of British who claimed to be vegetarians that same year: about 4 million. In a country where veganism is still in its neonatal stages, finding a restaurant outside the capital that caters specifically for vegans isn’t exactly child’s play. In the southern city of Faro, you’ll be hard pushed to find anything on the menu that doesn’t have a face: where meat doesn’t reign supreme, you can bet it’ll be ‘catch of the day’ scrawled across the restaurant’s chalkboards.

How to get by: Restaurants Gengibre E Canela (Rua Santo Antonio) and O Ribatejano (Rua de S. Luis) both serve vegan dishes; try the former for a spiced tofu and courgette ensemble followed by a vegan chocolate mousse to finish, and the latter for raviolis with quinoa and millet. For something quick to take to the beach, take advantage of the North African influence on local gastronomy and opt for something legume-y; Faro is full of take-away cafes stocked to the nines with tubs of hummus, olives, pita and falafel, so make like a Moroccan and go all out on the finger food.

6. La Rochelle

For a sprawling seaside metropolis, La Rochelle, on the west coast of France, has surprisingly few vegan/vegetarian restaurants. Only ‘veg-friendly’ options exist, though it wouldn’t hurt to be cautious as a vegan: where the salads may not contain cheese, they’re leafy exterior is bound to belie some buttery or honey-glazed truth. From La Rochelle to St Jean Dangely to the east, simple cuisine relies on stoic centrepieces made up of meat, fish or cheese.

How to get by: A stay at the Vieux Monastere (Rue St Martin) will set you up for the day: providing nutritionally-balanced vegan meals, this rustic countryside retreat is known for its flesh-free ethos. When taking lunch in the city, go for breads and oils, fries and fruit salads; for dinner, best to opt for pizzas without the cheese, pasta with tomato-based sauces and… Chinese food. Le Jardin des Saisons (Boulevard Joffre), for example, serves up delicious rice-based dishes with locally-sourced, seasonable vegetables, most without even a whiff of fish sauce.

7. Århus

Probably owing to Århus’ large student population, vegan restaurants do exist: Rabar (Vester Alle 15), for example, serves all manner of vegan delights from sushi to ice cream. There’s not much scope for vegan dining in general, however, and a balanced, relatively cheap diet will require some good prior research.

How to get by: While not exactly famed for their love of vegan cuisine, Danes are big on organic produce. Even in the cheapest grocery stores, there’s enough supply to meet one of the biggest demands for organic fare in Europe, so stocking up on fresh snacks is a doddle. Larger supermarkets do sell soy milk, soy yoghurts, vegan cheese and tofu, not to mention hummus, seitan and millet, but they don’t come cheap.

Lucky, then, that Århus has a huge ‘dumpster living’ culture complete with Facebook groups and organised ‘dives’ (it’s even possible to arrange for a car to pick you up and transport your ware home post-forage)! And if, after all that, you need something to slake your thirst, rest assured – Danish Carlsberg is vegan friendly.

6 of the best Christmas drinks from around the world – and how to make them

Boozy, warming, and very indulgent – what more do you expect from a Christmas cocktail? Try one of these delicious drinks from around the world while you’re wrapping presents this year…

In many countries, nothing says winter quite like the smell of brewing mulled wine wafting through your home. But Christmas is celebrated across many diverse cultures – each with their own parcel of traditions and practices – so why limit yourself to the same festive brews year on year? We searched high and low for the world’s tastiest concoctions, and found some winning combinations…

1. Coquito, Puerto Rico

This Puerto Rican coconut eggnog is especially popular during Christmas time, and some say it even tops its more popular American counterpart!

Eggnog with cinnamon sticks (Shutterstock)
Eggnog with cinnamon sticks (Shutterstock)

It’s made by mixing several types of milk with coconut cream, egg yolks, cinnamon, vanilla and white rum. Serve cold, sprinkle with grated nutmeg and cinnamon, and share with family and friends. Get the recipe

2. Irish coffee, Ireland

There are many ways to drink Irish coffee, and just as many occasions. But during the festive season, the way to do it is with as many cream liqueurs as possible (within reason, obviously). Along with the Irish whiskey, add in some Kahlua Coffee Cream and Baileys. Top it off with a swirl of whipped cream.

Irish coffee (Shutterstock)
Irish coffee (Shutterstock)

Hot port is another winter drink favoured by the Irish. As a bonus, it’s also thought to cure the early signs of a head cold – perfect! Stir some sugar into a shot of whiskey, pierce a slice of lemon with some cloves, add it to the glass and fill with hot water. Get the recipe

3. Cuban aliñado, Cuba

Technically, this drink is not a Christmas exclusive. It is part of a tradition that emanated in eastern Cuba: as soon as a woman found out she was pregnant, the family would start preparing the aliñado in time for the child’s birth. The drink would age for nine months or so, enhancing its flavour, before being handed out to those who came to visit the new baby.

Spiced winter cocktail (Shutterstock)
Spiced winter cocktail (Shutterstock)

It has since been adopted by some, and incorporated into the season’s celebration of the Nativity. The three main components are chopped fruit – usually apple, papaya, cherry, plum, fig or pear – syrup and sugarcane liquor (rum). So close your eyes and dream of Havana. Get the recipe

4. Bombardino, Italy

The bombardino is Italy’s version of eggnog and made of one part Advocaat and one part brandy. Popular in the ski resorts, it provides a welcome burst of warmth among the snow. Its name apparently derives from the exclamation of one of its first ever tasters who, noting the kick of the alcohol and the high temperature, said: “It’s like a bomb!”

Advocaat Bombardino (Shutterstock)
Advocaat Bombardino (Shutterstock)

There are several variations of the bombardino: some include rum rather than brandy, and others – like the calimero – have a shot of espresso, too. Get the recipe

5. Wassail, UK

Otherwise known as spiced cider, this has been a winter favourite in Britain for centuries. It’s a good alternative to mulled wine, especially if you have a slightly sweeter palate.

Wassail (Shutterstock)
Wassail (Shutterstock)

A mixture of all things festive – apple cider, oranges, lemons, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg – it’ll warm you on the dreariest of days. Get the recipe

6. Café Mexicano, Mexico

Fancy a taste of festive Mexico? Their Christmas cocoa has an irresistible chocolate twist, and you can enjoy it with or without alcohol.

Cocoa (Shutterstock)
Cocoa (Shutterstock)

Pour chocolate syrup into a warmed cup – stir in Kahlua or brandy, if you fancy – add the coffee, then top it off with a dollop of thick cream and cinnamon. Hello, heaven.

9 of the best boozy breaks

From Russian vodka and Japanese sake to the world’s finest wineries: get to grips with new cultures on these intrepid and intoxicating trips (Not a stag-do in sight – we promise)

1. Craft beers of New England, USA

Brew England: The Art of the Microbrewery, Abercrombie & Kent

Sip award-winning brews on this 11-day tour of New England’s micro breweries: if you love your beer, this is the trip for you. From ‘banana beer’ in Redhook to the rare Imperial Pilsner and Triple Bock tipples, you’ll get stuck into the region’s finest drinks on The Art of the Microbrewery – and the itinerary includes plenty of brewery tours too.

Fall foliage, Vermont (Shutterstock)
Fall foliage, Vermont (Shutterstock)

When you’re not knocking back beers, you’ll be hiking through Maine’s Acadia National Park, driving on dramatic coast roads, and taking the Conway Scenic Train through magnificent mountain passes. Happily, the food in New England is just as delectable as its beers: work up an appetite for Maine lobsterbake, pancakes with Vermont maple syrup, and even a tour of the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory.

2. Swig wine in South Africa

Cape & Winelands Escape – Self Drive, Rainbow Tours

This 9-day self-drive holiday takes in South Africa’s best bits: from the heights of Table Mountain to the friendly penguins of Boulders Beach. But for us, the highlight of Cape & Winelands Escape is three days in Stellenbosch: this is the heart of the Cape winelands, and quite frankly it’s one of the world’s best wine-growing regions.

Stellenbosch vineyards with Simonsberg mountain (Shutterstock)
Stellenbosch vineyards with Simonsberg mountain (Shutterstock)

You’ll spend the days touring Stellenbosch’s vineyards, sipping world-class wines against a  spectacular mountainous backdrop. This is also a foodie hotspot, and many vineyards boast their own fantastic restaurants. With accommodation in a country house hotel and spa, this is a grown-up boozy break – perfect for wine-loving couples.

3. A grape escape in Chile & Argentina

Vineyards of Chile & Argentina, Journey Latin America

On the sun-drenched slopes of the Andes, some of the world’s finest wine grapes thrive. In this southern sliver of South America you’ll find charming vineyards and spectacular remote hotels – the perfect combination for a two-week Vineyards of Chile & Argentina trip.

Volcano Aconcagua and vines at a vineyard, Argentina (Shutterstock)
Volcano Aconcagua and vines at a vineyard, Argentina (Shutterstock)

Every stop on this luxurious private journey is picked for its wow-factor: when you’re not quaffing wines while overlooking the Andes you’ll be gawping at Iguazu Falls, or taking tango lessons in Buenos Aires. The canyon country in north-west Argentina awaits too, as do the remote working ranches. With luxury transfers and internal flights throughout the itinerary, you’ll have Chile and Argentina’s best bits at your fingertips.

4. Quaff France’s fanciest wines

Cycling The Vineyards & Villages of Burgundy, Exodus

With its gently rolling country hills and pretty canal-side routes, it’s almost as if Burgundy was made for cycling trips – and this Vineyards and Villages holiday is a laid-back boozy summer adventure. Weave your way through pretty villages and picturesque farms on your vineyard-hopping itinerary, pausing for tasting sessions and glasses of chilled Pinot Noir.

Vineyards near Savigny-les-Beaune, Burgundy (Shutterstock)
Vineyards near Savigny-les-Beaune, Burgundy (Shutterstock)

If you’re travelling a deux, how about hiring a tandem bike? Most of the cycling is on very quiet country roads and tracks, so don’t worry if you’re not an experienced cyclist. Better yet, there’s separate transport for your luggage, so you don’t have to squeeze everything into your panniers. Simply pack a small rucksack and head off on two wheels for the day.

5. Sip spectacular sake in Japan

Sushi to Sake, Peregrine

In Japan, you’ll find a new foodie experience at every turn – and this Sushi to Sake trip unveils the most memorable moments. You’ll make soba noodles in a Tokyo cooking class, gorge on Osaka’s street food, feast on hand-rolled sushi in Kyoto, and sample incredible sake. This rice wine is a key part of Japan’s cultural identity: it origin is uncertain, but it likely originated as a ceremonial drink in the third century.

Japanese sake in Nara (Shutterstock)
Japanese sake in Nara (Shutterstock)

Sake is the nation’s favourite drink – and it’ll become your favourite too, as you sample Japan’s top tipples in bars and restaurants all over the country. Drink it from traditional dinky cups called choko, or (in more modern watering holes) as a mixer in cocktails.

6. Tour Germany’s beer gardens

The Bavarian Beer Garden Holiday, Ramblers Worldwide Holidays

Bavaria’s beer gardens were made for balmy summer evenings. This Bavarian Beer Garden Holiday is dedicated to Germany’s finest leafy drinking establishments, combining pub-hopping by night with easy hiking routes by day. And with Bavaria’s picturesque lakes and waterfalls, it’s a spectacular place to work up a thirst.

Ettal monastery, Bavaria (Shutterstock)
Ettal monastery, Bavaria (Shutterstock)

You’ll be based in one place, tackling different walking trails every day – and different beer gardens every night. One stand-out spot is the Ettal monastery, which serves beer that the monks have been making for the past 400 years – if practice makes perfect, this is probably the best pint you’ll ever have. Prost!

7. Toast the new year with Russian vodka

Russia Highlights: New Year, Intrepid Travel

Under a blanket of snow, Moscow takes on an even more mysterious, magical air: sure it’s cold, but the Red Square and St Basil’s Cathedral never looked better. Wrap up to welcome the new year on this special Russia Highlights departure, an 11-day tour of the country’s cultural gems. On New Year’s Eve, you’ll celebrate in Suzdal with a local family homestay: you’ll feast together, swap stories, and they’ll ensure your vodka glass is always overflowing.

Night view of the Red Square (Shutterstock)
Night view of the Red Square (Shutterstock)

Nothing gets you to the heart of a culture quite like a homestay, so this NYE celebration is a unique start to the trip. After saying goodbye to your new-found Russian friends, you’ll continue to Kostroma and St Petersburg for craft markets and city tours, and a traditional tea party and Russian Orthodox church service with another local family.

8. Hike through Italy’s vineyards

Classic Tuscany Guided Walk, World Expeditions

Crumbling medieval villages? Check. Vine-blanketed hills? Check. Nowhere does fairytale winelands quite like Tuscany – and the Chianti region is the jewel in its crown. This Classic Tuscany Guided Walk rambles along at a suitably laid-back pace; life here is leisurely, with a focus on great wine, food and company. You’ll have all three in abundance with your merry band of walking companions and itinerary of wine tastings, vineyard tours and fantastic restaurants.

Chianti vineyard (Shutterstock)
Chianti vineyard (Shutterstock)

After setting off from Florence, you’ll visit the fortress village of Monteriggioni, spend two nights at a characterful agriturismo (farm homestay) in Chianti, and weave your way through vineyards, food markets and olive oil presses all the way to Siena.

9. Sample the South Island’s world-class wines

New Zealand Food and Wine Trail, Audley

Marlborough is home of the ultimate New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: with its rich soil and sunny climate, the region’s grapes are grown to the highest standards, and thousands of vines cover the mountain-fringed plains. On Audley’s New Zealand Food and Wine Trail you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect glass of chilled white wine – and you’ll stay at boutique wineries so you’ll get to know the people who made it.

Marlborough district of New Zealand's South Island (Shutterstock)
Marlborough district of New Zealand’s South Island (Shutterstock)

When you’re not swigging Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll be gorging on freshly-caught seafood on pristine beach barbecues and cycling through the vineyards of Hawkes Bay. Waiheke Island awaits too: even if you’re not a big beach-break lover, you’ll have a hard time tearing yourself away from these spectacular sands.

7 places every chocoholic must visit

Love chocolate? Indulge your obsession in these unique chocolate havens around the world.

1. Le Chocolatier Manon, Brussels, Belgium

Le Chocolatier Manon chocolates are totally handmade, hand-moulded and hand-dipped in their factory in Brussels.

Each piece is created as if were a jewel and this dedication to the art of chocolate making has been recognised with awards from all over the world.

A selection of handmade chocolates (

The small factory in Brussels offers chocoholics a ‘gourmet’ chocolate tour that includes the opportunity for visitors to create their own ‘Belgian chocolate.’ At the end of the tour you will receive your own beautifully presented ‘Ballotin of Chocolate.’  To this end, exact visitor numbers must be confirmed at least 4 days prior to your visit.

More information

2. Mast Brothers, Brooklyn, USA

Set in the heart of New York’s prime Hipster district, the Mast Brothers’ Factory and shop is a paean to Industrial chic. Their chocolates are just as immaculately crafted and taste as good as they look.

Hot chocolate (

The brothers pride themselves on their ‘Bean to Bar’ philosophy as much the stylish packaging that wraps their creations. Just turn up for a tour – no reservation needed.

More information

3. Casa del Cioccolato, Perugia, Italy

Chocoholics always remember their first ‘kiss’ or Baci – the famous Italian chocolate that has a heart of gianduia (a luscious blend of chocolate and hazelnut cream), smothered in silky dark chocolate and crowned with a whole hazelnut.

Back being made (

Casa del Cioccolato in Perugia is where all those kisses are created and Baci lovers are invited to tour the factory and even make their very own Baci at La Scuola del Cioccolato. If you’re more a lover than a maker, fear not. Silver trays laden with Baci are dotted strategically along the route of the tour for you to steal a kiss or three!

More information

4. The streets of Oaxaca, Mexico

The ancient Mesoamericans were the world’s first chocolatiers and the residents of Oaxaca have embraced chocolate as a part of their culture. You can’t walk down the street without being offered hot chocolate, chocolate pastry or chocolate sweets. You can even order chicken with a chocolate mole sauce.

Beans roasting in Oaxaca (

Moyordomo, Guelaguetza and La Soledad are the three largest chocolate producers in the city and you’ll find them on 20 de Noviembre street. There are barrels of cocoa beans outside nearly every doorway on Mina Street too. But for a real treat, head to the city markets and sample the handmade chocolates created by small, independent vendors, The person you’re buying your mouthful of heaven from probably ground and mixed it themselves.

More information

5. La Cité du Chocolat, Tain L’Hermitage, France

Ready to turn your passion for chocolate into something more? Then you need to get yourself to Tain L’Hermitage, a small town in the heart of French wine country that is home to world-renowned chocolate producer, Valrhona.

Cité du Chocolat (

With strict EU hygiene rules making factory tours increasingly difficult, the company created ‘La Cité du Chocolat’, which offers a detailed overview of chocolate and how it is made. But it is the attached Valrhona Ecole du Grand Chocolat that is of most interest. This school teaches professional chefs, chocolatiers and caterers from across Europe and offers a three-day course for amateurs.

More information

6. Haigh’s Chocolates, Adelaide, Australia

Founded in 1915, Haigh’s is Australia’s oldest family-owned chocolate factory. They pride themselves on using only the very best ingredients – sourcing their own premium cocoa beans – and employing some of Australia’s most skilled chocolatiers.

Chocolate novelties (

The factory is located on the edge of Adelaide’s stunning parklands. Visitors can watch Haigh’s team of confectioners using meticulous artisan skills to create and hand finish chocolates as well as sample them at the end of the tour. Make sure you try one of their famous chocolate frogs. They’re awesome.

More information

7. Rabat Estate, St Lucia

The setting of the cacao plantation on the Rabat Estate setting is stunning: rainforest stretches into the distance, studded with the gigantic peaks of Mount Gimie and plunging valleys. Right behind you is the Soufrière volcano and its therapeutic sulphur springs.

Hotel Chocolate, St Lucia (

The hotel on the estate is similarly stunning, but as a chocolate lover the ‘Tree to Bar’ experience will interest you most. The experience starts with a walk through the estate’s cocoa groves selecting ripe cacao pods, and ends with making your own chocolate bar from beans that you’ve roasted yourself.

The tour includes all of the stages in between: seedling nursery, fermenting room, sun-drying station, grinding, mixing and lots of tasting! At the end of the experience you will be an expert on all things chocolate – a true chocoholic.

The world’s most fabulous ice cream experiences

Looking to cool down in the heat? From Scarborough to Cuba, here’s where to enjoy cooling and surprising ice cream experiences – and find the world’s most unique flavours. Sweet, sweet relief!

1: Il Gelato di San Crispino, Rome, Italy

Thanks to the book Eat Pray Love (and subsequent movie), Il Gelato di San Crispino in Rome is the first stop for people looking to turn their life around with a tub of zabaione-flavoured ice cream.

Designed to be eaten straightaway – and created using only natural ingredients – the age-old recipes have been skilfully adapted to suit modern tastes.

You’ll find branches at Piazza della Maddalena 3 (Pantheon) and Via della Panetteria 42 (Trevi Fountain). But beware: being serenaded by the dodgy accordion player costs extra.

2: Heladeria Coromoto, Merida, Venezuela

Like to be spoiled for choice? Then Heladeria Coromoto is the ice-cream parlour for you. With a record-breaking 860 flavours on offer, the menu takes up an entire wall.

The store is run by Manuel Da Silva Oliveira. His first attempt at an unique ice cream flavour was avocado, but he has gone on to create even more adventurous tastes – such as trout, hot dog, and wine and mushrooms.

The house special is pabellon criollo, based on the traditional Venuzuelan meal of beef, beans, rice, plantain and cheese.

Manuel insists that all the ingredients he uses are natural. “If you eat the spaghetti with cheese ice cream,” he says, “it has real spaghetti and cheese in it.”

Independencia 3, Merida 5101, Venezuela

3: Big Gay Ice Cream, New York, USA

When his career as a classical bassoonist stalled, Doug Quint bought himself an old ice-cream van and tweeted his location to followers on Twitter. His speciality was unusual toppings  – wasabi and sea salt, for example – and equally unusual names (Salty Pimp, anyone?)

Five years on, Big Gay Ice Cream has got two stores in New York, a book, and a really catchy theme song written and performed by Jane Weidlin from The Go-Gos.

4: Harbour Bar, Scarborough, UK

A selection of ice cream treats at Harbour Bar (Peter Moore)

A selection of ice cream treats at Harbour Bar (Peter Moore)

Decorated in a retina-searing shade of yellow, Harbour Bar specialises in ice cream treats from days of yore, including banana splits, traffic lights, knickerbocker glories and pear valentinos.

The waitresses’ uniforms are old-school too: think Dinner Lady circa 1950. But the servings are generous, and it’s always good to be reminded that jelly and ice-cream are a match made in heaven.

5: Devon House, Kingston, Jamaica

Devon House is a masterpiece of Caribbean Victorian architecture. Built in the late 19th century as the home of Jamaica’s first black millionaire, it is now Jamaica’s most celebrated ice cream stand.

As you’d imagine, the 27 flavours feature exotic island favourites like mango, coconut, and soursop. The brave, however, will go for a beer-based scoop of Devon Stout. Admission includes a tour of the house and access to the gardens, where there are plenty of shady places to enjoy your ice cream.

6: Ice Cream City, Tokyo, Japan

Not just one ice cream stand but a collection of many, Ice Cream City in Tokyo has the ideal ice cream to suit your mood. You’ll find stalls selling exotic flavours like soy chicken and unagi (eel), next to others selling traditional Italian gelato and American ice cream sundaes.

A 15-minute walk from Ikebukuro station, Ice Cream City is in the food-themed section of Namja Town amusement park in the Sunshine City shopping centre. There are over 300 flavours on offer, including orchid root and sea-island salt.

10 of the world’s weirdest and grossest national delicacies to try – if you dare

From century-old eggs and maggot cheese to fermented shark, Adelina Storkaas gets her teeth stuck into 10 of the most bizarre national food dishes from around the world, guaranteed to linger on your tastebuds.

1: False morel mushroom, Finland

False morel mushroom (Dreamstime)

The false morel mushroom is a treat you could die for – literally. Inexperienced hands shouldn’t attempt cooking the highly toxic mushroom that some people, especially in Finland, consider to be the ultimate ingredient in risotto or pasta dishes. It contains gyromitrin, which affects the liver, central nervous system and sometimes the ability to get pregnant.

Most European countries have banned the mushroom, and in Finland they have special cooking classes to make sure people know how to prepare and handle the delicacy properly. To make sure diners won’t get poisoned or, in the worst case, die, the mushroom has to be parboiled several times to reduce the amount of toxins. It can’t be left to dry where people are around either, because of the high toxic levels that go into the air.

Finland isn’t the only Scandinavian country embracing the ‘treat’. In Sweden, it has become a more frequently used ingredient at restaurants. The country’s National Food Agency, Livsmedelverket, even considers it a health and safety issue for chefs who prepare the toxic mushroom.

2: Maggot cheese (Casu marzu), Italy

Eating the Sardinian cheese casu marzu (rotten cheese) is an opportunity to get closer to Italian wildlife. Fly larvae help the sheep milk cheese’s fermentation process, and, as some diners prefer to keep the insects in the cheese even after this stage, they can witness maggots jumping as they put the cheese in their mouth.

The EU has banned this sheep’s milk cheese for Health and Safety reasons, and it can only be found in Sardinia. Nevertheless, on the large Italian island in the Mediterranean sea, they believe it is dangerous to eat their cheese if the maggots have died.

The strong ammonia flavour can also sting as you tuck into the maggot cheese and the aftertaste is said to linger for hours. The ‘world’s most dangerous cheese’ got its name for a reason, but on Sardinian weddings and celebrations it is still a delicacy.

3: Balut, Philippines and Vietnam

The Vietnamese and Philippine street food, balut, is a developing duck embryo that some people refer to as ’dog meat soup’. Just days before the egg hatches, when it is 14 to 21 days old, it is hard boiled and the foetus’s feet, beak and eyes are clearly visible. The foetus is boiled alive in its egg. Before foodies tuck in, they often add salt or chilli, vinegar and onion to the duck that’s commonly eaten straight out of the cracked egg and ‘enjoyed’ with a beer.

Like many Chinese dishes, balut is claimed to have dubious health benefits, such as enhancing libido and fertility. Some Filipinos enjoy balut daily for breakfast, but others are not keen to eat the national delicacy. To introduce the dish to children, some schools even use the eggs at science classes. After the students have dissected the bird and studied it, they’r encouraged to eat it.

4: Mimolette, France

Despite some reports of allergic reactions and warnings from the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recommendations in the US, some people still choose to consume large quantities of the French cheese Mimolette.

The cheese’s bright orange paste has a sweetness to it. It’s said to taste like bacon, butterscotch, toasted nuts and caramel, and goes well with red wine or dessert wine. It’s protected by a brown, unappetizing hard layer of dust that becomes more difficult to cut through as the cheese ages.

The cheese originates from Lille and was inspired by the Dutch’s Edam cheese, but a major difference that the French refers to as affineurs, (’refiners’) gave rise to FDA’s concern in 2013.

The French call mites refiners because of their essential role in the ageing process, which takes six weeks to two years. The FDA is not as impressed by the small insect, though, and the importing of the hardy cheese to America stopped a few years ago.

5: Surströmming, Sweden

Surströmming (fermented herring) isn’t just hated or loved by those hardy people who dare to put it in the mouth. Anyone who is close enough to its strong aroma (worse than rotten eggs) has the right to an opinion. This Swedish tinned ’delight’ better not be consumed indoors.

Swedes in the 16th century invented a new way to prevent fish from rotting, using a lot of salt, and the farmers who lived by the northern part of the Baltic Sea, Bohnian Bay, often brought it with them on travels and hunts.

Even though Sweden is a prosperous country today, people in the north part of the country still eat the dish that was invented to get through tough economic times.

Many Swedes have never tried the national dish and the northern Swedes don’t enjoy it daily. In the colder part of the country, they take out the tinned fish and enjoy it with boiled potatoes, sour cream, chopped chives and crisp bread on special occasions.

6: Pidan (Century old eggs), China

A grey or greenish yolk doesn’t necessarily mean that an egg has gone bad. At least, not if you’re eating pidan in China, when the preserved duck, chicken or quail egg is served as a side dish or with rice. On top of the multicoloured yolk, it also offers a black and white egg white and smells like ammonia and sulphur. The unappetising smell has seen it granted the nickname ’horse urine egg.’

Nevertheless, pidan goes by many nicknames. It is often referred to as a century egg, 100-year-old egg,1,000-year-old egg or millennium egg. Despite the names’ implications, the egg is only preserved for several weeks or months. To prevent it from rotting, the Chinese preserve it in rice husks, or in clay, salt, ash and quicklime, which gives it its peculiar colours and jelly consistency.

The snack can be found on street food stalls or in supermarkets in China. Some people believe that a farmer came up with the preservation process after the discovery of a duck egg that had been naturally preserved in a water puddle.

7: Huitlacoche, Mexico

If you don’t usually like corn because of its sweet flavour, you might prefer the woody, earthy, smoky flavour of the corn smut, or huitlacoche, that some people put in their quesadilla in Mexico. The corn gets its unique flavour from the parasite fungus that infests it. It’s harvested when the kernels have swollen into growths that resemble mushrooms.

Even though the fungus is seen as a plant disease in some countries, the infected corn is served as an expensive mushroom in others. It was first introduced by the Aztecs and its nickname ‘Mexican Truffle’ indicates its high status in Latin America, where it is a delicacy you’ll find in fancy restaurants, fresh at markets or canned online.

8: Chaprah, India

If you’re allergic to mango or just fancy a new chutney recipe to go with your Asian food, then chaprah could be something to check out. The Indian tribes in Chhattisgarh use a special ingredient to make their crunchy chutney, namely dried ants and their eggs.

Red ants are a local delicacy in the remote Indian village, where they are eaten live as snack on leaves, dried and sprinkled on food or added in chutney. The wise old men, sirha or shaman, in Chhattisgarh also use the ants for medical purposes. Their bites are said to have antibacterial qualities.

9: Hákarl, Iceland

“100 times stronger than blue cheese” is one description of the Icelanders’ fermented shark, Hákarl. The poisonous Greenland shark, or sleeper shark, has to be detoxified through a rotting process that takes up to six months to become edible. It is first buried for a few weeks or months, then hung for several months in sheds, before the Icelanders dig in.

About 300,000 people live in Iceland, and not all of them enjoy the traditional dish. The younger generation is pickier than the older, who often enjoy the rotten delight with the local spirit Brennivín, a type of spirit that also goes by the name ‘black death’.

It’s no wonder that they want a fiery shot to accompany the meat. Even though the reduced amount of urea and trimethylamine oxide makes the shark edible, the smell of ammonia lingers and is even stronger than the taste.

10: Marmite (Vegemite), England, Australia and New Zealand

Should the savoury British spread Marmite be allowed on toast? After a three-year ban in Denmark, between 2011-2014, the concentrated brewers’ yeast was finally allowed in the country. The discussion whether it should be put in the mouth or not is still debated though. With the slogan ‘Love it or Hate it, the salty and strong taste is not for everyone.

German scientist Justus Liebig discovered that it is possible to eat concentrated brewers’ yeast about 100 years ago, and during the Great War, Marmite was included in rations in Great Britain.

Apart from the yeast extract, celery, salt and spices were added to the original recipe that the Marmite Food Company started producing in 1902. Today, 50 million jars of Marmite are produced each year in Burton, England, while in Australia and New Zealand a similar debate rages over the equivalent condiment, Vegemite.  Despite a recent battle with the British supermarket over pricing, Marmite is still goes strong.

11 tasty foodie trips to tantalise your tastebuds

Food and drink make for some of our top travel memories. Explore the world, one cuisine at a time, with these delicious foodie-themed journeys, including Italy, Thailand and Peru

1: Tuck into stupendous Sicilian suppers

Sicilian cannoli with orange  (Dreamstime)

Sicilian cannoli with orange (Dreamstime)

From fresh pasta and sweet pastry desserts to zingy gelato and locally caught fish, Sicilian food is guaranteed to delight and leave you wanting more, especially when you stay at two charming Agriturismo properties, the Agriturismo Il Granaio near Modica (eastern Sicily) and La Foresteria near Menfi (western Sicily), both with excellent kitchens serving local, seasonal and home-cooked menus.

This trip also provides the opportunity to visit Modica, where rich dark chocolate is produced following ancient Aztec recipes, as well as archaeological sites, including Agrigento and Selinunte and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Piazza Armerina.

Wine tasting and cooking classes are on offer too, making this trip the perfect introduction to the history, people and gastronomy of the largest island in the Mediterranean.

Trip: Delicious Sicily Fly Drive Holiday

Who: Sunvil Discovery

When: Departures throughout the year

How long: 7 nights

How much: £989 (inc. flights)

2: Learn the secrets of Thai cooking

Eating Thai food (Dreamstime)

Eating Thai food (Dreamstime)

Welcome to your own private tour of Thailand’s delicious and diverse cuisine. From sprawling markets, steaming street stands and huge food courts through to fine restaurants and simple beach cafes, you’ll sample and learn about the different regional dishes that form the basis of Thai cooking.

You’ll start in bustling Bangkok, with an extensive walking tour of the city and its famous street food stalls and markets. Next stop is Chang Mai, where you’ll dine at the Huan Soontaree Vechanont, renowned for its authentic northern food, culture and hospitality. You’ll also take part in a famous cooking class focusing on classic northern cuisine.

Finally, you’ll hit the beach at Koh Lanta in the south-west, where you’ll be introduced to Southern Thailand’s distinct cuisine, heavily influenced by the Muslim population that live in the area. Here, you’ll attend the Lanta Thai Cookery School, where you’ll learn to balance fresh ingredients and cook some Thai classics. You will also get your own recipe book, so you can replicate the dishes you’ve sampled when you get home.

Trip: Thai Food Lovers

Who: Experience Travel

When: Departures throughout the year

How long: Flexible

How much: From £1,014 (exc. flights)

3: Explore gourmet New Zealand

Seafood NZ-style (Dreamstime)

Seafood NZ-style (Dreamstime)

Experience New Zealand’s world-renowned food and drink scene on this mouth-watering self-drive holiday. Enjoy local delicacies, such as the crayfish in Kaikoura, and savour exquisite dishes made with seasonal fruit and vegetables grown in your hotel’s own gardens, all with fine regional vintages to wash it down.

Dine in some of the country’s top restaurants and visit the lovely vineyards in the premier wine regions of Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough.

Along the way, discover the other beauties of New Zealand, enjoying memorable landscapes, beaches and coves, and staying in beautiful and unique places, from boutique island retreats to sprawling farms and luxury treehouses.

Trip: New Zealand’s Gourmet Highlights: Luxury Food And Wine Tour

Who: Exsus Travel

When: Departures throughout the year

How long: 13 nights

How much: From £3,375 (exc. flights)

4: Have a real food adventure in Peru

Typical Peruvian highland food (Dreamstime)

Typical Peruvian highland food (Dreamstime)

Peruvian food and topography go hand in hand. Using what Pachamama (Mother Earth) gave them, the Peruvians have developed a cuisine that combines local and international flavours.

The coast provides an abundance of fresh seafood, the Andean highland supplies a variety of potatoes, and the Amazon rainforest delivers delicious seasonal fruits. It is little wonder that Peru is one of the world’s renowned foodie hotspots.

On this tour, you’ll learn to prepare ceviche in a cooking class held at a Lima fish market, sample traditional Andean delicacies in the Sacred Valley, and see how the famed Pisco Sour is made at a local bodega. You’ll journey to the ancient site of Machu Picchu too, and tuck into a traditional pachamanca feast.

Trip: Peru Real Food Adventure

Who: Intrepid

When: Regular departures throughout the year

How long: 10 days

How much: From £1,715 (exc. flights)

5: All aboard a gastronomic gulet tour in Turkey

Turkish gullet anchored in an isolated bay (Dreamstime)

Turkish gullet anchored in an isolated bay (Dreamstime)

Sample some of the freshest and best Turkish cuisine on a traditional wooden sailing boat as you explore the Turkish coast by gullet. As well as enjoying feasts served up by the onboard cook, you will also drop in on small traditional restaurants, helping to conjure up regional delicacies that you’ll eat with local Turkish people.

Your guide, Sedar, is a trained archaeologist with a passion for both the region’s cuisine and its history. Together, you’ll explore some of the most impressive ancient sites along the coast, including Kaunos, Knidos and Lydae. Expect a culinary and cultural adventure through one of the least developed and beautiful areas in Turkey.

Trip: A Gastronomic Gulet Tour In Turkey

Who: Peter Sommer Travels

When: Jun

How long: 8 days

How much: £2,395 (exc. flights)

6: Go on a Vietnamese culinary adventure

Goi cuon, a typical Vietnamese street food (Dreamstime)

Goi cuon, a typical Vietnamese street food (Dreamstime)

Vietnam is a foodie paradise. On this tour, you’ll discover the endless variety on offer across northern, central and southern cuisines. You’ll enjoy meals at highly regarded restaurants, get one-on-one instruction in cooking schools in Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Hue and Hanoi, and take in the country’s must-see cultural highlights.

Your culinary adventure begins in Ho Chi Minh City, where you’ll buy fresh ingredients from Ben Thanh Market before heading to the Mai Home cooking class for a hands-on cooking lesson.

Next, you’ll cruise the Mekong on a traditional teak boat, helping to prepare and then eat ­a sumptuous three-course lunch of Mekong specialties. You’ll learn to cook cao lau at the Red Bridge Cooking School in Hoi An, feast on an authentic Hue dinner beside the Perfume River, and then head to Hanoi, sampling street food and learning to prepare northern specialties at the Hanoi Cooking Centre.

Trip: Gourmet Vietnam

Who: Buffalo Tours

When: Departures throughout the year

How long: 11 days

How much: From £1,092 (exc. flights)

7: Discover gastronomic Galacia

A selection of tapas (Dreamstime)

A selection of tapas (Dreamstime)

Having added Michelin star restaurants and world class wineries to its cosy taverns and atmospheric tapas bars, the cuisine of Spain’s northwest is starting to get the attention it deserves. With vineyard-speckled hills that hide pretty medieval towns to a dramatic coastline that’s dotted with welcoming fishing villages, it’s the foodie destination you’ve been looking for.

You’ll explore it all with the use of a private driver and the services of a regional gastronomic expert. Throughout your trip, they’ll be able to guide you between local markets, coastal seafood restaurants, backstreet tapas bars, cooking courses and winery tastings, while making sure you catch all of the region’s heritage highlights, including its Celtic hill forts and grand Romanesque cathedrals.

There’s also plenty of room to tailor activities to your tastes, whether it’s making a reservation at a Michelin-starred restaurant or enjoying an island hike with a beach picnic.

Trip: Gastronomy of Galacia

Who: Wexas Travel

When: Departures throughout the year

How long: 8 days

How much: £2,935 (inc. flights)

8: Undertake your own South Australian food and wine odyssey

Sunset over a South Australian vineyard (Dreamstime)

Sunset over a South Australian vineyard (Dreamstime)

Prepare to set your palate alight with some of the finest flavours Down Under. This private, all-meals-included tour of Australia offers a hands-on, immersive experience for the food and wine fanatic.

You’ll be accompanied by a specialist guide, who will take you from Adelaide to some of the finest South Australian wine regions, where you’ll be introduced to gourmet food producers and treated to delicious wine tastings everywhere you go.

South Australia’s first class food and wine is waiting for you.

Trip: South Australia Culinary Adventure

Who: Exsus Travels

When: Departures throughout the year

How long: 13 nights

How much: From £11,700 (inc. flights)

9: Your very own Balkan food adventure in Macedonia and Montenegro

Tavce Gravce, a traditional Macedonian dish (Dreamstime)

Tavce Gravce, a traditional Macedonian dish (Dreamstime)

No one leaves this Balkan food adventure hungry. Picnic on the lush banks of the Treska River, stroll through national parks and soak up picturesque scenes of waterfalls, church-filled villages and some of the region’s most spiritual sites. This trip guarantees total immersion in the culinary delights of Macedonia and Montenegro.

It’s a foodie trip like no other. Sip a traditional fermented drink (boza) for breakfast, master the art of the perfect pastry with the village women of Janche, sample homemade rakija (fruit brandy) in Ohrid, and dine on a home-grown meal in the private garden of a Dihovo family. The incredible hospitality of the people you meet will stay with you, as will the foodie memories.

Trip: The Balkans Real Food Adventure

Who: Intrepid

When: Departures May-Sep

How long: 12 days

How much: From £1,715 (exc. flights)

10: Indulge your tastebuds in Tuscany

Tuscan soup (Dreamstime)

Tuscan soup (Dreamstime)

Tuscany is the jewel in the impressive crown of Italian cuisine, combining the simple elegance of traditional, rural Italian cookery with its famous and more refined exports of truffles and wine.

On this gourmet weekend holiday, you’ll get to sample some of the region’s very finest produce, indulging your palate in the beautiful setting of the rolling Tuscan countryside.

If you’re keen to treat your taste buds even further, you can combine this trip with an Italian cookery holiday in Florence and Puglia that includes the chance to take part in a traditional truffle hunt.

Trip: Luxury Foodie Weekend: Wine And Truffles In Tuscany

Who: Exsus Travel

When: Departures throughout the year

How long: 3 nights

How much: £995 (inc. flights)

11: Go on a Swedish West Coast seafood safari

Swedish gravlax (Dreamstime)

Swedish gravlax (Dreamstime)

Sweden’s West Coast is a seafood lovers delight, with fresh, innovative dishes uses produce that is literally just off the boat.  After two nights in Gothenburg, where Michelin Stars adorn the walls of six of the restaurants in the city’s delightful canal-lined centre, you’ll head to Fjällbacka, a charming fishing village and the setting for Camilla Lackberg’s famous crime novels.

Using its brightly coloured houses as your base for two nights, you’ll drive up the coast to Grebbestad, where you’ll join an oyster safari. Boarding a beautiful blonde-timber fishing vessel, you’ll cruise through the austere, cragged beauty of the archipelago as you learn how the oysters are drawn up from the bed before having a go at shucking them yourself. Your tastings will be paired with seaweed crackers, elderflower juice and dark oyster-flavoured stout.