Gnocchi

Some snaps from Rome & the addict’s recipe …

Rome was exactly what I had expected. Full of life and sunshine, it is a city of hustle and bustle, of espresso shots and scooters and of incredible ancient ruins scattered across the entire city. Rome is a city for exploration, of religious devotion and most importantly for food.

When backpacking  across Europe I was savvy with my money and often I bought food at shops and markets or binged on complimentary continental breakfasts supplied by the many hostels I visited – For Italy however my frugalness left me and I ate out all day everyday during my stay at this vibrant and gastronomic country!

Italian food is my absolute favorite. Where taste and comfort is at the heart of it, Italian food does away with any fuss or pretension and when made with love and fresh ingredients packed with flavour – Italian food is eccezionale!

Below are a few snaps from my trip to Rome and below that is this week’s scrap on an Italian favorite – Gnocchi. It’s surprisingly easy to make and the recipe below is fool proof, perfect for a lazy sunday afternoon whatever the weather. Admittedly I tried my first ever Gnocchi in Rome and let me tell ‘ya – I wasn’t disappointed!

I ate at a small restaurant that was a short walk away from my hostel. Tempio di Mecenate is a cosy spot where they serve good wholesome homey food. It’s good value too and is close to the enchanting Porta Magica – a magic portal in a garden which is a quiet and special find rarely surrounded by tourists.  Before traveling to another dimension, I recommend having lunch at the restaurant and although it will cost you extra, sit outside in the sun – it will be worth it.

Old school Roman dining beside a garden of magic – bellissima! (…yes I’m unashamedly throwing Italian words into my post)

House of Augustus
House of Augustus

House of Augustus Tower

Virgin Pillar

Pantheon, Rome.
Pantheon

Pantheon, Pillars

Pantheon,Pillars

Pantheon, Entrance

Gnocchi

Although in Rome, I had Gnocchi with a rich ragu sauce. The recipe below is perfect for beginners and although it does take some time, it is incredibly simple and can be made into larger batches and stored in the freezer for future use.

This recipe ensures the Gnocchi is the centre of attention. The sauce is very light which I think compliments this starchy and substantial pasta

Ingredients (Serves two) 

2 large potatoes

2 cups of flour

2 eggs

parmesan

garlic

onion

basil

pine nuts

butter

Lemon juice

salt and pepper

olive oil

  1. Peel the potatoes and boil them in a pot for about 20mins (or until tender). Do not overcook them. You want the potatoes to be tender and fluffy – not too soft and mushy.
  2. Drain the potatoes well. You want to get rid of all excess water and have the potatoes dry before mashing.
  3. Give your potatoes a good mashing (or push them through a potato ricer – if you’re more fortunate than I & have one)
  4. Place mashed potato on a clear work surface and top with the flour.
  5. Grate a generous amount of the cheese and add it to the potato and flour mixture.
  6. Sprinkle some salt on the mound and roughly give it a mix with your hands.
  7. Create a well in the centre of the mound and add the beaten eggs.
  8. Mix the flour, potato, cheese and egg together until it forms a dough.
  9. Knead it only until it becomes well formed. It should be a little sticky but not too much. NOTE: If a little flour is needed add some but be careful – too much flour will make the pasta hard.
  10. Shape the dough into one large rectangular shape making sure it is even in height, about 2cm thick.
  11. Cut dough into rectangular strips about 10cm long.
  12. Roll each strip into a sausage shape making sure it is even.
  13. Cut the sausage shape into 2cm pieces and use a fork to indent the gnocchi pieces with ridges.
  14. FOR THE SAUCE: As the fresh gnocchi takes only 4mins to cook. Leave the pasta aside and dice an onion and some garlic.
  15. In a hot pan saute the onion and garlic with some butter and in a separate pan toast the pine nuts until golden.
  16. In a pot of boiling salted water add the gnocchi and cook for 4mins ( you will know when the pasta is done as the gnocchi will float to the top)
  17. Drain the gnocchi and toss it into the pan. Mix the gnocchi in the buttery sauce gently and tear some basil leaves adding the herb & a little more butter to the pan. Add the toasted pine nuts to the pan with the squeezed juice of about half a lemon also. Stir gently. Season with salt if needed (bare in mind the cheese & butter is salty) & a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
  18. Serve in warm bowls with grated Parmesan on top, a sprig of basil & a final sprinkling of nuts. A drizzle of olive oil wouldn’t go amiss either!

Dig in!

NOTE: Gnocchi can be kept in the freezer for future use. Just pack the pieces in a zip bag with a little dusting of flour (to prevent them sticking) and defrost them the night before you need them

This is comfort food in a bowl and although it uses simple ingredients -it doesn’t skimp on flavour. It may take some time and attention but gnocchi isn’t as daunting  as you’d think – give it ago.

 

Expect more posts on my Italian adventures. I have tonnes of photos, tips and recipes I want to share. This was only a little taste of Rome, there’s plenty more to come – so look out for more on the scrapbook

Venice

A stroll with a camera …

I didn’t stay for very long but Venice was a spectacular city. It was crowded in August but this did nothing to diminish it’s beauty. I took a night train into the city and a night train out. It was a quick stop on my journey to Rome and wouldn’t have happened had it not been for a good friend of mine who took a position at the Peggy Guggenheim gallery. After a VIP tour of the gallery and a quick trek around the city. I vowed to return – hopefully with a lover in hand …

These are a few shots I took whilst making may way through the bridged maze. Venice is truly something.

venice-san-marco
San Marco

 

venice-canal

peggy-venice

venice-boats

peg-venice

venice-balcony

venice-canal-shot

venice-dragon-lantern

venice-dock

venice-tower

Prague

Pub crawls – Spots to look out for

Prague as I had mentioned in a previous post, is an amazing city. It is breathtakingly beautiful and its cobbled streets, battlement walls and Prague castle will send you back in time. The Czech capital is also party central with so many pubs and clubs – you’ll be spoilt for choice. I went on a pub crawl which was organised by the hostel where I was staying at the time, Miss Sophie’s (see my review here) but I had also spent my time in some wonderful bars and local spots during my day-trips. From infamous absinthe bars to bars deep under a cellar – Prague has it all.

double-trouble-bar-prague

 

With a number of adjoined caves & stylish lighting and bars – Double Trouble is the perfect spot to rock up to, especially if you’re new to the city. The drinks are reasonably priced and there is no cover charge which is a big plus! A DJ is there every night except Sundays and as it’s one of the most popular spots in the city – there’s always an event or two from themed nights to live performers.

The bar does great cocktails as well at fair prices (try the ‘Jet lag’) and the bar itself is located close to the Old time square. You won’t have to look far to find it.

Double Trouble – An underground club. Draws a young crowd (us twenty-somethings), modern tunes and the odd eurovision thrown in for good measure. Great spot to try out and with no cover charge, you’ve nothing to lose!

Address: Melantrichova 970/17, 110 00 Praha-Staré Město, Czech Republic.

karlovy-lazne_

The next club is probably Prague’s most famous. Even if I hadn’t mentioned it, you would end up here one night or another. With 5 floors and different themed bars, including an ice bar – Karlovy Lazne is massive. It’s pretty touristy but don’t knock it. It’s a great way to mingle with other nationalities, it’s like a drunken UN gathering with plenty of fun!

With different music on different floors, the club caters for almost everyone. From mainstream pop, hiphop, 80s and chill out tunes – the club is like one huge festival and is the largest club in central Europe. The drink prices are fair but there is a cover charge at 180 krona, which is about 8 euros – well worth the price. You’d be mad not to go once in Prague.

International DJs, Ice bar and more. A great party atmosphere with a central location. It is just across from Charles bridge.

Karlovy Lazne

Address: Smetanovo nabrezhi 198/1 | Praha 1, Prague110 00, Czech Republic

sudu-prague

Sudu is similar to Double Trouble in that it is a cellar bar but it couldn’t be more different. At first the bar seems to be nothing but a small hole in the wall but as you pass through all the mahogany, the bar opens out to something special as staircases lead you to different bars in this tunneled pub. Plenty of seating and the place serves as a restaurant too. I didn’t try the food myself but reviews look promising and the place has a great beer garden.

The drink is cheap too and the place is a great spot to kick back and chill out in one of the many nooks you can find in the labyrinth of bars. Great for a quiet drink or a bite to eat if you’re peckish with friends. It’s not too touristy either which is a plus. The only downside is that as it’s an authentic Czech bar, if too many smokers join at the bar – the place gets smokey. I’m a non-smoker, so this was an issue for me but for one night and a real Czech atmosphere. It was worth the stale & tobacco stinking clothes!

A hidden gem & a unique place.

Sudu

Address: Vodičkova 677/10, 110 00 Praha 1-Nové Město, Czech Republic.

black-angel-christmas

Other Mentions:

I didn’t have the chance but when I return to Prague, I will definitely visit “Black Angel’s” a cocktail bar neighboring the stunning U Prince hotel. The drink is supposed to be great value and the decor & surroundings will have you believing you’re a long lost Romanov!

I was in Prague during the summer but rumour has it winter is the best season to visit this historic bar & restaurant

Black Angel’s

Address: Staromestske namesti 460/29, Prague 110 00, Czech Republic

absintherie

Absinthe Bars: You’ll find many of them within the heart of the city. The feature image of this scrap is one I visited which was found along one of the tiny cobbled lanes branching outwards from the Old time square. It’s a famous spot and you’d be mad not to visit at least one of them!

The best absinthe bar however is the very same I visited. The place offers spirit tours and tastings (which is best bought within a group for value, so if traveling alone persuade other travelers to tag along with you). It’s a cool spot full of history and a little mischief too – with a large drinks menu and expert staff. It’s a place which lives up to its reputation.

Awesome Gothic decor where absinthe is served properly & who knows the Green Fairy  just may appear …

Absintherie

Address: Jilská 7, 110 00 Praha-Staré Město, Czech Republic.

 

 

 

Travel on a Shoestring

Tips from my euro trip

Life is easier with money. Only people with money say it isn’t but that doesn’t mean you can’t travel and save along the way.

This scrap is about value for money and will pass on some tips and hacks I found along my trek across Europe to other eager backpackers. Some of the advice posted I learnt through experience whilst others were given to me by the people I met when I traveled from city to city. I visited 13 cities within 32 days of inter-railing and excluding the cost of flights from Dublin to the continent, the euro trip cost just under 2000 euros, 400 of which was the euro train pass itself which allowed me to take as many trains (standard, non-high speed trains) within 31 days. I’m surprised inter-railing isn’t more popular than it is but I suppose it’s not for everyone. If you’re willing to go a day or three without a shower, to sleep on a train floor for 7hrs or around 12 other travelers, using tips and hacks – backpacking across Europe is one hell of an experience, where money can be spent on where it matters on good food, events and sight seeing.

Feel free to comment & share your own tips. These are just some of mine.

Happy Trekking,

J.

  1. Hostels tend to be the cheapest accommodation but not always. Many of the American travelers swore by airbnb but ordinary B&Bs may be cheaper too - shop around. I couldn't imagine having to travel around with just a map and help from tourist information. Thanks to smartphones, you have everything at your finger tips while on the move. Hostelworld is great too and offers off season deals
  2. Sign up for a hostel membership card. It will get you many savings and is a must if you travel a lot.
  3. Upload TripAdvisor and use it. It will give you an idea of where to stay and go and more importantly, where to avoid. Help fellow travelers out too and post your own reviews!
  4. Paying extra for 'breakfast included' is worth it (most hostel prices per night are between 10-20 euros & include bed and breakfast). Many of the hostels where I stayed had a self-service buffet style breakfast table with cold meats, breads and cheese. Stock up on them and bring them with you as a packed lunch. Often I did not have to pay for food until the evening as the fruit and breads I packed kept me going. It also meant I could spend a little more at dinner time to try out & taste the cuisine of the place I was in.
  5. If booked in a hostel which doesn't include breakfast, don't pay for the breakfast or food served there. Although it means you have to walk further for your meal in the morning. The quality and value of food down at the local cafe is better.
  6. Look out for hostels that have a guest/common kitchen. That way you can grocery shop and cook at your accommodation - saving money.
  7. Laundry services are expensive and you don't want to be spending money on it. Instead wash your dirty clothes in the shower with you. (So what if my T-shirt smelt of tea tree oil?!) Washing your clothes that way means you only have to cover the price of drying them or simply hang them along your bunk-bed, if like me you traveled south, where the weather is hot - let them air dry.
  8. Buy travel insurance. It's worth it. It cost me 75 euros for premium cover from www.backpackertravelinsurance.ie but shop around. For me, the risk of being robbed was on my mind. It covered a loss up to 500 euro cash plus more.
  9. Buy a body wallet. A wallet which can conceal your passport, rail pass and cash strapped around your waist and hidden under your shirt. Carry a decoy wallet in your pocket, with a twenty in it and a few non-important cards (library etc). If the worst happens and you do get mugged - let him rob you and give away the decoy wallet. Thankfully this decoy method wasn't tested but it seems smart to me!
  10. Assume beggars are pick-pockets, watch your back for thieves trying to open your backpack. Barcelona is the capital of pickpockets and as tourists looking up at the sights - you're a prime target. Wear the body wallet/money belt and keep vigilant.

Valenicia

 

  1. If you're a student, ask for discounts - you'll likely get them.
  2. When inter-railing you must pre-book night trains. It's not always possible but try and book at least two days in advance as it is cheaper. For long journeys you can book a bunk in a tram dorm, sharing with 5 other passengers (it's the cheapest) or simply book a seat for 5euros, if you don't mind sleeping sitting upright in a chair. For a real backpacker experience, sleep on the carriage floor as I did!
  3. Travel at off-peak times. This is common sense really but it means cheaper rates and the chance for more room aboard.
  4. Use ATMs to get your cash out and avoid most transaction fees by taking out fewer but large sums of money. I took out 250euros at a time. It was a great way to keep track of how much I was spending too as until it all ran out I didn't take another 250 out from my account.
  5. Avoid exchanging currencies at train stations. They don't have the best rates and I learnt this far too late!
  6. In Europe, in most places there is a table charge. Unless you plan to sit for awhile and enjoy the view, buy your drinks at the bar - it's cheaper.
  7. Most restaurants (especially the touristic ones) charge for water and often come to the table with a bottle of still water. Unless tap water is undrinkable, as is the case in Southern Spain, Italy and parts of Eastern Europe, ask for tap water. The waiter may refuse (that happens sometimes) but if not you'll save some euros.

    Naples Hostel View

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” – Oscar Wilde

  1. Drink the House and local wine. It's good value and part of the experience.
  2. Go for local produce and do some research. Get what is in season. It will be at its best and cheaper.
  3. For large museums and for cities in which you plan to stay for a few days, get a museum pass. It means you can skip the queues and you will save money as long as you go to as many attractions as possible. Only buy a pass, if you're a museum junkie (like me) and plan to see many of the city's art and museums. Otherwise pay the normal entry fees.
  4. Use your feet, where ever possible. Walking is free and a 40 minute walk doesn't seem so long when exploring and making your way round a new city. When you can - don't rush, just explore.
  5. For more walking - look out for red umbrellas at major tourist landmarks. The Sandemans (www.neweuropetours.eu) tours are 'free' (though they ask for a tip - but it's brilliant value). I went on every free Sandeman tour available in the cities I visited. They're are a great way to plan activities for the next day and will give you an idea of how to make your way around the city as well as learn its history and meet new people. They offer special paid tours as well, which are excellent value (I'm sure I'll post a scrap about them here soon enough ...)
  6. Travel light. As mentioned earlier you will do a lot of walking and will regret the weight. Take only what is necessary and be smart. Pack shampoo/conditioner combos and depending on the climate, pack light and airy clothes.
  7. Make the most of group deals. If you're traveling alone, get to know other backpackers. They may want to see the same attractions as you and if you group together - there can be savings and friendship too
  8. Don't be regimental! When I first started travelling I planned nearly two weeks ahead. This was a mistake. Be flexible and have your itinerary open to new experiences and places not originally planned. Local or traveler recommendations may lead you elsewhere which could save you money but more importantly  - make a trip of a lifetime.  I had planned to stay in Barcelona for 6 days before my flight back to Dublin but in Berlin and later in Prague, I met a Spaniard, Fani. She was sweet and awesome to hang about with. She finished her trip before I did but suggested I visit her back home in Valencia. I'm so glad I did and my stay in Catalonia's capital was cut by two days. Instead, they were spent with a local newfound friend and an old friend, where we were brought for Paella out on the beach, and later, to one of the best tapas bars in the city.

Hostel Shenanigans

Austria swim

Let life take the reins for a while. If it feels right – go for it! You’ll never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll find. It was hard to let go at first but I’m glad I did. Some things can’t be planned, just prepare for adventure!