Friday, July 16, 2010

that's why they are called runner beans...

the fast and furious growing pace of the runner beans.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Chez Vejlupeck

Wedding number 2 this year took us to the Swiss shores of Lake Geneva (or Leman) to beautiful Nyon castle and the alpine village of Rougemont, in Vaud.

We arrived in Rougemont escaping the scorching heat of Geneva and the mountains were indeed that couple of degrees cooler -just enough to make it bearably warm. The bride had very kindly booked us a room at the home of Pierre Vejlupeck, a chatty Czech-Swiss old-school hippy that could be anything from 40 to 55 years of age, and according to his neighbour, a bit of a charmer with the ladies.

Vejlupeck's is not your average chalet with alpine paraphernalia. Judging by the style and decor of the house, Vejlupeck has instead a bit of an obsession with Tibetan flags, Buddha statues, tea-light holders and Indian mementos. It certainly feels more like a yoga-retreat than a guesthouse in the middle of one of the higher-end ski regions of the Swiss Alps.

Tucked in on a sunny slope just outside the village, Vejlupeck grows his vegetables and hosts guests of all sorts but definitely not your ski-season types. The house is charming, warm and welcoming in a laid back homey kind of way -despite some strict no-shoes-in-the-house rules and other petty things.

Vejlupeck tells us a group of hare krishnas come to stay with him every year, and it's easy to see why. The sheer beauty and quietness of the mountain in the summer, only disturbed by the sound of the cow bells, is so idyllic, so relaxing, it'll tempt even city creatures to ditch their mobile and any other reminders of the outside world. Although I wonder what the hare krishnas make of Vejlupeck's curiosity and constant chatting.

A carpenter by trade, Vejlupeck is part-philosopher, part-spiritual guru: he stresses the importance of manual labour for spiritual and mental well-being; and easily moves on to the posibility of reincarnation, current affairs and the state of the world -all this at the breakfast table after our late night at the wedding reception - and in French!

While we were hoping to catch the train back to Geneva around 11, it had to be delayed, as the animated conversation moved to his rebel younger years in 1970s in Switzerland - if there is such a thing.

As we walked down to the village in the summer sun, I wished we could stay. Mainly for the luxury of listening to the cow bells when waking up in the morning...

Octopus Galician Style..

Paul the German psychic octopus has become a bit of a world celeb. If Paul's vision is right yet again, Spain should win the World Cup this Sunday. There is talk of the Germans being so upset with Paul after their defeat earlier this week that they are considering making one of Galicia's most traditional dishes their own, yep, octopus!

The most common way of eating octopus in Galicia is what Spaniards call 'Galician Style' and Galicians call 'a feira' or 'Fair Day Style'.

Fair Day Octopus is traditionally boiled in a copper caldron, then chopped, sprinkled with sweet and hot paprika, sea salt (coarse) and a drizzle of olive oil. Served warm.

At home, you can cook it in a normal pot. Firstly, you must wait for the water to boil and dip the octopus in and out of the water 3/4 times, apparently this prevents it from peeling. Then leave the octopus in, once the water is boiling again. Usually it takes around 30 minutes for each kilo to cook. What my dad does is put a medium size potato boiling with the octopus and once the potato is ready, so is the octopus. It is usually better to undercook it than overcook it and risk having mushy octopus. Serve warm - on a wooden plate if possible!

Grilled octopus with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt is also delicious. After boiling, cut the octopus tentacles lenghtways and grill for a few minutes each side.

In Santiago de Compostela is also quite common to find 'empanada de pulpo', octopus (pastry) pie. I'm not a big fan of octopus empanada as the meat tends to become a bit chewy but I absolutely love empanada in general though. Other simple octopus and Galician recipes can be found on (in Galician and Spanish).

Buying octopus in Ireland (in the country at least) can be a bit tricky, though. We have bought octopus (frozen, which is actually good because it helps make the meat more tender) at the Wrights of Howth fish shop (from France) but I'm told many Asian shops in Dublin city sell frozen octopus from Galicia. It's in my 'to-do' list. for my next trip up to the big smoke.

Here The New York Times' Matt Bittman cooks octopus Galician style. Watch his Video.

Watch out Paul...