Inspiration in every port
There is nothing as magical as gliding into a Mediterranean port on a passenger ship at dawn. I really understood why Homer in The Iliad and The Odyssey often described dawn as being “rosy fingered”. The light was indeed pink.
The ship was the Celebrity Reflection, I was enjoying my first experience of a cruise ship and getting up early as we arrived in port was well worth it. This was an experience repeated almost daily as the ship would sail at night and arrive for the day, leaving again in the early evening.
The ship was like being in a high-end resort that followed you around to different places. It really was worth unpacking the suitcase. When I was told of the Celebrity Reflection’s Western Mediterranean itinerary, I jumped at the chance to travel on it and report on the food. You can read my report on bite.co.nz.
The ship set off from Civitavecchia, near Rome, travelled up the left hand side of Italy to La Spezia, near Cinque Terre in Liguria, turned left and went across the south of France to Nice, then turned down the coast of Spain to Barcelona (for two days and, luckily, well before the current political trouble).
There was then a day at sea as we steamed to that last outpost of the British Empire, Gibraltar. Then it was back up the coast of Spain to Malaga, then Cartagena, across to Ibiza then back in between Corsica and Sardinia to return to Civitavecchia. I know it sounds a bit like once over lightly but, as I had been to many of these places before, it was a great way to revisit them, and for those who hadn’t been to them, a good way to scope out the territory to see where you might like to spend more time.
I hadn’t been to Malaga before and loved it so much we included it in the Spanish trip we were doing a few weeks later. A highlight for me was to go into Malaga with the ship’s executive chef, Ashley Mohun. We went to the amazing Mercado Central Atarazanas market, where Ashley bought ingredients for the special dinner the excursion group enjoyed the next day.
We sat down to an excellent tasting of Spanish wine and food at Los Patios de Beatas restaurant, and we had an expert and entertaining tour of the historic centre of Malaga. We were also able to buy some local products and I left clutching several bottles of delicious Malaga wine vinegar.
Every port we stopped in was interesting, with another highlight (after three anxious weeks on the waiting list) being a 20-course lunch at the celebrated Disfrutar restaurant in Barcelona, famous for its cutting-edge, modern Spanish food.
Even when I had nothing planned, a wander around the old centres of these stops was a relaxing way to enjoy the day. As someone obsessed with food, the places we visited were intensely stimulating and the following recipes are a distillation of the inspiration they gave me for some relaxed summer food.
This is a dish from Catalonia and is a seafood and vegetable stew with thin noodles, cooked a little like paella but using pasta instead of rice.
I used Italian whole wheat filini pasta from Sabato in Auckland but any very thin spaghetti-like pasta, broken into 2-3cm lengths, will work. In Spain they cook the dish until quite dry but I like it with a bit more broth. Get the recipe
This cake is the old 1,2,3 cake made with yoghurt and using the yoghurt container as the measure for the ingredients. I have converted the measurements to metric.
I got the recipe off the very retro design Royal baking powder packet I found in a supermarket in Gibraltar. It makes a great plainish but lemony cake that is good with frozen desserts or just with a cup of coffee. Get the recipe
My version of the classic Ligurian vegetable pie I ate at the Viccolo Intherno restaurant in La Spezia. Get the recipe