European food adventure – krokets, cheese, pizza and yiros
A different kind of post because it’s not about yoghurt! Mr Bball and I recently went to Europe and I wanted to share three of my favourite meals. So let the story begin….
On 31 July 2016 my now husband and I packed our bags, ate all the food in our fridge (yes I almost ate an entire tub of yoghurt because I didn’t want to waste it) and started our honeymoon adventure.
With a list of ‘things to do’ in all fourteen cities we were visiting, each list topped with what local food and drink to indulge in, we jumped on our Emirates flight with relief. The last few months had been hectic with the wedding, a quick trip to America for Mr Bball’s work 6am after the wedding and a lot of work to wrap up, so getting on that plane filled me with this calmness I hadn’t felt for a long time.
A 13 hour, followed by 7 hour flight, we finally made it to our first city Amsterdam. Greeted with a free glass of bubbles to celebrate our honeymoon, we ventured out to experience the canals, the smells (yes…the smell of pot did radiate through the air) and the food. It was there we found a small pub along the canal, The Engelbewaarder, known for its traditional pub bites and bonus…it wasn’t touristy!
Eager to start ticking off our food list, we ordered krokets, bitterballen and of course cheese. A snack we thought, but what we were delivered was a meal for three with enough cheese to meet my calcium needs for a week. The krokets were crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside with small pieces of prawn intact. The bitterballen was crunchy and the smooth and meaty centre made my centre melt. The cheese was subtle, smooth and just beautiful. All dipped in mustard, which provided a pleasant bite that cut through the oily, creamy and rich flavours that made me salivate. I quickly began to fall in love with mustard and wanted it on everything for the rest of the trip. Who would have thought a piece of cheese dipped in mustard would be so heavenly. Honestly…try it.
Our ninth city was Naples. While we only stayed in Naples for two hours, it was time enough to run to a small pizza store and order the best pizza I have ever eaten. Picture this…a small shop amongst the many ‘salesmen’ trying to sell me five selfie sticks, with a front counter for pre-made items. The small place was called Pizzeria Da Mimi. As you walk through the small gap to the left of the counter, you see another counter that couldn’t have been more than 1m wide. Next to that is this wood oven beautifully decorated with blue tiles. The chef looked at me blankly and I managed to squeak, pizza margherita per favour. With a few twists of the hand, some sauce and cheese and 90 seconds of theatre in the wood oven, where he placed it in, picked it up and twirled it, he presented to me an evenly cooked box of absolute perfection. With a thicker crust, rich and vibrant sauce and just the right amount of cheese, this simple humble pizza activated every one of my senses. Delicious.
Interesting pizza note - Napoli pizza is thicker than Roma pizza, because it is proofed in warm temperature and has more yeast. Whereas Roma pizza is proofed in the fridge and uses less yeast.
After Italy we went to my family’s homeland Greece. We saved the best European country to last and there in a small 600-person village on the Island of Rodos called Gennadi, we visited my Mum’s childhood home. I have visited Gennadi seven times and when I was five I spent two months there. I have so many fond memories of Gennadi from the perfect temperature beach to the small local bakery with the most amazing bougatsa (custard parcel).
Together with my Mum, Dad, Sister, Brother-in-Law and nephew (also visiting Gennadi), we walked 50m up the narrow road from my Mum’s childhood home, to a window with pork rotating and cooking to perfection…round and round for hours until it’s just right to shave off and make a melt in your mouth Greek icon – the Yiros. And Nick's in Gennadi is the best. Whether called gyros, yiros or souvlaki; this meat, chips, salad and tzatziki filled pita bread delight is heavenly. When done properly, the meat melts in your mouth, the tzatziki cuts through the richness of the pork and the chips add this nice salty, crispy surprise.
Contrary to popular belief, the most common yiros meat in Greece is pork (chicken a close second). Not lamb. Even if you don’t traditionally like pork please do yourself a favour if you visit Greece, try the pork yiros. It is moist, juicy and salty (when done right). Plus it’s smaller then you’ll get in Australia, so you don’t have meat sweats or a food hangover straight after you finish it.
In addition to trying the local cuisine I also tried yoghurt in each country to see what European yoghurt reigns supreme. Results in my next blog post…until then, keep eating.