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Travel Journal | Buenos Aires, Argentina


After an intense few days in Santiago we were feeling like confident, seasoned travellers again; a feeling that dissolved as we boarded our flight to Buenos Aires. We were among the last to enter the plane and discovered that the overhead lockers were already full, and since we were seated in the exit aisle, we couldn’t put our bags under the seat in front of us. Three flight attendants gathered, unintelligible Spanish/English/Sign language erupted, and then Colin’s backpack was whisked away to the rear of the aircraft while mine was carried clean off the plane. Once we had digested this, we realised with horror that Colin had a large wad of Argentinean pesos in his bag and my camera gear was in mine! Neither bag was locked, and worse, the airline we were travelling with didn’t have a good reputation for security…it was an anxious flight.


Fortunately we were soon reunited with our intact bags, processed through customs and were in Argentina. After a long and slightly concerning taxi ride into the city (thanks to the heavy foot of our yawning driver) we arrived in San Telmo and drove down a series of narrow cobblestone streets to our hotel. We had elected to spoil ourselves in Buenos Aires and had booked a beautifully restored boutique hotel with only 11 rooms. The French owner came out to greet us and carried our bags into a tiny lobby where we sat on ornate chairs, filled out a complicated check-in form by hand, and discussed our plans for seeing the city. We were escorted to our lovely split-level room, with a giant bed, courtyard view and a powerful bidet (that turned out to be uncomfortably brutal).



After relaxing in our room for a while, we headed out to eat. As usual, our stomachs wanted dinner long before most restaurants were serving it but we found a place not far from the hotel with cheap food, cheap drinks and a free table by the window. We ordered a bottle of wine and spent the next couple of hours chatting to our waiter, Pablo, about his first love (heavy metal) and second love (the ladies), and another couple at the next table who were also on their first visit to South America. It was Monday night and the streets were quiet, so after a shot of tequila to celebrate our arrival, we headed home to watch Argentinean soap operas and get an early night.



The next morning we ate fruit and cereal at the hotel and then left in search of a proper breakfast, which for us means eggs. While tramping the lovely streets of San Telmo in vain (it turns out that cafe breakfasts aren’t really a thing over there), we turned a corner and bumped into Pablo, our grinning and deeply-dimpled waiter from the night before, accompanied by an American tourist whom he introduced as “his princess”. After sharing contact details and arranging to meet up in La Boca the next day, we continued walking, wandered into antique stores, and finally, gratefully, found a cafe that offered huevos (eggs).




We had booked a tour of the local street art for the afternoon but had plenty of time to wander along the bustling city streets, admiring the jumble of European architecture and classical sculptures amidst all the trappings of modernity: billboards, chainstores and flashing lights. The people appeared more cosmopolitan than in Santiago, which in contrast seemed quite monocultural. Soon we were in Plaza de Mayo, where a number of historic sites are located including the Presidential Palace, Casa Gobierno, and the main Catedral Metropolitana, where we chanced upon mass attended by hundreds of people. A bit later we successfully negotiated the subway, and headed west of the city to Colegiales where our tour began (I’ll share photos in another post). That first long day ended in a small cafe with chicken empanadas and another bottle of wine, because it was always cheaper to buy a full bottle than two glasses (so, what else can you do?).



The next day we taxied to Caminito in the centre of La Boca, where we met up with Pablo who was working at a restaurant there. La Boca is situated at the mouth of the Riachuelo river and it used to be dominated by shipyards. It’s a rough area of the city and we were explicitly warned by our taxi drivers – both there and back – not to leave Caminito and never to stay after dark. Caminito itself was regenerated in the 1960s by a local artist, and it is a colourful, lively area. Yes there are tacky souvenir shops everywhere and the food is over-priced and underwhelming, but the colour and live tango shows gave it an air of pantomime. I discovered that I have a terrible tango face:



As we entered the restaurant we were invited to have our photo taken with a man wearing a football jersey and clutching a huge trophy. I had no idea what was going on and who he was supposed to be, but it turned out to be Diego Maradona, the world-famous Argentinean football star. Diego (who was actually an impersonator) was accompanied by a heavy man with a distinctly gangster-like presence, who took the photos and our payment, then sat at the table opposite us, periodically grunting to get our attention and lifting his shirt to reveal the tattoos and scars that decorated his large, hairy belly. Not the greatest lunchtime view, it has to be said, but it added a note of wacky to the air of tacky that already infused Caminito. Later, as we walked to the taxi rank, we spotted him sitting on a rickety chair, virtually in the middle of the street, surveying his patch like the godfather on his padded throne.


Buenos Aires is a huge city and there is so much to see and do. We resisted the temptation to over-schedule and did a fair amount of wandering and soaking up the atmosphere. One of the most memorable experiences was our night at Thelonious Club, an atmospheric jazz club where we saw an seven-piece band perform. The club itself only seats about 80 people, and even then we were crammed in, seated at a tiny table in the dim light, next to a couple passionately making out as waitresses rushed to serve each table before the show began. And what a show it was – each player was seriously talented, from the elderly pianist, to the dreadlocked clarinet and saxophonist, the blind trombonist and elegant cellist. All seven looked to be having the night of their lives as they cracked jokes, interacted with the audience and poured every ounce of energy into their music. The crowd went wild. It was an unforgettable experience.



Another memorable day was spent in posh Recoleta visiting the cemetery where Eva Perón is buried amidst the mausoleums of BA’s most distinguished residents. Far from being morbid, the cemetery is elegantly laid out like a miniature city, with stone paths between the tightly packed crypts. Many of the crypts are beautifully designed, complete with stained glass windows, wrought-iron metal work and carved stone statues. Maintenance is the responsibility of families, and while most tombs are in good condition, many are crumbling, rusty and growing weeds. Given Perón’s popular status in Argentina, her burial chamber turned out to be distinctly modest next to the elaborate, towering structures of her neighbours.




BA was a fascinating city and we only had time to scratch the surface. Like all big cities, it was a mass of contradictions. Wealth, sophistication, culture and art squashed up against people combing rubbish bins at night, blind beggars on the subway and streets spattered with dog shit. On our last night there we tramped through the streets of Retiro looking for a camera store to replace my corrupted memory card. It was dark and raining and the streets were thronged with people. Every few metres men called out “cambio, cambio”, offering to exchange our money, a crowd surrounded a man whose face streamed with blood and the air was charged with tension. We lost our bearings, couldn’t find our hotel, and then suddenly we were in the bright hotel reception. The hilarious manager upgraded us to a larger room because he didn’t want Colin to “feel nervous” in a small bed, and then we changed out of our wet clothes and sped off to a glitzy tango and dinner show in Puerto Madero. Buenos Aires was chaos from start to finish in a million unexpected ways. I’m so grateful to have experienced its vibrant energy, even if only for a few days.



A few travel tips for those headed to Buenos Aires:

  • The metro (subway) is easy to navigate and a great way to cheaply get around the city. Buy a Sube card from a kiosco (convenience store) or a single ticket at the boletería (ticket office). Taxis are everywhere and are generally reliable and trustworthy.
  • BA has some wonderful art galleries. My favourite was the Amalia Lacroze gallery, a private art collection in Puerto Madero where we saw a stunning Turner, Juliet & Her Nurse (1836). We also enjoyed the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Recoleta.
  • Argentinean barbecue really is as good as they say. Our most memorable meal (at Cafe La Poesia in San Telmo) was chargrilled steak served with hollandaise and capers, washed down with Malbec. We followed this with a dessert of crepes filled with dulche de leche (another Argentinean speciality) and vanilla ice-cream – the kind of dessert that stops all conversation.
  • Like Santiago, free wifi is everywhere – just ask for the password wherever you happen to be. Unlike Santiago, most people speak at least a little English, so it was easier to get around.
  • We stayed at the lovely San Telmo Luxury Suites for four nights, and shifted to Bisonte  Palace, a large hotel in Retiro for our last night because of its proximity to the domestic airport, Aeroparque Jorge Newbery.


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New best granola | Buckwheat, Apricot, Coconut


If you’re finding it difficult to get excited about another granola recipe on the internet, well, I understand. I’m not offended. There are a limited number of ways to jazz up the same basic ingredients (oats, nuts, dried fruit) but this hasn’t stopped every single food blogger in the world from posting a thousand variations on a single, repetitive theme. You would be forgiven for thinking that granola has been done to death, for rolling your eyes and deleting or scrolling past this post. And yet…you’d be missing out if you did.


This granola is so good that everyone who has tried it, loves it. I’m guilty of eating it for dinner more times than I would like to admit. This is pretty exciting for granola!



The recipe comes via Amy Chaplin, who can be relied on for creative takes on old favourites; veganised and healthified (but don’t let that put you off), and always tasting good. The granola has the familiar base of rolled oats, but it is joined by buckwheat groats that have been soaked overnight to make them more digestible. Buckwheat might not be the most appealing grain when consumed alone, but here it adds a background nuttiness and satisfying crunch to an already flavoursome mix. It’s also supposed to be spectacularly high in protein, fibre and minerals, but I like to think of that as a bonus rather than the point of the whole thing.


My new best granola took four rounds of adjustment before it became perfect in my eyes. Amy uses dehydrated strawberries in her version, which didn’t appeal to me and I eventually settled on a combination of dried apricots and sultanas to provide the sweet chewability that’s essential to a good granola. I wanted to adapt it to fit what I tend to have at home, so I also replaced Amy’s flaxseed with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and coconut syrup for maple. I successfully made the granola with shredded rather than flaked coconut, but if you can get flakes then follow Amy’s lead: their toasty crunchiness tops off the textural experience.


My new best granola, with buckwheat, coconut and apricot, definitely has the edge on my old best granola, with orange and pistachio. That one is still a winner for its spicy, wintery flavours, but this new recipe manages to be both bright and comforting. It’s lighter, less sweet and the cardamom provides an exotic background fragrance. I like it served with fresh kiwifruit or sliced pear, along with Greek yoghurt and a little milk. It’s simply, perfect.


Buckwheat Granola with Apricots & Coconut

  • Servings: makes about 8 cups
  • Print
Adapted from Amy Chaplin

1 cup raw buckwheat groats, soaked overnight in plenty of filtered water
2 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 1/2 cups dried unsweetened flaked coconut
2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
1/3 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried  apricots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sultanas, raisins or currants

Drain and rinse the buckwheat thoroughly. Spread out on tray over a clean tea towel to dry for several hours. You can speed this up by placing the tray in the sun.

Pre-heat the oven to 175° C / 350 °F and line a large, rimmed baking tray with baking paper.

In a medium bowl combine the rolled oats, coconut, pumpkin seeds (pepitas), chopped pistachios, salt, cardamom and dried buckwheat. Toss thoroughly to combine. Whisk together the melted coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir until everything is lightly slicked.

Transfer the mixture to the baking tray and spread out to an even layer. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Stir the granola and place back in the oven for 8 minutes. Stir again and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the colour is golden. You may wish to stir and bake the granola for another few minutes if the colour is not as deep as you would like, just take care that the coconut doesn’t burn.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Add the chopped apricots and sultanas or currants and mix through. The granola keeps well in an airtight jar for up to 6 weeks. Serve with yoghurt and fresh fruit – kiwifruit and pear both work beautifully.

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Santiago Surrounds | Snow + wine


Part of the motivation for our South America holiday was to celebrate our birthday in a new and exotic location. No, that’s not a typo, and yes, we share a birthday in addition to an apartment, a car and a life. Colin is a year older than me which means that he was blowing out a candle on his first birthday cake at the moment I emerged, squalling, into the world. It took another 15 years for us to fall in love at high school, and only another 25 for us to celebrate our weirdly conjoined birthday in the Andes Mountains on the other side of the world.


The mountains to the east of Santiago are very accessible from the city. We booked a tour which departed early and it didn’t take long before the landscape changed from houses and streets to barren hillsides dotted with cacti as the bus steadily climbed upwards. The tour guide, Daniel, kept us entertained with stories and amusing anecdotes about the history of the area, spoken alternately in Spanish then English. Unfortunately much of the entertainment was lost on me as I concentrated on sipping water to suppress nausea and dizziness, thanks to a fourth long night of little to no sleep (jet lag is a bitch). Luckily for me our first stop at Farellones, a small town and ski resort, came within an hour’s drive of central Santiago. Finally, the solid ground and crisp mountain air revived me and I began to enjoy the day.




In Farellones, looking back to Santiago in the distance. This photo clearly shows why Santiago experiences so much haze and smog, as it sits in a basin between the Andes to the east and the Chilean Coastal Range (Cordillera de la Costa) to the west.

Shortly after Farellones we stopped again next to a pristine stretch of snow. Much of the time our journey was flanked by rocks on one side of the bus and a steep drop on the other, but here the land had flattened out providing the perfect spot for snow play. Despite growing up in New Zealand, we lived a long way from the mountains further south and had never really spent time in the snow. Feeling like a couple of kids, we crunched about, threw snowballs and took multiple selfies against the bluest sky I have ever seen. On the road again, the tour guide discovered that it was our birthday, which prompted the jovial passengers to sing “Happy Birthday to You” (in Spanish, of course!).


By late morning we had reached our destination, the ski resort Valle Nevado, where we enjoyed a leisurely four and a half hours to explore. We had promised ourselves a bottle of champagne for our birthday, so we made our way up the hill to a restaurant overlooking the ski field. There we had our pick of the tables and selected one outside in the full sun with the beautiful mountains as our backdrop. Time slowed right down in that deliciously lazy, holiday-at-last kind of way. The hours slid by and then, out of nowhere, I suddenly felt chilled to the bone. It was time to head back to the bus anyway so we bought large, steaming hot chocolates and defrosted in the heated lobby until it was time to board. On the drive back down the mountains the tour guide actively helped the driver to navigate the hairpin curves of the road. When we reached the bottom he congratulated us on making it safely down one of the world’s top 10 most treacherous roads.



My last significant birthday, of the mid-decade variety, was celebrated in steamy Bangkok at the tail end of a three-month trip around South-East Asia. Our wonderful day in the Andes Mountains had a different vibe but was equally memorable. I won’t forget the feel of dry, powdery snow or the stillness of the frozen landscape in a hurry. Best of all, thanks to the sun, fresh air and wine, that night I broke the back of my jet lag and slept solidly for nine hours.

Version 2

If you’re in any way interested in wine then no trip to Santiago would be complete without a winery tour. One of Chile’s main wine regions, the Maipo Valley, is located just to the south of the city. With limited time to explore, we elected to visit the Concha y Toro winery which is the largest producer of wine in South America. It might be a global conglomerate (Concha y Toro exports wine to over 140 countries) but on a softly-lit winter’s afternoon, the vineyard felt like a beautiful, rustic parkland.




As the sun began to set over the vines we tasted a crisp Sauvignon Blanc before heading underground. The vineyard was founded in 1883 and wine production long outgrew the capacity of the ornate cellar. Although it is still used to store some special wines, the cellar is maintained for its character and historical value. We were treated to a a vivid representation of the story behind the Casillero del Diablo brand, created over 100 years ago when founder Don Melchor de Concha y Toro spread a rumour that his cellar was inhabited by the devil – a strategy which, as planned, protected his wines from theft.



Emerging from the cellar we tasted two red wines, a 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2014 Carménère before settling into the adjoining bar for a cheese platter and a glass of delicious Pinot Noir. Back on the bus with the heating on, we settled in for a cozy 90 minute drive back to the city. It was rush hour by the time we arrived, and the bus crawled off the motorway, stuck in traffic. Suddenly a shower of glinting glass fragments appeared. Hooded figures had smashed the passenger windows of the two cars in front of us, reached in, pulled out bags and sprinted away into the dark. The tour guide and driver barely noticed; it happens, they said.



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Roasted Rhubarb Compote + a few good reads

Food for spring - roasted rhubarb and strawberry compote served with oat porridge

It’s been the winter of soup for us. Most weekends have found me in the kitchen at some point, throwing vegetables into a large pot of boiling stock. No recipe most of the time, just faith in my knowledge of flavours and methods, and inspiration drawn from whatever odds and ends lurked in the fridge. One with chicken, fennel and barley was particularly good and I almost wrote up the recipe to share here. But all of a sudden it’s too late. Spring is officially here and I am officially over soup.

Just when I was also getting over mandarins and apples the markets became stocked with rhubarb and strawberries. I’m normally reluctant to eat rhubarb due to the excessive amount of sugar that it needs to become palatable, but roasting it with strawberries, a little honey and orange juice produces a delightfully fragrant, subtly sweet compote. The recipe comes from My Darling Lemon Thyme, a wonderful gluten-free food blog by New Zealander, Emma Galloway. I use Emma’s recipe as a guide really; one time using the spicy liquid left over from poaching pears in place of the honey and juice, and another time including cinnamon and a finely sliced apple that was getting old in the fruit bowl. In the photos I’ve paired it with oat porridge for breakfast, but my favourite way to eat it is with creamy coconut yoghurt. It would be fantastic used as the base for crumble.

Spring food - rhubarb and strawberries roasted in orange zest

I almost didn’t post this recipe because last weekend at the market there wasn’t a stalk of rhubarb to be found. However, I learned from Mum that, despite signs of spring in New Zealand, the rhubarb and strawberry season hadn’t yet begun. This recipe is therefore for friends, family and readers back home; Australians may have to wait another year. I’m always waiting for specific ingredients to come into season before trialling recipes. Northern hemisphere food blogs are deep into the tomatoes and peaches of summer when we’re slogging away with pumpkin and apples down under. I have hundreds of recipes bookmarked and these are a great repository of ideas, but there’s nothing like seeing a recipe, being griped by inspiration and having the ability to act immediately.

Spring food - Roasted Rhubarb & Strawberry Compote with oat porridge

Australian and New Zealand blogs make up a sizeable portion of my regular reads so fortunately for me, I can experience this frequently. I recently updated my Link page to organise my favourite reads geographically so this is a good place to start if you are looking for local blogs. If you have an interest in nutrition, as I do, then I recommend Apples Under My Bed (try Heidi’s tasty yet virtuous Banana, Fig & Walnut Bars) or the ever creative Sarah at Highgate Hill Kitchen (I love Sarah’s method for crispy lentils in this recipe). Lucy at Nourish Me doesn’t post very frequently these days, but her blog is still a major source of inspiration. I make her Red Lentil & Lime Soup and Quinoa Millet Pilaf several times a year. Food from Michelle’s Kitchen is another favourite (try the tasty Roasted Cauliflower & Za’atar Carrot Salad) and Wholefood Cooking is a new and welcome discovery. I have my eye on Jude’s Easter Fish Pie and Beetroot & Lentil Hummus.

Rhubarb and strawberries after roasting - soft and juicy but still intact

My other favourite Australian and New Zealand food blogs may not be so explicitly focused on wholefoods but they are no less inspiring. Genie’s Bunny Eats Design is my go-to place for foodie news and fresh ideas and frequent appearances from Tofu the Rabbit keep things not-so-serious in a quintessentially-kiwi way. Foodwriter Lucy Corry blogs at The KitchenMaid and is a great source of recipes, both nostalgic (try her DIY Vogel’s Bread) and new (Black Doris Coconut Ice Cream). Sandra at Please Pass the Recipe brings a lifetime of cooking and travel to her interesting recipes, like the delicious-sounding Olive Oil & Fennel Seed Wafers. Finally, Stephanie’s The Dessert Spoon is a great blog for decadent desserts and cocktails such as the aptly-named, Brisbane Daiquiri.

Really, I could go on. There are so many creative people out there. Happy reading, happy cooking, and happy spring to all my friends, family and readers in Australia and New Zealand!

Roasted Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote for breakfast

Roasted Rhubarb & Strawberry Compote

Adapted from My Darling Lemon Thyme

250g rhubarb
250g punnet strawberries
zest and juice 1 orange
1/4 cup runny honey
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 200°C / 395°F.

Wash the rhubarb and cut into 3cm lengths. Wash the strawberries, hull them and halve any large ones. Combine the fruit, orange zest and juice, cinnamon and honey in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Transfer to a large, flat ovenproof dish and spread out in a single layer.

Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender. Remove from the oven and cool slightly before serving over porridge. Alternatively, chill completely and serve with yoghurt (coconut or regular).

Filed under: Eat