Monday, March 7, 2011

Buenos Aires Baby

Large tree-lined boulevards, buzzing street side cafes, endless shops, stunning architecture and plenty of greenery. Welcome to Buenos Aires, the Paris of South America! A stunning city made up of several district, each one different and enchanting in its own way.

My favourite is Palermo Viejo and that is where my story begins. A new and trendy part of the city. Similar in many ways to Soho in NYC, as it reflects youth, art and style; it reflects life and living. Unique and stylish cafes sprawl out onto the sidewalks and an endless amount of trendy boutiques are filled with beautiful people smiling and chatting away. As a visitor, this was a scene I desired to be part off but maybe one day I can find myself a cute little studio apartment here and too become a local at one of the corner cafes.

Oui Oui Cafe in Palermo Viejo
Famous Medialunas
A visitor I was and unfortunately only for one week. I can say without hesitation, however, that it took me only a few days to realise that I had fallen head over heels in love with this city. In fact, I probably already developed a deep sense of affection for this city before traveling there in the first place. Why? Because this is Buenos Aires Baby. Bs As Baby!

I spent hours, DAYS reading up about the best cafes, bookshops, restaurants, city walks, parks, hidden markets, you name it to create the perfect little itinerary that would allow me to fit the most things in, in the least amount of time. I was on a mission, a mission to meet Buenos Aires and all the beauties that come with it.

I loved every little bit of the trip. Exploring the neighborhoods, the evening dinners, speaking Spanish, morning runs in the city parks, the shopping, the eyes one gets from Argentinian men, tihi, the polo and football matches, the Gelato, the boutique hotels, the Malbec red wine…and when in Rome, we definitely adjusted to Argentinian-time. This means having a sweet breakfast, a large and proper lunch, late, afternoon tea with plenty of sweets at 5pm and a late dinner, no earlier than 10pm! For those who enjoy a good night out (pretty much 95% of the BA population), will have a nap after dinner to then head out at midnight for some pre-drinks and hit the nightclubs no earlier than 3am. The night then finished with some breakfast at one of the many, inviting cafes at 8 or 9 in the morning, and this every weekend, if not more! No doubt a fun-loving city!

San Thelmo
The week took us to all corners of the city - Recoleta, Palermo, Puerto Madero, San Thelmo, La Boca… Walking the streets of Recoleta makes you realise why Buenos Aires is referred to as the Paris of South America. Parks, cafes, majestic apartment buildings and stunning architecture. Trees-au-masse, impressive embassy buildings, high end shops and people with class and wealth going about their daily business. The neighbourhood of San Thelmo takes you back in time with its cobbled streets, handicraft markets and local, aged populations peaking out of their 1st story buildings. This is where you also find the biggest antique Sunday market I have certainly come across in my lifetime. It sprawls across a beautiful piazza and further down a narrow, long streets for at least two kilometers.  You will find anything from silverware to old telephones, stamp collections and crystal. Anything from old books and signs to antique cameras and cookie, tin jars. It is one of many must-see’s in the city and although you may read about it in every guidebook on BA, you still feel surrounded by locals who go to catch up with friends, buy their new favourite trinkets and take in the Sunday atmosphere out in town. This is one thing I loved about BA - never really did I feel or get treated like a tourist. BA locals have the right attitude, they go about their days and are happy to share them with you. They will speak Spanish to you and treat you like any other odd inhabitant of the city. Thank you Buenos Aires.

San Themo District
A short taxi ride north from there you find sophistication and business; you will find Puerto Madero. Fancy restaurants line the boardwalk of the canal, filled with people in their business attire. Enjoy a cocktail or dinner with a view of glistering lights over the water and big boats and yachts docked on the side of the canal. And afterwards, stroll down the boardwalk in the warm summer evening air with an ice cream in hand and you will ask for no better way to end the day and night. 

Puerto Madero by night
Being in Buenos Aires, the home to big names like Maradonna, Pele and Messi, it would be a crime not to get tickets to a local football match either at River-Plate of La Boca Stadium. The football fever in the city is unlike anything I had ever seen before. The whole stadium pumps like the pulse of a heartbeat. You feel the rhythm, get so excited and cannot help but jump, throw your arms in the air and chant away to popular songs with thousands of other fans doing the exact same thing.  A real experience indeed; something that cannot re replicated anywhere else – truly Argentina-style. I loved it.

In stark contrast, the Polo match in Palermo was slightly of a different nature. Collared shirts, white trousers, champagne bubbles flowing and trendy, lounge music playing in the background. This was our introduction to our first Polo match, a sport very impressive to watch. The horses are magical; so perfect, fit and elegant, I’ve never seen anything like it!

The trip didn’t only take up to all corners of the city and into the stadiums of the country’s two biggest national sports – the trip even took us further out of the city and into the ‘Pampa’, as the Argentenians call it. This is where you find large ranches with plenty of cattle, more horses and rustic ‘Asados’ – or braais and barbecues as the South Africans and Australians like to say (respectively). The older you get, the harder it is to have ‘firsts’ of something. Well, I can say that this was my first time I got to have a little baby calf lie on my lap. So docile and sweet, I would have happily taken the little thing home!

My little friend
Traditional, homemade Dulce de Leche
Speaking of home, by the end of the week, I wanted to call this city my home! I wanted to take it all home with me – the whole lot of the experiences and memories, all piled into that one week. Amazing. A wonderful week. I can only hold on to my pictures now and my memories but writing it out in this story-like manner makes it come back in yet another vivid form. Buenos Aires is a truly great city and no doubt I will return soon. It may never be as good or exciting as the first time but it will become stronger and powerful each time in different ways – the same as love.

 Hasta la proxima vez Buenos Aires, te amo 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Newbie: Lemon Cake

As I was passionately sharing my love for baking the other day with one of my colleagues at work, he stops me to say that his favourite cake of all time is a lemon cake. "Excuse me" I said, "what did you say?...A lemon cake?" "You mean, over a BROWNIE, over a slice of banana bread or a thick creamy cheesecake? Are you sure you meant to say lemon cake!?"

"Yes, indeed" was the answer. "A lemon cake."

That is when I realized that not only had I never tried to bake a lemon cake, I could not even recall ever really having tasted a lemon cake! So instantly I knew what my cake of the week would be. A short visit to the shops on Friday, 4 lemons - check, a lemon zester - check, eggs, flour and all the rest of it.

I was curious and excited to try something completely new. This blog needed a bit more variety I thought. I just love my creamy desserts so much that I tend to stick with chocolate, bananas and cream cheese. Not today. Today we are adding a bit of citrus to Baked In Love…

Result? Stunning. The perfect slice with a cup of tea in the afternoon. I had great reviews from all my fellow tasters – light and yet the icing adds that extra explosion of sweetness in your mouth. I found the recipe here. It is a easy and quick recipe!

Lemon Cake
MAKES 1 LOAF CAKE (about 12 slices)
butter, to grease
5 organic/free-range medium eggs
300g caster sugar
140ml double cream
finely grated zest of 3 lemons
25ml dark rum
pinch of sea salt
80g unsalted butter, melted
240g plain flour
½ (half) tsp baking powder

50g apricot jam, warmed
finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 3 tbsp juice
150g icing sugar

1. To prepare the cake: preheat the oven to 180°C/160C fan/gas 4. Lightly grease the loaf tin and line with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, cream, lemon zest, rum, salt and melted butter. Sift the flour and baking powder together, then whisk into the egg mixture until smooth.
2. To bake the cake: spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and gently level the surface. Bake for 50 minutes – 1 hour, turning the tin around halfway through cooking. To test the cake, insert a small knife into the middle – if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Set the rack on a lined baking tray.
3. To glaze: lightly brush the cake all over with the warm jam. Leave for 5 minutes. Mix the lemon zest and juice with the icing sugar in a small pan and warm over a low heat to 35°C, until smooth. Brush the lemon glaze evenly over the top and sides of the cake and leave for a few minutes to set.
4. Place the cake on a baking tray in the oven, turn off the heat and leave for 3–5 minutes to dry the glaze – it will become translucent. Allow to cool before slicing.

TIP 1 Leave some paper overhanging the sides when you line the tin; this will enable you to lift out the cake by the paper, making it easy to de-mould.

TIP 2 Do not leave your cake to cool in the tin, as this would prevent the steam from escaping, making your cake heavier.

TIP 3 Brushing the cake with jam creates a barrier, so the lemon glaze is not absorbed. If the glaze is any hotter than 35C, it will re-crystallise, losing its shine and crispness. The lemon glaze must be even and thin; if it is too thick it will run in the oven.

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