Foragers of the Ballinskelligs

Photo essay by Johan van der Merwe & Tanya Houghton

‘Foragers of the Ballinskelligs’ is the first collaboration between London-based photographer Tanya Houghton and food stylist Johan van der Merwe. Having bonded over a shared passion for wild landscapes and the bounty they offer, the duo set out to produce a body of work that focuses on foraging along the Kerry coastline in Ireland.

Ballinskelligs (originally Baile en Sceilg, which translates to ‘place or village on the craggy rock’) has a wilderness-rich landscape, an amalgamation of coastline, mountains and huge areas of undisturbed bog land and forest. In awe of the landscape’s history and inspired by the diets of early settlers, van der Merwe and Houghton combined their knowledge and set out to forage for and catalogue some of the area’s edible flora and fauna, which includes shellfish (clams, mussels and oysters) and a wide range of highly nutritious seaweed.

Van der Merwe creates his recipes for the project using only the ingredients found foraging, while drawing on his rich culinary background. These dishes are one of the focal points of Houghton’s images, sitting alongside photographs of the landscape in which they were found. The resulting body of work is the first chapter in a continuing series by the duo to catalogue a year’s worth of seasonal foraging in this wild Irish landscape.

You can view more of Tanya’s work here and catch Johan’s food styling here.

Borough Market

Photo essay by Sébastien Dubois-Didcock

Tucked beneath the Thames Link Bridge in central London lies one of the most intriguing food markets I have ever had the chance to visit. This place, caught between the modern world and what I imagine a medieval London would have once looked like (although much, much cleaner) has, in many ways, captured everything I love about food. It is a culinary oasis in the heart of the city that continually draws me back. If you haven’t guessed, I’m talking about Borough Market.

I was first introduced to Borough Market by a friend who took me there to cure our jet lag with some good eats. Walking the small, winding paths that guided us from stall to stall, I was overcome by the variety of beautiful smelling food on offer. Pork sandwiches, vegetable curries, pad thais, Spanish paellas, freshly baked breads and, of course, mountains of warm pastries. There was something to make your mouth water at every turn.

Now, most people who have been to Borough understand that making a decision about what to eat isn’t always an easy task. And they’re not exaggerating. I could literally spend a week there and not have the same food twice; that was my experience on this most recent visit to London.

Waking up early to battle the morning commute to London Bridge was a necessary evil, given what awaited me at Borough. Wandering around as the merchants set up for the midday rush revealed why this market feels so different to the many I’ve encountered on my travels. Mixed in with the sounds of whistling coffee machines and the smells of aromatic spices was a deep appreciation of and respect for food and tradition. There isn’t a rush to set up stalls. Instead there is a sense of thoughtfulness and purpose. It was these instances, during my mornings at Borough, that made me recognise how much this London market values the food it offers and how this in turn helps to create the energy and atmosphere that makes it unique. 

Come lunchtime, the market’s energy changes from quiet reverence to organised chaos. As I made my way through the crowd of people pondering what to enjoy, freshly cooked delicacies enticed me from one stall to the next. This game of culinary tiki-taka quickly overwhelmed my senses, before I realised that I too could not decide what I wanted to eat.

When you get a chance to sit back and take in the Borough Market atmosphere you’ll be taken with the buzz, friendliness and foodie adoration. There is something about this place that makes people slow down and enjoy the time they spend eating; something that isn’t very common in a large metropolis. Most importantly, it is in places like this that one can witness the true power of food – where issues are set aside and a sense of community is created through a collective need. That is where Borough Market has found its strength, by bringing people together through food and a passion for doing it right.

Lofoten

Words and photographs by Lise Ulrich

Driving around the archipelago of Lofoten in the Norwegian county of Nordland on a midsummer’s day is at once as wondrous and soul soothing an experience as it is near exhausting for the shutter-happy landscape photographer.

Jam-packed with jagged mountaintops, majestic fiords, quaint fishing villages and coloured wooden houses, Lofoten deserves every bit of the hype it’s generating as one of Norway’s most spectacular points of interest – and in a country known for its overall natural splendour, that is saying quite a lot.

In June, Lofoten bursts with every nuance of green, patches of yellow, white and blue flowers sprinkled in the fields. But watch out for those low-hanging clouds; volatile weather changes are common on the archipelago and a mild summer breeze can turn into a menacing gale in minutes, dramatically transforming the waters and colours of the fiords to the sounds of eagle cries above.

Despite being located a whopping 1,364 kilometres north of capital Oslo and well above the Arctic Circle (most visitors fly in from the city of Bodø), Lofoten’s largest town Svolvær, with a population of about 4,200, is bustling, with many young families and creatives moving to the area. Once you have experienced the archipelago for yourself, you will seriously consider joining them.

Taking to the waters of Trollfjorden is a must on Lofoten. Surrounded by steep mountainsides and rocky cliffs, the fiord is an ideal place for spotting eagles as well as absorbing some local history: A vicious battle was fought here in 1890 when the first industrial, steam-driven fishing ships and teams of traditional open-boat fishermen rowed over access to the fiord. One guess as to who came out victorious.

Although a tiny fishing village with only 500 residents, Henningsvær boasts an internationally renowned modern art museum, Kaviar Factory, as well as a surprisingly hip bohemian vibe thanks to a steady influx of rock climbers and surfers alike.

Explore Lofoten like the old settlers did: On horseback. Back in the day, seafaring Vikings actually imported the sturdy Icelandic horses from Lofoten to Iceland. Hovhestegard.no

In the village of Vikten, visitors can sample local glassware at Glasshytta Vikten.

The minute village of Nusfjord, population 37, is one of the oldest fishing villages in Norway, with houses dating back to the early 1800s.

Eating in Ortygia

Words and photographs by Kate McAuley.

I’ve come back to Ortygia to eat. It’s been a year since I first visited this the historical centre of Syracuse, arguably the prettiest city in all of Sicily. Back then I was here for the history, stomping around the impressive Duomo, replete with its mishmash of Greek and Baroque styles, and the ubiquitous archeological sites whose ruins tell the story of the Italian city’s lengthy and chequered past.

This time, however, I am here to imbibe – and imbibe I did: mind, body and soul. I visit the daily food market and bite into a tomato as if it were an apple, the juice running down my chin. I watch in awe as the purveyor of sea urchins makes like work of his product, cutting open each spiny creature with a pair of rusty scissors to reveal the delicacy within. Freshly caught squid and octopus squirm and glisten. Salted fish, spiced olives and oranges as bright as the centre of the sun draw my attention in equal measure.

I walk along the ancient walls spooning gelati into my mouth. I sip a negroni as the sun sets over the water. I pester a chef to teach me how to make the perfect spaghetti ai vongole. His secret: crushed garlic, fresh clams and cherry tomatoes (when they’re season) flash fried in a pan with olive oil his wife’s family make and some salt water from the pasta pot. Try as I might and despite its simplicity, this perfect dish is something I’ll struggle to recreate at home. Looks like I’ll have to come back.

If you’d like to read more of our Italian adventures, you can order our Italy Issue here.

 

SaveSave

The Dylan

Words by Sarah Kelleher

Upon first glancing at my map, the city of Amsterdam appeared as a spider’s web, with rows of interlocking canals. And the Dylan, situated on the Keizersgracht, is very nearly at the heart of the web, in a series of tall row houses overlooking the canal of the same name. Something about the lofty windows set into the front of the hotel suggested that I might be in for a treat of a view when the sun came up, but as I’d arrived in the dark I had to content myself with exploring the inside of the hotel instead.

Amsterdam

Fortunately, the Dylan’s interior is at least as beautiful and fascinating as the outside of historical Amsterdam. The building was originally the site of a theatre, the Duytsche Acadamie, which played host to many illustrious figures down the years, including Vivaldi, the Prince of Orange, the King of Poland and the Russian Tsar. In 1772, the theatre succumbed to fire, and the site was sold to one of the Regents of the Roman Catholic Church charities, known as the Old & Poor People’s Office, until 1999, when the building was re-opened as a luxury boutique hotel. The Dylan now offers five different styles of room – Serendipity, Loxura, Klassbol, Kimono and Loft. There is an interior to fit the taste of any hotel guest, from the grey and red striped décor of the Klassbol rooms, which marries modernity and classicism, to the luxuriously modern Serendipity collection, which was designed in partnership with acclaimed interior architect Remy Meijers.

A room at the Dylan in the Klassbol style

On my way to my room I was taken through the lounge area for the guests with wood panelling and a warmly crackling fire in the grate, and Bar Brasserie Occo where breakfast for the hotel’s guests is served, and which is also open all day to guests and non-guests. Up and up we went to the top of the hotel; I was convinced that there couldn’t be any further to go but when the door to my room was opened, a short flight led to a delightful loft space, which spanned the width of the roof of the hotel. Beautifully lit, with natural tones and sloping ceilings, the loft was divided into three spaces using furniture rather than walls and included a bathroom, a sitting room area and a snowy white bed in the centre of the space. What better invitation to sleep could there be than this?

My loft room at the Dylan
In the loft at the Dylan

In the morning, feeling thoroughly refreshed, I was pleased to find that I had been right: the view from the room was lovely. On the one side, the windows looked over the hotel courtyard, which offers outdoor seating in the spring and summer. On the other, I could see a patchwork of the sharply gabled rooves so typical of Amsterdam’s old city skyline. Breakfast was served, and I was able to eat my (delicious) Eggs Florentine and enjoy my coffee in peace, whilst admiring the blend of historical and modern interior design characteristic of the hotel, which was showcased by the gleaming brickwork floor, wooden ceiling beams, and wire-hung light fixtures.

Seating at Bar Brasserie Occo

After a long day’s exploring in and around the canals, I was glad to return to The Dylan for dinner at Bar Brasserie Occo; it must be said that the hotel is perfectly located near to any number of Amsterdam highlights, from the Rijksmuseum to the old town. The Dylan actually has two restaurants: Occo, and the Michelin-starred Vinkeles. The two restaurants mirror both sides of the hotel – while Occo is warmly smart-casual, with a sleek curved bar illuminated by a brass light fixture, Vinkeles is more formal, set in a sunken dining room with 18th century cast iron ovens that once served as the bakery for the Catholic Poor People’s Office set into the walls and traditional/ modern French cuisine.

Bar Brasserie Occo

As I gratefully sipped on my Aurora Borealis cocktail, with a raspberry hue as pretty as its name, I was able to peruse the Occo menu at my leisure, which features a blend of continental and world cuisine. My starter was a flavoursome and creamy oyster mushroom soup and guinea fowl confit with a goat’s cheese crostini. Although seriously tempted by the burger, I eventually decided on the weaver fish special for my main, and was not disappointed when it arrived; the fish was succulent and served with perfectly cooked asparagus. A sweet toffee pudding with honeycomb ice cream was a fitting end note to the meal, and my stay in Amsterdam. It was an experience made all the better by the impeccable service I enjoyed at the Dylan, and I cannot think of anyone whose trip to this beautiful city would not be improved by enjoying all that this hotel has to offer.

Spring sunshine in Faro

Words and photographs by Kate McAuley

Given its underwhelming popularity, it would be easy for Faro, the capital of Portugal’s Algarve, to have an inferiority complex, but it continues to hold its own. At the airport, as the hoards to tourists head west, lured by the region’s epic beaches and resort towns, I breathe a sigh of relief and take a short taxi ride into the sleepy port town that is to be my home for the next three days. 

I’d been to Faro before, so when it popped up as a relatively cheap destination for a few days of spring sunshine following a fairly dismal London winter, I didn’t hesitate. With memories of clams cooked in butter, white wine and garlic, and endless blue skies, I knew it would be the perfect salve. 

With its broken cobbled streets, ubiquitous graffiti and decaying buildings, it’s hard to call Faro pretty. The town has the rundown feeling of a place forgotten, but there are pockets of beauty if you take the time to look. On the pedestrianised streets by the marina, I eat freshly baked pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) while inside Faro’s ancient walls, I walk past the fruiting orange trees by the cathedral to drink a glass of vinho verde as the sun sets over the water. I eat the aforementioned clams at every meal they’re offered – invariably prawns, octopus and chorizo (barbecued at the table over a mini spit) join them. 

Before heading home, I take a short ferry ride to Baretta Island. Also known as Ilha Deserta, this small parcel of sand has a single restaurant, a few fishing huts and nothing much else – unless you count the seagulls and other birdlife I encountered on the 2km boarded walk I took before heading back to the mainland. 

And here lies the reason I returned to Faro – sun, sand and peaceful moments. An unusual find in this part of the world. 

Paradise Found

When the winds stir up and clouds descend, it is an island that offers sanctuary – among other deep-sea and earthy delights.

Words & Photographs by Lucy Howard-Taylor

702 kilometres northeast of Sydney, at the intersection of five ocean currents and a submerged continental rib, thrusts forth the remains of an ancient shield volcano. Eroded over seven million years to one fortieth of its original size, Lord Howe Island rises like a wind-shorn jewel from the waters of the Tasman Sea; eleven kilometres long by as little as three hundred metres wide, a vibrant blue-green, its twin peaks capped in cloud. From the sky, the island almost looks like the mossed jawbone of some long-extinct creature given up by the sea.

It may be less than a two hour flight from the crush of Sydney, but the moment you step from the Dash-8 onto the tarmac of Lord Howe’s only airstrip, there is a palpable sense of remoteness. There is no mobile reception on the island and no traffic lights (with next to no cars, bicycles silently reign supreme), but the lack of modern conveniences one might mistake for essential cannot wholly account for the subtle separation felt upon arriving in this UNESCO World Heritage listed property. It is disarmingly beautiful, in an unruly, enveloping way that robs you of words. But there is a strangeness to this wilderness too, with its opalescent lagoon fringed with coral, its deep green canopies of kentia palms, cowrie-studded beaches and panoply of birds.

Travelling in the middle of winter to a subtropical island and the world’s southernmost coral reef may seem perverse, but Lord Howe wore its wild weather hat well. On the tarmac I was left breathless by a brisk wind that tasted of salt and wet leaves. In bed that first night, with large fronds bashing each other outside my window, the roar of the trade winds was almost animal. During the day rain rolled in with no warning and cleared just as suddenly, leaving everything glistening. A wind cheater was essential, and should you go out at night, a torch: there are no streetlights here and the inky completeness of the darkness, broken by a milky wash of stars, took this city dweller by surprise. First things first, hire a bike, even if like me you cannot ride one. With only 360 permanent residents, a maximum of 400 tourists at any one time and 13 kilometres of undulating scenic road, there is ample opportunity for a novice to practice unobserved. Pack a picnic and ride to the preternaturally still and secluded Old Settlement Beach, where three men, three women and two boys came to live in 1833, trading with passing vessels. Or pop over to Ned’s Beach where you can snorkel among fantastically coloured coral gardens (there is an honesty box for hiring gear), or wade closer to shore and hand-feed swarms of tropical fish with names like Silver Drummer and Spangled Emperor. At dusk, throngs of muttonbirds return to their burrows in the low-lying palm forests nearby. As sunset arrives, their distinctive, searching cries can approach an almost human wailing.

These pristine waters host some of the best diving in the world, with an unearthly sunken landscape of volcanic drop-offs, trenches and caves lined with black coral trees, branching gorgonians and over 90 varieties of luxuriant subtropical coral. For those for whom the prospect of coming face to face with the blue teeth of a Harlequin Tuskfish in an underwater canyon sounds vaguely terrifying, you can charter a glass-bottomed boat instead and enjoy the spectacle dry and unmolested from the crystalline surface of the lagoon.

At the southernmost end of Lagoon Road is the start of the Little Island Track, which follows the shoreline to the black basalt cliffs of Mount Lidgbird. Lord Howe is a walker’s delight and this marked and level track meanders its way past picturesque Lovers Bay and through thickly crowded valleys of soughing kentia palms (keep your eyes peeled and you might see a native woodhen grunting happily in the shadows), to the base of the mountain and its stony shores of calcarenite and dark sea-sculpted rocks. Here, especially between March and October, you will see wheeling clouds of one of the world’s rarest seabirds, Providence petrels, diving over the cliffs as they chatter and return to breed. For the more energetically inclined walker, a climb to the scrubby top of Malabar Hill leads to one of the best views of the island and a dramatic scraggy drop to the sea. Alternatively, sign up for the famous day hike to the summit of Mount Gower, where you will find yourself among the twisted trees and inveterate mist of what the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage actually designates as Gnarled Mossy Cloud Forest, which sounds more enchanted than ecological.

Enchantment is a recurring theme here. As the days pass, I discover that there is something about this island that is both calming and unexpectedly foreign, a wandering otherness that finds its way in on the throats of seabirds and endows plants with a luminous variety of green. The natural landscape is not only astonishingly lush – isolation, topographic peculiarity and igneous soils have spawned a paradise of ferns, palms, orchids and microhabitats – but feels unusually ancient, almost untouchable. Nowhere is this impression more powerful than in the broody Valley of the Shadows, where 20 metre high trees mottle the light. To stand alone amid this silent grove of banyans, their aerial roots muscling to the ground like the suspended legs of giants, is to realise the difference that is Lord Howe Island. It is to approach the primeval and be at home amongst the extraordinary.

From Lodestars Anthology Issue 3, Australia