Budding gourmet chefs, take note: the final leg of our culinary voyage is eastward bound, to the gourmet destinations of France, Spain, Morocco and Portugal.
The Mediterranean: birthplace of the European world and favoured destination for sun-seeking travellers. Here food and wine are more than day-to-day necessities for existence. Like art, in all its diverse forms, food and wine are interwoven into the very fabric of life, celebrations of each village’s unique culture and history.
It’s this passion for all things culinary that inspired Executive Chef Kathryn Kelly to create Oceania Cruises’ popular Culinary Discovery Tours. Like the cruise line’s Executive Culinary Director, Jacques Pépin — famous French chef and author — she wanted guests to experience the Mediterranean in a way like no other.
Together with one of Oceania’s Bon Appétit Culinary Center chefs and local tour guides, guests will explore traditional markets at each port of call, experience the rich heritage architecture, and savour local delicacies. Back aboard, Chef Kelly and others from Pépin’s team will teach time-honoured cooking techniques to guests who want to recreate their culinary discoveries of the day. An onboard kitchen centre with twelve home-style cooking stations, expert local knowledge and a whole lot of enthusiasm combine to make this a once in a lifetime voyage. À votre santé!
One of Europe’s most important seaports, Marseille is where, in 1792, Rouget de Lisle composed the rousing march that became France’s national anthem. At the nearby village of Sanary Sur Mer, fishermen in colourful boats sell today’s catch which later will become bouillabaisse, the region’s succulent fish stew. Porters will bring guests’ market bags to the ship while guests themselves journey inland to the famous 173-acre Domaine de Souviou, an ancient estate full of traditionally-cultivated vineyards and orchards. There, surrounded by fragrant lavender, master chef Guy Gedda, the undisputed “Pope” of Provencal cuisine, prepares an exclusive fresh sheet menu. Gedda is one of France’s most revered chefs and has cooked for royalty, presidents and Cannes Film Festival celebrities. For Oceania’s guests, he’ll create specialties like toasts a tapenade, panisse, and fish in savory sauce. Naturally there will be wines from Provence, including the famous Bandol rosé, to complete this Taste of Provence.
Famed as the birthplace of the amber aperitif, sherry, Cádiz is thought to be the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in Western Europe. Today, the city is a wonderland of narrow, winding streets and open piazzas. A quintessential example of the city’s Baroque and Neoclassical architecture is Cádiz Cathedral in the Old Quarter. For many, though, life revolves around the Mercado de Abastos, an ever-changing rainbow of local fruits, vegetables, meats, and herbs. This is where guests discover such exotic delicacies as sea snail or spiny sea urchins and some of the largest lobsters found in the Mediterranean. It’s these freshest-of-the-fresh ingredients that inspire the famous Andalusian tapas, the sociable appetizers now copied in almost every culture in the world. Serrano or iberico prosciutto, garlic-stuffed olives, caper berries, crispy fried shrimp, or frittatas are perennial favourites. Tapas are on the menu in the “Flavours of the Sea” cooking class back onboard — but don’t wait. Pick up gourmet nibbles on route to the ship at Restaurante Tipico El Faro.
Magical and mystical, Tangier is the gateway to Africa and boasts a rich history as a gathering place for artists and visionary thinkers. Exotic, fragrant spices are the essence of Moroccan cuisine — especially in tagine, a sweet and savoury meat stew named after the conical earthenware pot used for cooking. Tagines are found on menus around the world and the cruise line’s chefs will show guests how to achieve the perfect blend of its mysterious spices in the cooking class that afternoon. But first, follow the chefs into the Grand Socco Market to the bejewelled stalls packed with the freshest ingredients. Ringed with palms, this massive cobblestoned plaza is a central hub for transportation and commerce. Cafes line its borders and are the perfect place to sit with a cup of traditional, thrice-brewed Moroccan mint tea and watch men and women pass by in colourful African clothes. The final stop is Dar Naji restaurant for the complex, intertwined flavours of signature dishes such as Harira soup and vegetable couscous.
Home to pristine beaches, tropical jungles, and a welcoming people, the island of Madeira’s best known market is the Mercado dos Lavradores. The historic stone architecture topped by soaring, two-storey skylights adds grandeur to the lively hustle and bustle below. Also not to be missed is the Old Blandy Wine Lodge where, surrounded by Max Romer murals and over 650 oak and mahogany casks, you’ll sample the lush, fortified wine that bears the island’s name and was much prized by Winston Churchill and Benjamin Franklin. Before returning to the ship to whip up a Madeira-inspired meal of your own featuring meat skewers and honey cake, pause at a local bar to sample Espada Preta (Black Skabbard), a prehistoric-looking fish that is found mainly off Madeira’s shores. Be sure to add a glass of poncha to your snack as this local beverage is the perfect complement.
Chef Kelly’s Favourite Moroccan Chicken Tagine
4 chicken thighs
2 chicken breasts, with skin and bones
2 garlic cloves
2 stamens saffron soaked in 1 tbs warm water
1 tbs Chef Kelly’s ras el hanout
2 tbs butter
½ sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced thinly
Juice of one orange and about 1 tsp zest
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons butter, warmed with 2 tablespoons warm water
1/3 cup soft, dried apricots
2 cinnamon sticks
¼ cup fresh walnuts, lightly toasted
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro and mint
~ Chop chicken breasts in half to make 4 equal pieces. Bring to room temperature. Blend together garlic, saffron water and ras el hanout paste. Rub under chicken skin and marinate, 2 hours to overnight.
~ Place butter and onion in flameware tagine over a diffuser on low-medium heat. Cook until onion is soft. Add water if needed. Add fennel and continue cooking about 15 minutes.
~ In separate sauté pan, sear chicken until both sides are caramel brown, then transfer to tagine. Add juice, zest and honey to sauté pan and deglaze; pour into tagine. Cook covered over low heat 60 minutes. While cooking chicken, soak apricots in warmed water-butter mixture.
~ Skim fat off tagine. Add cinnamon sticks and apricots. Allow tagine to cook for 30 - 60 minutes, until chicken is falling off bones. Garnish with mint and cilantro, minced lightly. Serves four.
Chef Kelly’s ras el hanout rub for chicken:
Toast 1 tbs each cumin and coriander seeds, black and white peppercorns and cardamom pods. Grind. Add 1 tbs each ground ginger and cinnamon and ½ tbs each turmeric , allspice and nutmeg. Store in a tightly sealed jar for 1 month.