After an hour-long trip on broken streets and passing building sites, we finally arrive the first stop on our itinerary, Matera, and suddenly we are not allowed to go on. Only with a special permit, which of course, we did not have. Once we drove around in circles three times, we finally park the car in one of the old alleys to get an overview by foot. The next side street leads us into a whole new world. In front of us lies the ancient cave city. It looks like an intricate construction of stone houses, carved into the rock and melting with the environment. Matera belongs to the southern Italian region of Basilikata and is famous for its historic city, which is one of the oldest worldwide and belongs to UNESCO World Heritage. It is largely made of cave settlement, called Sassi, in which you can find countless monolithic churches with old mural art. We roam the deserted streets, fascinated, which only come to live with a few clotheslines and kitties. The smooth cobblestones and a loose sole of Yannic’s shoe lead to an unplanned adrenalin rush and a few bruises as he slitheres down the street and, well, let’s put it this way: he face plants it. Probably, this is part of an unforgettable journey, and it is also some sort of our tradition and the sign to finally walk to the hotel and relax the sore muscles in a hot bath.

Only because of the hotel with its outstanding design, Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita, we discovered this unique city. Somehow, we find our destinations with detours; we see a great accommodation and this way get to places we have never heard before. Just like we discovered the Azores Island Pico: we saw a photo of a small house made of black stone, built directly at the Atlantic cliffs and wanted to make it our home for a few days.
In the Grotte Della Civita you don’t just live in a hotel room, no. You live in one of the ancient caves which are the city’s signature. In the 1950s, the inhabitants of the Sassi were resettled because the caves without electricity and constant water were viewed as a stain on Italy, which should vanish from the face of earth. People lived there under horrible conditions, along with their cattle and up to a dozen of other people in one cave. For a long time, the ancient city was deserted and is now rebuilt bit by bit and revived. Thanks to projects as Sextantio, the historic caves can be preserved and be used again. At the same time, emphasis is put on an authentic restoration of the original structure. However, there is a sophisticated heating and ventilation system in the hotel caves. Due to all the candles and indirect light in the vaults, the massive wooden furniture, ancient linen and handmade ceramics, you feel carried back into another time. There is a modest elegance in every detail.

It is an incredible feeling to unlock the heavy, wooden door to our cave with the big, old key and to dive into this world. The huge room, carved into the rock, with its 7m high ceiling is so astounding and cozy, even the panoramic view of the national park Murgia fades in comparison. We make ourselves at home and save the view for the next morning. We enjoy it thoroughly on our way to the breakfast room, one of the old mural chapels. Now, there is finally the reason for our trip, the food! We love the puristic Italian cuisine with its focus on the essentials: good ingredients. This also reflects in the breakfast in the Grotte Della Civita. We find selected regional products like the Pane di Matera in its unusual form, which is baked from double ground semolina. The grain for the bread is grown in Matera itself and stored in a special way. Of course, regional specialties as Burrata and Focaccia, which are covered with potatoes or tomatoes, may not be missed at the breakfast buffet, just as little classic pastries such as Crostata and Cantuccini. We relish on the buffet with fresh pressed orange juice and steaming tea.

Since we cannot sit still we hit the road to explore the neighborhood. We love rough nature and love to feel its enormous power. We expected to miss out on this point on this journey. Southern Italy has a beautiful landscape, but you see a lot of flat land with countless olive trees.

This time, we wanted to concentrate on exchange with the locals and explore the culinary part, thus leaving our walking boots at home. However, we realized it to be a mistake soon enough when we took the stony way to a wooden bridge which led through a rugged valley. The Murgia’s rocky landscape is stunningly beautiful, you can wander around on small trails and marvel at the numerous caves and old churches. Our adventurous hearts beat faster, even when an icy, uncomfortable wind greets us. Furthermore, a deep gray front carrying rain is building up in front of us, which finally leads us to turn back. Patches of mist waft through the city and give it an even more enchanted look. Since we cannot refrain from taking photos and want to catch more and more pictures, we return to the hotel completely soaked. We warm ourselves in our cozy cave before we want to continue our task to explore the traditional cuisine of Matera.

The city has a lot of authentic restaurants which offer the regional classics. However, you cannot travel to Italy without having a bombastic pizza. At least, this is true for Yannic, so we first visit a Neapolitan pizzeria in the heart of the old city. The dough rest for 48 hours and thus is almost fermented, the crust is thick, crispy on the outside, soft and aromatic on the inside. In this restaurant, as well, they focus on the regional products. On an extra menu, the origin of every ingredient is listed and explained. In all restaurants we visit you can taste how careful every product is selected.

On the 4 days we spend we often just roam the ancient city and marvel at it from every corner. Again and again we meet possible dead ends, which on a closer look turn out to be narrow ways. A maze made of stone and caves. During the day, but especially at nightfall, the optical illusion is perfect. When everything fades into a soft, dark blue and the first warm lights illuminate the streets, the city has an even other charm. One evening, we wanted to catch this special moment to get a panoramic shot. Just this moment, an old man shuffles towards us, tugs at our sleeves and indicates us to follow him. It seems he wants to show us something. We follow him in the hope of a better view or a fascinating story. The sky is turning darker, but we do not want to be rude and let him guide us further through the maze of alleys. Meanwhile, he points out peculiarities to us like an antique cat-flap, over which he laughs, or the old rain gutters in the streets. He tells us about the house of his childhood and points down another flight of stairs every time. Finally there, he shows us fossilized seashells on a wall and tells us stories in Italian, which probably are all very exciting. But we don’t understand a word. Eventually we say good bye and hurry back, up the many stairs to our spot to catch the last light.

Afterwards, it is time to eat again. We try to taste as many specialities as possible, for example the pastry Taralli and of course, Orecchiette, which origin here. The little pasta ears are the culinary symbol of the City of Bari but are eaten in all of Apulia and are even considered a national dish. A typical recipe is Orecchiette alla pugliese, with cima di rapa, a cabbage similar to broccoli, with garlic, olive oil and chili – ready.

We do not only eat the classic version but also Orecchiette with a spic pumpkin sauce, cultivated with pepperoni Cruschi. That are dried peppers which are roasted in olive oil.

Furthermore, we are allowed to visit a traditional bakery. We learn everything about preparing Pane di Matera and watch amazed how hundreds of loaves get pulled out of the old oven. They carefully are palpated, sometimes flipped over and pushed back into the oven until all of them are golden yellow and smell lovely. During the tour we also hear a lot about the city’s history. It roots back further than we actually thought, 9000 years already. Wicked! Moreover, we learn that many millennia ago, Matera was below sea level. We think of our old friend and the fossilized shells at the wall. They must have been in the stone for an eternity before it was turned into his home. Only now we realize that he was a child when he was one of the inhabitants who were forced to resettle in the newly built outskirts of the city. Even if many people did not want to go back to the poor conditions, he definitely seems to connect special memories with the time in the Sassi, and you could see the pride in his eyes to be part of this history.

On our last day, one day before Christmas, the first sunbeams wake us at 7.00. We planned a short hike to shoot two photos in the right light. Afterwards, the wonderful breakfast awaits us for the last time. We boost ourselves, pack our stuff and head off to Ostuni, our second destination of our Italy trip.

It is incredible how many great people we met via Krautkopf the past years. Food connects, and we feel it almost every day. Due to this passion, we also crossed the path of Kai, Maria and Sophia from IN SEARCH OF. We met on food events from time to time and during a funny dinner with smoky Zacapa rum* in the context of the Berlin Food Week we fell in love with this crazy lot. Was it because of the rum? Probably not, since even without being drunk you just have to love these people. We already “knew” Maria and Sophia from the depths of the internet. Surely, you also came across the twins. We eagerly followed their 40 Days of Eating, where they tested doubtlessly every restaurant in Berlin. With their skills of writing, you just have to read on and on. Those two are so open and honest you waver between excitement and disturbance (do I really want to know that?). Yes, we wanted to know more, and coincidental, short meetings were not enough anymore.

During the busy Christmas time, we wanted to spend a cosy day together with preparations in the kitchen, sitting together with delicious food, and of course with a fine drop. Since something clicked already with a glass of Zacapa, we wanted to link to this nice evening. So we developed the recipes for the burgers with plum rum sauce and a festively spiced pumpkin cake with cashew rum cream. But because the rum in these two dishes was not enough, the two girls prepared two tasty cocktails with the noble Zacapa 23 rum*, which were well-matched with our menu with the same rum. The evening became boozy and merry. However, at the end of the day we rather had an overdose of burger than of alcohol. You find the recipes for the uber-delicious drinks on the blog of Kai, Maria and Sophia, along with two great self-made syrups, and other fascinating and delightful food stories. You should definitely check out IN SEARCH OF!

For 6 servings

While others are in chocolate and cookie mania, we love to scarf down a delicious burger. They come in all different variations. Right now, we are into fluffy brioche buns and extraordinary sauces. The smoky black bean burgers in this recipe are served with a plum rum sauce and a delicious red cabbage salad. A coleslaw, as Americans and Brits would say. Instead of mayonnaise, which is traditionally added to this sort of cabbage salad, we mixed a cashew cream with capers. Also, we had fresh oven fries and homemade ketchup. Since we prepare everything ourselves, these burger are definitely no fast food. The yeast buns rise in front of the heating, the sauces are reduced, the cabbage is kneaded until it is soft, the fries are, of course, cut by hand, and the winter salad is hand-picked. Every bun is garnished with love – just to be devoured greedily afterwards. You look funny while doing this, your face is usually covered in spilled sauce, you need to lick off your fingers afterwards and probably also need to open a button on your trousers. It’s a perfect way to eat with friends, since it binds together!

For the red cabbage salad, slice the cabbage, mix it with the salt and knead it with your hands until some water gets out. Best wear some glove unless you want your hands stained red for the next days. Add the vinegar to the red cabbage and leave it to draw for 30 minutes. Stir it up here and there.
With a blender, purée the cashews, capers, mustard and water until it turns creamy. Peel the apple, core and roughly grate it. Mix the apple and cashew cream with the red cabbage, and season with salt.
For the sauce, dice the onions and roast them in a bit of canola oil until they become fried onions. Heat the rum in a pot or pan and flame it to reduce the alcohol. Roughly chop the dried plums and finely blend with fried onions, rum, maple syrup and water. Afterwards, season it with salt and cayenne pepper.
For the patties, mix the ground flaxseeds with water and let them soak. Finely chop the garlic and shallots and lightly sauté them. Drain the black beans and mash them with a potato masher or a fork. Add garlic, shallots, tomato puree, paprika powder, cayenne pepper, soaked flaxseeds and oatmeal and knead well with your hands. With wet hands, form 6 patties and fry them from both sides for 5 minutes in canola oil, until they are crispy on the outside. Fill the burger buns with the patties and the other ingredients at whim.

For 6 servings

For the topping, soak the cashews for at least 4 hours or overnight in cold water. Drain the soaked cashews and blend them with almond milk, maple syrup, rum, orange juice, coconut oil and salt until you have a creamy mass. Put the topping into the refrigerator until use, so it will set and be easier to spread over the cake.
Cut the pumpkin into pieces and either cook it in the oven or steam it in a pot until it turns soft. Finely blend it and let it cool.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (upper/lower heat) and grease a spring form pan.
Roast the walnuts without fat until they start scenting, and roughly chop them. Separate the eggs. Whip the egg white until it is stiff, and batter the yolk with sugar until it is creamy. Fold in the pumpkin puree, apricots, rape seed oil and rum. Mix the chopped walnuts with flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, add the flour mix to the yolk mass, and finally, carefully fold in the beaten egg whites. Fill the dough into the pan and bake it for ca. 40 minutes until no dough sticks to a wooden pick.
Take the cake out, let it completely cool down and spread the cashew cream. Let the cake set covered for at least 5 hours, best overnight. Decorate the cake with walnuts and grated orange peel at convenience.

After we feasted for three days in Auckland, we were really excited what to expect culinarily from the rest of our holidays. If you already cooked a few of our recipes you know that we refrain from finished products and prepare everything ourselves instead. Furthermore, we have a huge shelf full of spices, from which we help ourselves as we wish. Of course, this way of cooking is pretty difficult to keep in a small camper, when you only have one stove field and little storage for basic products. Nevertheless, we had a good time every day! Seriously, every farmers’ market, supermarket or booth on the street, be it tiny and small or in a bigger town, had a rich product range. Sure, because of the climate we had everything the heart desired, and everything was regionally produced. We grabbed plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits and did not need much more to stuff ourselves and be happy.

In Germany, we rarely buy exotic fruits, so we had a plethora of avocados, kiwis, kakis, feijoas and more in our grocery bags. Apart from that, we found a lot of great products you find even in Berlin only in very few organic supermarkets. Usually, we started the day with paleo cereals and coconut yoghurt or nut milk and fresh berries. On mornings after long and exhausting hikes, we took the time to bake whole meal pancakes with maple syrup and to laze away the morning hours in bed before we were off to our next destination. Delicious, roasted bread with yoghurt and caramelized fruits were also on our breakfast menu. On top of that, we always had a great view. When had the pancakes, which you find further down in this article, we looked directly at a beautiful, light blue lake. The morning air was still chilly, and wrapped in blankets we could pass half of the day just sitting there and enjoying the panorama.

Admittedly, we take or time on every holiday to explore the country rather than spending most of the time in the kitchen. If kitchen, bed and living room are one and you have to be careful with your resources, you try to keep cooking as short as possible. Often, we had simple one pot dishes, couscous with plenty of vegetables, curries or just sandwiches. We discovered a lot of different and delicious hummus variants which we had with us regularly and honed with fresh ingredients. We cook a lot of chili when we are on holiday, since you can easily vary it and prepare in bigger amounts, so you can take a serving with you on a hike. Along with the chili, we either had freshly baked flat bread or, on the hikes, polenta wedges.

One evening, we even baked pan pizza. We just put whole grain yeast dough into the pan (preferably made of cast iron), covered it with pesto and other ingredients and baked it covered. In a supermarket, we found the perfect items for a delicious burger! The bun was like our homemade ones back in Berlin and did not have the typical sticky texture we know from finished burger buns here in Germany. The patties were made of black beans and beetroot, in addition to that we had hummus and fresh vegetables, and ready was an astonishing delicious burger made in a camping kitchen. However, our holiday was about everything but not cooking, and we’d like to show you a bit more!

There is so much to say about New Zealand and so many photos to show, and still, we wouldn’t do this country justice. Often, we just stood there, amazed and overwhelmed by nature, which changed within minutes of driving from rough, black sandy coast to brushwood, in which glowworms shone at night between the moss-grown trees. Steamy brimstone sceneries were replaced by soft, grassy hillsides canyoned by runlets of glacier water, which together formed crystal clear lakes.

The booming slide downs of masses of ice and fog in your face let you feel the immense force and wayward character of nature marrow-deep. Suddenly, everything seems minor and being here and now is more present than never before. Galaxies of tiny sparkling dots keep you awake at night because you can’t keep off your eyes of such beauty. Everything seems so perfect, you have the feeling to have been travelled even further than the other end of the world. We hope, we could take you with us on our journey.

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