Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Most Divine Strawberry Jam in the World

It's not often I get involved in recipes (or cooking for that matter), leave that to the experts, but this really is THE MOST DIVINE STRAWBERRY JAM IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD.  And it's sooooo quick & easy it can be made on any camping trip, by the kids too.

Breakfast, brunch, tea, supper, or just because.


When I saw all the bright scarlet, juicily ripe strawberries piled chin dribblingly high at the market, I absolutely could not resist buying a kilo and getting the jam bucket out.

This has got to be the easiest and best recipe EVER.  Jamie Oliver, as annoying as ever, has to be given credit.  All I did was swap his vanilla pod for the zest and juice of a lemon.

Make it, you won't regret it & will love me forever.

Ingredients

Fruttapec: 1kg fruit, 500g sugar, 1 sachet
Zest & juice of half a large lemon
1kg ripe strawberries (washed & leafy tops removed)
500g high pectin sugar (jam sugar) or, as I did, 500g sugar & 1 sachet of Fruttapec



Method

Sterilize your jars & lids (approx 4 x 400ml jam jars)
Put the strawberries, lemon, sugar & Fruttapec in a saucepan.  Mash it all up with a potato masher, leaving a few chunky bits to get your teeth into.
Place the pan on a medium heat, bring it to the boil, leave it boiling for about 1 minute, then simmer for about 5.
Take it off the heat, and skim any foam from the top and leave it to cool a little.
Spoon the jam into your jars, put on the lids, and turn them upside down to cool.
Spread thickly on your morning toast, add a dollop of mascarpone (just because you can), eat and smile :-)

All ready for the Kokopelli Shop (if we haven't eaten it all first)




Saturday, 15 February 2014

HIDDEN MAJELLA

In the Footsteps of the Hermits


It's February, the sun is shining and it's beautifully warm, but the leaves have yet to appear and the bracken, brambles and grasses are still brown and lying flat from the winter's snows.  What better time to seek out the ancient trails.  By summer, they will be gone.  Hidden once more by the lush growth and greenness that characterises Abruzzo.

Within a 10km radius from our little spot in Serramonacesca (the land of the monks) you can find tucked amongst the hills of the Majella the Eremo of San Onofrio, the Abbey of San Liberatore, the Castel Menardo, the Torre Polegra and the cascading waters of the Alento river.  An area rich in history, monks and hermits.  

Getting off the beaten track, you find evidence of ancient lives all over these hills.  There are caves, clearly once the dwellings of hermits, all have spectacular views down and across the valley, and all with water courses nearby; there are old trails worn smooth from the many feet that have passed their way, and there are signs of the land having been tilled and managed.  And nobody knows they're there.  All except us, and a few local hunters and foragers.  

A intensely spiritual place for sure.


Within sight of the Torre Polegra

Warm, protected, hidden
A bed carved at the back

A room with a view
and an en-suite bathroom.

Follow the valley further down,
taking care over the sheer drops and steep gorges,
look closely or you'll miss it.
Clear some undergrowth, and there it is.
 Another cave hidden away
Another view
Another bathroom
Another life.


These are trails that you won't find in any guide book or map, they are not easy to find or easy to access.  But if you come and stay, and don't mind a bit of a scramble, we'll show you the way if you promise to keep it a secret.

Where we are:  http://goo.gl/maps/ewKxb
Who we are:  http://www.kokopellicamping.co.uk  


Further reading:


The Eremo of San Onofrio:  http://kokopelli-italy.blogspot.it/2012/03/serramonacesca-hermitage-festa-of-san.html
Castel Menardo & the Torre Polegra:  http://kokopelli-italy.blogspot.it/2012/03/serramonacesca-castles-towers.html
The Abbey of San Liberatore:  http://kokopelli-italy.blogspot.it/2012/03/serramonacesca-abbey-of-san-liberatore.html
The Alento River:  http://kokopelli-italy.blogspot.it/2012/03/serramonacesca-cascades-pools-gullies.html


Saturday, 16 November 2013

FARA SAN MARTINO 20km HIKING TRAIL


90% of the time the weather here in the Appenines of Abruzzo is as near to perfect as it's possible to get.  The seasons are just as they should be, deep powder in the winter, glorious sunshine all summer long.  




The remaining 10%, however, leaves you in absolutely no doubt whatsoever why Abruzzo is both the greenest and wildest region of all of Italy.  The last 5 days have given us a significant portion of that 10%, and a serious dose of cabin fever as a result.

But one day last week, no rain, and a brief but tentative respite.  So we took full advantage to banish the blues and got out onto the hills.  

Or, rather, through a gorge and up and over the gorge; we skirted a mountain, went across the ridge, down and round the other side and back to where we started.  20km, over 1600m of climbing and 8 hours later we had an amazing day and another route for the Kokopelli portfolio of self-guided hikes.

Sadly most of it was done in thick cloud so the pictures are fairly shite (as were our views).  What it did give us, however, was a real assault on our senses.  We may not have been able to see beyond our noses but, my goodness, we could certainly sense where we were.  From subtle changes in the feel of the air around us, to the roaring sounds of cascading water way below, we knew when we were on the edge of something spectacular, if only we could see through the fog.  

Rock face looming spookily into view

Another unexpected surprise of poor visibility came when we lost daylight and made our final descent by torchlight.  The lights of Fara San Martino a long way down below, and Casoli on the hill in the distance, was magical indeed.  What was truly fascinating was the vastness of the De Cecco pasta factory, never before seen from above and all lit up like that.  It was just like looking down on the lights of the airport as you come into land.  Amazing.

A wonderful circular hike into an incredible gorge.  But, please, not to be recommended in fog and dark.  Choose your weather carefully and you'll have a day to remember.


Detailed self-guided trip notes are free to all who stay with us:  www.kokopellicamping.co.uk

... and there's a bottle of Prosecco waiting in the fridge for all who complete at least 3 of our hikes (regardless of season)!  http://kokopelli-italy.blogspot.it/2013/03/spring-hikers-wanted.html

Here are the pics (for what they're worth).  We could do with some better ones, so if anyone fancies it let us know.
















Sunday, 20 October 2013

Halloween as it should be.

L'ANEME DELLE MORTE - SAGRE DELLA ZUCCA
THE SOULS OF THE DEAD - THE FESTIVAL OF THE PUMPKIN


How wrong we were when we thought Serramonacesca became the ghouls, ghosts & demons capital of Italy for Halloween.  From all the activity, plotting, planning and excitement of the village in the weeks leading up to the 31st October, we could have been forgiven for thinking so.

We really got into the swing of things.  We KNOW how to do Halloween.



When we dressed up as Frankinstein's bride (me) and the Grim Reaper (KP) to add some atmospherics to our Vin Brulle (mulled wine) stand, we thought we looked just the part.  Wrong.



No-one else was dressed up.  And it was politely pointed out that all "Americanisms" were kept at bay. This was Halloween in it's ancient, traditional sense, and proud Serramonacesca was guarding its traditions jealously.  As it turned out, you didn't need to dress up at all, the atmosphere over the two days was incredible.

In Abruzzo, and particularly in Serramonacesca, the festivities of 31 October/1 November are steeped in the ancient rituals of Paganism neatly merged with Christianity (as are so many Pagan rituals).  It is said that on the foggy evening of All Saints and All Souls, the departed (represented by carved pumpkin heads) roam the streets stopping at houses to ask for alms (i.e., Halloween as it used to be).

And Serra does it brilliantly.  The old "centro storico" of the town is taken over for the festivities.  The narrow streets are lit by torches, the cantina's (cellars) of the old houses are taken over for wine tasting, mulled wine, vino cotto, speciality beer, deli meats, roasted chestnuts, dried fruits, cakes and candies.  There is a large marquee serving a traditional "Abruzzese" supper to rows and rows of tables, wine freely flowing.  Through the streets there are story tellers, fairy tales, street performers, street theatre, puppets and musicians.  In the piazza there are bonfires with chestnuts roasting above.

And not a single Grim Reaper to be seen.

Serramonacesca (not us) KNOW how Halloween should  be done.

Well worth a visit: 31 October & 1 November (programme and links below)















Website:  http://www.anemedelemorte.it

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Laneme-De-LE-MORTE/517720308313626

Where we are:  http://goo.gl/maps/xbeqI

PROGRAMME


Wednesday 30 October  21:00
" Pecure alla Callare "
Fixed menu supper in the marquee, limited numbers, reservation required.
Info and reservations - > 338.7987439


Thursday, 31 October

19:00  "Opening of the Festival "

21:00
Performance of groups of Abruzzo music, singing and dancing around the fire.

22:30
" Du barrel ... la gare "
Battle of the Accordians!

Friday, November 1

15:00
Traditions, fairy tales, legends and witchcraft through the streets of the historic center with traveling shows of street artists, puppets, storytellers, face painting, etc.




17:30
“La Checocce chiĆ² belle”
Competition for the most beautiful pumpkin.  Five judges will give a score from 6 to 10 to the pumpkins (strictly lit with a candle inside).
Free registration until 17:00

19:00

19:00  "Opening of the Festival "


22:00 PM
ZARRAFOLK
Reggae Abruzzo live.







Monday, 9 September 2013

AUTUMN EXCURSION PROGRAMME


DESIGNED WITH THE TIME-CHALLENGED HIKER-ON-A-BUDGET IN MIND
(great terrain for the trail runner too)

  • Price for the 5-day package: €550 per couple
  • Includes accommodation (and not a tent in sight!)
  • Food in local restaurants, pre-supper drinks in local bars
  • Use of mountain bikes and snowshoes
  • Transfers, maps, detailed guides, and so on, and so on....

All completely adaptable, in content and time.





Where we are: http://goo.gl/maps/dgm2I

Download the full pdf version:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/174995994/5-Day-Autumn-Programme-for-Hikers-or-Runners 


For booking or more information:  +39 333 4636 075 or email jaqs@kokopellicamping.co.uk




Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Autumn & Winter Kokopelli Style!

As we skip merrily (but with a touch of sadness) into the final lap of summer, our thoughts after such an amazingly crazy wonderful summer with a whole host of equally amazing, crazy wonderful people, turn to how we can launch Kokopelli Autumn and Kokopelli Winter.

Last year, our first full winter here, we took the time out to just explore life in these hills, mountains and beaches of Abruzzo as the curtains slowly come down on summer.  Summer is magnificent, but could we, should we, develop an autumn/winter season here too?  

And we had an absolute ball.  The best ever.

So the answer was a huge, big, massive YES, YES, YES!!!!!!!!





This land of Abruzzo comes into it's own.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.  All taken between the end of September and March.  

Click on the links & enjoy.

YOU TUBE:  http://youtu.be/nFFeAYl3GFA
FACEBOOK GALLERY:  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.603457239698881.1073741842.201602059884403&type=1&l=684cf44faf


Ah.  Almost forgot.  If you do want to come and stay and explore with us, you don't have to camp (although you could if you really, really wanted), as we have a rather nice warm room in the house, complete with radiators and en-suite bathroom.


We'll also be developing The Barn to include a wood burner, radiators & heated bathroom.  Hey, I might even be persuaded to do breakfast too if you really, really want me to....

THE BARN

THE BARN




Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Diary of a Kokopelli Camper


....The real adventure of this past week, however, was a trip with John to the Abruzzo mountains.  We stayed in an English campground with an American Indian name, Kokopelli, and one day we hiked La Maiella to 2700 meters, the highest I’ve ever climbed. 

Majella mountains in May


It was a test of endurance and an opportunity to see John in his natural element, learning from him about mountains and their environment. At 52 I am just starting to feel challenged by such a climb, though not enough that it slows me down.  We were out on the trails from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm, getting back to the car just as it started to rain.  

It was hot in Rome and we were happy to head to the mountains, but the temperature actually got higher as we approached the town of Serramonacesca, the location of the nearest campground we had found on the internet, so hot that I started to think that we should change destinations and go to the Abruzzo National Park where the elevation was higher.  We had our picnic lunch in the center of town in the shade of a tree by the town hall.  Not a soul to be seen, blistering heat, 41 according to the car thermometer. 

Serramonacesca
When we found the campground I told Kevin, the Englishman who runs it, that we would stay a night and see if we could stand the heat. As he showed us around the facilities, though, I knew that it was a great place.  Clean restrooms, abundant outdoor and indoor kitchen and dining spaces. Cool white canvas tents furnished like dessert caravans, for rent if we decided our own little tent was too hot. 

Kokopelli Bell Tents
We left some of our stuff at our chosen tentsite and hit the road again to scout our hike.  Kevin had sold us a decent map and given us directions and after a half-hour of winding roads we were at the base parking area for the trails. La Maiella, the second highest peaks of the Appenines after Gran Sasso, rises above you grayish white against the blue sky.  The vehicular road ends in a cluster of communications antennas feeling like a space station.  We continued a bit on foot, passing two Tibetan monks (!) to whom I bowed and was greeted with a smiling “buon giorno”. The goal today was only scouting so we stopped at a lookout and contemplated the ridges and peaks.  Cima delle Murelle, Monte Focolone, Monte Aquaviva.  They looked relatively close and I optimistically contemplated walking all the way to Monte Amaro even though Kevin said it was 5 hours in and 5 back out. 

Monte Amaro 2793m asl

That evening we dined on pastina and sardines and corn at the campground while a family from England, South Africa and Le Marche ate near us and an international clientele from France, Holland and even Italy (!) puttered around the outdoor kitchen areas.  Later we watched the stars in the clear clear sky and saw the biggest meteorite I have ever seen, a “fireball” which lit up the night sky dramatically and then burnt out seconds later. Slept fine despite the heat until the rooster crowed at 4:45!  

The night sky from Kokopelli

The next day I was up with the rooster, reading and writing over my coffee in the cool morning air.  We left at 7:00, were at the bakery to get bread for sandwiches at 7;30 and packed and walking away from the car at the antenna site at 8:00. For the next 3 hours we climbed and climbed, through cool pine forests (Pino Mugo) and up rocky inclines.  At a certain point we paused in a crevice which was cool and shady, I took off my sweaty t-shirt to dry it in the sun and put on a warm pile and ate dried fruit and drank cool water.  We still had a ways to climb to reach the “bivacco Fusco”.  


There we saw a herd of chamois running across the snow (?!!_) and up the steep slopes of Monte Focalone. I was impressed to say the least.  When we finally got to Monte Focalone, the chamois were nowhere to be seen and the landscape was hot and dry, shards of flaky grey stone like slate crunching under our feet.  I was exhausted and tried to make shade from John’s walking sticks and my windbreaker, with little success.  We moved on toward Monte Aquaviva but as we approached it and it seemed to recede into the distance we decided that the view we had earned from this point was as good as we could get.  So we stopped to eat our sandwiches and turned to head back. 

The trip down was faster but treacherous, slipping down rocky slopes, contemplating the distance to our car which seemed surprisingly (almost frighteningly) far.  There were long uphill sections as well which I hadn’t noticed on the hike out.  Realizing that we were well ahead of schedule and that in the valley it was probably 15 degrees warmer, we stopped to rest in a grassy area next to the trail before tackling the last hour to the car.  We timed it right as a heavy rain began just as we got to the car and it followed us down into the valley. 

That evening, after a much-needed shower, we went to eat at an unattractive but characteristic and tasty trattoria in a neighboring town and returned to sleep comfortably in our little tent. Even the rooster didn’t get me out of bed early the next morning. 

Our last hike was local, a trail described in perfect detail in the campground information booklet (photocopied pages of which were free to borrow). We walked along country roads, through woods thick with spider webs and dried mud trails, into the little town of Roccamontepiano (you can’t invent these names!).  There we bought breakfast and bread for lunch and drank cold water from a nice fountain dedicated to San Rocco (patron Saint of all things rural).  I had a capuccino at my favorite bar where we had stopped before by car several times.  Then back into the woods and onwards on a treacherous poorly marked trail which eventually morphed back into a country road.  We started seeing English neighbors (‘top of the morning to you’) and before too long were back at our tent. I love round trip hikes that don’t require a car! John was not so thrilled with this one, preferring by far the high mountain trails. 

View from the trail to Roccamontepiano


Later when we headed back to Rome we took a detour up to Caramanico Terme and got stuck in a huge downpour and hailstorm which left the ground covered in white ice.  Global weirding I said, and John, ever the rational one,  said it was actually normal for such mountain locations to rapid and experience extreme changes in weather. We found the visitors center there closed despite the sign saying it was open (but they nicely responded to an email I wrote with an almost believable explanation and apology). The road to Sulmona was among the most beautiful in Italy. 

The camping experience, a little English world in the midst of the Italian mountains, was magical and inspiring.  I want to write more about the place in a venue where it can help Kevin and Jackie’s business thrive.   Now, back to Rome and painting windows!

Word for word from Tom Rankin:
Photos by Kokopelli.