For me, one of the joys of travelling is the diversity of food, variety of colours and flavours, and range of cooking techniques that can be experienced around the world.
Food sustains you on those long treks, keeps you warm in the snow and can cool you in the heat. It can be comforting when you’re missing home and a great way to meet people when travelling solo.
It can also be challenging as a vegetarian. Some of the best vegetarian food I have sampled was in India, where an estimated 500 million people go meat free. But some places can be tricky, with bits of fish or ham turning up on a salad unannounced, or the saltiness of fish sauce detected in an otherwise vegetable dish.
Then there is the fear of offending somebody who shows hospitality because you can’t eat what they offer you. But it is all the more rewarding when you find foods that you can enjoy guilt free.
I particularly love it when food arrives and makes me exclaim wow! Like the French toast breakfast I carefully ordered in San Francisco because it sounded light.
Topped with yoghurt, fresh fruit, granola, nuts, seeds, and maple syrup, it was by far the largest plate of food I have attempted and could only be described as both intimidating and delicious, before eventually defeating me.
Then there are the feasts prepared with few facilities, on a boat or camp-fire, or the occasions when you are invited into a strangers home to eat, which fill you with warmth at the sheer generosity.
But for my #tasteoftravel menu I was torn between my two favourite sets of world flavours – Mexican and Mediterranean – and it was the rich, salty flavours, warm spices and comforting food of the Mediterranean that won out on this chilly autumn day.
MY TRAVEL MENU
Starter: A selection of Greek starters to share
One of the first places I travelled independently as a back-packer was Greece. I will never forget the kind lady in an Athens bakery who used to give us free pastries at the end of the day rather than throw them away, concerned that we would waste away on our meagre budget. She wasn’t far wrong!
But it was another special moment in Athens, among new friends, sharing all of the vegetarian starters on the menu because we couldn’t choose between them, that inspired my starter.
From the little buttered filo triangles of Spanakopitakia, baked until golden and oozing with feta cheese and spinach; to the garlicky Olivada served with crusty bread and pitta, the food was divine.
But it was the act of sharing itself, leaning across each other to try different dishes, sharing reactions to the smells, flavours, and colours, swapping stories and getting to know each other, that made it most memorable. There is something very special about sharing food with strangers.
Main course: Moroccan Vegetable Tagine, with Berber flat-bread
The tagine really is a splendid approach to cooking and it is all about taking your time. This conical clay pot can be used to cook meat, fish or vegetables in rich spicy sauces. The shape of the lid allows steam to rise and fall, cooking the dish slowly and evenly.
Available cooked in a restaurant, on the street in Marrakesh, or even on a camp fire, the end result is spectacular with great colour, texture and flavour; comfort food at it’s best.
My first meal in Morocco was a wonderful vegetable tagine with tomatoes, courgette, carrots, potato and chickpeas made in a beautifully spiced sauce with hints of cumin, paprika, turmeric, chilli, cayenne, garlic and saffron to bombard your senses.
This is best enjoyed with couscous, crusty semolina bread (Khobz dyal smida), or a Berber flat-bread stuffed with onions, olives and herbs for a really indulgent meal. It is no wonder I fell in love with Marrakesh immediately, with all that serotonin being released as I ate.
Dessert: Sicilian Cannoli, finished with chopped pistachio
Sicily truly is an island of comfort food. But for me it is Sicilian desserts that are almost literally to die for. My absolute favourite is cannoli, with its crispy fried shell and creamy filling.
These sweet crunchy tubes, filled with sweetened mascapone blended with vanilla, nuts or candied fruit are like a burst of flavour as you bite into them, trying not to undermine the little structure that holds such delight. My favourite kind are finished by dipping the ends in pistachio.
A little like tacos, there is a technique to eating them; biting one end and then the other, but leaving the middle intact until the end. Unless you want to get messy of course.
So whether it’s street food, or a high end restaurant that takes your fancy, a bulging burrito or a dainty pastry; the whole world is a restaurant with many delights to enjoy along the way.
Read more: Sicily: An Island of Contrasts and Comfort Food
What are your favourite world foods? Please feel free to leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.