Sharmi on the Trot

Travelling, Exploring, Eating…

Archive for the month “June, 2017”

Experiencing Midsummer Celebrations in Estonia


The beautiful rooftops of Tallinn.

“This is so strange,” AK pointed out. “It’s difficult to imagine going to sleep at bedtime in complete daylight!” We had just met and struck up a conversation in the Tallinn hostel. Our bodies felt tired and sleepy but with no darkness descending, our minds were confused – to retire or not.

My sister and I who visited East Europe last summer, unknowingly found ourselves in the middle of Midsummer celebrations in the Baltic countries. Honestly, we don’t pour over travel guides or spend hours on the internet searching for details about the places we planned on visiting. We do the obvious bit like figure out how expensive are the tickets are and where can one stay. Barring that it’s spur of the moment situations and going by local recommendations.

As Midsummer approaches in 2017, my mind can’t help but revisit those beautiful Baltic memories.
(Read: How I Learnt To Balance Technology And Travel In Hungary)


The Old Town Square in Tallinn has flea markets on certain days of the week.

Estonia is simply beautiful filled with natural beauty. It’s well worth the early morning budget airline flying and spending a night on the cold floors of Stansted Airport. If one weighs the options – leaving cold and rainy London behind for warm sunshine and 24 hours of daylight, the cold night on cold floors is well worth it.


Cobble-stoned paths in Old Town Tallinn

“Roam around guys. Enjoy the coffee and experience the weather,” is how the hostel-in-charge put it. The afternoon was hot and sweaty which came as a surprise. Walking along cobbled pathways in the Old Town we found quaint alleyways to explore and the clear blue sky with cotton candy clouds greeted us with warmth. It was somewhat hard to believe we were in a country which for years was just a name on an atlas.
(Read: 5 Ways To Plan Your First Europe Trip On A Budget)

Most people in Tallinn around this time (June-July) are tourists. Locals are usually at their summer houses celebrating the event with beer and meat. St John’s Day or Jaanipäev is a big deal. With almost 24 hours of daylight and official holidays, midsummer is celebrated with gusto by every citizen. The eve, usually June 23, is the day when everyone celebrates with dances, folk songs, bonfires, games and barbecue. One of the best places to experience an authentic and traditional celebration is at the Open Air Museum, a bus ride away from the Old Town.


The entrance to the Open Air Museum. The place seems huge doesn’t it? It is!

The Open Air Museum itself is huge. Touching the shores of the lake, there’s so much greenery that one can often let one’s imagination run away. For visitors, its an insight into how people in the area lived in the olden times. There are recreated structures of huts and living quarters, of agricultural utilities and everywhere there are signs clearly explaining Estonia’s past.

During the Midsummer celebrations, the performers liven up the Museum. There are small skits happening in different parts, while singers and dancers show off their skills in an open space. Locals sing and dance along as tourists get a taste of Estonian culture and watch the shows. In today’s day of technology, however, mobile camera phones are everywhere filming those memories. It’s the smell from the food counters that ensure long lines are formed, each waiting to taste the mouth watering local delicacies. An boy it’s worth the wait. The salad and potatoes are well roasted while the meat is tender and juicy as you bite into it. Glasses of Kvass keep the throat well moistened.
(Read: Eating My Way Through Spain)


Outside an exhibit at the Open Air Museum. See the girl in the red jacket? That’s the younger sister and travel partner!


The Bonfire is an integral part of the celebrations.


Traditional Estonian performances at the Museum.

After spending some hours soaking in natural beauty and experiencing traditional Estonia, it was time to head back to our hostel. “Did you guys have fun?” we were asked. Nodding in affirmative back at the common room, travellers formed a circle as Midsummer stories were shared over pints of beer. There was no night as the natural light kept us company till dawn.


Traditional Estonian food washed down with Kvass.

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Review: Gio Gluten Free – Harvest Gold


The Gio Gluten Free range from Harvest Gold

When Novak Djokovic began his gluten free diet it helped his game and as a result, catapulted him to the top of the world rankings. Personally, it was then that I actually began to think of gluten-free as an option in eating habits.
What exactly is gluten? It’s a natural protein found in various grains like wheat, rye and barley. For people who are allergic to gluten, life can get tough. Harvest Gold has brought out a new range called Gio Gluten Free to cater to such customers who can indulge in different types of breads without having to worry about getting an allergic reaction.
I recently tried out four of Gio Gluten Free products – Regular Bread, Cinnamon Raisin Bread, Sweet Buns and the Masala Roti.
Personally, I love gluten because the taste the protein gives to bread is delicious. The texture stays moist and chewy. But for a person suffering from gluten allergies, the Gio Gluten Free range is really great. It’s also dairy free so one can indulge to one’s hearts content.
The Regular Bread is more crumbly than chewy but hey, that’s science. Toasted and with some butter spread on top, the Regular Bread goes great with eggs during breakfast. I had it along with Shakshuka (try this delicious recipe) and the bread really complimented the taste of the eggs.

Toasted Regular Bread with butter, to be devoured with Shakshuka and juice

The Sweet Buns are tasty and with some butter (you can never have enough butter), goes well for a snack. Again, do remember it has no gluten so it will taste different than a regular sweet bun.

Just a dab of butter to compliment the sweetness in the buns

The Masala Roti needs to be heated and once it fluffs up, have it while it’s hot with vegetables or meat for an Indian meal. It can also work well for wraps because of the gluten-free texture.

A hearty lunch of Roti, veggies and cucumber

I don’t have a sweet tooth per say but when I do eat sweeter breads, I have a pet peeve of making it even more sweet. The Cinnamon Raisin Bread has a wonderful flavour because the combination works really well. The hint of cinnamon and the sweet raisin compliment each other and one can just eat it on it’s own as a snack. Me, I like to put jam on them. I tried one with strawberry jam and the other slice with homemade marmalade. Really really good, finger licking good!

Just a bit of jam on the Cinnamon Raisin bread

Over all, the gluten free range is well worth it for those who need it. Though the products are slightly priced on the higher side, it’s worth the money.
Check out their website here
Product rating: 3.5/5

Review: Dr Oetker FunFoods


The whole lunch spread

Dr Oetker Funfoods products have established themselves firmly in Indian households. Their mayonnaise bottles can be found in almost every fridge across the country while their various sauces and dressings are must-haves when cooking up a storm. I personally have used plenty of Dr Oetker FunFoods products for creating dishes in half the time needed. Just slather on some pizza spread with some vegetables and cheese on the base, and voila – your weekday Italian feast is ready in a jiffy! Or their pesto sauce which I often use for extra flavour over grilled vegetables during a working day meal.
I recently had the opportunity to review three of Dr Oetker FunFoods products – the Mayonnaise Tandoori, the Chocolate Milk Shake Mix and the Lite 1000 Island Salad Dressing.
With the soaring summer temperatures hitting the country, these three products immediately brought to mind a light lunch. What better than grilled cheese, a healthy salad and chocolate milkshake right?
I first spread some Tandoori Mayonnaise on brown bread, added cheese and a bit of seasoning, and then grilled it in a sandwich toaster. For the salad I roughly chopped up some lettuce, cucumber, tomato and gherkins. Tossed in some Lite 1000 Island Salad Dressing and we were ready to go. Lastly, mixing two tablespoons of the shake mix into a glass of cold milk and adding some ice, just a quick blend and the shake was ready.

Grilled cheese with Tandoori Mayonnaise

I found the Tandoori Mayonnaise to be slightly overpowering. It worked in the grilled cheese sandwich but it’s better suited to more Indian recipes. Maybe a tandoori chicken wrap or as a dip with grilled vegetables and meat. It could even work with grilled paneer (cottage cheese).

Light crunchy salad for the healthy days!

The salad dressing worked rather well with the simple salad. It’s light, fresh and very tasty. Just a small amount is enough for a big bowl of freshly cut salads. I feel this dressing will even go well with egg salads or a cold salad.

The products reviewed

Lastly, the chocolate shake. It had a well rounded flavour and was chocolatey. There was however, a bit of an artificial aftertaste. To make it more decadent, I feel the addition of whipped cream and ice cream will work fine. Maybe even chocolate shavings to add to the cheat shake!
Overall, I was pretty pleased with the products. Dr Oetker FunFoods products definitely make your food fun!
Product rating: 4/5
Check out their website here

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