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Yesterday’s dog treat is today’s savoury tapa

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It’s not difficult to get Eastern European rye bread or a jar of Polish sauerkraut in the UK nowadays, with most supermarkets having separate sections set up to feed the needs. It is much trickier, however, to come across ingredients for special dishes that are usually frowned upon in the UK. And I am not talking about kangaroo testicles or creepy crawlies here (I wouldn’t touch those with a barge), but a simple dish involving pork.

When a colleague of mine recently waved a smart phone under my nose with a photo showing a notice board at his local pet store ‘Pig’s Ears for Sale’, I thought to myself: right, it’s time to bring some real food into office, for lunch.

Lithuanians have always loved a nice rich meal made of various pork cuts, not just bacon, ham and cutlet. When growing up in Lithuania I have been exposed to (and fed with) pig tongue, liver, kidney, pig’s head, trotters, ears, tail, intestines (a key ingredient for Vėdarai) and many other things that my mom wouldn’t go too deep into explaining. However, the main method of handling a slaughtered pig in any village was to use every single usable thing, and waste nothing.

So munching on pig’s ears or going through a plate of cooked tongue with mayonnaise was a treat. Don’t get me wrong, the better cuts were also just as nice, but the bits that the pig didn’t have plenty of (i.e. tail) were an extreme delicacy.

Going back to what I can get in the UK, I must say it isn’t much. Only a year or so ago I noticed the upcoming trend in using alternative/cheaper cuts in cooking. The credit crunch has forced many supermarkets to look into possibilities of stocking pig’s cheeks and feet, and the media has started giving some positive press coverage. Continue Reading »

Top 10 Lithuanian gift ideas for Christmas

We’ve all been there. It’s easy to buy a traditionally French gift (some perfume or a bottle of exquisite champagne), a gift with a Spanish flavour (a hamper full of chorizo sausage and wines, or a set of terracotta tapas dishes) or even a typical Russian gift (usually a doll called matrioshka). If you are a Lithuanian national stranded somewhere in Europe, it is rather tricky to find a symbolic yet unforgettable Lithuanian gift for someone special.

I’ve recently picked up a brochure published by Lithuanian State Department of Tourism entitled “25 things not to miss in Lithuania”, and the 23rd thing not to be missed was called “Lithuanian handicrafts”:

Traditional Lithuanian handicrafts, such as artistic linen, ceramic or amber articles, can make beautiful decorations for your home or great gifts.

And I couldn’t agree more. One thing is to go to Lithuania and shop for those items at numerous fairs and markets; however, shopping for Lithuanian art or Lithuanian linen products while abroad becomes more difficult. Here’s my selected list of recommended retailers specialising in just about anything Lithuanian you can think of.

1. Amber and silver pendant

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By Ula © Ona.com

Think Lithuania, think amber. If traditional amber bead necklaces are not your cup of tea, opt for something more modern and subtle.
Available from: Ona.com

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