Bread-making Attempt #1: Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread

I love bread but it can be hard to find what I consider ‘normal’ white bread overseas. Of course, Europe isn’t generally a problem. France is heaven. Germany’s bread is a seed and nut-crusted wonder. There are also deliciously addictive flat breads in Afghanistan, mouth-watering French baguettes in Zambia and a close second in Cambodia. That said, the bread selection in other parts of the world can be less than par. Barbados had really dense coconut bread and heavy salt breads, Botswana was a lost cause as far as white bread goes, South Korea’s bread was loaded with sugar, Thailand… well, I’m sure there was bread in Thailand but I never saw any. Heck, even back home it’s about 30 minutes to an hour’s drive to the nearest French bakery.

While I love to cook, I’m no baker. In fact, I’m a terrible baker. The most I can manage without a full-on stress attack are muffins, zucchini or banana bread. In recent years, with the addition of an old bread-maker passed down from my mother, I tried my hand at Irish soda bread. It was edible and I got to control the ingredients but it wasn’t anything I’d write home about.

While I love learning about other cultures and cuisines, sometimes you need some familiar comfort food to help get you through the day. So out of desperation, I eventually bought a 2nd bread-maker with 220 V. / 50 Hz to use overseas.

Unsatisfying attempts at bread-making with the machine led me to discover several no-knead bread recipes. I’ve been looking forward to trying one of the many recipes available online. Unfortunately, there was one little thing stopping me… I didn’t have a Dutch/French oven – that is until today!

Naturally, I started with Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe made famous by Mark Bittman of the New York Times way back in 2006.  I’d heard this recipe was so easy that even a 6 year old could make it. Sounds like the perfect recipe for me! Nevertheless, I don’t exactly have the “baker’s touch” so I followed the recipe exactly using my new 5 1/2 QT Le Creuset Dutch oven.

No-Knead Bread Jim Lahey’s Recipe, The New York Times, 2006

This recipe was VERY sticky and took a LOT of patience. From start to finish, this bread took almost 24 hours. The end result was way better than anything that’s come out of my bread-maker. That said, I found it to be very heavy and chewy. The bread was really crusty but I found it a bit too hard. Sadly, it only got harder as we approached dinner time a few hours later so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone with delicate dental work!

I’ll be playing around with other no-knead bread recipes over the coming month. If you have any to share, please add them in the comment section.

What do you think? Have you tried making no-knead bread?
I’d love to hear from you! Please comment below.
Speedy No-Knead Bread Revisited – Jim Lahey’s Recipe, The New York Times, 2008

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Recipe: Chicken Paprika | Paprikás Csirke

Chicken Paprika (or Paprikás Csirke in Hungarian) is one of my favourite Hungarian dishes.

Traditional paprikás recipes – as with goulash and pörkölt – combine fat, onions and paprika to create a rich harmony of flavours known as the “Trilogy” of Hungarian cuisine.

The following recipe was adapted from cooking classes, cookbooks, the advice of friends and of course trial and error. Although it takes some time to prepare and cook, the recipe itself is fairly easy and the end result is sure to please!

Serves: 4

Cooking time: 50 minutes

Serve with: Spaetzle /Spätzle (or Hungarian Nokedli)

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken (apx. 2.5 lbs) or 4 chicken legs
  • 1 – 2 med. sized Dutch onions
  • 5 tbsp pork lard (*can substitute with oil)
  • 3 tbsp paprika powder (*I use 1 tbsp hot, 2 tbsp mild)
  • Salt & freshly cracked peppercorn
  • 2 Hungarian sweet white pepper (*Can substitute with yellow bell pepper but you should avoid Red as it will be a bit sweet. Out of necessity, I used 2 red bell peppers and added 1 yellow hot wax pepper)
  • 2 med. sized tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1-2 tbsp flour (*for thickening)

Instructions:

  1. Divide chicken into pieces. Leave the skin on as it will help keep the meat together and lock in flavours.
  2. Finely chop the onions.
  3. Heat oil in a deep pan. Gently cook the onions, stirring occasionally. When  the onions are soft and translucent, remove pan from the heat source and sprinkle paprika over the onions. Mix well.
  4. Add the chicken to your pan and fry over high heat for about 5 minutes.
  5. Reduce heat and season with salt and pepper. Cover with lid. *Note: This dish should cook in its own juices. Add a little water only to prevent burning.
  6. Remove seeds from peppers and slice into rings or chop. Reserve a few slices for garnish. Seed tomato and chop into small pieces. (The seeds and juice dilute the mixture and won’t add flavour).
  7. Add pepper and tomato to chicken. Cover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is fully cooked. The chicken is cooked when the meat easily separates from the bone.
  8. In a separate bowl, combine some of the sour cream with a bit flour. Stir until smooth. Add a bit of the cooking juices to the bowl and mix well. Repeat this step 2 or 3 times.
  9. Once chicken is cooked, remove from pan. Optional: At this point, you may remove the skin from the meat.
  10. Add sour cream to the reduced juices. Mix well.
  11. Return chicken to pan. Simmer gently for 4-5 minutes.

Tips!

Onions, lard and paprika are the ‘Trilogy’ of Hungarian cuisine. To release the full flavour and aroma of paprika, it needs to be added to hot lard, butter or oil. However, because of it’s high sugar content, paprika can burn quickly! To prevent burning, remove your dish from the heat before adding the paprika powder to the hot oil while stirring continuously.

All of my recipes are a work in progress.

Please share your suggestions, tips or stories in the comments section.

Le Creuset – a kitchen crush!

For roughly 20+ years, I’ve had the biggest crush on Le Creuset cast iron cookware. Unfortunately, I’ve also spend the better part of that time in and out of school or moving from one contract and one country to the next. As a result, most of my earnings went towards tuition or making ends meet leaving my ‘kitchen crush’ unfulfilled.

Le Creuset is the best-of-the-best when it comes to cast iron cookware. But it’s also super heavy and crazy expensive which isn’t very practical for a traveling foodie on a budget like myself!

With most of my kitchen collection boxed up in storage – and ingredients often difficult to find – cooking what I like, when I like, and how I like is almost impossible. My diet is a never-ending roller coaster. I’m always struggling to stay healthy and make sure that I get all of the vitamins and nutrients that I need without compromising too much on flavour, taste and of course budget.

On the flip-side, traveling and working overseas has broadened my awareness of my own culinary background and traditions as well as that of other cultures. I’ve learned new techniques, discovered exotic cookware and experienced exciting tastes and flavour combinations from around the world. That’s pretty cool, if I do say so myself!

Nevertheless, every once in a while, I come across something familiar that’s too special to refuse. Such was the case during my time here in Austria. Half-way between Gols and Vienna – deep within the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet Center (Parndorf) – lies the holy grail of cookware at up to 70% off. That’s right fellow foodies and kitchenware fanatics – a Le Creuset outlet shop. Lord have mercy!

I was taken to Parndorf shortly after my arrival in Burgenland back in February of 2014. Having come straight from Thailand, I was in desperate need of warm clothing and this was a great place to start. Then it happened…

Snuggled between Marc O’Polo and Högl, was a gleaming white sign with ‘Le Creuset’ blazing out in that trademark flame orange I know so well. Shivering in my summer clothes under a borrowed winter coat, I stood in the parking lot with eyes wide, jaw dropped and a dribble of drool falling from the corner of my mouth. I thought I heard angels singing, although in hindsight it was probably the sound of my teeth clattering or church bells ringing in the distance.

I was first introduced to Le Creuset as a girl. My best friend’s mother was (and still is) an eclectic lady with a heart of gold and generous to a fault. I loved visiting their home nestled between farmer’s fields in the middle of nowhere. There were many adventures and much fun to be had for 2 young girls. There were dogs, chickens and sheep to play with, a babbling brook and so much to explore. The house was filled with books, curiosities and eccentric decor – plenty to peak the curiosity of an inquisitive young mind. The kitchen was the heart of the home. While vague, I remember my friend’s mother cooking with heavy fire orange pots and pans which were as warm and colourful as her personality. Perhaps those joyful childhood memories where what initially drew me to Le Creuset, although I didn’t make the connection until nearly 3 decades later.

But it’s not just fond memories that have me so enamored with Le Creuset. Renowned for both their durability and beauty, Le Creuset has been creating top-quality cast iron cookware since 1925. There is just so much to love about Le Creuset products – their flawless design, smooth surfaces, good-sized handles, thick enamel coating and bold colours. Each piece is inspected by hand and – if cared for properly – you can expect your Le Creuset cookware to last a lifetime and beyond. Proving how confident they are in the quality of their products, the company offers a lifetime guarantee on their entire cast iron collection.

I took my time in the brightly lit store, admiring the colourful enamels, stroking the perfectly smooth cast iron surfaces, pestering the staff with my broken German skills while imagining all of the amazing dishes I could create and how luxuriously beautiful my future ‘dream-kitchen’ would be. Although I wasn’t ready to make any purchases that day, I continued to pop by the shop on subsequent visits to check out the latest additions and watch for sales or clearance items.

Now that I have my work permits – and fed up with being patient – I was ready to take the plunge. On my visit this week, I was ecstatic to see a table full of ‘seconds’ at a further 20% off the outlet price. I splurged on a cherry red square grill, a 4.1L oval French oven and a gorgeous enamel coated cast iron terrine mold but I’ve got a mind to go back soon! All in all, each piece was about 1/3 to less than a 1/4 the price of what I would have paid in Canada. The grill has already been put into action. I was very impressed at the heat retention, ease of use and perfectly spaced grill marks. I’m so excited. I can’t wait to cook my next big meal once my classes are finished next week. I’m also super-stoked about the terrine. I’ve never made a terrine before but I can’t wait to give it a go. Feel free to send along your favourite recipe if you have one!

Now, back to my homework! Just 2 assignments left before I finish the requirements to achieve my Social Media Certificate with Algonquin College. Wish me luck! 🙂

Are you a proud Le Creuset owner and have a story to share?

I’d love to hear from you! Please share your comments below.

Grammeln & Schmalz (Austrian cracklings & lard)

Grammeln is an Austrian specialty made ​​from pork fat but you can also find them in Germany.  Unlike cracklings – which are made from pork skin – grammeln are bits of connective tissue that get seared in the rendering process when producing lard. 

Variations:

Around the world, you can find different variations of grammeln such as Čvarci (Serbia), Chicharrónes (Spain), Scrunchions in Newfoundland (Canada) or cracklings in the UK, the USA and Canada. Another variation is gribenes – made from chicken or goose skin – which is popular in Jewish cuisine.

How to eat grammeln?

Grammeln is typically eaten as a snack on rye bread with a pinch of salt or mixed with lard (schmalz) and used as a spread called ‘Grammelschmaltz‘. While it might sound gross, grammelschmaltz on rye bread garnished with some thinly sliced spring onions is absolutely delicious!

Lard-based biscuit with bits of grammeln mixed in – called ‘Grammelpogatscherl‘ – are also very popular. Here in Gols, you’ll see a lot of Grammelpogatscherl served in houses, at events or when visiting the wine makers. Grammeln can also be used as an filling for dumplings or strudel.

Where to find grammeln?

While you can find grammeln at most local grocery stores in Austria, I’d highly recommend the home-made variety! On your next trip to Austria, make sure to to visit a Heuriger or Weinstube (wine gardens serving food). Here you’re almost sure to find fresh grammeln or grammenschmaltz to snack on. Pair it with a glass of white wine – such as a Grüner Veltliner or a Welschriesling – for best results.

Coming soon!

  • How to make Grammeln and Schmalz at home!

What’s your favourite Austrian snack? I’d love to hear from you!

Please share your recipes and stories below.

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Campfire Cooking – A Shopping Expedition!

Over the years, I’ve become fascinated with the history and evolution of regional recipes and methods of preparation. Austro-Hungarian cuisine is no exception.

As many of you know, the Saturday market ‘Mosoni Piac‘ is my regular go-to spot for fresh vegetables, huge bags of paprika and a dizzying array of peculiar culinary gadgets. These days, I’m all about the campfire cooking equipment. It began innocently enough with an invitation to join a small neighbourly party where goulash was served up as the main course. This was followed by a New Year’s gathering around a simmering pot of mulled wine. These outings revolved around a simple fire pan, a tripod and a kotlich (or ‘bogrács’ in Hungarian). Hanging out around the fire, enjoying good food, wine and the company of new friends was a pure delight.

Kettle cooking along the plains of central Europe was traditionally a ‘man’s job’ – fit for herdsmen, farmers and labourers who worked in the fields from dawn to dusk. But who cares about traditional gender roles, eh? Why should boys have all the fun?

If you’re planning a European camping trip, Hungary would be a great place to start your journey. There’s plenty of equipment to choose from at the local markets and the prices are excellent. While I’m still developing my collection of regional campfire cooking equipment, I’ll start out with a description of the basics and a few other unique items I’ve found along the way.

Tripod:

The first thing on my list was obviously a tripod! I found a great 120 cm folding iron one (photo 1) at the market along with a 6 and a 10 liter ‘bogrács’ (photo 2). The ‘bogrács’ don’t traditionally have a lid, however I was able to find one in the 10 liter size at the market. This is handy to keep the flies off! The 6 liter pot serves 2 to 4 people well, but any more and you’d be better off with a larger size.

Bogrács & Fish Pots:

There are different types of pots available which you can see below. Bogrács typically flare out at the top which you can see in photos 1 and 2. These are used for goulash. For fish soup, the shape is a little bit different tapering in at the top (see in photo 3). Finally there is a wide-mouthed pot (4). I’m not really sure what this pot is supposed to be used for, but I think it would be perfect for corn on the cob or a pot full of muscles.

Skewers:

I also found some lovely long skewers for roasting marshmallows or shish-kabobs. These are easy to clean and way better than hunting around the woods looking for green sticks and twigs.

Tiffin Pans:

Around Moson, I also found some great tiffin pans. Granted, these are not really ‘Hungarian’ and I do have a smaller one brought back from Thailand but I found it at a great price and they are perfect for carrying food and can be used as extra bowls when neighbouring campers or hosts decide to pop by around dinner time!

Paella Pans:

Next up on the list of fantastic camping cookware is this awesome paella pan. This item is still on my wish list but it’s available at Mosoni Piac. Now, while you could always use the paella pan for making paella, you could also fry up some onions and sausage, stir-fries, pasta, chicken paprikás, breakfast omelets or any number of things.

Camping Cutlery:

Now while most of the items posted are available through my favourite vendor (top photo), you can also find rucksacks and handy cutlery sets with the gentlemen selling old military gear and the like.

Suspended Frying Pan:

Finally, the coup d’état was this amazing frying pan. Shaped a bit like a shallow wok, all of the bacon drippings slip right into the middle – perfect for making home-fries. While the pan is heavy, the center peg conveniently screws out for easy transportation and it’s super easy to clean.

What’s your favourite campfire cookware? I’d love to hear from you!

Please share your recipes and stories below.

Camping, Tripods & New Friends

The past few months have been super busy with online classes (Social Media Certificate), building my new writing and communications consulting website, and starting a new blog called Your Daily Slang! But as the summer term drew to a close and the bulk of my assignments already submitted, it was time for a much needed mini-break!

Tight on cash and low on time, I decided to try out a budget travel website called Camp in my Garden. Camp in my Garden is an online platform where people can advertise their gardens or fields to be used as temporary camping sites. Camping costs range between £0 to £10 depending on facilities and location.

Using the handy map feature, I narrowed search to gardens within a 2.5 hour drive which offered ‘open fires’. Barbeques, sitting around a fire and good friends to share the experience with are among the things that I miss most when living overseas. Here in Burgenland, I live in a small apartment without access to a plot of land for camping, a fire pit or setting up an outdoor kitchen. Moreover, while there are many campgrounds in the area, most don’t allow open fires which is a totally foreign concept to a Canadian like me! I mean, what’s camping without a campfire and roasted marshmallows, eh?

We ended up at Moorhexen’s garden just outside a little town called Groß-Radischen. There’s plenty to see and do in the area. But, to be honest, we were quite happy to sit around relaxing, cooking and enjoying each others’ company. Bianca, James and the kids were the perfect hosts. Moreover, I’ve only spoken to one native English speaker face-to-face over the past 9 months, so I was very happy to learn that both Bianca and James spoke English fluently. I’m sure I talked their ear’s off but how nice it was to speak freely and not have to struggle to understand or express myself.

But now it’s time to talk about the food! We were able to find some flavoured marshmallows at one of the bigger grocery stores along the way. We also packed up the new tripod, suspended frying pan, a kotlich (or bogrács in Hungarian) and all the fixins’ for some great campfire cooking!

The next morning, I got up early to start the fire before the blazing sun made it’s way across the back garden. Although it took a while to get the embers going and boil water for coffee, everything was easy-peasy after that. I started with some thick cuts of smoked bacon which provided plenty of fat to cook the home-fries. From there, I added the herbed potatoes and thick slices of bell pepper along the rim (roughly 1 inch). I allowed the peppers to fry a little to soften them up and make them flush with the wok-style pan. Then, at the very end, we dropped in the eggs – fresh from the chicken coup – into the pepper rings to prevent them from sliding towards the middle of the pan. This was a bit tricky but I’m getting better at it with each new attempt. Next time, I’ll try slicing one side of the rings diagonally for a thicker rim on the inside of the pan thinning out towards the outside.

As you can see, my timing was a little off with the bacon. But that’s okay, I love super crispy semi-burnt bacon!  I also discovered – to my chagrin – that they don’t sell bags of ice here in Austria like they do in Canada, the US, and other parts of the world. As a result, my half cooked potatoes didn’t fare so well overnight in the cooler box. Lesson learned for our next outing! They still tasted good but in future, I’ll be cutting and cooking them fully on-site. Below you can see the finished results. We also had apple wedges, fresh apricots, some grapes and some crusty bread.

Clean up was WAY easier than expected. With a little soap and elbow grease, everything washed up squeaky-clean. There was no need for harsh abrasives and I’ll give this pan an A-plus for ease of use and convenience.

The day was searing hot so we decided to hold off on starting the fire until just before sun-set (hence no pictures!). I decided to try my hand at making a Hungarian Sertéspörkölt with a few minor adjustments… Beef cubes replaced the pork and we added way more onions and tomatoes than the recipe originally called for. I also added garlic because well, everything’s better with garlic! By accident, I also picked up the hot paprika in place of the sweet paprika leading to a firey concoction indeed! Thankfully, our hosts produced some sour cream from the house which mellowed the heat and added a nice creamy texture to the dish. In the end, my Pörkölt might better be described as a beef paprikás. Either way it was delicious!

The tripod is revolutionizing my camp-food repertoire. There are so many different dishes that I want to cook with my new gear – I can’t wait to try them all out. If I had a garden, I’m sure that I’d be outside several nights a week cooking over the fire during the greater part of the year. With a few adjustments, I think it would be put to good use in the winter too with a big kettle-full of mulled wine… Magic! Gone are the days of hot dogs and cold snacks – I can’t believe it took me so long to discover how fabulous cooking with a tripod really is.

Do you have a favourite camp-fire recipe to share? I’d love to hear from you!

Please share your recipes and stories below.

Coming Soon:

  • An interview with Clare Fairburn from Camp in my Garden,
  • Shopping for tripods, bogrács & other cool campfire cooking equipment,
  • Home-made grammeln & schmalz (Austrian cracklings & lard).

Eisenstadt Flea Market – Burgenland, Austria

I like to take it easy on Sundays. For me that means getting outside, enjoying the sunshine and exploring. It could be a castle, a joy ride, doing photography or visiting a market.

These days, my favourite Sunday routine includes a visit to the Eisenstadt Flea Market (or flohmarkt in German). Located less than an hour away from either Vienna or Bratislava, Eisenstadt makes for a great day trip. Spend the morning at the market and then head over to Esterházy Palace or the Haydn-House for an afternoon tour, a picnic at the Palace Park, or enjoy a glass of Burgenland wine and the relaxed atmosphere of one of the many wine taverns or heurigers.

The Eisenstadt Flea Market is the largest in Burgenland and one of the best in Austria. I’m always on the look-out for antique kitchenware or rustic farmhouse decor and this market doesn’t disappoint! You can find primitive butter churns, antique pâté molds, bonze and silver wear, German cake molds, vintage Hungarian linens, wooden wagon wheels and so much more.

Unlike Vienna’s Naschmarkt, Eisenstadt’s weekly flea market caters mostly to locals. While it’s a bit smaller than the Naschmarkt, Eisenstadt offers a more authentic experience without the mass produced tourist trinkets, crowds or rushed atmosphere. Vendors are happy to answer questions, local market-goers are eager to step in and offer their help when language difficulties arise, prices are reasonable and there’s plenty of parking available.

Vendors make up a mix of dealers from neighbouring Hungary, Slovakia and some weeks you can even find a few Romanian stalls. Some of the vendors carry over from the Naschtmarkt’s Saturday market as they make their way home to their respective countries. Eager to unload their stock before the long drive home, there are some great bargains to be had and vendors are much more relaxed and approachable. There are also a number of local hobbyists who are eager to show off their collections and can give you in-depth information about each piece.

Additional Tips! 

* This is an outdoor market so it’s wise to keep an eye on the weather report. Vendors are quick to pack up early and hobbyists might be reluctant to set up shop when a storm is brewing.

* Vendors come from all over Eastern Europe. While many speak German and a few speak English, it’s best to have a pad of paper and a pen to negotiate prices.

Hours: 6 am – 12 pm every Sunday from April until September.

Location: 7000 Eisenstadt, Kika/Markur Parkplatz, Mattersburgerstraße 50-52, Burgenland, Austria

Useful Links:

Do you have a favourite flea market or tips to share?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

Top 10 Flea Market Tips

I’m a huge fan of markets and with spring finally here, flea market season has kicked into high gear.

There’s something thrilling about searching through the rubble for that perfect piece of art, rustic furnishings or a primitive farmhouse item or rare collectible. Flea market shopping is the ultimate treasure hunt, you never know when you’ll find something fabulous! Some are bargains, some aren’t, but the fun is definitely in the hunt and the back and forth banter of negotiation.

If you’re not used to market shopping, negotiating a price can seem like a daunting task. However with a little patience and practice, you’ll soon see what all the fun is about! While this post focuses on flea market shopping, suggestions can be used for almost any type of market around the world.

Here are a few tips to help you make the most out of your market visit and find the best bargains:

1. Bring Your Tool Kit

Prepare a tool kit for your flea market shopping but keep it light. Essentials include a backpack, folding cart or trolley to carry heavy purchases and bubble wrap or tissue paper for wrapping fragile items. If you’re shopping for furniture or other large items, include a floor plan, color swatches, paper and a pen for note-taking and sharing contact information just in case you need to come back at a later date. Other handy items include a small flashlight and a magnifying glass to examine stamps and maker’s marks.

2. Dress Appropriately

Skip the high heels and wear comfortable shoes. Dress in layered clothing to accommodate changes in the weather and for indoor flea markets which aren’t always temperature controlled. Don’t forget to leave your expensive jewelry at home. A hat or a scarf and sun screen is another good idea. This isn’t a board meeting or a first date, you’ll have a better chance negotiating a price if you’re dressed down.

Flea markets can get crowded. Outsmart pickpockets and thieves by keeping your cash in a front pocket, a travel pouch or in a cross-body bag positioned in front. Avoid keeping your cash in backpacks or large shoulder bags that can be easy accessed from behind.

3. Stay Hydrated

Treasure hunting takes time and when the weather warms up you’ll need something to keep you hydrated. Make sure to take a cup of coffee or tea, a bottle of water and a snack with you to keep your energy up. Even if the flea market has a concession stand, line ups take time and you can use that extra money for your flea market finds.

4. Cash is Key

Don’t miss out on that special find because you didn’t plan ahead. Take cash, including plenty of small bills and coins. While the occasional vendor may accept credit or debit cards, most only accept cash and not every flea market has easy access to an ATM machine. Even when there is an ATM machine available, the machine could be out of order or there might be a long line up.

Having cash on hand has other advantages too! Knowing how much you’re willing to spend and having exact amounts on hand helps you stay within your budget and can be a great negotiating tool.

As a general rule, use the local currency when traveling abroad however the American dollar is widely accepted in South East Asian countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

5. Timing Is Everything

Get there early – really early – for the best selection. If you wait too long, the market could get crowded and stalls might become over-picked by afternoon. Arriving early also gives you time to scope out the different stalls and make a game plan.

But if you’re looking for the biggest discounts and the best deals, wait until just before market closes. Dealers will be more ready to negotiate on smaller items and eager to sell furniture and cumbersome pieces that might be difficult to transport.

Last but not least if you see something you just can’t live without, buy it! If you love it that much chances are someone else does too and it might not be there when you come back.

6. Be Friendly

Always pack a good attitude in your flea market tool kit. Introduce yourself to vendors, be friendly and talk to them about what you’re looking for.

If you’re looking for a rare item or something unique, they might have it in stock or know someone who does. If you’ve got a favourite booth, developing relationships might also lead to bigger and better discounts down the road.

7. Buyer Beware

What you see is what you get and flea markets sales final.

Make sure to thoroughly examine an item before you buy it but keep an open mind. A bit of paint can transform a vintage piece or repurpose a vintage find to give it new life.

For big ticket items, do your research and don’t risk any post-purchase regrets. Thanks to mobile devices and the internet, anybody can research an item’s worth quickly and easily. Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Rubylane and Worthpoint are all great resources for finding price estimates. However, do your research in private. It’s bad form to pull out your smart phone or iPad mid-negotiation and won’t win you any points with the vendors.

Don’t forget that even professional appraisers can get it wrong sometimes. Buy only what you love and pay only what you’re comfortable spending.

8. Don’t be Afraid to Haggle 

At flea markets, negotiating is part of the game and the vendors expect it. That said, there are a few do’s and don’ts in the fine art of haggling!

While we’ve mentioned the importance of timing and being friendly, it’s really important mind your manners when bargaining. Ask permission before picking up items or taking photographs and be polite when inspecting an item for flaws or damage. Be patient, take your time and enjoy the back and forth banter of negotiating a price.

As a rule of thumb, don’t haggle for an item if you’re not serious about buying it. Do, however, ask for a lower price or make an offer you feel comfortable spending if you feel the original price is too high. If the price is still too high, work the price down by asking, “Is that your best offer?” If that doesn’t work, politely back down by saying something like, “Thank you but unfortunately that’s beyond my budget”. Then turn around and move on to the next stall. Chances are, this is the point when the vendor will try to stop you and offer a better price but be prepared to give up on the sale. If you’re offered a better price, you can make one last ditch effort by saying, “Is that the best you can do?” This opens the door to further negotiation but if you’ve got a firm offer you’re willing to pay, say it now and be prepared to close the sale or walk away.

Buying multiple items or asking a vendor to throw in an extra item on your purchase is also a good bargaining strategy. Vendors are there to sell. The more you’re willing to buy from them, the more flexible they’ll be on the final price.

9. Culture Matters

If you’re shopping in a foreign country, watch and listen to the people around you. Try to get a feel for how the locals interact and what they are paying for an item. If possible, try to have a local friend or trusted guide to explain the customs and help translate.

Not knowing the culture or the language can put you at a disadvantage. While some vendors may offer a fair price, others might see you as an easy target. While it’s important to be polite, stay firm in your offer and don’t be offended by aggressive vendors.

While the general tips and advice provided here apply almost everywhere in the world, learning a little about the local culture and language can go a long way. For example, markets in Austria tend to be fairly laid back while bartering in Bali might feel more intimidating to a North American tourist. In Korea and China, it’s important to ‘save face’ for both you and the vendor and keep emotions in tact while in Afghanistan you might be offered green tea as part of the formalities of negotiation.

One of my most exciting – albeit frustrating – bargaining experiences was with an old woman in China who was trying to charge me several hundred times the going price of a trinket my mother had her heart set on. By the end of the exchange – and getting set to walk away – I thought the old woman was going to rip my head off before she finally caved with a fair price. Once the deal was done a broad smile crossed her face, she patted me on the back and said, “Well done!” Of course, by this time I’d been living in Asia several years and had my ups and downs but that transaction was a highlight that I’ll never forget.

10. Exit Strategy

Don’t forget logistics! If you’re planning on buying furniture or other large items, you’ll need someone to help with the heavy-lifting, proper transportation and storage space.

Visiting from overseas? Don’t forget to check your luggage restrictions and official custom regulations. If you plan on sending items home, make sure you calculate the cost of shipping, customs duty and handling costs. While something might seem like a great deal at first glance, costs add up and you might be better off sourcing heavy or bulky items in your home country.

Have you got a flea market story to share or tips to add to our list?

Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Spring in Burgenland!

Spring harkened back of all kinds of weather in Burgenland. There was rain, hail, snow, sunshine and winds that could give Mary Poppins a run for her money at up 100 kilometers per hour. Temperatures ranged from -2° to +22° C and the landscape transformed from dreary and dull to vibrant and lively as fruit trees and shrubs exploded with colour.

In the villages, shutters were pulled up and windows opened, people stepped out from their winter hibernation, vintners tended their vines, castles and heurigers re-opened, maypoles were risen, the vineyards were tended and markets sprung up across the lands.

Personally, it’s been a very busy time preparing preparing the gardens, online classes, obtaining Austrian residency and starting my new writing and communications consulting business. There was also the much anticipated Weinfrühling Gols and the chance to hop a ride to Innsbruck and Salzburg for some sightseeing last week. But more to come on that later!

With cloudy skies, cool temperatures and calls for stormy weather with wind warnings in effect I’ve decided to take the day to catch up on The Village Plate, continue working on my new website and do some spring cleaning (how fun is that?!?). I hope you enjoy the photos posted on Flickr and Facebook along with the blog posts and recipes that I’m working on.

Have a great day!

Easter in Austria

It was a busy month here in Gols and my blog had to take a back seat for awhile.

As many of you know, I’ve been taking classes towards my certification in Social Media through Algonquin college’s online education programme. With the winter term coming to an end, I’ve been catching up with college assignments. The classes are interesting and it’s great to have something to occupy my mind occupied while I wait for my writing and photography licenses to process.

The past month also saw the arrival of spring weather and Easter festivities. This year, I joined my boyfriend’s family for lunch at the local resto-pub where we hung out,  drank wine and socialized until late in the night. Chocolates were passed out, coloured boiled eggs were knocked together while the kids drew pictures and worked on their puzzles.

We also found time to explore a few of the Easter Markets in Vienna. I love the Easter Markets with their piles of intricately decorated eggs, pussy willows and tulips, wicker baskets and pottery displayed in charming wooden huts. During the day, children ran around laughing,  the grown ups drank spritzers and tourists snapped pictures while the smell of candied nuts filled the air. Although the weather was a bit schizophrenic, we did have a few days of fine weather which was perfect for exploring and soaking up some sunshine after a long and dreary winter.

Here are some photos from Vienna’s Easter Markets. I hope you enjoy them!

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