On the Gourmet Trail. Greece: Moussaka

Want a taste of Greece without leaving the country? Try our easy to follow Moussaka recipe.

Ingredients

750g/1lb 10½oz lamb mince

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp dried oregano

1½ tsp dried mint

1 bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick

1 tbsp plain flour

200ml/7fl oz red wine

400g tin chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato purée

2 aubergines, cut into 0.5cm slices

1 tbsp fine sea salt, plus extra for seasoning

100ml/3½fl oz olive oil

500g/1lb 2oz Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

Freshly ground black pepper

For the white sauce

50g/2oz butter

50g/2oz plain flour

400ml/14fl oz milk

25g/1oz Parmesan, finely grated

1 tsp finely grated nutmeg

1 free-range egg, beaten

Method

1. Put the lamb, onion, garlic, oregano, mint, bay and cinnamon in a large heavy-based frying pan and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up the meat.

2. Stir in the flour and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Add the wine, tomatoes and tomato purée and bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lamb is tender and the sauce has thickened. Season again if needed and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, place the aubergine slices in a colander and sprinkle with the tablespoon of salt. Set aside for 10 minutes.

4. Rinse the aubergine slices under cold running water and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy-based frying pan and fry the aubergines for 2–3 minutes on each side, adding more oil when necessary. Remove from the pan and set aside to drain on kitchen paper.

5. Cook the potatoes in boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain in a colander under running water until cold.

6. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6.

7. To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook for a few seconds, then gradually stir in the milk. Add half the Parmesan and the grated nutmeg. Simmer the sauce gently for 4–5 minutes, stirring regularly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

8. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool. When cooled, stir in the egg.

9. Spoon one-third of the meat sauce into a shallow ovenproof dish large enough to hold 2.5 litres. Cover loosely with a third of the potatoes and then a third of the aubergines – you don’t need complete layers, just to arrange them roughly on top. Repeat the layers twice more, finishing with the aubergines. Pour over the white sauce, making sure it covers everything in a thick, even layer. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Bake for 35–45 minutes, or until deep golden-brown and bubbling.

We LOVE ISLAND Life in Majorca

Are you glued to your TV watching the Love Island celebs get up to their cheeky antics in the Majorcan sun? If the show’s got you dreaming of a villa holiday to this amazing Balearic island, here are four ways to enjoy life out there.

 

  1. Stay in the charming yet stylish resort of Cala d’Or

Once a traditional Spanish fishing village, this family-friendly resort on the island’s south east coast fuses relaxed charm with upmarket style. As well as picturesque cobbled streets, golden sandy beaches and fun activities for the kids, you’ll find endless chic bars, eateries and shops in the stunning yacht-filled marina.

Cala Varques beach

If you’re looking for the perfect villa holiday in Cala d’Or, check out Villa Marino with its private pool, serene gardens and beautiful countryside views. Or take a look at the spacious Villa Ses Arcades which boasts a great central location and wonderful sun terrace for dining al fresco.

 

  1. Discover a slice of Caribbean paradise at Es Trenc

A short drive away from Cala d’Or is Es Trenc, the most famous beach in Majorca. This trendy part of the south east coastline is often likened to the Caribbean thanks to its two kilometres of powdery white sand and bright turquoise water.

Es Trenc is quite remote and not part of a resort, which gives it an unspoilt and natural ambience. It’s a little more peaceful than the more commercial beaches thanks to fewer noisy watersports and restaurants. And it’s popular with nudists, so head to the marked sections if you fancy shedding your swimwear!

 

  1. Visit the laidback ancient town of Pollensa

For relaxing holiday in northern Majorca, Pollensa is a great choice. This historical rural town is full of narrow streets, old buildings, interesting museums and quaint shops. It’s also home to one of Majorca’s best markets, where you can buy everything from beautiful local crafts to delicious fresh produce every Sunday.

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If you want to stay near Pollensa, Villa Bennassar is a top pick with its spectacular mountain backdrop, private pool and traditional style. Or Villa Bon Reco is well worth a look if you’re after lovely hilly views and a secluded lawn for a spot of sunbathing.

 

  1. Tickle your taste buds at Ponderosa Beach

The popular Ponderosa Beach is considered one of the top chiringuitos (beach clubs) in Spain. Situated on Playa de Muro on the north coast, this fashionable restaurant has a cool vibe with colourful shutters and white furniture.

Sink your feet into the sand as you savour mouth-watering Mediterranean dishes like seafood paella or linguine pasta. And then wash it all down with a tasty cocktail while admiring the ocean vista.

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Want to follow in the footsteps of the Love Islanders for your next villa holiday? Check out our fantastic range of villas to rent in Majorca.

On the Gourmet Trail. Spain: Paella

This delicious dish is from Spain and is the ideal meal for a night in with your friends and family.

 

Ingredients 

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 red pepper, chopped

125g (4¼ oz) fresh chorizo sausage, casing removed and diced

2 skinless, boneless chicken breast fillets, diced

350g (12 oz) uncooked Arborio rice

1.25 litres (2 pints) chicken stock

100ml (4 fl oz) white wine

1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves only

1 pinch saffron

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 squid, cleaned and diced

2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

75g (3 oz) frozen garden peas

12 large prawns, peeled and deveined

500g (1 1/4 lb) mussels, cleaned and debearded

Generous handful chopped parsley

8 wedges lemon to garnish

 

Method

1. Heat olive oil in paella pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and pepper; cook and stir for a few minutes. Add chorizo, chicken and rice; cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 of the stock, wine, thyme leaves and saffron. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes; stir occasionally.

2. Taste the rice and check to see if it is cooked. If the rice is uncooked, stir in 1/3 of the remaining stock. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally. Stir in additional stock as necessary. Cook until rice is done.

3. Stir in squid, tomatoes and peas. Cook for 2 minutes. Arrange prawns and mussels on top. Cover with aluminium foil and leave for 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Remove the foil and sprinkle parsley over the top. Serve in paella pan garnished with lemon wedges.

We’ve Got Wimbledon Fever

It’s time to pour the Pimms and bring out the strawberries – the nation’s favourite tennis tournament is here once more! If you’re feeling inspired to dust off your racket and perfect your backhand, here are some of our holiday villas with tennis courts available to book this and next summer.

 

Villas with tennis courts available for summer 2019

Villa Horizon, Chania, Crete

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This amazing 7-bedroomed property can be found to the northwest of Crete. With two self-contained living areas and spacious grounds, it’s the ideal choice for large groups. You’ll find sleek contemporary furnishings, a pergola for alfresco dining and a floodlit grass tennis court where you can challenge your friends and family to a match. Not to mention the heated pool and truly special setting with fabulous sea views.

Many beaches are within easy reach, including the sandy Kalathas Beach a short 5-minute car ride away. Or venture a just little further afield to the romantic historical town of Chania and wander around its pretty Venetian harbour, bustling indoor market and narrow alleyways.

Villa L’Aresta, Puerto Pollensa, Majorca

If you’re looking for secluded countryside charm, you can’t go wrong with Villa L’Aresta in northwest Majorca. This fantastic 5-bedroomed property combines traditional décor with spectacular views of the Tramuntana Mountains. And when you’ve finished relaxing in the lawned garden, you can work off all that excess energy with a dip in the swimming pool or a rally on the private tennis court.

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Just a 5-minute drive away is the picturesque resort of Puerto Pollensa, with its lovely marina, sandy beach and scenic Pine Walk along the waterfront. Or you can make a trip to neighbouring historical Alcúdia where you’ll discover cobbled streets and fun-filled water park!

 

Villas with tennis courts available for summer 2020

 Villa Apanemia Mare, Boukari, Corfu

This modern 3-bedroom property lies in the peaceful village of Boukari in southeast Corfu. Just a few steps away from a shingle beach, it boasts contemporary furnishings, a spacious mature garden and wonderful views over the glittering Ionian Sea. Not only that, but there’s a stunning infinity pool – perfect for cooling off after working up a sweat on the private tennis court.

You’ll find shops, bars and tavernas aplenty at Boukari’s harbour, which is only a short walk away. Or hop in the car for a 10-minute drive to the pretty traditional village of Chlomos.

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Villa Caminho, Almancil, Algarve

Located in the Algarve’s affluent Golden Triangle, this impressive 7-bedroomed villa in Portgual’s southernmost region has it all. You can sunbathe in the extensive gardens, make a splash in the swimming pool or cook up a sizzling storm with the brick BBQ. And if you feel like unleashing your inner Federer or Nadal, you can do so on your very own private tennis court.

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There’s plenty to do nearby, too. Vale do Lobo, one of the Algarve’s most luxurious and chic resorts, is the perfect place for a spot of shopping, an indulgent meal or a round of golf. Or take a daytrip to the traditional town of Loulé and soak up the authentic Portuguese atmosphere.

 

Not quite what you’re looking for? Browse our whole range of holiday villas with tennis courts.

On the Gourmet Trail. Croatia: Truffle Pasta

This tasty and simple dish is from Croatia and is the ideal dinner for a night in at your villa.

Ingredients

150g Fuži

30g butter

100g cream

40g Truffle sauce

Pinch of salt & Pepper

Garnish

Drizzle of Truffle Olive Oil

Grated Parmesan Cheese

 

Method

1. Put fuži into a pot of boiling salt water and cook until al dente

2. On another stove, at the same time, heat butter into a pan on a low heat. Once melted down, add cream, truffle sauce and season with salt & pepper. Stir well.

3. Once the pasta has cooked, drain it and pour into the pan with the sauce. Mix well.

4. Serve with grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of Truffle Olive Oil

 

Dobar Tek! (Enjoy your meal!)

The 3 most Instagrammable destinations in Europe

Are you an Instagram lover deciding where to book your next villa holiday? Look no further than our top three most photogenic destinations in Europe. Rent a holiday villa at one of these Insta-worthy locations and you’ll get incredible #nofilter shots that’ll make your followers wish they were there.

 1. Cala St Vicente, Majorca

 

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Want to fill your feed with picturesque charm? You can’t go wrong with a villa holiday in Cala St Vicente. Nestled in a hillside on Majorca’s northwestern coast, this quiet traditional fishing village is the perfect choice for a peaceful and scenic getaway.

Head to Cala Barques, the largest of the four unspoilt cove beaches, for photographic paradise. With golden sand contrasting against the azure Mediterranean water, you’re guaranteed to get some dazzling shots. There are fascinating rock pools to discover too.

After you’ve uploaded your last snap, why not continue soaking up the view from one of the local seafood restaurants? Or if you’re feeling more energetic, explore the surrounding area by taking a walking or cycling trail through the spectacular Tramuntana Mountains.

 

 2. Carvoeiro, Algarve

 

Carvoeiro Beach

For picture-perfect coastal character in the Algarve, a relaxing villa holiday in Carvoeiro is just the ticket. An ideal family destination, this traditional Portuguese resort town is bursting with cobbled streets, whitewashed houses, great shops and fantastic eateries.

But the jewel in Carvoeiro’s crown is Praia do Carvoeiro, one of the most stunning beaches in the region. This gorgeous sandy bay is flanked by imposing sandstone cliffs and dotted with fishing paraphernalia. It’s sure to have you instantly reaching for your camera.

To enjoy breathtaking panoramic views over the dramatic coastline, take a clifftop stroll along the wooden walkway from the beach’s eastern end. You’ll end up in Algar Seco, a series of impressive limestone rock formations where you can get even more snap happy.

 

3. French Riviera, France

 

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It’s easy to see why we’ve added the French Riviera to our range of destinations this year. This enchanting part of southeastern France boasts quaint villages, sun-kissed beaches, glamorous cities, delectable cuisine and much more.

But if you’re looking to capture photos that’ll totally wow your Instagram followers, set off for the Valensole Plateau. Famous for its 800km² of lavender fields, you can point your lens at endless violet carpets while delighting in the intoxicating scent that fills the air.

To marvel at the best blooms, you’ll need to make sure your French Riviera villa holiday falls between mid-June and mid-July. Visit Valensole during daylight to get a magical snap of the vibrant purple flowers against the blue sky. Or arrive in the evening to capture a glorious sunset shot that’ll send your likes soaring.

 

Want extra inspiration for your next villa holiday? Check out our Instagram for even more European destinations that you and your camera will love.

Meet the team: Angela

Hi Angela, tell us a little about your role at Villa Plus…

I look after all of those out of hours queries, from email to live chat & social media. So, when it’s late at night and you’re popping your lovely holiday pics on our Facebook site, it’s likely to be me that gets the pleasure of seeing and responding to them.

 

How long have you worked here for?

I’ve been with Villa Plus now for just short of two years although I’ve worked in travel & tourism for 23 years.

 

What’s the best part about your job?

The best part of the job is definitely the opportunity of being able to interact, first-hand, with our customers through our social media platforms. Sharing their holiday stories and getting honest feedback. It’s a pleasure to be able to react and respond in such a direct way.

Holidays are such a great thing to talk about and it always puts a smile on my face when our customers take the time to let us know about a villa they’ve loved, a beach they’ve found or a special holiday memory they want to share.

 

Do you have a favourite villa?

I have my eye on the beautiful little one-bedroom Villa Trullo Grazia in Puglia, it looks stunning and I’m always very jealous as I see it getting booked up. I adore Italy and I would love to explore more of Puglia. It’s definitely on the favourites list.

I also have a soft spot for Corfu, stunning scenery and those coastal views –  the Villa Folitsa in Agios Stefanos looks absolutely gorgeous.

 

Which of our destinations would you love to visit?

I’ve been so lucky to have lived and worked in a number of our destinations from the Balearics and the Canaries to Mainland Spain, Cyprus and Italy but I would love to take a holiday in Croatia.

Some of my favourite things to do on holiday are wild swimming, hiking and exploring, so Croatia is the perfect location with it’s national parks, lakes, waterfalls, forests and stunning untouched scenery. Not forgetting those beautiful old towns and villages; full of culture and history.

 

In your spare time, what do you get up to?

I’ve mentioned the hiking and swimming; basically anything that gets me out of doors. I’m passionate about nature and the environment and I volunteer with the Waterways Recovery Group. We get around the country restoring old derelict canals and waterways, to encourage urban regeneration, as a haven for wildlife and restoring ecosystems, and providing areas for recreation. It can involve anything from bricklaying and stone work to planting trees and picking litter. It’s great to learn new skills and an opportunity to give back.

Angela 1

Where’s next on your travel bucket list?

Apart from Croatia, further afield I would say Alaska is definitely at the top of the list right now!

On the Gourmet Trail. Cyprus: Souvlaki

Our recipe for delicious Souvlaki, from Cyprus, is delightfully simple yet wonderfully tasty! Easy to make at home or in the comfort of your villa, this dish will please everyone.

Ingredients

3 sweet pointed peppers

4 sprigs fresh mint, leaves picked

1 small bunch fresh dill, chopped (stalks and all)

red wine vinegar

Greek extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon, to serve

For the kebabs

800 g higher-welfare leg of pork, shin if you can get it, cut into 2cm chunks

1 tablespoon dried mint

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 lemon, juice of

100 ml good-quality olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

For the Tzatziki

½ large cucumber

200 ml fat-free natural yoghurt

1 small clove garlic, peeled

1 heaped teaspoon dried mint

1½ teaspoons red wine vinegar

 

Method

1. You can use wooden or metal skewers, but if you choose wooden, soak them in a tray of water to stop them burning. Put all the kebab ingredients into a bowl and mix it all together.  Cover with clingfilm and put the bowl in to the fridge, allowing the meat to marinade, anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours. The longer you leave it, the better it will taste!

2. Take the peppers and blacken them, either by putting them straight on to a barbecue or in a hot, dry griddle pan.. Keep turning them until the go black, then let them cool before removing the skin.

3. To make the tzatziki start by grating the cucumber into a sieve, which should be over a bowl. Add a pinch of sea salt and then strain out as much water as much. In a clean bowl add yoghurt to the cucumber, then using a pestle and mortar mash the garlic with a good pinch of salt until you have a paste, and spoon that into the bowl with the cucumber. Add the dried mint and red wine vinegar and mix really well.

4. Put the meat on to the skewers and add them to the hot griddle pan or barbecue for about 10 minutes. Turn the skewers every couple of minutes to ensure the meat is cook properly.

5. Add the peeled peppers to the mint leaves, which should be finely sliced, put them in a bowl along with the dill. Add 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar, a pinch or two of salt and black pepper and a splash of extra virgin olive oil. Mix all of the ingredients together. Toss and mix together, then have a taste to check the balance of flavours. Cut your lemon into wedges.

6. Your Souvlaki is now ready to enjoy! Take the meat off the skewers, mix in with the pepper mixture and a squeeze of lemon juice.

On the Gourmet Trail. Algarve: Piri Piri Chicken

As part of our On The Gourmet Trail campaign, we are taking the most popular and traditional dishes from our fantastic holiday destinations and showing you how to create them on the BBQ at your villa or in your kitchen back home. Here is a recipe from the Algarve, where Piri-Piri was invented in Guia.

Ingredients

1 whole chicken (about 1kg/2lb 3oz), spatchcocked, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

For the piri-piri sauce

6-12 fresh red chillies, depending on how hot you want it

1 tbsp garlic, blanched and chopped

1 tsp salt flakes

½ tsp oregano

½ tbsp paprika

100ml/3½fl oz olive oil

50ml/1¾fl oz red wine vinegar

To serve

chips

salad

 

Method

1. To make the piri-piri sauce, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Place the chillies in a roasting tray and roast them for 10 minutes.

2. Allow the chillies to cool and then roughly chop. Add garlic, salt, oregano, paprika, olive oil and vinegar to the chillies and place in a saucepan, and simmer on a low heat for a couple of minutes.

3. Allow the mixture to cool, then blend it to a purée in a food processor or blender.*

4. Place the spatchcocked chicken in a sealable plastic bag. Add half the piri-piri sauce, spreading it evenly over the chicken. Seal and marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

5. Preheat the oven to 200C/390F/Gas 6, and preheat a large griddle pan on the hob. Alternatively, if cooking at your villa, light your barbecue.

6.  Cook the chicken on the griddle pan for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

7. Transfer the griddled chicken to a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, until cooked through. Alternatively, place the chicken on a medium heat barbecue, covered, for 10-15 minutes on both sides or until cooked through basting regularly with the remaining piri-piri sauce.

8.  Serve with chips and salad.

 

*If stored in a container, the sauce will last for a month.

Floral Themed Villas

To celebrate the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 we decided to dig out some of our floral inspired villas and share a bunch of our favourites with you.

 

Villa Poppy, Polis, Cyprus

Situated in a fantastic central location, just 900 yds from the beach, is Villa Poppy. Ideal for couples and small groups, this 2 bedroom villa is spacious inside and out and is the ideal place for a relaxing week or two in the sun.

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Villa Daisy, Lagos, Algarve

Part of our Very Villa Plus programme is the daintily named Villa Daisy. With 4 bedrooms, sleeping up to 9 people, you’ll have plenty of room for all the family. Enjoy your private, heated swimming pool and impressive garden space during your Villa Plus holiday in Portugal.

Daisy

Villa Lavanda, Playa Blanca, Lanzarote

Just a 20-minute walk from the centre of Playa Blanca is Villa Lavanda. With 3 bedrooms, bright and airy rooms and a private, heated pool you have everything you need for your dream holiday this summer.

Lavanda

Villa Rosemary Sostis, Agios Sostis, Zante

This centrally located, 2-bedroom property is Villa Rosemary Sostis. Situated just 500 yds from the beach, the villa is also close to the waterside restaurants and mini markets. Enjoy the privacy of your villa, with heated pool, or use it as a base to explore the island. The choice is yours!

Rosemary Sostis

Villa Lotus, Porec, Croatia

Nestled in the countryside is Villa Lotus, an ideal choice for those looking for a relaxing holiday away from the hustle and bustle of a busy resort. The property had a landscaped garden, perfect for sunbathing in after a refreshing dip in the pool.

Lotus

Villa Jazminez, Marbella, Costa del Sol

This delightful 3-bedroom property is Villa Jazminez. Set amongst a mature, private garden, you’ll have a private pool, al fresco dining area and plenty of privacy.

Jazminez

Which of these villas would you pick? Let us know in the comments below

 

By Maddy Morgan