Saturday, 31 October 2015
Thursday, 29 October 2015
I love to visit the capital city London, but I could not imagine living there as it is so expensive, one of the most expensive cities to live in the world. But the lure, excitement, restaurants and things to do means that I adore visiting London. When I do visit London, I am mindful of the cost, I have my West Midlands prices in my head and after catching a train to London (plus purchasing coffee & nibbles) and purchasing a tube ticket the costs can quickly begin to mount up. Let's face it, you can't visit London on a minuscule budget, that would be virtually impossible, but what you can do is spend time visiting places which are free, then you can spend your money on one of the many popular and fabulous restaurants as a treat for how resourceful you have been. Although I adore food, and am food obsessed, I also enjoy culture and the outdoors too.
Here are my top 5 things to do, something for art lovers, food lovers and those that like the outdoors.
Victoria and Albert museum.
I am fascinated by history, so much I completed an ALevel in the subject. Queen Victoria and Albert were not featured on my syllabus, but in honour of their legacy, the Victoria and Albert museum (shortened V&A) was founded in 1852. If you love art, this is the museum for you, after all, it's the worlds largest museum of decorative arts, housing over 4.5 million objects and entry is FREE (although donations of £4 are welcome). There are several exhibitions over several floors and in all honestly you won't be able to do to visit the whole museum in one day, but it's worth seeing a couple of the collections. The Asia collection (including items from the Middle East, East Asia and South-East Asia, some beautiful carpets, pans and Arabic mosaics. I also loved the fashion collection, there are some wonderful pieces from the late 1880's to the present day. I loved the evolution of clothing in the UK, the fashionable trends, the changes to the silhouette on a women's body. I enjoyed the artwork, although this took some time to have a look and I did not have a good view. Other collections which look of an interest include the textiles exhibition. I recall watching a video about Victorian life which was incredibly informative.
Opening times are 10:00 - 17:45 daily and 10:00 - 22:00 on a Friday.
Camden (Lock) Market
The area of Camden is and has been for years, a hip, fashionable and cosmopolitan place to visit. Verging out of zone 1, if you want to see where Londoners actually hang out this is the place for you. Camden market primarily sells clothes which were reasonable. There was certainly a bohemian feel to the clothes that were on offer and even if you do not buy anything, there are plenty of unique clothing items to have a look. A little further up from the clothes market there is a an absolute amazing food street food quarter, Camden Lock food market where you can buy a delicious meal from every cuisine in the world. I was spoilt for choice of a range of cuisines which are more harder to come by in the West Midlands such as dishes from Peru, Vietnam, Colombia, Ethiopia and Jamaica (ok, perhaps not the latter). On a Saturday when I visited, it does get incredibly busy and you will be very lucky to find seats, although there is seating. However, it is a bright and crispy day, why not have your delicious delights overlooking the canal.
If you fancy picking up some souvenirs, the prices are much cheaper than central London, I always stock up on fridge magenta, key rings etc.
Camden market is open 7 days a week from 10:00- 6pm
In the heart of Central London, Covent Garden is ideal place for those that love the arts, music, statues (reword) If you like high-end fashion, this is a chic area to splash the cash and if you like good food (like myself) then there are trendy restaurants there such as l'Atellier De Joel Robuchon and Dishoom. There are (as with many parts of London) large crowds in London and I was fascinated with the human statues doing a variety of poses. It lured to the child in me, I loves pulling faces to see their reactions. Ok, don't do that, but take a look at some of the live music and artists that are there. And if you grow tire of Covent garden, venture into nearby Soho, Chinatown.
I stumbled at Spitalfields market by chance, after visiting The Breakfast Club. There I found a beautiful array of unique clothes designers offering contemporary and vintage designs. There are many stalls to visit here, I particularly enjoyed the several stores selling African printed clothing. There are also some more shops nearby.
Be prepared for lots of tourists here, Buckingham palace is one of the top places to visit in England. I'm sure you all know of Buckingham palace and it is beautiful just to walk and take the breathtaking stunning and magnificent palace. If you want to take a tour, of course that will set you back, but luckily when I visited The Changing of The Guard. The Changing of The Guard is full of pomp and precision. it is a ceremony where the old guard hands over responsibility of protecting the palace to the new guard. My top tip - get there early.
Saturday, 24 October 2015
The title struck me as I adore home cooking, recipes that are enjoyed by families and Lebanese cuisine is one that I am not familiar with, so I was, understandably excited to receive my glossy copy of Lebanese Home Cooking by Kamal Mouzawak and published by Quarry books. It was only when I read the sub title: "Simple, Delicious, Mostly Vegetarian, Recipes from the Founder of Beirut's Souk el Tayeb Market I began to think could I cook anything from this book.
Vegetarian food is not really my number choice in cuisine and I rarely cook a meal without meat, I took a breath and opened the cookbook. The contents page included photographs and all the recipes are in English alongside spelling in (what I believe to be) Arabic which I found charming. My thoughts changed when I saw the Mujadara and Stews recipes. I also gained insight to a cuisine that do not feature heavily in the high street of restaurants in the UK. Mujardara, for example are cooked lentils cooked with rice, a grain and topped with onions. There is also a fascinating insight into the cuisine of Lebanese cooking and also the regional difference in North and South of the country.
The chapters in Lebanese Home Cooking is split into:
Kibbeh - recipes include Armenian Lentil Kibbeh and Fish Kibbeh.
Grains - dishes to try include Bulgur with Tomatoes and Peppers and Smoked Green Wheat with vegetables.
Mujadara - recipes to try include Southern-Style Split Lentils with Rice and Red Beans and Bulgur.
Stews - dishes to try include Okra Stew, White Butter Bean Stew, Stewed Green Beans and Spinach Stew with Pine Nuts.
Vegetables - dishes to try include: Eggplant Fatteh, Fried Taro with Chickpeas and Onions and Eggplant in Spicy Tomato Sauce.
Salads and Breads - recipes to try include: Bread Salad, Thyme Bread and Cheese Pies.
Good Friday Food - dishes that caught my eye Homemade noodles with Lentils and Kibbeh with Chickpeas
Souk and Street Food - recipes to try include: Eggplant dip, Hummus and Falafel.
Sweets - dishes to try include: Turmeric cake, Fried Biscuits in Scented Syrup and Sesame Bars.
I've tried a couple of dishes from this book including the spinach stew with Pine Nuts (I used flaked almond) and the BEST hummus ever. I wanted to try the Okra stew but my local market sold out of okra by the time I got there (I never knew there was okra in Lebanese cuisine!) so that's the next on my list. I must share the recipe for hummus, you will never buy shop brought ever again, I have eaten it most days this week. Rich, creamy and thick, simply gorgeous.
Hummus - Serves 4
18 ounces (510g) dried chickpeas
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons (150g) tahini
3/4 cup (175ml) lemon juice (around 6 lemons)
Soak the chickpeas in water to cover for 10 hours. Drain, put in a pot, add fresh water to cover and then set to cook over low heat till very tender.
Some purists would take off the chickpeas outer layer or peel after soaking (by crushing the grains in a kitchen towel) and then boil the peeled chickpeas - it makes the end result "finer". To cook the chickpeas well the easy way is to add baking soda 1tsp per 1 cup/200g chickpeas to the cooking water.
In a food processor, place the chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and salt to taste and mix long enough to obtain a smooth, silky paste. A hummus should have the constancy of a dip and not be too thick nor too runny.
Transfer to a bowl, let cool and firm up, and serve with a generous drizzle of olive oil and the accompaniments of your choice.
The lovely people at Quarry Books are offering one lucky reader of my a blog a copy of Lebanese Home Cooking.
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Wednesday, 21 October 2015
As a foodie, you can never have enough kitchen cutlery/utensils. I mean never enough, even if you have a small kitchen, there is always new kitchen products that will be happily welcomed in the kitchen. But the essentials, are always particularly welcomed in my kitchen, no more so than knives. You know, the essential kitchen utensil needed to slice meat, chop vegetables and slice bread.
I actually have a large collection of knives, in part as when I have uprooted and moved to Leicester, then to Wales I brought a new set of knives (as it was a new kitchen and I do like new things) but all my knives are pretty dull in colour, they are all black and it was time for some bright colours. I also had a number of bread knives and meat knives, but I don't have a lot of paring/ trimming knives. Wusthof have a new range of brightly hued knives which would be a welcoming addition to your kitchen. For those that don't know what a pairing knife is, it is a small knife which is ideally used for peeling fruits and vegetables. As someone who loves a hearty, vibrant and fresh fruit salad for mid-week breakfast, I decided on setting out on using my pairing knives to slice a variety of fruits.
I loved the bright colour of the knifes and although they are smaller in size, this does not mean they are small in quality. I loved the sturdiness of the handles and the sharp stainless steel of the blade. Wusthof have been producing quality knifes from Solingen, Germany for over 200 years, so you know that they are a reputable brand. The Wusthof 2 piece pairing knife that I received retails at £9.95 and are a reasonable and wise and inexpensive investment for your kitchen.
A quick and easy fruit salad (apologies for the not precise measurements)
1 orange, sliced in segments
1 slice of watermelon, diced
1 fig, sliced
1 pomegranate seeds
drizzle of honey
Slice the fruits and arrange in a breakfast bowl with the fresh mint, and drizzle of honey.
Sunday, 18 October 2015
The beautiful, picture perfect and naturally breathtaking Blue Mountain which borders Portland St Thomas, St Mary and St Andrew parishes in Jamaica is something that I have heard about, on numerous occasions as a child. The Blue Mountains and the natural stunning beauty which attracts visitors every year, was not discussed in depth, i.e the mountain range, activities that can be done there etc, my nan spoke of the coffee. As I became older and enjoyed and then became addicted to coffee (Carte Noire is my favourite), my nan reminisced how her grandfather (my maternal great grandfather) would spend his mornings sitting on the veranda drinking a hot steaming mug of Blue Mountain Coffee and alternating sips with eating juicy plump mangoes. I was fascinated.
I have been meaning to try one of the most famous exports which hails from Jamaica, but having trailed through some well-known online stores and the cheapest jar being £25, it would be a very expensive cup of coffee. As much as I love indulging in nice food items, I preferred to wait until my next trip to Jamaica and stock up the famous coffee, to be enjoyed at my home in the West Midlands. Before I purchased the beans and instant Blue Mountain Coffee, I was excited to see the Blue Mountains, on not one but two occasions. The view when I saw this first, from Beverley Hills Kingston was simply breathtaking. The mountains took over the landscape and it was a beauty to withhold. The second time I saw the Blue Mountains is when I went to Portland, the tops of the mountains had a hazy slightly grey cloud above it. I really wish I was able to see the Blue Mountains on a clear day so that I could see the tops of the mountain "blue" hence the name. I was more eager than ever to purchase the famous coffee. I purchased some coffee beans and instant coffee, for a barginous £15. Having drank a couple of hot mugs, the taste is intense and yet delicate, the flavour is not overbearing and there is a warmthness to every sip. I fancied making something different using this coffee and an inventive idea that I came up with (first thing in the morning, when hungry and craving coffee) was a Blue Mountain Coffee Tart. I love a tart, that's no secret, but as the dark nights are drawing in, I wanted to make something homely and this was the perfect hit. A light and decadent dessert.
|Blue Mountain Coffee Tart|
|Blue Mountain Coffee Tart|
|Creme Fraice and Sugar|
Recipe for Blue Mountain Coffee Tart
You will need a flan/tart tin and a saucepan.
1 packet Jus Rol shortcrust pastry
300ml creme fraiche
80g caster sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 instant Blue Mountain coffee dissolved in 4 tbsp hot water
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6. Lay the pastry in the tart tin, cover with baking parchment paper and blind bake on the top shelf of the oven for 15 minutes. Whilst the pastry is blind baking, heat the saucepan on a low heat, pour the creme fraiche, caster sugar and nutmeg until the sugar is dissolved - this should take around 5 minutes. Crack the eggs in the saucepan and heat gently.
In a mug dissolve 1 1/2 tbsp Blue Mountain Coffee in 4 tbsp hot water, pour this to the sauce pan. The pastry should be ready, remove from the oven and pour the coffee mixture in the tin. Bake for around 35 minutes, or until there is a slight wobble in the centre.
Serve with ice-cream or custard.
I am sharing this to a couple of blog challenges. First up is Inheritance recipes, hosted by Pebble Soup. and Coffee and Vanilla. This month's theme is Comfort Food. My coffee tart is comfort food and something that I would love to share with my future children.
Wednesday, 14 October 2015
London is the mecca for all foodies and is one of the most cosmopolitan food destinations in the world. A recent trip to the big city, I meticulously planned all the food places I wanted to visit, although in hindsight I was not very realistic I could actually do in one day. I've always wanted to visit The Modern Pantry - just the name sounds so beautiful and having seen the owner Anna Hansen on Masterchef I was eagerly excited to visit. So one one warm Saturday my friend and I arrived after taking one 2 hour train journey, one tube and getting lost. When we finally arrived, The Modern Pantry wasn't exactly hard to miss, the building is beautiful, but the queue was noticeably visible and stretched outside. After a 30 minute wait ( the staff gave us some lovely coffee whilst in the queue) and with me almost about to give up on waiting, we were seated. The staff were incredibly helpful, they took our mini suitcases and kept them in the shop downstairs whilst we were seated upstairs.
The breakfast/brunch menu had so many wonderful choices - who says breakfast has to be boring? I loved all the world foods, alongside fresh and inventive recipes. I reviewed the menu several times before hand but when I sat down I was almost seduced into all the other dishes The lemon, poppy seed & pandan waffle, alongside coconut and cassava waffle and cornish crab, smoked mussel umeboshi, seaweed & endive saad. In the end, I decided on the 2 scrambled eggs with toast accompanied by grilled chorizo, slow-roasted tomatoes and plantain fritters (£9), in part because there was plantain in the title. My friend ordered 2 poached eggs, pan-fried haloumi, slow roasted tomatoes, wilted spinach (£8.80). The scrambled eggs were creamy and perfectly cooked, the grilled chorizo was sublime, it certainly was not the chorizo that I have purchased from Aldi! The slow roasted tomatoes was juicy and the plantain fritters were not the fritters that I had in mind, more similar to fried plantains but this was still delicious. My friend thoroughly enjoyed her perfectly poached eggs. I was tempted to order more, the cassava chips was very tempting, but I resisted.
Would I go again? Of course, I can't wait to return.
Disclaimer: I paid for this meal as I have been dreaming about this restaurant for some months.
Saturday, 10 October 2015
A non-Jamaican/Caribbean recipe. Yes, it does happen. I don't just feast on all spice, plantain encrusted and pineapple dishes. When I fancy exotic food, but without the heat, I turn to Middle Eastern food and as one of my closest friends who is half Jordanian states "Middle Eastern food is full of flavour but without the heat". I own a handful of Middle Eastern cookbooks, not many and I rarely cook from them, but every now and again I fancy a harissa, tahini and aubergines. Of course, Middle Eastern food is much more than these ingredients and I have added my own Eastern promise in my Moroccan inspired lamb burgers, seasoned with harisa and tahini. A delicious quick and easy and scrumptious evening meal.
Moroccan Lamb Burgers
500g lamb mince
2 garlic cloves, skin remove and chopped
2 tsp of Moroccan Harissa paste
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 tsp salt
pinch of black pepper
breadcrumbs (made with 2 slices of toasted white bread, finely grated).
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp oil for frying
4 large Brioche Buns
You will need mixing bowl, wooden spoon and griddle pan.
In a mixing bowl add the lamb mince, garlic cloves, harrisa paste, tahini, salt, black pepper, mixed herbs, egg yolk, breadcrumbs and stir using the wooden spoon until everything is mixed together. Heat the oil in the griddle pan and using your hand form 4 patties - try not to over handle the patties mixture as the burgers can become too tough. Add the patties to the griddle pan and cook for around 5 minutes on each side. Split the burger buns and using a fish slicer place the burgers in the bun and enjoy. Serve with Baba Ganoush.
Wednesday, 7 October 2015
Jamaica is "The Land We Love", the phrase taken from the Jamaican national anthem sums up how I feel about Jamaica, it's the land I love. I heard so much about Jamaica growing up and thought I knew what to expect when I first visited at age 11 but the heat, the smiles, the beaches and the food pleasantly surprised me back then I still feel the same way some years later. I recently visited Jamaica last month, I can't wait to return (maybe 2016 or 2017), I'm getting excited just thinking about it. As I've visited Jamaica quite a few times I thought I would share my top 5 things to do if you plan on a trip to this lively and vibrant Caribbean island.
Dunns River Fall
Located in the popular tourist town Ocho Rios, Dunns River Falls is the most visited tourist attraction in Jamaica and one of the most visited tourist attractions in the Caribbean. Dunns River Falls is a natural waterfall that reaches a whopping 600 feet and the cascades water and waterfalls flow directly into the Caribbean Sea. One of the most appealing thing about this attractions is that you can actually climb the falls. Entry to the falls is 20US for adults and 12US for children and it takes around 1 hour to 1 and a half of hours to climb the falls. When you finished climbing the falls, why not purchase a "I climbed Dunns River Falls" t-shirt. I climbed Dunns River Falls when I was 11 with my family who already climbed the falls several. However, if you have not climbed the falls before, I would strongly recommend that you book an excursion as their are guides who will take you up the safest way. Also, make sure your purchase the specialist shoes which makes climbing easier. Flowing water down the back, safe spots to rest and take in the natural beauty....... if you are with those that don't fancy the climb.
|Image courtesy of TicketsstarJA|
Rio Grande Rafting
This was the first time I've been to Port Antonio, located in the North Eastern part of Jamaica and is nearer to Kingston than the traditional resorts such as Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, this is a little hidden gem primarily visited by the rich and famous or the playboys of Jamaica. Located in Port Antonio is the beautiful and second largest river in Jamaica Rio Grande where a popular tourist attraction is bamboo rafting. On a large handmade bamboo raft, you can be leisurely guided down the river by a skilled guide, originally uses as a method of transporting goods, bamboo rafting was made popular and fashionable by Errol Flynn. I booked an excursion from my hotel which cost around £80 per person which included a trip to The Blue Lagoon (which is heaven) followed by a stop at Rio Grande. Sit back, relax, have a drink and take in the natural beauty of Port Antonio. The leisurely raft takes around 2-3 hours, depending upon the weather and is an experience that you will not forget anytime soon.
Something a little different, many tourists tend not to visit Kingston, the capital city of Jamaica, but there is lots of things to do and see in Kingston. Bob Marley's museum is based on there, take a tour (for 20US), learn about the history, music and culture of the man who brought reggae music to the world. If you have time, why not visit the Blue Mountains, this is visible from Kingston and visit some of the best natural landscapes and sample some of the best coffee in the world. On clear and Summers day, you may even see the mountains become blue ....reword. Any foodie (like myself) would be in ice-cream delight after a visit to Devon House. Built by the first Jamaican millionaire, this house is one of natural beauty, see some beautiful Jamaican art, take a leisurely stroll in the gardens, but most importantly sample some of the world renowned ice-cream. The Devon Stout ice-cream is a beauty to behold, go nuts and have lots of sprinkles and topping on top.
*Please do not visit Kingston without a guide.
Take in the breathtaking views by watching the sunset at the infamous Rick Cafe, in Negril. Get there slightly earlier in the afternoon and have lunch (the menu is fabulous) and watch the dare devils jump from up to 35 feet into the clear, blue calm waters. This is the place to hang out if you are in Negril 7 mile beach.
Ok, something I did not do (here in Jamaica anyway), but I am sure that if you are travelling with families, this will be on the top list of things to do. Dolphin Cove on it's website state that it's the number 1 excursion in Jamaica. There are four different dolphin swims: Ultimate Swim, Swim with a Dolphin, encounter with a dolphin and a sea keeper for the day. Costing is around 70 US for a dolphin encounter and the price increases with the duration of time that you spend with the dolphin, it's worth saving up a bit for this.
Things to stock up on.
As a foodie, I was in paradise. Yes, you can get a lot of, if not all, Jamaican products here in the UK, but there are some products that are better (and a lot cheaper) to buy there.
- Blue Mountain Coffee - One of the worlds best coffee, known for it delicate and complex flavours, you have to sample what all coffee lovers adore.
- Tortuga Cake - Specialist rum cake, made with traditional Caribbean ingredients, which makes the cake light, moist and delicious.
- Rum - My personal preference is Wray and Nephew for it's pure strength, Appelton is good.
Friday, 2 October 2015
Oh how I love Hotel Chocolat products, especially their sleekster range of chocolates - these always include an array of different flavours, textures, colours and the chocolates are simply gorgeous. I have particularly enjoyed devouring these chocolates after not having eating any chocolate for 2 weeks (whilst I was in Jamaica!). Our favourite cakes, bakes and puddings have been recreated and in-cooperated into these luxury Patisserie Sleekster luxury chocolate form which, if you are like me someone who likes chocolates and puddings this sleekster will be right up your street. I resisted the urge to waffle the lot without savouring the taste to share my favourite chocolates in this blog post.
The Blondie was my favourite chocolate in this selection, the wafers in the chocolate were crisp: the white chocolate smooth and a nutty texture, the Billionaires Shortbread was another highlight for me; the rich chocolate topped with caramel, cookies and hazelnut was a taste explosion in my mouth and another favourite has been the tiramisu, I adored the strong chocolate and cream in a little morsel. Other flavours which you may like include:
- Caramel Cheesecake (sour cream tang, French Butter caramel)
- Carrot Cake (real carrots and walnuts)
- Mousse au Chocolat (cocoa and cream)
- Custard Tart (nutmeg and cocoa)
Retailing at £22 for 27 luxurious chocolates, this makes a beautiful and decadent treat for 1 (or 2) or a lovely gift for someone.
The lovely people at Hotel Chocolate are kindly giving one lucky reader of my blog these gorgeous chocolates.
To be in with a chance of winning this fabulous prize, follow the instructions below.
- Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter
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