Monday, 20 August 2012

A Perfect Day in Budapest

The perfect day in Budapest started off at the Margit bridge, Pest side of the river Danube, heading towards the chain bridge. Walking along the riverfront here isn't the easiest - there isn't a nice esplanade - you have to skitter along tiny half-pavements, step over low chain fences, dodge speeding traffic to cross the road, jump over road barriers, and avoid eye contact with policemen guarding parliament grounds - but if you're game it's worth the walk. You get a good view of the gothic parliament building from here.

Further along the Danube, you come across the memorial to those shot by Arrow Cross (the pro-Nazi Hungarian party in power during the 2nd world war) into the river. One of the most powerful memorials I have ever seen - I had read nothing about it and just stumbled across the vast collection of realistic steel shoes strewn across the wall along the river. So powerful because each shoe is an intimate portrait of the person who might have owned it - each pair was a different style, a different size, worn in different parts - they were utterly human. And seeing them discarded along the Danube, you knew what had happened to the owners of those shoes without knowing any of the details of the actual story. Haunting. 

Saturday, 11 August 2012


Following two fabulous days at Lake Bled - the most picturesque lake I have ever seen - we arrived in Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia. After wandering through the central markets, we came across a cute café and stopped off for coffee. Café Cokl, Krekov trg 8, named for the family name of the owner, Tine Cokl. Tine is absolutely passionate about coffee – if you get him started on the subject, you’ll have a hard time getting away. His knowledge is immense and his enthusiasm is catching. It was hot, and we ordered Tine’s iced espresso, €1.50; strong espresso, a little sugar, poured over ice to beat the heat, and topped with frothed milk. Excellent. And as cool as anywhere you’d find in East London. 

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Chalet girl cake

A few years back when I was a little younger, I spent a couple of months working as a chalet assistant in Courchevel, in the French Alps. I turned up in this little ski town, found myself a job as quickly as I could (replacing a girl who was being sent home with a broken arm), and got set in learning to ski.

My day involved rolling out of my bunk bed at 6.30am, racing to beat my revoltingly stinky room-mate to the bathroom, and slipping my way down the hill to the chalet by 7am to start breakfast, picking up fresh baguettes from the front door. During breakfast service I would whip up afternoon tea - my favourite part of the job, and a job that I quickly wrestled away from the head chalet girl - usually making a yoghurt cake.

One of my chalet afternoon tea creations

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Lunching Londoner #2: Exmouth Market - Moro market stall

It is a stunning day today in London. You cannot, under any circumstances, visit your basement cafeteria on a day like this. So I hailed a number 63 bus Exmouth Markettowards Kings Cross, getting off at Mt Pleasant, where the fabulous Exmouth Market resides. This is one of my favourite markets; compact, excellent food, and most excellent (Kiwi!) coffee at Caravan. I pick up my fortnightly supply of ground coffee here, and sometimes have a sneaky pre-lunch espresso if I feel I need it.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Lunching Londoner #1

It came to my attention this dreary Monday morning that I have a mere 3.5 weeks left at my job, located near St Pauls in London City. And yet, I still have so many lunch experiences to try.

I am, if you have not figured out by now, a foodie, which means I will travel far and wide to find incredible things to eat for my lunch. All totally justifiable, even on a budget, because it's usually £5 or under. There is amazing lunch food to be had in London if you are willing to venture outside your local Pret a Manger. As long as you have access to a tube, a bus, or a train, you can easily whip out to different places in the City and be back at your desk before your boss has even noticed you're gone.

I am also aware that I have been a little absent from this blog of late. So, I thought I would start a little project to get a few more posts on here; to chronicle my daily lunch in London. I promise it won't be egg and cheese sandwiches every day.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012


You may have read my recent post, Apples of Amsterdam. Ever since my Amsterdam trip, I have been thinking and dreaming up how I might go about recreating the appeltaart I had at Villa Zeezicht and Winkel cafe. I perused a number of recipes online, thought back to what made the cakes so scrumptious, came up with a recipe that I gave a try, and it was surprisingly good.

What I love about appeltaart is the way it is half cake/half pie. You make a cake batter, but then you press it around the side and base of the tin, pile in a huge amount of apple to the centre, and then cover it up with more cake batter. So it is in essence a cake, but structurally, a pie. Genius.

This makes one huge mama of a cake, so I strongly advise inviting lots of friends over, and getting lots of cream to go with it.

  • Apples8-9 apples - about 850g chopped
  • 2 tablespoons castor sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • zest of 1 lemon and the juice of half the lemon
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice 
  • 300g butter plus an extra 1/2 tablespoon
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 1/4 cups self-raising flour (500g)
  • Plenty of cream to serve

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Apples of Amsterdam

A few weeks ago, I took a little trip to Amsterdam, zipping in on a British Airways flight (I forgot how awesome it is to fly an airline that gives you free drinks! And allocated seats.....).

Being on a bit of a savings jaunt at the moment, we thought we'd be clever, innovative, go back to our inner-backpacker selves, and stay at a camping ground in Amsterdam. Don't worry, I'm not crazy enough to actually camp on a city break weekend in March, but we did rent a cabin, or rather, a wagon. By the time we arrived at the central station from the airport, it was fast approaching midnight. We managed to find the right tram quickly - and luckily - because it must have been the last one that night. The tram whizzed along for about ten minutes, and we alighted (British transport word I seem to have picked up) in the middle of some suburb. Desperately trying to follow the directions to this camp, in the dark, with our wheely bags, we passed by waterways, hippy commune trailer parks, old abandoned cars - anything but a camping ground. Of course I was completely calm and chilled out about it all, I didn't start to panic, as we wheeled along the gravelly road at 1am, in between two canals, a motorway above us. I didn't start to think "If we can't find this place, where the hell are we going to sleep tonight?". Nope, perfectly calm. Thank goodness my calm attitude managed to last until we finally did find this mysterious camping ground between canals and lakes and rivers under the motorway. Phew. My British Airways G&T was starting to wear thin.

And yet, the test to my zen did not end there. We found our wagon, conveniently down near the lake, in damp two-degree evening chill. And we found that the wagon, I had neglected to note at time of booking, did not have a nice luxurious double bed with crisp white Egyptian cotton sheets. It had bunks, with very damp-feeling linen, reeking of the Netherland's infamous decriminalised plant. So it was that we spent a freezing night, underneath two duvets, plus a sleeping bag that we had the foresight to bring, squashed into one bunk for warmth. Is this what they call glamping?

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Beer tour in Brussels

I was recently in Brussels for a weekend, where I decided it would be a good idea to embark on a beer-tasting session around St Gilles, being in Belgium and all. I have internally debated about whether I should put this post up, because, well, it might give the wrong impression of me as some kind of drunkard  blogging about a massive drinking session. But y'all know that I'm not, so here is my, erm, beer diary. Word for word. I have added a little post-session commentary in italics.

1. Jambe-de-Bois at Au Libre Air bar €3.40. Brewed in Brussels. 8%

Strong! Bitter, blonde. Sunlight filters through the murky honey-golden liquid and catches the light of tiny bubbles. A good start to a Brussels beer drinking session. Why does beer not taste like this in England (sorry devout English bitter drinkers....)

I remember that this was served to us, in a dingy punkish bar, by what looked like someone's dad in an effortlessly trendy well-worn grandpa jersey. How come Europeans are so cool?

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Barbie Doll Cake

Late last year, I wrote a post about my trip to Bruges & Brussels, and mentioned how I found a shop window display of Barbie doll cakes. I reminisced about the cake my mama made for my 9th birthday, which was a Barbie ice cream cake, complete with sugared violets to decorate her dress. I have just acquired a picture of this cake (thank you Sue!) so that you can see for yourself what a beauty she was.

Isn't she lovely?

I can't wait to make one, if I ever have a daughter!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Sunday Pancakes

Sunday brunch is a bit of a tradition in our household. Usually it consists of eggs (poached, scrambled or fried), on toast with beans and slow-roasted tomatoes, topped with Tabasco. Sometimes, though, we just don't seem to get the organisation done on a Saturday in terms of grocery shopping, and we have to get a little more creative. I like to claim to my boyfriend that I am an expert at conjuring up a decent brunch when we have nothing in the cupboard.

I wouldn't exactly say we had nothing in the cupboard this morning, but we were missing a key ingredient for eggs on toast; bread. So I thought about pancakes, knowing that I had half a tin of apricots in the fridge from last night's makeshift dessert of apricots with ricotta and honey. Pancakes it was, however, my next problem to solve was that we hardly had much milk - less than a cup. British and French style pancakes are of the thin-batter, roll-up variety, which requires a good amount of milk that, even thinned down with water, my milk was not going to stretch to. So, I found a Jamie Oliver recipe for American style thick stackable pancakes, which has a greater proportion of egg, and uses much less milk. Perfect.

Sunday, 5 February 2012


London had it's first snow of the winter last night. We stayed up late watching the snow fall, and ventured out around midnight for a walk in the powder. I'm glad we did; London is really too warm for snow and by the time we awoke this morning, the snow was mostly a dirty, slushy mess.

The snow at night though was beautiful, with the city lights reflecting from the white snow to create an eery glow over the city.

Today, while the snow melted outside, it felt like a good day for making cookies. I based this recipe on a classic American cookie recipe that I often used. I have added some spice to this recipe, which I love for its winter warmness, but which my boyfriend didn't like at all, preferring his cookies basic. If you also prefer a more basic cookie, leave out the spice and add half a teaspoon vanilla essence instead.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Paris vs Berlin

I have friends in all the right places; namely, Paris and Berlin, where I can escape for weekends and indulge in late nights, food and wine. The past two weekends I spent in Paris, and then Berlin.

Paris I have been to many times, and written about. Paris was drizzly and mild, and we spent a long day, three of us, wandering the streets, sneaking into the Notre Dame, and window shopping, until we found ourselves on the Île Saint-Louis, and nipped into a crêperie. Crêpe en l’Isle, on Rue des Deux Ponts, is tiny, quaint, warm and cheap. I had Crêpe la Strasbourgeoise; crisp thin crêpe filled with egg, sausage, cheese, tomato and potato, €7.50. This was perfect - while I politely avoided the spongy pale pink sausage, the warm and wintery combination of everything else was fabulous in a filling-but-cheap way. Washed down with a pitcher of traditional dry cider.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Boeuf Bourguignon & one of the best desserts ever

It has been a while since my last post, in which time I have replaced my lost camera (and upgraded the lens), enjoyed my first English Christmas in Northern Yorkshire, partied through my New Years, and been back at work a full two weeks so that it seems like my trip to Bruges last month is a distant dream.

On Sunday we decided to spend the day cooking, and invited some good friends for dinner. When I say we decided to spend the day cooking, I do actually mean a large proportion of the day - by the time you buy, organise and prepare all the ingredients and then cook Boeuf Bourguignon, you will find yourself 4-5 hours down the line. To some of you, spending this amount of time shopping and cooking might sound like a nightmare; to others, including me, it sounds like a perfect Sunday.

I have made Boeuf Bourguignon a number of times before, and believe me it is well worth all the hard work. It does take organisation and patience, but it is not particularly difficult. And while it is cooking, it smells absolutely unbelievable. Make sure you have the right dish for making it - you need a solid cast iron casserole dish.

We found a jar of delicious-looking peaches at our local Italian shop on Saturday and so I decided to make up a dessert with them for after the Boeuf Bourguignon. It turned out to be one of the best desserts I have ever made; baked peach halves, with sweet and buttery crumble topping, served with zabaglione. I really recommend making this - it is super easy, as long as you can master how to make the zabaglione.