Thursday, 19 December 2013

Kimchi nabe

A foodie friend came to visit so I decided to cook something special with her. We followed this recipe: and it turned out delicious! Such a great stew for when it is cold outside and want warming up. With the left over kimchi, pork and vegetables I made kimchi fried rice the next day. Pinterest is definitely worth a look when you need inspiration for something different to cook, I normally save photos of recipes only to forget about them later once I realize I never have the ingredients in my cupboard, but this time it worked out really well.

I don't know what it is about spicy hot foods that makes me feel so good during winter, but they always seem to lift my mood. The textures of this dish go really well together, firm tofu is the perfect consistency for a stew like this and I would definitely recommend raiding the frozen section of the Asian supermarkets for very thinly sliced, fatty pork because it really makes a difference to the overall taste.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Fun times at Cafe Nero...

On a random sidenote, I went out for a coffee with Z in York and as I was coming out of the Ladies, a grown man suddenly jumped out in front of me waving his hands and yelling "BOO!" After I screamed very, very, loudly, the poor man then realised that I wasn't his mother who he'd been intending to scare. By this point, I was actually crying with laughter (and relief) and he even turned out to be a barista. When I was back sitting with Z and my coffee, he shuffled over to our table and placed these three free drinks cards on the table still apologizing profusely. Such a random cute moment.
So of course we took complete advantage...

Winter warmers...

*Sigh* It is the final leg in the run up until Christmas and I am getting up later and later as it gets harder to leave my warm nest of a bed. Good thing my mum has taken to roasting a bag of chestnuts in the morning which I am munching my way through as I type this.

When it gets colder, I love the frosty windows and reading in the evenings by the fire, but most of all, I love the excuse to eat warm, comforting foods such as porridge and stews. When I am extra hungry in the morning, I always whip up a bowl of porridge and poached egg. I prepare the oats with water instead of milk, mix in a good pinch of salt and pepper, then simply poach and egg until the outside is just cooked and place it on top with a generous few twists of the pepper shaker for good measure.

My friend Z came up to York for a couple of days and as she shares my deep love of Japanese food so I decided to cook Japanese Curry (pronounced Kalleh). It is so simple to make, a staple for all Japanese families so there are many recipes flying around the internet. Best of all, anyone can make it as long as you have the block of seasoning (found in almost all Asian supermarkets for about £3-5). It freezes really well and I am always sure make up a huge batch that is supposed to last me a few weeks.
It never lasts that long in my freezer...

I fried up one medium onion, about 500g of chicken (I always use dark meat for the flavour), three large carrots, two large potatoes (cut into fairly large chunks). Once the chicken has lost it's pink colour, I poured enough water to cover everything, replaced the lid and left it to simmer until the vegetables were cooked (around 20 minutes). Oh and I almost forgot, I love to add broccoli around 10 minutes before the end. It just marries so well with the sauce and who doesn't love broccoli?
 I melted a block of the seasoning into the stew. The amount you put in really depends on how thick/strongly seasoned you want it to be, I put in just over half the block because I like it to be fairly liquid. Once it has bubbled away for a few minutes, I served it with generous helpings of steamed white rice. This dish definitely makes me extra thankful to have a mixed heritage,  I always  cook it for my friends and it has never let me down yet.

Sunday, 10 November 2013


I've been having a few "lazy days" lately, including today, where I  stay wrapped in a duvet, drinking more hot cocoa than water, and watching as many episodes of Homeland as is humanely possible.  Days like today make me think about what comes after university when there are no more assignments or exams to study for. I've decided that my number one priority is to travel. I have always held a fascination for countries other than England and it still awes me that planes means you can go to sleep in one country and wake up on the other side of the world. How cool is that?!
For the time being, I daydream daily about where to I want travel first and whether it will actually happen. I loved the idea of a scratch map where you scratch off the places you have been so I improvised my own. I marked the places I want to go, even if I've already been there. Striking the countries I've already visited off a list made it seem too final somehow.  I can't imagine not wanting to go to Japan, France and Italy simply because I've already been there so I made sure I marked them with extra big hearts because I know and love them already.
I spent so much time cutting up hearts and sticking them to my wall which seems a little weird in retrospect but I think it was worth it. Looking at the atlas makes me excited for what will come next, it stops me from panicking about finding a career or having a plan. Worrying about things like that seem a little silly when you're looking at a giant atlas with hearts stuck on it. There, ramble over. I'm going back to my 50th hot cocoa.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Japanese snack selection

I had a lovely surprise today when a small parcel arrived from a good friend who lives in Japan. It was filled with three different kinds of Japanese treats and I wanted to share my thoughts on them here. On a side note, during my stay in France, I missed Japanese food the most. It was possible to get most kinds of English food in France (other than crumpets and Marmite of course) because I would say most foods are available europe-wide.  Japanese snacks on the other hand, were unsurprisingly near impossible to find. As a result I missed Japan more as a country than I did England. Coming back from my visit to Japan over the summer has been difficult because I miss, not only my family and friends over there, but the food that is so far removed from what I have here. Anyway, this made me feel at home again...

 The ki-na-ko mochi chocolate  Mochi has made its way to England in most chinese supermarkets and my friends all love the gooey-ness of glutinous rice flour dumplings and their tasty fillings. Of course, Japan has come up with the miniature  chocolate equivalent and I salute them for it. The outer shell of chocolate is flavoured with kinako powder, a roasted soybean powder that is often eaten as a dessert with mochi. It isn't very sweet which is evident in the mildness of the chocolate shell. Although mildness allows the kinako taste to come through better, my English taste-buds tell me that the flavour could be stronger regardless. There is a "mochi" centre instead of the generic praline or creamy truffle which makes this special. The mochi could be a little more elastic as it is actually more of a flavourless stiff jelly but overall, it is something different and fun to try. Tastes pretty good too.

Toppo  I was so excited to see this in the packet, Pocky is one of my all time favourite Japanese snacks and Toppo is Pocky's inverse twin. I practically grew up on Pocky, always buying a box to share with my brother from the Lawson store around the corner as a treat. It always brings back memories.
The Toppo sticks come wrapped in two packets so you don't have to eat them all at once. Not that it stopped me. I should warn you, these are every bit as addictive as Pocky.
 I still prefer Pocky as the Toppo biscuit has less of a bite to it and the chocolate less flavour. I wish there was more variety in the English alternative to Pocky, Mikado. As far as I can see, Mikado doesn't make my favourite Pocky flavour, a thick coating of dark chocolate with crushed hazelnuts or almonds. I live in hope.

Pumpkin flavour crisps- the final packet in the box and by far my favourite. They are similar to English Quavers with a much closer consistency, less air and oh my days were these good. The pumpkin flavour added a sweetness that balanced perfectly with the saltiness you find with crisps. All I can say is, the person who invented mixing sweet and salty was a genius who should have their own national holiday. Sweet and Salty day. In fact, everyday should be Sweet and Salty Day.
It is a shame that these crisps are probably seasonal for Autumn. If I had the power to make any flavouring of crisp I wanted, I would definitely mix the same consistency of these crisps with sweet potato flavouring and salt. Perhaps there is something already out there like that. Judging by these crisps, if there were I would cross oceans to eat them without hesitation.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Pumpkin, cranberry & red onion tagine with lemon and toasted almond couscous..and a final year crisis.

Well, Halloween came and went so that meant finding something to do with the pumpkin that didn't involve naming it, getting really attached, and chucking a very smelly Archibald in the bin two weeks later when one wanted to go to his side of the kitchen.

I had a free evening so I offered to cook for everyone in my house and after careful deliberation, we decided on this recipe. It is pretty basic but I would have cut the pumpkin chunks a little smaller because it took longer than 20 minutes for it to soften and we were all starving. I was a little too eager with the lemon on the couscous but the sharp tang of the lemon balanced out the sweetness of the tagine really well so in future I will only hold back a little bit, perhaps 3/4 of a lemon rather than a whole one. The recipe was delicious and the ingredients not too expensive, we now sprinkle left-over flaked almonds on everything. I would definitely cook it again.

Settling back into my northern English life has been a slow process, harder than I thought it would be. On the flip side, I get to rediscover York. Wandering around on countless lazy days, I visit a new cafe at every opportunity which has helped me try places I would normally walk past without a second glance. I love how coffee and tea shops develop their own personality, from the small, quirky "Hairy Fig" and the bustling baker/deli "Mannions and Co" that smells like heaven, to the coffee snob stops that invest ten minutes trying to change your order when you dare to request a soy milk latte.

University-wise, I've been to various returners workshops to help "reflect" on my year abroad and how it will effect my future. It is now my final year of university, and looks like it's time to think of what comes next. I thought it was taken for granted by pretty much everyone that History students like myself  have no career plan until at least ten years after graduation, when a loving mum reaches the end of the line and kicks us out the house. Turns out to be wrong, judging by the number of people who ask what I want to do next year, and the next forty years after that. Whenever people ask me what I want to do after university, all I manage to say is something as earth shattering as "I dunno." What they should know is that I am actually thinking... "WHO KNOWS? LEAVE ME TO WALLOW IN MY CONFUSION YOU NOSY SO AND SO." I'm sure that would go down well in interviews.

I have to keep reminding myself that I should celebrate the fact I don't have a specific job lined up once I finish university. I kind of love the freedom I have to consider a life in another country, jobs that might not even be in existence yet and to change my mind if doesn't end up being right for me. I admit, I might not be so thankful if I don't actually find the job of my dreams, but in the meantime I'll just have to roll with it. Right, panic over. It's time for a cup of tea.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Muddle of the past few months.

I had break, a long long break but I'm back now and hopefully back for good unless I get abducted by very determined aliens in which case I am sure everybody will understand.
Update: I moved back to England and moved to Japan within a week, started a part time job as a pool girl and I kept forgetting to take pictures. I am back in England now and gearing myself up for my final year of university.
Rewinding back to France and the dreaded exam period...When revising for my end of year exams it was so easy to fall into snacking rather than eating proper meals so I made an extra effort to cook with friends. I've gotten in to a habit (maybe not the most economical) of picking a large selection of fruit and vegetables at the market at random and often the most interesting looking. It means that dinner is never boring and that I eat a lot healthier than I would if I planned things that I never end up cooking. Keeping quick meals on the stand-by like salad food and couscous means lazy days are never boring ones.
This salad was great with quinoa and it had - carrot, cherry tomatoes, chickpeqs, cucumber, sesame seeds, sultanas, sunflower seeds, balsamic vinaigrette and pinches of salt and pepper. (Great with sriracha sauce) 
After a day spent at the library I had my first proper Rachel Khoo moment when I finally fulfilled my wish of making quiche lorraine in France. I know most people's bucket lists generally include seeing famous monuments, well mine is eating the frenchest food as much as possible and the quiche lorraine is the mother of all French foods. No words are necessary, feel free to just bask in it's golden loveliness.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The first omelette that didn't fall to bits when I'm cooking.

When cooking with friends I often just take a step back and observe (generally getting in the way when I lean over the pan because it always smells so good) but doing this and taking hundreds of mental notes means it's just like watching a cooking program (which I'm also addicted to). Yesterday I made an omelette for the first time thanks to Zoe cooking an amazing cheesy omelette a few weeks ago. I know it's crazy that I am a student and have never actually cooked one but I have a love of poached or scrambled eggs which means I always cook them instead. Anyway, this is the result...

I only have half the omelette here because I was eating with a friend (who cooked the courgette, mushroom and onion filling which was what made it so amazing) but I am proud to say I did the flippy egg thing all on my own. The side salad is made up of radish, corn, one small apple, mixed salad leaves and a honey mustard dressing.  
We watched a french film called "Ensemble, C'est Tout" while we ate and I really really recommend this film to everyone. I can't believe I've never seen it before! It's so beautiful and is perfect if you're a romantic and have a thing for Guillaume Canet. I love watching films with friends, someone to hide behind screaming "NOOO HOW CAN SHE DO THAT?!" when the characters do something vaguely unromantic. Watching films cannot be good for me since I get so involved I believe it is actually happening. Great when watching films like "The Princess Bride", not so much with "The Grudge"... 
After planning on going for weeks we made it to see "Silver Linings Playbook" ("Happiness Therapy" if you're in France- still no idea where they get the English titles for these films from). It was AWESOME! I am relieved it had the right ending because I probably have left the cinema a little broken inside if it hadn't. I really don't watch films for them to be realistic. Such a sucker for a romance :) My friends all sighed in disbelief and disgust when I said I wanted to go and see the new G.I Joe, looks like that's one I will have to go and see on my own. I don't expect it to be particularly good, and I'll go and see Terrence Malik's "The Wonder" to restore my faith in film, but I have a long held soft spot for action films so I will forgive anything, even if it isn't any good, as long as it doesn't take itself too seriously. 

Saturday, 23 February 2013

The day of carbohydrates and the "Flangers"

Started the last day of the half term with a quick run (which lasted about as long as it took me to realize that running ad -5 degrees is not a good idea) and a workout I pulled off pinterest which had me more sweaty and breathless than my usual runs so I should definitely try that again...except I probably won't because I'm a have a wimpishly low pain threshold and it hurt too much.
I had a fresh baguette in my room crying out "EAT ME. DAMN YOU EAT ME." So I decided to go all out on this baby:
I herbed up one egg and one egg white, half an avocado and my beloved shiracha. It was perfect with peppermint tea and kept me totally full until my lunch a couple of hours later. I forgot my camera so I couldn't photograph it, but I bought a smoked salmon, avocado and tomato sandwich on pain du lait with paprika mayo. *drool*  I could only get through half because of rubbish class times (12-6pm with no breaks) so I kept sneaking a bite when the professor wasn't looking. Dammit. Unfinished food can regularly draw tears so it wasn't a good moment for me.

I heard something quite strange a couple of days ago which came back to me when typing about baguettes. I overheard a girl talking about giving up carbohydrates for lent. In France, saying you want to go on a carb free diet is on a par with saying you want to go on a food-free diet. Sure, the vegetables and fruit here are plentiful and delicious but I still see having the freedom to go into the bakery around the corner and saying "Une baguette s'il vous plait!" as a privilege I will be unlikely to get again in my lifetime. Why would anyone want to give it up? WHY?! *Ahem* Confused rant over.

I went to one of my first gigs yesterday and I am happy to say that I was as uncool in my excitement as to be expected from a girl was once staring so hard at a shop window she smacked her head against the window pane. The bands were brilliant, listening to English being sung by people who have a very loose grasp of the English language and therefore what they are singing certainly makes way for something special. The names of bands included the "Flangles" and "The Paddys". Brilliant.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Food friends are fun :)

After a blog hiatus that has lasted far too long, for reasons beyond my power or control (definition: laziness). I realized that I missed posting the random things that pop into my mind when thinking about food. Is that weird? Anyway, what I'm trying to say very badly is that I'm sorry for not posting more often. Here is a nice photo as an apology.
There, that made me feel better anyway. extra sorry to any vegetarians. I had an awesome Christmas holiday, being lucky enough to stay with a family of people who share my love of food and who are tolerant of my inability to act appropriately in the presence of food. The perfect end to the holidays meant the return of the giant macaroon when spookily Zoe and I, completely independently of each other, chose the same three flavours from the same bakery on the same day and only realized when we opened the bags at the same time. First time I have experienced food telepathy and I definitely want it to happen more often. Here's a peek at the evidence of just how similar food cravings become between two girls who spend far too much time talking about food:

I went home after my January exams and after showing my parents all my France photos so far (to my own embarrassment when I realized the ratios to self photos:food is approximately 1:10) I started to realize just how much I'm going to miss it in Aix. I don't think I have ever really been happier which is strange because coming to France wasn't my lifelong dream or anything like that. I only wanted to try a baguette. I've been here for a couple of months now and I don't want to leave. Dammit. Erasmus year sucks. 

Zoe and I have reinstated our weekly lunches out and this week, generous and sympathetic as she is, we got to eat JAPANESE FOOD. OSDLKFJSLDKJFLSKJDF. I have no idea how I managed to go this long without sashimi. If it was possible to absorb raw fish through an IV drip I would. I also overcame my fear of burning rice and cooked omurice for my friends which turned out amazing. I was going to do a "Guess which japanese dish I ate in the restaurant and which one I cooked!" game but after looking at the will see why I decided not to.