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.