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Thursday, 17 April 2014

REVIEW > DISHOOM

BRUNCH. The perfect appetiser pre-elevensies. This Monday, before a visit to the weirdly wonderful Martin Creed Exhibition currently at the Hayward Gallery. My Flatmate in Leeds and I went for a little (quite a lot) of brunch. The destination was a contested one, we hadn't pre-planned our destination, often a risky choice; what did we fancy? Traditional British fry-up? American-style pancakes loaded with maple syrup? Well considering I'll be having plenty of the latter soon (hehe) we went for something completely different- A Bombay Cafe serving Indian/British breakfast combos. Dishoom is tucked away at the back of St Martins Courtyard in Covent Garden, hidden behind the ever-popular Bills and my mum's go-to Jamie's Italian. When we got there, our Chai's arrived instantly. The taste was perfect; spicy, sugary tea, reminiscent of cold mornings huddling in newspaper tents in India. For brunch we got the blogger staple each; the infamous Sausage Naan. Probably one of the best breakfast goodies I've ever had. A Cumberland sausage wrapped in a soft naan bread, smothered with cream cheese and spicy chilli jam, it was mouth-wateringly good. To freshen our taste buds we got the granola and fruit bowl each. Both were served with lashings of honey, thick vanilla yoghurt and seasonal fruits (mine had raspberries, honeydew melon, raspberries and blueberries). Also on the menu there's similar stuff along the same lines with a bacon and egg naan on offer, as well as bigger cooked Indian-style breakfasts all at reasonable prices! The last time I had an 'Indian Breakfast' was a strong curry at 9am on a domestic flight from Leh to Dehli, Dishoom was a refreshing surprise for my delicate morning tastebuds. I would 100% go again, maybe next time try out their lunch menu!

P.S. Visit the Martin Creed Exhibition! There's a room packed full of balloons! There's also some other stuff and er...it's very modern

Thursday, 10 April 2014

TRAVEL > BELGRADE

Serbia wasn't necessarily on my bucket list for travel experiences and Belgrade hardly tops the list of city weekender destinations, but my weeklong visit made me wish I'd stayed for longer. The initial purpose of the trip was for geographical research and fieldwork (an odd choice you might say) intended to understand the city and immerse our self in Serbian culture and urban society. I'm not sure what my initial expectations of Serbian life were, but I found Serbian people to be welcoming and friendly and the city in general to radiate community spirit generating a sense of homeliness and comfort. Belgrade was therefore such as revelation and shattered my initial pre-dispositions of the post-war Balkan capital. 

Firstly there's the food; cheap, meaty and...cheap. This place isn't for veggies. As best said by our waiter on the first night 'Serbian kitchen is meat'. Speaking of which, Sta Ja Tu Je, near the tramway offers an amazing game goulash of rabbit, venison and wild boar with half a pint of Lav (local Serbian) beer for under a tenner! Serbian food itself is a strange mix of Austrian influenced and Turkish food; expect sauerkraut style cabbage mixed with kebabs and Turkish coffee. If you're getting the meat sweats (as we did halfway through the week) visit Supermarket for edgy Serbian sushi or Radost for communal veggie and vegan delights. Bear in mind Radost looks like it's someone's apartment room- there will be a sticker of an animated broccoli on the door as a marker and that's about it!


For all you history buffs, Belgrade is rich in sites of historical interest. Visit Tito's mausoleum to see about 500 differently engraved relay batons (?). Then there's the bombed out government building in the city centre, still standing as a corpse of its formal self, left as a reminder to the NATO bombings of 99'. Architecture is key in Belgrade, contrast New and Old Belgrade for a fine mix of well-preserved pre and post modernist architecture, demonstrating some of the best socialist planning of the modern era. Lastly take a day trip to Novi Sad; probably one of the prettiest European-esque towns in Serbia; the main square bears a strong resemblance to Vienna and the neo-classical architecture evokes a strong Parisian feel. 

Initially you may be put off the sheer scale of graffiti in Belgrade; most buildings have a scribble somewhere or other. In fact; much of this graffiti is paid for; used to represent and celebrate specific communities. Visit New Belgrade for beautiful painted memorials and references to 1999. Otherwise explore the city yourself; there are some great gems hidden away in residential areas and back streets and slightly less-offensive messages than you'd see in the UK; such as 'Go Vegan!' scrawled away elsewhere.   

     

Also don't get this place confused with Siberia; you won't need a fur coat in spring! Bring sandals, shades and sunscreen; I spent many an afternoon lazing in the sun in the park (plenty of which offer free wifi). Over summer; the riverside comes to life and floating restaurants, bars and clubs pop up all along the Sava. The locals all have beach-houses on Belgrade island and Kalmegdan (Belgrade fortress and surrounding park) holds huge concerts in the outdoor heat. 

Nightlife, like the food is also very cheap. Cheap cocktails, wine and beer are offered at almost every pub and bar along the cobbled Bohemian district. Live music is also highly popular in Belgrade where traditional pubs play Serbian songs, all of which have lively, drunken atmospheres. If you're into clubbing; house and techno seem to be the main Eurotrash genre of the region. The most popular clubs of which are all situated in abandoned nuclear bunkers or dis-used supermarkets. 

It was possibly one of the surrealist places I'd ever visited; where else can you find a man walking a rabbit down the main high street or a pensioner washing an umbrella in 26 degree heat? Not to mention Disney wine marketed to children and Beer sold in McDonalds. Saying all of that; I want to go back. 

Monday, 24 March 2014

PLACE TO GO > COPENHAGEN

Copenhagen is the ultimate foodie city. Built on the reputation of the globe-famous Noma, Copenhagen is increasingly becoming one of the world's best cities for new and exciting cuisines, holding 14 Michelin stars in the capital alone. The art of foraging currently dominates the Nordic food scene, with Torvehallerne market offering the best of local meats, breads and cheeses. Alternatively visit one of Copenhagen’s many exciting restaurants, including Fiskbaren for the best of Danish seafood or Aamans for the famous smørrebrød (open sandwiches). My sights are set on Herman at Nimb, an experimental menu on the edge of the Tivoli Gardens. The Brassiere overlooks a theme park and bases its meals on Danish classics with a luxurious twist; goats cheese on brioche is topped with caviar and porcini stuffed quail is served with a foie gras sauce. Aside from food a stroll around Tivoli can take up much of the day, an expansive garden filled with amusements, carnival games, food pavilions and flower gardens. Rainy day? There are plenty of castles spotted around Copenhagen and the National Museum offers a crash course in Danish history. Sunny day? Spend your day with a picnic basket on a boat cruise of Copenhagen’s canals for a scenic map of the city or alternatively visit the harbour and admire the pretty pastel waterfront homes. Lastly visit Christiania for a slightly more alternative day trip. An abandoned military camp, Christiania was taken over by squatters in 1971 and proclaimed free land subject to its own laws. Very much a hippies paradise, residents of Christiana build their community on values of collectivism and peaceful living and are surprisingly still residing there as a free-spirited social experiment gone surprisingly well. Sounds like a geographer’s paradise. 

Seafood at Noma

Friday, 21 March 2014

REVIEW > THE PIT, LEEDS

Leeds has got a fair few BBQ joints; Cattle Grid, Red's True BBQ...The Pit, which opened just last year is the most recent to join the ever-popular American-style BBQ restaurant/cocktail bar group. I have to admit...it's my favourite so far. My flatmate and I visited The Pit on a rainy Tuesday evening for some much needed not-student-rice-or-noodles meal out. The place was pretty empty apart from a few crowded around the bar, however, as we found out, the later it got, the busier The Pit got. It’s cosy diner style booths packed out much later on as people rounded up for a booze rich, carb loaded dinner and not surprisingly. The Pit's menu offers classic American-style food, including burgers; pulled pork with streaky bacon and smashed apple sauce alongside huge portions of lobster and ribs (for about £30 if you're treating yourself). The surf and turf combo is The Pit's speciality; lobster is paired up with pretty much any meat, including huge steaks- again not your average student dinner. I would personally recommend the bangers and beans; the smoky BBQ Boston beans were to-die for and the sautéed onions were amazingly complimented by the freshness of the house coleslaw. The cocktail list is equally exciting with DIY-shakeable jam and vodka jars and peanut butter laden bourbon concoctions mixed with caramel and chocolate liqueurs. The food came quickly and the service was excellent. Unlimited condiments and an amazing homemade BBQ sauce was a personal heaven. A MUST for anyone with a love for big portions and meaty dinners. Or if not for dinner, break the bank with some adventurous cocktails.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

What I've Leant from Travelling So Far

WEAR SUNSCREEN!!! DO THIS. I shouldn't have to tell you why. Getting sunburnt/sunstroke can ruin a trip and the damage is lasting. I've seen the firsthand effects of over-exposure to sun and wearing sunscreen is honestly the key to staying young and healthy. It's not even that hard, it's just like moisturiser that smells like summer holidays at the beach. Also, I spoke to a dermatologist about this and apparently sunscreen should be worn march-September EVEN IN THE U.K, so er considering the weather we've had lately, go put some on.

Life is an adventure: cheesy but true. This is especially pertinent when travelling. Everyday you're somewhere new, experiencing something completely different and you should learn to appreciate the little differences. For me this was waking up to perfect snow everyday in Canada (something I'm looking forward to next year). 


The world is a small place and it's getting even smaller. Unfortunately a lot of places are getting similar. What we in geography like to call 'coca-colonisation' or the homogenisation of culture. Seeing a McDonalds in rural India for example. You will realise that a lot of cities these days look the same, have the same buildings and the same aesthetic, so it's even more important to seek out the different and the unexplored, search for the places that aren't in the mainstream. #hipster. No, but in all seriousness, you will appreciate it when you find it.  

Cultural Appreciation: and this sounds like something I've been writing for my one of my degree modules (geographers ya know what I mean). This kind of ties in with what I've said before, but appreciate how different culture is where you are and learn about it. A lot of people I've spoken to were inspired to learn a language from their travels! My personal inspiration comes from local food and I'm still trying to seek out a restaurant that specialises in Tibetan momos. IF ANYONE CAN HELP. I LOVE MOMOS. 

     

Don't defer your goals: PEOPLE WHO DO THIS ARE SO STUPID OHMYGOD. If there is somewhere you want to go and something you want to do, for pete's sake just do it. You can't keep saying oh I will do this and I will do that but blah blah blah in the future. If it's something you're passionate about, you will find a way to do it. I've done this in the past and regretted it so much, but I'm making amends and I'm doing what I planned to do last year this year (Croatia). Also: don't plan your life. This also doesn't work.


I should really learn a language. It's so easy knowing English isn't it? We, in the English speaking world are mighty privileged, don't you think? Our language dominates popular culture and assumes it's the norm, as do we. Have you ever really travelled somewhere and thought; better learn a language before I get to this country. Unlikely. Travelling, makes you realise how easier it would be to learn a native language or at least show you've made the effort to TRY and learn a language (even if it's a couple of phrasebook sentences). Next year, in Canada, I aim to learn (or start) to learn a language, pick up on my GCSE Spanish maybe! 



Sunday, 9 March 2014

RECIPE > MARSHMALLOW AND PEANUT BUTTER RICE KRISPIE TREATS

You know those days when you're craving EVERYTHING bad for you; chocolate, peanut butter, sugar...lots of sugar... Well last week I decided to throw everything I pretty much had in my indulgent ingredients box into one easy-to-make cheap no-bake tray bake. Well I can't really call it a bake... These rice krispie slices are sooo gooey and delicious; my friends literally had to prise the squares off the plate. Firstly, grease a shallow brownie dish with butter. Then melt 100ml (I put a touch more in just to finish the bottle) of golden syrup into a pan alongside 100g of peanut butter and 100g of sugar. Mix until just about to boil. Reduce the heat and add a packet of marshmallows (150g or so), this will start to melt down and become all gooey, once all the marshmallow lumps are gone add 300g of rice krispies into the mix and quickly mix until covered. Then pour onto the greased baking tray and smoothen out with the back of a spoon. Melt 100g chocolate (I was lazy and micro-waved it) and drizzle over the rice krispie mix. Or if you love chocolate, melt as much as possible to cover the mixture as a layer. Allow the chocolate to set and cool before cutting into squares. You can put this in the fridge to let it cool up a bit quicker if you're in a rush. 


Sunday, 23 February 2014

RECIPE > CHORIZO AND THYME LOAF

Apparently a Fougasse is some kind of fan-shaped bread, which I never knew I was making before I started to bake this loaf. I don't usually bake bread; I tend to opt for sweeter baked goods so last week I was pleasantly surprised to find how simple it can be. I adapted this Lorraine Pascal recipe for the student friendly (using dried thyme as opposed to fresh; mine is still struggling in out front patio herb garden). Mix 500g of strong white bread flour with 2 tsp of salt and a packet of fast-action dried yeast. Making a hole in the centre, pour in 300ml of water. This will feel sticky to start with but once it's all combined it will firm up more. Pour out onto a well-floured surface and knead for 10 mins or so. Add 2 tsp of dried thyme to the mix and knead this in, then fold in 40g of ready to eat finely chopped chorizo (opt for non-sliced stuff). Knead until all the ingredients are well combined and evenly distributed. Shape the dough into a ball and then roll out into a rough oval shape. Using a large knife cut fan/leaf like slashes into the dough and widen these with floured hands. Firmly push around 10g (or more if you wish) of chorizo into the top of the dough. Cover with oiled Clingfilm and leave to rise for about an hour in a warm place. Once doubled in size, glaze with 2 tbsp of milk and place on a floured baking tray. Place the tray in the centre of an oven at 200C and throw a couple of ice cubes in the bottom of the oven. Bake for around half an hour until the bread has risen. This stuff tastes great just on its own or with butter, possibly serve alongside tapas, or a Spanish themed casserole. 

Photo Courtesy of LUU Bakesoc