Sunday, 30 August 2015

A picture of the week

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I have spent most of this week sick in bed, which could not have come at a worse time as I have been so busy lately. I finally had to accept that it was my body's way of saying 'take a break' but it's still not fun.

This weekend James is away at a stag do, and I went with my parents and sister to the tall ships festival at Woolwich. We only stopped by briefly, but it was cool to see all the boats. There was a navy cadet band, lots of food stalls and a historic reinactment society - I was just sorry I wasn't up to seeing more of it. Next year!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Making Dosa

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I got the urge to cook something new this weekend, and after thumbing through most of my recipe books without much inspiration I opened Jamie's Comfort Food to a random page and ended up on the recipe for his Divine Dosa.

This was exactly what I was looking for - it didn't contain too many ingredients out of my comfort zone (or nothing I couldn't substitute), didn't take too long and didn't look like it needed to be too neat or precise. I made a few edits to the recipe, mainly to reduce the quantities and substitute out a few things we didn't have to what we did. The flavour combinations were absolutely amazing though, and that was all Jamie Oliver - so hats off to him!

Ingredients (there are a lot!)

For the veggie filling:
1 baking potato
1 sweet potato
3 carrots
bunch of spring onions, sliced
bunch of coriander, torn
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 level teaspoon ground ginger
1 level teaspoon turmeric
1 level teaspoon mustard seeds
1 lime

For the dips:
125ml natural yoghurt
1 heaped teaspoon creamed coconut
some of the above bunch of coriander
mango chutney

For the dosa batter:
125g plain flour (should strictly be chickpea/gram flour but I used what I had in the house)
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon mustard seeds

Pre-heat your oven to 190 degrees C. Slice your carrots, sweet potato and baking potato into chunky chip sized pieces and put on a baking tray with a drizzle of oil, and seasoning. Roast in the oven for half an hour, turning half way through.

Meanwhile make your batter by measuring out the flour, bicarbonate of soda and mustard seeds into a bowl, then gradually mixing in 300ml of water until you get a runny mixture.

Make your yoghurt dip by adding some of the torn up coriander leaves and the creamed coconut to the yoghurt. Jamie suggests using fresh mint but I didn't want to buy more ingredients I wouldn't use up.

Once your veggies are roasted, smash up the sweet potato and baking potatoes a bit, just roughly. In a large pan (I used a wok) heat a good glug of oil and add all your spices. Once it is sizzling add the vegetables and gently stir/shake the pan until they are covered in the oil and spice mixture. Cook until the vegetables and just browning, then turn off the heat. Add the torn coriander and spring onions and mix in. Squeeze over the lime juice

Then take a frying pan and add a good coating of oil. Add a ladleful of the batter enough to coat the pan, once this is cooked through, a bit like a pancake, add some of the veggies to the middle and roll up the dosa around it. The dosa was pretty fragile, we definitely found more oil helped it not stick to the pan and break apart, but I suspect it also substantially reduced any nutritional benefits! Oh well!

I kept the dosa in the now switched off but still warm oven while I cooked the rest, then  served them up sharpish. They were filling and really flavoursome, but not super spicy. If you like your Indian food hot you could add fresh red chilli, which is what Jamie suggests. All in all once we'd got the hang of the dosa, a very yummy and satisfying meal!

PS Jamie's original recipe is here.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Lazy Sunday Links

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1. A trip to River Cottage 2. The best dressed dog ever 3. Love the mix of old and new in this kitchen 4. and in this house 5. These kale chips look so good 6. Being Little shares her favourite outfit posts

 This weekend has been blissfully quiet. Our original plans fell through so I have spent my time pottering about, going to the library, organising my kitchen cupboards and making the most of the amazing sunshine we are having to... dry my washing. Ok, some sitting outside in the sun reading the ikea catalogue also happened.

In short life is boring but good! Hoping you have had a suitably lazy weekend too.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Garden Before and After

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We've got to a good stage with the garden now that I thought it was time to do a bit of a before and after post. We definitely want to get a lot more plants and a barbecue at some point, but it's at the stage where we can happily sit out with a drink, and we aren't embarrassed to let friends see it, so that seemed like a good time to sit back and pat myself on the back for how far we've gotten.

We've owned the house pretty much exactly two years now, and the garden was never a top priority, so it's been pretty much a true DIY as and when we have had a few spare days to work on it. This is what it was like when we moved in:

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There was a lot of junk from the old owners, and some badly rotting decking and a fence that was in pretty bad shape. We pretty much left it for the first year, as we were so focused on getting the house livable, that it was summer 2014 before we actually did anything. Then we were spurred on by the damp in the back wall, as the decking had been laid badly and was retaining a lot of moisture, which wasn't helping, my dad brought over his axe and crowbar (I never asked why he owns such things...) and over a couple of days we took the decking down, and got all of the old plant pots and rubble over to the dump.

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Unfortunately under the decking was a solid layer of concrete, and so my dreams of getting digging and building some beds and maybe grass were dashed, without a lot of extra work. And so I did what we always do and... left the garden for another year! Or nearly. Again at this point we wanted to get the spare room done before Christmas, and winter came, so we pretty much  ignored the garden for nearly a year until fate intervened and the fence blew down on both sides. This pretty much forced us into action, and so thanks to James' family, and mine for carting six loads of rubble to the tip, we had a new fence:

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This pretty much brings us up to two weeks ago when James and I painted the fence black and I ordered some plant pots from Amazon. Again massive thanks to my parents for driving us to homebase and helping us get all the plants. 

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I am so so happy with how it looks. The black fence and the terracotta planters look just as good as I'd hoped together, and I can't wait to get a load more plants and create a total urban jungle out here. As of today the plants are all still alive, so fingers crossed they remain so. I know that I am super slow with these things, so it will be a while before we do anything more out there, but it's got to the point where we can actually enjoy the garden, instead of looking out at a pile of rubble, so that is good enough for me right now!

See here, here and here for previous posts about the garden

Monday, 17 August 2015

Amsterdam Day Three

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Our last day in Amsterdam we got up early, threw everything into a suitcase and zipped over to the Van Gogh museum (criossant and coffee in hand!) to make our 9am ticket slot. At first I wasn't 100% sure about the museum. It was very busy, and I felt I didn't have a lot of space to see the pictures. As you go chronologically through Van Gogh's life and up floor by floor though the people do start to thin out, and by the end it became one of the highlights of my trip.

I felt like before the museum I knew the standard Van Gogh story, and he always seemed to me to be a pretty sad, lonely character. As it turns out he had a really close family, and I particularly loved hearing about how tirelessly his sister-in-law worked after his death to ensure his paintings were not forgotten, and it is pretty much through her efforts that he is as famous as he is today. I also had no idea how many pictures he painted. A lot as it turns out! More than one a day in the six months leading up to his death.

After the museum we sat on the grass in the sun for a bit, while more energetic people than us did yoga, and then went for a final wander around Amsterdam. We walked through the red light district, just to say we'd seen it (the lunchtime slot is apparently not very popular - lots of scantily clad women looking bored on their phones), and went to the floating flower market. The flower market was nice but probably not a must see. If you want to buy bulbs it is to place to be, but if you want to see pretty flowers you'd probably be better off in Columbia Road.

We finished our trip with a dutch pancake - it had to be done at some point - and then picked up our stuff from the hotel and headed home. I absolutely adored Amsterdam, it is definitely one of my favourite European cities and I could totally see myself living here, with a little apartment in the Jordaan, popping down to Winkels for coffee and apple cake, and browsing for books in the American bookshop. Maybe one day!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

A picture of the week

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Here is a picture of what I purchased in Amsterdam (other than food and museum tickets!) We didn't do tons of shopping, but we popped into Hema on the recommendation of Gh0stparties and I went a bit crazy over their cute stationary and homewares. I picked up two notebooks, two rolls of washi tape, and a little kitchen pot (which nearly got me into trouble at the airport as the scanner could not see through it. Ironic that the security guards had to search my baggage for (a) pot on the way back from Amsterdam!) 

We also browsed the American bookshop while we were there, and I ended up buying this book on paper craft in the sale. I have this idea that when I move jobs in a couple of months I am going to have all this spare time, and I am suddenly going to turn into an amazingly crafty person... Something that has yet to happen in my 28 years! Hopefully starting with a book of crafts that only involve paper will at least stop me spending £££ on craft supplies I am never going to use!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Amsterdam Day Two

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On our second day in Amsterdam (and last full day) after a breakfast from a local bakery, we had planned to go to the Van Gogh museum, but the queue was horrendous. They are building a new entrance but for the moment it was just a mass of people so we abandoned that plan, and instead went to the nearby central museum shop and bought timed entry tickets for the next day, complete with queue skipping priorities, win! I would definitely recommend this if it's a top priority for you to go, as it was for us.

Instead we decided to go on a canal cruise, and had a much more relaxing morning sailing round the main canal loop in Amsterdam, taking yet more pictures of Dutch gables and canal boats! We finally made ourselves get off the boat at the Nine Streets, which is the boutique shopping area filled with little independent shops. I had some pretty epic Carpaccio for lunch, and then dragged James round all of the shops, until we were in dire need of an afternoon snack, and headed to the North end of the Jordaan to Winkels, for a slice of their famous apple cake and whipped cream. SO good!

James picked the restaurant this evening and we went for pizza at Eatmosphera. The food was amazing, but what we didn't realise until we were happily eating away on a table outside and the lights started going on around us that we had strayed a bit further away from the pretty, traditional areas and into red light territory! It was too early for us to get much of a window show with our dinner thankfully!

All the restaurants we visited were pretty busy, but they were all able to squeeze us in without a reservation, although it often seemed like we took the last available table. I'd definitely make reservations if I went back again.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Amsterdam Day One

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Considering we only spent two and a half days in Amsterdam we managed to cram a lot in! With so many more places in the world to see, I always feel like I need to make the most of wherever I go, in case I never make it back. I certainly managed that!

 On our first night after we made it to the hotel (my directions were excellent, however I managed to navigate us to the road parallel to the one our hotel was on... Which is as bad as being miles away when you don't have the internet or a map!) we headed to nearby Cafe Loetje, on a recommendation from my friend Kristen. It pretty much just serves steak, but really damn good steak, definitely recommended if you like things simple but meaty.

We stayed in Hotel Roemer, which was just right for us. Really near the museum district and comfortable, with big clean rooms, on a quiet street. We booked with the location in mind as the first thing we did when we got up the next say was head straight ot the big museum square where the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh are located. We started with the Rijksmuseum, and I forced James into an exhibit on the history of fashion magazines, and then we just wandered around the museums permanent collections for a couple of hours. There is so much to see we definitely got our money's worth. I was sorely tempted by the Rembrant Miffy in the shop!

After a picnic lunch from a local supermarket we headed on an epic walk up to the Jordaan area, full of gorgeous little streets and canals. Very weary, we headed back towards our hotel, with a massive iced coffee pick me up needed on route. 

After a couple of hours chilling in the hotel we finally found the energy to make it out of the door and walked through the beautiful Vondel Park (the place to be on a sunny summer's evening) to Restaurant Blauw, for probably the best meal I had all trip. It was a recommendation from Cat at Take Courage, in her guide to Amsterdam, and it was so good. I don't think I have ever had Indonesian food before, and this was the next level. We shared one taser menu between us and it was epic. Really delicious lightly spiced, coconutty sauces over a whole variety of meat (from goat to pork, they also did a fish version and a veggie version) and veggies.

Stuffed and exhausted we headed back to the hotel to crash until the next day!