A Place in the Sun

With the weather recently taking a sunny turn, dreams of basking in the sun with the sea glittering nearby have flitted through my head. The sense of peace that descends on me when the sun is setting in the sky, warm rays shining through the bus, transports me away from everything and I can indulge in escapism with the help of that gorgeous pink sky.

Leamington is fairly difficult to escape from. Think a long, straight parade, 3 places to dance the night away in, a LOT of Italian restaurants and the omnipresence of a red and blue bus that takes you to a bubble campus, enclosed by countryside. Well, on Saturday night, I went to Turtle Bay and swum in delicious cocktails, got hot from spicy flavours and enjoyed a wholly different eating out experience to what I normally expect from Leam.

We arrived there at 9 and it was full – I didn’t event think to book, but we were led to the bar and informed that Happy Hour would begin at 9.30 (so we might want to wait a bit before ordering). We didn’t have to wait long before being given a table. The bar is in the middle of the restaurant, a square shape which was great because you could see the shaking of cocktails etc. It was bright, lively and had jammin’ music.

I went rather overboard and had 3 cocktails-the mark of a successful Happy Hour, but they aren’t all on the online menu and I can’t remember all the names of them. They were all amaze!! My favourite IS on the menu, ‘Jammin’: white rum, apricot liqueur, fresh mint, ginger, lime, apple juice & apricot jam. Real good.

We decided to go for 2 dishes and share them. So we chose the ‘Curry, Shrimp and Mango’ One Pot which consisted of shrimps, mango, sweet potatoes, Caribbean spices, sweet onion chutney, rice and flatbread with dumplings, and the ‘Dipped Pork Steak’, jerk-glazed pork, plaintain, Caribbean slaw, rice and peas, and sweet potato fries. My oh my oh MY.

I started with the jerk pork. The sauce was quite spicy (but this is for someone with a wimpy palette) and the pork was tender and juicy – it seemed like a good quality cut. The slaw had sultanas in it, and the sweet potatoes with the plantain meant there was an abundance of sweetness to balance out the salty spice of the pork. The whole plate was beautifully put together, everything present enhanced the dish in its own way – I wish there had been another slice of plantain though, I felt one mouthful of the soft sweetness left me really wanting more of it!! As is my custom, I asked for ketchup and mayonnaise to accompany the sweet potato fries, but found the jerk bbq sauce went much better. For the first time in a VERY long time, there was plenty of k and m left over at the end.

The ‘Pot’ is tres exciting-looking, arriving in a white pot whose lid was removed with a flourish and revealed a colourful saucy thing with pink prawns nestling next to yellow shapes, a far cry from my standard casseroles. The sauce was sweet, and thin enough not to overwhelm the delicate prawns but firm enough to stick to the rice and flatbread. The dumplings were dense but crispy (and went sooo well with the jerk bbw sauce).

I cannot WAIT to come here again. What would be really snazzy is when drinks stop being served (11pm) it could turn into a sort of place to dance in – that is my advice to the enthusiastic staff who served us.

The sun shines golden bright in Turtle Bay. I suggest you go and soak it up!

Image, SImageImage

An Eat Out Indian

Last week, my friends and I had a takeaway. As a rule, when ordering takeout, there are three options: Chinese, Indian, or Pizza. Within these three options, whilst I love trying new things, my range is pretty limited: Chinese – beef in black bean or sweet and sour chick, Indian – lamb saag, and Pizza – pepperoni or bbq. With the exception of pizza, takeaway is really the only way I taste these different cuisines. I’ve never been to China or India, and whilst I cook my own curry with paste, I definitely cannot tell between different spices and don’t really know the difference between curries except that Vindaloo is seriously tongue-under-tap hot.

Last week I went up to Birmingham to visit my sister and we went out for dinner to an Indian restaurant called Asha’s. The restaurant itself is lovely, with impressive, bright floral decorations that glow different colours and cast shadows on the red walls. There was a lively atmosphere when we arrived so waiting for a table was actually enjoyable, surrounded as we were by conversations between the barmen and customers as well as the occupied tables.

As I said before, I’m fairly clueless when it comes to Indian dishes. I suggested Lamb Bharta because one of the ingredients was ‘Ashaji’s own garam masala’ and the vegetarian option was often served in Indian homes so it promised to be authentic. We decided to ask the waiter’s opinion for the second one. He recommended Ghar Ki Dal, which is made with yellow moong lentils. Both these were from recipes of ‘Asha Bole’ so I was excited to try them with a Peshwari nan.

I have to go through the dishes one by one because when they appear in my mind they fill it with such warm intensity the other one is sidelined for a moment. So, Lamb Bharta: minced lamb, aubergine, garam masala, coriander. It was a dark, warm red thick curry, with a depth that added layer upon layer of flavour. That’s what distinguished it from my previous experience with curry – the taste continued to evolve. I have also never had mince in a curry before, but it worked really well because the lamb was tender and the sauce was one with it. The Ghar Ki Dal (tempered yellow moong lentils with coriander and cumin) had a beautiful soft thick texture, its yellow vibrant, and when scooped up by the sweet peshwari nan with the Bharta already sinking into the bread it was red yellow sweet salty spiced soft intense loveliness which is quite difficult to describe. Washed down intermittently with Cobra beer and accompanied by the sneezes of a helpless man (which was hilarious and we all had a good laugh about it).

One of the most warming, delicious dining experiences ever!

The wonderful world of tiffin

One of the best things about Warwick, if I had to choose between all the crazy great things, would be…

The tiffin sold at Costcutter.

I talk about my obsession most days because I actually cannot help it.

I first came across this wonder of the world in first year. They were cheerfully named ‘Tiffin Misshapes’ which made me fancy them even more because it sounded like they were the loners of the superior Tiffin Perfect Shapes and I was benevolently adopting them. Well, I brought the clear, plastic box into my room, had one, couldn’t control myself, and had the rest of them. I am convinced they have some addictive substance in them because you cannot have just one. They are moist chocolatey biscuitey bars, rich, studded with sultanas, and topped with a thick layer of chocolate which snaps so satisfyingly it is seriously out of this world.

I spent an agonising first term of second year popping into Costcutter, but the tiffin did not materialise. I asked everyone. I asked the cashier when they would be returning, and he didn’t even know what tiffin was. That was v painful. But then rumour hit the library, I dashed to the SU, and there they were again. Second year saved.

Twinny boo Becky had been planning to visit me, but we weren’t sure exactly when she should visit me. In case she did a couple of weeks ago, I bought a pack of tiffin so I could share with her this delight. She didn’t come. We arranged for this weekend, which meant I had these chocolate pieces of bliss in my room for a whole week. Obviously if I opened them that would be it. So I resisted. I waited.

There were a few close moments when I almost threw caution to the wind and succumbed, but I proved more resilient.

My weekend with Becky was a highlight of this term. We danced, we ate, we shopped, we giggled, we bickered, I cooked actually quite well for her and we shared the delights of tiffin. Even if tiffin is the height of the biscuit and chocolate world combined, there would be no world for me if she was not there to bring me mangoes, pat my back and watch 90210 with.

Me and Becky could take on the world quite well I think. So long as there is tiffin in it.Image

Schnitzel’s one of my favourite things

One of travel’s most seductive qualities for me is the chance to make the small, exclusive world around me disappear and to spend time in an entirely different space. I savour my sailing holidays in the Meditteranean. As snapshots in my head they exist as bursts of bright sunlight and dancing, aquamarine waves, but I can easily get lost in my favourite memories. At about 5 or 6 o’clock, when we would be heading towards land for the night, the sun would be sinking in the sky and spreading itself across the sea. There is very little that compares to sitting at the very front of the boat overlooking the sea, with the warm air blowing through my hair and and the feeling that I am flying over the sea.

Of course, travel multiplies the variety of food on offer by about 10 to the power of infinity. When on holiday I try to taste as many different dishes as I can. This can be difficult sometimes – when I was in Berlin for 2 days, I had currywurst 3 times. It was a compulsion brought about by the ingenuity of mixing ketchup, curry powder and really great sausages together so my obsession was fairly understandable.

When you can’t go to different countries, it’s wonderful when the country comes to you. And that’s what happened last night. Invited by our Austrian friend, we attended Warwick’s German-speaking society Schnitzel night. Traditionally served with a lemon wedge and potato salad, it has its own particular breadcrumbs (which I thought was really cool – it never occurred to me that there were different types of breadcrumb!). We were given turkey schnitzel and aforementioned sides. It was delicious. The meat was really tender and cooked to perfection, which was quite a feat considering the Exec were cooking for 30 people using a random student kitchen. The potato salad and lemon juice went with it like a dream.

Going to this event made me reflect on how comforting it must be for international students to be able to meet up and talk in their own language for a change. The atmosphere was relaxed and was great to be a part of. Danke German-speaking Soc!!

But last night didn’t stop there…

Bill’s. Dessert. Doughnuts sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and served with chocolate sauce. The doughnuts turned into the softest, sweetest pillows of goodness ever to snuggle into your mouth. The slightly bitter chocolate sauce made it slightly grown up. I felt grown up. I would like to return to Bill’s for dinner some time, so I think that’s a good sign.

Going to go and look up places to eat in Bordeaux, which is where I am going to be spending next year!! I cannot wait to try all the different food and explore, lose myself in the culture and hopefully find myself again (maybs a dress size or two bigger).

Spaghetti Bolognese

The reason why I decided to create a food blog was because I love food and it’s something you share. Food is love. Eating out at fancy restaurants with unpronounceable ingredients and a twist on the dish that turns it from everyday nosh to delicate and explosive cuisine is not my overwhelming motivation. I associate food with my mum and when she places a steaming dish of Shepherds’ Pie in front of us, or calls us to a Sunday Roast, I truly believe it shows her love and affection for us. Cooking a dinner for someone requires planning, money, and washing up. Those who cook for others have big hearts.

The other week I watched ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’, a film that won the Palm d’Or at Cannes Film Festival. It depicts a schoolgirl who meets an art student with blue hair and they share a beautiful, confusing, agonising relationship. I know there has been criticism that the film depicts a heterosexual man’s fantasy of lesbian sex, but I was overwhelmed by the beauty and sensuality of the film. My friends and I were captivated by the almost child-like appearance of Adèle, whose curiosity and inner struggle was something I think most of the audience could identify with. Emma’s freedom and self-assurance was beautiful and enviable, and the three hours passed with a million thoughts in my head all at once. It was incredibly memorable.

I think the part of the film that resonated with us the most, for many different reasons, was the spaghetti bolognese. In the week following the film, every single one of us ate spaghetti bolognese. We couldn’t stop talking about it. The golden clumps of spaghetti with meat and tomatoes falling from it was devoured by Adèle, in an incredibly natural yet evocative way and it seemed to say so much about her thoughts.

The spaghetti bolognese I ate was at my friend’s birthday celebration. It was unanimously agreed that it was one of the best spaghetti bologneses to ever have been made. The bacon added a smoky robustness to it and I was utterly blown away by the rich, meaty, salty, sweetness of the sauce that clung to the pasta. Sitting there all together sharing spaghetti bolognese was quietly heart-warming.

So this isn’t exactly a food review. But I honestly will never look at spaghetti bolognese in the same way again. Food does powerful things.

Patience, per favore

My friend and I, being the groovy literature students that we are, were discussing what makes a good novel. We decided that it is a novel that changes your life in some way, it can be big or small, but it changes your perceptions irrevocably. One of the books that did this to me was Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls: I spent most of it disliking the protagonist, and then the ending threw me somewhere completely different and hovered over me for a good few weeks afterwards, infiltrating my mood and actions.

Stories that I read when I was young also stayed with me and encouraged me to write my own (if anyone wants to read The Secret Key I will give you a signed copy). Harry and the Wrinklies was a wonderful escape. Sophie’s Stories were also great. Independent, feisty and uncompromising, Sophie was a force to be reckoned with. When faced with the rhyme, ‘Patience is a virtue, virtue is a grace, Grace is a little girl who wouldn’t wash her face’ she questions the fate of poor old Grace and the story behind her refusal to wash her face and resolutely ignored the message.

Patience might be a virtue, but it definitely has its limits, as my Warwick gals and I found out when we went to Zizzi’s. I hadn’t been out to eat in a while and was super excited to go and try out my New Year’s Res of making a decision and sticking to it. We ordered (I went for the Calzone Pollo Spinaci and only changed my mind like 3 times so it was all going well) and we waited. And waited. And waited. And waited for over an hour. There was one waiter for the whole restaurant, which had 4 huge tables and was jam packed (quite surprising for a Tuesday). It was sooooooo loooooong. I had forgotten what I ordered so when it was sat down in front of me I thought I had ordered a giant Cornish pasty. It was actually really good – such a full-flavoured creamy sauce, and beautiful circles of pink salty ham on top, although I only vaguely remember chicken in a couple of mouthfuls. It also came with a garlicky tomatoey wowzy sauce that brought out the calzone in all its glory. But I still remember the wait. So does everyone else who was there.

So patience was off the menu that night. Perhaps we should have done a Sophie and asserted our authority above and beyond refusing to pay the 10% extra. But I enjoyed my dish. So next time, Zizzi’s, I’ll bring a book. Image

Decisions, decisions, desserts, decisions….

It is the eve of New Year. 2013 has been a wonderful, difficult, hilarious, drunken, heartbreaking, interesting, revealing year. Highlights include running at midnight, my birthday, Henley Regatta, seeing dolphins in the Mediterranean, surfing in Newquay and skiing. Christmas has seen vast quantities of alcohol and family gatherings. Inevitably, during a phone-call with my friend, the topic of the prospective New Year came about, and we wondered about our futures, and came up with some Resolutions for each other. As quick as a shot, she said: ‘Yours is to make a decision, and stick with it.’ So there is one of mine. I have some others too: be more efficient in EVERYTHING and try and balance my life more. 

On my Dad’s side of the family, our reunions take the form of a dinner in somebody’s house. This year, we went to my cousin’s house, which was a first. It was beautifully organised – a long table fit us in, and we were graciously welcomed with canapés, bubbles, and the unwrapping of our Secret Santa gifts. My Occitane set sent me into realms of prospective pampering delight. I hope my gift was similarly appreciated.

Dinner at a Yarwood get-together normally consists of a casserole, and one of the beef variety was offered. I decided on the pulled pork option instead, and it was tender and served with a full-flavoured gravy and spiced apple sauce. Y u m. Then came the puddings. I had already heard what they were: key lime pie, pavlova and chocolate hazelnut cheesecake. Obviously, it being Christmas, the number of pudding servings is not confined to one. Anything goes. However, I decided that in another family gathering it was rather likely that my Mum would make a pavlova, so that one was crossed off the list.

In the process of consuming these two puddings I realised the extent of my incapability to make decisions. First issue: which dessert to have first? The fruitier key lime pie or the more decadent cheesecake? What considerations to include? After being stuck on this I went for the key lime pie. It was extremely delightful. The filling was airy and light, with an exquisite limey ping that was set off by the crunchy biscuit base. I particularly liked the fact that there were flecks of green amidst the whiteness – proof that it had seen a lime. Dessert no. 2 was similar and different. Cheesecake and key lime pie would be on the same family tree of desserts, but this smooth, thick, chocolatey hazelnutian treat coated my senses in a rich pleasure. Apparently it was cream cheese mixed with Nutella – what a GREAT idea.

After having had these two desserts, there was still some leftover of both. I thought four helpings was excessive, but three appreciative. So which one to have?????????????

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Zesty or deep? Chocolate or fruit? Cheese or fluff?

I could not decide.

So I had a slither of each.

Sublime. It was difficult deciding which one should be the last mouthful…..but I managed to get through it.

Making decisions is something I need to work on. 2014 may be the year of decisiveness or not. I can’t decide.