Category Archives: Food

Good Eatin’ – Caribbean Food Box


Who doesn’t enjoy a big parcel in the mail? Especially when it is a big parcel full of food! I can only imagine it’s what it feels like when you get a hamper for Christmas. The thing is, this is a parcel that I got for myself and it is full of list food from an online Jamaican grocery store.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

Now there is no way that I would be able to use all of this in one meal to cross all seven things off the list. I mean, what dish would need both cassareep and sheto? Someone is bound to prove me wrong there, but it feels to me that would leave a dish over-seasoned.

In the end I managed to use four of them in one meal, which isn’t too shabby if I say so myself.

img_4626Food item: Ambarella

Crisp and sour. Very much like a green mango. The smell as you peel is musty. Knowing what this is, you can tell that this is isn’t what we would consider ripe. But this is how it’s eaten so can respect that.

There are a number of spiny tendril like things going up through the fruit… which makes me feel like this doesn’t want to be eaten. It’s a weird fruit that may or may not want to attack you. Not entirely sure why you’d sit down and eat something like this in the first place.

img_4637Food item: Hardough

On the surface of it this looks like a pretty bog-standard loaf of white bread. When you taste it you come up with something that’s surprisingly dense. Also it’s a bit sweet. I wouldn’t have expected that either. So imagine my surprise when I made a cheese sandwich using this bread and I got something smokey and sweet.

I can imagine this being a good bread to use when making French toast, if it wasn’t for the fact that it might not be the best absorber of liquid. i have a kilo of this bread left, so why not experiment, eh?

Food items: Red Palm Oil and Bammy

Firstly let’s talk about this oil, because it’s solid. Like, really solid. Similar to how coconut oil is solid I guess, but in this instance it looks like quite lumpy viscera.

The oil on its own has a unique nutty taste, but when it is melted in the pan it takes on another odour that the hub likened to animal feed. The moment he said that something clicked in my head. It looked like I was cooking with blood and, thanks to hub, I was feeling mildly unhappy about the smell.

Then there are the bammy. I agree with the books assessment that these are fairly bland. Any taste that you get from it is what was picked up from both the red palm oil it was fried in and the coconut milk it was soaked in.

They looked attractive enough on the plate. Just didn’t think they added much to dinner. The texture is dense like a rusk. Like a dry, flakey, cloying thick rusk. Not too impressed, then again I am not too impressed with anything so far. I hope the remaining three items do better than these ones did.

Progress: 607/751

Good Eatin’ – Tajarin with Sage and Butter

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood item: Tajarin

Much like with the fregola and the pane carasau, I was able to find this box of tajarin in the imports section of Marks and Spencer. Now, I could have always chosen to make my own… apart from the fact that I don’t own a pasta maker.

Also,  the sheer number of egg yolks required to make a batch of tajarin boggles the mind. I have seen recipes that ask for around 30 egg yolks to make a kilo of pasta. Consider food prices these days when trying to buy decent free range eggs and you’ll see why I waited to find this ready made.

Really that’s what tajarin is. A type of pasta made from flour and egg yolks. It also happens to be the yellowest pasta that I have ever seen: both in its dried form and in its cooked form.


Excuse the rather Dutch bowl in the photo, but it’s the only bowl of this type that I own which shows off just how yellow this pasta is.

In order to make this I followed a recipe for tajarin with sage and butter. I may have had the butter on too high when I added the grated parmesan as it began to (what I can only describe as) caramelise. Luckily the cooked pasta water managed to help salvage the sauce and make for a tasty tea.

To properly cross off the tajarin I took some straight from the pot and ate it as is. In pasta terms it is very rich. I want to say that it even tasted buttery, which feels like it should be impossible considering dairy wasn’t involved in the making of the pasta.

Also of note was the tajarin’s texture. It was velvety smooth as it entered the mouth and still had a good bit of give to it when I bit in. This is one of those pastas that I bet is gorgeous with a carbonara sauce, especially when made with guanciale. I need to find some of THAT again, it’s been way too long.

Progress: 603/751

Good Eatin’ – Cocido de Garbanzos Pedrosillanos

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Dieimg_4618Food item: Garbanzos Pedrosillano

So I have had these little chick peas sitting in my cupboard for months. I never touched them because of the whole having to soak them for 8+ hours before cooking. That and the fact that all the recipes I could find for this particular type of chick peas were in Spanish. So I did what I had to do: used copious amounts of Google Translate to find out what on earth was happening in this recipe.


Do you know how gratifying it is when the food you made looks very much like the picture on the website.

Since I’ve actually managed to make this, I figured I would post the translation I worked on:

Ingredients (serves 4)

500g garbanzo pedrosillano (pre-soaked for 8+ hours)
300g stewing beef, cut into chunks
100g bacon, cut into squares
1 leek, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves (chopped)
1 large carrot, diced
1 large potato, diced
1 splash of brandy (we don’t have brandy so I used Southern Comfort…)
1 cup white wine
A pinch of dried thyme (I know it’s meant to be rosemary, but I don’t have rosemary)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sugar

In a saucepan add the three tablespoons of oil. Fry the bacon until brown before removing and setting aside.

Saute the beef over a high heat so it browns on the outside. Pour in the brandy (ok, fine, Southern Comfort) and cook until the the alcohol evaporates. Remove, then set aside.

In the remaining fat fry the garlic, leek and carrot. Add a splash of water and the sugar and cook until the carrots are soft enough to break in half with the end of a spatula. Add the thyme and wine until it begins to simmer.

Re-add the beef and bacon, cover with water and bring to a boil. Add the the chickpeas and leave to simmer for 90 minutes, stirring  every now and then. Add the potatoes when there are still 30 minutes left to cook, and serve when very hungry whilst watchingSilent Witness.

So what’s the overall verdict of these little chick peas? Well, I am surprised that they maintained their shape and their firmness despite 10 hours of soaking and 90 minutes of cooking. Apart from that these were like slightly nuttier and firmer chick peas.

Probably not worth the extra money compared to regular chick peas… then again I am not the biggest fan of a large amount of chick peas in a stew.

Progress: 602/751

Good Eatin’ – Fregola with Peas, Mint & Ricotta

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

So begins a short series of themed food posts where I clear the kitchen cupboards of all the list items I have building up and try to cook delicious things with them.

img_4616Food item: Fregola Pasta

The first to be looked at is this packet of fregola that I found in a nearby Marks and Spencer. Not in the regular pasta section mind you, but the ever changing section of international/speciality ingredients.

If you haven’t heard of fregola then that means you are not from the island of Sardinia. It’s listed in the book and on Wikipedia as a type of pasta made from semolina flour where the dough is made into small balls before being toasted. Sounds just like giant couscous right?


To sample this pasta I found a super recipe on Bon Appétit where you cooked the fregola with peas, freshly chopped mint and bacon before finishing it with great dollops of ricotta cheese.

If the description of fregola didn’t sound enough like giant couscous then eating it sure did. Unlike couscous, each grain of fregola has a good bite to it. This might be more a side-effect of fregola’s size when cooked, which is about the same as a garden pea.

Other than the bite thing I would say that the comparison to couscous is rather apt. Like it’s smaller cousin, the fregola swelled up as it was being boiled. So much was the swelling that I had to top up the water a little bit to ensure even cooking.

This plumping, for me, makes fregola preferable to couscous. It is nowhere as dense when eating a plate of it, and you can make risotto like dishes as long as you add a little bit of pasta water to the sauce to help things up. So, it’s pretty much what you get if you tried to make a hybrid of orzo and couscous.

It all adds up to a tasty dinner where I am happy to have half a bag left in the cupboard for future usage.

Progress: 601/751

Good Eatin’ – I’ve Hit 600!

So here we are again at an awesome landmark. Sadly I missed what the proper halfway point was due to some spreadsheet, but reaching 600 on a list of 1001 is still pretty damned cool.

Sure I might never complete this list with things like yellow oil crab and moleche requiring trips abroad at very specific times, but doesn’t mean I can’t get as far as possible.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Dieimg_4610Food items: Ratte Potatoes and Crosnes

Originally there was going to be a third item since I saw parsley root on sale… but it turns out that I grabbed some sort of heirloom carrot. Tasted nice when roasted with a heather honey-soy sauce glaze, but not really what I wanted. Sidenote: I was so happy to finally find a use for that jar of heather honey.


The ratte potatoes were boiled in their skins for 25 minutes and served with a light dusting of salt. I know that you can puree them for their nutty taste or include them in casseroles, but I wanted my first taste of these to be pure. They were firm and creamy in a way that I didn’t quite expect from a potato. Really, a little bit of salt was all that was needed here.

As for the crosnes (also known as Chinese or Japanese artichokes) I decided to blanch them for two minutes before frying with some smoked German sausage for about eight minutes; taking care for the crosnes to get an even coat of the fat that was oozing from the sausages.

The result of cooking the crosnes in this fashion made for a lovely smokey taste permeating the smooth nuttiness of the crosnes. The smaller ones were easily mashable with a fork and the slightly larger ones still had the hint of a bite to them. Honestly, I wish I could have melted some raclette cheese over the top of this and eaten is as some form of hybrid gröstl.

img_4612Food item: Pala Manis

So, this little pot of nutmeg jam is what gets to my landmark. Pala Manis sounds so much better than nutmeg pericarp, but I guess this more scientific sounding name is more botanically correct.

Just to break it down.

Nutmeg is an amazing plant where we eat the seed (as regular nutmeg), the aril (known as mace) as well as the surrounding fruit itself. The pala manis in this jar is this pale apricot-like fruit.

Being a jam this was always going to be sweet, but what’s of real interest is the hint of sourness and the warmth. It certainly has the warmth of the nutmeg, but there’s more to it than that. I want to just call it Christmas, but I think that it’s more like ginger or galangal. I wish that little jar wasn’t £2 or I’d buy the nutmeg syrup for future acts of ice cream.

Progress: 600/751

Good Eatin’ – Reindeer Burgers

As with the same certainty of the sun rising in the east; Christmas time means that a wealth of food list items are about to reach my tastebuds. I currently have 10-12 of them sat in the kitchen in fresh, vacuum-packed or dried forms and I want to have used them all by the time 2017 rolls around.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

img_4606Food item: Reindeer

There is nothing like it being Christmas and reindeer meat being on sale. I am sure it could be on sale all year around, but there is a weird part of a British adult that wants to know what Rudolf tastes like as you stare at a reindeer made of fairy lights.

I missed out on the opportunity to cross this off two years ago at the Christmas market on London’s South Bank, so I wasn’t going to pass this opportunity. Thanks again Borough Market for the opportunity to eat something more unusual.


Of course I would rather have this prepared for me by someone who knows to cook the reindeer burger. At only £1 more than a regular beef burger at a competing stall this felt like a bargain.

A delicious bargain. This burger appeared to be precisely what hub needed after the sambuca shots at his office Christmas party. Not exactly ‘hair of the dog’, but ‘antler of the reindeer’? Right?

Tasting this as a burger really makes me think that reindeer steaks must be great. I’m not really the biggest fan of the gaminess of venison, but the reindeer really toes the line. It’s gamey in the same way guinea fowl is, meaning not too gamey.

It’s lean, tender and the exact right amount of gaminess. I would actually buy reindeer meat if it was available in the supermarkets as an alternative to beef in some dishes. However, I can imagine some people having trouble with that in a similar way to horse (which is a shame, because horse can be quite nice).

What I am finding incredibly encouraging is the knowledge that I will be reaching 600 with the next food post. What will this magnificent landmark be?

Progress: 597/751

Good Eatin’ – Food From Vienna


Thanks to the wonderful Julius Meinl shop in Vienna’s rather ritzy shopping area – I have three more food items to cross off. I could have stuck these onto the end of my previous Vienna post, but I felt that it would work better separated off.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Dieimg_4588Food item: Butterzopf

First off, we have a type of bread known in Switzerland as butterzopf. If you just look at it you will probably see resemblances to the braiding of challah and the shine of a brioche. Unsurprisingly butterzopf also shares a lot when it comes to the taste and texture of challah and brioche as well.

This partial loaf of butterzopf was different since it has a warmth to it, like it had some citrus zest and some sort of spice added to it. It was like if you had stollen, but took out the fruit and the marzipan as well as making the texture ever so slightly lighter. In retrospect, this was never going to be a bread to go with these cheeses.

img_4589Food item: Tiroler Graukase

I arrived in Austria with three Austrian food items to find; with this cheese I managed to find the final item on the list. Calling your cheese ‘grey cheese’ is never really going to inspire much confidence in how it is going to look or taste, but the cheese didn’t exactly taste grey.

Actually it reminded me a lot of Harzer in both how it looked and the general squidgy jelly-like nature of the cheese. The taste is salty and immediately pungent… But the lack of any real aftertaste make me want to recognise it as being a mild cheese. The main problem was diminishing returns. The first taste was the best and after that it felt a bit blah and there was no real urge to go back to it after taste number three.

img_4590Food item: Oscypek

The other cheese that I got was a smoked sheep’s cheese from Poland called Oscypek. This is a cheese with traditions stretching back to the 1400s, which is downright incredible when you think about it. It’s especially incredible when you realise this is something that would have been eaten before potatoes and tomatoes arrived in Europe. Mind blown right?

The first impression is that it is a very smooth cheese. Rubbery even. Actually it was downright fun to stroke it through the wrapping. It also smelt so gorgeously smokey. and you’ll know from my experience of the smokey blue cheese just how much I love a good smoked cheese.

This is a cheese where eating the rind is a key part of the cheese eating experience. The main body of the cheese is like mozzarella in that it is creamy, has a slight tang but no real strong flavour. All the smokiness exists in the rind. Put them together and something magical happens. I do think it reminds me a lot of the generic processed Bavarian smoked cheese – but this has so many more nuances and (for me) is preferable.

So this properly ends my time in Vienna. I can’t quite believe that I have been to New York, Rotterdam, Lisbon and Vienna within two months. I am so incredibly blessed to be able to have done this. Of course, it is going to be a while since I am on my travels again (money, amirite?), but I cannot wait to see where I am going to end up next!

Progress: 596/751

Oh Vienna – Day 3: Schönbrunn

My last full day in Vienna? That just feels incredibly wrong. This is the problem of having these short weekend breaks, as lovely as they are it is just over too soon.

Still, we made the most out of today and the way to do that is with a good breakfast (well, brunch by the time we started). In many ways Vienna has similar prices to London, but if you are smart about it you will not break the bank. See this breakfast for two that I shared with the hub. It really kept us going through most of the day, where we were on our feet pretty much all the time.

The destination today was Schönbrunn, which is a very short metro ride out of the city centre. The main draw is the UNESCO Heritage recognised palace and gardens.

The palace was the former summer residence for the Habsburg emperors of Austria-Hungary and is absolutely massive. I swear that we don’t have palaces to this scale in the UK, when you consider that this former hunting lodge expanded into well over 1000 rooms.

I would be so interested to see what the grounds are like in summer with full flower beds and running fountains. In December it is still beautifully grand (and smells of cinnamon thanks to the resident Christmas market), but a little bit bleak.

There were signs that said you would need to wait 2.5 hours before being able to enter the palace to have a look around. What these signs did not tell you is that you could head in straight away if you bought one of the combined tickets to another nearby attraction. We know this purely because it was our plan to do this anyway.

The interior of the palace that we saw as part of the “Imperial Tour” was extremely grand. Sadly there were signs everywhere that said no photography was allowed inside, but I think we all disobeyed that rule when it came to the this grand ballroom.


I haven’t never been to Versailles, but if the hall of mirrors there is meant to be greater than this ballroom… well I think I know where my next planned trip might end up being. Seriously though, going to this palace, the Imperial Crypt and seeing how much they still revere Maria Theresa makes me want to learn more about the history of the Habsburgs. If you have any suggestions of where I can start, please let me know.

After an hour long tour of the palace we walked through the gardens on the way to Schönbrunn Tiergarten (ie the zoo). This was originally started as an imperial menagerie  and has since expended into one of the best zoos I have ever been to.

img_4552 img_4528

This is not just because of the variety of animals (which includes polar bears, sea lions, leopards and pandas), but also the condition of the enclosures. This is a zoo that has successfully bred polar bears and pandas so you know they are doing something right.

I has running about this zoo like a little kid (who was cold seeing how we didn’t get too far about freezing today) looking at all the animals that I could see in the few hours we had in this amazing zoo.


Of course we ended up spending a lot of time with the pandas. How couldn’t I? They’re pandas! We were there a solid 10 minutes hoping it would turn around and only when we went to leave did she suddenly move and allow me to take such cool pictures. This was better than seeing the pandas at Ueno in Tokyo. Can’t believe I was actually so close.


We stayed into the zoo until it closed. The closing announcement came through whilst we were in the aquarium staring at a rather lively octopus. So it was back to the city centre before we got locked in with the crocodiles.


Rather than heading straight for food (we were all hungry by now) we visited the, now dark, Stadtpark to see some of the statues. The main ones were still lit up anyway so the emptiness of the park just added to the ambience. The statue that I came to see was this golden one of Strauss. It’s nice to see someone other than Mozart being revered in this city.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
img_4579Food item: Linzer Torte

By now we needed a sit down so it was an early evening cake and drinks before a final runthrough of the Christmas markets. Finally I was able to try some Linzer torte. I got it as a slice because could not find it as the typical torte. Better than Sacher torte by a mile. The toasted hazlenuts and the crumbly cake are brought together by the seam of redcurrant jam. Where the Sacher torte was a disappointment this Linzer torte is a pleasant surprise.

img_4582Food item: Horseradish
Progress: 593/751

One of the big things that my mum wanted to have from the market stalls was some Tiroler gröstl. We had it when we were in Kitzbühl back in 1999 and there were stalls selling it here. To my surprise they put grated horseradish on top. There is nothing I like more than a surprise list item and this horseradish really complimented the fried bacon and potatoes. Makes me feel like I am 9 again.


The final Christmas market we went back to was the one on the Rathausplatz, which is both the biggest one and the nearest to our hotel. There were some last minute purchases and a complete final runthrough. I can’t believe we are going from somewhere this filled with Christmas and going back to a flat where the decorations aren’t even up yet!


Of course I finished the evening with a hot dog. I have not had anywhere near enough wurst since I have been in Austria and at least I was able to finish this trip the right way.

That’s it for Vienna. There is a separate food post coming up where I will finish off this run of posts, but for now here are some things I will miss about Vienna:

1) Classically trained buskers – we have seen a violinist, a cellist and a tuba player playing film themes on the street. In London you are more likely to see a man playing a traffic cone.

2) Seeing Mozart’s face everywhere i go. We don’t do the same in London and now I want to know why we don’t plaster all our tourist shops with the face of Dickens or Shakespeare. Such a missed opportunity.

3) Architecture. It’s overblown and utterly amazing. The commute to work will feel all the more boring after visiting Vienna


4) Christmas markets – come on London we can do something on this scale and with this high level of quality. Sod off with your Hyde Park Winter Wonderlands and give us something decent!

Oh Vienna – Day 1: Arrival

I know, I know. “Oh how the other half live” and all that. Honestly, I cannot believe how I ended going on 4 holidays/minibreaks in two months. I really need to space these out more. Seriously, my passport has been water damaged since the first day in New York and I need to get that dealt with.


Vienna is one of those places that, for whatever reason, never majorly featured too highly in my holiday consciousness. I knew it was beautiful and know people who have been there and really loved it, but as I was walking around the city centre I felt this weird disconnect.

It was something along the lines of “I’m in Vienna? This is Vienna? How have I lucked out and ended up in Vienna?” Maybe I just went through a bit of disassociation due to having to get up at 04:55 this morning.

The first day in a new place has the tendency to be odd. You need time to get used to a place in terms of geography and culture. Having gotten to our hotel little after midday we still had most of the day to explore the local area.


You don’t have to walk too far in Vienna’s centre to come to the conclusion that the architecture in this city Is deliciously overblown. Buildings aren’t only grand, but they are domineering with their flourishes, statutes and cornices. This is by no means a criticism. It’s just that in London you’ll get a small area with interesting architecture and then it’s pretty pedestrian, whereas in the Vienna city centre it’s pretty much all singing all dancing wherever you end up.


I mean just look at their parliament building. There is nothing about this building that doesn’t feel grand about this place. Makes sense that it was originally built as a seat of power for the empire of Austria-Hungary.

We spent most of the afternoon wandering the streets, looking at buildings and trying to find some form of lunch. Vienna is famous for its cafe culture and, honestly, we were looking in all the wrong places as we found nothing for a very long time.


Having given up hope on finding a place to have a sit down meal (where the queue didn’t stretch out of the door) so we opted for the classic bratwurst in a roll. You can never go wrong with that.img_4405

Of course this is when we started to spot cafes. So, we dragged our tired feet into the Mozart Cafe (side note: everything here is Mozart themed – it’s actually quite weird) and it allowed me to grab the first, of what may be a small number of, food item.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 591/751
img_4404Food item: Sachertorte

Aside from schnitzel there are few things more Viennese than a Sachertorte. It was invented in the Hotel Sacher around the corner from this cafe (would have gone in, but lines) and is pretty much the city dessert. Think of it as a dense chocolate cake with apricot jam spread around the sides and in the middle. It is then finished off with dark chocolate icing and a quiet of whipped cream.

Think this cake sounds rich? Then you would be right. Pretty damned moist as well, which is also helped by the side of cream. The cup next to it was a hot chocolate with pistachio syrup. I guess chocolate cake was to satisfy that craving.


By the time we left the cafe the sun had gone down and we were able to enjoy Vienna for the reason we actually came here – Christmas lights. Not just one uniform set of lights either; it would appear that each street do their own lights since there was no real repetition that we saw.

Not only are there so many lights, but also there are so many Christmas markets dotted all around Vienna. I think we came across six different ones today and I am sure there are more left to be discovered.


We meandered around and ended up at the biggest of all the Christmas markets: outside the town hall (and coincidentally a 3-4 minute walk from out hotel). There are over 100 stalls here selling food, souvenirs and all things Christmas. I know that during our time in Vienna we will be back here every night for a roam, a browse and a snack.


For dinner myself and the hub opted for soup in a loaf of bread. Honestly, we just stood there eating soup out of the hollowed out loaf before then eating the bowl itself. There was just something so satisfying about ripping apart that bread bowl that had become saturated with garlic soup.

After an early start this morning it is an early night tonight so we feel human as we tackle the one Lonely Planet area of Vienna.

Good Eatin’ – Lussekatter from Bageriet, Covent Garden

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

It has been about a year since my work bestie informed me that there was a Swedish bakery within walking distance of the office. We tend to talk about Scandinavian things (Scandipop, what things mean in Norwegian, all things Danish etc) significantly more often than most people in London would do so it made sense that I would find about this bakery from her.

The moronic thing is how long it took me to go there. I only really got around to it right before advent began, which meant I was in time for a list pastry: lussekatter

img_4368(Bageriet in Covent Garden with my work friend Ola posing in front)

The place itself is cosy (in the good sense of the word) with a lot of different baked goods all around to make you salivate. Good thing I had a mission otherwise I would have walked out with more than I intended.

img_4369Food item: Lussekatter

Lussekatter (or saffron buns as we would call them in England) are traditionally eaten in Sweden in Advent season, especially on St Lucia’s Day on December 13th (a date that used to coincide with the Winter Solstice before we moved to the Gregorian calendar).

The name ‘lussekatter’ actually means ‘St Lucia’s Cats’ and this comes from a rather strange history involving children being taken by the saint over Christmas and cats being curled up. If you want to know more about St Lucia’s Day and the associated pastry there is a cool written history here.

Anyway, to the pastries themselves. The big thing of note is how yellow they are. Traditionally this yellow is from copious amounts of saffron, but due to the expense of saffron it is usually supplemented with some yellow food colouring.

The dough is an enriched one which is sweet and warming thanks to a blend of sugar and Christmas spices. It’s got the richness of a challah, but it’s slightly dryer and harder making it very suitable for dunking in a hot drink. Made me want a mug of hot chocolate to dunk it in because I think that would have completed the experience.

Progress: 590/751