30 November 2012

Adventures of the Benign, Winter Edition.

This week has been very..wintery and christmassy.


 Is it too early for you to be Christmassy yet? 25 Sleeps to go!

29 November 2012

Weekday Cocktails

Warning: this post may make you thirsty.

I think I've found an awesome way to dispell weekday blues - cocktail classes!

Now, I'm nothing but honest (and probably usually overshare) and in this instance I was a guest of Balans in Stratford, but my (many) opinions are only ever my own.

When I left my office to hop on the tube to Stratford, I wasn't sure what to expect, but we were warmly welcomed with a fresh Bellini and a big smile from our instructor and her assistant.

Our instructor was a (cocktail making) mother hen to our gaggle of giggling bloggees. We were taught how to make a variety of cocktails in a beginners shaker - it's really good because us bloggers all love things that we can try again at home, and none of them required special equipment bar the Shaker. We made a Berrylicious (Blackberries, Raspberries, Berry Puree and White Rum);

My all-time favourite Margarita (it was so good, it was inhaled - the nice thing is you can tailor them to your own tastes when you make them):

We then stopped for a snack break with some nice nosh; Gruyere and Spinach Quiche, Calamari, Turkish Pitta and dips, Ham Terrine.

Tried a Red Ribbon (made in honour of Elton John's Aids Foundation, which was lovely);

Then a Balans White Russian, with a seasonal decoration... the decoration kinda worked (if you squint and kind of tilt your head it's two bells.)

They cheerfully accommodated our non-alcohol drinker, and whilst a couple of the mocktails were (by her own admission as they don't often get the request) on-the-fly adventures, two of them looked delicious - the berry mocktail with pomegrante syrup and the layered hazelnut coffee. It led to a really interesting conversation about sugar syrups, and how easy they are to make at home and flavour with your chosen ingrediant. Future Challenge accepted.

Oh, and apparently Pumpkin Spice Syrup is really good in cocktails. Second Future Challenge accepted and ingredients ordered..

One of the best things about this particular restaurant - the vicinity to public transport links. You can get just about anywhere, as long as it's in London or Essex, and you are willing to make a few changes.

There are a few branches of Balans, dotted over London and Miami, see the Balans Website for further details. The Cocktail classes were well organised, are held regularily, cost £39.95 and I think for the quality pretty good value for money; 5 drinks, great nibbles and some really interesting tuition. And you get to Ghetto Dump (it's the way you pour the cocktail into the glass, fyi).

There are a few ladies who I'm going to round up & suggest we hit another one of the branches up. Practice makes perfect after all.

I've also got a possible Margarita night planned in my 101 in 1001 goals.

The ladies I met have some awesome blogs: Simply Foods, Botanical Baker, Food I Fancy, Pebble Soup and Ladies in Blogging a UK blogging network.
What is your favourite Cocktail? Have you ever tried a Mocktail?

27 November 2012

Kiwi cooking: Sweetcorn Fritters

In my search to better define kiwi cooking, I've found another recipe that I adore, and has fallen out of my recipe list since moving to the Northern hemisphere (bar when I find in in gem restaurants). Sweetcorn Fritters.

Easy, fairly heathly, great to add in your own touches, these are a great easy brunch. I like to add grated Zucchini (patted with a paper towel to absorb any excess fluid), Ham, Bacon, Peppers, mostly anything you have that aren't really strongly flavoured to competed with the Sweetcorn.

There is something luscious about the crisp exterior, the soft internal structure then the tidbits of creamed Sweetcorn that make my mouthwater.

I served it this time with chunky tomato Passata (out of a bottle I'm afraid, bad foodie) and pan fried pancetta cubes. Just right for a Sunday brunch after a busy night socialising.

It's not an original recipe, but a comfort food from the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Sweetcorn Fritters (original source)
  • 3/4 cup plain Flour
  • 1 teaspoon  Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt (I only used about a 1/4 of a teaspoon)
  • Black Pepper
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 (398 g) can Ceamed Corn
  1. Oil (for frying)
  2. Combine dry ingredients.
  3. Add beaten egg and sweetcorn (and any  chopped or shredded extras). Mix to combine.
  4. Heat oil in frying pan. Drop tablespoons full of batter into pan. Cook until the fritters are bubbling to the top/are golden, then flip.
  5. Drain on absorbent paper. Serves approximately 9 fritters, best eaten hot, but then in my house, they don't last long enough to cool - even hubby devours them.

What is your favourite brunch? Eggs, Fishfinger Sandwiches, Gourmet Afternoon Tea?

26 November 2012

I'm a road tripper...

To get to the game on Saturday, we braved the elements and the A4, crossing into another country, accidently losing a member of our kiwi posse in Cardiff due to terrible reception and relied on a sometimes mischevious SatNav.

We tracked down an infamous barber shop - the only recommendation for fun things to stop off and see on our way over made by a Welsh friend. But, we found it.

Made a new friend or two...


The only foodie thing we did, apart from drink tea & redbull, which doesn't really count, was try a Fire Island Craft Beer in a new pub.

So new in fact, the the paint wasn't dry, the toilet doors were plain MDF & there were quite a few jobs to be tackled.

The beer was nice though, quite Bitter (I want to say hoppy, but have no experience to back that claim!)

Awesome day - full of rugby, laughter, good friends and a wee bit harebrained. Just how I like them!

25 November 2012

Wales: The All Blacks, a road trip, and some daffs - sorry, Taffs.

Kiwis are synonymous with our love of rugby, the All Blacks, and Sheep. Lets forget about the Sheep thing for now, and concentrate on the two we are the most proud of.


Cardiff's Millenium Stadium was simple magnificent. Twickenham is fun, but shows it's age.
Some Kiwi fans like to wear buckets on their heads... whilst the Taffs like to wear Daffodils, Leeks, Goals and Dragons. It's definately a manly game though. 

We lucked in with great seats and the atmosphere was incredible.

beginning with an electric Haka;

Oh, hai Ma'a

It was fairly cold...

 But brilliant nonetheless.


The mighty All Blacks. I've been lucky enough to have seen them 3 times, each time in Twickenham playing a variety of teams. They are a force to be reckoned with, but at times can be a little nerve-wracking (read: the world cup we've just won.)

The Welsh held their own with some pretty good defending, and it's more than was expected of the them. The fans were fantastic; excited, vocal, great singers, fun and had a great sense of humour. In fact, one of their daffodils was a friend of our, dressed head to toe in All Blacks gear, with a bright yellow Daffodil hat!

23 November 2012

London Living: Jack the Ripper

The scourge of the Victorian London underclass, Jack the Ripper holds fascination for many people.

Infamously there are many permutations of the tale, with no single person pointed out., many assume Jack the Ripper stopped commiting his crimes due to imprisonment for another crime, institutionalisation, or emigration putting and end to his spree.

There are a variety of ways in which to explore London's gruesome past, including walking tours. But be warned, some of the walking tours take you to multi-storey carparks, on the site of the Victorian haunts.

There is a pub not far from Liverpool Street Station that was reputed to be a haunt of two of the victims - the Ten Bells is a busy, buzzy pub; they make a mean Gin & Tonic, have psychedelic bathrooms and hollah their food orders to the kitchen through the floor during the day.

The blue and white tiling on the walls is beautiful - see the second (terrible) photo of this post, and the pub has had a cameo in From Hell, the movie and in Jamie Olivers' series 'Jamie's Great Britain'.

Gotta love East London.

22 November 2012

The Little Stranger

This psychological drama was a slow-burning page turner.

I read this on the recommendation of a fellow blogger - Kit at What a Peach! and I am SO glad I did.

It's subtle, delicious and mesmerising. Set just after WW2 in agricultural England, there is something not quite right about the Ayres family mansion. The author keeps you guessing all the way through, and I don't want to give away any spoilers.

The characters are good, if ever so slightly one-sided but the house almost becomes a character in it's own right, affecting those around it in so many ways. The lead character Dr Faraday is a local man whose mother worked many years ago in the house as a Nanny. (As I write these words, a strange smell of smoke arises in our home - no wait, that's the neighbours fireplace - never mind).

I have to use anothers words to sum this up - Tatiana from Goodreads; "Curious and deliciously ambiguous [in an] enigmatic way". Utterly perfect description.

(Please note any links to Amazon are through my Amazon Associates account, which means I make a little money (less than 5%) from any purchases made after clicking through these links. This helps support my book addiction, so if you are interested in buying the book, please click through the above Book & author link)

21 November 2012

6 Year Anniversary

I can't believe it. This Kiwi flew the coop, and has lived on the other side of the world for 6 years. It's been an amazing 6 years, hard in places but overall incredible.

I've met my husband, explored many countries, learned a lot and grown up a great deal.

I've missed my family and friends, met some fantastic new people, met some shady characters (a few seemingly straight out of Oliver Twist), developed new circles, learned how small the world is and how much potential there is if you put yourself out there.

I've also learned how to be self-sufficient, then learned to live with an English bloke. I've had to re-learn how to say my own name (the English around me struggled with "Ima" so now it's modulated to almost "Amma"), my ear has re-tuned to the many vagarities of United Kingdom speech and I now know what a monkey is (not necessarily a Chimp, but £500).

In the last six years, but especially in the last 12 mnths I've become fitter, stronger, more experienced and above all more appreciative. I can't wait to see what the next 6 years brings.

I know I still have a lot to learn, and there is still a whole world to experience.

Are you where you thought you would be six years ago?

20 November 2012

Adventures of the Benign: Latest Ramblings

It's been a busy two weeks, and I can't wait for the work bell to ring tonight - then I'll be free and easy. Free, I will be free for more shenanigans! With the nights drawing in, and winter approaching it's getting harder to get bright photos, but it does mean that people are starting to get their festive cheer on. It also means a lot of socialising.

This is my most favourite time of year hands down, with lazy summer days a very close second.

This fortnight has included;

A beautiful sunrise or two...

Some random Christmas lights down Oxford St...

Some tempting fugly Christmas Jumper-age

Some Rotton Egg & Marshmallow flavoured Beans... the dirt ones were surprisingly good!

A few technical problems... (they are the remains of a pancake, or in Kiwi-speak the Pikelets)

Work studying, not really aided by the cat... I actually had to request a few pages be resent to me as they had been eaten by the cat. Forget 'my dog ate my homework'!

The best kind of snow in London - fake snow;

and a few more Christmas lights being switched on...

 Some good news...

 Some E.T.ish vegetables;

The biggest downside to winter is it gets dark so quickly, so early. It makes photographing harder and after awhile people get a little blue.