28 February 2013

Transatlantic Foodie Penpals - Special Edition

The highlight of the end of the month for me is opening a carefully picked foodie package from a fellow Foodie somewhere in Europe (this month the East Midlands of England), so imagine my delight in addition this month, upon opening this baby, all the way from the United States of America (is it just me saying that in my head in an American drawl - no? Good).

I tried to resist even opening it until after Dinner the day it arrived, hoping to negate the damage we'd do to our waistlines whilst sampling the box. I managed to leave it alone for at least the duration of Dinner, with only a quick peek. Thankfully Dinner was quick - Everything-in-the-fridge soup takes no time to eat!

Julie(who used to blog at What Julie Eats), thank you. Thank you thank you thank you. Thank you for the time, the thought and the effort you took to send this little piece of America trans-Atlantic to my little patch of Old Blighty! It is fantastic.

Right, where do I begin? (sorry the post it sounds a little hyper, Julie like me leans toward a sweet tooth - yes!)

These 3 held the most fascination in the box for me I think. Us Brits read a lot of American blogs, and everywhere Trader Joes is mentioned, and it always seems to be in connection with really interesting items - don't these Butterscotches (which I love) look delicious? Look, I've got my own Trader Joes stuff now (I'm such a nerdizzle). Julie also send me Taco. Skillet. Sauce. A little bit of a Yank-flavoured swoon - it's proper Mexican sauce, by Rick Bayless, a celebrity chef who specialises in Mexican food. My hubby even licked his lips in anticipation. I'm also renaming my saucepan a skillet. It just rolls off the tongue. And then, a cinnamon & sugar grinder - how clever! I've been enjoying using this to season my morning porridge.

How much did I end up enjoying the butterscotch you ask? That much. Mmmm, perfect, especially warmed slightly.

These Cherries are deliciously tart and the cashew brittle - oh the brittle. Both are really lovely - the Cherries I've been eating at work as a snack and the brittle I've been rationing out to myself. As Julie points out, it's very American (this particular kind made by the Amish(!) it's also very moreish. The chocolate chips - well, we do have these over here too, you can settle the bet with your Gentleman, but I totally agree that one can never have too many chocolate chips, and in the great American tradition, these are earmarked for Chocolate Chip Cookies. How could I not?

Lavender is such a strong childhood smell for me, it's my Mum's favourite scent and we always had Lavender plants whilst growing up. The nonpareils we are set to enjoy, and the fruit slice Candies (hehehe, so American to be called Candies, funny that) are fascinating, and probably destined for cupcake decorations. So cute.

I LOVE mango - it must be the Foodie Penpal psychic vibe hitting off again, I've just run out of the ones in my desk stash, and these will hopefully last a little longer. The Jelly Beans have some cool flavours - pomegranate - and come with Julie's personal recommendation. It's really fun the idiosyncrasies that we appear to have in common - as kids we adored fruit strips (though we called them by another name) and I still buy these today...

I'm sad to report one small casualty during the journey (or possibly my excited tearing open of the box) plus a candy bracelet (not pictured). I loved candy bracelets as a kid.

Aren't these Candies cute, AND patriotic? The peanut chews are a particularly Philadelphia candy, and are delicious.

I can feel my waistline expanding as I type.

Last but not by any means least, two Theo bars of chocolate. As you can see, one of them didn't make it very far out of the box. I can confirm we enjoyed it's minty deliciousness. I love fresh mint, and the bar had the same pungent earthy-ness as fresh mint, a nice contrast to the Dark Chocolate. Isn't the wrapper of the second cute?

So far in my explorations of the box, my favourite items are the Chocolate, the Cherries, the Cashew Brittle & the awesome off-piste New York highlights map Julie kindly drafted for me.  Julie, you are an absolute legend. I actually don't know what karmic waft has lucked me in so well.

I think I've discovered a new sweet partner-in-crime, and a new obsession, nut brittle. My Dentist will be thrilled!

Fly Royal Mail, fly! [Edit: the parcel has now arrived on US shores & Julie is itching to crack it open, whew!]

We went a bit off-piste - thank you Twitter - and arranged our swap privately.

Tastes of the East Midlands - Foodie Penpal February

This month, not only did I receive an amazing Transatlantic parcel, but I was shamelessly spoilt by my lovely Penpal Jax, based in the East-Midlands.

For a long time, Britain has had a bit of a dodgy reputation when it comes to the gourmand side of life, but I defy anyone to recieve a box such as this, and say that things haven't changed.

Let me begin with the Salami. Made by the Suffolk Salami Co. it's made on their family farm from home reared pork. It's especially important with 'horsegate' going on at the moment to know what is in your food - and it's delicious. Rich, spicy - perfect. We used in in a scrumptious Black Bean casserole & as antipasti.

Fact for the day courtesy of the Suffolk Salami co.: The word Salami comes from the Italian "salare" meaning to sale. The Roman Legionnaires were often paid with salt, hence the word salary which also comes from "salare". They then used the salt to make salami.

An item missing from my later pics you'll notice are the honey oaties. They were scrumptious! Kindly handmade by Jax, they were the best biscuits we've eaten in years, and we've eaten a few. Accompanying a hastily made cup of tea (we decided we should really have an excuse to rip into them) we quite simply demolished them. There is something so much more delicious about homebaking. I also got the recipe for them. Yus!

The only truffle oil made entirely in England.

Fantastic. Just brilliant - I've been enjoying dabs of this on my eggs, and in wild Mushroom soup.

Then we have the Three Chilli Jam. How can you resist it, and with an ingredient list like the one below? No preservatives, no chemicals, no nasties. It has quite the kick to it. Hubby in particular has been delving into this, accompanied by some good English Mature Cheddar and crackers.

Last but not least, I really have enjoyed the apple and ginger juice. I've love that you are home brewing Cider - good luck and enjoy :)

Thank you Jax, I can't quite believe your generosity and thought put into this parcel; and it absolutely showcases some of the best of British (and the East-Midlands). My penpal Allison sent me a really kind email when she got her box, saying she enjoyed hers.

27 February 2013

Xenophobes guides to Kiwis: Reading Recommendation

"Vowels sounds can be a trap" Oh how my husband laughed - he always asks me what happened - "Captain Cook went to Nuu Zullund with 5 vowels, but you all seem to have lost 3 of them..." the worst words seem to be six/sex and pin/pen.
Last week, I ran through the Xenophobes guide to the English, so for all intents in being fair (got to have Fair Play) may I present the Xenophobes guides to Kiwis. It touches on our relationship with Mother England, our Anti-nuclear stance, our joy of understatement, icons, and sense of humour.

It's nice to think that Kiwi's like to tell other nations about our famour personalities; Edmun Hilary, Ernest Rutherford, Kiri te Kanawa and Karen Walker, but did you know that William Atack was the first person to use a whistle to stop a game, Godfrey Bowen used to be the worlds fastest sheep shearer and Ernest Godwin invented the spiral hairpin? Neither did I. It is very interesting though, how Kiwis have infiltrated the world and seem to be everywhere - my old boss had a 17 strong team of Kiwis in his business. How bizarre is that? We seem to have a good name for ourselves which is nice!

"There are more passports in New Zealand per million that any other country in the world" not a bad stat for a flightless bird!

"A common preoccupation of abroad Kiwis is to see how often their country's name comes up in the paper" - I am absolutely guilty of this, and all of my UK family are just the same. What amazes me, is how often we're mentioned considering that there is only a few of us. On a side not, it amuses me, and I was only talking about this at a blogger thing last night, is how often characters running away from home/work/crazy people run to New Zealand, seemingly the end of the Earth. Though to be fair even my hubby remarked when flying from Sydney to New Zealand, it does seem like you're flying off the ends of the Earth!

I have only one complaint about the book, which otherwise is a funny, true and informative read. The author makes the claim that heaven help any Brit who criticises New Zealand, but the "Australian visitor is given leeway to criticise." Um hello, are you sure you're a Kiwi, sir authors?? It could be re-written to say that anyone who isn't an Australian can poke fun at Nuu Zulland, and will be gently smiled at, but an Australian will just be called an Okker. Sorry, it's true.

Read it, if only to translate a few of your Kiwi friends/colleagues/family sayings. It will be sweet as, I promise.
Have any of you come across any of the above Kiwi traits?

(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 and it adds nothing to the price of your book. This helps support my book addiction, so if you are interested in buying the book, please click through the top link)

26 February 2013

"Kettles and pans" say the bells of St Anne's.

We're now three quarters of the throught the series (or to be more accurate nine fourteenths) and I kinda don't want to finish. It's just been so nice getting to know the East End much better, that I don't want it to end. You know, the way that you eat a meal so delicious that you don't want to finish it because then it'll be gone (here's looking at you Turkish Eggs))?

Tucked near a very Parisian section of London...

25 February 2013

Manuka Kitchen: Restaurant Review

If you've been reading this humble blog for awhile (and if so, thank you), you'll have twigged that my friends and I are becoming serial weekend brunchers, and have been tending to check out Kiwi-esque brunch spots in the capital. The Manuka Kitchen is such a place.

Opened in the last few months at time of writing, Manuka Kitchen in Fulham is a self-start up, run by Tyler Martin (the Chef, originating from New Plymouth, New Zealand) and Joseph Antippa (Tyler's Lebanese business partner).

Such a great ethos for a restaurant!

Manuka Honey, which the restaurant is named after, is a 'superfood' originating from New Zealand from a single source; the bees that pollinate Manuka trees in New Zealand's East Cape region – and is rather expensive. About 4 years ago there were a lot of exciting claims that Manuka could heal wounds, which were never quite realised. It's still delicious though, and is full of all sorts of vitamins, nutrients and goodness.

The menu isn't dominated by the honey, but includes it as an ingredient here and there, and is available additionally as a toast condiment. The menu and the cooking reflects a love of fresh straightforward ingredients combined to great effect.

Between us we enjoyed a couple of delicous Lattes and Mochas which started us off well. They were followed (with a wee delay) by the French Toast and Sweetcorn Fritters.

The French Toast was lovely, the thunder stolen by the delicious bacon and honey caramelised banana.

The Sweetcorn Fritters were fine, always a great brunch item but not quite as we expected - we thought they would be a little more like these or the Black Pudding ones at Caravan. For my palate they needed a little more flavour, body and crispness, to give it that satisfying 'ka-pow'. The accompanying Chutney was gorgeous though, they should bottle it.

The prices are good, especially for central(ish) London, and lend themselves to extra orders; the couple on the table next to us ordered quite a bit more, including some sexy looking sausages. Be warned though, at time of writing they are cash only as they are in the process of organising card facilities.

Decor is fairly minimalistic; small wooden tables, terracotta tiles and simple lightshades. This is mostly due to the businessmen being on a tight self-funded budget, but with good tasty food, the decor can be uplifted with time. It's a small bistro, with around 20 covers so make sure you book ahead.

I think if I was in the area, based on the quality and evening meal prices I would visit again but I'm not sure we'll be back for a special return visit for brunch. It's not far from the Kings Road and Stamford Bridge FC, so I expect I will be in the area again at some point, and will make a point to re-visit in the evening. This could be a local jewel that you don't really want other people to know about, so shhh...

Manuka Kitchen can be found about 5 minutes walk from Fulham Broadway tube station. Further details can be found here.

24 February 2013

Updating my 101 in 1001 Goals

Sometimes you need to shake things up, update and change the status quo. I'm not thinking anything life changing - don't worry, this Kiwi isn't giving up chocolate, moving to another country, or going to live on a house boat).

Specifically I think my 101 in 1001 goals need a shakeup. Some of the goals were kinda place fillers, some I've completed and they weren't amazing and some I'm just plain bored of.

Goals? Our wee cat certainly doesn't forward plan.
Except when her bowl becomes a little emptier than she likes...
To go into the list:

- Attend a Dawn service on ANZAC day or visit Gallipoli
- Cross off 15 new foods tried to the HowFoodieAreYou? list
- Visit all the Oranges and Lemons Churches - in progress
- Pat a Lion or big Cat
- Visit the Crooked Pub
- Go to Paris for Lunch

To come out:

02. Participate in NaNoWriMo
14. Begin drawing again
27. See the All Blacks in Twickenham
62. Cook an entire Cookbook
64. Make Vanilla Rum & Skittle Vodka
95. Write a “day in the life” blog post

It'd be so easy to forget about these goals, but you, my lovely reader are keeping me honest, and on track. Having sat down and looked at all of these goals, progress surprisingly isn't bad, I'm on target 25% done, in 26% of the time gone.

Goals are great, but it's also good to have mid-point review and reassess of how things are going. Time to get things moving!

22 February 2013

(mostly) Wordless Friday

It's been a pretty full-on week, but a brilliant one for it.



 Hope you have a lovely weekend!

21 February 2013

The Xenophobes Guide to the English: Book Review

"Heat waves bring out the beast in the English. Cold and drizzle calm them down"

This was an amusing read about the stereotypes of English characters - it probably would have been quite good to read earlier in my travelling, but a page-turner nonetheless. It covers the importance of the cuppa (Tea), Cricket, stoicism (a much admired trait), how house-proud they are (especially oop north), how much they enjoy queueing, mentions their obsession with poo, and their sense of humour.

Lucky for us Nuu Zulunders, "The English have a special relationship...with the Kiwis who have model manners, but have an annoying tendancy to thrash them at rugby"

It does discuss the English preference to not make a fuss, or a "to do, a hullabaloo, a palaver, a kerfuffle, a song and dance". This is very much the bastion of the English character; for instance I've been in a restaurant several time with my hubby, and they have gotten his order wrong and he has said nothing, just looked po-faced, even when I've offered to mention the problem to the staff.

"Supplication, gratitude and, most important of all, apology are central to English social discourse."

So is getting your round in at the pub. It's a real social faux pas not to.

This is a good chuckle-read, to assist deciphering your pommy workmates and educate yourself a little on commuting. Written by English authors, it's very tongue in cheek, but quite apt. It's quite a good series, I particularly enjoyed the guide to New Zealanders, it even taught me a little something.

(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 and it adds nothing to the price of your book. This helps support my book addiction, so if you are interested in buying the book, please click through the top link)

19 February 2013

The London OE, a challenging but rewarding mistress

You can go to up to Charing Cross for a greasy full English Breakfast, to Paris for Lunch, the Ritz for dinner and hiking in the Lake District. You can live in 14th Century Castle, drink your way around Europe and attempt to find Loch Ness. The flipside is that the UK, and London in particular can be a demanding place to live.

Oh, and in London Kiwis CAN fly...

It can be hard setting up a new life in a new country, and it generally starts with finding a new job that ticks all of the boxes - satisfying, challenging, not too stressful, good pay, reasonable hours and close-ish to home. Some come over thinking that London really is paved with gold, but go home after 3 months of not catching a lucky break, not trying very hard or running out of funds. Odds are in the great tradition, you will probably start of with a pub job, sorry guys, but it's part of the OE (Overseas Experience). On the plus side, it's a job generally meeting with genial English people and easy access to drinks.

Then you have to find somewhere to live. If you're lucky when you come over, you'll probably start off on someones couch - misshapen, saggy and with the odd stain you really don't want to know about. Once you catch a break and find yourself a job, the hunt is on - nice flatmates, not too much rent and close to work - the holy trifecta.

Once you've got a job held down, flat sorted and travel booked is when London begins to look a lot rosier. You can upgrade the 8p instant noodles to Pot Noodles dressed with HP Sauce - oh the luxury. But, you will meet some fantastic people, have some indescribably good nights out and can have a proper crack at classifying the zoological creatures that inhabit London night busses and deciphering their accents.

It can be really challenging, but you learn SO much about yourself. You can be your favourite version of you in this country; fancy being an Emo-Goth with a baking obsession? Sure. Want to be an athlete with an obsession for Harajuku? Sure. The sheer eccentricity of the city ensures that there generally is someone at some point with whom you will make a connection. You will need to be brave in this big city and be pro-active, putting yourself out there or else the magic won't have a chance to happen...

It is a bit posher than back home, mind...

It does take work and there is one key thing to bare in mind when coming over: you will still (unless you are born well or find a verry rich partner) have to wake up to an alarm, work the daily grind and be answerable to the boss.

But if you are courageous, the benefits can be immense. Why be poor, tired and unhappy in a rural backwater when you can be poor, tired and happy in a City where your potential can be immense?

We genuinely accidently ran into one of the Wonders of the World roadtripping through the countryside. #kiwisontour

My best pieces of advice?
  • Patience
  • When catching the tube and the train is packed, go to the ends of the train and if there is one shortly, wait for it. You will be much happier in life.
  • Check out TimeOut and other free websites for fun stuff to do whilst financially finding your feet
  • Plan & book travelling in advance, your wallet will thank me
  • Network, utilise social media. London is a huuuge place and meeting like-minded people can be hard
  • Buy a small umbrella for your bag
  • For a few what to do suggestions, check out my 'London Living' page

It will be hard, homesickness is possibly the hardest aspect, but it can also be the best time of your life.

Any tips/tricks I've missed?

18 February 2013

"Maids in white aprons" say the bells of St Katharines: Oranges and Lemons

A rather unusual Church, St Katharine Cree sits in the shadow of the iconic St Mary Axe and a stone's throw from the Leadenhall Market. A serious, shoe-horned exterior hides a very pretty interior.

The building dates from before the Great Fire, and is "known as the Guild Church to Finance, Commerce and Industry, the present building dates from 1630, although the tower dates from 1504 and was part of the previous church on the site, which itself originally formed part of the mediaeval Priory of the Holy Trinity (1108)."

16 February 2013

The Worlds Biggest Egg-Hunt, v 2.0

Guess what's back, back again? Huge Eggs are back, tell a friend...

Last year in the month leading up to Easter, London was overtaken by a strange phenomena - giant porcelain eggs popping up on street corners, in shop windows and hotel foyers.

We became strangely obsessed with hunting down every single one of the 101 eggs. From the Sloan-ey market squares, to Mayfair and as far as the platinum towers of Canary Wharf, we were determined to, and managed to spot every one of them and take photographic proof.

We also helped them collect one of two world records the made - most participants in an Easter egg hunt and the worlds most expensive chocolate Easter egg. Sadly it wasn't the latter.

This year, much to our geekery excitement they are back! Focused initially on (my favourite London spelling mistake) Covent Garden, they have unleashed another 101 artist designed eggs, in order to fundraise for the charity Action for Children. In their own words "The Big Egg Hunt is a record breaking, egg hunting, fundraising spectacular - a public art event with a BIG difference"

This year, instead of having them dotted to the four corners of London, they are on tour to Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester to end up in London again.

I must admit to a tinge of disappointment that we aren't having the same format as last year, but logistically it must have been a nightmare to organise with them spread so far. And I mustn't be selfish - everyone should have an equal chance, not just us Londoners.

It's great for kids of all ages - there were as many middle-aged-no-kids pairs and groups as there were families excitedly shouting "there's one, there's one!"

It's so cheap - a minimum £3 donation gets you a glossy brochure to tick your eggs off as you spot them - and it includes a Chocolate bunny. For sustenance you understand. It's a great excuse to mooch about the vibrant Covent Garden area, with it's buskers, food, and installations. And the artwork is incredible.

They are staying in London until Sunday (tomorrow) and are back for the finale, 22nd March - 7th April, visiting more cities in between. Set aside a couple of hours, and keep your eyes peeled for some eggs-celent art (sorry)!

How many do you think you could find?

15 February 2013

(Mostly) Wordless Friday

It's funny, we spend most of our weeks wishing for Friday morning, and yet when they do come, it feels as though it's flown by. I'm very, very guilty of this.

I'll say - just look at the below expression. I call it "Ever-so-slightly-deranged cat".


Have a lovely weekend!