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    Foodie-in-Training – Gin

    “The principal sin, Of Gin, Is, among others, Ruining mothers” (Anonymous, c.1940.) As an ex-pub manager, I pride myself on having tried most things at one point or another (you can’t recommend something you haven’t tried yourself…), however, Gin and I weren’t friends.

    To be honest, I think it’s mostly the tonic that accompanies it (I can hear hubby scoffing now) so I haven’t really ever delved into it. I have quite a sweet tooth, and the bitter notes of Gin haven’t ever beckoned, especially when paired with the everpresent Tonic.

    So, in the spirit of my expanding foodie horizons, when I came across a Gin Tasting/Afternoon Tea, I lassoed a friend in, and off we trotted to East London.

    The history of Gin is really quite interesting and has many rather strong ties to London;
    It was found in Holland by English troops who were fighting against the Spanish in the Eighty Years’ War who noticed its calming effects before battle, which is the origin of the term Dutch courage.

    Gin emerged in England in varying forms as of the early 17th century, and at the time of the Restoration, enjoyed a brief resurgence, mostly because of the relatively cheap price. (Thank you Wikipedia. You are amazing.)

    I did rather enjoy the company’s ethos “Drink less, drink better.” We tried a variety of Gins – from the London Dry variety (one popular one ‘Spritzed with Cucumber and Rose which actually was lovely) to the classic BeefEater.

    Our host was interesting, and quite entertaining (especially his dislike of English taking over (he was Irish)) but the venue was a little yuck.

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    London Living: Guy Fawkes

    A secret plan to overthrow the king + a mercenary named Guy Fawkes returning from war abroad + thirty six
    barrels of gunpowder = we commemorate the capture of Guy
    Fawkes with bonfires and fireworks, and by burning an effigy of Guy.

    Best reason for an awesome night. So awesome, I was too busy enjoying the fireworks, charred treats & generally enoying to get any good pics – sorry!

    This year it almost felt like a sensory overload – laughter, gorgeous food, sharp drink, the scream and band of the bright fireworks, contrasted with the sneaking bone chilling cold.

    Photo courtesy of jocopelondon

    I feel I’ve cheated you of a proper blog post, sorry. How about a virtual mini-cupcake instead?

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    Autumn Warmers – Pumpkin & Parsnip Soup (Slow Cooker)

    This soup warms you from your toes, to the top of your head. Homey and soft, it’s one of my absoloute favourite things to cook in my slow-cooker.

    It’s healthy too – you don’t need to add any cream or cheese – though it is scumptious if you to want to take a walk on the wild side. It is one of those recipes that to me almost feels too simple – vegetables + stock + a bit of extra flavour to add depth.

    I did tell you that I liked Pumpkin didn’t I? I’m very lucky that the Curry Powder I have was specially made for me by my Foodie Penpal, Lin. Scrumptious.

    You can use most root vegetables, though I found that using potato made it a bit boring.

    Instead of throwing away the Pumpkin Seeds, try drying them and adding flavour, a great snack if you hold back on the oil & butter. A great recipe I found is here and has a variety of suggestions.

    Pumpkin & Parsnip Soup

    Ingredients:

    • A Red Onion
    • Half a Pumpkin or a small Butternut Squash, with the skin off*
    • Two large Parsnips
    • A couple of nobs of butter
    • 2 cups of Chicken Stock
    • 1 Tablespoons or Curry Powder or 2 teaspoons of Paprika
    • Thick Cut Bacon & Cream Fraiche to serve
    1. Turn your slow-cooker on. If on high the soup will take 3-4hours, on low the soup will take 6-7 hours (another reason I love it – turn it on when you leave for work, come back to a hot cooked dinner).
    2. Dice the Red Onion, and cube the Pumpkin/Squash and Parsnip.
    3. Add to the cooker with the butter. Leave to cook for about half an hour. This par-roasts the vege, giving it a little richer flavour.
    4. Mix, then add the stock and Curry Power / Paprika.
    5. Leave to bubble away for either 3-4 hours on high, or 6-7 hours on low; until all the vegetables are soft**
    6. Mash with a potato masher, if like me, you like your soup chunky (also like me) or blend once a little cooler for a velvet like texture.
    7. Enjoy on it’s own, or with cream fraiche and bacon chunks stirred through, accompanied by fresh bread. Autumnal bliss. Serves about 4 bowlfuls.

    * Tip: unless your pumpkin is really bumpy, use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin. A lot of people use a knife but it removes so much of the flesh.
    ** Essential Tip: Cover the slow-cooker with a tea towel!

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    Foodie Penpals October

    This months box was scumptious to the point that not all the items made it to be photographed, sorry!

    My lovely box from Emily was jam packed with lovely savoury treats, and a few sweeter treats that neither of us could say no to – Emily to pack, and hubby and I to devour.

    I have a rather bad sweet tooth, and usually ask for savoury snacks that I can enjoy at my desk, as that’s the dangerous time for indulgence, especially that 3pm snack time. Emily gave me some lovely options.

    My favourite item of the box was the Peanut Butter, the Chocolate Yoghurt Banana Chips and the made on demand Peanut Butter. It only contains Peanuts, Vegetable oil, and Salt. It is scrumptious! It’s rather paler than commercially available Peanut Butter, but after some digging around it is a result of either the skins being added, or chemical colourings. This is so good, I’m not sure I will go back to normal Peanut butter – especially with the chemicals listed in the ingredient list…

    The Banana Chips and Pop Chips were addictive and didn’t quite make it past opening the box and getting some hummus for the fridge – voila, lunch! I’m definately getting the Pop Chips again. I’m not sure I’ll buy the Banana Chips – not because they weren’t delicious, but they were too yummy and won’t last beyond landing in my shopping bag.

    A few treats going into my desk drawer are the Liquorice – great alternative to normal Liquorice which I’m not a a huge fan of, the nut bar, the chocolate Witch and a bag of Roasted beans.

    I love Oatcakes, a snack that I never saw in NZ (probably because I never looked) but I can’t wait to pair these with a chutney and cheese.

    Of the treats, this Fudge was amazing. It’s handmade by a company called Melting Pot and won a Great Taste Gold award in 2011, and I can see why!

    Last but certainly not least, is this Three Fruit Maramalade from Chatworth House. On hot buttery Toast it is scrumptious, and as I’ve been seeing Bread and Butter puddings pop up, I think will make it’s way fairly soon into a scrumptious Bread and Butter Pudding.

    Thank you Emily, it’s an awesome parcel – packed with such though and care.

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    Talking, Eating, Laughing, Supping

    I think one of the greatest joys in life can be had sitting around a table. Whether it be a kitchen table with a cup of tea, a country pub with a pint, or a posh restaurant with a glass of something lovely, it’s one of my favourite places.

    The ebb and flow of conversation, punctuated with refreshment breaks to top up your beverage of choice. My favourite (believe it or not) is icy water, with a slice of Lemon. Close second is probably a cocktail, then glass of white wine (NZ of course!)

    We we out in a group of 7 last night, celebrating a friends birthday; and it was lovely (better than a hotel chain restauraunt we celebrated our anniversary in on Thursday, which should by reputation should have been a lot better). Please excuse the quality of photos – the light level was very much set at ‘moody’ which was great, but hard to take any decent pics. That, and I was too busy talking.

    Our reciept was more than 12 inches long. That is a good night.

     

     

     

    We also celebrated the birthday in a beautiful London pub called The Golden Lion, which has had a pub onsite since 1762. I Love London.

    In London you really are spoiled for choice of places that are delicious. There are so many restaurants, pubs, cafes, sandwich shops and everything in between, it’s no real surprise that an article recently came out interviewing young people who no longer cook, just eat out in the capital spending all of their disposable income on the newest fandangled eatery.

     

    Where is your favourite place to gather?

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