Monthly Archives: November 2012

Day trip of history and food to Oxford

Oxford

What better way to spend a week off work than with a day trip to Oxford. It’s funny, despite living in London for almost three year and thoroughly enjoying a day away from the city, I rarely venture out of the capital. So despite the November drizzle, the cultural and rather British day out in terms of cuisine and history, was very welcome and enjoyable.

Christ Church University Great Hall

The hour long bus journey, whiled away with a few games of Monopoly Deal, passed quickly enough and my boyfriend and I were soon meandering down the pretty cobbled streets of Oxford. We started off with a trip around the Christ Church University grounds. Being a bit of a fantasy fan, I nerdily absorbed the information that the staircase to the Universities Great Hall was used in the first Harry Potter film as the entrance to Hogwarts where Professor McGonagall welcomes the first years and the Great Hall was used as a model for the Hogwart’s  Hall. This new-found knowledge resulted in my re-watching the film a few days later and thoroughly enjoying it – it had been a while since I saw it last!

Tea and scones

After traipsing round the University we decided that an afternoon tea and scone was in order, a delicacy I’m very fond of but for dietary reasons only indulge in on occasion.  I still remember the first time I had a scone with clotted cream and jam, it was while on a holiday with my mum in a pretty little village in the New Forest when I was about 12. Ever since I’ve had a soft spot for them.

In order to walk off the afternoon treat we wandered through the Covered Market, down the rows and rows of books in Blackwell’s and in and out of a few bars before deciding it was time for some more food.

The Big Bang

After much deliberation we decided to keep with the unintentional but obvious British theme of the day and go to The Big Bang for some bangers and mash. The restaurant is situated in the quarters of Oxford Castle along with a few other bars and restaurants. The table we were ushered to was covered with dictionary pages whose content provided us with much amusement while we waited for our food to arrive. Once we were seated water appeared served in an antique tea pot and the menu which was a paper with a brief history of the restaurant and information on it’s suppliers.

Bangers and mash

We had a lot of fun deciding on what to order as you could mix and match different types and flavours of sausages as well as choosing the accompanying mash and gravy. I went for a basil and vine tomato veggie sausage and a pork and apple sausage served with a butternut squash mash and red wine gravy. The dish came with peas and really tasty red cabbage, which is something I hadn’t eaten in years and had forgotten how good it could be.

Suitably stuffed from the delicious and wholesome food, we stopped off for a quick drink – a mulled wine and whisky to be exact – before venturing, in the now pouring rain, to catch the bus back to London. I could happily get used to more of these days trips out of London. Luckily for me my next one is in a few weeks time, slightly further afield this time – to the other side of the world to be exact – and for a bit longer, but a trip out of London nevertheless!

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Exploring West London with Mac and Cheese and cocktails

It’s odd, I rarely venture out in my area, usually preferring to go somewhere more central to meet friends and go out. However, thanks to Sammy of When Mac Met Cheese, I had the perfect excuse to try out one of my local venues and explore a little, while at the same time enjoying a gorgeously cheesy Mac and Cheese and a cocktail.

Much to my delight, When Mac Met Cheese of Camden Market recently had a pop-up in The Shop in Kensale Rise, literally just round the corner from my house. So I unceremoniously dragged my friend along last Thursday evening for a fix of Mac and Cheese and a well deserved cocktail.

Carlos the Cactus and coleslaw

As most of you will know I’m ever so slightly obsessed with cheese as well  as being a big Mac and Cheese fan. Quite partial to my own home-made Mac and Cheese I’m always curious to try other people’s concoctions. I have to say, When Mac Met Cheese’s Carlos the Cactus, a three cheese tastic dish with jalapeños, was divinely cheesy and yummy.

Gin Gin Mule

The Shop was cosy and buzzing when we walked in, glad to be inside and away from the biting November cold . The candles and dim lighting, rustic wooden tables and chairs and friendly staff were all very welcoming. We sipped our delicious cocktail which arrived in jam jars – I went for a Gin Gin Mule, a spirit I’ve developed a liking for in cocktails – while we waited for our serving of Mac and Cheese and coleslaw to appear. It hadn’t been a hard choice for me to decide what I wanted to order, being partial to anything spicy choosing the Carlos the Cactus was the obvious choice.

Despite having a sweet tooth and the Deep Fried Oreos looking very tempting, I was sadly way too full to give them a try. My friend – who is German – had never heard of deep frying anything sweet before and was suitably baffled at the mere idea of frying them. I guess the German’s are a lot healthier than we are!

I’ve now found two more places I’ll certainly be going back to; The Shop for cocktails – and I’ve heard they do a great breakfast – and When Mac Met Cheese for a cheese fix the next time I’m in Camden Market.

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Mr Pumpkin and the Pie

Mr Pumpkin and the Pie

For me Halloween equals Pumpkin Pie. I remember for a number of consecutive years after I left home, I emailed my mum towards the end of October every year asking her to re send me the amazing – or Best Pumpkin Pie as it’s called – recipe, the previous year’s email always having gotten lost somewhere in cyberspace. Not needing that much pumpkin flesh for the pie and seeing pumpkin’s tend to be pretty big, I always manage to not only make the pie but also at least two or three bowls of delicious pumpkin soup.

Not wanting to break the tradition,  last Sunday afternoon saw me purchasing a pumpkin, spices, condensed milk and eggs during my weekly Sainsburys shop. I lugged my medium sized but heavy pumpkin home and on Monday evening after my swim I hollowed it out. Now this was something I hadn’t done for years, probably not since my sister and I were little. We used to have great fun hollowing them out and carving them before heading out trick-or-treating – usually dressed as witches – down the dark Irish country lanes. I was clearly out of practice as having finished carving the pumpkin and settling down with a cup of tea, my boyfriend kindly pointed out that I had forgotten to give the pumpkin a nose!

Slice of Pumpkin Pie

But back to the Pumpkin Pie. Now I know it’s a bit like Marmite; you either love it or hate it, my sister for one never liked Pumpkin Pie and as it turns out neither does my boyfriend, while I on the other hand am a big fan. It’s also very easy to make. The pastry consists of flour, butter and water mixed together and left in the fridge for half an hour. And the topping is a mix of pureed pumpkin, sugar, eggs, condensed milk and loads of spices; cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. This is then poured into the pastry shell in a baking tray and put in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. It’s literally that simple and it smells so good when it comes out of the oven.

Spicy Pumpkin soup

A bit pumpkined out for one evening I decided to leave the remaining flesh for another night. There are numerous recipes for pumpkin soup out there, being a  fan of spicy food it’s not surprising I decided to give the Spicy Pumpkin Soup a try. Like the pie it’s really simple to make. Chop and fry the onion, add pumpkin flesh and chopped potato’s, chilli and coriander and cook for a few minutes. Add the vegetable stock and when everything is soft blend the soup, stir in a dollop of cream or yoghurt, season and sprinkle with chives, and you’ve got yourself a deliciously warming winter soup.

I’ll certainly make the soup again and a friend of mine keeps talking about Pumpkin Risotto, so I must give that a try soon. However, Pumpkin Pie making is over for me for this year, I’ve still got a few slices left to enjoy and then I’ll just have to wait till next October.

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