Monthly Archives: May 2013

My new, rather unwelcome diet

Nuts and dried berries

I’ve never been one for dieting and if it weren’t for medical purposes I certainly wouldn’t be doing this one; I love food too much! But as things are I’m on a wheat, yeast, dairy, sugar, caffeine, wine and beer free diet for the next few months. It turns out there are a lot of foods out there with yeast or sugar in them!

I’ve become one of those people I always hated when I worked as a waitress at university; the fussy ones who order a dish and request it with half of the ingredients removed. I cringe every time I order food these days and my supermarket trips have also doubled in length as I now spend half the time reading the back of packs to make sure there is no lactose injected in the sausages or wheat or sugar in the cereal. Whole Foods is a godsend for things like rice milk, soya yoghurt – both rather tasty – and wheat and sugar free cereal. However, as of next Tuesday I’ll be living in Australia and will need to suss out what sort of food is available Down Under.

The first few days I was permanently exhausted and had no energy at all, my body was craving carbs, sugar – I can’t even eat fruit – and caffeine to keep me going. But after the first week I had a lot more energy and I was getting used to eating lots of veg, hummus, pulses, nuts, dried berries and rice, and I was feeling a lot better. I have managed to find and create a few new recipes that are very tasty albeit the lack of cheese and carbs.

Spicy tomoato sauce with beans and hot dog

Spicy tomoato sauce with beans and hot dog

One of these dishes which I have made a few times now is spicy tomato sauce with kidney beans, chickpeas and boiled hot dogs or chorizo served with brown rice and garnished with coriander. I have to say it is delicious and it filled me up nicely. The hardest parts are probably the mid morning and afternoon snacking, when I could do with a chocolate bar or a biscuit and instead I’m stuck munching on celery and apple sticks and hummus or when I’m out for dinner and order a mint tea while the person I’m with has a dessert!

Jacket potato and beans

Jacket potato and beans

Another dish I have made – and this may be a no brainer but I’ve never managed to make it properly – is jacket potato and baked beans. You may ask how and why I’ve struggled with this and the answer is that my problem lies with the potatoes. You see microwaves and I have never made friends and I have a tendency to dry the potatoes out when I cook them – they take too long in the oven. That was until one of my friends gave me a tip, wrap the potato in kitchen towel and cook for five minutes on each side in the microwave. It works a treat. This dish turned out pretty good too. I fried onions, cherry tomatoes and peppers in a pan and added the baked beans and chilli once they were sauteed. Once everything was on the plate I added chopped chives both for appearance and taste, it wasn’t half bad.

Stir fry

Stir fry

And the final dish I have to report on so far is stir fry with either rice noodles or quinoa, which I tried today, more so as I’m trying to use up as much food in my cupboard as I can before I leave the country. You can never go wrong with stir fry, even if you have to make it without adding soya sauce – it contains wheat.

I was desperate to taste something akin to bread the other day that I ordered a gluten and cheese free pizza at Pizza Express. It was a sorry looking pizza but it tasted amazing to me! I have discovered that some sourdough breads are made without yeast and wheat, so I’m on a mission to hunt a baker down who does just that.

As for all my talk of moving to Australia, I’m departing on Sunday to do a ski season Down Under to start with and then we’ll see where life takes me. So my next post will be from the Snowy Mountains. Moving to the other side of the world is quite stressful as it turns out and packing is a nightmare, but I’m almost there.

I’ve already warned my sister, who I will be staying with to start with, about my new dietary requirements and she’s far from impressed and I quote, “but I thought only old people got IBS,” thanks sis!

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Amsterdam; one of my favourite cities in Europe

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

As promised a post on my latest travels, this time I was in Amsterdam for a long weekend. I usually try and go back once a year to visit family and friends but I hadn’t been back in two years, so I was well overdue a visit and thoroughly enjoyed myself. From visiting family and friends, traipsing around Amsterdam and Marken and eating all my favourite Dutch foods, it was once again, a busy weekend.

Uitsmijter with ham and cheese

Uitsmijter with ham and cheese

Friday morning saw me taking another early flight, from Gatwick this time, with Easyjet. I was picked up by my uncle and aunt in Schiphol and after dropping my bag off we wandered to the Albert Cuyp market for a spot of lunch. I had an Uitsmijter – which literally means bouncer, – which is a traditional Dutch breakfast/lunch consisting of two or three fried eggs, sunny side up served on bread with ham and cheese, it was divine. I may have mentioned my partiality to Dutch cheese before, so much so that I even brought a great big slab of Gouda back to London with me.

I amsterdam

I amsterdam (city marketing)

Dam Square

Dam Square

Friday afternoon was spent wandering around Amsterdam, retracing the steps of many a previous wander through the city from when I lived there. I was surprised at how much I remembered and I didn’t get lost once. From Centraal, through Dam Square, the Kalverstraat, the Bloemenmarkt

Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum

(flower market), Leidseplein, the Vondelpark, Museumplein and the Albert Cuyp, we did a lot of walking around the city over the weekend. My uncle and I also went through the entrance of the newly re-opened Rijksmuseum, which had been closed for renovations for the past 10 years, it looked pretty impressive and very different. Next time I visit, I’ll be sure to pop in to see what the whole museum looks like now.

Marken

Marken

Marken lighthouse

Marken lighthouse

My friend picked me up on Saturday morning and we went to her and her boyfriends new house in the beautiful traditional, almost museum like peninsula town of Marken just outside Amsterdam. Marken is very pretty and quaint and their house is beautiful, they are in the process of doing it up spectacularly with lots of wood. The village gets a lot of tourists on

Marken

Marken

a daily basis, sometimes it feels like you are in the middle of an outdoor museum with crowds of people traipsing past and taking pictures of the houses. On Sunday morning before leaving we walked through the beautiful Dutch countryside along the dykes to the Marken lighthouse. It was a beautiful but windy morning, a great way to build up an appetite.

Applegebak

Appelgebak

The Dutch, among other things, are known for their great apple cakes, or

Vlaamse Frites

Vlaamse Frites

Appelgebak as it’s called in Dutch. Filled with flavours and spices, they really know how to make apple cake and yes I did indulge in one with a cappuccino on Sunday afternoon in a lovely little cafe on the Van Baerlestraat. But before the apple cake, and earlier in the day, I had a massive craving for Vlaamse Frites with mayonnaise, another traditional Dutch snack. Indulgent and carb heavy they were exactly how I remembered them!

As you can see it was another food heavy weekend, my uncle cooked my favourite dishes from when I lived with them, my friend had  baked a cake and made tasty snacks for her birthday drinks and I was determined to eat as much cheese as I possibly could. Unsurprisingly it’s a healthy diet for me for the next few weeks and a couple of weeks of quite before my next trip, this time it’s somewhat bigger but more about that at a later stage.

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Ireland; a nostalgic weekend with lots of new food finds

Gorse

Last weekend I took my annual trip to Ireland to visit my mum. As I hadn’t seen a lot of friends in years I decided that this time round I would also try and see as many people as I could. So between catching up with friends, sampling a lot of Irish fish and food, revisiting old haunts and driving – literally from one side of the country to the other – it was a pretty busy weekend.

On Friday morning I took the first flight out of Stansted to Cork, which meant a 2.30am start, something that never goes down well with me but has to be done on occasion  I have to say I always forget just how beautiful and green Ireland is in the spring and summer, especially when the sun shines which it did – I even got a bit burnt over the weekend. It was so lovely to be back.

English Market, Cork

English Market, Cork

My friend picked me up from Cork airport and we went for breakfast in the Farmgate Cafe in the English Market, somewhere we used to frequent on a regular basis for coffee and scones when I lived in Cork. And that’s exactly what we did. I had a delicious homemade brown

Brown scone and coffee

Brown scone and coffee

scone with rhubarb jam and a cappuccino, it was like old times and we chatted for hours. Situated in the hear of Cork city, the English Market is one of the oldest covered markets in Ireland and has been trading since 1788. It’s a really great place to visit and the cafe upstairs and market stalls are all really lovely.

UCC Quad

UCC Quad

The whole day and evening in Cork was rather nostalgic. I met another friend for lunch. On my request we stopped off in the local garage/grocery shop – Centra – where I got a hot chicken roll with spicy chicken, mayo, cheese and lettuce. It was my University hangover lunch and I’d had such an

UCC

UCC

irrational craving for it since I arrived that it just had to be done. It was carby and totally worth every bite. We spent the afternoon wandering around Cork and through the UCC campus where we both went to University. It was strange, I almost thought I’d see my younger self walking through campus on the way to a lecture with my girl friends.

Sea-bass

Sea-bass

In the late afternoon I met another old University friend for a pint – he loves his Beamish – so we went for a drink in another old haunt in Cork, The Oval. After which my friend who I was staying with and I took a trip to the new Oysters restaurant in the Clarion Hotel. The food was completely and utterly out of this world. We shared rock oysters to start with they were served with lemon juice and a shallot vinaigrette dressing, and were so fresh and delicious. I followed this with a chargrilled sea-bass served with orange and fennel stuffing, figs, potatoes and a delectable and very flavoursome vanilla sauce.  Honestly it was like I’d gone to food heaven, it was truly outstanding. The food was washed down in suitable style with a bottle of Prosecco and followed by a raspberry and lavender creme brulee and an espresso to top the dinner off. It was 11.30pm by the time we left, that’s how much we enjoyed it.

Bray Head boulevard

Bray Head sea front

Saturday morning saw me taking my old route back home on the Aircoach, however, this time I went all the way to Dublin. It was a stunning three hour coach journey through the heart of the Irish countryside which was in full bloom and at it’s greenest, it brought back so many memories. I met a few friends for lunch in Bewley’s on Grafton Street, another renowned Irish landmark. I hadn’t seen my friends for a few years and while they had developed a Dublin accent – all of them having lived in Cork before – I was told that mine had become somewhat posh, a jumble of English and Irish! I won’t say anything further on the subject.

Fried calamari

Fried calamari

I met my mum in the afternoon and before going to the theater in the evening, we stopped off for dinner in La Maison just off Grafton Street. Formerly a little French cafe which served divine cakes and pastries, the place has been turned into a Michelin starred restaurant, the current food being equally

Duck

Duck

on par with the pastries of yore. Sticking to what had become the theme for the weekend, fish, my mum and I both ordered the fried calamari for starters and I opted for the duck as a main, which was served with baked potatoes and gravy, it was delicious and very tender.  As we were indulging we decided to order a plum tart between the two of us to share for dessert. All I will say to that is the French really know how to make pastries!

Bray Head walk

Bray Head walk

Sunday was spent walking along the coast and enjoying the sunshine and on Monday we drove down to Holywood, stopping off in Belfast for dinner on our way back. Neither my mum nor I had been in Belfast in years, actually I’m not sure I’ve ever been into the city before. We used to drive to the north a lot to visit family when my sister and I were younger but that’s when they still stopped and checked every car at the border, both sides of the road were lined with gun carrying military and Belfast was a no go area. The city was a lot more pleasant than either of us expected it to be but it was rather quite and empty.

We stumbled across a gem of a restaurant near City Hall, believe it or not, it was a seafood restaurant, Mourne Seafood Bar. We just had really good luck with fish that weekend, the food was really awesome, I had a delicious fresh cod with a lobster sauce. Needless to say I’m fished out for now, but in a good way.

It was a lovely weekend on many levels; seeing everyone again, being back in Ireland and also finding out that Ireland has become a really amazing foodie place with loads of great places to eat out, it’s definitely a strong contender to bear in mind when considering a foodie holiday.

It will be a while before I’m back in the Emerald Isle but I had my fill for now, literally, and it was great. I’m off for another long weekend this week so watch this space for my next travelling food post!

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