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Chasing Pineapples

an English girl tasting her way around the world

Month

March 2012

Swedish Sunday Shenanigans

I live with seven other girls and, being students with a lot of work on and varied interests, it is extremely difficult to get all of us together in one room. The solution is our Sunday house meal when we cook up a feast and catch up on our busy weeks. Living in such a big house, there is bound to be some variety in cooking preferences. Furthermore, Bath University is very international and amongst my housemates alone we have four nationalities and have lived in ten countries, ranging from Europe, to Latin America, to the Middle East! This provides opportunity to taste exotic flavours from all around the world, without leaving the comfort of our own home.

Our most international housemate, Caroline, was born in Sweden, summers in France, has studied in England, Singapore and Brussels, yet lives in Dubai. But last Sunday she chose to whip up a classic from her Swedish origins: meatballs! Sticky, meaty and extremely tasty with hints of paprika, they went down very well! In keeping with the theme, they were served in the typically Swedish way with boiled potatoes, cream sauce and lingonberry jam. Lingonberries, similar to cranberries, grow in the forest areas of Sweden and are a staple food in Scandanavian cuisine. This relish perfectly complements the meaty dish, adding a hint of fruitiness!

If you don’t want the hassle or sticky fingers that making this dish yourself involves, IKEA is the answer. Bizarre the idea of buying food from a furniture warehouse may be, but you can’t get more Swedish than IKEA!

A Hidden Gem

The life of a student can often seem like the busiest, most stressful lifestyle there is… I was having one of these days a few days ago. However all was solved by Yak Yeti Yak, a Nepalese restaurant in Bath.

On treading down the wooden painted stairs off one of the city’s busiest roads, you find yourself in a completely different and hidden world… The hustle and bustle of everyday life makes way for this tranquil restaurant with plenty of charm. Relaxing music and aromas of burning incense mixed with Nepalese cooking are complimented by the traditional decoration, including seating with low tables and floor cushions. Though taking a bit of time to get comfy (even for my half Japanese friend), this idea was very quaint and added a lot to the experience.

This exotic experience extended to the authentic cuisine- split black lentils cooked with spices and Himalayan herbs, slow cooked pork with spinach and coriander, and stir fried marinated beef. Though the meat dishes could have used a bit more sauce, they were beautifully cooked with subtle, fragrant flavours. I also ordered Chiyaa tea as an accompaniment which was more appropriate for a dessert- sweet and frothy and yummy!

Not only did I really enjoy the food but I appreciated the importance of taking a bit of time out from time to time to put a perspective on my apparently ‘hectic’ life… I’m only a student after all…

Who needs a holiday when there are places like this on your doorstep?!

http://www.yakyetiyak.co.uk/

Is Baileys losing its charm?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-5olEbSQ_M

Those of you who keep up to date with food retail news may have seen Baileys recent brand health check… despite being a much loved brand and one of the drink industry’s biggest innovation successes in memory, this Irish cream-liqueur is currently fighting to retain consumer interest.

This surprised me, as this Christmas I rediscovered my love for this quintessentially festive drink and over the holidays a nightcap of Baileys became a ritual of mine. There is nothing better than settling down with a book, a film or friends and sipping away at this creamy and warming luxury.

Adding to the charm, I found a new way to drink it. I have always had a fixation with quaint espresso mugs. Due to my lack of appreciation for espresso coffee, I have always felt as though I have missed out on the experience of drinking out of these delightful vessels. Therefore I combined two obsessions and recently my Baileys with two ice cubes has been sipped out of a variety of Emma Bridgewater espresso mugs… what is more charming than that??

The espresso cup: a true art form

So for me, Baileys is not losing its charm- it always has been, and always will be, an essential part of Christmas. Yet this is part of the problem, as the rest of the year sees the bottle pushed to the back of the drinks cabinet. Baileys is just as tasty all year round and never fails to make you feel good. So why not treat yourself- get it back out of the cabinet, brush off the dust and give the Irish cream some love… After all Baileys is for life, not just for Christmas…

Shepherd’s pie: a ‘pot luck’ family affair

taken from http://www.yorkshirenet.co.uk/yorkshire-dales/landscape.htm
The not-so-gruesome North

Being born and bred in Yorkshire and both parents coming from Lancashire, I certainly have Northern roots. Going to university in Bath, I am constantly subject to ‘Northern banter’, with many people believing that anywhere above the M5 is the ‘gruesome North’! Coal mines, farmers, chips and gravy… negative stereotypes are plentiful. Though one stereotype that I am lucky to claim is true is that of the hearty home cooking. During my schooldays, on bringing friends home for tea (Northern lingo for ‘dinner’ or ‘supper’), the request for mummy Crossley’s shepherd’s pie was to be expected. Its legacy has even spread to Bath and my university friends all love it!

The beauty of this dish is that it is different every time- even if two are made at exactly the same time by the same person with the same ingredients- so there is always a few seconds silence before we give the approval! For me the sloppier and the more gravy the better! It is a great dish for sharing and everyone getting ‘stuck in’, helping themselves and passing plates around giving the mealtime a very relaxed and family ambience. Though beware- it is terribly more-ish and never lasts long! On the rare occasion that there are any leftovers, they are guaranteed to be picked away at and finished before dawn of the following day!

Shepherd’s pie is traditionally made with lamb, with cottage pie being its beef alternative. However in my family, it is always shepherd’s pie, whatever the chosen meat may be! Onions and carrots are a must and the key to success is the generous amounts of gravy- stock cube and bisto poured over the layer of mince before the buttered mash (must be made creamy using milk!) is carefully layered on top. With or without cheese is a case of personal preference- though we always have one of each to please all! The key: never be sparing with the butter!

*photgraph taken from http://www.yorkshirenet.co.uk/yorkshire-dales/landscape.htm

Eenie Meenie Miney… Mojito!

mojitos in jam jars- vintage!

In June 2009 tres chicas inglesas (three English girls) set off on an adventure to the land of cigars, vintage cars and mojitos…unmistakably Cuba! Yesterday evening these same three girls met up again over a mojito for old times’ sake. Though the setting could not have been more different… sun, sea and sand were replaced with armchairs, a vintage jewellery cabinet bar and wall hangings.

The location: OPiUM, Bath… the drink: mojitos with a twist!

We were given the choice of strawberry, blueberry or the house mojito of elderflower. As previously mentioned not being the best decision maker, we chose to have all three and rotate!

The very cheery barman whipped up our drinks on the glass cabinet crammed with vintage jewellery, postcards and knick knacks. Adding even more to the individuality of the evening, our drinks were not served in standard glasses, but rather in jam jars! Excellent!

So off we went, mojitos in tow, and rotated the variety of flavours whilst we chatted in the very relaxed yet sophisticated ambience.

passing round the jam jar mojitos

Though essentially the same drink, the variation in taste was remarkable. Blueberry came in third place, being very refreshing but a little harder to drink. Strawberry was divine, definitely the choice for the sweet tooth, though possibly a little too sugary for some. The winner was the house mojito Elderflower… a very subtle flavour, like its essence, however the perfect balance between sweet and refreshing. Though I may have been influenced by the fact that Elderflower is one of my all time favourite flavours… try yourself at Opium http://www.opiumbars.com/ … best mojitos in Bath sin duda (without a doubt)!

‘Hmmmmm… what should I choose?’

The beauty of Amorino is just that… you can choose them all!

I took this picture in Amorino ice cream parlour (Nantes), one of our favourite summer haunts (originated in Paris and now to my absolute delight open in Soho and Chelsea, London). Like the petite fille in the photograph, I am one of those who finds it extremely difficult when it comes to ordering, irritatingly ‘mmmmm’-ing and ‘errrrr’-ing whilst the waiter tries not to hit me over the back of the head with his pad. However, there is nothing worse than the terrible state of being that is food envy; not-so-subtley eyeing up your neighbour’s dish whilst casually pushing your inferior choice around the plate.

The beauty of this completely organic and natural ice cream place is that in fact you do not need to choose. You simply order your cone size and fill it with as many flavours as take your fancy, whether it be focusing on your personal favourite, experimenting with a couple of contrasting flavours, or indulging in un petit peu de tout (a little bit of everything). Though if you give it a try there are a few star products that you must not miss out on. The first is that unique product about which I wrote in my last entry… Speculoos. This may seem an odd choice for an ice cream flavour, but it is surely ‘a pure delight in every spoonful’; the smooth and creamy texture contrasting the strong flavours of caramelised sugar cane, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Looks may be deceiving when it comes to the next flavour of choice… when selecting a chocolate ice cream, I always assume that the darker it is, the more bitter it becomes. However this is not the case with Ecuadorian Chocolate. 70% chocolate, this flavour is in fact lighter in colour than the other milder chocolate flavours Amorino offers. Third and final favourite is one originated from Gianduja in North Italy- l’inimitable. Which is just that- incomparable! Thick, rich, chocolatey, hazlenutty- unique!

Amorino translates as ‘cupid’… very fitting with both their philosophy of passion for pleasure and flavour, and for its ability to tantalise the taste buds… you will fall in love with ice cream all over again.

Around the world before breakfast

‘No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin… And suddenly the memory revealed itself… The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.’   —Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

This Thursday morning in Bath began with a very unique experience. For those who are not familiar with the above French anecdote, Proust’s madeleine (a small traditional French sponge cake) dipped in tea inspires a nostalgic incident and takes him back to l’heure de goûter (French snacktime) of his childhood in the town of Combray. This morning I experienced an episode of this sort, although the madeleine was substituted with freshly baked tartines and Speculoos spread.

This delight provoked memories from my vie française in the Loire city of Nantes where I spent seven months teaching English whilst discovering French cuisine and the wines of the Loire. Upon wandering the city one Sunday morning, we discovered a true treasure… in the form of a biscuit spread! Bizarre it may sound, but this Belgian originated treat should not be overlooked! Hard to describe, this spread has the consistency of Nutella yet the taste of caramelised Lotus biscuits that often accompany coffee (once again evoking happy memories of taking the bus to Ramsbottom for my childhood coffee outings with Grandma!).

This Sunday ritual in Nantes perfectly illustrates the concept of eating as an experience. Les petites anglaises (English girls) would amble down to our favourite salon de thé, Tabl’O Gourmand, with its rustic wooden tables and walls lined with glass cabinets overflowing with jars containing everything you could possibly imagine in the form of a spread.  Ordering pâtes à tartiner consists of a large basket of freshly baked baguettes and an array of spreads, the personal highlight being Speculoos. Whether it was a lazy Sunday afternoon with a book, a couple of hours catching up with the girls, or appreciating Nantes as a tourist with those who came to visit, this experience never failed to please!

Back to reality, this morning my Speculoos was unfortunately not enjoyed in a French café, but in the equally pleasant sanctuary of a fellow student’s room. Toby has transformed his domain into a tranquil haven, complete with throws and cushions from the East and photographs of his experiences in Africa, and inspiring images of my own experiences in various ‘salons de thé’ of Morocco, drinking mint tea whilst observing the hustle and bustle of the fascinating daily life in Marrakech…

Again, back to reality… evidently taste is a powerful thing… taking the imagination to other times in one’s life… to other countries… even to other worlds… and all before 11am on a Thursday morning in Bath… Merci Speculoos!

Une fille inglesa… in England (An English girl in England)

Yorkshire born and bred, I am just about as English as you can get. However, I am fascinated by foreign cultures, particularly by the French and Spanish speaking worlds, and especially the culinary delights that these worlds have to offer. The name como manger (I eat to eat/how to eat) is a blend of Spanish and French, with which I will punctuate my writing where I feel appropriate…however I will ensure that there is always a translation!

These entries are a more creative outlet for my constant expression of my appreciation of food, more than often in the form of the Crossley catchphrase “mmmm SO good…”

It must be noted that, for me, a significant part of this enjoyment is without a doubt the ‘experience’ of eating… whether it be a particularly quaint location, an unusual experience, or just something small that adds to the pleasure of la vie quotidienne (everyday life).

I would also like to highlight that I am in no way attempting to resemble a food critic. I will only write about the food I enjoy- if I don’t enjoy it, it won’t feature- c’est simple!

Having spent a year in France and Spain as part of my languages degree at Bath University, and soon to embark on a self-structured food tour to visit these worlds in more depth, I have decided to start my tasting journey in the present and explore what my homeland of England has to offer.

All that is left to say is bon appetit…que aproveche…enjoy…

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