29.11.11

woollen undies


Did you know that there's such a thing as woollen underwear? S and I are flying to South America at the end of the year to do some travelling. On our trip we'll be trekking the Inca Trail in the rainy season and hiking to the Lost City through Colombian rainforest. In other words, we're going to get wet. After my friend helpfully pointed out that wearing wet knickers for five days in a row is probably best avoided, I went in search of quick dry underwear. I was very happy to find that Icebreaker, my favourite brand of outdoor clothing (and not just because it's from New Zealand), makes a range of underwear out of its famous merino wool. Although Icebreaker clothing is expensive, it really is quite magical and worth every penny. The merino keeps you warm, wicks moisture away, breathes and doesn't smell; everything you could want in a pair of knickers. Oh, and apparently they don't itch. (They're quite pretty too.) I happily spent a small fortune on Icebreaker's woolly undies, safe in the knowledge that my nether regions will stay nice and dry while we're trekking in the jungle.

24.11.11

broadway market

A walk through London Fields en route to Broadway Market

I'm not sure how I didn't know about Broadway Market until a few weeks ago, but I am very grateful to my friend, a Hackney local, for informing me of its existence. I went for my first visit on Saturday after brunch and it was everything I hoped it would be: lots of yummy food, pretty jewellery and clothes, lovely artwork, and vintage treasures. It was busy, but without the throngs of tourists that flock to markets like Portobello Road or Borough Market.

Amazing custard square (front and centre)

I was very much focused on the food on this visit (when am I not?), and my friend and I tasted every brownie sample we could get our hands on. Quite far down, past the main food stalls, we found a wee Irish man from Cork (or "Cark") selling the best custard square I have ever tasted. That might be a slight exaggeration. We have pretty amazing custard squares in New Zealand (Denheath Desserts anyone?), but it's been so long since I've had one I can't remember what they taste like. Let's just say it's the best custard square I've found in London. The custard was very thick (S thought it was more like a custard sponge than a custard square) and it was covered in lots of icing sugar and delicious sweetened almonds. My friend and I shared one piece and promptly went back for a second.

Salted caramel cupcake via Violet

Further down the market is Violet's cake stand. Try a salted caramel cupcake if it's the last thing you do. I was too full so I had a mini spiced pumpkin whoopie pie instead, but once I tried a bite of my friend's cupcake I realised my mistake. There is always room for salted caramel cupcakes.


I've heard the savoury food on offer at the market, such as Vietnamese pho and veggie burgers, is also pretty incredible. I guess I'll have to go back.

23.11.11

the antlers

The Antlers via NME
I was reading Oh Comely magazine for the first time (Issue 6 I think it was), when I came across the playlist of songs the creators of the magazine listened to while they made the issue. (I love that they include this in the magazine). Bored at work one day, I decided to make my way through the list. The song that stood out to me (by a mile) was I Don't Want Love by The Antlers. After hearing it, I listened to every song by The Antlers I could find on YouTube, then I went home and bought their albums, Hospice and Burst Apart. 

Both albums are brilliant. Hospice is a concept album about a dysfunctional relationship and terminal illness. Not exactly uplifting, but Peter Silberman has created an album that reaches into your soul and takes hold. His fragile falsetto and the band's atmospheric sound are hauntingly beautiful, and the album is an enthralling roller coaster of emotions. The singles Sylvia, Bear and Two are excellent, but to truly appreciate the genius of Hospice, the album needs to be listened to in full. Burst Apart goes in a different direction to Hospice and is equally as good, but maybe not as special or unique. My favourite songs on the album, apart from I Don't Want Love, are French Exit, Hounds and Putting the Dog to Sleep.

After listening to the albums on repeat I searched for tour dates and couldn't believe it when I discovered The Antlers would be playing live in London in a few weeks. I bought tickets immediately. I was concerned that the complex, yet subtle layering of The Antler's music wouldn't translate well in a live show. I needn't have worried. Peter Silberman's voice is strong and the sound is so much bigger and fuller live. It almost felt like Koko was too small a venue to contain it. I was almost moved to tears when they played their last song, Epilogue. It was as though Silberman's voice was drawing the tears out of me. I can't say many live concerts have had the same effect.

21.11.11

wilton way cafe


I kicked off the weekend with brunch at Wilton Way Cafe, a cute little cafe near Hackney Central station. This cafe was recommended to me by my acupuncturist, who insists that all the best cafes are in East London. I think he might be right. The cafe is located amongst an assortment of pretty shops on a fairly residential road. It's small and bright and busy. The serving counter is wrapped in corrugated iron and the lamp shades are all the colours of the rainbow. The cafe uses coffee beans roasted by the famous and local Climpson and Sons and stocks cupcakes from Violet, whose shop is just down the road.


The food was simple, but delicious and very reasonably priced. I had mushrooms and garlic on thick slices of sour dough toast and a flat white. My friends' breakfasts of goat's curd and honey, and oats with yoghurt and berries looked very tasty as well. It seems that East Londoners are too hip for tables though, so we ate our breakfasts off wooden crates instead.

18.11.11

breathe me


I love this song by Sia. It was the final song in the finale of Six Feet Under. It was very emotional. Have you seen Six Feet Under? It's such a great TV series. We bought the box set when we were living in Ireland and watched it within a couple of weeks. It sucked me right in and I suffered major withdrawals afterwards. It's such a good quality show. It can be fairly depressing and difficult to watch at times, but it's also very clever and wickedly funny. Definitely worth a watch.

17.11.11

cat nap

via Pinterest

I've just had lunch and now I'm falling asleep at my desk. Sure, my job isn't exactly stimulating, but even if it was, I don't think many of us can escape the post-lunch slump. I read an article in the 100th issue of Stylist that said, according to a recent study carried out at the University of California "the most beneficial thing at lunchtime would be a sandwich and a snooze ... a 90-minute nap in the middle of the day prepares the brain to remember things ...". A 90-minute nap?! How good would that be? Someone needs to get on that. Until then, I'll be listening to YouTube's Glee playlist to try and keep myself awake.

16.11.11

chicken pie with herby cobbler topping


The best thing about it getting dark at 4pm is that it gives you a very good excuse to cosy up at home on the weekends and do some slow cooking. Pie has got to be one of the most comforting foods around, and the best thing about this pie is that you're likely to have most of the ingredients to hand (and if you don't, you can probably make do without them).


I adapted this recipe from two chicken pie recipes, which is most unusual for me. Those who know me well will know that I normally follow recipes to a T (much to the frustration of the girls I flatted with at uni, who almost died of starvation when I insisted that the bolognaise sauce had to simmer for 40 minutes). This doesn't mean I'm a good cook, on the contrary it means I don't totally trust my instincts in the kitchen yet. I'm getting there though (slowly).


There are a few steps to making this pie, but all of them are simple, even the topping. The trickiest thing (for me, anyway) is getting the amount of water needed to form a dough for the topping right. My dough normally ends up very wet. Just add very small amounts of water at a time and you'll be fine. The recipe is very forgiving anyway, so don't worry too much.


Chock-full of veggies (and butter), this is one tasty pie.

Chicken Pie (serves 4)
Adapted from Destitute Gourmet and The Complete Book of Modern Classics

Filling
60g butter
400g sweet potato, chopped finely
1 medium leek (350g), sliced
1-2 carrots, chopped finely
50g mushrooms. sliced
400g chicken breasts or thighs, chopped coarsely (thighs are probably tastier)
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons plain flour
450ml chicken stock (approx)

Topping
3/4 cup self-raising flour
pinch of mixed herbs
35g butter
cold water to mix

1. Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan-forced.
2. Melt 20g butter in large frying pan; cook sweet potato, leek, carrots and mushrooms over medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender. Transfer to casserole dish.
3. Cook chicken and garlic in same pan until browned and almost cooked. Add to sweet potato mixture.
4. Melt remaining butter in small saucepan (I use the same pan), add flour; cook, stirring, until mixture bubbles. Gradually stir in stock, bring to a boil; simmer, stirring, until thickened.
5. Add sauce to chicken mixture.

To make the topping:
1. Put the flour, herbs and butter in food processor and process in small bursts until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
2. Add enough cold water to form a dough.
3. Knead lightly on a floured bench, then roll to fit the top of the casserole dish.
4. Gently lay the dough over the top of the chicken mixture and score a diagonal pattern across the dough with a knife.
5. Bake for 25 mins or until risen and golden.

14.11.11

regent's canal


There's a canal in London that stretches for nine miles from Little Venice in the North West to Limehouse Basin in the East. It's not far from our house, so on Saturday S and I went for a walk from Regent's Park to Camden Markets. It was a grey and dreary London day. There was no wind and the clouds closed right in on us. I love days like that. (Then yesterday was bright and breezy and that was good too.)


The autumn colours were gorgeous and it was nice to be close to the water. We popped up at Gloucester Ave and discovered Melrose and Morgan, a luxury grocery shop. I was in heaven. We bought some River Cottage yoghurt, which you have to try. This is no ordinary yoghurt. It comes in a glass jar and is extremely decadent (and pricey). The vanilla flavour was to die for. It was rich and creamy, and tasted more like custard than yoghurt. Yum.

Ginger cupcake

After purchasing our yoghurts we crossed the road to the Primrose Bakery for cupcakes, melting moments and fresh mint tea.

London, from the top of Primrose Hill
This is the street I'd like to live on when we win the lottery

Then it was time to wander home through Primrose Hill, before it got dark.

13.11.11

weekend (in dublin)

Bouquet Cocktail and Cockles and Mussels at Pichet

Argh! I'm so hopeless at getting these weekend posts up in a timely manner. So this is what we did last weekend: we went to Dublin to visit my friend whom I met when S and I spent a year working in Ireland. I have very fond memories of our time in Ireland, which I owe in large part to this girl. We would spend our Friday lunchtimes at the 'tea rooms' (small town Ireland is pretty old school), eating soft rolls and chocolate ├ęclairs, and gossiping about work. Good times. It was great to see her again now that she's moved back to Dublin. We spent most of the weekend in Dun Laoghaire, a seaside suburb of Dublin, where she grew up. It was fun to see all the places and meet the people I've heard so much about.


We had gorgeous winter sunshine all weekend (rather unusual for Ireland) and spent as much time as possible outside. On Saturday we walked for miles (literally) around the coast; visiting the piers, stopping for cake in Dalkey, watching the crazy people swimming at 40 foot, climbing Killiney Hill, and making wishes on the wishing stone. That night we went and saw Tucan, an experimental instrumental band with a fantastic Irish sound, perform at Whelans.


We spent Sunday in my favourite way: wandering around the Dun Laoghaire farmer's market and eating. It was perfection (especially the Italian sausage hot dogs).