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Saturday, 28 September 2013


Portofino is mostly known for its regular celebrity sightings and picturesque harbour setting but despite its quaint and traditional look, it doesn't rate as a popular Italian destination. The top Italian destinations include the usual suspects; Rome, Venice and Florence. All of these places are beautiful destinations, but in order to escape the tourist-y feel, the queues and the tacky leaning tower of Pisa toys, Portofino could be your next Italian holiday destination. This town on the Italian Rivera is still popular during the summer months but offers a touch more charm as the harbour fills up with yachts and the designer boutiques start to open. Portofino is Genoa's answer to Capri just off the coast of Naples.  It's places like this that I could easily spend the day lazily wandering around, only stopping for lunch and dinner. Visiting this area is definitely an investment and a costly one if you wish to stay in a VIP-style hotel, but for those looking to save a bit, there are plenty of camping sites along the coast and the nearby cities of Genoa and La Spezia offer similar experiences. 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


The most wondrous thing about these little bites are that as opposed to regular fried doughnuts, these ones are baked. I personally find frying things in a deep pan of scolding oil to be a bit scary (I don't own a deep fat fryer) so baking is an ideal alternative. As we are coming into the autumn/winter months, a warm plate of these with a mug of buttered hot cider is a perfect warming treat. The recipe is an adapted Lily Vanilli, a new favourite artisan baker of mine. I've been experimenting with her bakes a lot and I like how she uses seasonal vegetables as a healthy substitute in some of her cakes, if you're looking for a quirky recipe book for Christmas; definitely check out 'Sweet Tooth'.


A night before making the doughnuts, core and peel 2 cooking apples and cut them into small chunks. Soak them in 250ml of cider overnight with star anise. The next day...pre-heat oven to around 180 on fan. Mix 180g of flour with 2 tsps of baking powder and 65g of light brown sugar, a dash of sea salt and half a teaspoon of ground nutmeg. Rub 75g of refrigerated cubed butter into the flour mix to make a light breadcrumb texture. Drain the apples and leave them to dry on some kitchen roll. Meanwhile, mix 1 egg with 60ml of milk. Fold this into the breadcrumbs until a wet mix, then add the apple chunks and mix well. Place little blobs of batter into a mini muffin tray (should make about 12) and bake in the oven for 20 min. While baking, melt 100g of butter in a bowl and mix 100g of sugar with a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon. When the doughnuts are ready, let them cool for 10 mins before removing from the tray. Then coat them in butter and roll them in the sugar mix. Don't hesitate with the amount of butter!

Thursday, 19 September 2013




Walking past La Paradeta, you would barely notice it, or if you did, possibly mistake it for a fish market. This seafood based restaurant is a favourite among locals and we only heard about it through a mutual friend living in Barcelona. The seafood is fresh and varies depending on the catch of the day, ranging from tuna to heaps of clams and huge lobsters. The seafood is cooked as it is, sometimes with a brush of garlic and butter, served with bread and cheap wine. The seafood is some of the best I've ever eaten and the restaurant relies on it's quality produce and local customers. It is clearly not aimed for tourists, considering it's location and plastic-kitchen decour and despite ordering in broken Spanish, the food and atomosphere were both an amazing experience.


A completely opposite experience, Sky Bar offers traditional Austrian cuisine smartened up a bit overlooking the steeples of St. Stephens Cathedral. We ordered sachertorte (a personal favourite) and a slice of apple strudel (another must have). Both were gorgeous and reasonably priced; although you are paying a little extra for the view. There are plenty of places to go for a decent dessert in Vienna but this is a must for anyone looking for a classic Austrian cake or pastry.


Oderquelle was one of my favourite restaurants in terms of location. Prenzlaur Berg, where Oderquelle is situated, is a very relaxed, friendly neighbourhood with plenty of appetising looking restaurants and cafes along the main streets. We sat outside in the summer sun, next to a number of chic-looking couples mingled with local families and friends. Our dishes were well-cooked with a homemade feel to them, ranging from roast poussin with romanesco broccoli, beef stew with dumplings and a cherry tomato risotto.

Friday, 13 September 2013


To correspond with my 'Cheap Eats of Europe', I feel it necessary to include how I actually survived the majority of interrailing. With interrailing, you're very much on the go all the time, which in effect, uses up a lot of energy. Street food and local snacks provided a lot of this energy and were the reason I was able to keep going throughout the day. Some traditional snacks, I wanted to try for the sake of it; specialist pastries for example. Others; such as slices of pizza in Venice, could pass as a genuine meal for the day, and mean that we could eat en-route to the Bridge of Sighs. My top 3 snackettes would be:


1) Belgian Waffles. Tried these in Antwerp from a street stall, better than any I've had in the UK. Covered in fresh cream and strawberries, you can't go wrong there.
2) Croquettes in Amsterdam. We went to a little deli that did every possible flavour croquette and filling available, then put it in a roll for you, was very nice. You can also get croquettes from vending machines (FEBO) as well as burgers and hotdogs and stuff. Nifty little invention. 
3) Sfogliatelle in Naples. Bit of a mouthful this one, but I always enjoy pastries of any sort. These yummy treats are thin layers of pastry with an almond custard filling. In New York, they are more commonly known as 'lobster tails'. Melt in the mouth. 

There were a few disapointing snacks as well, not every meal can be perfect after all. For example; lacklustre crepes in Paris made me miss my own homemade ones and the German currywurst was fine, but nothing to rave about. I've also had better churros in Disneyland... I would also reccomend pizza places in Italy that use the weight as an indiactor of price; these places are arguably more authentic and reasonably priced. 

p.s. Sachertorte is not really a snack but a must-try in Vienna. Plenty of places to try it; Cafe Sacher etc etc...The best place in AUSTRIA however is Cafe Elizabeth in Westendorf. I promise. 

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


In some ways, my reasons for going to Chengdu mirror my reasons for going to Osaka. In the sense that the main attraction is animal based (pandas), yet it is only the tip of the iceburg, representing a much larger country I would love to travel around. I single out Chengdu again because of the panda research facility, which I have always wanted to visit. I remember receiving a postcard from a family friend who'd visited and told us that baby pandas are quite heavy to carry. And who wouldn't want to visit baby pandas? Chengdu is famous nationally and internationally for this reason and the research facility attracts thousands of tourists each year. Chengdu is also becoming more accessible internationally- aiding to it's popularity, British Airways launched direct flights this year to the popular Sichuan city. In addition to pandas, there are a number of hiking and river sports activities in the surrounding area, for the sporty kind. Alternativley, there are a number of monestaries and holy sites to visit for those looking for a more cultural experience. My guess is that this city can only continue to grow with activity due to the influx of tourism and I hope to Chengdu before it overwhelms the original attraction.

Voted world's No1 cutest tourist attraction

Monday, 9 September 2013


I realise that this post is a little late in regards to any budding Euro-travellers- but; I'm in mourning. I'm mourning summertime. Look out your window, is it raining? Yes. Is it cold? Yup. And although I haven't had as exciting summer as last year, I am missing the feeling of sun on my skin, whilst reading a good book and enjoying some ice cream. Of course, this made me a little nostalgic of my European travels, where we often fed on a steady diet of ice cream and pizza (when in Rome etc etc). Therefore this post is dedicated to nostalgia, and of course, the best ice cream i've ever tasted.

Belgious Avinyo in Barcelona

Funnily enough, despite being in the old-town of Barcelona's gothic quarter, this parlour was a Belgian bussiness and was far from what you'd imagine to find in the medevial lanes of Barca. Bright orange inside with plastic twizzly seats, this place was all about the 'exotic and unusual'. Our server had perfect English and allowed us to try as many flavours as we wanted; ranging from black olive to balsamic raspberry and even (a surprisingly nice) curry flavour. They even had beer flavoured ice cream! I finally settled on a much more traditional dulce de leche, whilst some of my friends were more adventurous with chocolate and goats cheese and lime and rosemary. Other interesting/questionable flavours include: grilled prawns, cannabis and mustard. And if you're a bit of a wuss- there are plenty of lovely/normalish ice creams available as well as the bonkers ones!

Della Palma in Rome

Della Palma is everything an Italian gelateria should be; loud, busy and absolutely full of gorgeous, mouth-watering ice creams. Boasting over 150 flavours, this place was always busy when we visited, with tourists and locals alike jostling for a scoop. I tried quite a few flavours whilst staying in Rome as this place became a regular visit on scorching summer days. Favourites included: pear and marscapone, dark chocolate and raspberry and traditional crunchy peanut butter.


Grom in Siena 

This place was a slightly more traditional gelateria, which relied on good ingridients and traditional Italian flavours. There aren't as many places to find ice cream in Siena and although this place is just of the main plaza, which can get a little touristy, we found it a very charming pit-stop for an afternoon scoop. Special flavours include Italian zabaione, chesnut and Sicilian cassata.

P.S- try the aloholic ice-cream coffees in the Murinsel cafe on the Mur River! The cafe literally sits, rather precariously in the middle of the river. The architecture of the place is an amazing formation of glass and metal and you can get some stunning views both inside the cafe and on the bridges. 

Thursday, 5 September 2013


Continuing the theme of baking whatever is being baked on the GBBO, this week I have baked trifle! In all honesty, I had never been a fan of trifle when I was a kid. Which is strange because I enjoyed all the ingridients individually, but for some reason couldn't enjoy them combined. However, I have got past my trifle-based issues and I am now all in favour of supporting the great British trifle! My recipe is based on the the summer fruits I picked this year (a lot of which I've frozen), which include mostly cherries; from my garden and a handful of raspberries. You can choose different red fruits or use these and mix up the ratio of raspberries to cherries, it's really up to you! Also my trifle recipe is very small as it's only catering for my little family (3-4 large portions), double up on quantities for more people!

Firstly, warm 150ml of milk and 150ml of double cream in a pan. Meanwhile whisk 4 egg yolks with 40g of caster sugar. Once the milk/cream mix has warmed up, pour into the egg yolk/sugar mix, whisking continously. Getting a clean pan, quickly put this mix back into the pan and warm over a low heat, continuing to whisk. Be patient, as the mix will take a while to thicken. Once this has thickened, make the brandy-vanilla infusion by heating 30ml of brandy with the seeds of a vanilla pod (you can also use extract depending on what's in your cupboard). Let this bubble away for a few minutes then leave to cool. Once cooled, you can mix this in with the custard.

Trifle: not the most elegant of the desserts

Now make mini jam sandwiches with some best-quality cherry jam and a pack of 4 trifle sponges. You can use these babies to line the bottom of your trifle bowl (or if you're Deborah from GBBO- a giant cocktail glass). Pour over 40ml of brandy and allow to soak. Have a shot of brandy as a congratulations for reading this far. This is when you add your fruit, so for me it was 300g of stoned cherries and 100g of raspberries. Then pour over the custard, cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge for a day or so.

When ready to serve, whip 250ml of double cream until thickened, pile this to make a layer over the custard. Boil a tablespoon of water, half the juice of a lemon and a tablespoon of cherry jam to make a syrup. Artistically drizzle this over your trifle, then add a handful (tablespoon or so) of toasted almonds to finish. Next week is pies! I'm so excited!