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Friday, 29 November 2013


Yes, I realise that these are all European Christmas markets...but when I think of a traditional and quintessential Christmas market, I think Europe. I imagine snow, mulled wine, roast meats and twinkling lights- not to say other continents don't have these things, I just have a certain nostalgia for Euro-style festive markets. In fact, I believe these few examples demonstrate that no one does Christmas better than Europe. 


Copenhagen's well known Christmas market is located in Tivoli Gardens amusement park. The market is split into sections; where the theme transitions from Nordic village into Russian fairytale. There are over 50 stalls complemented by a number of rides and amusements, stereotypical of a Christmas market. Tivoli's Russian theme is strongly presented, accentuated by the presence of a Russian Father Christmas and a mock St-Basil's Cathedral. Tivoli is a must for anyone willing to brave the cold of Denmark, but not yet brave enough for the real Moscow.  


Again located in an amusement park (a common Scandinavian theme), Liseberg in Gothenburg is Scandinavia’s largest Christmas market. The market is studded with over 5 million sparkling lights and decorated with hundreds of Christmas trees. Wooden huts sell a variety of Christmas treats, from marzipan pigs to roast reindeer! The market's scale means that there is even room for a special exhibition currently being held on the 1930's. Liseberg is a much more traditional Christmas market, offering delicious local food and a stunning setting to bring in the doe-eyed Christmas fanatics. 


The U.K is littered with pseudo-German Christmas markets at the moment, there seems to be a rising fever for German style food and hospitality. The Christmas market in Leeds already has a 2-3 hour queue at rush hours just to enter the famous and jolly sounding 'beer tent'. Striezelmarkt in Dresden offers the real thing. This is one of the world's oldest Christmas markets dating back to the 15th century. Offering countless stalls of German arts and crafts from the Ore Mountains and beyond, there is a certain sense of mysticism and fantasy here. To top it all off, they parade a 3 tonne stollen around the streets- is anyone else sold on this place?! 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


Trinity Kitchen is everything you expect a street food canteen to be like; extremely busy and wildly overpriced. However, that is not to say I didn't enjoy my food. I had a Chicago Rib Shack Cajun Chicken Burger with a light cajun mayo. To my mind, it was standard street food, in a canteen setting; comfortable flavours that were enough to fill you up and continue on with the day. In all honesty, I'd wish I'd been a bit more experimental and gone for an interesting looking pork belly dish that was wafting from the inside of a converted caravan. Other alternatives included Vietnamese Londoner-favourite- Pho, or Mexican canteen classic- Tortilla. The local Marvellous Tea Dance Company, which I have visited on separate occasions, also had a stall in Trinity Kitchen (although I would say the original is much cuter and homlier than the Trinity stall). Saying all of this however, the unique selling point of Trinity Kitchen is it's high turnover. By which I mean, old street food stalls become replaced my new ones on a monthly basis or so, thus revitalising the kitchen and keeping it's appeal fresh and current. The new street food stalls that have just arrived include a yummy looking veggie/vegan place called 'Fresh Rootz' and celebrated burgers n' wings specialists 'The Mobile Diner'. It appears that if there isn't something you like the first time, there's a chance whatever comes round next month might appeal to you more (she say's looking at the Fresh Rootz menu and nodding persistently). My experience with the Chicago Rib Shack was 'meh' overall, but I hope that when I visit Trinity Kitchen again, the food will live up to the every so hyped up expectation. 

Sunday, 17 November 2013


If you're like me, then you've probably already started celebrating Christmas; watching soppy Christmas films, squealing at mulled wine in Christmas markets and of course- baking festive treats. This week, under the spell of an eggnog latte and an impulse buy of angel wings, I decided it was a good time to bake gingerbread. Last year my gingerbread came in loaf form, a very traditional ginger sponge cake almost. This year, I went back to cookie cutters. This recipe is a Vanilli adaptation and is not for those who have a certain aversion to spice. Using fresh chillies and A LOT of fresh ginger, these crunchy gingerbreads certainly do pack a punch (more like a hard kick in the face). 

Firstly mix together your spices; 80g or so of fresh grated ginger, half a chopped red chilli, 12g of ground ginger, 5g of ground nutmeg, 5g of ground cinnamon, 5g of ground cloves and 2g of ground cardamom seeds along with a crack of black pepper. In a bowl, mix one egg with one egg yolk and set aside. In a large bowl, beat 200g of unsalted butter with 200g of brown sugar and 115g of golden syrup. Add the beaten eggs and combine everything together- finally add the spices. Mix in 560g of flour, with 1/4 tsp of bicarb of soda and 4g of fine salt. Mix it altogether until it becomes dough-like, shape it into a ball, wrap in cling film and put into the fridge to refrigerate for 20mins. 

Preheat the oven to 180 on fan. Once the dough has come out of the fridge and warmed to room temperature, roll it out to 1cm thickness on a well floured surface (flour the rolling pin as well). Cut out your gingerbread cookies using cookie cutters of your choice and bake in the oven on a lined/greased baking tray for 15mins. They should come out looking golden brown and crisp, leave 10mins or so to cool. 

Warning: this will make enough cookies to feed an army. 

P.S Novelty dinosaur cookie cutter is optional. But the Christmas-ier the better!

Saturday, 2 November 2013


Only 363 days to next Halloween guys! So in preparation, here's what I made this year. A gruesome concoction of red velvet cupcakes, moulded to look rather (anatomically incorrect as I'm informed) like beating bloody hearts. These were inspired by the wonderful Lily Vanilli, who has a whole recipe book devoted to Halloween themed bakes; although I would hazard that mine aren't as pretty as hers. The main gist of the cupcakes are to bake a batch of red velvet (recipe below), then wrap them in red fondant. I would recommend buying plenty of fondant as you get through a surprising amount- we had two packets and just about stretched it enough to cover 8 cupcakes, at least 500g. To be honest, I would love to tell you how to sculpt the hearts, but it's mostly a process of trial and error. Make sure you sprinkle plenty of icing sugar on the cakes and the work surfaces so they don't get too sticky and that should make it easier. The best way I found was to make an elongated rectangle/oval with the fondant, apply a bit of melted jam/frosting to the inside so it sticks and then pinch the top and the bottom ends of the fondant over the top of the cupcake, folding the rest over the sides and making sure the cake is completely covered. Don't worry if they look a bit...questionable, the folds and the creases will be part of the overall ew-ness when they are finished. Use any excess fondant on the top to form the arteries and just use as much artistic flare as possible! Apply some piping gel mixed with red food colouring (maybe hints of black food colouring as well) and brush the hearts over with a fine brush. Lastly, melt some jam- I used my homemade cherry jam and pour into the arteries to resemble blood! The chunks of cherry came especially handy in resembling blood clots. I was so happy with the overall result of these cakes and they make a wonderful centrepiece to any Halloween party! The recipe for the red velvet cupcakes is below:

the finished...bleugh
This recipe makes around 15 cupcakes. Preheat oven to 180 on fan. Sift together 325g of plain flour and 30g of cocoa powder or hot chocolate powder if you're feeling lazy. Cream 115g of unsalted butter with 280g of caster sugar until fluffy. Add 2 eggs and one and a half tablespoons of liquid food red colouring. Then beat until well mixed. Incorporate the wet mix into the dry, slowly adding 250ml of buttermilk. Lastly in a small bowl mix 1tsp of bicarb of soda with 1tsp of lemon juice- it should fizz up. Then fold this into the mixture. Divide into cupcake cases and bake for around 20 mins. Leave to cool before you ice them. 

P.S Piping gel and red food gel can be bought through Amazon! On another note; piping gel looks like some kind of costume make-up by itself.