Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tiered orange sponge cake with chocolate ganache icing {vegan and diabetes friendly}

When I offered to make my grandfather's birthday cake, I did so a little bit blithely. I hadn't fully thought through the logistics of making a cake for over 25 people, transporting it on public transport, and ensuring it was tasty enough for all but low enough in sugar to be suitable for my grandfather (he has well managed, non-insulin dependent type II diabetes). For my own benefit, I also wanted it to be vegan. Easy, right!?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

90th birthday celebrations in Rye, Sussex

My parents aren't just in the UK to visit us (although I'd like to think we rate highly as a bonus English attraction!). Tomorrow is my grandfather's 90th birthday and my parents and other assorted family members have gathered to celebrate the event. We joined them for the weekend, in the small town of Rye where my grandparents live.

Rye town

We've had numerous family gatherings in Rye, and it's also the town where my mother was married and my sister christened. My maternal grandparents are very nomadic (I touched on some family history in this post) but since retiring they have been based fairly steadily in Rye. It's certainly a scenic place to be.

My mother is one of five children and whilst she is based in Australia, she has a sister in Canada and a brother in Hawaii. Her other siblings remain in the UK and all but the Hawaiian family made it for the weekend's celebrations.

Birthday cake

Friday, June 26, 2015

Lemon and paprika lentil salad


My parents are visiting from Australia at the moment, having flown into London on Wednesday evening. My Mum was in England not long after we moved (last August/September) but it's the first time I've seen my Dad in a year. It was lovely spending yesterday with them.

Given our one-bed flat situation, their two nights in London were based in a hotel in Greenwich, not too far from where we live. I took yesterday and today off work (joy!) and had a great time playing tourist in Greenwich yesterday. We went to the National Maritime Museum, Queen's House, and painted hall and chapel in the Old Royal Naval College site. We also walked through the Greenwich foot tunnel to look back at Greenwich from the north bank of the Thames.

Greenwich from across the Thames

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cycling in London

Before we moved to London, we thought cycling would be a useful way to offset the adjustment to life without a car. Then we watched a few too many episodes of 24 Hours in A&E with severely injured cyclists, and, subsequently, moved over and realised that many 'cycle lanes' in London leave a bit to be desired. If you're lucky, you share a lane with buses. Quite often, cycle routes are just regular roads with no cycle path at all, but designated as part of a cycle network.

My bike came across in our shipment, so for our first few months in London I couldn't have cycled even if I'd wanted to. We did a lot of walking. Supermarket trips were limited to what we could carry in backpacks and with our hands, and if we wanted to visit somewhere more than 4 miles away, we had to figure out a public transport route to get there. Home delivery was incredibly useful for heavy objects.

A typical bike lane

Sunday, June 21, 2015

5 minute meals: Grilled hummus on toast and chilli-tahini kale and tofu salad

Sometimes, even a 15 minute meal seems too much. When it's 2pm on a Saturday and you're keen for food in a hurry, or 8pm on a weeknight and you want a quick but satisfying meal, 5 to 10 minutes is the time frame I want to work to. These are two recent meals that came together in hardly any time but still tasted delicious.

From hummus in lasagna, it was an easy jump to grilled hummus on toast. Have any of you tried it? It is even better than grilled cheese, and incredibly comforting despite being a simple meal. Just lightly toast two pieces of bread, spread generously with hummus and some halved cherry tomatoes, and grill for up to 5 minutes or as long as it takes to melt the hummus and turn the edges crispy.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ireland travels - the food

I have touched on a few meals and restaurants in my Ireland recaps, but this post is about normal, day-to-day, supermarket food. If you're like me, that is just as exciting as meals out (although I do appreciate the rest of the world may have a higher threshold for excitement).

In my naivety, I thought supermarkets in Ireland would be the same as in England. To be honest, I have a slightly skewed, inappropriate concept of the country. Until we visited, I saw the southern Republic of Ireland as still being affiliated with the UK. If I'm really honest, I thought I wouldn't even need my passport to visit (!). Suffice to say, the Republic of Ireland is not part of the UK, I did need my passport, and they have their own supermarkets.

Having said that, they do have Tesco, which we have, and Marks and Spencer food, which is quintessentially British. Even they stock slightly different foods though, and the mainstay of Irish supermarkets is SuperValu. We really liked SuperValu.

Surprisingly vegan

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Vegan potato and aubergine bake

I don't know my own taste buds at the moment. After loving lasagna with hummous and aubergine last week, I have discovered potato bake made with tahini and aubergine. This version is veganised and cheese free, but there is a definite nod to that cheesey creaminess I profess to dislike. It seems I can profess that no longer, at least when tahini (or hummous) is involved...

In contrast to the lasagna, this is a side dish rather than a main. It pairs well with bean / legume dishes and I imagine some veggie sausages would be a good match too.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

One year in London

Friday was the one year anniversary of our move to London. It seems an appropriate time to reflect on some of the Australia / UK differences I've noticed. Interspersed are some recent photos from day trips out of London, to Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

England is not a new country to me, but there are things you only really notice when you live somewhere for an extended period of time (and to that I might add, live somewhere for an extended period of time as an adult). Here are some of them for me;

1. Different words, phrases and pronunciations. 

There are the obvious words for food bloggers, like aubergine instead of eggplant, and courgette instead of zucchini. Then, there are the words that it really matters to get right, like trousers instead of pants (which in the UK are men's underpants) and flip flops instead of thongs (I suspect no explanation is needed).

I've converted to pronouncing 'yoghurt' as yog-urt (instead of the Australian yo-ghurt) and am working on the English pronunciation of 'room', which is a mix between 'room' and 'rum' (in contrast to Australia's longer pronunciation of rooom). Most of the time I remember to say 'jacket potato' instead of 'baked potato'.

I don't think I'll ever say that I feel 'poorly', but it no longer sounds odd to hear others use it in place of 'ill' or 'sick'.

In a broader sense I'm better now at identifying accents from different parts of the UK, and London accents sound normal to me. When I hear an Australian, either on TV or on the street, their accent is simultaneously familiar but out of place. (I do appreciate I still sound Australian myself!)

Ickworth House, Suffolk

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Giant couscous salad with chickpeas, sweet corn, paprika and tomatoes

Have you tried giant couscous? I picked a pack up last weekend after searching fruitlessly for regular couscous in the supermarket. I still don't know where they were hiding the regular sort, but I am glad I was prompted to give this variety a go. It is utterly delicious and (I think) far nicer than regular couscous!

I used the couscous for a simple salad to take to a shared work lunch. In the end, most of our team forgot about the lunch, so it was cancelled and I was left with a large container of this to eat solo. I've spread it over the week and haven't minded at all. In fact, I liked it so much that I plan to make it again for the rescheduled work lunch.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Vegan lasagne with aubergines and hummous

In a comment on my recent hummous post, Lisa of I'll Be There With a Fork mentioned using layers of hummous in lasagna type dishes. I was completely smitten with the idea and have been harbouring vegan lasagna dreams since.

Due to my general dislike of cheese, I've never really veganised savoury cheese dishes or sought them out in restaurants. As such, I haven't eaten lasagna for years. It was a novelty to try this version with pasta sheets, vegetables and hummous. I found it utterly delicious and it met Mr Bite's standards too. Given he likes cheesey pasta, I think that's a good sign.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Breakfast bread and berry pudding

If you're like me, your freezer contains bread odds and ends: the last few pieces of a loaf that was about to go stale, or perhaps the last few pieces of multiple loaves that were about to go stale. They manage to accumulate over time, especially if you aren't a big bread eater at lunch time.

This recipe is a simple way to turn frozen or stale bread (or even fresh bread) into something far more exciting than toast. It combines the classic desserts of bread and butter pudding and summer (berry) pudding, but also simplifies the ingredients and makes the outcome suitable for breakfast. Basically, we're talking bread, milk and berries - but fancied up.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ireland travels - a final stretch up the west coast (Dingle Peninsula, Burren National Park, Galway)

My Ireland recaps have been incredibly drawn out, but this is the final summary of our travels, other than one food-specific post to follow at some point.

The west coast of Ireland has some amazing scenery and it was a nice finish to our time in the country. Unfortunately, the area is also renowned for being particularly rainy and our time there was particularly wet! Even so, it was enjoyable and we managed to see things through the rain.

Views off the Dingle Peninsula

We did the Dingle Peninsula as a day trip from Killarney (discussed in my last Ireland post), as it is only an hour or so to drive between the two areas. Like the Ring of Kerry from Killarney, the Dingle Peninsula provides a loop drive with scenic views and small town stops. There are also ancient ring forts and other stone ruins and churches. The peninsula is the western most point of Europe and on a clear day the views extend far into the distance.

Connor's Pass

Monday, June 1, 2015

In My Kitchen - June 2015

I am linking this in to Celia's monthly In My Kitchen event at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

In my kitchen, there are true signs of summer.

I have tomatoes, stored on the window ledge to stop the refrigerator from cutting their flavour.

They make a great base for a simple weekend lunch (pictured below with kale and basil, and sides of potato bread and apricots).