Category Archives: Eating and drinking

My time in Dubai

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So back in September I went to Dubai for a week, the main reason for my visit was to hang out with my friends Farida and Jeremy and their baby Layla. I’ve known them both for many years and I used to live with them ‘back in the day’. They have been living abroad for 3/4 years and recently relocated to Dubai, so I thought it was about time I visited them and saw a little bit of the Middle East.

Since telling people I was going to Dubai quite a few people have  rolled their eyes and asked if it’s as superficial as it is portrayed. I was well aware of these views before I went and to be honest if friends were not living there it’s unlikely I would have gone, BUT I absolutely loved it there. One week is a long time to spend there and ideally 3-5 days  would do fine, but I was happy to have as much time as possible catching up with Farida as we hadn’t since each other for three years. September is still super hot in Dubai with temperatures in the 40’s and humidity between 50-80%, but everywhere is air conditioned and I found it manageable most of the time, though I expect some people would not be comfortable with these conditions.

As I had a 10 hour overnight flight my first day was spent resting and chilling, though in the evening we did go to Ladies night at the Pure Lounge on 35th floor of the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Residences. The deal at the Pure Lounge is free pink drinks (fizz and cocktails) from 9-11pm for all ladies. As we were eating there we could access the free drinks from when we arrived which was definitely a bonus. The food we had there was nice, I found the portion size quite small, so we ordered a few dishes and shared, the dessert was the stand out feature though, crème brulee with Pandam leaf. I really enjoyed it here, the vibe was great, there was a big terrace to hang out on and it was a nice,friendly crowd of people.

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For my whole trip I was completely relaxed and not bothered about running round and seeing everything. I was quite happy to lounge by the pool, cook lovely food, chat and drink wine.  A standout meal for me in Dubai was at the Boardwalk restaurant  which is part of Dubai Creek Golf Club it was one of those nights with great food and company and afterwards we went for shisha and mint tea. We also went for afternoon tea at The Palace Hotel.   Dubai has lots of afternoon tea options, we choose this one purely on the basis that it was a 10 minute walk away, but it proved to be a good choice. The Palace Hotel is beautiful and a perfect surrounding for  afternoon tea, I  decided to opt for the Arabic inspired afternoon tea, which contained many baked delights I hadn’t tried before like cardamon and saffron scones and rose-infused cheesecake.

Lounging in the pool with LaylaTea selection at The Palace HotelArabic dessertsAfternoon tea group

It wasn’t all gadding about eating and drinking in fancy restaurants though. We drove to Abu Dhabi one day to visit the Grand Mosque, had breakfast on the beach in front of the Burj al Arab and I visited Dubai museum along with the gold and spice souk and took a boat ride on the creek. Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi IMG_5853Dubai MuseumBreakfast on the beachOne of the highlights of my trip was having for an Emerati breakfast at the Emerati cultural centre. In Dubai I was overwhelmed by how British it felt, this is largely due to the amount of expats and at times it feels like a home from home with lots of British shops and brands. For me my favourite part of travelling is meeting local people and learning about their culture and traditions. The Emerati cultural centre hosts a breakfast where you can eat a typical Emerati breakfast (dates, dungaw, balaleet, chabab and khamir) while eating you are given a talk about different aspects of Emerati culture and invited to ask questions. It’s a very friendly and open atmosphere and I learned a great deal and enjoyed this experience.

Fiona at Emerati cultural Centre

As Farida’s apartment was only a ten minute walk from the Burj Khalifa there was no was I couldn’t go up the tallest building in the world. We decided to go up at sunset which is great to see, but not really the best conditions for getting good photographs as when the light goes you have to rely on the flash, which I don’t particularly like using and doesn’t work well against glass.  It’s crazy busy when you get up there, in my opinion they let too many people go up and getting to the window to get a photo requires some effort, but the views are breathtaking. One of my favourite things about Dubai was the architecture and amazing skyline. I felt completely overwhelmed and in awe driving in on my first day, for me it felt like I was entering a futuristic metropolis.

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On my last day I went sand duning in the desert. Before I came to Dubai I met a few people who had visited and this activity was recommended to me. I booked my trip through Fun Tours, who I thought were good and reasonably priced. The tour includes pickup from your location, sand duning for 20-30 minutes then you are taken to a desert camp for a meal, camel ride, henna painting, and entertainment. To be honest I would have been happy with just the duning as the rest of the experience is very cheesy, but I knew what to expect so just embraced it. As we were duning a massive storm began and we were wizzing over the dunes with lightening striking around us which was both fun and a little scary.

sand duning in Dubai Fiona in the desert in Dubai

All in all I had a great time in Dubai. Believe me I know that Dubai isn’t great for everyone and have read many articles on the pros and cons of visiting.  But overall it exceeded my expectations and I had a fantastic trip.

Dubai 2014

Summer fun

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It’s getting colder at night now, I can no longer wear sandals and I’ve taken to carrying a cardigan around with me. I’m sad to admit it, but it seems Summer is over. With that in mind I thought I would have a little photo review of my highlights from this Summer. To be honest it has felt like nothing big has happened  and I have just meandered along, but looking through these photos reminds me that I actually did more than I thought. In no particular order here are my highlights..

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My friend Kyle came and visited me again recently. He was staying in an Airbnb place and I went round to check it out and we found some animal heads hidden in a cupboard, as expected we couldn’t resist putting them on and staging a photo. Afterwards we went down to the beach and had a bonfire, burnt table legs and cooked marshmallows. All in all a lovely smokey evening.

ruth and fiona

At the end of July my childhood best friend Ruth got married at Yarlington House in Somerset. It was a beautiful day and setting and great to see lots of old friends who I haven’t seen for a long time. As you can see Ruth looked beautiful too.

world cup

My friend Hülya and I have developed a tradition where on the World Cup final we paint our faces with the flags of the countries in the final and go and watch the game. I’m not a big football fan, but I got into it more this year and it was fun to watch it on the outdoor cinema screen on the beach, even if we did have to sneak under the fence.

Farida, Layla and Fiona Hornimen garden July 2014

I was so happy to meet up with my friend Farida and her daughter Layla, I hadn’t seen Farida since her Wedding day three years ago as she has been living abroad. We had a lovely afternoon in the Horniman Museum gardens chilling out and catching up. One afternoon wasn’t nearly enough time to catch up, so it was a good job I went to Dubai to visit her recently.

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I usually like to make a big deal about my birthday with lots of organisation and forward planning, but this year I was happy to go out for a lovely Mexican meal at Carlito Burrito with lots of tequilla followed by dancing till the early hours. Smiles all round.

Burger in Barcelona

This year I’ve visited Barcelona four times as Daniël has been based there. To be honest I’ve not done much tourist related stuff over there, but have enjoyed hanging out, drinking good coffee, gin and cava and eating lots of food. The above picture shows me enjoying a lovely burger at Pim Pam burger.

Tilda and cone

The above picture shows me almost being speared with an icecream cone by my God daughter Matilda because I attempted to lift her up. Overall she enjoyed her trip to Brighton, but she certainly likes to do things on her own terms.

pride

Finally I’m recalling Brighton Pride it was my forth pride (I think) and to be honest I find it a little sad how corporate and commercial it has become in a short space of time. Each year the parade seems to be much smaller and full of supermarkets marching, promoting their goods. But as you can see from the picture we still managed to enjoy ourselves and have a good time.

It’s been nice recalling all of these events from the Summer, I’m sure I missed some out, but oh well.

Dieppe

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For years I’ve been wanting to get the ferry over from Newhaven to Dieppe, but for various reasons it never materialised until this weekend. A few months ago my friend Sally and I made a pact to go together and managed to organise it very quickly and more important cheaply.

The ferry crossing takes four hours and cost us just £30 return as foot passengers. We had a very calm and relaxing crossing and it really didn’t feel like it took too long. As we were on the 8:30 am ferry we arrived by 1:30 pm so it was nice to have a lazy afternoon to get our weekend started.

Sally and I both had the same agenda for Dieppe; eating, drinking and lounging round the town. This fitted in perfectly with the location and cozyness of the apartment. It seems like alot of people arrive in Dieppe then immediately drive on to another destination, but it really is worth sticking around and exploring. We spent our days dipping in and out of cafes and restaurants, walking up to the castle, swimming in the outdoor swimming pool and wandering around the town.

A high point of our stay was the apartment we stayed in which we found through airbnb. It was the first time I have used them and we were both thoroughly impressed. Though we were super lucky with the hosts we had, Jean-Marc and Dominque were so friendly and helpful towards us. They picked us up from the ferry, gave us a tour of the town and left lovely local treats for us to try in their amazing apartment. Usually when you stay in accommodation when on holiday it’s pretty sparse and lacks any individual character. But this place was a treasure trove of artifacts, trinkets, and collectables all presented in a stylish manner with an amazing lighting system! Each day I would find myself looking at something new which I had previously missed. 

On our last day rain prevented us going on our planned trip to Rouen, so we stayed in watching French films, eating left over cassoulet that we had made the night before along with Neufchâtel (Normandy soft, crumbly cheese) and bread and more wine!

All in all we had a superb trip, I wasn’t expecting to like Dieppe as much as I did and will definitely be going back at some point.

 

On the ferry to Dieppe          timer onSnacksbeautiful building in Dieppewine glasses doubleView of DieppePanoramaCassoletseeing double 

Kyle visiting

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A couple of weekends ago my lovely friend Kyle came down to stay. Fantastic does not even begin to cover how great the weekend was, as with the best visits we ran around the whole time, barely sitting down but having so much fun. The  main aim of the Kyle’s stay was to make an epic salted caramel cake for my office bake off, which will be covered in a separate post, but we were able to fit lots of other activities in.

We spent most of the weekend eating and drinking really well and rather  frequently, as a result I’ve been going to the gym everyday since then! Saturday started off with a hearty breakfast of eggs royale. Kyle is the master of poached eggs, so observing his technique has hopefully improved mine a little. Having someone to cook breakfast with made me make a little more effort. I never make hollandaise when i’m just cooking for me, but I do enjoy doing that little bit more and trying new recipes.

Despite the fact Kyle lived in Brighton for 8 years he had never been on the dolphin derby on the pier, so obviously we set about rectifying that. The dolphin derby is a stall game where you throw balls that fall into holes and your dolphins race. It’s only a £1 and has become a tradition of mine whenever I go on the pier. This time we were lucky and I won, but gave the prize to Kyle to commemorate his first dolphin derby. Next we were going to go on a spinning, bouncing ride, but somehow Kyle persuaded me to go on the booster. The booster is that big ride at the end of Brighton pier that spins round over the sea then holds you at the top for about 5 minutes (though it fees much longer).You get good views from the top, and it’s pretty windy, but when it get going again its spins you really fast which is fun. I always get so nervous when I go on this ride, I enjoy it when it’s in motion but the waiting around 130 foot in the air does unsettle me a little. I’m sure i’ll go on it again though..

After all of the excitement we headed back to the house and started work on the cake. After making the toppings and sponges we made the decision to construct the cake the following day and get on with preparing dinner. I decided to make fondue again as Kyle had never had it, it’s relatively easy to make an feels like a special meal when you have it. If this wasn’t all enough for one day we then raced down to the cinema to watch Richard Ayode’s new film, The Double, which I really enjoyed and would recommend. The strength of the film for me was the highly stylised look of it, which builds up an unsettling feeling of gloom and dread, jarring sound design and great lead performance by Jesse Eisenberg.

Sunday was more relaxed with a morning of cake construction followed by burgers and chicken wings at Meat Liquor then goodbyes. Why do these kind of weekends come and go so quickly?!


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Quick Wednesday night banana bread

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On Wednesday night I had a spare hour and some over ripe bananas, so decided to make some banana bread.  This is not something I usually make, but I didn’t want to eat anymore bananas on their own or throw them away, so needs must. I did a search online for a suitable recipe and selected a Mary Berry one. As I didn’t have any milk I substituted it for double cream and added a teaspoon of cinnamon. I found in my oven it took 45 minutes to cook, so keep an eye on it and judge the results by your eye. This bread is great for sharing with new flatmates and my serving suggestion is with cookie dough icecream!IMG_3904

 

Mary Berry’s Banana Loaf (Taken from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible)

Ingredients

100g Softened Butter
175g Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs
2 Ripe Bananas (mashed with a fork)
225g Self Raising Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 tbsp Double Cream

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C / Fan 160C / Gas 4.
2. Lightly grease a 2lb loaf tin, then line the base and sides with baking parchment
3. Measure all ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat for about 2 minutes, until well blended
4. Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the surface
5. Bake in the pre-heated over for about 1 hour, until well risen and golden brown.  A fine skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean if the loaf is ready.
6. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out, peel of the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.

Catching up..

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Argh, I’m poor at keeping up with blogging!  The major change for me that happened a couple of weeks ago is I have finally moved house! This is such an utter relief for me after living in a pretty dire house with awful flatmates for far too long, I have finally managed to find a lovely new place, so am focused on staying positive, moving forward and achieving lots for the rest of this year.

It seems ages ago now, but here are a few things i’ve been up to and enjoying over the past few months.

Love Late Brighton

At the beginning of February in a break between the rain me and my friend Hülya popped to a late night event at Brighton museum called ‘Love Late’. Forcing ourselves to go out in the near continuous rain was a real challenge, but as soon as we got in the door I knew the journey had been worth it. The evening was organised around the theme of Love in view of Valentines day approaching. There were talks about the history of the ‘dirty weekend’, drop in screen printing classes, salsa classes, a big screen showing of Casablanca and a talk from Emily Dubberley about her new book; Garden of Desires: The Evolution of Women’s Sexual Fantasies. For us the best part of the evening was that we could enjoy all of this in costume from the fancy dress box. I have no idea what look I was going for, but think we both, especially Hülya look fantastic. Right before we left we discovered a secret room with a silent disco, so had a quick dance before we left. My only criticism would be I wish the event could have gone on longer, I could have easily stayed till the early hours of the morning, but I’ll remember to get there earlier next time.

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Fondue

After receiving a fondue set for Christmas from my boyfriend’s parents I’ve been getting quite into it. Here is the UK we rarely fondue, I guess it’s seen as being fairly kitch and retro. But since getting this set I’ve organised three fondue parties and everyone loves it. Though to me cheese with bread and wine is a pretty fail-safe combination. I will do a separate post on the set and recipe I use as I’m tweaking it each time I do a party.

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Arundel

In January as part of my bid to get out and about more me and my friend Sally decided to take a trip to Arundel, which is a small town in West Sussex, about 18 miles or just over an hour on the train from Brighton. We spent most of the afternoon looking around the town, popping into antique shops,and having a walk round Arundel park to Hiorne Tower. After all of this we needed a massive roast, a pint of cider and an open fire, luckily we came across The Eagle which fulfilled all of these requests.

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Camera mad.

I’ve gone a bit camera mad lately. For Christmas I receives a Fujifilm Instax 7S which has been on my wish list for a while. This camera is an instant camera that produces credit card sized pictures. The film is not too expensive and easy to get hold of. Mainly for me this is a fun camera to take shots on and share with people. It’s very simple to use and has just four settings (sunny, fine, cloudy, indoors) rather annoying it does flash every time you use it, but I guess you can cover the flash with tape. I’m looking forward to displaying the pictures in interesting ways when I have enough.

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Diana mini

Again I’ve been lusting after one of these for a while but couldn’t justify buying one last year. Luckily they went into the Urban Outfitters sale so no excuses for it not to go into my basket. The Diana mini, is a 35 mm camera where you take square format pictures and also half frame pictures. I’ve read a lot of the camera but really it’s a camera you have to experiment with and see how the film turns out when it’s developed. All those retro lomo filters you see on instagram essentially try to recreate what the Diana mini does. I took this camera with me on my recent trip to Barcelona and am waiting for the film to be developed, my fear is that everything will come out overexposed, but I will just have to wait…

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Olympus OM-2

A couple of weeks ago a work colleague gave me his old Olympus OM-2 SLR camera. I’d been saying for a while that I wanted to acquire an old manual SLR in order to hone my skills. With digital photography you can really get in the habit of taking loads of pictures and not really think about the mechanics of what makes a good picture. I haven’t used this camera at all yet, but am hoping to use it within the next few weeks.

So that’s been some of the highlights from me for the past few months.

 

Planet India and mighty battenburg checkerboard cake.

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A few weeks ago my flatmate’s girlfriend asked if I would be willing to make a birthday cake for her this year. Of course I said yes, then she sent me this link. I was hoping she was going to send me a link to a simple chocolate cake that I could make look pretty, but no epic battenburg cake it was. Well I like a challenge and am always trying to expand my baking CV so I decided to give it a go, but was secretly dreading making it. Rather sensibly for me I planned to make this cake over two days, the baking of the cake on the first day and the construction of it on the second. I will go through the method of making it later on but essentially I would say that this recipe needs some modification. The main problem is that the cake comes out a bit too dry and falls apart, to rectify this I would probably reduce the ground almonds and flour. Though the technique for getting the checker board effect is one you could use with other cakes, I’m very keen to try a vanilla and chocolate version of this cake held together with chocolate ganache. Anyway getting back to the battenburg…. surprisingly despite all of the cakes falling apart I managed to glue it all together with apricot jam, cover it with marzipan, refrigerate it and hope it would resemble something close to a checkerboard pattern when cut, so off I went to the party cake in hand (then swiftly hid before the birthday girl saw it).

For my flatmate’s birthday we all went to Planet India, it really is quite a special and unusual place, nothing else like it in Brighton anyway. The first time I went there I didn’t really know what to think of it, it feels like you are having dinner in someone’s lounge, with saris hanging from the ceiling and the owner walking round barefoot while you eat with spoons. The menu is fully vegetarian and quite simple, but equally you get dishes that are not your usual Indian restaurant staples, plus you can get ‘Thumbs Up’ there, an Indian version of coke which is served iced cold in glass bottles. Drinking it always reminds me of sitting on plastic stools in dusty roadside restaurants in India in blistering heat eating endless curry in a state of wonder.

Fiona thumbs up

As there was a large group of us we  ordered all of the starters and shared them between us all. Ones to note and order if you go there are ketchoris which are balls of spicy peas and coconut in pastry, pani puris which are fried balls filled with chickpeas and potatoes then filled up with spicy water and taken in one bite and finally the Punjabee style samosas.

curry startersFor the main course I decided to go for the sweetcorn and patra curry,  sweetcorn and chunks of vine leave with a spicy paste in a tomato sauce. At first I didn’t think this curry was too spicy, but it’s one of those that builds with each mouthful, so by the end of the curry I was struggling and my mouth was burning.

curry

Then came the surprise dessert…. Cat seemed pleased then she had received a birthday cake.

cat with cake

And I was quite pleased when she cut it.

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It looks like a proper battenburg. I have never been so proud of a cake, though it will be a long time before I make it again!

Method and construction.

Following the recipe make the cakes, the recipe makes four cakes but I lost one in the construction, so probably worth having the extra one to have as a spare or you can make a four tier cake if you prefer.

Once you have made the the cakes you need to cut two circles of cake out of each of them then swap the middle rings of the almond sponges with the middle rings from the rose sponges, and fit the cut pieces back together. It’s worth chilling the cakes for an hour as this makes cutting them alot easier. To cut the pieces I made templates and cut round them. To work out the sizes of circles you need just divide the diameter of your cake tin by three to get the diameter of the first circle and double that to get the diameter of the second. The diameter of my tin was 21cm so the diameter of my two circles were 7cm and 14cm.

cake construction 1

The  mix and match cake pieces should look like targets. Now you need to place the whole cakes on top of each other alternatively (pink edge, plain edge etc) sealing each layer with warmed apricot jam. I warm the jam in the microwave, this makes it easier to spread.

cake construction 2

Finally you need to cover the cake in marzipan. I had absolutely no idea how to do this, so had a quick look at a youtube video, so I had a better idea of what I was meant to be doing. Once you have rolled out the marzipan to a couple of mm thick you want to cover it in the warmed apricot jam using a pastry brush then using the rolling pin to pick it up cover the cake. As long as you have rolled it larger than the cake you should have no trouble. Smooth it on top first then go round the edge patting it to the side of the cake and getting rid of the pleats. When you are happy with the covering use a palette knife to trim off the excess. But really just watch the video and you will feel alot more confident doing it. Now take a rest and bask in your achievement of having made a battenburg cake.

icing with apricot jam