On the Radar: April

I’m a little late with my ‘What’s the plan, Stan’ post for April. Working full-time, looking after the needs and wants of a small human and actually trying to get out and about and do things means that sometimes this blog gets neglected. Hey-ho, this blogging malarkey is meant to be fun so I don’t let it stress me out. But (as ever) sometimes my intentions are not quite matched by my actions. Such is life.

So April…what’s occurring?

pickmeup

First up. One of my favourite exhibitions is on at the end of the month. Pick Me Up is a showcase for graphic designers and illustrators and it gets bigger and better every year. It’s a great place to pick up a piece of affordable art from a quirky design studio. I’ve been for a few years now and the creativity on show never fails to impress.

This weekend, I’m going to try and visit the Crafty Fox market in Peckham. I may also pop in for a taster of beer at the new Brick Brewery. I love it that there are new breweries popping up all over the place.

I’m getting excited about Spring’s produce. Especially asparagus and Jersey royals. Get in my mouth! Here’s a little asparagus inspiration for your delight.. (Seeing as I missed my March salad post, I may as well wait for the English asparagus to hit the shops).

Not strictly April, but the countdown is on. It’s Blogtacular on 9th/10th May. I’m nervous and excited in equal measure. I won’t know anyone  but there are going to be some lovely people there..not least Alexis from Something I Made and Angela from Little Apple Tree, so it will be fun.

No

Wandering: Notting Hill

Wasn’t Saturday the perfect day for a wander? Notting Hill always looks good in the sunshine. It’s a handsome area; the mainly white-washed mansions simply sparkle in the sun. There are also houses painted in candy colours; pink, mint and sky-blue which remind me of seaside fun and ice-cream. If I were ever able to afford a bijou little pad just off Portobello Road (I’m dreaming now), which colour would I go for? Decisions, decisions…

Notting Hill3 Notting Hill2 No Notting Hill5 Notting Hill6

My Essential London Apps

I love my iphone. I don’t know what I did before it (this is a lie – I had a Samsung before I turned to the dark side – it was good but not as good). One of the reasons I went Apple was the apps. Although Android does have all the biggies, it’s the smaller more creative ones that always seem to be released on Apple first. And the iphone is just so pretty *strokes iphone*. I’m definitely converted.

London apps

I love apps. I also love London. So if you’re a Londoner, or planning a trip to the Smoke, which apps are indispensable? Here are some of the ones I use all the time.

live bus timesI use the bus countdown app everyday. In fact, how the hell did I cope before it? It uses GPS to locate your nearest bus-stops (or you can save your favourites) and then tells you how lon bus is going to be. No more waiting for 20 minutes in the pouring rain.  I. LOVE. THIS. APP.

citymapper

City Mapper has a ‘get me home’ function. It will tell you the quickest way to get home on public transport. It’s very handy if you’re in a strange part of town and you’ve had one too many shandies. (Doesn’t happen that often to me any more to tell you the truth . But would have been very useful for my wilder days.)

TFL

Although The Train Line is not just a London App, it’s pretty useful for travel around the capital. It gives you a live countdown of the station you want to travel on, so you can tell if there are problems on the line. Useful.

 

You may have noticed that I like food and I also like discovering new places to eat food (and drink coffee or beer). These are some of the apps that help me do that.

Time out londonAn indispensable app for finding somewhere to eat or something to do in London.

 

 

Coffee

London’s Best Coffee lists over 150 places to get a really good cup of jo. You need never settle for a watery excuse for an Americano again (I’m looking at you Starbucks).

 

craft beer

If craft beer is your thing, you can do wrong with this app. It lists all the bars and pubs that serve a decent pint. And the shops that sell decent bottles of beer too.

 

secretThe Secret London app helps you discover unusual or quirky little spots that you wouldn’t have known about before. Essential if you have a hankering to do something off the beaten track.

 

Burgerapp

The idea is simple: the Burgerapp allows users to easily find the best places to get a burger in London by perusing a  selection of blogger Burgerac’s tried and tested restaurants and burger joints.

 

Let’s Go Outside

Despite what you may think, this is not me professing a love for one of George Michael’s naughtier singles. Although I must say I did like the video for ‘Let’s Go Outside’. Remember the disco urinals? (Do people use the word ‘video’ any more? Oh well, I’m obviously ancient.)

No, in fact, I have started to think about my garden. I don’t really have a proper garden. Instead we have a little patio which has a gate that opens out onto a large communal garden. This is one of the things I loved about our house when we first had a look. It feels Scandinavian. It’s green and peaceful, especially peaceful for Zone 2 in London. We’re also lucky that the communal garden backs onto some school playing fields (and there’s a secret entrance enabling us to go onto them when they are not in use). More green space.

Here’s a view of our communal garden and one of the opposite houses:

Garden

But our patio is drab and lifeless. Evidence of that here: (desperately wish I could also offer you a beautiful ‘and look what we’ve done now’ shot, but I can’t)

patio

I’ve been waiting until we renovate our ground floor. At the moment, the ground floor is a garage and a bedroom and is full of junk. However when we do get round to doing something about our patio, these images will not be far from my mind.

This one is from the Kinfolk website. There are more pictures in the magazine. I loved this house. It had a hippyish, seventies vibe. When I was a baby I lived in Libya and there are lots of photos of me hanging out in a shaded garden like this. I also had a bearded dad.

Kinfolk California Dreaming

So in order to achieve this, I’m thinking blankets, floor cushions and lots of beards. Entirely possible.

Here’s another patio I love.

patio

No beards this time.

And finally this one. Outdoor fairy lights are essential. Found on this blog.

patio2

Let’s hope the English summer plays ball.

A Year in Books: March

Well what a difference a month makes. February was wet and dark, March is bright and springy. Hurrah! We have been graced with sunshine and it feels good. Typically English; you may wonder why I am giving you a weather report –  we are meant to be talking books. I do think the weather (and light) has a major effect on a person’s (or even a nation’s) psyche. And perhaps a woman’s book choice too?

A Year in Books

On paper, my choice for last month looks like it matches the darkness of February perfectly. ‘The Shock of the Fall’ tells the story of Matthew and charts his descent into madness. Doesn’t exactly sound like a light read does it? It begins with the death of his brother, an event which has a catastrophic effect on Matthew and his whole family.  The characters struggle with grief and the aftermath of Simon’s death. However ‘The Shock of the Fall’ is not all doom and gloom; some of it is funny. Matthew is a compelling voice. He’s sweet and fragile and your heart breaks for him. I read this book with my book club and without fail, we all loved it.

Another book I raced through in February was Stephen Grosz’s The Examined Life. After working many years as a psychoanalyst, Grosz tells the stories of his patients with sensitivity. I found this fascinating.

I also managed to read Lionel Shriver’s new book, Big Brother. Having firmly been in the ‘loved it’ camp for ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’, I was looking forward to this. Although it didn’t quite have the shock factor of Kevin, I really enjoyed it. I think it’s the details of family and marriage that makes her books so believable. She writes about things that we recognise in our own lives. Big Brother explores the issue of obesity and as I was expecting, it’s a thought provoking read.

For March, I’ve chosen something different. I’ve almost finished Alice Munro’s Dear Life which is a book of short stories. She recently won the Nobel Prize, I wanted to see what the fuss is about. And secondly, I’m going to read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Billed as a loved story spanning three continents, I’m eager to see if it lives up to its predecessor, Half a Yellow Sun which I devoured.

March: On the Radar

Spring is springing! It’s official. Winter is winding down and Spring is tantalising us with the promise of longer days and the sun on our skin. March is a funny month – it can still be pretty wintry and cold (anyone remember last year – it was freezing) or it can be freakishly warm. Let’s hope it’s the latter. We could do with some freakishly warm weather.

2014-03-03 20.49.39

So what’s on the radar for March?

- I like the look of this - Classic Car Boot Sale on the Southbank. Vintage stalls, street food, craft beer and cocktails. I’m in.

- I just got Diana Henry’s new cook book A Change of Appetite. Focusing on healthy and delicious food, I’m salivating when I look through it. Lots of inspiration for Get Your Salad On. Here’s a selection of her recipes.

- There’s an exhibition on at the Royal Academy that I’m going to try and check out. Called Sensing Spaces, it explores our responses to architecture – how does it make us feel? It looks really interesting (and fun).

- It’s pancake day tomorrow. How do you like yours? I’m liking the look of these ricotta hotcakes with maple butter (of course I’ll make some traditional ones too served with lemon and sugar).

ricotta_pancakes_maple_butter

 

Get Your Salad On: Aubergine Salad

So here it is, in the nick of time, in true London Loafing style (left completely to the last minute), I present my February Get Your Salad On. Lovely Lia from Dizzy Loves Icy has excelled herself with a halloumi salad with chickpeas and lime this month. Mmm halloumi.

I’ve got a Middle Eastern obsession going on. It started with Ottolenghi, that man is a salad genius. If you’ve never been to one of his restaurants and experienced salad nirvana, I say go, go, go. He performs wonders with aubergines. What he does with a cauliflower is mind-blowing (I may be exaggerating here). And who knew the pleasures tahini could bring? Well I do now.

However this salad is not from an Ottolenghi cook book, it’s adapted from Olives, Lemons and Za’atar, which contains some cracking recipes. My love affair with Middle Eastern cuisine is set to get deeper.

Aubergine salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 aubergines cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 pack of cherry plum tomoatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • 2 peppers, I actually used 1 red and half a green and half a yellow
  • The juice of 1 lemon
  • 50g of black olives, preferably kalamata but other types are fine
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Olive oil
  • A handful of parsley
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 250c.
  2. Put aubergine in baking tray, sprinkle with salt and olive oil. When oven is hot put baking tray into the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile dice the onion, pepper and tomatoes into small pieces and put into a bowl.
  4. Drain tin of chickpeas, rinse and put into the bowl.
  5. Add olives to bowl.
  6. Remove aubergine from oven once cooked and add to the bowl.
  7. Mix the dressing: this consists of the juice of the lemon and 4 tablespoons of olive oil and the garlic.
  8. Add the dressing to the bowl.
  9. Add the chopped parsley to the bowl.
  10. Mix the salad gently, taking care not to crush the aubergine.
  11. Season and serve.

I think this would go rather well with some halloumi or perhaps some roast chicken.

Aubergine salad with chickpeas and olives

Instagrub

I am one of those people. Guilty as charged. I *sometimes* take a photo of my food before I scarf it down my gob. And I *sometimes* post it onto Instagram. It’s in the news today, as there’s a chef in France who wants to ban this evil practice. Personally I do agree with him a little bit, it’s pretty annoying (I just can’t help myself, guv) but in a world where there’s war in Syria and countless horrors going on in North Korea, taking photos of your grub before you eat it is pretty lowdown on my list of things to ban.

So in celebration of foodie photos; here’s some of my culinary highlights over the last week or so.

Instagram

From top left corner:

1 – A burger from Dirty Burger. I am slowly trying all the ‘new-wave’ burger joints of London. This was pretty good. The fries were also first class.

2 – Dinner at Blanchette in Soho with my best bud. The food is small-plate French food, a bit like Polpo (which is Italian). We had a good meal – the desserts were especially good, I just wish I could remember what they were. (There was also wine involved).

3 – Still making smoothies – this one had beetroot and berries in it, hence its magnificent colour.

4 – I made this – roasted aubergines with tahini yoghurt, pomegranate and parsley. I’m loving Middle Eastern food at the moment.

6 – Saw these in Wholefoods. Activated almonds. WTF are they?

7 – This may look a bit like sick. It is in fact spiced coconut chicken with spinach. My boy wolfed this down.

8 – Lunch at Jamie’s Italian in Greenwich. You have to give it to Jamie, he knows how to please the small ones – this menu kept Fred and his friend occupied for at least 10 minutes. The food wasn’t bad either.

9 and 10 – Michael and I did make it to Hawker House. We enjoyed this Indian inspired dish from Rola Wala – a tiny naan, topped with pulled pork, some pickles and a pretty pokey chilli sprinkle. This was the best thing we ate all night. Spicy, crunchy and meaty. The pizza was also pretty good straight out of the wood fired oven. Loved the atmosphere of Hawker House, too. I would definitely recommend it.

A Year in Books: February

January’s choice was ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce. I have to admit that at first I struggled with this book; the lives of the main characters just seemed too parochial and slow. Although they were meant to be in their seventies, they just seemed much older than this. But this book grew on me. I came to like the characters and the story became more compelling. I’m not afraid to admit that I sobbed at the end.

The story follows Harold, who receives a letter from an ex-work colleague who is dying of cancer. Instead of writing back to the hospice, he decides to walk to Berwick-upon-Tweed in an effort to keep her alive. He lives in Devon so this is a quite a journey, especially he has no map or walking shoes. On the way, we learn more about Harold and his relationship with his wife. We also learn why he feels so strongly about Queenie, his friend who is dying.

Despite my initial misgivings, I ended up loving this book. It’s very sad, but it’s also uplifting. It made me question a few things about my own life, and when a book does that, it can’t be a bad thing.

The Shock of the FallMy February book is ‘The Shock of the Fall’ by Nathan Filer. We’re actually reading this for my book club and we chose it before it recently won the Costa prize. One of my fellow book clubbers knows the author’s agent. She’s been saying for a while that the book is brilliant. We had to find out for ourselves.

This is a quote from the back cover:

‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’

I know it’s going to be good.

February: On the Radar

January is over – hallelujah! Actually it wasn’t that bad. The no-drinking was fine; I only really missed having a nice glass of red on a Friday night. We tried fasting on one Friday and along with the self-imposed alcohol restriction, this was too much. There was a bar of chocolate with my name on it. Lesson learned –  I will not attempt complete denial of food and fun in January when I’m working full-time. A girl needs something to look forward to. This time sugar sufficed (apparently the new tobacco, but surely it’s all about moderation).

brussels-sprouts-kimchi1

So what am I eyeing up this month?

What could follow the balloons and poo of the Hayward Gallery? I quite fancy Bailey’s Stardust at the National Portrait Gallery. Glamour, showbiz and definitely no defecation (I hope).

I saw this recipe for Kimchi Brussell sprouts. Perhaps February is the month to try my hand at a bit of fermentation? Fermentuary – it has a ring to it.

I quite fancy paying this place a visit. It’s a place where street food vendors sell their wares all under one roof. It’s meant to be buzzing.

The Evening Standard ran this article about Walthamstow. It’s completely the other side of London to us, but I love exploring areas I’ve never been before. Might try and pay it a visit.

Hopefully I’ll be changing the design for this blog. I’ve been thinking about it for ages. Will February be the month it finally happens? Any tips from you bloggers out there?

Image from Bon Appetit