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Denmark.

I’m back. From holiday that is. One week of glorious Denmark lies behind me and I wish it didn’t. I don’t still have sand in my shoes and unlike Jimmy my back is not still still red raw three days post extreme sun exposure – the poor boy, surrounded by Germans and Danes, forgot himself, his pinky English skin and his innate need for sun block.

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(the best Denmark had to offer…beaches, baby Ella and British seals)

 

What I have brought back however, are some beautiful dishes and posts, from Tarm’s flea market, and an extra 3kg of cabin bag as well as body mass.

The flea market was brilliant; full of quirky old brass cooking utensils, useless oddly shaped glass vessels and faded, grubby-looking kids toys. Better still, the hipsters haven’t arrived in Denmark, let alone Tarm yet. Instead of paying well above today’s would-be equivalent retail price for some deliciously rusting, old battered kitchen tools, we actually managed to pick them up for just a few quid. Londoners, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. At least not at Brick Lane, Covent Garden or Portobello Market. If the pickpockets don’t get to you first, then the vintage-junk shop and stall holders will. At London’s ‘oh so cool’ second-hand markets you’re more than likely to be robbed in more than one way.

Anyway, not so in Tarm. Denmark seems to be a predominantly family-orientated and hipsters are way to cool for family fun.

Put under severe pressure from my darling twin Inga who was only too eager to leave a mere five minutes after having arrived at this paradisal shopping haven, urgency soon took over. Panicked scouring, rather than casually delving through the individual stalls’ gear I was able to scavenge the following:

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 A beautiful retro-style, flower-adorned pan, some brass Jamie Oliver-esque (but without the price tag!) plates to match my brass mugs, a funky parsley grater (which despite its funkiness is nothing short of being an absolute pain in the a**e to wash-up) a bucket and some Mikado Sticks – the latter are unlikely to ever be used but carry with them enough childhood reminiscence to easily justify the loss of 10 Krone (which comes to just above a pound I believe). Whilst  I am satisfied with my overall haul, my nights have been plagued by visions of missed opportunities and rusty blue Gugelhupf cake tins (google it if you’re too ignorant to know what this great creation is). Big sister Anna managed to purchase one and I have ever since been left to rue my indecision.

That along with a tube of Danish mayo and an ambitiously crammed tupperware full of our last night’s BBQ left-overs explains how my cabin bag came to gain 3kg in 7days. But how did I?

Aufschnitt, Fruehstueck and Abendbrot are all things I am not able to practice successfully in the UK. No, Hovis Sliced, Ham, Cheddar and Branston do not work just as well. However, for the first time ever I’m beginning to think it’s a good thing.

It’s my grandparents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary this year and rather than throw one of those massive, formal – and let’s face it mostly rather boring – parties they decided to rent a house in Denmark and invite the closest family. That is, my mother and her brood and her sister and her brood. Including boyfriends and great grandchild there were 18 of us. On Saturday evening all parties slowly began to arrive in their child and provision-packed cars. Having flown in, Jimmy and I were luckily exempt from having to fork out half of our monthly wage on food and drink before the holiday had even begun. Denmark, with its endless space, rolling fields, wild roadside flowers and long, white, dune-framed beaches may be a magnificent place to spend a couple of days of carefree relaxation, but it’s certainly no place to pick up a supermarket bargain. Grocery prices are almost double those of England and triple those of Germany.

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Neither able to resist the ‘free’ food my family had kindly imported nor the temptation of thickly spread butter on fluffy white rolls topped with Remoulade, cured cold meats and generously salted tomatoes, breakfast quickly became our first vice of the day. Lunch was spent picking at chocolate, Salzstangen and other people’s carefully prepared and planned meals, before dinner was nothing less than a 30 minute process of forking, cutting and shovelling. Forking, cutting and shovelling. Forking, cutting and shovelling.  Tapas, BBQs, salted fish, ice creams, pancakes, potatoes,  pastas, bread, bread, bread and bread.

Admittedly, it was great so long as it lasted and scales were nowhere to be seen, but I’m sure glad it’s over now.

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Yoghurt Ice Lolly

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(This one has two skewers in it, but there’s no need for that.) 

Befitting my brief and rather sporadic blogging recently I have found myself a snack whose making and eating take similarly little time and effort. When I say found, I mean found somewhere on the backroads of my memory… This is something my mother used to make when were children and for some reason it popped up in my mind the other day, forcing me in turn to force poor Jimmy to accompany me to Tesco Express in the middle of the night in pursuit of Fromage Frais – at least that’s what they seem to call them over here. To me they’ll always be Fruchtzwerge. My mum used to have special, colourful plastic moulds (which have now no doubt been thrown out due to their aesthetic non-pleasingnes) to make these ice lolly yoghurts in, but since we have no such thing here, we’ve used halved wooden skewers instead. But sucking on wood isn’t very nice so I recommend you source an alternative.

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All you have to do is vigorously force a the half skewer (i.e. a wooden BBQ skewer or something either chopped, cut or snapped in half) through the yoghurt lid and put it into the freezer for at least five hours. After that, take the yoghurt out again, run it (still fully packaged) under warm water for thirty seconds and then push with your thumb against the yoghurt pot bottom ’till the lolly pops out. And that’s it. Less than fifty calories and under 17p per lolly – these make a great alternative to ice cream, not least of all because the eating time is also a lot longer this way than when not frozen! 

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(This by the way, is now scheduled to arrive here on 30 April and is available at Amazon for £3,50 with Free Postage and Packaging)

Weekend Food

Essay writing has once again determined my absence. I have a weekend of delicious food behind me but refuse to write about it. Words are premium goods at the moment and I am not squandering them on non-assessed work. Pictures will have to do,

pizzaFriday Night’s Pizza in Bed whilst catching up on the awful! new season of Game of Thrones. A Jamie’s 30 Minute Meal and surprisingly easy to make, this pizza dough does not require proving. However, you’ll have to search the web for further instructions yourself. My tips though: Reduce the tomato sauce considerably before putting on Pizza! Add Mushrooms! Use less dough!mussels

Saturday’s Mussels in white wine sauce. Enough Mussels for two people for £2.99 at Sainsbury’s at the moment – however, the considerable amount of broken shells do lessen the eating pleasure somewhat…

footyWatching Liverpool host Chelsea with plenty of chocolate to provide coco relief. Anyone expecting a pun on Suarez and chocolate chewing should think again. This morning’s Metro’s headline ‘Bite Club’ and last night’s Twitter trending of ‘SuareztheCanibal’ have demonstrated that no such thing can be achieved gracefully.

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(Sunday’s evenings Fish Tacos. 1 kg of fresh Cod Loins for 3.99 and the Sainsbury’s reduced section scramble has definitely payed off)

crust Thursday’s Parmesan Crusted Cod with Poached Egg and Creamy Spinach Pasta.

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(Sunday’s extended Breakfast, Scotch Pancakes, Maple Syrup and Bacon with Telly on. The only way to endure programs like Masterchef..)

Jam Sandwiches and Margaret Thatcher’s Dead Body

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It seems strange to make so much noise and fuss around one dead woman’s body. After all, she’s not in it anymore, and you certainly don’t see thousands of spectators gathering outside her former home right now. Having said that, today’s funeral procession which saw Margaret Thatcher’s coffin (not just the coffin – I strongly suspect her body of being in there) be carried by a gun-carriage which was drawn by six black horses along the Strand, past Fleet Street and up Ludgate Hill to St Paul’s Cathedral wasn’t strange enough to perturb me from standing in the cold for two hours to see it being marched by. Other than two brightly coloured, forty-plus and scantily clad red heads parading a rather compact sign deploring the taxpayer funded funeral costs, there were no protests to be heard or seen (at least not from where I was standing). Since any potential dissidents would have chiefly been students, I presume the prior-to-noon scheduling of today’s event must have been the cause of their absence. Instead of boos then, the coffin was greeted with muffled cheers and modest applause. And given the expected demographic of the former prime minister’s supporters any reaction more enthusiastic than this, surely would have looked suspect.

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I don’t have much of an opinion on Margret Thatcher either way – which is fine since no one seems to be much interested in other people’s opinions on this matter anyway. Which makes me wonder, is anyone ever interested in anyone else’s opinion unless it’s to be challenged, plagiarised or ridiculed? Probably not. But that’s a different matter entirely.

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Anyway, whilst I wasn’t much moved by the passing of the union flag draped and white flower wreath topped coffin, I’d like to think my morning was well spent nonetheless. Besides, the only other realistic alternative to today’s historic excursion would have been lying in bed and pottering around the house till both noon and my aching conscience would have finally bullied me out of the front door. This way, I was granted two hours of quality entertainment from sundry pretty horses, hoards of beefeaters (who all really seem to be struggling with that nasty golden bonnet strap btw!) and an excellent marching band. Coupled with constant elbow exercise (a first row spot doesn’t maintain itself!) and a soggy jam sandwich, my morning couldn’t possibly have been more enjoyable..

couple…unless I was one of these two of course.

Library Times

Other than slowly and painfully pulling off my little toe’s toenail in an act of utter boredom, running to the toilet as often as possible, refreshing Facebook every five minutes and thanking heaven for the false fire alarm which granted five minutes of legitimate relief, there is really little else to do in the library other than eat. And drink.

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To make things easier and indeed life cheaper, I’ve decided to take as much food to the library as possible. Unfortunately, my plans were thwarted last night when Jimmy spied the size of the giant salad I was in the midst of preparing for today. On hearing that I also planned to make myself some egg-mayo sandwiches, he immediately -like a small child!- demanded he get the same and I, more stingy than greedy, was forced to do without them, so long as it meant Jimmy would have to do without too.

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Anyway, I most certainly won’t let the same thing happen again tonight, since this way I was forced to buy myself additional victuals in the library (admittedly, the purchase of the such did entail the inevitable leaving of my seat in order to travel down to the cantine which was a rather pleasant and distracting journey, I should say). On top of my salad, four BelVita biscuits, small packet of maltesers, apple, can of diet coke and three 200ml orange juice cartons then, I treated myself to a packet of cheese and onion crisps and a deliciously smooth galaxy chocolate bar..

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(Whilst this is not me purposefully trying to recreate childhood memories of going to Greek restaurants with my parents and sisters, overeating in the library today, nevertheless, has led to that rather nostalgic side-effect..)

Summer Greens Lasagne

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I spent most of my weekend being sad about not being able to enjoy the gorgeous weather due to the horrendous masses of course work I have looming. Of course, none of the course work was actually done, but nor was any weather indulging either. A weekend wasted one might think. And I’d agree.

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As most (or at least, what I very much hope are most) students will know all too well, having to meet deadlines is a life changer. Indeed, a life spoiler. Nothing fun can justifiably be planned, or done, until the dreaded deadline day has been successfully overcome. Whether or not the void which fun has left is in fact filled with conscientious essay writing is a different matter all together. Having a deadline doesn’t encourage actual revision but moreover generates an ever swelling cloud made up of muffled guilty-conscienceness whilst simultaneously limiting procrastination solely to non-fun activities (mainly cleaning the flat or robotically refreshing Facebook over and over again). It’s as though there exists an inner conviction that a superficial fun fast will somehow make the essays write themselves. Ganz nach dem Motto, ‘Suffering not thinking will get me a distinction.‘  

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Anyway, once I’d decided that missing out on a bit of sunbathing this weekend was the least I could do to promote the completion of my assignments, I granted that I should leastwise cook myself a little bit of summer instead. This light (light here perhaps more in terms of colour than calorie count) lasagne was inspired by a Jamie Oliver 30Minute Meal recipe and is a yummy vegetarian alternative to the classic Italian meat lasagne – without actually trying to replicate the taste or texture of beef that is.

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Serves 4, Preparation Time 20 Mins, Cooking Time: 30 Mins You will need :

12 Lasagne Sheets

1 Bag of fresh Spinach

200g Green Asparagus, stalks chopped up, leaving the tips and 2cm of the top whole

200g Green Beans (frozen will do too) chopped into 2cm long sticks

150g Frozen Peas

1 Bunch Spring Onions, chopped

1 White Onion, chopped finely

4 cloves Garlic, chopped very finely

3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

300ml Vegetable Stock

50g Butter

50g Flour

600ml Full Fat Milk

200ml White Wine

1 whole Mozzarella Ball

Fresh Basil Leaves

Good Olive Oil and Seasoning

150g Cottage Cheese

50g grated Parmesan

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Once you’ve chopped and got all your vegetables ready, begin by frying the white onion, garlic and chopped asparagus stalks in butter. When they have softened (two to three minutes) stir in the flour. Now add the white wine and bring to the boil. Let the wine simmer for a couple of minutes before adding the vegetable stock and milk. Now turn on your oven to 200C. Using a whisk, stir the sauce for at least three minutes or until all the flour lumps have been incorporated into the sauce. Once the sauce has thickened, add peas, green beans, spring onions, parsley and spinach to the mixture (you could also add broccoli or broad beans or anything green that you fancy. Indeed anything not green that you fancy too.) and let simmer for another two or three minutes before taking off the heat. Using a large spoon, pour a third of the sauce into the bottom of an adequately sized baking dish, followed by a sprinkling of parmesan, followed by a layer of lasagne sheets (I used four sheets per layer). Repeat the process another two times making sure to finish with a layer of pasta. Now fry the asparagus tips in olive oil for approximately three minutes. In the meantime spoon all of the cottage cheese over the top layer of lasagne, followed by the fried asparagus tips, followed by some basil leaves, followed by mozzarella (you should simply tear it up with your hands), followed by a drizzling of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Place the dish into the middle of the preheated oven at 200C for 30 to 35 Minutes and serve with crusty bread and salad..

Carmelite Cafe

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Tucked down an alley which is cheered up by bright, radiant (for sale) flowers right by Bow Church in East London, lies Carmelite Cafe, part of Bow Arts’s contemporary art space The Nunnery. (By ‘contemporary art space’ I assume a gallery is meant.) On our way home from another Nathan-and-Me-day-out, in the midst of changing buses, we were forced to seek refuge from a sudden torrent of rain in this charming little cafe. Any excuse for Kaffee und Kuchen being welcome of course. Bow Arts is an East London Arts Trust which supports community renewal through arts and creative services. After briefly browsing through Bow Arts’ rather intimate gallery’s The Nunnery, which is currently hosting ‘Geometric Figuring’ by Artist Ben Washington (soon to land at Saatchi – or so I am told!), we settled down for some much needed drying, some Victoria Sponge, some warming-up, tea, coffee and a cheese and ham croissant. Filled with homely, oddly matched wooden furniture and more artwork (again for sale, this time by Alistair Gordon who uses locally reclaimed wood as a canvas), this cafe feels cosy, relaxed and blissfully good-causy. Despite its jumbled selection of moveables and unavoidable connection with the arts, this place does not feel pretentious or cluttered simply for the sake of being cluttered, or indeed for the sake of pleading for a part amongst the hodgepodge hipster commune.

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As Nathan helpfully reminds me right now, Carmelite Cafe serves delicious Nude Espresso – not that I care for, or understand, coffee but I’m led to believe that for some, this minor detail may be of consequence when selecting coffee shops and I should therefore include the information. Michael Needman, Carmelite’s proprietor, sources most of his produce locally or from independent suppliers – as it the case with the coffee.

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With regard to matters of actual importance then, Carmelite Cafe’s selection of food is limited but sufficient. Serving a range of cakes, biscuits, tray bakes, soups, bagels and even pies, this place should really hold something edible in store to everybody’s liking. My Victoria Sponge was nice – unlikely to win prizes, but nice nonetheless. Having said the cakes are baked by local women (why not men?) which immediately makes me guilty for not having given them a better review. The staff is friendly, helpful and whilst only having opened last year, staple elements of good service seem to already be key here: Nathan’s and my food was brought out together despite mine being ready much sooner than his, the beverages were held back until the food was nearly ready to be served, the plates were not cleared until we had both finished and having just returned from herb shopping (much of our day-out was spent at a lovely little garden centre in East London named Growing Concerns) the staff immediately, and without prompting, helped us stow away our tray of fresh greenery. It’s the little things that matter. Well, at least that’s what three years of working for a tyrannically run patisserie from hell as a teenager have successfully forced me to believe. Having said that, I don’t think my teaspoon and teacup handle were perfectly in line today..

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(Today’s herby purchases)