Looking for something a bit more exciting than ordinary pasta, I dug through Tori Haschka’s book A Suitcase and a Spatula for inspiration and came across a recipe for “Pecorino, Pepper & Pig Cheek Pasta”. My search for pig cheeks was fruitless but I did find some ox cheeks, which I’ve never had before so I thought I’d give them a try with more or less the same recipe. This is comfort food – rich, tasty and warming. It’s also weekend food because it’s not the quickest thing to make but worth it if you are having a lazy afternoon.
1 1/2 tablespoons ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped
360 ml / 1 1/2 cups white wine
360 ml / 1 1/2 cups water
1 potato, halved
200 g / 6 1/2 oz linguine
70 g / 2 1/2 oz pecorino cheese, grated, plus extra to serve
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or spice, if you can’t find the fresh one)
Start chopping, slicing, cutting and grating before you do anything else. There’s the garlic, onion, rosemary, potato, bacon and ox cheeks to prepare. That’s always my least favourite part of cooking, but it’s good to get it all out of the way before you start.
Saute the bacon in the olive oil. Once the fat flows out, add the onions. Cook for 10 minutes on medium heat.
Grab a zip lock bag and toss a few spoons of flour and a sprinkling of black pepper inside. Drop in the ox cheek chunks, a few at a time and shake until they are well dusted. Carry on adding extra flour and pepper as needed until finished.
Turn up the heat, add the ox cheeks and cook until browned. Then add in the garlic, rosemary and white wine. When the wine comes to a boil, turn down to medium and cook uncovered for an hour.
When the hour has passed, top it up with the water, make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pan and pop the cover on for another 45 minutes. Meanwhile, stick the two pieces of potato in a pan with some salt and bring to a boil. (Apparently the potato adds starch to the water; you don’t actually eat the potato, so mashed potatoes for tomorrow night.) Cook the pasta al dente, take the potato out and strain the pasta, saving about 250 ml / 1 cup of the cooking water.
Add the cheese and pepper to the meat.
Mix in the pasta and a bit of the water you saved to create a sauce. Serve it up topped with nutmeg and extra grated cheese.
It’s that time of year again. Christmas tree glowing in the window, markets selling mulled wine and chestnuts, mince pies back on the shelves of the supermarkets and the Christmas jumpers are out. It’s freezing cold and the flu is making its rounds, which is why there has been few posts this week! Hope you are all staying healthy.
Here’s a few links I’ve gathered over the week. Enjoy:
One of my favourite things to do is curl up with a good book and get lost in words for hours. Here’s a great list from the New York Times of 100 notable books of 2013. How many have you read?
One of my all time favourite bloggers, Diana from exPress-o who I have been following for years, has teamed up with Mengsel to create some cool kitchen towels with Diana’s recipes on them – excellent idea for a stocking stuffer! There’s one with mulled wine and one with gingerbread men.
Would you wear any of these shoes? It’s footwear art by Kobi Levi. Ducks, dogs, slingshots and discarded chewing gum – favourite?
I love this series of work by photographer Nick Stern who used real people to re-create Banksy images. I think the kid with the crayon machine gun is my favourite.
Here’s a fun story of a British teacher who confiscated toys in class over 30 years and in 150 different schools. The Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood in London has them on display. There’s pictures in this Slate article and some of them bring back memories. Troll dolls, anyone?
Seems like yesterday I was sharing photos from October, but November has passed as well now just as quickly. I managed to cram in a trip to New York, my first solo photography exhibition (which involved a surprise visit from my Dad who came over from the States), finish all of my Christmas shopping and attend quite some events like Mama Brown’s Pop Up Experience launch party and a private event to celebrate Bob Dylan’s exhibition at the Halcyon Gallery on London’s Bond Street.
December also has a lot to look forward to including a trip to Spain and my 30th birthday, but here’s a look at my 16 favourite Instagram images from November.
1. Autumn leaves in North Tonawanda, New York. I spent the first handful of days in November visiting family and a few friends upstate New York. The typically leaves peak in colour mid-November, but despite some bare branches, there was still some vibrant red, orange and yellow foliage. I spotted this bright red bush along the five minute walk between my parents’ house and my grandmother’s.
2. Gourds for the harvest season. When I think of Autumn, and more specifically, the time around Thanksgiving, baskets full of gourds always come to mind. They appear in the house as seasonal decorations around that time. My grandma used to hang Indian corn outside the front door. This is a basket from her house. She was telling me that some of these gourds are new, but others have been around for years. I’m always fascinated by their so many different shapes and colours.
3. Fresh fish caught in Rhode Island. The last day I was in New York, my dad pulled out the last of the fish him and my brother had caught on a trip to Rhode Island. He dressed it up with lemon, butter, parsley, Greek spices and Chardonnay before popping it in the oven ready for lunch. Turned out to be really tasty and it was fun to watch him prepare and know that we were eating something that they caught themselves.
4.Flying above the UK. I’m not a huge fan of red eye flights because I never sleep on the plane, but I do love flying in to a brand new day, the morning light soaking the world below when the shades are finally pulled up and we’re preparing to land. This was outside of London, about 20 minutes before we reached Heathrow. That brilliant blue sky, of course, quickly turned to grey and rain a few hours later but it’s always great to be back.
5. Ben Wilson’s chewing Gum Art. I’ve been following Ben’s work for a while now. The post I wrote about him in February 2012 on Little London Observationist has turned out to be one of my most popular and I also had the privilege to interview him this year. Ben created my own Little London Observationist chewing gum piece in July and came to my exhibition last month. Just before the exhibition, he came to CAPA International Education where I work to create a CAPA chewing gum piece and make a little film for us. This photo below shows a piece he brought with him on a brick as a sample. He’s currently working on a gum trail over London’s Millennium Bridge.
6. Christmas Windows. I try to finish all of my Christmas shopping in November so I don’t have to brave the shops or the queues in December and it leaves me plenty of time to ship everything before the queues in the post office start too. I love seeing all of the Christmas windows – especially the Selfridges and Harvey Nichols ones. I spent some time in Fortnum & Mason a few weeks ago and was amused by their moving displays. The cab driver looks amused too, but at me rather than the windows!
7. Carnaby Street Robins. Early November, London lights up for Christmas. While the plain lights on Regent’s Street and King’s Road are nice, Carnaby Street usually does something a bit more creative. This year, it’s robins strung along the famous shopping street. Looking for a break, I stopped mid-shopping at my favourite cafe on Ganton Street around the corner, Sacred Cafe, for a savoury muffin and relax tea.
8. Anna’s Little City Observations Cupcakes. My talented colleague Anna Shoemaker made 108 delicious red velvet cupcakes for my exhibition launch party on November 11. She took a cut out from the main image in the show to get edible wafers printed for the top. They were definitely a hit; everyone loved them. If you have an event in London and are looking for someone to make some memorable treats, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with Anna!
9. Little City Observations at The Chance Gallery. From the 11th – 17th of November, I had my first solo photography exhibition at The Chance Gallery in London’s Chelsea. There were 18 prints in the show and we had an opening party full of guests, with canapés, wine and the cupcakes above. My dad showed up from New York as a complete surprise so it was definitely a night to remember.
10. My office during the exhibition. The Chance Gallery has two amazing fireplaces. It wasn’t the warmest time of the year and I wanted to leave the door open so people felt welcome to wander in from the street. So, for the week of the exhibition, I set up office next to the fireplace. I was enjoying my tea from Paul, as I do every morning.
11. Aperitivos from Barcelona. The week before my exhibition, Jorge went to Barcelona to visit some friends. They took him to a place called Mitja Vida Bar (which he wrote about on his blog) for some traditional aperivitos. They were so good, he stocked up and brought home a giant tin of anchovy stuffed olives, peppers, mussels and vermouth which we now have in London.
12. Private Event to Celebrate Bob Dylan’s Exhibition at The Halcyon Gallery. The week after my exhibition, we were invited by the talented Spanish artist Pedro Paricio to a private event at The Halcyon Gallery on Bond Street to celebrate Bob Dylan’s exhibition. I had no idea he was also a visual artist so it was a surprise to me. The best part was the people watching, hands down.
13. Lucky Charms. A favourite cereal growing up, I was happy to receive a big box of Lucky Charms in a gift basket full of American food from Ocado. They are full of sugar and you can’t really find them here in London unless you want to pay a fortune. They have been my morning treat for the past few weeks – magically delicious!
14. Meringues at Duke of York Square Market. The square in front of Saatchi Gallery on King’s Road in London fills up on Saturdays when a weekly market takes over full of vendors selling everything from oysters to cheese to chorizo sandwiches. There’s usually someone playing live music and at this time of the year, Christmas trees. More photos on Little London Observationist this week.
15. A tiny blue car. Turning the corner from Bond Street, I spotted this mini blue car parked on the side of the road. It looked so out of place, like it came out of a cartoon. Nothing to do with the car, but after a manic day of shopping, I finished everything and decided this was the last time I go anywhere Regents Street or Oxford Street until the Christmas rush ends in January!
16. 7 Meard Street, Soho. I’ve been meaning to take a photo of this sign for quite a while now. It can be found at 7 Meard Street in Soho and is on the door of Sebastian Horsley‘s house before he died. He’s an artist known for undergoing a voluntary crucifixion in the Philippines to prepare for a series of paintings and his writing usually centred around his drug addictions, his dysfunctional family and his reliance on prostitutes. Though he died of an overdose, he “romanticised dying ‘destitute in the arms of a prostitute’.”
We kicked off this week with a visit to an unusual event – a launch party on Monday night to celebrate the opening of “Mama Brown’s Pop Up Experience”, a venture by “London’s ultimate hostess”, Suzi Brown. People watching was extraordinary – lots of leather and fur and huge flower headbands. There were DJs, Middle Eastern canapes, street art covered walls and stalls selling everything from £6,o00 diamond rings to flower frosted cupcakes in an abandoned Victorian post office on King’s Road of all places.
The rest of the week was slightly more ordinary, but we shall see what the weekend brings. Here’s a few links for you:
Finnish photographer has captured a lovely series of photographs that show wild animals making themselves comfortable in abandoned houses in the woods.
I’ve just discovered The Littlest Things, a blog written by Sydneysider Sophie who spent about 4.5 years in London. She has a photography page, shares recipes and interviews interesting people. It’s a place to get lost in for an hour or so.
With lots of holiday festivities coming up, it’s always fun to find something a bit different to bring for your host. A bottle of wine is always good, but here’s a few better ideas from MadeByGirl.
Lastly, an interesting 12-minute short film called The Runners, in which “a number of different runners of all ages, both male and female, are asked questions about life, love, and why they run.”
“What I learn about a place illuminates something about myself. What I learn about myself illuminates something about a place. They enhance each other.”
- Don George, author of Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing
There were plenty of memorable speakers and tweet-able quotes at this year’s travel blogger conference, TBEX, which was held in Dublin during the first week of October. I’ve been meaning to share a few of my favourite tips from some of the top travel writers in the industry.
“Write like you have been commissioned by the New York Times,” was one of those, from travel writer and blogger Michael Collins who bounces between Dublin and Paris.
Another quote that has stuck with me is about bloggers who write about travel. It’s a quote from Audrey of Uncornered Market, one of the most successful and respected travel blogs around today. With her partner Dan, Audrey’s been on the road for years, and has traveled to around 75 different countries.
On the influence of bloggers, she told a conference hall full of us: “We are interpreters of experience, of a place, of people.”
How we interpret experiences through blogging goes hand in hand with storytelling, which was the topic of Don George’s session. And if anyone knows about travel writing, it’s Don. Not only is he the author of Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing, it’s also Editor at Large and Columnist for National Geographic’s Traveler magazine and Intelligent Traveler blog, and Features Editor and Blogger for Gadling.com. It was an honour to listen to him speak.
I took notes, of course, which I wanted to share with you, broken down into what to do before, during and after a trip in order to come up with some shareable stories when you return home.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Take the time to research the place you’re going to so you learn about the history, culture and language ahead of your trip.
Ask yourself: Why do I want to go there?
Think about what you are looking forward to and what excites you most about the place.
Identify your “passion points”. These are the points you are most excited about exploring. Maybe it’s food. Maybe it’s street art. Maybe it’s architecture. Whatever it is, these are the points that become the stepping stones of a great story.
Read the travel writing of others and ask yourself what makes you want to keep reading.
DURING YOUR TRIP
When you arrive and start exploring, ask yourself: What is the essence of this place? What are its essential characteristics?
Take the time to just sit somewhere with life buzzing around you. Cafes and parks are great choices. Observe and take notes while you’re in the moment.
While you’re taking notes, make sure you capture the senses. As yourself what you’re feeling, tasting, smelling, etc. rather than just jotting down the visuals.
Focus on details. It’s the small truths of a place that illuminate the larger truths.
Keep asking yourself: What am I learning here? What is the story that’s coming together in front of me?
Be open to serendipity.
Record snippets of dialog. Talk to locals. Be open and explain that you’re a travel blogger and you’re interested in learning about this place you’re visiting and the people who live there. You may discover more in five minutes than you would in five weeks without interacting.
WHEN YOU RETURN HOME
This about what you learned and how you learned it.
Recreate your journey through a lesson you learned in this place.
Identify key moments – those crucial stepping stones of your story.
Know your point. What do you want your reader to take away?
Use humour where you can. It allows you to add a new level of connection with your readers.
Get a sense of the music and rhythm of your writing by reading it out loud or share it with a friend who is willing to listen and give you constructive feedback.
Aim for around 500-700 words. This is a good amount for online storytelling, but the storytelling itself is much more crucial than the number of words.
Writing in your own voice is very important.
Photography is another part of storytelling and I was excited to be able to meet John Minihan after his keynote speech at the conference. He told us stories of life as an apprentice at The Daily Mail when he was a teenager, becoming the youngest staff photographer for the Evening Standard at age 21 and his memories of photographing Alfred Hitchcock, Andy Warhol, Lady Diana and the rock bands of the 60s and 70s. He showed me his Rolleiflex camera, which is in the picture below. He still shoots film which he develops in a darkroom and most of the time it’s only black and white.
Times have obviously changed, but what drove John to produce work for all those years, including so many famous photographs that have hung in London’s National Portrait Gallery and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, is exactly what drives many photobloggers starting out today: “It’s about love,” was his simple explanation, an what better tip to creating a great blog than that?
What better Autumn ingredients than apples and cinnamon? While I was in New York, my mom served up some tasty old-fashioned German apple cake. My brother devoured most of it in one go, but I managed to get a piece – and the recipe. I made some over the weekend. It’s moist and delicious, especially warm with a spoon or two of ice cream on the side.
4 cups peeled, diced apples (about 4 large apples – Macoun, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith are good choices)
A sprinkling of brown sugar
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
OPTIONAL – 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (I didn’t put these in)
Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C. Grease and flour a 9″ x 13″ pan. I actually used a square 8 inch pan which worked just as well. Once that’s prepared, you can start chopping apples. When they’re all cut up, sprinkle with a few spoonfuls of brown sugar.
In a separate mixing bowl, combine the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla. Mix well.
Add in the dry ingredients: the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Again, mix well.
Add the apples. The recipe suggests mixing this last part with your hands so obviously make sure to give them an extra good wash first. Pour the batter into your pan and smooth the top with a spoon or spatula so it’s even.
Pop it into the pre-heated oven and make for about 50-55 minutes. The last 20 minutes or so is the best part (besides eating it, of course) because it will make your house smell of apples and cinnamon.
When it’s ready, pull it out and let it cool. I cut mine into 16 pieces.
My exhibition came to a close on Sunday night and after about seven fun but chaotic weeks that preceded it, it’s actually great to get back to mundane everyday life for a bit.
The highlight of this week came on Tuesday night when Jorge and I ventured over to Bond Street, invited by the talented painter Pedro Paricio to a private shindig at the Halcyon Gallery to see an exhibition of Bob Dylan’s sculptures, paintings and prints. The art was okay; the people watching was brilliant.
Anyway, here’s a short video and a few links for the weekend.
Video:A stop-motion film made of 852 Instagram images by Thomas Jullian
The Storyhunter finds a group of Mexican teenagers who play in a band on the streets with instruments made of recyclables.
Deciding where to stay is one of the best parts of planning a trip. I prefer the quirky, the colourful, the local experience. So sometimes it’s places like the Airbnb Art House in Amsterdam. Other times it’s places like the fun and somewhat bizarre Marilyn Monroe themed Platine Hotel in Paris. This time, on our latest adventures in Copenhagen, we set up our base at the creative Hotel Fox.
It’s a quick 15 minute zip down the metro from the airport to Nørreport and just a five minute walk from there. The location couldn’t have been more perfect. It was central and we discovered two amazing restaurants, BROR and Oliver and the Black Circus, right around the corner. More on those later! We also tried the Japanese street kitchen, Hero, that’s attached to the hotel. The food was good, but the service was pretty terrible, as was the table where they put us so we probably wouldn’t go back there. There are better options nearby.
Hotel Fox is slightly past its prime. It’s a bit shabby and could do with a touch up, a fresh lick of paint, a few new screws here and there. Maybe some updated mattresses and fluffier pillows. A closet space with some hangers might bring things up a notch as well as a bit of counter space in the bathrooms.
It’s an inviting place though, with free wine during a happy hour in the colourful lounge every evening. The staff are welcoming and full of great local knowledge and recommendations. It’s reasonably priced. The breakfast bar in the morning has the most delicious soft boiled eggs with perfect runny yoke and rågbrød bread that I’m still thinking about weeks later. And, very importantly, it’s something a bit different. We really enjoyed it and would stay there again.
There’s 61 rooms in the hotel, each decorated differently by one of 21 international artists – from illustrators to graphic designers to graffiti writers – who worked on the space. You can choose which room you’d like to stay in, provided it’s available when you arrive. If you feel so inclined, you can even stay in a different room every night, but we chose to stay put in one.
Jorge and I browsed the photos on their website looking for our favourite. Room 409 is a scene from the popular children’s story Heidi, with checked red and white curtains, a mountain painted on the wall and antlers at the foot of the bed. Room 414 is all white with random facts about hotel decor written in black letters, like “77% of all hotel rooms in Denmark have white walls.” Room 206 is all white with black illustrations of a woman with wild hair who is quite possibly mid-orgasm. Room 504 is full of boxing memorabilia and comes compete with your own duct taped yellow punching bag.
There are rooms made of camouflage, rooms featuring monsters, rooms in monochrome and rooms where you sleep under a tent-like canopy. There are rooms painted with cows and rainbows, rooms with race cars, rooms with geometric shapes and rooms with bright red and blue walls and ceilings.
A writer for the New York Times described his room in an article just after the hotel opened. “My room was No. 510, a small room designed by a German illustrator, Birgit Amadori, and nicknamed King’s Court 2. Lining the walls were pictures of regally attired humanoid creatures with playfully monstrous heads — Medusa-esque, squidlike, flame-engulfed. Like a 19th-century dollhouse, its furniture included tufted armchairs and Gothic electric candelabras. According to the plaque on the door, the room was “designed to soothe thoughts.”
We stayed in room 302. The front door of the room is painted back with a yellow bull’s head in the middle and lines of connecting yellow diamonds lining the edges.
Inside, the walls and the floor are made entirely of blue, white and yellow tiles, as is a raised platform on which the bed is placed like a throne.
The best part was the crazy golden bull’s head between the windows and beneath it, the secret golden bell hidden in a box.
The room is called “Harmony’s Helm” and was designed by a team of artists called Friendswithyou from Miami. Of the bell, they explain, “This room’s ultimate soul is revealed once the sacred ‘harmony bell’ is used – that is if you can find it. This is a place where secrets can be revealed.” Whether secrets were revealed or not, I am not at liberty to say. But we did find, and happily rang, the loud clanging bell – probably to the annoyance of our neighbours.
Apart from being cold on the feet in the morning with all the tiles, it was a cool place to return to each night after exploring the city.
We also spent a bit of time relaxing in the lounge area on the ground floor. As I said, staff were friendly and they are worth speaking to if you’re looking for some local advice or are just in the mood for a chat. The walls are, of course, painted by an artist. There are are lounge chairs, comfy furs and some magazines – all in Danish, but it was fun to page through the Scandinavian designs they featured nonetheless.
Even the hallways and staircases have character. Plus, they rent bikes at reception so take advantage of that if the weather is nice!
On our last morning in Copenhagen, Jorge and I followed a long mustard-coloured wall to an open gate that marked one entrance to Assistens Cemetery.
It had been raining all morning, so the pathways were shiny wet, droplets of water clinging to the grass.
The scent of moist earth floated up from beneath our feet.
Drips of rain hung from stone angel’s faces like tears.
I was instantly in awe of this place and could easily have spent hours there.
Lush and tranquil, I can see how it influenced Swedish Poet Karl August Nicander to write, “It is certainly one of the most beautiful graveyards in Europe. Leafy trees, dark paths, bright open flowery expanses, temples shaded by poplars, marble tombs overhung by weeping willows, and urns or crosses wrapped in swathes of roses, fragrance and bird song, all transform this place of death into a little paradise.”
We started with the obvious – a hunt for one of the cemetery’s most famous residents - “the pioneer of the modern fairytale”, Hans Christian Andersen.
His stories were some of my favourite while I was growing up: The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina, The Princess and the Pea, and of course, The Ugly Duckling, which I narrated for our class play when I was 5-years-old.
We followed some signs that led us through a maze of gothic looking gravestones and some that were engulfed in nature.
Eventually we found it. It was quite humble; there was nothing extraordinary about it.
Buried nearby is the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. This year marked 200 years since his birth.
As the Telegraph puts it, he was “the father of existentialism, the philosopher of anxiety and the scourge of the church. A man who preferred the shade to sunshine, in the popular imagination he was gloomy and hard to please.”
Kierkegaard was a big fan of walking to was away the troubles of life, and walk we did. Assistens is a huge plot of land, the biggest cemetery in Copenhagen, and there’s a lot to explore.
One of my favourite parts was the long avenue lined with beautiful trees that runs from one side to the other.
It was a chilly time of year to be in Scandinavia, but the Autumn leaves were scattered across the grass, some still clinging to the trees, others blown into colourful clumps of foliage tucked between gravestones. Red squirrels scampered up trees.
The cemetery was outside of the old walled city when it was inaugurated in the 1700s.
It was an “assistant” cemetery that took on the overflow from others that were inside of the walled city.
These were typically poor people.
Over time, more wealthy and famous people were buried in the same grounds and its popularity as a final resting place grew.
Photo:Little City Observations exhibition launch party on November 11
This week kicked off with the launch party of my first photography exhibition, Little City Observations, at The Chance Gallery in Chelsea on Monday night. About 100 people were in and out, enjoying canapés and wine near the fireplaces and the collection of 18 prints that adorn the walls. Today, tomorrow and Sunday are the last days of the show so pop by at 123 Sydney Street, London SW3 6NR. It’s gotten nice reviews from Sam and Coin Phrases. There’s also a nice interview on Inspiring City.