Recipe: Hello Fresh’s Beef Polpetti with Rustic Ratatouille

Every few months, we take pleasure in avoiding daily shopping trips to Waitrose and order a box of food to be delivered from Hello Fresh. It covers three meals (or five, if you choose), always with different illustrated recipes and the exact amount of each ingredient you need to make them.

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One of the last ones included this recipe for Beef Polpetti with Rustic Ratatouille which turned out really tasty so I thought I’d share it with you here. I’d never had meatballs made with mashed potatoes before and they were delicious!

Ingredients: 

- 1 large potato
- Handful of spiced pork
- Handful of mince beef
- 2 tablespoons parmesan
- 1 teaspoon dry oregano
- Small bunch of fresh parsley
- 1 red pepper
- 1 large courgette
- 1 tin organic tomatoes
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
- Salt
- Pepper

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First, set a pan of water to boil and chop your potato into small chunks so it cooks faster. Boil it for about 10 minutes or until it’s soft enough to mash. Drain and mash away.

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Keep your chopping board out.

Peel and crush the garlic. Dice it.

Next comes the pepper. Remove the core.

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Cut into lengthwise strips.

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Chop the bottom and top off of the courgette and slice lengthways twice before cutting it into small cubes.

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Over medium heat, with a tablespoon of olive oil, stir fry the peppers and courgettes in batches until they are nicely browned. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

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Use the same pan to heat two teaspoons of olive oil on medium heat and add 1.5 cloves of garlic. Cook for a minute, then add the tinned tomatoes. Add a dash of salt and a dash of sugar. After a few minutes, add the cooked pepper and courgette to the mix. Simmer until it’s thick. Add salt and pepper to taste if needed.

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Now it’s time to make the meatballs. Remove the sausage skin from the spiced pork and mix together with the remaining half clove of diced garlic and the beef mince. Add the oregano, mashed potato, a pinch of salt, the parmesan cheese and 1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped parsley.

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Mix thoroughly and roll spoonfuls into meatballs a bit smaller than the size of a golf ball.

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Roll the meatballs in breadcrumbs so they’re completely coated.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C.

Put one tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat and add the meatballs. Brown them off on all sides for about 3 minutes and then transfer to a baking tray. Pop them in the oven for about 10 minutes.

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Serve the meatballs on top of the ratatouille with a bit of parsley sprinkled on top.

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Enjoy!

It was a cool, but sunny Spring day on Friday with no obligations or plans and a four day bank holiday weekend ahead.

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So I indulged in something I haven’t done in a long time: set out on an aimless walk through the streets of London.

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I carried with me a camera and a book, set for an afternoon of wandering, shopping, taking photos and sipping tea in my favourite cafes.

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I headed East, walking along the King’s Road, past Sloane Square, along Eaton Square and on until I bumped up against the crowds milling about Buckingham Palace.

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There, the sidewalks were blocked by tour groups waving yellow umbrellas or red flags, listening to someone speak in one language or another about the Palace or St. James’s Park.

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I decided to stick to a similar route and headed down Birdcage that lines the edge of the park where about 10 people were standing around a tree filming on their phones an ordinary scene of two squirrels chasing each other around a tree.

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Others posed by a colourful bed of tulips and children chased after the ducks by the pond.

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Once Big Ben came into view, I reached my limit with crowds and wove through the back streets to the Golden Jubilee Bridge.

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I had read that there was a world street food market on South Bank over the bank holiday weekend (today is the last day if you’re in the area), so I headed over to take a look.

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I wasn’t particularly hungry, but markets always make for great people watching and it didn’t appear to be as jammed as I expected.

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As you would expect from a world food market, there were food trucks selling everything from South African Bunny Chow to Italian Gelato to drinks created right around the corner in London’s Hackney.

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There were Egyptian vegetarian dishes, Korean BBQ with a Mexican twist and Caribbean jerk chicken and soul food from America’s deep south.

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I saw a Polish deli, a guy selling cheddar cheese, cider and chutney from Somerset and a couple of French  trucks with duck confit.

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There were burgers everywhere. 

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When the market ended, I spent a few minutes watching the skateboarders and browsing the outdoor book market.

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Then walked across a super windy Waterloo Bridge.

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I aimed for north east and followed the streets that looked most interesting through the edges of Covent Garden and Soho until I found myself on Regent’s Street.

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I popped into a couple of shops before veering off to Ganton Street for a tea and cheddar and chive biscuit at Sacred Cafe, a place I’ve returned to time and again since I was first taken there for a magazine interview in 2007.

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When I was warmer and had finished the chapter I was reading, I followed my wonky sense of direction toward Marylebone, walking past the swanky designer shops on New Bond Street and eventually to Marylebone Lane.

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Marylebone means the beautiful skylights and oak panelled walls of Daunt, my favourite bookshop in London.

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Eventually I decided to head home. I thought I’d take the tube after walking for ages already, but I carried on toward Marble Arch, crossed the road to Hyde Park and walked through to Knightsbridge, down Sloane Street and back to King’s Road.

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It plotted it out on a map and it was about 10 miles altogether. I’m still not allowed to run for another month since I had my eye surgery in March so walking is the new running for me right now!

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What have you been up to this weekend? Eating loads of Easter chocolate like me? Relaxing? Anything exciting? 

Little Weekend Links 21

It’s been a busy week with a few stolen moments of sun and the book I’m currently enjoying (Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw). I’m thrilled we have a 4-day weekend here in the UK. On Saturday I’m going for my first wedding dress fitting which is very exciting. It’s hard to believe there’s only 2.5 months to go now. Last year, we enjoyed Easter with a traditional Sunday roast in front of the fireplace at our local pub. I wouldn’t mind doing the same again. How about you? Any exciting weekend or Easter plans?

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Photo: Orange Square, Pimlico Road, London

Here’s a few fun links I’ve been collecting:

Enjoy the weekend – and Easter if you celebrate!

10 Instagram Accounts I Love: Travel

Instagram is one of my favourite social media platforms, especially when I stumble upon especially stunning accounts. This is the first part of a little series I’m going to write to share with you a few of these, from travel to fashion to art and design to food to the little things in everyday life. First up – travel!

1. @brendanvanson. Brendan Van Son is the photographer behind this lively account. He’s also a writer and the founder of Vagabundo Magazine. It’s a varied mix of architecture, nature and street scenes from around the world but some of my favourites are his shots of locals doing everyday things like the woman in one of the photos below eating a cockroach whole in Cambodia.

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2. @michaelchristopherbrown. This is not your average light-hearted travel photography account but I include it here because it takes us around the world.. Michael is a a Magnum Photos photographer. His work is some of the most powerful I’ve seen on Instagram, looking at everything from the beds of women forced to work as prostitutes in the Congo to the violent streets of Egypt during the protests.

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3. @uncornered_market. This is an account run by Daniel Noll who has been on the road since 2006, exploring every corner of the world. As you can imagine, his journeys have taken him to some places off the beaten track, everywhere from Fish River Canyon in Namibia to the edge of the jungle in Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica.

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4. @zachspassport. Zach Glassman is a “travel documentarian and polyglot” with an adventurous spirit who takes us from beautiful landscapes in Guatemala to architectural details in his home city of New York to the icy wonderland of the Apostle Islands. My favourite shots are of spiral staircases and ornate ceilings like these two below.

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5. @linadelika. I love the clean, uncluttered look of Lina’s account. She knows the value of empty space. She is a traveller, but also a food photographer as one element of her career. That means she is always posting drool-worthy images of fruit or meals that she eats along the way. She also posts the interiors of cool coffee shops like the ones below, flower markets and street scenes.

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6. @dguttenfelder. David Guttenfelder’s account interests me because he has the fascinating job of covering North Korea as AP’s chief Asia photographer. He’s on assignment for National Geographic. His photos offer insight into daily life in this secretive country as well as other destinations he visits like the girl on the bike in Vietnam below. Many of his images are black and white, with a few pops of colour.

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7. @muradosmann. The photos of Russian photographer Murad Osmann’s girlfriend Natalia Zakharova leading him around the world have made their rounds across the internet since they started the project in 2011. They’re a bit too over-processed for me, but I love them all the same. They’re always taken with a strong sense of place and I love them for Natalia’s style as well.

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8. @mrwhisper. Bal might not travel the world as regularly as some of the others on this list but his account is definitely defined by a strong sense of place – London. Regular appearances include shots of unknowing Londoners on the tube, beautiful light bathing local landmarks and simple scenes of ordinary, everyday life as it goes on around us.

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9. @afarmedia. An account run by the team at my favourite travel magazine, Afar, these guys have a wide reach and bring in content from all over the world, updating often. My favourite shots from them are the close-up details shots with vibrant colours like the two below. The coconuts were in Dominican Republic and the pretty blue room in Mexico.

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10. @jn. Joerg is based in Berlin so his photos reflect that but he travels plenty as well. Some of my favourite shots include small details like this wooden post below shot in Germany and the wider picture street photos like the fun red street car in Istanbul with a bubble blower standing nearby. Light and shadow come into play in many of his photos and lend a certain atmosphere that permeates his page.

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I’d love to hear about your favourite travel accounts on Instagram. Let me know your own as well!

You can follow me on Instagram @LittleObservationist. 

Dublin as a Global City

I just signed up for this year’s TBEX Europe conference in Athens this October to connect with other bloggers who write about travel. Is anyone else going?

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Last year was my first TBEX, which took place in Dublin.

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With TBEX in mind at the moment, I thought I’d revisit this city.

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There are so many photos I haven’t shared yet!

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I had been to Dublin many years ago, but I was surprised by how much of a global city it has become or maybe just by how much I noticed it during this visit.

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It’s a small city, but there’s people, food and customs from all over the world wrapped up in its borders.

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I started to take photos of restaurants.

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Brazilian, Nepalese, Persian, Turkish, Mongolian…

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We ate lunch in Saba on our last day in Dublin, an amazing Thai restaurant with pink placemats and great big windows for people watching.

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Another meal we had was at a Moroccan restaurant called DaDa. The place was nice, the food was tasty, but the staff was rude and inattentive. I wouldn’t recommend it.

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I didn’t take too many photos of people on this trip, but a few worth sharing.

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One of the most diverse places I visited was the bustling Moore Street where the market stalls sell fruit and Chinese grocers stand next to Afro hairdressers.

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But I was pleased to find that global influence was everywhere.

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Where have you been that has surprised you for one reason or another? 

Little Weekend Links 20

It’s been a week now since we adopted Lupita. She’s super cute, full of energy and has been waking us up every morning at 5am. Until yesterday, which means I think she’s settling in! Most of the week, before and after work, has revolved around her, making sure we spend tons of time playing and cuddling her so she gets used to us.

Any exciting plans this weekend? Jorge has been summoned off to Barcelona for his stag do/bachelor party. I have a lot to catch up on and hope to spend some time in the sun!

LupitaPhoto: Lupita

Here’s a few links for your weekend:

Enjoy your weekend!

PS – Come find me on Facebook if you like!

A Wander Down London’s Westbourne Grove

Westbourne Grove crosses London’s tourist-packed Portobello Road, but it’s much quieter.

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Instead of the crowds, there are orderly queues of people waiting to get into places worth the wait like Granger & Co (try the scrambled eggs) or The Breakfast Club (go for the pancakes).

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It’s a street loved by locals for coffee meetings, lazy lunches and boutique shopping.

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I headed there the weekend before last to soak up some sun, swing by the Spanish shop R Garcia & Sons on Portobello Road to pick up some delicious fuet and take a few photos which I haven’t had the time to share until now!

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The bus took me to Bayswater station. Clustered around that section of Westbourne Grove are a series of small, mostly independent, interior design shops. There’s also the Iranian restaurant Alounak, which has pretty rave reviews. I haven’t been but it’s on my long list.

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Walking on, you cross Ledbury Road, which is worth a short detour for places like Ottolenghi (here’s some photos I took at a different branch), Melt (if you’re craving some chocolate) and Aimé for all you Francophiles looking for a fashion fix.

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Back on Westbourne Grove, the best bit is between Ledbury Road and Portobello Road. And the cherry blossoms were out in full bloom.

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 There’s a piece of street art around here too that’s worth a look. It’s by Snik and it’s called “Winged Fire”.

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Mainly, this strip is great for shopping. There’s a church on the corner of Ledbury Street. As you can see from the picture below, inside to the left is a branch of my latest shopping addiction, French brand Claudie Pierlot. That’s my kind of church! Others on this stretch are Claudie Pierlot’s sister shops Maje and Sandro. There’s a Bimba and Lola too. There are also a few higher end charity shops where, if you keep an eye open over time, you can stumble upon some great designer pieces.

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For food, there is 202, a fantastic place for brunch with coffee table style travel and fashion books at the front and a basement full of designer clothes that’s worth a browse for shock-factor of a few key pieces even if you can’t afford to buy anything. There’s Daylesford Organic. Not cheap, but full of lovely organic food and artisan products for special treats. Like a few other cafes on the street, there are outdoor tables so on a nice day it’s a great place to people watch. When the tables are full, which they were when I was there recently, the area takes on a real European vibe.

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There’s also the lovely florist Wild at Heart where the road forks. It’s a pretty little place with turquoise painted bricks. The whole area is really colourful.

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The expensive houses on this street are stuccoed with pretty pastels and if you turn off some of the nearby side streets you’ll find rows of crayola coloured houses too.

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Like anywhere in London, there are also blocks of council flats. You’ll find these when you turn off onto Portobello Road.

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It’s not often I go on a Saturday, but since I was in the area already I made an exception.

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It’s not as busy as it will be a few months from now when you can barely walk through the street without stepping on someone. I love the mix of eccentric local stall holders and people who may be seeing the city for the first time and the way they interact.

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I didn’t walk the full length of the market, just the northern end from Westboburne Grove to the Westway.

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I caught the tail end of the antiques section and walked through the food stalls.

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They sell everything from chorizo and chicken sandwiches to fresh lemons bread that was baked earlier that morning.

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You can even get a coconut.

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Around there is the restored Electric Cinema. The attached Electric Diner has the most amazing steak, if you’re ever in the area and looking for a place to eat.

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There are a few flower stalls around this area of the market and some street performers I haven’t seen before. Don’t ask me what they are doing…

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I poked around the clothes and jewellery under the Westway and then cut back up Ladbroke Grove, stopping at a flower shop for some purple freesia. They opened a few days later and smell amazing.

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Recipe: Banana Bars with Rum Icing

Jorge has been doing all of the cooking for the past three week while I recovered from eye surgery. I’m pretty much back to normal now and decided it was time for some baking. Since there were some pretty ripe bananas on the counter, I scoured Pinterest for an interesting banana recipe. These Banana Bars with Rum Icing caught my eye.

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Ingredients for the cake:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (I used a bit more)
  • 1/2 cup dairy sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • NOTE: In the original recipe, 3/4 cup of chopped almonds and grated nutmeg are also used but I I’m not a nut lover and didn’t have any fresh nutmeg so I left these out.)

Ingredients for the icing:

  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Milk
  • NOTE: I don’t like a lot of frosting, so I split this in half besides the rum which was the full amount. I also left out the butter completely so it was more like icing.)

Start by preheating the oven to 350F / 180 C and grease a baking pan. The recipe recommends 15 x 10 x 1-inch. It also recommends using a mixing bowl throughout, which I don’t have so I did everything by hand. First, whip up the butter until it becomes creamy.

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Then mix in the sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until they are well combined.

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Mash your ripe bananas. The healthy bit!
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Once you finish, add the bananas, egg, sour cream and vanilla and mix everything together.
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Add the flour.
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Spread the mixture evenly into the greased pan.
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Pop it into the oven for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
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 To make the icing, the recipe recommends starting by whipping up the butter (I skipped that part). Mix in half of the powdered sugar, rum and vanilla.
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Add the rest of the powdered sugar and a touch of milk for consistency.
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Spread it on as thick or thin as you like.
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And voila! Cake!
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Cut it up in slices and enjoy.
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It’s great with tea and a magazine.
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And it’s also pretty fantastic with strawberries and blueberries on top.
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Overall? Definitely satisfies the sweet tooth, but if I have ripe bananas hanging around and I need a banana recipe, it doesn’t top my old standby, the Chocolate Chip Banana Bread recipe.

Little Weekend Links 19

Last weekend was the first I was allowed out of the house after my eye surgery. I filled it with adventures to Notting Hill in West London and Shoreditch in East London. Monday was finally my first day back to work and it’s great to have my normal routine back again! This week, we received a box from Hello Fresh full of delicious new recipes to try, one of which will be on the blog soon.

What are you up to this weekend? I’m hoping the lovely weather sticks around, but I think it might rain on Sunday which is a good excuse for some Spring shopping!

IMG_0715Photo: On a friend’s balcony, Barcelona – Spring 2012

Here are some links for the next few days:

Enjoy your weekend!

East London: Tea at The Book Club and Lola’s Cupcakes

From hotels to food to experiences, I’m generally attracted to the quirkier things in life. I appreciate creativity in the small details: mismatched cutlery, peeling paint, a garden of plants growing out of cinder blocks – even when it doesn’t necessarily work very well.

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It’s all about the effort.

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I keep a running list of these out of the ordinary places I want to visit one day in London and in cities I know I’ll be travelling to soon. Some have been recommended by friends, others I read about in magazines, on blogs or Twitter or in good old fashioned coffee table books.

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The lovely (and nine months pregnant!) Carolina and I were long overdue a catch up.

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When she suggested meeting in Shoreditch on Sunday, I pulled up my list where I had scribbled a few options: Albion, Hurwundeki, The Book Club.

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I didn’t mind which one. Once I get over the initial dread of making that long pilgrimage to the east, I’m always super excited to find myself in this fascinating corner of London – so close, yet so far from home.

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It was The Book Club that won in the end and we wandered down from Liverpool Street station to find it hidden on Leonard Street across from an empty lot where the building were covered in street art by Stik, Rone and others on a wall organised by Global Street Art.

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This part of East London is a world away from West London where I live. It’s only a tube ride away on one line, but it could be a different city altogether. It’s grittier, much more colourful, the fashion is edgier, the nightlife is rowdier and the food reflects the diverse communities that live side by side on these old London streets.

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We walked into The Book Club, not sure exactly what to expect.

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A wall covered in potted plants greeted us on one side and we were face to face with a tube map style directory of the building on another.

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Inside, we settled onto a scruffy red sofa, with light pouring in through the floor to ceiling window behind us where we overlooked the wall of art.

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The lights snaked across the ceiling. The brick walls were exposed and the furniture was simple, a bit shabby and well loved.

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It was the kind of unstuffy place where you feel it wouldn’t be the worse thing to grab a good book, put your feet up and settle in for the afternoon.

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And probably some people do.

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We ordered two teas (tasty) which came to the table in appropriately quirky orange mugs with matching saucers.  

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The menu was printed on brown paper, attached to a clipboard and silverware and napkins sat in glasses on the middle of each table.

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We didn’t eat, but I hear it’s cheap and cheerful and delicious. There are breakfasts like “greek yoghurt with fresh fruit and blossom honey, thick cinnamon porridge oats and buttermilk pancakes.” And then there’s lunch…

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Apparently the cocktails are something to talk about as well. They have names like “Gingers Do It Better”, “Don’t Go To Dalston” and “Shoreditch Twat” listed on a white tiled drink menu next to the bar.

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We talked about writing, blogs, social media, travel, big dreams and raising children.

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Then we snooped around a bit, poking our noses into the ping pong room, which looked like fun. The unisex bathrooms were less than impressive – not because they were unisex but because they reminded me of those you’d find at a university club.

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There are ping pong competitions at The Book Club, poetry, live music and DJs, networking events, life drawing sessions, classic video game nights, workshops and a long list of other stuff going on – something for everyone. They even host a “Tweet Box” – a twist on the standard juke box during which you can request songs via Twitter.

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I ventured down into the depths of the basement to see what was there before we left. Not too much of interest at a quick glance – a foosball table and some prints on a scruffy white wall.

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With afternoon tea you can’t go wrong with a cupcake and Carolina had been raving about Lola’s a little blue kiosk tucked away at the edge of Spitalfields Market.

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So we made our way through the crowds, past the market stalls selling £5 dresses, secondhand books, posters and handmade jewellery.

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Eventually, we found it, with rows of colourful cupcakes piled high with frosting and decorated with bits of Oreos, caramel coated macadamia nuts and sprinkles.

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Yes please! After much indecisiveness, I went for the glistening caramel chocolate macadamia one. 

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Carolina chose her old standby – the Oreo cupcake.

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They were definitely delicious, although I admit to eating only about a quarter of the frosting. It was a bit too much for me!

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And so we headed home, my East London fix sorted for a few more weeks.

Do you have a favourite quirky place in your city? What do you love about it? (By the way, if you’re on Facebook, come find the Little Observationist page and say hello!)

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