The big move – Part 2

We’re here… and we are almost sorted. They say (well, Lao-tzu said, anyway) that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. A journey of 6,570 miles must also begin with a single step then… and an awful lot of boxes in the container and a car full of bags and suitcases to drag with us.

It was odd, driving through the night to Heathrow and knowing it would be months before we would be back in the UK. Odd and strangely sad. All we had, as we walked into Departures, was each other and those few bags.

The glass of champagne that the Bear insisted we started the journey to our new life with, took the edge of the sadness though and we raised a glass to each other, toasting the start of our biggest adventure yet.

Then, after many hours of flying, there was Malaysia below us. That was where we were going to live… how strange it seemed. We looked at each other and laughed. Our new country!

We got through Immigration with only a few questions, though I have to say I was a bit put out when the Immigration Officer studied my passport, stared at me, studied my passport again and then asked if I was that woman in the photograph. I said I was and she didn’t believe me. Trying to explain that a photograph taken in a booth, when you know that this is the photograph you will be stuck with for ten years, so you’ve taken particular care with makeup, your hair is brushed, you look as good as you are going to get…..well, that photograph is a good one.  It may not, as the Immigration Officer pointed out, look very much like the face that was staring back at her from the other side of the desk. That face, however, did not have the benefit of makeup, the hair had not been freshly blowdried, and travelling from the Saturday night till the Monday morning does wreak its own awful havoc.

Eventually, though, because if I was a criminal I might have made more effort to look like the person in the passport,  she let me in to the country and we grabbed a cab and set off. Our suitcases were jammed in the boot, on the front seat next to the driver and on our laps (Malaysian cabs are quite small) and we started on the trip into Kuala Lumpur.

There’s a smell to Malaysia… a green and sweet smell that makes you smile. The roadsides are green and bursting with shrubs and palm trees. It rains every day so everything grows rapidly and the rain washes the dust away leaving everything clean and fresh. I suppose the smell is rather like a fresh air version of a tropical hothouse, if you can imagine that.

And then we were in the city. We stayed in the rather wonderful Grand Millenium Hotel while we got our bearings and while I started looking for a place to live.

The Bear went straight to work and I spent my time searching the internet and looking for apartments to rent. I sat in the Executive floor lounge, drinking coffee and looking out over the city and wondering where we would end up next.

Each night the Bear would come back to the hotel and we’d sit outside, 20 floors up, with a drink and a snack, talking about what we’d done each day. I’d tell him about the apartments I’d viewed and he would tell me about his work.

One night there was a surprise for him….


It was his birthday and the lovely staff from the Executive Floor and the managers of the hotel came round the corner, bringing him a cake and singing Happy Birthday. If it wasn’t for the fact he is such a shy and retiring Bear, I’d show you a picture of his surprised and beaming face as everyone joined in with the singing.

We went out that night to celebrate, with friends  on Jalan Alor

This is the famous street of food at night in Kuala Lumpur and a must-visit destination if you are ever here. It used to be the red light district but is now the home of what seems like hundreds of restaurants and hawker stalls, where you eat in the street. You get the most delicious food here – there’s so much to see… and eat.

And the best place of all in the street is this restaurant… better known as the restaurant with yellow tablecloths. I think I’ll tell you more about Jalan Alor another time…


When we finally got back to the hotel we thought (briefly) about finishing the night off by going to the nightclub but realised that we were probably too old; too fat;  too full of delicious food and too casually dressed for that. A club where customers routinely have bodyguards was too smart for us. Besides we were exhausted. … and there were going to be many more long days ahead of us as I tried to find us somewhere to live.

We needed to rent somewhere in KL that we’d be happy with for the three years we are going to be here. I had so many things on my wish list and the person that was going to help us was Roopa. Probably the best letting and relocation agent in KL. She spent days with me, rocketing around the city in her car,  showing me condominium after condominium, searching out the best deal possible. The Bear left on a trip to Arizona and it was just me and Roopa. She drove through crowded streets even on Fridays (the worst day to drive in KL) in her attempt to get us the best place to live and we narrowed the search down to one particular condo.


The apartment we were looking at had a large dry kitchen…. in Malaysia it is common to have both wet and dry kitchens. The dry kitchen is usually attached to the living area and this is where the less messy bits of preparing food go on. This one had an induction hob in the central island, a large two door fridge freezer, an oven, microwave, more cupboards than I would have thought possible and a sink.

So far, so good.

Then, behind the sliding glass door was an enormous wet kitchen, with yet another fridge freezer; a dishwasher; a double sink; even more cupboards…and  a waste disposal unit (probably one of my favourite kitchen gadgets – just think how useful that will be at getting rid of peelings and food scraps when the temperature is always over 80 degrees C)


…. and best of all, a gas hob! It was everything I wanted in a kitchen.

And rounf the corner from the wet kitchen was the laundry area and a huge storage room.

It really was perfect.

I could cook and prepare stuff in the wet kitchen and the smell of frying wouldn’t be all over the rest of the apartment. I would have been prepared to sign up for the apartment there and then but Roopa had more to show me….

The living area was huge with windows on two sides and a balcony running the length of the room

There was a massive dressing room, off the master bedroom…


… and the master bathroom had doors that opened onto its own private balcony.

How could we say no to all of that? The kitchen alone swung it for me. And so, the deal was done.

There was one problem though…… we took the apartment unfurnished which meant that we moved in with what I could buy quickly.


Which was a table and a couple of chairs from IKEA and a bed.

All I had in the way of kitchen stuff was what I brought over – two plates; two bowls; two sets of cutlery and two mugs.  I went out and bought the bare minimum of kitchen ware – a pan, a chopping board and a knife – and we settled down to wait for the container.

But I didn’t mind too much…. I had the kitchen I had always longed for.

We were home.




The big move – Part 1

I know, I know… it’s been so long since I last wrote anything. Still, in all that time we have packed up in the UK and moved half way across the world, found somewhere to live and finally managed to get internet access. We have no belongings yet, other than the things we brought with us in suitcases or what I have had to go out and buy, just so we can manage.

The story, so far, then, or at least the first part of it….. those last few weeks in the UK were a chaotic scramble as I worked up until the last fortnight and the Bear was away for most of the time.  I managed to sell my house in the north and we brought the contents to Nottingham. What that meant, of course, was that I then had double the kitchen equipment and friends were given box loads of the spare stuff. I had to empty the cupboards of all my spices and ingredients, all those delicious things I had collected  on my travels and hadn’t used up and still the kitchen was overflowing with plates, cutlery and equipment.








It all had to be packed away…..










 The pile of boxes stood taller than me and filled the kitchen area








And the living space… and that was just upstairs. Downstairs was just as bad. Boxes everwhere we looked and it wasn’t as if we were taking furniture apart from a bed, a desk and a chair. All of that was just things….








Boxes and boxes of things








 That all had to be packed into the sea container, ready for the long journey from the UK to Malaysia.

Eventually it was all done and we could look  around at our empty apartment.








That was my kitchen – so small and yet so much went on in there. I always called it a Footballer’s Wife of a kitchen – pretty to look at but precious little to recommend it in real life.  It was badly planned, with the small fridge and freezer on either side of the oven and the drawers where you would keep cutlery and Stuff at the very end of the workbench, as far as you could get from where you would need it. 

(Everyone has a Stuff Drawer – it’s where you put bits of string in case you need to tie anything up, or where your Swiss Army penknife goes, just in case you meet a horse with a stone in its shoe and where you put the collection of red rubber bands the postman drops outside the letterbox because he can’t, quite frankly, be bothered to put them in his pocket. Stuff. It collects everywhere and needs a drawer of its own. I bet you all have a Stuff Drawer)

When I look at that kitchen I think of how much more I want from a kitchen. I want the space I’ll be working in to be away from the sink which is jammed in a corner. I can’t count the times The Bear has come over and wanted a cup of tea when I was trying to work .  I want a fridge that I can stand at and look into, rather than having to kneel on the floor and practice advanced packing techniques to get the bare necessities in there. To be fair to the planners though, they probably weren’t thinking of me when they did the apartment, they probably thought the people living in there would go out to eat all the time.

When we moved in, the person we bought the place from had left a huge pile of takeaway menus and the oven had never been used.

I really want gas – that electric hob has been the bane of my life because I love the speed and responsiveness of gas. We always planned to put an induction hob in but we just didn’t get around to it. We had just decided to go and get one in the sales when the Bear  got this new job in Malaysia.

I want more storage space – we did build a larder when we moved in, where there was some wasted space at the top of the stairs, but I want more cupboards to put things away easily.

As Bear says, all I’m saying is “I want… I want”  but I was determined that I  would think of all this when I went looking for a new place. The kitchen is probably the most important place for me and while I can, and have cooked quite successfully in that tiny space, if I can get somewhere better then I should.

The apartment looked empty now – well, empty of boxes, anyway










We were leaving our furniture behind and the plan was we would rent out our place and then rent an apartment in KL. On our first trip out we had looked at some condos and a lot of them were available furnished so we thought that might do us. We didn’t have anywhere sorted but at least we had an idea which part of the city we wanted to live in and the type of place that would suit us. Besides, our container wouldn’t arrive for a good six weeks after we got there so there would be planty of time to sort all of that out.








We stood on the balcony and looked out over the city for the last time, wondering what the view from our window would be in Malaysia.










We headed back to the north to say goodbye to the family

and then we turned round and drove away……





The ever changing view from my window…..

Cooking, for me, is a calming and enjoyable experience. 

The apartment we live in has 28 windows running around three sides of our upper floor, so wherever I stand I can see the city below us. I love to work at a bench, kneading or chopping, grinding or mixing and being able to see all around me. The preparation of food can be a meditative experience as I stand and work and gaze out, soothed by the everchanging view of the unpredictable British weather. 

Because we are so high up and have so many windows, the views are amazing. I love seeing the seasons change and perhaps the most beautiful time is dawn…. 


……..the sun rising through the mist that swirls around the trees below us is one of my favourite sights. 


Sometimes a stormy dawn will fill the sky with vibrant colours contrasted against grey and turbulent skies…. 


… and a bright dawn fills me with happiness 


In the winter the snow reflects the light back, brightening the morning. 


Even on grey and rain filled days the apartment is filled with light. There’s something so cosy about being inside, in the warm, when the rain lashes against the windows. 


And the bliss of being inside when the snow piles up on the sills outside while you are inside, surrounded by warmth and the smell of something wonderful cooking. 

I do love living here. Not one day is the same as another and each day’s view is different.

Soon, though, the change is going to be more dramatic and you will be treated to a new and very different view from my window. 

The Bear and I are off, embarking on an adventure that will mean a total change in the way we live, the things we see and the food we cook and eat. I have to do lots of sorting and packing and sharing out the things we can’t take with us… there’ll be chances for everyone to win DVDs and cookery books. And I do mean everyone. Some things I give away will have to be sent to UK people only, simply because of the postage costs… but a light weight DVD? Well I am sure I could afford to post that almost anywhere. 

In six months time or so, we will be living on the other side of the world as the Bear will be working for three years in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. And I will be going with him. 


The Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur 

Imagine the difference in the views…..imagine the difference in the ingredients and the cooking…imagine the fun we will all have.  

The Bear has been to Kuala Lumpur many times and took the following pictures they  will give you an idea of the vibrancy, the colour and the busy bustling city…. 


Traffic in Kuala Lumpur 


Beautifully illuminated fountains in Kuala Lumpur 


The KL Monorail 


The skyscrapers really do seem to scrape at the sky

… and it’s not all traffic and building… there are palm trees and beautiful fountains everywhere.

Things change all the time and I know this is going to be a big change but that’s  good.

Change is exciting and I hope you’ll enjoy the changing views and changing food and recipes with us.

Honey and Muscat Wine Jelly and Salt Water Crackers, for blue cheese.

One of the many great things about being married to the Bear is that we can sometimes manage to travel to lovely places together. If he is going to a conference and has air miles that would pay for my ticket, it’s the perfect opportunity for me to go too and then we extend our stay so that we can explore and have a little holiday.

Our last trip was to Argentina  (OK, so he was flying Business Class and I was in the cheap seats at the back but I did get to make new friend, Maria and we have stayed in contact ever since) but at the end of the conference we set off and explored the north of the country..

We saw the amazing Iguazu Falls that act, in part, as the border with Brasil

They stretched for miles and miles… so many falls, so much water….

….and we even walked out, on a perilous walkway, getting drenched as we looked up at one section of the falls above us. I have to say that this will stay with me  as one of the most memorable and astounding sights of my life.

We travelled up the Andes on a train, the Tren a las Nubes , so high that I got altitude sickness

and was given coca leaves to roll into a ball and put in my cheek to absorb the coca….the train hostesses hand them out and spend their journey with their own rolls of coca leaves tucked into their cheeks. The effects of the coca minimise the worst of the symptoms of altitude sickness and here, everyone chews and sucks the leaves.

The train company also makes coca tea  to help, but in the end, I had to have some oxygen. I suppose it was a big change for someone brought up at sea level.

But the view? That was worth it. I sat quietly and gazed at the mountains falling away below us.

We hired a car at the top and drove down through the mountains, gazing at the beauty of the red earth desert

and headed to Tucuman, where the parents of our friend, Natalio,  lived…

All of that had been organised by his wonderful mother, Perla, and it allowed us to see the real Argentina. We wouldn’t have known about the Falls or the train journey, nor the wonderful villages we passed through on our days of driving. When we got to Tucuman and met Perla and Leonardo, we were shown the most incredible and generous hospitality. We were treated to barbecues and evenings of drinks and empanadas  (something I am certainly going to make in the future) and had the most fantastic time. I really think our time there was one of the best holidays we’ve ever had.

There’s no way we could have managed to see so much without Perla organising everything and we swore that when she came to England we would try and repay her, just a little bit, for the outstanding efforts she made for us.

On the flight home, I passed the time thinking about what I could possibly cook… I wanted to make her a special meal. I had it all sorted in my head by the time we landed. All I had to do then was wait for her to say she was coming to the UK.

And then the call came! Perla and her sister were coming over and I had bagged the Saturday night to cook for them.

I planned to end the meal with cheese and crackers and I had seen in the Australian Gourmet Traveller Annual Cookbook of 2008 a really interesting way of doing it….This is probably my favourite food magazine ever and luckily my sister, who lives in Sydney, sends it to me every year. When I read this issue I was stuck, with the Bear, in Melbourne airport, waiting for a delayed flight to Tasmania. In the nine hour delay, I read every word and then imagined cooking most of the recipes. This one, however, stood out.

Honey and Muscat Wine Jelly to serve with blue cheese and Salted Water Crackers… and I would be making the honey jelly and the crackers. It was to be served with a blue cheese…..  That would be something special to end the meal with, I knew it….. A soft and sweetly quivering jelly made from honey to spoon onto crisp water crackers, scattered with sea salt, to eat with blue cheeses.

The first thing to do was to make the honey jelly….

And the first part of making the jelly was to soften the gelatine leaves. You’ll find packets of these in the baking aisle of the supermarket – I use the Super Cook Platinum Grade – and three of these clear, hard sheets need to be soaked in a bowl of cold water.

While they are softening, mix 250 gm of clear, runny honey….

…. with 100 ml of a sweet dessert wine (you can serve the rest with the cheese course)  and 60ml of water.

Heat it over a medium heat, stirring gently until it simmers.

By now the gelatine leaves are soft and you can lift them out of the bowl and squeeze the excess water out of them before adding them to the gently simmering honey and wine mix.

The gelatine dissolves almost instantly, so stir it round and get your prettiest jelly dishes ready

Choose the prettiest things you have because they are going to go onto the table…

All you have to do now is strain the jelly mix into the bowls…

… and then put them to set in the fridge for at least three or four hours.

The easiest thing to do is to make this the day before so you are quite certain everything has set to a soft and quivering jelly. But how easy is it? Maybe twenty minutes work? If that?

Now, of course, you must make the crackers…

I decided to use the finest flour I have, my ’00’ pasta flour, but it doesn’t matter if you haven’t got that. Any plain flour will do.

Add two thirds of a spoon of baking powder to 200g of the flour and a teaspoon of sea salt  and stir round to get an even mix.

Mix 30 ml of vegetable oil (remember those cough medicine measuring cups? They are ideal for small quantities like this)  with 120ml of warm water and add it to the flour mix, to make a dough.

Knead it lightly until it is smooth

And then cut the dough into 16 evenly sized pieces.

Then, you take each piece and roll it flat …….the Australian Gourmet Traveller suggested until it is a 2mm thick oval, but that wasn’t working. Oval? That required more rolling skill than I had and anyway, I liked the look of the oddly shaped crackers that were emerging. There’s no way they could be mistaken for anything manufactured by professionals ………..

The oven needs to be pre heated to 200 °C or 400 °F and while that gets to temperature, whisk up an egg white and then brush those rolled out pieces of dough.

They look artisinal, don’t they? Let’s not mention the fact I couldn’t roll out the dough neatly…..

Prick them all over with a fork

Then scatter them all over with sea salt, before putting them in the oven for ten to fifteen minutes until they are golden and crisp.

You’ll have to do them in batches but it’s not a big deal… they cook so quickly you can have one batch cooling while another cooks. Once they are cool, store them in an airtight plastic box, where they will be perfectly all right for up to a week.

See? Another thing done in less than an hour. Pretty good for what will be a marvellous course….

And then it was Saturday, time  for dinner with Perla… and Sylvia her sister, Nat and Lenka , Jaume and us….

We ate and we drank, we laughed and we toasted each other for getting here, for being friends, for getting engaged, for getting promoted, for having a Saturday night together and anything else we could think of until finally it was time for the cheese course.

The jelly was soft and quivering and the smell of the honey and muscat wine was sweet and aromatic

I’d got a selection of blue cheeses and piled them on a cheese plate with grapes

There was Roquefort and some amazing British ewe’s milk and buffalo milk cheeses

The crackers were crisp and golden…

And with a morsel of cheese, a spoonful of jelly piled onto a piece of the cracker… it really was the perfect mouthful.

The combination of sweet and salty flavours, the softness of the jelly and cheese and the crisp snap of the cracker were wonderful.

And you know what? I was happy… I had done what I could to welcome Perla to our home as she had welcomed us to hers.

And you know something else? This was easy. Try making it yourself. Your guests will be pleased and you will feel proud. It can be made the day before (always a plus point in my book)

It’s simple and delicious. And a perfect ending to a lovely evening.

….and there was ginger beer, lashings and lashings of ginger beer!

It sounds like an Enid Blyton novel, doesn’t it?

Well that’s what it could have been… the Famous Five go wild in 

Sherwood Forest.

And that’s why there has been no real cooking…..

What happened is that  5 friends decided to hire a villa in

 Center Parcs in Sherwood Forest for a girls weekend.

The villa was fabulous with a flat screen television, a real fireplace,

comfy seating for all of us and free internet access.

The living room windows opened out onto that fantastic view.

And at the edge there was a lovely river.

There were ducks and swans and moorhens

Some of them came to stare through our windows in

the hope of getting something to eat…..

Swans appeared and pecked at the windows as we walked past

And those of you who are friends with Omnivorous Bear on Facebook

will recognise one of the victims being pecked!

It was like a Disney movie with all the animals coming up

to the window to ask for food.

There was even a strange dark grey swan.

The Subtropical Swimming Paradise was just that….. with rock pools and spa pools.

We lazed and chatted in the bubbles, we swam outside in the heated pools in

the moonlight…

 …and careered down water rapids, face first.

 And because it was Sherwood Forest, home of Robin Hood ,

we took archery lessons.

Walking through the woods, we  found  toadstools – the Amanita muscaria 

– the sort of toadstools you might expect to see with gnomes…..

Or even small bears…

We hired bicycles and cycled through the woods….


and got something to eat from the pub…..

And raised glasses to ourselves as we made toasts to what was turning out to be

 a brilliant weekend.

And that’s where the ginger beer entered the equation…

Crabbies Alcoholic Ginger Beer to be precise.

Oh it was delicious…and oh, how it made us laugh!

That would be the 4% alcohol, I bet.

And I’m assuming that none of the real Famous Five had THAT kind of kick

from their ginger beer!

And that is why there was no real cooking….

we were too busy laughing and eating and drinking!

Cheers girls! It was a fabulous weekend and you were all fabulous company.

                                                                                                                             Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Argentina: a taster of things to come

Well, we’re still here in Argentina. What a fascinating country this is in terms of culture, stunning natural scenery and (best of all) food. I’ve made it my mission to taste everything, try everything offered, no matter how strange it may seem to me… and I have enjoyed every bite.

What can you say about a country that has a massive selection of cakes for breakfast? Everywhere we go the pastry selection ha been incredible. I must have photographed hundreds of cakes, pastries, tarts  and brownies. I may well have sampled a few along the way.

I have walked for miles (so that justified the pumpkin pie for breakfast) and explored the strangest (to my eyes, anyway) parts of Buenos Aires


found Evita’s  tomb, Argentina’s most famous icon, in a far corner of La Recoleta cemetery and wherever you go you hear “Don’t cry for me Argentina” playing

The cemetery is the size of a small town  and is filled with the most beautiful tombs and mausoleums. Can you imagine the love and devotion that went into celebrating the life that came before the death with such beautiful statues?

It’s not just spiritual, you know. They also celebrate the life of the animal that was killed so you could be fed by eating every part of it… intestines and sweetbreads are featured on most menus as starters.

From Buenos Aires in the east, we travelled to the north west, to Iguazu – stunning waterfalls, bigger than Niagara

Then we flew further south to Salta so we could catch the Tren a las Nubes (the train to the clouds) up the Andes

And even then on the train there were food adventures – it climbs so high up the train company serve you coca tea and coca leaves to help stop altitude sickness. It didn’t help me,much, though… I ended up being given oxygen because I was so ill.

I have so much to tell you all, but, as you can see, I have been busy. When we have reached a hotel at night there just hasn’t been time to write up everything…. but there has been time to quickly load pictures onto Facebook.

If you want to see more, add the Omnivorous Bear on Facebook  and follow by pictures until I have time to do more!

And now? I’m off to breakfast then visiting a vineyard and checking out various cheeses!


You know how some days can go wrong…. and keep on going wrong ? It´s as if the tone of the day has been set.

Well, that didn´t happen to us.

I went in to work, did what I had to, came home and started cleaning and packing… everything was done quickly and my small suitcase shut easily.

I knew things were going to be good when we got to the M1

That is the M1 on a Friday afternoon.

Anyone of you who has driven on the M1 at any time knows that it´s not normally like that. And as for a Friday afternoon? Unheard of.

It´s normally nose to tail traffic and there we were, swooping down to Heathrow. The sun was beating down and the air con kept us beautifully cooled… the radio was on and I sang along happily. OK, so the Bear wasn´t that enamoured of AC/DC but I liked it and that´s what counts, eh?

That is a good omen for our trip.

As was the fact that the hotel, despite its rather faded glamour, had a restaurant with open doors to a decked area and our chilled rose was perfect.

We flew first to Frankfurt and from there to Buenos Aires.

Now the way we were flying involved me taking the Bear´s airmiles to pay for my ticket. He travels so much there was enough there for me to fly out… and what was even better was the fact that there were no economy seats left for airmiles passengers. Just business class.

(See what I mean about things falling into place?)

The fact that his ticket, booked for him for his conference , was economy… well……

Imagine the luxury, I thought, the space… the comfort … the good food served on china plates… the fine wines….

And this is what I ate.

Before you think that Lufthansa business class isn´t worth it, I´d better explain.

The poor Bear was working so hard that it seemed really rotten to cramp him in the back of the plane for well over 13 hours so I gave him my seat. Off he went to the front of the plane and luxury and off I trotted to the back of the plane and the delights of some truly bizarre spaghetti and a luridly coloured jelly topped cake.

Lufthansa had somehow managed to swap the window economy seat that was checked in for us at 4.50am into a middle seat between two large men. That could have been a disaster until I had a word with the airhostess and got myself moved to a lovely window seat with a spare seat between me and Maria – my new friend! We talked for ages about travel and blogging. One of the great things about travelling is you never know who you will meet or what friends you can make.

See? Everything turning out well.

We soared over Europe and down across Africa and over the flat calm of the Atlantic

See how the clouds are reflected onto the sea? Perfect.

I wish I could say the same for the food, though.

That was turkey with mashed potatoes and carrots. Apparently.

The potato appears to have been squirted from some high pressure nozzle and had the strangest taste and texture. Still, it was better than the spaghetti.

That wasn´t  going to keep me fed for the full thirteen hours so when the Bear came back to see me (having had food served on china plates, delicous and dainty starters, main courses, puddings and cheeses) I sent him to get me something

Corny Big.

Not the world´s most appetising snack

Seeds (and I presume corn) covered on the bottom with a thin layer of not very good chocolate with that odd white bloom on it that suggests it has got too hot somewhere along the journey and an overwhelming smell of oranges.

There will be fans of this somewhere, I suppose but it certainly didn´t make me start searching the internet to find suppliers when I got back to the UK.

Maybe they would need to tweak it for the British market.

Like, change the name, the chocolate and the taste of it.

The other thing he brought back for me was

Exquisa snack.…. a European cheesecake. Or that´s what it said on the packet. It also said “mmmmmh”

Maybe I don´t have a European palate?

I ate it though.

Thank God the Bear trotted back from business class bringing me the truffles he had been served with his coffee. I would have taken a picture of them but I was too busy stuffing them in my mouth. Now THAT was chocolate.

I read books on my Sony eReader (surely the greatest development ever for a voracious reader with limited baggage capacity.. I read three books on that flight and I have another 22 in there ready to be read) and looked out of the window

I watched the sun set as we flew over Brazil.

We flew on.

And eventually, there was Buenos Aires beneath us.

We were here. Argentina, at last.

Don´t cry for me, will you?

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….. The Bear and I set off tonight for Argentina!

I won’t be cooking but I will be eating.

I shall tell you all about the delicious things we find on our travels from Buenos Aires, to the Iguazu Falls, to Salta, to Tucuman.  

We shall travel on Tren a las Nubes  – the Train to the Clouds – and explore valleys and mountains….

And now?

 Well, I really should start packing!

The Beautiful North – Part Two

 One of the lovely things about staying in hotels is that you feel entirely justified in eating what’s generally known as a full English breakfast. At one time (as a direct reflection of the harshness and rationing of the war years) English cooking was pretty dire and the best that anyone would say about it was that we made excellent breakfasts. Actually, given time to enjoy it, I think English breakfasts are probably still one of the best things about English cooking.

Starting with porridge and moving on to bacon and eggs, followed by toast and tea or coffee, there really isn’t a better way to start the day. Working means you rarely have time to have a “proper” breakfast (though what on earth could be classed as improper about muesli or an egg, I don’t know) so weekends and holidays are the only time we really have to enjoy them.

Because we had been to Craster the day before and smelled the delicious whiff of kippers smoking in the smokehouse, the Bear decided to have a grilled kipper.

That quite surprised me because he really isn’t truly Omnivorous yet and besides being convinced that beans and celery and other “stringy” vegetables are out to strangle him, he’s also very much against eating any fish with bones….

And bones are something a kipper has a lot of. Still, that’s the Bear. Full of surprises.

I think the Bear was quite surprised as well but he masked his horror and dug in and even enjoyed it.

I suppose a kipper is something everyone ought to try at least once and the Bear has now tried it. He might even have them again.

Next stop on our jaunt was the Alnwick Garden, in the grounds of Alnwick Castle, which some of you might recognise from the Harry Potter films.

The Alnwick Garden is possibly the most spectacular contemporary garden in the UK today and features one of Europe’s largest treehouses,

which is a fantastic restaurant… if you want to eat there, though, you have to book well in advance as it is so popular

And the grounds are packed with beautiful water features

and elegant gardens….

Bamboo labyrinths and rose gardens… water sculptures

and this …The Poison Garden. Walled off and separate – all the plants inside are poisonous and you are escorted around by a guide.

.. the detail on the gates is incredible

and what’s really marvellous, is that they were made by a genius artist, Ridley Amos, who happens to be the father of one of the Bear’s friends! The detail is incredible, with each leaf perfectly made and distinct from each other leaf.

If you are in Northumberland then you should try to visit Alnwick. You really cannot fail to be impressed.

We set off next, crossing the causeway  to visit the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, where St Aidan set up his monastery in 635 AD


and walked out to the Castle,

which is stunning in its stark beauty.

The Bear loved it.

We crossed back to the mainland as the sun set.

We had walked at least  7 miles that day – not a lot, I know, but the fresh sea air and the biting winds made us ravenous and we ate, that night, in Bamburgh, the freshest fish you could imagine

and the Bear confessed that before he met me he used to like eating mushy peas (that’s some, in the picture) on top of crumpets! I have no idea how he came up with that concoction and no real desire to explore the reason why. All I can say is that no other chef has come up with that as a recipe to be proud of  and as for the Bear, well, he doesn’t do it anymore.

I told you he could be surprising at times… and then he surprised me some more, by teaching me to play Table Football with three coins and our fingers as goalposts. You have to keep flicking the coin between two other coins all the way across the table to get to the goal. Why this hasn’t caught in in restaurants across the world, I really don’t know. I suppose it may have something to do with the fact that we were laughing a lot. Wine may have helped, I agree.

And then it was time for bed… the last night of our weekend away.

Back to home and me to start a new job… and start cooking again.

The Beautiful North – Part One

As some of you know, I was born and brought up in the far north of England. I’m only living in the Midlands now because I married the Bear…… I try and get back there at every opportunity. That’s where my family and and also where some of the most stunning places in the UK are. The Bear, being a Cockney, from the south of the country, doesn’t  know much about the North and hasn’t really travelled around there. I kept saying I had to show him how beautiful and wild the countryside is and how stunning the coastline.

As you might also know, it was my birthday recently and we decided to make the most of it, so both of us had time off to celebrate and to head north… which kind of explains my absence from the kitchen and the blog. This then, isn’t about cooking… just eating and travelling. Travelling to somewhere that most people know nothing about and have never visited.

Maybe it will inspire you to visit Northumberland.

Before we started out on our trip north we had a meal at Iberico World Tapas – one of my favourite ways of eating…. what greedy person wouldn’t love tapas? Instead of having just one delicious thing to eat we chose lots of delicious things – cheeses and hams; salted squid and stuffed courgette flowers; patatas bravas and beef…… and belly pork…so many wonderful tastes, textures and flavours. The menu is on the website if you want to look…..

The next day we started driving north.

To those that don’t know, the industrial towns of the north can look dark and grim and people assume that is all there is, but once you get past Newcastle and take the coast roads heading further north you get to some of the wildest and most spectacular coastline anywhere. All I ask is that you look at the pictures and follow the links for more information. I am so proud of the north and its wild beauty and I hope that some of you will make your way there at some point.

On our way North we stopped, first of all at Alnwick (pronounced Annick, for those of you not brought up in the North) because there is the most wonderful secondhand bookshop there called Barter Books and one of the things I wanted to do was to see if they had any old cookbooks to add to my collection. What you can do is bring your old books (if they are good quality) and barter them for credit or other books…. It is the most fascinating place – in the old railway station at Alnwick – with a model railway running round the top of the bookshelves in one part of it. It is the perfect secondhand bookshop, with tables and comfy chairs amongst the stacks. Imagine the bliss….. look at their website and you will get a far better idea than I can give you.

And look what I found  in the cookery book section…

… an old cookbook, printed just after 1963, “The First Ladies Cookbook – Favourite Recipes of all the Presidents of the United States”

It starts with George Washington and goes right through to Lyndon B Johnson who was President of the USA at that time.

All those Presidents…. all those recipes!

I had to buy it. Well, when I say buy… I had arrived with two bags of books I didn’t want and handed them in – Barter Books assesses whether they want them and if they do, how much they want to pay for them and that amount is put into your account… so you can spend it on books in the bookshop. So, not exactly bought, but bartered.

At first, I thought I would play Cookery Lotto , thinking that would really broaden our cooking experience, but as I started leafing through it I realised that this may mean I was being forced into making something like this

Calvin Coolidge’s favourite… Pineapple Salad, which involved covering a fresh pineapple with cream cheese, glace cherries and strawberries…..

I have to say, that just isn’t going to work for me.

(But you see that tea pot? My mother has one like that… it has a little burner underneath to keep the water hot!  Isn’t it gorgeous?)

Anyway, the more I looked, the more danger I was in of having to cook something that really wouldn’t be to our taste at all, so Cookery Lotto was out.

There were recipes I was interested in… how about this…

Tomato Pudding.  Adored by Dwight D. Eisenhower.

If you can’t quite see the recipe, here it is

1  10-ounce can of tomato puree, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1 cup of white bread, cut into 1 inch cubes, 1/4 cup boiling water, 1/4 cup of melted butter and 6 tablespoons of light brown sugar.

Add sugar and salt to the tomato puree and water and boil for 5 minutes. Place bread cubes in a casserole. Pour melted butter over them Add the tomato mixture. bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 375 degrees F (that’s about 190 decrees C for us in the UK) Serve with quail or roasted meats.

Not written to be the world’s most tempting recipe, but, you know, I can see that Dwight may have been onto something.

I bet that bread goes deliciously soft and develops a lovely crustiness to the top… the tomato would make it savoury…..and to serve it with meat?

Well, I am going to give it a whirl.

I may have to tweak it a bit, perhaps using chopped plum tomatoes to lighten the texture and decreasing the amount of sugar… but there’s something about it that appeals. What do you think?

And then I looked at Herbert Hoover…

Well that’s not Herbert Hoover, obviously. That is a picture of his Maryland Caramel Tomatoes.

8 ripe tomatoes of equal size, white pepper, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar 1/4 cup of butter


Skin the tomatoes. Carefully cut off the tops. Place them in a buttered baking dish, suitable to serve them in. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and brown sugar. Dab each of them with butter.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C in the UK) and bake for half an hour. Then, remove to the top of the stove and over a low flame, reduce the juice until it is a thick syrup. The, once again, balke them in a hot oven (400 degrees F/200 degrees C) for half an hour. Serve hot.

Again, it might need a tweak or two… AND a baking dish that can go in an oven and on top of it…. but perhaps to serve alongside pork?

So. Pretty much of a result. A fascinating book and potentially a few great ideas in there. I was feeling very happy with myself and really, we hadn’t even started our little holiday.

We left Alnwick and carried on heading north… driving out to the coast, first of all to  Craster, a tiny village famous for its kippers, with a tiny harbour

and walked from there, along the coastline to the ruined castle of Dunstanburgh

before driving further north to Bamburgh where we were staying for the next two nights. Bamburgh is a beautiful village, once the capital of Northumbria, with yet another huge castle, high above the village.

Click on the links and see just how lovely the Northumbrian coast is.

That night, sitting in a tiny restaurant, we toasted each other and congratulated ourselves on choosing the far north as my birthday trip.

And there were even more lovely things to do the next day!