Sunday, April 20, 2008


Notten Kaas documented my Dutch adventures; now that we are across the ditch, a new chapter requires a new blog. Walking Through Leicester Square. My dear sister Kath will love to know that the name reminds me of one of my favourite Red Hot Chili Pepper songs, Emit Remmus*:

I'll take you to the movies there
We could walk through Leicester Square

Hope to see you there.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It's All Good

Apologies for the lack of updates; everything is great, I just haven't felt like writing lately. Or taking photos. I'll get my blogging mojo back soon.

Loving London. Lots to do. The high street is disappointing. But Primark jeans are only £8. I still don't know how to put the pound sign in. We move to Hammersmith in 1.5 weeks. Pub food is cheap and delicious. The sun is out.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

London Is Definitely Calling

Firstly, the ferry from Holland was almost like being on the Fairstar, great services, decent food, even wifi...who would think of you could access internet (ie watch The Hills) on the high seas? Arrive, dragging our luggage to the hotel, near the British Museum. A small but lovely room with kitchen. Perfect.

We had the most wonderful first day in London. So warm, blue sunny skies, time to dust off those tshirts. First meal: Pret. Because I love Pret so much and it is still a novelty. We attended a 1st Contact meeting which I thought would be cheesy but was surprisingly good and allowed us to easily set up a bank account which is apparently not that easy for newcomers. Did a few more setting up things - new phone number, registering for the NIN (tax file number). We pottered around Goodge St, near where we are staying - Lola, spotted Ping Pong dim sum - hello, dim sum and cocktails? Is that not the most bestest thing ever? Also browsing through a vintage store, found a stunning pair of brand new Celine heels, in a blue velvet that changes from peacock to navy in the light, 4 inches. I slipped into them like a pair of slippers. Months of wearing flats and boots have worn my feet out, my arches are aching for heels. 65 pounds. Isn't that ridiculous. Brand new. Where is the pound symbol? Oh, there is it. £. Am I really going to have to start saying trousers instead of pants? Oh, pants. I think that might be the name of the new blog.

We had our first sushi in 4 months, delicious, and Susan, like you I went a bit weak at the knees at M&S Food, it really was like a wonderland. Just wait till I get to Whole Foods and revisit the markets.

Yesterday, we spent the day house hunting and hopefully have found our own place. More if/when it happens. In the evening, we went down to Greenwich and had fish and chips at the pub. The days are long, the weather is *touch wood* so delightful and we can't stop smiling.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

And They're Off

Thank goodness, I got my visa today! Hassle-free, for a change. Yippee!

We spent our last day walking around Amsterdam in the rain, stopping for lunch at the Esprit Cafe in Spui (which would never work in Sydney but is quite chic and bustling here and serves very nice sandwiches). More packing, and now we are just about ready.

Tomorrow, we take the ferry to London (excess luggage and all), and will spend the first two weeks in an apartment studio near the British Museum. There will be lots of running around, organising everything and job and flat hunting, but I will try and update as much as I can.

Like Gainsbourg et son Gainsborough, je pris le ferry boat, pour rejoindre La Tamise et Chelsea...

I am really looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to jumping right into London life, grabbing this opportunity with both hands.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Long, Last Days

Daylight savings heralds long, light-filled days. We have a lot to pack in - packing and the subsequent worrying about how to fit in so much into two little bags, organising, researching our new city, a quick haircut at an African Latino hairdresser (fantastic), sending a few small things home, enjoying some last Dutch dishes, buying a book for the ferry (Delizia! The epic history of Italians and their food - I have been looking forward to reading this for a long time), realising we will never have to see our idiot flatmate again.
This wonderful anecdote from today will remind me of Dutchland for time to come.

We go into a shop that is filled with health products and drugs and medicines behind the counter and a woman in a white coat to buy ventilin and contact lens solution.
Dani: Hi, do you sell ventilin?
Lady chemist: What's that?
Dani: The puffer for asthma?
Lady chemist: No.
Dani: Do you know where I can buy one?
Lady chemist: You have to go to a pharmacy.
Dani and I, speechless. Lady chemist stares blankly at us.
Dani: Um, what is this?
Lady chemist: This is a drugstore.
Dani: What's the difference?
Lady chemist: A drugstore sells drugs. A chemist does not.
Dani and I, seeing the boxes of prescription drugs behind the counter and her white coat, decide it is best to leave.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

White Asparagus Soup With Coriander Pesto

White asparagus is hitting the markets now and I knew I had to make something of the fat white stumps before we left. I wanted to make a soup with it, and since it has a milder flavour than it's green counterpart I thought a dollop of pesto would give it a nice contrast.

It couldn't be simpler: for two, saute a small, diced onion until translucent and add one bunch of white asparagus (about 500g) chopped into inch pieces, along with one quartered potato. Add enough hot chicken stock to cover, about 3 cups, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Blend with a stick blender until super smooth, and serve with a dollop of pesto; in this case I made a coriander pesto.

The result is creamy without any cream, a delicious seasonal soup.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Great Food + Great Company = Great Afternoon

We caught up with Susan one last time (here, that is) and spent a lovely few hours pottering around Haarlem in the sunshine (ie it was cold and windy, but there was sunshine). Lunch at Loca proved to be a big success, each of us swooning over our gorgeous sandwiches. The chef used to have his own cooking show and it is quite the cool restaurant.

On our way to gelato, we saw the Grote Kerk had a Slow Food show so of course we had to check it out. The church itself is absolutely beautiful and the stands had some delicious local foods to try and buy, which we did, including maple butter and plump cranberries. Filled up on samples, we still managed two scoops of the fantastic gelato next door, including the very popular marscapone cinnamon. A walk around the markets, and then a rose beer, aka the most delicious summer drink, before saying our goodbyes. Hope to see you soon my foodie twin!

The girls, with gelato

My sandwich, naan with smoked salmon and rocket, with pickled cucumbers and roast tomatoes

Summer carrots from the Slow Food show

The Grote Kerk with it's stunning organ

Rose beer = delicious

Thai Stuffed Omelette

Another recipe to test from The Asian Grandmother's Cookbook, this time a Thai stuffed omelette. Like the aloo parathas I made a few weeks ago, this dish isn't something I would usually make but turned out to be an instant favourite, something I know I'll make again. It's so quick and easy to whip up, a perfect mid-week dinner, and surprisingly so delicious with so few ingredients.

Thai Stuffed Omelette, serves 2
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon fish sauce
Dash of white pepper
125g pork mince (I used half beef-half pork and it was fine)
1 firm tomato, finely diced
4 long green beans, finely chopped
1 large shallot or small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
Coriander for garnish

In a small bowl, beat eggs with 1/4 teaspoon fish sauce and a dash of white pepper. Set aside.
Preheat a frypan over medium-high heat. Stir in pork and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until no longer pink. Reduce heat to medium and add vegetables, followed by remaining seasonings. Stir-fry until green beans are cooked and the mixture thickens a little, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm while you make the omelettes.To make the omelets, wipe the frypan clean with a paper towel and heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium heat. Swirl in half the egg mixture to coat the base of the frypan in a thin, even layer. Cook for about 1 minute until omelette is almost cooked but not quite dry on the surface.
Spoon half the filling into the centre of the omelette. Fold 2 opposite sides toward the middle and then fold in the remaining 2 sides to form a neat square parcel. Press down with a spatula to seal. Flip onto a serving plate, folded-side down. Repeat with remaining egg and filling.
Garnish with coriander and serve.

Note: The recipe calls for one omelette per person, to be served cut in half over rice. I doubled the recipe and served two omelettes each without rice for dinner.

Folded side down...

...and folded side up. Equally delicious


Bloemendaal is 'the' beach here with a 'reputation' for fun summertimes but since we won't be around then we paid a visit in the cold. The flat beach stretches for miles and is dog-walking heaven. The good thing is you can eat fish and chips at the beach when it's cold without worrying about a bulge in the bikini.

Not just any fish mind you, but kibbeling, or Dutch fried fish, which we'd seen everywhere at the herring stands but didn't think much of it. Especially as it's pre-fried and I imagined oily and soggy. But at Bloemendaal, we had to try it. Oh. My. Gawd. Big chunks of succulent cod - fried first to cook the fish, then a second frying when ordered to crisp up the thin batter. Served with garlic sauce and paprika salt, it was the perfect fish without chips.

Friday, March 28, 2008

From Frites To Chips

Dani got her visa yesterday! She almost didn't get it, as her bank statement said 'Danielle' and not her full name and that wasn't enough proof. But a flimsy piece of paper from the bank in the back of her wallet did the job. The happiness combined with the knots of anxiety in my stomach left me feeling nauseous but we celebrated with a beer and it felt great - we are off to London!

My interview is on Tuesday and we booked the ferry for Wednesday. We spent the afternoon booking a short term studio for the first two weeks while we house hunt - ouch - but this is it. We gave it our very best here, and we're going to give it our very best across the ditch. London, here we come.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Antwerp is only two hours away by train so on Wednesday we excitedly set off for a day trip. It took us four hours to get there after a fire at a station en route, but when we arrived we were thrilled with how pretty everything was. Wide boulevards, intricate grand buildings, a stillness in the air (less bikes/trams/buses).

I had four food goals:
1) Moules-frites
2) Belgian chocolate
3) An assortment of beers
4) A waffle

So after passing through the Meir, the main shopping drag, we went seeking what I thought would be a dime a dozen: a quaint dark bistrot where we could wile away the hours over a steaming pot of mussels to dunk our frites into, while sampling a selection of local brew. We walked down to the port, through the fashion district, past the touristy menus, but couldn't find a thing. Disheartened, we settled in to groovy-looking Cafe Berlin and had a really lovely lunch: Dani a superb cheeseburger and I toasted brioche with sauteed wild mushrooms and herb aoili. Around the corner was Gucci and Cartier and a taste of the Marais with Gerard Darel and Comptoir des Cotonniers, and our chocolate shops. Chocolaterie Sweertvaegher had some creamy pralines and ganaches, and at Marcolini, an elegant boutique that could just as easily have sold diamonds, perfect squares of flavoured chocolate, in our case, gingerbread spices, caramel biscuit and Earl Grey tea.

The area was charming for a stroll, and after a waffle I stupidly tried on a few things at American Apparel. Nothing should be tried on there after a waffle. Or before a waffle, since their sizing went all nonsense. The scent of waffles fills the air in Antwerp, and they cleverly station the waffle joints near women's clothes stores. Who wants to waste their time shopping when there are fresh waffles sizzling on the grill? My waffle was glorious, hot and slightly caramelised on the edges, soft and chewy inside. It was freezing, so we huddled in a pub and tried a few yummy beers before a long train ride home.

A beautiful city that's better suited for a summer's day, when the numerous open spaces would be filled with bustling terraces, maybe even with pots of mussels.

+ Click here teo see more photos from my Antwerp flickr set

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A White Easter

Finally, we've seen some proper snow. This weekend has been all about the white stuff - Saturday it showered tiny white hail like the gods were emptying beanbags on us, and today, proper fluffy snowflakes all day, a veritable snow fest. So what if I was catching them and eating them?

Saturday, we went down to Albert Cuyp and had lunch at Bazar, a Turkish restaurant that just blew me away. In an old church amidst the markets, the high dome ceilings house a two-storey all-day restaurant with colourful tiles, eclectic chandeliers, sparkling lights. We ordered the two person lunch and feasted on crunchy falafel, meaty mergeuz, crispy filo cigars filled with feta and spinach, smooth dolmades and a variety of flavourful dips. I couldn't resist dessert, a small plate of incredible Turkish delight, baklava, dates and pashmak, the Turkish fairy floss which tastes like halvah and is very addictive. With coffees and beers, incredible (especially in Amsterdam) for under 30E.

Immune to the rain, we had a walk around the markets then caught the tram over to Waterlooplein so we could peruse the flea markets together. Some interesting vintage clothes but the prices left me irritated. 45E for a simple summer dress, 20E for a peasant skirt that I wanted to turn into a dress - although Dani nabbed a bargain with a lovely pair of knee high boots for 25E.

Today we went back into Amsterdam through the soft snow to see Juno. Underwhelmed, it was ok but I found these teens and their punchy-one-liners-around-the-screenwriter's-wetdream-of-a-soundtrack too two-dimensional. What was lovely was cosying up in the small cinema at The Movies, comfy chairs and a delicious hot chocolate with whipped cream.

On the way back to the train, we stopped by Kaasland (ie 'cheese land' - the best land there is) and picked up a baguette and a calvados camembert and a peppered fromage blanc for dinner. Salads are for weekdays. There are few things better than French bread with good cheese.

Thanks to Dani getting Dexter copied onto my laptop, we had marathon sessions watching the second season (don't worry Kath, I won't say anything - but ohmigod you have to watch it!). Thank goodness The Hills starts this week. Oh yea.

Oh, hello there

These smiles mask how hungry we are


Hot plate - filo cigars, crispy rolls, falafel, merguez, squid

Cold plate - dolmades, dips and olives

Is that a puppy, a beard or the most delicious dessert?