Well its the end of January and I've been busy booking flights. This year is going to be all about the travel.......
Last year I managed to get to Norway, Hong Kong, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, USA and several times to London, so not a bad year travel wise at all... 2015 promises to be just as exciting.
It has already got off to a great start... because it started in London, which I think is a fabulous way to spend Christmas and New Year. I love London over Christmas, from the lights on Oxford Street to the cheery nature of the cabbies. It starts early December with the office Christmas parties and continues until early Jan when people return to work. We stayed for the whole festive season and had a fabulous time. Meeting friends and eating at some great restaurants. We had some great weather, a little chilly but blue skies and sunshine. It made for some great walks around the city and along the river.
My husband has to work in NYC several times during 2015 and has a trip in February for two weeks so I'm going to join him. It will probably be miserable weather but there will be the new collections in the shops and there are ALWAYS new things to do and exhibitions to see. Why would I even think of staying home alone when I can book middle of the day flights (read cheaper) and there is already a very nice hotel room booked.
Right on the back of that trip we are going to Australia and New Zealand in March with a 3 day stopover in Singapore on the way home. Again, Hubby has to work but I'm quite an independent traveller and I never pass up the opportunity to visit somewhere new. I've never been to New Zealand and its been on my radar for quite a while. So its an opportunity that can't be missed. I'm so excited I'm waiting for my guide book to download to my kindle as I type. I'm also really looking forward to going to back to Australia too. Its been 5 years since I was there last and I have some friends I'll be able to catch-up with. I love the Sydney Fish Market and know the city quite well, so it will be fun to be back there. I've only been to Melbourne once so I'm sure there are still lots of things to discover there.
The only other trip we have actually booked is to Cuba in May. After reading in the news about the discussions between Cuba and the USA we decided to book flights and get there before McDonalds and Starbucks take over. (as sadly we have seen happen in some parts of Asia). Its been somewhere we have wanted to go for a while, so I'm not only excited about seeing somewhere new but I'm excited because its a proper holiday. Hubby doesn't have to go to the office, or out for business dinners. We can relax and be tourists together. Also I heard the internet is terrible, so I won't have to share him with his work emails - as is usually the case. The only other time this has happened was about 7 years ago in Myanmar. There was no internet whatsoever, let alone mobile phone networks. Bliss - two weeks without the Blackberry !!
We have other trips in pencil but they won't really get booked until much nearer the time. We will have another trip to NYC later in the year, we're planning to stay with some friends at their villa in Phuket, a trip to Japan, maybe a trip to South Africa and hopefully a trip to Bhutan in November.......I'm sure we will be able to slot in some European city breaks too.....I have quite a list of those we want to work through.
I'd love to hear any city recommendations people have. Please drop me a message below .
I now have a lot of research to do trying to find the best places to eat and drink....... I'll post any good reviews in the Restaurant Blog as usual.
As we approach the end of January, its the time many peoples New Year Resolutions like their NYE celebrations become a vague memory. This year I decided to make positive resolutions and resolutions for other people, not the usual resolutions such as go to the gym/be healthy/loose weight/eat more veggies/drink less wine...blah blah blah. Exactly the kind that people around me make on NYE and break by the end of January. Hopefully I will get to December and look back on a year of good deeds and nice memories. So here is what I am trying to do this year....
My first resolution is to appreciate where I am. This doesn't have to be just where I live but where I travel to. I have a lot of free time when I am at home in Switzerland so I am going to make a big effort to get out and about and explore Switzerland. Also there must still be hundreds of things I haven't seen or done in London, New York and Tokyo for example, and so I am going to explore new bits of those cities this year too.
My second resolution is really for my friends and family. I am going to aim to send everyone a birthday card. A real, made from paper, in an envelope and delivered by the postman birthday card.
Last year I got a total of 4 birthday cards and I was a little sad. I love birthday cards. I got loads of emails and texts but they just aren't the same. And then I thought about how nice it is to get a card with a message from someone who cares about you and so decided that was one thing I would aim for.
Lastly, I resolved to help out any 'lost' tourists I could when I am in London.
I have always been a city girl and love the chaos of London, but I appreciate that it can be quite daunting for people from small towns especially those who don't speak English. I see tourists all the time, struggling with a map, looking lost, whilst people push past them in a hurry.
Everyday this week I've taken a minute out to stop and help a random stranger. Some of them look startled, after all, Londoners are not known for their friendliness. Mostly I have had a good reaction.
I helped people find Tower Bridge, when they thought they wanted to go to London Bridge, get to Oxford Street from Leicester Square, Selfridges from Bond Street and Buckingham Palace from Green Park. Hopefully they will all go away with a better impression of this fabulous city. They certainly all looked a bit happier. So you see resolutions don't have to be about yourself, nor do they have to be sacrifices. They can just be small things that make someones day a little happier.
What resolutions did you make ? Have you kept to them ? Maybe make some new ones for the start of February. Make ones that will make you happy. They will be easier to keep.
Learning to make macarons was such a great experience. I've been trying out new flavours sometimes with success sometimes not, but I'm far from admitting defeat....
A few people have asked me for the recipe so here it is, with the tips that I learnt !!
There are lots of things that can go wrong, and there is a lot of trial and error with flavours, oven temp and timings but for me it is all part of the fun of learning what works and what doesn't.
75g aged egg whites
50g fine/caster sugar
135g powdered/icing sugar
90g finely ground almonds / almond flour (sieve the almonds and only use the finer grains)
powdered food colouring (the powdered bit is important !!)
Separate the eggs and age 2/3 days ahead by putting the whites in a bowl in the fridge. Cover the bowl with cling film and pierce the top a few times.
Take the egg whites out of the fridge for 2-3 hours.
Sieve the almonds and icing/powdered sugar together.
Put baking paper over a circular stencil sheet or draw 3.5cm circles on the baking paper, lay out flat on baking sheets.
Whisk the egg whites in a clean, dry and oil free bowl for about a minute and then start slowly adding the fine / caster sugar. Continue whisking until the mixture forms glossy peaks on the whisk. These peaks should stay like peaks when the whisk is turned sideways and shouldn’t droop. Like the first picture - not the second one.
Bake the Macarons at 160C - 180C for about 10 minutes. I know this bit is a little vague but it really depends on the oven you are using. (In my friend's oven it was 180C but in mine at home its 150C with the fan. ) I always bake one sheet at a time as he more things you have in the oven the more difficult it is to get the temperature and timing accurate.
A small foot or ‘pied’ should form on your macaron (if you dried them out properly) and the top should be hard and the macaron shouldn’t move when you press it slightly.
Take the trays out and allow the macarons to cool before sliding the baking paper off the tray.
When they are completely dry you can peal the macarons off the baking paper. This is a better way than plucking them off as it ensures the bottoms stay intact.
Pair the macarons up by side and start filling them with your ganache. Some people like to pipe the filling but I am happier using a small butter knife to spread it as it gives me a bit more control.
They are best eaten the following day but can stay up to a week in a sealed container or up to a month in the freezer.
So Good luck people, have fun with flavours and don't worry, even the disasters taste good, you can always make an Eaton Mess with Ice cream. Let me know how you get along in the comments below.
Add the powdered food colouring to the egg whites and whisk it in so its fully incorporated, this should only take a few seconds, you don’t want to over whisk.
Quickly fold the ground almonds and icing sugar into the egg whites. push the air out of the almonds by spreading the batter around the side of the bowl and removing it again, scooping the batter from the bottom of the bowl every time you do this. (around 15 times) This step is called Macronnage. Stop when the mixture is firm enough it drips slowly from the spatula and moves slightly in the bowl.
Transfer the mixture into a piping bag with a plain 8mm nozzle and quickly pipe out the Macarons on the baking paper. Its is best to just put the nozzle into the centre of the circle and allow the mixture to fill the circle.
Bang the sheet onto a work surface a few times to expel any air from the macarons.
Dry the mixture out until it forms a skin on the surface. This can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours in humid conditions.
Chocolate Macarons - you can replace 25g of the icing/powdered sugar with a good quality chocolate powder and omit the food colouring.
Raspberry Ganache Ingredients
70g white chocolate
35g raspberry puree
Simply combine the chocolate and the puree in a bain marie and slowly mix until all the chocolate is melted. Then cool this in the fridge until hardened.
I'd read fabulous things about both Bread and Heddon Street Kitchen so I was itching to give them a try on my next trip to London.
We booked flights to be in London for the whole of Christmas and New Year and so with the luxury of forward planning I was able to make advance bookings I managed to get a table at both restaurants.
Hendon Street is a hidden gem - literally. Its right off Regent Street but it feels like its miles away. Its busy and noisy, but there wasn't a tourist in sight when we were there. Both the street and the restaurant were bustling with friends meeting for christmas drinks, christmas parties and office groups having dinner. There was lots of laughter and fun. it definitely wasn't a quite evening, but we were warned that this would be the case when we made the reservation.
The maître d' greeted us warmly and took our coats, we were offered a choice of tables and our waiter came over promptly to offer a choice of water and give us menus. There was no problem at all with ordering tap water, which is a welcome change from restaurants in Switzerland.
I had a starter of Spicy Tuna Tartare that was amazing. I'd return again for this dish. It was quickly followed by Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with Swede mash an gremolata, again an excellent dish.
Hubby had a salad starter (which was HUGHE) and a main of the HSK Short Rib Beef Burger, which he rated in his top 10 burgers ever, and since I didn't even get to try it, I'd say it was a huge success.
We didn't have dessert as the restaurant was starting to fill up and get a little noisy. Also we had a small stash of Swiss pralines at home waiting for us.
If you are looking for dinner in Central London I'd definitely recommend Heddon Street Kitchen.
I'd suggest booking in advance as it does get busy for the popular 7.30pm dinner slot.
I enjoyed everything about the evening, I'm already a big GR fan, and I loved this new more relaxed venue, I'm looking forward to going back later this month for lunch.
Hendon Street Kitchen - Website 3-9 Heddon Street London W1B 4BD 0207 592 1212
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