This was the first Christmas that I have attempted a gluten free Christmas cake. Seeing other people making cakes inspired me to do the same plus Christmas cake is one of my favourites! I searched the internet for recipes and poured over many of them […]
Newcastle is one of those places I have always wanted to visit but never have. Sometimes it seems easier to put aside time for the big overseas trips than to venture a couple of hours up the road! So I have decided to rectify that by making time for some of my more local cities in the north of England. I went by train and if you book in advance you can get a ticket for as little as £10 from Sheffield, an absolute bargain and if you go midweek you can find a good hotel room from about £40.
As you pull into the station you can begin to get a feel for the grand victorian life that Newcastle once had which continues as you leave the station and walk up into town. The streets are lined with grandios architecture that towers overhead. My first feeling was that it was like Sheffield just grander! I had heard about the monument to Earl Grey and as an avid earl grey tea drinker I headed straight for that, which you can’t miss as it is an enourmous sandstone column right in front of you at the top of the road.
Once I’d dropped my stuff off it was back down to the river to explore the many bridges that cross the river Tyne. There are seven within a short length of the river each with a slightly different purpose.
If you walk back towards the station and veer off a little to your left you will come across the Castle (the castle in Newcastle!) and from there it is possible to access the foot bridge section of one of the higher bridges where you get a great view up the river and views back across the town. Turning left at the other end of the bridge takes you up the Gateshead side of the river towards the Baltic Gallery where even if art isn’t your thing there are amazing views to be had back down the river.
I AM interested in art and having never been to the Baltic before was interested to take a wander around. I discovered work by Ifeoma U. Anyaeji which was a delightful mix of found and recycled objects crafted into beautiful sculptures and reliefs. They make comment on environmental issues and also the question of value. Essentially she takes rubbish and creates something stunning, a girl after my own heart! The plastic is woven into braids using the Nigerian hair-styling technique of Ikpa Owu which is fast dying out combined with traditional basketry and weaving. The work celebrates traditional crafts that due to often misguided colonial notions of progress and the wider globalisation of our world are disappearing.
Next on the list was food! Having searched for ‘best gluten free place to eat’ the top choice was Kiln. It is about a 15 minute walk back across the river from the Baltic. You have to search it out as its a little bit hidden but very worth the trouble! Superb food totally delicious ‘Esti’s Middle Eastern Sharer’ usually comes with bread but once I said I was coeliac they provided a big bowl of spicy potatoes instead. This was one of the best meals I’ve had in ages. Plus they make all their own ceramics which you can see being made and buy if you want to take a little of their aesthetic home with you.
From here (needing to walk off some of that delightful food) it is a pleasant wander back through the culteral quater into town passing lots of quality graffiti as you go. On the way you can pop into The Biscuit Factory for a whole range of local art and crafts and very amusing signage on the ladies toilets – where else would you put the screws?
All that was left to do after a spot of shopping (for me this means searching out the charity shops) was to grab a cup of tea in Mason & Rye which can be found in the rather lovely food court of Fenwicks department store. I purchased some smokey earl grey leaves to take home with me which seemed fitting after starting the day with a visit to Mr Earl Grey himself!
After a little rest to let my legs recover it was back down to the river as the sun was setting to explore the castle area a bit more and then found myself drawn in by the warmth radiating from a little place built in the arches of one of the bridges The French Quarter. As I hadn’t booked it was a case of propping up the bar and getting some snacks (gluten free bread available) which was all I needed after the amazing lunch earlier in the day. Delicious food coupled with a large G&T was the perfect way to end a fabulous first trip and I will most definitly be back…I think I fell a little bit in love with this city.
So as I promised via my instagram page here is the recipe for the soup and bread I made for my tea yesterday. Romanesco and almond soup with garlic missi roties.
First up The lovely Romanesco. Kind of a mix of broccoli and cauliflower and if you don’t have one a mix of thse two would work or just cauliflower would do fine. Technically it is a huge geometric flower bud and I was lucky enough to get one in my veg box from Riverford this week. My usual go to recipe would be cheese sauce and a jacket potato but I wanted something a little different this time.
Chop a medium onion and gently sweat it down. Chop your romanesco into small pieces and chuck in the pan stir around and cook for about five minutes. Grate on some fresh nutmeg and then add some water to cover.
Bring to the boil add a stock cube and then simmer for a few minutes until everything has softened. At this stage just blitz up until smooth taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Finally stir in a couple of spoons of ground almonds which will thicken up the soup (if it gets too thick just add some more water).
To make the flat bread put some gram flour in a bowl with salt and pepper and whatever flavour you fancy. I used a clove of garlic crushed into the mixture on this occassion. Mix together with water until you have a smooth dough.
Divide up into two or three blobs. It will be very sticky so you need lots of gram flour on a board to press each blob out into a round. Keep it quite thick so it is manageable to transfer to a hot plate or chapatti pan. Press out a little more as soon as it hits the pan and then leave until you can see that the mixture has begun to dry out. Then turn it over to cook off the top. Once cooked through smootheer with butter and fold in half to keep in a bit of the heat and the butter while you make the others. stack up on top of each other to keep them warm. Now serve yourself a bowl of soup with a few toasted almonds on top and enjoy!
Kathakali dance is a traditional dance from Kerala. Whilst in Fort Kochi I spent an evening at the Kerala Kathakali Centre which is the best place to experience this kind of storytelling dance. You arrive early to sit and watch the fascinating ritual of applying […]
If you do visit Kochi there is plenty to keep you occupied for a few days. The Dhobi Khana Washing Collective is very interesting for a visit. You need to go earlier in the day if you want to meet any of the workers. They do a remarkable job all by hand starting at four in the morning! It provides work for many families who are proud of what they do.
If you get challenged to pick up an iron give it a go they are incredibly heavy. It makes one think of how easy in many ways we have it with our fast everything and easy availability of machines to help with everything. A day working here would be better than a work out at the gym!
After this trip you might be in need of some refreshments especially if its thirty something degrees and eighty percent humidity as it was when I visited. An ideal place to relax and maybe have a spot of lunch would be The Ginger House. As the name suggests all things ginger related are available here, plus lots more so if you don’t like ginger (why ever not?) it is still well worth a visit.
The uniqueness of the place comes from the fact that it is a museum as well as a restaurant. Everything you see in there is an antique of some sort and the space is packed with these interesting objects. It has a lovely calming garden with a fountain and views out over the river.
It can be found in Jew Town, Mattancheri an area of Kochi, not far from the The Paradesi Synagogue which is the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations, dating back to 1568 also worth popping into for a visit. The floor is very old Chinese blue and white tiles and the ceiling is full of beautiful crystal chandeliers. Photos are not allowed in here so you will have to make do with the outside only!