Tuesday, 25 December 2012

100 food list challenge (and caesar salad)

Being Christmas AND being in Toronto means I most definitely have food on the brain (not just sweets) so today I thought I'd talk about the 100 food list challenge that got sent to me a few days ago. I vaguely remember this being popular awhile back on facebook but it seems an appropriate time to be pulling this out again now since festive season is a time for over eating and over indulgence. I wonder who wrote this list though as it seems a little US centric. I'm sure there are a multitude of lists online; today I'm sharing the one that seems to have done the rounds on facebook. Sadly none of my favourites are on this list ... except maybe pavlova.

By the way, I rediscovered my favourite caesar salad this week. I ate this for dinner last night and what I couldn't finish then became breakfast this morning - if I lived in Canada I reckon I'd be eating this almost daily. The Canadian way of caesar salad is different from elsewhere; it is just lettuce, crispy bacon, croutons, parmesan and dressing. The end. None of this chicken, egg, anchovies, salmon business to distract from the core ingredients! I will almost certainly have to experiment with making my own when I get home; failing that my sister will be requested to bring back bottles of dressing every time she heads home to Canada during a uni break.


Back to the food list - I'm not too disappointed with a score of 64/100 (Mr T scored 72) since as much as I hate to admit it I can be a little fussy with my food (some would say that is an understatement). At least its still a pass in university score terms! There are a couple of things I could eat pretty easily to cross off a few more but they sound like bizarre combinations (think chicken and waffles, or pineapple and cottage cheese) and I'm not sure why they are on the list in the first place - must be either completely awesome or completely awful.

Here is my list (ones I have tried are crossed out, and links include to weirder looking ones where I wanted a "proper" wiki definition) - how many of these foods have you tried?

1. Abalone (sea snails)

2. Absinthe flavouring

3. Alligator - where would I get this from? Does crocodile count? From memory it tastes like chicken

4. Baba ghanoush (eggplant)

5. Bagel and lox (salmon)

6. Baklava (Greek pastry)

7. Barbecue ribs

8. Bellini flavouring

9. Bird’s nest soup - after watching Iron Chef which featured Bird's Nest soup, I'm not sure I want to try this despite being (most likely) one of the most expensive foods on earth

10. Biscuits and gravy - no idea why anyone would do this, looks like another US thing

11. Black pudding

12. Black truffle

13. Borscht (beetroot soup) - I'd happily eat this one. Heck I could even make it.

14. Calamari

15. Carp

16. Caviar

17. Cheese fondue

18. Chicken and waffles - another one where I have no idea why anyone would do this, its a US thing

19. Chicken tikka masala

20. Chilli relleno (stuffed chile) - this looks pretty good, I'd eat this.

21. Chitlins (pig intestines)

22. Churros (Spanish doughnut)

23. Clam chowder

24. Cognac

25. Crabcake

26. Crickets

27. Currywurst (sausage)

28. Dandelion wine

29. Dulce de leche (milk pud)

30. Durian (south-east Asian fruit notorious for its odour)

31. Eel

32. Eggs Benedict (eggs, muffin, ham, Hollandaise sauce)

33. Fish tacos

34. Foie gras

35. Fresh spring rolls

36. Fried catfish

37. Fried green tomatoes

38. Fried plaintain - sure, looks a bit like bananas but not

39. Frito pie (corn chips, chilli and cheese)

40. Frog’s legs

41. Fugu (puffer fish)

42. Funnel cake: sounds bizarre and quite unappealing

43. Gazpacho soup

44. Goat

45. Goat’s milk

46. Goulash

47. Gumbo (stew/soup)

48. Haggis - I know I work for a Scottish company and I live in the UK, but .... no.

49. Head cheese (meat jelly) - no, I feel bad eating that part of the animal.

50. Heirloom tomatoes

51. Honeycomb

52. Hostess fruit pie - a US thing

53. Huevos rancheros (fried eggs, tortillas, chilli)

54. Jerk chicken

55. Kangaroo

56. Key lime pie

57. Kobe beef (a Japanese cut)

58. Lassi (Indian yogurt drink)

59. Lobster

60. Mimosa (herb)

61. Moon Pie (marshmallow, chocolate, banana pastry)

62. Morel mushrooms - I'd try this just for the interesting shape

63. Nettle tea

64. Octopus

65. Oxtail soup

66. Paella

67. Paneer cheese

68. Pastrami on rye

69. Pavlova (meringue cake)

70. Phaal (curry dish)

71. Philly cheesesteak (sarnie with steak and cheese)

72. Pho (noodle soup)

73. Pineapple and cottage cheese

74. Pistachio ice cream

75. Po’ boy (US meat sandwich)

76. Pocky (Japanese chocolate snack)

77. Polenta

78. Prickly pear

79. Rabbit stew

80. Raw oysters

81. Root beer float

82. S’mores (candy bar) - on the list, but I think I'd make one and melt my marshmallow over the gas stove

83. Sauerkraut

84. Sea urchin

85. Shark

86. Snail

87. Snake

88. Soft shell crab

89. Som tam (spicy salad made from shredded, unripened papaya)

90. Spaetzle (German dumpling or noodle)

91. Spam

92. Squirrel - they are too cute to be eaten (same could be said of baby cow I guess ... I have eaten veal but I would never voluntarily order it!)

93. Steak tartare

94. Sweet potato fries

95. Sweetbreads - no thanks

96. Tom yum (soup)

97. Umeboshi (pickled ume fruits common in Japan, similar to a plum)

98. Venison

99. Wasabi peas

100. Courgette flowers

Monday, 24 December 2012

Junk food: Canada style

I've been in Toronto for the last week on an eating adventure / family holiday for Christmas, and today was the first day I stepped into a supermarket. According to my cousin, Tim Tams are sold in Loblaws, so I headed there to assess the situation. To my surprise and pleasure, they are actually IMPORTED - so theoretically they should taste the same as ones at home - as well as being a whole lot cheaper than London (CAD$4 vs £3.32 from the Australia store).

Needless to say, looking around the biscuit aisle I found a number of other things I wanted to buy and we walked away with two bags full of stuff. As if I didn't have enough from my Australian stash already (can you believe I'm actually having trouble getting through it all?!). Oh, the other thing I was excited about was finding Glad Wrap. Sounds ridiculous, but for some reason the UK glad wrap, sorry, cling wrap, just doesn't cling properly. People look at me weirdly when I talk about Glad Wrap - isn't it funny how we refer to brands rather than objects sometimes? Another one I used to think completely normal is Carnation milk, also known as evaporated milk. I tested the theory with a random (admittedly small) sample and 70% said Carnation milk.


Anyway, back to the supermarket spoils, lets start with the Canadian items (omg I just realised I forgot the maple syrup - this will have to be a job from the airport now!)

1. Caesar salad dressing: its Kraft, yes, but its manufactured in Canada, and it tastes different.
2. The Raptor dinosaur: no, he's not from the supermarket and he's not edible, but he's from the Raptors game we went to. Given that its the Toronto Raptors, I'm putting him in my Canadian pile.
3. Maple cream cookies: these are not for me but my friend Mr F thinks they're awesome so he can have these.

canadianmaple biscuits

4. Tim Hortons: a donut and coffee chain found in various servos and as standalone shops. My sister says the coffee is so bad its great (and addictive, possibly due to the MSG that is apparently in it). By the way, there are donut centres in the Timbits box, I took this more of the cool festive box that they came in. Mr T had gone to pick up my chocolate donut and they had run out - the crestfallen look on my face means he quickly rectified the situation when we found another Tim Hortons 500m down the road inside a servo. That did make me feel super spesh today... must be Christmas cheer.

donutscoffeetimbits5. Mrs Fields: I tend to eat these in Australia and Hong Kong but I have never ever seen these in a packet in a supermarket. Its totally my favourite kind of fudgy squishy supersweet coffee only to be eaten when you are in need of a mega sugar hit.

6. Concerto cookies: I have only seen these in Canada, but they're awesome. Think shortbread coated in chocolate, without the greasiness of shortbread. Add on pretty patterns and pictures embossed in the chocolate, what could be better?



7. Peanut butter M&Ms: I still love these, unhealthy as they are (actually I think everything I've talked about in this post is highly fat, sugar and cholesterol inducing). Available for the extortionate price of £2 for a tiny packet in London, here in Toronto I can have a mega pack anytime I want!!! I know Miss L would beg to differ with me but seriously they are so much better than Reese's pieces...






Of course I have a whole lot more things to talk about on the food front, but given that the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner is yet to come, I'll hold off until then!

Happy Christmas folks and hope you have a great one! x

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Photo blog: Zurich

We went to Zurich in early December (the coldest month of the year) to check out the Christmas markets. There are more exciting well known places to go for Christmas markets (e.g. Cologne) but given that I've been to Germany twice this year already (Berlin with the fam then Munich for Oktoberfest) I wasn't feeling the need to go back. So we ended up going to the German part of Switzerland instead :P


The most exciting part of the trip was when I failed to notice that the train timetable at Rhine Falls (1 hour from Zurich city) is different in winter from summer, so yes we missed the last train. Add to it being Sunday, there was no bus anywhere either. The sun had gone down, our flight was in 3 hours and I felt the panic slowly set in as it dawned on me there was no way we would be able to get a cab either in such an obscure location. Fortunately, mid-sigh, a nice man pointed us in the direction of the next train station which was 15min walk away (in the snow of course) and we made our flight back to London.

bin candle

Apart from that, it wasn't a terribly exciting city although the Christmas lights were pretty (even a rubbish bin outside a shop was lit up) and I'm glad to have seen mountains and water. Does that sound strange? I guess there's neither of those in London and I occasionally feel quite claustrophobic at always looking at buildings which seem to occupy the narrow twisted streets. To be fair, there are a number of squares and parks which are great for green space - it just so happens that they aren't anywhere convenient to me so its my own fault really.




Other things that stand out for me (in no particular order):

  • The massive Christmas tree inside the indoor Christmas markets covered in what looked like crystals (it was sponsored by Swarovski)

  • The awesome accordian player who sounded like a whole orchestra

  • Climbing the stairs to the top of the Grossmunster

  • The Santas singing carols outside a shop in the old town

  • Eating chocolate

  • The welcome to Switzerland in the airport shuttle which came complete with a guy belting out a tune on the bugle and a cow bells ringing

Here are some of my photo highlights - note these might not scream out Zurich (more things that I found interesting).

Indoor Christmas Markets


chicken dec    xmas tree stars

In and around Zurich

fraumunster    grossmunster

accordianred spiresnow@rhine
light maniasinging santastruffles

falls startrhinerhinefalls2

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Meeting Nigella Lawson

I met Nigella Lawson today, and it was like all my Christmases came at once.

While my lovely girlfriends here tend to prefer pretty boys and tennis stars, I'm a total and utter fangirl for are Nigella Lawson, domestic goddess, and Lisa Eldridge, make up artist extraordinare. I was really disappointed that I couldn't get to a Nigella book signing a couple of months ago when she was first doing signings all over the UK, so I was super excited when I read on twitter that she would be in Selfridges at 6pm today promoting her latest book Nigellissima - Instant Italian Inspiration.

To put this into context, last year when we were still in Sydney Mr T came home one night saying that one of his staff had gone to a Nigella Lawson signing in David Jones ... of course only knowing this after the fact it was far too late for me to get a pre-signed copy (yes, I should have known about it earlier and just taken the time off if I couldn't afford the waiting time at lunch). So I've actually been hanging out for this for a year!

I love Nigella - though I knew about her in my uni days I was never really into food and didn't pay too much attention. It was only until I started to cook myself and read Lorraine's blog www.notquitenigella.com when looking for restaurant reviews that I discovered the wonderful world of food and of course Nigella Lawson. Besides being utterly gorgeous, there's just something about Nigella's turn of phrase (describing pomegranate seeds as "ruby jewels" comes to mind) and watching her on tv invariably makes me want to immediately eat or make whatever she is making.

Fortunately I was able to wheedle my way into a 4pm departure from work today with a promise to make up the time later. I arrived at Selfridges at around 4.30pm, bought the book (you had to buy the book from there in order to get it signed) and patiently waited for 1.5 hours. This is the longest I have ever queued for anything in my life. Yes, I was the first person there! and the first in line after the special priority people who had picked up their book and wristbands a day before.

Nigella was as lovely in life as she is on tv, was so gracious and had time to chat to everybody and I'm very proud of my book cover. Thanks to Mr T for being kind enough to dash over from the office and make sure I got the photos.

The book actually looks pretty good too - in fact I might even start a mini project to cook my way through it. What do you reckon?

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Photo blog: Lake Windermere and Beatrix Potter

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing and today I'm reminiscing over one of my favourite places in the UK - Lake Windermere. Over the Jubilee weekend back in June, Mr T and I had 4 days off and we went up to Cumbria to see Hadrian's Wall, and then drove down to the Lake District - also home of Beatrix Potter and my childhood (and adulthood) friends Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, Benjamin Bunny, Squirrel Nutkin....there's nothing like animal characters and gardens to make me smile! Here are some of my highlights.

Lake Windermere

Picturesque, calming, gorgeous ... think of all the cliched superlatives you possibly can and you have Lake Windermere. The couple of days we spent here was basically a photography excursion. You could walk down to the water from our hotel and despite the inclement weather, we spent an afternoon here with the shutter clicking away. I loved how the water was so calm it looked like silk. Note to self next time - bring a tripod and don't leave photos down to chance!

On another night we had gone to dinner during a downpour, but by the time we finished eating it had stopped and there was a pretty good opportunity to capture some of the greys and blues. I was quite pleased that I managed to sneak a photo of a man fishing off the pier as well.


Beatrix Potter

The other main attraction of the Lake District is of course Beatrix Potter. Its such a beautiful location that its really no wonder that Beatrix Potter owned numerous farms up there - I vaguely recall the figure being around 15, give or take - and I think honestly the world is better with her legacy, as she was someone who championed conservation and bequeathed all her property to the National Trust. There are three main Beatrix things to see and of course I made us go to all of them (these are nowhere near each other by the way; if you do take a trip to the Lake District a car and a GPS is highly recommended)!

1) Hilltop Farm is a National Trust property and still open to the public today. It still looks the same as it did 100 years ago, as you can see if you compare to the famous photo of Beatrix which appears in the dust jacket of some of her books (just ignore the bit where I look silly standing in front of the door; its the only photo I have with a comparable angle!) . The garden was lovely, the house was lovely and it was just wonderful to see one of the places where she drew her inspiration from (no photos allowed inside).

 *Beatrix Potter image from www.lakedistrictwalks.net


2) Beatrix Potter World (the URL is hop-skip-jump.com - isn't that so cute?) This is a bit more of a commercial thing in the middle of Lake Windermere and definitely aimed at tourists, but I think it was still well worth going. The best part for me was the garden, which was designed to have the Victorian plant species that were discussed and drawn in Beatrix's books. I loved the Peter Rabbit patch and the overall masses of colour that was in the garden. There were also hidden ceramic animals and other objects to find in the garden which added to the quaintness of it all.

3) Beatrix Potter Gallery. Another National Trust property (no photos allowed), I think this was also well worth seeing. This houses a collection of Beatrix drawings and watercolours, many of which didn't make it into a final book.

And with that, I think its time for me to plan another trip to the Lake District. What places do you feel nostalgic about?

Monday, 10 December 2012


Is there anything that screams out Australia more than pavlova? I've not made a pavlova for almost the whole year (pavlova and / or lamingtons were on my list for Australia Day baking) as my last place just didn't inspire me to cook that much. Its also another one of those things where you can't really make a small pavlova (else you just end up with meringue) so the key is actually having people to eat it. Apparently in this case I was meant to pile up the mango on top instead of creating a jigsaw ... oops.

Anyway since we were feeding 5 people, one of which is mega pavlova fan, I thought it was high time to put into action:

  • The silicon baking mat. Ermahgerd (I think I heard some young person saying this so I'm adopting it ... is this a ridiculous way of writing omg?) ... I love how this is non stick and doesn't require the annoyance of baking paper!!!

  • My cake turntable, courtesy of Miss L. Icing cakes suddenly just became sooooo much easier.

  • New scrapers, courtesy of Miss L again (although I do love my palette knives still ... see the small collection below)

  • Convenience of egg whites in a tetrapak - see my post here

The other thing of course is that pavlova is another easy recipe with minimal ingredients - though I do suggest making this at least several hours ahead of time (or the night before) to allow time for the pavlova to cool down. Here's the one I used which is adapted from Stephanie Alexander:

Pavlova ingredients

  • 4 egg whites at room temperature (or 8 tablespoons of tetrapak egg whites or a combination)

  • Pinch of salt

  • 220g-ish castor sugar (recipe states 250g, but I tend to reduce this. Having said that don't reduce by too much, else the pav won't "set")

  • 2 teaspoons of cornflour

  • 1 teaspoon vinegar (recipe calls for white-wine vinegar but as I didn't have any I went for rice vinegar... it made no difference)

  • Spoon of vanilla

Topping is just whipped cream (a tub of whipping cream will more than suffice .. if you have a tendency to overwhip cream like I do, no panic as you can always pour in some milk and regain a nice whipped consistency) and whatever fruit you like. In my case, I had raspberries and mango. I think in my ideal pavlova world I'd have strawberries, passionfruit, mango, kiwi, banana... but alas its the middle of winter in the UK. Summer fruit fail.


  1. Preheat to 180 degrees and put baking paper on a tray (or use a silicon mat if you have one).

  2. Beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form

  3. Gradually add in sugar and keep beating until stiff peaks form

  4. Add in cornflour, vinegar and vanilla and fold into the mix

  5. Put it on the baking tray in a circle (or whatever shape you want) and smooth sides and top with a palette knife or scraper.

  6. Put in oven and reduce heat to 150 degrees and bake for 30 min. Then reduce to 120 and cook for 45 min.

  7. Wait for it to cool then top with whipped cream and fruit.

Note to step 5: because my oven is really dodgy, even with an oven thermometer I wasn't able to calibrate the heat properly, and I'm totally bad at keeping time (but not bad enough for me to justify buying a kitchen timer since I just monitor the food more closely instead). Make sure you watch your pavlova so it doesn't burn on top; if its looking a bit too tanned turn the heat right down (or off if its been baking for awhile already) and just leave him in there until the oven cools down.


Happy eating everyone!