#yellowbluepink

[Full disclosure – expect a post with pictures that basically show, well, nothing! Apart from colour and the odd blurred object!]

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A few weekends ago I visited the Wellcome Collection’s #yellowbluepink installation, a temporary contemporary visual arts exhibit by Ann Veronica Janssens. The concept is simple: a gallery full of opaque coloured mist removes the most normalised method of perception (i.e. sight). In doing so the individual cannot perceive distance, depth or surfaces and is effectively isolated, relying mostly on their other senses to navigate around the gallery. It is partly an experiment with consciousness, too; I had to wait for approximately fifteen minutes and there are iPads with some interesting exercises to do with how perceptions can be distorted based on your dominant expectations.

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I found that much of the anticipation about this installation comes from the actual waiting itself! Secondly, the way in which staff facilitate entry into the gallery builds expectation, you’re put in an “isolation chamber” in between two doors to stop the coloured mist from escaping and you have to walk through some 70s style plastic door hangings to enter the gallery.

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I found the experience really enjoyable and fun, although I spent much less time in the gallery than I thought I would. Realistically my partner and I spent most of the time disappearing into the mist and reappearing from another direction, and getting worried that we were approaching walls. In all seriousness though there is a lot that is very interesting and creative about this art. Some questions I left with were to do with the actual colours themselves – unsurprisingly the gallery is mostly filled with yellow, blue and pink mists, but they are extremely well defined with very little mixing. Visibility between colours is also non-existent owing to the opaqueness of the mist, so in certain spaces of the room you’re unaware that there is any other colour but the one you’re experiencing.

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It’s strange also that voices are audible just as normal. Although the mist feels “heavy” around you, it doesn’t do anything to muffle or blur voices. This had the curious effect of making me whisper, partly because of the self-consciousness of not knowing who might be around you hearing how ridiculous you sound wondering if a wall is looming, and partly not wanting to disturb other peoples’ experience. The only niggle I have is that the room is, well, a room, with windows and strip lights and plug sockets et al. Up close you can still see all of these things and they shatter the illusion somewhat.

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I would recommend stopping by this installation if you can, although my advice to you would be to go early. As with all free things in London, there are a lot of other people competing for the space. We arrived first thing on Sunday when the Wellcome Collection opened at 11am and had a very short wait which was fine. Be warned, they don’t have Disney style queues ready for no reason; during our 10-15 minute wait the wait joining the queue escalated to an hour and a half. They limit the number of people in the room for good reason though, so be prepared to be patient if you can’t get there early. I’m not sure I’d make the pilgrimage to Euston on a weekend morning for this as a standalone event though, so join it up with a look around the Wellcome Collection’s other galleries and their great shop, and have a weekend walk around Bloomsbury. It’s open until the 3rd January 2016 and you can find out more about the installation here.

Serpentine Pavilion

Every summer the lawn outside the famous Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens is adorned by a piece of contemporary architecture known as the Serpentine Pavilion. It is described by the Serpentine Gallery as “an international site for architectural experimentation, presenting inspirational temporary structures by some of the world’s greatest architects”, and according to the website is one of the most visited architectural exhibitions worldwide. This year marks the 15th year of the Pavilion and, over the years, the lawn has been previously filled by architects such as Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid. A duo called selgascano are 2015’s architects and are based in Madrid.

Every year the Pavilion brief is the same. It needs to use approximately 300 square metres of space, and should be a flexible, multi-purpose social space with a café. It also needs to be the designer’s first installation in the UK, hopefully to provide a highly-visible platform for their work.

Selgascano’s Pavilion is a series of polygonal structures encased by a translucent plastic (similar to that used at the Eden Project in Cornwall and Canary Wharf Crossrail station) and surrounded by coloured tapes. The steel structure supports the plastic which is stretched to create a series of interconnected “rooms” with a central space housing a pop-up Fortnum and Mason cafe.

There are several entrance and exit points and a corridor surrounding the central structure allows the individual to walk directly around the Pavilion and discover these windows and doors. The architects have indicated that they drew inspiration from London in their design, particularly from the Underground with its tunnels, access points and connectivity.

One of the Pavilion's open doors showing the external tapes and internal plastic walls with steel arch structures.
One of the Pavilion’s open doors showing the external tapes and internal plastic walls with steel arch structures.

Across the internet it’s been described as a psychedelic cocoon, an Instagrammer’s paradise, beautifully childish, a kind of amoeba whose four blobby pseudopodia reach out across the grass, an eye-catching bauble, and a big bag of fun. Having read these reviews before visiting the Pavilion, and now having visited, I tend to agree with all of these characterisations!

The most important part of the Pavilion’s design to me seems to be the interaction between the structure and light. Clearly colour has been used liberally to create an eye catching, bright and playful landmark, and this is very obvious from the outside. The interpretation of the Pavilion from the inside however is very reliant on light conditions and the perspective of light depending on which part of the structure you’re standing in; the vibrant tapes throw different hues onto the internal plastic structure and the reflective surfaces mean that the internal colour seems to morph as you move closer or further from the walls. The Pavilion also simultaneously seems to complement, and contrast against, the surrounding green environment. It sits glowing among the green.

Internally I spotted pinks, oranges, yellows, blues, greens and purples. There are doors and windows to the structure that let natural light in, and there doesn’t appear to be any artificial light to tamper with this effect. The white floor has a reflectivity of its own (and, although it is a little battered after a whole summer of use), is a welcome canvas against the vivid walls. On the outside the plastic moves whimsically with the wind, creating a liquid, globular effect.

I actually enjoyed the exterior of the Pavilion the most. The plastic’s reflectivity is most obvious on the outside where light abounds and the contrast against the bright tapes was more striking. The whole structure also seems much larger when you walk around it in its entirety.

Me and me. Some of the external Pavilion walls are highly reflective which creates a psychedelic effect.
Me and me. Some of the external Pavilion walls are highly reflective which creates a fun, psychedelic effect.

Dipping in and out of the corridor between outside and inside is fun too. A real childishness comes over me when I have the opportunity to play a bit of hide and seek or jump out and say boo. I think this was probably intentional by the architects as the whole structure seems to want to be utilised and explored.

The Pavilion isn’t given a budget by the Serpentine Gallery, but instead uses various sources of sponsorship and the sale of the eventual structure to fund its design and build. This year’s installation is going to become a performance space in Los Angeles and I think it really suits this function. The Pavilion is used for performance and events during the evenings in London and if I hadn’t have left it so late I would have loved to revisit and check out the effect of colour and light in the dark when the green-ness of Hyde Park isn’t all around. Its size means that any performance is going to be intimate and most likely quite organic and stripped back because there isn’t a whole load of space for props or staging. Acoustically, noise carries; the tinkles and chatter of a pop-up cafe is audible but doesn’t echo. When speaking out loud the absorption of sound makes it feel like there is a slight hush on your voice. Although part of the brief is for the Pavilion to host a cafe during the day, it does feel a little of a wasted opportunity the night-time cultural use doesn’t transcend into daylight hours.

Fortnum and Mason cafe occupying the central space within the Pavilion.
Fortnum and Mason cafe occupying the central space within the Pavilion.

Despite being colourful and appealing to my inner child, there isn’t anything comical about the Pavilion. It’s stylish, built at a human scale, and uplifting. It’s interesting and has a naturalness and simplicity about its design that makes the most of its surroundings using (what appear to be) cheap and accessible materials. There isn’t anything fundamentally groundbreaking or innovative about the design, and perhaps that makes it a little safe for selgascano’s first UK installation. I didn’t come away from the Pavilion feeling that I had experienced a unique and overly memorable piece of work, but it was certainly enjoyable, fun and a novel way to interact with colour, light and space as London’s autumn greyness starts to set in. I’ll be back next year.

 

Autumn Bake: Almond and Plum Crumble Cake

The flavours of autumn are everywhere. The colours are too. Look at these beautiful colours I found in Greenwich Park last weekend. The vibrancy and variety of hues is unbelievable and one of the great charms of autumn is that it seems so fleeting.

Suddenly all I want to cook with are pears, mushrooms, aubergines, beetroots… It’s so nice to start wrapping up (while it’s still light until seven-ish) and indulge in cosier tastes. I decided to get well into autumn baking with this almond and plum crumble cake. I baked it as a dessert for a family meal I hosted at my house in Greenwich. However, large slices found their way into my bag for work during the week and went down a treat with a green tea of an afternoon. I really enjoy baking with ground almonds and substituting part of the flour content in fruity cakes in particular. I think it works so well when baking with fruit because the ground almonds soak up some of the moisture that most baked fruits produce or the syrups that are sometimes used to pour over fruity cakes to penetrate the bake with its flavour (a la lemon drizzle). This cake has a subtle almond flavour which is lovely and sweet when paired with the tangy plums.

The cake batter is quite thick and needs spreading when you add it to your cake tin. I suppose this is to support the plums as this is a relatively long bake and sunken plums is not an option! Decorative eh?

The cake batter with plums arranged on top, before adding the crumble mixture. My advice is to stuff as many plums onto the top of the cake as you can as the whole effect of them is wonderful when baked - the purple colour is vibrant and the plums become soft and slightly sweeter during cooking - you definitely want a bit of plum in every mouthful.
The cake batter with plums arranged on top, before adding the crumble mixture. My advice is to stuff as many plums onto the top of the cake as you can as the whole effect of them is wonderful when baked – the purple colour is vibrant and the plums become soft and slightly sweeter during cooking – you definitely want a bit of plum in every mouthful.

I added extra brown demerara sugar to the crumble topping for extra crunch and caramelisation. Sometimes I’m a bit of a maverick with crumble and add all sorts to try and achieve crumble perfection: oats, honey, dried berries cut up finely, chopped brazil nuts… it’s all getting a bit granola isn’t it? The extra demerara was as far as I went with this one! Luckily I didn’t find there was any need to cover the cake with foil while it’s baking, even though it’s a long bake, to stop the crumble from colouring too quickly or getting burnt.

This bake doesn’t rise too much while cooking; it stands at about 6cm tall when baked and the crumble is about a half centimetre of this height. A fair amount of my previous baking experience has been layer cakes with inches of cream and frosting so setting it on my cake stand felt very strange! Where’s the rest of it, I thought. Nope, the beauty of this cake is in its autumnal rusticness and simplicity. I served it slightly warm with pouring cream or a dollop of custard (custard wins for me every day! Everyone else around me favours cream).

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 175 golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 22g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 85g sour cream
  • 6 plums, halved and stoned

For the crumble topping 

  • 50g ground almonds
  • 50g plain flour
  • 75g demerara sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line a 22cm springform round cake tin, as deep as you’ve got, with baking paper.
  2. Make the crumble topping first. Add all the crumble ingredients to a bowl and rub until it reaches your desired texture. It should look something like this:


  3. Now move onto the cake, which is really ridiculously easy. Add the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, ground almonds and soured cream into an electric mixer or big bowl. Sift in the baking powder and flour and beat with your mixer or hand-held electric whisk until smooth.
  4. Tip all of the mixture into your tin and level out with a palette knife.
  5. Arrange the halved plums (cut side up) over the cake mixture and push in so that only the top centimetre or so of the plum is visible above the cake. It should look something like my earlier picture.
  6. Then scatter the crumble on top as evenly as you can. It should look something like this:

    The crumble mixture on top of the cake batter and plums. The quantity of crumble produces a good half a centimetre of crunchiness. I found there was no need to cover the cake with foil at any point during the bake to stop the crumble getting too dark.

  7. Bake for 1 hour until all the usual signs of a baked cake are evident (skewer comes out clean, no wobble, no instant deflate, etc). It should look something like this:


  8. Cool in the tin and then tip out to cool fully. Cut into chunky slices and serve with cream or custard. I stored the cake in an airtight tin and it was still yummy for about 2 days. After that the plums were a little too soft for my liking so my partner and I ate all remaining cake for fear of wastage.
On baking the cake has this super mouth-watering hint of the lovely juices that the plums have released into the cake and crumble while baking.
On baking the cake has this super mouth-watering hint of the lovely juices that the plums have released into the cake and crumble while in the oven.

I can’t wait to get going with some more seasonal cooking. I picked up a handful of wild mushrooms from the nearby green grocer which I’m planning on having for brunch tomorrow: fried with some garlic, butter and parsley and served on toast with a poached egg. Actual heaven on a plate. Seasonal cooking can be every day too right?! Enjoy the cake!

Proscuitto, Manchego and Balsamic Onion Quick Bread

Have you been watching the Great British Bake Off? It’s one of my favourite programmes of the whole year. It’s light-hearted and there aren’t really any expectations for the winner at the end, although some of them have gone on to do very well in the public eye, and some non-winners have too. Ruby Tandoh’s weekly column in The Guardian is one of my favourite sources of new and interesting recipes. I am a big fan of Nadiya and Tamal. I’d be very happy if either of them won!

After each episode I always feel very inspired to produce something from the week’s theme. I’ve got a lot of experience making cakes but I feel like cake week is the only one I’d be anywhere near my comfort zone within. I’ve noted down lots of recipes from the series so far that I want to try my hand at, and BBC Food are handily publishing 5 recipes from each week on their website. Today was the perfect opportunity to return to week 3 (bread week) and bake Alvin’s proscuitto, manchego and balsamic onion quick bread which basically sounds like heaven in an oven. I’ve never made a quick bread or soda bread before, and just the thought of the combination of ingredients and flavours here make me ridiculously hungry. They’re the the kind of toppings I’d go for on a pizza, or pull together on a cheese board.

I am very lucky where I live in Greenwich to have a couple of gorgeous independent shops about 30 seconds walk from my house. It’s all very English, there’s a fishmonger, butcher, florist, green grocer and cheese shop. The Cheeseboard is a teeny shop on the corner packed with wines, olives, chutneys, dairy products, bread and baked goods and CHEESE. They’ve never let me down so far no matter how esoteric the cheese is that I’m after.

There was a fair amount of preparation to do for this recipe. All that tearing of proscuitto and basil, dicing manchego and slicing onions. The actual breadmaking part feels very short! I suppose that is the beauty of a quick bread. Take your time over preparing the onions so that they become super sweet and juicy while cooling. It’s the presence of these onions that mean you could almost eat it without butter because there is already a chutney-esque flavour running through it.

After rubbing the butter and flour together, it’s important that all the dry additions are well distributed through the breadcrumby mixture because apparently quick breads shouldn’t be handled too much. You don’t want to be kneading it excessively with the aim of distributing the fillings. The picture above is what my dry ingredients looked like all ready to receive the buttermilk.

I used about 250ml of buttermilk to make the dough just come together rather than the full 300ml. It looked so appetising even before going in the oven! All the different flashes of colour are lovely.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp cooking oil (olive, vegetable, rapeseed etc)
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 3 tbsp (45ml) balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp (22.5ml) soft brown sugar
  • 450g plain flour
  • 1 tsp (5ml) bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp (5ml) salt
  • 30g cold, diced unsalted butter
  • 80g proscuitto, torn roughly
  • 200g manchego cheese, diced into roughly 1cm chunks
  • Handful of torn basil leaves
  • 300ml buttermilk (or 300ml milk mixed with 20ml of white wine vinegar)
  • 1 tbsp (15g) butter, melted, for brushing over the finished quick bread
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas Mark 6 and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Warm the oil over medium-high heat and when hot, add the red onions and stir. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes. Add the vinegar and sugar, increase the heat slightly, and cook, uncovered, for a further 5 minutes. Set aside to cool completely (this should take half an hour or so).
  3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large deep bowl. Rub in the butter until it resembles very fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Put a small amount of cooked onions, manchego and proscuitto aside to top the bread with when it goes in the oven.
  5. Add the remaining onions, prosciutto, basil and cheese to the flour mixture.
  6. Mix the buttermilk with 25ml water. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture, I used about 250ml rather than the full 300ml and you’re trying to make a dough which just comes together. Add more buttermilk if the dough is too dry, or a little plain flour if it’s too wet.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, roughly shape and transfer to the prepared baking trays. Flatten the loaf to about 4cm thick. Score the top using a sharp knife and top with the reserved balsamic onions, proscuitto and manchego.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden-brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base. I covered the bread with foil 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time to make sure it didn’t get burnt. If the bread sounds hollow when you tap its base, it’s done.
  9. Transfer to a wire rack and brush with melted butter. Allow to cool fully.

The fact that this quick bread already has a handful of meat and cheese in makes it delicious on its own rather than a bread for sandwich-making. I had it with a spread of goats cheese. I was actually impressed by how soft the crumb was, as I was expecting a rather more dense loaf given the lack of kneading and yeast. Quick breads keep well in airtight containers, in the fridge for a few days or frozen when fully cooled down. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of the GBBO final next week!

Beef Pho with Slow-Cooked Brisket

The last two weeks have been a rollercoaster of various bugs in my house. Stomach bugs, chest infections, colds, earaches. Pho has been on my list of things I want to make for quite some time now and I thought that devoting my downtime at home to a slow-cooked meal would be a positive outcome from a negative situation. Also, I have been reading a lot about how nutritious and mineral-rich bone broth is. What could be better when you’re poorly?!

Let me start by saying I love pho. I especially love pho when I’ve been unwell as I find its deep fragrances so healing, familiar and comforting. Just knowing the time that goes into cooking it instils a heartiness just like good old fashioned chicken soup. As anyone who loves pho can attest to, the bone broth is everything. Luckily I’m used to demonstrating patience with cooking as I spend a lot of time baking, and I settled on a minimum of 7 hours to make the bone broth.

A bit of online research offered some good explanations as to the differences between a stock and a broth. Several sources reasoned that seasoning is added to the broth to make it into a viable dish on its own, whereas stock relies fully on the flavourings derived from the bones and vegetable base. Also, apparently traditionally a broth would be made from mostly meat (or the leftover liquid from cooking meat), whereas stock would be made from mostly bone. Although one of my favourites in Vietnamese restaurants is bun bo hue (a spicier broth-based noodle dish), I wanted to start my pho-making adventures with a genuine broth base and settled on primarily using bones.

Beef bones for the broth. Appetising eh?
Beef bones for the broth. Appetising eh?

I am very lucky to live about a minute’s walk away from a wonderful, locally sourced butcher called Drings. I left my sick bed to go and get 1.5kg worth of beef bones to make the broth. I did request bones with a bit of meat and fat left on them to add to the meaty flavour.

I used Rick Stein’s pho bo recipe to get me started.

Getting started with the broth

Firstly, find the biggest and deepest pan you can. Mine was suitable for the bones, vegetables and about 5 litres of liquid and this yielded 4 generous bowls of pho. The initial stages focus on releasing fragrances and aromas from the spices and softening the broth base of onions and ginger. Then, similarly to making stock, the bones are added to a vegetable base of celery, carrot, onions, peppercorns and the spices and submerged in cold water. You have to watch the broth for the first half an hour or so to bring it up to simmering level and to skim off any scum. Once the broth stops producing scum, you’re good to turn the heat right down, cover the pan, and leave it for as long as you possibly can, with the occasional stir once an hour or so.

Resist tasting the broth as you go along if you can, I had a few tastes after 4 hours and I was worried because I found it bland. Be patient! Give it time, the flavours develop and they develop deeply. The late additions to the broth, including a pinch of palm sugar and fish sauce also add different dimensions to the broth that you won’t get tasting as you go along.

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Serving the dish

Strain the broth through a very fine sieve or cheesecloth so that you’re left with a clear and pure broth. I strained the broth twice to make sure. Discard the leftovers apart from the slow cooked brisket and leave this to get even more tender for a few minutes. Cover, add the palm sugar and fish sauce, and leave over a very low heat to keep warm while you assemble the bowls.

3 minutes to soak the rice noodles in boiling water, arrange the brisket, sprinkle some spring onion, ladle the broth over the top, and serve. Let your guests help themselves to bean sprouts, herbs, chilli and lime.

Ingredients 

For the beef broth:

  • 40g ginger, roughly chopped and bruised

  • 350g shallots, sliced

  • 4 star anise

  • 2 cinnamon sticks

  • ½ tsp fennel seeds

  • 20 ounces beef brisket

  • 1.5k beef bones

  • 2 sticks celery, sliced

  • 2 carrots, sliced

  • 2 onions, sliced

  • 8 cloves

  • 1 tsp black peppercorns

  • 5 litres cold water

  • 1 tbsp salt

  • Pinch of palm sugar

For the rest of the dish:

  • 300g rice noodles

  • Bunch of mint

  • Bunch of coriander

  • Red chillies, deseeded and finely sliced

  • 2 limes, wedged

  • Bunch of spring onions, finely sliced diagonally

  • 4 tbsp nam pla, fish sauce

  • 100g bean sprouts

  1. Add the star anise, cinnamon sticks and fennel seeds to a hot and dry frying pan. Keep the pan moving until the spices become fragrant.
  2. Return the pan to the heat and add the bruised ginger and shallots and fry for 8-10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until the ginger and shallots are golden-brown. Transfer to the plate with the toasted spices.
  3. Place the bones, celery, carrots, onions, cloves, black peppercorns, roasted spices, ginger and shallots into a large, deep pan and pour over the water. Bring to the boil, skimming off any scum as necessary.
  4. Lower the heat, then add the salt and allow the broth to simmer for as long as possible (I simmered it for 7 hours).
  5. Slice the beef brisket roughly and add it to the broth approximately two hours to an hour and a half before you wish to serve the pho.
  6. Cook the rice noodles as per the packet instructions and add to four pho or noodle bowls.
  7. Add the mint, coriander, red chillies and lime wedges into a separate dish to add to your pho as per your tastes.
  8. Add the white part of the spring onions and the fish sauce to the broth.
  9. Sprinkle the green part of the spring onions and the bean sprouts over the noodles and beef. Ladle over the hot stock and serve with fresh herbs and chilli, just as you like it.

Note: I found leftover broth really hard to keep. I would recommend eating it all fresh! I didn’t try freezing it, but I have frozen homemade stocks before.

Learning how to cook pho at home from scratch has illustrated clearly to me that this is not a difficult dish to make. It’s a time-consuming one, but the hardest thing is getting the broth right, and given that I was so pleased with this broth, I feel that it can only get better with practice. If you have a rainy day at home, give it a try! I get such satisfaction from slow food and pho is a real crowd-pleaser. I’m going to try my favourite bun bo hue next. Get practicing in time for winter!

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Rome

I have had a short hiatus from London and recently spent a few days in Rome. I had never been to Rome before, and found that whenever I mentioned it to other people, they responded with adoring but vague comments such as “I love Rome” or “Ohhhhh Rome”. On questioning why they love Rome, so I could do similar things and hopefully come away with a similar appreciation, I found that very few people could articulate any particular reasons. Categories were spoken about wistfully – “the food… the buildings… the squares…”. So I decided that there was some kind of Rome bug that I would catch there and which would presumably render me babbling whenever anyone asks why I loved Rome in the future.

For the record, I really did love Rome. I found it incredibly relaxed, civilised, full of beauty and history. We stayed in the Trastevere neighbourhood, which I would highly recommend for its winding streets, ochre coloured buildings, hidden piazzas and lively atmosphere. Although I love to walk in London and definitely believe it is a city where you come across hidden gems, I feel that London is also an easy place to nip from place to place in a very nodal fashion, rather than taking the time to discover the “in-between” places and spaces. Rome is a highly walkable city and I felt that every journey on foot was more than just a journey, that everywhere seemed to be a destination in itself. It would be a shame to hide yourself underground travelling between sites with all these Roman treasures everywhere. We did hop on a couple of buses purely for practicality (one day upon deciding to go to the Colosseum we walked quite a long way in the wrong direction) which weren’t too crowded, were welcomingly cool and inexpensive.

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Here was my whistlestop itinerary:

Day 1) Trastevere walk, Passeggiata del Giancolo park, walk along the Tiber, inadvertent walking into a Greece austerity protest, Aperol Spritzes and dinner in Trastevere.

Day 2) Out by 6.30am, Vatican Museums, walk and lunch in Centro Storico, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain (under restoration!), Spanish Steps, Villa Borghese, dinner at Campo di Fiori, walk around Trastevere at night with caramel cream gelato.

Day 3) Lie in, Porto Portese flea market, walk around Testaccio neighbourhood, Victor Emmanuel Monument, walk around the Colosseum (outside only), Aventine Hill for sunset, late dinner in Trastevere.

Day 4) Out by 7am for St Peter’s Basilica, Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, late lunch in Trastevere of panini and arancini.

I’m going to make some of the most memorable parts of my trip the subject of their own posts in the near future. Particularly a review of a restaurant we tried in Trastevere, discovering my love of Aperol Spritzes (I’ve since made these since returning to Greenwich and I have officially adopted these as my Summer Drink 2015), my Rome menus, and my top few experiences.

Dalston Street Feast

Although I don’t venture there often, Dalston seems to have a unique character. For a friend’s birthday at the weekend, I ventured to Dalston Street Feast, which is a collection of pop-up restaurants housed within a derelict set of what appears to be warehouses. So derelict in fact that there were a few buckets collecting drips at the Camden Town Brewery bar!

Vital Statistics

Where: 3 minutes walk from Dalston Junction Overground station.

When: All summer long, until the weekend of the 25th September. 5pm – midnight with a £3 charge after 7pm.

What to expect: Burgers and sliders seem to be the order of pop-up food these days, regardless of cuisine. My quest for mac and cheese left me desolate (a homemade version is probably a future blog post in the making). Expect to pay about £5 for a dish and wait a couple of minutes. There is more table space than you’d possibly expect from a collection of pop-ups, so this is a positive for groups.

Try: Breddos Tacos. Just zingy, meaty, spicy deliciousness.

Tips: We arrived just after 7 and I feel this was a good time. The crowds grew rapidly until we left at about 9 to go elsewhere, and associated disbenefits of this become known (bigger queues, less table space, longer waits). Treat yourself to a cocktail at The Gin Store next to Bleecker St Burger.

The Dalston Lane Mural, painted in 1985 by Ray Walker.

Our first stop was a “Bill” burger from Bill or Beak. This came highly recommended from one of our group, and although it was a little on the small side, it didn’t disappoint. The “Bill” is a brioche bun filled with shredded duck and pork, crispy tempura shallots, a Vietnamese potion full of aromatic flavours and various garnishes such as coriander and spring onion.

Next up, a “Proud Boy” from Hank’s Po’ Boys. This was a delicately flavoured blackened piece of white fish, served with a creole dressing and slaw in a brioche bun. I really enjoyed this and it was a bit bigger than most other dishes we saw being served for £5. The fish was meaty and had a real smokiness to it, and held its shape well in the bun, thankfully saving my dignity in front of friends.

 

Mama Wang’s is the trader of the week this week. They seemed to be popular for their hand-pulled noodles, but in the spirit of trying as much as possible, I went for two steamed buns filled with lamb and crispy sesame bottoms. Luckily they were freshly cooked as we rolled up. The buns were very soft and the sesame crispness added a pleasing texture and sweetness. Hoisin on the side is always welcome (with anything frankly). The filling was minced lamb, and for some reason I was expecting shredded lamb. The bun as a whole succeeded in being quite fragrant. Next time I would definitely like to go for some of those noodle boxes too.

After trying a few snack-sized offerings, it was time for more of a meal. Two of us shared this jerk platter from Mama Jerk’s, consisting of a quarter leg of jerk chicken, rice and peas and a salad-slaw combo. All topped off with hot sauce and tropical mayo. I am a big fan of spicy food, and I would have preferred a bit of extra heat from those scotch bonnets. However there’s no denying that the chicken was full of warm flavours.

I disappointingly didn’t manage to get a photo of my final course, which was two meaty tacos from Breddos Tacos. Specifically a pink steak taco and a crunchy nut chicken taco. The old adage saving the best for last is not lost at Street Feast because these were absolutely delicious. Both tacos were big enough for four big mouthfuls and the meat was so tender and juicy. I topped them off with some chilli salsa for an added kick. If there’s one pop-up you stop off at, make it Breddos.