Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Too Much Food


For all the times we've been out for birthday meals and work 're-unions' in the Hatfield/St. Albans area, completely and utterly oblivious (read ignorant) to this little restaurant slap-bang opposite the Frankie & Bennie's where we'd be placed, we kicked ourselves on Sunday. Because many-a-birthday-meal have certainly happened but it's often been, as it can be with groups, that we couldn't decide on where or what to eat. And so we'd settle. Not everybody got what they wanted. So for future reference?

A world food buffet is the way forward. We first encountered a restaurant of this nature in Milton Keynes, the Red Hot World Buffet, a fairly long time ago - and while Ilaichi has none of the grandeur nor variety that stunned us then, it's enough to render the issue of what to eat into deciding what not to eat. Indian, Italian, Mexican or Chinese, you can eat whatever tickles your fancy - or if you're like me, get super confused and [try to] eat a bit of everything. Good luck with that though. The icing on the cake? That would be dessert. With a cherry on top? The Indian Street Food stand just sold this place to me completely. SO unexpectedly tasty too, I think we may have started something.



Ilaichi, Units 71-72, The Galleria, Comet Way, Hatfield, Herts, AL10 0XY

Monday, 23 July 2012

Sunlight and Highlights


This weekend's highlights - 

1. Sunshine + sunsets

2. Gorgeous flowers from Papa Bear

3. Pulling out the summer wardrobe

4. Movie marathon (2 at home, 1 at the cinema - the mister snoozed during the former, I during the latter)

...and before we know it, it's a new week already. How does the weekend fly past so fast?! Best of luck with Monday Morning Blues. 


Sunday, 22 July 2012

Brunch Time


Brunch, in my opinion, is the ultimate weekend indulgence (alongside Sunday morning papers and tea in bed of course). The very word conjures up imagery of laid-back-ness and of leisurely eating, of time to prepare something more… satisfying than the usually rushed weekday breakfast of toast or cereal. The thing is, though, is that we're a family of early risers. 8am maximum-ers. Yup, even on a Sunday (much to the boyfriend's annoyance, I assure you). And so it usually happens that by the time 11am rolls around, we're ready for something more substantial, more...well, lunch-y than egg & hash brown seeing as we've been banging around for more than three hours already. What better then, than a one-pot-trick, a golden creamy aromatic mushroom risotto which permeates your every last taste bud? Yummmmmmy.


For ultimate brunch-time bliss, you will need

50g Butter
1 slosh Olive Oil (technical term, I assure you)
1 Onion, finely chopped
400g Arborio Rice
1.2 l Vegetable Stock (2 Oxo cubes dissolved in the same amount of water does it just fine)
300-400g Mushrooms, chopped - Chestnut work a treat here
5 Cherry Tomatoes
100 ml double cream
 1 Handful Freshly Chopped Parsley or Coriander
Salt & Pepper (& chili flakes, entirely optional) to taste

(serves 6) (yes, I know there are only 3 in my house. But lunches for the next day you see.)


What to Do

1. Put the butter and olive oil in a large pot and place over low-medium flame. Don't heat the pot first and then add the butter 'cause butter burns fast. And smells acrid when it happens. Avoid. When the butter's melted but not bubbling, add onion and cook on low heat until slightly translucent and wonderfully caramelised. (N.B. the desired effect is mellow sweetness, not intense flavour).

2. Add the rice and stir until coated in the melted butter, then begin adding the vegetable stock, 300 ml at a time. It's important to stir at least every minute or so, and don't be tempted to add all the stock at once. 

3. Once you've added the last of the stock, add in the mushrooms and top up with 200-300ml of freshly boiled water. Add seasoning and leave to simmer until mushrooms and rice have cooked to a luscious amalgamation and all the liquid has been absorbed.

4. Add tomatoes and double cream and leave to bubble away for a while longer. 

5. Plate up, top with chopped parsley, serve with crusty, buttery bread and munch away - preferably al fresco if it's as sunny as today! Bon Appetit. 


Saturday, 21 July 2012

Olympics *Sigh*


In case you hadn't heard already, I mean on the off chance you hadn't caught one of the million news channels' 24 hour coverage and countdowns, the Olympic Games are nigh. I still remember that ominous Wednesday in 2005, July 6th (though I remember it more because we were given leave from normal lessons - this meant a blissful few hours chit-chatting with my high school crush, any love-sick teenager's idea of heaven) when the decision was meted out in favour of London. To much uproar and cheering of course. At what point that cheering became jeering, who knows. Nonetheless, off we tottered to Stratford in search of some of that Olympic Spirit (look, you have to support your city, okay?!)

Alas, who'd have known that a few cupcakes would be the end of us - didn't take much, I know - but we never really made it to the Olympic Village. :O Are you looking forward to the games?



Visit Westfield Stratford City, London, E20 1EJ.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Some Good Fast Food


Ever heard of Wenzel's, The Bakers? Like a more up market, adventurous take on Greggs? Yeah, didn't think it was the most popular bakery in the world. To be honest I didn't really notice it for the many years it hid inconspicuously on a discreet corner of the Harlequin Centre near where I live. It's only now that they sit slap bang on Watford High Street that I've really started loving them. I mean look at the pizza. Just look at it. Note to all you grab-your-food-and-go places; vegetarianism ≠ tomato sauce and cheese.


Visit Wenzel’s on Watford High Street, 89 High Street, Watford, WD17 2DQ.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Shaketastic Saturday


Remember this post? So a new milkshake bar's opened up shop 5 minutes from me (business strategy in action, I daresay?! They even do loyalty cards...) Shaketastic, if you've heard of it. If forced to summarise in one word... I'm sticking with supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Sorry. But it really is. They have a menu of a million milkshakes (literally) and a million and one ingredients crammed onto the counter and shelves. So they'll make you any other combination you might fancy as well. Awesome. As I'm under strict instruction to never have the same one twice, yesterday's concoction went by the name Hocus Pocus Pink. So that would be pink bubblegum millions, pink candy floss... pink flying saucers and pink gummy bottles. Yummmmmmy.



Shaketastic, 112 Watling Street, Radlett, Hertfordshire WD7 7AB.

Friday, 13 July 2012

A Week in Instagrams


I've a newfound love for dessert wines. They have all the flavour of normal wine + extra added sweetness - the perfect combination for my insatiable sweet tooth. The goings on of this week: 

(1)An afternoon with the bf's pup
(2)Daily booster breakfast
(3)Exception to (2)
(4)Desk Personalisation in action
(5)A rare sunny morning (yes, even in July.)
(6)Aforementioned dessert wine - from M & S

Current thoughts: TGIF, albeit the 13th
Energy Level: insufficient
Weekend Itinerary: sleep, shop, eat

Happy Friday.


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Recipe: Meringue Gateau

I made this. On Saturday. And it was so d*mn good they decided to publish it in a book.

Okay I’m joking. I wish. Yes, I know it's straight out of a baking book. But I made it, I promise, just sharing it the cheat’s way. It works a dream in place of a full-on cake for dessert. Cake can be just a little too... well, dense, after wolfing down a meal the right size for two (which is usually what happens in the Ramanuj household) so this is the perfect substitute.

I’ve never made meringue before (imagine my delight at the smooth glossiness of whipped egg whites and sugar - just look at it!) but as this one demands creation of three, by meringue No 3 I’d worked out the perfect time to remove it from the oven for that luscious melt-in-your-mouth consistency.

The only point thing I will stress is the importance of whipping your egg whites until you reach the stiff-peak consistency, particularly for the mousse. I quite obviously didn’t (n.b.though, I’m learning from my mistakes) and resorted to rapid-freezing my mousse to render it ‘spreadable’ on my meringues. Not ideal.


Let me know what you think.


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


I finally watched 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' on Sunday. With the parents of course because its setting in India warrants it one of the few Hollywood movies they actually wanted to watch. If you're an Indian, you'll know exactly what I mean (your parents watched 'Slumdog Millionaire' and 'Bend It Like Beckham' rather religiously too, didn't they?) And so as soon as mum realised that this one had arrived in the 'Movies on Demand' section of the V+ box, many-a-day of badgering ensued (I wasn't overly keen, dad can rarely be bothered) until we finally relented and gave it a chance.

For good reason too because, and I say this with all the honesty I can muster, I do rather regret not catching it in cinema. The hustle, the bustle, the chaos and the colour that is India - the  "assault on the senses" - is so much better captured on the big screen.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel tells the story of a group of English retirees summoned to live in the faded glory of an old hotel in India. It brings together great acting talents like Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Judi Dench and Bill Nighy. When they are all assembled, each in their various stages of ageing — Smith pinched, Wilkinson haggard and Dench plump — there is anticipation that these combined forces of British acting superpower will create history. But the feat of these Dames and gents is much greater. They transcend the traces of cutesy yuck and turn this senior citizen version of Love Actually into a charming celebration of ageing. There are brutal truths about the declining years in Best Exotic, from loneliness to financial woes, but they are amply padded with comedy and cheery messages about acceptance. Beautiful.

It's a quietly great (Great) British film. Please watch it.


Monday, 9 July 2012

What Sim Ate

(over the course of the week, don't stress.)


Sometimes, or rather more often than not, I like photographing the things I eat. Usually because a lot of time, effort or love (and sometimes money, my other half does tend to spoil me) has gone into it and it's just so unabashedly colourful, flavourful, wonderful. Here are this week’s favourites.

1. Fettuccine Alfredo Mushroom & Broccoli, Blue Zenzer
2. Chilli & Lemon Olives, Blue Zenzer
3. Fat Chips, Blue Zenzer
4. Starburst Milkshake, McDonalds (Yes, classy, I know)
5. Roast Vegetables with Cauliflower & Potatoes, Home-made
6. Cheesecake, Pizza Express
7. Mixed Vegetable Uttapam, Sri Rathiga
8. Melting Orange and Chocolate Pudding, Blue Zenzer
9. Potato & Spinach Salad Sandwich, Home-made


Sunday, 8 July 2012

Dolce Far Niente - Part 2


I went and bought 50 Shades of Grey yesterday. Obviously off my own back, completely independent of all the radio reviews and press it's been getting. Removed in its entirety from all FB and Twitter mentions I've seen this week. Yep, of course it is ;) I made a pretty good start on it too but unfortunately left it in the bf's car let night. So little progress made since.

But that's what Sundays are for right? Forget Fridays, thank God for Sundays! Life has been incessantly busy lately - lots of progress, work and of course tiredness to show for it, but sometimes... sometimes you can really miss just being able to... well, do nothing really. Remember this post? I’m feeling one of those lazy-doing-nothing-trackies-and-hoodie-days today. So off I must go now, in order to commence. Have a lovely Sunday.


Saturday, 7 July 2012



So The Amazing Spider Man really is pretty Amazing. Not so amazing (or amusing) that I fell asleep intermittently throughout. But then that's what Friday nights are for… dozing before the (very huge, public, interesting-new-movie-showing) TV (that I paid to be in front of).. right? Either way, I enjoyed the parts I caught; surprisingly it had a huge amount of female appeal for rom-com-chick-flick addicts like me (think geeky college kid trying to win over his crush *awwwww*). Plus Andrew Garfield is rather cute. Win-win. 

I love Saturday mornings. The sleep debt has been paid and it's the one morning of the week I find myself alone, even if only an hour or so. I have time to watch endless reruns of Friends, assemble a solitary, self-indulgent breakfast and crawl back into bed afterwards, too full to move. Which is my current position, at the time of writing. Today: Cake, Run, Lunch, Sheesha, Cuddles. See you tomorrow. 


Friday, 6 July 2012

The Best Thing About Birthdays


The best thing about a birthday, without a shadow of a doubt, is the feeling of ‘exception’ that it lends to a normal day or situation. It’s suddenly okay to have a late night on a working weekday, to savour a slice of cake even though you’re dieting or to go out and spend a little more than you can really afford (“I’ll pay it off next month!”). Between the three of us, I had the late night, mum had the cake and dad spent the money. Successful birthday indeed. Plus, we went out for a gorgeous meal (details to follow) and, in case you didn’t catch it here, (I’ve only been harping on about it since Sunday) my other half went totally out the box and baked a birthday(/Sunday) cheesecake for mamma bear(/Sim).


I know this is the cheat’s way to share a recipe... but it’s Friday. It’s been a long week. I’m tired. Let me off? ;) TGIF everybody.



Thursday, 5 July 2012

This Weekend


This wet weekend is about...

- Catching up with a long lost friend (actually, she just moved to Sheffield... but still)
- Sunday brunch - currently contemplating ‘Breakfast Pizza’, stay tuned
- The Amazing Spider-Man
- Retail Therapy

(yes, I know it’s only Thursday.)


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

When the Boyfriend Bakes

If your boyfriend's culinary expertise stretches as far as sandwiches, beans on toast and mashed potato (don't be silly, I meant Smash granules), you know something major(ly wrong) is going down when he hijacks the kitchen for an entire afternoon.

And major it was because he came out with not one, but two cakes; discovered, initiated, prepared and executed, start to finish, by him alone. One for a friend’s birthday (takes guts, you gotta admit - I ate my first cake in isolation with mamma bear) and then one more for me to keep and pick at over the week. Check this - he made me a triple chocolate cheesecake. I'm almost reaching for the sick bucket myself but.... awwwww *heart melts.*

Recipes to follow.


Monday, 2 July 2012

Le Cage Imaginaire - French Dining

As a vegetarian, a lifelong one at that, French cuisine is something I've always approached tentatively. For sure, France conjures up imagery of finesse and expertise and gorgeous pastries and delicatessen - but also, uninvited for me, comes along a vague association with snails and croque monsieurs and smelly roquefort et brie, non?

So I'm sure you can imagine my surprise then when my best friend, he who knows me for my obsessive vegetarianism, chose a French bistro for some Friday night supper. Le Cage Imaginaire is a tiny restaurant that nestles inconspicuously on a quaint cobbled street in the Flask Walk area of Hampstead - broadly speaking it covers all things Mediterranean (it has pasta on the menu!) but everything about it, from the setting to the service to the style of presentation screams French. Much to my delight we were offered bread and olives and wine and sparkling water; and even as we waited between courses, barely a second passed when something appetising wasn't passing between my lips.


Unfortunately (for blogging purposes, totally fortunately otherwise) the house wine was so delicious that it wasn’t long before my blog-worthy-picture-taking skills were rather considerably impaired; I came away with just one blurry rendition of my starter. Which, just in case you were wondering, is Rocamadour cheese baked with poached pear, caramelised onion and walnuts. Followed by a main of creamy mushroom linguine with goat’s cheese and parmesan shavings. And then a dessert of course, of white chocolate truffle torte. Oh la la. If ever I tasted beauty.


Le Cage Imaginaire, 16 Flask Walk, Hampstead, London NW3 1HE.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Sim's Week in Sandwiches


It has to be said, the best thing that's come out of having a new job is the structure it lends to my day. I have yogurt and fruit for breakfast, more fruit and tea at eleven and then, well, then my lunch. Because of the nature of the company I work for, I find myself most days avoiding the canteen - it’s normally packed and packed with vocal strangers conversing in alien languages. And so I find respite in unearthing my own homemade sandwiches from the depths of my handbag at around 12.30 each day, flicking on the kettle and then chowing down my own, really rather....well, creative creations.

The challenge? Five different sandwiches for each of the five days, as tasty and lip-lickingly delicious as possible. This week I made -

1. Roast Vegetable & Feta Cheese - in toasted, buttered bread with pepper and a touch of mayonnaise.

2. Bombay Sandwich - toasted & buttered, slices of boiled potato, onion, cucumber, tomato, cheddar cheese, mint chutney, ketchup and chaat masala.

3. Samosa Sandwich - sliced up samosa, cucumbers, chili sauce & mayo.

4. Paratha Sandwich - a paratha is a type of punjabi bread - often stuffed, one variation is the aloo paratha, a chapati stuffed with mashed, spiced potatoes; the same potatoes make a gorgeous sandwich filler.

5. Coleslaw Sandwich - thick layer of butter on un-toasted white bread with sliced edam cheese, coleslaw and black pepper. Yummmmmmy.

Do you think I’ll manage five more for next week?



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