Going Solo, Aberystwyth

(Don’t forget to check out my website – Velvetspice.me !!)

There’s a strange sort of freedom to travelling by yourself

Don’t get me wrong, having a companion with you has its benefits. Besides from having a partner in crime for your adventures, it’s always fun to have someone share in your experiences

But for some reason I didn’t care about any of this on my trip to Wales.

I was completely content with my own company

And beside, I couldn’t possibly get bored when all the toilet breaks were mine and there was no argument over where to have lunch

And I got to experience the curious challenge of taking meaningful photos of myself with just the timer on my camera…

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In all seriousness though, I recommend travelling alone as a must for any willing traveller

It offers some truly unique experiences and can completely change your trip… in ways I hadn’t even imagined.

With no one to talk to you can appreciate more

Aberystwyth has a great deal to appreciate. The pier seemed like a good start, considering I was staying with my sister who lives about 2 minutes’ walk from the sea

And at 9am, with no tourists around and the locals at work, walking along the beach was probably one of my highlights of the trip.

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Just beyond the beach lay a grassy mountain, sloped at one side and a cliff at the other.

As I drew closer I spotted a sign with ‘DANGER’ printed on it. ‘UNSTABLE CLIFF,’ it read

And so of course..

…I climbed it

So while I definitely insist you all try travelling by yourselves – I do NOT condone this erratic and arguably idiotic behaviour.

If at any point during a trip you have even a single doubt about your safety and, more importantly, sanity – ABORT. I REPEAT, ABORT

That being said, I did get some spectacular views

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Although this hill was so fun to climb and held breathtaking views… it was also the strangest hill I’ve ever encountered

Located at the edge of the countryside, after either a long(ish) walk or ridiculously dangerous cliff-climb, the top of the hill is home to..

…a bowling alley..

…and a camera obscura..

…and a bouncy castle

It was honestly the most confused I have been in my life.

And all around me, happy families looking at this sweating girl who just clambered over the cliff from seemingly no where

Whatever the case, a great spot for a coffee and rest.

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After a pleasant descent (down the sloping path, I’m happy to say) past a number of wild berries and the tram which travels up and down the hill each day, I found the seafront to be a bit busier.

And I was a lot hungrier.

However, I wanted to make the most out of my single day in Aber, so I decided to wait for lunch and instead have a coffee.

Coffee #1 is a cafe chain across Wales and South-East England – as a Scot, I had never visited before

To describe it in one sentence; the homeliness of Tinderbox with more variation than most contemporary cafes.

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Back at the pier afterward, and it’s busier still

Instead of walking by the water, I’m off the beach and heading along the wall. At the other end of the bay lies a ruined castle, offset by a tall war memorial statue.

The view from here is different, but equally nice.

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The castle looks out toward the sea again, but to the south you can see the land mass curl back in on itself as it connects to another bay.

The castle has been reduced to a lone tower, a collection of broken stone and a small segment where you can almost make out something resembling a room.

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On my walk back to the town center I took a walk through the buildings, passing the children’s park, the university, a number of restaurants and hotels until I found myself back where I started.

By this point, I was ridiculously hungry, but looking around all I saw where some pretty pricey restaurants

#treatyoself

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Oysters with lemon and Tabasco..

Oh yes please..

After an ice-cream on the beach (who knew pistachio with summer berry tasted exactly like a Bakewell tart?) I went in search of more adventure

And after a brief fallout with Google Maps which took me up a giant hill and into someone’s garden… I finally made it to the National Park

Access to the golf course, a distant view of the sea, a surprisingly dense forest; who’d have thought you can find all of this in one small town

Aberystwyth is basically a Tardis

I met my sister after work and we sat by the ocean together for a while. The waves were coming in much faster now23998481_1752761234796023_1251085386_o (1)

And after all of that, I wanting nothing more than to go relax

Until next time, Wales.

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The Horizontal Slide…

I did it!!!

I set up my own website, finally!

It’s the little things, really.

For years now, I’ve been creating and editing night after night after night… to be perfectly honest, for a while there I was sure nothing would come of it.

And then, last week, I realised there was nothing left to edit.

And so, I’ve finally published a site. Well, a beta for the main site – but hey!

Progress is progress!!

22243914_1688642654541215_493749295_oThe first post is based around the rise of stress in my life and how I’ve coped with it.

Well, ‘cope’ is a subjective term.

How I’ve ‘pushed it to the back of my mind and decided to spend all my time eating and backing instead’ is more truthful.

The second post, published just today, centres around how to spend an entire day in Glasgow’s city centre without spending a single penny.

Yep, that’s me!

Cheapest foodie in the whole of Scotland.

And now, you can be too!22426041_1695410313864449_1661871855_o.jpg

So, if you’re a fan of my posts and want to see more, please follow my link!!

It also ties in to some university work I’m currently carrying out… so your views can literally help me get a degree. My future is in your hands.

Of course, I’ll still be posting here, but my beta site will decide what’s going to happen later.

Give it a look, don’t be afraid to comment and let me know what you think – I’ll see you all next time!

 

 

Jikoni

My interest in food has led me down some strange roads these past few years.

Most notably, I have a greater need for exercise now.

But I’ve also eaten in some amazing countries, and I find myself with a vastly improved culinary repertoire. There are so many restaurants out there vying for our attention, and yet truly impressive ones are a rare find.

I suppose this is why I was so shocked to find such a stunning restaurant on my doorstep.

Well… I don’t know if I can consider London on my doorstep, a mere 400 miles from Glasgow…

But after all my travels and eating away from home, I have to say I was genuinely impressed by Jikoni.

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Enjoying the summer at Jikoni’s – a calming break from busy London…

The idea of a ‘fusion’ restaurant used to excite me, but to be honest I stopped caring about them for a while. They’ve been created and recreated over and over – there are only so many times I can eat food while being continually assured its “a new take on an old favourite” before I’m bored to an early grave.
Is it too much to ask for a little originality?

But here is Jikoni, a modest display of creative dishes. I won’t lie, I was slightly sceptical at first, but the dishes were truly wonderful, paired with incredible aesthetics and a shining staff.

So, if you’re near London and crave a break from the usual, I have just the place for you. With a gentle ambience, exquisite tastes and an originality I’ve been sorely missing, Jikoni is a rare beauty this world truly needs.

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Just one of Jikoni’s charms – others included framed origami specially designed for Ravinder, lamp shades made from old sarees & handwoven bowls donated from a relative in Kenya

My Experience

The London-based restaurant, which will celebrate its first birthday in September this year, was conceived by the award-winning Ravinder Bhogal. A food writer, TV presenter and chef, Ravinder is no stranger to the culinary world which she proves in her dishes.

She has decorated her restaurant with interesting features and trinkets, each with a personal story. Most of the interior is centred around her cultural heritage and family. It is extremely refreshing to see such a personal touch in a restaurant, especially when executed so tastefully.

This was reflected in her cooking…

Starters

To start, we ordered a mixture of the small plates and Kazuri – Swahili for small and beautiful. From the small plates we enjoyed Kimchi Royals, a delicious take on Patatas Bravas which, while delicious, used flavours I would never usually attribute to Bravas.

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Deliciously topped with crackers and seeds…

And from the Kazuri we were presented with 3 dishes: the Pondicherry Prawn Puffs, Beetroot and Shanklish Croquettes, and Franca’s Chickpea Chips. Shanklish, we later found out, is an amazing cheese native to Syria and Lebanon, which paired well with the beetroot. The chickpea chips were especially surprising. Served with Bengali Tomato Chutney, I finished these far too quickly…

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Pondicherry Prawn Puffs, Chickpea Chips, Tomato Chutney and Beetroot/Shanklish Croquettes…

We were almost too full for our Mains.

Almost.

 

Mains

I opted for the Mutton Keema Sloppy Joe, while my cousin chose the Duck Leg Rendang.

Now while I had a small taste of the duck, I can’t comment much. My cousin looked as happy as I was though and the little I tasted was incredible.

And the burger?

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On the side, padron peppers. Now, while I don’t mind these, I never actually order them from lack of interest. But these had been fried in light batter and seasoned – something I had never had before. The Sloppy Joe itself was filled with more than the meat. Hidden from sight were the pickled onion, bright purple and spiralized, and the sweet, sweet mango chutney.

A single bite and my taste buds exploded. The flavours of the meat oozed out in its juices, accompanied by the sweetness of the chutney and the sourness of the onion.

Surpassing all expectations. With flying colours.

I was definitely an advocate for Jikoni at this point. Nothing could deter me and I thought I was as satisfied as I could be.

And then dessert arrived.

 

Dessert

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So pretty the man beside me asked what it was and ordered it as well…

Turkish Delight & Summer Berry Semifreddo. When I ordered it, I had no idea it would be topped. With. Candy. Floss.

Pashmak, an Iranian candy Floss.

Which was also topped with pistachios and rose petals.

It was creamy, light, subtly flavoured with rose and berries; basically everything I would possibly want in the hot summer.

In my infatuation I completely forgot to photograph my cousin’s dessert.

Banana Cake, I think.

My mistake. But in my defence, the Semifreddo was outstanding.

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To finish, we enjoyed some chai to help us unwind. A relaxing end to our day.

 

Jikoni’s is unbelievably imaginative. It dares to be both bold and subtle, a unique advantage in the growing age of flamboyant dining.

Ravinder’s creativity with food has allowed her to breach barriers other ‘fusion restaurants’ have ignored; this, combined with her experimentation into other Middle Eastern dishes, gives Jikoni an originality the world is truly missing.

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The extremely talented chefs behind our meals…
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Priya, Jikoni’s mascot you can find hidden in the walls every so often…

 

VelvetSpice

Stress Baking

 

Stress baking has led to stress eating and I hate myself

Far too many things have stressed me out these past months. This has led to panic-baking and subsequent eating – no, devouring. What follows is the inevitable self loathing, as I cram stale cake into my mouth and realise with a shock it is July and my body is definitely not ready for summer.

So, of course, I bake again.

Maybe it was the horrible winter that still hasn’t left Scotland yet, even in July, that had me down. Or perhaps the two large spiders I’ve lost in my room (I sleep with my eyes open and 3 cans of bug spray beside me now). It seems wherever I look I get more stressed.

Even as I write this, I see one of my fish has died. I can’t even take it out the tank because the other fish are eating it now. I would probably call them monsters or animals or something, but then I remember how I ate that apple pie last night…

I received news last week that my sister was having a bake sale. I could almost feel the blood vessel burst in my eye as I filled with joy.

I could cook to my heart’s content – and have a reason to NOT eat.

And then… my body took over.

19691542_1576303089108506_494738668_nAfter being told to bake a single, solitary cake, I had blacked out and woke up 8 hours later with 24 cupcakes, a tray of chocolate bark and a triple layered chocolate drip cake.

Alright, I’m being dramatic. I didn’t black out, I knew what I was doing.

It’s like an addiction, or when you promise yourself you’ll only have one biscuit from the packet. Somehow I just kept going. I would finish one and then immediately start the other without thinking. I don’t know where the voice in my head that tells me when to stop went. Although, to be honest, with my appetite recently I had probably eaten it.

The kitchen was a bombsite and I was so covered in a mixture of flour, icing and chocolate that I resembled my creations – but there they were. I won’t lie, I was proud. I had even gotten a little experimental, adding lemon cream into the centre of the cupcakes and trying a marble glaze on the chocolate cake.

19578500_1576303129108502_185999971_nIt was as though all the stress had built up inside me and eventually manifested into a giant cake that exploded into my kitchen. Whatever had happened, I felt less stressed out.

I’m not sure what happens when I bake. Usually, if I’m stressed or anxious, I feel guilty doing anything. During exams, I would feel ridiculously guilty in any break, not matter how small. But baking, for some reason, is different.

It’s fun, I can experiment, it has a logical step-by-step process I can follow without it being too strict – baking just does it for me. Also I get to eat.

Which is always a bonus.

Except during Summer.

Damn.

Whatever. To quote my girl Taylor, “haters gonna hate.” And there’s always next year.

 

 

Velvet Spice

Clean Eating: Make it Fun

Eating clean is by far one of the hardest things to do.

If you aren’t munching through something green or exercising non-stop, you feel like you’re failing.

So after years of this, I’ve decided to give it another go while tracking the food element on my blog.

And it isn’t easy.

I hate this.

That being said, I actually found plenty of fun ways to eat clean. I’ve been experimenting with alternatives to certain foods, working meal by meal throughout my day…

 

Breakfast

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A ‘Hearty’ Breakfast… I’m sorry

The most important meal of the day, many people decide to skip this while dieting. I won’t lie, I was half-tempted as well, but long term there were more setbacks than benefits.

Instead, I opted for fun breakfasts. You see, I realised that eating food was about more than the goal, but the journey. By making my food more fun, like my ‘hearty’ egg and toast, I enjoyed eating it more.

And I didn’t have to cut a lot of food out of my diet, but ate less of it. That way I was still finding pleasure in my food.

Lunch

A big part of my lunch-time struggle came from not knowing what to eat. I would look in the fridge for about 20 minutes before deciding, and it would almost always be bad for me.

 

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Pak Choi ❤

I remember walking to the local supermarket one day and forcing myself into the vegetable isle. I picked one leafy veg, which was Pak Choi. I had cooked it before but never had it raw, so decided to try something new.

 

I piled some radishes and onion on top with lemon chicken (literally just chicken pan-fried with lemon juice) and I now have one of my favourite meals. Experiment guys! A lot of good can come from it!

 

Dinner

 

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Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

I have been slightly more flexible with dinner.

 

Although I try to eat less carbs and increase my veg intake, I found that eating clean during the day and in moderation at night, I can maintain a healthy diet.

I’ve also tried to stay away from heavier meats such as lamb and pork. I’ve cut down on dairy as well.

 

 

It’s been hard but I’m staying true. The hardest part has been snacking and waiting until meal-times to eat.

If I stray from the path I try to eat vegetables or nuts for my snacks…

..but we all make mistakes 😉

 

Comment your healthy eating stories or any advice below!

 

 

Velvet Spice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pink Macarons

Delicious pink bundles of goodness…

Everyone loves macarons. EVERYONE.

These are dairy free too, so lower in fat than your average macarons!

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 240ml icing sugar
  • 180ml ground almonds
  • 2 eggs
  • 120ml caster sugar
  • 5 tbsp. butter (soya for non dairy recipe)
  • dash of milk (soya for non-dairy recipe)
  • vanilla essence
  • cocoa powder (2tbsp)
  • red food colouring

(This started as an experiment, so everything was weighed in millilitres…sorry…)

  1. Sieve the icing sugar and ground almonds into a bowl. Mix the ingredients and set aside.
  2. Separate the egg yolks and empty the whites into a bowl. Do NOT throw away the eggs yolks – you will use these later. Whisk the egg whites until there are soft peaks, then add half the sugar. Continue to whisk until the peaks stiffen. Add your red food colouring here until pink.
  3. Fold half the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, then add the rest. Fold it until fully incorporated. Scrape the mixture against the side of the bowl to get rid of the lumps and the consistency is smoother. 18552789_120332000851139311_261711236_o (1)
  4. Pipe the mixture in equal sized circular shapes onto greaseproof paper. It is very important that you allow these time to set. I usually wait up to an hour, or until I can lightly press the macarons and leave a dent, with none of the batter coming off on my finger. Bake in the oven an 150’C for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how large your circles are.
  5. Now the filling. Whisk your egg yolks in a pan with a dash of milk and the other half of your sugar. Continue to whisk over a medium heat until it thickens. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Add the butter, then stir in the cocoa powder and a few drops of vanilla essence.
  6. Allow the macarons to cool completely, then pipe the filling evenly onto half of the macarons, using the other half as a ‘hat’ to cover them. Your macarons should look like little burgers!

 

Experiment with your decorations!

 

 

 

Velvet Spice

Malta

Smooth waves, sunny skies and soft scoop…

Having never been to Malta before, I had no expectations whatsoever about the country prior to my visit. During my time there, I found the island to be historically rich, with a culture heavily influenced by various countries which had occupied Malta at some time or another. I also had an amazing time sampling the food…

While visiting Mdina, an ancient city dating back to the 8th century, I experienced a few new foods. One such food that stood out was Ftira, traditional Maltese bread. My Ftira 18452249_1518468864891929_1246488470_o (1).jpgwas served sandwich style with chicken, salad and herb sauce. Interestingly, the McDonalds in Malta also served Ftira… however I would still recommend Mdina’s version.

We also sampled a variety of meats. While in Bugiba, I tried different cold meats and hot meats, but the shining star was the portion of ribs with sticky sauce. You see, I have had my fair share of ribs in my time, but none quite like these. The meat on the bone – endless. The sticky sauce – delicious. and the combination of the two made these the best ribs I have ever had. What I would give to have those ribs again…

The last thing I would mention is the ice cream. Now of course, like many warm countries, the ice cream was in great supply. But as an intense ice cream lover, excluding them from this 18450039_1518468834891932_1512580749_n.jpgarticle would be scandalous. There was ice cream everywhere in Malta. Specifically, there was always pistachio ice cream in Malta. Which meant I was always happy in Malta. The best ice cream shop I found there was in Gozo, the island north of Malta. There was a tiny ice cream shop there which a waiter had recommended for me. The ice cream was oh. so. creamy. The creamiest ice cream I have ever had. Lacking slightly in flavour but oh the creamy-ness. Amazing.

I feel bad for not mentioning any shellfish or fish-related food in this segment. But my stomach was slightly off during the trip, and my one regret is not feeling secure enough to try any. I will say that there was A LOT of fishing going on. And there was fresh fish being sold EVERYWHERE. If I ever get the opportunity to return, I would jump on those oysters in a flash…18451820_1518468828225266_2044415605_o

Malta is an amazing island and I fully endorse any thoughts you may have on travelling there. The entire island is overflowing with beauty, from its history to culture to food.

Velvet Spice