Foodie Adventures: Damson & Co

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Birthday weekends. The perfect one is hard to achieve, but you can go a long way in the right direction with a good brunch. So on the day after my birthday Helen (my official brunch buddy) and I headed into deepest Soho in search of something delicious. We were actually heading for a bigger establishment, but met with the Saturday lunchtime crowds we wandered away and found this place instead.

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The menu was substantial, ranging from breakfast items through to various dishes more reminiscent of lunch – I believe meatballs featured – and we both had trouble settling on just one thing to order!

In the end Helen ordered a green shakshuka (a spinachy omelette thing, with the eggs baked whole rather than beaten) and I had the eggs royale (poached eggs, hollandaise sauce and smoked salmon on an English muffin). My food was really delicious and everything was prepared perfectly. I couldn’t really fault it.

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I also ordered a banana smoothie. The smoothie was okay, but to be honest it wasn’t as tasty as similar ones I’ve made at home, so I’ll admit I was a little disappointed. Helen had better luck with her coconut milk mocha – even as someone who doesn’t really appreciate coffee I can tell you it was amazing. Rich and creamy with a real depth of flavour, and beautifully presented.

Service was good and fresh tap water was generously provided – one of the little touches which really makes an experience better. The prices are on the steep side, but what you’d expect to pay in this area of London really.

The verdict? Definitely give Damson & Co a try if you get the chance.

© Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.

The Breakfast Club: creamy blueberry overnight oats

One of my new year’s resolutions this year was to get into a better morning routine.  I really wanted to make my mornings a more mindful, fulfilling time of preparation for the day, rather than – to use the technical term – a mad rush.  If you’d like to have a morning in which breakfast is not one of the things you have to think overly hard about, then these oats are going to be your best friends.

You prepare them the night before by mixing a few things together, and then in the morning you just need to give them a stir and you’re ready to go.  They’re also ridiculously healthy, and vegan to boot. I’ve tinkered around with differing amounts of milk and oats to find what I like, so please feel free to do the same. And the beauty of a recipe like this is that once you find a base that works, you can add almost anything on top to make it even more delicious.

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Serves one for a yummy breakfast

Ingredients

1/2 cup porridge oats

1/2 cup almond milk (or any milk you like)

1 tablespoon cashew or almond butter

A handful frozen blueberries

A generous squeeze of honey (optional)

Directions

  • Take a tupperware (perfectly acceptable) or Kilner jar (Pinterest-worthy but slightly pretentious) and scoop in your oats.  Add the milk, nut butter and honey and give it a really good stir.  Now add your blueberries, and stir those in too.
  • Put on the lid and place in the fridge overnight.  In the morning I like to let mine warm up a little closer to room temperature if I remember – I just lift it out on my way to the shower and around half an hour later it’s perfect.

Tip: Use a decent container and on your less than zen mornings you can throw your oats into your handbag and eat them at work. I’d say just now I do this roughly 50 per cent of the time. Hey! I’m getting better!

Listening to Love Myself by Hailee Steinfeld, Cake by the Ocean by DNCE and Stitches by Shawn Mendes.

© Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.

The Breakfast Club: Blueberry compote

You know when you buy lots of blueberries, forget about them in either the fridge or freezer — forgotten blueberries in the freezer being infinitely less of a tragedy — and then remember just in time before they become rather too blue and a bit fluffy?  Just me? Okay. Well this is the perfect answer to an entire punnet of blueberries — two cups to be exact. You can even buy them especially, if you want to be that organised person who puts me to shame! Bubbled up with honey and a dash of cinnamon, this compote is wonderfully versatile.  Pile on top of porridge or pancakes for a weekend breakfast, or drizzle over creamy Greek yoghurt for a dessert that tastes far more indulgent than it really is.

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Ingredients

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

3 tablespoons water

2½ tablespoons honey

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

  • Place all of the ingredients into a medium saucepan over a medium -high heat.
  • Stir everything together gently using a plastic spatula, gently squishing the blueberries against the side of the pan to help them reduce more rapidly.
  • Keep stirring, bringing the gloriously purple mix to the boil.
  • Once boiling, reduce the heat and keep stirring for about 10 minutes, or until the berries are fairly well broken down.
  • You can serve this warm or cold — warm for breakfasts, and cold for yoghurt I’d say!  My latest batch lasted for about 3-4 days in a tupperware in the fridge.

Tip: I like to let maybe around 1/3 of the berries hold their shape for a compote with a tiny bit more bite, but you can keep cooking and squishing until the compote is smoother, if you like.

Please see below for the compote before and after swirling…

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Listening to I Don’t Wanna Love Somebody Else by A Great Big World, Love is on the Radio by McFly and Hard out Here by Lily Allen.

This recipe is a simplified version of an already simple recipe by A Sweet Pea Chef.  Lazy, me?

Everything is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie adventures: Beam Cafe, Crouch End

Last Sunday, I went for a wonderful brunch with one of my best friends in one of my favourite parts of London. Could a Sunday morning get much better? I love Crouch End for its abundance of pretty cafes and cute card shops – perfect for a weekend wander. Unfortunately it was a bit of a rainy morning when we headed to Beam Cafe for breakfast, so there was less wandering and more eating brunch in the cosy confines of this lovely eatery. Not a problem in the slightest.

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I ordered the Eggs Royale: fluffy muffins lightly toasted, topped with perfectly poached eggs, smoked salmon, delicately creamy hollandaise sauce and a tumble of chives. It was delicious. Thinking about it now (8pm on a Monday evening) I could eat it all over again. In fact, I’ve thought about this dish an unhealthy number of times since I polished off the last forkful. This is what brunch was invented for.

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Freshly squeezed orange juice: sweet and tangy at the same time with a pleasing amount of froth

My friend had the avocado, egg and bacon on toast — she enjoyed it very much. I’d thoroughly recommend this little cafe: the interior was simple and cosy and yet felt chic at the same time. Even a couple of tight-fisted northerners like ourselves conceded that the prices were pretty darn reasonable, especially given how genuinely exquisite the food was and what a nice part of London this is. We’re already devising excuses to return soon!

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Fork – ACTION SHOT

Listening to Holding Back the Years by Gretchen Parlato, Let’s hear it for the boy by Deniece Williams and Put the Gun Down by ZZ Ward. All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie Adventures: Regency Cafe, Pimlico

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Regency Cafe

I found Regency Cafe during a post-interview wander, which left me floating around Pimlico in search of a late breakfast. I was instantly intrigued by how retro this place looked; white block lettering against a black-tiled exterior, with red and white checked curtains at the windows. Correctly guessing that this kind of place would not take cards, I walked past initially, found a cash point, then went back. Inside, it really was like a time warp. Faded photographs and movie posters in frames lined the cream- tiled walls, and the tables were like the kind you’d associate with a canteen. Linoleum. The menu was spelled out in white letters on those black boards that used to display cinema times: slightly wonky and with some of the letters handmade where they’ve been lost or damaged. The food on offer instantly reminded me of home: the North of England has managed to keep far more of these ‘greasy spoons’ open, and so the fried liver on offer was reminiscent of the tiny cafe where I waitressed growing up. In London, though, there are very few of these places left. The ones that do exist tend to have a manufactured kind of feel, like they’ve been created to look like this kind of cafe, rather than actually being the real thing.

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Specials Board (+ builders’ tea; bottom left)

In my pencil skirt and blazer (remember, post-interview), I was suddenly conscious of looking very out of place: the cafe was mainly filled with working men taking their mid- morning break; all steel-capped boots, dusty overalls and fluorescent jackets. The service was rough and ready, but that only added to the warmth of the place — you order at the counter and then, when your food’s ready, they call out the order and you go up to collect it yourself. The man behind the counter had the kind of infectious friendliness that afflicts all of the best cafe owners; he seemed to know most of the people who came in and out, and by the time you left he bid you farewell like a long-lost friend.

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Condiments in technicolour

Builders’ tea; strong, milky and sloshed into plain white mugs, sat on most of the tables, accompanied by the full English breakfasts that you’d expect. Some people were tucking into large plates of rice and curry, despite the early hour: a chalkboard and the industrial-sized vat of mango chutney beside the till made it clear that this was the lunchtime special: Wednesday is curry day, apparently. The food was what you would expect: it was fresh, tasty and cheap. Definitely no frills, but this is the kind of place that shuns anything resembling frills at first glance. Standing at the counter and glancing at the menu, a man made a quip about Heston Blumenthal, that British gourmet chef famous for his weird, wonderful and very frilly creations (think, snail porridge) which I couldn’t quite hear. The owner replied jovially; ‘Oh yeah, Heston bloomin’ hell!’ It had been a long time since I’d heard anybody say ‘blooming’, and it reminded me instantly of my Dad, who is a fan of that particular exclamation of incredulity or annoyance. I’ve come to think of it as quite an old-fashioned phrase, and it made me realise that this cafe was filled with the invisible London which I hadn’t really experienced before.

Coming to London as an Oxford graduate, I’ve experienced a very particular face of the city. The posh bars and cafes, the professionals I meet when I go for interviews, and the other graduates who I spend most of my time with. But this cafe, and the people saying ‘blooming’, are more like the community I came from originally; using slang, and drinking tea from plain white mugs in cafes that only have two choices of bread (white or brown) and aren’t interested in any kind of smoothie. Don’t get me wrong, I love rye bread and passion fruit smoothies, but I also miss the simplicity of the small, rural place where I grew up.

When I went to Oxford, I was surrounded by people that mainly (not everybody!) spoke very stereotypically ‘British’ English; they were ‘posh’, I supposed you’d say, for want of a better word. Most people spoke very similarly, and I was instantly mocked for my deepened vowels, and the way that I said certain words, like ‘butter’ or ‘grass’. And even though most of it was just friendly teasing, it made me feel like I stood out. So without really realising I started to disguise my Northern accent; I didn’t let my vowels get too deep, and I rarely relaxed into the richness of slang and sayings that I’d grown up with. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the way the people in this cafe spoke reminded me inescapably of home, and that was really very nice.

Well, that turned into something of a tangent, but it comes down to the fact that if you’re looking for two eggs, chips and a Diet Coke for £4, then this place is ideal. And its friendliness is only enhanced by how rough it is around the edges.

Listening to: Warpath by Ingrid Michaelson, I Will Never Let You Down by Rita Ora, Strong and Wrong by Joni Mitchell.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

The Breakfast Club: Banana, blueberry & almond smoothie

Everyone loves a good smoothie. The beauty of the smoothie is that you can bung most things (within reason) into the mix and it’ll taste fine. However, all smoothies were not created equal, so here’s the yummiest combination of classic smoothie ingredients I’ve found. The Greek yoghurt, almond milk and honey give this one the creamy edge of luxury, while the banana and frozen blueberries keep it tasting fresh. It’s so simple that I do kind of feel cheeky calling it a recipe though…

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Oh, and it’s a pretty colour too

Ingredients

1 banana, in chunks

A handful of frozen blueberries

2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt (optional, I guess, but it makes it oh-so-creamy)

4 tablespoons Almond milk (you could use another type of milk, but I like the subtle almond taste)

1 teaspoon honey

Directions

–  Add all of your ingredients to your smoothie creator of choice (I use a handheld blender and jug combo) and BLITZ AWAY until your smoothie is… well… smooth.

– Now drink your smoothie. That’s it. I told you it really was embarrassingly simple.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.