Friday, May 16, 2014

Foodie Film Friday - Julie & Julia

I've decided to try and write a regular post each Friday in which I review a 'foodie film'.  I love watching films, especially ones where food features prominently, so why not share that with others?  I'm going to watch a wide variety of films, from light-hearted rom-coms to more serious dramas and maybe a couple of documentaries along the way.  So if you're not as keen on film one week, hopefully the next will be better!

I'm going to start with one of my favourite films as it is one of the things which inspired me to start a blog in the first place.  I am of course talking about Julie & Julia.  This is a wonderful film starring Amy Adams as Julie Powell, a woman who decides to cook her way through Julia Child's (played by Meryl Streep) cookbook in a year and blog about her progress.  This is intertwined with the story of how Julia became a professional cook

Film cover - Julie & Julia

I love watching Julie persevere with her (somewhat ridiculous) challenge through the ups and downs it, and life, throw at her.  I guess I feel a sense of empathy with her frustrations with the (somewhat outdated) cookbook - haven't we all tried to follow a recipe at some point or another which was either a bit past it's time or a little beyond our capabilities?

Julie's escapades in the kitchen are interspersed with scenes following Julia Child as, in her mid-thirties, she decides to train as a chef at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and takes us through the process (and at times ordeal) of trying to get her first cookbook published while following her husband (a diplomat played by Stanley Tucci) round Europe.

This film may be light-hearted but it is really fun to watch from watching Julie eat her first egg to de-boning a duck.  This is a must-watch for foodies.

I read the book last year that this film is based on and I have to say I was disappointed.  I much prefered the film which portrays Julie as a far more likeable person than she is in the book, where she comes across as incredibly self-absorbed and lacking perspective.

Book cover - Mastering the Art of French Cooking

As for the cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I flicked through a copy while I was in Paris.  There's a wonderful English language bookshop there called Shakespeare & Co, which features briefly in the film, and they had a couple of copies in their cookery section.  I must admit I would rather like a copy, if only to read in my spare time, as many of the recipes appear to be very complicated and time-consuming!

Keep an eye out for this bookshop in the film!
At the end of each post I'm going to include a rating, my personal opinion of the film and I'll also indicate the type of film it is (where 1 is serious and 5 is light-hearted) as well as how prominently food is featured (where 1 is prominently and 5 is barely).

My rating: 5/5 (because it is one of my favourite films)
Serious - lighthearted: 4/5
How prominently food is featured: 2/5

If you have any foodie film recommendations please pop them in the comments below!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Eat Cambridge - Street Food

On Saturday evening I set off at 5 to head over to the Eat Cambridge Street Food Market and it was a good job I arrived early, just 45 minutes after the event started it was already packed!  We edged our way through the crowd to have a look at what was on offer.

I quickly came to the conclusion that despite looking incredible the queue for the Steak and Honour Burgers was just too long!  I was later assured by a friend who is far more patient than I am that the burger was excellent and worth the wait. (Hopefully I'll be able to track them down some other time before I leave Cambridge.)

Wood Fired Pizza
However, we spied the Fired Up pizzaria tent in a corner which luckily didn't have a queue - this had more to do with the rapid rate at which they were churning out pizzas rather than their popularity.  The wait for my asparagus and ham pizza topped with an egg was short and the pizza was delicious.  I loved being able to watch them cook the pizzas in their mobile pizza oven while I waited.

The wood-fired pizza oven

We headed back through the crowd in order to get hold of some drinks.  While the cocktails sounded tempting I opted for a Magnificent Milkshake and the queue was actually quite helpful as it gave me time to consider my options.  While enticed by the rhubarb and custard flavour, I decided to go for the banoffee pie as I figured that one of my favourite desserts could only be made better by adding the word 'milkshake' into the mix.  It was really tasty, if a little cold given how windy it was.

The Milkshake MenuBanoffee Pie Milkshake

I would have loved to have stayed longer but it really was very cold and Eurovision was calling!  Luckily Eat Cambridge has more in store for us (I personally can't wait for the Main Event next Saturday at the Corn Exchange) as well as the fringe events which are happening in cafes, restaurants and shops all over Cambridge.

Fearing that with exams looming and revision setting in I would be increasingly short on time I decided to stop by Afternoon Tease on Sunday to try out their Sweeteasy, even if it is a little unconventional to have a martini in the morning!  It was definitely worth going.  The cocktail was a marmalade martini (made with homemade marmalade gin) and the cake was a Bramble friand (a light almond sponge cake with blackberries and a gin glaze).

The Sweeteasy
All of this left me wishing that my exams weren't so close so that I could have more time to enjoy the Eat Cambridge festival over the next couple of weeks.  If any of you are wondering what else is going on then you can have a look at the Eat Cambridge Website where you can have a look at their online brochure (or you can pick up a copy from various of the participating shops and cafes around Cambridge).

Friday, May 9, 2014

Book Tag - My Reading Habits

I've been tagged by Melanie @ Me, Bookshelf and I to tell you about my reading habits.  I know this isn't what I usually blog about, but I thought it would be fun and I'm going to keep it food related.

Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

I love reading anywhere cosy, my beanbag is one of my favourite places but honestly so long as it's covered in one of my knitted blankets it really doesn't matter.

Bookmark or random piece of paper?

It depends on the book.  I switched to using a Kindle during my year in Germany to save space in my suitcase and that remembers where you are automatically which is great as I stopped using actual bookmarks a while ago and always forgot my place!

With recipe books it's different though as I still love having an actual copy of the book (partly because I'm afraid of taking technology into the kitchen), so my recipe books have numerous sticky notes in them marking all the recipes I want to try.

Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter or certain number of pages?

Once I get going I can't stop!  And that's true even if it's not a conventional book - if I can't find inspiration in one of my many recipe books I turn to the internet and let's face it I can (and do) spend hours reading cooking blogs, looking at recipes on Pinterest and browsing my Facebook feed.  I just enjoy looking at food and reading recipes, to see how other people do it.  For me reading recipes is a hobby in itself and I enjoy it so much because it is so different to the reading I have to do for my university work (basically it's got pictures!)

Do you eat or drink while reading?

Yes, although I tend to find that sticking to cold food and drinks is best as tea and other hot items tend to go cold as I forget about them when I get absorbed in a book!

Do you watch TV or listen to music while reading?

Not when reading novels, there's no way I could concentrate on both at once.  While reading recipes and browsing what to cook for dinner, sure.  Although thinking about it this could be the reason why I sometimes miss ingredients/instructions.

One book at a time or several at once?

I always have lots of books on the go.  It's how I know I'm reading a book I really enjoy because I have to finish reading before I can carry on with any of the other books I have on the go.  I have different books depending on the mood I'm in, a light-hearted easy read for when I'm tired and being a linguist I am generally reading at least one book in a foreign language at any given time, although they are harder-going so get read more slowly.  Having a Kindle really isn't conducive to reading one book at a time - why read just one when you could read hundreds!

Reading at home or everywhere?

Everywhere I go my Kindle goes, I think that sums up my attitude to reading.  I love finding new spots, often cafes or parks, on my travels where I can sit and read for an hour or so.  Also never let me loose in any shop which contains books, I can spend ages browsing/reading them!  This is particularly bad if I'm presented with a shelf of cookery books as I could spend forever browsing!

Reading out loud or silently in your head?

Silently.  Given how often I read in public it would be a little weird if I read out loud.  Although having said that it would explain my occasional giggle which can lead to odd looks from those around you if they have no idea why you're laughing!

Do you ever read ahead or skip pages?

I used to always read the last page of a book first.  I guess it stemmed from when I was younger and wanted to make sure the book I was reading had a happy ending, as I got older I said it was so that I had the whole book to come to terms with the ending!  However, I don't do that any more, having spoiled several endings for myself I learnt my lesson.  The only time I skip pages in books now is when reading for my essays for uni, but that doesn't really count.

Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

I always like the idea of keeping the spine like new, except I always ended up breaking them somehow!  So I decided to just not bother and most of my books now look a little tatty but well-read.  Also Kindles don't have spines which means that all my books now remain in the condition I bought them!

Do you write in your books?

All the time.  I'm not really ashamed to admit this as I don't write in all books as there is a reason for it.  It's really useful to keep notes in recipe books for future reference.  If I replace ingredients, do it a bit differently, or think I should change something next time I make a note so I can remember.  I also tend to write when I cooked it and whether I (and others I cooked it for liked it), this means I don't repeat recipes too often and I know whether I need to make changes in future.  Being at university I naturally annotate the books I read for my course and I have to admit, even library books.  This is seen as a taboo by libraries, I on the other hand see it as a great way of helping future students - I have often been saved a lot of time (or at the very least amused) by notes and annotations pointing to the relevant bits of a book.

I'm tagging Chantelle @ Mama Mummy Mum.  If you want to take part then you don't have to be tagged, just share your link in a comment below.  Happy Reading!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Brain food

With my finals coming up in a couple of weeks I've started to think more about what I'm eating and how it affects my concentration (that's not to say I don't still indulge in some chocolate as a post-revision treat!)

I've been reading up on foods that are meant to be good for your brain and while some, such as turmeric, are a little more obscure, others are really common and super-easy to fit into your daily diet, like eggs.  This evening my meal contains lots of foods which are good for your brain.

Superfood Supper
I used salmon (an oily fish which apparently helps improve your attention span), eggs, brown rice (a wholegrain which will improve your concentration and focus), spinach and broccoli (pretty much all green leafy vegetables are recommended).

So here's my recipe for fried salmon, with egg-fried rice, steamed tender-stem broccoli and wilted spinach, with a mug of green tea.

For two portions you will need:
brown rice (about 100g)
some oil for frying
2 salmon fillets (skin on)
salt and pepper for seasoning
a small pack of tender-stem broccoli
2 eggs (beaten)
100g spinach

  1. Cook the rice for 20-25 minutes in simmering water.  Drain and leave in the saucepan to one side.
  2. Heat some oil in a pan and place the pieces of salmon, skin side down, into the pan.  Season your salmon with some salt and pepper.  Cook for 5-10 minutes (until the salmon is cooked to about halfway - this will vary depending on how thick your fillet is), then turn it over and cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the salmon is cooked through.  Remove from the pan and place onto a plate.
  3. I steamed my broccoli in a microwaveable steam bag for 4-5 minutes.
  4. While the broccoli is steaming return the pan to the heat and add the rice, then pour in the beaten egg.  Fry for a couple of minutes, stirring, so that the egg cooks in with the rice.  Add the spinach to the pan and toss with the rice, cover the pan for a minute or so to allow the spinach to wilt slightly.
  5. Place the broccoli and rice mixture onto the plate with your salmon and serve.

I realised as I was serving this that I had forgotten about a sauce.  Although this is fine without a sauce it may be a little dry.  Luckily I had some soy sauce in the cupboard and drizzled a little on.  If you're not a fan of soy sauce then you could also squeeze a little lemon juice over the salmon.

As for what to drink, green tea is meant to be good for you as it contains a small amount of caffeine which will help with your concentration, but not too much.

Green Tea
There are loads of other superfoods which you can try: beans, lentils, blueberries (which I've heard delay short-term memory loss - excellent when cramming!), nuts, avocado (a good source of fat and it reduces your blood pressure which is in turn good for the functioning of your brain) and pomegranate juice (which is meant to thin the blood, enabling good circulation which is good for the brain).  As for the turmeric I mentioned earlier, it helps to repair brain cells and regulate your mood.  The reason I included eggs in my meal is because they are a good source of vitamin D which helps to alleviate depression.  You can get vitamin D from being outside in the sun, but with the weather the way it is at the moment that seems like a rather unreliable source!

Finally, and most importantly, cocoa solids (i.e. dark chocolate) are also a good source of caffeine as, like green tea, it occurs in small quantities so is better for you than coffee.  Not only that, chocolate also helps with concentration, improves blood flow to the brain and as if that wasn't enough it also stimulates endorphins which make you feel good!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Aromi - Review

It's time for another review and today it's Aromi's turn.  Aromi is a lovely Sicilian cafe right in the heart of Cambridge and has been open for about a year now.  I've been there a lot this year and it has never disappointed, whether you go there for coffee with a friend,W or to grab a bite to eat on your way home.

When they say they offer a slice of Sicilian life they really do mean it.  All of their food from their bread to their desserts are home-made in the traditional Sicilian style and all their authentic ingredients are imported from Sicily where they have a sister cafe!

The enticing counter

As you enter you are greeted by a counter containing their wonderful array of focaccias, arancini and pastries.  Every day their window display is piled high with freshly made paninis and you can even watch them make their fantastic pizzas.

Tempting treats

Aromi tends to get very busy around 12  during the lunch rush which means finding a seat can be tricky.  However, if you're planning on eating in I recommend doing what we did and going at 11:30 when most of their lunch stuff is out and there are still free seats!

As we walked in we were greeted by their friendly staff who quickly took our order (a double macchiato, latte, ham focaccia, schiacciatella cipriani and a mushroom arancini).  We then headed downstairs to sit down.

The food and drinks arrived quickly and everything looked so tempting I didn't know where to start.  As I'd never tried one of their arancini before I decided to start there.

Focaccia, Schiacciatella and Arancini
The mushroom arancini was delicious, with a crisp outer coating which revealed the cheesy rice and mushrooms when you cut into it.  The texture was creamy and the cheese wasn't overpowering, meaning you could still taste the mushrooms.

Mushroom Arancini
We then moved on to the ham focaccia.  I've had their focaccias before as they are perfect to take-away on those busy days.  This one was as good as ever - warm but not dry thanks to the tomatoes.

Ham Focaccia
The schiacciatella cipriani is one of my favourite things to get at aromi.  It's a flatbread containing smoked provola cheese, caramelized onions, mushrooms and parsley and I would definitely recommend getting it toasted (you don't want to miss out on the melted cheese).

Schiacciatella Cipriani
Aromi is a great place to go if you're vegetarian as they've got lots of different veggie options to choose from, from pizzas to focaccias.

Of course no visit to a Sicilian cafe would be complete without trying their cannoli, which are traditional Sicilian pastry desserts.  Aromi always have lots of these with a variety of different fillings arranged enticingly on their counter.  I had previously tried a pistachio one, so today I was excited to try a couple of different flavours - one was chocolate and the other was ricotta with chocolate chips.

Ricotta and Chocolate Cannoli
Of the two the ricotta and chocolate chip was my favourite but the chocolate was also delicious.  This rich dessert will definitely leave you wanting more.  If you're going for coffee then cannoli would make an excellent accompaniment!

I will leave you with the exciting news that Aromi will soon be serving gelato from a new shop just around the corner which should open come the summer!

If you want to find out more about Aromi then you can visit their website, follow them on Twitter or like them on Facebook.

If you want to visit them you'll find them at: 1 Benet Street, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire CB2 3QN
They're open from 09:00 until 17:00 from Monday to Thursday and from 09:00 until 20:00 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.