Monday 29 October 2012

First Time in a Pop-Up Restaurant

picture borrowed from the web as I forgot my camera!

I had heard of pop-up restaurants and curiously signed up for a new one that was opening not far from my house last Saturday.
What is a pop-up restaurant, you ask? Well, they are an alternative to traditional dining out as they tend to be in people's private homes where you can sign up for a meal cooked and served by the hosts. Another name for it is a "Supper Club" or "Underground Restaurant". They have historically been a way for aspiring professionals to experiment and gain exposure, but they originally come from the idea of prohibition speakeasies or Cuban paladares. So, actually not a new phenomenon!

Saturday was the first time this particular Pop-Up Restaurant was launched and we were 5 guests in total (they can cater for max 6 guests). We were greeted with a glass of bubbly and lovely canapes
Cherry tomatoes with mozzarella & basil,
Crostini with pea, mint and cannelloni beans,
Savoury cracker with colton basett and homemade apple and date chutney
while we got aquainted with our fellow diners. What a small world - in addition to discovering that one of the couples now live in the house sold by friends of mine who moved to New Zealand a few years ago, the two men - who did not know eachother from before - had both worked for the same company about 20 years ago!

We were then invited to join the table and were treated to an amazing menue and such a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Here is what we ate:
Pear, Walnut & Ginger Salad with Smoked Duck
Beef with Squash, Sweetcorn & Chilli, served in a small pumpkin accompanied by Courgette Muffins and Southern Cornbread and Sour Cream
Mint Sorbet
Fig , Hazlenut & Fennel Shortbread with a Fig and Dark Chocolate Profiterole
Coffee & Biscotti
 The food was truly amazing - really fine dining. I couldn't fault it in any way! It was generous portions and delicately presented.
A real treat!
Wine was not included in the offer and we had been encouraged to bring our own wine. At the end of the evening we were invited to write our comments in a small visitors book and leave as a donation of what we thought the meal was worth so the chef would (at least) cover the expenses.

It was a really unique experience with an intimate feel.
It was a very different experience to traditional dining out - much more fun, more innovative, very unusual and a great way to get to know some new people!
I had a really good time and was very happy as I walked home with my little bag of complimentary biscotti!
It sure won't be the last time I try something like this!

Friday 26 October 2012

Festival of Ideas

Last night I went after work with a couple of friends to one of the talks at the Univsity's annual Festival of Ideas . You can sign up for some of the talks, but many of them are drop-in sessions. 
This talk focused on how linguists and regular people use analytical tricks to unlock the secrets of language: focusing on identifying a speaker's gender, race, region and age. 
Very interesting!
Even after all these years here I marvel over the privilege it is to have such offers on our doorstep.
Next week is half term here and there is a wealth of activities and talks - also for children!

Thursday 25 October 2012

Tried and Tested: "Form" or Mac & Cheese with Fish

Food is so often connected to memories.
We loved 'form' (don't know where the name came from) when we were children. It was a staple dish when we came to visit my grandfather in Oslo's house.
 It is actually a form of mac&cheese with extra filling.
This is my version, this time with fish (this will easily feed 5-6 people):
Warm up (a bit warmer than luke warm) 5 dl of milk with half an onion and 5-6 peppercorns and set it aside to infuse while you
Boil 500 grams of macaroni till almost soft enough to eat.
Drain the macaroni and put it to the side while you
Make a cheese sauce with
70 grams of butter and 3-4 tablespoons of flour and the warmed milk (discard the onion and the peppercorns before adding to the sauce).
Add 200 grams of grated cheese to the sauce along with
2 teaspoons of English mustard
A good dash of Worcester sauce,
2 teaspoons of lemon juice and
a good pinch of salt
Add the cheese sauce to the boiled macaroni and coat the pasta well
Add 350 grams of chunks of uncooked fish to the macaroni mix. I normally use a variety pack containing salmon, haddock and smoked Alaskan pollock.
Pour it all into a greased heatproof oven dish and cover the top with breadcrumbs. You can also crush some garlic into the breadcrumbs, if you like for some extra flavour.
Bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes on 200 degrees.
Serve with a salad
Such a simple comfort food on an autumnal day!

Tuesday 23 October 2012

SWEDISH Shop - I am ALMOST in Heaven!

I have mentioned before how the world is getting smaller
- you can ALMOST get anything anywhere!
This was again proved when I discovered that my grocery delivery company Ocado now have a Swedish Shop!
So, no need to go to Ikea to indulge my cravings for kaviar, sild, Wasa knekkebrød, leverpostei, falukorv, fiskeboller(!), various cheeses AND grønnsåpe! They even have various forms of old familiar sweets and crips... - even Twist (although I am pretty sure that is originally Norwegian ...!). Actually, I am not too fond of Swedish chocolates and sweets - sweeter than Norwegian treats, I think, but beggars can't be choosers!
No sign of a Norwegian shop, but as I grew up 10 minutes from the Swedish border,
I am almost in heaven!

Thursday 18 October 2012

Yoga - My Obsession...

nope... not me - borrowed from the web
I have now been taking weekly yoga classes for almost 3 years. It has become a real passion and a necessity for my general well being. I started to notice the benefits of the yoga practises after a few months and I am still thrilled every time I squat/bend/stretch and feel that I am more flexible and stronger than I used to be. Sitting on bent knees or squatting was something I could never do as the knees would hurt too much. That is no longer a problem. I rarely suffer from any types of back aches (I have had a bad back for many years) and I just love the feeling you get after a yoga class. I can go tired into a class, yawning and just wanting to curl up and go to sleep, but after the class I am calm, awake and refreshed. No wonder yoga means 'to join' body and mind!
And I know that I will sleep deeply that night waking up refreshed the next day. The breathing practise is great for focusing the mind and you feel how good it is for the body to take deep concentrated breaths as we all tend to shallow breathe too much.
I highly recommend yoga to anybody - no matter what size or age you are. In yoga you don't compete with anybody else - we are all differently made and just because you can't do a posture perfectly doesn't mean there is something 'wrong' with you. Perhaps your body just can't do that particular posture. A friend once lent me a DVD where this fact of different physical limitations was illustrated very clearly - simply because we are not all built the same way! But that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy yoga and benefit from it! Yoga is not about pushing through pain. If you feel pain, you are not doing it right.
This fall I have also signed up for some lunch time classes on Thursdays. I have to admit, I am not that good doing the practises on my own although I am getting better and I actively use the breathing practises in my day. So, Thursdays I rush from the office to get my one hour of yoga before I go back relaxed and ready to take on the rest of the day.
Tuesday evenings and Thursday lunchtime is
Do you make sure you get some YOU TIME during the week?

Monday 15 October 2012

Weekend Summary and Welcome to the World!

doesn't happen often that we can't finish off a SHARED dessert...!
And we are back to Monday after an eventful weekend...!
After dropping Our Boy off at a party, the Professor and I kicked off the weekend with a visit to the restaurant in the hotel The Cross Keys in Saffron Walden on Friday evening. Lovely place (Elizabethan building going back 850 years!) with great atmosphere, amazing food and also the possibility of spending the night as they offer 6 rooms. Really worth a visit (check out the link)! Obviously a very popular place as it was packed and we were just lucky to get a table.
On Saturday Our Boy went to his weekend job stacking shelves in a nearby supermarket. His shift is  every Saturday evening from 5 pm till 11 pm. Fortunately, most of his social life happens on Fridays and his still manages to have a proper lie-in on both Saturday and Sunday and to finish off home-work, so win-win!
I also managed to go through my wardrobe this weekend and had a much needed clean-up and packed away the summer clothes. 5 big bags of old clothes are going to the recycling bins! There was so much I had not worn for years and it became clear that I would never wear them again as I seem to have shrunk (nice bonus ☺).
It feels good to free up the space particularly when thinking of possibly refurbishing the bedroom this fall. No need to keep things that just take up space and is never in use!

The weekend was rounded off with a good dose of Downton Abbey. I won't spoil it for those who have not seen this episode, but I will just say my eyes were still puffy this morning from all the crying last night...
 But the biggest and brightest news of the weekend was that our new little friend was born in Zurich on Friday.
So sweet and so very, very welcome!

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Victim of Gender Stereotyping...

borrowed from the Internet
A letter arrived yesterday inviting my husband to come and see the new Honda CR-V coming out shortly. Ok, they used the wrong title calling him 'Mr.' while the correct title should be 'Professor' (VERY important these things around here...) and also misspelling our surname, but we are very used to that so I don't get upset about that anymore.
We are not looking for a new car, but the invitation came from the local Honda dealer/garage I had recently taken the car for its annual service to. We used to take the car for service to the garage were we bought it, but this garage is about 45 minutes away from our house. I therefore thought it was much more efficient use of time to use the local Honda dealer's garage instead. The service was efficient and good, so we are good for another year.
However, the key fact relating to the letter is that I had booked and taken the car to the service. My husband was not involved in this arrangement at all...
But HE is the one that gets the invitation to come and view the new car (in the hope that they can tempt him to buy a new car, obviously)...
Now, that is assuming that the decision for a new car lies with a person they have not met nor do they know if he exists... And completely ignoring ME - their actual customer! And I watch Top Gear and everything (Ok, generally forced to when The Professor and Our Boy takes control over the remote...)
I would say I am a victim of gender stereotyping here!
And besides, how would they know whether he could choose the right colour or not...

Monday 8 October 2012

Tried and Tested: Eshkeneh - Persian Onion Soup

My mother-in-law has taught me most of the Iranian dishes I make, but this one I taught her!
I found the recipe of this favourite dish of ours in a book given to me many years ago by dear friends in Chicago. The book, "New Food of Life" by Najmieh Batmanglij is an excellent book if you are looking for an introduction to Persian cuisine. She has written many cook books, but I keep coming back to this one.
Eshkeneh or Persian Onion Soup is simple and easy and very tasty and perfect on a cold days!
 Here is my take on it:
4 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 cup fresh or 3 tablespoons dried fenugreek leaves (Norwegian: bukkehornkløver)
3 eggs
2 tablespoons flour,
1 teaspoon turmeric (Norwegian: gurkemeie)
3-4 peeled potatoes
1.5litre water
2 dried lime or 4 tablespoons of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute the onions and the garlic in a large pot with some oil on medium heat until golden brown - dont' burn them!
Add flour, turmeric and some salt and pepper and stir and cook for a minute or two.
Then add the fenugreek and saute for a few minutes, stir well to mix all the ingredients.
Add 1.5l of water, salt and pepper to taste.
Add the peeled and chopped potatoes.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 50 minutes on medium-low heat.
Break the eggs into a small bowl, stir well and add to the soup and blend well.
Adjust the seasoning before serving (Tip: Add a spoon of sugar if it is too sour).
Serve hot with warm bread and plain yogurt.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Making More Bling!

Time for autumnal activities!
Last week I attended a new class at The Beaderie.
Friendly and lovely Sally taught us how to make the embellished right-angle woven bracelet.
The classes are small - max 4 people so we get plenty of assistance if needed. Since this is my second class I felt it was quick to get my head around it.
Not a bad way of spending a couple of hours on a blustery autumnal mid week evening!

Tuesday 2 October 2012

A Lovely Song...

I have found a new potential favourite song/singer
Melody Gardot - Baby I'm a Fool

Monday 1 October 2012

A New Era...

This weekend we had a farewell party for our boss who retired as director for our research group. It was a nice event where we had invited everybody we have worked with these 11 years this group has excisted. Not everybody could come, some are now as far afield as New Zealand, Australia or China, but we ended up with a good selection of people from the various years and projects. It was fun and almost a bit nostalgic seeing them all again!
The evening went very fast and as usual, I ended up feeling I did not get a chance to speak with all... Well, perhaps some other time, I hope!
So, while we wait for our new director to join us in the spring you could be mistaken for thinking those of us still here would be like the mice in the Norwegian saying:
Når katten er ute, så danser musene på bordet...
(When the cat is out, the mice dance on the table)
Surely not!
It is just a picture I used for illustrating this 'cheeky' post...
Also, 1 October today...!
Incredibly how dark it was this morning!
It was still pitch black when I woke at 6.30am. I had to turn the lights on before I got out of bed..
That was a first this fall...
PS: we have a board to answer to... just in case anybody got worried!