Thursday, May 27, 2010

Recipe: Mixed Vegetable Balti

Bit of a "Cheat" curry recipe really, using ready made Balti curry paste instead of seperate spices, but its delicious anyway, so who cares. And its easy too. And to be honest i love Patak's curry pastes. They are all really nice, in particular this Balti one is lush and I really reccomend the Korma curry paste too. Funnily enough I dont think it actually works THAT well as a curry paste for Kormas, but it is a nice spice blend used for other curry dishes- my mum makes a killer new potato curry using it. I reckon this dish would go down well with my keema matar, don't you think? This is a simple, fairly low fat, very healthy vegetarian curry- A delicious way to get your five a day. (PS: Must apologise for that table- Filthy! Shall have to help my mum with the housework once in a while)

Mixed Vegetable Balti (serves 6 ) 77p per portion (81p with rice)

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large white onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
4 heaped tbsp Balti curry paste
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
500g potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large cauliflower, stalked and cut into small florets
1 tin chopped tomatoes
600ml vegetable stock
3 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped roughly
150g green beans, diced
1 tsp sugar
Salt and black pepper to taste
Extra chopped fresh coriander and natural yoghurt for garnish

1. Sautee the onion and garlic in the oil for five minutes, covered, to soften.
2. Remove the lid and cook for a further couple of minutes, or until beginning to brown.
3. Add the curry paste and stir in the onions, cooking for 1 minute. Stir in the diced potato and carrots, and cook covered for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the cauliflower, tinned tomatoes and vegetable stock, and cook covered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add the green beans, coriander, and sugar and cook for further 15 minutes
6. Season to taste. Check that the vegetables are all fully cooked, and serve.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes the simplest things are the best. Certainly nuthin' wrong with a good big choc chip cookie and a glass of milk. I baked this for my last english class before the exam that we have on Thursday, and they really went down a treat. Its a good base recipe too, that can be changed and modified to your liking very easily. This recipe was also published in local magazine Pukka Bath.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (Makes 16 large cookies) 29p per cookie

250g unsalted butter, softened
250g light brown sugar
2 eggs
200g plain flour, sieved
2 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp cocoa powder
200g milk chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 180C (fan oven 160C). Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg until the mixture is smooth.
2. Add the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and chocolate chips and mix.
3. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. Put a large tablespoon onto the baking tray (the cookies spread out a lot, so cook in batches of six per time).
4. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Recipe: Keema Matar

Hello everyone. So I did allright in my Film Studies exam in the end! Apparently (I wouldn't know because I get extra time in the exam, so was last person left in the hall) a few of the blokes came out and just said "Aced it!". I am not sure whether I have 'aced it', however, I feel that I did O.K and have passed it at least, which is the most important thing. Although road work (including v loud drills) going on outside a pub opposite the hall doesn't really help my concentration. Hopefully that will have finished by my next exam next week. This recipe is something that I plan to cook as a main dish for an indian dinner party I am hoping to host soon. Alongside it I will serve fragrant homemade pilau rice, and some other curry- not sure what yet, maybe my Shahi Paneer. Keema literally means "minced meat" in indian/turkish, but most commonly it is referring to lamb or goat. Also, this recipe was published in "Take a Break's My Favourite Recipes" Magazine, and won me £25.

Keema Matar (serves 3)  £1.70 per portion (£1.74 with rice)

3 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp crushed ginger
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp turmeric
3 pods cardamom, seeds crushed in a mortar and pestle
1.5 tsp garam masala
500g minced lamb
1 chicken stock cube
½ tsp chilli powder
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
200g frozen peas
Salt and black pepper to taste
Handful fresh coriander chopped

1. Sautee the onion garlic, ginger, cumin seeds and chilli in the oil for 3 minutes. Add the cinnamon stick, turmeric, cardmom,1 tsp of the garam masala, and cook for a further two minutes.
2. Add the lamb mince with a little salt and pepper, increase the heat to high, and cook for 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock cube, chilli powder, sugar, cinnamon, ½ tsp of garam masala and cook for a further 5 minutes.
3. Add the frozen peas and cook for 5 minutes. Season to taste, and garnish with plenty of fresh chopped coriander.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Recipe: Caramelised Shallot Tart

Oh god. My film studies exam is tommorow. I am so nervous. Oh god. I am just so bad with exams. Nerrrrvous. I just feel like they are always so important, it just really stresses me out. I have revised a lot for this though, so i's sure i will be O.K. I love onions and garlic so much. I made this tonight as a bit of comfort food to sooth my nerves really- this is my perfected onion tart recipe. It is simple, hasn't got too many ingredients and is very tasty. On the side of this I served sauteed courgettes with kalamata olives.

The recipe for my Caramelised Shallot Tart, with my lurvelly picture (as well as a couple of other recipes and details of the competition) was published today in various regional publications, mostly in "The Black Country", Birmingham, West Midlands and Yorkshire areas- Including in "The Express & Star"- which Wikipedia tells me is the "the biggest selling regional daily paper in the UK."- Not bad eh?

Caramelised Shallot Tart (Makes 2 fairly large tarts, serves 3) £1.91 per portion

750g small shallots, skinned and halved or quartered (depending on size)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
40g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
20g light muscovado sugar
40ml brandy
1 tsp fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 sheet ready rolled puff pastry
1 egg, whisked (for egg wash)

1. Heat the oven to 200C (fan oven). In a large saucepan, add the olive oil and butter and put onto a fairly high heat. Once the butter had melted, add the shallots and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the sugar and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the brandy and thyme, and cook for 5 more minutes. Reduce the heat and cook for 10 more minutes.
3. Season to taste. Get a sheet of ready rolled pastry, and cut two even circular shapes out. Put these circles onto baking sheet covered baking trays. Cut a border round the edge of the circles, and prick the middle parts with a fork (to stop the middle from rising).
4. Spoon the onion mixture onto the middle of the two bases evenly. Brush egg round the border of the pastry, and place in the oven for 25 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven and serve!

Recipe: Mango Chutney

I rarely make chutneys or jams. I made my dad a couple of jars of apparently 'really delicious' (i dont like it myself but my dad adores it) piccalilli for Christmas- a recipe provided from Saint Delia. The reason behind making this is because I am hoping to have a another dinner party soon (I have only done one before!) and the main i want to cook is Keema matar (lamb and pea curry). I thought for starter, I could have my homemade chutney, homemade mint sauce and homemade onion relish and then get some good poppadoms from next door (me and nick live next to an Indian takeaway!), main would be keema matar, pilau rice, and some other curry (not sure yet). And if we fancy a dessert, I might have a go at making Kulfi.

Anyway, this recipe is lovely- I wanted to get something similar to an Anglicised or 'indian restaurant style' mango chutney, and I think this is what I have achieved. It lasts about 1 month in preserving jars in the fridge.

Mango Chutney (makes 800g) £1.88 per 200g jar.

1 kg diced ripe mango- peeled stoned weight (about 4 large mangoes)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp crushed ginger
120ml white wine vinegar
140g sugar
4 cloves cardamom, podded and crushed in a mortar and pestle
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
A little ground black pepper

1. Put all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Put down to medium heat, and cook for 25 minutes. The mango should be soft, and the chutney fairly thick.
2. Remove the bay leaf, cinnamon stick and pour into preserving jars.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Recipe: Chorizo, Chickpea and Cabbage Soup

I'm sorry i haven't posted as many recipes this month as I normally would have. I have been so busy revising you see. I am just one of these people that panic terribly about exams. I mean, I am not as bad as having nose bleeds or panic attacks or anything, but I do get very nervous. I am doing As level exams this year, the subjects I am doing are English Language, English Literature and Film Studies. Film Studies exam is on wednesday, wish me luck!!!! Anyway, this is a nice recipe. Not sure whether to call it a soup or stew, as it is rather chunky- but not particularly thick. The optional roasted red peppers I use for garnish- What I do is I get those ready roasted peppers from jars, spread them out flat on a tray, and put in the oven with a little olive oil and seasoning and roast for 20 minutes, just to get them hot and a little most 'roasty'. Then I slice them up and put them on top. It is important not to use a very salty chicken stock in this recipe, because the chorizo is fairly salty in itself. Using fresh is best.

This recipe was also published in local magazine Pukka Bath.

Chorizo, chickpea and cabbage soup (serves 2) £1.23 per portion

1 tbsp olive oil
75g diced chorizo
1 red onion, diced
1 clove crushed garlic
1 tin chickpeas, drained
500ml chicken stock
100g white cabbage, sliced
2 bay leaves
Squeeze of lemon
Salt and pepper
Roasted red pepper (optional garnish)
Wedges of lemon (for garnish)

1. Add chorizo to the oil, and cook for a few minutes. Add onion and garlic and cook until coloured.
2. Add chickpeas and cabbage, stir around for a few minutes, and add chicken stock, bay leaves and seasoning (plenty of black pepper but go easy on the salt- the chorizo is fairly salty already) . Cook for 20 minutes.
3. Add squeeze of lemon, cook for a further 10 minutes and serve.

Recipe: Aloo Matar

I know I know, another curry- but you must forgive me, the love of curry seems to be in my genes. A Booth tradition I believe, or something that will certainly become one. My dad's mum used to cook curries for him in the 60s (or 70s?)- and apparently quite good ones, albeit with sultana a-plenty. My dad wasn't just left with the old beef vesta. I have got a picture somewhere of my 'first trip to an indian restaurant', probably about 6 years old I think, where i look ecstatic and my mum looks rather tipsy! Haha. The restaurant is called Bengal Brasserie, and I am still a regular there. This dish is finished off with my lovely home-grown coriander! If you aren't totally aware of indian terms, Aloo means potato and Matar (or Mutter- various spellings) means peas.

This recipe also won me £50 of Amazon vouchers, courtesy of "Tried and Tested Recipes" recipe sharing website.

Aloo Matar (serves 3, with rice and naans)

4 tbsp vegetable oil
500g new potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed
2 tsp crushed ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
300g chopped fresh tomatoes
5 bay leaves
100ml water
1/2 tsp salt
160g fresh peas
Fresh coriander for garnish

1. Heat the oil in a pan on a high heat. Add potatoes (in batches depending on the size of your pan) and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside in a bowl covered by some kitchen towel.
2. Lower the heat a little, and in the same pan add cumin seeds and cook for about a minute to release the flavour. Add the onions, garlic and ginger and cook for 5 minutes or until soft.
3. Add turmeric, garam masala, tomatoes and bay leaves, and cook covered for about 10 minutes. Add just a splash of water, in order to help the tomatoes to soften into a sauce.
4. Add the water, salt, peas and the reserved potatoes and cook for 5-10 minutes or until the sauce is thickened and the potatoes are completely cooked. Season with extra salt and black pepper to taste, and serve with some chopped fresh coriander.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Recipe: Shahi Paneer

I was just watching Who Wants to Be a Millionaire on T.V, and the £50,000 question was "What is Paneer? is it A) lamb B) cheese C) bread D) Courgette". Was totally shouting at the TV, hah. Mind you though, I think paneer has become more popular and more well known, cause i remember when i was in my home economics class 6 years ago nowone knew what it was. For those who don't know, it is an indian cheese, that does not melt.

Ordering paneer from a curry house is a good way of figuring out whether the place is good or not- Some of them use cheddar instead of paneer and it just ends up all melty and gross. This is'nt a well known paneer dish, the main stream ones being Matar Paneer (Paneer with peas) and Saag Paneer (Paneer with spinach). "Shahi" is the indian word for "Royal". It is paneer in a nice creamy tomato sauce. When my mum and dad had this in India, it was garnished with loads of edible silver!

The coriander i used for garnish, i grew myself!!! It only took 5 weeks from seed to harvest, and was really nice. I know it sounds silly, being proud of being able to grow herbs- but i am not a green fingered girl, so it's a big deal. I am also trying to grow peppers (although i'll never grow one as massive as that one i bought in Nice, lol!). We had this with a mushroom curry, basmati rice, and naans.

This recipe was also published in local magazine Pukka Bath!

Shahi Paneer (serves 4)  £1.61 per portion (£1.65 with rice)

6 tbsp vegetable oil
450g paneer, cubed
900g ripe tomatoes, soaked in a bowl of boiling water
2 white onions
½ tsp crushed ginger
3 cloves garlic, crushed
6 cardamom pods, seeds crushed
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp ground coriander
300ml water
1-2 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
125ml double cream
Fresh coriander for garnish

1. Heat some vegetable oil on a high heat in a pan, and cook the paneer for 5 minutes or until golden brown, and set aside. This is if you want your paneer slightly crispy/chewy, if you want it soft; add it in at stage 6.
2. Adding a little more vegetable oil if necessary, and lower the heat, cook the onions, garlic and ginger covered for about 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile remove the tomatoes from the hot water, peel and quarter them. Add to the onions with the cardamom, garam masala and ground coriander and cook (lid off) for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Pour into a food processor with 300ml water, sugar, pepper and salt to taste, and blend until smooth. Return to the pan with 2 bay leaves, and cook on a medium/high heat for 15 minutes.
5. Add the cream and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Add the reserved paneer and cook for a further five minutes. Serve with some chopped fresh coriander.

Recipe: Parsley Pesto Fusilli with Chestnuts

Bit of a weird recipe, but it's absolutely scrummy, trust me. I've adapted it a lot from a recipe i originally saw in an issue of Delicious ( a food magazine). Again, i like experimenting with other types of pestos. I think the flavour of Chestnuts work so well with the flavour of mushrooms, just delicious. This dish is nice to have with some crusty bread, to mop up the juices. This is hardly a Weightwatchers meal that's for sure!!!

Parsley Pesto Fusilli with Chestnuts (serves 3) £1.39 per portion

2 tbsp olive oil
1 knob butter
250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
250g dried Fusilli
150g cooked peeled chestnuts, chopped
10g grated parmesan
120ml cream
Chopped fresh parsley (optional garnish)

For the pesto:
40g fresh parsley
1 clove garlic
20g parmesan
45ml olive oil
45ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt, sugar, pepper to taste

1. Put all ingredients for the pesto in a food processor and blend until smooth, set aside.
2. Fry the mushrooms in the oil and butter in a large pan for about 10 minutes, or until soft and slightly browned. Set aside.
3. Boil the Fusilli, 2 minutes less than according to the packet instructions. Drain, reserving 100ml of the cooking liquid.
4. Put the pasta, pesto, pasta liquid, cream, chestnuts and parmesan into the pan with the mushrooms, and put on a high heat until the pasta is fully cooked, and the sauce is thick and creamy (takes about a couple of minutes). Season to taste, with plenty of black pepper, and garnish with extra parsley.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Recipe: Minestra

This is a family favourite. Mum can't remember where she got the recipe from, I think originally it was a normal minestrone recipe- that had bacon in (omitted of course, cause of vegetarianism) and cabbage and celery that was omitted too (I suppose to be 'kiddie friendly'). She calls it Minestra because she thinks that "Minestra" is the proper name for vegetarian minestrone. However this recipe came about, it is so gorgeaus. It's warming and filling, and best served with a load of crusty french bread. Ultimate comfort food. (Amounts are a little weird again because i converted it from ounces).

This recipe won me a Morphy Richard's handblender and slow cooker, courtesy of DeliaOnline and ChristianAid.

Minestra (serves 4)   99p per portion (with garnish)

1 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
30g butter
575g new potatoes, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1 tin chopped tomatoes
825ml vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
60g macaroni
1 tin baked beans
85g frozen peas
Salt and black pepper to taste
Grated cheddar and chopped fresh parsley for garnish

1. Fry the onion and garlic in the butter covered in a large pan for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the potatoes and carrots and cook, covered for a further 5 minutes.
2. Add the tinned tomatoes, stock, bay leaves, thyme and fresh parsley and simmer covered for 20 minutes.
3. Add the macaroni and continue cooking for about 15 minutes, or until the macaroni has cooked and the vegetables are nice and soft. Add the peas and beans and cook for a further 5 minutes.
4. Season to taste and serve in bowls with the grated cheese and parsley.

Recipe: Provencal Pasta

So when I got back from Nice I really fancied making a yummy meal for my family, with some of the stuff i brought back from my Deli shopping in Ventimiglia. I made this 'provencal sauce'- they serve it with everything over there, sometimes cold as a dip or on the side of a steak. Often they serve it with tagliatelli- tagliatelli is a popular side-dish there, they serve it next to their nice rich beef or lamb stews, or "Daube" as they call it. We had this accompanied by nice spicy green olives, marianted artichokes, fat sundried tomatoes and salad. Here i have used some fantastically green scrummy ready made pesto, but if you would like to make your own pesto, my mum's recipe is really good: blend 60g basil leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 90ml olive oil, 1 tbsp pine nuts, 50g parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe was also published in local magazine Pukka Bath!

Provencal Pasta (serves 3 as a main, 6 as a side dish) 83p per person as a main, 42p as a side dish.

1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp herbs du Provence
Salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
400g fresh tagliatelli
50g fresh pesto

1. Blend the tomato, garlic, herbs du Provence and seasoning in a food processor. Blend it only for a few seconds- we want to get rid of the big chunks but we don’t want passata.
2. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions (with fresh this usually takes about 3-4 minutes).
3. Meanwhile, heat the tomato sauce in a pan. The main point of this sauce is that you want it hot but you do not want to cook it for too long- only enough to get rid of the flavour of raw garlic. This makes the tomato sauce taste fresh.
4. Drain the pasta, and place in a large serving bowl. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, pour the tomato sauce on top and then the pesto. Serve!

Travel: Nice- Day Six

Going Home Day, yaaay! We thanked Holly for her hospitality, and then I had the most LUSH croissant in the world ever for breakfast. Home made croissants in this nice little café. Typical French breakfast, and not too expensive. There was this breakfast deal thing, here you choose a croissant or bread with butter and jam, or an omelette, then choose tea or coffee, then choose orange juice or grapefruit juice. I had a croissant, with coffee and some orange juice. I also ended up drinking Nick’s tea- him not drinking tea or coffee. Which is so weird don’t you think? I don’t know what he does for his caffeine needs. He doesn’t even drink coca cola either. And he’s a man from Yorkshire! I expected him to be a proper tea addict.

So I can’t really remember, I think we got a metro train from the stop near Holly’s, then got a train from Paris to Caen, then a bus from Caen to the harbour. Heres me with my new lovely French top, and here is the image of SALVATION! Oh Brittany ferries how you have saved us! (You know what is so amazingly weird, when Nick got back to his place, there was a flyer for Brittany ferries in front of his door, how weird is that?)

Ferry took ages. Food was fairly good on there though, surprisingly enough for “mode-of-transport” food. We were there for 4-5 hours I think. For dinner we had steak with dauphinoise potatoes, and for dessert a fruit tart. Was absolutely scrummy. And even though it was canteen food, the steaks were medium rare- because they cooked them on something that looked like a biiiig breville toaster. You see, so easy! Just chucking a piece of meat on there for a few minutes and you’ve got good steak. Canteens can be good, but in England we decided we deliberately wanted to make it crap, with microwave chips and undercooked fried eggs. Mind you I worked in a really good canteen once for work experience whilst I was at college- a Wessex Water one. The food was really good there, especially the baking.

Shouldn’t be slagging off English canteens really, considering I work at River Cottage ‘Canteen’ in Bath. Though I’ve never known why they call it canteen. It’s just not a canteen. “Canteen” to me means hairnets and things in big bain-maries and overcooked vegetables. We serve Fab food at River Cottage (not just blatant advertising, I do love the food there. It’s nice when you like the food where you work- it sucked when I worked at that seafood place).

Heres a funny picture Nick took on the ferry. I like it cause it shows two people crashed out, a couple cuddling, then some old dear knitting. A funny combination.

Near the end of our trip I went outside for a smoke, and I saw something so funny, there was a bunch of young really drunk Scottish people, and I could see why. On the table next to them was a really posh looking big square glass bottle of whisky on the table. I reckon they must have just gone through the whole thing on the journey. Maybe even bought it at the duty-free and just thought “f*** it, we’re stuck on this thing for the next 5 hours, lets just get pissed!”. Heres a view of another ferry coming into Portsmouth too. Pretty looking.

Even getting off the ferry was weird. When we got off, we could hear bagpipes playing. Have any of you seen the Donald Sutherland (ooh…yum, Nick thinks its weird that I fancy him but I so totally do) version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Well this was just IDENTICAL to that scene where Donald Sutherland (forgot his character name) goes to the harbour to try and get on a ferry, then he hears bagpipe music and suddenly thinks “Yes! There are some real people out there!” but then it turns out it’s coming from a speaker, and then he looks up at this massive ferry and pods are being lifted on to there. It’s like the major scene when he realises he can’t escape and that the pod-people everywhere. It was so weird though, I basically LIVED that scene, it was dark, like it was then, there was a massive ferry in front of me AND there were the bagpipes going on (for a reason I still can’t figure out). This is all super weird, considering I am studying this film as part of my Film Studies a level.

So we though that was the end of it, getting off the ferry and we could just walk straight through. Nope, we had to queue for an hour at passport control. Cause recently they have got much more stricter, because of terrorists I expect. Again, we thought we were in a bad situation, until the line got MUCH longer and we realise we were much luckier. The guys from the other ferry got off as well (for some reason they were much chavvier/rowdier/drunker than our crowd. Wonder if they were coming from somewhere else?) and were asked to wait and then queue behind the people from our ferry but they started getting annoyed with that and it was starting to get a bit scary with arguments and pushing and stuff. It was quite scary, felt sorry for the security people in high vis that had to really try and keep some order.

So Dad picked us up, and soon enough Nick was at his place and I was at home.

Well it was an adventure, that’s for sure, will never forget it! Wasn’t 100% impressed about the food we had on holiday- I have mentioned a couple of nice meals, but a lot of the food was fairly mediocre. I love French food, and the French act like they are the culinary centre of the world- Which in a way they are, because at catering college you learn the French way- but seriously, it is hard to find good French food in France! Unlike in Italy. Every meal I have had in Italy have been fantastic- can’t remember ever having bad food there. Overall I think it is easier to find a good meal in Italy, because the general standards are higher- a place doesn’t have to be Michelin star or rosette to be good, like in France. So, me and Nick are pretty sure Rome will be the next place on the cards- though that will be in a while- Our summer holiday (Glastonbury Music Festival) is next up.

Lovely to share my experiences with you x

Travel: Nice- Day Five

So after another buffet breakfast that was nowhere near as good as the ones in the Hotel Gounod. But screw it, it was free. Went to the front desk where (because it was an Airport hotel) there was a screen listing with the flights on it, including the information about delays and cancellations. Lots of cancellations in fact. Including our one to Paris. Man!!!! So, we figured, instead of acting like muppets and going to the airport and queuing up again which many people might be doing we thought, right, lets head onto the train station and try to get a train to Paris, before all the hoards from the airport turn up to do the same thing.

In Nice there was only like only two train journeys to Paris, both of which were full, but a nice old French guy who noticed we were having some trouble, came up to us as was like “You English? I expect you will be wanting to get to get to Paris? I recommend you go to Marseilles. Theres no way you’ll be getting on the train to Paris from here, but Marseilles is a big train station with a fast train going every hour to Paris”. So thanking him, we took his recommendation and headed off to Marseilles. As you can see in this picture, starting to look a little worse for wear by now, just getting worried about how long it would be before getting home.

You know what? Marseilles is gorgeous. We only saw a view of the town from outside the train station, going for a smoke (didn’t have much time between getting off at Marseilles and getting onto the train to Paris) . But yeah, really beautiful. I think if I ever went on holiday to France again I would go here. To be fair, it is still the south of France, but it looks very different to Nice, more typically French and less “Mediterranean” I would say at first glance.

We got a baguette and a drink for the journey (it was a 3 hour journey, on a fast train called something specific but I can’t remember!). Oh! I forgot to say! Whilst me and nick was on the train to Marseilles, Nick suddenly remembered something. He was like, “Wait, I have a friend in Paris, I’ve just remembered!”. So he sends her a text saying that they had been meaning to catch up for ages, he just didn’t realise it would take a volcanic eruption to meet up! He also asked if she could put us up in Paris for a night. He hadn’t seen his friend (Holly) for ten years, but had kept in touch by email fairly often. She said sure, it was fine if we stayed at hers for a night.

After getting off at Paris, we decided to do a little shopping. Although I always pack enough clothes for an extra day when I go on holiday, I hadn’t packed for another two days, so I had to just get some basics (underwear, top, socks etc.). First of all we found ourselves somehow in the most expensive area in Paris for some reason. Nothing but Lacoste, Chloe, Chanel, Valentino etc. $5000 euro watches and at one point I looked in a window and was like, ooh, I like that underwear and we checked the price and it was $1100 for a set of underwear! Hilarious.

Anyway, so we ended up on that big street with the Arch de Triumph at the end of it, for some more affordable retail therapy. I bought a nice (very French) blue and white striped top, and underwear and socks and all that from Gap. I don’t want to sound racist or anything but the people in Paris are so rude to English people. I know it’s a stereotype but it’s so bloody true. The people in Nice were very friendly, and helpful. Soon as we get to Paris the attitude changes drastically. A good example of this is the checkout at Gap. I didn’t notice there was a cashier free, so the cashier was like “Madame! Madame!” (I didn’t realise I was supposed to be called Madame yet?) and so I went up to the desk, and when I got there she rolled her eyes, tutted and said “Ugh…British”. How rude is that?

So after that, we got some metro tickets and headed off for Holly’s stop. When you ride on the metro, you realise how crap our transport system is in England. Well, whenever I am abroad anywhere I can’t help feel sorry for tourists to the U.K, in terms of sorting out travel arrangements. When we were in Prague, it cost about £3 for 24 hours use of any public transport- we’re talking trains, trams, buses and even boats! In England it’s difficult and expensive enough to travel around London, let alone other parts of the country! Plus the metro is vaguely clean, and so efficient- runs on time. Talking about clean, Nick says that when he went to Switzerland, it was so like mentally clean everywhere. Not a cigarette, piece of gum, crumpled piece of paper in sight, and certainly no graffiti. Sounds a bit like when I was in Germany.

So Holly’s place is lush. She had two animals, a lovely ickle spoggly (sorry, im a bit of a dog person- I mean a lovely little dog, a golden retriever called Lola) and a maow (again, cat) called Louie. The Dog was so sweet, kept following me around. And the cat was absolutely mental. Good story behind the cat actually. Her boyfriend was working at home once, and called Holly up saying “Hey, theres this cat on the balcony, and it won’t stop meowing, should I let it in?” and what’s weird is they are on the second floor, they have no idea how the cat got there! So they let the cat in, took it to their local vet to see if he knew the owner, and he didn’t. They put out signs asking if anyone was missing this cat, but no one came forward so it just became their cat now. And it wasn’t a stray; they know that because it was house trained.

Anyway, was a mental cat, I tried to get some pictures of it but it kept moving. It also kept trying to jump into my bag as well. I was expecting at one point during the journey home to start hearing meows coming from my case! Holly set up our room and helped us out with booking something to get us home. The Eurostar was fully booked up. We found another ferry thing but it didn’t have any passenger seats- only car seats. Luckily we found one ferry, which was going from Caen to Portsmouth and booked that. Rather a late ferry, so there weren’t any trains back to Bath at this time, but I figured out that I could ask my dad to pick us up. Because I’m probably spoilt and I know my dad would do this favour for me. Plus he used to work in Portsmouth area and knows the area and which is the best way to get there.

Got a couple of pictures of the pets.

So after we’d sorted out the ferry, which took hours! We went rather late to one of Holly’s regular hangouts. She is friends with the owners and I liked the feel of this place, as you could tell it was one of those good ‘local’ places- we were the only tourists there. The really touristy restaurants tend to be more expensive and generally not as good, overall, anywhere that you go. Also me and my parents always say about restaurants if you see a lot of people of the same race- Like if you see loads of Chinese people eating in an Chinese restaurant, it usually means it is good/traditional food, because they generally know their cuisine better than we do.

Also, halfway during the meal Holly told us that this place was used in the Tarentino film “Inglorious Basterds”. I mean, not as a major location, was only used for one scene near the beginning. Apparently she said it was really nice, because when Tarentino came to film here, he paid for a bunch of maintenance costs for free (like fixing pipes/ cracked tiles/ mirrors etc.) and made the café look better without changing the décor or anything, cause it’s a properly old café. I haven’t seen the film but I googled it and I found a picture that I found really cool cause it was obvious it is in the café we were in. Maybe it’s just me being nerdy but…..Cool!

The meal was so very rustic and French. For starter I had chicken liver pate, with good bread. Some fantastic yet cheap red wine. And my main dish was confit duck leg with sauté potatoes, which was scrummy. I love confit duck leg, Nick doesn’t, but that’s because some people are funny about fat on meat. For instance, when Nick roasts a chicken, he doesn’t eat the skin, cause it’s fat, so I get it, which is lush! Because in my opinion the skin is like, the best part, don’t you think?

Nick and Holly had steaks with peppercorn sauce/ blue cheese sauce. Nick had fries with his and holly had green beans. Holly said she was on a bit of a diet. For starter she only had salad, with the ingredients given to her to front of house so she could make her own dressing and everything. Well, she said she always eats like that. I can tell, she looks fantastic doesn’t she? Like not just thin, she looks really great for her age as well.

Me and Nick had a wonderful time as well, we rarely get pictures of both of us. O.k. Nick looks fat and I look stupid but I don’t care, it’s a sweet photo.

We got back, had a couple of more glasses of wine and then we went to bed. A lovely night we had in Paris.