brunch at Caravelle

This may not be a traditional Spanish eatery, but Caravelle was exactly what I needed after 6 weeks living in a tiny Spanish mountain village with Nescafe coffee and limited food supplies. This gem wouldn’t be out of place in Sydney or London and has been consistently reliable on the numerous occasions I visited.

The coffee is delicious. And for anyone that knows me, coffee is no laughing matter. They even do a large latte that is pretty much the size of a milkshake, perfect for those times when one piccolo just won’t do.

There is always a nice buzz here yet at the same time it feels relaxed. A large wooden communal table allows you to easily wile away some hours reading the newspaper or just catch up with a friend over your bottomless coffees and sweet treats.

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Food-wise everything is hand-made on site, and it definitely shows. From the ketchup to the sausages, fresh daily cakes, banana bread and cheese. I would suggest visiting for brunch on the weekend as there is an extensive menu served till 4pm. My friend and I both ordered the baked eggs with Chorizo and beans which was really tasty. We had our eye on every meal that whisked past us. The smashed avocado with tomatoes and poached eggs looked so fresh and generous. On a previous visit I had the scrambled eggs with Parmesan mushrooms. Perfectly creamy eggs and the perfect (non-watery) mushroom side made it a memorable breakfast even one year on.

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Not once during the meal did I reach for salt or pepper. I don’t even think it was on the table. For me this means the chef knows how to season food and bring out the best flavour from the fresh ingredients.

The hardest part is making the decision to go there for lunch or dinner instead of breakfast. On two separate trips to Barcelona I have yet to do this, yet I dreamily admire the menus and imagine what I would order. Next time I am definitely (maybe) going for dinner and drinks.

Caravelle
Carrer del Pintor Fortuny 31,
Barcelona,
08001
http://www.caravelle.es/

Oh, and keep an eye on their facebook page as they seem to hold all sorts of pop up events that I imagine would be well worth checking out.

a taste of Istanbul

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I have to admit, I am not a very good tourist. Sure, I can appreciate a monument, a museum or a statue but the thought of waiting in line for hours with hundreds of other tourists just to shuffle past something quickly while trying to take a quick photo is not my idea of exploring a city and getting a feel for the place.

Of course in Istanbul I visited the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace and while they were exceptionally beautiful these places seem to have lost a part of their soul as day after day they fill with hoards of tourists trying to get an average photo before heading onto the next monument. It is hard to be drawn back in time when people are nudging past you snapping you back to the present moment.

A good ratio for me is perhaps 15% sightseeing and 85% wandering around aimlessly getting lost in alleys and souks with a good chunk of eating and a touch of shopping.

This is not a thorough guide to Istanbul. It is just a tiny taste of what I discovered in a mere 3 days in this sprawling metropolis. Also, I found that Istanbul can be super expensive so this could be helpful if you’re watching your pennies.

If there is one thing you try, make it Künefe. I hunted it down after catching a glimpse of this stringy food being cooked in a metal dish on a charcoal grill. I had no idea if it was sweet or savoury so we ordered it before a chicken dish much to the surprise of our waiter. It is of course, a desert. Made from shredded dough and a shredded cheese (likened to unsalted mozzarella) cooked over coal in a metal dish, doused with hot sweet syrup and liberally dusted in crushed pistachios. It was utterly delicious. So delicious that my two friends (one a coeliac and the other allergic to gluten) ordered their own to share, devoured it and agreed to not discuss what had just happened.

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For a quick, fresh lunch head down to Eminonu pier for a fish sandwich. The fish (I think it’s Mackerel) is grilled on floating barges and served in a chunk of white bread with some onion and lettuce. Liberally squeeze lemon juice over your fish and voila! A tasty lunch in a bustling little spot for 6 Turkish Lira. For the brave among you there is also a bright red vinegary pickle juice available to drink. I however, was not feeling brave that day.

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In the heat of the Turkish summer the perfect place to escape and recoup is to a tea garden. A tea garden usually implies Shisha by the way! We stumbled upon one in Sultanahmet behind a beautiful little old cemetery. I am not sure of the name but if you follow the tram line up the hill from Sultanahmet station you will see the cemetery on a corner on the right hand side and the tea garden adjoining.

Clusters of tables and chairs are found on a raised deck shaded by big beautiful trees and awnings. A true little oasis from the chaos. We seemed to be the only foreigners there the few times we visited so it really felt like we had stumbled upon a little secret. All the usual things are available on the menu but at a fraction of the price of cafes just across the street. Turkish tea for 1 Lira, Turkish coffee for 3 and most importantly Shisha for 12 Lira. If you are staying in the area it is well worth a pit stop.

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Of course you need to explore the souks while you are in Istanbul and visit as many sweet shops as possible. There is also the Istanbul Modern Art Museum in a beautiful location on the water.

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Lastly, this is a photo of the beautiful coffee cups I bought. I instantly fell in love with them when I had a ridiculously overpriced coffee in the souk. Thankfully I found them for sale and was able to add them to my ever-growing collection of drink ware from around the world. Aren’t they lovely?!

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the food personality test

A good friend of mine stayed at my place a few weeks ago. We get along great and have lots of shared interests yet fundamentally we are really quite different. This was evident in the way we ate breakfast.

We were both sleepy and hungry. I rummaged through the fridge and found some goodies. First up we shared a grapefruit. I sliced it in half, handed one half to her and we happily ate it. We looked down at our plates and noticed something really funny. I joked, “do you think you can pick someone’s personality by the way they eat breakfast?”

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Clearly mine is the one on the left. Round two was figs and ricotta on toast.

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Once again, mine is on the left. I found this really interesting. We both have creative backgrounds and interests yet I am much more ordered and considered and she is wilder and more impulsive. As far as friendships go we seem to balance each other out and its just right.

So next time you eat a meal take a peek at the plate next to you. Can you notice any quirks that giveaway their personality traits?

the best loaf since sliced bread

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Sometimes it feels as if I am the last gluten-eater standing in a gluten-sensitive world. Among my circle of friends and family; one is coeliac, another allergic to wheat, there’s a handful of gluten intolerance and dairy too.  I definitely consider myself lucky that my only mild allergy is to kiwi fruit as it makes my lips tingle (no need for your concern, I am handling this quite well).

For a coeliac or someone with gluten intolerance I am beginning to understand how hard and frustrating it can be for them to just pop out for a meal or go to a friend for dinner. There is the obvious gluten containing foods to avoid as well as being aware of cross contamination and also unsuspecting products that contain gluten, like soy sauce.

Aside from the people who have a legitimate intolerance it is definitely a bit trendy to be gluten free. It’s a big money market for food manufacturers and somehow we all accept and expect to pay a premium for “healthy” food. The other day my mum said she found a delicious gluten-free hummus. The thing is; hummus DOES NOT contain gluten. They must have needed a buzz word to put on the packaging.

What I am learning is that it may be better to eat naturally gluten-free wholefoods instead of manufactured gluten-free products which could contain additives, higher sugar and fat content as well as being highly processed.

The big question for someone with gluten intolerance is; do you feel better eating gluten-free products? If the answer is yes, then problem solved. If it’s no, then maybe you need to look in to cutting out processed gluten-free foods altogether and try a pure, whole food diet. I have always believed it’s better to have the real thing rather than a substitute. That means a teaspoon of raw sugar in my tea instead of an artificial sweetener. But that’s just me.

There is a recipe I wanted to share from a beautiful blog I follow called My New Roots. A no-knead, dairy-free, wheat-free, yeast-free recipe titled “The Life-changing Loaf of Bread”, how could I not give a go? Like I said before, I have no intolerance to wheat or gluten. I am however always looking for ways to get more whole foods into my diet that are high in fibre and packed with other goodies. 

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Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients:
1 cup / 135g sunflower seeds
½ cup / 90g flax seeds (whole)
½ cup / 65g hazelnuts or almonds (or any other nut)
1 ½ cups / 145g rolled oats (be sure to get gluten-free oats)
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
4 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks (3 Tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder)
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt (add ½ tsp. if using coarse salt)
1 Tbsp. maple syrup (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia. I used honey)
3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil or ghee
1 ½ cups / 350ml water

Directions:
1. In a flexible, silicon loaf pan combine all dry ingredients, stirring well. Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable). Smooth out the top with the back of a spoon. Let sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight. To ensure the dough is ready, it should retain its shape even when you pull the sides of the loaf pan away from it it.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.
3. Place loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing (difficult, but important).
4. Store bread in a tightly sealed container for up to five days. Freezes well too – slice before freezing for quick and easy toast!

I left the mix on the counter for 8 hours and found it sufficient. I found mine took about 55 minutes to cook and probably could have gone a bit longer. I sliced it up and its sitting in my freezer waiting to be eaten. 

This loaf smelt unbelievable in the oven. My roommate emailed me the morning after I baked it to ask what I had made as the smell was wafting into her dreams. It is definitely best toasted and I find it delicious with both sweet and savory food. 

Note: I excitedly took a piece to work for my friend who is coeliac and she proclaimed she doesn’t like seeds and it reminded her of a bird bar. Needless to say, she will no longer be receiving treats!

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meat dreams

.The body knows what it wants, and when it wants it. Our job is to listen. So whilst I can admire someone who is vegan, I could most certainly never jump on the bandwagon. I genuinely believe a diet that works for one person may not be suitable for another. Yes there are standard healthy dietary recommendations that work as a general rule for everyone but it when it comes to specifics, the key is truly listening and observing ourselves.

Take red meat for example. I don’t often eat it, but I LOVE it. It’s like a good friend you don’t get to see often but when you do it’s magical. Occasionally I have meat dreams. Not all the time, but when my body genuinely craves it. How could I deny my body what it yearns for?

This post is not about a meat dream though but a meat nightmare. My roommate went out for a huge meaty feast a few weeks back and told me how she had really weird dreams all night; imagining people in her bedroom and waking up tossing and turning. I joked “maybe you had meat dreams. Like cheese dreams but different.” Has anyone else heard that eating lots of cheese (particularly blue, mouldy ones) can make you have nightmares?

Anyway I knew I wanted meat for dinner but was somehow led astray and ended up buying Tesco “beef” burgers. As they were going down I felt something wasn’t right. Did I stop eating them? No, I polished them off and ignored that little voice in my head. I fell asleep and had the most terrifying nightmares. I woke up throughout the night in cold sweats gasping for water and running to the bathroom to gulp it down from the tap. Sadly, my meat dreams had turned into my worst nightmare.

Boy, have I learned a valuable lesson. Listen to what my body wants but be kind to it. Instead of settling for pre-packaged horse-and-who-knows-what-else-meat burgers, next time I’ll take it out for a nice steak dinner.

the birth of a blog

SO this is my first blog post. Ever. After having a much-needed Skype catch up with a good friend from back home I am now a blogger. Well, I think I am.

I find it interesting that often with friends and family advice seems to just spill out of my mouth. Nothing awe-inspiring or earth-shaking (well I don’t think so anyway) but just things that seem obvious and make sense. Like today when my friend told me about a documentary he had just started there was something in the way he was talking about his subject that made me say, “You should document your own reaction to filming the sessions. Maybe write a journal or film yourself as well”. It seemed that this process of making a documentary would be as cathartic for both subject and film maker. It was obvious that the time he was spending filming these conversations was stirring things up inside him too.

We changed the subject and I rambled on about detoxing, and raw brownies and flourless bread and how I am really interested in the holistic approach of using food to heal both body and mind. It seems obvious now, but when he said “You should write a blog”, I had honestly never thought of it before. Why is it easier to give helpful advice to others than to ourselves?

And thus, a blog was born.