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Shave ice

13 Nov

Shave ice is a Hawaiian institution.  It’s pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, shaved ice.  With the addition of brightly coloured flavoured syrups, and if you’re lucky, ice cream, aduki beans, cream or other stuff.  Adding ice cream is very good.  Can’t speak for the other stuff.  I’m pretty sure it’s related to Malaysian ABC which also involves shaved ice and beans, but I have no actual proof.

Local Boys shave ice

After exhaustive research (three shave ices) I can confirm that Local Boys shave ice in Kihei is the best on Maui.  Their ice is soft and fluffy, like the purest snow.  A crystally shave ice is not a happy thing.  Their syrups have pleasing names like sharks blood, but taste reassuringly of fruit.  Their ice cream is delicious and made locally.  And you can watch the huge blocks of ice being fashioned into cooling snacks for surf dudes.

Long may it’s power to bribe the children last…



27 Sep

Ned eating Vietnamese frog curry

One of the great pleasures of travelling is trying new foods.  From shave ice and spam sushi in Hawaii, to deep fried crickets in Thailand, the world is one big edible experience.

There is something so right about eating a local speciality in it’s home locality.  I’ll never forget the freezing February day we ate chocolate ice creams watching the vaporettos zip up and down the Lido in Venice.  Or the spicy laksa for breakfast whilst watching a bird singing competition on a humid Sunday morning in Singapore.  Or the bars of Milka chocolate eaten at the top of Swiss mountains, the sound of cow bells serenading our picnics.

I’m looking forward to blogging about food.  First up, airplane food…

This post was written for The Gallery at Sticky Fingers.  This week’s prompt was ‘food’.

On growing up and chocolate cake

27 Jul

This time four years ago, I was sort of, possibly, in labour.  Within a couple of hours, my youngest child had slithered into the world.  Just minutes after his speedy arrival, I felt complete, that our family was complete.  I believe that his lovely birth and his smiley, sunny personality have helped make me into the mother I am today.  Helped me to recapture my pre-children calmness, and to realise that parenting needn’t always be hard, that it’s OK to let stuff wash over me, OK to have fun.  He was loved instantly by his older siblings, he makes us laugh, he’s cheeky, he is sweet and loving.  Of course he can also be whiny and annoying, and he shouts really, really, loudly, but our family wouldn’t be the same without him.  I like being a family of five.

When he was a baby, four years old seemed grown up.  Four years old was our benchmark for when life would change.  We decided to go travelling when he was four years old because it seemed like a sensible age.  We wouldn’t need nappies, buggies, cots.  He’d be able to walk reasonable distances, wouldn’t run off into a crowd, would be able to tell us what was wrong if he was ill.  Most importantly, as a four year old, we hoped he’d get something from the experience.

So it is with very mixed feelings that we celebrate his fourth birthday today.  Sad because we no longer have babies and toddlers, a huge, important stage of our life is over.  Happy because we are entering a new and exicting stage.  Because Dickon being four, means that our trip is rapidly approaching.

When asked what kind of cake he wanted, Dickon first said a dinosaur cake.  A few days ago he changed his mind to a pirate cake.  We settled for a pirate dinosaur.  Covering our bases.

This recipe is for our family birthday cake.  I make it at least three times a year because it is quite simply the best chocolate cake in the world.  Roaring loudly when you eat it is optional.

3oz plain chocolate
7floz milk
9oz dark muscovado sugar
3oz butter softened
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
5 oz flour
1 oz cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Set the oven to 350 F or Gas Mark 4.  Grease and line two 8 inch sandwich tins (or one dinosaur tin).  Put the chocolate, milk and 3oz of the sugar into a pan, heat gently to melt, then allow to cool.  Cream the butter and remaining sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in the eggs, vanilla essence and milk mixture.  Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and bicarb and gently fold in, incorporating as much air as possible.  Put into the tins and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  Turn out and cool.

Meanwhile, beat together 4oz of butter and 7oz of golden icing sugar in a bowl. Melt 4oz plain chocolate and mix with a tablespoon of milk. Add the choclate the butter and sugar and use to sandwich the cakes together. Coat the top and sides of the cake with the remainder.

This post was written for English Mum’s Big Bake Off.  If I win, I’ll get lots and lots of Green and Blacks chocolate.  To make more cake.

Raw fish

11 Jun

I was introduced to sushi at quite a young age by my Japan-loving father.  In 1970’s London it was something of a novelty.  I wasn’t sure at first, but at some point in my teenage years, grew to love it.  When I learnt about Tsukiji Market during my research for our trip to Japan 10 years ago, I knew we had to visit.

To describe Tsukiji as a temple to raw fish, would be understating it’s size and significance.  It is like a small city with roads, vehicles, traffic police, an auction house, restaurants, shops selling all manner of fish accoutrements and of course stall after stall after stall of raw fish.  Whole fish bought at the 5am auction are processed by the many small outfits, like the one pictured, before being sent to restaurants around the world.

It’s an atmospheric place to visit, even if you have to get up before the crack of dawn.  Everyone scurries purposefully around you, hurrying on their fishy business.  The bare lightbulbs and dark corners, huddles of men doing deals worth hundreds of thousands of yen, boxes heaped high with octopus and sea urchins, trolleys of valuable frozen tuna pulled by harried porters.   And it doesn’t smell of fish.  We shall be going back.

This post was written for Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.  For more travel pics, head on over.

Fish Club

24 Feb

We are lucky to live within cycling distance of an award winning fish and chip shop.  Lucky because it’s close and lucky that we can exercise off some of the calories on the way home.  Fish Club isn’t any old run of the mill fish and chip shop, it is really special, what all fish and chip shops should be.

First, choose your sustainable, market fresh fish, then choose how you want it cooked.  Traditionalists can go for battered and deep fried, those looking for something healthier can have it grilled, or panfried.  You can then watch it being cooked in the open kitchen, the perfect entertainment for distracting hungry children, particularly if there are large flames involved.

On this occasion, Ned had a prawn and chorizo kebab, Eve and Dickon had a children’s portion of battered fish and chips and I had stir fried squid with chilli and garlic.  Everything was absolutely delicious, the batter light and crispy, the squid tender and spicy.

Pudding came courtesy of Lollipop sweet shop a few doors down the road.  We then cycled home across the muddy, wintery common fueled by a combination of chips and sugar.  A good day.

This post is part of Wanderfood Wednesday. For more travel food stories, head here.

Christmas Feast

23 Dec

Shoppers hurried from stall to stall, huddled deep into their overcoats for protection against the biting wind.  Snow fell in flurries onto the traders whose tables, pitched in the shadow of the Cathedral, were groaning with oysters ready for shucking, artful displays of winter vegetables, bubbling, crusty, grilled cheese sandwiches, and giant, billowy, meringues.

Inside the market, mallards, pheasants and partridges were hanging infront of butchers stalls, groaning with turkeys and geese, while the spicy steam from vats of mulled wine, fugged the chilly air.   Huge pyramids of tiny, orange clementines

teetered next to bags of sweetie-like, mouth puckering, cranberries and wrinkled sultanas still on their stalks, begging you to make mincemeat.

Stepping into the Cathedral for warmth, and the chance to hear the beautiful choir practising for the Christmas services.  A moment’s stillness in a hectic pre-Christmas week.

Back outside, and to the dairy under the brick railway arches, where hundreds upon hundreds of cloth covered truckles of cheese, as think as tree trunks, were stacked in columns from floor to ceiling, while buckets of soft, white cream cheeses and hand shaped pats of yellow butter sat on a groaning table with samples of sharp, creamy cheddar to encourage you to buy their wares.

Borough Market the last weekend before Christmas, with snow falling as Londoners gathered their Christmas feasts, was a scene straight out of Dickens.  Fabulous.

On Origami, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo and Origin of Species

17 Dec

What’s the point in taking such young children travelling around the world?  They won’t understand what they are seeing and they won’t really remember it when they’re older.  Why don’t you just stay at home?

Mostly, when we tell people about our travel plans they are overwhelmingly positive, Eve’s teacher’s initial reaction was “What an education!”.  But occasionally someone will not understand.

So what is the point? And what can we do to prepare them for such a big change in their little lives?

Because they are so young, I think they have trouble differentiating between countries, so we are doing all we can to teach them about our destinations before we go.  The older two frequently confuse, India, China and Japan for instance, so we look at picture atlases, read National Geographic and talk about our experiences of visiting some of these places before they were born.

We are trying to find out what children in our destination countries like to read, play and watch, and remembering books and programmes from our childhood set in foreign lands.  So ‘Skippy the Bush Kangaroo’ and ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ are on order and the picture book ‘I live in Tokyo’ by Mari Takabayashi is studied with great concentration as we learn about the Doll’s Festival and how to write fish in Japanese.  Playdough sessions are interspered with origami making and Thai kick boxing.  Although I’m now regretting suggesting the latter.

We are planning to see volcanos, coral reefs, glaciers, deserts and jungles on our travels, so we’ve been mining the library for reference books.  I would love it if we went on a walk through the Malaysian jungle and one of the children said “Look there’s a …”  Then I would know that we were doing the right thing.  Having a geologist Daddy is helping.  I’m confident that we’ll all know a lot more about glaciers and volcanos by the end of our trip.  Whether we want to or not.

Learning about animals is easy, with Battersea Park Zoo down the road and a well-used season ticket to London Zoo last year.  We’ve adopted a Cambodian otter and an orangutan called Sen, who lives at Sepilok Sanctuary in Borneo, a place we intend to visit.  He’s the same age as Dickon, likes splashing in the bath, throwing food and playing with his toy train.  Apparently, Charles Darwin’s visit with his infant daughter to the orangutans at London zoo was one of the catalysts for the Origin of Species.  Hmm.

One of the great joys of travel is trying new foods, particularly somewhere like Thailand or Vietnam.  But if you are four years old, trying new food  can be something akin to being made to walk across hot coals, and if you add chili to the food, well you might as well be throwing your four year old to the lions.  I don’t want to have lots of battles about food, so I’m quite prepared to let them survive on a diet of rice, fruit and cartons of chocolate milk for three months.  But I’d love it if they could enjoy eating in Asia, so to that end, and also because we are greedy, we eat out as much as possible, and almost always Thai, Vietnamese or any cuisine involving chillies, noodles or raw fish.  We have also persuaded them that seaweed makes a yummy snack.

I do realise that a four year old will have a limited memory of a trip like this as an adult, but I also think he will get things from it that are not all about remembering.  He will have a year away from formal schooling, a year spent with his family, a year of learning to adapt to new places and new experiences, a year of learning to amuse himself on long bus journeys, all things which I hope will have a lasting impact.

As for not remembering, we’ll have blog posts and photos coming out of our ears by the end of the trip.  Forgetting about it won’t be an option.