FOODventures, TRAVELventures

samovar tea house

Once upon a time I thought Ely was terribly boring and there was nothing interesting about it. When my family first moved here, I was still living in London, so to me – ever the city girl – Ely was entirely too small (even though it’s really not.) But much like Cambridge, there’s been a change in the air. It’s no longer just families and old people about but younger folk are trickling in, bought out by Cambridge’s rising prices in rent/buying.

That can only mean one thing, fun things are on their way.

There’s of course long standing places to go such as the Peakcocks tea rooms, the river, an excellent antiques emporium (aka, Ruth’s favourite place on earth), the cathedral amongst many other things, but I always felt it was a bit lacking in places for the younger folk that were not still in school (i.e 20-30 somethings like myself). In the past year or two though, we welcomed a beautiful new boutique hotel, a new food and drink festival that happened this weekend past, a pop up deli/feast and my favourite tea house ever, Samovar Tea House and gallery.

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Down the hill past the high street and market area where there used to be a bead shop (who needs a bead shop?) is the sweetest tea house in all the land. Boasting loads of teas, many of which are unique to Samovar – lovely specialty blends, cakes (some gluten free for those inclined) and breads it’s a beautiful little mecca with a gallery that is rarely the same when I go in.

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It’s everything I ever really want in a cafe  – tonnes and tonnes of great and different teas so you’re never bored, books, comfy couches and a really chilled out vibe, it almost doesn’t feel like you’re in England. They hold little events, a sci-fi book club (uh, yeah, AWESOME) you can buy the art on the walls, but I think most importantly, they know their shit. Speaking to Marta, one of the co-owners, everything about the teas is just in her head and she’s more than happy to help with explaining anything. It’s important that they love tea the way they do, because then this small, beautiful, gem of a place wouldn’t be so perfect. When I was last there, I had a chance to try the Moroccan Chai, specially blended for EAT Cambridge – a mix of green tea, Samovar Chai blend, Moroccan mint and cinnamon – resulting in a wonderful and delicately spiced tea. You get a full pot plus some extra water on the side to top it up which essentially means you can have at least four cups of tea (if not more) and each is different due to teas brewing process (also, you can sit there for ages with a good book and not even worry the whole time about making sure you drink your tea super slowly.) None of this standard bag, milk, mug, done. situation – tea is an art, and Samovar is Van Gogh.

Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 presetI chatted with Marta form Samovar for my radio show, Flavour which you can listen to the episode by clicking the picture below:

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FOODventures

Lemon Coconut Cake

I really should have finished my application for the Great British Bake Off 2013, I’ve really outdone myself with this cake, as has Waitrose with its recipe skills – sadly, I have a hard time not being too lazy to fill out applications. Born out of boredom, a need for a cake for a little get together with some family friends and what seems like an inherited sense of laziness (mi madre didn’t want to go and buy a cake) we thought we would make this little beauty.

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And frankly I am so glad we did. It was spongy, it was coconutty and lemony, it was creamy, it was simple and it was just pretty beautiful. I keep saying to people I don’t normally like cakes and while I think at one point in my life this was really true, I think the tides have turned. However, the surprise I get every time I do like a cake, I think will never wane. Maybe it was years of bad store bought cakes in school and friends birthdays that made me think I didn’t like cake? WHO KNOWS. This cake, whether I actually like cake or not, is a damn winner anyways. Unless you dislike coconut and lemon…in which case, this is quite obviously not the cake for you. Or is it?! When it was mentioned that it was a coconut cake, one of the ladies made a face like she was sucking on a lemon and said “coconut wasn’t her favourite” (the face really said, giiiirl I hate coconut) and she ate a big slice and then had seconds. So maybe try it? It was good.

Anyways, recipe! HERE. NOW! YAY!

This takes about 50-55 minutes

YOU WILL NEED: 

125g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (be careful to not get any of the pith in there!)
100ml coconut cream
4 medium eggs
225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
75g desiccated coconut (I took some coconut liberties and added a wee bit more – probably around 80g)

For le filling:

170ml double cream
60ml coconut cream
2 tbsp lemon curd

WHAT TO DO:

1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C, gas mark 4. Grease and line the base of two 18cm round sandwich cake tins with baking parchment paper.

2. Rub in the lemon zest with the sugar with your fingers until pretty much incorporated and super fragrant. Place the butter in a large bowl and using an electric whisk, beat together with the sugar and lemon zest until light and pale. Gradually whisk in the coconut cream and eggs adding a little flour to prevent it curdling. Sift in the remaining flour, baking powder and the desiccated coconut and fold until well combined. Divide the mixture equally between the tins, levelling the surfaces. Bake for 25–30 minutes until golden. Cool in the tins for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

3. For the filling, whip the cream to soft peaks with the coconut cream and then swirl through the lemon curd. Sandwich between the cakes (I added a thin layer of lemon curd as well, but I really like lemon) and then sift some icing sugar on top, about a tsp or 3 if you’re like myself. A lovely idea we had was to put a piece of lace on top and THEN sift that icing sugar on, but we did not find any lace. Still though, a nice idea for someone else.

Bangin.

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TRAVELventures

Wham, bam, thank you ‘Dam!

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AMSTERDAM I LOVE YOU.

Not for the prossies, not for the hash, not for the other things everyone else seems to love you for.

I love you because you’re beautiful, because of krokets and bitterballen, because of all cats, because of the excellent apple tart, because you can WALK EVERYWHERE, because of the canals, and the fact that people just leave bikes everywhere and the trees and the brown cafes and ghluwien and the amazing bars and the cats in all of these places and the bikes and did I mention the krokets? Did I mention that the McDonalds had a MCKROKET?! (Why was I in McDonalds do you ask? Well too bad, I won’t tell. What is important is the MCKROKET AND IT WAS DELICIOUS AND I WISH THEY HAD THEM HERE)

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As per usual, it snowed – I was lovely and expected and made everything even more beautiful (unless of course you speak to me now about snow, in which case my stance has changed to GO AWAY SNOW NO BODY WANTS YOU ANYMORE.)

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KROKETS. My newest obsession. Very similar to the Spanish version of croquettas – a similar crunchy coating, and a lovely melty creamy inside – but with meats and a different flavour bechamel and a different type of crunch and with some chips and mustard and YUM. Go there, eat them! Bitterballen are the same delicious concept but tiny (like yours truly) and wonderful still. Go there, eat them too!

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There is something about the canals that that make the city infinitely more peaceful than if it was just a city I think – all of the lights, their reflections glittering along the water, the ripples from the boats, their endless bridges and paths, it really is truly beautiful. Not to mention the houses, THEY ARE WONDERFUL AND CROOKED AND BEAUTIFUL.

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It took all of 5 minutes to fall in love with Amsterdam, admittedly I was a little bit skeptical as we walked from the train station to the hostel – the center of Amsterdam and its well known red lights and interesting shops with their interesting goods was not the best of impressions, but the cobbled streets, the beautiful buildings and five minutes to reach a new road and the city is transformed again to something infinitely classier, its SO GOOD. I love how easy it is to just walk around to other parts of the city with its crazy wonderful joys including but not limited to the strange church in the middle of the redlight district housing a contemporary art exhibition. Can you tell I’m a little bit infatuated? No, well then let me go on. Call this my coffee cart moment (one hundred points to those who got the reference!)

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I would describe Amsterdam to have the best of London and more – everything that I like in London, the cute vintage boutiques, the cafe’s-come shops-come late night drinking establishments (yes DrinkShopDo, I’m looking at you, and I’ve found your superior cousin baby but I still love you forever) which are also known as “brown cafes”, all of the great and wonderful museums (I’m looking at you Amsterdam Museum, YOU WERE AWESOME. all you others, I couldn’t afford you/you were closed/half closed – yeah rijksmuseum – so can’t judge you, but if the other museum is a reflection on all of you, then I’m sure you are also great! one problem, NOT FREE but worth every penny at the Amsterdam museum FOR SURE) the history, cobbled streets, excellent eating and drinking establishments, REALLY good coffee and very good quiche. Also, Krokets. I’m a girl obessed. Also, the Anne Frank Museum, which at its most touching, is actually at night when it is illuminated and you think about how it must have been inside and after having seen it, read it and walked through it, it is the part that really had an effect.

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Lets retrace back to the Brown Cafes – I loved them, cosy and nice with the option to drink coffee or beer or gluhwine or all three with a piece of cake was  my favourite thing to do – I could live in one, best thing about them? THERE WAS ALWAYS A CAT RESIDENT.How good is that? CATS IN THE CAFÉ. Loved it. Cats seemed to be a thing, which is pretty awesome. I love cats, they love cats, we’re match made in heaven. Also, fresh mint tea. Perfect.

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Would I go again? What do you think? The answer is OBVIOUSLY. I wish I lived there – anyone in publishing/magazines in Amsterdam want to hire me? I will work for korkets and drinks (and a bed)

RUTH’S AMSTERDAM TOP 7:

(disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on Amsterdam life, these are my own opinions from the one trip I took there – when I revisit, because I WILL revisit, I will see more and probably have to make a top one million by that point because I LOVE AMSTERDAM its my Barcelona to my Vicky Christina.)

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Café Langeries: AH CUTE. Another café with a resident cat. One of those famous ‘brown cafes” come nice bar with couches and nice tables and books and board games and most importantly a cute cat and ghluwine AND delicious hot chocolate AND amazing chocolate cake. It was heaving by the time we left. And there was a cat if I didn’t mention that before.

http://cafelangereis.com/

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Het Café Paleis: The Guardian recommended this if I ever had doubts of the their recommendations they are now considered void (although in fairness I think I always had faith in their taste).  This was a brilliant little place in one of my favourite corners of Amsterdam – very near the Anne Frank house and generally just a nice area with some brilliant apple tart and some delicious coffee.

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De Taarte van m’n Tante: kitchest place I have ever seen in my life. Everything is pink and weird and fun and wonderful and the cake (or apple tart as we sampled) was top notch, and if I were to live there one day I would want one of these cakes for my birthday, the tea was pretty nice too! They also have a  bed and breakfast which is sweet (geddit?! SWEET? CAKE?!)

http://www.detaart.com/

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Café Latei: CUTE. And with a resident black cat. This is the DrinkShopDo superior that I mentioned earlier, a cat, interesting wares that were actually of a decent price that didn’t make me want to upchuck, also it was just the little bit quirkier, but maybe it was the cat that I liked most? Also, they had my favourite (seemingly very popular Amsterdam treat) fresh mint tea which is literally a bunch of mint and hot water – you can find a lesser version in Leon in the form of a mint steeper – but I don’t know if it’s the mint quality or the water but its just not as good also much more expensive)

http://www.latei.net/

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Golden Dragon:  Yes, a Chinese food establishment on the street where there are about six million Argentinian beef establishments and a few more Chinese ones (one Argentinian beef places being the original CAU, which opened recently in ol’ Cambridge) This is on my list because it was great – the best effing spring rolls if ever eaten in my life and I have eaten A LOT of delicious spring rolls and food including the world famous Nan King in San Francisco, California (which, by the way, is AMAZE, go there and eat as well. The calamari are God’s gift to us and we must indulge) but yes, I digress – its great Chinese and some Indonesian but definitely get those spring rolls and wonton soup, you wont regret it, it was genuinely beautiful.

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Café Brecht : cosy, crowded haphazard and glorious, this little bit of Germany in Amsterdam really had a wonderful atmosphere from the people behind the bar with genuine smiles and singing along to the songs playing to the chitter chatter of the people drinking their beer and gluhwine and lovely cocktails (myself and my friend drank some lovely as ghluwine and an Aperol Spritz, which felt really appropriate for the bar). They also had pretzels. I love pretzels (see the post below about Munich if you don’t know)

http://www.cafebrecht.nl/

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De Bakkerswinkel: Best coffee in Amsterdam for SURE best coffee I’ve had in a while as well, beautiful lattes to trump all the lattes I have had in my short life and even more beautiful (can you believe it?!) quiche with some delicious roasted root veggies) Also very friendly and I am willing to bet that everything else they had on offer had equal deliciousness.

http://www.debakkerswinkel.com/

So there you are, my love letter to Amsterdam.

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Amsterdam, I love you.

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