Saturday, 29 April 2006

The Hungry Traveller

I'm back from my trip to the UK and boy was I really amazed with what I saw there.

I absolutely love pies, pastries, puddings, cakes and it seems I was practically swimming in it when I got to Coventry and Birmingham. The sights were beautiful. Lush greenery, nice cars too i must say (saw quite a lovely handful of Jaguar fav! and many more at the transport museum) One thing I was charmed by was the fact that I could just observe, experience and breathe in all this loveliness in peace. Finally, i was on holiday. Or rather i wasn't but i didn't mind that i was enjoying the illusion of it. :)

I spent about 7 days in UK, first in Coventry and then to Birmingham and spent one day in London getting hooked onto the bustling vitality of the city, the loud honks and screeches of cars and their car tires, the crazy writhing aerobics agility we had to equip ourselves with to weave through the crowds on the streets. Of course, the main objective of the whole trip was to visit my two universities and leave the UK with a firm decision on which I was to accept an offer. (of course, the goal's been achieved. thankfully! at the expense of alot of shopping too) In Coventry, where i visited the University of Warwick, hungry traveller that I was visited the Kenilworth Castle. It was breathtaking even though it was merely the ruins. We could still explore the little nooks and crannies of the castle and I thoroughly enjoyed squeezing myself into narrow passageways that led up to small dark rooms with a slit in the wall for a window. Very creepy and thoroughly entertaining. I had goosebumps all over when I stepped out into the open after that. Of course, the trip had to include major scrutinisations of the array of foods available.

I discovered this interesting pastry called a pasty and they resembled the curry puffs we have in Singapore. They were much larger though with a thicker braided crust and had a great assortment of fillings. It ranged from corned beef (which i had) to steak and kidney - the savoury to the sweet. Very interesting. One pasty would set you back about 2 pounds and considering the size of one, it is equivalent to one meal really. Very filling, and you could order hot soup (usually a chowder) to go with your pasty and complete the nice hot meal. I was really amused by this cute looking pastry but my corned beef filling wasn't very tasty and i came to the conclusion my tongue was still very much biased towards sugar, and so these pasties weren't going to charm my pants off again.

Amongst the medieval setting of Coventry, ok i know i'm exaggerating :), were little Tudor architectured pubs. One my mom and i visited was the JDWetherspoon Freehouse. The food was wonderfully hot and tasty, and therefore a great relief to us hungry and cold females. The pub was too dark to take any photos either, and i didn't want to look like some food nut among all the i'm-so-cool drunks about.

I ordered my mom Cod & Chips which came hot and crispy. The cod was huge and fresh and the accompanying salad was so crisp and juicy. Mine was a Lagsana al forno which was extremely cheesy and oozing with tomato sauce. Quite lovely though i got sick after a while with all that cheese doing little tumbling acts in my tummy. The drinks were really cheap too i thought, unlike the pubs and bars in Singapore. I got a vodka mix for only 1.95 pound. The cocktail mixes also come in huge jugs for about 5.50pounds. Good stuff.

When we swung over to London, I knew we were going to have to visit Harrod's. Who in their right mind wouldn't? Anyway, my friend Tony had suggested I visit the Food Hall to check out the chocolates and gosh. I was thrilled when i got there! It was just tonnes of people all around, filling their arms with chocolate truffles, dark chocolate covered fondants, coloured marzipan covered cupcakes, sugar marbles, chocolate wafers, Godiva chocolates, Leonidas, Prestat and the list goes on and on. It was like a little world of its own. I was in heaven i tell you! My mom and I went on a crazy spree, though i think she wasn't as crazy as I was since she went on and on about how she was spending too much.

Over here is a picture of the London street where Harrod's is located. If you look real closely, you might see me in my turqoise blazor :) I'm carrying lots of bags of chocolates!

This chocolate craze wasn't confined to London Harrod's itself. In Leamington Spa, I got a can of Irish Cream flavoured Hot Chocolate and a Rum Flavoured Coffee. I've yet to try either but I think they'd both taste great. The rum flavoured coffee smelt amazing. It wasn't pungent but its scent was very intense, a rich coffee smell. The rum came out very strong too but not as overpowering as you would think it. I just stood there smelling and smelling. There were other types, believe me, like vanilla flavoured coffee, irish cream flavoured coffee. I ain't a coffee fan so I wouldn't mind drinking a flavoured coffee. The only way I can ever take coffee is with chocolate, so I had to try this interesting blend. Don't think any one else at home would fancy it since coffee to them really isn't much of a fancy drink but rather a caffeine shot to start the day right. Carpe diem works for them only with coffee i suppose. :) Anyway, i'll be using both in the baking days to come, so do check out the upcoming stuff I'm going to make yea if you'd like to see how of a success or failure they're to come out!

On St. George's Day, got an ENGLAND jacket to do my own bit of celebration. Attracted quite a few stares in my bright red jacket. :D HA! But ok, i guess i got those stares cause it was a tad too big since it was a guy's size S. Couldn't resist though. World Cup is just round the corner and this year i'm up for supporting England and Germany again. Yipeee...

Now to Birmingham. Here was where I indulged my tastebuds to no end. :) I had muffins almost everyday!! HUGE GIANT MUFFINS!! I had toffee & banana, the good ol' blueberry, lemon, some raspberry cream one, and good lord, a chocolate muffin. The chocolate muffin was from this small bakery called GREGGS. The goodies in it are yummy and cheap. The muffin came at only 70p. It was very moist with bits of melted chocolate in it. Puts the ones I make to disgrace! Had a good solid yet fluffy texture and didn't make you feel sick after eating half of it. Yes, it was too good for me to get my hands off it, hence the picture of a disgusting looking half-eaten muffin. I've gotta go back for more. One other place with fantastic muffins is Millies. I had mine with hot chocolate before we headed off to London on the first day we reached Birmingham. I swear i was on a high.

There's this bakery too, called Thomas Cook. (i think) I can't really remember because I never did go into the shop. Had to resist all the sweet temptations and forget about it as fast as possible lest I crumble under its sugary power and indulge myself in the sweet concoctions on display. I really couldn't afford to eat like there was no tomorrow. Did spend hours standing right at the display window drooling though, and scarying the lovely ladies at the counter with the figure of me, a tortured soul standin out in the cold. If the picture's clear enough, you can see that there're hot cross buns, sugary donuts, chocolate cupcakes, easter cupcakes with little mini eggs on them or cute bunny sugar lollies on it, more cupcakes and more donuts and chocolate pastries. phew! it was a miracle i could walk away without my knees giving way. These bakeries were just about to sweep me off my feet.

Hallelujah! We visited Cadbury World too. Ha, talk about chocolate overload. MAJOR overload. We ended up buying about 2 bags of chocolates and they were so heavy the plastic bags left marks on my hands. They're still hurting i think. But all that effort was worth it. *nods* Over here, you'll see this ooey gooey milk chocolate. That was from Essence where we got to watch how the world famous Dairy Milk chocolate was invented. Thereafter, we were allowed to choose any sort of candy we wanted. The candy was then covered with warm chocolate that came pouring out from a metal tap!! That's my cup of chocolate over there which I had wih popcorn. Now i'm gonna have dreams of metal taps, specifically the one in my toilet or preferably my kitchen leaking chocolate.
Down in my kitchen, giant bars of chocolates are sitting around too. We've got Dairy Milk Turkish Delight, Dairy Milk with Caramel, Dairy Milk with Shortbread Biscuits, Dairy Milk Fudge, Curly Wurly, Cadbury Double Decker, Cadbury Bourneville Dark Chocolate (a 70%cocoa chocolate bar), Cadbury Mini Eggs, Cadbury Dairy Milk with Creme Egg, Cadbury Toffee Candies, etc. etc. etc.!!!!! yess, i'm going nuts and i don't know how i'm going to ever fit into my pants with all those lovely seductive chocolate bitties sitting in my kitchen. :S

Anyway, Cadbury World was a delightful place for lunch too. The cafe had pretty furnishings and quite a selection of foods. Simple fare that was tasty. Pleasant enough for us. I had a Battered Fish with chips & beans. You got a choice of baked beans or mushy peas and thank God there was a choice. Have you seen mushy peas?! Though I like green and love to eat things green, mushy peas are an absolute no-no. They look like green dog poo. Mushy, soft, wet, moulds itself to any shape, 100% gross.
Now i've got to admit here that though I always swear off fast foods and fried things, when it comes to chips, i'm a closet chips-lover. And quite picky at that. I only eat fat fries, never shoe string or those with the jagged sides. So I really thought i was going to enjoy these fries here. Too bad they were a little on the soggy side. I'd say Australia is the only place to get good fries. There, you've got fat fries that are hot and crispy with just the right amount of salt. It's so good the sea gulls fight among themselves and WITH YOU for it. especially those seaside fish & chips bars. they've got the best chips in the whole wide world i tell you! not to mention the mussells and monkfish.
Attention shifting to mom's lunch. Ha. She got a typical English meal i suppose. Steak and kidney pie. It was quite a best seller at the cafe. The pastry was crispy and puffed up real huge. you won't see it in the picture since it was the first thing my mom ate before i could whip out my camera. Quite a sight I should say though the smell of the kidney was terribly overpowering.
So my entry is coming to an end. And the trip has ended on a good note for me because hungry traveller came home to food cooked by my gramma. Fried sticky cake (nian gao) between pieces of sweet potato or yam, stir-fried chicken with lots of vegetables and yellow capsicum, chicken soup and yummy salmon fillet in teriyaki sauce. I wouldn't have anything else if you gave me any other choice. Throughout the trip, I must say the food that we ate wasn't gourmet good but what made it good was the fact that it was put together with sincerity and that really showed through. Cooking is not just an art, it's an act of love as someone i know would put it. Whatever ingredients you put in, your emotions and your efforts go in as well. :) So i thank all the bakers and cooks and pub waitresses that have helped to make the meal times of my trip so thoroughly enjoyable. It is times like these that humble me greatly and remind me why Singaporeans can never get over hawker fare. Simple is good. No one can deny it.


johan said...

hey girl. so which uni are u going? so good to have been there yeah? i wish i could go too. =(

diva. said...

i've decided on university of birmingham. i've got 2 pals there and i'm pretty excited bout it. hopefully, the uni will have me :D how are you johan, & how's the bakin?

johan said...

icic. i can't bake for the moment cos of my elbow. and i can't go eat all over like u! arggh.. i'm so envious. i need to control my weight... by the way u have msn? add me at