Vegetarian Pho with Courgette Noodles

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I had to practically sit on my hands not to do a punny title, because ‘pho’ is a total gift to those with a love of terrible puns. If you read it as written, you’ve got classics such as ‘pho my god’, ‘pho way’ etc. If you go pho-netically with ‘fuh’, you can go down an enjoyably unsavoury avenue.

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Anyway. The point is, I really love pho, but it can be hard to find a decent vegetarian option. When Nam on Old Compton Street closed for good last year, I also closed my heart to a decent bowl of veggie pho. I traipsed hopefully to other Soho Pho (Sopho) establishments, but none of them hit the spot. Also, I frittered away all my cash on Christmas presents, so homemade (phomemade? I’m really sorry, I can’t stop) was the way to go.

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I found the process of making the broth extremely soothing. Something about cooking this kind of food feels like it’s good for your soul. I recommend gathering and prepping all your ingredients in advance in a nice orderly way, and keeping counters clear for full relaxing benefits. I swapped in courgette for the noodle part, because I’m on a ludicrously cliched January health kick, but you should do as you wish. I was also going to boil an egg and pop it in too, but I decided against it, but the egg still snuck into the photos.

Forgive the slightly rubbish pics, my DSLR is in Sussex, so these are phone photos! Pho-tos. image3

For the Broth
1 white onion, peeled and quartered
2 garlic cloves, quartered
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1 litre vegetable stock
1.5 tbsp soy sauce

For the Noodles
1 courgette
1 Portobello mushroom
1/2 red pepper
1 tbsp butter

Garnish
Bean sprouts
Mint/Thai basil
Chili
Lime

1. Heat the onion, garlic and spices in a dry pan over a medium-high heat until the veg begins to char.

2. Add stock and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Cover and heat on medium-low for 25 minutes.

3. Spiralize the courgette, dry it and salt it, then pan fry in a little butter until it begins to soften. Place in your serving bowl, along with the sliced red pepper.

4. Slice the Portobello mushroom and pan fry in the courgette pan with leftover butter until it softens, then add to the noodle bowl.

5. Strain the broth then pour it over the top of the noodles, before serving with the plate of garnishes.

Last Days: Festival of Love on the Southbank

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Exhibitions at the Southbank Centre are generally something I avoid, purely because it sometimes feels a bit too…well, corporate, I guess. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I suppose I assume I’m not going to have that much fun at them, because everything’s going to be very serious, and I won’t be allowed to touch things and engage with them. And there’s a part of me that tends to feel like I should try and find something elsewhere, like it’s some kind of huge cop out to go to one of the busiest tourist destinations in town.

That said, I found myself with too much time on my hands one Sunday after working in the morning, and was at a bit of a loss for what to do. I always like strolling down the Southbank, whatever the weather, so I found myself having a quick cloudy lemonade at the Hayward, and looking through the literature for what was on. Something caught my eye: the Museum of Broken Relationships had set up an outpost, pulling in contributions from London’s broken-hearted residents. I’d read about the museum before, and it really grabbed my interest. People submit artifacts from relationships they’ve been in that have fallen apart. It’s incredibly voyeuristic, but ultimately a fairly uplifting experience. Pain is universal, broken hearts are commonplace, and many of the stories accompanying objects are about how the person concerned has moved on with their life.

I spent a good couple of hours in The Heartbreak Hotel, where not only can you forensically dissect past romances, but you can also examine letters to Cathy & Claire, the agony aunts at ‘Jackie’ magazine in the 70s. You step into an interpretation of the Jackie offices, complete with blocky wooden desks, typewriters and extendable desk lamps. The letters themselves are fascinating, with advice written from most members of the Jackie staff (Cathy & Claire never actually existed). While you’re in there, you can also grab a cocktail from the Department of Good Cheer, and get dressed up as famous pop heartthrobs.

I liked it so much that I revisited the weekend after with a friend, this time going into the Tunnel of Love, which I was a bit too freaked out by to go alone. We wandered in down a corridor of pin ups, both likely (Jennifer Lawrence) and unlikely (David Mitchell). Everything was pink neon hued, saturated in saccharine. At the end of the tunnel we reached a large space with a big Twister board, some viewing booths and a DJ space. Obviously we made our way straight to the DJ booth and started scratching up Donna Summer before viewing a wall of lovelorn confessions written by visitors to the exhibit.

All in all, the Southbank is an excellent place to while away a few hours, and I recommend you giving the Festival of Love a final send off before it vanishes after this weekend.

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Last Days: Camden Beach

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a loss for what to do, and fancied a bit of beach action. Home home is 20 minutes from Brighton, but as anyone who’s faced that pebbly megahulk before knows, it’s not the place to get sand between your toes and lie back contemplating the marvels of existence on a sunny day. In fact, you’re more likely to stumble across some druggy teen and sit there getting sad about the burnt down pier and the increasing shabbiness of the place as much as anything. Oh, and have you tried going through East Croydon on a sunny day? Forget it.

Instead, I opted for Time Out’s number one attraction of the week, Camden Beach. My friend later told me he was extreeeemely sceptical about going to the most popular place in T.O. on a sunny Sunday, but we trekked out to Chalk Farm tube and joined the queue. As my friends/colleagues (frolleagues) will tell you, I *hate* queuing. I turn into my dad, loudly tutting and getting increasingly irate, swaggering around declaiming ‘I just DON’T queue, I don’t do it. I refuse’. Well, on this day, I dealt with it and we only waited about 15-20 minutes to get in. You’ll actually be grateful for the queuing system once you’re in, because it ensures the place doesn’t get overcrowded.

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We found a spot, grabbed some drinks from the Tiki bar, and settled down for a couple of hours in the sunshine. They’ve got music playing, deckchairs, little beach huts, a volleyball net, a champagne & hot dog stand, and all sorts of other delights for city-dwelling beach lovers. I had a ridiculously good time – while it’s never quite going to match up to a glorious Cornish beach, there’s something pleasing on a deep level about getting covered in sand and lolling about with a cider. We even made sandcastles! It took a while to work out the optimum sand:water ratio, but once we had it, there was no turning back. We spotted a nearby girl getting jealous and attempting to emulate us with little success…she was a bottle of Prosecco worse for wear though, so I should be more generous.

I can strongly recommend it as a day out. It’s free to get in, and I made a pint of cider last a very long time, so you can do the whole thing on a minimal budget if you so choose. Bear in mind you can’t take any bottles in yourself though, so if you were considering beating the system, you should think again, sunshine. Take a few friends, take a bucket and spade, and enjoy the slightly disconcerting experience of seeing the Camden skyline while surrounded by sand and beach huts. To quote their tagline: you’ve got 99 problems, but a beach ain’t one.

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August 2014 Playlist

Spotify Playlist here416788b

To say I’ve been neglecting my blog a bit lately is something of an understatement. It’s been nearly a year since I last wrote anything here, and I have to confess, I haven’t felt any sort of need to do it. I stopped blogging because I no longer believed I had anything interesting to share. Why should I just be scribbling endless ‘lifestyle’ posts out without any sort of reasoning behind them? With ‘lifestyle’ blogging (yes, I’m keeping the inverted commas for full ridiculousness) you eventually become aware that all bloggers are writing the same sort of thing, with the same kind of carefully neutral commentary. 

In short, I stopped writing because I was shouting into the void, writing for the sake of it. I moved up to London in the Spring, and I’m now aware of the sort of thing I want to write. There are so many amazing things to do in the city, and I’m going to try and write about some of them, purely because they interest me, and not because I’ve been asked to write about them or paid for my services. I started my blog as a way of recording things that made me happy, no matter how small or silly, and I’m keen to find that passion again. 

For today though, I’ve got a different sort of post. I thought I’d share some of the tracks I’ve been listening to this month, along with a handy Spotify playlist for easy listening. I’m a big sbtrkt fan, and I’ve enjoyed the collaborative work Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig has been doing (e.g. with Major Lazer), so this song has been on repeat for me. I love the imagery of the ‘flags flapping in Manhattan, gargoyles gargling oil’. Chet Faker’s No Diggity cover is an oozy, enjoyable trek of an interpretation, and professional saddo Lana Del Rey benefits from a bit of a speed up by Cedric Gervais. 

The War on Drugs seem to be steadily creeping into public awareness, and Under the Pressure is a glorious 9 minute showcase of their latest album that has soundtracked my Summer. I’ve also popped in a bit of the ever-rousing Is Tropical, which never fails to perk me up. Glass Animals are a new discovery, an addition to my adored coterie of indie exports from Oxford (see also Foals & Trophy Wife). They’re a bit of a revelation, like having thick treacle course through you aurally – full of expansive vowel sounds and languid vocals. Finally, Juce are an exceptionally promising trio who recall girlbands of both the 60s and the 90s. Their band logo is even written in the same font as the film Clueless, and they’re a gorgeously fun slice of pop for the final remnants of Summer. 

Jack Wills and Wonsuponatime Parties

(Or, don’t drink and blog)

As you all know, I’ve been having a massive Jack Wills love-in lately, as evidenced here. I was delighted to be invited along to one of their ‘Unmissable Parties’, in the Covent Garden store. If you haven’t been in, it’s a gorgeous space set over three floors packed full of precisely folded clothes and charming staff. Obviously the first stop, though, was to the drinks table for elderflower presse and bubbly. Mostly bubbly.

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As with all Jack Wills stores, this one feels sort of homely and sort of like school, which I very much enjoy.

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DJing among the jumpers…

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The place was buzzing with activity – including face and nail painting, a lot of balloon-popping, and…more drinking. I’m not going to lie to you, readers. We went for cocktails at Cellar Door beforehand, and by this point in the evening I was somewhat spiffed at this point, and very much on the train to Drunkville.

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When did candy floss get so difficult to eat? My companion and I attempted it, got candy floss beards, and discarded it in fury.

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Ultimately, in the rather tricky area of ‘in store parties’, Jack Wills manage to pull it off. The staff were charming as always, and there was a fun, laid back vibe. A bit like a house party but where you could buy things. Heaps of discounts and freebies if you wanted to shop, but equally accommodating if you were there for the candy floss and the atmosphere. We headed on (me in a slight haze) towards The Penthouse, Leicester Square, for my friend Sarah Betty’s party for her jewellery brand Wonsuponatime. The Penthouse isn’t the most prepossessing building from the outside, but LOOK AT THE VIEWS.

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Here’s the awesome Zoe Hellewell, aka The London Lipgloss, doing an absolutely smashing DJ set.

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SBA is one of the very coolest people I know. She’s down to earth and yet whimsical, and she’s created a jewellery company with such cohesive vision. A very hard-working young lady, and always a source of inspiration to me.

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Honestly, readers. I realise this is a very scant blog post but by this stage in the evening I was completely lamped on gin & tonics. I didn’t manage to get a single decent photo of the jewellery, but I’ll write another post to amend that. Urgh. Maybe they should rename it ‘blogger’s ruin’ instead.

Awful behaviour. But look at these pretty flower arrangements!

Blog fail.

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St Ives Day Seven

The final days whizzed by in a flurry of confusing weather and…well, more food. The town started to hum and buzz with talk of the oncoming storm. Hatches were beginning to be battened down, town-dwellers told us how lucky we were to be heading home before it hit.

That said, Friday was one of the most glorious days of the week, and I set out to make the most of it with a walk around the headland, where I always like to pretend I’m a tragic Thomas Hardy heroine roaming the rugged countryside. A Thomas Hardy heroine with a DSLR and sunglasses, that is.

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Not far into my walk, however, I spotted one of the most terrifying scarecrows I’ve ever seen. I thought they were just supposed to scare birds, not people?

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By a stroke of luck, some of my lovely family were also down in the Wall of Corn for the week, and we all united for lunch at Porthminster.

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I wore a dress for the first time this week. It felt really weird.

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I started lunch with a cocktail and found myself dizzying somewhat after a single sip: whisky, cider with ginger, tonka bean and chilli syrup…

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I had the most incredible vegetable curry – savoury but aromatic, full of fresh veg and coconut milk.

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If you go for one thing at Porthminster, make it a dessert. While the language of the menu may put you off (all ‘deconstructions’, ‘foam’ and ‘naked brulee’), the puds are where the chefs display phenomenal skill. I had the aforementioned “naked brulee”, essentially a square of chocolate crème with the finest crispy brulee layer, plus peppermint honeycomb, vanilla milk sorbet and brownie dust.

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My uncle had caramelised bananas with a pistachio aero mousse, whisky cream and salted caramel, and Mummy Simmons had petit fours, displayed a la rock.

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Followed by a short stroll along the beach.

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And finally, I visited the Tate, who do free entry on Friday evenings. I’ve never had much success with the place as I’m not a huge modern art appreciator. The only exhibition I’ve enjoyed in the past was one by Simon Fujiwara. This time, however, the exhibition Aquatopia combines modern pieces with paintings by J.M.W Turner and Stanhope Forbes. It was immersive, atmospheric, and only made me roll my eyes once or twice – quite an achievement for the Tate.

Bye bye St Ives!

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