It may just look brown and bleugh, but this was a great fish dish of crispy red snapper, mango salsa and curried sweet potato mash (Parallel, Khan Market, New Delhi)

Phew, July’s shame has made August’s progress look almost spectacular.  Well, that might be exaggerating ever so slightly but it’s a novelty to feel a mild sense of achievement … eek, I’m definitely bigging my achievements up.  However, I have decided that I chose mainly unachievable, vague and uninspiring things to do over 2017 so how much brilliance can really be expected?

  1. 3 times per week at gym.  Now, don’t be too judgemental that I made it to the gym a mere six times in August.  I was away for two weeks and, quite frankly, I absolutely detest going there.  It’s a friendly gym, it’s not disastrously busy and it takes about two minutes to get there door-to-door, but I have now had time to reaffirm my immense dislike for gyms.  I feel like a hamster forced to run round and round a wheel.  It’s not natural and it’s unbelievably tedious and boring.  I shall be quitting in September.  I will think of a plan B for my bingo wings and well-formed muffin top.
  2. Website with clear purpose.  Still lacking direction and discipline, unsurprisingly, but have added a few things, albeit in a very minimal effort kind of way.
  3. Quit steno.  It seemed like a good motivator to make this part of my 2017 to do list.  It hasn’t been.  I have, however, done more very enthusiastic research for a future food truck business.
  4. Lose 14 lb.  I thought I had this one in the bag, with a two-month “upset stomach” (there have been GPs and tests involved and all is essentially ok, fortunately).  Somehow, there has been no change to this one.  Plan B required.  Actually, let me be honest, I’m probably on about plan T and, with just four months to go before 2018, my optimism, not that I remember ever having any, has dwindled at a similar rate to my enthusiasm for the gym.
  5. Write two blog posts per month.  Done.  Yes, really.  Two in one month, this one being the third (ah, but it’s September as I write this – but still two in the bag) and another already sprouting for September.  It’s a joy to have success in this list these days.
  6. Read 12 books.  I reiterate, 12 books over the year; I didn’t set myself too tough a goal.  I finished one, completed another and almost finished a third, which was so embarrassingly awful I don’t think it should count as a read, though for the sake of unprecedented overachievement, it’s going to count even though I’m so not going to say what book it was.  The finished one was Delhi, by Sam Miller, continuing my Delhi theme, which I largely read in Delhi and was able to visit a few places mentioned in the book.  The other was a children’s book, Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson.  I have always enjoyed children’s adventure stories and this was pretty good, but probably aimed at younger children than is probably ideal for an adult reader.
  7. Mobile on silent more.  Another success, but I think I’m checking my mobile more at the moment, which is slightly defeating the purpose.
  8. Reduce amount of clothes.  Did I really think I’d get rid of some clothes to balance out new clothes I’d bought?  Oh, how I make myself laugh.
  9. More picnics.  Oh, really, summer and I can’t think of a single picnic I’ve had.  Does a coffee drunk on the street count?  Even a bit?  (No, I thought not)
  10. More fish.  Minimal fish consumption, though I did make an effort over two weeks of buffet breakfasts, lunches, mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks to ensure a small serving of fish.  I’m actually quite shocked by my patheticness.  Also wondering about a possible link between multiple buffets and weight loss fail.  No, surely not?!
  11. Tax in May September.  On 30th August, I officially started shuffling some papers and assessing my receipt box.  Then I got myself super stressed so abandoned after less than 20 minutes.  I managed the same again on 31st August, though I think I managed nearer 25 minutes.  I thought a lot about my tax return.  This is progress on an impressive scale; it’s the thought that counts.
  12. Christmas shopping by November.  I reiterate, what was I thinking making this a resolution for the whole year?  However, in an unexpected twist, as I’ve been travelling way more than usual, I’ve asked a few friends and family about possible Christmas presents from upcoming trips.  In August.  Who’d’ve thought I would update this with anything other than a dismissive eye roll before November?!


One, if not the, best lunch of December (sadly not one of my work lunches but no other lunch was worthy of a photo and I used the one photo of a December work lunch, bao, for my November post.  How lunch should be in my world – fish meze at Wheeler’s Oyster Bar, Whitstable)

Wow, it’s 1st January 2017.  “Wow” because it’s surprising that I’m actually writing on the date I intended to and that somehow 2016 and my 12 months of challenges and treats is now behind me.  I have never, ever kept up anything that resembles new year’s resolutions, yet by setting myself challenges I have managed to do it and I am ludicrously pleased with myself.

For December, being the last month, I thought a month of treats would be in order so I decided that instead of taking my own lunch to work every day I would have lunch out, no sandwiches, somewhere different every day of work in December.  I had 13 days of lunches over December and by lunch number three the novelty had worn off.  By about day seven I spent most of the morning distracted by thoughts of where I could possibly eat next that would be more exciting than the last lunch.  It ended up being more of a chore than a joy.

I did manage to eat somewhere different every day, all in London, though I doubt I will remember all 13.  In the order they come to mind:

1. Pret a Manger, Fetter Lane (an unexpectedly memorable ham hock macaroni cheese, my number four best lunch of the month)

2. Gino D’Acamopo- My Pasta Bar, Fleet Street (an uninspiring pasta dish that served solely to puff me up and make me sluggish all afternoon)

3. Tsuru, Broadgate (an ok sushi box)

4. Koshari Street, St Martin’s Lane (very tasty, hearty Egyptian street food, koshari/kushari, number three favourite but only just pipped to two by Banh Mi Bay’s pho)

5. On the Bab, Ludgate Broadway (exceptional South Korean bao.  I’d ordered a beef bulgogi “in the bun” but actually ended up with fried chicken “in the bun” – SOOOOOO good, definitely the best lunch, and also the messiest)

6. Eat, Fetter lane (tastier than expected truffle macaroni cheese, but a bit samey even by macaroni cheese standards)

7. Banh Mi Bay, Cannon Street (excellent, warming bowl of beef pho, a very close second to On the Bab)

8. Coco di Mama, Fleet Street (a very bland carbonara that made me feel desperately sorry for myself)

9.  Tuckers, Fetter Lane (A bit of a find on Fetter Lane, a cheap and cheerful caff.  I had a jacket potato with beans and cheese for just over £3, which was far too generous and filling (I obviously devoured it all enthusiastically) and made me spectacularly yawny for the rest of the day, about which I’m not complaining because it hit the spot perfectly)

10 -13.  So lacking in excitement I can’t think where I ate, but one of those was definitely a snack-based lunch due to a very short lunch break and no non-repetitious or appealing lunch places around.

All in all, I now have renewed enthusiasm for my own random and varied packed lunches (also far less stressful than having to find something interesting to eat over short lunch breaks), a sense of disappointment and shock over how much bland and overpriced food there is on offer and a realisation of just how many food chains there are duplicated over a small area in central London compared to independent eateries.

This is the end of my year of challenges and treats and, as I now have a conviction that I can do new year resolutions with my new-found discipline, I have written a 2017 To Do List of 12 things … but as I pause having written that, I fear I need to set myself monthly deadlines to achieve anything.

In many respects, 2016 was a year of learning about my potential self-discipline.  I am a few days off completing 365 days of posting a photo a day on Instagram, all of which have been taken and posted on the same day, so no sneaky stock pile of photos.  I never thought I’d manage it every single day, let alone to get to 365 days (three days to go).  Likewise, I didn’t think I would set myself AND complete 12 challenges for the year.  I have surprised myself with some I have enjoyed/found more difficult than expected.  For example, I really enjoyed learning the capital cities (I’m horrified to report that I need to refresh my memory as a lot I have forgotten already), I found it difficult to read for 30 minutes a day and had to do a lot of catch up days and I didn’t enjoy the treat of lunches out.  I knew sorting my photos and recipes would be a bit tedious, but I did it.

Alongside all that, I also vowed to do something to pamper myself at least once a month.  I have never had so many pedicures, I had a few massages, my eyebrows were more frequently shaped than ever before … but I never had a spa weekend, disappointingly, which I thought would be an obvious pampering treat.

I have also not watched any television all year, not even catch-up.  I’ve missed it a few times and have seen write-ups about a few things I wished I could have seen but, otherwise, I haven’t found it difficult.  I don’t even know when I’ll reinstate a TV in our home.

Finally, I had wanted to read at least one book per month.  Epic fail.  I have written down seven books I’ve read this year but I think I’ve forgotten one.  Very lame not to have managed to read 12.

I wanted to visit at least one new country, I did: United Arab Emirates (in fact I went there twice, unexpectedly, first for a holiday then for work).

Oh well, I’ll see how I get on with my 2017 list and maybe if I write about that at the end of each month, I can chart my progress and hope that encourages me to not only get through a year of doing things I want to do despite their being challenging, but also further ensure ongoing self-discipline, something I had always felt I wasn’t at all good at demonstrating.





It would appear that most of my SMS messages are sent and read while I’m walking and that trying not to do so means a massive extension to my journey time due to stops “needed” to read or write.  For the first three weeks of my month of “no texts while walking”, I was stopping regularly and annoying myself in the process.  Then it came to me to turn my phone to silent.  Genius is sometimes very simple.

There shouldn’t be anything challenging about refraining from attending to my mobile phone, but for me there was.  When I eventually twigged that my phone on silent prevents a sense of urgency to instantly read and respond to messages, I also reduced my walk times and realised I was testing my redundant, dimmed memory by not sending messages the second I thought of something.

This was a straightforward challenge that I set myself because I really was fed up of using my phone while walking.  It has not been life-changing and indeed I seem to just stop walking now rather than carrying on, which is only a minor improvement, but I have been rather enjoying not being distracted by my phone when it’s on silent.  I also oddly enjoy testing my memory a bit by postponing the writing of things I’ve just thought to share or ask.

All in all, a mildly interesting challenge that has served to emphasise what I already knew, that I am far too dependent on and obsessed with my mobile phone.

cofDecember being the last of my 12 challenges or treats for 2016, it’s definitely treat time.  As I usually bring my own lunch to work, for the month of December I’m not only going to eat out for every lunch I have on work days but I’m going to eat somewhere different every time, with emphasis on non-sandwich lunches.


october-recipe-book[Smug/saddo alert]  I am now the embarrassingly proud creator and owner of an A4 plastic-sleeve-folder (many of the plastic sleeves being original Woolworths, I’ll have you know) of recipes I most often use and like.  I even typed them out, over 40 of them.  And I found packets of unused index tabs so I’ve placed them in alphabetical order.  In fact, it’s been a gift that keeps on giving on more levels than expected.

I started this “sort my recipes out” project thinking it would largely entail literal cutting and pasting and hole punching of recipe clippings.  [I actually do feel a bit sad getting so excited and enthusiastic about this challenge]  That’s how it started and I found it tedious and, flicking through the recipes I had in the two folders I have been filling for years, I realised most recipes had never been used, I didn’t remember I had them and there was no logical way to file them that I would remember where they were.

My productivity levels dropped to non-existent by the middle of the month and I started thinking of ways to justify abandoning this challenge.  I didn’t have any enthusiasm for the files’ layout, the haphazard and inconsistent order and format, and knew I would look at the files no more than I had done previously.

Having failed to come up with more convincing reasons not to complete the challenge, I reluctantly started photocopying a couple of pages in a recipe book to reignite a semblance of progress.  However, the dark font on dark paper within a small, fat recipe book resulted in a copy, no exaggeration, that had a murky outline of part of my hand, a jaunty angle that cut off the measures required and anyway I could barely read the dark-on-dark page.  In an uncharacteristic bout of quick-thinking, I decided to type those particular recipes out.  I then thought about frequently used recipes from my vast cookery book collection and had a sudden epiphany that I could type out all my favourites.

It took me most of a Saturday on an unexpected roll and probably another day’s worth of “work” over a few days to choose them and type them out, but I now have my favourite recipes in that file, have used about five of them that I hadn’t used in a while and have put them in an order that makes sense to me, like “Fish” recipes together under “F” as opposed to being under “C” for cod or “S” for sea bass”, for example [inwardly I cringe at my smug OCDness here].  I have even started writing notes on them as I use them, eg my recent spaghetti carbonara prompted an advisory not to bother making it if there isn’t enough Parmesan and/or pancetta (bland, it transpires).  It turns out I have an inner organised self, though I can appreciate there is a fine line between being a bit anal and being organised.

As for November, I struggled to think what to do as I felt it was time for a month of treats and I seem to favour challenges.  I thought about making plans to meet up with friends I haven’t seen recently, but that didn’t feel appropriate for a challenge; I’ll do that anyway.  I thought about not shopping in supermarkets, but on 1st November, while still pondering what to do for the month, I bought some ingredients from a supermarket.  I then thought about the many things I do that annoy me …

I spend too much time walking while texting and emailing or looking at social media.  I hate that I do that, so I will refrain from reading or “typing” on my mobile while walking.  I will answer the phone if it rings but I will not make any calls unless I’m standing or sitting.  I will look at Google Maps if I need it but otherwise, beyond taking photos and looking at the time, I will not use my mobile phone while walking for the month of November.



Indian, Egyptian, Iranian and Japanese; September has been a great month for variety and experimentation, but only three to-be-repeated dishes from two books, both of which didn’t even come from any of the cookery books whose existence I was trying to justify, having never been previously used, with this month’s challenge.

1.Lamb Biryani (Persiana, Sabrina Ghayour). Fairly high faff for low joy levels,servescof 6-8 which meant too many leftovers meals, good crunchy rice base but too much salt (not entirely my error) and all round disappointing.  Won’t be using this recipe again.

2.Coorg-style Chicken Curry (Lemongrass and Ginger, Leemei Tan). Not too challenging to make but I can’t even remember if I particularly liked it.  I think it was nice but lacking excitement.  Won’t be using this recipe again.

3. Sea Bream on Rice, Sea Bream Sashimi Salad and Seaweed Salad (as one meal) mde(Tokyo Cult Recipes, Maori Murota). Having lived in Japan for two and a half years, the ingredients seemed authentic and familiar.  I liked the dressing on the seaweed salad, the sea bream that was on rice was fairly nice but I was reminded that there are a lot of Japanese flavours and ingredients I don’t care for.  I wasn’t enamoured by this meal.  Won’t be using this recipe again.

4. Kushari (Egyptian pasta, rice, lentils and tomato sauce) (Lonely Planet, The World’s Best Street Food). In fairness, I have used and enjoyed two or three recipes from this book before.  This dish is one I’ve eaten out and loved.  Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed this too, including all leftover incarnations.  The tomato sauce is amazing and I will use that for other dishes.  I will also make kushari again.  I will be using this recipe again.

5. Mother-in-Law’s Tas Kebab (a Middle Eastern comfort food dish of chicken, vegetable, potato and fruit casserole of sorts) (Snackistan, Sally Butcher).  Basically a casserole with a lot of good ingredients that lent itself very well to two varied leftovers meals.  Tasty, good for making as a massive dish to use for other meals.  Not as exciting as the number of tasty ingredients would suggest, but a nice dish.  I liked the layering with celery, onion and leek on the bottom then chicken, veg and prunes.  I would use this recipe again if I had lots of vegetables to use up.

6. Ringan Mattar (aubergine and pea curry) and Coriander Rice (Hansa’s Indian Vegetarian Cookbook). I made these dishes on 1st October, but I’d bought the ingredients and planned it in September so I felt that it counted as part of my September challenge.  I had low expectations from a simple aubergine and pea curry with a mere 13 basic ingredients (including water) but I loved it.  I don’t care for rice, never have, so had even lower expectations for coriander rice, which is basically cooked basmati rice briefly fried in ghee, garlic, cumin seeds, fresh coriander, onion and salt.    I loved it.  A rice dish.  I can barely contemplate plain boiled rice without the extra stage of cooling then re-heating with the other ingredients.  Seriously, that good.  I will be making both dishes again.  Hansa’s restaurant in Leeds is one of my favourite places to eat in the whole world, I don’t know why I have only ever made one recipe from this book (I didn’t have some of the ingredients so my plan B recipe, as I recall, wasn’t particularly memorable).  I will be using these recipes and this book a lot from now on.

October’s challenge has emerged from my looking at cookery books and experimenting with new recipes.  As with my photo-sorting challenge, putting favourite recipes into one place has always been something I’ve been “meaning to do for ages”.  So October’s challenge is to collate recipes I either love and/or regularly use and to add those I like the look of.

I went through a phase for up to two years of buying lots of food magazines.  They are currently piled up and rarely used.  If I get time (hmm), I’d like to cut out and keep the recipes that interest me and throw out the magazines.  I’ve been reading Marie Kondo’s Joy of Tidying so I am on a bit of a stuff-sorting mission, but I think it’ll take a while to go through them in addition to sorting the c200 books I have.  Who knows, maybe I’ll surprise myself with my productivity for this challenge, particularly as it genuinely is something I’ve wanted to do for years.

Hopefully, by November I will have two recipe folders (I have a barely started large folder and a small folder, though I should possibly think of a reason for using one or the other based on something more scientific than “big recipe pages” and “small recipe pages”) full of my favourite and most interesting recipes.  I will then be ready for a decadent month of doing something majorly treaty and not as time consuming in November.

How hard can it be to set aside 30 minutes a day to read a book?  I even chose a holiday month, knowing I’d have time on the beach/by the pool to read.  Two one-week holidays in August, four books packed for each and no books started for holiday one and I made it through three chapters over holiday two just because I felt really bad about not having read anything for a fortnight.

What went wrong?  If it’s day time, I’m not in a particularly comfy chair or on a train and I’m not distracted by eavesdropping other people’s conversations, I can read.  Oh, and if I’m not too hot, not too cold, not too tired …  But trying to read on a sun lounger/beach towel is nigh on impossible for me as a nap is so much more of a pressing and inviting need.  Likewise, once ready for bed, my eyes get heavy and if I can manage to hold the book up for long enough to find where I want to read from, I only seem to re-read the same paragraphs, knowing not a word of it has been absorbed.

I love reading, it just seems that I need very specific circumstances to achieve half an hour a day devoted to reading.  The most I read was, annoyingly, on 1st September at a near empty airport (I sat a long way away from everyone else) while my flight progressed from delayed to cancelled.  Conditions were good.  It was quiet, the seat wasn’t particularly comfy and the wait was so long that I’d already reached saturation levels emailing, Facebooking and using my phone to complain about being stuck at a barely-used airport in the middle of desert, ie no phone distraction.

So, yes, a round the houses way of admitting a second consecutive challenge fail.

Surely my September challenge will be a success, with even a possibility to overachieve.

Recipe BooksI have a lot of cookery books (uh oh, just registered that I am maintaining an ill-fated book/reading theme), many of which I have merely looked at but never used, for no obvious reason.  I have selected ten that I particularly like and I am going to set myself the challenge of following recipes in at least five of them over September.  See, that’s got to be realistic … right?!

Eight Michelin stars in a small mountain resort and The Ablyazov Syndicate (film)


With a population of around 15,000, the small Black Forest town of Baiersbronn has two three-Michelin-starred restaurants and one two-starred.  I would like not to be unduly influenced by reviews and stars, but there is something hugely appealing about a small town in the midst of forest and mountains with so many supposedly exceptional places to eat and that it is in Germany, which is not a country I particularly  associate with  fantastic food.  The thought of a week in a mountain resort, ideally staying at the Bareiss hotel, with a meal at one of each of these places every two days … yes, I would rather like that.

Restaurant Bareiss (3*)

Schwarzwaldstube (3*)

Schlossberg (2*)

For probably all my court reporting colleagues, the name Ablyazov will incite a groan at the very least.  From our perspective, this is litigation that has gone on for years, it’s a challenging job to transcribe and it’s full of names not immediately obvious to us how to spell.

I had an interesting chat with a barrister who I recognised from that case.  He asked whether I had seen “The Ablyazov Sydincate”, which he said made for an interesting viewing.  Yes, a documentary film has been made about Ablyazov, billed as the “story of one of the biggest bank frauds in history and the man behind it”.

For anyone not familiar with Mukhtar Ablyazov, watch this or have a look on Wikipedia.  I have not yet watched the film but I do have some insights from the many court hearings I’ve listened to and the Wikipedia information is the kind of read you’d expect only to suspend belief over in a James Bond film.  Also of interest is the Blair brothers’ involvement in this seeming game of crime, violence, politics and staggering amounts of money.

I met a friend in a kind of shabby cool cafe in Shoreditch the other day.  It’s a lovely cafe and I’ve been there a few times over the years but it somehow made me feel a bit fake, like I was pretending to be cool by being there.  I’m not sure how or why I felt like that as there weren’t that many people in the cafe and it’s not a pretentious or remotely smart environment (mismatched tables, plates, chairs, etc).  I had intended to go into a cafe about 100m away but on going in I realised there was a queue of people waiting for seats and a lot of people sitting down were expensively dressed iPad types (yes, yes, sweeping generalisation, I know) and I felt out of place.  Actually, I suspect it was more the area (though how come so many people were lazing about drinking coffee, chatting and iPadding on a Friday morning at about 10.30 am in the Brick Lane side of Shoreditch, ie not so close to Liverpool Street and the offices around there?) than the cafes but it got me thinking about cafes and what makes the environment feel right and conducive to sitting around drinking coffee.  Yes, I was a 10.30 am not-working coffee drinker, lounging about and meeting a friend but I wasn’t one of them, as it were, or so I thought.

I love cafes, indeed I want one of my own, but why do so few make me feel relaxed and comfortable?  The more I think about it, the more I realise it probably was more to do with the people in the area, it’s a bit hip and trendy and I am neither and nor have I ever wanted to be.  But I do like a good coffee and both those places serve good coffees.

For me, an ideal cafe would look similar to the one I met my friend in, Leila’s Cafe on Calvert Avenue.  I love that the food is prepared in an open kitchen, like a big kitchen in a house.  The menu is simple and they have an adjoining shop which sells what they use as ingredients.  They do lovely ham and eggs, cold meats and cheeses; simple, good quality food.  The coffee and cakes are also good.  I like that there are slabs of butter in old enamel dishes on the table, food is served on old wooden boards or in terracotta oven dishes or in enamel plates or bowls.  They use old, mismatched sugar bowls; it’s kind of rustic and refreshingly informal.  So why do so many painfully cool people end up there?  It annoys me.  Admittedly it was a sunny morning but far too many people were wearing sunglasses.  And they didn’t take them off inside either – too cool, huh?  I saw lots of skinny jeans and trousers – the men.  There was an iPadder with a very smart coat, a beautiful couple who rocked up in a taxi, knocked back their freshly squeezed blood orange juice and left and a rather magazine pretty man wearing magazine type clothes.  And there I was, embracing the shabbyness of it all, resplendent in a white top (so not my colour) with a large coffee stain along the neck line.  I think I take the chabby chic look too literally perhaps?  Actually, it’s that I have no magazine style, something which I’m actually proud of, though I don’t usually go out with milky coffee stains down my top.

I did part of my degree in Oxford, Mississippi.  We used to sit in late night cafes studying for exams and doing our homework, fuelled by caffeine and feeling part of a film set for being in a cafe.  At night time.  Drinking coffee.  That’s not how it was in the UK in 1996 and I missed those places when I got back.  It was some years after that that there suddenly seemed to be cafes everywhere here, though sadly most were and are chains.  I still think of them as places to go to do something, ie studying, reading, writing or merely waiting for someone or something.  I do often just get a takeaway coffee but most of all I love being in cafes.  My main issues are that I will do everything possible not to go in a chain, but sometimes it’s hard to find an independent cafe, and that most places serve hideous coffee.  I know I’m a coffee snob but I genuinely only enjoy coffee when it’s good.  I would rather have no coffee than a powdered cappuccino (I’ve had that in a cafe before, more than once, and it was nauseating) or a massive bowl of weak, milky coffee from Costa or a coffee from Starbucks that gives me excessive shakes.  So why on earth does good coffee have to be associated with trendy cafes?  Why can’t a normal cafe serve a really good coffee?  And don’t say I haven’t tried, I really have, and I have wasted a lot of money on revolting coffees.  Maybe, probably, it’s a matter of taste, kind of how some people enjoy ready meals while others would baulk at the idea … and therein lies a minefield of controversy, socio-economics and politics!

{03/12/2012}   Hot alcohol

I had hot cider a few weeks ago, mulled wine on Saturday and hot ginger wine yesterday.  I am reminded around this time every year how much I love hot alcoholic beverages.  I fear it’s not a good habit to get into but, hey, doesn’t alcohol burn off when you heat it up?  As Pimms and lemonade and cider are associated with summer, hot alcoholic beverages are the stuff of winter.

I love winter, except for there being fewer hours of daylight.  I also love food and drink that warms your belly and your hands.  When it’s cold outside, it’s great to be indoors, nice and warm.  In my little wintery idyll, there will be snow outdoors, which can be seen through the window as you sit curled up in a comfy armchair with a warm cup of hot alcohol being hugged by your hands.  Ahhh, just thinking about it makes me feel warm, wintery and content!

There is clearly no great point or purpose to this post, I just felt a need to share my love of hot alcoholic drinks, perhaps even in the hope that someone else will read this and think how nice such a drink would be and have one themselves and feel all snug and lovely!  Or, indeed, someone might have suggestions for other warming alcoholic drinks.

Over the years, I have used various drinking vessels for my hot alcoholic drinks, from mugs to glasses.  However, it is distressingly satisfying to have the right vessel from which to drink such a beverage.  Every year, for the past maybe even six years, in my new year clear-out I put my four Bodum glasses-with-plastic-holders (having exhausted the hot alcoholic drinks things by then!) back in their box and into my if-I-don’t-use-these-within-a-year-I-will-give-them-to-charity box.  Yesterday, having ruled out all cups, glasses and tea mugs, I headed for the box and retrieved the box of glass mugs.  I have now decided they will not go to charity, I will just accept that they get used for about two months of the year and are perfect for my annual hot alcohol obsession.

Now, I only have a limited selection of comforting, nourishing, hot alcoholic beverages and I am wondering if I’m missing out on others.  I have tried hot cider but I don’t like cold cider so it’s not really my ideal drink.  I do, however, love mulled wine, glühwein, Baileys coffee and, a more recent discovery, hot ginger wine, which is also my current favourite.  What else is there?  There must be something with whiskey, a hot whiskey mac?

As for alcohol content, it being a hot drink I am convinced there is less alcohol in them than if you drank the same drink cold.  I hope I am right on this, particularly as I am very strict about “only” drinking, say, mulled wine while it’s still hot, which means I drink it quickly and soon press on to fill-ups.  I don’t think I’ve ever been excessively drunk from mulled wine, but I also don’t think I’ve had more than maybe three such drinks in one go.  I wonder why.

To conclude, hot alcoholic drinks in winter are lovely.


Last night we had roast lamb, potatoes, parsnips and carrots with a Cava aperitif and cheesecake with caramelised pineapple for dessert.  We ate far too much but it made for a lovely dinner and evening.  It’s been a while since I’ve done a Sunday roast and I am now reminded that it’s worth taking the time to do it for as many Sundays as possible.

I don’t know if we had a Sunday roast every Sunday at home when I was a child but we certainly had a lot of roast dinners.  I love them. I don’t like pork so for me it’s either roast chicken, lamb or beef.  In an ideal world there will be Yorkshire Pudding and I think it’s ludicrous to only have Yorkshire Pudding with beef; Yorkshire Pudding is lovely with everything.  There is definitely a sense of tradition and comfort with a roast dinner but it also tastes great.

Yesterday, my friend and I contemplated getting a Sunday lunch at a pub but we both had plans for dinner so abandoned a substantial lunch, indeed in my case it would have meant a Sunday lunch and a Sunday dinner.  You can have too much of a good thing.  Again, there is something traditional, proper, about having Sunday lunch in a pub.  I feel like so many of us think that an ideal Sunday would be lounging around with the newspapers then going out for a Sunday roast.  I increasingly feel we are brainwashed into associating certain things with certain days of the weeks or whatever.  However, roast dinners really are all about Sundays.  Traditionally, it was the meal that was eaten as a family if no other meal were eaten together.  I like to think it often still is.  I know a fair few people who have a family roast dinner on a Sunday.

I even know someone who has strange eating issues, whereby he eats the same very specific ready meal from the same shop every day of the week for his dinner, while his wife and children eat “normal”, varied meals.  However, on a Sunday, he will eat a freshly prepared, non-ready meal roast dinner.  However, the roast dinner has to be exactly the same every week!  I guess it’s a recognition that Sunday roasts are both a nice tradition and a way of spending a meal with your family.

Some people suggest that roast dinners are a lot of work, but once you’ve prepared everything, most of it is just shoved in the oven and left.  The only down sides are that there is usually a fair bit of messy washing up and that, to me at least, it is a source of great distress to mess up the roast potatoes, for if they aren’t crispy or are burnt it is very upsetting.  Last night, however, I got them crispy on the outside and soft in the middle!  Likewise the parsnips.  Hurrah.

I think really that a Sunday roast reminds me of childhood, of meal times spent with my parents, and nowadays as time to sit with friends or family and enjoy a meal that I’m pretty sure everyone enjoys.  It’s also nice to have a British tradition because I feel there are so few.  So really, what’s not to love about having a Sunday roast, especially if it involves friends and loved ones and simple yet delicious food?

et cetera