Madame Granola

Things have been a little quiet on the blog lately; it is summer time and living in the UK means making the most of those warm sun rays because it will probably rain the following day. Combine that with being extremely busy and the blog is taking a back seat until September. I’m working on some exciting new projects which I cannot wait to share. I’ve also been cooking and baking up a storm so look out for some new recipes in a few weeks.

This morning I decided to give myself a little time out; instead of breakfast on the go, I sat down with an old copy of Madame Figaro, some grated ginger in warm water, freshly squeezed orange juice and my new favourite things to eat: chopped fruit (black grapes and plum today), plain yoghurt, granola and pumpkin seeds. Healthy, tasty and the fruit does wonders for my sugar cravings. Alas, my break was not to last. Back to work I go. 

What did you eat this morning? 

Neighbourly kindness

There is an elderly gentleman who lives a few doors away from me with the loveliest front garden on the street.  

In warmer weather he sits outside reading a newspaper and chatting with passersby. This confused me a little because although our street is exceptionally quiet, surely the back garden would be nicer. Perhaps he is lonely. He must be 60-70 years old and other than our fellow neighbours, he always seems to be alone. I always stop for a chat about the weather (a favourite topic for the British) and his beautiful flowers. On Saturday, he surprised me with his kindness; as I walked by, he went inside and returned with some scissors, cut three stems of his hydrangeas and told me to enjoy them at home. Isn’t that kind? What a lovely man!

In other news, my niece came to stay this weekend. She is so precious, loving and really funny. Her teddy bear went everywhere with her and she point blank refused to take photographs without him and since I don’t really agree with showing children’s faces on the internet, this seems appropriate. I am so in love with this two-year old angel. 

Green Peace

A mid-morning relatively healthy snack to energise me ahead of my lunch time pilates class. 

The colour green is so refreshing, and having stayed up writing until after 02h00 this morning, I need a little refreshment in my life. Enter my new Asian-style cup (all the way from a lovely friend in Australia), fill with a little Sencha and enjoy with a thick slice of Japanese-style matcha swirl brioche which I picked up at the Japan Centre. Energised and happy. 

London Olympics 2012, let the fun begin!

Did you watch the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics yesterday? Oh my goodness! I turned it on to see a preview and ended up watching the entire show. Danny Boyle and his amazing team provided us with a ceremony which encapsulated our nation’s history, our passions, our art and our mentality including the industrial revolution, the suffragettes, Mary Poppins, the immigration of those from the Caribbean and Asia, Harry Potter, dance through the years, our armed forces and oh course, our funny side. With music from David Bowie, Dizzee Rascal, Emeli Sandé, the Arctic Monkeys (who I only just heard of…) and Sir Paul McCartney, this was a truly diverse group and a real homage to our love of music. 

I am guilty of complaining about the NHS (National Health Service) and using private medical care but I tell you something, this little island of mine is so lucky. Basically, like our education system, the NHS is mainly funded by the taxpayer. When you seek medical care whether for a sore throat, chemotherapy, are having a baby or need an operation, the NHS will take care of you regardless of your income/nationality and you will not have to pay a penny (as it comes out as tax each time you’re paid). Of course, there are many flaws in this system and it has been abused by many but I have to be honest, I am so grateful that homage was paid. You will hear ‘Great Ormond Street Hospital‘ being mentioned; this is the world’s leading specialist children’s hospital and again, it is part of the NHS. In my opinion, health care and education are the basics.

When James Bond portrayed by the delicious Daniel Craig walked through Buckingham Palace and Her Majesty said “Good evening Mr Bond“, I almost passed out! Damn, he looks so good in that suit!  Fans self… That’s the British for you, we know how to have a giggle. The joke is that many people think James Bond is real and I don’t think this did anything to disprove the myth. The highlights for me however were the dance sequence by renowned choreographer Akram Khan and the lighting of the cauldron. I won’t give anything away. Watch and do let me know what you think.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is nowhere like London. I cannot believe the work that went into this production and the participants of all ages did so well.  It is the most amazing, diverse and culturally-rich city and I am so incredibly happy and proud to be British!

Regardless of your beliefs or the country you support, let’s all hope for a safe, positive Olympics this year.

Do you have tickets for the Olympics? Will you be watching at home?  

With the exception of the last image (of the tickets), all images are from the official London 2012 website. 

Sashimi and Tempura at Umai, London

There are few things I like more than a bowl of steamed rice and a pot of green tea so imagine my delight at discovering Umai, a deli renowned for fresh, handmade Japanese food.

It is interesting how some experiences are long forgotten but others stay with you for years and possibly forever. I still recall the first time I tried tempura; it was at a little restaurant in Higashinakano (Tokyo) where I lived. Biting into that piece of pumpkin, swiftly followed by a piece of ebi (prawn) is a memory I simply cannot forget. How could something fried taste so light and oil-less? Delicious! That brings me to Umai, where last week my taste buds were transported back to Japan without the need of a costly plane ticket.

When it comes to Japanese food, I can be a wee bit particular. Authenticity is vital and Umai did not disappoint. Naturally, I had to try a bit of everything just to give a fair review, of course. We ate tendon (steamed rice topped with tempura) presented as one would find it in Japan, fresh sashimi (raw fish) including sea bass, tuna, salmon, octopus and my personal favourite, mackerel served with real wasabi (and not that hideous stuff that comes in packets), chicken yakitori, (the most amazing) seaweed salad and finished off with sweet inari (tofu covered rice balls) and a sake tasting, all whilst sitting at the sake bar. Surrounded by Japanese speaking staff, Japanese produce and the countless Japanese customers (a testament to authenticity), one could be forgiven for forgetting that you’re in Stratford, not Japan!

Umai has two locations: Westfield Stratford and the Japan Centre (in Piccadilly). You may just see me grabbing a few things to take-out and enjoy in the sun.

Do you eat Japanese food often? Are there many Japanese restaurants/delis where you live? I’d love to know what your favourite dishes are.