Saturday, 18 October 2014

Hello Goodbye

Apparently I haven't posted in ten days; where has the time gone?! Final year at uni is absolutely ripping my time away from me. I've always been a pretty conscientious student (yep, I'm the annoying person who always does all the readings and then pretends they haven't just to seem socially acceptable) so I can't say that I'm spending any more of my time (i.e 100% of it) on my work, it's just that this time, I never seem to be getting anywhere near the top of the pile.

Ok, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't enjoying the cognitive stimulation (ahem) but it is a bit much. I feel like I'm on a running machine and someone has suddenly come along and punched the speed right up and now I can't reach to turn it down again. I can just about stay upright but... it's a hell of a lot of effort! I suppose it doesn't help that I have all but one of my classes this term (I am looking forward to next term a LOT) and on top of that, I have been promoted to a key-holding supervisor at the shop (woo hoo!)

In short, blogging has fallen by the wayside quite a fair bit. I am sorry. Especially as I keep going on about how I still have so much to write about Italy (I do - I wasn't lying. But now I have 50,000,000 pages of work to get through.)

So instead, here are some "teaser" photos of the Dolomites where I went on holiday this August with Magro. I am still utterly obsessed with this holiday and feel my heart soar and sink in equal measure whenever I look at pictures of this unimaginable mountains.

When I have a bit more time, I'll go through my pictures properly and write some posts about what we did, where we stayed and most importantly of course, where we ate.

For now... enjoy.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Exeter Eats: The Exploding Bakery

Unless you've had your head stuck under a rock for the past year, you'll probably be vaguely aware of the ins and outs of a big food debate occurring right now.
Fat, the scientists say, isn't actually bad for us after all; sugar is now the main culprit.
Considering that we've been fed this supposedly empirically-based information on fat for years, I'm beginning to feel a little confused about what I should and shouldn't be eating. I'm sure I'm not alone in this.
Despite half-hearted government attempts to get the nation back into shape and widespread knowledge on dieting programmes, weight-loss pills and hydrogenated fats, the fact is we're still in a spot of bother when it comes to our health. The conventional advice hasn't worked and now we're being told we need to seriously cut back on another food group.

Whilst I am far from being an expert on these things, I am beginning to suspect that our health problems have a lot more to do with the fact that quite often, we simply do not know where our food comes from or indeed what it is made up of. For an entire year in Italy I gorged myself on fat and sugar frequently - but it was fat and sugar that came from small, local businesses with no added nasties. 
Italy is famous for its food and quite rightly so. It is an incredibly important part of their culture with meals often taking place at a dining room table instead of slouched on a sofa and recipes being passed down through the generations. In miserable contrast, we quite often reach into the freezer and microwave our dinners which are poor, plastic versions of foods from all over the world.

In short, it's time to take food a little more seriously.

We need to start asking questions about what's in our food or even better, going out and seeking out the fresh, local produce ourselves.

Fortunately for me and other Devon-based dwellers, the Exploding Bakery takes food pretty seriously.

And it takes cake in particular very seriously.

The bakery opened in 2011 but by that time, they had already been making cakes for almost a decade. As demand for their cakes grew, they realised it was time to open a wholesale bakery space with a smattering of tables and chairs for eager cake-lovers like you and me to use whilst basking in the aroma of freshly baked goodies.

The menu is simple; there are regular options such as the beautiful croissants stuffed with ham and cheese or jam or the brilliant tortilla which will beat any other you've tried hands-down. When Magro comes to Exeter, a croissant and a piece of cake is an incredibly easy way to satisfy this fussy Italian's gastronomical needs at breakfast time.

As well as cake and croissants, coffee is a main attraction of the bakery.

I don't know about you, but when you're told there's a particular way you're supposed to eat or drink something, I know I'm in good company. A year in Italy has taught me that the finest quality ingredients and dishes must be cooked or served up in a particular way.

The bakery has an entire blackboard dedicated to telling you how to take your coffee.

The decor is simple and honest, much like the food which is made in front of you in their open bar and kitchen areas. There are no walls dividing the cafe area from the kitchen, meaning you can sit munching your cake whilst planning your next one depending on what's going in or coming out of the oven.

The Exploding Bakery is the only place I've ever visited with such an open and honest approach to serving up food. You can sit there with your coffee with the clatters of baking trays and the slam of oven doors all around you, warm and cosy in a cloud of cake; they have nothing to hide, both in their kitchens and in their cakes.

Or, if the day is nice enough, you can take it outside and sit at one of the tables in the sunshine.

We went a couple of weeks ago for Lauren's birthday and tried the banana and chocolate loaf and the ginger and honey tea.

The bakery uses fresh, local ingredients and real Belgian chocolate in their recipes. Ours was moist and sweet, the light flavour of banana being complemented perfectly by the rich chocolate chips.

In short, it was bloody beautiful and didn't last long at all.

I had a little chat with some of the people behind the bar whilst I was in there (mainly to reassure them that the girl who looked like she was about to rob their kitchen bare was actually just trying to get blog photos).

Everybody was more than happy for me to have a little snoop around and take pictures of them whilst they were hard at work.

With such an emphasis on good, simple food (their website explains that they like to bake only with the things you could find in your own kitchen), it's no surprise that they have links with the Slow Food movement - so Slow Foodies, get yourself down there asap!

Luckily for me, one of the cafes at the university now stocks Exploding Bakery cakes.

I tried the raspberry and white chocolate bakewell during a lecture break and can confirm that it tastes just as good as it looks. Just look at that moist bakewell layer and the hit of raspberry cutting through the sweetness.

Our lecturer's personal favourite is the Lumberjack below. In fact, it was he who alerted me to the fact that the cakes were being sold in the cafe downstairs. I pretty much ran down as soon as the first half of the seminar ended.

In short, the Exploding Bakery is the perfect place to treat yourself, whether you're in the town centre or taking a break between classes. You'll also bump into their cakes in various cafes and delis around the town (and I've seen that they also deliver to London and the surrounding counties... it's a £40 minimum order but I could quite easily justify that).

Find them next to Exeter Central Station or the cafe in the Queens building at the University of Exeter.

I know I will be.

(Especially as I have just joined the Slow Food on Campus Society as a blog editor! How exciting! This basically means I now have an official reason to eat food, take photos of food and talk about food even more. Plus, I will obviously have to go back to the bakery and try all of their cakes for research's sake and I will have an entirely justifiable reason to doing so! Watch this space...)

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Temakinho: Brera's Brazilian Sushi Bar

In not writing this blog quite so frequently, I've been trying to hold onto little bits of Milan.

Somehow it feels like having more posts lined up means that I'm still there in a way.

I've been exploring Exeter lately and taking lots of photos so I really should get on with it but still, I'm reluctant to give up all of my Italian tales quite yet.

So here's just a little one.

Temakinho is a Brazilian sushi bar in the middle of Milan. Yep, weird.

They've got two restaurants, one in Brera and one in the Navigli. Seeing as the former was so close to home, we would go there occasionally when we didn't fancy pizza or pasta (not often) or when the pull of fresh ingredients, brightly coloured sushi and excellent caipirinhas was too strong (most of the time).

I absolutely love a caipirinha so having one with the addition of mango and pink peppercorns was an excellent experience and one I would fully recommend. Whoever would have thought that chewing on a peppercorn would enhance a cocktail so much?

The decor at Temakinho is as fresh as the food with lots of greenery, wood and beautifully-painted tiles to whisk you away from Milan and straight into more exotic climes.

That's a sneaky steal of photos from this post here.

Magro was healthy as usual and abandoned lunchtime alcohol in favour of a juice. The drinks menu is largely made up of various caipirinhas (the only cocktail served) and juices although they have some other options if you haven't been tempted by these beauties.

But of course, the most important thing is the food.

I normally go for the temaki themselves, after which the restaurant is named. They're the bigger, triangular seaweed wraps and I absolutely love them for the sheer amount of filling you can stuff between those crispy black sheets.

This time we went for normal sushi rolls.

How beautiful are they?

Ok, so I can't remember exactly what was in them but I do remember that I went for ones that generally contained ingredients like fresh tuna or seabass, mint, mango, coriander and lime. Magro was taken by the deep-fried prawn varieties with avocado and salmon.

I've got to say, it was all ridiculously good.

So there's one little favourite of mine from Milan.

Not a long post today, just a little memory snapshot.

This day was one of the last I spent in Milan (sob sob) so looking at these pictures is particularly poignant for me. But life is striding forward at a remarkable pace and there are many more things to come, so will hopefully get my act together soon and get on with the bloggin' around my suddenly hectic life.

And on that note, I really ought to get to work.