All posts filed under: Food Thoughts

Artistic Enlightenment (Shortly Followed by Cake)

Long needed were those mornings where, upon awakening, the glorious sensation hits that you have absolutely nothing to do whatsoever. So used to rude awakenings by a shrill 7am alarm and mounds of tasks to accomplish, these few mornings had been the biggest gift. A sleepy trip to Great Market Hall was needed, however, to pick up an assortment of compulsory holiday gifts.  Tiny bags of paprika (interestingly translated from Hungarian to “red gold”) were mandatory of course, complete with tiny hand-carved wooden spoons, traditional candies, marzipan chocolates and tiny bottles of palinka – one way of getting around the 100ml liquid restriction on flights. I lazily strolled around the great hall, walking up and downstairs in search for more surprises (and a steaming cup of coffee). I braved my way back into the crispy morning air to navigate around Vaci street to find some breakfast, stumbling on Mantra Specialty Coffee Minibar on narrow side road, snugly hid amidst larger shops and apartments – mini was definitely the word for it. Inside, you hang your …

Fourth Day, Part 2 ~ Hungarian Castles & Street Food

The magic of the New York Cafe remained as we jumped on a bus and travelled to Budapest’s Castle District across the river. Also known as the Castle Quarter, this area is a 1km long limestone plateau towering over the Danube river and is home to Budapest’s most precious and important medieval monuments and museums. A sweeping flight of paths and staircases guide you up to the centre of the district, the Royal Palace and the Hungarian National Art Gallery, home to 11th-century and present-day artworks, proudly standing at the forefront. The Royal Palace has been said to of rebuilt at least six times over the past seven centuries, it’s subsequent Kings adding to it each time. At the rear, you can find wide stretches of ruins and the famous Matthias fountain, a romantic-style sculpture presenting the young kind Matthias in his hunting uniform, surrounded by dogs. We strolled slowly through the courtyards and protruding stone terraces, the sky clear and the sun strong and warm, attempting to melt away what was left of the ice. Budapest …

Fourth Day, Part 1 ~ Classy Coffee

Sunday brought about a slow, sunny morning, making stacks of sourdough pancakes topped with local cream, jam and strawberries. Monmouth coffee (imported from London) washed away morning sleep and soothing jazz made for a melancholic soundtrack. Mustering up some energy, we wrapped up warm and stepped out into the cold, heading towards a weekly farmers market at Szimpla Ruin Bar, where we had spent a night out earlier in the week. Every Sunday, from 9am to 2pm, farmers, local producers and makers set up their stalls, lined with fresh produce for punters; cured meats pile high in wicker baskets and hang off beautifully crafted wooden stands. Fresh cheeses line make-shift chilled counters. Freshly baked bread, cookies and pastries waft welcoming aromas across the bar. Homemade jams, chilli sauces, mustards and vegan “living” flatbreads awaiting to be sampled, most of which surprisingly sugar-free and organic. No doubt, in my bag quickly arrived a plum, rum and walnut jam, made with xylitol, alongside a fiery, home-cooked chilli sauce, extremely delicious mustard and a link of cured deer …

Adventures in Food and Architecture

Fog continued to lie heavily across the city this chilly Saturday morning. Hopping off the bus to the city centre, we walked to Budapest’s bustling Great Market Hall after admiring the thick fog across the river, Gellért Hotel peeking out wearily across the Danube. Inside, the hall was filled with scurrying and wandering locals and tourists, picking out items spanning traditional Hungarian memorabilia to fresh fruits, vegetables, and an array of meats, grizzle and all. The Great Market Hall is the biggest market in the city and was first opened in 1897 where the fresh produce would arrive through a canal that ran through the centre of the hall. Sadly the canal is gone, but the market is still full of a vibrant array of produce available for all. On the bottom floor you’ll find food produce and more edible/drinkable gifts and on the top floor there are a plethora of stalls, serving to your souvenir needs. Alongside these stalls are Hungaricums; if you’re looking for some authentic, although perhaps overpriced, food, head here to …

Second Day, Part 2 ~ Hungry in Hungary

Night fell and after many a photo we descended Gellért Hill and walked North up the Danube towards the famous Hungarian Parliament – and it was more than impressive.  The glowing neo-Gothic building mirrored itself onto the still and serene Danube, rippled only sporadically when a tiny cruise boat crossed its reflection. Only being over 100 years old, the stunning architecture boasts both Renaissance and Baroque features, but it’s sharp peaks and tall thin windows undeniably neo-Gothic in style. Unfortunately, modern air pollution constantly attacks the porous limestone walls, so the building often requires frequent restoration. Hungry, cold and having drunk too much water, we hurried to a famous Hungarian Bistro in Pest. Highly rated and with extremely affordable prices, this place is a must-visit to sample traditional, home-cooked Hungarian dishes. Upon entry, you almost feel as if you were in a friend’s home. The exceptionally friendly staff greet you upon entry and show you to your table, a waitress, who could very well be your best friend, tending to you throughout your time. And on …

What to Eat When You’re (in) Hungary

Apparently unwelcoming to the notion of belonging to the Eastern side of Europe, favouring the idea of belonging to the more central regions, Hungary undoubtedly emanates Eastern European magic. Growing up with Bulgarian culture in a Bulgarian family, I can say this with (some) certainty. This time of year, however, is seeing these regions suffer bitter winters, ones unheard of since the 1960’s. Heavy snow blankets the city, and icy rain soon follows to turn the magic into a slushy, and drearily cold, mess. Faux-ice-skating is the preferred mode of transport for those on foot by this point, travel times taking double or even triple the usual, and sanctuary is found in small cafes, restaurants and bars dotted up and down streets illuminated by the amber orbs of traditional-style street lamps. My travels are invariably punctuated by local food-culture; no trip is complete without eating like a local. Skidding down the Parisian-style streets during my first days in Budapest this Winter, seeking shelter from the snow and my hungry belly, I entered a warmly lit …

Apple Day

Crunching across swathes of ombre leaves, wearing your finest (and thickest) winter coat and 4 metre scarf, and having apple-themed meals all day everyday; this can only be described as THE best time of the year. Autumn is well and truly upon us, the frosty air taking a beating to our protruding facial parts and warm drinks being a source of warmth rather than a refreshing beverage. But Autumn brings one top notch friend along to the party; Apple Day. In my home city, Coventry, England, I used to volunteer as a gardener at these wonderful organic gardens out in the countryside. And every year they would hold the greatest, most majestic Apple Days; an apple themed organic menu, traditional apple juice pressing, apple picking, apple events – you name it. In fact, you’d inevitably end up making one too many rounds of the gardens and eat so many apples you’d be more than set for the next year… Since being in London I seemed to of let slip this magical event as I entered …

Banitsa the Saviour

If you’ve been following my journey through Bulgaria then you may experience deja vu as I continue my incessant worship of the heavenly food that is Banitsa. If you’ve ever been to Bulgaria you’ll know what it is; it’s Bulgaria’s croissant, or quiche (in a French context). It’s the street food that takes precedence in every bakery shop window on all roads, big or small. And it’s the moreish meal which will leave you falling dangerously into a future where all you think about or eat is banitsa. I kid, but seriously: watch out. As well as being an extremely popular street food, banitsa is a symbol of Bulgarian tradition and cuisine. On Christmas and New Year, banitsa is traditionally prepared and served with “kusmeti” – tiny “lucks” such as wealth, health, prosperity, shiny hair, etc. written on separate shards of paper, wrapped then in foil so as not to melt into the dish. A coin is also wrapped with foil and added into the mix, and whoever gets the coin is the most prosperous …

Sleep, Eat, Meet, Repeat.

Waking up late, eating breakfast at eleven and having no priorities for the entire day has been a long awaited task. For the next two weeks this lifestyle is definitely one I can get used to. To pass time eating, relaxing and talking a walk around the town prove the best activities – especially in 35 degree heat. One adventure we had was to a local market a short walk away; not dissimilar to what you may see in the UK, the fruit market was sheltered with large high arches, surrounded by small shops and cafes and filled with rows and rows of stalls filled with fruits and vegetables. Melons, tomatoes, plums, peaches, lemons… you name it. Not to mention the incredible mounds of watermelons and tomatoes you’d never see elsewhere. Fresh honey from local hives and tiny pouches of local bee pollen sat amongst a rainbow of ingredients with jars of freshly ground tahini too. The tomatoes in Bulgaria have to be the best tomatoes you’ll ever eat, naturally, alongside the peaches too; beautifully sweet …

LDN > SOF | Part 2

Kardzhali, once a centre of industry, 60 years later now overgrown and unmaintained, it’s serene and slow; its residents never run – a leisurely stroll is mandatory. As is meeting friends or long lost acquaintances on it’s uprooted pavements whom will always have an hour or two to spare to sit in front of a bakery or cafe for a snack, drink and a chat. Tall trees, planted when my dad was only a young boy rise high along the sidewalks, regimented and beautiful, their leaves brushing tall apartment blocks and providing an green filtered shelter from the searing Summer sun. My grandma, now 83 years old, lives in the same apartment as when my dad was a boy, just across the road from his primary and secondary school and within minutes of walking distances from cousins, aunts and old friends who may as well be called relatives. An overwhelmingly familiar and homely scent of the apartment brought rushing memories of fun and festivities, when the family from far and wide would gather and party …