Blog - Curry Twist

Charcuterie In Charlevoix, Canada

 The earliest French settlers who landed in North America established their first towns and villages in the Charlevoix region of Quebec. It is easy to understand why they chose this area: the immense St. Lawrence river provides both easy access and abundant fishing, while rich farmland borders the banks of the river. A drive along the historic Chemin du Roy (King's Highway) that runs along the river gives you spectacular vistas while reminding you of the central role Charlevoix has played in the history of Canada.

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The Charlevoix region is bounded by Tadoussac in the north, where Samuel de Champlain first landed on his pioneering voyage in 1603, and Quebec City in the south, where he laid the foundation for a settlement in 1608. In between these two extremities lies a land of serene beauty with gently rolling hills and farms that slope towards the banks of the St. Lawrence river.

The names of the villages in the region are evocative of its history. La Malbaie (the "bad bay") was given its name by Champlain after his ships ran aground in the shallow bay next to the village. The Isle-aux-Coudres is a small island in the river that was named by Jacques Cartier, the first European to visit the area, after he saw hazel trees growing on it (coudrier in old French). The biggest landmark on the island is an old windmill that was built to grind flour, and has been lovingly restored and still operates. You can buy excellent buckwheat flour ground in the old millstones.

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The most distinctive sight in all of Quebec are the churches with their iconic twin spires. Even the smallest village will have a church in its centre and these have been the hub of community life for centuries.

It is hard to pick the most picturesque of the many lovely little villages in Charlevoix, but a strong contender on any list would be Baie-Saint Paul. A walk down its main street lined with charmingly quaint buildings is an absolute delight.

If you are planning a road trip through the Charlevoix region, be sure to pack along a large cooler. This part of Quebec is well known for it's flavourful lamb, artisan cheese, smoked fish, maple syrup and ciders. You will find yourself stopping often to load up on all these and so much more!

 A good place for one stop shopping is at Laiterie Charlevoix in Baie St.Paul. It is a family run enterprise where you will find local goodies you didn't even know you wanted!

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Most of the restaurants in the Charlevoix area support local farmers by showcasing their products on their menus. We had dinner at Hôtel Cap-aux-Pierres in L'Isle-aux-Coudres where the chef had worked his magic with local ingredients to create a lovely meal. The view from the restaurant is also spectacular and makes for a memorable evening out!

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When on the island, a visit to Boulangerie Bouchard is a must. Their freshly baked goods are fantastic and you can (must!) pack some to bring back home too.
We also had the fabulous charcuterie platter at Le Saint-Pub in Baie St.Paul and were hooked on the 1608 cheese (named for the year of the founding of Quebec), locally made salami, pork terrine and smoked salmon.

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Charcuterie Board

Putting together a charcuterie board or platter is easy and fun and it makes a great appetizer with drinks. It's up to you to decide how large you want to make it and here are a few options to get you started: cheese (a softer spreadable kind and a harder, aged variety), several different kinds of salami and smoked meats, pates and terrines, smoked fish mousse, olives, nuts and dried fruit (smoked almonds, roasted cashews, figs), pickled vegetables, chopped or sliced fresh vegetables (salad), preserves and chutneys, several kinds of crackers, toasted pieces of pita, lavash or other breads and some fresh fruit (grapes, figs) if you have room!

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Karhai Chicken In Rye, UK

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As children growing up in India, our mental picture of England was shaped very largely by the books of Enid Blyton, which we read voraciously. In our imaginations all English towns were located on the seaside and had cobbled streets and half-timbered houses with hidden doors and mysterious underground passages in which smugglers lurked. Our first visit to Rye therefore brought an immediate jolt of recognition, followed by immense gratification to realise that the place of our fantasies actually existed. It came as no surprise to learn Rye had actually inspired Enid Blyton to write one of her "Famous Five" books!

Rye is constantly ranked among the most picturesque towns in England and its charms are immediately obvious. The town was established in ancient times since it is a very convenient harbour for ships traveling to the French coast, which is only a short distance away. The Romans had a large presence in the area and it was an important port in Saxon and Norman times.

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The location made the town vulnerable in times of war, and a French force destroyed most of it in the late fourteenth century, requiring it to be completely rebuilt.

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Fortunately, at least from the viewpoint of tourists, large parts of the town seem to have been untouched after that reconstruction and still appear frozen in time, looking much as they did in medieval times. 

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During the middle ages Rye was one of the principal towns charged with the defense of England. The imposing Ypres towers, built in 1249 as a defensive castle and named after its owner, John de Ypres, still looms over the waterfront. Known locally as the "Wipers" tower, the building now houses a museum.

Rye's location also made it a centre for smuggling, with several notorious gangs of smugglers operating in the area and transporting contraband to and from ships that crept close to shore under cover of night. The vast open areas of the Romney marsh adjacent to Rye made it easy to evade officers of the law. Rudyard Kipling, who lived very close to Rye, composed the "Smugglers Song" that went:
Five and twenty ponies, 
Trotting through the dark - 
Brandy for the Parson, 'Baccy for the Clerk.
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie

The Giant's Fireplace bar at The Mermaid Inn where we had lunch, is very old (dating back to 1156) with a fascinating storied past. Once the hangout of the legendary Hawkhurst gang of smugglers, there is even a secret passage beside the bar that was their escape route to the sea. There is also a hidey hole in the chimney breast once used for safely harbouring Catholic priests on the run. All this is revealed later because upon first entering the room, all eyes are immediately drawn to the huge, crackling log fireplace that dominates an entire wall. All in all, a fascinating place to enjoy a drink and a bite to eat while soaking in the ambiance and toasting your toes.

The food in the bar is good English pub fare, accompanied by their famous ales. We had locally sourced fish with chips and suet pudding (which we had only read about in books!), all deliciously prepared. One of the joys of eating out in England is the variety of Indian food available everywhere. Sometimes you don't even have to go to an Indian restaurant to find it!

A popular staple on Indian restaurant menus, Karhai chicken has robust flavours, almost reminiscent of Butter Chicken. The cashews add a nice crunch, while the raisins give the merest hint of sweetness to the delicious tomato cream sauce. Karhai refers to the traditional two handled rounded wok this dish is cooked and served in.
For other restaurant favourites, try Lamb Roghan Josh or Chicken Tikka masala.

Karhai Chicken

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 6)

4 tbsp oil, divided

Salt to taste

1 tsp each, ground spices, divided: garam masala, coriander, cumin, dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi), turmeric

1/2 tsp each: cayenne pepper, cumin seeds

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1/2 each, thinly sliced: sweet red pepper, sweet green pepper

1/4 cup whole raw  (unsalted, unroasted) cashews

1 tbsp golden raisins

1/2 inch piece ginger, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can (28 fl oz, 790 ml) whole plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, pureed

2 tbsp each: butter, whipping cream, chopped fresh coriander

Preheat oven to 420F. Line a baking tray with parchment.

Cut chicken into bite sized pieces and place in large mixing bowl.

Add 2 tbsp oil, salt to taste, 1/2 tsp each of the garam masala, ground coriander, ground cumin, dried fenugreek leaves, turmeric and cayenne. Mix well and evenly spread the chicken on parchment lined tray. Bake for 15 min until chicken is lightly browned. Chicken will not be fully cooked at this point. Transfer chicken and all its juices into a bowl. Reserve for later use in this recipe.

Warm remaining 2 tbsp oil in deep non stick skillet (or wok/karhai) set over medium high heat. Add 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, sizzle for 30 sec. Add sliced onions, red and green peppers. Saute for 5-7 min, allowing vegetables to sear lightly.

Add cashews and raisins and saute 1 min. Drain and reserve everything.

Add another spoonful of oil to skillet if necessary. Add ginger and garlic, saute 1 min. Add pureed tomatoes, salt to taste and remainder of the ground spices. Cook 1 min, then add 1 cup of water. Cook 10 min for sauce to thicken up slightly.

Add reserved chicken with all its accumulated juices, the sauteed onions, peppers, cashews and raisins. Cover skillet, bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for 10 min.

Fold in the butter, cream and fresh coriander. Serve garnished with ginger julienne and sliced green chilies if desired.

Serves four-six

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Curried Chicken Salad Sandwiches In Cambridge, UK

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The town of Cambridge has existed for well over a thousand years, its name now synonymous with that of the university it acquired in 1209. Cambridge was the second university to be established in England and was founded by academics from the first - Oxford. These learned scholars came to escape the wrath of the enraged townspeople of Oxford,  whom they confronted in frequent brawls.

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The new arrivals found that their relations with the citizens of Cambridge were as turbulent as those they had left behind and it was not until King Henry III extended his protection and arranged for the students to be properly housed that some measure of order was restored. Subsequent monarchs continued to support the university and it was with their assistance that great colleges such as Peterhouse, Clare, Pembroke, and King's were built.

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By the sixteenth century, when Henry VIII established Trinity College, Cambridge had become one of the great centers of learning in the western world. There were thousands of young men living in the town, both full-time students preparing for degrees and others who came for shorter periods to profit from the intellectual life of the university.

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Today, Cambridge remains one of the leading universities of the world. Strolling amidst the magnificent medieval buildings it is easy to forget that this is still a place at the forefront of research and learning, where many of the discoveries that will transform the world are still being made.

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Hordes of tourist rub shoulders with students in the streets of Cambridge, with people coming from around the world to admire the fabulous architecture and learn the remarkable history of the town and university.

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The river Cam is a beautiful sight running right through the city. Many of the old college buildings back onto it with lovely stone bridges connecting them. Punts bob along on the water providing a good way to admire the sights from the vantage point of the river.

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Punting is a very popular activity, sometimes creating quite a traffic jam on the river! If you've never tried your hand at this before, best not to attempt it now. You can easily hire one and enjoy drifting leisurely along the river letting an expert guide your way.

The lovely parks along the banks of the river bring the countryside right to the city. Pack a picnic, find a bench or spread a blanket on the grass like the students and while away a pleasant afternoon, watching the punts glide by.

Chicken salad sandwiches, with a whiff of curry are a delicious British twist to the classic and perfect for a picnic! For a stronger curry flavour, just increase the amount of curry powder. A spoonful of sweet mango chutney or fresh mint chutney blended into the salad will add even more character and flavour! If you'd like to make scones to go with your sandwiches, try my recipe here.

Curried Chicken Salad Sandwiches

1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breast (about 1 big piece)

4 cups water

1/4 cup each: mayonnaise, Greek style plain yogurt or Middle Eastern style Labneh (yogurt)

2 tbsp each, finely chopped: red onion, red bell pepper, celery, fresh coriander leaves

1 tsp each: curry powder, grainy Dijon mustard

Salt to taste

8 slices sandwich bread (white or whole wheat), crusts cut off

Place chicken and water in deep saucepan set over high heat. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 20 min, turning chicken once in between.

Remove chicken to plate and cool to room temperature for 15 min. Reserve chicken broth for future use in soups or stews. Shred chicken into fine thin strands and place in large mixing bowl.

Add all remaining ingredients except bread, to chicken. Mix well to combine.

Spread chicken mixture equally onto four slices of bread, top with remaining four slices and press down gently to hold filling in place. Cut each sandwich diagonally in half, arrange on a platter and serve.

Makes 4 sandwiches

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Masala Omelette In Canterbury, UK

Canterbury is synonymous with the history of Christianity in Britain. It was here that the first missionaries from Rome established a church in the sixth century and it has been a place of worship since then. The present cathedral is a magnificent building that was built by the Normans in 1070, only a few years after their invasion of England.

The throng of pilgrims visiting the cathedral stimulated the growth of a lively town around it. Inns, taverns, shops and other establishments to feed, house and entertain the visitors sprouted up over the years. Much of the mediaeval plan of the town is still preserved, giving you an idea  of what it must have looked like centuries ago.

Of course, there is no shortage of travellers going to Canterbury in modern times either. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Britain and every year receives millions of visitors, some brought by religious devotion and others simply by their love of English history and culture.

The first place where visitors to Canterbury go is, of course, the cathedral. Under the soaring arches of this church you can feel the presence of ancient kings and queens who prayed in front of its altar, and were crowned, wed and buried within its walls.

The most famous name associated with the cathedral is perhaps that of Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury in the twelfth century, first a close friend and then a bitter opponent of King Henry II. When the king cried out in frustration "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest!",  four of his knights murdered Thomas Becket as he prayed in a chapel, which became a famous pilgrimage site. There is now a monument to his martyrdom in the cathedral and a candle is kept burning at the place that he fell.

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A visit to Canterbury should always include enough time to see the lovely town as well. On your way to the cathedral, you will see the River Stour cutting a swath through town, affording many a picturesque spot from which to take that perfect photograph.

The Old Weaver's House, built on the banks of the River Stour is a historic building dating back to the 14th century. Flemish and Huguenot weavers fleeing persecution, settled here to practice their trade, creating a flourishing textile market in Canterbury.

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Canterbury also has a memorial to its most famous chronicler, Chaucer. Pack along a copy of the "Canterbury Tales", for there is no better time to read its rollicking stories, ranging from the sublime to the frankly bawdy, than a trip to the town that inspired the original book.

Narrow cobbled streets flanked by half timbered medieval buildings converge upon a small 800 year old market square called the Buttermarket. Formerly known as the Bullstake, this is where bulls were tied to a stake overnight, to be harassed by dogs in the belief that this would make their meat tender. Thankfully, this barbaric practice ended a few centuries ago and the stake has now been replaced with a war memorial.

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The Old Buttermarket pub in the square is a great place to stop by for a bite to eat. Their delicious food comes with a side of history!

A pub has stood on this site for over five hundred years, connected to the cathedral by underground tunnels that were often frequented by escaping monks.

One of our favourite pub breakfasts while traveling in England, was this delicious masala omelette, served British-Indian style with a dollop of tomato ketchup. It brought back memories of home!

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A fluffy omelette with the freshness of herbs and veggies, carrying just a hint of spicy curry, is a great way to start or end your day. Sprinkle some crumbled feta cheese over top while the omelette is cooking, add a few pieces of warm naan and you have the makings of a perfect meal!
If you're looking for something more classic (and less spicy!), check out my French style omelette here.

Masala Omelette

3 eggs

2 tbsp milk or water

1 tbsp each, finely chopped: onions, tomatoes, fresh coriander leaves

1/4 of a hot green chili, thinly sliced (optional)

Salt to taste

1/4 tsp curry powder (optional)

1 tbsp butter

Beat eggs with milk or water in medium mixing bowl until lighter in colour, about 2 min.

Add in all the remaining ingredients except for the butter. Mix well.

Warm 1 tbsp butter in a large non stick frying pan over medium heat. Pour egg mixture into pan. Tip pan in a circular motion to distribute egg and vegetables evenly in the pan. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until eggs are set, about 3-4 min.

Uncover, fold omelette in half and transfer to a plate. Serve right away.

Serves one-two

Lamb Roghan Josh In Portsmouth, UK

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Walking through Portsmouth was a strange experience for me, for even though it was my first visit I felt as if I'd been here many times before. This historic city holds a deep personal connection, forged long before I was born, for I had  grown up hearing so much about it from my parents.

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Soon after my parents were married in 1951, my dad (an officer in the Indian Navy) was posted near Portsmouth for two years. They sailed out from Bombay aboard HMS Cilicia, a long voyage filled with excitement and anticipation for the adventures that lay ahead.
Their stay here was full of wonderful discoveries of a new culture, new sights, new foods and new friends, which they have always remembered very fondly.
Seeing old photographs and hearing their stories has always made me want to visit Portsmouth too and follow their footsteps for a little while.

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Portsmouth certainly lived up to the image I had painted in my mind. We started off by exploring its historic Royal Naval Dockyard which is now a museum devoted to Britain's maritime past. There you can see ships dating back centuries and understand how closely Britain's history and economy were tied to the sea.

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The most famous exhibit is the Victory, Nelson's flagship at the battle of Trafalgar, which was key in defeating the French and making Britain the greatest power in the world during the nineteenth century. It is fascinating to walk through the ship and see the cabins where Nelson planned his battles and the gun decks where cannons roared.

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Surrounding the dockyard are old inns that have stood there for centuries and housed generations of sailors. Names such as "The Spice Island Inn" recall the times when these docks were piled high with products from around the world, including pepper and cardamom from India and nutmeg, mace and cloves from the Indonesian islands.

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The streets are lined with lovely old pubs, so full of character that you have a strong urge to shout "Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum"! Pubs have been operating on the street leading into the dockyards since the 1600s, with The Ship Anson very popular these days.

A delightfully cosy pub, it features award winning pies on the menu, which we thoroughly enjoyed. During our travels in England, we also came across lamb Rogan Josh pies in many pubs, reminding us how creatively Indian cuisine has transcended the two cultures.

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One of the most popular dishes of Indian cuisine and the mainstay of Indian restaurants the world over, Lamb Rogan Josh is richly flavoured and easy to make (don't let the long list of ingredients fool you!). It tastes even better the next day so you can make it ahead and relax while the flavours do the work. And if you want to transform leftovers into a delicious pie, well...we might just come over!

Lamb Rogan Josh

2 tbsp oil

4 each, whole spices: cardamom, cloves

1/2 inch stick cinnamon

1 each, whole spices: dried mace (optional), star anise

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 inch piece ginger, minced

1 1/2 lb boneless leg of lamb, cut into bite sized pieces

Salt to taste

1 tsp each, ground spices: coriander, cumin, garam masala, fennel, dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)

1/2 tsp each, ground spices: cardamom, cayenne pepper, Kashmiri chilli powder or paprika, dried ground ginger

A pinch of saffron strands

1/4 cup each: thick canned tomato puree (or use 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes), Greek style plain full fat yogurt (or use Labneh)

2 tbsp each: ground almonds, chopped fresh coriander leaves, fresh lemon juice

Warm oil in deep, heavy skillet or saucepan set over medium heat.

Add whole cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, mace (if using) and star anise. Sizzle for 30 sec, then add onions, garlic and ginger. Saute for 5 min until lightly browned and slightly softened.

Add lamb, salt to taste, all of the ground spices and saffron. Brown for 5 min.

Add tomato puree and yogurt. Stir for 5 min until the liquid has been absorbed by the lamb.

Add 1 cup of water and the ground almonds. Mix well, cover and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. If the sauce is starting to stick to the bottom of the pan, add another 1/2 cup of water. Cover and cook again on low heat for another hour, stirring occasionally. The lamb should be very tender and the sauce thickened.

Fold in the fresh coriander leaves and lemon juice.

Serves four

Note: the whole spices are not meant to be eaten in this dish

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Sticky Toffee Pudding In Stonehenge & Salisbury, UK

Stonehenge is a place of deep mystery. The people who erected these massive pillars of rock some 5000 years ago left incontrovertible proof of their presence, but no other clues about who they were, why they built this monument, or even how they managed to transport and raise these enormous stones.

We can only speculate about the origins and purposes of the Stonehenge circle, but it is clear that this is an area that has been considered sacred for millennia. The earliest signs of human habitation around it date back at least 10,000 years, and remains of  Neolithic, Celtic and Roman settlements have all been uncovered in the same area.

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Close to Stonehenge is the fortress of Old Sarum, which was a fort in Roman times that changed hands as new waves of Saxons and Vikings swept across England. Under Norman rule a great new fortress and cathedral were erected, and the town became a centre for trade.

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By the 13th century nearby Salisbury overtook Old Sarum in importance as a market town and the magnificent new Salisbury cathedral attracted crowds of pilgrims. Gradually the older castle and cathedral were abandoned and their stones removed to be used for rebuilding elsewhere, leaving only the ruined walls and foundations that we see today.

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Salisbury cathedral is still a spectacular sight, its enormous spire visible from miles around. The western facade glows gold when it is bathed by a setting sun, a sight that has inspired many paintings and photographs.

The interior of the cathedral holds the oldest working clock in the world, and you can see its mechanism on display. It also holds one of the last surviving copies of the Magna Carta.

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Salisbury can easily be explored on foot. The area within the ancient cathedral walls, known as The Close is a lovely place to start once you've visited the cathedral.

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This broad, green, tree lined expanse is surrounded by stately homes, some of which date back to medieval times when local clergy lived here. Some have now been turned into interesting museums well worth visiting.

Narrow cobbled streets lead out of The Close straight to the city centre where you will find lots of great shopping and food as well as an open air market in the town's central square.

Salisbury has been a popular market town ever since it's inception in the 13th century, attracting merchants and traders from surrounding areas. In 1361 it was decreed that the market would be held every Tuesday and saturday, a tradition that continues to this day.

This bustling market is one of the highlights of visiting Salisbury. Here you will find fresh produce as well as preserves, housewares and even a whole roasted pig (should you want one!). There is a fun, relaxed atmosphere here with street food stalls and picnic tables in the sun.

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And if you want a quiet moment away from it all, follow the picturesque River Avon as it meanders its way through town and find a shady spot along its banks.


Salisbury's historic pubs have a medieval charm, reflecting a heritage spanning centuries. Walk into any of them and you will feel like you have stepped back in time.
Our favourite, the Haunch Of Venison, dating back 700 years, still has the original oak beams, wood panelling and antique furniture, along with a fantastic menu centred around venison. Their venison shepherd's pie was a revelation!
The Chapter House, was a stone cutting place 800 years ago when the famed cathedral was being built. Now a popular pub with 'quirky', comfortable rooms above, it is a wonderful place to base yourself while exploring the area around. The food here is exceptional too, try their classic sticky toffee pudding - so good, you'll want more after every meal!

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This might be the easiest, tastiest, softest cake you will ever make. The dates and brown sugar add rich flavour and a lovely colour, while the sticky sauce topping will have you licking your fingers! For more of great British baking, try Scones!

Sticky Toffee Pudding

1 cup pitted soft dried dates, chopped

1 cup boiling water

1 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup loosely packed dark brown sugar

1 tsp each: baking powder, dried ground ginger

1/2 tsp baking soda

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence

For the Sticky Sauce:

1/4 cup each: butter, packed dark brown sugar

1 cup whipping cream

Combine dates and boiling water in small bowl. Allow to soften for 15 min to half an hour. Drain dates, reserving 1/2 cup of soaking water.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9 inch square baking pan (if that is unavailable, use an 8 inch square pan).

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger and salt in large mixing bowl.

In a blender or food processor, combine soaked dates, 1/2 cup soaking water, butter, eggs and vanilla. Blend till almost smooth.

Combine date mixture with flour mixture, folding it in gently until just combined. Do not over mix.

Transfer to prepared baking pan and bake for 25-30 min until cake is cooked through and springy to the touch.

Meanwhile, prepare the sticky sauce - combine butter, sugar and cream in small saucepan set over medium heat. Stir continuously until smooth and bubbling gently, about 2 min.

Spoon half of the sticky sauce all over top of cake. Reserve remainder of the sauce for serving later with cake.

Place cake under broiler for 1 min for top to caramelize and become sticky.

Cool 10 min, then slice and serve with reserved sticky sauce and whipped cream or ice cream.

Serves four-six

Scones In Bath, UK

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"Oh, who can ever be tired of Bath?" wrote Jane Austen, and having recently spent three days visiting that lovely town we would have to say - not us! Jane lived in Bath for five years and featured it in many of her novels, making it a favourite pilgrimage site for her many fans. 

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You come across little reminders of Jane Austen where ever you walk in Bath, her favourite parks, the home where she lived, the Assembly Rooms and Pump Rooms where she socialized. It is easy to imagine what it must have been like in her time for it seems little has changed in Bath over the years. 

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Built upon layers of history, Bath was an important tourist destination long before Jane Austen got here. The Romans loved the natural hot springs, thought to have medicinal properties, and built a magnificent bath complex and temple to the goddess Sulis-Minerva. Known as the best preserved and oldest Roman spa in the world, this complex and museum is fascinating to visit. Time your visit for late afternoon when the crowds have thinned out and flaming torches are lit around the central Great Bath - it is an unforgettable sight!

Adjacent to the Roman Baths is Bath Abbey, a functioning parish church and former monastery founded in the 7th century. Remodelled in the 1820s with flying buttresses, pinnacles, fan vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, it is an oasis of calm and serenity. As you walk around soaking it all in, pause to read some of the tomb stones and plaques, poignant epitaphs to the lives of people buried here many centuries ago.

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Bath's elegant Georgian buildings, constructed with local Bath stone, glow a rich honey gold in the sun as you walk through its lively streets lined with shops and restaurants. One of Bath's most iconic sites, the famous Pulteney bridge,  straddles the river Avon and is a nice place to shop or have a bite to eat while taking in the view. 

Take a break from sightseeing and step into a delightful, quaint little teashop for a warm scone and a cup of tea. The scones are almost always baked in house, from a recipe handed down many generations (which will never ever be divulged to anyone!). We had cream tea at The Bath Bun, a charming, old world teashop steeped in history, with some of the best scones in town.

For a proper English tea with sandwiches, cakes, scones and even live classical music visit the elegant Pump Rooms, where they will provide you with all this and champagne too!
Built in 1795, overlooking the Roman Baths, the Pump Rooms were the social hub of Bath's fashionable elite. They would gather here in the mornings to take the waters, to see and be seen. It is easy to imagine Jane Austen being a frequent visitor here!

You too can have a taste of Bath's famous curative hot springs water right in the Pump Rooms. It is said to contain 43 minerals and an 'unusual taste'. We tried it and can tell you that the taste is definitely an acquired one!

Cakey, crumbly scones are not difficult to make if you follow some key rules: don't over work or handle the dough too much, use chilled butter and make sure the height or thickness of your dough circle is about one and a half inches before cutting out the scones. Scones taste best the day they are made, so eat them right out of the oven, loaded with clotted cream and jam! For more of delicious British baking, try Sticky Toffee Pudding!

Fruity Scones

2 cups all purpose flour + 2 tbsp for dusting

4 tbsp granulated white sugar

1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder

1/2  tsp baking soda

Pinch of salt

6 tbsp cold butter, cut up into small pieces

1/2 cup golden raisins or chopped dried pitted apricots

1/2 cup each: milk, whipping cream

1 large egg

2 tbsp turbinado or demerara sugar

Clotted cream and strawberry jam

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking tray with parchment.

Combine 2 cups of flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in mixing bowl. Pass through a fine sieve into another deep mixing bowl.

Add butter and gently but quickly work it into the flour mixture, rubbing it in with your finger tips until it resembles coarse sand.

Fold in the dried raisins or apricots.

Combine milk, cream and egg in small bowl, beating gently to mix. Reserve 2 tbsp of this mixture in separate small bowl for later use in the recipe.

Add remaining milk, cream and egg mixture to flour mixture, mixing it in gently. Knead lightly with your hands until mixture comes together in a sticky mass. Do not overwork the dough or knead it too much.

Dust clean counter top or work surface with 2 tbsp all purpose flour and turn out dough onto it. Roll gently to coat dough, then shape it into a 1 1/2 (one and a half) inch thick circle, patting it gently to even it out.

Using a 1 1/2 or 2 inch round cookie cutter, cut out scones from dough, placing them on parchment lined tray. Push straight down, don't twist the cookie cutter through the dough to avoid over handling. Reshape the dough gently and cut out more scones from it, placing on tray. If desired, cut wedge shaped scones instead of using a cookie cutter.

Brush tops of scones with reserved milk, cream and egg mixture, then sprinkle evenly with turbinado or demerara sugar.

Let scones rise for 30 min on counter top. Bake for 18-20 min or until they are risen, increased in size and tops are golden.

Serve with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Makes about 6 scones

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Chicken Tikka Masala In Brighton, UK

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The British fondness for Indian food goes back a long way: London coffee houses were serving curries as early as the the mid-eighteenth century. The first full-fledged Indian restaurant opened in 1810, owned and run by an enterprising immigrant, Dean Mahomed.
Dean Mahomed was born in India where his father was employed by the British East India Company. After his father's death he accompanied a British officer back to England where he was educated.

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Adding the title of Sheikh (spelled Sake) to his name, he opened the Hindoostanee Coffee House near London's Portman Square, with Indian furnishings, hookas for smoking and serving a wide range of Indian dishes. Unfortunately he discovered that he had opened his restaurant before the market was ready, and was forced to close down after only a year of operation.

Not a man to be discouraged by failure Sake Dean Mahomed moved to the town of Brighton, then becoming popular as the first sea-side resort in the world. The rich and fashionable flocked to Brighton to spend summers at the beach and take the water-cures that were growing extremely popular.

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The Prince Regent, later to become King George IV, built himself a palace there, the Brighton Pavilion, and indulging the period's fascination for Asian exotica had it designed with a fanciful Indian exterior and an equally flamboyant Chinese interior. 

When Dean Mahomed arrived in this rapidly expanding town he set up steam baths in a building that still stands on the Brighton waterfront and now houses the Queens Hotel. He offered head massages, known in Hindi as "champi", and they proved an instant hit, introducing the word "shampoo" into the English language. Styling himself as a "shampooing surgeon" Dean Mahomed built steam baths in the royal palace and became a favourite of the Prince Regent. He prospered for many years in Brighton, wrote his memoirs (which made him the first Indian to publish a book in English) and is buried there.

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It was over a century after Dean Mahomed's ill-fated attempt that another Indian restaurant  opened in England. Since then, however, the popularity of Indian cuisine has exploded. Curry has been voted England's national dish and you can buy t-shirts in tourist shops that proclaim "Keep Curry British!".  

 

 

Dean Mahomed never did open a restaurant in Brighton but you can find many good Indian eateries here these days.
Our favourite was the Curry Leaf Cafe in Brighton Lanes as well as some great takeaway places including Taj, a wonderful Asian grocery store carrying a large variety of fresh cooked biryanis, curries and kababs.

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Chicken Tikka Masala is a British favourite that is said to have originated in that country.  A popular legend claims it was accidentally created in an Indian restaurant in Glasgow: when a customer sent back a plate of tandoori chicken tikka for being too dry, the crafty chef promptly doused it in a sauce of spiced up creamy tomato soup and a legendary dish was born! While the origin of chicken tikka masala is still hotly debated, we were just happy to eat it on a regular basis during our visit! Try making my recipe, it is so easy and satisfying, you'll never order take out again. 

Chicken Tikka Masala

For the marinade:

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast

2 tbsp each: lemon juice, oil

Salt to taste

1 tsp each, ground spices, divided: coriander, cumin, garam masala, cayenne pepper, paprika, dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi), fennel (optional)

For the sauce:

2 tsp oil

1/4 tsp cumin seeds

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, grated or minced

1/2 inch piece ginger, grated or minced

1 can (28 oz or 796 ml) whole plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), pureed in food processor

Salt to taste

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 cup full fat whipping or heavy cream

2 tbsp each: butter, chopped fresh coriander leaves

Cut chicken into bite sized pieces. Add to a deep mixing bowl, along with the oil, lemon juice, salt and 1/2 tsp of all the ground spices. Mix well, cover and refrigerate for 15 min and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 420F. Line a baking tray with parchment. Spread chicken evenly on tray, spooning on any remaining marinade and bake for 10 min. Chicken will not be fully cooked at this point. Reserve chicken and all its juices.

To make the sauce, warm 2 tbsp oil in deep skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seeds. After 30 sec, add the chopped onions, garlic and ginger. Saute for 5 - 7 min until softened and lightly browned.

Add the pureed tomatoes, salt, sugar and remaining 1/2 tsp of all the ground spices. Stir to mix and cook for 5 min until tomatoes are slightly thickened.

Add 1 cup of water, reduce heat to low, cover and cook sauce for 10 min.

Mix in the cream, butter and fresh coriander, cook 1 min. Add the reserved chicken and all of the accumulated juices, mixing well into the sauce. Cover and cook again on low heat for 10 min.

Serve right away.

Serves four

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Spicy Chicken Keema In London

"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life" said Samuel Johnson over three centuries ago, and that observation still rings true today.

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It was thirty years ago that my husband and I first visited London. Fresh out of India, this was our first glimpse of a wonderful city that we had only read about. For three magical days we explored every corner of London, walking till our feet hurt and sampling all the amazing food that was completely new to us. It was only recently that we got the chance to visit once more, and it was magic all over again as we explored and rediscovered all that London has to offer.

London is a great city for walking, with its historical core being surprisingly compact. You can, in theory, cross it on foot in a few hours, but it usually takes longer in reality because there are always little surprises that grab your attention and make you linger. 

There is something in London for everyone, no matter what your interests may be. Every step that you take in London takes you past a site where history was created. The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament are places that seem familiar even to people who may have never visited London before, simply from having read about them.

One of the greatest joys of being a tourist in London are the fabulous museums and galleries that you can visit free of cost. The British Museum and the National Gallery house some of the greatest treasures and works of art that the world has to offer. And when you have had your fill of looking at art, many of the churches offer musical recitals that are a delight to listen to. 

A tour of London is just not complete until you've walked through some of its lovely, sprawling parks. No matter which part of the city you happen to be in, there is sure to be a park nearby with large shady trees, a convenient bench or beautiful green lawns just inviting you to rest your feet and grab a picnic!

One of my favourites was St. James's park with its tranquil lakes and fountains, glorious flower beds, lots of interesting birds and fabulous views of the city from it's famous Blue Bridge. Hyde park, with its long walking trails, the Serpentine river running through it, Victoria and Albert Memorial at one end and the famous Speaker's Corner where protests and rallies still take place was another memorable park to visit.

When it comes to eating out in London, you are going to be spoilt for choice! With restaurants serving every cuisine under the sun, you can have something different every day. Among the standouts we tried out were Veeraswamy for classic Indian, Hoppers for fantastic Sri Lankan, Berber & Q for smoky, grilled Middle Eastern fare, The Clerk And Well for incredible Asian dishes and practically every pub offering an amazing variety of meat pies, fish and chips and sausages. 

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We first had this delicious chicken keema with its phenomenal mix of flavours and textures at the very popular Dishoom Bombay Cafe in London. Head here for sunday brunch when they have a special menu reflecting typical Indian breakfast dishes, with creative British twists. I still dream of their masala baked beans in tomato sauce with fresh coriander!

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I just love how the flavours of the soft gooey egg nestled in spicy chicken keema meld with the crunch of potato straws and crisp fresh coriander. The apricots add just a hint of delicate sweetness to the whole dish. You can buy potato straws from any supermarket or you can make your own spiralized ones in the oven. Whatever you do, don't skip them! Serve with warm naan or fresh dinner rolls.

Spicy Chicken Keema With Fried Eggs And Potato Straws

2 tbsp oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 inch piece ginger, grated or finely chopped

4 large canned plum tomatoes, pureed

Salt to taste

1 tsp each, ground spices: coriander, cumin, turmeric, garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 lb ground chicken (not breast meat)

4 soft dried, pitted apricots, halved

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

4 freshly fried eggs with runny yolks

1 cup fried or baked potato straws

Warm oil in deep skillet over medium heat.

Add onions, garlic and ginger. Saute for about 5-7 min until onions are softened and lightly browned.

Add tomatoes, continue to cook for 5 min until tomatoes are incorporated into the sauce.

Add salt and all the spices, cook 1 min.

Add chicken and stir until it is blended into the sauce with no lumps remaining.

Add the apricots and 1/2 cup of water. Mix well, cover skillet and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 30 min, stirring occasionally.

Uncover skillet and cook for a further 15 min until sauce is thickened and chicken cooked. If you want a thicker sauce, turn up the heat to medium to boil off some of the liquid.

Fold in the fresh coriander and lemon juice to brighten up the flavours.

Divide chicken keema evenly into 4 bowls. Top with a fried egg and scatter potato straws evenly over top.

Serve right away.

Serves four

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Lamb Burgers With Feta Skyr Sauce In Iceland

Icelandic history tells us that the first person to settle in that country was a Norwegian clan chief, Ingólfr Arnarson, who brought his family to what is now the site of the city of Reykjavik in 874. At the time it must have felt like one of the remotest corners of the world, and even today when you travel through much of Iceland it feels as if no people have ever set foot there before you. The landscape seems much more suited for the giants and trolls that populate Icelandic sagas than ordinary human beings.

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All over Iceland volcanoes belch fire and lava while steam rises from vents in the ground. The island lies along the junction of some of the earth's great tectonic plates, and huge rifts appear in the ground which shift when earthquakes occur. Giant waterfalls thunder over dizzyingly high cliffs, throwing up a mist that drifts across the surroundings. The landscape is one of stunning beauty, with rolling green meadows through which rivers wind.

Many of the fearsome Vikings whose depredations terrified Europe for centuries set sail from Iceland, raiding along the coasts of England and France. It was not until the 12th century when Christianity was finally widely accepted across the Scandinavian countries that the ferocious raids finally ceased.

Þingvellir is the site where the Viking clans would meet each year, starting in 930, and make decisions. It is today celebrated as the site of the oldest parliament in the world and is a major tourist attraction in Iceland. It lies in a rift valley, with towering rock cliffs on both sides, and you can still see the sites of old cabins that were built and rebuilt centuries ago on the same locations every year.

Iceland is famous for its geysers, some of which erupt frequently and throw up steam and hot water tens of meters up into the air each time. It is a remarkable sight to see a pool of water bubble gently and then, all of a sudden, roar and throw up a massive plume before subsiding again.

The countryside is dotted with small family run farms, nestled among the mountains. Magnificent Icelandic horses with shaggy manes run playfully in the fields, while cows and sheep graze peacefully nearby. The scene is so idyllic and picturesque that you can stop your car by the deserted roadside and take as many photos as you want!

On our recent trip, we stopped off for lunch at Efstidalur II, a popular farm and B&B. Not only is the scenery around the farm stunning, the food is memorable too. Famous for their home made ice cream and burgers, the place is well worth a stop. We had their incredible house made skyr sauce with our burgers and might never go back to using mayo again!

The feta skyr sauce in this recipe is easy to make and versatile to use. The salty, tart flavours of the sauce go well with the lamb burger. It makes a great salad dressing too and can be thinned out with a little buttermilk if desired. If you wish, you can substitute mint in place of the dill. If you'd like an alternative to lamb burgers, try spicy Masala chicken burgers

Lamb Burgers With Feta Skyr Sauce

Feta Skyr Sauce:

1/4 cup each: crumbled feta, plain skyr or Greek yogurt

1 tbsp each: lemon juice, chopped fresh dill

Salt and pepper to taste

Lamb Burgers:

1 lb ground lamb

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 cup each, finely chopped: red onions, fresh parsley

4 hamburger buns or Kaiser rolls, sliced horizontally in half

Toppings:

Fresh leaf lettuce

Sliced ripe tomatoes

Sliced red onions

Sliced cheese (optional)

To make skyr sauce, combine all sauce ingredients together in small mixing bowl. Mash well with a fork to blend. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Combine all burger ingredients in large mixing bowl, mixing well with your hands to incorporate. Divide into four equal portions. Shape each portion into a thick patty, flattening it to fit the size of the bun.

To cook burgers, either grill them on a medium hot barbecue or pan fry them in a skillet over medium heat until done to your liking.

To assemble burgers, evenly spread the feta skyr sauce on top and bottom halves of all the buns. Line bottom halves with lettuce leaves. Place a cooked lamb burger patty over lettuce. Top with cheese (if using), tomato and red onion. Cover with top halves of the buns.

Serves four