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"I'd sit around dreaming that the boys I saw at shows or at work - the boys with silver earrings and big boots - would tell me I was beautiful, take me home and feed me Thai food or omelets and undress me and make love to me all night with the palm trees whispering windsongs about a tortured gleaming city and the moonlight like flame melting our candle bodies."

Francesca Lia Block

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Saturday
Nov122016

#CookforSyria: Bashar's Mugadara

One of the most striking things about Bashar is how warm, generous and overwhelmingly positive he is. Without probing – and you do have to probe – you would never know the trauma that he has been through.

Perhaps it is not remarkable; all of the Syrian refugees I met when I visited Calais were equally warm and welcoming. It was their generosity that really struck me though; these people who had so little were so keen to show us hospitality. It was their way of thanking us for the bags of food we brought and the odd jobs my friends did around their makeshift homes.

Khairun Dhala, who runs the Marhabtayn Syrian Supper Club, tells me that “Syrians are very hospitable people”. One of the aims of their supper club is to show people that and “counter the image of refugees being scroungers or just wanting to take benefits.” It’s a friendly space where people can feel welcome, enjoy a good meal and learn a bit about Syrian food and culture.

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Monday
Sep262016

Nahm round 2

As well as eating the street in Bangkok, I also treated myself to one top-end meal at Nahm, David Thompson’s restaurant. Thompson is an Australian chef who has earned himself a reputation as one of the world’s leading experts on Thai cuisine. His book Thai Food is referred to in my family as the ‘Thai Bible’, an encyclopaedic tomb on Thai food, history and culture, including over 300 recipes.

I went to his restaurant in London several years ago and was disappointed, but my experience at Nahm, Bangkok could not have been more different. I wonder whether this is because I left the chefs in charge of the menu choices.

The tasting menu at Nahm comes in three parts, canapés followed by the main meal – a dish from each section of the main menu served ‘family-style’ for the whole table – and then dessert. In this instance I was the whole table and, as before, I found myself wishing that they would westernise this part of the meal and serve it in stages. I do understand though that Thompson’s aim is to educate diners about authentic Thai cuisine and one part of that is the custom of sharing dishes.

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Wednesday
Sep212016

Eating the street in Bangkok

Wow, what an amazing few days!  3 days in Bangkok on the way to Sydney. Why haven’t I done this before? Not only did I get to fill my belly with all manner of delicious things, I also got to stay here for next to nothing:

Definitely made the right call choosing the hotel over the hostel. Who needs to meet new people when you wake up to this every morning? And best of all, no jetlag – doing it in stages is definitely the way forward.

So what did I eat?

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Thursday
Aug182016

La Cuchara de San Telmo

Last week I spent a glorious week in San Sebastian gorging and sunning myself in that order daily: breakfast, beach, lunch, beach, dinner, drinks, snacks. My friend Jenny asked me whether I went on any nice walks. “I mainly walked to restaurants. That was nice.”  

I was with my parents, who are foodies but not into fine dining so I skipped all the big names and went with recommendations from Spanish friends instead. As my friend Iván pointed out, when you can eat so well wherever you go in a city, it’s not really worth bothering with fine dining.

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Thursday
Jul072016

Babatunde's jollof rice with chicken

I have an affinity for West African people. Whenever I find myself attracted to a person of African descent, they inevitably turn out to be (a) Nigerian or (b) Ghanaian. At the risk of making a sweeping generalisation based on the behaviour of 3 ex-partners, the downside of this is that they are near impossible to pin down for any kind of social arrangement. The upside is that when they finally do commit, there is bound to be jollof rice on the table. I can live with that.

Jollof rice is perhaps the most popular dish in West Africa. You will find it at every large social gathering and small ones too. In Nigeria, you can even get it as a side dish at KFC.

It is said to have originated in Senegambia and to be named after the Wolof tribe, but like any such claims when it comes to food, this is fiercely debated by other West African nations. I have heard a Ghanaian and a Nigerian argue for almost an hour about where jollof rice is really from and who makes it best (their mums, of course).

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