Tag Archives: Food

Tummy fulfilled: New York style

We have recently been travelling about in the US: Eating in New York.

As is my wont, when I have been away I try and blog about my experiences. I confess, freely, that I haven’t finished where I went last year, but I am trying to get to this year a bit quicker! So here is something about eating in New York. I have specifically chosen this subject as we found some very interesting and different places to eat.

Ricetoriches

Yes, we can have porridge cafes, they can have rice pudding outlets! they have a website so you can check them out for yourself but we did think they were a trifle expensive for a small bowl of rice pudding. That said, they had some amazing flavours and do seasonal flavours too. Their standard range is 18 flavours with 5 per season and 12 different toppings. Sweet? Very!

Pinkberry

Frozen yoghurt with a difference – the pink berries! They have a yummy taste… they have come to the UK now and can be found in Stratford – Westfield – and Selfridges.

 BubbaGump

We ate in their Times Square outlet and were served excellently despite the loud noises from their celebrating a customer’s birthday!

Everything had calories attached so beware the desserts! We had a variety of shrimps of course, but very large shrimps too – and mahi mahi with a cajun shrimp starter and garlic  bread. spicy and nicy.Bubba Gump interior

PS they are now in London!

Eataly

Amazing – a supermarket with a difference – you can buy your Italian food here or you can eat it fresh from the counter. The longest queues being for the ice-cream of course! there are 2 places where you sit and are served – Fish and Vegetarian; otherwise you can perch at stools and eat what you have bought. We tried the Verdura eating area and ate our veggies. Just beware the risotto is made with wheat berries and is very heavy as a result. Aperitivo-Picnic_homepage-hero_V1

Also now in London I believe.

Hangawi

This is a Korean place in the traditional style – so beware if you have disabilities. You sit on the floor with your feet in a pit. The table is fixed at waist high and thus can’t be removed for you to climb out of easily. I managed to thump down but getting out and getting back on my feet defeated me. In the end, I managed to get my feet up on the floor and then did a very ungainly bum shuffle over to where there were some steps so I could climb back up onto my feet. Good job I was wearing leggings under my skirt! You take your shoes off so make sure your feet don’t smell and you have matching socks on.

They have a very sensible ban on mobile phones. Turn them off completely. The food is all vegan and excellent. Stone rice pots as are especially good as the rice ends up sticky and crisp as it continues to cook in the residual heat. When they ask, do you like it spicy? beware. They add a spice paste to your dish at the table and mix it in for you. hgw_ani_01

Booking essential.

Wild Flowers of London: herbal remedy anyone?

                In our garden group we frequently have guest speakers. Recently David Bevan came to speak to us twice. His first talk was about the wild flowers of London.

David Bevan use the definition of the London Natural History Society, i.e. the area within a 20-mile radius of St. Paul’s to define the area as London for the purposes of considering  wild flowers..

BACKGROUND

London has a very rich and diverse mixture of native ‘weeds’ and ‘escaped exotics’ (such as buddleja – an escapee from China). Surveying has recently started for a new ‘Flora of the London area’ – the original one was published by the London Natural History Society in 1983. This survey identified approximately 2,050 plants – even more than the number in Dorset, which is the richest county in England, botanically. A recent survey of Hyde Park alone identified 287 wild plants.

Reasons for London’s rich flora:

  1. As a great commercial city historically seeds have come in from all over the world.
  2. The large number of gardens in London: more than one-fifth of London is occupied by gardens (GLA estimate), and plants tend to escape from gardens.
  3. Survival of relict populations: London contains little pockets where rare native plants still survive, whereas in rural areas they tend to get destroyed by hedge-cutting, herbicides etc.
  4. London’s very varied geology offers a wide range of habitats, each with its own distinct flora – from chalk to Bagshot Sands (e.g. Hampstead Heath) to London Clay.
  5. The ‘heat island’ effect: There are fewer frost days, hotter summer temperatures and about three weeks extra growing time compared with surrounding rural areas. An example of a plant which reflects this effect is the Chinese Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris, which only flowers in a mild late November. Shown below.

 

chinese mugwort

The anticancer activity of flavones isolated from Chinese mugwort against several cancer cell lines has been documented in numerous in vitro and animal studies. However, clinical trials are lacking to support use in cancer treatment or prevention. What has been documented however is that below:

Sometimes overlooked for more “flashy” herbs in this current day, mugwort is still a favorite of wise women. Mugwort has an affinity for the female reproductive system and is used as a uterine stimulant that can bring on delayed menstruation and help restore a woman’s natural monthly cycle.

As all the bitter herbs, mugwort is an excellentdigestive stimulant and is quite effective taken before or after heavy meals to alleviate gas and bloating.

One of the more interesting traditional uses of mugwort is that of a dream herb. It is often used as one of the main ingredients insleep pillows, and it said to bring the dreamer more lucid dreams. Mugwort is also often used as a smudging (burning) ceremonial herb. It is mildly sedative and useful in calming frayed nerves and easing stress. A combination of agrimony, mugwort and vinegar is an excellent treatment for sciatica or muscular stiffness.

Preparation Methods & Dosage: Mugwort can be taken in teas, or tinctures. Often mixed with lemon balm or other sweeter herbs.

INNER LONDON

London Rocket, (Sisymbrium irio) shown growing near Tower Bridge and near St. Paul’s. A Mediterranean plant, it came in via the port and had grown in London since the Great Fire (1666) when it grew in the ashes. It is specific to London, growing nowhere else in the country and reflects the ‘heat island’ effect, nowhere else being warm enough. The little beaded seed pods top the flowers and it has deeply-cut leaves. Since most of the little open sites around Tower Hill have now been built on there are very few sites where it is now found, but it has survived in one small area.

london rocket plant

It is a plant in the family Brassicaceae and an annual. The leaves are broad and often lobed, while the upper leaves are linear in shape and up to four inches long. The fruit is a long narrow cylindrical silique which stays green when ripe. The younger pods overtop the flowers. When dried the fruit has small red oblong seeds.

London rocket is used in the Middle East to treat coughs and chest congestion, to relieve rheumatism, to detoxify the liver and spleen, and to reduce swelling and clean wounds. The Bedouin use the leaf of London Rocket as a tobacco substitute.

Rosebay Willow Herb Chamaenerion angustifolium and Buddleja around Gloucester Place: The London bomb sites were renowned for being quickly colonised by rosebay willow herb, but have almost all now disappeared. A small bomb-site ‘relic’ remained until recently near Gloucester Place, where this plant still survives and where buddleja (one of the best ‘escapers’) also thrives.  In the Springtime the young shoots and leaves of the rosebay willowherb can be eaten raw, and as they get older need to be steamed or boiled for 10 minutes. Treat the shoots like asparagus. The root can be cooked as a vegetable, added to stews. If you split the stem you can scrape out the sweet pith as a cucumber-like snack, though this can be quite astringent.. The flower stalks when in bud can be snacked upon raw and added to soups for flavour.

rosebay willowherb white rosebay

Medicine:  Peel the roots, gently pound them and use as a poultice for skin damage such as burns, sores, swellings, boils and other similar hindrances. The leaves as a tea act as a tonic for the whole system, helping digestion and inflammation, but don’t drink too much because they’re also a laxative (unless you need loosening).

Now the pink variety spreads by seeds and is thus invasive, but the white variety shown above spreads through its root system and thus is not only not invasive but considered a prize plant in a garden. I have some and they are lovely.

  • Buddleja came firstly to France and then to Britain in the 19th.Century from Western China. The last remaining bomb site has now gone, but a slide showed a buddleja growing out of the wall of a building, reminiscent of the cliffs where it thrives in Western China. Although the shrub can be invasive it has the benefit of attracting butterflies and moths, and for this reason is a welcome addition to London’s wildlife. If you go to the flickr site https://www.flickr.com/photos/brize/7653052874/  you will find a selection of ‘feral buddleia’ photos showing how the plant colonises walls, railway cuttings and even roofs and house walls that are less than well kept up.
  • The Sumatran Fleabane: First recorded in London (the first place where it was seen) in the 1980’s. Now it is a dominant plant in much of London and has invaded a large part of Southern England, including Dorset. It has greyish-green leaves and a large number of tiny white flowers.

Conyza sumatrensis is an annual herb native to North America[can be resistant to herbicides].Conyza sumatrensis

  • The Argentinean Fleabane: Conyza_bonariensisAn ‘invadee’ from South America, related to the Sumatran Fleabane..
  • Opium poppy: loves open spaces.

Opium_poppy

  • Coltsfoot: a native English plant, a real harbinger of spring, which likes to grow in cracks in concrete and is one of the most successful native plants found in central London.

 

  • Oxford Ragwort: Its distribution reflects the migration of plant species along railway lines. It grows as a native plant in Italy, especially on the lava-rich soil around Mount Etna. It was introduced in GB around the end of the 18th.Century in the Oxford Botanical Gardens and ‘escaped’ to grow in the stone walls in and around Oxford. When the railway was built in the 19th. Century it found a favourable habitat in the clinker at the side of the railway which ‘reminded’ it of the lava around Mount Etna.
  • Ratstail Fescue: likes infertile, well-drained sites and also found the railway environment favourable.

Other plants finding the railway lines a favourable environment and which have spread along the railways include:-

  •  Sticky Groundsel, which has produced a hybrid. sticky groundsel
  • ‘Little Robin’ – a geranium purpureum, similar to Herb Robert but with yellow stamens in the purple flowers. This came originally from Cornwall and the south-west, spreading to London along the railway line.

 

OUTER LONDON

Haringey : Railway Fields: David showed examples of numerous wild plants growing and previously growing in a small nature reserve (formerly a coalyard) at Green Lanes, Haringey which he was involved in developing for the London Borough of Haringey some years ago. The splendid gate to Railway Fields depicts many of the wild flowers growing there.

  • Birdsfoot Trefoil (‘Bacon & Eggs’), which needs full sun. This used to grow on the embankments of the Parkland Walk, but has now been squeezed out by stronger wild plants.
  • Common Fleabane: whose nectar-filled flowers are very attractive to butterflies.
  • Haringey Knotweed
  • Queen Anne’s Lace (referred to by Shakespeare as ‘keck’), aka the wild carrot, from which modern carrots were derived. Carrot_Queen_Annes_Lace_or_wild_carrot_roots_DP860
  • Russian Vine – very closely related to Japanese Knotweed. Along the Parkland Walk there is also a hybrid between the Russian vine and Japanese Knotweed which has only been found in a couple of other places – one in the former Czechoslovakia, where it is known as ‘The Railway Yard Knotweed’.

 

Haringey: site alongside the North Circular Road: A site which has now been developed for a Tesco store was previously full of wild plants, including Rosebay Willow Herb, Great Hairy Willow Herb, Mare’s Tail, Goat’s Beard, and Golden Dock, which had previously disappeared, not having been recorded in London since 1924.

 ‘Tottenham Marsh’ (no longer a marsh): alongside the Walthamstow Reservoir: two foreign exotic plants were shown flourishing in this area: Chinese Mugwort and Greek Dock – and a new-to-science hybrid between Chinese Mugwort and Field Mugwort, belonging to the Wormwood (artemisia) family.Artemisia_vulgaris

Highgate Cemetery: London’s cemeteries are wonderful wild flower havens and provide little fragments of unspoiled land within London with a rich and varied flora, in contrast to the surrounding countryside where habitats are usually disturbed by chemicals and farming activities. Plants shown included:-

  • Ferns: The Victorians planted many varieties of ferns in the cemeteries.

 

  • Rosebay Willow Herb: The plant used to be confined to northern England, but the London rosebay willow herb probably originated from North America’
  • Foxgloves
  •  Lesser White Plantain (Ranunculoides family) – the only surviving colony in southern England
  • Thread-leaved Crowfoot: previously not seen in London since the 1940’s, but David found it in Highgate Cemetery in the 1990’s.

 Walthamstow Nature Reserve:

  • Creeping Marshwort: This used to be more widespread but has disappeared from other parts of the country, and the only other place where it is found now is in a marsh near Oxford. marshwort

 Hampstead Heath: This has been historically the most surveyed botanical site in the world, and there is evidence that the flora has changed a lot since the sixteenth century. Because of the nature of the geology the flora is very ‘heath-like’, including European gorse, birch, and the Long-leaved Sundew.

 

I shall be writing another post later this year which looks at the importance of some of our gardens and plants wild or otherwise and wildlife in London.

As Good as it Gets? Really?

As good as it gets? by Fiona Gibson: A NetGalley Review for Jan 29th 2015 when the book is published.

So let’s see – the signs of the menopause arriving are:

Lack of oestrogen meaning that beards start growing;

There is a shrivelling of our private parts;

We are dead moody;

Our hair dries out;

Our skin withers;

Sex really hurts;

And basically you become more like a man.

Oops a daisy. I do seem to have acquired a significant number of those symptoms – probably because I went through menopause a long time ago when my ovaries were removed – but hey, it’s nice to know that I’m not alone!

The writer has some really nice phrasing and use of words which I rather liked –

Squooshed with water;

A golden fire extinguisher – now don’t be naughty here – it refers to her very large can of hairspray

The geographic fissures known as wrinkles.

I do have a number of small issues with the food descriptions though – see below.

I should also point out, that here in the UK, we eat a variety of aubergines which no longer need to dosed liberally with salt to remove the liquid. We use them straight from the plant.

Also, personally I have been to a number of ‘greasy spoons’ in and around London and have never yet been offered a pot of tea – mugs liberally dosed with milk yes, and at 2am? I don’t think so.

And as for mangoes having a disappearing flesh to stone ratio – she needs to buy better mangoes – preferably those from Pakistan or from Africa – we get the most wonderfully fleshy and juicy ones direct from a eco farm in East Africa which are sold by  a local school run charity.

I love Ollie and his science, especially his discussion on spots and the sebum – the oil basically – which blocks the pore and then gets infected by bacteria. The white cells then gather like an army to fight the bacteria and that this causes the swelling but that the yellow bit keeps it all inside and protected like a lid.  Such a vivid description and of course, scientifically true.

Overall this is a 4 * book.