Stuffing My Face in Plymouth

As I shared a few weeks ago, we’re on the move.  Last week, I finally got to visit the place we’ll soon be calling home. We got to spend a lot of time exploring the town and walking around between house viewings. One of the things that worries me about going anywhere new is just not knowing what I can eat.  It’s one thing to read reviews of restaurants and think I’ll be all right; it’s another to actually go and find yourself with choices!

The first place we went when we got to town was The Chancel.  Their website said that they offer a lot for Celiacs — not just that they stick a couple of G symbols on the menu — so I thought it would be a good first choice.  When I asked our server what I might could have, she told me to take a look at the menu and “we could have a conversation”, adding that the chips would not be suitable.  I decided on pasta with a cream sauce and, at the last minute, garlic bread.  I inhaled it, stuffed myself, and didn’t eat for the rest of the day. Whoops.

pasta

Mushroom pasta & garlic bread at The Chancel

The next day, we spent the morning walking to view a few houses.  We discovered that Plymouth is a lot hillier than we originally thought — my FitBit clocked 59 stories of climbing on this day, 50 of which were before noon.  I was running on only coffee at that point, so, when we stopped to eat, I was ravenous.  CB had scoped out a place called The Stable which boasts more ciders than I’ve seen in my life, as well as gluten-free pizzas.  Their GF pizza bases are made off-site, and they are knowledgable about their ingredients.  I picked the ‘Sir Francis Drake’ pizza, which is loaded with perhaps the best combination of goodness I’ve ever tasted — slow-roasted Spanish onions, local blue cheese and spinach, herb roasted chunks of potatoes on a tomato and mozzarella base.

pizza

I ate it all.

Remember when I said that Plymouth had a River Cottage Canteen?  Well, I wasn’t going to let an opportunity to visit pass me by, so we booked a table for dinner on our second night.  When booking online, there’s an option for allergy information.  I didn’t know whether that would mean anything once we actually arrived.

RCC menu

River Cottage Canteen menu

When our server brought our menus, mine had already been adjusted.  He had spoken with the chef at the start of the shift and had crossed out the things I couldn’t have and scratched through the bits that could be changed to work.  The menu was a foodie’s dream, full of “freshly prepared seasonal, local, organic and wild food” (according to their website).  I chose a halloumi, asparagus, and potato salad, which was as beautiful on the plate as it was delicious.

halloumi salad

Halloumi is magical.

The next morning, we checked out of our hotel and ran for breakfast before our next house viewing appointments.  We went to The Dock.  I couldn’t resist the idea of gluten-free blueberry pancakes, and neither, apparently, could CB.  Once we got there and I looked over the menu, I had a change of heart — a GF veggie fry with halloumi was calling my name.  Yep, halloumi for two meals in a row, and I’m not a little bit sorry.  Unfortunately, in my hurry to eat said halloumi, the only picture I got of the plate is woefully out of focus — but look at those GF pancakes!

pancakes

Blueberry pancakes at The Dock

veggie fry

Blurry picture of the veggie fry at The Dock

While walking the 8.5+ miles a day we averaged while exploring, we have also found what is clearly the best ice cream around. Langage Farm has, according to their website, “remained a working farmstead for over 900 years in the rolling Devonshire countryside” — which is kind of spectacular.  They have stockists all around Devon, and they have clear allergy information in the shops — the information on the ice cream truck we saw was a bit sparse (not all flavours had information) but enough for me to get by.  If you try their ice cream, go for the Caramel Pecan Crunch.  CB tried to convince me to trade flavours with him once he tasted mine!

The other thing about moving to a place like Devon is cider.  CB was laughed at in a restaurant when he asked what local beers they had on tap.  I mentioned the ciders at The Stable briefly earlier, but it was at River Cottage Canteen where I had a Heron Valley cider.  It was dry, crisp, and almost spicy; I kept saying it was weird but in a good way!  I am definitely not a fan of sugary-sweet beverages, so this one did the trick.

On the basis of really good food for me to eat on a rather limited diet, I think this is going to be a good move.  Now, if only we could find somewhere to live…

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Newton’s First Law of Motion

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion…

I’ve never been good at staying in one place.  My parents always told me that the world keeps on moving even if you try to stay still, so you’ll never be in the same place for long.  I can honestly say that I’ve never been fully unpacked in any place I have lived since I was ten years old.  Home isn’t where your stuff is; it’s where you can relax and spend time with the people (and even things) you love.

In this house, it is also where my kitchen is.

new kitchen photo

Remember how lovely it is?

I have documented the process of creating my dream kitchen. I may have said it was finished in January, but I meant it was *finished (as long as you don’t look up or down or over there)*.  The ceiling was only just painted — four times — over the past fortnight (thanks, Mum!), and Dad and I just got the door frame in place last week.  It needs a few pieces of quarter-round around the bases of the cabinets, and we’ll be in business.

I get to put into action all those fancy words of wisdom.  We’re moving on, selling up, shipping out — and soon.  We need to be at-least-a-little settled in our new locale by 1 September.

Why are we going?  Well, mostly because we can.  With all the work we’ve done in this house, we should be able to sell it fairly quickly.  We don’t have any other financial obligations in Belfast.  We don’t have children who we have to pull out of school.  We’ll only be a couple of hours’ travel away from our friends and family here.  I know CB worries about taking me away from the home we’ve created here — it’d be much easier to stay — but I’m not worried.  I first moved here almost six years ago with nothing but a suitcase; I didn’t know a single person in Northern Ireland when I arrived, and I’ve built a life here.  I have a family here.  Family doesn’t just stop being family because you don’t live in the same town.

Plymouth

Ho hum.

Where are we going?  CB got a job at Plymouth University in Plymouth, England.  It’s more secure than his current job, and it will open more opportunities for funding and research.  From all appearances, it’s a lovely place.  When CB was interviewing there, he sent me pictures of him having pizza on a boardwalk and riding the train up a cliff-filled coastline.  They seem to have a bit of a gluten-free community, and there’s even a River Cottage restaurant to try to spy my husband’s TV chef/farming doppelgänger.  They grow apples by the tonne there, so maybe I’ll get inspired and give this guy a permanent spot in my new kitchen [note: I just saw that post mentions how I’ll never stop moving!].  It’s much further south, so we won’t have any of this freezing rain in June mess we’re experiencing right now, and our little sunbathing queen will have more cause for celebration.

Zoe in sunshine

I call her Squints McGhee.

So … know anyone that wants to buy a house?

The World’s Best

I have devised a recipe for the world’s best salad.  I know it is the best because I have personally taste-tested it against all other salads I have personally made, and I have personally decided that it is the best.  You can see that my system is fool-proof.

I’m not greedy, though, so I’m wiling to let you have the world’s best salad, too.  You can even pretend it’s your own if you want.  I’m not going to tell on you.

See, I’ve never loved salads.  I have always thought they were boring and bland.  They never filled me up.  I didn’t understand why there was always grated carrot and red cabbage at the bottom of the salad bowl, and why is a massive ring of red onion okay to just drop on top?  Add that confusion to the fact that I don’t like tomatoes, I can’t have croutons, and most salad dressings are either awful for you or just awful for me in particular, and I usually had a bowl of lettuce with a couple of sad cucumber slices.

After seeing a dietician recently and finding out that I don’t eat enough food — shocking news! — I realised I was going to have to make more of an effort to eat lunch.  I whined, ‘but lunchtime is the exact time of day when I least want to eat!’  Why?

Well, I used to eat sandwiches for lunch.  I thought I was doing all right by it, never eating plain white bread, typically passing up the crisps, and adding lettuce to give me a vegetable.  After I’d eat, though, I would get very tired.  I didn’t want to do anything; I wasn’t sure I could do anything. What I didn’t realise was that I wasn’t really feeding myself; I was just putting stuff in my body.  There wasn’t anything nourishing to what I was eating, and, while I don’t knock a good sandwich now and again, I just know it doesn’t function as a daily standard.

Knowing that someone else was looking over my food journal with me made me a bit more self-conscious.  Of course I wanted to look like I had it all together, but I also came to realise that I simply knew better. More fruit, Sydney, and more vegetables.  Just get over yourself and do it.

Thus, THE salad was born.  There’s crunch, there’s heft, there’s sweetness, there’s protein, and there’s also a little bit of heat.

World’s Best Lunch Salad

Ingredients:
Romaine lettuce (or favourite leaf)
Spinach
Sunflower seeds
Pomegranate seeds
Sprouted mung beans
Sprouted lentil beans
Cucumber
Broccoli
World’s Best Balsamic Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
Your favourite hot sauce (I use Frank’s Hot Sauce for this salad!)

Hardware:
Big bowl
Hands

Directions:
Assemble as big or as small a salad as you’d like with the ingredients.  I start with the lettuce and spinach, tearing them into bite-sized pieces by hand, add broccoli and cucumber around the edges, and add the smaller ingredients in the middle.  Then, I dress it with a couple of shakes of the hot sauce and a quick drizzle of the vinaigrette.

salad

This is the little version. I may or may not have used a mixing bowl for just myself before. (I definitely have.)

World’s Best Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar (may not be needed if you shell out for expensive oil and vinegar)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (I use pink Himalayan salt for a couple of extra minerals)
1/8 teaspoon chilli powder
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cumin

Hardware:
Jar that will fit at least 1 cup of liquid (with lid)
measuring cups and spoons
heavy-duty shakin’ arms

Directions:
Dump everything except the sugar into the jar.  Shake, shake, shake until it is completely combined.  Taste and see if it needs the sugar for your tastebuds.  Some vinegars can be more tart than others, and some people like a more tart vinaigrette.  Add the sugar if you want and shake again.

Store in the fridge.  Remove a while before you need it, and shake it again to reintegrate the oil and vinegar, which will separate when cold.  If you forget, pop it in the microwave without the lid for 15-20 seconds — just enough to soften the oil but not “cook” it — and shake.  Oh, yes, more shaking.

Kitchen Progress, Life Progress

Things are happening so quickly!  The giant week (which is so giant that it actually encompasses 9 days) kicks off Friday when I see Van the Man receive his Freedom of the City.  Two days later, I’ll be taking in They Might Be Giants in my third country — this time, only down the street, no airplanes required!  Thursday brings the Lumineers, and Saturday is the Doctor Who 50th anniversary.  Somewhere in the middle, I have a sewing class to attend, parents to retrieve from Dublin, tons of crocheting to do (speaking of crocheting, if that’s your thing and you want to order for Christmas, you need to get on that.  Really.), and, oh, some houseWORK to tackle.

Tearing out kitchen

Clearly, one of my favourite parts of the process is the WORK.

So much to do — should I say ‘so much to be done’ — but it’ll all end with a brand new shiny kitchen for me to mess up during Thanksgiving.  The first crumb will be a tiny heartbreak, but then I know I’ll dive right in and make it my own.  And my own kitchen is nothing short of a workshop.

Kitchen newly plastered

The current state of the kitchen — yes, new plaster is meant to look like that.

Radio Silence

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and there’s a reason.  This is my kitchen:

Kitchen

Yes, that’s a bottle of Pepsi and a package of string cheese. No, I’m not ashamed.

Well, if I’m honest, THIS is my kitchen:

Kitchen full

Doesn’t everyone keep mattresses on their countertops?!

You see, CB and I bought a house.  A big house that requires a lot of work.  What it means is that I have not properly cooked in close to a month.  Since I don’t have as much as a stove, I have also tried not to think too much about food in general.  We are working too much, not eating enough, and not sleeping enough.  It’s taking a toll, but it’s our house.  Every wall that is plastered and painted makes me fall more and more in love with it.

What I do have is a date for my kitchen installation!  About a week before Thanksgiving, the final touches will be finished.  I get to demolish the existing kitchen, too, which is just too much fun to me.  As soon as things get moving, I’ll start updating again, I promise.  Until then, send me all the good surviving-the-mess vibes you can manage!