Restaurant Review: HipChips, Soho

Old Compton Street in Soho seems to host a good handful of restaurants that I *really* want to visit, and HipChips was no exception. I’d heard about it a while back (okayyyy, I’d heard that you could dip potato crisps into peanut butter…) and it had really piqued my interest. Of course this meant when I was offered the chance to review I just could say no!

They use the “best heritage varieties of potatoes, serving them up delicately fried alongside mind-blowing dips.” You can choose sweet or savoury (or a mix – though as they would be served together I’m not overly convinced this is the way to go) with the sweet being sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Then choose your dips and, well, get dipping.

We went for a Large Sweet box, which comes with 6 dips. The crisps themselves certainly looked good, with various different colours. The cinnamon sugar combo was also extremely moreish – despite some of the crisps being more than a little soft.

The dips were also a mixed bag – out of Peanut Butter & Jam, S’mores, Passionfruit, Chocolate & Salted Caramel, Cheesecake and Blackberry & Liquorice there was two clear favourites, and only another two we really ate. I’d skip the Chocolate & Salted Caramel, as the warm caramel split the cold chocolate dip and just made a not particularly pleasant texture. The Cheesecake was also disappointing, bland and too ‘cheesy.’ Not great. Better was the S’mores, though the menu description of ‘gooey marshmallow’ is overselling it when it’s simply chocolate with mini-marshmallows on top. Blowtorch ’em please!

Blackberry & Liquorice was good when eaten with a spoon, not so much on a chip. However the Passionfruit and Peanut Butter with Jam were both winners. Passionfruit was sharp and fruity. Peanut Butter had the perfect salty-sweet kick and the punchy jam just made it better. I’d have been happy with several pots of both!

The savoury dips sounded good, but I felt a bit limited with the tomato-free options and, having devoured a satay chicken at Leon, was in the mood for something sweet. Even so, as I ate I found myself wishing I wasn’t in the (very modern and just a little quirky) restaurant, but rather at home, in my PJs, watching a film. And that’s what sums up my review of HipChips. The food was okay, some bits we ate were great, but as an eat-in concept I’m not 100% sure it works. If only I was in their delivery range!

*I was gifted a voucher for HipChips in exchange for an honest review – and as always all opinions are my own (or my fiances!) 

Would you go sweet or savoury with your chips’n’dips?

Recipe: Blackberry & Apple Crumble

Confession time: I’ve never been a fan of cooked fruit. Actually, I’m not really a huge fan of fruit in general, much preferring to get my five-a-day from vegetables. Despite my mum regularly making crumbles throughout my childhood, it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve accepted anything other than a bowl of custard (yep, on it’s own). This year I was actively looking forward to Autumn and the hedges brimming with blackberries just waiting to be picked.

Now, this recipe is perhaps a bit more faff than a standard crumble recipe. I used to just chop the fruit, throw it into a dish with a spot of sugar (and perhaps a dash of slow gin). Rub together butter, sugar and flour, heap on top of the fruit mixture and bake. Simple, took about five minutes and the results were good. This, however, takes it one step further. The fruit is stewed beforehand, lightly so it doesn’t turn to mush, but enough so that all the flavours come together that little bit more. The topping is pre-baked, so there’s whilst there’s a bit of comforting stodge, it’s not leaning towards the glue-y raw flour end that I was always coasting before. It’s still super-easy, it still is pretty quick to put together. It’s our go-to Sunday evening treat right now. Served with a generous helping of fridge-cold cream, eaten wrapped in a blanket in front of a film. You can’t get more hygge than that!

Recipe – serves 2

  • 120g plain flour
  • 60g golden caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 90g unsalted butter at fridge temperature, cut into pieces
  • 300g cooking apple (usually one large Braeburn), peeled and cored
  • 30g brown sugar
  • a large handful of blackberries
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • cream, to serve

Tip the flour, caster sugar and ginger into a large bowl. Add 60g of the butter, then rub into the flour until the mix resembles. Sprinkle the mixture in an even layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes at roughly 200C, or until lightly golden and smelling gorgeous.

Meanwhile prep the fruit. Pop the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan and melt together over a medium heat. Cook for 3 mins until the mixture turns to a light caramel. Chop the apples into roughly 2cm dice, then add to the caramel and cook for 3 minutes. Add the blackberries and cinnamon, and cook for a couple more minutes. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and leave to stand.

When ready to serve, spoon the fruit into an ovenproof dish, top with the crumble mix, then bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, or until hot and bubbling. Serve with cream (or vanilla ice cream!).

And now here’s a disclaimer – I actually put W on crumble-duty the vast majority of the time. It’s just so much yummier when someone has cooked it for you – and he makes far less of a mess (hence why I finally managed to photograph these!).

Are you a fan of fruit crumbles? What’s your favourite fruit combo?

Lifestyle: A Foodie Bucket List (Home-Cooking Version)

It’s a running joke between myself and my better half that we have an ever-expanding list of things we want to cook, places we want to eat. It grows far, far faster than we can tick items off! Here’s just a snippet of our ‘home-cooking’ section of the list…

  • Experiment more with Jewish recipes. I’ve been thumbing through Fress* a lot recently and pretty much every dish sounds delicious.
  • Buy a proper pudding basin. Although I’ve wanted one for a while, it was the recent GBBO epsiode that reignited the passion. Steamed sponges, suet puddings filled with steak and kidney. Traditional cooking at it’s best!
  • Make a lasagne completely from scratch. Obviously we use my Ultimate No-Tomato Bolognese, and W’s awesome cheese sauce recipes, but I really want to combine them with homemade pasta. In fact, just make more homemade pasta!
  • Oh, and a decent completely white lasagne I want to make too. This Jamie Oliver recipe looks insanely rich and comforting!
  • Replicate a decent barbecue sauce sans tomato. It’s the one thing I miss – messy, sticky, saucy ribs!
  • Cook up this Lentil Stew. It looks perfect for a winter lunchbox to reheat at work!
  • Play around more with our Pressure Cooker. I was gifted one last Autumn and whilst we made a couple of dishes in it (it was great for Beef Cheeks!) it’s sat largely unused for a while. Any recipe recommendations?
  • Make our own Faggots. I know a lot of people are squeamish about these, but I LOVE them. I grew up eating local versions but they’ve become harder and harder to find (I’ve not seen them in any butchers in London). We have a meat grinder attachment for our Kitchen Aid so this Winter I’m definitely setting aside an afternoon for making my perfect comfort food.
  • Host a supper club. I’d love to host some fundraising supper parties, in support of Alzheimer’s UK in memory of my maternal granddad. Now we have a dining table I really need to get the ball rolling!
  • Make a proper pie. We make pies quite a lot with the leftovers from our Sunday roast, but really it’s a cheat – topping a stew mix with a sheet of pastry. I’d love to try making a proper pie with pastry all the way round.
  • Cook more curries from scratch. We’ve got a few simple recipes (read: throw various spices in with onion, garlic and ginger, add yoghurt/coconut milk) but I’d love to try something a tad more authentic. I’ve had this for Massaman and this Vindaloo recipe bookmarked for what feels like forever!
  • Bake these. Because Peanut Butter is life.

What’s on your ‘to cook’ list?

Lifestyle: Happy (Fortnightly) Things #26

I realised a little late last week (Wednesday, shamefully) that I’d missed this post. I don’t think it was a coincidence, either, that my mood was particularly low last week. Sure, I’d finished my exam (I can’t say it was the best exam ever, but it didn’t make me cry so it can’t be the worst!). We’d hit one-year-to-go in our wedding day countdown. All good things, so it’s safe to say that penning this post definitely improves my outlook. Here goes…

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  1. A lovely weekend away. Seaside, lots of amazingly good food and plenty of quality time with W. It was perfect!
  2. The best doughnuts I’ve ever eaten. Thank you Pump Street Bakery!
  3. Also thanks to Pump Street, the most amazing sandwich combo. Salami, roasted fennel and garlic mayo on sourdough. Worth the damage I did to my tooth eating it!
  4. Reading an actual book. I love my Kindle, but there’s something about a paperback that I love. Maybe it’s the fact I can take it for a soak in the bath without being terrified of dropping it…
  5. Finally recovering from a nasty insect bite. Swelling has now gone down though I’m convinced my leg is still a funny colour…
  6. Celebrating 7 years together. We had a day date and went to the Postal Museum. Definitely worth a visit!
  7. Catching up with friends. I hate the fact I miss out on so much during exam season. I’ve been making the most of it with lots of lunch dates over the last week or so!
  8. An amazing meeting with our wedding florist. I’m so excited to see what she comes up with!
  9. Sending out our Save the Dates. They are absolutely stunning and I’ve loved people’s reactions.
  10. And another wedding one – my mum got her hat. She’s been talking about her hat for far longer than we’ve been engaged, and a chance pop into Olney village resulted in a panic trying to fit a giant hatbox in the car…

What’s made you happy lately?

Recipe: Asian Quinoa Salad

Healthy and exciting lunchboxes. It’s one of the things I really struggle with; finding things to eat at work that are filling, nourishing, cheap, last a couple of days in the fridge and are genuinely yummy. I don’t particularly enjoy sandwiches (all too often they are soggy and squashed after a few hours in my bag) and I *refuse* to spend £6+ on eating out every day, no matter how good my Instagram feed would look.

 photo Asian Quinoa Salad_zpsq1lyns43.jpgThere’s nothing worse than a disappointing lunch, and I guarantee than a poor midday meal with leave me in a grump alllllll afternoon. A box full of this, however, is pretty sure to put a smile on my face. It’s basically a more colourful and substantial version of my Asian Satay Salad, which makes it perfect for the cooler weather. The quinoa bulks it out without making me feel heavy, bloated and ready for a nap, whilst the red cabbage just looks so pretty. Raw sugarsnap peas are a revelation for me too – soooo much tastier than cooked.

This is super-easy to adapt too. Toss through leftover roast chicken, serve as part of a picnic. I quite like cooked and cooled soy beans stirred through too, and I imagine a fresh pepper would make an awesome addition (I’d be wary about adding it if you’re picking at this throughout the week, I find the pepper-y taste can transfer a bit). No spring onions? Use a normal onion (pop it into a sieve and pour over boiling water to take away the harsh raw-onion taste). No red cabbage? Just slice up whatever cabbage you have – it just won’t look as colourful. And of course you could switch out quinoa for whichever grain you fancy. I’m also planning on trying a version made with noodles sometime soon!

 photo Asian Quinoa Salad5_zpskz4hqj3p.jpg photo Asian Quinoa Salad3_zpsnczfccrz.jpgRecipe (makes 5-6 servings, baked on a Cookie & Kate recipe)

  • Quinoa, I followed the measurement on the packet to make 4 portions
  • ½ purple cabbage
  • 3 carrots
  • ½ packet sugar snap peas
  • 1 small packet of coriander
  • 4-5 spring onions
  • 1 thumb size piece of ginger
  • 1 red chilli (deseeded if you don’t fancy it too hot)
  • 3 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • 5 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 limes (zest and juice)
  • 1 small handful of nuts, to serve

Cook the quinoa, following the packet instructions, and leave it to cool. I like to fluff it up with a fork a few times whilst cooling. Meanwhile prep the salad – finely slice the red cabbage, spiralise (or slice) the carrots, slice the sugarsnap peas lengthways, slice the spring onions and roughly chop the coriander. Pop into a large Tupperware box and mix through the cooled quinoa.

Then make the dressing: finely chop the ginger and chilli. Mix together with the soy, honey and sesame oil, then slowly add the soy and fish sauce until smooth. Add in the lime zest and juice, mix well and pop into a jar. I’d advise not refrigerating (just keep in a cool place) as otherwise the peanut butter makes it a bit solid!

In the morning, pop a portion of the quinoa/veg mix into your lunchbox and stir through a few spoonfuls of the dressing. I’d keep it out of the fridge until lunchtime, no-one wants fridge-cold quinoa… When just about to eat top with a handful of nuts, if you like.

 photo Asian Quinoa Salad4_zpsgijjuqz7.jpg photo Asian Quinoa Salad7_zpsiyerfhuz.jpgWhilst I don’t typically count calories (an obsessive personality means I tend to become focussed on continually reducing my intake), eating a big portion of this makes me feel healthy. I feel satisfied without being full, nourished without feeling deprived. And an added bonus? It can be eaten one-handed at my desk on really busy days. I can see myself eating a lot of this salad!

What’s your favourite take-to-work lunch?

Review: French & Spice Fusion at Bistro Vadouvan, Putney

I could start and end this review right here: this was the best meal, without doubt, that I have ever eaten in London.

A bold claim for sure, particularly as I’ve been lucky enough to eat in some damn good restaurants. But nearly three months on and this meal is still sticking out in my memory, and for all the good reasons. Friendly and attentive, but far from annoying, staff. Gorgeous plates, cutlery and decor. Cosy blankets for the outside tables (it’s just a shame Caluccio’s nabbed the best spot by the river!). All topped off with some of the most inventive and well-cooked dishes I’ve tried.

We started with cocktails – all strong, all delicous, all very well made – before moving onto wine. No complaints about the drinks, although really the stars here are the food. Bistro Vadouvan combines classical French cuisine with Middle Eastern and Asian flavours, creating original dishes that are both pretty on a plate and rather tasty. With views of the Thames, and stunning sunsets over Putney Bridge, it’s a lovely location and I’m rather pleased it’s within walking distance!

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 4_zpsmpcrejwv.jpgI kicked off with the Prawn, Crab and Cucumber Salad. At £12 this was perhaps the one dish I felt was a little over-priced, but equally they were more than generous with the crab. It was fresh, light and summery, with the most delightful Mint, Yuzu and Orange dressing. The sharp flavours of the mint and orange tempered the sweetness of the seafood perfectly. It was also clearly made to order, as the cucumber had yet to impart it’s wateriness that comes from sitting around. The red chilli dotted throughout was fiery and I could have perhaps done without it, though due to the large slices I could delicately remove it.

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 2_zpscsuvc8lb.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 3_zpsd2ttjh7x.jpgW ordered the Asparagus, Sprouting Beans, Avocado and Kohlrabi Salad, something which I was tempted by (but knew I’d get to try if he ordered!). Not being the biggest lover of avo as it is, I was slightly put off by the description of the “Fermented Sour Plum Dressing” but it really worked. All of the ingredients were at their peak-freshness, with the avocado lending a creaminess to the dish. Nuts added crunch, and the whole thing tasted light, healthy and absolutely delicious. I loved my seafood-based salad, but this came a close second.

The Spiced Bouillabaisse was also enjoyed, the classic French dish livened up with Middle-Eastern flavours.

Onto the mains, and this is where the stars of the show really were. Though I could only fault the starters if I was being really picky (see chill point about), I could sit here for hours and genuinely not be able to complain about my dish. I mean, it says a lot about the menu when we broke our biggest ‘couple rule’ and couldn’t resist ordered the same thing – Sea bass with Celeriac, Cauliflower & Raz el Hanout. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe at the time of our visit this was served with cod rather than bass – I imagine both work equally well!

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 11_zpsvvqdjbzh.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 12_zpsxoryaoep.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 14_zpstph7j6hg.jpgHaving eaten some really excellent fish dishes this year (the unusual Cod & Pineapple at Skosh, and an elegant Crab Lasagne at Galvin La Chapelle), this remains the one I’d happily eat again, and again, and again. The chunky piece of fish was cooked to absolute perfection – flaking into moist chunks with the merest press of a fork. It sat on a bed of Celeriac Hummus, which was creamy, moreish and had a depth of flavour all of it’s own, without detracting from the main dish. Give me a bowl of this and some of the flatbread I saw floating around the restaurant and I’d be a happy girl!  The dish was then topped with a generous serving of Spiced Cauliflower. Flawlessly cooked (soft and tender without a hint of the mushiness cauliflower is prone to) and just so fully of flavour. Again, give me a bowl of cauliflower and I’d probably be quite happy! Drizzled with a lemony-parsley dressing which pulled the whole dish together, I was genuinely sad when I’d finished my plate.

Also on our table was the Glazed Salmon, Carrot & Harissa Yoghurt, and a special involving Lamb Belly. Both seemed to go down extremely well – and next on my list to try is the delicious-looking Poussin Marinated In Sage, Maple Syrup, Garlic & Yoghurt.

In fact, the only negative I have is that the side dishes don’t seem to be particularly well-matched to the mains. Chips and cous-cous are all very good, but perhaps not the most imaginative. That said, on our visit they had a ‘slaw’ on offer which we tentatively ordered to share. Finely sliced cabbage tossed in a spiced-yoghurt and lemon dressing, it was actually far more delicious than the dubious description on the menu and went perfectly with both fish dishes.

A slight running theme is possible here, as like the sides the desserts just didn’t seem overly appealing. However we’d heard good things so ordered a few to share.

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 18_zps0138jjek.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 15_zpsnjp2ch4d.jpgThe Exotic Cheesecake with Passion Fruit Creameux was my top pick, and this is coming from someone who isn’t a huge fan of cheesecake. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever ordered it in a restaurant before! This was light and almost mousse-like – certainly not the heavy and artery-clogging dish I was expected. Flavours of mango and passion-fruit were strong without being sickly, the plate was garnished with coulis, curd and crispy meringues and the cheesecake topped with an almost gelato-textured sorbet.

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 19_zpsk3kpb1ri.jpgW loved the Luxurious Chocolate and Bitter Orange, although I found it a tad heavy and cloying (and certainly wouldn’t have been able to finish it!).  Flavours were reminiscent of a jaffa cake, with the textures smooth. One for chocolate lovers, and only if you’ve got a big appetite.

Even before we’d paid our bill, we were talking about other dishes on the menu we’d like to try on a return visit. Unfortunately with moving, holidays, exams and other annoying things we haven’t yet made it, but watch this space!
And now I’ll end with another picture of the fish dish. Because it was THAT good!

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 8_zpsit8mhatr.jpg

Where was your ‘best meal’ eaten?

Recipe: Freezer Chocolate-Chunk Cookies

This post comes with a safety warning – do not read if you lack self-control.

 photo Cookies_zpsu63tirlo.jpgBecause having freshly-based cookies available with around 10 minutes notice is a bad, bad thing if you’re trying to get into the ‘slimming’ outfit you bought for a wedding. It turns out I have zero self-control when it comes to these cookies, though it’s not surprising. These are thinner cookies (for UK readers, they’re more Millie’s than Ben’s), chewy on the outside but softer within, and packed absolutely full with chocolate.

I blame exams on the fact that these disappeared unreasonably quickly – two study days a week plus the stress of an impending exam means any kind of sweet treat isn’t going to last long! And (I say defensively) with a stand-mixer it’s all too easy to just whip up another batch whilst on a break from pricing models and credibility theory…

 photo Ultimate Choc Chunk Cookies 11_zpsxafi791w.jpg photo Ultimate Choc Chunk Cookies 12_zpsmhiia8ls.jpgRecipe (makes lots of cookies, on the last bake we got 39 plus plenty of raw cookie dough)

  • 250g butter
  • 220gcaster sugar
  • 250g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 415g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp hot water (plus a little more if needed)
  • 1 pinch of sea salt
  • 400g chocolate – here we used a mix of milk and white chocolate (just cheap bars, roughly chopped into chunks)

The dough takes mere minutes to  whip up in a kMix*! Beat the butter slightly until soft, them cream together with the two types of sugar. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and gradually beat into the butter/sugar mix. Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the warm water, before adding to the mix along with the salt. Stir in the flour and chocolate. Drop large spoonfuls (we used tablespoons) of the mix onto lined baking trays and roughly roll into a ball.

If you’re baking them straight away, pop into the fridge for around 10-15 minutes to firm up before baking for 10 minutes at 180C. If you’re freezing them, freeze on the tray for an hour or so, before removing and freezing in a resealable bag. Bake from frozen for around 12 minutes at 180C.

 photo Ultimate Choc Chunk Cookies 9_zpsvpu4ua8t.jpg photo Ultimate Choc Chunk Cookies 10_zpsqngvkgbm.jpgObviously, you don’t have to make chocolate cookies (though why wouldn’t you?!). What I do recommend is switching out some of the chocolate for other ingredients – we’ve tried nuts (peanuts are especially good if you add a blob of peanut butter to the dough), crystallized ginger and even adding a spot of chopped chilli in. Next on my list is an adaption of these Beer & Bacon Cookies

Are you a cookie fan? Do you think you’d have the self-control to keep a batch in the freezer?!

Lifestyle: Happy (Fortnightly) Things #25

Unfortunately just a really quickly penned post from me today – exam day is Wednesday and I really shouldn’t be blogging right now. But so many LOVELY things have happened over the past few weeks that I can’t help but share…

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  1. Watching one of my lovely friends marry her soulmate. It was such a lovely day and so perfect for them.
  2. Realising it’s only just over a year until I get married myself! Eeekkkkk!
  3. Getting my groove on with blogging again. After a break from it all, and months feeling a bit disconnected I’ve pretty much finalised where I’m taking this space in the long-term. Stay tuned…
  4. Finding a decent deep conditioner. This one has been great for my locks, just a shame L’Oreal aren’t a company I’m desperate to support!
  5. Discovering my local Sainsbury’s sell products from The Polish Bakery. The bakery gifted me some goodies a while back and their bread is all kinds of awesome. Just gutted I’ve not found the Rye bread yet…
  6. Eating chocolate.* Cadbury sent me over some goodies to celebrate the launch of their partnership with the Premier League. I have to say that chocolate plus potential prizes is a winner in my book – simply enter the code from a promotional bar and you can win one of hundreds of football themed prizes.
  7. Gorgeous sunsets from the top floor of my office. Admittedly I’ve spent lots of late evenings (and even weekends!) there but it’s such a lovely view I can almost forgive exams for robbing me of a work-life balance!
  8. Fruit crumble and fresh cream. Perfect Sunday night treat!
  9. Almossstttttt having a dining table. The legs are here, the top was delivered on Saturday. Just a shame the top arrived completely snapped in half…
  10. Receiving a yogurt pot with my name on. It’s the little things that put a smile on this face!

What’s been putting a smile on your face?

Travel: Six-Day Itinerary in Berner-Oberland, Switzerland

Now we’ve got the important things out of the way (the Best Things to Eat in Switzerland) it’s time to discuss our trip in a little more detail. Here I’m giving a run down of our rough itinerary, the things we did and the things we wish we could have done. I’m not going into too much detail about each of the days, but if anyone has any questions on specific walks/excursions in this area of Switzerland then feel free to get in touch!

 photo Swiss Itinerary_zpszry3eal0.jpg photo IMG_20170709_085728_zpsof4mmc7k.pngApologies if the quality of some of these photos is a little off – I managed to fail to take a sensible lens for my camera, so relied on my phone when we were out and about. Whoops!

Basic Itinerary

Flights: LGW-Basel (and vice-versa on the return leg)

Train Passes: Berner Oberland Regional Pass, and Transfer Tickets (from Bern to Basel)

Accommodation: Air B’n’B (this one, highly recommend and not nearly as noisy as the host warned us) in Interlaken

Days: Split between walking, city and sight-seeing

Flights

Basically, we booked the cheapest flights we could find, that left us with the travelling days to play with in Switzerland. We got the early flight out of Gatwick (though splurged on a taxi to get there which was SO easy, would hands-down never get the train again!) and headed to Basel – on the borders of France, Germany and Switzerland. The airport is teeny-tiny really, to the point you choose your destination country by which doors you exit. I also wouldn’t bank on using any leftover Francs at duty-free when you leave, I’ve never seen such a small offering.

Train Tickets

This is where Switzerland can get confusing. Train travel is essential, the roads are windy (certainly not something I’d like to drive nor be driven along!) and quite often trains will cut through a mountain. Trust me, trains are the way forward and they are so much better ran than in the UK. In Switzerland, 30 seconds is a delay and anything over a couple of minutes rarely happens.

This trip we got a Berner Oberland Pass for 6 days, and Transfer Tickets to get us to/from the airport. We booked the Transfer Tickets in advance to secure a lower price, then the Pass gave us unlimited journeys in the region. Some trips are extra (e.g. the Jungfrau, Schilthorn and some boat/cable cars) but generally this pass will give you a good discount on their standard prices.

Top tip: when booking flights, factor in a estimate of train tickets the other end. Flights to Zurich were marginally cheaper, but train tickets to Interlaken veryyyy pricey for our dates.
 photo IMG_20170809_195733_zpsydd1bjod.png photo IMG_20170809_195542_zpscejluwme.png photo IMG_20170818_192440_615_zpslxl1hyge.jpg

City Days

We spent half a day in Bern, being guided round by a local (it pays to have Swiss friends – both in terms of tours and supplies of cheese!). I’d definitely recommend the city, though we spent a good few hours just floating on the river which was divine on a hot (35C) day.

We also spent our last day wandering a tad aimlessly around Basel. This is somewhere I’d love to go back and properly explore – it was a gorgeous city with strong German/French influences but we definitely felt some kind of tour would have been useless. By this point we were both pretty tired and I’d managed to blister the base of my foot so we stuck to no real plan. A reason to go back I guess!
 photo IMG_20170802_174629_zps152mhxhh.png photo IMG_20170815_125841_849_zps2frkegtx.jpg photo IMG_20170813_130930_369_zpsohj4zrsf.jpg photo IMG_20170810_215658_925_zpsnvisgeyh.jpg photo IMG_20170819_184628_666_zpsq4tzb5o5.jpg

Walking Days

Walks in Switzerland tend to be colour coded – yellow for ‘easy’ and red for ‘mountain.’ I’d definitely advise sticking to yellow, even then some of the hikes are pretty strenuous in terms on incline. That said, it’s our goal to one day made a red walk…

My favourite walk is along a riverbank. It involves getting a train to Grindelwald (a town I’d definitely consider staying in next trip), then a bus to Schwarzwaldalp. This bus wasn’t included in our regional pass, and even with a discount the price made me wince! After some pretty hairy bends, you can reward yourself with a scenic walk through cow fields, woodlands and meadows. We originally planned to only go as far as Rosenlaui (45 minutes) – before a wander around the gorge and continuing with the bus to Meiringen – however we missed the bus and faced a 2 hours wait. What do you do in that situation? Carry on the walk. We eventually stopped at Kaltenbrunnen before catching the bus to Meiringen for a meringue overload.

 photo IMG_7203_zpsyb6i9fze.jpg photo IMG_7198_zpsvr6teipt.jpgThis walk is a favourite for many reasons. It was much loved by W’s late grandmother, who used to watch her rings (engagement, wedding, etenity) in the river. His mother later did so for her and now, with my engagement ring made from her eternity ring, I continued the tradition.

Another walk, perhaps our most difficult, was from First to Lake Bachalpsee. There’s some pretty steep inclines here, though it wasn’t helped by being a very hot day. The views at the Lake are well worth it though – plus there’s all kinds of fun things to do on your way down from First to Grindelwald. We hired ‘mountain karts’ – go-karts with no pedals and let gravity take us down. With no barriers to stop you driving over the sheer mountain edge it took me a while to get the better of my nerves but I would 100% do again. There’s also zip lines which I’m desperate to try, though they were closed due to high-winds on our trip.

Our final walk was in the shadows of the Schilthorn. We took the cable car from Lauterbrunnen to Grüschalp, before walking to Mürren. This has some stunning views and waterfalls, and is blessedly shady for most of the route. It also passes through a small farm where they hand-make cheese and fudge pretty much fresh from the cow. Alpine Fudge is something everyone needs to try! From Mürren we took the cable car down to Stechelberg (rather than up towards the Schilthorn) and then got a bus, stopping off at Trümmelbach Falls to enjoy the coolness of the gorge and glacial falls (water passes through at 20,000 litres per second, it’s a stunning place to visit).

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Other Sight-Seeing

The main ‘touristy’ thing we did was head up the Jungfrau on our first day. Now, this wasn’t included in our pass and it’s usually very pricey. Having done it in 2012 (and W many other times) we weren’t fussed about it but his parents offered us some free tickets they had. We ended up really enjoying it, the visibility was *amazing* and there had been fresh snowfall the night before. It’s definitely something I’d advise doing at least once, and with the winter spots, snowy walks and ice-palace to explore as well as the many viewing platforms you’ll be there for a good few hours!

Our other half-days were spent mainly around Interlaken. On our first evening we ventured up the Harder Kulm, though took the funicular  rather than take on the 2+ hours upward hike. We spent the evening watching the sun start to set, eating cheesy rösti and enjoying the spectacular views.

We also took in a boat trip from Interlaken to Spiez, a town I desperately want to return to as it was just so pretty. And being whisky fanatics we took a trip to the brewery/distillery in Interlaken – whilst unfortunately there were’t enough numbers for an English tour we did come away with a bottle to enjoy!
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For Another Time

Realistically, we both agreed we could have spent 3 weeks there and not fitted in everything we wanted to do. There’s countless walks to do, a trip up to the Schilthorn (where James Bond’s XYZ was filmed) and the stops along the way (now featuring thrill walks). There’s white water rafting and canyoning, both of which are firmly on my bucket list. There’s more ‘city trips’ to Zermatt (home of the Toberlone mountain) and Lucerne. I’d also love to visit Geneva and properly explore Zurich at some point too!

My main aim is to one day do a glacier trek – though I certainly need to work on my fitness levels before that!

Have you ever been to Switzerland? Would you like to see more travel posts here?

Recipe: Simple Fennel Pasta

Like many households, I’m sure, pasta is our go-to meal. When we don’t know what to cook, you can bet it will end up involving pasta. Whether it’s my tomato-free bolognese, a decadent carbonara or gut-lining mac’n’cheese, we love the carby-comfort food hit.

 photo Fennel Pasta_zps5mdlg1mw.jpgRecently, though, we’ve been trying to experiment a bit more. When we say “oh, we’ll have pasta” we try to pick out a new recipe, try a new combination. Even, as in this recipe, to try something new with an ingredient we rarely use.

Fennel is something I’m a bit scared of, to tell the truth. I have never liked aniseed, going as far as retching when the Liquorice Alsorts were bought out on family car journeys. It was a Dynamo Pizza (now sadly removed from the menu) that first got me eating fennel – the combination of just al-dente fennel with ham, mozzarella and pomegranate seeds was a delight. And so I agreed to try out this pasta dish. And a few additions later, we have a firm favourite…

 photo Fennel Pasta 2_zpsep5blspt.jpg photo Fennel Pasta 4_zpsbcftekk8.jpgRecipe (to serve 2)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra virgin olive oil to drizzle before serving
  • 1&1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves,crushed
  • 1 lemon, both the zest and the juice – if we have half a lemon hanging around in the fridge we’ll sometimes add extra too
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely sliced, fronds (the green flowery bits) reserved
  • 175g linguine
  • 1/3 pack parsley, chopped (I’m not a fan of parsley but it does work here)
  • Parmesan, or other similar hard cheese

Heat the oil in a frying pan cook the fennel seeds until they pop (about 90 seconds over a not-too-high heat). Add in the garlic and allow to cook for a minute or so, but don’t let it colour. Throw in the lemon zest and half the fennel, lower the heat and cook for 10-12 mins or until the fennel has softened – cook the pasta whilst you’re waiting.

Add the cooked pasta to the frying pan, along with a few tablespoons of pasta water (reserve a bit more, just in case). Toss together, along with the remaining raw fennel, parsley and lemon juice. Season well, then pile into bowls, topping with the fennel fronds, a drizzle of oil and a generous serving of parmesan. Perfect with a glass of chilled white wine!

 photo Fennel Pasta 1_zpskq3zsmbc.jpg photo Fennel Pasta 3_zpsdqxh2yaw.jpgWe found this was a gorgeously light pasta dish, yet still full of flavour. The contrasting textures of the pasta alongside the cooked and raw fennel added extra interest. All in all a rather yummy dish!

What’s your favourite pasta dish?