Food: Broccoli, spinach & parsley soup

This is a great soup with a big burst of green to help beat the up-coming illnesses this Autumn, and will make you feel generally more hyggelig (cosy)!

You’ll need:

  • 3-4 medium potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 head of broccoli, chopped
  • Broccoli stem, finely cut
  • 20g frozen spinach
  • Handful of fresh parsley
  • 1 tbs dried parsley
  • 100ml veg stock
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 litre of water
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Salt & pepper

 

Garnish:

  • 1 tbs walnut oil
  • Chopped fresh parsley

 

Start by chopping the potatoes into chunks, parboil them in a pan of salted water. Once done, drain and set aside.

Chop and fry the onion & minced garlic in a cast iron pot on a medium heat with a little oil until they’re soft and mellow. Next, add in the potatoes, dried parsley and the broccoli stem. Pour over the water and veg stock and stir. Add in the broccoli and bring to a simmer. Simmer for at least 20 minutes before adding the spinach and fresh parsley, and stir lightly until it starts to thaw. Place the lid on, turn the heat down onto its lowest setting and leave the mixture bubble and cook for a further 8-10 minutes. Now, stir in the nooch (nutritional yeast) and the mustard.

When the soup’s done its thing, take a hand blender and blitz the whole thing into a thick, velvety green soup. Season to taste.

Serve with a drizzle of walnut oil, a crack of black pepper and some chopped parsley. It goes really well with a crusty loaf and I’d recommend pairing it with a Æro Valnød Øl (walnut ale)  by Danish brewery, Rise Bryggeri, as the flavours complemented each other so well, but any gold ale would work here!

Enjoy!

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Food: Eating Vegan at The SWiGG

 

When describing Swansea to anyone new the fact that it’s by the sea will probably come up at least once. It’s great for surfing, long walks along the sands and generally admiring in all its beauty. I’d imagine “vegan” isn’t the first word that comes to people’s’ minds when they think about Swansea.

The SWiGG however has an exciting new menu that includes, not just vegetarian options, but SFV options too. The recently reopened bar and bistro has been working hard to tempt new custom down to the waterfront for a unique take on Welsh cuisine. Situated in the shell of the National Waterfront Museum’s older wing, directly opposite the iconic lighthouse and tugboats in the heart of the marina, The SWiGG is inarguably more sophisticated than ninety percent of the bars and restaurants around. It offers the chance to sample something a bit different – a Welsh take on tapas. Well, more like ‘small plates’ than anything, but it’s an opportunity to try something uniquely Swansea but crucially, with a Vegan twist.

To begin with a glance at their coffee and daytime options, if you’re looking for delicious and SFV then look no further than their cakes and chocolate cups from Naturally Kind Food, washed down with some Coaltown Coffee (Soy milk available, of course). If you’re sticking around for a drink then how about some of their SFV beers like the award winning Cwtch from Tiny Rebel Brewery. For the more sophisticated try a gin cocktail with Dà Mhìle seaweed gin. They also stock a great range of soft drinks and juices like Hartridge fruit juices.

FOOD Swigg

For lunch or supper there’s the Beetroot Hummus, Crudité and Pumpkin Seed Salad is a riot of colour and flavour. The hummus itself is big on colour but delicate on flavour. Their Laverbread and Leek Stuffed Mushrooms are gloriously meaty (forgive the expression), with a zingy filling that bursts with lemon zest. Finally, their Vegan Salad is laced with ribbons of carrot, with tangy hits of crunchy peas, dotted with jewels of pomegranate seeds and crunchy peanuts, dressed with a soy rich dressing. They also have a Tabbouleh Salad with bulgar wheat, tomatoes, pomegranate, parsley and lemon and they’re working on a new breakfast of avocado, tomatoes and mushrooms stuffed with laverbread and lemon on toast.

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So, whether you’re chilling in the Cwtch Corner under the bespoke artwork, sitting at the bar, basking in the sun outside or inside at a table, you never feel like you’re just another customer. If you’ve ever wondered what Wales can offer the world beyond a SFV take on cheese on toast, then The SWiGG has the answer.

Vegan Salad

Drink: Beer Revolution, Hay-on-Wye

Set up two years ago by local team, Emily & Rob, Beer Revolution has become a true Tour de force of the craft beer world, and is my personal favourite bottle shop. Originally situated in Hay Castle, they have recently moved to a new (and warmer!) premises on 7 Market Street, right in the middle of Hay town.

With a huge bay window at the front, it lets you see their quality product from the opposite side of the street! Opulently framing it with the great period features of the building. It also floods the space with light, so the interior is light but cosy.

As you walk in you are met with a mish-mash of table tops, (some old reels, some with hairpin legs) stools & comfy burgundy Chesterfield sofas that are just asking to be sat in as you quaff a pint. The floor, of stripped floorboards, lends nicely to the laid-back, effortlessly cool atmosphere of the place.

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To the left, you have the reason you came in for! The beer!

Rows of refrigerators, jam-packed with interesting brews & ales. From the biggest selection of Welsh beers & ales I’ve ever seen to interesting international picks like Dugges, Beerbliotek, Poppels, Stigbergets & Brekeriet breweries from Sweden, Euskadi outfit Basqueland, Norwegian Haandbryggeriet, Stone from Germany or Oedipus brewery from The Netherlands.

As I am Scandinathan, I must add you can get the Scandi greats here like TO ØL, Omnipollo, Evil Twin & Mikkeller as well!

Their Welsh section is worth travelling for alone. Considering Hay is a border town you wouldn’t think that they’d have such an extensive Cymraeg collection. Think again! Coming here has led me to learn & discover up and coming breweries I’d never heard of. Like the Pontypool based Mad Dog,  Gellioedd based Geipel or Cowbridge based Tomos a lilford.

They also stock a great selection of local Herefordshire ciders.

Unlike many places these days that don’t offer many Vegan options, Beer Revolution has a surprisingly wide range, and interesting new finds like Good Chemistry Brewing or Cloudwater Brew Co.

At the bar, you can get this weeks selection on draught.

Can’t get to Hay? No bother, they offer an online bottle shop on their website http://www.beerrevolution.co.uk/

If you do come to the shop, (which I highly recommend), after you’ve bought your beer, why not peruse the room in the back with their side business, selling  Vintage clothes. Soon they will be opening their kitchen and serving food, becoming a hub of great beer, tasty food & vintage fashion. Sounds like Heaven!

 

 

 

 

 

Check out my post on Gastro Gays’ blog!

Hey guys,

Recently the lovely Russell & Patrick from Gastro Gays did a piece on 16 Scandinavian and Nordic places to drink & eat in London, in the run up to Melodifestivalen (Sweden’s competition to find this year’s Eurovision entry) and of course, The Eurovision Song contest, which will be in Kyviv, Ukraine in May.

As I’m a lover of all things Nordic, I gave them a few more recommendations on Scandi spots in both London, and closer to home here in Wales.

Check it out at:

http://gastrogays.com/scandi-london/

I hope you like!

Design: Styling Christmas

Foregoing the British festive decorative tradition of “more is more” in favour of the Scandinavian monochrome look, our Christmases might look tame in comparison with others. To others they may look sparse, cold or even un-Christmassy. But where an abundance of light and colour can overload the senses, a more selective approach to decorating at Christmas can yield equally cosy results. Here’s a quick look at how I’ve styled our home for Christmas.

It’ll come as no surprise to anyone reading this that Scandinavia is the primary source of my inspiration for the interior of my home: full stop. Monochrome interiors, stark whites, shades of grey and coal black touches here and there typify the genre of interior design. You’d think an abundance of black, white and grey would create a cold environment, but you’ve got to remember that this design ethos comes from cultures who are used to the cold and the darkness of winter. They even have words for cosiness that transcend what we take for granted in its meaning. In fact entire books have been written on the subject of hygge and mys that they’ve passed into the subconscious of coffee table discussion.

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There is no more hyggelig a time of year than Christmas and an  absence of abundant colour does not mean an absence of warmth. This year in fact I decided to incorporate the teal of our Made.com Jonah sofa and armchair (last year I had them temporarily upholstered in black for the Christmas period). Colour is unavoidable – there’s the inevitable green of whatever tree or greenery you’re introducing, but then there are the inevitable colours of your furniture. It’s all about arranging what you have to create the mood or atmosphere that you want.

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On the coffee table I decided to create a winter forest of candles with Kähler hammershøi candle holders, my white tree from Flying Tiger, the tree candles I got from Denmark last October, the numerous tea light holders I got from H&M home and the Ittala Kivi. Dotted among the “trees” is a little plywood Moomin from Lovi, a stag and some DIY nisse I picked up from Søstrene Grene. The composition is designed to echo the “forest” of Ittala Festivo candle holders sitting resplendent on the sideboard. When the whole thing is lit the effect is extremely hyggelig.

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Our tree is a simple five footer decorated with home-made Himmeli made from black and white paper straws, the idea for these came from Nalle’s house. We’ve also made baubles from black and white patterns printed on card and formed into shape with wire (also from Nalle’s house). A single set of 6 wooden baubles break up the pattern white one set of 100 lights bring light to the tree. Sitting above the tree is our silver star decoration that we got from Home Bargains (of all places!). Clearly intended as a free hanging decoration, the star makes a perfect tree topper to complete the look.

The trick when styling monochrome is to balance heavy and light tones. The easiest way of doing this is by combining tea lights such as glass votives like the Snowballs from Kosta Boda, with a repeated thematic focal point like the himmeli decorations on the tree, which then tie in with the geometric artwork on the walls like the print from Emerybloom, the Kubus candle holder or the Kähler Omaggio vase in the corner. Humour can be used tastefully throughout the arrangement too. As I mentioned in a previous article, the santa hat for the Kay Bojesen monkey was an absolute must while the presence of the white Hoptimist by designer Gustav Ehrenreich gives a breath of life to the stark colour palette. From the opposite side of the room from the tree, the piercing eyes of our Olle Eksell print gaze out across the room, while in the corner sits the Normann Copenhagen tray table, which I’ve mentioned about styling here.

The monochrome shades of the pillows on the sofa and armchair sit beautifully against the teal. I’ve used the combination of a simple grey throw and plain grey cushions from IKEA’s GURLI range, a cushion that we recently picked up from Copenhagen (only 60 Kr!) and my Fine Little Day Gran cushion which keys in with the other patterns, holding the arrangement together. You’ll often find when styling a space that one or two pieces go on to influence a look for a space. The armchair sports a cute mountain cushion from Lagerhaus and the cross cushion from Zana Products.

Monochrome doesn’t have to be oppressive or joyless. In fact I would strongly argue that it’s a smart and surprisingly dynamic avenue to pursue precisely because it runs counter to common consensus. The only drawback is that currently the UK doesn’t really offer much in the way of readily available monochrome ornaments or decorative pieces. Over here black is always paired with gold and silver with white and there the creativity ends. As such, much of my collection has been sourced from abroad. I hope you’ve found some form of inspiration to try something new next year. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas and regularly begin sourcing pieces in advance. Be daring, take the plunge and go monochrome.

 

Design: Top 10 for Christmas 2016

 

This is my pick of design pieces and gift ideas that will give your interior some definite Scandi style this Christmas!

 

1.Kay Bojesen santa hat for small monkey

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Fun & beautifully designed, this would make an awesome gift for a design lover! Made from solid hand-painted beech, this little santa hat is perfect for getting your Kay Bojesen monkey (and other wooden animals!) into the festive mood!

Available here.

2. Moomin Winter 2016 mug by Arabia Finland

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This years mug features more scenes from Tove Jansson’s Moominland Midwinter (1957) and feature Hemulen, Sorry-oo, Moomin and the Snowhorse. It’s a fab gift for any Moomin lover, or Scandiphile and would look perfect, filled with hot cocoa to heat up in this cold period!

Available here.

3. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Sanna Annukka

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One of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tales and some of the source inspiration of Disney’s Frozen, this chilly tale is a perfect Christmas read, made even better by the new illustrations by Finnish illustrator Sanna Annukka. Known for her collaborations for Marimekko, this is Annukka’s second HCA book, with her illustarted version of The Fir Tree, out 2012. The art is stunning and the deep blue cloth binding really gives you the chilly winter vibe, its simply amazing!

Available here.

4. IKEA VINTER 2016 decorations

 

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Usually the UK (in my opinion) lags behind in the Christmas decoration game, compared to Scandinavia, where you can get Traditional busy, red decorations and also sleek monochrome ones too. well, welldone IKEA for bringing these chic, paired back decs to GB!

-I love the origami styling that would look perfect with the Issey Miyake x Iittala collection!

Available here/ in store.

5.Moomin advent calendar

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This Advent calendar has 24 little Moomin figurines by Finnish company Martinex. I’m in love with it and I wish I had got one!!

Available here.

6.Sarah Edmonds Sami pattern tote

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Sarah is an illustrator based in Worthing and has illustrated for Humble by Nature, the books A Dylan Odyssey & Coming to England, Roald’s Cardiff map for Roald 100, maps for Tranås and exhibited in Fika, a Swedish eatery in shoreditch, London. She extensively travelled the Nordic countries, and was inspired from her travels through Lapland and Sapmi to create this tote. The zig-zag patterns come from Sami textiles and would look great stuffed full of books!

Available here.

7. IKEA STRÅLA LED candle bridge

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Usually I’m not the biggest fan of candle bridges, but once again IKEA are knocking it out of the park with this! The STRÅLA candle bridge looks sleek and very modernist with its stylish black powder-coated steel curves. It could perfectly suit a modern home and be a stand-out piece in a more Traditional home.

Available here / in store

8. Origami-Est topper

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Available here.

Origami-Est are a small company based in Kent, that make folded paper ornaments, lightshades and books/stationary. At least 10% of the proceeds are donated to Stop the Traffik, a charity helping the victims of traffiking, which is cool AF!

As well as all of that, Esther has released a Christmas collection of cards, ornaments and this tree topper. A Simple folded paper star, with a choice of coloured stars and ribbons, it is sure to look great on top of the tree, whether it be real or artificial!

9.Let’s Hygge print by Gillian Gamble

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Gillian Gamble is a talented artist/ illustrator based in County Durham, but grew up in Dundee, Scotland. Gillan nods to her home city in her prints of Dundee marmalade jars. She has illustrated two books The Listening Stone and I Love St Andrews, and has a variety of well executed art styles. Seen as ‘hygge’ one of 2016’s buzzwords, she’s decided to do a little print of a hyggelig scene. Simple & cute, it perfectly captures what hygge is about!

Perfect for cosying up the house in cold winter, or as a gift for the person you’d like to hygge with!

Available here

10.Young Double Dolls

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Handmade dolls from the British company, Young Double. Cute & stylish monochrome buddies, they are perfect to add a touch of stylish quick to your interior or a Perfect gift for some chic children. With 4 different screen printed characters to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find the perfect companion with these!

 

Available here.

 

 

Food: Top 5 coffees in Swansea

Coffee isn’t exactly the first thing you think of when someone says ‘Swansea’ but the city has a rich history with coffee and cafe culture reaching back to the late 1800s. South Wales saw an influx of Italian immigrants looking for work in the South Wales mines. They quickly saw a gap in the market for small cafés, ice cream parlours and fish & chip shops to the extent that they sprang up all over South Wales. It’s said that for every colliery there was at least one ‘Bracchi’ cafe – named after one of the families that made their name during the period.

Swansea’s cafe culture has always been strong but with an influx of new blood onto the scene it’s gone from strength to strength. From the traditional to the new, young blood. Now is a good time to be a coffee lover in Swansea. Here are my picks for the top five best cafes in Swansea, in no particular order. If you have your own ideas or suggestions feel free to mention in the comments.

 

#1 Coffee Punks

Situated halfway along the Kingsway, what was once Swansea’s premier drag racing strip, Coffee Punks is a recent addition to the city’s coffee scene. With its exposed wood, concrete and metal interior Coffee Punks offers a focused menu of reasonably priced coffees with a variety of cake options. A variety of vegan cakes are supplied by Naturally Kind Food plus some of their food is supplied by Ultracomida, a Spanish/Welsh delicatessen based in Narberth and Aberystwyth. On evenings and weekends they’re often open for events like record sales, they even sell Chemex and their own mugs! Don’t expect Pumpkin Spice Lattes but do expect pour overs, flat whites and a killer espresso.

#2 La Parmigiana 

This one’s a little off the beaten track but it’s around the corner from Joe’s and The Westbourne, just up from St Helen’s Road. Blink and you miss it, La Parm is a Deli, Cafe and Restaurant all built into the downstairs of an old Fish and Chip shop. Francesca, the owner and primo barista/chef, holds court to a cross section of old school Swansea locals. It’s super friendly, the coffee is Italian (vis a vis, superlative) and you’ll end up coming away with an armful of deli meats, cheeses, pesto you’ve never heard of and a booking for the restaurant.

#3 The Kardomah

Now, here’s the place to go to sample a real slice of local history. Situated around the corner from the market, the Kardomah has been a hotspot for the older generations to pit stop for a coffee after a long Saturday of hitting the M&S sales, for generations. Actually on its second site (the first one was bombed during the Blitz) the cafe’s history has links to a group of Swansea based bohemian poets known affectionately as the Kardomah Gang – a group that included among its members Swansea’s most famous literary son, Dylan Thomas. The decor of the Kardomah screams the 1950s and hasn’t changed much – mirrors give a sense of space but the wood panelling and the Oriental aesthetic give the place its character. If you like the coffee you can even take a bag of beans home.

#4 Cinema & Co

Another relative newbie, this one’s also very central, situated at the top end of High St, nr the castle. Cinema & Co is a cafe and cinema combined. It sounds like one of those pie in the sky ideas you have in the shower – “Wouldn’t it be amazing if…?” – but never get around to doing. I can guarantee it’s as awesome in reality as it is in your imagination. With a similar smart industrial aesthetic as Coffee Punks, C&C offers another spartan menu of drinks over which you can choose whether or not you want to come back later and watch The Breakfast Club or Stand By Me. Out back, in the cinema part, the seats have been converted from packing crates but are actually incredibly cosy and comfortable. At the bag is a well stocked fridge of craft beers, perfect for avoiding the inevitable autumn showers.

#5 Square Peg Coffee

This one’s situated in Sketty, not far from the heartland of University life, on the other side of Singleton Park. Square Peg is quickly becoming a real student hub with a strong and lively atmosphere. It regularly has live performances and evening events from talks to acoustic sets. It prides itself on the fact it donates its profits to charity and provides jobs and training for people who “need help to get started in life”. Serving a wide range of drinks (including a variety of teas!), you’ll turn up early one morning to work on an essay, stick around for a slice of Lemon Drizzle Cake before ending up having lunch there too.