Connecting to the Heart

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
― Kahlil Gibran

I’m in a period of transition and uncertainty at the moment. All the major areas of my life are in flux and changing. My living situation is unclear, my job is only short-term and chaotic and my girlfriend is all the way over in Mexico (although not for long!)
It would be very easy not to feel grounded and to get overwhelmed by all the change and lack of a clear way forward but I naturally like to flow, (my triple water star chart reflects what I have already recognised in myself) and when I allow this all is good.

Legs and heart

Legs and heart – Hermione Armitage

Things were getting a bit much last week though and while I was discussing all of this with Felicity she suggested I pull an Osho Zen Tarot card. I got “Traveling” which you can read here.
To summarise it reminded me of the Lao Tzu quote

“A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving”

because it was all about enjoying the journey as a reminder that the important thing is to stay with the present. Your future is not created by endless planning and worrying but is instead manifested as a direct result of what you do right now. We plant seeds and as long as we are aligned and allowing, the right things will emerge for us.

The universe will unfold as it should…

So, how do we know we are aligned, and by that I mean in touch with what is really true for us, what we are passionate about, what makes us feel connected, at peace and happy?

The heart is a wonderful gateway. You can feel all of those things in your heart, you can’t figure it out in the mind because it will always be a reflection. The connection in the heart is always in the present and is where we feel this deep motivation.


I was at the “Be Love” 11 hour Bhakti Immersion, an event all about the practice of devotion and singing which brings you straight into the heart. It was an amazing reset for me, an opportunity to ground in something far more powerful than the “material” security can offer.

I can have a big house, job and so on but if I’m feeling adrift from this centre then I don’t have peace. All the material stuff is impermanent and when you have this anchor in the deeper space of the heart it seems less important. If you can be happy in any situation then this is surely real freedom.

What is Sufism?
To feel joy in the heart when sorrow appears.

I should mention the fantastic work the Sivani Mata does in arranging these events which bring a large community together in such a beautiful space. We first met while travelling to the fantastic Colourfest, separated in the back of a car by bags stacked so high we couldn’t see each other!

I started teaching yoga on Wednesday at the Jamyang Buddhist centre, taking over from the lovely Naz who is taking the opportunity to head back to Mexico. I’ll be there every week with the class starting at 7.30. I’m charging £10 with the option to pay for a pass at a reduced rate – contact me for details!

I’ll also be running a meditation day with my yoga sister Emma in Bedford on the 8th November, it would be great if you can join with us in diving deep into this heart space and feeling our deep connection.

Feet and Heart - Hermione Armitage

Feet and Heart – Hermione Armitage

Photos courtesy of Hermione Armitage

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Indian food – part one

Indian Food

India is rightly famous for its varied and delicious cuisine and in this post I will endeavour to explain a few of the dishes you will most likely come across and suggest a few things that you might want to search for when visiting the subcontinent.

Menu, Indian Food


Main Courses


The Thali is ubiquitous throughout India but it varies in quality and substance depending on where you are.

In the south it will most likely be advertised under the name “Meals”.

It is perfect for the indecisive diner like myself who just wants to try a bit of everything.

In the north you will usually be served the Indian food on a metal “Thali plate” with a portion of rice deposited in the largest section and then a dal and one or two curries in the other sections. The dal and rice will get topped up, usually without you having to ask although in a busy place you may need to give them a nudge. There might be a sweet dish – at the Golden Temple in Amritsar where they serve 70,000 people a day in their huge communal and free kitchens they served something akin to rice pudding. You may also get a chapati or papad but do not expect to get more for free!

Ryan and I, ultimate tightwads as we are, meanwhile, wanted to take full advantage of the Sikh hospitality and experience the 24 hour community kitchen which feeds up to 70,000 pilgrims a day.

We approached the large hall to the sound of scores of volunteers washing dishes in rows at the long sinks, the clatter and din rising into a cacophony of cleanliness. Getting nearer and making our way up the steps a volunteer presented us with fork and spoon, the ubiquitous thali tray and a bowl. Following directions to the next hall, either ground floor or upstairs, we filtered in with the groups of pilgrims sitting in long rows on the floor. Then there was a slight pause before more volunteers came around to slop dhal, beans, rice and “rice pudding stuff” into our trays, and drop chapatis into your waiting hands. There isn’t much hanging around, and although you can sometimes get refills, when the room starts to empty, the volunteers tip water on the floor and mop up, signalling it is really time to go.



Other than the golden temple I had great thali at Mamas, up in High Bank, Rishikesh, a totally backpacker centered enclave away from the pilgrims and temples by the river. She serves communally and is a total enabler (see Banoffee Pie, under desserts). The thali is simple but her pumpkin curry is one of the best things in India. Down on the way to Laxman Jhula bridge you can stop at one of the stalls and pay 30 rupees for a simple local variety, which, while not as sublime is a fantastic staple.

In the south it will most likely be served either on a round metal plate with smaller dishes inside and then a variety of curries, soups and dals in these dishes, or on a banana leaf. The size of some of these meals is truly amazing and you will often get a Gulab Jamun or dessert included.

My favourite Thali, and equally the most plentiful, was in Mangalore. It was a city that I visited briefly and almost entirely because of its reputation for Indian food and I was not disappointed. The place I went had everything you could ever want in a thali and more besides. I got a small bowl of tomato soup to begin with as a gentle opener. The main serving  had three curries, two dhals, a thin soupy side, raita, naan as well as chapatti, a sweet lassi drink and a gulab jamun. Followed by ice cream. Incredible and at about 90 rupees.

Also worthy of a mention is Chennai’s chain, Saravanna Bhavan. While the menu is slightly baffling, especially given that the items on offer change at different times of the day, you can’t go wrong with the hugely varied Special Meals which are sensational.

Banana leaf, Indian food

Banana leaf

In the south, particularly Kerala, you will find thali served on a banana leaf. Simply wash with a little water and wipe. After finishing fold the top down to the bottom for a genius, environmentally friendly and washing-up free plate. The servers come around with big pots of curry and ladle it on top of the rice which is often on the table to help yourself. Traditionally eaten with the hands, mix it all together like the locals and deliver a taste sensation.

One of the most memorable banana leaf thalis I ate was on the backwaters in Kerala. We were on a houseboat where we consistently had the best food in my time in the south and our hosts took us to a village wedding of the daughter of one of our crew. As foreigners and special guests we had a spot reserved in the large communal dining room; in that part of the hall the fans weren’t working but it seemed churlish to object. We sat sweltering waiting for the food and were like puddles when it arrived but what a delight when it did. We wanted to stay and eat as long as possible but were getting close to passing out, comfort and indulgence were the options but I figured: in for a penny…

Thali is almost always vegetarian, although you might have the option of a side dish of chicken or fish. Goan or Keralan fish thalis are sensational but the variety will come in the vegetables with one main fish dish.

Palak Paneer

This dish is simply Spinach (palak) and a type of Cheese (Paneer) which is firm relatively tasteless and used often in curry dishes in place of meat. Palak Paneer is common, particularly in the north and consists of pureed leaves along with the paneer and spices such as garlic.

Palak Paneer, Indian food

Palak Paneer

Channa Masala

Chickpea Curry from the Punjab region. A dry and moderately spicy dish usually, be aware that like with most Indian dishes you will sometimes find things spiced much more than you have had previously.

Aloo Gobi

Aloo is potato, Gobi is Cauliflower so with that information I’ll let you figure out the ingredients of this tasty curry dish. It comes with a gravy and isn’t usually super-spicy but will probably contain cumin and is usually more dry than soupy. It usually also contains tomato.

Dum Aloo

Potato with thick gravy. This is apparently a Kashmiri dish although I found it in many places, particularly in the North of India. The traditional dish sees the potatoes deep-fried and then slow cooked in the rich sauce.

“Potato, was not on the high priority list of vegetables for the “Kulin Bangalis” in ancient times. Warren Hastings, the Governor general in 1790, received a basket of potatoes as a novelty gift from the Dutch, who takes the credit of introducing potatoes to Bengal. The Story goes that Lord Amherst, had potatoes planted in the “Park of Barrackpore”. Bengalis took to the root vegetable with much enthusiasm. The starchy softness of the potatoes worked well as a perfect contrast to sharp taste of mustard seeds and cumin used in Bengali cooking.” Source: Wikipedia

Paneer Butter Masala. (Paneer makhani)

This is a slightly creamy (buttery?) Cheese curry which comes close to the “English Indian” chicken tikka masala since the masala sauce is similar. It’s available all over, particularly in the North and is most common in this vegetarian version although you can get it with chicken.

Carpe Diem Veg Thali

Served as a thali but this is a veg version of the butter masala curry.

Grilled Fish – magic sauce

Fish in India should probably only be eaten when one is near to the coast or in particularly fancy restaurants (unless its river or lake fish of course). I’ve seen the way Indians transport ice; open to the elements on the back of a dirty truck and this suggests to me that freshness is only guaranteed somewhere you can see the fishermen.

The Andaman Islands, being close to Thailand and Burma and offering crystal clear water have perhaps the freshest and tastiest fish dishes and one place in particular on Havelock Island offered grilled fish in a banana leaf and served with “magic sauce” which was a tangy, tamarindy bit of sorcery for sure.


A tandoor is actually an oven, used to cook Naan bread and other dishes such as Tandoori Chicken, Paneer, lamb etc.

Tandoori, Indian food


These dishes will come dry after being marinated in a spicy red sauce and cooked in the tandoor. On Havelock Island in the Andamans prawn tandoori was particularly delicious.

Navrattan Korma

“Fruity” curry containing nuts.

This is a green curry, but not like the ones you get in Thailand. I first tried it in Jaipur at an amazing restaurant we stumbled across while searching for a random bus agency. We were in Jaipur as extras in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, a british production with Judy Dench and Bill Nighy among others, and the agency who arranged our work had found us lodgings in the skankiest guesthouse you can imagine (making the hotel in the movie look incredible). A group of us decided to do a side trip to Agra and one of the conditions of our deal on the film was that they would pay onward travel costs.It was all on the cheap though and so it was that we ventured to find the agency to pick up our bus tickets with little more than a name and the street. This street had hundreds of travel agencies and ours, of course, was one of the few that didn’t have its name written in English outside. During this search we walked past Bikaner Bhojanlaya and were immediately arrested by the delicious smells coming from the chef who was working away at the front of the shop. Once we picked up our sleeper bus tickets, which, by the way, were not in the bed compartments common to these buses but in seats, underneath the beds, we went back to the restaurant and had a feast.

Navrattan Curry, Indian Food

Navrattan Curry

The Navrattan Korma, and similar Navratan Curry were both fantastic here and never gotten close to whenever I tried it again. Apparently this is a Kashmiri dish and typically of food from that region it contains fruits to add a sweetness to the spice.


Gulab Jamun

A rich, but not so sweet, dumpling ball of mostly thickened milk in rose syrup. It is often served at weddings or other special occasions and, like many Indian sweets, is worryingly moreish.

Rice Pudding

Often served hot with fruit, nuts and cinammon. Great for mountain regions where it gets chilly at night!

Rice Pudding, Indian food

Rice Pudding


These deep-fried, bright orange, swirly desserts are neither as sticky, nor, usually, as sweet as they look like they should be. I didn’t find it easy to get a really great one of these little beauties but they look fantastic and could easily brighten up a table of dishes.


Otherwise known as peanut brittle this was one of my staples for long bus journeys since you could almost always find it near bus stands across the country.  They are sometimes made with ground peanuts and sometimes with whole ones for a more satisfying crunch. Incredibly sweet, incredibly moreish and incredibly satisfying.

There are some desserts (and dishes) which aren’t necessarily Indian in origin but which are found often in India, particularly on the traveller circuit and I wanted to write about a few of them here as well!

Banoffee Pie

Just where does this dessert come from? A combination of banana and toffee done in a million different ways (but again, the best being at Mama’s in High Bank Rishikesh.) Is it Italian (Ban-offi pai!)? American? No one really seemed to know when I was travelling but after a bit of research I find it actually derives from two Englishmen who adapted an American recipe for “coffee toffee pie” in 1971. Anyway, it’s hugely popular among traveller types and quite delicious.

Bhagsu Cake. (Kudle Beach Cake)

Bagsu Cake, Indian food

Bagsu Cake

In Bhagsu, up the hill from Mcleod Ganj in Dharamsala there are a string of German Bakeries competing with each other in sales of a backpacker treat that is well worth the walk. A little like Millionaire Shortbread but way better; Bhagsu Cake has a biscuit base topped with a layer of caramel and a crispy chocolate topping.

In Karnataka, the up and coming young beach pretender, Gokarna, with its ancient temples and string of slowly developing beaches has a strange echo. Many of the people running businesses in the North in the warm summer months will move down here in the winter when the season is in full swing at the beach. The veritable Vijay for example who teaches his Universal yoga in both Arambol, Goa and Mcleod Ganj. In Gokarna this makes for an interesting conversation with the restaurant owner as he tries to explain what “Kudle Beach Cake” is exactly. He gives up pretty soon with the hopeful “Bhagsu Cake?” and while, maybe, it doesn’t keep quite as well in the sweltering south, it is essentially the same cake.


Hello to the Queen/King

This certainly is a royal dessert although I still am none the wiser which King or Queen it refers to… I’m pretty sure it isn’t Lizzie and although many people think this originates from England, it doesn’t. It seems most popular among Israeli travellers, although that could be the munchies kicking in and they certainly don’t claim ownership of the concept.

It consists of a bowl filled with biscuit crumbs, topped with banana, usually lightly fried, and then oodles of ice cream and chocolate sauce. It may have raisins, cashews, pomegranate seeds and the like on the top as well but these aren’t core ingredients. You will get as many different variations on Hello to the Queen as there are restaurants but when you find a good one (like in the Oasis cafe Rishikesh) you will most likely go back again and again.

Oasis cafe Rishikesh, Indian food

Oasis cafe Rishikesh

Hello to the King is the same as Hello to the Queen but topped with Bhagsu Cake for the full OMG experience.

Royal Falooda

Royal Falooda, Port Blair, Andamans

Royal Falooda, Port Blair, Andamans

I don’t know which came first, the Knickerbocker Glory or this, a massive glass full of naughty goodness. The Falooda is a long glass with fruit and maybe a bit of ice cream and the Royal Falooda takes it up several notches by adding cream, sprinkles, loads more ice cream and loads more fruit. The Cool Bars in Port Blair, Andaman islands, serve these up to thirsty and steaming locals and visitors alike, an indulgent alternative to a coffee break.



The yoghurt drink. Perfect when your curry is a little more spicy than anticipated to calm down the palate and good for digestion as well. Various fruit varieties are on offer with banana being the most common but in more local places you will probably just get the option of Sweet or Salty. The best sweet lassis are flavoured with just a hint of cardamom for a deliciously subtle taste. At first the salty lassi is a difficult thing to appreciate but when you have been suffering from a dose of dodgy Indian belly for several days it has a wonderful calmative effect.

The Saffron Lassi, available most famously in Jodhpur where they claim to have the best in the country, is another variety which gives a subtle flavour to the drink.

Lassi, Indian Food


Often served in Kulhars or clay mugs you destroy after use making them hygienic and fun!


You may know them as Poppadoms and will possibly order way too many at your local Indian restaurant as a starter to eat with a variety of dips. In India, however they are more often served as part of a Thali or as a snack in their own right on street stalls. You will often see street vendors frying them up enticingly and Masala Papad are considerably more spicy than the plain variety we most commonly find in the west.




The standard bread that you will find everywhere around India. Cooked in a dry frying pan or over coals and without yeast it is flat and often delicious. Dip it in your curry and dal, enjoy and be prepared to order another one, or two. Order the butter chapatti if you want bread smeared in melted butter to add to the oily ghee in your curry.

Butter Chapatti, Indian food

Butter Chapatti


Triangular pastry most commonly stuffed with potato, peas, cumin and other spices. Delicious fresh, hot and crispy but not bad cold and soft as well. Meat varieties also available but you might want to be careful about the source and freshness.

Samosa Chat


There are many different types of dal, some spicy, some plain, some soupy and some dry. Wherever you go in India though, you will find this staple of lentils cooked until soft is ubiquitous, healthy and filling. Eat as part of a thali or as a side with other dishes, or simply with rice (in more remote places).

Chitkul hospitality, Indian food

Chitkul hospitality

In Chitkul, at the end of the Sangla valley of Himachal Pradesh, we arrived off-season after a very long, uncomfortable and scary bus journey down some beautiful valleys ravaged by dam projects and military bases, to a town that was essentially shut. This place is at the end of the road, and through the mountains you can get to the Tibetan border. In the summer it is supposed to bloom with flowers and be a valley of plenty, but when we arrived it was one of the most desolate, inhospitable and unwelcoming places I have ever been to. We sat on the balcony of our guesthouse and watched two men attempting to plough a small patch of mud that looked as infertile as the moon, waiting for our dinner. We weren’t given an option on what we could have, and what we got was some boiled rice and the most bland slop of lentils cooked with seemingly no salt and absolutely no flavour. After several days eating dal like this you really can tell the subtle differences between what seems exactly the same dish, and this was by far the worst I ever had.

Jeera Rice

Jeera is Cumin so this is rice flavoured with cumin. Sometimes it is spelt Zeera or maybe even other variations but don’t let that fool you. It goes well with most dishes so if you want your rice to have an extra burst of flavour this is a good option.


Yoghurt and cucumber or other fruit to take the edge off that blisteringly hot curry


Puffed up bready goodness

Puri, Indian food


Tibetan food

While there are regional varieties of Indian food which are quite extreme in their difference, I’m creating a separate category for Tibetan food since it is so different and has its origin in a different country and culture.


After having tried Tibetan food on a few occasions I decided that doing a cooking course would be a good way to spend my morning. Lhamo’s Kitchen offers 2 hour classes in different types of Tibetan cuisine, pretty much in his front room, and the first one we attended was to see how to make the Momo dumplings that I may have gone on about. We discovered that “Mo” in Tibetan means “tasty” so the dumplings are literally “Tasty Tasty.”

We made three different types of Momo which were: Vegetable, Cheese & Spinach and a sweet with a sugar and sesame seed filling.

Tibetan Bread


A steamed Tibetan bread usually eaten with soup or butter tea. Pretty tasteless and has a slightly odd spongy texture for most western tastes but does go well in a good Thukpa.

Butter Tea

Wow. Usually tried because someone gives you a cup, I’d be surprised if you order it after trying once. It is tea, made from butter, and pretty much as unpleasant as that sounds… Sometimes it is served as “tea” without too much indication so when in Tibetan areas I would suggest keeping a close eye and if the tea looks a bit pale then sip with caution..


Tibetan Soup, normally clear but with tomato and thin noodles


Tibetan soup, normally thicker broth than Thukpa and with big flat noodles



Oat or Wheat porridge is available throughout India as a breakfast dish, usually served hot with banana, honey or other fruits. At the Tushita Meditation centre in Dharamsala they serve amazing big vats of porridge most mornings to Dharma students in silence, appreciative of something hearty in the chill mornings of the lower Himalaya. In these regions, where Tibetan refugees live you will also find Tsampa porridge made from the traditional barley flour that farmers would live on for days while travelling in the plains.


Another type of bread, this time stuffed. Aloo (potato) parantha is one of the more common and is usually served for breakfast with a spicy pickle and curd.

Parantha, Spiti valleyParantha, Spiti valley, Indian food

Parantha, Spiti valley

Masala Chai

Chai! Indian food


“Chai, Chai, coffee, Chai, Chai” is a call anyone who has travelled on an Indian train will be more than familiar with from the Chai Wallahs (or tea salesmen) who ply their trade up and down the carriages. Chai is ubiquitous wherever you go in India and not just restricted to transport but there is something strangely refreshing about the thimble sized cups of train-chai.

Don’t be confused by naming conventions, and don’t expect the same name wherever you go. It is advertised as Chai, Masala Chai, Chai Masala, tea, milk tea, masala tea etc and these may all appear on the same menu and be slight variants (or exactly the same). Tea may come with spices or may come plain – if you want the mix of cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, cloves etc (which will vary from place to place) then the key word is Masala. Chai can mean either with or without.

A key task of any visitor to India, as far as I’m concerned, should involve thoroughly investigating the chai available wherever you travel. I have two favourite spots, the first is the Office in Rishikesh and the second opposite Ramana Maharshi’s ashram in Tiruvanimallai.

Service at either is haphazard, slow and maybe slightly surly in Tiru but at both it is worth it to receive the metal mug or beaker of hot, delicious tea. In the Office, if you are lucky and there is more than one guy working then the little old dude will sit over the deeply stained pot steeping tea leaves and spices in hot water and milk. The finished article comes in a large metal mug and is too hot to drink, although I guarantee that you will burn your tongue a few times, so impatient  for the beautiful brew. It’s something to do with the cardamom and ginger that makes it so irresistible, and despite being several times bigger than your average chai, one is never enough. Perfect to sit around one of the tables and talk about yoga or listen to people play guitar while cross-legged on the balcony overlooking the Ganga (and beating off flies).

In Tiru, the ginger is prominent in the flavours and the metal beakers they serve it in are not the most practical items – you can expect to burn your fingers as well as your tongue here, but it is maybe even better than the Office variety. Here you sit in the shade, if you’re lucky, or in the baking sun where you can discuss non-duality, meditation and Shiva in the wake of Aurunachala, one of the holiest hills, said to be an emanation of the Lord of Destruction himself.

There are countless other places to get chai of course – I’d love to hear your favourites!

Chai stall, Rishikesh, Indian food

Chai stall, Rishikesh

Chai Stall, Indian Food

Chai Stall

Omelette (man in Jodhpur)

I’m not sure India lays claim to the omelette but for a dish cooked around the world in a million different ways in India there are subtle local twists. By Jodhpur gate there is a man who goes through 10,000 eggs a week cooking fluffy Cheese and Tomato omelets or spicy masala varieties that will make your mouth water. He is very proud of his stall and has a guest book for you to sign to tell your tale of the best omelette in town. His success has had a common effect in India though and now he has to display a large sign above his stall declaiming that he and he alone is the original omelette man and the several copycat stalls that have now opened either side of him are merely imposters, serving under par egg dishes that presumably do a terrible dishonour to the very concept of an omelette. Great marketing strategy anyway, I’m not sure if he has Twitter yet but  it’s a matter of time…

Omlette man, Indian food

Omlette man

His omelets are great anyway and despite the fact that in certain holy places it is not allowed to eat eggs along with meat it does make you wonder that in such a spiritually awakened country the Om-lette is certainly a staple.

Museli Fruit curd

Many will claim to have found the best in India, but I give you the Office in Rishikesh for its huge bowl full of a variety of fruit, minimal muesli and oodles of yoghurt and honey topped with pomegranate seeds.



A savoury pancake, crispy and often as long as a cricket bat (nearly). This is a southern speciality that is found elsewhere around India BECAUSE IT IS SO GOOD!

Masala Dosa, Indian food

Masala Dosa

Coming up in part two:

Aloo matar , bindi masala  biryani, chaat, chana masala, kheer, kofta, pani puri, parantha, rajma, Appam, idiappam, idli, parotta, pongal, sambar, uttapam, vada, laddu and lots lots more!


Some non-Indian, Indian dishes too –

Mad Angles – and other Crisps and snacks


Shakshuka, Shacklab and others!

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Andaman Islands

Guide to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are an archipelago of over three hundred small crops of land, governed by India, in the Andaman sea although they are closer to Burma and Thailand.

There are some uninhabited islands and others which are off-limits to tourists due to the protection of the indigenous population. The Nicobarese are a tribal people and the government is now making every effort  to stop modern influences disrupting their traditional way of life as has happened with other groups on some of the main islands. There was controversy a couple of years ago as video footage emerged of “human safaris” being carried out where tourists could go and view local dances and rituals, observing from a jeep as if these people were wildlife. These were the islands on old maps marked “here be monsters” due to the wild nature of their inhabitants.

The contrast between pristine white sand beaches and dense rain-forest is breathtaking at times, and the Andamans have truly some of the most amazing and beautiful beaches in the world. Clear turquoise water framed by bush as far as the eye can see, on Havelock Beach 7 I could go down at 8AM and have the entire Radha Nagar stretch entirely to my self.

Radha Nagar beach, Havelock Island, Andamans

Radha Nagar beach, Havelock Island, Andamans

There is cultural diversity you can explore in the Andamans but given the history of the place and how the British and other rulers treated the indigenous population it is perhaps best to stick to the amazing beaches and nature. The Scuba diving and snorkelling in the Andamans is  some of the best in the world with great visibility and a huge array of fish, rays and other sea creatures. Dive sites include shipwrecks gorges and the like to explore.

Flights to the Andamans are from Calcutta or Chennai and they are sometimes expensive, check for deals! There is also a boat that goes from Chennai or Calcutta, it takes 3 or 4 days and some will say is the only “real” way to get to the islands, man.


The Capital: Port Blair

Port Blair is a hub, where flights land and boats dock and although it’s a pleasant enough town in its own right generally it isn’t a place you would want to stay for more than a night or two. It’s small enough that you can stay around the main Bazaar in some cheapish hotels and explore the whole town either on foot or by auto rickshaw. We stayed at Azad lodge where the owner was helpful and you can choose between super cheap and grotty or pay a little bit more for a nice room.

Things to do in the Andaman capital:

– Visit the old Cellular Jail to learn about the history of the islands

– Treat yourself to a massive Royal Falooda at one of the Cool Bars in the Main Bazaar


Outside of Port Blair there are several other islands which are on the backpacker trail…


1. Havelock Island

Popular for being one of the closest Islands to Port Blair, excellent for diving and with the closest the Andaman Islands have to a party scene. Hang out amongst the scattered guesthouses with large groups of Israelis on Beach 5 or escape to Radha Nagar, Beach 7 with fewer places to stay and a much more relaxed vibe (and a far better beach).

  1. Little Andaman.

More off the beaten track as it takes about 10 hours by ferry from Port Blair and isn’t as developed or hospitable in many ways than Havelock. You kind of need a motorbike to get around and the beaches are notorious for sandflies (some bites can get really infected and cause swelling so be careful). It’s worth it though for the surfing, amazing jungle, waterfalls and end of the world feeling – bring a hammock.

                 3. Neil Island

The island next to Havelock is less developed and so more relaxed. It’s more accessible than Little Andaman so if you want the easy middle ground between the two then this is a good option.

TOP 10 BEST Experiences / Adventures in the Country 

1. Scuba Diving

2. Becoming a beach bum at Radha Nagar Lagoon

3. Surfing Little Andaman

4. Riding a motorbike through the jungle to the crocodile infested waterfall on Little Andaman

5. Exploring villages down little roads

6. The freshest seafood grilled to perfection with magic sauce at Swapan’s on Havelock, the best little local place you will find…

IMG_0772 IMG_0775

7. Snorkeling

8. Did I mention the beach?

9. Going up to the north to visit jungle or the beautiful Smith & Ross islands

10. Bonfires, beer and brilliant simplicity


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10 mind expanding places to visit.

I’ve traveled quite a bit in my time and certain places have lived long in my memory. I’ve listed 10 here that I think are particularly mind expanding for a variety of reasons…

Travel is a mind-broadening, mouth-watering eye-opening and loin-moistening experience which if you’re not careful will grab you as a bug and not let go until you are looking at finding ways to make it into a lifestyle. For me it is best to treat travel  as a learning experience whether that be from taking courses and classes or just through interactions with locals and travelers from countries you may never have thought of visiting. Everyone is a teacher and every day can bring new challenges and experiences and travel allows you to open up to these if you let it. Gazing out at the sunset over a beautiful ocean or up at the multitude of stars on a clear night in the mountains the everyday drifts from your consciousness a little and you begin to realise the fundamental value of a life. Doing a long trip before starting a life of work can give you a better perspective I think and stop you getting stuck in a treadmill of unhappiness because you have the knowledge of something satisfying that isn’t reliant upon or judged by your performance in an office.
Embrace the difference, be amused by the difficulty, every long bus journey is a story and every arrival a new beginning. There will be hard times on a long trip, where you miss home and the simplicity of a life that you know but the benefit gained and the satisfaction you feel when you navigate those problems is worth the hardship.
I have traveled extensively in South East Asia, Europe, Australia and India.

Real de Catorce

In the North of Mexico this former silver mining outpost is only accessible through a 2.5km winding mine-shaft tunnel which necessitates moving to a smaller bus on arrival. Since the seam ran dry Real has become a ghost town with abandoned buildings in the valleys surrounding the town.

Taking a horse around the beautiful hillsides is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, discovering ruins of mansions and mine buildings. You will also find sacred Huichol sites where ceremonies sometimes take place. These hills are alive with Peyote, the cactus that shamans use to give a healing dose of mescaline and the Huichol tribe come here at least once a year to hold large ceremonies.


Dharamsala – Triund

From the home of the Dalai Lama in Mcleod Ganj it is around a 4-5 hour trek up to the mountain ridge of Triund, passing screaming monkeys peering out of steaming garbage bins and accumulating stray dogs along the way as you cross beautiful valleys and tree-lined hills.

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If the clouds creep in the majestic view back across the Himalayan foothill valleys will disappear into a white nothingness but once you reach the chai stalls at Triund itself you will be above the clouds to see a majestic mountain appear in front of you from nothing. At sunrise and sunset the views are particularly stunning with any lingering cloud cover dissipating and the mountains bathed in yellow-orange sunlight.

Anapurna Base Camp

While the 26 day trek around the Annapurna circuit has started to become less popular due to the building of roads near part of the previously isolated route, the “ABC” trek is still out there and as inaccessible as things come.

It takes around 7 days including a loop at the bottom to reach the base camp at over 4000 metres with at least two of these days being almost entirely uphill. You will pass through small villages, delightful valleys and gorges, and finally across a snow-covered plateau. There are guesthouses en-route in the various villages, although for the last 3 days you will be staying in lodges that are solely there for the benefit of trekkers since this area is not inhabitable year-round. If you go in March or April, officially the “second season” the hills will be alive with huge rhododendron bushes in red, blue and yellow and the final valley will be a spectacular grass-lined path rather than a snow-covered tundra.

Pinnacles Borneo

Deep in the jungles of Borneo, past nomadic tribes with blow-pipes and a history of cannibalism you can journey out by river-boat and on foot to the base of the Pinnacles, a set of jagged rocks which poke up out of the side of the mountain.

The climb to the top is up a slippery slope of sharp rocks and the last third involves climbing up rope ladders, shimmying across planks and hauling up knotted cable.

Coming down is even more fun, especially if it has been raining, as the downward motion enhances the slipperiness and falling onto those jagged rocks a real possibility. It may not be such a bad move to come down on your bum.

Spiti Valley

To reach this place you have to endure hours of treacherous roads, driving in local Indian buses with drivers who think that honking the horn enables them to safely hurtle around blind corners with drops of thousands of metres awaiting a wrong turn. The buses cheerfully have “Oh God Save Me” handpainted on the front and as you swerve around the 30th bend of the day with crumbling rocks skittling down into the canyon below you realise that maybe grace does have something to do with your survival on this trip.

The views from the bus, if you can stomach to look out of the window, are spectacular though and on arrival in one of the villages along the way, after kissing the ground and praising Shiva, Buddha, Christ and Allah for your survival, you soon realise why some hardy souls choose to live up here.

The “ultra blue” skies are one thing, a shade that reflects the high altitude of the region which is usually around 4000m, but add to that an arid desert landscape with little vegetation and paths hugging the valley which swoops to the trickling rivers below and then the snow peaked Himalaya which surround you at every turn and this is an awesome landscape to trek in.

Staying up here is basic, homestays with the villagers who are welcoming but understandably only able to provide the simplest of food. They burn cow shit to keep warm in the winter and have piles of dung stacked in storage rooms all shaped into neat patties.

Buddhism is rife up here with monasteries everywhere, reflecting the closeness to the border with Tibet, and you can see monks practicing and ancient caves where yogis of the past meditated and gained enlightenment.

We walked from Dhankar to Kaza over five days. The stars at night were the clearest I have seen and sitting on the rooftop of a white-painted house in the middle of this nowhere was an other-worldly experience indeed.

Arunachala – Tiruvanimallai

Tamil Nadu in the South of India is a strongly religious state.  Old and impressive Hindu temples dominate everywhere you go with awesome facades, intense ceremonies and usually a lot of fire.

Tiru is in the shadow of the mountain Arunachala which is said to be an emanation of Lord Shiva, one of the main trinity in the Hindu pantheon. It is a beautiful mountain and walking up amongst its verdant hills and away from the honking and mayhem of the centre of the city is a most peaceful experience.

It was here that Sri Ramana Maharshi, a famous Indian saint, sat in a cave for many years and meditated in silence. At the temple in town, where he also lived for some time, his experiences are recorded;  and on the outskirts a small enclave has grown around his ashram, set up by his followers.

In this part of town things are a bit more relaxed and you can spend your days visiting the western gurus who visit to speak of their take on advaita vedanta or the non-dualistic teachings of existence that Ramana originally expressed.

Every month at full moon, thousands of pilgrims walk the 12km around the base of the mountain barefoot, taking time out along the way to give offerings to the hundreds of Shiva Lingam shrines that ring the base, and ending up at the temple for further blessings.

Andaman Islands

Part of India but closer to Burma and Thailand, this set of Islands (forming a large archipelago with the neighbouring but inaccessible Nicobar islands) are as close to the Robinson Crusoe, perfect beach getaway as you can imagine.

Their history is not so great with the British causing great hardship to the indigenous population meaning that many of the tribes have died or have lost their traditional way of life (and why large portions of the islands are now off-limits to tourists).

The main island houses a huge jail which was used for prisoners who were treated extremely harshly and given unfair punishments when they were unable to keep up with the unreasonable targets set in the hard labour work they were sentenced to undertake.


Getting away from the history though, you can find almost untouched beaches that are out of a dream. Radha Nagar beach on Havelock Island for example is known for its beautiful sunsets but there are only 2 small guesthouses serving the beach. There are a couple of more upmarket resorts but they are hidden away in the jungle such that when you walk down past the handful of chai shops offering simple thalis you enter out onto the beach and find it stretching as far as you can see in either direction with barely a soul bothering its pristine sand.

The sea is a clear turquoise and the white sand is fine to the touch, jungle rings the shoreline and other than a couple of wooden umbrellas on immediately entering there is nothing man-made in sight.

Walk along to the right and you will find a lagoon with still green water for when you tire of playing in the waves which are frequent but not too strong.

I used to come down at 8 in the morning and there would never be anyone there, I would swim with the dogs who would come to meet me and be amazed that I was so lucky.

4000 islands Laos

Deep in the south of Laos, not far from the border with Cambodia, is this set of islands in the mighty Mekong river. It is home to Irrawaddy dolphins which you can go and see, but for me, it was more about being the most peaceful and beautiful spot to hang out in a hammock.


Mount Bromo, Java

The volcanoes in Java are very much active with Gunung Merapi regularly erupting and causing significant damage to the surrounding region. Bromo is a little less dangerous, although a potential eruption here could be devastating.

You walk, or ride a horse, across large flat plateau with nothing except an old temple in between the small town and the crater.

After a climb up the side of the mountain you reach a hole in the earth with smoke gently rising from the innards which are not quite visible . The slope leading down to the pit is reminiscent of the gaping maw that Han Solo narrowly avoids in Return of the Jedi and the security barrier that existed here at one point has now eroded into barely nothing.

As visitors toss their offerings down into the mountain there is often a moment of disquiet as you fear that some over-exuberant fellow may overbalance and follow on down into the middle of the crevasse.

Black Rock City

The home of the Burning Man festival in Nevada. For a month or so the participants transform this site from the most inhospitable desert, with nothing growing on its large flat basin floor and super fine dust covering everything, to something resembling a city, as it might be on Mars.

Taking over the environment by building camps the participants create the vast majority of the city themselves with the organisers only being responsible for some of the main structures.

With massive dance parties all over the landscape, particularly at night when people in EL wire lights fill the entire bowl, art cars parade around pumping out beats and providing their own light show and art exhibits glint and sparkle or flash and titilate depending on their wont.

Burning Man photos by Severin Taranko

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11 top Instagram Food Photography Tips

I was sent the following 11 top Instagram Food Photography Tips which I could probably use from the folks at Bookatable.

Tips for snapping food on Instagram
Read the full article – “Tips for snapping food on Instagram”
is a graphic produced by Bookatable.

My photography skills leave something to be desired so the potential improvement offered here is fabulous.

I know a couple of food stylists though and some of the things mentioned here are definitely reminiscent of the work that they undergo to ensure the best representation of the cooking or products they are trying to display.

Instagram seems to be all the rage but these tips are just as helpful for food bloggers or other budding photographers.

Bookatable are offering reviews and offers on all sorts of restaurants around the UK and parts of Europe. If they keep offering useful content like this then I’m sure it will help them gain readers compared to other competing sites.

I’d be interested to know your tips on Instagram food photography or indeed food photography in general.

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DJ Hype – an interview

I was asked to interview DJ Hype for a bio a while back – here’s what I learnt about the Drum ‘n’ Bass legend:

DJ Hype enters the Great Eastern Bear gallery and almost immediately, Bully, his good-looking Staffie cross, relieves himself all over a box. Hype is embarrassed and admonishes the animal with a push and a shout while we reassure him that it’s fine and this former brothel has probably seen worse. “It is a problem though because if this was someone’s house I don’t want him pissing on the shag pile, you know what I mean?”

The down to earth nature of Kevin Ford is testament to his approach. One of the pioneers of drum and bass, he has no interest in the celebrity circuit nor to become some sort of pop star but he remains one of the most well-respected and busiest DJs in the business.
“I class myself as not one of the inventors but one of the pioneers”

He started with Shut Up and Dance at the age of 13, mixing up Hip Hop and reggae in the early ’80s on a sound system he built himself.
Becoming a master at cutting and scratching, he was on MTV in 1989 representing Britain in the European Mix championships and competing in the DMC.

He was the biggest DJ on London’s most popular pirate station Fantasy Radio from 1989 to its end in 1990 while at the same time he was working as a producer with Kickin’ records where The Exorcist (his collaboration with The Scientist) reached No 1 on the MRIB Chart. “I remember hearing it on Kiss, Steve Jackson counting down, I wasn’t expecting much and then they called it out, I was quite shocked”

Despite the success with this and other tracks such as The Bee, Hype didn’t get as much credit as he felt he deserved and took the opportunity to join Suburban Base with Mark Ryder when it came up before working with Danny Donnelly on some of his biggest tracks like Shot in the Dark.

Hype won a series of awards in the mid nineties, notably in at the UK Hardcore awards where in 1994 he won Best Male DJ and in 1995 Best Radio DJ. He started at Kiss in 1994 and has been on there ever since, 18 years making him the longest running D&B radio DJ.

He signed for BMG/RCA in 1995 but didn’t want to go down the route the label was pushing him in.
“They were always asking “Where’s your live act?” but I was resisting all the things they were offering me saying “I want to keep it real, I don’t want a poster campaign, I DJ every week – that’s my live show”.

“I like being known for what I do but not for who I am. I hate the celebrity side of it. I don’t think it’s as bad these days for dance artists, but that’s if you want it and you court it.”

He tours almost constantly all over the world playing at some of the massive US festivals that Pasquale Rotella at Insomniac sets up as well as more intimate club sets.

“I enjoy the club thing, going around and spreading what I do. I’m out there every week of the year pretty much.”

“Nowadays I’m more of a self-proclaimed ambassador, I fly out and try and give them what I think is proper drum and bass, not a commercial angle to it. You know, a melting pot of it all. I’m pigeon holed in different ways but how I see myself I play true drum & bass.”

Last Christmas marked the 150th event of The Playaz at Fabric which started in 1999, making it the longest running monthly D&B night.

Of late, Hype has focused on his artists at Playaz, moving away from the production side.

“I don’t feel there is any producer that just goes on relentlessly. I got to the point where I couldn’t keep going. I had my son and a grandfather who was quite ill and I couldn’t spend the time in the studio. I do need to get back into the studio for my own career but I’m good at A & R’ing other peoples music.”

Hazard was his first signing about 10 years ago and anyone that he has collaborated with has usually done well, meaning he now has a roster of several with two or three new artists due to sign soon.
He has been working as an executive producer A&Ring, helping them to develop in their underground music, not stopping them making commercial tracks but tending to go the opposite way.

“The label is a full time job, being a DJ is a full time job and my son is a full time job. When I’m busy I complain, when I have a break then I’m like, I don’t know what to do with myself.”

He won the UMA Award Best Drum & Bass DJ in 2006
“They didn’t tell me about it – oh someone collected it for you, it took about 8 months of nagging before they had it ready for me.”

His D&B Arena mix CD in 2007 was their best selling for 4 years and he was given their Lifetime achievement award.

“At the Radio 1Xtra Xtra Bass Awards 2007 I won #1 D&B DJ. They phoned me up, ‘just letting you know you’re up for the award are you coming?’ I was like there is no way a Kiss DJ is going to win is there? Andy C was going down and he asked me to go. It was me, him and Friction and I was like, it’s going to be one of you two regardless. He said come and I was shocked, at the bar, completely drunk and I heard my name. I went up and was like thanks, catch me on Kiss and they were horrified – what do you want me to say! big up Kiss!”

Hype also did well at the National Drum and Bass Awards last year (2012), the label came second in best club night, he came second in best radio show and the label third in its category. He’s also been in the top 3 for best DJ in previous years.

“I keep telling people, I’m not old school, I’m old.”

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Punjabi Culture and Food in Amritsar

The Punjabi region of India is situated in the north west of the country. It encompasses smaller towns, such as Amritsar. The name Punjab means ‘five rivers’ and refers to the five converging rivers; the Indus, Jehelum, Chinab, Ravi and Sutlej. There are plenty of hotels in Amritsar to stay at providing a good base for your exploration of the area, allowing you to absorb regional food and the local culture. Amritsar is situated in the Punjabi region and it is a wonderful city to explore. With so many facets to the Punjabi culture on display, as well as wonderful fragrant food you really will find a lot to explore.

Spirituality is of great importance in this area and Amritsar is the focal point for the Sikh religion. The town is home to the Golden Temple known locally as ‘Harmandir Sahib’. This temple provides a place of worship, pride and unity – not only to the immediate community but to the area as a whole. This beautiful temple is constructed from white marble and coated with gold leaf, giving it a celestial appearance. It is positioned on a clear lake which is fed by one of the 5 rivers in the region. Sikh food or Langar is served within the temple walls. Langar is consecrated food, which is usually very simple and traditional. The food served to worshippers at the temple usually consists of lentils, rice, vegetables and bread or ‘roti’. These ingredients form a basis for many dishes in the area.

Tandoori chicken is a popular dish in the Punjabi region, and the best can be found in Amritsar at a small roadside eatery called Beera Chicken. The dish is prepared using the traditional method which makes the chicken incredibly moist and succulent, and instead of the using food colourings to enhance the appearance of the dish only the finest local spices are used.

The Punjabi culture is multi faceted, including philosophy, poetry, traditions, art, spirituality and history. One of the most profound events in India’s history happened in Amritsar during it’s struggle for independence. The Jallianwala Bangh is of great cultural and historical importance and is now a popular visitor destination as it is where 2000 people were killed or injured during the battle of Amritsar. The adjoined park features the ‘flame of liberty’, a memorial to remember those who lost their lives during the struggle for independence. This park also features a museum which includes oil paintings, coins, weaponry and other memorabilia from this significant period in history which shaped the local culture.

A visit to Amritsar is not complete without trying the local dish of Amritsari Fish. This succulent meal is prepared from fish – usually sole or singhara – salt, garlic, chilli and chickpea flour amongst a unique combinations of spices which vary throughout the town. This is fried and served with chatt masala and a wedge of lemon. This dish is available from many eateries and roadside outlets, however, the Makhan Dhaba have been preparing this dish with perfection for over a century. While you are out exploring the history and culture of the area, eating a traditional dish is the perfect way to enhance your journey.

The Punjabi region, particularly Amritsar is incredibly welcoming. You will find plenty of food from basic soul food to unique dishes, there are plenty of options available for vegetarians as well as those with a love of meat. As you wander through the streets of Amritsar you will see worship, street art – including dance and maybe hear the sound of the dohl in the distance, the sights sounds and smells of Amritsar are sure to make your visit the visit of a life time.

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Craft Beer Rising 2014

Craft Beer Rising last year debuted at the Old Truman Brewery with Norman Jay on DJ duties and the cream of Britain’s breweries, both tiny and colossal, setting up shop to showcase their most interesting offerings.

Craft Beer Rising

Craft Beer Rising

From the big boys like Adnams hiding behind a “craft beer” range to real independent spirits like King Beer and Ilkley there was definitely a broad range on display. The Craft Beer Rising format means they were all able to set their own stalls and promote as they saw fit which allows for the personalities to really shine through.

Craft Beer Rising

Craft Beer Rising

2 Themes we noticed at Craft Beer Rising were:

  • Black IPA – Almost everyone seemed to have one
  • “Craft Beer” as opposed to “Real Ale” – The Americanisation seems a popular terminology designed to bring in the ladies 😉

There was also an immense focus on Hops – we had so many conversations about “powerful” combinations and the skill of introducing them at the right time in the process. Firebrand Brewing from Cornwall took this one step further by displaying their ever-so-homemade “Randaliser”. This is a device which adds an extra hoppiness without the bitterness at the point of delivery by filtering through and topping up your pint from the tap. It added a clean and refreshing extra taste although seemed more of a gimmick for the show than something they were seriously planning to roll out.

Craft Beer Rising

Firebrand Brewing Co’s Randalizer

Bear Hug
These guys were offering the Hibernation IPA a chilled wheat beer/ Pale Ale for charity. They have bought 1 million sqft of rainforest and give 5 for every beer bought – you can find out more at – The beer itself was a fresh and interesting combination of styles. I’m not normally a fan of Wheat beers but this one had something a bit different about it.

London Velvet

With a corporate-looking frontage, Ice sculpture cooling device and boasting a cross between Stout and Cider, London Velvet didn’t fill me with excitement. It was surprisingly decent actually, although without the marketing clout I’m not sure how likely it would be to take off. The idea is it’s a bit more classy than half-Guinness-half-Strongbow and a lighter alternative to a hoppy Craft Beer.

Rev & Makers Thornbridge
Reverend and the Makers were DJing at some point over the weekend at Craft Beer Rising, but they had also teamed up with the Thornbridge brewery to create a Summer ale. We were dubious how much involvement there had been but were assured that Ed Cosens from the band is actually an extremely keen amateur brewer and had created his own batch which had then been tweaked and recreated on a bigger scale. It was a very decent ale and we were pleasantly surprised.

A poor placement of stall saw the Islay brewery tucked at the far end of the hall, sheltered from their neighbours and without even a booth opposite. I suppose they felt at home. We engaged with the chap working there but he seemed a little mournful, his colleagues had buggered off to visit the Tower of London leaving him even more isolated.
We asked what it was about Islay that made their beers unique. Was it aged in Whisky barrels? Did it have tinges of Scottish Heather? Was there a particular style favoured by the islanders? It turned out that no, they didn’t, the beer wasn’t really brewed for tourists or for export, it was for the locals who didn’t want to drink whisky all the time. We tried the pretty standard craft beer on offer disappointed that none of the potential USPs had been grasped.

I’d taken a tour of the Meantime Brewery in Greenwich for a friend’s Stag do and it was unlike any brewery tour I’ve done before. This guy – with the cap and his back to us is Big Al and he is a gregarious drunk who made the whole affair incredibly entertaining. He was wandering around the Craft Beer Rising festival filming for something or other – I’d love to find out what!

Craft Beer Rising

Big Al

Truman’s reopened as a brewery in 2013 – although not at this site, and they were present to promote some fine ales. The thing I noticed, however was that the man from Sharp’s the previous year who had indoctrinated us into Quadrupel was here representing a different brand!

Craft Beer Rising


Perhaps the highlight for me was the enthusiasm and clout of King Beer. We were accosted on entry by a representative offering us a free CD (which contained a rather special mix of tunes curated to accompany their brews)

We got chatting to the head brewer who insisted that we try a selection of their offerings – and they have quite a range. He used to work for Truman’s and apparently could have gone back there but preferred to start his own operation.

Craft Beer Rising

King Beer

We then chatted to his assistant, who I will admit I first thought was a junior but after a couple of minutes of conversation it became clear he was a prodigy with a real knowledge of the chemical make up of beer and the brewing process.

Craft Beer Rising

King Beer

I hope Craft Beer Rising continues to flourish because it really encourages brewers to have a bit of character and allows them to show off their individuality in a way that other beer festivals do not.

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Greek Moussaka Eggplant

Travel with your taste buds with this Greek treat

Thinking of hosting a themed dinner and bingo party at home? Allow your guests to travel using their palate. Let them taste the wonders of Greece via the classic national dish: Greek Moussaka Eggplant. While the food takes about 2 hours to prepare and cook, you and your friends can enjoy some time to socialise.

Moussaka is regarded as one of the most popular Greek foods, thanks to the famous Greek chef Nicholas Tselementes. The casserole is not traditionally from Greece as some scholars maintain that moussaka was introduced by the Arabs when they brought the eggplant to Greece. Moussakka is an urban cuisine that, like Greece, is able to respond to new ingredients, religious, and traditional influences.

The rich influence of Greece to the modern world cannot be undermined. The Greek influence can be seen from events as big as the Olympics to as little as everyday things as the alphabet. Greek mythology is one of the biggest influences of Greece to the modern world. Even in the world of video games, countless Greek mythological references are prevalent among games such as God of War, titles are loosely based on the wonderful world of Greek Mythology. Meanwhile, Castle Jackpot creator IGT also tapped the creative muses of the Greek mythology by making Cupid & Psyche, a slot game that features the enduring love story that goes against all odds.

Here is a delicious recipe from contributor, Lynn Livanos Athan:

Greek Moussaka Eggplant

Greek Moussaka Eggplant

Greek Moussaka Eggplant


3 eggplants
1 lb potatoes
1 ½ lbs ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large onions, diced
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup red wine
¼ tsp allspice, ground
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup tomato puree
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
8 egg whites, lightly beaten (please reserve yolks for Bechamel sauce)
2 cups plain bread crumbs
1 cup Parmesan cheese

For the Bechamel sauce:

1 cup flour
1 cup salted butter
4 cups milk, warmed
8 egg yolks, lightly beaten
Pinch of ground nutmeg


  • Prepare the vegetables. Make sure that you peel the eggplants while leaving a 1-inch peel around the eggplant. Cut the eggplant into ½-inch slices. Set them aside in a colander and salt them liberally. Peel and boil the potatoes until they’re cooked enough. The potatoes should not be too soft. Drain them and slice them in ¼-inch slices. Set them aside.

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare two baking sheets with aluminum foil and grease it. Add a splash of water as you beat your egg. Dry the eggplant with paper towels before dipping it into the beaten egg. Dredge them in the bread crumbs. Make sure you coat both sides. Bake them at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, turning them once during cooking. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees when eggplant is cooked. Set them aside.

  • In a large pan, cook the ground beef until brown. Add the onion, garlic, and cook for about a minute. Pour wine to pan and allow it to simmer and reduce before adding cinnamon, parsley, allspice, tomato paste, sugar, and tomato puree. Simmer for 15 minutes, so excess liquid can be removed. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Prepare the Bechamel sauce. Over low heat, melt the butter. Add flour while whisking continuously to create a smooth paste. Cook for a minute, do not allow the flour to turn brown. Add the warmed milk while whisking. Simmer over low heat for a minute, then remove from heat. Stir in beaten yolks and nutmeg. Bring back to heat and stir until sauce is thick.

  • Assemble the moussaka. Lightly grease a baking pan, sprinkle bread crumbs on the bottom of the pan, then add a layer of potatoes. Top with layer of eggplant. Add meat sauce and Parmesan cheese. Top it with another layer of eggplant slices before sprinkling again with the cheese. Pour in the Bechamel sauce covering the sides of the pan. Bake for 45 minutes over 350 degrees. Cool before serving.

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Lanes of London

I was invited along to an event at the Marriott hotel in Marble Arch for the opening of a new “concept” restaurant, Lanes of London.

It’s a beautiful setting and the staff were friendly, reasonably knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The food was surprisingly good considering the concept and the range of cuisines that they covered as a result.

It’s the concept of Lanes of London that I have a bit of a problem with. It’s not even a problem with the concept per se, more with the concept in this particular setting.

They cover four “Lanes” of London which represent different cuisines that our fair city has become famous for. So Brick Lane represents Indian food, Kingsland Road represents Vietnamese, or seemingly more generic “South East Asian” food, Edgware Road is Lebanese and Portobello Road is classic British.

So first of all, I realise three out of the four “Lanes” are actually “Roads” but I’m willing to let that slide, linking Portobello with British food is also pushing it a bit I guess but again, let’s leave pettiness out of things.

The real problem is that having all these cuisines and serving in small tapas-esque sharing plates means that depending on your group you can end up with a very strange selection of mis-matching dishes. This I think would be fine in a relaxed (I’m thinking Hackney) hipster place where the novelty would make things amusing, here it just feels a bit odd in posh surroundings and with the style that Lanes of London is going for.

Anyway, in no particular order, let me take you through some of the Lanes of London items we sampled this evening using press photos provided and starting with a cocktail.

The Arack Panch was a rice wine based cocktail from Sri Lanka with pomegranate seeds and lime. It was a little sweet but not at all bad.
Arack Panch

The Beef Brisket sliders served with bone marrow as a topping were probably the highlight, with tender patties we could have carried on eating these all night.
Beef Brisket Sliders
I found the butter chicken a little bland and the roti that came with it a bit greasy but it was popular with others at the table so maybe I just like it hot.
Butter Chicken
The Hung Que sour was an alternative take on the whiskey sour with added lemongrass. It wasn’t that dissimilar to an average whiskey sour was our verdict.
Hung Que Sour
These are the Jammy Dodgers – served to us in a Lanes of London metal box to take away and a cake rather than the biscuit you may be used to. Incredibly sweet but quite a treat.
Jammy Dodgers
The Kafta Meshwi were Lebanese meats with a babaganoush dip, pretty good if a bit fatty.
Kafta Meshwi
The Lamb Cutlets with greens were tasty although not really enough to share and very much on the bone.
Lamb Cutlets
The interior of the Lanes of London restaurant is done out stylishly although having to walk through the reception of the hotel and down two flights of stairs to the toilets was a bit of a mood killer.
Lanes of London - restaurant
The pumpkin salad didn’t last long but was kind of inoffensive and forgettable to be honest.
Pumpkin Salad
Another favourite of mine, perhaps because it took me back to Indian street food was the smashed up samosa Chaat, the pastry snack mixed with a tangy tamarindy sauce and chickpeas, straight off the stalls of Mumbai.
Samosa Chat
I’m a massive fan of a gourmet Scotched Egg, I attended a workshop on making these way back in the day, and this was an OK rendition but I thought the yolk could have been more runny and the breadcrumbs slightly less crisp. They were perhaps a little overcooked.
Scotch Eggs

So, Lanes of London, friendly staff, weird concept, decent food, wrong setting would be my summary.

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Filed under Drinking, Restaurant Review