Sunday, 28 April 2019

April 2019 Favourites List

Hello readers!

I am back from a break and I am feeling newly inspired. Having had some time to get over the inevitable jet lag, and the tiredness which made me want to crawl under a rock, I can feel the benefit of a huge change of scenery. My trip to Cuba has filled my heart with the joy of son and salsa music, my memory with the colours of the cities and landscapes of the countryside and my spirit with the friendliness and kindness of the Cuban people. 

Vinales, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is out in the countryside, in a beautiful valley, punctuated by huge Mogote rocks. It is tobacco country where the raw material for the iconic cigars are grown. The built landscape features little houses with airy verandahs (with an obligatory rocking chair) and huge tobacco drying houses made of wood and palm leaves. 

Cienfuegos, founded by a ridiculously wealthy family of the same name, is a 19th Century town of pastel shade mansions, home of musician and favourite son Beny More, the famous "Barbarian of Rhythm" (a compliment reflecting his diversity of genre and ability to sing in any of Cuba's amazing music styles.

Remedios is a cute little town which packs 500 years of history in a small place. The main square has continuous stone benches providing seating for hundreds. Arriving at lunchtime, with the temperature topping 30 degrees, the square is deserted. Why so much space for people to sit, lying utterly empty. The answer arrives with the darkness; the balmy night brings out whole families to have a walk and to sit together, as a community. 

Trinidad (de Cuba) is another historic town, full of quaint low rise buildings with multi colour fronts. Some seem nondescript, with huge three inch thick doors. Open the doors to discover mini palaces with internal courtyards; an instant defence from the daytime heat. Horse and cart taxis make their way through the streets, shared by locals and tourists alike.

And Havana. Oh, Havana! The faded grandeur is almost as narcotic as it is romantic. The Paseo de Jose Marti (Prado) with the beautiful theatre, imposing Capitolio (reminiscent of the roof feature of the White House in Washington), old style hotels and paintbox perfect column fronted houses makes for superb contrasts. The vintage cars, which anywhere else would be a in a museum, but here you can cruise the streets. 

Everywhere, the music. It is so strong in the spirit and soul of the nation. Wherever you go, live music can be found. Strangers dance the salsa with each other, with smiles exchanged without necessarily expectating exchanging phone numbers. Singles dance for fun or courtship; they choose. Marrieds dance to express their closeness. Family members dance just for the joy. 

Cuba is a magical place. It will live in my mind forever, so I am sharing some of my pictures with you and hope you enjoy this month's collection of favourite stuff.


Food blogger Louisa (Living Lou) has devised this pork ragu sauce, made in the slow cooker:

Ever wanted to make your own Kimchi? Kimchi is the national dish of Korea, a hot and spicy fermented cabbage pickle which is tasty and helps good gut health:

Wild garlic is back in season. Here is a wild garlic and pea soup you can make with it:

Spicy Moroccan Kale and Rice Soup - from food blogger Janice on her Scottish farm:

Angela Hartnett's recipe for Risotto Primavera, full of the joy of Spring - peas, broad beans, sugar snaps and asparagus:

Brown butter, honey and garlic combined for this roasted carrot recipe - for Sunday lunch?

New ideas for cooking for one - cashew nut pulao rice, salmon, greens and sweet potato ‘en papillote’ (cooked in paper), Simon Hopkinson’s chicken, garlic and parsley broth, coddled egg, and baked potato with avocado, lime, chilli, feta and smoked bacon:

More cooking for one ideas: steak frites, Signe Johansen’s carrot, pomegranate and chickpea salad with a spiced citrus dressing, "seven-meal" roast chicken (recipes for cooked roast chicken included), Nigel Slater’s grilled pork salad, and comforting little casseroles:

Third selection of meals for one: fried egg sandwich, broccoli, anchovy and chilli pasta with crunchy sourdough crumbs, Nigella Lawson’s linguine with clams, crispy kimchi and cheddar omelette, and Fergus Henderson’s simple vanilla sundae:

One bag of dried chick peas will make enough of this chick pea curry for 7-8 people. You can freeze it for later, too!

I do the 5:2 diet (2 calorie limited days - 600 for a man, 500 for a woman - 5 days normal eating) and I'm always looking for diet day inspiration. This chicken and pearl barley stew from Karen Burns Booth looks scrumptious:

Quinoa Squash Salad, with aubergine, butternut squash, sundried tomatoes, pesto, soft goat’s cheese:

Food articles: 

Delicious Magazine's best places to eat in South East London:

Not necessarily the cheapest, but London's best value eateries - collected by Eater London's Jonathan Nunn:


Fleabag Season 2


If Beale Street Could Talk
A Private War


Buena Vista Social Club - Various Artists
The Stars of the Buena Vista - Various Artists
She Drew The Gun - Revolution of Mind

Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.