The Scamp Goes on an Adventure: Day 5 and 6

By day 5 I was tired. I’d walked, I’d explored, I’d eaten, and I needed to rest. I stayed inside most of the day and watched Netflix and wrote in my adventure diary. In the afternoon, I did my favourite thing: I got tattooed. I went to Dot and Daggers Tattoo (https://www.dotsanddaggers.com/) and they were able to fit me in last minute. I’d booked in a session with them in November, but it got cancelled when they went back into lockdown. The shop was my favourite type of shop: good music, friendly staff and amazing artwork. I got a hummingbird skull and some flowers to go with the desert happening on my arm. It was worth every second.

My last day in the city was a sunny and warmish day, so I spent the day in the park. But not just any park. The park at the Schönbrunn Palace. This was the summer palace for the Habsburgs. According to Wikipedia:

The 1,441-room Rococo palace is one of the most important architectural, cultural, and historic monuments in the country. The history of the palace and its vast gardens spans over 300 years, reflecting the changing tastes, interests, and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs. It has been a major tourist attraction since the mid-1950s.

I bought a new duck and ended the day finding an old mosaic of a cow and a wolf playing backgammon. According to Atlas Obscura:

IN THE 15TH CENTURY, ENEA Silvio Bartolomeo Piccolomini, better known later in life as Pope Pius II, described all the fine houses of Vienna as being painted inside and out with fabulous scenery. Like the marginalia found in illuminated manuscripts, the houses would have featured religious and historic portraiture, along with some humorous imagery for good measure.

These medieval murals have mostly been destroyed by time, but one, of the humorous variety, can be seen today on a house in Vienna’s historic center. The facade of the Hasenaus (“Hare House”) features a wolf and a cow in spectacles engaged in a game of backgammon. Behind the board are the legs of a man, who appears to be holding a fly swatter, perhaps to attend to the players.

One explanation for this absurd scene is that it is an allegory for the political tensions between Protestants and Catholics. It’s not clear who’s winning. Others have suggested that the man behind the game is a furrier eagerly awaiting the conclusion of the game so he can take the hide of the loser.

The wall painting dates approximately to 1509. The house would have been originally been covered with scenes of medieval life, in particular one large motif of a rabbit hunt (hence the name). But when it was refurbished in the 18th century, all but the backgammon game was lost. Luckily, it has been carefully preserved so that Viennese and visitors alike can admire it, wondering what it’s supposed to mean. 

The mural was down an unassuming side street, and I am glad that I detoured to find it. I returned to Scotland feeling like I’d had proper time off, got some good culture and allowed myself to separate from my work for a bit. It was a really good way to end my 34th year.

Totally ready for the next adventure. s

The Scamp Goes on an Adventure: Day 4

My trip to Bratislava meant that I got to cross an item off my bucket list: Listen to the Bratislava Hot Serenaders in Bratislava. I first saw them in 2016 (I think) and the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival. They were amazing and fun. If you’ve never heard of them enjoy:

Broken Record by the Bratislava Hot Serenaders

I’ll admit, when I went to see them I was painfully ignorant about Bratislava. The only thing I knew was it was the capital of Slovakia. I enjoyed the performance so much though that I thought it would be great to one day visit the city and experience a little Slovakian culture.

Flashforward to 2022. I hopped on a bus in Vienna and 1 hour later I was in the town square. According to Wikipedia:

 Bratislava is in southwestern Slovakia at the foot of the Little Carpathians, occupying both banks of the River Danube and the left bank of the River Morava. Bordering Austria and Hungary, it is the only national capital that borders two sovereign states.[6]

The city’s history has been influenced by people of many nations and religions, including AustriansBulgariansCroatsCzechsGermansHungariansJewsSerbs[7] and Slovaks.[8] It was the coronation site and legislative center and capital of the Kingdom of Hungary from 1536 to 1783;[9] eleven Hungarian kings and eight queens were crowned in St Martin’s Cathedral. Most Hungarian parliament assemblies were held here from the 17th century until the Hungarian Reform Era, and the city has been home to many Hungarian, German and Slovak historical figures.

Today Bratislava is the politicalcultural and economic centre of Slovakia. It is the seat of the Slovak president, the parliament and the Slovak Executive. It has several universities, and many museums, theatres, galleries and other cultural and educational institutions.[10] Many of Slovakia’s large businesses and financial institutions have headquarters there.

My first stop was a Synagogue because Bratislava has a very proud Jewish culture and history. I started at ŽIDOVSKÁ STREET (JEWISH STREET). This was the only place that Jewish people were allowed to live from 1599-1840. There is a memorial there to commemorate the space. The synagogue wasn’t open when I was there, but I made sure to go by for a visit. The next spot I went to was the CHATAM SOFER MEMORIAL. According to their website:

The Chatam Sofer Memorial in Bratislava is a unique Jewish heritage site – the sole remaining part of the centuries-old Jewish cemetery that was destroyed in 1943 when the nearby tunnel was constructed. Only the most important section, with 23 graves surrounding the Chatam Sofer’s tomb, was preserved as an underground compound. In 2000-2002, the whole site was redeveloped and the gravestones were restored. The architect Martin Kvasnica designed a striking new complex that adheres to the strict requirements of the halakhah (Jewish law) as well as to the highest standards of contemporary architecture.

Chatam Sofer is said to be the father of Orthodox Judaism, and his tomb is a pilgrimage site for many Orthodox Jews.

At first, I was a bit confused about the memorial. I wasn’t sure if it was something that anyone could visit, or if you had to be guided. I passed a very serious Hasidic Jewish man and then a family who was being guided by someone who worked nearby. When I asked him if it was a place that anyone could visit, he immediately launched into a well-practised spiel about how it was not a museum but a very serious place of worship for Jewish people. He explained that he had a bus full of Hasidic men from Tel Aviv about to arrive on a pilgrimage and that it was a very serious place. I explained to him that I was Jewish, that was part of the reason for the visit and that I had done my homework before coming down, so I understood the importance of the memorial.

I’m not sure he was convinced, but because I was wearing modest clothes and my head was covered, he was willing to take me into the women’s section and allow me to pray for a bit. He made me feel like I wasn’t Jewish enough to be there, and I was a little embarrassed that I had misunderstood the space, so I thanked him for his willingness to let me in, but I would respect the seriousness of the place and not enter. As I walked away, I felt really strange. I am Jewish, but having to prove my ‘Jewishness’ made me feel like I was somehow an imposter. I would say I am more of a cultural Jew, the history and the importance of the culture is more important to me than the religious aspects, but the fact that I was made to feel like an ‘other’ for that didn’t sit well. So, I did the most Jewish thing I could do and felt guilty for even thinking I could enter the space. I let my imposter syndrome win. I may not be as learned in the Torah, and not as deeply religious as those men on the bus, but I had every right to enter that important space and take in the history.

I continued my wander around the city, visiting the Blue Church (The Church of St Elizabeth), the castle and looked for two famous statues, NAPOLEONIC SOLDIER (NAPOLEÓNEC), and RUBBERNECK (ČUMIL)

All in all, I enjoyed my day in the city and even found a rubber duck to represent my visit. The people that I met in the shops when I got lunch and when I got the duck were nice, but not overly friendly, and I am not sure if I would need to visit again, but I am glad that I made the trip.

The Scamp Goes on an Adventure: Day 3

I woke on day 3 feeling sore. I was not used to walking so much and not just being sat in front of a computer all day, and my poor feet were mad at me.

My first stop was at the Jewish Museum. I try and visit the Jewish quarter of every country that I visit, and the Jewish culture in Vienna is especially important as they were all but wiped out by the Nazis during WWII. The first museum houses the remains of the temple that was destroyed in 1421 and marks where the Jewish quarter used to be. At that time, Jewish people were rounded up and murdered, and their history and culture long buried.

The women’s section of the synagogue destroyed in 1421.

The museum also includes a look at the Jewish culture today and how people feel about living in Vienna. One of the exhibits was called The Vienna Rothschilds. A Thriller. According to the museum:

‘The exhibition presents the history of the Rothschild family in Vienna and Austria. Since the activities and accomplishments of the Viennese Rothschilds have faded from memory, it is important to call them to mind with this exhibition and to make their traces visible.

The rise of the Rothschild family began in the early 19th century with Mayer Amschel Rothschild, a Jew from a humble background in Frankfurt. He carved out a career through hard work and sent his five sons out into the world, one of them to Vienna: Salomon von Rothschild. As a banker to the Austrian State Chancellor Metternich, he quickly became one of Austria’s leading entrepreneurs. The name Rothschild served as a positive symbol for a Jewish success story, but also a negative cliché in antisemitic propaganda.

The story of the Rothschilds in Vienna and Austria reads in parts like a thriller. They had to assert themselves against competitors, became ensnarled in conflicts and were confronted with antisemitic stereotypes. But they repeatedly stood up for their oppressed and persecuted fellow believers and established numerous educational and charitable foundations for the general public.

In 1938, the Gestapo arrested Louis Rothschild and held him hostage for a year to extort the Rothschild’s entire fortune. After the end of the Second World War, a large part of their stolen property was restituted, but they had to forcibly “donate” important works to Austrian museums. The restitution proceedings have dragged on to this day. Yet the story of the Rothschilds in Austria continues.’

I’d never heard this story before, and it was ridiculous. Imagine being robbed and then robbed again under the guise of ‘donating’ to museums for the enjoyment of others. The way that Jewish people are treated in some countries is almost beyond comprehension. My next stop was at the Shoah Memorial. It is in the centre of the Judenplatz (‘Jews Square’). The memorial is beautiful and tragic at the same time. British artist Rachel Whiteread designed the memorial. Around the outside of the memorial are the places in Austria where the Nazis murdered Jews and the memorial itself looks like a large concrete cube, but if you look closely you will see ripples in the cube that look like books. There are 65,000 books, one that represents the story for each of the Jewish people who died in one of the camps.

Once I had gotten my spiritual fulfilment, I walked to the Albertina for more art. I almost skipped this museum. I’m not sure what made me go in, but oh boy, it was one of the best parts of the trip. The Albertina holds amazing works by Monet, Picasso, Cézanne, Degas, Klimt, Kandinsky, Miro and Warhol. Basically all of the artists that I love. I had no idea that there were so many Warhols in Vienna, and even more shocked to see three Miros! He is my favourite artist. I have one of his paintings tattooed on me. This little unexpected surprise was amazing. I could have cried I was so happy.

I gave my poor feet a break and spent the rest of the day enjoying the funky hotel and eating cake. I really wanted to plan some day trips one to Czechia and one to Slovakia so I spent the evening trying to figure out if there was a way I could make it happen. I miss the pre-Covid days when it was just a matter of getting on a train or a bus. Czechia was unfortunately ruled out pretty quickly because of their Covid test rules, but I was able to figure out how to get to Bratislava quite easily. God love public transportation.

The Scamp Goes on an Adventure Day 2

I’m finding it difficult to find the time to write out all of the amazing things that I got to see in Vienna. Most of my energy went into applying for my own job and being sad about having stepped on a scale and seen how much I actually weigh.

But back to the important things: sightseeing in Vienna. Day 2 was just as great as day 1. I started the day in a library. The State Hall of the Austrian National Library was stunning.

The State Hall – built in the 18th century as part of the former Court Library – is a breathtaking 80 metres long and 20 metres high. An intricately decorated dome and numerous frescos provide an imperial flair. This baroque jewel is home to over 200,000 tomes. Four magnificent Venetian globes, each with a diameter of over one metre, provide the finishing touch to the heart of the Austrian National Library.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g190454-d245775-Reviews-State_Hall_of_the_Austrian_National_Library-Vienna.html

The photos that I took do not do the library justice but suffice to say, I was a very happy Kim.

My next stop was Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. This museum is known for housing the Habsburg art and antiques. There was a lot of gold plated and bejewelled everything. The museum had artefacts from ancient Greece, from Egypt and a picture gallery full of amazing art. I spent a good three hours here wandering around. The only bummer was there were not a lot of English translations, so there were some things that I couldn’t follow along with, which was a bit of a bummer. I did a bit of googling though and that helped.

The last stop of the day was to the Vienna Naschmarkt. The smells of spices and sausage and fresh fruit and veg just seep into your pores when you enter the market. I did a lot of browsing, but did not buy anything.

In addition to the market, I was also on the hunt for the Ampelpärchen, or diversity themed traffic lights inspired by Eurovision. They were so fun to spot, but difficult to photograph. I ended the day getting sausage in a giant bread roll from one of the street vendors and enjoying the view in the popular historic square. I don’t usually eat meat when I am on vacation, but you can’t really go to Vienna and not eat a Vienna sausage. It was every bit as good as I hoped it would be.

The Scamp Goes on An Adventure

For the first time since 2018, I actually went on holiday that wasn’t California and wasn’t in the UK! I’ve been trying to get away since Nov 2021, but lockdowns and Covid mean having to be flexible. Instead of a Thanksgiving holiday, I snuck away to celebrate my last week of being 34.

I’ve been really struggling since 2018. The end of the PhD, the horrible viva and rewrites, and then the pandemic have really done a lot to corrode my already tenuous mental health. That coupled with isolation, no travel and a stressful work environment have left me pretty burnt out. I haven’t been writing for fun, haven’t been writing for work, and haven’t done a whole lot to help myself become an adult.

To sort myself out, I decided to head to Vienna for a week. I’ve never been to Austria, and there are a lot of great places to visit that are only an hour by train or bus….and I just needed out of the UK.

I booked a stay at the Student House Vienna. This is a hotel/student dorm. It was fantastic. The people were friendly, I couldn’t hear the people living above me or next to me, and it was right next to the metro, so it was easy to get to city centre.

The first thing I did was buy a week’s pass for the U-Bahn so that I did not have to walk if I did not want to. My first stop was the Museum of Modern Art. According to the museum’s website:

With its collections based on Pop Art and Photorealism, Fluxus and Nouveau Réalisme as well as Viennese Actionism, the mumok combines highlights of societal and reality-related art as well as performance art of the 20th century. The collection comprises around 9,000 works: paintings, sculptures, installations, drawings, graphics, photos, videos, films, architectural models and furniture.

https://www.wien.info/en/sightseeing/museums-exhibitions/top/mq/museum-modern-art-352902

The museum did not disappoint. Pop art is the type of art I enjoy the most, and the gallery had so many floors to wander about. I actually wandered the museum without a murder podcast playing in my ears and it was nice to have a bit of silence.

The next place that I went was the Natural History Museum. According to their website:

The Natural History Museum preserves, expands, researches and presents its extensive biological, geological, anthropological and archaeological collections in a building designed as a total work of art. It conveys the diversity of nature, the evolution of planet earth and life as well as the associated cultural development of humans and offers an inspiring meeting place where dialogue and exchange between science and society take place.

https://www.nhm-wien.ac.at/museum/leitbild_mission

It is a stunning museum, the building is amazing and everything is presented so well. It is also like a maze. There are so many rooms and corridors that at one point, I was glad that I had a granola bar in my purse.

Naturhistorisches Museum
Dino pals
Mineral collection

There was something really nice about wandering the city, not being sat on my couch all day, and not emotionally eating because I am sad and feeling stuck. Even the GPS gods smiled on me and kept me right the entire time. Vienna is really easy to navigate and I have the directional sense of a bee in a paper bag, so being outside, walking, and not once getting lost made me really happy. I even navigated the metro like I knew what I was doing, and I love any time that I can feel a bit less like a tourist. I ended the day with my favourite thing: cake. There was a market in the metro station, so I was able to get nibbles and eat in the dorm at the end of the day. I was not 100% keen on eating out alone, so being able to get a salad and water and amazing bread. It was a great start to the vacation.

The Scamp’s Cooking Corner

I am behind on the list of things that I’ve cooked each week. The last one that I posted was a complete disaster, so I thought it would be smart to ditch the baking and go back to trying to cook simple recipes.

And shocker, it worked! I made a simplified version of a Pad Thai, and it was delicious.

Easy Shrimp Pad Thai

The recipe came from Delish.com. They have been my go-to for simple recipes and fun meals to ease me into the cooking life. The recipe can be found here: https://www.delish.com/uk/cooking/recipes/a29468997/easy-pad-thai-recipe/, but in case it ever gets pulled down:

INGREDIENTS

Salt

250 g wide rice noodles

2 tbsp. lime juice

2 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tbsp. fish sauce

1 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 pepper, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 eggs, lightly whisked

450 g prawns, peeled and deveined

Freshly ground black pepper

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

30 g roasted peanuts, chopped

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook noodles until al dente. Drain.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
  3. In a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add bell pepper and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add the prawns and season with salt and pepper. Cook until pink, about 2 minutes per side.
  4. Push the prawns and vegetables to one side of the pan and pour in the egg. Scramble until just set then mix with the prawn mixture. Add the cooked noodles and toss until combined. Pour in the lime juice mixture and toss until the noodles are coated.
  5. Garnish with spring onions and roasted peanuts before serving.

Pad Thai was not something that I tried until I was 18. There was an amazing place in Merced and the owners loved the uni students and always took care of us. When I moved back to Edinburgh, the flat I settled in was tucked in behind a Chinese food place that also made amazing Pad Thai. I used to order it a lot when I was working on my PhD. Unfortunately, they were a casualty of the pandemic, which is why I wanted to learn a simple version that I could make on my own. I am going to add this one to the list of things I will make again.

The Scamp’s Cooking Corner

While I have stuck to trying out new recipes each week, I have not been great about posting the results each week. The last one was a disaster, looked like cat food. Unfortunately, the week after that was not a winner either. I thought I’d try my hand at baking. I used to be a good baker, award-winning even. I probably am still a good baker, but I got way too ambitious with the recipe. I’m going to share it though in case anyone wants to try it. This comes from Shalean LaBerge on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/p/CYKTZ0NpBlJ/)

Funfetti Cookie & Cake Batter Blondies 🍰

1 pack Funfetti cookie dough
1 box Funfetti cake mix
1 egg beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped white chocolate
1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles
9-12 golden Oreos

Preheat oven to 350F and grease the bottom of a 9×9 glass pan (or line with parchment paper). Spread the Funfetti cookie dough mix to the bottom of the pan then top with 9-12 golden Oreos and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine Funfetti cake mix with the vegetable oil and milk. Add in the white chocolate and sprinkles. Pour the beaten egg into the batter and mix until just incorporated. Pour the batter into the pan on top of the golden Oreo layer. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes on the center rack. Remove the foil, turn the pan around and lower the oven to 325F. Continue to bake for an additional 25 minutes. At this point, the edges should be golden brown and the center slightly lighter in color. Cover only the edges of the pan with foil and bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool COMPLETELY in the pan before slicing (2-3 hours).

Tip: after the total bake time, a toothpick entered into the center should come out almost clean (not wet but not completely clean) because it will finish baking outside the oven while cooling in the pan)

I had to make my own funfetti icing, but I found unicorn sprinkles and all kinds of colourful bits and bobs to use with vanilla frosting. Mine did not look anywhere near as pretty as the video shared on Instagram, but it didn’t taste too bad. I had fun making it though, and might go back to the baking that I was good at as a kid, cookies. They are a lot easier to make then a cookie, cake, brownie mix.

The Scamp’s Cooking Corner

This one should actually be called the failed cooking corner. The big huge it looked like cat vomit instead of sauce fail.

I somehow ended up with a bag full of shallots when I did my last grocery order, and for the life of me, I can’t remember if I’ve ever cooked with a shallot. I did what any good researcher would do and took to the internet to try and find a good recipe that would allow me to use some of my shallots.

You’ll never guess what I found…..an entire recipe dedicated to the use of shallots. I picked one that seemed easy: Caramelised shallot pasta. Seemed easy enough, and the shopping list was simple.

Ingredients:

60ml olive oil

8 round shallots, sliced very thinly

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 tsp chilli flakes

25g anchovy fillets (about 6 anchovies), drained but not rinsed

100g finely chopped sundried tomatoes

12 green olives, sliced

500g bucatini (or another type of pasta)

40g Parmesan

Small bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped

Instructions

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium high heat. Add the shallots and thinly sliced garlic, season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots have become totally softened and caramelized with golden-brown fried edges, a solid 15 to 20 minutes.

Add chilli flakes, anchovies, sundried tomatoes and olives. Stir well and cook for a further 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill another large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the bucatini and cook according to the package instructions. Save about 2 ladles of pasta water when draining.

Add the cooked pasta to the pan of sauce. Slowly begin to pour in the remaining pasta water and toss to combine with the sauce. Continue adding a little bit of the water at a time to help loosen up the sauce and coat all of the pasta.

Plate the pasta and top with Parmesan and fresh parsley.

I went to the big Tesco near my house and picked up everything that I didn’t already have in my pantry. It has now become a bit of a fun ritual for me: finding the recipes, going to the shop, listening to a podcast as I browse the aisles. This time it was Sweet Bobby (which is a story for another day, because damn, that is one ridiculous story). I came home and washed everything that needed to be washed and prepped everything according to the instructions.

Except I made one crucial mistake when I was ear deep in a crazy 10 year catfish saga: I bought sardines instead of anchovies. Even worse, I didn’t notice I’d made this error until after I added it to everything else. Instead of a sauce, I got cat vomit city.

Cat vomit disguised as part of the caramelised shallot pasta.

Let’s just say, you can’t mistake sardines and anchovies.

Me, learning after making the fatal mistake

The only good part of this was that I hadn’t mixed the pasta in yet, so dinner wasn’t totally wasted. Butter, garlic powder, mixed herbs and the fresh parm saved the day. I sent the photos to the family group chat, had a good laugh and crossed this recipe off the list of the success stories. I guess when I had the idea to try a recipe a week, I thought they would all be a success story. The first couple worked out so well. I got cocky. I started to believe that maybe I wasn’t hopeless at cooking.

There is one thing I can say with confidence though: I still do not know how to cook a shallot.

The Scamp’s Cooking Corner

I still have yet to make a list of the 22 things I’d like to do in 2022, but I think cooking one new recipe a week is going to be there. I’ll then use it as a cooking corner here so that people can see my progress. I used to be a good cook and really enjoyed trying new recipes. Then the PhD and the slow cooker disaster of 2018 happened and I got lazy.

and fat.

The second week of the year I made fish tacos. They were amazing. They can be seen in the previous post. Last week I decided to make a soup. It was a kale, pasta and cannellini bean soup (the recipe can be found here: https://realfood.tesco.com/recipes/kale-pasta-and-cannellini-bean-soup.html. The process of making the soup was fun, but it didn’t really taste as great as I was hoping. I didn’t use enough broth and had too much pasta, so it ended up more like a pasta salad type creation. I’m not sure that I would make it again. Just in case the link disappears one day, here is the full recipe:

kale, pasta and cannellini bean soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 red onions, diced
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed and diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, half roughly chopped, half thinly sliced
  • 500g carton passata
  • 100g kale
  • 400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 10g fresh rosemary, leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • 1 vegetable stock cube, made up to 750ml
  • 150g margheritine soup pasta
  • 10g fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges

Method

  1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and chopped garlic and cook for 15 mins until soft and caramelised.
  2. Stir in the passata, kale, beans (mash a few first if you prefer a thicker soup), rosemary and stock. Simmer for 10 mins; season. Add the pasta and simmer for 10 mins more.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil in a small saucepan over a low heat. Add the sliced garlic and cook for 3-4 mins until lightly browned and crispy, then tip into a small bowl.
  4. Divide the soup between bowls and top with the parsley and crispy garlic. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over.

Tip: Make it vegan by using a stock pot instead of a cube.

On Saturday I decided to make my own salsa. I miss Mexican food a lot, and one of the hardest things to get here is a good salsa. The upside is, I can find all of the ingredients of a good salsa and I own a blender, so in less than ten minutes, I was able to create enough salsa to last me five days.

Salsa Prep

The recipe can be found here: https://houseofyumm.com/ready-the-chips-its-salsa-time/, but in case the link ever goes away, the recipe is:

INGREDIENTS

  • ▢1 (14.5 oz can) diced tomatoes, OR 1 pound fresh tomatoes
  • ▢1 (10 oz can) diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • ▢3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ▢½ onion, roughly chopped
  • ▢1 jalapeno , deseeded and membranes removed
  • ▢½ tbsp honey
  • ▢½ cup cilantro
  • ▢¼ tsp salt
  • ▢Juice from 1/2 lime

EQUIPMENT

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Prepare Ingredients: Add the onion, jalapeno, and garlic to the food processor and pulse until chopped up.
  • Pulse: Add in the tomatoes and continue to pulse until the tomatoes break down and release juices.
  • Season: Add in honey, salt, 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, and juice of 1/2 lime (start slow with the lime as it can overpower, you can taste and add more if desired)
  • Blend: Pulse in the processor to desired consistency. Chunky or smooth. Taste and adjust salt, honey, or lime juice as needed.

VIDEO

NOTES

  • Tomatoes: recipe can be made with fresh or canned tomatoes, or use a mixture of the two. The 1 pound of fresh tomatoes will replace using both the cans of diced tomatoes. 
  • Chile: this recipe is made using jalapeno, removing the seeds and membranes makes for a nice mild salsa. If you personally want more heat add in extra jalapeno or even a Serrano pepper.
  • Honey: adding this cuts through the acidity of the tomatoes and gives a smooth flavoring.
  • Salt: taste and adjust as needed in this recipe. 
  • Storage: Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 
  • Salsa too thin? Simply strain out some of the liquid.

NUTRITION

serving: 11/3 cup, calories: 25kcal, carbohydrates: 6g, protein: 1g, fat: 1g, saturated fat: 1g, polyunsaturated fat: 1g, monounsaturated fat: 1g, sodium: 197mg, potassium: 67mg, fiber: 1g, sugar: 4g, vitamin a: 232iu, vitamin c: 9mg, calcium: 13mg, iron: 1mg

finished product

I used a blender rather than a food processer and added some hotter peppers because I like spicy salsa, and I was not disappointed. It is so good. I’ve made nachos, quesadillas, spicy breakfast burritos with scrambled eggs. I am a happy happy girl.

Now that I have been able to master some easy recipes from Tesco, I think it is time to try something else, something with a different protein, like chicken, or fish that aren’t in fish stick form and see what I can do. Eventually, I will try to cook something in the slow cooker, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. That chicken disaster still haunts me.

The Scamp Cooks

With the start of the new semester, and going back to work after a Christmas break of poor sleeping habits, I am finding it difficult to get back into the swing of being an adult. I’ve still yet to complete my list of 22 things I would like to do in 2022, and I have not really been committed to much of anything personal health or hobby related.

One thing that will be on my list, and has been on my list since 2019/2020 is to cook and prepare healthy meals that will help me not only have a more well-balanced diet, but will also give me something fun to do if I ever become social again (dinner party at the Davis Hovel anyone?). One of the things I like about being able to order my groceries online from Tesco is that they have suggested recipes. When you scroll through them, if you find one that you like, you can add all the ingredients to your cart automatically. I’ve found three recipes so far, and tried the first one out last week.

Prep work for homemade salsa

And what do you know? It was a success! Turns out I can follow a recipe and make a very simple meal of fish finger tacos.

Fish finger tacos

Now some of you who know me as more than words on the page know that I love making tacos, but rarely do more than cook the meat and make my own guac. Usually it is more about opening jars and grating cheese, heating things on the stove (and sometimes microwaving instant rice), rather than making things from scratch. I can actually cook and bake a lot of things, but lately have been living off meal deals and microwave meals.

Because of this, I was proper chuffed with myself for making these super delicious tacos, including my own tartare sauce to enjoy for a few days. If you want to recreate this meal, never fear, I have the recipe for your enjoyment.

Ingredients

  • 12 frozen fish fingers
  • 2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
  • ½ red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 50g pickled sliced jalapeños, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 150g pack crunchy taco shells
  • 1 Little Gem lettuce, shredded

For the tartare sauce

  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped gherkins
  • 2 tsp capers, finely chopped
  • 15g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Method

  1. Cook the fish fingers to pack instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeños (if using), half the lemon juice and the oil in a bowl and season.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, gherkins, capers, parsley and remaining lemon juice.
  4. Fill each taco shell with some shredded lettuce and 1 tbsp of the tomato salsa. Top with a fish finger and a little tartare sauce to serve.

The only thing I skipped was the gherkins.

My next adventure will be a veggie soup, and if I make this again, I will probably skip the fish fingers and try breading and cooking my own fish….you know, just to be fancy.