Time to throw your own 70s dinner party

Photo by Jacob Thomas on Unsplash

The 1970’s, described as a pivot of change in world history, saw post war economic booms, fights for equality and strong movements towards environmental activism. The food was garish and often consisted of layers and show stopping looks. Dinner parties were all the rage, and it was all about who could throw the best get together. Want to have your own 70’s dinner party? Here’s how…

What you’re wearing

If you’re not wearing a pair of bell-bottomed pants, you might find yourself feeling out of place. Combine them with a turtleneck or flower print shirt and you have a completed 70’s look. Alternatively, you might feel more comfortable in a slick Travolta-esque three piece. Picture Saturday night fever, the famous white three piece, an oversized black collar and black boots and you’ve got the look. If you want to accessorise a bit further, you could add some sideburns or a platform shoe.

What you’re listening to

Depending on the crowd, you may be relishing the new rise of punk rock, enjoying bands such as The Sex Pistols, The Clash or The Ramones. ABBA’s success in the Eurovision song contest in 1974 sparked their long-lasting popularity so maybe this will act as the background of your evening? Or perhaps you’re more of a country fan? Dolly Parton, Glen Campbell and Willie Nelson for you!

What you’re drinking

If you are going all out with cocktails, you might decide to present your guests with a Tom Collins or a White Russian. A Tom Collins is a simple classic filled with gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and chilled soda, perfect for a classier drink. A White Russian is a lot more exciting and interesting with its popular mixture of vodka, Kahlua and heavy cream. As for the wine, I think many would agree that Mateus Rose, imported from Portugal, was a popular choice. The bulbous, irregular, squat shaped bottle made a perfect centre piece and subsequent vase. A white zinfandel was an equally popular choice for the adults of the 70’s. Packing a similarly sweet and sickly punch to the Mateus Rose, there’s clearly a running theme here.

To snack

Everyone knows that the appetisers and pre-dinner snacks are the most important part of a dinner party as they set the tone of the party and let all of the guests know what they’re in for. The classic bought nibble like foods were undoubtedly twiglets, cheese footballs and salted peanuts. You might try some fancier canapes such as devilled eggs, mushroom vol-au-vents, devils on horseback or some mini baked potato skins. If the nibbles are the name of the game at your dinner party, you might step it up a level with a cheese fondue set. Cheese fondue was all the rage and if you owned a fondue set, you would have been popular. Dipping cubes of food into a pot of melted cheese… what could be better?

To start

It wouldn’t be a 70’s party if you didn’t start with a prawn cocktail. Hopefully you can get your hands on a set of martini glasses to serve them in, if not, wine glasses could be a suitable replacement. Divide the lettuce amongst the glasses and sprinkle over a few pink juicy prawns and season with black pepper. Mix (or buy) a pink sauce and spoon sparingly over the prawns. Dust with a little paprika, sprinkle with a few chives, top with a few extra prawns and serve. Don’t even consider trying to present your guests with a different starter… this is the only way forward.

For the main

There are a few options for the main dish, depending on what you fancy. Casserole type dishes were quite popular at the time, and to spice it up a bit, coq-au-vin or boef bourguignon frequently featured as the centre piece for a 70’s dinner party. Equally, something a little fancier like a salmon en croute or a Duck a l’orange is a suitable choice. You may notice a common theme of foreign names running through all of these dishes and it’s clear that French cooking was the name of the game. The 70’s hosts wanted to impress their guests with their exotic cooking skills, and, if you are throwing your own party, you have to do the same. It was also quite trendy to create a true show stopping centre piece to put in the middle of your dinner table using jelly moulds and elaborate and cohesive lay outs. You can always google 70’s dinner parry showstoppers if you want some garish inspiration.

To finish

There are a few options here but the most notable is the classic, German born, Black Forest gateau. Three layers of rich spongey chocolate cake separated by layers of whipped cream and morello cherries and topped with a chocolate cream and fresh cherries… this is a real crowd pleaser. Equally, you could try a few different examples of traditional 70’s fare such as a Baked Alaska or layered trifle. The main thing is that it has to look impressive to gain you the crown of top party thrower!

An Immersive History Lesson: Touring the Globe

Photo by Federico Scarionati on Unsplash

Travelling should not just be about a tan or memories, it should also be integral to your educational journey as you learn about the world’s history and culture. Everyone loves a beach holiday, lazing about in the sun, grabbing a beer or cocktail from the bar, but it’s important to register where you’re holidaying and recognise its rich, diverse heritage and lifestyle, whilst you reap its benefits. It’s easy to fall into the bias of educational travel as something you did on a school trip as you reminisce back on that wet and soggy trip to Ypres or the Berlin war memorial. Although, the vital thing to remember is that educational travel isn’t just about those traditional locations, but also about the culturally diverse corners of South America, Asia, Africa and Europe. There is more to learn from the societal developments across the world than anyone could comprehend or realise, whether it’s learning about an ancient tribe or a large array of incomprehensible animals. These lessons are vital to allow ourselves to grow and widen our knowledge of the world. However, it is of course still very important to take a trip to more educational sites such as Auschwitz or Chernobyl as they have the power to stir up an emotional response and realisation that is impossible when learning about the events in a classroom or detached environment.

The Menin Gate in Ypres Photo by Zieben VH on Unsplash

Visiting Ypres was one of my most memorable high school trips that we undertook when learning about the First World War. Referred to as “Wipers” by British troops, it was home to several battles between British, Canadian, French and German soldiers, including the well-known Battle of Passchendaele. Walking amongst the trenches and bomb craters provided a much more rich and full education of the First World War as it allowed me and my fellow classmates to truly appreciate the gravity of the situation as we came to terms with its reality. The Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing offered an insight into the numerical value of lives lost. I believe that the sea of uniform white graves provided the best and most pertinent history lesson of the magnitude of the World War.

Pripyat, a city associated with the worst nuclear disaster in history, is rapidly becoming a top tourist destination. Located in northern Ukraine, it was home to the Chernobyl disaster, caused by a nuclear accident in 1986 and resulting in an exclusion zone of around 2,600 km2. There are many reasons why you should visit Chernobyl and its educational benefits range from learning about the risks of nuclear power to experiencing a culture that no longer exists. You can walk through a town frozen in time from the Soviet era, witnessing the architecture and getting a sense of the lifestyle that was led in these forgotten times. It is deemed safe to visit despite the historical radiation and you can pay $100 – $500 for guided tours which give you a historical and informative insight. If you’re into dark and educational tourism, this is definitely one for you.

Machu Picchu Photo by Federico Scarionati on Unsplash

On a more cultural context, the Inca trail to Machu Picchu can teach a traveller a lot about the 15th century Inca civilisation. The citadel is located in Southern Peru and remained unknown to modern society until 1911 when discovered by Hiram Bingham. The Inca trail normally takes about four or five days to complete and a tour guide will be able to educate you on the history of the Incas and their lifestyle and architecture. It’s important to visit sites such as these in order to preserve the history and learn about the grounds in which the modern day is based. Similar to the Ancient Egyptians and their Great Pyramids, Machu Picchu depicts the excellence of those that came before us and all that was achieved in their respective civilisations.

Booby Birds on the Galapagos Islands Photo by Andy Brunner on Unsplash

Conversely, places such as the Galapagos Islands allow an education on flora and fauna that is completely unique. Distributed on either side of the equator in the Pacific Ocean, the islands are known for their tortoises, iguanas, lizards, penguins and their 56 species of bird. The wildlife here was made famous by Darwin and his theories of evolution. When visiting you can learn about his theories whilst experiencing the environment in which they were born. Not only is the Galapagos incredible for learning about nature and evolution, the islands are filled with geological features, such as volcanoes, which offers a whole new educational aspect. The limited population of the islands means that the vast majority of the natural elements remain untouched, resulting in the Galapagos being the perfect place to educate yourself on nature and Darwinism.

Whilst all these locations and holiday destinations offer educational benefits in a multitude of areas, you can also weave a lot of fun into your trips. Of course, both the Galapagos and Peru’s Machu Picchu can offer sea and sun, whilst Belgium and Eastern Europe are filled with vibrant cities and nightlife. You can drink and party to your hearts content just about anywhere on the planet, but it’s important to brush up on their unique and individual cultural backgrounds to get a well-rounded and full experience!

Cheers! The 1980’s cocktail trend

Photo by Proriat Hospitality on Unsplash

The 80’s cocktail culture was characterised by sexual innuendo, neon colours, sour mix, Southern Comfort, Baileys, Peach schnapps and glasses that was either huge or tiny. The cocktails were sickly and lurid, adorned with rainbow coloured swizzle sticks and sparklers. Drinking was largely popularised by the American sitcom Cheers, as the 80’s youth followed the lives of the characters as they drank and relaxed in the iconic Boston based bar. The release of Tom Cruise’s Cocktail saw a new insight into the romantic world of cocktail mixing and the art of bartending, fuelling the 80’s love for a fun and sexy drink. My mum fondly remembers her regular haunt, the Covent Garden bar, Rumours, which she believes perfectly characterises the cocktail scene. With its neon purple logos, dark corners, vinyl bonkettes and C-list celebrities, the crowd would be swarming with their pitchers of mai tai and Long Island Iced tea. Many of the iconic cocktails drank in the 80’s were created in the 70’s but they were branded by the 80s consumption and lifestyle. Want to experience the perfect 80s evening? These cocktails will help you get there!

Mai Tai

One of the most famous tiki drinks in the world, this cocktail was famously served in pitchers during the 80’s. The name is said to come from the first person to try this cocktail as they called out “Mai Tai” which means “the best – out of this world” in Tahitian.

  • 1 ½ oz white rum
  • 3/3 oz orange curacao
  • ¾ oz lime juice
  • ½ oz orgeat
  • ½ oz dark rum

Add the white rum, curacao, lime juice and orgeat into a shaker with crushed ice and shake. Pour into a double rocks glass and drizzle the dark rum onto the back of a spoon so it floats on top. Garnish with a wheel of lime and sprig of mint.

Long Island Iced Tea

Born out of Prohibition when thirsty scofflaws wanted to disguise their booze, this Long Island cocktail was an 80’s favourite. As one of the most alcoholic cocktails ever, there is no surprise that the popularity of this drink has lived on.

  • ¾ oz Vodka
  • ¾ oz white rum
  • ¾ oz tequila
  • ¾ oz gin
  • ¾ oz triple sec
  • ¾ oz sugar syrup
  • ¾ oz lemon juice
  • Coke to top

Add all alcoholic components, sugar syrup and lemon juice to a glass filled with ice and stir. Top up with a splash of coke, garnish with a wedge of lemon and serve with a straw.

Harvey Wallbanger

This luridly coloured cocktail defines the tackiness of the 80’s. Easy to make, it is essentially a fancier version of a classic screwdriver. Drink this cocktail to channel the days of a classic disco.

  • 1 ¼ oz vodka
  • ½ oz Galliano
  • 3 oz orange juice

Fill a tall glass with ice and add the vodka and orange juice followed by a good stir. Float the Galliano on top by pouring on to the back of a spoon and garnish with a skewered orange slice and maraschino cherry.

Slow Comfortable Screw Against The Wall

This is a good summertime cocktail of the 80s. The sexy name can be broken down into parts to represent each ingredient. Slow – sloe gin, Comfortable – Southern Comfort, Screw – Orange juice, The wall – Galliano.

  • 2oz vodka
  • 1oz Sloe gin
  • 1oz Southern Comfort
  • 1oz Galliano
  • 2oz Orange juice

Add the Vodka, Southern Comfort and orange juice to a highball glass filled with ice and stir. Drizzle the Sloe gin around the surface and pour the Galliano onto a spoon so it floats on top. Do not stir.

Between the Sheets

The name of this sexually provocative cocktail accurately depicts the 80’s cocktail culture. This twist on a classic sidecar is a delicious cocktail to try!

  • 1oz Cognac
  • 1oz Triple sec
  • 10z Light rum
  • ¼ oz Fresh lemon juice

Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker with a scoop of ice and shake, strain into a martini glass and top with an orange peel.

Alabama Slammer

The Alabama Slammer was supposedly born at the University of Alabama and is intended to be slammed back to make a point. Initially created in the 70’s, it was popularised in the 80’s scene with its use of Southern Comfort and Sloe gin. You can shot it, or allow it to mix and blend in a long glass and enjoy all of its flavours.

  • 1oz Southern Comfort
  • 1oz sloe gin
  • 1oz amaretto liquor
  • 2oz orange juice

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and a scoop of crushed ice. Give it a good shake and strain into a highball glass filled with ice and garnish with a wedge of orange.

The Fuzzy Navel

With the release of Peach Schnapps into the American market in 1984, bartenders were eager to incorporate it into their drinks. With equal parts schnapps to equal parts orange juice, this simple cocktail is a great one for beginners. Propelling peach schnapps into popularity, this questionably named, and luridly coloured cocktail is what the 80’s were all about.

  • 3oz Peach Schnapps
  • 3oz Orange Juice

Pour the Orange Juice and Peach Schnapps into a highball glass filled with ice and top with ice and an orange wheel. Serve and enjoy! Simple and delicious.

Remembering 9/11

Photo by Anthony Fomin on Unsplash

They always say that you remember where you were when you heard about a life changing event, and I think 9/11 is one of those occasions. I was just a one-year-old baby when it happened, cradled in my mother’s arms, as a breaking story suddenly bombarded all news channels. Having just heard something on the radio, she rushed to turn on the TV, just in time to watch the second plane slice into the south tower of the World Trade centre.

In just three hours, 19 individuals hijacked four US airlines, killed 2977 people, sent two of the US’s biggest cities into chaos, and brought the world to a standstill. Citizens of 78 countries were affected and it’s regarded as the deadliest terrorist attack in human history and the deadliest incident for fire fighters and law enforcement in the history of the United States. The scale of the attack stretched far beyond the US and the world is still reeling in its repercussions today.

For the new generations who were not old enough to experience its shockwaves, it’s easy to disassociate from the horrors that occurred. But the most important thing to realise is how many people are still affected today. Whilst a lot of schools teach their students about 9/11 in detail, there are a large number of informative books and films that have been released. Many of them are extremely heart wrenching and difficult to get through, but they challenge todays generations to understand the sense of loss felt by our parents, grandparents, and neighbours all over the world.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011), although often criticised for using a tragedy for a heart string tugging effect, was nominated for two academy awards. The film focuses on a young boy dealing with the loss of his father after he fell victim to the attack on the World Trade Centre. It allows an insight into how many ordinary lives were affected and the extent that they had to live with their pain. It’s important to remember that the 3000 people that died would have created hundreds of thousands of grieving friends and family who would have all experienced differing levels of trauma and mental health issues.

Understanding the specific and long-term effects of the attacks on families not only increases our insight into the implications of terrorism, but it also sheds light onto those who have used their new influences to create public awareness and change. Thomas Burnett Jr is well known for his heroic actions on flight 93 as he and a few others managed to prevent the plane and its hijackers from creating further acts of terror in the US. He told his wife over the phone that “We’re waiting until we’re over a rural area. We’re going to take back the plane” and not to worry because they’re “going to do something…” He and three other passengers; Mark Bingham, Todd Beamer and Jeremy Glick went down in history as they successfully overpowered the hijackers and crashed the plane into a field in Pennsylvania. Thomas Burnett’s wife, Deena Burnett, went on to releasing two novels including ‘Fighting Back’ about her experiences of losing her husband and livelihood to such an awful event.

It’s people like Thomas Burnett and his wife who represent the innocent lives lost and the effect that terrorism had on the everyday citizen of the United Sates.

The Submission is a novel that takes a different angle on the aftermath of 9/11 and offers a completely different perspective. Based in 2003, a group of judges must agree on an anonymously submitted design that will become the September 11 memorial, built on the site of the World Trade Centre. Once agreed, they open the envelope and revealed the name of the architect. Mohammad Khan. The name created seismic shockwaves across the judging panel as they question whether they can still award his design. When I first read this novel a few years ago I was taken by the insightful perspective offered by the author, Amy Waldman, and it encouraged me to consider those who were affected by 9/11 due to the colour of their skin.

Since the attacks were made by the Islamic group Al-Qaeda, the whole of the United States turned against the Islamic community, labelling them all as terrorists. In 2001, after the attacks, President Bush announced the ‘War on Terror’ and declared that you were ‘either with us or against us’. These allegations have continued until today and innocent citizens of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan have been subject to bombing and war raging in their countries. A paper on the Cost of War estimates that around 480 000 – 507 000 citizens of those three countries have died as direct consequence of the post 9/11 wars. This is incomparable to the US losses of September the 11th and, whilst no death can be justified or disregarded, it’s clear that an incomprehensible number of innocent people have died. If there is anything the new generations should reflect on from the 9/11, it’s that, it didn’t start and end on that day with the 3000 lives in the US. It’s that the war has been stretched thin across our timeline and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of our neighbours in the Middle East, and their lives should be remembered too.

However, the war on terror is much more than the wars raging between opposing forces. It extends to every prejudice a brown person has faced as a consequence. Every single casual racist remark or inequality within the workplace is part of the problem and the reason why these wars are still going on.

The Do’s and don’ts of kitchen sustainability

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Originally written for Quench magazine

With hard hitting programs such as David Attenborough’s recently released ‘A life on our planet’, climate change and its impending doom has been successfully brought to the forefront of our minds. It is understandably hard to live a completely eco-friendly life when it is so easy to remain uneducated and unaware, but, as the new generation, it’s so important to lead the way and live a sustainable lifestyle. Of course, not all of us have the means or ability to make a big and noticeable change, but it’s the little things and mass awareness that can have the best long-lasting effect. We need to pave the road for a sustainable way of living with the hopes of a bright, stable and permanent future so that the new generations can live the lives they deserve. I know that it seems difficult and expensive to get started on your sustainable living, so I’ve comprised a budget friendly and easy do and don’t list of how to act in and around your kitchen in order to stay sustainable. Every little helps!

Do…

· Recycle! – It seems like an obvious one, but it never fails to amaze me how little green recycling bags have been put out on bin day. If you are still feeling confused about what you’re supposed to recycle, have a look on your local council website and you will be provided with a full list of what is meant to go in those green bags. It might be worth putting a list on your fridge to remind those who you live with. You could also benefit from popping a recycling bin in your bathroom to avoid all those cardboard toilet rolls going in general waste. It’s important to remind your housemates to recycle but remember to ask nicely!

· Share essentials – I am constantly buying a bag of potatoes that is way to big for my consumption and there is always one or two left that go rotten or mouldy. It’s the same for things such as bread and carrots. I’m not a big eater and I have found that sharing these food items is much more economical and sustainable.

· Meal plan – Far too often do people buy ingredients with no real plan of when they’re going to use them and the sell by date comes and goes. One way to resolve this food waste is to plan your meals at the beginning of the week and buy your ingredients accordingly. Equally, I often find that I buy an ingredient for a meal and then what I don’t use ends up going off and being thrown away. By meal planning, you can work out what to do with the rest of the ingredients without them going off!

· Swap meat for veggies – meat production is a massive strain on the environment for many reasons and the best thing we can do is reduce our consumption. You don’t need to go full vegan or even full veggie, just try and have meat free days 3-4 times a week. If everyone did this it would lower popular demand and reduce the need to farm and deforest massive chunks of land.

Don’t…

· Forget your bags! – Anyone else guilty of that huge pile of plastic supermarket bags in your kitchen? You get to the supermarket after forgetting to bring a bag, you reluctantly buy a new one and bring it home, promising to remember next time. But do you remember next time…? It’s super important as the amount of plastic waste that is building up across the world and in the ocean is something that needs to be urgently stopped.

· Buy ready meals – The steps that the ready meal takes from production to your kitchen table are horrific. Due to the fact that it’s precooked, there’s no way of inspecting the quality of any of the meat and veg. The meat is most likely mass produced in an unethical environment and the veg is very unlikely to being organic. Equally it comes packaged in mountains of unnecessary plastic which just ends up being thrown into the ocean. If you make your own meals, you can monitor how much plastic it’s packaged in and make sure the ingredients are ethically sourced.

· Use cling film – Keeping along the theme of plastic waste, cling film is among the worst of the single use plastics to come out of the kitchen. With so many different options to replace cling film such as silicone stretch lids, beeswax wraps and reusable sandwich bags, there really is no excuse to stick with the single use option. Have a shop around and thoroughly research all your options before you succumb to societal norms and purchase your next roll of clingfilm.

· Think you can’t make a difference – Too many people fall for the trap that their kitchen habits won’t make a positive change. The important thing to remember is that if we all manage to stay sustainable, we can change the norm and encourage a new generation of sustainability. Unity in the masses is the only option!

The art of charcuterie

Originally written for Quench Mag

In this day and age, the average cheese plate will no longer do. It’s all about the charcuterie boards.

The term charcuterie comes from France, directly translating to ‘delicatessen’ and involves a branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products. Although the term specifically refers to the cooking of meat, the connotations of a charcuterie board have extended well beyond that. A charcuterie board of the 21st century would classically be bursting with cheeses, fruits and breads as well as the cooked meats, offering a diverse and complex meal. They are all the rage right now and we have to wonder why.

Over the past 5 years, you may have noticed a growing trend of artfully designed cheese boards on social media and I believe that it’s because of this that the art of a charcuterie board is the new way forward. Instagram accounts such as @cheeseboardandchill and @cheeseboardqueen have amassed thousands of followers whilst @thatcheeseplate has reached an incredible 260k. Tik tok has also become overrun with cheese board makers as they post quirky videos of the steps they take to create these beautiful boards.

“Cheese plates can be an important form of artistic self-care.”

The founder of @thatcheeseplate, Marissa Mullen has even gone on to releasing her own bestselling book called That cheese plate will change your life which delves into the art of cheese boarding. On their website they’ve even stated that ‘Cheese plates can be an important form of artistic self-care.’ The book also includes the method of ‘cheese by numbers’ which is a simplified formula designed to help an amateur foodie in creating a perfectly well balanced and bursting board.

The key steps are: Cheese, Meat, Produce, Crunch, Dip and Garnish and the idea is that you lay out your board following this order in a step-by-step, fool proof fashion. I decided the best way to test just how easy this method was to simply try it myself! I love cheese and charcuterie a lot and I’ve often enjoyed making up a board for my family, so I was excited to increase my skill level. But most importantly, who doesn’t want a great excuse to use cheeseboard making as a form of artistic self-care?

As I am a student and cheese can be very expensive, I knew this had to be a budget board. So I popped into Tesco in hopes of finding some cheap and tasty goodies and I wasn’t disappointed!

The photos above depict the steps I followed when making my charcuterie board. I started with cheese – Camembert, cheddar and manchego. Followed by meat – chorizo slices. Then produce – grapes. Crunch – The corner deli co’s smoked paprika corn and The artisan bread companies tomato and sweet paprika bruschetta. Dips – caramelised onion chutney. Garnish – sprigs of rosemary.

I was so pleased with the result, it looked almost as decorative as the ones I had seen online. I found that the numbers method worked so well as it offered a clear-cut way of arranging the board and fitting all the food items in. This method is easily applied to any ingredients you want, meaning you can adjust the price point and taste to your preference.

After making this board, I am aware of the things that I felt could be improved on. The colour scheme of my board was extremely orange, saved only by the rosemary, and I believe this is something that could be adjusted by adding to the produce. More colourful items such as cucumbers, figs and strawberries would have added a well needed pop to my board.

Of course we baked the camembert!

The effort involved was definitely worth it due to the impressive reactions of my friends and family, and the board itself was the perfect size for a lunch for two. It offered the variety that a regular cheese board does not, and the idea of produce means you can make it a lot healthier and justifiable.

So. Charcuterie boards… are they the way forward? Many people could have been put off by their complex and boujee look, but Instagram accounts like @thatcheeseplate and their @cheesebynumbers methods have opened this world up to basic foodies like you and me. I would feel confident to present the board I created at a dinner party and would happily bask in my guest’s compliments. They are designed well to offer a perfectly balanced meal/snack with each of the steps bringing something new to the table. I would definitely recommend trying to make one yourself by following this method, don’t be put off by it’s false bravado!

A sobering October

Written for Quench magazine

“The university climate can be brutal and intense, but nothing I couldn’t rise above”

On the 1st of October my co-editor, Indigo, pitched the idea of ‘Sober for October’ and for one of us to take up the challenge. This immediately piqued my interest as, due to my status as a university student, my alcohol consumption may be deemed as slightly unhealthy by the average person. I needed to cut back and make a positive and healthy change, but my motivation had been lacking. Was this the inspiration I needed? Was this the perfect excuse to test myself? I am someone that lives for goals and I really struggle to achieve without something to work towards. This was the perfect opportunity. I took up the challenge willingly and, on the 1st October, my sober stint began.

Within the first week of October I found myself constantly reflecting on my decision. It was safe to say that I wasn’t having any major issues so far. The current social climate of Cardiff and the lockdown measures definitely helped me due to the forced removal of all club suggestions. I watched my housemate enjoying a couple beers but I found it to be light work. I am someone who thoroughly enjoys a casual drink, so, for me to have no inclination to participate in the beer drinking was my first win.

Although its easy to stay sober when everybody else is, its much more difficult when your housemates are planning a heavy one. It was pre-national lockdown and my housemates wanted to go for a BYOB Indian. In my past experience, BYOB often results in a ridiculous amount of cheap alcohol and a lot of very drunk people.  A trip to Tesco left everyone with crates of beer and wine and my sobriety led me to make the decision to try a bottle of Tesco’s finest nosecco. I love sparkling wine a lot but nosecco is something that I had never tried before so I was eager to see if it would help curb my FOMO.

The Nosecco helped to Quench my thirst

I had never previously managed to master the art of interacting with drunk people whilst being sober, but I strongly believe it’s a key skill to possess so I was interested to see how enjoyable the experience would be. Turns out, sipping on a few glasses of nosecco whilst eating completely satisfied my alcoholic cravings. The energy was high, and the conversation flowed, and, although everyone was slowly getting more and more drunk, it almost felt like I was too. By instinct, I finished my bottle of sparkling grape juice and I felt a similar satisfaction as I would have from polishing off a bottle of wine.

The nosecco didn’t taste exactly like prosecco, but by drinking it out of a champagne flute, my mind was able to transport me to an alcohol-soaked destination. The carbon dioxide infused grape juice made my taste buds tingle as their cravings for alcohol were satisfied by the placebo effect. It was very sweet, and it was best to try to not smell it, but it was the perfect replacement as everyone else was drinking.

“I will definitely try a nosecco night again and I would even recommend it to others who are attempting to cut down their alcohol consumption”

I will definitely try a nosecco night again and I would even recommend it to others who are attempting to cut down their alcohol consumption. I was able to feel like I was joining in whilst maintaining myself and it’s fair to say, socialising with drunk people whilst sober is not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be!

My family and friends were all massively supporting of my decision and encouraged me to stick to my goal. They promised not to peer pressure me and that helped me a lot. My sobriety even rubbed off on my friends and I managed to convince one of my housemates to go sober for the second half of the month.

The most important thing that I learnt from my month-long sobriety is that, if I put my mind to a goal, I can achieve anything I want. My final year is the time to put my head down, work hard and look after myself. The university climate can be brutal and intense, but nothing I couldn’t rise above.

Tips on how to use your Autumn produce

Adapted from my article for Quench magazine

As we welcome the Autumn months and say goodbye to the hot sun, home growers and farmlands find themselves inundated with all those wintery fruits and vegetables that we all know and love. My family absolutely love growing their own produce and each year our garden is swamped with apples, pears, blackberries and butternut squash. We have become well versed in how to get creative in the kitchen and make the best of these foods without getting bored too quickly! Here are some of my faves.

APPLE FRITTERS

I love an apple pudding, and, when it comes to apple season, we have apple crumbles and apple cakes coming out of ears! I love an apple fritter because its quite different to a classic apple pudding and can create a refreshing change. The soft yet crunchy apple encased with a crispy, sweet batter and dosed in golden syrup is a deliciously unhealthy method to switch up your apple pud rotation! Here’s how you make it:

Firstly, put enough vegetable oil in a saucepan to reach about a third of the way up and put it onto a high heat. In a large bowl, mix; 180g flour, 35g sugar, ½ tsp cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, 1 tsp salt and 2 ½ tsp of baking powder. Then add 2 eggs and 180 ml of milk and whisk until combined. Peel about 4-5 large cooking apples, cut them into good size chunks and stir into the batter so that all the pieces of apple are well coated. You will know when the oil is hot enough when you drop a tiny bit of batter in it and it floats up and cook within 30 seconds. When it has reached this temperature, use a slotted spoon to drop the pieces if apple in and leave them to cook for about a minute. Remember to turn them as they cook so they brown evenly. Pat them dry with kitchen roll, put in a bowl, cover with syrup, and enjoy! You won’t regret it!

ROASTED SQUASH AND FETA SALAD

My favourite salad ever is this butternut squash salad and it’s absolutely perfect for Autumn as it’s so warming and makes perfect use of mum’s endless squash produce. It’s the perfect healthy accompaniment to a lasagne, fish meal, or even pasta! Its hearty, warming and here’s how you make it:

Set your oven to 200 degrees Celsius and cut up your butternut squash into 2cm cubes. Once cut, place on a baking try and toss them in olive oil, salt and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper for a subtle heat. Put it into the oven and leave for about half an hour until soft, but remember to keep checking it so it doesn’t go to mush! Whilst this is in the oven, pour about half a packet of pine nuts into a small frying pan and dry fry for a few minutes until they begin to brown and soften. Set these aside. Take a packet of rocket salad and lay out on a large serving dish. Add the squash and pine nuts and then crumble over half a packet of feta. Mix together 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil along with a good grind of salt and pepper to make a basic vinaigrette, drizzle over the salad, toss and enjoy!

POACHED PEARS WITH A CHOCOLATE SAUCE

I love a pear and, when perfectly ripe, can easily be one of my favourite fruits. The pears that grow on our tree at home are delicious, but its easy to get bored of a plain pear. My brother has been known to make a killer poached pear that acts as a perfect ending to a good meal. It’s sophisticated and a good way to get in one of your 5 a day! Here’s how he makes it:

Put; 1 litre of water, 300g of caster sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 vanilla pod and the juice of 1 lemon in a saucepan. Then carefully peel 8 pears and place them into the saucepan. Bring the pan to a boil and then let simmer until the pairs are nice and soft. Meanwhile, melt 100g of dark chocolate in a bain marie until completely smooth. Then add 50g of butter, 250 ml of cream and 2 tbsp of caster sugar and stir until well combined. When both pears and chocolate sauce is done, serve together with vanilla ice cream and enjoy!

Review: wahaca

Written by Indigo Jones, Hannah Penwright and Sasha Nugara for Quench magazine

Last week our section editors were offered the chance to review Wahaca Cardiff, a Mexican chain which can be found across the UK. The restaurant prides itself on sustainability, and its new menu explains how it’s the most sustainable yet. After having been to the restaurant our editors decided to write a collaborative review to discuss the highs and lows of the visit, whilst showcasing the wonderful food they were able to indulge on.

Indigo Jones

When I opened our mailbox and noticed an email from Wahaca, I was jumping for joy! I had never been to the restaurant before and have been itching to go due to my fascination and devotion to Mexican food. This love for the cuisine stemmed long before my trip to Mexico in 2017, where I experienced authentic food full of colour and flavours. Having travelled there myself, I had extremely high expectations for our meal at Wahaca.

I ordered the mushroom and feta tacos, chargrilled steak and cheese tacos and the Devon crab tostada. I decided on these options as I wanted to try the variety of things that Wahaca had to offer. All three dishes were full of flavour and were very appealing to the eye. My favourite out of the three had to be the Devon crab tostada as combination of the crab and pink pickled onions tasted so fresh and worked almost like a palette cleanser to the other dishes. My only complaint is that I would have loved a bit of a kick to the plates, having developed quite a tolerance for spicy food, I felt like that’s what these dishes were missing.  I would have asked one of the wait staff for some hot sauce to add to my food, but similar to Mexico unfortunately the service was slow, and I was unable to ask.

The highlight of the night had to be the £5 margaritas which they offered the week we attended to celebrate Mexican Independence Day. We ordered a variety of passion fruit and hibiscus flavoured margaritas, and these fruity drinks made the perfect accompaniment to our meals. I personally highly recommend going to Wahaca for both food and cocktails, and I would definitely attend again but perhaps next time I’ll ask for some hot sauce when I order!

Hannah Penwright

When limited to the vegetarian options, I love it when a restaurant serves tapas-style small plates as it means there’s likely to be a lot more choice- and Wahaca did not disappoint. My favourite out of the three small plates I chose was the mushroom and feta tacos; they were nothing short of incredible. The star of the tacos was definitely the mushrooms, as they were meaty (in a good way for a vegetarian), with a beautiful flavour. The smokiness of the ancho paired with the tangy feta was heavenly. The only disappointment was that there were only two- I could have happily eaten my weight in them.

Hannah’s three cheese quesadillas and cauliflower bites

The only dish out of the three I wouldn’t pick again was the black bean and three cheese quesadillas. For a small plate, I found them almost too filling that I struggled to finish the rest of my food. I’d also have liked some more flavour from the filling, as even with three types of cheese I found it quite bland. Regardless, the meal ended on a high note, as the last dish to arrive were the crispy cauliflower bites. Think perfectly crisp, well-seasoned batter, and a punchy aioli for an added kick to dip in. The cauliflower flavour wasn’t overpowering (which often seems the case with dishes like this), but it was just enough that the flavour still shone. It’s a shame these aren’t vegan so that more people can try them, as they’re too good not to order.

Often, being vegetarian in a restaurant means you have only a couple of options to pick from, which means eating there often can get a bit dull. However, there’s so many meat-free options at Wahaca that I don’t think I’ll ever get bored about eating here. I’ll definitely be returning to try more of the dishes!

Sasha Nugara

Today’s Covid climate has forced many restaurants to change their entire eating out experience in order to accommodate strict health and safety regulations. It is safe to say that Wahaca is no exception. Drip fed into the restaurant, we were given a comprehensive run down of the companies new policies and all the actions they were taking in order to ensure a safe experience. A one-way system had been formed around the restaurant and sheets of Perspex fixed onto the tables. If we could be confident about one thing, it was that they cared about our wellbeing.

The menu itself offered a dazzling selection of Mexican bites and the small plates option meant that I was able to sample as much as I could. I ordered the pork pibil tacos, the grilled chicken club quesadillas and the new cheese and chilli croquetas. The highlight of the meal was definitely the pork tacos due to the combination of succulent meat, tangy pickled onion and soft taco shell. The portion size was generous for a small plate – which I appreciated as I could eat them all day! The croquetas were perfectly round and perfectly cheesy but I would warn you to proceed with caution! Fortunately, I’m a huge spice fan and I absolutely loved the chilli wave, it was a perfect contrast to the mild quesadillas. They came with a tomatillo apple salsa which complimented the chilli perfectly and offered a refreshing after taste. Overall, the food did not disappoint, and I would recommend all that I ordered!

There’s nothing better than being able to enjoy your food with the comfortable knowledge that the journey it took to your plate was sustainable and had little effect on the environment. Wahaca have made moves to ensure their fish and meat come from trustworthy sources, making the special effort to become one of the first restaurants in the UK pass an audit by the Marine Stewardship Council and stock their approved fish. Equally, Wahaca was the first restaurant to become carbon neutral and they use renewable energy throughout their restaurants. They also help to fund the Improved Mexican Cookstove project which donates efficient cookstoves to low income households in Mexico, improving their livelihood and reducing fuel use as much as 58%. Its things like this which can help improve the eating out experience by tenfold as you guiltlessly support a company that are doing so much to give back. I will definitely be returning to Wahaca.

The Coconut tree

Originally written for Quench student mag

As someone who has grown up immersed in Sri Lankan food and culture due to my father’s heritage, the opening of The Coconut Tree in Cardiff was an exciting moment for me. When I walked into the restaurant for the first time, I remember being instantly hit with a cultural punch reminiscent of those lazy days spent in Sri Lanka. The menu offered everything I could have asked for in order to acknowledge a true Sri Lankan foodie experience; parippu, kotthu, slow cooked tuna in goraka spices, coconut sambol and of course… hoppers. I enjoy making my own egg hoppers at home but it is a laborious task and will often result in me spending the whole morning slaving over the hob for my family, so, ordering them from a restaurant is a nice change! At Quench we wanted to get in touch with The Coconut Tree, delve into the background of their restaurant and find out about the inspiration behind their Sri Lankan theme. We were also interested to learn how they had coped with lockdown and what effects COVID 19 could have on their future.

 I was put into contact with the brand director Anna Garrod who was able to shed some light on The Coconut Tree’s origin story and the five young Sri Lankans who wanted to ‘bring Sri Lankan streetfood to the masses.’ The beginning of their journey was accompanied by calls to Ceylon to attain secret recipes from their mums and handmade furniture from their dads. This authenticity is so prevalent in their restaurants and creates such a refreshing experience. They made sure that the menu offered variety with the abundance of vegetarian and vegan options, as well as affordability with the pricing starting at £2.50. This way they have been able to fulfil their mission of ‘true Sri Lankan hospitality that ‘Everyone is welcome to the Table.’ ’ Anna says that Sri Lankans were born making food for an occasion, and, if my family are anything to go by, this is definitely true!

The Coconut Tree own six different branches across the UK, but they don’t see themselves as a chain. They are a group of owners who work in the business every day and night, from cooking to finance, to operations. After their initial opening in Cheltenham, they were picked up by the Guardian as one of the best ‘cheap eats in the South West’ and their business exploded from there. Since then they’ve opened branches in Bristol, Cardiff, Oxford and Bournemouth. Cardiff attracted them as the ‘lifestyle capital of Wales’ and the Welsh’s friendliness and love of eating out! Anna commented on the fact that both Lonely Planet and The Sunday Times listed Sri Lanka as the No1 ‘Best place to visit’ and the benefits it subsequently had on The Coconut Tree’s success and profile. The Coconut Tree are going to be a part of the Castle Eats project at Cardiff Castle, so Cardiffians will be able to sit outside the castle and enjoy a takeaway from TCT al fresco! TCT is located on Mill Lane, next to Côte Brasserie and opposite John Lewis. This is a perfect foodie location, as it is surrounded by some of Cardiff’s finest restaurants and TCT acts as a unique addition to this collection. It stands out with its bold, dark branding and its outdoor seating and bar creates a welcoming vibe, encouraging passers-by to pop in for a legendary cocotail!

An image provided by TCT of their delicious food

On the topic of lockdown and COVID19, the lack of business proved to be a struggle for all small to medium boutiques. TCT’s Cardiff location had only been open for six months, so for them to have come through the worst of lockdown and survived it is a big success for them! Social media acted as a positive method to keep in touch with their costumer base and give updates towards reopening. They started doing takeaways on Fridays and Saturdays throughout lockdown, but have now extended to every night thanks to the extreme popularity they received. They’ve recently opened their outdoor space with plans to start trading inside as well, so it’s onwards and upwards for TCT! They are participating in the August Eat Out to Help Out offer Monday – Wednesday, so it’s the perfect opportunity to get down there and try out their amazing food!

I asked TCT what they would recommend to a first time coconuter and they responded with two new hybrid dishes that they’ve recently added to their menu:

  • Devilled Pork & Pineapple: Mixing two famous Sri Lankan dishes, this spicy, sweet, tangy and sour dish is a vibrant mix of juicy belly pork, red chilli, onion and banana peppers with garlic, spring onion and seasoning. The pork is cooked in the spices, before the veg is finished on a hot plate with the pineapple ‘Achcharu Style’. 
  • Chicken Curried Kotthu: Two of The Coconut Tree’s best-loved and best-selling dishes come together for the first time; Vegetable Kotthu (finely chopped roti cooked with egg and vegetables, cooked on a searing hot plate), topped with juicy chicken off-the-bone in a rich curry sauce made with fennel, cardamom, cloves, cumin, house curry powder, onion and cinnamon. 

They sound delicious and I can’t wait to try them! Everyone should get down to The Coconut Tree to sample their amazing food and cocotails!