December 27, 2015

These few days in-between Christmas and New Year are a time for leftovers, finishing off all those little extras (pigs in blankets and bread sauce) alongside bowlfuls of juicy easy peelers and soft chocolate fudge.  Christmas lunch sarnies are a great option, with all the trimmings included of course, or perhaps a hot and spicy turkey curry.

Well this little number is a great brunch option, breakfasts around Christmas don't get as much thought as the main event and this recipe is as easy as it is delicious. It is a great way to use up left over panettone and certainly impresses any guests you have staying over until the New Year, (especially if topped with lashings of leftover brandy butter!)

This recipe is as indulgent as it is Christmasy but is of course a great way to empty out overflowing larder cupboards, getting ready for that all important January detox!

To serve 6 you will need...

12 slices of panettone (the great thing is this does not need to be fresh - a few days old is just fine. 
6 eggs, 
1 tsp of vanilla paste 
1tsp of cinnamon 

For the topping....

fresh pomegranate seeds if you have them if not 
any fresh fruit is delicious,
maple syrup. 

The method for this is pretty simple and much the same as normal french toast (have a look here)

First whisk up your eggs in a bowl, add your vanilla paste and cinnamon and set to one side.

Now slice up your panettone, these may all be a bit misshapen, but this is fine - the more rustic looking the better.

Soak each slice of panettone in your egg mixture and set on a plate, once everything has been sufficiently dipped heat up a pan with some butter (left over brandy butter if you wish!!) and place your slices carefully in the pan. Cook for a few moments until golden on each side and then place in the oven to keep warm until all slices have been cooked.

Serve up with fresh coffee, tea and juice, top with ruby red pomegranate seeds (these are particularly in season this time of year and always make me feel super Christmasy) top with maple syrup or more brandy butter and enjoy!

The best kind of leftovers... and the only way to eat panettone after Christmas!

December 06, 2015

We returned from Nara to Kyoto late the following night and once we dropped off bags at our hostel we ventured out to the Gion (Geisha) district and on to the riverside in search of something to eat and to kick start our next three jam-packed days exploring everything this city has to offer.

Waking early the  next day we took another very hot and rather sticky bus ride up to the north west of the city to the Golden temple. A temple coated in gold leaf that shimmers in the morning light, it is made even more magical being situated on the edge of the lake, with a perfect reflection adding to the already magical setting.

Once you have marvelled at this incredible temple you are then encouraged to make your way down the road a mile or so to a Zen garden. You can wander barefoot around the temple, take a few deep breaths and relax, if you shut one eye to the tourists surrounding you, you really can feel the serenity of these famous gardens and of course understand why Japanese elements of landscape gardening feature in so many beautiful gardens around the world.  

Gravel is neatly raked in methodical lines and circles giving the landscape a beautiful pattern.

Feeling extremely relaxed and in need of some food we opted for the amazing popular black sesame soft serve as a late lunch treat and then took the long bus ride back to the centre of the city. 

That evening we wandered around temples closer to home - we stumbled upon evening prayers in one temple. 

We sat on tatami mats barefoot and listened, just listened,  surrounded by burning incense  An event that was truly mesmerising and one we were lucky to witness. 

We walked back through huge gates adorned with shimmering gold lanterns, hung against dark wood the lanterns looked luminisecent in the evening light. 

That night, on the recommendation of the extremely helpful and welcoming hostel hosts, we ventured out for Teppenaki...

We gorged on delicious okonomiyaki,  Japanese pancakes (a shredded cabbage stuffed pancake smothered in smoky bbq sauce and mayo, trust me, tastier than it sounds (and looks!) completely moreish. 

So much so that we had to hunt out restaurants that served the traditional dish twice more before we moved on to the  next leg of our journey. 

Next we ventured to the mountains and trekked along the cobbled paths, keeping an eye out for bears and spent an evening dining in traditional robes and sipping green tea - more soon! 

October 16, 2015

After spending a night in Kyoto and packing up a small overnight bag we set off for Nara to stay in a hotel which we had been told is like being transported back 50-100 years, a feature the hotel prides itself on. 

The aim of this time warp is to feel as though nothing has been touched. It works perfectly and you wander around this famous establishment ooogling at the old style interiors, pictures on the walls and  impeccable customer service you dont see anywhere else.

After a late night wander around the town we came back to the hotel for a drink at the bar - even if you can't stay at the Nara Hotel, a drink in the bar is highly recommended. The gardens are lit and you sit in the bar with floor to ceiling glass opening onto the beautiful golden maples. The service, is of course impeccable and you are served Moscow Mules, Singapore Slings and the finest Japanese whiskey.

After a restful sleep we woke to sunlight streaming through our window and a view of few deer in the garden. We had a traditional breakfast and headed out into the national parks housing the cities famous Shrines.

Deer wander down from the forest covered hills surrounding the old city and get fed wafers by excited tourists. These deer  clearly have the best of life as there is no shortage of wafers or tourists wanting to feed them....we were no exception!

Once the deer had been sufficently fed we walked up to Todai-Ji Shrine, the largest surviving wooden structure in Japan, watched incense being lit, and stood in the shadow of a magnificent Budda.

 We navigated our way around the deer, and back out of the park and headed north  to Kasuga Taisha Nara's most celebrated shrine.  Here there are thousands of stone lanterns that have been donated by worshippers over the years. 

This magnificent collection of lanterns are only lit twice a year during festivals 

After an amazing day we meandered slowly back to gather our bags from the hotel and made our way back to Kyoto for the next few days of exploring Golden temples, Bamboo Forests and the tastiest sashimi. 

October 14, 2015

Having arrived, by bullet train to Kyoto we checked into our hostel - which, I may add is the most beautiful hostel ever, you must stay here when you come to Kyoto. 

 Everyone has their own room, you are provided with breakfast and there is a roof terrace, a fully equipped kitchen and the staff are wonderfully helpful. If you end up in Kyoto, you will almost definitely want to spend a day in Nara, this hostel is perfect as it is situated right  behind Kyoto's huge station. 

We arrived to a very soggy Kyoto and after getting soaked whilst trying to find a shrine, we gave up as even our waterproofs could not cope and went to explore the huge railway station that was apparently a foodie hub, a great place to people watch and all in all a great place to kill a couple of hours when the rain is torrential outside. 

The following day we woke early and with the weather lovely we navigated our way up to Philosophers walk in the north of the city by bus - supposedly the easiest way to get up to the temples and cheap as chips compared to a taxi.

The Philosophers walk is a long walk along a canal surrounded by shrines, Ginkaku-ji and Nanzen-Ji to name a couple. and lined with cherry blossom in spring and beautiful burnt orange and red maple leaves in autumn. The walk is named after an influential Japanese philoshper, Professor Nishida Kitaro who is thought to have used the path for daily meditation.

We managed to catch the first leaves starting to turn without the crowds that descend on the city when autumn is in full swing. 

We ventured from shrine to shrine and were surpirsed that we pretty much had the path to ourselves. The beauty of these shrines and zen gardens is hard to explain but one thing I can tell you is that they have a calming silence and you do feel extremely at peace visiting these sacred sites. 

Once we had explored each temple, walked bare foot along tatami mats and marvelled at the hundreds of coy carpe in the surroundings ponds we took a long, and rather sticky bus ride back to the centre of Kyoto for some lunch time tempura.

 We then headed down to Nara for the night...but more of that tomorrow! 

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