Thursday, 28 November 2019

A PERFECT CHRISTMAS WEEKEND IN DÜSSELDORF


As many of you will know by now I was born in Düsseldorf and, alongside London, it the closest thing I have to a “hometown”. I love going there all year round to visit my mum but Dusseldorf at Christmas is even better and I have to go at least once a year when the Christmas markets have opened to properly get in the mood for the festive season.

Why? Well for me Germans just do Christmas better than anyone else. Yes, I may be a little biased but at the same time everyone who I have taken to Dusseldorf to experience the markets and atmosphere for themselves couldn’t help but agree. Nothing is trashy and all the huts of the different markets, dotted around the city, are beautifully made from wood, they also don’t sell crap just lovely food, mulled wine and handmade festive goodies. Decorations are beautiful and although of course it is still at its core all about excessive consumerism for this one day of the year I just love the cosy atmosphere that Germany and in this case Dusseldorf exudes during this time.

This year I was lucky enough to take my amazing best friend Maddie along for my annual Dusseldorf Christmas weekend, she is after all my serial city break partner in crime (this year we visited Vienna and Stockholm with lots more in the pipeline for 2020), and loved showing her the delights of my city. It’s such a short flight away at 45 minutes yet transports you into the most magical Christmas world plus Dsseldorf is pretty amazing in itself, a city that feels like a global hub but a village at the same time - clean, with all the shops your heart could desire and offering amazing and very affordable food in an ever developing culinary scene.

I may be the one-woman Dusseldorf tourism board but I urge you to make the trip there for a long weekend while the markets are on (which is right up until NYE) and be charmed, I for one will hold on to this annual tradition for a good while to come!



HOW TO GET THERE:
BA FROM HEATHROW + CITY


As mentioned in my intro getting to Dusseldorf is literally like a hop, skip and a jump, with the flight time to get there from London totalling 45 to 55 minutes depending on winds, which even for someone like me who distinctly hates flying is semi bearable. Flights are super affordable as well. Even with a decent airline like BA or Eurowings, which I tend to go for, prices range from £80 to £130 for the return ticket.

Once you have landed at the super modern and well planned out Dusseldorf airport (the second largest airport in Germany and a major connecting hub for flights), the journey to the central station and with that centre of town is also super easy and cheap which makes a real difference if you are there for a short weekend when compared to the strenuous 80-minute coach journey we had to face on our last trip to Stockholm. All you have to do is simply jump on the S1 train, which departs from the airport station built underneath the terminals, pay 2.4 euros for a single journey ticket before you embark on a 15-minute journey to the main station that will fly by in no time. This train runs super regularly even on Sundays and overall makes this a very smooth and fast travel experience with no hidden transport costs or lengthy transfers so really no excuse not to go!


WHERE TO STAY: 


This time we stayed at Me And All Hotels, a conveniently located, affordable boutique hotel geared towards a young yet sophisticated travel crowd that knows what they want, which impressed us across the board.

The location in fact is hard to beat, a 5 minute walk from the main train station and a 10 minute walk into the centre of town which meant we didn’t take any public transport during the entire trip and we were able to freshen up after a day of exploring the markets before dinner. Our room, like the whole hotel, was a little Japan inspired in its interior style due to being located bang in the middle of Dusseldorf’s “Japantown” - think bamboo print wallpaper and a little waving lucky cat statue on the room’s desk greeting us). It was also super spacious, perfectly designed and with all the modern mod-cons a millennial would want including USB plug station and easy screen mirroring system.

Staff were incredibly friendly and we LOVED the breakfast buffet. It’s not included in the basic room rate but here I think it is definitely worth adding to the room price as the selection was outstanding with fresh bread, eggs, pancakes, cereal, juices and decent coffee served en masse,plus it is served up on their top floor dining space which has top views of Düsseldorf and at night also turns into a rather lovely cocktail bar with a panoramic Düsseldorf vista! We for one were stunned by the sunrise we got to witness while chomping down on our excellent breakfast early on the Saturday morning, making this one of the best hotel breakfasts I have ever had without a big price tag to match.

That indeed summarises Me And All Hotels in a nutshell, excellent value for money for a boutique hotel standard (double rooms start at £65 a night) where all little touches have been considered and thought through. I found it the perfect base for a city break in Düsseldorf and a hotel that instantly made me and Maddie feel at home, if only I could have taken the amazing rain forest style shower home with me! A full thumbs up for their modern take on hotels, perfect for the twenty something generation over the stress of using airbnb’s.



NOW TO EXPLORE THE CHRISTMAS MARKETS!


Once checked in it was of course time to explore the Christmas markets that we came for! There are several dotted around the old town and to the side of the main shopping streets, each market coming with a different theme and look. You will have time to explore all of them, ideally with mulled wine pit stops along the way, but my favourites are the red themed one by the town hall square and the icy blue huts you can find on a cobbled side street from Düsseldorf’s version of Bond Street, the Königsallee. You really don’t need a plan though, just wonder around and take it all in!


THE BASICS: 


The Christmas markets always open on the Thursday before the last weekend of November and run until New Year’s Eve. They are open daily from 11:00am until 8pm Monday to Thursday and until 9pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Like most restaurants and bars in Germany, the stalls only take cash (contactless is NOT a thing in Germany which I find highly irritating) so make sure you locate an ATM and take out enough cash to pay for those mulled wines! Same goes in general for dinners out so, as annoying as it is, be prepared to carry enough cash with you, I know how very 1999 of Germany!

I love going to the markets for an afternoon mulled wine before dinner but it is also totally worth checking them out after 7pm on a weekend day. It does get pretty busy, so maybe not ideal for those that hate crowds, but the atmosphere is absolutely fantastic with an incredibly diverse crowd, festive tunes and everyone there to have a fabulous time!



MUST HAVES:

My biggest discovery in recent years has been Rosalie - a mulled rose wine that is ALL kinds of fabulous. Of course there is your classic red mulled wine but you can also get a fantastic white mulled wine and add extra oomph to yours with a shot of Amaretto (delicious) or for the very brave pimp up your hot chocolate with a shot of Jagermeister (gross).

In terms of food you can of course get your classic grilled German sausage in a bun but there is so much other food to explore, you could spent your entire city break weekend eating your way across the stalls if you wanted to. My favourites are the pan fried mushrooms you can get in a marvellous herb sauce which a served with a slice of thick white bread to soak up the juices, no idea what they put in those massive frying pans in which they cook the mushrooms in but oh my god are they the best in-between snack known to man kind and a must try for anyone once you have spotted a vendor serving it!


PLUS WHAT ELSE TO DO:

While we spent a good portion of the trip exploring the different markets, we did find time to visit some other Dusseldorf favourites of mine that are great all year round and definitely worth checking out for any visitor. Here are my go-to’s:


THE BEST COFFEE IN TOWN @ CØFFE
Cøffe, hipster coffee spot in a converted old school wood panelled pharmacy, is right by the lively covered Carlsplatz food market and serves the best coffee in town. If the weather allows perch outside on one of their benches and watch the world go by while sipping on a first rate cappuchino plus they take card - what else do you want!


FOOD TO WOW @ MÜNSTERMANN KONTOR

I’ve written about Münstermann Kontor many, many times on the blog and it is for me still hands down the best restaurant in Dusseldorf. The seasonally changing menu is absolutely world class (the Michelin guide thinks the same) yet affordable and its buzzy bistro setting makes it an utter delight to dine here. Make sure you book ahead as this gets rammed every day, no matter the day and rightly so. I am yet to have a dinner here that didn’t utterly wow me.


AN INTIMIDATE DINNER @ EM BRASS
If you after a dinner in an intimate and romantic setting that almost feels like you are dining at your friend’s house (if your friend is a very talented chef) Em Brass is your spot. A 15-minute walk from the centre, Em Brass is everything a neighbourhood bistro should be like and we adored our Saturday dinner here. The dining room is cosy, you sit on high stools, the lighting is low and you will get to know your fellow diners inevitably and that is a good thing. The menu is short, modern European and well-priced and I adored my seared tuna steak with truffle risotto and grilled aubergine while Maddie’s truffle pasta was all sorts of stunning. I wish there was more spots like Em Brass in London where fine cooking is affordable and served up in a vibrant environment where you can easily spent an entire evening chatting and drinking wine. Reservations are once again essential here so call ahead and bring cash as they don’t take card!


TRUFFLE FRIES TO DIE FOR @ WILMA WUNDER

Wilma Wunder is an all-day dining spot by the main shopping mile that does brunch, dinner and everything in-between but if you come for one thing try the truffle fries - perfectly cooked fries, topped with truffle oil and parmesan and served with the best truffle mayo I have ever had. Even better it comes in a huge portion, perfect to share between 2 and is only €5.50 at that, offering us the perfect afternoon pick up alongside a glass of their super affordable and yummy German wines.


EXPLORING THE LOVELY FOOD MARKET @ CARLSPLATZ


Carlsplatz, a permanent covered food market, is open every day apart from Sunday but is especially buzzing on a Saturday when several delis and wine sellers within the market offer fine German wines by the glass and everyone is making the most of the amazing array of food on offer. Perfect for an afternoon stroll and to admire the beautiful German produce I miss so much in the UK!


STOCK UP ON GERMAN DELICACIES @ EDEKA-ZURHEIDE

Checking out a local supermarket when abroad is a TOTAL must for me and if you do it you may as well go to the best one in town! A 5-minute walk from Konigsallee this super fancy supermarket has clearly been modelled on Wholefoods and has literally everything heart could desire! Over two huge floors you’ll find a huge range of chocolates, sweets, wines, a whole organic section, several delis and much, much more. A must visit while in Düsseldorf and make sure you leave yourself enough time to explore each isle (plus enough suitcase space to bring things back with you!)

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

PINK + RED STRIPES


Jumper + Trousers / Resume Copenhagen

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

LEEKS & GREENS LASAGNE




With temperatures dropping and it finally feeling like winter outside I am all about the comfort food when it comes to cooking! Easy to make dishes that make you feel like you are on the receiving end of a loving hug and warm you up from the inside in no time. Good thing then that I had much needed cooking session with my friend Charlotte last Saturday and was able to make the most of her big and well-equipped kitchen to rustle up this little number!

An oven pasta bake of some sort is always a great solution when catering for a larger crowd as you can pre-assemble everything then simply chuck it in the oven when needed and when baked are able to easily serve it all up without lots of pots and pans needing to be washed up afterwards.

I already have some great oven pasta bakes that are part of my regular cooking repertoire. Of course, there is my iconic (and I say so knowing that it is damn amazing as verified by just about every friend of mine) fig, rosemary and blue cheese Mac n cheese which I revisit every winter and which never fails to wow and there is also my rather lovely, though slightly time consuming, roasted vegetable lasagna with garlic and spinach ricotta.

However, I am always on the look out for new and exciting dishes to rustle up and couldn’t help but be intrigued when I stumbled across this leeks and greens lasagna recipe on Pinterest. I adore leeks, particularly oven roasted, and they really work a treat here as hero ingredient. Assembling everything doesn’t take too long and I loved the hint of chilli and garlic that cut through the creamy Bechamel sauce while the ricotta, dotted through every layer added a lovely slightly grainy texture. 

A total crowdpleaser I am sure to make again this winter, and even more fun to make and eat when in the company of a fabulous friend like Charlotte with a glass of white wine in hand!


Serves 3-4

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for the tin
  • 50g butter
  • A few fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • 3 leeks - 1 finely sliced and 2 cut into medium slices
  • 40g plain flour
  • 500ml milk
  • Fresh nutmeg, for grating
  • 100g cheddar, grated
  • 30g parmesan, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ green chilli, sliced
  • 400g mixed green leaves, such as kale, chard and spinach, roughly chopped - I would recommend kale!
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 100g walnuts
  • 280g jar preserved artichoke hearts in oil, drained
  • 100g ricotta
  • 6 dried lasagne sheets

METHOD
  • Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/ gas 6. 
  • Heat 1 tbsp oil with the butter over a medium heat. Add the bay leaf, rosemary and finely sliced leek, season and cook for a few mins until the leek has softened.
  • Add the flour and cook for 1 minute more until the roux smells nutty. Take off the heat, slowly pour in the milk and whisk out any lumps
  • Return to the heat and whisk slowly until thick and smooth, about 5 mins. Season well with grated nutmeg, then add 3/4 of the cheddar and parmesan, cooking until they are melted. Set aside.
  • In another pan, heat 2 tbsp oil over a medium heat and fry the garlic and chilli for a couple of mins until aromatic. 
  • Add the rest of the leeks, season and fry until softened, then add the mixed greens and season a little more. 
  • Cook, stirring, until the greens have wilted, about 4 mins, then pour in the wine and cook until it evaporates.
  • Oil a medium roasting tin (about 20cm square) and tip half the greens into the tin. Dot half the walnuts over the top, and nestle in a third of the artichoke hearts. Dot over half the ricotta. 
  • Remove the bay leaf from the leek bechamel and pour over a third of it. 
  • Top with three lasagne sheets to cover everything in a at layer. 
  • Repeat the process, then cover the top layer of lasagne sheets with the remaining bechamel and artichokes and scatter over the remaining cheese.
  • Bake in the oven for 30-40 mins, until golden and bubbling. Rest for 10 mins, then enjoy!

Monday, 18 November 2019

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

WHITE CHOCOLATE BIRTHDAY CAKE BATTER FUDGE


This is another super easy 'make ahead' type of dessert that you can whip up in a matter of minutes and which is sure to impress anyone that samples it!

All ingredients are readily available but the end result doesn’t only look super cute, I mean what doesn’t with added sprinkles, but tastes amazing, literally like a heavenly, fudgy white chocolate birthday cake concoction.

Make sure to make this the night before so it has plenty of time to set and use decent quality white chocolate to stop it from being too sickly. I served this as a dessert for one of my Friday night dinner (although I was nibbling on the rests all weekend afterwards) but this would also make a great gift if packaged up nicely!

One for sure to be added to my ever growing sweet tooth pleasing recipe repertoire.

INGREDIENTS
  • 100g birthday cake mix powder (I used this Betty Crocker one I found at Waitrose)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 250g white chocolate, broken up into pieces
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • A bag of coloured sprinkles to be distributed on top!

METHOD
  • Line a 7-8 inch square baking dish with aluminium foil or parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Put a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add sweetened condensed milk, butter, white chocolate and stir until smooth.
  • Add white cake mix and vanilla extract. Whisk slowly for a minute or two until it starts to bubble, and then remove from heat.
  • Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
  • While still warm, add sprinkles across the top and press them lightly into the surface.
  • Refrigerate overnight to firm up.
  • Using a rigid spatula, loosen the fudge from the edge of the pan, cut pieces and lift out for serving. Enjoy!

Friday, 8 November 2019

STATEMENT JUMPER


Jumper / Stylenanda
Shorts / Gudrun Sjoden
Boots / Mango