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Homemade Jelly | Raspberry, Vanilla, Chardonnay

Fresh Raspberry & Chardonnay Jelly

All kids love jelly. It’s the wobble-factor mainly, but also the bright colours, the cool, slippery mouthfuls, and the sucking sound it makes as your spoon liberates your next bite. When I was a kid (probably, when all of us were kids) jelly only came from packets of dry crystals in little boxes. It was a wondrous thing to watch the pale, lumpy contents become bowls of brilliantly coloured, jewel-like desserts simply with the addition of hot water. There was always a touch of magic to the fruity fragrance that rose with the steam and the transformation of shimmering liquid into wobbling solid. The thought of all of those colour additives makes my adult self cringe, but as a kid, a bowl of cold red jelly with vanilla ice cream was pretty close to the perfect pudding.

When I was about 10 or 11, a craze for jelly crystals swept through the school. We would bring packets of Gregg’s jelly to school, pour a mound of dry crystals onto our palms and slowly lick them clean with the tips of our tongues. We did the same thing with packets of powdered orange juice, ending up jittery from all the sugar, with teeth dyed bright orange, red or purple. I don’t have a good explanation for this, except that I was a kid and kids can be disgusting!

Raspberry Chardonnay Jelly and pink flowering begonias

Chardonnay Jelly with fresh raspberries has a finesse that Gregg’s simply can’t match, but the the pleasure of each cool, sweet spoonful is very much the same. This is Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Slut-Red Raspberries in Chardonnay Jelly, but despite this hilarious name, when I’m eating it sluttiness couldn’t be further from my mind. The jelly is tinged a delicate salmon colour, the raspberries float like bobbing apples, and the whole thing tastes floral, fruity and frivolous. I don’t really know what Nigella was thinking, but it’s not the slightest bit bold or trashy. It’s a pudding to be eaten by ladies in the garden on a warm summer day, not mini-skirted wantons with smeared lipstick. I just had to lose the “Slut” and besides, it doesn’t really go with my stories of childhood innocence.

But…I first made this dessert because of a slut, there is that. Our book club had read Louise Doughty’s Apple Tree Yard and met for lunch at the beautiful country property owned by one of our members. Given that the book was set in London, we tried to make dishes with some sort of British influence (Beef Wellington, Eton Mess and so on). My point of reference was the main character who embarks on an exciting affair, so the pudding was a tongue in cheek nod to what I expected to be a  sort of sophisticated Mills & Boon. However, the book turned out to be dark and violent, which was completely at odds with my light, fragrant jelly. I’m thankful that the slutty name attracted my interest in the first place, but despite the wine-soaked berries, this pudding is more virgin than whore.

However you choose to take your Raspberries and Chardonnay Jelly (with a side of titillation or not) it’s a fantastic recipe and a real crowd pleaser. You need to make it ahead, or even the day before, so it’s perfect for a party or event when it’s helpful to have pudding sorted and stashed away. Nigella recommends eating it with double cream, but I prefer the slight tang of full-fat Greek yoghurt. Vanilla ice cream would also be fantastic, and a return (of sorts) to the red jelly and ice cream of my childhood (but now with alcohol).

Raspberry Chardonnay Jelly and back lit red hibiscus

Sunrise coloured roses in the setting sun

Rural Sunshine Coast, Queensland Australia

Garden views and the setting sun

Sun and shadow, Sunshine Coast hinterland October 2016

Beautiful Queensland verandah

Fresh Raspberry & Chardonnay Jelly

Fresh Raspberries in Chardonnay Jelly

Slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson Forever Summer

1 bottle (750ml) fruity chardonnay
300g raspberries
1 tsp vanilla extract
16g gelatine leaves
225g caster sugar
To serve: Greek yoghurt, cream or vanilla ice cream

Check the raspberries for debris and then place in a large bowl and pour over the entire bottle of wine. Alternatively, if your raspberries need washing, immerse them gently in a bowl of water, and then remove to paper towels to drain. When they have air dried, place in a large bowl and add the wine. Either way, allow the berries to steep in the wine for 30 minutes.

Carefully strain the wine through a sieve into a medium saucepan. Transfer the raspberries to a bowl and place in the fridge. Heat the wine over a medium heat. While the wine is heating, soak the gelatine leave in cold water for about five minutes, after which drain off the water and gently squeeze any excess liquid from the gelatine.

When the wine comes to a boil allow it to boil for a minute to enable the alcohol to evaporate. Switch off the heat and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Add the vanilla extract. Add one third of the hot wine to the wrung-out gelatine leaves in a measuring jug and stir to dissolve, then add this mixture back into the rest of the wine and stir well. Strain through a fine sieve (to ensure that no lumps of gelatine remain) into a large jug. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, otherwise the heat may crack your delicate serving bowls or glassware.

Divide the raspberries into six wine glasses or small serving bowls, or place all of the raspberries into a large glass bowl. Pour the cooled wine over the top. Transfer the dishes to the fridge and allow to set for several hours. The setting time will depend on the temperature of your fridge. Mine usually take about six hours to fully set so it’s easiest to make it the day before I want to serve it.

Remove the jellies from the fridge about 15 minutes before you would like to serve them. This softens the jelly very slightly, making each bite more unctuous. Serve with double cream, full-fat Greek yoghurt or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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Wednesday Night Chicken Tikka

Quick and easy Baked Chicken Tikka with Spiced Sweet Potato and Cauliflower

As much as I love to cook, I hate to cook every night of the week. Some nights I’m too cranky or tired or distracted to cook. We’ve all been there. We all know we should peel ourselves off the couch, get off our phones and do something with the vegetables slowly wilting in the fridge. Some nights we do just that, making ourselves feel like accomplished and mature human beings. Other nights we scoff a handful of roasted peanuts, pop some bread in the toaster, or stand at the fridge spooning leftover raspberry jelly straight from the bowl. It’s not classy, but that’s real life.

Quick and easy Baked Chicken Tikka with Spiced Sweet Potato and Cauliflower

I’m terrible at meal-planning. When I do cook mid-week it goes something like this: peer into the fridge, see what vegetables need using up, try to identify some sort of relevant (and available, i.e. not frozen) protein, steam/roast/stir-fry together and try to get it on my plate within 30 minutes and provide enough leftovers to eat at work the next day. Inevitably, I churn out a million variations on the same 10 basic recipes that I’ve been cooking for years. This is 100% OK because it’s generally tasty, healthy, thrifty and efficient, which is exactly what I want in my mid-week meals. But…it can also be a little boring.

Quick and easy Baked Chicken Tikka with Spiced Sweet Potato and Cauliflower

I blame my reduced wine consumption for this situation. Pouring a glass of red used to be my signal to get creative in the kitchen nearly every night. Like Pavlov’s dog, that first sip of elixir got my juices flowing and I would haul out a recipe book. I used to sip and chop and sip some more, churning out roast chicken, complicated curries and beef stew – mid-week! I thought nothing of eating at 9pm or later. I can hardly comprehend that now.

Quick and easy Baked Chicken Tikka with Spiced Sweet Potato and Cauliflower

I’m telling you all of this so that you understand that this recipe – Oven-Roasted Chicken Tikka with Sweet Potatoes & Cauliflower – is completely achievable in anyone’s mid-week life. I have a pretty well-stocked spice rack, so the only pre-planning that I had to do was to add fresh green chilli to the weekly shopping list and remember to get the chicken breasts out of the freezer the night before. I admit that it does look like a long list of ingredients, but the recipe is very forgiving. If you’re missing two or three of the spices, then just leave them out and maybe bump up the ones you do have a little. Same with the vegetables – replace what I’ve suggested with whatever you have that is suitable for roasting. Ignore the optional finishings if you don’t have the time or inclination. This recipe might be a long way from traditional Chicken Tikka Masala, but it’s a reinterpretation that works for my schedule.

Quick and easy Baked Chicken Tikka with Spiced Sweet Potato and Cauliflower

The most time-consuming part is preparing the ginger and garlic. You can chop these finely before mixing with the spices, but I find that it is quicker to bash them about in a mortar and pestle (and I’m sure that this improves the flavour too). Once you’ve coated the chicken with the yoghurt and spices, set them aside while you prepare the vegetables, then throw it all on a baking tray and roast until cooked. The resulting meal is so colourful and tasty that you will make yourself proud. Aaaaand if you should happen to find yourself pouring cereal into a bowl tomorrow night, well, at least you can comfort yourself with the memory of that time you achieved mid-week Chicken Tikka (without the aid of wine, no less).

Oven-Roasted Chicken Tikka with Sweet Potatoes & Cauliflower

Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the chicken:
2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
4 cloves of garlic
1 fresh green chilli, sliced
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground chilli powder
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup yogurt
4 chicken breasts or the equivalent weight of chicken thighs or drumsticks

For the vegetables:
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
1 small or half a large head cauliflower, cut into 2cm-wide florets
1 red capsicum, seeded and cut into 2cm-wide chunks
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/4 tsp salt

To finish (optional):
A few thin slices of red onion
1 lemon
Pinch of salt
Roughly chopped parsley or coriander
Yoghurt

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the ginger, garlic and fresh chilli with the salt, sugar and ground spices until the mixture becomes a smooth paste. Transfer the paste to a medium bowl and stir in the yoghurt. Add the chicken breasts or pieces and coat the chicken with the thick paste. Cover and leave to marinate for 15 minutes, or (in the fridge) up to one day.

Remove the chicken from the fridge about 30 minutes before you wish to cook it so that it comes to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F. Line a large baking tray with aluminium foil and coat with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil. Prepare the sweet potatoes, capsicum, cauliflower, salt, cumin seeds and mustard seeds and add them to the pan along with the remaining 2 Tbsp oil. Toss together until the vegetables are evenly coated with oil and spices.

Remove the chicken from the bowl and nestle the pieces between the vegetables. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, then toss the vegetables to ensure they are cooking evenly. Return the tray to the oven for 10-20 minutes more (i.e. 30-40 minutes total roasting time), until the chicken and vegetables are cooked.

While the dish bakes, prepare some lightly pickled onion by placing the slices of onion in a small bowl. Sprinkle with a little salt and the juice of half a lemon. Ensure that all of the onion is coated in the salty lemon and set aside to cure. When the chicken and vegetables are cooked, top with the pickled onion rings and chopped fresh parsley. Eat with yoghurt and a spritz of lemon.

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Travel Journal | Buenos Aires, Argentina

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

After an intense few days in Santiago we were feeling like confident, seasoned travellers again; a feeling that dissolved as we boarded our flight to Buenos Aires. We were among the last to enter the plane and discovered that the overhead lockers were already full, and since we were seated in the exit aisle, we couldn’t put our bags under the seat in front of us. Three flight attendants gathered, unintelligible Spanish/English/Sign language erupted, and then Colin’s backpack was whisked away to the rear of the aircraft while mine was carried clean off the plane. Once we had digested this, we realised with horror that Colin had a large wad of Argentinean pesos in his bag and my camera gear was in mine! Neither bag was locked, and worse, the airline we were travelling with didn’t have a good reputation for security…it was an anxious flight.

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

Fortunately we were soon reunited with our intact bags, processed through customs and were in Argentina. After a long and slightly concerning taxi ride into the city (thanks to the heavy foot of our yawning driver) we arrived in San Telmo and drove down a series of narrow cobblestone streets to our hotel. We had elected to spoil ourselves in Buenos Aires and had booked a beautifully restored boutique hotel with only 11 rooms. The French owner came out to greet us and carried our bags into a tiny lobby where we sat on ornate chairs, filled out a complicated check-in form by hand, and discussed our plans for seeing the city. We were escorted to our lovely split-level room, with a giant bed, courtyard view and a powerful bidet (that turned out to be uncomfortably brutal).

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

After relaxing in our room for a while, we headed out to eat. As usual, our stomachs wanted dinner long before most restaurants were serving it but we found a place not far from the hotel with cheap food, cheap drinks and a free table by the window. We ordered a bottle of wine and spent the next couple of hours chatting to our waiter, Pablo, about his first love (heavy metal) and second love (the ladies), and another couple at the next table who were also on their first visit to South America. It was Monday night and the streets were quiet, so after a shot of tequila to celebrate our arrival, we headed home to watch Argentinean soap operas and get an early night.

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

The next morning we ate fruit and cereal at the hotel and then left in search of a proper breakfast, which for us means eggs. While tramping the lovely streets of San Telmo in vain (it turns out that cafe breakfasts aren’t really a thing over there), we turned a corner and bumped into Pablo, our grinning and deeply-dimpled waiter from the night before, accompanied by an American tourist whom he introduced as “his princess”. After sharing contact details and arranging to meet up in La Boca the next day, we continued walking, wandered into antique stores, and finally, gratefully, found a cafe that offered huevos (eggs).

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

We had booked a tour of the local street art for the afternoon but had plenty of time to wander along the bustling city streets, admiring the jumble of European architecture and classical sculptures amidst all the trappings of modernity: billboards, chainstores and flashing lights. The people appeared more cosmopolitan than in Santiago, which in contrast seemed quite monocultural. Soon we were in Plaza de Mayo, where a number of historic sites are located including the Presidential Palace, Casa Gobierno, and the main Catedral Metropolitana, where we chanced upon mass attended by hundreds of people. A bit later we successfully negotiated the subway, and headed west of the city to Colegiales where our tour began (I’ll share photos in another post). That first long day ended in a small cafe with chicken empanadas and another bottle of wine, because it was always cheaper to buy a full bottle than two glasses (so, what else can you do?).

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

The next day we taxied to Caminito in the centre of La Boca, where we met up with Pablo who was working at a restaurant there. La Boca is situated at the mouth of the Riachuelo river and it used to be dominated by shipyards. It’s a rough area of the city and we were explicitly warned by our taxi drivers – both there and back – not to leave Caminito and never to stay after dark. Caminito itself was regenerated in the 1960s by a local artist, and it is a colourful, lively area. Yes there are tacky souvenir shops everywhere and the food is over-priced and underwhelming, but the colour and live tango shows gave it an air of pantomime. I discovered that I have a terrible tango face:

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

As we entered the restaurant we were invited to have our photo taken with a man wearing a football jersey and clutching a huge trophy. I had no idea what was going on and who he was supposed to be, but it turned out to be Diego Maradona, the world-famous Argentinean football star. Diego (who was actually an impersonator) was accompanied by a heavy man with a distinctly gangster-like presence, who took the photos and our payment, then sat at the table opposite us, periodically grunting to get our attention and lifting his shirt to reveal the tattoos and scars that decorated his large, hairy belly. Not the greatest lunchtime view, it has to be said, but it added a note of wacky to the air of tacky that already infused Caminito. Later, as we walked to the taxi rank, we spotted him sitting on a rickety chair, virtually in the middle of the street, surveying his patch like the godfather on his padded throne.

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

Buenos Aires is a huge city and there is so much to see and do. We resisted the temptation to over-schedule and did a fair amount of wandering and soaking up the atmosphere. One of the most memorable experiences was our night at Thelonious Club, an atmospheric jazz club where we saw an seven-piece band perform. The club itself only seats about 80 people, and even then we were crammed in, seated at a tiny table in the dim light, next to a couple passionately making out as waitresses rushed to serve each table before the show began. And what a show it was – each player was seriously talented, from the elderly pianist, to the dreadlocked clarinet and saxophonist, the blind trombonist and elegant cellist. All seven looked to be having the night of their lives as they cracked jokes, interacted with the audience and poured every ounce of energy into their music. The crowd went wild. It was an unforgettable experience.

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

Another memorable day was spent in posh Recoleta visiting the cemetery where Eva Perón is buried amidst the mausoleums of BA’s most distinguished residents. Far from being morbid, the cemetery is elegantly laid out like a miniature city, with stone paths between the tightly packed crypts. Many of the crypts are beautifully designed, complete with stained glass windows, wrought-iron metal work and carved stone statues. Maintenance is the responsibility of families, and while most tombs are in good condition, many are crumbling, rusty and growing weeds. Given Perón’s popular status in Argentina, her burial chamber turned out to be distinctly modest next to the elaborate, towering structures of her neighbours.

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

BA was a fascinating city and we only had time to scratch the surface. Like all big cities, it was a mass of contradictions. Wealth, sophistication, culture and art squashed up against people combing rubbish bins at night, blind beggars on the subway and streets spattered with dog shit. On our last night there we tramped through the streets of Retiro looking for a camera store to replace my corrupted memory card. It was dark and raining and the streets were thronged with people. Every few metres men called out “cambio, cambio”, offering to exchange our money, a crowd surrounded a man whose face streamed with blood and the air was charged with tension. We lost our bearings, couldn’t find our hotel, and then suddenly we were in the bright hotel reception. The hilarious manager upgraded us to a larger room because he didn’t want Colin to “feel nervous” in a small bed, and then we changed out of our wet clothes and sped off to a glitzy tango and dinner show in Puerto Madero. Buenos Aires was chaos from start to finish in a million unexpected ways. I’m so grateful to have experienced its vibrant energy, even if only for a few days.

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

A few travel tips for those headed to Buenos Aires:

  • The metro (subway) is easy to navigate and a great way to cheaply get around the city. Buy a Sube card from a kiosco (convenience store) or a single ticket at the boletería (ticket office). Taxis are everywhere and are generally reliable and trustworthy.
  • BA has some wonderful art galleries. My favourite was the Amalia Lacroze gallery, a private art collection in Puerto Madero where we saw a stunning Turner, Juliet & Her Nurse (1836). We also enjoyed the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Recoleta.
  • Argentinean barbecue really is as good as they say. Our most memorable meal (at Cafe La Poesia in San Telmo) was chargrilled steak served with hollandaise and capers, washed down with Malbec. We followed this with a dessert of crepes filled with dulche de leche (another Argentinean speciality) and vanilla ice-cream – the kind of dessert that stops all conversation.
  • Like Santiago, free wifi is everywhere – just ask for the password wherever you happen to be. Unlike Santiago, most people speak at least a little English, so it was easier to get around.
  • We stayed at the lovely San Telmo Luxury Suites for four nights, and shifted to Bisonte  Palace, a large hotel in Retiro for our last night because of its proximity to the domestic airport, Aeroparque Jorge Newbery.

Five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina - South America Travel Journal

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New best granola | Buckwheat, Apricot, Coconut

New best granola - Buckwheat, Apricot and Coconut - gluten-free

If you’re finding it difficult to get excited about another granola recipe on the internet, well, I understand. I’m not offended. There are a limited number of ways to jazz up the same basic ingredients (oats, nuts, dried fruit) but this hasn’t stopped every single food blogger in the world from posting a thousand variations on a single, repetitive theme. You would be forgiven for thinking that granola has been done to death, for rolling your eyes and deleting or scrolling past this post. And yet…you’d be missing out if you did.

New best granola - Buckwheat, Apricot and Coconut - gluten-free

This granola is so good that everyone who has tried it, loves it. I’m guilty of eating it for dinner more times than I would like to admit. This is pretty exciting for granola!

New best granola - Buckwheat, Apricot and Coconut - gluten-free

New best granola - Buckwheat, Apricot and Coconut - gluten-free

The recipe comes via Amy Chaplin, who can be relied on for creative takes on old favourites; veganised and healthified (but don’t let that put you off), and always tasting good. The granola has the familiar base of rolled oats, but it is joined by buckwheat groats that have been soaked overnight to make them more digestible. Buckwheat might not be the most appealing grain when consumed alone, but here it adds a background nuttiness and satisfying crunch to an already flavoursome mix. It’s also supposed to be spectacularly high in protein, fibre and minerals, but I like to think of that as a bonus rather than the point of the whole thing.

New best granola - Buckwheat, Apricot and Coconut - gluten-free

My new best granola took four rounds of adjustment before it became perfect in my eyes. Amy uses dehydrated strawberries in her version, which didn’t appeal to me and I eventually settled on a combination of dried apricots and sultanas to provide the sweet chewability that’s essential to a good granola. I wanted to adapt it to fit what I tend to have at home, so I also replaced Amy’s flaxseed with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and coconut syrup for maple. I successfully made the granola with shredded rather than flaked coconut, but if you can get flakes then follow Amy’s lead: their toasty crunchiness tops off the textural experience.

New best granola - Buckwheat, Apricot and Coconut - gluten-free

My new best granola, with buckwheat, coconut and apricot, definitely has the edge on my old best granola, with orange and pistachio. That one is still a winner for its spicy, wintery flavours, but this new recipe manages to be both bright and comforting. It’s lighter, less sweet and the cardamom provides an exotic background fragrance. I like it served with fresh kiwifruit or sliced pear, along with Greek yoghurt and a little milk. It’s simply, perfect.

New best granola - Buckwheat, Apricot and Coconut - gluten-free

Buckwheat Granola with Apricots & Coconut

  • Servings: makes about 8 cups
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Adapted from Amy Chaplin

1 cup raw buckwheat groats, soaked overnight in plenty of filtered water
2 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 1/2 cups dried unsweetened flaked coconut
2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
1/3 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried  apricots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sultanas, raisins or currants

Drain and rinse the buckwheat thoroughly. Spread out on tray over a clean tea towel to dry for several hours. You can speed this up by placing the tray in the sun.

Pre-heat the oven to 175° C / 350 °F and line a large, rimmed baking tray with baking paper.

In a medium bowl combine the rolled oats, coconut, pumpkin seeds (pepitas), chopped pistachios, salt, cardamom and dried buckwheat. Toss thoroughly to combine. Whisk together the melted coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir until everything is lightly slicked.

Transfer the mixture to the baking tray and spread out to an even layer. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Stir the granola and place back in the oven for 8 minutes. Stir again and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the colour is golden. You may wish to stir and bake the granola for another few minutes if the colour is not as deep as you would like, just take care that the coconut doesn’t burn.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Add the chopped apricots and sultanas or currants and mix through. The granola keeps well in an airtight jar for up to 6 weeks. Serve with yoghurt and fresh fruit – kiwifruit and pear both work beautifully.

Filed under: Eat