Pretzel Rolls and Flashback Friday: London Calling

First off, it was really interesting reading about how you feel about blog traffic and popularity yesterday! I’m glad I touched on a rather taboo subject!

But on to different things.

Its flashback Friday! In case you guys haven’t noticed, my last few flashback Fridays have been about my travels. Having family located all over the world BUT the US makes me rather worldly I guess!

You may remember my trips to Belgium (where my grandmother lives and where my father is from), but usually, with every trip I’ve taken to Belgium there has always been a trip to London. There are a few reasons for this:

a) There are no direct flights to Belgium from Los Angeles, and London is a mere 35 min plane ride to Brussels.I arrive to London in class, with my Belgian passport and a pink suitcase, naturally...
b) I have few remaining family members on my dad’s side (Jews in europe in the 1940’s didn’t last long), and my great aunt lives in London! She’s actually been like a grandmother to me, so lets just call her Gram 2 (like Audrey 2 from Little Shop of Horrors, only she doesn’t consume people).

Gram 2 and yours truly near Victoria Station

Anyhow, I’ve been to Belgium almost every year of my life….times two! Hence that means many trips to London and hence London feels like a second home.
Sure, London’s got some “dodgy” things about it. But I know I have some London readers so I’m not gonna put myself into the British lion’s den and risk getting my blog head decappitated. Plus, who wants to hear negative things? Anyhow, here are some of my favorite things about London!

Shopping: I’m not a “shopper”. I rarely buy any apparel or shoes throughout the year. The one exception is London. I suppose I like the fact that Los Angeles does not have many of the same stores. I hate it that I go to urban outfitters and get a dress only to find out that twenty people in the street have the same one. Also, they have a plethora of cool vintage shops that I love! And in addition to that, I usually find things that actually fit me! Being short, most things are way too long. But most of the pants in Europe go be length and waist size.

ahh yes, love me some topshop

Food: Most people dont think of England as having high end, quality food. Aside from that fact that there are many outstanding gourmet restaurants, I’m actually a sucker for that traditional pub food. I love me some shepherd’s  pie, bangers and mash, mushy peas, fish n’ chip, and beans on toast. I even like their chocolate bars like “Crunchie” and “Aero” (which you can also get in Canada!). Its not exactly health food, but I can eat salads all the time in California where the produce is above par. So I like to burry my face in traditional English food while I’m there. Besides pub food, did I mention the Indian food in London is the best I’ve ever had? I swear, London can often feel like a little U.N.

Book Stores: I love book stores. And I don’t know about where you live, but lately, many bookstores have been closing down in and around L.A. (I blame the Nook and Kindle). But there are lots of great bookstores in London. They seem to have bookshops like they L.A. has Starbucks or a frozen yogurt shop. Plus, they have lots of trashy British novels that don’t make it to the states. They are one of my guilty pleasures. I feel like the Brits are more “lit-loving” and hence one of my favorite things to do while I’m in London is getting lost in a bookshop.

Marks and Spencer: Its like a cleaner, chicer, and bigger British equivalent to Trader Joe’s. Plus, they sell super comfy socks and underwear! Its like a one-stop shop! But if you think its like Target or Wal-Mart, you are severely mistaken! Imagine if the Gap sold food thats gourmet and healthy. Its kind of like that and I can’t get enough of it while I’m in London! M & S is truly a huge part of my life. I wore only M&S clothing until I was about twelve. Dont ask me why, but my mom and dad thought it was better and my grandmother only went there to get me birthday gifts.

“The Tube”: In a city as big and confusing (at least for American’s anyhow with everyone driving on the “wrong” side) as London, the tube is a little safe haven. Its one of my favorite places to people watch. Yes, it can get crowded, hot (and sticky in the summers) and noisy and they have their fare share of crazies camping out there, but I love it more than the NYC subway (and I’ve lived in Manhattan so I KNOW the subway).  I find it practically impossible to get lost on the tube and I’ve never lived in London, just visited, A LOT. Plus, I find the seats more plush than any sort of public transport I’ve been on (not that its a major perk, but still….)

Do you call a city you’ve never actually lived in “Home”? I’ve lived in New York and Santa Barbara, but I still dont find them as “homey” as London. Do you also wonder why Brtish singers dont have accents when they sing?

despite the awful weather, I manage to get around town when I'm there. I look like a beautiful unabomber in my hoodie, no?

I know this would be a good post for a recipe like my shepperd’s pie or beans on toast, but I made some pretty damn awesome pretzel rolls that I just HAVE to brag about (once you make them, you’ll know why):

2 tbs brown sugar
1 1/2 c. warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 packet of yeast
2 1/4 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c baking soda
4 1/2 c.  flour (I did half whole wheat, half all purpose)
large saucepan with boiling water
1 tbsp. cold water
Coarse or kosher salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the warm water, sugar and the yeast and let rest 10 minutes until foamy.Add the, flour, salt, and melted butter;  mix with the dough hook until thoroughly combined and roll into a nice ball and put it in a greased bowl. Cover with a slightly damp towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. It will get big! Punch down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Cut the dough into about 15 pieces. To shape the rolls, take a piece of dough and start forming a round, smooth ball by pulling the sides to the center and pinching to seal. Place, pinched side down, on a counter and lightly cupping your hand around the dough ball, rotate your hand in small circles lightly rolling the ball around the palm of your hand. Place on baking sheet pinched seam side down at least 1” between each roll. Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to a low boil. Add the baking soda and lower heat to a simmer. Put the rolls into the poaching liquid, seam side down. Poach for 30 seconds then carefully turn the roll over in the liquid. Poach other side for 30 seconds then remove with a slotted spoon to the sheet pan, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining rolls.Top each roll with a sprinkle of kosher salt. With a sharp straight edged knife, cut a slash or “X” in the top of each roll. Don’t ask me why an “X”. Maybe we’ll find tresure in there or something….Anyhow, bake the rolls in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Go ahead, try to restrain yourself from eating more than one!

30 thoughts on “Pretzel Rolls and Flashback Friday: London Calling

  1. Love the flashback pics! And it surprises me you dont consider yourself a shopper!

    I just read your last post/blog popularity and the comments. Very interesting and thanks for having the kahunas to put it out there!

    Shiny. I loved that. There are some blogs that are “big” and I think their opinions are wishy washy or not really what i agree with. They can’t cook. And their pics are meh. WHY?? are they popular? I dont know. But they sure are shiny. God that is a perfect analogy!

    • Meh, I like food shopping, but shopping kind of make me impatient and I can never find things that fit right or if they do I cant afford them….I dunno and I feel all the stores in LA are all kind of the same!

  2. I had no idea Crunchie and Aero bars were not available in the US, they’re everywhere in Canada!

    I feel most at home in Italy, my father’s country (but no Crunchie or Aero there!)

  3. I’ve read on many an American blog about Trader Joe but had no idea it was the equivalent of good old M&S (fantastic food and fantastic underwear in my opinion!). As the adverts go, “It’s not just food, It’s M&M food”!
    Love your blog by the way 🙂

  4. You make London look so cool! The man and I are actually making the trek later this year (around October-ish) to visit some relatives working there. I would love to get some travel tips or recommendations on restaurants (especially the name of that Indian restaurant you mentioned) or vintage shops! It will be the first time I’ve been overseas and I CANNOT wait!

  5. I am a HUGE shopper- um, at the craft stores and textile shops… nerd alert…
    You’d be so proud, I actually baked something last night (small batch of cookies from a recipe I invented using processed foods… haha) but I did use the oven.

    Anyhoo, I love London and think maybe it’s time I return. If only for the godforsaken Indian food… now I’ve gotten quite hungry! Oh, and I do think everything sounds a bit more interesting with a British accent 🙂

  6. You make London sound so cool! I have a weird relationship with London. Despite agreeing with every single one of your points individually, plus the natural history museum which is the coolest thing ever and I wish someone would lock me inside, I could never like London in its entirety as a city. Well, I still have something like 100 friends living there, who try to change my opinion every single time. Who knows? They might actually do it! 🙂

  7. You know I love London too, being married to a Brit. I love M&S too. And Tesco Superstore. The M&S food section I think is even healthier than TJs. Love Crunchy and Aero and Maltesers and Toffee Crisp and Curly Wurley and Penguins and Mini Rolls. Nah, I’m not really into sugar though 😉

    Love that photo of you with your itty bitty suitcase and your very handsome Dad.

    I love pretzels to the end of the world. I will not make them because they’ll be too tempting. 🙂

  8. Hey Eden, I’d be more than happy to send you a buttload of M&S goodies from this side of the pond if you’re interested. It’s a fair swap as you’ve provided me with so much entertainment and bloggy goodness for such a long time!

  9. I’ve been to London a few times and that is where Brent and I got engaged 12 years ago so it holds a very special place in my heart. If we were to ever have a daughter we’d probably name her Nola London. Oh and Brent and I lived in Santa Barbara when we met on Bath Street! I lived there for three years when I went to college.

    I used to love shopping in LA and Melrose was a dream. I LOVED Wasteland and Jet Rag ( I think that’s what it was called.) Nowadays, I’m just not a big shopper. I still adore vintage clothes but have really been intentionally learning to live with less.

  10. We lived in London my sophomore year of high school and I LOVED it. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to live over there again ever since.

  11. love this post as you know being a Brit have to agree with all you said. got an m&s food shop 10 mins from me and i swear you will find my footprints in the ground!!!
    love the choice of food here and being Indian have to agree too with your mentions on the retaurants. like the fact you talk about good and bad in all plaes but focused on the positive. crunchie bars and double deckers i used to eat 2 of them a day when i was in secondary school (hungry much? good times no thoughts of calories blah)
    have a wonderful day

  12. I’ve been to London but I was only 8 years old so I don’t really remember it. I definitely wasn’t a foodie at the time so I probably ate at McDonalds and called it a day, Marks and Spencer looks like my kind of place!

  13. I studied abroad in London during college (a long ass time ago) and loved being there. I gotta agree with you: the stores there are much better than in L.A. The theatre scene there is awesome and the Indian food to die for. Your pretzel rolls look delicous by the way.

  14. Wow, this makes me desparately want to go to london. I love the sounds of M&S (which I almost just called S&M), but it sounds somewhat like Target to me — on a smaller scale — because I get ALL my clothes at target. I am obsessed with the GO! International line.

  15. That’s so cool that your dad is from Belgium! I went there for two days that turned into nine- my sister lost her passport and we couldn’t leave 🙂 My mom was born in London, so when we were there, we visited her old house. I want to go back!

    What part of Belgium is your dad from? Does he speak French or Flemish?

  16. We went to the Cadbury factory when I lived there… talk about awesome!

    Did you ever go to Thorpe Park?? Or Chessington World of Adventures? Or Lego Land!

  17. Do you have any London tips? I’m going to London next year for study abroad and I’m excited!! I spent the summer in Oxford and definitely spent a considerable amount of time in M&S! Can’t beat the clothing store that merges into a grocery store.

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