Oh, Edinburgh. I knew about the bagpipes. The rain. The Highland cows. I didn’t know about an elf putting stickers on traffic lights or banana skin in a shopping cart.

My First Attempt at British Christmas Cuisine

2020 has been the year of many firsts. Lockdown, self-isolation, furlough… the list is endless....

2020 has been the year of many firsts. Lockdown, self-isolation, furlough… the list is endless. It’s also been my first Christmas away from home since I moved abroad in 2016. I had always been very lucky and managed to get holidays over Christmas and fly to sunny Barcelona. I guess it was something I sort of took for granted. Sometimes I wondered what it would be like to spend Christmas here in the UK, away from my family. It didn’t seem like a good idea. The truth is I’m not crazy about Christmas but I’m not the Grinch either. Christmas equals family time and copious amounts of food.

This year I was hoping to go home, but after two flight cancellations and travel restrictions, I had to stay in Edinburgh. It wasn’t only my first Christmas away from home but also my first attempt at British Christmas cuisine. I killed two birds with one stone, I guess. Having an English boyfriend makes things easier, but it was also his first attempt at cooking Christmas food. It was a challenge for us both.

After we had decided on the menu, we headed to the supermarket. The queue was painfully long and I was scared we wouldn’t be able to find any turkey. Surprisingly, the supermarket was well stocked and we managed to get our hands on everything but cranberry sauce. Sigh.

Our star dish would be a roast turkey crown with orange and home-made gravy, following Mary Berry’s recipe). For those who don’t know her, she’s one of The Great British Bake Off’s judges. It was indeed a hands-on job (pun intended). The first step was quite delicate. We had to carefully loosen the skin to separate it from the meat, making sure not to tear it.

Afterward, we had to smear a mix of butter and thyme leaves all over the meat. I felt like I was giving a very oily massage. Then, the turkey was ready to be stuffed with orange slices all over and transferred into the oven. Every half an hour, we would check on it and sprinkle some port or lemon juice to keep it moist. The result was delicious!

Roast Turkey Crown
Our magnificent beast

A 2Kg turkey was definitely not enough for a Christmas meal. Of course, we had more things up our sleeves: roasted sweet potato and parsnips, pigs in blankets (pork sausages wrapped in bacon), Yorkshire puddings (we didn’t make those from scratch, unfortunately) and gravy.

Yorshire pudding, pigs in blankets, roasted vegetables and roasted turkey with orange Yorkshire pudding is the pastry on the top left

I’ve never been a fan of gravy. I’d tried it on very few occasions but didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. On Christmas Day, we made gravy from scratch. The flavour is very different from those soluble granules you can find at the supermarket! We just had to boil the juices of the turkey, add some flour, soy sauce, the unpronounceable Worcester sauce, port and chicken stock. It was heaven on earth. Well, heaven on turkey, Yorkshire pudding, pigs in blankets and roasted vegetables.

We had been overly optimistic about the amount of food we would be able to cook on Christmas day. Therefore, we had to continue our cooking adventure on Boxing day and on the 27th. What was missing? Stuffing and Brussels sprouts.

I’d always thought Brussels sprouts weren’t my thing. I would always skip past them at the supermarket. I’d always avoided them and to be honest, I can’t even remember if I ever tried them! Apparently, Brussels sprouts are a must in the British Christmas cuisine. I couldn’t avoid them anymore… Luckily, the story had a happy ending. Turns out I do like Brussels sprouts! (The apple sauce helped, but now I feel ready to eat them on their own)

Last but not least, we had to make the stuffing. I was busy in a video call so James made it. It’s something a bit hard to explain, but it’s basically sausage meat combined with old bread, celery, herbs, egg, etc. There are many different versions of this dish. This is the recipe) he used if you’d like to give it a go. It was amazing!

Sausage herb stuffing Yummy stuffing! Special guest appearance: Brussels sprouts (top left)

I almost forgot one last thing: mince pies. I tried them for the first time this Christmas. I’d always been intrigued and slightly confused about their content (some of my expat friends went through the same). Mincemeat. What are we talking about here? Are they savoury? Do they have pork mince inside? Turns out they’re sweet. ‘Mincemeat’ is a code name for dried fruits and spices.

Merry delayed Christmas, everyone!

Have you ever spend Christmas abroad? Did you eat or cook any traditional food from that country? Tell me in the comments. 😉

Rooting for Ginger

I honestly can’t remember when I started rooting for ginger. It was like my brain...

I honestly can’t remember when I started rooting for ginger. It was like my brain had been rewired and now, I just can’t imagine my life without ginger. In the past, I remember noticing pickled ginger while eating out in Japanese restaurants. It never caught my eye. More recently, I started getting into honey, lemon and ginger tea. I loved the freshness and spiciness from ginger combined with the sourness of lemon and balanced with the sweetness of honey. This tea is now my best friend during the cold winter months. However, back then I was unaware of all the other things that ginger had prepared for me.

Lemon ginger tea with some lemon wedges and ginger root on the side


If you’re tired of eating rich tea and digestives, you should give them a try. They’re usually lactose-free which is great for me and the rest of lactose intolerants in the world. Ginger biscuits, nuts or snaps are quite crunchy and Christmasy gingerbread biscuits are soft but they are both an absolute delight.

Ginger Beer

I am fond of the alcoholic Crabbie’s ginger beer), which is produced in Edinburgh. (Proudly supporting local products!) I am not a huge beer drinker and usually stick to lager or light beers. Crabbie’s has brought my beer experience to another level. It’s refreshing and I enjoy every single sip! I’ve just found out there’s a Crabbie’s with raspberry flavour: I’ll keep my eyes peeled for it on my next visit to the supermarket.

Ginger Root

Ginger tea that you buy from the shops can be tasty, but since it’s blended with other ingredients, ginger content is usually around 30% or 40%. If you want to up your game, feel free to add some grated or chopped ginger root into hot water. I usually add some lemon juice and honey. I’m not going to lie: it will be spicy, but it will also be worth it. Shoutout to my friend Tom who introduced me to this drink idea :).

Dark Chocolate Coated Ginger

Unfortunately, I have mixed feelings about these ginger gummies). I bought it last year and was fascinated by the combination of chocolate and ginger. It was so good I couldn’t stop eating. After that binge-eating session, my stomach is very reluctant to ingest that concoction ever again. If you have more self-control or a stronger stomach, nothing is stopping you from trying it, I guess.

Ginger Shot

I bought this one day I was feeling a bit run down and my immune system needed a bit of a boost. I’m guessing you can find many manufacturers of ginger shots in the market. It’s usually fresh-pressed ginger root combined with lemon or apple. I tried the MOJU) one and ladies and gentlemen, I couldn’t handle it. My throat started to burn and was itchy like hell. On MOJU’s website, they describe the shot as “fiery” and “unapologetically strong”. At least they give their potential customers a fair warning ;).

I’m so happy ginger exists. It’s not only delicious but also can help with nausea and vomiting, acts as an antioxidant, can help with seasickness, etc. It’s only a matter of finding the ginger product that matches your spiciness tolerance level. However, ginger might be one of those things that you either love or hate. What side are you on?

Feel free to share your favourite ginger products or recipes in the comments :).

The Unexpected Home I Found in Edinburgh, 1,897 km Away

I’ve been living away from home for almost four years. To be precise, I live...

I’ve been living away from home for almost four years. To be precise, I live 1,897 km away from my hometown (Sabadell, Spain). It would take me at least 358 hours if I attempted to walk there. If I cycled, “only” 108 hours.

It’s funny how when you have lived living abroad for a while, the term ‘home’ gets a whole new meaning. As now Edinburgh is also my home, I usually refer to my hometown as ‘home home’, for some reason. I also use the term ‘back home’, but this often creates misunderstandings.

Brick house surrounded by grass next to a tree
Commendator’s House Museum (Melrose, Scotland)

There are certainly a lot of things that I miss from Sabadell, but today I would like to think about what makes me feel at home here in Edinburgh. Casually running into people I know in the street is one of them.

When I moved to Edinburgh, I didn’t know that would be possible. Edinburgh is a fairly big city but small enough to come across a friend while you’re out shopping.

It might seem like something very trivial. It’s a mere coincidental encounter. Being at the right time at the right place. Am I overthinking it? I don’t believe in coincidences, though. I like to think that everything happens for a reason, even when you can’t pinpoint what it is. Therefore, this magical crossing of paths brings some warmth to my heart. The bliss of the unexpected. The ultimate reassurance that no, you are not alone in what initially was unexplored territory. Now you can finally call it home.

Houses reflected in the water
The Shore (Edinburgh)

Another thing that makes me feel at home is that Scottish people are really friendly. They helped me on countless occasions when I was confused about my bus journey. If you ever take part in a Ceilidh dance, you’ll be able to taste that exquisite friendliness. You’ll probably be clueless and randomly jumping around trying to pretend you know what you’re doing. You’ll most likely bump into someone or who knows, slip and fall. Good news is that it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake, you won’t see any grumpy faces. They will just smile and happily get you back on track.

Last but not least, there’s ham. I know it might sound superficial, but it’s not. One can actually taste a country with their food. I miss eating dry-cured ham that wakes me up at night begging for water. It’s worth it, please take my word. I don’t need the fancy stuff (even though I would happily accept donations of Jamón Ibérico), just a Serrano does the trick. It’s a bit hard to find, but I promise you that it takes the homesickness away. At least for a few minutes.

If you’re living abroad too, what makes you feel at home?

Mind-blowing moments of 2019

Washine-machine safe tissues (Read again. Yes. Funny spelling mistakes) Realising that I’ve been pronouncing the...

  • Washine-machine safe tissues (Read again. Yes. Funny spelling mistakes)
  • Realising that I’ve been pronouncing the word ‘sandwich’ wrong all my life (and feeling comforted by knowing that it’s a common mistake amongst Spanish and Italian speakers)
  • Realising that ‘tanga’ means the same in Catalan and Hungarian
  • Period-proof panties
  • Some buses in Edinburgh finally have separate doors for getting on and off (Respect for the people who shout “THANK YOU” to the driver while exiting through the middle door).
  • Tallest man on earth might not be the tallest, but his guitar skills are highly remarkable
  • A webster is not someone with a high level of computer literacy but someone who weaves cloth

Sun-kissed banana skin

Someone should have warned me about this. I mean, I knew about the bagpipes. The...

Someone should have warned me about this. I mean, I knew about the bagpipes. The rain. The Highland cows. But this? Is it a gift for Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruit and nut trees? A Celtic ritual? A prank? First, it was a banana skin. Then, a handful of grapes. Maybe it’s just a genuine act of goodwill. But hey, whoever left the skin of a banana wasn’t feeling too generous, don’t you think?

The thing is that every time I return the shopping cart after my grocery shopping, I experience an extremely disturbing sensation as if someone was watching me. Even when there is no one around, I still get the same odd feeling. Morning and evening. Weekdays and weekends. Like two sharp knives tickling softly the back of my neck.

I nervously get my 1 pound coin back and I start walking: straight back, shoulders down and chin up. Usually, things fall off my bags and once I almost hit a lamppost. No matter what happens, I don’t stop walking. I have to get away from the supermarket ASAP.

When I start crossing the road, I get goosebumps. And then, that strange beeping in my right ear which lasts 27 minutes on average. As you might be thinking, I’m starting to dread my weekly shopping. And it used to be my favourite thing to do. I would even offer to shop for my friends! I’ve tried shopping in several supermarkets (even in different cities) but nothing seems to work.

Now I can’t help but wonder if I should be leaving some fruit on my cart too. Who knows, perhaps this way my nightmare would end. Maybe a kiwi? Some tangerines? Strawberries? How could I be sure that it would be appropriate? Sweet would be a safer choice than sour, right? I wouldn’t want to offend anyone. Here I am, at 2 am, wondering what fruit I should leave at my cart tomorrow. Without having made a final decision, tomorrow I will go to the supermarket. And the knives will tickle me again and again…

Websters Land: You're Only Allowed If You're Good With Computers

Websters Land: only certain people were allowed there).

Websters Land: only certain people were allowed there).

How to get in

First of all, the requirements were secret and confidential, so if you wanted to join the club, you had to request an appointment and wait to be assessed. There was no way one could prepare for it, as you would do for an audition or exam, and that was part of the deal.

An entrance to a building with a black fence and the title "Websters Land"

Mysterious sights

Looking through the bars, I spotted an intriguing sign: “No items to be left in the walkway or chained to railings”. Was it a minimalist club? Some sort of feng shui gang? Or maybe the assessment took place in the walkway and that’s why it had to be hazard-free and empty. Why would they need so much space in the first place?

Maybe it was all about a fight, a dance or a Twister competition. One could just dream and wonder. It was equally exciting and terrifying. If you signed up for one of the assessment sessions, you would sign a contract agreeing to basically everything. Just between you and me, I’ve applied 99 times in the last month. Much to my surprise, they never got back to me a single time. I’m not entirely sure what might have gone wrong.

Sweet old Websters Land. I guess a decent degree of computer literacy would help pass the test. What else could ‘webster’ mean? It’s surprisingly close to the word ‘hipster’ and ladies and gentlemen, I do not believe in coincidences.

A webster must be someone who is cool with computers. Someone who writes code while making home-made vegan meatballs. Someone trendy. Websters Land is the paradise of IPs, binary code and cookies. And I can’t wait to be part of it. I’ll just need to apply one more time and hope not to land on the SPAM folder.Maybe this time I’ll be able to find out what’s all this about. Or maybe I’ll never will. Maybe it’s all just a big computer-generated dream. Wait, is it 7 am already?!

Disclaimer: webster is an archaic term for ‘weaver’ (someone whose job is to weave cloth). I do not take any responsibility for the confusion created within the human population, linguists and IT professionals.

Keeping the Magic Alive

I know it’s not Christmas yet, but I promise you there is an elf running...

I know it’s not Christmas yet, but I promise you there is an elf running around the streets of Edinburgh. But surprisingly, he is not helping Santa deliver any presents. He is doing something even better.

As you might already know, he works at night so that’s why you have never seen him and you never will. He hides behind a tree, explores the area with an avid glance and when he is 120% sure that there is no one in sight, the fun begins. He quickly tiptoes to the nearest traffic light and BOOM! In less than 8 seconds he finishes the job and can go back to his warm and cosy flat.

Smooth and efficient: that’s why they chose him amongst the 299 other elves who had applied for the position. One traffic light per night, as the contract says. Princes Street, Howe Street… Who knows: maybe your street is next. If I were you I’d go to bed early and refrain from going out at night. Otherwise, he will have no choice but to miss your lovely street. What a shame, I know. But I don’t make the rules: the contract makes it very clear: “If some human catches you in the act, the magic is lost and therefore, you are fired”. So yes, being an elf comes with endless moments of cheerfulness but also requires bags of discipline, responsibility and agility. I swear that the application process was harder than that slice of bread you left on the back of the shelf for more than two weeks.

So please, do him -and yourself- a favour, and the next time you press the button and -impatiently- wait for the traffic light to turn green, take a look around and you might be surprised. Remember: every time you smile, he is smiling back to you. Let’s keep the magic alive. Are you in?