Week 4


I can’t quite believe I’ve almost been here a whole month. The days go so quickly. It feels like I wake up, go to uni, come back and then it’s bed time again in no time at all!! It could have something to do with how much time you spend travelling to get to places. I use the bus or metro most days, and it’s usually a good 20-40 min walk to get anywhere. I don’t mind this though. Previously I’d only ever lived in small cities, so this is a nice change, and I am growing to like the bustle of the streets here.

I’m doing much better emotionally this week, even though I ended up missing my aunt’s wedding last Saturday gone. My whole family was there, and I was meant to be a bridesmaid. It sucks knowing I’ll never be in any of the photos and won’t have those memories, but I made some memories of my own instead when I went to the student night and to the church picnic. The African night was honestly so much fun, and I’ve made some new friends from it. My VK account is getting more and more active – VK, for those that don’t know, is the Russian equivalent of Facebook. It wasn’t as good as Facebook before but recently it’s been updated and now they are pretty similar. You can join groups and meet people with similar interests through the site, and there’s lots of free movies, audio books and songs posted (probably illegally) on there. But hey, this is Russia. As everyone always says.

At the picnic, I was talking to a lady helping organise the church weekend away in October (I’m planning on going to this!) as I and my English friends were worried we wouldn’t be able to go with just a photocopy of our passports. Our passports have been handed in so that our visas can be converted to multi entry and we won’t get them back until the end of October at the earliest. Apparently there’s a rule that if you want to stay in a hotel you have to show your passport, and re-register after you get back. The lady explained that ‘this is Russia’ (of course) and that here, rules are kind of made to be broken. If you know someone who can get you a deal or who is in a management team somewhere or something, they will do you a favour, and you do one in return. It’s a little like this in Spain too, but here it’s on a whole new level. Officials make rules that suit them, and then revoke them when it no longer suits them. So take the rule where you have to re-register every time you stay somewhere new, even if it’s only for one night. Apparently this was only brought in for over the summer with all the tourists etc and the football events going on in Russia, but now you don’t have to re-register unless you stay somewhere else longer than a week. Someone revoked the law, because it’s no longer necessary. The lady explained that just because one rule or law blocks you from going one way, in the Russian mentality, that doesn’t stop you from going around, under, or over it and getting to the same result/destination a different way. It just means you can’t go that particular way, if that makes sense. So people bend the rules all the time here.

What else? Oh yes, I’m possibly going to look for a job teaching English but I’ll let you know later when that happens. A teacher of mine said that the Benedict School here sometimes looks for native English speakers. Russians will pay double the normal price if you are a native English speaker. My friend found a job teaching a family English and asked for a reduced price because she felt bad asking for more, when she felt it wasn’t necessary. Your money goes quite far here, so there isn’t a lot of need to charge tons for lessons. And obviously not to undercharge, as you do plan and put effort in.

I’ve seen some strange things this week on my travels around St P. The weirdest thing I saw was this man with his pet raccoon on his shoulders on Nevsky Prospect getting people to pay him money to pet it or get it to do tricks.

Another thing that I’ve noticed whilst being here is that there are men in uniforms everywhere. Apparently all young men get conscripted between the ages of 18 and 27 for mandatory service in the army, although many of these manage to get around it by claiming to be short sighted, mad, or by enrolling in university courses until they phase out of the age group that it applies to. I’ve seen all different kinds of uniforms, some green/khaki, some blue and white and navy-looking. Some camouflage. It’s just kind of strange seeing them everywhere like that. You don’t see that kind of thing in England. In England I see a fair amount of policemen but even then its only a couple maybe every fortnight. Here it’s something I see daily. Maybe it’s because this is a bigger city… I don’t know.

Another thing about the culture here that I find weird every time I go into a shop or supermarket is the person at the till doesn’t wait for you to finish packing your bags after paying… they immediately serve the next customer. At first I thought they were just being rude but then I realised it must be a culture thing because it happens in pretty much every shop I go to. So now I just try and pack up my things as quickly as I can while they scan it through and then pay and get out of there. They clearly trust you not to run off with a bag full of stuff you haven’t paid for here in Russia. In England, the cashier waits politely for you to finish and go before serving the next customer in the queue. Is this just an English thing?

There are a few little things like that… maybe I’ll include some of those in my next ‘weird things about Russia’ post. The days are getting colder – the mornings start at around 5 degrees C and then by the afternoon it only gets to about 15 max. This morning I opened my curtains and it was still quite dim outside, so the days are getting shorter already. It’s only the end of September!! I’m going to need to buy some vitamin D supplement soon… a friend from church who’s lived here for a few years recommended these drops she got from an apteka (аптека) – these are little chemist shops dotted all over St Petersburg (and Russian cities generally)**. I asked if I would need ID before buying anything and she just chuckled and said that no they wouldn’t bother checking that here. My goodness. I bet their health and safety standards are much more relaxed here too. In England it feels as though you can’t even breathe and not be violating some kind of health and safety law. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but my English readers will know what I’m talking about 😉

Last night, I went to watch Swan Lake at the Hermitage Theatre. I had no idea there was a theatre in the Hermitage, but it was amazing and I felt so grateful for the opportunity! A guy at my new church works for a tourist agency, and a different friend of mine talked to him about getting me and my friend from Exeter some tickets for free. Apparently tourists cancel all the time, so we were told to just turn up and get free tickets. We didn’t know which ballet it would be or anything, but I’m so glad it was Swan Lake. I haven’t seen it since I was about 7, or any other ballet to be honest. The dancing was amazing and the music was pretty good too – there was a live orchestra. I love Tchaikovsky (Чайковский)  Me and my friend were the youngest in the room!


Tonight I’m going to listen to an orchestra concert. I was invited by a friend that I was put in touch with through an old family friend. (Sorry, I tend to not mention names because of privacy and stuff). They will be playing Rachmaninoff (of course), and fortunately I like Rachmaninoff (Рахманинов) so I’m expecting to enjoy it. This means I can’t go to the English movie night tonight, but in some ways it’s a good thing as this friend doesn’t speak much English, so it’s better for my language learning. Besides, I can go to the EMN next week!

Other than this, I don’t have much planned for this weekend beyond doing work, shopping (for food), going to church and possibly meeting up with a friend from my group at uni to go to Pushkin if the weather is good. If not, we agreed to go to Ukrop (Укроп) Cafe for a meal together.

So that’s my fourth week in a nutshell. Here’s to the next, what, 11 weeks? Something like that!

Still smiling 🙂

**For those interested: I’m going to be doing a post about being vegan in the winter/extreme cold here in Russia, my tips and what I’ve found useful etc. so stay tuned if that’s something of interest. It might actually be good for anyone interested in making it through the winter when fruit and other commodities are scarce and you just want to stay sane/healthy.

 

 

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Week 2 – settling in.

I wasn’t sure what to write about this time, so this post will probably just string together a load of random experiences which I’ve noticed through the week into a general update/week in my life.

Starting with Monday morning… I freaked out on the way to my bus stop because I walked past a whole queue of trolley-buses (all number 5, the one I always get because it takes me closest to the uni and returns me to the stop outside my front door). They weren’t moving, and I thought maybe something was wrong. I waited at the bus stop anyway, anxiously observing this random stack of buses that weren’t moving… and then the first one in line came to life and stopped at the stop and we all got on and everything was fine. Weird.

I’ve also been kicked off the number 5 bus twice on two different occasions and in two different locations. I’m still not really sure why (it wasn’t just me, everyone had to get off), but I think it had something to do with the bus not going to the end of it’s route for some reason. There was no explanation offered to the bewildered passengers. I guess this situation calls for the common phrase used whenever something weird or unconventional happens here; ‘This is Russia’. Apparently anything goes!

On Monday, I found my lessons really challenging and I felt really overwhelmed. I think the material used at uni is harder on purpose so we are stretched and learn more. By the time the day had finished (at 5) and I got home (two hours later at 7… I kept missing the bus at every bus stop on the way home and it’s at least 89 mins walk but when you’re tired it’s even longer) I was feeling pretty miserable. Fortunately my babushka is really kind and she reassured me that my Russian is really good. I find I get home and the simple every day conversations are so much easier. I had a lot of homework to do for Tuesday but by the time I’d finished tea and had a chat with my flatmate who was interested in what the uni was teaching me etc, I got rung by a friend of a friend who visits the ladies prisons here in St Petersburg, and I had a lovely conversation in Russian with her on the phone. I’m terrified of ringing people up in England because I’m always worried they’ll have an accent I won’t understand or something (those call centres though!), so the fact that I was able to talk to an almost stranger for the best part of an hour on the phone in Russian and understand almost everything really boosted my confidence in myself. And this is only week 2! 34 to go…. but let’s not think about that too much yet! Then I ended up messaging my parents for the rest of the evening before going to bed… I needed an early night so I gave up on work and decided to do it in the morning.

On Tuesday, I had a better day at uni. I slept better during the night, my lessons were interesting and I just felt like I did a lot better and was more switched on. I really like my grammar teacher – she’s a no-nonsense kind of person but she has a sense of humour. I get the sense we’ll learn a lot from her, and she seems to believe in us which is nice. After uni I came home and got on with some work and began reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (in Russian)… I’m hoping to read a little bit every day, and because it’s my book I’ll write translations for words I don’t know in in pencil. In the evening I went out with some new friends from church and some of their friends to Укроп (Ukrop) again, so I had a really lovely evening. They have really nice food there! We talked and laughed a lot, and we talked about how in the first few months it’s all about settling in and taking care of yourself rather than worrying about your reports/assessment for your year abroad. It’s useful to be able to have these conversations with people who’ve lived here for a year already and know and remember what their first few months were like. They’ve been really kind giving me points cards and old coats and umbrellas to prepare me for my year in Russia and just having some friendly faces (even though most are leaving over the next few weeks) is really helpful.

A picture I took when crossing the River Neva on my way to Ukrop on Tuesday evening 🙂


Wednesday was okay … My lessons weren’t as good as yesterdays but they weren’t as bad as Mondays and I got through them in the end. I had to buy some more vegetables on the way home and an umbrella (the one my friend from church gave me was a bit broken and useless this morning when it was pouring). I FaceTimed my Mum and chatted for a bit and caught up on some work before watching a film and some videos on YouTube to end the evening before bed. This was another thing I talked about with one of the girls last night… she said people don’t tell you that they have low points/average nights in on their year abroad. They just show the highlights on their Instagram feed and talk about their travels… but actually for the most part it’s just a normal year of studying. It’s helpful to know that now rather than realise it later. Also, at Christmas most people go home for the whole two months between the end of term one and the start of term 2 in February because apparently winters here are so bad it literally makes you hate rain and snow. Apparently the snow looks great at first, but then cars drive over it and they don’t grit the roads properly so there’s loads of black ice everywhere and all anyone can complain about is the grit and compare which parts of the city grit the roads right and which parts don’t. Fascinating, I know. 😉

Thursday was also not so bad – I enjoyed my phonetics lesson – we all practice getting the stresses on different words aloud and it sounds like we’re all chanting so it’s kinda funny. It rained again so I was really glad I bought my sturdy new umbrella on Wednesday. I was so proud of myself when I bought it because I was able to talk to the guy at the till when my loyalty card for the shop didn’t seem to work and to say that I was going to pay by card. Little things like that make me happy 🙂 My grammar lesson was hard though – we were revising active participles, and I struggled to learn those in English so you can only imagine how hard it was learning it in Russian! My teacher noticed I was struggling and asked at the end if I’d ever learned them before… and I said yes but how I’d found it hard in English. I had to keep looking out of the window in the lesson to give my brain a little break – and I explained that too, which made her chuckle, but she said I’d understand it soon enough. I hope so! I went for my first run in the evening – my flat mate and babuska all told me to be really careful because men target women running alone. It was rush hour though and I ran along the river, which is surrounded by really busy roads and there were lots of people about so I figured it would be fairly safe. My legs were sore and tired after though – I haven’t run in a while and it was all hard concrete – not good for my knees at all! Fortunately there are some weights in the flat that I’m going to borrow so I’ll do circuits or something in my room and then just lots of walking so it should have less impact on my knees and save me buying gym membership.

Today it’s Friday, And I’m going to go food shopping and later meet up with a friend of a friend and we’ll probably chat in Russian all afternoon. Then later this evening I’m going to go help a friend from church at her charity which helps teach English to Russians -they are having a movie night and watching LaLaLand. 

I’ve now been in Russia for two weeks. Might not sound like a lot but so much has happened to me in those two weeks. It’s hard to get it all in here – you can’t really describe the change in sights, smells, tastes unless you’ve been here yourself and tried it. 

On Monday next week I’ll be handing my passport over to get my visa changed to multi entry. Hopefully it’ll go through in time for me to still be able to go home at the end of October in my reading week. The visa process can take a minimum of 5 weeks, sometimes longer. I’ve managed to ask to have my passport sent off with the first batch of passports so hopefully there won’t be a problem! It’ll be nice to pop home again briefly before the weather gets really bad! 

I don’t have a lot of plans for this weekend which may be a bad idea because I need to keep busy to stop myself from thinking about home too much, but at the same time I have a lot of homework so my brain will be busy even if I don’t manage to go out anywhere! Of course I’ll still be going to Hope Church though! At the moment it’s the highlight of my week because it’s a little piece of home – I know all the songs even though we’re singing them in Russian half the time. 

That’s my update for this week! 

 

 

 

 

Vegan in Russia??? 

I’ve been wanting to do a post like this for years because there aren’t many out there on the internet and I was freaking out thinking I wouldn’t have any food when I was researching before actually coming. Here is my advice so far. 

From the get-go, tell the people doing your application that you’re vegetarian/vegan. I told my reps and the year abroad people helping me with my application, I also emailed the coordinator of the RLUS course, and I wrote clearly on my home stay application that I was vegan. I also requested to be able to cook for myself. This is important!

Fortunately, my home stay owners let me cook whenever I want and I have a little fridge and freezer space. They are so kind and are always offering my their fruit or rye bread/whatever bread they have at the time, and my host babushka Zoya is always offering me her friends’ homemade jams and compotes which she gets given and they are delicious! She even let me have some leftover boiled rice that she didn’t need the other evening so I didn’t have to cook anything! 

During the first week, I spent around 1,500 roubles (about £15) on food for a weekly shop… but that’s a rough budget and in England I normally have £20 so I might have to buy some more food to keep me going to the weekend, but we’ll see.

I buy a lot of vegetables and I look for what’s in season or which vegetables you spend less on per kilogram. The way it works here in Russia and in most European countries is you get the amount you want in a plastic bag, weigh the bag, select the number of the vegetable you are weighing (should be on the sign above the place you found that particular food item) and then you hit that and it prints you a little sticker with a bar code and the price on it. You stick this on the bag and away you go until you pay for it all at the end at the till. There aren’t many vegan meat substitutes, such as burgers etc, in the supermarkets.

I tend to go for aubergines (eggplant), squash and cucumbers and tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, buckwheat and millet – buckwheat and millet are a bit like rice but more widely eaten in Russia so they are cheaper, although rice is also pretty cheap! Pasta is a bit more expensive. There are tons of varieties of bread and all of them are fairly cheaply priced, especially rye bread. Pre-made sauces and things like olives and olive oil are more expensive, but not much more. It’s cheaper than in England anyway. You can get tinned beans and also dried ones, but lentils are a lot cheaper. Oh, and potatoes!! They are only about 40 roubles per kilogram if that!! I found a shelf of various kinds of plant milks in a Finnish supermarket called STOCKMANN (CTOKMAHH) – I bought an unsweetened alpro soy milk. I also saw some tofu, not an amazing brand, but guys it exists out here. I wouldn’t expect to find it in normal Russian supermarkets though. Apparently Spar is the place to go for stuff like that, and it’s all over St P so hopefully I’ll get my hands on some soon, although it’s not crucial to my survival. I just like tofu once in a while!

Vegan heaven!

You can buy fruit and veg from little stalls on the street, but bear in mind that you have no idea where they were grown or what pesticides were put on them etc so it’s probably better to buy in a supermarket. I am going to try out Lime supermarket (a friend recommended it) and if you buy their discount card (100 roubles) you get everything cheaper and rack up points and things. Anything they don’t sell in Lime I can always get in Stockmann which is just over the road anyway. Another store I’ve been recommended trying is called Dixie (Дикси)… but so far I haven’t visited one yet.

For restaurants – use Happy Cow. Just type it into Google and type in your location. You’d be surprised at how many vegetarian friendly ones you’ll find. There’s a chain of restaurants called Ukrop (Укроп) which are vegetarian/vegan and have great prices. Also pretty much any cafe/restaurant will sell boiled rice, buckwheat and some kind of salad so you can mix those together and bring your own beans or something if you need a bit extra. Check out this article written by my friend Michaela about the top vegetarian/vegan places to eat in St Petersburg to get an idea of what’s out here.

I think my biggest tip of all is to just be prepared. Forward-think and bring things in tupper-wares, things you’ve prepared at home.

Another policy I’ve lived by since a friend told me about it is the ‘benefit of the doubt’ policy. She spent her year in Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia, and she had a vegan friend out there. (If she can be vegan in Siberia, you can be vegan in Russia).  Sometimes you just have to choose the best option that’s available and not get hung up on whether it has an animal product in it or not. For example, on my first night here, my host offered me some waffles (the sweet wafer ones, not potato waffles or american breakfast waffles). They are probably mostly made with flour and sugar and water, but could possibly have butter or milk in them. I didn’t know, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt and tried one. I didn’t want to be rude. If it’s once every now and then, it honestly doesn’t matter. Otherwise you might risk alienating people if you’re too rigid about it. That’s the reality, especially if you aren’t a native and you’re trying to get settled etc. Maybe in a few months I’ll know the place better and have a better routine or even have moved out with some Russian friends and be able to have a bit more say in what ingredients are in my food, but for now I am going to make do.

Your main priority is, after all, to learn Russian and experience Russia and get stuck in. So letting food get in the way will only make it miserable.

These are some of my tips so far and how well I’ve done in my first week. I might do an updated post later in the term if things have changed and once I’m into the routine a bit more. Sorry there isn’t that much in it, but I wanted to try and encourage those out there that might be put of setting foot in Russia thinking that they won’t get catered for. Vegetarianism is much more well-known now in Russia, especially amongst the younger generations, so don’t worry and don’t let it put you off.

Until next time!!!

 

[UPDATE: I found a health food shop that sells cheap but good quality tofu (100p/roubles) and soy yogurt (90р/roubles) and pretty much everything else you’ll need as a vegan (helloooo peanut butter with no sugar, oils, salt and other additives). It’s called Компас Здоровья (Compass Zdorov’ya) and it’s on Садовая ( Садовая, 38, МО №2 “Сенной”) not far from Sennaya square metro station (Сенная площадь). I’ve also bought soy mince really cheaply from there for about 70-75 roubles. ]

Pancakes

Because pancake day is just around the corner, I’m bringing you the simple pancake recipe that I usually make (with pictures! Although it was dark outside so there wasn’t a lot of natural light).

The result 😉


It’s super simple and shouldn’t take long to throw together – plus the ingredients are healthy and they’ll be in your cupboard already! 
Ingredients:

1 cup oats

1/2 medium banana

1/2 cup milk of choice

Optional: 1 tbsp ground flax seed



Method
:

1. Blend all ingredients together.


2. Heat a non stick pan on med-high heat. Pour about 1 tbsp olive/coconut oil/oil of choice into the pan and use some kitchen towel to spread a thin layer and absorb the excess.

3. Pour the batter into the pan in 2-4 pancake shapes depending on the size of your frying pan (or just 1 if you want to make each one really big).


4. Wait until the edges turn a light golden brown colour and then flip with a spatula. The bottom side would be golden brown. 

5. Cook on the other side for about a minute and then turn onto a plate and start again until the mixture is gone. 

6. Toppings – maple syrup, I used almond butter and a tsp of molasses in the picture, peanut butter, agave syrup, cocoa powder mixed with maple syrup/agave….. anything you want. I also had a bowl of frozen berries but I didn’t take a picture of that! 

7. Eat. 

Голубци (Golubtsy)

Golubtsy is a traditional Russian dish made with cabbage (капуста – “kapoosta”), rice (рис – “rees”), usually meat (мяса – “myasa”) although for this recipe I’ve subbed lentils (чечевица – “chechevitsa”), herbs and a tomato sauce (томатный соус – “tomatny saoose”) on top. I first tried it when a friend of mine invited me over for some Russian food… she was in her 4th year so she’d already been to Russia (she actually went to St Petersburg!). In any case, they were so delicious… we stuffed our faces and there was still enough for leftovers!!

My recipe has a couple of different parts to it. It’s still simple ingredients and fairly easy, but more fiddly than most recipes I post on here. Seriously though, don’t let that put you off – if you can, give it a try. It’s amazing!

 

Ingredients:

1 cabbage. Can be red or green. I haven’t tried using savoy cabbage yet but I think it can work too.

 

For the filling:

1 stick celery, chopped into small chunks.

1 carrot, (medium) chopped into small chunks.

1 cup red lentils, washed.

1/4 tin chopped tomatoes

1/4 carton of pasata (or just use another 1/4 tin chopped tomatoes)

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 onion (I used red)

2-3 garlic cloves

~ 1 tbsp each Italian herbs, basil, oregano, ground coriander

4-5 mushrooms, chopped small (optional but I used them).

generous splash red wine vinegar

1 cup cooked brown rice (can use white).

 

For the topping:

4 tbsp. Tomato Puree.

8 tbsp natural unsweetened soy yogurt (I used a brand called Sojade from my local health food shop)

2 tbsp olive oil. (Optional)

 

Method:

  1. Put the rice on – I rinse it first then add one cup of rice and 2 cups of water and let it cook until there’s hardly any water in the pan when you stir it, then turn it off and let the rest steam off.
  2. Meanwhile, saute onion and garlic in a pan (I used some water to do this but you can use oil if you want).
  3. When these have browned, add the lentils and chopped veggies (carrots, mushrooms, celery.
  4. Add the tomatoes and the puree and stir in well. Leave to simmer until the veggies are soft and the lentils are cooked. Should take 15-20 mins.
  5. Last of all add the red wine vinegar (generous splash!) and the herbs. Turn off and remove from the heat.
  6. Before step 5 – bring a large saucepan full of water to the boil. Chop the heart out of the cabbage – this is the stem. Cut around it but angle the knife so you cut the whole stem bit out. Then put it (carefully) into the boiling water.
  7. After about 5 mins, carefully remove the cabbage and peel the first few leaves off. They should be really flexible but not fully cooked/soggy. Put the cabbage back into the water and repeat this step until you have most of the bigger outer leaves done. Run them under cold water to stop the cooking process and keep to one side.
  8. Once the rice and the lentils have cooled a bit, mix the lentil mix with half of the rice together in one pan. You might not need all of the rice – you’re aiming to disperse the lentil mix evenly but not make it too sparse with the rice.
  9. Pre-heat the oven to 180c / 350f.
  10. Take your first cabbage leaf and lay it out in front of you.
  11. Spoon about 1 tbsp of the rice-lentil mix into the bowl part of the leaf. Bend the stalk bit over it as tightly as you can, and then fold both sides of the cabbage leaf in tightly on top of that. Then roll the rounded package bit forwards to the end of the leaf. It should form a little package.
  12. Repeat this until the mix is gone / you run out of cabbage leaves. Place the finished rolls on grease proof paper on a baking tray and put to one side.
  13. For the sauce: Mix the tomato puree and the oil in a pan on a low heat until smooth. Add the yogurt and stir until smooth and warm. Remove from heat and pour generously over the cabbage rolls on the baking sheet.
  14. Bake in the oven for 25-35 mins until the sauce has set and the cabbage leaves have browned evenly. They should be really soft and easy to cut into. If they aren’t then put them in the oven for another 5-10 mins. If you’re worried they’ll get too brown or burn, try cooking them in the microwave for a few minutes instead to finish them off.
  15. Remove and eat! You can serve these with buckwheat too 🙂

 

Brownies

You guys…. LOOK at these!!!

 

 

Want the recipe? Of course you do! The great thing about these (and most recipes I make) is that you usually have all of the ingredients already and they are super simple. The secret ingredient to these is *drumroll* ….. chickpeas! Yup! Chickpeas – they are amazing and give it a chewy texture 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1.5 cups oats
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup or agave/ liquid-y sweetener of choice (I would add another tbsp. if you’re using maple syrup and it’s not sweet enough for you – test the batter before you put it in the oven)
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder/raw cacao powder
  • 4 tbsp. soy/almond/plant milk (and an extra one-two if the mixture is too dry!)

Chocolate glaze

  • Handful of dates
  • 1/2 cup soy/almond/plant milk
  • 1 heaped tbsp. cocoa powder/raw cacao powder

Method:

1/ Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (Fan 180C/400F/Gas 6) and line / grease a small baking disk 8×8 with baking paper/coconut oil.

2/ Put all ingredients for the brownie into your food processor/blender and mix well.

3/ If the mixture seems too dry add the extra tbsps. of milk

4/ Spread the mixture evenly into the baking dish. It will be quite sticky.

5/ Put in the oven for ~30 mins… I needed less time because I had a fan oven so make sure you check it.

It will have a hard crust when it’s done and will feel like it’s not done in the middle (this makes it chewy!!)

6/ Leave it to cool.

7/ In the meantime make the chocolate glaze by blending the dates and milk in your blender, then transferring them to a small sauce pan and simmering on a lower heat for 5 mins, or until warm and smooth.

8/ Stir in the tbsp. cocoa powder and stir until glossy and smooth. Don’t worry if there are some date chunks left, sometimes they don’t all blend up!

9/ Let the sauce cool down and thicken up before smoothing it on top of your brownies. Cut the brownies into squares/shapes…

10/ Serve!!

 

You can thank me later 😉

 

The Year Abroad madness begins!

Hello again – golly I need to be more regular with my posts huh?

Here are some pictures taken outside my accommodation one morning this week when it was really misty… we live right by the railway line which I think is so cool because you can watch trains go by!

I think the mist makes it look really atmospheric

I messed around with a grunge filter on this pic to make it look creepier!


Sorry I’m always aware that I go off on a tangent before I actually talk about anything to do with uni or whatever. Oops! So as the title suggests I’m planning my year abroad. I have to have chosen and planned it all by December the 9th and I can’t change it after that – the part involving me going to Russia anyway. So the pressure is on (on top of everything else!)

Right now I’m curled up on my bed having a rest because my group has finally finished its website ready for the presentations we have to do today and tomorrow! I was heavily involved in the editing so I feel like I need the break. I’m also packing before heading home tomorrow for reading week and my dad’s birthday bash on Saturday.

But yeah – where do I even start with the Year Abroad thing? I know I want to go to Russia and study – I will take all the help I can get with the grammar!!! It tends to work out that you have to study anyway because it’s tricky to get work and then get Russian companies etc to sign the paper work saying they’ll take full responsibility for you so internships are usually off the charts. And actually I kind of want to study cos I want to meet people my own age and make friends that way!

I will need a visa and I also have to be tested for HIV apparently… there might be other vaccinations I need too so I’m not looking forward to those!

And although I really want to visit St. Petersburg and Moscow they are more expensive to live in so I might go elsewhere….

You see what I mean… so much to decide – and I need to look at flight costs, insurance and scholarships and things to help get a rough idea of how much I need to save! It’s a lot of work but I hope it’ll be worth it.

Being vegan in Russia will be interesting – I think they aren’t as aware of this kind of thing and meat dairy and eggs and fish are a big part of their diet – especially in the winter when the temperature is -20 degrees Celsius! But from reading other blogs and things I think I can manage it – you can usually get potatoes and beans and nuts and veggies everywhere! And in big cities there will be supermarkets selling stuff too so fingers crossed! I will probably blog while I’m away as it’s recommended to try and keep touch with your writing and things so watch this space if you’ve ever wondered what it must be like to live in Russia – especially right now with the tensions and things.

Life is generally going well at the moment despite lots of work (I know I’m always going on about it but seriously the struggle is real!) and a couple of formative assessments due the week I get back from reading week (so the week after next). Formatices dont count (might have mentioned this before) but they are good indicators of where you’re at and what areas you should work on before the summative exams which do count. So I try and do my best in them, and this year I’ve managed to read a lot more so I feel like I can do this – so pumped! Just as long as my family don’t all try and drag me out to various events then I’ll have time to do this stuff!!

Yesterday I made potstickers and here is a picture to prove it!

They didn’t turn out as good as I’d hoped but I thought it was worth a try making them 🙂 that red stuff is tomato purée which I use like ketchup because I find ketchup is too sweet (and more expensive). I’m one of those people that likes more bitter/blander tastes (except when it comes to ripe bananas made into ice cream or medjoul dates!!) but I will pick a green granny smith apple any day or have black coffee or 90% cocoa chocolate any day hands down. In my opinion tomato purée is just as delicious and my fave go to meal is beans, rice and tomato purée mixed together when I’m in a hurry or need to pack my lunch!

I made an aubergine curry recipe that I’ll have to share with you at some point soon as well 🙂 Actually that’s what I’m all full up on right now, along with the leftover filling for my pot stickers – it was made from cabbage, carrot, mushrooms, garlic, onion and tahini and ginger. It’s a good combo and it meant I had a kind of salad already prepped so I just had that with my main meal – rice and the curry sauce!!

But anyway, I guess I need to start saving because visas are about £100 and I have no idea how much flights to Russia will cost!! I also need to plan if I want to go to Spain/South America during the summer before or after Russia (I think I’ll need it after surviving the winter months in Россия!!

So yeah lots of planning and dreaming. ‘Til next time 😉 пока пока!