I tossed and turned, over and over again, trying to ignore my cravings and the deep discomfort embedded in my back, before giving up with an exasperated sigh. “Deannnn” I whined into the 3 am darkness as I slowly rubbed one of my hands over my ever growing 18 week bump, feeling the twins’ late night acrobatics. The other hand delicately tracing the scars upon Dean’s back. I felt my boyfriend stir from his slumber as he reached for the bedside lamp and flicked it on, light suddenly filling the room; illuminating Dean’s fatigue laced features as he turned over to face me.
“What the matter Babe? Are the twins okay?” he asked with worry dousing his voice, a large hand automatically coming to rest on my now rather large bump. His thumb tracing small circles on the surface of it.
“Yes, they’re fine - they’re just a little… hungry” I murmured sheepishly, a blush creeping to my cheeks, due to the fact that this is the second night in a row I had woken Dean up at silly o’clock in the morning to satisfy my cravings. Dean let out a light chuckle and swung his legs out of the bed and lazily searched the bedroom floor for a half decent outfit. “Look you don’t have to go out, we have to get up early tomorrow for the scan; oh and Roman’s coming with us so he can begin to organise the gender reveal” I spoke grabbing his arm.
“Roman?” he quirked an eyebrow at the mention of his best friend joining the scan, knowing Roman wouldn’t have been my first choice for an event planner; especially not my gender reveal. “Is the gender reveal planning not more of a girly thing? Like I was expecting you to chose Brie or Alexa” he shrugged as he pulled a vest top and shorts on.
“I thought about the girls; but Brie is busy with Birdie and, I love her but; Alexa couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery. Plus, I think it should be a godparents job; also Jojo and his wife can help him out anyways!” I laugh, just before my face drops realising Dean had gotten ready to go out. “Oh my god Dean honestly, we have to be up early tomorrow I can survive a night of cravings” I rambled becoming flustered.
“Y/N, honestly I’d walk from here in Vegas to China and back if it kept you and our little beans happy and satisfied” he chuckled at his own words as he kissed my forehead. “So what are the babies hungry for tonight then” Dean muttered through kisses to my lips as his hands once again circled around my belly, feeling them move and wriggle around. An appreciative grin appeared on my face at his words as I pondered over my craving.
“We’re hungry for some” I paused as Dean raised an expectant eyebrow at I waiting for I ‘order’. “We’re hungry for some of those dried mango pieces and a jar of those weird long chilli thingys - like the pickled ones” I smile as Dean makes a disgusted face at the mention of the chillies.
“Okay then, whatever floats your boat sweetheart” Dean spoke with a grimace as he kissed my forehead and then my bump before swiping his jacket off the end of the bed and leaving. Around five minutes after I’d heard the soft sound of the front door click shut, my eyes began to flutter shut and my bed suddenly seemed 10 times more comfortable than before. I ran my hand over my stomach to feel no motion; alerting me that the twins had finally settled, allowing my body some comfort - the soft sounds of an awful late night TV show gently lulling my heavy eyelids shut and me to sleep.
I rolled over in bed, practically on top of my boyfriends muscular frame, my eyes instantly catching my 3 am cravings placed on the bedside table, a small smile making it way to my face, along with a sense of guilt. My eyes then averted to the small alarm clock, 7:40. “Shit” I screeched, quickly shooting up out of bed (well as quick as a woman pregnant with twins could). The combination of the beds rocking movements and the shrill of my voice jolted Dean from his sleep.
“Oh my fuck! What’s wrong?” came a gruff shout from the newly awakened Dean, as he shot up out of bed quicker than the speed of light; he had been a lot more aware and attentive from the very minute I had announced my pregnancy. Oh and he’d been a hell of a lot more protective, not even letting me lift the laundry basket most days since you’d gone past the 12 week mark.
“WE’RE GOING TO BE LATE THE ALARM DIDN’T GO OFF” I screamed manically throwing on my own clothes and throwing items of his own at Dean. “The appointments at 10 past 8 and the clinic is like twenty minutes away on its own! Hurry the fuck up and get dressed” I shouted, once again throwing more clothes in the general direction of my boyfriend.
“Ohh Roman’s been texting us for the last 10 minutes he’s just sat outside the house” Dean laughed lazily checking his phone having already chucked on his everyday jeans and t-shirt matched with baseball cap. “I’ll go to his car and give him some company, you’ll be good catching up babe” he questioned with a quick kiss to my lips. I waved him off with a vaguely mumbled yes and I continued to hunt around the room for some clothes that would actually cover the bump (Whilst greedily stuffing dried mango pieces into my mouth).
After the most stressful getting ready experience of my life, we were now arriving, surprisingly on time at the clinic. As we were sat waiting for my name, there was plenty of discussion amongst the three of us debating the sexes of the twins. Each of us having a different guess; Roman believed we’d have two girls, Dean thought one of both and I was completely convinced we were having twin boys. After what felt like an eternity filled with nerves my name was finally called and Dean and I were finally situated in the small room that felt beyond alien to you.
The minute I saw the twins appear on the small screen, the tears that had already welled in my eyes the second the sonographer had begun the scan descended down my cheeks like miniature waterfalls. My teary eyes shifted away from the screen to analyse my boyfriends emotion, showing he was just as moved by the scan as I was; the gloss shrouding his eyes a tell tale sign. The rest of the ten minutes was filled with loving stares from both Dean and I at the little black and white screen; watching the little beans preform their daily acrobatic and snippets of reassurance from the sonographer - telling us that they’re the perfect size and both have perfectly normal heartbeats; information that was absolute music to our ears.
Dean and I both thanked the lovely sonographer; Cheryl, who had preformed my scan, Amidst my thank yous, I explained to Cheryl the situation for the gender as the two us had previously declined finding out the gender. She chuckled and heartily agreed to talk to Roman in the waiting area, I thanked her one more time and grabbed my scans from her hands, just before leaving to walk to Roman’s car. Leaving Cheryl to inform your favourite Samoan on the genders of your children.
Dean unlocked Roman’s car and opened the door helping me to get in the back seat (with still a minor struggle) before he sat down in the seat next me. We both smiled at each other with a little giggle as we both simultaneously reached for the scans of our little beans that sat between us two in the middle seat, accompanied by several other pamphlets that Dean had actively forced me to pick up whilst waiting for our scans to be printed.
“They already look perfect, and they’re just small little grey blobs for all we can see” I chuckled placing my hand over Dean’s and entwining our fingers together as I laid my head to rest on his broad shoulder.
“They’re perfect because you made them sweetheart” Dean muttered as he placed a kiss to my temple; we both carried on gazing at the small scan images. Arguing with each other about what features we could see, and who’s features. Our small quarrels were brought to an abrupt end as Roman hopped into the front seat of the car with a chuckle and a loud clap of his hands.
“Looks like this guys gotta go home and start planning” he turned around and winked at the both of us as he rubbed his hands together before he started up the engine. His over enthusiasm earning groans from both Dean and I; both of us desperately wanting to know the genders - yet still fully aware I had to wait another few more painfully slow weeks.
It had been two weeks since my 18 week scan, and it was finally the day of my gender reveal. Dean and I had woken up especially early in order to; well for one get ready to go out (so that Roman could come decorated) and to clean the house from top to bottom; of course Dean did most of the work as he continued to natter on about my current state. Him only allowing me to do the lightweight activities like dusting the tables, counters and low shelves or watering our many cacti, it was around 10am when I heard the sound of the doorbell reverberate throughout the house.
I waddled over to the front door as quickly as I could; my face lighting up as I was greeted by the warm smiles of the Reigns family. I hugged each of them as I slyly eyed up the bags they had placed down on the porch, trying to decipher any sort of colours. Which was completely in vain as each bag was plain opaque white and stuffed with white tissue paper; hiding any clues to the colour scheme of my gender reveal. I jumped as I felt Dean’s arm snake around my waist from behind as his gruff voice spoke up.
“C’mon then you. Let’s leave these lot to decorate - looks as if they’ve brought everything in the whole store” Dean chuckled handing me my purse and jacket. I smiled and took them from him, giving Roman one last hug and a thank you before stepping out into the front porch; following Dean who was practically already in the car car.
“Wait Dean where are we even going?” I questioned as I clambered into the vehicle as he started up the car.
“Baby shopping” he replied simply, causing an ear to ear smile to emerge from my lips.
“Oh my god finally!” I squealed remembering all the times Dean had groaned and refused to baby shop since I found out about my pregnancy. “Dean we can buy so many cute clothes, gender neutral ones of course. But cute clothes!” I rambled and slapped his arm earning a groan and an eye roll from him as he pulled out the drive way. Meanwhile back in our home Roman and his girls had already started draping my house and garden in decorations and setting up the main event.
It was 1pm when we finally arrived home after receiving a text from Roman; the one finally allowing I back into my home, as we pulled up to the driveway I already recognised some of the cars. John and Nikki, Brie and Bryan, Lana and Rusev, even Baron Corbin (a long term childhood friend of yours). These were only a few I knew from lightly surveying the area; my mind whirling trying to figure out some of the others.
Dean and I walked round the side gate of the house, directly into the back garden; as instructed via Roman’s previous text. As we rounded the corner we were greeted by quite literally all of our friends and family, loud cheers being emitted from the crowd of people causing a blush to arise onto my cheeks. Dean was handed a glass of champagne by Nikki, where as I was handed a glass of some alcohol free champagne by Bryan that he would always drink at events; which surprisingly actually tasted quite nice.
The further Dean and I walked into our garden the more people we were greeted by; the ever loud Irishman Sheamus, both of the Hardy’s and their wives and children, Dean’s other ‘brother’ Seth, Sasha and her husband and all of the girls from the make up team and those were just a few names I had managed to remember from the many faces I had already seen
After half and hour or so of greeting everyone, and making myself very acquainted with the snacks table, the sound of a piece of cutlery dinging against a glass quietened the large gathering of people. Everyone’s heads swung round to see the mastermind behind the whole afternoon standing on a garden chair; champagne glass and fork in hand.
“Guys, it is time for the main event, Y/N and Dean if you could stand over on the small platform to left all will be revealed” his voice boomed, a chorus of excited squeals coming from the crowd of your family and friends. I looked over up and Dean and grabbed his hand; a mixture of happiness and nerves rattling through my body as Dean and I took our positions on the platform. Just as I looked over at Brie; who gave me her classic beaming smile. I saw Baron and Roman coming out of the kitchen. Each carrying a rectangular cake, both cakes just plain white frosting with some indistinguishable letters in what looked to be pink and blue piped on top. As Roman and Baron came and stood before you -Roman infront of Dean and Baron in front of you, you noticed the cakes said ‘Baby A’ and ‘Baby B’ in frosting that was one letter pink, one letter blue and so on.
“So you two are going to cut these cakes, and once cut they will each reveal a gender” Roman spoke as my excitement built along with the anticipation.
“Hey, Uh don’t we need something to cut the cake with..” you laughed as Roman and Baron both groaned. I laughed even more as Roman asked John Cena to go and retrieve the knives. As John approached the small platform Dean and I both reached out for one of the knives when all of a sudden the cake was shoved straight into my face - Dean’s disgruntled shout alerting me Roman had done the same thing to him. I screamed and slapped Baron’s muscular arm as he laughed pulling the cake away from my face.
“YOU TWAT” Dean and I screamed almost in sync as our family and friends were all in fits of laughter in the crowd. I wiped my eyes and blinked a few times, as soon as my vision was clear I saw the blue icing on my hands and the pink smothered all over Dean’s face. Dean’s eyes did the same, both of our eyes widening in realisation as we both screamed wrapping our frosting covered arms around each other.
“Dean you were right! We’re having one of each!” I scream as he tightens his arms around me. As we pull away from each other and turn to face all our guests we were both sprayed with the cold and slimy silly string, in pink and blue. Pretty much every guest holding a can, including your parents and some of the children. Tonnes of the stuff landing on us both to which we began throwing back into the crowd of people causing some sort of silly string fight to emerge; everyone launching the strings at anyone they could see.
It was now 11pm and the reveal was finally over, Dean and I were crashed out on the couch, eating a whole cake with a spoon whilst Dean drank a Jack and coke whilst I sipped some of the non-alcoholic champagne that Bryan had gifted me whilst gazing upon the ginormous stack of gifts that had been piled in the corner of the room.
“Hey Dean; don’t you think - now that we know the sexes, we should start thinking about names?” I queried taking another spoonful of the rich chocolate cake and stuffing it into my mouth, a moan of delight coming from my lips the moment I began to chew the cake.
“Yeah, maybe we should” He mumbled lazily swirling the dark liquid around in the small glass. “In fact I’ve already thought of one for the boy” he smirked taking a swig of his drink. I raised an expectant eyebrow at my boyfriend. surprised he’d even given the whole naming process a second thought. “Yeah, I wanna call him Jack Daniel” he spoke with a loud cackle to finish. To which I rolled my eyes, angrily placing my spoonful of cake down.
“Oh my god! Dean be serious!” I flailed my arms as I flicked a lump of frosting at him whilst pouting my lips. “Like I already have a name picked out for the boy that I’m in love with” I rambled before Dean hushed my words with a kiss and another spoonful of the deliciously moist cake.
“Well then that fits perfectly Darlin’ ‘cos I’ve actually already thought of a name I love for our little princess” Dean spoke, his voice much softer before as his calloused hands cupped my face.
“Wait, you have” I asked in disbelief, my eyes widening as tears welled up in them - damn pregnancy hormones I mentally cursed. He nodded, his hand moving from my face to my bump.
“Yeah.. I wanna, or I mean I really like Kitty Mae Ambrose” he uttered nervously, the second I heard the name fall from his lips something clicked and I just knew it was perfect for of little princess.
“Dean, that’s - that’s absolutely perfect! Oh my gosh!” I squealed wrapping my small frame around his nearly knocking the cake off of the sofa. “Want to hear mine for the boy?” I sniffled, wiping away some tears from my eyes.
“I sure do darlin’” Dean spoke, moving the cake onto the table, then manoeuvring my frame to lay on his broad, muscular chest.
“Well I was thinking, about Thomas Corey Ambrose” I spoke, whilst biting my nails out of nervous habit. I saw a wide, cheesy grin appear on my boyfriend face. Instantly telling me he loved it (he was a shockingly bad liar).
“Kitty Mae Ambrose and Thomas Corey Ambrose, absolutely perfect” Dean muttered, his voice drenched in sleep and he placed his large hard a top of bump feeling the two newly named babies wriggle. I smiled as my eyes began to fall victim to the over bearing sense of fatigue.
“My little family” I faintly whispered, just as my eyes fluttered shut.
A/N: Hey guys! Another instalment of the handsome man that is Dean Ambrose for you! Also, I am so sorry for how long this took; and i truly have no other excuse other than I’m a lazy shit with no inspo..ever. Haha anyways enjoy lovelies!
House to myself tonight, so I decided to go weird and make myself some Dunmer inspired dinner. My attempt at throwing together something like an egg-miner’s supper, albeit based on what I had in the house and was willing to use.
Boiled and marinated kwama egg cells, over a stew of kitchen-garden greenery and fried scrib jerky, enriched with preshta-jan and black sujamma vinegar. Served with a hunk of ‘western’ style wickwheat bread — western style only in so far as an attempt was made to leaven it, but Morrowind’s fungal ecosystem is jealous of its space, and so the spores bond with and assimilate foreign ones, so ambient yeast is pretty low and bread proves badly in Morrowind.
Or, well… What it literally was: onions and homegrown courgettes and green beans and courgette glowers, fried with Sichuan chilli bean paste and Sichuan pickled chilli, and some shreds of slightly fruity biltong I happened to have, and simmered with some tomato, chinkiang black vinegar, liquid smoke, smoked paprika, and a bit of turmeric and garam masala. And soft-boiled eggs marinated in light soy and more black vinegar. And slightly overproved sourdough toast.
And I was completely ready for it to be quite unpleasant? Or at least too odd to make me want to eat much of it. But instead it was like…salty and smoky and bitter and spicy and pungently umami but without feeling indulgent? And the eggs were a richness in amongst that. And it worked bizarrely well and turned out plenty moreish in a way I completely was not expecting.
For something I didn’t think very hard about, it turned out weirdly great.
1. Belgrade’s been around the block Belgrade is seriously old, and it’s seen a few things. Belgrade is the largest city in Serbia and its capital, but the “white city” has taken many forms since the beginnings of its settlement between 50,000 and 20,000 years ago. Thanks to its strategic location at the confluence of the Saba and Danube rivers, and intersection of Western and Oriental Europe, Belgrade has been fought over in 115 wars and razed to the ground 44 times, including by Attila the Hun, who had his way with the area in A.D. 442. In 1521 Belgrade was conquered by the Ottomans, and there followed a period of tug-of war between the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires, who took turns destroying the city, each leaving behind a cosmopolitan legacy. Belgrade was also the capital of Yugoslavia from its inception as a kingdom in 1918, throughout the post World War II socialist era, right up until Serbia was the last man standing in 2006. Serbs are notorious for their nationalism, but many Belgraders still express a ‘yugonostalgic’ longing for the multiculturalism and porous borders of the socialist era, with their shared origins and languages (Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian are more or less reciprocal, although Serbian is the only one to use the Cyrillic alphabet).
2. It has a split personality Bisected by the Sava river, Belgrade is a town of two halves: the old and the new. New Belgrade was constructed during the socialist era and the grid of blocks retains its Soviet feel. It’s definitely worth exploring the area to get a feel for this important part of the region’s history, but most of the action is confined to the ‘old’ side. Different again, on the same side of the Sava as New Belgrade is Zemun, which used to be a separate city to Belgrade—a fact its residents will not let you forget. While Belgrade proper was under Ottoman rule, Zemun was an Austro-Hungarian outpost. Nowadays Zemun is officially part of the city of Belgrade, but climbing to the top of Gardos hill or a seafood lunch at a kafana along the banks of the Danube still feels like a mini-break from the main metropolis. 3. Don’t mention the war Be conscious that most people you will talk to in Belgrade have lived through the trauma of the Yugoslav wars, which lasted for a decade until 2001, ending the pan-Slavic experiment. The violence perpetrated by Serbian forces led the fledgling post-socialist republic to be ostracised from the international community for several years, while internally they struggled under the corruption and repression of the Milosevic era. A quick walk down Nemanjina Street and you’ll quickly realize why Belgrade’s recent history remains so present in people’s minds—the enormous destruction of the Yugoslav Ministry of Defence buildings, bombed during the NATO attack in 1999, dominates the streetscape. The former Yugoslavia was sliced and diced into a collection of nation-states bound by ethno-religious borders. These borders came about after the South Slavs (who migrated from an area around the Ukraine and Poland) crashed the Byzantine party in the Balkans regions, resulting in some religious osmosis from their new neighbours. The Serbian Orthodox church is a hangover from the early Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholic Croatia congregated around the Roman religion, while the Ottomans’ Islam took root in Bosnia. Yugoslavia, first a kingdom and later, after World War II, a socialist regime headed by the still widely-adored Marshal Josip Broz Tito, was the region’s attempt to reignite a pan-Slavic identity and bring the religious disparity under one roof.The post-war years have not been kind to Belgrade: although some sectors of Serbia’s economy are on the up, helped by the promise of E.U. accession, the average wage remains low and unemployment, especially among the youth, is high. The ongoing political tension has resulted in a deep suspicion of the government, as well as foreign powers such as the U.S. and the E.U., that can border on conspiracy theory. The lack of capital in the Belgrade is visible throughout the city’s urban environment—blackened facades, cracked and crumbling flagstones, and out-of-date infrastructure.4. But Belgrade knows how to party Despite the millennia of tumult, from Attila the Hun to Slobodan Milosevic, shed any pre-conceived notions of war-ravaged Balkans—people in Belgrade like to have a good time. Cafés and bars are heaving day and night, and the terraces that crowd the pavements remind you that Italy and Greece are not so far away in terms of distance and culture. Belgrade has the Mediterranean lifestyle without the coastline. Coffee is taken very seriously here, but as the sun goes down, the espresso cups are replaced by beers or spritzes (the city’s de facto cocktail). Bars are squeezed into any available space—above, on, and below street level. One of the best things about Belgrade is exploring these neighbourhood establishments, each with their own distinct character. Use your discretion and you’ll find the staff and regulars (many of whom speak excellent English) will usually be very welcoming. 5. Coffee is a serious business It’s probably not an exaggeration that for some people in Belgrade drinking coffee is a full-time job. The city was put on the drip after the Ottomans brought their brew with them in the 16th century, which explains why ‘domestic’ coffee, or kafa, bears a strong resemblance to what many people know as Turkish. The story goes that the very next year the first kafana(coffeehouse) was opened in Belgrade, in 1522.For those who find the bitter viscosity of kafa a bit much, espresso is no less of an occupation here, and is probably more common these days, with a slew of independent cafes and chain stores opening around the city. If you’ve had the misfortune of living in less caffeine-oriented places, you’ll be astounded by the quality while being bemused that menus also usually offer Nescafe. There is also a new wave of specialty local roasters fuelling the city’s addiction—Przionica is one worth checking out if you worship at the altar of the bean.6. The market is where it’s at If you want to experience the heartbeat of Belgrade, head to the green markets, held daily. The biggest is Kalenic, but you can’t beat Zeleni Venac: the crazy architecture, spectacular view, and central location. All Belgrade markets have a flea market and fresh produce section. In the latter, locals hustle their homemade specialities: ajvar, kajmak, pickled chillies, honey, and even homemade rakija (a dangerous yet delicious prospect) sold in recycled glass jars or plastic bottles. It’s common not to see any other tourists, so communication can be difficult if you don’t speak Serbo-Croat. A few courteous essentials—dobar dan (good day), hvala (thank you)—a lot of gesticulation and a smile will get you pretty far. If all else fails most vendors will write down the price for you.
7. You must acquire the taste of rakija Balkan states, despite their national pride, can’t deny that they all have rakijain common. A fruit brandy, rakija can be made from quince, pear, apricot, or peaches—but the Serbian national version (and arguably the most intense) issljivovica, made from the Damson plums that grow in abundance throughout the country (there is even a village called Šljivovica in Western Serbia). ‘Real’rakija is made from pure fruit, with no added sugar, and is double distilled—many Serbs make their own, swearing by its health benefits and drinking a small glass, alongside a coffee and sweetened fruits, for breakfast.Keep your rakija training wheels on at first with medovaca, which has honey added to make it softer and sweeter. Once you get a taste for it, work your way up to sljivovica, which is guaranteed to warm the heart (in fact the wordrakija comes from an Arabic word meaning sweat). Rakija is served straight and sipped from small vials, accompanied by a glass of water to keep you from dehydrating. For something special, head to specialists Rakia Bar for a tasting of their artisanal creations. Živeli (cheers)!8. Breakfast burek is the new breakfast burrito A proper Belgrade burek is a thing of beauty—there is a reason these things are sold by weight. The shattering crunch of layers of flaky pastry. The inevitable searing burn of the filling, punishing you for being too impatient. You tell yourself you won’t eat the whole thing but of course you do, until all that remains are stray, buttery crumbs. All over your chest. Burek are available in sweet (fruit or ricotta-like cheese) or savoury (anything from cheese, spinach, mushroom to meat) and are traditionally washed down with drinkable yoghurt—an intense combination that somehow works. You’ll definitely get the goods at old school bakery Pekara Carli: what they lack in variety, they make up for in freshness. If you’re into nocturnal consumption, Europan has a wider selection of fillings and is open 24 hours. 9. Serbian food = pork, sauce, repeat Balkans cuisine is certainly no vegetarians’ paradise, unless you are happy to subsist entirely on burek. Belgrade’s food is an edible tour of the region’s history: you’ll find Turkish-influenced kifle, baklava, and cevapcici—a minced meat—sharing the menu with Greek specialties and Austrian-inspired tortenand schnitzel, Vienna’s famous breaded pork escalope, which in Belgrade has been upgraded to become a hefty cream cheese-stuffed version which comes smothered in tartar sauce, and garnished with tomato and lemon slices forming a Karadjordjevic star—the Serbian Monarchy medal.Traditional Serbian meals are full of strong flavours. Hearty stews and basically any form of meat—grilled, cured, or stuffed with cheese—feature prominently, usually served alongside salads, bread, and condiments. Sauces are big here, from kajmak (Serbia’s answer to clotted cream) to ajvar (a spicy, red pepper paste).Legend has it the preponderance of pork originated as a form of gastronomic resistance to the Ottoman overlords. Serbian food might be rustic, but due to the fertile land and relatively late industrialization, the quality of ingredients is high, even in basic restaurants. For a lighter touch, there are several new restaurants putting a more refined twist on traditional tastes such as Pire Slow Food and Homa.You can’t leave without trying pljeskavica—the hamburger’s illegitimate brother and a Belgrade staple. Loki is possibly the only pljeskavica purveyor salubrious enough to have a chandelier and is a great place to try these curiously spongy yet delicious grilled patties. The biggest are the size of dinner plates, folded over with their edges poking out of soft hamburger buns. ‘The lot’ Serbian style includes an insane amount of garnishes—pickled cabbage, onions, chilli, mustard, mayonnaise, tomato sauce, and spicy cream cheese. This big, wet mess is best enjoyed in your darkest moment, swaddled in napkins. Pizza in Belgrade has also been ‘Serbified’ (code for adding condiments). Locals queue at all hours of the night at Bucko Pizza on Francuska Street for thin-crust slices topped with a choice of colourful flavored spreads—the mushroom dip is oddly compelling. 10. Take a breath of fresh air—and hold it Serbia has staunchly resisted kowtowing to anti-smoking lobbies—you can still smoke inside all restaurants and bars. Entering a restaurant through a smoky haze is certainly a novelty, but it becomes problematic when you don’t want to consume second-hand smoke with your meal, or at all. If you’re nostalgic at the thought of lighting up indoors (I’m convinced this explains the number of French tourists in Belgrade) this will be great news. For everyone else, the city offers a healthy quota of terraces, which give you a bit more room to breathe. If you’re spending time in enclosed spaces, take advantage of the city’s relatively cheap dry-cleaning the next day to ensure your clothes don’t bring back an olfactory souvenir. 11. In Serbia you can make your first million (in dinar) Serbia’s currency is valued pretty low compared to the Euro, making Belgrade a spendthrift’s dream as far as accommodation and food are concerned. As the economy has increased, so have Belgrade’s prices, but compared to most European cities you can eat, drink and sleep like a king, for less than a princely sum. Some of the neighbouring Balkan states are already E.U. members—to deal with the constant headache of cross-border exchange issues, you can exchange euro or U.S. dollars for dinar in ATMs, and there is also a plethora of menjacnica (money exchanges). As dodgy as these holes-in-the-wall look, with their gaudy flashing lights and post-apocalyptic vibe, the rates aren’t bad and you won’t be charged a commission. There’s not a great deal of variation so no need to shop around.
12. Here, partying is a water sport Technically it might not have a beach, but Belgrade’s surplus of river frontage means that water plays a big part in city life. Belgraders party all year round on splavs (short for splavovi)—bars and clubs on permanently moored boats along the banks of the Sava and Danube. Before you jump aboard, remember that the abomination known as turbo-folk is still popular in Belgrade (and this goes for land bars too).Nothing will kill a waterside buzz like hours of souped-up folk music, so choose your splav wisely (20/44 is one known to have a more eclectic playlist). Into a more low-key river experience? Ada Ciganlija is an island-cum-peninsula smack-bang in the middle of the Sava. For those outdoors types it has a swimmable lake, sports fields, bike paths and loads of forests, plus concerts and festivals in the summer.13. You can reclaim the city Like any good ex-communist capital, Belgrade has no shortage of abandoned buildings. These days many of them have been given a new lease on life, whether as fully-fledged enterprises or underground cultural venues. Get a taste in riverside neighbourhood Savamala, a once-thriving commercial centre, now reborn as a creative hub. Jazz clubs and gay bars are cloistered amongst ruined townhouses next to the Brankow Bridge, new cafés inhabit warehouses on Karadjordjevic Street. Further out of the city, larger spaces like former studios Inex Films have become quasi-official headquarters for various arts and cultural organisations. You can usually wander around these graffiti-covered ‘not squats’ during the day, in the evenings they often host—albeit sporadically—exhibitions, film screenings, and gigs.
14. How to be a lonely visitor in Dorcol There are plenty of neighbourhoods in Belgrade where you’ll feel like the only visitor, and Dorcol, stretching from the lower half of the old city right down to the Danube, gets my money. Locals there are notoriously parochial, and for good reason—it has the best of the old and the new. Home to one of Belgrade’s biggest clusters of historic buildings, you have easy access to the rest of the city and plenty to keep you busy close by. The former industrial zone near the river is slowly gentrifying: drink some of the city’s best coffee at micro-roastery Przionica or take a break from barbecued meats at fine dining restaurant Homa. Stately thoroughfare Kralja Petra is a one-street archi-tour, with candy-colored facades ranging from Baroque to Art Deco and charming historic frontages like San Marina Chocolates and Sava Perfumes.15. How to avoid getting stuck in the S bend Belgrade’s two most overrated streets are easy to remember: they both start with S and they intersect. Skadarska, the so-called Balkans Street, may have once been bohemian, but is now filled with competing, cacophonous Serbian bands and ersatz eateries. There are a couple of decent historic places serving solid Serbian fare, but there are fewer tourists and far better food and ambience elsewhere. Belgrade’s best known bar strip, Strahinjića Bana, is the other end of the spectrum. Basically a very long catwalk for locals and tourists, the panoply of sterile bars and restaurants, over-priced beauty salons and black SUVs is good for people watching and not much else. The good news is, walk only metres from this street and you’ll find loads of options with much more soul.16. C is for Serbo-Croat If you’re stressed about Cyrillic, don’t be—in Serbia, Serbo-Croat is usually written in Latin script as well and words in Latin script are pronounced phonetically. If you’ve got a basic knowledge of Greek, Russian, or another Slavic tongue—or you’re a language savant—you’ll probably be able to decipher some of the signs that are only in Cyrillic. You might run into problems with Google Maps, which normally puts both Cyrillic and Latin versions for street names—except where there’s not enough room on the screen. Many Belgraders (especially the younger generation or those working in retail or hospitality) can speak pretty impressive English, and even non-touristy restaurants will often have English menus. Memorize a couple of essentials to help you on your way: pivo (beer), molim (please).
17. Do the time warp One of the most enduring legacies of the Ottoman occupation, a kafana is a traditional café—the kind of place you enter and time seems to stand still, if not rewind. Although found throughout the Balkans, in Belgrade they are an institution, achieving cult status even among the younger generations. Generally tending towards the patriarchal side, it is possible to find some that have a slightly more gender-balanced clientele. Beyond copious amounts of coffee, beer and rakija, these smoke-filled dens will dish up a best of compilation of Serbian classics from fat, glistening pork sausages served with white beans in sauce to cevapcici (grilled, skinless sausages). You may cross the threshold and feel like the ultimate out-of-towner among the regulars propping up the bar, but do your reconnaissance, hold your ground and crack out every last skerrick of your Serbo-Croat and who knows, the cool kids might let you join their card game.
Dinner: Cauliflower curry with dal, rice, salad (chard & cucumber) and a chapathi. I have aspirations of becoming a curry god now that I’m vegan- it’s a guaranteed crowdpleaser, and I love how a simple combination of spices can bring so much life to veg and pulses. Our spice drawer is a thing to behold, but I’m always tempted to invest in a dabba, because they remind you how cherished and precious those ingriedients are.
Supper: Banana, peach, cherry, kiwi & grape nice cream with crushed walnuts and sunflower seeds. I don’t normally blitz the cherries with the nice cream, but as an experiment, it worked out pretty well.
Food Journal Day 148, for the 3rd of August 2017! Before you stands:
Breakfast: Banana, apple, ginger, raisin & carrot porridge with nuts (hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts & pistachios), seeds (sunflower seeds, linseeds, sesame seeds, butternut squash seeds, pumpkin seeds & chia seeds), powdered banana, blueberry & cranberry. I made the mistake of buying the biggest apples I could find, so this bowl is really filled to the brim (and today’s was just as bad). I need to pay more attention to the scales when I’m weighing everything up :P
Lunch: Leftover veggie curry, mung bean stew, fried okra, kidney bean chilli, coconut noodle stir-fry, green beans, rice, spring onions, pickled chillis, beetroot hummus, sourdough bread roll and salad (spinach & cucumber).
Dinner: Pearl barley risotto with roast broccoli & cauliflower, beetroot and rocket.
Supper: Banana, carrot, spinach & apple nice cream with blueberries, crushed walnuts and sunflower seeds. Added a bit more banana to this, but it’s still quite mild in flavour. Shoutout to the garden for those amazing blueberries!
🍃🍋🍅🍣🍙 fully raw rainbow sushi salad 🍙🍣🍅🍋🍃 my new fav salad, legit! This is so good. And it’s so quick! In a food processor, I combine:
1 red capsicum
1 banana chilli
With pickled ginger,
Toasted sesame seeds (leave raw if you like)
And a dash of tamari sauce!
I made a base of baby spinach and topped it with more ginger + sesame seeds + half an avo + some green chilli
Sushi cravings satisfied 👌🏽✨
Food Journal Day 154, for the 9th of August 2017! From top to bottom, we have:
Breakfast: Banana, cherry, apple, carrot, ginger & raisin porridge with nuts 9walnuts, cashews, almonds & hazelnuts), seeds (linseeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds & pumpkin seeds), powdered banana, blueberry & cranberry. Got a different type of chia seeds this time which are milled, so they don’t look as attractive presentation-wise, but my solution is to layer up the toppings differently so that they’re not the last thing on there.
Dinner: Veggie burgers with tomato sauce, spinach rice, mangetout & green beans, lemon wedge and a sourdough bread roll. I really do prefer using the sourdough starter like this- the rolls stay so much fresher, and they look a lot better on the plate. Plus, we actually got through them all last week! Finally, I’ve found the perfect amount :D
Supper: Banana, peach, cherry, grape & kiwi nice cream with crushed walnuts and sunflower seeds.
Lunch: Leftover veggie curry, coconut noodle stir-fry, pearl barley risotto, kidney bean chilli, green beans, rice, beetroot, spring onions, roast cauliflower & broccoli, and pickled chillis.
Dinner: Rice bowl topped with roast aubergine in tahini dressing, carrot bhajis, courgette ribbons, beetroot, salad (spinach & tomato), pickled chillis and a lime wedge.
Supper: Last of the banana, apple, spinach & carrot nice cream, as well as a bit of the new one made from banana & mixed berries (blackcurrant, blackberry, raspberry & blueberry), topped with crushed walnuts & sunflower seeds. No more green nice creams from me, I don’t think, unless I get hold of some more matcha powder (and even then, it’s really better off as a drink). If I ever find myself in the same situation again, my plan is to break out the rice pudding or be creative with the baked goods. I’m getting ready to stew a load of fruit when apple season comes around, so that’ll be really useful for emergencies.
Dinner: Kidney bean chilli with spring onions, baked sweet potato, mangetout & green beans, salad (spinach & cucumber) and a sourdough bread roll. It feels like winter here all of a sudden; I just want every dinner to be like this one…delicious, warming, and generously served :P
Supper: Banana, peach, grape, cherry & kiwi nice cream with crushed walnuts and sunflower seeds.
So, this is my 1000th post and I have 458 wonderful followers who are joining me on my journey to self sufficiency!
I’m excited to share with you all that I am setting up a small herb and kitchen garden plant nursery called Leveret Nurseries and will be attending local garden shows, country fairs and farmers markets from March next year. This has been a necessary step to build up the mortgage funds to eventually buy a smallholding of our own. We have a 5 year plan and are only 9 months in to it and grow all of our own veggies and make chutney, jam, chilli sauce, pickled veggies, wine and bread. By the end of the 5 years we hope to be fully self sufficient.