My Perfect Autumn Weekend: Ixta Belfrage
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For me, autumn is a time of year for getting back in the swing of things – like cooking more and getting back into an exercise routine. I tend to get up quite early during autumn and winter, so I have more time to be active in the morning and get those endorphins going. I'll do a class at my local gym or if I have less time I'll go on a very short run (I hate running and I'm quite bad at it). Apart from that, I’m not a big fan of winter or Christmas and often look to get away somewhere sunny. I am escaping the cold to work in Bali at the end of November. I can’t wait!
On Friday evenings, I love an earlyish dinner with friends followed by a couple of drinks at a pub like The Spurstowe Arms in London Fields or The Plimsoll in Finsbury Park, before being tucked up in bed by 10.30pm. Last Friday night, we went to Decimo, at the top of The Standard hotel in King’s Cross, where the food highlights were manchego quesadillas, roasted red pepper tartare and octopus ceviche. It was wonderful – incredible views, great food and service and the décor was bonkers and beautiful. My idea of a perfect cocktail at this time of year is mezcal shaken with fresh clementine juice, lime, honey, cinnamon and scotch bonnet.
I love going for a weekend walk through Hackney and Walthamstow marshes – you feel like you’re in the countryside and it’s such a beautiful way to escape the madness of the city. In this weather, I’ll probably wear my bright pink beret and a new blazer by Sandro, which I can’t get enough of. I might stop by Bake Street in Stoke Newington, which serves incredible coffees and cakes – not to mention great tacos and burgers later in the day.
I often like to head out for an early lunch. Last weekend, I went to Koya on Broadway Market and had the Japanese breakfast set, which consists of smoked mackerel, pickles and dashi, as well as an extra order of onsen egg. After lunch, I returned to the safety of my sofa to nurse my hangover for a few hours, before heading to the pub for a few drinks. Hair of the dog always works.
Other restaurants I love include Bright in London Fields, Brawn on Columbia Road, The Plimsoll in Finsbury Park, Xi’an Impression in Highbury and Testi in Stoke Newington.
Once home, I might read a book before bed. Right now, I’m reading Grand Union by Zadie Smith, and The Best of Me by David Sedaris. Both of these books are more like collections of short stories and essays, which I love dipping into before I go to sleep.
On Sunday, I love to get on my bike. Last weekend, I cycled to Chinatown for dim sum at Dumplings Legend – we ordered Xiao long bao, roast duck, prawn cheung fun and cucumber salad. Sometimes, I’ll head out for a roast. Elliot Cunningham at The Spurstowe Arms does an incredible Sunday lunch. It’s pretty huge and the quality of the ingredients is outstanding. All of it goes down well with a glass of red.
I also like to get ahead and do a bit of meal prepping for those busy weekdays. I recently teamed up with lentil and pulse brand Merchant Gourmet to create a lunchtime meal planner – I’ve found this really helpful to plan out my meals for the week ahead and plot what ingredients I need to buy. I’m lucky to have a brilliant Turkish shop that has almost everything I need for the pantry, and a health food shop where I can get great veg and meat – all within walking distance from my house in Clapton.
At this time of year, I love cooking with dried porcini mushrooms – you’ll see these cropping up in my recipes time and again because they are so versatile. They add incredible depth to ragus and sauces and are super easy to cook with. I used them recently in one of my go-to recipes, one-pot spicy porcini orecchiette.
I’m always making warming broths and stews. One I’ve been making loads recently is a plantain and coconut stew with Jamaican grains – it’s the perfect autumn comfort food and it’s so easy to make.
My favourite cookbook is Hartwood by Eric Werner and Mya Henry. It’s all about Yucatan cuisine, and includes incredible pictures of the rainforest and the Caribbean. It's totally transportive and inspiring.
I’m terrible at routines and regimes – I don’t have the patience for them. I wash my face with water then moisturise with Weleda Skin Food. It’s absolutely incredible and all I need. In terms of make-up, I use a tinted moisturiser with SPF by Ultrasun, which ticks a lot of boxes too.
On Sundays, I love to spend the evening on the sofa. I’ve just started watching Will & Grace, which is hilarious and great to have on in the background while you’re doing other things, especially cooking. If I was on my own one weekend, I would curl up on the sofa with a blanket with a takeaway from Koya (I'd order beef shin udon, nama yasai salad and an onsen egg) and watch a good TV show. Unsurprisingly, right now I'm watching The Bear.
For more ideas and inspiration, follow Ixta at @Ixta.Belfrage & order her new cookbook Mezcla here.
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