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Welcome to the official blog of Journalist, Presenter & Crafts Expert Momtaz Begum-Hossain.






Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Food & Nostalgia: Dishes my father liked

I've always loved the date September 1st.
After January 1st it's the best time for new beginnings. Symbolising the end of the summer and starting a new term. It's a positive, rejuvenating date...well it was until six years ago when it became the day my ubba (father) would depart this world. 

Every year I write about him on this date because it's a chance for me to reflect on his life and everything he taught me. This year's theme is food.
The foods that fill me with nostalgia and remind me of him. 

Malted Milk Biscuits
Every Bangladeshi father has a thing for biscuits. Whenever mine visited Bangladesh he'd carry empty tupperware in his suitcase, which he'd bring back to the UK, filled with traditional biscuits. They were sold loose by weight, so he'd take the packaging from home, as you needed something to put them in. 
But when the stash was finished he'd have to resort to British biccies. Scottish shortbread was an early favourite as were Sports biscuits but Malted Milks were the reigning champion. He clearly had good taste because they really are the ultimate dunking biscuit. I don't eat them often but I'm going to buy a pack today.

Milk and Rice
This is something I remember clearly during my childhood. After we'd finished our evening meal of curry and rice, cooked by my mother, sometimes she'd make him a special dessert (just for him), which consisted of leftover rice cooked in warm milk. It was like a really basic rice pudding. It never sounded or looked very appetising to me especially as when she made proper rice pudding it was delicious, but this strange dessert was something he liked. Maybe it was his nostalgic food. He was certainly very happy when he ate it.


Crunchy Nut Cornflakes
Ubba's breakfast consisted of egg on toast with honey and a bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, mixed with muesli, then heated in the microwave with milk (the third milky dish that appears on this list!). He had a sweet tooth and anything honey flavoured was welcomed.
LucozadeNot strictly food, but other than drinking 1/2 cups of tea throughout the day and the occasional Indian Tonic water (which was a much revered drink in our household), Lucozade was ubba's favourite tipple, he always had a bottle in the house. 



I have other fond foodie memories too like him buying monkey nuts when we were kids and treats from Greggs bakery like apple turnovers, London cheesecakes (pictured), and swiss buns or ring doughnuts. We didn't have a lot of money but he always made sure we had something yummy to eat after school.

After my mother died he lost his appetite. I missed her cooking so much, but it was worse for ubba. He had been living on her home cooked Bangladeshi food for over 30 years so to suddenly have that taken from him - it's something he never spoke about, or I ever asked him about; it's only now that I think about the emotional and physical effects that would have had on him, and on anyone in a similar situation.

One day he got really upset and angry with me because I bought some supermarket samosas. At the time I thought he was being mean, but maybe it's because he just missed my mother's?

In losing his appetite ubba moved away from Bangladeshi food and started eating Western food, but I'll never forget the time (shortly after my mum passed away) that I made him veggie burgers for dinner. That night he had the worst stomach pains of his life, probably because after years of home cooking his body wasn't used to processed food. 

I spent a lot of time with him when I first moved back home after university and we always ate together - it was a bond we shared. Eating together is so much better than eating alone.

I didn't anticipate it, but this has been the most difficult piece to write about him. In previous years (2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010) it's felt more joyful recalling his memory, but food, I've just discovered is very personal and nostalgic, making this much more of an emotional experience. 

I'm not one for dragging out long cathartic blog posts, I'd rather take some time out now and think about him in my prayers than type away on my laptop, so I'll leave it at this. 

Looking forward to dunking a Malted Milk biscuit into my tea for elevensees this morning, feel free to join me! 

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Summer Holiday Narrowboating

When one of my sisters invited the entire family on a narrowboating trip this summer I was the first to say yes. I've always marvelled at canals and canal boats, but a week before, fear set in. We've never been on an extended family holiday and 11 of us were about to live in eachother's pockets in the most squashed conditions imaginable and hey this is Britain, rain was inevitable. All of a sudden I wanted to abandon ship before I'd even boarded - was this going to be the worst holiday ever?
With scenes this stunning...NEVER!
The week we picked was one of those magical summer weeks where England really is a green and pleasant land (unlike the conditions under which I am writing this - grey skies and it's tipping it down!)  
I felt at home straight away. Ok it was a bit rustic (we ran out of water twice, electricity also had a tendency to reduce in the evenings and the bed reserved for me was the kitchen table (which converted rather impressively)...but that stuff was minor when the rest of the experience was so much fun.
For a start I never knew cows drank canal water.....something you'd only know if you were living the canal life.
Other than having to moor up frequently as locks approached,
and having to open and close locks,
....there was nothing much to do other than relax.

Here's what we got up to whilst doing just that ...
Country walks
Lots and lots of geocaching
(Finding treasures like this)
Picking blackberries directly off the the canal route - (our version of foraging)
Which we turned into yummy dessert (ok, one of my sisters did - not me, I just ate it!)
I thought I'd knit more but actually the views were so incredible I was occupied just looking out and taking it all in.
We went on duck watch and duck count...
...make that dog watch too - there are so many dogs aboard canal boats.
On one of our stop off day trips we met a mini pig. 
Charlie our family monkey felt at home too and we  encountering quite a few of his relatives on route - turns out monkeys love canal holidays.
We also saw a few knitted Rosie & Jims - the ultimate canal mascot.
Played board games aplenty.
Found a secret garden,
and managed some outdoor fitness.
 I also lay on top of the boat one midnight and watched meteor showers - a seriously cosmic experience and something I'd never be able to do in London.

By the end of the week no one has killed eachother - (obviously there was the odd bits of annoyance but no major arguments.) It wasn't exactly 'family bonding' but it was nice to spend time together and not just the few hours at birthday parties, which we normally manage. I had a chance to talk to everyone - nieces, nephews, brother-in-laws, sisters....that in itself made the experience one to treasure.

As for how I feel about canals and narrowboating now...I love them even more. Not sure if I'll have the opportunity again (apart from holidaying in Kerala's backwaters which is on my bucket list), but it truly was a worthwhile experience and a fun summer holiday. 

We picked up the boat (from a company called Anglo Welsh) from Great Harwood and spent a week exploring the East Midlands, a part of the UK I've not been to before. We did the 'Out & Back' route, which meant we travelled a certain distance and then travelled back on ourselves, this was recommended for beginners (no one had driven a narrow boat before). It was a learning experience; the first thing you learn is that you won't get as far as you think you will - canal life is slow but that's something to embrace rather than stress about.

There were several bedrooms on board, two toilets, a shower, fully equipped kitchen, two areas that converted into beds, a TV, DVD and CD player, even towels so it's easy to feel at home. We cooked on board every evening and took picnics out at lunch . 

It was a holiday of simple pleasures but then simple things are usually the best.

Fancy trying a narrow boat holiday? I'm happy to answer any questions, leave me a comment or check out the company -we got our boat from here.

Happy August Bank Holiday everyone!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Working On The Greenwich Show

Filming in Greenwich with Cameraman Michael Cole & Presenter Robert Gray
Over the last few months I've been working on an exciting TV project - The Greenwich Show, a magazine programme about the local area I live in. I've been living in the London borough for over eight years and I am obsessed with the place. It truly is a unique area with so many stories, so it has been an honour to be involved in bringing these tales to the attention of the world (the programme airs online and on an actual TV channel.)
Director Ian Ramsdale with Presenter Robery Gray filming links on a rainy day
The show is the brainchild of these two gentleman, Ian the Director and Robert the main presenter. The show is significant because back in 1972, 'Greenwich Cablevision' became the UK's first local television service - it was history in the making - the first time there was local TV in the UK, as opposed to the normal terrestrial channels everyone had. In keeping with that theme, it's now the first borough to have a programme to be showcased nationally on - The Community Channel.
Ian briefing Robert
The whole series (and series one which was broadcast almost a year ago) is run by volunteers. Everyone involved including Ian, Robert, the rest of the team and me have given up our own time and resources because we are all passionate about wanting to create, and be part of something so special. In fact this series has been called #Series2MadeByYou because everyone who lives in the borough or has a connection to it, was invited to be part of it - from suggesting programme ideas to being in films and having their photographs and memories featured. 
Me, behind camera two!
I approached the team because I enjoyed watching series one and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to expand my television presenting skills, but I did more than just stand in front of the camera; I got behind it too and did research, scripting, running and even some filming. 

Filming a Food feature with Mike, The Very Greengrocer
My favourite aspect though, is being one of the show's Reporters. I present three short films which appear in episodes 2, 3 and 4. One of which is a fascinating look at the people who have food businesses or provide food services in the borough, including Mike, The Very Greengrocer.
Not just any old van, this is a travelling grocery store!
Mike is retired but spends his spare time helping others by providing a mobile food service. His van is packed with local produce that he delivers to people who are less mobile, such as elderly folk or those who simply don't have time to shop - delivering them fresh vegetable boxes.
Michael honing in on the veg
Adam from Season Etcetera showing us how he makes jam
There are four unique stories in the film, including Adam who makes and sells jams and chutneys alongside his day job, at local farmers markets. He let me and amazing cameraman Michael (who deserves an extra special mention because he worked super hard on the series), come to his house to watch the jam creation in action...
Strawberries on the boil
Straining the strawbs
Voila!
Adam also makes tasty chutney
Taste-testing Adam's jam...this wasn't the only slice I ate!
See the full report in Episode 2! (Aug 30th)
Michael filming outside the famous Blue Nile Cafe in Woolwich
For Episode 3 (Sept 6th) we went to find out more about local restaurant The Blue Nile Cafe, which was named the best in London on website Trip Advisor, beating off competition from five star Michelin places headed up by famous chefs.
With owner Shewa
The Blue Nile is an Eritrean and Italian restaurant. The setting is as authentic as the food which is served up with love, something you really don't feel in the majority of places you eat out at. The homely vibe, affordable prices and great dishes has already seen me go back since filming there.
Delicious feast of Eritrean food
Discovering new flavours
And for the final Episode 4 (13th Sept) I got to talk craft, as we headed over to Greenwich's weekly knitting night at The Pelton Arms pub.
Filming at The Pelton Arms
Open to everyone and anyone, it's an informal meet up that was set up by local craft queen and knitting expert Susie Johns who is an absolute heroine of mine.
I love the decor in the Pelton
Knit night essentials
You can either turn up with your own project and work on that, or borrow some yarn and needles and get help learning.
One of Susie's knitted masterpieces
The Pelton have hosted the night for a few years now and they are ever so friendly, they sometimes even feed the knitters as they did on our filming night - yum!
Looking after the knitters with snacks
Knitting & nibbling at The Pelton Arms

The Greenwich Show kicks off tomorrow. Made with utter passion and positivity, I hope it gets the viewers it deserves and most importantly if we get lots of viewers, we'll attract more advertisers, which will help us make a third series. Plus there's nothing else like it on the TV at the moment, there's no reality/celebrity nonsense, just good old-fashion television.
Coming up in the first episode!

Tune into The Greenwich Show #Series2MadeByYou on The Community Channel - available at
Freeview HD 63, Sky 539, Virgin 233, Freesat 651

Episode 1: Sun 23rd August 2015
Episode 2: Sun 30 August 2015*
Episode 3: Sun 6th September 2015*
Episode 4: Sun 13th September 2015*
All episodes are repeated the following Wednesdays at 9pm and Fridays at 4.30pm. 

*these ones have my reports in! : )