A Road Trip Through Italy

In mid-August I took a backpack, my best friend and a camper van and drove over 1,500km through Italy. 

Without a real agenda or a specific route, we set off from Venice with the sole aim of trying to get as far south as possible in seven short days. Our ride was completely ridiculous, a 5-seater safari camper painted a mix of garish yellow and orange, emblazoned with 'assassins do it from behind' on the back. I pretend not to have completely loved it.

We made 14 stops (Venice - Florence - La Spezia (+ Cinque Terre) - Viareggio - Tarquinia - Naples - Sorrento - Capri - Nerano - Amalfi Coast - Salerno - Rome - Venice) and lived off a diet that was 90% carbohydrates. We camped, we beached, we drank a spritz in every place, and we bombed it back to Venice from Salerno on the last day.

Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.
— Jack Kerouac

The World's Best Guacamole

Modesty is a virtue, but this really is the best guacamole ever so what little modesty I may usually have has gone straight out the window.

The World's Best Guacamole | Thyme & Honey

I know this isn’t necessarily authentic guacamole for lack of tomatoes and red onion, and the garlic in this will surely make traditionalists sneer, but if there’s any true test to its greatness it will be that the raw onion and fresh coriander went totally undetected by my onion hating, coriander bashing beau. 

Grating the onion and garlic right into the avocado means this can be whipped up in a matter of minutes, which is handy when it will inevitably be devoured at the same rate. Just make sure your avocados are ripe (essential) and that you have plenty of tortilla chips, because guacamole without tortilla chips is a very sad dip indeed.

Given that the lime and raw onion possess magical abilities to prevent the avocado from oxidising, adding the stones is less of an extra careful precaution and more of a doesn't this look kind of pretty? decision. I like to serve mine with a sprinkle of hot chilli flakes, chopped coriander and a glug of the best quality olive oil I've got. 


Makes one big ass bowl

Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Guacamole recipe


4 ripe, medium sized avocados

1/4 white onion, finely grated

1 garlic clove, minced

Tabasco hot sauce

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 teaspoon salt

Fresh coriander, finely chopped

Hot chilli flakes and good quality olive oil to serve



  1. On a chopping board, mash the avocado with a fork and then transfer it to a large bowl. 
  2. Directly grate in the onion and garlic clove and mix well. 
  3. Add around 10 dashes of Tabasco and the juice of a lime.
  4. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and taste - add as needed. 
  5. Finally stir in around 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander.
  6. Serve drizzled with olive oil and top with extra coriander and chilli flakes. And tortilla chips, obviously.

Dark Chocolate + Sea Salt Cookies

My quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie began some time ago, in fact it's turned into somewhat of a saga. I've been playing around with recipes for a good couple of years, determined to find the holy trinity of cookie greatness; that crunchy Maryland style exterior, chewy Millie's Cookies vibe and a hint of shortbread madness, and up until now my attempts have been futile and full of failure - tasty failure - but still failure nonetheless. 

And then I found the one. I first tasted the best cookie in the world at Cafe Grumpy in Chelsea, NYC. I clocked that bad boy through the glass counter, skeptical of its vegan title given its clear good looks. Obviously I felt compelled to try it, keen to prove its mere existence wrong - surely it couldn't be good and vegan, I scoffed. I carefully removed it from the grease-marked brown paper it had been wrapped in and dove right in.

It was delicious. The first bite took me by surprise, 'but it's vegan!' my brain screamed at itself, sure that there had been some kind of error on the labelling. 'Those grumpy coffee aficionados must be messing with me', I concluded before inhaling the rest of the best cookie I had ever tried in about 0.3 seconds flat. 

When I got back to London I began trying to recreate the magic, and settled on using Ovenly's vegan choc chip cookie as a base. The first attempt was incredible, following their recipe pretty much to the T I found that I had a deliciously classic, chewy and slightly crunchy cookie - but it was missing that shortbread aspect I like so much. I wanted it to be crunchy, chewy and crumbly all at the same time. What can I say, I'm hard to please. 

I revisited the recipe, this time subbing canola for coconut oil and found that I had struck GOLD. The dough itself was more shaggy and crumbly, but came together nicely when I pressed it into mounds - like a shortcrust pastry would. When the cookies emerged from the oven, just crisp yet almost lava-like before cooling, I basically couldn't handle my life

But I still wasn't 100% happy. They didn't have that speckled chocolate flex that I'm all about, the choc chips instead gave off too much of a cookie next door all-American vibe, plus I wanted a more balanced salt flavour, rather than a heavy game on top. 

This is where Lindt's Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt came in. Not too much salt but not too little that the flavour fails to come across, I chopped a couple of bars into chunks and shards and threw them into the mix. The result? Speckled, salty, crunchy, chewy, ever so slightly crumbly - everything you could want in a cookie. 

Suck on that, Chips Ahoy.   

Dark Chocolate + Sea Salt Cookies | Thyme & Honey
Dark Chocolate + Sea Salt Cookies | Thyme & Honey

Dark Chocolate + Sea Salt Cookies

Yields approx. 18

Recipe adapted from Ovenly's heavenly Vegan Choc Chip Cookies


240g all-purpose flour

1 + 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

200g Lindt Dark Chocolate with a Touch of Sea Salt

80g caster sugar

70g soft light brown sugar 

100g coconut oil

60ml water

Coarse sea salt flakes like Maldon for garnish



  1. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Chop up the chocolate into small chunks and shards and stir into the flour mixture. 
  2. In another bowl combine the two sugars, breaking up any clumps with your hands or the back of a spoon. 
  3. Heat the coconut oil until melted, then add to the sugar along with the water - whisk until smooth. 
  4. Add the sugar mixture to the flour and stir to combine with a wooden spoon until no flour is visible and the dough just comes together - it should be quite shaggy, don't worry about this. 
  5. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for 12-24 hours - DON'T SKIP THIS STEP!
  6. After the dough has rested in the fridge, preheat the oven to 180°c (165°c FAN).
  7. Using your hands roll the dough into 2 inch balls (you should be able to make about 18) and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 
  8. Use a spoon to gently press down the balls slightly, and sprinkle the a pinch of sea salt flakes. 
  9. Bake for 13-15 minutes until the edges are just golden. 
  10. Leave to cool completely before serving. 

Cacio e Pepe

My first mouthful of cacio e pepe was had at a small, unassuming trattoria tucked away in a quiet corner of Trastevere. We had just arrived in Rome. It was a Sunday in early autumn, the streets fresh from the morning rain were beginning to dry with the late arrival of sunshine and with that a cool break from the humidity. Undeterred, a crowd of locals filled the tables outside, tactfully twirling and slurping their way through plates of spaghetti, bucatini and rigatoni.

We took a pew and joined them with two plates of cacio e pepe - the first of many to follow on that trip - and enjoyed the silky strings of spaghetti dressed in the creamiest yet lightest of cheese sauce, bellowing with fiery pepper notes and an extra dusting of sharp pecorino.

In my mind there could have been no better introduction to Rome.  

Cacio e Pepe | Thyme & Honey

Cacio e pepe when translated simply means cheese and pepper, the two main components of the sauce. A little research will tell you that this classic dish originated as a meal of sustenance, with shepherds carrying pecorino (often referred to as cacio in Roman dialect), black pepper and dry pasta on long journeys to keep them fed and nourished. Now no longer just reserved for tired shepherds, cacio e pepe can be found on almost every menu in Rome - something that I found myself extremely thankful for.  

For me it's the simplicity of this dish that makes it so comforting, and it never fails to amaze me how something so simple and with so few ingredients could have such depth of flavour and complexity.

Cacio e Pepe | Thyme & Honey
Cacio e Pepe | Thyme & Honey

Cacio e Pepe

Serves 2


180g spaghetti

30g unsalted butter

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

30g grated Pecorino Romano DOP

1/2 cup of the pasta's cooking water



  1. Cook the spaghetti in heavily salted water until al dente
  2. A few minutes before the pasta is cooked, melt the butter in a large pan with the ground pepper to infuse the flavours. 
  3. Before draining the pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and add to the melted butter - continue to cook for a minute or so. 
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and add the spaghetti to the butter sauce along with the grated pecorino - toss well until creamy and evenly coated.  
  5. Serve immediately and with extra pecorino. 

Curried Carrot + Chickpea Salad

Episodic memories are those that form feeling toward a particular time or place. Personally I find these memories awaken when the seasons begin to shift from spring to summer, when a plethora of imagery comes bounding from my trusty temporal lobe, leading to a babble of extrasensory perceptions and moments of idyllic nostalgia; the smell of Nivea suncream, the sound of the sea lapping methodically on the shore, slithers of blinding sunlight creeping through thick pine in the Troodos mountains - you get the picture. Ultimately these lucid dreams of summer result in me spending hours Google searching 'best beach holidays in Europe 20-whatever it is' and vowing to steer clear of ice cream in preparation for the big reveal come beach day. 

Curried Carrot + Chickpea Salad | Thyme & Honey

And so is life, 6 weeks prior to my departure for 10 days of unadulterated bliss, sea, sun, mountains, food and family I begin this torturous countdown that involves many a salad, and not so many an ice cream. My better self tells me it will be worth it, my lazy, sugar-loving self hisses at the former with pure hatred. 

I proceed with varying levels of sadness, denial and hesitation, but occasionally I find moments of victory is salads like this. Largely raw, eye pleasingly colourful and packed with protein, fiber, zinc, vitamins A & C, antioxidants and more wonderfully restorative and essential nutrients, this was quickly added to my arsenal of 'eat clean' recipes.

Using Madras curry powder in the dressing adds a unique smoky undertone, while the lemon juice keeps it fresh and zingy. If I wasn't avoiding dairy I'd have added a dollop of plain Greek-style yoghurt, or a few crumbly bites of feta. Oh, to dream (about everything I will inhale once I'm actually on holiday). 

Curried Carrot + Chickpea Salad | Thyme & Honey

Curried Carrot + Chickpea Salad

Serves 4, or 2 as a main


1 large carrot

240g cooked chickpeas

10 small asparagus spears

Handful of radishes, around 5 or 6, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons capers

30ml olive oil

1 teaspoon Madras curry powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Juice of half a lemon

Mixed salad greens - I used a mix of fennel tops and sweet leaves



  1. Using a julienne peeler, slice the carrot into thin strips. If you don't have one of those peelers you can use a mandoline to slice the carrot into ribbons, and then cut the strips by hand. You can also use the mandoline to slice the radishes. 
  2. Remove the spears from the asparagus stalks and set aside. Use a vegetable peeler to create shavings from the stalks. 
  3. Place the chickpeas, carrots, asparagus shavings and radishes in a bowl and set aside whilst you make the dressing. 
  4. Combine the olive oil, curry powder, cinnamon, lemon juice and a good amount of seasoning, whisking well to combine. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss well until evenly distributed. 
  5. Blanche the asparagus tips in boiling water - submerge them for a couple of minutes before rinsing under cold water.
  6. Serve the dressed salad on a bed of leafy greens and scatter over the capers and asparagus tips before adding a final drizzle of olive oil. 


Average calories per serving (based on 4 smaller portions) - 180 kcal

Blood Orange Marmalade

Today is one of those days where I find myself just looking forward to the next. Since I left my job a month ago I've enjoyed the freedom that comes with working part time and pursuing a freelance career on the side, and I'm most certainly not missing my hour+ long commute in the slightest. But I am beginning to miss the routine, just a bit. 

Blood Orange Marmalade | Thyme & Honey

Maybe it's because today is probably one of the most miserable days this year, and fittingly I've spent the majority of it either caught in the rain, or staring at it from within the warmth (and silence) of my flat. Or maybe it's the fact that I'm still mourning the end of blood orange season that's putting me in a particularly bad mood. All I know for sure is that I'm finding a little slice of happiness in the memory of this sweet, citrus marmalade.

Preserving fruit when it's in its prime is the best way to guarantee enjoying it when it's out of season, and I find citrus works particularly well in that respect. Blood oranges have a more intense flavour than their plain Jane cousins, and make for a pretty lip smacking marmalade. All you need to do is add a touch of lemon, a hefty amount of sugar and prepare not to burn yourself on hot jars after canning like I did. 

Just a note on the consistency here; I like to keep this marmalade quite chunky as I love that extra burst of flavour it gives, however you can get yours more jam-like if you cut the oranges up into smaller chunks. 

Blood Orange Marmalade | Thyme & Honey

*when blood oranges are out of season, you can substitute for regular oranges for an equally delicious marmalade.

Blood Orange Marmalade

Makes 2 small jars (roughly 340g)


8 medium-sized blood oranges

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

500g caster sugar



  1. Remove the peel from the oranges, being careful to also remove any white pith. Using a sharp knife cut the peel into very thin slices and set aside. 
  2. Remove any membranes from the orange segments and cut into rough pieces. Place the oranges pieces, lemon juice and sugar into a heavy-bottom pan. 
  3. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often. Then reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for 45 minutes -1 hour until a candy thermometer reads 225°F. 
  4. Meanwhile, place around 2 tablespoons of the sliced peel (you can discard the rest or add more if you like) in a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to boil over a medium heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook for around 5 minutes, then drain and set aside ready to stir into the marmalade in the last few minutes of cooking. 
  5. Spoon the marmalade into sterilised jam jars fitted with sterile lids. 
  6. Place the jars in a deep, heavy-bottom pan filled with boiling water. Keep the jars in the water bath on a medium heat for 10 minutes, or according to canning-pot instructions. 
  7. Carefully remove the jars from the water bath and place on kitchen towel - make sure the jars don't touch one another and have enough space. 
  8. Once cool you can store the marmalade in a cool, dark place for up to a year, but you'll need to refrigerate once opened. 


Mexican Street Corn [Elotes]

Where do I start with this one? There are so many great things about this grilled, creamy, spicy Mexican street food staple that attempting to put it all into words is no easy feat. 

Mexican Street Corn | Thyme & Honey

I mean, just look at them. Yellow as the sun with a cheeky bit of char, lathered in a completely unnecessary yet more than welcome chilli mayo dressing, topped with crumbled uber cremoso queso fresco (or feta works just as well), finished with a few zesty sprinkles of lime, a blessing of chopped coriander and a dusting of chilli powder for that all important kick. I'll let you digest all of that for a sec. It's kind of magical, right? 

A bite out of one of these beauties and you'll wonder why you have ever bothered eating corn another way. Seriously, what is the actual point of grilled corn on the cob with a bit of butter when you can eat them like this? That Clover advert depicting a grown man crying over a bit of butter rubbed half-arsed onto boiled corn has been selling lies to this nation for far too long. I am hoping that this recipe will put a stop to crap corn. 

So here I am, shouting it from the goddam rooftops of South West London! Banish the butter! Say no to bland, boiled corn! And get loco with your otherwise completely mediocre yellow knobbled large grain plant (apparently not actually a vegetable...?). 

PS. it just so happens to be Cinco de Mayo on, funnily enough, the 5th of May. If you know a better way to celebrate Mexican Independence, a historic event that most likely has nothing to do with you, than with these elotes then I challenge you to Mexican fiesta dual, your dish vs. mine. Sombreros, compulsory.

Mexican Street Corn

Serves 4


4 sweetcorn cobs, husked

65g mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce

Zest and juice of half a lime

30g queso fresco, or feta

Chilli powder

Bunch of coriander, roughly chopped



  1. Wrap each corn cob in aluminium foil and bake in the oven for 35 minutes at 200°c
  2. Meanwhile mix together the mayo and Sriracha and set aside.
  3. Once the corn cobs are done, finish them off by removing from the foil and putting under the grill for 5-10 minutes in order to char slightly. You can also do this on the BBQ. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, and remove them from the oven/BBQ once you’re happy.
  4. To serve, brush the corn with the mayo mixture then top with some lime zest and juice.
  5. Crumble over the queso fresco and shake a bit of chilli powder on top.
  6. Garnish with the chopped coriander, serve and devour.

Armenia in Pictures

The familiar smell of ethanol that I had picked up earlier that day when stopping for gas was at first overwhelming when we entered Yerevan. We were staying almost an hour outside of the capital in Ujan, a village in the province of Aragatsotn, and until this point aside from my travel companions I had enjoyed the solitude of the mountainous landscape. The contrast between the city and all that's outside of it was notable; after the collapse of the Soviet Union vast resources have been poured into building a cosmopolitan city out of Yerevan, and with tree-lined avenues and grandiose buildings like those found in Republic Square, you can see the Parisian streets the city's architects were trying to mirror. It's only when you venture away from the quaint squares and trendy cafés and into the district of Nor Nork, the last remaining Soviet housing projects, that you get a true understanding of how life once was here.

Outside of the capital city improving the standards of infrastructure, health and social care seem to have been overlooked, resulting in around one million Armenians, many of whom are from the poorer regions, leaving for pastures greener - even if that means without legal immigrant status. Our temporary home in Ujan was a world away from Yerevan and its traffic-filled streets. 

However, despite the economic disparities Armenia certainly shares one heart. The people who we encountered throughout our travels were full of life and with an incredible sense of generosity and kindness. Food was a central theme: an offering, an act of celebration, moments to break bread and share stories with one another. Traditional sharing plates comprised of khorovats, fresh salads, lavash, dolma, cured meats and pickles, and pouri havov pilaf (roast chicken with rice) adorned tables and would become quickly devoured in between the ongoing clink of glasses filled with local cognac as we'd say cheers for various things - a practice I myself know well from my own Armenian family.

Maybe it was this familiarity, the unexplained understanding of a place where I was a stranger yet connected by history, that made me feel welcome wherever I went. After all this was my ancestral homeland, and even though my family had left 100 years before I could still feel a part of them and their story in this now not so alien land. 

Ujan, Armenia | Gabriella Simonian ©
Celebrations in Ujan | Gabriella Simonian ©
Khor Virap | Gabriella Simonian ©
Prayer candles, Khor Virap | Gabriella Simonian ©
La bestia | Gabriella Simonian ©
Traditional khorovats | Gabriella Simonian ©
Lavash | Gabriella Simonian ©
Republic Square | Gabriella Simonian ©
Outskirts of Yerevan | Gabriella Simonian ©
Laundry | Gabriella Simonian ©
Old men playing Narde | Gabriella Simonian ©
Kitten in the street | Gabriella Simonian ©
Baklava | Gabriella Simonian ©
Canned | Gabriella Simonian ©
Lavash | Gabriella Simonian ©
Mer Taghe | Gabriella Simonian ©
Yerevan | Gabriella Simonian ©

Baba Ghanouj

Baba ghanouj, with its distinct smoky flavour and creamy texture, is up there with the best of Middle Eastern food in my book. Along with  hummus it holds a certain nostalgia for me, forever being on the table alongside fresh saj and soujouk when we'd sit down to eat with family in Cyprus. We'd usually keep a tub of it on hand back at home in London, but up until recently I hadn't really tried making it myself. 

Baba Ghanouj | Thyme & Honey

This was in part due to the fact we didn't have a gas range at home, and also because the purist in me remains stubborn on charring the aubergines instead of the simpler (and cleaner) process of baking them, but once we moved into our flat last year, equipped with a gas range cooker, I couldn't resist trying it out.  

There is a fair amount of debate concerning what makes the 'perfect' baba ghanouj, and writer Felicity Cloake tackles this quite well in her column for The Guardian. Like Felicity, I like researching and testing different takes on a recipe to get the perfect version, and among other resources I used her article as an aid in my quest for the ultimate creamy, smoky and garlicky dip. 

Personally I like enough lemon to taste but not enough to make the flavour obviously citrusy, a hint of garlic (1 clove per every two aubergines), and the essential ingredient, tahini - although just a little otherwise you'll end up with something more akin to hummus. The below recipe is what I consider to be the perfect baba ghanouj, and now that I've found the right balance the only thing likely to change when I make it is whether I garnish it with chopped mint or not. 

Don't let the process of charring it put you off, likewise if you don't have a gas hob don't let that deter you either as you can still make delicious baba ghanouj without this process. What I find is most important is creating the right balance of flavours according to your own personal taste - although I think you might quite like the recipe below nevertheless. 

Baba Ghanouj | Thyme & Honey
Baba Ghanouj | Thyme & Honey

Baba Ghanouj

Serves 4


2 medium aubergines

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons tahini paste

Juice of half a lemon

Pinch of salt

Olive oil and pomegranate seeds to serve



  1. Burn the aubergines using a gas cooker. Sit the aubergines on top of a low-medium flame, turning often. Cook until they are practically caving in on themselves. If you don't have a gas hob, prick and bake the aubergines whole in an oven set to 180°c (160°c FAN) for 30-40 minutes. 
  2. Leave the cooked aubergines to cool slightly before peeling away the skin. Place the flesh into a fine mesh sieve and leave to slowly drain for 20 minutes. 
  3. After draining, break the flesh up gently with a fork - I like to keep mine quite chunky but you can mash it up as much or as little as you like. 
  4. Stir in the minced garlic, tahini and salt. Add the lemon juice and taste - adjust with more tahini/lemon/salt as needed. 
  5. Serve with olive oil and pomegranate seeds. 


Chive + Basil Pesto

Everyone has that one recipe that they go back to time and time again, and for me it's pesto. Perhaps it's the ease in throwing it together, or the fact that its traditional use is with my favourite carb, but there is something about its herby, garlicky notes that keep it firmly on my go-to recipe list. 

Recently I was asked what my favourite plate of food was, and I'll admit I had never really considered what my last supper request would be should I be faced with the fairly morbid scenario. My answer? A heaving plate of pasta with pesto. 

I can't say this revelation didn't surprise me, I really had always considered myself to be one of those who would opt for a steak with a side of fried chicken and macaroni cheese to be all and end all with. Ultimately pesto just has a space in my heart and stomach that is reserved indefinitely, and I guess that's not a bad way to finish things off, amirite?  

What I love about pesto is its versatility. Every green herb or leaf that I throw at it seems to work in its own right, with unfamiliar flavour profiles lending themselves to different parts of the palate, adding an element of discovery each time I try a new combination. This particular pesto is made using chives as well as basil, resulting in luxuriously garlicky undertones while keeping it classic. Use it on pasta like I've done here, or dot it onto ricotta on toast - it is all good.  


Makes 200g 


20g fresh chives

10g fresh basil leaves, stalks discarded

3 tablespoons pine nuts

1 garlic clove, minced

6 tablespoons olive oil

30g parmigiano reggiano, finely grated



  1. In a food processor, add the herbs, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper and blend.
  2. Scrape the pesto mixture into a bowl and by hand stir in the grated parmesan. Add an extra glug of olive oil for good measure.  
  3. Cook your pasta of choice until al dente (allow 100g per person), reserving a little of the cooking water before draining. Add 1-2 heaped tablespoons of pesto per person, along with a splash of the reserved water.
  4. Serve immediately.