The Raj, Blackhall: A hidden gem outside of central Edinburgh

We really are spoiled for choice here in Edinburgh when it comes to Indian restaurants. But beyond the usual BYOB curry houses which host sports socials by the hundreds, there are a handful of Indian eateries which stand out from the crowd. The Raj is one of those places. 

Newly relocated to Blackhall from its original home in Leith for 30 years, the Raj might seem a bit far away to travel for a student who's based in Marchmont. But if there's ever a reason to escape the central Edinburgh bubble, it would be for this top-notch Indian food.

The Raj is conveniently located next to a bus stop, making the long journey stress-free. Hop off the bus and walk straight into the restaurant where you'll be warmly welcomed by the friendly staff. Decked-out for the holidays with fairy lights of all colors, the interior of the restaurant was as cheerful as our waiter who quickly stopped by to take our drink orders. It truly is a rarity to find an Indian restaurant in Edinburgh which serves alcohol, so it was quite a treat to order a glass of house white to pair with the spicy curry to come. 

With a wide-ranging menu combining the influences of both Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine, the Raj encourages you to stray away from your usual order and try their more unique dishes. While vegetable pakora and chicken tikka masala can be found on the menu, they might pale in comparison to the more uncommon options. 

It wouldn't be a proper Indian meal without some poppadoms to start. Crisp, light,  and addictively salty, these massive golden discs were served with various chutneys, raitas, and other sauces.

Enticed by the thought of fluffy dumplings for a starter, I ordered the mysore bonda- a dish I had never heard of before. These doughy balls were bursting with aromatic spices, and served with a coconut chutney that satisfied my craving for a sweet and savory pairing. 

The lamb lal mirchi was Ben's starter of choice. Stewed pieces of lamb served on a bed of crispy onion bhaji, the lal mirchi was a perfect winter warmer. 

After mulling over the list of mains for quite some time (the staff here don't make you feel rushed), Ben and I both settled on lamb curries- a type of meat which doesn't often fit into a student budget. As we awaited our mains, our waiter presented us with silver tea light trays to keep our food warm, and add to the romantic ambiance.  

In my mind, a curry that perfectly balances creaminess with spice is the ideal candidate for a winter dinner. And my lamb pasanda certainly fit the bill. Morsels of tender lamb immersed in a spiced yoghurt and almond sauce, I was in heaven after the first bite. 

Always keen for something fiery, Ben ordered the laal maas, which put my mild curry to shame. I should also let you know that the Raj really goes above and beyond when it comes to portion sizes- there's plenty of meat in each dish, and there's enough curry sauce to soak up with your naan (in our case, that of the peshwari kind). 

The real winner in both of our books, however, was the saag aloo. While you might overlook this simple combination of potatoes and spinach, it is not to be missed. Fluffy potatoes tossed in a velvety spinach and paneer sauce, you'll have to stop yourself from eating it all in one go. 

Much to our surprise, the waiter immediately brought out a plate of sweets after we had scraped the last morsels of food from our plates (the Raj offers free sweets to all customers!). Without explanation of what we were presented with, we tucked into the mysterious selection of desserts. Now, I can't fully describe what each nibble exactly was, but one stood out above the rest. Owing to my upbringing in a half Iranian family, I was able to identify one of the sweets as similar to the Persian dessert, zoolbia- crispy, fried dough drenched in honey.

As we were picking at the last crumbs of dessert, our waiter appeared once again wheeling out a cart filled with after-dinner drinks. Not one to usually indulge in a post-meal swig, I was suggested by Ben to try a Baileys on ice (a favorite of my Nana's). While I sipped on my creamy concoction, Ben finished off a shot of Drambuie. 

With a menu that highlights the best of both Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine, the Raj hits that sweet spot between familiar and exotic. Owing to it's friendly staff and comforting food, your experience here will surely be one of warmth from start to finish.

Buy your bus tickets now, because the Raj is certainly worth the journey out of the city centre.

Thank you to the Raj and Laura at Crimson Edge for the lovely meal! You can view the Raj's full menu online here (don't miss their Sunday buffet!).    


Planning an Epic Friendsgiving

Ever since I moved to Edinburgh, Thanksgiving has been a strange time for me. I see snapchat stories of my friends hanging out back in my hometown, miss out on watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and don't get to bond with my family over a hearty dinner. I'm more used to it now, though, and I know how to better fight off those Thanksgiving-abroad blues. 

In years past, I've gone to a big Thanksgiving Ball at the Balmoral Hotel. But this year, the timings didn't work out, and I realized that my time might be better spent gathering my friends together for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. They are mostly British, after all- and it's my responsibility to introduce them to American culture (true story: most of my friends have never had pumpkin pie before!). 

I've decided that I'm officially crazier than my mom, now, having invited over 15 people to my flat for dinner. I will single-handedly (well, with a little bit of help!) be putting together a dinner made up of cocktails, appetizers, a starter, mains and sides, and not one, but two desserts! I'm in way over my head here, but I absolutely love it. If you know me well enough, you'll know that cooking is one of my greatest passions. And what better way to show your friends you love them then by stuffing them full of food and drinking endless bottles of wine? 

Since this is my first time cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I thought I'd share a bit of my planning process here on the blog, and a few tips which I've picked up from the internet which I think are worth repeating. Before I do that, though, I will say this: if you want to host a Thanksgiving dinner, you have to plan and prepare in advance! That is, if you want to have an epic one, like me. As I sassily said to my mom over the phone: It's Thanksgiving dinner- this isn't child's play, mom! 

Create a menu that suits all diets // Always always ask people what their dietary requirements are beforehand. I know it can seem tedious, and most people won't really expect you to cater to them individually, but you should always keep this in mind. Your menu doesn't have to be entirely dairy-free, but make sure there are at least some options (separate out some mashed potatoes that have no dairy, have an apple pie and a pumpkin pie to suit everyone). It doesn't take much more effort and your friends will thank you! 

Make sure your menu is diverse // One of the best tips I read online, that I easily could have glossed over had I not read it, was to make sure you have at least one green vegetable that isn't smothered in cream or sprinkled with bacon. I know it can be tempting to make everything ridiculously rich, but people will certainly want a break from the overwhelming flavors of Thanksgiving. Have an option of a green salad on the table to freshen things up! 

Don't fuss too much over decorations // To be honest, nobody really cares about this stuff. They might snap a photo or two for their instagram, but after that it's all going to be about the food and the good chat. That being said, it's also important to go to some effort as far as the tablescape goes. I'm planning on whipping up a quick and easy tablescape of pumpkins, candles, and white flowers. I also bought a solid-colored table runner earlier this week; simpler than a tablecloth, and no need for exact measurements! 

Plan a timetable // I'm kind of stressing because I haven't done this yet but it is absolutely crucial to hosting a successful dinner! Find out what can be made ahead of time and served cold (for instance, pumpkin pie, cold appetizers) and what can be made ahead but warmed through before serving (like soup or stuffing). Write out a list of what needs to go in the oven when, and check it off as you go. Much easier said than done, but so worth it! 

Ask your guests to bring a bottle of wine (or two...) // You can never have enough wine. And if like me, you love to take on all of the work and glory that comes along with cooking dinner, and don't love to delegate tasks, then this is a great way to get your guests involved. Also, this ensures that there will be enough wine for everyone (the general rule is a bottle per person). But don't forget the cocktails!

I'm not quite sure whether writing out this post has made me more excited or anxious for cooking up a storm on Thursday, but I really can't wait to have everyone round for dinner! I'm going to try not to sweat the small stuff, and just enjoy the night. Fingers crossed it goes according to plan!


Dear Hillary Clinton

Dear Hillary Clinton,

Let's talk about you. Not the man who you competed against in this election. For there has been far too much attention directed at him. We seem to have forgotten that despite your loss, you still have had a tremendous effect on this nation.

Thank you for your dedication to this country, for your commitment to serving the needs of families, and for your diplomacy as Secretary of State. With a media culture that thrives off of scandal and negative rhetoric, we often forget the good you have done for this nation. Sure, you've had your missteps. In over 40 years of public service you are bound to. But that doesn't diminish your resounding successes.

After all was said and done, people wanted to place the blame somewhere. Sometimes, fingers were pointed at you. Other times, people wanted to hold the DNC, the FBI, the Electoral College, the far-left Bernie-bros, or the media accountable for the outcome of this election. But the only thing we can blame is our ignorance. We failed to realize how deeply entrenched racism, sexism, and (perhaps most importantly) disenfranchisement, are in much of the country's mindsets. I was living in my liberal bubble, and so were you.

Though I fully supported you throughout the election, I must admit I had a problem with the whole "email scandal" (if we could even call it that). No- I wasn't one of the "lock her up!" folks, coming at you with torches and pitchforks. I did my research, and I made my judgements. Indeed, the media promoted a false narrative that was at once poorly timed, and perhaps unethical. However, much of the country was understandably troubled by this issue. You were so assured that you were in the right (you were), that you failed to ever fully explain the situation to a nation that had so many doubts.

You fought with confidence, fending off tough questions with poise and grace. And for that, I greatly admire you. But for others, your poker-face gave them more reason to be hateful. Criticisms came flying at you left and right, accusing you of being emotionless and cold.

For us women, this is an entirely familiar story. Politics has been dominated by men for so long that any woman who wants to throw her hat in the ring must play by their rules. It's a man's world, and women are simply living in it. Women must take charge, without being too bossy; be serious on the issues, but also smile enough. We carry the weight of these conflicting expectations no matter what position of power we choose to go after- lest we be dissuaded by those same unattainable standards, ultimately giving up in this seemingly futile battle. As my mother always says, women have to work at least twice as hard to go half as far as men do.

At the end of the day, we have to to realize that the reason that in over 200 years of our existence as a country we have never had a female president is not because women don't want to be in positions of power. It is because the political world was largely created by men, and continues to systematically work against women, discouraging them from participating in politics. After all, we do account for more than half of the American population.

Despite my nihilism, though, I say enough. This election, and your role in it, has taught me that we need more women in politics. And we need more minorities in politics, too. We need more diverse voices to be heard in order to cater to the needs of everyone. That's not to say that one has to be a woman or a minority to work in the best interests of oppressed groups; but it sure doesn't help that our presidents have had largely similar backgrounds over the last two centuries.

Hillary, it was a hard-fought battle. But know that you never failed us. Your loss only further exposed the great strides that women still have to take in order to have their voices heard. That women continue to be defined by their husbands. That women are still subject to criticism for their looks, despite their actions. That even one of the most iconic, powerful figures (man or woman) in American politics can't escape the micro-aggressions that come with the package of being a woman.

With your immense passion and dedication for this country, I know that this certainly won't be your last stand. You will emerge again as one of our country's greatest leaders, no matter what role you take. You won't give up on us, so we won't give up on you.

With utmost respect,



Badger and Co: A Fantasy World Come to Life

Book lovers, wander-lusters, and foodies alike are all welcome at one of New Town's latest gastronomical additions, Badger and Co. Duck in from the winter rain showers, and you will be whisked away into the world of the Winds in the Willows, where Badger and Co will provide you with a dose of childhood nostalgia in a effortlessly elegant setting. 


The perfect space for a cozy date-night, the restaurant's flawless decor will have you oohing and ahhing at every last detail, from the copper flower vases to the wooden clip-board menus. Sink into the cushy chestnut brown couches, and you might forget that you're in a restaurant at all. 

You would be right though, to think that this space feels more like an old friend's living room than a city-centre restaurant. Travel back to 1859, and this was the very building which Kenneth Grahame, the man who penned The Wind in the Willows, called home. 

Inspired by Grahame's famous and fantastical tale, Badger and Co opened up on Castle Street in the spring of 2016, adding to Edinburgh's dynamic and ever-growing food scene. But where Badger and Co stands out from the crowd is how it is at once familiar and fresh. 

Having been graciously invited to try out the menu, Ben and I ditched any soggy Halloween plans we had (we celebrated over the weekend), and opted for a quiet night of dinner and drinks instead.   

Starting with it's cocktail menu, Badger and Co. sets a playful tone for the evening. "Picnic on the Banks" and "Forage & Fortify" are among the many quirky drinks you can treat yourself to. This particular Monday night, a glass of "There's more to life than money" was my chosen poison. Featuring my favorite aperitif, Aperol, combined with orange bitters and a good few good slugs of wine, I think I may have just found my new favorite cocktail.

Cocktails aside, Badger and Co also offer up beers from far and wide, including it's most unconventional addition to the menu- the banana bread beer. While neither of us bit the bullet on trying it, it would surely make for a lovely mid-day brew.  

Liquored up with some offbeat beverages, we were ready to take a crack at the food menu. While Badger and Co's menu generally falls on the traditionally British side of things, they are also quick to surprise guest's with little changes that go a long way. 

The potted confit salmon fit the bill in terms of a light, flavorful starter. A ceramic pot filled with shredded bits of tender salmon and microgreens matched perfectly with the creamy nutmeg aioli. A true winner on all fronts. 

The black pudding and scallops, a truly British combination, made a stunning first impression in its presentation. Ben found the scallops to be a tad overcooked, but was won over by the composition of the rest of the dish.  

Badger and Co's attention to every detail shines in its main dishes. Focusing mostly on game and other local cuts, meat is certainly the way to go. The roast rump of lamb was cooked medium-rare, allowing all the lovely juices to seep into the greens below. Paired with a block of crispy polenta and bacon lardons, this dish is the epitome of true indulgence.  

A good plate of fish and chips is not too hard to come by in a city like Edinburgh, but Badger and Co's twist on the classic ranks it above the rest. Dipped in a curried batter before frying to crisp perfection, the haddock is laid over a bed of mint and lime (yes, I said lime) crushed peas. Combine all the elements with a smear of tartar sauce, and you'll know when I say that these fish and chips are really next level.   

As a devoted watcher of Bake-off, I have quite high expectations when it comes to dessert. While the lavender creme brûlée took on a bit more lavender flavor than either Ben or I would have preferred, it had a wobble that even Mary Berry would have been proud of. 

Keen to go full-on autumn to finish up the meal, I decided on the intriguing BBQ Maple Cake. The generous slab of cinnamon cake drizzled in sweet syrup, however, was no match for its pairings. I could have eaten the spice roasted figs and maple clotted cream on their own and been perfectly content! 

Grounded in tradition as old as Wind in the Willows itself, Badger and Co keeps true to its British roots, but adds a touch of whimsy on the side for good measure. With scrumptious plates and colorful cocktails, this Edinburgh eatery is the type of restaurant even the fussy Badger himself would approve of.      

A huge thank you to Badger and Co for inviting me down for a review! You can visit their website and check out their full menu here

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