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Welcome to the official blog of Writer & Crafts Expert Momtaz Begum-Hossain.






Sunday, 22 February 2015

How To Host A Crafternoon

Although I'm a crafter, most of my friends aren't! Some have never been to my craft night or have no interest in being creative. They don't understand what I'm talking about when I say I'm running a craft workshop or working at a craft event...so for once, rather than bringing crafts to strangers at the public workshops I run, I decided to introduce 'making' to my friends by holding a Crafternoon around mine. Here's what happened...
Food
I couldn't entertain without laying on a spread. Cooking for others is a good excuse to try dishes that I can't normally make for myself (i.e. an entire cheesecake) so I took it as an opportunity to make food I wanted to eat! Although I'm vegetarian, I lean mainly to vegan food so I took the high risk decision to cook a vegan starters and main for friends who are all meat eaters. As I prefer my food to have a healthy edge I tend to cook with lots of herbs and spices...but no salt. I don't add salt to anything so I'm used to the taste but I'm fully aware that most people do, so I was slightly nervous about whether my guests would be able to eat what I gave them. Thankfully there was nothing to worry about. Although shocked to discover there was no salt, there were lots of comments about how good the flavour was...phew!
I served individual Aloo Chaats for starters... 
...followed by a Root Veg Kitchuri with roasted fennel and butternut squash with a beetroot and soya bean salad.
Dessert was a delicious Spiced Mandarin Cheesecake (a recipe of Dipna Anand). 
 This contained dairy - the Philadephia cream cheese filling was fused with ground cardamom and star anise which gave the cheesecake a lovely fragrant and warming flavour. 

Fun
My idea of fun anyway! I opted for an easy and effective makeover project, one I recently ran at The Damn Good Curry Supper Club to decorate candle holders...
Guests all took the task seriously, there was some proper concentration going on but it was also a good way to meet each other.

The making took place on arrival before starters arrived and was then finished off after the dessert - in between there was lots of girlie banter. 
Friends
Deciding on a guestlist was hard, I wrote down a huge list of people I hadn't seen in ages - should I focus on besties, should I invite boys and if so, which ones, but in the end I realised what I actually wanted to do was spend time with 'recent' friends I've made and get to know them better, so I only invited girls who I met over the last few months up to around two years. 
After lunch I took them on a trip to my local area. Greenwich is one of the most beautiful places in London but it is a trek to get there so I didn't want them to leave without showing them why I love where I live so much. Despite the chilly weather I insisted they all wrap up warm and then we wondered through Greenwich park to see the river views before a quick tour of The Queen's Gallery and a hot chocolate stop to warm up again.

It took me two days to do the washing up afterwards (I loathe washing up!) but it was worth it. Sunday Crafternoon was a success, one of my guests even blogged about it herself which you can check out here

I suspect it will be a few months (if not a year!) before I have a chance to do any more entertaining again so I was pleased to have some nice pics to remember the occasion.

Thinking of hosting a crafternoon around yours?
Here are my tips:

This was my timing:
12pm-1pm Arrive & get crafting
1pm-3pm Lunch, chatter & finish crafting
3pm-5pm Sunday stroll and hot chocolate stop off
  • Keep the project simple (stay away from special techniques that not everyone will know)
  • Plan out a menu and do as much prep as you can the night before
  • Make it easy by sticking with a manageble number of guests
  • Don't be afraid to ask guests to bring a dish if you can't prepare everything yourself
  • Don't worry too much about how clean and tidy your home is, the truth is most guests won't notice as they will be too busy enjoying themselves
  • Prep as much of the food ahead of time so you're not hiding away in the kitchen, but can be there to help with the making
  • Don't stress - just enjoy it, even when things aren't going to plan it's fine, no one will notice! Just keep cool and craft!



Thursday, 12 February 2015

Working At The Asiana Bridal Show 2015


Image: Taken from Avaaya's Instagram account
I'm not normally awake and getting ready for work at 5am, but The Asiana Bridal Show is one of the occasions I'll happily get out of bed for. It was my fifth year working at this annual bridal fashion show in London and my third year presenting the official video for the event. My task involved capturing on camera, all the backstage gossip from the models getting ready in hair and make-up, to a sneak preview of the fashion show, interviewing the designers and organisers and recording the essence of the event.
Never one to shy away from dressing up, I was looking forward to getting glammed up for the occasion. Trouble was I really, really struggled with my outfit. Having worked the three weekends leading up to the show and the day before it, I had little time to prep/try on ideas. The night before I had it down to three outfits but in the morning none of them worked so minutes before my cab was due to arrive I put this ensemble together. Thankfully it worked! So with that sorted it was then over to the Nina Ubhi Hair & Beauty Institute to ensure I looked the part - Nina did my make-up while her head hair stylist Zaheer (pictured) looked after my locks.
This year the catwalk was once again designed by Maz Events and it turned out to be one of the most original fashion show runways I've ever seen. Bridal events normally involve pretty, floral, dainty catwalks but this one took inspiration from the streets of Mumbai. Depicting a classic street scene it was comprised of authentic props with nods to the infamous slums. In fact when I interviewed Rita from Maz she said one of the main inspirations was the film Slumdog Millionaire and the idea of juxtaposing high couture fashion with the hustle and bustle of every day life. Here are some more close ups of the staging...
The models walked out from both of the doorways, I couldn't resist getting up on stage for a pic!
I couldn't wait to get my hands on the corner shop either! It was filled with real stock!




There were three fashion shows during the day featuring 10 designers and boutiques. I'm not posting any pics from the catwalk this year asI was too busy to take any but do a search and you'll find pics on - try Asian Fashion Blog as a starting point, catwalk trend reports will be posted on Asiana.TV soon too.
For the video we spent a lot of time backstage capturing the atmosphere of what it's like working at a fashion show - everyone taking selfies, last minute spritz of hairspray, styling jewellery and accessories, steaming garments, make-up touch-ups, food (interesting the models like their chicken and chips!) and general fun and messing around - indeed I couldn't help have a giggle with these sword bearing gents modelling Ahsan's Bespoke Menswear.
There was also a chance to get a closer inspection of all the catwalk outfits...




Aside from the three fashion shows is the rest of the Asiana Bridal Show which is essentially a giant wedding expo - filled with exhibitors to help out on every aspect of your wedding planning from food and decor to entertainment and cakes (I even spied a Batman cake!) The new Spring issue of Asiana Wedding Magazine was also launched at the show and here I am with my Editorial team Zahra and Fariha.

Asians are known for having massively excessive weddings and whatever one thinks of that, there really is no other culture that does weddings so beautifully with so much detail. Every single stand at the show is stunning, most blew my mind - but every year the 100 companies that exhibit really go to town. It's worth going to the show if you have an appreciation of creativity and design as much as it is if you're getting married. I particularly liked this one by Zara's Catering:
I so wanted this tuk tuk! It's actually a mobile photobooth by Mobile Moments

Image: Asiana

The biggest talking point of the event was the unveiling of the most expensive Asian wedding outfit ever made in the UK worth £100,000. How can an outfit be worth so much? Well it was encrusted with real diamonds. A collaboration between Birmingham based designer Sati and Dhir Diamond Jewellers, it was kept inside a glass box and attracted masses of media attention (BBC, ITV, national and local papers and this segment on the BBC Asian Network)...an unknown fact that I am allowed to share on my  blog is that I wrote the press release that got everyone interested in the dress...the second time in a row press releases I have written have been successful - I am not planning on becoming a PR any time soon, but I guess if I ever do decide to change direction I have developed some good work experience in the field!
The official is coming soon, can't wait to share it - the edit has been left in the hands of Richard on right, he was my cameraman too alongside assistant Deban from Epic Media. It was a bit of an experimental film but lots of fun to make. Will post the link here when it's up!  







Friday, 23 January 2015

How I Made A Velvet Cape/Shrug Type Thing

Some fabrics are so beautiful it's really difficult deciding what to do with them. Then it's really painful when it comes to cutting them up. This pink devore encrusted with crystals is one such fabric. I've had it a while (originally picked up from Khushboo Textiles in Birmingham) but just couldn't make my mind up about what to do with it.
I toyed with using it as an interiors fabric or in my wardrobe. In the end I decided it had to be worn - but at the same time I thought it would be wasted on a specific garment like a top or skirt so I turned it into an article than be worn with different things while remaining the focal point.
So I made it into a shrug/cape type thing, short at the top to show off the jewels...
and long at the back because the fabric drapes so well.
The cape required minimal construction, but as the fabric is transparent and soft it needed a lining.
I started by folding fabric around a mannequin and then pinned it where I liked the shape and this translated into the fabric I cut out as a template to make the lining.

I then joined the lining to the fabric and folded over the top to create a pocket, but only stitched the edges 
together. This created the arm holes.
It's still a bit of a work in progress. The shrug can currently be worn but also I could still emphasise the folds and draping more or even fasten it at the front. It's incredibly regal and reminds of the kind of gown a fairytale king might enjoy wearing! 
It also a bit strange and actually I think the crystals are upside down to what they are meant to be but I like the fact it's unique and there is nothing like it in the whole world!



Monday, 5 January 2015

2015: My year to be Brave


To welcome in the new year I went to the Channel Island of Jersey with friends. The air was fresh, the views outstanding, and despite freezing temperatures the skies were blue and the sun was out. On my first morning I went for a run along the beach....something I very rarely do, it was December 31st - my last run outdoors was in Kolkata in January!



Every year I like to do something unique to mark New Years Day - previously it's included a private flight over the Himalayas in Nepal, snorkelling in Bali and hitchhiking in the British countryside...this year I decided to swim in the sea in conditions that most normal humans would never consider!

The first two times I ran in inspired by my friend Obie who joined me on the mission and we both screamed from the pain. The water was so cold it hurt but then my legs went totally numb and I couldn't feel them. I maybe should have given up but I was committed to a full-on swim. The water was shallow so the only way I could swim was if I went deeper in - that's when it clicked this required extreme bravery!

So third time lucky went for it, stayed there a while and swam - it felt amazing! A local couple passing by offered to take our photo then emailed it to us which is the one above.

Afterwards my teeth chattered all the way back to our apartment but a hot shower thawed me out.

I'm going to remember this morning every time I get unsure, nervous or scared about something. Bravery boosts confidence and makes you feel great when you've accomplished your goal so my hashtag for life in 2015 is #BeBrave.

And here's a few more pics from Jersey just because it was so beautiful...












Friday, 26 December 2014

My 10 Most Memorable Meals of 2014

I waited all year to finally treat myself to Bat Cake for my birthday from Asda


We live in an age when photographing what we're eating is now totally normal. When I flicked through my phone earlier today to remember what I've been up to this year I discovered that I too had fallen into that habit - I had so many food pics! But looking at them brought back so many memories...

Teler Pittas Made By My Bosses Mum



Sweet, crispy and wrinkled around the edges, these deep fried Bengali style doughnuts were a speciality of my mums. Yes they were very unhealthy but oh my, they were soooo yummy! You can't buy them anywhere, these are home-made through and through. For a really authentic version you need to track down a Bengali mum who's making a batch for her family. Thankfully I have my boss whose mum made me a batch during Ramadan. I was so over the moon when he brought in a whole tub for me. Every mouthful was a bite of nostalgia - they have this sweet caramely flavour and are quite stodgy, but when warmed up they taste like heaven.


Masala Chai Chocolate 


Generally speaking when it comes to chocolate I'll eat most varieties. Given a choice I opt for Hotel Chocolat though - they by far make some of the best in the world...but earlier this year I came across this Masala Chai chocolate made by Cocoa Hernando. It's the most surreal sensation to be eating chocolate that tastes EXACTLY like a cup of Indian tea - the traditional type you get in Mumbai, sold in little glasses on street corners. With a warming spicy kick and creamy texture, it really is something else in the world of confectionery.

Lovage Soup Taken From A Scottish Graveyard



I went to stay with a friend in Edinburgh for the weekend and was amazed when he whipped up this absolutely scrumptious soup using an ingredient I had never had in my life - lovage. Hearty, satisfying and ever so comforting, I'm not usually a soup person but this bowl of goodness was so delicious I finished every last drop in the pot. As for the lovage - he picked it the day before from his local graveyard. 

Beetroot & Avocado Salad - An Ottolenghi recipe



For a family do this summer I made this salad which impressed all my sisters. I picked it because it contained broad beans. When we were kids broad beans were a staple veg for us as my parents grew them at their allotment - this meant we would spend hours shelling them. I have very vivid memories of coming home from school and shelling broad beans into huge buckets. But eating them became such a chore. I don't think any of us had eaten broad beans much since those days so serving them up in a gourmet salad was a treat for everyone. Here's the recipe.

Bat Pie 



A couple of months back I heard about a pop-up cafe that served up meals inspired by TV programmes - I booked to go with a companion except he arrived late and we missed our slot. To make up for it he said he'd make me the meal of my dreams inspired by any film or TV progamme of my choice....I chose Batman of course. He came up with a 'Bat Pie' (vegetarian...thankfully no bats inside!) I was incredibly impressed...especially with the aubergine bat wing detail.

Hoppers/Uppams 



I discovered hoppers (also known as uppams) in Sri Lanka four years ago but they are very difficult to come across in the UK. Yes there are Indian restaurants on every high street in the country but few serve South Indian dishes and those who do don't necessarily have these fermented rice batter bowl shaped pancakes on their menus. Then a dear friend of mine took me to East Ham where there are a large number of South Indian restaurants. Until now I have mainly stuck with ordering dosas from them but she showed me that uppams are also on the menu so now I know where to go for my fix and I am so happy about that.

French 'Space Cakes'



There's nothing quite like a trip to a French Patisserie. Earlier this month I popped to Lille for my birthday and bought six incredible birthday cakes (in addition to the Bat Cake at the top of this post!) from three different patisseries (I couldn't resist). The ones that impressed me the most were these incredible space themed cakes named after planets. They didn't just look fabulous...I bought Mars and it was incredible, like eating an artistic masterpiece. 

Vegetarian Crispy Duck at Mr Kong



As a vegetarian there are some dishes you realise you will never eat in your whole life ...but then miracles happen - like Mr Kong, a Chinese restaurant in London's China Town that has a mock meat menu like nothing else I have ever come across. Their crispy duck is every bit as authentic as the real thing...it comes with plum sauce, pancakes, chopped cucumbers and is available by quarter, half and whole duck. I've had it three times this year on special occasions and it is so fun to eat. 

Nutribullet Juices & Smoothies



Every health junkie I know (in real life and in cyber space) owns a Nutribullet. I was lucky enough to be sent one to review but it wasn't something I wrote about and forgot about - it's revolutionalised my life. Every smoothie I have ever made from it has come out tasting amazing - I make them around five times a week and carry them with me so I can sip on healthy good stuff when I am on the go. My fave ingredients are spinach and a shot of wheatgrass with whatever fruit I have in the freezer, blitzed up with it.

Fine Dining At The Ritz



For years I have joked about lunching at The Ritz....thinking it will never, ever happen. And then it did...well kind of. I ended up staying for the night which included dinner of a 10-course seasonal surprise menu. It took over three hours to munch my way through so much exquisite cuisine and I was STUFFED in a way I have never been stuffed before. The entire experience of being at The Ritz was very special and very dreamlike; it's definately something I will remember for a long time.