Polenta Mish Mash

Jeanette Kakareka

I haven't always enjoyed cooking, but after I moved to San Francisco years ago (my foodie heaven,) I learned to appreciate all kinds of food as well as cooking them. This has served me well, because I used to be a very picky eater!

Most of the time, even if I have a recipe, I don't listen to it very carefully. I modify recipes to fit the ingredients I have and my own tastes. I'm also pescatarian just because I like it, (which means I eat seafood but not meat--not a religion,) so I adjust for that. That said, I encourage you to change my recipe to suit your own needs, and I recommend you to be creative!

// INGREDIENTS (enough for four generous servings)
Boxed polenta
Canned chopped tomatoes
1/2 canned white beans
1/2 canned chickpeas
1/2 one head of cauliflower, cut into bite sizes
Two red sweet peppers, cut into bite sizes
Two chicken breasts, cut into smaller pieces
1/2 onion, chopped roughly
3 cloves garlic, chopped thinly
1/4 vegetable stock cube
Olive oil
Ground black pepper
Sage leaves





Step one // Heat up the oven to 200 C. Prepare a deep baking dish by greasing it up with olive oil or a spray so that nothing sticks. 

Step two // Chop up the pepper, onion, and chicken into pieces about this size. (We used chicken because my boyfriend likes meat. But, this recipe has protein in other places, so you can skip it if you don't eat it, like me. Also, we use a lot of onion because we love onion. Feel free to use less.)

Step three // Give a light coating to it all with the coriander, cumin, black pepper, and salt. (Sorry, I never measure spices, but as you can see here, pre-mixed, everything has some spices but they're not drowning in it. Make it to your preference.) Then mix it all together with your hands to evenly coat it all. Add sage leaves on top. (We used sage because that's what we already happened to have.)

Step four // Put baking dish into the oven. This will take about 15-20 minutes, but keep checking to make sure nothing gets burnt. If anything is done before the rest, take it out and save it in a bowl.

Step five // Begin making polenta according to instructions. I also added 1/4 vegetable stock cube to the water to give it some extra taste. We used half of this box which was 375g. 

Step six // Meanwhile, start boiling water for the cauliflower. Chop up the cauliflower into bite sized and add to boiling water. Wait until they are soft after a few minutes, then drain. 

Step seven // When polenta and cauliflower are ready, and the veggies and chicken in the baking dish look cooked thoroughly, scoop it all out of the dish and into a bowl to save. Pour polenta into baking dish and spread it all out with a spoon or spatula. 

Step eight // Pour canned chopped tomatoes evenly over top of polenta.

Step nine // Drain and rinse beans and chickpeas. Layer over top of the canned tomatoes. Add another few shakes of ground pepper and salt to your liking. 

Step ten // Chop up garlic finely. Now you can go ahead and layer all that you've already cooked, as well as the garlic. Put it back in the oven for another five minutes. (We also wanted soup and garlic bread to go along with it, so we started heating that up as well.)

Step eleven // When it's all looking and smelling delicious, carefully take it back out of the oven, serve, and enjoy! :-)

DALIAN, CHINA -- A city by the sea

Jeanette Kakareka

During our two week holiday from working at English National Ballet, we decided to go back to visit my boyfriend's hometown! 

We took a 10.5 hour flight, had a 4.5 hour layover in the Beijing airport, and then another hour to Dalian. We were so tired and confused and hungry! It was my first time meeting Jin's dad, so this wasn't necessarily the best state to be making first impressions in. When we met him at the Dalian airport I tried to say "it's nice to meet you" in Chinese, but I totally panicked and Jin had to explain what I'd meant to say.

One of the very first days we went to have a sauna day--my first experience! They also had a pool so we swam for a while.

I had met Jin's mom before, and she is the sweetest! She made such an effort to make me feel at home and also made me special food when I got sick one day so I could have something familiar.

I met most of his immediate family including an aunt and cousin. Jin and I also got the honour of making his dad's parents their first spaghetti dish and witness their first attempt at forks! In turn, they gave us lessons on dumpling making since the Chinese New Year was coming up.

We also drove around the city so I could see all of the good sites and brave the outside temperatures. Thanks to Jin's dad who was happy to take a day off of work to drive around in the cold for us! When we were in the city of Dalian, we made it to the aquarium where they had some very happy animals swimming around, getting fed and pet by their handlers.

We even walked down to the beach and collected some sea glass and threw skipping stones.

Jin's family certainly is lucky to live here. It's a very clean place with lots of trees and mountains and beautiful views of the sea. And actually, we did climb to the top of one of the mountains right by their house!

Saying goodbye to our holiday and to his family wasn't easy, but I can't wait to visit again!

Surviving on tour

Jeanette Kakareka

You may have noticed from all my Instagram and blog posts, but I do a lot of both national and international touring here at English National Ballet. We have now begun the start of our 5 week regional tour throughout the UK, and with that on the brain, I thought I would give your some touring pointers for those of you who are new to it. It's hard to avoid touring if you're in the business, plus it can also be a lot of fun!

Rehearsing Odalisques from Corsaire while on national tour during my first season at ENB.

Rehearsing Odalisques from Corsaire while on national tour during my first season at ENB.

1. Be smart about purchasing food. 

This is essential to not going over touring allowances... Or perhaps even saving some of it! If you can stay somewhere with a kitchen, cooking most of your meals is always best. The problem is, you don't always have that option if you're staying in a hotel. So this is when finding some cheap eats is important. Either look online or take a walk around to find some small sandwich shops or cafes with reasonable prices. Then buy your snacks (like yoghurt, nuts, etc) at the grocery store instead of when you're buying lunch. They always hike up the prices for those things at take away places. 

2. Pack some basic medicine and throat lozenges. 

After dancing in perhaps less than perfect conditions, going in and out of hot and cold, traveling for hours, etc, it is easy to find yourself a little under the weather. It can be a real pain having a sore throat and then having to choose between suffering through it or running to a pharmacy between shows. It's best to have a general pain killer, throat lozenges, and some sort of cold medicine or tea already at hand. I also suggest keeping vitamin C tablets around in addition to taking your every day vitamins and probiotics. 

Part of my personal stock. 

Part of my personal stock. 

3. Peppermint tea. 

Most hotels at least have a kettle in the room! A little something to help you relax and wind down after a show is always welcome. Or, if you're like me, you get a little stressed or overwhelmed sometimes and peppermint tea can really help alleviate those feelings.

4. Bring a few clothes you can mix and match. 

You don't want to weigh down your suitcase with a different outfit for every day. You'll need that space for ballet stuff (or souvenirs if you're on an international tour). Plus, if you're traveling during the autumn/winter, no one will see what you're wearing underneath your coat anyway!

I <3  ️ sweaters!

I <3️ sweaters!

5. Ice and physio. 

I am one of the first to get a little lazy about properly taking care of myself when I feel overwhelmed by shows. It's so obviously counter productive... And yet I find myself doing it! It's more important than ever to force yourself to do what your body needs to help it function at its peak. 

6. Wear warm clothes for cold stages and compression socks. 

I have been in quite a number of cold theatres, unfortunately. And until they sort out the problem, (or sometimes they don't...) you'll need something to warm up you up when you feel a bit chilled to the bones. Keep those knits and thermals handy! Additionally, compression socks for your shins are very popular here at ENB. They're good for preventing or lessening shin pain and I highly recommend finding yourself a pair or two of the shin sleeves. 

7. Something to occupy you. 

Music on your phone, a book at hand, or a downloaded movie is important for keeping you busy during plane or bus rides. Not all planes will allow you to watch movies for free, or worse, your headset plug won't work at all. I've forgotten to bring anything along before and being bored made it a loooooong journey!

8. An international adapter. 

They can be really expensive, but I found one on Amazon for a deal and it makes my life so much easier! Mine has two USB plug-ins as well as a spot for plugs. 

Very handy and not too heavy.&nbsp;

Very handy and not too heavy. 

9. Remember to let things go. 

While it is obviously important to do whatever you can (within reason) to do your job better, you also have to leave stage door and live your life. When you leave, say whatever you need to say but also have different conversations then you might have at work. You will be more present while dancing, and also while with the ones you care most about, if you can learn to tell the difference. 

10. Positive people. 

Ok, you can't literally pack people, but hopefully you have a few true friends around and you know who they are. You can all form a support group for one another and help each other maintain an overall positive attitude even when the going gets tough!

Playing tourist with my friends Guilherme (left) and Vitor Menezes while on tour in Madrid.&nbsp;

Playing tourist with my friends Guilherme (left) and Vitor Menezes while on tour in Madrid. 

... Happy touring!

Universal Studios, Singapore.

Universal Studios, Singapore.

A Very Magical Tuesday

Jeanette Kakareka

After a week tour to Barcelona for more shows of Swan Lake, we were given a couple of days off from work. I've written about the cool things I do while I'm in other countries, but we are also so fortunate to live in the wonderful city of London! Oftentimes we are too busy or tired to see the things "in our own backyard". So, my boyfriend and I decided to make the most of having a weekday off, and check out the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden!

We were super geeked out because we'd read the books and watched the movies growing up, so we knew we would be able to fully appreciate spending hours doing the tour--we ended up being there for about 4! It's best to book your tickets ahead of time, because they do get busy. Even on the random Tuesday in September that we went on.

Right away we were impressed! The studios look massive from the outside... and they were. The first thing you get to see is the Great Hall, which is truly impressive. Interestingly, they chose to use actual stone for the flooring because they knew the abuse it would need to take over the next eight movies.

You're then moved out of the Hall and into a giant studio where you can see bits of the sets. Straight away, you start seeing the costumes they used for the movies and recognising props and masks. Perfect photo opportunities!

Jin "holding" the Triwizard Cup from "The Goblet of Fire".

Jin "holding" the Triwizard Cup from "The Goblet of Fire".

It was special to see all of this up close. One thing that I noticed straight away was how a lot of the sets are much smaller than you would be led to believe in the movies. The Gryffindor boys room was a good example of this. They said that the room and beds were made to fit the actors in the first movie when the boys were obviously much smaller, and in the later movies, they had to angle it all so that you wouldn't see their legs dangling off the beds!

On my way to school!

On my way to school!

It was a particularly memorable moment getting to walk Diagon Alley.

It was a particularly memorable moment getting to walk Diagon Alley.

I won't spoil it all for anyone who may want to visit some day... But, we visited Dumbledore's office, saw some of the green screen "magic", hopped aboard the Hogwarts Express, and even visited Diagon Alley. We also got a good look at what the concept artists had come up with to inspire the films.

(Tip: Don't get too stuck in any one place. There is a lot to see. Also, the Platform 9 3/4 gift shop has souvenirs that do not show up again in the main shop. So, if you want anything, buy it then!)

Wizard's Chess anyone?

Wizard's Chess anyone?

Jin and his favourite little guy.

Jin and his favourite little guy.

And of course, we had a mug of butterbeer!

(Tip: The butterbeer is pretty sweet, so it's probably worth it to buy one souvenir mug and share, than try and give everyone their own disposable cups.)

This was such a great way to spend a weekday off, and I'm glad we finally did it! The overall experience can get a bit pricey since it's obviously an attraction, and anyone who goes is probably enough of a fan that they'll want a few souvenirs. Another tip may be to sneak in some snacks like we did. ;-)

Now, it's time for a Harry Potter movie marathon...

Three Places To Visit In Singapore

Jeanette Kakareka

When English National Ballet is on tour, I always make an effort to go out and experience things any time that I'm free--even when I'm tired. While that does mean that our month-long tour in Asia was exhausting, it was also one of my most memorable trips!



The first night in Singapore, we arrived at our hotel very late at night after a long, but particularly enjoyable, flight from Beijing. The next day was a day off so we made our way to Sentosa, a small island with an assortment of activities to keep you busy.

The small group of us headed straight for Universal Studios, which is one of the first attractions you find on the island. It's certainly manageable to fit everything in one day, including more than one go on your favourite rides. Our favourites were the Revenge of the Mummy and Transformers: The Ride.

Later that night, even though we were tired from walking in the heat all day long, we grabbed a taxi and drove to the Night Safari. It's the world's first safari park built for nocturnal animals, separate from their daytime park. This was probably my favourite outing the whole month! Not only can you get amazingly (sometimes uncomfortably,) close to the animals, but they are also passionate about education and conservation. 

Our last show in Singapore was a 3pm matinee of Le Corsaire, so afterwards, we had a filling dinner of Singapore chilli crab and lots more seafood! The next day we ignored the predictions of rain and headed towards Sentosa again--this time for the Zipline! Here is a photo of us right after we were unlatched from the top!

And we couldn't leave without a small dip.

TIP: We realised this a little too late, but there is actually a train that you can take from the VivoCity tube stop (Level 3, Lobby L) to different stops inside of Sentosa. This is much easier (and cooler) than trying to walk the whole way across the boardwalk.

I can only hope that there will be an excuse for me to go back to Singapore one day!