Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Pad Thai Noodle Salad with Tofu & Mango

Pad Thai Noodle Salad with Tofu & Mango



On the whole, I don’t consider myself much of a salad person, which really isn’t fair as the only salads I really don’t like are the leafy kind: chuck in a grain, pulse, or carb, and I’m on board big time!

I don’t know exactly what inspired the recipe below. I think a few things I’ve eaten over the years converged; walking through the shops, I started grabbing things, and then came home and just started cooking... and, rather quickly, it was born!

As a side, this will serve 4 - 6, otherwise as a main it will serve 2 - 4, depending on how hungry everyone is. The recipe can be scaled up very easily, it’ll just be a matter of finding a large enough bowl!

Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge overnight and eaten for lunch the next day, but the noodles will start to get a bit mushy after that, so keep that in mind if preparing a larger amount.


Prepare in advance 

Dressing
In a medium Pyrex measuring cup, or small glass bowl, combine:

  • 1 medium red onion, roughly cubed (slice 1cm lengthways, turn, and then slice 1cm the opposite way)
  • 1 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped*
  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled and finely chopped*
  • 1 red chilli, thinly sliced*
  • Juice of two limes
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons mirin
  • 1 teaspoon black vinegar (leave out if you don’t have on hand)
  • 1 teaspoon each of toasted sesame oil and a neutral-tasting oil (such as canola)
  • A few cracks each of Salt and black pepper 

Stir well to combine (and break up the onion), then put in the fridge to for 1 - 2 hours.

Tofu*
Preheat the oven to 180C.

Slice a 450g block of tofu into approx. 1cm cubes.

Line a baking tray with baking paper or a silpat, and then pour over 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of neutral-tasting oil (such as canola) and a few cracks each of Salt and black pepper. Stir everything together, then spread out the cubes to make sure none of them are touching before placing in the oven.

Bake the tofu for approximately 30 minutes, until lightly browned and puffed up slightly. Remove from the oven, and place on a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before using in salad.



Just before serving

Noodles
Set a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Do not salt the water.

While you’re waiting for the water to boil, prepare an ice bath in a large bowl (fill up about halfway with cool water and then add about a tray of ice cubes); store in the fridge or freezer until the water boils to keep it cool.

When the water has boiled, add 2 x 200g packets of pad Thai (thick rice) noodles. Stir and cook for 6 minutes. Drain and add to the ice bath, stirring to ensure the cool water is distributed around the noodles. I like to get my hands in and stir; this is both easier than using tongs, and also means I can feel all around the noodles to make sure they’re completely cool.

Leave the noodles in the ice bath until ready to assemble the salad.


Assembly
In the serving bowl, combine the following:

  • 1 Lebanese cucumber, thinly sliced
  • Half a punnet cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 large mango, diced*
  • Cooled tofu and noodles 

Finely chop 1/2 a bunch of coriander, and stir through the dressing (if serving the chilli separately, remove 1/4 at this point and stir through the chilli, then serve separately*).

Pour the dressing over the salad, and stir through. Taste one of the noodles, and add a little more salt, soy sauce, lime juice or rice vinegar to taste.

Then serve and enjoy!




Some * notes:
  • to make things easier, you can use a pre-seasoned tofu (such as the Soyco brand), or use a pre-made plant based meat, just make sure you briefly grill or sauté first and allow to cool.
  • even though the acid in the dressing will cook and mellow the garlic and onion, it won’t do that for the chilli, so be careful when adding it! If you’re unsure (especially if serving for guests), leave it out when you’re first making the dressing; before dressing the salad, set aside about 1/4 cup and stir some chilli through that and serve separately, so guests can add if it they like. I also just say “1 red chilli”; choose your preferred variety depending on how much heat you like. I find the long red Thai chillis (the 15cm long ones) are perfect, but select according to your tastes.
  • I say to chop the ginger and garlic rather than grate it or mince it; they will be mellowed by the acid in the dressing, so chopping them ensures they still have a nice bite, rather than just dissolving into the dressing.
  • If mango isn’t in season, you could try other fruits, but the mango adds a beautiful sweetness that helps lift the dressing without needing to add any sugar, so probably just wait until it is; this is a perfect hot summer lunch or dinner!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Ultimate Pub Gravy

I adore pub food. The sheer comfort, the absolute unpretentiousness of it...  delightful. Sadly, we don't have The Snug in Brisbane (and sadly, it's awesome vegan-friendly St Kilda location has also closed), so mostly, I do with making Pub Lunches at some.

This is my go-to gravy; it's a one-pot wonder that takes about 15 minutes to come together and is both Hangover Approved and worthy of guests. The perfect addition to your homemade pub lunch!

Feel free to leave out the mushrooms, sub in a different veg, switch up the stock and spices... it's incredibly forgiving, so use this as a base for your own dream gravy.



Ultimate Pub Gravy

In a large frying pan, combine:



1 brown onion, diced
2-4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2-3 sliced mushrooms (or equivalent to volume to onions if presliced (a good handful))
Few good cracks of salt
Generous tablespoon each of butter and olive oil
 Sauté until onions are mostly transcluent then add:
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbl nooch
1 stock cube/1 tbl stock power (omit if using stock later)
Cook, stirring almost constantly, until toasty then add:
1/4 cup white flour



Cook, still stirring, until flour is beginning to brown then add:
1/4 cup red wine OR beer
2 cups (approx) of water OR stock (if not using stock cube/powder)
 
 
Stir thoroughly until mix is cloudy. Wait for mix to bubble then lower heat slightly, continuing to stir, until mix is desired thickness (keep in mind it will thicken as it cools; add more stock or water if it becomes too thick). Season with pepper, and additional salt if required.

 

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Sweet Potato Pasta Sauce

This recipe is the result of being home disappointingly early but surprisingly tipsy to discover that there was nothing to eat. I quickly roasted the sweet potato I found tucked at the back of my cupboard but then realizing that there was no way it would sate our growing drunger, I quickly cooked up some pasta and decided to turn it into a sauce.

Worried I only only enjoyed it under the influence, I tried it a couple more times to confirm it is indeed a ridiculously quick and delicious meal you can throw together with minimal effort.


Sweet Potato Pasta Sauce
Preheat oven to 200C. In a pan (I use my cast iron), put:
1 brown onion, sliced
1 medium sweet potato, cut small
3 cloves garlic, crushed and/or roughly chopped
Good splash canola
Big pinches of salt and nooch
Bake for 30, and start boiling water for pasta.

After 30 mins, add a big splash of red wine, mix through, then mix through 2 heaped tablespoons of tomato paste. Thin with approx 1/2 cup stock (until it's just a little thinner than you want). Return to the oven (turn the oven off) while you cook pasta, for about 10 minutes. Stir sauce through cooked pasta. Season.

You can also stir the cooked pasta through the sauce and crumb the top the top and bake together. Simply mix together 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs (I use Panko) with a teaspoon or so of oil, salt, pepper, nooch (optional), and freshly chopped parsley or oregano. Sprinkle over the top of the sauce and pasta then return to the oven for 15-20 minutes (until the top is golden brown).

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

30 Minute Ragù alla Bolognese

I adore lasagna. Creamy, meaty, savoury, delicious sauces held in sheets of silky pasta... is there anything better? I rarely eat it, though, cause "real" ragù alla Bolognese takes 2 to 3 hours to make, and while the Homecooker means I don't have to stand around and stir it myself, that's a long time to wait! Is it worth it? Yes. Can I be bothered 90% of the time? Heck no.

Anyway, the other day after a tough day at work, all I wanted was lasagna, but after spending all day in the kitchen, I didn't want to spend all night either. A conversation a few months ago with Matt on how he was tweaking Bryanna Clark Grogan's amazing ragù recipe to make it a bit quicker had given me a few ideas, so I thought I'd give it my own shot.

After a couple more attempts, I think I finally cracked it. While this doesn't have the depth or complexity of the traditional ragù (which I'll still be making for special occasions), the speed at which it can be made more than makes up for that, and means you can have lasagna assembled and ready to go in the oven in about 45 minutes (if you make the béchamel in between stirs of the ragù, you can probably get it in the oven in more like 35, and have your lasagna (all from scratch!) in just over an hour!).

A few notes before we start:
  • Watch the salt! You'll be adding a lot of salty ingredients into the sauce from the beginning, so refrain from seasoning the sauce until the very end.
  • This makes more than enough for a mini lasagna (I used an 8" baking dish), so you can have lasagna for dinner and used the leftover ragù for lunch or dinner the following night. If you're making lasagna for a crowd, I would double the recipe.
  • To make wheat/gluten-free, use gluten-free soy sauce or tamari, and double-check the ingredients in the TVP (some brands contain gluten).
  • In order to speed up the process, you'll be cooking this on a much higher heat than you generally would, so don't leave it alone!
30 Minute Ragù alla Bolognese
Based on Bryanna Clark Grogan's Ragù alla Bolognese from Nonna's Italian Feast

1. To a medium saucepan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon each olive oil and vegan butter and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.
2. Roughly dice 1 carrot, 1 red onion, 1 brown onion, 6 cloves garlic, and 2 stalks of celery and add this to the pan. Increase heat to medium-high and saute, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened.
3. Add 2 cups TVP mince, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 chicken-style broth cube (or 1 tablespoon chicken-style broth powder), and 400g tomato paste. Stir together, then allow to sit for a minute or two before stirring again. Continue until mix has nearly dried out and is sticking to the bottom of the pan.
4. Deglaze pan with 1/2 cup dry red wine (you can use a dry white in a pinch) and reduce heat to medium. Stir until the wine has evaporated, then add 1/2-1 cup stock (homemade or store-bought), just enough to thin out of the ragù into an appropriately wet sauce. Stir in 1/2 cup soy milk (or other neutral-flavoured milk; don't use rice milk as it will add too much sweetness) and cook for a minute or two until it's combined. If sauce it too thin, reduce the sauce, stirring constantly, until it is the thickness you like. Season with salt and pepper; your sauce is done!

Either place on top of freshly cooked pasta and eat straight away, or use to assemble lasagna. If you're making lasagna, you can use Bryanna's delicious béchamel.


Enjoy!

Incidentally, if you don't own Nonna's Italian Kitchen, RUN DON'T WALK and get yourself a copy. It is a book that I go back to again and again for both recipes and inspiration.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Vegan Savoury Crepe/Omelette

I threw the original version of these together when morning when I needed to bring together an odd combination of leftovers and nearly-past-it vegetables I'd salvaged from the bottom of my fridge. Though I generally just guess the proportions when I make them these days, when I presented my vegan breakfast class at Laneway Learning last year, I realised I should probably have an actual recipe for people to follow, so here it is!

These aren't exactly like an omelette in taste or texture, and also in that you wrap it around the fillings rather than folding them into the batter, but what else do you call it? Most importantly, it's super delicious. Even better, it's a great way of repurposing leftovers, can be throw together in about 10 minutes (great for lazy mornings and hangovers alike), and the batter will last in the fridge for up to a week (possibly even longer).

Leftovers from making tacos or nachos are great for fillings, otherwise any mix of veggies sauteed are equally great. You don't need to do anything too fancy. Cook the fillings beforehand and set aside covered so they stay warm.



Blend (in an upright blender or using an immersion blender):
300g firm silken tofu
200g soy milk
80g besan (chickpea) flour
30g cornstarch (cornflour)
20g olive oil
6g nutritional yeast flakes
Big pinch each of salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder
Heat a non-stick (or very well seasoned cast iron) over medium heat. Grease with the fat of your choosing, then ladle about 1/2 cup - 1 cup of the batter into the pan; use the back of the ladle of cup to evenly spread the batter over the pan. Place a lid on the pan: glass lids are useful because you can see when it's drying, otherwise check after a couple of minutes to see if the top of the crepe has dried out a bit. Once the top has dried out, flip the crepe over and cook briefly on the other side. Adjust the heat of the pan as necessary to make sure they don't burn.

Set cooked crepes onto plates, and cover half with the filling of choice. Fold the free half over the top, dust with paprika and serve!


I'm about halfway through my Barcelona post (I went again this year) so, once again, I'm posting a recipe to fill in the meantime! Hopefully that'll be up soon, or I'll just have to share more recipes!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Mum/Lyn's Quick Cinnamon Scrolls

This has been a very long week, and sadly last Monday we celebrated the life of Matt's mum, Lyn.

In honour of her, I thought it would be good to share a recipe she made often, and which Matt & I probably made a little too often! Lyn had many allergies during her life which means she ate mostly vegan for much of her life. This recipe is probably one of those accidentally vegan recipes that appeared during the war (if anyone recognises and knows where it's from, please let me know so I can add an attribution).

Because they're not yeasted, you can get these scrolls together in about half an hour, making them great for a quick winter afternoon treat, or a last-minute "was that today??" snack for a family gathering (guilty!).

Ingredients
Dough:
2 cup of self-raising flour (if you don't have self-raising flour, use 2 cups plain flour and 3 teaspoons baking powder and increase the pinch of salt to 1 teaspoon)
pinch of salt
90g non-dairy butter
2/3 cup non-dairy milk

Filling:
60g non-dairy butter
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Icing:
1 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon boiling water

Method
Preheat over to 210°C
1. Sift flour and salt in a bowl. Rub butter into flour with fingertips.
2. Make well in centre and add most of the milk. Mix lightly with flat backed knife: add more liquid if necessary.
3. Knead dough briefly on lightly floured surface until smooth. Roll out to 25 x 40cm rectangle approx.
4. Make icing: beat butter, sugar and cinnamon until light and fluffy. Spread to corners of dough.
5. Roll up dough from long side. Using a sharp knife slice dough into 3cm pieces.
6. Cook for 12 minutes. Drizzle with icing.

Eat them while they're hot (as if you'll be able to resist!), or microwave for about 30 seconds to reheat.

And, most importantly, remember to share them with those you love.

We both love and miss you, Lyn/Mum.


Saturday, 18 April 2015

A Near-Complete Guide: How Move To London & Get Settled Sucessfully (When you're neither easy-going, nor a backpacker)

So, I recently took the plunge and moved to London...
Big Ben (You don't want to know how many tourists I was surrounded by. I nearly died)
Australians are eligible to apply for a two year living and working visa while they're under 31, and with the time closing in on me, I went for it. (You can find more info here: https://www.gov.uk/tier-5-youth-mobility/overview )

It's a massive undertaking. They say that one of the most stressful experiences in the world is moving house... well, imagine that multiplied by 10. You're moving house, yes, but you're also closing up all of the loops of your current life, and putting them on hold while you go somewhere else and attempt to start again.

The problem with England is that is is so seemingly close in culture to Australia (our non-Indigenous life mostly started with us being deported from England as convicts for crimes, after all!) that everything feels so similar when in fact it is quite different. It can give you a false sense of security when you're doing your planning. The Government systems and way of life are all just that little bit different to make things really confusing. Everything is in pounds. You can't get the same brands (and often, even the same ingredients!) at the supermarkets. Some people have really bloody strong and hard to understand English accents.

I'd only ever been to London once - as a base for when I did some international travel a couple of years ago - and to be honest, I didn't really enjoy it. It was grey. It was neverendingly drizzly. I was staying in a miserable suburb that was poorly connected to transport. But still I came back. Now I know that London is what you make it - and is changed so much by where you live.
A typical miserable London day, BUT YOU CAN BUY WINE AT THE SUPERMARKET SO WHO CARES

Here are some really, really important recommendations that I wish I knew when I was planning, in the first stages of moving, or even after settling - what I know now. Let me share with you. This was written from the point of view of an Australian moving to the UK, but there should be enough for most people here.

Things To Arrange Prior to Arrival

A Quick Word On Packing

  • Pack carefully. Seriously. I wish I got rid of some of the ridiculous clothes and trinkets I brought with me and brought some more beloved books.
  • Do not bring a giant bottle of your favourite hot sauce, even if you think you need it. This is London, for god's sakes, of course you can get Cholula. Even if not in store, there's one day shipping with Amazon!
  • I backed up all of my CDs onto a hard drive so I could bring all my music, along with my resume and scans of my identity paperwork, and had some dear cookbook author friends send me their cookbooks on PDF and screen shot! (thank you, you seriously saved my sanity so many times, Dreena and Julie).
  • I bought a MacBook Air - it's light and syncs well with my iPhone (I'm no technowizard), plus works well with my hard drive.
  • Australian clothes are generally not warm enough or suited to the London climate. Especially not Brisbane ones. You also forget that we're so isolated in Australia, so everything can be expensive. That's not the case here. Bring your favourite pieces, and for everything else, wait until you get here. For clothes, go to Primark. They're surprisingly fashionable, look well made (even if they're not), and very, very affordable. I got a complete business outfit - suit, shoes, a belt, a watch, socks and underwear for well under 100 pounds.
Cheap suit? Expensive suit? Who cares! Go to Primark (okay, their changing rooms are nowhere near as nice)


Get A Debit/Transaction Card You Can Use Overseas Without Fees
The banking world isn't what it used to be. Travel isn't what it used to be. I remember the arduous process of arranging currency, getting traveller's checks or international cash passport cards with lots of fees - all of that rigamarole. It's not necessary anymore.

There are a number of banks with cards designed for international travel that you can use as debit cards overseas in ATMs and EFTPOS/point of sale facilities in shops, machines, etc - WITHOUT fees. No fee for transactions, no monthly fee, no account fees, no withdrawal fees, etc, etc. Really. You put your Australian money into the account, and no matter what country in the world you're in, you can pay in the local currency with your Australian money on your Australian card. You don't have to pre-load currencies or anything. It just adjusts to where you are and what you're doing. You also get a really pretty good exchange rate (so they're not tricking you with the no fees and then stinging you with the exchange rate).

I went with the Citibank Plus account, which I've used all around the world, fee-free. Egypt, Jordan, Sweden, Italy, Ireland, France, England, the United States, Canada. It sounds too good to be true, but it really isn't. 

Their customer service is not excellent, however, you can protect yourself by not needing to use their customer service except in cases of emergency.  I stupidly lost my card in America, and they were absolutely useless to deal with. It was an ordeal. Time-consuming, shocking, and horrible. I didn't get my replacement card until three weeks later - when I arrived home - despite me spending hours on the phone trying to get a card sent to my California address. Good thing I was staying with friends and family and had my American Express card on me as backup. They do seem to have improved since then, however.

You can apply online, and then provide copies of identity paperwork at a branch, and then you wait.

For information: http://www.citibank.com.au/plus3/

You will still want to get a UK bank account once you've arrived - to have your income paid into, and to save you time in shops (generally you need to show ID for larger purchases in shops) - see below.
Pigeon Power Represent

The other thing to consider is that international bank transfers of money cost lots of money - in fees, exchange rates, or other ways. If you're moving a lot of money from Australia to the UK, you're going to want to shop around. However, you can also do what I did and avoid that (after you've arranged a UK Bank account, see below) by transferring all of the Australian money you want to transfer into your Citibank Plus account, and then withdrawing the maximum per day at the ATM inside your bank (I managed to get out around 2500 pounds a day), and immediately depositing it into your UK bank account at the teller. It was scary, risky, and probably unsafe, so I'm not recommending it, but it's an option and I did it.

Transferring Money between Countries
What I've ended up doing now to save gazillions in bank fees and transfer my money back and forth across countries is using an online service called TransferWise. They give you the actual currency conversion rate, charge a flat fee of 2 pounds per transfer of up to 500 pounds and only 0.5%. They also tell you when it will arrive. 

If you use this link you will get your first inter-country bank transfer free: - and I also get one too! https://transferwise.com/u/matthewb303

I  was quite skeptical at first but both myself and friends have used it many times - see article in The Guardian about them here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/transferwise/how-does-it-work-and-is-it-safe/

Accommodation - Air BnB
If you don't have friends or family to stay with, book an AirBnB for a month before you depart. AirBnB is a great website that I've used to travel all around the world. I've stayed in some wonderful places and a couple average ones, but it's a really great system. People who have a room free and like the idea of hosting guests can put their room up on AirBnB - both host and guest are protected as best as possible by systems AirBnB has in place - the host with insurance, the guest with phone assistance and backup if something isn't what was promised or goes wrong. 
View from my gorgeous, affordable AirBnB on the river Thames at Canada Water

My London AirBnB Suggestions:
  • If you don't know anyone who uses AirBnB, you can use my friend referral code for a 17 pound discount off your first booking. Just click here: www.airbnb.com.au/c/mbo18?s=8
  • Ensure anyone you're considering staying with has good information available in both their room ad and their profile, is fast and helpful in communication (don't just book! touch base first!) and has good reviews. Read the reviews thoroughly - and look for flags that others have mentioned that you might mean you really do (or don't) enjoy staying there.
  • Find a room in Zone 1 or 2.
  • Find a room well located to transport - ideally, both a tube line and buses to the city and back within short walk, or nearby bus distance. Consider areas you may like to spend time in and where you will be wanting to travel to - i.e. work. You can make your life a lot easier if your transport is direct and uncomplicated. Different lines go to different central stations.
  • Look for somewhere with a "monthly" price - these are often greatly reduced from nightly or weekly, as it means the AirBnB host doesn't have to be constantly cleaning, meeting and orientating new guests, or waiting on new bookings.
  • Consider the facilities you need - I do my search by location within my price range, then add on amenities - Washer, Kitchen (you'll save lots of money having access to a home kitchen!), and Wireless Internet.
  • Consider that if there is more than one of you travelling together (for instance, if you're a couple), that some AirBnB hosts may charge more per extra person. This should be clearly outlined in their ad. I do understand why this may be the case - more consumption of water, electricity, linen, etc - but I also know that people charge couples extra just to make more money on AirBnB - so this automatically puts me off a prospective room. I feel you should be charged for the room, particularly if you're just a couple.
  • If you've booked for a month - get to know your new host and arrangements via the AirBnB inbox. Our host was kind enough to find us on the day and take us back to the accommodation, and let me have correspondence including my SIM card, banking and national insurance paperwork, and lots more sent there. Having a London address is all important when settling in, as you'll no doubt find out.
Prepaid Monthly SIM Card - Giffgaff
When you're in a new place and setting up a new life, I can't explain how important it is to be contactable, to be able to make calls (for banking, national insurance and recruitment appointments!!), and to have access to the internet - for questions, maps, social media, and everything else. For this reason, I arranged to have a SIM card sent to me before I arrived in London - that way when I stepped off the plane and cleared customs and immigration, I could simply take my old sim card out and pop a new one in - then I'd have the internet to make any necessary calls, and be able to use maps and transport schedules and find my way.

I was previously recommending a service called GiffGaff but did not find them reliable when it came to reception... when comparing fees, I found for my use that Prepaid O2 were the best I found. Whoever you go with - check carefully what is included in your prepaid allowance - and also remember to look at any additional bonus data packs you can add on if you go over your limit (so you don't have to buy a whole other month's credit).

NB: Do ensure you order the right SIM, just to make things easier. iPhone 5 onwards uses the "nano sim", and iPhone 4 and earlier use the "micro sim". If you order the wrong one, all is not lost, you can actually trim your SIM card down with scissors from a micro to a nano. It sounds insane, but I've done it twice with a pair of scissors, and it has worked fine! Here is an overly complex YouTube "how-to" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6T1Mygucak

MUST-DOS, As Soon As You Land
Seriously. Do these. Don't delay. Get your phone and take down these numbers right now. Call and get appointments as soon as you land, or as soon as their call centres are open after you land. The processes to get a National Insurance Number and Bank Account can take weeks.

National Insurance Number:
You can only apply from within the UK. This is a Government issued identity number. You need this number to work and pay tax (similar to a Tax File Number in Australia), and most employers will want you to have it before they even interview you. There are occasions when you can work without it - but you'll pay higher tax. Just get it.

Call as soon as you land. It took me 3 and a half weeks to get mine following my first call. You may have to wait for paperwork to be sent to you, and then return photocopies of your passport/visa etc (a local library is a great place to photocopy!), or you may have to attend an interview at a JobCentre - in that case, I highly, highly, highly recommend asking for an appointment at any location other than Whitechapel (it's honestly one of the most depressing places I've ever been).

Jobcentre Plus - National Insurance number allocation service
Telephone: 0345 600 0643
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm 
https://www.gov.uk/apply-national-insurance-number
I was freezing, everyone was burning,

Banking
You're going to need a UK bank account - to have your earnings deposited into. Yes, you can use your overseas debit/credit card for many things in the UK  - but generally it'll require you to always sign for purchases, and produce photo ID to a staff member (even for groceries) - which can slow you right down. 

Don't underestimate how difficult it can be to get a bank account here, as opposed how easy it is in Australia. 
Don't think you can just walk into a bank with your ID and set up an account there and then. You can't. You'll need an appointment. And even after that, you'll have to wait for your card to be sent to you.
While I waited for my future appointment, I still went into nearly every bloody bank I saw and tried to get an appointment on the day, and had absolutely no luck.

To open a bank account in England, you're going to have to call a bank's call centre, get a suitable appointment time at a bank convenient to you (the earliest I could get with any bank was more than a week in the future), wait for an appointment, likely have that appointment cancelled on the day once or twice (as the person you're seeing has called in sick or the appointment-setter didn't make the appointment properly), and overall, it's just a dreadful process.

Eventually you'll have a 30-60 minute interview with the bank where you'll provide all of your details - address, phone number, copies of your passport and ID, and you'll think it's over and done with. Nope. You'll then have to wait around 10 working days to have your card sent to you before you can access your account from ATMs or point of sale machines.

I recommend Lloyds bank - they seemed to have the best general fee-free accounts, the soonest appointment time, and they seemed to be the most flexible in terms of paperwork and history for those who have newly arrived in the UK and don't necessarily have everything required by other banks. 

Lloyds has a page on setting up a new account when you're new to the UK, however, don't believe anyone who says otherwise, you can't just wander in to a bank with your passport and get a bank account there and then http://www.lloydsbank.com/banking-with-us/joining-lloyds/new-to-the-uk.asp?WT.ac=BWUJNFOM

You can also call Lloyds on their enquiries line 24 hours a day: 0845 3000 000

Oyster Card/Public Transport
You'll need this to get around London on public transport. Buses don't accept cash anymore, contactless credit/debit cards from outside the UK won't work without your signature or pin (so can't be used on public transport), and transport here is fast paced and stations are busy - go go go. You need to be able to just touch on or off without having to line up at (often closed or malfunctioning ticket machines or counters. 

Here's a map of London transport. You'll understand why I recommend getting The CityMapper App (see below). https://www.tfl.gov.uk/cdn/static/cms/documents/london-rail-and-tube-services-map.pdf

As soon as you've landed, go to a bus/tube/rail station, go to a machine or ticket station, and purchase an Oyster card. There is a 10 pound (refundable on return) charge for the card itself. Transport in London is organised in travel zones based on distance from the centre. 

Guide dogs travel on public transport. Get out of their way and don't be a dick.
Provided your accommodation is in Zone 1 or 2, for maximum flexibility in terms of getting around and cost effectiveness in the first month, I recommend getting a Monthly Travelcard (it's digital) added to your Oyster Card for Zones 1 and 2 for the first month. This currently costs around 125 pounds, but means that you can use it in an unlimited fashion on/in buses, trains, tube stations and the DLR (Docklands Light Rail). This means you'll be free to travel around without worrying about the cost every time you do so. Many people (myself included) live and work in zones 1 and 2, so this covers the bases, and means you'll be looking to live and work in a central enough location.

I also recommend adding about 15 pounds of extra "pay-as-you-go" credit to your Oyster card for sticky situations, or times when you need to travel outside Zones 1 and 2. 

Once you've got your Oyster card - go online and register it to yourself. That way, if it's lost or stolen, your credit/tickets are protected and can be reallocated to you on a new card if needed. Don't laugh - I lost my oyster card with my monthly travelcard (around 125 pounds) on it - it would have really hurt to have to pay that again. Instead, as I'd registered my card, I could just pay another card fee, and have it transferred to my new card. 

There are loads of other benefits to registering your Oyster card. For this, and for other information on Oyster cards (including London public transport fares), you can click here http://www.tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/oyster?intcmp=1683

And for heavens' sake - give up your seat to people who need it more than you. Thank the bus driver. Put your rubbish in the bin. Turn down your headphones. Give someone a smile. Be considerate to those around you.

Download the CityMapper app:
I am not a public transport user. Actually, I am now. It's the only sensible way to get around in London. Everyone does it. You see rich people in their furs and jewels sitting/standing uncomfortably on the tube, alongside students, mums, university professors, office workers and everyone else. 
In Australia, I pretty much never caught public transport. Loathed it. Could never make it work. Always ended up in the middle of nowhere, missing my bus/connection, late, hassled, crying. 

Public transport is much easier in London. I've actually grown to like it. A lovely accountant called Alex came up, introduced himself and cracked onto me on the tube the other day. He looked like he was dying with nervousness, and I actually was dying of nervousness, so at least we were even. I could barely hear him, so must have seemed insane as I answered every question with "yes! I just moved here from Australia! I've only been here a month!" with a crazed/glazed look in my eye. The day before at my workplace, my workmate had told me "oh, no one ever falls in love after meeting on the tube! It just doesn't happen!". Well I know it can happen. 

Get your phone out of your iPhone or crappy free newspaper! Politely crack onto someone on public transport! Be nice to someone who cracks onto you, providing they don't make you feel uncomfortable. Live it! I fully endorse this. You might turn someone's crappy day into a lovely one and give someone a spring in their step and a smug story to tell their workmates. Just you try to get me off the tube now - it won't happen.

CityMapper is a free app that is an absolute LIFESAVER. In fact, I'm thinking about it so pleasantly now that I wish there was a way I could pay them to thank them for their bloody fantastic app.

CityMapper uses your exact location to find where you are. You can then search where you would like to go - by name, or address. It then gives you oodles of options on how to do it. By train, bus, tube, walking, etc. It tells you exactly where to go - showing you on a map pointing in the direction you're going, and gets you anywhere and everywhere. It even alerts you as to when to get off the bus. It gives you live updates on how many minutes away buses, trains, tube trains etc are, future ones coming, and even gives you rain-safe options.

Once you're settled, you can even set a "home" and "work" address, meaning where-ever you are, as long as your location can be seen and you have internet access, you can just open the app, press "get me home/to work" and it'll get you there as fast as possible.

CityMapper also knows when there are delays or line closures etc, which is surprisingly common, and can save you loads of time. 

CityMapper also has an offline tube map - meaning even if you can't get internet access, you can see the London tube system and work out your journey manually, provided you know which stations you need to start and end at. 

I can't recommend this app enough.



Once You're Home, You've Unpacked, And Settled Into Your Accommodation

Be gentle with yourself. Yes, you've got a lot to do, so don't procrastinate, get started. But also take time throughout your days to have a cup of tea or coffee, and relax. London is fast paced - and it's easy to get caught up in the endless go go go nature of everything, and get really stressed out. Take deep breaths. Get into a good sleep cycle pattern. Get up at the same time every day, and go to the bed at the same time every day. Shower and groom like you're getting up to go to work every day. Eat well! Listen to music that you like. Occasionally talk to supportive friends and family back home. Take care of yourself, and you'll make everything that little bit easier, and save your sanity.

Give yourself time to adjust - it can be scary, and you may think you've made a big mistake, but chances are, in a couple of weeks, you may not feel that way any longer. You might come to love London. The right job and place to live can change everything. 

Squirrels are everywhere. They'll steal yr lunch money.
If it doesn't work out - if you're on a UK visa like I was, you're not restricted to London. After a bad week of no job leads calling me back, expensive groceries, bad weather, no one smiling at me anywhere, and squishing myself in Tetris-style to the tube, feeling exhausted, deflated, and completely invaded, I would take deep breaths and tell myself "there's always Exeter. Or Belfast. Or Glasgow". You're not trapped, but adjustment takes time - give yourself a chance. 

You can always go home later. As my friend Louise said (and I'm paraphrasing) "I walked around London crying for three months, awfully homesick, and hating everything. I met a New Zealander who wasn't scared off my by never-ending river of tears, we fell in love, went home, and got married. But I'm so glad I went in the first place").

Get A Job - Sign up with a Recruitment Agency
In Australia, I was always super suspicious of Recruitment agencies - they seemed to use many underhanded tactics and just be all-round dodgy. Here, that's not the case. Many Employers use them, there are some excellent ones around, and it can make the process of finding a job and settling in 1000 times easier.

When I landed, I applied for about a hundred jobs. I've got good references, a good resume, and lots of relevant experience for the jobs I was applying for. I didn't even receive one callback! Luckily, a Recruitment Agency called Chandler McLeod (that I'd dealt with as a Management Consulting Firm in Australia) somehow received a copy of my resume, called me, and got me in for an interview. I took some of their tests, and they then found me some temporary work, and found me an excellent job that suited me - just a few days after my original appointment. I couldn't be happier.

The benefits of going with a recruitment agency:
  • Coaching. They can give you interview tips, resume tips, and the insider information - which makes breezing the job interview and getting that job so much easier.
  • Temporary work. While you're waiting for that perfect permanent job, they often have lots of temporary jobs to choose from - and can send you out on suitable jobs, so you can start earning some money!
  • Helping you figure out what jobs might be suited to you - in terms of your skills, needs, and wants.
  • Knowing London! Prospective jobs are great - but how are you going to get there? What sort of an area is it in? A recruitment agent should be able to help you with these questions. 
  • Having someone to talk to. Don't underestimate this. You're in a new place, and hardly know anyone. I got lucky with my recruitment agent - she was wonderful. She also provided information about my working for her to a potential landlord, and a credit card company - helping me clear some hurdles and get a place to live and a credit card - that would have been much harder without her assistance.
  • They want you to succeed. Every job they send you on reflects on them and their professionalism. And you being in demand boosts their commission. So they'll do the best they can to help you get the job, and succeed at it.
I recommend Mandeep Panesar from Chandler McLeod, UK. Chandler McLeod were great and very non scary to deal with. They also had loads of excellent jobs on their books. As a little extra bonus, a lot of the staff were Australian, so hearing a friendly accent was really nice in the early days. I got so lucky being placed with Mandeep - she was an absolute angel, a lifesaver, and went above and beyond to help me find a job and settle in. She's a treasure.

Chandler McLeod UK:
Level 3, Religare House
100 Cannon Street,
London EC4 6EU

Phone: 44 207 929 1199
www.chandlermacleod.co.uk

Also, to my fellow gentlemen: if you're looking at working in an office of some kind, wear a suit and tie to your interviews. It's much more common over here to dress up much more than our casual Australian standards, and if nothing else, you'll look great and be much warmer than you would have been otherwise.

Find A Long-Term Place To Live:
This can be a mega drama. Mega, mega, mega. I don't have all the answers here. You'll need to tread carefully and hope luck is on your side.

It's best to wait until you know where you'll be working and spending most of your time before finding a permanent place to live (hence me recommending you live in an AirBnB with a good host for around a month), as transport can make or break your life here, and it's not always logical. You want to live somewhere that allows you to get to your workplace as easily as possible.

When looking for a place to live, consider my AirBnB tips above, transport, safety (if you're a complete nervous wreck like I can be, you can even put potential streets and areas into the London Metropolitan Crime Map to see which areas are better or worse, here http://maps.met.police.uk).

Also consider nearby supermarkets and your preferences - if I had to shop at Morrison's or ASDA for most things, I'd likely cry myself to sleep into really bad cheap wine every night. But you may love them. I really like being near Waitrose or Tesco, with Sainsbury's as a backup. They have most products that I need and want, and I like the layout of most of their stores. 

The process of getting a place to live in the UK is much more challenging than Australia. Locals don't seem to realise, and many people will tell you "oh just get the referencing checks done! It'll be fine!" - but it often won't. Referencing here is expensive - usually 75 pounds per person at absolute minimum, regardless of whether you're chosen as the successful future tenant or not.

They have made it very, very hard and even impossible in most cases for most foreigners to pass reference checks (required by most Landlords and Rental Agencies). Your rental, employment and credit history outside of the country won't be considered, so you'll be basically considered a ghost with no history, which won't make you look good to most landlords. Then they'll require a Guarantor. But won't accept one from outside the country.

Gumtree was dreadful. Thousands of ads with almost no information, hard to find things in specific areas, and a lot of scammers.

"GIVE ME ALL YR NUTS"
Your best bet is to scour ads on a website like Spare Room, which bills itself as "The UK's Busiest Flat and Houseshare Website". To either find a private landlord, or flatmates who are just looking to fill a room. Try to find places where you can rely on building a good relationship, not requiring all that referencing. I did go through referencing, and ended up agreeing to pay an extra months' rent in advance, as surety.

Terrifying goose.
On SpareRoom, you can actually put up a profile with information on yourself, what you want in a place, photos etc, and let prospective flatmates and landlords find *you*. 

You can also search by zone, transport zone, price, suitable for couples, smokers, kids, pets, etc, etc and *save* this search, so you don't have to re-enter it every time. It's really wonderful. 

You don't need to pay to use the site successfully. They do allow you to pay to be first in on new places - "early bird listings", but eventually they all become free to contact - it just takes a little longer.

I managed to find a great place with really lovely housemates that I had a chance to get to know before coming to look at the room, and before moving in, which I think is so important. I also found some places that looked great but after meeting people, I knew it just wasn't right - or it was too difficult for transport, etc. 

For me, I know I have to have a safe/comfortable/happy home for me to be able to function well. SpareRoom allows you to do your best to aim for this. 


Credit Card
As a bonus - if you've been with a global credit card company for some time, you may be able to get that transferred to the UK. Don't underestimate how useful this may be in terms of building up a credit history and confirming your legitimacy! I transferred my Australian card - an American Express card - to the UK. If you've got one, you can start the process here. https://www.americanexpress.com/global-card-transfers/

I recommend the American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday Credit Card - they have an introductory offer where you get 5% cashback on purchases for the first three months. https://www.americanexpress.com/uk/content/platinum-cashback-everyday-credit-card/

Once you're settled:
Consider revisiting some of your choices you've taken for granted.

I now know that because I only catch two buses a day, it's cheaper for me just to pay as I go, rather than buying a monthly pass. Buses are only 1.50 per boarding, whereas a monthly bus pass is around 80 pounds a month, and a tube/bus/train pass is around 125 pounds for two zones. If I only use buses for work, that works out to roughly 60 pounds a month! Even with some weekend travel, with capping, I'm most likely going to come out on top paying as I go.

It also means now that I've got my American Express card sorted, in most cases I can just use it as a contactless payment card on buses and the tube, and I'm still eligible for daily/weekly capping of fares by this method. I still keep my oyster card for emergencies, of course.

Enjoy. And remember - you're in London! You can pop over to another country for the weekend! Often it'll only cost you around a 15 pound fare with Ryanair! You could pop over to Italy on a Saturday morning to get some pasta, and be back for dinner! You're in bloody LONDON! Enjoy the differences. Live it.
Chinatown

If you have any questions, get in touch. You don't have to be alone. Talk to some locals, but failing that, there's always the "Aussies in London" Facebook Community.

When in doubt, go to Borough Market and eat everything. (But only go during the week or really early on a Saturday morning unless massive crowds and having coffee spilled on you is your thing. And don't grab random men and whisper into their ears "Oh GOSH I hope that's custard, not apple, in that pie!!!" because it won't turn out to be the person you're with, it'll be a complete stranger who just happened to be dressed like them, and then because there are so many people, you can't get away from the poor frightened stranger for ages, you just have to keep moving with the crowd crush and trying not to look back at them comfortingly trying to prove you're sane and it was an accident, but all the while looking crazier and crazier).

Borough Market, in calmer times

Good luck.