Crepes in the City Airstream

Last year I got asked by the lovely people at Crepes in the City to design decals for their new airstream food truck. If possible they wanted their chef mascot incorporated and something reminiscent of 1950s graphic design. 

It was my first time working on something to be printed on a 3d surface and on such a large scale. There was a lot to think about and a lot of measuring and fearing printing accidents but they came out exactly as hoped and the clients were happy. Hurray.

One personal feeling about the overall result was the images weren't as cohesive as one design overall in the end - just lots of spots as extra little requests were added on. Also I think in future I would work starting with the back because the illustrations I finished last turned out to be my favourite because by that time I'd worked out the style. 

This is what the truck looked like:

They also asked me to make the menu boards for all their trailers. Here's the ones I did especially for their trailer at Bloom.

For some reason I felt compelled to hand write everything. I think it works better with the blackboard look I suppose. So the crepes trailers have had a little tidy-up and you should go check them out if you're around Dublin or any of the festivals they're operating at this summer!


They often brag that Japan has four distinct seasons unlike Ireland, and indeed, it did neatly switch from Autumn to Winter overnight here in Kyoto. Winter, as we all know, is porridge weather. Unfortunately though, porridge is not really heard of here in Japan - to get across the idea you'd have to say something clunky like oats-mugi okayu. This is the first time I felt that something I take as the most normal of dishes might be quite foreign and strange to some: when the name has to actually explain what it is in the culinary terms of another culture; that's when you feel it.

I'm sure porridge is yet to have its boom in Japan - seeing as it's often eaten in the ever-trendy Nordic region - but for the moment it remains rather obscure and therefore difficult to obtain without laying down a few Noguchis. What I'm getting at, Irish people, is that you should be bloody glad of your delicious and cheap Flahavans Organic Jumbo Oats: 1kg for about 2 quid. If you're not that fancy you can get more for less of course but for me even the regular sized organic oats are a serious compromise. Here you pay twice the price for the half the amount of tiny powdery tasteless American oats that come in a horrible silver resealable plastic bag - the concept of paper packaging is something the food industry really struggles with in Japan - which is covered in words telling of the nutritional wonders of this strange matter to an assumed ignorant average Japanese shopper. 

So while I can't enjoy the delicious porridge that I now have an even greater appreciation of, I will share my favourite recipe for you at home to enjoy. I can't remember when I started making porridge like this, it happened at some point during college. At some point Flahavans Jumbo Oats, a Tesco bag of lunchbox apples, raisins and ground almonds from lidl came together in a holy union that was delicious but also effective both nutritionally and economically - I recall it worked out as something like 7c for breakfast. Once I graduated from college I became more accustomed to buying apples at Temple Bar market and upgraded from the dubious and often disappointing Cox to bright, sweet, yet tangy Elstars. Toppings also vary based on availability on a given morning but nuts and seeds are the way to go. Ok this is it:

Robin's Apple Porridge

  • Flahavan's Jumbo Oats - about a cup, or a handful and a bit, more accurately.
  • One apple of your choice: I recommend Elstars. Stay away from Pink Lady whatever you do.
  • Half a lemon
  • A scattering of raisins
  • About a tablespoonful of ground almonds (other options: chia seeds, toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds)
  • Option: A drop of milk. 
  • Option: Honey or Orchard Syrup
  1. Oats in pot. Add enough water to cover then some. Add the raisins and turn on the heat. 
  2. If you have a ceramic hob and it takes ages to heat up now is the time so grate your apple while stirring the porridge occasionally. Once it's grated lemon juice it so it doesn't discolour. If you have more control over the temperature of your hob, do this step first.
  3. As the porridge comes up to heat you need to keep stirring. This is really important as it makes it really creamy and stops it from sticking. 
  4. Once it's porridgey in consistency and bubbling add the apple and mix in. 
  5. Take off heat, serve up in your bowl and add toppings. It starts to set quickly in spite of the heat so that's where the drop of milk comes in. It pluses the natural creaminess of the oats and boosts the ground almonds too. Orchard syrup goes well with this but just a drop. If you fancy something crunchy, then toasted seeds and honey is for you.

To imitate this in Japan with infinitely inferior ingredients is depressing. It costs something like 3 euro a bowl and is totally off balance in flavour. I've tried to come up with the Japanese version of my cheap satisfying porridge and I reckon, for starters you'd be better off make actual okayu which is rice porridge and for extras I go with either banana and black sesame seeds or tsubu-an (coarse azuki bean paste) and kinako powder, cooked with soy milk. This, to Japanese is pretty much dessert, not breakfast. Since I prefer to not have to defend my breakfast from judgemental eyes as I'm eating it, I usually opt for the more typical natto on rice or something else savory. Though I probably needn't be so self-conscious; my housemate habitually eats processed cheese and anko on toast. I know, shocking. That's a world without porridge for you.


I think one thing that I'm struggling with at the moment is a lot of the things I'm interested in are abstract ideas so nothing especially comes to mind when I have some free time with my sketchbook or photoshop. I'm also kind of weary of drawing characters. So here is a drawing of my winter hero: the beetroot. I got a lot from my dad (who knows not what to do with them beyond picking them in vinegar and putting them in jars, a tragedy for another day) and was struck by how great it is. They've got a very satisfying solid feel, the violent purple colour is amazing and because these are dirty great right-out-of-the-ground beets they have this nice rough brown part at the top that's all warty and interesting. The stalks/leaves which I didn't really draw here, can be eaten too and like the the beet, dye everything a really pleasing pinky red colour. (Though this can be not so great when being the Kitchen Goddess that I am: transferring them from sink to chopping board, ending up dropping them on the white tiles that I just cleaned.)

Anyway, Beetroot are great and with with River Cottage Veg as my guide, I've learned that there's loads you can do with them. They're good friends with dill and horseradish and make a very nice soup together. I've roasted loads of them with thyme and balsamic vinegar. Walnut and beetroot dip is delicious too. Being so sweet, they get on like a house on fire with chocolate apparently and can be worked into desserts to produce some interesting results.

This year if I can't plant my own, I'll definitely have to badger my dad into growing some other varieties like the ones in the second picture. So pretty!