Saturday, 28 April 2012

Recipe - Mushroom Lasagne

I was not up and working already. But the possibility of work was close enough that it didn't feel like I was lying. But then I ended up doing no work at all. He's right about the midlife crisis. It's not that I'm not terrified about these exams (I am), but that the fear is manifesting itself as COMPLETELY AVOIDING THE ISSUE. It's come from a good place. A wise woman (not me) once said that a day still leaves eight hours for work, eight hours for work and eight hours for sleep. So I decided to live by the policy of 'don't cut out fun things, just work really efficiently in the rest of the time'. This is not what I have been doing. I have definitely been having more than eight hours of fun in a day and doing at most three hours of work. It is bad. I am panicked. Yet here I am writing this instead of learning about McFarlane's view on proprietary estoppel. God, it's just so hard to care. And like the middle aged man with the ridiculous sports car, I have taken on a young, platinum-blonde Playboy bunny. That's a metaphor. Or is it a simile? Well, whatever it is, I just mean that I've taken to hanging out with people younger than me in a vain attempt to pretend I'm still in second year and things are still fun. For once, I don't think my 'everything will be fine, I will breeze through this' attitude is the appropriate one to take. There is still a month to go. I have time to get my head in the game like that High School Musical song. Yesterday, I had planned on working really, really hard all day and then making mushroom lasagne and having a lovely, relaxed evening with 'You've gone mad but I'm not judging' and some others. I did do that but in the day, I participated in more leisure. And then had a nap. Today will be better, I swear. (I'm listening to Stars.)
Mushroom Lasagne
500g chestnut mushrooms, cut into slices
2 sprigs thyme, leaves only
25g butter
Salt and pepper

50g butter
50g flour
300ml milk
250g cheddar cheese
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Black pepper

Lasagne sheets

Melt the butter on a high heat in a saucepan large enough for all the mushrooms to sit comfortably. 
Fry the mushrooms for about five minutes, until just browned and releasing liquid. 
Add the thyme leaves and season with salt and pepper.

Melt the 50g butter in a frying pan on a medium heat.
Add the flour and stir to make a roux.
Pour the milk in slowly, whisking to avoid lumps constantly.
Let simmer for around ten minutes.
Add the cheese, nutmeg and lots of pepper and stir thoroughly to combine.

Layer it like this:
Lasagne - cheese - mushrooms - lasagne - cheese - mushrooms - lasagne - cheese - mushrooms - lasagne - cheese - mushrooms - lasagne - cheese

Place in the oven, covered for forty five minutes to an hour at 200°C.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Recipe - Chermoula Marinaded Hake

I have a new favourite thing I own. The old one was my phone. I know it's shallow and materialistic etc etc but I just can't help adoring it. It's the single thing that's improved my quality of life the most. I think that probably tells you more about my quality of life than how good phone is. I'd make a comparison to Irene Adler à la Sherlock series two episode one but really, I know that's only because I wish I looked/was like her. Although perhaps I shouldn't? But don't panic, I don't take photographs of people as insurance (although I have considered it). I will tell you about some of the wonderful things Phone does though. I can be in a different room to my music and change it from where I am. I can take screenshots of stupid things people say on Facebook and distribute them. I can send annoying texts using only insufficient pictures and expect them to decipher it. It's glorious. But recently I've become more enamoured with something simpler. (Still material though, soz SJ.) My mini food processor. It's so cute! My parents reluctantly said I could have it because they have three better ones and I whined about how I have exams and it would save me time. I will never need to worry about spice pastes again! It's virgin outing was to make chermoula, a Moroccan marinade usually used on fish. I slathered it on some hake steaks, seasoned the steaks on each side then fried, covered on a medium high neat for a little over five minutes on each side, until the fish was all flaky. On the side, I had my usual desire to turn a rice-like grain green so blitzed some more coriander, parsley and spinach to stir into some bulgar wheat. I also couldn't take the thought of a meal without at least a little savoury-sweet so roasted some cubes of potato and squash.
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp paprika
3 cloves garlic
1 small onion
Large handful coriander
Juice of half a lemon

Blend all the ingredients in an adorable little food processor or with a pestle and mortar or something.

Turmeric and chilli roasted potatoes and squash
1 large potato, cut into small cubes
1 small butternut squash, cut into small cubes.
Olive oil, about 3-5 tbsp
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp turmeric

Combine the oil, chilli and turmeric.
Toss the potatoes and squash in the mixture.
Place in one layer on a baking tray.
Sprinkle with salt.
Place in a hot oven (about 220) for 45 minutes until soft and crisping at the edges.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Review - Aziz (again)

My degree is shot but I've taken to consoling myself by thinking 'hey, the £21000 of debt I've racked up is so worth it because I made some GREAT FRIENDS'. Since I'm very good at alienating people, I can actually count the number of good friends I have left. Fifteen. That means each is valued at £1400. An undervaluation, if you ask me. Aren't I just precious? Unfortunately, as much as I'd like to lavish that much money upon each of them to celebrate their 'coming of age', my failure to find a wealthy spouse (no first or blue or husband, what a waste of my intellectual/athletic/sexual prowess. I hope you realise that I'm joking.) prevents this happening. So buying twenty first birthday presents becomes a case of towing the fine line between buying quality, special things but also trying to make it look like more than it is. Tricksy. Made all the more annoying when you have to try to sneakily find out chest sizes by asking peoples' brothers to look through their stuff in the hope that actually they'll end up being a size you know they're so you can order the shirt they'd suit the best. Sigh. Thankfully, Ralph Lauren is known for the classic uniformity amongst its Polo range (lol) so we still managed to get something. Unfortunately, the dithering that occurred in trying to find out chest sizes means that another element of the present sold out. And my (fucking awesome) suggestion for a replacement had extortionate delivery costs and we couldn't exactly say 'this might not look like much but we had it flown over from far away so it's actually more than it looks like'. So back to the drawing board we went once more. We got it together in the end and managed to present the Illusionist with an array of nice things that he'd like and probably wouldn't buy for himself. Oh, and I kind of inspired him to bet on a horse which won him £190. (I'm taking this slice of unjustified glory so I feel less annoyed about the fact that Shakalakaboomboom failed me at the final hurdle. Stupid horse.) Anyway, our delivery of his present was also a fortnight late. Not because we're useless (we are) but because we couldn't all be there to give it to him. So we thought we'd make a meal of it. But then we're all so busy and important that finding a time to suit us all failed. So we ended up going out for food. To Aziz. So I'm about to do what I've never done before - write about a place twice. See previous post about not wanting blog to die over finals.
Chicken spinach, lamb spinach, chicken dansak, something else chicken that I was too flaky to register, lamb and pumpkin, vegetables, tandoori mixed grill, garlic naan, misti (sweet) naan, chappati and rice. This was even better than last time. The mixed vegetables were less thrown together - the sweet potato and potato were beautifully yellow but still held together (when last time they'd been a bit killed both by boiling and too many flavours). The chicken thing that I don't know what it was was a bit overly spiced - too tomato-y. The spinach on the other hand was totally perfect. And this is what sets this place aside from all other indian restaurants. While it might still be peddling not-really-Bangladeshi food, in terms of flavour and consistency, frequently it is only non-Bangladeshi because you wouldn't have that combination. The spinach and lamb is not something that you'd find in the same dish in Bangladeshi cooking but the way it was cooked was bang on the money. And the pumpkin and lamb was the same. And this is the highest praise I can give to Aziz' food: the pumpkin and lamb was better than my parents' cooking.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Review - Dosa Park

After a rather High Fidelity email exchange, I decided to make like another Nick Hornby novel and Be a Bit Better. So which of my sociopathic tendencies to start with? I'm not actually (that much) like that list but it has occasionally been remarked that I treat people a little bit too much like amenities/projects who don't have real thoughts or feelings and exist purely to amuse/entertain me. Not usually in a bad way but sometimes in a bad way. (Contrary once said my USP was callousness.) Usually, I get my little ideas in my head about places I want to go or eat and things I want to do and just recruit other people to go along with my little plans because it's nice to have people to play with or it's useful for someone else to be there and also perhaps because I asked you to do something for me and need to make it clear that I don't only spend time with you when I need something, really. But then there is the rare occasion when I do something because I want to see a person and it would be a nice thing to do with them rather than a nice thing to do (with them), if you understand. And that was what happened when I returned from Birmingham with my student loan (FINALLY) and went to Dosa Park. I had absolutely no interest in eating dosas since I'd already tried dosas from Trichy and had then eaten a Dosa Park dosa while waiting for a train to London. Also I brought all of the food back from the hometown since student loan doesn't quite bring me out of overdraft. But I considered that perhaps making plans with someone to do something probably makes them think you want to do that thing with them rather than just do that thing and so you should probably reschedule with them rather than just going ahead and doing that thing on your own/with other people. I'm sure the actual person affected here doesn't remember or care but it's not about that, right? Well done me. I'm inordinately proud.
Lamb stuffed dosa was as good as I'd remembered it: moreishly salty countered by little nuggets of tender lamb. The dosa itself was crisp and not overly rice-y (I don't like overly rice-y bread things). The vegetable curry was a bit swimming in grease but nicely seasoned and none of the vegetables were boiled to death. The chappatis weren't actually that good but I hadn't had them in ages so I was just thrilled by that.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

For all my pretty words

I have regressed to feeling seventeen again. I blame the change of the seasons. When it gets really bright but it's still quite cold and kind of rainy sometimes I feel like the brightness is making everything seem really stark and sparse and empty. Or something. I'm quite enjoying it (kind of) since I've grown too cynical and lacking in hormones to sustain actually feeling feelings, misery or otherwise. I've even had to ramp up the 'woe is me' for this entry. So really, I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I'm all floaty and easily distracted (but I always am?) and listening to lots of music with words (The Magnetic Fields, Immaculate Machine, The Shins) that I can be all like 'oh wow this is genius this is really speaking to me wow'. And that this time has served as a nice little reminder that I'm definitely not a sociopath. Unfortunately, the disadvantages of this are that at this point in time, I can't afford to be so distracted the whole time because these exams are a lot harder than A levels. I miss A levels. They were so easy. Now, even two months isn't enough. I feel so panicked. But I still can't concentrate and am just reading words on a page that don't connect into sentences. Oh dear. As I type, I am sat in the library avoiding writing an essay on Quistclose trusts. Trust me, you don't care what that is. So how am I to tie this to something I ate recently? I'm not. I haven't eaten anything of note recently. Well, actually, in drinking-a-lot-in-London week, I had a really awful all you can eat buffet from the Chinese outside Hammersmith tube station for £3.50. Just thinking about it is making me feel like my mouth is coated with MSG. I also had a not particularly special or inspiring chicken curry from Wasabi. But I must write because as much as I've made my peace with these finals taking away from me my joy and life and time, it will not take this blog. In other words, if I don't stay in the habit, this blog will rot just as it got all pretty. (As we all do.) So I will write about celebratory cocktails at House. Celebrating the fact that I am definitely living in London and definitely don't have to have a job next year, yeahhh. And also the fact that it seems that I know who I'll be living with and even possibly where I'll be living. All things to be pleased about. So I don't know that much about nice drinks but here are my two cents on the drinks at House. I went with the Spider and the Oak Tree. If you ask for an alias, you will be rewarded.
Bloody Bowl (bloody Mary): not very nicely presented, a bit lacking in savoury depth but had a nice spicy kick. Mmm, celery.
Moscow Mule: reminiscent of this. I preferred our version. After Eight: oh God so good. So worth forgetting to present student card to get it half price. Like melted mint chocolate chip ice cream. It was green but Hipstamatic killed it. That's all for now, folks.

Friday, 6 April 2012

No photos of three pubs in London

This initially had photos and was less fragment (consider revising) but I accidentally deleted it because I'm again feeling too horrific to function. See below. Classic me. Oh well.

I have not eaten out so much in London this time. The first week had the delicious victuals (you try thinking of synonyms for 'this food was good') of the Andrewes household. The second week involved some dinner but also had opportunity to not spend money doing that. Oh yeah, coriander pesto? Surprisingly good. Also salami-cheese-cranberry-pesto-rocket-gherkin sandwiches. I was busy spending my money on red shoes, you see. Which, in my defence, I had spent hours looking for at some point because I needed them for an outfit and couldn't find. ANYWAY, I have been drinking a lot. 'Lass.' I also did some extensive research on pubs in London. And then visited three quite tidy ones. Firstly, the Thatched House in Hammersmith. We were trying to go somewhere else I'd read about but it's not all about sticking to plans (apparently). And this place was cute. I especially liked the juxtaposition of the sofas with the plants outside. And the warm fireside armchairs inside. The gin there was £5.70. But also it was Sipsmith and brewed just around the corner (apparently). I'm doing that thing that the Vice guy did in that article parodying Samantha Brick. That whole media frenzy was weird.

The next day I went to a pub I had researched. TO MY PERIL. We had walked there through a Bangladesh-memory-triggering monsoon (specifically, one time when grandmama and I got soaked in an actual monsoon) so I looked like a drowned rat when I got there. Actually, let's say I looked like an island queen. Who'd been swimming. In her clothes. (The pub was the Island Queen in Angel). Reviews hyped this place too much. I was expecting it to blow my mind from the way people discussed it. Which is a shame because I was disappointed by it when otherwise I would've rather liked it. All dark red (the colour of my room at home) and moody furniture and books. And board games! Including backgammon. Backgammon is so good.

The next day I really didn't want to go to a pub since the night before had ended with egg based liquor. Advocaat: putting a whole new spin to the question 'how do you like your eggs in the morning?' Then I had to rush to H&M before work to buy clothes (a cropped jumper with a heart on it. Except I wanted one with a cat on it. Miaow.) so the office wouldn't think I was a mess who got too drunk to make it home. Classic me. What am I like, eh? Eh? Eh?! Ergh. Anyway. All this meant I was nursing my usual (classic) rock bottom serotonin why am I the way I am I want to curl up under this desk and die hangover so I really didn't want to go to the pub. I almost didn't make it since I was in a daze. It took me half an hour to find the bus stop five minutes away. I was just walking round and round Hyde Park corner. I eventually made it to Finsbury Park. I was doubtful that the Faltering Fallback was going to be as good asit was pitched to me. It was described as the best pub ever. It has the best terrace I have ever seen attached to a pub. And not attached to a pub. It made me feel like I was on a boat (motherfucker).

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Review - Saigon

Who eats at Pizza Express full price? I hate it so hard. But I get that it's frequently half price (because it's so shit and no one would go otherwise. Oh wait, that must be incorrect since their vouchers aren't valid on weekends indicating some people must want to go of their own accord then.) so it has some appeal. But I still hate it. What has triggered this rant? Nothing much, just someone suggested we should go there for dinner. A silly suggestion to make to me, a food blogger (I'm actually laughing as I type this), who doesn't usually live in London and therefore wants to make the absolute most of the glorious food here even if it means not eating for a few weeks afterwards. The point was made that you always know what to expect at Pizza Express. But that's so boring! But not that boring; why would I look up reviews of restaurants if the surprise factor didn't scare me? So off we trudged to 101 Thai Kitchen. Supposedly good. But as soon as we entered the really appetising smell of toilet hit our nostrils so we rescued our innocent friend who was sat there. waiting for us patiently, and ran away. We ended up in Saigon. This would be a far better post if I meant the place.
I had tried to go here previously but had just missed their lunch service. We got the chicken curry, caramel spicy pork, beef with lemongrass, fried rice and noodles. I'd link you to the menu as my short descriptions make the offerings sound boring when they weren't. All this and a bottle of house red came to £12.50 each. So how was this food that I hadn't done any recon on? Pretty good actually. The spicy pork and the chicken had the best sauces and very well cooked meat. Unfortunately, the potatoes within the chicken curry needed more salt. Classic me remark. The sauce on the pork was very nice but unless diluted with lots of rice felt almost toxically heady with wine. The noodles were unfortunately an inadequate antidote for the pork since they too had some of the dizzy saltiness that I was trying to dilute. As much as I have complained, the food was very good, the menu original and the service fast. I'm keen to return to try some more of everything.