Monday, 30 December 2013

Recipe - Mustard Cream Chicken Thighs

Hey hey we hosted a Christmas dinner! Haters were always gonna hate but ultimately, it turned out to be a success. We were well fed and watered and everything was reasonably stress free. Like a proper Nigella celebration! It didn't seem like it would run so smoothly as our social cohesion as a flat was perhaps at its lowest ebb on the Friday before Christmas. Conflicting schedules and thin walls led to a frayed patiences (temper would be to overstate it) and then the smoke alarm went off for around 40
minutes and I ripped my coat pocket in the process of running up the stairs to fail to deal with it. But somehow, despite the premonition of stress, it all came together. A special thanks to the Artist for her invaluable help. The recipe with this entry won't be for any food made since that was really a joint effort (and not particularly interesting) but the dinner I cooked on Thursday of which an unruly house guest gnawed the leftovers.

Mustard and creme fraiche chicken
6 rashers smoked bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic, chopped
6 chicken thighs and drumsticks, seasoned with salt 
2 tbsp of wholegrain mustard
300ml creme fraiche 
A few sprigs of thyme
Half a teaspoon fried tarragon 

In a non stick pan, let the bacon fat render over a medium heat.
Add the onion and garlic and let the bacon and aromatics start to brown. 
Let the mixture cool slightly then add the mustard, creme fraiche and herbs.
Place the chicken in a baking dish and pour over the sauce.
Bake for 40 minutes.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Recipe - Roasted Broccoli and Prawns

I've returned to the #singlelife. By that I mean that I've been much more proactive about doing my chores and seeing my friends, not that I've been sleeping with strangers. Not that I did that before. ANYWAY. The crucial difference that I should talk about on this 'food blog' is the fact that I've returned to eating on my own. I avoided it for a while what with leftover Zain's and then my new favourite pasta dish (aubergine and anchovy) with Stompy. But then, on Tuesday, it was time. I chose a 'midweek supper' that I could make for lunch whilst teaching a Skype lesson. I'm told that it's Amateur Gourmet's most popular dish/all time favourite.

Roasted broccoli and shrimp
Cut up broccoli and lay on a baking tray.
Sprinkle with salt, about half a teaspoon of ground coriander and half a teaspoon of chilli chilli powder.
Place in oven for ten minutes.
Remove from oven and scatter over prawns.
Sprinkle prawns with lemon juice, salt and 1 fresh chilli and a little vegetable oil.
Place some whole garlic cloves on the tray.
Return to oven for 5 - 10 minutes, however long it take the prawns to turn pink.
Serve with some rice and a touch of soy sauce. Really, really delicious.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Review - Zain's

It's the Explorer's last night in town for a month and everything's gone to shit. No, really, not melodrama, our boiler broke in the morning just after he left. The night before he left, we spent as we always spend last nights. We use it as an excuse to get somewhat disgusting food and fancy drinks and spend the night indoors. Wait, I'm getting severe deja vu. This is what I ALWAYS talk about when I talk about him leaving. It's really not very interesting. But hey, that's a good thing. If my relationship with the Explorer was an interesting talking point, it would probably indicate that it'd gone to the dogs (no pun intended). And no one wants that.

Zain's were very understanding about the fact that I had only a fifty. Exactly what you'd expect from a restaurant with this adorable blurb: 'The restaurant itself is named after our eldest son, Zain Yusuf Islam, who at the inception of the restaurant was only 4 years old. We take immense care and effort in the preparation of the food and service we provide at Zain’s, as much care and effort as we put in to looking after Zain.'  Anyway, the food is difficult to remember at this point but I remember the standouts: lamb biryani coloured brightly with warm, sunset colours. Everything was well seasoned. The naan tasted fresher than most. The spinach with potatoes was SO flavoursome. The prawns were tasty but a little too achari (sour but in a chutney way) for my liking. I think this was Aziz-level good.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Review - Roti King (Kopi Tiam, Asia Twist Delicious)

I went to the ballet! It turns out that what I was expecting from the opera was actually what the ballet is. The ballet has proved to be yet another English Christmas tradition that I've missed out on my whole life. Seriously, you guys get such a great deal. Well, this year will be my Christmas-iest yet (except for Christmas aged 16 but that was marred by bleakness and depression). Flatmates of Sidney House (the house that never was) have decided to throw a friend-family Christmas. (Not friends and family but just close friends.) Never mind the fact that we don't have a table or enough chairs and Contrary is sceptical about our ability to cook for so many. We'll all be together and, crucially, we'll mostly be drunk. Anyway, the ballet filled me with Christmas cheer too and before we went, we ate at Roti King/Kopi Tiam/Asia Twist Delicious (it's unclear what the proper name is).

The decor is sparse. When waiting for friends to meet us afterwards, I decided to wait outside just to get out. But the food is cheap and high quality. Very basic: a pot of lamb and a roti. The roti was freshly made and slightly chewy but also bouncy and absorbed the gravy to the lamb wonderfully. The lamb was laced with lime and lemongrass and it was so tender. It reminded me of breakfasts in Bangladesh. The rendang was less impressive. Tasty but lacking the fire and kick of Rasa Sayang. Still, it came to £20 with beers.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Review - Kaosarn

It's that time of month again. A university friend and I eat good food and get drunk. We were going to go to Elephant but it turned out to be closed. We ended up at Kaosarn for little other reason except the fact that it's BYOB. As we were waiting for our spring rolls starter, I learnt about his life. It's in such a different place to mine that my mind BOGGLES. He's buying a HOUSE. He's getting MARRIED (probably at some point soon, let's be honest once you're indebted together there isn't much stopping you). And he's just so HAPPY. It's so cute. I don't think they're too young. I think it's just right.

AS WERE THE SPRING ROLLS. Fresh, hot, with a side of sticky chilli sauce. But this was nothing compared to the mains. I went for the pad thai remembering my poor choice at Thai Corner Cafe. The noodles were almost see through with their translucency. The chicken was moist and had absorbed the flavour of the wonderful sticky dressing. The peanuts and chillies which were considerately put on one side were actually the perfect amounts to season the dish. The vegetable curry had, as the best Thai curries do, BITE. And spice and slight cream. I enjoyed it at the time and even more when I was waiting for the plumber to come round the next day.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Recipe - Minestrone

Some days, the Explorer doesn't feel like visiting Pilates as he's hungover and it's reasonable as it was his birthday meal the night before. On those days, the Explorer disassembles the vacuum cleaner that my parents kindly brought down as penance. Meanwhile, I set to making minestrone from the cookbook that Contrary bought me for my last birthday. (It's called Gather but I always think it's called Forage. Close enough.) Two days in advance so that it will have time to meld together and develop. (Or possibly because the Explorer's parents are coming round for dinner the next day and it's the only time I have to make lunches for the first half of the week.) But then some days, you get on a DLR train and then, in your fury at what a previous landlord is choosing to withhold from a deposit, you forget to ask your lunch to alight with you. It lives on the train now.

Minestrone
200g smoked bacon, chopped into lardons
2 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

In a casserole, over a medium heat, place the bacon.
Let the fat render and fry the bacon in this.
Add the onions, carrots and garlic. Let the vegetables fry in the bacon fat (and add a touch of olive oil if necessary) for around 20 minutes until golden.

400g green beans
1 can plum tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 chicken stock cube

Add the green beans, tomatoes, puree and stock. Fill the empty tomato can with water and add to the pot.
Simmer, half covered, on a low heat for about an hour and a half.

2 heads cavalo nero
1 can cannelini beans, drained

Add the greens and beans. Cook for a further 30 minutes.
Season to taste at the end with salt and pepper. 

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Recipe - Braised Leeks and Skordalia

I bloody love leeks. The Magician and Contrary (by the way, what ridiculous monikers) would both count leeks as their favourite vegetable. I'm coming round to their way of thinking despite being broccoli 'til I die. I went and bought loads of leeks to put in a pie, a galette and also to serve up as a side dish to the Explorer's parents. Whenever I host a dinner where I have to try to make something not in one pot, I trawl the Internet for dishes which are simple but look more impressive than they are complicated. Smitten Kitchen is good for that. So I decided to braise some leeks and mix up some skordalia (glorified Greek mashed potato) and grill a salmon side. I think it was a success.

Skordalia
100ml milk
100ml olive oil
2 large baking potatoes, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper, to season
Lemon juice
Parsley, finely chopped

In a saucepan, bring the seasoned milk, oil and potatoes to a simmer over a medium heat. 
Simmer for around 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
Drain the potatoes over a measuring jug, allowing you to catch the cooking liquid.
Mash up the potatoes until smooth, adding a little reserved liquid to loosen.
Add the parsley and lemon juice and stir well to combine.

I used the remainder of the reserved liquid in a tarragon cream sauce. In another saucepan, I heated the cooking liquid and added a tablespoon of double cream. To this, I added a half teaspoon of dried tarragon and seasoned well. For the braised leeks, I followed this recipe as closely as possible. They were the most delicious.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Review - Bocca di Lupo

The Explorer's family were visiting as mini-splorer has an interview. I had decided, in advance of their visit, that it was time to get them GIFTS. Not gifts just for being them, you understand. Christmas gifts. You know last year's John Lewis advert which was really lame and had that small boy getting really excited for Christmas as he got to give his parents a gift? Well, as unrealistic an depiction of any child as that is, I do understand the sentiment! Giving presents is REALLY nice (if they're well received). And I hardly ever get to do it what with not incorporating the presents and alcohol bit into the Haque family Christmas. So, anyway, I got his mother a scarf which is almost certainly not to her taste, the brother a wallet and the family a book about wine and maps. I think I did well. I did especially well on the choice of restaurant. Bocca di Lupo which I've been trying to go to ever since I started young blog. We had attempted to book a table before but apparently two weeks notice isn't enough. Even three weeks notice means eating at 5.30 (but that's OK because they were going to a mince pie party afterwards). (I took only one photo because I was hungry and I didn't want to have to keep reaching for my phone.)

We started with a selection of six. The raw seafood (prawns, bream and scallop) were like little ice cubes of sea. So fresh that they tasted barely like fish, just sweet. The sea bream was slightly saltier and, in my opinion, that made it slightly more moreish. (Ha.) The pumpkin and amaretti filled pasta was almost like a pudding with the autumnal, almost nutty creaminess. The pasta still had bite to it and that really helped define every element of the dish. The tagliatelle with venison stracotto had less bite to it but it was still beautifully cooked. The Explorer doesn't understand why it was my favourite dish as it did taste largely like bolognese. But I think classic dishes done really well almost always trump peculiar new concoctions. That's probably why roast potatoes and red onion were my second favourite dish. The onions were so slippery and glistening with oil yet the potatoes were crisp and soft. Probably the best roasted vegetables I've tried. My least favourite dish was the foie gras sausage: I found it a little too salty for my liking. The texture of the accompanying farro more than made up for my nitpicking with the sausage. The cotechino was the opposite of the lunga. Here, the lentils were saltier but that rather suited them. They were almost crunchy with their bite but still chalkily smooth. The sausage was the most delicious of the sausage dishes we tasted. The spicy sausage was a bit more basic but the side of tomato and rosemary polenta was wonderful. I've never tried polenta before and I think this was the right place to pop the cherry. I'd describe it as being halfway between a risotto and mashed potato. And I love both of those things! We had this sausage dish as part of our seconds. We also ordered the roasted pumpkin with sage and balsamic and the wild boar ragu. The pasta with the ragu had almost too much bite to it. The acidity in the ragu was stronger than with the venison which made it less mellow but it was still very enjoyable. The star of the meal was the roast pumpkin with balsamic. I often describe things as 'heady' and 'addictive'. Like the boy who cried wolf, I'm in trouble because this actually WAS exactly both those things.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Recipe - Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Pie

I think Friday reflects well my two conflicting sides that leads to roughly two groups of friends who often might not gel. I woke up, went to pilates (alas not a one on one session this time), went to the market to get some vegetables, returned home, cooked for four hours (with varying degrees of success) and then had a small 'pseudo' dinner party. Then I proceeded to (in the words of Jamie Laing) party with a d such that I was throwing up the next day. Hooray. Oh, also, my parents were visiting and they don't know I live with the Explorer so between bouts of vomit I was de-exploring my room. Fun.
Chicken, leek and mushroom pie
250g smoked bacon, chopped into lardons
10 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, chopped into bitesize pieces
2 leeks, washed and sliced
300g mushrooms, quartered
Half tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp double cream
2 tsp dijon mustard
Half tsp tarragon
About 100g butter in total
30g flour
300ml milk
Shortcrust pastry

In a frying pan over a medium heat, let the bacon lardons render their fat and crisp up.
Place the crisped lardons in a baking dish suitable for carrying the pie.
Season the chicken thighs with salt. Crush 2 cloves garlic over the chicken and then fry, in batches, in the frying pan to brown, adding a little butter if necessary.
Place the chicken pieces in the pie dish.
To the rendered fat, add a dessert spoon more butter. 
Once melted, stir in the flour. 
Add the milk and whisk to make a smooth white sauce.
Add the thyme, tarragon and black pepper.
Stir in the cream and Dijon mustard. 
Pour the sauce into the pie dish.
Melt a little more butter in a clean frying pan and over a medium heat, fry the leeks until very soft.
Place leeks in pie dish.
Melt more butter and fry the mushrooms, then transfer to the pie dish.

Top with shortcrust pastry. Wash with egg and make a couple of artfully placed slits at the top.
Place the pie in the oven for 45 minutes at 200C until browned. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Review - Shanghai

Aware that I have not been eating out much recently and that if anyone uses this blog for anything, it's for recommendations. (By the way, Earnest, asking Twitter for Cowley Road re commendations rather than me?! Mortally offended.) I had tickets to a thing at the Arcola (Lizzie Sidall, 4* for enjoyability and 3 for 'goodness') and thought it'd be a good time to visit Peppers n' Spice. BUT WAIT, the Explorer's eating there for his birthday only a few days later. Perhaps it's more interesting for the palate to go to Shanghai instead as I have no doubts that my fried rice from Tuesday will be not a patch on the real thing.

We ordered the mixed dim sum, pork and vegetable grilled buns, special dfid rice and plum sauce chicken. The filling on the grilled buns was addictive and mellow but I would've liked the outside to be more determined in sticking to its grilled description. The other dim sum were a mixed bunch, some a little watery. The seafood within was all just cooked and delicious though. Fried rice was pleasant but nothing special. The plum chicken was heady in its sweetness such that you had to let a little sauce drip off before stirring into rice. That being said, the crispy coating managed to stay crisp despite the liquid and I still very much enjoyed it. I'll be going here again but probably not for a special occasion. 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Review - The Hackney Pearl

I'm having an old person time again. By that I mean that I'm back to avoiding raucousness and staying in and drinking wine. Sadly, that also means I have nothing to show for my weekend as I didn't do anything with anyone who I don't live/go out with. Even more sad was the fact that having avoided raucousness on Friday, I felt rather ill on Saturday and that meant I missed an opportunity to see some people I don't see very often who I was looking forward to seeing. Sigh. Well, at least I had a nice brunch on Sunday.

The menu is very short and I take that to be a good sign. Do little but do it well. We opted for the bubble and squeak with egg and the breakfast bap. I knew that the Explorer would want the breakfast bap as soon as I saw the menu. He asked why I have an 80% success rate for predicting what he'll choose. (He generally chooses the most tex-mex thing on the menu. Also, usually an item with more ingredients.) On this occasion, he chose well. The chilli jam was an unexpectedly tasty companion for the egg mayo. (More egg than mayo, again a positive.) I'm not sure that the bitter rocket added much but I'm still glad it was there. The bacon tasted just as high quality bacon should. I think my breakfast was better though. Soft patties which almost broke open to reveal somehow still crunchy kale and peppery potato. I was impressed especially by the yellowness of the yolk of the egg on top - you could taste the free range.

Recipe - Lamb Shanks with Lentils

Bloody hell, blog has really slowed down. Should I quit? Should I? I'm reading a book in which Alan Bennett says the only thing worth doing is keeping a diary. (I've totally paraphrased and in the process changed the sentiment. Sorry, Alan Bennett.) I sort of agree with all that crap about self-reflection being very important and necessary for improvement. However, speaking as someone who has kept REAMS of diaries in the past, I know self-reflecting can often just be too hard/cringe/terrible. Indeed, I have ripped up said diaries into millions and millions of pieces and they can never be looked back upon. Except that, they can. I have a very crisp memory which has documented all of my failures and darkest and most embarrassing moments and will never ever let me forget them. Sometimes, they haunt me in the form of dreams where you can even SMELL what that time of your life smelt like and you wake up all ARGJHJ;D WHAT WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS SUBCONSCIOUS and then it takes you a moment to realign. Anyway, basically, I'm not sure I agree with Alan Bennett. Diaries are only enjoyable to read back upon if you're a great playwright/similar where they're not really diaries, they're 'memoirs'. And with memoirs, you can somewhat filter what gets through and how you record things so it's more palatable for people to consume. JUST AS WITH THIS BLOG! So maybe I'll keep writing to keep AB happy. (The book is Love, Nina and I highly recommend that you all read it. Incidentally, the book is sort of like a set of diary entries from a time in her life except, again, a little less personal as you know someone else will read them.)


Lamb shanks with green lentils 
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 lamb shanks 
2 small onions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
250ml white wine
200ml chicken stock
1 cup green lentils
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and black pepper

Season shanks all over.

Brown in veg oil over a high heat.
Set aside to a plate.
Turn the heat to medium.
Add the onions, garlic and carrots to the pan.
Let brown gently.
Add lentils and fry for a minute.
Add a sprig of rosemary, chopped, 1 tsp dried thyme, 2 bay leaves
Add white wine to deglaze the pan.
Return the shanks to the pan.
Add enough stock to cover the meat of the lamb.
Place in an oven for 2 hours.
Scatter over the chopped parsley and season to taste.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Recipe - Ossobucco with Risotto Milanese

I BAKED! I did it! It worked and rose and everything! I'm so pleased. In the broken oven too! I did pick an easy cake to start with though so I can't brag too much (although I have anyway). One day, I hope to feel at ease with baking in the same way I (just about) do with cooking. I think this meal was tasty.

Ossobucco
1kg veal shin
5 small shallots, chopped
1 onion, chopped 
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
Handful cherry tomatoes, chopped
150ml white wine 
1 tbsp tomato purée

Brown the veal in butter over a high heat.
Remove from heat and set aside.
Fry the onions and garlic for about ten minutes over medium heat until golden.
Return the veal to the pan.
Add the tomatoes and tomato purée and fry for a further minute.
Turn the heat up slightly and add the wine. Let the alcohol bubble off.
Season well with salt and pepper and turn the heat down to a simmer.
Cook, covered, for an hour.
Uncover and cook for a further hour.

Risotto Milanese 
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp bone marrow (I used the marrow from the veal shins)
1 clove garlic, chopped
200g risotto rice
150ml white wine
Pinch of saffron 
750ml hot chicken stock 

In butter, sweat the onions and garlic.
Add the saffron and risotto rice and cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the wine and let the booze bubble away.
Add just enough stock to cover then push the risotto around while the stock is absorbed.
Continue to so this until the rice is cooked. 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Ari's Fish Suppers

I see that I haven't blogged in ages. It's because while I've eaten new things, nothing's been so new that it necessitates its own entry. I think it's OK to have several easy recipes under a Nigel Slater-esque title though. And why haven't I been eating out? Well, I ate out last week at Honest Burger when I was supposed to be going to see Gravity but then my friend had a date and my other friend is too lazy to travel more than 3 stops on the tube and it just didn't happen, OK? Instead of seeing a film, I did something which involves eating unhealthy food AGAIN. This week was to be different. No skipping activities in favour of food! No blogs. I even eat ridiculously overpriced deli counter food from M&S for two dinners to ensure this would happen. And it did! I now have membership to the Everyman cinema. Sure, it cost £55 and the tickets are real expensive but I got carried away in the newness of it all. And the cinema is reaaally nice. You have to go in a pair though - the seats are like mini two seater sofas so you can pretend you're in your living room. (If your living room was also decked out with waiters taking food and drink orders.) Anyway, I'd recommend it. The other activities included a play and an exhibition but this is a food blog (supposedly) so let's get to the recipes that none of you ever read.

Fish and chips
2 trout fillets 

2 potatoes, skin on and cut into chips

Place the chips in a baking tray. Drizzle with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper.
Toss well.
Place in an oven preheated to 200 degrees C for 40 minutes, turning occasionally.

Frozen peas
Mint 
Lemon juice
Butter 

Cook peas in boiling water for 4 minutes. Drain well.
Add a handful of mint and a tsp of butter.
Mash roughly.
Add lemon juice to taste.

2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 spring onion
Half a yellow pepper 
1 tsp capers
1 tsp olives
Half a red onion 

Place the vegetables, capers and olives in a food processor and blend.
In a bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and mustard.
Add the vegetable mixture and mix well. 
Season with black pepper and lemon juice.

Cook the trout in a non-stick pan.
Season the fish all over with extra salt on the skin side.
Heat the oil, place the trout skin side down in the pan.
After about 3 - 4 minutes, flip the fish and cook until opaque, about 3 minutes. 

Grilled salmon with pea and mint risotto
1 onion 
2 cloves garlic
300g risotto rice
1 glass wine
1l vegetable stock 
100g peas
100g spinach 
Handful of mint
Lemon juice and black pepper

In olive oil, sweat the onions and garlic until translucent over a high heat.
Add the risotto rice and fry for a minute.
Add wine and let the liquid absorb and alcohol bubble off.
Add enough stock to just cover, turn the heat down to medium and stir until absorbed.
Keep adding stock and stirring until the risotto rice is cooked.
Once cooked, stir in peas, spinach and mint.
Season, to taste, with lemon juice and black pepper.

Salmon and noodle broth 
2 tsp Thai curry paste
Half an onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
Handful broccoli florets
3 spring onions, chopped
500ml chicken stock 
2 portions noodles 
2 salmon fillets

In a saucepan, heat a dash of vegetable oil. 
Add the curry paste and cook for a minute.
Add the onions and cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the stock and turn the heat down to a simmer.
Add the noodles, salmon and broccoli cook for about 5 minutes.
Turn the heat down.
Add the remaining vegetables and serve, with a squeeze of lemon juice if desired.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Edinburgh

Saying I really need a holiday will make a lot of people want to punch me in the face since I went to Budapest in September and only work part time. BUT I do volunteer as well and that makes me sort of a full time worker. And when you get home at 9, it seems more reasonable to complain. Maybe/not really. Anyway, mainly it was pleasant because it was the first break from the job application process and wasn't interrupted by the prospect of losing £1400.
Upon arrival (the first set of doors will not open) I was struck by how cold it was. Really, I stood still in the middle of Waverley station with my hands in alternate pockets, huddling with myself for warmth. Then the Explorer revealed that he'd decided not to bring the key because he thought that would make getting to the house just too easy. We called his uncle away from jury duty and I ran into Primark to buy some layers (green, fluffy, kind of fugly) and some poorly elasticated tights. We had planned to go to Milk for lunch but what with finding out the bus ticket place had moved and also that we didn't even need to get Ridacards, I had to run into Greggs and stuff a sausage and bean melt into my mouth in three mouthfuls while bits of pastry flaked down into my new itchy snood like dandruff. Finally, we got to the house for 5.30 leaving us half an hour for a quick whisky soda before heading out into the bitter cold (but better wrapped up by the Explorer's mother's cardigan this time) for dinner again. We ate at The Dogs. (I can't seem to find the photo.)

We were met by an indifferent waiter who informed us we'd have to wait fifteen minutes before ordering. A slightly more droll but quite scary waiter took our order. I went for the lamb chop with haggis patty and cabbage. The Explorer had the rabbit with creamy mash and a mustard sauce. The rabbit was so wonderfully moist it's hard to believe that it's difficult to achieve that every time. The lamb chop had a crisp caramelised fatty edge but unfortunately was slightly let down by the fact that the meat wasn't quite as tender as it could be. But it was still very well flavoured and I am just being picky! Our respective potatoes were full of buttery creaminess. Mine was slightly saltier, I think because of the haggis, but the slightly sweet mustardy sauce cut through that and the kale managed to add a freshness even though it looked fried.

After eating and drinking for the winter, we hibernated for the day. No, really. We went outside to collect supplies and then looked ourselves away with only The Bridge and masses of food (steak sandwiches with a shallot-mushroom-redcurrant reduction, Indian food) and wine for company. We emerged the next day wearing sensible, fleecy boots and decided to go to the seaside. We'd visited Cramond before so the plan was Portobello. However, at the onset of the 1.5 hour journey there, we decided that was too ambitious. We weren't really used to movement yet. We alighted at Leith and looked for fish and chips. We found it in a more luxurious place than we intended, The Ship on the Shore, and went mad. Seafood, prosecco and some fish and chips for good measure. OK - the tartare is the best I've ever had. This is going to sound like an insult but I certainly don't mean it as one: it tasted like a pimped up version of the McDonalds filet-o-fish tartare. (I know what that tastes like because when we first came to England my mum only ordered those from McDs as she was still vaguely trying to stay halal.) Seriously though, it was probably the highlight of my side-sauce-tasting life. The langoustines were big and gruesomely fresh looking. Delicious. The bearnaise was rich but light. All the chips were just so - dry but slightly wet and most of all CRISP. Haddock was had a sturdy batter leaving it a wide berth and tasting separate to but all at one with the flesh all at once. I don't remember the peas and the salad so well now but I remember making the extra effort to get lots of meat out of the langoustine all at once so I could eat it with all the condiments so you know it was good. I don't know how we could have dealt with anything but prosecco to wash it down.
After wandering around Edinburgh town slightly tipsy and distressed at not finding the Zara coat I wanted even in Scotland, we headed home for mince pies and fire and other warming treats. Determined to be more active the next day, we set out on a quest to the Botanical Gardens and that vintage shop that Earnest always mentions as being good for cashmere. Brunch first though, Leo's Beanery.
I'm pleased to report that the coffee was strong but the foamy milk uncurdled. It irritates me so much when places get that wrong and it's all slightly sour and yucky. My cheddar American-style biscuits were so crumbly and salty that they inspired me to make more baked cheesy things (starting with cheese souffles, we hope). The ham that went with it was punchy and flavoursome, however, it was all a little heavy so I was glad that the Explorer had gone for the lighter option of salmon and cream cheese and also that he's always so willing to eat all of my leftovers. After a leisurely walk to the Gardens, we didn't play hide and seek but did smell some flowers (I definitely have a slight pollen allergy.) and generally enjoyed the country (relatively) air. Of course, as you're by now so used to reading, we didn't make it to the vintage shop. But who cares when you pretend it's Christmas (roast with all the trimmings) and then fall asleep by 9?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Recipe - Moroccan Autumn Lamb, Southwestern Brisket

Hey, we hosted a housewarming! (Alliteration!!) I enjoyed myself, I feel that the crowd was precisely angled on the beam between depressingly empty and so full that I worry about things (particularly from the decorative bookshelf) breaking. Indeed, it was me doing a small dance to Sweet Soul Music that caused most of the spillage. Before the main guests arrived, Earnest visited for dinner since we didn't really get to chat at LMNT because I was all tipsy from 5pm. We had lamb and in her words 'say what you like about [her] but she can roast a bit of meat'. And I think I can! That's why I've resolved to learn to bake now. Except it's difficult with a semi-functioning oven. I only just managed to get the oven slow cooking for the brisket that I roasted for bonfire night.
Moroccan Autumn Lamb
2 lamb necks, about 600g, seasoned all over with salt and pepper
2 onions, chopped
Half a swede, chopped
4 garlic, chopped 
1 small squash, chopped
Half tsp cinnamon 
Half tbsp ground coriander 
Half tbsp ground cumin
Half tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp chilli powder
Enough stock to just cover the vegetables

In a casserole the meat over a high heat.
Remove and set aside.
Turn the heat down and brown the vegetables.
Add the spices.
Place the lamb on top of the vegetables and coat with spices.
Add enough stock to just cover the vegetables.
Place in an oven at 180 for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

I served this with bulgar wheat flavoured with red onion, spring onion, green pepper, chilli pepper, sultanas, lemon juice, coriander and parsley.

Southwestern Brisket
700g brisket
1 onion, chopped
2 sprigs thyme
2 carrots, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 scotch bonnet
1 tsp cinnamon
Half tbsp coriander
Half tbsp cumin
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp grape molasses 
3 cups water

Season the meat all over with salt and pepper.
Brown the brisket in vegetable oil.
Remove from the heat and brown onions, carrots, chilli and garlic.
Return the brisket, add the spices and aromatics.
Add the cider vinegar and let the alcohol sizzle away.
Add the molasses.
Add one cup of water.
Place in an oven heated to 150 for an hour.
Add another cup of water and turn the brisket.
Return to the oven for another hour.
Add another cup of water and turn the brisket again.
Return to oven for a further hour.

I served this in tacos with lots of salad.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Recipe - Cottage Pie

I'm atrocious at networking. I don't think it's because I have no people skills since I was very successful at befriending the caterers when the alcohol was running out. Unfortunately this also led to me drinking too much, begging the bus driver to drop me off at my door and breaking the foot off the sofa in a valiant attempt to carry it up four flights of stairs on my own. (I also threw up on the Explorer's rug but I learnt how to clean a Persian rug with white wine vinegar so really we could consider that a positive.) All of this activity left me in no position to enjoy the rest of the week. All I wanted to do was eat mash and nap. So that's what I did on Saturday night: perfect cottage pie and bed by 10pm.

Cottage pie
Butter
500g casserole streak, chopped into bitesize chunks
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp flour
150ml red wine 
150ml leftover gravy 
1 tsp marmite 
1kg potatoes, mashed with butter

Soften the onions, carrots and garlic in a tablespoon of butter over a medium heat.
Turn the heat up and add the meat, browning on all sides.
Add the flour and stir.
Add the wine and let the alcohol boil off.
Add the gravy, bay leaves, thyme and marmite and turn the heat right down.
Simmer for fifteen minutes, partially covered.
Season to taste.
Place the meat in a casserole and then top with the mash.
Dot with butter and a grinding of pepper.
Bake, at 150, for around half an hour until the mash is slightly crispy.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Review - Negril

I've recently been eager to try more places in Brixton. We looked into living there but found nowhere in our price range but hey, it's London. There's a very developed transport network and that leaves little excuse not to explore everywhere rather than just your little corner of the city. That being said, when it took me 1.5 hours to get home because of road diversions, traffic and district line delays, I was cursing myself for venturing Streatham-wards. Particularly when I found out that the Explorer managed to get to NORBITON before I got home. Anyway, the food and atmosphere still made it, on balance, worth it.
After some dithering, we opted for the Negril platter as it offered most scope for trying out the various elements of the menu. The saltfish fritters were SUBLIME. Lightly spiced and crispy batter. They would be my dream snack food. The fried plantain were a little greasier but again had the right balance of salty and sweaty, crispy but soft. The jerk was slightly underwhelming: there wasn't much of a kick to it and it wasn't the smokiest. Nevertheless, it was precisely cooked so the chicken was moist and the skin charred. The rice and peas had more of a kick to it and the hot sauce, which tasted home made, was probably the best table sauce I've ever tasted. Anyway, anything lacking from the food (and I promise that there wasn't much of that) was more than made up for by the relaxed and pretty atmosphere. 

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Store Cupboard Recipes - Three Bean Chili, Mushroom Gratin,Aubergine 'Parmigiana' Pasta Bake

It gets hard to keep the magic alive. Not with that, with cooking. In the quagmires of 'arghhhh am I going to tutor forever WILL THAT BE MY LIFE?' I had little time to peruse the many food blogs I like for inspiration. (Side note, the word 'thinspiration' is the worst word ever.) But, I have discovered that I can now just throw things together and make food! I haven't used recipes for a while now (although I do read them for inspiration and tips) but now I can truly do what my other/other adults seem to be able to do: cook food just from what's around rather than having to make a specific trip to the shops!
Three bean chilli
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 yellow pepper, 1 green pepper, chopped
1 chilli, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped

Over medium heat, heat some vegetable oil and then sweat the vegetables until browned and very soft.

1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp hot paprika

Add the spices to the vegetables and cook for a further minute.

1 tsp tomato puree
1 can tomatoes
1 can water

Add the tomatoes and puree.

1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can water
1 vegetable stock cube
1 bay leaf

Add the beans, water and stock.
Simmer, lid on but with a crack to let the steam escape, for around 1 hour (or as long as you have).

Fresh coriander
Grated cheddar, rice

Stir in fresh coriander and serve with grated cheddar and rice.

Mushroom gratin
1 onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 sprigs thyme
250g mushrooms, chopped
1 tbsp creme fraiche
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced very finely
150g grated cheddar

Sweat the onions and garlic in a frying pan until starting to brown.
Add the thyme and the mushrooms.
Take off the heat and allow to cool.
Stir in the creme fraiche.
Transfer the mixture to a casserole or baking dish.
Add the potatoes, season well with salt and pepper.
Add the cheese.
Mix everything so it's well combined.
Place in the oven for 40 mins - 1 hour until that potatoes are soft.
You may need to cover with foil at some point if the top is crisping but the middle isn't cooked.

Aubergine 'parmigiana' pasta bake
500g pasta
1 aubergine, thinly sliced
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
Tomato sauce (I made this by sweating onions and garlic, adding tomato puree and canned tomatoes, saltand basil and letting simmer)
1 ball mozzarella, cubed

30g parmesan
1 slice toast made into breadcrumbs
Handful of parsley, chopped

Season the aubergines with salt and fry in a little oil in a non-stick pan until soft and slightly crispy.
Place aubergines in a baking dish.
Boil the pasta. Once cooked, stir in the tomato sauce and add to the baking dish.
Stir pasta well to combine with aubergine. Add the mozzarella.
Season well with pepper.
In a food processor, mash together the parmesan, parsley and breadcrumbs.
Top the pasta with the crumb mixture.
Bake for about 20 minutes until the top is crispy.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Recipe - Sausage and Lentil Casserole

Contrary's moved in! I live with Contrary now! It's strange, as I write this I've technically lived with her for 3 days but either she hasn't been there or I haven't so it hasn't really felt like any days. I wonder what living with her will be like; so far it's been positive. She has great cookware and innovative design ideas and takes a keen interest in the aesthetics of the place, unlike Mr 'I don't care what it looks like' Magician. (He does care a bit as it turns out.) Her first night here was spent cooking (separate dishes, hers much healthier than mine) and moving furniture. We ended up moving a lot of it back but hey, now we have an interestingly placed 'decorative cookware' bookshelf.

Sausage and lentil casserole
6 sausages
2 onions, chopped
3 garlic, chopped
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
Splash of white wine vinegar
200g lentils (I used green)
1 chicken stock cube in about a litre of water

Brown the sausages in a casserole.
Remove from casserole and place in the oven until cooked.
On a medium heat, brown onions and garlic.
Add the thyme, bay and rosemary.
Add the lentils and white wine vinegar.
Add the stock, turn down the heat, cover and simmer for about an hour.

Braised red cabbage and apple
Half red cabbage, shredded
2 onions, finely sliced
2 apples, shredded
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
Splash of water
Salt and pepper
Butter

Place the vegetables in a casserole. Season well with salt and pepper then pour over the vinegar and add the mustard.
Add a few dots of butter on top and place in a medium oven (150 degrees C or so) for 2 hours.
Check that it isn't burning every half an hour or so, if it's sticking to the bottom, add water.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Recipe - Oxtail Stew

Certain evenings turn out as no one expects them to. This evening was supposed to be a relaxed, harmonious one followed by a still sedate appearance at a party and bed. It ended up being a reminder of how my university days (ha! What larks!) were littered with interactions with boys who don't really know how to talk to girls who they're not trying to kiss. It also served as a reminder that shit clubs playing Pitbull continue to exist. Still, I had fun. Wait, did I? I think I did. But the next day I felt a lot like I'd let myself down and felt sort of anti-respected. I know that's not a word but I'm using it to mean the feeling of grossness when you remember things being said to you that you don't like to hear mixed with the feeling of 'why would they treat me like that if I wasn't somehow inviting it?' I recognise this feeling to be primarily due to hangover now. But also, no one deserves to be treated to rude, sexist comments and certainly, there is no such thing as 'inviting' lewdness which you're forced to listen to and shamefully don't react to because it would 'spoil the vibe'. This unfortunate evening started with oxtail with the Explorer and I wish that's where it had ended.
Oxtail stew
600g oxtail
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves, chopped
1 scotch bonnet chilli, chopped
Thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
Half teaspoon ground allspice
1 dessert spoon tomato puree
Enough chicken stock to just cover

Brown the oxtail on a high heat. Remove and reserve.
Turn the heat to medium then brown the onion, garlic, chilli and ginger.
Add the thyme, bay and allspice
Return the oxtail to the pan.
Add the tomato puree and stock and on a low heat, simmer for 3 hours.

Review - LMNT

IT'S HAPPENED I'M TO BE EMPLOYED (haven't signed the contract yet touch wood and other superstitions). While I was on the phone being informed of this fact, I did a small dance which involved half skipping while kicking my legs out in different directions and I think that was an accurate reflection of how pleased I was/am. Really, the past six months have been miserable. I have stuffed my face with lots of food (actually, that bit was pretty good for the most part but there were also bleak moments involving being alone with fast food), slept both not enough and too much and resented so many people either for asking me about my employment situation or for giving me THE LOOK which just invited lots of 'LOOK I'M FINE OK IT WILL HAPPEN' but obviously I didn't say that because preserving friendships (and relationships) is 20% about just letting things go. (Wow, that was a long sentence but I will neither fragment nor consider revising.) Anyway, HOORAY. I went shopping and then I went for coffee and then I did some more shopping online and then I had prosecco and dinner at LMNT and then I fell into the most peaceful, deep sleeps.
 
I am so pleased that my trip to LMNT coincided with a sort of celebration. The atmosphere is that of jubilance and celebration. Being sat in an urn is both fun and funny. The cocktails are strong (even though by cocktail hour I no longer needed strong drinks), the wine is reasonable both in price and quality and the food is delicious. (The food is also mad great value if you go with a tastecard.) The mussels worked wonderfully despite being both creamy and lemograssy. Really, I just wanted to suck on those little shells even after they emptied. My lamb was charred nicely although slightly too smokily in some places. Still, had an enjoyable tender but still chewy texture. The cous cous (I don't even like cous cous sometimes) was INSANELY well flavoured. It was just full of it. And the creamy mint-yoghurt dressing worked well with both the lamb and the wonderful cous cous. I was far too full for tarte tatin with ice cream for afters but I felt compelled to eat more than I wanted as it was so warming and full of cinnamony apple and vanilla. The pastry was my favourite bit. LMNT is my current favourite restaurant in London.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Review - St John breakfast

The only good thing about interviews is the breakfast that follows it. It's so much more exhausting than being rejected without interview. It's the fact that the door has been cracked open and you've got to find a way to pry it open by reading and rehearsing and thinking of stars (situation, task, answer, response). It's also incredibly boring and followed by an inevitable post-game analysis that you desperately want to avoid but really, truly can't help. Afterwards, I always feel like I've been put through a tumble dryer (seriously, who uses wringers anymore?) - a mixture of spent, confused and sick. Hey, that's like how one feels after going home with someone regrettable! And afterwards, all that can make it better is a long sleep in a warm bed (and mild amnesia) but breakfast is a close second. Anyway, I was interviewing near Liverpool Street so it seemed like an opportune time to try St John's old spot bacon sandwich.
This sandwich is perfect. Really, no other sandwich I've had compares (sorry, Olives). Its genius is in its simplicity and my lack of genius is about to be displayed through how in adequately I can describe this sandwich. It leaves you repeatedly questioning 'how did they make just bacon and bread taste so good?' Well, the freshly baked St John bread is so light that the creamy, slightly salted butter drips through it onto your fingers. There is SO MUCH bacon. And it's all so salty yet so crisp even though it doesn't look it. But it tastes, above all else, thick and meaty. The smoky sauce, which tastes like a magic combination of ketchup BBQ brown, is unnecessary but so fruitily delicious that I appreciate it all the same.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Review - Bickles

I was recently complaining about how parties were a chore. I suppose that makes me an old, bitter woman. I would contest this though: parties ARE a chore until about midnight. When sobriety is still somewhat in charge, all that people talk about is their jobs and where they live and other incredibly mundane topics. Talking about jobs DEPRESSES me at the moment. Talking about where I live invites the judging 'oh you live with your boyfriend AGED 22' glare and then I have to do my whole bit about how nothing's really changed and I'm still a young, independent woman (who just happens to eat 80% of meals and spend 97% of nights with the same person). But then beyond midnight, it's all fun and games and talking about inappropriate things and becomes a great opportunity to meet people. And, as that Match.com advert keeps reminding me, those opportunities will slowly dwindle until they peter out completely. So I regret not making it to midnight at the party I attended after Bickles. Now, let's talk about Bickles.
Curry goat and jerk chicken. We are boring orderers. But it's so difficult to order anything else when both of those dishes are so bloody good when done right. The chicken was full of allspice and a light smokiness. The curry goat still won though: almost creamy in its tender fattiness. And again, so yellow that the sticky rice and peas quickly began to resemble a river next to a power plant. OK I'm going to go and make my lacklustre jerk swordfish and think about that curry now.

Review - Sen Viet

STOP THE PRESS, I think I like Vietnamese food after all. Wait, what? I'm not supposed to launch right into talking about the food before giving some spiel about an exaggerated personal 'problem'. Anyway, this one will bitch about juggling time and maintaining friendships. It's a lot harder when everyone has more to do. And when people are located in different places. And some other obvious points. I was supposed to be eating with Earnest on this particular evening but then my pa was in town and he seemed like he'd be sadder if I didn't eat with him than she would. I wanted to go to Burger and Shake but my dad looked all old and tired so I picked the restaurant opposite for its proximity. It turned out to be a great choice and has turned my opinion of Vietnamese food around completely.

The crispy sea bass felt like it couldn't be beaten - light batter which didn't obscure the just cooked fish. But the salad underneath it was, in my opinion, the real star of the dish. Juicy mango scattered with fresh chilli and herbs. Mmm. The beef, in comparison, was rather boring. But it wasn't actually boring! It was hearty and so soft. Vietnamese is my new favourite because of Sen Viet.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Review - Caphe House

The whole house saga has spurred me into doing something for the people who are constantly being fucked over: I volunteer and write letters for them now! So far, I feel that I've helped precisely no one. But maybe soon. This means that I'm in Bermondsey for a few days a week. I've rigorously resisted succumbing to buying lunch out of a feeling of CBA. Nevertheless, I treated myself to a banh mi because I was mega craving one. The Explorer was kind enough to bring it to me in between volunteering and tutoring and we sat and ate in a bleak Bermondsey 'playground'.
It itched the scratch (in this metaphor the scratch is for banh mi) beautifully. The bread was so hard and crunchy that I are my baguette upside down. The pork was salty and soft and had just the right hint of interesting spice. The pâté similarly filled the niche of soft but sweet and umami while the fresh chillies and coriander added a hot, contrasting kick. I want another one now.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Recipe - Stuffed Bream with White Bean Mash

Do you want to learn about my shopping habits? I expect that you do and even if you don't, I'll tell you anyway. I don't think about what to cook and then buy the ingredients anymore. I go to the reduced section and think about what I can make. That, a slight preoccupation with eating less meat and recent bean-mania decides my meals. My method also nullifies the Explorer's 'it's a false economy!' chat. So, I gutted and stuffed a bream then mashed some beans. What of it?
Stuffed bream with roasted courgettes and white bean mash
1 courgette, sliced
Half an onion, sliced

Place the vegetables in a dish and drizzle with oil and season. Place into an oven preheated to 200 for about ten minutes.

1 dessert spoon capers
1 dessert spoon black olives
2 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

Scatter the ingredients over the courgette and stir well.

Half an onion, sliced thinly
1 sprig rosemary
Bunch of parsley
Half a lemon, sliced into 6
1 sea bream 

Stuff the bream with the onion, 3 slices of lemon and the herbs. Season well.
Place the remaining lemon slices on top.
Place the fish on top of the courgettes.
Return to the oven for ten minutes until the fish is cooked.

1 can haricot beans
1 can butter beans
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 sprig rosemary
Olive oil 
Parsley 

Fry the onion and garlic.
Add the drained beans, rosemary and lemon juice.
Add a drizzle of olive oil to loosen and mash.
Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice, to taste.
Add finely chopped parsley.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Recipe - Duck Massamam Curry

It's proving harder to keep the romance alive than I had imagined. There's the expected 'Jesus why do you always knock over my contact lenses and leave them lying down when they NEED MOISTURE?' but then there's the added hassle of not feeling like you've turned wholly into a married couple that has sex 52 times a year and share an Economist subscription. We thought the problem would be spending too much time together. Instead, it's proven to be spending quality time together rather than eating too much food in front of the TV and then falling into a food and dullness induced coma. As with all things, I let this fester and didn't mention anything except in the occasional passive-aggressive comment until an incident with a piggy back on an escalator ('DO YOU REALISE HOW DANGEROUS THAT WAS? It's a metal staircase that MOVES') blew everything up. That led to some hopefully fruitful discussion followed by a kind of romantic combined duck cooking effort. 

Duck massamam curry
For the spice paste
2 dried chilli
Thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 onions
5 garlic cloves
1 tsp shrimp paste

1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin 
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cardamom
2 cloves

Blend in a mini (or normal sized) food processor.

2 duck legs
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 green chilli, left whole and slit down the middle 
100g creamed coconut
250ml water

Brown the duck legs on a medium heat so that the fat renders.
Remove the duck legs and add the spice paste to the pan.
Fry the paste for about ten minutes until highly aromatic.
Return the duck legs to the pan.
Add the lime leaves, chilli, coconut and water.
Simmer, covered for 1.5 hours until the duck is very soft and stringy. 

Serve with a fresh salad (I used radishes, peppers and coriander) and rice.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Recipe - Smoked Haddock Fishcakes

New kitchen means new appliances and coming to understand and appreciate their foibles. Like how in my old flat, we all got used to keeping food for no more than two days and never on the bottom shelf because the fridge didn't work properly. Thankfully, new flat has no issues nearly as irritating. The most irritating it gets is that the oven markings have rubbed off and the manual's in Spanish. Even that wasn't so bad, it's biggest failing was getting too hot. That led to a slightly burnt tarte tatin but a whole world away from the banana cake disasters of two years ago. With that comparative success in mind, I decided to try my hand at binding again. FISHCAKES.
Smoked haddock fishcakes with parsley sauce
2 large potatoes, cut into eighths
1 large leek, finely sliced
2 smoked haddock fillets
250ml milk
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
Place the milk on a medium heat with bay leaves and cloves.
Bring to a dinner and poach the haddock in the milk for around 7 minutes.
Once cooked, strain the milk into a jug and remove the skin from the fish.
Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in salted water and fry the leeks in butter over a medium heat.
Mash the potatoes roughly.
Add haddock and half the leeks and stir.
Shape into fishcakes and fry until crispy. (This bit didn't go so well for me but they were still brown in places and very tasty.)
In the pan with the remaining leeks, add enough flour to make a roux, adding more butter if required.
Slowly add the reserved milk and stir until smooth.
Add a handful of finely chopped parsley and a grinding of black pepper.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Recipe - Roasted Cobbler, Fennel and Tomato

Guys, big news. (Bigger than the fact that I live with my boyfriend now.) Sainsbury's Whitechapel has a competitor! Tesco in Bow. It's great. I've been feasting on reduced fish and fresh fruit. (I have also bitten into three pieces of fruit that had already gone off today but we won't dwell on that.) This is particularly good news since I did my usual 'ok now the stress is over, let's get ill' bit. The stress also meant little time for fun so when it came to the end of the week when all I wanted to do was collapse, I felt compelled to go out and 'live it large' so I wouldn't have absolutely nothing to report from this week. Mistake - I ended up queuing for the oversubscribed club for an hour, a further twenty minutes waiting for the loo then fell asleep on the night bus. By Saturday, I was so ready for some rest and some cobbler (the fish variety, not the American pudding).

Roasted cobbler, fennel and tomatoes 
2 cobbler fillets (any white fish would do)
Half a fennel bulb, finely sliced
4 tomatoes, finely sliced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 onion, finely sliced
1 cloves garlic, left whole
Salt and pepper
1 glass white wine
Juice of half a lemon

Place the fennel, onion and tomatoes in a deep baking dish. Sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper.
Place in an oven preheated to 200 degrees Celsius for about ten minutes.
Pour over the white wine.
Place the fish and garlic cloves on top of the vegetables.
Season thoroughly and sprinkle with lemon juice.
Place in the oven for a further 10 minutes until the fish is opaque and flakey.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Review - Hache

When I started this blog, I had no real responsibilities to speak of. (Yet I spent a lot of time being miserable and upset at things which I recognise as supremely idiotic now.) That left plenty of time to have thoughts and write those thoughts down and tenuously linked them to something I ate. It even left time to EDIT. Those days are gone. I considered shutting down the blog but I think that would be sad and, from a completely selfish point of view, I like having a record of where I eat and what I cook. But over this past week, I've been madly trying to get people to complete references for me at the same time as tutoring and applying for every job I can stomach. (Potential employers - I've thrived on the pressure and have succeeded in all of my undertakings this week.) During the down time, I didn't really want to blog. I just wanted some mindless time. But now that the mad rush is over and I'm just applying for jobs, there's a little scope to procrastinate now. I think it would be appropriate to talk about the first time I've felt truly relaxed over the past three weeks: drinks and a meal after having signed for the new house. HOORAY.
Dinner wasn't planned. We went for drinks at a crappy, hyper-polished, after-work bar on Curtain Road to celebrate house signing and after two beers, I didn't feel like cooking. I felt like eating a greasy, sloppy burger. Hache was down the road and had previously been recommended to me so there we went. I thought the Explorer would prefer this place to the other burger joints we've visited primarily because they load their burgers with toppings. (I've taken to predicting what he'll get from every menu and I haven't yet been wrong.) We ordered the mexican burger (of course), the steak blue cheese and for sides, sweet potato fries and coleslaw. The blue cheese was a little bit too heavy for the burger in my opinion. I wasn't too disappointed that some of it had gone all melty and floated out of the burger and made no move to rebuild it. The burger itself was moist and meaty and difficult to describe because how do you describe that glorious savoury sensation? I mopped up the cheese with some sweet potato fries and coleslaw. I regret to inform you that the first few bites of the sweet potato (or maybe the coleslaw, I couldn't tell which) had a strange fishy taste. As if it had been fried in the same oil as the fish burgers. I used the strength of the stilton to glide past that though and I was relieved to find that the weird fishiness disappeared. Strange. Anyway, I don't think that's a particularly good reflection on the restaurant because of what Smitten Kitchen said about the sides at a meat place supposedly being top class. I'm being overly critical though, after the strange first taste disappeared, the sweet potatoes were dry and crisp, as fries should be, and the coleslaw was acidic but sweet with onion juice. The mexican burger was better than the steak blue cheese: I was pleased to see the toppings came in a little pot for you to add. They worked really well together but also with the red meat. The mexican burger works better with the ciabatta bun but I think if we're to compare just buns, brioche wins. Pretty good, but at £35 for two with beers, slightly more expensive than the other (better) burger places.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Recipe - Fat Cat Cafe

The whole house debacle left us in a quagmire. The best solution seemed to be to live in a bigger house with more people than rooms. In other words, I'm SHACKING UP with the Explorer. Now, you might wonder why I'm not totally paralysed by fear (I am) at someone with an already huge share of my life expanding that share. It's only for six months and the thought of upgrading to a nicer house for less money is just too tempting. And anyway, I'll be out a lot and he'll be at the lib so really we're only sharing a bed at night which we'd probably do anyway. So it's allllll fine. And I enjoy playing house with the Explorer most of the time anyway. Brunching in Stoke Newington (at Fat Cat Cafe) is the archetypal example of one of those times.
I thought 'organic' would translate to small portions. Incorrect! It means massive portions of delicately prepared, wholesome nourishment. A salty slab of bacon, a sausage which was certainly more herb than salt and wedges of thick cut bread with those things that look like nuts in the crust. I haven't even mentioned the HOME MADE BAKED BEANS. They warmed me up even though I was forgot both a jumper and a coat. (I miss summer.) If I had to criticise anything, it would be the mushrooms which were a little more watery than I would've liked. But I had to think real hard for a criticism just then.