Saturday, 31 August 2013

Review - The Gallery

WHY CAN'T THINGS GO RIGHT SOMETIMES? Wait, why am I expecting my life to continue being charmed and problem-free? Why do I sometimes feel unable to cope with my problems when really, by all accounts, they are the definition of NBD? Why can't I just relax, not overthink/plan everything and just deal with what situations are thrown at me? Well, my plan for this year is to learn to do JUST that. I'm gonna meditate and do pilates and practise mindfulness and shit. You know it's all a bit out of hand when your mother, who suffers from the exact same character flaws as you, tells you you need to chill out and roll with the punches a little more. 'Hey, I've been there, landlords and letting agents are dickheads. Just accept the situation you've been presented with, try to be polite and move on.' Sound advice. Then we went to this cafe.
The falafel was sweet with cumin and crumbly. The sauces were light and the salad almost spicy with onion. The jacket potato was just that: a hot, crispy (but not quite crispy enough) potato with gooey cheese and beans. The salad was dressed and of a decent size. The peanut butter cupcake was my sticky, nutty favourite.

Recipe - Sausage, White Bean and Cabbage Stew

Sometimes, I can tell that the Explorer secretly doesn't like what I've cooked. Thankfully, this doesn't often coincide with the things which I cook which are actually bad. They're more just not to his tastes. And I usually don't really mind when he doesn't care for something because it tends to mean I accidentally made something healthy but this was part of our 'hooray we're reunited' dinner. It was supposed to be a protein heavy (that's what you need for growth and repair), Spanish delicious sausage-y goodness. It was (somewhat surprisingly) delicious but not at all Spanish. It was heavy on both caraway and paprika so we can pretend it was a stew preparing us for our upcoming Budapest trip. Here it is.

Sausage, White Bean and Cabbage Stew
1 onion, diced
200g chorizo, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Smoked sausage, dicedMushrooms, choppedHalf a savoy cabbage, shredded1 can white beans400ml chicken stockHalf tablespoon smoked paprika1 tsp dried thyme1 bay leafPepper to taste

In a non stick frying pan, heat the chorizo over a medium heat until the fat renders.
Fry onion and garlic in the chorizo oil until the onions are very soft and starting to brown.
Add the smoked sausage, cabbage and mushrooms and fry for a further 2 - 3 minutes, adding a touch of olive oil if necessary.
Add the beans, stock, paprika, thyme and bay.
Bring to a simmer and stew on a low heat for about an hour (or longer if you have it).
Season with pepper at the end, to taste.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Recipe - Stuffed Turkish Bread

Hey, did I tell you that this blog gets read by people I don't know? Well, at least one person I don't know. I felt like Miley when she'd first been discovered by the Disney channel when I learnt this. (Ooh, topical.) Anyway, I know feel obliged to raise my game and start making things involving quick-cooking, binding and baking. I was going to make some salted caramel brownies for the Explorer's mauly return but then chickened out. I'm also too terrified to search All Recipes (a blog recipe aggregator) for my 'work' in case it's been poorly reviewed from the days when I didn't realise there was a difference between a tablespoon and a dessert spoon and so my recipes are all a bit off. Who actually measures stuff out though? I always just pour in what 'looks right' then adjust to taste. Sometimes, I don't even adjust to taste. I full on guess. What of it? Things usually taste pretty good. Good enough to give the Architects some small Tupperware boxes with leftovers for lunch in them. They seemed pleased but they might've been lying. WE'LL NEVER KNOW. (This picture is really bad as it was taken by candlelight and that's a real shame since it was actually a pretty plate.)
Stuffed Turkish breads 
3 aubergines

Stab each aubergine with a few slits to prevent them collapsing.
Place the aubergine under a hot grill for around half an hour, turning occasionally.
When very soft and crispy, remove from the grill and leave to cool.
Once cool, slice open and remove the flesh. 

1 onion, chopped 
4 garlic, chopped

Sweat the onion and garlic over a medium heat until browning. 
Blend in a mini-food processor.

500g minced lamb

Brown the lamb. Add to the blended onion mixture in a saucepan.

4 tomatoes
2 finger chillies 
Handful of parsley

Blend the tomatoes, chillies and parsley.
Return the tomato mixture and onion mixture to the pan.
Add the grilled aubergine to the pan and season with salt.
(I would've liked to add a little tomato paste but I'd run out.)

2 large Turkish bread
Half red onion, finely sliced
Half green pepper, finely chopped
Parsley, chopped finely 

Cut the rounded ends off the bread, ensuring it's about 5 inches long. (I the rest of the bread as hummus soaker for a starter.)
Cut in half without cutting all the way through to leave a hollow.
Stuff the bread with the lamb mixture (I did a vegetarian one with halloumi as well but I'm not sure how good that was since I'm Bad at Halloumi.) and a few pieces of onion, pepper and a scattering of parsley.
Place in a medium oven (gas mark 6) for about fifteen minutes.

I served this with some balsamic roasted vegetables (you know, sweet potato, courgette, peppers) and a salad of cucumber, parsley, tomatoes and red onion.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Recipe - Lamb, Cauliflower and Chickpea Stew

I FINISHED MY DISSERTATION. It's all bound and clean and delicious. It took long enough to get there though, I've been at the final stage for weeks now. And then Edinburgh was cancelled so any remaining impetus to finish it disappeared. And then I had a mad time on Friday (not at the club but during journey home) which meant that I was incapacitated and woefully sad (too sad to function) on Saturday but then there was really no avoiding it any longer, I had to get it done by Monday as you can't have fun twice in a weekend with an unfinished dissertation. (This is also a story which I taught a five year old yesterday to get her to concentrate on maths for an hour.) So this recipe was made in between proofreading/making other people proofread/stressing about fonts and margins and paper quality. But it is done now! And I had some quite delicious (but also slightly bony) lamb to celebrate.

800g stewing lamb
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp capers
2 tbsp black olives
400ml chicken stock
Cauliflower, chopped into florets, leaves reserved
1 can chickpeas, drained
Bunch of parsley, finely chopped

Brown the lamb in butter over a high heat. Remove and set aside on a plate.
Turn the heat down, fry the onion and garlic until soft and browned.
Deglaze the pan with white wine vinegar.
Return the lamb necks along with the olives and capers.
Add the stock.
Simmer, covered, for 2.5 hours.
Add the cauliflower and chickpeas, simmer for a further 30 mins.
Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Stir in chopped parsley.
Serve with fresh greens and nice(ish) bread.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Recipe - Quesadas

I have not posted for a while. That's because I was expecting to be in Edinburgh but then something terrible happened which meant that all of my plans (inc. Edinburgh) were turned upside down. That meant I wasn't much in the mood for cooking elaborate(ish) food and I hadn't any plans to dine with people at any restaurants. I was left with a starkly empty calendar and a wish to fill it up as quickly as possible so I wouldn't spend the time moping about not being in Edinburgh. It worked but then I forgot to take photographs of what I ate so no fodder for posting. Indeed, the first opportunity of anything even slightly blog worthy were actually of something that I've already talked about: quesadillas. Or quesadas as my more Spanishly informed housemate calls them. He cooked them for me one evening when I was really tired and my feet really hurt. They were comforting and warm and deliciously filling. So they seemed an appropriate dish to make for dinner during my sad week. Also, they would provide a good alternative to use up all the Tex-Mex ingredients which I was intending to use in beef enchiladas for 'hey the Explorer's back!' date night. Sigh.
Quesadas (enough to make 10)
3 onions, finely sliced
2 peppers, finely sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp ground coriander

Fy the onions, peppers and garlic on a medium heat in vegetable oil, stirring constantly until soft, about ten minutes.
Add the spices, turn down the heat and fry for a further 10 minutes until sticky and a dark brown.

1 red onion, finely chopped
6 tomatoes, finely chopped
Large handful of coriander, finely chopped
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Combine the onion, tomatoes, coriander, vinegar and salt and pepper.

Sour cream
300g cheese - a mixture of yellow and orange cheddars

Assemble: on one half of a tortilla, place a tablespoon of onion mixture, a handful of cheese, a spoonful of fresh tomato mixture, a dollop of sour cream, a dollop of salsa and a few jalapeonos.
Fold over the tortilla to make a half moon.
Heat the best non stick pan you have to a medium heat.
Heat the quesada for 2/3 minutes on each side until the cheese is melty and the tortilla is browned.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Review - Sagar

I spoke too soon. I got all excited about cookware and how to spend my Amazon voucher before the rug was pulled out from under my feet. THE RECESSION STRIKES AGAIN. At the time of finding out everything was falling to pieces, I was in a lesson with a sweet but stupid student. (Incidentally, I've convinced myself his parents are paying for his tuition with laundered dirty charity money.) It was the last place I wanted to be: the only place where I was denied from checking my emails and texts and making calls. When I most needed to do all of those things in a big flurry. I hate big flurry. Flurry is the worst. (So is Carrie Bradshaw - I'm watching SATC and I'm really glad we've graduated to Girls and Frances Ha now.) Anyway, a little later, it seemed more OK because I ate a tuna bagel and I was impressed by how one measly bagel can fill you up for so many hours. Once I'd stopped shaking, things seemed more manageable, mainly because we'd managed things a little more. (Take note, employers, I handle a crisis very well.) By dinner time, I felt almost optimistic about things again. The only memory of the flurry from earlier was that Ex-Future-Housemate couldn't join us when she'd recommended the restaurant in the first place. Sagar, a cheap vegetarian Indian place in Covent Garden. The tuna bagel had worn off by dinner so we had masala dosa, aloo paratha, chana chat, aloo gobi, vegetable biryani.
Christ, everything was ALIVE with flavour. The dosa was sour with whatever they make dosas with. Those sour notes could be found in the creamy but hot chana chat. The sambar with the dosa was tart and sweet and sticky and really reminiscent of curry sauce from McDonalds (that is wholeheartedly a compliment). The rice was buttery with ghee and fresh with peas. The aloo paratha was my favourite, fluffy and moreish. The aloo gobi added a great kick of spicy freshness. I ate so much that I thought I was going to vomit. (Please ignore that last bit.)

Monday, 12 August 2013

Review - Curry 2000

We have a house! I mean, I already live in a house (flat) but it was vaguely time to start looking for a new one. I thought that I'd be a little better at it this time but I'm not sure I was. It was still a process full of self doubt and panic. Especially for me because I'm the only person who's seen where we're moving to. I didn't just make the call and steamroll everyone into it. (Well, eventually I did but wait for me to explain.) Contrary was going to see the house too and we weren't going to make a decision until she'd seen it. But then the next morning, when I was looking at Gumtree's offerings again, I remembered exactly what calibre of house we could reasonably expect in our price range. And then I realised how this house is a cut above the others. So then I reassessed and told her that I thought we should take it straight away but also that I felt too panicky just making the call myself. So I went and took a video! And then there was added stress from the videos being too big to send by email. I ended up physically taking them to her in west London because it was vaguely on the way to tutoring. She saw them, she asked some questions and then WE SAID YES. Woo. She still hasn't seen the house so maybe she'll hate it after all but she can seek solace in the fact that we have some great restaurants nearby. Our local supercheap YMCA-style takeaway is this place. Curry 2000.
We shared spinach and potato curry, mixed vegetable curry, lamb curry and some roti and paratha. Now, usually, it's undoubtedly the right call to get roti instead of paratha. Not from Curry 2000. The freshly made paratha is so crisp, so thin. It's slightly flaky but not at all greasy. It tastes almost of lentils in its earthiness. The roti, however, is not thin enough. It's almost doughy like naan and a little wet. The spinach was a little greyish from having been kept on a hot plate but it still delivered on flavour. The potatoes, as usual, had soaked up that wholesome flavour. The lamb was a little watery but nicely tender. It had the right 'just like home' taste to it. The mixed vegetables were the standout dish - a sweet combination of cauliflower and aubergine. And peas! It shone yellow and could've been mistaken for one of Mama Haque's.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Review - Chez Legume

Last night, I went for dinner in Barnes. Why was I in Barnes? Well, a friend who has let me stay at his house many times has opened a restaurant there so we thought we'd go and visit. On the menu was lemon and garlic roasted chicken with trimmings. It was bring your own booze and olive oil. 

I arrived and was sat at a stool. Curiously, the chef asked for advice about lemon juice quantities. The other diners and I offered to help - we parboiled some potatoes. An hour and a half and two bottles of wine later, we ate. The chicken was moist and succulent with a crisp, caramelised skin. The potatoes were fluffy and moreish and heady with fat. The carrots were sweet and browned, adding just the right hint of freshness. We all left clean plates, even the Man Who Hates Food.

Review - Spuntino

I met Incredibly Good Looking for dinner. Actually, let's stop calling him that. Calling him that has had the desired effect already. Let's call him the Acquisitioner. (He'll be merging and acquisitioning companies soon. Yes, I know the verb is acquiring.) I had wanted to meet him for a while to talk about how I've recently been hating everything more than usual but every time, it seemed inappropriate. This time was no different. We were to meet at Spuntino on Thursday evening. I was doubtful about our table acquisitioning skills but as it turned out, I was ten minutes late and he was ten minutes early. So by the time I got there, there was no waiting left to be done. We were sat on some stools at the back. Our overly chatty waiter who clearly thought the Acquisitioner was treating me (obv wasn't) came and recommended that we order lots, so we did. I spent some time trying to remember if it was the truffle cheese toast or the egg and soldiers that was the king dish here. We settled on the truffle cheese toast but I think that was the wrong call. 
It was tasty but the strength of the cheese rather obviated the need for truffle oil. It added a nuttiness but not quite enough. Then came the rest: the four sliders, the spuntino slaw, the panzanelle and the chips. 
Let's start with the slaw. Shredded, bitter, slightly underdressed with vinegar. The panzanelle was clearly the superior salad. Multicoloured tomatoes dressed in a tonne of olive oil which had all emulsified with the tomato juice and soaked into the croutons. Oh baby. Now, the sliders. Mr. Slightly Annoying Waiter thought the pulled pork was the best. I agree that the pork was soft and moist and stringy and sweet as it should be. But the baby coated prawn stole the show. Just so moreish. The creamy mayonnaise with the crumb and the just cooked prawn. Really great. The other burgers were only slightly less impressive and cooked to a perfect medium. Did it live up to expectations? I'm not sure. But that's only because my expectations were SKY HIGH. I'd certainly return.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Review - Brindisa

I had a moment of realising that my friends and I are all sort of annoying and the things that we like to do, while pleasant, are equally annoying and frequented by similar slightly twattish types. This moment of realisation came when the Explorer and I went to a private view with his parents. We went primarily for the free drinks, as I'm sure many of the attendees do. However, I hadn't previously realised that most people don't seem like they're attending for the free drinks. Indeed, it had never quite occurred to me how pretentious the private view audience usually is. Even the crowd for something where very, very few know about the poor to mediocre art on display. As the evening continued, it became apparent that the pretension in my day to day life isn't limited to the very occasional private view I attend. Almost all of the restaurants I most want to go to are ridiculously overhyped on social media. You can't tell who the all powerful list girl is as she (and it is usually a she) blends into the black of well-heeled, cocktail-clutching diners. This was the scene at Polpo where we were eventually told that there'd be a two hour wait for a table. I'm secretly glad, I don't think I could've handled being surrounded by twenty something young professionals who I have more in common with than I'd like (except the well-cut wardrobe, salary enough for fancy drinks and casual confidence) after having seen them through the eyes of two different generations. We headed back to the safety of La Porchetta but on the way, we spotted Brindisa. A happy medium. My apologies about the god-awfully unhelpful picture - I get the impression the Explorers don't like phones at the table because the Explorer himself abhorrs it.
Pan de coca - dreamy, tart, fresh.

Scallops - sweet puree, charred bacon, melting scallops

Chilli garlic prawns - just cooked, soaked in oil harmonised with red, dry chillies and juicy garlic

Catalan spinach - the best vegetable dish I've ever had the pleasure of meeting

Patatas bravas - sauce so rich almost like mayonnaise. Wonderful.

Tortilla - moreish and deep, you could taste that they had let the flavours soak in egg and develop. So fluffy too!

Bomba - my favourite. Just try it.

Pork belly - the only disappointment. Tender but with a slight after-smell of cack. Yucky.

Ox cheeks - reminded me of rabo de toro, glossy, plummy sauce. Almost headache inducing in rich butteriness. But so soft.

Chorizo on toast - so disappointed by this order I almost sprang out of character back to my usual micromanaging self. But I'm so pleased I didn't - the bread was as pleasing as any of the bespoke bread dishes and it was drenched in smoky chorizo oil. Oh my God the combination of flavour and texture of the fresh piquillo against the contrasting bread and meat. A beautiful surprise.

Ewe's milk cheese - again surprisingly delicious. So flavoursome, not too salty. Almost like pudding cheese. With pudding jam. I'm so sad I didn't get pudding.

Review - This Bright Field

I had a strange time on Friday night. I had a lovely dinner with the Explorer and his parents and then set out for what was supposed to be an excellent time. It was and it wasn't. It mainly wasn't because we were being drunk and stupid and I was getting all 'why u infringing my liberty?' But then everything improved drastically after the bad hour. Except we didn't end up going anywhere so I was just all dizzy and needed help carrying my shoes and chicken nuggets home. The next day was devoted to Hampton Court but of course, we didn't make it. We didn't even make it to Regent's Park because after wandering out to lunch, we needed nap. A really long nap. But brunch was good. Which is a relief since it was the only thing we did all day.
The Explorer was craving chicken Caesar salad and that's what brought us here. The big sign reading 'chicken Caesar wrap' outside. I, in my tired sleep indecision, settled upon poached eggs with salmon and spinach. It was the best choice of those available and obviously, we did our halves. The hollandaise was perfect. The eggs soft and almost buttery. The salmon was sharp and the spinach the correct amount of raw but heated to wilt slightly. The chicken Caesar was fresh, wholesome and slightly acidic amongst the creaminess. I can certainly understand why the Explorer was so set on it. However, £20 for two breakfasts and some juice (!), it was a little overpriced.