Monday, 29 December 2014

Bar Snacks - Clove Club, Merchants Tavern, The Empress, The Hemingway

Ah, 'tis the season. My first ever festive season where organised fun doesn't just have to be organised by me but also, often by an organisation which pays me in return for me spending 40+ hours a week there. I'd like to think of myself as a good host - I try to make sure that my guests are merry and always have a drink in their hand at the expense of both our flat's bank balances and also my own enjoyment. (I spend the whole time freaking out that no one's enjoying themselves and then that I didn't talk to anyone because I was too busy freaking out about no one enjoying themselves which is ridiculous, I know.) But as it turns out, my spirit for Christmas drinks are far surpassed by work's. My November to December have been filled with the reds (wine) and greens (gin) of the festive season, much more so than I could have apprehended. The more casual (i.e. not boyfriend- or friend- affecting) implications of this are that I have spent a lot of time worrying about my skin. (Am I going to break out in spots? Will I age terribly? Yes. To both of those things.) I have also been secretly glad that it has meant that I miss meals despite my rational self knowing that I have been more than consuming lost calories in wine. And that small grace disappears when I have bar snacks. Which I've done a lot recently! Let me give you a run down of what each is good for.

Clove Club
AMAZING bread. It REALLY tastes. And the fried chicken somehow tastes Michelin starred! All lemony and zingy in the crust. Plus the meats, cheeses and wines are as wonderful as you'd expect.

Merchants Tavern
I think they have the best bar snacks - the meatiest, gamiest, chewiest terrine. The best sausage roll I've ever had, buttery and hot and gleaming with egg wash. The aioli skins are so melty and coated in parsley and butter. Also, the bar is possibly my favourite in London and has the cosiest fire and an excellent sound system (even if this means they play their music too loud).

The Empress
I was somewhat snobby about the Empress - it has an air about it that's just a bit too polished and sometimes I'm not into the Mediterranean take on pub food mood.  But, it also has the best whitebait I've ever tasted so I can deal.

The Hemingway
I've been back for bar snacks as well as for a full pub lunch. The cod goujons stayed on my mind for long enough that I returned for them. The scotch egg is by far the queen of breaded snacks. (Anyone who read that and thought I was implying it's the second best - SHAME ON YOU.) If Merchant's took gold for weeknight favourite, this is the winner of the lazy Sunday category.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

On the Korean food resurgence

'I'm just a bit sick of the whole trend of hipster foods with a Korean twist. I just want to eat something normal.' - last words of Ari c. 6.30pm, Tuesday 4th December. 

Jesus, it was the 4th of December when I started writing this. Almost three weeks! What have I been doing since then that's meant that I look at the Blogger app blankly every morning that I sit on the bus? Hmm? I'LL TELL YOU WHAT. A whole lot of nothing. And by nothing, I mean nothing worth reporting. Eating out, buying unnecessary things, cooking, Roman Road, work work work, day trips North. I can barely remember the evening of the KFC (Korean fried chicken). Still, I suppose it's good to have a record of these things so that if ever I'm arrested for a crime I didn't do, I'll remember every evening with super specificity. (#Serial) In the first episode, she said that she interviewed teenagers and it was remarkable how little they remembered when something notable didn't happen. (Oh God I just re-remembered I am close to a decade away from being a teenager now.) Something notable happened when I went to Jubo - we had three different courses in three different places. That's what passes as notable for me these days. So the lack of anything interesting (that I want to share publicly) going on in my life-- Right, I did it again. I forgot to finish this post and now almost another week has passed. Let's give up and talk about the food.
Right, so, Korean food. In short, I'm not a fan. That is to say, if I had to eat at a Korean place, I'm sure I'd find something I want and I'd eat it. But I'd never choose it. I wasn't expecting to hold this opinion after really enjoying Kimchee. But then, it's telling that despite being surrounded by K-food central at work, I never choose to go to any of the others. But sometimes it's good to give other people a say - that's how I ended up at On the Bap on one Friday afternoon for lunch. I had the beef bulgogi - flavour high, texture makes me grimace to remember. Gracefully scented rice. 'Kimchi' a little too heavy on the mayo for me - now when I remember it I think of an odd pink, drippy slime slowly dripping down into my rice. Gross. Ew.
I'll admit that the Korean fried chicken looked pretty good - particularly in the context of the 'lots of chicken and beer' deal. So on that fateful Tuesday night, I decided to step out to Jubo. We went half medium, half hot hot hot - this was a good call because on reflection, my favourite thing about the food was that endorphin rush you get from eating lots of spicy food really quickly - where your lips swell up and you're wide-eyed and close to manic and it's all very sensual. However, when I remember the taste over the experience, I think of a very sweet, heady salt. And then I feel like I almost have a headache. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Recipes - Tomato Jam, Mushroom and Celery Stuffing, Beef Stew, HarissaLamb

Since I've been stuck in Groundhog Day rotating Victoria Park village / places near where I work in Shoreditch / nothing cultural / dinner on Sunday. Even the things that I've cooked have been stuck on a semi-loop. There have been roasts of pork belly with celery and mushroom stuffing, roasts of chicken with a less punchy take on candied yams, stews and dumplings. It's all been heavy and autumnal. There's also been a significant amount of cheese! The question is, is any of it blog worthy? A lot of it doesn't get blog-documented as I don't need to make notes to myself so much anymore. I can cook! I can officially cook! But it's bad news for the blog. Anyway, I'm trying my best and I suppose there's value in documenting recipes even if I think they're so commonplace that I forget to take pictures.

Beef stew with dumplings
For the stew
800g stewing beef, chopped into cubes
Half tbsp olive oil
1 leek, sliced and washed
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 glass wine
2 bay leaves
A few sprigs of thyme
25g butter
25g flour
1 stock cube, made up to 300ml stock

Preheat the oven to 150°C.
Heat a casserole until very hot.
Brown the beef in two batches, making sure to get a good colour on it.
Set aside.
Turn the heat down to medium and add the oil.
Add the leeks, onion, carrots and garlic and fry until very soft and brown, about 15 mins.
Meanwhile, in a frying pan, melt the butter.
Add the flour to make a roux.
Add the stock, slowly, whisking constantly, to make a thick sauce.
Now, add the herbs and wine to the casserole, turning the heat up. Allow alcohol to boil off for 2 mins.
Add the sauce from the frying pan.
Bring to a simmer and place in the oven, partially covered.
Let stew for 2 hours before adding the dumplings.

For the dumplings
100g self raising flour
100g butter
The end of a good bit of boule, turned to crumbs 
1 tbsp thyme leaves
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp whole milk
1 egg

In my mini food processor, I blitzed the butter and flour to make crumbs. I placed this in a bowl with the crumbs and rubbed together to combine. I added the thyme and rosemary to the mix along with some salt and pepper. I added the eggs and milk and brought the sticky mixture together. I shaped the mix into six dumplings. I added these to the top of the stew after 2 hours - then left the stew uncovered and cooked for a further 30 mins.

A Camembert with a Monday night tomato 'jam' on the side
Not-so-candied yams 
1 Camembert
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped up

Remove the plastic from the Camembert. 
Make small slits with a knife and stuff with the garlic and rosemary.

2 red onions, chopped
6 tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tbsp brown sugar 
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Worcester sauce
Couple of drops of Tabasco 

In butter, fry the onions until sticky and caramelised.
Add the tomatoes and the condiments and about 100ml water and simmer for around 20 mins until sticky and thick.

Mushroom and celery stuffing
1 onion
2 stalks celery
250g myshrooms 
2 apples, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
Bunch of sage
Bunch of parsley 
Few sprigs thyme, leaves picked 
2 slices toast

Food process the vegetables, apple, garlic until finely chopped.
In 1 tbsp butter, fry the food processed mixture over a medium heat until the onion is translucent and any water has evaporated - about 15 mins.
Food process the sage and parsley with the toast until it turns to breadcrumbs. 
Add thyme, sage parsley breadcrumbs, salt and pepper to the mixture. 
Tightly pack the stuffing mixture into an ovenproof dish.
Bake for twenty to thirty minutes until crispy on top.

2 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges lengthways 
4 cloves garlic 
Few sprigs thyme, leaves picked 
Handful of sultanas, soaked in 1 tbsp sweet white wine 

In a bowl, toss the sweet potato in a tablespoon of olive oil with the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. 
Bake in an oven at 200°C for 45 mins until crispy.
Scatter over the sultanas.
Harissa lamb chops with mint sauce with burnt Harissa aubergine
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Few sprigs thyme, leaves picked 
Thumb sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
Salt and pepper 
8 lamb chops

Marinade the lamb in the above ingredients for at least an hour to tenderise.

2 tsp harissa powder 
2 tsp veg oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed 
Half lemon, squeezed 

Mix the powder with oil and garlic and whisk into a paste.

2 aubergines, each sliced lengthways into 4

In a dry cast iron frying pan, scatter salt.
Over a high heat, burn two slices of aubergine at a time, about three mins on each side. 
Add salt for each new batch.
Place on a baking tray and then in the oven for 15 mins at 200°C until cooked through.
Brush each slice with the harissa paste then return to oven for 5 mins.

Brush the remainder of the harissa onto the lamb chops.
Place the chops in the oven at 200°C for around 7 mins.
Remove from oven then brown in a hot frying pan, couple of minutes each side without any oil.

Pour any remaining meat juice into the frying pan.
Add 2 tbsp finely chopped mint to make the sauce.
I served this with squash and brussel sprout pilaf.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Review - Rochelle Canteen

Who visits a hidden away cafe that requires you to ring a buzzer and is only open 10 to 4 on weekdays? Well, evidently me as otherwise I wouldn't have opened with that. But seriously, I'm surprised that this place gets enough customers to keep going. Except that when the food I came, I got it. They do very simple, classic plates without pretensions. The service is elegant and quick without being either forced or rushed. Being tucked away in a school yard on Arnold Circus only adds to its charm. Obviously none of this would matter a jot if the food didn't back it up - I had mackerel and potato salad, game faggots, chicken pie and tried some rabbit terrine.
The rabbit terrine was best - proper chunks of rabbit soaked (metaphorically) in warming clove-y spice. The bread that came with it seemed fake because it was so perfect. The mackerel was well doused in a tart and almost fruity dressing that made it sweet - nicely done but not what I fancied that day. The pastry was oh so buttery and so hot they you had to crack it open to let enough steam escape that it was edible. Within sat a luscious chicken and vegetable broth, simultaneously managing to keep the chicken moist but the pastry crisp. The faggots were a testament to simple food done well, almost falling apart they were so tender. The mash that sat alongside was both creamy and nutty and stood out for itself. Worth spending £25 on lunch.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Review - 3 South Place Brunch

I finally got to South Place. I've been trying for a while but various silly things keep getting in the way, mainly hangovers. The inevitable happened of when you're looking forward to something - it disappointed. Firstly, I was ill. I'd just been to Berlin with work and that meant that I felt really rough and was exposed to a whole new set of germs. I had a nasty cough and my throat felt like I'd swallowed some glass. (Actually, that would feel a whole lot worse. But you get the point.) Secondly, another member of the group was hanging. Which meant no drinking. Which was stupid because the whole point of going to South Place rather than everywhere that you don't pay a premium for unlimited refills of prosecco is that there are unlimited refills of prosecco. Duh. Anyway, it gets worse. The tone for the meal was set when the waitress ID'd us. What the eff. Seriously, I know I look young but COME ON. However, I appreciate that it's her job. My non-drinking hungover pal was not so docile. Then there was a whole thing about the waiter pointing out to Contrary that a starter and a dessert would cost the same as any other two courses and it was so patronising and kind of rude. OK, so the food.
The show stopper was the chorizo duck egg toast. I don't know what they did to it but it was bloody good. Similarly - the fish and chips were ON POINT. The best I've had by an order of magnitude. They did a beautiful thing with the condiments too - mixed the tartare with the mushy peas. Wow! But seriously - actually wow. It combined the silky gooiness with the tart brightness. The fish pie was warm and exactly what I wanted to eat. But it was a little lacklustre. Ditto for the chocolate cake - though that redeemed itself with the most sparky sorbet I've had - cherry. Mmm. Waffles were terrible - they really seemed like they'd come out of a packet. The food is great quality but not so great that it justifies the price. The absolutely delicious, crisp and cold prosecco justifies the price. Don't go if you're not drinking. Or if you don't drink.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Review - Dirty Burger

I'm sick of queuing for restaurants. Are we not over this already? It makes planning an evening INSUFFERABLE. That has been my reaction on three separate occasions where I've tried to go to Dirty Burger in Stepney. On the first occasion, I wasn't irate but disappointed. The second time, I was due to go up north for work the next day and was really angry and actually cancelled all my plans. The most recent time, I was on my way back from Barcelona and I was so hungry but I went to meet a friend passing through London and then got EVEN HUNGRIER and also was pissed off at something completely unrelated so I was REALLY ANGRY (proper capitals angry) and was only calmed by the presence of Nandos next door. (There was a brief moment where I thought there was a queue for Nandos too and I srsly almost flipped out.) So with this back story, I was fully expecting Dirty Burger to disappoint on the queuing to taste ratio. I finally got to go before Genesis on a Wednesday. I went for the burger with cheese and bacon and shared onion fries and slaw with my (veggie) dinner companion.
OK - I concede this is the second best burger in London. It doesn't top Honest but it's getting pretty close to the world of perfect forms burger. It's also doing a different thing to Honest - this burger is unashamedly simpler, greasier and saltier. It is sloppy and meaty and makes your hands smell. It comes in a wrapper which I quite like. It is essentially an example of how McDonalds could be if it wanted to spend any money on anything. It is dirty. (Well named and well branded.) The onion fries took convenience / fast food to a genius new level - essentially onion rings cut into a convenient shape. The batter was quite floury but it worked well. The slaw was truly excellent - the right balance of slathered to tart. I begrudgingly admit that it was worth waiting for.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Review - Lobster Kitchen

The moral of this story is don't believe the hype. It's rare that I'll suggest going for dinner way more central than Bow will ever be on a day before Thursday. But when I heard about half price lobster, I was all 'Oh boy! Golly gee! This lobster place sure sounds real nice, I better get there when there won't be a queue!' HOW WRONG I WAS. The evening started pleasantly with a pal who I don't see as often anymore. In fact, I don't really see any of my pals very often anymore. Sad. Lonely. (Not really - well, a bit.) But there we were, hanging out in Vagabond with the vinomatic machines. I was relieved to learn that conversation wasn't stilted, and only mildly tinged with light awkwardness of 'oh I haven't seen you in a while I don't really know how you live anymore!' Anyway, after that, we moved on to the difficult to find Lobster Kitchen. Firstly - there was a queue. Which I don't mind all that much except the waitress was incapable of telling us how long to expect to wait. That pissed me off. Every other restaurant manages it! Then, we queued. Fine. Then, we were sat. OK. Then, they don't take card - terrible. What century are we in? I ordered - lobster roll, shoestring fries, breaded clams, wine.
Wine - the cheapest was still rather nice. Shoestring fries - good enough but definitely not shoestring. The polar opposite. Breaded clams - no. Just no. They were tiny! They were literally like shards of batter. And this annoyed me most because I've been craving breaded clams ever since I read a 'lunch with the FT' involving someone I can't remember and some clams IN JULY. Unimpressed. The lobster - small. So small. Bearing in mind that full price, this will match Burger and Lobster's offering - this was TINY. And no unlimited sides or well dressed salad to match! I went for the cocktail stuffing which may have been a mistake as it was slathered. I could barely taste what lobster there was. I'm not going back.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Recipe - Pinto Bean Salad, Bulgar Wheat Salad, Weeknight Roast Chicken

I was recently struck with something approaching horror when I struggled to remember what ingredients I'd put in a lunch recently. So I have a renewed enthusiasm for blogging about lunch even though it might be a bit of a chore sometimes. I will be diligent. The thing is - I often don't cook my lunches anymore. I've been working late and this has translated to the Explorer 'making a start on dinner' and actually just going ahead and finishing it. 

Bulgar wheat salad
~100g bulgar wheat
1 stock cube
~300ml water

Place the bulgar wheat, stock cube and water in a saucepan.
Cover and bring to the boil. Simmer for around 15 minutes until cooked.

Half a red onion, chopped finely
2 tbsp green olives
1 garlic clove
Handful fresh parsley
Handful fresh  coriander
1 tbsp dates

Place the above in a food processor and blitz until everything is finely chopped. Add to the bulgar wheat once cooked.

10 cherry tomatoes, halved
Half a lemon
Black pepper

Add the cherry tomatoes to the bulgar wheat. 
Squeeze over the lemon and season with pepper.

Pinto bean salad 
1 large sweet potato, chopped into chunks
2 peppers, chopped into chunks
1 red onion, chopped into chunks
10 cherry tomatoes, halved

Toss the veg in veg oil, salt and pepper. Place in the oven for around 30 mins at 200C.

1 can pinto beans
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
Handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
Handful fresh coriander, finely chopped

In a bowl, place the pinto beans. Add the roasted vegetables and sprinkle over the ground spices. Stir through the spices. DONE.

Midweek roast
1 tbsp olive oil
1 sprig of rosemary, torn up
2 baking potatoes, cut into cubes

Place the oil in a baking tray and place in an oven that you are preheating to 200.
Toss the potatoes with the rosemary, salt and pepper.
Once the oven has preheated, take out the oil and tip the potatoes into it.
Roast for 40 mins until cooked through and crispy.

1 red onion, chopped into thick chunks
1 skin on chicken breast
50ml single cream
1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Meanwhile, season the outside of a large chicken breast (that you've inadvertently stolen from your housemate) with salt and pepper.
Place in the oven in a deep baking dish for the last 15 mins of the potato cooking time.
Take out of the oven. Set aside the chicken breast.
Add 50ml single cream, 1 tbsp mustard, 1 tbsp water to the dish and whisk until smooth and thick.

Serve with a mix of Italian leaves.

Sunday, 2 November 2014


I've cracked the perfect holiday. I had fun on the others but there's always been a small niggle stopping them being 100% perfect. Pre-2012, it was the people. Amsterdam, I was in a strange and floopy place and didn't read travel guides. Prague to Rome I was too broke for the indulgences I like most. I was ill in Berlin, stressed about the house in Budapest. Morocco had sleaze ball men, New York was freezing. You get the picture. But Barcelona in October 2014 was perfect. I was relaxed but not dreading the return. I spent and lived well but without going over budget. There were only positive experiences, both with my companions and with the place. And the weather was glorious. Our b&b was perfect and had quite literally thought of everything. The breakfasts! Muffins and seedy bread, posh cereal and juicy juice. It was a little home away from home. (#cliche) 

We headed out to the Barri Gotic when we'd left our stuff. We walked with a short stop at Granja Mabel for some cheesy chips - delicious but essentially drunk food. Then through the parc ciutadella to the quarter where we headed into the somewhat overshadowed Barcelona Cathedral. We were ready for another drink (or four) by this point so headed to Placa Reial. Pretty place to watch the sun go down if you can avoid feeling guilty and depressed from all the beggars. 

It was time for dinner at El Vaso de Oro, an intimidating galley tapas bar. It was full of Catalan speakers and it was difficult to understand what was going on in all the commotion. We had fishy croquettes, savoury and moist. The peppers were simple - dry and charred. The tuna was a little too dry for my liking, almost cloyingly so. Squid tasted as recently caught as squid from a port town should. We craved something sweet so went to Negro Carbon for some uninspiring drinks and boring pudding. The savoury food looked good here and the atmosphere was a young antidote for the age and tradition of the last place. 

The next day involved lots of metro trips. First, to the Sagrada Familia so we could feel silly for not having pre-purchased tickets. Then to the Parc Guell for a climb to a view. We headed back to town with weary legs - to El Xampyanet for cava and, as always, tapas. The cava, on tap, is the best I've had. And all the fish was so fresh - pungent boquerones, moreish olives, fluffy chorizo omelette. We also had some massive, crunchy sweet prawns as well as tangy tomatoes smarttered with herbs. We then went to the Picasso museum. At this point, I think we're all tired of Barcelona walk through, don't you all agree? Let's just do the rest of the food. 

Tapas 24
We wanted something less traditional having spent a couple of nights in Barceloneta already. This was reminiscent of all the places in London which don't let you book and insist that you queue. The beauty of the Spanish eating so late is you can turn up at 8 and grab the last non-queuing table. The bomba was my favourite - all the beauty of a croquette with a cute little savoury heart of lamb mince. Or was it the mcfoie? Cannily named to pick up on the fact that burger with foie gras combines salt and sweet just as fast food does. The rabo de toro was so heady and dizzying. The tomato bread helped to cure the headache that could be induced.

Bar Pinoxto, La Boqueria
La Boqueria market is a phenomenal place to visit, imbued with all the smells and colours that any self respecting food market would have. I picked Pinoxto on the recommendation of a blog and we feasted. Chickpeas and salty pork - great match. Sloppy vegetables were a miss rather than a hit. The sole was basically almost alive it was so fresh - lightly dressed with olive oil and a balsamic salad.

After all those small plates, we wanted a paella. We debated at length on whether to go here or to a place a little further along the shore. We picked here because it's only 15 minutes walk from where we were staying. We wanted different styles of paella which I fear affected our meals. I had the mountain - replete with almost alarmingly salty pork contrasted with juicy seafood. The seafood alone I was less keen on, they needed a touch of lemon or something. Both dishes needed that extra touch of freshness or acidity - I think the quantities may have been too strong because we had individual paellas. It doesn't really work.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Recipe - Chicken Stew with Dumplings

The new thing that I say is 'woo hoo', a souvenir of young Earnest's dialogue. She's moved in now, a stringy gum meaning that we all hang out instead of coexisting. To celebrate her new found guminess, we rewarmed our house. I usually hate parties at my own house but this was a good'un. I was debilitated until 4 the next day with a smug and vaguely annoying Explorer swinging between moaning that I'd had a better time than him and cajoling me for being hungover. My main issue was that he was rewatching LOTR for the seventeenth time rather than lying with me in my misery. Oh, and he's thrown away the vin for my coq.After I roused, I was filled with a new lease of life and a desire to make dumplings. Chicken stew and dumplings, to be precise.
Chicken stew and dumplings
5 chicken thighs

Brown the chicken thighs over a high heat in a casserole. 

2 leeks
2 carrots 
1 onion
4 cloves garlic

Wash and chop the vegetables. Sweat over a medium heat for around 10 mins until browned. Return the chicken to the pot and I turned up the heat. 

1 glass white wine
Tsp dried thyme
Half tsp tarragon 
2 bay leaves 
1 stock pot 

Add the wine to the pot and let it bubble away. Add the herbs, stock and around 700ml water - enough to cover and for the water level to be about 1 inch over the top of the stew.

Place in the oven at 180, uncovered for 20 mins.

100g self raising flour
100g butter
1 piece toast, turned to crumbs 
Handful of dill
Handful of parsley
2 eggs 

In my mini food processor, I blitzed the butter and flour to make crumbs. I placed this in a bowl with the crumbs and rubbed together to combine. I blitzed the dill and parsley in the food processor and added these to the mix along with some salt and pepper. I cracked in two eggs and brought the sticky mixture together. I shaped the mix into five dumplings. I added these to the top of the chicken at the 20 minute point and let the whole stew cook for another 30 mins.

Review - Machete

I've been avoiding restaurants where you have to queue recently in favour of making reservations and then flaking out on said reservations. That's what went down in Victoria Park Village on one date night. It all started because I was craving meat. A big fat juicy steak. Fish House doesn't lend itself to steak. So we went to The Empress for a drink and instead of piping up with an 'I want entrecôte', we made a new booking at Machete, the reasoning being that I could get a steak burrito. Or, as it turns out, steak tacos with rice and beans on the side. The Explorer got a pork burrito. 
It's a testament to how successful it was that I remember the succulence of the meat three weeks on. I can particularly remember an acidity of the vinegar marinade (I think) - juicy and pungent without overpowering. The beans were creamy and soft, salty with a refreshing salsa sitting next door. The rice was spiced and, crucial for restaurant rice, didn't leave me feeling like I could have made it myself.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Review - The Joint

The other thing about Friday is the influence is the undue influence it has over the rest of the weekend. Getting Friday wrong can mean scuppering painfully wrought plans on Saturday. That being said, if that happens, my confidence is restored that not planning every moment won't end in boredom and loneliness. So, as carefully perfected Saturday plans went out of the window, they were replaced by a laissez-faire trip to Brixton where I was comically underdressed for the weather. We ate at the Joint.

The people sat next to us had slammed the pulled pork but I wasn't keen on it anyway. I went for the Asian style panko breadcrumbed chicken. It was well crumbed and went well with the sweet bun and the fresh slaw. It came with a sticky suspiciously American BBQ tasting sauce which made it difficult to distinguish where the Asian element came from. It was nice enough but not outstanding. The ribs, on the other hand, really were great. Falling off the bone and the right mix of sugar and tang. The onion rings were similarly well done. I wouldn't mind going back and nor would I discourage it but there's not enough to be enthusiastic about.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Review - Gaby's

Friday nights are a nightmare. As you're bored of hearing me say, there's the logistical pressure of turning up to all social occasions mildly tipsy. Then there's the tiredness and sense that your life is slipping away if you don't make it to your plans or the expense and despair the next day if you do. As previously discussed, I've been keen to break the cycle. So this week, I left mega early, learnt a fraction about Assyria and then got a pedicure. Pedicures are great! I fear I've found another thing to waste my money on but my feet feel so good. It was in aid of a friend's (24th!) birthday and she picked the restaurants afterwards.
I was apprehensive when I saw the outside until I saw the vats of colourful salad. On her recommendation, I went for the small salad plate and got falafel as my first choice. Oh my god this falafel. It was phenomenally crispy, a crunchy little savoury treat. With my salads, I went two ways - half slaw and beetroot and vaguely central / Eastern European and half middle eastern. Best in class at both! The creamy, dill covered crushed potatoes went effortlessly with the beetroot. Oh and the slaw! I was slightly less a fan of the cauliflowery middle eastern half. Except that the falafel was faultless.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Recipe - Stuffed Courgettes, Squash and Ricotta Lasagne, Coconut Cake

No fridge meant no cooking. I think that's what led me to feeling so underwhelmed by everything. My nature is to tire of habits - I know from experience that the remedy is to change something or do something new. So that's what I did Sunday / literally just cooked all the live long day. I even baked! My baking is coming along. It's not nearly as exact as I expected - I usually follow the recipe abd then do a few things to make it 'seem' right. Like with this coconut cake, I'm pretty sure I added more coconut cream and that that helped. Unfortunately, it also means that my recipes continue to be inaccurate. I've tried my best when writing up these though.

Stuffed courgettes
250g beef mince
1 large onion
2 carrots
5 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato puree
Sprigs of thyme
1 tsp oregano
6 courgettes
50g parmesan
2 slices toast, made into breadcrumbs
Handful of parsley

Brown the mince over a high heat on each side.
Fry a diced onion, two diced carrot and 4 cloves of garlic over a medium heat until soft and browned.
Return mince to the pan with two tbsp tomato purée, two bay leaves, a few sprigs of thyme. A level teaspoon of dried oregano and two wine glasses of water.
Simmer, half covered for about an hour and a half, or as long as you have.

Meanwhile, half six large courgettes lengthways. Roast in the oven at 200 for about 30 minutes, until very soft.
Remove from oven, scoop out the flesh and place in a colander. Sprinkle with salt and leave to stand for 15 mins. Squeeze out any excess water then mix the cooked bolognese. Season with salt and pepper.

Fill each courgette with the filling.

In a food processor, blitz together 2 slices of toast, 1 garlic, 50g Parmesan and fresh parsley. Too the stuffed courgettes with this crumb.

Return to oven for ten mins, loosely covered in foil. Uncover and cook for a further five until crumb is browned and bubbling.

Squash and ricotta lasagne
Half a pumpkin, peeled and chopped into cubes

Roast the pumpkin in a hot oven, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper until soft - about 30 mins at 200C

50g parmesan
150ml double cream
250g ricotta
Small bunch sage, chopped
10 lasagne sheets

Mix the ricotta with the sage. Once the squash is done, mix that through.
Whisk the double cream with the parmesan.
Layer as follows:
Cream - lasagne - squash - lasagne - cream - squash - lasagne - cream
Bake at 180, covered with foil, for 30 minutes followed by a final 5 minutes uncovered.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Review - Sushi No En

So you know how I was harping on about how reclaimed of my youth I felt for the pathetic reason that I managed to stay out to a reasonable hour? Well, I spoke too soon - the previous weekend took me out to the extent that I fell asleep in a pub on Friday night despite it being the return of a pal who I haven't seen in half a year. I felt so guilty and stilted the next morning because I'd just been sat there like a boring alien. It was difficult to tell if the alien feeling was tiredness or me being ill at ease. I haven't felt ill at ease for ages. These were the thoughts that I was pondering as I sat on a bus to meet the Explorer from his graduation. We were meeting for lunch but both so indecisive that we wandered for an hour before settling on Sushi No En. I was hesitant as previous Saturdays where we've ambled emptily have ended in bad food and oppressive boredom but this place stopped that happening.
It looks so scabby from the outside! It looks cheap and tacky and like the food is aimed solely at QM students. It's completely different inside. They have a whole section of traditionally sunken Japanese seating. And anime playing on a wall! 
And the food was spectacular. We had a salmon teriyaki bento box and the pork katsu. So many extras! The miso soup was warming and savoury enough that I had it all rather than getting bored. The little vegetable dumpling and sweet potato cake were, frankly, odd, but in a pleasant way. The salmon avocado sushi rolls were fresh and difficult to describe, as sushi often is for me. I think the salmon teriyaki is amongst the best salmon of any cuisine I've had. And the sauce! None of that horrid stickiness, just a golden sweetness to it. I haven't even mentioned the pork - my favourite. This is my new favourite restaurant.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Review - Lady Ottoline

I keep going to eat at places that my boss recommends and I seem like a strange suck-up fangirl. But she just has really good recommendations! (And also, I aspire to be as well-eaten and dressed and together as her in a decade.) It was just a shame that I was feeling ill and worn on the Wednesday when we went to Lady Ottoline at her recommendation with the Explorer's parents. I had that horrible woozy feeling where it feels like you're outside yourself and on the cusp of too hot and too cold and nothing helps to get more comfortable. Sadly, this meant that I wasn't in the right frame of mind to drink in the near perfect pubiness of Lady Ottoline. It also meant that I wasn't in the best frame of mind to make conversation with people I see twice a year. Especially not about the relative merits of living in the Cayman Islands over London. I have literally no empathy for why you would make that life choice. Beaches get boring. Incessant religion is boring from the start. Not paying tax is something of which I strongly disapprove. (I can barely get on board with ISAs when the term 'tax efficient' is applied to it.) Anyway, these are the thoughts that I refrained from mentioning. I didn't even mention my 'lol not lol' Oyster card with a picture of a beach reading 'rush hour in the Cayman Islands' and how it's actually a big old joke because I'd rather cut off my little toe than live in a place that lackadaisical and laid back. I think perhaps the Explorer's mum agrees with me even if she phrased it as more based on the positives of London. One of those positives being lovely pubs with lovely food like Lady Ottoline. I had the pigeon terrine with a green bean salad as my appetite wasn't raving. 

First comment - small portions. £1.50 of bread entitled you to two small slices. However, despite the meanness of the portions, the food was enjoyable. The terrine was gamey and savoury and made me long for Wolf Hall. The salad was articulate and well dressed, with crunchy walnuts running through it marrying well with the pigeon. Gnocchi was equally stingy but intricate and gravadlax was super fresh. I was probably most impressed by the chicken Caesar - to make one of those taste actually like something I regret not ordering is impressive. But, my overriding impression was that the portions were small, even more so than its sister the Proncess.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Review - The Hemingway

Almost two weeks later, I finally get round to writing about the Hemingway. Thankfully for you, I remember vividly what I was feeling that day: terrible. However, the nausea and soul-killing headache was mixed with a slight satisfaction - I had stayed up until 7 the night before! (That's 7am to those that think this is me bragging about how early I go to bed.) In the first few months of job, I didn't mind a jot about going to bed early. Not sucking > being a fun person with a social life. But then in Edinburgh, seeing university pals again and being reminded of a past life (lol, two years ago) and how my peers hadn't gone into sleepy granny mode had me determined to do more fun. (Except that then I kept falling asleep anyway.) anyway, basically I feel like I've reclaimed something, even if it's difficult to articulate what. Anyway, back to the Hemingway. After feeling like crap and going back to bed until 5, the Explorer and I decided it was time to be active. But since obviously that wasn't going to go well, we went to the pub and gorged instead. The Hemingway is my all time favourite pub.

We got a spread. Scotch egg, battered sole goujons, honey mustard sausage and a roast. The scotch egg, as before, was gooey yolked and unctuous. Most impressively, the piccalilli was almost as good as the egg - sour and fresh. The goujons and their tartare were completely without fault. Two weeks later, I'm still thinking about the one I didn't finish and regretting it. The sausages tasted high quality, as did the honey they were glazed in. The lamb was done just how I like and the trimmings had that wonderful, mushy togetherness that makes a roast so comforting. Probably the best pub food I've had.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Review - Red Dog Saloon

I have a broken fridge. It's rental hell. You might not think it would be as bad as, say, having no hot water for a week (been there too) but TRUST ME if you're of the 'buy all your meat and beans from tesco then go to the market for vegetables' persuasion, as I am, it really screws with your food plans. My food plans have mainly been orientated around using everything up, including the frozen vegetables, in various hotch-potch meals. The last thing that I cooked was a sausage and lentil stew which I served with 'salad' of (previously frozen) green beans and peas. (Loads of them. Enough for five people to get sick of.) That was last Saturday. Since then, I have eaten out or I have not eaten. It has been kind of a treat but actually just really expensive and boring. I've recently been feeling wearied by restaurant food, like my tongue has been burnt and I can't really taste anything. At the time, I enjoy it and (I think) I can still recognise when it's good but, unlike before, I don't remember it  VIVIDLY and go on about how great it was months after. And also, actually I don't know if I really can taste if something's good. In fact, let's try again: eating out a lot recently has meant that I have eaten out in more underwhelming restaurants and have become over-exposed to the good ones meaning that I can't appreciate them properly. (Now, that's a first world problem if ever I heard one.) It's almost like I can't be bothered to enjoy it just as I can't be bothered to do my hair or keep up with the chores or write this blog. I need a nap.
Red Dog Saloon was one of the actually unimpressive restaurants. I didn't really expect it to be any good but it was right next to where we'd been wine tasting and, more than anything else, we were hungry. When I saw fried chicken on the menu, I thought I could reclaim my poor experience at Bird. And I admit, this chicken was at least hot and not AS dry. But it was still a bit dry. I don't know whether to attribute that to being a breast piece or a more general quality. But basically, I was uninspired. And I definitely have it in me to be inspired by fried chicken because I LOVE greasy, American junk food. The mash was creamy- but tiny and with only a touch of gravy. The greens were interesting and had been cooked in an interesting tangy way but, ultimately, there was nothing here to write home about.

Review - Pimlico Fresh

Last Saturday, I dared venture further than 5 miles from my front door. I went to Pimlico! And, more self-satisfyingly, I got there by 12! Unfortunately, my brunch companion who lives only 10 minutes away was busy throwing up in a bin or pulling furniture down in his flat or something. (He was actually just asleep.) But since I've previously failed to show up for dinner altogether, I couldn't mind too much. Especially since the Explorer was there to hold my hand and ensure I never have to eat alone. (Puke.) We battled the confusing system of the Pimlico Fresh queue to settle on smoked salmon and avocado toast and lasagne with salad.
I'll admit, I misread the menu - I actually meant to get eggs with salmon. But the salmon that I was presented was thick, nicely cut and peppered. The avocado was creamy and needed a little something (chilli? more lemon? I don't know how to punctuate within brackets as I've just realised) to make it a bit less claggy tasting. The lasagne was actually better than the breakfasty food - light and tangy rather than hearty. And well paired with an almost nutty broccoli salad. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Review - No 67

I should keep an open mind about unplanned weekends. As this one showed, impromptu can be much more fun. But only if you've got a liquid supply of people you don't have to plan to see on top. (I've rather mixed my metaphors there.) This particular weekend, I ended up at No 67 in Peckham. We've tried to go once before but after making our brunch guy cycle from Peckham to Homerton and then back again, we ended to opposite my office as I have no imagination. This time round, we made the 40 minute journey without even using the lack of overground as an excuse.
To rectify past mistakes (the time that I didn't get waffles and bacon even though I really wanted waffles and bacon), I ordered. Well, I'll let you figure that one out. And by Jove, was it delicious. The waffles were almost crackable and yet still becoming mildly soft from being drenched in maple syrup. Mmm, syrup. The shards of bacon were equally sharp and oh so smoky. I don't really get why all bacon isn't served with maple syrup - that's what this brunch had me thinking. The only bit that I was even minorly disappointed by was the bubble and squeak. Unnecessary in terms of hunger but v necessary in terms of maintaining the 'always order bubble and squeak if there's bubble and squeak to be ordered' game. And even then, pairing it with bacon righted its salt imbalance. And all of this took place in a sumptuous, clean, white space with a cute little garden outside and some unexceptional but enjoyable contemporary art above. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Review - The Princess of Shoreditch

I can't remember where or why I first heard the phrase 'champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends'. I feel like it must either have been someone's screen name back in the MSN days (RIP) or something someone said as an ironic throwback to those days. Either way, I woke up with that phrase and a banging headache in my head on Saturday morning. The facts are as follows: I went to two sets of work drinks on Friday, got waylaid at the latter set that meant that I missed my dinner plans, meaning I'd eaten nothing by set of drinks no 3 (the one with my non-consultant pals). Consequently, I had to leave rather than go and meet more actual friends who I haven't seen in ages because I really needed some food. Food that I didn't get because as soon as I got in moving transport, I felt so sick that I had to go straight to bed. Anyway, basically it appears that despite spending 50 hours with coworkers anyway, I can't get enough of them on Friday. Why is this? Well, firstly, I like them. Which is nice! And then there's the whole element of needing that non-professional time at the end of the week when we all remember that as stressy as it might get, we're all normal real life humans who enjoy normal real life human things. Nevertheless, I wish I stopped making this no-dinner mistake and saw my real life human pals more. Even lunch at the Princess couldn't sustain me.
Actually, lunch at the Princess was again with a work pal (one who is my boss and also pseudo-mentor) who is good to lunch with as she's also into food. She gives me hope that if I carry on as I am, one day I'll own a little house in Hackney (or more likely, Edmonton/Barking) and eat at fancy places on my birthday. We went to the Princess after considering  tapas and ended up ordering in a small plates for sharing style. The heaviest of them were the potted brisket with sour dough and pickles and the lamb fritters. Both meats were soft and stringy- the lamb encased in a perfectly amber, crisp crumb. It came with a well-balanced, salty anchovy and parsley butter. Mmm. The pickles were my favourite bit - a good level of acidity to balance the heaviness of the meat. My least favourite were the fried anchovies - unexpectedly battered and a bit claggy. Double fried chips were the best I've had in a long time and the salad was unspectacular but well dressed. It's just occurred to me that they didn't bring the courgette flowers! Oh well - there was plenty to eat.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Edinburgh 2014

I fringed again! My first Fringe experience was cut short, my second was very frugal  and my third non-existent because of dog-gate (the Explorer was attacked by dogs last summer). It was much needed - both because I needed a break and because I needed to remind myself to DO something. We bought lots of tickets before we even got there to avoid missing out on tickets (James Acaster, you slipped through my fingers) and also so I couldn't wake up in the morning and think 'Do I really want to go outside today?' (I may have previously discussed how my satisfaction with 'just being' could be a sign of my inner peace and more zen outlook on life but it is also at least 70% laziness.) And since the last couple of times we went to Edinburgh we made it only as far as Tesco Davidson's Mains most days and spent our time watching the entirety of the  Bridge, just being in a different city wouldn't necessarily prevent that happening. Still, our 'jam-packed' days didn't stop me having an epiphany about how I've let my social life go to the dogs, probably brought on by seeing some pals from university who remind me that I used to be fun by being fun themselves. They were up past 1! Must be more awake more of the time. Must go and do age-appropriate activities more. Must have a (non-debilitating) hangover on a Saturday soon. I tried my best. Anyway, the food.
The reluctant prosecco from the train up had left me sleepy and out-of-mood for the first and worst (but still alright) show we saw. We followed it up with a burger from the Holyrood 9A. The benchmark I use for all burgers is Honest and it wasn't a patch on that but credit where it's due - they were BIG, moist and laden with interesting toppings. We roasted mushrooms we got on the side were better than the burger though: aromatic with rosemary and with just the right amount of bite. And the coleslaw! So pungent with vinegar and crunch. And a word about the pub itself - it's cosy and cute and has a really broad selection of beers. Edinburgh's good at pubs. They have the art of dark panelled oak and warming fires down, even in summer. But obviously I appreciate that as well as stout decor, there are a few with accomplished but unpretentious food. The King's Wark is a good example of this: daily changing menu featuring seasonal produce but also massive portions. I was (of course) torn about what to get but in the end, my love and seemingly constant craving for mash won out. Also, the fact that we were in Scotland. Good old haggis with neeps and tatties. It tasted comforting and sweet and made me think that it couldn't have been that bad to be a wildling. The star of the show were the mussels though. They were SO plump and so salty and juicy and gorgeous. The sauce was the usual creamy. winey concoction and made me long for a bigger stomach os that I could drench up more with the bread.

On Friday, we saw enough to feel somewhat comedied out. So we had cake for dinner! Well, that's not quite true. We started off with a late lunch at Mosque Kitchen. Now, Curry 2000 might be the closest approximation to home food for me in East London but Mosque Kitchen is a much better attempt at it. It's a little bit lighter and a little bit more fresh - the vegetables are greener. But the lamb is still deep and rich and as tender as appropriate. Probably the best value lunch in all of Edinburgh. We were still so full that we could only stomach gluttonous cake from Mimi's. I had a REALLY rich buttercreamy chocolate raspberry cupcake. It got to the point that I felt really quite sick with cake but it was too moreish to stop. The last (and least remarkable) meal we had was at Yocoko - a very Spartanly seeming 'pan-Asian' noodle bar on Nicholson Street. My meal was indisputably cheap and enjoyable enough - I wouldn't recommend it but I might return.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Review - Moro

In my first ever stint of living in London, I was based in Farringdon. Farringdon is lovely, I could walk to work and was surrounded by cute little gastropubs and restaurants, not to mention Exmouth Market. The problem which arose was that in my second year of university, I didn't have all that much expendable income. I mean, I did, but there was the constant loom of 'I don't have a job and can't just expect to come across more money' (this attitude has been replaced by 'there will always be more money coming' which is arguably worse) so spending £50 on a meal didn't feel so reasonable. Farringdon probably wasn't the right fit location-wise with that in mind. Now that I am comfortable enough with spending too much on potentially average food, I never find myself in Farringdon. I have the best intentions but have only seen them through once. And on that one occasion, I ended up at the Castle which is one of the few Farringdon pubs I actually visited while I lived there. (I was really craving mash and that was the only place which seemed to do it.) Anyway, while I was hanging out there I managed to get the law firm I was working at to take me to Moro. I remember it as one of the best meals I've ever had but didn't have this little blog to discuss it on. I returned there this Thursday with work (not a law firm)! Let's discuss if it 'met or exceeded expectations'.
I've only got one photo of the food as I didn't want to keep drawing attention to the fact that I have a blog in front of my colleagues. That's my starter you see there - sardines. They were really simple - grilled with lemon and so fishy you could almost be in a fishing village. A bright green sauce made I think primarily of parsley came alongside it keeping the sardine true to its simple roots but jazzing it up a little. I chose the chicken for a main. It was going to be wood pigeon but since we're at the mercy of what's seasonal in a place like Moro, I think they replaced the essence of the dish with chicken. I considered whether I was choosing the boring option but I figured that if chicken was going to excel anywhere, it's Moro. It was charred and tart, I think with paprika, with a nutty bean accompaniment not discussed in the menu alongside it. I love how every dish came with its equivalent of an appropriately juicy lentil / bean combination! I didn't even come close to finishing my main but still decided to share pudding. Chocolate and apricot tart! So much more chocolate than apricot. So rich. I can recapture exactly how it tasted on Thursday! But sadly, words are failing me. The tart was the best bit though. So, to conclude: Moro was great. And, for what it is, it's very reasonably priced - around £80 a head for three courses, an aperatif and wine. However - I remember it having been better. I don't know if this is my memory being unreliable or a concession to the fact that I've eaten in a lot more places since I was first at Moro. Anyway, it's still well worth a visit. But it's not in my top five anymore...

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Recipe - Chermoula Roasted Aubergine, Chicken Marbella

So, why haven't I written a blog in a month? I could've written something about visiting Bangladesh again and taking the infantilisation I experienced in good grace. I could've written about how the Explorer's away which means I have to make a much bigger effort to be social and that it's good that I still get bored of his absence even after two years. I could have talked about my very first visit to Leeds (we need to invest more in not-London) and how the station has all three of the major fast food chains represented. But I haven't had time! I'm actually actually busy doing something I both understand and enjoy! This hasn't been rconducive to cooking very much. And the eating out has been limited to dinky sandwiches on trains (first class!) and dinners at places I didn't choose (I'm not bitter). I've got my bus time and I've got my free weekend time but suddenly, I don't feel compelled to fill every waking moment doing admin or better myself. I just want to BE. And don't get bored just being! This is very new for me. Do I sound like a hippy? Maybe this is what inner peace feels like.
Chicken marbella
8 chicken thighs
5 garlic cloves, crushed
Handful of dill, finely chopped
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
50g green olives, halved
2 tbsp capers with their juices
50g dates, chopped
2 bay leaves

Marinade the chicken thighs in the ingredients lifted above in a bowl. I did this from a day and a half in advance, stirring about 4 or 5 times in the time.

1 cup white wine
1 tbsp grape molasses

Mix together the wine and molasses. Place the chicken in a single layer on a baking tray. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Drizzle over the syrup that you've just made and place in the oven for around 35 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Bulgar pilaf

2 onions, finely sliced
1 carrot, diced
2 tsp ras-el hanout
200g bulgar wheat
About 400ml veg stock
Handful of parsley, finely chopped
Handful of coriander, finely chopped
Half a lemon

In about a tablespoon of olive oil, fry the onions over a low heat for around 15 minutes until very soft and brown.
Add the carrot and ras-el hanout spice mix.
Stir in the bulgar wheat.
Add the vegetable stock, salt, pepper and bring to the boil over a medium heat. 
Cover and simmer for around 15 mins until the bulgar is cooked.
Stir in the parsley and coriander and squeeze over the lemon.

Roasted broccoli
2 heads broccoli, washed and chopped
Sesame seeds
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt, pepper
1 tsp cumin seeds

Place the broccoli in a bowl with the remaining ingredients and toss.
Place in a single layer on a baking tray - roast for 15 minutes until soft and smoky.

Chermoula marinated aubergine
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tbsp olive oil

To make the chermoula, pound together a pestle and mortar in the above.

1 lemon, sliced
3 aubergines, halved with flesh side scored

In a dry frying pan over a medium heat, place the lemon and allow to caramelise.
Add the chermoula into the scores you've made in the aubergines.
Place the caramelised lemons on top.
Roast for 40 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius until the aubergines are soft and charred.
I served this with a bulgar pilaf similar to the recipe above but with sultanas and nuts in it too and a green lentil and pumpkin tagine.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Recipe - Roasted Cauliflower and Pomegranate Salad

We've reached crisis point in terms of how routine it's all become. You know those (stupid) new t-shirts that read 'EAT. SLEEP. RAVE. REPEAT.'? Well, that's my life. Except without the rave. Just the eating and sleeping. I've checked out in the weekdays to the point that I don't even try to schedule anything before Thursday. In fact, Thursday is probably the only weeknight that I'm even vaguely socially worthwhile spending time with: Fridays have become a carousel of going for work drinks on no dinner then staying too late and turning up at whatever social engagement inappropriately tipsy for the situation. That in turn means I have a hangover and am ready for bed by 11pm on a Friday after an unnecessary, though inevitable, Uber home. I feel dull. Beyond going to the theatre a couple of times, I've done nothing to make the most of London. And even forgetting worthy activities, I doubt I'm much fun even when sitting around and talking. This past Friday, I think I said 5 sentences in the whole evening, of which one was 'I'm sorry, I really have to go home and nap'. But at this point, spending more time alone/with the Explorer doing basically nothing and cooking wins. I will re-engage with everyone and do something with my life/youth/city shortly. Meanwhile, it's been a good time for weeknight suppers. We've had crushed courgettes with Spanish omelette, stuffed sardines (actually somewhat disappointing) with jewelled cous cous, roasted garlic and tomato spaghetti.  Let's look at a picture before going into an unrelated recipe.

Roasted cauliflower with pomegranate
1 large cauliflower
Juice of half a lemon
A small bunch of mint, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground allspice
Olive oil
Seeds of one pomegranate
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Roast the cauliflower, scattered with allspice, lemon juice and plenty of salt. 
Once roasted, toss with mint, olive oil and a generous grind of black pepper. Sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds and serve.