Saturday, 22 February 2014

Recipe - Chocolate Mousse, Cheese, Onion and Potato Tart, Carrot andPecan Cupcakes

I made a mousse!! Having quit tutoring (kid got into 6/7 schools, holla) and not yet started real life job, I decided to make the most of my electric whisk. I have no idea what work will be like. How late can I acceptably get in for? Will my coworkers think I'm a weirdo? (Yes.) Will they judge me for bringing in my tupperwared lunches? (Yes, but I won't care.) This is a big change and I could be freaking out about it (I am) but I instead decided to make the most of my last few days (on this planet) by cooking elaborate things which involve an oven. Did anyone notice that my internal voice was putting on an American accent while writing this? (Too much Mindy Project #unemployed)

Chocolate mousse thanks to Delia.

Carrot cupcakes
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Half teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon cinnamon
Half level teaspoon nutmeg
Half level teaspoon ginger

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a bow.

Half cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs

In a large bowl, whisk together vegetable oil and sugar.
Whisk in the eggs.
Stir in the dry ingredients.

4 small carrots, food processed/grated
50g pecans, food processed/finely chopped
50g sultanas, food processed/finely chopped

Add the above three ingredients to the cake batter.

Divide between twelve cupcake cases in a cupcake tin. Bake for 16 minutes at 180 degrees C.

Cheese, onion and potato tart
220g flour
140g butter
1 egg
3 tablespoons water

Rub butter and flour together into breadcrumbs. Add egg and 2 tbsp cold water and bring together into a dough. Knead into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes. 

Roll out pastry and place in tart dish. Cover in greaseproof paper and dried rice. Cook for 20 mins at 200. Remove paper and beans and cook for a further 5 minutes.

3 onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
4 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
Sage, finely chopped
Thyme leaves

Fry and pour into pastry casing when cooled.

3 eggs, whisked
150g cream cheese
100g cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp wholegrain mustard

Whisk together these ingredients and pour over the mixture. 

Bake for 30.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Review - Kimchee

I was a Bad Daughter. I totally forgot that I was supposed to be meeting my mother to chew the fat at Euston station while she waited for her train. Instead, I was in Uniqlo wandering around with the boy who she does not know that I live with. She called me and said that I didn't have to come but that was clearly not true. If I didn't go, I would never hear the end of it. Or, there was enough of a risk of me never hearing the end of it that I should just make the mad dash for Euston. I was dressed far too un-conservatively for my mother as she could tell from the fact that I solidly refused to unbutton my cape even when she wanted to see my outfit. I was also a little bit suspicious, as I felt like she knew all the things I keep secret from her since I was not prepared for the meeting. It was all very stressful and I gave her two cupcakes to alleviate my guilt. This was how flustered I was when I went to Kimchee.

We ordered beef bulgogi, seafood bibimbap, the eponymous kimchee and some rice. Firstly: the rice here is excellent. You don't usually notice the rice that comes with the more interesting accompaniments but this rice deserves a shout out. Unfortunately, we forgot to keep stirring the bibimbap so clusters of it were burnt. However, the bits which were in that sweet spot between burnt and plain were so wonderfully roasted and almost caramel-like. The seafood and vegetables were also sweet and became more so in the hot, hot plate. The kimchee looked foul but tasted almost fruitily sour without being too spicy. The bulgogi was best. We're planning on returning to get only the grilled meat and kimchee.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Recipe - Smoked Haddock Chowder

We're going to pick up where we left off in the New York post. Picture this: I'd eaten so quickly that I might've had crackingly addictive mayonnaise around my mouth. I had recently learnt that a school trip were on my plane but still managed to queue next to them in security. I then queued for 40 minutes before getting the gate wrong and wandering around lost before sitting opposite a Shake Shack desperately trying to connect to wifi. The plane, surprisingly, departed on time so it should've been plain sailing. OH WAIT its a red eye flight where I managed to fall asleep as the seat next to me was unoccupied until some ROGUE girl moved to it, waking me up, and then said 'thank you so much' in that classic American way. After that, I couldn't sleep. I felt nauseous, disorientated to the point that I couldn't find the tube, and dehydrated. Still, I was determined to remain awake in my confused state with no sense of time. So I made this chowder! It helped. (I fell asleep at 8, woke up two hours later and then couldn't sleep until 3. I'm still out of step enough to be getting up at 11 as if I'm in Him and Her or something.)

Smoked haddock chowder
2 smoked haddock fillets
Milk (enough to just cover the haddock fillets)
2 bay leaves
1 black clove
2 black peppercorns

Place the milk, spices and haddock fillets in a frying pan.
Bring to simmer and cook for about 8 minutes.
Remove the spices, reserve the milk and remove the skin and flake the fish.

2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
1 tsp dried thyme
400g new potatoes, scrubbed
200g frozen sweetcorn
Parsley, chopped
50g cheddar, grated

In a saucepan, melt the butter.
Add the leeks and fry for a minute over a high heat.
Turn the heat to low, cover with a lid and leave to cook gently for around 10 minutes.
Add the potatoes and cook for a further 10 - 15 minutes until tender.
Add the sweetcorn, reserved milk and haddock.
Simmer for a couple of minutes to let the flavours meld together.
Add the parsley and cheddar.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

New York, New York

Look at how imaginative my title is! Anyway, I went to New York! All on my own. I was somewhat apprehensive at the prospect of a different country all alone but somewhat hurt that other people seemed to share that view. No one said it but everyone was so keen to hook me up with their (sometimes very peripheral) friends who lived there that it seemed to imply that I wouldn't hack going it alone. I'm probably taking this too personally as it's a throwback to times past when I perhaps would hate being alone and struggle to interact with strangers in a positive 'hey dontcha wanna know me?' way. But just so you know: guys! I can be normal when it's expected of me! I am capable of making a good first impression (just about). Anyway, it's New York City; I'm hardly going to get bored.

However, everyone was right to think that company would enhance the experience. (Isn't it curious that the things that most tickle you that people say are the ones with the greatest foundations in truth? No it's not.) So I actually did get in touch with a lot of people and they certainly improved my stay. I nevertheless spent a fair amount of time alone and that encompassed eating alone. I'm pleased to report that my bristled protests that I'd be fine turned out to be true.

My first 'meal' alone happened in Heathrow at Comptoir Libonais. My rescheduled flight was itself an hour delayed and my phone was slowly being depleted of battery so I thought I'd get a snack, throwing my 'I'm going to do the 2-5 diet this week as I hate eating on planes' plan into disarray. I don't regret it, the fig jam which came with my croissant was unreal. I'm going to buy some when I return! That was where the happy food stories ended for a while. I hate long haul flights, I cope poorly in the high altitude and my headphones didn't quite work and I'd forgotten my actual headphones. (But Rush is a great film which you should all see.) 

Upon arrival, US immigration took the piss with its ridiculous queues and precious attitude to its borders. Then the shuttle service took the piss with its half an hour waiting time. And then the New York traffic crushed me in my thirsty, nauseous, 'recovering from the bends' state. I was really pleased to enter a lovely Upper East Side apartment with warmth and fresh food and herbal tea. That didn't stop me coming out in hives though. I woke up, surprisingly non-jetlagged and pondered what to do with my day. I had heard somewhere that the weather wasn't the most temperate in February and that there had recently been a storm and so I aimed very low. I decided to spent all day in the Met since that was walking distance but still a worthy way to spend a day. I spent around 6 hours in there but still covered barely any of it (what Dutch masters?) and had to split my day into two halves so I'd feel less museumed-out.
During break time, I walked a few blocks down to JG Melon. Firstly, great decor. I love melon themed things and I'm impressed that they've found so much of it. Particularly since they probably found a lot of it before the Internet existed. Well done! The food itself was less impressive. The burger was a little grainy though still juicy. The pickle a little too tart. The whole thing was crying out for some freshness but apparently Americans hate putting salad in their burgers. The cottage potatoes were the best bit although they were just a different shape of chip.

On my walk home from the Met, I thought I'd wander by the Two Little Red Hens bakery to pick up some cheesecake. I was so under-caffeinated by this point that I felt compelled to stay for a coffee and a red velvet cupcake. So red and sour. (I mean that as a compliment.) Seriously, I have no idea how people stay so thin with so much temptation everywhere. As I've previously discussed, self-denying is too difficult for me. While I was in New York, I even planned to go to yoga every morning to make up for the all the food I'd inevitably eat. As it turns out, being away from the Explorer and drinking a bit more than usual results in eating less so yoga wasn't necessary. But let's not pretend that's why I ended up not going: I just couldn't be bothered. Anyway, that evening, I ordered a SALAD. As a MAIN. For the first time EVER. It was a green mango salad and came with prawns and squid and chicken. It was so hot and fresh and exactly what I wanted. And it was surprisingly filling! I had some beef satay which came with the most moreish peanut sauce as well.

Despite having mainly fruit for dinner, I wasn't hungry for the cheesecake afterwards so I had it for breakfast and that really set me up for the day. Previously, I've found that the baked cheesecakes I've had given the whole thing a too heavy dizzy quality. But not here! I finally understand that point of baking it. This is the most appropriate point to talk about American TV as that's what I watched as I munched on cheesecake. Good Morning America is SO SHINY. And they had a competition where couples did humiliating to task to have the chance to be married on air! What a shit prize. OH and they have adverts for medication to treat BIPOLAR. 'Do you have mood swings and sometimes feel depressed? Go to your doctor and ask for this drug with all of these side effects!' Seriously, it's the hypochondriac's dream. Lastly, we must mention the woman who went on the show to give a testimonial about a newly developed orgasm injection and asked for her real name not to be used but then proceeded to give an interview live on air with her face on show. I just don't understand.

Anyway, now we're on Thursday. My first day with interaction with a peer! I did some daytime tourist stuff which I won't discuss as this isn't a travel blog (although let's just mention that I had a lame 'look at me in front of where they give UN Security Council press conferences!!' photo shoot) and then went to meet Devil and Egg for some gallery hopping. We saw a lot of beautifully drawn vaginas and unwittingly engaged a stranger in a conversation about the feminist debate even though it seemed like we agreed with him. After all that activity, I was glad to see that Cull and Pistol wasn't too full. We were sat and it was suggested that we order oysters since I've never had them. Oysters: overrated. Although one of them tasted like fruit! Specifically like jackfruit, I think. The other one tasted more like how I would expect an oyster to taste: briny. They were nice enough, I just don't know that I'm crazy over oysters. The lobster roll that I had for a main though, that was ON POINT. So buttery and luxe! My only criticism is that the fries were maybe a little too salty but that is major nitpicking. The salt-baked fish was similarly delicious, really fresh and clean tasting while retaining all the flavour that the crust was supposed to provide. OH and there were devilled eggs (which explains the nicknames) and they were SO creamy.

Cheap(ish) seafood had been one of the things I'd made a point of trying in New York. Dim sum was another and that was what I had for lunch the next day with a friend from college who lives in Westchester. Having walked through the park and valiantly looked for some good value socks and wellies ('rain boots'), we headed to Chinatown. We then had another useless wander around some opticians as my eyes had decided to play anti-ball before dismissing and being dismissed from a string of Chinese restaurants. This is where the travel guide that I'd been lent came into its own: it pointed us towards Excellent Dumpling House. The restaurant really does stock excellent dumplings. We ordered so many that I began to think that I couldn't distinguish between one good dumpling and another. But then I was able to rank order them (pork, prawn, chicken, crab, pork) so I must have been able to. I'm still such a dim sum novice that I can't really comment beyond that. But this was the first only dim sum, nothing else meal I'd had so maybe one day I'll get there.

The evening was spent in the company of bell ringers who were also great cooks. And then it was BRUNCH TIME! Already drunk from a screwdriver that I'd had to ease the pain of watching sport, we went to Commerce for fried chicken in the mid afternoon. We ordered a fair amount and were presented with even more than we'd ordered. The biscuits were the best bit. They were fluffy but chewy and had the savoury that only cheese (hardened cheese?) can give you. And they came with bread sauce that everyone called gravy and little meaty morsels of sausage. The fried chicken was finger-lickingly good so probably infringed some KFC trademark. The fries were fully unnecessary and seasoned with something a little Cajun which was fun. The (many, many) puddings were all excellently executed but I think the banoffee pie was best. Sweet things are unfamiliar territory once more but man, these were enjoyable. Also, I was well beyond drunk at this point so my tastebuds and memory had failed me.

MOVING ON. Let's skip a day as I'm getting bored of writing and you're more bored of reading. I felt BAD on Monday morning. The weekend had involved so much company and so much drink. I think the company was more exhausting. Obviously, it's fun to meet new people. But having to function as a normal person and move your mouth and make conversation and ask questions is not something I have to do often and so I get tired. Also, I hadn't quit my jetlag yet so I was actually tired too. So I think it's OK that instead of going to the Guggenheim, I had LOADS of lunch with Egg and then sat still with her playing 'chess' for a while. (I did my first ever checkmate!! This has never happened before!) Lunch took place at Artie's Deli. They brought us really fruity tasting coleslaw and sweet little gherkins without us even asking so there's no way this place will be poorly reviewed. Brisket: it's so mellow! Gravy: well done, Americans! Mash: why is it so white?!

Did I eat that evening? I was so tired that I think maybe I went to bed REALLY early. WAIT NO I had Chinese food! At the dumpling place, I was salivating over the saucier, anglicised main dishes and I decided to go and succumb to my craving for beef and broccoli at a place around the corner from my hotel. Cottage! The broccoli was crunchy and the saucy wasn't toooo strong and that's exactly what I needed in my almost-delirious state.

This entry is really long and I'm finding it trying to write it at this point. That's probably good in terms of how the tone of this entry will go. Despite sleeping for a fairly long time, I awoke still tired. Not just physically tired. I was tired of -- WAIT I GOT IT WRONG. I didn't have Chinese food the night before! I didn't eat dinner but went for drinks instead! That was a mistake as it meant that I abruptly left my host on the walk home to her lovely Williamsburg flat as I felt like there was a chance I was going to pass out from tiredness or throw up from hunger. I stuffed my face with Gray's Papaya hot dog though. I had made a list which I showed the dumpling man and he found it so amusing that I had Gray's Papaya on my list of New York food experiences. I understand why now. It's on a par with... OK, there's no equivalent. But it's probably below McDonalds. But the sausage was quick and filling and that's all you need in the early hours when you're too drunk and too sleepy.

Anyway, yes, Tuesday. Still tired. So tired. Of wifi hunting and walking around and being cultured and being alone but also talking to people. I needed a rest. I can't be switched on for that long! A friend once, when discussing a friend who'd left a usually enjoyable event early, said that 'sometimes you're not in the mood for fun'. That's how I felt on Tuesday. I was in the mood for rest and switching my mind off completely but that wasn't an option as I had the Forbes collection to see and friend to meet for catch up coffee. This culminated in me avoiding 'taco Tuesday' at a B sanitary inspection rated bar in the evening. But I didn't feel even a hint of FOMO which I think is the clearest indication that you just need to sleep. And that's what I did.
That left me in a much more positive mood the next morning. It would've been a real shame to leave New York wanting to leave New York so I'm glad I avoided that. I had the best food of the trip on this day in between bouts of shopping and marvelling at how cheap all the things are. I had the best burrito I've ever had at Dos Toros. My favourite bit was the fresh salsa I think. No, it was definitely the carnitas. It was so fatty (in a good way) and tender and crisp on the outside. Oh no, I'm hungry for it now. Sadly, I wasn't so hungry for dinner, a Spreads chicken escalope sandwich which I ate while squatting on a metal railing next to the security queue in JFK airport. This sandwich is the best I've ever tasted. Getting a crumbed chicken light enough is no mean feat. And getting that much flavour into mayonnaise isn't either. OH and there was a juicy slaw involving kale. And the bread! So crusty and country cottageish. Next time I'm in New York (and there will be a next time soon though this time possibly not in winter), this will be my first stop.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Review - Satay House

Let's talk about my LARC. There are many angles from which to consider the LARC. Last Thursday I was contemplating how strange it is that it lasts three years and how I worry it'll become like a yardstick to measure the progress of my life. (Most frighteningly, that two LARCs from now I might not want a new one as it's time to decide if I want to bring spawn onto this godforsaken planet.) The other angle which was more current a month ago when I could barely move my left arm after having it put in is obviously the WHY IS CONTRACEPTION THE WOMAN'S RESPONSIBILITY and while that's hands down the most important thing to discuss re: LARC, this isn't the place. (But if you don't think there's something unfair in the current system, you can suck it and never mention it to me as I'll find it more difficult to respect you.) The one most on my antenna at the moment is a side effect: hormones. I was a particularly tormented (hormonally and otherwise) teenager and also became sexually active (and protected!!) earlier than I would like. So I have little experience of life without either cruelly disruptive or artificially controlling hormones. In fact, a couple of weeks into LARC time, I felt so at peace that I was convinced it was because I was having a better reaction than I did to the pill. But then I surveyed my life and thought that maybe I was at peace because I'm pretty happy. It's so hard to tell! Isn't that strange? I can't tell how authentic my feelings are because of a thing in my arm/a pill that I take. Also, why are hormone induced feelings considered less real? Probably because I recognise myself as someone who doesn't cry often, especially not at serious things, so when I cry on a number 25 bus for seemingly no reason at all, I would like to disassociate myself from myself. Particularly when the next day I was as happy as pie during Malay lunch date.
We  both felt a little strange and tired and so we thought the solution would be to order everything. We went for the anchovy fried rice which turned out to be a little too strong. It was a little too salty for my liking and I would've enjoyed a squeeze of lemon to cut through it all. But the flavours (underneath the strength) were enjoyable. The rendang: deep flavours, clearly slow cooked and developed. However, the meat was a little stringy. It went wonderfully with the fluffy roti. The dahl that accompanied the roti was heavy with fennel (I think) but almost creamy. The sticky fried chicken was wonderful: crisp casing releasing the moist chicken within. The onions were so chunky and light as well. Potato cutlets with lamb were velvety and a nice slightly bland contrast to everything else.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Review - Toast

This was my best breakfast ever. It was better than Caravan and the Pavillion and Ginger Pig and god knows where else. It was also a lot cheaper. And the best meal I've had in Edinburgh! (We went to Teuchters Landing on Friday and it was good enough but nothing to write home about. Nice haggis stovies though.) I don't feel that we squandered our time in Edinburgh. I've decided to start disregarding this holiday pressure to self-improve. In fact, I resent ALL pressure to self improve. I hate healthy eating and concerning myself with how I look. I hate pretending that having a drink with dinner isn't lovely and relaxing. But most of all, I hate that I'm in the minority! Sometimes, I just want to be without taking any steps towards self-improvement. I am not just a vessel designed to compete and rewrite my own program such that I am constantly becoming more competitive. And Edinburgh with its seaside walks and on demand TV provides the perfect setting to avoid that. So yeah, this breakfast was great...
I started with the French toast. It was firm and yet slightly squidgy and sweet with a hint of egg but completely lacking that overly savoury, slightly scrambled note that poorly executed French toast has. This was more like bread and butter pudding. Except that it was doused in syrup with charred, crisp bacon atop it. The full breakfast is notable for its ability to make me eat my whole portion of black pudding! It had none of that crumbly, unappetising sense to it. It was just moreish and meaty. The sausages could have done with more fat but that's really just me being a grease lover bitching on how quality they were. The eggs were silky and the mushrooms were crisp. The potato cake was my favourite bit. 

Monday, 3 February 2014

Recipe - Scallops in Brown Butter

It was fish supper time! Except I felt ill enough for mid afternoon nap and it was so blustery outside that we didn't make it to The Ship on the Shore. It's not so bad - having booked most of my holidays already means I'm overdrawn again. Which is fine but uncomfortable to experience again. Anyway, I wasn't so sad about saving a little money. However, this did mean that the Explorer's big date (in commemoration of it being two years since we 'found eachother' as it's hard to pinpoint when I stopped insisting that we weren't together) was thwarted as it's difficult for me to not just do something if it will clearly be much easier for me than whoever I'm watching do it. Anyway, that's how we ended up with this.

250g small scallops
Drizzle of olive oil
Dessert spoon of butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
Small bunch sage, finely chopped

In the olive oil, place the scallops and fry for about 2 minutes. 
Add the butter, sage and garlic and let melt.
Carefully turn the scallops and let cook for another 3 minutes in the butter.

Serve with garlicky spinach (literally garlic fried in oil then spinach added, tossed and covered for a couple of minutes).

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Review - Ottolenghi

Hey, I went to Ottolenghi. I was so excited about it and it ended in disaster. Fortunately, disaster struck shortly after we'd eaten the savoury so only prevented me from eating the sweet. But the sweet looked possibly like it could have been the best bit! And the wine was really lovely and unfinished when I went away. The Explorer didn't get the memo that there is a time and a place to share rude comments made by family about your girlfriend and DATE NIGHT IS NOT IT. Especially when sat at a canteen style table. Anyway, I was seeing so red that I cancelled pudding, paid and left to prevent me from tipping the table over in a rage. BUT I really regret it now because even your own mother being ungracious is no reason to miss out on an Ottolenghi pudding. In the words of a tutoring child 'nevertheless, the savouries were tasty'.

These innocuous looking vegetable plates were PHENOMENAL. How did they TASTE so much? Not just so well but so much. Orange and confit garlic together is a dream, almost like a (really pleasant) smell under your nose clinging to the air. There was crunch too but I can't remember from what, I just remember that there was a blunted nuttiness to every other bite. Roasted kale which was an element of one of plates is BEYOND the best thing I've ever tasted. I want to return just thinking about it. 

The duck and octopus were equally impressive. The duck proved that there should never be a stale, slightly cackish quality to any meat. It should be just complete, crisp yet tender yet chewy. A difficult feat for anyone but one they have down here. The octopus wasn't my choice but was the star of the show. It looked as though it wouldn't be a particularly pleasant texture but I was so wrong. It had a kicking you alive and clearing your sinuses vibe to it that I can't describe. My words are so far from adequate to describe this food.