Saturday, 29 March 2014

Review - Sedap

My boss found my blog (hi Andrew!) but I am determined to ignore that when writing and stay true to the borderline manic spirit that I've cultivated so far. I have no recipes to share since I feel that it would be cheeky to claim what the Explorer cooked as my own especially when he's managed to make everything (beef kebabs with tzatziki, prawn noodle broth) so well. (Maybe he should start a blog?) Indeed, he's becoming a regular domestic Dennis since I basically do no chores now. Except on the weekend when I tidy and vacuum and go to Tesco. Oh god, I've turned into my mother. ANYWAY, obviously a girl's got to eat even when her boyfriend isn't feeding her - I've eaten out at a few places. I'll talk about Sedap in this one but I should give a small shout out to BLT.
I got myself a gourmet wrap from here - named the Ukrainian and involving chicken Kiev, paprika potatoes, slaw, jalapeƱo and at least three other elements - it was UNREAL. Unfortunately, everyone else had gone to Pilpel already but I'm sure they're all really grateful that I introduced this place to their lives. (No, seriously, they all went the next day.) Unfortunately for them, the umbilical cord is being cut and they're all being sent away into the big wide world next week. So our time to bond and cement is rapidly coming to a close... Had I thought a little harder about this, I wouldn't have arranged to see other friends on our last big #newFriday. I had major FOMO on Friday morning when everyone had had a great time and stood together in hungover post-quiz solidarity. Still, I got to cross Sedap off my list.
Anyway, I certainly needed Thursday evening to get me out of the 'don't talk just sleep' evening routine that I've been following lately. And I haven't seen my friends in ages. I don't even care that the food at Sedap was lukewarm (in both sense of the term) and that's not just because the rendang had a fruitiness to it that I think gives it some leeway. It was calm and refreshing to just talk about nothing in particular instead of silently eating food with the ever steadfast and forgiving Explorer before bed. Oh and the mackerel with the nasi lamek deserves a shout out for playing the part of a crispy fishy (not too fishy) fish. Good value flavours.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Review - Hurwundeki

I'm ill on my third day of work. JUST MY LUCK. I have newfound respect for those worker bees amongst you (ie everyone) who have spent all of these years manning up and dealing with ill health instead of taking duvet days. It is not easy. So when I left, still ill, with a pounding headache and aching legs, I had to just sit with closed eyes at the bus stop for a while, contemplating whether or not to flake on my dinner plans. But then, at the crucial point when I had opportunity to get on the 8, I realised that Egg would already be on her way. So I bought some prosecco and took down my hair to ease what was hopefully a tension headache. And then everything seemed a little bit lighter and I felt more human while taking a seat at Hurwundeki. Oh dear, I accidentally deleted the photo along with all my LinkedIn outtakes.

I ordered the pork belly after much indecision. I don't know what I can say about it expect that it had a side a lot like kimchee with it and itself, it was very similar to bulgogi. However, I don't know that it sticks to its 'thinly sliced' brief and consequently, it was too chewy. I'm not sure that the sauce on the sideadded much  either. BUT I was incredibly jealous about the mackerel which the other two got and the it was a really calmingly, charmingly hotchpotch place to try to forget about the fact that it's only Wednesday. 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Recipe - Salmon Pie

Ah, the weekend. How I understand your luscious significance now. You are two days long and I don't have to think about what I say in you. My hair can be messy and you still think I look pretty. So what did I do with my first (real) one? I slept in. It was glorious. I played bridge. It will one day be glorious. We built a den. Despite my reservations, it was glorious. Obviously I did some cooking, too.

Salmon Pie
3 large courgettes, sliced and washed
3 leeks, sliced roughly and washed
Fresh thyme, a few sprigs 
4 salmon fillets
100g feta
3 eggs, beaten
250g pack filo pastry
Olive oil

In two pans, drizzle a liberal amount of olive oil.
Once heated, add the thyme and vegetables (doesn't matter which go in which pan).
Cover with a lid and fry, stirring occasionally, for about 30 mins.
Remove from heat and cool for 10 mins.
Season with salt.
Once cooked, stir in eggs and feta.
Meanwhile, place the salmon, skin side up in an oven heated to 200 degrees Celsius for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and remove skin.
Allow to cool and add to the feta mixture.
In a tart tin, place layers of filo overlapping so that it hangs over the side. Use all the sheets.
Place the mixture inside the middle of the tin, on top of the sheets, then fold over each sheet, brushing with olive oil, to close.
Once all sheets have been folded, brush the top with oil.
Bake for 45 mins until brown and crispy on top.

Tomato and roasted pepper salad
2 tomatoes, diced
1 green pepper, sliced into strips
2 cloves garlic
100g feta, cubed 

Place the pepper and garlic in the oven for about 30 mins.
Combine the tomatoes, feta and peppers.
Squeeze the roasted garlic on top.
Season with black pepper and lemon juice.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Review - Poppies

You'll be relieved to learn that I wasn't late. But I was certainly ill. Constant sniffling and embarrassing horn like nose blowing was totally ironing my 'comfortable yet corporate' outfit. But more than that, I decided to freak everyone out by choosing to talk about abortion during the 'public speak about anything for two minutes' session. Yes, I know. I don't know what I was thinking beyond 'I can talk intelligently about this, I wrote a dissertation on it!' Anyway, the illness and lead balloon speech made me think I deserved a treat for lunch so I headed to Poppies. The fish was meaty and thick and just battered with the lightest, crispest coating. The mushy peas were hot and filling, mellow and starchy. I would've felt much better about everything had it not been for the fact that it cost £8 meaning that my personal life objectives are being disappointed as well as the professional ones. Sigh.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Recipe - Jalapeno Cheddar Scones

I did not have pancakes on pancake day. I am not that mad on pancakes and, when giving up none of the constituent ingredients, don't see the point. I have taken up hot yoga instead. Faced with the choice again, I would certainly give up all of those ingredients and more instead. Hot yoga is hard and painful. I had to deal with the excruciating embarrassment of leaving for a little while 45 minutes into the class. I really thought I was going to vomit or pass out and judged that to be (marginally) more embarrassing than being the loser who left. Everyone else was SO casual about the heat. And the yoga studio was much more full of fitness babes than the previous, 'love yourself' hippie studio that I'd been visiting. I will never be a fitness babe, as evidenced by the fact that I ate the following three hours before yoga. Error.
Jalapeno Cheddar Scones (the American kind)
1 cup flour
Half tablespoon baking powder
Half teaspoon salt
50g butter
Quarter cup double cream
2 eggs
50g cheddar cheese, diced
2 teaspoons jarred jalapenos, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 200.
Mix butter with baking powder and salt and flour.
Rub together butter and flour until butter is pea sized lumps.
Whip together eggs and cream. Add together butter flour mixture and fold.
Add the cheese and jalapenos.
On a REALLY WELL FLOURED surface, knead the mixture for about a minute.
Roll out into a one inch thick sheet.
Cut into shapes of your choosing.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Marrakech restaurants

I am in a daze. I have spent so little time in Bow recently that I feel like my roots have been yanked out. I've been in so many new situations that I've sort of forgotten what normality feels like. I realise this is a particularly lame thing for me to admit to since I didn't do any travelling in the true sense of the world: I went on two holidays with familiar faces in countries not dissimilar to the UK. But hey, that's how I
feel. I feel like I have seen things and done stuff and if that inclines people to be snobby about the fact that I didn't experience these things in south east Asia, or in any sense of the term, 'rough it', so be it. I could now segue into a rant about how I feel about poverty tourism but I have no desire to do that. Anyway - Marrakech! And Essaouira! It's so dusty.

Guys - I don't know what to say about it. I feel a big experienced-out. I've had a bit of a sensory
overload this month and that makes it difficult to remember specific times and places. Smells and milieus are easier. I'm only just now managing to recollect New York enough to annoy people with sentences starting with 'in New York, this happens'. Maybe I should try to convey a sense of morocco interspersed with chats about the food. Since this blog is also a medium for me to practise my scribbling, I ought to avoid chronological sequences of the form that my usual holiday blogs take. I should try and describe so that you feel like you're there because that's what successful authors do. I'll try and do that. Please don't mock me if I fail - I'm a proven unsuccessful writer. When I teach children how to write creatively, I make them close their eyes and tell me about what they see and smell and hear. Then I help them to form a cohesive paragraph involving too much imagery and way too many adverbs. That means that I shouldn't find doing the same thing too difficult. Let's try.

The streets of the medina are terracotta allies winding and changing level so much that I often felt like a small ant slowly winding my way up the inside of a piece of pottery. The presence of bright sunlight peeking through in a sharp, narrow lines enhances this impression and I lack the common sense to understand how little light gets in. It was so disorientating that even by the last day of the holiday, I couldn't find my way back to the riad. Well, maybe I could, but I was too scared to try and kept sneakily looking up whilst pretending to look away to avoid embarrassing myself further with Stompy and the Explorer. A note about my holiday companions: they were good ones. They were calm and responsible and had similar ideas to spending money and fun as me. In fact, they were so ideal that I think that I was the annoying/immature holiday pal. BUT I'm going out with one of them and (probably, I hope this is OK to say) better friends with the other than the other so it's probably fine. Right, guys? Yeah, OK. Let's move on.

To the sounds! Actually, I think the sounds aren't the second most important sense in this city. The smells are. Usually, the smells were delicious wafts of what was most probably tagine and charcoal infusing into red meat. Sadly, even these smells were vaguely reminiscent of food poisoning and served as a reminder that it was probably unwise to follow your nose if you wanted to avoid a stomach ache. (We did manage to avoid digestive tract related unpleasantries. Although we had to resort to some quite extreme measures to achieve this. Enough about that.) I'm not sure it's accurate to say that the pleasant smells were the most common. I think the most common was the whiff of putrefying garbage mixed with sweat. While this would be something to avoid in London, in Marrakech it just reminded me that I was exploring a different (frequently less sanitary) culture. Also, it reminded me of Bangladesh and got me thinking that maybe Bangladesh would be a nice country to visit if I wasn't in a quasi-prison. That's clearly my rose tints talking but whatever.

I have to admit, the starkly new atmosphere took a little getting used to. I felt overwhelmed and slightly frightened on the first evening. We were on the main Djema al Fna square which I think could be not-inaccurately described as the heart of the medina. But I don't mean the symmetrical Hallmarks heart. I mean the visceral, 'a heart is a fist wrapped in blood' Closer type of heart. At night, there's an odd contrast between the almost pitch black of the sky contrasted with the glaring lights that illuminate the faces of the various vendors. They're as aggressive as the vendors themselves who I often found very
intimidating. Finding the line between firm but not offensive was difficult and that was what we were learning to do on the first night. We did not pick up the skill quickly and that meant hearing a fair few misogynistic comments. This primed (Kahneman was my holiday book) to feeling distrustful of Aicha's stall, our first stop for dinner. Possibly the skewers of meat lying out like the TOWIE cast on their sunbeds also had that effect: I was very apprehensive but trying to remind myself of the Tripadvisor assurances that it was 'very clean'. And it was certainly very delicious. Bastilla was a little clumsily sweet for my tastes but the fish was just coated and still moistly fresh. I think the vegetable cous cous was nothing to write home about but mellow enough.

I felt emboldened that the night's meal hadn't had any ill effects and regretful that I hadn't had more of an appetite due to my fear. It meant that I approached our further meals in Marrakech at Chez Chegrouni and Bakchich Cafe with more gusto though. I recognise that the tagines at both the establishments were a real treat compared to what Moroccan food we can find in the UK but I'm still too tagined out to summon much enthusiasm for them at the moment. I will say that Bakchich had the most tender and moreish tagine I've ever had though.

Essaouira was a welcome respite from tagine. A relaxed, coastal town adorned in cobalt blue, it wasn't just the food I was glad to see a change in. The streets are cleaner, the mopeds less obtrusive and the people much friendlier. You can enter a shop and not immediately be accosted with trumped up prices. It was here that I did my first successful piece of haggling - a little red purse for 100dh. Yes, I'm aware that I was probably ripped off. But I'm proud to have bought such a cute item that qualifies as both coin and wallet for 66% of the (tourist modified) asking price. Less than £10!! 

So - the fish. Possibly the most vibrant sensory episode was the fish market. After circling the medina twice, we were met with dozens of thrashing, spitting, barely-dead breeds. It was terrifying. Oh and the smell! Pungent is the word for it. Crude aside - anyone who compares the scent of any body part to the smell of dish clearly hasn't visited a fish market. It would've been very Rick Stein for us to have the catch (slaughtered and) cooked there, but we were not brave enough. We were not even brave enough to try the fare at the touristified blue shacks down by the harbour. Instead, we went to Gnawa Blues. The service was slo-o-ow but worth it. The sole (part of my mixed grill) was the best fish I've ever had, I think. The squid had lost all traces of chewiness (if indeed it had ever possessed it), the sardines were SPARKY and the bream a slight disappointment. Highly recommend.

Sadly, dinner did not match. Let's not talk about our raw, cold dinner. (Prawnsand vegetables were a treat. Meat was like gambling in that it was tasty but bloody risky.)  Breakfast at the riad was also pale in comparison to the wonders of Riad Sidi Omar's. But that's because Omar's breakfasts were terrific, not because Magdoul wasn't doing his bit. Do I have much else to say? Fresh tomatoes and salads (though I post- realise is a dangerous food) make England's veg look pallid. Villa Flore was a fancy last night three course affair and well worth going to - you could feel the haute in the cuisine even if it didn't match the haute of Europe. £30 for three courses and wine is nothing to be sniffed at.