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.