Saturday, 21 February 2015

Review - Boqueria

I came to the end of a very busy week feeling like my holiday to the Cayman Islands could not come any sooner. Seriously, I don't know why I thought that going a whole quarter without a break would be good for my stress levels. So I decided to spend my weekend recharging. Nothing cultural. Nothing interesting. Not even much watching / reading / listening. Just kicking back and spending some time in my house, preferably in bed. Crucially, I just wanted to see my friends and return to a point where the most recently sent messages on my phone are not apologising for being late / missing a social event or saying I can't go to  something. I wanted to recapture some of the beautiful zen of Barcelona. So we went to Boqueria in Brixton instead. (This photo doesn't do it justice but I was so effing hungry.)
We had padron peppers, Iberian ham croquettes, bread with tomato, salt cod, creamed spinach with raisins, Iberian pork shoulder, creme Catalana and ice cream with sherries and raisins. Croquettes are always my favourite but hats probably just because I like croquettes so let's forget about those. The peppers were that paradoxical combination of salty and refreshing. Spinach was a tad heavy - less cream and more raisins would've gone down well. The pork shoulder was so pretty, I wally should've photographed it. It was a really elegant dish: chargrilled pork in little bites with sweet potato and lots of other little treats. Cod was the star of the show. On a green, creamy sauce where I forget what the constituent parts are. I think it's still worth mentioning the tomato bread as although it was lost in the tastiness of everything else, it was still supremely well executed. The ice cream could've been voozier and the creme Catalan has satisfied, finally, the craving I've had since Barcelona.

Review - Bottega Prelibato

For Earnest's last birthday, I got her a book on mindfulness and how to be mindful. There's a cliche in there somewhere about taking a leaf out of her / my own book. Now Egg Lover's here preaching about mindfulness as well as eggs too. And then there's the Explorer making well intentioned but annoying comments about how I could especially benefit from practising. This is all good and well except that I know that if I were to make a conscious effort to do it, I'd end up not and then feeling guilty for not. (The classic Ari reaction.) My key battle for the year is planning less even if this means spending more money / being a bit bored sometimes / not having hand wash / foil / eggs when I need them. It's working! Generally it's positive but on this particular week I spent basically a million pounds (half mill on ubers) and consequently have a 'what you can't pay for in cash you have already taken out, you don't pay for' condition for the rest of the month. Some of this I spent in Bottega Prelibato with the Friday lunch club.

We were so hungry for lunch that we were silent. We were waiting for two other members of lunch club and were so hungry that we sent them the menu and just ordered anyway. Hunger trumped rudeness on this occasion. Three of us went for ravioli and it was SO EXCITING when they brought it over in a dish with two plates and a serving spoon. This is the way I like to eat! The ravioli struck the impossible balance between tasting fresh and feeling filling. However, another member of the lunch club went for tortellini and I got mad food envy which tinged my ravioli success somewhat. And we should make a special shout out to the salad for being well dressed.

Cheap Eats - Song Que, Afghan Kitchen

I have eaten out a lot more than anticipated in recent weeks. This is in part due to being particularly busy at work, having a particularly high proportion of evenings centred around drinking over dinner time and also to the fact that I've made a conscious decision to succumb to eating whatever junk food I might feel like. Restraint is boring and trying to battle on more than one front means it's less likely that I'll succeed on either. So I've chosen to succeed on the front that encourages my mental health and wellbeing rather than the one that plays to the desire to only eat nuts now under the guise of health and coincidentally also means conforming to the stereotype of slamming hot in today's society. The best argument to me for not eating out is not my health. It's that x meals out could one day be x bricks of a (horrible) house (in Catford). So here's some cheap eats I've visited recently in an attempt to curtail my out of control spending and buy half a brick in Dagenham one day.

Afghan Kitchen
A little cafe on Islington Green with communal tables. Guess what kind of food it serves! We had lamb with spinach, lentils, pumpkin with yoghurt and rice. The dahl was, as expected, comforting and reminded of home. The spinach was a little grey but the lamb melted in your mouth. The pumpkin was sweet and wholesome and offset by the tang of the yoghurt. I regret not getting the aubergine or the bread but since two of us didn't come close to finishing even this, it would've been just too greedy. £25 a head for an arsenal of food and a bottle of wine. 

Song Que Cafe
Friday lunch club was particularly lacking in members on this particular day. But it meant that me and the work pal who has the most adventurous food tastes were free to try somewhere with a good rep but scummy facade on the pho mile. I had beef with lemongrass which I still regret not finishing. It was very quick and the atmosphere there is anti-special but it does the job. About £8 at lunch.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Midweek Suppers - Cod with Fennel and Bulgar Salad

And with that, a return to normality. Ish. I've returned a little balance to my life and am back on meat free Monday to Friday. Caaaalm. However, I have also been very busy at work so still haven't seen anyone who shares our lovely home in any more than a fleeting sense for a week. WHICH REMINDS ME. I live with the Egg Lover once more! This has surprised no one more than us. But it promises to work this time because: a) we're not in the floopy post university state where the dust still needs to settle, b) I have a job that keeps me out of the house and leaves little time to care about cleaning, c) there are three other shock absorbers and d) we've mellowed with age and are much better friends now. Hooray!

Cod with roasted cauliflower, fennel salad
1 cauliflower
Ras el hanout

Chop up your cauliflower, removing big stalks but retaining the little edible leaves.
Toss in a bowl with a teaspoon of ras el hanout, a teaspoon of turmeric and half a tbsp of oil.
Place in an oven at 200 degrees for around 30 - 40 minutes, until cooked through.

200g bulgar wheat
Handful sultanas
Half teaspoon paprika
Fresh coriander, chopped
Fresh mint, chopped
Half a lemon

Cook the bulgar as per packet instructions - I did this in stock.
Once cooked, add the sultanas and paprika.
Just before serving, dress with a teaspoon of olive oil and the juice of the half lemon.
Stir in the herbs.

1 bulb fennel
4 radishes
Half a lemon
Fresh coriander, chopped
Fresh mint, chopped

Slice the fennel very very thinly, as you would for a slaw.
Do the same for the radishes.
Mix together in a salad bowl and dress with olive oil and juice of half a lemon.
Stir in the fresh herbs just before serving.

2 cod fillets
Fennel tops

Melt butter in a pan, and heat over a medium-high heat.
Place fillets skin side down for 4 mins until the skin is crispy.
Turn and cook on the flesh side for a further 3 minutes.
Add the fennel tops to the butter.
Season with salt and lemon juice.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Recipe - Chicken Escalope, Hasselback Potatoes, Sage and Lemon RunnerBeans

'I can bread things! And make them bind' exclaimed Ari, as if she was saying something new.

'You say that every few months,' replied Contrary, sounding bored.

So I can't make this make this blog post all about how I can make stuff bind and fry it. Nor can I make it about how not drinking has made me dull and cranky since a) I'm often those things regardless and b) I feel that I've adequately broken the cycle and remedied the problems that I was combatting(ish) so I can't spin another blog out of it. So what can I write about? LEFTOVER GOOSE FAT. I made hasselback potatoes.

Chicken escalopes 
10 chicken thighs, skinless and boneless 
3 slices toast, turned to crumbs
Handful of sage
Handful of parsley
1 cup of flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 eggs, whisked 

Bring the thighs to room temperature.
Place a few spaces out on a chopping board then cover in clingfilm.
Bash to flatten with a rolling pin until they're all uniformly thick - about a centimetre.
Make the toast into crumbs with a food processor and then add salt and pepper. Process the herbs too - mix with the crumb and place on a plate.
Place the flour on a plate too, and the egg wash.
Take each flattened fillet, run through the flour, then the egg and finally the bread crumbs so that it's fullly coated. 
In a non stick frying pan, heat 2 tbsp of oil until it will crisp bread crumbs in an instant. Turn the heat to medium.
Place the chicken fillets, one or two depending on side at a time, in the hot oil. 
Fry for 2 minutes on each side, until the crumbs are crispy and golden brown.
Place escalopes on a baking tray then place the chicken in an oven preheated to 180 for a further 7 minutes, until cooked through.

Hasselback potatoes
2kg potatoes
4 cloves garlic 

Preheat oven to 220.
Peel floury potatoes. Chop any larger ones into halves or quarters, as desired.
Make incisions two thirds of the way down and all the way across each chunk.
Place goose fat or olive oil in a deep roasting tray. 
Place tray in the oven for 2 minutes until very hot.
Tip in the potatoes and a few cloves of garlic.
Roast until crispy - about 45 minutes.

Runner beans with sage and lemon
500g runner beans
1 lemon
3 cloves garlic

Top and tail runner beans then chop each bean into 4 - 5 pieces.
Boil in salted water for 5 minutes until cooked through but still crunch.
Zest 1 lemon, crush 3 garlic and chop a handful of sage. Mix with 2 teaspoons of butter.
Once beans are cooked, drain and stir in the butter mixture.