Saturday, 27 June 2015

Recipe - Peanut Butter Cauliflower, Coq Au Vin

Do I still cook anymore? No, not really. The lowest point was a couple of weeks ago when I decided to do dinner for a Friday night with the help of a slow cooker. But then the Explorer ended up doing it all including pudding which is sort of not the deal we had and further cements the thoroughly modern relationship that we seem to be reluctantly living. But I'm determined to get back into the swing of things because without cooking, I will literally have no interests left. (I was asked when I last watched a film through yesterday and I can't remember because I have fallen asleep through the last five.) Plus, it'd be a shame to build up five years of cooking experience and then let it go to the dogs like I have with driving. Anyway, here's a list of ingredients that I threw together that ended up being quite tasty.
Peanut butter cauliflower
1 head of cauliflower, chopped
1 tbsp of chunky peanut butter
1 tbsp of vegetable oil
Juice of half a lime
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp chopped coriander

Mix the marinade ingredients. Toss the cauliflower in it. Roast in a hot oven for 20 - 30 mins until all crispy. This was served with vegetable and egg fried rice.

Coq au vin, sort of
6 chicken thighs, seasoned with salt and pepper.
2 onions
2 carrots
500g chestnut mushrooms
2 glasses of red wine
1 glass of apple cider
Half tsp of dried thyme
3 bay leaves

Brown the thighs. Fry the vegetables in butter until golden. Return the thighs to the pan, add the herbs, add the wine and cider over a high heat. Simmer, half covered, for an hour until it's all glossy and delicious. Season again, to taste, and add chopped parsley.

Review - Market Cafe

I HAVE NO WORDS. I started with an entry that went over the confusion and feeling of being CLEAVED I feel when I have unexpected free time on a weeknight before segueing into saying not much of anything except describing my weekend in chronological order (boring). I deleted that and started again with 'A few things happened on the weekend I visited Market Cafe' but now I can't remember what those things are. So let's go through highlights of that week so if nothing else, it'll serve as a record for me when I'm old and hipster cafes are a thing of the past because of the overpopulation / running out of fossil fuels / nuclear war: making courgette and carrot pasta (obviously, not as good as real pasta), discovering the Sun Tavern (great glasses), seeing a boy drop a log menacingly in a pond in Haggerston Park (doesn't do well on the re-telling but would be a YouTube phenomenon if I'd recorded it). Lowlights: paying to go to the Queen of Hoxton (why, why, why would anyone ever go there), working on Sunday for no good reason other than I was so distracted and floopy in the week, not viewing a house because there's no way that we're going to be accepted for a house buying scheme there (also because we cba), the food at Market Cafe (but two thumbs up for the company).
I got a feeling about Market Cafe as soon as we walked in and the guy was a bit too friendly. The second bad omen was the board with letters which didn't quite give the sense that it was an American diner - the letters were all different sizes and too self-conscious. The menu didn't enthuse me either but I went for the ham hock hash. I was expecting something a bit like a big rosti with some big slabs of ham. Instead, I got fried potato and soft stringy ham. It was so average and overly sweet that I didn't finish it. Which meant that my fellow diner who #calledit and had suggested going to a greasy spoon for breakfast instead got to satisfy his craving for chips, kind of. I wouldn't go back here.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Review - Clove Club

I'm 24! I had a birthday! The best thing about it was taking Friday off and putting on an out of office message which may as well have said 'ha ha suck it I'm not working this weekend'. I felt particularly smug when I popped into the office to get my actifry (subsequently returned) and passed a couple of people who probably thought I was dressed like a joker. LITTLE DID THEY KNOW. Anyway, I headed to Clove Club afterwards for a wondrous lunch to start my favourite weekend of 2015 so far. It involved pork pie WITH MY NAME ON IT, BOWLING, music, brunch, prosecco, ALL SORTS OF WILD CRAZY FUN, naps, picnics, Hampstead Heath, CIDER and pasta. (Worst Monday ever.)

So, onto the food. First came the snacks. Reminiscent of Copenhagen in that they were small, intricately constructed morsels of interesting. One involved cod foam, one was a sparky green bean thing and one was a luscious bite of chicken in a pine cone basket. We moved onto lentils with a meaty, savoury Italian (?) sausage. What I most enjoyed about it was how it all tasted so NORMAL but also just great. This was followed for me by aged chicken - which I wasn't all too sold on to be honest. It tasted really strong and ashy but it just didn't do it for me. Everything else on my plate - smoked potato, a single spring onion - managed somehow to taste incredible enough to redeem it. The asparagus and ray that the Explorer ordered were UNREAL. My pudding was essentially jelly and ice cream - but the jelly was so lemonade-y and made my mouth pop an the ice cream was flecked with pepper and it all just made me think - hey, going out to meals is fun. 

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Dublin - The Winding Stair, Dillingers

Work travelling: discuss. As with all travelling, there's a certain element of tiredness and irritation and inconvenience. Except to make it more fun, they're people you work with rather than people you've chosen to be away with! The main perks are: generally shorter hours. (Except that this is offset by the fact that you have no social life to speak of.) The other is expensed food in a new place. The main negatives are obvious but I'll add a personal one in: someone threw a cup of what we think was chicken soup outta the window and it landed on my head. It was, admittedly, hilarious. However, it would've been more so if it had happened to someone else. So, where did we eat in Dublin?

The first night we went to The Dean. It has a pretty great rooftop but eating downstairs was an error. The chicken was dry, the rub mediocre. The chips were nothing special and the slaw was shop bought. Unimpressed. Thankfully, the trajectory was up up up from there. On the second night, it took ages to work out where to eat and eventually we settled on Dillingers. It looked quite hipster and like there would be benches and shared tables inside - the menu looked kind of American niche too. I wasn't in the mood for that vibe. But then  when the food came: oh my god. I think this is definitely a top ten eating experiences of my life sorta place. To start we had beef and gubeen nuggets - so tender, falling apart, carefully crumbed and insanely delicious. Tuna tostadas were scintillatingly fresh and limy. The 'wangs' I can't remember but that's probably because I was so blown away by the other starters. I went for coconut shrimp and grits to follow. This is in my to five dishes. It was so complex and had so much going on. The shrimps were MASSIVE and had that lovely soft kind of sucky prawn texture. They sat on a plate of corn which had a texture somewhere between soup and cous cous. That sounds horrid but it wasn't. There was coconut running through it which worked well with the prawns but then there was a chilli tomato sauce to bring it all together and take it back to Southernville. It was great. 
The next night we went to The Winding Stair. It speaks volumes that my veal Milanese there was as memorable as my shrimp and grits. Phenomenally thick, meaty and moist. I was so far from finishing my food and I've been sad and thought about that every time I've been hungry since. 

Sunday, 7 June 2015

A weekend (and a bit) in Copenhagen

After a string of long weeks, I had two days of calm to do such life admin as buy wine glasses and sleep. (I would've been making my offline map for Copenhagen but I had the foresight to do that last time I was bored in Birmingham.) So my second break of the year ended up being fortuitously well-timed. To Copenhagen with the Explorer! As with all my recent holidays, I basically could've been in London except that everything was much calmer and more reasonable. In fact, I had an epiphany while waiting for the (clean, civilised) bathroom in the Torvehallerne street food market. Why are we fooling ourselves that London is such a great place when we could be having the same fun and making more money with better dressed people in Copenhagen? Yes? We're idiots.

This is where we went for dinner on the first night. It was a little castle on one side of the river of Christianshavn, tucked away behind some groves. It was so beautiful - the inside rooms had huge hanging frames of art and there was a garden at the back full of herbs. Herbs contributed to our dinner. My beef was so bloody good, I understand why some people always order steak. The carrot velouté was all smeared daintily across the plate and scattered with little cubes of beet. (Unfortunately a little too salty.)
My Torvahallerne epiphany came the next afternoon when I was all day drunk from the cava bar, our rest stop after a morning of waking along the five lakes and pretending to go antiquing. We chased it with burgers and sausages from a stall which translates to something meaning 'around' because all the food was locally sourced. And so up the Round Tower we traipsed full of bubbles and meat. After a brief stop at Conditori La Glace to pick up breakfasts for our remaining mornings, we napped. I wanted some lemongrass to wake us up so we went to a Vietnamese place which had been described as both 'cheap' and 'street food'. It was neither. While it was probably the most intricately flavoured Vietnamese curry I've had, it just wasn't what I was in the mood for. We chased it with a visit to Mikkelbar, a fun brewery / pub with dozens of beers all of which are largely lost on me. 

Morning came and instead of pastries from Strangas, we had brunch on a cute little street in Vesterbro at Granola. It doesn't look like much but the food was on the higher quality end of yuppie brunch food. We then walked for TWO HOURS to see the little mermaid. Frankly, worst thing about the whole trip. Especially galling was the fact that we were so tired in our last leg of the mission that we barely got to enjoy the nice castle park around it. Would've been a much more enjoyable use of our time. What next? Designmuseum. Having a sit and a drink along the super touristy stretch of land with all the boats and overpriced wine. Then we had fancy pants dinner #1 - at Cofoco.

I could see exactly what the Explorer was thinking when the first plate, 'snacks', came. He was thinking - why are we paying for a slate with small raw vegetables and crispy chicken skin on it? Good question. Well, for a plate of cold vegetables, it was delicious. However, it did feel a bit ridiculous and like there was an element of fanciness of the sake of it. However, credit where credit's due. The plate of guinea fowl that followed it was so crispy and earthy and deep, I can remember what it tastes like even now. And the Explorer's beef gave the beef of the first night a run for its money.

OK - as it's taken me three weeks to write this, I'm really struggling to remember what happened after now. I know we started with my favourite meal of the trip: a gourmet pork and crackling sandwich at Meyer's Deli. After - I think we went to an art museum where I decided I liked Gijbrechts and the fun stuff he does with painting things to look like they're on others things that he's also painted. I struggle to remember what else but it may have involved hanging out in Rosenborg Castle again. Which, by the way, is incredible and has beautiful kept, free to access grounds. We saw a few emo kids wearing clothes they'll regret in future and felt glad that we're no longer teenagers even if it means having to work for your own dolla. To finish things off, we went and saw Christiania, Copenhagen's crusty, unkempt answer to Camden. The main difference being that there is actually a street where you can go and buy weed but the dealers are all wearing balaclavas in stalls covered with army camouflage gear that makes them so much creepier than secret drug dealers despite being out in the open. Christiania is supposedly the most visited tourist attraction in Denmark and, like the Little Mermaid before it, is only worth going to to tick something off a list rather than actually being a fun and worthwhile use of one's time.
To try and forget the horror, we headed to the meatpacking district. It has lots of whitewashed, blue-roofed empty warehouses where previously they slaughtered animals. Now, it's full of zuzhy street food stalls and classic cars. (I don't know why I'm saying that with minor disdain when I love that shit.) We enjoyed a delicious bottle of unfiltered prosecco at Kodbyens Fiskebar with a portion of fish and chips which made tasted like Bird's Eye would love you to think their food tastes like. So flaky and moist. Probably in joint first place with Ship on the Shore as the best quality fish I've tasted. Well done Copenhagen. You've shown that yes, all European city breaks are largely the same and basically like being in London but in a different place where you have time to enjoy the perks. But also that that's a great way to spend a holiday.