Monday, 25 July 2016

How things taste

When I was lying in bed feeling like I'd already died a couple of months ago, my publisher friend curated me a 'playlist' of books that I'd enjoy. She'd carefully ordered it to balance heartwarming with cutting satire and the first on the list was Tuesday Nights in 1980. The author captures a dynamic / person pitch perfectly by describing what they taste like (hard to explain - read it). So with Molly Prentiss fresh on my mind, I thought I'd do the reverse: describing the taste of food with the feelings.

B Street Deli's jacket potato followed by afters of cheese and grapes four weeks later: change, bravery, excitement, and finally doing something constructive with all those middle class 'the world is a shit place' feels you feel.

The shepherd's pie at the Skylight Cafe: doing something for yourself, not being flitty, attempting to make your grandmother proud, and trying to make something of your ideas / yourself because you can see a future.

The roasted summer vegetables (aubergines, red onion, peppers) with a summery dressing (olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, chickpeas, coriander, sultanas, walnuts) on cous cous that you can finally not-drown (Ottolenghi) tastes of calm, fulfilment, lightness, and finally feeling whole enough that you don't need to explain yourself online anymore. Oh, and being able to cook, obv.

That's all, folks xxx

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Recipe - Lots of Vegetables and Beans in a Stew

Something of a confession to make: the fog hadn't really lifted. I thought it had but I spoke too soon and maybe in my head was thinking I'm definitely still gonna die before the year is out even if it's a time when no one is expecting it. (Yeah that feels very mental to write down now.) Anyway, luckily the meds *actually* kicked in I think sometime in Amsterdam while having a very mind bendy 'what is hair / what is time / what is gender / maybe this is all in my mind' time. Anyway, whichever drug it was, it worked! I remember in January / February at some point describing everything as feeling very colourful. When there are some positive effects that go with being quite clever and very sad, it is easy to pretend to yourself that makes it ok. Yeah, probably the good things aren't as 'vivid and acute' now but they're still pretty fuckin bright. Opposite of depressed happiness is wading through  a desert and filling up on sweet nectar on your hands and knees straight from the oasis. Now, it's having running water in your house. Less exciting to drink from a glass but at least you know there will always be water. Hey, I'm pretty pleased with that metaphor! Anyway, for my diet, the side effect is not either eating gross junk food because IRDGAF but still eating. Look!
Ok so for this, two sliced onions, four cloves of garlic and two red chillies fried in olive oil until translucent. Add two courgettes, three peppers, two aubergines chopped into chunky pieces and around 300g cherry tomatoes halved. Turn up the heat, add two bay leaves, a tsp of dried thyme, a tbsp of dried oregano , a tbsp of tomato purée and 250ml wine. After about 3 mins, add a can of drained cannellini beans and turn the heat down to a simmer. Add a large handful of parsley and coriander, finely chopped at the end.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Review - De Aarige Pars, Kantjil & De Tijgre, Foodware

With the return of my appetite came a real craving for salty, meaty fast food. Not really clear to me whether I’ve been eating like there is no tomorrow because I haven't *really* accepted that there will be a tomorrow and therefore IDGAF about things such as the environmental impact of eating meat, my health or my weight. A more charitable view of eating meals such as two potato waffles with vanilla ice cream is that I'm uncomplicated about food. I guess it's the kind of thing you don't appreciate if you have but would miss if it was gone. The only type of food shame I get is the ‘is this how an adult really feeds themselves?’ kind, and even then not strongly enough to avoid buying things as spaghetti hoops and Viennese whirls every time I'm in the shops. Anyway, my pre-holiday diet included: a fillet o fish, 12 chicken nuggets, a 2l tub of vanilla ice cream, eight potato waffles, 12 Linda McCartney vegetarian sausages (vain attempt at getting my avoid meat in week rule to kick in), an Indian takeaway (inc meat), KFC, a Morley’s inc weird coleslaw of mysterious origin, two unexpected BBQs and four chocolate bars (haven't bought a chocolate bar since 2014 maybe).

Thinking about it, my holiday diet was much healthier. Very cheap and informal Persian food from De Aarige Pers including an aubergine thing which beat that of Silk Road. Incredibly well planned / timed Indonesian rijsttafel from Kantjil & De Tijgre.
Vibrantly coloured and incredibly flavoured dishes served in neatly designed Foodware by a man I briefly thought I might try and seduce / move in with in the hour before heading to the airport. 

Monday, 4 July 2016

Review - Asian Takeaway, Le Garrick

While I recognise that it's far more likely that the pills have kicked in than Glastonbury has cured all my ills, the coincidence has helped to romanticise. It is really great to not cancel plans constantly and waste many hours staring listlessly unable to read and do basic chores like laundry. It is really, really relieving to not constantly think about ineffectual ways of dying triggered by eg open windows (would just break some bones) and walking by canals (I'm not that bad at swimming). Probably most relieving is for the first time in maybe two years not constantly obsessing about whatever thing I've assumed has been making me unhappy (not having a job, boyfriend A, obsessive rebound, job, boyfriend B, having no direction) when the biggest contributing factor has most likely been a chemical imbalance. And I can eat again! While it's been some consolation being the most thin I've been as an adult, it is much better having the desire and energy to eat again, particularly since I was taken out for a birthday steak. Look at the onion soup!
Le Garrick
Second best steak I've had, second best creme brulee, second best onion soup. Very atmospheric, really sweet but not over the top service. Much tastier and better value than Hawksmoor (where birthday tradition began), frankly. 

Asian Takeaway
Appetite sustained itself all through the week! I finally managed to find the hole in the wall where Asian Takeway in Peckham lives. Not quite Curry 2000, but willing to give it another go and get a wrap.

Monday, 27 June 2016

On Glastonbury and Brexit

Some thoughts on Glastonbury and Brexit

- Don't care about the 11 hour journey or the terrible backpack induced shoulder pain or the mud. It's as great as everyone makes out

- Feel sad that the country I've loved and lived in for 21 years is becoming increasingly unwelcoming to foreigners 

- Feel sad that the core values I associate with Britishness as a first gen immigrant - acceptance, (comparative) liberalism and freedom - have been proved overly optimistic

- Feel sad that so many people feel disaffected enough to understandably, if in my opinion mistakenly, to think so differently from me on this

- Feel elitist that it's very easy for me to think and behave the way I do because I really have no understanding of true hardship

- Feel ungrateful that I don't appreciate how lucky I am

- Feel euphoric having a perfect moment at Ezra Furman playing Haunted Head - 'I was born this way I'll die the way' - enough to make me want to be alive now and for every year just to have more moments like this 

- Feel incredibly lucky to have such great friends and so many of them

- Feel selfish that I have been and can be so depressed to not even care that they care

- Feel at the same time both incredibly pleased with self and incredibly 16 year old embarrassed for slipping over so much in the mud that I waded through barefoot and alone from SE corner to the Park (ouch) 

- Feel guilty for being such hard work

- Feel churlish for having been unable to appreciate 3.5 years of unmitigated kindness and pleased I made a friend

- Feel clean and really great to being naked in company. Hooray for communal showers 

- Feel really, really bleak at the thought that this wonderful respite is soon to be over 

- Feel like I want to be over, and how incredibly painful it is to simultaneously not want to be here but feel that it would be such a shame to go

- Really, really just want my thoughts to stop. Exhausted 

- Feel better. Sigh 

- Feel the same thrill as at a high quality Netflix series as I do re: post Brexit developments 

- Feel nervous when remember that it is real life

- Feel like should avoid thinking about real life while I can - the unforgiving nature of the electorate doesn't need to be another thing to feel more detached about 

- Feel like I would be PJ Harvey if I was a musician 

- Consider how I will pack and party differently next year 

- Consider whether thinking so far into the future is a sign it's getting better or is me playing pretend like I'll have a normal and existent life in a year

- Feel like a princess not knowing how to take a tent down

- Feel sleepy 
What Ari ate this week
4 cereal bars
6 clementines
Delicious curry goat
A warning and restorative cup of 'can't believe I waded through mud chai'
Trippy pie and mash 
A few bites of a 'I'm very grateful for all you do and want to reaffirm that I don't expect it' lobster roll 
A really gritty but delicious pork roll

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Recipe - Smoked Mackerel Pate

So when I was all 'each time it gets easier' re career fails and break ups and al that jazz - I stand by that, it does. But I rather over egged how chipper and optimistic I sounded about it. It's true that I wasn't feeling particularly miserable about either of those things but, less promisingly, the reason for that is all my energy was going into kick starting my will to live gene. Really hard to care about corporeal sadnesses when you're contending with the dull ache of the 'I just can't' feeling. The two are linked, but more in that when you feel like you just can't, a weird self preservation kicks in where you're aware that the risk imposed by regular sadness is too great so you make much better long term decisions. It's hard to stomach both not wanting to wake up and not wanting to go to work in the morning so it's easier to quit. But then, as the fog starts to lift, the regular sadnesses hit you in a very boring way because you were maybe hoping that had got swept away rather than just delayed. SO BORING. But, with feeling regular person sad, you also remember a capacity for feeling regular person happy too: I quit my job hooray // I'm going to Glastonbury // these new boots are perfect for outrageous flirting w Crate staff all summer. I even managed to cook fish pate twice this week (better than the photograph below looks) which now I think about it is really just like savoury fishy yoghurt.
Smoked mackerel pate (barely a recipe)
200g smoked mackerel, skin and bones removed
120ml creme fraiche
50g Philadelphia
1 tsp creamed horseradish
Handful of dill, finely chopped
Juice of half a lemon
Black pepper

Pulse everything to the dill together until an almost smooth consistency (or however coarse you like it). Add the lemon, pepper and dill. 

Sunday, 12 June 2016

What I ate the week following my birthday

Project managing is a skill in every context, including when applied to your life. It's all about timing things to mitigate damage. As an adult, it's quite tricky to find a few weeks to be incapacitated even if the long term gain of a mental reboot is well worth it. But it's all about calculating the right time: if you're stable enough to quit your job, you've got the mental wherewithal to avoid falling off a precipice (both literally and figuratively). Still, there are some functions you've got to keep going, so here's a guide to keeping it together when you are too old to let things fall apart:

1. Don't bother trying to put game face on. No point

2. Wear dresses. Fewest arm movements required to put on. Also, no need for bra

3. Make plans (it is easier to move if you have a reason to move)
(Be upfront with your pals that you will probably cancel your plans)

4. Use pockets of energy to respond to texts because it is not nice to worry your friends 

5. Track when in the day you have energy and pounce at those times to do things like wash and drink water. Take some pleasure in the fact that things which usually come so naturally (good housekeeping, seeming like you're competent) can go to hell so that in a few weeks when your capacity is back you won't stress about them 

6. Keep your friends close, keep the freelancers closer

7. Buy yoghurt so that when chewing seems unsustainable you get calories from somewhere 

8. Avoid the tube. Jesus

9. Work remotely and cultivate an excellent telephone voice so no one can see the Miss Havisham look you're rocking most days

10. Go dancing, but don't get fucked up. Don't need to if the music is nice enough and it's a mode of socialising where you can legitimately be silent and kind of on your own

What I ate this week
Yoghurt and jam x5 - like an incredibly delicious Muller corner
Birthday cake - egg free and fuckin' delicious
Leftover birthday potatoes with a fennel, crumb and olive topping - really not my best work
Tuna pasta - surprisingly, probably the best I've managed to make ever
Half of a Wetherspoons chilli dog meal shared with your daytime carer - a highlight
A breakfast that you organised but then all your friends bought the things for and cooked - delicious, with a special shout out to the slow scrambled eggs, and also thank you for bringing so much yoghurt
Jerk chicken by White Men Can't Jerk - good, but not great
A birthday meal cooked by your soulmate, even though all week you've behaved like an ungrateful churl - haven't even eaten it yet but can already promise it's the best ever

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Review - Wuli Wuli

25 lessons I have learnt in my 25 years, in the order that I learnt them

1. Talking the same as people (to the point of putting on a Geordie accent on your first day in a new school) makes you more likeable 

2. Being good at maths and foreign do not make you popular at school, but one day you will learn that they are clear advantages

3. If you can read, you will never be lonely 

4. Children are very shallow, and it's a shame glasses got cool 15 years after you wore them 

5. Learning to use the Internet is an invaluable skill, but later in life it will seem like the biggest waste of time 

6. Fringes are great 

7. 18 is really late to have to learn to try at things

8. Don't only talk to the person you are having sex with about personal things. Really not a sustainable model, neither good for sex or for talking 

9. University is definitely not all fun and games 

10. Everyone's parents fucks them up in a small but significant way - no point dwelling or bitching; they could have done much worse 

11. You will realise how important and privileged an education is only when it is too late 

12. No one cares about body hair and it certainly won't have the same effect as a chastity belt 

13. Your metabolism will one day slow down, it's good to have acquired a taste for moving before that happens 

14. Financial independence is empowering

15. Sometimes you just need somewhere to go to work every day, even if it's not in a place that fills you with wonder  

16. Always eat, especially before drinking 

17. Cocaine is bad for everyone and isn't even fun. Try to avoid 

18. People who make you feel less yourself can be a good distraction at a time of need, but it is not a long term strategy

19. London rents are not a reason to move in with a partner 

20. Meditation and mooncups are both as great as everyone who evangelises about them make out

21. Better to deal with mind numbing depression as early as possible in life, but your twenties isn't too late 

22. Fulfilment > money

23. Those who are most risk averse (me) are often best placed to take risks

24. There is no point trying to keep things from those close to you, and you're too old for this shit

25. Birthday parties are a wonderful distraction

(I didn't take a picture of the food at my birthday party, and nor did I cook it, so we'll go with a review of Wuli Wuli, where I ate the night before.)
Actually, ate this both the night before and the day after when I finally thought I might be able to contain food. The beef brisket in the noodles was the best bit, though the noodles themselves were a little too thick and heavy. The cumin lamb tasted similar but a bit more Sichuan peppercorn metallic, though the texture wasn't as good as the beef. I wasn't the biggest fan of the kung po chicken - both flavour and texture reminded me of generic MSG fuelled Sutton Coldfield Chinese. The aubergine has a great texture but again that too heavy aroma. And all a little too expensive - £40 total including beers - for food less good than Silk Road.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Recipe - Aubergine and Mint Dahl

I will start this reference with a throwback reference for anyone who had an emo phase as a teenager - the Sunny Day Real Estate song that goes something along the lines of 'I'm running down / in circles / running down / in circles' again and again. This lyric has sprung to mind  as it's probably been the most eventful of quarter life crisis in terms of making Key Life Changes. Anyway, the song is being referenced firstly because I can appreciate that there are many things which will feel like I'm back to where I was three years ago and like I am in my life just going around in circles. But, secondly, and crucially - I'd like to think I have the perspective now to appreciate, as I didn't back in the emo days, that these are all small fry issues, not just in comparison to the world but probably even in my own hyper privileged life. Yeah, the future is scary and uncertain and it isn't fun to feel like you've regressed to where you are straight out of university but that hasn't happened. Not so green now, but also even if I was - it's irrelevant. Can't bitch about hating your corporate job forever. And yeah pretty shit timing that this is coinciding with a break up but also this isn't even the worst break up I've had with this person let alone of my life. Anyway, felt the whole Groundhog Day sensation very strongly (that analogy comes up loads on this blog for this very reason) when this week was an almost exact mirror of seven weeks ago, both in chronology but also in sillier details like going to the Wellcome Collection and what I wore. It's very easy to measure progress when you have a like for like comparison and as you go over and over the same neural pathways, no one has the energy to feel each job rejection / break up / whatever as strongly each time. What's my point? Feeling pretty chipper and looking forward to many many blog posts complaining about uncertainty and money and spending too much time in my house cooking! And also at my cooking improving once more.
Aubergine and mint dahl

Slice 5 mini aubergines into one inch rounds. Add a liberal amount of salt and leave to drain in a colander.
Slice two onions, finely along with a piece of ginger about 1.5 inches cubed and 4 cloves of garlic. Fry over a medium heat in vegetable oil until super super translucent. Add two cups of red split lentils, two heaped teaspoons of turmeric, a teaspoon of garam masala, a teaspoon of coriander, half a teaspoon of cumin seeds, three dried red chillies and a quarter teaspoon of mustard seeds. Coat well and then add water so that Dahl : water ratio is 1:2. Add salt, put the heat on low, bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 40 minutes until the lentils are cooked and the consistency is smooth. 

Meanwhile, sprinkle the aubergines with a teaspoon of ground cumin and toss with oil. Roast in an oven preheated to 200 degrees C and then remove after about ten minutes. Add to the dahl for the last ten minutes of cooking time. 

Finish it all off with about 20g of mint and the same of coriander stirred in at the end.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Recipe - Bengali Beef Curry

A niche and specific food story about how weirdly pervasive family ties are, even to ultra-rational (in thought, anyway) people like me who have nothing to do with non-direct family and, for that matter, not all that much to do with direct family

Back in Bangladesh, my dad's side of the family have a festival every year in August where, without dwelling too much on what the festival is signifying, they make vats and vats of food of khichuri (yellow lentil rice) with lamb in it and feed whoever comes to be fed - the easiest way to describe who those people are is to say that in a UK news article they would probably be referred to as the 'extreme poor', even though in Bangladesh they're the regular poor. Anyway, it's all financed and project managed by my family, which I now find more impressive now that I'm not a sullen teenager obsessing on the fact that I am trapped indoors because I can appreciate that feeding hundreds of people in a day is neither cheap nor easy. My grandfather has become de facto in charge of making sure it all happens - now because he's the only one of his ten siblings remaining, but previously because he stayed back in the village when everyone else was getting all diasporic. Now that all the diaspora have a second generation of further removed and further away children, I occasionally think about who will take the helm. It is very self centred of me to think that because it's my grandparents that the expectation is that it would be my father rather than someone who is closer, both geographically and domestically. But then for me the point becomes more that if it's not my father (and, whatever he says, I struggle to imagine him un-emigrating aged 67) then effectively the tradition becomes dead for me. If I'm too selfish to see my grandparents, it seems very unrealistic that I will return for a nostalgic sense of tradition. But, it's still something I think about. At the very least, I must get the recipe, because while my own take is pretty good, it's just not the same. 
Khichuri (rice with lentils) and beef curry
Two onions, finely sliced
2 green chillies, slit down the middle but kept whole
2 cups of rice
Three quarters cup of red split lentils
Three quarters cup of chana dahl
Half tablespoon of turmeric
Enough water to cover the lentils and rice completely, and then about 6cm on top of that

Fry the onions over a medium heat in veg oil in a sauce pan until translucent. Add the chillies.
Wash the rice. Add the rice, lentils, turmeric and water. Cover, bring to a simmer and cook for around 25 minutes, until the lentils and rice are all cooked.

400 - 600g stewing beef
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chilli powder

Marinade the beef in the spices for around 2 hours (not a necessary step, but helps)

Three onions, finely sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
A thumb sized piece of ginger
2 cloves
2 bay leaves

Fry the onions, garlic and ginger in vegetable oil until the onions are very translucent. Add the beef and stir well, colouring on all sides. Add the cloves and bay and enough water to cover the meat. Cover and simmer for 2 - 3 hours, occasionally topping up the water if it's getting dry, until the meat is soft.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Review - Trade, Testi

My head is like a little room (read: padded cell) that I bounce around if everything's nice, or from where I stare longingly out of if it's less nice. Either way, I quite like chilling in there by myself thinking about frippery like writing this blog and what colour am I going to paint my nails etc. But it's tricky to keep it empty (writing this post has taken forever cos it's so crowded in here with stress rn) and that mostly falls on me. Like: why the fuck am I killing myself, my time and energy doing something which I really, really don't care about? Hmm? All I need to do is drop the ball and accept that some things are not my responsibility and that even when they are, shirking a little responsibility goes a long way for general health, happiness, headspace etc. This is why my pet peeve is feeling like there's unequal amounts of responsibility in a relationship (friends, siblings, housemates, boyfriends, whatever) even though I am painfully aware that it's just my nature to assume it. And that is also why even if in all situations, I probably have a preference and usually take control and charge towards the outcome I want, I don't actually want to behave like that. What I really want is to not worry and not take any control or any responsibility and someone else deal with everything, even the problems that I didn't know I had. And that, pals, is the modern woman's (or at least this modern woman's) paradox. So, this weekend demonstrates some experiments in me dropping the ball in favour of my sanity.

Trade, or, 'getting thirty copies of your CV is not my problem, and you actively asked me not to make it my problem, but here I am making it my problem. FFS Ari'
I got a free breakfast out of my willingness to bring the CVs though. Unfortunately, I ordered really poorly. I went chicken and bacon club because it was really warm and I think I had in mind that I wanted something really fresh (basically I think I was imagining a caesar salad) but this was actually a burger with sweet brioche bun - very delicious, but very rich. Plus, it's worthwhile going for something with eggs at Trade as they are the kind of place that makes an annoying thing over brunch, the flip side to which is that they're well practised at poaching eggs. (V good eggs)

Testi, or, 'if you don't want something fucking with your headspace, the best thing you can do is relinquish all responsibility and see how things pan out (maybe - tbc if actually capable of this)'

Testi was recommended to me by someone who I think of as having much finer taste than me in everything, but especially food. But I gotta say: Mangal Ocakbasi is better by way of north east London Turkish delights. The cold mezze platter is a dream with hummus that reminds me that it's not that I don't like hummus - I just don't like supermarket hummus. The meat of the main struck me as a little underseasoned but then I had let it get cold because I was busy having a very structured business meeting about my personal life, and that I can't pin on Testi.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Review - Silk Road

I have FINALLY been to Silk Road. Having failed to go on three occasions (got drunk and ate a Wetherspoons chilli dog, watched a film download and ate pesto pasta, had sex and went to Nando's) I railroaded some pals into going ('I don't CARE if you're going in a week I want to go on Friday'). Anyway, got there in the end.
I don't know what the point of me even bothering to say this place is great is as that is already well understood / literally who ever reads this to get food tips / it's very scene in the non-European cuisine that's cheap and therefore popular with a certain brand of young people (which is no bad thing). Nevertheless, special shout out to: the chilli oil on those noodles, the aubergine, the plate of cucumber which is probably the only plate of cucumber I've ever wanted to devour.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Review - Appestat, Indian Veg

There's a song by Pinback I think which just has a guy shouting 'We must move backwards to progress / we must move backwards to progress / we must move backwards to progress'. (As I typed that I was singing it in my head but think that was lost in the typing.) Anyway, my point is - we must. Good thing to remember that when you're having a 'FFS Ari WHY' moment. That can either be a why do you never learn or a why do you never change or, worst of all, why are you you and why do you insist on feeling like this so much of the time? Well, there's no point asking, and will only make the already exhausting experience of being you harder. The next thing to remember that you like projects but unlike rearranging the fridge or failing to start a podcast, getting better at being yourself is valuable because it makes you less prone to being a selfish dick. But, as with all projects, you need to see progress to keep the motivation but it's really hard to measure yourself progress in a person. But anyway, on the day that I ate at Indian Veg and Appestat (which I will review down there), I had cause to make comparisons to how much the project of me has really come along in the past five years. Even if sometimes everything is in my head blacker than that new black they invented, I'm way, way better equipped to handle it, and even being rid of the fear of the blackness makes it a lot easier to deal with events that feel like they could rock your boat. Even if it doesn't feel like it most of the time.
So this grand old speech I think I was doing in or just before Appestat, a little yuppie-ish cafe on that little passage to the right of Angel station. It looks pretty standard and unremarkable (and probably is) but the sausage sandwich there comes on brioche and it's nice touches like that that mean that I will go back at some point. Tasted a bit like what I imagine a posh McDonald's breakfast would taste like.
Then later that day I went to the BYOB all you can eat Indian place that's full of cute and preachy posters. I wasn't expecting much since BYOB (though great) does usually indicate you're catering to people for whom the occasion is the priority rather than the food. And for those who want to eat all they can, it's more that food is a different kind of priority. But hey, this was pretty tidy! No grey vegetable, not too much potato, a rich dahl and crunchy, varied salads. Very enjoyable. 

Friday, 22 April 2016

Review - Crate

Remember when I was recently talking about feeling homesick for a time and not really knowing how to describe or explain why that was the case? Well, I've cracked it. (Well done me, I'm very ~~at one with my emotions~~) It occurred to me that for someone who's usually quite wary of change and has a love/hate relationship with comfort and familiarity, I've experienced a lot of it in the last six months and haven't really had a chance to process that. It's also primarily been centred around the home which explains the feeling of homesickness, even though I haven't changed location. I've replaced 75% of my housemates and in the process reformatted my household so that I make up 25% of it, rather than 12.5% of it. You can feel uprooted without having to physically move from deconstructing your routines and rebuilding them, however positive it is to do that. But it's crucial to take a little time to drink it in. I often mocked the Explorer for his whole 'I like to just sit back and take stock' bit - but (and this is about the only time this will happen) - he was right. At first I was distracted and busy in the bad way (workworkworkworkwork), and later I was distracted in the good way (holidays, Christmas, new friends (in the Cursive sense)) so then when more recently, I've had time to pause, I've been left with a slight sense of 'when did this happen to my life?' The homesickness was being aware of the change but avoiding the pause. Anyway, (blog about to take a real cheesy turn rn), how do you cure homesickness? Homesickness isn't about a place, it's about a sense of place, so you just need to go to where you feel home again. And for me, with my very complicated but predictable relationship with home (immigrant, alienation, moving around a lot, weird relationship with parents / actual home), home is in a love of and familiarity in the people with which I surround myself (including but not limited to this list of three): contrarians who know my taste, magicians who share my utter lack of self control, hot shot producers who like to hang out in Hackney Wick (at Crate)
Is the pizza at Crate good? I'm not sure. I think on balance, yes? The balsamic vinegar is clearly very high quality (so fruity!) and the parmesan is firm in both flavour and texture. The rocket is bitter in a way that reminds you that Tesco leaves are a pile of bull. The base was... what you'd expect from an artisanal but not sourdough pizza base, I guess. In fact. The pizza was definitely good - I'm prejudiced from the weird seeming toppings! But who cares when you're sat outside in a boat?

Monday, 18 April 2016

Recipe - Oven Rotisserie Chicken

One of the ways in which my parents have lightly screwed me over is by imparting a ridiculous superstition into an otherwise very rational (at least in terms of thoughts, if not feelings) mindset. While I don't go so far as to actually maintain that anyone I'm related to is a higher being and therefore that everyone I know is destined for greatness (srsly, my family are crazy), it's stuck enough to give me enough of a messiah complex to 'storify' everything. That's great when everything is going swimmingly (c. 60% of the time) because I get the glorious loop: seeing success in everything you do, feeling like you are invincible, acting like you are invincible in often quite success enhancing ways, being successful. Basically like when Ron thinks he's had the cheating potion but he's really just confident. (Side note to share a great quote from the Earnest one: 'I feel like I'm walking on air in these trainers' 'Are they Nike Airs?' '...yes') Equally, it has the less positive side effect of making me feel like when one thing goes awry, everything else will follow. This is very inconvenient when your work frequently takes you through stressful short term phases where you are unable to think or enjoy life. Still, after almost 25 years of crushing self awareness (I was a really precocious baby), I at least have the rationality to see that's not what's actually happening, and the absolute worst would be to let confirmation bias encourage actions which do in fact throw things off course. Or, at least, at less rational times, focus on the fact that you bet on the Grand National winner and got a Glastonbury ticket, so your luck is still very much intact. Shit, there is literally no room left for a segue to what I cooked. Maybe something about riding it out until the project ends and keep cooking as you do?

Oven Rotisserie Chicken
Preheat an oven to 150 degrees Celsius. Crush two teaspoons of fennel seeds and 3 dried red chillies in a pestle and mortar. In a bowl, place a tablespoon of butter, a bunch of chopped thyme, sage and rosemary. Add the fennel and chillies and do the stuffing the inside of the chicken's skin bit with half of it. Put the other half all over the legs and inside the cavity, then stuff with a quartered lemon, 4 garlic cloves and another bunch of thyme and sage. Season all over with salt and pepper. In a bowl, toss four potatoes, halved, in olive oil and season. Place around the chicken in a deep roasting tray. Place in the middle of the oven and roast for 3 hours, basting frequently. I basted it about three times, but next time I will do six and maybe even consider turning the chicken over for full effect.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Review - Fish House, Aubergine and Mint Stir Fry

This post is going to be about outlines. (I know Rachel Cusk got there first but I found her protagonist's tone a bit annoying, and therefore all the characters a bit annoying, but she has the last laugh since she's all acclaimed and all whereas I'm just annoying.) So I was recently thinking about managing the flow of information and what you choose to share with the world and different people in it. While this blog is very candid, it by no means shares everything that I could, and has a lot of ego influencing how I choose to portray myself. It's not particularly insightful to say that there are different layers of people, with whom I choose to share different levels of information for different purposes. But I was recently thinking about why: there are those who I share with for to hear their response, there are those who I share with to understand my response (since I find writing my thoughts down makes them at once more clear and less deafening), and then there are those with whom you begin to share because you feel like you ought to. Anyway, so somewhere between Thursday and Tuesday I was thinking about how the information that you choose to share relates to your outline and your sense of self. My conclusions are: it feels good to share because it means you feel confident within your outline and reinforces a feeling of 'aloneness not loneliness'. But where you have to be careful is when you share inadvertently, and almost fail to preserve your outline because it's so comfortable and easy to do. But actually, it helps to rail against that impulse because ultimately, as soon as your outline begins to slip you feel less yourself, and your senses dull and everything is less vivid and acute. Anyway, between thinking these things, I ate some food!

Fish House
OK so I finally (fourth time lucky) got to Fish House. And sadly, while I would love to say it was worth the wait, I have some apprehensions about it. Firstly - it is just too done. It's too done to be at ease. Which would be one thing if the food justified it. But actually, even though we went for the cheaper takeout option, it was still on the wrong side of expensive. I don't know, the batter had a heaviness that gives you a salt headache which wasn't counteracted by the freshness of the fish. The chips were proper chip shop chips, which I enjoyed, but at that price? However, props to the mushy peas for striking the right balance between creamy and chip shop and posh and sweet.

Aubergine and mint stir fry
Finely slice a red and white onion and a thumb sized piece of ginger, and stir fry in veg oil in a wok until soft and lightly browned. Meanwhile, slice a large aubergine so they're sort of in noodle-like ribbons. Quarter a large handful of mushrooms. Thinly slice a red pepper. Add a level teaspoon of turmeric and a level teaspoon of chilli powder to the veg oil. Add the aubergine and turn the heat down, stirring occasionally, until they're soft. Then, add the mushrooms and red onion. Whisk 4 eggs in a jug, push the vegetables out to the side of the pan and add the egg mix into the well in the middle, stirring gently to scramble. While those are cooking, fry 3 nests of noodles (from one of those packets) for a couple of minutes. Drain and add to the wok. Lastly, add a tablespoon of light soy sauce, a tablespoon of honey and a handful of mint, finely chopped.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Recipe - IKEA Feast

I had an unexpected suicide Monday morning despite having a super wholesome weekend. In classic Ari overanalysing / coming to the worst conclusion about everything fashion, I characterised it as 'maybe I'm not having a comedown from the weekend but a comedown from my LIFE because the great 6 month phase I've been in is OVER'. I felt so hopeless that I had a frantic moment on the bus of trying to resubscribe to Headspace and the download wasn't working and felt so lost. And then couldn't help but see a sad parallel in me trying desperately to pay for an immediate fix when tranquillity of mind is NOT something you can pay for with MasterCard. And, really, isn't this just an emblem of the main problem that I'm experiencing right now i.e. rich person recognition that money is really great (and this is definitely a middle class luxury problem) but at some point the allure of the sparkly fades and you're left with an itch that dolla bills can't scratch? But, after some self-reflection, I can report that said 'comedown' has faded and I have some sage and narcissistic #truths to share:

- yes, the high of the aftermath of making a scary, positive change in your life has faded somewhat but that does NOT mean that everything good you've learned and enacted has gone
- it's OK to feel shit sometimes, the trick is in not dwelling and overanalysing and thinking that just because you feel a bit less than perfect that it's all gone wrong and doomed - there's no such thing as a 'good streak' (apart from the yellow one in my hair, obv) and a 'bad streak', there's always gonna be a bit of everything all the time
- it's OK to not be 100% there with managing your tendency to stress out because most of the battle is having the awareness of it. If the aim is to be 80% there and you're probably pretending outwardly to be 60% there and in reality you're more like 40% there - that's fine because you're aware of it and really, you just fake it 'til you make it

Anyway, in conclusion: FUCK YOU MONDAY I OWN MY LIFE. Anyway, I made an IKEA feast and got drunk on red wine last night!
Swedish meatballs, spiced red cabbage, a not very good slaw and some sour potatoes
OK so how did I make this? I definitely didn't leave enough time to do anything adequately but it worked out alright...

I fried two onions and four cloves of garlic in some butter until it got really translucent and started to brown. I then transferred half of that onions into a bowl. To the remaining onions, I added a red cabbage, shredded, salt, a third of a bottle of red wine, a tablespoon of white wine vinegar, half a tablespoon of sugar, a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly, 3 cloves and a cinnamon stick. I then covered and simmered it for about 40 minutes before uncovering for another 30.

To the onions in the bowl, I added 500g of minced beef, 500g of minced veal, around a slice of toast made into crumbs, 2 eggs, salt, pepper, a handful of finely chopped dill and parsley, a teaspoon of nutmeg. I would've liked to add some allspice too but couldn't find any of that. I then made into meatballs the size of gold balls and fried in a frying pan in batches, in veg oil just to brown and make sure they held together. They were then placed in a baking tray.

In the frying pan that I fried the meatballs, I added a dessert spoon more of butter, about the same amount of plain flour and then stirred in 150ml double cream and 250ml milk, whisking to form a roux. I then added about 100g grated cheddar. This sauce was poured over the meatballs and it was placed in the oven for about 20 mins, at 200 degrees C.

The slaw wasn't great but involved 2 apples, a head of fennel, a head of radicchio and a stick of celery, all chopped. The dressing involved a tablespoon of mayo, half a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, the juice of one lemon and some salt and pepper.

The potatoes were boiled in salted water for just shy of 10 minutes before being tossed with salt, rosemary, pepper and olive oil. They were roasted in the oven for 20 minutes and at the end, I dressed them with a tablespoon of capers, the juice of one lemon and some chopped dill.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

A review and a recipe - Hill Station, Rabo De Toro (kind of)

I had my first work related freak out of the year! It had to happen sometime, and I'm glad to be over with it in Q1 (lol) - feel that this is indicative that there will be max four this year. And this one wasn't even that bad and only manifested itself as me distributing some panicked comms to ensure that I have a set of keys in London somewhere lest I get locked out while my housemates are all in different countries. A combination of factors led to this: so tired (this was when I wrote the maudlin blog) due to weeknight fun of the ilk that should be saved for the weekend, realising that some close pals were going on holiday and I had no idea so felt like a shit friend / guy who never listens and just charges around doing what I do, having a moment of 'FUCK. I'm an ADULT, this is ALL DOWN TO ME. I am playing pretend and now I have all of this responsibility aghhhh'. But some vegan food and a nap later and I was back to being vaguely highly functioning and able to do fun. But it got me to thinking (that should be read in SJP a la SATC style voice when she's reading from her shit heteronormative column) that while it's great to be able to compartmentalise successfully, actually what would be better is to not have any selves that have freak outs, and actually that might mean some more severe structural changes to the not fun bits. Not something to worry about, but maybe something to think about. So anyway, let's talk about the lovely, charmed bits of the weekend which inevitably involve food.
The Hill Station
I went for breakfast at Hill Station and it was so idyllic! It's just on the right side of ramshackle and silly furniture without being annoying about it and then an old man started playing some music and I found the perfect toothbrush holder (yes, I've been looking for a toothbrush holder to replace my broken mug with a rusty nail in it for a while) and I just thought the feeling that you feel that makes you want to inhale. It's the classic response that Kahneman warns about joining up too many dots and seeing stories when really they're just coincidences. But, the circumstance of 'I found a perfect cafe and I'm having a great time' is a perfectly fine one to feel that in rather than 'aren't I such a skilled trader and therefore totally worthy of being paid all this green' so whatever. Also - the food! I'm regretful that I say 'best thing ever' so much - but this wins the Oscar in the category of fancy 'free range' breakfast. The meat was SO meaty and man, you could really taste how happy those animals were. Eggs set on the bottom and gooey on top. Garlicky mushrooms and door stop bread which tasted like it had been drowned in butter. But really, it's the meat that made it.
Rabo de toro
And later that day, I managed to finally discharge my 'not being a shit housemate / guy' duties and cook. Sadly, as with 'bolognese that I didn't add enough onions too so wasn't quite naturally sweet enough' and 'paella that was a little bitter either from the pith of the lemon or from the skins of hte peppers', I didn't pay enough attention to the rabo so there was a little tooooo much burn. But, I think the balance of ingredients was on point. Oh, except that you would usually make this with oxtail, not just beef...
2 onions, finely chopped
4  carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 strands (what do you call one bit of celery?) of celery, peeled and finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
600g beef, chopped into bitesized chunks

In olive oil, fry the vegetables over a medium heat until nicely browned, about 15 minutes or so. Turn up the heat, add the beef and brown. 

1 tablespoon or so (I never use spoons) smoked paprika
2 tsp or so dried thyme
1 bay leaf
A third of a bottle of red wine

Add the herbs and paprika, and the wine and let simmer on a high heat for 5 mins or so. Turn the heat down to a simmer, add a wine glass of water and cover, for about an hour and a half. I would probably stir occasionally to avoid the burny bits too at this point.

1 red and 1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped
2 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
Half a bunch of parsley, roughly chopped

Add the pepper and tomatoes, and at this point I also added another wine glass of water to mitigate the burny bits situation, and simmer, uncovered, for a further 30 mins. When ready to serve, stir in the parsley and serve with bread.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Review - Mamuska, Viet Grill

Some notes on time and spreading oneself too thinly:

- It's tricky to have headspace when you're career busy and I'd forgotten about that. Still doing OK, just about
- I spend a lot more time scrolling Instagram in the mornings when career busy as if I need to seek out the lowest, easiest form of everything, including social media, in my leisure time when I'm stressed cos any thinking = just can't deal 
- Hair and face have taken a back seat once more because sleep is more important rn
- There is only so much best self to go around and deciding how to apportion it is painful
- It is surprising to me that university and its immediate aftermath (relative to a whole life, not relative to life elapsed so far) were only training wheels to being aware of and comfortable with aloneness (as distinct to loneliness)
- It is so confusing that a sense of a place / feeling / time can feel so set and then it evolves and changes without any location change to trigger it. Maybe this is why people move to the suburbs?
- Finding a way to balance the new with the old and not feeling too homesick is an adjustment, and probably only one that I'm learning about now because I'm past the cyclical 'let's buy some shiny new toys and throw away the old ones' approach
- One should apply similar principles to friends as partners re: keeping it fresh, trying, making quality time, especially if you're feeling homesick for a time
- I should get more sleep when I'm on projects so I write less maudlin blogs

I have a surprising knowledge of South London restaurants thanks to Helen Graves but living in Bow means that I rarely, if ever, made the journey. So I'm enjoying the opportunity to go to some of them five years on. Mamuska is pretty basic as a restaurant but has hit the nail on the head in terms of my favourite brand of restaurant: cheap, bustly, feels 'authentic' (whatever that means), good food. I tried restaurant bigos for the first time (richer, saltier, less fruity). Unsurprisingly, given my love of children's frozen food, the schabowsky was my favourite. But actually, this was down to the leek salad that come with it - slightly sweet and almost aniseedy? Mama's own pierogi were filled with a surprising amount of flavour given that list of crowd pleasing ingredients. Pancakes with goulash were maybe my least favourite, but that's OK because if everything was good, maybe I'm not reflecting on what the food actually tasted like enough.

Viet Grill
Trying to find somewhere to eat near work that's not too expensive, not full of city wankers, not full of people I work with that I haven't been to before is almost impossible. In fact, to be honest, I kind of have been to Viet Grill before given the number of times I've been to Keu and Cay Tre. (They're all in cahoots - and actually I use the term in cahoots because the first time I went the pal that I went with described them as being in cahoots and it's become imprinted.) And I had my most frequently ordered thing from there too - lemongrass chicken curry. Which I don't regret as it is really great and that lemony potato flavour makes me want to kiss my fingers in that an Italian 'delicioso' way. But actually, the star of the show was the piggy aubergine. It managed to be both pungent and subtle in how it balanced the acidic vinegary taste with sugar and the aubergine was so fluffy and went REALLY well with the minced pork. The papaya salad with beef was almost as well dressed and scattered with tender bits of brisket. My only regret is that they don't offer the red sea prawn curry here which I was craving.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Review - Hawksmoor

My relationship with steak: a 'kind of like but don't really get it' story
2008: Ari has her first steak, probably in a Harvester, aged 17. The novelty of eating 'white person food' makes it seem really enjoyable, but what really sticks out is the salad bar. (To this day, Ari loves the Harvester salad bar coleslaw)

2008, again: Ari makes her first steak, probably aged 17 again, with a Dijon mustard, cream and mustard sauce. Ari doesn't really know much about resting meat and how you need to cook onions for a long slow time to make anything taste good. But probably the novelty of cooking steak was enough

2010: Ari makes her first steak when drunk, aged 18, at university. It was steak sandwiches. (It was in summer, I was Pimms day drunk, I had no exams.) It was not good. Ari is much better at cooking when drunk now, and sometimes even at not getting drunk before cooking.

2011: Ari has her first fancy steak. It's at Gaucho and some corporate big dogs for some firm she has no intention of working for are paying. This was in the days before the food blog, but if she wrote about it now, she'd comment on how the side dishes were way tastier than the steak itself, and actually, this is the experience that turns her off steak for many years because who wants to chew a slab of meat until it gets boring? (There is actually something way more gross that chewing a steak reminds me of, but I'll leave that to the imagination)

2015, early: Ari ventures into steak territory once more. (I don't know why, maybe an iron deficiency leading to the craving?) She goes to Bouchon Fourchette with her pal who's recently returned from France and has rediscovered a carnivorous streak but mainly for steak. Ari doesn't drink any of the delicious red wine which her friend is really enjoying because she has a mild drinking problem and is trying to abstain.  (Abstinence did not last long. Should have had a glass of wine.) Ari is real miserable.

2015, later: Ari tries to go to Hawksmoor with aforementioned carniverous pal. It's meant to be a birthday treat. Instead, Ari has a panic attack in Bank station sparked, in the immediate term, by rush hour and not being able to navigate the exit. Something about walking down different alleys but being unable to escape seems to have a triggering effect (lol). (Obv I don't usually freak out at tube stations.) Ari cries in a Costa next to the station for a while and considers that she really needs to make some changes to her working life.

2015, later still: Ari has the first steak where she realises how people do the whole 'GRR MEAT YES I AM CAVEMAN' thing. It is a Porterhouse cut and it is so moist and soft and just ON POINT.

2016: Ari finally manages to take carnivorous pal for birthday steak, closer to her half birthday. The rump steak is, frankly, underwhelming. The chips are too salty. The mac and cheese is rich (this is a positive) but the spinach is a little waterlogged. The second cheapest wine goes down a charm. The gigantic Ferrero Rocher style pudding tips them both over into sleepy sick territory. Ari is not sold on Hawksmoor, however, she is sold on doing birthday steak as a tradition.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Review - Persepolis, Maloko

As I write this on a Friday afternoon, I am considering how much more tiring a week is when you have to be there all five days. I mean, come on. So unreasonable. Two four day weeks in a row thanks to Porto had made me forget quite how easy it is to get into a 'live for the weekend' mind set. (And by 'live for the weekend', I mean 'all I really want to do tonight / forever is destroy my body until I fall into a hole where I can drown in my own misery and there are no obligations stopping me from doing that on a Saturday'.) So, anyway, I appear to have made myself a hole in blog terms that I can't escape and segue to what I want to talk about. Which is: vegetables. After Porto, my body felt so full of the fat from that lovely pork sandwich that I just wanted to be fresh and clean and eat mildly spicy vegetarian food so I ate marrow and lentils all week and on the weekend went to TWO vegetarian restaurants.
Persepolis is undoubtedly the better of the two. Top tier meze (especially the beetroot), bouncy bread. Menemen which makes me just want to give up trying to make those things which are simple and middle eastern that taste great when you make them but pale in comparison to anyone who can actually make them, like here. Fattet (chickpea and spinach and fried bread) that was maybe slightly less good than the eggs but still incredible. I wish I could remember / describe all the flavours more distinctly. And it fed 2x people for 2x meals (even if one meal was more like pudding for dinner) for £20 which is about the best value place I've come across in London so far.
Not that Maloko was bad, just more limited. This had more of the feel of a friend who is a very good cook but can only really make pancakes. It does galettes, which (fun fact) are traditionally made of buckwheat flour, and I had one filled with different vegetables inc asparagus, spinach and tomato. Oh, and cheese! It was stuffed full, the vegetables were fresh and still crunchy as required and the water was well contained and drained so that there was no soggy pancake (gross). Basic, but fun.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Porto, the best couple holiday

One of the few ways in which boyfriends can be useful is that they make easy holiday partners. In the words of Earnest 'yeah, if you get bored you can just hold hands or have sex'. True. Plus there's the practical benefit of knowing you have a partner in crime who will follow you into an idea that you're excited about without having to do the herding cats dance to get people to book. (By the way - totally fine and reasonable for friends to not want to commit to holidays that they're not 100% on until there's significant traction.) I've been talking about going to Porto for the best part of a year and, having come a breath away from booking after doing all the availability admin, it all fell apart and I gave up on the idea with a sigh. But then my new boyfriend-not-boyfriend, another largely straight girl, stepped in and saved the day and I have to say, this is the best couple holiday I've been on. We didn't hold hands or have sex even once and didn't get bored after 3.5 days!

We did, however, miss our outgoing flight. I don't want to bore you with the story of how it's not our fault but it definitely wasn't because we were drinking prosecco in a Wetherspoons like wankers, it was down to easyjet failing to meet our reasonably formed expectations about boarding times and trust me when I say I'll do a Bennett Talking Heads style modern day Lady of Letters thing until I get the money back or I get sent to prison. But, we handled it like champs on the day, and got to Porto only a couple of hours later with some BA luxe to help to help swallow the 'oh God what the fuck what real life adults miss flights?'

As we got to Porto, it turned out our Airbnb host actually thought we were arriving 12 hours later (in the middle of the night) and wasn't in the city. At this point, I got a sense of dread of 'shit, missed flight, can't get into apartment, what if this holiday is doomed?' But, to pass the time, we went to Casa Guedes to get their famed pork sandwich. For around seven euros, we got two of the most delicious pork stuffed sandwiches I've had. I don't know what they did to this but it was gently flavoured with fennel and so deliciously fatty that the drips on the table congealed almost immediately. Sounds gross but was amazing. It was a strong contender for the best meal of the holiday and set the pitch in terms of great, inexpensive food.
So, we ate a pork sandwich then ambled out to the beautiful Harry Potter bookshop. Now you will see the theme of the holiday: ambling, mild culture (35%), food and wine (65%). The ideal balance. We walked through the town with the intention of going to the Casa da Musica to see some film music, not realising that, much like the Barbican, there is not much going on around it and we were stuck in a City-esque dead zone. But a search later ('restaurants near Casa da Musica) and we ended up in Casa Agricola that seemed to be full of locals. We both went for the special, prawn panade, and by the end of it, think we were both happy to never ever see any prawn or garlic or bread or food ever again. I felt completely out prawned . Yet we found room for pudding - pillows of puff pastry filled with almond custard. And, in true couple holiday form, by the end of it, we had lost all appetite for bar hopping and decided to go home and lie down instead.
The next morning we were still full. But a long old walk down to the Serralves museum and its well put together garden, we wanted both lunch but also were happy to revisit prawns. We stumbled upon Casa Marlindo which we chose for its well designed logo. Inside, we got several small plates including prawns, squid, chickpea salad and tomato rice. That bread! And pink bubbles. Despite what I said about being prawned out, I could (and did) soak up that garlicky prawn juice with that bread until the cows come home. (Side note - the Serralves garden farm has an idyllic set of farm animals just hangin' out together, it's very cute.)
After that, we went for a fun cable car trip down to the port cellars. Missed the port tour, but had three delicious Taylor's ports. Can't tell you anything about their origins or what make them ports though. Some time, many drinks, a debate about vomiting and a red bull altered night's sleep later, it was Sunday. Everywhere on my offline map was closed and we  ended up in Nata, a Portuguese chain, where we had the perfectly structured hangover lunch: fresh juice, salty sardine and red pepper sandwich, custard tart and espresso. This lunch served as a reminder that there's no need to be listy because even the worst thing (missing flight) is fine and not planning means unexpected fun which has its own value. Equally, it could just mean that Porto is a great place to eat and drink and you can't go wrong. A vertiginous tower climb that tipped me back to 'ergh so hungover please kill me' meant that we wandered home to give me an opportunity to nap. We went via a charity shop where we both got great new coats.
A nap, a visit to the Cathedral and a walk along some stairs later, we went to the river front. This is where the tourist traps are - but still, the tourist trap we settled on had great service and I had the first salt cod of the trip here in little balls and they hit the spot like the right on emoji. Then came the low light of the trip of a horrible man getting all gross on our walk to find a bar. The bar we eventually found that I can't remember the name of but could probably navigate back to was very date and way too expensive to consider in London. Yet here we had two very refreshing Porto tonics for ten euros.
And then we ambled home to a very traditional Portuguese restaurant which was full of nandos chicken. And by that, I don't mean peri peri chicken - I mean little trinkets of the Nandos logo which, as it turns out, is just some sort of Portuguese emblem. We went full hog here - salt cod to start, veal, pudding. The pudding, a crème caramel and a panacotta were where this won. I think the restaurant was called O Escondidinho but I can't be sure. Anyway, it was a short roll away from home.
We were very keen to get a francescinha, Porto's specialty sandwich, before we left but we were more keen not to miss the flight. But, as a francescinha is a cheesy, meaty sandwich, we figured that not having the best example of a cheesy meaty sandwich was a fine compromise. So in the airport, we chowed down on a slightly bitter but still delicious gravy soaked cheese and many meat layered sandwich. And we didn't miss the flight!

Friday, 26 February 2016

Review - Chettinad, Bonnington Cafe

OK, it's happened. I'm finally funned out. The problem that having only social engagements and projects have is, as I was explaining to someone at Bonnington Cafe. Let's stop here and do my segue into talking about the food. It's a supper club style place with a different chef every night and everything is vegan or at the very least, vegetarian. I had the berber pate which was earthy and warm and had that quality of sushi (it tasted NOTHING like sushi) where the longer you keep it in your mouth, the more developed the flavours become. The creamy mushroom with mash (which sounds weird) actually came on a plate with different eastern european treats: sweet cabbage, dill, slight spice. The pear cake with mascarpone was REALLY good. Great texture, great flavour, what more do you want from a pudding?

Anyway, as I was saying at Bonnington Cafe, those things then take on the quality of being a job. I can sometimes be a little too defensive about whether you should or shouldn't do something you really, really love and would do anyway because why would you ruin something you really love and will always do? But that's sort of like saying NEVER BE WITH ANYONE YOU LIKE BECAUSE IT WILL (almost) ALWAYS END. Anyway, thoughts on that aside, my point is I do kind of think it's fine not to fulfil your passion / dream / whatever as long as you're satisfied and at peace with not doing that and, as someone who bores easy and hates obligation, I am probably of the temperament not suited to following the dream. Yet what I didn't realise until recently is that actually, if you sign up to NRGAF with the consolation that you have lots going for you in other areas, those other areas get imbued with the same sense of pressure as work. Not the way. And it makes you do things like treat all fun things as necessary, unmovable obligations even when all you want to do is go and lie on your floor until you fall asleep and it is tomorrow, as I did two hours before going to Chettinad. Equally, it has its benefits, i.e. Chettinad evening was both delicious and well rounded.

The dosa! I was really, really craving some slow cooked Indian subcontinent lamb (really should make a visit home soon) with paratha and this dosa, at a very reasonable £12 completely hit that craving. The dosa was firm enough to hold it's shape and be adequate as a vessel for the curry but also soft enough to soak up the delicious sauce. The lamb was, as I always describe all asian food, moreish and wholesome and reminded me of home. The potato had that slight fenugreek thing going on that I love. I'm very pleased to add Chettinad to the roster of places in central London that aren't too expensive and delicious.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

More snacks - Blues Kitchen, Slaughtered Lamb, Lucky Chip, Montpelier

My general rules on eating meat have proved ineffective for limiting any damage to the environment / society in the past couple of weeks because so many of them make concessions to the fact that when told not to do something, I really really want to do it. So the way I structure my 'eat less meat' is to limit myself to vegetables only for meals that I cook for myself. Not to say that I don't cook vegetarian for more than one person, but I don't like the limitation. Ditto ordering in restaurants. However, in the past two weeks, I've been ravenously hungry and not home very much. As in, The Returned style mad red eyes sending terse emails to colleagues hungry (it almost got me in trouble yesterday) and I've convinced myself that it's not the time to deny my appetite lest I kill someone to drink their blood by accident. So here is a non-exclusive list of filthy junk food that I've eaten of late that's been legitimised by the fact that the environs have been cutesy pubs with sofas rather than sparse, pseuo-clean chicken shops.

Blues Kitchen. I was really craving fried chicken so we went for a work lunch and I felt conflicted about my thoughts re: the outrageously flirtatious waitress' outfit and then had to consider why I cared what the waitress was wearing and isn't it patronising to think that only your own brand of 'I do what I want I am a feminist' is the right one. The chicken batter was well spiced, but the chicken within was a bit dry and unremarkable. Plus, absolute BS that they imported the walls from New Orleans.

Lucky Chip at The Old Queen's Head. The first time I went to Lucky Chip what sticks out to me was that that my pal ordered his girlfriend a new burger as hers got cold and I vividly thought 'wow that is so nice there is no way me and X would be this nice to each other ever'. So it felt fitting to return and share an (average) hot dog and chips and prosecco and remember how the passage of time makes everything alright in the end.

The Slaughtered Lamb. The scotch egg I had ranks up there with the best I've had - worth the fifteen minute walk from Barbican rather than resorting to the overpriced, shithole that is The Jugged Hare that charged me £25 for two drinks which I had to endure with two letchy, lunchdrunk city wankers unashamedly talking about me from about 12 inches away. Oh, special shout out for the sweet potato fries which tasted like you could eat them whether you were having a sweet or savoury craving and they would satisfy.

The Montpelier. Being mentally stimulated after two months is great but I still want to keep my balance and headspace. Also, why do I keep craving fish to the extent that I have bought a Greggs tuna sandwich and a fish cake this week? Particularly funny since 'too close to no boundaries' housemate and pal gets weird fish cravings so it is like I have taken on her cravings as well as things which it's more understandable to pick up e.g. language. The smoked mackerel pate on toast with pickled cucumber here satisfied my need for oil and iron and sour so well and I particularly enjoyed that the cucumber was pickled which removed that kind of cacky wateriness.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Review - Ekachai

Sometimes, the 'if you think it, then it will be so' trick I do has its perils. For example, when I went into notes to paste the scribbles of a blog into blog and had the thought 'hmm pressed cut by accident better paste it properly will be real pissed off if I accidentally erase the entry' and then, as pasting, accidentally cut the word 'going' from the scribbles I did within blogging app. FFS. But there's a good learning in this (learning is the corpobabble that has most successfully integrated itself into my lexicon) that I must accept that because everything is going well and I'm owning my life or whatever doesn't mean every single thing will go as planned and I should try to manage (actually maybe manage is the corpo-word I use the most but I quite like that one because it's useful) the unreasonable sense of frustration when I have a slightly less than 100% experience. Must remember to not translate high achiever expectations from career onto other things. The blog that I accidentally deleted was about being annoyed at hormonal contraception because it's impossible to assess how much of a mood is externally triggered and how much is 'authentic'. But also, it is a very modern day millennial action to constantly assess and analyse and it's not helpful and feeds into the unhelpful expectant attitude that we should all strive for everything to be 100% on point all the time. That just isn't the way any cookie crumbles. So, this is in stark contrast with where I was at last Friday when I went to Ekachai and I was gonna do a whole bit about hormones making me feel all fidgety and inspiring actions like going to eight different locations in search for chicken satay and ending up getting a cold, shit version from Co Op and also mini eggs to counteract the disappointment which I then proceeded to eat in around seven minutes but then it all going back to rights again on Friday and that seemingly being confirmed when I got DELICIOUS satay at Ekachai. But anyone who's read Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow knows that really, it was just things regressing to the mean! Sometimes you're ahead and sometimes you're behind, and when it's on such a micro level, there's really no point overthinkin' it. More on the satay!

Grilled and smokey skewers whose only failing was the shape as that made them difficult to get the spicy, peanut sauce slathered on it. This was followed by a rending which was saucier than the one that I make that hit the spot because I was discussing rending with housemates. This particular rending was less spicy than others I'd had but also fruitier tasting. And the beef was tender like it had been poached rather than that slightly stringy stewed quality. Very quick service and very no frills - a good casual dining option.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Recipe - Squash and Chickpea Stew, Mushrooms on Toast

The theme of this blog is BALANCE. I am currently balanced on the arm of a sofa in a very clean lounge but for the candle that we successfully melted all over the furniture - the only possible sign that anything other than homely domestic mindset exists in the room at present. I feel a rightness that I only feel when I've achieved balance like feng shui of the body or something. I can explain the feeling perfectly but only through referencing a memory that only I have which is obviously useless for everyone else but here we go. There's a Percy the Park Keeper book that I read in primary school where there's a big storm and then there's loads of wreckage and all the animals are sad and cry but then Percy goes and makes a fuckin treehouse and it folds out into a wonderful picture where all the different animals have a place for themselves and it looks really fun. This week has followed that narrative with the storm (illness and career woes and, if I'm being brutally honest about it, boredom) but then the building of the treehouse and frolicking. In this parallel, the treehouse bit is dancing and excess and three in a bed and non-ironic Greggs and a blustery walk and buying vegetables and assembling a vacuum cleaner and clean sheets and laundry and being cooked for. BALANCE. With balance comes cooking for yourself more consistently and slow cooker Sunday.

Mushrooms on toast - 'I can't let my new housemates keep seeing me eat fishcakes in bed'
Melt a tablespoon of butter and crush 3 garlic cloves into it over a medium heat, stirring to stop it catching. Add a large (man sized) handful of quartered mushrooms and fry for a couple of minutes. Scatter the fried stuff over two halves of baguette, add a liberal amount of parmesan, parsley and basil and bake until melty on top for five to ten minutes.

Squash and chickpea stew - 'I promise I can cook better than you've experienced but not when I'm hungover'
Fry two sliced onions, 4 chopped cloves of garlic and a thumb sized piece of ginger, grated, in vegetable oil for about 10 minutes until gently browned. Add a teaspoon of cumin, 2 teaspoons of coriander, a teaspoon of chilli powder, half a teaspoon of ras el hanout. Fry for a minute. Add half a small squash, chopped into bite sized cubes, and two large potatoes, chopped to a similar size, and coat in the spices. Add a tin of plum tomatoes, a tin of chickpeas, a tin of chicken or vegetable stock, a teaspoon of preserved lemon paste and a cinnamon stick. Cover and simmer for around 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer for a further ten minutes. Scatter with fresh coriander.