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.