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.