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.