Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Menemen at the Z Cafe, Kingsland Road

...Is the best brunch I've ever eaten. No that's a lie, Eggs Benedicte and a Bloody Mary somewhere in New York is probably my favourite ever, but this comes a close second
It's a combination of eggs, tomatoes, sausage, feta and peppers. The description said there was spinach in there, but the taste was definitely that of sorrel, which I adore. Sitting outside and people watching with LT was really fun too. I may have said that it was the best thing he's ever shown me. Don't think he took that as a compliment

Saturday, 21 July 2012

A stir-fry to alleviate the dreaded dampness (acc. to Chinese Medicine)

According to Chinese Medicine living in a place like the UK, as well as eating processed foods and sugar will increase our chances of catching damp-related disorders. Now, I'm certainly not an expert in Chinese Medicine, but I am interested in various life-and-food philosophies. I've heard many people argue that Eastern medicine simply isn't "scientific", but the science argument proves absolutely nothing if you take into account the constant changes in science. After all, what people thought was healthy 100 years ago in the West has changed, so why would we assume that what the way that Western science views the world right now is the ultimate truth?
I love to experiment and experience life from different perspectives, so Chinese Medicine really interests me (though in no way do I condone or agree with any practices that involve animal cruelty - that is not a price we should be willing to pay anywhere in the world). Chinese Medicine was developed by watching the natural world, and works on the principle that everything on our planet, no matter how big or small, operates under the same set of rules. That seems pretty sensible to me. However, it was difficult to find two sources that agree on absolutely everything when it comes to the dreaded damp. What they do all agree on is that cold, raw foods should be limited, processed foods and deep fried foods avoided, and that brown rice, beans and warming spices such as cinnamon be eaten more. So I stir-fried some broccoli and garlic in a small amount of sesame oil, and chucked in some brown rice left over from last night's dinner. I added soya sauce and cinnamon, and carried on stir-frying on a high heat for about 7min - left over rice needs to be heated thoroughly before eating (and only once). Finally, I drained and added a tin of black-eyed beans. Heat this through, squeeze in some fresh lemon and serve with roasted sesame seeds on top. It was delicious, but I made a conscious effort to eat it slowly (rather than shoveling it in as normal) and stop when I was nearly full, according to the principles of Chinese Medicine

Friday, 20 July 2012

Pizza for 16 in the French Alps

I'm starting to think that no matter how good you feel, how sorted you are in life, if you have the predisposition to loose control, then sooner or later, it will happen. Perhaps with time, as you get to know yourself better, mellow with age, and if you really want to, you can temper it. I live in hope...
I had such a fantastic weekend in the Alps, but I completely overdid the partying on the last night and, consequently, the journey back was a nightmare, with me having to stop the car every twenty minutes on the way to the airport. I hate to admit that the same thing happened on my weekend in Basque Country. Then, of course, there's the self-flagellation. It's a vicious cycle that I am determined to break free of. Recently, I read an interesting article on meditation, which has made me see things from another perspective. I have always meditated in a way where I try to clear all thoughts from my head, but there is  also another way. By bringing up sensitive feelings (such as anger or anxiety), internalizing them and really focussing on them, we can start to understand the true nature of the mind and the emotion itself. It doesn't sound like much fun, I know, but it seems that when you understand something you can, paradoxically, let it go... so perhaps I shouldn't even be looking at my life in terms of staying in control or losing it... perhaps it's about accepting, and thereby feeling calmer and more content
So with 16 people to feed in our Alpine chalet, we decided to make pizzas. I knew this was the plan, so I'd been practicing at home. I like the feeling of the dough and I liked it even more with a massive dough ball. The bigger the better. No double entendres intended there. Although, on second thoughts... I am going out with a guy who's 6ft 6, so maybe... Anyway, here's a recipe that will feed 15-16 people. Originally we planned that everyone was going to do their own toppings. This turned out to be wholly unpractical. The girls basically made the pizzas and the next day, the boys looked after the hog roast


2 kg flour
Aprox 1200ml lukewarm water (boiled)
2 Tblsp fine sea salt
8 Tblsp olive oil
2 Tblsp sugar
4 x 7g dried yeast
Tomato passata
Salt and pepper


Black olives
Marinated artichokes
Parma ham

Mix the water with the sugar, yeast and olive oil. Sieve the flour onto a table with the salt and make a little well in the middle. Slowly pour the water mixture into it, covering it with flour as you go. Ideally, you would have one person pouring and another mixing and starting to kneed, as I had with the help of lovely Larissa. Work it all in and kneed until the dough is soft and springy. Now put  the dough ball in a bowl, cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour. We put an oven on for 10min, then turned it off and left the bowl in there. Finally, kneed it all out a little more and split into smaller balls to roll out. You can use a full wine bottle if you have no rolling pin. Roll it out really thin and place onto an oiled baking tray, before topping with passata, basil, mozzarella, salt and pepper and whatever other toppings you fancy. Each pizza needs about 10min of baking time, but if there is more than one in the oven then the baking time increases, so just keep checking until it looks done

Friday, 13 July 2012

Boho Mexicana, Spitalfields

While we're on the subject of going out, here's a great little place in east London. I came here with a few international girlfriends last week to eat dinner, drink Blueberry Mojitos and discuss life. It made me think about how much I love interesting women. By interesting I don't mean mysterious, hyperactive, weird or aloof - I sometimes think that these qualities disguise the fact that someone isn't particularly interesting. I mean people with a strong sense of themselves, who grow and develop like characters in a good book. Women who can be both kind and supportive, yet at the same time challenge my way of seeing the world. They're priceless and always I try to keep people like that in my world, because with them you will never be lost for long
Boho Mexicana was a lot of fun. The Blueberry Mojitos were criminally more-ish. I would not, however, recommend what I had to eat - the tamal de frijol bean thing. Unlike my company, it was lacking in something... Magda had a delicious, spicy baby squid dish (up there) that she shared with me - she'd made the best choice. The leche cake our charming Venezuelan waiter suggested did not disappoint. Price-wise I would put it in the medium bracket - aprox £35-45 with cocktails. The atmosphere is fun and fabulous, ideal for a girlie get-together, though probably not terribly romantic, what with the flirtatious south-American waiters and all

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Evans & Peel Detective Agency/ Cocktail Bar

It's been a sociable time for little old me recently, and I've discovered some cool new spots, which I would like to share with you (of course). Last night a few of us went to Evans & Peel. A small, old-fashioned door off the Earl's Court Road leads to a staircase and down to a proper old-school detective agency. Have your cover story ready!
Once you get past the guy on reception, you go through to a wonderful, 20s-style bar. As you can see from the quality of my photos, it's very atmospheric. You'll need to order a little bit of food, as that's something to do with their license. We ate a warm pretzel and a smoked cheesecake, washed down with exciting new twists on classic cocktails. It was quite expensive at £9.5 per drink, but no less than what you'd expect from this kind of classy joint

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Middle Eastern-style lentils

Sometimes life gets a little hectic. There are so many things to do, projects to finish, people to see... It's a time when priorities are changing but I haven't quite decided how yet. All you can do is follow your instincts at this point. And be easy on yourself. I have a tendency, like my mother, to beat myself up over things left undone, treating life like one massive to-do list. This is something I am trying to move away from, because I know it leaves you feeling permanently dissatisfied, and actually the bits of life that really matter, the ones that you'll remember when you're old, are the ones in between the to-do lists. So this is my excuse for not blogging much recently. This weekend my good friend from Poland, Magda, is here, taking a breather from her massive to-do list. It's necessary to get away sometimes, to view your life from the outside and reassess what's really important to you. I will be doing this in a couple of weeks myself when I go to Sardinia with my boy LT. I can't wait. But right now, I am trying to look after myself and preserve my (seriously flagging) energy. This lentil dish from my favourite cookery book is the sort of simple, peasant food that gives you the nutrition and energy to keep going when you really can't be bothered anymore

375g lentils 
1 onion
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and black pepper
1 tsp cumin
Juice of 1 lemon
As usual, I made amendments. The recipe called for brown lentils, I used green. I used more butter and lemon juice than was called for. Once the dish was ready, I also cracked some eggs in there and allowed them to poach nestled between the lentils, a method which I borrowed from a Portugese recipe. You fry the onion and garlic in half the butter until soft. Add the lentils and fry for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly, before adding cold water and bringing to the boil. Remove the scum from the top, season and  add the cumin. Cover and cook on a low heat for about half an hour. Add the lemon juice at the end. I served this with bulghur wheat and the eggs for lunch. Eating this kind of food makes me feel connected to humanity in a way - people the world over have been eating like this for thousands of years. Tomorrow, we're planning a Polish-style dinner with these lentils, reheated, with pork and leek sausages and garlicky mash

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Brillat Savarin Triple Creme Cheese

I bought a whole Brillat Savarin Tripe Creme from The Deli Downstairs a couple of weeks ago, but stupidly, I didn't write down what it was called. It's just the most delicious cheese and we ate the whole thing in an afternoon, so perhaps I subconsciously wanted an excuse to go back and buy more. The lady at the counter said that people would be fighting over it. Luckily my friends are too nice to fight over cheese, but they definitely enjoyed it
This time I bought a quarter of it for the two of us, as you can see up there next to the strawberries. The cheese next to it was amazing too - it tasted just like a farm though, so may not be for everyone. And again, I failed to write down what it was called, so I will need to go back again next week to check and report back