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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Sunday: to market and some study

Carters and Jasmine T are off at the Saatchi gallery today and I decided to opt out so I can finally get through the second chapter of the web design book I'm studying.
Before getting stuck in, I rode my bike with very flat tyres up to the farmer's market, got a few bits and pieces, then had to walk back because my bike wasn't too pleased about being put to use after being neglected for over a year and a half. This week's haul - some proper winter veg - kale, cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, pears, pak choy and some daffodils. And a little lunch treat for me...a spinach and cheese borek from the Popina stand...

...then for afternoon tea, one of Kim's delicious banana cupcakes..

If I make it through to chapter 3, I'm going to dive into the enormous pile of weekend papers waiting for me on the couch. Can't wait.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

8.03pm Solo dinner

This evening I'm dining solo on account of Carters being out doing that thing he does once a week. In the fridge there's the coleslaw from yesterday, but eating cold cabbage and carrot alone on a freezing cold night is just too damn depressing. So I find these Quorn mozzarella and pesto escalopes at my local shop. Hot, greasy, crunchy and gooey and oh so wrong. But only mycoproteins were harmed in the making of this escalope so it can't be all bad. Plus it tastes good and pairs perfectly with my day old slaw.

You Forgot it in People Broken Social Scene

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Bumbling around Belgium

Last year we took advantage of the Eurostar seat sale and booked ourselves some cheap tickets to Belgium. Then the snow came. After a few tweaks to our train schedule we finally made it to Brussels where it was a million times colder than London. After spending the morning trying to get out of the weather, we hopped on a train to Antwerp. For some reason, maybe because of the snow, the platform display wasn't working so well, and we ended up on a train traveling in the opposite direction. After about an hour we cottoned on, and quickly hopped off the train which by now was in nowheresville, and hightailed it back to Brussels...again. (Mental note: when you ask someone 'is this the train to Antwerp?' and they say 'yes', they might be on crack)

With Saturday a bit of a lost cause, I was hoping to get in on the sale action the following day, but unfortunately, like most European cites, everything is closed on Sunday.
A few vintage shops along Klosterstraat were open, so we spent some time ducking in and out of shops to get out of the snow. It was so cold it reminded us of Russia, minus the stone-faced locals. Then we stumbled across Ra, and if I wasn't frozen solid I would have jumped up and down with joy...

The clothing is gorgeous but the highlight was the cafe. There's a little loft section you could climb up a ladder to get to, and a cute friendly Italian greyhound trotting around. And most importantly...they do all-day breakfast on Sundays.
We shared an eggs florentine and a tofu miso soup - I'm aware this is a crazy combo but after a few days of frites, beer and waffles I was keen for something cleansing. The eggs were perfectly poached and came in a cute little fruit scone.

The next day we grabbed a beautiful (in both look and taste) hot chocolate at Bar Choq. Would have loved to have tried their coffee too because it looked like it was made with a lot of care and love. All the more reason to visit again...

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Tom yum yum yum

All this wintery weather has given me the most hideous cold I've had in years. I rarely get sick and that's probably why I hate it so much. I can't be bothered doing anything, my appetite disappears, I can't taste anything and all this makes me very grumpy indeed.
My spirits were lifted when my very excellent husband made me this delicious Tom Yum soup. The perfect antidote to whatever ails you - it has enough punch to penetrate snotty sinuses and I'm convinced it has super magic healing powers.

Tip: I usually keep a jar of tom yum paste (check the ingredients for absence of shrimp) in the fridge for a quick soup base, as getting all these ingredients can sometimes be a bit of a mission, especially if you're a bit under the weather.
You could also add tofu and/or noodles to make a meal of this soup and any veg will do, broccoli, baby corn, mangetout or capsicum would all be great additions.

Tom Yum Goong
Makes about 4 entree-sized portions or 2 big bowls

What you need
1.5 litres of marigold vegetable bouillon or any other good veg stock. Mix it up strong enough so it tastes good on its own
1-2 stalks lemongrass, tough outer layers removed and sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 whole kaffir lime leaves (available fresh or frozen at Chinese food stores, or dried in supermarkets. Use double if they're dried)
1-2 red chilies, sliced. Add less or more according to preference
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, sliced into thin matchstick pieces
3 portabello mushrooms, chopped into bite-sized pieces (enoki or shitake would be good too)
2 bunches baby bok choy cut into 3cm pieces (or broccoli, spinach or chard would work too)
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
a mini can of good-quality coconut milk
1 teaspoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
juice of a lime
a big handful of basil (roughly chopped)
a big handful of coriander (roughly chopped)

The do
Pour stock into a soup pot. Add the lemongrass, lime leaves, chili, garlic, and ginger. Bring to boil and continue boiling for 5-10 minutes.
Add the mushrooms. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5-8 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft.
Add cherry tomatoes. Gently simmer 1-2 more minutes.
Reduce heat to low and add the coconut milk, sugar, soy sauce, and lime juice. Finally, add the bok choy and gently stir. Keep on the heat until the bok choy is cooked, and then it's ready to go.

Do a taste test, and give it a tweak - add more chili if it needs more kick. If it's not salty enough, add more soy sauce or salt, add a little sugar if it's too sour and if it's too salty or sweet, add another squeeze of lime juice.

Serve in bowls with fresh basil and coriander heaped on top.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Simply the zest: Part 2

It's been about a week and a half - the snow has melted and been replaced with grey skies and drizzle, and my jar of Ottolenghi lemons haven't gone mouldy like I thought they would.
The next step is to firmly squish the lemons down into the jar getting as much juice out of them as you can.

Then add a few sprigs of rosemary, a big red chili (I split mine down the middle because I thought it would look pretty) and the juice of six lemons and then top it off with a thin layer of olive oil to stop mould growing on top. Now I have to leave them to mellow in the yellow for another four weeks...

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Simply the zest: Part 1

Tonight I spent a snowy evening indoors watching 30 Rock. After plowing through most of season one, I was feeling a bit Liz Lemon-ed I decided to take the lemon theme into the kitchen and try out Ottelenghi's preserved lemon recipe.

I've the done the first part: cut a cross into 6 unwaxed lemons lengthways (stopping short 2 cm from the bottom so the lemon is still intact). Stuff each lemon with 1 tablespoon of sea salt then seal them in a sterilised jar.
Now I have to let them mellow for a week. Watch this space...

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Who wants yesterday's dinner?

Tonight Jasmine T has dashed our hopes of making a delicious mushroom, purple sprouting broccoli and lentil pie, and instead I'm leaning over the kitchen sink at 9.30 eating a concoction of leftovers that I've found in the fridge. Bedtimes are becoming a bit of a drama these days as she has just figured out how to stand in her cot, and thinks it's hilarious, until she realises that she is so tired that she has forgotten how to lie down again. Cue screaming. Carters or I come to the rescue and lay her back down. Repeat 100 times.

So back to dinner. They say necessity is the mother of invention and I'm quietly very pleased with my humble leftover combination. I took the potato and pea mixture left over from when I made curry puffs for our little new year's eve gathering, spooned some into a crisp iceberg lettuce leaf and topped it with a dollop of natural yoghurt and a few mint and coriander leaves. An Indian take on the Chinese sang choi bao. I'm going to razz up the curry mixture and post a proper recipe soon.

9.12am Crumpet with lots of butter and honey


It's been a long time since I've eaten a crumpet and I don't know why because they are soooooo damn good. Oozy sweet honey and butter dripping out of a warm spongy crumpet with a strong cup of tea. The perfect food for a frosty morning.

Friday, 1 January 2010

First breakfast of the year

After a quick 10 minute clean up of yesterday's soiree, I got down to the business of cooking our new year's day breakfast. Our first meal of the year; scrambled eggs, rosemary mushrooms and semi-homemade baked beans.

Cheat's homemade baked beans with scrambled eggs and mushrooms
(makes about 4 serves)
I buy the Whole Earth baked beans because I like their cinnamony smokiness, but the problem with this is they tend to take centre stage, and today I want them to to be a bit more of a supporting act so I'm going to simplify the flavours by mixing them with some other beans for some textural variety and adding some tomatoes.

What you need
1 can butter beans (drained)
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can drained baked beans (I used the Whole Earth ones)
1 small sprig of rosemary (stick removed, chopped)
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

The do
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan, throw in the bay leaf, rosemary, tomatoes straight from the can and the drained butter beans. Let it all bubble away for about the time it takes to fry up your mushrooms with some garlic, butter and rosemary, wash a few champagne glasses and take the recycling downstairs. Add the drained baked beans (don't stress too much about draining off all the sauce). Season with salt and pepper and simmer until the eggs and toast are ready.

We enjoyed our first breakfast of the year in our pyjamas, listening to the food show on radio 4 and discussing our new year's resolutions, one of mine being to blog more.