Monday 27 December 2010

The simplest green tea cupcakes

Oh why is baking so messy? I feel like my whole life is covered in a layer of icing sugar and green tea powder. I'm not averse to getting a little down and dirty when cooking, but I really don't like cleaning up. But these little sweet, healthy little balls of goodness are worth the effort. I scoured the internet for the simplest recipe for green tea cake I could find, then simplified it some more, and this is what I came up with...

I know, I know, they're not those perfect cupcakes you see on market stalls - I still don't have the proper baking tray or those hard cups that make them bake without bending. But they taste good and that is the main thing, right?

Green tea cupcakes

4 Eggs
7 tblsp caster sugar
60 g self raising flour
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tblsp green tea powder

Whisk the sugar and eggs together, then add dry ingredients and keep whisking until you get a smooth paste. Bake for 20-25min at 180 degrees C


400g cream cheese
8 tblsp icing sugar
2 tblsp green tea powder

Blend the above ingredients in a blender and spread over the cakes once cool. By the way, I got the green tea powder from the Japan Centre, in Piccadilly Circus. I believe that you can order it online too

God, I love Japanese packaging. So, it's nearly January. In Poland (as in many other Catholic countries) that means Carnival time. In the UK, it usually means a pretty dreary month. But this year I'm actually quite looking forward to it, because I plan to switch off from everything and everyone, and just completely focus on yours truly! That may sound hugely selfish, but if there's one thing I have learnt from therapy, it's that being a little bit selfish can be a positive thing. Obviously, if you happen to be a narcissist, then that's really bad advice, but on the whole, I believe the world would be a happier place if people focussed inwards on themselves a little bit more, rather than trying to fix others or have all their needs met by them. That can only lead to disappointment. So here's to a lovely, selfish New Year!

Saturday 25 December 2010

A very Polish Xmas and "Ryba po grecku"

So, as you might know already, in Poland, Christmas Eve is the big deal, when you are supposed to have 12-13 dishes (for the apostles), all consisting of fish and vegetables. You are, in theory at least, fasting

"Ryba po grecku" is always my favourite dish out of the lot. It's literally translated as "Greek-style fish", although this doesn't actually make any sense, because it has nothing to do with Greek food, and everything to do with a Polish Christmas. I think there's always been a tradition of naming food in this non-sensical way in Poland.  There's "Jewish-style herrings", "Outlaw-style herrings" (why outlaws would have their own specific herring style god only knows), "Gypsy-style herrings" to name but a well as "Ukranian borsht" and "Italian salad", which, confusingly, is known as "Russian salad" everywhere else in the world

"Ryba po grecku" recipe 

White fish, filleted
Carrots, grated
Celeriac, grated
Parsnips, grated
Onion, finely chopped
Tomato puree
Lemon juice
Mustard (sarepska or dijon)
Salt and pepper
Little bit of flour

Sorry I can't give you the quantities, but they always vary slightly, and you need to use you sense of taste and instincts with this dish. The important thing is that you make enough sauce to cover the fish. It's not a problem if you have loads of sauce, that's kind of what you want. Start of by frying the vegetables for about half an hour, covered, on a small heat. Meanwhile, cut the fish into smaller parts, cover in flour, and fry until it is browned. Then, you need to add flavour to the sauce until you are happy with it. So add the puree, some mustard, a bit of lemon juice, paprika, sugar and salt and pepper, and keep tasting until you are satisfied. We used both black and white peppers... Finally, transfer the fish to a serving dish and cover in the sauce. It's served cold, so allow it to cool and stick in the fridge until serving time. I think that it would make a great starter. Merry Xmas!

Wednesday 22 December 2010

My birthday cake

My mum made me the loveliest birthday cake for my birthday, which I'd like to share with you

She then proceeded to loose me in a shopping centre, which took me back to being 5 again, some things never change...

Sunday 19 December 2010

Sweet & Spicy, Brick Lane

Just a quickie today, before I head off to the airport and hope to take off for Poland. There's always a massive drama about getting there, with everyone literally praying for my safe arrival, and hoping that my luck hasn't run out on me just yet - somehow, every year, despite loads of flights being cancelled and airports closed, magically, on my day of travel, they reopen and my flight is the one which hasn't been affected

My mate from Hong Kong, Matt, has been here for the past few days. It's been amazing having him, as he's such a grounding influence, I wish he was around more. This is where we went for my birthday curry the other day. It's my favourite curry house on Brick Lane, because it's not like all the others - it's more of a canteen than a restaurant, filled with old men, and there's no people standing outside trying to drag you in

There's one thing that you absolutely have to order if you come here - it's the thing with the egg in it up there, and it's called Aloo Keema. It's the best curry type thing I have ever eaten! The veggie samosas are pretty tasty too...

I kind of feel like there's something really special about the food here because when I came here for my friend Tishy's birthday a while back, when I was coming down with a horrible cold, and when I woke up the next morning my cold had disappeared! To be fair, this has only happened once and when I trekked here and got a take away last time I was ill, apart from being very tasty, it did nothing. But still, it was very impressive the first time, so I wouldn't rule out it having some kind of special healing powers... just make sure you bring your own booze. We washed everything down with a bottle of posh prosecco, drunk from their plastic cups - love it! After my birthday curry we decided to go "for just one free drink" to the Vibe bar down the road. Unbelievably, DJ Vadim, whose Xmas mix I have been listening to for the past month, was playing! This is why I believe that my legendary good luck is still in good speed and I will fly today. Perhaps it's a weird thing to base my hope on, but that's just how I roll, Poland here I come!

Sunday 12 December 2010

The Penbury Tavern, Hackney

The Penbury Tavern has been the one constant in my life since I moved to Hackney. Ok, so if any of my friends are reading, I am being a little dramatic, and of course, they are always my constant. But it terms of pubs, it is The Penbury every time. Apart from being ridiculously close to my flat, they have great food and "well kept" (so I'm told) ales. They also have regular beer festivals - I went to one a couple of weeks ago, and they really make you feel like getting pissed is a learning and almost noble experience. The atmosphere here is reminiscent of a student union. In a nice way

I have never had a bad meal in here - they have fantastic Sunday roasts, pizzas like you rarely find outside of Italy, and this amazing Italian sausage with polenta. The latter is my usual choice, but after being jealous of my dad's succulent roast beef last time, for the first time ever, the whole Zak family ordered the same meal today. If you don't know the mealtime habits of the Zaks - this is highly unusual. In fact, I can't remember when it last happened. My parents have this "thing" where they feel everyone needs to order a different meal, so we can all try as many different dishes on the menu as possible. It's great in theory, but very annoying when, inevitably, you end up with the crap one

The Penbury chef is a friendly Italian bloke, who always recognises us and makes us feel at home. It's a lovely thing, although can make you feel slightly embarassed when you have the sort of family moments we have... hopefully, being Italian, he'll understand that people can get emotional at times. Strangely enough, in the course of this blog, my old uni mate, Rob, texted to see if I fancy a drink at The Penbury. I don't think I've ever been twice in one day before - now it really feels like it's back to the student union!

Saturday 4 December 2010

Spanish almond cakes aka the tastiest cakes in the world (and no butter!)

There's these little cakes, individually wrapped, that I can only ever find in Spain. And only randomly, in some parts of Spain, but not in others. They are my favourite cakes in the world, and it pains me that I only ever get to enjoy them once every couple of years or so... so you can imagine my astonishment, when the lovely Alice bought some homemade ones into work on her birthday!  I ate five of the little blighters immediately. I finally got round to making them for myself this weekend, and it's the easiest thing in the world - you simply mix all the ingredients with your hands, form little balls and bake in a medium oven for approximately 20-25min

They're not everyone's cup of tea, of course, and some people may find them "a bit dry" - I would describe them as "powdery" myself - but I have to concede that they are best when washed down with a warm drink (mulled wine worked perfectly well). A word of warning - if you do like them, you may not be able to stop. My friend, Simone, came round for lunch today, had one, and asked if she could take some home - result. The same happened with Mariana, which is a massive compliment because she is Spanish, and took some home for another Spanish girl!

Ingredients (makes about 20)

200g plain flour
200g ground almonds
200g icing sugar
100g sunflower/almond/walnut oil
100g light olive oil
1tsp baking powder
1tsp cream of tartar
2tsp cinamon
2tsp vanilla essence

Sunday 28 November 2010

One last pumpkin dance: the polish, pumpkin breakfast soup

So winter is well and truly here

And yet I still have one more pumkin recipe for you. It's the ultimate pumpkin recipe really, as it is the one I grew up with. As I am at my parents' house in Eastbourne, and there has been a pumpkin sitting in the kitchen since the last time I was here (in September!) which my mum didn't know what to do with, I thought I'd take advantage and remind her about a childhood dish that she used to always make for me at this time of year when we were still living in Poland, and for a time after we moved too. She wasn't sure if she remembered how to make it anymore, but it turned out that her hands had a memory of their own thankfully, so the Polish pumkin soup will live on after all. This is a pumpkin soup with a difference though, because it's sweet and eaten for breakfast


1 small pumpkin
150-200g flour
1 egg
700ml milk
1tsp salt
1tblsp sugar

Sorry about the photo up there, my mum decided to make the "zacierki" when I was asleep and take the photo herself, and unfortunately it turned out fuzzy. Let me start off by explaining the concept of "zacierki" - they are a cross between little pasta shapes and dumplings, and you can use them in a variety of dishes. They are an integral part of the Polish pumpkin soup. You make them by combining the flour and egg with a little water and forming a dough ball. The dough ball is ready when it stops being sticky and falls away from your hand - just add more flour if it's too sticky. At this point, you have a choice about whether to make the "zacierki" yourself by ripping little bits of the dough ball to form little maggotty shapes - sorry for the comparison, that really is the only way I can think of to exactly describe the size and shape of the thing. Or, if you have time, then you can do what my mum did and put the dough ball in the freezer. Then, once it is hard and you are ready to cook, you take it out and grate it, as shown on the photo. For the actual soup, you cook the pumpkin chunks in a little water until soft, which can take up to 20min. In a separate pan, you cook the "zacierki" in the milk, which takes about 5min. Then, you combine the two, adding sugar and salt to taste

It's a really lovely, comforting soup, but then when you have grown up with something, I guess it always is comforting. It may actually taste unusual to a different palate, especially a British one, but anyhow, if you're adventurous, then it's worth giving it a go, because it is something a bit different... I am starting a course of antibiotics today - whopee! It may be a strange thing to get excited about, but I haven't slept properly for a week, and I want my life back. There's some horrible bugs going around out there, so keep warm and look after yourself!

Monday 22 November 2010

Three things to do with brussels sprouts

You know you're ill when you nearly cry in the supermarket because you are faced with what seems like a ridiculously large choice of honeys, and all you want is just one of them, but you have no idea which one that is. OK, so decision-making has never been a strong point of mine. Anyway, I'm surprised that I got ill in the first place (it's really not fair), as I have been looking after myself - drinking my white tea (not the milky stuff), not partying too hard, and eating loads of healthy stuff, such as brussels sprouts. Which is what today's blog is about. I am trying to reinvent the humble brussels sprout. And I think I've done a pretty good job, even if I say so myself. My favourite was the salad, but we'll get to that in a bit. First, there was the risotto... I made this for some friends and it feeds four


500g arborio rice
20 brussels sprouts
1 red onion
90g smoked lardons
200ml cider
1tsp dried thyme
80g parmesan shavings
Juice of half a lemon
Vegetable stock
Olive oil 
Salt and pepper

It's dead simple to make - just fry the onion and lardons for a couple of minutes first, then add the brussels sprouts and thyme and carry on frying for another 7-8 minutes. Add the rice, stir it in, followed by the cider. Keep stirring (in one direction if possible but no need to be too religious about this, sometimes it's just too hard). Once the cider has evaporated, start adding the stock, bit by bit, as usual with risotto, until it's cooked and the rice is soft but not mushy. Somewhere in the middle, season with salt and pepper. Finish off by stirring in the parmesan shavings, squeezing in the lemon and adding more black pepper

That salad up there was amazing, it reminded me of the sort of warm salads in you get in Parisian brasseries, that are a complete meal in themselves. I used some prepared, crunchy salad leaves, and made a dressing out of olive oil, lemon juice, mayo and salt and pepper. I fried the brussels and lardons for about 10 minutes until they were nice and brown and slightly crispy, chopped some lovely tomatoes into the salad and cooked an egg for 3 minutes, so that it was soft boiled. Finished it off with more black pepper, et voila!

And finally the good ol' English classic - bubble and squeak, served with baked beans and a fried egg on top. I made that for my Polish cousin today, who lives in Greece and hasn't have the chance to sample such delights before. She actually loved it. Well, who wouldn't... so I fried a red onion and the brussels until crispy and made the mash with maris piper potatoes, butter, a little bit of milk, and sea salt. I also used a spring of rosemary from my garden and a little bit of turmeric to add some more flavour to the veg. For anyone reading that does not live in the UK, you combine the veg with the mashed potatoes. Traditionally, bubble and squeak is made with cabbage - but really you can use anything you want that you have leftover - and is the perfect comfort food

Monday 15 November 2010

Ministry of Food exhibition at the Imperial War Museum

Last weekend was pretty perfect

Amongst other things, on Saturday I went to the Ministry of Food exhibition which has inspired me to grow my own vegetables. I have toyed with the idea before, but now it's going to happen. I even raked my whole garden yesterday in preparation for the sowing, despite the rain, a killer hangover, and the fact that it me an hour to find my shoe!

I am not the most green-fingered person (that could be the understatement of the year right there), but I am hoping that when it comes to growing things that I can eat, things will be different. I'm trying to be optimistic about it anyway

I wasn't sure what I could actually grow at this time of the year, but this poster has kindly answered that question...

It was great to see how vital food was to the war effort, as that's a part of history that's often forgotten about. Unsurprisingly, this period also had a very positive impact on the nation's health too. Although, being crazy about sweet wrappers, I also loved the part when rationing came to the end, and sweet shops ruled

Pretty wrappers...

Sunday 14 November 2010

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's lamb with pearl barley

I found this recipe in the Guardian weekend supplement that someone had left on the train and liked the simplicity of it, as well as the photo, which made it look very tasty and just like the sort of thing I like to eat at this time of the year. I also liked the idea of using pearl barley, because I hardly ever cook with it, and did you know that it only costs 37p for a big (500g) bag?! I tried to follow the recipe as best I could, but of course I had to make some additions and substitutions. Hugh's recipe does not use beer, or paprika, for example. As I did not have neck of lamb with the bone in it, I used a lamb stock cube. And I decided to just add the pearl barley to the stew, rather than cooking it separately. I also didn't use anywhere near as much butter as Hugh suggests for frying the onions

So I fried the onions in the butter for about 20 minutes, then tipped them into a bowl and reserved. In the same pan as I had just used to fry the onions I browned the seasoned lamb chunks in olive oil, for about 5 minutes, before covering with cold water (there was about an inch of water covering the meat), adding the bay leaves and bringing to the boil. Once it was boiling I turned the heat down and allowed it to simmer slowly. At this point, I added the stock cube, a pinch of paprika and the cinamon. It cooked for about an hour. Finally, I added the pearl barley and cooked for a further half an hour. When the barley was soaking up all the liquid, I started adding the beer, bit by bit. I refried the onions near the end, until crispy, and then added these to the stew. I ate this for dinner the night I made it, and the next day my brother came round and I warmed this up, adding a bit more beer while it was heating, to keep it all moist and stewey, and we ate it washed down with more beer. As it's a dish of Turkish origin, next time I may have it with the Turkish drinking yoghurt that I buy from my local shop - yum! Anyway, thanks to Hugh I have another simple and delicious dish to add to my repertoire, I highly recommend


2tbsp olive oil
50g butter
2 onions
700g cubed lamb 
Lamb stock cube
2 bay leaves
200g pearl barley
1tsp cinamon
Salt and pepper
Half a pint of beer
Pinch of paprika

Monday 8 November 2010

Roast pumpkin quinoa

Perhaps I am a little obsessed with pumpkins right now

But the season only comes round once a year, right? That's not a rhetorical question - I have no idea if what I'm saying is actually true, but i assume that's the case, because it seems to be the only time of year that I eat them. I made this recipe up on my neverending journey home from work today. I don't want to moan, but I don't know what's happened with the transport system recently, it's a bit depressing, especially in gale force winds like we had today in this "green and pleasant land". I shouldn't be sarcastic though, as I do love England. It is very green. And mostly pleasant, if a little unpredictable. So, as usual, I missed my dance/yoga class, and decided to come home and cook something delicious, and healthy, to cheer myself up - I wanted to I'd try and do something a bit different with the quinoa I had in my cupboard

Ingredients (serves 4)

250g Quinoa
1 small pumpkin
Tin of chickpeas
Handful mint
60 g cashew nuts
Handful black olives
2 garlic cloves
1 large chilli
Handful sundried tomatoes
Half a lemon
Walnut oil
Salt and pepper to taste

So I scooped the seeds out of the pumpkin and roasted it on a very high heat (about 220 degrees C) for about half an hour. I cooked the quinoa according to packed instructions (more or less), which took 20min. In that time, I prepared the "pesto", which I guess isn't really pesto at all, since it has no basil or pine nuts in it... I dry roasted the cashew nuts, chopped the mint, garlic and chilli, then blended it all together with lemon juice, walnut oil and some salt and pepper in my precious pestle and mortar.A blender would work just as well I'm sure, I just love my thai pestle and mortar so much that I would rather do it the slow way. It's kinda therapeutic

Of course I made a massive quinoa mess along the way...

Once the quinoa was ready, I added the "pesto", the chopped sundried tomatoes, olives and chickpeas, and let it all steam, with the heat turned off. I peeled the pumpkin, chopped it up and added that in too. You may want to peel it beforehand, especially if you have sensitive hands. My hands seem to be made from asbestos, and I find it much easier to peel once it's soft, so I do it this way. Finally, crumble the goat's cheese in. Stir everything while heating gently for a couple of minutes, before adding more black pepper, perhaps another squeeze of lemon, and serving

I thought that all the ingredients really worked together, yet I hope you feel free to mess around with the quantities and substitute stuff if you want to. Since this recipe was literally born a few hours ago, on the bus, I can hardly be too precious about it. But you should definitely give it a go - I'm sure you know already how  ridiculously good quinoa is for you. I feel that I need to go on a bit of a health kick right now (especially after the Saturday night I had), so this is the perfect start. I also put the seeds on a separate tray and stuck them in the cooling oven once I'd taken the pumpkin out. Tomorrow, I'll add sea salt and have them as a beer snack

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Mexican bbq for Halloween

For Halloween, a small group of us left London for the village of Syston (though I called it Cistern for most of the time I was there) in the East Midlands...this is where our mate, Ed, is living before he makes the permanent move to Australia, like so many people seem to be at the moment

Ed is one of those spectacular transformations - he's gone from vegging on the couch throughout most of his twenties, to married "uncle Ed" who made us pancakes for breakfast, and prepared a Mexican bbq for dinner. It was delicious, so I thought I'd share his secrets with you

He marinated the meat for 24 hours. This is the marinade as per 1kg of meat:

4 limes
half a bunch of coriander
4 tsp olive oil
2 tsp white wine vinegar
splash of balsamic
1 tsp cayenne pepper
tiny bit of salt

The chicken was pre-cooked in the microwave for 15min, then we barbequed it on 5min each side. The beef was not pre-cooked (obviously) and after the same amount of time it was perfect, medium rare

This is the black bean salsa we made. You want to let this stand for a few hours before eating...


390g black beans
Same amount of sweetcorn (approximately)
Same amount of tomatoes
2 bunches spring onions
2 tbsp coriander
Juice of 1 lime
2 chopped chillies (or add according to taste)
salt and pepper

We also made a simple guacamole with avocados, lime juice and chopped tomatoes

We ate the whole thing with sour cream, wrapped up in tortillas, and washed down with Mexican beer, preceded by margaritas, and followed by tequila shots (of course). The weekend was fantastic - we went for walks, played massive jenga and watched films. Toy Story 3 was the most traumatic experience of the whole trip. I can't believe that's actually a kids' film - I was in pieces

Sunday 24 October 2010

Pumpkin soup

It's that time of the year again...

The nights are closing in and there's a nip in the air, who wouldn't want some pumpkin soup? This is one I made last week for myself and my uncle Kazik who is staying with me right now, doing my floors and finishing off all the stuff that the builders have given up on. Soup is always better, in my experience, when you take your time with it. Therefore, I cooked it one night, left it to cool, then blended it the next morning, adding the cream. We then warmed it up and ate it for dinner for two nights running, the second night with penne pasta, which worked really well, and made it into a more complete meal


1 small pumpkin, cut into chunks, with seeds taken out
1 leek, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
1 green chilli 
Chicken or vegetable stock
1 tblsp butter
1 tblsp olive oil
1 small single cream
Salt and pepper

Roast the pumpkin in olive oil, with salt and pepper, at about 180 degrees C for about an hour. In the meantime, fry the leek, chilli, carrot and parsnip in the butter. Once they are translucent, add the stock (or water if you prefer) and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer. Once the pumpkin is ready, peel it and add the bits to the soup, then carry on cooking for another half an hour or so, seasoning at the end. At this point, I turned the heat off and left the soup to infuse overnight, before blending and adding the cream. There's a Polish saying about relationships, which translates as "I don't like my soup reheated". It means that you shouldn't go back to old relationships and try to "reheat" them. I find it so strange, because soup is definitely better reheated, everyone knows that.  Conclusion: sayings that don't make any sense are annoying

Sunday 17 October 2010

My favourite restaurant in London's China Town (New World)

Just a quickie today to mention my favourite restaurant in China Town. New World is hidden down a side street off the main drag (Gerrard Place), but it's worth the (tiny) detour. It's definitely not the slickest of the lot and you will most likely need to ask for the chilli oil and the bill about three times before you actually get anything, however, the food's amazing, and it makes you feel like you're in Hong Kong, which is always a good thing

I came here with the lovely Anna before a night out in Soho, and we ate spicy king prawns, duck in black bean sauce, crispy prawn dumplings, barbeque pork puffs and pea shoots with garlic. The pea shoots are not on the menu, but worth going off-piste for. You may need to explain what they look like, in which case, see above - they're the ones right in the middle of the table. We washed everything down with Chinese tea and Tiger beer. During the day, the waiters go round with trays full of food and you just pick whatever you fancy, which is infinitely more fun than just choosing from a menu. And it's also one to remember after an evening at the pub, as it's open until midnight every single day of the week

Wednesday 13 October 2010

A healthy aubergine bake in my new kitchen

I have finally got a kitchen! Well, sort of - it's still full of crap and dust - I have a cooker, a sink and a working fridge, that's the main thing... And since I ate waaay too much brie at work today, I decided to have a lovely, light, healthy dinner. It also felt kind of appropriate to eat something clean and nutritious to symbolise the new life I plan to have here - a dinner that would be the start of things to come... so I decided on this aubergine dish that my veggie friend, Lou Lou, told me about when I went to see her in Oxford in the summer. It's last chance saloon now when it comes to aubergines, so you gotta make the most of them. To carry on with the symbolic tone of tonight's dinner, I added the (one and only) tomato I found in my garden to the sauce - you can either ignore this or add more fresh tomatoes, it's up to you. I amended the dish slightly by adding spinach and fresh chillies that a mate from work, Mars, brought in from his garden


3 large aubergines or 4 medium ones
1 litre tomato passata (you can replace some of this with fresh tomatoes)
Large handful fresh basil leaves
2 very strong red chillies (or 3 normal ones)
3 large garlic cloves
1 260g bag of spinach
80-100g parmesan shavings
1 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Most people salt the aubergines to get rid of the water for about half an hour, but what I like to do is to stick them straight on the stove (pierced a couple of times with a fork), in order to give them a charcoaled flavour. I do this for about 2-3 minutes on every side, and on a medium-high heat. I also wash the spinach and pour a kettle full of boiling water over it. For the sauce, fry the garlic and chillies in half the olive oil for a couple of minutes before adding the passata and chopped basil leaves, as well as the seasoning and balsamic. The sauce needs to simmer for about 10 minutes. In that time, chop the aubergines and layer in a greased baking tray (use the remainder of the oil for this), followed by the spinach, and then another layer of aubergines. I ran out of aubergine slices near the end of my second layer. One of my aubergines was too teeny, as you can see up there, that's why you need three large ones, as I specified in the ingredients list. Finally, pour the sauce over the whole lot, and spread the parmesan shavings on top. This goes in the oven (180 degrees C) for about half an hour. This makes four massive portions, three medium ones, or two small uns

OK, so it's not the most photogenic meal I have ever made, but I was stupidly excited to cook it - I may or may not have done a victory dance around my living room. The thing is,  I really feel that not having a kitchen psychologically destabilized me in some way. There are other things that I haven't been able to do during the renovations - such as my collages (no space) or pilates (everything covered in dust) - but cooking is the one thing that makes me feel more connected to the world than anything else, so not cooking has been making me feel ungrounded and miserable. I don't think that I ever appreciated how much I love eating homemade food and having friends round for dinner before. Though the friends' bit is still a long way off. Baby steps, Scuzie, baby steps

Wednesday 6 October 2010

A lovely little Italian cafe/deli in Hackney and the best chocolate mousse in Paris

I have to admit that, what my friend, Magda, innocently pointed out, is true - I have been more than a little hedonistic of late.  However, it's not because I have decided to go off the rails, or because I have finally cracked. I believe that it's simply a reaction to the fact that I don't have a kitchen at the moment,  and therefore I don't have the option to stay home and cook for myself, or have friends round. I feel like I am camping in my own flat at the moment, which may have seemed fun for a night or two, but now is getting very tiring. So I have been choosing to go out most nights.  And then, usually on Saturday afternoons, I come here to stock up for the week: Parioli's

It's is a great, little Italian cafe/deli that I have found in my area (Lower Clapton Road). It's amazingly atmospheric with great coffee; creamy, Sicilian pastries; wines; cheeses; cured meats and other delicious treats. I only ever usually drink coffee when I am on holiday somewhere like France or Italy, where it's part of the culture, however, I do order it here, simply because "when in Rome...". You could of course point out that I am, in fact, on "murder mile" in Hackney, and not Rome, but this cafe makes me feel as if I am in Italy, and that is the point I'm making

This is the loot from last time...

If you like strong cheeses, then I have to recommend the "provolon" - it tastes much stronger than it looks! The cafe is run by a couple, the husband being from Napoli, and the wife from Sicily, therefore the food you find in here is a mixture of the two regions. It's only open during the day, and you have to come in the morning if you are to get hold of some fresh bread

As part of my hedonism, I decided to go to Paris for the day on Tuesday (well, if you're going to be hedonistic, you may as well do it properly!). My friend, Cat, who lives in New York and I haven't seen for about two years, was there for fashion week, and emailed me just before she got on the plane, on the off chance that I might feel like popping over. And since I had enough Airmiles - I did just that. That up there, is where we had dinner last night, and I have to recommend it. It's called "Chez Janou" and it's on Rue Roger...

Apart from the best chocolate mousse I have ever tasted in my life, we also ate rabbit with mashed potato and juniper berries; aromatic grilled seabass; and simple goat's cheese and spinach salad. We had a wonderful evening catching up on the last couple of years, and putting the world to rights. Cat is beautiful and happy, and Paris is as charming as ever, so I left feeling uplifted and energized. I also have to strongly recommend being completely impulsive now and again. It's reminded me that I'm alive and that the world is an amazing place, full of opportunities to be grabbed, delicious dinners to be eaten, and lovely, interesting people to share it with