Thursday 23 September 2010

Broccoli and cake

I haven't been cooking much recently. Partly because I still don't have a fridge, and partly because I am feeling a bit lazy. In a nice way. I am relishing the fact that it's just me and I can do, and eat, anything I want, whenever I want. I am balancing this with the fact that as a result of a recent health scare, I need to really look after myself right now. And I've have been specifically told to eat broccoli and drink green tea

Isn't this the most beautiful broccoli you have every seen?

I ate it roasted, with a red bell pepper, simply with olive oil, salt and black pepper, then dipped in spicy lime pickle. The corn on the cob was boiled and smothered in butter. I'd like to say that was my dinner, but it wasn't. I was having dinner late, so I decided that I would eat lots of vegetables then have a very light dinner later on (I didn't - I went to Portobello Ristorante Pizzeria and stuffed my face with delicious bread and spaghetti vongole)

And this is how I have been drinking copious amounts of green tea - with cake. Those two woody looking slices up there are a Polish speciality from near the Russian border. It's called "Sekacz", and this is what it looks like as a whole

Except when I got it, it was twice as big. It seems to fascinate people, I think it's because it looks so strange - kind of like a big honeycomb. It's very tempting just to nibble at the protruding bits constantly, so it's a dangerous thing to have sitting in the flat (luckily, I finished it off this morning)

This is what my Saturdays look like now - it doesn't really feel like the weekend to me unless I have a glass of wine at midday

So, I guess that my appetite is back for good. I just hope that I don't get massive now I have given up smoking

Thursday 16 September 2010

The perfect Friday-night-in with friends, a kitty and mezze

Is it weird that I didn't notice that my fridge wasn't working until a week after I got it? That, in fact, it had never worked... I was so happy to have one, and it was so lovely and shiny that I completely disregarded the fact that all my food was going off and that it wasn't even vaguely cold in there. There's a life lesson in that somewhere... or perhaps it's just my usual life lesson. As a wise man that I met briefly at a party once told me (we had clearly got on to the meaning of life) "a lesson is repeated until it is learnt". I guess that I need to learn to look a bit deeper.

Anyway, I still don't have any furniture, and only a couple of plates, so I decided to have a few friends over for an indoor picnic last Friday. J and Anja came, as did Mariana and Coco/Kiki/Mimi (the kitten with many names), and we ate lots of mezze. I bought things like dips and crudites, because you've got to be realistic about time limitations and stress levels, and made three salads (slightly adapting some of them) from my bible (that's Claudia Rodin's Book of Middle Eastern Cooking), as well as the feta cheese and spinach pastries I often make when friends come round. The salads were chosen for their simplicity as well as their ingredients, because I only had about 40min to prepare everything

Lentil and tomato salad

2 tins of lentils, drained
1 large onion, chopped
4 tblsp olive oil
4 tomatoes, chopped
Small bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon

Fry the onion in the oil for a couple of minutes,  before adding the tomatoes and parsley. Cook these all together for about 10min. Add the lentils and salt and pepper, as well as the lemon juice. Cook this until the juices have more-or-less evaporated, then pour into a serving bowl and leave to cool. Rodin's recipe uses dried, brown lentils, vinegar instead of lemon juice, fewer tomatoes, and normal parsley. It is a small miracle that I am now adding any parsley at all as I have always hated it, but I have realized that it is, in fact, essential to Middle-Eastern cooking. And that flat leaf parsley actually tastes OK

Beetroot salad

500g cooked, peeled, diced beetroot
2tblsp lemon juice
2tblsp olive oil
300ml yoghurt
2tblsp flat leaf parsley

Mix the lemon juice with the oil and yoghurt and beat well. Add the beetroot bits and half the parsley. Finally, pour into a serving dish and garnish with more parsley. This is a really pretty, pink salad

Cucumber and mint salad

Cucumber, diced or sliced
Fresh mint, chopped
Olive oil
Lemon juice

Rodin advices that you sprinkle the peeled cucumber with salt and let it drain for half an hour, however, I neither peeled it nor let it drain, and the salad still turned out tasty, so you can skip those bits out. Apart from that, you just pretty much combine all the ingredients in whatever quantities you choose

So that was my pretty lazy picnic dinner. I am loving staying in on Fridays at the moment, and that night I ended up kitten-sitting while her mum went out to party, which was even more amazing. It's unbelievable how much joy and entertainment such a little creature can bring. I am desperate to get one, but feel like I need to wait until my life is a little more settled before I do. Otherwise, it's not really fair on the cat

Sunday 12 September 2010

Patatas a lo pobre and thyme vinaigrette

Spain feels so far away now. It was an amazing holiday, I haven't laughed so much for a long time, and will always have fantastic memories of chilling by the pool with sangria, strolling around Valencia at night and singing along to crap tunes while driving around. Even La Tomatina seems quite funny now (though at the time we all thought we were going to die). After moving flat, being back at work for a few weeks, and going out just a little bit too much, I am ill and ready for another holiday. But there's a couple more things I would like to tell you about, from the Spanish trip. We were cooking lunch every day, and more often that not we made our version of patatas a lo pobre, with a big salad - its ridiculously easy to cook and it felt right eating it in Spain. We adapted the recipe slightly from day to day. So the one below didn't have any peppers in, another day we may have skipped the chorizo. I found rosemary growing near the villa, and this was a perfect addition to the traditional recipe


Green bell pepper
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

You boil the potato slices for about 10 minutes and at the same time fry the chopped onion in another pan. Add the chorizo and rosemary to the pan for about 3 minutes before adding the potatoes, and green pepper. Cook until the potatoes have browned (about 15 minutes). It's fantastic served with aiolli (Spanish garlic mayo)

That up there is a delicious vinaigrette we used for the salad. As usual, the proportion of the olive oil to the red wine vinegar is 3/1. Then I added a crushed garlic clove and fresh thyme leaves, which I also found growing in the wild. Salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar, and it's done. It's best to leave this to stand for a little while to let the flavours fuse together. I love this kind of simple, rustic food because it kind of makes me feel close to nature

Tuesday 7 September 2010

The Move and El Molinon in Valencia, Spain

Oh it hasn't been easy. I have been buying a flat, and the dates had moved forward so many times that I had to exchange while I was on holiday (my phone bill is going to be humongous). This was further complicated by the fact that someone was moving into my old room on the day I went to Spain. And that I didn't know what to do with all my stuff for ten days. But somehow, miraculously, it's all sorted now. Although, I still have no internet, fridge, or washing machine. So not much cooking going on, as you can imagine. I am living off lahmajuns from the Turkish restaurant down the road (Cirrik restaurant - £2 a pop!). I also lost my camera to the chaos for a little while, so I don't have a huge amount to report on from Valencia, sadly. But one thing I could not miss out was the best meal of the holiday, at El Molinon (Calle de la BolserĂ­a)

As I didn't have my camera, I asked my friend to lend me hers and email the pics to me asap. She had problems with her PC, therefore I don't have all the pics. Unfortunately, the photo of the "strong cheeses" has been left out. I cannot describe to you the maturity of the cheese that we had on the plate without being suspected of gross exaggeration. But it was nearly walking off the plate. Perhaps one day I'll get this pic and then you will believe me. You will also not see the most amazing duck pate in the world, becasue we ate it so fast that I completely forgot I had a camera on my lap ready to snap! It was that incredible. That's the black pudding up there - they used a delicious rice (which the area is known for) and cinamon I think, though perhaps it was a combination of spices. To my annoyance, my friends who thought they didn't like black pudding couldn't get enough of it, so I didn't get to trough it all. Every single dish was superb really. If you put a gun to my head and said that I had to criticise one dish (lets be dramatic for a second) I would say that the mushrooms were a bit bland. That's it. That's the only criticism of this place. We washed it all down with delicious young cider. Seriously, if you go to Valencia, don't miss this place! It's also in a cool area with lots of bars, so the perfect restaurant to go to before a night out