Sunday 31 July 2011

A few veggie things...

I love meat. I also love animals. So when I see images like I did the other day from Elmkirk abattoir, it causes me a massive amount of stress and conflict. What to do? I tried to find out where they supply to, hoping to boycott their meat, but since I couldn't find that information, I realized that this kind of thing is probably more widespread that we'd like to imagine. Of course, you can always choose to sweep things under the carpet and simply not think about anything that makes you unhappy. But this is not an option for me anymore (I wish it never had been). I'm at a point in my life where I am choosing to think about all the things that are difficult for me to think about, in order to find genuine peace and contentment, instead of falling for the fake version. Fighting the good fight, and all that. A natural conclusion is to become vegetarian, and yet that doesn't feel right to me either. Many vegetarians tell me that they do it for ethical reasons but that they never liked meat that much anyway. Well, I really, really do - I mean, I love game, offal, black pudding, steak tartar, everything - the meatier and bloodier, the better. Someone who has always wanted to be a vampire can't just become vegetarian without sacrificing their sense personal freedom and general happiness. I could, therefore, limit myself to meat from safe sources. The only problem with this is trust. It's difficult to trust people, and yet if you don't trust anyone, then where do you end up? In a state of apathy, at a guess. Eating meat from supermarkets again, supporting what you find abhorrent. Therefore, I needed to make an informed decision. I have read all about Ginger Pig and have chosen to put my faith in them. I have one nearby, in Hackney, so this is where I will get my entire meat supply, once a week. And because they're more expensive than the supermarket, I will just eat a bit less of it. If I am too hungover or busy to do bespoke food shopping at the weekend, I will simply abstain from meat until I can go. And being veggie for a week is nice too. As much as I couldn't give up meat forever, I don't feel like I'm missing out if I don't have it for a few days. I can just eat sexy veggie food like this...
... buffalo mozzarella, with roasted cherry tomatoes and basil (with olive oil, garlic salt and black pepper) and fresh rye bread from here
Or bulghur and quinoa grains with mushrooms (mainly shitake) fried in sesame oil and soya sauce (and garlic salt of course!), finished off with tabasco and some natural yoghurt on the side
Or my favourite hangover food - al dente spaghetti, with tomato passata, chilli and basil (and, you guessed it, garlic salt). Perhaps garlic salt is the secret to actually becoming a vegetarian... Anyway, despite being completely committed to my new, meaty resolution, I refuse to impose it on other people. I don't want to be a nightmare guest or fussy diner, so when I go out to a restaurant or to friends' houses for dinner, I will, as ever, be grateful for anything that's put in front of me

Sunday 24 July 2011

Kale Tortilla and Sweetcorn Soup

I made plans to go to Eastbourne and hang out with my dad this weekend. Then I changed my mind. About five times actually, back and forth (luckily, my dad is extremely chilled out). I've been doing that a lot recently and I'll tell you what, it feels good. Just over a year ago, when I was in the middle of a life crisis, completely lost, without any idea what I wanted, and really rather stressed out about it, a friend of mine, Anton, said to me "remember, you can always change your mind". This has stayed with me as one of the best pieces of advice that I've ever been given. It seems so obvious, yet I don't think a lot of people feel like they can change their minds. I certainly didn't in my old life, I was always busy doing stuff that I'd said "yes" to weeks before, whether I felt like it or not, carrying on down old paths, chosen for no apparent reason, always an undercurrent of discomfort and anxiety, that comes from suppressing your natural instincts. And does anyone really care if you go for a drink with them now, or a week later? (or never in some cases) Or if you cancel that party? I don't think so. Not really. And if they do, then it's still a small price to pay for your freedom to do what you want, when you want. So I stayed in Hackney and cleaned my flat as much as I could with my injured back (stupid yoga position, too early in the day), found a new favourite passtime (swimming in the lido), had a few beers, and cooked quite a lot
This is basically an ordinary Spanish tortilla, with the addition of kale. You finely slice an onion and a potato,  then fry them, covered and seasoned, in some olive oil, for about 20min. Pour boiling water over a handful of kate, and allow to cool a bit, before chopping finely and adding to the potatoes and onions for the final 5min of cooking time. Break about 5 or 6 eggs into a bowl and whisk lightly, season. Add the cooked potato, onions and kale into the beaten egg mixture, heat some more oil in the frying pan, and pour it all in. Turn the heat down really low and cook for about 25min, uncovered. I don't bother turning the tortilla over, instead I stick it under a hot grill for 2min to gently brown the top side. And I prefer eating it cold. It was perfect today, eaten with chilli jam, while sunbathing in the garden after a swim. Then, there was this beautiful sweetcorn soup from 101 cookbooks
I used more water than in the recipe, cooked it all together for quite a bit longer than recommended and added pearl barley. My friend Ayesha loved it, because, apparenty, she loves anything yellow. Yeah, you read right, anything yellow

Saturday 23 July 2011

Manhattan Tophat

I love unusual cookbooks and this one that my friend gave me tops the weirdness charts
It's put together by SPACE studios and each recipe is from a different artist. It goes from hugely surreal recipes like Worm Sandwich, Cornish Pebbles on a bed of Concrete Fool, and Humble Pie, to little gems such as Elvis Presley's Fried Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich, Mrs. Obuabang's Fried Plantain and Manhattan Tophat, which I decided to make myself today, for brunch
All that I would add to the instructions, up there, is that you want to use a knob of butter for frying, salt over everything, and a bit of tabasco on the egg while it's frying
Crack the egg into a cup first, to avoid any trouble. I used quite a small piece of bread so the egg leaked out underneath - I cut the messy bits off, as aesthetics are of primary importance here
And here he is
Doesn't he look smart?
Conclusion: An extremely satisfying way to eat a fried egg with bread

Friday 15 July 2011

Some Greek foodie things...

It never ceases to amaze me how despite all the differences between the people and cultures around the world, you can find similarities between the various cuisines. So, while you may think sashimi and sake is a flavour exclusive to Japan, I actually ate something very similar tasting in Greece last week
In a small, seafront "mezedopolio" in Kalamos, we ate raw swordfish in olive oil, washed down with raki, which, in my opinion, tastes very similar to cold saki. And sounds almost the same. That potato salad up there is the best one I've ever had, so I asked them for what's in it to make it so good, so here's the list of ingredients, painstakingly translated by my host...

Spring onion
Red and yellow peppers

Needless to say, the potatoes are the star of the show here, the other ingredients are chopped up very small and completely in the background
These are some mastic flavoured sweets I bought for the people at work, and scoffed all by myself. Mastic is a tree resin, which tastes a little bit like honey - it's definitely not everyone's cup of tea, but being a lover of weird and unusual flavours,  I couldn't get enough of them

So, you could say that the trip to Greece was a massive success, I felt so happy over there that a little holiday home in Kalamos has now been added to my list of wildly improbable dreams. I imagine myself swimming in the crystal-clear sea every morning, buying fresh fish straight from the fishermen for lunch, and drawn-out dinners with friends and family on one of those long wooden tables that all Mediterranean   people seem to have, surrounded by pine trees, of course - my favourite smell in the whole world

Thursday 14 July 2011

A trip to Greece - it began with a Greek salad

It all began, rather predictably, with a Greek salad. Here it is on my friend's terrace, with Don Vito, the feta-cheese-loving-dog, looking on...
And here it is again without the eager face of anticipation lurking in the background
It had to be done, basically. There's nothing like Greek tomatoes in the summer, refreshing cucumber, crunchy onion and feta straight from the barrel. With proper, green olive oil, supplied by the host's dad. I also added some black pepper and a little squeeze of lemon, but that's optional. Anyway, this is just to whet you appetite - I will write more about the food I ate in Greece on my return from the Cotswolds

Thursday 7 July 2011

Venison, wine and a nice salad at Wyndstock Festival

I have so much to write about and so little time. I have just returned from Greece for one night, and tomorrow I'm off to the Cotswolds. But what I want to tell you about first, is the weekend before I went on holiday, when I was asked to accompany my friend, Astrid, to Wyndstock festival in the beautiful New Forest
Wyndstock is the sort of party that I imagine people from other countries imagine that people in the UK have all the time. If that makes any sense. It's all floaty tea dresses, Pimms with lemonade and men in pale linen suits wearing fedoras... everyone looking dapper, with an old-school, vintage feel
We danced to a swing band, met a story teller who told us incredible tales in a hot tub in the woods, made animals from vegetables... you know, the usual. Astrid broke her thumb playing midnight badminton and I got feasted on by mosquitoes, but apart from that we had a great time. Frolicking is the word, I believe. That's our vegetable snake up there, in case you were wondering. Considering the high standard of vegetable animals on display, I was surprised when someone decided to nick our one. Perhaps they were planning a BBQ 
We drank plenty of rose...
Spit-roasted venison...
And I stabbed a crab with a butter knife until it split into two (no easy feat) which inspired people to say that Hitchcock would have loved me. I took that as a massive compliment, as I tend to do when not sure which way to go... I hope it doesn't mean that I appear to have psychopathic tendencies, but who knows
As usual, my favourite thing was the simplest - a rocket and parmesan salad with an addition of fresh strawberries. It will be my summer staple from now on. Although the food was delicious, my only criticism is that there wasn't enough of it. However, I'm sure that the organizers will have learnt from their mistakes in time for the next party, which is in August apparently. I can't make it, but if you decide to go next year, then we'll have some good times. I'll bring the mossie repellant