Wednesday 31 October 2012

Fish preparation and knife skills at The Open Kitchen

Fish preparation and knife skills at the Open Kitchen  is not for the faint-hearted. The mackerel was a bloodbath for a start
But I also learned various techniques of chopping vegetables and how to delicately fillet a plaice. The most important thing I took away from this 2 hour workshop is how to look after my knives. You need to sharpen your knives every time you use them! Now, I cook every day and I haven't ever owned a knife sharpener (I do now obv). We also got to try what the teacher prepared, then took our bits home to replicate the dish of roast mackerel with vegetables. You just combine the vegetables up these with some olive oil, lemon and salt and pepper and stuff it into the fish, which you then seal with toothpics and roast. It's ready in 20min! So simple and so good. The Open Kitchen's location on Hoxton Street in Shoreditch could make you imagine one of those overly trendy places, but this is actually a down-to-earth, professional kitchen. A part of their profits go to help kids gain the skills and equipment they need to work in a restaurant, and they work with Jamie Oliver's Fifteen. A workshop is usually £59, which is affordable anyway, but you can find discounts on the net too

Sunday 21 October 2012

Ginger, lemon and honey for warmth

It's weird to think now that there were times in my life when I was unhappy with my body. I have been within a couple of kilograms of my perfect weight for many years now, and I eat and drink pretty much whatever I want. Looking back, there is one tiny thing I did that solved all my food and weight issues: I stopped worrying about it. It was a difficult thing to do, as from a young age I felt that being even slightly overweight made me a complete failure. This sort of reasoning is invariably going to cause imbalance and unhappiness. Then I made the conscious decision to stop beating myself up about it and I gradually lost weight and grew to be happy with my body.  The decision came at uni, when I first came to London. I met so many great people and started having such a fun time that food didn't matter as much anymore and the self-hated just didn't make sense. Like everything in life, this was a process - it was a complete battle at times, yet instinctively I knew that I was fighting the good fight. There were many things that helped me along the way - good friends, family, meditation... above all, my own honesty and openness probably. You can't get anywhere in life if you are hiding and lying to yourself and others. Eventually, I grew to love food all over again, but this time it was a mature and pure kind of love, rather than the confused, childish, all-or-nothing kind. Once this sort of change happens in your mind, you want to be good to yourself and eat in a way that nourishes and heals your body
 This is my favourite drink for when the weather turns cold and, randomly, a magician taught me how to make it. It builds up your immune system and digestion, as well as curbing sugar cravings. You peel and simmer a couple of inches of fresh ginger in plenty of water until it colours slightly. Stir in a tablespoon of honey and squeeze in half a lemon. Drink this within 20min for the full benefit of vitamin C from the lemon. I like to drink this from my wooden sake box, I don't know why but this feels like the natural thing to do

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Icelandic Mashed Fish

Having been working in a Scandi department for 6 months now, I am finding myself under the influence. My style is getting a little bit more cool and paired down, I find myself visiting the Nordic Bakery every time I am near Regents Street, I've even found myself reading an Icelandic cookbook. And this is how mashed fish came into my life
It's like an Icelandic, mashed up, unbaked version of a fish pie really. You boil the potatoes in salted water until soft but still firm (not falling apart), then leave to cool while you cook the white fish, also in salted water - the fish takes about 15min. Take the fish out and flake once it stops burning your fingers. Now, peel the potatoes and chop roughly. Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the onion, fry until soft but do not brown. Gently heat the milk in a separate pan. Add the flour to the onions and fry for a minute, before slowly adding the milk and stirring continuously. Finally, add the onions and fish and heat through, season and serve with chives on top and a boiled egg on the side. I added a few tiny particles of a scotch bonnet pepper. I actually wanted to add a cauliflower to the party, but my colleague, Helga, affirmed that this would indeed be a travesty. It's an Icelandic national dish after all -  good job I asked

Ingredients (serves 4)

500g white fish
500g potatoes
1 onion, chopped finely
350ml milk (I used goat's milk)
50g butter
3Tblsp flour
Salt and pepper
Chopped chives and hard-boiled egg to serve

Friday 12 October 2012

Thai-style fishy congee (nicer than it sounds)

Tiny, dried fish in my congee remind me of Thailand
This congee I top with fish sauce, chillies and spring onion. I cooked the rice with a couple of chicken carcasses and a bit of sea salt, nothing else. LT, who doesn't usually feel like breakfast much, loved it. Needless to say, I love this too - it's one of the few things that fills me up until lunch. And it makes me think of the time when I would eat this kind of breakfast sitting on a cushion, looking out over the beach in Koh Tao, breathing in the familiar smells and basking in the warm humidity, as the sun rose over the sea

Monday 8 October 2012

Mooli and carrot salad with a citrus dressing

If you're ever looked at a vegetable and thought of those weird little creatures in Harry Potter, then you have probably seen a Mooli. It's a Japanese radish I was told in the shop, but I think I've tried it in Chinese cuisine, and I believe that this is what they use to make one of my favourite dishes of all time - the dim-sum turnip cake
Yet I decided to make it into a Polish-style "surowka" - that's specific kind of salad characterized by the shredded vegetables and the fact that it needs time to "bite-together" and soak in the dressing. So, I grated the mooli and carrots, added finely chopped spring onion and made an citrus dressing by combing orange and lemon juice with olive oil, salt and pepper. To finish I added some feta cubes, as we were eating this with baked sweet potatoes and I wanted some cheese that would melt inside them. This is a perfect alternative to coleslaw and cheddar, by the way. When we'd eaten the potatoes, me and LT polished off the rest of the salad too, it was so more-ish


1 mooli (daikon)
3-4 carrots
Juice of half an orange
Juice of half a lemon
4 spring onions
200-250g feta cheese
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Thursday 4 October 2012

Roasted Autumn squash with pasta

The clouds are lifting! And all it took in this case was a little bit of self-nurture. I think it's too easy to forget to really, fully look after yourself when living in a busy city. Also, as women we are often conditioned to believe that we should put others first, when in fact that is completely wrong in my opinion. Your life and health are the single most important thing you have. By health I don't mean just the physical aspects of your body, I mean your whole being - your physical, mental and spiritual health. I have made a promise to myself that at least until I have a baby I will prioritize my own well being at all times. Then come the people I love (including my cat of course, who even though many may not see this, is also a person), my career, my flat and everything else. Even though it may seem selfish, living this way allows you to give more of yourself, simply because when you are whole, you have more of yourself to give.  It's a positive kind of selfishness, and it's a beautiful place to be, as long as you manage to not ever feel guilty, as that negates it completely 
So if you are feeling out of sorts right now, for whatever reason, this is what you're going to do: stop. Make yourself do nothing. Every time you feel guilty for doing nothing, the penalty is to do something nice for yourself. Meditate or lie in bed. Have a bath. Dream about what you want in life without pressurizing yourself to go out and get it. Cook and eat your favourite food. Have at least a day with no alcohol and go to bed before 10, even if you don't feel like it. The next morning wake up and ask yourself what you'd love to do the most. Now go and do that, whatever it takes. By the third day, I promise you that you will feel better. Unless what you really wanted to do was to go out and get wasted, of course. In which case though your spirit may feel better, your body probably won't. You don't have to heed my advice of course, but the only other option is to pretend it's not there, that's everything is fine and wait until it all catches up with you. And that is never much fun
Today, I wanted to eat squash. It tastes like this time of year to me, like the orange sunshine of early Autumn or a sunset. I roasted it with dried oregano, olive oil and garlic salt for about an hour in a medium-hot oven. I then peeled the skin off (which I actually gobbled up with some salt) chopped it into chunks and added it to the simple pasta sauce I'd just prepared with creme fraiche, toasted pine nuts, oregano, a little lemon juice, chilli and black pepper. Then some fresh pasta from The Deli Downstairs tossed in and we're ready to go - Autumn on a plate

Tuesday 2 October 2012

British game roasted with Polish buckwheat honey and Greek oregano

The grouse season is short this year. I'm not using code, I mean that sentence completely literally. I'm trying to explain (to myself as much as anyone) how on earth I paid £12.50 for one of those birds down there (the dark one). It's pretty bloody expensive. The partridge is only marginally smaller at £5.50, and arguably tastier
Lots of niggling, small things that I normally don't care about have been bothering me lately, so I'll just stick the grouse on that tedious list. Sometimes life is just like that. Or perhaps sometimes  we just perceive it that way as we experience some kind of inner turmoil or conflict we can't quite put our finger on. I'm just riding it out and waiting for clouds to clear, and from time to time, catching a little ray breaking through - like a delicious meal, or LT bringing me lego (did I mention that I have the sunniest boyfriend on the whole planet?). So here we are - a gamey Sunday feast of grouse and partridge. The birds were tenderized with a marinade of Polish buckwheat honey, lemon juice, garlic salt and pepper 
And flavoured with Greek oregano which my friend Karina brought straight from the source (that's the countryside near Athens). Miod Gryczany is this really dark, strong-tasting honey. You could easily substitute it for Eucalyptus honey or even Manuka honey as they're  quite similar in flavour, and would also stand up to game
I left them like this for about 45min before roasting for an hour at 150 degrees C, along with some carrots and sweet potatoes, basting the birds regularly to make sure that they didn't dry out. The vegetables were flavoured with fresh chilli, olive oil, garlic salt and pepper. I was going to make gravy, but I forgot, and actually, it wasn't needed - everything was moist and tender. Once we finished, I cooked the bones to make a delicious game stock, for a Middle-Eastern style soup, with bulgur wheat, chickpeas, lemon juice and eggs. At that price, I had to squeeze another meal of the grouse somehow