Sunday 24 March 2013

Sweet potato and sweetcorn patties aka What to do with last night's mash

The Winter refuses to give way to Spring. It has outstayed it's welcome in the most appalling way here in London. On days like this I can't help but reflect on the passing of time, going through sunny, old photos on facebook, feeling older than I am. I listened to this recording of Sylvia Plath about five times this morning while staring out of my front window at the street - Hackney at it's bleakest. I wasn't being dramatic, it just takes me a while to fully understand poetry, to feel through the words and into the truth that it lays out in front of me. The poetry and the view out of my window just happened to complement one another, and my mood. At least a few ravers pepper this sad street with some bright flashes of lipstick and their determination to have fun. Inspired by the party-goers, I finally decided to cheer myself up with these colourful sweet potato cakes, made from last night's mash
I took the cold sweet potato mash (sweet potatoes, butter and salt), added some sweetcorn, a seed mix (any seeds or nuts you have lying around), some Carribean curry powder and chilli sauce. I then mixed in some flour and an egg and formed it into sticky little balls. I fried these until they were brown and crispy on all both sides, in plenty of oil. At one point, the sweetcorn started popping on the pan, which made me smile and say "yay!". Some things are just fun to cook, little ravers of the food world. I ate these with marinated red peppers

Sunday 17 March 2013

Crispy baby potatoes with red onion, dill and anchovies

I have a rather unusual living situation at the moment in that my friend, Petey, has moved on to my couch for a couple of months. He's leaving for NYC soon to be with his love and needs to save money, so he convinced me that this was a good idea. And since I'm going freelance shortly and could do with a little help with the mortgage, I agreed. So far, it has been (a good idea). We've lived together before and it just kind of works. And after living on my own for over 2 years, it's quite nice to have a bit of variety. The biggest bonus by far is that Petey is a chef, so I get all kinds of treats. Recently, he brought home some of the best anchovies that I have ever tasted in my life. Seriously, I had no idea that anchovies could be this good. There's a hell of a lot of them and Petey was worried that I wouldn't manage to eat them all, but he underestimated my greediness I feel. I have been using them in various ways. Today, I chopped some baby potatoes and red onion, tossed them in olive oil with salt, pepper and dill and roasted it all in the oven for about 45min. Near the end of the cooking time, when the potatoes had already crisped up, I threw some anchovies over the top and gave it 5 more minutes, while boiling a couple of eggs. I ate it for lunch like this and it was more than delicious

Baby potatoes, chopped in half
Red onions, chopped into quaters
Dill, chopped
Free range eggs, boiled
Good quality anchovies
Olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Saturday 16 March 2013

Food in Madrid - goose barnacles and cardoons

One of my favourite things about Madrid -  along with the fun people; a "clandestino" night club I found myself in at 8am that Sunday; and a massage here - is the food. Spanish food is everything I love - simple, unpretentious and natural. There were a few things that I ate while in Madrid that I've never eaten before, namely "percebes" and "cardo"
 I believe that this is what's called a "goose barnacle" in English. These are fussy, little sea creatures that only live on rocks where the waves break - because of this they are not easy to obtain and quite expensive. We were lucky enough to try them at the Mercado San Anton, when the clams we ordered were "not very well"
"Cardo" translates into English as "thistle" or "cardoon" and it looks like a massive celery. However, unlike celery, here you only eat the heart. I don't know why this appeals so much to me, but it does. Unai cooked it for me at home, with some other vegetables and I enjoyed it so much that I would like to share the recipe with you - this dish hails from the Basque Country, same as Unai. You can use it with any vegetables you like, especially artichoke - cardoon's relative. Cook the cardoon in water for about 15min. Fry the garlic and onion in oil until they are translucent, then add flour. Mix this while frying until it all turns brown. Now add a bit of water from the cardoon - about a ladle-full - and keep stirring and frying for another 8-10mins. Add the cardoon to the sauce, along with any other vegetables that take your fancy and the boiled eggs. Season and serve like this

Cardoons/other vegetables
1 tablespoon flour
Eggs, hard-boiled
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Monday 11 March 2013

Another bento lunch: falafel, couscous and roast veg

I've been a bit slack with blogging recently. There's a lot going on in my life right now, a kind of transition time I guess and I'm in the middle of figuring out my priorities and new routines. I have a few things that I would like to tell you about, but I will start with a bento I made as this course came to a close
The falafel were dead simple to make: mince the chickpeas with some cumin, lemon juice and a red onion, add an egg and a bit of plain flour, make into little balls and fry on all sides. The roast vegetables are a combination of parsnips, carrots, sweet potato, red onions and courgette (zucchini), roasted with grape seed oil, thyme and salt and pepper. The couscous I made with just water, and just added a bit of butter at the end (took all of 5min). Those massive things at the top are the biggest caper berries I've ever seen. As part of the last bit of homework for the Bento 101 course I needed to choose something to stash in the cupboard, fridge and freezer for future bento making. For some reason, I found this part of the course really hard (some kind of strange commitment issues perhaps). Finally, I chose caper berries for the cupboard, mini peppers for the fridge and froze some of those falafels up there

Ingredients - falafel balls (makes about 10)

2 tins of chickpeas
1 red onion
1 egg
1 tablespoon plain flour
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Grapeseed oil for frying
Salt and pepper

Sunday 3 March 2013

Middle-Eastern Chicken Soup

Eating certain foods, even their smell, has the power to take you back in time. There's the obvious dishes associated with certain countries and there's the more subtle - corn-on-the-cob, for example, will always make me think of childhood summers spent in Hungary, Spanish rosĂ© - of one particular, pebbly beach on Ibiza Island and a chilled, cut up Mars bar (this is the only way I ever eat a Mars bar now) takes me straight back to a tent in the Himalayas. This is precisely why I haven't eaten this soup in about 3 years, even though there was a time when it was one of my favourites. We used to eat it nearly every Sunday in my last long-term relationship,  the stock made from the bones left over from our lunchtime roast - sometimes this was chicken, more often it was game birds. Perhaps it was less often than that, and this is just how I've remembered that period. Either way, it has always reminded me of the sweet moments in that relationship, which I didn't want to be reminded of for a very long time. Now, I don't mind anymore
You cook the chicken carcass with an onion in a large pan of water for as long as you can - I usually manage 2-3 hours. Remove the meat and the onion from the pan and add the (rinsed) rice. Once the rice is cooked, season the soup well with salt and pepper and put any nice bits of chicken meat back in. Take it off the heat. Beat the eggs, add a spoonful of soup and carry on beating, then add some more. Keep doing this for a little white before adding the mixture back into the soup and beating all together - the idea is that the soup becomes creamy without the egg curdling in it. Finally, stir in the lemon juice and serve. I love sour things, so I may squeeze more lemon in, but I would suggest you start off with just the one and see how it goes. There isn't much that I don't love about this soup - it's comforting and creamy, wholesome and healing, it fills you up without making you feel stuffed


Chicken carcass
1 onion
100g rice
2 eggs
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper