Monday 29 April 2013

Living on £1 a day: 5 tasty and nutritious recipe ideas

One of the first questions I was asked on my return from Poland was whether I was living on £1 a day. I thought it was a reference to my new freelance status until the concept was explained to me. Even though I have no plan to do that right now, I'm used to coming up with cheap recipe ideas due to my life-money balance, or lack of it. Basically, when I have money I spend it until I don't have anything left to live on. On those sad days I take some kind of masochistic pride in the fact that I can survive on next to nothing. So I would like to share some cheap recipe love with those of you who are on this noble mission. Here are my top 5 recipes under £1:

1. Pearl barley and kale risotto: Fry an onion in some oil until translucent, add some pearl barley and cover in vegetable stock. Add a crushed garlic clove. Allow to simmer on a low heat for about 30min. Add the kale. Season. Once it wilts a bit, stir it into the risotto. Serve with chilli sauce on the side. Price per serving: aprox. 50p

2. Homemade hummus and carrots: Blend a tin of chickpeas with the juice of half a lemon, some cumin, a garlic clove, salt and pepper and olive oil. Add the oil as it blends. Serve with carrot pieces. Price per serving: aprox. 50p

3. Brown rice with vegetables: Cook some brown rice. Fry a grated carrot, crushed garlic clove and thinly sliced courgette in olive oil for about 10-15min. Add the cooked rice, a tin of chopped tomatoes and any herbs or spices you fancy. Price per serving: aprox. 85p

4. Congee: This is an Asian breakfast soup, but it's great for any meal. You can find loads of congee recipes on this blog - here is my favourite one with spinach and egg. Price per serving: aprox. 65p

5. Pasta with beans: Super cheap and super delicious, you can see the recipe on my YouTube channel. Price per serving: aprox. 60p. Incidentally, all the recipes on there are pretty cheap. Liver with onion and mashed potato would also easily fit the bill.

I hope skimping on food doesn't mean buying eggs from caged hens and bad quality meat. Here are some more healthy ideas from the BBC. Good luck!

Sunday 28 April 2013

A delicious detox: Two well-turned-out salads

When you start craving salads instead of sweets or steak, you know it's time for a detox. Unfortuntely, being on a detox in Poland is really hard work. I've been trying to avoid butter and sugar - really not a huge ask - and yet these two rules have been broken again and again during this ten day stay in my homeland. However, I have been being running, doing my kundalini kriya and eating fish religiously, every day, so that's something. And since we've been in our house in Warsaw instead of a hotel in Sopot, I've been making salads. Massive, satiating, killer salads. I must have been inspired by Paris
For this one, you need to prep by: firstly, frying an onion in some olive oil for about 7-8min, adding the beans, salt,pepper and cinnamon and frying until warm; and secondly, grilling the red pepper with olive oil, salt and chilli flakes for about 6-7min. The salad bed is torn lettuce and basil leaves, chopped tomatoes (we call these rasberry tomatoes here in Poland, not sure what they're called in the UK, but the have a rasberry-coloured hue), and chopped feta. On top, we have a light vinaigrette of olive oil, apple vinegar and lemon juice mixed together, buckwheat honey (this is a dark, strong-tasting variety), salt and white pepper
And for the second one, cook the fresh asparagus for about 5min in boiling water, so that they are still firm and a little bit crunchy. If they are the fat ones like those up there, you should either cut a couple of inches of the end off, or peel the ends. The bed is a curly, crunchy type of lettuce, blue cheese, walnuts and hard-boiled quails eggs, and the vinaigrette is a sweet one with a mxture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, salt and freshly ground black pepper. With both the vinaigrettes the ratio of oil to vinegar is 3-1, and I use a jar to shake all the ingredients together

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Sunny Springtime bento plane lunch

As I've been on the road recently I haven't been cooking much, but I would like to show off this bento I made for my mum (and myself) for our plane journey to Gdańsk. When I was a child I used to love plane food. Probably the fact that I came from a communist country where shops often only had vinegar helped. But also aesthetically - I liked all the small compartments full of different kinds of food - and the spirit of adventure that accompanied it. You don't get these on shorthaul flights anymore, so rather than buying some soggy, half-arsed sandwich, it's more fun to eat a meal that brings back that sense of something special about to happen
So please meet my Sunny Springtime bento! For the main dish I sautèd some kale with garlic in a mixture of olive and pumpkin seed oil, grated some nutmeg over the top and added the cooked pasta.The salad on the side is a mixture of chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, chilli, coriander, lime juice and olive oil. So it's all really simple, healthy stuff and super easy to make. It's only about the fifth bento that I've made in my entire life, but I can really see myself getting into this

Thursday 18 April 2013

Probably the best salads in Paris

Paris holds a special place in my heart. I have been here countless times, but our special relationship began when I was 19. I came here with my best friend for Valentine's Day and we met some Israeli guys. They were in Paris to meet a man prominent in the Church of Universal Energy. We spent the rest of our holiday learning about meditation and chakras. Even though I don't belong to any church or religion, as I see it this was the start of my journey towards a greater sense of awareness. Even though I have also been here with men in my life, I prefer Paris with girls. It's not a place of romance for me, but somewhere I come to reflect. And eat. And drink wine
Just off the trendy Rue Oberkampf, in Paris' Bastille district, there's a little Jazz bar and restaurant - this is what it's called but I can't find it online, the only other clue I can give you is that it has an aquarium- that has the best salads in Paris, perhaps even the world, I don't know. It depends of course on what your idea of a great salad is. If it's something that does not contain meat, then these salads may be a huge  disappointment
However, if you like to eat salad as a complete meal, and are not vegetarian, then you would probably feel the same way that I do. My one was full of goose gizzards and fois gras (I like to think it was the ethical variety, but since I eat it maybe once a year, I'm willing to forgive myself for feigning ignorance on this occasion), Magda's had goat's cheese stuffed pancake dumplings (it's the only way I can describe it) and parma ham. When we ordered our salads, the waitress actually told us that we ordered "les mieux". How lucky. They set the tone for the rest of our sun drenched, carefree weekend

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Chiara's Maple pork belly with Jerusalem artichoke crisps

I've been travelling a lot over the past few weeks and eating plenty of good food, but one meal has stuck with me. I'm on the road again tomorrow so if I don't tell you about it now, it will be lost in the vortex of delicious meals never mentioned, which would be a massive shame. In New York I was invited to dinner at Chiara's flat. Knowing that Chiara is Italian and also a chef (at Bevacco in Brooklyn Heights if you're interested) did not prepare me for this meal. I was eating too much to make notes on every single course, but I did manage to get the recipe for the maple pork belly, which, if you ever try it, you will be grateful for. I plan to try it myself as soon as my detox is over
Boil the pork belly for about 2 hours (depending on how much of it you've got - we're talking 6 people here) with a carrot, celery, celery root, parsnip and peppercorns. Cool and cut into large cubes. Cover in pure maple syrup and allow to stand for a minimum of 1 hour. Sear it on the pan - both sides - until it looks like that up there, brown and crispy. For the celery purée - boil the celery root until soft, then blend with cream and some of the water it was cooked in, season to taste. The dish was finished off with chopped spring onion and Jerusalem artichoke crisps. These crisps were totally addictive, and a great snack on their own. You use a vegetable peel to cut the Jerusalem artichoke into fine slithers and fry these in very hot oil


Pork belly
Celery root,
Maple syrup
Single cream
Spring onion
Jerulsalem artichoke
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Salmiakki: Finnish sweet'n'salty chocolates

Since going on my diet a week ago (all I'm doing is not eating sugar or processed foods really), I have had to deal with temptation in many guises. First, Petey tempts me with a Snickers late at night because I may be tired of dieting (thanks Petey), then my friend at work waves Nordic chocolates about in front of me (I actually took one, then gave it back)... but the worst by far was the charity bake sale yesterday. Everywhere I went, the bake sale followed me, finally settling right in my field of vision for the rest of the day, the multi-coloured cakes all winking at me, free now. Still, I resisted. Before going over to my friend, Astrid's, house for dinner, I actually texted and asked her to please not offer me any pudding. She very kindly made a delicious sugar-free semi-fredo instead. Yet when it came to these, I could resist no longer.
They are Finnish chocolates with salty liquorish on the inside. Salty liquorish is one of my favourite things in the world by the way. And since eating this incredible pecan pie, closely followed by salty caramel frozen yoghurt in New York, I can't get enough of those two flavours together: salty'n'sweet, sweet'n'salty: it's just the best combination and I can't believe I only truly discovered my love of it a couple of months ago. So the moral of today's blog is this: Sometimes it's worth breaking your own rules for a taste of the unknown, and if you ever go past a Finnish shop, go inside and ask for Salmiakki

Friday 5 April 2013

Croatian red wine - Plavac Mali

As I get older I really start to appreciate good wines. Not in a superior "look-at-how- sophisticated- I- am" kind of way, more in a natural " I-just-know-what's-good-now" way. Like with men. And this Croatian wine, it's really good. If you ever see a donkey like that down there, laden with bags, on a bottle of wine, I recommend you buy it
This wine is made from the Plavac Mali grape, which grows solely in Croatia, yet related to the South Italian "Primitivo". In my own, weird understanding of this world, this is the Tom Hardy of wine.  It's primal yet elegant; animalistic (farmyard in wine speak) yet sophisticated. Certainly not for people in search of conventional happy endings, but every sip will be interesting. Truly, my kind of wine

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Dokebi Korean restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

I've fallen in love with Williamsburg. It's incredibly hip but also open and friendly: the perfect combination. If you plan on hanging out here then I would recommend this Korean restaurant on Grand Street for a cheap, healthy and delicious meal... Dokebi
You may know what my reviews are like by now: short and sweet. So here's the lowdown: we ate Korean tacos, lots of pickles, salad and miso soup on the side and the BiBimBahp you see up there. The rib taco was the best out of the tacos, the fish one I wouldn't bother ordering again. Cat mixed the BiBimBahp up with the chilli sauce like you're supposed to and I washed it down with Korean rice wine - my new favourite drink (now, where do I get this in the UK...?) It all came to $17 each including the tip, so about £12. I think dinner may be a bit more expensive, as weekday lunches in NYC tend to be really cheap