Friday 25 April 2014

Eating Greece

I'm in Greece doing non-specific, food-related research
That may sound like I'm just on holiday and eating a lot... which is partly true... But I'm also collecting recipes, which I will cook and tell you about when back home

Thursday 17 April 2014

Amaranth porridge with berries

There's something that happens when I'm about to get on a plane. I always manage to either miss my flight or create some kind of unnecessary drama. Even when in other areas of my life I feel calm and content, the time comes to catch a flight and something inevitably goes wrong. I should be in Athens right now, but I'm not. I wouldn't say I'm London either. I'm occupying a space in between two worlds, neither solidly in one nor the other. Like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland, I'm just not all there. Or here. Some would argue that this is a natural state of affairs for me and they'd have a point, yet at this moment in time this quality is so pronounced that I feel like parts of me could easily just disappear like they do to that cat. Yet like him, I'm quite enjoying it. I'm using this strange space to look at my life  objectively and make some small yet important changes, to experiment with how I normally do things. In my everyday life I'm often too busy in the action of doing to take a step back and reflect on how I could improve the process. There are infinite ways of doing things, why do we get stuck in one mode like machines I wonder... Some things just work so there is no need to change them, yes, but other things don't work, yet we get stuck in a habit - those are things I'm targeting right now. One habit that I have no intention of changing for the time being however, is porridge for breakfast. That's working out very well. There are so many variations that I can't see myself getting bored. I made this one with amaranth grains and berries the other day. It's a grain I've never used before and was a bit puzzled by, yet it turns out that it makes a brilliant porridge, less stodgy and sticky than oats
I cooked it first in lots of cold water. I'll be honest with you, I wanted to use it for a salad, yet I quickly noticed that it was turning into a porridge-like consistency and went out and bought some quinoa for the salad instead. I think the grains are actually too small for a salad and also I cooked them in too much water to allow them to separate. But for a porridge they were perfect. So the next morning I took a spoonful of the cooked amaranth and diluted it with plenty of almond milk. I allowed it to simmer, along with a handful of raspberries and blueberries, a pinch of salt and some honey for around 10min, until the raspberries disintegrated completely. Then I  added a bit more almond milk to reach a consistency I was happy with. Amaranth is completely new to me in this form (I've tried the leaves before), it has an unusual taste, neither sweet nor savoury, it's lost somewhere between the worlds just like me, so it needs strong, decided flavours that push it in either one direction or the other... I think I've just managed to empathize with a grain

Tuesday 15 April 2014

A rowdy springtime salad

The sun is shining and London is in a good mood. This is the positive side of living somewhere where the weather in unpredictable - when the sun does come out, the whole city is on a natural high. My friend, Ash, tells me that in Australia, where she comes from, good weather is expected and because of this it makes no difference at all to peoples' mood... here, everyone is just so damn grateful for any bit of sunshine they can snatch, that when it does come out, and especially on a day when it is needed, during a picnic or barbeque, London acquires a festive atmosphere. Luckily, our sun dances worked last weekend and our star came to the annual cherry blossom picnic. This is the fourth year we congregate under the cherry blossoms in Victoria Park and do our version of Hanami
This year I made a spicy and colourful salad, which was dubbed "rowdy salad" by Ashley. It's the most fitting name for it considering the pink radish, purple carrots and fresh chillies. Did you know that all carrots used to be purple? This is something new that I learnt last weekend. I thought the carrots I bought were a hip novelty, in fact, they were a return to the old ways. The world works in spirals, everything is a continuation or a development, nothing is really lost - I like that


Quinoa, cooked
Alfafa and broccoli sprouts
Radishes, chopped finely
Fresh red chilli, chopped finely
Purple carrots (or normal carrots), grated
Virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
Garlic salt
Black pepper

Wednesday 9 April 2014

The best chocolate mousse in the world

I have eaten many, many chocolate mousses in the 34 years I have spent on this planet. Anja's chocolate mousse has been my favourite, closely followed by the one served at Saint Janou in Paris. I have attempted to make many chocolate mousses too. Some attempts have been disastrous (one New Year's Eve a couple of years ago comes to mind), some fair, the last one pretty good, following Elizabeth David's famous recipe I found here. But my wanton days of folly and experimentation are over as far as chocolate mousse is concerned. I know a good thing when I taste it, and I'm happy to eat only this chocolate mousse for the rest of my days. I'd marry it tomorrow if I could

So this is the magic recipe: melt the chocolate over some warm water simmering in a pan, add the butter and mix the two. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form peaks and don't move at all. Beat the whipped cream with the icing sugar until they reach the consistency of the stuff you get in a tin, again, almost solid. Stir the egg yolks and sugar together vigorously, until the sugar disintegrates and the mixture turns very pale in colour. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly and mix the egg yolk into it. Fold it into the egg whites, stirring gently. Once it's mixed, fold in the whipped cream. Do not beat at this point. Only stir. Be gentle, yet thorough, like Anja. When everything has turned into a pale brown, creamy goo, cover with cling film and cool in the fridge. Cooling overnight is preferable, but a couple of hours will do if pressed for time, as I was when I made it. Like everything good in life - enjoy, treasure and don't mess around with it!


200g Cadbury's "Bournville" dark chocolate or another dark chocolate that isn't "too dark"
1 tablespoon butter (salted)
3 eggs
2 tablespoons caster sugar
Pinch of salt
250ml whipped cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar

Monday 7 April 2014

Venison stew with chocolate and chilli

Early Spring, with it's constantly changing moods, can bring about a melancholy in me. I have to remind myself that life isn't just about bright sunshine and balmy Summer evenings; that we need the rain, wind and grey moments too. I am impatient for the sun. I am in fact impatient for everything, bordering on intolerant at times. When something is clear to me, I want to impose that clarity on the whole world. This is an immaturity in me, reality can be seen and expressed in many different ways and everyone has their own process. I am learning to let go. Feeling my impatience, anger and sadness as strongly as I can and then accepting that it makes no difference, and that's how it's supposed to be, so I can relax. I made a late Mother's Day lunch for my mum and the family yesterday. They came an hour and a half early, catching me by surprise and I very nearly ruined it, but luckily managed to relax and accept the situation in the end. The main course was this stew
I had a hunch that venison and dark chocolate would work, especially with a chilli kick. And the red wine. These strong flavours together are a dream. Fry the carrot, onion, celery and ginger first for about 5min in the olive oil. Add the venison chunks and the chilli, seal the meat for a couple of minutes then add the paprika, ground ginger and cumin, stir and fry for another minute, add a splash of water. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the wine, cover and simmer for about half an hour. Add the red pepper and chocolate. Simmer some more. If it looks dry then add more red wine. It needs about 2 hours in total, until the meat is so soft that it's falling apart, but make sure you stir it every 20min or so and make sure it's not drying out, adding splashes of wine when you need to. Right at the end add the fresh coriander and serve - it works well with sweet potato mash you see up there. For dessert we had Anja's chocolate mousse, which is the best chocolate mousse in the world, and I will tell you about next time

Ingredients (serves 4)

400g venison, in bite-sized chunks (remove any stringy bits)
6-8 squares dark chocolate
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, grated
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
Approximately 1/3 bottle red wine
Handful chopped fresh coriander
Mild oil for frying
Salt and pepper