THERE ARE ALWAYS CASUALTIES in a house move: 1 x plate, 1 x egg cup, 1 x stilton pot lid, 1 x oven dish 3x rice bowls (all porcelain) and a pack of chopsticks missing in action. I have to face it – it was a better set of statistics than the last move – I must have learnt how to wrap things a little better this time around.
Moving house is pretty stressful at it’s best. There’s always a moment in time between those two points that you call home, when your brain picks everything up and re-aligns it with a new location. Even if it’s not that far away, that’s quite a feat. But for me, my brain and my stomach were at loggerheads. Whilst my brain was trying to remember what I’ve packed in to an infinite number of boxes, my stomach was already looking ahead into logistical kitchen nightmares: Where are you putting the kettle? What will that fit? How will that work?
From a food and cooking perspective the move has included a severe downsizing from 10sq.ft kitchen and dinning area to a tiny little 4sq.ft (probably less) cooking space. As I assessed the cupboards and spaces of my new home, I began to realise just how lazy my cooking skills and how oddly obese my collection of marginally useless (but quite pretty – hence how I’ve come to own them) kitchen implements have become. It’s time to shape up, stream line, and get focused again. This is about food and substance, not style and whim – as my chinese grandmother would say.
Will I miss the old space? Absolutely - a kitchen is often the heart of a home, and mine was no exception. I was happy to have people eating, conversing, spilling sour secrets over the wooden dining table and celebrating the savoury and sweet with me. That green tiled splash back had caught more than just my tears at times of disaster and the oven had bore witness to personal triumphs.
So now I’m making headway in my new little kitchen. Things fit (just about), and the skylight window drenches a small crisp square of yellow sunshine in the morning across the shelves and invites me to look with new eyes and muse on future possibilities. Oh of course, there will be many times when my clumsy side will trouble me in such a tired and confined environment, and as a result the kitchen and I will probably fall out. However, with Portobello Road Market (among so many others) on my doorstep, for the first time a lack of home cooking does not concern me. I can not imagine the number of possibilities of eating out.
It’s been a while since I’ve been back living here in the capital, but as of this week I can happily call myself a Londoner again. Countless many memories are rushing back.
So ~ stay tuned for more London food based adventures. x
As the heat of the day really starts to kick in over summer, there is nothing I crave more than a plate of fresh sushi and a cold glass of white wine. Sadly, during the week it is unlikely I can snaffle a glass of wine on my office lunch break. Nor was there anywhere in the vicinity of the office that sold sushi.
But with the introduction of international food aisles to the likes of Sainsbury’s and Tesco, supermarkets have really stepped up the range of Asian food staples on offer. Although this doesn’t yet include fresh sushi grade fish, it does mean that packets of Nori seaweed sheets and sushi rice are readily available.
Here’s a refreshing change to your packed lunch. Give it a try.
Nori seaweed sheets (1 large sheet for 2 rolls)
400g Sushi rice
Smoked salmon slices, cooked prawns, ocean sticks or cold chicken strips.
Salad (soft rocket leaves or lambs lettuce)
Sushi rolling mat or baking paper.
Wash the sushi rice gently in a sieve using cold water, rinsing out any lose starch and dirt. Place in a saucepan filling with cold water (about half a pint) no further than 2/3 of the pot. Bring the pot to the boil and then immediately turn the heat down to simmer gently for 15 minutes with a lid. Remove from the heat and leave to stand and cool completely.
Lay out the Nori seaweed sheet onto your rolling mat or baking paper. Following one edge of the sheet, spread and flatten out a line of rice just over an inch wide, before making a shallow trough along the centre of your rice. If you find the rice is sticking too much to you as you do this, use wet fingers dipped in rice wine vinegar. Into the trough lay the main filling – salmon, chicken, prawns or even a mix. Then top with a light helping of salad and a drizzle of mayonnaise. Now with dry hands lift the seaweed sheet using the sushi roll mat or baking paper to help, and roll to make a tight cylinder of rice and filling in a seaweed outer shell. Place fold side down on chopping board and slice the roll to your desired length. Cut into inches for bite sized party aperitifs or longer for single snacks.
Braver sushi aficionados can spread a little wasabi paste on to the nori which will act like glue and keep the roll from unravelling.
Three rum based summer cocktails to bring a tropical burst to your back garden evenings.
The weather man was finally predicting a heatwave this weekend, heralding the optimistic rush to ready our gardens, bikes or barbecues to make the most of the British sunshine. I spent Saturday evening watching the sun dip over the garden wall, contemplating the merits of cocktails and drinks that extend those summer evenings late in to the night.
So in the first post of a summer series on cocktails, here’s some interesting tipples for your taste buds to try:
4 parts white rum (Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum)
2 parts dark rum (Havana Club or Barcardi)
1 part curaçao
1 part orgeat syrup (optional)
1 part fresh lime juice
Mix together the white rum, curaçao, syrup and lime juice with a hand full of ice. Strain into a tall chilled glass. Then, if you can, float the dark rum over the top of the drink by pouring slowly over the back of a spoon. The traditional garnish is usually a slice of pineapple, and a some lime peel gently twisted to release the citrus oils. But an orange slice or two would do just fine.
3/4 – 1 whole lime per glass (depending on how sour you like things)
2 tsps soft brown sugar
White rum to top (Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum)
Slice the limes into segments, and with the brown sugar gently mash into the bottom of a tumbler glass until the sugar dissolves into the lime juices. Fill with crushed ice and top with white rum.
For more fruity variations, you can substitute the lime with skinned, seedless grapes, kiwi fruit or mango. For an entirely oriental twist try strawberries and a peach slice topped with 1 part sake and 1 part white rum.
Hot Cola Cube Mixer – a spicy take on the Cuba Libre
1 part dark rum
1 part white rum (Bacardi 151)
2 parts cola
1 part soda cream
1 inch fresh ginger (sliced) or 2 tsps ground ginger
Drop the ginger slices (or powder) into a large jug or decanter with plenty of ice cubes. Pour in both rums and stir really well. Top off with the cola and soda and serve.
Wednesday afternoon. Time to kick back, a moment of time to myself amidst a busy week, to catch my breath. I stare out of the kitchen window into clear skies and my thoughts turn to dinner. What happy morsel can I plate up and fit into a busy evening, without succumbing to an on-the-go fast food alternative or wasting what is still left to use in the refrigerator?
With just two of us living together there is usually a substantial amount of cold roasted meat in my fridge left over from a large chicken or an oversized leg of lamb. Couple this with some kitchen staples, and I can breathe life back into those busily overlooked midweek supper slots.
A handful of dried raisins that I always store in a Kilner jar for baking scones or fruitcake, pep up a salad of watercress and Chinese leafs. A dollop mint sauce (for lamb, or cranberry jelly for cold chicken, or honey for ham) stirred into some cold natural yoghurt makes a lovely dip or dressing.
Then it’s just a matter of pulling it all together on a slice of bread, deposited into a warm pitta or even with a helping of couscous or pasta.
Keeping food simple and fresh, I feel is really important during a busy week. Stay inspired and there will never be any need to sacrifice taste for time.
It’s pretty overwhelming sometimes, standing in the meat aisle in the supermarket when you don’t entirely know what to do with some of the cuts that you are presented with. You’re not alone. I know many people that don’t know their neck fillets from their lamb shoulder, and it’s not shameful – it just means you’re missing out. I was one of them, and even now I pass over cuts of meat that I have no frame of reference for – even if they are cheaper, or meatier than what I end up with.
So let’s start simple. Here’s how to roast a leg of lamb to perfection in three easy steps. And if you think that it’s too much hassle or too expensive, a cut weighing about 1.75 kg (bone included) like the one above will feed six people easily and consider the extra two or three meals of cold cuts you could get afterwards for picnics, packed lunches or quick weekday dinners: couscous, risotto, tomato and mint salad on sour dough all with cold lamb cuts are fantastic.
Leg of lamb
5 cloves of garlic, each halved lengthways
6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
20g unsalted butter
3 anchovy filets
Freshly milled black pepper
1 glass of white wine.
1) Insert the blade of a small sharp knife directly through the meat to create incisions, and use your finger to push a sprig of rosemary, slice of garlic and a quarter of a filet of anchovy. Do this 15 – 20 times all over and under the meat.
2) Rub the meat with butter, making sure to cover any edges without a layer of fat. Place the lamb leg in a large oven tray, then season with salt and pepper. The seasoning should stick to the butter. Gently pour the glass of wine over the meat.
3) Place the tray on the middle shelf of the oven on 180° for an hour and a half, taking out at the half way point to baste the lamb in its juices to keep it beautifully moist.
The lamb should be wonderfully tender, and not over cooked – filled with flavours of the rosemary. The anchovies will have melted away to nothing, permeating the meat with a subtle saltiness which works perfectly with the sweetly softened garlic.
Allow it to rest before carving and serving up with what ever vegetables takes your fancy! Roasted courgettes are my favourite, along with cauliflower cheese or steamed mange tout.
So that’s January completed! I feel like I need to give myself a well earned pat on the back. What is it about January that makes it just stretch out its icy fingers into the rest of the year and makes me feel as if I’m never getting any further away from winter? I’m quite impatient, but at least in the first week of February I glimpsed a slice of spring in the afternoon, when the sun hesitated for what felt like a little longer in the sky, before it sank away.
So after getting inspired by the possibility of the green colours of spring around the corner, and wanting something an energetic boost of vitamins and minerals (a good source of vitamins B and C as well as iron and potassium), here’s another fantastic soup recipe.
1 large head of broccoli
250g butter beans
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 pints vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup of cream
Chives to garnish
Slice and fry off the garlic and onion before adding the florets of broccoli. Add in the butter beans (softened and drained), pour in the stock and simmer until the florets are soft. Season with with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Blend to a smooth consistency (or with chunks if you prefer). Garnish with a little cream and chopped chives and serve with toasted fresh bread or sour dough.
2 medium sized avocados
1 large tomato
1 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground pepper
a pinch of salt
juice of half a lime
2 – 3 small garlic cloves
Peel the avocados and mash with a fork, adding the salt, pepper, oil, lime juice. Chop the tomato and mince the garlic cloves. Mix everything together well. If you chose to, mix in the coriander. That’s it! It’s ready to serve!