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Archive for July, 2009

We all know how important – not to mention lovely – it is to shop locally, ethically and seasonally. But let’s face it, the local, seasonal, ethical sector doesn’t always make it easy for us to give it our money (and it doesn’t ask a great deal of that – in my experience, most specialist shops are a lot cheaper overall than supermarkets). Even in central London, where I work, and almost-central London, where I live, local is often… well, shut. Or just not there.

Brixton has some fab places to buy food: Michael the unbelievably cheap butcher; the excellent fishmonger, the ethnic grocers and delis. Further afield, there’s Moen in Clapham and Chadwick’s in Balham. Vauxhall has a good Portuguese deli and Stockwell has a handful. Just up the road from my flat is Malinka, a rather good Polish deli that opened a year or so ago (although sadly, the Italian deli next to Kennington church has closed down).

In central London, food shops are surprisingly thin on the ground south of Oxford Street and west of Borough market. There used to be a butcher in Covent Garden but it’s gone now. There is a butcher in Mayfair but it’s something of a schlep for me to get to and rather pricy. There’s Neal’s Yard and Paxton and Whitfield for cheese, of course, and excellent greengrocers (although the price and quality varies widely amongst them) and a lovely fishmonger in Berwick Street market – but all of these close their doors at 5.30 or 6pm, as do most of Brixton’s specialist food stores. It strikes me that independent shops are still catering for a long-gone society in which one member of a household didn’t work outside the home, and was free to indulge in the joyous, sociable experience of local shopping during the day.

Or, to put it another way, the road to Tesco is paved with good intentions.

So I was thrilled to discover today the existence of Greensmiths, a gourmet food shop on Lower Marsh, which is on my way home from work and stays open until 8pm on weekdays – and stocks Ginger Pig meat. Hurrah! (more…)

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Waaaah, crab

I know it’s delicious, and Tim Hayward in the Guardian made preparing it sound a doddle. So, off I trotted to the wonderful Oval farmers’ market this morning, handed the nice fish man a fiver, and returned home with a live crab. I am surprised how nervous it’s making me feel. I didn’t fancy putting it in the lentil-knittery reusable bag with the rest of my shopping (what if it ate the broad beans?), so left it in the blue plastic bag supplied by the fish man. Arrived home and put it down on the kitchen working surface, and it began to writhe and wriggle its legs. I went “Waaaah!” and jumped halfway across the kitchen. I am going to have to toughen up if I am to be equal to this slaughter of the innocent.

So the crab is currently in the fridge, still alive (I know this because when I open the door its bag rustles ominously). There is absolutely no way I am going to be able to follow TH’s recommended method of dispatch, so I shall do as the RSPCA advises and leave it in the deep freeze for two hours before putting it straight into boiling water.

crab 1

As we say in South Africa, “Ag, shame!”

More later. (more…)

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Liver little

livers

Mmmmm, chicken livers. They honestly are one of my favourite things, and I don’t know why I don’t eat them more often: so delicious, so good for you, so cheap (although I will only buy organic ones – the idea of eating the liver of a bird that’s been fed hormones and antibiotics is a bit creepy). So tonight, with loml away, I am having a bit of a chicken liver pig-out – some for supper tonight and the rest for lunch tomorrow. Tomorrow’s will be served on wholemeal toast, with some black muchrooms and perhaps a splash of cream, but tonight I am going to all-out chilli heat, inspired by the peri-peri livers you get at cheap Portuguese restaurnts in South Africa. I’ll have some ciabatta to soak up the juice and a modest and prertty salad.

250g chicken livers
Half an onion
Two red chillies
Two cloves of garlic
One stick celery
Half a tin of chopped tomatoes
Olive oil
A splash of red wine
1tsp sugar
1tsp red wine vinegar

The idea here is to make a reduced, hot tomatoey sauce, then sear the livers and use the sauce to deglaze the pan before piling everything onto the hot bread and eating with messy enthusiasm.

Saute the veg in olive oil until translucent and starting to turn golden. Add the tomatoes, red wine (a generous splash – about half the volume of tomatoes), red wine vinegar and sugar. Leave it all to reduce happily away while you watch Big Brother attend to other vital culinary tasks.

Season the sauce, adding a bit more chilli if you think you can stand it. Heat another pan with a little more olive oil until very hot and cook the livers – you’re aiming to get them nicely browned on the outside but still pink within. Remove from the pan and deglaze with the sauce before serving.

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So I start a food blog…

and promptly have a week during which I cook virtually nothing. I did make a rather toothsome jambalaya on Monday night, which loml sadly sabotaged by necking about a litre of chocolate milk (bleurgh!) as soon as he walked through the door, but the rest of the week has been a culinary desert chez moi. Tuesday was Book Club, and a liquid dinner was enjoyed by the lovely STBC girlies and me. Wednesday night we were out. Last night we were out. However, Wednesday’s meal did get me pondering on the glories of the good local Italian restaurant.

(more…)

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Soup’s up

So today we both had an epic exercise fail, and therefore needed a light supper. I had a few tomatoes kicking around in the fridge so decided to make gazpacho. Basically used this recipe, but naturally with some variations.

1. Couldn’t get green pepper so used yellow instead

2. I peeled the tomatoes before blending in the hope that this would make the sieving process easier. I quite like peeling tomatoes – I love that moment when you nick the skin with the point of a knife and the incision grows because of the pressure of the lovely fruit within. However, I loathe sieving things – it is surely the most tedious culinary job ever. And I particularly resent the causual way recipes throw it into the instructions, as if you might do it anyway, for the sheer joy of it.

3. I baked the croutons, with lots of added garlic – not for health reasons (used a goodly splash of olive oil with them) but because frying them is frankly tedious.

Suspect the result might be a bit substandard, largely because of the quality of the tomatoes, but hey – it packs in about twelve of one’s five a day and makes a good vehicle for chilli sauce consumption. And we have pudding – strawberries, raspberries and melon with a bit of sugar and a splash of vanilla vodka.

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What is it? It’s bean stew.

Well, what is it now?

Sorry, sorry – I can never resist that gag, whether it’s bean soup, bean salad…. It’s just one long laugh riot in the OE house.

Anyway, a solitary supper for me as LOML (Light of my Life, the other half) is seeing a mate. I felt like something piggy and spicy, so went for a black bean and chorizo stew. There is going to be way to much of it, so the remains might end up as part of a tapas-y dinner for the two of us tomorrow evening.

beans 1

One onion
Two cooking chorizo sausages
Three cloves garlic
Two tomatoes
(All peeled and chopped)

One thick slice of pancetta
Two red chillies
One stick of celery
One courgette
A bit of kohlrabi that came in the last veg box and needed using up
(All chopped)

1tsp coriander
1tsp smoked paprika
1 glass red wine
1tsp sugar
1 tin black beans

Place the chorizo and pancetta in a pan over the heat until they yield their lovely smoky oils. You could discard the excess fat at this stage but I went ofr a run earlier so I don’t have to. Once they’ve browned a little, add the veg, except the tomato. Cook until softened and golden. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until … well, until it looks nice.

It’s very hard to mess up this kind of food.

beans 2

And a fried egg makes everything better

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In praise of Sophie. LDO*.

To begin this blog in the modest fashion in which I intend to continue….

Last night, the lovely boyfriend and I went to see Derren Brown at the Adelphi Theatre on the Strand. It was an absolutely brilliant show, but finished late – too late for us to attempt a booking at the elusive Terr-waaah. So we were faced with the daunting prospect of finding somewhere to have dinner in Covent Garden that would be:
a. Open, and not desperate to get us out of the door in short order
b. Nice, and
c. Not extortionately expensive.

Not a particularly tall order, you’d think. But for Covent Garden, at 11pm on a school night? Not that simple. In fact, on one memorable Saturday after seeing a film at the Curzon in Soho, we tramped the streets for about an hour before ending up in Chez Gerard or somewhere similarly grim. But now we know better – now we know Sophie’s Steakhouse.

(more…)

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