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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A CASSEROLE OF NONSENSE

Is how one of my friends described feeling after a particularly heavy and late (or early depending on how you look at it) night (morning?!) out! 

I couldn't have put it better myself. 

I was feeling particularly dicey after a super smashing (emphasis on 'smashed') night out with my fairy godfather/mother (uncle & aunt actually, henceforth know FGF/FGM) and friends. 

First stop, after signing my life away (my working life at least), was the most salubrious Coronet on Holloway Road. No sniggering please, there's something quite comforting about a pub full of regulars (albeit clearly alcoholic regulars before midday!), and their pitta bread and dip platter was suprisingly tasty.  As was my Jeremiah Weed sweet tea liqueur, unfortunately sans the advertised jam-jar glass (the reason for ordering it) as (quelle suprise) they had all been pilfered! 

With the Russian wittering on about how much work he had on (go on rub it in!), I was sadly contemplating an afternoon on the sofa with Friends. Even more sadly, these 'friends' being the telly ones, not real ones. When, out of the blue, I got a call from aforesaid FGF saying he was in town and did I want lunch? Did I want lunch? What sort of daft question is that?!

I hotfooted it to Covent Garden and after minimial arm-twisting managed to convince FGF that we should go to Hawksmoor and get me squiffy and fill up on MEAT. Thanks so much to the LOVELY peeps at Hawksmoor: despite me rudely just walking in the door and expecting a table (don't you know who I am...ahem!) they came up trumps and squeezed (or as the Russian puts it 'squoze') us in. 

This post could easily turn into Hawksmoor: The Sequel but I'll keep it brief and just say that my 300g of juicy fillet was meaty heaven made more sublime by smearing great globs of marrow all over it. FGFs cutlets were as meltingly delish as last time too. And FGF, a hard man to please, was won over by the surroundings, the super service (think the prettiness of the staff helps considerably - for both of us... yum!) and the menu. 

But I can't actually recall much more as we did achieve our goal of getting me as squiffy as poss! Think Sliding Doors but without me finding my boyfriend in bed with someone first. Oh, and I definitely didn't steal any champagne from work...Honest! Hmmmmmmm. Okay, let's not think of it like Sliding Doors...

...Anyway, a bloody mary, gin fizz, sherry cobbler, great bottle of red and Zombie (standard!) down, we wobbled up the stairs and over to the Hawley where my lovely sister(at heart, not in real life) and her friends were waiting, only to be joined by my FGM. Suffice to say we had a VERY jolly time, taking our boisterous noisiness to the Barfly for late night 'dancing' (at this point I don't think any movement I made could possibly be construed as actually dancing as we know it) with the Russian dropping the tunes

The last I heard FGF and FGM were actually threatening to go to the Marathon Bar

All in all this was the most perfect way to enter redundant life; surrounded by friends and family ensuring I knew exactly how not redundant I actually am. 

Frankly, the next day I was good for nothing, so good for me that I had some packs of game casserole in the freezer to rustle up this one-pot wonder*:

Game Stew*
SORRY THERE'S NO PICTURE, BUT THE RUSSIAN GOT DRUNK AND HIS PHONE WAS 'STOLEN'
50g butter
2 x 340g packs Waitrose Game Casserole
200g pack smoked bacon lardons
225g whole chestnuts
2 onions, roughly chopped
25g plain flour
150ml port, red wine or do like me & and use Mulled Wine!
300ml hot chicken stock
2 tbsp redcurrant jelly, plus extra to serve
1 small orange
 
Method 
1. Preheat the oven to 170 deree centigrade
2. In a flameproof casserole add half the butter and (briefly) brown the game in batches on a high heat (couple of mins will do!) Remove and set aside. 
3. Add the lardons, cook briefly, then place with the game.
4. Add the remaining butter to the casserole and  fry the chestnuts for a couple of mins until softened and browned, remove and reserve. 
5. Add the onion and fry over a high heat for 3-4 minutes, until softened. 
6. Return the game and bacon to the pan, sprinkle in the flour and gradually blend in the mulled wine, stock and redcurrant jelly. Bring to the boil, stirring, then add the whole orange.
7. Cover and cook for about one and a half hours, or until the meat is tender. 
8. About 15 minutes before the end of cooking, add the chestnuts. 
9. Remove and reserve the orange and allow to cool slightly.
10. Halve the orange, then push it through a sieve, collecting the juice and pulp in a bowl. Gradually stir this juice into the stew to taste, then season. 

*an adapion of a trusty Waitrose recipe, I served this with very garlicky mash (my cure for all ails) and buttery steamed kale with more very thinkly sliced garlic.

I leave you with this lovely bit of nonsense 
from Armstrong & Miller


Sunday, 21 November 2010

TRY, TRY AND TRY AGAIN!

Not everything...or, indeed, anyone...can be a success first time around. I mean, bully for the ones who are, but frankly I'd be astonished if that were true - they'd be incredibly lucky! Usually success requires much hard work, lots of learning, tears, trantrums and just plain refusal to give up. 

What would've happened if Thomas Edison had given up after the first go? He's believed to have gone through over 1,000 tries before inventing the light bulb, this after being fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.”

And what about Winston Churchill? He failed the sixth grade and his record in politics wasn’t much better as he was defeated in every election for public office until he became Prime Minister at the age of 62.

Puts things slightly in perspectiv doesn't it. There's a whole list of 'em! Look at the phenomenon that is  Harry Potter - J K Rowlng was declined by at least 12 publishing houses originally. Some people just don't know a good thing when it's staring them in the face. 

Equally though, there are times times when success is all about knowing when to give up. When knowing something or someone isn't right for you. Whether it be that job you've got stuck in a rut in over the years, no chance of promotion and no challenges but it's just easier to sit tight and bank on that pay cheque. Or that boyfriend/girlfriend that is more like your platonic flatmat than your lover. Or is it just sitting on you bum at home watching telly while wishing you were travelling exotic lands, or even just having the balls (ahem) to take that pole-dancing lesson. Whatever. Funny how this time of year brings such thoughts to the fore. 

Particularly poignant for me as it's this time last year the Russian got made redundant and it's also this time this year that I have been given the old heave-ho too. 

Ah well. I see great things beckoning in 2011! And of course, it gives me more time to pursue my passions and lose myself in food, food and more food! 

Although, my cooking isn't always so satisfying. OR so successful. Only a couple of weeks ago my LLF were sat aghast and with rumbling tummies having waited 3 hours to be presented with one poached chicken, one over-roasted chicken and failed herb dumplings (thanks for not'in Corrigan!). Seven people cannot be fed on a couple of slices of chicken and a tidbit of salsa verde! I know a bad workman blames his tools but, seriously, who's heard of a bloody cooker that you can only use 'special' pans on. GRRRRR!!! Still, we were all squiffy on red wine, so thankfully could see the funny side. And appetites were somewhat sated by cheese and biscuits and my lovely fruits of the forest cobbler. 

Equally, a massive fail was my attempt at a James Martins recipe for chocolate & fennel mousse cake. I love chocolate but there was nothing remotely tasty about what it became. Yuck, Straight in the bin. 

Hasn't stopped me coking though, hasn't stopped me taking risks. And that's what it's all about. So make something you love your life. Not all of us can be in super brilliant jobs (or any jobs), or super brilliant relationships (or any relationships), but we can make ourselves happy indulging our passions whether that be on a day to day or part-time basis. 

As Samuel Beckett said "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."

On that note, I'm buggering off to over-indulge in antiques programmes and cups of tea!! 

Try the recipes I failed at and let me know how you got on...if you have any tips to avoid pureed dumplings (ME the queen of mash?!?!) and just plain WIERD cake then let me know!!


Only Ricky Gervais could capture the pain and idiocy of office life...
...I leave you with The Office

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

THOU SHALL HEV A FISHY ON A LITTLE DISHY

Hmmm never put a great deal of thought into the lyrics to this little ditty
 
"Now aw've smok'd mi backy
Let's hev a bit o' cracky
Till the boat comes in"

Well, I've fallen off the non-smoking wagon (shhh don't tell my mum!) and am partial to the odd Vogue Menthol, but I definitely draw the line at crack! 

And I won't be drawing any other type of line either. No dreary, wet (futile) hours sat beside a river waiting for a nibble for me as I've discovered the lovely folks at Abel & Cole and had my little fishies (and a stonking great box of veg) delivered tidily to my door. 

They turned up on the dot of my time slot at 8am with me beary-eyed-edly (it was too early for me to be grammatically correct!) apologising for appearing on the doorstep in my jimjams - he seemed pretty blase so perhaps his normal client shows up in something more saucy?! Are Abel & Cole the new 'milkman' I wonder?! 

Who knows, and who knew how I would get through more veg than I'd normally shop for in a month (perhaps that's a slight exaggeration). Despite my fears of getting fruit I wouldn't even recognise let alone know how to eat/cook with, the only newcomer was a romanesco cauliflower. Which looked like an alien, but was absolutely delicious done as a glammed up cauliflower cheese. 

I also got a great deal on some mackerel which I LOVE and has the bonus of being a happy food that's super good for you. I was going to do some honey spelt bread to accompany my recipe but I'm afraid it's waaaaaay too cold outside (and inside as I'm too tight to whack the central heating up) and Waitrose's Crosta & Mollica Linguette Rosemary are a super tasty and easy alternative!

Mackerel Pate












3/4 fresh mackerel, gutted (I normally gut them myself so the cats can have the innards and they freeze better whole)
Few sprigs of rosemary
1 lemon
Horseradish (fresh or jar of hot horseradish)
Philidelphia cream cheese (and not half fat either!!!)

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade
2.Oil some foil, salt & pepper it then roll the mackerel in it
3. Pop two halves of a slive of lemon and a spif of rosemary in the cavity 
4. Envelope the fish in the foil and then bake in the oven for about 20-25 mins
5. Take out an leave to rest then flake the fish meat off, taking care to avoid the bones
6. Mix half the packet of cream cheese with a good teaspoonful of the horseradish (or to taste)
7. Beat the fish in with a fork and serve with your bread/crackers/ricecake, etc. 

Easy peasy, pretty much good for you (kind of) and the perfect light lunch.  to sit in front of the telly and enjoy an afternoon of wheeling & dealing courtesy of Dickinson and co on the telly. 

So I'll leave you with a dealer of another kind 
(but not the crack kind)
 


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

DON'T COUNT YOUR CHICKENS

As the fabled Aesop...err...fabled... 

'The Milkmaid and Her Pail." Patty, a farmer's daughter, is daydreaming as she walks to town with a pail of milk balanced on her head. Her thoughts: "The milk in this pail will provide me with cream, which I will make into butter, which I will sell in the market, and buy a dozen eggs, which will hatch into chickens, which will lay more eggs, and soon I shall have a large poultry yard. I'll sell some of the fowls and buy myself a handsome new gown and go to the fair, and when the young fellows try to make love to me, I'll toss my head and pass them by." At that moment, Patty tossed her head and lost the pailful of milk. Her mother admonished, "Do not count your chickens before they are hatched." '

Well my eggs certainly ain't going to be hatching anytime soon, it's the first week of Movember  and I've pretty much spent my entire wages. All my fun plots and plans lain to waste! How the hell does that happen? Is it me or is this the skintest year in the history of living in London? Goodness only knows what I'll do when the VAT rockets up next year to 20% (tough but fair, my a**se)  and with redundancies taking a worrying slash-and-burn turn for the worst combined with rental properties going up by 10%-35% (YUP, rental properties in London are now gold-frigging-dust!) it's not going to be long before my heavily baby-endowed landlords see pounds signs light up in their eyes. AND, as if the outlook weren't gloomy enough, I read that apparently this will be the coldest winter in 31 years.. BUT, but, BUT... wasn't last year the coldest in 31 years?! COLD!!! Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!

GAH. What to do? Emigrate I say!

The only thing to ward off that cold and the following stinky dose dold (or if you're a bloke, man flu!) that is likely to apparate and continue through Christmas (nothing like matching your nose to Santa's suit - well, I guess it could tenuously be considered a form of accessorising... darlink) is heavy dosage of chicken soup (penicillin in a bowl, I am a Jew after all!) and a bulb of garlic a day! 

Course I wouldn't advocate eating a whole bulb of garlic... actually I would, drizzled with oil and a sprinkling of salt then roasted to squeezy caramalised tasty softness in the oven... mmmmmmmmmm... I'm happy for people to evacuate seats around me on the tube as I am socially inept in the mornings anyway and appreciate the space! But, if you're slightly more considerate of the proletariate sharing an already stifling carriage of a morn, try something more simple, tasty and breath-friendly: 

Chicken Kiev 


















BIG chunky chicken breasts
Breadcrumbs (stale bread or just cheat & buy a packet from Waitrose)
Lemon
Tarragon* 
Sprinkling of plain flour
50g butter (approx), softened
1 egg
Lots of garlic

1. Turn the oven to about 180 degrees centigrade (I've just remembered, all the temps I give are for a fan oven - so if you don't have one maybe up the temp a bit)
2. Lay out your plates for breading the chicken with your flour, beaten egg & breadcrumbs 
3. If you like lemony chicken then perhaps zest the breadcrumbs - I also add a bit of seasoning 
4. Mix the butter, herbs*, garlic and squeeze a half to whole (totally dependent on your taste) lemon in; roll into a log and pop in the freezer for about 15 minutes
4. When the 15 mins are up, slice a pocket into the fattiest bit of the breast, taking care not to go all the way through, and shove (carefully push) your butter mixture into the pocket
5. Flour, egg, bread the chicken and then pop in a fryiong pan to seal all sides
6. Pop in oven for about 15-20 minutes (depending on the size of the breast - ooo-errr)

I served with mashed garlicky tatties and garlicky Kale (simply pop in a small saucepan with a drizzle of water, couple of knobs of butter and very thinly sliced garlic glove for about 6 minutes) and a chilled glass of my new favourite wine from Waitrose, the rather gorgeous Surrey Gold

Perfect winter fare, and there's not chance a cold (or a vampire!) will be getting you any time soon.

*Usually I keep back a stock of the butter in the freezer, it'll keep for about 3 months. And this time I couldn't find any tarragon ANYWHERE! Yeah, thanks Sainsburys, Waitrose, M&S, Co-Operative. Growl. So give chives and parsley a go - they're just as good!
Oh and has anyone else noticed a dearth of cinnamon sticks?! what's with that?! mulled wine perhaps?! That's my plan tonight chaps. 

In the meantime I leave you with...
...quite possibly the cutest little sneezey sausage you'll see all winter!

Chicken Kiev on Foodista

Friday, 5 November 2010

A GAME OF TWO HALVES

So, I had a rather fun-filled cocktail-packed night of it last night and, oh boy, is my head feeling it now. Not quite as much as I deserve but a dull thud nevertheless... 

Kick-off was at new opening The Folly Bar in Monument. 

I was expecting this to be a teeny tiny little place filled with flora and fauna, instead to my delighted surprise it was HUGE and heaving. 


Utter delicious carnage. 

Greeted with a glass of champagne that was regularly filled (naughty!), I perused the delights of the deli upstairs then mooched down to the kitchen for hefty canapes such as freshly battered fish and chuckny chips, chicken satay, sausages with a piquant sauce, and focaccia burgers! Super tasty and exactly what I needed. 


Especially after one of their spiced apple rum punches with earl grey tea foam - it's fresh taste certainly belied it's kick! 

The space itself is HUGE (did I mention that already?) and there's plenty of benches and tables upstairs and a very long bar so your hopes of getting served at speed by their friendly and very attractive bar staff are very high! I like. 

I like even more the more cosy space downstairs, replete with high backed chairs, round tables for a good old natter over cocktails with friends. 

But more than that, they have great (quality and quantity) ladies toilets. Perfect, they smelled divine as I walked in and the walls were a soft velvet. For a lady, there is really nothing better than a good quality, spacious, CLEAN, fresh smelling toilet - the dives i've been too with wet floors and queues to rival glastonbury would curdle your milk! 

The Folly is a misnomer to say the least, this is certainly no foolish or "costly ornamental building with no practical purpose". it's the perfect lunchtime/after work meeting place. 

After a swift recce, it was half-time and a race to get to Shoreditch for the second half.

Fortunately Shoreditch was literally a five minute (speed)walk away and I arrived at the very specific time of 7:32pm demanded by AbsolutUK for their london leg of their Limited Edition Experience

Eve and I wended our way round a stinky back alley worthy of Top Cat himself, arriving at a shady looking door to be greeted by a clipboard in a boilersuit. We were ushered into a sparse concrete space towards a bar with a choice of Absolut Expresso Martini or an Absolut Cosmopolitan - coffee for me please! No sooner had Eve sipped the last drip of her drink than she was kidnapped from my side and bundled into another room. With still a couple of gulps to go, I stood shell-shocked and latched onto another chap who's girlfriend had the same treatment. Then it was our turn. 

Through the door we were greeted with the strains of Gene Kelly and handed a brolly to stop us from getting wet from the indoor rain. Deluge successfully navigated we then entered another room to the sound of cheers, and ego boosted by my 'fluffer' I paraded before the paparazzi and did my best blue steel for the camera. 

We next entered a weird and wonderful, but somewhat unnerving, room of mirrors that moved and followed us about... 
From the sublime to to ubsurd, next up was a giant cat's cradle. 
Picking up my string I got creative. Perhaps a little too creative and a little too entangled. Extricating myself I tied up my piece of 'art' and trundled into the next room to be reunited with my long-lost Eve and immediately thown into a game of super competitive ping pong! I think I pretty much hit everything - wall, ceiling, head, boob (not mine or Eve's unfortunately) - except the bat. 
After the fun of having 100 balls launched at us and more unsuccessful tries at a 'proper' game we'd worked up an appetite for the restaurant. 


What divine dining, what haute cuisine we were treated to. Yes, twiglets & hula hopps! We were literally crying with laughter. 




From oral to aural pleasures and the tinkling symphony of crystal glass in the next room, leading to an 18th Century fopp waltzing me across the floor to the last room of them all. 
A clothes line with everyone's face - on a mask. 

How long did we wait? I don't know?! Cocktail in hand we fidgited and fussed and jumped up to minutely inespect every eyeless mask that came out. "Those aren't my blemishes" "my nose isn't *that* big!". And finally I found mine. Yeuch. Do i really look like that close up. Least said soonest mended. Well, apart that is from Eve not having found hers. After an hour of fruitless investigation we could only assume that someone had half-inched it. Not surprised as she's one tasty lady! But seriously. Stealing someone's face. It's not on is it Travolta?

We wended our tired feet up the strairs and as commiseration had another cocktail or two. When Eve suddenly got a lightbulb moment and ran swiftly downstairs. Her intutition was spot-on and she got her face back. Hurrah!!!!!! 

After an Absolut-ely brilliant night (boom tish!), we left our separate ways. Eve rather sensibly, home. Me rather unsensibly to The Book Club - where strangely enough there are NO BOOKS. curious. hmmm... more on that another day (night!) i think! 

And on that note,we've all been watching Masterchef 
on the edge of our seats, right? 
Well, take a gander at the REAL Masterchef winning dishes...

Thursday, 4 November 2010

THE LONDON COCKTAIL CLUB

 










61 Goodge Street
London  W1T 1TL 
020 7836 9533 

I am already a massive fan of the London Cocktail Club's Covent Garden hideaway - a hop skip and a jump from my offices. Squirrelled away under the Arts Theatre on Newport Street, it is the perfect place to sink into the mahogany chesterfields and sip away the strains of your working day on gorgeous concoctions. 

So, imagine my excitement when a little birdy told me that the man behind LCC, the infamous JJ (who you will recognise from BBC's The Restaurant) is planning a new venture on Goodge Street with his cohort James Hopkins and the man himself, Raymond Blanc OBE

The concept is, in their own words: "a creative British cocktail bar & kitchen where guests experience an array of liquid delights in a fun and certainly unpretentious environment by some of the cities finest bartenders". And from the leaked photos on twitter it's shaping up to be a super-cool lavish little gin-palace! 

I am super-intrigued and excited by their drinks menu offering liquid delights such as the Bacon & Egg Martini, the Squid Ink Margarita or the Oyster Bomb; and my appetite is whetted by their kitsch canape menu with morsels such as ham hocks to potted shrimps. 

There's even going to be a Mister Whippy in the corner. Yup, you did read that right!

I've been reliably informed they launch on 1st December, so pen the date in your diary as opening their door will be the absolutely best Advent gift yet!! 

Check out more tasty titbits on their blog and on twitter:@raymond_blanc and @jjamesgoodman

From one Gin Palace with a cool, punk feel...
...to another with a cool, punk sound!