Am still slightly gobsmacked at being called a “future blogging star” in the Independent Newspaper how utterly amazing is that?! As the article mentions I’ll be manning the stall at Covent Garden’s Real Food Market on the 13th August, along with the excellent Sig of Scandelicious. Between us we’ll be dishing up all manner of treats. Feel free to drop by and say hello if you’re around!
It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m skulking around Borough Market in my lunch break wondering what to make for supper. At the same time, I’m trying very very hard not to look at anything. This is every bit as torturous as it sounds. In fact it’s practically impossible and I urge you never to try it. Everyone I walk past is eating something mouthwateringly tasty, chorizo in a bun, humungous venison burgers, burnt sugar fudge or fresh, smoky paella, leaving trails of agonising deliciousness in their wake. Everything smells so good. The sun is shining and everyone looks so happy and carefree. I on the other hand want to cry.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s usually nowhere else I’d rather be when appropriately blessed with plenty of cash and time, buying a single Colchester native oyster here, an Arbroath Smokie there, chatting away to the lovely stall holders. Then cycling home with my treasures, giddy with the luxurious anticipation of tipping it all out on the kitchen table and realizing that once again I’ve bought an utterly random collection of food (but oh what bourgeoisie fun I’ve had buying it).
So much of the buzz of the market for me is talking to the stall holders. I’ve got to know quite a few of them over the years. There’s that nice man at the Wyndham Poultry stall who once spent weeks saving egg boxes and trays for me so I could soundproof the bedroom of our 24 hour party flat. Or the man on Furness Fish who slips me free bits of Pollack when Les isn’t looking. The ever-cheerful girls at Elsey and Bent and that lovely lady at De Gustibus who always does me a loaf of sourdough for a pound (now that I’ve worked out the precise time to turn up). There’s also Chris McFarlane who went to my 6th form. Chris used to skateboard and listen to the Pixies; my best friend Anna had the most god awful crush on him. He now runs the Boerenkaas stall – the rosemary wrapped Romero has a life span of approximately 20 minutes in our household.
My constant mewling about being skint seems to be paying off. The other day Abel and Cole sent me a box of freebies to sample in return for a review. It was only a small box mind you, but it was gratis nonetheless. I would love to be the sort of gluttonous liar that might declare it all to be utterly delicious, thereby ensuring a steady supply of organic goodies from them and indeed other purveyors of fine grub. Unfortunately that sort of back scratching sycophantic nonsense just isn’t for me. Furthermore, I can just picture the look of utter horror on my old BJ (broadcast journalism) lecturer Martin Shaw’s face and I have to kill the thought stone dead in its corrupt little tracks.
I do happen to really like Abel and Cole as they tick all the right ethical boxes with me, so I was mildly excited to receive their surprisingly over-packaged box containing some free hand picked white Cornish crab from the “Seafood and Eat it” company, some Laverstoke Park Farm mozzarella, some black olive hummous and some thin, white maize tortilla chips from Garcia.
This was quite literally a mixed bag, in the sense that half of it was positively manna from above and half of it was quite possibly the worst stuff I’ve ever put in my mouth since that fateful time I was tricked into eating basashi (otherwise known as “horse sushi” –I spat it out as soon as I realised what it was).
The tortillas were far too salty (and I like my salt). They were also vaguely reminiscent of stale Mazola. The hummous was a pot of indistinguishable grey sludge with no discernible flavour whatsoever. It was crying out for garlic or even just salt. I couldn’t work out why anyone would create anything so tasteless, let alone send it for review.
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On Monday night I made a rare trip to West London for a Dine with Dos Hermanos hosted dinner at Casa Brindisa. I very nearly decided against going as it was £40 and I have exactly £45 to live off until the end of this month, and after all this was a school night. I then found myself more than a little intrigued as I am a fan of their blog but have never met them (or indeed any food bloggers) before. A quick glance at the menu and I was sold:
I’ve searched high and low but cannot find a recipe for parathas anywhere. Before you start bombarding me with links to the contrary please note – I am fully aware that the net is saturated with recipes for what are effectively chapatti dough that’s been rolled out once and then fried, however these are not the parathas that I know and love. These are recipes for chapatti dough that’s been rolled out once and then fried.
There’s nothing out there for the kind that my mum has always rustled up. Hers are crisp, delicate and most importantly of all, shot through with a mille feuille of flaky buttery layers.
When I was about five years old I remember spending many a fun-filled afternoon helping to make these. I’d stand on a chair steadying the bowl as she poured in a big puff of chapatti and plain flours, sending up a white cloud of dust and depositing a fine and ghostly layer on my little brown arms and face. She’d then instruct me to mix in a big pinch of salt and make a hollow in the centre. Into this well she would pour what must have been a couple of teaspoons of molten ghee. There were never any measurements.
I would then incrementally add drops from a milk bottle and mix these in until it was just on the cusp of pliable and sticky. She would tell me that the stickiness was important because a firm dough that’s been made with less liquid is easier to work with but nowhere near as tasty to eat. I just thought the stickiness was important because I was five.
She’d plonk me in front of Chorlton and the Wheelies with a big bowl of this dough. I’d happily sit there, kneading away and wondering what it must be like to live in a teapot until the sticky mixture would come together in a smooth and supple dough.
There are hundreds of recipes for chicken curry. This is the stuff I was brought up on.
Think aromatic delicately spiced meat, chunks of tender, melt-in-the-mouth potato in a thin and deeply savoury gravy. The complex layers of flavour are born from a very specific mixture of whole and ground spices. This recipe was my late grandmother’s – she passed it on to my mum who passed it on to me. It’s been tweaked a little over the years (my gran would use skinned chicken pieces and just add them to the spiced onion mix) but that’s the beauty of curry, you can always experiment and make it your own.
If you want to make like a proper Bengali housewife, then be sure to make this in the morning and leave it all day to allow the flavours to marry. If you can leave it overnight so much the better.
Like a lot of people I seem to spend an awful lot of my time at work counting down the days until pay day. However, it’s not hi-top trainers or Christopher Kane handbags that are preying on my mind. Nor do I hanker after Margaret Howell frocks while waiting patiently for the 27th of every month. Oh no. Instead I sit there counting off the days until I have enough money to buy more fodder. This month it was the quarterly Oriental food shop. Yes, that’s right – I spent most of May fantasising about kimchi. I sat through endless dreary meetings pretending to listen while wistfully anticipating that halcyon day when I could skip into the Centre Point Food Store in Tottenham Court Road and buy Calpis, pickled turnip, fresh tofu, frozen gyoza, bottles of umeboshi plum wine, instant ramen and dreamy bags of Tohato caramel corn to my hearts content…..I do prefer the Centre Point Food Store to the Japan Centre, for one thing it’s a lot cheaper and it seems a lot less manic. I’m pleased to report that despite the fact that it’s cheaper I still somehow managed to spend a small country’s GDP in there and am now well and truly brassic.