Alfa Beta – A Foodie Alphabet

I adore this tasty looking alphabet by Vidhya Nagarajan, especially her unusual and clever culinary choices. N for naan? Perfect! (By the way, I think Thom and I found the perfect East London curry last night – pillowy naans and onion bhajis as big as your fist. A feast for £18.60). M for Maldon almost glimmers, but my favourite of all the letters is the sweet little quail egg. See more of Vidhya’s work here.

Foodie Alphabet by Vidhya Nagarajan

Quail Q by Vidhya Nagarajan

[Via The Fox is Black]

 

Recipe: Chickpeas, Spinach & Cauliflower Couscous

Every winter my body seems to go crazy – trying to hoard ALL of the sugary carbs. So this year I have made a concerted effort to eat more vegetables. This chickpeas, spinach, cauliflower, and couscous dish was just the ticket (and has no animal products too).  The original recipe called for raisins, which I detest, so I threw in a handful of dried cranberries instead. Yum.

Chickpeas, Spinach & Cauliflower Couscous

{Adapted from a Cinnamon Girl recipe}

A handful of almonds, preferably sliced
2 cups of cooked cauliflower florets
A can of chickpeas
1 cup of spinach
4 cloves of garlic
A handful of dried cranberries
1 small onion, diced
2 spring onions, diced
3 tablespoons of garam masala
Olive oil
3 cups of couscous

1. In a large skillet sauté onion in a glug of olive oil over medium-low heat until tender. Add garlic, sauté until fragrant. Add more olive oil and mix in garam masala. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

2. Add cranberries, cauliflower, chickpeas, and spinach. Cook on a low heat stirring often until heated through and spinach wilts, and the cranberries are plump.  Season well with salt and pepper.

chickpea

3. Prepare couscous as you normally would. Fluff up cooked couscous and mix into the chickpeas mixture along with the spring onion and almonds. Serve and enjoy! It’s just as good the next day, when the flavours have time to really soak into the couscous.

dinner

 

Cook the books

I scored these two very shiny and pretty cookbooks for a fiver at Oxfam Dalston:

Cookbooks

Heston’s Fantastical Feasts by Heston Blumenthal, and Creole by Babette de Rozières. I bought the Blumenthal book mostly because it has instructions on how to make lickable wallpaper, a la Willy Wonka. But I am more excited about the Creole book, described as a “colourful and sumptuous celebration of West Indian Creole cooking”.

Vegetables of the West Indies

Rice with Beans

Coconut flan

Just a bit of a preview before adding the to the towering pile of books next to my bed – aren’t the pictures luscious? Can’t wait to make some of the sweet dishes from the Creole book, like coconut flans with caramel, and try some traditional Guadeloupean ti’punch – a white rum and lime mix.

Currently Reading (And Listening To)

I  am on a real foodie kick at the moment! I just – belatedly – finished the last few pages of Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef (which was very good, my tardiness wasn’t a reflection of the book’s quality at all), and have spent many happy hours leafing through the The Flavour Thesaurus for cooking inspiration. And now Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain.

Anthony Bourdain

I’ve been hearing for years that Anthony Bourdain is a bit of a badass, and then a copy of Kitchen Confidential showed up in my Christmas stocking. Funnily enough the parts I’m enjoying thus far, are those moments from a softer time:

My brother and I were reasonably happy here. The beaches were warm, there were lizards to hunt down and exterminate with readily available pétards, firecrackers, which one could buy legally (!) over-the-counter. There was a forest within walking distance where an actual hermit lived, and my brother and I spent hours there, spying on him from the underbrush. By now I could read comic books in French and, of course, I was eating – really eating. Murky brown soupe de poisson, tomato salad, moules marinières, poulet basquaise (we were only a few miles from the Basque country). We made day trips to Cap Ferret, a wild, deserted and breathtakingly magnificent Atlantic beach with big rolling waves, taking along baguettes and saucissons and wheels of cheese, wine and Evian (bottled water was at that time unheard of back home).

A few miles west was Lac Cazeaux, a fresh-water lake where my brother and I could rent pédalo watercraft. We ate gaufres, delicious hot waffles, covered in whipped cream and powdered sugar. The two hot songs of that summer on the Cazeaux jukebox were Whiter Shade Of Pale by Procol Harum and These Boots Were Made For Walkin’ by Nancy Sinatra. The French played those two songs over and over again, the music punctuated by the sonic booms from French air force jets that would swoop over the lake on their way to a nearby bombing range.

There’s something about food & music isn’t there? The two seem inexplicably linked. Laura Vincent of Hungry & Frozen always lovingly lists her current sounds, and Turntable Kitchen matches recipes with records. How does Tame Impala with creamy couscous sound? I think they’ll even post you out a pack of ingredients with a song to match.

Music while dining matters too. I read an interesting article on the sometimes inspired, sometimes insipid music choices of restaurants and pubs and how they shape the experience.

Likewise, last night’s Mexican feast at Thor and Liv’s place probably would have had an entirely different atmosphere if we weren’t stuffing our faces to the sweet tunes of Mariachi El Bronx. (By the way, thinly sliced green apple, dressed with fresh lime and Swedish black salt is incredible. Think of that if you listen to the Mariachi song.)

What do you like to listen to when you’re eating, cooking, or dreaming of food?

Fondue Time

Thank you for your birthday wishes earlier. Hello 26!  I woke up last Tuesday and gasped dramatically “My youth!” and Thom filled in the obvious gap, adding “…is fleeting!” He’s clearly a keeper. I had a little celebration with my new London friends – nothing too crazy, but it did involve over a kilogram of cheese, so you could describe it as fancy.

Cheese - pre fondue

Here is a photo of the cheese before it got turned into a big bubbling pot of fondue. It was the size of a baby! I picked it up at Borough Market (yes, I have been back already) and it’s a nice local Sussex Farmhouse cheese. Inspired by Les Refuge des Fondues in Paris, here is the recipe:

Cheesy-No-Fail-Awesome-Times Fondue

Adjust quantities to suit your audience

1 clove of garlic, halved & peeled
Juice of 1 lemon
3 parts melty cheese
1 part other cheese
1 cup of white wine – I used  el cheapo Sainsbury’s Sauvignon Blanc
1 loaf of bread 

For the fondue:

Take garlic and rub it around the inside of your fondue pot. Grate or roughly chop all of your cheeses into small pieces. Add the wine and lemon juice to the pot, and bring to a gentle simmer. Bit by bit, slowly stir the cheese into the wine, stirring constantly. If your cheese is particularly runny, add a pinch of cornflour. But don’t worry too much because it will thicken with time (as the fondue cools).

It’s easier to do this bit in a saucepan on a stove if you just have a ceramic fondue pot. (I am assuming you have a fondue pot and warmer on hand.)

However, it works just as well if you have a cast iron pot (high roller!). Just make the fondue directly in the pot on the stove then eat fast.

For dippers:

Chop your bread into small cubes. Bread that is a few days old holds its shape better, but if yours is still fresh and springy to touch, put it in the oven for about 8 minutes to dry it out. Roasted vegetables also work a treat, as well as cocktail onions and pickles (how 70′s European). 101 Cookbooks has lots of other great suggestions!

Warning: excessive consumption may induce cheese dreams. Enjoy!

Fondue Finale

Borough Market

As far back as 1014, and probably much earlier, London Bridge attracted traders selling grain, fish, vegetables and livestock. In the 13th century traders were relocated to what is now Borough High Street and a market has existed there ever since.

Exotic broccoli

Furness Fish

sea-dreams

pumpkins

Cheese

Potato Merchants

sweet[s] stall

duck eggs
cider

The other day we went to Borough Market. Alongside cheese, breads, cakes and all those good things, it has the widest choice of fruit and vegetables that I have ever seen.

The atmosphere was incredible too; imagine crowds of happy people trading, supping on aromatic mulled wine, popping truffles in their mouths, pressing juices, ordering coffee, carrying armfuls of bread, commiserating on the weather… All the while trains rumbled across the viaducts overhead. I want to go back again and again.

 

Brick Lane Beigels

When I first visited Brick Lane in 2009, and drunkenly chowed down on a cream cheese beigel, I never could have imagined that two years later I’d live within walking distance. Now the beigel shop is a familiar landmark, a fluorescent neighbourhood beacon glowing at all hours of the day.

Brick Lane Beigel Bake Print by Jo Peel

This Beigel Bake print by Jo Peel really captures the spirit of the place; a bit unruly, a bit unloved, but certainly part of the East London fabric – for now and forever.