Kennedy’s are arguably the best fish and chip shop in Streatham. I would happily argue this until blue in the face.
Last night, I got myself some post-surgery celebration chips – with cod, onion gravy and mushy peas. You know how you have to fast before surgery, even if it’s minor? Well, by the time I got home at 8pm, I was famished. Kennedy’s made it all ok. Kennedy’s are WONDERFUL. Not only is the fish superbly white and fluffy, in a crisp, golden batter, and the chips fat and plentiful, but the service is efficient. Long live properly FAST food.
The mushy peas were nothing to write home about (not bad, but not amazing like the fish and the chips). But the onion gravy? Om nom nom.
I ended up stuffed after just half a plateful – I guess that comes from fasting all day. But leftover chips for breakfast? Thank you very much…
I got this bad boy as a belated Christmas present from my big brother (see here why it was late), but I can confidently proclaim: it was well worth the wait.
This weighty tome from Jeff Potter looks like a text book, but dear lord, if all my text books were this readable, I would have read them all cover to cover by now.
Cooking For Geeks is made up of some science, some “hacks”, some interviews, and tonnes of little nuggets of fascinating facts.
Maybe you’ll love it for the recipes (whilst I haven’t yet tried any, they all sound amazing). Maybe you’ll love it for the miracle berries, or many of the other weird and wonderful additives (which sound AMAZING and I must experiment). Maybe you’ll love it for the stupidly dangerous over-clocked oven (pizza cooked in 45 seconds, anyone?).
If you’re me, you’ll surprise yourself by finding the section on pathogens the most interesting.
The only annoying thing is probably the fact that this book is written by an American, for Americans. Broiling? Seriously? It’s a grill. Also, the references to the FSA make you wonder about our own, British food standards. Must…do further research…
But the problems presented by that fact are minimal. Far too small a problem to detract from the pure joy that is getting immersed into the strange and wonderful world of geeky cooking. Yay!
There is also a Cooking For Geeks website to accompany the book. Double win.
Ben and I had marvellous designs to escape London before the royal wedding. We’re not big on royalty or crowds or any of that, so we thought we’d run away to the coast. There is a cave at Broadstairs that Ben has wanted to sleep in for years, and now seemed as good a time as any.
We left London at 6:50 yesterday morning. We got to Margate around 9. It was frigging freezing. We stopped at Angela’s Cafe (no customer toilets? Hmm.) by the seafront for some breakfast, then made our way to the supermarket for supplies. We decided to buy some burgers to cook on the little camping stove for dinner, as well as getting a lot of biscuits and so forth.
We then headed on the Joss Bay. It was super cold, so on went the winter coats (cry – I thought I was done with mine until October).
We went for a wander down the beach – aside from us, the only brave souls out and about were dog walkers. There were some insane surfers at about 9pm that night, but little during the day.
A walk up to the intended cave showed us a not so promising start: the chalk roof over the entrance had caved in, leaving a massive pile of rubble and a foreboding sign. Of course, Ben pays signs no heed…
And after a hell of a lot of convincing, I am helped up to the cave, too (good photo opportunity). It was clear we weren’t the only ones that ignore notices – there were signs that someone had recently been up there for a drink and a little campfire.
We weren’t so insane as to hop into the sea at this point – the wind was quite something, and it was overcast. Instead, we thought we’d head back to Margate for a dander. A bit of shopping (including Primark – it just seemed right, in Margate), and then the all-important fish and chips at Beano’s (we were by the sea, afterall). Well, I say fish and chips. I had scampi and chips (with gravy, om nom) whilst Ben had chips and a battered sausage.
Then (because outside London, shops SHUT at unreasonably early times) we wandered down the seafront to look at the old amusement arcades (Ben loves arcades – yay for arcade games!). We shot a few things (House of the Dead 2 is good fun) and had a laugh at the lameness of the prizes available.
After this, we drove back to Joss Bay. And it started raining. And it was still cold. And we wussed out. Fine, there, you win. It was just too bloody miserable for sleeping on the beach, even in a cave (which gets tide-locked). And London (and home) was just too temptingly close. So here we are, in London, on D-day.
I have so far managed to not watch any Royal Wedding stuff on the telly (I really have no interest – I bear the lovely couple no ill will, but they are just people… I don’t know them or anything). In fact, I stayed in bed until about 10 – yay for Bank Holiday Friday.
We’re still thinking about driving out to the country side this afternoon to make those burgers.
Everyone loves pizza (not true actually, I have a couple of friends who have declared a hatred of the stuff). OK, pizza is a good fall-back meal. But some pizzas are better than others. We all have our favourite toppings (I LOVE capers and the odd anchovy. Ben is a meat fiend).
And is it just me, or are takeaway pizzas getting really expensive? Hmm.
There is something really satisfying about making your own pizzas (from scratch, I mean, dough and all). You can control the thickness of the base, load on whatever and as many toppings as you like, and get creative with stuffed crusts if you’re feeling brave.
Pizza is REALLY EASY TO MAKE. Please don’t be afraid – don’t be fooled, it’s really straight forward. Here, I’ll show you…
You will need:
- 250ml warm water
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- 2 teaspoons dried yeast
- 375g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Whatever toppings your heart desires
MAKE IT, GODDAMNIT!
- In a small jug, mix the water with the sugar an yeast. Yay, yeast! It stinks like stale beer, but it’s aliiiiive. Let the mixture stand in a warm place (in the sun, or on top of the tumble dryer (on) are good ones) for about 10 mins to let it froth a bit
- Pour the yeasty water into a bowl with the floor and salt, and hand mix until combines. Splat the dough out onto a clean, floured surface, and knead it for another 10 mins. This is very therapeutic. Imagine it’s someone’s face (someone you don’t like, ideally).
- Pop the dough into an oiled bowl, and cover with a damp tea-towel. Leave in a warm place (airing cupboard? Above a radiator? Just not under a cat) for about an hour. It’ll double in size – very exciting!
- While the dough is expanding and expanding in all of the directions it can whizz, prepare your toppings. Certain things will need pre-cooking – mushrooms, onions for example. But peppers, capers, cheese, deli meats, sweetcorn will all be fine. Use your intuition
- When the dough is nearly ready, preheat your oven to about 200 degrees C.
- Your dough will make two decently sized pizzas (or one ENORMOUS one). So out onto a tray it goes (half or all of the dough, depending on how many pizzas you want), squish squish til it’s your desired thickness. There is little science to this.
- Put on your toppings! I advise a base of tomato purée or something similar – passata, pesto are both good too. But why not try gentleman’s relish, or Marmite if you’re brave (it’ll be damn salty)? I like to put cheese on last of all, as it goes all melty over the top and prevents some of the other toppings from burning.
- In the oven for 15 mins
Other topping ideas -
- Try different cheeses – not just mozarella, but how about feta, brie, or your other favourite cheese?
- PEAS. I <3 peas so hard.
- Olives, ofc.
- Try different cured meats - pepperoni is not the only option. Parma ham, thinly sliced chorizo, sliced bratwurst all work well.
- Sun-blushed tomatoes make a nice change from “normal” ones.
- Pineapple isn’t the only fruit. Srsly. Try figs.
- CRACK AN EGG ON IT. OMG this is one of my favourites. But please be aware that you may have to bake the pizza a lot longer (and in a less hot oven) to cook it nicely through. Maybe you want to fry the egg in a pan and just dump it on the cooked pizza?
If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you can’t have missed it: I am a Graze convert. There, I said it. Perhaps this makes me a pretentious, middle-class 30-something, but I don’t care. Graze is good.
What is Graze? In a nutshell (haha), they are a company that send you healthy snacks. Wait, wait! Don’t be put off! They are DELICIOUS. Let me give you some examples of my favourite things so far:
- kalamata & halkidiki olives with chilli & garlic
- fire nuts - chilli almonds, chilli cashew nuts and wasabi coated peanut crackers
- love mix – dried cherries, goji berries and organic apricots
- great fire dragon - jumbo chilli maize, roasted & salted maize and satay broad beans
And those are just four of the hundreds of different options available. I haven’t yet had the same thing twice.
So, what’s the point?
Well, having tasty, healthy snacks around means that you’re less likely to grope for the biscuit tin. And, if you graze through the day (whenever you’re peckish) you’re less likely to pig-out at dinner time. There’s more info about the philosophy behind grazing here.
I’ve been grazing for a month now, and I haven’t looked back. The joy is, a Graze box fits through most letterboxes (unless you’ve got an inexplicably small letterbox like Angharad), so even if you’re not in when your weekly delivery arrives, the postman has no excuse, and it won’t end up in your local sorting office.
Fancy giving Graze a go? If you use a promotional code, you can get your first box free, and your second half price (usual price per box is £3.49 inc p&p). You can cancel your account at ANY time, so don’t worry about being roped in forever.
Oh, you want a promotional code..? Go on then. WD1V8QK3. Tell them I sent you.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I was determined to get in to central London on Sunday, in order to experience Chinese New Year 2011, London style.
You will also be aware that I was sadly disappointed.
Whilst there was food in abundance, lion dances parading from shop to shop, and lanterns laced above our heads, Chinatown was rammed with people (prams = BAD IDEA, people), so good luck actually seeing over heads.
Oh, and to the chap behind me who shoved me in the back whilst we were all trying to get out of New Loon Moon – Yes, you were pushing me, no, pushing didn’t help, and no, threats don’t work on me either. Yes, you were right to feel embarrassed and shut up after I pulled you up on that one. Weren’t expecting that from a girl half your size, were you? Jerk.
I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it too at first: Why can’t people just put their rubbish in the bin?!! Well, maybe it’s because…
My other major irritation with Chinese New Year in London is that there was advertising EVERYWHERE. The paper lanterns were sponsored by Lebara mobile, children carried red balloons festooned with Lyca Mobile logos, and lo and behold – Kung Fu Panda 2 fortune cookies. It all just felt a bit tacky and was, in my honest opinion, a massive anticlimax. On the upside, I managed to get three buffet box take-aways for £9. With that in hand, I bustled through the insanely large crowds (well, that’s what you get when you have a completely free event) and retreated to home.
What about you? Maybe you aren’t as jaded about your Chinatown Chinese New Year experience as I was. Maybe you are 6’5” and therefore actually managed to see a lion dance. Maybe you were one of the many pushchair-users that rammed me in the ankles – we need to talk.
Remember when I made that giant bread-based monstrosity? Yeeess…. I had a lot of bread innards left over.
Well, I did what I promised – I chucked them in a blender, and made fresh breadcrumbs. And then, looking in the cupboard, I spied a tin of crab meat. Oh ho! I said – crabcakes!
A recent trip to Sainsbury’s and a strange craving meant that I also had a jar of capers in the fridge – adds a nice tang to crabcakes. So here we go -
You will need:
- One tin of white crab meat (approx. 120-140g)
- 75g white breadcrumbs
- A dozen or so capers, roughly chopped
- 4/5 spring onions, finely sliced
- A tablespoon of mayo
- One medium egg, beaten
- A splash of lemon juice
- Half a teaspoon of chilli powder (or more, if you’re “well ‘ard”)
- Oil for frying – you choose
- This is fairly straight-forward – mix everything (except the oil, obv.) in a bowl. You can add other stuff if you fancy – garlic, lemongrass paste, grated ginger – be imaginative.
- Heat a splash of oil in a pan.
- Form the crabcake mix into small balls – I managed to get 10 out of this recipe, but you could do 8, slightly larger balls.
- Pop them in the pan and push them down slightly with the back of a spoon/spatula, to make them into cakes.
- Fry them over a medium-high heat for about 5-10 mins each side – you’ll have to use your intuition for this. They should be golden brown, but a couple of mine were more on the crispy/black side. Still nommy though.
- Serve on a bed of salad, and drizzle with your sauce of choice. Personally, I only had plain lettuce and ketchup. C’est la vie. They were awesome.
I’m on a pescetarian diet. Yes, you heard that right.
For those of you who have never heard of it, pescetarianism is what it says on the tin: a diet that revolves around fish. Etymologically, the word is the bastard child of the Italian “pesce” meaning fish, and the more commonly used “vegetarian” (or anything-ian to be perfectly honest). It means that, whilst I cannot cut out the flesh of all beasts from my diet, I can just about narrow it down to sea-dwelling beasties (watch out, whales and seals).
I’ve not gone down this route for ethical reasons (I’m not sure how that’s possible, anyway – killing is killing), but for health reasons. I’m sure it hasn’t passed your notice by now that I am some extreme glutton, and one of my first loves is red meat. But red meat is fatty, gloopy stuff – cut out the meat in your diet and notice a massive drop in calories, fat and all sorts of nastiness. Also, see a massive relief for your wallet, as I discovered today whilst doing my weekly grocery shop.
But fish is a different beast – all that swimming around must keep them in awfully good shape, because they are a very lean source of protein. Plus (extra bonus!) they are a fantastic source of a massive variety of vitamins and minerals. Oh, and those omega 3 thingies that you’ve been hearing (herring?) so much about. Well, some more than others, but we’ll get to that later.
I don’t eat enough fish usually anyway. It doesn’t help that Ben hates the stuff (so I never bother to buy or cook it), but incorporating fish into your diet is a tricky business. At this point, you might be shouting “no it isn’t – buy fish, eat fish!!”. You might think I’m a bit simple. But no – reading some articles online have made the whole business n-times more complicated.
Firstly – which fish? We’ve each got our favourites (and breaded&deep fried is off limits for the purpose of this exercise. It’s a diet, after all). Personally, I love salmon, but unfortunately, that’s one of the more expensive supermarket options. But there is a massive selection of different fishes widely available, and each is good for different reasons.
Broadly, fish can be separated into two main categories: oily, and white. Oily fish are those that contain the large amounts of omega-3 that everyone keeps telling us we need more of: this includes salmon, mackerel, herring (including kippers!), sardines, anchovies, trout and fresh tuna. You’ll notice that I’ve specified FRESH tuna, and that’s because (according to the Food Standards Agency), the process of canning tuna reduces its naturally occurring oil levels down to that of white fish.So, as well as tinned tuna, the white fishes include: haddock, cod, plaice, coley, pollock and Dover sole. Obviously, neither of these list is anywhere near complete, but those are just some of the more well known fish right there.
So far so good. White fish is lower in calories, but oily fish has essential fats. BUT WAIT. You can’t just toddle off and eat whatever fish you fancy every day of the week. Oh no. Oily fish contains low levels of pollutants (including dioxins and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)) – they have no immediate effect on health (don’t panic) but they can build up in the body over time. For that reason, it’s recommended you limit your intake of oily fish. But to how much? It depends on who you are. Most women should limit their weekly intake to two portions of oily fish, whilst men (and women who don’t plan on having kids) can have up to four portions a week.
And it gets worse! Crab, sea bream, sea bass, turbot, halibut and rock salmon have also been found to have similar levels of pollutants to oily fish, so you better keep an eye on them too.
And keep an eye on swordfish and shark (who really eats shark?) too – they have unusually high levels of mercury in them. Limit your intake of these bad boys to just once a week.
But it’s not all doom and gloom – don’t be frightened away from seafood altogether, as the benefits well outweigh the costs. You just need to be careful, and mix it up a bit – a wider variety of fish (and seafood! prawns, crab, etc. all good for you too) is good for you AND lessens the environmental impact, too (if that’s your bag).
So, the long and short of it is: fish is good. Fin. (ahha)
Well, I promised you a post devoted to the food I made on our holiday, so here we are.
WARNING: CONTAINS MEAT. Please turn away if you are a vegetarian, vegan, or just a bit squeamish.
Whilst we ate a lot of junk (mainly sausage sandwiches, crisps, service station chocolate, and the metre of Jaffa cakes that Ben’s nephew & niece gave him for Christmas), there were a couple of beautiful creations, made by my own fair hands. OK, those were also fatty piles of calories, but hey, we were on holiday, and it was cold!
First up, I made my own spin on eggs Benedict. So much a spin, in fact, that you can’t really call them eggs Benedict. An English muffin, a slice of fried middle bacon, a fried egg, and a glob of creamy parsley sauce. We had three each (champion!! Did not need to eat anything until 9pm that evening)
OK, looking at that, I do feel a leeeettle bit sick. But they were amazing, I swear to god.
But let’s cut to the chase: there is only one real reason I wanted to write this post, and that reason is PIE.
I did, in fact, make the pie of a lifetime. Ben says it was the best thing I’ve ever cooked, and I will have a hard time EVER topping it. This makes me a happy housecat. But what made it so good? It all comes down to Kennington farmers’ market…
Every weekend, there is a farmers’ market outside the big church in Kennington, and just down the road lies FWR, the bike shop where Ben gets all his bike repairs done. So, one afternoon, nearly a year ago now, Ben was in Kennington having has bike looked at, and he decided to pop to the farmers market. Needless to say, he came home with three pheasants, a duck and a rabbit. Thankfully, they were all plucked and gutted.
Well, two of the pheasants met their end in the oven over the following weeks, but the final pheasant, and his two other woodland friends, remained in the freezer for many months. Then, a couple of months ago, I decided enough was enough, and chopped them into little bits.
Let it be known that I would be a pretty poor butcher.
However, I’d make a fairly awesome pie chef. I fried up the chunks of game with some cubes of black pudding, then threw in some roughly chopped garlic, a glass of red wine, a good glob of chilli jam and about half a pint of gravy (just for good measure). I let the gamey stew simmer away for about 2 hours, tasting and throwing in herby loveliness along the way. And then? I stuck it in a tupperware box and straight back in the freezer. D’oh.
But then Paxton’s lodge came around. I packed my tupperware box of game stew and a roll of puff pastry (ready made – what do you think I am?!) and on our last night at the cottage, it was only an hour of preparation until pie loveliness. I kept singing “I don’t think you’re ready for this pieee” at Ben (in the style of Destiny’s Child, as you do), which may have gotten annoying, but there we are.
Before pie could be assembled, of course I needed to make some sides. I had some basic ingredients at my disposal, so peeled some potatoes and carrots, and boiled them separately. The potatoes went straight into a tray of hot duck fat, and into the oven at about 180 degrees C. The carrots went into a roasting tin, with “rustically” chopped brown onions, a whole bulb’s worth of peeled garlic cloves, some chopped chillis and lashings of olive oil. That tin went in alongside the potatoes.
And now, the piece de la thingy, Landmark Pie. Easily done: big glass dish, pie filling in, topped with puff pastry. I pricked the top with a fork to let some steam out (as you do). Into the oven. 45 minutes later, this is what we were left with:
This pie was nearly a year in the making. Truly epic. I miss it already.
The diet starts today.
Ben and I ventured to Wales this week. Predictably, it rained pretty much the whole time we were there, but that was ok because:
- I had my new wellies with me
- We were staying in the gorgeous and cosy Paxton’s Tower Lodge
OK, maybe that needs a bit of explaining (the lodge, I mean. Not the wellies)
This is Paxton’s Tower:
While Paxton’s Tower is a folly, erected in honour of Lord Nelson, and now maintained by the National Trust (not that it needs much maintaining, to be honest), the Lodge has been lovingly restored by the wonderful Landmark Trust. If you’ve never heard of the Landmark Trust (and three years ago, I hadn’t), they are a charitable foundation that restores historic and architecturally interesting buildings for the enjoyment of the paying public. But unlike the National Trust, English Heritage and so forth (where you pay an entrance fee, have a look around, then buy a cake and souvenir and leave), Landmark Trust properties are for living in. Yes, you can rent one for your holiday.
Ben and I have been to one other Landmark Trust property before (the equally wonderful Tangy Mill out in the wilds of Kintyre), but this time we decided to go somewhere… well, less Far Away. We wanted to go to Castle of Park, but they were already booked up for the dates we had free. Ben had been to Paxton’s Tower Lodge once before (4 years ago now, so before we met), and liked the building and surrounding area, so we thought we’d give that a go.
And it was lovely! Apart from the typical Welsh weather, Carmarthenshire is quite nice indeed, but definitely the crowning glory of the stay was our accommodation, no doubt about it. We hardly got any actual sight seeing done, because the cottage was so lovely (and it was cold and wet out). Every evening was spent curled up on the sofa, knitting, whilst Ben poked at (and cursed at) the open fireplace.
(Still working on that bloody Firestarter jumper!!)
A lovely big kitchen meant that I could Get My Cook on – we did eat like pigs. OK, I know, I know, I made a resolution to lose weight, but you didn’t expect me to diet on holiday, right? That aside, I have a separate post put aside for my adventurous cooking, so watch this space.
Other evening activities included trudging up to see the tower (which is lit up at night), and of course Airfix. What? Oh yes. Ben got a Mk 1 Ford Escort Airfix kit for Christmas (from his sister and her other half).
Which reminds me: I have a bone to pick with Airfix. What the hell did you do to the paints, dude? You used to supply tiny tins of top-quality Hummel paint with your kits. And now you have what amounts to shoddy, thinned down nail varnish. Hummels gave a smooth, even coverage in one coat. Three coats in on the bodywork, and the paint job is still streaky. Before you ask: Yes, I did stir the paint before use. Thoroughly disappointed on behalf of my foreman (I was delegated to paint duty, whilst Ben did important cutting and sticking).
Aaaaaaaaaaanyway. We did have some small adventures in wet Wales, but this post is running on a bit now, so probably best to leave those for another day. Deal? Here’s a picture of me in the lodge’s loft bedroom, to make up for it: