Sunday, July 27, 2008

How to eat a banana

I don't like bananas. I don't like their texture, their taste or their smell. I dislike them in smoothies, or as fillers in juice. Peeling them grosses me out. I eat them occasionally because they're good for you. But I never like them. (Though I did like them in Peru. They were better there. Smaller.)

For the month of July C&I got an organic box from Growing Communities in Hackney. It has contained a variety of nice yummy things but it always, always contains at least three bananas.

The first week we ate them. Dutifully. The second week we ate them begrudgingly. The third week they sat on the counter and looked at me every morning and I just ignored them. Now it's the weekend of the fourth delivery of bananas and we have way too many of them and they are starting to get brown spots on them. And I cannot eat them with brown spots on them. I just can't. I'm not that grown up.

So this weekend I baked. On Saturday I made banana pancakes care of Nigella. (Verdict: Not bad, quite moist, but banana-y. Sang along to Jack Johnson's Banana Pancake song in my head. ) Today I made banana bread, inspired by Joy of Cooking but with extra bits of goodness (almonds and cinnamon). I still don't think I'll like it, but if I put enough nutella on it, it should be ok.

UPDATE: With enough nutella ANYTHING tastes good.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pub Food at Home

Since moving to the UK I have eaten quite a bit of pub food. Most of the time it's been delicious, 'gastro' pub food of quality and delight. Down in East Dulwich there's a little pub called The Florence that is lovely and delightful, bright and airy with great food and cherry beer. On one occasion I ate a steak and mushroom pie that wasn't really a pie at all since the pastry was sort of like a cap jauntily placed on top of the steaming goo of steak and mushrooms in a thick, savory gravy. Very good. And so, at home one rainy afternoon with a bit of left over steak from the night before, some mushrooms and a random bottle of Guinness, I made steak and mushroom pie.

Onions, sliced mushrooms, garlic and thyme sauteed lightly in butter and olive oil. When the mushroom juice started to come out I sprinkled about a tablespoon of flour over and let it cook in. Deglazed with a bit of beef stock (from a cube) and half a bottle of Guinness. Let it boil and bubble, thicken and reduce. Toss in the leftover steak from the night before (cooked but still pink) and let the flavours join together. Salt and pepper. Top with a round of simple pastry that you threw together while the mushrooms were cooking. Tada! Homemade pub food.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pea & Broad Bean Smash

I love peas. They are my favorite vegetable. One of the things I miss most about Canada is frozen Green Giant sweet summer peas.

It's summer and everyone is talking about broad beans. I've eaten them in restaurants but have never made them myself, so I asked the green grocer how to prepare them. He said he didn't really know- he hated them when he was a kid and hasn't tried them since. Hmm. Amusing but not terribly helpful.

So instead I start poking around in the recipe books piled on the couch. I have Jamie At Home out from the library. It's a rather cruel book for someone who lives in a tiny flat in the east end of London- all about the joys of growing your own vegetables (I killed my herbs earlier this year) and eating them. I ignore Jamie's somewhat self-righteous tone and look up broad beans. He has a recipe for pea and broad beans smash that I take as inspiration and (after taking some liberty with ingredients, ratios and instructions) we eat this for dinner.

Smash the following together. A mortar and pestle would be ideal. I got C to do it with the bottom of a glass. And then the rolling pin.

Half a package of fresh peas (leftover from the risotto the other night)
A big handful of broad beans (time consuming and disappointingly few after you've shelled them all!)
Half a bunch of mint
35 g of parmesan (we weighed it)

Add enough olive oil to make a paste. Add lemon juice (I used half), salt & pepper to taste. Gently toast some delicious bread, rub ever so lightly with a cut clove of garlic. Layer thinly sliced pieces of young goats cheese, then top with the pea mixture. Serve on the lovely olive board your mom bought you.

Essence of pea.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sardine Sunday

I decided I wanted bream for dinner, after its overwhelming success when my parents were here. We waited in line while the fish lady finished with the people in front of us and glanced over the various fish in front of us- didn't look like she had any bream (we were later than usual- managed to sleep in hurray!). I didn't want mackerel as we'd had that last week (simply grilled with a quinoa tabouli). So I pointed to one fish, asked "What's This?". Dover Sole, she replies, lovely like this and like that. Chris and I look at each other, shrug say, "sounds good" and then she pauses.

"It's also our most expensive fish."

Oh. How expensive?

"Twenty pounds a kilo."

(Mackerel is maybe half that.)

I think the look on our faces said that we were not going to be purchasing Dover Sole. So she suggested sardines. Three per person. Cheaper than mackerel. Oily omega threes.

Sardines are not anchovies. But they seem the same to me. I realize they're not - but still... So we buy six little sardines for £2.40. The fishlady chops their heads off for me.

Next day for lunch!

Jamie Oliver says that if you push the sides down around the back bone you can pull it out. I try it. You can! The little rib cages and bones are strangely beautiful and I keep bringing them to show C. I am extremely proud of myself. Not only am I making sardines, I am pulling their backbones out. I rock.

Jamie has a lovely recipe for sardines that requires a bunch of ingredients that I don't have and am too lazy to go down the stairs and to the corner to get. So I improvise.

I fry up the leftover onion and shallots from Friday's risotto and add some garlic and crushed fennel. Peel and seed four cherry tomatoes. One regular tomato would be faster and more efficient, but this is what I've got. A big handful of parsley, chopped. A sprinkling of cayenne. Three heaping tablespoons of pre-made breadcrumbs (I feel like a bad person admitting that I had prepared breadcrumbs in the house. I swear the eggs are free range!). Mixed together with some basil olive oil. A bit thrown on the bottom with some parsley stalks. A teaspoon inside each sardine, then rolled up. The rest thrown on top. Into a hot hot hot oven for ten minutes then taken out and eaten with warmed up pita.

Paired with a glass of lovely Italian white wine - a new one. So good. Such a good lunch. I made sardines - hurray!