Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Perfect Saturday in London- the whole list!

A few weeks ago, Krista from Londonelicious put the call out to London bloggers: What's your idea of a perfect Saturday in London? The American girl who likes food and London but not cooking wined and dined her way around town and wrote about it here in the post that kicked it all off.

Others quickly followed, posting their idea of a perfect Saturday in London. So whether you've always lived in London, or whether you're just visiting for the weekend and want to experience London as a local, here's some inspiration for you and all of your Saturdays. Now get yourself out there and explore!

ML at SPAstic, Tales from a London Spa takes you around South Kensington and Notting Hill for a culture-filled day that ends in Holland Park.

Su-Lin at Tamarind & Thyme gets some culture AND shopping in as she trolls central London, with the riches she imagines.

Two entries from Mini-et-moi, a great site for modern mums in London. Sarah takes in Marylebone and The London Transport Museum while Michelle explores the South Bank, tots in tow.

Gourmet Chick hits all the foodie haunts--Ottolenghi, high tea at The Ritz, and Borough Market.

Danielle at Bloody Brilliant starts with a full English and then heads east to explore Brick Lane and Spitalfields.

Over at Gourmet Larder, Gregory begins his day in Borough and then works his way south through Clapham and Vauxhall.

Leah from Curiosity and The Cupcake arrives at Broadway Market bright and early and then enjoys a leisurely stroll through Victoria Park and east London.

Christine over at If Music Be The Food of Love has a musical slant to her day as she explores Hampstead and hits the town with her idol.

Blogger Priyanka begins at Cafe au Lait in Brixton and ends her day at Meson De Felipe and The Beehive in Borough.

Another blogger choosing to start around Borough Market. Helen at Food Stories kicks off her Saturday with a visit to Tower Bridge, wanders over to Borough and then ends her day with a visit to Shunt and by checking out Dinner in The Sky.

Lizzie of Hollow Legs is very busy geographically and takes us through Blackheath, North Greenwich, Trafalgar Square, Belgravia, Shoreditch, Whitechapel, and then back to Shoreditch.

Charles of London guide and his own blog, Grumblemouse, spends his perfect day in Islington, The City, Borough Market, Greenwich, and Shoreditch.

And finally, new-to-the-scene Liz (of Liz Does London, not to be confused with Lizzie above) hits Chelsea, Hyde Park, Notting Hill, and Parson's Green.

I think that's everyone. Thanks to all the great bloggers who contributed their perfect Saturday. Please feel free to republish this post on your own blog and add your own perfect London, or elsewhere.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cold Fish in Venice

I have been very fortunate in that I have spent a great deal of time in Italy and have had some amazing and life defining culinary experiences there. Carbonara in Rome. Chicken liver crostini in Tuscany. Porcini in Orvieto. Pesto fish in Riomaggiore. Heaven in Pietrapertosa. The list is long.

But Venice? Never truly earth shattering. Never bad. I mean, it's still Italy, but never fantastic fabulous.

So when C & I went at the end of October I was adamant that I would discover what it was Venice traditionally ate and we would eat it and it would be glorious.

What I discovered was cold marinated fish. Sarda in saor. Sardines and onions marinated in wine, vinegar, sugar and saffron. Served cold. It is a sour/sweet cold fish dish.

We ate it first as part of a mixed plate of ciccheti (Venetian for savory snacks in bars) and it was good. Interesting, unusual. A good 'let's give it a try once' type thing. But when I ordered it again (kind of by mistake, I wasn't really reading the menu or thinking properly) C decided that really, he didn't like it all that much. I have to agree.

So. I'm still waiting for my Venetian Food Experience that knocks my socks off.

p.s. Just to be clear, so that i don't come off as a spoiled brat- the rest of Venice was lovely and wonderful. I heart Italy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Perfect Saturday

Londonelicious doesn't cook and consequently eats out a lot. I admit I'm a little envious at times. Recently she posted her Perfect Saturday in London and invited the citizens of the blogosphere to share their best days. Here's my contribution.

This account takes for granted a few details: the weather is lovely, we walk a lot and we never get too full. It also makes me realise that I am very excited to read other people's Perfect Days for inspiration...

My Perfect Saturday in London

Time Unknown. I open one eye to see what the light in the bedroom looks like. I judge it must be at least 9:00 and I slip out of bed and stumble quietly into the living room to find a clock. It's still misty outside, London still unseen behind the blanket of fog. I check the clock. I realise I have no inner sense of time and stumble back into bed for a few more winks. (C asked me recently if you could catch a few winks or if it had to be 40 - I think you catch a few and leave it at that.)

Actually 9:00. I crawl out of bed and get ready to go. This being the Perfect Saturday both C&I are showered, dressed and awake (in that order) by 9:30 and we walk up the street to Broadway Market.

At the market we hum and haw about what to eat for breakfast but settle on sharing a galette from the cute French girls and a samosa from the lovely lady of Gujarati Rasoi.

We buy some groceries (bread, cheese from Brian and the girl from Ontario, a sausage from the man with the chorizo - I want to follow the Perfect Saturday with a Perfect Sunday) and go get coffee from Jason. It being a Perfect Day he has something new and exciting - bright and fruity, perhaps? - for us to try. It is Perfect.

Wandering home with our bags full of grocery love I stop and get a mini salted caramel cupcake from Violet. It's a two bite cupcake and I share it with C but he lets me have the bigger bite.

We drop our groceries off and wander along the canal to Victoria Park. Peckish again we have chickpea burgers and Curious Colas at the Pavilion and laugh at the puppies and the babies and the ducks. The heron who lives across the pond catches a fish right in front of us. We wander through the streets of East London, along the way I pick up some ridiculously cute vintage dress and we admire the art galleries and imagine the home we would build to house our art collection. I bring up random facts that are perfectly relevant to the topics at hand.

After wandering through Borough Market (where we buy more delights in preparation for our Perfect Sunday) we find a spot, oh, say the Oxo Tower?, which is quiet and devoid of any mobbing crowds. We sit and admire the gorgeous view of London while sipping champagne cocktails. After too many champagne cocktails, I am slightly tipsy and very goofy so we hop in a cab and trundle home so I can change into something fabulous before heading out to dinner somewhere decadent, expensive and delicious that I've been dying to try - maybe Les Trois Garcons?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mini Sweet Potato Gratin

I first read about Ottolenghi on Heidi's blog. She had the cookbook and I thought it sounded good - a cookbook I might pick up for myself. And then I realised it was also a restaurant. In LONDON. I was/am tickled to know that I found out about a London eatery through a blogger in San Francisco. Oh Internet I Heart You. Sometimes.

It turns out that Ottolenghi was the secret location that my friend A wanted to introduce me to. So I would have found it eventually. But still.

The restaurant on Upper Street is somewhat manic. I wonder if they realised what they were doing when the designed it - the food is all placed (on beautiful platters) up at the front where you queue for a seat and where take-away takers pile in to grab their to go boxes. There is no rhyme or reason between the queuers, the take-aways or the servers. Madness ensues and envelops you until you sit down at the long white table and finally decide on your meal. Which is always delicious, and usually inventive in some, well, inventive way.

I quite like it. If you live in London, you should visit it. If you're visiting London, I'll probably take you there.

At any rate, I did end up buying the cookbook (from Amazon and it arrived slightly scrunched which made me unhappy but returning it was too much of a hassle.). And so far I really like it - there are a ton of recipes I want to try. My only peeve with it (and most other recipe books) is that the serving amounts are almost always astronomical. Sweet potato gratin for SIX to EIGHT? If the only time I ever cooked was when I had enough guests to make these dishes I would never cook. Do you know how much is left over when you cook for two people the quantities designed for SIX TO EIGHT? I am not one of those people who can make a pot of chilli and then eat it all week. Please.

So I ended up making (and quartering) Danielle's (Mini) Sweet Potato Gratin. And it was simple and creamy and good and served with a simple green salad made a nice, light dinner for C & I. With no leftovers.

1 Sweet Potato (or a yam, which ever you think it is - I mean the orange one)
a sprig of two of sage
1 clove of garlic
2 glugs of olive oil

About 60ml of cream

Slice the potato into thin rounds. Chop up the garlic and the sage and toss with the olive oil, S&P and potato rounds. arrange in a roasting dish, overlapping each other. Roast for about 40 minutes. Pour the cream over and roast for another 20 minutes or so until the cream is browned and thick.

There's picture coming but C has a cold tonight. (C's Edit: Now with photo! Still have cold though.)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Lentil & Walnut Salad

I picked up Nigella Express during the summer. Part of me didn't want to. It felt a little like she was responding to Delia's How to Cheat success, and maybe (just maybe) this book might ruin some of what I love about Nigella. But, I flipped through a friend's copy, and if you can ignore the calls for canned caramelised onions the book has some lovely, quick ideas.

Working, combined with an hour's commute (tube and a bus) mean that dinners have become much less involved than before. I absolutely rejoiced when, a few weekends ago, we had friends for dinner and I made a big Sunday dinner of meatloaf (don't knock it- it is fabulous), twice baked potatoes, minted mushy peas, spicy broccoli and cheesecake. I love cooking. I love food. I refuse to eat poorly just because I don't have enough time.

It's not even about eating poorly. I want to eat deliciously. All the time. I want to enjoy my rice crispies and cold milk in the morning as much as I love warm oatmeal and blueberries with maple syrup. I want to make macaroni and cheese the way my grandma did, and not reach for Kraft Dinner. It takes more time and effort but the result- oh the result!

I would rather spend an hour in the kitchen than an hour in front of the television. Food is worth it to me.

Having said that, I welcome any ideas that are quick and delicious. Because sometimes deliciousness on a weeknight turns into wine, cheese and crackers or wine and pizza from the Globe.

This afternoon's lunch was inspired by a recipe from Express. But I did not use canned lentils. That just sounds gross.

100g (I weighed them, see earlier post) green lentils, rinsed and cooked in plain boiling water til tender (about twenty minutes or so), then drained
50g walnut, toasted and broken up
one onion, diced and caramelised
walnut oil
red wine vinegar
one luscious clove of roasted garlic
salt and pepper

Dress the lentils while still warm. Let cool to warmish, add the nuts and onions. Taste, it might need a bit more salt.

Serve with slices of bread and gentle grassy young goat's cheese. Sharing a glass of white burgundy would not be wrong. Not in the least.