Saturday, 23 May 2009
it is a sunny saturday afternoon. i and i are having brunch at macondo in islington. we've moved two doors down from our brunch favourite 'the breakfast club' to try something new. i snitch a table and wait for i in the company of a orange and strawberry juice which is thick like a smoothie and breathing summer. i love mexican glasses - coloured and thick rimmed. i arrives a little later having retrieved her forgotten mobile which was the cause of her late arrival. i had been musing over the menu for a while now and was no where near a decision. and i, despite having spent an afternoon last weekend at macondo is just as confused. the tortilla's look delicious but they aren't brunchy enough and we're certain that neither of us wants to be eating paella for brunch. after much deliberation i and i both settle on 'huevos divorciados' - divorced eggs.
two fried eggs, resting on tortilla's and draped in two different colors of salsa separated by mexican beans arrive shortly. the salsa roja is a dark brick red and has a rich earthy chilli flavour that comes from ancho chilli pepper. it contrasts with the salsa verde made with green tomatillo's. i wouldn't have minded my yolks to be a tad bit more cooked. notwithstanding they tasted really good and for a while i and i were in foodie heaven.
post brunch, i's brownie craving led us to paul young who makes incredibly decadent brownies - while we were there we tasted milk chocolate with bergamot, caramelized cacao nibs and coffee chocolate. paul young's chocolate boutique smells of dark chocolate tempered with the addition of condiments the likes of herbs and caramel. i was wondering whether we could capture the deep chocolately and some what spicy and burnt sugar aroma of the shop and take it home.
we spent the rest of the afternoon on my balconette drinking tea while i baked a vegetable medley with whole cloves of garlic and some sprigs of rosemary. i'll squeeze the garlic out of its skin and mash it into cream cheese to serve along side my rosemary, olive oil and balsamic kissed aubergines, red peppers and tomatoes.
a perfect summer lunch.
Friday, 22 May 2009
a rather sunny friday afternoon found me at borough market.
and that too after a long time - i and i had spent a fair amount of time here the year before when we were still at university and had enough time for leisure. i had forgotten how crowded and how delightful borough is. my timing didn't help as it coincided with lunch time and the market was full of suited booted men and women in a rush to grab the tempting array of sandwiches, burgers and wraps that can be found around this teeming food market.
borough smells of grilled and cured meat, brine, fresh fruit, grilling onions, fish and chocolate simultanesouly. every food stall leaves its mark. at the veg shop i am wrapped in the smell of shiny oranges that are being juiced. i walk through brindisa with its smell of cured meats, the olive stalls smell briny and the olive oil ones of fruity virgin oils - outside the chartucurie i pause to take a picture of a pig shaped board displaying the menu.
deciding what to eat is hard. i see people walking past with all manner of tempting wraps, juicy burgers and what not. at degustibus one of the servers is busy carving salt beef stuffing it into bread that has been slit around the middle to open its face. some one walks along with a steak sandwich. a man in corporate garb holds his burger at arms length in a bid to avoid the juices from ruining his clothes. i see a girl bite into steaming hot falafel that smells delicious. there is fresh pasta and gnocchi and bean burgers all in a row one after the other. i am getting hungrier and hungrier and more and more confused.
in narrowing down my options there were two camps - if it was veggie then there was veggie burgers or falafel wraps with tahini. if it was meat then it could be a fish stew with open faced clams, a smoked prawn wrap, venison burgers or a chicken wrap. i vetoed the veggie option against the backdrop of the rich meaty smell that surrounded me. the chicken wrap option got elimated because it was going to take a twenty minute wait. the smoked prawn wrap was out on account of too much mayo [not a big mayo fan], fish stew was too messy and too big a serving - so it had to be a venison burger. what i got was a soft white bun with a really succulent venison patty accompanied by some really strong peppery mustard, grilled onions and ruby red cranberry sauce. i sat on the curb side almost infront of neal's yard diary and monmouth coffee. straying strands of sunlight fell on me as i ate my burger while breathing the smell of neal's yard cheese and whiffs of freshly ground coffee.
this is my idea of perfection and bliss.
Thursday, 21 May 2009
post working pubbing, i was hungry and having somewhat of an arab food craving, perhaps a chicken shawarma with its juices and pickled green chilies. o decided he was particularly in the mood to be going to the arab mecca that is edgware road with its slightly sad grey look oddly accented by men and women dressed top to toe in designer labels. so instead he took me to a persian place knowing full well that i would love its bread, fresh out of the clay oven with sesame seeds pressed on its surface.
Monday, 4 May 2009
Sunday, 3 May 2009
i am at i’s mountain house today in ormea. here the kitchen is the heart of the house. our afternoon meal borrows from last nights left over’s – cold tongue and a ‘zuppa di legume’ and ‘friselle’. for the first course i’s mum has put together a soup of legumes. it is thick, hearty and wholesome – a smattering of legumes, red, black and borlotti beans, chick peas and some brown lentils and quinoa in a seaweed flavored broth. it comes served in shallow bowls with a drizzle of olive oil on top.
after the soup we have friselle, a summery salad of tomatoes, basil and really good olive oil on moistened bread. friselle resemble bagels split around their middles and baked till they are very hard. because of this they have to be moistened in a bowl of water before they can be eaten. before putting them in water they are rubbed with a clove of garlic. friselle should only be moistened to the point that they are slightly soft; the bread should retain its shape and not disintegrate at all. i had halved cherry tomatoes, tossed then in olive oil and roughly torn basil leaves which were piled onto the bread. to finish off, we ate last night’s tiramisu and went off for a walk to build an appetite for the night’s meal.
Saturday, 2 May 2009
there are three generations of women at the table – vociferous and full of life. there is incessant translation from italian into english and vice versa. here is a sketch of a meal prepared by nonna, i’s grandma.
on the hob is a silver saucepan in which i mixed full cream milk into mashed potatoes, the heat reducing them to a perfect creamy consistency. in the pot behind that is home made pasta known as trofie being done to al dente in water at a furious simmer. on the counter sits a bowl of jewel green pesto along with grated parmesan. much as we all would have loved to take our meal in the kitchen i’s grandmother has taken out dinner china and set the table in the dining room. i’s grandmother has catered specially to my needs by making a tuna salami which is to be eaten with the home made mayonnaise that i’s mother had just made before coming. for i, there is tongue. i watch nonna take the boiled tongue and peel it carefully to reveal a dark reddish brown meat.
when the pasta is done i drains it reserving a couple of tablespoons of the water in which it was done to mix into the pesto. the drained trofie is placed in a shallow serving dish; the pesto is mixed in with a generous number of tablespoons of fresh parmesan. this is our first course for the night. dinner discussion at this point is about the etiquettes of eating bread with pasta. i’s grandmother uses it to secure the pasta on her fork. i’s mother maintains that bread is to be used to catch the remains of the pesto but only with the use of a fork. i and i rather unceremoniously use a piece of bread and wipe our plates clean.
the second course is boiled tongue accompanied by fluffy mashed potatoes and tuna salami (a roll of tuna bound with potato and spread liberally with home made mayonnaise). now i am not a tongue eater. or not at least in pakistan where the meat is a pallid color and looks far from cosmetically appealing. nonna’s tongue is far from that. it is a beautiful brick red and sliced like a roast. feeling adventurous (as well as well intentioned) i decided to sample some. i retrieved her camera to have a kodak moment of my first tongue tasting. the tongue tasted sublime, rich and meaty and tender together with the comfort of mashed potato.
a short pause after the second course led us to dessert - fresh strawberries dipped in sugar and an oblong cocoa powder dusted tiramisu. the strawberries were the soul of summer, sweet and flavorful, good even without the sugar. the tiramisu was in a league of its own. layers of light mascarpone and sponge fingers soaked in coffee and rum finished with a dusting of sweetened cocoa powder. it was heaven on a plate.