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Wednesday, 30 March 2011

what's on your horizon?

HOW often these days do we get to savour a view like this first hand.

I long to raise my eyes to a vast expanse of 'nothingness'; I delight in the thought of my eyes roaming the horizon in search of 'something'. 

Last week I stood on the platform waiting for a train after work. I looked up to the departure board from the book I was reading and all I saw was a blur. Panicked at my deteriorating eyesight, I vowed to give my eyes plenty of breaks from staring at my not one, but two, computer screens at work. The most obvious solution was to frequently glance up and train my vision on the furthest point in my eyeline.

Hmm. Furthest Point. Fuuuuuuuuurrrrthest Point. So that would be.....75m away. At a push. And that in itself is not more than a sliver of pavement to be glimpsed at through the glass facade of another building.

Not quite the same as the beautiful skylines presented here by Todd McLellan. Not even close.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

most wanted: Prada stripes

I MAY have already seen a few new season fashion faux pas since the sun has emerged from it's cloudy enclave (think 'stripe / midi-length / ballerina' combo's with a bit of colour blocking thrown in for good measure) but it's not going to stop me from sticking steadfastly to my love of stripes. And if money was no object then Prada's contributions to this particular Spring / Summer trend would definitely play a part in my wardrobe.  Their bold colours, varying widths, feminine details and playful mixing with exotic prints all make for stripes that put a smile on your face and spring in your step.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

on my plate: but not for long

I have a slight problem. As outlined at the onset of the ‘on my plate’ posts, I am slowly working my way through the copious amount of recipes that I'm addicted to finding and filing in my ‘some day I want to make you’ folder. However, (as I have found to also be the case when eating out) I get so excited by the prospect of devouring the food before me that the meal is generally already cosied up in my stomach before I realise that I have missed my opportunity for taking a suitably mouth watering snapshot.

Unfortunately this has been happening to me a lot lately; so much so, that I haven’t a single shred of evidence to show for any of my most recent kitchen exploits. And so, instead I am going to give you a quick verbal run down of my culinary discoveries over the past few weeks...

to start: Roasted Tofu with Spicy Relish courtesy of the Waitrose website. Following my previous success with tofu I thought why not experiment further, especially as roasting sounded so much easier than frying. But. What I saved myself in effort, I inadvertantly lost in taste and texture. I have no qualms in saying that roasting tofu is NOT a good idea. Don't bother. Stick to recipes along the lines of Ottolenghi's black pepper tofu instead.

the main attraction: Angela Hartnett's Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry. This was delicious. Lack of garam masala meant I added more of the other spices as well as fennel seeds, curry powder and tumeric. I also used green lentils instead of chick peas as I had these to hand in a brilliant ready to eat carton pack. (I promise that these are nowhere near as horrid as they sound.)

Ever the fan of a one-pot dish this was a wonderful comfort supper that I am bound to make again. The taste was rich and spicy, with the cauliflower absorbing the flavours well. I'm currently having a cauliflower moment: raw, roasted or in sauce, just never overcooked into a stinky school dinner mush.

on the side: French Beans with Blackened Sage and Hazelnuts, found on my Epicurious phone app. I would recommend this as way of sprucing up your side dishes - especially for those who aren't a fan of the green ones - though do make sure you use plenty of sage for full impact. And lightly toast your hazelnuts. 

for dessert: Nigel Slater's Damson Spelt Cake. This was a revelation. Spelt flour is the way forward in baking. I was worried it's texture may lead to a slightly heavier cake but in fact (and I would like to think that this was also in part due to my enthusiastic creaming together of the butter and sugar) this was a delightlfully spongy baking success. The nutty taste of the flour, alongside the sweetness of the ground almonds complimented the tart plums perfectly, with the sprinkling of sugar creating a moreish crunch on top.

if you're feeling greedy: Sweet and Salty Candy Bar Brownies. This was my not-so-grown up contribution to a friend's grown-up choice of birthday celebration: hosting a dinner party for 22 guests. But I think the small ripple of applause received in appreciation of these childishly jam-packed squares may just say enough. Be warned though - these gooey, fudgy brownies are irresistable when warm from the oven (especially if you throw a few packets of Cadburys Carmel Nibbles into the mix).

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

an alternative sunday lunch

I'M not suggesting that the Korean feast I had on Sunday should become a permanent substitute to the comfort of a home-made roast, but it seemed an exciting alternative on what must have been one of the gloomiest days of the year.

(N.B. I am loathe to recommend going out for Sunday roasts, though if you must then I recommend heading straight to Paradise Bar which, to my critical restaurant-made-roast eye, served up an impressive nut roast. And I see no reason why the meat option wouldn't be a winner too.)
steamed dumplings:

But I digress. Jee Cee Neh is to be found off the main high street in New Malden, where there is a thriving Korean community. Hence the multitude of Asian markets and other Korean restaurants that we passed on our way to this particular foodie destination.

I have not eaten much Korean food before - kimchi is about the extent of my knowledge of it - and so as always I was looking forward to something new. Plus I had a desperate craving for dumplings.

pork, tofu, bean sprouts, spring onion, glass noodle

cucumber kimchi

Well my craving was definitely satisfied. And satisfied well. The large dumplings that arrived before us were a masterful example of how a perfect dumpling should be. The silky noodle casing that delicately yeilded to being broken in two (for there was no way a dumpling this large could be consumed in one bite) enveloped a stuffing that was a million miles away from the congealed mass that may often be found lurking inside inferior versions. The contents of this filling was identifiable and flavoursome, with a pleasant texture aided by the crisp spring onion on top.

The tangy bite of the crunchy cucumber kimchi provided a refreshing taste on the palate - not only alongside the dumplings but throughout the rest of the meal too - especially as the chilli was not overwhelming spicy. 
sun du bu ji ge

Keen to sample a cross section of the best that Korean cuisine had to offer we went with the waitress' recommendations of traditional dishes that were apparently most frequently ordered.

Sun du bu ji ge was an uncurdled tofu stew that came bubbling to the table. This was our seafood choice, represented here by clams. There may not have been many of these little creatures in their shells, but the delicate seafood flavour of the broth was a marvel. And the silken tofu was divine, so soft that there was no hope of capturing it with chopsticks. The subtlty of this dish literally stunned us, with flavours slowly unwinding on the palate. This is the dish I will return to Jee Cee Neh for. 

dol sot bi bim bab

deo ji bul go gi deub bab

That's not to say that the other two dishes were poor. Dol sot bu bim bab arrived as a brilliant colour wheel nestled within its heavy black bowl. It was a rainbow of fresh vegetables and beef with a raw egg cracked open in the centre, but I was too slow off the mark with my camera before the waitress stirred a chilli sauce into this sizzling mix (just seconds after it arrived at the table). There was something quite earthy about the flavours in this comforting one pot dish, which made for perfect eating on this dreary Sunday.

Deo ji bul go gi deub bab was my typical last minute panic order, when I just can't bear the thought of missing out on trying one more thing from the menu. And so despite being assured by the waitress that we would certainly have enough to feed two, I opted to add on the chargrilled pork in a rich soy sauce. Upon its arrival, I felt as though our trio of mains was now complete.

I asked for some lettuce leaves to wrap these succulent pieces of salty/sweet belly pork in (as there really wasn't much need to eat any more rice, even if it was delicious), and in addition to this we also received fresh green chillies, garlic cloves and what tasted like a soybean paste with a wonderfully nutty flavour. I have since found out that it was 'doenjang', a traditional Korean condiment indeed made from soybeans, and which in the form that we ate it may have been combined with garlic, sesame oil and a hot pepper sauce called 'gochujang'.

To finish, we were presented with juicy segments of orange, a much needed refreshment following the selection we had just sampled. What was most impressive about Jee Cee Neh was how understated yet rich in flavour the food was. We ate a lot, and yet we were not overwhelmed; purely delighted by the depth of flavour that was packed into each mouthful. 

And the best bit: we were the only English people there throughout our long and lazy grazing. Not your typical experience when out to Sunday lunch.