Sunday, 31 July 2011

Vintage at Southbank

Hmmm, if I ever wanted the definition of 'hubris', remembering this weekend's events might well become my go-to reference point. Well, Friday anyway.

Thursday night I was fairly happy with everything I'd organised, and if not exactly sleeping like a baby, I had a modicum of peace of mind. Little did I know by about 1500 on Friday I'd be close to tears, with no jugs, no glasses (I ordered too late), no staff (sent off to the warehouse to find jugs/glasses), no customers and a very angry man looming over me. I was definitely having second thoughts about this new career.

However, once the cavalry arrived in the form of the boys with the long-lost glassware, Tom and Richie P from the office, and we started selling some booze, I was a much happier bunny. I was also knackered. By the time we finished at 0100 Sunday night/Monday morning, I'd pretty much worked three 20 hour days, and all of them fuelled only by Polish sausage and Breton cider:

In the end, whilst hardly setting the financial world alight, it was a brilliant if painful introduction to the world of events. Running them is totally euphoric, you're pretty much running on adrenalin (and sausage) for the entire time, so you're either massively depressed and emotional (Friday) or amazingly high and emotional (Saturday-Sunday), before hitting a big crash on Monday.

Thanks to everybody who came down to see us: Lucyfer, Tangela, Harry, Sash & Matt, Layla, Edders, Sophie and Emma, Uncle Gerald - you all made my weekend a much happier place - and most of all to Ana who didn't see me all weekend, until Sunday when she, Milo, Kay and Mike came out for fizzy drinks.

If you're interested, and seeing as I didn't have time to take any piccies, here's the official work view of the weekend.

I'm not sure I'm looking forward to the next one.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

georgio locatelli's panzanella

It's Southbank t minus-1, and I'm feeling strangely positive: The bar is up, I've got the glasses on order, I know who's working, the stock is in the warehouse and with super Gregory in the hot seat, we drove Hugo into into position:

Hugo on his trailer

Greg reversing Hugo off the trailer

Greggy sticking Hugo into position

It's so hot, I'm thinking about doubling our Prosecco order - whaddaya reckon?

Back at home, despite everything being more-or-less in place, I'm too nervous to actually cook anything, so it's just as well I actually planned ahead this time and had a bowl of panzanella marinading in the fridge:

I've slightly twisted the recipe this time as Ana didn't like the bread being too sloppy, so I put it in with about an hour-hour-and-a-half to go. I also used up some bits and bobs in the fridge to bulk it out - there's a yellow pepper in there, some baby broccoli and some finely sliced french beans - none of it cooked, but all of it cooked in the acid of the dressing.

panzanella - georgio locatelli, The Independent, 30th May 2008

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

ghillie basan's haricot bean tagine

Only two days to go until my inaugural event for work, and the Southbank and the possibilities of things going terribly, terribly wrong are beginning to intrude in what's left of my sleep. On the upside, the cricket whites have turned up, and it looks like it's going to be a scorcher...

In better news, I randomly came across a vegetarian tagine in an old issue of Delicious the other day, that not only looked dead easy, but was comparatively quick for a tagine:

As it turns out it wasn't massively flavoursome, even though I whacked a load of harissa paste in and doubled the quantities or coriander and parsley. It was still pretty good mind, although if we have it again (if? when!) I'd be tempted to add some cumin, and finish it with some lime juice. Get me.

haricot bean tagine - Ghillie Basan, Delicious, August 2009, p94

Monday, 25 July 2011

salad lyonnaise

The sun is out, 'tis a Monday so Ana feels like she should be at the gym, and for we've inexplicably got 2 litres of red wine vinegar in the house. What to do, what to do?

As it happens, what with the salad and eggs over-flowing in the fridge, the answer is staring me in the face: Salad Lyonnaise:

I don't quite get the eggs perfect, I think they're a bit old to be honest, but what with the croutons it's a fairly hearty, if garlicky, salad. There's even bacon in there as well, I promise, but you just can't quite see it.

salad lyonnaise - Delicious, August 2009, p80

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Leon's broccoli with sausage, chilli and fennel

Hurrah - everybody is home! What better way to celebrate than by having a family meal featuring one Milo's favourite things - sausages!

Despite being able to go to sleep with the window and curtains open, listening to music and being able to do pretty much what I want, I have to say it's nice to see everybody again. Apart from the relentless creation of dens of course...

Leon's broccoli with sausage, chilli and fennel - Leon, Naturally Fast Food, p61

Friday, 22 July 2011

donna hay's toasted pine nut and sweet potato salad

Another day home alone, which has the benefits of being able to watch more, uninterrupted cycling (yay - Schlecks!), but with the downside I've done no shopping and dinner is going to have to come out of the bleak cupboards.

Fortunately there are a couple of tomatoes, as well as a third of a packet of spinach in the fridge. This doesn't bode particularly well until I hit the motherlode of two slightly dessicated sweet potatoes in the pan cupboard. With no pine nuts (Jesus! what kind of house is this?), I have to make-do with sunflower seeds instead - and bish bash bosh Donna Hay's toasted pine nut and sweet potato salad:

Ahh, smugosity and health in one plate, and it makes a change from the constant conveyer-belt of spaghetti with cherry tomato sauce.

toasted pine nut and sweet potato salad - Donna Hay, The Instant Cook, p49

Thursday, 21 July 2011

peter gordon's fried halloumi topped with chilli, spinach, water chestnut, hazelnut, orange and sun-blushed tomato salad

Day Three in the Sleepy Russell house, and the housemate is down to whatever in the fridge. Although given "what is in the fridge", turns out to be enough to make Peter Gordon's Halloumi, Spinach, Water Chestnut, hazelnut, orange and sun-dried tomato salad, I'm hardly on the breadline.

Even better, whilst the chestnuts are marinading I get to watch the most amazing stage of the Tour De France I've *ever* seen, with Andy Schleck attacking 20K out and almost grabbing the maillot jaune at the top of the Galibier. Best. Stage. Ever.

Anyway, here's the grub:

And here's another installment of Horrible Histories Historical Masterchef:


fried halloumi topped with chilli, spinach, water chestnut, hazelnut, orange and sun-blushed tomato salad - Peter Gordon, Salads: The New Main Course, p65

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

tesco finest cottage pie

Can you tell I didn't cook tonight? Admittedly I made a cheese and tomato sandwich (on white bread - you can tell Ana isn't here can't you?) whilst it was "cooking", but it's as far as my culinary whims are stretching tonight.

Basically today started awfully as I copped a flat on the way to work, and then got appreciably worse as I then had to detour via the office before heading out the London's Trendy Shoreditch 40 minutes later than planned. However, it all picked up from there: I had an ace meeting about tentage for next weekend's Vintage festival at the Southbank (you're all invited - come on down!) followed by coffee with Greggy in Liverpool Street, and then drinkies with various SeeSaw legacy co-colleagues *and* (briefly) Miss Sasha Breslau of ITV fame.

Who would want to cook after that? Exactly!

Tesco Finest Shepherd's Pie - Terry Tesco's, Hammersmith Broadway

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

mozzarella, peach, basil and parma ham salad

Truly summer has forsaken us this year. Everything seems to be getting earlier; Easter is scorching, June and July are terrible (camping aside), and then it picks up slightly for the dog days of early autumn. Obviously it hasn't stopped me getting my usual cycling tan, but brown arms/face are only so much use in the torrential rain on the Fulham Road.

Tonight is my first night alone this week, with Ana and Milo now in glorious residence on the Isle of Wight, and unlike my usual home alone escapades, I have no experimental dishes to try, and neither do I have many plans. This is due entirely to being completely shagged by the new job, so much so I've hardly had time to plan ahead, let alone sleep. Who knew flogging wine would be so tiring?

All I'm good for tonight is moving all the pot plants out of the way of the scaffolders coming tomorrow, watching the Tour de France entering the Alps, and eating a quick, and easy salad, before collapsing. Not even the knowledge eating this tonight would massively vex Ana as I'd promised to cook it last night, but didn't, is enough to tempt me into any hi-jinks.

mozzarella, peach, basil and parma ham salad - parsley book

Monday, 18 July 2011

donna hay's pasta with cherry tomato sauce

Ana's out at Bikini Blitz tonight, the last one before the summer holidays no less, so I've got to make an effort to be home in time for her to get changed and go. Other than cycling back in some grim weather, it's fine and dandy, and seeing how I was on the rob for some fridges from the now-defunct Oddbins on the King's Road today, work feel I've done enough for them for one day.

However, on returning cold and wet from promenading around Richmond Park, Ana feels the exact opposite. This is almost entirely due to the fact I'd promised her peach and mozzarella salad, but  delivered Donna Hay's pasta with cherry tomato sauce instead. I can't see why she's so vexed as it is one of her favourites, but apparently carbs will undo all her good work this evening. My argument that I'd not eaten since breakfast and was starving, cut little-to-no-mustard. Still, it was mighty tasty, and leaves me something to eat tomorrow night, whilst her mother is feeding her up on the Island.

pasta with cherry tomato sauce - Donna Hay, Instant Cook, p58

Sunday, 17 July 2011

persian-style lamb and rhubarb stew

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day! After yesterday's day out with Kendra, Brian and Finn, today it's my turn to shoulder the burden of entertaining Milo, so Ana can have some precious time to herself, having had him all week.

Feeling slightly better after a much-need lay-in, I put our usual weekend plan into action: Swimming, followed by Waitrose. There's an added twist this time however, because when we get home my mum and Jan are in the kitchen drinking coffee, as they'd come up to collect the tent. Grandparents are a fantastic Milo-distractor!

As it's only looking slightly dodgy, we take our lives into our hands and go for a walk into Barnes, ostensibly to get Milo's haircut but are soon diverted as the weather closed in. Luckily we only get soaked twice, on the way there, and coming home.

On the way we discover our chi-chi sweet shop is somewhat-unsurprisingly closing down. So we fill up with jelly teddies, storybooks, rubber snakes and candy canes before giving the walk up for a bad job and taking refuge in the newly-redone Sun Inn, where Milo has his dinner, and we have a snifter or two, accompanied by some much-needed chips.

With my mum and Jan happily tootling home, I finally get around to cooking. I was inspired by a two-for-one offer on lamb AND rhubarb in Waitrose, and having finally dug out the recipe, figured it was the least I could do. It's also quite warming and quite, quite moorish (oh-ho!). It does take two hours longer than I planned though...

On the upside, I discovered I'd forgotten to add a vital step to the recipe - the addition of the coriander - which I've now amended. Enjoy!

Food of the Milos
After yesterday's burger, and the whitebait on holiday, Milo again surprises us in the pub by having sausages and mash. The sausages aren't a surprise, you understand, but the mash was pea and potato mash, and the whole lot was swimming in thick, onion gravy, all of which he ate with only a modicum of ketchup on the side. Our money is on "Growth Spurt".

persian-style lamb and rhubarb stew - somewhere in Delicious, now right here!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

a taste of thailand at l'atelier des chefs, and burgers

Brilliantly, a full nine months after Kendra gave Brian and myself our combined birthday present, today we finally manage to take advantage of her plentiful cornucopia, viz a morning cooking Thai food at L'Atelier des Chefs.

Partly this has taken us so long to organise as we just haven't bothered (okay, mainly because), but the Byzantine booking system added on at least two months, and then we had to find a non-challenging meal for the B-Dog. Given his well-documented negative-love for shellfish, I was pretty surprised we ended up doing the Thai course, as a quarter of our meal consisted of mussels and fishcakes. That menu in full: Thai fishcakes and mussels in Thai green sauce, Thai Green Curry and pineapple upside-down cakes.

It was quite a good set-up. The kitchen was just big enough for the 25 people in there, the ingredients were pre-laid out (although we had to peel, chop and de-beard), and the chef was really useful and interesting. Although not an amazingly in-depth cookery course, it clearly caters for the swift-cooking of easy-yet-really-tasty-meals, I did take some things away from it:
  • I feel pretty good about de-bearding and cooking mussels;
  • I've got a good idea about creating an amazing Thai Green Curry paste;
  • I now know never never to allow Brian to make any sort of quenelle - his OCD can't take the strain.
Here we are doing various cooking-y things:

Cooking fishcakes:

The green curry paste, pre-blitzing:

Fishcakes and Thai-Green Mussels to start anybody?

Brian and a china leaf of curry:

The quenelles that almost killed Brian:

Replete with Thai-goodness (and loaded down with saucepans, mixing bowls and celebratory aprons), we complete our birthday-thingy with a trip to Brian's new pub, The Warrington. Ignore the Ramsay bit, cos it it ain't no Ramsay pub now, but you should deffo go because inside is amay-zing. It was supposed to be a special brothel for the clergy in the Victorian era, and it really feels lush and Roccoco. I can easily imagine snuggling up next to the fire, with a hearty whiskey or a real ale.

Even better, by the time we get back the girls (and small boys) are in need of both a walk and some food. The day's deluge means the most we can expect is a brief trip to Hyde Park to convince ourselves it's cocking chucking it down, and then a swift run to the pub for a burger-based lunch.

Cooking? Pints? Brief walks? Pints? Burgers? More pints? Hurrah for us! If only it was my birthday again *sigh*. Only three months to go...

Thursday, 14 July 2011

actual REAL book club

Blame it on me joining the ranks of the horny-handed sons of toil, rather than still being a wafty, meeja type, but I couldn't for the life of me work out what we were doing today. Despite being relatively recent in the catalogue of days I've lived, it's remained a black hole.

Until now, when my iPhone helps out (tis the tool all us horny-handed sons of toil use) by reminding me this week was Book Club, not last Thursday, when I originally blogged about it. Doh!

My conversations with Beth now make more sense in the context of it being today, not last week, but it does beg a new and intriguing question; what the hell were we doing last Thursday?

I haven't the foggiest...

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

jill dupleix's sesame chicken salad with cucumber and celery

After yesterday's exertions, I'm in the office today, learning the ropes and generally nodding as people talk about vintages and terroir. It's not just the wine that's new, I haven't *ever* had to start work at 0800 before, or indeed work, so by the time we knock off at 1830 I'm hanging for sleep, food and a drink - although I'm not quite ready for wine yet...

Food is easy though because I tactically planned ahead this week, buying a rotisserie chicken, and ready baton-ed carrots. All of which means tonight's zesty edition of Jilly Dupliex's sesame chicken salad is the work of but a moment:

It's just as well it's quick, because I am shagged...

sesame chicken salad with cucumber and celery - Jill Dupleix, the Owl Book

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

pan-fried broccoli with chorizo, new potatoes and eggs

With camping's late nights and fires a happy memory, reality bit today as I started my first day at The Vintner at, OMG, 0500!

I'm all for learning the ropes, but a five o'clock start to spend the day shifting what turned out to be 1.5 tonnes of wine and 2 tonnes of water around Oxford's snoozing spires seems a bit beyond the pale. Don't they know I graduated from Harvard College Yale. I aced every semester, and I got an 'A' in typing and mousing? (Page? Page? Page?)

Actually it was a brilliant if thoroughly knackering day, I drove around in a van with a pun on the side to warm the cockles of Dan Watt-Smith's heart:

I read The Sun, talked about the Arsenal, had a snack from a mobile cafe and oi-oi'ed the denizens of Oxon, before collecting the water from Blenheim Palace:

Could this be my perfect job? It's bleeding knackering though.

By the time I get back, I've got just enough energy to go to Waitrose, and then to cook the quickest, simplest dinner my brain is capable of. Lord bless zero chopping, and one pot meals:

It may not look it, but the eggs were the runniest yet, and even better we all ate together before the men-folk took an early night together. Stupidly I then ended up staying up much later than planned, drinking. Will I never learn?

Incidentally, anybody used the search box yet?

pan-fried broccoli with chorizo, new potatoes and eggs - Silvana Franco, Delicious, June 2011, p22

Monday, 11 July 2011

aloo tikki

Having driven home in the blazing sunshine from East Devon (with both my passengers snoring away I hasten to add), I'm knackered and can't really be bothered to cook at anything, let alone go out and buy any ingredients.

I'm still partially full from our late-lunch in Branscombe to be honest, however I've got a 0500 pick-up tomorrow morning for my inaugural delivery round for work (Oxford here we come!) and I need something both quick, not too filling, and with enough left-over for lunch.

After the success last time, and with most-to-all of the minimum ingredients lurking in the cupboards, we opt for another crack at the aloo tikki.

They are one of those dishes that are perfect for cooking around Milo's bedtime routine, as they need about an hour in the fridge to set once you've made them. So whilst he's watching telly I can crack on and make them, and then pop them into the fridge safe in the knowledge they'll be perfect by the time we've bathed him, read him a bazillion bedtime stories and snuggled up till he's asleep.

I'm right btw, they are perfect, especially with another batch of my mum's chutney:

Top tip though - you really do need to have wet hands when you're shaping them, otherwise you just get all claggy!

aloo tikki - Observer Food Monthly, Parsley Book

Thursday, 7 July 2011

thai-style salmon, broccoli, salad and new potatoes

'Twas the night before camping, and all through the house nothing was stirring, not even a mouse. And neither was a Milo, or even a babysitter - in this case Miss Angela Hazel White - both of whom were firmly asleep when we got home from Book Club.

This week we're at Beth's (or "The Boss' Wife" as she must now be known), for a discussion of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which was a good deal more fascinating than the inevitable three-to-four hour tiresome discussion about school, despite only rating a measly two stars.

Much more welcome is Beth's thai-style salmon, accompanied by salad, broccoli, salad, and lovely, lovely children, one of whom was speed-reading Harry Potter, one of which made us dessert (pavlova) and another of which ate the dessert.

I suppose I was more cantankerous RE school chat as I wasn't drinking, and  knowing you've got an evening of school chat between 3-4 teachers requires a minimum of three bottles of wine for any non-teachers in the group...

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

persian-style lamb and rhubarb stew - recipe

*Finally* I've dug the persian-style lamb and rhubarb stew recipe out of the god-awful Delicious archive. I still haven't found my copy, though...

Amusingly I note according to Delicious, this takes 21/4 hours to cook, so plan ahead!

persian-style lamb and rhubarb stew
Serves 6

2 tblsp vegetable/olive oil
90g butter
2 large onions, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
900g boned shoulder or leg of lamb, cut into large cubes. I've used neck fillet before, so basically anything fatty, cos it cooks for a long time and you need that juice;
2 tsp ground coriander
800ml vegetable stock
parsley, chopped
Handful fresh mint leaves, chopped, plus extra to garnish
400g rhubarb, chopped into 2.5 cm lengths

1. Heat the oil and about a third of the butter in a large pan, and gently sweat the onions for 15 minutes, till they are golden. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Set aside;

2. Increase the heat and brown half the lamb, set aside and do the same with the rest. Put all the lamb back in the pan, the onions and garlic, the coriander, and the stock, cover and simmer gently for an hour/hour and a half until the lamb is almost ready;

3. In a smaller pan, gently heat 30g of butter on the lowest heat, add the herbs and cook for 8 minutes, stirring all the time. You may have to add more butter so watch out! Stir the herbs into the lamb stew and simmer, half-covered for another 30 minutes until the lamb is falling apart. I tend to leave it covered so there's more juice for the cous cous to soak up;

4. When the lamb is ready, heat the remaining butter in the smaller pan over a medium-high heat, and fry the rhubarb for 3-4 minutes until just tender. Stir into the stew;

5. Serve with cous cous and scatter with remaining mint. Eat and then wistfully wish you'd made enough for 12 people...

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

georgio locatelli's panzanella

Last night turned out to be an object lesson in reading the instructions properly, although it does mean I have an amazing salad tonight.

So, having inherited a couple of tiger bread baguettes from my mother over the weekend, I had my eye on creating a panzanella salad from the stale loaf.

A bit of research at work - in between watching the latest Tour De France stage naturellement - turns up this pretty easy Georgio Locatelli recipe. To be honest there were quite a few different versions out there, some with peppers, some with anchovies, some with ham etc, but this was the closest to one I remember making a few years back, and as I had most of the ingredients it seemed relatively simple to knock-up.

However, however...

I should've paid more attention to (or even read) the bit where it said "marinade for 24 hours in a fridge". Instead, having made it, I realised I can either just eat it there and then, or wait. As Ana was out at a leaving party and Milo was somewhat annoyingly up until 2200, I knocked the whole thing on the head, letting it marinade, whilst I wrestled Milo into bed and had a sarnie for dinner.

Tonight I got my reward. Ana had it for lunch and despite the presence of capers and red onion, she loved it, which suggests to me it's not too bad at all. As she was out *again* tonight, it gave me free range to luxuriate in a double-helping of good-time Mediterranean vibes provided by the hit of tomatoes, onion and garlic, whilst kicking back with another double-helping of Horrible Histories.

I'm so glad I've rediscovered it; it's massively tasty, it's thrifty and cheap, and add a bone-dry glass of rose, and you've got the perfect dish for the summer - what's not to like?

    panzanella - georgio locatelli, The Independent, 30th May 2008

    Sunday, 3 July 2011

    international babs cabs weekend

    It's another International Babs Cabs weekend, and this time it's her 70th birthday! Or 71st if you're my brother and completely deluded. Anyway, the usual rules apply - both the weekend the new exciting 'five of the best' style:

    1. Scorchio!
    Although not as baking as usual. We still manage to get the paddling pool out, *obvs*, and fill a bucket with icy, icy beer;

    2. Chilli vs Quiche
    Traditionally my mum's birthday lunch is hot chilli (and it is hot), and a variety of quiche, cold meats and cold meats. As ever, there's not enough chilli and about five quiche too many;

    3. Being bullied by my mother
    When we get down on Friday, my mum is on excellent form. So much so she gangs up with Ana and spends the evening bullying me into agreeing to move in September. Damn their eyes!

    4. Funky Folkestone
    Once again it's Triennial time, and the upshot is slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y, the hometown is getting cooler, dragging itself out of being a thoroughly depressing place, into a quite cool place to live. Naturally we spend Sunday lunchtime down the coastal path, playing on the Pirate Ships and slides, with Grandpa in tow, and we even manage to squeeze a bit of art into the equation - ringing the church bell on the sea front;

    5. Fridge raiding
    No trip to the in-laws is complete without several bags of left-overs making their way home. This time we manage a swag-load of booze, some chilli for lunch tomorrow, sweets'n'treats for Milo, some Tiger Bread and two platters of German and Spainish meats. The latter allows us to have an evening snack of Fino's tomato salad (sans chorizo), bread and meat, whilst watching the previously-mentioned Horrible Histories. Ana is now a massive fan.

    Wot We Eight
    Friday Night: Tandoori King Prawn and Tandoori Mixed Grill from The Prince of India;
    Saturday: Chilli, meat, booze, pasties and Singapore Noodles (for Ana);
    Sunday: Sandwiches and boiled egg for lunch, pizza for Milo's dinner, and tomato salad and more booze for dinner.

    Friday, 1 July 2011

    Happy Canada Day!

    "Oh Canada! How free your moose roam, and your beer has lovely foam, erm, and your maple leaf is nice and red, and the Harlock's have nice heads" or something...

    In honour of our fine friends in the Hammer, and indeed Mrs Kendra Bolger, the news that we're celebrating Canada Day in Trafalgar Square sends me scurrying down to the centre of town to hail all things Cannuck. More specifically I came because I'd heard a rumour these people were in town:

    And the only thing standing between me and a double-double and some Timbits was, a 40 minute queue. Seriously:

    It's not as if you can't get a coffee in central London, but this being the only Tim Horton's in 9000 miles, it's swamped. By the time I get there the Timbits have sold out, so I have to make do with a coffee and some ring donuts for the office:

    At this point I notice something even odder than a 40 minute queue for coffee, the bar next door is completely empty. WTF? Canadians - hear me now - get your priorities in order! Still, on the upside I was able to swiftly reward myself with a can of Canada's finest brewski in about 1000th of the time it took me to get a non-alcoholic beverage:

    Sorry John. Doughnuts, coffee, beer and I got to meet a Mountie - what's not to like about Canada? At the very least, the fact there weren't many Vancouver fans burning the shit out of the centre of town was a blessing.

    PS There were no patio lanterns in evidence