Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Day One

Where once there was a rear extension, now there is not. Our little jerry-built extension is now no more. I'm sure it served the previous owners well, but it was time to go. It made the kitchen very dark and (as I discovered when I explored a partition wall with a hammer and chisel) was shot through with woodworm.

The plan is to knock the kitchen together into a new extension and open the whole place up a bit. It will hopefully make for better light when photographing my cooking efforts on the blog...

I'll try to post regular updates on this one.... As we cook on our little baby belling up in the bedroom. Or something...


An unusually high view of the garden. Since it's summer, it can only be time to replace the shattered and crumbling slates on our back roof. The view is from the scaffolding...

Only M dared go up here though. Wouldn't catch me doing that...

Actually as part of all this we uncovered more of the unofficial Brockley trade in useful house stuff. You may remember a previous post about picking up four panel doors from outside people's houses.. Well, this time, we traded stone tiles that were still intact for a new radiator from one of our neighbours. Who needs freecycle...

Monday, 27 June 2011

Grill a Chef

I'm in New York for a couple of weeks for work. Today for a bit of down time we popped down to New Amsterdam Market just West of the Financial District to check out what foodie delights you can get around these parts these days.

We met this guy there:

Basic idea? He stands at a stall and answers any possible question you might have about any kind of food or recipe related thing. I like. He's a really disarming, genuine guy too, no pretence, just genuine good ideas that you can trust. His site is fantastic with loads of ideas and step by step pictures

I hope he opens a restaurant - I know where I'd rather go.. For now the rich folks in Manhattan have the monopoly, but hopefully not for much longer...

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Those beguiling aubergines

I mentioned a while back that aubergines were a little strange - not really solo superstars, but great when accompanied with things. Well, courtesy of Yotam Ottolenghi (again.. bit of a theme here - our friend Man About Perth gave us his book as a leaving present before he returned to .. Perth, and we're very grateful!), we had a shot at chilli marinaded aubergines.

Like the best of Ottolenghi's recipes, this one's a bit fiddly but totally stunning.

Big chunks of aubergine, seared on the griddle, then baked in the oven for about quarter of an hour. Goes without saying that olive oil is needed here to brush over the aubergine chunks.

Meanwhile, chop up some fresh oregano, coriander and chilli, mix with lemon juice and olive oil. Once the aubergine chunks are out of the oven, marinade them in the herbs and chili for about 2 hours. Serve at room temperature.

Oh, and the final touch - tahini paste mixed with a bit of water, lots of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Gorgeous.

Broccoli... then broccoli...

A light lunch. The most amazing thing it's possible (at least for now) to do with broccoli, courtesy of Yotam Ottolenghi. Blanch the broccoli (ideally purple sprouting) for 2 mins, plunge in ice cold water, meanwhile fry a sliced clove of garlic and a chopped red chilli. Dry the broccoli, toss it in olive oil with seasoning, then sear on a red hot griddle. Finally mix all up in a bowl with the fried garlic and chilli.

Should look a bit like this:

Ok, bit of a faff to prepare, but so worth it...

Sunday, 16 January 2011

In Praise of Stephen King

Just finished reading Under The Dome, the latest from a long-time favourite of mine, Stephen King. For some reason that I can't quite explain, I've always had a real respect for his writing, probably ever since reading Pet Semetary under the covers as a young teenager being utterly terrified, then reading Misery while supposed to be revising for exams and being ... utterly terrified.

His latest, on paper, really doesn't sound as good as it turns out to be: huge unexplained (alien?) dome descends over small Maine town. Residents can't escape, go crazy, martial law comes to the fore, old grudges resurface and most end up dying horribly. Then dome mysteriously disappears.

But there's something about King's writing that is so good that even after 900 pages you just don't want it to stop... The thing is so long that King even publishes a map of the imagined town, and a full list of all the protagonists, like the great Russian novelists of the 19th and 20th Centuries, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Solzhenitsyn. Am I comparing King to these greats? Actually maybe I am - although the veneer may be thriller / horror / gore, there's a lot he says about how people's deepest secrets, desires and fears seep out when circumstances change. The vilains of the book are all the kinds of folk who Raskolnikov runs into in Crime and Punishment - as archetypal and as disturbingly single-minded.

The portrait of small town America is not flattering, but at least it doesn't play to any contemporary political agendas; instead King's always spoken of Maine with that mix of love, respect, and the utter helplessness of someone who just can't leave his home town. When he's being elegiac he's magnificent (he's written pieces about Maine for the New Yorker); when he's in thriller mode you can't put him down; when he's in horror mode it's all you can do to turn away...

Go read Under The Dome - it's brilliant.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Happy New Year, Man About Brockley styleee...

Always fun to cook for people, I say. And what better occasion that when we have folks around for New Year. This year was fantastic - made some really good things (well, it's all relative I guess - I'm not quite at the level of my friends behind foodscape, for example...).

So, it's fun to learn how to do new stuff: this time the preparation started pretty early with dessert. Tired of buying lemon tarts, I set about making one from scratch (thanks to Donna Hay's Modern Classics 2)

So baking blind first of all...
Then making the lemon stuff, bain marie style

End result? Top notch. Very chuffed. Served with a red berry coulis on the day.

While all that was going on, I got the starter ready - spiced carrot & lentil soup. Gorgeous. It's all about the fried chilli flakes and cumin seeds, definitely. And of course carrots, lentils, veg stock and coconut milk..

The main course was insanely labour intensive, but absolutely worth the effort - it was an aubergine and squash moussaka.
To start with, bake the aubergines and squash in slices in olive oil and seasoning for about 20-30 mins. Aubergines are funny ol' vegetables - great for bulk, texture, and meatiness but just not really solo players. Interesting.

Then, while all that was going on, I made the tomato sauce - pretty standard stuff off tinned tomatoes, onion, garlic, sugar and more seasoning, letting it all simmer away for a while

Meanwhile, I gently steamed the spinach (there was so much of it, but as always, it reduces to so little...)

And finally, a bechamel, lots of it...

And all layered into a big dish and cooked for 40 minutes or so. One of the real highlights of the evening.

Served with a pilaff, and a celeriac and beetroot remoulade - just grated up with creme fraiche, mustard and olive oil.

Brilliant evening all round, although it went way way way too quickly and I mixed way too many drinks, but it was ace, and the dinner went rather well, I thought!

And in a little homage to childhood memories, during all the prep I had leftover pastry, so I made some little orange curd tarts with the spare, and some curd that's been in the cupboard for a while...

Happy new year, folks!