Archive | July, 2012

Brixton Village: hangovers and crêpes

22 Jul

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For a girl who resides precisely nowhere within the embrace of the M25, I have a disproportionate number of hangovers in Brixton. (See also: Kentish Town, but that’s a whole other blog post in itself.) It’s where some of my worst-influence friends live, and visits to stay with them usually culminate in a less-than-pleasant morning after. Still, there’s always Brixton Village.

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I’d love to pretend that I’m au fait with every nook and cranny of this lovely little warren of cafes, restaurants and shops. But that would be a lie; despite my best intentions, I’ve still yet to even make it to Honest Burgers. It’s always Senzala and its amazing crêpes for my friends and I. It’s pretty much our Bar Italia.

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Most of the menu looks incredible, but my favourite is the Picante: spicy minced beef, red onion, peppers and a generous blaze of jalapeños. It’s got enough zing to cut through even the most horrendous of hangovers. Teamed with a glass of refreshingly minty homemade lemonade? I’m almost a functioning human being again.

Attempting to make a meal (deal) of it

16 Jul

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One of the downsides of not being paid all the money in the world – along with not having my own private tropical island and a wardrobe full of Mulberry handbags, of course – is relying on packed lunches most days. It gets super-dull unless you’re careful

Last week I picked up an awesome sandwich from Boots: chicken, pea and mint wholemeal wrap. It was light, fresh and gave me an idea. By ‘idea’, of course, I do mean ‘something to attempt to rip off at home’.

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I slightly adapted a pea and mint dip recipe from Good Food to make the purée – I basically chucked some defrosted peas, a lot of fresh mint, a few glugs of olive oil and a little bit of butter into the food processor and blitzed it. I love my food processor; using it always feels ever-so-slightly like alchemy.

A bit of rocket (not in the Boots version, but I’m borderline obsessed with the stuff) and some lemon and garlic roast chicken (I do love the excuse to do a roast on a Sunday) and it was done. I’m actually quite excited for lunchtime…

Stokes Croft: why I love living in Bristol

15 Jul

Photo courtesy of heatheronhertravels.com.

Here’s a snippet of conversation I often find myself having. Person: “You work in Bath, so don’t you ever think about just moving there?” Emma: “Yeah, I do consider it.” Person: “Why don’t you just do it?” Emma: “I dunno. I still might one day. I just… kinda like Bristol.” And I think areas like Stokes Croft, which is about 20 minutes’ walk from where I currently live, are a big part of that.

Ignore what you’ve seen on the news – last summer just wasn’t a very good one, alright? Let’s not dwell – and Stokes Croft is a massively community-focused area, brimming with independent character. And it’s bloody great for eating out.

 

Photo courtesy of jontangerine.

Last night I went out to The Runcible Spoon. It’s a small, modern British restaurant that makes everything from scratch. It’s also a co-op venture, with a goal of keeping prices low. I had a starter of smoked and soused mackerel, followed by a main of saddle of lamb, lamb moussaka and broad beans. My friend and I shared a bottle of wine, and were given an appetiser of soup, plus petit fours afterwards. Including tip, I spent just £25. And it was all delicious.

 

Photo courtesy of stanjourdan.

Another favourite of mine is the Canteen. The menu changes daily (sometimes even on the fly throughout the evening) to reflect the emphasis on seasonal produce. The only feasible reason to be saddened by this is that you’re unlikely to be able to eat that really tasty thing you had last time – be it warm lamb belly salad, beef shin ragu or pan-fried duck breast with sweet-and-sour sauce – again. Again, the focus here is on reasonable pricing rather than big profits: mains are usually £7 or £9, with a free starter of soup and bread included. The bar staff are always thoroughly lovely, too.

 

Photo courtesy of jontangerine.

There’s also Cafe Kino. Their home-made rosemary tossed chips are possibly the best thing to happen to weekends since the invention of brunch. They’re one of the few places that actively offer mustard on a sausage sandwich, rather than just giving you a funny look when you ask for it. (Seriously, it’s not like asking for arsenic or rat poison – other places should take note of this.) It’s another co-op, “working to create an atmosphere of respect and understanding in which everyone is valued”. As such, you’re as likely to see families with kids as you are groups of punks. I only wish there’d been a vegetarian cafe like this in Exeter when I was a teenager.

And this is before I’ve moved on to the beautifully dainty macaroons from Patisserie Leila, the £5 halloumi and pine nut pizzas at The Bank or the fantastic atmosphere at The Social or The Bell on a weekend evening. Basically, it’s a chunk of Bristol full of great food and drink, served by people who really believe in and care about what they’re doing. How could I not love that?

My big fat Greek packed lunch

12 Jul

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Yep, I’m still trying to chase down that Greek food dragon.

I get bored of normal salad (or indeed any packed lunch) fairly quickly, so I’m always keen for new spins to put on it. I’m fairly pleased with this combo: salad leaves, crumbled feta, Greek-style new potatoes and home-made tzatziki.

The potatoes are somewhere between a roast and a fondant – drizzled with olive oil and then shoved into a roasting pan with chicken stock, an oregano-heavy herb mix and an almost-literal ton of lemon juice. Thanks to a bit of confusion with the recipe (which called for two tablespoons of the seasoning mix; apparently this didn’t mean the properly measured type) the tzatziki is about more garlicky than I’d have ideally liked. Still, it’s pretty close, and a good way of incorporating cucumber, which I don’t really like on its own – plus, I should be able to nail it next time.

Monday’s attempt fared less well. After a morning sat in the office fridge, tzatziki and potato marinade had conspired to turn things into a sad, soggy mess. This morning, though, I stumbled upon a two-compartment takeaway container in the kitchen cupboard. Problem solved! I need to get me one of these ace Black + Blum lunchboxes.

Get her to the Greek

8 Jul

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A couple of days ago, I returned from a week in Tsilivi, Zackynthos. Yes, I am still grumpy about being back in the British weather. And yes, I did drink enough cocktails to procure all of those little flags myself. But I also ate a lot of amazing Greek food. I’ll confine myself to the highlights…

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Saganaki. My favourite Greek starter from every family holiday ever, it’s local cheese (Google seems to suggest that kefalotyri and kasseri are common varieties), rolled in flour and fried. It has a wonderfully light, crisp crust to it, and tastes great liberally doused in lemon juice.

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Souvlaki. This mixed one – at Romios, like the saganaki – featured beef, lamb, pork, chicken and spicy village sausage. As the picture suggests, it’s basically a posh kebab – but with infinitely better seasoning.

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Meze plate. If the name isn’t Greek for “I don’t know what I want, so hit me with a bit of everything that’s tasty”, it bloody well ought to be. Deep breath: moussaka, lamb kleftiko, beef stifado, Zackynthian chicken (in a tomato and herb sauce with local cheese, although our maitre d’ at Calypso informed me that every restaurant has its own variation on the recipe), dolmades, tzatziki, Greek potatoes and potato salad… Oof.

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Kalamari. I have little patience with people who are squeamish about squid, especially when it’s absurdly fresh from the sea, like this was from Sweet Revenge. Also, crispy tentacles are the best.

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Roast chicken with olive oil, garlic and rosemary (again from Sweet Revenge). Simple, but with a ton of flavour. I really can’t wait to attempt to recreate this at home.

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Mixed dips – houmous, tzatziki, taramasalata and a spicy cheese dip called tyrokafteri. It sounds daft, but I’m always (pleasantly) surprised by how different fresh humour tastes from its supermarket counterpart; more garlicky by far, and thicker in texture. The Olive Tree‘s did not disappoint.

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Grilled swordfish. Greek islands were my family’s holiday default throughout my teenage years, but amazingly, at 23, this was my first trip as a meat-eater, having spent about six (some might say misguided) years as a pescetarian. As such, stuff like swordfish steak was a staple for me, so it was fantastic to revisit it at Athena and find it just as delicious as I fondly remembered.

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Baklava. Probably the most famous Greek dessert (this one also from Athena), chopped nuts wrapped in filo and then drenched in honey is always going to be a winner. That will probably give you impossibly high blood sugar levels, followed by type two diabetes. Worth it, though.

Squirrelled away in my suitcase on the flight home were several packets of herbs (oregano, mixes for souvlaki, tzatziki, potatoes, feta…), a couple of different olive oil blends and a Greek recipe book – *cough* but definitely no honey *cough* – so I’m really excited about giving some of this stuff a go myself.

In the mean time, though, is it really too much to ask that all of my drinks look like this?

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