Day 173 – 180: London pt.2

I can’t handle choice at restaurants. I have a hard enough time choosing where to eat, by the time I actually sit down and look at a menu the decision part of my brain is cracked, labouring and oozing stinky acid. I don’t want 40 options, I just want to the best things. ‘Oh but it depends what you like’ they always say – I don’t care – I’m not gluten intolerant, adverse to lactose, spice or things that live underwater, I have no allergies or phobias and I like sour, bitter, hot, traditional, made of foam, full of rotten fish stomachs – just give me something good.

Wouldn’t it be great if every restaurant only served one thing? Yes*. These are all the reasons that would be awesome:
1. The quality of food would be higher. How do you get better at something? Do it 400,000 times.
2. Everything would be cheaper because production costs would be smaller
3. There would be a bigger variety of food. If all the lasagna restaurants were cheap, who would go to the 5th best one? Everyone would have to differentiate or innovative to compete.
4. It would make my life easier.
5. It would make waiters lives easier because they wouldn’t have to deal with jerks who have a strange inability to make decisions – I’m sorry every waiter whose served me ever.

These are all the reasons I loved the chicken shop.

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How many mains did they have? One. How well did they make it? Fucking excellently.

Last blog I wrote about London was a big complain fest about all the great things I’d eaten which were just not good enough to be woworthy (new word, use it if you want). I don’t really know if I was being unfair or not. I still think Sydney’s average is better and that’s weird because London is bigger, newer and more full of tasty immigrants. Maybe I’m nostalgic, home-sick or overly patriotic but whatever that’s how I felt but there was one major thing I neglected to mention.

These:

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London’s full of street food markets with the kind of quality, regularity and variety Sydney’s seen. Most have enough variety to represent a culinary UN assembly, the average quality is amazing and some are open all week. I’ve been to four or five now and every time I experienced that awkward mix of excitement and anxiety gameshow contestants get when they know they’re gonna win something but if they choose right their win is going to be absolutely fucking massive. And so it’s been – winning, winning, winning, winning, the most incredibly delicious tuna steak roll then more regular winning again.

I’m very jealous.

I cooked again for only the fourth time in six months. I’ve been staying in Islington in an incredibly massive/beautiful house with two self-described champagne socialists. I wanted to do something to thank them for their generosity so I cooked them a feast.

My second attempt at recipe writing:

Four course meal for five people.

Cous cous salad:
Enough cous cous for five people
A stalk of cherry tomatoes, 12 or so
2 red onions, sliced
Handful of pine nuts
Handful of raisins – I only had raising but I think currants would be better
Bunch of parsley, leaves picked but not chopped
Bunch of mint, leaves picked but not chopped
Tablespoon of fennel
2 tablespoons of za’tar
Olive oil
Butter
Juice of one big or two little lemons
Seeds of half a pomegranate.

Put all 12 tomatoes on a grill. Let them cook without stirring them until their bums blacken. In a dry pan toast the pine nuts until they smell ready or become oily. Sauté onions in a pan with fennel seeds and olive oil over high heat until translucent. Add the raisins and cook at a low temperature until the raisins are soft and the onions gooey. Cook the couscous with a large hit of butter and olive oil – if you have time do it in the oven. When cous cous is read stir in tomatoes, onions, raisins, pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, herbs, olive oil, lemon juice and za’tar.

Roast vegetables:
6 carrots
3 beetroot
1 orange, juiced
Tablespoon of cumin seeds
Tablespoon of fennel seeds
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 180C. Peel and wash vegetables and place in a shallow baking tray with orange juice, olive oil, salt and spices. Roast for 30 minutes with a lid on. Raise the temperature to 220C and roast with take the lid off. When the vegie tops are in the cusp of charring take them out.

Roast peach salad:
3 peaches
Tablespoon of mustard seeds
200 grams of burratta
Handful of almonds
1 and a half red onions
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Zest of one orange

Preheat oven to 180C. Roast peaches in plenty of olive oil, salt and mustard seeds for 30 minutes or so. Meanwhile cook onions as above and add balsamic instead of raisins when you lower the temperature. Toast almonds in a dry pan, moving them regularly. When the smell get stronger take them off. They should change colour without blackening. Combine everything in a bowl with orange zest and another lash of olive oil.

Yoghurt thing:
250g of natural yogurt
Sumac
Mint, roughly chopped
Seeds of half a pomegranate
Toasted sunflower seeds

Stir chopped mint into the yoghurt. Toast sunflower seeds stirring occasionally until they start to brown. Place the yoghurt in a shallow bowl and arrange sumac, sunflower seeds and pomegranate artfully.

Serve everything with fresh fruit juice. I had grapefruit and orange.

There you have it. A completely experimental and rather successful dinner appropriate for lefties living the good life.

On my last night in London I saw a fox. It was about 11:30pm and I was cruising lightless in park when I saw it’s beady eyes floating above the path. It stood and looked at me for a good four seconds then skipped into a bush. It felt significant. It probably wasn’t. I imagine I’ve been seduced because foxes are really cool at the moment*.

I’m going to Turkey in a few hours and I’m fucking excited. I’m excited to be warm, I’m excited to ride my bike, I’m excited to eat and I’m excited for adventure.

*obviously the answer is no and it would never work but fuck that I love dreamland
*forest animals are everywhere – album art, cafe names, t shirt designs, all the things cool people like. Of all those animals foxes seem to be the most popular, just slightly more than bears.

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