Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A SURPRISE DINNER, full of glimmer


Horah for impromptu lovers meetings. I met him at Rake’s behind Borough Market, quite unexpectedly, because he had my house keys. We did the daily debrief, which I love. All the ins and outs of daily monotony makes me feel good. And then we got onto what we always get onto, “what’s for dinner?”.

The options round borough, much to my surprise, were a bit thin: Brindisa? The wait was going to be 45 minutes, and we are just a bit too greedy for that, even though the Monte Enebro with honey is immense; Fish!? Looks grim and was pretty much empty, plus it looked expensive; Feng Sushi? He was game, but I felt a bit uninspired by it. Then we saw Wright Brothers. My suggestion was that we have a dozen oysters for a treat and then head on elsewhere. But as we walked in, his olfactory got going and I was reliably informed it had good smells for a fish joint. Hey presto, we splashed out and had the most perfect dinner.

I cannot hail the experience enough. The service was great. That lovely and very un British combination of efficient and yet not annoying. They made it look easy. And the oysters were banging. We had 2 kinds, as I fancied a geeky compare and contrast of Wild Colchester (impressively arge and metallic and saline) and Carlingford Lough (medium, subtle and delicate. Just what you want from an oyster).

The details were the delicious devil here at Wright Brothers. The sides particularly, as the tomatoes in the salad were skinned, making them really pert and slippery, and the sprouting broccoli was served with really tasty melting butter. And then, then there was the dressed crab. So simple, and no doubt skilfully produced. My favourite I think though was the squid, dipped in a crispy hot batter not unlike a KFC. And that’s a big compliment.

Then we were straight home for another dose of Rick Stein’s latest odyssey plus Levi Roots first episode in his Jamaican series (both very good in their different ways). What better and more spendthrift way to spend a Monday night? If you are lost on where to take a lover, this is the one, and all the more amazing when it’s not even planned.

BRICK LANE ON A SUNDAY, a truly metropolitan hooray

having spent saturday night at a hen party, i was terrified that i'd have a sore head on sunday, when i'd planned to spend the day with my dear old friend Haz. thankfully, the hens were pretty well behaved. we were pleasantly held up in a garden in barnes, drinking pink champagne and giggling at old photos and naughty reminisces. i was up and on it sunday morning only a little fuzzy, and arrived on the wonderful brick lane, thrown right into the thick of vibe bar heavy bass lines and wafting foods from all over the globe. when i first went there 10 years ago, it was buzzy and busy, but not overly cool. now, the bad side of things is that it's totally teaming with bolshy bodies, haircuts and very vintage clothes. the good side of this is that it's like a festival and makes you truly happy to live in the capital, such a loud, brightly coloured and mixed up place.

the bits of brick lane that are as they were when i first discovered it, are for me, still the best. it's all about the indian super stores. here, you will come across vegetables so alien that naming, let alone cooking them, seems a far cry but none the less a really exciting thing. Haz and i spent a lovely few hours putting the world to rights, drinking coffee in the new fangled fashionable brick lane way, and eating some delicious and cheap greekish street food. the dolmas were good. She then bobbed off to a party, and i got back to the old school, trawling the aisles of first, Bangla City, and then Taj Stores, just further down.

i love these stores. they really are supermarkets, but the kind i like. they sell knapkins, cleaning products, incense, pots and pans and ofcourse all the things that are hard to find: unknown leaves and herbs; huge sliced of pumpkin, various wonky chilies and every rice and chili sauce you could wish for. and it seemed fitting to make a good spicey and aromatic curry dinner even more so, because raf was at the ashes being all crickety. i bought mung dhal, freshest curry leaves (which make me weak at the knees, and take me straight back to soft evenings in Gokana); a butternut squash, walnuts, basmati and fresh turmeric which is hard to find.

for dinner for the crickety boys i made a lovely dhal full of curry leaves and mustard seeds (using a new little pot especially for frying spices), a walnut chutney (which must be akin to a pesto, but indian) and a chicken and squash korma, all mild and nutty. it was the walnut pesto that really struck me, and which i found vaguely in madhur jafferey's curry bible, of pakistani origin. fresh, crunchy and bitter and sweet, hot and yet cooling, the perfect alternative to raita, here it is...

2 handfuls of whole walnuts
1 handful of fresh mint
1 whole dried chilli
1 finely chopped garlic clove
1 lime, juiced
4 tbsp natural yoghurt
1 tsp caster sugar (or palm sugar)
some salt

this couldn't be easier. place all the ingredients in a blender, and blitz until it is flecked with colour like grains of sugar. not humous, more pesto. serve with dhal, rice and a meat dish.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

NEW STUFF, in a puff

... puff, in a bewitched kind of way.

i've been away, driving, and eating and sunning and france. more to come soon. Elizabeth David inspired green salads, and the joys of returning to my beloved chinese supermarket (after all that cheese).

Hold tight. xxx