March: On the Radar

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Spring is springing! It’s official. Winter is winding down and Spring is tantalising us with the promise of longer days and the sun on our skin. March is a funny month – it can still be pretty wintry and cold (anyone remember last year – it was freezing) or it can be freakishly warm. Let’s hope it’s the latter. We could do with some freakishly warm weather.

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So what’s on the radar for March?

– I like the look of this – Classic Car Boot Sale on the Southbank. Vintage stalls, street food, craft beer and cocktails. I’m in.

– I just got Diana Henry’s new cook book A Change of Appetite. Focusing on healthy and delicious food, I’m salivating when I look through it. Lots of inspiration for Get Your Salad On. Here’s a selection of her recipes.

– There’s an exhibition on at the Royal Academy that I’m going to try and check out. Called Sensing Spaces, it explores our responses to architecture – how does it make us feel? It looks really interesting (and fun).

– It’s pancake day tomorrow. How do you like yours? I’m liking the look of these ricotta hotcakes with maple butter (of course I’ll make some traditional ones too served with lemon and sugar).

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Get Your Salad On: Aubergine Salad

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So here it is, in the nick of time, in true London Loafing style (left completely to the last minute), I present my February Get Your Salad On. Lovely Lia from Dizzy Loves Icy has excelled herself with a halloumi salad with chickpeas and lime this month. Mmm halloumi.

I’ve got a Middle Eastern obsession going on. It started with Ottolenghi, that man is a salad genius. If you’ve never been to one of his restaurants and experienced salad nirvana, I say go, go, go. He performs wonders with aubergines. What he does with a cauliflower is mind-blowing (I may be exaggerating here). And who knew the pleasures tahini could bring? Well I do now.

However this salad is not from an Ottolenghi cook book, it’s adapted from Olives, Lemons and Za’atar, which contains some cracking recipes. My love affair with Middle Eastern cuisine is set to get deeper.

Aubergine salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 aubergines cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 pack of cherry plum tomoatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • 2 peppers, I actually used 1 red and half a green and half a yellow
  • The juice of 1 lemon
  • 50g of black olives, preferably kalamata but other types are fine
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Olive oil
  • A handful of parsley
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 250c.
  2. Put aubergine in baking tray, sprinkle with salt and olive oil. When oven is hot put baking tray into the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile dice the onion, pepper and tomatoes into small pieces and put into a bowl.
  4. Drain tin of chickpeas, rinse and put into the bowl.
  5. Add olives to bowl.
  6. Remove aubergine from oven once cooked and add to the bowl.
  7. Mix the dressing: this consists of the juice of the lemon and 4 tablespoons of olive oil and the garlic.
  8. Add the dressing to the bowl.
  9. Add the chopped parsley to the bowl.
  10. Mix the salad gently, taking care not to crush the aubergine.
  11. Season and serve.

I think this would go rather well with some halloumi or perhaps some roast chicken.

Aubergine salad with chickpeas and olives

Instagrub

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I am one of those people. Guilty as charged. I *sometimes* take a photo of my food before I scarf it down my gob. And I *sometimes* post it onto Instagram. It’s in the news today, as there’s a chef in France who wants to ban this evil practice. Personally I do agree with him a little bit, it’s pretty annoying (I just can’t help myself, guv) but in a world where there’s war in Syria and countless horrors going on in North Korea, taking photos of your grub before you eat it is pretty lowdown on my list of things to ban.

So in celebration of foodie photos; here’s some of my culinary highlights over the last week or so.

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From top left corner:

1 – A burger from Dirty Burger. I am slowly trying all the ‘new-wave’ burger joints of London. This was pretty good. The fries were also first class.

2 – Dinner at Blanchette in Soho with my best bud. The food is small-plate French food, a bit like Polpo (which is Italian). We had a good meal – the desserts were especially good, I just wish I could remember what they were. (There was also wine involved).

3 – Still making smoothies – this one had beetroot and berries in it, hence its magnificent colour.

4 – I made this – roasted aubergines with tahini yoghurt, pomegranate and parsley. I’m loving Middle Eastern food at the moment.

6 – Saw these in Wholefoods. Activated almonds. WTF are they?

7 – This may look a bit like sick. It is in fact spiced coconut chicken with spinach. My boy wolfed this down.

8 – Lunch at Jamie’s Italian in Greenwich. You have to give it to Jamie, he knows how to please the small ones – this menu kept Fred and his friend occupied for at least 10 minutes. The food wasn’t bad either.

9 and 10 – Michael and I did make it to Hawker House. We enjoyed this Indian inspired dish from Rola Wala – a tiny naan, topped with pulled pork, some pickles and a pretty pokey chilli sprinkle. This was the best thing we ate all night. Spicy, crunchy and meaty. The pizza was also pretty good straight out of the wood fired oven. Loved the atmosphere of Hawker House, too. I would definitely recommend it.

A Year in Books: February

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January’s choice was ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce. I have to admit that at first I struggled with this book; the lives of the main characters just seemed too parochial and slow. Although they were meant to be in their seventies, they just seemed much older than this. But this book grew on me. I came to like the characters and the story became more compelling. I’m not afraid to admit that I sobbed at the end.

The story follows Harold, who receives a letter from an ex-work colleague who is dying of cancer. Instead of writing back to the hospice, he decides to walk to Berwick-upon-Tweed in an effort to keep her alive. He lives in Devon so this is a quite a journey, especially he has no map or walking shoes. On the way, we learn more about Harold and his relationship with his wife. We also learn why he feels so strongly about Queenie, his friend who is dying.

Despite my initial misgivings, I ended up loving this book. It’s very sad, but it’s also uplifting. It made me question a few things about my own life, and when a book does that, it can’t be a bad thing.

The Shock of the FallMy February book is ‘The Shock of the Fall’ by Nathan Filer. We’re actually reading this for my book club and we chose it before it recently won the Costa prize. One of my fellow book clubbers knows the author’s agent. She’s been saying for a while that the book is brilliant. We had to find out for ourselves.

This is a quote from the back cover:

‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’

I know it’s going to be good.

February: On the Radar

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January is over – hallelujah! Actually it wasn’t that bad. The no-drinking was fine; I only really missed having a nice glass of red on a Friday night. We tried fasting on one Friday and along with the self-imposed alcohol restriction, this was too much. There was a bar of chocolate with my name on it. Lesson learned –  I will not attempt complete denial of food and fun in January when I’m working full-time. A girl needs something to look forward to. This time sugar sufficed (apparently the new tobacco, but surely it’s all about moderation).

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So what am I eyeing up this month?

What could follow the balloons and poo of the Hayward Gallery? I quite fancy Bailey’s Stardust at the National Portrait Gallery. Glamour, showbiz and definitely no defecation (I hope).

I saw this recipe for Kimchi Brussell sprouts. Perhaps February is the month to try my hand at a bit of fermentation? Fermentuary – it has a ring to it.

I quite fancy paying this place a visit. It’s a place where street food vendors sell their wares all under one roof. It’s meant to be buzzing.

The Evening Standard ran this article about Walthamstow. It’s completely the other side of London to us, but I love exploring areas I’ve never been before. Might try and pay it a visit.

Hopefully I’ll be changing the design for this blog. I’ve been thinking about it for ages. Will February be the month it finally happens? Any tips from you bloggers out there?

Image from Bon Appetit

The weekend: balloons, dragons and salt and pepper squid

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Saturday was one of those brilliant days where I thank my lucky stars that I live in such an amazing city. It involved entertaining two six year old boys in a cutting edge art exhibition, then introducing them to the delights of crispy duck and pancakes. Then handing the custody of these energetic youngsters to my husband so I could do some shopping. There was also poo involved. This was not one of the highlights of the day. (More of that later).

We started the day at the new Martin Creed exhibition at the Hayward Gallery on the Southbank. I’d heard him talking on the radio and it sounded like there was enough to interest both adults and children. The exhibition is called ‘What is the Point of it?’ And we were left wondering this at more than one occasion. We entered into the gallery space to be met with a massive neon sign saying ‘Mothers’, rotating round the room. Anyone over the height of 6 ft 6 would run the risk of being hit round the head. This would hurt. A lot. What a way to go though?

There were more rooms which we surveyed at quite a pace. Until we got to the balloons. The boys loved the balloons. A large room had been filled with white balloons. The boys spent ages running (and crawling) about in this room, their hair standing on its edge with static. It was fun.

Balloons

There were other things that briefly caught their interest: a car which would suddenly come to life, its doors and boot opening, horn sounding and radio blaring, a wall to run around. (They’re six, they’ll run round anything). And so to the final room…the main place where I thought ‘What is the point of it?’  We were met with a video of a woman being violently sick. Not nice to watch. Then a man vomiting in a similar manner. (Not quite as badly as the woman, it’s got to be said). And then…a video of a woman. She walks into the room, pulls down her pants and squats. Is she? OMG she is. There is a video of a woman doing a poo. She’s there for a while, stage fright obviously getting to her. And then you see it land on the floor.  As you can imagine the boys were horrified and fascinated in equal measure. I hope this hasn’t scarred them for life. (They are fine, Fred didn’t even mention it today). It was genuinely shocking. Perhaps that was the point of it?

So balloons, sick and poo. Overall despite the final room, we did enjoy this exhibition. The balloons were fun.

Luckily our appetites weren’t affected too badly, as we were heading to Chinatown for lunch. The place was decked out for New Year celebrations, and there were plenty of dragons prowling around. In fact one came into the restaurant we were eating in. The boys tried some new foods and bubble tea. Neither were a fan of the tea; Fred’s friend spat it all over his hand. They did like the duck and pancakes though.

Chinatown

Dragon

The boys then headed off with Michael for more culture at the National Gallery. I wandered over to Regent Street via Wholefoods (love that shop, I could spend hours in there frotting over expensive, but beautifully packaged jam). And then Tottenham Court Road where I went to Heals and swooned over the Tom Dixon lights. On sale, but still out of my budget. One day you will be mine, my pretty. *Evil laugh*.

Tom Dixon Lights

Magazine Club: The Gentlewoman

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I love magazines. I have loved them for a long time – I remember waiting excitedly for Just 17 to arrive in my local newsagents every week. I’d read it with a mixture of fear, envy and joy. Oh my, the problem pages were an education. At the age of twelve (and a fairly innocent twelve at that), my mind would boggle at the situations girls not much older than me would find themselves in. Later I graduated to other magazines and I still subscribe to far too many. I’m old school – it’s just not the same reading one on an Ipad or PC.

I thought it might be fun to set up my own little magazine club. Current membership: one. The aim of the club is to explore some of the brilliant (or maybe not so brilliant) independent magazines that are hitting the shelves at the moment. As I live in London, it’s fairly easy to get my hands on these publications. However there is a company called Stack, that delivers a different independent magazine each month. In my club, I’ll read and review a different magazine each month, but I’ll buy it myself instead of getting it delivered by Stack. So what’s my choice for January?

The Gentlewoman

Title : The Gentlewoman

Price: £6

What: The Gentlewoman celebrates modern women of style and purpose. Its fabulous biannual magazine offers a fresh and intelligent perspective on fashion that’s focused on personal style – the way women actually look, think and dress. Featuring ambitious journalism and photography of the highest quality, it showcases inspirational women through its distinctive combination of glamour, personality and warmth.*

First Impressions: It’s bigger than your average magazine and the cover is striking. This issue has a monochrome cover photo and features the actress Lea Seydoux. The design is uncluttered and classic.

Flicking through: Again I was struck by the photography; it’s bold and matches the large format perfectly. There were quite a few adverts and these were quite high-end. The articles were long; this is not really a magazine for flicking through, this calls for a cup of tea, a comfy sofa and time to read its articles.

Favourite articles: There’s an interview with Martha Stewart which was interesting (I think it’s the magazine’s aim to feature women of all ages who have done something interesting with their lives). I also liked the feature about the founders of a book review website, The Omnivore which is new to me.

Overall: The Gentlewoman is a substantial, grown-up read. You won’t find any mention of Towie in here (that’s a good thing IMO). I loved its aesthetic; the design is striking. This is definitely a publication to take your time over, time that I don’t always have. Would I buy it again? Maybe depending who they were featuring that issue.

* From the Gentlewoman’s website.