SE London exploration continues with a bit of last-minute Christmas shopping at Greenwich Market. I can’t say what goodies we bought – don’t want to spoil the Christmas surprises – but I can oblige with a gratuitous photo of lunch from a stall run by a group of cheery Italians. I didn’t get the name of the place, but you can’t miss it. One side of their cube-shaped formation is a cheese specialist, the other side is a butcher & charcuterie, and the other 2 sides consist of tasty looking Sicilian style pizzas and about 10 kind of giant arancini. These carbo-bomb delicacies are fist-sized versions of the tasty little deep-fried risotto balls, stuffed with various fillings, including mushroom, pesto, chicken, minced beef and the spicy salami/mozzarella combination that Neil and I (well, I) opted for. The risotto was perfect, just the right amount of bite (Arancini can be a bit gluey if the rice is over cooked), loaded with saffron, and in the center, a little pocket of melted mozzarella and spicy salami that was somewhere between genoa salami and a fiery pepperoni. Yum.
Neil and I are in the process of buying our first flat, and I’ve been buying up a few pieces in anticipation of the move, perhaps prematurely; we’ve had to pull out of one sale (structural problems highlighted in the survey), but all going well, this one might actually happen.
I’ve wanted a 1950s kitchen since forever, and the freestanding dressers top the list. Unfortunately, the craze for vintage has pushed up prices for these considerably. A year or two ago, I’d see these on eBay for about £50-100; a search yesterday turned up three similar restored ones with starting bids ranging from £180-£350 on Buy It Now.
So when I saw this knackered cupboard listed for collection only near Guildford at £1.09 with less than 24 hours to go, I pounced on it. £16 Plus another £44 for delivery (via the excellent van-sharing courier Anyvan),and 48 hours later, I have myself a kitchen dresser.
I plan to spend my vacation next week liberating the cupboard from the gloppy white and yellow paint job, the cobwebs (complete with stowaway spider from Guildford), cracked plastic handles and disintegrating shelf paper. I’ll do a post about it when the transformation is complete.
The Formica on the drop leaf shelf needs particular help so if anyone has any suggestions of how to restore or replace it, I’m all ears.
Yesterday it was my turn to make breakfast, which is usually the domain of the Other Half. I’m definitely more of a savoury person when it comes to breakfast. Danishes and pain au chocolat are okay, but I’ll take a breakfast burrito (my favourite is the amazing calorie-bomb at The Breakfast Club) any day. The exception is French toast. The Brits have their own savoury version, “eggy bread” which is similar, but eaten with salt and pepper but it doesn’t compare to our maple-syrup drenched artery-closer.
I’ve been wanting to try a savoury muffin for a while, ever since seeing the pumpkin and feta muffins on 101 Cookbooks. However, we were after something a little less virtuous yesterday, and it’s the wrong season for pumpkin anyway, so I did a more decadent version using a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe as a jumpoff point. For once I had all the ingredients lying around, including some incredible smoked streaky bacon and mature cheddar from my Abel & Cole box. Foodie types are always banging on about how it’s worth spending a little extra on good bacon, and I wholeheartedly agree on this point. A&C’s organic smoked streaky bacon is under £3, and it doesn’t shrink down to nothing like the oversalted cheap stuff. A while back we had a food thief in the area, who would rifle through the grocery delivery and nick just the bacon. (I never caught the bacon thief, but A&C kindly offered to put the delivery inside our building, and pilfered pork is now a thing of the past.)
On to the muffins. This recipe makes 12 muffins. Neil and I had these for breakfast, but they’d probably make a good quirky alternative to a dinner roll, as Hugh suggests. These took about an hour to make including baking time, but I was slightly hungover and therefore not at my swiftest and best.
Bacon, Cheddar and Jalapeño Muffins
- 1 tsp oil
- 100g (about 4 thick slices) smoked streaky bacon, cut into 1cm pieces
- 1 onion, finely diced (I used a white onion but red would probably look nicer)
- 250g self-raising flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 80g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 200ml buttermilk (I ran out of buttermilk so used half plain yogurt)
- 1-2 Jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
- 150g strong cheddar, grated
Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.
Fry the bacon in the oil over medium high heat till just about crisp, then drain on a paper towel. Soften the onion and pepper in the same pan, then set aside to cool. Deglaze the pan with a little water between the bacon and the vegetables if necessary.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. In a jug, whisk the eggs, butter and buttermilk, stir them into the flour mixture with a spatula until just combined, then fold in the cooled bacon, onion, peppers and two-thirds of the cheese until just evenly distributed. Don’t overmix – if you do the muffins will be like bricks. This batter is very thick – almost like dough. I wound up splashing in a little milk because the flour I used seemed especially “thirsty”.
Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin, sprinkle on the rest of the cheese, and bake for about 18 minutes, until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins in the pan for as long as you can bear it (we lasted five minutes), then devour.
As tweeted by facebook/twitter friend @rhodri (click to see closeup):
A glorious error. Text for a Ladies Beauty Trimmer ends up in the press release for James Martin’s Electric Knife. http://pic.twitter.com/cXJKyQhK
Once I made a bunch of Quite Healthy breakfast burritos*, which I kept in the freezer, intending to microwave them at work. It was great… when I actually remembered to bring one in. I usually wound up having them for Sunday brunch when it was my turn to cook.
My new revelation is actually a suggestion from the personal trainer, Clair, who has a studio in my building at work. She runs yoga classes for us every Wednesday morning (we started only about a month ago but all the stuff people say about yoga being amazing and relaxing and stress reducing and all that stuff is true. It’s worth getting up early for.) My foot started cramping up when we were doing a crazy balancing pose – apparently the result of not enough potassium. Half a banana every day should help, and Clair’s preferred method of administration is to slice it up and mix into 1/3 a pot of Rachel’s Organic Greek-Style Coconut yogurt. Yogurt usually doesn’t fill me up enough for breakfast, but Clair ran six marathons in the space of a year, and ran a 52-mile race last month, so who am I to argue?
What. A. Revelation.
It’s kind of like eating dessert for breakfast, and you don’t wind up chewing your mousepad out of starvation by 11am. And you can keep it in the fridge at work because no one ever steals healthy food. Win all around.
A couple of weekends ago Neil, Jonny and I ventured over to the posh side of Victoria Park for a Saturday hangover lunch at the Britannia pub, a “traditional” (tarted up) pub with a big garden backing onto the park, beloved of the Hackney yummy-mummy set. It is a very friendly pub, and not as snooty as its contemporaries in Primrose Hill, but you will be nursing your hangover amongst hordes of young’uns in the garden. To its credit, the Britannia offers the most generous Bloody Mary I’ve ever experienced. For seven quid, you get a whole pint of vodka-spiked elixir, with flecks of fresh horseradish and freshly cracked black pepper, and a crunchy celery stalk. It does kind of feel like you are drinking a shrub and will get you some comical looks from the surrounding tables (unless they’ve got one of their own), but it will sort out the cobwebs very effectively.
The Britannia does an outdoor barbecue in the summer, and the substantial rack of ribs inspired me to pick up some of my own. That very afternoon, we discovered that the excellent rare-breed butcher The Ginger Pig has a branch on Lauriston Road, so I went back later that week to pick up a couple of racks of beef ribs at a bargainous £3.50 each, and had one of their amazing fist-sized sausage rolls from the deli downstairs.
Most of the recipes I’ve found tend to be for short ribs, which are fattier and therefore less prone to drying out than back ribs, which is what I had. The general consensus for beef ribs is “low and slow” – a long cook at a very low temp – so I figured the best plan of action would be a rub/braising combo. The recipe I decided on was an amalgamation of the rub from the “Rub-A-Dub” venison recipe in Levi Roots’ Caribbean Food Made Easy book and using the method and braising liquid from Alton Brown’s baby back ribs recipe (as an aside, I tried the latter recipe on lamb ribs and it was divinity squared. Amazing). You need to give the meat a minimum of 2 hours in the rub, but in this case I did it the day before left it to marinate overnight in the fridge. I also shredded the cabbage for the coleslaw (also an adaptation of a Levi Roots recipe) the day before and stored it in plastic bags, ready to assemble for dinner the next day.
- 2 tsp ground allspice
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 scant tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
Braising liquid ingredients:
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp cider, white wine or white vinegar
- 2 x slabs of beef back ribs, about 6 ribs each
Combine all the dry ingredients for the rub in a jar and give it a good shake. Take two tablespoons of the mix and combine with 2 tbs of vegetable oil. Save the remaining dry rub for another recipe.
Lay the slabs of ribs each on their own sheet of aluminium foil, about 2.5 times the size of the ribs, with the dull side up – you are going to fold the foil up into a pocket containing the ribs, so leave enough room to cover them completely.
Slather the rub/oil mixture all over the ribs, paying special attention to the meatier side. Fold up the foil around the ribs to make a pocket, making the sides very tight, but leaving the end of the pocket a bit loose – you’ll need to get back in there before putting the ribs in to cook. Refrigerate for a minimum of two hours, overnight for best results.
On cooking day, preheat the oven to 120 C / 250 F.
Put all the braising liquid ingredients in a small pot and heat up on the stove to melt down the honey and release the flavor of the garlic. You could also do this in the microwave, on high for one minute, but we don’t have a microwave, so stove it is.
Get the foil-wrapped ribs out of the fridge, put them on the baking pan or rack that you plan to cook them on. Open the end of each foil packet. Distribute the braising liquid evenly between the two packets, reseal, and give the pan a tilt to make sure the liquid isn’t just pooled in the front of the packet.
At this point you may realize, as I did, that there is a difference between heavy-duty foil and the cheap value crap from Tesco. One of my packets got a little hole in it and the braising liquid seeped out all over the bottom of the grill pan, so there was a lot of swearing as I rescued the liquid from the pan and made a new foil packet.
Then I put the ribs in the oven and forgot about them for 2.5 hours.
While the ribs are cooking, you can assemble the coleslaw (recipe below), or you can leave it all to the last minute, it doesn’t really matter. I feel better making it ahead of time because I kid myself into believing that the flavors with “blend” if they sit around for a bit.
- 1/2 white cabbage, finely shredded
- 1/4 red cabbage, finely shredded
- 2 carrots, grated
- 2 spring onions (scallions), white and green parts, finely chopped
- 1 small can of sweet corn
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise
- salt and pepper to taste
- juice of one lime
Put all the vegetables into a mixing bowl, and toss them so they are evenly combined. Salt and pepper them. Add the mayonnaise and lime juice, and mix well. You could also add a handful of chopped coriander (cilantro), but I forgot. Put in fridge until ready to serve.
Final step for the ribs:
Take them out of the oven, and remove them from the foil, taking care not to spil any of the liquid left inside. Rest the ribs on a plate while you prepare the sauce. Pour all of the juices into a small saucepan. You may want to skim any fat off the top – there was quite a lot from mine. Reduce the liquid to a gravylike consistency and then serve on the side with the ribs.
The ribs were very tender, not quite falling off the bone, and tasted extremely beefy, almost like game. Neil said, “You can make this again.” I definitely will, but next time I might try dark rum instead of white wine in the braising mixture.