Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Everything's Gone Green: Spinach Soup


  • 50g butter
  • 1 medium onion , finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves , finely chopped
  • 1 medium potato , peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 450ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 600ml milk
  • 450g fresh spinach , washed if necessary and roughly chopped
  • finely grated zest of half a lemon
  • freshly grated nutmeg , to taste
  • 3 tbsp double cream , to serve


Melt the butter in a large lidded saucepan, add the onion and garlic and fry gently for 5-6 minutes until softening. Stir in the potato and continue to cook gently for 1 minute. Pour in the stock and simmer for 8-10 minutes until the potato starts to cook. Pour in the milk and bring up to a simmer, then stir in half the spinach and the lemon zest. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes until the spinach has completely wilted down. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

Pour the soup into a blender (preferably) or food processor, add the remaining spinach (this will keep the soup bright green and fresh tasting) and process until silky smooth - you may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your machine. (The soup may now be frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost in the microwave or overnight in the fridge. The soup may lose some of its vibrancy on freezing, but the flavour won't be impaired.) Return to the pan and reheat. Taste and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. You may like to dilute the soup with a little extra stock if too thick. Ladle the soup into bowls and swirl in the cream Pin It

Ireland: Pt 2, Doolin, Cliffs of Moher.

Breakfast of champions

My arrival into Dublin met all expectations, grey, grim & guinness. In true form, I managed to get sick just before my holiday, and to better the situation, Ireland was welcoming me with open, icy arms. I'm no stranger to cold or wet weather, my native Christchurch in New Zealand has formidable winters, & London isn't exactly sunshine & lollipops either, but my first day I was chilled to the bone, wearing 2 woollen jerseys, a heavy wool duffel coat, 2 pairs of socks, & wrapped in a wool blanket..I was inside a house by the way. My only real venture out of the house between sleeping in & warming up my bones was to Trinity College to see Ireland's national treasure, the book of Kells, which was produced by Celtic monks in approximately 800ad & is arguably one of the finest examples of western calligraphy, illustration & book design.

After geeking out on this for a few hours, I was done with Dublin. Liadain & I packed the car & took a road trip to County Clare on the west coast, 3 hours from Dublin, to a small town called "Doolin", which is a stones throw from the breath taking Cliffs of Moher, whose 214 metre sheer vertical drop plummets straight into the Atlantic ocean. Our first morning, we packed a lunch & set out on a 24km return walk around the cliff edge, what a magic experience it was. Maybe it was the country air, or just escaping the London rat-race for a few days, but my cold was a shadow of it's former self, despite the dewy air & blustery winds. As we walked along the cliff edges, through windswept pastures, the tussocks & grasses twisted & curled in unison, like the manicured fringes of 50's teddy-boys, ocean spray crept up the rocky face to lick our own. With misty rain as our constant companion, we trudged through creeks, around marshes, under & over fences to complete our journey. On the way, we passed a curious flock of horned sheep, who demonstrated the origin of the term "sheepish look" while I peered through my camera; perhaps they knew I had decided to eat their brethren later, as I was formulating plans for an Irish stew. After being exposed to the elements for a day, the idea of home made stew is absolute heaven, as nothing beats a salty, peppery, meaty, herby broth that thaws you from the inside out. The hostel we stayed in had an excellent kitchen & the manager, Karl so kindly asked his neighbour if she had any fresh herbs for our stew, she kindly delivered a fresh bundle of thyme, sage, parsley & rosemary tied up with a yellow marigold. We pretty much discarded the recipe we had, as we didn't have bones to boil.


  • 1-1½ kg neck or shoulder of lamb/beef
  • Bouquet of parsley, thyme and rosemary
  • 3 large onions, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-4 carrots, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 3-4 parsnips, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • Some small new potatoes, peeled and quartered, or large potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 75-100g hispi cabbage, shredded
  • Finely chopped parsley


Remove the meat from the bone, trim off all the fat and cut into cubes. Keep the bones, place the meat in a pot, cover with cold salted water. Bring to the boil, drain and rinse the meat.

In a fresh pot put the meat, bones, bouquet of herbs, onions, seasoning, carrots, leeks and turnip and cover with water. Simmer gently for one hour. Skim off the foam as it rises. (this is very important for the final flavour and appearance of the stew.) Add the potatoes and continue cooking for 25 minutes. For the last 5 minutes add in the cabbage. When the meat and vegetables are cooked remove the bones and bouquet for herbs. Stir in the chopped parsley and a dash. Serve in deep bowls with soda bread.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ireland: Pt 1, Mulligans, Dublin.

The Irish. We love those chirpy little leprechauns. I just visited Ireland for the first time recently to catch up with my old friend Liadain who lives in Dublin. Of course, while I was there, I had to make a mission to sample some local fare. Ireland isn't a country renowned for gifting the world anything groundbreaking in terms of its culinary contributions, but like many countries who are often accused of having a dull repertoire of national recipes, it's experiencing a resurgence in traditional dishes executed with high quality, locally produced ingredients.

I would be selling my first host short if I said they weren't inventive or curious with their menu, because I personally felt like most meals had an extra factor to their ingredients to pique my curiosity. The host I speak of is Mulligans, a hopped up Gastro-pub on the North side of the Liffey in Dublin, with an enviably long beer list, probably longer whisky list, & tantalizing menu. There's no need to harp on about how tasty everything was, because I'm tired, and I think the photos are ample proof that I waddled home fully stuffed & content with the start of my Irish holiday. The dishes we had were free-range organic chicken stuffed with black pudding, garden salad with white wine sauce & beer battered chips, & vege burger with aubergine & lentil spiced pattie, beetroot coleslaw, & beer-battered chips. To be continued in Ireland: Pt 2, Irish Stew, Doolin.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lonely winter root....vegetable soup

Winter is shit. As you can probably tell, I'm not a huge fan of the cold seasons. I do however like to occasionally romanticize about the virtues of winter, such as cosy open fires, hot chocolates, & big bowls of soup. One of my most vivid childhood memories is when my primary school class stayed late one evening to wait out a freak storm.

It was during the tail end of Autumn, me & twenty-something 6 & 7 year old children were captive to the weather. As we all waited, most played with toys listlessly or listened half heartedly to Mrs York read stories from the book-box. I was against the windows, my nose almost touching the glass, watching the rain pelt down & intently recording in my mind's eye as crackling coal-black thunderclouds descended over the school yard. It was only 3:50pm & the street lamps had long since flickered into life, dispensing a vaguely sulphurous glow, I could see them 200 metres across the field, flanking the street amidst the irrepressible darkness that had closed in without warning. It wasn't even so much a darkness, it was just an absence of light; everything was cloaked in a deep graphite shade, which seemed to consume all light, bar the emissions of the occasional house stirring with signs of life. Nobody was in the playground, the monkey bars sat perched on an angle, they were the cruel shipwreck of this great tempest. There seemed to be no traffic on the distant road...the eeriness of this setting was only amplified by the howling wind which fought it's way in through the cracks in the cavernous old classroom, like draughts of compressed air through the bellows of a gypsy accordion. The skeletons of trees which has shed their clothes weeks ago, scratched with their bony fingers against the windows & roof tiles, jostling & shaking, molested by the violent gales. I left my window outpost & the warmth of the ancient hot-water radiator which skirted the classroom, the teacher had finished reading & was stirring a cup of tea. I convinced her that I would be fine to go home - insisting that the weather wasn't so bad, & that I could run home, as I only lived 5-10minutes away, (it was only rain & wind & a bit of thunder occasionally after all).

I broke loose, with my windbreaker buttoned right up I ran for it. I was Carl Lewis, I was Mercury, I was Roadrunner, I was every fast character my 7-year old self had ever heard of; my school bag bouncing up and down laden with books & an empty lunch box. I hurtled across the field, out the school gates, over the zebra crossing, down the long & dead-straight alleyway, the end of which was marked by a horizontal metal bar. Most days I would jump onto the bar and do a roly-poly on my stomach, but not today. 2 more minutes running around the crescent that was my childhood street, under the scarlet red leaved plum trees, my clothes were starting to soak through, & my shoes were capsizing, taking on water. Finally I arrived at my own front door. I was home. What was waiting inside, were the exact things I do romanticize about winter; a blazing open fire & a big bowl of leek & potato soup with buttery toast. On this occasion, I have made an adaptation of the humble leek & potato soup, what we have instead is a leek, potato, onion, garlic, swede, carrot, barley, thyme & celery. Garnished with flat leaf parsley, shredded cabbage, mozzarella & a pinch of paprika. I will right the recipe in a bit, right now, I'm too fucking lazy. Pin It

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tiki Taster - Pacific Social Club

When winter arrives, & London turns it's lights down, it becomes one fuck of a dreary place. The sky turns to stone, the grey expanse of tenement houses & asphalt roads all unite in drab homogeny. Grey, dark, dark, grey. Just as you're giving oral sex to a shotgun, ready to paint the skyline with your own grey matter, you remember that other people have been feeling the same way in this city for centuries, & that some have had the initiative to craft escape-pods, incubators & time machines to hide from the oppressive dark seasons. Nestled in a Hackney side street, I found my own little parallel world to escape the London doldrums. Pacific Social Club is an all in one incubator/time machine/escape pod. Stepping into this little cafe, father-time's whip was suddenly too short to reach my back, I felt calm away from the hustle & bustle, I was at ease amongst the colourful bunting, 78-sleeve wallpaper, pacific island tiki carvings, wood panel transistor radios, the LP player wooing me with it's warm analogue patter, the gentle clatter of antique cups & saucers, straight out of a time-warp. This felt like home, & I didn't want to leave.

Now it's all very well & good having a carefully crafted aesthetic, but it can easily look trite or hackneyed (double-entendre) in an age where "vintage" is the old new. This place not only brims with authenticity, but it has two other key ingredients which really give it the trifecta: friendly staff, & most importantly, great food. I was fairly ravenous when I arrived, as I hadn't had breakfast or lunch, & it was already 1pm. I settled in to the Venezuelan sandwich with chorizo, beans, avocado & cheese. This toasted treat was so packed with flavour, I had to curse Jesus aloud. Once my savoury craving was satisfied, I whet my appetite on the carrot cake with cream cheese icing (it might have had cinnamon on the icing, I think?), to be honest I was still so blinded by the afterglow of that toastie, that I could've been spooning dogshit into my gob & still been happy, but nah, the carrot cake was actually great too. In the word of California's former Governor, I'll be back...Pacific Social Club...

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Autumnal Treats - Shortbread Biscuits

Autumn is my favorite month; the smells, the light, the colours, and conkers. This traditional English children's game uses the large & heavy seed of horse-chestnut trees as the "conker". The conker is made by threading string through a hole drilled in the chestnut. Each player takes turns at whacking their opponent’s conker with their own, until it breaks (this game is now banned from most schools due to risk of injury).
I also quite like the temperature of the Autumn days, fresh and cold, but not too cold, just enough to enhance the comfort of a warm home and a strong brew. Then, the only thing missing is a crumbly biscuit to dunk.
I love baking, but strangely enough am not much of a sweet tooth; but give me a butter biscuit any day. I can’t say no to anything when the main ingredient is BUTTER! So keeping in theme on this windy Sunday afternoon, I decided to make vanilla shortbread biscuits dipped in chocolate.


  • 1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways
  • 100g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 200g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 300g plain flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting

  1. Using a knife, scrape along the cut side of the vanilla pod to remove the seeds. Place the seeds in a large bowl with the sugar and mix well. Add the butter and mix with a wooden spoon until lightly creamed (this is a definite work-out for the arms, you could use an electric whisk if you’d prefer.) Add the flour and a pinch of salt, then mix to a soft dough (I used my hands much easier than trying to get it altogether with a spoon.) Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 1 hour.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out until about 5mm thick. Use a round cutter to cut out the biscuits, re-rolling the trimmings to make 24. I used two different sized cutters to create biscuits for the people who think they are being good by just eating small ones. Transfer to 2 large, greased baking trays. Sprinkle with sugar.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160°C/fan140°C/gas 3. Bake the biscuits for about 15 minutes, swapping the trays around halfway, until pale golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and crisp up.
  4. When biscuits have cooled, cut up chocolate and put into a bowl over a pan of simmering water until melted. Dip biscuits into chocolate, as much as you like. I have only covered half so I can taste both the plain and chocolatey shortbread biscuits. Place the them in a large storage jar ready to take out when ever you’re having your next brew.
4. When biscuits have cooled, cut up chocolate and put into a bowl over a pan of simmering water until melted. Dip biscuits into chocolate, as much as you like. I have only covered half so I can taste both the plain and chocolatey shortbread biscuits. Place the them in a large storage jar ready to take out when ever you’re having your next brew. Note: These are evil little devils, once you’ve had one you want more. So beware!
Alma Pin It

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Wilton Way Cafe

I've been in need of a sleep in all week, and after a relatively early night following Plaid's album release for Scintilli, it was exactly what I got. Peeling my lazy carcass out of bed this morning, I went about the kitchen in search of victuals. It was Old Mother Hubbard all over again, I was hungry & angry, but decided to forget about grocery shopping for breakfast & just set out on my bike in search of a delicious lunch (it was no longer morning, & I was about to rape someone if I didn't get a coffee). I had remembered that Wilton Way cafe near London Fields had been recommended by Time Out a while back, so it seemed like the perfect destination to venture on an empty stomach.

Now, I'll be honest, I approach many places around London Fields with an air of caution, as it's well known as a spawning ground for annoying, vacuous, trendy-cunts...not an ideal crowd if you're starving & about to brave the public to breakfast alone. I had every hope that this wouldn't be the case at Wilton Way Cafe...and thank fucking god it wasn't! I was greeted by an affable young lass at the counter who was not only friendly, but patient with my misreading of the menu (I had asked for the chorizo, rocket & roast capsicum on sourdough instead of ciabatta, but she told me I could have it on sourdough if I wanted, which I did want!). The interior of the cafe is beautifully styled with warm raw-wooden furniture & floors, corrugated iron, white walls, colourful DEVOesque lampshades & their own radio station apparently!

There is a variety of seating to accomodate people eating/drinking alone or in groups, & there is natural light coming from both ends of the cafe, as well as a few tables street-side. My flat white arrived, after my first sip, I was convinced who ever was at the controls of their machine must have divinity in their DNA, because it was PERFECT. Next up, my sourdough, chorizo, rocket, capsicum sandwich. It was almost bordering on epic in size, & everything tasted super fresh. It was delicious, & also very well priced (I got at least a few pound change from a tenner for the lot). The whole package of this place had me quite tickled; the staff, the food, the atmosphere - Time Out was really on the money with this review, & will be revisiting for sure. Well done Wilton Way Cafe.
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Monday, October 3, 2011

Borough Market

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