Friday, March 29, 2013

A victory for people power

It was William Blake that said: "A good local pub has much in common with a church, except that a pub is warmer, and there's more conversation."

You might think that the status of both venues as a hub of the community has fallen since Blake's days. Churchgoing is certainly not what it was, and the statistic from the Campaign from Real Ale that 18 pubs are closing every week is one of the more depressing figures I have heard.

The Ivy House, Nunhead

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The best millionaire's shortbread...ever

A visit to Brick Lane on a Sunday is a bewildering affair. So many things to eat...where do you start? A trip to one of the bagel shops or Bangladeshi restaurants is the traditional thing to do.

But the various markets are adding more and more options. American, Argentinean, Caribbean, Chinese, Ethiopian, Japanese, Malaysian, Mexican, Moroccan, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, all competing to display their wares in the most enticing way and attract the crowds of hungry young things.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A hearty stew for a cold spring night

No matter how desperate I am for blue skies and warmer temperatures, winter shows no sign of going away. All I can do is get out my trusty stockpot and cook something big and warming.

I have to admit I've got a bit bored with winter vegetables. Yes, I know I could probably do something exciting with Jerusalem artichokes. But it's March. Root vegetables have lost their appeal. So frozen and tinned vegetables have become something of a lifesaver. Dried pulses, too. At least I can get some colour and flavour on my plate, and it has the advantage of costing mere pennies per plate of food.

This is some kind of loose adaptation of a minestrone soup. But it's got lentils instead of beans, making it a really thick, hearty stew. Onions, carrots and tinned tomato provide the flavour base, with peas and green beans for freshness and colour. You could vary it though - add celery or leek to the base, or swap the green beans for chopped courgettes. Some broccoli florets or finely chopped spring greens wouldn't go amiss, either.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Rice with dill and good things

So I warned you that my bunch of dill might be making a reappearance. And here it is. I'm pleased to say that I have now conquered it! The sticking-it-in-a-mug-of-water-in-the-fridge trick worked really well, meaning that it was still perfectly useable, well over a week after I bought it.

I was pleased with this dish - healthy, filling and economical. And pretty damn tasty too. The garlic yogurt adds another layer of flavour as well as temperature and texture contrasts, though I did eat some of the leftovers for lunch without any yogurt, and that was still good.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Carrot soup with dill risotto

I really like the big bunches of herbs you can get from ethnic supermarkets and some other independent food stores - so much more vibrant and generous than the few stems in a tiny plastic packet you can get in a supermarket. I put them in the fridge door a jam jar of water and as long as they were in good condition when I bought them, they stay fresh for a week or more.

I hate throwing food away, though, and sometimes devising uses for the whole of a large bunch of herbs is something of a challenge. On this occasion I bought bunches parsley and dill at the same time. The parsley has been finished off but the bunch of dill is proving more difficult to conquer. I bought it for a springlike Greek pie of spinach, feta and dill in filo pastry. This evening, though, it was chilly and decidedly less springlike. And I found a second use for my dill, in an old Rowley Leigh recipe from the Telegraph.