This week has become a bit colder and rainy, which I suppose means we’re getting full on into the summer!
We have gone one step up in our craftiness
Perhaps inspired by Natsuki Kikuya‘s enthusiastic posts about her doburoku (home brewed sake), Devvers got one of the Micura craft sake brewing kits. I really enjoy that they ask you to please not brew sake at home if you’re in Japan (as it is not allowed)—so Japanese!
I am amused by the design too. I’m not really sure that the “Comic sans” typography is the most appropriate, but somehow it sort of works? with the rice grains, bubbles, the spores… there’s a certain naivety to it all that ties it all together very well.
Unfortunately it seems a bit too hot to brew things now in the UK, and we don’t have space in the fridge to ferment at a low temperature, so we’ll have to wait for a bit, but I’m getting all sorts of mad ideas about trying to ferment unpolished rices and getting “funky” results. Someone save me from myself… or hand me over a brewery and a handful of yeasts…! Or, as my alter-ego would say:
Give me a tank big enough and a brewery in which to place it, and I shall ferment the worldArchisoles
Cast iron pan = the key to comfort food
Sometimes we use a kitchen implement all the time and other implements we ignore for months, until we come back to them with renewed vigour. This week we re-acquainted ourselves with the cast iron pan.
First I used it for a “onion and potato shakshuka” recipe from Honey & Co in the FT, which I had set aside to try at some point, many aeons ago, because I was intrigued about the picture.
I liked the trick of cooking the onion and garlic at a very low heat for a long period of time: you place them in the pan (with lid) and let them be for 10 minutes at a time, without stirring. I was a bit afraid that they’d burn or get irrevocably stuck to the pan, but… they were fine!
I also diverged a bit from their recipe as
- I was quite skeptical that the potatoes would be cooked enough with 10 minutes of boiling liquid in the pan, so I threw in the already-boiled potatoes that I had.
- I also didn’t have the fresh thyme they requested, so I added a few sprinkles of the luxuriously tasting albeit aesthetically disappointing paprika I bought in a Spanish market last December
The end result was very satisfying, but how could it not? It is essentially a deconstructed Spanish omelette 😝!
The second wonderful creation was a crustless quiche that Devvers made, using half of a mixture of fried pancetta and leeks, some leftover potatoes, cream and Gruyère cheese. This was too good to be true. I even had some for breakfast; it set me in a good mood for the rest of the day!
And this didn’t involve the cast iron pan, but used the other half of the pancetta and leek mix. The flavour of that mix is really monumental! The leeks are less pungent than onions, and become even sweet after a long frying time.
Batch cooking is still a good idea
I made a big batch of falafel in the oven. I decided to make it as easy as possible for myself, and went for a “falapatties” size this time. Which means they were really fast to shape. I also went bolder on the garlic this time, and I think I could even up it a bit more next time.
Once you have a big mound of these, you can add them to anything else and you get a bunch of protein that needs barely no preparing (I just warm them slightly as I don’t like them fridge-cold):
… with courgettes and dukkah…
Speaking of dukkah, I’ve been adding it to more things this week!
I sprinkled it on top of yoghurt, pears and strawberries—it was quite interestingly salty in contrast with the sweetness of the rest of the dish.
I also added it to a salad, where it was a bit less surprisingly salty than on the yoghurt—but tasty anyway!
On Friday, we treated ourselves to a new restaurant delivery: Gymkhana, the fancy Mayfair restaurant I have not been to before (apparently it’s always very booked!).
I will admit I just took a picture of the very photogenic starters; their popped rice and crackers were very masterfully looking (and very tasty)…
… and I took the pictures of the beers for my untapped account 😅
Both beers were really nice but the Tropical Cyclone was beyond all I expected mango-flavour-wise! It definitely stood up to the 🌶🔥SPICE🔥🌶 in the dishes. It had been a very long time since I had eaten such strongly spiced Indian food and it certainly took my taste buds by surprise!
The Gymkhana dessert was… a mango.
It was very unassuming and modest, sitting at the bottom of the bag and looking a bit bruised and slightly sad. We also were extremely full and couldn’t finish eating all the food (it was truly a feast), even if one of the dishes was missing, which was disappointing because I was curious to see how their dal tasted like. So we left the mango on the counter.
But then on Sunday morning we decided we should eat it before it got too ripe. I started peeling it and I had to make an extreme effort to not bite into it right there and now, because the smell was so delicious and attractive. It smelled of sweetness, exoticism and also fig leaves. What a combination!
I certainly enjoyed finishing off the bits of the stone I couldn’t peel off with a knife. Yum yum and yum. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a mango like this before!
We had them on some super luxurious porridge.
We had an artichoke and chicken paella (which yes, looks like the paella emoji! 🥘)…
…with a red wine from Villena (Alicante), with a pretty ostrich on the label and lots of raspberry flavours…
… and then the desserts were these two little arnadís that were essentially prepared by Devvers following a recipe in my Dolços valencians book (which is a book about Valencian desserts, written in Valencian).
The next time a Spanish person complains that so and so is only written in Valencian and they can’t understand it, I will refer them this – i.e. that an English person can understand it 😂
Shops and restaurants reopening
Honey & Co are back…
… although only at Honey & Spice for now!
They had re-opened for a couple of weeks already but it wasn’t clear to me if you had to pre-order or if you could just pop by the shop and get something.
I walked by on Saturday and after navigating away from a couple of families on their cycles which were just lingering around the entrance, I got two treasures: their mythical cheese cakes, and some deliciously sweet and aromatic juicy flat-peaches.
I think they are cooking the stuff in Honey & Smoke (the bigger restaurant in Great Portland Street) and then selling it from their deli Honey & Spice. It was all actually well thought and prepared; if not very ecological. While they used to have mounds of salads to build your own box, it’s all now pre-packaged and wrapped so no one can sneeze on top of the food and contaminate everything. Needs must?
Other restaurants in Fitzrovia have pivoted into a hybrid take-away and deli store model;
- Clipstone, which I like lots as a restaurant, are selling extremely fancy (and expensive) looking deli items, plus a special takeaway menu which we might need to try at some point 😏
- Conchiglia, on the opposite corner to Clipstone, is selling Italian produce now too – pasta, biscotti, etc…
- … as is (and has been for a long time) Frank’s Coffee House in Great Titchfield Street!
- And the Riding House Cafe has turned into the Riding House Store; the items there seemed more accessible price wise, and they also seemed to be “cooking up a storm” a couple of week-ends ago when it was warm and they installed a BBQ tank on the street and people queued for their dose of roasted meats and stuff. The smoke was really something to witness (and could be smelled from a distance). I suppose no upstairs-neighbour complained because it’s just a block of offices up there.
Other restaurant that seems to be gearing up for a delivery/take-away only service is Ippudo in Goodge Street. I saw this sign recently and I got excited as I’ve been missing ramen; I think the last time I had ramen must have been January.
This might also be our own (or at least my) undoing…
Other restaurants that have turned into take-away/delivery only:
- Kazu – we’ve got their take-away multiple times. They’ve expanded the menu now to include donburi too. I’m really looking forward to go back to the restaurant itself! We love this place.
- ROKA has turned into providing a take-away service full time (we tried their offer back in May).
- Santa Maria are still doing take-away/delivery only. Their pizzas are really good so if you’re in Fitzrovia, I highly recommend them.
- We haven’t tried these:
Won’t anyone think of the flat whites? 😔
Back in April I already declared I was missing flat whites. I don’t know if this feeling has abated, thanks to me taking an additional subscription to Square Mile Coffee. We now have two Pact Coffee plans AND the Square Mile coffee (I can’t believe we’re drinking so much coffee AND are still able to sleep 😂).
But from time to time my feet take me towards my old haunts, and I keep secretly hoping the cafes are open again. In particular I keep walking to Store Street, and looking at the window of Store Street Espresso with the hope that a sign announcing their imminent reopening is placed on the window, but so far there’s nothing to see (other than the blind rolled down).
I never got to try Sharps, the hybrid barber and coffee shop in Windmill Street, which has now been closed and newspapered for a long while. Still, their plants keep fighting for sun!
They don’t look too parched, so I wonder if anyone is coming in to water them from time to time…
Kaffeine is still closed too, both the Eastcastle and Great Titchfield Street locations. We miss them! 😭
Some Fitzrovia cafes are open, albeit with reduced hours:
- Kafi is open on week-days
- Alex Coffee is open too on but each time I’ve tried to go there there’s someone hanging out on the door or blocking the access and I don’t feel like queueing or getting close to people so I’ve not tried my luck yet, and I don’t know what his timetable is (he doesn’t seem to have a website).
- I also saw that The Attendant is reopening, but I don’t know how I feel about going downstairs into the narrow space, given the current situation 🤔
- I also noticed Black Sheep Coffee had a sign announcing their imminent re-opening tomorrow (8th of June), but I’m not a big fan of their kick-your-guts-out-and-stamp-them-on-the-floor triple-shot Robusta flat whites so that left me a bit indifferent 😂
I’m also not sure about whether they’ll accept reusable cups or if they’ll just hand me a disposable cup, since you can’t stay in the shop now 🤔
I like flat whites and I like them so much that I don’t want my first one to be on a disposable cup!
RANT: The Great British Farce
I think it was on Friday, Devvers went to our local Tesco and they had already removed all the floor marks, temporary limits to people in store, etc. as if nothing was happening 🤷🏻♀️
Then on Saturday I dared cycling to the bigger Waitrose in the Brunswick Centre, as they have a wider selection than in Tesco.
I also dared locking my bike outside—I thought that being in plain sight of the queue and the door guard person should be a big deterrent, perhaps as big a deterrent as the Litelok (my very secure and quite heavy bike lock).
And it was fine. In fact, it was the finest part of everything that happened there.
After locking the bike, I joined the relatively slow moving queue on the right, where people waited at about 2 metres distance from each other… and then at some point I was given the go ahead by the person at the door… who was not wearing a mask.
I had to navigate around two employees (not wearing masks) who were having an animated conversation right by the baskets. I took one (with my bike gloves on), and was quite surprised that seemingly no one else was wearing gloves: they were touching the handles of the baskets with their bare hands (gasp!). I wanted to shout at them: hello? are you aware of what is going on? HELLO!?
Then all the good we might have achieved with the ‘social distancing’ we observed on the queue to enter was destroyed and squashed as people lingered in the corridors at way less than the two meters the multiple signs everywhere remind people to stay away from each other. Of course all these people were not wearing masks; or even worse, they kept touching items and also taking their mask off and putting it back again, for some strange reason! So they contaminate themselves and others and the surfaces as well. How fabulous is that?
When I was on my way to the checkout I noticed the absurdly elaborate criss-cross of separation lines, paths, arrows and various other signalling devices that contradicted each other and over which people were standing, stepping, stopping to have conversations on, and overall largely ignoring.
What a great metaphor for the government “guidelines” that have been improvised during the last three months!
What a waste of resources, time, my eyesight and eardrums reading and listening to this vacuous advice that people are absolutely not following but which they have somehow convinced themselves are following.
Rules are contradictory, applied in various degrees of thoroughness or no thoroughness at all because processes are to be executed by either unpaid volunteers, or newly-recruited workers with zero training and zero supervisors in sight. Key parts of the system are outsourced and re-outsourced to either patently incompetent professional outsourcing companies or they are awarded to companies with dubious privacy track records or highly suspicious associations, there are gap holes in these designs through which violent gales could get through without anyone noticing at all, and the strongest and most exceptionally limiting measures (such as forcing people visiting the UK to quarantine for 14 days) should have been in place three months ago, not now when the harm has been done. What is the point, other than trying to look like they’re doing anything at all? A distraction. Another one. But then, what can you expect with the pathetic buffoons at Number 10?
I told my people in Spain and they were aghast. Am I really saying this is what’s happening? That people don’t wear masks everywhere yet? That we have that many deaths and new cases a day and yet the lockdown is being lifted? That people drove for miles to go visit beaches, and the people who did that were indignant, indignant! that other people had the same idea as them, and not only that, but the beaches got so busy they had to be closed for health & safety reasons. That the advisor to the prime minister drove 200+ miles away from his domicile during lockdown, contradicting the same guidelines he reluctantly advocated for, and then he went on a sightseeing trip to ‘check his eyesight’, and he does not regret a thing, and no one has resigned and everything is just as if nothing had happened?
And yet people keep talking about the “British common sense” and how well everything is working… wow. You have to be fucking deluded. They’re missing a word: it’s the uncommon British common sense.
I’m SO TIRED of all of this!