Tuesday, 22 April 2008

fish 'n' chips and Petula Clark

Y'know, this no-kitchen thing is a bit weird, in more ways than one.

For instance, I didn't expect ever to wail at having to go out to eat. After all, I love eating out. I mean, who wouldn't?

But when you've got no cooking facilities at all, and you can't face yet another salad or ready meal (more on those in another post), then the only alternative is to go out. And that's where it gets weird.

When you don't have the option, it palls, it really does. Because, let's face it, if - like me - you can't afford to eat out at Michelin-starred restaurants all the time, and have to make do with whatever the neighbourhood has to offer, the attraction really isn't so great after a while. And then there's the cost. It's amazing how it all adds up. Paying £30 or £40 a throw for what would cost me about £5 or less to make at home kind of rankles.

As it happens, I'm reasonably lucky. There are a few ok, and not-too-spenny places to go in my area, and I don't have to travel too far. But still. Sometimes (most times?), particularly during the working week, you just want to crash at home in front of the telly. Or get those boring domestic tasks done. So having to go out is getting to be a bit of a drag.

But needs must and all that, so what to do? One place we hadn't been to since the whole kitchen thang started was our 'local' (as in about 3 miles' drive) fish 'n' chippie.

It's a bit of an institution, this place. Open for nearly 20 years, it's run by an improbably posh-sounding but very jolly bloke who takes a huge amount of pride in the place. It has tables and chairs, for a start. And they serve wine. (Wine goes with fish and chips, by the way. If you've not tried it before, do it now.) The fish is - quite rightly - bought fresh every morning, and the chips are old-skool fat, chunky, oh-so-potatoey things. Bliss. Oh, and they have a condiments tray to die for: tartare sauce, dill mayo, tarragon mayo, marie-rose sauce, ordinary mayo, and tomato ketchup. Not to forget the salt and malt vinegar.

I didn't take my camera. I know. And I'm sorry. I was just too focussed on getting some decent nosh down me. Imagine deep golden-brown crispy batter covering moist, flaky, succulent fish (haddock) served up with a very generous portion of those scrummy chips. That was it. I don't know if a photo would really have done it justice. But it tasted just perfect, as the fish and chips always does there.

So, if you're ever in south London, go to Wandsworth Old Town, pop into Brady's, and say hallo. And eat the fish and chips, obviously.


You won't regret it. Unless you're on a diet, of course, in which case you probably will. Not my problem. Walk more. Ditch the remote. Leave off the ice cream. (Did I mention they serve a delicious homemade real honeycomb ice cream here, too? I didn't? Oh well, now I did. Look - just forget the diet, ok?)

Petula Clark? Oh yes. She was there, too. Eating her fish and chips just like the rest of us. Looking good on it, too. In fact, Brady's could use her as their 'face' if ever they needed to advertise. Which they don't. Apparently, she's been going there for about 15 years. What's good enough for 'our Pet' is good enough for me, I reckon.

And no, I didn't get her autograph. I'm sorry about that, too. Blame it on my lack of kitchen. It's seriously messing with my head.

Brady's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 13 April 2008

whine and soup: jerusalem artichoke soup with lemon cream and crispy-fried leeks

OK, so the cat's out of the bag. Well, one of them, anyway. I have no kitchen.

Actually, I've had no kitchen for the past 3 weeks now, and it's killing me. I'm eating rubbish (by definition, anything that doesn't come out of my kitchen is generally rubbish), I'm not sleeping, and I feel like sh*t. I hadn't realised quite how big a part cooking played in my life. I certainly do now.

Yep, the kitchen's being made over, gutted, rebuilt, refurbished, redesigned, or whatever term you want to give it. All adds up to the same thing. Five weeks of building work (hopefully) and then one week of the kitchen actually being fitted. In the meantime, we're living in squalor in the living room, and have no kitchen facilities AT ALL. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Oh, and the brick dust is everywhere, and in everything. And I mean, everything. Yuck, phooey. Even the vacuum cleaner's on strike over it.

What this all means, of course, is that I'm busted for the rest of this post. This is actually something I made a few weeks back and then forgot all about. The shame. Still, it gives me something to put on here during the great non-kitchen interlude.

OK, so it's another soup. I promise this will be the last soup for a good many months - except, perhaps, for chilled sweet soups, which I might just have a play with over the summer.

The joke is that I'm really not a big fan of soups. I rarely eat them, let alone make them. So I dunno where all these soups have come from, really I don't.

I suppose this one got made because my veg box supplier decided a few weeks ago that they had a glut of jerusalem artichokes, and were going to give some away (for free? does that really happen?) in all their veg boxes for that week. It also happened to be darn cold. Soup seemed like a reasonable idea.

I also had my beadies on my Denis Cotter book again. His JA soup looked good. Really good. But it had sheep's cheese risotto balls in it, too. Which would have been fine, but I sure as hell wasn't going to be making risotto so that we could have a risotto ball each in our soup. Waaaaay too much effort.

So, a few tweaks, if you please. I nabbed his lemon cream from another recipe, and the nest of leeks represent my own feeble stab at some originality and making it a bit, y'know, fancy-schmancy.

The recipe for the soup is on page 280 of the book. Look, like I said, I'm tired, ok, and I really, really don't feel like typing it all out, much as I love you. I know you'll hate me. I can handle it. I'm that tired. Anyway, it's a pretty classic cream soup recipe, and the key is put the soup through a sieve to get that oh-so-lovely velvety-smoothness, and not to get trigger-happy with the truffle oil. A drop or two is fine. It's JA soup, not truffle oil soup.

The lemon cream? (It's there if you look hard enough, honest - it's just round the edges of the leek nest.) This is fab. Simple, but fab. For 4 peeps - 100ml veg stock, 100ml white wine, 300ml double cream, zest 1 lemon, juice of half a lemon. Chuck the stock and the wine in a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half (about 5 mins). Add the cream and reduce again 'to get a slightly thickened pouring consistency'. Stir in the zest and juice, and season. Job done.

Crispy-fried leeks? Too easy. Just slice into really thin strands and deep fry for as long as it takes for them to crispen - just a few seconds. Drain on kitchen paper.

Put it all together. Admire. Take photos under appalling artificial light with cheap point-and-shoot again. Eat. Agree with your fellow diner(s) that it's just about the most perfectest soup. Evah.

jerusalem artichoke soup 1

jerusalem artichoke soup 2

Saturday, 5 April 2008

an intermission...


Oh. Hai.

I, um, I dropping in.

Where is she? Oh. I dunno. She work. Lots. Oh, and we no haz kitchen anymore. Builder peeple go bang bang. I no kno how long.

We all hang out in the living room now. Is cozy. I like.

Hey. You like my whiskaz? Yes? I can haz your cheezburger then?

Oh, and no worry. She be back soon. Summfink to do with artychoke.