Sunday, August 18, 2013

Foodie tour in London. The veggie part

The idea of a veggie foodie tour of London sprung into my mind from a non-journalistic motivation. Someone I appreciate a lot was in need of a special vitamin diet and one of the most recommended fruits was the mysterious mangosteen. The search for this was extended for a couple of days and helped me to discover a small part of the food diversity of London. This 'tour' is only the beginning of what I would love to develop during my next trips. Till then, this is what I saw and eventually tasted! 

Lovely raspberry, looking big and healthy. The taste is unique too. Such wonders can be found at any Marks and Spencer from Brent Cross, where we spent more than one hour looking for fruits and juices. 
One of the reasons I always love to go to Marks and Spencer is because of the diversity of products. Besides the local products - don't miss the strawberries from Wye Valley - there are also many other fruits from all over Europe and the world. 
 A possible combination of fruits from the same Marks and Spencer.
Another stop on the way to the mangosteen was the Budgens. For the end of July, the best offer was of big and delicious strawberries.
A foodie adventure is more than a hunting for food. I love to discover new fruits, vegetables and flavours, such as samphire, an edible plant that can be added either to salads or to meat. If one is really interested in documenting the real diversity of London the best place is in the small corners of East Finchley or in the area around Wembley. Afghan fruits and Indian recipes are melting in the colourful saris of the women looking for the best ingredients to prepare the next meal. It is a completely different ambiance, with big Alfonso mangoes sold on the street and welcoming shop keepers that let the uneducated Westerner to taste one of those wonderful fruits. We were invited to taste more than one rambutan, a funny cyclamen fruit from Pakistan. A delicious taste that anyone should try at least once the year.
Brits love their gardens, but they do it in a more noble way that planting carrots on the corner of the streets and showing off their wonderful work. At the Kew Gardens I saw a sample of well maintained vegetable medley. 
I like very much to visit food markets and to see what are the available local and international products. Being one hour early at a meeting, I decided to wisely use my time and pay my first visit to Harvey Nichols. 
My first visit was not disappointing as it happened recently at the Berlin's KaDeWe, as I spotted some delicious cookies that were also presented in a very elegant way. 
At the fifth floor, there are many restaurants, including sushi and Italian style. Jars of good looking spiced jams or chutneys are tempting the gourmets.
Tired of too much shopping and eating. Take a rest while sipping a good cup of champagne! I did not try the champagne, but I would have liked to enjoy a couple of minutes with a cup of coffee on my side. But I did not have too much time left. I needed to hurry up to Harrods for some last shopping.
If you are not extremely interested in shopping, or even if you hate such bourgeoises activities, a visit at Harrods is relevant for the artistic point of view. Most food halls are decorated in Jugendstil/Art Nouveau style, while the modern clothing shopping areas are designed in a very modern yet simple way. 
 If in London, you should try some good traditional English tea. Try at least one cup.
The offer of fruits was impressively rich, but the prices were at least 4 times more than what I saw in the Indian markets. True is that the quality may be different especially because the fruits are kept in cold fridges and sold without the small cloud of little flies. 
 There is also a French corner, looking colourful and offering a long menu of pastry and breads.
I bet that any fashion addict, visiting Harrods at least twice the week, know what this water is all about. As for me, I am only a visitor hence I should hurry up to the next foodie stop of my stay in London: Selfridges.
After so many boxes of foods and big colourful fruits, I was almost immune to the charms of Selfridges. I was not looking for anything special and all I wanted is to go back in Golders Green and have a long meal. Not before checking the counter of dips and mayonnaises. One day I will be back to learn more about their secret recipes.  

Friday, August 16, 2013

My pickles stories

Yesterday, while relaxing after babysitting for a friend of mine, I was reading a very joyous article about the beauty of pickles. Lovely pictures and nice words, but as far as I remember from the old country, every season of the pickles was always very depressing and hot and very annoying, both for us, the children, as for my mother and the other women working in the kitchen.
I will always be honest. My mother, of blessed memory, was never a perfect cooker and I don't remember any single occasion when she was really happy to cook or even more, extremely excited by the result of the cooking. It does not mean that we starved, but we always had the chance of good babysitters or talented relatives that invited us for lunch or dinner. I learned the basics of cooking after 30 and still I have a lot to learn, for the first level. 
But when it was about pickles, my mother, a fine lady and intellectual most of her time, was instantly matching the mood of our non-sophisticated neighbourhoods. Maybe because her husband was an avid consumer of pickles or maybe because she always needed the feeling to belong to a community, be it the big community of pickles ladies. 
From the end of August on - the harvest time - lists and plans were made: the quantities, the categories, the spices, the combinations. Once the list was done and the money made available, the following step was to do a market research of the best prices for a couple of weeks. Another important aspect of the preparation was finding the big jars - the space to deposit them was never considered a problem, and our balcony was winter after winter occupied by the huge colourful jars. After the purchased were done, gargantuesques cauliflowers, mountains of carrots and a lot of small cucumbers were invading the kitchen table. The fire was set, the water started to boil and together with them, the pickles. I was never requested to help and was very happy to do my best to avoid the kitchen till the intense preparations were done. First, I did not like the smell of the vinegar in excess - and even now I need serious reasons to use some in salads - second, and the most important: I never liked pickles. And till now, my situation did not changed. The only sorts that I try from time to time are the cucumbers, that can offer a good balance after a lot of meat-based meals. Otherwise, I cannot give up the pleasure of a fresh fruit or vegetable. 
After a week, the balagan was over and my mother again the beautiful lady. The pickles were eventually added to the table on various occasions but I did not have the smallest interest to taste them. Somehow, my only food memory about my mother is about a kind of food I never tasted.

Tuna croquettes

Since Monday, all I have in my mind - when I think about food - are thuna croquettes. I am not that good at such things, especially because I not always match the right combination of ingredients for having an almost perfectly round croquette. But tempted by the idea and looking for more ideas for the Friday meal, I took a chance to try my hand on something new. (Yes, I know that I was almost absent from the blog in the last weeks, but I am trying now to set up more writing adventures and eating less or only the old recipes that have a guarantee of success of 98%. But promise to be more active in the next days!)

The inspiration for my tuna croquettes was from this site, but I changed some of the quantities and added more ingredients.

I used the following ingredients:
350 gr. simple poached tuna, carefully minced and without the water 
2 beaten eggs, medium sized
10 small champignons, finely minced
1/4 lemon, medium sized
1 red onion, finely minced
1 pinch of Cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 bread crumbs

I added all the ingredients in a bowl and mixed them for 2 minutes. After everything melted, I made some small balls and let them rest on a cooking paper.

Everything was looking better and tasted even better, but somehow I missed the right size of the champignons. The next time I will need to cut them even more finely. 

After 10 minutes of waiting, I added some half cup crumbs and rolled the tuna balls. 3 minutes before, I added same cotton seed oil in the pan and let it warm. I added the croquettes and turned them from a side to another for another couple of minutes. Not all of them resisted fully to the test, but most of them ended up as deep gold croquettes that I can't wait to taste in a couple of hours.

I will probably try the recipe again - including on Hanukkah - because: it can be prepared very fast - maximum 40 minutes, the waiting time included; it is more than affordable. I would like to replace the red onion with garlic and add some more spices in the mixture. Only looking at them my mouth is watering but should keep my hands out of the fridge for now.

Bon Appetit!