Monday, 31 August 2009

A weekend in New York

I am in the US! This is semi-officially a research trip, but it's also my first return to the US since I lived in DC back in 2007, and a chance to catch up with my friends and do some shopping - always essential!

I landed at JFK on Thursday night, and went straight to my friend Annie's house. The food on Delta was actually not too bad - I had pasta, rather than chicken, because I hate chicken on planes! I was too tired to eat when I got there, having been up early to see my sister who had just come back from Mexico, I somehow managed to stay up until midnight New York time - which is 5am in London!

So, Friday was my first day in the US, and I largely spent it in Brooklyn, which is where Annie lives. We didn't do too much, which was good because I was tired, but we did go out for a rather yummy lunch at a Vietnamese sandwich place. The UK doesn't really do Vietnamese food in the same way, so I was particularly pleased. They have a choice of about 6 sandwiches - 3 pork, 2 chicken and a tofu. I opted for chicken, and choose medium spicy, which was definitely the right decision! The sandwiches had lots of salad in them, particularly carrot and radish, which gave it a good crunch.

Friday evening, after buying my new macbook (yay!) we went to Annie's mom's restaurant, The Green Table. I'd highly recommend it! Their focus is on ethical and sustainable food, which also happens to be very tasty! We shared a crudite platter, and then I had halibut cheek tacos, which were so good. I love Mexican food! For dessert I had cheesecake with strawberries and a blueberry sauce. Needless to say I was very full after that! Another Oxford friend, Anna, came to dinner with us, and then I went back to her apartment, which was where I was staying for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday was a particularly unhealthy eating day, but I think we made up for it by walking across New York! We had waffles with maple syrup for a late breakfast, and then sandwiches and fries for a late lunch after a few hours at the Met. They at least came with salad. We didn't really want dinner, but before going to see the September Issue at the cinema, we got Cold Stone ice cream, which is soo good! I had their peanut butter cup creation, but with vanilla ice cream, so it was ice cream, peanut butter, reeses pieces and fudge. Yum! But lucky we walked from the Met to Time Square!

We were healthier on Sunday, and we did a ton of walking again. We had mango for breakfast at Anna's, the salads for lunch (we'd hoped for brunch but it was a miscommunication). We spent the afternoon in downtown New York, mainly South Street Sea Port, and then we wandered up to Chinatown in the evening, where we went to a veggie dim sum place, because Anna is veggie. Then it was back home so I could do a little preparation for my research which started Monday.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Two meals to make up for the lack of posting

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. Not having my own laptop is making things very difficult, although I am very excited about buying a Mac when I go to New York next week!

It's been a busy week. My parents went away last Wednesday, and so I spent most of the week with my boyfriend, which involved seeing quite a few of both his and my friends. We spent Saturday evening and Sunday at his grandparents' house in Suffolk, which was really very pretty. We had dinner there Saturday night and then Sunday lunch, and although it was lovely, it was fairly simple - salmon on Saturday, chicken on Sunday, with new potatoes and veg. On Monday I really fancied something a bit different.

After work on Monday the boy and I drove up to Oxford, to his new house, which he'd collected the keys for on the Friday before. As I have a car, we could take the first round of things up, and started to move him in. It also meant that I could see Emma, who is one of my best Oxford friends, and he could see two of his friends. We decided to join forces, and invite them all over for dinner, which ended up involving me cooking for everyone! I'd raided the fridge at home and taken all the veg that needed using plus some thai curry paste. I made two thai currys, one with chicken and one with veg and tofu. Emma just had veg, but everyone else had some of both, with rice. Whilst I do like making my own thai curry paste, using the shop bought stuff is very good and much easier!

On Tuesday night, I was on my own at home for the first time in a while. I had a craving for pasta, so I decided to make on of my favourites. I fried a red onion and garlic, and then added mushrooms and tomatoes, stirring until lightly cooked. Then I added a little chilli, anchovies, marinated artichokes, some pecorino, parmesan and pasta. I still love that pasta!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Good cooking but bad news

On Monday night, my mum and I cooked an amazing selection of Indian dishes. We made a dhal, sag aloo, chilli paneer and baby corn korma, with pilau rice, naan and poppadoms. It was really lovely, and it was nice to have a meal with the family that wasn't eaten quickly before going to prayers.

However, in a break during the cooking process, I went upstairs and discovered my laptop had switched itself off and wont turn back on again. I'm going to have one more attempt to repair it, but I've already taken the hard drive out, as a computer man told me it's doomed :(

So no photos, as I don't have a computer. I'm also definitely interested if you have any views on what I should buy to replace it. I'm heading to the US (New York, Washington DC and Austin Texas) in two weeks time so I will probably being taking advantage of the exchange rate and buying it there.

My sag aloo recipe comes from Mamta's Kitchen which is great for Indian recipes:
Mum made a chilli/garlic/onion paste, and I fried tablespoon of that with a tablespoon of cumin seeds and a pinch of asteofoetida, and then added cubed potato.
I added ground corriander, turmeric and chilli powder and some water to cook the potatoes.
I then added most of a bag of spinach, and some garam masala, sugar and salt, and left it all to cook.

I definitely added a little more spice then Mamta as I like my curries hot and I wasn't measuring the quantities of veg I was using!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Very Jewish Cooking

When someone dies in the Jewish religion, we have a very set mourning procedure. The funeral takes place as soon as possible, followed by a week of mourning, where the mourners (parents, siblings, spouse and children) spend a week sitting on low chairs, with torn clothes, and being visited by family and friends. There are prayers held every evening and the mourners don't cook, and don't organise or serve their own meals. This week is called shivah, and it takes place at a shivah house.

Whilst I was in France, my great-aunt died. This was not unexpected, in that she was very ill, but it happened a little sooner than we all thought. So this week has been a week of mourning for my grandfather, who is her brother, and her three children. My mum has had the job (along with a family friend) of being in charge of the organising of all the meals, although the Jewish community is wonderful at cooking meals for everybody. There are a lot of people to feed, as my great-aunt's children have families of their own who also need to eat at the shivah house, which is my great aunt's house.

The prayers are suspended for the Sabbath, so Friday evening and Saturday. Instead, you follow the rituals of the Sabbath, which take precedence over everything else. We always have a nice family meal on Friday night to welcome in the Sabbath, and so this week, we invited the family. There were 18 of us altogether, mainly adults, one child (the other children are on summer camp) and several of my generation: over 18, but still counted as children. We had my grandparents, who are my mum's parents, and my mum's sister and her husband; two of mum's cousins, plus their husbands, and three of their children; we also invited the friends who are helping with the meals. I'm very lucky to have such a close family.

Here is our very Jewish Friday night meal. We had a buffet because there were so many of us so we combined the first two courses rather than doing starters and mains:

Challah (Jewish plaited bread)
Egg mayonaise
Egg & onion
Chopped Liver
Pickled cucumbers
Sausage rolls
Salt Beef
Latkes (fried potato cakes)
Viennas (Little kosher sausages)
Corn Salad
Green Salad

Fresh fruit
Apple & blackberry crumble
Flourless chocolate cake (we made two because there were so many of us!)

Friday, 7 August 2009

A week in France and Pink Couscous

Sorry for the lack of posting, things are very different in the holidays and taking photos of cooking is hard.

I spent the past week in the South of France with my new boyfriend and his family. We've actually only been going out for 6 weeks, so it's pretty fast moving, but we had a lovely time. There was lots of sitting in the sun, and swimming, and even some table tennis and crazy golf:

We had lots of lovely food, lots of good cheese and wine, and the boy and I cooked dinner one night: goats cheese bruschetta, lamb chops with garlicy potates and roast veg, and then grilled peaches. We went out for dinner a couple of times; the first time I had foie gras pate, and then sea bass on oriental-style veg, with sesame seeds around the edge, dessert was sorbet, fruit and macaroons. It was all really lovely! The other meal out was a late lunch, and I had steak and chips, then tarte tartin, before getting on the plane.

Last night I made dinner for dad and I, that was also lunch for mum and I today. One of my favourite things about it was that the couscous turned amazingly pink. Here's a photo of the leftovers:

Pink couscous salad:

I roasted one cauliflower cut into florets for about half an hour, and three fresh beetroot, wrapped in foil with some salt and olive oil in for about 45 minutes.
I double podded fresh broad beans - removed them from the big pods, then boiled the little ones and popped them out.
I cooked about 400g couscous (probably a bit much, actually) by adding boiling water, stock, cumin, corriander and paprika, and covering until the water was absorbed.
I combined all the veg and couscous, and then added some toasted pine nuts, and cubed feta cheese.
I made a dressing with crushed garlic, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar, and just whisked it together with a fork and dressed it all.
We served the salad with the leaves from the fresh beetroot, and some little cherry tomatoes.

It was great last night, and probably even better at lunch time today.