Another week, another Sunday spent with some of my favourite people, this time my fellow foodie and hosting enthusiast Maddie, cooking up recipes found on Pinterest over a few glasses of wine, an activity to end the weekend that for me is hard to top. As always these dishes are veggie friendly, relatively healthy (in this case we will count the french fries as more of a vegetable than deep fried carb) and a real joy to eat.
With all prepping done whilst enjoying some chilled white wine and crisps- keep your eyes peeled for a long overdue ultimate crisp ranking on this blog from the girl that deems herself a bit of a crisp 'connoiseur'- and with ingredients that cost virtually nothing, this was not only a fun and cheap way to spent an afternoon but it also resulted in some SERIOUSLY tasty food with every dish on my list of things to make again! After all you don't always need to go to restaurants for a high standard of food or be a super talented home chef and I hope the below recipes will prove just that!
I freaking love truffle oil, in fact it is one of my favourite if not favourite savoury flavour. Yes, it isn't cheap but a little goes a long way AND Sainsbury's happens to stock a very reasonable and large £2.5 bottle of the stuff that also happens to taste like the real deal. Here it is the real star of the show and boy does it perform. It makes, when drizzled on top, the shop bought skinny fries a thing of beauty here and when combined with mayo and a whole head (!) of slow roast garlic ( this does take a while in the oven but is worth the wait) becomes almost heavenly. I think me and Maddie seriously struggled to share this between us....it was that good. This is extravagance at its best and a dish you won't, or anyone you cooked it for, forget in a while.
This recipe takes the humble butternut squash (or pumpkin as the original recipe calls for) and elevates it into something quite special. And it couldn't be simpler to do so. After roasting the squash and sesame seeds you finish the dish with crumbled feta, dried chilli, honey and good glug of another favourite ingredient of mine, balsamic vinegar. The result is a beautiful marriage of earthy, sweet, fiery and salty flavours - sunshine on a dish, not only in the way it looks, but also in the amazing array of flavours it delivers.
The poor Brussel sprout does not have an easy life. Most people only eat this veg once a year, over-boiled, tasteless and as sad side show to their Christmas dinner. They can however be pretty damn tasty and are in fact one of my favourite green veggies. I particularly love them roasted, featured almost weekly as part of my hangover cure roast vegetables, though they also taste rather spectacular here in this Asian inspired dish. We added broccoli for extra crunch and as these two always go well together, tossed them in oil, honey and soy sauce and let the oven do it's roasting magic. Finished off with a sprinkle of sesame seeds I dare any out and out sprout eater to try this dish and not at least reconsider their reservation! Come on, give it a go - you may just be converted!
This was the most surprising of the dishes particularly considering that whilst I've always enjoyed cabbage I had never been wowed by it. However here the combination of moorish yet tangy mustard, butter and onion sauce with the slightly charred cabbage was truly outstanding. I love tasting vegetables in a way I'd never expected and this recipe elevated cabbage from a mere side dish (and not a particularly popular one at that) to a truly outstanding dish that left us oooing and ahhing. It may not be an obvious choice but one you won't regret.
I will put my hands up and admit that I can be very critical of most British culinary traditions. Yes, I may have actively resisted trying a good part of it in my over 10 years of living here but let's be honest most of it can be a pretty tasteless and well a rather beige affair (pasties, fish and chips, pies, Yorkshire Puddings etc., etc..). Of course I can totally understand how people growing up here eating these dishes have a special place of comfort and memory in their heart for them, heck I love some weird German stuff that would seem rather weird to you (sp?tzle with cinnamon, sugar and butter anyone?) but for an outsider it is often hard to really appreciate these culinary peculiarities.
There are however a few British things I have grown to love. For one I can't turn down an Eton Mess, probably one of the best summer desserts out there, but I also have a real soft spot for the real institution that British afternoon tea is. Yes, we have 'Kaffee und Kuchen' in Germany, a time during the afternoon on a Sunday dedicated to having a piece of cake and a cup of coffee, but it lacks the bravado and sense of occasion of an afternoon tea which is why I was so excited to experience exactly this on a recent visit to the Conrad St. James Hotel.
I've only had afternoon tea a couple of times before so couldn't wait to see what was on offer here. As someone that enjoys tasting lots of little things, which is why love mezze and tapas so much, afternoon tea is of course ideal, giving you a wealth of not only savoury but also sweet flavours and dishes.
The savouries were definitely no after thought either at this afternoon tea, broadly inspired by the latest catwalk collections- our selection of sandwiches delicately flavoured and wonderfully traditional (one cannot go wrong with salmon, lemon juice and creme fraiche on bread in my eyes). The sandwiches were followed by a slightly more adventurous and equally delicious canapé selection- a beetroot wafer filled with smoked mackerel and beetroot caviar an absolute flavour delight and a welcome modern twist to the menu.
Next up we were presented with freshly baked scones of two types, raspberry and vanilla, served with what else but clotted cream, jam and lemon curd. Though the curd lacked a bit of zing in my eyes, the scones once assembled by us were an absolute delight. If there is a British food that has won me over it is these guys. Though we were starting to feel a little full by this point we had of course left enough space for the real stars of this afternoon tea and boy were they worth semi-waddling out at the end for! The trio of desserts we were presented with were stunning and just the right amount of sweet- nothing worse than desserts too sickly to taste of any of the flavours they are trying to convey. My personal favourite, the punk marshmallow tea cake, was finished off in a suitably punky way with spiky chocolate cones and filled with the most delicious of marshmallow fluffs.
The food was accompanied by a vast selection of teas, recommended to us by our fantastic waiter for the afternoon, and a few glasses of delicious Mumm champagne (the free flowing champagne option is great value and not to be missed). It's not everyday you get to sip champagne whilst being waited on to such a high level and enjoying almost flawless food and for the few hours that we were there we, as silly as it sounds, felt like real princesses. Yes, it isn't the cheapest way to spend a Sunday afternoon but it is an extravagance worth making and a British tradition that even I as (nearly) British person fully approve of.
As many of you know I love cinema and am admittedly a little bit of a snob when it comes to what I consider a good or a bad film. I recently posted about the first half of my top 10 films ever and fear not the other half is yet to come. These were all films that I had discovered on first release or had known about for quite a long time, well established firm favourites, not only of mine but of what I guess quite a few film fanatics of my generation, Wes Anderson and Tarantino after all with current cult like status for a reason.
Once in a while however one stumbles across a true cinematic gem, no longer on general release and perhaps a few years older, a gem that as silly as it sounds truly inspires one. Yes, maybe I am more receptive to appreciating a film to this extent, working in a creative field and actively spending my hungover duvet days seeking out films as yet undiscovered by me, but everything about the two works by Hong Kong born director Wong Kar-wei that I watched over the weekend left me in total awe.
His work is pure art- from the hypnotic and unexpected soundtracks, never have California Dreaming by Mamas & Papas or the smooth sounds of Nat King Cole been more perfect despite their apparent juxtaposition to the setting and story of the films, to the outstanding set design where every angle has been considered, every frame captured thought through, not forgetting the beautiful costumes and richness of colours that will make you dip into his worlds of love, isolation and loneliness seamlessly and more than willingly at that.
Though the two films I watched, In the Mood For Love (2000) and Chungking Express (1994) were made years apart they both feature his distinct visual language and after a few minutes draw you in in a way that very few modern movies do. As I found out later his works served as major inspirations to the directors that were to become my favourites, Sophia Coppola indeed citing In The Mood For Love as her main inspiration behind my all time favourite Lost in Translation, and in that showing how powerful a fantastically made film can be and help shape our modern cinematic landscape.
Will I give you a brief outline about the films and what they are about? Not really. They are about life, lost chances and how we are all in a constant struggle between expectations and the fulfillment of them. They are stunning pieces of art that should be shouted about not left to gather dust on some 'Top 50 foreign film list' that apart from me few will bother to read which is exactly why I decided to pen down this piece.
Yes, you can consider it pretty lame to get so excited by what many would consider a couple of old, foreign films that make you read subtitles but even days after watching them they are still on my mind and isn't that what good art, literature and anything with cultural impact is all about, to leave a lasting impact?
Go and watch them now and forget our modern digital world, even if just for an hour and a half, in which we barely manage to watch an episode of our current Netflix binge of choice without checking our latest whatsapp message and just.... enjoy.
The trailers do it no justice but have a look if you must...