Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Grown Up College Food

Now that I'm in school again, and on a strict budget nonetheless, eating and cooking has become an entirely different thing for me. I'm in a rigorous pilates teacher trainer program here in London not to mention the fact that I run and take dance and yoga classes. That is my life now: my hobby, my job, my career and also my salvation. Taking care of myself is on my brain absolutely every second of everyday because it is involved in everything that I do from studying my anatomy, to working out with other colleagues, to eating food for fuel and endurance. Eating is the root of all of this and without amazing food- I would be, well, I wouldn't be writing you this, that's for sure. Back when I got my bachelor degree I was vegetarian and for the most part ate better than the average college student. However, if you were to take a quick scan over my grocery cart then you would have found lots of cheap frozen pizza (Totino's will forever be my favorite and I'm not above eating one now. London does not have them. Moment of silence please....), lots of cheap beer, shitty bread, processed cheese, sugar laden coffee creamer in giant proportions, giant (i mean giant) proportions of coffee,- all amongst some vegetables, rice and fruit. Not the best, not the worst either. I've changed a little since then and like more simple, less preservative filled food, but I'm now finding myself in the predicament of having a certain (small) amount of money in my pocket and knowing that what I buy has to last me a while. One of the many reasons I love London so much is because food here is just so much cheaper. With conversion rates and's way cheaper and not taxed! Twenty pounds worth of food can feed me generously for a week. That includes snacks, indulgences like fancy hummus and perhaps a bottle of wine. Oh, and all the Bombay Mix I could ever desire! Eating out (like in Brixton) is a luxury that happens very rarely here. The difference in my cooking here in London is that I use mostly in season fresh ingredients along with whole grains paired with interesting spices and twists but unlike before when I cooked that way- back when I had a real job- I'm doing this on a strict budget. Where buying white bread and cookies may seem like the easy route, it's not really, and it's not nearly as fun. And I'm not preaching to you and telling you to eat whole foods and blah blah blah, that's not what this blog is about....., I still eat junk food and processed crap every now and then. I like to think it keeps me normal and not all 'health nutty'. However, I'm in school for exercise. Can't really eat shit all day long then fit into my spandex pants.

Tonight's dinner was something similar to what I make every night. A nice bowl of something warm, filling, nutritious and packed to brim with spicy, bright flavors. Something about tonight's dinner was beyond special though. It seemed blog worthy and stood out among all the other delicious dinners I cook. I'm feeling a bit homesick lately, not to mention this grey weather has been getting me down, and this dinner cheered me up significantly. It is a simple combination of spicy rice and lentils with an under current of garlic and miso which was topped with sauteed brussel sprouts seasoned simply with salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil. I put it all in a bowl and squeezed half a lemon on top. While this bowl of goodness did not do my homework, did not deliver me tons of money and did not give me a world class foot rub- it comforted my soul, nourished my quite beat up body and left me with minimal dishes to clean. I like to think of it as a Zen Bowl. There are many variations of what I call a Zen bowl, but that's for another post. Oh, and I cooked a sweet potato in the oven and ate it on the side. No recipe there, just a plain 'ole sweet potato.

This dish is easy, fast and impressive. The recipe I list for you below is good as is or can have about a million variations. Try it out and let me know what wonderful creations you make in your kitchen. And no, you don't have to be a broke college student to participate.

you will need:

large pot with fitted lid
frying skillet
your favorite bowl to eat out of

for the food and assembly:

1 C brown rice
1 C red lentils
1 T curry paste
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 T miso or vegetable boullion
4 C water or vegetable broth

Separately you will need approximately 20 brussel sprouts, washed and cut in half.

Put everything but the spouts in the pot. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and let steam for about 30-40 minutes or until all the water has evaporated.

Meanwhile, saute the sprouts in a dash of olive oil with just a pinch of salt and a generous amount of pepper. The will probably need a good 10-15 minutes on medium heat.

Layer in your bowl some rice, some sprouts and squeeze half a lemon over the whole shebang and you're ready for one amazing dinner. And it's ok to eat this alone because that means you have lunch for the next day. Double score.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Dinner in Brixton

Last night I had my first adventure in Brixton. I was meeting up with my dear friend Alex and her two sisters, Maddie and Loretta. We came together from various points in London to eat amazing Ethiopian food at Ansara . As soon as we stepped foot out of the cab at the Brixton tube station I experienced a whole new vibe of London. Brixton fits the ideal I had in my head of London as being young, punk, rough around the edges and completely fun. A wonderful mix of people out having a good time- some having a really, really good time. Brixton certainly has its place in history....too much to tell you about here- but I will say that the entire time I could not get 'The Guns of Brixton' by the Clash out of my head. I know, there is still a tourist locked inside of me- don't know if she'll ever go away. I didn't get to see too much of the area because we were hungry women on a mission for food and wine: maybe sometime in the near future I will go back when I'm feeling a bit more flush and punk.

Upon entering Ansara the aroma of incense and spices was almost overwhelming. It's such a tiny place and we were sat at a tiny table in the corner being forced to be a bit more close and personal than one might be comfortable with while eating. However, with the arrival of the bottle of wine and the introduction to good conversation I felt right at home. We ordered the vegetarian celebration course which included several dishes like spicy lentils, potatoes and onions, spinach and salad- all served on the traditional injera bread. Following the mounds of vegetables and legumes (which we destroyed- not a morsel left!) we were served popcorn, and then coffee following the tradition of roasting and grinding the beans right before serving. After a final night cap we were off to catch our various buses and trains home. The night was a success on all accounts- even if having a relaxing dinner in Brixton seems a little out the ordinary.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

This post is brought to you by Bombay Mix (Indian style)

..."A delicious, authentic blend of mild and spicy noodles, pulses, nuts and sweet dried fruits."

Those of you who know me well know that I am quite obsessed with garlic sesame sticks. I've written odes to them, eaten pounds upon pounds of them in my lifetime and you know I mean business when I say, "I swear to you on the last bag of sesame sticks left on this earth that.....". I'm sure they have sesame sticks (the garlic is optional, but it's like a double bonus if they are garlic) here in London but I've yet to seek them out. I've been too busy with things like school, moving into my new house, getting lost and finding my way again to really be concerned about sesame sticks. I know I know, I need to get my priorities in line. And they are slowly getting there. Don't tell a sesame stick, but I may have found a snack to send them running for their money.

So yesterday was just the shittiest weather ever. Cold, rainy, grey....putting everyone in a bitchy mood and when British people are in bitchy moods, well, it's just strange. First of all, hearing their accent when they are mad is almost laughable to American ears. You might hear something like, "Ey mate! What's the big idear!" (Not a typo-lots of words end up with r's on the end) It sounds almost friendly at first- 'cause, you know, their accents are so cute, but then you start to hear the sincerity in their voice and you look into their eyes and see years of cold grey unforgiving winters, years wasted on public transport and years of eating nothing but meat pies and mashed potatoes (they can't be bothered to say mashed potatoes, they just say mash- see? angry). Then all of the sudden you realize you have to buck up and be mean too, because that's the only way to win- put on your mean London face and just fucking go for it. I blame all of this on the weather and am expecting a whole new fanciful breed of city folk come spring time.

Anyway, I needed to go to the grocery store yesterday and get some things for a cake that I will tell you about in a couple of days. But I was just so excited about this Bombay snack mix that I had to tell the world as soon as possible! Any British person that is reading this post right now is probably already horribly offended and now they are rolling their eyes at my love of Bombay MIx. I don't know how long it's been around, but I imagine I'm conjuring up memories of Bombay Mix in brown bag lunches, a substitute for dinner while your parents were going through a divorce, or cheap college food that is repulsive now. Or maybe it was served at those awful cocktail parties your parents used to drag you to. Who knows. All I know right now is that I am discovering them for the first time and I am in heaven. I cracked them open on my way out the door of the grocery store and did not stop shoving bits of crispy rice noodles, peanuts, crackers- all coated in massive amounts of salt and spices- until I got home. Actually, it was really windy and rainy and I had to fight to hold an umbrella, carry my groceries and dodge angry Brits running after their busses- all while enjoying the pleasures of Bombay Mix. Bombay Mix actually held me together at this point in my life, and although it was a bit of a struggle to eat and walk and fight the wind, rain and people all at the same time, it was totally worth it. Thank you Bombay Mix. I did not have to put on my angry London face, all I had to do was look people in the eye and say silently to myself, "You're just mad because I'm eating Bombay Mix right now and you don't have any. If you were being remotely nice right now I might give you some". I even made sure to turn the bag so the label was facing so everyone could know.

Now that I've throughly insulted the British for their ways of life and other things they don't have much control over, I'm going to praise them to the highest. Granted, it's influenced from Indian cuisine (this is very vague though), but I feel confident this Bombay Mix is all a British thing. Who else could put lentils (shhh...don't tell Kyle) in their snacks and it still be tasty? Green split peas, anyone? This Bombay Mix is absolutely out of this world and makes me feel a little naughty (thanks to high sodium levels and preservatives) and a little nice (thanks to dried fruit, ethnic spices and beans). I honestly can't open a bag without finishing it in a matter of hours. So yes, I've had eight servings of Bombay Mix today. And Kyle, I don't need a lentil comment from you- you would eat this up just I am now with no complaints. When have I ever deceived you?

I've found Bombay MIx at Sainsbury's (yesterday) and Tesco (today). Both are equally delicious and addictive. So grab a big glass of water, ignore the salt content warning on the back and snack away! Oh, and if you live in the States and are really craving some Bombay Mix (as you should be), we can certainly work out a PayPal arrangement. No one should have to live another lonely disgusting day without Bombay Mix. And if Bombay Mix exists in the States and I just have not found it yet, please don't ever tell me, just laugh amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Bread Pudding Bliss

Last Sunday it was a dreary, yucky day in London. Cloudy, grey, cold- living up to its reputation. And it perfectly complimented the mood I was in. Having gotten little sleep the night before and not waking up until nearly noon, I was in no mood to face the day. And what does one do on a day like that? Make comfort food, of course. I had a loaf of bread that I had bought at a local bakery the day before, some dried fruit, soy milk, agave nectar and few other surprises that I found in the cabinet at the apartment I was looking after (shout out to Alex and her amazing pantry!). Basically, bread pudding was begging to be made.

I'm not sure if the bread I used was vegan or not, but if you are strictly vegan, that is the only concern you should have when making this recipe. The rest is pure and simple vegan ingredients that come together and make a panful of magical goodness. Maybe it's all the Indian food I've been eating, but I was compelled to put in a dash of rosewater extract and a couple of teaspoons of cardamom. Very subtle flavors that make every bite mysteriously delicious.

My pudding turned out more soggy than I think bread pudding is supposed to be because my bread was very fresh and I could not be bothered to let it get slightly stale or even to put it in the oven for a few minutes. That would be my only complaint with the batch I made, so I recommend using stale bread or toasting it for a couple of minutes so it can hold its own in a panful of milk. Other than that, this recipe comes together in a snap and creates minimal dirty dishes. Which is good on a day when you have lots of laying around on the couch to do.

This recipe is made up of what I thought would make a good bread pudding but this is just a base for tons of things you could do. The next time I make one I can see maybe adding sliced apples and pears, perhaps some peaches and plums, different flavoring such as rum or brandy, different dried fruits, nuts, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, cinnamon raisin bread, hearty whole wheat bread (I used white- I know- shame on me), banana bread.....the list goes on and on. Let this be a base for you and let me know what kind of amazing creations you come up with in your kitchen!

what you will need:

a baking pan that holds approximately 3 cups of liquid
mixing bowl


4-5 C stale or toasted bread
2 1/2 C soy milk
1/2 C agave nectar
1 C dried fruit (I used a mixture of raisins and dried citrus- but go for whatever, just make sure it's chopped small)
1 tsp vanilla extract or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
1 tsp rosewater extract
2 tsp cardamom
earth balance butter or coconut butter to grease the pan

how to assemble:

-preheat oven to 350 degrees

-grease the baking dish

-chop or tear bread into small pieces. think one inch by one inch and place in baking dish

-whisk together soy milk, agave nectar, extracts and cardamom until well combined

-pour the soy milk mixture over the bread and sprinkle the dried fruit over the entire thing- pushing everything down a bit so the bread is immersed and the fruit sinks a bit

-let it sit for about 15-20 minutes so the bread can really soak up the flavors

-bake for 35-45 minutes or until the top is brown and the whole thing is bubbly

-let it sit for at least 15 minutes before digging in....if you can stand it

this will probably keep in the fridge for several days, but i doubt that it will last that long. enjoy!

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Subscribe Now: Feed Icon