Monday, January 11, 2010

Greensmiths, Lower Marsh

The Bitter: Cold (still less than 2 degrees Celsius outside and the UK continues to not cope very well)

The Sweet: Discovering the great little café at my new favourite shop, an independent supermarket made up of local food retailers - an idea I wish I'd put into practice!

Monday, 11 January 2010

7. The good, the bad, the café and the cold

Greensmiths on Lower Marsh is fast becoming my most favoured shop, ever. I think they already know me in there now, so numerous have my after-work trips been. The greengrocer guy definitely recognises me and his eyes light up, because I have often fawned over the endive or asked about where their samphire comes from. The staff are extremely friendly and clued- up about their produce, to the point that they can explain how to cook something or what other foods it would pair well with. And there's little pretension - it's all quite straightforward supermarket shopping, except there aren't ever any queues, the food is locally sourced where possible, there's a sweet café upstairs, and - fundamentally - the people at the tills aren't dead-eyed and devoid of any charm, or pushing reward card points like smack.

Tonight I went with my friend Dany to see if we could get some food there after work, before heading down to Scooterworks (see my previous post here extolling the virtues of this other Lower Marsh gem) for their regular Monday night film at 8pm. Sadly the café, although replete with people, was no longer serving food (they do excellent-looking breakfasts until 11am, and then serve lunches from 12-4, I think). So we went to Sino Thai down the street instead, where we had some fairly standard chicken with cashew nuts and some sweet and sour prawns with coconut rice. It was average food, but came with friendly service and was inexpensive. I felt sorry for the man in the restaurant as we were his only customers and it was a bitterly cold evening with little chance of him encountering anyone else.

Poor Sino Thai dude.

So next time you're on Lower Marsh before 4pm check out the Greensmiths café and let me know what you think. Their cakes looked mighty good and I'd love to know what one of their bacon sandwiches would be like. Pigs have died for less noble reasons, y'know.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Year's Bastard Chicken

The end of 2009, and the dawning of a new (very cold) year has seen a few structural changes take place, which may go some way towards explaining a shocking lack of regular posting ettiquette.

Here's a roundup of the major events of the last couple of months in quick-capsule format...

  • decided to move out of shared house in Clapham and into flat with boyfriend
  • began search for new replacement person for my old room and held viewings
  • found suitably nice person to take on room; started looking for flats
  • saw some horrendous hellholes advertised very unscrupulously by lettings agents (how do they sleep at night?!%@)
  • had some crazy dealings with insane neighbour in shared house - had police over on my last morning living there - fun!
  • moved out of old house; moved possessions into storage; moved a couple of bags to my mum's in Orpo
  • found a perfectly lovely flat on gumtree and arranged to view it
  • went to Leeds and Edinburgh for work
  • went to see boyfriend's mum in Yorkshire; got heavily rained upon and saw beautiful scenery
  • saw flat in SW2 - loved it; wanted it; took it
  • Went on a crazy work trip that took in Berlin, Warsaw and Vilnius in 4 days
  • came back and flopped with exhaustion; went back to work for 4 days
  • Spent 4 days in Switzerland for work
  • returned from Switzerland and went back to work for a day; attended work Christmas party - a predictably boozy car crash sort of evening that ended up with me hurling a camembert across the room (long story)
  • picked up the keys for the new flat; moved in with a hangover
  • adored everything about the flat and bought lots of little housey things to put in it
  • had a housewarming/Christmas/ farewell party for two good friends leaving to return to Europe; made blinis and quaffed cava
  • had nearly 3 weeks off work (but why no posting, you may well ask? - see next point)
  • spent maybe two hours of my life that I'll never get back speaking to 4 separate BT call centre workers based in Sheffield, who bless them, tried, but couldn't have plugged in a wireless router between them, let alone place one.bloody.broadband.order. Still, it was Christmas, so I was lovely and patient with each of them and wished them seasonal tidings.
  • finally manged to get into a a tight pair of jeans bought in the Barcelona sales in Feb last year and crowed at my reflection
  • then ate my own weight in Turkey and sprouts and promptly undid said jeans
  • started on the old one-pot soup and chilli routine, post-Christmas overindulgence and overspending
  • had a glass of champagne on New Year's Eve, danced to Song 2 in a Smithfields club and went to bed at 6am
  • woke up at 3pm, had breakfast (we called it 'tea' to make it less weird) at 5.30pm at Nando's, watched Avatar 3D and had possibly the most perfect New Year's Day in living memory.
Which brings us up to date.

So after the excesses of new year's eve and some fairly rich meals over the past couple of months, I found myself poking around in our fridge for something to inspire me on Monday - the first day back at work. We had chicken thighs, some reduced corn on the cob from the Co-op, some fresh chillies, red and green peppers and plenty of cupboard sundries. I thought about a gumbo type of thing because I figured it would be in one pot, bubbling away for a while and would take minimum effort. I also looked in the Levi Roots cookbook we'd been given for Christmas and looked at some Jamaican stewed chicken recipes, then bastardised them to make my own thing with my ingredients. And so New Year's Bastard Chicken was born. Here's the recipe, should it interest you to try it out.


4 chicken thighs
4 cut corn cobs
2 bell peppers, varying colours, chopped
1 sweet potato, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 fresh chillies, chopped (the long Thai kind will do)
1 piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped (thumb-sized)
2 large onions, chopped roughly
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
juice of 1 lime
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup basmati rice
a handful of fresh thyme
2 tsp Madras curry powder
pinch of turmeric
pinch of dried chilli or cayenne
salt and pepper to taste

Marinate the chicken in the lime juice, and season with ginger, salt, pepper, turmeric and dried chilli. Leave for as long as possible to soak up the flavours.

After as long a marinade as possible, fry the chicken pieces with one onion until browned on both sides for at least 10 minutes (mine got burnt a bit, but that kind of works). Set aside for later.

In a large saucepan, fry the other onion in a little olive or sunflower oil. Add the garlic and cook until soft. Add the curry powder and fresh chillies. Leave to cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add the tinned tomatoes, sweet potato, carrot, corn cobs and thyme. Pour in half of the stock. Cook for 10 minutes on a high heat to soften the corn, carrots and sweet potato. Add the rice, peppers, the rest of the stock and the pre-sooked chicken pieces. Leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes until rice is cooked through.

Serve heaped in bowls while piping hot. Eat with fingers as necessary. Serves 4 very hungry people or makes 2 main meals and about 3 extra packed lunches (you'll be sick of it in 2 days, though). Beware - it comes out spicy, so ensure your constitution can take a bit of heat...

Happy January, folks.