Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Apple bobbing at Greenwich Market this Wednesday

Apparently some parts of England are going to be as cold as the Arctic this week, BBbrrrrrrrrrr. I'm going to go full-pelt then tomorrow when I steer Jimmy down to Greenwich Market to take part in the kids day of apple-bobbing and other fun and frollicks. Bring your kids along and point them in the direction of those basins - then come over for a great warming cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows and a chocolate-chip cookie!

Monday, 27 October 2008


I've just returned from Istanbul - a city I've wanted to visit for ages. My brothers and I took our mum there for her birthday and we all had lots of things we each wanted to do. My younger brother, Beppo, wanted mosques, architecture and literary walks, my mum wanted spice markets and ferry trips and my older brother, Ferdie, didn't care what we did as long as there was plenty of good eating and drinking. My prerequisite was for rooftop cocktails (strong ones), Turkish baths, street life and, of course, chocolate.

We found it all - loads of great street food (fish bread and stuffed giant mussels were my favourite), markets heaving with treats - coffee, baklava, nougat, fish, sheeps heads, sumac, pomegranates, cheese pies. We got good at taking our shoes off for all the mosques, got chatting to loads of distinguished looking Omar Sahrif lookalikes, checked out the delights of the Istanbul Modern, got a good scrub down by women with great pendulous breasts in the hamam, carved up the Bosphorous on the ferries, ate delicious mezze and drank cocktails. Lots of them.

My eyes would dart around, so busily - there was so much activity. It seemed so industrious and every doorway presented some kind of artisan doing his thing - the Gepeto style toymaker downstairs from our flat, the glorious looking barber down the street, signmakers, metal workers, carpenters, music production, painters - all holed up in darkened, cavernous shops, busying away at their craft.

And who knew that the Turks were so into their cacao?! OK, so the hot choc wasn't a patch on that of Paris or Barcelona or Choc Star, but it was a damn site better than almost any crappy excuse for it that most places in Britain offer. And all those nasty Turkish patisseries you get in Shepherd's Bush were put to shame by those we discovered in the Cukurcuma district. We even found some brownies which my mum claimed were almost as good as mine (they weren't).

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

LONDON LEG: Supper #44 - N1

Last night saw the beginning of my London leg of the tour. I've been all over the place this summer and have missed the suppers. I wonder how things will be back in the Capital....in a way it's a completely different slant as I don't need to sleep over because I live here (SW9 FYI), therefore I won't be getting so rat-tanked because I'll be driving, which should aid my clarity and sharpen my observations. Hmmm, not sure about all this. I wonder, will the hospitality branch be extended to me by Londoners even though they know well and good I have my own bed?

I went and picked Jimmy up from his des res (parking lot in SW4), swung by my pad (deep in the heart of the hood), grabbed the part-assembled pud, revved the Gennie up so as to arrive all twinkling and flashing neon and braved the traffic from South to North. All fine until the atmospheric light show that throbbed out pleasingly to passers by turned spasmodic. Pink, black, pink, black went the on-off situation and my heart sank as I drove up Upper Street, wondering what the heck was wrong with Gennie now.

I arrived on a very swish looking street (in an Oliver Twist when he was salvaged kind of way) and felt sure that no yoots would come rootling around the van whilst I was flanked by such swank vehicles. I was late. As usual. But I carried with me a delightful offering so what could they possibly say?

THE SET UP: Madoc bought the flat six years ago with his sister who lives next door with their mum. Cosy. He used to be a chef but now works for Raleigh International in recruitment. He is a bright and perky host, despite orchestrating this evening's meal with a broken wrist. My God, I did feel honoured that he didn't call the whole thing off - the only mention of it at all was when he pondered the possibility of having a limp right wrist for the rest of his days (nasty). Joining us were Becky who used to work with him at Raleigh, Jezza who used to work with him at Raleigh and Kate, who kind of works with him at Raleigh. And it took me most of the night to get to the bottom of what Raleigh was.

After a visit to Jimmy (where Jezza quizzed me about technical things, telling me he'd spotted us before and pondered the logistics of the power and whatnot) we got back into the warm, candle-lit, Coldplay-soundtracked flat. Wine was offered. Oh God, I'm driving, better just make it the one - and instantly came an invite to stay. "Look," said Madoc "I have this beautiful spare room with a brand new bed". It did look kinda inviting with its pristine Broderie Anglaise bedspread and currently available to the right person for £850pcm (Jesus!), but the thought of fighting my way through the traffic in the morning made me abstain.

WHAT WE ATE: So the one-handed plating of dinner commenced. Becky helped, I took pics and the other two sat waiting at the table. Sainsbury's had produced a free-range chook which Madoc had roasted and served with crunchy boiled carrots, huge baked potatoes, crispy bacon, bread sauce and red wine gravy with a well-dressed salad on the side. Baked potatoes, cold meat and salad is actually one of my favourite things to eat in the world so this winter version put a smile on my face. And the chicken was really delicious - great chunky tranches of flavoursome, juicy breast. Delish.

DINNER TABLE TOPICS: Kate tried to explain to us about her Raleigh trip to Borneo. I wanted to know what they all ate but it didn't sound up to much (rice, mainly). The conversation switches pendulously - from Japanese caligraphy to how to get cheap tickets to the theatre. They'd all seen Warhorse and insisted I go. Becky lamented her friends' slightly moronic conversation skills since having kids and moving to the country. There she was at dinner with them and the only three questions they asked her were 'Have you got a boyfriend?', 'What's it like being single?' and 'Do you want kids?'. "I felt like Bridget Jones sat there, surrounded by them all - and when I made a joke about Sarah Palin I was met with blank expressions; none of them seemed to know who the hell she was!". I shuddered inwardly and outwardly.

Then Jezza - who I took to be a fairly mid-range, reg'lar middle class guy - got my attention when he began telling me about his dad's homemade fireworks and basins of explosives in the laundry room. And how, at uni in Southampton, he bought a little boat which he used to row chicks out to in the middle of the night across choppy seas. Now he likes vans. He buys them, does them up and then heads off on big adventures in them. Brilliant!

THE PUD: I made a double chocolate, Kahlua-injected roulade. Inside the moist, chocolatey folds swirled a vanilla and white chocolate cream. We all had a slice, Jezza had seconds and Madoc pretty much polished the rest off in cheeky slices directly to his mouth.

By 11.30 it was time to head home - Kate went off to Finchley, Becky cycled up to Highgate, Jezza to somewhere nearby and I took old Jimmy back across the river along nice, uncongested streets.

MY BED FOR THE NIGHT: Mine! And I expect most of my London suppers will find me back here...unless one of my hosts pulls out a particularly special cocktail, which I would never be able to resist.