Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter Brunches: A Three Part Series

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If there are any two times in the year intended for the sole purpose of families breaking bread together, it would have to be Christmas and the Easter weekend. Think about it - retail doors remain closed, so no Sunday food shop, no working teenagers & no retail therapy = uninterrupted family time. 

My love for family breakfasts & brunches is definitely no secret - what I've found over time is that when preparing lunch or dinner, there is an unadulterated abundance of options, be it noodles, stir fry, fried rice, curry, pasta, pizza, burritos, jackets, bakes, hot pots, gratins, burgers, chips... so it's really a matter of deciding what type of cuisine you fancy on any particular day. Of course on the other hand as breakfasts go, the question is more "how do you like your eggs?" - there is a certain 'ingredient set' traditionally associated with the first meal of the day and I find profound satisfaction in rising to the challenge of reworking these staples in as many ways possible to invent creative, varied and inspiring breakfasts. 

My breakfast/brunch staples: Potato, peppers, onions, egg, baked beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese of every variety, avocado, bread (a.k.a flour, so this includes pancakey/muffiny type concoctions too), milk, cereals, yogurt, fruits & fruit juices. Now, considering there are no preconceived notions on what stereotypically constitutes a lunch or dinner, relatively speaking you'd think this is a fairly limited repertoire. Think again, bearing in mind this key phrase - permutations and combinations. 

Potato fritters topped with fried egg and roast tomatoes. Hash browns, poached eggs and sauteed mushrooms. Spanish frittata with avocado on toast. Boiled eggs and soldiers. Scrambled eggs with baked beans on toast. Need I continue? 

With it being Easter and all, it's lovely having all the extra time to experiment - so here's recipe 1 of 3 (I was working on Saturday so breakfast was coffee & toast... yerrr, didn't think you'd need a recipe for that), Twice Baked Potatoes

What you'll need: 

- baking potatoes (1 per person)
- eggs (2 per potato)
- olive oil
- butter
- milk
- grated cheese (cheddar, parmesan or gruyere)
- salt & pepper
- chives or coriander & chilli flakes (optional)

What to do: 

1. Bake the potatoes until soft in the centre - I fork-pricked and then microwaved mine to the al dente phase, before rubbing them in olive oil, salt and pepper and flashing them under a hot grill for 10 minutes to crisp up the skin. 

2. Once they are soft, slice them length ways in half and scoop out the centre. Turn down the grill temperature to around 180 degrees.

3. In a bowl, mash the insides you have just scooped out with a little milk, cheese, butter, salt + pepper. 

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4. Part fill the cavities in the potatoes (you probably won't use the whole mash-mix) and make a little well for the egg to fit in. It might be an idea to crack the egg into a small bowl and remove part of the whites if theres too much egg or too little cavity :)

5. Sprinkle on some black pepper, chilli flakes, a smatter of salt, cheese and coriander, before putting them back under the slightly cooler grill. If you want your yolks to be runny then just bake for an additional 2-3 minutes. If you want the eggs cooked through then leave them in for longer; the colour of the yolk will lighten to a softer yellow. 

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Here you can see I wasn't feeling soft yolks this morning so I cooked them until they resembled hard boiled eggs. I'm a bit odd like that - sometimes I LOVE runny eggs (over crispy hash browns!) and other days I just want them cooked through. Talk about fickle with my eggs. Enjoy!


P.S. Happy Easter!

Saturday, 30 March 2013

...And the New Job

So what exactly is it that I 'pretend' to do in the City day in day out, I hear you ask. Well, you already know I job-hop like there's no tomorrow (described at my last work place as a job-market floozy!) but it seems I've finally found something I can live with - campaign coordination, fundraising & social media.  Here's some food for thought. 


Friday, 29 March 2013

A New Playground

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If you've been reading here for a while (and kudos if you've stuck around, I do suffer from The Extreme Propensity to Waffle Syndrome), you'll remember how thrilled I was to be working at the YouGov offices in Old Street a few years ago. See, the thing is, though I've never really lived further than a 30 minute train journey into Central London, I've always been more the cyclical visitor (Christmas lights, Summer sales, big nights out... if y'know what I mean?) than the seasoned commuter. So you know, I wouldn't really trek into the City for a quick drink or bite to eat - "Looooooooong," would be the best way to describe it. 

As fate would have it, one full circle later (in more ways than one) and I'm right back where it all began - one of the herd sweeping through the tubes everyday. And I'm loving it! Work I enjoy in the City I love - what a brilliant cover up for all sorts of antics. More on that another time - Happy Friday for now! 

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1. China Town for amazing cream cakes & bubble tea.

2. St. Pauls and revision at the Tate Modern.

3. Evenings in Piccadilly Circus.

4. Newfound love for Borough Market lunches, London Bridge.


Some Colour Would Be Nice

I think it's safe to say that I miss India most of all around about this time of year (and perhaps early Autumn too... and during the monsoon... OH alright, I miss it all year round, okay); it's like an itch that can't be reached - I long to be there but with pending exams year in year out, it's impossible to get away. With the Easter Weekend now within a few hours reach officially kicked off (technical difficulties getting the post online this morning) it's difficult not to notice how subdued festivities are here - bar Christmas, of course - as compared to the pomp and vigour of celebration in India, be it Diwali, Navrarti, the birthday of Krishna, the kite flying festival or Holi.  

Holi heralds the beginning of spring and is usually celebrated around about the same time as Easter - it's a complete national holiday just like our bank holiday, so a full 4-5 days of food, family, friends, noise and vibrancy. It's without a shadow of a doubt the boldest, brightest, most colourful 'let your hair down' festival on the calendar, when it's okay even to drink bhang (a naughty cannabis-laced concoction) and throw colour in strangers' faces. 

A Hindu festival originally, there are actually very few religious duties to fulfil on the day of Holi. Historically though there is a story of good defeating evil underpinning the celebration - one legend has it that there was once a king called Hiranyakashyap who demanded that all of his subjects worship him as God. Hiranyakashyap's own son Prahlad, however, was a devotee of Vishnu and inspite of several threats from his father, Prahlad continued praying to Vishnu. Hiranyakashap tried to poison his son but the poison is believed to have turned to nectar in his mouth. Prahlad was trampled by elephants, put in a room with hungry, poisonous snakes yet each one of Hiranyakashyap's attempts failed. Finally, he ordered Prahlad to sit on a pyre in Holika's lap, the King's demoness sister, who had immunity to fire. When the fire started, everyone watched as Holika burnt to death, while Prahlad, praying to Vishnu, escaped unscathed. A huge bonfire is lit the night before to commemorate the salvation of Prahlad and the following day is when this victory is celebrated and the true fun ensues. Fun à la India ;)

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The doomy, gloomy, dull, grey, snowy rainy scene here does seem that much more depressing as compared, doesn't it? :(


Monday, 25 March 2013

Mughals and Minus Temperatures

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I'm sure you guys have no interest in yet another rant about this unexpected, really rather inconvenient 'freeze'. It has to be said though that the advantage of it being over the weekend is that there's time to step back and revel in the snow's serenity. No need for frantic 6am shovelling or emergency anti-freeze excavations (can you ever find it when you need it?!) Hot drinks, lazy Sundays & wintry wonderland walks (in Spring, blossom on trees, I know) all the way. 

I don't think there's any point me apologising for this latest, perhaps most epic AWOL of mine - all I'll say is in between moving home, a new job and all the upheaval that tagged along, I've barely had time to brush my own hair (evidence available upon request) let alone sit down to pen anything vaguely coherent. Buuuut here I am with a new lease of life - provided you'll still have me, that is - and a plethora of posts to share; recipes, discoveries and some allegories too. 

Let's start today about a snowy Saturday in the City. The art of avoiding eye contact on the underground requires much practice to perfect - I'm learning, slowly but surely, and as I stand [im]patiently on the escalator, eyes darting left to right, down to the steps and then up to the ceiling, I often resort to gazing at the posters that line the ascent... and sometimes, just sometimes one will grab my attention (and subsequently makes me lose my balance and topple into the the poor unsuspecting tourist behind as I crane my neck to read as much of it as quickly as possible); an event, a concert, a gig or an exhibition. 

Though I've known about the Mughal India exhibition a while, it's only on Saturday I decided better now than never. And so in my work-lunch-work sandwich, off I galloped (fighting the wind, braving the snow, defeating the ice, might I add) to the British Library opposite St Pancras International Station, for the first time ever. I know, I'm ashamed. 

Initially in awe of the sheer grandeur of the building, I breezed through the corridors and lobby like a fervent foreigner (I reckon I pulled it off exceptionally well), gobsmacked. Then I realised the time and one facepalm gesture later carried my ditzy derriere off to the exhibition I had actually come to see. And what a treat - it's the first of its kind to document the entire period from the 16th to 19th centuries through unique books, paintings, portraits, stunning manuscripts and other objects of art. The conquests of the empire are overwhelming, an Islamic Dynasty ruling a Hindu majority maintaining control over a vast empire encompassing most of present day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh & Afghanistan, through strategic administration and unprecedented religious tolerance in their time.  

Evidence of Mughal opulence and sophistication litters the subcontinent abundantly even today - need I mention the Taj Mahal in Agra or Humayun's Tomb and the Jama Masjid in Delhi? 

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It's a must see, take my word for it ;)


Visit before 2-Apr-2013. 
The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB.


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