Guardian Girl

Brow beeten

Posted in Recipes by guardiangirl on March 1, 2010

Dressing in unexpected ways can produce some real delights; new hairstyles and garment combinations I’d never have thought of myself. It can also produce disasters so heinous that I risk causing myself actual physical harm through delaying toilet visits, too self-conscious to leave my seat and trek past a room full of people in that day’s foolhardy get-up.

In fact the psychological damage has relatively little to do with the outfit itself and more to do with the fact that I don’t feel comfortable in it. Friday’s skirt, borrowed from my housemate Nin, no doubt makes her look like a ravishing Thomas Hardy heroine. It made me look like a market-ready swine trussed up in a hessian sack. The fact that I also got the shoes wrong and chose an unflattering top tipped me over the edge, I’m afraid. I managed to get over it while walking around the office during the day but, when it came to after-work drinks in the pub, my confidence totally failed me and I had to go home and sob without paying a visit my old workmate’s leaving drinks elsewhere (sorry Lucy).

For the next three days I have worn my own choice of clothes, probably no different to anyone else’s eye but much more favourable in my own fragile heart. I also excused myself from cooking duty on Saturday in order to go to Photographer Cari’s birthday meal. So it has been a rather unGuardianlike few days. The lack of Measure in this week’s bumper fashion issue enabled me to spend a bit of cash on a proper pair of trainers with shock absorption and anti-pronation support (if you’ve ever had a metatarsal stress fracture these words will hold some meaning), which will surely benefit my wellbeing far more than any posh handbag.

I did achieve one Guardian-related venture this weekend though: Yotam Ottolenghi’s candy beetroot with lentils and yuzu recipe. Only without the candy beetroot. And without the yuzu (no kidding).

Candy beetroot with lentils and yuzu

Candy beetroot with lentils and yuzu

Standard beetroot with lentils and you-must-be-freakin-kidding-me-mate

Standard beetroot with lentils and you-must-be-freakin-kidding-me-mate

Very defeatist – I was in town on Sunday seeing the beautiful Irving Penn exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and I’m sure I could’ve tracked down some yuzu nearby, especially since Yotam had kindly explained all about the stuff. A cross between lime and mandarin sounds delicious but in the end it started pouring with rain, time was ticking and I decided to go for the lime substitute instead.

The salad was disappointing. I used extra beetroot and leaves to make it go a bit further and realised there was no maple syrup in the cupboard so used manuka honey instead. But even if I had got it right, I can’t imagine it being that much tastier. We ended up putting vinegar on it for a bit of kick. Maybe it was the prepacked beets that were the problem. Anyways Phoebe had been excited about this since she opened the mag on Saturday, and I’m afraid she left with her heart broken. If only I’d been less flippant about the yuzu!

Conclusion:

  • Rather than mooch around feeling sorry for myself all weekend, a short break seems to have been a far more sensible solution. Back to fashion dictation tomorrow.
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Fried halloumi with runner bean salad

Posted in Recipes by guardiangirl on July 23, 2009

Last night had to be the most successful evening of cooking so far. First of all the fried halloumi with runner bean salad turned out absolutely lovely. The ingredients were easy to find and not too expensive. I was able to follow each step faithfully rather than leaping up them two at a time, coat tails flying in the wind. There were no feelings of frustration or inadequacy. I love Rosie Sykes for this. I also defrosted and heated through my previous beetroot salad and raspberry tarts with great success, making a full-on Guardian meal of loveliness for my bezzer mate and I.

Fried halloumi with runner bean salad

Fried halloumi with runner bean salad

Fried halloumi with runner bean salad! Nailed it!

Fried halloumi with runner bean salad! Nailed it!

Conclusion:
  • I feel a bit like a school kid saying goodbye to a really lovely supply teacher. ‘Miss Sykes, why can’t you write recipes for the Guardian every week?’ (I know she used to. Maybe they could get her back if they offered her a payrise?)
  • The ingredients for this one managed to be tasty and unusual enough to warrant writing about, but not hard to find and not too pricey. Even though there was a fair amount of preparation involved, none of it was too fiddly or complicated
 

Beetroot, yogurt and preserved lemon relish

Posted in Recipes by guardiangirl on July 15, 2009

I hobbled into Sainsbury’s last night. Why was I hobbling? a) I’d walked 11 miles that day b) I had my toes crossed. Why did I have my toes crossed? a) Because just crossing my fingers that there’d be no raw beetroot in Sainsbury’s and I’d have to buy ready cooked wasn’t enough. I was buying the ingredients for Yotam Ottolenghi’s beetroot, yogurt and preserved lemon relish. Luckily my crossing worked and I bought four packets of the shrink-wrapped, boiled stuff.

Arriving home I switched the radio on, famished after the usual long and Forrest Gump-inspired day, and had a proper look at the recipe. I’d thought it was a salad (relish executed with my minimal chopping style) and that it would take minutes to throw together but alas, the recipe called for blackening peppers and reducing tomatoes. I was sorely tempted to be properly lazy, just chop everything up, put it in a bowl, take a quick snap and get to work on the eating bit, but I felt this was excessive cheating – plus I’ve done the pepper-grilling trick before and it makes them so much nicer. I used more fresh herbs than the recipe called for because I didn’t want to freeze the remainder in little bits. This worked out nice. I can never find preserved lemons but I used the juice from the fruit I zested into pastry a few days ago – industrious huh.

As I began toiling over the hot grill, a show came on my favourite station Resonance FM in which two people blew up 99 balloons, intermittently reading balloon-related facts, over a background soundtrack of 99 Luftballons by Nena, slowed down to last an hour. The effect, when combined with a large dish of beetroot, was a bit round and red but the tie-in was pleasing.

Anyway, back to the salad. It tasted very pleasant. By now I’d completely dispensed with the idea of it being a relish, though.

As well as the main dish, YO suggested frying the beet tops with creme fraiche, oilve oil, caraway seeds and garlic. Obviously I didn’t have any beet tops so instead I simply fried the flavourings, including garlic sliced and crisped in the oil like onion bits from the Harvester, stirred in the creme fraiche and ate it like a heart attack soup while I waited for my peppers to char. I feel slightly embarrassed by this and mention it only because it was very tasty and would make a nice dip. Maybe for radishes, to keep with the theme.

I froze the salad I couldn’t eat (whether this will work is a concern for the day it comes out of, not goes into, the freezer), proudly putting it next to the previous day’s remaining raspberry tarts. One day I’ll be receiving guests and will be able to casually defrost beetroot relish (I’ll revert to its proper, more exotic title especially for the occasion) and fruit tart for dessert. They won’t even notice the ring around the bath.

Beetroot, yogurt and preserved lemon relish

Beetroot, yogurt and preserved lemon relish

 

Beetroot and yoghurt salad

Beetroot and yoghurt salad

 

Mine looks like a dish of kidneys.

Conclusions:

  • It would be really helpful if these recipes included one bunch of something rather than four heaped tablespoons of something, but that’s what freezers are for
  • Even in Yotam’s picture, ‘relish’ is pushing it a bit. It’s a salad isn’t it? You can have whole sweetcorn kernels in a relish but beetroot halves is borderline petulance