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Monday, May 21, 2007

A Eurovision accompaniment

This post is a couple of months late, for which I apologise. I spent a delightful weekend in southern Sweden with my friend Kamila and her cousin Helena. It was a musical interlude, as Kamila was singing the lead role in a modern opera, I did some voice recording for a Finnish composer and we had to watch the Swedish competition for the national Eurovision entry 2007.
Last week the actual Eurovision happened and I remembered that I had promised to put this recipe on the blog after making it for Kamila and Helena to eat while watching the kitsch-fest that constitutes a large part of their national culture.
So here it is, girls:

Sophia’s Swedish Satay Sauce


Dried egg noodles

1 tablespoon veg oil
2 cloves garlic crushed
3 cm knob of ginger minced
2 red chilis finely sliced
1/3 jar crunchy peanut butter
3 tablespoons vinegar (ideally rice vinegar, but any white vinegar will do)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
juice of 1 lime

Bring water to the boil, salt and throw in the noodles.
Gently fry the garlic, ginger, chillies in oil, then add peanut butter. Stirring continuously, add water from the boiling noodles until it reaches a sauce-like consistency. Add the soy sauce, vinegar and lime juice to taste.
When the noodles are done (maybe five minutes?) drain them and refresh with cold water.

Stir fry ingredients:
Any vegetables you like
Spring onions
Prawns, chicken or any other meat you like
Cooked noodles
herbs: basil, thai basil, coriander
Soy sauce

The aim with stir frying is for everything to be done at the same time, so chop everything first. Try to make sure that things are all roughly the same size. Heat the oil and add the ingredients one at a time in order of which will take longest to cook, ending with whatever cooks quickest. Herbs are obviously always going to be last.
At the last, add some soy sauce; the pan should be hot enough to make it sizzle.

Serve with the satay sauce.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A simple lunch

Cafeteria food never sounds very appealing. Usually, its USP is the convenience of being able to eat without leaving the building. A tide of increasingly high standards for food in London, however, seems to have lifted even this waterlogged boat. One restaurant previously enthusiastically reviewed in this column, Delfina, started life as a canteen serving a set of artists’ studios, and another SE1 business, architects Allies & Morrison, built a canteen space to showcase its design skills and provide its employees with lunch, but having opened it to the public, find themselves with an award-winning restaurant on their hands.
The Table is not a place for formal dining, with its refectory style tables and benches, but by prioritising the quality of the food, they have got the balance between healthy and delicious almost exactly right. An array of salads uses innovative ingredients and combinations to tempt the eye and the stomach; as a committed supporter of the maxim “You make no friends with salad”, I feel disconcerted by the fact that I can rarely make it past the salad bar to try the sandwiches or the hot food.
A pumpkin, rocket and goat’s cheese salad will be given extra crunch by sunflower seeds, while mushroom, jerusalem artichoke and ratte potatoes add ballast to the salad plate. It was here that I first came across Israeli couscous, chewy farinaceous pearls that are likely to be the ingredient of the year when the fashionable restaurants catch on.
Passing on to the sandwich display, it is time to choose between sliced roast beef with gorgonzola butter in rye bread, or a portobello mushroom and cheese in a ciabatta bun. If you are still not tempted, chefs behind the main counter will offer you something from the grill - on a typical day, this might include steak, plaice and monkfish. You can then add a garnish such as rainbow chard or caponata, that Italian sweet and sour vegetable delight.
While it is always busy for lunch, mornings and afternoons are never totally quiet, as many customers come in to pick up a delicious chocolate brownie or a serving of bread pudding, while others use it as a convenient meeting place with excellent coffee.
There are plans to extend its opening hours to include evening dining and drinking when the enormous 1-2-3 Bankside development across the road is finally open - the question will be how soon the architects’ services are called on again to provide an extension.