Tag Archives: bermondsey

The Aldi Baby Event

Sometimes a girl just has to accept she’s living on statutory maternity pay…and even that won’t last forever.  So today when the Aldi supermarket one day baby event was launched, the baby and I were out of the house by 7.30 and battling the South London traffic to Old Kent Road.  You can tell I’m not an experienced Mum, because in my head, I envisioned queues of Mums, waiting for the doors to open, all rushing in to get the £19 Hauck travel cot I wanted.  (That’s how things used to be in the pre-baby days when I would go to fashion sales, etc, so surely that’s how things would be at the baby sale.)

As it happened, I was the first one in the parking lot (managed to get the parent/child parking spot right outside the front door) and there was just me and one other woman, at 7.45 in the morning, waiting for the doors of Aldi to open.  Like bums, waiting to get in to buy the cheap off-brand booze, but instead we were after baby-grows and nappies.

What a geek.

And why was I the first one there?  Because I’m still a newbie at this Mum thing.  Because most normal, sensible Mums with little babies barely think about getting out of the house (or pyjamas) before noontime, and those that do – its only because they’re taking their older children to school.  But I still hold the belief that I will not be defeated by Mum-dom.  I will live life on a normal(ish) schedule…even if it means standing on the Old Kent Road at 7.45am with my baby still in her pyjamas, tucked into her BabyBjorn, and me, looking pretty ok-ish in a white shirt and skinny jeans, but secretly I hadn’t even taken a shower yet.

So, moving on, as I pushed my trolley through the non-existant crowds of fellow shoppers, I got the first of the Hauck travel cots, three packs of giant muslins, a hooded towel and a Tommy Tippee sippy cup.  I mean, there was actually plenty of great stuff there – and all quite cheap…but then, that’s the problem with Aldi.  You go in to buy your polish jam and battery hen eggs and come out with a discount chainsaw instead.

However, for the budget minded organic shopper, there are a few good buys at Aldi.  You can get a few organic veg basics: potatoes, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and onions, a few seasonal organic fruits, organic milk, as well as a few random dry goods throughout the store.  Today, for instance, there were Kallo puffed buckwheat and quinoa cakes (like rice cakes).  You kind of have to go in with an open mind about what you want to buy, but you can come out with your shopping bag full of 100% British organic foods at around 25% less than you would pay at Sainsburys or Tesco.

All good news for a Mum who is about to start baby led weaning and isn’t too keen on the Annabel Karmel ‘all sugar, all the time’ approach to feeding baby.  (I may feel differently after steamed broccoli has been rejected for the 50th time, and I promise, I’ll admit it if that’s the case.)

I should also say that I was really pleased to see packs of Bambino Mio cloth nappies for sale there today.  At our house we use cloth nappies (resorting to biodegradable disposables for outings, travel and nighttime only) and although we don’t use Bambino Mio, I’m pleased that they’re becoming more mainstream and accessible to people on a budget.  (Lets face it, the Old Kent Road isn’t the cheapest property on the Monopoly board for no reason).

So, overall, it was a good shopping trip.  We have a travel cot, so we won’t have to make our baby sleep in a milk crate or dog pen when we go on holiday to Cornwall, later this summer.  We’ve got some adorable elephant themed giant muslins, at 1/5th of the price of the ones at Jojo Maman Bebe.  And best of all, the baby fell asleep in the car on the way home, so after transferring her to the nursery when we got home, I’ve had the whole morning to myself!

No really, it was just a trifle

I make an excellent trifle…though I do say so myself…

A full on view of my sherry trifle

A full on view of my sherry trifle

Four years ago I bought a beautiful LSA crystal trifle bowl at the John Lewis on Oxford Street.  The first reaction of my then boyfriend, was that I would never use the trifle bowl and it was a waste of £40 and precious storage space.  At that time, we lived in a one bedroom flat in Bermondsey; a beautifully designed home that by all rights should have been the perfect pied a terre for city professionals with a large country home in Norfolk or Wiltshire.  Just like us…minus the large country home in Norfolk or Wiltshire.  With the absence of any storage whatsoever, it was absolutely essential that each item we owned had to serve a purpose, if not several purposes.

So in order that I would always have the moral upper ground, as least as far as my frivolous purchase was concerned, my trifle bowl spent much of the year, serving as an urn for displaying leafy Spanish mandarins, bright knobbly Sicilian lemons, shiny and jewel-toned pink pomegranates or really whatever happened to be in season.  And once a year, at the great family gathering in Sussex on Christmas or Boxing Day, my trifle bowl would display its true splendour and serve its intended use.

As, I have discovered, trifles are surprisingly sturdy.  I have preassembled and carried them across the home counties on trains, in the boot of my car (bumping wildly over country lanes), and I have jostled them along London streets, wedged into a hemp Whole Foods carrier bag.  It always survives and always looks a masterpiece when displayed on the table or the sideboard.

Eventually the time came to prepare to sell our flat and my boyfriend took great pleasure in placing my beloved trifle bowl in storage.  In fact, last Christmas I never even had an opportunity to use it, as it was locked away over the holiday period.  (While I describe him like a pantomime villain, he really is very nice, and I did in fact eventually marry him, despite his general disrespect for my trifle-related paraphernalia.)

So this year, when friends invited us to their home for Boxing Day dinner…their large country home in Wiltshire, I might add…I didn’t hesitate to shamelessly offer to bring the trifle.  Through politeness, or perhaps a lack of opportunity to refuse, our hosts appeared grateful and accepted.

After feasting on gravadlax on rye toasts, spatchcocked poussin and creamy dauphinoise, my trifle made its appearance.  No one usually holds very  high hopes for trifle.  (I’ve seen many a layered Jell-O, pineapple and Cool Whip creation lurking on British supermarket shelves, claiming trifle status.  I can appreciate the general cool attitude towards it.)  I was offered by my host to be mother, and I took the opportunity, assertively spooning equal proportions of the deep layers into each of the dessert bowls.

“Oh, Kelly” my host gasped, in what I think was genuine surprise, “from now on, you are in charge of all things sugar.”  And I blushed with much false modesty.

So, with some hesitation, I share my precious, yet simple, trifle recipe with you:

Trifle Top

Jewel-like red currants, crowning my sherry trifle on Boxing Day

Ingredients

12  trifle sponges (around 300 g)

1 medium (100 g) sponge flan base (optional)

1 litre of custard (homeade or store bought)

1 litre of whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks

1 x 400 g bag frozen raspberries

200 g fresh blueberries, raspberries or blackberries

1 small jar (around 300 g) raspberry conserve

A quantity of Amontillado sherry, to taste

Fresh raspberries or red currants, to decorate

Method

Step One:  Cut all the sponge fingers in half and make small jam sandwiches with them.  Arrange these in the base of the trifle bowl and drizzle liberally with a good glug of Amontillado sherry – around 4-5 tablespoons.  (You don’t want the sponge fingers to become too wet, though, as the raspberry juices will need to be soaked up later.)  You can do this step the night before, should you wish.

Step Two:  Create an even layer of frozen raspberries on top of the sherried sponges.  This is where I pause if I am taking this dish to someone else’s house.  Placing the raspberries on the sponges around lunchtime will mean that the raspberries will have thawed by dessert, later that evening, and the juices will have soaked into the sponge.

Step Three:  If you have a medium sponge flan case, place it on top of the now thawed raspberries, and fill it with the remainder of the jar of raspberry conserve and the 200 g of fresh berries.  It should help contain the custard and create a layer of sponge which isn’t as soggy as the bottom layer.

Step Four:  I wouldn’t do this step until probably an hour or two before serving.  Pour the custard over the sponge flan & berries and spread the softly (unsweetened) whipped cream in an even layer atop the custard.  I usually finish mine with a small crown of fresh raspberries, cape gooseberries or red currants (as shown).

Where HAVE I Been?

I’m pretty sure its a cardinal sin to leave your blog for 2 1/2 months with not so much as a measly posting like:  ‘Here, I went to Pizza Express and took a photo of some gelato and dough balls.’  Actually, I think I may have described the actual first cardinal sin of food blogging there.  Ok, so the SECOND worst sin is to leave your blog for 2 1/2 months.  Like I have just done.  But I do have some pretty good reasons why I’ve been negligent, and here they are:

Reason 1.  I moved house.

L and I bought a new house – so we packed up all our wordly goods, crammed them into £200 worth of cardboard boxes (yes, they do cost that much) and then had Aussie Man and Van (who are actually Polish, not Aussie at all) come and pick up all our crap and move it into the new house.  Moving house is a stressful time for everyone – and I was worried about the effect it would have on our relationship when added to the pressure of planning our wedding (due to take place a mere 4 months later).  But it was great!  We discovered the ultimate equitable division of labour.  I packed all the stuff up, then went to work on the morning of our moving day.  L then supervised the move, and I didn’t have to put up with lugging boxes or getting frustrated about the moving men arriving late.  That evening after work, I went to Charlie-from-PR’s leaving do, and then caught the train home – the train!  I commute now! – and returned to our new house in Dulwich.

And THAT is how you do it.

Reason 2.  Sky.

Yes, Sky and their bad bad BAD service.  L and I had both used Sky for years.  We were good customers – they made lots of money from us – mostly from those Box Office films at £2.99 a pop and all the extra channels and international phone calls.  So why did it take them TWO MONTHS to install our home phone and broadband in our new house?  Our house in ZONE 2 OF CENTRAL LONDON?  Here’s a link to Sky.  Complain.  Tell them that they’re lazy and you’re thinking of suing them for damages from missing out on 2 1/2 months of one of the best blogs ever.  Or something like that.

Reason 3. Food.

Eating London is a foodie blog – go figure – and the thing about food blogs are that they involve food.  Writing about it.  Taking photos of it with clever depths of field and at nifty angles.  And usually, at some point, eating it.  When you’re on a crash diet (Don’t lecture me about starvation mode, blah blah blah – just don’t.  Not at this stage.) food doesn’t really come into the equation that much.  I mean, I could write about things like the crappy little tubs of Weight Watcher fromage frais and Kallo rice cakes I eat these days or I could have L take pictures of me cutting Nori into small squares, spraying them with low cal olive oil spray and holding them with tongs over a low heat flame to make 7 calorie seaweed crisps…but I don’t want to write about it.  And you don’t want to read about it.  (But if you’re going to try the seaweed thing, make sure you sprinkle a pinch of sea salt on the Nori after you spray it but before you toast it.)  And that’s not really what I’m about as a cook.  Or at least it IS what I’m about for the next couple of months.

That’s it.  Those are my reasons.  So unfortunately I can’t end this blog with the pregnancy bombshell that my favourite blogger ever did a couple of weeks ago when she wrote a similar post explaining a recent absence – (Keeping it real) Housewife.  (Did I mention she’s my maid of honour?  And we live on opposite sides of the Atlantic?  How’s that gonna work?)  But the good news is that I’ve got a new house.  I’ve got a phone and broadband.  And I’ll probably fit into my wedding dress.  (Look, I told you this wasn’t building up to much.)

So for the next couple of months, bear with me and pretend that you’re interested in my stories about the mysteriously high calorie content of blueberries, or of how yoga is my lifesaver in a world of urban stressors and about how much I love interval training (I hate it. I hate it so much, I can’t tell you).  But someday again, I promise, there will be butter…

When Life Gives You Lemons…

Lemon HeadWhen life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade.  (This is London, not Miami, for Pete’s sake.)  Make lemon drizzle cake.  Its much tastier.  That’s what I did yesterday on a rainy, cold & windy Sunday afternoon here in Bermondsey.  One of the last Sundays I’ll spend here in my little Bermondsey kitchen.  We’re moving at the end of the month.  To the suburbs, I might add.  I’m happy we’re moving into a bigger space and that we’ll have a garden to lounge about in on the one or two languid hot days we’ll have to look forward to over the course of the glorious English summertime.  But our little urban pad has been a wonderful space to spend the last four years.

L has been spending the better part of the last few months negotiating our property exchange, and so he doesn’t get fired before we can pay for the place, he had to spend the day catching up in the office.  Meanwhie the dog and I lounged about all the morning; me in my jammies, putting the Nespresso to good use and the dog sighing and staring mournfully out the window at the fifth consecutive day of rain.

Sometime around 3pm I rolled up my sleeves, marched into the kitchen, cleared the counter and fired up the…computer…and proceeded to spend the next 30 minutes researching recipes.  But after THAT, I made some lemon drizzle cake.  I found a great recipe by a fellow blogger (click here for (Mostly) Yummy Mummy’s original recipe), but I’ve spent enough of my life as a professional recipe developer that I can’t help but mess with recipes, and I love my lemon cake to be extra lemony – which in this recipe you really need to cut the intense butteryness.

So here’s what you’ll need to cook this cake…

  • 6oz spelt (or wheat) flour (sifted)
  • 6oz caster sugar
  • 6oz butter
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 2 very juicy medium unwaxed lemons
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp of icing (powdered) sugar

And here’s how you do it…

1.  Grease & flour a small loaf tin & line base with parchment.  Preheat oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.

2.  Cream butter & sugar until pale in colour and fluffy in texture.

3.  Add 3 eggs, one by one; mixing each egg thoroughly before adding the next.

4.  Add the zest & juice of one whole unwaxed lemon straight into the wet mixture.

5.  Add the sifted flour, salt & baking powder and fold in gently.  Don’t overmix it or you’ll overdevelop the gluten.  (You want a tender cake, right?)

6.  Spoon the cake mixture into the loaf tin and pop it into the middle shelf of the oven for around 40 minutes.  Once its golden brown, test it with a wooden skewer – if it comes out clean, its done.

7.  Let the cake cool for a few minutes while you prepare the drizzle.  The drizzle is prepared by whisking together the icing (powdered) sugar with the juice of the second lemon.

8.  Remove the warm cake from the tin and turn it upside down.  Make plenty of holes (20-30) with a wooden skewer and pour the drizzle all over the bottom of the warm cake.  Let it sit upside down for a few minutes as the drizzle works its way down, flavouring the cake with the lemony sweetness.  Once its cooled a bit, turn the cake around and let it totally cool before cutting.

. . .

So, in summary, a few of these…

Eggs

 …and a couple of these…

(girl with smeared mascara optional)

Lemon Head

…gives you one of these…

Nummy Cake Bon Appetit!

A Surfeit of Blue Eggs & Lemons

I have rather a lot of eggs in my fridge right now.  Three boxes, in fact.  I mean, there’s only two of us, so three boxes of eggs is a bit ridiculous.

One box I bought last Saturday morning from folks at the Demeter farm in East Sussex – they come to the Bermondsey Farmer’s Market as well as Borough Market every week.  The second box is something I think L bought from somewhere depressing, like Tesco.  (Its organic & free range, but still…)  The third box of eggs are these gorgeous babies from my future in laws’ farm in Buckinghamshire.

I also seem to have a mysterious surfeit of lemons.  I think a lemon drizzle cake is on the horizon…

blue eggs

blue eggs

Shop by the Season

Fresh raspberries from Kent I bought at Bermondsey Farmer’s Market this morning

I don’t always buy organic.

I do when I can, but sometimes I prefer to buy the local Kent or Sussex grown tomatoes if that’s what is available at the farmer’s market, rather than the organic Spanish ones at the big chain superstore, which are laden with the additional guilt of unecessary food miles and extra packaging.  I shop the way my conscience tells me to, and sometimes that means that means making difficult choices.  The one choice I never compromise on, however, is how my food tastes.   I’m not going to buy either of those tomatoes if they taste of damp cardboard.  And certainly not unless they smell like a tomato should smell; of damp earth and acidic fruitiness.

Buying what’s in season usually keeps me on the right track for getting the freshest & most flavour packed produce.  And, as a farmer I am not, my vegetable guy at the market always steers me in the right direction, so my general horticultural ignorance doesn’t seem to hinder me too much.

Luckily I didn’t have to make any difficult choices this morning when at the farmer’s market.  My fish guy, Chris, was there with his truck back full of sustainably caught sole, haddock, crab, plaice and mackerel.  I bought some plaice and got the instructions on how to prepare it.  Chris is a 4th generation fisherman and though I’ve not been buying from him for too long, his fish is always fresh & odour-free and I’ve found his advice to be consistently spot on.  When I prepare my dinner tonight, I’ll season and flour the plaice lightly and fry it in butter, finishing it only with a squeeze of lemon.  A little fennel, sliced thinly and sauteed to transparency in butter (if I still had a gallbladder, it would hate me now) and well seasoned with salt & pepper and a tablespoon of luxuriously thick and tart creme fraiche stirred in at the end, will make a beautiful and simple side dish to accompany the fish.

But wait, I need to tell you more about the butter!  Its Glastonbury butter!  Green’s of Glastonbury are a family-run dairy farm from…well, Glastonbury in Somerset, where their organically certified herd munches on the grass around the slopes of Glastonbury Tor.  They are mainly a cheese producer, but they also sell their own butter, which is sold in huge round wodges and they also make the most nutty and sharp unpasturised cheddar you will ever taste.

After the amount of butter and creme fraiche in my supper, I think the cheddar will have to wait for another day, but the abundance of raspberries in season means I will still be having dessert tonight.  But this time, no Greek yogurt, no creme fraiche, no drizzle of honey.  Just plain raspberries, so ripe that each drupelet bursts open and starts to melt as it touches your tongue.

The Taste of Summer

Ripe tomatoes & fresh organic local mozarella

Its summer now.  Apparently.  And on the odd day or two its even been vaguely hot outside.  As cool Spring evenings turn into sultry Summer ones, my tastebuds stop craving the carby warm & sweet earthy concoctions of grains, rich spices and roasted vegetables I once favoured and start craving the light and elegant flavours of summer.  Basil.  Watermelon.  Tonic Water.  Pistachios.  Orange blossom honey.  Sour yogurt.

Last night I came home, miraculously still full from the miso soup I’d eaten at lunchtime. Some tomatoes from the local Greek market around the corner were sitting on the counter, ripening from red to almost purple, and their heady fresh dirt perfume hit my nose as soon as I walked into the kitchen. I rummaged in the fridge to find the last  of my recent farmer’s market purchases, a fresh ball of organic buffalo mozzarella, and cut it into thin slices, alternating with slices of the tomato, and then heightened the flavours with a sprinkle of my Portuguese fleur de sel (flor sal I believe it is called) and some coarsely ground pepper.  We mop up the juices with slices of dense rye bread & butter from the local organic bakery.

Another small slice of the honey & vanilla pound cake ended the meal extremely well and we retired to the sofa to watch Thomasina Miers’ new Mexican cooking show in my old Oaxaca culinary haunt at the Abastos Market.