Mackerel with Beetroot and Apple Salad

An overdose of  Masterchef  and my lovely new kitchen have put me back in the mood for cooking, something which I really missed in my last flat. I’m hoping to get a bit more experimental and to start to learn how to combine flavours for myself but I find the idea of stepping away from the recipe book quite daunting! In the meantime, I’m hoping by blogging about recipes I’ve tried, it might provide some inspiration for those awkward days when you’ve no idea what to cook but you want to avoid convenience food.

So, this week, I rediscovered a great recipe I used to make fairly regularly; Spiced Mackerel served with Beetroot, Salsa on Sourdough Toast. It ticks all the boxes for me during a busy week- it’s very quick to prepare, it’s healthy, it’s pretty cheap and most of the ingredients are long-lasting, meaning you can keep some mackerel and beetroot tucked away in the cupboard for a day when you need something quick and easy that is still delicious.

The recipe for this dish comes from BBC Good Food and as there’s little point in me typing it out, you can find it here: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/5873/spiced-mackerel-on-toast-with-beetroot-salsa

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I used smoked mackerel- I’m not sure this is what the recipe intends for you to do but I find it adds a nice element to the dish- I just pop the curry powder on top and stick it under the grill for a few minutes but you don’t even have to do that, the smoked mackerel alone is a great accompaniment to the salsa.  The one thing I do recommend is getting hold of some good, fresh sourdough bread- it makes all the difference.

I made enough of the salsa to take some to work with me for lunch the following day and for that, I flaked the mackerel through the salsa to make a salad I could take into work easily. It was just as tasty and makes the dish quite flexible- you could use it as part of a picnic, or make a larger quantity of the salad to feed a crowd.

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Band of the Week #2: Public Service Broadcasting

I’ve known about Public Service Broadcasting for quite a while and while I enjoyed their music well enough, they’ve never quite grabbed me and made me want to press repeat but, their latest release, Signal 30 and the B side New Dimensions in Sound have meant they’ve turned a corner for me. It’s not often you can honestly say a new band has a unique sound but PSB build  instrumental tracks around old samples they’ve drawn from radio and news archives and turn them into complex and often moving soundtracks. At first, I honestly thought this idea had little in the way of longevity but the more they release, the more I’ve decided that they offer substance as well as style and I’m really looking forward to the release of their LP, ‘Inform, Educate, Entertain,’ next month.

While ‘Signal 30’ is the lead single and the one getting radio play at the moment, I personally prefer the ‘B side,’ New Dimensions In Sound- I’m drawn in instantly by  the beautiful, dreamy beginning to the track which soon descends into rocky chaos.

If you like what you hear, they are just about to embark on a huge UK tour which is selling out fast, so check out the tourdates on their webpage: http://publicservicebroadcasting.net/

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Voices of the City

I’ve recently really been enjoying the spoken word renaissance that seems to have taken place- all of a sudden, you can find young, passionate performance poets gracing the stage of festivals (and not just those that specialise in the arts,) poetry slams in ‘hip’ venues in East London and Scroobius Pip live on XFM with his very own spoken word/hip-hop slot. All of this goes to show that London is certainly making space for the bright young spoken word artists who are emerging and people are starting to listen. Poetry doesn’t have to stop when your exams are over and you don’t have to sit and study each rhyming couplet to appreciate the power of the word as an art form.  Most of my favourite poets don’t use Shakespeare’s English and aren’t too caught up in form, many of their influences are more hip-hop than Tennyson. For me, it’s the sheer power and force of the ideas they are expressing that is what draws me to hours on YouTube, absorbing spoken word.

If you ever get caught up in the urban rat race, here is your evening’s prescribed viewing…

George The Poet has a calming, mellow style of performance but an irresistibly strong message behind his words, which is something I love- he doesn’t need to shout for his words to be heard, they speak for themselves.

Scroobius Pip is perhaps a little more empassioned but for me, he’s still wearing the crown of spoken word at the moment. I really enjoy his mix of humour and sincerity- if you ever get the opportunity to see him perform spoken word live, take it as you will be amazed, laugh and quite possibly be moved to tears in the space of a few poems.

 

But it’s not just the boys representing. Kate Tempest is one of the city’s loudest voices and is making real waves, having just won the highly regarded Ted Hughes Award for new work in Poetry.

And finally, my latest discovery is Hollie McNish. She is going to be blogging about spoken word in the lead up to Glastonbury, so if this post has caught your attention, please follow it as she is much more knowledgeable about poetry than I am! (http://poetryandwordsblog.wordpress.com/)

This poem isn’t strictly about London specifically but it’s brilliant and should be heard by women everywhere.

 

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The Heart of the Home…

Like many young Londoners, I’ve spent the last four years bouncing from rented flat to rented flat, never settling in more than one place for longer than a year. Last weekend, I moved into my latest home, to a flat tucked away in the top of an old science college, as part of a live-in guardian scheme. When my flatmates moved in, they were essentially given a shell; a series of classrooms with little in the way of home comforts and it’s been down to them to turn the shell into a home- I have to say, coming in at this stage, they’ve done an incredible job.

One of the things I like most about my new home is the kitchen. It’s nothing special, really, no bells and whistles. In fact, we don’t even have a fitted cooker, just a little countertop electric one. It wouldn’t exactly make the front page of Ideal Home magazine but it gets the job done.  But what makes this kitchen so refreshing for me is that it’s a heart of the flat and it’s lived in by people who value the importance of sitting down to a nice meal or even just a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.  You don’t need to throw money at something to make it right for it’s purpose and having a place that feels like a kitchen means I’ve cooked more in this kitchen in 3 nights than I did in weeks in my previous flat, where we had an open-plan kitchen, which was essentially the bare minimum space for cooking tacked onto the edge of the living room, with no space to do anything other than heat and serve and no table to eat at. Having a proper space dedicated to food just makes me want to get cooking again!

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We have a perfectly spacious table, which can fit all of us around to share a meal. We have enough pots and pans to keep even the messiest chef happy , hung on a fantastic improvised ‘pan holder’ made out of just a pallet and a chain. We also have enough herbs and spices to make sure the things coming out of the kitchen are things we want to eat. And to add to this, two of my flatmates have recently taken an interest in growing their own herbs and vegetables, which seem to be flourishing nicely.

Of course, I’d love one day to have  a nice, big, eclectic kitchen like these…

The kitchens I love are the ones with soul and character- give me a higgledy piggledy, lived-in kitchen with the personal touch over a stainless steel, premium kitchen any day. But that’s a long way off for me yet…

In the mantime, hopefully there will be plenty of recipes coming out of my new kitchen that I can share with you  here.  My first home cooked meal in my new flat? Some delicious smoky pork tacos, served with avocado salad and a tasty glass Malbec, perfect for a relaxed Saturday night in.

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You can find the recipe here:  http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2121655/smoky-pork-and-black-bean-tacos

I highly recommend it, though I suggest adding a good handful of fresh red chilli into the mix along with the onions for a kick!

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Band of the Week #1: Half Moon Run

One of life’s pleasures for me is seeking out new music- I can quite happily lose hours to Soundcloud and Spotify, exploring new and old releases I haven’t heard before.  It’s part of the modern world to curate our own soundtracks now and although some people criticise the ‘throw-away’ attitude many people now have to music, I think it’s fantastic that we are freer than ever to dig out things that suit our tastes that might not necessarily be number one in the charts or bands who haven’t yet been NME’s flavour of the month.

So, I’ve decided to try and share a new discovery each week with you- I can’t guarantee it will be an obscure choice but I assure you that my picks will always be something I’ve been enjoying and would like to share.

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Half Moon Run

Canadian band Half Moon Run are about to have their time. Fact. Their latest single, ‘Full Circle’ has already been picked up for plenty of airtime on the radio station of music affecionados,  BBC 6 Music . The summery feel to their music should help push them into the limelight in the UK (and a tour with the Mumfords won’t do them any harm in terms of publicity.)

Although they only really seem to have released ‘Full Circle’ in the U.K. sofar, they’ve recently signed to Glassnote for a full global release for their debut album DARK EYES in 2013 but if you’re keen and don’t want to wait, you can listen to it in full online here: http://halfmoonrun.bandcamp.com/  I’ve really been enjoying Full Circle but ‘Give Up’ is also a standout track for me- a dreamy (and undeniably Radiohead-esque) track.

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