Archive for May, 2007

A RECIPE: Lemon Victoria sponge cake

There are certain things that I just can’t resist getting my nose into. No, I’m not referring to getting my nose in other people’s business (although I won’t deny that I do like a good sniff of gossip every now and then). What I mean is that I just can’t help myself when it comes smelling. An open bag of coffee, newly washed towels in the morning, Bolognese bubbling on the stove, tomatoes on the vine, fresh cut grass, rain on hot tarmac, brushing your hand through a hedge of lavender, garlic browning in oil. I even have a few guilty really guilty smells- like diverting my route home past the entrance to Subway just so I can breathe in the super-sweet smell of their bread. Like a pig in a trough my nose leads me astray, diving into whatever smell that takes its fancy. If only it led me to the treadmill with such gusto.

I had a cold last week, which clogged up my sinuses like hair in a drain and no matter how many chili flakes I sprinkled on my food or how many eucalyptus steams I did- I just couldn’t budge it. I couldn’t smell or taste anything- my guilty pleasure blown away in one flying snot rocket. I even caught myself tucking into Wasabi peas (which is dislike immensely) without batting an eyelid. I was no longer eating for pleasure; I was eating for the sake of eating. I found myself falling into a deep state of depression- this potentially meant weeks of lost taste buds! What if they never came back? I may as well live on celery and come out of this whole debacle thin!

Back at work, I was a mess. I couldn’t smell that I’d left the gas on the stove. I couldn’t smell my pine nuts burning in the oven. I couldn’t tell if the garlic in my sauce was fresh. Everything that I naturally did in the kitchen was affected by my chronic nasal impairment. The first thing my boyfriend always says as he walks through the front door is: “mmmm, smells good.” Well- trained? Perhaps. But whilst I will usually nod in agreement as I shove him (somewhat) affectionately out of my tiny kitchen; this past week- I lost my marbles. “Does it?!” I raged as I waved my celery stick sword at him. “Good, great. I’m so pleased you can smell this! I hope it tastes like ****!”

Overly dramatic, you’re thinking. I’m not so sure. When I think about it (which as I’ve not been cooking I’ve had a lot of time to do) smell and taste are imprinted in so many of my memories. I regularly smell my childhood walking down the street, ex-boyfriends cologne on the subway, the smell that summer is on its way, that winter is here. And each time I’m reminded of someone or something, I’m reminded of the foods that I associate with that memory. So now you can see my depression. Not only was I bereft of current smell/taste sensations I was also to be denied of any past memories too.

Coming out of this cold was as rewarding as a bottle of water at the end of a long-distance race- well almost. I could feel my senses becoming stronger as I neared my allergy-free finishing line. My thirst for flavours drove me on and made me more and more determined to get this damn cold over and done with. I crossed that final hurdle in the queue at Whole Foods. Two nostrils blowing into a tissue in harmonic unison- the twist and fizzing sound of my lime seltzer water as I removed the cap. Head back as I felt the cool bubbles tingle in my mouth and down my throat. And there it was- that subtle lime-flavour that I had missed out on all week. Water had never tasted so good. My life was back.

I leave you with a recipe that my mother used to make when I was as a child- coming home from school to the smell of this in the oven is something hard to forget- even with a blocked nose.
Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Lemon Victoria sponge cake’

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Not a Turkey in Turkey to gobble.

When I select a place to go on holiday I spend very little time worrying about what sights there are to see, what language I will have to grapple with or what foreign coins I will have to get my head around. My only concerns are quite simply the food and the weather (I’m well advised that Vitamin D is imperative for healthy bones). I go on holiday to rescue my bones from imminent sun-denied decay and to exercise my jaw. Unlike my usual neurotically organised self I left my planning for this holiday to the very last minute. That is to say three days before my departure, I spent a morning tapping into Google and making some very urgent decisions. The weather in Europe was largely sub par, except for in Turkey, so that was that; and after a brief touch down in London I was off to gobble gobble (pun definitely intended) my way around Turkey.

This left me with a mere 2.5 days to daydream, night dream and work dream about what I treats I would get to sample during my trip- meze of hummus, halloumi, taramasalata, pita bread, feta cheese, tabbouleh, shish kebabs, Turkish delight. I haven’t eaten Turkish food since I arrived in New York and so I recklessly got carried away with my enthusiasm. In short, I was going to have to swim a LOT of laps in the hotel pool to keep up with my incorrigible food drive. In London I lived near Edgware road- a Mecca for those seeking Lebanese and Turkish food but now I was going to get to enjoy the delights of Turkey in Turkey.

Or so I thought. My trip to Turkey was hardly the culinary adventure that I had been craving. It started in Istanbul where I did get to sample the tastiest Turkish delight ever. Never a fan before, I was now munching like my life depended on it. Little did I know that once I flew to Bodrum- it probably would. Note to self- procrastination in holiday booking is not to be repeated. Bodrum was a Mecca for those in the general public who find nothing more delightful than a grotty doner kebab (aka Diners Often Need Emergency Resuscitation) or soggy pizza for lunch. Every restaurant looked the same and every restaurant served the same old uninspiring fairground fare. And thus is why I was forced to eat ice cream and Turkish delight everyday for lunch, which really wasn’t so devastating, despite the unavoidable afternoon sugar crash.

There was one good meal though- in a lovely remote village called Gumusluk where I chose my own sea bass and had it cooked on the BBQ. Just the bass and the lemon were on the plate- and it was sublime. Eating fish this fresh is simply unreal. Turkey is a beautiful country and had I been allowed more time to explore I’m sure I would have uncovered some more gems.

Several plane journeys later and I’m back in New York- hungrily looking for that perfect place to find meze. But in the meantime I’m trying to recreate the taste of Turkey, as I remember it (if not from Turkey, then from London).
Continue reading ‘Not a Turkey in Turkey to gobble.’


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