Occasional Foodiness

We do a fair bit of cooking but I haven’t bothered to write much about it here since cooking is hardly a novelty to either of us. For the same reason, I have hardly any photos of the stuff we’ve cooked so far, because taking a photograph of my food before eating it would just never occur to me. But since my sister was crouching over our baked fish, snapping away like the keen food photographer she’s become, I thought I’d try my hand at it too, and am quite happy with the result.

It’s fish baked Greek style with dill, tomatoes and potatoes, from a Nigel Slater recipe. We used kurau (threadfin) steaks, and the dill is from our makeshift balcony herb garden. It’s a pretty great recipe because you hardly have to do anything – you chuck potatoes, onions and garlic in a baking tray with olive oil, bake for 10 minutes (180C), add the fish on top and surround it with tomatoes, season with herbs, lemon juice, salt and pepper, bake for 35 minutes more and it comes out perfect.

Apart from that, we also made chicken piccata and roasted aubergine, tomato and chickpea soup, and much credit for the delicious success of those dishes goes to the reliability of Elise’s recipes. My mum made braised cabbage with wholegrain mustard, which went very well with everything else, and I whipped up apple, pear and banana smoothies for dessert. It was probably the easiest, cheapest, least stressful, most universally successful dinner party we’ve ever done. And contrary to Alec’s yuppie parody, I can assure you that all ingredients (except the chickpeas, weirdly, we needed Cold Storage for those) can be purchased in NTUC Marine Parade.

Not Quite Nigella

It is probably advisable, when throwing a dinner party on Friday, to decide you’re doing it a little earlier than Thursday.

I don’t really know what I was expecting when I decided, in a fit of festive benevolence, that I’d throw some sort of dinner party at my flat in an attempt to celebrate the end of term and general Christmassiness in a more sophisticated way than getting pissed at the union. It was a tentative idea at first, more tadpole than frog, and could quite possibly have been abandoned soon after as more trouble than it was worth. And then we arrived at Michael’s basement palace in Kensington for his Christmas party, and there were candles, and an improvised cloakroom, and people in nice clothes, and chocolate fondue, and all of a sudden I thought I too could be Nigella Lawson.

So I got home (having earlier called a few friends who gamely agreed to take the plunge), settled myself down with our cookbook collection and a Crispy Strip (chocolate fondue isn’t really filling), inserted a finger up my arse, and started tugging.

[Clarity note: this doesn’t refer to what I eventually served at the dinner party. That would be disgusting. It’s just that I commonly refer to embarking on an enterprise for which I am ill-suited and have no real knowledge or skill for as “pulling something out of my arse”. Brits will understand.]

Morning came. I tidied my room. Went out and bought groceries. Lugged everything home. Cooked. I was planning on crudites (unfortunately named, I’ve always thought) and dip for everyone to munch on while I was finishing cooking, and a bizarre mixture of Thai beef salad, chicken, aubergine and chick pea curry, spinachy garlicky rice, and paratha, for the main meal. Nav brought chocolate cake. Gwen brought wine. Alec brought wine, ice-cream, interior decorating resourcefulness (a folded bedsheet with coloured napkins on top for the tablecloth) and general sweetness and reliability in helping to fight fires (I mean this literally as well as figuratively).

I’d even invested in crackers and festively hued serviettes.

We started at nine, an hour after the time I’d told people to come for, which was annoying to my perfectionist’s soul, but still fairly on par with most other dinner parties I’ve been to, so I won’t scourge myself for it. All I can say for the quality of the food was that I thoroughly enjoyed it – the Thai beef salad actually lived up to the immense trouble it was to make, the chicken absorbed the flavours of the curry and wasn’t dry, and while some mistakes I made with the rice meant it could have been a lot better, it still tasted good to me. As for what my guests thought, or the state of their digestive systems the next morning, I can only vouch for Alec (whose cooking credentials far surpass mine, which made his thumbs-up all the more gratifying), but the absence of lawsuits thus far indicates they were at least not too negatively affected.

The party ended around three in the morning. I spent Saturday nursing my headache and cleaning the place up.

Would I do it again? I’m not sure. I don’t regret having done it, but it was a lot of effort for the benefit of a very small number of people. I think my energies might be better directed towards world domination.

Dinner Parties And DJ Shadow Gigs

The frustrating thing is that while I was drifting through the world on autopilot (see previous post) I was actually doing lots of fun things, which I probably didn’t appreciate as fully as they deserved.

We had a dinner party of sorts on Friday – Tamara pulled off an impressive three-course feat a few weeks ago, and Alec wanted to return the favour. Avril, Chris, Kevin and me were just along for the ride, although I must mention that I tried to make myself useful in the kitchen by clearing rubbish, handing him things, and unsuccessfully breadcrumbing the bacon. (Note to self: must really make an effort to do the same at some point, although given current level of culinary skill, would be better off buying ready-meals from M&S and pretending to have cooked them.)

On Saturday we (me, Alec, Benny, assorted others) headed south to see DJ Shadow at the Brixton Academy. We missed the first two opening acts (Fingathing and Beanz from Antipop Consortium), which I was fairly disappointed about, because I had a feeling I’d have liked them more than Soulwax, who were good novelty fun but didn’t really get me dancing except for when they played Kool Thing (Sonic Youth) and It’s Hot In Here (Nelly, and I’m not ashamed). I’ve never really taken to The Prodigy’s Outer Space, and was even less fond of it last night when it prompted Wanker Lad behind me to convulsing, elbow-jabbing heights of ecstasy.

Shadow put on a good show, but as DJ gigs go I had more fun at Orbital, and still remember the Scratch Perverts being very much the shit when I saw them at Fabric Live a few years ago. To be fair, factors beyond his control were at work. When I hear a hip-hop beat I want to dance – by this logic, I would obviously have wanted to dance at many points during his performance. The problem is that he doesn’t really make the sort of hip-hop I like dancing to, he makes the sort of music I listen to on cold, late nights alone in my room, Organ Donor cascading down from the speakers and feeling like I’m the only one awake in the world to hear it. So I was torn, I guess. The atmosphere at the venue tempted me into dancing, but when I did I wasn’t really dancing the way I like to dance. I was also too short to be able to fully appreciate his visuals from where I was in the crowd, though what I saw of them when I craned my neck or tiptoed was good.

But as I said, none of that was his fault. He put in a solidly competent performance, included new spins on album tracks, and built a good rapport with the crowd, and I suppose that’s everything you want from a DJ gig. If I’d seen it before I left Singapore to come to the UK it would have absolutely blown my mind. After three years here, I recognize quality when I see it – and Shadow was most definitely quality – but I’ve also seen a lot of it, and I guess it’s hard to make me gibber these days, which I must say is worrying. Having said that, the next gig on the agenda is Fugazi (Nov 3), which will probably succeed in the gibbering sweepstakes, even if only because I am likely to spend most of it crushed to an inch of my life between sweaty, bald, tattooed hardcore punks.