Craig Gibbons' Lifeblog lifeblog://tri.eat.net

29Nov/040

Beet, Avocado and Fried Halloumi Salad

Halloumi is a strange sort of cheese, it's quite rubbery and tasteless when eaten plain, but by simply applying a moderate amount of heat to some chunks in a pan with a little olive oil, the true inner flavour starts to really come out, just like a blossoming flower... or some equally cliche'd idea along those lines. While you can then apply these deliciously chewy salty chunks to any number of snacks, but my favourite is this salad... although in fairness, I am a beet fiend, substitute something else like finely chopped celery if you are beet-averse, then chastise yourself severely for having poorly developed tastebuds. You'll need the following:

1 Bag mixed leaves
1 Bag Rocket
1 Bag Watercress
300g Rosa cherry tomatoes (or any other if you can't get Rosa)
Half a cucumber
1 large avocado
5 Medium sized beets
200g Halloumi

50g sprouts (optional)
1/2 Red Onion (optional)

Fry the halloumi gently in a pan with a little olive oil but be careful not to burn it. The whole process should only take a few minutes and when you're done, the halloumi should be golden brown on at least 2 sides. Place on some kitchen paper towel to soak up any excess oil and wait for the pieces to cool. In a large salad bowl, place all the leaves in whatever quantity you like, I prefer more rocket than anything else, then halve the cherry totatoes and add those in along with the cucumber. Slice the beets into sixths, quarters are a little hard to swallow and eigths are almost not there, sixths are perfect. Slice the avocado into roughly inch long pieces of about a centimeter in thickness and throw those in. Lastly, make sure the halloumi is cool and throw those in. Toss well and serve with a basic homemade dressing. Perfect.

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29Nov/040

Go Nocturnal – the Nike Run London 10km Night Race

The Nike Run London 10Km (thats about 6.2 miles for those dinosaurs still on the imperial system) race took place last night (Sunday November 28th 2004) in decidedly chilly conditions (circa 5º by my best estimate). 30,000 very yellow-clad psycho's, erm, i mean runners, lined up to run the course starting at Surray Quays Shopping Centre, round the bend past Rotherhithe and then on to a bit of a pretsel over and around Tower Bridge then back towards Southwark for the finish (see map). Having never raced over more than a mere 5Km, I was still looking for a reasonably good time, around 35 - 40 minutes, but knew people traffic was going to hold me up quite a bit, at least in the beginning. Starting in the second of 5 waves (6,000 runners in each) I figured on being able to make steady progress through the hordes as long as i got into a resonably good starting position near the front of my wave, unfortunately, there were about 3000 more dilligent people who braved the freezing cold far longer than I to secure a position nearer the front. Despite this little hickup, it was still a great run and I managed to make very good progress by narrowly missing spectators on the sidewalks to get past the initial masses and out onto the more open sections of the course. The website says my finishing position is 134 in a time of 37 minutes and 27 seconds. Thanks to my lurvely girlfriend Laura for being a big help and fantastic support on the day.

UPDATE: The runlondon.com website has released the finishing line footage, watch it here. Note: Windows Media Player is required.

29Nov/040

My perfect little ramekins

When making creme brulee it's important to have really attractive little ramekins, after all, presentation is everything. I used to have a set of simple white ones but apart from being about as pedestrian as crockery can get, they were just not of the requisite thickness and quality to make the consumer of the brulee feel special. 2 weeks ago, when faced with the prospect of preparing a creme brulee from a recipe I found on Chocolate & Zucchini, I immidiately went in search of the perfect little ramekins and quite fortuitously didn't have to go far to find them. These beauties are made by Le Creuset of France and are exactly what I was looking for but didn't know it until I found them. They are the perfect combination of ceramic and burnt orange and have a handy lip about two thirds of the way up the ramekin which is the precise level the mix should be poured up to when making a creme brulee.

http://www.lecreuset.fr/

29Nov/040

Basic salad dressing

Most of the time I like to make my own salad dressings if I can help it, it's quick to do and you can have it exactly the way you like it... oh, it's also quite impressive when having a dinner party. After experimenting with a few different ideas here and there, this is my basic dressing which pretty much just can't go wrong, or at least, hasn't gone wrong so far. You will need the following, which you already have lurking in your kitchen cupboards someplace right? ...right?

2 lugs Olive oil
3 lugs Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon Honey
half teaspoon Pepper

How you like to make this dressing is really up to you so you should vary the ingredient amounts as you like, but in general, the quantities as above should do you fine.

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29Nov/040

La Famiglia

Laura took me on a bona fide date on Saturday night (27th November 2004) to a charming Italian restaurant in Chelsea called La Famiglia. We made reservations for 7:15PM and arrived to find we were just about the only people in the place, but no matter, it is as I said, a charming little spot, with tiled walls and floors which curiously somehow lend warmth to the overall ambience of the place. The waiters were very Italian, the maitre d' was very Italian and quite a few of the patrons were very Italian, always a very good sign. We ordered a bottle of red from the Montepulciano region which was completely delicious and proceeded with a classic Caprese salad for starters, simple in it's flavours and elegantly presented before moving onto mains. I ordered the Spaghetti Scogliari, an excellent seafood pasta consisting of muscles, prawns, calamari and I am sure some other ocean fare in a tomato based sauce with a hint of chilli, just enough to provide the requisite 'bite' to each, erm, bite. Laura decided on the veal which was done to perfection. Looking up at this point, I noticed not a table available in the entire place and several very envious people loitering around the door, lustily eyeing our table. The side vegetables were equallly good, we ordered some steamed broccoli (also mildly infused with a gentle amount of chilli) and some steamed spinach which was, well, steamed... and spinach, no surprises here, but exactly what we were after. The desert cart was the highlight of the evening though and were I several thousand calories in the black, I would no doubt have gotten heavily involved in at least 3 of those decadencies. After some deliberation, we eventuially settled on something, the name of which now escapes me (just another reason to go back I guess), which was nothing short of perfection. On the whole, La Famiglia is a win, for it's ambience, for it's authenticity and for it's sheer quality dining experience.

http://www.lafamiglia.co.uk

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26Nov/040

Book: Shogun ~ James Clavell

This book is a total winner. First recommended to me by my housemate Mark, I thought i'd give it a go despite the tube incompatible 1200 pages of sheer literary girth. From the get-go this is a gripping read and over the course of the next 1199 pages, the reader is at no time at a loss as to the storyline or indeed when one shall again find time to read the next chapter. Truth is, this is a true page-turner, you make time. I found myself sneaking out of the office during lunchtime, ostensibly to do something important only to find myself in a corner in Starbucks with a full grande skinny cappuccino, cold with neglect and I weeping with delight as I poured over the remaining pages, consuming them like a Xerox copy machine and almost as fast. The storyline is long, complex and intensely interesting, letting up only for a moment here and there to let the reader take a well deserved break. The story follows approximately the sequence of events as experienced through the eyes of an English sailor, John Blackthorne, from the time he and his crew are stranded somewhere on the northern islands of Japan. War, peace, deception, love and hate, it's got it all in epic proportions. This one goes on the top 10 all time favourites. Buy it from Amazon.co.uk here.

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26Nov/040

Book: Bridget Jones – The Edge of Reason ~ Helen Fielding

Let's face it, this is to books what chic-flicks are to movies, but hey, I needed something to read on the Eurostar from London to Paris a few weeks back and grabbed the first thing that looked recognisable on the W.H.Smith shelves. In retrospect there were several other better options, but I thought, oh well what the hey, i'll get Bridget only because of that one scene in the first movie when Mark Darcy and Daniel Clever get into a fight in the street and the gay guy runs into the Greek (i think) restaurant and says, in the way only a gay man can say, "Fight, FIGHT", you know the scene. Anyways, it's a quick read, but only because it totally lacks substance and intrigue. Whoever said all those nice things on the back cover of the book (who knows, the Times, Cosmo etc.) must be personal friends of Helen Fielding. Not only is the storyline frustratingly predictable, but also a practical replica of the original storyline, loads of calories, loads of drinks and loads of cigarettes. In short, don't worry yourself about purchasing a copy, you can have mine.

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24Nov/040

Domaine Bouchard Pere & Fils – Beaune Clos de la Mousse 2000

These fine bottles of pure Bordeaux brilliance are at this very moment resting comfortably in my flat in London, awaiting a discerning wine drinker to bask in their ruby hues. Laura (my lurvely girlfriend) and I spent a weekend in Paris (5 - 7 November) and had dinner one evening at a fine restaurant called Le Train Bleu (http://www.le-train-bleu.com/) from what I can gather, one of Paris' older and more well established restaurants... and with good reason. This second-empire styled venue with very ornate frescos is housed in Paris' Gare de Lyon train station. They specialise in traditional French cuisine, if you're looking for anything cutting edge, you won't find it here... but I can vouch for the fact that they are generous in the extreme on their portions and apart from a small incident actually entering the building, namely, the door being locked, it was one of the finer dining experiences i've had thus far. After finishing off a bottle of Pommery champagne, we asked the waiter, who was very helpful by all accounts, to recommend a wine to compliment our main course, he flipped directly to the desired page and pointed, we agreed and moments later it was uncorked and being tasted. Clearly, no further explanation is required, it was pure excellence, hence the 6 bottles (oops, is it only 5 now?) sitting in my flat.

You can purchase this wine (minumum order of 6) from everywine.co.uk

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24Nov/040

The birthday of Laura H – 17th November 2004

How fast birthdays seem to roll round every year. This year, Laura held her birthday dinner at Golborne House on 35 Golborne Road, Kensal Town. The details are a little hazy after the first hour but this gastro pub put on a fine selection of dishes, I can highly recommend the Thai Fish Cakes for starters, served with a fusionesque mango and sweet chilli relish of sorts, brilliant! Later on the birthday girl got the traditional birthday cake treatment, see pic. Of course for such a social butterfly, no single birthday celebration is enough to ease the pain of adding another digit, so the full celebration, inner and outer circle this time, takes place at the ever exclusive Cobden Club this Friday (26th November 2004). Apologies for slightly poor picture quality, still... not bad for a Nokia 7610.

Happy Birthday Laura!

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16Nov/040

New 2005 Calendar

I thought this day would never come, but here it is, finally. After 10 years of calendar free life organisation (and I use the word 'organisation' in the loosest of ways), I have purchased a calendar and have every intention of actually writing stuff in it! Yup, this sucker has a page for every day of the year, a tube map, some notes pages and even a list of public holidays. Never again will I have to ask, excuse me, how many days does April have... no sniggers please from those of you out there who know how many days April has because I know now too... even if I do have to look in my new Diary, take that! The giant colourful sticker on the front of this otherwise extremely bland looking diary is from a website I ordered a very swish D&G jacket off some weeks ago called Yoox.com and is there for no other reason than to keep me from doodling with a pen on the front when waiting for a bus or tube to arrive. Let the organisation begin!

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