thoughts: nigella’s avocado on toast

I saw something in the news this morning about Nigella Lawson getting a bit of flak on Twitter for featuring a recipe for avocado on toast on her newest recipes, Simply Nigella.

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Picture: BBC

Does a bit of smashed avo on bread really constitute a recipe? Probably not, but in Nigella’s defence, it wasn’t just avocado on toast, it was a mini work of art. Granted, avocado is a wonderful subject matter to spread on toast; it’s naturally creamy, it blends so perfectly with sweet or salty components and it oh so healthy if you’re into that sort of thing.

Simply Nigella is about taking everything a step back; so many cooking shows are becoming so extravagant when I think they really should be showing people how to cook delicious, yet simple meals at home. No one is going to watch a TV show to learn to make a croque-en-bouche.

Even though Nigella’s recipe was simple, it was by no means the simplest avocado on toast presentation I have seen. She compliments with avocado’s soft flavour with zingy lime juice and dill, topping it off with crunchy radish slices.

If anything, I think we should commend the woman on being so enthusiastic about breakfast; if I was that peppy in the mornings, imagine what I could achieve with my day!

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blogging201: update

The whirlwind that was Blogging201 ended (over) a month ago. In and out in a flash, we all did a bunch of soul-searching and blog-building, and made a lot of promises to the blogisphere that we may or may not have kept – I know I did!

To acknowledge what I have done, and what I said I was going to do, I have gone through the posts I published to assess the progress I have made.

Twitter:
After unfollowing all the people I didn’t actually care for, and following a few food related favourites, I made a pact with myself to post at least one tweet a day. I started off with the commitment and discipline of every New Year’s Resolution ever made, and I have stayed relatively strong in my challenge, I may miss the occasional day or three but I have definitely improved. And also, Nigella tweeted me. Win!

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Blogging events:
I really wanted to get involved in a monthly group blogging chain, but the one that I found that I loved the sound of, seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. I added it to the list of tags I follow, but none of the posts that follow seem to be on the right track. I might have to work on this one!

Branding:
In an attempt to continue my path towards world domination, I decided a logo was a great next step in forming my brand. We are halfway there on this and it doesn’t seem to be moving along at great speed. This could be because the designer is my little brother, and I’m not paying him to do it. My own fault really.

Blogging contributors:
A great way of adding an extra dash of perspective to any blog, I was (and still am!) really keen to write posts for other people’s blogs and to feature others on mine. I did a post on balancing a desire to travel on In Between Moderation – it was so interesting to look at an idea with someone else’s point of view in mind.

I know these things take time, but I think it is important to keep our long term goals at the forefront of our thoughts. Otherwise we just put them on the backburner and eventually they just fizzle out.

cleaning out my (twitter) closet

Who knew that a social media cull would be this tenuous? And why am I having such anxiety about unfollowing complete strangers, that I know don’t know I even follow them and that I know I don’t really care what they have to say?

Week two of Blogging 201 begins with a challenge to delve into a social media platform to expand your blog and online voice. I dabbled in thinking about this in week one, but now is no longer the time for thinking, it is the time for doing. As a person who liked to plan, and likes to procrastinate, I often find myself taking the ‘all or nothing’ approach – I think about things that are really good to do, but if I don’t go in all guns blazing, my good intentions kind of fizzle.

So today I have decided I am going to do a complete overhaul of my Twitter account. I think I have justified to myself that my personal Twitter is sufficient (if anyone disagrees with me, please speak up!), but I am going to rework, reword and refollow ONLY the pages I think are of utmost importance.

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People I struggled to unfollow – basically every celebrity there ever was.it was hard, even though I don’t particularly have an interest in what any of the Kardashians are currently thinking. I first got twitter at high school, so a lot of the people I followed were people that interested me at high school, or that I knew from there and have since lost contact with. It was hard at first, but I had soon whittled my way down to just 60 tweeters.

Like I said before, I started using Twitter in high school, and haven’t used it much since, so my knowledge base it a little bit lacking; does Twitter use hashtags? How does something start trending? What is the actual aim?

To increase my knowledge in a way that isn’t just reading about it, I have decided to set myself a challenge; at least one tweet every day until Twitter stops being a thing, it will probably usually be food related, but that is not a strict criteria, it could just be a thought.

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The last step was to choose who I actually want to follow, luckily the suggestion menu is now made entirely of foodies. Ruth Reichl was an obvious addition as I am currently her biggest fan but I want to veer away from the big famous names and magazine pages. Who are your favourite people to follow? Do you think I would like your tweets? If you are into food, travel or are extremely funny, leave me your Twitter name in the comments and I will check it out!

ode to julia child

As I sit here on my balcony looking out at the beautiful sunny, Southern-French weather, it occurred to me that I have been here for almost a month. How time flies!

Marseille is a lot different to Paris, although in some ways, also very similar. Like Paris, the food is also amazing and the sightseeing is great. People here also ignore the traffic lights and pedestrian crossing and don’t seem to really mind when people walk out in front of their cars. But what I have found to be so different is the complete lack of anything English. I don’t think I have seen a sign in English since I got here apart from at a very cafés that are aimed at tourists… which means they are terribly overpriced.

So, basically since I have arrived in Marseille I have filled my time with sightseeing; mainly a lot of old churches and palatial buildings, which I have enjoyed a lot. I have yet to get over the amazement I feel every time I see how old some of these buildings are. There is a fort here and parts of it are 1000 years old. Crazy times. Marseille is also the European Culture Capital for 2013 so there are lots of cool and quirky events scattered throughout the year; there was a fire  festival the other week which was really exciting, but unfortunately it didn’t photograph well.marseille collage

As a sort of initiation into French life, I dared myself to try a traditional French dish; and what better inspiration than Meryl Streep and Amy Adam’s Movie Julie and Julia? So I set out to make Bœuf Bourguignon (it’s the one that Amy Adams makes for the food writer who never turns up, the one that she ruins in her first attempt).

Luckily for me, my attempt went nothing like the character’s first attempt. it went off without a hitch and it was delicious! Now, I must confess, I did not use Julia Child’s recipe, as I am on a budget, I used Rachel Khoo’s recipe (@rkhooks on Twitter or rachelkhoo.com) but I assure you that most of the recipes are rather similar.

Anyway, what you will need is:
900grams of stewing beef, cut into about 6 or 8 chunks and coated in plain flour
150grams of lardons (smoked bacon or prosciutto will also work)
10 shallots
a couple of crushed garlic clovesSAM_0229
a bay leaf (if you have them)
the stalks of a bunch of fresh parsley
a sprig of thyme and/or rosemary (I used thyme)
3 cloves (once again, if you have them)
10 crushed peppercorns
500mls of red wine (about 3/4 of a bottle)
tomato puree
a teaspoon of salt and another of sugar
10 button mushrooms
chopped parsley for presentation

STEP ONE (well my step one anyway): Go out and buy a nice bottle of olive oil, a cute bottle of bay leaves and a bottle of French wine. Firstly, wine in France is so, so cheap! Secondly, when buying wine to cook with, don’t think that you have to go for an expensive bottle, I always use cheap wine in cooking because it is all about the flavours the wine has in it; the quality doesn’t matter when it gets cooked. To avoid any unneeded stress in the middle of cooking, I suggest that you open the wine before you start. Back home, wine bottle have screw-tops, I didn’t even think that French bottles aren’t the same and my lack of knowledge on uncorking a bottle  caused me to have a little bit of a breakdown and I may have contemplated smashing to top of the bottle, I didn’t, but I was tempted.

SAM_0232STEP TWO (or actual step one): Turn the oven to 150°C and heat a bit of olive oil in a casserole dish or a pot that can go in the oven. Brown the meat on each side and set aside  but keep the oil. Add the lardons, the shalloSAM_0233ts and the garlic and cook until the lardons are brown and slightly crispy.

STEP THREE: Add the herbs (the thyme, rosemary, parsley stems, peppercorns and cloves) and return the meat to the pot. Add the salt and sugar, 300mls of water and the wine. I also added a couple to diced carrots because I had a craving for carrots, it wasn’t in the original recipe but it did no harm. Scrape any bits that are stuck to the bottom off the pan to add extra flavour.

STEP FOUR: Cover the pot and put it in the oven. Leave it to cook for about 3 hours, the meat should be falling apart a little bit and really tender. Add the mushrooms about 30minutes before you take it out of the oven.

STEP FIVE: Serving suggestions. I served mine with mash potatoes because I thought that would be the best for absorbing up all of the delicious juices. You could also use plain boiled potatoes, dumplings or just a nice loaf of crusty bread (which I did as well). Serve with a nice bottle of red wine, or just drink the leftovers from the bottle you cooked with.

Voilà! A delicious, tradational French feast in only five steps, Julia would be proud!

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