Tag Archives: fish

Lunching out: Barrafina

I have mentioned before I have a huge extended family – lots of cousins, second cousins, third cousins once removed, aunts, uncles and other non-blood but still family, family members. And I love it, it’s great to be part of a big old clan that’s spread out across the world.

However, my darling husband has a much smaller clan so I think the shock of becoming part of mine took a while to get used to but they do love him dearly (and I think he’s quite fond of them!) This week by way of making up for the amount of time he spends with my lot, I made plans to hang out with his elder sister, Joy.  Joy and I share a lot of the same interests so it’s lovely having a new friend to hang out with, And when I say the same interests, I mean we both love food and we don’t mind a glass of something winey to go with it. We’re simple folk.

We decided to have a day out in town, the theory was a spot of lunch followed by a bit of culture. However, we got our gossip hats on and ended up two bottles of wine down with our only nod to culture being a swift peruse of the beautiful clothes in Cos. Where I’ve found what may be the perfect dress for Marcel’s other sister’s wedding this Autumn, isn’t it lovely? Such an awesome colour and a cute pleat in the back. (sorry for the crappy screen capture image but follow the link above to see it).

cos dress

But lunch was incredible, despite the lack of culture – we got to Barrafina just before midday and were first in the queue so we knew we’d get a seat. We started with a glass of txakoli whilst we listened to the specials and made our way through the menu.

If you’ve never been to Barrafina before, it’s a beautiful little tapas place in the centre of Soho that seats about 20 around an L-shaped counter so you have to get there early if you don’t want to queue. The food is never less than amazing – I don’t think I’ve had anything I don’t like there. The bar is placed around the cooking stations, so you can watch food being prepared and perv over the attractive staff. Not that we did that of course, we’re much too sophisticated. Honest.

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So we decided to go with a couple of the specials and a couple of old favourites from the menu. We ordered the chiparones, a fennel, radish and cherry tomato salad, the ribs, an amazing tempura monkfish and a dish made up of three of my favourite all time ingredients – chickpeas, bacon and spinach. What’s not to love?

The chiparones were the first to arrive, which is always good because they’re the perfect snacking food. Little bite sized morsels of squid, with a little squeeze of lemon – just lovely. I would say they needed a smidge more seasoning but I do like salt a little too much so that could just be my palate, and also it’s not one of those places that refuses to give you salt or pepper to add. So not really a complaint.

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We then got the monkfish with the fennel salad – a perfect partnership. The monkfish is one of those dishes I’d have as my final meal – lightly tempura-ed, covered in a spicy mango salsa – every mouthful was a delight, just beautiful. And it went perfectly with the fennel salad, which was fresh and clean and elegant. Even the tomatoes and we know I’m not a big fan of tomatoes.

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The chickpeas came next with the ribs. I think the ribs were the biggest disappointment, and even they were still good. I think we hadn’t quite considered how big it would be and whilst they were cooked perfectly and the meat came off the bones easily, the sauce was a little too sweet – I think I should learn to listen to the specials more closely, rather than being blinded by pig. I also forgot to take a picture until we’d started digging in so this is half way through eating.

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The chickpeas, bacon and spinach were in a light broth, perfectly spiced and seasoned. With a few chunks of bread to mop up all the incredible sauces (and a carafe of Albarino to keep us chatty), it was a great way to while away a couple of hours on a rainy Thursday afternoon. Looking forward to my next day out with my sister in law!

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Simple suppers and sick cats

This week has been a little hectic not least because it kicked off with a Monday morning visit to the vet. Our cat’s been an utter nightmare for a couple of weeks, for lots of reasons but mostly because she’s been bullied by a naughty neighbourhood tom who managed to sneak in through the cat flap and help himself to her food. Naturally, this has made her incredibly stressed so she’s been leaving hugely unpleasant cat reminders all over our home to make sure we know about it. We’ve now filled our home with Feliways to make her feel calmer and it seems to be working – she’s still a little insane but there’s no poop in the dining room so fingers crossed she’s feeling calmer. I mean, she doesn’t exactly look stressed anymore, huh?

She looks much happier now.

With all that and everything else happening this week, I’ve not really had a chance to go to the supermarket so have been relying on the darkest corners of the fridge, freezer and pantry to make supper. And because it finally feels like Spring is here, I’ve been trying to watch what I eat a little more. So this week has mostly been about soups and simple stews. And I can’t stop buying daffodils to spring up the house. They’re so pretty.

Spring on my window

After the supperclub, I froze a leftover pork loin. It had been marinaded in coriander, garlic and cumin, then roasted for about 12 minutes, till the internal temperature reached 68C. I defrosted it, sliced it thinly and decided to make a pork, mushroom and cabbage soup. I fried some ginger, chilli and garlic till all soft, then added a couple of pints of water, with a little fish sauce, soy sauce, a tsp of sugar and salt, and let that simmer for about 6-7 minutes so all the flavours infused the stock. I then threw in half a finely shredded savoy cabbage and a handful of sliced mushrooms, before adding the pork (remember it was already cooked so didn’t need long) and cooking the whole lot for about 10 minutes.Finished it with a handful of fresh coriander. I was going to add noodles to the mix but I forgot. Don’t think we needed it though – was lovely, light and the whole thing took less than 20 minutes to make. I forgot to take a photo but trust me, it was good shit.

Then on Wednesday night, my wino had been away for a couple of nights so I made a meal that he’d like and that I was a bit meh about. That’s love, that is.

I decided to make a fake ratatouille as we had a lot of leftover tomatoes and a couple of courgettes that were a couple of days from being thrown away. I don’t really like courgettes (or tomatoes) but I do hate waste. I served it with fennel and thyme pan fried cod. Ratatouille recipe below.

Pan Roasted Cod

Courgettes, peppers, chickpeas in a tomato and herb sauce

  • 15 ripe cherry tomatoes (or 5 normal sized ones)
  • 2 courgettes
  • 1 red pepper
  • 5 mushrooms
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 red chilli (I used the big fat ones as I didn’t want it to be hot)

Method

  • Usually I wouldn’t do this but I had time to kill so if you don’t want tomato skins in your final dish, cut a cross in the bottom of each tomato and place cross side up in a high sided dish or baking tin. Pour boiling water over the tomatoes, leave for 20 seconds, then drain away the hot water and plunge into a bowl of cold water then peel them. If you don’t have the time or inclination, just slice them in half (or quarters if they’re normal sized) and leave them to one side
  • Slice the courgettes thickly (about 1.5-2cm), put in a colander and sprinkle salt over them – this takes away some of the moisture and helps them retain their shape in a stew-y dish. Leave aside for at least 45 mins then rinse the salt off
  • Roughly chop the rest of your veg
  • Using a deep casserole dish (I used a Le Crueset) fry the onions, chilli and garlic in olive oil over a medium heat till they soften then remove from the pan
  • Add a little more olive oil and lightly fry the courgette slices until they’re browned
  • Return the onions, garlic, chilli to the pan, then add the peppers and mushrooms, tomatoes and season. Give the whole thing a stir – if it feels a little dry, add a small amount of water – remember, there’s a lot of water in the tomatoes so don’t put too much in unless you want a really watery stew.
  • Bring to the boil, then turn down to a low simmer, add the sprigs of thyme and cover. Leave like this for at least 20 mins, giving it a stir every few minutes
  • After 20 mins, take off the lid and throw in the chickpeas. Leave this, with the lid off (so it reduces a little) for another 8-12 minutes
  • During this final stage prepare your fish – sprinkle salt, pepper and a tsp of fennel seeds (I put some thyme on too as I had a lot of thyme in the fridge!)
  • Heat a frying pan and once the oil is hot, add the fish, leaving it too cook on one side for a couple of minutes, till you can see the colour start to change then flip over
  • Throw a knob of butter into the pan at this stage and use it to baste the fish
  • Should only take about 4 minutes to cook the fish

To serve, spoon the ratatouille into bowls, sprinkle over some thyme leaves, place the fish on top and serve with crusty bread

Fun with hawkers and other top Goan shopping tips

Whilst it’s only been a fortnight since we got home, it feels like a lifetime ago already. Don’t you hate that? When you’re away, you promise yourself that you’ll keep that holiday chill and not let the small shit get you down then a mere 14 days later, you’re freaking out about… well, stuff.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last two weeks arranging the lovely things we bought around our home and I thought that my Goan shopping experiences may be useful to other people so here are some top tips.

The Markets….

Also known as the haven for a lot of tourist tat and a significant amount of MC Hammer trousers in elephant prints

We arrived after our long journey on a Thursday afternoon and were still finding our feet by Saturday so we missed Arpora night market which everyone raves about. Mostly because I hear it’s like shopping at a nightclub in the 1990s, lots of music, drumming, people wearing too much tie dye and looking slightly beatific. Not gutted we missed it as we went to Anjuna Market on Wednesday instead which is basically the same but you go in the day time so rather than dancing to crazy beats, you sweat and sweat and sweat and still end up buying a lot of MC Hammer pants.

The wino wouldn't let me bring one of these home
The wino wouldn’t let me bring one of these home

Anjuna

Because what you really want to buy in 36C heat is thick woollen socks.
Because what you really want to buy in 36C heat is thick woollen socks.


Anjuna

Anjuna Market is a lot of fun. Honestly. I generally hate big crowds and being forced to visit a “lovely shop that sells bangles, even big sizes for you lady”, but as the season has been so quiet due to the collapsing Russian economy, the crowds weren’t that bad so you could simply drift around and not make eye contact with anyone so you don’t get hassled. Amusingly, the ladies hawking their wares have picked up amazing British accents so they go from speaking in Hindi to each other to sounding like traders at Billingsgate Market. “A’righ’ love, come and check out my stall, lovely fings for you and your fella”. They could also hawk in Russian, which shows how dependent on tourism from there Goa has become.

Ice cream trucks at Anjuna

Kids MC hammer pant suit

One of my absolute favourite moments at the market was when a woman, trying to hawk her wares said “alright love, where are you from?” to which I replied, “Sri Lanka” (having bored of telling people London) to which she replied, “oooh, it’s cold there, innit”. So whilst it’s incredibly impressive that they can hawk in many languages, don’t go off script unless you want them to look at you like you’ve lost your mind when you laugh for a good 15 minutes after that.

We made it out of Anjuna after a couple of hours with only three shirts (wino) and one shirt and two pairs of hippy dippy pants (me). Everything is much of the same on every stall but worth looking out for Shoop Doop, which has great shirts in a variety of styles in interesting fabrics. The guy who runs it also has a shop in Ashvem so if you don’t make it to Anjuna, find him there.

You’ll need to get your bargaining hat on though – my MC Hammer trousers started at 700 rupees – I walked away with two pairs for 200.

My elephant print trousers
I am not putting my face to these trousers. But these are the trousers in their natural habitat. If you see me wearing them in London, please feel free to judge me.

Much more interesting and, I guess authentic, is Mapusa Market. This is on every day and is a local market (for local people) but with some tourist tat thrown in for good measure. Mapusa (pronounced Mapsa) is where you can find amazing spices, vegetables, fruit, homewares and all sorts of other things that you never knew you needed. And piles of clothing sky high. It was amazing to watch women making flower garlands from gigantic bags of heads of carnations and roses and other flowers I didn’t recognise. Mr Wino was at the height of his holiday illness so couldn’t smell anything but the scents and aromas – oh my. you go from overpowering dried fish to beautiful fresh flowers to pungent spices and herbs within a few steps. Utterly incredible.

Bangles at Mapusa Making garlands at Mapusa Dried fish at Mapusa market Flower garlands at Mapusa

These bottles were for sale. We couldn't work out why anyone would buy them, any ideas?
These bottles were for sale. We couldn’t work out why anyone would buy them, any ideas?

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Other shopping experiences

During our stay at Casa Susegad, we met the lovely Helen and Colin, friends of the owners and part-time locals, spending a significant portion of the year in Goa and the rest in the UK. Helen has a shop in the UK and spends a lot of her time in India sourcing products to sell there (and the proceeds from which goes back to projects in India). As such, if you ever need a shopping tour guide, she’s your woman. We spent a day out in Panjim visiting many beautiful independent retailers and I spent a small fortune in Fab India on cushions and blankets and lovely trinkets. If Helen’s in residence at Casa Susegad, ask her for her tips.

Fab India

For me, Fab India was my stand out shop – it’s laid out beautifully with homewares, clothing and furniture that’s beautifully curated.I had my heart set on bringing home a Rajasthani blanket – I brought one in Kerala seven years ago but two house moves and getting a cat in that period of time has left it looking a little threadbare. The husband and I had agreed that no mirrorwork or embroidery would enter our suitcase (mostly because my 1990s clubbing flashbacks would be constant and never ending should I have that sort of thing in my house) and all we wanted were those simple printed cotton thin duvets. Helen recommended Fab India so off we went – and I somehow came home with four blankets, five cushion covers and a table cloth. Well done Vinnie. That was fun packing, let me tell you. Blankets do not crush down easily. FYI, looking on Fab India site, they ship internationally. Do not tell the wino.

Another newish Panjim shop worth a visit is White Brick Wall – this sells modern clothing with an Indian twist, as well as homewares.  I fell in love with the jumpsuit with the tuk tuk print, but sadly not in my size. Although, to be fair, the owner said she’d get it made for me in my size but I didn’t have time to do that. Sad.

And if you get a chance the paper shop, Chimanlals, is gorgeous if you’re a stationery fiend like me.

To end on a foodie tip, in Loutolim there’s a bakery called Jila, voted the best bakery in the whole of India by the Times of India. If you decide to stroll down there from the town or from Casa Susegad, take water – it’s a good 30 minute walk. You’ll get lost, you’ll pass a dilapidated house that’s been taken over by monkeys, locals under umbrellas to protect themselves from the heat wil laugh at the the tourists, you’ll think you’re never going to find it and indeed, you’ll walk right on by till you reach what feels like a motorway. And then, if you’re like me, you’ll blame the husband for getting you lost and you’ll have a little argument so you turn back to tackle the long walk home… and there’s the sign. On a house. That looks like a house, not a bakery. So you ring the bell, and you’re taken into the lounge and you are brought a plate of cakes for you to choose from. And it makes the long trek so worth while and you forget about the heat and you elegantly fight over who gets the last mouthful of eclair*.

Jila bakery Loutolim

Clearly, I did not take a photo of the cakes themselves because I was too busy a) drooling and b) scoffing. Sorry.

*Me, obviously.