Instagram food fatigue

A good 80% of my Instagram feed is food. There are the odd bits of fashion, peaceful landscapes, beauty gurus showing off their freebies. I don’t really follow celebrities whose feed turns into publicity when a new film is out (but Dawn Porter is the best); any stranger who takes lots of pictures is an unwelcome addition in my feed because why would I be interested in a stream of unfamiliar faces?
I follow a few people who travel the world but not too many because the harsh office lights reflecting off the white plasticky desks are an especially bleak sight when compared to a picture of Birman temples. But food, food is accessible.

When I say food, I mean all kinds of food. The beautifully shot kind with artfully placed hands reaching for the central plate and flower petals scattered on the white linen; the mono-ingredient poetry of Noma chef René Redzepi, recipe ideas from the celebrity chefs, their pictures bright and sharp; the so-called “food influencers” with pseudo-pornographic shots of yolks oozing and fountains of cheese being slowly poured on a burger because clearly the London food scene knows no excess.
But I fear that after months –years– of endless mindless scrolling, I may be experiencing sort of Instagram food fatigue. It’s a thing. It happens.

Smoothies, smoothie bowls, perfectly round slices of bananas arranged in a semicircle, impossible-to-eat shakes that defy logic and probably laws of physics, burgers upon burgers upon burgers with shiny patties and melted cheese oozing out, avocados thinly slices and grilled and crushed and mashed and filled, orange-coloured eggs forever oozing onto sourdough, edible flowers, neatly arranged doughnuts, huge platters of sushi, coconut oil and cream and milk and water and sugar, bright green matcha items, #foodgoals, #foodporn, #foodisbae.

It seems that my relationship with food has been oddly shaped by a very limited number of trendy food items forever repeated and imprinted in my mind, half of which are unnecessarily #healthy and charged with cutesy pseudoscientific terminology like superfood, vitamin-packed, goodness, nasties. The rest are utter excess.

Food on social media seems to impart a double pressure: the one to try as many “cool” things as possible, and the one to be a conscious, healthy eater. And sometimes I am a victim of both.
But is this who I want to be? A maker of smoothies, a drinker of lukewarm lemon water, a calorie-counting kombucha-sipping consumer of kale and sweet potato, a self-righteous enemy of white foods by day; and by night, to keep up with the London food scene, the sort of person who gets bacon as a side and queues for a doughnut crossed with a croissant?

Lately, I have found myself getting home and just not wanting to think about food. Me. The person who daydreams about how to create egg yolk butter. The one who plans holidays around what to eat and spends hours researching how to best cook rice.

But this fatigue, the utter indifference I feel towards brightly coloured tacos served from a food truck in a converted toilet, makes me thing I need to take a break. I need some sort of beige-food diet. I find myself gravitating towards canned tomato soup. Broth made with a stock cube. Pasta with just butter. If you were to look at my Deliveroo history you would see that I’ve been ordering a lot from this Polish restaurant, its food almost exclusively beige, translucent, thick-skinned boiled pierogis that could not be any less photogenic, pork served with a hearty dose of mash, boiled cabbage, the sort that a grandmother would feed her family on a remote mountain somewhere. Food that feeds the heart rather than the camera.

So yeah, when a new Asian-fusion Mexican-inspired burger&chicken place opens in London, don’t mind me. I’ll be here eating my plain rice.

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2016 Food highlights, pt. 2

Here is part 2 of my year in food. You can find part 1 here.

– Food at Som Saa because it was genuinely some of the best I have ever eaten. Ever. I was so keen and so worried about the legendary queue that I was the first one to show up – an hour before they even started serving food. They do luckily have a bar where you can knock down cocktails while you wait in trepidation. The whole-fried seabass, evil eyes and all, was a feast of spice, aromatics, tang and happiness on the flaky, buttery fish. And the prawn floss on the aubergine! Stroke of genius.

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– Another one of my favourite restaurants this year, Oldroyd, and its life-changing croquettes. I don’t use the word “life-changing” lightly. Actually, I do. But they were seriously noteworthy.

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Fabrique’s cinnamon buns, a life-saver for indulgent breakfast and comfort pick-me-ups, very conveniently located just by my office. Sticky and cinnamon-y beyond belief. Also everyone working there appears to be incredibly beautiful and blond and Swedish, which figures.

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– Brunch at Chinese Laundry Room. So many colours. Fluffy, pillowy mantou. Eggs as a side. Eggs should always be offered as a side.

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– Egg and bacon naan at Dishoom. True breakfast of champions – served with warming bottomless chai.

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– In June, I managed to relax with this view:

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And eat beetroot casunziei and venison ragù in little mountain lodges in the middle of nowhere.

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– Venetian bacari and 60p wine drunk on a square. Seriously considering moving.

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Mr Lyan’s truly brilliant cocktails were a perfect way to welcome my 26th year of life – especially the beeswax old fashioned.

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Avgustinos, Rhodes. In Rhodes, roughly 40% of our meals consisted of this souvlaki. The rest was incredibly buttery octopus and fried sardines and fresh tomato salad but the souvlaki 40% was strong.

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Electric Elephant Cafe. Our local. They truly know how to fry an egg.

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Osteria Bonelli. Sometimes you discover a somewhat renowned, delicious Roman restaurant you had never heard of, which was just behind your high school. It had been there all along, while I had my first kiss and gushed about boys and wore cropped tops with low-rise jeans. I must have walked it past it a billion times with my backpack and died dark hair. And yet I only discover it years later, when I don’t even live there anymore.

I loved this place. The lack of paper menus, a list of dishes on a blackboard,  the staff, friendly but so quick at taking your order you will most definitely panic-order (i.e. ordering the first thing you recognise) – this place served some of the best Roman food I have ever had. You could be adventurous and go for creamy fried brains, pajata, livers. Or simpler cacio e pepe, carbonara, gricia. A pile of savoury carbs to see you through the day.Processed with VSCO with s1 preset

– One-pound oysters at Wright Brothers. Quickest way to travel to the sea.

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2016 food highlights, pt. 1

New Year’s day. Time to try out that new smoothie maker you got for Christmas. Have you been to the gym yet? Me neither. But yes, definitely tomorrow. Definitely. Kale juice?

Before I get into New Year’s resolutions, I have taken the chance to reflect on the food highlights of my year, every meal a part of a story, forever weaved with conversations, views, trips, IKEA furniture building sessions. If I ever wrote an autobiography, it would probably be a recipe book.

Here’s a list:

– Tea. I’ve always loved tea, but 2016 was the year in which I truly unlocked its powers. Something rather magical happens after a few years in Britain. Uttering the question “Tea?” becomes a sort of bizarre reflex and you find yourself repeating it whenever entering a room, sitting down on a sofa, or when trapped in an uncomfortable conversation or an awkward silence.

I’m referring to the English concept of tea here, the humble cuppa, a label-less bag of black tea dropped in hot water and then violently bashed around in the mug for a few seconds before being drowned by a generous helping of milk. Pale, weak, a lump of sugar to offset any residual bitterness – tea is a beverage that can comfort you beyond any other, and I am including wine in this statement. Tea is what you have when you get home after a long, bone-chilling winter day, the windows clouded and a pot bubbling on the hob. It’s what you sip on while you catch up on Gogglebox or flick through a glossy magazine. Tea is your rock when you wake up and cling to your duvet, dreading the very thought of leaving the house in the darkness. Amber-liquid courage. Also, great help for serial procrastinators. “Sure, I’ll do [insert task here]. Just going to make myself a tea first”.

– Tetote Factory‘s buns. I spent New Year’s Day eating my weight in these shiny Japanese buns and watching Mozart in the Jungle. It was probably my favourite day of the year.

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Sticks’n’sushi. Forever my celebration restaurant, forever a place that gives me bank statement-induced panic. Their scallops are just ridiculous. You can ready my review here.

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–  Scrambled eggs. 2016 is the year in which my boyfriend mastered scrambled eggs. I look away when he makes them to remain blissfully ignorant of the amount of butter that goes in them, but they are perfect.

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– Shackfuyu and its super instagrammable Kinako French toast with matcha soft serve. Damn you, Shackfuyu. You get me every time.

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– Roamers. In March, I flew to Berlin and my friend Hedda and I brunched our way to Berlin like there was no tomorrow, seamlessly knocking down smashed avocado and French toast in one fluid continuum. She showed me new corners of a city that, to me, is the one that got away. I taught her that if you wake up before 10, you may not have to queue for brunch. It was an enlighting trip but also, brunch at Roamers has me dreaming about it almost a year later.

– Pane frattau at Tiramisu. If comfort was a crispbread based egg dish, it would be this one.

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Beigel Bake’s bagels in all its juicy, spicy, starchy glory. Need I say more. Daytime friend, late-night friend, find-that-extra-bagel-in-your-bag-the-following-day friend.

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Takeaway Temakinho eaten in the sun. Man, I don’t know what it is about Temakinho, but its perfect blend of Japanese simplicity and unlikely flavour pairings which miraculously work make it so much fun. Salmon tartare and almonds. Bright lime and coriander on scallops. Even crushed nachos make it in there somehow. Fun.

It’s also opening in Soho which is very dangerous.

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– Maltby Street  Market, destination of many Saturday morning trips.

– The Athenian. In March, I moved. Their souvlakis fuelled many IKEA furniture-building sessions.

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  • Silk Road. Simple, unassuming, reliable Silk Road. Always there with its deliciously fatty lamb skewers, laced with cumin, gigantic chewy belt noodles swimming in savoury broth, simple long tables, cold beer. Kind of perfect for a bigger group (5-6 people) but if you’re not fussed abut sitting next to strangers, go. Now.

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The Queen of Sheba, London

Most of my meals are eaten at my desk, straight from the Tupperware, its cover gently dipping in the middle, battered by too many runs in the microwave. Others are eaten cold from the fridge, the TV on, a book with yellowed pages in the other hand; many are gobbled down as quickly as possible, like my morning porridge, perched on a chair, staring at the clock with the same intensity of a film hero about to detonate a time bomb.
So the thought of making an occasion of food, of dedicating an hour or maybe two of my life to food, only food, is always appealing. And the thought of eating with my hands is even more thrilling.

Now, my previous experiences with Ethiopian food: not many. A stall at the Festa dell’Unità in Rome, where my friend Luca worked one summer. Bare legs, the smell of late summer, warmth and grass, sitting on a wooden bench. We flinched at some items on the menu – raw meat? Raw meat? This was before an endless stream of tartares impossibly dressed in all shades of mustards and salts and quickly mixed with sticky egg yolks, of course. A hearty beef stew eaten in a Styrofoam container, with a spoon.

Then, a small restaurant in Rome, a friendly, if a little invasive owner, plastic chairs and tables, plump lemons on the bizarre wax tablecloth. Sticky floor. The food brownish, creamy, served on a sort of sour pancake. The view on the main road, rubbish collecting at every corner, tired trams, worn down people, scrawny cats, layers upon layers of posters falling to pieces (because the Rome of my adolescence looks nothing like the warm-toned fantasy of ancient facades and cobble streets).

But there was something about that memory, even though a bittersweet one for some reason I can’t quite remember, that always left me wanting to go again. To eat stew with my hands (because yes, cutlery is banished in Ethiopian restaurants). There is something especially fine about stews when it’s cold outside, thick socks and gloves on, the wind biting, your breath forming a curious cloud whenever you speak. Stews are wholesome, good-natured, a blanket of meat and vegetables to warm you up to your core.

So on an impossibly beautiful late autumn day (London only gets so many beautiful autumn days…) we went to The Queen of Sheba to see how much of my memory was actually true.
We were greeted by soft lighting, soft music, friendly owners, couples and friends nursing pots of tea, colourful portraits of the Queen of Sheba herself, a nutty, sweet scent in the air that I could not quite make out (we’ll get to that later).

We choose three dishes: diced chicken, sautéed with onion and spinach; mince beef with Ethiopian butter and spices; a chickpea stew. They are delicately spooned over a huge, sponge-like, pillowy disk of injera, its slightly sour bite a blessing to cut through the butteriness of the dishes. We are also give some extra injera, rolled in a way that makes it look a lot like hot towels you get on an airplane – only delicious.

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There is something about tearing a piece of this flatbread and mopping up the sauces that feels convivial, and intimate, and simple. The silky chickpea stew, the quiet spice of vibrant chicken, and the louder, buttery spicy mince (my favourite) are slowly picked up from the disk of injure among laughter, conversation, smiles. You will end up brushing against the people you’re dining with, and you won’t look especially dignified, but it all makes it even more fun.

Ordering a pot of coffee is an experience in itself. They roast the beans in front of you, in a small pan, blackened by time, and give you a whiff of the enticing smell which is not dissimilar from roasted chestnuts; they then bring a pot to the table with small cups and cubes of brown sugar. The coffee is strong, silky, strangely calming, and will give you just enough energy to muster the courage to leave this oasis of spices and roasting coffee and go back into the cold.

The Queen of Sheba
http://www.thequeenofsheba.co.uk/
Kentish Town, London

 

 

 

As the soft lighting did not prove ideal to take pictures, I am leaving you with a couple of snapchat videos.

Pasta with ricotta cream and purple sprouting broccoli

October is a strange month. The vivid, bright colours of summer seem to fade like an old picture, memories of warmth and drinks in the park melting away like the last gelato of the season. Under relentless rain and rare sunny days, we forget the feeling of stepping into clear water, of sand in the sheets, of walking barefoot. Drinking ice-cold lemonade on a balcony is a memory that seems to belong to someone else.

I wake up to a sepia-coloured world, the sky heavy, taking on all sort of shades of grey, from icy blue to muddy hues. I walk on a bed of crisp fallen leaves, the trees start to look bare, and my trench coat feels a little thin. I wear the first prickly jumper, drink copious amounts of tea, dramatically sigh before I have to leave my flat and, with it, my pyjamas.

Salad quickly loses its appeal and I turn every vegetable into soup, denying it any pretence of texture, blending everything into one warm liquor to warm up my body and my spirit.

But also, I buy vegetables, look for colour in the bright hues of peppers, muse over the shapes of aubergines, caramelise Brussels sprouts, briefly forget that butter is sadly not a vegetable. I find comfort in the brown paper bags that get soaked under the heavily scented autumn rain, which smells of wood and trees and melancholy. I make myself a pasta and eat it nestled in a cushion fort, watching the new TV shows that autumn has gifted me (best part about autumn, hands down).

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I can’t remember where I first saw a recipe for ricotta cream but it’s a genius idea: blending ricotta cheese with a little vegetable broth until it reaches the consistency of double cream, but it’s much lighter, a little tangier, more subtle. With it, sautéed purple spouting broccoli which sadly lose their beautiful colour when you cook them, but are hearty and delicious.

Pasta with ricotta cream and purple sprouting broccoli

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Serves 2 (greedy people)

250 g ricotta
Some garlic, pepper, salt, chilli flakes
A little warm vegetable broth or warm water
Purple sprouting broccoli (or normal broccoli, cut in florets)
200 g pasta (I used penne)

  • Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook your past as per the packet instructions.
  • Heat up some olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and fry the crushed garlic until soft and golden, then toss the broccoli until they are cooked all the way through and the stalks are soft. If needed, you could add a little broth or water to prevent the broccoli from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • In a bowl, slowly add a couple of tablespoon of broth (or water) to the ricotta, until it looks a little like double cream. Add the cream to the broccoli and remove from the heat.
  • When the pasta is ready, drain and toss with the creamy sauce until thoroughly mixed.

Baked Enoki Mushrooms with Butter and Soy

I don’t know what it is about Tuesday, but oh boy. Tuesday.

Awkwardly stuck between spanking-fresh, bright-eyed Monday, with its green juices and resolutions, and naive, hopeful Wednesday, the first sneaky drink of a long week – Tuesday always manages to be the longest, grimmest day of the week.

Tuesday is the day when you miss your bus by a handful of seconds and are left waiting in the rain for the longest fifteen minutes of your life.On a Tuesday you will systematically realise you have run out of the very thing you crave the most when it’s too late to go and buy some more. Having to stay late at work? That also seems to always happen on a Tuesday.

Tuesday food needs to fulfil a number of criteria. It needs to be nice, tasty, if a little indulgent. It also needs to be quick and so easy you can be catching up on Jane The Virgin while the food does its thing. It needs to be the kind of simple food that seems to just sort itself out while you finally sink in your more-beautiful-than-ever sofa (Tuesday really makes you appreciate sofas).

Enokis are funny little things, clusters of fragile, skinny mushrooms, bizarrely wonky and pale, and absolutely delicious. Roasted with some velvety, all-powerful butter and sharp soy sauce, they become an indulgent treat to be eaten straight out of the foil.

I’ll admit that enoki mushrooms are not the easiset thing to find, but most Oriental supermarkets will stock them, as well as Whole Foods and Planet Organic, and they keep quite well in the fridge. They also seem to soak up flavours beautifully, so you could add them to any stir fry.

Or you could just roast them with butter and soy sauce. If you didn’t know soy sauce and butter was a thing, well, neither did I. But this New York Times article convinced me to give it a try – also, stay tuned for some instant ramen with butter, soy and American cheese, but that’s for a Friday.

Now, for our soy sauce butter roasted enoki, which may technically be a side but I mean, what’s the difference between a side and a main, except for quantity? I normally have this alongside some simple, perfect fluffy white rice, steamed beyond any nutricional value (it’s ok, I had a green smoothie on Monday).

Baked Enoki mushrooms with butter and soy sauce

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Pre-heat the over to the maximum (for me, it was 250°C). Wash the mushrooms and trim off the woody part at the bottom.Wrap in foil and add lashings of butter, some soy sauce and a little pepper for depth of flavour – you could add a lemon wedge for balance. Roast for 15-30 minutes depending on desired texture.

 

 

Where to eat in Berlin: Roamers, Neukolln

This is the third installment of a series that I called ‘where to eat in Berlin’ but should really be called ‘things I like to eat in Berlin and I think you should try too if you have a chance’. To read all about the first restaurant, Tangs Kantine and Cocolo, go here and here.

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Roamers is genuinely tiny, adorned with cascades of all sorts of plants and flowers and herbs and greenery, with small wobbly tables all jammed in like in a game of tetris, where you’ll have to sit cheek to cheek with well-dressed intellectual-looking couples and big families and kids with their sticky toy cars.

In Roamers, they just love their greens. Rosemary is piled on a lavender cake, bunches of thyme adorn bright lemon loaves, sweet and sticky with syrup; fragile mint leaves are scattered on brownies. Every dish is beautifully plated with a side salad and generous bunches of herbs, served on a wooden board.

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Tucked away in a grey corner of Neukolln, every detail in Roamers is reminiscent of nature itself, the porous wood, the aromatic herbs, fragile plants growing out of the stone animal heads on the walls, their list of peculiar infusions (they serve fresh rosemary and thyme tea).

The roamer’s beans were a starchy, warming, soft comfort blanket covered with spicy tomato salsa, a beautifully runny egg, its yolk sticky and oozing, and coriander. The scrambled eggs were a perfect creamy canvas for the breakfast salad and its vibrant dressing to shine.

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We shared a side of French Toast (that’s totally a side) which was incredibly fluffy, just sweet enough, its corners almost blackened by the burnt syrup and the middle fluffy and creamy.

I’m going to make a big claim: Roamer’s is my favourite brunch place. Of all time. In the whole world. There, I’ve said it. It’s not often I get to gorge on French toast and then feel good about it because of how green my plate looked.

 

Roamers

Pannierstraße 64, 12043 Berlin