How to Birthday:

Two days of birthday food in photos with accompanying recommendations:

A Sunday Dinner

Sourdough boule, bangers and mash (and watercress and jus), chocolate brownie with hazelnut ice-cream, from The Starting Gate in Alexandra, North London.

A Bombay Cafe breakfast

Chocolate Chai (unlimited), date and banana porridge (unlimited), bun maska, and sausage and egg naan roll from Dishoom in Kings Cross, N1C.

Drinks and small treats from wanderings

A limited-edition Halloween Vampire Frappuccino from Starbucks; takoyaki mini portion and a green tea soft-serve taiyaki ice cream from Hawker Street in Chinatown.

Afternoon tea

Warm strawberry bubble tea, and matcha azuki on brioche toast with flaked almonds, spray cream, and a dipping bowl full of honey.

Decor and dinner theatre
Strange dining

Dinner at Archipelago, a rightfully multiple-award-winning restaurant that provides an entirely unique culinary experience. Starter: “Burmese Embrace” features python carpaccio; Main: “Rajasthan Snap”, curried crocodile meat with jasmine rice (alas, no bugs. I was promised bugs!); Dessert: “Pharaoh’s Treasure”, a chocolate pudding with excitingly powdered and smeared sweetnesses, a pleasantly spicy ice-cream and some gold leaf; digestifs of Cà phê sữa nóng (Vietnamese coffee) with chocolate “sticks and stones”. The place does a wide and very interesting array of cocktails but as I was somewhat Feeling It after an excessively successful Halloween Party on Saturday I frankly never wanted to see alcohol again at this point!

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Dinnertime

“Aren’t you meant to be plotting a novel right now?”

Shhhhhh.

“Don’t you have a manuscript to edit?”

I just finished a pass, let me have five minutes.

“You’ve had rather more than f–”

Shhhhhh.

I made an art. You can buy prints, if you are absolutely desperate to own a print of a bowl of rice rather than an actual bowl of rice. Personally, I would rather have the rice, but I’m very hungry. This particular rice was consumed after an exhaustive examination of the Tate Britain’s long-awaited & hotly-anticipated Queer British Art: 1861 – 1967. I should probably have an opinion on that, on here, at length, but to be honest I feel that drawing a bowl of rice is less contentious and contributes more to the world than me bellyaching about minor details in what is, regardless of my fussing and personal preferences, a splendid step in the right direction regarding the inclusion of queer history.

The Gamification of Dining.

Currently I’m a widower to Pokemon Go, as are many. My Delightful Boyfriend, who is a nerd who likes shooting things on the TV while swearing, and has been known to RPG (unlike me: I am the very cool kind of nerd who has lots of emotions about dead people and Knows Facts About Bees), has been sucked into the vortex of “walking around places with his head down” game, which doesn’t much differ from his “I can’t use Facebook and walk at the same time but never say never” approach to life in many particulars.

I’ve never been tremendously into games*, for the following reasons: I dislike losing a lot more than I enjoy winning; I am hopelessly allergic to anything involving teamwork; sudden loud noises stress me the fuck out; I have spent most of my life with abjectly poor hand-eye and foot-eye coordination; team-bonding’s neurological effect actively scares me; I don’t have the attention span; I want to control absolutely everything or absolutely nothing but find the middle ground frustrating; I am terminally averse to getting things wrong the first time.

*Disclaimer: I have had crippling addictions to: Tetris, a card game called Montana,  Soltaire, Hoppit, a match-three game for the Acorn called Reaction, Bejeweled, Bookworm, and still routinely spend hours mindlessly thumbing through 2048. 

However, I’m also a sucker for: prizes; food; new stuff.

And recently I went to Shuang Shuang in Piccadilly. It’s a hotpot conveyor belt restaurant, combining the simple delight I experienced for the first time 14 years ago when I went to Yo! Sushi in Paddington Station and got FOOD ZOOMED PAST MY EYES with the equally great satisfaction of HAVING FOOD COOKED IN FRONT OF ME ESPECIALLY FOR ME at Abeno Too some eight or so years later, and the no lesser delight of “pick your own ingredients and we’ll make the thing for you” buffet-style restaurants like Tiger Lil’s and the Mongolian Barbecue (now I think both sadly defunct) that were popular in the 2003-5 period. In that you get your own temperature-controlled hot pot of the broth of your choice, a conveyor belt of fresh ingredients, and a guide to roughly how long you should let things cook for.

As I said to my date, fellow flaneur, London history nerd, enjoyer-of-gadgets, and the person who introduced me to Sci Fi Nutrigruel (and to the glories of H G Wells), I fall squarely into the opposite camp to We Want Plates. My requirements for eating out being:

  1. Is it good food
  2. Is it good food I probably couldn’t make myself
  3. Have you done something weird with it

Why yes, I do slavishly watch Heston Blumenthal while chuckling quietly about him being mental. Thank you. I do find the words “good honest grub” tedious in the extreme. I can make that at home. I came out to your cavern of hellish socialisation so I could be treated to Exciting Shit. Make some dinner theatre happen!

This, for example, looks fun.

lego breadbasket

Image from WeWantPlates.com

Admittedly I’m bored now with what I think of as Nerd Fun With Food; “caffeinate everything”, “what can we make taste of artificial bacon next”; “look it’s a really massive version of some highly overproduced snack food you barely like anyway”, but I feel in terms of presentation and excitement, stuff like Supersizers Go… knows a thing or two about how to make eating out interesting.

It was ruminating on this and quipping about it that led to the following concept, described by friend Chris Siddall as “Iron Chef Go” and by Delightful Boyfriend as “hrm”; I would like to thank them both for asking me enough questions to help iron out some original kinks in the idea.

IT’S TIME FOR ENRICHMENT, BITCHES:

So the wheeze is this. You and your group – hen party, stag do, business retreat, family reunion, football team, LARP favourites, etc – book ahead to this thing. A country house, an adventure park, or a hotel. You tell them how many there are of you, what dietary requirements and preferences you have, and that’s it. You put the app in your phone.

When you turn up you’re sent off into the grounds. You have to check your app. How many ingredients do you need to find? Where are they? What clues are you following? What riddles to you answer correctly?

You find a thing. It’s a fake bowl of chopped onions, under a hedge, rather like shokuhin sampuru in restaurants. It’s got a Tile or an i-tag or similar on it. You tap the ingredient’s tag on your phone to let your team know you’ve got it, and to tell the chef that ingredient’s unlocked on the list, meaning your potential meal just got tastier: you only eat meals with what you’ve managed to find.

At the end of the pre-meal game you drop all your “ingredients” into a pot, and make your way back to the restaurant. You’ve had fun, you’ve worked up an appetite, you don’t know exactly what you’re getting, but you know it’s going to be more satisfying to eat now than it would have been just picking something off a piece of card.

Naturally the dinner theatre’s been meticulously arranged in advance. The ingredients you hunt can be combined to different levels and in different ways, and that menu has already been decided: if you find none of the ingredients you get a very nice burger and chips and a drink with a sad face on it and a card saying “I don’t think you tried at all”. If you find, say, three, you get the “three-ingredient” meal. If you find all the ingredients you get a free cocktail and unlock the dessert roulette.

Would it catch on? I don’t know. I could see it being a hit in Dalston, the same way that Fire Hazard Games – immersive gaming around real-life – has taken off, and possibly with the same people. It would combine healthy exercise and food, and thinking exercises with reward, much as Pokemon Go has got people moving and getting out of the house.

Heston, man. Hit me up. You know you want to.

Recipe: Protein Cake

Don’t worry, I won’t harp on too much about the fact that I’ve just released a book before I get down to the important business of boring everyone rigid with weird food concoctions. But I have and it’s dead good.

Followers of the blog will be startled to learn that this is not yet another Huel experiment. Nor is it further adventures in tiny food, weird inventions, foods for the cooking-incapable, or sneaky ways of smuggling more vegetables into the diet of the vegetable-phobic.

nutrition

This is a cake. The recipe I am about to provide is, as always, balls simple, and gives you one serving. What is unusual about this cake is that it contains almost fuck all carbohydrates and a lot of protein, which is not the usual nutritional profile for cake.

WHAT AM I PUTTING IN THIS CAKE?

  • 25 g, Diet Whey Strawberry by PHD (1 scoop)
  • 1 egg. In order to reduce the cholesterol and fat in this cake, it is likely (I haven’t tested this yet) that it can be made with a same-size portion of liquid egg whites.
  • 15 ml Skimmed Milk (1 tbsp)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp (3g) White Flour
  • 1/2 tsp xanthum gum
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

WHAT ELSE DO I FUCKING NEED?

  • Mixing spoon
  • Mixing bowl. I was a turd and used the same silicon baking receptacle I baked it in because washing up.
  • Scale, probably.
  • Oven

WHAT AM I DOING THEN?

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C because that’s cake-cooking temperature.
  2. Mix the milk into the whey powder. It will get claggy.
  3. Mix the oil in. More claggy.
  4. Add the xanthum gum and baking powder.
  5. Slowly add the mixed egg until you have something more pastelike.
  6. Sift over the flour and keep mixing until you have a thick , stiff paste.
  7. Make some attempt to shape this as whatever you leave it as, it will bake into that shape.
  8. Put it in the oven for between 15 and 25 minutes.
  9. Enjoy your delicious, strawberry-flavoured bread-cake thing that contains an assload of protein.

On Being The Demented Consumer Product You Want To See In The World

Oh no, more blogging about Packetsu?

Oh yes, more blogging about Packetsu.

Look, I’m really, truly sorry about this, but ever since I realised I can make okayu and various other dishes in a Thermos jar, the desire to use one as the basis for that ridiculous system has been unstoppable. I mean, now that I’ve discovered you can buy ones with a microwaveable insert, rendering them perfect for pretty much any approach to office-based cooking, that does seem like a ready solution to rice-or-egg-or-pulse-based meals [for things that don’t need to hold the heat in for as long I suppose one can just commandeer a cardboard cup, like the ones Itsu use for their instant noodles].

And well, the thing is, I bought some nonsense from Jbox.com. I went there looking for candy bento boxes and discovered that in addition to this they sell tiny, pocket-sized bag sealers. As in the little heat up things you put a battery into and squeeze along cellophane packets in order to form a sealed edge that can be ripped open easily?

The final nails in the “wasn’t this supposed to be buyable from shops, wasn’t that the whole point” coffin was two separate grocery-shopping discoveries: Morrisons sell this pre-mixed dried vegetables, pasta and barley which really just needs to sit in hot water for a while, and places like Nuts.com have started selling freeze-dried vegetables.

One bag sealer. Spice mix. Seaweed. 30g of rice (to make around 80/100g, or one serving), and 30g of pasta mix (to make 80g, around one serving). This is either going to be the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship (preferably one that relies less heavily on spending a fortune on instant Pho tubs), or it’s going to be a fucking disaster.

If you’re staring at this wondering what exactly is revolutionary about putting some rice in a bag, and why I can’t just cook something and take it in a lunchbox/bento, or at least make one premix and stop hurting the environment with multiple bags, I would like to invite you to consider the following imagination exercises:

  1. What if I change my mind at the last minute and decide I want to eat something else?
  2. What if I change my mind about one part of my meal just before leaving the house and want to swap something out?
  3. What if I want to have a choice of meals without carrying multiple flipping lunchboxes?
  4. What if I want to have multiple meals?
  5. Until my idiotic country can manage to do things like meet clean air targets and stop removing subsidies for renewable energy and commit to sorting out the energy profiles of new buildings, and large product producers can switch to already-existing biodegradable and edible plastics alternatives, I’m not assuming sole personal responsibility for The Environment on the basis of using a battery-operated heat-sealer on one cellophane lollipop bag.
  6. Also, fuck off.

Yes, it’s fiddly and annoying and not what I wanted but thank you, large brands, for not actually muscling in on my Packetsu idea, because at least this way I can save a damn fortune making my own system work.

One more exciting thing you can do with a kettle

It turns out there’s a lot of recipes that require you to boil things in a pan which are, broadly speaking, lying. Lots of instant noodle recipes, for example. A whole swathe of things can be made without a constant source of heat, which means saving money on electricity, something people might be interested in given the cost of UK energy bills, and levels of poverty. So if you’re subsisting on cups of tea and surreptitiously charging your phone at power sockets in Wetherspoons (don’t worry, we’ve all done it), you may be pleased to share in my recent discovery:

You don’t need a constant source of heat to boil eggs.

I found this out because I am weeaboo scum and spend forever on gift sites looking at kitchen gadgets which I then either fail to buy because haha what is money, or do buy and then never use because hahah what is money. In a fair and equitable universe I would be subsisting on cups of tea, not you.

This thing. You put eggs in it and then put hot water in it and then close it and leave it.

Obviously this thing is ludicrously expensive, single-use, and pointless (like all my favourite kitchen shit, before I decide to repurpose it: you can make basically anything in a rice cooker, for example). But when I looked at it and at the instructions it occurred to me that this was, effectively, a Thermos jar.

One of these.

I have one of these, because I bought one in a charity shop for a quid. I am quietly confident that others can be obtained via this route, or acquired from nice people who don’t want theirs, or, frankly, pinched off the back of a lorry. If you have one already, so much the better.

The trick is very simple.

You take an egg.

You put the whole egg in the Thermos jar.

You boil 1 cup of water in the kettle.

You pour the boiling water into the Thermos jar.

You put the lid back on and seal it.

And then you ignore it for however long you like. I left a selection of small (quail) eggs in mine for well over an hour and the water was still toasty and the eggs, when removed, were hard-boiled and hot. The Thermos keeps the eggs warm as well as the water they’re cooking in!

The other thing about this is you can ask for a cup of hot water in a (coffee) shop, and generally get one for free, providing the staff are not arseholes. It may not be boiling, but you can achieve the same effect.

How To Get Your Five A Day When You Really Don’t Like Veg Much

Evolution is such a bitch. Just because fat and salt were in scarce supply for the first Forever of our development of a species, we’ve evolved the tendency to just crave them like hell and fill up on them whenever they’re available; and now, when we’ve been Not Starving in the UK for a whole two generations! I mean, two, come on! Somehow we haven’t evolved immediately into people who crave exactly what our bodies require at all times in order to meet a set of fairly arbitrarily-designated dietary parameters. Why is that?

We didn’t even need to develop a craving for vegetation because that was what was always going to be around, and also the majority of it is calorifically void, so during that Forever of Starving that we had we’ve for some mysterious reason gravitated towards high-calorie, low-effort foods because That Kept Us Alive or some boring shit like that, and fell back on vegetables because, well, we had to. And they were there. And they didn’t run away or bite you or require milling or milking or anything. Fuckin’ vegetables.

No wonder so many people hate them. I mean, Default Food isn’t exciting, they’re not contributing to your endorphins the same way fat and salt do, by servicing a literal millennia-deep survival-oriented addiction, and they’re not servicing that silly calorie-led need for sweet stuff and starches, unless you’ve eaten nothing but paper for months. Around then carrots start tasting like chocolate. So, under those circumstances, does your own arm.

Not to mention a lot of people have basically vegetable PTSD. Thanks to the Depression, WWII, and austerity in quick succession, not to mention being the first industrialised nation on earth, the UK has effectively gone Food Stupid for several generations, with old skills and preferences being replaced by “it’s a fucking pie I have to get back to work now” and “we don’t have any vegetables right now would you like some tinned green dye” and “I have boiled this until it is soft because we have no teeth”.

I mean, there’s a reason we’re consistently mocked for having terrible food. We’ve had well over a hundred years in which to lose our ability to food like sane human beings, and after the involuntary dieting of Depression, WWII, Austerity, as a country we kind of turned into one national eating disorder. People who have been starving for a long time go weird. If you’re finding it hard to force yourself into poking steamed kale into your face like some kind of virtuous rabbit while the media informs you simultaneously that you’re a disgusting personal failure for not enjoying this more and also that what you’re eating is boring and what you really want is more chocolate, but you can’t have chocolate, so you should buy chocolate but then either throw it away or eat it and feel bad and then buy all this other stuff to feel better, muahaha, capitalism…

… take heart in knowing that a) you’re part of a culture that is mentally bloody ill and hell-bent on punishing itself, and b) there is nothing whatsoever the matter with not liking food that is presented to you in a boring way with a huge fanfare about how good for you it is.

Also, you’re a grown adult. Saying “Mmm, yummy yummy kale” is not actually going to work as well as the marketing department thinks. That sort of psychology tends to go best with children.

But you know you need to eat some of the bloody stuff because the Government and NHS said so, and that’s really the case: your body evolved to eat a shittonne of vegetables and so it doesn’t work well when it’s eating no vegetables and a lot of refined flour. That’s not because vegetables are “inherently better”, it’s not because chocolate is “sinful”; food is not good or bad. Food is food. Our bodies just happen to have evolved a certain way, over periods of time, because of what was available to us. Putting stuff into the human machine that it is designed to take makes it work better than putting stuff in that it isn’t used to, much as servicing your car regularly and using the right sort of petrol gets better results than using bioethanol and ignoring it for 364 days of the year, even if the latter is “better”.

Oh and before I continue any further: evolution is a work in progress. There is no “end goal” beyond effective self-replication, and it doesn’t stop happening. So the Paleo people who consistently make themselves miserable eating no bread and enormous lumps of meat which they mysteriously don’t allow to partially decay before eating despite that being Very Authentic are deluding themselves: we’ve been making bread as a species for a damn long time. There are some things we’re better adapted to than others – and Steven Johnson has a very interesting theory about the evolution of alcohol tolerance in urbanised places where boiling water (for tea etc) was not the norm – because we’ve been doing them for longer, but it is worth noting that ultimately if we can digest it then it is food and there is no reason to cut anything out of your diet completely unless it is actively making you ill.

Also if you think something is actively making you ill see the bloody doctor, don’t buy an allergy-testing kit from Holland and Barrett and decide you’re never eating raspberries again because the little thingy said so.

Tips, Tricks, Recipes, Fooling Your Brain

So after all that, I have a handful of ways to convince your brain that you’re not eating the Horrible Vegetables after all, which should hopefully taste alright, and which doesn’t involve any scolding about you being “sinful” or “indulgent“, no infantalising language, and no woo.

Soups & Smoothies

soup

So the thing about vegetables is that a lot of the time people hate them because of the texture. The texture is weird. You’ll have seen a lot of advice about this but really do bear in mind that just by thwipping things about a bit in a blender you can make a soup (or smoothie) that removes all the gross texture of fruit or veg and leaves nothing but taste. If you’re a bit iffy about eating soup, remember that soup is, effectively, just a sauce and you can use it as the base of a stew. No one pays that much attention to it after you’ve cooked chicken thighs in it for several hours.

Smoothies, too, might be a bit off-putting and health-ish, but not if you try reducing them down over a heat with some sugar and then pour them on ice-cream, because then they’re not “smoothies”, they’re sauce.

Pancakes & Cakes

pancakes

Soup gets boring quickly, and sometimes people hate vegetables because of the ass-like taste. This is the only recipe I will include here and it’s pretty simple and adaptable. The great thing about this is that two of them amount to one of your 5 a day, and they don’t taste remotely like vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 40g of grated or blendered courgette (can be replaced with any other sort of grated or blendered anything).
  • 2 x tbsp of flour. Can use chickpea flour for a nice specific taste or just regular flour.
  • Water if you need it
  • Bitta salt, some spices, y’know

Method

  1. Mix all that together until you have a thick gloopy paste.
  2. Fry it on both sides in a hot pan until it is cooked through
  3. Congratulations you have a pancake which is full of vegetables and almost certainly does not taste of it.

You can also make vegetable-based cakes like carrot cake, which usually tastes of Health Food, but which when you make it yourself can be rendered fantastic by adding cocoa powder and more sugar. Pro tip: adding cocoa powder to anything improves it enormously, and you can do it to anything you want. There is no rule that says you can’t make chocolate banana cake, or chocolate courgette cake, or chocolate flippin’ coleslaw if you want. You’re a grown-up!

Further note: you can also mix grated and blendered stuff into omelettes or traditional pancake mix, tomato paste into omelettes, etc, and bam! Another helping of your 5-a-day is done.

Burgers and other meat tricks

burger

Meat, unlike vegetables, which we have established taste of ASS, tastes awesome. Happily, that particular AWESOME taste can be used to mask the ASS taste and help smuggle some vegetable helpfulness into your diet.

Firstly, if you can deal with the texture but not the taste of some veggies, there’s the simple expedient of frying or roasting your veg in the same pan or tray you’re doing your meat in. Lamb, as most people know, is good for this, because it’s so fatty. Yes, you’re eating cabbage, but as far as your tastebuds are concerned it’s just an extra helping of lamb, smothered in lamb fat. Your 80g portion of peas, boiled, can still be rolled through the cooling pan for a bit before you serve them, giving you some happy little lamby tidbits – and thanks to the surface-area-to-mass ratio, you have hardly any veg taste and a whole lot of meat taste to enjoy.

If you really cannot stomach vegetable textures, no big. This is where the trusty food mixer comes in again. Grab your veg portion, run it through the mixer until it’s a paste, then mix it 50/50 with burger mince and whatever you’re using to bind it. This gives you a) no veggie taste and b) twice the amount of burger for the same amount of meat! MAGICAL.

Yeah, I know, making your own burgers from scratch is a massive pain in the arse but you only have to do one big batch and fling the rest in the freezer and then you can can have frozen burgers the way God and Nature intended.

Food Colouring

food dye

Part of your hatred of vegetables also comes from your brain associating “green” with “oh god no not more boiled sadness”. There are two solutions: some vegetables are naturally Not Green, like carrots, pumpkin, most squashes, parsnips, tomatoes-which-everyone-will-remind-you-are-a-fruit, and aubergines which you almost certainly do not like because look at them, they’re fucking weird. The other is food colourant.

If your brain is an angry, sulky toddler about Not Eating Green, you can use food colouring to adulterate whatever paste, gloop, or soup you’re making that’s likely to be vibrantly that colour, and drag it around to either something a little more neutrally Foodlike (brown is often a good one because your brain will decide it is meat), or if you’re feeling daring splatter in some blue and eat something virulently turquoise.

Butter, Salt, Honey, Oil, The Roasting Dish Solution

roasted

Perhaps you don’t want to have to pulverise everything you eat. That’s fine. It makes you feel like a fucking grandma. Perhaps you’re even trying to edge your way around to actually liking vegetables either for reasons of virtuosity or just because it annoys you to be blocked off from so much potential food matter, or you’d like to be able to show off in restaurants, or whatever. Your reasons are your own. I’m just here to tell you that one way to do this is roasting.

So you know how roast potatoes are basically the pinnacle of potato (barring chips) and everyone agrees they are superior, and you’d shank a toddler for a roastie over a boiled potato? Same applies to every other vegetable. Even sprouts! You know brussel sprouts? It turns out they’re not so disgusting when they’ve not been boiled yellow and turned into mush by sitting in a pan for forty years, leeching all their nutrients into the water.

So chop up your veg, arrange it in a roasting tray, Google “how to roast [vegetable name]”, and follow the instructions. The oil and butter are for roasting it in, and the honey, or salt, or herb mix, or spice mix, are for making it taste nicer and for distracting you from the fact you’re eating vegetables. Honey-roast carrots are a good place to start.

And if you’re not ready for roasting, and want to really ease yourself into vegetables slowly: frying is a thing. Anything that can have chips made out of it – carrots, parsnips, swede, turnip – is good for a go, and if you look up “tempura vegetables” you’ll see a wealth of possibilities. There’s also stir-frying, which invariably makes things taste of whatever you’re frying them in. I suggest putting a little stock powder in your oil to make your greens taste of chicken.

Ketchup, Baked Beans: Hidden veg, possibly crouching fruit

I might be lying a tiny bit about the crouching fruit.

crouching fruit

(Did I choose to draw a banana specifically because I could make it look like a dude with a ridiculous penis? Come on. Of course I fucking did).

Did you know that a serving of baked beans in tomato sauce counts towards 1 of your 5 a day? Neither did I! Apparently that is a real thing. The same goes for other things tinned in tomato sauce, like spaghetti, or ravioli. Tomatoes are a magical thing! But you can’t just eat five and call it a day, unfortunately – they only count as one. Variety is necessary.

Ketchup is, as you know, made from tomatoes. You can add it to other vegetables to make them taste less of vegetables. It’s not actually very high in calories, either. Everyone’s heard of someone who only escaped scurvy as a student because they put ketchup on their relentlessly-consumed plain pasta…

Ice Lollies & Jellies

lollies

That’s right. You don’t have to dive into Actual Whole Pieces of Fruit for desserts. You don’t have to cautiously throw in expensive peaches or turn into your Nan with a tin of pineapple chunks. You can pudding yourself up with this stuff. Homemade jellies with gelatin or (somewhat easier to my mind, if harder to find, and bonus: if you are a vegetarian who is worried that living solely on cheese is going to kill you, it’s vegetarian) agar agar, and fruit juice. As long as the actual fruit juice is made from actual fruit, you can bang in some sugar to sweeten it while you’re boiling the water, and then you have low effort puddings for days, and days, just sitting in the fridge, being jelly.

A bit more agar agar in the mix and you can make FRUIT GUMMY SWEETS. That’s sweets. That have a value on your 5 A Day front. Seriously!

Ice lollies: I think most people are aware of this already. Everyone’s parents probably did the thing. Mine didn’t, because we didn’t have a freezer that would fit lolly moulds, because The Eighties, but happily in these enlightened times you can now buy silicone molds that make Calipso-style lollies, so even if your freezer compartment barely fits an ice tray you can still have a fruit lolly. And because you’re a fucking grown-up, you’re not limited to “Mum says I can have apple juice or orange juice”, you can go mental. You can mix juices. You can put in actual pieces of fruit. You can buy wanky smoothies and freeze them in molds. You are the boss of freezing fruit.

Fruit Leather

Bears

Yeah I know it sounds fucking weird but it’s very sweet and you just chew it up while you’re doing other stuff, like sweets, and pow, job done, vitamins etc achieved, Government appeased, body slightly less likely to fall into pieces. It’s not quite “taking a vitamin pill”, in terms of easiness, but is definitely higher on the “making your body not die” scale because it’s actually made from fruit and the process of alleged extraction isn’t quite so insane.


 

Disclaimer: I actually quite like vegetables (most of them, at least) and eat quite a large amount. But I’m not about to sit here and start moralising at people about how they eat. Far more important that you eat. If anyone tries to make you feel bad about eating food when there are still people in this world who’re starving themselves to death, fucking eat them.

EDIT: Of course, I wrote one blog post about this and it turns out someone much cleverer than me has an entire blog about smuggling vegetables into your diet…

EDIT EDIT: And a lady who flippin’ hates vegetables shares her experiences and advice (similar to mine) relating to sorting out that hatred, here.

THIRD EDIT: Then I discovered that there’s this scifi food substitute called Huel (which is either “human fuel” or “h’well” as in “human well”, depending if you pronounce it the English way or the way you do if you’re aware of Huelgoat in Breton); it claims to provide all of your daily nutrient needs and I did some experiments to see what you can make with it.

Bao Soho

On Tuesday I took a break from behaving like a sensible adult and went on a brief binge around Soho and Chinatown, which ended not so much in disaster as in Primark on Tottenham Court Road, buying slippers, but that is another story.

What’s more important is that Bao in Soho was, for all that we had to queue outside in the street forlornly and then huddle around a tiny table, entirely worth the privation.

Here is a photo story:

There were three of us and this is what we had:

Pig blood cake
Trotter nuggets
Guinea fowl Chi Shiang Rice
Aged Beef Rump Cap, Aged White Soy Sauce
Classic (Bao)
Confit pork (Bao)
Fried chicken (Bao)
House pickles

And just out of sight:

Sweet potato fries.

Fried chicken Bao.

Confit pork Bao

Trotter nuggets.

Aged Beef Rump.

Sweet potato fries with pickled plum ketchup.

guinea fowl

Guinea fowl Chi Shiang rice, photo by ossifier.

pigs blood

Pig blood cake, photo by ossifier.

classic bao

Classic Bao, photo by ossifier.

The portion sizes are tiny, the prices less so, but this does allow for multiple visits and sharing is encouraged. The tiny sizes also help to let you try absolutely everything without turning into an enormous balloon of food, and if you want a massive steamed pork bun, Chinatown is less than a mile away and will sell you sodding enormous ones full of dubious ground meat purporting to be pork for £1.70: in Bao you get one tiny one filled with definitely-gloriously-wonderfully-tasty pork which you savour for as long as you can.

It’s Like Following Me On Instagram

In the absence of acceptable content (work getting fairly horrendous because of the upcoming election, also the election itself: fairly horrendous), why not look at some calming photos of the food I’ve made lately?

Stuffed potato skin, roast carrots, spinach, pineapple lolly, cup of tea.

Mini pancakes (one teaspoon of batter each).

Vegetable stir-fry and tea.

Stuffed pepper, stuffed potato skin, tea. I didn’t actually make anything except the tea.

Melon and pineapple, strawberries, and macarons from Ladurée (lily of the valley, rose, and pistachio flavours, thanks to the generosity of a recent houseguest).

Rice and omelette.

Tinned ravioli, vegetable stir fry, tea, and some Hidden Raw Carrots.

Vegetable stir fry (are we noticing a theme?) including potatoes, soy sauce, and a 2 x quail egg omelette.

Rice, pickled lettuce, salmon furikake, miso soup with fried bean curd and tofu, blackberry and blueberry tea.

Mixed veg, fake!rice, asparagus stir fry with a quail egg.

The process of making onigiri using cling film and old Lush hair goo pots.
Tea, rice cake, and a fried egg.
Quail egg breakfast baskets made with garam massala and a garlic dough base.
Roasted carrots, shallots, garlic, and beetroot with mini jacket potatoes, a rice-flour oven pancake flavoured with almond essence, tea.
Fake!noodle vegetable stir fry with smoked tofu.
Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki and cranberry and raspberry tea.
Chocolate jelly cubes, made with cocoa, milk, agar agar, and sugar.
Sake, soy sauce, mixed steamed veg, rice with salmon furikake, cod steamed in cabbage.

And some stuff I’ve done

Elk burger and a massive stack of chips covered in mayo, from Fika on Brick Lane.

A cocktail from Fika which had a stupid name involving elves and came in a fucking sweetie jar because when you go hipster, you really go hipster.

The Resident Australian forced me to go and say hello to a peacock in Holland Park. I’ve yet to reconcile myself to long trousers.

Packetsu Part 2: The Linkening

Wait, more on Packetsu?

Yes, more on Packetsu. Trawling through invention listings at frightening o’clock in the morning has gifted me with a number of discoveries, which either make the business of packetsu more feasible, or fit into the general theme.

This printer recycles plastic bottles. Perfect for cheap packaging. You could even print your own Packetsu containers at home with downloaded blueprints.

Edible cupcake wrappers. Edible wrapping is a definite factor in Packetsu. It reduces waste and means you’re getting more food for your money!

Plastic which biodegrades in two weeks. Again, perfect for comparatively guilt-free Packetsu packaging.

Edible anti-bacterial film. Absolutely 100% perfect for food wrapping in Packetsu, especially for meat or fresh veg components. Could be a real game-changer in terms of fresher elements in Packetsu, and you can eat it so no waste!

And staying on the theme of edible packaging – edible water bottle!

But how will you eat your packetsu concoctions? Why, with edible spoons, of course!

And then I Blue Petered it:

The stock pot (left) has since been replaced with an Oxo cube as they dissolve more quickly, although in general powder would be best.
The stock pot (left) has since been replaced with an Oxo cube as they dissolve more quickly, although in general powder would be best.
Another packetsu experiment: fish stock cube, vegetable stock cube, dried smoked squid, dried seaweed, soy sauce (in a fish-shaped bottle because there's a theme).
Another packetsu experiment: fish stock cube, vegetable stock cube, dried smoked squid, dried seaweed, soy sauce (in a fish-shaped bottle because there’s a theme).