Saturday, 31 October 2009

Where's the A to Z?

I have a profoundly inaccurate sense of direction. Stop and ask me the way to the Liverpool Street and it is highly likely that you'll end up in Uxbridge. Alright, that last statement might be a little over the top but there have been a couple of occasions when I've sent a tourist on their merry way and thought afterwards "oh no I meant to say right". This is terrible but I have actually bumped into a fellow pedestrian who recognised me and stopped to remonstrate the fact that I'd given them the wrong instructions a few days previous. I, in no uncertain terms, argued that I had never seen him before in my life, called him an "idiot" and stormed off before he could register that my beetroot-red face and smell the faint involuntary flatulence emitting from my posterior. He was a big hairy scaffolder and scaffolders can be scary blokes you know. So, the moral of this tale is never listen to or accept advice from me when lost. Ask a community police officer for directions, that's all they're good for anyway.

Also, should you ever arrange to meet me for a WMPC swop, don't expect me to know where Canteen is either. Even if I do suggest that it would be a good place to go and that I would buy you breakfast in there. As Mia from The Urban Foodie found to her cost last week. Although I was off work for the week, using up holiday to do some DIY around the house, I didn't want to cancel our appointment so I suggested that we meet early in the morning. That way I could get back home and still have the rest of day to stand in my front room to scratch my head and ponder. You know, I never did get any painting done. So I met Mia at our designated spot, Embankment at 8:45 sharp and with great strides and purpose, walked across Waterloo Bridge to take her to breakfast, having a good natter along the way. When we reach the other side, Mia then turns to me and says "so whereabouts is it? to which I reply "well it's around here somewhere". Actually all I really knew was that I'd heard they had a branch on South Bank, somewhere. Most likely a geezer in the pub told me. Desperate not to let on that I didn't have a clue where we were going, I decided that the best policy would be to run around like a headless chicken, dragging poor Mia left, right, upstairs and down the myriad of steps, byways and walkways around Royal Festival Hall.

After a short while, Mia decided that perhaps she should get directions off her iPhone. "Bloody hell, marvelous idea" I thought, "I should really get myself one of those". Once she found the Canteen website with a map she then handed it over to me. Which was a mistake. Perhaps Mia was trying to do me the good favour of letting me feel as though I was still in charge of the situation but I am dyslexic when it comes to maps. Hence, the poor directional skills. I am sure alarm bells went ringing off as I pointed at the small screen and asked "what do you think that big blue wavy line is?". She didn't have to tell me it was the Thames, the look she gave was enough. In the end, I admitted defeat and had to go into an Eat establishment to ask where the hell Canteen was. And of course, it was just around the corner. 20 minutes faffing about, running up a puff and it was just behind the bloody Royal Festival Hall. Still, nothing like a bit of exercise to build up an appetite.

Once we finally got in there, I have to say that breakfast in Canteen was very pleasant, despite being served by a waiter who clearly wore a string vest under his shirt. Mia plumped for Eggs Florentine and I had Eggs, Bacon and Bubble n Squeak and it was great to sit there having a chat with an absolute stranger. Even if I had to concede that she made the better choice and sat there quite jealous. It's OK she gave me a little bit of poached egg. But as I was saying, most of the contributors to WMPC I have met before but the only lines of communication I've had with Mia were via email and Twitter so it was nice to meet the face behind the blog. And what a blog too. OK, The Urban Foodie is the product of a MA in Web Design so as a food blog it does go beyond the realms, well compared to mine anyway! I'm not sure but I think the blog is relatively new, it certainly is very comprehensive with lots of information with reviews and recipes, you should check it out. And after spending 45 mins talking with Mia, it was clear that here beats the heart of a true epicurean with a lovely sense of humour. But then she'd have to after putting up with the initial farce of trying to find the place.

So what did Mia give me in exchange for brekkie? Sausages, that's what. Casseroled with butter beans, tomatoes, onion and fennel (you can find the recipe here) and it was fantastic, a super winter warmer. You could tell that the snags were of good quality, very meaty with a slight hint of pepper. The beans were soft and yielding and Mia had cut up the onion into fairly large chunks which had been gently caramelised, nice and sweet. Personally, I think that fennel seed is a great addition to any sausage dish adding a lovely hint of aniseed and frequently pair them up at home so Mia was onto a winner here anyway. She also supplied a side salad which I was very impressed with as the leaves, cucumber and tomato had been produced in Hackney, supplied by Growing Communities' scheme. Mia lives in the area and gets a box from them once a week. There were various leaves in the salad but the mizuna in particular was packed with mustard flavour which went down well with Mia's balsamic dressing. An excellent supper.

Thanks a million Mia and next time, you decide where we go, I'll just follow!

Sausage and Butter Bean Casserole
Autumn Salad from Hackney

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