Feelin’ Foxy

May 13, 2009

‘The essence of Stoke Newington’ says Time Out. A ‘hub of culinary and imbibing activity’ according to the Fox’s web-site. It’s very red, very cosy and yes, a lot of bottles go down there. Along with games of backgammon, a stack of today’s papers to wade through and some great grub.

the fox

Stoke Newington began to be trendy at least as far back as the early 1980s. Today there’s a picturesque line of independent shops, a pretty church and the green expanse of Clissold Park (where there are deer). Stokie (as I’m sure someone affectionately calls it) is now the home for those trendsetters from the 80s made good. (If you’re a struggling artist now you live on its cheaper shores, in up-and-coming Dalston or Finsbury Park, bask in Stoke Newington’s extended aura of very English Bohemia, and yearn.)

Facts to know about Stoke Newington:

Award winning Indian restaurant Rasa started here and now there are two branches on Church Street, one purely vegetarian. It’s well worth a visit.

The independent DVD shop (can’t recall its name at the moment) is great too. Full of odd titles that sound intriguing and suitably superior staff who chew gum and look like the coolest kids at school but know everything about film.

It’s the epicentre for urban lesbians of a certain age. (Get off your bus at Fresh and Wild, stroll down past the bike shop and towards the bakery and you’ll know I’m right.)

People either love it or hate it. A bit like Maupin’s San Francisco, you’re either an absolute devotee or you just don’t get it (and are secretly hugely jealous of those that do). Walking to the Fox on Sunday night I was accosted by one of the latter. A large very flushed man in a blue jacket with years of brewery on his breath, who wanted to know if I was ‘going back in there?’ He gesticulated, wild-eyed, up Church Street.

I was.

And what was I going to vote in the next election?

I hummed and hawed and then, since that didn’t work and he was standing scarily close and was bigger than me, I walked on fast, while he puffed after me and then began to roar ‘I am a Conservative!’ Here he beat his chest (literally). ‘What is wrong with us?’ he asked (still beating his sweaty white shirt). ‘I am a Conservative!’ he thundered.  I scurried off into the sanctity of liberal London.

And then, the evening’s excitement over, I settled down to a very nice imbibe of  expensive red wine and expensive but delicious bangers and mash, paid for by my wonderful friend B and her girlfriend (yes B used to live in Stoke Newington) and thought I must come here more often. To Stoke. To the Fox. I must learn to play backgammon. I must wear dungarees and a hat. Life can be good.


Pass the Port

January 16, 2009

I meant well.

Right up until last night I fully intended to give you something really rather special. At one point I was going to convince you that spring greens with dolcelatte and pine nuts was the only dish worth eating. And that shredded kale was the perfect foil for cumin-roasted potatoes.

The green theme was strong but I wasn’t limited to it. Not limited at all – in fact I would go so far as to say my culinary imagination knew no bounds. It soared. It soared right over that recipe for gingerbread I meant to get round to way back when I had the cranberries. Over iced lemon cup-cakes. Over caramel squares. Over so many unmade and imaginary gems of the cookie jar.

There were even some things I actually did get down to cooking. There was a particularly delicious mountain of hot mashed potato in which butter and milk and tahini (yes, it works!) were heavily involved. There was a frugal but fragrant medley of steamed winter vegetables topped with grilled halloumi.

There was even a spicy noodle soup – well actually, no, there was the soup but I didn’t make it. It came from Wagamama. Not did I make anything for the children’s birthday tea at which margarita pizza was perfectly complimented with Nigella Lawson’s chocolate brownies (you can see a comment by those children under this recipe).

And at none of these meals, cooked by me or not, did I take photos or write down any ingredients. Perhaps it was because everywhere I turned there was too much of this –


Not just wine either. There was also port. Lethal stuff port and I don’t think anyone could expect even the most dedicated food blogger to function well with the camera after a glass or two of that!

Not that I’m any sort of heavy drinker, though obviously we do try to keep merry here. It was Dave’s fault, my flat-mate. He’s off work this week and keeps foisting the port on me. No, go away! Oh, OK then!

After a bit of port Dave tends to play one of these –


Which is fine. He plays very well. I just wish he didn’t want me to sing. He’s convinced himself that I’m somehow going to metamorphose into the lead singer of his (unformed) blues band. Ain’t gonna happen Dave!

Which all boils down to this (culinary play on words there!). I don’t have a recipe to share. But I will do.

I’ll make it up to you next week, I promise.

Until then, here’s a photo I took in Cyprus. Not for any good reason, no, but a pomegranate is a very nice thing to look at, isn’t it?