Cheap thrills

I love Sardines, and I love people who love sardines.

A lot of people have an aversion to them in their fresh form, maybe they had a bad encounter with a less than fresh fish, or maybe is the little bones you cant get rid of, but the  people who clocked on to how good they are, they are the smart ones, in my book.

 Sardines, with all the other little oily fish – herring, anchovies, have the same taste apeal as oysters – the briny, mineral sea flavour, but with a firm bite and buttery texture. And the are cheap – for the price of a single oyster you can buy a pound of them.

I got these at the Portugese fishmonger on market row, brixton market. I must admit, most of the fish stalls in the market (and butchers, for that matter) are quite disgusting, but these guys are ok, if you know what your`e looking for. The ones on Atlantic Ave. are not bad either. I didnt plan on getting anything, but when you see sardines as fresh and nice as this, you just buy them.

And when they are as fresh and nice as this, they need as little intervention as possible. After they are cleaned and trimmed thouroghly,  they get a good sprinkling of salt, and are left to cure with vine leaves, a bit of lemon and a tiny bit of garlic.

               

After a few hours the fish will have changed colour slightly, and it is ready to eat. It can be left to cure for longer, but I think that it should be as close as possible to raw. Cover it now in oil and you can keep it in the fridge for a week or longer, but I rarely do – on a plate with some olive oil, a bit of parsley and a squeeze of tomato, and I doubt you ever got that much joy out of £2.30.

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Not Kidding

Still havent sign the lease. My lawyer has taken a long weekend and I won`t have any news untill tomorrow. The estate agent is not returning my calls and I am that much closer to a complete meltdown.

But there is some progress – I have finally opened a bank account for the business and oddly enough, I bought the chairs. I know its strange, but at least now I have something tangible, an evidence that one day there will be a restaurant. That or I will have 22 chairs at home.

Nice aren’t they? Second hand, so I bet they have some stories to tell, not quite the `jubillee banquette at Buckinham palace` type,  more like the `staff lunch at ASDA Croydon` type, but so what? ASDA provides excellent value shopping, and plenty of nice things came out of Croydon, though none come to mind at the moment.

No progress on the bread front, but I did make goat stew.

 It was disgusting.

Eating goat, or kid, is an excellent idea: It is tasty, it is lean, it is cheap and because it’s not an industry, it is usually free range.

And it is very middle eastern – or used to be – and also very Brixton.

The first time I tried goat meat was in east Jerusalem, cooked with wild sage on hot coals, it was magic. I had it again  in St. John, Shared a whole shoulder of kid with friends and that too was magic – the meat was braised in a delicate stock and was buttery and full of flavour. I cooked kid once before, in Melbournes` excelent MoVida, where I worked for a day – Cooked with onion, carrots and vermouth but mostly with its own juices, it was again, magic.

I thought I was on to a winner, but as we know, nothing good comes easy – I bought this meat at a Brixton butcher, it was labeled ` curry goat`. I braised it with garlic, onion, spice and potatoes for over six hours, expecting an eat-with-a-spoon kind of thing, but it didn’t happen.

Dinner time came, my in laws came over, I ended up serving this tough and leathery affair.

 It was a very quiet, very tense evening.

So what went wrong? Before I take the blame I like to try again with kid from a different butcher. Judging The quality of a type of meat your`e not overly familiar with is tricky, but this is the reason I experiment before the restaurant opens. 

I feel really bad  about the  In laws though, I`m affraid they took it personally.


serious business

Unfortunately, starting a restaurant does involve more than just playing within the kitchen.

Yesterday I had an appointment with Vicky Pollard, She works in HSBC now, in business accounts. She wanted to specify the finance options available to me, which didn’t take that long as there are none, But she did leave me with that delightful morsel of information – approx 2/3 of all new food ventures fail to break even in their first year, and around a third fail to make it to their second year. Nice to know – Thank you Vicky and HSBC. Had as much luck with Santander and I am still waiting for a call back from Nat West. Maybe they just want to spare me further disappointment.

 Barclay’s tomorrow, and that is pretty much the last bank on the list, and if they don’t come through I will have to resort to plan B, which I havent come up with yet.

Read on metro today That 2011 will be one of the hardest years for the british economy, and the hardest hit will be small businesses. That, along with the statistics provided me by Ms Pollard, really make me feel like I am driving a Porsche into a brick wall. 

But there are some good things,I am pretty sure I got the property I want. Still waiting for a written confirmation from the lazy estate agent, I don’t want to jinx it so let us say no more. I`ve formed a company ; My wife and I are now incorporated. Does that mean we need to be more professional around the house? sign a release form before we have sex? The protocol is not yet determined.

And than this happened: a true story, I swear – I found a lamp on the street today. Not exactly on the street, in a shop in Marylebone that was closing down. I asked if I can take it and they welcomed me to it. Rather big, so I had to take it home in a cab, and it was quite dirty, so I found myself scrubbing the lamp with bleach, to make it shine. The Aladdin aspect didn’t come to mind immediately, but It would have been neat if a genie suddenly popped. One that looked in my mind a bit like Vicky Pollard.


Is this the one?

An hour till the bank meeting, and I am flipping. Because I saw a property just now that is pretty perfect, all things considered, and I put an offer on it.

a few months ago we were still looking for a flat. In fact we were flat hunting for 18 months. I am not joking. 18 months. this is how it went – we would see this many properties,  I would get hung up on one, usually something way over our budget, I would want to get it at any cost, borrow the maximum we can, steal from family, I did one night check online how much you can get for a kidney (who didn’t…). My wife, thankfully, is sane, and would hold me back, and so we were saved from losing vital organs and family ties, but every time it would happen, It took me weeks to recover and go back out there. this cycle repeated more than I care to admit, but I like to think that I`ve grown from it and am a different man now.

so I placed my offer and now I coolly get it out of my mind.  Not flipping – breathing slowly. que sera etc.

wish me luck though.