Archive for February, 2011

Quick work lunch ideas

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Monday – the usual routine – wake up a few hours earlier than you did yesterday, zombie through the morning on a couple of coffees, counting down the moments until you get to battle peak hour traffic or trains to get back home to gradually recover and hope that Tuesday is a bit better.   That’s usually how it goes for me if I’ve had no exercise and ate badly on the weekend.  I try to be healthy Monday – Thursday and then enjoy a bit more indulgent food from Friday night onwards.  Let’s face it, there’s not much to do to catch up with friends than to do it over lunch or dinner or drinks :)     So after a weekend of bad eating, how can you give your stomach a bit of a rest as well as your wallet?   Here are a few things I’ve been having which have made it quite pleasing to be healthy on Mondays to start the week.

1) Tuna sandwich. Sounds boring eh?  But when you use tuna in oil (no, not the cat food like springwater one), it’s quite tasty.   I’ve stirred through a tablespoon of pesto into the drained tuna and had it with mesclun and very thinly sliced cucumber.  Today, switched the pesto with a thick spread of avocado and very ripe roma tomatoes.  It helps if you use yummy bread too, like sourdough or toasted turkish.

2) Grilled vege and Moroccan chicken wraps – Your Moroccan spice mix is your best friend. Or any spice mix really.  Slice an eggplant, 2 zucchinis lengthways.  Turn on your oven to the highest setting and spray with oil.  Season and bake until soft.  While this is happening, oil your chicken tenderloins and sprinkle with the spice mix and grill.  Sure, your veges won’t have the pretty grill marks – but your chicken will – and really when it all goes down who cares you’re not having a dinner party after all!  I like to have this with rocket and use lebanese bread or a tortilla wrap.  If you like, ditch the rocket and put cheese in it and press in your work sandwich griller (after you clean it from last week’s dirty colleague that is!).

3) Vege patties – microwave a cup of sweet potato cubes until soft.  Mash in with a can of drained chickpeas, a handful of chopped coriander, a teaspoon of ground coriander and generous sprinkle of salt and pepper and an egg.  Shape into patties and put in your fridge to firm up.  Once firm, panfry in a few tablespoons of oil.   Have these with sweet chilli sauce and a side salad.

4) Noodle stir fry – heat a tablespoon of oil, add some julienned ginger and crushed garlic, and stir fry until fragrant.  Add julienned veges of choice (cabbage, red capsicum, carrot and zucchini hold well, as does baby corn) and cook through.  Add a packet of pre-cooked hokkien or udon noodles, as well as quarter cup of chicken stock, a splash of dark soy and a splash of oyster sauce to taste.  Keep tasting to make it saltier if you like, and add a tiny few drops of sesame oil.

5) My favourite freezer lunch that I make ahead is chickpea, harissa and tomato soup.  It’s SO easy.  One can of chickpeas, drained, one can of diced tomatoes, one chopped onion, 2 cloves garlic and 1/4 bunch of coriander.  Heat oil and saute some ground coriander, garlic and onion until soft and fragrant.  Add chickpeas and tomato and a cup of stock (or half a cup if you prefer runnier soups).  Simmer with a generous squeeze of harissa, and then get a blender and whiz half the soup.   Mix it back with the chunky soup to make a stew and stir in the coriander also.  This soup freezes SO well, with the added bonus that it doesn’t spill when you take it into work.

As for snacking – I try to stick to fruit and also drink water instead of vending machine cans.  It’s apparently meant to make your skin glow, not to mention save your teeth. And obviously, less juice as it’s better to eat whole fruit for more fibre.  The biscuit jar is a no no too!  I’ve made a banana bread (low fat one) and cut it into slices into the freezer.  Date loaf is good too and both provide a sweet treat at hand for your cravings.

Hmm this post has sounded more like a diet/nutrition one but anyway, I hope that you start your week fresh and healthy until you gradually slide into Friday’s chips and drinks hahaha.

Gordon Ramsay – the best meal of my LIFE (so far!)

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Has anyone noticed how high the Aussie dollar is at the moment?  Never before has it been so cheap to go to Europe, and actually be able to do things like eat and see things without feeling like you are bleeding money.  On my recent trip to London, I noticed a stark contrast in the price of fine dining compared to home, partly due to the strong Aussie dollar but also due to the still subdued business market making the long client lunches a bit less lavish and showy compared to the investment banking hey-day.  But not one to complain, I set myself the task of eating ten Michelin stars.  My first was at Pied-A-Terre  - a fine two Michelin star establishment where I thoroughly enjoyed my 30 pound 3 course meal.  And now I must gush about Gordon Ramsay.   When I tell people that this was the best dining experience of my life so far and one of the top 3 highlights of my Europe trip (along with Santorini, and the Vienna opera), people react with surprise, thinking the Gordon Ramsay shown on TV is transpired to his restaurants.  Far be it from the truth.  Gordon Ramsay’s flagship restaurant in Chelsea is one of only two restaurants in Central London with three Michelin stars.   To sum it up – I felt like absolute royalty there.  The service could not have been better if I was indeed of royal blood, and it felt like the entire team was there to attend to your every need.

It is a very small restaurant.  So intimate, and formal without pretence.  We were seated at a table for two – each table for two is positioned around the outside of the room, with the chairs turned into the centre, great for people watching, but mostly so that the waiters may attend to you easily.  The Maitre’d made it seem like he remembered my friend whom I went with, and when she remarked that I had come from Australia, this piece of information made its way to ALL the staff (no joke), as even the servers would ask me how my experience was so far and whether it lived up to expectations.  Each PERSON has their own waiter AND their own server.  The server brings the food on a silver platter with your plate under a ciloche for your gloved waiter to serve you your plate.  Then, your waiter with a flourish pours sauce onto your dish – it is all so symphonic in its execution and inside, I was squealing with delight at every little detail.  But – compose yourself FoodieChat, this IS a three star restaurant, so look cool like you always do this ;)

Did I mention the price? A mere 45 pounds (plus tax) gets you THREE courses for lunch.  In aussie dollars, that’s less than $100!!  There is no such thing as a three MICHELIN star restaurant in Australia, but I can tell you that lunch at most three HAT restaurants would set you back more.  What a bargain.  Even without the “name” the value for money is unsurpassable.  To make it more discreet, only the host of the table gets the menu with the prices. Which set me into a moment of panic thinking “What if the lunch special menu is not available!” because the usual degustation is priced more realistically at 120 pounds.

Guess what this is?  Amuse bouche? No.  In fact, it is the whipped salted butter. Sprinkled with gold leaf and piped onto a granic disc on silver.  *die* of pleasure!!

Now here is the amuse bouche.  My companion is pescatarian, and the kitchen ever so kindly even adapted the amuse bouche, using a tiny poached quails egg sitting in the pea broth.

I am not vegetarian, which means I got the unmodified version. Any guesses about what it is?

My first frogs leg!!  The tiny bone (Slightly offputting hehehe), stuck into a lightly crumbed ball of the flesh which sat on top of a cured speck (I think) and in the pea broth.  OK, if I’m ever going to try a frog’s leg, it’s gotta be at Gordon Ramsay.  It was kinda like flaked chickeny-tuna actually.  Quite seafood-y.    For my first course, I ordered the crab and scallop raviolo.  It was served with the bisque poured by my waiter, and only now in reveiwing my photos had I noticed the painstaking detail – the dots of oil on the dish, the perfectly cubed tomato – but look closely – a tiny herb placed on each tomato – spring onion, chive, coriander. WOW.

The filling was so generous and flavoursome.  And served on a piece of trimmed cabbage. (more…)