Spiced Green Beans

Spiced Green Beans


2 tbsp sesame seeds
3 tbsp ghee
half teasp black mustard seeds
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1-2 dried red chillies, roughly chopped
half a teasp turmeric
1 teasp coriander
460g green beans, topped, tailed, diced
salt to taste
1 tbsp dessicated coconut


Heat a pan over medium heat and add the seasme seeds to lightly brown. Be vigilant, DO NOT BURN!! Remove to a plate and leave.

Heat ghee in a pan over medium heat and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the garlic and brown a little. Add the red chillies and spices, stir and add the beans and salt. Stir to mix, reduce heat to as low as possible, cover pan and cook until beans are tender, stirring now and then. Maybe this will take 15-20 minutes. Grind the sesame seeds and the coconut according to your preferred technology and mix into the beans. Serve.


I saw a pattern today for a bag I want to knit – an old-fashioned stringbag in Quince’s Sparrow, which is a linen.

I have Euroflax Sport by Louet and at first glance figured it was probably going to be a good substitute.

This is where YarnSub.com comes into play.

I went to their page on Euroflax and quickly established that it was an excellent substitute for Sparrow. It gave details of the primary yarn and then of over twenty possible substitutes, rating them and describing the various points of comparison and divergence.

I give the following as an example, but please note that on the site this information is more nicely laid out!

Euroflax Sport Weight
Yardage varies

Weight: Sport
Texture: Plied
Fiber: Linen (100%)
Needles: 2.75mm (2 US) (12 UK)
3.5mm (4 US) ( UK)
Gauge: 24 sts / 10cm (4″)
Balls: (Varies)
Care: Machine wash (30C)
Styles: Solid colors
Price: $$$$$

Suggested substitutes
Sparrow (97% match) $$$$$
Good news! The texture of this yarn is a close match.
Good news! The gauge is an exact match, but you should always swatch.
Good news! The fiber content matches exactly.
Good news! The qualities of the fibers in this yarn (elasticity, drape, warmth etc.) are a very close match.

Lin (92% match)
Good news! The texture of this yarn is a close match.
Good news! The fiber content matches exactly.
Good news! The qualities of the fibers in this yarn (elasticity, drape, warmth etc.) are a very close match.
Information This yarn is more dense. Your garment will weigh more than with the original yarn.
Information The gauge almost matches, but you may need to use smaller needles. Swatch to check gauge.

and towards the end of the list:

Bella Lino (70% match)
Good news! The qualities of the fibers in this yarn (elasticity, drape, warmth etc.) are a very close match.
Information This yarn also has a regular, smooth texture, but it is plied with a loose twist rather than plied. It is still a good match, but the ply structure of yarn has an effect on the finished fabric and what it’s best used for.
Information This yarn is more dense. Your garment will weigh more than with the original yarn.
Information The gauge almost matches, but you may need to use smaller needles. Swatch to check gauge.
Information The fiber content is different. This yarn contains: Linen (58%), Viscose (26%) and Cotton (16%)

As well as being a database of yarn substitution for the major and also, the site states, for lots of smaller, companies, it discusses how to make the choices.

This is a wonderful site I’ll be coming back to again and again. It has hundreds of companies listed, including discontinued yarns, which can be so hard to find substitutes for.

Aloo Gajjar Potatoes and Carrots

Aloo Gajjar Potatoes and Carrots


60g ghee
1 teasp cumin seeds
2 potatoes, peeled and diced, about half an inch
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 teasp chilli powder
1 teasp coriander
a little turmeric
juice of half a lemon


On high, heat the ghee in large frying pan and add the cumin seeds. As soon as they start to pop, add the potatoes and fry for a few minutes before adding the carrots. Stir in the spices and salt, stir for a couple of minutes and add a very little water before covering and cooking on very low heat until the vegetables are cooked.

I add frozen peas just before the end sometimes. Add the lemon juice, stir, serve.

This is one of the many recipes I use from Classic Indian Cuisine Rosemary Moon

Best Guacamole recipe

It does have to be perfect, doesn’t it, avocado. When I’m in Melbourne my neighbour Lesley and I sometimes go to a place where honestly, the food has just always been spot on exemplary for 10 years…but then, then…one day, we were given avocado with bad bits in it. We are not cowards, at least not about food. But. We almost stopped going there. I never ordered the dish again. I make it myself now.

Anyway, this is something else again:

Best Guacamole recipe


2 perfectly ripe avocados, peeled and chopped. It isn’t supposed to be a mash, something a bit more textured than that.
juice of two limes or one lemon
2 tbsps freshly copped coriander leaves
half teasp finely chopped fresh chilli
3 spring onions, white part only, finely chopped


Toss the avocado in the citrus juice. Add the other ingredients and serve immediately, perhaps with flat bread, or crackers of some sort.

Frankly, I don’t understand why freshly ground black pepper is not included in this. I add it.

This is Stephanie Alexander’s idea of Guacamole from The Cook’s Companion

Middle Eastern Meatballs hot or cold

These can be served hot, eg with toothpicks, as a starter. They are also great cold, so another picnic food.

Middle Eastern meatballs


500g finely minced lamb
pinch of salt
1 onion, finely chopped
2 teasp cumin
1 teasp allspice
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup of coarsely chopped coriander leaves
olive oil


Mix everything every well except the oil. You can wet your hands before rolling the mixture into little balls – no more than one mouthful at a time – or roll in flour. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry meatballs until cooked.

Recipe from Stephanie Alexander The Cook’s Companion

Another glaze for rack of lamb

This was just messing about, but it turned out to be divine.

Mix redcurrant jelly and mirin in a small saucepan and simmer for a while.

Brush on lamb and baste during cooking.

Serve with the glaze from the cooking process drizzled over.

The lamb: it really does just depend. I find that anywhere between half and a whole rack is for two people. How greedy are you? How many vegetables are you having?

At any rate, you preheat the oven to at least 220C and don’t cook for too long. Ten minutes might be enough for a half rack divided into two serves. It really should be rare. If you want to overcook it, I suggest there is no point cooking such a delicate and expensive cut of meat.

The latest round of eating out in London

The Antipodes

LANTANA Maybe the best ad I’ve seen for a restaurant lately was the situation at Lantana on Saturday morning. The place was supposed to be open for business at 9am. We arrived at 9.06am and nothing was happening. One of the cooks hadn’t turned up, they had no idea where he was or when he would arrive. Or even if he’d be able to cook when he did get there. Nonetheless by 9.15am the place was chockers with hungry little vegemites who were willing to wait. The staff handled the situation with aplomb, handing out drinks. Chef arrived, our orders were taken in sequence of arrival and thus we, being the first in, dug in first too, at 10am or so. The food was good.

We went back a couple of days later and this reinforced the idea I’ve had for a couple of years now that Lantana has become a bit hit and miss. We don’t think the bacon is nearly as good as it used to be. I ordered an apple and bread pudding which I expected to be warm, but that was merely skin deep, quickly degenerating to cold as I got to the inner regions of it.

KOPAPA We spent rather a lot of time at The Providores and Tapa Room last time we were in town. I hadn’t been to Kopapa for a few years partly because it is entirely lacking in warmth. You can hang around The Tapa Room, but not Kopapa. We both had the eggs and yoghurt, the dish from which there is no escape for Peter Gordon. Mine was dire. Scarcely luke warm, cold overcooked eggs. I ate them and then complained when asked if everything was okay afterwards. I was told I should have complained at the time, but what’s the point of that? Who wants to start off their day having to send their breakfast back, watch one’s companion eat and then eat whilst they watch you? Not to mention, we are talking about a dish that these guys have made many of, every day, for years. It’s a very simple dish that has to be competently executed and this one wasn’t.

Having said that, their tea was good and when asked for extra hot water a proper pot of it was brought. I wish that was always easy to negotiate.

The barns

Grain Store is a huge place across Regent’s Canal behind Kings Cross Station. We got there at 10am on Sunday morning, having picked it for its vegetarian bent. We were informed that we had to wait for all our party to arrive before we would be seated. There was a bar we could sit at. Nonetheless, I wanted to leave straight away. I guess I don’t mind that attitude if a place is filling up, but at 10am it was empty and held maybe a hundred tables. Really? We couldn’t be seated? Is the place doing so badly that it can’t afford to give us a table for 4 if it turns out there are only 2 of us? I don’t like going to places that are so hungry for every dollar. I want some affection for the food, the customer, the situation on the part of the management. Not here. We did stay, our friends arrived as expected. The food was good, though we do not yet have enough data as three of us picked the same dish. The desserts were nice.

Yoghurt and chickpea pancake, avocado, tomato and jalapeño salsa 9.5
(with merguez sausage) 12
Caesar salad with crispy seaweed, fish cake 13
Baked apple, rosemary crumble, crème fraîche and salted caramel sauce 6

The tea was ludicrously strong – a small pot with maybe 3 teaspoons of tea in it. I asked for extra hot water and received a small jug of it which made little impact. Asking again I received a pot of hot water. I realise I’m Australian, but we ate with an English person who also found the tea too strong. An odd situation since it means the restaurant’s tea overhead is much more than it need be.

I enjoyed the meal here, but the place did fill up over the first hour or so and ended up being the sort of place one has to shout in. I don’t want to shout while eating at the best of times, but certainly not over breakfast.

We noticed before heading into the Grain Store, a vast queue of people waiting to get into the place next door. Had we picked the wrong barn at which to eat?

Caravan is another huge barn of a place, but I found it much friendlier than next door. Maybe that’s the antipodean vs the French influence. Packed and noisy, again, not the sort of place I’d want to idle away the time in, but we were on our way to the airport. We just wanted food.

Garlic flatbread, yoghurt 4.5
Kohlrabi, fennel, lemon balm, walnuts, chardonnay vinaigrette 5-
Coconut lime chicken salad 6.5
Yorkshire black pudding, celeriac, apples, verjus reduction 7-
Crispy soft shell crab 9-

We both found the chicken rather disappointing, I expected gutsy tangy explosion of taste, but it was so demure I wondered if something had been left out that should have been there. Nonetheless, we will find ourselves going back next time when we are next back in London.

The chains

After going to Othello in an archaeological dig with no heating, we were looking for somewhere to defrost and quickly. Sarah-Louise described Bill’s as good pub food. We had arrived.

crispy lemon squid garlic and lemon mayo 5.95
crispy duck salad spring onion, apple ribbons, radish, red pepper, coriander and watercress, sprinkled with sesame seeds, soy and lemon dressing 5.85
Bill’s beer-battered cod minted peas, pickled onion, skin-on fries and tartare sauce 11.95
Bill’s ‘peri peri’ marinated half chicken our own blend of peri peri picuin chillies, roasted peppers, orange and lemon zest, allspice and oregano, served with a winter slaw and sweet potato fries 11.95
pan-fried sea bass chunky tomato, avocado and caper salsa with a crispy spring onion and parsley potato rösti 11.95
rhubarb and stem ginger crème brûlée ginger nut biscuits 4.50
warm mini cinnamon doughnuts fresh strawberries and warm chocolate dipping sauce 5.50

Tea came in a large pot, 2 teabags. When asked for more hot water, the waiter promptly brought it in another large pot. We were really impressed with our meal here, a chain restaurant maybe, but everything was of good quality, service was terrific and friendly, the place had a good atmosphere. It was large and crowded, but didn’t require shouting in the way the barns did.

I can’t say the same about the other chain restaurant we lunched at. Royal China Baker Street had, we think, changed its menu since last time we were there some months ago. The food, at any rate, was rather disappointing. In particular we ordered a dish of asparagus, which as far as I could see, contained no heads. Is that normal? Personally it didn’t bother me as I prefer the stems, but I’m out of sorts with the world on that one, so I doubt many people appreciate getting stems only. I wonder to what use the heads are put? Still, it’s efficient, reasonable prices – five of us with no alcohol or dessert ate for a bit under 100 pounds.

I’m not sure whether to call Gallipoli Cafe and Bistro a chain. It’s a Turkish place in Islington that is so popular it has spawned a couple of others nearby. Our visit here was an early pre-theatre dinner after a day of eating, so we don’t have a large experience to report. I had a lamb shishkebab the charcoal flavour of which made me very happy. The salad which accompanied it was simple and fresh, as was the rice. I will definitely be back to try this place again.

The set lunch/dinner

The Blue Door Bistro is the restaurant of The Montague on the Gardens. We were too early to check in and sat down to their set menu in the meantime. I’d been in England for two hours, so I was chilled to the bone and started with tea which was nicely presented. It was the only place I went to in London which served it properly, in that extra hot water came as part of the order rather than having to ask for it. Having been given menus, we had to ask for the set lunch menu. I wish restaurants didn’t do this, is it that customers are supposed to feel too intimidated to ask and therefore orders from the à la carte? It should simply come with the rest of the menu so that the diner is properly informed. I don’t mean to sound too harsh as this restaurant has high standards of service, so surely an oversight in this case.

At 17 pounds for two courses, it was reasonable value, but we both thought, for two pounds extra, that the pre-theatre set menu we had at the Almeida restaurant easily trumped it. Excellent value, including splendid bread, let down by our choice of dessert. We both ordered the poached pear. Should a poached pear need a heavy hand with a knife to saw through it? Not that we had one, we were given a fork and spoon, but a knife would have been handy. I was especially disappointed as it is such an easy dessert to get right. But still, we were very happy with our meal here and like all the new places we tried this trip, we’d be happy to give it another go.