I always try and give some homemade presents and bought ones, and normally that involves food. I reckon food is one of the best presents you can give. If people love it, that's great - they get a tasty treat made by you; if they hate it, they can give it away to someone else and tell you they loved it and ate it all, and noone's the any wiser. No having to hide that scary old lamp your mum bought you a million years ago every time they come around, just a jar of something interesting in the Christmas stocking.
First up, sweet chilli jam - I make this every year for my parents. It takes a while to make, but most of that's standing around stirring by the stove. If you fancy making it at home, get yourself a good book and a comfy chair. All you need is some ginger, garlic, vinegar, sugar, chills and red peppers - here's the recipe.
Then there's the pickled watermelon. My parents are Cockneys, and Cockneys love pickles. Pickled gherkins, pickled walnuts, pickled eggs (seriously) - if it stands still long enough, Cockneys will pickle it. I'm banking on my parents never having tried pickled watermelon rinds though (I'm fairly sure melons don't grow in the East End. Cholera maybe, but not watermelons.)
After my earlier experiments with watermelon pickling, I used a fairly similar recipe: brining the watermelon, boiling it with sugar, vinegar, water along and spices like coriander seed, pink and black peppercorns, and mustard seeds.
And finally, I said goodbye to the autumn with a big jam making session. I ended up with a big stash of apricots when they were cheap at the end of the summer (£1 a box? Don't mind if I do) so I decided to make my first ever jar of apricot jam. It came out a beautiful jewel-like orange and it's now in the cupboard to give someone a taste of summer at Christmas time.
I also came across an insane amount of blackberries in my local park, and ended up coming home with several big tubs of fruit. Half went into crumble, the other half got jammed. I think I ended up using this recipe.
But it's not all been slaving over sugar and fruit for me this week, I've also been out to investigate a new restaurant in the West End, called Ethos.
It's a buffet place that's vegetarian but does a load of vegan stuff too. You either by the food by weight, or can go for an all you can eat brunch option at the weekend.
It all looks a bit brown doens't it? I managed to pick up a great big plate of brown.
It might look a bit like a homogenous plate, but there were all sorts of goodies - dengaku aubergine, sweetcorn fritters, panzanella, Eritrean mango salad, bread, salad leaves, and some Indonesian fried rice.
It's a world menu and most of it was highly flavoured - the sweetcorn fritters in particular felt like going 10 rounds with a stick of lemongrass - so a lot of the plate ended up clashing with something else on it. Most of it was pretty good though, including the aubergine in particular, but the cost for the rather modest meal you see above was £13. Yowzer. I can't see myself coming back to Ethos in a rush - Tibits is a much better bet for a veg*n buffet. (Another odd point - while all the dishes are all clearly marked as veggie or vegan, the drinks aren't. They sell Camden Hells beers, though, which are vegan.)
Mr Flicking the Vs opted for the all you can eat £17 deal, which was much better value (at least compared to the buy by weight option) - as much food as you need plus a coffee and a juice. That meant he got to top himself up with a big plate of lunch, and also got to check out dessert.
There were a few options for veggies and a couple of for vegans - carrot cake and fruit salad. The cake was really dense, but moist and spicy as you'd hope. Not sure about the pink icing, but I could have easily stood another piece.
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