Yalla Yalla

I’d been meaning to go to Yalla Yalla for a long time. My brother and I planned to meet up for late lunch yesterday so I decided I should finally get round to it. It’s fantastic. Everything tastes really fresh and delicious (and never overseasoned). We ate so much between us but the food wasn’t so rich that we regretted any of it. It’s tiny and cosy and really friendly. I really can’t sing its praises enough. Lebanese is one of my favourite types of world cuisine, and Yalla Yalla is a really good place to try if you’re also a fan.

Music to cook to

I tend to keep my laptop (relatively) nearby when I cook so I can bop along to music. When cooking something savoury, I tend to choose upbeat, bouncy songs. Today, as I cooked a smoked fish gratin, I chose Prince (although he tends to be a firm favourite no matter what the occasion), Magic System and Gogol Bordello. I was slightly late onto the Gogol Bordello bandwagon, but now I’m on it I’m quite happy to nod along while chopping smoked fish and boiling new potatoes.

When making something sweet, I tend towards motown. There’s something saccharine about motown that just goes with baking.

As for today’s dish of creamy smoked fish gratin…

For my birthday, my boyfriend’s mum bought me these lovely cookbooks. As I’m looking to move out soon, she thought I’d need some no-frills recipes and these books each contain two hundred, only one page to each recipe. I’m so excited to try them all – starting today.

I had a flick through the ‘curries’ book…

And through the ‘one pot meals’ book…

But eventually the smoked fish gratin caught my eye in the ‘easy suppers’ book.

Just look how it turned out. I’m so full from eating it but I still think it looks yummy.

Served with new potatoes and salad with a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Learning to cook was a real rite of passage for me. The women in my family are amazing cooks and I was quite late to take an interest in the preparation of food. Now that I’ve tried a few things and can put ingredients together and have them taste nice, my confidence is picking up. It’s a therapeutic process – starting from deciding on a recipe, buying the ingredients, daringly substituting any ingredients for other ones or adding in something spontaneously, preparing the dish, eating the dish, and feeling full and satisfied afterwards. The dishes had been scraped bare by the end of today’s meal, which is always a good sign.

I think I’m also developing a feel for cooking potatoes. My aunty on my Irish side has got an enviable knack for it, but I’m getting there slowly but surely. The secret is not to overseason or overcook the potatoes, but to cook them in a way that helps you taste the flavour of the potato itself, not of excessive ingredients you add to the pot. When I was growing up, potatoes were served bare; no butter or other condiment was to be found near them. It’s a principle I’d like to carry on in my cooking – trying to make the best of the basic flavours, not conceal them with convoluted mixtures.

I’m a foodie

Las Papas in Mexico – the best fast food I’ve ever eaten.

Mussaman curry in the late Thai restaurant Boonchoo.

Snog frozen yoghurt.

Crepe with banana and chocolate brownie from House of Crepes in Gabriel’s Wharf. They also make savoury ones!

Moroccan sweets in Marrakech.

Thai desserts at the annual Thai food festival in Battersea Park.

A selection of photos of delicious foods I have stumbled across and have been looking for an excuse to post. Perhaps forcing them all into the same post isn’t particularly palatable but I have put the savoury before the sweet, at least.