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guacamole

 

The first time I tried proper guacamole I was 17. I was at my friend Emily’s house, her parents were out and we were entertaining her French exchange. By entertaining, I mean incessant giggling and the odd shot of tequila. Food was taken seriously in that house and I’ve never tasted a guacamole that tasted as good since. Until now.

I had no intention of sharing this recipe. I was just using up some odds and ends. But then the husband said that it tasted like something Paddy would make. This is the highest form of praise that can ever be uttered in our household. Our friend Paddy is an incredible cook – I don’t know how he makes everything so flavourful and just downright delicious, but he does.

Anyhoo, I passed Ridley Road market on Friday after work and was amazed to see some traders still there. Packing up, but still calling to the crowd advertising rock bottom prices in an attempt to shift the last of their stock. It was like an episode of The Apprentice only without the worn clichés and bad grammar.

I picked up four avocados, 10 nectarines, a bowl of cherries and a punnet of strawberries for £2. Awesome. After a weekend of determined scoffing, a heavenly breakfast of cherry and basil compote plus a concerted effort to palm some off on the boys at supper club, I still had two (slightly squidgy) nectarines and two avocados left.

Serves: 4

2 avocados (squidgy)

3 spring onions, as finely chopped as you can get them

1 very ripe nectarine, finely chopped

1 tsp of salsa picante verde de chile habanero

A generous pinch of salt

A handful of coriander leaves, chopped

The juice of one and a half limes

As I said, I was just using up some odds and ends. I was playing. I chucked the onions, the avocado and coriander in a bowl and squeezed over the juice from one lime. I squished it together and tasted. It needed a kick. I didn’t have any fresh chilli, so I reached into the cupboard where I have several bottles of weird and wonderful things stashed. This particular bottle of fire is from Casa Mexico on Winkley Street. It’s hot as hell. I sloshed some in. Phew, it certainly had a kick now. I needed some sweetness to offset the heat. I cursed myself for not having any mango. And then I saw the nectarine. I went for it. More lime, a generous sprinkle of Maldon salt et voilà, holy Guacamole was born.

 

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Parklife: relaxing in Clissold Park, Stoke Newington, London

Parklife: relaxing in Clissold Park, Stoke Newington, London

Friday

Wake up with: £50

Go to bed with: £50

As predicted, the ‘team meeting’ is less about ‘team’ and more about the dissolution thereof. I am one of the lucky ones for now, and I leave work on Friday still in gainful employment, although the survivor’s-guilt sets in as I cycle home.

I’m almost glad for the opportunity to throw myself into some manual labour to take my mind off the whole thing: the new carpet has been fitted in two rooms, so we can start to put them back together. Cue much hoovering, dusting and heavy lifting. By ten, the husband and I are sat on the sofa, enjoying our tea (spaghetti carbonara cooked by yours truly), watching the TV in a sparkling-clean sitting room. With the door closed, we can almost forget about the rest of the flat.

Saturday

Wake up with: £50

Go to bed with: £20.70

We’re due at a friend’s wedding in Finchingfield today. The day dawns bright and promising: welcome back summer. We’re both up early to continue the endless shuffle of possessions through the flat. The husband does a run to the tip while I continue to wipe and clear and by 10am we’re walking to the station primped and preened in our glad rags (this is something of a miracle given the state of our flat). The train ticket is £19.30 return.

The venue is stunning, the bride looks beautiful and it’s simply bliss to sip champagne in the sunshine and catch up with old friends. The husband and I get a taxi back to the station (£20) in time to catch the last train back to London: I’m stupidly grateful to fall into bed.

Sunday

Wake up with: £20.70

Go to bed with: £16.56

It’s a scorcher. It’s hard to laze in bed with the sun streaming through the curtains, so eventually we capitulate and make a half hearted attempt to do a little more work, before we decide that the DIY will have to play second fiddle to the sunshine today. The husband is dispatched to pick up picnic supplies and we hop on our bikes and head for the park.

After a magnificent open-air lunch, I fall asleep in the sunshine and consequently get ludicrously sunburnt. Oh well, it’s not as if sun damage has been a prevailing feature of summer 2012. We spend the evening ferrying the husband’s record collection between rooms and hoovering up the debris from stage one of renovations. I cook up a vat of ragu to keep us going through the week ahead; it’s going to be another long one. We eat on the balcony and then collapse on the sofa for a Wallander before bed.

Monday

Wake up with: £16.56

Go to bed with: £16.56

Supper Club has been cancelled because the husband is going to see the new Batman film and I have resolved to spend the rest of this week’s money on food for my local foodbank, but when I go to the website, there’s no information on where or when to drop off supplies. I email the director enquiring about volunteering and/or donations, but get no response. Curious. My do-gooding will have to wait until next week.

I have earmarked the entire evening to pack up my clothes and dressing table, but it turns out all my clothes fit into a single suitcase and an hour and six minutes after I first started, the bedroom is completely devoid of my possessions. I’m not sure why I’m surprised: in the last 12 months, I have bought two new dresses (both for weddings), two pairs of leggings from H&M and nothing else.

Tuesday

Wake up with: £16.56

Go to bed with: £8.56

A friend offers us two tickets for Daniel Kitson’s pre-Edinburgh rehearsal at the bargain price of £3 and we practically bite his hand off in our eagerness to get out of the house (and see Daniel Kitson’s new show, of course!). We meet at nine and have time for a glass of wine in the sunshine before the show begins. It’s hilarious and we pour out into the summer night giggling and grateful for the opportunity to leave the DIY behind for a night. Tonight we will have to sleep on the floor, our bed has been dismantled so the bedroom can be decorated this week, ready for the final carpet fitting on Friday.

Wednesday

Wake up with: £8.56

Go to bed with: £8.56

Whether it’s sleeping on the floor, the sudden onset of summer or simply that I’ve caught the cold that’s been doing the rounds, I wake feeling anything but rested, it’s going to be a long day.

The husband offers to gather supplies for the re-scheduled supper club. When he gets home, he is incredulous: “When did food get so expensive?” He splutters. “I just can’t believe how much prices have risen since I last did a proper supermarket shop.” He resolves to adjust the standing order between our bank accounts to reflect the price rise (I am Chief in Charge of Household Expenses and we don’t have a joint account). I can’t really see the point as it’s all going in the same pot anyway, but then I remember my poor, undernourished wardrobe. Maybe an extra tenner wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all.

The boys pile over for a dinner of lamb kefte, flatbread, tzatziki and Greek salad. The adrenalin that’s been keeping me going for the last two weeks must have finally run out as I can’t keep my eyes open over dinner and fall asleep on the sofa before the clock strikes 10.

Thursday

Wake up with: £8.56

Go to bed with: £5.12

Despite my exhaustion, once I actually get into bed, I cannot sleep. After a night tossing and turning, I get up at 5am, sweating all over with a splitting headache, and what feels like the beginnings of a cold. Great. I climb back into bed with a wet towel draped over my head and shoulders to cool me down but to no avail. By the time the alarm sounds, I am so exhausted that I feel like crying. I spend the day on the sofa feeling sorry for myself, but after a couple of naps and a good 12 hours doing absolutely nothing, I start to feel like myself again and decide it would be criminal to waste what is billed to be the last night of summer sitting on the sofa, when I could sit outside instead. At half seven I decamp to the park and lie on the grass, eating twiglets with my running partner-in-crime. We were supposed to be running this very eve, but luckily for me, she is similarly run down and exhausted so we just gossip and relax in the last dregs of sunshine instead. By the time the husband tucks me in to our make-shift bed, I feel more like myself again. Onwards and upwards.

Leonidas chocolate, Brussels, Belgium and Magritte

I’ll be frank, there isn’t a whole lot of cooking going on in the LoveRichCashPoor household right now. We’re in the middle of re-painting, which means that everything from the sitting room is currently in the kitchen, while the bedroom is filled to the brim with all the elements of the husband’s former playroom study (think wires, decks, multiple pairs of trainers, computers, mysterious black boxes with lots of knobs on, camera equipment, records… you get the picture). Getting into bed is a veritable feat of balance and gymnastic ability.

Leonidas chocolate, Brussels, Belgium and Folon

In fact, it’s a good job I came back from Belgium loaded with chocolates (thanks dad!). Belgium is renowned for its chocolates and there are artisan chocolatiers on every street corner but I was reared on Leonidas and Leonidas remains my chocolate of choice: specifically truffes speculoos.

At Leonidas, chocolate-making is an art. So how better to show off each tiny creation than by photographing these beauteous bites on famous Belgian works of art?

Leonidas chocolate, Brussels, Belgium and Magritte

A visit to Leonidas is an event in my family. We each have our chocolate of choice: at the moment, my sister and I are obsessed with the truffes and coupes. We’ve been through phases of cerise emballee, manons and irresistibles., we’ve branched out into orangettes and mendiants. Heaven knows where our chocolate journey will take us next, but it will no doubt be delicious.

Each of us takes it in turn to voice our request, then we stand back and watch the lady behind the counter leap into action; her gloved hands deftly selecting the gleaming ganaches and laying them in one of Leonidas’ signature gold boxes, lovingly protecting each layer with a sheet of foil. Then the box is wrapped and beribboned and carried home to savour. Yum.

Leonidas chocolate, Brussels, Belgium

Leonidas choclates, Brussels, Belgium

 

To the casual observer, it will no doubt appear that I spend my life flitting around Europe. Said casual observer would be fairly justified, but rest assured I am sticking to the budget; it just so happens that both my parents live overseas. Well, that gallivanting gene had to come from somewhere, n’est pas?

 

Marche du Midi, Gare du Midi, Brussels, Belgium

This weekend was a case in point: I popped over to Belgium to visit my dad. He paid (thanks dad)! Dad is even more punctual than me so, on Sunday, I found myself at the Gare du Midi with an hour to kill before my train home. All the more time to spend exploring Brussels’ largest Sunday market: the colourful behemoth that is the Marche du Midi.

Marche du Midi, Gare du Midi, Brussels, Belgiumv

I love this market. There’s fresh produce a-plenty at rock-bottom prices, plant stalls, clothes and home furnishings and a certain spice in the air that sets it apart from similar markets on the continent: this is a predominantly Moroccan area of Brussels. LoveRichCashPoor was already loaded with bounty from dad’s kitchen garden, not to mention the odd slice of cheese and box of chocolates, so I didn’t indulge this time. But I was tempted, reader, I was tempted.

Marche du Midi, Gare du Midi, Brussels, Belgium

London 2012, Polskie Delikatesy, Roman Road, Bethnal Green

Friday

Wake up with: £50

Go to bed with: £40.50

It’s my beautiful older sister’s birthday this week, so the budget is accordingly reduced; it’s also time to start scaling down in anticipation of a couple of events later in the month.

The latter half of the afternoon at work is torture; Murray’s playing in the Wimbledon semi-final and I am itching to watch it. When the clock strikes 5.30, I leap on my bike and pedal home as quickly as my legs will take me. The husband’s return signals the start of the Great Clear Out: this weekend we’re going to dismantle his beloved playroom study and turn it into a spare bedroom. Poor boy! To cheer him up (and to satisfy my craving once and for all) I offer to nip out and get us a curry goat from the local Caribbean. Two curry goat with rice and peas and a side of plantain = £9.50. Yum.

Saturday

Wake up with: £40.50

Go to bed with: £30.08

The husband goes to work and I seize the opportunity to escape the DIY for the day: I cycle over to Roman Road to meet the girls for some marvellous market action. We fill our bags with bounty from the fruit and veg stall and the Polish delicatessen, then nip into a salon to have our eyebrows threaded for the bargain price of £3, before retiring to the sporty one’s house around the corner for a lunch of halal rotisserie chicken, salad and olives, followed by lebkuchen all from the market. Heaven.

Meanwhile, the husband has been hard at work ripping out his desk unit and the old boiler cupboard. We spend the rest of the afternoon daubing polyfilla about indiscriminately until we declare it time for tea. The husband declares he wants a fish and chip supper and I’m not about to stop him (as long as he pays). There’s something about spending Friday and Saturday night doing DIY that makes us crave junk food: perhaps it harks back to the early days when we didn’t have any furniture and we just ate pizza (not even the good pizza) off a cardboard box, while staring dismally at the nicotine-stained wood-chip waiting to be stripped off by our own fair hands…

Sunday

Wake up with: £30.08

Go to bed with: £15.73

It’s Wimbledon final day, the fridge is full with yesterday’s haul and the husband is going out. I spend a glorious day pottering about, with every TV and radio in the house tuned in to the tennis. The husband gets home in time for a tea of homemade gnocchi and pesto.

Monday

Wake up with: £15.73

Go to bed with: £5.06

Home via Sainsbury’s to cook this evening’s supper club meal: braised pork belly and stuffed marrow. I decide to use a few of my loyalty points to bulk up the store cupboard: I’m going to require a lot of pasta to get through the rest of the month. The boys aren’t interested in my gooseberry and elderflower sorbet, which I’m thrilled about: all the more for me!

Tuesday

Wake up with: £5.06

Go to bed with: £0.06

Woohoo! I have the day off today. I also have ten million errands to run, so it’s up at 9.30 (that is VERY early in my book), and straight into town to work through the to-do list. Unfortunately, I do not have any credit on my Oyster card, so my last fiver for the week is sacrificed at the Transport for London altar. Still, cycling is not feasible: it has not stopped raining for about three months and I have emergency supplies to buy for my stepmother, a bridesmaid’s dress to find and purchase, essential wedding accoutrements to track down as part of my matron-of-honour-ly duties, a carpet to choose and two wedding presents to buy. The former three do not involve my own money, so I will be paying by card for those but I will have to be extremely careful not to get carried away as per the last time the magic plastic came out.

In fact, one of the reasons I am buying wedding presents in an actual shop rather than on a computer is because I am trying to stick to my no-card rule. Human interaction it is. It feels ridiculously old-fashioned and I get some really funny looks from the customer services desk when I ask if I can look up the relevant wedding lists and pay in cash. I haven’t yet accounted for these in the budget so technically it is cheating but it would be foolish to pay the tube fare twice; as my Gran always says “never waste a journey”.

By the end of the day, I can’t bloody wait to get back to work. This day-off lark is exhausting!

Wednesday

Wake up with: £0.06

Go to bed with: £0.06

The day does not start well. The builder of kitchen-fame is due to pop round and give us a quote for fixing the hole in our bathroom wall (a product of the exploding shower debacle), and to fix the hallway ceiling following the water-tank leak. My hackles are up from the off: I am not a morning person and can’t really stomach any interaction before 10am or three coffees, whichever comes first. When I try to pin him down on a start date and his reply is ‘maybe sometime next week’, I have to leave the house before I say something I regret. I just cannot live on a building site any longer. I cycle to work furiously but, by the time I get there, I’m beginning to feel guilty and sheepish for snapping at the husband and being rude to the builder. Luckily, the husband emails to say he has found someone else who is available to start on Friday. Thank the lord and bless the husband!

My guilt over my brat-like behaviour only increases when the husband gets home and announces that he has cashed in his collection of coppers and is taking me out to dinner with the proceeds. Is he trying for some sort of award or what?

This coin collection has been building for 10 years: every single night he empties his pockets when he gets home from work. And every night, I pick up the pile of screwed-up receipts, change, cufflinks and other man detritus from wherever he has left it and dump it on his desk. Well, sometimes I keep the change, but most the time it filters through to one of the carrier bags that he’s been filling with coppers ever since I’ve known him. Why? I do not know. But I am very glad to see the back of it and even more glad to go on a date with the love of my life. It’s been five long weeks since we went out for dinner together. We share two starters and a main, and buy a Magnum on the way home for pudding.

Thursday

Wake up with: £0.06

Go to bed with: £1.52

The builder is due tomorrow, and the husband has resolved to repaint the house this weekend, so every last thing must be cleared from the study, hallway and sitting room and into the kitchen. I pick up a box and find yet another pile of change underneath. Finders, keepers!

London 2012, G Kelly eels, Roman Road, Bethnal Green

To continue my countdown to London 2012, I cycled to Roman Road in London’s Mile End on Saturday. My clever little iPhone took me past Well Street Common and through Victoria Park where the paths are lined with lime trees giving off the most intoxicating scent. Roman Road is a long old road, so to avoid confusion, I visited the easternmost section, sandwiched between St Stephen’s Road and Parnell Road.

The Eastenders are a friendly bunch. Admittedly we had the world’s cutest almost-seven-month-old in tow, which tends to make people smile and chuck indulgently, and gets you more free samples of smoked sausage than you can shake a stick at, but baby or no baby, Roman Road is a wonderful place to rediscover your faith in humanity and to fall in love with the marvellous melting pot that is London all over again. It’s not the prettiest of places, but therein lies its charm. The gentrifying upper-middles haven’t moved in en-masse — yet — and the cool creatives are too busy working their magic on Dalston. This feels like real London. And if that’s too much for you, then retreat to The Morgan Arms just off Tredegar Square and you’ll be back in Kansas.

Roman Road is a foodie paradise, but utterly unpretentious—here, delis are still about the food and less about the Farrow & Ball colour schemes, although that is not far off… it’s already changed considerably in the past few years if Google Streetview is anything to go by. Fact checking was tough for this one – I really must carry a notebook wherever I go.

Here’s my top 5:

1) Roman Road market

Fruit and vegetables, plants, home-wares and clothes all at rock-bottom prices sold by friendly stallholders more than willing to engage in a bit of banter. Oh, and you can nip into one of the many salons along this road and get your eyebrows threaded for £3. Beat that!

London 2012, Roman Road market, Bethnal Green

2) Polskie Delikatesy

Run by a lovely, smiley mother and daughter duo, this exceptional Polish delicatessen sells everything from specialty breads to jars full of pickled cabbage and smoked sausages. In a word: yum.

London 2012, Polskie Delikatesy, Roman Road, Bethnal Green

3) G Kelly Noted Eel & Pie Shop.

You can’t get more East-End than a pie and eel shop and the queues stretch out of the door and on to the street for this Roman Road institution. LoveRichCashPoor had a job getting a photo.

London 2012, G Kelly eels and pie shop, Roman Road, Bethnal Green

4) Bangla Halal Grocers

Looking for a catfish that is bigger than a 10-year-old child? You have come to the right place. This little gem of a shop also sells every spice under the sun.

5) Old-skool confectionary delights at Mickey’s Sweets

London 2012, Mickey's sweets, Roman Road market, Bethnal Green

One of the last to turn 30, the Doc invited us to Marlow for cocktails and long-awaited catch-ups. We checked in en-masse into the Holiday Inn in High Wycombe, which at an unbelievable £30 a night per person, is excellent value for money. A record 15 minutes later and we were primped and preened and ready to roll for dinner at the Marlow Bar and Grill, followed by the main event: the party itself. The Doc, being of extraordinarily large brain, has married a Brazilian cocktail-maker extraordinaire, so we knocked back caipirinhas a-plenty! The next day, we were not so primped and preened, but we did have a lovely brunch and walk around Marlow: who knew chocolate-box prettiness was the most effective hangover cure of them all?

Pretty as a picture: Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Pretty as a picture: a walk around Marlow

Brunch at Fego, Marlow High Street

Hangover cure: survivors’ brunch at Fego

A walk along the River Thames, Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Enjoying the British summer on the River Thames!

Steamer Trading Cookshop, Marlow, Buckinghamshire

A cook’s dream: Steamer Trading Cookshop

Living in Store in Marlow, Buckinghamshire

So when can I move in? Living in Store

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