Monday, February 27, 2012

To Catch A Pickpocket

I had an encounter with a pickpocket tonight.

On my way to dinner, I got out of Leicester Square tube. Suddenly I felt tugging at my bag and I knew something was'nt right. I turned around and saw a man with his hand in it!

He yanked it out and tried to look nonchalant. But because he did'nt take anything, I just turned away disgusted.

Suddenly I heard a man and a woman screaming "We saw you pickpocketing!!!" They came out of nowhere and the man crash tackled the pickpocket and pinned him to the ground.

"We are the police and you're under arrest for pick pocketing!!!"

Yeah, take that ya thieving bastard!

So they were uncover cops, not vigilantes. The offender was handcuffed and taken away. Everything happened so quickly, it was like street theatre.

The woman showed me her police badge. I think she was more rattled than I was because her hands were shaking.

It turns out the pickpocket is a repeat offender. Due to the volume of thefts, most first and second time offenders are given a 3 month warning. Hopefully my police report will send him to jail this time.

What luck that my pickpocket got caught in the act!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Sewing Machine Shop

Was smooth talked into buying a new machine today.

I barely scraped enough energy to take my wee Singer Featherweight in for repairs. It failed after punishment of denim and broken needles.

The little repair shop was sprawling with machines. Some new, mostly old and a few really old from the 40s. They were the most beautiful.

The owner was a Greek guy called Tony. He was surrounded, almost buried by the hoard of machines. He's a fast sales talker but very knowledgeable. Next thing I knew, I relinquished my Featherweight for a bigger secondhand machine for not much less than the cost of a new model.

After that venture, I spent the rest of the day limp on the couch, dosed up to the eyeballs having psychedelic dreams.

My new sewing machine.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Healing With Chicken and Corn Soup

I have the flu and in the quest to heal myself, I made chicken and corn soup. From scratch. It tastes a while to make, but the effort is worth it.

This is not your usual takeaway style soup, it's healthy and not flash cooked. (I know how they make it in the restaurants!)

This recipe makes two batches to serve two people however you will need to replicate the latter section of the ingredients for the second batch of soup. It's best served as soon as it's cooked so make two lots of broth to make it worth your while!

3 litres of water, plus more for blanching chicken
3 chicken thighs, skinned and washed
2 sticks of celery, cut in 10 cm chunks
3 cloves of garlic, cut in half
6 white stalks of scallions (reserve the green bits for garnishing)
Handful of inoki mushrooms or frozen peas (optional)
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons of cornflour mixed with a water to make a sloppy paste
1 can of cream corn
6 dashes of rice vinegar
3 dashes of sesame oil
3 dashes of light soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste

To Make The Broth:
Drop the chicken thighs in boiling water (enough to cover) for a two minutes. Discard water and rinse the thighs. This step is important to reduce scum forming. Then simmer thighs with three litres of water for an hour. Add celery, garlic, scallion stalks, and simmer for half an hour. Turn off heat and allow to sit with lid off for fifteen minutes.

Strain broth into another pot. Throw away vegetables but keep thighs. Reserve half the broth for second batch.

To Make The Soup:
Bring to boil stock, can of cream corn, wet ingredients, salt and pepper. Before it hits boiling point, slowly stir in the cornflour mixure. The soup should thicken slightly. Throw in inoki mushrooms/peas. Turn off heat. Slowly stir in egg to form ribbons. Stop stirring once it's all in.

To serve, add shredded chicken thigh meat (I discard the top layer as it's tough) and garnish with sliced green scallions.

I added bok choy. It was healthy and delicious! 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ice Cold Hampstead Heath

We had a fluffy snowfall on Friday night and I took a walk through the Heath the next day. It was still a winter wonderland with the hills covered in snow. Even the branches of the trees were dusted with the wonderful white stuff.

I'm glad to be living in this part of London. Is'nt this pretty?

Sledging down Parliament Hill. Looks like a lot of fun. Lucky kids.

Can't believe it was last Oct when I was swimming in this pond.

And now it's frozen. I stomped my feet while sitting over the edge to attest to that!

Roasted Aubergine

Or known as eggplant for Aussies. I love the stuff, whether it's in moussaka, stuffed with fishcake or roasted on it's own.

Making roasted aubergine is ridiculously simple. I don't bother with salting if it's medium sized or smaller. Just slice 2 cm thick and slather it with olive oil. Place single layered on a baking tray covered with foil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and mixed herbs. Roast in the oven for 20 mins at gas mark 7 (200 degrees in a fan forced oven).

After I take it out,  I let it sweat by wrapping it with foil for 5-10 mins and voila! Tasty eggplant which melts on your tongue. I'm not sure if I'm the only person who enjoys the skin as well.

For an even tastier treat, I add shredded cheese on top and skip the sweating part. Yummers.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Snow Hits London

As Siberian winds swept across Europe, we anticipated a proper winter. And the big chill finally came as Hampstead Heath pond froze on top. I threw pebbles to make sure and they bounced. Yup, frozen ponds fascinate!

Like my Daniel Boone hat?

There was talk about snow that was expected on Saturday night. I was skeptical but by the evening, grey clouds gathered and I got an excited call from a friend telling me to go outside.

I burst outdoors and indeed, dusty snow was falling and the ground was white. The council was hand scattering salt and grit on the footpaths. People walked hurriedly to get to their homes. 

This is what London winters should be all about. The blanket of whiteness has a cleansing effect on this city. 

By 10pm, ground cover was easily 3 inches. Cars travelled at a snail's pace and there was little traffic. The only ruckus was caused by snowball fights on the streets.

The snow crunched delightfully when walked upon. I wanted to stamp my boots wherever it was untouched.

On my stroll, an older lady opened her window on the top floor of a building. She pointed to the street and said: "Snow!" 

"Sure is!" I replied cheerily and clumped away in the snow that she'd proclaimed. 

At 1 am I snuck out in my bathrobe, PJs and puffy jacket to take more photos. I did'nt think there would be anyone around but at my front door was a girl holding a giant snowball, poised for a fight. If I had my gloves on, I would have contended!

This is the real winter wonderland.