Murder by Bagel

Coffee - in a box!

Coffee – in a box!

I must begin with an apology: I am sorry, New York. I know you are very proud indeed of your bagels, and have indoctrinated millions – possibly billions – around the world into believing they are superior to all other bagels, but I am not convinced. The bagels I have had so far either lack the chewy deliciousness London’s Jewish bakeries have taught me to know and love, or have the consistency of a hockey puck.

Like doughnuts, bagels are everywhere. I have yet to meet a New Yorker – either abroad or on their home turf – who isn’t terrified of carbs and I am beginning to understand why. In this country, one is assaulted by carbohydrate from all sides, to an overwhelming degree. The result is a city of people who beg for protein while chugging back coffee and diet sodas.

This is not breakfast. These are leftovers.

This is not breakfast. These are leftovers.

Take breakfast as an example: the bakery supplies my office with four bagels, pastries and muffins for each person. Because these items are twice the size I’m accustomed to at home, I eat half a pastry, half a muffin and a bagel with cream cheese and feel slightly sick. The leftovers leer at me from reception every time I head to the loo, making me feel queasy.

The one innovation I do like is the coffee box. Our helpful Baked Goods Partner has brought roughly five gallons of coffee in the sort of cardboard boxes my European colleagues and I usually associate with wine. Or, as the Italian among us says “the sort of boxes I see them drinking wine from in cartoons (because I would never be seen dead drinking wine from a box).” This, I have to try. But only after I’ve had my tea. For one heart-stopping moment, it looks like one of the boxes – the one that’s marked differently – might contain some sacred leaf, but it turns out to be decaff.

Madison Square

MSG – see what I did there?

Today’s delight is the view from the office window, which takes in Madison Square Garden. During our infrequent breaks, I take photographs and wonder how many blocks I need to walk to burn off a bagel.

The only things that are smaller here than in Europe (apart from the number of atheists) are the squares. Every time I go for a walk, I am utterly nonplussed by Google Maps indicating the presence of a “square” where I only see something that looks like the forecourt of St-Martins-in-the-Fields. Herald Square is one of these – it’s also where all the evangelists hang out, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons rubbing shoulders with one-woman cheerleading squads for Jesus.

The view from our office.

The view from our office.

Lunch is another carb ordeal, with salad on the side. 25 ciabatta sandwiches, cut into halves that are each larger than my size 7.5 glove-wearing hands, arrive accompanied by two large drums of green and goat’s cheese salad. My half steak sandwich is delicious, the salad is very nice, but at 12.30pm, the prospect of dinner at 6.30 is already making me queasy. I suggest to my colleagues that we stop off at our hotel and then walk to dinner to pre-empt the assault on our stomachs. We wander across to East 32nd St, stopping off at a Korean cosmetics shop on the way to purchase some cutesy handcream and face masks. window 3I get honey and cucumber cleasners for me, fox and panda moisturising masks for my youngest sister, and pig and cow masks for my middle sister, mostly to make the youngest sister laugh. On leaving the shop, I discover we’re in entirely the wrong part of town (thank you Google Maps!) and one of my colleagues bundles us into an Uber to the Meatpacking District.

Our destination is a seafood restaurant in a trendy area of town that reminds me of Shoreditch, but in a nice way. It’s on the second floor, water drips from the distressed ceiling and the DJ plays tracks carefully selected from the period 1975-1985. The clientele dining alongside us resemble models, the women favour thigh gaps and Botox and the staff appear to have been trained in customer service skills by Parisian waiters. They bring menus for only half the party, it takes them 30 minutes to deliver half our drinks, and they tantalise patrons by hovering nearby but refusing to make eye contact. My colleagues address these by commenting loudly on how terrible the service is, how undeserved the money that will be spent, how clearly they are distilling the gin, filtering the sake, growing the grapes for our wine.

We are instructed not to order starters as these have been selected for us, but to have whatever we like for our main. I skip over the $80-90 grills and select something that looks small: scallops on a bed of sautéed cauliflower. The appetisers arrive: grilled octopus, crispy fried rock shrimp, chicken lettuce wraps, tiny delicious pretzel rolls. I dig in, enjoying the delicious flavours.

The lobster we left.

The lobster we left.

And then they bring the seafood towers: two tiers of lobster, shrimp, salmon tartare, clams, mussels and oysters for every four people present. I nibble a couple of shrimp, enjoy a juicy lobster claw, sample a sliver of salmon and have three mussels before my appetite fails me. For the next 25 minutes I sit looking at the leftovers and wondering whether anyone ever finishes a meal in this place, feeling overwhelmed and slightly sickened by the amount of food being wasted simply for the sake of display (you simply can’t take raw fish home in a doggy bag). The staff, displaying their usual disdain, bring us our plates only once we have finished eating.

By the time my giant scallops and glass of Sancerre arrive I feel a little ill. I eat two scallops accompanied by a forkful or two of cauliflower morsels flavoured with pistachio and tamarind. It’s tasty, but the delicate flavour of the scallops is overwhelmed by rich sauce and in the end I can’t swallow more than half of it. I accept defeat, and offer the rest around. For the next hour I make small talk with colleagues while worrying that I may be about to vomit. The colleague on my left describes himself as “Irish through-and-through” despite being born in Long Island and warns me that Mexico is not a good place to visit, despite never having been there. To my right, my boss’s assistant tells me she things films from the ’80s and ’90s are the best. I disagree and she takes her conversation elsewhere, to someone who concurs with her. leftover lobster 2Unable to decide whether it’s the obscene quantity of wasted food on the table or impending food poisoning making my stomach churn, I suggest to my London colleagues that we leave, and we stroll through the meatpacking district before heading along Ninth Avenue towards our hotel. A stop into Duane Reade for earplugs leads to the discovery of a cosmetic pencil sharpener that’s better than any I have found in London and educates me on the existence of disposable cups with a clip-in compartment for snacks. For those who cannot contemplate carrying both a drink and a packet of crisps. One of the truly fascinating things about America is that there is a product for everything you can imagine.

The walk from 13th St to 36th dispels some of my nausea and walking up the stairs to my hotel room helps even more, but I feel queasy enough that I’m beginning to suspect the food here doesn’t agree with me: too rich, too salty, too voluminous. I consider emailing the colleague who organises breakfast to request a plate of fruit and resolve to drink more than I eat at dinner the following night.




Stuffed chickpea crepes

Try these! They are delicious!
To make my crepes, I adjusted Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe, using the same quantities of gram flour (140g) and water (250ml), but adjusting the spices. I used ½ tsp of cayenne, 1 tsp coriander, 3-4 crushed garlic cloves and ½ tsp chilli powder. You end up with something  that looks like this:

My main tip is not to worry about the consistency of the batter – it’s a lot more watery than milk-and-egg based crepes but it cooks up fine. The quantity here makes about 4-6 large crepes depending on the size of your pan.

Step 1 Make batter
Step 2 Heat 1-2 tsp vegetable oil in a frying pan, evenly coating the base of the pan
Step 3 Pour in enough batter to cover the base of the pan with a thin layer, as you would for a standard crepe

Step 4 Fry on a medium heat until the top of the pancake starts to form air bubbles, then flip using a spatula

Stuffed chickpea crepes Toppings! The possibilities are endless. I have covered mine with all sorts of things including:
• A layer of grated cheddar cheese, a handful of spinach and an egg
• A layer of leftover cooked rice mixed with leftover curry, and an egg
• Softened onions, spinach, egg
Once you have piled your toppings on, fold the crepe over into a half-moon shape and cook, turning once, until the egg is cooked to your liking.

I find the topping holds together quite well and with a bit of care these can be wrapped up in foil and taken as a packed lunch.

Beware, these crepes are so scrumptious your pets may try to mug ypu for them. This is Gustav, looking hopeful.

Venison and duck egg ‘scotch’ eggs fiesta Friday

I’ve always wanted to try venison scotch eggs and these look fantastic!

Cooking with Mr Fitz

Whilst feeling in the ‘richer’ end of eating. I decided to use up the duck eggs by making venison scotch eggs..


Yeah had some left over Mr Fitz venison sausage mix in the freezer ..

Perfect for this wonderful snack..

Any meat works well really . The scotch egg is one if those fantastic inventions. This one for sure would go down very well on a hunting trip in the hills and hollows.. As well as just for regular snacking!

To be fair though they are pretty rich in not only taste yet cashola .. So mind your wallet as well as waistline !

Making them is easier than you think.. Didn’t quite get the duck eggs right as was out of ice to stop them cooking ..

Had to just run the cold water tap over them, not ideal really, ho-hum..

So once eggs are boiled and cooled…

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