Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mariana & Johnny

On Easter Sunday Hub and I went to celebrate the Brazilian nuptials of our dear friends Mariana and Johnny. The ceremony and reception was held at a colonial house in Botafogo and I absolutely loved the style and feel of the wedding, which Johnny proudly pointed out "is all Mariana."

Our friend Elika told us to be prepared to have lots of sweets at the wedding, which is tradition in Brasil. This here is the table of bem casados, translation happily married and it was like a scene straight out of Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette.

To me the wedding had a spring English country side theme (Johnny is English) and Mariana nailed it in every little detail. Ahead of the wedding we were served fresh lemon and mint water out of these cute polka-dot mason jars. 

The Queen was also present and gave her blessing.

The Groom.

Miguel and Arthur, the ring bearers.

The ceremony closed with a lil' prayer as we wished M&J a happy journey into marriagedom.

Let's party.

Me cheating on George with Arthur.

Thank you Mariana & Johnny for letting us be part of your special day.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sweet Vegetable Curry with Za'atar Roasties

All week Hub has been requesting Indian for dinner so last night I decided to appease him. So glad I did because this meal was amazing! Serves 2 hungry people ;)

Ingredients for Za'atar Roasties
5-6 roasting potatoes • za'atar spice • olive oil • sea salt

Start by preparing your potatoes first. Preheat your oven to 200C and get a large pot of water boiling on the stove. Peel and roughly chop your taters into chunks, then toss them into the water once it's boiling. Cook them until soft and you are able to pierce them easily with a fork. Strain your potatoes and jostle them lightly around the strainer until the edges are roughed up and kind of mushy. Lightly oil a baking tray and lay out your taters. Generously season them with crushed sea salt and za'atar spice. Then drizzle a bit of olive oil on the potatoes and whack them into the oven for about 30 minutes. 

Za'atar is a mix of Mediterranean spices and my friend Molly gave me a massive bag and mentioned that one of my favorite chefs Ottolenghi uses it in his recipes. I don't think I could find this in Rio, but here's a simple recipe by Bon Appetit if you can't find it locally.

Ingredients for Sweet Vegetable Curry
coconut oil • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds • 1/4 inch cinnamon stick • 1/4 tsp allspice • 2 cardamon pods • 1 red chili finely chopped • 1 medium onion chopped • 1 tsp ginger paste • 1 tsp garlic paste • 1 can chopped tomatoes • 1 can of coconut milk • 1 veggie bouillon cube • 200ml water • 2 tsp chili powder • 1/4 tbsp turmeric powder • 1 tsp curry powder • 1 tsp coriander powder • 1 tsp cumin powder  • 1 large sweet potato cubed • 1 large carrot thinly sliced • 1 green bell pepper • 1/4 cup of golden raisins • 1/4 cup cashew halves

Last year I took an Indian cooking class at Rashmy's Kitchen and this is a modification of one of her delicious recipes, which I cook all the time. First we are going to create a masala paste by heating up a large deep pot with a little bit of coconut oil over a med-low heat. Add the cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, allspice, cardamon pods and red chili and sauté them until the spices become fragrant and the cumin seeds crackle in the oil. Then add in the chopped onions, garlic paste and ginger paste and sauté until golden brown. The garlic and ginger pastes are easily made with a blender by taking each peeled product and blitzing it with a little bit of water. 

Remove the onion mix from the stove and puree it in a blender, adding a bit of water if necessary. This is your masala paste. Add it back into your pot with a little bit of coconut oil and fry over a medium heat for a few minutes. Then add in the chopped tomatoes, coconut milk, veggie bouillon cube, water, chili powder, turmeric powder, curry powder, coriander powder and cumin powder.

Give that a stir and add in the sweet potato, carrots, bell peppers, raisins and cashews. Bring the curry to a boil and then down to simmer and let cook uncovered for approximately 20 minutes or until the carrots and potatoes are fully cooked. Check in on your roasties, they should be crisping up nicely and be done around the same time as your curry. And voila!

This was so good especially the roasted potatoes. My god that za'atar spice was amazing. I added lightly steamed broccoli on the side to balance out the meal and it was the perfect end to a perfect Sunday.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Gettin Over the Hump: Salmon Farms

I used to love salmon. I liked the hearty texture, its distinct flavor, I liked it raw, but equally enjoyed it well done. 

The past few months I've been researching aquaculture and salmon farms and I'm disturbed by my findings. Most of the salmon in supermarkets and restaurants comes from farms, enclosed pens set-up in fresh water inlets created to meet market demands and mitigate the overfishing of wild sea life. The problems and health risks associated with farmed salmon has literally put me off my fish and I wanted to share my research with you. If we want to be thriving in health, then we should know what's going into our food. So the next time you're in the mood for this pink fish, consider these things before buying:

If you're going to buy salmon, make sure it's wild. Here's a guide on how to tell the difference between wild salmon and farmed salmon.

Farmed salmon is riddled with disease, toxins and unnatural added ingredients.

The overcrowded pens are polluting our fresh waters and harming local wild salmon.

Farmed salmon is higher in fat than wild salmon and higher in omega 6 fats, which is bad.

(I devoured this open-face smoked salmon sandwich in a little country pub a few years back)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Cashew Cream Sundried Tomato Pasta

It's been awhile since I've felt inspired to make something new, so I'm excited to share this recipe that I made the other night. Hub and I have been on a real pesto kick and I've been making batches of the traditional basil version for a while, but on Friday I thought I'd make a sundried tomato version. It ended up turning out more like a creamy cashew sundried tomato sauce, which was absolutely delicious and easy to make. It's also vegan and gluten-free! 

5 sundried tomatoes + 1/4 cup of sundried tomato oil • 2 tomatoes diced • 1/4 cup of roasted salted cashews, soaked in water overnight • 1 large garlic clove • 1/2 tbsp dried oregano • juice of 1/2 lemon • Bunch of spinach rinsed • 500g button mushrooms sliced • 1/2 red onion sliced • 250g gluten-free pasta • olive oil • salt & pepper

Start boiling a large pot of water for the pasta. While the water is warming up, prepare the cashew cream sundried tomato sauce. Heat up a sautée pan with a little bit of olive oil and cook the diced tomatoes over low heat until soft and mushy. Poor the tomatoes into a blender and blitz until smooth. Then layer-in the soaked cashews, lemon juice, sundried tomatoes and their olive oil, garlic clove and oregano. Blend until smooth and creamy and add salt & pepper to taste. Set aside.

For this recipe I used roasted salted cashews which is all I could find locally, but raw cashews would be fantastic in this dish. They would also be slightly healthier without the added salted and oil from the roasting process. 

This on its own was heaven, could eat it with a spoon.

By this point the water should be boiling, so add in your pasta and cook as directed on the label. Lately I've been enjoying gluten-free pasta and it cooks very quickly, so be careful not to overcook. I go back and forth on the gluten-free thing, but I find eating gluten-free helps with my sluggish digestion. However, any pasta will do in this recipe and preferably wholegrain. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. 

Taking the same pan used for the tomatoes, add a little bit of olive oil and sautée your onions and mushrooms until soft and nicely browned. Combine the onions, mushrooms, spinach and pesto into the pasta and mix until well coated, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. 

Season to taste with salt and pepper and voila!

This turned out so, so good! I've always loved rich and creamy pastas, so this was 
a real treat to have and no dairy necessary.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gettin' Over the Hump: Red Meat

One of Hub's New Year's resolutions was to give up red meat and I'm really happy for him. And I didn't put him up to it either, I was surprised when he came out with it - "I'm giving up red meat!" Although we never eat meat at home, Hub would eat red meat at restaurants and it's easily done here in Rio. Often times when we go out, we'll end up at a traditional Brazilian restaurant and people want to order picanha steak which is always to share. I think this is an amazing step for his health and if you are interested in giving up the cow, here are few good reasons why.

Eating red meat causes inflammation in the body and a chronically inflamed body is the perfect environment for cancer.

Farmers fatten up cows with hormones - usually estrogen - and we're still not sure if it's 100% safe, but the research so far is kind of worrying.

When we think of Type 2 diabetes we automatically think sugar, but eating too much red meat increases our risk for the disease too.

A great slide show with 10 Reasons to Quit Red Meat.

If you can't give up red meat then it seems like grass-fed organic is the best way to go, but be prepared for a hefty price tag.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Gettin' Over the Hump: The Big 33

So I turned 33 a few weeks ago. Gosh, where did the time go? I can still clearly remember the days of frolicking around NYC with my best friend Jess in tow and wondering what life would be like in our 30s. Sometimes I still feel like I'm in my 20s, but my body on the other hand...definitely 30s.

I can no longer stay up partying till 4am and be fully functioning at work the next day. God that was amazing. To be honest I can barely keep my eyes open past midnight, unless there's 80's music to dance to. I've also noticed that I can no longer stay fit with cardio alone, as I did in my 20s. I used to be able to burn off an indulgent night out easily, but now it's getting a little bit harder. Our bodies start to really change as we approach our mid-30s and we can no longer pull off the shenanigans we did at 21. So I did a bit of research for us ladies in our 30s and here's the 411:

Which slows down our metabolism making it easier for us to put on the timber. F&*K.

Stamina also begins to decline, which is why I can no longer run as long as I used too.

But don't worry, not all is lost! By incorporating strength training into our workouts, we can rev up our calorie-burning metabolism and look good.

A few tips on simple changes we can start today!

(Picture of me at the tender age of 21)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Working in Rio

Working in Rio has been an interesting experience so far. I'm a chefe de fila or junior manager for a restaurant/bar at a posh hotel in Copacabana. It has been exhausting not only because I'm on my feet all day, but the work week in the service industry in Brazil is 6 days a week. After being a lady of leisure for a year this takes time getting used to and one day off a week is not enough rest. 

Part of my job involves managing schedules and vacations for my team and that has been truly eye-opening. What's impressive is that in Brazil employees get 30 vacation days, 30 sick days and about 25 public holidays per year. It sounds wonderful, especially compared to the US and UK, but it can be problematic at times. It's nice to know that I'm compensated when I'm sick here, whereas in all my previous restaurant jobs I didn't get paid if I didn't come to work. However, I do get the impression that people take the piss and abuse their sick days in this industry. On one hand they are there for the taking, but when you know people call in sick and aren't sick it disrupts the whole team. There is one catch though - in order to get compensated for your sick day you have to provide a doctor's note. I've never had to do that before and I hate going to the doctors.

It's also very difficult to motivate a bad employee. In Brazil if you want to dismiss someone for whatever reason, you have to pay 6 months salary compensation. Can you believe that! So apparently companies avoid letting go staff at all costs and employees know that they can get away with a lot of shit, especially in the industry I'm in. What's also challenging is that most of the people I work with aren't really into food or the restaurant industry. It's a stark contrast to my experience in New York and London, where people had to consistently perform well to keep jobs but there was also a kind of foody passion within the team. I really miss that.

I'm also aware that salaries and culture play huge factors. My income pales in comparison to London, but the cost of living here is really high. I make about a third of what I was making in my last job, but our rent is just slightly below what we were paying in Hackney. Also Rio's food culture is centered around butecos, dive bars and street food. I feel like the growing restaurant culture here is driven by the small percentage of gringoes like me and affluent Brazilians. 

On the positive side everyone at the hotel has been so welcoming and my Portuguese is really improving. I've noticed that I'm translating less in my head and able to speak more fluidly and naturally. Next week is the beginning of Carnaval, so that should be interesting. I'll let you know how working that goes.
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