Sunday, 31 January 2010

Something Fishy

Fin and Flounder is one of two new Hackney fish mongers – I have yet to try the new fish shop in ever blossoming Victoria Park, but I am looking forward to it. I am not a fan of the pretentious, over-priced, Saturday Broadway Market, but many of the shops on this market street have a fascinating history (not least the jellied eel and pie and mash shop) and are good value.

Fin and Flounder sells good quality fish at competitive prices, even when compared with Marks and Spencer. I bought some wild red bream, which wasn't cheap, but was excellent and sustainable – and cooked it simply with parsley, butter and garlic – my favourite way to cook fresh white fish.

I was in Tenerife last week with a group of over 100 journalists from the British Guild of Travel Writers. Although we were presented with some dodgy looking frozen fish at a cookery course, at another lunch I had wonderful slivers of carpaccio, scallops and my favourite Spanish dish, gambas al ajo (prawns with garlic). Mountains are not usually associated with good fish, but after Tenerife I was in the Eastern Pyrenees where, because they are only an hour or so away from the coast, fresh fish features on most menus. Salmon, scallop and fresh haddock in a cream sauce on cabbage is a local speciality.


Friday, 8 January 2010

It's Behind You!

Today's trip to see the panto at the Hackney Empire was very much a last hurrah – mine before properly buckling back down to work after the New Year and the theatre's before it closes for much of 2010. Generally agreed to be London's best panto, Aladdin (which closes tomorrow) really is joyous. The cast genuinely seem to really be enjoying themselves and I can't remember when I last saw such an appreciative audience at a theatre. For less than £10, you can enjoy a live performance that lasts nearly three hours – making it more reasonable than most cinema showings. The punters at the performance I went to were pretty good value too – from the bolshy woman who insisted on eating her chicken and chips, proclaiming: 'Dont you know who I am?' to the six year old who asked for fizzy wine in the interval. When widow Twanky pushed for a bigger 'aaah' at the news that her husband had died, an elderly man with his carer retorted instead with 'big f***ing' deal'. But by the end even he was laughing at local jokes about the magic carpet being clamped in Stratford and singing along with the tap-dancing pandas.

Listen to this podcast trace the shifting guises of the Hackney Empire - from music hall to bingo hall, from television studio to wrestling venue, where the likes of Charlie Chaplin and George Fornby have performed.