22 Feb 2013

SC#30 | Spicy sausage casserole

I don't really do hearty meaty meals. Like, at all. I just don't think about that. I never even buy meat, so getting these sausages was quite the achievement (and it took me forever to pick them—I knew the Brits enjoyed their bangers but would've thought they had so many types of them!) But with the snow turning London into flipping Siberia a few weeks ago, I decided I'd go for something that would make warm all over and give me some energy to fight the arctic winds. I got my inspiration from a dish my housemate made when I was over at hers for New Year's. Nothing crazy really, just some nice comfort food!

And then the weather got warmer, I almost thought I could see tomato salads and homemade spring rolls on my shopping list...

But no. Back to the cold, back to the flipping snow, and mostly back to hearty casseroles.

You'll need:
- one tin of beans in chilli sauce
- one tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- sausages to your liking
- two red bell peppers
- olive oil
- salt, pepper
- if you like it really spicy, you could add half a red chilli (or a whole one if you know no fear)

Chop the onion and garlic and soften in a pan with some olive oil. Slice the peppers and cut the sausages in chunks. Add them to the pan and cook until the sausages are almost done. Add then the beans and chopped tomatoes and bring to the boil.

This is really nice with rice and makes for a more hearty meal with it, so if you're going to have some with, now is the time to make it.

Once the casserole's boiled, season and leave this to simmer for 5 to 10 mn (which should be about the time the rice takes.)

And now eat and feel the spicy warmth!

18 Feb 2013

Life as a student

I've forgotten what it feels like to be warm. We have heaters, but we rarely turn them on. Layering is the number one student skill. Layers of jumpers, socks, duvets and blankets; layers and layers of words to fill up essays; layers of bread in between actual food to make it more consistent.

I'm sitting at my desk (just an Ikea wood board shoved against a wall), wiggling on my chair (no way it cost more than £5 since it is the most uncomfortable thing I've ever sat on, and I've slept on the floor multiple times), writing an essay about love and how it's basically a dead thing in our contemporary society (and yes this is what I got a loan for.)

Reading week has just ended and all I could think this week is that I had too many things to do/nothing to do. It's difficult to know where to start/when to end. I spend days on end thinking about work/going out. I sleep too much/not enough. And at the end of the day, I blog.

On Friday, I got really good grades back on an essay I really thought I'd failed (after going through the worst tutorial of my life: tip for you all, don't do one-to-one uni work when hungover) and went for a celebratory spontaneous haircut. I didn't think about the consequences. Didn't think about my tutorial when I was out drinking, didn't think about my bank account when I walked into the hair salon, didn't think about my hair when I said 'cut shorter.' Ain't nobody got time for that.

Also, the library has become a second home. I watch videos of the Old Spice Guy in the library (my friends wrote an essay about him.) I watch videos of a guy making pizza in the library (I'm interviewing him.) I watch videos of my friends awkwardly talking to a camera in the library (because this how we do SU elections in my university.) Sometimes, I actually read books and write. Sometimes.

This is (part of) life as a student.

And it's so incredibly good.

14 Feb 2013

love, ugh

Today's Valentine's Day—yay! Best day of the year by far. The shops are covered in pink and red stuff, trains are full of guys awkwardly carrying around huge bouquets and teddy bears in paper bags, everyone's either getting engaged or laid, and mostly, ice cream is half price absolutely everywhere.

I spent the day telling my housemate that I was my own Valentine's this year. It took me a while to understand why it sounded so sad and creepy because to me, it makes perfect sense. Love yourself and the rest will follow might be beautifully cliché, but I still maintain it's about the best advice one can get, and especially when single on Valentine's day.

Love yourself, or at least accept yourself. The loving part will take more time, but I believe it'll come around eventually. And give yourself a break. Today, treat yo' self! If you have no Valentine's, there's a large chance you are the most important person in your life. So take care of that person.

There's no shame to be had in being alone. I'm actually one for quite a lot of me time (which doesn't mean I don't have friends or don't like partying... Believe me, I do.) But I frequently need to be alone, go at my own rhythm, do things my way and not think about what anyone else thinks of me because there isn't anyone else there.

Some more important and wise advice on that matter:

If you're alone on Valentine's day and feel like crap, cheer up. Make it about happiness. Make it about food. Make it about friendship. Today, I got given a heart-shaped chocolate lollipop by one of my housemates who hid them in the house for us to find today because she's currently away. I spent the day in the library but wore bright lipstick and did my hair for myself. I had a Galentine's Day lunch date with the Sheep. And tonight, I'm hanging out with my best friend, not cooking anything, and having a good laugh. Also she got me a red rose. Friends are the best. 

Valentine's Day is about love, yes, but it's up to you to define what love means to you. If you've got a special someone, ey, why not making it about them. Yes, corporations, consumerism, way too expensive chocolate-covered unripe fruits. Whatever. Love, dude. And if that special someone is you, or a friend, or all your friends, or a random someone you meet at a bar, do make the most of it. Today's your excuse.

6 Feb 2013

On imagining authors complexly

This Christmas, I decided it was about time I live in the present and asked my parents for a Kindle. I've been an intense reader ever since I was a kid. It was always all about books, books, books. That's all I ever wanted for Christmas. Read was all I ever did. I collected books like kids collect marbles (except I collected marbles too, but that's another story.) Thing is, like most people who are passionate about books, I liked BOOKS. Hardcover pages-to-turn funny-smell books. It gave me many a back ache along the years, but I loved my books.

Problem is, I'm getting old and books are just too heavy to carry around... is the excuse I was giving for not reading anymore. So I put my pride away, took a deep breath and got myself a fancy Kindle with a pink case because why would you ever get something that isn't pink?! (I think it was about time I confess how much I love pink. NOW YOU KNOW. JUDGE AWAY.)

I needed a great first book to read digitally, something really meaningful. Now, if you know me just a little, you'll know I've got a slight obsession on everything Harry Potter. Remember this? Yeah, right. So naturally, I decided to read The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling's new and first adult book.

Photograph: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images via The Guardian.
Well. How do I put this? 

I started the book a month ago and still haven't finished it. That's how I put it. J.K. Rowling wrote a book and I just don't. Like. It. Which is perfectly normal and fine, except for someone who used to idealise Rowling as the ""perfect"" human being who went from nothing and created this fantastic world; a world that meant so much to so many people, to so many of my friends and me; a world in which I grew up and characters that taught me a lot about life and myself and... 

And now she's just a normal person who writes stuff I don't really give a damn about. 

Even though it should've been obvious to me, since I like to think that I am a fairly reasonable and relatively smart person, I needed this to realise that at the end of the day, she was just another person who eats and sleeps and buys groceries in her PJs (maybe?) and, also, writes books. 

Now, this past week-end I also met another of my favourite authors, John Green. Here's a proof, that I post not so much for you readers rather than for me: 

John Green in the background + me smiling at this brother Hank
Funnily enough, despite me being as admirative of him (and his brother) as I am of Rowling, meeting them didn't feel nearly as strange and unbelievable as reading The Casual Vacancy is. Maybe because I'm so used to seeing John's face on the Internet and him talking as if we were mates in his videos, maybe because he's not nearly as famous as JK, or perhaps because I got into his books and work when I was older; I don't know why, but John Green is to me a human being before being a New York Times bestseller and one of the most famous vloggers of the YouTubez.

One of John's books, Looking for Alaska (which happens to be the first of his that I read, way before I heard about the vlogbrothers), contains this quote:
"There are so many people. It is easy to forget how full the world is of people, full to bursting, and each of them imaginable and consistently misimagined." 
I guess this is why John Green was always a normal guy to me: because he writes books about imagining people complexly. And this includes friends and parents and authors and everyone you love and admire. They're not just one thing; they're people. Sometimes they're great, sometimes they suck.

And, well, Jo, I think you should stick to wizards. 

1 Feb 2013

La Pâtisserie des Rêves

Today we talk food. But not any food. What I'm going to show you today is dream-like food, 'I can't believe how good this is' food, pretty, delicious, and overall excellent food.

You might remember that back in October (yes, I know), I went to Paris for a few days with two of my housemates. A lot of the trip revolved around food because a) we were in France and I consider us Frenchmen to be pretty good at making all sort of delicious things and b) I was making the decisions. I asked my friends for what they'd like to do, and it was then up to me to find where to go. So when Laura asked to go to a real French pâtisserie, I knew right away where I wanted us to go.

La Pâtisserie des Rêves is Philippe Conticini's delicious project. He had the idea of reinventing some of the French classics of pâtisserie to highlight and rediscover not only their taste, but also their elegance. He wanted them pleasurable to the taste buds and eye alike. After tasting them, I can tell you without a doubt that he did it, and he did it well.

This is a beautiful experience of gourmandise focused on creating new memories around the pâtisseries French kids grow up with. The idea is reflected in the shop: unquestionably the most beautiful and delicate place I've ever been to.

All the cakes are presented under these glass bubbles which create at first a surprising sci-fi like environment, but soon makes you feel like you're literally floating on a cloud made of cakes.

The girls went for this box which had six miniatures of French classics, such as the tarte tatin, the Paris Brest and others I can't remember! ;) But I do remember their faces while eating them—looks to me like it was pretty good.

As for me...

Although I think this picture speaks for itself, I'll tell you a bit more. This is the Kyoto-Brest, Conticini's new take on the traditional Paris-Brest. He uses matcha tea, yuzu lemon and azuki (a sweet paste made from red beans) in this recipe—all Japanese specialties, hence the updated name. It was definitely one of the best things I've ever had.

tl;dr: If you're ever in Paris, definitely check out La Pâtisserie des Rêves. They have two or three stores and also sell fab biscuits and miniature cakes to carry around in bags and savour while sitting on the banks of the Seine.

La Pâtisserie des Rêves de Philippe Conticini, rue du Bac & rue de Longchamp, Paris.