I could write a long list of brilliant things about where I live (in Hackney) and hopefully I will get around to compiling that list soon.
One thing I have mentioned in several posts – and would definitely feature – is the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford. It is only a mile away from our house, I know exactly where the best parking spots are and, goddammit, it is (according to itself) the biggest shopping mall in Europe.
While these attributes may not do it for all of you, let me tell you one more thing that you will surely agree makes Westies count as a pretty special place.
Since Westies opened about a year ago, supermarket shopping has, for me, become a breezy, social affair: I get to rub shoulders with like-minded local foodies who are relieved there is life after the grotty Asda at Leyton Mills or Tescos at Hackney Central.
Even the son-of-a-trade-unionist boyfriend has finally admitted that Waitrose rocks and that it is not, contrary to popular belief, ridiculously expensive. I sometimes catch him in debate with one or other of our would-be neighbour-converts, using every argument in the book to win them over.
I love a good bargain even more than he does. I also love the challenge of cooking a cut of meat or fish I never have before. And, yup, those two things combined make Waitrose le supermarché de choix. Pour moi, anyway.
Case in point: I picked up organic chicken livers that were reduced to 99p. They went into the freezer for a few weeks while I pondered what to cook with them.
And then it came to me as I was watching my (currently) fave programme Masterchef The Professionals. As a skills test, the contestants were given what looked like a huge hulk of fat but was actually a beef kidney to prep and cook into a dish. As ever, the stern but brilliant Monica Galetti made it look easy as pie, effortlessly digging past the fat to reveal the unappetising kidney (fyi raw chicken livers don’t look too good either) which she cooked in lots of butter and then, using an assortment of other ingredients including Marsala wine, cream and mustard, served up on sliced brioche. It looked bloody delicious and made Gregg Wallace salivate on camera (he is ever so good at doing that).
Anyway, there you have it. My inspiration for chicken liver pâté (the healthy butter-free version).
Half an onion, chopped and fried in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil with a bay leaf until golden brown. Chicken livers added, heat turned up to seal them and cooked for a few more minutes (I’d say about 4 but use your instincts). Some Marsala wine (a small glass) added and allowed to bubble and reduce by about half. Bay leaf removed, salt and pepper added and the mixture whizzed up and put into ramekins and then the fridge. Served on toast with mini gherkins (my preference is with Maille’s mini cornichons which I bring over from France), this pâté is lip lickingly délicieux!
Even my petite Madame, at the tender age of three, loves it.