It’s true for gastronomes and travelers alike: a resolute spirit of adventure and initiative is necessary to satisfy both wanderlust and hunger. The committed eater, like the committed traveler, must keep his curiosity alive and constantly summon the energy to venture forth with determination and joie de vivre. You’ve got to want it.
After an exhausting week of research and job applications, we were naturally tempted to while away the weekend with long naps and downloaded TV shows from home, with some open bags of crisps conveniently at hand, and perhaps an occasional peek out the window at the passing world. But our commitment to carpe-ing the diem won out over inertia (if only just), and the result was an exciting weekend of adventure.
We bucked up on Friday afternoon and headed for the Tate Modern, which is open late on weekend evenings, for a couple of slides down the Carsten Höller installation. There’s been a lot of discussion in the London press over the last week about whether or not this constitutes art. We will not debate such thorny issues, but will merely comment that the Test Sites are faster and twistier than you might expect, and that Picasso is only improved when one is shooting by at high speed.
Next, to the Anchor and Hope, an excellent gastropub in south London, where we shared a warm salad of snails and bacon over spring greens and a whole roasted sea bass with black cabbage in an anchovy sauce. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as leaving nothing but an intact (and remarkably cartoonish) fish skeleton on your plate at the end of a meal. The poached quince with praline ice cream also deserves a mention – sour, sweet, crunchy, creamy, scrumptious – in short, everything you might want in a dessert.
On Saturday, it was off to Greenwich for an exciting afternoon at zero degrees of longitude. We visited the National Maritime Museum, wandered the grounds of the Royal Naval College, and noted that the 24 hour clock at the Royal Observatory was a good 33 minutes slow, perhaps offering some insight into the loss of Britain’s formerly grand empire (standards, people!). We met some friends for an elegant dinner of scallops and tuna, paired with some really exquisite wines; our South African hostess was the consummate sommelier.
Sunday saw us again at the British Museum for some research into power and taboo (northwest Michigan is shortly to be the new Hawaii, when the fire pit and totemic carvings are finished at Laura’s family summer home – stay posted!) and back in Shepherd’s Bush for our last bottle of Tavel rosé and this new dinner fave, to be followed by ice cream and (at last!) a little down time.
Seared Salmon & Lentils
¼ cup lardons or 2 strips chopped bacon
½ cup dried lentils (preferably French green lentils, but ordinary red lentils will work as well)
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ lb center-cut salmon fillet
Finely chopped cherry tomatoes, for garnish
Heat medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. When hot, sauté lardons until brown and crisp. Remove lardons to a paper towel, leaving drippings in pan. Add onions and thyme, and sauté until soft. Add garlic and stir for a minute.
Put the lentils into the pot. Add just enough water to cover the lentils. Peel two long sections of lemon rind from the lemon with a vegetable peeler and add to mixture. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until tender, about 35 minutes.
Cut salmon into two pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in sauté pan over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Add salmon, skin side up, and cook for about 4 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn and cook for another 2 minutes, or until golden brown on the outside but still translucent in the middle. Remove to plate.
Add lardons to sauté pan and warm through, about 1 minute. Season lentils with salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper. Add juice of ½ lemon. Add cream to lentils, if desired. Mix in lardons.
Serve salmon and lentils topped with chopped cherry tomatoes, with wedges of lemon alongside.