A little while back I told you about my new job up in Highgate School. Time is certainly passing quickly and, with just a few weeks left before I start work, it’s time Goon and I found a new place to live.
Of course, the most important thing for me in a flat is a decent kitchen, not like the one we have now. I want worksurface space, a gas cooker and a freezer that’s big enough to hold more than just some ice cubes and a bag of peas. Goon just wants somewhere close to a tube station so he can minimise the time he spends on his feet. Sadly,even finding this combination has so far proved nearly impossible.
It seems that a place to cook is a luxury in London now. With landlords rapidly converting every period building into 4 apartment blocks, we’ve seen many places with decent bedrooms but poor cooking and living space. We found several conversions which would have been fine but, all they had in the ‘open plan kitchen-lounge’ was one of those ghastly electric hobs and a sink. Not even a table to prep ingredients. How depressing.
It was after seeing one of these conversions that we encountered what must be the most stupid bunch of letting agents in London. In desperation we had popped into a slightly dodgy looking agency in the vague hope of discovering a suitable flat. We were prepared for some scare tactics and a little bit of bending the truth in a place like this, but we weren’t quite ready for this level of idiocy.
“Oh, yes, this place is going to go VERY quickly,” said the young lady showing us around a particularly expensive one bed dump, “In fact we had a couple in today who wanted it right away.”
Now, despite the impression he gives during his kitchen misadventures, Goon isn’t stupid.”So why didn’t they put down a deposit?” he asked. She paused for quite a while.
“Uh…….because…….. they left their cashcard at home. They’ll be coming in specially tomorrow all the way from….uh… Wimbledon….so they’re very keen. If you want it, you’d need to put down the cash before they came back.” I rolled my eyes. As if anyone in their right mind would want that place for that price. I took over the debate, somewhat sarcastically.
”Well, if we want this place, I’ll be sure to run over with the cash first thing tomorrow.” The agent looked worried.
Back at their offices, Goon was having fun winding another agent up.”So, that couple from Greenwich, they really like the place, huh?”
The agent looked confused for a second.”Couple from…oh.. RIGHT the couple from Greenwich, yes they were…”
“Wimbledon!” The other agent interjected in a hurry. ”Remember? They were from Wimbledon?” She nodded encouragingly at him. I, frankly, couldn’t believe how bad this woman was at lying.
“Ah, yes, Greenwich, Clapham… these places South of the river are all the same to me.” He laughed nervously. His colleague gave him a look that could kill.
And, as if they hadn’t made big enough fools out of themselves already, the estate agents called back the next morning with this little gem.
AGENT:The couple interested in the flat have come back. Do you want the flat,because we’ll need the money today if you do.
GOON: What, they’re in the office now?
GOON: Ready to put the money down?
AGENT: That’s right.
GOON: And you’re asking me if we want the flat?
AGENT: Ummm…. yes?
GOON: How could we possibly put the money down before them if they’re already there?
AGENT Umm… right.
AGENT: If they don’t put the money down now, shall I call you back?
Goon hung up.
So we spent Saturday tramping around again and by the evening we were tired and hungry and in need of some comforting and invigorating food. It was still very hot so it needed to be reasonably light and refreshing too. Plus I was knackered. So I didn’t want anything to keep me on my feet for more than an hour.
I was thinking a warm salad with some spicy, citrusy flavours would be good, perhaps with a South East Asian Influence. So I started improvising and out came this.
Vietnamese Style Noodle Salad with Seared Marinated Beef
For The Beef (we used around 425g beef fillet for two of us)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ground nut oil
- 1 heaped teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 inch ginger root, grated
- a spring onion, thinly sliced
- 3 small green chillies,chopped (don’t mention this to Goon!)
Mix all the marinade ingredients together well in a bowl.
Cut the beef fillet into thin strips, about a centimetre wide. Toss them in the marinade and leave them to marinate for about 90 minutes, tossing them every half hour to make sure the marinade stays well distributed. While the beef is marinating, make the salad (below), then have a sit down.
Once the beef has finished marinating, get a frying pan very hot and sear the beef strips for around 40s per side (or until the outside is cooked). You may need to do this in batches. Place the beef strips on a warm plate and cover with foil. Leave to rest for about 5 minutes.
Arrange the beef over or around the noodle salad, squeeze over some more lime and garnish with chopped coriander if you like.
For the salad (intended for 2 but enough for 3)
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into little 3 inch long, narrow batons.
- 4 inches of cucumber, cut like the carrot or maybe a bit thicker.
- 1 small pointed red pepper, deseeded cut the same as the carrot
- 3 spring onions, sliced
- 250g of fine rice noodles,
- handful of peanuts, roasted
- handful coriander leaves roughly chopped
- 10-15 mint leaves, finely chopped
- juice from 1 1/2 limes and grated zest to taste
- A little salt
- enough groundnut oil to lightly coat the rice noodles.
cook the rice noodles according the the pack instructions, then drain andrefresh in cold water immediately. i find that this stops them overcooking and disintegrating. Then drain the noodles and toss them in the oil and lime juice to stop them sticking.
Then just throw in the rest of the ingredients and toss everything together until its thoroughly mixed. Gently warm the salad through, then taste and adjust seasoning.
This was quick, tasty and filling without being heavy. Goon loved the marinated beef but he seems to be less keen on the fresh chopped mint in this form. personally i think its great. I find the combination of lime, coriander and mint to be really refreshing.
That meal was exactly what we needed after a hard day of flat hunting. I just keep hoping that eventually we’ll find our perfect
kitchen flat, preferably BEFORE my new job starts.