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Recently I have been having something of a personal crisis – maybe it was brought on by being made redundant, maybe it was brought on by turning 30, or maybe I just got complacent. Whatever the reason I have been on a quest for inspiration or, as PM would say ‘the fire in my belly’. Tonight the quest brought me to Donna Margherita.

I started off the evening at the Clapham Picture House, it was my first visit and I really loved the atmosphere – what a cool cinema. It would have been even cooler if I wasnt in the middle of a ‘no alcohol for a month resolution’ as I would have lingered, had a glass of wine and soaked in the atmosphere. Instead I wisely left as soon as ‘A Single Man’ was over, to avoid all such temptation and I started to make my way home. Now, although it was great to see a movie for the first time in a very long time (felt like the days when I used to go twice a week as a student) and it was a good movie, it was not what you would call uplifting – I felt like the evening lacked something. Also, I was starting to feel hungry. What luck then, that Donna Margherita, our favourite local Italian was on my way home!

Donna Margherita is exactly the sort of place to go when you are cold, hungry and in need of  inspiration. The first time I went there, was probably 2 or 3 days after we had moved into our flat and then we probably went there every second day until we got our oven up and running and some boxes unpacked. By the time I had a working kitchen we had bought and enjoyed every pizza on the Donna Margherita menu and we would probably still be eating them at least once a week if they delivered. Unfortunately they don’t and we got lazy, so we don’t have pizza from there so often but it is still pretty high on out list of places to go for dinner.

Breaking news: Rach has kindly let me know that Donna Margherita do in fact deliver! Very exciting news for PM and KL 🙂

Tonight it was perfect for my mood – it was warm, full of bubbly chatty people and there were all the familiar, welcoming faces amongst the staff. I ordered a coffee and one of their specials. While I waited for the food to come I examined their very strange food village – yes you read correctly, a village made out of food. This was a new addition from the last time I was there and well, odd! It had pita bread hills and spaghetti/macaroni trees – it also had a man standing in the garden holding the American flag. I think you had to see it to believe it!  Although strange i think the eclectic decor is part of what gives Donna its charm and it has a lot of charm.

More important though, than the warmth, bubbliness and charm is of course, (for me anyway), the food – my special was a fish dish, cod stuffed in pasta tubes (a bit like cannelloni but not cannelloni) with a tomato sauce on top. It was very simple but SO good – delicious. Perfect in its simplicity and flavour and this is where my inspiring moment came. I want to make that dish! This is a step in a new direction for me because when I cook I usually want a recipe to follow and I want to break myself of that habit. I want to be more creative with my cooking and I think trying to recreate this dish would be a good start.  So watch this space people – PM is getting my version of this dish for dinner very soon.

Shrove Sunday

Last Sunday we celebrated Shrove Sunday, instead of Shrove Tuesday. The aim of the day was for our friend Muri to raise money for his forthcoming London Marathon and I was recruited to help with pancake fillings, savoury pancake fillings.

Now, when I have talked to people here in London savoury pancakes seem to be less popular than their sweet contemporaries but the Shrove Tuesday events I used to go to in Cape Town always had a couple of savoury options and one of them was always a bolognaise. I think the idea behind it all was to fill everyone up with something more substantial so they would not have room for a lot of ‘all you can eat’ pancakes.

So, bolognaise was one filling, what else? It had to be a spinach and ricotta filling of some sort. The first time I came to London, I lived in flat above a bagel shop in Golders Green with my cousins and a couple of guys. They were heady days of endless parties and not very much sleep, we didn’t have the time, the space or the equipment to do much cooking – my obsession with cooking came later. My obsession with food however, was already well developed and so, I ate out a lot. My favourite place during this time was a little Italian restaurant around the corner – they got to know us really well and I would go there, order and have a glass of wine with them while I waited for the food to come. I had everything on the menu, but my absolute favourite was their Crespolini, spinach and ricotta filled pancakes – they were so good. I lived on them. If I was doing pancakes, I was doing spinach and ricotta pancakes.

Armed with my bolognaise and crespolini fillings, I hot footed it over to Muri’s to help set up. In the end we had cinnamon sugar, bananas, honey, lemon juice, nutella, almonds, chocolate sprinkles and a pretty large pile of pancakes which Muri had been slaving over for a good many hours. The veteran pancake eaters paced themselves well, managing to fit one of everything in. Those new to the game made a few critical errors – too much bolognaise and crespolini leaves no room for nutella and cinnamon sugar – but lessons were definitely learned for next time.  There will be a next time won’t there?