Monthly Archives: September 2013

When you think there’s nothing to eat…

Sometimes Mark struggles to “see” the ways a meal can be made with what is available.

His brain goes: “it’s lunchtime…a sandwich or salad would be good…we don’t have much bread and there’s no lettuce! Nothing to be done!” and then there’s a great panic and his head explodes.

He’s very good at following recipes to the letter but he finds it challenging to substitute alternatives or tweak set instructions. So he ends up running to Waitrose to spend a fortune on food we don’t need, while what we do have sits back at the flat, forlorn and forgotten.

Conversely, I like scrabbling around and finding things to do with odds and ends.

Those TV programmes where the chef stumbles upon pristine “leftovers” that “just happen to be at the back of the fridge” (cough Nigel Slater cough) can be tedious, particularly when they are beautifully wrapped, expensive artisan ingredients.

Things I “just happen to have” tend to be incongruous items bought when a bit drunk on the way home.

The other day the chirpy fruit & veg man at Vauxhall station had some fat avocados for a bargainous price and they ended up joining me on my train to Clapham Junction.

So later when Mark’s head was on the verge of detonation, it was a simple matter to grab a ripe one, add some fresh diced tomato, a squeeze of lemon and bung it on some toasted sourdough rubbed with a clove of garlic and olive oil. Instant and delicious lunch.


As my lovely mother would say, you would pay a lot of money for that in a restaurant!


Crawfish boil at Bea’s of Bloomsbury

Last year, Bea’s of Bloomsbury launched the now legendary all-you-can-eat crawfish boil nights. I snapped up some tickets pretty early, but of course one of my “cooler-than-thou” friends had already been to the opening night.

He imparted some good advice: “Don’t worry when the first few trays are emptied. Soon, there will be so much food that you won’t be able to see straight”.

More sage wisdom was shared by Bea herself: “This is a not a feast for the faint-hearted…come in clothes that you may need to burn in shame afterwards.”

Sure enough the evening was as epic as predicted; Mark and I left stuffed to the gills and stinking of spicy seafood juice which seemed to saturate every pore. We were keen to return to Bea’s spot under the arches near Maltby St Market a second time as old pros.


Knowing there would be no plates or cutlery – just trestle tables spread with newspaper and industrial-sized rolls of blue kitchen paper as a feeble barrier against the inevitable overspill of crawfish juice, spiced butter, cocktail sauces, Tabasco and booze – we came prepared.

Mark even picked an old smock-like shirt to be his designated crawfish outfit.


Also known as crayfish, mud bugs, fresh water lobsters and countless other names, crawfish are related to the lobster family and have similar firm, juicy and sweet white flesh.

The best bit is the tail and there’s a bit of a knack to extracting this gold: twist the head off, get your fingernail between a couple of the ridges at the top and then pull the whole tail out cleanly before dunking in your sauce of choice.

Bea boils her crawfish with thick slices of sausage, spices, potatoes and corn on the cob.

Better yet, these are pesky American crawfish which now overrun UK rivers so by eating them, we were doing our bit to help the native UK white-clawed crayfish population.


Say hello to my little friend…


And my even littler friend…


All washed down with a bucket o’ beers:


The Southern-style atmosphere is great; relaxed and informal, with everyone chatting to their table-mates, passing condiments and helping dump full plates of shells into the binbags at the end of each table. Being complicit in such copious crawfish carnage is a sure way to make fast friends!

The fun doesn’t stop once you’ve had your fill; our new table buddy (and birthday boy) made some gruesome finger puppets with the remaining heads.


Tickets are £32 per person for all you can eat Crawfish, sauces, butters, sides and dessert. Drinks are extra – we paid a reasonable £14 for a bucket of five beers.

Bea has extended the dates until the end of October 2013 due to popular demand. Book now!