Saturday, 24 September 2016

Bethnal Green house sit: Basil Distress Leads to Culinary Success

Bethnal Green, London, United Kingdom
We initially accepted a house sit in Bethnal Green for two months, but were asked if we'd be happy to extend the sit. We ended up staying there with the ever grumpy yet begrudgingly affectionate cat Wanda for nearly four months. 
As a very timid cat, she was initially skittish around us and would hide from loud noises. After a few days, however, she would allow us to approach her slowly and scratch her ears, and by the end of the four months she was even fine with us picking her up and rubbing her belly. 

Every cat has their quirks, and Wanda was no different. She was slightly asthmatic, so she would wheeze sometimes and snore. She liked to spend some time out in the garden, but also enjoyed sitting on the window sill and looking out from indoors. As an older cat, she was less playful than she used to be, but occasionally the mood struck her and she would bat at the ribbon on a chair or chase a ball. She was very particular about where she would sleep, changing her preferred location often: for a fortnight she would always sleep on the chair by the kitchen, the next she would only sleep on the sofa, and the next would be curled up on my side of the bed.

Her main quirk was that she was very greedy. Whenever she wanted food (which was often) she would become very affectionate towards you, rubbing up against your legs and purring as loud and incessantly as a chainsaw. When you got up from what you were doing, she would dash away and meow in the kitchen. Then, when it was feeding time, she would put her front paws up on the cabinet as you poured out her food and bat at the bowl as you lowered it to the ground. She could never get that food quick enough for her liking! This may partly be due to the fact that Wanda was on a diet, as she was a "bit chubby", as described by her vet.

At one stage Wanda had changed her sleeping location to a patch of dirt out in the garden. It had been a particularly dry week, so perhaps the sun had warmed the dirt nicely, but it didn't seem like a great place to sleep to me, and she would come inside afterwards scattering dirt on the floor. We would be frequently visited by Tim, a three-legged ginger tom with a piercing meow. They were good friends. (Note: I have no idea if the ginger cat had a name at all, but he looked like a Tim to me, so that was his name to us.)

Summer was in full swing, so I made use of the Tesco down the road and the many fruit vendors nearby for lovely fresh fruit salads.

I also got into cooking in a big way while in Bethnal Green, and cooked up a nice dinner most nights with leftovers that Yannick could take to work for lunch. Mexican was a staple for us! We would make fresh salsa to top off our burritos or quesadillas, and have a chilled bottle of sparkling water with a wedge of lime on the side.

Occasionally I felt like trying something more adventurous. Twice I made gnocchi, an Italian potato pasta. With homemade lemon basil sauce and roasted cherry tomatoes, the gnocchi were almost restaurant quality in my humble opinion.


After making a fair number of Italian dishes, though, my basil plant certainly looked worse for wear!

The best nights were of course when Fabienne was staying in London! One night we whipped out the disposable barbie and grilled burgers. We did this again weeks later and though we had some trouble getting the black bean burgers to stick together, it was all delicious! (And that time we put corn cobs on the barbeque - so good!)

Perhaps our most extravagant meal was what we referred to as "Greek Night". We wanted to recreate some of our favourite dishes from our July Greek trip (posts to follow), so we fried up some courgette, roasted capsicum and cherry tomatoes, blitzed up a hummus, baked a block of feta and made pita bread! I can take no credit for the pita bread, as that was all the genius idea of Fabienne and Yannick, who mixed the dough, kneaded it for ages, waited for it to rise, shaped it and cooked it in the pan. They need a round of applause! Accompanied by a dash of lemon juice and a glass of rosé, it was a night to remember. 

Today's post was almost called: There’s Gnocchi Place Like (Someone Else’s) Home