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Recipe Friday: Bel-Air's Avocado Open Sandwiches

words Tamara Vos

2nd July 2015

We're excited to announce that this month's Recipe Friday contributor is the feel-good London eatery Bel-Air

This colourful caff serving breakfast and lunch was created by founder Andrew Bredon, who was inspired to bring back the flavours and colours of Californian healthy eating to a small corner in east London. Perfect for the summer months, this month's light, healthy and refreshing recipes will be creating endless inspiration for our office lunches! 

First up: open sandwiches. 

Avocado Open Sandwich 

You Will Need

2 avocadoes
a pinch of cumin seeds
a pinch of dried chilli
ground coriander
the juice of one lime
4 radishes, thinly sliced
toasted rye bread

One. Mash up 2 avocadoes with a pinch of cumin, dried chilli, ground coriander and lots of lime juice. salt to taste.

Two. Toss the sliced radish in olive oil and lemon. 

Three. Top the rye bread with avocado and radish. 

Four. Serve with a boiled egg and mixed seeds. Some other topping ideas are shaved asparagus tossed in lemon and olive oil, smoked salmon and dill or goat's cheese with pineapple and walnuts! 

An Interview with Director Desiree Akhavan

words Jason Ward

29th June 2015

The release of Desiree Akhavan's debut feature Appropriate Behaviour earlier this year heralded an impressive new film-making talent. As well as being the film's writer and director, Desiree plays its protagonist Shirin, a confident-but-floundering newly single woman attempting to move on from her former girlfriend Maxine (Rebecca Henderson).

Between flashbacks that trace Shirin and Maxine's ill-fated romance, Desiree excels at detailing the minutiae of life after a relationship: the efforts to redefine one's identity, the abortive attempts at online dating, the fleeting melancholy of realising that an ex is wearing clothes that you haven't seen before, their life carrying on without you. In a film distinguished by its emotional honesty as well as its humour and wit, one of Appropriate Behaviour's most perceptive observations is the idea that heartbreak exists as background radiation in modern dating: to varying degrees, everyone's trying to get over somebody.   

Ahead of its release on DVD, we spoke to Desiree about making the film.

Appropriate Behaviour starts and ends with Shirin on a train. In superficial terms not much has changed in her life but there's a clear emotional shift. How did you approach the journey she goes through?

When you study screenwriting you're given all these books that tell you there has to be an inciting incident, a villain, a hero, an act one. I remember reading them made me want to gouge my eyes out. It was incredibly boring. I thought if this is what screenwriting is then I'm not a screenwriter. I loved writing plays, and I loved writing scenes and building relationships through character, so that's how I started: I wrote scenes between Shirin and Maxine. I built that relationship and the film was about examining it. Once I finished the first draft I shared it with my producer Cecilia Frugiuele and she said it was good but she wanted to know who this woman is, who is her family, what's her job. She thought I should pull from my own life. That's when it became a journey of how this girl changes without really changing. There are so many films that deal with coming of age and young people in Brooklyn, but I wanted to make something that was so specific to the way I see the world that no-one else would be able to lay claim to it. That's all film is: telling the same story over and over again through a different lens.

Throughout the film there are flashbacks to Shirin and Maxine's relationship but they're non-chronological. Were you trying to replicate how Shirin's mind works?

It was about following a train of thought and what triggers a memory. When you have a breakup it's like being haunted by a ghost. You're in a moment with someone new and just the way their hand moves or the song that comes on or the food you're eating brings you back to a specific memory. You have this ex relationship on your shoulder, constantly reminding you: “Remember when you were happy? Remember when you were loved?”

Are the flashbacks subjective then? Even when they're in love Maxine seems a little aggressive to Shirin. Is that just her personality?

I always thought they were accurate but also Shirin is inspired by me and I'm an asshole. Who knows? The whole film is a flashback of mine. I say it's not autobiographical but at the same time I play the lead, so in a way it's all indulgent to one point of view. I tried to be as diplomatic as possible and to make it feel like that was the truth of what had happened, but if you get the sense that Maxine is a one-sided character then I haven't done my job well and we'll just say Shirin's bad memory at fault.

If the film isn't strictly autobiographical, do you see it as a heightening of reality?

It is, because of a few factors. One is that my life isn't interesting for a 90-minute narrative. It's not convenient enough. I wanted to draw parallels between characters and shape scenes to create a little arc in each scenario. The elements of my life are there but then characters and details had to change to suit the narrative and the story I wanted to tell. Also I rely heavily on my collaborators. I get so much credit because it's my face on screen, but my producer Cecilia is my work partner and had her hand in sculpting the script, while on set my cinematographer was a collaborator in how each scene played out and the same thing happened later with my editor. It's not just mine, so it would be insanely self-indulgent and false for me to say that this is a diary entry, because then it would be their diary entry too. I think the only way to make very personal work that is also universal and speaks to people who don't share your history is to rely heavily on others, because they add their perspective. They can tell you if you're going off the deep end or to go further. It's really necessary and it's a great joy.

What's it like to write, direct and star in a film all at the same time? Even with collaborators, that must be complicated logistically?

Well I'm a power hungry bitch so it works out really well that I get to wear all those pants. Also Cecilia had her eyes on the monitor the whole time. I didn't have time to watch playback so we were just moving forward; with other people's performances I knew exactly what I wanted, but there were a couple of instances when I looked at her and asked if I had it. One moment that sticks out in my head is the threesome scene. I watched one playback and it looked very graphic. I took her aside and said “This is too gratuitous, I've made a huge mistake, I'm going to pull back in the next take,” and she said to trust her and not pull back. I'm really glad I did because that's how we got what we have.

Your depiction of sex is interesting: it's not trying to titillate but it's casually graphic in the way that real sex is casually graphic. People have brought up Annie Hall when discussing Appropriate Behaviour but it's hard to imagine that sort of sexual honesty in comedic films of that era.

I think people are shooting sex differently now than they did before. There was a lot of dishonesty in the sex I saw when I was younger, but then films were very different in a pre-internet world. Now we have such a different dialogue – kids are coming out earlier, our relationship to porn is different – there's a frankness now and that's reflected in movies.

Sex in films never really got messy.

Or it was all awkward. The characters have a bad date and then bad sex and everything is terrible, but in reality sometimes things weave in and out of being pleasurable. That's the worst: when you hold on to the nostalgia for a moment you had two hours ago, hoping that the person will go back to your first impression of them. That happens quite often and I don't see it depicted in movies. Films lied to me about sex, and everything I learned about sex until a certain age I'd learned from watching a movie. It wasn't a conversation I had with my parents or something I could find out on my own. When I finally started dating I realised I'd been fed fairytale lies about simultaneous orgasms and never-ending love.

Appropriate Behaviour is now available on DVD.

Recipe Friday: Hummingbird's Buttermilk Pancakes

words Tamara Vos

26th June 2015

Last but not least in Hummingbird's Recipe Friday month is a recipe for everyone's breakfast favourite: buttermilk pancakes. 

Delightfully quick and simple to make (which is exactly what you want on a lazy Sunday morning), this foolproof recipe result in perfect pancakes every time and will be something you'll enjoy passing down to friends and family. 

This recipe is for the quintessential American pancakes you'd get in any diner worth its salt in the USA. Fluffy and airy, they're perfect for soaking up maple syrup. Along with eggs over easy and crispy bacon, no American breakfast is complete without them.

Makes 8 pancakes

45g (1 ½ oz) unsalted butter
270g (9 ½ oz) plain flour

55g (2oz) caster sugar
2 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
470ml (16 ½ fl oz) buttermilk
2 large eggs
Handful of blueberries (optional)
Vegetable oil, for the pan
Maple syrup or lemon curd, to serve (optional)

One. To make the pancakes, melt the butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan on the stove and set aside to cool briefly.

Two. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together by hand.

Three. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk and eggs. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk gently by hand until the dry ingredients are almost incorporated; stop before the batter is evenly mixed - it should be lumpy. Fold in the blueberries, if using, but don't overmix.

Four. Add the cooled melted butter and mix just until the batter is incorporated - it will still be lumpy. Let the batter rest while you heat a non-stick frying pan on a low heat.

Five. To make your first pancake, add a little vegetable oil to the pan so it doesn't stick, then spoon 4 tablespoons of the batter into the pan. Let the pancake cook, undisturbed, for 1-2 minutes until bubbles rise to the surface and the edges look dry. At that point, lift the underside up with a spatula to make sure it's nicely browned and flip over. Continue to cook for about 1 minute more until the second side is also nicely browned. Remove from the pan and place in a warm oven while you cook the rest of the pancakes. Once all the pancakes are cooked, serve with maple syrup or lemon curd, if you like.

LIFE IS SWEET: 100 ORIGINAL RECIPES FOR HAPPY HOME BAKING by the Hummingbird Bakery, published by 4th Estate, £20

Sponsored Post: Perfect Presents

words Laura Maw

25th June 2015

Treat yourself or a friend to a cosmos-inspired necklace or a creative weekend retreat. We’ve picked our favourite online gift shops below, with some special discounts for Oh Comely readers.

One. Think Three Things sell unique and personalised trinkets, from delicate origami necklaces to vintage-inspired wrapping paper. Oh Comely readers can get 20% off with the code OHCOMELY01.

Two. Calling all notebook fans: Chroma Stationery has a beautiful range of notebooks in over 20 colours and offer a free embossing service.

Three. Open To Create offer creative coaching, mentoring and weekend retreats – perfect for all budding artists and writers.

Four. From stunning solar system necklaces to kaleidoscope-coloured rings, Eclectic Eccentricity stocks a beautiful collection of vintage jewellery – and you can get 20% off with the code OHCOMELY20.

Issue 25 Playlist: Weather

words Linnea Enstrom

23rd June 2015

Photo by Holly Lay

Within the day of this playlist (rising with Sun by Cat Power and setting with Sun by Caribou) we are windswept, soaked through and flown high into the sky. Don’t let the forecasters fool you; weather is all about metaphors. Music, and the 'sparkles', 'storms' and 'trickles' of music journalism, is littered with references to the changing sky of our emotions and the strangely tangible effect of sound on our souls. There’s no misinterpreting the final curtain of rain in The Smiths’ Well I Wonder or Taken By Trees' gentle percussive sounds. Let yourself be swept away by the music of The Weather Issue. Or play it in the background, like a quiet rain in June.

 

Happy Birthday to Oh Comely!

words Tamara Vos

22nd June 2015

This weekend, we celebrated our fifth birthday. 

Surrounded by readers, friends, contributors and balloons, we stuffed ourselves with cake, elderflower-gin punch and mini tacos. 

The wonderful Prickle Press also graced us with their presence - Rachel brought with her 100 bespoke birthday cards which we gave away as favours to readers, and her printing press formed quite a queue as guests lined up to print their own messages onto their cards. 

We'd like to extend a massive hurrah and thank you to Hummingbird Bakery and White Mulberries for providing us with their delectable cupcakes and chocolate brownies - not one crumb remained! A huge thank you also to Founder who provided us with their beautiful space - we couldn't have asked for a better setting to celebrate. 

And finally, thank you, dear readers, for joining us on our Oh Comely journey - for reading and supporting the mag, sharing it with friends, and letting us know your thoughts through your wonderful photos and letters. We're here because of you. 

Here's to the next five years! 

 

Photos by Liz Seabrook, Des Tan & Prickle Press

One Day to Go!

words Sarah McCoy

19th June 2015

There's only one more sleep to go until we throw open the doors to our 5th birthday party. We've been slightly naughty and had a peek at our present, and my oh my what a beauty it is! 

Yup, we have one hundred of these beautifully-printed, hand-painted cards from Prickle Press all lined up and ready to give away to our guests. Rachel, the founder and brains behind Prickle Press makes gorgeous bespoke stationary that has us drooling. She has handmade each card, creating a stunning birthday collection for us to share with you! 

Rachel will be joining us on the day, popping the finishing touches to the cards and sipping on an elderflower gin cocktail. We can't wait: see you tomorrow!

The Oh Comely Birthday Party is being held on Saturday 20th June at Founder in East London at 2pm. Limited tickets will be available on the door. 

Recipe Friday: Hummingbird's New Orleans Beignets

words Tamara Vos

19th June 2015

Have you heard of beignets? No, we hadn't either - let us fill you in.

Essentially a fritter, a beignet is French for deep-fried choux pastry which is then smothered in icing sugar. In other words, heaven on a plate. For their third Recipe Friday, Hummingbird show us how to make these very easy sugary treats that make for moreish snacking alongside a pint of tea! 

Our beignets are not as perfectly even as the ones you'd eat at the Café du Monde on Decatur Street in New Orleans. But they've been making beignets and serving them with cups of café au lait, milky coffee blended with chicory, since 1862. Be sure to dust your beignets liberally with icing sugar and eat them while they're warm and fresh.

Makes about 40-45 beignets

235ml (8fl oz) water
235ml (8fl oz) whole milk

1 large egg
400g (14 oz) plain flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
Pinch of ground nutmeg
About 1 litre (1 ¾ pints) vegetable oil, for frying
Icing sugar, for dusting

One. Using a freestanding electric mixer with the whisk attachment or a hand-held electric whisk, combine the water, milk and egg and whisk well. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and nutmeg and mix until the batter is smooth.

Two. Heat the oil in a deep pan or deep-fat fryer to 180°C (355°F). Test with a thermometer or drop in a crouton-sized piece of bread - if it turns golden immediately then the oil is hot enough.

Three. Drop the batter a tablespoon at a time into the oil in small batches. Fry for 3-4 minutes until golden brown, making sure to turn the beignets over two or three times to brown them all over. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen roll and, once cool, dust with icing sugar. Repeat until you've used all the batter.