Saturday, 29 December 2012

Merry Christmas (with biscuits)

We've had some sort of biscuits at home at Christmas for as long as I can remember, and a few years ago I started adapting a recipe for traditional Speculaas biscuits. As well as being super yummy, they also make great presents - either for Christmas presents or post-Christmas thank yous. Also you're allowed to make them after Christmas so long as you're still within the twelve days of it, I've decided. So GET BAKING PEOPLE.

- 200g/8oz plain flour
- 2tsp cinnamon
- 1tsp ground ginger
- 1tsp nutmeg
- 1tsp baking powder
- ½tsp salt
- 100g/4oz soft brown muscovado sugar
- 2tbsp milk
- 150g/5oz butter
- 2tbsp glacé ginger
- 1tbsp candied peel
- zest of 1 orange
- zest of ½ lemon
This is meant to make 24, but I used a variety of cutters and ended up getting 40. But honestly? You can't really have too many biscuits.

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper
2. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and spices in a bowl, then rub in the butter. Add in the sugar, mixed peel, glacé ginger and zest and mix well to combine.
3. Add the milk, a little at a time, and use your hands to bring the mixture together into a soft dough.
4. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface, and roll out to about 0.5cm thick. Cut out your shapes and use a spatula to help transfer them to the baking sheet.

Tip: there'll probably be bits of flour on the biscuits from rolling out - if you dip a soft brush or even just your finger in a bit of water you can use it to brush the flour off and ensure an even colour after baking
5. Bake for 15-18 minutes - they should be puffed up and turning golden brown. Let the biscuits cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

You can decorate them however you like - I mixed some icing sugar with the juice of half the orange I'd zested, put it in a plastic bag, cut off the tip and iced around the edges of my shapes. I also stuck on some dried cranberries, and added edible glitter to a few for that extra festive sparkle.

So, enjoy! A very merry Christmas to you all from myself and Zosia, and all the best for your 2013s!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Hangover Heaven: Eggy Bread

I handed in my last essay of term on Tuesday, and I feel more than due a good night out in celebration. Luckily there are two of those lined up for this week, but not-so-luckily they're one after the other. Plus, Fraser's coming to visit and will be here for the second one, so I need to be alive rather than wallowing in the hangover hell.

Solution: Eggy bread (or French toast, if you want to be fancy). And also tea. Lots of tea.

It couldn't be simpler really -
1. Heat up some olive oil in a frying pan. You can add some butter too, if you're feeling extravagant.
2. Grab some bread, it doesn't matter what sort, and slice it up.
3. Then in a bowl, beat together an egg per person, add a good dash of milk and season.
4. Soak your bread in the eggy mixture (flipping over so both sides get done), then transfer to the pan.
5. Cook for about 3-5 minutes and then turn over and cook for a few more. Both sides should be gorgeously dark gold and crunchy-looking.
6. When it's done, transfer to some kitchen towel and whap your next lot in the pan.

If you run out of mixture, just top it up with another egg and some more milk. Easy peasy.

Serve with ketchup, or, for an alternative, you could skip the peppering stage of making the mix, then once the bread's cooked serve it with a sprinkle of caster sugar and cinnamon. That one would go well with fruit, too.

And don't forget the tea.

Monday, 10 December 2012

This Is Uni Christmas Dinner

There is something quintessentially British about a roast dinner, particularly at Christmas, and I'm sure I'm not alone in saying it's my favourite day of the year. We've just had our last weekend at university before the holidays, so we decided to make it our honourary Christmas so we could celebrate together. Earlier in the week we Christmas-ified the house, and yesterday Jamie and I went out to pick holly before I embarked on the epic mission that was the roast dinner. It was beautiful.

 Not just the food (though that was pretty darn good if I do say so myself), but the company and the laughs and the cracker-hats and just everything. It was a good day. BUT I'll stop being sentimental now and get on with the recipes - I'm going to go through all the elements (in the order I started making them), so this'll be quite a long post, but it'll be totally worth it, promise.

Meat substitute:
I decided to make some awesome veggie pies, because I couldn't find anything nice in tesco. This made enough for four of us, as I did gluten-free red onion and rosemary sausages for Zosia.
- 1x 500g pack puff pastry                                            - 150ml white wine                         
- 25g butter                                                                  - 1½ tbsp plain flour
- 6 shallots, roughly chopped                                       - 250ml veg stock          
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed                                              - 75ml double cream                   
- half an onion (save the other half for gravy)              - sprinkle of dried thyme            
- 4 new potatoes, peeled and chopped                        - salt and pepper             
- 1 pack asparagus tips, washed and chopped              - 1 egg       

1. Melt the butter in a pan and add the shallots, onion and garlic, then cook until soft and just beginning to colour - about 8 minutes.
2. Add the thyme, new potatoes, asparagus (not the tips yet) and wine, and boil 'til the wine has almost gone. Add the flour and stir well.
3. Pour in the stock and add the tips of the asparagus, then season to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring fairly regularly so it doesn't stick to the pan.
4. Add the cream and cook for another 3 minutes. Voila, filling done.
5. Roll out the pastry to about 1cm thick, then cut into small and large circles (I used a cup for the smaller ones and a bowl for the larger). Put the smaller ones on an oiled baking tray, then pile on as much filling as you can stack up, leaving a rim around the edge. Wet the rim and then put the larger pastry circle over the filling, making sure it sticks to the rim of the smaller circle. If you like you can also make decorations for the top, and stick those on with water too.
6. Beat an egg, then brush the pies with it. This will make them all golden and lovely. Once that's all done, they want about 30 minutes at 200°C in a preheated oven.

Roast potatoes:
This, like the yorkshire puddings, is Andy's recipe - a mix of his ideas, Nigel Slater's and Nigella's. A mix which certainly works, because roast dinners should not be as good as Andy's are, so I'm copying.
1. Begin by heating about 1-2cm of vegetable oil in a roasting dish at 200°C.
2. Peel enough potatoes for the number of people, and put into a pan of cold water. Bring to the boil, and cook for a MAXIMUM of 5 minutes.
3. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then put the colander on top of the empty pan and place the pan lid on top for about 5 minutes, or until you're ready for them. This will steam dry them and make them extra crunchy later.
4. Sprinkle over some plain flour (or semolina powder if you have it - I was on flour) and some salt and pepper, then do the hokey cokey (aka shake it all about) and get them all scuffed.
5. CAREFULLY, place the potatoes into the super-hot oil, making sure they're completely coated. Really do be careful - I was rushing too much yesterday and I have the burn-marks to prove it.
6. Put the dish back into the oven and let the potatoes cook for 35-40 minutes, checking and turning them half way through.

I over-did them a bit, but honestly it just added to the crunch. YOU CAN'T LOSE WITH THESE.
Yorkshire puddings:
This was my first time making Yorkshire puddings, though I've had Andy's and Mum's homemade ones for years. Mine therefore weren't quite as awesome as hoped, but practise makes perfect.
Ingredients (makes 12 - you'll need muffin tins):
- 4 eggs
- 250g plain flour (I used gluten free)
- 350ml milk
- pinch sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to at least 240°C, and fill each muffin tin cup with 1cm of vegetable oil. Put the tins in the oven for the oil to heat while you prepare the batter.
2. Whisk the eggs, milk and salt in a bowl for about 5 minutes using an electric whisk, longer if by hand. The mix should increase in size and be all bubbly, then leave to stand for 15 minutes.
3. Whisk in the flour a little at a time 'til there are no lumps. You should have a smooth batter, and the oil in the oven should be beginning to smoke slightly. 
4. Evenly distribute the batter into the muffin tins (I found it was about 4tbsp per cup), being very careful 'cos they're pretty darn hot. Bake for 20-30 minutes, leaving plenty of space for them to rise. Do NOT open the oven door while they're cooking, or they'll sink and it will be sad.

No, mine weren't as spectacular as Andy's, but it was my first time. And also I was using gluten free flour which is a bitch to work with. So really, all in all: SUCCESS.
Roast carrots and parsnips:
1. Grab enough carrots and 'snips for the number of people, then peel them all and top and tail them.
2. Carrots - chop roughly in diagonal-ish chunks, then place in one half of the baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and a handful of either tarragon or thyme. You can also add garlic too, if you fancy. Give them a good stir so they're completely coated in everything.
3. Parsnips - chop either into small chunks, or cut them vertically and keep them long and thin. Pop them in the other half of baking dish and do the olive oil/salt and pepper thing like with the carrots, then give them a squirt of either honey or maple syrup. Stir to coat.
4. Cook for 30-45 minutes at 200°C, taking out to stir every 15 minutes or so to prevent them burning on top.

I forgot to get a picture of them cooked, but you can see them on the finished plate.
Cheesy leeks:
This is my Mum's recipe adapted from a Jamie Oliver one, and for me no roast is complete without them.
Ingredients (serves 4-6):
- 800g leeks, washed and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 30g butter
- tsp mustard (French is always best)
- 200ml single cream
- 100g cheddar cheese, grated
- thyme (6 sprigs fresh/decent sprinkle of dried)

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the garlic, leeks and thyme. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the leeks have softened and shrunk down.
2. Tip into a baking dish, then season, add the cream, mustard and half the cheese and mix together.
3. Top with the remaining cheese and bake for 20-25 minutes, 'til golden and bubbling.

This is not my picture. I forgot to take one... though in my defence I was incredibly busy. I'll update this the next time I make them, and for now you can have Jamie Oliver's as a rough guide (although I use a deeper dish and fill it more).
You can use whatever you like for these - I used a pack of tender-stem broccoli, some green beans, a few handfuls of kale and some sprouts. Because even though I hate sprouts, it's Christmas, and in my house that means being given two sprouts and being made to eat at least one of them. It's all good fun.

1. Chop the broccoli, sprouts and beans how you want them. Melt some butter in a saucepan, then add the broccoli and sprouts. Cook these for about 8 minutes, stirring regularly, and then add the beans and cook for another 5 mins.
2. Finally add the kale, and cook for about 3 more minutes, until it's shrunk down. Then season well and add a good squirt of lemon juice, and serve.

I made up a pint of Bisto caramelised onion gravy, to which I added a teaspoon of marmite, a dessert spoon of cranberry sauce and (after frying in olive oil 'til soft) the other half of the onion left over from the pie filling. Waste not want not.

Merry Christmas, all.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Culinary Christmas Spirit

Around this time last year, my dad took me to a gastro-pub-type-place in East Dulwich called The Palmerston to celebrate the end of term and get into the general Christmas spirit. We had a great time, and culinary-wise I tried a whole bunch of things I'd never had before.

This weekend, Jamie and I decided that we'd organise afternoon tea as a break from the ridiculous amount of work we both have at the moment, and I decided to recreate/adapt the starter I'd had and loved so much at the Palmerston last year. The result was pretty darn good.

The original was a breaded goats' cheese served with chicory leaves, chestnuts, pomegranate seeds and cranberry sauce. My version used walnut kernels instead of chestnuts (not in the picture because I forgot about them 'til we'd already started eating) and a mixture of spinach and pea shoots instead of chicory (as chicory was not to be found in all of Egham/Englefield Green). And it was awesome, as well as being incredibly easy to make with not much actual cooking involved.

- a pot of soft goats' cheese each. I think the original probably used rounds, but actually I thought this was a more airy, less stodgy way of doing it.
- 1 egg
- white breadcrumbs
- few sprigs fresh thyme (dried would do)
- black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and oil a baking tray.
2. Strip the thyme leaves from the stalks, then mix together with the breadcrumbs and pepper in a bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the egg.
3. Using your hands, mould the goats' cheese into flat cylinders. Dip it in the beaten egg, then into the breadcrumbs so the cheese is coated.
4. Place on the baking tray and stick it in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden.

Serving (in case you're as persnickety as me):
1. Grab a teaspoon of cranberry sauce and dollop it on the opposite side of the plate, then use the back of the teaspoon to drag it into a cool curvy line.
2. Wash the spinach and place on the opposite side of the plate to the sauce. Half your pomegranate and use the tip of the knife to pick out the seeds, then scatter over the spinach along with the pea shoots and walnut kernels.
3. Whap on the baked goats' cheese and present to hungry guests.

Of course, proper afternoon tea requires cake as well, and not gonna lie - the ones I made were pretty darn good. So watch this space - they'll be following soon.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Pudding Explosion

When my sister came to visit me last month, she insisted I made sure I had all the ingredients in for her to make butterscotch sauce. She doesn't really cook usually, but she'd made that at home and was keen to recreate.

Of course, we had a fun but hectic time, and the sauce never got made. It seemed a shame to have all the ingredients in and let them go to waste though...

 And so a star was born.

For this, you'll need vanilla ice cream, some frozen raspberries, a pan of butterscotch sauce and a few pieces of honeycomb. That last one's where the literal bit of the explosion part comes in, 'cos you've got to break the pieces up quite small and you will end up with stray honeycomb on the floor.

The rest of the explosion is in the taste. This pudding is all about texture and contrast - the ice cream cool and smooth, the raspberries sharp, the honeycomb sweet and crunchy and the butterscotch silky and warm, while the citrus note in it from the lemon brings the whole dessert together. You really have to try it.

Plus? The quantity of butterscotch sauce the website gives makes enough for a few servings. So you can either get people over to share it with you or put it in the fridge for next time. I cannot see a downside.

Try it. Your tastebuds will never be the same again.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Nigel Slater

Nigel Slater is my idol, and has been for years. I love his entire approach to food - it sounds like a small thing, but he taught me that I didn't have to follow recipes by the letter and that I could adapt them to what I really wanted to eat. As well as my mum, he was also the person that got me really into using fresh herbs. He introduced me to pesto, and began my obsession with cooking programmes.

Which is why it meant so much to me when this happened today:

I got twitter in May after I was told it would help promote my cooking, but wow. People, go, live your dream!

This particular recipe is an adaptation of Nigel's Ricotta Beefburger. Mine is made with Quorn mince, the addition of soft goats' cheese (replace about half the ricotta) and two/three eggs (because Quorn doesn't bind in the way normal mince does). In addition to this I also added a splash of balsamic vinegar to the sundried tomatoes, which worked well.

I wholly recommend making these, whether it's the veggie version or the original, as they were pretty darn brilliant and incredibly easy. Leftovers? Mr Slater covered that too. Now go and cook.

Pear and Blackberry Bread & Butter Pudding

Late as ever, but here's this month's food column in my university newspaper. Pretty proud of this one - I went home for a few days in reading week and made it for my Mum and her new boyfriend, which should give you an idea of the awesome.

More actual posts to come soon, promise.

It's less saturated in real life, I just wanted it to show up...

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Bonfire Honeycomb

I made honeycomb on Thursday for the third time. Both previous attempts were made last year when we lived in halls of residence on campus, and were, as a friend would say, of questionable merit. The first time the sugar burned (the electric hobs took hours to cool down, so when I attempted to turn it off after the temperature needed for a 'rapid boil', it just kept on cooking. Cue making the whole of Runnymede JK smell of burned sugar. Still managed not to set the fire alarm off though, for which people should be thankful.). The second time I was overly cautious and it wasn't quite cooked enough. 

They always say it's third time lucky though.

I followed Lorraine Pascale's recipe because Zosia has her cookbook, but Nigella has a nice looking one too. Neither of them make loads, but that's probably a good thing as far as my teeth are concerned.

Ingredients (to fill a 20cm tin):
- 80g/3oz butter
- 160g/5½oz caster sugar
- 80g/3oz golden syrup
- 2tsp bicarbonate of soda

1. Grease the tin with vegetable oil (any flavourless oil is fine). The best way to do this is to pour in about a tablespoon and then use a pastry brush to distribute it and make sure there's no excess.

2. Gently heat the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a large heavy-based frying pan until the sugar has dissolved.

3. Turn up the heat and boil rapidly, WITHOUT stirring. Make sure the flames aren't licking up the sides of the pan, and if the mixture goes darker at one side then swirl the pan. Do this until it turns a golden-brown 'honeycomb' colour - Lorraine Pascale says this will take about 5 minutes, but I'd say it's more like 3-4. Don't let it go too dark or it will catch and become acrid, and no one wants that.

4. Add the bicarb and stir rapidly for a few seconds, then pour it into the oiled tin and leave to set. I tend to make mine in the evening, so it sets overnight. When it's all firm, you get to smash it up. I've found a really good one for this is our knife sharpener, but you could bash it with the end of a rolling pin or just about anything.

You can add it to puddings, or just put it in a tin and bring it along with you to watch the fireworks tomorrow. With a flask of tea. Or Baileys hot chocolate. I know what I'll be doing...

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Life is a crazy place

Okay. So you may have noticed that neither me or Zosia have been doing as much with this blog as we did last year. As way of explanation/excuse, let me just say that this is basically life at the moment...

By which I mean, life is freaking crazy.

 As well as, y'know, degrees and reading and housekeeping and everything else that means the partying that picture shows is becoming a scarily infrequent thing. 

The other part of my excuse is that this is no longer my only food-writing outlet. Because since September I've had a column in my university's newspaper, The Orbital. So if you're at Royal Holloway then go get a copy. And if you're not, then here's this month's column. Purely because I want to share the foody love with you all, and not because I'm showing off (okay, only slightly because I'm showing off).

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Aubergine Not-Cannelloni

This one's for Rebecca. Because I have loads of other things still to blog and now I'm all out of sequence but I'm doing this one first because she asked me to and I rock.

This one was an awesome one. Inspiration was taken from here, and once I'd seen it the recipes-part of my brain wouldn't stop whirring 'til I'd done something.

You will need (for 4):
- 2 aubergines
- 300g pot garlic and herb Philadelphia
- 125g pot soft goats' cheese
- large handful of fresh spinach
- 1 large onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
- sprinkle dried oregano and rosemary
- oxo cube
- glug of red wine (or a desert spoon of red wine vinegar and 1 tsp sugar)
- fresh parsley

The aubergines: Begin by prepping these. They should be topped and tailed, and sliced as thinly as you can get them - about 5mm is ideal. Sprinkle with salt and leave to the side for about 20 minutes, until water droplets begin to appear on the surface. Rinse off the salt and pat dry, then brush both sides of the aubergine with olive oil and grill for approximately 4 minutes each side.

The sauce: Chop the onion and garlic and throw into a large saucepan with a splash of olive oil. Cook for 8 minutes, then add the tomatoes and the dried herbs. When this begins to bubble, put the oxo cube and red wine into the saucepan as well. Cook on a low-medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly, until it begins to thicken. Season to taste.

The filling: Empty the pots of cheese into a mixing bowl, and stir together thoroughly. Add to this a sprinkle of black pepper, some fresh parsley and the spinach leaves (when I made it I had a mixture of spinach, watercress and rocket, so they all went in). Stir again so that everything is incorporated.

The assembly:
1. Put a spoonful of the cheese mixture onto each slice of aubergine, and roll the aubergine around it.

2. Pour enough sauce into a baking dish to cover the bottom of it, then place the aubergine slices on top, with the end of the roll facing down. As you can see with mine I used a courgette as well, as I only had one aubergine. It wasn't bad - I'd recommend sticking to the aubergine but if you have any fussy eaters who don't like it they can be easily appeased this way.

3. Pour the remaining sauce over the aubergine rolls, and bung the remaining cheese mixture on the top too. You could also sprinkle over some breadcrumbs or seeds.

4. Bake at 200°C for 30 minutes and then enjoy thoroughly. I like serving it with a mixed leaf salad with a balsamic and olive oil dressing, but you could do anything at all.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

And then I made vegetarian French onion soup and gluten free bread because I'm the best housemate ever.

Me again. Zosia's alive and cooking (see what I did there?), honest, but she's currently in Cheshire for Alex's Dad's wedding and is running around like a running-around-person being busy. Also her blogger may be broken. I'm not entirely sure but she promises to sort it all when she has time.

In the meantime, I'm doing more cooking than ever and loving it. And I'm particularly proud of this recipe.

As I mentioned last month in my apple pie post, Fraser took me to Paris in September. Cue being surrounded by endless beautiful food, but also feeling sad because I can't eat it. Being vegetarian sucks in France. I ended up having French onion soup a couple of times - anxiously asking the waiters if it was vegetarian, and being assured that it was - but I'm not sure I'm convinced. Ever since I discovered that the onion soup in a cafe at home was made with beef stock, I'm permanently suspicious. So, I decided that the only way to avoid this conflict and still get the yum-factor was to make my own.

Ingredients (serves 4):
- 50g butter
- 6 onions
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp caster sugar
- 3tbsp plain flour
- 1/2 cup white wine (approx 120ml)
- 1500ml veg stock
- 1tsp smooth French mustard
- approx 200g cheese - jarlsberg or gruyère (or a strong cheddar if you have none)

1. Begin by heating some olive oil in a large pot and then melting the butter. Chop the onions into strips, crush the garlic and add along with the salt.

2. Using a low-medium heat, these now need about 50 minutes to caramelise - thought you need to add the sugar after the first 15. Stir every 10 minutes or so, just to make sure everything gets an even blast at the heat and that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot and burns.

3. When the onions are soft and golden and you just can't stand waiting any longer, add the flour. Stir to coat and cook for about three minutes before adding the wine. Let this bubble, and use it to get all the bits off the bottom of the pot that got there stuck no matter how much you stirred (the chefs call this 'deglazing the pan').

4. Add the vegetable stock and mustard, and cook with the lid on for a further 40-50 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Season to taste.

And as for the bread... 

This was the first time I'd made gluten-free bread, so I thought I'd keep it simple and follow the recipe on the back of the Dove's Farm gluten-free bread flour packet. It wasn't bad. And it probably would have worked better if we'd discovered at that point that the oven in our new house is a fan oven and so all the cooking times need to be altered. Also we don't have a bread tin so it was freestyle...

Don't judge me.

Despite its aesthetically-questionable appearance, it worked really well with the soup. Mix it all up before you start, then let it rise while the onions are doing their thing. Whap it in the oven about the time you add the flour and everything should be ready at about the same time.

5. To serve, slice up the bread and stick it under the grill for a couple of minutes until it's going hard. Then grate your cheese (I only had cheddar) and sprinkle over, before putting back under the grill. If you have posh oven-proof soup bowls you can put the bread and cheese in there, but I don't so I used my trusty baking tray and then transferred them. If you have any around then sprinkle with a little herb de provence for a finishing touch, and enjoy.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

A Study in Pink

Advance warning: This is the most literary-related risotto recipe ever. It's also amazing and you should make it. Just don't blame me if you just can't handle the awesome that is PINK RISOTTO with roasted beetroot and butternut squash. Yes, I said pink risotto. Keep reading.

Ingredients (serves 4):
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 bunch raw beetroot 
- 5 cloves garlic
- 2 large onions (or 1 onion and 1 leek, if you fancy)
- large handful French beans - approx 150g
- 300g/12oz arborio risotto rice
- 2 glasses white wine
- 1500ml vegetable stock
- 10-12 sage leaves
- 10 sprigs thyme
- 125g block soft goats' cheese
- salt and pepper

1. Start by peeling the squash and beetroot. Chop the squash into small-ish chunks and the beetroot into slices, then peel and finely chop three of the garlic cloves. Put into an oven dish and toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper and five of the thyme sprigs (the only way I've ever been able to do fresh thyme is to pick the leaves off a few at a time, which is very annoying, but always worth it.). Also, be aware that after peeling and chopping the beetroot you WILL feel like Lady Macbeth:

'Out damned spot! Out, I say! ... What! Will these hands ne'er be clean?'
2. Stick into a preheated oven at 180°C for 45-60 minutes, taking out every 15 minutes to stir. And while those are roasting, you can start your basic risotto - olive oil in a large pan, melt some butter, chop onions and the remaining garlic and add, and then cook for approx 5 minutes until soft and starting to colour slightly. Add the French beans (topped, tailed and halved) and cook for another 5 minutes.

3. Add the risotto rice and stir to coat, then tip in the wine and let it bubble and reduce down for a few minutes. Begin adding the stock, about a ladle-full at a time, and stir LOTS. The stock-adding process should be finished at about the same time the roasting vegetables are.

4. When the stock is all added and the vegetables are done, add them to the pan. Stir in, then season, chop the sage and the rest of the thyme and add that too. Then add the whole block of goats' cheese. Yes, all of it. Trust me. While you're doing this the hob should be on a low heat, and you should still be stirring lots. Your risotto will then make the transition...

...and become pretty in pink.

5. When all the cheese is mixed in and there are no white streaks, serve to your impressed and astonished housemates. Also, the more you stir it the pinker it will get. Garnish with a couple more sprigs of thyme for prettiness, and enjoy. It's particularly good served with garlic bread.

Yes of course we have a sunflower in a Champagne bottle - doesn't every student house?
 Ps. Zosia would like me to add that she is alive and will post again soon, but that life is very crazy and at the moment she doesn't have time to cook and only has time to eat my food. She didn't say that last bit, but it's totally true. I should start charging.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


And then we moved into our new house. IT'S SO EXCITING. And so beautiful. We have a lounge with two sofas which leads onto the dining room...

 We have a kitchen with a gas hob...

  We have a CONSERVATORY and a GARDEN:

And cooking and living in it is so, so fun.

Recipes to follow soon once we're all properly unpacked/caught up on sleep/finished running around doing the university magazine. Trust me, they're going to be amazing.

Monday, 10 September 2012

I always wanted to be Snow White

I thought she was awesome. She was the only Disney princess who looked anything like me - ie. had shorter, dark hair. I had the dress and hairband and everything. The particular bit I'm thinking of though is this:

 Watching it back now, no wonder she has lips red as the rose with that amount of make up on, and my pie totally looks better and also much more hygienic. Guess what this post is really going to be about:

There's something of a growing tradition that for Fraser's birthday I make him 'birthday pie', and so this is this year's attempt. Last year's didn't go so well (completely not my fault) so there was a fair amount of pressure, but I totally pulled it off. Also it's an apple pie, by the way. I probably should have said that sooner. Because even though Snow White made a Gooseberry Pie, "it's apple pies that make the men-folks' mouths water" as her evil stepmother so wisely said. Promise mine isn't poisoned though.

For the pastry (a sweet shortcrust - recipe from 'The Great British Book of Baking' by Linda Collister): 
- 225g plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 60g caster sugar
- 125g unsalted butter, diced and chilled
- approx 3tbsp of very cold water.

Yes, you could buy pastry, but I love making it and I think it's awesomer if it's your own. Also I make it by hand rather than in a food processor. Definitely not because I still want to be Snow White or because I can't afford a food processor.

1. First of all, I'd suggest putting a small cup of cold water in the freezer while you do other things to make it uber-cold. Then sift the flour, salt and sugar into a bowl. Add the butter and, using the tips of your fingers, rub it into the flour mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs. 
2. Using a palette knife (or a butter one which is all I have), stir in enough cold water to bind it all together and make a soft but NOT sticky dough. You can add more flour if necessary, but it's better to just be careful with the water.
3. Being careful to work it as little as possible, wrap the ball of dough in clingfilm and put it in the fridge for at least 20 minutes while you make the filling. This does stuff to the gluten that I don't fully understand but I do know that I've forgotten to do it before and it was bad. So chill your pastry.

For the filling:
- approx 1kg Bramley apples (4 big 'uns)
- 4 tbsp caster sugar
- zest of half a lemon
- squeeze of lemon juice
- 1-2tsp ground cinnamon
- 25g melted butter
- 1-2tbsp water

1. Peel, core and chop the apples and place them in a big bowl of water to which you have added a massive squirt of lemon juice. This will stop them going brown but won't make them taste solely of lemon. This may have been my mistake the first time around.
2. When all the apple is done and you're ready to move on, drain the water (probs easiest to just tip the apples into a sieve and then transfer back) and then add the sugar, zest, cinnamon and butter and stir gently to coat.
3. Get your pastry out the fridge and cut off a third, then roll that out into a circle slightly larger than your pie dish (mine was 22cm in diameter and 3cm deep. IF you don't have a pie dish then you can use the lid of a casserole dish. Or just buy one. They're cheap and exciting.). This will be the base. Then sort of wrap the pastry lightly around the rolling pin, and let it unfurl over the dish. Press all around the bottom and sides to make sure there's no air trapped - you can use your fingers or a spare bit of pastry. Don't trim the edges.
4. Spoon the filling onto the base, and then add the water. Roll out the rest of the pastry into a circle large enough to cover the top, then brush the rim of the base with water and place on the top using the rolling pin method. Gently press together the pastry of the base and the top to seal it, then take a sharp knife and trim the excess pastry. You can use this to make decorations, which stick on with a bit of water.
5. Assuming you don't have any woodland creatures/birds handy to do the job for you, use a fork or your fingers to scallop the rim. Make sure you've cut a couple of slits to act as air holes so your pie doesn't explode, and then brush with a beaten egg.

6. Bake for approximately 35 minutes at 180°C, then when the pastry is all golden and lovely take it out the oven and sprinkle with a bit of caster sugar. Serve with cream, ice cream, creme fraiche, custard... whatever takes your fancy.

I am the new Snow White. No, the animals didn't help me make my pie, but I could totally see them from every single window of the house. And also Fraser whisked me off to Paris a couple of days after I made my pie, which is almost exactly the same as being awoken from your apple-induced-coma and riding off into the sunset.
It's like my very own Disney film.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Cooking bombardment: week at the boyfriend's

This last couple of weeks has been very hectic, as I've been flicking in between staying at home and with the boyfriend, and working in between. I'm sure every blog post I ever write begins with an apology and an explanation of hectic-ness, but there you have it!

There has been a lot of cooking though. So in this post I'm bombarding you with it. Although this isn't even a real post as I didn't write all the recipes, but you should trust my foody-judgement anyway. Hopefully. ENJOY.

Fraser made us THIS courgette pasta bake which was pretty awesome. We used creme fraiche instead of fromage frais (not gonna lie, that sounds weird) and if you don't have passata then generic chopped tomatoes would be fine. Also we ate half and then took the next half on a walk up a fell/down a valley/to an old slate mine the next day and ate it with a spork. Packed lunch FTW.

A couple of days later, I experimented with baked sweet potatoes. Which were awesome. Recipe as follows:
- 2 sweet potatoes
- bunch spring onions
- 2 cloves garlic
- handful of fresh herbs - preferably parsley and chives
- 4 tablespoons creme fraiche
- salt and pepper
- handful grated cheddar.

Scrub the potatoes, prick them in several places with a fork, place on a baking tray lined with tin foil and bake at 200°C for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, use the last 10 minutes of the potato-baking-time to make your filling - chop the spring onions and garlic and lightly fry in a teensy bit of olive oil for 5 minutes. Then add the creme fraiche and the cheese and stir on a low heat for a few more minutes, so the cheese melts and you get a very lovely smelling, slightly messy-looking mixture.

Once the potatoes are cooked through, remove them from the oven, then scoop out most of the insides and put into the pan with the creme fraiche mixture. Mash it up a bit and make sure it's all stirred together, then add the herbs and season to taste, and put the mixture back into the potato skins. Add more grated cheese on top, because cheese is awesome.

Serve with something like salad or baked beans. Hungry as we were, we found that both together were a bit much.

Aaaand then yesterday we made a variation of THIS leek and parmesan risotto, which is stonkingly good and very very simple. We added a few more spring onions, some green beans (add a few minutes after the leeks and spring onions), some fresh parsley and a bit more cheese. And it was so very, very good. 

With it, I made baked asparagus, which is one of my favourite things in the world.

To recreate you will need:
- 1 pack/bunch of fine asparagus, or asparagus tips
- a couple of knobs of butter
- parmesan
- olive oil
- salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Chop the ends off the asparagus and give them a wash, then line them up in a baking dish. A non-metal one works best, but use whatever you have.

Place the knobs of butter over the asparagus. Tempting as it is to use loads I do try (despite often failing) to restrain myself, as it all melts and covers everything anyway. Next, grate enough parmesan over the asparagus to pretty much cover it. Season, drizzle with olive oil, and cook for around 20 minutes. BEST. THING. EVER.

Unfortunately I was so busy eating risotto and asparagus that I forgot to take pictures of them, but the risotto looked very similar to this and the asparagus should look like this.

It was a lovely, foody week. There was also apple pie, but I've decided that was so epic it gets its own post. So keep your eyes peeled folks.