Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Birthday Food

I have always thought that what you have to eat on your birthday is very important. This most likely stems from Mum annually spoiling us with culinary delights, but it's not just a man's heart that can be reached through their stomach!

And so, when our dear Jamie came over a few days ago for her birthday I cracked the foody whip - and the birthday breakfast consisted of fruit, yoghurt, and homemade granola. Not difficult to make but so scrumptious you will spend the rest of the morning trying to get oats out your teeth just for the flavour. I kid you not.

To make enough granola for two, you need:
50g oats
25g demerara sugar
25g mixed seeds (linseeds, pumpkin, sunflower - whatever you like)
25g butter

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Put the oats, sugar and seeds into a baking dish and mix, then divide the butter into small pieces and sprinkle. Stick it in the oven for 15 minutes - BUT take it out at five minute intervals to stir, or it will burn.

Meanwhile, prepare your fruit. I used strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, but grapes or slices of banana are lovely too. Divide between two plates and add a generous dollop of natural yoghurt to each. When the granola's done divide that up too, and voila! If you're feeling super indulgent as we were, you can also drizzle over some maple syrup or honey (maple syrup is the best, but Tesco had none. Shame on them!).

You have to use plastic plates. To spend the day washing up instead of entertaining your birthday-having friend would just be rude.

For lunch, we took a picnic and skipped off to the Savill Gardens. There was lots and lots of food including my favourite ever Philadelphia cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches, and, of course - Birthday Cake.

Capitalised, because it deserves it.

Jamie opted for a coffee cake and I needed something wheat-free so Zosia could have some too, so Lorraine Pascale's Gluten Free Irish Cream Coffee Cake was the perfect solution.

I couldn't find the recipe anywhere online, so I took a photo from the book:

(I hope that's clear... I can post a bigger photo on request!)

I made the sponges the night before - mostly due to time constraints on the day - but also because the flavour of any coffee/chocolate cake will intensify the longer it's left for. Win-win situation. Also, I found with this recipe that the buttercream was just too runny after adding the Bailey's, so I stuck in extra icing sugar to give it more structure.

And here it is:

Would you LOOK at that. Amazing purple glitter courtesy of one of Mum's brilliant cheer-up parcels. Sadly the buttercream didn't stay quite so intact when confronted with a 20 minute walk at 28°, but it just made it all the more fun to eat. And to watch people eat. Like this:

Birthdays are fantastic.

Friday, 25 May 2012


For my terrible lack of posting this week. I went home, got ill, came back to uni, stayed up all night to queue to sign up for courses for next year (Bryony brought me vodka pasta at 2 am and it was wonderful.) And then we nearly got eaten alive by massive freaking bugs in a field. True story.

But to make up for it, HERE is a recipe for the savoury muffins I baked while I was home. 

These are awesome and I crave them more than I probably should. This is like fancy, easy bread you can make really quickly. This recipe is for Broccoli and Cheese muffins and it makes about twelve of them.

What you need for 12 muffins:

275g Plain White Flour (I used Dove's farm gluten free flour but this will work with normal flour)
3 tea spoons of Baking Powder.
2 tea spoons of Sugar.
1/2 tea spoon of Salt.
Pinch of Chili Powder.
1 tea spoon of Mustard (the fancier the better).
3 Eggs.
200ml of Milk.
100g of grated Cheddar Cheese.
100g of cooked Broccoli, separated into manageable florets. (i.e. those little broccoli trees. You know that's how you think of them too...)
2 cloves of Chopped Garlic.
Fresh Parsley and/or Chives.
Olive Oil.
12 Cupcake cases.

What you gotta do:

1. Pre heat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
2. Mix the flour, the baking powder, the sugar, the salt and the chili powder together in a bowl. 
3. Melt the butter in a pan. Let it cool a little bit.
4. Whisk the eggs and milk together. Add in the slightly cooled butter.
5. Put all this into the flour bowl, along with mustard, herbs, garlic, broccoli and most of your cheddar, leaving behind about a handful.
6. Gently mix it all together. Don't beat it, you gotta "retain air." How fancy.
7. Put your cupcake cases into muffin tins. Brush their insides with a little olive oil so the finished muffins don't stick to them - the cheese makes these extremely solid and they tend to fuse to their cupcake cases without the olive oil.
8. Split the mix between the cup cake cases. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheddar on the tops of these muffins. 
9. Bake for 20-30 minutes. EAT.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Potato and Butterbean Curry

This has been one of my favourite things for a long time. 

When Mum says "what do you want for tea on your birthday", I often ask for this. It's utterly gorgeous and special enough for an occasion, but it's also relatively simple and easy to make. Winners all round!

I made this the other day at my dad's house in London, and it's somehow different to Mum's despite following her recipe, but Dad tactfully said it was "different but just as good" to avoid argument between Mother and myself. (Side note: I wasn't sure if we should post things that we hadn't cooked AT university, hence the lack of posts for a while, but Zosia pointed out that we're still students and we're still cooking! So looks like you won't be free from us in the summer hols after all, sorry folks.)

- 8-10 small/new potatoes
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 or 2 fresh red chillies
- 1 rounded tbsp flour
- 2 1/2 tbsp med. curry powder
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 desert spoon of chutney*
- squeeze of lemon juice
- heaped des. spoon peanut butter
- 400g tinned tomatoes
- 2x 400g tin butterbeans
- 2 bay leaves
- 2/3 large pot of natural yoghurt

*we use our homemade marrow chutney but any would do - best would perhaps be a mango one.

It's a lot of ingredients, but I promise it's worth it. Plus the majority of it is larder-foods, which you can use over and over in other recipes. So there. ALSO this makes enough for 6-8 hungry people, so you can freeze your inevitable leftovers and use on a a lazy-day.

1. Chop the potatoes into small pieces and boil for 10/15 minutes, until tender.
2. Chop the onion, garlic and chilli(s). Put some olive oil in a wok or large saucepan and fry the onion garlic and chilli until soft - about 5/10 minutes.
3. Add the dry ingredients - the flour, curry powder and ginger - and cook for another 3/4 minutes. At this stage it should look something like this:

4. Add the tinned tomatoes, then fill the empty can 3/4 full with water and add that too. Also add the chutney, lemon juice, peanut butter and bay leaves.
5. Drain and rinse the butterbeans, and add those too. Season, and cook gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Add the potatoes. Put on the pan lid (or an upside-down plate if you don't have one) and simmer for a further 15/20 minutes.
7. Add the yoghurt and EAT.

Best served with long grain brown rice and chapattis. At home we make these ourselves, but that's just too much faff at uni so I bought some. Easy peasy. 

If you DO want to make them though (say, if you want to be gluten-free) - the mixture is a heaped tbsp of both white and wholemeal flour per person, drizzled with olive oil and enough warm water to make a dough. This is kneaded and left for at least an hour. It's then cut up into small pieces (4 per person) and rolled out, then dry-fried for about a minute each side and spread with as much butter as you dare.

And there you go. You can add or miss out anything you want - when I did the leftovers for myself and Rebecca yesterday I added some more ginger and a desert spoon of wholegrain French mustard. Plus, Rebecca said it was the best thing she'd ever tasted in her life. Beat THAT.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Improvisation Food

Last Friday we couldn't decide on any specific meal we wanted, so we made lots of random lovely things. Including the 'what-to-do-with-your-left-over-risotto' recipe.

I can't take credit for it - it belongs to the god who is Nigel Slater - and once you've had it you will never throw away risotto again. I frequently make too much just so I can do this afterwards. And here it is: Nigel Slater's Risotto Cakes. I don't tend to bother with the eggs as risotto tends to be sticky enough not to need them, but it probably depends on what sort of risotto you have so it's your call.

And possibly the best thing of all about them - you can make loads and freeze them. You can't get much better than that.

We made these beautiful risotto cakes the other day, along with several other random but amazing things. Zosia made gorgeous grilled halloumi...

And I made a sort of 'vegetable medley bake'. 

Wash and cut the ends off some asparagus and place into a small baking dish. We also used some tender stem broccoli, but I'm not sure how much that added to this particular dish. Finely chop a shallot and a couple of cloves of garlic, and cut a handful of cherry tomatoes into halves and sprinkle over. Put on a couple of knobs of butter, season, and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with grated parmesan.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 20 minutes, and enjoy the best vegetables you've ever had in your life.


A suitably random combination of lovely food that makes you smile when you eat it.

You can't ask for more than that.

Monday, 14 May 2012


When the lady at the Tesco check out says "Oh, what do you do with this?" you know you're buying weird food. So I told her that some people bake it into patties and others use quinoa flour to make chocolate brownies. I use it like cous cous in salads.

Because I try as hard as possible to avoid eating wheat for health reasons. Occasionally I'll slip up and eat a whole lot of bread or a whole pizza and then two days later I'll just feel completely exhausted. So I try not to do that so much. 

I had to find alternatives to all the things I used to eat that had wheat in them, and Quinoa rather conveniently solved the cous cous problem. 

And here's my Quinoa and Halloumi Cheese Salad.

What you need to serve one:

One Little Gem Lettuce.
One cup of dry Quinoa.
Half a block of Halloumi cheese, cut into thin strips.
Salt and Pepper.
Mint leaves.

What to do:

1. Wash your quinoa in cold water. Use a seive.
2. Bring five cups of water to the boil in a saucepan. Add quinoa, turn down the heat a little and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed all the water.
3. Chop the lettuce and the mint. Make the honey mustard dressing.
4. Let the quinoa do its thing. Keep stirring occasionally to see how much water has been absorbed. 
5. When the quinoa is done and all the water is absorbed, take it off the heat and let it sit for ten minutes.
6. At this point, start on your halloumi cheese. I recommend dry frying it - place the strips in a hot frying pan with no oil or butter. When one side is golden (takes about two minutes), turn it over and do the other side.
7. Stir the dressing, the lettuce and some salt and pepper into the quinoa. Place in a bowl, add the strips of cheese and the chopped mint leaves and serve.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Food Of The Gods: RISOTTO

Or the god of students anyway. But when life kicks you in the teeth there is nothing you can do but try and cook (and eat) your way out of it, and use it as an excuse to indulge in things like butter which you normally try not to have too much of.

And so, risotto is a natural choice. Especially when you just so happen to have made up a new recipe for one a few weeks ago which was the best ever. Win.

I'm going to vaguely call this 'green vegetable risotto'. I made enough for five people (note: Zosia believes this was more like enough risotto for eight people. Bryony loves to feed the world. Just sayin. :D), as there were three of us and I wanted some leftovers (the amazing things made with said leftovers will be posted in the next few days, so stay tuned folks). Soooo, I used:

- 1 large onion
- 1 medium-sized leek
- 4/5 spring onions
- 2 cloves garlic
- a good handful of French beans
- 375g/15oz arborio rice (75g/3oz per person)
- 2 glasses of white wine
- 1 1/2 litres veg. stock (75g rice = 375ml stock)
- approx. 100g parmesan, to taste
- and the SECRET INGREDIENT. Which is, one Tesco Finest green vegetable side dish. It sounds unimpressive, but everything in there is beautiful and it's miles cheaper than buying all the vegetables separately - plus it comes with the most gorgeous herb butter. Trust.

 Put some olive oil in a pan, and add a generous knob of butter. Chop up your leek, onion, spring onions and garlic and throw them in. Let them soften for about 5 minutes, then add your French beans.

Add the rice and stir to coat, then pour in the wine and simmer until slightly reduced. Now begins the epic stock-adding mission. As annoying as it is, stock should be added a ladle-full at a time, and the rice should have completely absorbed it before any more stock is added - meaning that you will be doing this for about 45 minutes. You also need to stir your risotto relatively regularly or it will stick, so pull up a chair and put some music on, and think of it as a work-out for your arm.

The 'Parmesan Grating Stance'

The strange 'before stock' stage

Once all the stock is in and has been absorbed then add your Secret Ingredient - but NOT the herb butter yet. Let your risotto cook for another 5 minutes or so, then add the parmesan and herb butter, and season.

And VOILA! It is time consuming but it's so easy, and certainly worth the effort. I served it with fresh herbs to garnish and some home-made garlic bread (mix spreadable butter with a clove of garlic per person, a squirt of lemon juice and some parsley, and spread over part-baked bread. Stick it in the oven - usually for about 10 minutes, until the edges of the bread are becoming golden and the butter has melted. Heavenly.).

Check back here soon for the best 'what-to-do-with-your-left-over-risotto' recipe ever. Trust me - it's well worth it.

"You're NOT allowed to ice Rebecca."

I made a cake. One day I will post a recipe for this cake, because it's a rather epic cake, but this is more of a story about what happens when you tell me not to do a thing then sit me at a table with icing for an hour.

The cake was for Joel, whose birthday I flaked out on last week because I'm awful like that... Hopefully cake makes up for this... Rebecca wasn't there either, and I decided to bring her along as well as the cake when I went to give it to him.

Except I dressed her up as a cake because Joel told me not to.

Specifically I wasn't allowed to "ice Rebecca" and that never happened. And I was considering making a proper four tier wedding cake costume but I didn't have enough card. Saddest day of my life. 

Although here is Rebecca. Dressed in the most socially acceptable cake costume I've ever seen...

(Also yes. I did decorate my cake as a patchwork quilt in honour of our "Rich Tapestry of Life: A Social and Cultural History of Europe" course. This proves that baking counts as revision.)

And while I was having an argument with the black icing pen about why it wasn't flipping well working and whether or not it could get its act together if possible please and thank you, Rebecca and Bryony made the entire cast of Harry potter out of icing.

We have a Voldemort, a Quirrel, a Hedwig, a Harry, a Snape, a Ron, a Dobby, a Dumbledore and a Hermione.

This is a gratuitous picture of me holding the Rich Tapestry of Cake.

Joel liked his cake. And I gave him some vodka slush.


Saturday, 12 May 2012

Rosemary G&T

Gin. Officially sanctioned by the British government until 1751 to use up bad grain. Then they decided it was probably causing a whole bunch of new problemsand they should really stop letting just about anybody make it.

BUT just about anybody can still make a Gin and Tonic.

Somewhere over the last year or so I read the words "Rosemary" and "Gin and Tonic" in the same sentence. I think it was in a Sunday newspaper. But I can't remember which one or when. Point is, this is amazing. Someone called it "pure genius" on Friday night.

Also this particular Rosemary G&T was followed by a rather epic evening and I think this proves how truly amazing this cocktail is.

What you need:

Tonic Water.
Sprig of fresh Rosemary.

What to do:
1. Put your Gin in your glass (I had a small glass so I used two capfuls of gin but if you've got a bigger glass, add more accordingly.)
2. Crush the Rosemary slightly and put it in your gin. Mix it up and let it sit for a minute or so for the flavour to come out a bit.
3. Top up with Tonic Water. You could add a splash of lemon juice at this point but you should be alright without it.
4. Drink. 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

It's turned out oranges and lemons again

Sometimes the world is trying to tell you something. 

Yesterday it told me I needed to make Lemon and Orange Vodka Slush. 


1. Lady Grey Tea. Made with orange and lemon peel. And awesomeness. 

2. The Student Union fruit and veg market. FLIPPING NORA how huge are these lemons?

I have never seen a lemon dwarf an orange to such an extent before. Just wow.

There was no way I couldn't buy a couple.

3. The Vodka bit. Because Bryony needed motivation to get her butt back here to uni and I know she likes cocktails.

SO I made Lemon and Orange Vodka Slush.

What You NEED: (Also quantities can be a bit vague, depending on how much you want and whether you like it sweet or sharp. This made a big tub to keep in the freezer for the rest of this term.)

350 ml of Vodka.
200 ml of Pineapple Juice.
100 ml of Limoncello (optional, I put it in because I had it but you don't really need it).
3 MASSIVE Lemons or 5 normal sized ones.
3 (disappointingly normal) Oranges.
Simple Syrup (I made two cups worth using this recipe).
A splash or two of Concentrated Lemon Juice.

WHAT to  do:

1. Pour the Vodka into a freezer safe container. Add the Pineapple Juice and the Limoncello.
2. Juice your Oranges and Lemons. I just squeezed them into a jug then poured it into the main container through a sieve. (Mine got a little bit mutilated in the process...)

3. Make up your Simple Syrup. Add as much or as little as you want. I added around 250 ml. 
4. Splash in some concentrated Lemon Juice.

NOW. What you're left with will look like a massive, uninspiring container of juice. With Vodka in it...

BUT the next step is the clever part...

5. Stick it in the freezer overnight. The Vodka stops the whole mixture from freezing so when you stir it it has the consistency of a slush puppy. But for grown ups/students/not children...
6. Go and live your life for a while. Mine involved baking, The Hundred Years War and dressing a certain Miss Hilsdon up as a cake. True story. (Come back tomorrow for more on two of those topics...)
7. Revisit your freezer excitedly at 9am. Take a teaspoonful and realise that this is far too early for vodka even when disguised in slush. 
8. Come back later and serve.

How to serve it?

We came up with two methods:

On the left, Bryony is enjoying the Ice Cream Method. Where one eats it out of the tub with a spoon.
On the right, I added Grenadine Syrup and a straw. Mix before serving. 

(Also you can use a glass, I just found a jar first...)


(Inspiration via Pinterest.)

Food Hacks #1 - Cous Cous Addiction

*Hi there guys, Zosia here cutting in on Bryony's post like a proper blogging pirate... This is the first part of a new series of "Food Hacks" for uni students, who want to eat lovely food but cant be bothered to spend more than five minutes cooking... We take stuff normal university students eat, like ready made cous cous and microwave rice and jazz it up into something fancy. Let us know if you have any ideas my friends, we're all ears.*

I'm a self-confessed cous cous addict. It's been my lunch-time staple since I started university - it takes five minutes to make and, if you do it like I do, is full of all the most beautiful flavours imaginable. 

Which is why when I got back to uni today I made a big bowl of it. It's a hug for your tummy.

HEY Aiiinsley, how YOU doin'? :D

Take one packet of Ainsley Harriott ready-flavoured cous cous (they claim to serve two, but that's utter rubbish unless you're a mouse). My favourite is roasted vegetable, but you could use any.

The absorbancy still amazes me
Follow the instructions on the back... And then this is where it gets amazing.

Add about 1/3 of a jar of red pesto, a big knob of butter, and 2/3 of a pot of soft goats' cheese. Spinach leaves are great in it too (and as ever, work to convince Mother of my iron intake), but sadly we're all spinached out at the moment.

Mix and enjoy, and prepare for a taste-bud explosion.