Friday, 27 December 2013

Blackberry and Elderflower Cakes

Hello lovely people! I hope you all had a brilliant Christmas. Mine has been very busy (isn't life always?) - I was in Paris with Fraser for four days, then finally got back to Cumbria to weather-madness and frantic Christmas preparations. There hasn't been time for a great deal of cooking, other than Christmas dinner, of course, though I do know that Zosia took her annual gingerbread house to a new level this year and made a gingerbread castle. As you do.

However, it's my birthday party this weekend and we're doing an afternoon tea type-thing, so to the kitchen! I'm planning on making little lemon drizzle cakes and more spiced Christmas biscuits, but I'm also hoping to re-create something I did this term. Enter please blackberry and elderflower cakes.

Ingredients (makes 12):
For the cakes
- 150g butter
- 150g caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 3tbsp elderflower cordial
- 200g self raising flour
- ½tsp baking powder
- 1 tin of blackberries, drained (or 150g fresh)

For the buttercream
- 75g softened butter
- 275g icing sugar
- 2tbsp elderflower cordial
- 1 tin blackberries (or 75g fresh)
- 12 fresh blackberries
- few sprigs of lemon thyme
- elderflowers (if in season)

For the cakes
1. First, preheat your oven to 180°C and grab some muffin cases. If you have a muffin tin pop the cases in the holes, but if not don't worry, you can just use a normal baking tray.
2. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. You want as much air in there as possible, so give it some proper elbow grease!
3. Add the eggs and elderflower cordial, then mix in so there are no streaks.
4. Carefully fold in the flour. You need to make sure it's all mixed in whilst at the same time not beating out any of the air you've worked in, so be gentle with it.
5. Add the blackberries. I think the tins are genius - they're so much cheaper (unless it's blackberry season and you can pick your own) and are great to have in the cupboard, but just use whatever you can find.

Most beautiful cake mix ever?
6. Divide the mixture between the 12 cake cases, then bake for 20-25 minutes (depending on your oven) until a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool.

For the buttercream
1. Beat together the butter and icing sugar until thick, light and creamy. Pour in the elderflower cordial and stir through.
2. Add the tinned blackberries along with a splash of the liquid from the tin (just to give an extra hit of colour) and stir in. If your buttercream is a bit runny, you can just stir in more icing sugar.
3. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a nozzle of your choice. Don't have a piping bag? Use a plastic sandwich bag and cut off one of the corners!
4. Once your cakes are properly cooled, ice away! Start from the outside and swirl in towards the middle.
5. Adorn each cake with a fresh blackberry and a couple of thyme leaves. You can also sprinkle over some tiny elderflowers if they're in season (June) for an extra bit of pretty.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

4am Essay Biscuits

So Rachel and I both had massive essays due on Monday; cue stocking up on tea and fizzy drinks as we prepared for the inevitable all-nighter. We made one big mistake though: there was no baking in the house. So at 4am on Monday morning I made Burnt Butter Biscuits to fuel us.

Yours will be much prettier than mine because it won't be 4am. Or maybe it will be - I'm not judging.

There are a grand total of 4 ingredients, and they take 5 minutes to make. I reckon they're the only thing I could've made at 4am, which should give you an idea of the ease! In terms of taste they're pretty special too: warm, buttery and melt-in-the-mouth, and the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.
The perfect biscuit? Maybe.

- 100g butter
- 100g caster sugar
- 150g self-raising flour
- 1 egg

1. First, preheat the oven to 180°C. Then grab a saucepan and throw in the butter. Melt, and keep on the heat until it turns a golden brown colour (or is generally starting to burn the bottom). Put to one side to set a bit for 5 minutes while you weigh out the other ingredients and beat your egg.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar, then tip in the egg and mix. Stir in the flour 'til there are no white streaks.
3. Grab small amounts of dough and roll them into balls (put your index finger against your thumb knuckle: about that size) and place onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. They'll spread out a fair bit, so I'd say no more than 6 per baking tray (unless it's 4am, in which case just make random-sized balls and throw them all onto one tray...).
4. Use the back of a fork to flatten them slightly, then bake for 15 minutes until golden. Sprinkle with caster sugar and allow to cool and firm up, then dunk in cups of tea to your heart's content.

I'm not entirely sure how many the mixture should make because I didn't size them properly - but I'd guess something between 12 and 18. Also, I can't claim they're super-powered-biscuits until we get the marks back, but we both got our essays in on time. So that's definitely something.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Spaghetti Bolognese

As a child, I never much liked spaghetti bolognese. My sister always loved it - I have a vivid memory of a trip to Disneyland Paris more than ten years ago, and her spilling bright sauce down her new white Disney princess dress. 

The issue for me was always the pasta - I swirled and swirled my fork but just ended up doing what Fraser dubbed the 'furtive spaghetti face', as I anxiously tried to ensure I wasn't getting pasta all over my chin. It took me much longer than I'd like to admit before I realised I could just cut the damn things (though Mum and Shannon mock!), and suddenly my resentment of the whole dish vanished.

Since being at university in particular, I've loved making this. Cook in bulk, pop the leftovers in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch or freeze for next week's tea. It's an all-round winner!

Ingredients (serves 4):
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, grated
- 1 stick celery, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 300g Quorn mince
- 1tsp each of dried oregano and rosemary
- 400g chopped tomatoes
- 400g kidney beans
- 1 Oxo cube
- glass of red wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1tbsp red pesto
- handful fresh basil, torn
- salt and pepper, to taste

Some chopped mushrooms would go really well in here too, though I'm personally not a fan.

1. Grab yourself a large saucepan, and throw in the onion, carrot, celery and garlic along with a knob of butter. Cook these gently for about 10 minutes, until softened.


2. Tip in the Quorn mince (no need to de-frost) and cook 'til it starts to brown, then crumble over the Oxo cube and add the dried herbs, chopped tomatoes, red wine, kidney beans, pesto and bay leaf.
3. Bring the sauce to a boil, then allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes. This is a good time to sort out your spaghetti, too - 75g per person.
4. Season your bolognese to taste, and scatter in the fresh basil. Mix in the pasta, sprinkle with cheddar and enjoy your fork-swirling (/surreptitious cutting).

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Split Pea Soup

This soup is a very special one for me - many happy childhood memories surround it. It was what my Mum would make on the coldest, snowy days, as my sister and I ran into the house post-snowman-building, stamping our feet to regain feeling and tentatively holding our hands over the scalding radiator. 

Though childhood is long gone, winter is returning once more. This recipe continues to be a sure favourite - and a definite winter warmer. It’s also really easy (and really cheap!), so you have no excuse.

Ingredients (serves 6):
- 450g yellow split peas
- 1750ml water
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 bay leaf
-  ½tsp thyme
- 2tsp salt
- black pepper, to taste

1. Throw everything into a large pan. Literally – no oil, no cooking the vegetables first, just throw them all in together. Told you it was easy.

2. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, put on a lid (or cover with tin foil) and simmer for 2½ hours. You should check on it every half hour or so, but otherwise you can leave it to its own devices.
3. Remove the bay leaf, then blitz with a stick blender (if you don’t have one you could attempt to sieve it, but they’re well worth investing in and you can get them for under £10 online).

Aaaaand serve! With a fresh loaf of bread or rolls if you have the time, but it's great all by itself. If you want to be fancy you can garnish it with some fresh thyme and a twist of black pepper. This soup also freezes spectacularly, so it's definitely worth keeping any you don't eat.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

What a Tart

So I thought it was about time I blogged something savoury because all I seem to be doing at the moment is cakebread and pudding, though that's a pretty accurate representation of my current diet...

I made this in the summer holidays for my sister, who likes neither leeks nor anything that even vaguely resembles a quiche, BUT when I gave her this she ate it all and went back for seconds. And when Rebecca ate it yesterday she exclaimed 'I don't even like leeks!' as she also went back for seconds. It's an excellent crowd pleaser, very easy to make, and it looks awesome.

Also Dad's lent me his fancy camera, so I can now take food photographs again without having to beg Zosia to leave the library and trek all the way over just so I can take a picture of my soup/cake/etc, which is just great for everyone (except maybe my Dad's nerves).

- 175g plain flour (I use 100g of white and 75g of wholemeal)
- 110g butter, cubed
- ½tsp salt
- sprinkle of black pepper
- ½tsp thyme leaves
- 2-3tbsp cold water

- 25g butter
- 2 onions, chopped
- 1 large leek, washed and chopped
- 1tsp caster sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 200ml double cream
- 1 egg, beaten
- 125g soft goat's cheese, crumbled
- 1tsp French mustard
- salt and pepper
- 1tsp thyme leaves, plus a few extra sprigs for decoration

1. First, make your pastry. Using the tips of your fingers, rub together the flour and butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the salt, pepper and thyme, then add the water a little at a time. You only need enough to bring everything together into a dough, so be careful not to over-do it.
2. Wrap the dough in clingfilm, and put it in the fridge while you get started on your filling.
3. Put the butter, onions, leek and garlic into a pan, then turn the heat up and add the sugar. Make sure you stir fairly often so it doesn't stick and burn, but there's not much else to it! Cook for about 15-20 minutes, until everything's lovely and caramelised, then take off the heat and put to one side. At this point you should also turn on your oven, and set it to 180°C.
4. Take your pastry out of the fridge, lightly flour your worktop and roll the pastry out to about 5mm thick. Then use your rolling pin/bottle to drape it into your quiche dish (if you don't have a quiche dish, you can use the lid of a casserole dish or anything similar - just make sure it can go in the oven).
5. Gently ease the pastry to fit properly in the dish, then grab a fork and prick lots of holes in the bottom of the pastry (which is a great alternative to baking beans) before blind baking in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes.
6. While your pastry case is baking, you can get the filling sorted out. Grab a large measuring jug and measure out the cream, then add the egg, mustard and goat's cheese and mix it all together (alternatively, you could put a third of the goat's cheese to one side and sprinkle it over the top before baking). Tip in the leek mixture, the salt and pepper and half the thyme leaves and stir together.
7. Once the pastry is out of the oven, trim the edges and tip in the filling. Sprinkle the goats cheese (if using this method) and the rest of the thyme leaves on top, then put back in the oven for 30 minutes.

8. Voila! Decorate with the thyme sprigs, and eat with something yummy like potato wedges (or a salad if you've been living off cake like I have). Jamie and I intend to take the leftovers to eat on our Windsor Great Park picnic tomorrow, along with some very exciting blackberry and elderflower cakes which I shall also blog soon. NOM.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

I Accidentally Bought Four and a Half Kilos of Carrots.

Yesterday my Tesco shop arrived and it contained three 1.5 kg bags of everyday value carrots. 

Moral of the story:
 If you're doing an online Tesco shop and you're buying vegetables and you choose "3" and add them to the basket, make sure you're buying individual vegetables and not multipack bags...

Also the lighting in my new kitchen is awful, so please excuse the photos...
Anyway, I had to find something to do with all of these carrots, so I made Carrot and Cider soup. This was an experimental recipe - I added things I thought would work as I was going along, and it turned out pretty well. I was impressed by the cider - usually for soups I use wine but this added an extra layer of flavour. Also this recipe makes a massive quantity because I have so many carrots to use up. This would probably feed about four people. If you have leftovers, just freeze them...

One note about the method - you need a hand blender. I recently bought one of these for myself and they're definitely worth having on hand for soups and smoothies. Soups are so cheap and simple that they make perfect student food. You chop the stuff up, you boil the stuff in stock, you add some flavouring and then you zap it with a hand blender. What could be simpler? And you can buy a hand blender for less than a fiver from Argos. Definitely worth the investment.

SO here's what you need for the soup:

1 onion
A knob of butter and a dash of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed/chopped finely
1.5kg of carrots (unprepared weight)
1 litre of stock (I used a vegetable oxo cube)
150ml cider
1tsp dried sage
1tsp paprika
The seeds from 3 Cardamom pods, finely crushed
Four or five basil leaves, shredded
Cream or yoghurt, and pumpkin seeds to serve

1. Peel and chop the onion into slices. Heat the oil and melt the butter in a large pan. Add the onion and garlic and soften for about five minutes. Add your cider to the pan, and let it reduce by about half.
2. Meanwhile, Top, tail and peel your carrots. Chop into slices and add these to the pan.
3. Cover with stock, and add the sage, cardamom and paprika. Let the soup simmer until the carrots have softened. Add a little more cider as it's cooking if you like.
4. When the carrots are soft, turn off the heat. Using a hand blender, whizz the soup until it's smooth. Add the shredded basil leaves, stir through thoroughly and serve with bread and a dollop of cream or yoghurt.

Monday, 4 November 2013

A Great Big THANKS and a Celebration!

So you remember the week before last when I got really excited because my vegetable chilli was featured in Sainsbury's Reader Recipe competition? Well, I WON.

Thank you so, so much to everyone who voted! I'm absolutely over the moon. You can now find me published on the Sainsbury's Blog!

See that? A record number of votes!!
 I really can't express my gratitude enough so I'll say again, thank you to all! 

I'm now going to celebrate with some fancy focaccia and a bottle of wine, so I shall bid you all a fond goodnight for now.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Pumpkin Cake for Halloween

This may look like a perfectly normal generic cake. 
(Especially compared to Bryony's Hobbit masterpiece, omg.)

But this cake tastes awesome, because it's actually got pumpkin in it - think carrot cake, except more seasonal, and a liiiittle bit spooky. Because Halloween.

The first time I made this cake it was October 2011, during our first year in halls. I made pumpkin cupcakes and Bryony and I decorated them with Halloween pictures.

Bryony's was the cat and mine was the castle.

But the recipe is quite substantial and I seem to remember making about a thousand of these goddamn (although admittedly quite small) cupcakes. So this time I've made a full on layer cake instead. Because why not?

Now I'm not entirely sure where I got the original recipe that this is based on from, because at the time I found it online and wrote it down on a scrap of paper to bake from and never wrote down where it came from... And now I can't find it.. But it's seriously awesome cake.

Pumpkin ready to roast
You also need to make pumpkin purée, and I used this method here. It's super easy and super effective. If you use a whole pumpkin, you'll definitely have some left over. I used mine to make pumpkin risotto, or you could make it into pumpkin soup or freeze it for future pumpkin cakes.

So. Here's what you need:

280g self raising flour
2 Cardamom pods, seeds only, ground into a fine-ish powder.
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3/ tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
110g butter, softened (or margarine)
200g caster sugar
5 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
180ml milk
250g pumpkin purée

For cream cheese icing/filling:
100g cream cheese
25g softened butter
175g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

And here's what you do: 

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius. (Or gas mark six. I have a gas oven now, it's very weird...)
2. Grease and line two cake tins. Alternatively, you could use this mix to make cupcakes, in which case you should line cupcake tins with cupcake cases.
3. Sift together the flour, nutmeg, ginger and allspice, then mix in the salt and the cardamom.
4. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter, the caster sugar and the brown sugar until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs, one at at a time. Once combined, stir in the milk and the pumpkin purée. 
5. Stir this into the flour mixture, until just combined.
6. Distribute your cake mix between the two tins, or between your cupcake cases.
7. Place in the oven and bake. If you're doing two big cakes,bake for around 40 minutes, checking them after 20 to see if they need turning. If you're doing cupcakes, bake for 25 minutes, and check after 15.
8. Take out of the oven and cool thoroughly.
9. Once cooled, you can ice your cake(s). To make the icing, beat the cream cheese and the butter together. Beat in the icing sugar a little at a time, add the vanilla extract and beat it in thoroughly.
10. Pipe decorative swirls of icing onto your cupcakes, or if you're making a layer cake, spread the icing mix on top of one layer then sandwich the other one on top. Dust with icing sugar and voila, pumpkin caaaaake.

(Also, this is Alex and I dressed up for Halloween. Alex is dressed as a bat. Again. You can't see my wings but I was dressed as an evil fairy type thing :p)

Monday, 28 October 2013

We're Baking the Hobbits for James' House

Our good friend James had his 21st birthday last week, and to celebrate he had a hobbit party. I got to make the cake...

It was some of the most fun I've ever had baking. Plus it went down really well, and I got to wander through Englefield Green dressed as a hobbit, carrying a cake shaped like a hobbit hole. I'll miss being a student.

What a motley crew. Also I took my shoes off as soon as we got there, don't worry
The cake recipe belongs to Jamie and is a family favourite from what I gather - and I'm not surprised. YUM.

Ingredients (for the cake):
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1tsp salt
- 1tsp baking powder
- 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ¾ cup cocoa
- 2 cups caster sugar
- 1 cup sunflower oil
- 1 cup hot instant coffee (or hot chocolate)
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1tsp vanilla extract

1. Line a 9x12" rectangular baking tin with greaseproof paper, and heat your oven to 170°C.
2. Sift together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
3. Add the oil, coffee (or hot chocolate) and milk and beat for two minutes.
4. Stir in the eggs and vanilla and whisk.
5. Pour the batter into the tin, and bake for 40-45 minutes.

If you're planning on making your cake into a hobbit hole I recommend baking it the day before, so it can cool properly and the flavours can mature a bit before you decorate it. If you're hobbit hole-ing it up:

You will need:
- 1kg fondant icing
- icing sugar
- gel food colouring: red, yellow, blue, black
- a rolling pin (or empty wine bottle)
- 1tbsp jam, any flavour
- a pastry brush
- gum tragacanth (optional)
- cocktail sticks
- a sharp knife
- shot of vodka

1. Begin by putting the jam into a small saucepan, and heating until it's runny. Put to one side.
2. Slice about 2.5" off the end of your cake. Take the piece you've just cut off and shorten it so it fits on top of the larger cake (using the jam as glue), then stick the second cut-off on top and carefully smooth the corners. Then, cut a small, shallow groove down the middle of the cake. It should look something like this:

3. Grab your fondant icing and the blue and yellow food colouring. Sprinkle some icing sugar on your worktop, then knead the fondant icing until it's soft and malleable. Cut off 1/3 and put it to one side, then add the food colouring to the remaining 2/3 and knead in until you have the desired colour.
4. Sprinkle some more icing sugar, then roll out the icing 'til it's about 3mm thick. Using the rolling pin for support, drape the icing over the cake and smooth it down. Carefully cut off any excess.
5. From here on it's mostly your call. I made some grey coloured fondant and cut it out to look like paving stones. To stick them on, lightly brush with the vodka (I don't really know why this is but my Mum's friend's daughter makes cakes professionally and it's what she uses, so I just go with it).

6. Mix some icing sugar with a splash of water and yellow and blue food colouring, then either grab a piping bag or just spoon it over the cake to resemble grass.
7. Create yourself some brown fondant, and cut out a round door and window. To give the wood effect, mix the colours in a small pot and then literally paint it on. Grab a cocktail stick and make the grooves, then dip the stick in the black colouring and paint where the grooves are. If you're feeling super nerdy you can also make yourself a little door handle and scratch in Gandalf's mark.

8. Make a few strips of pink fondant and roll them up into roses, and accompany with leaves (which Zosia kindly made for me). For the fence, cut a handful of cocktail sticks in half and stick them into the 'grass', then use a few splodges of the water icing to secure more cocktail sticks to lie across horizontally.
9. Aaaaand you're DONE. Now dress up like a hobbit and take it to your friend's house while you sing THIS all the way there.

Monday, 21 October 2013

And Then Something Amazing Happened

Hello, lovely readers. I have some very exciting news - you remember my vegetable chilli? Well... it's featured in this month's Reader Recipes Competition in the Sainsbury's Magazine!

I had no idea until I was approached by a girl in one of my seminars, who double-checked my name and then told me I was in it. I was (/am) completely thrilled, and spent the rest of the seminar texting my parents from under the table because it was just too exciting. I'm in the same magazine as Mary Berry!

The chilli's so easy to make, and so perfect for this time of year as it gets wetter and colder and you need something to cheer you up inside and out.

I would be so grateful if you could click on this link - right here - and vote for me, as the recipe with the highest number of comments will be printed in full. Also if I win the cookbook I'll make things from it and then blog about it, so it's really all for you, dear readers. Thank you!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Our Daily Bread

It's said that man cannot live on bread alone; however, we are a house of women.

I've always eaten a lot of bread, and loved making it, but I hadn't done much over the last two years because gluten free bread is just so difficult. Now though, I'm back on full-baking-form, and between us Jamie and I are making a loaf of bread every few days. 

It's the easiest thing, and so cheap to make. Seriously - a 1.5kg bag of bread flour costs 80p, the 7g of yeast costs about 4p, and 1½ tsp of salt would be about 0.3p. Which brings the cost of a basic home-made loaf of bread to about 40.3p!

The thing that puts a lot of people off making bread is the time needed to make it, but that's one of the reasons I love it. Spend 15 minutes on the initial mixing and kneading, then go to campus for a few hours of lectures. By the time you get back you'll have a beautifully risen dough with minimal amounts of effort! 
So give it a go.

Basic White Loaf - Ingredients:
- 675g strong white bread flour
- 7g yeast
- 1½tsp salt
- 450ml warm water

1. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then make a well in the centre and pour in the water.
2. Using your hands, mix everything together until you get a dough. If it's too dry you can add a little more water, but if it's on the wet side try your best to work with it rather than adding flour as a wet dough often leads to a better loaf.
3. Sprinkle your worktop with flour, then turn out your dough and knead for 10-15 minutes, until it's silky smooth and elastickey. If you're not sure about your kneading technique I recommend youtube - there are thousands of videos with instructions and demonstrations.
4. Put your dough back in the original bowl and cover with cling film, then leave it alone. It needs at least an hour and a half to prove, but it can really be left for as long as you need it to be.

Before and after proving
5. Tip out the risen dough and knead for a couple more minutes, then shape and place on a greased baking tray. Cover with cling film and leave for another hour or so.
6. Heat your oven to 230°C. Take off the cling film and, using a sharp knife, cut a few slashes diagonally along the top of the dough (you can also dust it with a little bit of flour at this point to achieve a more rustic look), then stick it in the oven.
7. After 15 minutes, turn the oven temperature down to 200°C, then bake for a further 20-25 minutes (the initial blast of heat will give you a better crust).
8. Remove your beautiful creation from the oven and transfer to a wire rack if you have one, or just a likely chopping board if you don't. You should leave it for at least 15 minutes before attacking it with mounds of butter, though in our house we can never wait that long.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Smokey Red Risotto

If you've been reading this blog for more than five minutes, you'll know that Zosia and I have quite a thing for risotto, and we also like playing with recipes. Therefore we have posh risotto, gin risotto, red wine risotto and pink risotto among other things - and this is another new one.

It embodies everything you could want as the weather starts to get colder: it's smokey and warm and comforting, and fills your kitchen with the sweet scent of spice. I'll also be using it in future as a way of getting Zosia round for tea, because it's very odd not living with her this year and I miss her.

Ingredients (serves 6):
- 2 red onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2tsp dried basil
- 1tbsp smoked paprika
- 400g arborio rice
- 1 ½ tins chopped tomatoes
- 400ml red wine
- 1000ml vegetable stock
- 6 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- bunch fresh basil, torn
- salt and pepper
- soft goats cheese, to serve

1. In a large pan or wok, cook the red onion and garlic with a knob of butter for about 8 minutes, until starting to colour. Add the dried basil and paprika and cook for another minute or so before adding the rice.
2. After another minute, add the chopped tomatoes, the red wine and a ladle-full of the stock and stir in. Bring to a simmer, and add more stock as the liquid is absorbed by the rice - this should take about half an hour. Stir it as often as you can.

Stirring fun: the reunited cookers
3. When it's almost done, stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil, and season to taste. Serve with the goats cheese and lots of garlic bread. If you have it, drizzle over a little garlic olive oil too, for an extra bit of yum.

Awesome. Also I should say that term has started again and the current amount of business is unreal. Seriously - yesterday I threw some pasta together and had to put it in a tupperware box to eat while I ran/was on campus. Also I have freshers' flu. So bear with us for a little while, while we find our feet again!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Up (for) the Apples and Pears

I've spent the last few weeks at home thinking of ways to use up our giant 17lb bucket of plums (not even joking), so when I got to Dad's house in London and discovered their tree was full of pears that hadn't even been touched I just couldn't help myself. Cue climbing the pear tree in a mini skirt then spending the afternoon baking.

It looks super fancy and impressive, but it's the easiest thing ever and it barely costs anything to make. And it tastes SO. GOOD. Also the recipe is adapted from Mary Berry's apple tarte tatin recipe because it's really easy and she's amazing.

- block of puff pastry (you can make your own if you want but it's sooooo much effort)
- 175g granulated sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cardamom pods
- 850g pears
- juice of 1 lemon

1. First, preheat your oven to 220°C. Then put the sugar in a saucepan along with 6tbsp water, the cinnamon stick and the cardamom pods. Stir on a low heat until the sugar's dissolved, then turn up the heat and STOP STIRRING. Seriously, do not touch that spoon. You're allowed to swirl the pan a bit, but no. spoons. Boil until it turns a 'golden straw colour', then take out the spices and pour into an oven-proof dish (a cake tin would work, just make sure it's deep enough).
2. Put the lemon juice into a bowl, then peel and thinly slice the pears and throw in with the lemon juice 'til you've prepared all of them (this'll stop them going brown, and it tastes nice too). Arrange the pear slices on top of the caramel and press down.
3. Roll out the pastry, then cut into a round slightly bigger than the tin. Cover the pears and tuck the pastry down the sides, then make a small slit in the top to allow steam out.
4. Bake for 40 minutes, then turn it out onto a plate and present to your amazed friends/family, before eating with lots of ice cream.

You may not have a fruit tree in your garden, but if you go to your nearest market you'll find that at the moment they have heaps of pears, apples, plums, blackberries, peaches, figs and more - so there's really no excuse. Think of your five a day! And try not to think about the sugar and pastry - just concentrate on the fruit.

Bonus: picture of me mid-mini-skirt-tree-climb:


Saturday, 14 September 2013

Northumberland Coquetdale and National Cheese Week

It’s the British National Cheese Week!

Bryony and I absolutely love cheese. Most of our posts here at This is Uni Food feature cheese. You could tell how dangerous our addiction was when we shared a fridge and there was a 3 for 2 deal on cheese at Tesco. You could not move for cheese. We’d probably buy six blocks each, at least half of which were goats cheeses. I mastered the art of eating a whole block of goats cheese, with Ryvita, in one sitting. I'm pretty sure Bryony can match me on that. Needless to say, we genuinely really quite like cheese.

I don’t really have a favourite cheese (unless you count ALL of the cheeses) but I like to try random varieties when I can. So when I was up in County Durham with my family this week, I naturally wanted to try some (relatively) local cheese.

At the Wolsingham Show
We went to the Wolsingham Agricultural Show (which is apparently the oldest agricultural show in the country, fancy that) and amidst all the sheep, oversized vegetables and the monster trucks (why would there NOT be monster trucks? They were pulling other cars apart in tugs of war, it was awesome.) I found a rather lovely cheese called Northumberland Coquetdale. It has a lovely strong flavour but not too overpowering and it’s now one of my favourites. Although when it comes to cheese, I’m easy to please...

Baked stuffed mushrooms with Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, red wine and onion gravy and some roasted veg
I decided I would incorporate my Coquetdale into my Sunday roast, so I made cheesy baked stuffed mushrooms, which taste much cheesier than they look. You can add breadcrumbs to the stuffing and sprinkle some over the top for a crunchier version, but I couldn’t be bothered to make breadcrumbs, so yknow… 

Here’s what you need for four:

4 large flat mushrooms
3 small mushrooms
2 tsp red pesto
1 (or 2 if you’re feeling antisocial) cloves of garlic, chopped or crushed.
Handful of basil leaves, chopped
Handful of rocket leaves, chopped.
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
A really large handful of grated Coquetdale. Or you could use Parmesan or another similar cheese.

1.Preheat your oven to 200C.

2.  Carefully cut the stems out of the large mushrooms, and place the cap of the mushroom gill side up in a small roasting tin. Do you like my fancy mushroom terms? I googled them. 

3. Take the mushroom stems and chop them up into very small cubes. Cut your (whole) small mushrooms into similarly sized pieces and combine in a bowl with the pesto, basil, rocket, garlic, some of your Coquetdale/Parmesan and a small splash of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Divide your mushroom-pesto mixture equally and spoon into the caps of your flat mushrooms. If you’re feeling fancy, you can place a slice of mushroom on the top for decoration. Sprinkle the rest of your cheese on top, and drizzle them all with olive oil.

5. Bake your mushrooms in the oven for around half an hour, take them out and serve - I ate mine as part of a roast dinner, but you could easily serve with toast for a simple lunch or supper.

A gratuitous photo of the beautiful valley we were staying in. From our cottage door looking towards Wolsingham.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Kaiserschmarrn: Guest Post by Liesl Rowe

Hello! I'm Liesl Rowe, a uni friend of Fraser's, hence how I know Bryony. As you've possibly guessed from my name, I'm a quarter-Austrian (although my parents are 'Sound of Music' fans too, before you ask). As a result, I've grown up making various traditional Austrian dishes from our family recipe book with the best definitely being Kaiserschmarrn. 

Photography by Zosia Edwards
  Literally translated as 'The Emperor's pieces', Kaiserschmarrn apparently came into being after the German Kaiser's chef dropped the pancakes which he was preparing for the Kaiser on the floor and had to quickly make them into something presentable. Makes me feel a whole lot better about my baking disasters...

Technically it's meant to be an Austrian dessert but a few years ago I realised that it would make an awesome breakfast dish as it's basically chopped up pancakes with sultanas. It's one of my favourite things to cook for friends as it sounds really impressive but involves minimal effort.

Ingredients (serves 4):
- 75g/3oz plain flour
- 40g/1½oz caster sugar
- 25g/1oz butter, melted
- 200ml milk
- 3 eggs, separated

1. Put the flour and sugar in a basin. Form a 'well' in the middle of the bowl and slowly add the melted butter, milk and eggs yolks.
2. Beat the egg whites until they resemble stiff peaks, then add along with the sultanas.
3. Pour into a well-buttered frying pan and allow to partially set. Flip the mixture and brown both sides, then tear into pieces. Allow these to continue cooking very gently. When the pieces have finished cooking, both sides should look golden.
4. Serve with oodles of raspberry jam and enjoy!