Monday, 27 May 2013

Chocolate and Banana Cake

This is without a doubt a childhood favourite. Many a year has it been my birthday cake, and it's particularly good for taking on picnics, or generally putting in a bag and taking anywhere due to the lack of icing/squidgy bits. Twice now Mum's made one and sent it down to London for me - that's how good it is!

- 2 large, ripe bananas
- 1½ tsp vanilla extract
- 6oz/175g margarine
- 8oz/225g granulated sugar
- 10oz/275g self raising flour
- 1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 3 large eggs
- 4oz/125g plain chocolate

1. Preheat your oven to 170°C, and grease your cake tin.
2. In a small bowl, peel and mash the bananas until smooth and mix in the vanilla extract.
3. Heat the margarine and sugar in a pan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Beat in the eggs and mashed banana.
5. Chop up the chocolate, then quickly (so it doesn't melt too much) stir it in to the mixture before spooning the lot into your cake tin.
6. Bake for 1 hour, until a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean.

Voila. This cake is great warm or cold: if you eat it when it's not long out of the oven the chocolate will be gloriously melty, and if you wait 'til it's cooled you'll be greeted with fantastic chocolate chunks (often at the bottom, as they tend to sink). Either way it's awesome.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Spanish Bean Stew

Or 'Spanish Bean Cassoulet', if you're trying to feed someone fussy (*COUGH* Shannon, *COUGH* Alex) who gets put off when they hear 'stew'. The recipe belongs to my Mum's friend Christine, so I'm hoping I've done it justice and that my alterations aren't frowned upon too much! It's super cheap to make and the flavours are like nothing else I've ever had, and oh lordy the smell.

- 3 shallots
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 peppers (not red)
- 2 sticks celery
- 10 new potatoes, washed
- 3 large tomatoes, chopped
- 400g tin green lentils
- 400g tin chickpeas
- 400g tin borlotti beans
- 2tbsp smoked paprika
- 1tbsp sweet chilli sauce
- water to cover
- 1 glass red wine
- 100g curly parsley

The celery is Mum's addition, and the wine is mine. Not just because I'm a student and that's what we do... I think it gives it an extra depth of flavour and helps everything else to come alive. Also, in terms of the beans, you can pretty much use what you like - this time I had cannelini beans instead of borlotti, and they were brill. ALL OF THE BEANS.

1. Roughly chop the shallots, garlic and celery into small-ish pieces (you're not going to blend it at the end like a soup, so however big you chop everything is pretty much the size they'll be at the end) and throw into a large pan with some olive oil.
2. Cook on a low heat while you chop the peppers, potatoes and tomatoes, and then add those too. Cook for a further 10 minutes or so, until everything's softened.

3. Stir in the beans and lentils, then add the smoked paprika and sweet chilli sauce. Pour in the wine and enough water to cover everything, then bring to a low boil. Cover (use tinfoil if you don't have a lid) and simmer for about an hour and a half, stirring every 20 minutes or so (I usually take the lid off for the last 20 minutes, too).
4. Once it's nicely reduced and you just can't stand the smell any longer, chop up the parsley and add to the pan along with some salt and pepper. Serve with lots of bread and butter.
NB: You can freeze any leftovers, though it does make it go slightly mushy. Still good though!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Red Wine and Onion Gravy

I came home from a long day of revising Gregorian papal reforms and the persecution of minorities in twelfth century Europe and discovered that all my boyfriend Alex had eaten that day was two slices of cake and two bags of crisps. What a balanced diet. Nonetheless, he was in need of a good square meal.

Onion and red wine gravy had been playing on my mind all day, and as I had two bags of veggie sausages in the freezer I figured bangers and mash with onion and red wine gravy was a plan. Turned out to be an incredibly good one.

Normally my mum makes an epic gravy involving most of a bottle of red wine, the better part of four hours and some Bisto onion gravy granules but I had neither the time nor the Bisto. SOO I did a variation on this gravy recipe from BBC Food instead.

This served two very hungry people after a long day of revision…

For the gravy:
1 onion (I used a red onion but a white onion would work just as well)
Large splash of olive oil
1 large (we’re talking really large) teaspoon of wholegrain mustard
Large glass of red wine
½ an oxo cube
½ pint of water plus two large table spoons, added if necessary to keep your gravy from burning
2 drops of maple syrup (you could use sugar. Or honey. This was just the first sweet thing I grabbed)
Pinch of fresh chopped rosemary

For an excessive quantity of mashed potatoes: (I had a hungry Alex to feed)
3 large potatoes (I used baking potatoes but you’re supposed to use floury potatoes)
75ml cream
Splash of milk
Large knob of butter
Salt and pepper

For the sausages:
four or five veggie sausages (two for a normal person (me) and three for Alex)
Olive oil to cook

Serve with plenty of peas.

1. Chop the onion in half, then cut it into slices so you have long strips of onion. Add to the pan with the olive oil. Cook for 7-10 minutes, until soft. Stir in the mustard, then add the red wine. Let it simmer. 

2. While your onion and wine are cooking, peel your potatoes and dice them into small cubes. This means they’ll cook faster. Boil in slightly salted water for 10-12 minutes.  
3. MEANWHILE, back to the gravy. When the red wine has reduced down a bit, add half an oxo cube, half a pint of water and the rosemary. Let it all simmer gently, and if it gets stuck to the sides of the pan or starts to look too sticky then add a more water.

4. Put your sausages in a frying pan with a little olive oil and fry them. My veggie ones took about ten minutes to cook, but it'll depend on whether you're using meating sausages or not.

5. When the potato is cooked (spear a bit with a fork and bite it, you’ll soon be able to tell if it’s done or not) drain off the water and prepare to MASH.  Put the potatoes back in the pan with the cream, the butter and a splash of milk. Mash to your heart’s content, til everything is all smooth and well combined.

     6. Serve your sausages and mash with peas and a liberal helping of gravy. Eat on the sofa while watching rubbish on television.

Disclaimer: This meal is ridiculously filling.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Revision Food

This last week has been crazy - even more so than normal. Zosia and I have both had exams, and there's also been a load of elections (I'm now the Vice President for Media Society and the Lifestyle Editor for our uni newspaper The Orbital. Woo!), and I LOST A HUGE WAD OF MY NOTES. Literally: everything I've written from the end of January up to the end of the Spring term. So all together it's been very stressy and just a little bit frantic.


A few weeks ago I picked up the Sainsbury's magazine (totally not because it had Nigel Slater, Mary Berry and Jamie Oliver all on the front cover) and discovered the wonder that it is. And inside they had a lovely recipe for a carrot and tarragon soup with hazelnuts that I really wanted to try - though of course, being me, I couldn't just follow a recipe. So here's my version:

- 50g butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 sticks celery, chopped
- 1kg carrots
- 1 eating apple, peeled, cored and chopped
- 1.2L veg stock
- 100g blanched hazelnuts
- 1tbsp chopped tarragon (plus extra for garnish)
- olive oil, to drizzle

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Melt the butter in a stock pot/really big pan and stir in the onion, garlic and celery. Cook for about 10 minutes. In the mean time, toast the hazelnuts in the oven for 8-10 mins or until golden.
2. Stir in the carrots, and cook for a further 10 minutes, then throw in the apple, tarragon, vegetable stock and some seasoning and bring to a boil. Simmer, partly covered (if you don't have a lid grab some tin foil), for 30-40 minutes.
3. Leave to cool for 5 mins or so, then blend. Ladle into bowls then drizzle over a swirl of olive oil before chopping up your hazelnuts and the rest of the tarragon and adding those too. Voila! Simple.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Infamous Blueberry Muffins

Last August I baked some rather lovely blueberry muffins. I took some photographs and they all got eaten but I didn’t get around to blogging about them. And that would have been the whole story, had I not uploaded this photograph to Facebook...

Cue Bryony’s obsession with the blueberry muffins.

I have lost count of the number of times she’s asked me to blog the blueberry muffins. And today I flicked through the photos and thought hey, those blueberry muffins look super nice. I should make blueberry muffins again... So after yet another library day, I came home tonight and made blueberry muffins.

This is based on a recipe from a cookbook I picked up in a charity shop last summer for about £2. I went on a bit of a charity shop rampage and bought about four cookbooks for a tenner. Not too shabby. I’ve made a few of the recipes in this one and they’ve been a little hit and miss but this one definitely worked. I used Yeo Valley Blueberry Yoghurt with a hint of Lime. Mainly because of their ridiculous but awesome 
farmer-boyband advert from a couple of years ago.

So yes, to make 12 muffins, here's what you need:
225g plain flour
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of allspice
115g caster sugar
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons of margarine. Or softened butter. I used butter. Naturally.
5 tablespoons of blueberry yoghurt
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
100g of fresh blueberries

And here’s what you do:
1.  Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and put 12 paper cases in a muffin tin.
2. Sift the flour, bicarb, salt and half the allspice into a large mixing bowl. Add 8 tablespoons of the sugar and mix it all together well.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg whites. Add the margarine/butter, the yoghurt and the vanilla extract and mix it all together properly. Stir in the blueberries, then add this mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined - the cookbook says to make sure it’s not “over mixed.”
4. Spoon the mixture into the muffin tins. Mix the remaining sugar with the remaining allspice and sprinkle all over the muffins.
5. Place in oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until they’re golden and risen.

 And just in case you'd forgotten, here are the Yeo Valley Farmers. HA.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Here Comes The Sun

As soon as the sun comes out my cooking motivation and ideas go wild, and I also want very different sorts of food to the kind I crave when it's cold. This particular one I'd been fantasising about for a good 4/5 days before I got to make it, but boy was it worth the wait.

I admit it's not the most visually stunning, but my god you have to taste it because it is brilliant. It's also super-duper easy to make which is perfect, particularly after a day like this:

I LOVE THE SUN. Also now that it's hot we can eat in the conservatory, which is beyond awesome.

Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 large red onion (or 2 smaller)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 red pepper, de-seeded
- 1 courgette
- 3 carrots, peeled
- 200g cherry tomatoes (approx)
- 1tbsp dried thyme
- salt and pepper, to taste
To serve:
- tortilla wraps (or GF pasta for a gluten-free option)
- 150g pot natural yoghurt
- 200g pack feta cheese
- 1 standard size pot of hummus (I happened to have a 'chargrilled red pepper and hummus dip' which was brill)

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C. Grab your veg (you can really use anything you like) and chop into similar sized pieces so they'll all cook at a similar time, then throw them all into a big dish they can be roasted in. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle over the thyme, salt and pepper before giving it all a good stir and bunging in the oven for 45-60 minutes (stirring every 15 minutes or so).

2. Sit down and enjoy a glass of wine or similar. Because roasting the veg is basically all the cooking in this whole recipe so drinking alcohol has now become an actual instruction. ENJOY.
3. If you're gluten-intolerant, put 75g of GF penne on to cook 10 mins before the veg has finished roasting. Zosia used all the other serve-with things and said it was bon, so you can do that easy peasy. Otherwise, warm up the wraps, spread with hummus, then add the veg. Dollop on some yoghurt and feta, and wrap up all the lovliness. Then eat in your conservatory/garden because it's warm and beautiful and LIFE IS GOOD.