Saturday, 31 August 2013

London lunches

GOSH and Kenwood House
So, quite frankly, this summer has been the busiest ever. I don't feel like I've stopped since June... With my internship and volunteering at Kenwood House with English Heritage and working at University in the admissions department, I've barely had the time to cook anything... 

Except lunches. I've made (not really cooked) SO many packed lunches. When I'm at GOSH I usually eat my lunch in Russell Square Gardens, apart from the few times it rained and I went and sat in the British Museum. While I started off the summer with the generic crisps + chocolate + sandwich combination, I quickly got bored and started packing random things, like quinoa and roasted vegetables and salads and things. So I decided I'd put together this post, which is basically a compilation of lunch ideas and inspiration. Because packed lunches are cheap and incredibly easy.

Russell Square Gardens
Number 1: The easy lunch

Chocolate + sandwich + savoury snack. (Book optional)

This is my go to lunch. The sandwich is cheddar cheese and Branston pickle, the chocolate is fancy stuff that was slightly out of date and therefore free, and there are cashew nuts in the little pot. I love fancy black pepper flavoured ones, but because they're quite expensive I mix them with plain and boring generic cheap cashews to stretch out the flavour as much as possible.

Also, the sandwich box was 80p in Tesco, which is cheaper than an actual pack of foil and totally environmentally friendly. Winning.

Number 2: The slightly more complicated lunch

Wraps + snacks +dip

These are Warburtons (GLUTEN FREE!!!) wraps, which are awesome. I hope they sell them in Egham Tesco... I made them up with brie and salad. The snacks are salt and pepper rice puff type things, and the dip is mango chutney. I think I had this combination in the one Graze box I ever had, except this way you get to pick what you get to go with it.

Number 3: Easy pasta

Pasta + red pesto + (optional) roasted vegetables

If you're having pasta for dinner the night before, cook up an extra portion and pack it up in a box for lunch the next day. Don't forget a fork...

 Number 4: Anything you can eat that fits into a box.

I really enjoyed my vegetarian lasagne in a box. Not even kidding.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Little Lemon Drizzle Cakes

It's largely been a slow summer for me. I've spent months looking for a job to no avail and, as I can't drive (and there's very little in terms of public transport in Cumbria), I'm stuck at home a lot. It's very depressing. The solution as I see it is to eat my way out of it, which means BAKING.

   I made these initially for Mum's work to sell (all proceeds to Macmillan Nurses) as part of the Eden Food and Farming Festival a few weeks ago, and they went down a storm. Sadly this meant we at home were limited to half a cake each (not even joking, Shannon was NOT impressed). So I made more.

Ingredients (makes 20):
For the cake
- 200g unsalted butter
- 250g caster sugar
- 3 medium eggs
- zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
- 250g self-raising flour
- ½tsp baking powder
- juice of 1 lemon, made up to 100ml with milk

 For the drizzle topping
- 100g caster sugar
- juice 2 lemons
- zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, and grab yourself 20 muffin cases. It obviously works best if you can put them in a muffin tin for support, but they do fine free-standing on a normal baking tray so don't worry.
2. Beat together the butter and sugar until creamy, then beat it some more. My Grandma used to say this was the most important part of making a cake, so pass the bowl around the house until everyone's arms are tired. This will also make you feel less guilty about eating the cake afterwards because it's basically a work-out, right?
3. Add the eggs and lemon zest and mix together, then sift in the flour and baking powder. Fold it all together slowly (mostly so you don't get flour everywhere), and when that's incorporated add the lemon juice and milk mixture and stir again.
4. Fill the muffin cases with the mixture so they're about two thirds full. Make it all as level as possible, then bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven. 

5. While the cakes are in the oven, make the drizzle topping: you literally just mix everything together in a bowl so it makes a runny sort of glaze.
6. As soon as the cakes are out of the oven poke a load of holes in them with a cocktail stick, then add a generous teaspoon of drizzle to each one (you may have to do it half a tsp at a time to give them time to absorb it a bit), and voilĂ . Let cool, sprinkle with a bit more sugar for prettiness and enjoy your lemony flavoured clouds. They definitely banish the black ones.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Courgette Cake and a Lowry Jigsaw

It was Fraser's birthday last weekend. Sadly, there has yet to be an opportunity to make birthday pie, but we had a very nice time with a bit of walking, Fraser's mum's courgette cake and a 500 piece L.S. Lowry jigsaw (which it can only be assumed was created by a sadist).

So technically this post is cheating a little bit because I didn't make the cake, BUT I will definitely be doing so soon, as our courgette plants are producing courgettes like there's no tomorrow and we have 6 as big as your forearm sitting on our kitchen windowsill. Not even joking.

Also: courgette. In a cake. I know it sounds weird, but I promise you it isn't. It's wonderfully moist and sweet and a little bit spiced, and you should make it.

Ingredients (makes 2 loaf tins worth):
- 2 cups plain flour
- 2 cups sugar
- ½tbsp cinnamon
- 2tsp baking powder
- 1 cup sunflower oil
- 2tsp vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups finely grated courgette
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup chopped nuts

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease two loaf tins (if you can find a way to use half an egg, then by all means half the whole recipe and just use the one tin!).
2. Sift together the flour, sugar, cinnamon and baking powder in a large bowl. Then pour in the oil, vanilla and eggs and mix well.
3. Add the courgette, raisins and nuts and stir together.
4. Divide the mix between the two tins then bake for an hour, until a knife in the middle comes out clean.

Fraser reckons the jigsaw took us about 10 hours in total, and I'm not sure we could've done it (at least without it taking even longer) without cake for fuel. I'm planning on having some handy for essays once term starts again, 'coz if it can get me through that jigsaw, it can get me through anything!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

An Indian Feast

Before the end of term I decided I wanted to do a proper big dinner for a few of us, because I like cooking and I like people. Zosia had an 'Indian dip selection' in the fridge. That was that, really.

Sooooo I made a mixed bean curry and onion bhajis and chapatis and coriander rice. And it was exhausting. And also wonderful. The curry recipe belongs to a friend of my aunt and has been a favourite at home for years - it went down pretty well here, too! It's a long list of ingredients but don't be daunted: most of them are just store-cupboard spices. Also, because it needs time to marinade it's a good one to make earlier in the day.

Ingredients (serves 4):
- 1tbsp mustard seeds
- 1tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 2 chillis, chopped
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
-  ½tsp turmeric
- 1tbsp ground coriander
- 1tbsp ground cumin
- ½pt boiling water
- 4 large tins of beans (I tend to use 2 of chickpeas and 2 of kidney beans)
- 3 balls of frozen spinach
- handful fresh coriander

1. Grab your biggest saucepan and drizzle in some olive oil. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and heat until they start popping.
2. Add the onion, garlic and chilli and soften 'til the onion becomes clear (about 8 minutes).

3. Add the chopped tomatoes and spices and cook for a few more minutes, then add the water.
4. Stir well, then put on a lid (or some tin foil) and simmer on a low heat for 30-40 minutes.
5. Add the beans and spinach and stir until the spinach has de-frosted, then allow to cool and marinade for as long as you have time for.
6. Cook through when required, then season and add the fresh coriander.

Simple. For the rice, I cooked some basic brown rice and then added a squeeze of lime juice, some salt and pepper and some fresh coriander to liven it up a bit.

The onion bhajis I made were a very yummy side, and seemed to work fine with gluten free flour.

And it's easy to make chapatis. You need a tablespoon of both wholemeal and white flour per person (OR you can buy chapati flour and use 2tbsp per person. All the flour in our house at uni is gluten free, so it was actually cheaper for me to do this). Add a drizzle of olive oil and enough warm water to bring it all together in a dough, then knead for a couple of minutes. Cover with clingfilm, and then leave for an hour. 

Divide the dough into pieces (4 each, so it depends how many you're making for): they'll look small, but it's all good. Roll out as thin as you can without breaking them, then grab a frying pan and and cook the chapatis one at a time, for about a minute each side (you don't need any oil). Once cooked, transfer to a plate and spread with butter, then onto the next!

Serve up to your hungry friends and enjoy your feast.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Super Simple Summer Lunch

It's. So. Hot. Which means I have much less energy for cooking (and blogging - sorry about the big gap between posts), so I need things which are really quick and easy to make while still being yummy. This fits all of those and is also one of my absolute favourite things to eat.

Ingredients (serves 2):
- 4 big vine tomatoes
- 2/3 pack of feta cheese
- 7-8 basil leaves
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- some good bread, to serve

1. Slice the tomatoes to about 2mm thick and place into a large baking dish, then tear the basil leaves and scatter over the top.
2. Slice the feta so it's roughly the same size and thickness as the tomatoes, then layer that on top.
3. Generously drizzle some olive oil over the whole thing, then season with salt and pepper. 
4. Cook at 200°C for about 25 minutes. 

And voila. Easy as that. Use the bread to mop up all the lovely juices so you don't miss out on anything!