Green Chicken Curry with Cauliflower Rice

I have, for a very long time, been intrigued by trying one of the new vegetables-replacing-carbs health fads going around at the moment. Given that courgette pasta would involve spending money on a spiraliser…I thought cauliflower rice would be a better starting point. Normally if I served my father any spicy food or indeed a carb-free, vegetable-rich meal I would get “oh what’s this” and a healthy pile of food left on the side after it had been pushed around the plate a bit; but this time it got the thumbs up. Whether this is just because slowly I’ve started to indoctrine my family in food that has flavour and is different or whether he actually liked it is for you to decide once you’ve tried the recipe. (See what I did there…)

 (Serves 2)

  1. Pulse 350g Cauliflower florets in a food processor to fine pieces. 
  2. Meanwhile put 1tsp sesame oil, 1tbsp olive oil, 1 onion (chopped) 2 cloves garlic (chopped), 1tbsp curry powder, 1tsp coriander paste, 1tsp mild chilli powder, 1tsp ginger and 2tsp sea salt in a saucepan. Sweat the onions over a medium heat for 5mins. Add 2 chopped chicken breasts and cook for 3-4mins. Add 1 small can coconut cream, fill the can twice with water and add to the pan. Add 1tsp lemon and black pepper. Simmer over a low heat for 5-10mins. 

  3. Meanwhile add 200ml water to a pan with the chopped cauliflower and cover with a lid. Bring to the boil and cook for 4-5mins. Drain well. 

  4. Add a handful of chopped green beans to the curry and cook for 2-3mins. Serve the curry served over the rice and sprinkled with flaked almonds.

  

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Chicken Mole or Chicken with chocolate sauce…

  
It has taken a good 7 years of gentle coaxing but we have finally got to the point in the Gullifer household where my father drops hints that he wants to be served a dish as exotic as Mole. I can see the appeal to Gullifer senior. Any dish that combines chocolate and meat cannot be faulted, especially when served with creamy guacamole and crunchy flaked almonds. So upon the highly anticipated arrival in Oxford of the German gal and the slightly spontaneous invite of the man who lives upstairs to dinner, I decided to give in to my father’s subtle demands. At least this way I could at least indulge in the sauce and guacamole alongside my soup on my liquid-only-aching jaw induced diet, even if I missed out on the flaking chicken thighs and buttery rice served alongside….. The day cannot come soon enough until I can eat anything with more texture than jelly, or at least dull the pain for a while with painkillers while I indulge. The dessert of Dime Bar Crunch ice cream with pecans was especially cruel to watch, at least liquid diet includes wine.

4tbsp sesame oil

4 chicken thighs

2 onions

4 garlic cloves

2tsp cinnamon

2tsp chilli powder

2tsp coriander

3tbsp tequila

2 stock cubes

50g dark chocolate

  1. Brown the chicken thighs in 2tbsp sesame oil and a pinch of salt. Remove from the pan. Add the onions and garlic and another pinch of salt and black pepper and sauté till clear. Add the spices, cook for 2 mins. Add the tequila. Add the chocolate, stir until melted. Add the browned chicken, remaining sesame oil, stock cubes and 1l water. Bring to the boil and simmer covered for 20 mins. Scatter with fresh coriander and serve with buttered rice (see below).


Buttered Rice

Place 150g long grain rice in a pan with 600ml water, 1 stock cubes and 1tbsp butter. Cook for 15mins or until water is absorbed.

Optional additions

Toasted flaked almonds (scattered over at end), raisins (added 5mins before end of cooking), flatbreads (200g wholemeal bread flour, 1tsp salt, 100ml warm water: kneaded for 5mins, rolled into thin flat circles and fried for 3-4mins on either side in 1tsp sesame oil), guacamole

Caesar Salad, Pancetta wrapped Cod, Jelly, Ice Cream and Chocolate

Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents dearly. But for two immensely talented and successful people, they are absolutely hopeless at feeding themselves. People think I’m joking when they ask where I learnt to cook and I tell them it wasn’t so much where but why, it was a necessity if I didn’t want to live off fish cakes for the majority of my teenage years. Take this weekend when I came home. I had offered to cook dinner for the parents and the man upstairs, and in return my mum had bought in a shopping order. I had left basic items like stock and dried herbs off the list assuming anyone who isn’t a student, lives in a house full time and presumably eats would have these staples, I was wrong. My mothers response? ‘We had some at christmas’, yes we did, and I used it up, the last time I cooked in our house. My father is I’m afraid no better, while very good at selecting wines for our dinner, he took in the food order and left out most of the veg and salad because they wouldn’t fit in the fridge, the fridge was full of potatoes…. Anyway, for those of you who know how to store vegetables, here is a standard, albeit slightly middle class, quick dinner party menu.

Posh Caesar Salad (Serves 4) 

2 iceberg lettuces, 2 chicken breasts, 4 quails eggs, 10 anchovies, 1 small sourdough roll, 1 egg yolk, 1/3 tsp of English mustard, 1/2 tsp of garlic, finely chopped, 1 1/4 tsp of white wine vinegar, 1 1/4 tsp of lemon juice 1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce, 10g of Parmesan, grated, 120ml of vegetable oil

1. Sprinkle chicken with sea salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil and top with 1/2 crushed garlic clove each. Roast for 12-15mins at 180*C, leave to rest. 

  1. Meanwhile boil the quails eggs for 2 1/2mins, then run under cold water to stop the cooking process. When cool, peel and set aside. Cut the roll into croutons and toast on both sides under a grill, seasoned with a little salt, pepper and olive oil.
  2. For the dressing, blend 2 anchovies, egg yolk, mustard, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly add oil whilst blitzing. Add Worcester sauce, lemon juice and Parmesan, season to taste.

  3. Serve drizzled over Iceberg lettuce topped with chicken, anchovies, quails egg and Parmesan slivers.  

Pancetta wrapped cod, pearl barley risotto, garlic mushrooms, crispy kale, Early Grey jus

4 cod fillets, boneless and skinless, 12 rashes pancetta, 100g button mushrooms, 2 cloves garlic, 100g kale, dried rosemary, 320g pearl barley, 2 stock cubes, 1 onion, dried thyme, drizzle of truffle oil, 3tbsp Brandy. 2 earl grey tea bags.

  1. Soak the tea bags in 300ml hot water for at least 1hr. Wrap 3 pancetta rashes around each fish and set aside in a baking tray. Meanwhile place the kale in a baking dish, sprinkled with salt, pepper, rosemary and a small drizzle of oil. Place in the oven at 140*C for 25mins, stirring occasionally, until crispy.
  • .Meanwhile, slice the onions into small pieces. Sauté for 2-3mins in olive oil and salt. Add the pearl barley, thyme then brandy. Add 600ml stock and cook, stirring occasionally for 30mins, adding more water if needed. Season with lemon juice, pepper, salt and truffle oil and set aside.

  • Forthe mushrooms, finely chop garlic and cook in truffle oil for 1min. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5mins over a high heat, set aside. Put the fish on to cook in 140*C oven for 15mins.

  • Meanwhile, make jus. Combine earl grey stock with stock cube, salt, pepper and lemon juice, reduce by about half.

  • Just before serving, heat jus and risotto. Make a bed with the risotto, scatter around mushrooms, place fish on top, drizzle jus and scatter with kale chips.  

  • Grown-up Jelly, Ice cream and chocolate sauce

    A nostalgic nod to my primary school, The Rowans, where we indulgently were given those wonderful ice cream squares, strawberry jelly and chocolate custard, my favourite dessert. We used to mix them all up together in a wonderful synthtic, sugary mess we loved. This thankfully is more refined, very simple and quick and tasty, try adding ginger to the ice cream.

    1 tub vanilla ice cream, 200g shortbread biscuits, 4tbsp maple syrup, Silicone half sphere moulds, 300ml grapefruit juice, 4 gelatine leaves, 200g dark chocolate, 50g sugar, 50ml water, pinch of sea salt.

    1. Let the ice cream soften, until it can be squeezed out of its tub. Use a pastry brush to coat 4 silicone moulds. Crush shortbread in a plastic bag with a rolling pin to fine crumbs. Pour into moulds to coat and shake out so you have an even layer lining the moulds. Scoop ice cream into each mould, using a knife to level the base. Freeze.
  • For the jelly, heat grapefruit juice to boiling. Soak gelatine leaves in cold water, squeeze out and stir into grapefruit juice. Pour into a base lined square dish and refrigerate for at least 2hrs.

  • For the sauce, heat water and sugar to boiling. Stir in chocolate and salt until melted. Chop grapefruit jelly into squares. Serve beside ice cream and jelly in a little jug.

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    Christmas Dinner: Round 1

    I will not call our Christmas dinner at the house the ‘practice round’, despite it being nearly a week early since all three housemates are leaving to spend the actual day with their parents. It was rather impressive in its own right, especially as it only took us around 2 hours to make. Despite Mark Francis’ pleas we did not get a turkey for the three of us; impractical considering 2/3 of us were leaving a day later. Instead I picked up a chicken on the way home from work. I turned up to discover a beautifully laid table with champagne, wine and dessert wine glasses, place mats and candles. The house had been decorated top to toe in tinsel and some wonderfully garish red fairy lights (Santa’s grotto in our home). We even had a mini wooden tree, Aldi’s finest crackers, (I’ve always wanted a fortune telling fish), and numerous Christmas cards. As I pootled around the cupboards preparing the main course, I even found unnecessary christmas bargains picked up from Aldi – a gift set containing stollen bites and rum, more mince pies (we have a never ending supply), and star-shaped biscuits (which turned out to be great in coffee cocktails).
    So with St John’s College Choir’s carol CD blaring from the speakers (interspersed with snippets from the Gospel Messiah Claire Balding had found on YouTube), I set down to work, over-catering as always.
    After some craftily-posed cracker-pulling selfies, it was time to actually eat. The starter was pulled out of the fridge, made ahead and stylishly plated up in cocktail glasses. The lovely Claire Balding’s take on the traditional prawn cocktail used horseradish and tomato and chilli relish for a less synthetically tasting Marie Rose sauce, and was delicious.

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    Gradually I began loading the table with dishes for the main course. I decided this year just to make up the recipes as I went along; sometimes it’s more fun to live life on the edge. I think at this point even Mark Francis was pretty pleased we hadn’t gone for the turkey. We had a roast chicken. Over the years I have tried and failed many times to roast a chicken perfectly – the results have usually been either too dry or undercooked. After some years perfecting it, my fail safe method is to rub the chicken liberally with sea salt and pepper, adding a tbsp of butter massaged under the skin (a bizarrely satisfying thing to do), stuff the cavity with various fresh herbs (I used bay leaves, thyme, sage, rosemary), and then put in the oven for 1 hour at 180ºc with a 1 inch level of water (or white wine?) in the bottom of the roasting tin. After 1 hour, uncover and cook for a further 20-30mins until the juices run clear. Leave to rest for 20mins and you have a ready-made gravy base!

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    Next up were the roast potatoes. I have tried so many times to make these healthy, but I’m afraid while using olive oil produces fairly crunchy and tasty potatoes, nothing can beat goose fat for top-notch roasties. I peeled and cut some King Edward potatoes into uneven knobbly lumps (very important as the more edges, the better the roast potatoes will be). I boiled them for 7-8mins, adding salt, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, rosemary and thyme to the water. Meanwhile I heated 1 large tbsp goose fat in the oven until melted. To this, I added the drained potatoes and herbs and roasted at 180ºC for 30-40mins. Even Mark Francis broke his usual 3 potato limit for these. In my opinion though, the Chef’s treat has to be the virtually deep-fried crunchy herbs you are left with at the end.
    No Christmas dinner would be complete without parsnips. These are again something I rarely have except at Christmas. But that may be because I am snobby enough only to like my roasted parsnips. I positively turn my nose up at those barely-cooked chunks of parsnips that are usually served up at mass-produced roast dinners. For me a perfect roast parsnip should be thin and slightly caramelised: chewy and crunchy at the same time. So this year I sliced some carrots and parsnips into batons, tossing them in salt, pepper, thyme, truffle oil, olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, and a drizzle of honey. I roasted these at 180ºC for 30-40mins until caramelised, stirring every so often.
    I am a fan of creamed spinach. I understand it is not everybody’s cup of tea, but since I was forgoing the most delicious part of the Christmas spread (the bread sauce), this was the nearest substitute I could manage at short notice. Simply melt 2 tbsp butter and whisk in 1 tbsp flour, add milk, whisking at small intervals until you get a white sauce. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg. When ready to serve, pour boiling water over a colander of spinach to wilt. Stir the spinach into the white sauce, add cream if desired.
    The cranberry sauce is another thing people rarely seem to want to make, which for me makes absolutely no sense. It’s so easy and always sooo much nicer than the stuff from a jar. All you do is put 300g sugar and 300g cranberries in a pan with a splash of vanilla extract, port and water. Add 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp ground cloves. Bring to the boil and stir for 2-3mins, and hey presto! Cranberry sauce that will keep for ages.

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    On to the stuffing. Mark Francis couldn’t quite believe I was willing to squeeze the meat out of sausage skins in order to make this, but agreed that the end result was worth it. I believe the line CB used to describe them was ‘cakes of fun’, although I think the revised version ‘balls of fun’ has a better ring to it. To make the stuffing I simply mixed the meat of 8 sausages with a handful of cranberries, 1 egg, salt, pepper, a handful of chopped sage leaves, a sprinkling of parsley, 200g chopped chestnuts and 3 tbsp golden breadcrumbs. I shaped this mix into little balls and roasted in the oven at 180ºC for 30 mins.
    My final addition to the table was the gravy. This really needs no recipe as thanks to the method of roasting the chicken above, the juices had already collected in the bottom of the pan. I simply whisked in 1 tbsp sifted cornflour to thicken, and added a stock cube to flavour.
    Mark Francis’ main contribution were the ‘Ancient Roman style’ brussels sprouts, using an old family recipe. Unfortunately Mark Francis’ mother works along the same lines as me when it comes to cooking, providing him only a list of ingredients with no specific cooking times of amounts. This could have all gone so wrong. But in fact they went down so well I am planning using the recipe for my own Christmas dinner tomorrow. Simply take Brussels sprouts, raisins and olives, braise them in stock for 4-5mins until reduced, and then stir through some pine nuts. When in Rome or indeed Cambridge…

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    After sitting and groaning at our stomachs for a bit, we decided we would play some games before dessert. While ‘Pass the bomb’ using the Great British Bake Off music instead of a timer was great fun, I’m not sure ‘Twister’ was the wisest idea given the quantity of food consumed… Luckily Claire Balding had made a delightful light dessert of baked pears, which she had stuffed with ricotta and sprinkled with amaretti biscuits. We served it with a discovery of Mark Francis – Aldi’s Finest: a box set of sparkling Asti dessert wine and Cantucci biscuits. While at first we were unsure what “Aldi’s Finest” would entail, it was a wonderful dessert wine, only 5%, sweet but not cloying. Shame you can only buy it in the box set.

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    Altogether, a fine warm-up for the big day. I will let you know if I manage to persuade the 90 year old grandparents to play Twister!

    Confusing the Palate

    Confusing the Palate

    Once again I have been possibly slightly unwittingly coerced by my friends to cook for them in what can only be described as basic cooking conditions. This time it was marginally easier, only 4 to cook for, no dietary restrictions and a more free day leading up to it. Plus I had further enticement as the three dinner guests agreed to match my menu with wines for each course. As per usual the menu was possibly a little obsessively planned – excel, timetable, price itemised shopping list….. If only I gave my degree this much attention.

    Unfortunately that day the time I had allotted to finishing my coursework so I felt slightly better about jet setting to the Isle of Man on choir tour ( yes we did fly and it was a very exciting tour) was spent trying in Vain to save my degree, I accidentally wiped my computer hard drive, hopefully this can be remedied – watch this space. Most people in this circumstance would most likely be in hysterics, alleviating anger by throwing heavy objects at the wall, or immediately degrading from their degree and moving to anguished exile in Siberia to escape the pain of the disappearance of half a years worth of coursework. I’m afraid I did none of these things. The excitement of cooking a dinner party made up if my favourite foods, with some of my favourite people and a copious amount of good wine somehow managed to inspire such a cloud of optimism – I am still living in the sphere of it and am still convinced this will be ok- my mother on the other hand is despairing, possibly mostly at my casual attitude….
    Anyway back to dinner – if anything can distract me from a possible career ending mistake it would be confit chicken, truffle jus, peanut butter parfait…. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
    We began with prosecco and walkers crisps. However these wakers crisps tasted especially good because I’d stolen them from the snack basket of the current bane of my life, the college fundraising campaign. If you have ever had to persuade people to give you money when they are trying it tell you that they’ve just been made redundant/had a baby/ bought a house so can’t afford it right now you will understand the soul draining experience that is telephone campaign. (Disclaimer – the crisps were meant for workers like me so it wasn’t so much stealing)

     I wanted to challenge our taste buds by starting with a sweet course and ending with a savoury while still trying maintain some sort of style and complexity within my ‘having to reboot the oven every 15mins’ limitations. So we began with a Roasted tomato and caramelised onion Tarte Tatin with Ricotta quenelle. This is a surprisingly easy dish, particularly with the aid of Lakeland disposable foil pudding dishes – effectively the basis of this meal.

    Serves 4
    2 large tomatoes
    Thyme
    4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
    2 onions
    1tbsp butter
    Bay leaf
    2 tbsp sugar + 2tbsp sugar
    Salt
    Pepper
    Drop vanilla essence
    White wine vinegar (I shamefully had to use fish and chip vinegar)
    Ready rolled puff pastry

    Roast the tomatoes, cut in half and garlic still in its skin with a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of salt and thyme leaves for about 10-15mins at 180oC.
    Meanwhile chop the onions and then sweat over a medium heat in the butter with a good sprinkling of salt (add water if the onions look like they will burn).
    When translucent add the bay leaf, a splash of vinegar, pepper, drop of vanilla and half the sugar. When sticky and caramelised, set aside.
    Finally melt the remaining sugar with 2tbsp water till a golden amber colour .
    Place 1tsp caramel in the base of 4 foil pudding pots. Top with the tomatoes, flat side down and a garlic clove, squeezed out of its skin. Then add a spoonful of onions. Finally top with a disk of puff pastry.
    Bake in the oven for 15 min or until golden – turn over – make a quenelle with a spoon of ricotta and serve.

    The main used one of my favourite ingredients. I can’t stress enough how amazing a few drops of truffle oil is in most dishes! Some of the best examples include in mash potatoes, mushroom risotto, in butter for steak or even (if you’re feeling adventurous) white truffle and black pepper ice cream with strawberries. It is most definitely worth the £3.99 I paid for it – this bottle is going to last me for about a year, even the smell of it is pretty satisfying.
    Other than the truffle oil, all the ingredients in this main are pretty cheap which just goes to show that you don’t need to spend a lot to throw a great dinner party (this is one of the many tips I tend to shout at the TV screen when watching Come Dine with Me, along with why do you start cooking when your guests arrive???). I do agree that you can taste a great cut of organic meat, especially with steak where the better the quality the less you have to do to it, I barely cook mine, BUT I used sainsbury’s basics chicken leg pieces for this dish, at the grand total of 4 for £2.69, and it came out absolutely beautifully.
    So here it is Confit Chicken leg, buttered cabbage with nutmeg, butternut squash dauphinoise, toasted hazelnuts and truffle jus. Again relatively easy, just prep the hazelnuts, chicken, dauphinoise and chop the cabbage in advance and you can pretty much just leave it to cook while you can go and drink with your guests (take notes Come dine with me contestants).

    Serves 4
    For the Chicken
    4 chicken legs
    2l sunflower/vegetable oil
    1tsp truffle oil
    8-10 cloves garlic
    1 bay leaf
    few sprigs of thyme
    50g sea salt flakes
    pepper
    For the Cabbage
    1 savoy cabbage
    2tbsp water
    50g salted butter
    pinch of nutmeg
    pepper
    For the Jus
    1-2tsp truffle oil
    1 stock cube
    small knob of butter
    rosemary
    2 garlic cloves
    sprig thyme
    bay leaf
    pepper
    splash lemon juice
    For the Dauphinoise
    1 butternut squash
    pepper
    8 cloves or so garlic
    sea salt flakes
    thyme
    bay leaf
    300ml cream
    (milk)
    For the Hazlenuts
    100g blanched hazlenuts finely chopped (or bashed)

    Rub the chicken with the salt, crushed garlic cloves, pepper and herbs, set aside for about an hour or so. Meanwhile toast the hazelnuts in a dry saucepan over a medium heat NB keep tossing to try and prevent burning, set aside.
    Chop the squash into slices and layer in a shallow dish, studding every couple of layers with garlic cloves, a good sprinkling of salt and some pepper and the herbs. Pour over the cream, you may need a bit of milk to bring the cream/milk to the same level as the top layer of the squash, alternatively you can top this up with cream, the dish will be more stodgy but richer and really delicious.
    Chop the cabbage into strips (the best way to do this is cut out the centre and chop all the sides into strips). Place into a saucepan with the butter, water, nutmeg and pepper, set aside.
    Wash most of the salt off the chicken, reserving the herbs, half of the garlic and about 5-10g of the salt (this is approximate, the idea is you need a bit left). Place in a shallow dish and cover the chicken and herbs etc with the oils.
    Put the chicken in the oven at 150oC for about an hour and a half. Forty minutes before you want to eat put the squash in the oven, when ready the squash should be starting to brown on top.
    Meanwhile for the jus, chop the garlic and place in a small saucepan with the butter and sauté for 2-3mins. Pour over the lemon juice and add the herbs and 250ml water. Add the stock cube and stir to dissolve over a medium heat. Reduce to about half then add the truffle oil. Remove from the heat.
    5mins before you want to eat, put the cabbage on the heat and cover, cook for 5mins and then remove from the heat.
    To serve, place a handful of cabbage in the middle of the plate, top with a chicken leg and sprinkle with hazelnuts, finally spoon over some jus. Serve the dauphinoise separately, trust me a normal sized portion may not be enough for each person.

    Now since I had done a sweet starter I decided to counter expectations with a salty dessert based on the american classic snack, a PBJ sandwich. My sister will tell you how obsessed I am with peanut butter, so much so that she promised to make me a giant peanut butter cup in lieu of a cake for my 18th birthday (if you’re reading this it’s 3 years down the line and I’m still waiting on that). When we went to America the excitement of every single chocolate bar having a version in peanut butter not to mention every restaurant meal. While in San Francisco last year I remember having a peanut butter cheesecake slice for lunch rather than the more nutritious savoury burritos my friends have. I do try and limit my addiction as too much of a good thing (at least in this case) would make me end up morbidly obese, but since I got to choose the menu for this party, it was inevitably included. This isn’t for everyone (my haribo addicted dinner partner would’ve preferred a sweeter dessert) but for me it encapsulates heaven


    Peanut butter parfait, cookie crumbs, chocolate squares and homemade strawberry jam
    Makes 6
    For the parfait
    200g peanut butter
    300g cream cheese
    75g sugar
    vanilla extract
    200ml cream
    3/4 sachet powdered gelatine
    1 packet chocolate chip cookies
    50g butter
    For the chocolate squares
    masking tape
    dark chocolate (60% or more)
    For the jam
    400g strawberries
    150g sugar
    1 sachet powdered gelatine
    black pepper
    vanilla extract

    Beat together the peanut butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract. Add the sugar, beat, then whisk together the gelatine and cream to combine before adding to the mix and beating further. Meanwhile make the cookies into crumbs, best done in a food processor. grease 6 pudding dishes (see above) well and then cover in cookie crumbs. (the best way to do this is place a large spoonful in the bottom and then pour out, turning as you do to cover all the sides). Fill the moulds with parfait and leave to set in the fridge. Reserve the remaining cookie crumbs
    Meanwhile make a grid on a parchment lined tray with the masking tape. Melt the chocolate and spread over the grid, leave at room temperature to set, when still soft but not liquid, peel off the masking tape carefully, you should be left with perfect chocolate squares, place in the fridge to set.
    Macerate (cover) the chopped strawberries in the sugar and black pepper. After about 30mins, place over a medium heat and liquids using a hand held blender. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3-5mins. Add the gelatine and stir to dissolve, leave to cool. Ideally you would then put this in a piping bag, I didn’t have one 😦
    To serve, place a chocolate square on the plate, release the parfait and place on top, finish with a second chocolate square. Use the piping bag to pipe dots of jam around this (again I couldn’t do this) and scatter with cookie crumbs.

     

    For finishing touches to the perfect evening, add wine and good company.

    The Student 3-course meal

    The Student 3-course meal

    You know those days when you feel like celebrating (in my case recovering from the flu) but have no money and have left it a little too late to organise stuff with friends? Or perhaps you have just finished an essay and are only just realising that you want food and celebratory food? (or perhaps to speed the essay on its way?) Or maybe you forgot it was your anniversary, but the budget is limited….

    Poor mans G+T
    so you have no ice, the college accommodation you’re in only provides a paltry fridge the size of a shoebox which of course you have stuffed half of with beverages rather than food… In my case I’ve chosen to refrigerate the tonic, but refrigerating the gin works just as well, especially if your G+Ts tend to be Gin with a dash of tonic…..
    I like using Sainsbury’s ‘London Gin’, one above the basics so it tastes slightly better (or if you have parents visiting stock your cupboard with something nice, my personal favourite being Tanqueray, don’t mean to sound like an advert but I can really taste the difference – can’t wait till their visit in two weeks….)
    Tonic wise, the basics is fine, but again if you can afford it schweppes is nicer – slimline for the calorie conscious.
    To really pimp up this drink, i like to use a dash of lemon juice, one of the squeezable lemons will do, I find my G+Ts are so far and few between any lemons I buy tend to turn a nasty shade of green before I get round to including them in my drink…..
    Not quite Gourmet but highly passable.

    Starter from the Cupboard
    A starter made from a student store cupboard is tricky… but i managed to create one with virtually no prep as well.
    Starting point, some sainsbury’s basics chopped tomatoes and some crisp bread.

    Chopped tomatoes
    1 chopped onion
    2 chopped cloves garlic
    vinaigrette made with 1/2 oil, 1/2 vinegar (balsamic if possible)
    salt and pepper
    (if you have basil even better)

    Mix altogether and top the crisp bread

    In pizza express they would charge you £4.80 for that (and this serves a lot more than one)

    Main Course
    I always tend to have cooked chicken (mostly because I don’t trust my fridge to not give me food poisoning if I keep raw meat in there constantly), and I try and keep onions, carrots and sweet potatoes in my cupboard because they always come in useful.
    So Supper today is…Mashed Sweet Potato Balsamic roast and ricotta cheese

    Chop onions and carrots, toss in oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. Place in a microwave proof dish and cover with cling film, pierced in various places. Cook on high for 7-10mins. Remove. Prick a sweet potato and place in the microwave for 6mins on high. Remove and replace carrots and onions in uncovered, cook for 2mins, then stir in chicken and cook for a further 2mins. Meanwhile scoop the mash out of the sweet potato skin, season with salt and pepper and butter (sometimes I add a spoonful of pesto but it’s fine without)
    Serve all with a dollop of ricotta cheese on the side.

    Dessert
    Ok so it would be really easy to buy a pot of Gu and heat that up in the microwave and all that but this is cheap and chocolatey and easy, and you can even call it molecular gastronomy because it has an element of science….

    Dark Chocolate and water. Melt over a pan of water in a bowl without stirring. Cool. Once Cool whisk together. To pimp it up add a little orange zest and top with creme fraiche.

    A cheap and easy 3 course meal, using mostly store cupboard ingredients. Add a large glass of red wine for real celebration.

    Countdown to Christmas: 2 days to go

    Countdown to Christmas: 2 days to go

    Now the struggle is no longer against an empty fridge, but instead against a choco-blok full fridge of ingredients I am not allowed to use (according to myself…) This is quite a challenge as I am tempted by delicious looking smoked salmon, home made hummus, a huge log of stuffing and copious amounts of mince pies and brandy butter. But instead I turn once again to the freezer (it’s always these moments that I miss having a freezer at uni, surely a freezer would be most useful to a student who is very poor and can is only cooking for one? Cambridge take note…) I was also keen to make a fairly healthy meal tho prepare us for the excesses of christmas (see above) I’m also not allowed to go too exotic with my Dad and Grandpa (and hide the onions – they have quite similar tastebuds) So in the end I pull up a twist on an old recipe of mine (pea pesto) to serve with a french classic, chicken in white wine sauce, with a healthier slant.

    Coq au Vin (blanc) with pea mash (serves 5)

    2 medium onions
    5 chicken breasts
    glass of white wine
    handful of thyme
    5-6 cloves garlic
    chicken stock
    lemon juice
    salt
    pepper
    1tbsp flour
    2tsp groundnut oil

    500g frozen peas
    handful mint
    salt
    pepper
    2 cloves garlic
    lemon juice
    1tsp truffle oil

    Chop onion into small squares, smash garlic with a crusher or bang the flat side of a knife hard against garlic halves to flatten. (NB to peel garlic easily, chop each clove in half and push from skin side to pop clove out of its shell)
    Heat oil in a large pan and add onion and garlic and a good sprinkling of salt (to draw out the water from the onion and aid sweating)
    When soft, add the wine and thyme, pepper and lemon juice. Add the chicken breasts and top with chicken stock, and simmer for 15mins. Remove chicken from the pan, add the flour and whisk to avoid lumps, reducing till you get a slightly thickened sauce, place the chicken back in the pan to serve
    Meanwhile for the pea puree, bring the peas to the boil and immediately drain. Place into a food processor with all the other ingredients and blitz till smooth

    Serve