Mayday! Mayday!

I don’t know if you realise but in Oxford May Day is a big deal. I mean really big. We temporarily shed our old school – 14th century – eccentric reputation and go more old school 9th century pagan bat shit crazy. I’m talking brass bands in the streets, madrigals from Magdalen tower at 6am, Morris dancing in fancy dress and of course in the time honoured British tradition; drinking from dawn (although does it count if you never really stopped)…. I’m almost disappointed I didn’t join in this year. Then again being an old lady who survives on the minimum amount of sleep during the week, getting up at my usual time (6am) seemed a little unnecessary. Besides apparently in the modern age you don’t even need to be there to join in the festivities, the madrigals from magdalen college were live streamed on Facebook. I could enjoy them from my cosy bed a couple of hours later. However considering I was awoken by my father at 6.15am and informed we were going to breakfast to at least pretend we’d been joining the throngs in the streets, against my better judgement I was thrust into the bizarre dream world that is May Day morning. It’s like still that feeling after a crazy party which went on till dawn. Even if you weren’t drinking the night before. It feels like everyone is either still drunk, or on the cusp of a hangover. You can drink before 8am, calories don’t matter and the more you look like you haven’t slept, the better. What a beautiful may morning it was. The sun was out, the brass band was playing, everyone was smiling and I was heading to an free, albeit early, breakfast. What a disappointment. I didn’t mention the down side to this glorious Oxford only holiday. The restaurants know everyone will want breakfast. They know everyone will pay a bomb and seemingly not care what they’re eating. But I’m afraid I’m not everyone. Maybe it’s just me, but when I order smoked salmon and scrambled eggs in a restaurant I usually expect toast or something with it, especially at £8.50. Even worse when I asked for toast they said they weren’t doing bread today. I couldn’t tell whether it was a veiled attempt to encourage me onto a low carb diet or just a cheapskate restaurant trying to conceal the fact they’d run out of a staple of the breakfast menu on one of there busiest breakfast services in the year. Either way Quod was in my bad books. Especially because I don’t get treated to breakfast out often. Heck during the week most meals are a mixture of tasting as I cook and apples, munched sporadically through the day.This rant is mostly culminating in an explanation of why I felt a craving for such a ridiculously hipster lunch. I’m mostly ironically disparaging to the Instagram gurus obsessed with avocado and kale and cashew nut cheese. But secretly, I’m one of them. I’m probably the only person who genuinely really likes kale but it’s really tasty and it feels like your eating your way to the elixir of youth, which can’t be a bad thing. Maybe I’m just hanging out with students too much but feeling world weary and old at 23 can’t be a good thing. So here’s my recipe for avocado, marmite and smoked salmon toast with kale and purple sprouting broccoli salad, walnut and maple dressing. #notnigella #iknownigelladidarecipeforthisandgotridiculedmaybeimjustasbad #healthguru #deliciouslymeta #ironic #dontjudgemebecauseimgreen #marmitegoeswitheverything

1 avocado

1 slice toast (preferably sourdough)

Marmite

Chilli flakes

Smoked salmon

Kale

Walnut oil

Rice wine vinegar

Sea salt

Maple syrup

Purple sprouting broccoli

It’s simple to be honest, but oh so delicious. Just toast the bread. Blanch the broccoli in boiling and refresh in cold water. Combine 3 parts walnut oil to 1 part rice wine vinegar and season to taste with sea salt and maple. Pour over kale and microwave for 1 min. Add broccoli. Top bread with a thin layer of marmite, avocado and smoked salmon. Eat.

I know you don’t really need a recipe but you’ll get over it. Some people like to follow instructions and if you follow these you get a damn good meal. I’d call it brunch, but I already had breakfast…

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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.

  

Lemon and Garlic Cod, Truffled red pepper puree, pearl barley risotto and crispy pine nuts. Pimms Jelly, Avocado mousse and Vanilla and raspberry macaroons.

I’m sure it appears that my house is an endless stream of dinner parties at the moment. This is mostly because my parents have been storing up invitations to dinner until I came home, giving me an opportunity to practise my cooking before next year. This time it was the turn of some very good family friends of ours who I credit for helping further my career with advice and investment. They were the first people to listen to the ideas of a precocious 17 year old and trust me with catering 21st birthdays, engagement parties and even help me out with my brief hamper business. So no pressure with actually delivering something which lives up to their high opinion of me then… I was tasked with creating something not too heavy and of course given the dreariness of the British weather, something enticingly summery to counteract the rain. But then who in England isn’t extremely used to drinking Pimms outside whilst a faint mist of drizzle falls around them?

   

 

Lemon and Garlic Cod, truffled Red Pepper puree, pearly barley risotto and crispy pine nuts (serves 4)

Cod

4 skinless, boneless cod fillets, 4 garlic cloves, 1 sliced lemon, fresh coriander, black pepper, groundnut oil

Pepper Puree 

3 red peppers, drizzle truffle oil, 1tsp dried oregano, 1tsp dried basil, 1tsp chilli powder, 1tsp paprika, 1tbsp lemon juice, 2tbsp white wine vinegar, 2tsp sea salt 

Pearl Barley Risotto 

2 onions, 4 garlic cloves, drizzle olive oil, lemon juice, 3tbsp sherry, 2tsp each dried rosemary, parsley, thyme, 1tsp turmeric, 1tsp chilli powder, Fresh Coriander, 280g pearl barley, 1 stock cube 

75g pine nuts

  1. For the cod, place fillets on a piece of foil. Scatter with chopped garlic, slices of lemon coriander and black pepper (nb NO SALT) and drizzle with groundnut oil. Fold up into a parcel and crimp the top like a cornish pasty.
  2. Roast the Peppers whole in the oven on the highest setting for 20mins, turning halfway, or until skin is blackened slightly and blistered. Leave to cool.

  3. For the risotto, chop the onion and garlic and sauté in oil and a sprinkle of salt until translucent. Add the sherry and some lemon juice followed by the spices. Add pearl barley and cook for 2-3mins. Add 600ml water and stock cube. Leave to simmer stirring occasionally until water has mostly gone and barley is cooked. Add more water if needed. Stir through herbs. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. This can be heated up just before serving, if doing this, leave a little undercooked and add more water before heating.

  4. To finish the puree, remove the skin and seeds of the peppers. Using a blender liquidise all the ingredients, adjusting seasoning to taste.

  5. Bake the fish at 180 o C for 7-10mins. Meanwhile toast pine nuts on a medium heat in a frying pan for 3-5mins, then crush in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. To serve, spoon puree onto plates, top with risotto, then fish and finally crushed pine nuts.

  

Pimms jelly, Avocado Cream, Vanilla and Raspberry macaroon

Jelly 

125g sugar, 100ml water, 4 sheets gelatine, 125ml pimms, 100ml lemonade, selection of berries to serve, mint leaves

Avocado Cream 

1 avocado, 2tbsp greek yoghurt, pinch salt, 2tbsp icing sugar, 1tbsp lime juice

Vanilla and Raspberry Macaroons 

2 egg whites, 2tbsp caster sugar, 110g icing sugar, 175g ground almonds, 1tsp vanilla bean paste, 75g frozen raspberries, 1tsp vanilla bean paste, 2tbsp caster sugar

  1. For the Jelly, Bring the sugar and water to the boil and boil for 2-3mins. Meanwhile soak gelatine leaves in cold water. Remove syrup from the heat and add gelatine leaves, squeezed out. Add pimms and lemonade and stir. Pour into 4 teacups. Leave to set at room temperature for 1 hour. Add fruit, leave to set in fridge for 2 or more hours.

  2. For the macaroons. Whisk egg whites to stiff peaks. Add caster sugar to form a meringue. Fold in icing sugar, almonds and vanilla bean paste. Scoop mix into a piping bag and pipe into circles on greaseproof paper. You may find it easier to draw templates on the paper first. Preheat oven to 210 o C. Drop trays onto a flat surface from a low heat to remove any air bubbles and peaks. Leave macaroons for 20mins to set the tops. Put in the oven for 5mins or until the macaroons start to brown. Immediately turn the oven off and leave for 30mins.

  3. For the filling, Heat raspberries, caster sugar and vanilla paste over a medium flame. Stir and mash the raspberries together as they defrost. Leave to simmer till dark and jammy Remove from the heat. When room temperature, sandwich to macaroons with the jam.

  4. For the Avocado cream, blend all ingredients together and adjust to taste.

  5. To serve, pipe cream onto the jellies, top with a mint leaf and serve macaroon on the saucer.

Summer Salad: Pesto Salmon, Roasted Tomatoes and Green Bean Salad with a Yoghurt Basil dressing and Giant Garlic croutons.

I’ve been busy, as you might have guessed due to the lack of blog posts. Having returned from my travels as far afield as New Orleans, Sardinia and Kent (blog post to follow) I have made the move all the way back to the family home. Since officially returning to the nest I have spent many hours sorting out all the crap that builds up over 22 years. You know you’re a nineties baby when you find such treasures as the high tech palm pilot, a walkman boasting anti-bumping mechanism (so you can listen to CDs in the car without them skipping) and a Furbie which finally died from neglect. It was while sorting out another area of my life, which I had neglected almost as long as the Furbie, that I was given devastating news. After a trip to the Dentist I managed to dislocate my Jaw in a minor fashion, meaning I am currently on a liquid diet for the foreseeable future. You never know how much you take the ability to chew for granted, and how depressing it is only being able to drink your meals until you have no choice. Thoroughly annoyed at my situation, I have decided to live vicariously through my Parents at meal times. Tonight as I sat down to a large portion of Sweet Potato and Cumin soup, they dug into Pesto Salmon, Roasted Tomato and Watercress Salad, with a Yoghurt Basil Dressing and Giant Garlic Croutons.

  
2 Salmon Fillets

2tbsp pesto

5 cherry tomatoes

dried basil

green beans

2bsp Greek Yoghurt

2tbsp lemon juice

4 garlic cloves

knob of butter

2 slices brown bread

olive oil

Watercress

  1. Preheat the oven to 180oC. Spread a tbsp of Pesto on each Salmon fillet and place in the oven with a drizzle of oil for 15mins. 

  2. Meanwhile halve the tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil and basil, place in the oven.

  3. For the croutons, chop the garlic finely. Heat the butter with 1tbsp oil in a pan on a medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2mins. Quarter the bread slices and fry in the pan for 2-3mins on each side. Scatter with parsley if you wish.

  4. To plate up, boil the green beans for 2-3mins then drain. Meanwhile mix the yoghurt, lemon juice and dried basil and season to taste. Dress the watercress and place in the middle of the plate. Top with green beans, then cherry tomatoes and drizzle over excess oil. Finally top with Salmon fillet and place croutons on the side.

Pan fried sea bream, ginger sweet potato mash, soy and mushroom dressing

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I am going to cookery school next year. Incidentalky, I know Cambridge to cookery school isn’t exactly the most conventional of routes but according to one recent tinder conversation it is hilarious.  

I’m sorry Dylan I don’t think we can be friends.  

Part of what I am especially excited about for next year is exploring a few cuisines I am nit so familiar with. Whilst I reckon I am pretty familiar with french (cream, butter, garlic, butter, snails, butter), Italian (basil, pasta, antipasti, tomatoes, pizza) and of course british (meat, two veg, custard, bread), I have yet to explore cuisines which fall slightly outside my radar. For example whilst I have had some amazing Indian meals, mostly my experience lies in bad Indian takeaway (rarely) and I would like to find out about the proper version of Indian food, which as I know can be fantastic. Likewise Asian cuisine is something I am interested in learning about. The flavours in Asian cuisine are so different from the European flavours that I am overwhelmed even when I attempt to teach myself due to lack of experience. However you have to start somewhere, so when the classicist came over to dinner I cooked her Pan fried sea bream, ginger sweet potato mash, soy and mushroom dressing. 

1. Heat 2 sweet potatoes for 10-12 mins in the microwave on high, until soft. Heat sesame oil, 1 clove garlic (chopped), 2 tsp ground ginger, 2tsp soy sauce and 1tsp sugar in a saucepan for 2-3mins. Scoop out the inside of the sweet potato into the saucepan and combine, mashing as you go.

2. For the mushroom dressing, chop 5 chestnut mushrooms in to thin slices. Sauté in 2 tsp seseme oil, pepper, 1tsp chilli powder, 3tbsp soy sauce, 2tsp fish sauce and 2tsp sugar. Cook for 2-3mins. Add 300ml water and 1/2 stock cube. Reduce by half. 

3. Finally pan fry the bream. Cook for 1min flesh side down in a searing hot pan, flip over and cook for 4mins on the skin side down, it should leave you a crispy skin. Serve. 

  

Banana,Coconut and Lime, boozy sponge with Avocado-Chocolate ganache; a nostalgic nod to Brazil.

What with the launch of the Gonville and Cauis CD of Brazilian music, I got rather nostalgic today for my 2 weeks in Brazil last year and turned back to The Comedy Agent’s Birthday present to me from last year; a book of Brazilan recipes.
IMG_1240IMG_1238Cabana:The Cookbook is not just a recipe fountain but also contains essential guides for life such as ‘how to dance the samba’,
IMG_1237‘how to recognise Brazilian fruit’ (something that would’ve come in useful while in the fruit markets in São Paolo), and of course the vital ‘how to make a perfect Caipirinha’. (I’m still not sure I’m pronouncing it properly, for reference: How to say Caipirinha.)IMG_1239
it is full of wonderful recipes such as: Crazy lady cake (a rich dark chocolate sponge), the addictive Pao de Queijo, and one of my favourite recipes that I am constantly doing variations of, Fejioda, or Black bean stew. Of course being me, I decided to ignore all these recipes and instead take inspiration from all the different flavours. Here is my Banana,Coconut and Lime, boozy sponge with Avocado-Chocolate ganache. As usual, a normal version of this is not enough of a challenge, so this is my healthy, dairy and gluten free version. (Hopefully proving Dairy and gluten free isn’t all expensive, hard to source ingredients)

Cake
100g coconut flakes
2 bananas
1tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
170g caster sugar
100ml oil
Syrup
75ml cachaca (or rum if none available)
50g sugar
pinch sea salt
Ganache
1 large avocado
1tbsp cocoa powder
2 pinches of salt
2tbsp honey
Icing
200g icing sugar
1tbsp cocoa powder
  1. For the coconut flour, Soak the coconut flakes in 25ml hot water for 4hrs. Blend in a blender, drain well, lay out the flakes on a baking tray and dry for either 3hrs at 170°C or overnight with the light on in the oven. Blend in the food processor to a fine powder.
  2. Mix the ingredients for the cake in a food processor. Spoon into a lined cake tin and bake for 30mins at fan 160°C until browned. Leave to cool.

  3. Meanwhile, Heat the syrup ingredients together till sugar is dissolved and syrup has thickened slightly. Pour over cake.FullSizeRender 4. Leave cake to cool COMPLETELY. Make the ganache. Blend the ganache ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Spread onto the cooled cake.

  4. To finish. Make a glace icing by mixing the coca powder and icing sugar with 2-3tsp of water to a very thick icing (nb mix well before adding more water).

  5. Spoon into a piping bag and decorate!

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NB As you may have noticed in this post, I’ve learned how to use links in my blog, onwards and upwards…

Pan-Fried Salmon, Lentil Dhal and Peanut-butter yoghurt with blueberries: Indulgent health food

The Daily Mail is particularly good at the odd health slogan. Some of my favourites include: ‘a mind is a terrible thing to waste and a waist is a terrible thing to mind!’, or ‘he who indulges, bulges’, and my personal favourite ‘If you let the cake control, you’ll look like a cinnamon roll’. While I’m not particularly motivated to avoid food based on either these slogans or the dismally contradictory “health” articles that follow the headlines, I do listen to my singing teacher. She has practically begged me to spend two weeks giving up alcohol, singing and talking in order to finally rest my voice after 3 years of singing almost every day. While I was being this quiet and anti-social, I thought I might as well use the opportunity to try and quell my addiction to chocolate and be a bit healthier for all of to weeks. While I’m never going to turn into a seed eating, yoga loving, alcohol abstainer, I have to admit that I do feel better and will hopefully keep the daily yoga up, [purely because I quite enjoy the satisfaction of finally being able to do a plank for 3 minutes without collapsing…) However I don’t think I would have ever been able to cope with these two weeks if I hadn’t still been able to eat tasty food, while still healthy. Finding partially smoked salmon fillets in sainsburys, I used some of the money I’d saved on booze from the fortnight and created the following dish. The peanut butter yoghurt was a no-brainer for me, I adore peanut butter (have you heard it’s healthy) and mixed with greek yoghurt, it tastes like an indulgent pudding.

Pan-Fried Salmon, Lentil Dhal, serves 2

  1. For the Dhal: Sweat 1 onion and 2 cloves garlic in 1tsp coconut oil and a pinch of salt. Add 1tsp each of; ginger, cumin, turmeric, coriander and chilli powder. Add 1/2 tin chopped tomatoes, 1tsp sugar, 100g red lentils and vegetable stock to cover. Simmer for 15-20mins, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, take the salmon out of the fridge at least 1/2 hour before cooking. Heat a pan, add the salmon, flesh side down for 4-5mins. Flip and cook skin side down for 2-3mins, until skin is crispy. Place on top of the dhal, skin side up and scatter with coriander leaves.

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Peanut butter yoghurt, serves 1

  1. Heat 1tsp peanut butter in a bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds. Mix in 170g greek yoghurt and (optional) 1tsp sugar. Top with blueberries.

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Peanut butter-banana Pancakes or I-missed-pancakes-on-pancake-day-but-now-it’s-lent

I very rarely wake up in the morning feeling like I want to be healthy but I woke up this morning wanting to go for a run. Maybe it was the yoga I’ve started doing or the fact I’ve started using hashtags on Instagram but I’m becoming dangerously close to a healthy lifestyle. At least Pret appears to be on a one shop mission to corrupt this attitude with its dark chocolate and sea salt bars. Following my run I decided to continue the theme with a banana and peanut butter omelette. Unfortunately the box of 12 eggs I bought less than a week ago has fallen prey to Mark-Francis/Violetta’s insatiable poached egg habit, there was 1 left. So I fiddled around a but. I present to you the (in keeping with the theme of recent posts) gluten and dairy free, protein rich breakfast pancake, eatable in lent without fear of guilt.

For 1

  1. Combine 1 egg and a tablespoon of peanut butter. Mix together. Add 50-75ml milk and (for an extra sweet/salt hit) a pinch of sea salt(optional).
  2. Pour mixture into a heated frying pan and cook on medium until the bottom of the pancake starts to become easy to release from the pan.
  3. Fold in half and serve with a drizzle of honey and a chopped banana.

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Eggs Royale: Slimline

It’s Mark Francis’ birthday so what else to do in the most pretentious graduate house there ever was but have a champagne breakfast. (Well sparkling wine) Despite the sore heads from celebrating MF’s birthday the night before we struggled through with hair of the dog. Cue the most unproductive day ever. Breakfast was swiftly followed by birthday cake then a nap, and finally a game of articulate to wind up the day early afternoon. Most importantly I wanted to make Eggs Royale because a) MF has a poached egg for breakfast everyday and b) I am obsessed with the combination of salmon and eggs for breakfast. The problem was the hollandaise sauce. Normally made with an enormous quantity of butter and taking around 20mins of attentive whisking, I wanted to make a version that was healthier and took half the time. Of course we did then cancel out the bid to be healthy with a slice of double chocolate cake but every little helps.

Serves 3
6 eggs
1 packet if smoked salmon
3 muffins
Sprigs of dill
3 egg yolks
4-5tbsp Greek yoghurt
1-2tsp lemon juice
1tsp Dijon mustard
Large pinch of salt
Pepper

  1. Poach eggs (nb I use an egg poacher, simple and effective tool, no faff necessary). Toast and butter muffins, top with salmon followed by eggs.
  2. For the sauce, whisk the egg yolks, yoghurt, lemon juice, mustard and salt together. Place bowl over a saucepan full of boiling water. Whisk for 4-5mins until thickened. Add pepper.
  3. Top eggs with sauce and garnish with dill. Serve with champagne.

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Avocado and Kidney bean Brownies

I put Avocado in Brownies and it worked. It began when I came across a suggestion to substitute avocado for butter in baking, not make the baking healthier, but also to make the recipe dairy free. Likewise I read on t’internet about how kidney and black beans can be used as a replacement for flour in some baking recipes. Never one to shirk from a challenge or do things by halves (and with gluten free and dairy free friends) I decided to combine the two. Would it be possible to make brownies without the seemingly moreish creating factors of dairy and gluten? and possibly end up making the brownies that little bit healthier as well? Apparently so. I am not denying they are not quite on par with orgasm in the tin that is salted caramel brownies… but they are dense, very fudgy and most importantly chocolatey goodness.

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Makes 12
225g 85% dark chocolate
Large pinch of sea salt
1x 400g undrained tin of red kidney beans or black beans
1 small, ripe avocado
2 eggs
225g white sugar
2tsp vanilla extract

1. Drain the kidney beans and bat dry with kitchen towel, to make the beans as dry as possible.
2. Place beans into a food processor and blitz.
3. Add eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and avocado and blitz till mixture is smooth.
4. Meanwhile melt chocolate with sea salt. Add to the mixture and blitz again to a thicker, cake mix like consistency.
5. Spoon into a parchment-lined square tin. Bake for 25-30 mins at 160 oC, until the top is hard but the brownies are still soft underneath. Leave to cool and serve.

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