Twas the night before Christmas…

Now I am essentially what they call a ‘working gal’, I was in the cafe right up to the hilt. This meant, unfortunately, that I was unable to indulge in my usual 3 day cooking marathon in the run up to Christmas, and SHOCK HORROR, had nothing prepared for Christmas lunch before the big day itself. This is unheard of from the girl who usually has everything chopped, prepped and cooked the day before, save the Turkey. I had luckily still found time to create the, now infamous, Christmas spreadsheet and book the grocery delivery slot. -my mother still doesn’t actually know the password, her grocery shops are so infrequent- Credit where credit is due however; I arrived home to a stocked and catalogued kitchen. Mother had received the food delivery and processed it in the only way a lawyer knows how to. This meant that once I breezed in off the dreaded 3 ½ hour coach journey from Cambridge at around lunch time, waving to the grandparents as I walked past them, I could set straight down to work on the Christmas Eve dinner.

I would say it is a tradition in our household to have a three course dinner on Christmas Eve, but considering I instigated it a few years ago when I took over proceedings, it is more of an indulgence of a personal whim. What is more of a family tradition is negotiating the short time frame in which to eat dinner between watching ‘Carols from Kings’ between 5.25pm and 7pm with a glass of bubbly and finishing before the 9.15pm rehearsal for Midnight Mass. The time constraint is combined with the limitations of: my grandmother’s aversion to peas and nuts, my father and his father’s aversion to visible celery, cabbage (I ignored this one) and onions and everyone’s fear of fish bones and remotely undercooked meat. Catering for everyone’s request whilst still gratifying my experimental mindset is a challenge every year.

This year we began with a starter inspired by The Organist’s New Years Eve extravaganza last year, crab mayonnaise. Made by simply mixing crab meat ( I chose brown crabmeat but next time I will go for white, more expensive but a better texture) with lemon juice, mayonnaise, black pepper and salt. I served this with an avocado cream made by blending 3 avocados with Crème fraiche, a small pinch of salt and lemon juice. The combination of the salty crab with the smoother avocado made for a pleasing blend.

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I followed this with a venison and chestnut stew, herb crumble, winter slaw and roasted squash purée.
For 6:
Brown 600g Cubed venison dusted with flour,pepper and salt in a little olive oil. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add 2 onions, cubed and 6 rashes of unsmoked, thick bacon and sauté with a pinch of salt until the onions are translucent. Deglaze the pan with a glass of port. Add thyme, a bay leaf and a spoonful of juniper berries. Finally return the venison to the pan with a beef stock cube, enough water to fill the pan. Place in the oven with a lid or covered in foil for 1 ½ hours at 180oC. Remove from the oven and add 250g cooked and peeled chestnuts, simmer on the stove top for 20mins until thickened.
For the crumble: Mix 300g breadcrumbs with salt, pepper, chopped parsley and chopped sage. Toast in the oven at 180oC until browned, mixing occasionally.
For the purée: Roast 500g cubed butternut squash with 1 chopped red onion, 3 chopped garlic cloves, a drizzle of olive oil, a drizzle of white wine vinegar, a drizzle of truffle oil and chopped sage at 180oC for 30mins, until soft. Blend.
For the slaw: Chop 1 red cabbage and mix with 1 grated apple, 1 tbsp of mustard, a handful of raisins and 2 tbsp mayonnaise. Season to taste.

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The day before Christmas Day I suppose one does not want anything too heavy in order to preserve one’s appetite for the main event. So for dessert I decided on a dish that was small and sweet. A champagne sabayon with popping candy, served with dark chocolate matchsticks. I kid you not, the matchsticks were a revelation. The intense bitterness provided by a lychee vinegar based ganache matched the overwhelmingly sweet sabayon well, adding richness and texture to the dish. NB you would not want too much of the sabayon as it is so sweet, in this case a cocktail glass full was ample.
For the sabayon: Whisk 6 egg yolks with 250g sugar, dash of vanilla extract, 200ml sparkling wine and a pinch of salt over a pan of boiling water for 8mins until it has doubled in size and thickened. Immediately remove to whisk over a bowl of iced water for 10-15mins until light and increased in volume again. Pour into glasses and chill. Sprinkle with popping candy just before serving.
For the matchsticks: Melt 200g milk chocolate and 200g dark chocolate together. Meanwhile bring 25ml cream and 50ml lychee (or other fruit flavoured) vinegar with a large pinch of salt to the boil. Immediately pour over the melted chocolate, leave for 1 min and then combine to a thickened ganache. Spoon into a piping bag, pipe into shapes and chill. When set, dust in cocoa powder.

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The House Party

It is sadly an altogether too rare delight that my housemates and I manage to be in the house all at the same time of an evening. Despite the fact we have lived together for the past 4 months, we very rarely seem to manage to all be there at the same time. This may have something to do with the fact that I work during the day, Mark Francis works during the evening and Clare Balding works whenever she can/has to. When we do find ourselves in the house together, it is usually either early in the morning standing in our bedroom doorways clad in dressing gowns for a quick 10 min chat, or occasionally at about midnight, when we all traipse in from our various social activities to share the gossip we know about those still at the university. Hence the fact that a dinner together is practically unheard of. When we discovered we all happened not to have prior social commitments on the same evening, that evening became a social occasion in itself. I hit up Aldi, Clare Balding brought the Prosecco and Mark Francis brought… himself. We decided we would make one course each: CB the starter, myself the main and MF the dessert. I feel each course reflected our different cooking styles…

We began with a classic combination of melon, prosciutto, Parmesan, rocket and balsamic. It was delicious. Sometimes just combining good quality ingredients together is all you need to make a really good dish. (Plus look how pretty it is!)

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I, of course, went to the other extreme: simplicity was not the aim in my dish. I made lamb neck fillets with a harissa pine nut crust, roasted veg and raisin-studded couscous, a thickened tagine-style sauce, sautéed spinach and a mint raita.

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The highlight of the meal was inevitably the pizza, sorry, ‘pudding’. Unfortunately by this point the novelty of cooking had worn off, and we were all more interested in watching Christmas adverts on YouTube and listening to 100 year old recordings of castrati sounding incredibly bad. Mark Francis did his best though, and made beautiful looking (slightly pizza-esque) individual strawberry tarte tatins with grated white chocolate. These managed to be not too sweet and full of luscious strawberry flavour: like a fruit-filled strawberry ice cream. However he was too impatient to actually wait for the tarts to cook… As Mary Berry would say (and I know my housemates are fans) the tarts most definitely had rather soggy bottoms.

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Home Sweet Home

Recently I’ve been feeling very grown up as I have officially moved out of the family home. This of course means I have to pay bills, learn the colours of the recycling bins, keep the place clean….but more importantly stock the kitchen. After living for two days without a fridge (it was incredibly depressing) our kitchen is now so well stocked, it’s hard to believe there are three novice renters living in it. We have an extraordinarily large collection of glasses and sharp knives (all three of us seem to own them somehow..), very few saucepans and crockery and of course my contributions, the kitchen aid, magimix, and chocolate moulds. There’s the three piece tea set, the wine rack, the canapé spoons, in fact all the essentials for a first time home really… Some might say that I don’t have my priorities straight, they certainly won’t be invited round to dinner any time soon! To christen this little haven, I headed round to my new favourite place, our local Aldi, to gather supplies for a meal for the new inmates. It was only when I’d cooked half of it that we realised the kitchen table Claire Balding and Mark Francis had been trying to put up in the corner was missing two legs, so it was a feast, eaten off a mini chest of drawers….

I’m still going through the avocado obsession faze, so for the starter I decided to make tortilla baskets, salmon ceviche and guacamole.

For the ceviche, I chopped 1/2 red onion, 1/2 red chilli, seeds removed,1garlic clove,a handful of coriander, 1 fillet of salmon, skinned and mixed them together with 1tsp olive oil,a large pinch of salt,black pepper and 3-4tbsp lime juice, to taste. Then I set it aside for about 1/2 hour in the fridge, during this time, the salmon turned a pleasing light pink colour ‘cooked’ by the lime juice.
Meanwhile, for the tortilla baskets, I divided a tortilla wrap into 4 quarters, and shaped each into a basket shape in a muffin tray. I baked them in the oven for about 8-10mins on high until golden and stiffened, then left to cool.
For the guacamole, I mashed 1 avocado with salt,pepper, small handful of chopped corianderand 1-2tsp lime juice.
Salmon in the basket, topped with guacamole and a coriander sprig, hey presto.

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The main was slightly more complicated, I have never eaten Beef Wellington.

Now I’ve given you a moment to get over that terrible fact, I decided to make it for the main course of this dinner alongside braised carrots, baby gem lettuce and peas. There are many different ideas about the ideal beef Wellington, whether you add a layer of Parma ham, foie gras or pancakes. But owing to budget and craving for simplicity I stuck to a simple layer of mushroom duxelles. Besides, I believe adding anything that might mean more moisture around the meat will result in a soggy bottom for the pastry. Then of course there’s the pastry itself, again I went for the classic puff (shop bought, there’s no point in making your own except to learn how to do it). However I was recently informed that brioche pastry is even better so I will be trying that in the future. Finally there’s the meat, this I was very insistent should be rump. Aldi turned up trumps, 1 rump steak, easily enough to feed two people for under £5, sorted. Unfortunately I have waste not, want not attitude so used all the pastry resulting in a disastrously skewered pastry to meat ratio and the pastry was a little undercooked on the bottom (I decided to sacrifice this rather than a perfectly medium rare steak when push came to shove). However I was told that it tasted pretty good nonetheless so the recipe is below, just try to hold back on the pastry.

Individual Beef Wellingtons with braised lettuce
1 large rump steak, trimmed of fat and divided into two pieces
1 packet of ready rolled puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
300g mixed mushrooms, finely chopped
Fresh thyme
2tbsp brandy
Splash of truffle oil
1 bay leaf
Olive oil
Salt, pepper
3-4 garlic cloves
1/2 red onion, finely chopped

For the sauce
2tbsp flour
300ml stock
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1tbsp brandy
Fresh thyme, chopped

For the braised lettuce
1 baby gem lettuce, broken into leaves
Peas
Carrots, chopped into discs
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
100ml stock (but 1 stock cube)
1tbsp butter
1/2tsp dried mint

1. Sear the meat over a high heat (try not to set the fire alarm off) for about 1 min each side, set aside to rest in the fridge. Add brandy and garlic for the sauce to this pan immediately then turn off the heat, this will be used later. Nb it will bubble furiously but should die down, put into a cold oven to keep the smoke out of the kitchen.
2. Meanwhile put the mushrooms, garlic, thyme, pepper, bay leaf and onion into a saucepan with a drizzle of olive oil and a hefty pinch of salt. When hot, add brandy to the pan and allow to bubble furiously before turning down the heat, cook until most of the moisture has been drawn out of the mushrooms, add truffle oil at the end of cooking. Set aside in the fridge to cool down.
3. It is important at this point to make sure both the meat and the mushroom mix is cold, or the pastry will melt, ideally your kitchen should be cool as well so maybe make the first two steps earlier in the day. Take out the pastry and brush with a layer of beaten egg. Apply a layer of the mushroom mix leaving a circle around the edge. Place the meat on top and wrap the pastry around, sealing the edges by pinching the pastry together and moulding to the meat, try as hard as you can not to have any gaps at all. Repeat with the second one.

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4. Brush with more beaten egg and refrigerate for 10mins.

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Preheat the oven to 200oC and bake for 25mins. Turn the heat down to 180oC and cook for a further 10mins till the pastry is golden.

5. Meanwhile add the flour to the saucepan with brandy in it from step 1, whisk furiously over a low heat to form a paste, gradually add the stock to the pan, whisking as you go to form a thin liquid, add the thyme and season to taste.
6. For the braised lettuce, Cook the carrots for 3-4mins with the stock, garlic, mint and butter. Add the peas, cook for a further 2mins, and finally the lettuce, cook for another 2mins.
7. Serve

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For dessert I reached another blockage, I discovered at this point in the meal that I was missing a crucial attachment for the magimix, so had to make the magic ice cream below in the kitchen aid and somehow it didn’t work, but prior experience means I know this recipe will most definitely work if you have the right equipment. This also means I didn’t take a picture.

Banana Ice Cream, salted caramel rum sauce, dark chocolate, coconut shortbread

For the Shortbread
60g room temperature coconut oil
80g flour
Vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
25g sugar

For the rest
2 bananas
200g caster sugar
2tbsp rum
50g butter
Vanilla extract
Large pinch of salt
2 squares of 85% dark chocolate

1. Mix the flour, vanilla, salt, sugar and coconut oil together to form a dough. Roll into a thick oblong shape and refrigerate for 30mins or more. Slice the oblong and lay on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 180oC for 10-15mins until golden brown, leave to harden on the tray.
2. Freeze the bananas, peeled and sliced. Just before serving, remove from the freezer and whizz up in a magimix for your own soft serve ice cream.
3. For the sauce, leave the butter, salt and sugar with 2tbsp water over a medium heat, do not stir but you may swirl. When just beginning to turn golden (nb this must be watched or it will be a hard gooey mess -toffee) take off the heat and add the rum and vanilla extract, stir as it bubbles furiously.
4. Serve the ice cream, topped with the sauce and a square of dark chocolate with the shortbread on the side.

Exam Fuel: The Foodie way

Exam Fuel: The Foodie way

I might be going slightly mental during finals. Not only have I used it as an excuse to blow the student budget on nutritionally balanced exam fuel, but I’m also believing any bullshit I read on the internet. For example, because I read that salmon boosts omega 3 I started exam day with smoked salmon and cream cheese on a toasted onion bagel and home pickled dill, juniper and peppercorn cucumber. (my new favourite quick and simple tasty recipe)

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I have been eating ship loads of bananas (apparently potassium boosts your brain), peppermint tea (an obscure website says it reduces stress and panic) and broccoli is becoming a staple of every meal since I became convinced by the rather obviously named super foods.com, that it is a superfood. (Although I’m not sure its skills at fighting birth defects will be that helpful right now). I’m addicted to Pret sea salt dark chocolate, it apparently reduces stress, using pistachios in several of my meals, protein brain boost, and eating mountains of cherries, they help you sleep? 3 down, 1 to go…

So here are a few brain boosting, superfood filled, fuller for longer meals…. when I finish I’m eating cheesecake.

Cucumber Pickle

1. Use a vegetable peeler to make thin strands of cucumber, discarding the centre (or eating it). Scatter over crushed peppercorns, 4 juniper berries, large pinch of salt, chopped dill, 2-3tsp sugar, a splash of lemon juice and 200ml white wine vinegar. Shake, leave overnight. Eat

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Salmon, pistachio basmati rice, lemon and dill sauce and steamed broccoli for 1

1. Take the salmon fillet out of the fridge. Put 50g basmati rice in a pan over a medium heat. Add 1tsp Garam Masala, leave for 1min. Add boiling water and 1 vegetable stock cube and whisk till dissolved. Leave for 10 mins or until a lot of liquid has evaporated but there is still a little left. Stir in 10-12 pistachio nuts, unsalted. Cover and set aside.

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2. Chop 2 garlic cloves into small pieces. Fry in 1/2tsp oil for 2-3mins. Add pepper and 3-4tbsp lemon juice. Add 1/2 stock cube and 250ml water. Bubble till reduced by about half. Whisk in 2 light mini Philadelphia tubs till combined. Reheat and add a large handful of chopped dill, season to taste.

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3. Meanwhile heat a frying pan over a medium heat NB DO NOT LET IT GET TOO HOT. When hot, add the salmon skin side down, unseasoned. Leave untouched for 5-7 mins till the skin is crispy. (NB mine was quite thick) Turn and cook for a further 2-3mins. The salmon should be a really vivid pink inside and tender, if it is too pale you have over cooked it, if it is still fleshy it is rare, better for a different recipe. Luckily mine was perfect 🙂 Finally steam the broccoli, serve.

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I’m not claiming this will get me a first but it certainly sent me into my exam smiling. Image

Smoked Salmon, Creamy scrambled eggs, Sweet roasted peppers, toasted onion bagel

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Usually I am a great advocate of butter, try as I might to be healthy – even I have to admit butter makes everything taste better. In the light of healthy exam fuel I made my eggs with half fat creme fraiche. I am a convert, the creamiest, fluffiest scrambled eggs ever.

1. Chop 1 pepper into strips. Scatter with a pinch of salt. Microwave on high for 5-8mins (I did this the night before).

2. Whisk 3 eggs, pinch of salt, pepper and 1 tbsp light creme fraiche. Microwave for 30secs at a time, whisking between each spurt. BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVERCOOK, the eggs will keep cooking, so set them aside when they are still a bit runny.

3. Toast a bagel, top with the eggs (no butter), strips of smoked salmon, the pepper and a sprigs of dill.

Soy milk porridge, berry compote, salted pistachios

1. Put 50g oats, 250ml unsweetened soy milk and a pinch of salt in a pan. Simmer for 5-6mins, stirring. Pour into a bowl.

2. Put 1 snack pack of blueberries in a pan with 2tsp sugar and 3tbsp water. Simmer for 5mins. Place on porridge with a small handful of salted pistachio nuts. 

Lean Rump steak, light peppercorn sauce, paprika sweet potato chips, lemon and garlic broccoli, serves 1 – 15mins.

1. Chop 1 small sweet potato into thin strips. Scatter with sea salt and paprika. Roast on high in the microwave for 8-10mins.

2. Meanwhile heat a frying pan seasoned with a little salt and pepper. Trim the 200g steak of all visible fat. Chop 2 garlic cloves into thin slices and put in the bottom of a saucepan. Top with an in saucepan steamer and fill with chopped broccoli. Steam for 5mins.

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3. Fry the steak for 3-4mins on each side for rare – medium rare. Set aside. Add  2 chopped cloves garlic into the steak pan. Fry for a minute. Add a good glug of cooking brandy (I know I’m off booze for exams but this is medicinal, and the alcohol is burnt off). Sprinkle in 1 crushed stock cube, 1tsp slightly crushed peppercorns and 150ml water. 

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4. Meanwhile drain the broccoli and garlic. Return to the saucepan with a good dose of lemon juice. Cover off the heat, shake and leave aside. Add 1-2tbsp light creme fraiche to the sauce and stir. Return the steak to the pan with any juices that have seeped out. Leave for a minute. Serve. The steak should be on the cusp of turning pink.

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Rare Teriyaki Salmon, garlic, ginger and chilli chickpea mash, Coriander leaves, crispy chilli broccoli.

1. Heat a frying pan. Meanwhile pour the contents of a small can of chickpeas in water into a pan (including the water). Add 1/2 small chopped red chilli, seeds removed, 2 cloves garlic, chopped,1/2 a stock cube and 1tsp chopped ginger. 

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2. Place 1 fillet of salmon skin side down in the heated pan. Cook for 2-4 mins until the skin is crispy, remove from the pan and set aside. Add 1 large garlic clove, 1/2 small chopped chilli, seeds removed and fry for 2-3mins. Add 4tbsp soy sauce, 1tbsp rice vinegar, and 2tbsp sugar. Leave to bubble.

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3. Take the chickpeas of the heat and mash with a fork. Place 1 chopped garlic clove and 1 small chopped chilli, seeds removed and some broccoli  to a pan, fry for 1-2 mins. Add a small amount of boiling water and leave to steam.

4. When the teriyaki sauce has reduced by a third, add the salmon flesh side down. Leave for 1-2mins (for medium cook for a further 2mins – I like my salmon rare in the middle in this dish but not raw. The colour of raw salmon but not the texture).

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5. The broccoli water should have totally evaporated and the broccoli should be soft. Serve the salmon on top of the chickpea mash, scattered with coriander.

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Ultimate Challenge: £10, one person, microwave (and hob), 20min decadent menu

Ultimate challenge: £10 student microwave (and hob) 20min menu 

I’m not sure you are technically allowed to review yourself when writing a blog but having addressed the ultimate  challenge for any student. You have finished a module of your exams, you want to treat yourself but all your friends are still busy. You can’t really afford (nor would you want to ) to eat alone in a restaurant and you only have a microwave. On top of that your fridge is the size of a shoebox and you can almost guarantee that anything left in it will go off before it has been worth the money you paid for it, plus you are trying to be relatively healthy but are pretty damn hungry. You also (in this woman’s case) have recently purchased a ridiculous amount of amazing bordeaux wine for only £3 a bottle,  what is the point of going out anywhere.

Yes I was lucky to find the £4 rump steak (reduced from £5) but otherwise….and it is £10.41 but who is counting!!!!

Ingredients

2x Mussels in white wine sauce (save one for later) – £2.99

4x bread rolls (3x lunches for the week) – £0.69

Rump steak 200g – £4

1x sweet potato (save half for later) – £0.49

Asparagus bunch (save half for later) – £0.49

1 muller light coconut and lime yoghurt – £0.69

4x lightest cream cheese individual packs (save 1 for later) – £1.00

6 large eggs (save 5 for later) – £1.15

1 snack pack Belvita breakfast biscuits – £0.50

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20:00 Whisk together 1 egg, yoghurt and cream cheese until smooth.

19:00 Pour into a microwave proof dish. Chop the sweet potato into thin strips (the thinner they are the better they work).

18:00 Chop the asparagus and place in a saucepan with a pinch of salt. Season a frying pan with salt, pepper and a very small drizzle of oil. Place on a high heat to heat up.

17:00 Meanwhile place the cheesecake in the microwave covered in a small piece of paper towel. Microwave on high for 1min, it should be mostly cooked. Microwave in 20sec bursts until cooked in the centre. Crush the biscuits into crumbs and sprinkle over the top, refrigerate.

16:00 Put the mussels in a saucepan to heat up (roughly 4 mins). Place the bread roll in the microwave on a low heat for about 45s    ec to warm up. Put the steak on to fry, roughly 2mins on each side for medium rare.

12:00 Cover the steak in foil and put aside to rest. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt, pepper a small drizzle of oil and smoked paprika. Put in the microwave on medium high for 10mins. Meanwhile eat your mussels and crusty warm bread.

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02:00 Boil water and cook the asparagus for about 2mins. Turn the microwave to high and cook the potatoes for a further 2mins.

00:00 Serve. Eat cheesecake after.

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Cookies and Pate

Cookies and Pate
Once again I managed to turn a holiday into an excuse to spend 12 hours a day in the kitchen, this time with a rather perfect background of Jazz recording next door, intoxicating blue sky and for that matter intoxicating amounts of wine.

 Although I particularly enjoyed the saxophone production line assisting me when making 80 canapés for the concert, the most successful recipes turned out to be duck liver pate (only in france) and chocolate chip cookies of which I couldn’t make enough…
Disclaimer: Unfortunately I had no scales or measuring jugs etc so I did mot of the amounts by sight… but I’ve written roughly the right amounts

Cookies
These cookies may not look much like cookies, more like misshapen slabs but I have testimonials that the are pretty damn good.

Makes roughly 30-40
500g butter
500g caster sugar
1tbsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
500-600g flour (until you have the right consistency)
pinch of salt
200g chocolate chips

1. Cream the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy.
2. Beat in the eggs one at a time with the vanilla extract, you will need to beat pretty hard to combine.
3. Add the flour a bit at a time with the salt and mix hard. You want to have the consistency of a stiff cake mix, not quite as solid as your average biscuit dough.
4. Finally stir through the chocolate chips.
5. Scoop ice cream size balls of the cookie dough onto a greaseproof paper lined tray and bake in the oven for 12-15mins at 180oC until the dough has spread out and the cookies are golden brown, just starting to crisp up on the edges, you may have to separate the cookies. Leave to cool and harden up, serve.

Pate
I’m not sure yet whether this pate will work out of france because it is so very french, mostly duck livers and garlic… I also realise the prospect of eating duck liver might freak some people out so there is an equally rich mushroom pate recipe below which pretty much looks the same too. Usually you would use brandy or port for this but all I had was wine… Likewise for the really daring feel free to set the alcohol in the pan on fire (flambé) I was just a bit scared of burning down someone else’s house.

Makes A lot.
900g duck livers
400g butter
pepper and salt
thyme
6 shallots
10 garlic cloves
200ml white wine
200ml red wine

1. Heat 200g of butter in a pan and add the shallots, garlic, pepper and lots of salt. Sweat for 5-8mins or until soft. Add the thyme.
2. Add the duck livers and brown all over, add the alcohol and bubble it off as quickly as possible (here is where the flambé comes in)
– you may want to do this in batches depending on your pan.
3. Blitz the livers mix and the rest of the butter in a food processor till smooth, pour into a dish and leave in the fridge to set.

Mushroom Pate

Makes a lot
150g butter
4 shallots
2 leeks

12 cloves garlic
700g basic white mushrooms (mix this up a bit and add different mushrooms for different flavour)
salt and pepper
tarragon
200g creme fraiche

1. Sweat the shallots, leeks and garlic in a pan with the butter, salt and pepper until soft. Add the tarragon and mushrooms and bubble until most of the liquid from the mushrooms has gone.
2. Blitz in a food processor with the creme fraiche, then pour into a dish and leave in the fridge to set.

Peas Please Louise: Mummy had a little lamb….

Peas Please Louise: Mummy had a little lamb….

Loosely based on a Fat Duck this is dedicated to my mum – Happy Mothers Day.

Ingredients (serves 2)
Lamb
2tsp fennel seeds
1 dried bay leaf
salt and pepper
3 juniper berries
dash lemon juice
800g rolled, boned lamb breast, cut in half widthways to make two pieces
Pea Puree
300g frozen peas
½ garlic stock cube (or 2 cloves crushed garlic)
pinch of salt
60g butter
dash of cream
dash lemon juice
4 sprigs dill
Caramelised Onion Gel
1 large white onion
1 large red onion
knob of butter
1 leaf gelatine
Pickled Cucumber
¼ cucumber stick
100ml olive oil
100ml white wine vinegar
black pepper
splash of lemon juice
3 sprigs dill
pinch of salt (3g)
pinch of sugar (5g)
Lamb Jus
Reserved caramel onions
Reserved lamb juice
Spelt Poppadoms
200g flour
water
oil
1tsp fennel seeds
50g spelt
pinch of salt


1.     For the Pickled Cucumber, peel and halve the cucumber lengthways. Halve lengthways again then halve widthways. Mix the oil, vinegar, pepper, lemon juice, salt, sugar and cucumber. Leave to marinate.
2.     For the Caramelised Onion Gel, peel the onions and slice into rings thinly. Put in a frying pan with the butter and cover, leaving over a low heat for 30mins. When the onions are golden and caramelised, remove from the heat and pour over 150ml water immediately, then cover. Leave for 5mins, and then drain the onions, reserving the liquid. Soak the gelatine in cold water for 1min then mix into the onion liquid. Place in the fridge for 1-2hrs until set*. Puree the remaining onions and reserve.
3.     For the Puree, Pour boiling water over the peas with the garlic. Leave for 3-5mins, topping up with boiling water if the water goes cold, until the peas are a bright green and do not feel frozen but feel a little tender. Drain and puree wit the butter and cream, leave aside.
4.     For the lamb, place in a shallow dish and pour over the spices. Then pour over boiling water and leave for 7mins.
5.     For the Poppadoms’, mix the flour, salt, fennel seeds, 2tbsp oil and spelt with water, adding until it forms a firm dough (roughly 100ml-200ml water). Split into 3 pieces and roll out thinly. Heat up 3tbsp oil in a pan till hot, fry each piece for 4mins until crispy, turning halfway.
6.     For the lamb, drain and reserve the liquid. Heat 1tbsp oil in a large pan and sear the lamb for 2-3mins on each side. Meanwhile mix the onions and 300ml reserved lamb liquid and heat to boiling, simmering for 5mins until it forms a jammy gravy.
7.     To serve, warm the pea puree and spoon a large teardrop onto the right side of the plate. Delicately place four cucumber pieces on the left of the tear drop on each plate at different angles. Chop each lamb piece into four slices and lay on top of the teardrop. Gently spoon over the gravy on the lamb. Spoon out dabs of the Caramelised onion gel and dot between the cucumber Finally break up the poppadum and place a shard between each lamb slice facing upwards, finish with dill sprigs.

*alternatively place in freezer for 30-40mins

An Indian Winter

An Indian Winter

Tonights meal actually had a little forethought – usually it is a case of whatever is in the freezer. But today I was feeling pretty pleased with myself having actually got some work done on my coursework so it felt I might actually have something to hand in at the end of the year. So I popped to Tesco’s and delved into the reduced items (ever the savvy student) and found some pork medallions. I am the first to admit that my meals tend to be mostly french or british inspired with the occasional foray into Moroccan or Oriental, but today i decided to tackle something I have never really attempted before, Indian. As I may have mentioned before my parents do not have the most adventurous taste buds (I’m training them) so the curry recipe below is VERY mild. My first problem with my wonderful idea was getting home and realising I had no cream or coconut milk…. I did however have creme fraiche (I know a seemingly never ending supply – maybe I should write a book, 101 ways with creme fraiche…) My second problematic encounter was realising I was trying to make yellow rice studded with raisins…..without any raisins, however I did have cranberries (you can see where this is going). The final problem I had was I only had a very small amount of gram masala and no curry powder, although I actually made it sort of work by bulking out the garem masala with turmeric and cardamon. If you have more Garem masala (and I expect this is probably the case) feel free to use just that. On the other hand the cranberries and creme fraiche worked rather well and it worked rather well.

Garem Masala crusted pork medallions, cranberry studded yellow rice and curried sauce

Serves 2

6 pork medallions
handful of breadcrumbs
2tsp of garem masala
2 tsp mustard powder
2-3 tsp dried coriander leaves
salt
pepper
1 tbsp ground nut oil

wedge of butter
100-150g rice (however hungry you are) easy cook is best
salt
pepper
couple of cardamon pods
1 tsp turmeric
handful cranberries
water

1tbsp groundnut oil
2-3 shallots, chopped into little squares
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1tsp garem masala
1tsp turmeric
couple of cardamon pods
salt
pepper
dollop tomato puree
1 bay leaf
water
chopped coriander (we have frozen – I’d advise this)
2-3tbsp creme fraiche

1. Roll the outside of the medallions in the breadcrumbs, mixed with all the dry ingredients
2. Meanwhile sweat the shallots and garlic in the groundnut oil with a good sprinkling of salt.
3. after a few mins add the spices and cook for another minute.
4. Add the tomato puree, bay leaf and roughly 200-300ml water, let it bubble away for a bit until thickened a little.
5. Meanwhile place all the rice ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil
6. Sear the breadcrumbed sides of the pork in the groundnut oil (use tongs for this) then return all medallions to the pan and place in the oven at 180OC for 10mins
7. Before you are about to serve ( rice should have soaked up most of the water) stir the creme fraiche and coriander into the sauce.
8. Place a dollop of rice in the centre of the plate, top with 3 medallions each and drizzle over the sauce
 
 

Brined, Braised, Belly Up

Brined, Braised, Belly Up
Ingredients (serves 3)
For the Pork
3 pork belly slices
500ml water
1tbsp salt
1tsp sugar
1tbsp sherry vinegar
1 bay leaf
4 peppercorns
2 cardamom pods
1tbsp thyme
1 nutmeg clove
1 clove garlic
3 juniper berries
For the Ebly risotto
2tbsp butter
1tbsp marmite
150g ebly
½ large onion
1 garlic clove
1tsp thyme
2tbsp pine nuts
For the Jelly
150ml Brining liquid
3 gelatine leaves
For the ceps
9 baby mushrooms
2tbsp olive oil
2tsp salt
2tsp thyme
For the jus
200ml brining liquid
½ vegetable stock cube
2tsp marmite
For the cabbage
½ savoy cabbage
25g butter
1tsp salt
3 juniper berries
To serve
4 tbsp puffed rice
2tbsp brown sugar
1tsp salt
sage leaves
1.     For the pork, boil the water then pour over the pork with all the ingredients. Leave for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove the pork and bring the liquid back to the boil, reserve 150ml, remove from the heat, replace the pork and leave for a further 1-2 hours.
2.     For the jelly, with the 150ml of brining liquid reserved, heat till boiling. Meanwhile soak the gelatine leaves in cold water, then squeeze dry and mix into brining liquid till it melts. Line 3 ramekins with clingfilm and pour in jelly in a thin layer. Place in the fridge to set.
3.     For the risotto, chop the onions and garlic into small squares and fry in the butter and marmite for 5mins over a medium heat. Add the ebly and thyme and stir, gradually add up to 250ml water, cooking slowly till the mixture is thick and the water is absorbed into the ebly but it is still al dente. Meanwhile heat the pine nuts in a dry pan till toasted light brown. Add to the risotto and place aside.
4.     For the ceps, Marinade the ceps in the oil, thyme and salt for 30mins. Then cut in half and place the halves face down in a frying pan and fry over a high heat without touching them for 2-3mins.  Remove and set aside.
5.     For the Pork, heat 1tbsp walnut oil in a pan, and place the pork skin side down, searing for 6mins, until skin is brown and crispy. Sear each side 2-3mins on each side, then place to one side under foil.
6.     For the cabbage, cut the stem out and shred into wide strips. Place in a saucepan with the juniper, salt, butter and 1tbsp butter. Cook for 2-3 mins covered over a medium heat.
7.     For the jus, place 200ml brining liquid in a pan with the marmite, stock cube and 200ml water, reduce until a thick consistency (approx. 7-10mins)

8.     To serve, mix the puffed rice, salt and sugar, place on a baking tray and place in a preheated oven at 180oC for 5mins until golden brown. Place the risotto in ramekins and top with jelly then place some puffed rice on top. Place the ramekin in the top RH corner of the plate. Place the cabbage in bottom LH corner of the plate. Cut each piece of pork in half diagonally, and lay on the cabbage. Lead a trail in an L shape from each side of the cabbage with the mushrooms.  Spoon jus over the pork and garnish with sage leaves. Serve

Give it a Bit of Welly – A view from the other side

Give it a Bit of Welly – A view from the other side
So this week we’ve left the bubble that is Cambridge and moved into an equally self contained place, Oxford. 

Guest Post from an Oxford Student

This year our beautiful fourteenth century hall has been replaced by a tent on the front lawn and so I have taken to cooking for myself. Having done the basic student stuff I moved on to do a twelve hour pork belly a fortnight ago which (though it ended up being more like nine and a half hours) was a resounding success. Unfortunately, my friends are the ambitious sort and so I need to keep on throwing more complex and impressive things at them to maintain the illusion of culinary competence. This week it was time to have a go at Venison Wellington. The benefit of this is that it’s basically the same as I did a fortnight ago but with a different centrepiece: the veg and Yorkshire pudding is now well practiced.
 
The covered market in Oxford is the only place to buy meat. It’s almost always cheaper than Tescos, invariably better quality and you get a chat and a smile with the person behind the counter rather than a computer to whose sole task, selling you stuff, it seems completely ill suited. The butchers I tend to go to is Meat Master whose owner, Matthew, seems keen on rowdy youths like me experiencing interesting meat. This time round he offered me camel and kangaroo. I think I’ll sample them at a later date and report back.
He got hold of a kilo of venison loin off the bone for me at only £22. There was another piece he said might be a bit nicer for £28, but I was working to a budget of £5 a head. That slab of meat procured, I had a quick nip round Tescos picking up carrots, parsnips, spuds, broccoli, mushrooms, pate, Parma ham, chestnuts and a large onion. I must confess at this point that I also bought puff pastry. I’ve made it before and it just wasn’t worth the effort. It all came to about £12.
 
I scurried back down holywell street and into the kitchen of a college owned house where some friends of mine live.
Having rubbed the meat with olive oil, I browned it on each side in a frying pan on a medium flame and set it aside.
I turned the oven on to 200oC. That bit I could do.
Next I chopped up a packet mushrooms and onion into manageable sizes and blended them a little without any liquid so that the would be very finely chopped rather than a paste. These were thrown into the frying pan with a bit more oil until the onion was soft. To this I added the remains of a decanter of port I had kicking around (as one does) until it was reduced.
While it was simmering away, aided by the odd prod of a wooden spoon here and there, I laid out about two feet of cling film and laid out the Parma ham so that rind overlapped the meat of the slice beneath it. Onto this I spread the mushroom, onion and port mix.
Returning to the now cooled venison slab, I covered its top side with the pack of pork liver pâté and rolled this, pâté side down onto the middle of the mushroom and onion.
I have the hand eye coordination of a stupid slug so the next bit proved trickier for me than for a person of normal intellectual abilities. I had to lift the cling film on either side of the venison and wrap it around the meat. Simple as it sounds, it’s just quite fiddly once you factor in the effects of gravity upon Parma ham.
However, that done, I got on with rolling out pastry into a large enough rectangle that that could form the outside layer around the Parma ham. Being a student kitchen, this was done with a mug rather than a rolling pin. Normal people should use a rolling pin. I imagine it takes much less time. The meat parcel was duly unwrapped from its Clingfilm and rolled into the centre of the pastry. This was then wrapped around it, sealing the edges with a dab of egg wash. I spread the remainder of the egg wash over the top and sides of the pastry.
Next came peeling and slicing of veg. I tried to get it so that they were all roughly the same chip shape and size. I let them simmer in a pan for five minutes before draining and dousing them liberally with olive oil. For a bit of interest, I sprinkled with dried mixed herbs. Before being shoved in the oven for an hour and a quarter alongside the Wellington. One of the friends who ate has a real aversion to bloody meat or I would have put it in for only about an hour.
The chestnuts didn’t work out quite as well as I would have hoped and I’m not really sure what the trick with them is. I cut a cross in the skin of each and baked them at 200oC for an hour. Any clues on how to do them better much appreciated.
The Yorkshire Pudding is just pancake mix in an ovenproof bowl but that worked out nicely. The gravy was easy enough, just onions, red wine, beef stock cube,
It seemed to go down well. I would have preferred the meat a bit bloodier and I’m not really sure what wasn’t right about the chestnuts, but my friends ate it all and enjoyed it. One of their number had a Chateau Fonplégade 2003 tucked away somewhere and that seemed to go nicely with it. 
 

Suggestions for the next time I cook…?
Venison Wellington
·      Put a large frying pan on medium heat. Rub venison in olive oil and seal on all sides.
·      Heat butter in the pan and wait till it’s foaming. Fry the onions in the pan till they’re soft. Throw in blended mushrooms for six minutes then add the port. Leave to cool once it’s reduced.
·      Lay out clingfilm on a table and overlap proscuitto. Spread the cooled mushroom and onion mix over it.
·      Cover the venison with påté and lay it in the centre of the ham and mushroom. Lift the sides of the clingfilm around the meat so that it is wrapped in the layer of mushroom and ham.
·      Roll out the pastry so that it’s large enough to wrap around the meat.
·      Gingerly remove the cling film and place the venison package in the centre of the pastry and brush the venison parcel with egg wash. Wrap the pastry around the meat.
·      Cook at 200OC
Roast Vegetables
·      Peel and slice vegetables
·      Simmer for 5 minutes
·      Put in a roasting tin and lightly cover with olive oil.
·      Sprinkle with salt and mixed herbs.
·      Roast for 30-35 minutes. Turn over half way through.