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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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.

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…

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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London Calling

It was long ago decided my sister was going to be the rich sister, along the same time as she decided to go into Property and about the time I decided to go into food…. Unfortunately I can’t even claim to be the creative one in the family as she is both musical as well and way more fashionable than I am. What I can do however is cook for her friends when I am up. While my sister is not actually a bad cook, the fact that she was surprised that the list of ingredients included olive oil (which she didn’t have in the house) was possibly a good reason for me to intervene when cooking 3 courses for 8… London is still a little bit of a novelty for me. Having grown up in Oxford and barely ever leaving University in Cambridge during term time it’s still slightly exciting to use the tube, shop in Oxford street and go out in London (although the prices soon wear the novelty down). I was down in London to do a course in Wine course, 48 wines in 3 days (although of course you spit most of them away as you have to be pretty on it for the exam at the end of the 3 days). So now I should be able to tell you quite a lot about all the different grapes, where they come from, what they taste like and matching wines to food. (More on that later)

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So for the menu I cooked for my sister (aided I might add at this point by my sister’s lovely friend the business whizz, who came early to help. About 2 mins after I first met her she was chopping onions, absolutely brilliant) I made:

 

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Crunchy Butterbeans

1. Spread out 800g tinned Butterbeans or Garbanzo beans in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over sea salt, pepper, lime juice, paprika, pinch of cinnamon, pinch of cayenne pepper and a drizzle of oil.

2. Roast in the oven 190oC for 30mins, then turn down to 160oC and roast until crunchy, checking every 10mins to stir.

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White Gazpacho

1. Lay out 100g flaked almonds on a baking tray lined with foil. Toast at 200oC for 8-10mins until browned. Roast 2 heads of garlic at 200oC for30-40mins and then set aside to cool. Slice 100g white grapes in half and freeze with 100g quartered slices of cucumber.

2. Cut 375g white grapes in half and place in a bowl with 375g of chopped, skinless and seedless cucumber. Pour over 360ml natural yoghurt, a pinch of salt and pepper, 360ml water, 300g ground almonds, 360g sourdough bread, crust removed and torn into pieces and the roasted garlic cloves. (The best way to do this is using a serrated knife and slice of the bottom of the head of garlic and squeeze out the insides) Mix and leave overnight to marinade.

3. Blend the fridge mix together and season with salt, pepper and sherry vinegar to taste. Serve garnished with frozen grapes, frozen cucumber slices, flaked almonds and drizzle of oil.

Giant Couscous Paella, Roasted Cod, Crispy Ham, Pea Puree

1. Lay 140g Serrano ham (or Proscuitto) on a single layer on a lined baking tray nd roast for 6-8 mins at 200oC,, separate, cut into strips and leave to cool.

2. For the pea puree take 400g frozen peas, add 125ml vegetable stock, 3-4 garlic cloves, a bunch of mint, bunch of parsley and 2 tbsp Greek yoghurt. Blend together till smooth, season to taste. Refrigerate till ready to use.

3. For the Paella, soften 2-3 onions with 4-5 finely chopped garlic cloves and a pinch of salt in 2tsp olive oil. Add a splash of white wine, 4-5 strands of saffron, 1-2tsp paprika, 1-2tsp cayenne pepper and 2-3 red peppers cut into strips. Add 300g giant couscous and stir to coat for 2-3mins. Add 400ml stock and cook 8-10mins until the couscous is cooked.

4. For the cod, put 8 cod fillets skin up in a roasting tin, season and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in the oven at 200oC for 8mins until just translucent and the skin is beginning to crisp.

5. Place pea puree on the plate, put a circle of paella in the centre and top with the fish and crispy ham.

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Lime Sponge, Lime, Tequila and Salted Caramel Syrup, Avocado mousse and White Chocolate Mint leaves

1. For the Syrup (1). Place 150g sugar in a pan. Add 50ml water, a large pinch of salt, 1 lime juice and zest. Bring to the boil and DO NOT STIR. Let bubble till it begins to turn very light orange, remove from the heat. Pour a little syrup into 8 greased, foil mini pudding basins. Leave to cool.

2. For the Sponge. Beat 170g sugar and 170g butter together until light and fluffy. Beat in 2 eggs, vanilla essence, zest of 1 lime and 1tsp cinnamon for 2-3 mins. Fold in 170g self raising flour. The mix should be pale yellow and not too thick, if it is too thick add a little milk. Spoon batter into the 8 pudding basins, filling up to halfway. Bake in the oven for 12-15mins at 140oC or until golden brown and cooked in the middle (check using a metal skewer, if it comes out clean the cakes are done. Set aside till ready to use.

3. For the Mint Leaves, Melt 100g white chocolate in a microwave in 20sec bursts. Pick individual mint leaves and pat completely dry. Dip the leaves in the mint and place on a greased, foil lined tray, place in the fridge to set.

4. For the mousse, mash 2 avocados and blend with 300g Greek Yoghurt (blending creates a lighter texture than just mixing). Add a small bunch of mint, a pinch of salt, 2-3tbsp of icing sugar and lime juice (to taste).

5. For the syrup (2). This syrup needs to be clear so make the syrup as step 1 but take it off the heat before it gets any colour and it should be thinner. Add 50ml white tequila. (This should be used warm)

6. To serve, turn out the sponges and drizzle with the warm syrup. Serve with the Avocado mousse and white chocolate mint leaf.

 

Juicy Times

Juicy Times

In some sort of crazy plan to try and actually stay healthy this year, I have decided to start juicing for breakfast. Well that and also wanting to constantly use my shiny new blender which works so fast the bigger stress about making this juice is washing up and it works out a lot cheaper than the pret a manger   version. Having tried and failed a almost totally veg juice ( U7 as my faithful taste tester informed me it was a little lacking in flavour…)
The great thing about this juice is that it is tasty but also makes you glow.

Makes about 6 servings
1 avocado
1 banana
400g blueberries
250g spinach
400ml orange juice (according to taste)
water

Blitz all the ingredients in a blender, adjust orange juice and water to taste and texture, pour into bottles and chill. Hey presto healthy breakfast on the run for a week

A Dean’s Dinner

A Dean’s Dinner
            ‘The Dean is coming to dinner on Saturday’ my mother announces walking in to the kitchen on Thursday, ‘would you mind???” I know my place. I also know I would not be keen for the reputation of the cooking in this household to be totally ruined, especially because the Dean is a fellow foodie. The limitations are as follows, I have two days only, I would like to join in the fun and chat and we need little to no leftovers because we leave for Lincoln the next morning. Challenge accepted. So I do my research on the Great British Menu website and find three manageable recipes that appear to fit all my restrictions.
            I find recipes can be adapted as to how you feel, but sometimes they can be useful. When following recipes I tend not to measure things out and often if I think extra herbs or spices should be added I do. For the first course – Scallops with celeriac and truffle puree, apple caramel and apple jelly- http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/scallop-celeriac-recipe– I learned the best way to cook scallops perfectly. 30secs on a searing heat before flipping them and putting them in the oven for 1 min, every time.

            The Duck course was the biggest success, further proof that often the simplest dish can be the most effective if the flavours are right. Duck with braised lettuce, pea and bacon. If anybody is planning on going on come dine with me anytime soon I strongly advise you take a similar view to me and always slow cook, because the most irritating thing to do during a dinner party is frazzle your hair, melt your make up and set the fire alarm off while overcooking a piece of meat. http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/slow-cooked-gressingham-duck-legs-recipe
For the carb garnish I turned to Nigella, a women who taught me that butter is the answer to everything with her really quick roast potatoes, another cheat. The only thing I did different from her simple method of deep frying gnocchi was use a dash of truffle oil and add garlic to the oil for flavour, delicious.
            For the final course I wanted to do something unusual (although I’m not sure anything can top the pigs ears I once insisted upon serving up for one of my parents dinner parties, thank you so much to them for putting up with that). I chose an Avocado mousse with dark chocolate ganache but decided that that simply wasn’t enough. http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/avocado-lime-chocolate-parfait-recipeSo I accompanied the dish with a raspberry coulis, chocolate shard and pine nut brittle for added crunch, surprisingly delicious. (although it did melt a little in the heat of the kitchen).