A Rose by any other name…..

So here it is. The last proper day of my holidays and with it the last single lunch review I will be doing for a while. Next week whilst I am not going back to school after a luxurious week of holiday – yes I did spend most of this week sleeping- I am off to intern at Delicious Magazine in hope that sometime in the next ten years they might have an opening for a job…. Unfortunately I have realised that much as I am enjoying a weekly solo lunch adventure there is simply not enough restaurants in Oxford that are independent and affordable and also I’m lucky enough to boast that my social engagements have overtaken the ability for time to myself. I’m aware this isn’t a bad thing. Of course I’ll still be reviewing. There is a rather favourable review of a Hampstead Heath gastropub on its way, a date with my ex housemate, watch this space. 

At least I’ve chosen a rather nice way to finish the holidays. It is a beautiful day in Oxford. It’s cliche, but the architecture in Oxford does seem that bit more impressive against a clear blue backdrop. It’s as if those grey rainy days were merely a rehearsal for the really performance. It’s just a shame that this often feels like a once a year show. I’ve whipped out my new sunglasses, I’ve dusted off my spring coat (let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we are still in England, a coat is necessary) and I’ve headed to The Rose. A staple of the Oxford afternoon tea scene, I happened to come across a review which said it was the best lunch in Oxford. However as I sat for a rather late lunch in the window basked in sunlight, people watching the street, my heart sank when I looked at the menu. The goats cheese salad whipped into memory a weedy limp salad leaf attempt from a health care I’d had a few weeks ago. The ciabatta sandwich options suggested the dry thin offerings from various sandwich outlets around and reminded me why I never order ciabatta if offered. The £6.95 charge for a plate of ‘home cured salmon’ which sounded suspiciously like 3 slices of Sainsbury’s finest laid on a plate, taking barely 5minutes to eat. But…..I am prepared to stand up and admit how wrong I was. Just to be clear. This is the place that all the aforementioned cafes should take their cue from. This is the place where the menu doesn’t lie. In case you need it in bold letters BEST LUNCH IN OXFORD.

  
I chose the home cured salmon and asked for some bread and butter on the side with some trepidation as the only offering for bread was ciabatta. I sat undisturbed for an hour and a half reading The Versions of Us (an excellent book by the way) and enjoyed a large salad plate, loaded with salty gravlax trimmings with dill. Pesto and an excellent shallot dressing. It was accompanied by warm, soft ciabatta and excellent creamy yellow butter. I could well have eaten a couple more rolls. I don’t eat bread a lot but when it tastes that good…. I consoled myself that I only had the one ciabatta by ordering some cake. Again I’m not usually that into cake, I prefer a bar of chocolate or a creamy dessert if I’m going to treat myself but I thought if the bread is that good and they call themselves an afternoon tea shop, the cake is probably pretty damn good. I was not disappointed. An incredibly moist carrot cake studded with walnuts with the thinnest spreading of tangy cream cheese icing cutting through the sweetness but without making the cake too rich. My only criticism is that the staff could have been a little more attentive especially as I was only given a small glass of water which I finished pretty quickly and had to keep waving to try and get refills despite the cafe being pretty quiet at this time. But it’s only a little thing and mostly the staff were friendly and helpful and clearly knew the dishes which is always a bonus. And for a total of £12, I will certainly be coming back. 

  

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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.

Easter Day with the Gullifers

Aren’t you lucky, today you get a double whammy of Gullifer Eats. Second part here. Partly because Easter weekend is all about food (and music and religion), or is that only in the Gullifer household? And partly because I am currently on a three and a half hour bus journey back to Oxford and am extremely bored. Most people are not put upon by relatives to host major festivals until they are at least settled with a mortgage, but for some reason the Gullifer clan descended on me this Easter holiday. Apparently it had something to do with the fact I mentioned I wouldn’t be able to come and cook the normal Easter feast at home, due to work….. But of course I relished in the planning, cooking, and of course the food shop that arrived to my door paid for by the parents, as I couldn’t afford to pay to feed everyone. It was a lovely weekend, peppered with Kings college concerts and services, the most amazing brunch at Cau (see below), cocktails with my sister and chocolate. For the main event I invited over Gluten-free-Dairy-free man and the Perpetual Poldark lover as they were in Cambridge for finals and I thought I’d add to their stress levels by inflicting my family on them.  

 

(Eggs Royale with grilled avocado and chimichurri sauce)

I am ashamed to say I didn’t cook any of the starter, I was a little strapped for time. But Waitrose came up trumps with their anti-pasti selection and the Sister arranged a Work of Art on the plate to make it that extra bit special.  We had giant Sicilian olives, gin and orange soaked olives, ricotta, baby mozzarella, fresh grilled anchovies, chargrilled artichokes (in some amazing dressing), smoked sundried tomatoes (wow) and some of the best pesto I’ve  tasted, with whole shreds of Parmesan.   

What I was pleased with was the wine selection, thank you Cambridge Wine Merchants. My sister had made an off hand comment earlier in the week about new world sparkling wines all tasting too sweet and sainsburys Cavaesque. I was determined to prove her wrong. I was recommended a Zuccardi Blanc de Blancs, an Argentinian sparkling wine aged on the lees (yeast) for 58 months. As the lady said to me, it tastes like liquid shortbread. Think a really intense champagne, reduced at the moment in the wine merchants to £16 it tastes like a much more pricey champagne, if you are in Cambridge I recommend. 

 

For main course, to mix things up from the traditional Lamb, we had whole baked salmon. Not only was it different and undoubtably healthier than lamb, it also only took 45mins (15mins on the highest temperature, 30 at 180*C). This was served with a lemon, dill and yoghurt dressing. Accompanied by smashed sweet potatoes – Simply cooked in a microwave for 15-20mins, smashed up with olive oil, a drizzle of truffle oil, thyme, salt, pepper and a little lemon juice. – We also had brussel sprouts with chorizo, which ‘convinced a fussy eater that sprouts were delicious’ according to the Perpetual Poldark lover. -Halved Brussel sprouts, drizzled with sesame oil, salt pepper, 1 onion, finely chopped, 1 garlic clove, finely chopped, and 200g cubed chorizo for 20-30mins at 180*C. -Finally we had asparagus with balsamic drenched tomatoes. – Blanched Asparagus, cherry tomatoes cooked in a little oil, salt and balsamic for 5mins and a scattering of basil.  

   

Finally for dessert, I couldn’t do anything but go down the chocolate route, it was Easter after all. (For the record Steve had coconut pannacotta, with sweet and salty almonds – literally coconut milk, sugar, lime juice, vanilla extract, gelatine, topped with toasted almonds tossed in sugar and salt-) I made orange and basil mousses, chocolate soil and white chocolate dipped strawberry. Any guesses as to what I was trying to recreate?  

 

We ended the meal in truly decadent (and bordering on bizarre) fashion. Vin Santo and Cantucci biscuits, Articulate – our favourite game, ridiculously competitive, and my father lighting amaretti papers on fire in the conservatory. Fun fact, did you know they rise like a pretty lantern when they burn? Next party trick. 

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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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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Salmon Risotto, Aldi’s finest

So Mark Francis and I are finally in the house together for the first time, me just back from Brazil (more on that later) him just back. The plan is to welcome him back from a long day at the office with a GandT and a home cooked meal of what Aldi has to offer. As I am technically unemployed at the moment I can’t really afford to splash the cash, so it is half a salmon fillet each (found in the freezer) and a pineapple I picked up for 59p from Aldi around which I create the menu. As we sit in the garden having a drink while dinner is cooking on the stove you’d almost think we were grown ups…..almost.

Salmon Risotto with peas and Swiss chard
(serves 2)

1 salmon fillet
100g risotto rice
1 bay leaf
Few sprigs of thyme
1tsp sesame oil
1 onion, chopped in to dice size pieces
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Swig of white alcohol (white wine, vermouth, sherry – I used an ancient bottle of Becherovka (look it up) donated to me by my parents)
600ml stock
4-5tbsp lemon juice
Vanilla extract
Peppercorns
Juniper berries
Salt
Large handful of Swiss chard
Large handful of frozen peas

1. Sauté the onions and garlic in the sesame oil and a large pinch of salt over a medium heat, stirring till they become translucent. Add the wine and let bubble. Add the rice, thyme and peppercorns. Let sit for 1 min, then add a little stock. Stir till stock is combined and then add more, repeat till the rice is al dente. Keep stirring it, try not to leave unattended, it will stick to the pan otherwise.
2. Meanwhile put 250ml water, the bay leaf, a few peppercorns, juniper berries and a few sprigs of thyme in a pan. Add the salmon fillet and bring to the boil slowly over a medium heat. Boil for 2 min, remove from the heat and set aside. When ready to serve remove the salmon leaving it in the water for at least 5mins. Remove the skin and cut in half, the salmon should be on the cusp of turning light pink, the innermost centre still darkish pink.
3. Empty out all but 2cm of the water, add the chard and a pinch of salt, cook over a medium heat for 2mins until dark green.
4. Add the vanilla, lemon juice and peas to the risotto, cook for a further 3mins till the peas have defrosted.
5. Serve with the risotto as a base on the plate, topped with the Swiss chard and finally the salmon.

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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).

IMG_1574

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.

                                                      IMG_1571

Playing House

Playing House
There is a reason I cook less in Cambridge. Mostly because my kitchen this year consists of two ‘warming plates’ and a microwave and my fridge (as I’ve said before) resembles the toy fridge that came with the ‘my first kitchen’ I got at the age of three. I have minimal access to an oven and any attempt to use it involves running four floors down my staircase and two floors up on another one, which is always fun when you’re carrying a hot tray…. Plus I have limited (three armchairs) seating and only a desk to eat off. All this makes it less than ideal to throw a dinner party, but I took up the challenge when my friend the Girtonion persuaded me to throw one with her.

We optimistically set a date in a month and a half’s time, although being me, I planned the menu about a week later. Limitations included budget ( if we had a fish starter, we went with a veggie main), gluten intolerance and logistics, oven space (I went with no-cook starter and dessert). 
On the day itself, about an hour and a half before the start of the party, we had an offer of a better venue, with a proper table and enough chairs and and oven in the next door room. While fantastic, this proved an entertaining challenge as we carried 3 large lasagnes through college and across the road, I was surprised we managed to pull this off but with 3 minutes to go we were semi-organised. 
While enjoying a fine selection of wines (my friends have good taste) we sat down.
Gin and Juniper cured Salmon, pickled cucumber and creme fraiche 
( see christmas blog for the recipe)
This was possibly the easiest course to do within our limitations and relatively cheap with Sainsburys basics salmon fillets, who knew. Although I panicked and left the cure on too long so they were a little too salty but luckily managed to balance out with the mellowing flavours of the creme fraiche and cucumber.

Goats Cheese and Butternut Squash no pasta lasagne, with sage and garlic chips and broccoli.
Why I decided to cook a lasagne for a gluten-free meal I am not entirely sure, but I love the Nigella goats cheese and pumpkin lasagne 
So in order to tweak it to suit my limitations, we used squash instead of pumpkin, cut down on expensive goats cheese and upped the mozzarella, increased the garlic (always makes things better), replaced the pine nuts with walnuts and replaced the pasta with slices of courgette and aubergine. my original idea as an interesting side was fried garlic polenta, but alas a lack of interesting ingredients in the supermarkets of Cambridge scuppered this plan. Instead we went with chips. We parboiled the potatoes with salt, sage and garlic, tossed the drained contents in oil and roasted for about an hour – they appeared to go down well, my neighbours at the table started grazing on extra chips of the tray before we had even served all the food. 
Lemon Posset, popping candy and gluten free shortbread.
Lemon posset is a delightfully easy dessert, in this case quirkily served in plastic cups (Ok maybe that is all I had…) Simply bring 600ml cream and 150g sugar and the zest of 3 lemons to the boil, boil for 3 mins before whisking in the juice of 3 lemons, pour into glasses and leave to set. Note to self, next time don’t put the popping candy on till the last minute otherwise you simply create a sort of strawberry flavour creme brûlée topping to your posset…. 
For the shortbread I got to use my new bright red Kitchen aid for the first time. Again devilishly simple. Cream 150g butter, 75g sugar, 1tsp salt, add 250g gluten free self raising flour, roll into flattened balls and bake at 180oC for 12-15mins till golden brown.
There were moments I thought a three course meal for nine would be impossible in college, it wasn’t, but boy it made me appreciate my kitchen at home. 

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – The Highlights

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – The Highlights
Considering I decided it was a wise idea to make 11 side dishes alongside our christmas Turkey this year, as well as a three course meal on Christmas Eve, I suspect even my most dedicated readers would get a little bored reading all of the recipes so here are some of my Christmas season highlights.

I’ve always wished that I had a brother. Mostly cooking for 3 small women, 2 old people and my dad (who valiantly attempted to eat with the same gusto as a teenage boy, but was eventually overwhelmed) is a bit disappointing when you’ve cooked for the 3 thousand and have over 3 quarters left over, no matter how much they enjoyed the meal. Ot doesn’t help that my Grandma has a fear of whole nuts, peas and alcohol in her food, and my Grandpa and Dad refuse to eat onions, celery, cabbage, spicy food and Brussel sprouts and my Aunt, Dad and Grandpa tend to just fill up on Cheese Footballs (I think it runs on the family, it’s an addiction that only comes round once a year….. (this wasn’t helped on christmas eve that we had drinks while watching Carols from Kings pre dinner, amazing as always, but as it is already an hour and we had the addition of my father pausing the TV to try and spot him and I in the congregation, we managed to get through a lot of cheese footballs)

Only available at Christmas


 I of course took the stance this year that I was going to completely ignore all of this and just make what I wanted to anyway. It went down surprisingly well, although my Moroccan christmas eve meal was viewed with a little suspicion (my grandma enquired as to what ‘quas-quas’ was) and the leeks were left mostly untouched by the male members of the dinner table ( are these onions? was asked), but a good effort was made all round, despite the spice in the Harissa glaze for the mackerel and the whole pistachio nuts in the baklava. The biggest success of the night was the light and delicious lemon and rosewater mousse

500g greek yoghurt
2 egg whites
75g sugar
1-2 lemons zested
3tbsp lemon juice
2tsp rosewater

Whisk the egg whites and sugar over a pan of boiling water until the sugar is dissolved.
Take off the heat and whisk until you get soft peaks.
In a separate bowl, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice and rosewater.
Fold the mixtures into each other and then place in the fridge for 1-2 hours

TIP This also works as a cheesecake topping, with orange juice or as a side dish for xmas pudding

Christmas day begins with Champagne, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon (see the Ultimate brunch for my recipe). Possibly the only day of the year that you’re allowed to drink before 9am in the morning, but only if it sparkles. Luckily my dad is well supplied with champagne and red wine by pupils from the school giving christmas presents and supplemented by buying cases from the Cellars of his affiliated college so we were unlikely to run out. He even managed to get a special 2003 burgundy which was incredibly smooth when we drunk it for christmas lunch (I am still learning about wine but apparently this was a good harvest and so hence a good vintage).

However my christmas day begins with the turkey. I am assiduous about prepping everything in advance and the kitchen is full of assorted zip lock bags filled with chopped vegetables, seasoned, which luckily means that all I have to do is place the turkey in the oven and set a timer at breakfast time. This year we got a wonderful turkey from http://www.sandylanefarm.net – possibly the most juicy turkey we’ve every had (shameless plug here but this and the veg – once scrubbed – was absolutely delicious).

                        THIS                                 TO                       THIS


When we all got back from blaring out christmas carols at the top of our lungs at church, I was relegated to the kitchen to put everything (as I said fully prepped) in the oven while everyone else went off to open stockings (this still goes on despite the fact that at 21, I am the youngest ) and drink champagne and eat more cheese footballs. As I said before 11 side dishes are probably a bit much but the highlights from this year were probably…

No-Sausagemeat but still meaty Stuffing
http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2744665/chestnut-stuffing-roll

Impulse created Truffle and Thyme Potatoes
1kg Potatoes
2 tbsp truffle oil
3 tbsp olive oil
good sprig of thyme
1-2tbsp flour
salt
peppercorns
bay leaf

Par Boil (boil until just piercable) in water with salt, peppercorns and a bay leaf – this can be done the day before – . Dust in flour. Heat the oils in a large roasting tin for about 10mins. Toss the potatoes in and cook in the oven at 200OC for 30-40mins until golden

Dijon Braised Brussel Sprouts (somehow even my grandpa ate these – good for unwilling sprout consumers)
http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2011/11/dijon-braised-brussels-sprouts/

Brandy and Clementine Custard (we didn’t tell my grandma about the brandy – yet this was possibly her favourite bit of the meal…. oops)

4 egg yolks
900ml milk
100ml cream
vanilla extract
100g golden caster sugar
2 dried bay leafs
1 clementine
a good slug of fresh brandy (not the stuff left in your cupboard from last christmas…)

Heat the cream and milk in a pan until almost boiling. Add a good swig of vanilla extract, the bay leaves and the clementine, squashed. Leave for at least an hour. Heat again until boiling and set aside. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until frothy. Make sure the milk is lukewarm, removing the clementine and bay leaves and pour over the egg yolk mix whisking steadily. Pour back into the pan and place over a low heat whisking slowly. Heat until the mixture has thickened to coat the back of a spoon and take of the heat bearing in mind you should keep whisking until the mixture has cooled slightly as the bottom of the pan will still be hot. Add the brandy and leave to cool. Serve hot or cold

Gin and Juniper Cured Salmon served with creme fraiche and pickled cucumber
Inspired by my sister who discovered this combination while working for the events company Rocket to finance her new extravagant lifestyle in London – she tried one canapé and requested I make ‘as much of this as i could’ – once you’ve tried this you will never go back to smoked salmon – it is so much better! – also dedicated to my aunt who was badgering me for the recipe all through her stay with us

Skinned and boned 1kg Salmon Fillet
3-4tbsp gin (don’t use the good stuff – save that for the Gin and Tonic’s)
1tbsp juniper berries
300g salt (basics will do)
200g sugar
1tbsp peppercorns
1tbsp lemon zest

1 cucumber
150g caster sugar
200ml white wine vinegar
1tsp juniper berries
1tsp peppercorns

Low fat creme fraiche
chopped dill

2-3days before –
Mix the sugar, salt, juniper berries, peppercorns, lemon zest in a bowl. Pour the gin over the salmon fillet, turning to coat both sides. Lay on a cling film covered tray and pat the sugar/salt mix onto the top. Tightly wrap in cling film and place in the fridge with a heavy weight/roast potatoes/ turkey etc on top (you’re looking to weigh it down)
Leave for 2-3days pouring off the liquid every day, until the salmon feels more firm and has turned a deeper shade of orange. Wash and re-wrap, leave till needed.
The night before, use a peeler or mandolin to create strips of cucumber ignoring the seeds as much as possible. Boil the caster sugar, vinegar, berries and peppercorns in a pan until boiling. Pour over the cucumber, cling film the bowl and leave in the fridge
To serve Thinly slice the salmon with a sharp knife. Strain the cucumber and place a little in the centre of the plate. Top with 3 salmon slices and then a quenelle of creme fraiche (use two spoons to shape into a peaked oval, passing it between the two and then softly push off the spoon onto the plate) Sprinkle with chopped dill and serve


                                
TRY THIS RECIPE IT IS AMAZING AND EASY AND CHEAPER THAN BUYING SMOKED SALMON

Things I learnt this Christmas
1. Always wish while stirring the Christmas pudding and force all members of your family to do it too – I find snapchat is effective to include members of the family who might still be in London when you make the pudding, I’m superstitious and while your wish may not come true, nothing will go right in the kitchen over christmas if you don’t


                                                                                                 Mum stirring the Xmas Pudding

   I made a bit too much….

2. On the christmas pudding front, I tend to not use suet or really any fat, but up the fruit, nut and booze content for the perfect xmas pudding, often it’s better if you have last years this year etc….
3. Always use fresh brandy (thank you Giles Coren 12 drinks of Christmas), normally it won’t light, this year we almost couldn’t get the pudding to stop burning
4. Make everything on christmas day, champagne won’t help your knife work…
5. If your sister brings you port to use in the madeira gravy because she can’t open the madeira it still works just as well if not better
6. On that note leave all alcohol out of the names of dishes no matter how high the booze content, I find it makes for happier grandparents (so this year that was the cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts, salmon, gravy, christmas pudding, custard, mince pies and brandy butter……)

                Mince Pies (Thank you Nigella)
7. Mothers make exceedingly good vegetable scrubbers (aided by Kings College choir on the radio) ….
8. And delegate your sister to decorate the tree and table, she’ll do a better job and you will be far too busy.
9. The cronut (croissant-donut hybrid) fad trend of 2013 actually lives up to the hype, especially if homemade

10. Leftover cabbage makes amazing coleslaw (try it with mayonnaise, horseradish, raisins, pumpkin seeds, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and grated apple)
11. Cousins are useful for finishing off the salmon and brie
12. Homemade dry roasted moroccan chickpeas are an addictive drinks accompaniment although cheese footballs are worse (seriously how did we manage 5 boxes in 3 days between 8 people….)
13. chestnuts must be cut with a cross before roasting or they will explode over your oven (our open fire is a bit too gas light blue to consider doing these the proper way)
14. Don’t try and learn a whole new board game post – christmas dinner, mulled sloe gin and present time
                                   
15. My family are trying to hint that I should move out – they bought me an entire matching kitchen set (kitchen aid, food processor and blender combo, matching kettle and toaster with heating toast rack) as a combined birthday christmas present – on the other hand my staircase are going to love me next year and my degree is going down the drain.

                                                               Stuffing
                                                My Stocking Photo – Christmases past….
                                                        Eggs for the week
                                                         Baba Ganoush Prep
                                                             Chipolatas
                                                            Tzatziki
                                                         Pitta Bread
                                           Salting the cucumber (to draw out the excess moisture) for the tzatziki
For the full menu see Octobers Blog
HAPPY NEW YEAR 
*New year menu to follow