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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

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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. 

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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The Student 3-course meal

The Student 3-course meal

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

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

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

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

Mix altogether and top the crisp bread

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

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

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

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

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

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