Saturday, 22 May 2010

Revision Food

So last time I popped in here, I was busy with the thesis. It had taken over my life. Life was wake up, library, lunch, library, dinner, work at home, sleep. Boring. And now that all feels like it was aaages ago. Because now there's revision. Yes, it's not enough that I had to write 30 000 thesis, words, I now have four exams to get through. Silly Oxford. And silly me for signing up to it!
Needless to say, revision's been pretty slow going. First of all, a group of us went away for a few days. Then, the boy and I went to London to see our family and friends. Then there was an election and I looove politics, so that was more important. We've both had interviews. And now it's hot. Really really hot. And much harder to revise.

Today was glorious and I just wanted to sunbathe. And as the evening approached, I could smell the bbqs. I'm jealous. I'd like nothing more than to spend the evening sitting outside with a drink and lots of grilled things. But I can't.

So instead, speedy food, perfect for revision.

It's an old favourite, but you can't beat couscous with roasted vegetables and a spicy sauce. Especially if you add chickpeas.

My trick with couscous is to stick it in a bowl, and add boiling water. Then, crumble in some stock, and some spices - I like cumin and coriander. That way is has much more flavour.

I roasted courgette (zucchini), red onion, yellow pepper and mushrooms. That's a good range of colours.

Easy easy easy. Take one little tin of tomato puree. They cost about 25p in the supermarkets. Add spices - chilli, cumin, corriander, cinnamon - some oil & vinegar, and lots of lemon juice. Blend with a hand blender.

Combine all with chick peas! Yum!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Pasta - Yum!

Sadly, this blog's been a little abandoned recently. You see, I'm doing my masters at Oxford at the moment, and my thesis is due in (eek!) 2 1/2 weeks. That's not much time! So in the last month or so, it's been pretty solid work. The whole things has to be 30 000 words long. Double spaced, that's over 100 pages, I think. And it's a lot of words. Not all of which are written quite yet... So it's keeping me pretty busy.
Last week I went home for Pesach/Passover. Whilst the food that we cook at that time of year is always nice - I mean you can't go wrong with roast chicken, grilled fish etc - it gets pretty boring. No meal is good. Well, breakfast is ok, you can have fruit, and yogurt, and that's all I ever really have for breakfast. But lunches get boring. We have soup, or salads with fish or cheese, but they would always be improved by some nice bread. And the cheese is never as nice. And having potatoes every night with dinner... it gets dull.

Any, the end of Pesach is always great, you get to eat all those things you've missed for a week. To celebrate the end, my family and I went to Wahaca, definitely one of my all time favourite restaurants. We had lots of tortilla chips with guacamole and frijoles, and then we all had amazing steak burritos. It was sooo good!

That night I returned to Oxford with the boyfriend, to spend some quality time in the library (fun fun). There's nothing quite like weeks spent getting up, going to the library, having lunch, going back to the library, leaving at 7 when it closes, having dinner, and working until you can't keep your eyes open. Then doing it all again. Honestly, without him to have meals with/talk to/cuddle I'd go crazy! Anyway...
I demanded pasta on the first night we were back. We went to Tescos and looked at the reduced to clear stuff for inspiration. We bought some pieces of squash and some salad, reduced, and then added fresh pesto and spinach. So dinner was fairly simple, but so good.

Somehow, we ended up having pasta again last night, but this time, with sardines, because that's what we had. It was a quick, throw together pasta, but it was really good!

Excuse the messy bowl - I nearly forgot to take a photo!

Spaghetti with sardines and capers: (for 2)
Spaghetti for 2 (rather a lot if this 2 includes my boyfriend)
One tin of sardines, drained
A couple of large handfuls of capers
One chilli
Two cloves of garlic
One tin of tomatoes

Start by cooking the spaghetti. (Ideally you'd get your boyfriend to deal with this so that you can get started on the sauce. However, he may be pre-occupied by making the salad, which is obviously a complex task, so you may need to do it yourself).

Then chop the chilli and the garlic and put in a pan with some olive oil. Cook until they are obviously starting to cook.
Add tin of tomatoes and stir.
Add sardines (kind of separate them out with a fork as you go) and capers.
Stir, and season.

That's pretty much it. The sauce takes about as long as the pasta. It was so good, we nearly forgot to take a picture! I'm going to submit it to Presto Pasta Nights, which is my favourite weekly blog event! This week it's being hosted by Daphne of More than Words.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Cooking for others - and using the leftovers.

Friday was my night to host the weekly graduate Jewish Society event. It's a pot luck and everyone shows up, unannounced, and brings something. Usually, amazingly, it works quite well. This week was fairly disastrous as only two people turned up. On the plus side on bought chocolate cheesecake!

It can be a lot of people, and I am not doing well on the cash-flow side of things, so I opted to make a quorn chilli and rice. A good quorn chilli with decent spicing tastes much better than you would expect from looking at it!

I started by frying an onion, some mushrooms (I had to have some kind of vegetable!) and then I added the quorn mince. It's ugly:
I then started with the spices. Lots of them. Cumin and corriander are essential. Chilli powder (but not too much). More cumin. Cinnamon to lift it. Crumbled vegetable stock and a bayleaf, and salt and pepper. And some more cumin!

Then I added two tins of tomatoes, a tin of tomato puree, water, some Worcester Sauce, and two tins of kidney beans.

Lots of tasting and adjusting spices - quorn absorbs flavour, so it's best to put lots in! And it tasted pretty good in the end.

I did a giant portion of rice, too, along with sour cream, salsa and tortilla chips.

I had lots of leftover rice to use up, which obviously screamed egg fried rice to me. So tonight that's what I did.

I started by frying onion, garlic, ginger, chilli powder, and then broccoli and mushrooms, which were what I had in. (Excuse the poor iPhone photos).

I then added the rice, stirred until it was heated all the way through, with added soy & sweet chilli sauce, then cracked a couple of eggs in too.

Once done, I put it onto a plate and then pan-fried a piece of salmon to go on top.

I love left overs!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Valentine's Day - Continued

OK, I don't want to be entirely negative, and our evening was much better. He woke up and we watched The Wire on dvd - we are currently on Series 3 and really enjoying it. And then we headed to one of our favourite places for dinner, Santorini, on the Cowley Road.

We opted for their mixed mezze, although it feels slightly like cheating by not choosing, we wanted to try lots of things. And it was definitely a good call! I didn't remember to take photos until half way through dinner, but here are some of the yummy things we ate.

Pasta with meat and mushrooms
Meatballs Calamari and Whitebait

Fava Bean dip


Sunday, 14 February 2010

Valentine's Day

My boyfriend and I have been going out for almost 8 months now, and I think he's wonderful. We are incredibly happy, spend lots of time together, and, frankly, everything is great. Wow, that sounds pretty gross! So, for the first time in a long time, I was quite looking forward to V day. I mean, yes, it's over commercialised and silly. But it also gave us an excuse to spend the day together, and go out for dinner in the evening. These are both things that don't happen in Oxford very often - we see each other every day, but we are usually with other people or working. We work constantly.

Anyway, my dreams of the perfect day were slightly disrupted by the presence of the Varsity Fencing competition on the 13th. For the uninitiated, Varsity matches are between Oxford and Cambridge, and therefore they are a Big Deal. And this is potentially his last year in Oxford, and therefore his last chance to get a half-blue (i.e. to fence in Varsity).

Fencing Varsity: that's him on the right.

I imagine you are currently questioning why this disrupted the 14th. You may correctly imagine that training for Varsity means lots of early mornings, lots of training, and that sort of thing, but you may assume that the day after we'd be relatively free of fencing. Not so. For all Varsity competitions are followed by Varsity dinner. Varsity dinner involves putting two teams who spend all year waiting to compete together, in a room, with lots of alcohol. Dinner is always followed by drinks, and sometimes fighting. Lovely. So now I imagine the impact of Varsity on V day is becoming clearer...

He came in the morning at 7.30 (although he'd slept for a while in College, apparently). We woke up at 11, and he seemed to be doing ok, and by 1.30ish he was requesting food. I had planned a special V day/hang over brunch for him - blueberry pancakes and bacon.

He seemed very pleased by the idea, and helped cook the bacon, and even showered for the occasion. But it all went downhill after that. He went a little pale. He managed a mouthful. He disappeared. He came back, ate a little more, and went to bed. So nice idea and I thought it tasted good!

A giant, misshapen pancake

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Chinese Cookery

It all started when I sent my friend Annie a text to tell her about the wonderful Asian shop I'd found. When I say found, that's a slight exaggeration. It's about 2 minutes from my house. The thing is, at the end of my road, I turn left to go into town (on my bike, I should mention), and this shop requires turning right. So I never go past it. And when you are on a bike, which I always am, it's harder to just wonder in to a shop, because there's the whole hassle of finding a bike rack, chaining it up etc etc. So although I knew it was there, I never really went in.

Annie is from New York. She is used to slightly more variation in food than can be found in Oxford. Don't get me wrong, I love Oxford, and I do think we have great restaurants. The centre is dominated by chains that vary from the mediocre (Fire & Stone) to the amazing (Jamie's Italian), but if you are willing to venture slightly further afield, into Jericho and Cowley, there's huge amounts of curry to start with, plus countless other cuisines. Even on the other side of the bridge (and almost in the centre of town) there are few interesting places. But anyway, Annie misses New York and she misses Asian food. So she was excited about my shop.

So Annie decided that she and I should cook an Asian feast at my house (she lives in halls/dorms), and I supported that idea. We invited another friend and my housemate, and then my boyfriend decided that he would eat with us after all. So Annie and I had to factor in one hungry boyfriend, one over-excited Annie, and Anna who is a vegetarian. And Annie was determined to make dumplings.

So we bought a mountain of dumplings, and a steamer to steam them on! And then because there was a poor variety of vegetarian dumplings, we also made a veggie stir-fry with fried tofu in it, which was also lovely. It was a pretty costly venture, but it was really good. Sadly I forgot to take any photos, but when I cook the left-overs, I'll be sure to post them for you! I loved the veggie dumplings, but the char sui / bbq pork buns are probably my favourite! We made so much food that we couldn't manage the red bean dumplings that we had bought for dessert.

The following night I headed home for dinner, and mum was making roast duck and pancakes, as a farewell dinner for a traveling sister. So I took the left-over veggie dumplings and the red bean dumplings home with me. The former went down really well, the latter less so....

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Tea Time

Now I'm sure after Christmas and New Year everyone promises to start dieting to make up for the Christmas excess, but this week my family failed at that.

On Sunday, for my grandma's birthday, I went with mum, my two sisters and grandma to Fortnum and Masons for tea.

We started with pink champagne and canapes: cheese straws, cheese and anchovy straws, cheese tartlettes and little salmon mousse toasts.

Then it was on to sandwiches: one egg and cress, one chicken, one roast beef, one salmon on black bread, and, of course, one cucumber. All crustless, naturally.

Then we moved onto the sweet stuff - and there was mountains of it!

This tower was just for two people!

We each had a fruit scone, and a plain scone, with clotted cream and jam, lemon sponge cakes, date and walnut loaf, jam biscuits, and then we got to choose from the cake tray. There was a big cube of solid chocolate with layers of chocolate inside, a fondant fancy, a lemon meringue sandwich, chocolate eclairs, a plum tart - all sorts of lovely things.

We couldn't eat it all!

And of course we had gallons, and gallons of tea!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The cake that nearly wasn't

Recent posts suggest that I do a lot of baking (and I haven't even mentioned the mince pies!) but to be honest, I really don't. Most of the baking in my family home is done by my youngest sister, because she believes in eating a lot of chocolate, and at uni I don't really bake. The one exception to this is cheesecake. I make amazing cheesecake!

But yesterday was said little sister's 19th birthday. My parents were in the US and my middle sister was (is) in Morocco, so it was just her and I. That made me chief baker.

She'd requested a plain sponge cake with buttercream icing, which I thought would be really simple. But when I got to it, I couldn't remember the quantities for cake. My mum definitely has the ratios of fat/flour/sugar/egg in her head for cakes, crumbles, pastry etc, but I have been known to get it wrong...

So, I found a recipe (not too complicated, we have a house full of cookery books!) and set about making the cake. However....

The cake specified soft margarine, but I wanted to use butter (it tastes much nicer) and we only had hard butter.

I also didn't have quite enough golden caster sugar so I had to top it up with normal caster sugar.

Then I started putting everything in the Magimix, but that felt wrong, so I transferred it into a bowl to use an electric hand whisk.

But, with butter, flour, sugar and baking powder in, the whisk just made a terrible mess. Then I remembered - we make cakes in the big Kenwood mixer!

Got that out, added cake mix, but it still looked wrong.... Ah yes, no eggs. Oops!

Then I discovered that our cake tins are slightly bigger than the ones the recipe wanted (I reckon they are 8" not 7") so I could have done with some more mixture. Oh well...

But of course that meant that they cooked faster than planned, although the middle of one was very soft....

Anyway, as you can see from the photo above, somehow the cake turned out just fine! I added lots of chocolate buttercream (that's easy to make - icing sugar, butter and coco, and a wooden spoon), and some pink sprinkles which made my sister happy. And it tasted good. Her only complaint was that the 'G' on the top wasn't neat enough!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Christmas Pudding

Look at my Christmas Pudding!!

Normally we buy one (from M & S, so it's dairy free and can be eaten after Turkey) but this year, mum's work Secret Santa bought her a Christmas Pudding making kit. It contained a mixing bowl, a steaming basin and most of the ingredients, bar flour, alcohol and bread crumbs.

So I made it: combined all the ingredients, mainly, adding some extra alcohol, and stirring a lot.

And then we steamed it for 8 hours - with mum feeding it extra rum!

And a few days later we ate it and it was the best pudding we've ever had. Definitely something to repeat. Perhaps next year we will even manage it on Stir-Up Sunday.