Monday, 31 January 2011

Victoria Sandwich Cake

Ben and mines 30 month anniversary was very much a food orientated celebration. He took me for Thai and I baked him a cake, the same one that I cooked him on the day he originally asked me out. I’ve made it a million times and its always reliably tasty, although I don’t know how something that includes a large amount of whipped cream and jam couldn’t taste anything but lovely. You do need a few items that might not be readily available in every student kitchen, such as a large mixing bowl and two cake tins but these can be bought relatively cheaply and are a great investment. I used strawberry jam, but you can use whatever takes your fancy, and if you’re not feeling too indulgent you can omit the cream, although I strongly advise you not to.

175g soft butter
175g caster sugar
3 beaten eggs
175g self-raising white flour
  1. Grease two cake tins and preheat the oven to 190 degrees.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs a little at a time. Fold in ½ the flour using a metal spoon or a plastic bladed spatula, and then the remainder.
  3. Divide evenly between the tins and level the surface. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes until they are risen and spring back when pushed in centre.
  4. Loosen the edges and leave in the tin for five minutes.
  5. Turn out and leave to cool on a wire rack.
  6. Sandwich with jam and cream.
Culinary Know How: FRESHER
Budget: UNDER £5

Friday, 28 January 2011

Mushroom and Tofu Stroganoff

I’m going to put this out there; I didn’t really like my first attempt at Stroganoff. However, Ben’s response to this effort was a great deal more positive, so I have decided to include it and you can come to your own conclusions. Having recently discovered the big wide world of meat substitutes I was eager to try cooking with tofu. I stumbled across this recipe whilst flicking through some of my parents cookbooks over Christmas, I always have leftover mushrooms in the fridge that need using up and thought this would be the perfect solution to that problem. The recipe was simple enough; you just need to remember to marinate the tofu for a few hours before. I substituted Tamari (a strong type of soy sauce) for regular soy sauce, as my local shop is very limited, and also used dried tarragon instead of fresh. I think my main criticism was that I found the flavours all very overpowering, the red wine was particularly prominent, and the meal was very heavy. However, this is exactly what appealed to Ben about the recipe so I shan’t right it off completely, but just warn you in advance.

Serves 2
200ml red wine
2 tbsp tamari
275g firm tofu, cut into 2 cm cubes
3 tbsp groundnut oil
1 chopped onion
5 chopped garlic cloves
200g chestnut mushrooms, whole
120ml double cream
  1. Combine the wine, Tamari and three tablespoons of water into a dish and add the tofu. Marinate.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil into a heavy bottomed pan and fry the onion and garlic until golden. Add the mushrooms and sauté for around 5 minutes.
  3. In another pan, heat the remaining oil and sauté the tofu with a little of the marinade, turning to make it golden on all sides.
  4. Add cream and half a tarragon sprig (or 2 tsp dried tarragon) to the mushrooms, bring to the boil, reduce and simmer for a minute. Add the remaining marinade to the mushrooms and simmer until the sauce is creamy.
  5. Add the tofu and remaining tarragon (if using fresh) to the mushrooms, season and serve with rice.
Culinary Know How: FRESHER
Budget: UNDER £10
Kitchen Requirements: TWO PANS, LARGE BOWL

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Marmite Spaghetti

I approached this recipe with a little trepidation. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Marmite and have it everyday on toast, but I just couldn’t quite see how this could work. How wrong could I be? I really owe Nigella for introducing this to me, it’s a complete revelation, and I urge you all to try it. The buttery marmite sauce has just the right bitterness to it, and although I was overly zealous with the teaspoon of Marmite it wasn’t overpowering. I used less pasta then in the original recipe but kept the Marmite and butter amounts the same and my only wish is that I had made more of both so I could have indulged in seconds. It’s just so simple, and I plan on making this weird and wonderful concoction a lazy lunchtime staple.

Serves 1-4 (depending on how much you love Marmite)
50g unsalted butter
1 tsp Marmite
  1. Cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions.
  2. When the pasta is almost cooked, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the marmite and one tbsp of the pasta water. Mix it all together.
  3. Drain the pasta (Nigella says to reserve half a cup of the pasta water to add to sauce to amalgamate, I remembered this after I’d drained the water, but it didn’t seem to matter, I liked the gloopy nature of the sauce), and stir in the sauce.
  4. Serve with cheese, Nigella suggests Parmesan, I used cheddar.
Culinary Know How: FRESHER
Budget: UNDER £2
Kitchen Requirements: 2 SAUCEPANS

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Last Night

Last night I got all my friends from my course round to make Naan Pizzas. All dietary requirements were catered from, with toppings ranging from pineapple, lardons and olives to artichoke, sweet corn and baked beans. It was a great excuse to get everyone round and I think they went down well too.

Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Alex, Lydia, Nicole, Astrid, Jess and Daisy

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

A Celebration of the Cupcake

I LOVE cupcakes, there’s this inexplicable brilliance about them. The fact that they can be simple or fancy, an afternoon treat or a whole reason for a party, they’re just great, and very much in vogue at the moment. A whole half a cupboard, a big deal in my very compact kitchen, is devoted to their creation and decoration, and I blew a large proportion of my 21st Birthday Party budget on 24 ‘baby’ cupcakes and a cake stand. It was definitely worth it.

Below is my very simple cupcake recipe. You can make them in under half an hour, and with only four ingredients so they’re affordable too. If you are stuck for ideas on the decorating front check out my friend’s blog Afternoon Crumbs for inspiration, her creations are true works of art. 

Makes 16 cakes
100g butter
100g caster sugar
2 beaten eggs
100g self raising white flower
  1. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy (if you have an electric mixer this saves a lot of time, but you can do it by hand).
  2. Gradually beat in the eggs a little at a time. Fold in the flour a little at a time.
  3. Half fill the cupcake cases in a cupcake tray and bake at 190 degrees for 15/20 minutes until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. 
Culinary Know How: FRESHER

Monday, 24 January 2011

My First Kitchen Disaster (and a good Guacamole)

It was all going great until I got it to the pan. My beautiful handcrafted quesadillas, stuffed with spring onions and red pepper, shredded left over chicken and heaps of mature cheddar, were just too perfect. The heat was too high and my flipping skills to slow, the first ended up all charred and the majority of the second ended up on the hob. Luckily, the partially raw materials still tasted pretty good, especially with the addition of my homemade guacamole, my best yet, and some shop bought salsa. If you fancy trying where I failed, the quesadilla recipe I used can be found at Jamie Oliver’s website. The guacamole recipe on the other hand can be found below.

1 large ripe avocado
1 large tomato, diced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 small garlic clove, crushed
Salt and black pepper
  1. Scoop out the flesh of the avocado and mash with a fork in a bowl. Stir in the tomato, juice and garlic, and add seasoning.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together, check the seasoning, and eat within 2 days.

Culinary Know How: FRESHER
Budget: UNDER £2
Kitchen Requirements: A BOWL AND A FORK

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Salmon Fishcakes

I always wish that I ate more fish, but I tend to find it expensive and I really don’t know what to do with it. This Nigella recipe was very simple to make, apart from my tin opener breaking at just the wrong moment, and I now have enough fishcakes to last me for a good few weeks. The best thing about this option is that you can make them ahead and they only take a few minutes to fry, making them perfect for those nights when you really can’t be bothered to cook. I served mine with peas and scalloped potatoes, and although they might look a little charred in the picture, they tasted delicious.

Adapted from Nigella Bites
Makes 9 cakes
For the cakes:
500g cold mashed potatoes
400g tinned salmon
good pinch cayenne pepper
grated zest ½ lemon
1 egg
For the coating:
2 eggs
200g breadcrumbs
50g unsalted butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
  1. Mix the cake ingredients together in a bowl. Form into patties and place on a baking sheet covered with cling film. Stand in fridge for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Beat the eggs in a bowl, and put the breadcrumbs in another. Dip the cakes in the egg and then the breadcrumbs to coat.
  3. Put oil and butter in a large pan, and fry the fishcakes until they are golden brown on the outside and heated through on the inside.

Culinary Know How: FRESHER
Budget: UNDER £5

Friday, 21 January 2011

Tarragon Chicken

Creamy herby French style sauces require a little more time and effort to make then some other midweek suppers, but drizzled over a chicken breast and served with greens and mashed potato there is nothing more appropriate for a cold night in. Most of the ingredients are store cupboard and the addition of the white wine is the perfect excuse to have a bottle over the meal. The original recipe called for fresh tarragon as well as dry but as I couldn’t find any I doubled the amount of the dried.

Serves two
2 tsp Olive Oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
3 chopped spring onions
2 tsp dried tarragon
2 chicken breasts
80ml white wine
pinch of salt
60ml double cream
pinch of white pepper
  1. Heat the oil and garlic in a frying pan that has a lid. Add the spring onions and tarragon, stir and cook.
  2. Put the chicken breasts in to the pan curved side down, and cook for 5 minutes. Sit the spring onions on the chicken if they are beginning to burn.
  3. Turn over the chicken and add the wine. Let it bubble and then add the salt. Put on the lid and turn the heat down low. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Leave for a few minutes longer if it is still pink.
  4. Remove the chicken to plates and bring liquid in the pan to boil. Add the cream and white pepper, and stir.
  5. Pour the sauce over the chicken, and serve with greens (I chose Curly Kale and some mashed potato).
Culinary Know How: FRESHER
Budget: UNDER £10
Kitchen Requirements: ONE BIG PAN

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognese

 I haven't eaten beef for a while now. I was initially apprehensive about trying a meat substitute but have found quorn mince to be a great alternative, and it's so much better for you. This is Ben's recipe, originally made with beef, but with the addition of marmite and Lea and Perrins to give the quorn a fuller flavour. It's taken two and a half years together of tweaking the ingredients to get it to this point, its always evolving, but I think we're just about there with it now. Its really rich and tasty, and the longer you can afford to leave it the better, I think it tastes best as leftovers the next day as it really gets the chance to marinate then. 

Serves 2 (with leftovers)
350g quorn mince
500g passata
large handful chopped mushrooms
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
tbsp dried mixed herbs
large glug of Lea and Perrins
tsp Marmite
glug of hot sauce (optional)
Basil (optional)
Enough spaghetti for two
tbsp vegetable oil
  1. Fry the onion, garlic and carrot over a high heat with the oil until softened.
  2. Stir in the quorn mince and heat through.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium and add the passata, mixed herbs, Lea and Perrins, Marmite, seasoning and hot sauce. Check to see if the mixture is to taste and add more if required. Add the mushrooms and stir.
  4. Cover and leave on a low heat for at least 20 minutes.
  5. Serve over spaghetti cooked to manufacturers instructions with grated cheddar and basil leaves.
Culinary Know How: FRESHER
Budget: UNDER £5
Kitchen Requirements: JUST ONE BIG PAN

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Korean Keema

When I can’t think what I want to cook I tend to turn to a curry. Great for using up a whole host of leftovers, curry is a hearty, warming choice for cold winter nights. The Korean Keema is unlike curries I have made in the past, being less focused on a flavoursome sauce and more so on the marinated meat, and although there wasn’t a sauce the meat was wonderfully juicy. I was a little cautious having never cooked turkey before, but I found the results very pleasing, both price and taste wise.

Serves 2
150g rice
250g turkey mince
4 chopped spring onions
125g frozen peas
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 x 15ml tbsp rice wine
2 x 15ml tbsp chopped fresh coriander

For the marinade:
2 x tbsp red curry paste
1 x 15ml tbsp honey
1 x 15ml tbsp rice wine
2 x 15ml tbsp soy sauce

1. Cook the rice and put a kettle on for the peas later.
2. Whisk together the marinade ingredients and stir in the turkey mince. Leave to steep for 5 minutes.
3. Heat a heavy based frying pan on the hob, and while this is happening, blanche the peas with the boiling water in a colander. When the pan is hit add the oil, peas and spring onions, and fry for 4 minutes.
4. Add the turkey and its sauce and stir fry for 5 minutes, until cooked. Rinse out the steeping bowl by adding the 2 tbsp rice wine and then pour this into the pan.
5. Stir fry everything for a further 30 seconds, serve over rice, and sprinkle with the chopped coriander.

Culinary Know How: FRESHER
Kitchen Requirements: BASIC

A Christmas Interlude

Although not strictly related to cooking, I thought I must include this Christmas’ cake decorating effort. It is a tradition of mine to have festive red and green fingertips dyed by food colouring come Christmas Eve Night. I feel that this years theme was a little more mature then previously, which have included Santa and reindeers, choirboys round Christmas trees, and mantelpieces adorned with present stuffed stockings. The cake is shop bought, as is the marzipan, which is shaped (the candle and flame is affixed to the cake with wooden toothpicks) and then painted with food colourings. This year I added a showering of gold dust to the candle and flowers to make it even more festive, and I am rather pleased with the result. 

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

I, and the rest of the world, have been suffering with a cold over the weekend and really didn’t feel like cooking. Luckily, Ben stepped in and cooked the weekly roast, he’s better at doing it then me anyway, and I was left with some lovely leftovers to work with on Monday. Still feeling a tad under the weather I decided to go for Thai Chicken Noodle Soup, chicken soup being the perfect antidote to a cold, and all the vegetables providing lots of lovely nutrients. I bought a Tesco stir fry pack, which included a chili, and a packet of bean sprouts to add crunch, but you can throw just about anything in.

Serves 3
1 litre chicken stock
around 200g noodles (or spaghetti if you’re desperate)
200ml coconut milk
3 x desert spoons fish sauce
4 cm chunk of peeled and chopped ginger
1 deseeded and chopped red chili
2 tsp turmeric
couple handfuls of shredded leftover chicken
vegetables (such as spinach leaves, curly kale, spring onion, mange tout, tender stem broccoli, mushrooms etc.)
juice of 1 lime
fresh coriander
  1. Put the hot chicken stock into a deep pan on the hob, and cook the noodles according to manufacturers instructions.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the stock, except the vegetables, stir and bring to the boil.
  3. Add the vegetables, and when they are tender, add the drained noodles. Stir everything together, and serve with torn coriander leaves and a spritz of lime juice.
Culinary Know How: FRESHER
Budget: UNDER £5
Kitchen Requirements: BASIC (JUST ONE BIG PAN)

Monday, 17 January 2011

Cheese Biscuits

Everyone likes the odd snack, and after a reading session there is nothing better then a cup of tea and a biscuit or three. Preferring savoury snacks to sweet, and having a passion for really mature cheddar, this recipe is the perfect marriage for me. The whole meal flour makes the biscuit crumbly and light and the cheese adds a real punch. Not only that but they are affordable and easy to make, consisting of just 4 ingredients, and require little skill or a particularly well-stocked kitchen. I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter this time, although if you like your biscuits extra cheesy I wouldn’t be afraid to add ½ the cheese again. They taste great on their own, or with a dollop of chutney on top.

Makes around 15 biscuits
100g 100% whole meal flour
100g softened butter
100g cheddar cheese
a pinch of paprika
1. Preheat the oven to 200C.With your hands, work all of the ingredients together in a bowl to give a soft malleable dough.
2. Roll out on to a lightly floured work surface and stamp out with cutters, before placing on a baking tray.
3. Bake in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes until the biscuits have browned a little and are no longer squidgy to touch. Cool on a wire rack.

Culinary Know How: FRESHER
Kitchen Requirements: BASIC

Naan Pizza

Pizza is the classic supper of choice for any discerning student, I had a Hawaiian on my first night in halls. Domino’s will always have a time and a place, but its price and calorie content make it unsuitable to be indulged in too often. The naan pizza is the perfect alternative, quick, easy to make, cheap to buy, and with a never-ending catalogue of options. I made my tomato sauce from scratch (although you can use a jar of passata instead) and added mozzarella, mushroom, bacon, spring onion and torn up basil leaves, although you can put just about anything on yours. This is a great option if you are cooking for friends with various dietary requirements, as they can pick and choose toppings to their liking.

Serves 1
1 shop-bought naan
Tblsp of tomato sauce (see homemade tomato sauce recipe below)
 Mozzarella, chopped into cubes (amount depending on personal preference)
Various toppings such as sliced mushrooms, fried chopped bacon, finely chopped spring onions, chorizo, cubed tinned pineapple.
Small handful of fresh basil
Tsp Olive Oil
1. Preheat the oven to 220C. Put the naan on a baking tray and add the toppings, beginning with the tomato sauce. Drizzle with a little olive oil and place in the oven for between 5 and 10 minutes, until the cheese begins to melt and brown.
2. Remove from oven and sprinkle with torn basil leaves.

For the homemade tomato sauce (also great as a pasta topping):
Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
¼ of an onion, chopped
Tsp mixed herbs
1. Put the onion and garlic into a deep saucepan with a little oil and heat until the onion begins to soften.
2. Add the tomatoes and mixed herbs and heat, stirring frequently, until you can mush the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a little, then blend to a sauce consistency with a hand held blender.

Culinary Know How: FRESHER


I have been threatening to make a blog for some time now. I have been struggling however to find a suitable theme, and wondering whether anyone would actually be interested in what I have to say. Themes have spanned from bad t-shirts, to Brighton, to art, to cooking, and I have bored Ben countless times with my plans of blog domination.

It is only with the coming of the New Year that I have vowed and began to take the baby steps into the wide world of blogging. And as for a theme, I have settled on the subject of cooking and my trials and tribulations as a burgeoning student cook.

I had never cooked, and never had any real desire to, that is until I moved in with Ben in July. The homemaker within was suddenly spurred into action and I began to plough my way through ‘the Student Cook Book’ that had hither to been accumulating dust underneath my desk. Night upon night I welcomed Ben home from work with my newest culinary conquest, with promises that from now on I would make supper every night. However, although it pains me to say it, by the beginning of the second year in October I had rather run out of steam, and recipes for that matter, ‘the Student Cook Book’ had been exhausted. I turned to the Internet for inspiration, which came in dribs and drabs, but it was mainly Ben who took up the helm and put the food on the table.      

Obviously my first steps into the world of cooking were not completely unnoticed, for Christmas provided a good haul on the kitchen front. Presents ranged from chopping boards to a set of knives, and not one, not two but THREE Nigella Lawson cookbooks. This has provided me with the perfect opportunity to dip my toe, so to speak, once again into the culinary world.

As a 21 year old student just moved into my first flat I am not equipped with the bread makers and food processors referred to in most of the grown up recipe books, but at the same time I have been left frustrated by the selection in Student cookbooks, that seem to think students are completely inept in all aspects of the kitchen, to the extent that they instruct, in patronising detail, how to make beans on toast, and other such mind numbingly boring exercises. I hope, through the course of this blog, to find recipes that fit to the students’ unique requirements, to find recipes that can be created in the most basic of kitchens and on the smallest of budgets, but that are challenging enough to create a truly tasty, fresh and balanced meal.

I won’t pretend to take any credit for the invention of recipes included within this blog, but the results, presented to you through photographs and words, are down to my own skill/luck.

And so it begins…  

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