Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Camembert Baked in the Box

Is there anything more decadent then dipping crusty white bread into molten cheese whilst sipping on a glass of cold white wine? Doesn’t exactly sound like student fare now does it? Well you can actually enjoy this gastro pub staple starter for under £2, and whilst its perhaps not the best thing to be eating if you are watching your waistline or care at all about your arteries, it’s perfectly acceptable as a rare treat.

Camembert in the box
1 clove of garlic
splash of white wine
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Take the lid off the Camembert and smear the garlic all over the top. Make around 6 small holes in the cheese and splash the wine over the top of the Camembert.
  2. Replace the lid and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and serve with all the usual crudité suspects, such as celery and carrot, some crusty white bread, or cheese crackers.

Culinary Know How: FRESHER
Budget: UNDER £2
Kitchen Requirements: -

PS: I will be absent from the blog for a few days. I promise I haven't given up on the cooking just yet, I've gone to Paris. Expect plenty of photos of macaroons, brie and floating islands on my return. 

Monday, 28 March 2011

Banana Bread

I always remember making banana bread with my dad when I was little. I used to love the stuff, but surprisingly haven’t tried making it for years. Ben hates bananas, but he was brave enough to give this ago and absolutely loved it. The bread came out really sweet, with just the right hint of banana, nothing too overpowering. It’s also brilliantly simple. If you have an electric mixer you can knock up the batter in under ten minutes, and it doesn’t take too much longer to mix it all up by hand.

Makes one loaf
75g soft butter
4 ripe bananas
200g soft brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
170g plain white flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line 23x13x6cm loaf tin with a loaf liner or grease with some extra butter.
  2. Mash the bananas in a big mixing bowl. Add the butter, egg, sugar, vanilla extract, bicarbonate of soda, salt and mix in the flour last. Pour into the loaf tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Culinary Know How: FRESHER
Budget: UNDER £4
Kitchen Requirements: LOAF TIN, LARGE MIXING BOWL.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Lorraine Pascale's Glam Macaroni Cheese

Macaroni cheese is true comfort food, but with a couple of little additions you can transform it into something more special. I still ate it curled up on the sofa in front of Take Me Out (last in the series, sob), but it could be served in individual ramekins for friends to create a bit of wow factor. The use of dolcelatte and addition of pancetta, or bacon in my case, white wine and spring onions really transformed the dish, but if you’re after a more traditional macaroni cheese you could simply omit these, and swap the dolcelatte for cheddar.

This recipe is from Lorraine Pascale’s ‘Baking Made Easy’, but can also be found on the BBC Food website.

Culinary Know How: FRESHER
Budget: UNDER £7

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Buttercream for Cupcakes

I adore making and eating cupcakes. They’re so quick and easy to make, and its even quicker to devour them. One of the best things about them is that there are so many variations, and when they come out of the oven you’re left with a blank canvas, ready to be decorated with a multitude of edible glitters and sprinkles. I’ve tried ‘making’ icing in the past (basically icing sugar and water), but have always been left with a translucent mess of a cupcake. This time I was a bit more daring and decided to try my hand at a simple buttercream. It really was simple, and made the decorating a whole lot more fun. I invested in a piping bag and nozzle when I attempted macaroons, and was able to use it in this instance too. I’m by no means an expert but I am really quite pleased with how some of them have turned out. And as for the rest, I simply flattened them out with a knife so nobody was any the wiser as to how inept I am with a piping bag!!

 Makes enough Buttercream for 12 cupcakes
150g butter, softened
375g icing sugar
seeds of half a vanilla pod
food colouring (optional)
  1. Put all the ingredients, except the food colouring, into a large mixing bowl and beat well until the mixture becomes light and fluffy (this will take a fair bit of perseverance).
  2. Separate the mixture into other bowls if you wish to add a few drops of food colouring to make coloured icing (I used red and blue).
  3. When the cupcakes are cool, ice with the buttercream. Either create a spiral effect using a piping bag, or put a blob of the buttercream on to each cake and flatten out with a knife.

Culinary Know How: FRESHER
Budget: UNDER £2
Kitchen Requirements: LARGE MIXING BOWL.

PS. Spring has officially arrived in England (just look at the view from my window), I hope you're all enjoying the sunshine. On that note, I'm off to the beach!!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Lorraine Pascale's Chicken with Lemon, Thyme and Butternut Squash

Everybody likes a Sunday roast, but when there’s only one or two of you, it’s unappealing to fork out for a whole chicken. That’s why this Lorraine Pascale recipe really jumped out, allowing you to cater for as many, or as few as you need. The results were great, tender chicken with a crispy herby skin, and surprisingly tasty butternut squash (I’ve always found it terribly disappointing in the past). I added buttered curly kale and drizzled it all with the lovely chicken stock gravy.

This is the first recipe that I have tried from Lorraine’s ‘Baking Made Easy’ book and I was pleased to see that there were proper meals, not just lot’s of cakes and biscuits. The great thing about this book is that each recipe is set out step by step, with no cheffy jargon, so very easy to understand for the newbie cook like me (The only little criticism that I would have is that there’s not many pictures, I like to eat with my eyes first!!).

Serves 2
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 chicken pieces with skin on (I used thighs)
½ butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into large chunks
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
Small handful of fresh thyme leaves
4 cloves of garlic, squashed but left unpeeled
zest of ½ lemon
½ glass of white wine
1 tbsp plain flour
150ml chicken stock
  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Drizzle half the oil on to the chicken and season. Put them with the skin side down in a roasting tin and cook for 10 minutes.
  2. In another roasting tin, put the squash and drizzle with the other half of the oil.
  3. Remove the chicken from the oven and turn it down to 170C. Turn the chicken pieces skin side up. Sprinkle both the chicken and squash with the rosemary, thyme, garlic and lemon zest, then put them both in the oven for 30 minutes, (turning the squash pieces over half way through) until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the oven, and put the chicken pieces onto a plate with the garlic. Cover the plate with baking parchment and set aside.
  4. To make the sauce, tip away all but 1 tbsp of the fat from the chicken juices in the tin. Place the tin over the hob on a medium heat, add the wine and cook until the mixture has reduced to 1 ½ tablespoons. Stir in the flour until there are no lumps. Then add the stock, stirring constantly. Bring the mixture to the boil then remove from the heat. Pass the mixture through a sieve and taste to check whether any seasoning is required. Remove the squash from the oven, and serve everything drizzled over with the sauce.

Culinary Know How: FRESHER
Budget: UNDER £6

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Apple and Blackberry Crumble

This is the second recipe that I’ve tried from Sophie Dahl’s book, and it turned out as equally good as the last. A real English classic, I’ve actually made this twice in two days, the first being yesterday over at my friend’s house, with the help of expert apple chopper Jess. The tartness of the blackberries was balanced with the delicate flavour of the apples, and the overall consistency wasn’t stodgy or mushy, as has been the case with crumbles I’ve tried in the past. It’s also brilliantly easy to make.

Serves 6
115g plain white flour
50g porridge oats
100g butter (+1tbsp for the fruit)
50g soft brown sugar (+2tbsp for the fruit)
225g blackberries
225g apples, cored and chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Mix the flour, butter and oats in a mixing bowl with your fingers, until you get the consistency of breadcrumbs. Then mix in the sugar.
  2. Put the fruit into the dish and dot the extra butter, and sprinkle with the extra sugar. Cover the fruit with the crumble mixture.
  3. Bake in the oven for half an hour, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden.

Culinary Know How: FRESHER
Budget: UNDER £5
Kitchen Requirements: MIXING BOWL, PIE/PYREX DISH

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Cajun Chicken Burgers

The one thing I really miss about eating beef, apart from a rare steak of course, is a good burger. I can still eat a MacDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese (perhaps an indication of the quality of the meat), but its not really the same. However, I’ve finally found a way to quell my beef burger cravings, in the form of the humble chicken burger. I livened up the meat with a mixture of paprika, cumin and ground coriander, and although it doesn’t have same satisfyingly deep flavour of a proper beef burger, it still tastes very good. Particularly if you throw some good chunks of avocado and a rasher of bacon into the mix. Squished between two lightly toasted pieces of ciabatta, and with the addition of your favourite relish and maybe some cheese, and you’ve got your self a simple, inexpensive and healthier supper. And it’s massively tasty too.

Serves 2
2 Ciabatta rolls
2 skinless chicken breasts
1 ripe avocado
2 rashers of bacon
Thin slices of cheese (I had some cheese knocking about in the fridge)
Spinach leaves
Relish of choice
1 dessert spoon ground coriander
1 dessert spoon ground cumin
1 dessert spoon paprika
1tbsp of olive oil
salt and pepper
  1. Put the coriander, cumin and paprika into a bowl, and add about half a tablespoon of olive oil. Mix it all together before adding the chicken breasts. Make sure they are well coated. Set the grill to high.
  2. Heat the remaining oil in a wide frying pan, and add the chicken breasts, frying for around five minutes on each side, until cooked. Then put the chicken to one side of the pan and fry the bacon until it is cooked.
  3. Meanwhile, slice the rolls in half and halve, stone, peel and slice the avocado. Lightly toast the rolls, cut side up, and then add the slices of cheese to the top side of the rolls and toast them a little longer, until the cheese has melted.
  4.  Assemble the burgers however you like. I put the spinach leaves on the bottom, then the bacon, then sliced the chicken and alternated each slice with a slice of avocado. I served it all with lightly dressed spinach leaves.

Culinary Know How: FRESHER
Budget: UNDER £5
Kitchen Requirements: BOWL, WIDE FRYING PAN. 

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Bacardi Party (How to make Cuba Libre's and Mojito's)

So today’s post is a slight diversion from my usual food related musings. However, there are still recipes, although on this occasion they are of the alcoholic variety. My friend Emma won a Bacardi hosted ‘Mojito’s at Mine’ competition, and I was lucky enough to bag an invite. We were provided with cocktail tuition, and plenty of Bacardi, all served up behind a makeshift bar. I can now make a mojito whilst blindfolded, an invaluable skill I’m sure you’ll agree. Thanks to Emma and the Bacardi girls.

50ml Bacardi (Rum)
150ml coca cola
½ lime
Cubed Ice
  1. Half fill a highball glass with ice.
  2. Squeeze in the juice of half a lime and drop the wedge into the glass.
  3. Top with more ice, the rum and the coca cola.

50ml Bacardi (Rum)
½ lime
2 tsp caster sugar
12 mint leaves
dash of soda water
Crushed Ice
  1. Slap the mint leaves against your hand to release the flavour, then rub them around the edge of a tall glass, then drop them into the glass.
  2. Pour over the juice of half a lime and the caster sugar, and half fill the glass with crushed ice. Churn with a long spoon to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Fill the glass with more ice, add the rum, a dash of soda and swizzle the long spoon to mix everything together. Garnish with mint

    Monday, 14 March 2011

    Sophie Dahl's Chicken Curry

    This weekend I took delivery of three new cookbooks, one of which being ‘Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights’. I was attracted initially by the mouth watering photography and the way in which the recipes are divided seasonally, and in to breakfast, lunch and supper. The book does not disappoint, and I’m looking forward in particular to trying my hand at the brown rice risotto with pumpkin, mascarpone, sage and almonds and the warm winter vegetable salad. An added bonus for a anyone who doesn’t really eat red meat is that Sophie is a vegetarian and only includes chicken and fish recipes in the book, a long with some really inventive looking vegetarian dishes.

    Yesterday I wasn’t feeling too adventurous, so turned to Sophie’s dad’s Chicken Curry. I had all the ingredients in the house and it all looked very straightforward so I gave it a go, and I can’t tell you how pleased I was with the results. A lot of coconut is included in the recipe so I was expecting it to be overly sweet, but all of the other flavours shone through really nicely. It was absolutely delicious, and if this is anything to go by, I can’t wait to try cooking from the rest of the book.

    Adapted from ‘Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights’ (I omitted the Serrano chillies and served it with boiled rice sprinkled with black onion seeds rather then the suggested cauliflower.)
    Serves 2 hungry students
    1 large onion, finely chopped
    2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
    a thumb sized slice of fresh root ginger, grated
    2 tbsp olive oil
    2 tsp curry powder
    2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite sized pieces
    400ml can of light coconut milk
    salt and pepper
    enough rice for 2
    tbsp black onion seeds
    1. Sweat the onion, garlic and ginger in oil in a large deep frying pan for a few minutes. Add the curry powder, and stir for a few more minutes. Add the chicken to the mixture and cook for another few minutes before seasoning to taste.
    2. Pour the coconut into the pan and simmer over a low heat for about 20 minutes, until the chicken is properly cooked through.
    3. Meanwhile boil the rice according to manufacturers instructions, and toss in some black onion seeds for the final minute of cooking.
    Culinary Know How: FRESHER
    Budget: UNDER £4
    Kitchen Requirements: LARGE DEEP PAN, SAUCE PAN.

    Sunday, 13 March 2011

    Sausage and Tomato Casserole

    This is a really great option when you’ve got tomatoes going funny in the fridge, or when you’re feeling really lazy and don’t want much washing up to do afterwards. A hearty, warming dish, it’s the perfect option after a hard days essay writing (I have so much work at the moment!!), because apart from the chopping and occasional stir, you can just leave it to do its thing, its really that simple.

    The recipe is from the trusty Good Food website, and the only change I made was to use regular tomatoes as apposed to sun dried. I served it with spaghetti on this occasion, and it tasted wonderful reheated for lunch the next day.

    Culinary Know How: FRESHER
    Budget: UNDER £4
    Kitchen Requirements: LARGE DEEP PAN.

    Saturday, 12 March 2011

    The Ultimate Chocolate Cake

    Yesterday was Ben’s Birthday and I decided to mark the occasion with the most calorific cake I have ever known. This is definitely the cake that Bruce Bogtrotter was forced to eat by the evil Miss Trunchbull in ‘Matilda’, crammed full of sugar and dark chocolate, and smothered with yet more melted chocolate, it certainly won’t appeal to anyone watching their waistline. I’ve only managed a sliver so far, but I can assure you that it is very good, rich yes, but the texture is surprisingly light, considering what’s been packed in to it. Most importantly the Birthday Boy was impressed, as were his friends.

    I followed this BBC Good Food recipe, pretty much to the letter, except I substituted half the dark chocolate that was going into the ganache with milk chocolate (I’m not all that keen on the bitterness of dark chocolate) and halved the cake mixture into two cake tins to make a sandwich, rather then risk cutting it into three. I also checked on the cakes after they had been in the oven for 1 hour, and they were already cooked (although this may just be my oven). Happy 25th Birthday Baby!!

    Culinary Know How: FRESHER
    Budget: UNDER £10

    Saturday, 5 March 2011

    Sausages with Rosemary Mash and Onion Gravy

    I don’t think there is any meal that epitomizes comfort food much better then bangers and mash. Even in its simplest form, fried sausages with Smash and Bisto, it still tastes brilliant (at least I think so!!). However, with a few tweaks this classic dish can be transformed into gastro pub grub. On this occasion I had lots of leftover rosemary so went for a herby mash, but adding a knob of butter or spoonful of mustard, or mixing with celeriac or sweet potato are also great ways to enhance your mash.

    I followed this recipe, originally from the ‘Student Cookbook’, and chose to fry my sausages, although the healthier option would be to grill or bake.

    Culinary Know How: FRESHER
    Budget: UNDER £4

    Tuesday, 1 March 2011

    Lemon Drizzle Cake

    Last night Ben and I went to see True Grit, and due to the extortionate price of cinema food, I decided to make my own snacks to munch on during the film. I went for the very healthy combination of cheese straws and lemon drizzle cake, the cake being something I’d wanted to try for a while now. I followed a very simple BBC Good Food recipe, the only change I made was to add the zest of two lemons, rather then one, as I like my cake extra lemony. Although the drizzle was more transparent then I had hoped it created a lovely crust. The cake is heavy, crammed with sugar and butter and drenched in lemon juice, but I suppose this is what makes it so tasty. And the film was good too!!

    Culinary Know How: FRESHER
    Budget: UNDER £3

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