Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Brown Rice Salad

This was more Saturday morning cooking, but this time I was definitely trying to be healthy. Not in any worthy sense of the word, I just wanted to eat something that was of course tasty but felt like it was doing me good and didn't send me back to bed for a nap.

My main inspiration was this recipe for Tuktuk salad from Waitrose Food Illustrated (my new food magazine of choice). But as these things so often go, I was limited by ingredients and ended up going down my own path, albeit still a tasty one.

The base is brown rice which I always find works best in salads when its been allowed to cool first. Some lentils for texture and added health benefits although chickpeas would be good too. Plenty of red onion and garlic or try spring onions. Some toasted seeds for crunch, but toasted cashews would be equally delicious and a simple zingy salad dressing. I like to put parsley on everything if I can and the freshness works well here, but you could try coriander or mint.

The great thing about a salad like this is that it will hold up well for a few days, have it with a dollop of hummus in a pitta or with grilled fish or on its own for lunch and like me, feel very virtuous.


Serves 4

125g puy lentils, cooked
250g brown rice, cooked
2 red onions, finely diced
5 tomatoes, diced
200g frozen peas, defrosted
100g sunflower seeds, toasted
1 small bunch parsley, chopped

1 ½ tsp dijon mustard
1 ½ tbsp cider vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil

This is really just an assembly job, all the work goes into preparing the ingredients.

Mix all the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk the dressing and pour over. Mix well and check for seasoning.

Make sure your cooked brown rice is completely cool before assembling the salad.


Monday, 23 February 2009

Triple Decker Club Sandwich

These are inspired the by The delightful Rose in Oxford, in fact just looking for a link to the website is making me drool. Many mornings, lunches and afternoons have been happily spent here drinking vanilla tea, eating scones and everything else. It's all organic, made from scratch and outrageously good.

The club sandwich is legendary, layers of chicken oozing with mayonnaise and avocado, crispy bacon, lettuce and tomato. A heart attack on a plate, maybe. The best way to start the weekend, definitely. This is my version - I like to secure the little triangles with cocktail sticks not just for looks, this helps hold the entire creation together. For next time I'm planning on having this with a handful of crisps to wedge into the sandwich, a guilty pleasure if you will.


Makes 2 rather large sandwiches

6 slices bread
150g cooked chicken, shredded
2 tomatoes, sliced
6 rashers streaky bacon
1 avocado
2 tbsp mayonnaise
handful lettuce, shredded

  • Toast your bread. Meanwhile cook the bacon in a frying pan until golden and crispy.
  • Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone and scoop out the flesh. Mash in bowl with a little salt and pepper, and 1tbsp mayonnaise.
  • To assemble the sandwiches spread half the avocado onto one slice of bread and top with half the chicken and another slice of bread. Top this with half the bacon, tomatoes and lettuce. Spread half the mayonnaise onto the third slice of bread and complete. Repeat for the other sandwich.


Friday, 20 February 2009

Pappardelle with Sausage and Savoy Cabbage

Possibly the best way to eat savoy cabbage (along with colcannon). There aren't many vegetables that don't benefit from being paired with pasta and cream or cheese. Faced with another cabbage in the veg box, I rustled this up and it's definitely one to make again.

The cabbage is definitely the star, you're not trying to mask it with all the other ingredients, simply enhance. So don't be alarmed at the amount of raw cabbage you have to fit into the frying pan, it will cook down. This is all about using what you have, any other pasta will do, try mozzarella in place of the parmesan or strong cheddar. Any other greens would also work well, kale, chard, or spinach.


serves 4

400g pappardelle
1 pack sausages, approx 250g
2 fat cloves garlic, finely chopped
50g butter
1 Savoy cabbage
200g grated parmesan
3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

  • Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and reserve a mugful of the cooking water.
  • Meanwhile, quarter the cabbage, remove the core and slice as finely as possible.
  • Heat a large frying pan and add a little oil, split the sausages, and add the insides to the pan, use a wooden spoon to break the meat up into chunks whilst you're frying. Once golden, add the cabbage, garlic and butter.
  • This will look like a huge amount of cabbage, but it will cook down. Stir as best you can and try to coat it all in the buttery juices. Continue frying and stirring for about 5mins until the cabbage is completely cooked, season well.
  • Tip the pasta into the pan along with the cheese and 2 tbsp cooking water. Stir the pasta into the cabbage, be patient after a minute or so, the cheese will melt and form a lovely shiny sauce that clings to the pasta, add some more pasta water if you need to.
  • Sprinkle over the pine nuts and serve.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Yes, yes, yes. Possibly one of the best puddings ever and it's so much better homemade. Not only that but it's worringly easy to make, do it once and prepare to become obsessed.

Perfect, tooth-achingly sweet comfort food. Dates and dark brown sugar give this it's butterscotch stickiness with a divine caramel sauce to pour over. I cook them in muffin tins for individual puddings.

You could actually bake a big batch and freeze leftovers (as if!) for a later date.


Makes 6 puddings

125g pitted dates, chopped
½ tsp bicarbonate soda
30g butter
90g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
125g brown sugar
1 egg

100ml double cream
75g brown sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup

vanilla ice cream to serve

  • Put the dates and 125ml water into a small saucepan, heat until bubbling, take off the heat and stir in the bicarbonate of soda and butter until melted.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the egg in a large bowl, add the date mixture, flour and baking powder and stir until combined.
  • Grease six holes in a muffin tray and divide the mixture into them. Bake at 180C for 20mins until a cake tester comes out clean.
  • To make the sauce, add all the ingredients to a small pan, bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.
  • To serve, place the pudding on a plate, pierce a few times and drizzle the sauce over. Top with a big scoop of ice cream.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Root Vegetable Rostis

And yet, the root vegetables keep appearing, every week a pile of muddy parsnips and carrots peeking from the vegetable box. Only this week there was a massive swede coming along for the ride, enough to send you over the edge, I tell you.

So, on Saturday morning, reading cookery books as per usual, I came across a Bill Granger recipe for potato and feta pancakes. I adapted this (a lot), left out the feta and used parsnip, carrot and swede and what a success! The egg binded them perfectly to form sweet little cakes, perfect with baked beans and a fried egg for breakfast. Although I'd eat them wherever you'd normally have potato.
I'm thinking these would be good with a handful of grated cheese thrown into the mix or courgettes and feta in summer.


Serves 4

500g root vegetables, grated. Try potato, parsnip, carrot, swede, turnip, squash or pumpkin
1 onion, grated
2 eggs
45g flour
4 tbsp vegetable oil

  • Put the grated vegetables in a colander with a liberal sprinkling of salt and leave for 30mins.
  • Meanwhile whisk the eggs in a large bowl and add the flour. Add the vegetables to the bowl squeezing out as much water as possible as you go. Stir well and season.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in the pan and add about 2 tbsp of mixture to the pan for each rosti, you should get about 8.
  • Make sure the heat is on medium and leave the rostis to fry for 4-5mins on each side until golden brown.


Sunday, 15 February 2009

Valentine's Day

The combination of the credit crunch and February 14th presented the perfect excuse to buy lots of decadent ingredients, cook up a delicious meal, pop open some bubbly and hunker down for the evening.

The starter was a beef carpaccio salad, inspired by this Jamie Oliver recipe, although we used rocket instead of green beans, the mustardy onion dressing went perfectly and it's actually a fairly cost effective starter as 1 steak was plenty for 2 people.

The main event, another Jamie Oliver recipe, roast monkfish with black olive sauce, we left out the mash and had new potatoes sliced into coins and roasted with plenty of salt, oil and garlic. What a delight, meaty monkfish is fast becoming a favourite especially as a certain someone is allergic to white fish.

And for dessert... lemon cheescake ice cream from the delightful Nigella, cheesecake in frozen form. Read more...

Saturday, 7 February 2009


Ok, so I've been a bit absent lately. Not because I haven't been cooking (I'm always cooking, and eating) but because I've been busy promoting

Let me explain... I met Kat, a fellow foodie in last year of my degree at Oxford in 2007. As we were both spending our days langusihing in the chemistry lab, we often had looong coffee and cake breaks. During one such break, Kat told me about an idea she'd had for a website dedicated to food in Oxford, initially aimed at students, we wanted to get people excited about good food.

With youthful exuberance and in hindsight, naivety, we decided to build the website from scratch ourselves and went on some Dreamweaver courses. If anyone has ever even tried to edit a website before will know, this was a crazy idea. It's literally taken me until now to be any good and that's only at the front end stuff. Thankfully we have techy friends in the right places to do the really complicated database stuff.

So, on we ploughed, we got degrees and proper jobs and at the weekend, tapped away. Having this blog helped as you will notice lots of the same recipes and pictures... All that's left to say now is please take a look, let me know what you think. Although aimed at Oxford residents, we still have information on food isses, healthy eating and plenty of recipes. If you've eaten (and enjoyed) one of my cakes before, then the recipes are all here!

This is very much version 1.0, Kat and I still have our work cut out marketing and adding lots more content, but its such a relief to have it officially launched, much fizzy wine was consumed at the weekend at the excellent Door 74 - if you're ever in Oxford, you must visit!

Ps: I did make this delightful yoghurt cake on Monday's snow day, with black cherry yoghurt that was a month out of date and still fine, makes you wonder what they put in it.... Read more...

Friday, 6 February 2009

Parsnip and Leek Risotto

Running with the idea of cooking parsnips in long thin strips with or without bacon like this recipe, I came up with this risotto, utilising some leeks lurking in the fridge. I'm not normally a fan of risotto, but this was perfect, rich and comforting. I tried to use as much parsnip and leek as possible to give this some redeeming features to go along with the butter and cheese, in reality it means it's not as heavy and stodgy and you'd expect.


Serves 4

6 rashers streaky bacon, finely sliced
a few sprigs of thyme or rosemary, finely chopped
300g leeks, finely sliced
500g parsnips
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
300g arborio risotto rice
125ml white wine
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
50g butter
100g grated parmesan

  • Heat a large saucepan and drop in the bacon along with a glug of oil and the thyme. Fry on a high heat for a few mins, add the parsnip and cook for a few mins more until tinged golden.
  • Turn the heat down and add the leeks and garlic cook for about 5mins until soft. Pour in the rice, stir well and cook until the grains become translucent.
  • Next add the wine and turn up the heat, allow the wine to bubble away until nearly all of it has gone.
  • Now add a ladleful of stock, stir gently until nearly all the stock has been absorbed (but not all!), continue to do this until most of the stock has been absorbed and the rice is cooked with a little bite, add a little more stock if necessary to make sure the risott is 'wet' and not stiff.
  • At this point check the seasoning, add the butter and cheese, stir briefly, pop on a lid and leave for 5mins before serving.