August 21, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 11:14 am

That’s beause i’m finalising my thesis. It’s almost done, I just need to check it through for spelling and grammar mistakes and possibly, if I feel really keen, check the big algebraic calculations again.

If you’re very bored and want to see what maths geeks spend their time doing, I’ve put it here as a pdf file.

Feel free to point out any minor errors. Don’t mention any major ones, it’ll just depress me. ;)

On another note, Goon and I found a rather nice flat. It has a huge kitchen, gas hob and a  ’balcony.’ In fact, the kitchen is big enough for me to set up a little food blogging station by the cooker. :) There’s plenty of room for Goon’s geeking equipment too, so he’s happy. We’re moving in on Sunday. :)

Once my thesis is all finished (or maybe even earlier if it becomes too tiresome) I’ll post about Goon’s latest cooking adventures and about the meal I made just to show off some cute little sushi dishes I’ve found.

Until then, happy eating! If you’d like some really silly food related entertainment, check out and DON’T SKIP THE INTRO!!!

August 17, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 5:09 pm

A little while back I told you about my new job up in Highgate School. Time is certainly passing quickly and, with just a few weeks left before I start work, it’s time Goon and I found a new place to live.

Of course, the most important thing for me in a flat is a decent kitchen, not like the one we have now. I want worksurface space, a gas cooker and a freezer that’s big enough to hold more than just some ice cubes and a bag of peas. Goon just wants somewhere close to a tube station so he can minimise the time he spends on his feet. Sadly,even finding this combination has so far proved nearly impossible. 

It seems that a place to cook is a luxury in London now. With landlords rapidly converting every period building into 4 apartment blocks, we’ve seen many places with decent bedrooms but poor cooking and living space. We found several conversions which would have been fine but, all they had in the ‘open plan kitchen-lounge’ was one of those ghastly electric hobs and a sink. Not even a table to prep ingredients. How depressing. 

It was after seeing one of these conversions that we encountered what must be the most stupid bunch of letting agents in London. In desperation we had popped into a slightly dodgy looking agency in the vague hope of discovering a suitable flat. We were prepared for some scare tactics and a little bit of bending the truth in a place like this, but we weren’t quite ready for this level of idiocy.

“Oh, yes, this place is going to go VERY quickly,” said the young lady showing us around a particularly expensive one bed dump, “In fact we had a couple in today who wanted it right away.”

 Now, despite the impression he gives during his kitchen misadventures, Goon isn’t stupid.”So why didn’t they put down a deposit?” he asked. She paused for quite a while.

“Uh…….because…….. they left their cashcard at home. They’ll be coming in specially tomorrow all the way from….uh… Wimbledon….so they’re very keen. If you want it, you’d need to put down the cash before they came back.” I rolled my eyes. As if anyone in their right mind would want that place for that price. I took over the debate, somewhat sarcastically.

 ”Well, if we want this place, I’ll be sure to run over with the cash first thing tomorrow.” The agent looked worried.

Back at their offices, Goon was having fun winding another agent up.”So, that couple from Greenwich, they really like the place, huh?”
The agent looked confused for a second.”Couple from…oh.. RIGHT the couple from Greenwich, yes they were…”

“Wimbledon!”  The other agent interjected in a hurry. ”Remember? They were from Wimbledon?” She nodded encouragingly at him. I, frankly, couldn’t believe how bad this woman was at lying.

“Ah, yes, Greenwich, Clapham… these places South of the river are all the same to me.” He laughed nervously. His colleague gave him a look that could kill.

And, as if they hadn’t made big enough fools out of themselves already, the estate agents called back the next morning with this little gem.

AGENT:The couple interested in the flat have come back. Do you want the flat,because we’ll need the money today if you do.
GOON: What, they’re in the office now?
GOON: Ready to put the money down?
AGENT: That’s right.
GOON:  And you’re asking me if we want the flat?
AGENT: Ummm…. yes? 
GOON: How could we possibly put the money down before them if they’re already there?
AGENT Umm… right.

(long pause)

AGENT: If they don’t put the money down now, shall I call you back?

Goon hung up.

So we spent Saturday tramping around again and by the evening we were tired and hungry and in need of some comforting and invigorating food. It was still very  hot  so it needed to be reasonably light and refreshing too. Plus I was knackered. So I didn’t want anything to keep me on my feet for more than an hour.

I was thinking a warm salad with some spicy, citrusy flavours would be good, perhaps with a South East Asian Influence. So I started improvising and out came this.

vietnamese style rice noodle salad with seared marinated beef


Vietnamese Style Noodle Salad with Seared Marinated Beef

For The Beef  (we used around 425g beef fillet for two of us)

  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground nut oil
  • 1 heaped teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 inch ginger root, grated
  • a spring onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 small green chillies,chopped (don’t mention this to Goon!)

Mix all the marinade ingredients together well in a bowl. 

Cut the beef fillet into thin strips, about  a centimetre wide. Toss them in the marinade and leave them to marinate for about 90 minutes, tossing them every half hour to make sure the marinade stays well distributed. While the beef is marinating, make the salad (below), then have a sit down.

Once the beef has finished marinating, get a frying pan very hot and sear the beef strips for around 40s per side (or until the outside is cooked). You may need to do this in batches. Place the beef strips on a warm plate and cover with foil. Leave to rest for about 5 minutes.

Arrange the beef over or around the noodle salad, squeeze over some more lime and garnish with chopped coriander if you like.


For the salad (intended for 2 but enough for 3)

  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into little 3 inch long, narrow batons.
  • 4 inches of cucumber, cut like the carrot or maybe a bit thicker.
  • 1 small pointed red pepper, deseeded cut the same as the carrot
  • 3 spring onions, sliced 
  • 250g of fine rice noodles,
  • handful of peanuts, roasted
  • handful coriander leaves roughly chopped
  • 10-15 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • juice from 1 1/2 limes and grated zest to taste
  • A little salt
  • enough groundnut oil to lightly coat the rice noodles.

cook the rice noodles according the the pack instructions, then drain andrefresh in cold water immediately. i find that this stops them overcooking and disintegrating. Then drain the noodles and toss them in the oil and lime juice to stop them sticking. 

Then just throw in the rest of the ingredients and toss everything together until its thoroughly mixed. Gently warm the salad through, then taste and  adjust seasoning.


This was quick, tasty and filling without being heavy. Goon loved the marinated beef but he seems to be less keen on the fresh chopped mint in this form. personally i think its great. I find the combination of lime, coriander and mint to be really refreshing.

That meal  was exactly what we needed after a hard day of flat hunting. I just keep hoping that eventually we’ll find our perfect kitchen flat, preferably BEFORE my new job starts.

August 9, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 3:20 pm

Now, I like pink, but this is just ridiculous.

mackerel with gooseberry sauce

Mackerel with gooseberry sauce is a classic pairing. I love this fish, so this is a dish I’ve wanted to make since I first came across it on the menu of a pub almost five years ago.  The reason I took so long is, although mackerel is always easy to get, gooseberries have a very short season and I inevitably forget about them during the brief period when they are around.

This year was very nearly no exception. Luckily, I accidentally came across some of the last fruit of the season, hiding behind some raspberries in Tesco. This jolted my memory about the mackerel dish so I ran off to the fish-counter and got a couple of large whole fish for me and Goon. Remembering the ridiculous situation Goon got in the last time we had mackerel, I got the fishmonger to remove the heads from these fish this time.

Like most of the gooseberries I’d seen, these ones were green, although slightly tinged with pink. I had no idea they would have such a dramatic colour change in my saucepan. All I did was simmer the berries with some, mint, sugar and white wine. Once they were soft, I passed the dark greenish mixture through a sieve. As the skins were left behind I was left with a reasonably dark pink liquid. The sauce didn’t turn to the lurid colour in the photograph until I melted a chunk of butter into the sauce.

Of course, like most small children, Goon got very excited by the brightly coloured food. In fact he was so excited by the sauce that, for the first time ever, he didn’t moan at all about the fish having bones! I couldn’t believe it!  

I can see why mackerel and gooseberry has become such a classic pairing. Mackerel works well with acidic sauces that cut through its wonderful oily richness. The gooseberries have that acidity and a very interesting flavour too. Despite its psychadelic appearance, this meal was delicious.

I accompanied our mackerel with a potato and onion salad with sour cream, parsley and thyme and some steamed green beans. It was a very refreshing dinner for the hottest day of the year so far. It’s a shame the gooseberries won’t be around for much longer.

Gooseberry Sauce for Mackerel

(makes enough to accompany 2 mackerel)

  • 175g washed gooseberries
  • 20g caster sugar
  • around 10 mint leaves
  • white wine or cider to cover. A sweet-ish wine with elderflower flavours works really well.
  • 15g butter (I used unsalted but then added a little salt at the end)
  • A little salt if necessary

Simmer the gooseberries, mint and sugar in the wine or cider until they are soft. Gently mash them up using a wooden spatula, then pass the mixture through a sieve. Melt in the butter, taste and add more sugar and the salt if it needs it.


I’ve decided to send  my gooseberries to Weekend Herb Blogging, which this week is hosted by Melissa, the Cooking Diva. Check out the roundup at her blog on Monday.

August 7, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 4:11 pm

Goon think’s  there’s something a little scary about Delia Smith. I think it’s something to do with this picture.


I never thought I’d end up buying a Delia book. It’s just not my style of cooking. I’m much more of a Gordon Ramsey fan.  However, a few days ago, I bit the bullet and picked up her Complete Cookery Course as many people had said it was good for teaching beginners. There certainly were a lot of recipes in it, which would make it a useful tool for Goon, and I noticed a few good ideas for me to try too.

That evening, I took the book to Goon for him to have a look. Goon cowered slightly on the sofa, as the giant face on the cover bore down on him.

“It’s got very detailed instructions,” I said soothingly. “You like detailed instructions, don’t you?” Goon nodded, then whimpered slightly at Delia’s creepy half-smile and stuck his face in a cushion.  I sighed and took the dustcover bearing Delia’s portrait off the book. Goon was much happier after that. 

My plan was for Goon to cook a recipe of his choice the following night using some cod. I’d specifically chosen fish as he’d not tried cooking it before. It didn’t take Goon long at all to find the easiest recipe in the section: baked white fish with a sauce made from sour cream, capers and watercress. 

The recipe is as simple as it sounds but it needed a fair bit of alteration. For a start it called for just one teaspoon of fresh tarragon, which really wouldn’t have been enough. Ditto the quantities for capers and watercress. We doubled the values for all of these.

The main problem though, was this recipe leaves the fish a little dry. I think it is because the suggested baking time was a bit long. Next time I’d change the 20 minutes at 190C to 15 minutes at 180C.

Baked Fish with a Sour Cream, Caper and Watercress Sauce (Adapted from Delia Smith’s Complete Illustrated Cookery Course)

Recipe to follow soon: Apologies for the delay, my home computer had a small…. umm…’accident’ with a glass of wine, which has left the keyboard a little worse for wear, which means I’ll need to copy out the recipe and bring it into the office before I can type it up.


Baked Fish with sour cream and capers

Goon found this recipe very easy to follow. If he hadn’t been so late starting it, he would probably have been able to make the accompaniments to the meal too. As it was, I took over that part of the meal as I wanted to have dinner before 11pm.

I have noticed that, even though Goon claims he needs precise instructions to cook, he doesn’t actually follow them at all. He’s just as blazé with quantities as I am. Sometimes he asks me questons which makes it obvious he hasn’t even read the recipe he’s trying to follow. Still, with me in the kitchen shouting, “Read the ****ing recipe!” he seems to be getting better. 

As for our verdict on the meal, we thought it was fine but nothing to write home about. I think the sauce could have done with a bit more flavour. Perhaps a little extra wine or the addition of a little fish stock would have helped. The main downside was the slightly overcooked fish, but I’m sure knocking a few minutes off the cooking time would sort that out.

For Goon’s next cooking experiment, I’ve picked something reasonably challenging. To give you a clue, it will involve a cheese sauce topping. I wonder how he’ll cope with that.

August 3, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 2:51 pm

Here’s a question for the food bloggers reading this. Have you ever made a dish that you were so pleased and excited about, you wanted to blog it right away so that other people could also try it, only to find that, when you uploaded the photos, every single one looked like utter crap? What do you do in that situation?

That is what happened just over two weeks ago, when I first cooked ostrich in a yakitori -style marinade. I was really shocked by how good it was, especially since it is such a simple thing to do! The flavours were absolutely perfect. The sweetness of honey and stem ginger in the marinade brought out the gamey flavours of the bird and the umami of the soy complemented its beefy side. Without a doubt, it was the best ostrich I’ve ever had- and I’ve had a LOT of ostrich.

Like I say, the pictures of the delicious meal were terrible. So terrible that I decided not to blog it. Instead I would wait until I could next afford more ostrich fillet and make the meal again, being careful with the presentation. 

That is precisely what I did on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, it seems that ostrich yakitori is just not a photogenic meal and, yet again, most of the photos were bloody terrible. This time, however, I will blog it anyway since one photo was almost passable

Just remember, it tastes much, much better than it looks. 

ostrich yakitori with tempura veg and noodles

The things you can see on the far left are tempura vegetables. I had a little wasabi cream to dip them in, just to provide an exciting contrast to the sweetness of the meat. The ostrich is sitting on some fairly standard stir-fried noodles, to which I added the leftover egg yolks from the tempura batter, some leftover vegetables and a little sesame oil.

‘Yakitori’ Marinade for Ostrich

These marinade quantities are very rough as I was constantly tasting and adjusting as I made it. Here’s my best guess at what we used for approximately 450g of ostrich fillet.

  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 small chunk stem ginger, crushed
  • 3/4 tablespoon sherry (as a substitute for sake)

Cut your ostrich fillet into large chunks. Combine the marinade ingredients and toss the ostrich chunks in the marinade to coat them. Leave to marinate for at least two hours, tossing the chicnks of meat in the marinade every half hour.

Next, skewer the chunks of ostrich.  I think these  skewers would be ideal done on a barbeque, but all I have is a crummy electric grill. So I griddled the skewers on the highest setting instead, cooking them for about 45 seconds, then turning them by 90 degrees until all the exposed meat had been cooked. This meant we got the nice blackened flavour on the outside of the skewer, but the inside was still lovely and rare.

Tip the excess marinade into a small saucepan. Bring it to boiling point, and let it thicken. Serve the ostrich skewer with noodles, rice or whatever you like, with the thickened marinade drizzled over it.




August 1, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 5:14 pm

I’m beginning to worry that I’m more like my parents than I previously thought. When I was little, I spent hours, bored, in Tesco as Dad did a very detailed weekly shop. It was completely beyond me how anyone could take such pleasure in grocery shopping*. Now the shoe is very much on the other foot. I’m the one making the weekly pilgimage to Borough and I can spend just as long as Dad did eyeing up the vegetables.

Another way in which I have taken after my father is my love of food bargains. I’m not quite as bad as he was- at least I eventually eat every food bargain I get- but I love finding good quality food for low prices.

Recently, Whole Foods has been a great place to get bargains as their pricing system has been on the fritz.  I’ve managed to get a few items for free as, if something isn’t on the computer system, they don’t charge you for it. This happened for some oyster mushrooms and  several exotic fruits, but I got the best bargain of all last week.

I’d popped into the store to get a whole chicken to roast but had started checking out the prices on the individual joints. Something didn’t add up. I noticed two packs of corn fed chicken supremes (exactly the same product) next to each other. One weighed 350g and cost £2.30 and the other weighed 600g and cost £7.85. Closer inspection did indeed reveal that the larger pack cost twice as much per kilo as the smaller pack.

In fact, every pack weighing under 500g had the very reasonable stamp of £6.69 per kilo on them. Curious to find out what was going on, I went to the meat counter and asked one of the assistants.

“Ah, ” he said sagely, “the packs are different prices because they have different weights.”

Clearly this guy thought I was an idiot. I tried to explain further. ”But the 350g pack costs £2.30 and the 600g pack costs £7.85.”  

He looked at me with a sympathetic expression and, in tone of voice I reserve only for the most ’special**’ of my students said, ”Yes, the smaller packs cost less. It’s only fair. There’s less chicken in them.”

I’m not used to being treated like I’m stupid***. For some reason, the impending maths PhD makes people think I know what I’m talking about, even if I am spouting utter garbage so I had no idea how to deal with this treatment. Luckily for him,  he stopped patronizing me when I explained the price per kilo was different on each pack and came over to look. After staring  at the two groups of chicken for a minute, he ran off to find his boss and came back with a pricing gun.

“Someone’s mispriced the chicken,” he said.  ”It should all be £13.39 per kilo. It’s lucky you told us that. this stuff would go through the tills without any problem and then I’d be in trouble!”

I smiled, nodded, grabbed as many packs of the bargain chicken as I could and then sprinted towards the checkouts before the guy could stop me. Well, how could I resist good quality meat for that price?! :D

A couple of days after I bought the chicken, I really fancied some crispy roast potatoes. I also really wanted a curry , so I invented a meal that would satisfy both of my cravings.

 tandoori roast chicken with spiced potatoes and black lentil sauce

My bargain chicken supremes became tandoori chicken and were served with roast potatoes flavoured with cumin, coriander, turmeric and mustard seed, some okra roasted with fennel seed and a black lentil sauce. This was a great meal for colour, with the vibrant red of the chicken, green of the okra, yellow potatoes and purple-black sauce.  

The flavours in this were just what I needed. It cured my curry bug whilst still allowing me to have my crispy crumbly, fatty potatoes. The tandoori chicken was tasty but very easy to make. The chicken is first marinated in lemon and garlic for half an hour, then a second marinade of cumin, coriander, paprika, ground cardamom seeds, chilli powder and ginger mixed with yoghurt goes on. After a few hours of marinading, the chicken is roasted until it is cooked through.

The inspiration for the black lentil sauce came from this Atul Kochhar recipe. Mine wasn’t quite the same. For a start I had to omit the fenugreek leaf and decided to substitute coconut milk for cream, but it was very much along the same lines.

One day I think I’ll make this meal with a whole chicken. Now that would look dramatic!

*It’s still beyond me how someone can get so much pleasure from grocery shopping when they’re mostly buying ready meals, but each to their own.

**That would be ‘retarded’ for those of you not acquainted with politcally correct language.   

***Except by my supervisor, of course. But he thinks I’m a bit slow because I can’t manipulate arbitrary n-dimensional vectors in Projective space without trying to draw a picture, so I’m not too worried about his opinion. ;)