December 31, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 1:15 pm

On Thursday evening I was a little bored. I’d spent the day avoiding correcting my thesis and starting, but somehow not finishing, several posts for this blog. For the first time in weeks, I decided to surf around the other blogs and, as usual, my first port of call was Trig Brooks’ site. After a few minutes of reading the posts my eye was caught by the seasonal food item of the week, towards the bottom of the side bar.

Fifteen minutes later I realised I was still staring and drooling.

There is definitely something about rare venison that makes it impossible to resist. it’s more than just the fantastic flavour. I think it’s the association with the cold winter months and the inevitable comfort that game dinners bring. Plus rare venison has such a beautiful colour and the slices of meat topped with a few sprigs of rosemary look delicious.

These thoughts all coincided with the arrival of a message from Goon over the internet saying something along the lines of “PLEASE SAVE ME! I NEED MEAT!”  Goon had gone to visit his parents for Christmas and apparently they don’t eat as much meat as we do*. He was missing the 250g steaks that I regularly cook for him. I had little sympathy as I’d just spent Christmas with my vegetarian and practically teetotal parents (more on that soon) but I thought Goon’s imminent return to London was an even better excuse to go get us a big chunk of deer meat.

Luckily for me, despite it being that awkward time between Christmas and New Year, the Borough Website informed me that the market would be open that Friday. And so I went down there to fetch my venison. I also got a couple of duck breasts, a haggis and a rather nice black pudding. During the walk home from Borough, my mind was boggling with potential ways of cooking my deer. Eventually it settled on this rather neat idea which uses something that can ALWAYS be found in the ‘Living To Eat’ household: good quality gin.


Loin of Venison with a Fruity Gin Sauce, Blackberries and Apple and Celeriac Mash 



Ingredients (for two people who like their meat)

  • 500g venison loin
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary leaves, very finely chopped
  • 8-10 juniper berries, finely ground
  • 2 teaspoons coarsley ground black pepper
  • 3 medium/large mashing potatoes ( I used Vivaldi), peeled and cut into small cubes
  • the same volume of celeriac peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1 large bramley cooking apple, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1 heaped tablepoon finely chopped parsley
  • A splash of single cream ( around 50ml)
  • 100ml game stock (chicken stock would do)
  • large splash gin (about 75ml)
  • splash of cassis (50ml)
  • a sprig of rosemary plus extra to garnish
  • 1 teapoons raspberry or red wine vinegar
  • 10 blackberries, cut in half plus a few whole ones to garnish


  1. Preheat your oven to gas mark 6. 
  2. Coat the venison sparsely with the ground pepper, juniper and chopped rosemary. Get a frying pan very hot and sear the meat on all sides, reserving any liquid that comes off for the sauce.
  3. Transfer the venison to a roasting tin and place in the oven for 10-12 minutes for rare meat.
  4. Once the venison is cooked, remove from the oven, wrap in foil and rest for 15 minutes or until ready to serve. Again, any pan juices will enrich the sauce, so keep hold of them.
  5. While the venison is in the oven, take the cubes of apple, celeriac and potato and place in a pan. Cover with water and bring to the boil.
  6. Once the vegetables are tender (after around 15 minutes) drain thoroughly and then mash with the cream and the chopped parsley, making sure you get the vegetables evenly mixed.
  7. In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a bubble, then add the gin, cassis, sprig of rosemary and the blackberries. Pour in the pan juices from the venison and allow the mixture to reduce to a thick syrup. Stir in the vinegar, taste, adjust seasoning, then strain off the solids.
  8. To serve, slice the venison on the diagonal and arrange around a mound of mash. Drizzle the sauce over the meat and decorate with blackberries and sprigs of rosemary


I was very impresed by this meal. The flavours were great and the venison was perfectly done. I think some lightly cooked savoy cabbage would have been a better accopaniment than the asparagus that we decided to have, but apparently Goon had been fed more cabbage than he thought was possible over the previous week and really couldn’t bear to have any more.

The only problem with the meal was a few woody bits of celeriac in the mash. Since I have only cooked celeriac once before I’m not sure if this was because I didn’t peel it adequately or because that is how celeriac always turns out. So, if anyone can give me advice on how to improve my mashed celeriac, I’d appreciate it.

*This isn’t saying much. We both eat far too much meat.

December 27, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 3:27 pm

Since August, I have noticed something interesting happening to the comments I receive on this site. Around that time, this blog’s Google rating increased dramatically and I got a lot of new visitors.

Obviously this was good in many ways. I got lots of new commenters. Some left constructive feedback in my inbox and some left appreciative notes regarding recipes. Unfortunately this happened quite rarely and it seems that a lot of the people brought here by Google searches are illiterate morons.

I’m sure that my fellow bloggers experience the same problem: you look through your moderation queue and there are ten comments saying things along the lines of “EWWW BUTTERS!!!!” “LOL ROFL LMAO!!!” and “OMFG OOOOOEEEEEE!!!!” 

After a few week I became a little sick of having to manually delete this rubbish so Goon has helped me to install a new feature as part of my spam filtering for this blog. It’s called the idiot-auto-rejector. It checks a comment for bad grammar/lack of real words and then blocks any offending commenter from the site.  

The interesting thing is that, in its test stage, the idiot-auto-rejector didn’t just pick up random surfers. Some of my year 9 students had found the blog. Apparently the few of them who tried to comment don’t know how to write in sentences. I feel really sorry for our English department.

Clearly I’m not going to excuse poor writing in my comments box just because it is written by one of my students. I think they should know better. However, I did install a little extra feature in the idiot-auto-rejector just for them. When they try to access my site now they will see this message. Click on the link.

We’re quite proud of it, what do you think?

I’d have liked to put down something more offensive but I thought some parents might get cross. The irony is that I let Goon make that picture and as a result the grammar in the message is pretty bad, although it doesn’t hold a candle to my students’ efforts.

Of course, I’m also using my old secret weapon for disuading idiots from accessing the site: grossing them out with offal. So as the first proper food post I’ve made in a while, I bring you ox tongue.

raw ox tongue

Now that should have properly scared them off. Sadly that wasn’t my ox tongue although it is a good likeness. It came from a general web search as I am very bad at remembering to photograph things before I cook them. It’s big isn’t it? That’s about six main meals worth of meat. Goon cut our tongue into three pieces and a third was made into this.

ox tongue on penne

It’s a very simple dish, so simple in fact I’m not convinced it needs a recipe, but it is a good way to be introduced to the flavour and texture of ox tongue. Since it was my first time cooking tongue, I specifically wanted to make something where I wouldn’t risk losing its flavour within a sauce, so I braised it on its own and then paired it with something that I hoped would complement it well.

This meat works well with piquant flavours which here are given by the sweetness of the tomatoes and the acidity of the red wine and a touch of balsamic vinegar.


Braised Ox Tongue on Penne with Tomatoes, Peppers and Red Wine

To prepare the tongue:

You’ll need 1/3 ox-tongue, 1 onion peeled and sliced into thick rings, 2 bay leaves, 5 crushed black peppercorns, 5 peeled cloves of garlic and a bouquet garni.

Ox-tongue is generally sold salted. So it is a good idea to give it a good long soak. We soaked ours for about 12 hours, changing the water every now and again.

Take a pan large enough to easily hold the tongue and put in the onion, garlic peppercorns, bay leaves and bouquet garni. Add the tongue, cover it with water and bring to a gentle simmer.

Simmer until the tongue is tender. This might take four hours if you are using a whole tongue. The third that we used took about two and a half hours.

Once the tongue is cooked, keep it warm until ready to serve.

For the red wine and tomato sauce


  • olive oil 
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced 
  • handful of basil leaves, torn
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 green peppers, cored deseeded and  thinly sliced
  • 300ml good quality red wine
  • balsamic vinegar and brown sugar to taste (about two teapoons of vinegarand one teaspoon of sugar).
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 200-250g dried penne, cooked and drained


  1. Soften the onion gently in the olive oil.
  2. Add the garlic and, once that has cooked through, add the peppers and allow these to soften for about five minutes- the idea is that they retain some of their crunchy texture. Remove them from the pan.
  3. Now add the tomatoes and the red wine, bring to a gentle bubble and allow to reduce while you cook the pasta.
  4. Stir through the torn basil and return the peppers to the pan.
  5. Add sugar and balsamic vinegar to taste. Adjust seasoning and stir in the cooked penne
  6. Serve the sliced tongue over the penne. I found that sauteed courgettes made a good accompaniment to this meal.

December 16, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 8:02 pm

I’m back, finally. For the next two and a half weeks I’ll be free of teaching, marking and pastoral duties, which means I can cook properly again. Hooray!

The last five weeks have been unbelievably busy. I think I’ve averaged around 4 hour sleep per night for the last fortnight. On top of the job, I have been preparing for my PhD viva, which came and went succesfully on Wednesday. Now I can officially call myself Dr Nanayakkara*. This has already had good and bad repercussions  at school. One of my year 9s has chosen to address me as ‘Doctor’ which is totally unneccessary but makes me feel very smug. However, one of my year 12s thinks it’s amusing to call me ‘Doc’. How rude - and after I’d brought them cake for their last lesson too**!

Immediately after the viva, I was plunged into the whirlwind of the last few days of term along with the inevitability of hyperactive students and evening drinks parties while already very, very hung-over indeed. When that was over, I slept for 36 hours almost consecutively.

Now I’m free and I’m contemplating what I’ll be doing with that enormous ox-tongue sitting in the fridge. Yes, a whole ox-tongue. Well, you didn’t expect me to come back from my extended blogging break with something boring, did you? ;)

I’ll keep you posted on what happens to it….




*and, more importantly, make other people do the same.

** This might be what sixth form detentions were made for.

December 5, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 11:21 am

Yes, I know, I’ve been rubbish recently. There’s been far too much marking and not enough cooking in my life but in just over a week term will end and I’ll be posting properly again over the break.

In a few hours I’ll be announcing a competion run exclusively for readers of this site by Hotel Chocolat which will give you a chance to win some of their very delicious Christmas range.

In the mean time, one of my lovely and very talented year 12s has asked me to point you in the direction of a competition which he has entered himself.

Chris Toumazis is a talented singer and has made an excellent cover of the track ‘Where is My Mind’ by The Pixies, which you can listen to on his Myspace page.

Thic cover has been entered into a Rock School competition on London’s XFM Radio Station. He has already been invited into XFM and played as the station’s house band. It has been a wonderful experience for him so far but he has a chance of going even further in the competition. He has made it to a shortlist of the top 10 bands and its all now to a public vote to progress further in the competition. He needs your vote to get into the final 3, which will give him a chance to play at the Brixton Academy on Sunday 9th December, playing in front of 5,000 people. Please click on the link below and it’s really easy and only takes a minute.

Once in the web, select London radio station Click on blue Voting is now Open There is a 1st choice option – drop down screen and choose Chris.T The other options are up to you! Scroll down to listen to his version of the Pixies, Where is my Mind. If you like the song, please forward this to your friends! . Please, Please VOTE Voting started on friday and closes at Midnight Wednesday 5th December 2007. Thanks for voting.