February 10, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 11:33 pm

 …quick, easy, weeknight food. It’s just not like me is it? What happened to the days of the lemon and rose glazed lamb leg and the duck, pomegranate and blueberry salad  or the three hour marathon cooking sessions that resulted in these chilli tortillas. I miss those days.

In fact, I think two things happened……

Firstly, I left the foodie heaven that was West London. You might think it strange that I say this but, given that I have no car, the resources for food experiments were so much better in Hammersmith than they are here in Hackney. I remember the days when I felt aggrieved at not finding fennel on my way home on a Sunday afternoon and moaned about not having access to decent raspbery liqueur*. Now,even on a weeknight, I’m stuck with whatever the near empty shelves Holloway Waitrose can provide at 8pm and it has to be something I can cook quickly so I can get a reasonable amount of sleep before my 6am start the next day .   

And, speaking of the early starts, I knew there’d be dry posting periods during termtime but I wasn’t quite anticipating the extended periods of blogging silence that have occurred since I started at Highgate. But then, when you’ve got to the stage where you arrive home so tired you can’t even eat, let alone cook, the idea of maintaining a food blog seems downright insane.

The problem is that things went a little bit wrong for the maths department this term. A colleague left us, which we were expecting. What we weren’t expecting was the sudden resignation of his replacement shortly before the return to school. Needless to say, this has left us all a little stretched.

In theory, compared to some of my colleagues, I got a fairly good deal. I picked up one new class: the brightest of the GCSE year with some really lovely kids**. That meant only four hours extra teaching per week ( read that as approximately 7 hours work per week). However the timetable also had to change, cramming 80% my fortnight’s teaching into 4 days. Precisely two weeks ago, I was in the middle of that 4 day stint AND trying to write reports for all of my four sixth form classes.

I was exhausted. I had an impossible workload to complete before the next day. I left work at just past 8pm*** having arrived at 8am and with a 75 minute commute each way. I was promised dinner when I got home and, unsuprisingly, Goon found an excuse as to why he had forgotten to make it by the time I arrived. So, barely awake, and in an extremely bad mood, I rushed to the small Tesco Metro, picked up the best steak I could find and invented something suprisingly good given the limit on the lack of marinating time and ingredients. If I’d had the foresight**** to keep a marinating steak prepared in the fridge, this would have been absolutely perfect.


Spice Marinated Sirloin Steaks with Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges and Coriander Pesto

spice marinated steak, sweet potato wedges, coriander pesto

Serves Two

For The Steak Marinade

  • 100ml chilli oil
  • a tablespoon finely chopped coriander
  • 2 large cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 cubic inch ginger, peeled and crushed
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground coriander
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne

You’ll Also Need

  • Two hefty sirloin steaks
  • two medium sized sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 50g coriander
  • 50-100ml of chilli infused olive oil
  • 1 green chilli
  • 3 minced cloves of garlic

Mix together all the marinade ingredients. Score the steaks in a criss-cross pattern. Brush all the marinade over the steaks and leave to marinate  (I fell asleep for two hours at this point which seemed to be just long enough. Overnight woud be better)

Peel the two sweet potatoes and cut into wedges. Coat with the olive oil mixed with the paprika and roast at gas mark 7 for 20 minutes or until tender.

Put 50g of finely chopped coriander in a blender jug with 50 ml of chilli infused oil, with the chilli and garlic. Blend until smooth, adding more oil if necessary.  Heat through in a small saucepan for around 5 minutes. Serve the steaks and wedges with the coriander pesto.


* Yes, yes, I was spoilt. 

** and a few nuisances who make life difficult for me and the rest of the class, but such is life.

*** This is partially my fault. I started talking to one of the brightest year 11s about various maths-philosophy type things for an hour. But then, he’s one of those, intelligent personable students that genuinely makes teaching worthwhile, even if he is too polite to tell you that you’ve held the entire conversation with a streak of board pen across your face.

**** well, psychic ability I suppose

February 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized, Mediterranean — ros @ 1:26 pm

Is it me, or has this been one of the coldest and most miserable winters ever? Perhaps it was the lack of a decent summer that did it, or perhaps it is the daily 75 minute trek beginning at 7am that I now have to endure,  but this winter has definitely made me more grumpy than I’ve been in a long time.* Within ten minutes of leaving the house I find I lose all feeling in my hands, feet and face and this really irritates me. I find it even more irritating that, despite the near arctic temperatures, I still end up breaking a sweat from the effort of climbing Highgate Mountain. Someone needs to build a chairlift  for that hill. 

The one advantage of working at the highest point in London is that it provides some fairly pretty views. On a clear day, from the top floor of our science block, you can see all the way to Kent and,looking out from the top of the maths block after it gets dark, the glittering lights of Central London look quite stunning. However, this is poor compensation for the hypothermia induced by standing on top of an extremely windy hill in sub zero temperatures at midnight, trying to hail a taxi home.

I know that there are some good things about winter (pheasant springs to mind, and venison casserole) but this week I just wanted to put myself in a state of total denial and pretend it was mid July. It was time to make something packed with mediterranean flavours to remind me of the sunshine we’ve all been missing so much. 

Orange and Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Saffron Rice and Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

For The Chicken 

  • 1 free range medium sized chicken
  • 2 oranges
  • 8 sprigs rosemary
  • 100g butter
  1. At least 12 hours before you’re ready to cook, take the chicken and use your fingers to loosen the skin from the breast meat by pushing your fingers under the skin at the neck end. Make a nick at the bottom of each leg and loosen the skin from the legs too.
  2. Peel one of the oranges. Slice the flesh as thinly as you can and push it under the skin of the chicken so the breasts and legs are completely covered. Push down on the chicken skin gently so the juice from the orange is releaed onto the meat.
  3. Push the rosemary sprigs under the skin of the chicken so that they are in direct contact with the meat.
  4. Cover the chicken and leave it to marinate in the fridge for at least 12 hours.
  5. In the meantime, make some orange infused butter by zesting the second orange, and mixing the grated zest with 100g of melted butter. Leave this to infuse for a few minutes, then transfer the butter to a container and refrigerate until ready to use.
  6. Ten minutes before you’re ready to cook your chicken, preheat your oven to gas mark 7.
  7. Remove the orange pieces from under the chicken skin but leave the rosemary as it is.
  8. Push a chunk of the orange infused butter between each side of the chicken breast and the covering skin. Do the same to the chicken thighs.
  9. Roast the chicken for ten minutes at gas mark 7, then turn the heat down and roast for a further hour at gas mark 5, or until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the chicken thigh is pierced with a skewer.
  10. Remove the chicken from the oven, cover it with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes before serving. 

For the Red Pepper Sauce

  • 2 red peppers, cored, deseeded and cut in half vertically
  • 2 fat cloves smoked garlic (or ordinary garlic)
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 100ml chicken stock   
  1. Place the peppers and garlic cloves on a baking tray under a medium grill until the pepper skins are blistering and charred. Remove them from the grill and leave until cool enough to handle.
  2. Peel the peppers, roughly chop the flesh and place in a blender. Squeeze the garlic cloves from their skin and add to the pepper along with the paprika and chicken stock. Blend until smooth.
  3. Transfer to a small saucepan and bring to a gentle bubble. After around 5 minutes the sauce should be a good consistency.

For the Saffron Rice (essentially a simple vegetarian paella)

  • 4 handfuls paella rice 
  • 1 small onion, very finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small courgette, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • large pinch saffron dissolved in 100ml chicken tock
  • Additional chicken stock (up to 400ml) 
  • olive oil
  1. Soften the onion over a low heat in about a tablespoon of olive oil. When soft, add the garlic and courgettes and fry for another two minutes.
  2. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Fry gently for another couple of minutes.
  3. Add the chicken stock witht he saffron, turn up the heat to medium and stir continuously until the  stock is absorbed
  4. Add a ladleful of the remaining stock and stir until absorbed
  5. Repeat step 4 until the rice is cooked, then stir in the parsley. Taste and season.

Carve the caicken and serve on the saffron rice surrounded by the pepper sauce. Garnish with more parsley and rosemary.




*and if you remember how grumpy I was last year, you’ll know that’s saying something.