March 30, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized, Mediterranean, Game, Slow cooked — ros @ 11:09 pm

My food blog has had an unintended side effect since I started work as a teacher. It wasn’t all that suprising that my year 12s found their way to my blog from the maths pages I wrote for them but, how the year 9s discovered this place so quickly, I’ll never know.

I guess that’s the power of Google for you!

My newly acquired year 13 class have also become aware of the site and on occasion will use it as an excuse for avoiding practising statistics questions. The following conversation happened three quarters of the way into a practice lesson at the end of last term.

“So this food site of yours, what’s that about?”

This comment came from a student I’ll refer to as J. He is a confident lad who, on occasion, has succesfully confused me by switching places with his identical twin brother and who isn’t easily persuaded to get down to work. However, the Highgate maths department handbook had taught me the exact  phrase to use in this situation. Pity it never works.

“I don’t think my blog has anything to do with Binomial Hypothesis Testing.” 

As expected, J ignored my attempt to redirect him back to his work. “Are we ever going to try your cooking?”

“No, the school hasn’t got a kitchen. Otherwise I’d be running ‘Cooking at Univeristy’ courses for you lot.”
“You could bring us a cake?”
” I don’t do cake!”
“Or a casserole?”
“Get on with the worksheet, J!”
“But I can do all these questions, Miss.”
“J, you’re in Set 6*. The only reason you aren’t in Set 7 is beause we don’t have enough staff free to teach seven year 13 groups now. You need all the practice you can get.” At this, J started writing again. Around 30 seconds later, he’d given up.
“What’s your favourite restaurant?”

As I considered reaching for my book of detention slips, another student piped up.

“Is it Claridges?”
“Pah, Claridges!” said J.  ”It’s OK, but I’ve been to better places.”
I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow to this. With my political ideologies quite firmly rooted in the right, I’d never believed in the term ‘overpriveledged’ before. However, as someone whose most distinguished treat as a child was a trip to the local Harvester, some of the boys at school were making me wonder.

“What’s your cooking speciality, Miss?”

This question came from the hard working member of this small group. At this point I conceded that no more work was going to get done that lesson and gave in. But what to answer?

“Well…. I suppose…. game …probably. ”

” Game, what’s that?”

Poor boy. What a thing to ask. When I was 18 in my own maths class, this would have been a perfectly reasonable question. However it seems that at Highgate, if you haven’t eaten game, you haven’t lived. The young lad was subject to a short torrent of abuse and a projectile pen.

Oddy enough though, the other five in the class couldn’t quite define game themselves other than to say “It’s like pheasant and stuff.” I would have said game is any wild animal that is eaten as food, but the definition is slightly wider.

“Game is any animal hunted for food or not normally domesticated (such as venison). Game animals are also hunted for sport.” (Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge)

So, for the young man in question, this is some game.

pheasant

Here is some game that I’m going to cook.

Here it is after preparation for cooking.

skinned rabbit

here is what you can make with it….

rabbit braised with red wine and olives

and here is how you do it. 

Rabbit Braised with Red Wine, Tomatoes and Olives 

Ingrdients 

  • 1 wild rabbit, cleaned and jointed
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • half a bottle good quality red wine
  • 20 black pitted olives, chopped in half
  • 1 large onon, ffinely diced
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 level tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Rough Method

  1. Preheat your oven to gas mark 2-3. 
  2. Brown the rabbit pieces on all sides. Place in a casserole dish that fits them snugly.
  3. Sweat the onions and garlic with the oregano in the olive oil until soft.
  4. Add the tomatoes, red wine, puree and olives. Stir well and bring to a gentle boil.
  5. One the mixture has reduced to a thick sauce, stir in  half the basil.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Pour the sauce over the rabbit pieces and place in the oven.
  8. After three hours the rabbit should be tender. Pour the sauce off into a wide saucepan and bring it to a bubble to reduce it. At this stage you can adjust the ingredients to taste as much a you like.
  9. Stir in the remaining basil.
  10. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve the rabbit with the sauce poured over it with some soft polenta with parmesan or, if you’d run out like me, with some penne tossed in parmesan and parsley.

 

* We set by ability with 1 being the highest.

March 26, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 1:42 pm

I think this might be called ‘having too much time on your hands’.

tuna nicoise

After 12 weeks of school canteen meals, scrounging processed cheese sandwiches from the kids’ lunch time maths clubs and, at worst but most frequently, skipping lunch altogether, I’m ready for some good home-cooked food at lunchtime. I may have gone a little over the top this time, but can you blame me? This is the first time since the Christmas break that I’ve had time to spend in the kitchen.

The dish pictured above is a tuna nicoise. Like most contemporary restaurants, I have foregone the traditional use of flaked tuna and replaced this with a seared tuna steak. I’ve also replaced the boiled hen’s egg with three soft (in theory) boiled quails’ eggs. Everthing else remains the same apart from a little (in theory) drizzle of balsamic reduction to dip the cherry tomatoes in. Yes, I know there is too much reduction and two of the quails’ eggs are overcooked. I’d like to see you make this perfectly first time around. :p

I first encountered a tuna nicoise made like this in a lovely little tapas bar in Leamington Spa. The dish didn’t stay on the menu for long but the memory lingered with me and I’ve never found a nicoise as good since then. So, what better to do on the first of my 21 days off work than recreate it as closely as possible in my own kitchen while Goon and our new pet looked at me as if I was crazy. 

Goon accused me of over-cooking the tuna.

tuna close up

Yeah, right, like that’s ever going to happen. I might forget to cook it at all one day, but overcook it? Never!

Have a nice day at work, everybody! :D

Mini Tuna Nicoise  (enough for a starter or a midday meal for someone who’s not particularly used to eating lunch)

  • 1 small tuna steak (100g or so), griddled to rare (or practially raw if, like myself, you’re that way inclined)
  • a small handful frisee lettuce
  • 5 or 6 green beans, steamed until just cooked and cut in half)
  • Around 10 black pitted olives, halved
  • 2 or 3 baby new potatoes, cooked and halved
  • 3 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 soft boiled quails’ eggs, peeled and halved
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette
  • 2 extra tablespoons balsamic vinegar, reduced to a thick syrup.

Toss the lettuce, beans, olives and potatoes in the vinigrette dressing. Pile into the center of a large, flat serving plate. Balance the tuna teak on top. Arrange the tomatoes and quail egg pieces around the main salad and drizzle the balsamic reduction around it.

March 21, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 6:39 pm

At least, they have around here. I apologise to all of you that have attempted to e-mail me and contact me via comments during the last six months. I must have appeared very rude. 

It’s mostly my fault really. What kind of plonker starts a job before they’ve taken their PhD exam? Generally the kind of plonker who doesn’t understand that their job will take up 70 hours per week during term time. I possibly would have thought twice about it if I had known. I certainly would have delayed the start of my career if I knew I was going to write a grand total of 9 sets of reports during my first term and that my commute would total 2.5 hours a day. 

I have reason to believe that things will be very different next academic year. I really hope I’m right. As for now, I’ve just started a four week holiday and, now that all my thesis corrections are done, I’m properly free for the first time in nearly five years. So now I’ll try and catch up with everyone who I managed to ignore over the last two terms. 

And now that I won’t be spending at least 3 hours a day writing worksheets* and/or reports, hopefully my brain won’t have turned to mush by 8pm and I’ll be capable of creating some posts for this blog.

My cooking didn’t cease completely this term but time pressure meant that I couldn’t spend hours experimenting in the kitchen. I resorted to reasonably quick meals and, to my suprise some of them turned out to be quite good despite the lack of preparation. The reipe below was one of my favourite school-night suppers. It’s comforting, yet very healthy and doesn’t take much time to make. Plus there’s the added bonus that all the ingredients can be found in our depleted local Sainsbury’s or, more often, in the small Turkish stores across the road.

Salmon with Spiced Lentils and Minted Yoghurt

salmon, puy lentils, yoghurt

Ingredients

  • two large piees of salmon fillet, skin on
  • Enough seasoned cornflour to dust the salmon skin (I think any flour will work here)
  • 3 handfuls puy lentils, rinsed
  • fresh, unherbed vegetable stock (two to three times the volume of your lentils)
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh, finely chopped coriander, plus some extra oursley chopped leves to garnish
  • 8 heaped tablespoons of plain natural yoghurt you might want to scale this down- Goon REALLY liked the yoghurt)
  • around 30g mint leaves, very finely chopped

Method

  1. Fry the onion gently in olive oil with the cumin and ground coriander until the onion is soft. 
  2. Add the garlic and continue to fry for another few minutes until the garlic is cooked.
  3. Add the vegetable stock and lentils, stir well and bring to a gentle bubble
  4. While the lentils are cooking, mix the mint and yoghurt and set aside 
  5. Grill the salmon skin side down over a medium grill for three minutes.
  6. Dust the seasoned flour over a plate and then turn up the grill to medium/high  
  7. Lift the salmon of the grill, press the skin into the seasoned flour then return the salmon to the grill, skin side up, and grill until the skin turns a crisp golden brown.
  8. Remove the salmon from the grill.
  9. One they are cooked, drain the lentils. Stir in the fresh coriander.
  10. Spoon the lentils onto a serving plate and top with dollops of minted yoghurt. Place the salmon fillet, skin side up, on top and sprinkle over chopped coriander.
  11. While this meal was sufficient for me, if you are serving a carb fiend, you may want to have some basmati rice on hand to keep them satisfied. 

 

*I imagine that any teacher reading this is thinking ‘Why are you spending so much time writing worksheets?!’. In response, my school’s maths department has an unusual policy of not teaching through textbooks so all our resources are created by hand specifically for each lesson. This has a lot of advantages and I’m in favour of it 95% of the time. The other 5% of the time, I just want to sleep.

March 14, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 4:40 pm

Early last term, I had come home from school late. Goon was away visiting his family in Leeds and so, due to the fact that I live in a slightly rough area, I was cautious entering the house and double locked the door behind me before taking off my bag and shoes.

Suddenly, from the direction of the living room came a flash of movement and before I knew what was happening, I saw an intruder coming towards me. The shock sent me running backwards. I fell over my rucksack, smacked my head against the letterbox and, in my attempt to steady myself, ripped the electric doorbell off the door. My assailant stopped two feet away from me, considered me with her head tilted at an angle for a second and then sat down and started licking her right paw.

“Wh-what the hell…? ” I whispered. The intruder looked at me, then affectionately rubbed her head up against my arm. “How the hell did you get in here? We’re on the third floor! There’s nothing outside that window but a 20 foot drop!” I got up, rubbed the new bump on the back of my head and tried to salvage the squashed shopping inside my rucksack. The trespassing cat wandered around the living room then started nibbling our rosemary plant. “Stop it, stupid cat! That’s mine!” I said indignantly. I tried to shoo it away from my herbs but the cat just looked at me, then licked my shin. I could sense this would be a difficult guest to get rid of.

I was right. The problem is this cat is unbearably cute. It’s pretty, friendly and charmingly gormless. No wonder Goon loves it. they’re a match made in heaven. The first time I introduced them it was a matter of seconds before our feline friend had charmed Goon into lying on the stairs while tickling its tummy.

This cat fills a place in Goon’s life no woman could ever hope to. Never before has anyone sat patiently for hours, listening to Goon’s descriptions of his latest tactics in the on line role playing game of the moment or the relative benefits of various brands of computer hardware. never before has Goon had a head resting on his knee with which to share his favourite episodes of Stargate Atlantis.

Despite the fact the cat has an irritating tendency to get under my feet and walk on my keyboard when I’m trying to work, I like it being around. It makes Goon happy and that keeps him quiet. The only thing that bothered me about the cat was the fact it appeared to be a vegetarian. How is that natural!? A vegetarian cat?! It, in its first two months of its visits the cat refused anything I gave to it. It only seemed interested in the rosemary bush. Then, a few weeks ago, we found its weakness.

Due to Goon spending all his time finishing his degree and not doing any work as he used to, we’re a little short on cash. However I occasionally treat us and, with it being half term, I’d decided to go to Borough where I picked up a wild mallard amongst other things. I was intending that, during the short break from school, I would learn at least one new cooking technique, so the mallard would be roasted and served on a potato rosti with a beetroot, thyme and orange sauce and some wilted chard.

All was well and good. That was until I’d just served up and, having taken pictures of the meal for the blog, I came into the living toom to find Goon and that bloody cat on the sofa with Goon feeding it chunks of, not entirely cheap, mallard 

The cat ended up outside.  Goon ended up wearing half a pan of beetroot and orange  jus.  

Roasted Wild Mallard on Potato Rosti with Wilted Chard and a Beetroot and Orange Jus

 

 

Serves two (no cats allowed)

  • 1 large wild mallard
  • butter ( about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 medium beetroot, peeled and cut into  very small cubes
  • 1 small glass fruity red wine
  • the zest and juice of half an orange
  • four or five thyme sprigs
  • four or five rosemary sprigs
  • 10 shallots, peeled and halved
  • two handfuls of rainbow chard 
  • the ingredients for potato rosti as descried in the link below
  1. Potato rosti can be made as described here.
  2. Wash and pat dry the mallard. rub softened butter over its skin and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put half a small onion inside its cavity and some rosemary sprigs.
  3. Roast the mallard on gas mark 7 for 35 minutes. Rest for at least fifteen minutes before serving.
  4. In the mean time, use a food processor to puree the beetroot. Strain the juice into a saucepan
  5. Add the thyme  and a few chunks of orange zest and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the thyme sprigs and zest and add the shallots. Turn up the heat to a gentle bubble, add the wine and cook until the shallots are tender and the sauce has thickened to a yrupy consistency. Add a squeeze of orange juice. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  7. Wash the chard thoroughly then wilt it in hot water for a couple of minutes. Drain and toss in butter.
  8. Serve slices of mallard breast on top of the rosti. Arrange the now very purple shallots around the duck and drizzle over the sauce. Garnish thyme and serve the wilted chard on the side.