July 21, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 9:17 pm

Please note: for a sensible post about food, skip to the next post. It has calamari. 

My dear father and I are different in many ways. If there weren’t so many physical resemblances between us, you would swear we weren’t related.

For example:

  • He’s a wide eyed hopeful religious type with faith in God and human nature. I’m a hard, cold skeptical….. well, I’m a mathematician. Nuff said.
  • He’s a Liberal Democrat, I’m a Conservative (shock, horror). 
  • His idea of a healthy diet is eating Benecol instead of butter and buying ‘healthy eating’ everything but eating several packs of peanuts everynight. I get larded up on whatever the hell I want, be that sausages and mash or fish and quinoa salad, depending on my mood and then exercise (mosly walking) for at least 2 hours a day.
  • He’d rather eat vegetarian food every day and live to 120, I know I’d be suicidal by next month if I didn’t my meat fix.  
  • He thinks two glasses of wine is a heavy night’s drinking.  I better not say what I consider a binge.
  • And the greatest divide of all….he thinks canned tuna tasted better than a juicy rare tuna steak……. URGH!!!!! 

Normally we agree to disagree (or I argue until he gives up) but there is one disagreement we can’t settle. 

Yes, I agree this is very silly but this will settle a long standing argument. I would like your opinions on a certain type of wine, namely, the 80’s classic Liebfraumilch. So, I’d like your verdict on this sweet white if you wouldn’t mind, in the comments box, whether you love it, hate it or are totally indifferent. How much would you/have you payed for a bottle? Comments on brands are fine, just don’t be too rude.  I’ll save the opinions of myself and my father for later (although you can probably guess what they are).

July 9, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 12:37 pm

Well, hopefully, it is. Poor neglected blog. I even forgot its birthday, being somewhere in between marking mocks and keeping a lid on hyperactive lower school sets.

If any of my past readers haven’t given me up for dead and stopped checking this site, I am about to anounce yet another change. I have decided to leave my job at Highgate and move back to West London altough I am still staying in teaching.

Actually, I decided to leave my job in Highgate in February. It has been a long, tedious, drawn out goodbye made even more tedious by the fact I had to keep t under wraps for a long, long time.  

You might put my choice down to either 

  1. A food snobbery that rendered me incapable of living in the badlands of Dalston.
  2. The realisation that teaching is a lot harder than it sounds.

While (2) is true to some extent, it wasn’t enough to put me off my chosen career path. However, given the mistakes I’ve made in the classroom this year, a clean break might be advantageous, especially if I can move to an area in which I know exactly where and when I can get the ingredients for a very good meal. It does, however, mean I have to start my search for a decent kitchen again. Rats! 

I am seriously hoping that my new position will allow me to update this site much more frequently than I had been. My commute will be far shorter and with any luck I won’t have to spend quite so much time creating my own resources next year. Fingers crossed. At any rate, the next eight weeks should include some fairly frequent posting. In the mean time, here is a recipe that I made a few weeks ago and started to blog before passing out at the keyboard.  

Filed under: Uncategorized, North African, Game, Couscous, Slow cooked — ros @ 12:18 pm

What a backlash I got from that last post on braised rabbit! Luckily for me, the criticism wasn’t internet based but from people I could quite happily argue with face to face, namely my father and one of my students. It appears that the problem is not that I cooked a rabbit but that I used a picture of a bunny that was cute.

That’s it. If I’d used a picture of an ugly rabbit, no one would have cared. So, I did a long and tedious internet search to find a picture of a rabbit that wasn’t cute and fluffy to appease my father, but all I could find were these.

rabbit1

See my problem? Rabbits are naturally adorable despite being pests. After a lot of searching I did however manage to find a picture of the rabbit that is the one exception to this rule.

giant rabbit

Hmm…somehow I’m not entirely convinced that this rabbit really exists. 

Cuteness aside, there are a lot of good reasons for cooking up wild rabbits (I specify wild for a reason, see this post for more detail). If you avoid butchers and go for farmers’ markets, you’ll often find rabbits for around £4 each. That’s enough to feed at least two people, possibly three (or twenty if the rabbit is anything like the one in the last picture). The meat may take a while to cook but after a good long braise it will fall off the bone and it has a strong earthy taste that isn’t overpoweringly gamey. It’s versatile too. It works with light lemony flavours over pasta, in a cream sauce with paprika, in a curry (I’ve yet to try this but I believe it will work) or, as below, in a stew with aromatic North African flavours. 

I got the idea for this recipe on one of my many long walks through Islington. Once I mustered up enough cash to afford a trip to a restaurant (more on that later), I decided on the place I should visit by reading a lot of menus and deciding which one had the most dishes I couldn’t attempt myself. A Moroccan restaurant on Upper Street had an intriguing idea for a tagine of rabbit with pears and currants which I promptly stole before deciding to visiti the Latin American restaurant on the next street.

Rabbit ‘Tagine’ with Pears and Sultanas

 

fruity rabbit tagine

 

Ingredients

  •  wild rabbit, cleaned and jointed
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 1 small/medium onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 level teaspoon freshly ground cumin
  • 1 level teaspoon freshly ground coriander seed
  • 3 level teaspoons freshly ground cinnamon
  • 2 cubic inches ginger root, grated coarsley
  • enough chicken stock to cover the rabbit in a large saucepan (400ml or thereabouts)
  • handful of chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey
  • half a handful sultanas
  • 2 pears, cored and cut into 6 or 8 slices, depending on size
  • couscous to serve

Method

  1. Wash the rabbit joints and pat dry
  2. Get a large saucepan really hot and then use it to brown the rabbit joints one, or two, at a time. Set the rabbit aside
  3. Turn the heat on the pan to very low. Add a splash of olive oil and the onions, garlic, ginger and spices.
  4. Allow to sweat gently for 5-10 minutes until the onion is soft.
  5. Add the stock, honey, saffron, sultanas and coriander leaf. Stir well, turn up the heat slightly and allow the mixture to bubble gently for a couple of minutes.
  6. Taste the sauce and adjust spicing.
  7. Add the rabbit to the saucepan and arrange to the rabbit is covered (or as close as you can manage) completely by the sauce. Bring this mixture to a simmer.
  8. Simmer for 2-3 hours, until the rabbit is tender.
  9. Strain the liquid off into another saucepan. Boil vigourously (well, as vigorously as you can without it spitting) until reduced by half. Add the pears and the remaining sultanas and boil gently until the pears are soft.
  10. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  11. Serve the rabbit joints with the sauce, pears and some couscous with almonds and/or vegetables.

May 30, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized, Light, soup — ros @ 5:37 pm

There’s been a lot of it in this flat recently. Supporting two people (well, one person and a giant with the appetite of a starved woolly mammoth) on a teacher’s salary requires tight budgeting. We’ve had a lot of chicken liver dinners over the last term and I am always looking to find good deals.

I seem to have inherited my father’s love of food bargain hunting and, now that we have reasonable food storage space, I seem to have picked up his tendency for hoarding too. Before the pheasant season finished, we had two whole birds and four packs of breast meat in the freezer. We also had four ducks and 2 kilos of pork leg. Damn Sainsbury’s and their half price temptations!

Goon is not so good at budget shopping. He rarely checks the pricing on fruit and veg so he doesn’t even notice if what he’s picking up is organic or conventional and he never thinks to seek out the bargain bin. I suppose I can’t blame him really. During the time in between leaving his home in Leeds and acquiring me as his personal chef, he lived solely on tinned tuna with rice and, on special occasions, minced beef with rice. However, I have been trying to train him to shop more frugally and he does seem to be learning*.

One day, Goon noticed that the strings of garlic at our corner store were considerably better value than the individual bulbs** so he picked one up. Of course, Goon didn’t think to check on the quality of the garlic and, when he got home, I wasn’t too amused at being presented with a string of 10, slightly sprouted garlic bulbs. A week later i still had six of these on my hands.

 

sprouted garlic

Sorry about the blurring. The garlic was by then very much alive and trying to escape.*** I’m told that garlic in this form is just about useable if you pull out the shoots, but it wouldn’t be long before I had to bin the remainder of the heads. So what could I do in this situation? I had no time to make chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. There was only one thing for it: soup.

garlic soup

Lots and lots and lots of garlic soup. It’s very nice, although possibly not what you want on a first date and it would seem it develops in strength the longer you leave it. Still, it’s been doing a very good job of keeping the vampires away. I haven’t seen a single one since I made this****.

Garlic Soup (makes around 10 portions)

Ingredients 

  • two pinches saffron threads
  • 175g butter
  • 6 heads garlic, peeled, shoots pulled out, chopped
  • 4 small/medium onions, finely diced
  • 4 sticks celery, chopped up finely
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • generous splash dry sherry
  • 2 1/2  litres chicken stock
  • handful long grain rice
  • 250 mls double cream
  • croutons, parsley and freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve

Method

  1. Leave the saffron tosoak in a little hot water. 
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the garlic, onion, celery and bay leaf. Stir. put a lid on the saucepan and allow these to sweat until soft. 
  3. Add the sherry, stock and the saffron and its soaking water. Bring to the boil
  4. Add the rice and boil until the rice is cooked. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Take out the bay leaf, add the cream and liquidise the soup.
  6. When ready to serve, reheat and top with some croutons, freshly grated parmesan and parsley.

 

* The learning is well motivated. The last time he turned up with a £2 aubergine, half the kitchen crockery was projected towards his head.

** The fact that going to Sainsbury’s and picking up a three pack of bulbs would have been even better value is beside the point. To do that, Goon would have had to walk for a whole 8 minutes which is, of course, unthinkable UNLESS I have given him some money to pick up some fried chicken on his way back.

***Or perhaps it had been so long since I’d taken a photo in daylight I’d forgotten how to operate the camera without flash.

****(geekery) My hobby: pointing out the flaws in the assumption that correlation implies causality.(\end geekery) 

May 27, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 4:46 pm

blueberry lamb rack 

Almost five weeks later, I’ve decided to emerge again. This really is a strange job. In the week before the A-level and GCSE exams began we were running around like headless chickens, photocopying papers, running late evening revision sessions and marking like there was no tomorrow. Now the exam students have gone and I literally have nothing to do, hence I am writing a blog post during school hours.*

Oh, the joy of having three year 12 sets and a year 12 tutor group. They’re all really keen and really nice students and, in the middle of May, they all bugger off on exam study leave for the best part of a month, leaving me with a grand total of 4 lessons to teach this week. The down side of this is that the absence of 6th formers means teaching lessons is thoroughly exhausting. This is because three out of my four lessons  involve battling with a bunch of hyperactive fourteen year olds many of whom, since the warm weather began, seem incapable of staying quiet for five minutes, let alone revising through an entire 50 minute lesson. However, when your job only takes up 20% of your day, finding it tiresome isn’t too much of a problem.

The change in pace did leave me rather shellshocked last Friday when I arrived home to a flat which would be empty for the entire weekend with nothing to do. It had been weeks since I’d done anything but work, eat and sleep and I literally had no idea of how to occupy myself. Could it be that I’d forgotten how to have fun?

Well, yes, actually it did seem that way, especially since the vast majority of my friends live 15 miles away on the other side of London. It reminded me of the time when I was at school in Kingston Upon Thames and at the weekends my friends, who were considerably richer than me, would be going horse riding in Banstead, leaving me sitting in my room with my computer for company**. At that age, I entertained myself with computer games, mostly the now forgotten graphic adventure genre. These were games which I convinced myself were for those of a high intellectual calibre, i.e. they involved a lot of logic based puzzles and very little violence. This is almost certainly why they died out by 1999.

So, fortunately for the food blog, the lack of games to play, and hence potential for nostalgic time wasting, meant that I was forced to occupy myself by buying myself something fun and exciting to cook.

I admit I’m rubbish at keeping up with what is in season but, given all the major supermarkets have blueberries on special offer, I assumed it MUST be the right time of year for them. In any case, it turnes out they work rather well as an accompaniment to a delicious, tender lamb rack.

Lavender and Rosemary Crusted Lamb Rack with Blueberry Sauce (serves 1)

  • 1 small lamb rack (about 350g-400g)
  • 1 level tablespoon ground lavender
  • crumbs from 1-2 slices of bread- enough to coat the rack
  • leaves from 1 sprig of rosemary, very finely chopped
  • some more rosemary- perhaps another large sprig torn into little bits
  • 50g blueberries
  • 50ml ruby port
  • sugar to sweeten the sauce- around half a tablespoon but best done to taste.
  • roasted new potatoes and a green vegetable or salad to serve
  1. Preheat your oven to gas mark 7. 
  2. Mix the breadcrumbs with the lavender and chopped rosemary.
  3. Make deep slits between each rib bone in the rack. Push a piece of torn rosemary into each slit.
  4. Coat the meat in the breadcrumb mixture.
  5. Roast the meat to required doneness, then cover with foil and leave to rest for 15 minutes. As a rough guide, my 500g rack took 18 minutes to be roasted rare.
  6. Place the berries in a blender. Add the port and blitz until smooth.
  7. Strain the blueberry/port mixture into a small saucepan.
  8. Bring the blueberry sauce to a gentle bubble. Allow to reduce until thick and syrupy.
  9. Add sugar to taste. The sauce should have a slight tang to it but shouldn’t be very acidic. Adding extra port may help if your blueberries were very tangy.
  10. Cut the rack into cutlets and serve with the sauce on roasted baby new potatoes and steamed asparagus.

*** 

Lavender and blueberries…. now why didn’t I think of that before! It seems a natural pairing in hindsight. I liked this idea a lot, so much so that I made Goon try it after he returned from his sojourn in Newcastle. Blueberries give a slight tang to the dish while the floral overtones of the lavender complement the unique fruity flavour of the berries. A fair bit of sugar is needed to mediate the acidity of the fruit. Too much acid just tastes odd with the slight bitterness of the rosemary and lavender. 

Now I should perhaps go and tidy up those posts i wrote during Easter with the intention of publishing one every few days this term. Then again, maybe it is too late to be posting about winter food, although looking at the rain outside, maybe it is wotrth reserving judgement for a couple of days. 

* No, really, I WROTE the post in school hours, then had to wait four days to sort out the photos.

**I blame my excessively geeky interests on this time. Few of the friends I made after leaving school are aware of just how nerdy I can be. However, the year 9s now have a pretty good idea of how bad it gets since I spent most of an evening (post 6th form departure) writing them a very authentic Star Wars based exercise sheet on standard form. My boss and I thought it was really cool. Only one of the year 9s agreed.

April 16, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 9:25 pm

Well, I’m back at school now and it seems that the first day of the summer term has been a lot easier than the previous two terms. The kids are mostly revising now, meaning that there’s a lot less lesson prep to do and, to my astonishment, I left work today at 5pm! Previously I would have rarely left by 7:30.

I’m taking full advantage of these easy days before revision clinics take off and I’m thrown back into the crazy-busy schedue I had before. There has only been one problem with work these last two days. Apparently someone in the finance department decided it was a good idea to turn the heating off in the maths block and boy, is it cold!

I feel the cold badly anyway. You know the type of girl who insists the flat is kept permanatly at 25 degrees, doesn’t care about the heating bill and then still sits right next to the radiator all the time? That’s me. Any degree of cold makes me lose concentration remarkably quickly, and on these sunny but chilly spring days it is marginally warmer outside in the quad than it is at my desk.

After about half an hour of pacing up and down the office during my first free period and grumbling to anyone who’d listen, I decided I couldn’t take it any more and went and took refuge in the photocopying room. I didn’t need to photocopy at that point, but those printers don’t half keep the place warm!

Even my colleague Luke admits its freezing and he’s Northern! In fact, he  was the man who said last term that I was a weed for adding extra layers to go outside in February and that I should be made to live in a freezer for a week to make me understand the true nature of cold.

So for these last two days, I’ve been craving really warming food and, for a change I have had the time to make exactly what I wanted for dinner. After our initial training  day, when I spend all day sitting in the office with my coat and scarf on, I felt what I needed was this.

Marinated, Griddled Squid on Pepper, Tomato and Chickpea Stew with Smoked Paparika, Bacon and Chorizo

squid with chickpea chorizo tomato stew

  • About 200g baby squid, cleaned with hoods and tentacles seperated and heads discarded
  • The juice of half an orange 
  • 1 cubic inch ginger, crushed 
  • a small onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow pepper cored, deseeded and chopped, roughly into 1 inch squares
  • 300g drained tinned chickpeas
  • 3 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp cayenne
  • 300g chopped tomatoes
  • 200ml fresh vegetable stock 
  • 3 links spicy raw chorizo, chopped into small chunks
  • 4 rashers smoky bacon, chopped 
  • large handful of coriander, roughly chopped
  1. Make a slit down the side of each squid hood and open it out, score in a cris-cros pattern over the outer side.
  2. Mix the orange and crushed ginger. Toss the squid hoods in the mixture and leave to marinate while you prepare the stew
  3. Sweat the onions and garlic gently until the onion is beginning to soften. Add the cayenne and paprika, stir well, cover and leave to cook for another few minutes.
  4. Add the bacon. pepper and chorizo, stir and allow to cook for a further 3-4 minutes turning the heat up to just below medium.
  5. Add the tomatoes, stock and chickpeas, stir well and bring to a gentle bubble. Leave uncovered to bubble down to a thick stew consistency.
  6. Taste, adjust seasoning and when ready to serve, stir in the coriander.
  7. Griddle the baby squid over a high heat for about 90s per side or until just cooked through. Serve the squid on the chickpea stew. I accompanied this with roast cherry tomatoes, wilted green spinach and a glass of rioja.

April 8, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized, Northwest European, Offal — ros @ 10:31 am

Calf liver is my treat for when Goon is away. It’s an automatic reaction now. If Goon is going away to work on his business or visit his parents, I head straight into Borough Market, find my way to the Ginger Pig and buy myself the nicest bit of veal liver they have. You see Goon isn’t a big liver fan. He can cope with chicken livers providing I soak them in enough cream and alcohol, but he hates lamb liver and is ambivalent about calf liver.

At £25 per kilo, ambivalent isn’t allowed!

So calf liver is reserved for the days when I have the flat to myself. My problem is I always buy the liver without knowing what to do with it. Last weekend I was after a change from the usual creamy marsala sauce but the internet was providing little inspiration. In fact, the recipe websites seem alost saturated with straightforward liver, bacon and onion recipes. That’s not quite what I wanted for my treat!

Eventually an idea came from an old BBC recipe. A liver, bacon and onion recipe by Gary Rhodes involves serving liver with melting onions with marmalade. A bit of musing led to the recipe below. Unfortunately, due to the great Islington juniper shortage that hit last weekend, I didn’t sprinkle my calf liver in finely ground juniper as intended. Instead, I dusted it with 1 juniper berry I had left, after giving it a good soak in gin.

Then I gave my own liver a good soak in gin. Happy times. :)   

Calf Liver with Juniper, Caramelised Apples, Maple Cure Bacon and Tangy Apple Onions

posh liver bacon onions

  • 200g calf liver
  • around 8 juniper berries, finely crushed
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into 6 pieces
  • around a level tablespoon of honey
  • around 30g-40g butter
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 rashers maple cure bacon
  • half a small onion, sliced
  • a tablespoon of apple sauce
  • a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar and sugar to taste 
  • half a glass of fruity red wine

 

Sprinkle the liver with finely crushed juniper berries and press them in properly (or soak it in gin!). I suggest the calf liver is  cooked to pink in the middle. For the liver you see in the picture, that involved dry frying for approimately 30 seconds on each side and resting for 5 minutes wrapped in foil.

Melt 3/4 of the butter over a low heat in a small saucepan and stir in the honey. Add the rosemary sprigs and allow to infue for a minute or two. Add the apple slices, sir to coat in the butter. Turn the heat up slighty so the apples caramelise. They should be golden brown on the outside, but firm. Discard the rosemary sprigs before serving.

The bacon was grilled until crisp. Easy

And for the onions, the only involved part of the meal, soften them in the rest of the butter until golden brown, add half a glass of red wine, allow to bubble down until almost completely evaporated then stir in a tablespoon of apple sauce. Add balsamic vinegar to taste- this will depend very much on how sweet/tart your apple sauce was. Calf liver has a delicate flavour compared to, for example, lamb liver, so you don’t want the onion to be overwhelmingly tart, just slightly tangy. I doubt you’ll need to add sugar but it is probably worth having some on hand just in case.

I served this with some simple buttered wilted spinach but spiced braised red cabbage would also be good.

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.

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