Saturday, 28 June 2008

Pak Choi

My best and worst day of the week is Wednesday. Its a low because I will spend all day working on my evil thesis but equally I get my vegetable box. This Wednesday I spent a lot of the day on Excel, which is very tedious. But then my ray of light arrived. This week in the box we got:

  • Cabbage
  • Pak Choi
  • Courgettes
  • Kohl rabi
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
As soon as I saw the pak choi I wanted to make a stir-fry. The pak choi was huge, I have only ever seen the smaller ones before. So I got a veal steak to put on the top of a noodle based stir-fry. I know it seems extravagant to use a veal steak but we had some in the freezer from the Farmers Market. I remember that we had it because the day before the people who we buy the veal from appeared on the F Word.

  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 2 Garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 Red chilli, finely chopped
  • Mushrooms, sliced
  • Pak choi, roughly chopped
  • Courgette, halved and sliced
  • Fine rice noodles
  • 1 Veal steak
  • 2 Tbsp Oyster sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Fish sauce
Cook the noodles as instructed on pack. Griddle steak as you like and leave to rest whilst you cook the stir-fry.

Fry the onion for a couple of minutes and then add the chilli and garlic for about half a minute. Then add the mushrooms and courgette and fry for a minute or two before adding the pak choi, oyster sauce, soy sauce and fish sauce, cook for 2 mins. Stir in the noodles, serve with steak on top.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Cabbage Pesto

I have been wanting to make pesto for ages, but with amount of Basil needed for a traditional pesto made it quite pricey. The last time we were visiting Andrew's folks we were given 3 basil seedlings. As you can see for the photo they are doing well but not well enough to make pesto from.

I have seen loads of recipes for pesto made with rocket, spinach and watercress. So with spring cabbage in our box this week I decided to give a cabbage pesto a go.

I suppose pesto is a bit like Thai Green Curry paste everyone has there own recipe with different ratios of ingredients. SoI gave it a go. I used 2 tbsp of pecorino cheese, a handful of pine kernels, 1 garlic cloves, lemon zest, juice of half a lemon, cabbage leaves which had been cooked for 4 mins in boiling water and olive oil to loosen.

Andrew had gone climbing so I prepared everything beforehand. Its the scientist in me!

So when Andrew came back, I fried a courgette. I then added the tomatoes until they had soften slightly. The pesto was added, as was a pinch of chilli flakes. Finally cooked penne and a handful of black olives was added.

I didn't tell Andrew what the pesto was made with and he thought that it was made from parsley, so the cabbage taste obviously wasn't over-powering. I did put a lot of cheese in it though.

For the third week in row I will be entering this into this weeks Presto Pasta Night which this week is hosted by Hillary of Chew On That. Have a look at the round, which should on Hillary's site on Friday.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008


When I went to the Farmer's Market, the weekend before last, I bought 2 kilos of soup tomatoes to make tomato ketchup with. They had been sat in our kitchen for a week before I had to chance to make the ketchup.

I decided to use Jamie Oliver's recipe from Jamie at Home. The first stage is to cook the aromatics in olive oil, these included fennel, red onions, coriander seeds, 1 red chilli, 4 cloves and ginger.

I then added the 2 kilos of tomatoes, which I had chopped, to the pan.

I also added some water. This was brought to the boil and left to simmer until it had reduced by half.

I then pureed this with my stick blender and passed it through a sieve twice. Red wine vinegar and sugar was added and it was then reduced it until it looked like ketchup. This was then poured into sterilised jars.

We will let it mellow for a while and then we will be eating our own ketchup. Andrew wants to try and make Hugh's ketchup. So he might be making some rival ketchup. Watch this space . . .

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Broad Beans

After the runner beans in last weeks box, this week we had broad beans. I wanted to put them with some pasta, so I started hunting around my book collection. I came across a recipe for broad bean and ricotta pasta in Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries. I only made a couple of changes.

I podded the beans and boiled them until they were cooked about 8 mins. I then skinned the beans. I then gently fried some sliced garlic cloves, without browning, in some olive oil. After a minute, I added the beans and a handful of spinach. Then I added 25o g of ricotta and the juice of a lemon. The cooked pasta was added to this mixture.

Then pasta was dished with a drizzle of olive oil and some grated pecorino.

I am entering this into this weeks Presto Pasta Nights, which this week is hosted by Ruth @ Once Up A Feast. Make sure you have a look at the round up.

With the decent weather we have been having the veg box is getting a bit more exciting:

  • Purple Kohl Rabi
  • Spring Cabbage
  • Spinach
  • Broad Beans
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes

Tuesday, 17 June 2008


Jules from Domestic Goddess in Training has tagged me for a meme, here are the rules:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself.
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their Blogs.

So here are my facts:

  1. After my GCSE's I did a year of catering college before I decided that I wanted to do something a bit more academic and went off to do A-levels.

  2. I would love to own a smallholding.

  3. When I am not working, climbing or cooking , I love to go the cinema. Picking a favourite film is very hard for me, so I'll leave that for another meme.

  4. I have appeared on BBC News 24 and some national papers talking about my PhD work.

  5. By the time I finish my PhD I will have spent 22 years in education, you would have thought that I learnt something by now!
I tag
Thanks to Jules for thinking of me.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Homemade Ricotta

I am willing to give anything a go and when I was reading the River Cottage Year book, I saw a recipe for ricotta style cheese. When I was in my local branch of Peckhams I noticed that they sold rennet. So I decided to give it a go.

All you do is bring 2 litres of milk to body temperature, stir in a pinch of salt and 4 teaspoons of rennet. Leave for 15 mins.

The milk will then have separate into curds and whey. I then spooned the curds into a cloth bag which is meant for jelly making (muslin will do) and hang for 2 hrs.

It didn't really take much effort to make at all. I used it in a spinach and ricotta cannelloni, which we had on Friday night.

The rest we had this evening with gnocchi in a tomato sauce. It was really good fun to make and easy. I would love to be able to extend to making other cheese but our limited time and space becomes an issue. I am sure that one day we will be making all our own cheeses.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Pancetta and Bean Pasta

As a kid I never like any kinds of beans. Luckily things have changed and I have really started to enjoy them. I still don't like Heinz baked beans, but I don't think think thats the beans fault. With some runner beans and pancetta in the fridge, I decided to use them in pasta.

Whilst the fusilli was cooking. I fried two sliced garlic cloves and runner beans in olive oil for a couple of minutes. I then seasoned this and added a splash of vermouth and some of the water from the pasta pan. I then added a couple of spoonfuls of creme fraiche and grated in some pecorino cheese. Meanwhile in a dry frying pan, I cooked the pancetta until golden and crispy. I then drained and stirred the pasta into the sauce. I served this with some more grated pecorino and topped with the pancetta. I am sorry there aren't any exact amounts but I am not sure how much I used. If you were using chunks of pancetta rather than slices, I would have fry them in the same pan as the garlic and beans but before they were added.

I am entering this into this weeks roundup of Presto Pasta Nights. This week its hosted by Kevin at Closet Cooking. I love his recipes and can relate as our kitchen is also small. Which can make things challenging! Have a look on his blog for the round up for this week.

The First Beans

We got some runner beans in the veg box this week. I instantly thought of a Jamie recipe with cod. So we had this on Wednesday for dinner. The runner beans were finely sliced and blanched for a couple of minutes. They were then placed on a tray tossed in olive oil and season. I then placed two cod fillets on top with pine nuts, a lemon sliced in half and 4 slices of pancetta. It was then covered with tin foil and put in an oven at gas mark 7. The foil was taken off after 5 mins and cooked for a further 10 mins. Delicious.

This week in the veg box we got:

  • Runner Beans
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Beetroot
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Onions

Monday, 9 June 2008

If you can't beat them, join them!

After reading the weekly curry posts from Jules and this post from stonehead at the weekend. We decided to have Rogan Josh for dinner on Sunday. I really love curry and the fact it is so loved in Britain. Whenever we have a new person in the lab I'm always directing them to my favourite Indian restaurant as well as my favourite Scottish restaurants. As you can see from the photo this was washed down with a pint of Black Sheep. Some people seem to have the perception that curry is a difficult thing to make but its dead easy!

Rogan Josh (Serves 4-6)

  • 1 Kg beef or lamb, we use stewing beef
  • 2 onions (chopped)
  • 125g plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp ground cardamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp garam marsala
  • Almonds
  • Fresh coriander
  1. Fry onions in some vegetable oil until soft.
  2. Stir in yoghurt, garlic, ginger and spices.
  3. Add tomatoes, season and simmer for a few minutes.
  4. Add meat.
  5. Cover and cook for 1-1 and a 1/2 hr.
  6. Take the lid off and reduce sauce.
  7. Toast almonds.
  8. When the sauce is thick enough, add the garam marsala and coriander.
  9. Serve and top with almonds.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Bravo tatties

I have only been to Spain once, a quick trip to Barcelona. When I was there I had some wonderful food including octopus. The one thing I didn't have is patatas bravas. So I am not sure what the authenic article tastes like but this is my version.

I fried some chorizo which I got from the farmers market (puddledub). After it was brown I added some potatoes and sliced onions. Once these were browned, I added a chopped green chilli and some paprika as the chorizo didn't seem to have as much as Spanish versions. I then added a can of tomatoes and also a can of water and simmered until the potatoes were cooked and the sauce was thickened.

We ate this with a green salad. I know that in Spain that this would be a tapas but it made a great meal.

Actually quite nice!

I remember the first time I had gnocchi, it was in Carluccio's Caffe at Bluewater Shopping Centre. I know that not everyone likes gnocchi. But I love it, light and fluffy potato dumplings. They are so simple to make too.

Potato Gnocchi (Serves 2)

  • 400g potatoes
  • 100g flour
  • 1 egg yolk
Boil the potatoes for 8-10 mins until soft. Drain and put them back in the pan on the heat to drive off as much water as possible. Mash the potatoes, then add the egg yolk and flour. Mix, until it comes together. Then knead on a well floured surface. Take a handful of the mix and roll into a sausage. Then cut into 2 inch pieces and place on a well floured tray. Repeat with the rest. Press a fork into the gnocchi. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Cook the gnocchi in batches, they are ready when the float to the surface. Drain onto kitchen roll.

This week in the box we got some spring greens. I thought about making a pesto with it but I chose to do this instead.

I chopped an onion and lightly fried it in olive oil. I then added the spring greens which were finely sliced, after a couple of minutes I added some vermouth and let it reduce a little. At this point I would have added some creme fraiche but I didn't have any, so I substitute it with some yoghurt. Then stirred in some pecorino.

I put the gnocchi in an ovenproof dish and put the spring green mixture over the top and finally some mozzarella. This was then grilled until golden.

Andrew was a bit worried cause there wasn't a sauce as such but apparently it was actually quite nice!

In the box this week:
  • Spring greens
  • Lettuce
  • Rocket
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Rhubarb

Wednesday, 4 June 2008


One of the great things about doing a Munro apart from being outside, is the feeling that you have earned a good meal. The best thing to have after a walk is a steak pie and a pint. I didn't have time to do that by the time we got home. So we settled for pizza and a beer.

This was followed by rhubarb crumble and custard.

In a ovenproof dish, I mixed rhubarb and caster sugar together, 100g of sugar to 450g of fruit. Then to make the topping rub 75g of butter into 175g of flour when it looks like breadcrumbs add 50g of sugar and put on top the fruit and bake for 45-60 mins at gas mark 4. Perfect after a day in the hills

Monday, 2 June 2008

Escape to the Country

When we first arrived in Scotland we did quite a bit of hillwalking. We started to tick off some Munros (these are mountains over 3,000 ft in Scotland and there 284 of them!). When Andrew came back to Scotland from Nottingham, he was really into climbing and that started to take up some of our weekends and others were taken up with PhDs.

This weekend the weather was supposed to be good so we thought we would take this opportunity to do a bit climbing and camping. So we headed to Glen Lednock. One of the best things about living in Scotland is that we can be in the highlands after driving only an hour and half from Glasgow. If you tried to do that from London, I expect you would have barely left the city!

Glen Lednock seemed like the perfect spot as there was a Munro and also some rock climbing there.

So we got there on Saturday afternoon and Andrew climbed whilst I found a sunny spot. I am sure that Andrew will blog about it soon on our climbing blog.

In the evening we had a BBQ and set up the tent, we didn't have time to prepare anything ourselves. If we do it again I am sure that we will. I did cook some bananas on the BBQ. I split them down the middle and filled it with some dark chocolate. I then wrapped them with tin foil and put them on th BBQ. We had a lovely spot with great views. There was also a pleasant breeze which kept the highland midge away.

On Sunday, we got up early and had breakfast and most importantly a cup of tea . . .

We then headed towards Ben Chonzie, its quite a small Munro at 913m, but we hadn't done one in quite a while so we needed it to be an easy one. It was still sunny and warm. As you can see from the picture below it was so hot that we were wearing shorts!

When we got back the car, we tucked into the cranberry and white chocolate flapjacks and headed home.

Not much cooking I'm afraid, but it felt so good to get out of city. When the weather is that good, you do wonder why you would think about going anywhere else.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Cranberry and White Chocolate Flapjacks

On Thursday night I made cranberry and white chocolate flapjacks as part of the Sweet and Simple Bakes Event.

I attempted to make some flapjacks a couple of weeks ago but I tried to mix to recipes together and also cooked it a little too long. It resembled granola rather than flapjacks.

I have to say that these flapjacks were dead easy to make. Even if I did end up going to bed a bit later, as I waited for them to cool enough to put the white chocolate on top. Why do I always do these things at the last minute? I used Green and Black's white chocolate. I was a bit upset when they were taken over by Cadbury's but they are still a readily available organic chocolate. I am not a great fan of white chocolate. I much prefer the more bitter 70% chocolate. I find white chocolate a bit too sweet for my palate. I have to say that I am much more of a starter person than a dessert person.

I took the flapjacks into work for a tasting and I have to say they went down very well. Andrew looked a bit upset when I started to pack them up to take to work.

I look forward to next month's recipe and I am sure so are my work colleagues.