Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Monday, 7 December 2009
Friday, 4 December 2009
Friday's Lunch for MC: sandwich, banana (non-doodled variety), kettle chips and chocolate.
'I usually have sandwich fillers or leftover meat from previous meals with chutney or mayo.' says he. 'Today I'm having my usual combo of sandwich, fruit, crisps and something chocolately. I would like to have some salad in my sandwich too but we only seem to have mixed rocket salad which isn't sandwichy enough in my opinion - more crunch please!'
I'm all for floppy salad personally but I guess a little iceberg doesn't go a miss now and again!
Location: UK office
Cost: less than £1 all in. Bargain!
And so my week of reporting comes to an end. To finish, I'm having a little salad prepared this morning (bar the dressing). The chopped tomato really adds to the satisfaction factor in this lunch. My trick is to keep a jar of home-made salad dressing in the fridge at work so that my salad doesn't go soggy. Easy!
Thursday, 3 December 2009
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Thank you, little Miss LG!
It seems that skipping lunch is becoming a depressingly common trend.
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
Location: MD's home in a cute Cotswold cottage
Cost: Free! Yay! The wonder of expenses....
Today, I got a treat... I organised a big (scary) meeting with some important clients and for that I got to order some delicious baguettes and sandwiches. I had a one with smoked salmon, dill sauce, lemon juice and black pepper and another with brie, bacon and chilli jam. Very tasty!
Monday, 30 November 2009
Location: UK Office
Cost: £1.64 when totted up... bargain!
I like things that are healthy and tasty. It just so happens that this is pretty good for both. Falafel can be easily bought from most supermarkets now. They're good value, healthy and a good source of fibre. A good option if you're vegetarian! Serve in a warmed pitta bread (so that it opens up) with baby spinach smothered in houmous for moisture. The olives were a real treat; going cheap on the deli counter at Sainsbury's so I couldn't resist. A little salty but tasty nether the less.
Friday, 27 November 2009
The world of business is getting busier, more competitive. There's more cost-cutting involved due to the infamous credit crunch so with jobs under threat and time at a premium, employees are working crazier and crazier hours. We continue to burn the candle at both ends; we don't want to compromise on our evening activities but we're having to get up earlier to satisfy our employers expectations. We skip breakfast in haste, grab a skinny latte during rush hour and sweat it out until lunchtime. We deserve a break! Don't work through it! Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day but lunch is a little salvation from the working day.
Now, with my working location, I can't get away with running out the door five minutes late only to grab a quick sandwich somewhere in town when the time comes. I have to be prepared. And it's annoying. But it got me thinking... how do we keep the 9 - 5 grind interesting? Food can improve a miserable day. What do you eat? And where? I'm wondering how many people eat at their desks or just skip a lunchbreak altogether.
So next week, you can expect a picture a day of my office lunches to inspire (I hope!).
Sunday, 15 November 2009
So this morning, it's just me and waffle iron. My beloved is at work - yes on a Sunday, not fair! - so I have time to experiment. Things like sandwich toasters and waffle irons seem to be the kinds of things that are bought as a cool idea but end up languishing in the depths of a dusty cupboard. If you have one, give this a try! My recipe is a variation of one found in an ancient Good Housekeeping Cookery Book (1976).
Saturday, 14 November 2009
Roasted Skate with Cherry Tomatoes and Parsnip Mash
Makes: a delicious and fresh fish-based main in less than half an hour
Ingredients: (for two)
2 Skate wings (has cartiledge in the middle - watch out!)
Generous handful of cherry tomatoes (or normal ones if you have none)
One red pepper
3 Parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
Small piece of Parmesan cheese
For the dressing:
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp (red wine) vinegar
2 tsp Dill & Mustard Sauce (or dijon mustard
5 capers, chopped
- Heat oven to 180C, boil half a kettle of water.
- Deseed and chop pepper. (If using normal tomatoes, quarter.) Mix in a bowl with tomatoes and drizzle with oil.
- Place on a baking tray, spread out nicely and roast for 10 minutes, stiring gently and occasionally.
- Heat a frying pan on a high heat with some oil. When smoking, add each skate wing and brown for a minute on both sides. It may stick slightly, don't worry if this happens.
- Move the vegetables to one side on the baking tray and place the skate wings on the tray. Roast for a further 10 - 12 minutes.
- While this is cooking, boil parsnips in just enough water to cover on a medium heat for around 10 minutes or until soft.
- While you wait, mix together all of the dressing ingredients and set to one side.
- Remove the baking tray from the oven and put to one side, covered. Bung plates in the still warm oven now, if you wish.
- Drain and mash the parsnips. They will not become as smooth as potato but keep mashing until you've minimised lumps. Add a knob of butter and stir in with a spoon. Add a dash of milk to bring together and grate a little Parmesan into the mash. Season and stir well.
- Plate the skate with a dollop of mash next to it. Drizzle the roasted veg with dressing and ripped basil. Stir well and pile on top of the fish.
This could be done with any firm while fish. Haddock would also work well. If you don't have Parmesan, a little mature cheddar cheese might be nice or simply add a grating of nutmeg. Can be a starter by simply using one skate wing cut in two and two parsnips for the mash.
Thursday, 5 November 2009
Macaroni Cheese with Bacon and Mushrooms
Makes: a quick and easy supper
Ingredients: (enough for two people)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp plain flour
1 cup milk
50g grated cheddar cheese, plus more to top
150g macaroni, dried
50g smoked bacon, trimmed and sliced
50g mushrooms, sliced
- Preheat oven to 190c.
- Boil macaroni for 10 minutes until just tender.
- Meanwhile, fry bacon and mushrooms over a medium heat in a saucepan until bacon is browned and mushrooms soften.
- Remove from pan and set aside.
- In the same pan, melt butter over a low heat then add flour.
- Stir vigourously until combined into a smooth paste.
- Add milk little by little and up the heat to medium low, still stiring.
- Keep adding milk gradually until all is added and the sauce begins to thicken.
- Add grated cheese, bacon and mushrooms and stir until combined.
- Mix macaroni and sauce together and put into an oven proof dish.
- Top with grated cheese and bake for 10 - 15 minutes until golden brown
- Serve with a fresh mixed salad
Instead of bacon and mushrooms, use leftover roasted vegetables stirred into sauce. A little pesto in the sauce and a topping of Parmesan is nice with this option.
Saturday, 17 October 2009
Now it was a question of lunch. I'm living extremely close to the Quarter Mile project which is home to, amongst other establishments, a fantastic Swedish bakery called Peter's Yard. Again, its a place that people have waxed lyrical about so a late lunch seemed like a good enough excuse for a visit.
I haven't mentioned the weather yet, have I? It definitely deserves an honorable mention. It's been beautiful. Clear and sunny every day, such a treat! It's almost as if it knew I would be having a special visitor and made a real effort to be nice for us. Self-centred, eh? Anyway, it seemed natural to gravitate to the Yard's outside seating area out front. But first, we had to go in and take our picks... Peter's Yard is quietly cool inside. It's a huge dose of Scandinavian simplicity with a hint of Ikea chic. Very stylish. The food has the wow factor too. Baguettes and sandwiches laid generously thick with fillings and the most amazing cakes. I dithered. I couldn't help it! Predictably, we chose pudding first. Blueberry 'Mousse' for him and Tiramisu for I. Then the savories... hrm. I go for a turkey sandwich while the Boy goes for a cheese baguette. We managed to resist the mouth-watering smoked salmon open sandwich but only because we had a fishy dinner to look forward to. Our meal was accompanied by our usual beverage - hot chocolate!
The real revelation for me was the beautiful freshness than was obvious in everything we ate. Our lunch wasn't cheap - £10 a head for two courses - but the quality and generosity of ingredients blew me away. My sandwich contained about four thick slices of fresh turkey while the Boy's baguette was stuffed with three delicious cheeses and the bread... well, it was all fantastic. Our cakes were also marvellous.
The Blueberry M0usse (above) was in fact a very handsome cake with blueberries and cream squidged between nutmeggy sponge. Quite a revelation. The only disappointment was the hot chocolate; not sweet enough for my taste.
Friday, 16 October 2009
We chose two hot chocolates (naturellement), a piece of almond chocolate cake (gluten free - tempted to buy a whole one and send it home to ma mere) and a peach danish. The hot chocolate was mundane and nothing to write posts about though I'm happy to rave about the chocolate cake (incredibly moreish and flour-free) and danish of delights (actually the best I've tried yet)!
Thursday, 15 October 2009
So, with my bags bulging with various goodies, I traipsed my way homeward. This is of course the moment that I a) feel like I should've limited my purchases to spare my digits and b) begin to feel horrendously hungry. Making my merry way through the streets I spy a sign proclaiming the finest mexican hot chocolate. Well, this was just too tempting to resist, particularly with my chocolatey theme this week. The place, it turned out, was Elephant and Bagels. As soon as I stepped in the door, my stomach started to rumble as, not only did they offer chocolat chaud but also, (as the name suggests) a tantalising selection of bagels.
Standing in the queue, I dither. What to choose? I plump for not one but two bagels - one for me, one for my colleague. Oh, and a hot chocolate as well, of course. Then I trot back to my building and up the 91 steps - no, I haven't counted them. Someone else did it for me! Still warm, I halve the bagels to share. One 'deli-style pastrami' with peppered pastrami, cream cheese, dill pickles and mustard. The other filled with brie, bacon and sweet pickle. Mm-mm!
And the hot chocolate? Well, I might need to try another to be sure!
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Wednesday, 14 October 2009
One box was filled with drops of pure sunshine, namely beautifully plump rum-soaked raisins coated in white or milk chocolate. They melted on the tongue then gave off a delicious, and remarkably strong, rum hit. There wasn't too much of a boozy tang because they were so small. Very very moreish!
Another pot held strips of dried mango soaked in schnapps then enveloped in dark chocolate. These were quite a surprise with the initial bittersweet bite of cocoa followed swiftly by a sweet fruity flavour. It wasn't until you chewed that you got a hint of alcohol that tempted you back for more. These were a little more work as they'd been dried and then rehydrated but this actually worked really well and made them all the more satisfying.
The final vessel was home to firm kirsch infused cherries enrobed in dark chocolate. A truly classic combination which proved very successful. They were surprisingly filling but were a real treat nether the less.
All in all, Hotel Chocolat are on to another winner. Even if you're not normally a fan of chocolate combined with fruit, this is definitely one to try.
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Monday, 12 October 2009
Tuesday, 30 June 2009
The next day, faced with leftover rice (cardamom pods and cumin seeds buried like jewels within), I felt inspired. A very easy recipe - barely a recipe even!
Makes: a tasty way to use up left-overs - an easy and fresh salad.
Ingredients: (enough for two)
a take-away tub (or thereabouts) of cooked pilau rice
2 peppers (one yello, one green)
1 red onion
2 or 3 tomatoes
1 carrot, peeled and grated
handful of raisins, soaked in apple juice
- Finely chop all of the vegetables and the corriander, removing the stalks from the peppers, etc
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix with hands
- Serve with a burger, eat in the sun
This could be done with any kind of leftover rice - could go with a thai theme and add grated coconut.
Monday, 22 June 2009
Now... what shall I cook first?
Friday, 12 June 2009
That's a lot of waste. Boo and hiss to these nasty little numbers says Hilary. But they must be useful for something, right? It's all to do with shelf-life and I could go into all the different terms and their meanings but that'd bore us both and we can't have that. Needless to say, different kinds of products have different lifespans and while some merely aren't as tasty when they're getting on a bit, some become hazardous to eat. This is usually reflected by the relevant "Display Until" term on the packaging. The main thing is that products are stamped with a Sell-by/Display Until/Best Before/etc because it supposedly benefits both the retailer (or Supermarket) and the consumer (that's you!). Under European law, all products sold in supermarkets and the like need an indication of lifespan. This means that you can fill your basket knowing that the products you choose aren't past their best as the supermarket can tell for definite what is good and what is getting a bit Grandad. Once you get home, you can ensure that your food will be a certain standard when you eat it if you follow the advised date and the retailer has an expiry date on their own liability. The difficulty lies with the date itself - how accurate are they? I tend to eat things that are a little out of date but I'm careful to smell/look at them closely first. If something is going to be cooked all the way through, it should kill all the bacteria in it anyway. Still, I'm an impoverished and unemployed graduate (as of two weeks time!) and I hate waste...
Wednesday, 10 June 2009
Not one to be outdone, I've done a bit of research via t'internet and I can conclude that (drumroll please...) we're both right! Disappointingly. This is mainly because, it seems, that 'french toast' or pain perdu (en Francais) is usually sweet and is served with jam, butter, syrup, etc. Meanwhile, the more English 'eggy bread' is more often savory and eaten with marmite (yuck) or tomato sauce. If you're curious, give it a try!
French Toast, Gypsy Toast, Eggy Bread, Pain Perdu...
Ingredients: (enough for a hungry two)
3 medium eggs
a splash of milk or cream
1tsp caster sugar or a pinch of salt
5 slices of white bread
- Whisk together the eggs, milk and sugar/salt. Add cinnamon if making a sweet mix. Pour mixture into a deep dish or large bowl.
- Dip each slice of bread into the bowl in turn until each side is covered and has soaked up a little of the mix.
- Fry in a pan with a little oil over a medium heat until golden brown and cooked all the way through
- Serve with your choice of condiment.
You can also use slice of baguette instead of bread. Slice thinly (about 1.5cm) on the diagonal. I tend to use white bread as it soaks up more mixture but you can use wholemeal if you wish.
Monday, 8 June 2009
A tasty and rather stodgy carb-heavy main course - ideal for brunch! Deliciously crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.
Ingredients: (enough for two)
3 Potatoes, chilled from the fridge
1 White Onion
3 rashers of smoked bacon, trimmed of fat and chopped
- Heat about a tablespoon of duck fat in the pan on a low heat until it melts
- Finely chop the onion and add to the pan
- Sweat the onions until soft then add the bacon until cooked through
- While you wait, peel and coursely grate the potatoes.
- Put the grated potato into a clean tea towel and squeeze out as much moisture as you can
- Add this to the pan, season and press down to form a cake
- Turn the heat to medium and cook for five or so minutes until the underside is crispy
- Turn the rosti (we found the easiest way to do this is to turn it onto a plate and then slide it back into the pan), adding a little more fat and cooking the other side until crispy.
- Serve with a fried egg on top
I think this would be really tasty with mushrooms added with the bacon. Leeks could also be added with the onion to bulk out the mixture for more people.
Friday, 8 May 2009
Thursday, 7 May 2009
A broken foot and a few bruises aside, I'm fine thankfully. Kudos to my long suffering housemate who applied peas, supplied sympathy and kindly ran me to A&E. So here I am, popped in a temporary cast and told to show my face at the Trauma Unit (not a promising name if ever I saw one) first thing tomorrow.
Saturday, 2 May 2009
Monday, 27 April 2009
Saturday, 11 April 2009
Soft & Moreish, Ultra Tasty Flapjacks
(with thanks to Dan for the initial inspiration!)
Tuesday, 31 March 2009
Friday, 27 March 2009
I have the task of creating some appealing party nibbles for a friends cocktail party and being on a budget, I didn't want to buy a ton of pre-packed gumph. I already had flour, yeast and oil in the cupboad and a ready supply of water from the tap so I thought I'd give homemade bread a go. It's really easy so don't be daunted! Here's my take on the Italian classic...
250g strong white flour
7g (sachet) yeast
- Combine flour, salt, yeast and a tbsp of olive oil in a bowl
- Add about 150ml of tepid water, mixing as you go. This can be very messy! Different flour will absorb varying amounts of water so add a little at a time and be prepared to use a little more or less each time. If the mixture is too dry, add a little more water. If it's still very sticky, add more flour. You're looking for a solid consistency that isn't sticky and doesn't coat your fingers as you agitate it.
- Spend about ten minutes kneading the dough on a floured surface; stretch it, then work it back over itself. You can really pound it! Work out some of your aggression until its smooth. Add drizzles of oil as you go a long to add to the elasticity.
- Prepare a baking tray with parchment and a little olive oil.
- Stretch out dough until it's about 2cm thick. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for at least thirty minutes to an hour.
- Preheat oven to 220c
- Bake for 15 minutes
Notes: I used plain flour as I didn't have any strong flour, which worked well. It's not ideal but will work if it's all you have.
Additions: A little minced garlic, finely chopped green olives and/or dried or fresh rosemary would work a treat with this. Mix them in at the dry stage for added flavour.
Monday, 23 March 2009
I've been trying my bestest recently to eat more live yogurt. This is mainly because I've been having some tummy problems, which are probably stress-induced but nevertheless it seems like a good idea to get some "friendly bacteria" into me. Most of me really detests the yogurt drinks that are bandied about so much on TV and especially a certain yoghurt brand whose adverts seem to have found a group of women who prefer to discuss their bowel movements rather than gossip about men... Active yogurt, which should do potentially the same thing, is cheap, easy and much more versatile. So, when I took my usual trip to the supermarket, I picked up a big tub of Yeo Valley yogurt to try. It was on offer (only £1!), organic and hails from Blagdon, less than ten miles from the village I call home. Pleased with my purchase, I generously dolloped it onto my morning cereal to sweeten it up... and then recoiled in disgust when I actually put the spoon in my mouth. It was grim! I would guess that the problem lies with it being fat free as it had a taste to it that I associate with low fat/calorie desserts (proving that if you want pudding, you can't do it by halves). It tasted chalky and bitter though it definitely wasn't off. It's a real shame because Yeo Valley is a great brand but I would definitely leave this one on the shelf. The only photo I could find is of the plain fat free organic tub rather than the Strawberry flavour that I tried though I think I'll be sticking with full fat yogurt from now on!
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
The Trout was refurbished in recent years and like many pubs has been done up in the contemporary eclectic gastro-pub style with mix-matched chairs, exposed floorboards and inflated prices. It has its charm for certain and a rather sumptuous menu too. I had the Baked Goats Cheese and Roasted Fig salad with rocket and interestingly, balsamic pickled onions which were a real treat! It was pointed out by the waiter as it's not made clear on the menu that the 'Salads' section of the menu were more like starters... slightly strange in my opinion, why not just have starters and mains? Anyway, it was a bit small though very tasty. My friend enjoyed one of their pizzas which looked very good. It wasn't horrendously expensive either with two of us eating two courses and coffee for less than £30.
The ambience and setting to this pub are fantastic. Ample parking is available which is useful. The menu is nice enough; up to the minute with flavour combinations but not too complicated and not pocket achingly expensive either. Definitely worth a try or even a special visit to Oxford.
Monday, 2 March 2009
The Cape of Good Hope public house used to be part of the 'Scream' student-friendly chain offering discounts and deals to the most impoverished and needy (if you're an architecture student, anyway!). It was refirbished in 2006 when it was reverted back to its original name after several years incognito for 'Scream'. It's definitely changed since then!
The decor is typical modern gastro pub; an eclectic mix of warm colours, exposed floorboards and mis-matching chairs. It was quiet at the time and we took our time to choose from their extensive menu. Eventually, I chose a falafel sandwich with tomatoes and peppers and added some of their 'Maris Piper' chips on the side, which came to a square (or should that be rectangular?) fiver - not too bad really. They also do a mean cranberry juice for future reference. The service was polite and quick (as you'd expect, with a sandwich!) and the verdict from my party was good.
Worth a try if you're in the Oxford area! You can find them at 1 Iffley Road, Oxford - right on The Plains.
Sunday, 1 March 2009
Saturday, 28 February 2009
Ingredients (to make eight fishcakes):
250g smoked mackerel
1 beaten egg
1 tbsp plain flour
- Peel, quarter and boil potatoes until cooked through and mash.
- While this is cooking, flake the mackerel taking care to remove any bones.
Friday, 27 February 2009
Sunday, 15 February 2009
In a slight break from tradition, we decided to spend our pennies on ingredients rather than a meal out. Our (admittedly somewhat limited) experience of the hospitality trade around this time of year is not exactly positive and can be summed up in three words; expensive, contrived and unromantic. .
This was deftly crafted into a delicious anti-pasto of cured meats, olives and bits and pieces to nibble on while I roasted the camembere and caramelised shallots to drizzle on top. This was intended to be a starter but we were so full and wanted to do full justice to our seafood main course that we skipped straight to pudding. Heavenly!
Friday, 13 February 2009
160g dark (70%) chocolate
130ml single cream
50ml (if desired, or to taste) Baileys (or similar)
2 tbsp sugar syrup
- Melt chocolate in a bain marie, a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water until smooth. Remove from heat.
- Add cream (ideally at room temperature) and stir thoroughly to combine.
- Add Baileys or similar alcohol and sugar syrup to the mix and stir well again.
- Allow to cool slightly for a few minutes until less liquid then pour into two glasses (or one big one!).
- Refrigerate until needed.
This can be made a few days in advance and can then be heated up slightly (in the microwave or in boiling water) for a tasty, naughty chocolate sauce or serve from the fridge with fresh fruit.
Thursday, 12 February 2009
I've passed by their warm doorway several times since they opened but there's always been a sizeable queue, often out the door. Obviously, this is a great sign but not conducive to me stopping in. We arrived at about 7.30pm and although there was something of a queue, we joined the throng. A chicken burrito with lots in it costs less than £5, which can't be argued with considering how full it leaves you. Definite value for money! Plus, it's delicious and tastes nice and fresh. They do several different wrap options with different fillings, which are mainly meat based but they do a vegetarian option too. Seating can be a bit of a problem as it's only a small establishment and you just have to sit where you can but this adds to the casual social feel.
All in all, a great place to eat. Worth popping in even if it's busy, especially if you're in need of a quick takeaway fix. Good value, lots of options to keep everyone happy and very tasty.
Walking home that evening, it was suggested that burrito soup could be a tasty addition to my recipe book so that's something that I might need to experiment with in the future!
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Saturday, 7 February 2009
Friday, 6 February 2009
Potatoes (one per person with one or two on top for luck)
Cajun Spice Mix
...or any herbs or spices you fancy!
- Preheat oven 180C
- Cut potatoes into wedges; don't worry about peeling them just cut in half then into segments by cutting each into quarters longways. Put them into a bowl.
- Drizzle with two or three tablespoons of oil. You don't need much, just enough to thinly coat the potatoes.
- Add a teaspoon of each spice and mix everything around (ideally with your hands).
- Spread the wedges out on a baking tray and bake for about thirty minutes (turning halfway through) or until soft and crispy around the edges.
Wednesday, 4 February 2009
On this subject, now is a time to eat seasonal local goods if you can. Yes, it's great to eat what you want when you fancy it but consider where the produce is coming from. Tomatoes from the Canary Islands? Not great for your food miles. Now, bear with me. I'm honestly not a raving hippy. It makes sense to be more conscious of what you're buying at times like this. It'll make your food bill cheaper too as seasonal (ideally locally grown or produced) foods are abundant so they're easy to get hold of. Not sure what's in season? I don't blame you. I'm not much of a gardener myself so I rely on Eat the Seasons, who kindly send me a weekly email to tell me whats in season with lovely recipe ideas too. You get one email a week and they don't clog up your inbox with junk. What are you waiting for, eh?
And one more thing... Tesco. They're not going to go out of business in a million years. They have their grip filmly in our highstreets and out-of-town developments. Tesco are happy bunnies. While I wouldn't be able to get all my shopping away from the main supermarket brands, I am trying to buy as much from smaller outlets and markets as I can. They appreciate it, the quality is good and they're real people just like me and you. Yes it's a bit of a gamble but try them out even if it's just for one week.