Monday, 21 May 2012

FOOD (a recurring theme in my brain)

Here are a few tasty things I've eaten & discovered in the past few weeks:

Popcorn done the proper way - It's trial by oil. Veg tastes bad, butter burns, margerine burns (oh my poor, poor saucepan). Next try: olive? Any tips? 69p for a big packet of kernels from Sainsbury's, hurrah! Popcorn is amazing for revision-time snacks, its volume is quite out of proportion with its calorie content.

Baked garlic
- 1 hour on 190 degrees C with a bit of olive oil & seasoning. I did mine in a very cute teeny tiny casserole from Wilkinson's, but wrapping them in foil also works to keep the moisture in.

Smoothies - Frozen raspberries, orange juice & yoghurt. Schizzed*. Infinite variations possible.

Rosemary & sea salt crackers
- From Pastry Affair. These work awesomely, even if you're using 1/3 real butter, 1/3 Flora and 1/3 Utterly Butterly. A great chef I am not.
Personally I'd increase the quantity of rosemary, but then I like rosemary enough to pick it from bushes which are in other peoples' gardens but overhang the pavement. Gallette & mini-tart-things - From Spoon Fork Bacon, adapted twice with good results. Pretty much any combination of softened onions/leeks/spring onions, bacon and cheese is a winner. The small ones I made (1/4 of a half quantity I think) were good for lunches.

Anna's Quinoa Salad - Quinoa, feta, cherry tomatoes, pepper, cucumber. She used Merchant Gourmet's ready-seasoned quinoa and fancy pointy red peppers, I boiled my own quinoa and used yellow pepper and Basics "Greek Salad Cheese". It's still great. I added a little bit of (reduced) parma ham and had a box of it for lunch today.

I also seem to have been on something of an Italian kick lately:

Bruschetta - Toast, olive oil, garlic (preferably pre-roasted, I tried it raw and felt quite bad for the evening...), 1 tomato, basil, pepper, salt, lemon juice. Mix & dump on top of toast. Simple, quick & tasty.

Homemade Tomato Sauce - Onion, garlic, tin of Taste The Difference cherry tomatoes, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp brown sugar, olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh basil leaves. Soften onions & garlic then simmer everything for ages & give it a schizz*.
The first time I cooked some smoked bacon & mixed it all up with pasta & asparagus, it was almost the wonderful Roman spaghetti alla amatriciana I had last January. Boy approved.

Nutella ice cream - 4 parts vanilla ice cream + 1 part nutella, mix & re-freeze. Tastes like Italian holidays. Mixing is prbably easier with soft scoop ice cream. I remember my sister doing a similar thing with smashed Maryland cookies when we were younger. The combination was a bit too good to be allowed.

Risotto á la boy - May include some or all of onion/spring onion, leek, garlic, celery, pancetta, rice, chicken stock, pepper, white wine, courgette, asparagus, parmesan, cheddar... He makes it well. The first time he ever cooked for me he said he "could probably cobble something together" and then made me risotto and duck (possibly wrapped in pancetta, I can't remember). He's good.

Lemon & rocket risotto - From the back of the Sainsbury's risotto rice box. I used frozen rocket I happened to have and it worked very nicely. I also used grana padano as it's far cheaper than parmesan and chicken stock for richness. Lemon risotto is incredibly fragrant, I think I'll try Joy The Baker's oven version next.

Outside of the house I have had:
Falafel from Schnafel - A huge pitta with 6 organic spiced falafel, plus tahini, tabouleh & salad. I could have had even more salad but opted not to. Not bad for £3.95

Best Yo Sushi day in a while - Tuna nigri, veg gyoza, chicken katsu, chicken gyoza. Missing the point of the sushi somewhat but I can't stand seaweed! 25% student discount is great.

*To schizz, verb. To blend with a whizzy stick (or hand blender if you must be boring about it) "sch" is pronounced like the end of the contraction of casual, pretty sure we don't have a character for that.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

A Capsule Larder?

Food is something I generally take a lot of pleasure in, and during revision time deciding what to eat and making it is a great form of procrastination  relaxation. My brain seems to go into overdrive thinking of things I MUST EAT NOW, not helped by the likes of Smitten Kitchen and Pinterest. Yesterday it was bruschetta, today it's been gyoza and cake, some are easier to satisfy than others. I managed to assemble a pretty good bruschetta from what I had in the fridge/cupboard but I have to admit that I do not have the time or kitchen for attempting gyoza.
I'm also faced with the challenge of using up everything I have in the freezer before I move out at the end of June. I could take it all home since I only live an hour away, but most of that stuff was bought in larger quantities to save money, and merging it with my family's larder would be throwing that away. I intend to move out again (and back to Bristol) as soon as I come by some form of paid employment so the less perishable things (e.g. spices) can stay separate, but I also want to reduce what I'm lugging home.
I'm definitely not a minimalist when it comes to keeping my cupboards stocked, I reckon I could go for a good few weeks without buying anything if forced, and my supply of dried fruit and frozen peppers means I might not get scurvy too. Bonus! So, I am living a form of Ready Steady Cook for the next few weeks, anything I buy will be scrutinised for how well it combines with what I already have.
There are some things I will definitely top up on; milk, butter, bread & instant coffee are my essentials. Orange juice, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and good cheddar join them form a sort of capsule wardrobe of food.

From the making of scalloped tomatoes last year, needs less bread.

Now I need to come up with combinations to do away with the many, many things I already possess. There are grains, pulses, pasta, sugar & flour and tins of soup in the cupboard; sun-dried tomatoes, a tiny jar of lemongrass paste, a large jar of mayonnaise, four lemons, several baking potatoes I don't seem inclined to eat and ever-changing fresh things in the fridge; and in the freezer two duck breasts, four sausages, a chicken kiev, a bag of rocket, a bag of peppers & a tub of vanilla ice cream.

Ideas thus far:
  • Sausage stew with tomatoes & beans (super use-y up-y)
  • Duck breasts with roast potatoes or green lentils (a treat for post-exams?)
  • Lemon & rocket risotto (the recipe on the back of the rice box, never tried before)
  • Thai curry (lemongrass & a can of coconut milk & peppers?)
  • Coconut macaroons (bag of dessicated coconut)
  • Wholemeal flour cheese straws (use egg yolks leftover from macaroons)
  • Nutella ice cream (4 parts ice cream + 1 part nutella, mix & refreeze. Far more likely to be eaten than plain vanilla!)
  • Quinoa/orzo salads for library day lunches (+ sun-dried tomatoes)
Are any of these ingredients screaming recipes at you? Let me know!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Oh Hello, May + Morning Musings

Where have the last few weeks gone? The last coursework (ever, hopefully!) is done and submitted and now it's hardcore revision time. My brain seems to disagree, it'd rather think about intricate crochet stitches and exciting things to cook, or just fall asleep.
Spending time in the Physics department library with friends who've been finishing their project theses seems to be a good way of getting some good working time in but I need to improve my ability to get up and go in the morning. I always seem to end up in pajama-wearing internet limbo and not make it out of the house for a good few hours, even when I'm supposed to be having coffee with people I get stuck. Oops? Not really "oops" since it happens so much; I must try harder. The old alarm clock on the other side of the room trick does alright when I remember to set it, now I must learn to jump in the shower at the first opportunity and not descend into warm pajama ickiness.

My morning routine tends to go thus: roll out of bed, coffee & some form of bread, start making sandwich while kettle boils, laze around while finishing coffee (I'm incapable of drinking coffee fast), possibly check e-mails while finishing coffee, ... , shower, brush teeth, dress slowly while trying to round up handbag contents, assess weather conditions & add scarves appropriately, finish sandwich & re-fill water, LEAVE.

Obviously I can cut out the internet time (especially now I have the boy's old smartphone to check my e-mail on) and do things like decide what to wear and assemble handbag contents the night before, although I have tried this and not wanted to wear things the next day (or found that vital pieces of clothing are in the wash). I don't really like the idea of sandwiches that have been left in the fridge overnight but it may be a sacrifice I should try for the sake of improved productivity. Making a smaller cup of coffee would lead to less dead time that I'm liable to fill with the internet, but then there are days when I finish my coffee but then feel the need to lie down for a bit and daydream.

Any tips for a more useful morning? What order do you do things in? Why?
I'm interested in the logic in these things - Do you have a very strong order or do you mix things up? Do you find it easy to add new parts to your routine?

I always eat first as I don't like having an empty stomach and know I get all hypoglycemic and sad/angry/useless (the boy once took me to Sainsbury's with no breakfast and I had a self-checkout related meltdown, now he knows girl needs bread to function). My flatmate, on the other hand, will happily go half a day before eating or drinking anything.
I've noticed I've adopted some of the boy's habits too, there is always coffee these days, and he's a great one for making sandwiches. Truth be told I never used to brush my teeth in the morning, it's just a thing my parents didn't do. Now though I feel icky if I don't.