Monday, 31 May 2010


Not much to say about this one really. Jon had a barbecue on Sunday and I thought a cheesecake would be nice in what turned out to be very hot weather. It's a raspberry and vanilla baked cheesecake - I don't normally make baked cheesecakes as I once attempted a chocolate one and it failed disastrously three times, but this one is foolproof. The recipe is here. I thought the cape gooseberries/physalis were a nice decorative touch. It was delicious. 

Spot the difference

Anyone who has ever exchanged pleasantries with me will probably know that I'm a member of the Oxford University Royal Naval Unit. They will also probably know that so is my boyfriend. It was his birthday on Thursday, and given the lack of meaning in my life since Finals, I decided the obvious thing to do was to spend two whole days making cakes. This masterpiece was devoured by the rest of the Unit on Thursday night. I am rather proud of it.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Pancakes and a caponata

Two old bananas in the fruit bowl, looking sadly at me and urging me to turn them into something wonderful. I suppose it is good that I view overripe bananas as something to get excited about because of their potential, rather than simply something else to go in the bin. Having feasted on banana cake for as long as I can remember since I got back to Oxford, I couldn't face another just yet (especially as I am still gobbling the brownies that Mother McCausland sent me, with gusto). So out came my other recipe for past-edible bananas: pancakes. 

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

A curiously coincidental delivery - and chocolate heaven

Do you remember (avid readers that you all are, no doubt) my mention in my Real Food Festival post about the best brownies in the world? They come from this lovely little business, Gower Cottage Brownies. I gather that it is run by a very cheery looking lady called Kate who set up a catering business, and whose brownies proved so popular that she started doing mail order. They indeed have had rave reviews from all the serious names in the food media world, and I was very impressed when I sampled a bite at the festival. My mum was also impressed by the fact that they do courier service so the fresh brownies arrive the next day, and I remember her picking up a leaflet for future reference. Clearly the "future" was not so future, as a box arrived in my pigeon hole this morning. 

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Delights from the Real Food Festival

So, as mentioned previously, last weekend I went to the Real Food Festival at Earl's Court in London. I'd been last year too and enjoyed it so much that I was determined to go back, despite being mid-Finals panic. My mum and I last year ended up struggling back with about fifty bags packed full of everything you could possibly imagine, from granola to chorizo to rhubarb cordial to mozzarella. This time, we came prepared: I took a suitcase on wheels. And a good job, too - several kilos of veal is not easy to lug back through London to Oxford. 

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Veal casserole and grilled pineapple

I went to the Real Food Festival at Earl's Court last weekend (more on that in a later post), and was quickly enticed by a stall proffering pretty much every cut of veal you can imagine. It was run by Bocaddon Farm Veal, who sell welfare-friendly veal from a farm in South-East Cornwall. They had an offer on whereby if you spent £20 you got some free veal sausages, and I was drawn in. I have never seen so much veal before - I think my butchers do sell a variety of cuts, but I haven't seen them on display. It looked so fresh and colourful that I thought it would be a good investment. I did get some osso bucco (veal shin) from the organic butchers a while back, when it was on offer, and cooked it Italian-style with a saffron risotto. It was one of the best things I have ever cooked, rich and melting and incredibly satisfying, with that lovely bone marrow saved until the end. That was my first introduction to rose veal, and remembering it inspired me to end up with two packs of veal casserole, some Sicilian-style veal sausages, some veal mince and some veal and wild garlic burgers. When rose veal tastes so lovely, I don't understand why you'd want the hideously anaemic stuff from the continent. I once ate white veal in a brasserie in Paris before I fully understood how they get it so white, and I still feel guilty about it today. It makes me very glad that there are people out there determined to prove that welfare-friendly veal can be just as good - perhaps even better, because I always think a guilty conscience leaves a bad taste in your mouth (asparagus from Peru, anyone? Oh no, that bad taste might just be because I don't like asparagus...I'd forgotten already).  

I had never casseroled veal before, nor does it seem to be a particular popular thing to do - I quickly had a look on the internet for inspiration, but there are very few veal casserole recipes around. So I decided to make up my own, using my osso bucco recipe as a basic idea. 

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Banana, coconut and cardamom cake

This is GOOD. I think the banana and blueberry one was maybe a bit better just because it has blueberries in it, but I put some desiccated coconut and some crushed cardamom seeds in the mixture yesterday and ended up with this. And it is very very nice. 

Monday, 10 May 2010

A solution to the revision-lunch conundrum

I rarely ever eat lunch that doesn't involve some form of cooking - normally it's something like roasted veg and couscous salad with feta/goat's cheese, or eggs on toast with smoked salmon, or noodles, or carrot salad with feta and coriander, or a vat of soup that I've been organised enough to make in advance. But at the moment, what with my Finals starting in a week, I'm too busy to do a lot of cooking in the middle of the day. At the same time, I don't really like the idea of living off bought baguettes, or expensive pre-prepared salads from the supermarket. Out of the blue, I came up with the best solution EVER this morning - smoked mackerel pâté. Not only does it take about five minutes to make and then will last me for the rest of the week, it also has mackerel in it, i.e. oily fish, i.e. BRAIN FOOD. I could not have thought of a better idea had I tried. I fully expect a starred First now as a result of excessive mackerel consumption.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

A mountain of pancakes to be scaled

Today I went to Combibos on Gloucester Green for breakfast (well, brunch really) and devoured the above pancake mountain. They were delicious fluffy American-style pancakes with blueberries in the mixture that burst when you ate them and were sharp and delicious. They came with a little jug of maple syrup and a dusting of icing sugar, and I ate the whole lot and felt excellent (if slightly sick) afterwards.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

A sacrilegious revelation

Tonight for dinner I had scrambled duck eggs on toast with new season English asparagus. And I realised something that I have suspected for quite a while now but not really dared to conclude...I don't actually like asparagus. Which is a bit of a revelation, seeing as I take pride in liking most seasonal English food (rhubarb, for example, and quinces,  and gooseberries) and getting very excited when it comes into season. There is always such a huge fuss made over the start of the English asparagus season by chefs and food writers everywhere - all the papers are full of recipes for new asparagus at the moment, going on about how delicious our home-grown specimens are in comparison to those flown over from Peru. So naturally I got excited too, and went and bought some.

The first Alphonso mangoes of the year

"There's little you can do to improve on the perfection of the deep yellowy-orange flesh of a ripe Alphonso mango. Its sweetly fragrant and deeply exotic flavour - you can detect notes of coconut and lime - tells stories of yellow sands and warm winds, tropical palms and beating sunshine..."

That's Joanna Weinberg, writing in The Times. And oh, she is so correct. They are utterly utterly sublime. I like mangoes; preferably the huge ones they sell at the market for 75p each, but even then a rock-hard Sainsburys specimen can sometimes ripen into something pleasing. However, there is always a gamble: 50% or more of times, these fruits end up ripening into a mass of stringiness lacking in real flavour and tasting slightly chalky. They are good in smoothies, though, and ripe ones are lovely mixed with avocado, coriander, basil, mint, chilli and lime juice to make a salsa for grilled tuna steaks. But generally, I avoid recipes that involve mango as it is too hard to find ripe ones. I cook with mangoes when I happen to have bought some a week ago and find them soft and edible in the fruit bowl; more coincidence cooking than premeditated cooking. 

Monday, 3 May 2010

Brain food and a soufflé

Mackerel makes me happy. Firstly, because it tastes delicious and its meaty texture and strong flavour means it can be partnered with all sorts of exciting other flavours without being overpowered. Secondly, because it is ridiculously cheap. Thirdly, because it just looks beautiful - all silver and fresh as if it had just come out of the sea. I got the top three (the ones with heads) from the fishmongers on Saturday, and they offered me an absolutely ENORMOUS one - it was about the size of a salmon. I have never seen mackerel so big. I declined, but ended up with a giant specimen anyway (the top one) which I ate tonight and now feel a bit queasy. It was lovely though - I stuck them under a really hot grill so the skin went nice and crispy. Oh, and a fourth reason why I love it - it's very good brain food, apparently. Probably a good thing I consumed nearly the weight of my own head in mackerel then.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

A tribute to The Delicious Miss Dahl

The Delicious Miss Dahl is the food-TV equivalent of a meringue. Aesthetically pleasing, but totally lacking in substance.

For the last six weeks I have watched as Sophie, in her impossibly beautiful kitchen (which, it transpires, is not even hers and is being hired for the purpose), goes through the entire emotional spectrum available to human beings (melancholy, escapist, celebratory, nostalgic, selfish, romantic) and shows you how to cook dishes to suit each mood.