Monday, 26 March 2012

10 Minute Springtime Salsas

It's spring! Aside from warmth, blossom and questionable park activity, one of the best things about this time is having access to your parents' kitchenware when you're back for the holidays. Let's make refreshing food that celebrates our sudden access to a blender!

Lazy Man's Salsa
This amount of raw veg legitimises the fact that
you're about to eat an entire family pack of tortilla

1 carton chopped tomatoes, drained
2 cloves garlic
1 large white onion
1 large friendly red chilli (de-seeded)
1 lemon (juice only)
1 small handful parsley (you could use coriander, but parsley is so much fresher and more summery)
Salt and pepper

1. Chop roughly and put all the things in the blender

2. Blend

3. Chow down. I told you it was lazy.

This one has a warm, spicy after-taste

Salsa Verde

2 spring onions
1 large handful parsley
1 large friendly red chilli
1 small evil green chilli
1 lime (juice only)
2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons sour cream
Salt and pepper

Now you know what fresh things
 in a saucepan looks like
1. Chop everything roughly. Remember that the flavour of chilli is not only in the seeds, but in the membrane, and adjust what you put in according to how much you hate your sinuses

2. Put the onions, parsley, chillis and garlic in about an inch of water on the hob until they've wilted a bit- this will stop them from melting your face off

3. Take off the hob, drain, and blend until very finely chopped

4. Put in a small bowl to cool for about 10 minutes

5. Add sour cream, lime juice, salt and pepper

6. Add tortilla chips and chow down

Sunday, 18 March 2012


Takes: 35 minutes
Makes: 6

Man-scones are a variation of the English classic that has been catered to the tastes of the men in my life- they are huge, rugged, and (most of all) delicious.
Man-scones differ from regular scones in 4 major ways:

  1. They are approximately twice the size
  2. They contain about twice as many raisins per square inch
  3. They are much crunchier on the outside, preferably with slightly puffed up/burned raisins (though still soft on the inside)
  4. They are should look rugged and distressed- irregular shaping is vital
Note: The aim of the game when making scones is to work as quickly as possible and try not to touch anything inside the bowl with your hands- if the butter melts, the scones will end up dense and horrible 

Bakeware from dystopian future
Ingredients (makes 5-6 Man-Scones):
8 oz self-raising flour
3 oz butter or Stork
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 oz caster sugar
1 heaped cup raisins (alter to taste)
1 egg
2 tbsp buttermilk (or, 1 tbsp milk, one tbsp Greek yoghurt)

Cut it like you're from Harlow

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C and grease a baking tray. Sift the flour into the bowl with the butter. 
    Use two knives in a scissoring motion to cut the butter up really finely in with the flour. Keep shaking the bowl up and down to bring the lumps of butter to the top
  2. Gently but quickly rub in the butter between your fingertips until the whole mix resembles bread crumbs. Pour in the sugar and salt

  3. Beat the egg with the buttermilk (or buttermilk substitute) in a separate bowl. Add half the wet mix to the dry and mix in with a blunt knife and chopping motions
    Egg slop

  4. Add the raisins. Add more raisins if you want- there's nothing more disappointing than a scone bereft of fruity goodness

  5. Mix in the rest of the egg slop with the scone mix with your knife until it starts forming a ball. Briefly and gingerly shape it into a ball with your hands. Be aware that if you over-knead it, the gluten strands in the flour will turn your delicious crumbly scone into a bit of rock-hard fruit bread 

  6. At this point one would usually start rolling out and cutting the mixture. NOT SO WITH MAN-SCONES. It's boring, makes them uniform, and results in them warming up and losing air, so no squishy insides. Instead, break off lumps with your hands and place on the baking tray. Make them approximately the same size so they all cook vaguely consistently
  7. Brush with either a beaten egg or just some milk. Ridiculously specific protip: Instead of actually brushing, just lightly slap the scones with the wet brush, because otherwise you end up mushing the mix around and it takes much longer

  8. Bake for about 15-20 minutes. Check after 15, but do not be afraid of puffed up, burned raisins. Remember that these are big scones, so will take longer to cook than normal ones

  9. Place on a wire rack and gaze lovingly at them until the raisins cool enough to eat

  10. Chow down. These scones are good enough to eat just with butter- I personally think jam and cream rather ruins scones when they're this good.
I know these look like rock cakes, but on the inside they are soft and buttery

PS: I also made these adorable mini-man scones
 for our Mother's Day tea. They are still ruggedly handsome.

(Note to my non-English readers: In England there is great controversy gained from tedious conversations as to whether these are pronounced "Scone-as-in-gone" or "Scone-as-in-stone". It is literally likely to come up in any scenario in which scones are mentioned in front of people deriving from more than one family. If you ever find yourself in one of these conversations, please remind all those around you that using "U or non-U" rules of pronunciation to define one's social class is very old-hat. If you ever mention that the Americans call something similar to this "biscuits", you will incur a fascinating monologue about the differences between American and English vocabulary which everyone has heard at least ten times in their life if they are above the age of 12.

Just thought I ought to warn you.)

Monday, 12 March 2012

Delicious home-made Lollipops

Takes: About an hour, not including wrapping up time

It is extremely difficult to show you care with gifts when you have no money. 
Therefore, you must substitute cost for hours of your time and potential danger. Lollipops are ideal, as they take a while, are a cutesy home-made version of a commercial thing, and the sugar could potentially leave you horrifically disfigured if it spills on you. Thus, the females in your life will go crazy for them.
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup corn syrup (though I used golden syrup as an alternative)
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 tsp orange flavouring
- A few drops red and yellow colouring
- 2 teaspoons

-Cup measure (come on people, we're dealing with boiling sugar here, are you sure you want to take the risk of just using your coffee mug?)
- Jam thermometer (I understand not everyone has these, but many mothers do. You're looking for a rural (if possible) middle-class, middle-aged woman. She or a friend of hers will have one and will be willing to lend)
- Saucepan
- Wooden spoon
- Baking tray
- 30-40 cocktail sticks with the pointy ends cut off (use scissors)

 1. Grease two baking trays and space out your makeshift lolly sticks on them

2. Heat all the things except the colouring and flavouring in a saucepan on a high heat- stir until the sugar dissolves
3. Stop stirring. Put on the highest possible heat until the mixture reaches 320 degrees Fahrenheit on your jam thermometer (about 10-15 minutes). Be aware that at this point, the boiling sugar harbours a deep hatred of you, your clothing and your skin, and will only maim you if you attempt to stir it. Also, that sugar burns like napalm. Fill the sink with a few inches of cold water

4. Once it's reached 320 degrees, take it off the heat and put it into the water to stop it from cooking and cool it down a little. Add 2 teaspoons of orange extract and whatever colouring suits your taste- Remember that Scarlet Red food colouring is in league with Boiling Sugar and will therefore stain your clothes, hair and work-surfaces irrecoverably
5. Put on a cooking rack or upturned pan on the work-surface (the sugar pan will probably melt your work-surface, it is still incredibly hot) near your baking tray
6. Using two teaspoons, plop a bit of mix on each lollystick, and give the stick a twist to make sure it doesn't just fall off when you pick it up. Use about half the mix.
NB: If the mixture is hot, it will suffer from middle-aged spread like a school secretary after Christmas and your lollies will be terrible. Wait for it to solidify slightly. If it gets too cold to use, just shove it back on the heat for a minute and start again

7. When cool (about 15 minutes), flip the lollies over and do the same on the other side so they're not disappointingly flat on the back
8. After a further 15 minutes, they're ready to eat. Wrap in greaseproof paper and string and stick in the fridge overnight to harden them up totally

Note: A Word on Wrapping
When presenting gifts of baking to women, always wrap in greaseproof paper and string. Not only is it inexpensive, it straddles the line between twee hipster and homely traditional, and is therefore suitable for a lass of any age or inclination.

I will add that while this is also appropriate for men, as it strikes of ruggedness and practicality, in my experience men are more concerned with the quantity of the food than how it is wrapped.

For the purposes of these lollies, the point is to stop them from sticking together, and also to use something that won't absorb the grease from the baking tray and make them look gross. Use baking paper, shiny side towards the lolly

 "Individually wrapped for extra daintiness"
Again, this adds towards showing the object of your affection that, despite having no money, you are prepared to go to ridiculous lengths to make their present utterly charming

These are takeaway trays that have been put in the dishwasher. Try to avoid giving gifts that require the awkward return of tupperware- it's not classy, nor does it feel special

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Tilapia with Tomato Quinoa and Guacamole

Ready in: 35 minutes
Multitasking level: Medium
Feeds: 4

Price (approx.)
2 fillets of Tilapia
I’ve never had Tilapia before. It’s a really soft fish- more like a bottom feeder than something muscular like Cod
1 lemon
2 avocados
Often in Reduce To Clear because they’re ripe for about a day
We’re using about 40ps worth here
It’s harder to find (Waitrose only). However, it is more delicious than couscous, with the highest protein percentage of all the grains, and contains no wheat (for all you coeliacs)
1 can value chopped tomatoes
Sainsbury’s basics ones are actually the best. Nice red colour, come in a carton not a jar. Edit: They now sell versions with herbs in them. Cool story, Sainsbury’s.
Splash of red wine
Don’t bother with fancy wine here, it’s really just to give it some depth
1 tomato
4 handfuls baby spinach leaves
Bag costs about 75p, we’re using about 30ps worth
Delicious go-to salad because it doesn’t have a disappointingly airy texture like other salad bits
1 onion

2 cloves garlic

2 handfuls tortilla chips

2 handfuls mushrooms
Mushrooms are delicious and underrated. Buy the ugly buggers from Tesco Market Value- they’re getting chopped up anyway…
Chopped parsley
Growing herbs (of the culinary kind) in your student digs will make it look prettier and disguise generic student smells. Also you can eat them
                                           Or about £2.08 each
·       Small saucepan for couscous
·       Grill pan (or roasting dish with a cooling rack inside)
·       Chopping board and knife
·       Small bowl and spoon for baste
·       Spatula
·       Possibly a pastry brush, if you have one (NB: Buy a silicone pastry brush. You can get them from supermarkets. Ones with actual hairs will leave actual hairs on your food and your friends will question your personal hygiene)


Different bowl shows we mean
      1.  Guacamole (slightly non-traditional due to allergies of those being fed)
        a.        Finely chop 1 onion, 2 avocados, 1 tomato and 1 clove of garlic and shove in a bowl
        b.       Add the juice of half a lemon and a tablespoon of chopped parsley, and a pinch of salt
        c.       Mix together, then transfer to a fancier bowl to make it look like hard work
        d.       Shove in fridge until you’re ready to serve

        2 .  Tomato Quinoa
a.        Put a third as much quinoa as you want to eat in a saucepan
b.       Add 1 ½ times as much liquid as there is quinoa in with it. In this recipe, put a tin of chopped tomatoes on it, a splash of red wine, a squeeze of lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons of sugar (otherwise it will just dissolve your face when you try to eat it) – and some chopped parsley to continue our parsley theme here
c.        Put on the hob on a high heat and stir frequently with a wooden spoon. Just make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom. Sort the tilapia out now
                                                                       i.       Cooking the quinoa will require some attention. Things with tomato based sauces love to ‘catch’ (burn) and ruin your meal, so keep stirring. It ought to look a bit frogspawny after about 5 minutes- if it starts sticking to the bottom at that time, put a splash more water in it
                                                                     ii.       After 10-14 minutes it should be done

        3.  Tilapia
a.        Turn the grill on high
b.        Make a baste
                                       i.       Put a squeeze of lemon juice, a tablespoon of olive oil, a tablespoon of chopped parsley and 1 tsp salt
                                       ii.       Mix together to emulsify (stop the water and oil separating and make it thicker)
c.       Paint the baste onto the fish with either a pastry brush (if you’re cool) or your fingers (if you don’t bake enough pies and therefore have no pastry brush)
e.        Pop the tilapia under the grill for 4 minutes, then flip until it’s all white with no visible rawness remaining

       4.  Garlic-y mushrooms 
        a.        Put a handful of quartered mushrooms into a small saucepan with 1 tbp of olive oil, on high heat
        b.       Once they have ungratefully sucked up all the moisture and are making “we might just be burning” noises, add 2 tsp butter or margarine to the pan (don’t ask me why they won’t absorb this one), a pinch of salt, and 1 clove chopped garlic
        c.       Keep stirring for about 3 more minutes until it smells excellent

       5.  Plate up
a.        Flop the quinoa into a sieve if there’s any water lurking about still, then back in the pan, then a bit on your plate
b.       Arrange spinach leaves and garlic-y mushrooms artfully
c.     Slice the Tilapia fillets down the middle and put half on the plate
d.       Slop a little guacamole on the side, add ready salted Doritos for classiness
e.        Chow down

Tortilla chips: Model's own

How to Make Bad Meat Taste Good

Good meat: That which you lack
Pic courtesy of Yes really.

Old/ slightly funky looking meat
          Use your common sense here. If it's completely festerous or you have a terrible immune system, don't mess around, throw it out. Otherwise, be aware that cooking the hell out of things makes them safe to eat.
    • Straddling sell-by date: Something with strong flavours
      • Marinade in something strong tasting (eg lemon juice) and stir fry thoroughly (example here)
      • Marinate in oil, ginger, garlic and chilli and curry it (best if you're scared of the flavour being a bit rancid)- example curry recipe here
    • Pretty funky looking: Make a pie
      1. Scrape bad looking bits off.  Cut up small, season it and fry until you're sure it's really thoroughly cooked
      2. It'll now be dry as anything, so put it in a pie dish (or pyrex bowl) and make a sauce to go on top. For example, an onion sauce for chicken: chop up 1 onion very finely, fry, add 1 tbsp flour, slowly add milk and keep blending until all the lumps are out and it's reasonably thick. Mix in with the fried meat
      3. Make some short pastry for a pie crust (half as much butter as flour in a blender or rubbed in with fingers, then add 1 egg) and lay on top
      4. Brush with a beaten egg (or just milk) to give your pie a healthy looking crust
      5. Bake on a high heat until the sauce is bubbling and the pie crust is firm

Tough cuts of meat eg. diced stewing beef
    • Put on a chopping board. Cover the whole thing in cling film. Put on floor (not a counter, you will probably break it) and bash the living daylights out of it with a rolling pin until it's soft
    • Tough cuts like stewing beef want stewing. If you've got the time, put it in a casserole dish with chopped onions, carrots and potatoes and cook on a low heat for several hours

Dry meat eg. Turkey, any bird breasts, steak with no fat on it/no marbling
    • If worried about dry meat when roasting a bird
      • Cut a lemon in half, put both bits inside the bird while it cooks
      • Rub butter on its skin, especially breast area- Especially good if you can get it underneath the skin
    • If cooking turkey, most tasteless of all the birds
      • Use a yoghurt marinade- just yoghurt, your turkey bits and whatever flavourings you want in a plastic bag in the fridge for a couple of hours (ideally overnight)
    • If rescuing completely dried out meat
      • Make a gravy out of all the juices that have escaped while cooking- reduce what's left in your pan (just keep cooking it to get the water out) then add a splash of red wine and some salt and pepper. Mix a tablespoon of cornflour with a tablespoon of water in a separate bowl, and mix in slowly when the pan's off the heat. Add it slowly and don't use it all- judge how thick you want the gravy to be. If you're a bit sparse on meat juices, cut up an onion really finely, fry, add the meat juices to that and then do the other steps

Frozen meat
    • Defrost SLOWLY in either a microwave on defrost setting or by putting it in a zip-lock bag and leaving it in a bowl of warm water
      • Never cook straight from frozen, especially don't fry it- you risk having a tough outside and chilly interior
    • Be aware that freezing meat makes it tougher. Consider treating it as if it was a tough cut (see above) and either tenderising, stewing, or both.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Prawn Curry in a Hurry

Takes: 15 minutes
Multitasking level: Low
Feeds: 4

1 pack pre-cooked prawns
These were just in the fridge. Use any pre-cooked leftover meat to cut down on cooking time.
1 handful green beans
Or any green veg that’s on the cheap
1 orange bell pepper
Any colour except green, as green bell peppers are the devil of all vegetation
1 large white onion

1 inch ginger

2 cloves garlic

1 lemon
Always use lemon where there’s a tomato based sauce, or it feels really bogged down
Enough rice for 4 people
There’s a post on this if you can’t remember how to measure it all
Various spices
Steal from parents’ cupboards
~30p's worth here
1 tablespoon garam masala, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon cumin, 2 tablespoons dessicated coconut, 2 tsp chopped chilli
1 carton chopped tomatoes
Sainsbury’s value are the best for juiciness, consistency and colour- Tesco’s ones look a bit mutant

                                              Total: £4.28
                                               Or £1.07 each

     1.      Sort rice
a.      Measure: Put some rice in the saucepan. Remember that it will expand to double its size, so work out how much you're likely to eat
b.      Wash: Put cold water in the rice pan and swirl it around with your hand until the water turns cloudy. Block the rice with your hand and drain the water out. Repeat these steps until your water turns clear- about 5-7 times
c.       Water: Place your finger so the tip just touches the rice. Fill the pan with water until it reaches the first joint on this finger. That’s the right amount of water.
d.      Cook: Put on full heat until it boils. Don’t take the lid off, at all. Turn right down to the lowest heat for 10 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Start cooking the curry now. After ten minutes, take off the heat WITHOUT TAKING THE LID OFF and leave it to steam itself off the bottom of the pan until you’re ready to eat

2.       Make curry
a.        Slice the onion and fry on a medium heat in 1tbsp oil until soft
b.       Add all the spice, the green beans, chopped ginger and the chopped garlic
c.        Add the chopped tomato, the prawns and the bell pepper- stir for 3 minutes
d.       Add the juice of half a lemon- taste it, if it's too hot, add a little yoghurt

3.       Plate up
a.        Fluff up the rice with a fork and pop some on the plate
b.       Pile curry on top in a hopefully appealing way, remembering that curry always looks like a mess
c.        If you’re trying to make an effort with your presentation because your blog is starting to make you money, garnish with a somewhat arbitrary bit of parsley

The compulsion to take cheerful pictures of my food means I have not eaten a piping hot dinner in quite a while

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Breaded Fish and Chips

Or: "How to bag a British girl for life"

(As pork pies are kryptonite to British men, so is fish and chips the one bona fide weakness of British women)

Ready in: 45 minutes
Multi-tasking level: Medium-high, but worth it
Feeds: 4

2 large haddock fillets
I’m using haddock here because I’m cooking for traditionalists. Cod is also traditional. There’s really cheap white fish out there if you just go to the counter and ask what’s good
6ish potatoes
Alter according to hunger
3 tbsp breadcrumbs
If you object to paying for breadcrumbs, literally put your stale bread in a blender. If it’s not too old, grill it in the oven first to make it crumbly. Panko are Japanese breadcrumbs- they’re the best (absorb the least oil, making everything crispy) but also the most expensive.  Weigh up your priorities.
1 egg

2 tbsp flour

3 tbsp mayo
I use light mayo because I’m a girl and therefore like to trick myself into thinking mayo isn’t just oil and more oil
1 tbsp capers
Capers are delicious. Keep them in your fridge. The jar is pricey, but will last for months, even a year
1 splash lemon juice

5 cups peas
I’m using petit pois because I’m a fancy French lady (NB: Not actually French, but still super-fancy)
2 garlic cloves

                                             Total: £8.22
                                              Or, £2.05 each
·       Frying pan for fish
·       Saucepan for boiling potatoes
·       Saucepan for peas (can be the same one, frankly)
·       Roasting dish for chips
·       Small bowl and spoon for tartar sauce
·       3 small plates/bowls/upturned pan lids for Fish Action-Station

1.       Par boil the chips
a.        Scrub the potatoes but leave the skins on (unless you’re a wuss) and cut them into nice thin chips- this will cut down on cooking time and avoid the dreaded so-chunky-it’s-basically-a-baked-potato chip
b.       Boil for 10 minutes to soften them up a bit
c.        Once they’re on the boil, preheat the oven to 205 C. Stick a roasting dish inside with a thin but even covering of oil on the bottom- enough that you can see it move when you tilt it
d.       Optional: put a whole, unpeeled clove of garlic in the oil. Makes the chips slightly garlicy, without the risk of disgusting burned stuff.
2.       Chips in oven
a.        Drain the potatoes and pat with kitchen towel to get some of the water off. Note the delicious slimy starch- this is what’s going to make the chips crunchy
b.       Shove the chips in the pre-warmed oily roasting dish. Take out the garlic now, if you put some in- remember that if chips are on top of each other they will take ages to cook- spread them out. Start making the sauce now
c.        Every 10 minutes, take them out and move them around with a spatula. Don’t worry if they break up, this will make them crunchier. Sprinkle with salt after 10 minutes. Start prepping the fish now

3.       Tartar sauce (we’re not making the mayo. Shop-bought mayo is just fine.)
a.        Put 3 tablespoons of mayo in a bowl
b.       Chop up 1 tablespoon of capers as finely as you can and put them in
c.        Add a squeeze of lemon. If you want it to taste homely and familiar, add a teaspoon of sugar
d.       Mix together

4.       Make Fish Action-Station!
a.        In three separate small bowls, plates or upturned lids, put
                                                          i.       3 tablespoons flour
                                                        ii.       1 beaten egg
                                                      iii.       4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
b.       Get out your frozen peas and put the appropriate amount in a separate saucepan

5.       Cook fish
Golden brown, textured like fish
a.        Put 4 tbsp oil in a frying pan on the hob on a medium-high heat until it shimmers like a woofter vampire
b.       In your saucepan, put boiling water on the peas and put them on medium-high heat
c.        Dip your fish in all three atrocities in order until you’re cursing yourself for not using larger lids and cursing the fish for causing you anger[1]
d.       Make peace with your god and lower the fish into the pan of near-boiling oil with a large spatula skin side down. Remember it will probably spit.  Put the plates you’re going to use to eat off in the oven now to heat up
e.        Turn the fish CAREFULLY after about 3 minutes, when the breadcrumbs are golden- take the peas off the heat now and drain
6.       Plate up
a.        Take a deep breath. You did well, and whoever eats this will surely wish to marry you
b.       Take out the chips, remembering that they are blindingly hot and evil-minded. Scoop out with a slotted spatula, into a bowl lined with kitchen towel. Chuckle victoriously at how you have foiled their diet-ruining ways as they leak vast quantities of oil, and try not to think about how much is still left in them
c.        Get your plates out of the oven and spatulate (!) some chips onto them. Now cut the massive breaded fillets in two and put half on each plate. Add peas and sauce, and a bit of salt and pepper
d.       Chow down

It is difficult for me to convey how large that plate, and thus this portion, is

[1] Why we have three atrocities here: Wet sticks to dry. Fish flesh is not as wet as you imagine, but will stick to something super dry like flour. Egg sticks to flour well, but don’t massage it too much or you’ll get a weird kind of fish pancake. Breadcrumbs stick to egg really well, but need a bit of pressing in. Never, ever, try to stick breadcrumbs to flesh alone. You will end up wallowing in self-hatred as they fall off in the pan and you end up with burned breadcrumbs and separate, unevenly cooked fish

Fish for this recipe is traditionally battered and deep fat fried.
Note that we breaded and panfried.
This version has two major benefits:
1) Deep fat friers take up a lot of space and cannot be used effectively while drinking
2) This version will not make your date complain that she feels fat