Archive for October, 2009

Lamb Steak with Spinach and Sweet Onions

October 30, 2009

The strangest thing about being here is the tiny sense of relief you get when an essay is completed, a tutorial out of the way, a sense of relief almost immediately overtaken by the burden of all the other work you have to do, and the realisation that even when its done, you can’t go home at the end of the day.  I deal with it by going food shopping.

Sainsbury’s Westgate isn’t an oasis of calm, and doesn’t have a butchers counter.  I’m not a meat snob, but it has recently come to my attention that its impossible to buy protein in single portions, and unfortunately I couldn’t get any of my neighbours as excited at the prospect of lamb as I have been all day. (In the event,  I  managed to freeze my spare lamb leg steak, but am quite certain that the microwave sized freezer compartment can’t take any more surplus produce.) On the plus side, the choice of apples was much improved.

After  4 hours of the relative merits of Fair Value and Historical Cost Accounting ( I’m inclined to side with the HCA contingent), I was ready to indulge in culinary bliss. The only thing I couldn’t find was balsamic vinegar.  When I cook mushrooms, I nearly always use balsamic vinegar. Thus, having cooked mushrooms just two weeks ago, I assumed I had some. The realisation that I had forgotten it last time almost threw me completely off balance. These  wonderfully sticky, sweet, sour onions are the result of  the sugar and acid from the vinegar, so I’m most grateful to the colleague who remembered they sell sachets of malt in the dining hall. Thus, the meal described was made with the help of two sachets of Sarsons, but balsamic gives the best flavor.

First, pour hot water onto a tablespoon of raisins and leave to one side to plump up. Finely slice one medium red onion, and heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy based pan. When the oil is really very hot, add the sliced onion, a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sugar, and fry over a high heat for a couple of minutes. Once the raisins look refreshed, drain in a sieve and add to the onions, stirring to coat. Turn the heat down and cook for another 10 minutes.

Rub one lamb leg steak with olive oil, salt and pepper. Heat another heavy bottomed pan, wait untill it is almost smoking then chuck the lamb in. Put the kettle on, and give the onions a stir.

After 3 and a half minutes, turn the lamb steaks over, and pour boiling water over 250g spinach. Leave for a minute then drain with a sieve, squishing out any excess moisture. Plate up the spinach, sit the lamb on top and drizzle the sweet onion mixture over the top.

I highly recommend taking said supper back to your room, putting on Madeleine Peyroux and wondering who ever said students lived on cornflakes.

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Tea and Scones

October 29, 2009

One might think that in tight times, the first thing big banks would do away with would be personalised Molton Brown travel miniature sets to buy the loyalty of undergrads. They haven’t, but I’m not complaining. Nor do I have a problem with afternoon teas in the name of encouraging women into banking. Not that anything could convince me. In fact, like every other event I have ever been to involving bankers, especially female ones (at least the testosterone fulled variety are sometimes fairly handsome, or really terrible old flirts), the tea was incredibly dull. I don’t know if it’s the type of people  the job attracts or the work itself that results in people who claim to enjoy living on the Isle of Dogs. Personally I’d prefer to chat to Nick Leeson.

I was only there for the sandwiches and scones really, and The Old Parsonage did a passable job of providing them. The sandwiches (mothers pride with crusts cut off) seemed like they had been waiting a little too long for us to arrive, but the fillings were good: thick slices of ham and mustard, and egg and anchovy. Only the crab and cucumber, though an original pairing(I suppose it was supposed to be a clever variant of the tuna and cucumber theme), was tasteless.

The sweet offerings were fantastic. Scones had delightful crumbly crusts, and provisions of clotted cream and raspberry jam were generous. An almond madeira was lovely. The star of the show, however, was a sweet, sticky cherry sponge.  The only disappointment was the lack of tea options; the only choice was English Breakfast with or without sugar.  The Old Parsonage certainly isn’t Fortnums. Perhaps the bank are on an economy drive after all.

Tea and Sherry

October 28, 2009

I’d been researching all day and not getting anywhere. When the ceiling began to creak and the resulting sound indicated four O’clock I decided to wander. I made two important discoveries, first coming across some amazing Cherry d’amour tomatoes. Usually I wouldn’t consider that tomatoes from Holland were worth the air miles, but these were soft without being squishy, and sweeter than Pomodorinos (  though the Sainsbury’s variety of those are particularly good at the moment too).

More importantly I found solace in some old books in the porch of a church and a tin asking for 20p each for them.  When you’re homesick, lonely and seriously doubting your intelligence and sense of self, there is something immensly comforting about finding a second hand book that only you can provide a home for.

The first 176 pages and back cover are missing. Nevertheless, the untitled volume was clearly written by a genius of a ‘home planner’. Page 177 begins with the advice: ‘Surplus strong tea can be frozen in ice-cube trays, then each cube wrapped in foil. These cubes are useful for iced tea, since they will not dilute the mixture.’ The author goes on to reveal that the skins of frozen whole tomatoes will slip off easily when the tomatoes are thawed.

The second section of the book contains recipes organised by season, including those for ‘the summer months when outdoor activity is at its peak  and mealtimes may not be regular’. I’m keen to try Chicken Tetrazzinni, which I hadn’t heard of before today. I can’t find any other recipes for the dish which include Sherry  .  .

Comfort Food: Soft Boiled Egg and Mushroom Salad

October 16, 2009

The hallowed halls of this prestigious institution are pretty lonely. I can’t believe this time last year getting an interview seemed like the most important thing in the world! I’m doing the best thing one can do to make it feel like home: cooking.

I hadn’t so much as made toast since I got here. It’s strange having to start a kitchen utterly from scratch. Yesterday that meant Sainsbury’s. I had an hour gap between lectures and thought I would utilise my time efficiently. I bought salt, pepper, olive oil, eggs, mushrooms,  bitter leaf salad. I needed diet coke, rice cakes and cranberry juice too, and I knew I wouldn’t get to a fridge for a good two-and-a-half hours, so I had to leave the pancetta. It wasn’t brilliant quality anyway. Despite editing carefully, and leaving Delicious magazine at the till, I turned up at the business school looking like a bag lady.

Supper: Soft Boiled Egg and Mushroom Salad

Before you do anything else, rub 250g closed cup mushrooms with butter, then massage in salt and pepper. Add a drizzle of malt vinegar if you have some ( I didn’t yesterday and it still tasted great). Heat a glug of olive oil in  a heavy based saucepan with a lid. When it’s really hot, pop in the mushrooms, and stir for a bit untill they start to shrink. Turn the heat down, pop the lid on and leave for about 10 minutes.

Put the kettle on.

Try a mushroom. They should be soft and juicy all the way through, and have released lots of water. Turn the heat back up and leave the lid off.

Fill another saucepan with the boiled water. Pierce the wide end of two eggs with a drawing pin. When the water is boiling wildly, drop them in. After about 90 seconds take the pan of the heat. Leave on the side for five minutes.

Put half a bag of mixed bitter salad leaves on a plate. The mushrooms should be dark and sticky; mix them through. Take the eggs out of the pan and peel them, then cut them in half and add to the salad. If you want a dressing, a simple olive oil-lemon vinaigrette works well. I personally find a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce makes an immensely enjoyable addition.