Friday, 30 April 2010

"In springtime, the only pretty ring time, birds sing hey ding... a-ding, a-ding, sweet lovers love... the spring."

- Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Spring is well and truly here. Hooray!

To celebrate, I'm putting up one of my favourite recipes, for a really wonderful spring lunch.

Asparagus Rigatoni

9 oz/250 g asparagus
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 tbsp butter
3-4 cups/6-8 oz/170-225 g whole wheat rigatoni pasta (can be substituted for your favourite type of pasta)
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.
2. Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and then slice the spears finely.
3. Melt the butter in a medium-sized frying pan. Once all the butter has melted, add the sliced garlic and fry on a low heat. Just as it's starting to colour, add the sliced asparagus. Season well with salt and pepper.
4. Cook slowly for 5 minutes, stirring every so often. Add a tablespoonful of water to the pan. When the asparagus feels tender, turn off the heat and allow to sit while your pasta cooks.
5. Cook the pasta in the boiling for the amount of time the packet suggests. When it's done, drain, but be sure to keep some of the cooking water.
6. Mix the asparagus with the pasta. Grate in lots of parmesan, and stir well, adding splashes of cooking water if it starts to get sticky or dry.
7. Serve with extra parmesan, lots of pepper, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil if you fancy.

serves 2.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Oh Chocolatey-est of the Chocolatey

Oh, I was craving chocolate cake this past weekend, especially after the KILLER hangover I had on Friday (don't mix your booze, kids).

This craving gave me the excuse to try out a recipe I've been dying to have go at for ages, adapted from Regan Daley's book, In the Sweet Kitchen. This recipe just happens to be for the richest, most moist, and most massive chocolate cake I've eaten in ages, and the optional chocolate butter icing only enhances its chocolate qualities. However, if you do choose to go icing-free, then guess what! It's completely vegan-friendly!! Isn't that nice?!

All prepared and cooked in this pan. Hooray for less washing up!

All-in-the-Pan Chewy Chocolate Cake

3 cups/12 oz/375 g flour
2 cups/14 oz/400 g sugar
1/2 cup/3 1/2 oz/100 g unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup/6 fl oz/180 ml vegetable oil
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

FOR THE ICING (It's dayum good but–I will say– if you're more a fan of the sponge, you can do without this)

1/2 cup/4 oz/125 g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4 cups/28 oz/800 g confectioners sugar
4-6 tbsp milk
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC/Gas mark 4. Sift the flour into a large, ungreased baking pan.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt with either a whisk or a fork. Add this mixture to the flour in the pan and whisk again to blend the ingredients.

3. With the back of a teaspoon, make three wells in the mix– one large, one medium-sized, and one small. In the large well add the vegetable oil, in the medium the vinegar, and in the small the vanilla. Then, pour the water over the whole thing. Stir the mixture with a fork until well-blended. Be sure to reach into the corners to catch any dry ingredients. Mix it just until most of the lumps have gone and the mixture is even throughout the pan (no overly thick or think batter anywhere).

4. Place in the oven to bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the top is slightly springy when touched with your finger. Allow to cool completely before icing.

5. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and 2 cups of the confectioners sugar until the butter is evenly distributed. Stir in 2 tbsp of milk, and then sift the cocoa powder over the mix and cream to blend. Add the vanilla and the rest of the sugar. Mix well. Add as much of the remaining milk as required to make a thick butter icing.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Make-Your-Own Pizzas

After a week of us all taking turns to cook each other meals throughout the week (We had sardines, a pork roast, and seared rainbow trout), I decided that it would be a good idea for us all to make dinner together last night. Now, normally I am not a fan of sharing my kitchen space. The old adage 'too many cooks spoil the broth' I found has always been true, especially in the kitchen. Having one or two people to work with is fine, four is just stressful. Especially in a kitchen our size. But we thought of something that would be easy for us to all do together without getting in each other's way or having a 'too many cooks' situation: pizzas.

The plan was simple: I make the dough (as always, anyone who wanted to help could.... but no one did), then I would roll out two pizza bases; one which three of us would top with whatever we should choose, and the remaining two of us would top the other one. Then, once all was cooked, it would become a free-for-all: take whatever slice you could grasp.

Holly and Fraser assembling their 'masterpiece'

The pizzas worked out a treat. We're all of similar tastes so that we topped them with pretty much whatever we liked and then picked off any hostile toppings that happened to find their way onto our slices. What's even better, with the recipes I used I had extra dough left over, which I wrapped in foil and put in the freezer. Most definitely going to be making some pizza next weekend.

Below is the dough recipe that I used, which I adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe. Definitely worth a go, fun for everyone!

Pizza Dough

4 cups/1 lb/500 g bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 7g-sachet yeast
1/2 tbsp golden caster sugar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups/11 fl oz/325 ml lukewarm water

1. Sieve the flour and salt together into a large bowl. Make a deep well in the middle of the mixture. In a jug, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil with the water and leave for a few minutes. Pour into the well.

2. Using a fork, gradually bring in the flour from the sides, mixing all the time, swirling it into the liquid. Keep doing this, bringing larger amounts of the flour mix in, until it all starts to come together. At this point, draw the rest of the flour in with your hands. Tip out onto a clean, floured work surface. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.

3. Place the dough into a large, floured bowl, and place flour over the top of it. Cover with a damp cloth and keep it in a warm place for an hour, or until it has doubled in size.

4. Remove the dough to a clean, floured work surface, and knead out the air in the dough. If you don't want to use it immediately, wrap up the dough in cling film and put it in the fridge/freezer.

5. Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC/Gas mark 6. Roll out as many pieces of dough as you want pizzas, and leave to sit for 10 minutes. Pop in the oven for 5 minutes, just so that the base cooks enough so that it's not soggy in the middle later.

Makes 3-4 thin pizza bases

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Houmous/Hummus And Pea Spread

In this flat we are all snackers. We are constantly grazing, on whatever we can find in the house. Normally, it involves biscuits and chocolate and sweets, i.e. garbage. However, since getting back from vacation Lia and I have been trying to be healthier, and so we've been indulging in more savoury snacks. These two dips are the most common in the house now. They both require very few ingredients and about two seconds of prep. They do tend to go quickly, though!

Here are the guidelines for the recipes. Chop and change it as you like to suit your tastes, they're great to experiment with!


400 g jar/can chickpeas, drained
Juice of 1 lemon
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Paprika and cumin, to taste

1. Rinse the chickpeas with cold water. Put in a large bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the garlic. Top with lemon juice and olive oil. Blend partly with either a fork or electric mixer.
2. Add the salt and pepper and paprika and cumin to taste. Blend until there are no sizeable lumps. If the dip tastes bland, add more spices. If it tastes too spicy or is too thick, add more olive oil and/or lemon juice.

serves 4

Pea Spread
(adapted from this recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini)

300g/ 10 1/2 oz frozen green peas, shelled
small bunch fresh coriander/cilantro
2 tbsp parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
1 dash Tabasco, or 1 tsp paprika
salt of pepper

1. Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil. Cook the peas for 5 minutes, or until tender. Let cool to just above room temperature (if you're a pinch timing-wise, you can just run them under cold water). Pluck the coriander/cilantro leaves and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a food processor (or a regular bowl if you're using a hand mixer), combine the peas, parmesan, coriander/cilantro, garlic, tabasco/paprika, salt and pepper. Process until smooth. If it's too thick to mix properly, add a teaspoon of water.
3. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

serves 4

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Foodie travel: Barcelona, Spain, London and Canterbury, UK

I just got back from a glorious two-week holiday. First on the journey was Barcelona, to catch up with some family and friends. After that, I journeyed back to my uni town of Canterbury. I spent a wonderful week there: eating and drinking (mostly drinking) and catching up with some of the most wonderful people I know. I finished off my trip with a few days in London visiting my sister and soaking up the sunny city.

A wonderful part of the holiday, aside from all the wonderful sights and people I got to see, was all the WONDERFUL food that I had (oh, I'm such a fattie). I made sure to make a note of them to share with you all, so here goes:

By the way, could I say wonderful more?


Txapela (Passeig de Gràcia, 8-10): A wonderful little place on one of the main streets of Barcelona that do very reasonably priced little Catalunyan pinchos.

George Payne (Plaza Urquinaona, 5): An Irish pub (yes, we're such tourists) that does great British food, if that's what you're looking for.

Gelato Fratello (Passeig Joan de Borbo): The BEST ice cream I think I've ever had. Right on the waterfront. Can't go wrong.

La Boqueria (La Rambla, 100): Barcelona's well-known food market DEFINITELY met up to my expectations. So much of every food you could ever want; plus, pretty colours!


Deeson's (25 Sun Street): This is one of my favourite places to go in Canterbury, and where I went for my birthday lunch with my sister. They do great British, using local produce. Fabbo.

Photos courtesy of

The Parrot (1-9 Church Lane, St Radigunds): A great traditional English pub that's started serving up some amazing food. Check it out for good eats and great atmosphere.


Antipasto and Pasta (511 Battersea Park Road): A tiny authentic little Italian in Battersea. The service great– the staff are all really friendly– and every Thursday the entire menu is half price!

Photo courtesy of

Saf, Whole Foods (63-97 Kensington High Street): A Vegan-friendly raw food place that just opened up in the Whole Foods on High Street Kensington. An interesting twist on things like nachos, ravioli, and sushi.

Byron (300 King's Road): An AMAZING burger place on the King's Road. The burgers are cooked amazingly and you can have pretty much anything on it that you want. Don't expect a huge amount more than burger food, though.

Photos courtesy of
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