Taking a Break From Blogging, Anxiety and Other Stuff!

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This isn’t a normal foodie post, mainly because I have been suffering from a touch of writers block.

Due to some recent changes, I have been feeling incredibly overwhelmed lately, and not taking enjoyment from things I am normally so passionate about- cooking for example. Instead of forcing myself to get writing, I have decided to take a little break.

Anxiety is an issue I have experienced since my early teens, and recently it has begun to takeover my life some what. Basic daily tasks have become a struggle. In order to fix this, I am taking some time for myself, leaving social media to a bare minimum, and trying to focus more on uni.

But, it isn’t all doom and gloom, I got to uni AND to the gym today, which is a good step in the right direction. Tomorrow I aim to tackle the shops on my own, something I haven’t managed for the past 3 weeks.

I am open about my worries and concerns and actively seek help from friends and family, but many people prefer to deal with their problems alone, meaning things can escalate quickly. Be there for the people around you, be kind, and be open.

Chocolate Easter Nests!

Sweet Treats, Uncategorized

This is such a simple, but tasty, recipe that can be done by anyone, of any age, at a really low cost!

There are so many variations of this recipe online, but I followed a BBC GoodFood recipe that I will link at the bottom. I used double the ingredients as I had lots of hungry colleagues and friends to feed.

After heading to the shops to buy my ingredients, I had managed to pick up everything from either Aldi or Co-op… or so I thought. It wasn’t until I got back home that I realised I had forgotten the most important ingredient of all. THE CEREAL?! I really need to practice what I preach and ALWAYS have a shopping list, but even without one, how did I manage to forget cereal, the main ingredient?? Anyway, I had to improvise a bit, and made my Easter nests with Weetabix I had at home.

276aD4msQhO2tphkbKmG2wThe great thing about this recipe is that it can be done with basically every cereal you can think of, as long as it is combined by the chocolate and golden syrup it will taste delicious.

My ingredients and measurements were:

  • 100g Unsalted butter
  • 100g Milk chocolate
  • 100g Dark chocolate
  • 6tbsp Golden syrup
  • 8 Full size Weetabix (150g if you are using other cereal)

Extras:

  • 16/18 Bun cases (depending on size)
  • Mini eggs (optional)

So, to start off the cakes I roughly broke up the milk and dark chocolate into a microwaveable bowl. I like to use both types of chocolate to get a rich flavour, and the golden syrup adds a lot of sweetness too, so the dark chocolate balances it out.

Q4OJMaPsRY6q2dl22WeJKwTo the chocolate I then added the butter and golden syrup. I melted the ingredients in the microwave, heating for about 30 seconds, removing and stirring, and then returning to the microwave until melted. It is very important that the chocolate doesn’t burn, which can be done very easily in the microwave- I know from experience.

After a couple of minutes my chocolate mix was glossy and runny. I then left this to cool for a few minutes.

In another large bowl I crushed my Weetabix ensuring all the large pieces had broken up, ready to combine with the chocolate, golden syrup and butter.

I poured the chocolate onto my cereal and began to mix together. The golden syrup acts as a binding agent so the mixture becomes quite sticky and a bit tricky to stir, so if you are making this with little ones, they might need a hand.

In my baking trays I placed my easter bun cases. I managed to get these from Poundland and they were perfect. The cases were yellow and pink and covered in eggs and bunnies, and also came with some little bunny cake toppers that I will use another time.

Carefully I spooned the sticky, chocolatey cereal into the bun cases, sharing the mixture out equally.

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Ready for the fridge!

Finally to turn these cereal cakes into Easter nests I needed to add some eggs! I chose mini eggs, however any chocolates would work well. I placed these on before putting them into the fridge as to let them set into the cereal cakes.

dy0jszchrogn9mjunc2sjg.jpgNow it was time to put them into the fridge. The only problem with this recipe is that you can’t eat them straight away… although if there’s some left in the bowl it is very yummy.

I left them in the fridge for about 3/4 hours, however they can also be left over night. I like mine a bit gooey when I eat them, so by the time I got to work they had softened nicely. They were great for sharing, and some of my work pals had never tried them before, so I was excited to share this easter treat!

Recipe: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2451649/cooking-with-kids-chocolate-cornflake-cakes-

River Cottage- B R E A D!

Other Adventures, Uncategorized

The second day was slightly different to the first, primarily because we spent a lot of time prepping and tending to our bread we were making. I won’t go into loads of detail in regard to the bread, but here is a little rundown of what we did.

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River Cottage Cats!

We were baking two loaves, a wheat loaf and a sourdough. Although bread making isn’t something I have ever been particularly interested in, I think I saw it more as a hobby for those who stay at home, I did find it strangely therapeutic. Also, as it was unlike anything I have ever done before, I was very proud of my accomplishment when it was finished.

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Prepping my sourdough!

We actually started prepping our sourdough on the Saturday as it had to be left overnight in the fridge for proving. I think the thing that has always put me off a bit with bread making is the time you have to put into the whole procedure. The folding, and kneading and cooling and proving, and this wasn’t any different.

With precise timings, on the Sunday we had to fold our sourdough each half hour, ensuring there was lots of air so that the bread wasn’t dense. With the wheat loaf the method was slightly different, and we spent around 15 minutes kneading the bread and stretching out the gluten on our worktops. Connor showed us a few different methods and poo-pooed Paul Hollywood’s technique when he is on the TV. It was a lot more labour intensive than I had imagined, however, like I said, it was therapeutic.

One of the methods we showed us involved slapping the bread onto the metal worktop, I must say this did seem a favourite with the men in the group. There must be a link between asserting your masculinity and slapping a sticky wheat bread dough onto a steel work surface?

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Bread moulds!

Anyway, after all the different techniques had been used, finally both the sourdough and the wheat loaf were ready for cooking. After using some fancy proving baskets and rolling techniques, the loaves were shaped and put into the oven. First the wheat loaf was baked, turning the bread 180 degrees after 15 mins, it was ready in about half an hour. Although mine had a slightly burnt bottom it had actually come out very well- I was pleased anyway.

The sourdough was cooked in a big le creuset dish. This enabled the loaf to keep its round shape, whilst keeping the steam in the dish to improve the baking. Instead of spinning the loaves, this time we removed the lid of the le creuset dish and cooked the bread further, allowing the top to crisp up.

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My loaves!

I have missed out quite an important point, so I will interject it now. Before both loaves went into the oven it was really important that they were scored. Scoring meant that the direction the bread expands whilst baking can be controlled. This method gives a loaf of bread the curve on top that you see in bakeries and supermarkets.

Both of my loaves came out looking lovely, and they are now sliced and bagged ready to go into my freezer back at Uni. I have tried some of Mum’s sourdough, which was super yummy. I love the almost tangy flavour of the bread. Once my wheat loaf was sliced last night I made myself a lovely chicken and avocado sandwich for my train journey home today which I am very eager to try. However, as I am writing this now, I think that eating my lunch at 9.16am probably isn’t the best idea!

Although I will not be rushing home to become Brighton’s best bread maker, I do really appreciate the time and effort that goes into baking and will think about this for each mouthful of bread I eat.

River Cottage Pudding 2- Chocolate Fondant!

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The weather was beautiful on Sunday, and instead of getting the tractor down to the farm house, we laced up our walking boots and walked down the bumpy path. On our walk we were able to see the beautiful views around River Cottage HQ, valleys and fields and also a lovely heard of Ruby cows. Their thick coats allowed them to survive the, not always desirable, Devon weather.

To start the day off on Sunday we were given fresh scones and coffee. The coffee really hit the spot, however it was a bit early for me to be eating rich scones, especially with the very tempting cream they provided too.

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Scones!

All weekend I had been craving something chocolatey, so when I saw the chocolate nibs and cocoa powder on the work bench I was very eager to find out what our next dish was. It did not disappoint, we were told we were making chocolate fondants.

I believed chocolate fondants, a rich chocolate cake with a molten gooey centre, were only for the experienced chef, as I have seen many fail to re-create this pud on TV. In reality though, the recipe was relatively simple, it was the timing you had to get perfect.

We started off by melting our 83% chocolate nibs and butter over a pan on the hob. We actually used the pan that we were cooking our pork stew in at the time… but that recipe is for another day.

The measurements for the ingredients were really simple, equal parts: sugar, butter, chocolate and flour and then one whole egg and one extra egg yolk.

Whilst the chocolate and butter melted over the stove we prepped our dariole moulds for our fondants. Using my fingers, I covered the inside walls of the mould with a healthy helping of butter. This butter allowed me to then coat the inside with cocoa powder which acted like a shell around the fondant and meant the cake mix didn’t get stuck to the metal casing. Tipping out the remaining cocoa powder I then put the mould into the fridge to set a little.

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Fondant Ingredients!

Back to the rest of my ingredients…

With an electric whisk I mixed the sugar and eggs together until creating a light, thick yellow cream. This took a few minutes, and after all the pastry rolling the day before, my arm did feel the strain.

Once the chocolate had fully melted I then combined both the chocolate mix, sugar and eggs. Using a plastic spatula, I folded the chocolate and butter in, making sure I didn’t beat any of the air out.

Lastly, I sieved the flour over my mixture, and once again folded this in. It is important to keep all of the air in the mix, so it remains fluffy when baked. The gooey chocolatey mix was then poured into my chilled dariole.

Now, the important part, the cooking! This was like an army mission, regimented to allow the fondants to be cooked perfectly, leaving that gooey centre encased in the cakey shell. On a count of three it was ovens open, cake in, ovens shut. Everyone in the class did this at the same time so it was easier to control the cooking time, there was some slight faffing, but eventually they were all in.

The cooking time was about 10 minutes, however we were told that it really varies depending on your oven, so at home it has to be a bit of trial and error before you find the perfect time/temp.

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Mum’s Fondant

The timer went off and it was time to quickly remove the (hopefully) gooey centred fondant from the top shelf of the oven. This is the point where I sadly partly fluffed mine up! As I ran the knife around the fondant inside the casing, removing any stuck bits from the metal, I (not so carefully) cut into my fondant. This meant, that when it was plated, I didn’t quite get the big reveal of cutting it open and having the molten middle escaping, because mine was already escaping.

Nonetheless, it was molten and gooey, and if I had been slightly more delicate, it would’ve come out perfect. Luckily Mum’s came out faultless, so some of the pics I have taken are of her pudding and not my own!

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My Gooey Middle!

The fondant was served with a scoop of frozen yoghurt; I personally think a big scoop of chocolate ice-cream would’ve made it even better. You can’t argue with chocolate on chocolate! The fondant was rich and creamy, sweet and a little bitter from the chocolate nibs, it was perfect!!

Both desserts we made were a lot more manageable than I had initially anticipated, and once I have got my hands on some metal moulds I will be firing them out left right and centre. Fondant anyone?

River Cottage Pudding 1- Panna Cotta and Puff Pastry Fingers

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Over the weekend we made two puddings, both of which I will DEFINITELY be making at home again.

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Ingredients

So, our first dessert was a panna cotta, our ingredients were:

  • Gelatin
  • Whole Milk
  • Double Cream
  • Sugar
  • Optional flavour (I will explain this in a sec)

Although I cannot remember the exact measurements, I know it was equal parts milk and cream, and one sheet of gelatine.

On the bench at the front of the kitchen were three extra bowls of ingredients from which we could choose to flavour our panna cottas. Normally I have only ever had basic flavours, for example fruit, vanilla or maybe caramel, however this time we were allowed to explore different ingredients. The three bowls contained: bay leaves, cloves and cardamom.

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Bay Leaves!

I had ruled out the cloves in my head already, as this is more of a Christmassy flavour which I didn’t quite fancy in spring, so I was left with bay leaves and cardamom.  After some consideration I decided I wanted to give the cardamom a go. This seed originates from India and Sri Lanka and is regularly found in curry and rice dishes. I had seen lots of chefs on Masterchef experiment with cardamom in puddings, so I wanted to give it a go too.

The method for the recipe was surprisingly simple, which is why I am excited to try it at home. This weekend we had a mix of both challenging and more simple recipes, which meant I learnt a lot, as I am able to transfer some of these skills into my own uni kitchen. As much as I would love to buy whole fish and fillet them myself at uni, this isn’t super practical, however recipes like the panna cotta are a lot more doable.

I added the milk, cream and sugar into a sauce pan and stirred so that the sugar had melted and the liquid had started to warm. As cardamom is quite a strong flavour I only needed one seed, and roughly chopped the black seeds inside the main shell into little chunks. These too were added to the saucepan, and the flavours were left to infuse for a few minutes.

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Our Kitchen!

To prepare the gelatine for the panna cotta we had to re-hydrate the sheet. This was done by simply placing it in a jug of water for a few minutes, until soft and flimsy. Once this had been completed, the gelatine was added into the milk, cream, sugar and cardamom seeds.

As we had to break the gelatine sheet in half Connor had specifically told us to ensure we put BOTH pieces into the saucepan. However, on our clean up it became apparent that one of us had accidentally poured half of theirs down the sink as it sat sadly in the plug hole. The only issue was, we had to wait for the panna cottas to set, or not as the case may be, before we discovered who the unlucky chef was. (Spoiler, it wasn’t me!)

Once the mixture was done on the hob we strained the liquid over a sieve to remove any pieces of cardamom and into a dariole mould, a little metal pot. This mixture allowed enough for two panna cottas to be made, and these were then left in the fridge for around 2 hours (I cannot remember 100% sorry!).

To go alongside our panna cottas we made some rough puff pastry fingers with a blood orange and Demerara sugar top. Now, I am not a huge fan of pastry, to the point where i’m not even that keen on a chocolate croissant, but it is something I am interested in cooking, as I know it is a base for so many dishes. I really wish I loved pie and mash but I just can’t teach my brain to like it.

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Pastry Ingredients!

The method of creating the rough puff was a bit fiddly, and I cannot remember every single step, however I know it was something like the following.

To flour we added chunks of chilled butter and water and combined the three, ensuring that the butter was not broken up. We squished the ingredients together into a tight-ish ball, wrapped it in cling film and left it in the fridge for a couple of hours. The water made the process slightly challenging, as I found myself frantically trying to create a water dam with flour around the edge of my bench, before hurriedly scraping it all back to the middle of my worktop.

Once it was time to go back to our pastry, we were instructed to get out our rolling pins and work our muscles. After sprinkling the work top with some extra flour we began the lengthy, and precise, process of rolling and folding the pastry. This part was vital to the cooking process as the folds created flaky layers to the pastry, ensuring it puffed up in the oven.

Once we had rolled and folded, and rolled and folded we eventually cut the pastry into our desired finger shapes and carefully placed them on a baking tray.

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Uncooked!

To add some sweetness to the pastry, in a cup we combined a few tablespoons of Demerara sugar, and the grated rind of one blood orange. The sugar really complimented the bitterness from the rind, and the overall taste was crunchy, tangy and sugary-sweet.

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Cooked- Ignore the burnt bits!

The pastry was put in the oven and began to puff up nicely! I think these were in for around 15 mins, but please don’t quote me on that! I will have all of the precise timings when the recipes are emailed out to us, so if you are interested, give me a message.

Once the panna cottas were set and the orange pastry fingers brown and fluffy it was time to plate up. To remove the creamy pud from its metal case we left the mould in a small jug of warm water for 4 seconds, before sharply giving the pud a shake- whilst holding your fingers over the top of course, otherwise panna cotta would be flying around the kitchen. Luckily I managed to plate mine quite well, a long with a few of my pastry fingers, which I actually really liked. However, I think this was probably down to all the sugar I sprinkled on top!

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Panna Cotta!

The cardamom was the perfect amount, a subtle flavour that didn’t overpower the delicate set cream. Once I have got myself a few panna cotta moulds and sourced some gelatine sheets I will definitely be giving it a go at home!

River Cottage- Blog 2, Cheesy Gnocchi with Cider Cream Sauce!

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Following on from my blog yesterday, I will be writing about another dish that we made- gnocchi.

When I saw baked potatoes on Connor’s work counter I must admit I automatically got quite nervous. How do you explain to a chef that you don’t like potato???? However, as he went onto describe our next course, I felt a sense of relief. The dish was homemade cheesy gnocchi with bacon and leek cider cream sauce. It sounds amazing, and it was.

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Bacon and cheese!

One of the best things about the benches we cooked on was the steel top, which allowed us to make food straight on the worktop, which is how we created our gnocchi. I started by squeezing the warm baked potato out of its crispy skin and lightly breaking it apart with a dough scraper (an amazing utensil I will definitely be purchasing).

I next created a small well within the potato and broke in one egg. On top of the egg I added my cheese. To my delight there were two types of cheese, a hard goats cheese and a strong cheddar. We were told we could use which cheese we preferred, or even both, needless to say I chose both.

Once the cheese was piled high onto my potato, I used the dough scraper to break up the ingredients. Lastly, to combine the potato, egg and cheese we were told to add two large handfuls of flour- I added one extra as my handful is quite small.

Sprinkling the worktop lightly with some extra flour we rolled the gnocchi mixture into a long, even sausage shape. Once this was the perfect width I used my trusted dough scraper to evenly slice the gnocchi sausage into little pillow shapes. Fluffy pillows of cheesy goodness.

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Gnocchi Parcels!

I was still quite dubious at this point as to whether these homemade gnocchi would taste very potatoey, as I find the ones from the supermarket taste a lot more dense, like pasta, therefore avoiding that potato texture I avoid like the plague.

Once my gnocchi pieces were ready to be blanched, I moved them aside and started on the sauce.

unadjustednonraw_thumb_1291.jpgUsing my new found knife skills I began thinly slicing 1/2 a leek. This took me quite a long time as I was terrified the massive knife we were using was going to slice my fingertips off. Anyway, there were no added fingertips in my sauce so it was all good!

Connor had freshly cut us all some bacon lardons from one of the pigs they keep on the farm. The fat content was very high in the lardons, which gave the sauce a deep rich flavour. The bacon was panfried on a high heat in a drizzle of oil. We didn’t need to add extra oil due to the natural fat from the pig.

To the lardons the perfectly sliced leeks were added, a long with a glug of Sheppy Cider. I did try the cider separately from the sauce, and it was very heavy and strong, but after it had reduced in the sauce it tasted great.

The final step of the sauce was to add the cream. Off the heat I poured in around 2 tbsp of double cream.

I must say, if I have learnt anything from this course it is that chefs LOVE double cream, whole milk and butter; adding luxury (and a lot of calories) to every meal. It ends up tasting great, I just wish it wasn’t all going to my waistline!

Anyway, the cream was added, and I put the pan back onto a very low heat, keeping everything bubbling.

Back to the gnocchi… The beauty of gnocchi is that it takes such little time to cook, you just place the pieces into lightly salted boiling water, with a little bit of oil, and wait for them to float to the top. In this case, my gnocchi took around 1 minute to cook.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1296After draining the pillows from the water with a slotted spoon I incorporated them into the creamy sauce, ensuring the salty bacon lardons and soft leeks were spread evenly.

I plated up a generous amount of gnocchi and added even more cheese, I had come this far so why not push the boat out further?!

The gnocchi was soft, and although slightly potatoey, I could manage it- I am such a trouper. I didn’t however manage to finish my portion, but this meant I could take some home for leftovers- yum yum.

Gnocchi from scratch… completed it!

River Cottage Cooking Course… Blog 1!

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(PSA: I did want to blog about my whole first day at River Cottage HQ, but I cannot fit it all into one piece, and I just don’t have the energy- I promise there will be more to come)

Firstly, thank you so much to my AMAZING mum  for giving me the chance to take part in such an amazing cooking course, it was a hugely generous gift for my 21st. This weekend my Mum and myself travelled about 40 minutes away from home to the River Cottage, Hugh Fearnley- Wittingstall’s cookery school.

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Very early…

So today, at a rather early 6.45am I was awoken with a lovely cup of tea, in order to get ready and eat before we had to leave for our cooking course. Arriving slightly early, we sheltered in the car from the foggy morning but eventually braved the cold and went to sit in a lovely wooden hut, complete with a log burner, whilst we waited for the tractor to collect us and take us to the main farm house.

River Cottage, a site that is low energy and low carbon (both very important to me), was first created in 1999 and became a regular feature on Channel 4. With this in mind, I was so excited to learn new skills, and increase my overall knowledge about food.

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Sadly a gloomy morning

The tractor and trailer picked us up and, slowly but surely, we headed down the very bumpy farm track towards the main house – as seen on TV. On the route down our great guide Steve taught us about the farm animals and explained about what veggies were currently growing in the garden. Most veg is yet to come in to season, and some ingredients, for example the delicious wild garlic has had to battle with the recent snow.

We spent the majority of the day in a lovely converted barn. I think the best way to describe the interior is by imagining the Masterchef kitchen or the GBBO tent. There were kitchen worktops spread over the naturally lit barn, each station housing 4 people. These contained 1 fridge each, 2 ovens and a shared hob between 2. On our benches were a clean tea towel, a set of knives and a black apron- which by the end of the day, was not black anymore.

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We were greeted by fresh coffee and the tastiest and stickiest hot cross buns I have ever eaten. I honestly don’t think another hot cross bun will ever compare. This set me up well for the day.

We started off by learning some basic skills, and as Connor taught us the purpose of each knife and how to sharpen the blades, I couldn’t help but cringe, and think back to the multiple times i’ve sliced my fingers. However, our teacher was obviously a pro, so there was no need to worry there.

One of the reasons I was especially excited about this course was down to the emphasis on locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. On the main bench were a long line of fish… big fish. I sent a picture of one to Jack and he said it was something you might see in River Monsters, I guess he was right. This big fish- head, tail and all- was a Hake, and later we also went onto filleting a brill too.


After carefully watching Connor fillet the hake with amazing care and expertise, it was now my turn. I was trying to act cool carrying this massive fish, pretending I wasn’t phased by its big googly eyes that somehow followed you round the room, but I was completely out of my comfort zone. After a few attempts I managed to remove the majority of the fish from the bones, with a little bit of help. After this however, the brill fish seemed a lot easier, and I felt like a natural.

I feel like I have so much I could write about after today, so I will try to only stick with the main cooking, although I learnt so much. I will try to cover everything as well as possible.

For lunch we had hake and vegetables with a herby sauce.

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Greens!

Firstly we learnt how to ensure our fish skin was crispy, by cooking it on a super high heat. I had to resist the urge to fiddle around once it was in the pan, but I was assured that if left, it would be perfectly cooked in no time. In the same skillet, I added purple sprouting broccoli, a large lump of butter and a clove of garlic. We were also instructed to add an anchovy, which ended up being broken down into the sauce, which added an amazing depth of fishy flavour. Whilst everything continued to cook in the skillet it was time to make our herby sauce, known in the chef world as salsa verde.

As I always stay clear of coriander, I chose to use curly parsley and chervil. Once the herbs were finely chopped I added the juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1 diced garlic clove and a big glug of oil. Ensuring everything was evenly coated, this sauce was then ready to garnish my fish. The fish became perfectly crispy and flaky, and I took this out the pan to rest slightly before plating up. To the purple sprouting broccoli , which will now forever be known as PSB, I added a few leaves of wild garlic, and allowed this to wilt slightly off the heat. All of the garlic, anchovy, butter, lemon and seasoning had infused into the veggies and they tasted completely amazing.

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Crispy!

After plating my greens and the crispy hake I topped it off with a drizzle of my salsa verde. I was quite happy that I didn’t use all the herby sauce as it meant I could take some away with me- I can’t wait to use it when I am back in Brighton to lift my meals.

This plate of food was one of the best I have ever eaten, and to know that I managed to prep and cook it all myself made it even more rewarding, I feel very proud of myself after today. I wish I had the money and time to buy fresh fish at uni- but Aldi will have to do for now.

 

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Finished!

I wish I could blog about all of the other things I made today, and over the next week or so I 100% will, but after a day of chopping, filleting, smoking and curing I am completely exhausted, and I will be doing it all over again tomorrow.

 

Pascere, Brighton- A Real Treat

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I have visited Pascere once before, before my blog had begun, yet I knew this is was somewhere I really wanted to write about. The whole restaurant feels luxurious, and the food is inspiring. As someone young who loves cooking, I love tasting new food and new flavour combinations, as well as seeing how beautifully presented dishes can look.
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Jack and I were very keen to visit Pascere again, Jack especially as he fondly remembers the amazing bacon jam that accompanied his main course on our first visit. Bearing in mind the first time we ate here was October, this bacon jam has really left a lasting impression on Jack, with it often reoccurring in conversations about food. Although this ingredient didn’t feature on the menu today, there was a whole host of new flavours for us to try.

As I was scrolling through Instagram the other day an ad popped up, one of those sponsored pictures that appear on your timeline. Usually they aren’t that useful at all, however, on this occasion it really was. The advert was for Pascere’s Power Lunch offer, 2 courses for £14 or three for £18. As this offer is only running Tues-Fri in March, I knew it was too good to miss.

When we arrived, we were shown to a table upstairs, in a dining room that featured an open kitchen. The room was filled with natural light, and the furniture was chic yet comfortable- which I think is quite rare these days, so many places go for style over comfort. Although we were both a lot younger than the other customers, we were treated equally by staff, who were very attentive and lovely throughout visit.

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Drinks

Today I opted for a soft drink, as I am feeling slightly under the weather (my winter veg soup hasn’t quite kicked the cold just yet!), as did Jack, however they do have a great wine selection, and amazing champagne that we sampled before. Our glasses were topped up with ice cold tap water too throughout the meal which was also a lovely touch.

The menu is small, however there is a great selection of veggie, meat and fish- something for everyone. I think the size of the menu really reflects the level of cooking, there doesn’t need to be hundreds of dishes because the ones they do are executed so well and contain a wide range of tastes and textures.

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BREAD!

After we had ordered our food we were both delivered two fresh, warm bread rolls on a lovely slate dish with homemade butter. The brown roll was made from stout, and the white from onion, however I cannot remember the other specifics- I must’ve been too busy eating it! The butter was sweet and silky yet it went perfectly with the salty warm bread. I was unsure if I really needed two bread rolls before my dinner, but I couldn’t resist.

 

For starters I ordered scallops and Jack chose mallard breast. I have been binge-watching Hell’s Kitchen at the moment and seeing as none of the chefs seem to be able master the scallops, I decided I wanted to try them and see what the fuss was about. The pan-fried scallop was accompanied by Jerusalem artichoke, glazed chicken wings, artichoke puree and finally topped by passionfruit oil. The soft texture of the scallop went so well with the slight crunch of the artichoke and the smooth puree. The chicken was also delicious; I think Jack was slightly disappointed when there weren’t two big chicken wings on my plate. Nevertheless, the dish looked and tasted amazing, and although it didn’t look very big the portion was perfect.

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Starters

Jack’s mallard came in three forms: the breast, a parfait and the leg, all of which tasted amazing. I find duck a very rich meat with a deep flavour, but in the small portions that Jack was served, I didn’t find it overbearing at all. The duck was accompanied by a carrot and clementine salad, the coldness of which created a lovely comparison of flavours and textures.

As we were sat upstairs we were able to watch the chefs at work, I was quite transfixed. The way the plates were assembled looked like a work of engineering, each precise ingredient placed after the next. As I have been in my fair share of kitchens at work I always marvel at the seemingly calm and collected chefs that work in open kitchens. There was no shouting or swearing or throwing utensils (luckily), which made the experience really pleasant to watch.

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Scallop

Now… onto the mains.

Similarly, to our starters, Jack stuck with meat, and I with fish, although we did both try each other’s. I chose halibut for my main, which was served alongside a delicious clam chowder, vegetables and some kind of tasty foam. Once again, I am sure the waitress did explain each dish, but my mind was too busy thinking about eating it all up. The fish was flaky and perfectly cooked, and the clam chowder was salty and full of flavour.


UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_11f2Jack’s meaty main was aged pork loin, braised cheek, cabbage puree and pears. The pickled pear was sweet yet sour and added a lovely bite to the soft pork. Jack was certainly very pleased, polishing off the plate just after I had finished mine.

This time round we decided to just stick with the two courses, as the portions left us full but not stuffed. I was rather tempted by a dessert however, as all of the sweet plates that left the kitchen looked bursting with colour and flavour. A particular chocolate pudding caught my eye, with a salted peanut ice cream- it sounded like heaven.

Maybe next time I will pop in for a pudding and an espresso martinti!

Overall a really enjoyable experience, I would really recommend to foodies of any age.

 

Hearty Winter Veg Soup, Perfect For Beating a Cold (I hope).

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The spring cold seemed inevitable really, everyone has been battling with sniffly noses and tickly coughs for the past few weeks, and now it is my turn. As I have a busy few weeks ahead I decided I was going to tackle it head on… with some winter veg soup.

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Ingredients!

I am also away quite a lot over the next week or so, so I wanted to use up as much of the veg in my fridge as possible. Although I love roasted veg, it is getting a bit tedious, so instead today I chose to make soup. I don’t really think I have properly made soup before, maybe only in food tech classes at secondary school, but nothing since.

I was browsing online for recipes and came across one particular one that included many of the ingredients I had in my fridge- it was meant to be.

My ingredients are:

  • 50g Butter
  • 1 Large onion
  • 125g Leeks (1 large one)
  • 280g Parsnips (about 5)
  • 400g Carrots (lots if you are using chantry carrots like me)
  • 1 Sweet potato
  • 900ml Veg stock
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Oil

I have 2 tips that I wish I had known prior to starting the cooking, these are:
1) Prep ALL the ingredients first
2) Use a bloody big saucepan

With these in mind I shall continue.

So, I hadn’t first prepped all my veg, and found myself frantically peeling parsnips and chopping onion as fast as my hands could go. Like I said, to prevent this stressful soup experience, I would prep everything first, as the timings for cooking the veg are very close together.

Firstly I melted the butter and a drizzle of oil into a saucepan (a saucepan that definitely could’ve been bigger!). To the butter I then added my chopped leak and onion. The chopping of the ingredients really didn’t have to be precise as it was all going to end up in a blender anyway. However, the smaller the pieces, the quicker they would soften.

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Veg!

After about 5 minutes I then added the carrots, parsnips and sweet potato. The recipe indicated for all of these ingredients to be peeled and chopped, however, the chantry carrots were tiny, and there was no way I was peeling all of them!! So, they went in washed and sliced.

After about another 5 minutes I added the veg stock. I didn’t have a measuring jug for this, so guessed using the measurements on the kettle. The stock covered the veg in the saucepan, so I presumed it must be right. This was then bought to the boil and returned to simmer for about 25 minutes- until all the veggies were soft.

Whilst the veggies cooked, as well as doing my washing, I set the blender up, ready to mix everything up nicely.

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Simmer!

I had to do the blending in a few batches, but once it was all smooth I recombined the mixture back in the pan. At this point I added the milk to make my soup less thick. I fancied have a little kick in my soup, so I added some cayenne pepper, I am kind of hoping this will kick my cold too! Along with the cayenne I added salt and pepper to taste too.

 

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Finsiged

On my way home from uni I had picked up two mini ciabatta rolls that I knew would go just perfectly. I lastly topped my soup with a dollop of creme fraiche and some chilli flakes. The last thing I wanted to be eating today was vegetable soup, as i’m really craving pizza, curry and chicken nuggets, but I definitely feel better for dosing myself up with soup- along with some cold and flu tablets.

The soup was really tasty, but quite sweet, so I didn’t need to eat that much as it was a bit sickly after a while. Maybe if you substituted the sweet potato for a normal potato it would be better.

Fingers crossed over the next few days my cold will have vanished!

Ratatouille!

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As well as being a great film, ratatouille is one of my favourite dishes to make. It is simple yet hearty, and leaves your house smelling amazing.

I do not make this recipe very often, however, I finally used my last frozen portion a few weeks ago, so knew it was time for another batch.

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Ingredients!

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Cook Book

The recipe I use is from the Hairy Bikers book: Hairy Dieters and takes around 1 hour 15 mins to make, including prep time. The ingredients are:

  • 1 Aubergine
  • 2 Courgettes
  • 1 White onion
  • 2 Peppers (I chose orange and yellow)
  • 3 Cloves garlic
  • Ground coriander
  • 400g Can chopped tomatoes
  • Fresh Basil
  • Oil
  • Seasoning

 

To start, I began to prep the veg. Firstly I chopped the peppers, courgettes and aubergine into medium-sized chunks- I think if they are different sizes it makes the dish feel more rustic. I drizzled oil in a large non-stick frying pan and fried the veg in three batches, ensuring it was lightly browned. Stirring constantly this took about 3 minutes per batch, and when they were done I emptied the veg into a separate bowl.

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Browning the veggies!

Once all of the veggies were slightly soft, I put my large casserole dish on the hob onto a medium heat. Into my dish I added the onion, which I had sliced thinly, stirring constantly to prevent sticking. After the onion had also began to soften I added the minced garlic cloves and a large sprinkle of ground coriander.

Making sure all of the coriander was mixed with the onion and garlic I then introduced the tin of chopped tomatoes.

The next bit became a bit tricky as I had to carefully add the veg into the casserole dish. Once everything has cooked, the size of the casserole dish doesn’t really matter, but before the veggies have reduced down, it was a bit of a squeeze. I tackled this by adding the veg slowly, ensuring everything was evenly coated with tomato and herbs.

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Carefully Mixed!

At this point I gave my salt and pepper grinders a few twists over the mixture, once again stirring it in.

Once all the ingredients were mixed throughly I added the lid and popped it into the oven. The oven was preheated to 170 degrees (fan). The dish stayed in for 30 mins, whilst the flavours began to infuse- the kitchen smelt amazing. After the 30 minutes were up I took the ratatouille out of the oven, gave it a good stir, re-incorporating all of the sauce into the veg, and put it back in.

After another 15 minutes it was ready to come out!

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All Cooked!

I was super hungry at this point, and I had quickly cooked some wholewheat fusilli at the same time so I was ready to plate up.

I added some more salt and pepper to taste, and a few torn basil leaves. The recipe does recommend letting the ratatouille stand for about 10 minutes after cooking, but I was so hungry after the gym I became too inpatient.

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Finished!

Despite this, it tasted great, and the fresh basil was a perfect extra on top.

Previously I have eaten ratatouille with noodles, tuna steak, chicken and even on its own, so it is really versatile, and like I previously mentioned, it can be frozen too. Obviously it tastes better fresh, but after a quick whizz in the microwave it will be as good as new.
As this dish is vegetarian (vegan even), it is relatively low-cost. The number of portions you get depends really on how much you eat, and what you choose to accompany it with. However, to make the whole dish, which the Hairy Bikes suggest serves four, the cost was around £2.80, what a BARGAIN!!!

( I cannot find the exact link online as I have the cook book, but there are many similar recipes about there!)