Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Students’ eating habits myths exposed...

In September, I ran a survey asking students about their eating habits, partly out of curiosity and also as a bit of market research to see which areas I need to focus on to appeal to more student readers. The results are in, drum roll please, and I can reveal that...
The small majority of students (34%) eat red meat once a week, closely followed by 2-3 times a week (21.7%) while 13% eat it 3-5 times a week, with another 13% consuming red meat only 2-3 times a month. 8.7% rarely eat red meat while another 13% say they never eat it. Quite a varied lot!
Poultry proved more popular, with 43.5% of students eating it 2-3 times a week and another 30.4% having it 3-4 times a week! One person even admits to eating chicken every day! Explains why Nando’s is so popular! 
Fish and seafood is another varied one, with the highest  percentage of 21.7% being once a week, while 2-3 times a week, 2-3 times a month, rarely and never all getting 17.4% each, with only 8.7% eating seafood 3-5 times a week and no-one answered every day!
I then wanted to see if students are following the 5-a-day government advice,  with 13% eating an average of 5 fruits and vegetables a day, another 13% eating more than 5 portions while the naughty majority of 47.8% percent admitting to only 3 portions of fruit and veg a day, and an even naughtier 30.4% only eating 2!  Tut-tut!
So are students as lazy as they are made out to be and turn to the ready meal?  Perhaps not, as only 4.3% claim to turn to the ready meal 3-5 times a week, along with 13% admitting to eating them 2-3 times a week and another 13% microwaving their dinners once a week. The majority (30%) claim only to eat them rarely and a further 21% declaring they never go near them!
So if ready meals aren’t as popular as I had imagined, does that mean students are spending more of their valuable time cooking? In a question asking how long students spend preparing and cooking their meals on average, half of my respondents dedicate between 15-30 minutes to prepare a meal, while an even more dedicated lot (36.4%) spend 30-60 minutes cooking!
Lastly, in an attempt to find out how often students eat out, I asked about their lunch and dinner habits. Lunch turns out to be a more popular time to eat out with the majority claiming to eating out 2-3 times a week at lunchtime, while the majority of dinner outings occur once a week.
Do the results surprise you? Apart from the fruit and veg situation, I was impressed by the responses, it’s not all beans on toast after all! But what can we do to improve? Perhaps you can take a look on Channel 4’s River Cottaicge mini-site for some creative veg-filled recipes which can be found here , so give those chickens a rest and start eating more veg!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Summer catch-up; a review of the Chilli Pickle, Brighton and a cupcakes recipe!

Well it’s official. The autumn equinox has come and gone, and I’m already preparing myself for the chilly season ahead (chillis- check. Root veg- check). While there are talks of a possible Indian summer, I feel it’s time to reflect upon my (rather English) summer, having published very little on this blog over the last few months!
The Chilli Pickle, Brighton
I spent most of my summer in Plymouth, and have therefore little to say on the dining out front! My gastronomical high point of the summer has to be a visit to Brighton’s ‘The Chilli Pickle’, where I indulged in some modern yet authentic Indian cuisine, in a vibrant and trendy environment. A typical curry house it is not, don’t go there expecting a korma or a vindaloo. The chilli pickle is a lot more adventurous than that! Expect the likes of a locally-reared braised oxtail curry served with cumin pilau and cucumber onion raita, or maybe you would opt for the venison seekh kebab with caramelised onion, plum chutney and cumin all served up on a butter naan.
Tom ordered the tandoori platter!

 As a seafood junky, I quickly ordered the  ‘Moilly seafood’, which was a fragrant and medium-spiced curry of crab claws (tricky to tackle but so worth it!), juicy king prawns, tender scallops and a fish that was new to my repertoire, known as huss. The flavours of the broth were perfectly layered with a mixture of spice and sweetness, while the samphire in the broth seasoned every bite. The coconut milk created a creamy and delicate base, while the additions of ginger, cardamom and curry leaf added that kick Indian food is so renowned for!

The side that my dish arrived with was an interesting coconut rice steam cake, a texture and taste not too familiar for my palate. Although I appreciated its authenticity and novelty, I decided to gobble up my curry with some fluffy pilau rice we all shared! As a big group, we ended up ordering all the items under the ‘nibbles’ section of the menu, and I found myself addicted to the deep flavours of the original chutneys that came with the poppadoms!

On top of the great food and the stunning decor, the staff were helpful and attentive;  the Chilli Pickle really does go that extra mile to fuse together the delicious flavours of India with the extravagant quirkiness of Brighton.

Chili Pickle on Urbanspoon

Birthday cupcakes!
I’ve wanted to post this for a while now and I finally got round to doing it! I made these for my 21st birthday for everyone to enjoy before a night out. My lack of scientific knowledge did give these cakes an unexpected look, but I love the quirkiness of them and felt they really represented my personality!
For the base
·         225g butter (softened for 20 seconds in the microwave)
·         225g caster sugar
·         225g self-raising flour
·         1 tsp vanilla extract
·         4 eggs
·         4 tbsp milk
For the icing
· 175g unsalted butter (slitly softened)
· 350g icing sugar
· 1 tbsp  condensed milk
· A drop of food colouring of your choice (my cakes were originally going to be pink but to my surprise turned orange when I added red colouring! woopsy) 

To decorate
This bit is entirely up to you! Be creative and let the cakes represent you! I used a combination of:
White, milk and dark chocolate chips, chocolate stars, coloured stars, edible glitter, edible silver balls, rainbow drops, sweets. You can also use desiccated coconut, nuts and jellied or dried fruits!

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place cupcake cases in muffin holders and set aside.
Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl until fluffy before beating in the eggs. Add the flour and fold in the milk. Spoon the mixture into cases and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until they are looking lightly golden and well risen!
For the frosting, beat the softened butter in a bowl and gradually sift in the icing sugar. Beat together until well mixed and stir in the condensed milk and the colouring.
When the cakes have cooled, you can start decorating. Either put the cream in a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe the icing onto the cakes or spread the icing on the cakes and decorate the tops with chocolate chips etc.! Or you can mix the two methods by spreading the icing evenly on the cake and piping the outside in small concentric circles!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Quick Bites: Chimichurri dip

Chimichurri is a traditional Argentinean dip, kind of like their version of pesto! I discovered chimichurri when shopping in borough market one day and I was instantly hooked. It was a little pricey, so once I used up my first pot, I've had to learn how to make my own. I experimented quite a bit with it so only use this recipe as a guideline. Admittedly, it wasn't as good as the borough market version, and I still can't figure out why to this day!

You'll need:
·         1 cup of fresh parsley
·         1/2 cup of fresh oregano leaves
·         4 cloves garlic
·         Half a medium red chilli, roughly chopped
·         1/2 cup of good quality olive oil
·         1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
·         Sea salt and ground pepper
Using a blitzer/small food processor, add the fresh herbs and roughly chopped chilli and blend until finely chopped. Mince some garlic and add to the processor, season with salt and pepper and pulse again. Stir in the wet ingredients, and taste. If something is missing, add it. Sometimes just a squeeze of lemon can balance out the flavours perfectly!
I used this as a marinade for steaks and also reserved some to spoon over once cooked. It will give your steak that refreshing taste of summer!

Tarte tatin!

If you have this image of tarte tatin as being this complicated French pastry dish that you wouldn’t dare make at home, this recipe will change your mind!

You don’t need any fancy ingredients, although if you have a vanilla pod, throw in the seeds! Cinnamon is optional but I think it gives it that gastronomical edge!

·         200g puff pastry (plus some flour for dusting)
·         4 eating apples
·         A squeeze of lime
·         100g caster sugar
·         100g butter
·         1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 200C. Roll out and cut the puff pastry sheet to match the size of your pan, so that it fits perfectly over the top. Your pan must be suitable for use in the oven, so nothing with a plastic handle!

Peel, core and slice the apples in half. As soon as you’ve done each one, place in a bowl of water and lemon juice so they don’t go brown!

Melt the butter with the sugar in the pan over a low heat, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks! Increase the heat slightly once its blended and simmer for a few minutes until the mixture turns a golden-brown caramel colour but this will remain fairly frothy in consistency.

Very carefully, place the apples in the pan as snugly as possible, as they do shrink! Leave to simmer in the caramel for 15-20 minutes.

Once the apples have shrunk slightly and turned a slightly golden colour, leave to cool for a few minutes. Place the pastry over the top, use a wooden spoon to even out the surface and tuck in the edges! Place in the oven for 20 minutes, or until it looks something like this;

Take out and leave for a couple of minutes before very carefully turning out the tart onto a big plate, preferably with edges so the caramel doesn’t ooze out! Be very careful when doing this and always wear protective gloves and have a tea towel over your arm to prevent splashing! Decorate with icing sugar or some grated nuts!

Et voila!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Gastro-pub-grub at the Tommyfield, Kennington.

The Tommyfield is the sort of place every neighbourhood should have, as I found myself too lazy to cook one evening, it proved to be a great little culinary hideout!
As you enter, the atmosphere will hit you straight away as bustling tables of happy diners (and winers!) and smiling staff come into view. We were welcomed warmly by a waiter who turned out to be very knowledgeable about wine and although suggested which bottle of wine we should have, it wasn’t in that pressurising manner that some pontsy restaurants do to get you to buy the overpriced bottle! We chose a light and summery bottle of Viognier as we both settled on scallops followed by poultry! We had just about made up our minds when we saw some gigantic pies march out of the kitchen and onto the tables next to us. My boyfriend at that point officially changed his mind and went for the chicken pie while I was still set on trying (for the first time ever) some guinea fowl.

Our scallops starters were well-cooked and tasted fresh as well as being very reasonably sized. I loved that they left the corals on, I hate seeing chefs let that tasty little treat go to waste! The parma ham it came with was a little dry in texture however, as I prefer it either uncooked or really crisp, so I felt that let the dish down slightly, otherwise it was a lovely starter!

As soon as the pie arrived on Tom’s side of the table he quickly delved in while my guinea fowl two ways was presented in a pub-grub manner, with plenty of jus and generously sized. The taste was certainly there and the simple elements of the dish came together very well.
All in all, the Tommyfield is a good excuse to get away from your kitchen and offers fantastic comfort food for all. I was also very pleased to see the Tommyfield support the fish fight, so next time I’m in the area, I shall pop back for some sustainable fish and chips!
The Tommyfield on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Irresistible honey and almond cake

This recipe is perfect for a rainy day, when you just want to snuggle up with a cup of tea and a good book (I’m currently reading Bill Bryson’s At Home: A short History of Private Life). I made this cake with my boyfriend last week after moving back to Cornwall for the summer, and it filled the house with that delicious aroma of ‘something sweet is baking’! Despite a couple of setbacks, the cake turned out perfectly moist and delicately sweet!
You’ll need
·         200g self-raising flour
·         150g butter (unsalted)
·         115g brown sugar
·         175g honey (plus 1tbsp more for glazing)
·         Juice from half a lemon
·         2 eggs
·         Some flaked almonds for the topping
Pre-heat the oven to 180C, and find a cake tin (about 8 inch) to line with baking paper and grease with some butter.
In a small saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, honey and lemon juice and stir over a medium heat until melted and smooth. Take of the heat for about 5 minutes, giving it time to cool slightly before beating in the eggs and sifting in the flour. Stir until fairly smooth (some small lumps are fine!) and pour into your prepared cake-tin.
Just before placing in the oven, scatter the flaked almonds generously over the cake. Leave in the oven to cook for 30-35 minutes or until risen and golden brown. Pierce the cake with a thin skewer through the middle to check if it comes out clean (meaning its set and ready). Drizzle over some honey while still warm and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before tucking in (it will be heard to resist, I know!).
 I enjoyed my cake with a generous scoop of honeycombe ice cream!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Getting creative with home-made burgers!

Continuing with the theme of summer (but somewhat moving away from the healthy), here are two burger recipes I tried a few months ago.

Now that its BBQ season I think it’s imperative that I put my view on burgers out there. I find burgers are not given the treatment they deserve; there’s more to them than just the patty, a bun and some ketchup so I’m genuinely hoping to inspire some of you stuck in the ‘maccy d’ rut and try these out!

A spruced-up classic

A great English burger with English cheddar and caramelised onions!
(makes 4 burgers)

·         500g Beef mince (not too lean)
·         One onion for the patty
·         Egg (lightly beaten)
·         1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
·         A bun of your choice (I love ciabatta)
·         4 onions for the caramelised onions topping
·         ½ tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
·         1 teaspoon demarerra sugar
·         75g butter
·         Mature English cheddar
·         1 beef tomato
·         A packet of rocket
·         Mayonnaise
·         A garlic clover
·         A small bunch of parsley

Finely chop one onion and combine with the beef mince and egg, season with plenty of salt and pepper and Worcestershire sauce before mixing together to form patties.

Slice the tomato into rounds, the cheddar into thin slices and mix the mayo with some finely chopped garlic and parsley. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Slice the onions into rings and place in the pan of butter, stir for a minute or two to coat well. Turn the heat down slightly and cover with a lid for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Brush your patties lightly with some olive oil and place on the bbq (if using) or a griddle pan.
Cook for about 7 minutes before turning over.

In the pan of onions, add the vinegar and sugar and stir well. The onions should be nicely browned and shrunk by at least half.

One minute before serving, put the cheddar over the burger while it’s still on the heat to allow it to melt nicely. Toast the buns (you can do this on the bbq!), spread a teaspoon of parsley mayo on each one before placing the beef patty with cheese, followed by the tomato slice, a generous serving of the caramelised onions and a bit of rocket and topping off with the other bun to finish!

 Halloumi and chorizo burgers

For those wishing to create a more Mediterranean vibe, try this mix of pork, beef and chorizo topped off with grilled halloumi cheese!

(Serves 4)
·         200g Beef mince
·         200g Pork mince
·         100g Chorizo ring (not the sliced alternative)
·         1 egg
·         2 garlic cloves
·         1 teaspoon of chilli flakes
·         Burger Buns of your choice
·         A pack of halloumi cheese
·         A packet of Rocket
·         Beef tomato
·         Mayo, parsley and garlic (see above recipe)
De-skin the chorizo ring (slightly score it before pulling it off) before roughly chopping it and putting in a food processor with roughly chopped garlic and the chilli flakes.

 Pulse until it has a nice crumbly texture then mix in a bowl with the pork and beef mince and egg. Season well, form into equal patties, brush lightly with olive oil and put on the BBQ/pan for about 7-8 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, slice up your halloumi about 1.5cm thick and then the tomato into rings. About 3 minutes before serving, griddle the halloumi until golden (or starting to char if bbq’ing) and toast your buns! Serve the buns with rocket, a slice of tomato, a spoonful of parsley mayo and the patty topped with halloumi!

You’ve seen my ideas now it’s time to get creative! What about a Hawaiian-style burger by substituting the tomato with a ring of griddled pineapple? Or how about a Mexican burger by adding some fiery tomato salsa and a slice of avocado? Or just try different cheeses, maybe some melted stilton for a pungent kick or even some alpine cheese for a lovely crust!