Saturday, 25 April 2015

What's a saucepan? Can it be microwaved?

In days of yore, I set up this blog to learn to cook. As a 16 year old, it felt like a critical step - before stepping out into the big, bad world and flying the nest, it seemed pretty important to be able to cook. What a grand plan. 

Now though, I'm sitting in my room, in a university residence, trying to decide whether I can be bothered to cook some instant noodles, or if I'd be better off just chucking some soup in the microwave. Truthfully, neither option is particularly appealing, That said, actually cooking is even less appealing. I live in a catered hall, so only have to fend myself for Saturday and Sunday evenings but by mid-afternoon on a Saturday the kitchen is an absolute state. Safe to say things aren't exactly as I envisaged before coming to uni.

In general, I wouldn't say that I'm the world's tidiest person - it would be closer to the truth to say that I would live in an absolute pigsty if I didn't force myself to keep on top of things. That's only in my own, private space though; there are 40 of us on my floor, with 1 kitchen between the lot of us. Frankly, I think that I owe it to the others to leave the place tidy, but so many others don't share this opinion. Mum used to despair at home because I would leave a trail behind me - I could follow the Hans-and-Gretel-esque trail of debris to find out where I'd come from. Helpful, really. Those days are behind me (HONEST, mum!) and now it's just my bedroom that is the occasional bomb site because surprise, surprise there are other people who use the rest of the house (/hall facilities) and it's not reasonable to expect them to put up with my mess. 

Mind blown. What an idea. Revolutionary. Ooft. 

Why is this such a hard concept? Space in the kitchen here is pretty limited, considering how many people have to use it. Fridge space is at a premium, and even then, it's not guaranteed that your food will remain untouched, since some people see fit to steal, and then leave a mess behind themselves. It's not my proudest moment, but I genuinely cried last year when I discovered someone had opened and used up my food. Seems stupid now, but I'd just come back in from a Brownie meeting and was looking forward to a cheese sandwich. Haute cuisine, right?!? Some lovely person had opened my cheese, and eaten 3/4 of it. To add insult to injury, they left the bag open (in a fridge with goodness knows what else inside it), and someone else's milk spilled inside the bag. By the time I got to it, it was turning green and smelled absolutely rank. Needless to say, I was in a great mood that evening... 

It's funny how something so silly can have an effect on you though - a bit of common courtesy in places like this never goes amiss, especially when you have to spend months living with the same people. Yes, I used to protest when told to tidy up by mum, but she was just training me up, so that when I left home I didn't turn in to a thieving, deceitful pain-in-the-neck with no respect for other people. Instead, I've turned in to a slightly deranged ranter who would rather sit inside on a Saturday evening and complain about cooking [- better option??? Possibly not!] 

I'll definitely start cooking again at some point. But not here, with food stains and disgusting fridges. For now, I'll stick with my best pal, Mr Heinz, and his top quality tinned goods. 

Monday, 20 May 2013

Job done

When I started out with this challenge as a New Year's resolution, I honestly didn't think that I would complete it. Not for want of trying, obviously, but January 2012 was half-way through my 5th year at school - the results of which would decide whether I would get into uni or not. 

I'm sitting here now in May 2013 with a university place for September, and only 1 exam left at school. 
ONE EXAM and that's IT!!! 
While the idea of moving out in September is a somewhat horrific, yet exciting thought, I feel more prepared for life. That's not to say that I feel ready to leave [to that end, I had a nightmare the other night that my sister and parents came into my room and kicked me out of it in the middle of the night - mighty disorientating!] but I feel infinitely readier than I did a few months ago.

So, this food challenge is officially done. 
A new one's just beginning. 

P.S. I made Christmas dinner with my little sister, so at least I can rest assured that, in the future, I won't have to resort to pizza at Christmas...

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Guest post: Mr Thapa's Breakfast Noodles

Happy new year!!! 2012 has now officially been and gone, and the challenge of 12 for 2012 was met. Points to me for actually following through for once - wooooooo. To celebrate the new year and the end of the official challenge, I bring to you a present. It's like a late Christmas present or alternatively just a present to me, which says that I've done enough and it's high time to let someone else take a shot. Either way, today I would like to share with you my family's breakfast noodle extravaganza...

In late October, we had a Nepali gentleman staying with us for just under a week. Mr Thapa was over in Scotland participating in an 'educational exchange' between our school and his school in western Nepal. It really was the best week - we actually had breakfast around the table together (obviously attempting to cultivate the impression that we are civilised - that's a joke, but anyway...) and we left for school at a slightly more civilised time than normal. All good things!

On the last morning, Mr Thapa said that he would cook us breakfast - a typical meal that he would eat at home. I don't know what I was expecting, but noodles was most certainly not it!

It's not a secret that I am not exactly a spice fiend. In fact, it's not a secret that I am a complete and utter spice wuss and cry 'uncle' at the first hint of peppery-ness, let alone the chilli powder that went into these noodles. Chilli powder, onion, and some kind of chicken seasoning at seven o'clock in the morning. Imagine my shock, and to a certain extent, abject horror!

Not too different from the instant noodles that I would normally favour, but just a tad hotter. The flush staining my cheeks served only to amuse my parents as they watched the steam pour from my ears with every bite. That said, it was a surprisingly palatable treat for breakfast, and a far cry from the normal Weetabix mulch of school mornings.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Chilli con carne

This is yet another instalment of 'things I cooked ages ago and have yet to upload because I'm a fail at life.' During the summer, we met up with Klaus and Erika. Mum spent a summer with them in Germany 'many moons ago' (her words, not mine!) and since we were in the area, we popped in to see them.  Erika made us the most delicious chilli con carne which was so tasty, even to my spice-phobic taste buds!!!

When it came to attempting to replicate the pure loveliness, I was surprised at just how close my version came to the real deal! Unfortunately, rather than finding a normal strength chilli sauce, I could only find an extra hot version which personally, I think I put in too much of, but dad said that he really liked it (obviously he has a higher spice threshold!) Still, I will keep an eye out for a slightly milder version for next time but apart from that... I wouldn't change a thing!

Klaus und Erika's chilli

(serves 6 people)

500g minced beef or pork or a mixture of both
2 tbsps. of oil
3 medium onions chopped
1 large or two small tins of red kidney beans (thoroughly drained)
1 large green pepper de-seeded and chopped
½ red pepper de-seeded and chopped
1 small tin of tomato
250ml chilli sauce
about 300ml of hot water
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onions gently for a few minutes. Turn the heat up, add the minced meat and brown it well, stirring just a tad. Add the kidney beans, chilli sauce, water, peppers and tinned tomatoes to the pot before letting everything simmer for about 20 minutes.
Add the water to the pot (and you may also want to add some stock - I didn't.)
Serve with some French bread and enjoy!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Strawberry and white chocolate cheesecake

BBC Good Food... yas, man. I kid you not, sad as this may sound, I think that this is my favourite website!

Perhaps it's a sign of my skill level that this turned out well - no oven use necessary, just a bit of sneaky fridg-ing/freezer-ing. While the cheesecake didn't take all that long to prepare, it did require a good amount of setting time and due to time constraints, had to get chucked in our freezer. I took it out of the freezer about half an hour before serving and put it into the fridge for a final twenty-five minutes.

Although fairly sweet, its not aaaah-my-teeth-are-going-to-fall-out sweet so it worked well after dinner. The best thing is, though, you can put it back in the fridge after the meal if there is any left at all!

175g shortbread biscuits (digestives worked well)
50g unsalted butter, softened
200g melted white chocolate
300g medium fat soft cream cheese (i.e. Philly <3 )
200g fromage frais
225g roughly chopped strawberries

1) Crush the shortbread biscuits until they resemble bread crumbs. Mix the biscuit crumbs together with the softened butter and press firmly onto the base and sides of a 20cm springform tin. Refrigerate until needed. Melt the white chocolate in a bowl in the microwave and set aside until needed.
2) Beat together the cream cheese and fromage frais until smooth and thick. Add the strawberries to the cheese mixture with the melted chocolate and mix. Spoon the cheesecake filling onto the biscuit base. Level the top and chill for about 4 hours until set. (With freezer use, 2.5 hours is just about long enough!)

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Orange cake (Meg's favourite, apparently!)

I don't profess to be a proficient baker. Truth be told, I never stray much further than the occasional batch of cupcakes and a tray bake. Not this time though! Oh no, for the first time ever I made an actual cake. As in an actual three layer cake. (In spite of the fact that only two are visible here, I did bake three - the only problem was that I have but two cake tins.)

Taste: good.
Presentation: shocking.
My bad!

Obviously, actually icing a cake is a skill that requires development and practice. Clearly I have yet to participate in such practice! I'm just thankful that lil sis had left her glasses upstairs when I put the cake on the table - no scathing comments for me!

This recipe comes from - definitely worth a look!

 2 1/2 cups of plain flour                                              1 stick butter, softened
1 3/4 cups of sugar                                                      680g cream cheese
1 1/2 tsps bicarbonate of soda                                     1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tsp baking powder                                                    4 cups icing sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup fresh orange juice
3 large eggs
1 cup sour cream

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line 3 9-inch cake tins with baking parchment. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, bicarb, baking powder and salt before adding the oil, orange juice, eggs and sour cream. Beat at a medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Pour into the cake tins and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a wooden prick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing and letting them cool completely on wire racks. 
2. In another large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese for the icing at medium speed until creamy. Add the orange juice, beating until combined and then gradually add the icing sugar, beating until smooth. 
3. For assembly, check out since I am evidently completely incapable of doing a good job! With a bit of skill, that I do not possess, this is how beautiful the cake can look! 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Malteser tiffin

Part two of the day when I made a monumental mess in the kitchen. This, however, was faff-less. Delicious, and properly edible. Perhaps that's because I actually followed the recipe for once, and bothered to do it the right way. In fact, perhaps that's something that I ought to be doing more often: try the recipe by following all of the instructions the first time and just changing things afterwards. A novel idea, I think, but to be honest, it's just too tempting to change things. Still, I'll keep working at it, and maybe my cooking will be better at the end of this year than it was in January. Maybe.

Another BBC good food recipe...

200g milk chocolate
100g unsalted butter
2tbsp golden syrup
125g digestive biscuits
135g Maltesers
For the topping:
200g milk chocolate
25g unsalted butter
1tsp golden syrup

Line a 20cm baking tray with baking parchment. Place the 200g of chocolate, butter and syrup in a heat proof bowl and melt over boiling water or microwave. (I now know that it is necessary to stir chocolate periodically when microwaving it, lest it burn to a crisp - I'm just chuffed that I bought extra chocolate, just in case!) Once almost melted, remove from the heat and gently stir until any tiny bits of chocolate have melted. Allow to cool a little.
Place the biscuits and 35g of the maltesers in a sandwich/freezer bag and crush with a rolling pin, until it's mainly crumbs, but a few chunks won't do any harm!
Mix the crushed mixture and the whole maltesers in with the melted chocolate and stir it in until everything is coated. Press into the prepared tin and then make up the topping.
Melt the chocolate, syrup and butter as before for the topping, and spread it over the biscuit base.
If you have a bit of white chocolate, you can just melt a bit over the top for that little something extra.
Cover the tin with cling film or tin foil and fridge for an hour or two before cutting into squares.