Classic Student Things, or The One With a ‘Dinner Party’

I’m calling this a music student activity because I’m a music student and I’m doing it. shhhh that’s totally logic ok?

Tomorrow (today?) I’m hosting a ‘dinner party’. I don’t really know if it counts because we’ll be eating non-dinner party food and we’ll all be drinking schloer and water from a jug. We may well end up using cups instead of just drinking from the jug, but that’s not the point. The POINT is that even though it feels kind of not-fancy due to just being six of my friends (and my dad and my sister. Can I get an “aaaaaaaaaaah”?) who will probably be on someone’s phone the whole time I’m in the kitchen, and I feel like that damn balloon video is going to get a lot of screentime. Most of the views on that thing must be from us, I’m sure of it.

Well, despite all that, I still don’t want to give anyone food poisoning. As a completely random and non-specific example. And I don’t want them to hate the food I’m doing, even though I’ve only ever actually made one of the courses – fuck???? why did I choose things I didn’t know if I could make? oh well how hard can rice pudding be – so I don’t really know how they’re going to go. Hopefully well.

Anyway, if you’re interested, here’s the menu: Stuffed red peppers, chicken curry, rice pudding. It’s a bit more dressed up than that, but that’s essentially it.

Never mind the fact that 9 (or 8. it’s complicated) people will be eating this so I’d better not mess it up. Never mind the fact that I should probably be putting the rice pudding on at the exact moment I’ll be serving up the starter. NEVER MIND ALL THAT IT’S GOING TO BE GREAT

probs

Cheffing With Charlie: Chilli (maybe?)

OK, first all all, I have done enough of these damn things to warrant their own sexy little category. So, here we go: sexy food time. (dear god, someone stop me). Today we’re making… chilli (con carne)! I think it’s chilli con carne anyway, it’s beef and chilli things so who even knows. It’s delicious anyway. Today’s prices sourced from…. waitrose! I suspect everywhere else will be much the same, if not cheaper. You’re welcome.

You Will Need:

500g beef mince (£3.29)
1 can of chopped tomatoes (50p OR if you buy in packs of 4, 37.5p)
1 can of mixed beans in a spicy tomato sauce (£1.00)
Splash of Worcester sauce (negligible)
Stock cube (like 10p?)

Total: £4.665, or more sensibly: £4.67

Method (serves 5):

1. Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker. If you’re a fusspot like me, blend the tomato first and then chuck it in. If you’re not a fusspot, don’t bother.

2. Leave the whole glorious mixture for 2-3 hours on high.

3. That’s it!

4. Serve with, rice (probably adds around 60p per portion) or those funky taco shells – you could get creative and use those stand and stuff ones (which are super exciting, let’s be honest)

If you don’t have a slow cooker, you could probably just lob it all in a big sauce pan and then just cook it for about half an hour or so. Have fun, kiddlingtons!

 

 

Cheffing with Charlie: Venison Meatballs

OK, picture this. You’re on your own in the house. You’re hungry. The only ingredients you have on hand are a packet of meatballs and enough vegetables to sink the Spanish Armada. What do you do?

Well, first you ask yourself: why do I have nothing else in the cupboard? Once you’re done having a weird existential crisis, you can get on with dinner.

Venison Meatballs and Assorted Vegetables

I hope I’m not the only one who reads that as veggie-tables. (yes? no? maybe?)

You will need (serves 1):

3 venison meatballs (I guess you could substitute any meatball depending on what was actually in your fridge. Or even chopped up sausage, to be perfectly honest)
1 carrot
1/2 a sweet potato
4 mushrooms
A handful of frozen green beans
A dollop of frozen peas
A handful of spinach

Method

1. Peel and finely slice your carrot and sweet potato. Seriously, the finer this gets sliced the better for your cooking efficiency. At the same time, chuck the frozen veg in a microwaveable pot with some water and microwave for 4 minutes

2. Lob the carrot, sweet potato, and meatballs in a well oiled (the veg will soak up a lot of oil, so be generous. plus you can just drain it if you need to) saucepan. I say saucepan because then you can put a lid on it if you want to stop oil spitting, which is always a sensible thing to do. Set the timer for about 12 minutes. STIR THIS REGULARLY

3. Drain the now not-frozen veg, and set aside. Slice up your mushrooms and if you’re feeling a bit weird you can chop up the spinach too, but it’s completely unnecessary so maybe don’t bother

4. If the veg in the pan stop cooking, or start burning, throw some more oil in and stir it so everything’s nicely coated.

5. As the timer wends its way to 3 minutes, throw the mushrooms and previously-frozen vegetables into the pan. Poke the carrot to make sure it’s nicely tender. The carrot is the tricky one, but check the sweet potato too. They will be your limiting factor in terms of cooking time.

6. Once all the vegetables are cooked to your satisfaction, throw the spinach in and stir around a bit. Leave for a minute or so to wilt.

7. Hey presto, you’re done! You could drain everything to get rid of the oil with a sieve, if you feel so inclined. Otherwise, plate up and eat! (and hopefully enjoy)

Week 4 Day 1: Cheffing with Charlie

(Ok so read that ch- like it’s chocolate and maybe it’ll work better) (Also damnit Charlieissocoollike because I wanted cooking with Charlie but you’ve already nabbed that, you clever sod you. )

Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? Already week 4 and already I’m wondering how I managed to come to uni without any waterproof shoes. It’s finally stopped raining for the day, so maybe we can start doing outdoors things again (except not, because the shoes problem still applies). Anyway, abandon your outdoors fun because I’m about to tell you what the latest on the cooking scene is: slow cookers. Yeah, totally student-y. Why would you say otherwise??

Slow cookers are so amazing I could rave about them for weeks. A cooking thing that you start yesterday evening and then this evening there’s an amazing curry staring accusingly back at you??? Or a way to cook a chicken that doesn’t involve getting weird chicken juices all over the kitchen floor when you try to cut it into pieces? I’m interested. So, without further ado, the first recipe: roast(ish) chicken.

Serves: 6 (Disclaimer: 80g servings each. That actually turns out to be perfectly sufficient, so… But yeah, if you insisted on having double that you’d only get half the number of servings etc. I suspect you understand that)

You will need:

1.5kg whole frozen chicken (£3.99)
3 carrots (£0.30)
2 parsnips (£0.68)
1 baking potato (£0.35)

For reference, this is the biggest chicken you will get in your slow cooker. I don’t want anyone trying to punch a chicken into a smallish slow cooker, because frankly that’s not going to be pretty. eewww

Method:

1. Cut up the vegetables into a nice vegetable-y bed on the slow cooker. The goal is to keep the chicken from touching the bottom. If that happens, bad things will happen.

2. Put the defrosted chicken on the bed of vegetables. You did defrost the chicken first, right?

3. If you feel nervous about not putting a bit of water in, put some water in the slow cooker.

4. Turn to low, leave for approximately 6 hours.

5. Do other things.

6. Remove the chicken from the slow cooker. Inevitably a bit will have touched the side and will fall off the chicken. It’s fine, it’s salvageable. If you’re feeling a bit fancy, you could grill the skin/the chicken in the oven to crispify the skin so that it’s even more delicious. Salt and olive oil are your friends here.

If you chose not to do that, the chicken will literally fall off the bone when you try to get it off. Alternatively, you can just rip the bones out by accident when you try to pick up the legs/wings.

7. Serve with like roast potatoes or fried potatoes or rice or whatever. Note, the chicken will probably taste of the vegetables it nested on, so don’t use any you think are absolutely repellent. Save the rest of the leftovers. I recommend using jars for maximum weirdness. (When people open up the freezer or fridge and just see jars full of dead chicken, their reactions tend to be somewhat exciting)

8. Use leftovers for further deliciousness

9. Optional, put all the chicken bones and a bunch of vegetables BACK in the slow cooker with about a litre of water. Leave for at least 8 hours.

10. Sieve/filter/whatever the flip. Pour into containers, put the containers in the fridge/freezer. Congratulations, you’ve just made chicken stock!

11. Optional optional extra: skim the fat off. You can do this once it’s chilled, or you can just not bother if your goal is to have a slightly fattier meal. I can’t always be bothered to skim it, so sometimes I don’t (gasp)

And that’s that, my super easy 8/11 step process for cooking a whole chicken. You’re welcome.

Shortbread really shouldn’t be this difficult

In preparation for the momentous party that my sister is throwing today (throwing? Like, is she throwing it out the window? Off a cliff?) she has requisitioned approximately 5 billion tonnes of food. The fridge has never been so full, and that’s no exaggeration. I’d have shoved a load of it into the freezer but that’s so full the door barely closes now.

Yesterday I had to fend off a wave of blinis. I barely escaped with my life.

Today, however, the blinis have been vanquished by the simple method of putting them in the oven. Kills everything, that does. So I was left with the task of creating certain dessert options such as lemon shortbread.

FYI: Anything involving butter is tricky when the butter is literally melting in the bowl. At least creaming the butter and sugar was really really easy, I guess. The tricky part was when I wanted to shape the dough-batter into biscuits. Because it’s so …. gooey, it didn’t really want to let go of the surface I tried to roll it on, and no amount of sprinkled flour would make it let go. My neat rectangles became deformed polygons.

My predicament was obvious. The solution? Well, I came up with a solution both ingenious and slightly mad: roll the datter into a cylinder, and then slice the cylinder to make discs.

The snag, of course, was that the bough was so sticky that it just sort of flattened on one side. End result: failure.

It’s in the fridge now. Hopefully by the time I come to actually cut the damn thing it’ll be more willing to listen to reason.

Musings on personal taste

This may well end up being just another food post. Honestly, I’m obsessed! Or that’s how it seems. I should think of something else to write about haha

But seriously, food. It’s a divisive issue. My own personal view is to eat until I’m full and then to stop. Sometimes this is difficult if it’s something delicious, like the occasional really excellent curry or homemade pizza. Seriously, that stuff is so good it’s hard to stop when you’re full. “Just one more piece”, I say. “Just one more”. Then it’s: “Where did all my pizza go?”

I sometimes think that I have only one requirement of my food: it must be delicious. It’s a tough ask; sometimes food doesn’t quite make the grade (I’m looking at you failure!porridge. And you, endless!meatballs. The meatballs were fine, you just get a bit … bored) but for the most part I’m not disappointed by my cooking. Not blowing my own trumpet or anything, I’m a terrible innovator in the kitchen. I follow recipes all the time. If I didn’t, it’d be a very different story.

My flatmates could be forgiven for thinking I absolutely adore vegetable soup. I could forgive them for this, because I have it every day. Yep, you read that right. Every day. You would probably then ask why I do this if I don’t even like vegetable soup that much. My reasoning is really just the fact that it’s the easiest way to get vegetables into myself without having to prepare them. If I ever have children, this may have to change, because I really can’t stand the buggers and the poor things will end up with very odd eating habits.

er I mean I can’t stand vegetables not that I can’t stand children

That, and it’s pretty cheap. By my calculations, I’ve got the price down to about £0.30 or 30p per bowl of soup. (I generally make my soup so thick it can support spoons, so the servings aren’t majorly generous, but they’re filling and very … strong. Intense? Strong? ??) Then you’ve got… oooh, 10p per bread serving, and you’re looking at overall 40p per lunch. I mean, what’s not to like, hmmmmmm?

But the thing is, people looking at me would think “oh, she loves carrots and parsnips and sweet potatoes and onions! Why else would she eat it so often?” OK, maybe I do love carrots. And I’m rather fond of my bread. (that bread is just so good with soup it hurts. especially on those days when I’m like “eh” about soup. yep, bread is the real hero here) So this is a case of personal taste being more personal than it needs to be. Or more private, anyway.

And who could forget the great Week of Meatballs? The week where I had meatballs every day, twice a day, for about a week. It was… really… good… loved every second of it. (…)

The less said about the specifics of that the better, really. It was a dark time for me.

Seriously though, people probably thought “woah, she has an unhealthy obsession with meatballs. Maybe we should stage an intervention?!”

I think the point I’m trying to make here is that you can’t really tell what foods a person likes by what they eat. Humans are weird, aren’t they? Or maybe it’s just me.

On the subject of soup

Is it just me who hates vegetables? I can eat raw carrots like a champion, and green beans hold no fear for me. But broccoli is just a bit watery and leek is better avoided like the plague. Not to worry though, I won’t be getting scurvy any time soon! (I drink too many smoothies for that.. sshhh)

Here is my super-duper recipe for a soup that will sort out all of your vegetables for the day, leaving you free to enjoy a vegetable-free dinner. Or not, as the case may be.

You will require:

Carrots
Parsnips
Sweet Potatoes
Potatoes
Onion (ONE. NO MORE. IS OK WE BLEND NASTY ONION)
1 Vegetable Stock Cube
Some water

Now, the precise ratio is less important than this: you need probably a 1:1 ratio of parsnips to sweet potatoes, a 2:1 ratio of parsnips to potatoes, and a 2:1 ratio of carrot to parsnip. This ratio is useful because it helps maintain that perfect orange colour which we all know and love. Carrots and sweet potatoes are orange, so it’s fine.

Then, once you’ve peeled/diced your veggie-tables, place in a pot with the stock cube and enough water to cover it. Boil for approximately 45 minutes/however long you can be bothered.

Blend.

Serve with crusty bread and a massive cup of tea.

 

This soup will fill you with so many vitamins you won’t be able to see straight. And it’s got … er, fibre. And… minerals? Carbohydrates from the bread…? er… yeah… something… it’s good for you… maybe

Recipe for disaster

Something I’ve discovered this week (due to circumstances mostly beyond my control) is that 5 times in one week is too many times to eat meatballs and spaghetti. Yeah. Its been a really… delicious experience. Really loved it.

The first time they were a teensy bit pink on the inside. The second time most of the sauce boiled away. The third time they were perfect. Then I got meatball fatigue*.

Food fatigue, the bane of my existence. As a reasonably lazy person who can’t be bothered to worry about food all the time (hahaha I practically obsess), I have a tendency to make similar meals on subsequent days. In a sort of, “I’ll make twice as much risotto today and then eat half tomorrow” way. It never tastes as good the second time, have you noticed? No? Just me?

Soup fatigue is the worst.

However, this has led me to discover a few things about myself:

  1. There is no dignified way to eat soup with noodles in
  2. People find my dedication to eating real food to be impressive
  3. People think my dedication to meatballs is weird
  4. No matter how full you think you are, there is always room for cookies
  5. If you wear the same hoody at the gym that you wore while cooking, all you’ll be able to smell will be yesterday’s curry
  6. Porridge is bloody boring

*For the record, I had nothing but meatballs left. It’s not like I can’t cook anything apart from meatballs, don’t worry about that.

And now, I will make a vow:

I will never, ever, ever eat the same thing five times in a row. Apart from porridge. And maybe cake.