Saturday, June 28, 2014

Slow-Cooked Pork

I honestly had every intention of posting more the past couple of weeks than I have.  But with my time at university coming to an end I just wanted to enjoy the time as much as possible, which meant that blogging and other things that I could do from home have been put on a back burner for a while.  Now that I've graduated and moved back home I'm going to write up the posts on the last couple of meals I cooked in my Little Cambridge Kitchen.

This term, to my delight, a slow cooker found its way into my possession.  I therefore began to experiment and have to say I loved it, this slow-cooked, glazed pork was so easy to make!

Slow-cooked, balsamic glazed pork

For two portions you will need:
Around 225g pork loin
1/2 tsp ground sage (rosemary also works well)
salt and pepper for seasoning
a small clove of garlic
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp soy sauce

All you need to do is combine the sage, salt, pepper and garlic and rub it over the pork.  Place the pork in the slow cooker with 1/4 cup water, turn the slow cooker on to low and leave to cook.  I scaled down this recipe and left the pork to cook for a little too long so be careful.  Originally the recipe served 4 and you were told to cook the pork for 6-8 hours, I left it for 5-6 and that was too much.  I would add the glaze after the pork has cooked for 3 hours, check it again after 4 hours and leave it to cook for a little longer if necessary.

While the pork is cooking combine the ingredients for the glaze in a small sauce pan - brown sugar, cornstarch, balsamic vinegar, water, soy sauce.  Heat and stir until the mixture thickens.  Brush the pork with the glaze during the last hour of cooking.  If you don't have a brush just do what I did and add the glaze to the slow cooker, then turn the pork every 15 minutes or so to make sure it is coated in the glaze.

Half an hour before the pork is done boil a pan of water and cook some brown rice.  5-10 minutes before the pork is ready steam some vegetables in the microwave.  Once everything is ready, serve and enjoy.

The finished dish
It seems strange that I will no longer be cooking in my little kitchen any more, but while I will miss it I'm excited to be living back at home again where there's an oven and a grill which will give me the chance to try out lots of recipes which I haven't been able to before and get back to some baking which I really miss.

During July I'm going on holiday for a few weeks so I apologise if I am unable to post in that time.  I'm going to try and schedule a few posts but having never tried it before I can't promise it will work, check back every now and then for me to see if it's worked!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Foodie Film Friday - Eat, Pray, Love

I know it's been a long time since the first of my 'Foodie Film Friday' posts but now that exams are over I can get this going properly.  So this week I am reviewing 'Eat Pray Love'.  For those of you who haven't seen it, it is a film about an American woman, Liz, who decides to go travelling in order to get her life back on track after a messy divorce.  She spends a third of a year in Italy - Eat - a third in India - Pray - and a third in Bali - Love.  I realise that this film is not entirely about food but it does feature prominently!

Eat Pray Love film cover

While in Italy Liz (played by Julia Roberts) decides to indulge herself, learning the language and enjoying copious amounts of Italian food.  The part of her journey spent in Italy is my favourite of the three because it is exactly what I like to do when I travel, pick up some of the language, sample the local delicacies and, if possible, get to know some locals to show me some things off the beaten track.

In Italy Liz's experiences range from enjoying the quiet calm of her small apartment as she sits down to a simple meal of asparagus and eggs (something which I am very partial to as you may have noticed, whether it be for  breakfast or brunch), to the hustle and bustle of Naples as she tries an authentic Neapolitan pizza.

Food is also something which brings people together throughout the film.  In Italy not only does she go out to restaurants to enjoy a meal with friends, she also tries to cook a Thanksgiving dinner for them.  You should never underestimate the value of food in helping to forge friendships.  Last year I met many of my closest friends over a beer and we cemented those friendships over food, whether we cooked or baked it together or went out to eat in a local restaurant.  Food is a very personal thing and by sharing the experience of eating it with someone you can really get to know them.  I will forever treasure the memories of our dinners in Bamberg, because even though we came from all over the world and had experiences of lots of different cuisines, cooking, baking and trying new food brought us together.

Eat, Pray, Love book cover

After watching the film (several times!) I finally got round to reading the book last year.  However, rather like with Julie & Julia I was rather disappointed.  I felt that Liz came across as far more self-centred in the book than in the film and not being spiritual myself I found it very hard to empathise with her experiences in the Indian ashram.

So on to my ratings:
Overall I would give this film 3/5 because although I adore the part set in Italy and I have been inspired to travel to Indonesia at some point, I find the part set in India less interesting.
As for how serious this film is (where one is serious and 5 is lighthearted) I would give it  3/5 as it is a fun film but it does make you think.
As food is only featured in one third of the film I will have to give it a 2/5 on the foodie front.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Best Burger in Town

It's taken me longer to put this post up than I intended, but here it is.  Last Friday was a great day for foodies in Cambridge as it saw the opening of the new foodPark which will become a regular feature every Friday @ CB1, Station Road.

foodPark CambridgeThe Steak and Honour Citroen H Van

Having missed out on a Steak and Honour burger at the Eat Cambridge street food market owing to the huge queues I was keen to arrive early to make sure I got one this time.  I was not disappointed, at midday D and I were the first in the queue as they began serving their lunch menu and I went for the cheeseburger.  It was deliciously messy to eat and definitely lived up to the hype!

The Steak and Honour Cheeseburger
The Steak and Honour Cheeseburger
I finished off my lunch with a strawberries and champagne cupcake from the Two Little Cats Bakery stand - delicious - you really could taste the strawberries and champagne!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Frying pan pizza - take two

On Friday evening I had lots of friends over to celebrate the end of exams.  Originally we planned to order a take-away but I couldn't resist another attempt at my no oven, no grill pizza.  This time I used a proper pizza dough recipe from the July edition of the BBC GoodFood magazine which arrived just a couple of days before then end of my exams.

For 4 pizzas you will need:
500g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried yeast (or 1/4 tsp fast-action yeast)
400ml warm water
oil for greasing

Frying pan pizza
I used strong white bread flour but it didn't work amazingly well so I think plain white flour would be better.  As I don't have a mixer the dough took about 45 minutes to make but if you do have a mixer with a dough hook then it can be done in as little as 15 minutes.

If you're making the dough in a mixer make sure you've attached the dough hook, if not get a large bowl and start off mixing with a wooden spoon and as the mixture thickens use your hands to bring the dough together.  All you need to do is weigh out the flour, add the salt and yeast (if it's fast-action, if not add it to the water first and wait five minutes to allow the yeast to start working).  Pour the liquid in gradually while mixing until the dough comes together in a ball.  If the dough is too sticky add a little extra flour (but remember that this dough is meant to be a little sticky), if it's too dry add some more water a little at a time but be careful not to add too much.

In a mixer the dough should be kneaded for 5-7 minutes, but hand this supposedly takes 10 minutes but I found it took longer than that (partly because I was kneading a larger quantity of dough) even with the help of D.  Knead the dough until it is shiny and springs back when you press your finger into it.

Oil a bowl (I used olive oil) and place the dough in it, turning it so it's coated in the oil.  Cover the bowl tightly with cling film and place a tea towel over the top.  Leave the bowl in a safe, warm place, out of the way of draughts for 2-4 hours.

These pizzas can be cooked on a BBQ but I used my trusty frying pan.  The main problem I encountered was that my toppings were generally too wet, meaning the base became soggy, so although the pizzas tasted good they were a little tricky to eat and not as crispy as I would have liked.

For the tomato sauce (per pizza):
a handful of cherry tomatoes (halved)
1 tsp tomato puree
1/4 can chopped tomatoes (strained)

Mix the tomatoes together with some seasoning and warm through in a saucepan.  I didn't strain my chopped tomatoes but I think it would be a good idea to help get rid of some of the excess moisture (and for anyone else just finishing exams you could save the juice to use in a Bloody Mary!)

Cooking the pizza base
To cook the pizza base take a quarter of your dough and stretch it out until it is the right size (for me this was dictated by the size of my saucepan).  I found it best to heat a teaspoon of olive oil in the saucepan, then to place my dough into the pan and cook it on very low for 4-5 minutes until the underside was browned.

Then flip the dough over.  Place your tomatoes on top along with any other toppings you fancy (microwave-steamed asparagus worked well as did pepperoni and mushrooms) finally sprinkle some cheese over the top.  I used mozzarella but although I had tried to squeeze out some of the moisture it was still too wet.  I am still on the hunt for a better option (let me know in the comments if you have any better ideas).

Adding the toppings
Once again cook on low for 4-5 minutes, this time covering the frying pan with a lid to trap in the heat and melt the mozzarella.  Check to make sure the bottom has browned and cook for a further couple of minutes if it hasn't.  Then transfer to a plate and top with a couple of basil leaves to serve.  I got my basil leaves from a plant I've had in my room and managed to keep alive for over a month now!

It seems strange to think that in just over a couple of weeks time I will be leaving Cambridge and my little kitchen.  As much as I'm excited to move on to new places and new experiences I will really miss Cambridge with all its lovely quirks.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The sweet taste of freedom!

You're probably all wondering where I've been for the past few weeks!  Well finals took their toll and blogging fell off the agenda, but I'm now free and will be back to posting regularly about my escapades in the kitchen and around Cambridge.  I've only got a few weeks left at uni and I plan to make the most of them.

I may not have posted recently but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy, in between revision I made it to the wonderful Eat Cambridge main event where I picked up some excellent rhubarb and vanilla jam from Urban Larder, along with a Cambridge Loaf from Cobs Bakery and a wedge of Wigmore cheese from Gog Magog Hills.  Plus I was finally able to try some of Jack's Gelato which I've been dying to taste for ages.  It definitely lived up to expectations, I thoroughly enjoyed my elderflower sorbet (and a reliable source assures me that the pink grapefruit and tarragon was excellent too)!  Lunch that day consisted on one of the best Scotch eggs I have ever tried, from Pint Shop (see my review of their restaurant here) and nibbles from numerous other stalls which were all crammed into the main hall of the Corn Exchange, including some Gourmet Brownie and a 'pastel de nata' (a Portuguese custard tart) from Norfolk Street Bakery.

The haul
As well as the Main Event I also made it to Afternoon Tease for the Eat Cambridge full English breakfast which tasted amazing and comprised of locally sourced ingredients! (The icing on the cake was the new fireplace teapot!)

So today, after a rather long break from cooking (since I just didn't have the time or the energy during exams), I made it back into the kitchen!  Pierogi have been on my list of things to cook for a while and today seemed like as good a day as any to try making them.  They were a lot simpler than I anticipated and only took 45 minutes to make!

Pierogi - Polish dumplings
Since my filling was potato I started by peeling and quartering my potatoes (I made way to much filling but around 300g should be ample for 2 people - I will update this when I try it again).  I then popped them into a pan of cold water before placing the pan on the heat and bringing to the boil.  Once boiling turn the heat down and let the potatoes simmer for 5 to 10 minutes (until you can easily cut through them with a knife).

In the meantime make the pastry you will need:

200g plain flour
25g unsalted butter, softened
100ml (ish) warm water

Soften the butter slightly in a microwave (but don't actually melt it), then measure the flour out into a large mixing bowl.  Add the butter and rub the butter into the flour with your fingers.  Mix in the warm water gradually using your hands to bring the mixture together to form a soft, elastic dough.  Be careful not to add too much water otherwise your dough will be too sticky, equally if your dough is too dry and flaky then add a little more water until it comes together.  Roll out your pastry on a clean work surface or chopping board.  The dough should be about 3mm thick (basically not so thick that the dumplings become heavy but not so thin that they split when you cook them).  If you don't have a rolling pin don't worry, I used an empty wine bottle wrapped in cling film.  As I was also limited on space I had to roll my dough out in stages too.

At the point when the potatoes are cooked take them off the heat, strain them and mash them, add a teaspoon of butter and 30g cream cheese before mashing again.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Once your have rolled out your dough use a cutter which is about 6cm in diameter to cut out discs from your dough - as I didn't have a cutter I used a mug - basically any round glass which is roughly the right size will work.  The main thing is not to use one that's too small as it will be really hard to form the pierogi, instead err for something that's a little bigger if you're not sure.  Once you've cut out a disc place somewhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon of the potato mixture into the centre and fold the pastry in half to close them.  Then crimp the edges of the pastry together with your fingers to seal them.  I managed to make 14 pierogi from this recipe.

Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the pierogi for a minute or two (until they float), remove with a slotted spoon and let them drain before eating.  You can eat these as they are or you can fry them for a couple of minutes in butter so that they go brown and crispy or you can serve them with a brown butter sauce (melt some butter in a pan over a medium heat and swirl occasionally until the butter is a dark golden brown).

The finished dumplings
It's great to be free from the stresses of work and exams and to be able to cook and blog again without constantly feeling like you should really be doing something else.