Quick crème fraiche new potato salad

FullSizeRender (3)The perk of having to spend so much time in libraries in Cambridge is that they look as pretty as this. For the last eight weeks of exam term, I can tell you that Newnham library was definitely not this empty. It was crammed with students of all subjects and years, at pretty much any time of day or night.

During that time, I don’t think cooking was at the top of many people’s to-do list, but for me, the knowledge of a delicious dinner was often the motivation I needed to get me through an afternoon studying proto-industrialisation or the Norman Conquest.

As much as I sometimes think I could survive on pasta alone, this potato salad and salmon quickly became a staple for me. Microwaving salmon may sound strange but it is by far the fastest and simplest way to cook salmon, perfect for those like me whose student kitchens are seriously lacking. The creamy potato salad may slightly counteract the healthiness of the salmon, but it is so worth it!

Quick Creme Fraiche Potato Salad and Salmon

  • a handful of new potatoes
  • 1 salmon fillet
  • 2tbsps creme fraiche
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • small handful of chives

Halve the new potatoes and boil for 15 minutes until just cooked.

A couple of minutes before the potatoes are ready, place the salmon fillet on a plate, season generously with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice, and cover with another upturned plate. Microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds, until pink and translucent.

Drain the potatoes and tip into a small bowl. Add the creme fraiche, olive oil, half the lemon juice and plenty of salt and pepper. Mix everything together and taste – adding more lemon juice for sharpness or salt to bring out the flavours. Snip the chives finely over the potatoes and stir again to combine. Serve with the salmon and some peas.

salmon and potato salad

Lemon Meringue Pie Ice Cream

‘What do you feed a horse?’ is not a question I expected to be asked in a one-on-one class with my Cambridge history lecturer. Somehow a conversation on Medieval economics and agriculture had led to me revealing my extreme lack of farming knowledge. ‘Grass?’ I offered hesitantly, after much thought. ‘Well done!’ my lecturer grinned, and I felt like I was back in primary school. ‘Anything else?’ ‘Crops?’ ‘Yes! Whereas an ox eats…?’ ‘Just grass?’ ‘Yes, well done!’ It was the simplest conversation ever but there is something about sitting in a room with an extremely clever Cambridge professor that makes you doubt everything you know. ‘And other than farming, what else can you use a horse for?’ ‘You can like.. ride it?’ ‘Yes!’

‘I can tell you are not from a farming background’, my lecturer laughed politely. ‘Neither am I,’ he continued, ‘but I do know what a horse eats.’ My London heritage has never been so obvious. Next week, I am doing an essay on towns: much more my forte. After an hour of struggling through farming chat, I was definitely in need of a post-supervision treat. Luckily, I had stores of this super simple ice cream waiting in my freezer.

lemon meringue pie ice cream

As June is now here, I felt it was time for a properly summery ice cream. I’ve been making a lot of rich, chocolatey ones recently (of which more soon!) but, much to the despair of my chocoholic friend, I was craving something more refreshing and light. Lemon meringue pie was one of the first desserts I ever made and it seemed like it would make a great ice cream. This one is a little more complicated than previous versions of my no-churn ice cream, but only because it has a few more additions – the base is exactly the same and it still takes less than 10 minutes to make. Particularly if you have a few friends on hand to form an ice cream team like I did! I think this turned out to be my favourite ice cream so far – zesty, light, tangy with lemon curd but sweet with meringues. It was definitely a challenge having this in my freezer and having to resist it, but luckily it was popular with my friends too and it did not last long.

No Churn Lemon Meringue Pie Ice Cream

  • 300ml double cream
  • 1/2 tin of condensed milk
  • zest of 2 lemons, the juice of one
  • 4 shop-bought meringues
  • 100g shortcake biscuits
  • 100g lemon curd

Whisk together the double cream, condensed milk and lemon zest until soft peaks form. Crush the meringues and biscuits together into bitesize small chunks. Stir into the cream along with the lemon juice.

Scoop half the mixture into a Tupperware box and dollop over half the lemon curd. Swirl the lemon curd into the ice cream with the end of a spoon to create long ripples. Top with the remaining mixture and lemon curd and repeat the ripple process. Freeze for 6 hours or overnight.

Guacamole

I finally feel like summer is actually here. Living in college is sometimes like living on a National Trust property and I have seen the beautiful gardens transform with each season to finally reach their peak now. The ‘sunken rose garden’ is finally living up to its name, purple wisteria covers the sides of buildings, the flowerbeds are bursting with colour – I feel very lucky to live here for 3 years!

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Now that we are experiencing (occasionally!) warmer weather, I am enjoying cooking and eating slightly lighter meals. Guacamole works equally well as a light lunch or an afternoon snack to get through essay writing, as well as being a great recipe to have up your sleeve to become the most popular person at the start of a party. There are endless recipes for guac and you can jazz it up with chillies, spring onions or even diced tomatoes but in my opinion when the fridge is scarce avocados, lime and coriander are all you need for a truly addictive summer dip.

Guacamole

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • zest and juice of one lime
  • half a bunch of coriander
  • salt and pepper

Peel two avocados and remove the stone. Mash with a fork into a paste, either smooth or chunky depending on your taste. Add the lime zest and half the lime juice, then tear up the coriander roughly and fold it all through. Add the remaining lime juice to taste along with plenty of salt and pepper. Enjoy!

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Lamb and feta meatballs

I’m just no good at health kicks. At the end of this term here in Cambridge, we have May Week – a week in June (confusingly) of grand balls that go on all night – involving food stalls, live music and fairground rides it is like a week of mini festivals, providing the motivation to get through the exams that precede them. They are the fanciest events I’ll have ever been to – requiring long dresses and an entire afternoon to get ready. As a result, I am currently surrounded by a lot of people on health kicks. Eating salads, cutting out carbs, going high protein: the methods vary but the aim is the same. Whilst I completely admire and understand this, it leaves me and my supplies of rocky road for the gang a bit lost. I’ve never been good at a health kick: I can last two days of Greek salad before getting bored. And the way I make a Greek salad, with generous amounts of feta and good olive oil, probably aren’t that great for you. Nevertheless, I kept finding myself with a half-packet of feta languishing lonely at the back of my fridge. This was the recipe to solve that problem!

Lamb feta meatballs

I understand that most people out there, even students, don’t have a hob like me that turns off every seven minutes and so this recipe is for you! For me, this recipe means half an hour of standing in my tiny kitchen setting an alarm to remind myself to turn the hob back on the five times that it shut off whilst my meatballs cooked. For everyone else, this recipe can bubble away for half an hour on the cooker whilst you leave it to do some work (or watch an episode and a half of New Girl, whichever is more likely). Hob faff aside, the results are definitely worth it! I’ve had the basic premise of this recipe saved from the Smitten Kitchen blog for over a year now and I’m so pleased I finally got round to it. I simplified it a fair bit for my student budget, storage capabilities and timescale but I’m sure the extra herbs and red pepper involved in the original recipe would be equally delicious.

Lamb and feta meatballs in tomato sauce

For the meatballs:

  • 500g lamb mince
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 55g feta, crumbled
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsps dried oregano
  • 2tbsps olive oil

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1tsp dried oregano

Mix together all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl with plenty of salt and pepper. Shape into balls slightly smaller than a ping pong ball – I got about 16. Heat a large, deep frying pan over a medium heat, add a tbsp of oil and evenly space the meatballs in the pan: I tend to arrange them like a clock face so you know which ones to turn first. I did mine in 2 batches. Brown the meatballs all over, then remove to a bowl while you make the tomato sauce.

Wipe out all but a 1tbsp of oil from the frying pan and add the onion. Fry on a medium-low heat until softened, about 5-10 minutes. Add the crushed garlic and let cook out for 30 seconds before adding the tin of tomatoes, salt and pepper. Return the meatballs to the sauce and simmer gently for 10-15minutes until the meatballs are completely cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Serve with rice and some extra crumbled feta. Serves 2 generously, or one plus lots of leftovers!

My Ultimate Rocky Road

Rocky road

There are three desserts that I can never resist. Pavlova, Scottish tablet, and rocky road. No matter how full I am or what else there is to eat, I cannot ignore these if they’re on offer. And the most dangerous thing about them is that they are all things that you can just walk by, cutting another sliver and another sliver until suddenly you realise you have eaten way too much and you’re really rather full. So then you cut one ‘last’ sliver.

Rocky road

To save my waistline, I have been slicing this up as soon as I’ve made it, filling up my jar with generous wedges and then promptly inviting my friends in college to come round ASAP and take it off my hands. I live on the far side of college so it can be tricky to persuade people to make the journey (although this the Cambridge bubble we are talking about, so the ‘journey’ is well under five minutes) but I find the offer of chocolate on arrival definitely helps!

Rocky road is one of those endlessly adaptable puds: you can change the type of biscuit, add nuts, use a mixture of chocolates. Even the name varies for different people: rocky road, refrigerator cake, no-bake cake. In my family, it was simply chocolate biscuit cake, using digestive biscuits and dried fruit with plenty of glace cherries. Now when I make it, I jazz it up with marshmallows and a white chocolate drizzle. You can go classy with chopped pistachios and dried apricots, or all out sugar high with crushed maltesers and honeycomb. Really, with the two main ingredients being chocolate and biscuit, how can this ever go wrong? This also makes a super easy birthday cake when you don’t have an oven – piled high and studded with candles.

My ultimate rocky road

  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 4tbsps golden syrup
  • 100g butter
  • 300g digestive biscuits
  • handful of marshmallows
  • 100g of dried fruit
  • 100g glace cherries
  • 80g white chocolate

Melt together the dark chocolate, golden syrup and butter in a microwave – stirring at 30 second intervals so it doesn’t overheat.

Bash the digestive biscuits with the end of a rolling pin (or wine bottle) in a sandwich bag into a mixture of crumbs and larger pieces. Tip into a large bowl with the marshmallows, fruit and cherries. Pour the chocolate mixture over and stir everything together. Spoon into a clingfilm lined cake tin and level off until smooth. Chill in the fridge for an hour.

Melt the white chocolate very gently in a microwave. Drizzle all over the top of the chocolate biscuit cake, then chill again for another half an hour. Cut into generous wedges, and let the challenge of resisting eating it all at once begin…

Gnocchi with peas, pesto and bacon

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When I start a new food habit, I tend to get quite addicted. Case in point last term when I ate a toasted bagel with cream cheese and ham for lunch every day for the entire term. That’s over 50 bagels…and why I don’t think I’ll be having another one for a long time now. To replace that habit, my latest food addiction is gnocchi…how very Cambridge of me!

DSC_0134I’ve made gnocchi from scratch twice before: once at home where it went strangely grey and stretchy, and once during cookery school where I learnt to make it properly and it was delicious. With my extremely limited kitchen here at uni, I don’t think I’ll be having a go at scratch again anytime soon but shop bought it makes the perfect speedy meal. It takes just two minutes to cook like ravioli or tortellini, but you have so many more options of making it your own (and feeling like I’m actually doing some cooking).

My current favourite is this dish, with peas, bacon and plenty of pesto. Frozen peas are my failsafe way to make sure I get vegetables – I’m like a parent tricking a toddler into getting their five a day. The combination altogether is so good – sweet peas, salty crispy bacon, herby pesto and the soft gnocchi carbs just soaking up all those flavours. I have had this for lunch or dinner more times than I care to admit over the last few weeks…enjoy!

Gnocchi with peas, pesto and bacon

These quantities serve one (student living!) but are obviously super easy to double up as needed.

  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 250g of gnocchi (normally 1/2 a bag)
  • 80g of frozen peas (that’s how many you need to count as one of your five a day!)
  • 3tbsps pesto

Fry the bacon until crispy then cut into small strips. Meanwhile, microwave or boil the frozen peas for 3 minutes until cooked. Boil the gnocchi for 2-3 minutes until it floats to the top of the pan. Drain, then return to the pan with the other ingredients. Stir together briefly over the heat to warm the pesto through, then serve and enjoy!

Welcome to Cook by Degrees!

Hi, I’m Lucy! I am a 19-year old Londoner and currently a History student at Cambridge University. After blogging for six years over at Teen Baker, and graduating from a year at Leiths School of Food and Wine with a Professional Diploma, I have upped and moved to Cambridge to start my degree.
Student life means a uni kitchen. Which means I don’t have an oven, the hob has a health and safety function that makes it automatically shut off every seven minutes, the door automatically locks behind me and the high out of reach window overlooks the car park. There is just about room for two people inside, but it helps if you know each other pretty well. Nevertheless, I am determined to keep cooking! Being without an oven is a struggle for my baking obsessed, unrivalled sweet tooth self, but it is just going to push me to stretch outside my comfort zone. Plus, the lack of an oven means that student staples of pizza and garlic bread are not an option (although pasta is here to stay) so I have no choice but to use my cooking experience to try out new, oven-free recipes. Quite the challenge when my baking mind automatically scans to any recipe that starts ‘Preheat the oven to 180’C’ and those are now out of my repertoire.
Also, whilst I get over excited planning my meals and can read Nigella endlessly,  I get that not all students feel this way. Having recently taught my best friend here how to make cornflake cakes, I know that we need simple, easy but still delicious food. So I am hoping that Cook by Degrees can inspire other kitchen-strapped students to get cooking!

I hope you enjoy reading and find something that makes you hungry!