Ham and cheese puff pie

What is it about melted cheese that just makes any food ten times better? Baked beans. Steaming hot jacket potatoes. Mammoth bowls of pasta. Oozing toasted sandwiches. Cheese + carbs = heaven. Today, I’m doing cheese + pastry. And surprise surprise, it’s a winner.

A ham and cheese bagel is my lunch pretty much every single day during term time. It’s super quick, requires no thought and minimal shopping so I can save my efforts for interesting dinners at the end of the day when my dissertation concentration has faded. This pie simply takes those qualities and wraps them up in flaky, buttery pastry to make the ultimate comfort food for cold and dark January days.

Ham and cheese puff pastry pie

Mini versions of this would be adorable and perfect for lunch time portioning, but I quite liked the generous indulgence of just making one big one. My recipe is adapted from here and I’ve adapted it a little bit to suit my shopping and make it even simpler by making this a three ingredient recipe. My top tip? Be over generous with the cheese, a little extra never hurts!

Ham and cheese puff pastry pie

Serves 4

  • 1 package of ready rolled puff pastry (375g)
  • 4 slices of ham
  • 150g cheddar
  • milk, to glaze

Preheat the oven to 200’C. Lay out the puff pastry square and cut it in half down the short length, to give you two rectangles.

Place one rectangle on a lined baking tray. Lay the ham on the pastry, leaving a 1cm border round the edge and overlapping if necessary. Grate the cheese over the ham.

Brush milk round the edge of the pastry, and lay the second half on top. Seal the edges with a fork, and score the top of the pie any way you like with the tip of a knife to decorate. Brush with milk. Bake for 15-20 minutes until puffed, golden and crisp.

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Giant couscous, roasted tomato and goats cheese salad

I am not the biggest salad eater. During term time, nearly anything else will appeal more than a bowl of leaves after a long day of revision. Simple, quick and cheap though salads may be, several hours of reading about 18th century Renaissance cabinets leaves me craving comfort food and a treat instead. Nevertheless, this year the healthy eating kick that sweeps the country every January seems to have finally affected me and I began to think about what simple, healthy but still really delicious meals I could incorporate into my meal rotation.

Giant couscous, roasted tomato and goats cheese salad

My other concern with salads is making sure that they are filling enough that I don’t defeat the whole point by following it up with far too many Hobnobs afterwards. This recipe, bulked out with couscous and a sensible amount of cheese, means that this is not a problem. I adapted this recipe from a Waitrose version that used farro and roasted kale instead – my baby steps with healthy eating means I’m not in love with kale just yet. Nowhere in Cambridge seems to sell farro, hence the giant couscous which provides a similar texture and bite. Finally, my initial plan was to roast the onion and tomato for 10-15 minutes – until I walked into my kitchen and discovered the ‘Out of Order’ sign on my oven door. I still think roasting them would be delicious but this method actually makes it even quicker and simpler – my ideal lunch.

Giant couscous, roasted tomato and goats cheese salad

Serves 2

  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, quartered – or a handful of halved cherry tomatoes
  • dried oregano
  • 125g giant couscous
  • 100g rocket
  • 100g goats cheese, crumbled

Heat a generous drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until beginning to soften and caramelise, stirring regularly to prevent it catching. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking for a further 5-8 minutes until the tomatoes are also caramelising and releasing their juices.

Meanwhile, cook the couscous in boiling salted water for 6-8minutes until al dente.

Drain the couscous and tip into the frying pan. Stir all together so that the couscous gets coated with the tomato juices and olive oil. Stir through the rocket. Pile into bowls and top with crumbled goats cheese and a final drizzle of olive oil.

Tomato Meatball Soup

Just before I moved to Cambridge, two and a half long years ago now, multiple people warned me about ‘those east winds’. Relatives advised that I’d got used to raised London temperatures I was repeatedly asked if I owned a hat and enough warm jumpers.. You’d be forgiven for thinking I was heading to university in the Outer Hebrides as opposed to a mere two hour drive from South London.

tomato meatball soup

However, this is this the first term that has perhaps deserved those warnings. In case you hadn’t noticed, its January and its freezing. While Cambridge may still be lacking in snow, its doing its best with a steady stream of days where the temperature never breaks 3’C. And with weather like that, you need food like this.

tomato meatball soup

This soup has become one of my staple term time dishes. It is exactly what this weather calls for – it is hearty and comforting, yet doesn’t require any of the long slow cooking which is the hallmark of so many delicious winter stews but completely impractical when cooking on a college hob that turns off every 7 minutes for health and safety. It’s also handily versatile to suit however much time you have and whatever ingredients you need to use up – it can be made thicker and used as a pasta sauce, you can hide vegetables in it to fool yourself into getting your 5 a day, you can add chorizo for extra flavour or leave out the cream to make it lighter. Only one rule stays: eat this curled up in your cosiest cardigan, Netflix on, windows tightly closed and heating turned up.

Tomato Meatball Soup

Serves 2 generously

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 4 sausages
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • dried oregano
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 80ml double cream
  • handful of rocket

Heat a generous splash of oil in a medium saucepan. Add the finely chopped onion, and sweat for 5-10minutes on a medium heat until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more.

Use a sharp knife to remove each sausage from its skin, and divide each one into 4-5 meatballs. Add to the onions and turn up to a medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes until beginning to colour, stirring occasionally.

Add the chopped tomatoes. Put your stock cube in the empty tin and fill with boiling water, then tip into the saucepan. Add a generous shake of dried oregfano. Simmer for around 10minutes, until reduced and thickened slightly.

Stir in the cream and heat to warm through. Ladle into bowls and top with a handful of rocket. Curl up and enjoy!

 

 

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

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!

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!