Creamy lemon and courgette risotto

Last night I was woken up three times by crazy thunderstorms. Huge flashes of lightning, followed by counting the seconds until the seemingly endless rumble of thunder breaks, the rain persistently pounding the roof. Not exactly ideal July weather. Good for the garden, maybe, but not for maintaining a holiday tan. It also causes a dilemma for summer cooking – despite it being late July, torrential rain does not call for summer salads.

This summer risotto is the answer. It’s hearty enough to suit the weather, but with fresh flavours and a way to use up some of the courgette glut that regularly occurs at this time of year. The swirl of crème fraiche at the end is entirely optional but I love it for making this extra creamy and luxurious, balanced perfectly by the crunchy pine nut sprinkling. Time to curl up with a big bowl, listen to the rain and cross your fingers for sunshine soon.

Creamy lemon and courgette risotto

  • 1 onion
  • 3 courgettes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 200g risotto rice
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 litres warm chicken stock
  • 3tbsps pine nuts
  • knob of butter
  • 2tbsp crème fraiche
  • parmesan, for sprinkling

Finely dice the onion and sweat in a medium saucepan in a generous drizzle of oil until softened. Coarsely grate 2 of the courgettes and add to the onion, cooking for 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the garlic and cook out.

Add the risotto rice and stir to coat in the onion and courgettes. Add the lemon zest and juice. Once the rice has absorbed the lemon juice, begin adding the chicken stock, one ladle at a time. Stir the risotto regularly and once it has absorbed each ladle of liquid, add the next one.

Meanwhile, finely dice the remaining courgette. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the courgettes and fry over a high heat until the courgettes are beginning to go brown and crispy. Add the pine nuts and fry for a further 2-3 minutes until golden.

Once all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice and it is al dente (about 20-25 minutes), stir through the crème fraiche into the risotto. Ladle into bowls and serve topped with the crispy courgette and pine nuts, and a sprinkling of parmesan.

Lemon and raspberry drizzle cake

It is always my pleasure to bake for friends. Let’s be honest, as much as I might want to, even I can’t eat the results of baking twice a week all by myself. I’m quite the feeder and offering up blondies, cookies and cake is as much to minimise damage to my own waistline as it is a sign of generosity.

Nevertheless, after a while one of my friends wanted to contribute to the baking so we came to a deal where she helps me out with an ingredient in return for baked goods. I made the rhubarb tart, she brought the custard. Today, she bought the raspberries, I baked the cake. Together we sat on my bed, eating warm freshly baked cake, gossiping and discussing Broadchurch theories. An ideal Saturday. The raspberries really made all the difference in this super simple cake – going super jammy and adding little pockets of colour and flavour throughout. It was light, sweet but sharp and dangerously moreish – enjoy!

Lemon and raspberry drizzle cake

  • 125g caster sugar
  • 115g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2tbsp milk
  • 125g plain flour
  • 5tsp baking powder
  • zest 2 lemons
  • punnet of raspberries
  • 100g icing sugar
  • juice of ½ lemon

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Line the base of a 20cm round tin.

Cream the butter and sugar together until soft and creamy. Add the eggs, one by one, beating well between each addition. Add the milk and stir through. Add the lemon zest, plain flour and baking powder and stir until just combined.

Scrape the mixture into the lined cake tin. Dot the cake with raspberries. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

In a small bowl, sift the icing sugar. Make a well in the middle and add the lemon juice and stir to a drizzle-able consistency! When the cake is cooled, drizzle the icing over the cake.

Roast cod, potato and tomato traybake

I’m bad at getting fish into my diet. A grilled fillet of salmon here and there or a few M&S melting middle fishcakes during exam term are about as much as I tend to get through. Even the cod I bought for this dish had to wait frozen for a few days before I was inspired enough to use it. Now I’ve made this though, I’m hoping cod might be a more regular feature of my shopping basket.

I think one of my fears of cooking fish at university comes out of sharing a kitchen with 10 other girls – I don’t want to be the college equivalent of the colleague who smokes out the office with a reheated fish lunch. However, the upside of this danger for me is the pure ease and speed of cooking fish – quicker than my meat staples of chicken and sausages. Plus, when you pair it with plenty of garlic and fresh lemon, any potential fish aromas are easily disguised. This one tray, two stage dish takes a while in the oven to ensure gorgeously caramelised roast potatoes, but requires very little actual prep for you. I love a whole meal coming together as one, saving me having to think about getting different elements ready. Whip this tray out the oven and voila – dinner is served.

Roast cod, potato and tomato traybake

Serves 2 – adapted from here

  • 1 large potato
  • 1 onion
  • olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 2 fillets of cod
  • sprinkling of dried oregano

Preheat the oven to 180’C.

Peel the potato and slice into wedges – halving any super thick ones to ensure they will all cook through. Peel the onion and chop into quarters. Tip the potato and onion into a large lipped baking tray. Drizzle generously with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss everything together. Smash the garlic cloves and add to the tray. Roast for 25 minutes.

Quarter the tomatoes and the lemon. After 25 minutes, add these to the tray with the potatoes. Lay the cod fillets on top of the potatoes and sprinkle with the dried oregano and more seasoning. Roast for a further 10-12 minutes until the fish is cooked through. Serve and enjoy – squeezing the roasted lemon over the fish.

Lemon Meltaway Cookies

When my sister and I started baking, everything we made was lemon flavoured. One of my earliest independent baking memories is of us making Lemon Meringue Pie to take to our Nana down in Eastbourne. There was one particularly memorable time we made it where I managed to get my hair caught in our electric whisk. Aside from attempting to sneak lemon into every bake, my other baking trait was that I primarily turned out biscuits. Of every shape, style, flavour and size – they were all I wanted to make. Now I’m at university, the most popular bakes with my friends are always chocolate based, but this weekend I wanted to recreate those early baking traits.

I always refuse to do any work on a Saturday – taking it as my one day each week to completely relax and temporarily forget about whatever Renaissance issue I’ve been tackling that week. Baking replaces reading as my top priority and the thought of whichever cookie, cake or pie I’ve chosen for the weekend ahead gets me through many a long library session midweek. This week, I fancied a break from chocolate and as I was considering a return to my lemon-obsessed ways, I thought may as well equally return to being a cookie fanatic. When I started baking I churned out many a tray of cookies, working my way through most of Rachel Allen’s back catalogue. Today’s inspiration came from Smitten Kitchen, who initially made a key lime version that I’ve had bookmarked for years. They were every bit as buttery, crumbly and moreish as I had anticipated – with the bonus of being a total cinch to make. The heavy icing sugar coating means they are not the best surreptitious library snack – but that just gives you an excuse to take a break.

Lemon Meltaway Cookies

Makes 18-20

  • 175g soft butter
  • 40g icing sugar, plus around 150g more to coat
  • 1 lemon, zested and ½ juiced
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 240g plain flour

Mix the butter and 40g icing sugar together until well combined. Add the vanilla, lemon zest and juice and stir to incorporate. Add the flour gradually, stirring well until it is all incorporated and smooth.

Tip the dough onto a sheet of baking paper and shape into a 30cm log. Roll up in the paper, twisting each end like a cracker. Place in the fridge for an hour until firm.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Remove the dough log from the fridge and unwrap. Slice into 1cm rounds and place on two lined baking trays. Bake fro 15minutes until beginning to go golden round the edge.

Tip plenty of icing sugar into a small bowl. Toss the cookies gently, a few at a time, in the icing sugar to fully coat and place on a wire rack to cool.

Harissa salmon with lemon cucumber couscous

My food preferences rarely follow logic. When I was little, I loved jam in doughnuts, but hated it on toast (probably my sweet tooth talking). Now, I like pasta, tomato sauce and mince separately but hate lasagne. I love guacamole but would never eat a plain avocado. And finally, I hate smoked salmon but love salmon in all other forms, including my new favourite as of today – topped with harissa and served with couscous.

Salmon was a supermarket staple for me when I first started university because I knew I needed to eat healthily (try as I might, even I admit a gal cannot survive on chicken goujons alone) and still wanted to have something that fills me up more than plain salads. But then I got lazy and stopped doing anything interesting when it came to cooking with it, meaning I never wanted to turn to a plate of plain microwaved salmon at the end of the day and it would hide in the back of my fridge instead. Now, I’m fully back on the salmon game and loading it up with flavour to make my ideal meal. This works equally well hot or cold, fresh or as leftovers, for lunch or for dinner – enjoy!

Harissa salmon with lemon cucumber couscous

Serves 2

  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 2tsp harissa paste
  • 120g couscous
  • ½ red onion
  • ½ cucumber
  • 1 lemon, zested and ½ juiced
  • small handful of mint
  • small handful of chives
  • olive oil

Place the salmon fillets skin side down on a lined baking tray. Spread the harissa evenly over the top of each fillet. Grill for 10-12 minutes until cooked through but still flaky.

Meanwhile, prepare the couscous. Place the couscous in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Pour over boiling water until just covering the couscous, cover with a lid or cling film and leave for 5minutes until all the water has been absorbed.

Dice the cucumber. Finely chop the red onion and herbs. When the couscous is ready, fluff the grains with a fork. Add a generous glug of olive oil, the lemon zest and juice. Stir, and add the cucumber, red onion and herbs. Taste for seasoning. Divide the couscous between two plates and top each with a salmon fillet.

Roasted cauliflower, sweet potato and pomegranate salad

I struggle with salad inspiration. I could give you cookie recipe ideas for days, but after a few salads I’ll start to struggle. After all, there are only so many things you can do with couscous. That’s why despite admittedly an element of scepticism, I was intrigued when I began seeing cauliflower becoming trendy again and popping up in salads everywhere.

I associate cauliflower with roast dinners at my Granny’s house, where it was certainly not grated and mixed with pomegranate. I never even knew you could eat cauliflower raw until recently and I was intrigued. As was perhaps to be expected it is fairly neutral in flavour, but that is what makes it a great base for this salad, acting in place of where you’d normally use quinoa or couscous. Combined with the caramelised roasted cauliflower and sweet potato, it made an enjoyably different and happily substantial lunch time salad. I’m still not totally on board with cauliflower pizza bases – if you want a pizza, just have a pizza babe – but I am all for embracing it for it’s intended vegetable goodness. At first, I found this salad tasted a bit worthy, if you know what I mean – but it totally grew on me and I missed it once it was all gone. The trick is in adding plenty of lemon juice and herbs to make it really fresh and balance the earthiness of the cauliflower.

Roasted cauliflower, sweet potato and pomegranate salad

  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 cauliflower
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • handful of pine nuts
  • seeds of ½ pomegranate
  • small bunch of mint, finely chopped
  • small handful of chives, finely chopped
  • juice of ½ lemon

Preheat the oven to 180’C.

Peel and slice the sweet potato into fries around 1cm thick. Chop half of the cauliflower into medium florets. Tip the potato and cauliflower into a bowl and toss with plenty of salt and pepper and a generous glug of olive oil – this is the best way to get them evenly coated. Tip onto a baking tray, spread evenly and roast for 25 minutes until the potato is soft, stirring once half way through.

Meanwhile, fry the onion over a medium heat until soft and just beginning to caramelise. In the last few minutes, add the pine nuts to the pan and toast until golden. Tip it all into a mixing bowl.

Grate the remaining cauliflower (press the top of the florets into the grater instead of the side of the cauli for the most even grate). Add to the onions along with the pomegranate seeds, mint, chives, lemon juice, pepper and pinch of salt. Stir everything together and taste to check the seasoning.

When the roast veg are cooked, stir them very gently through the salad and serve.

Lemon chicken en papillote

Today my cooking has gone all French. Sadly this doesn’t include a quick trip on the Eurostar or a handsome Parisian, but simply the adoption of a cooking technique from across the channel.

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Cooking en papillote sounds rather fancy but in reality is the simplest cooking method ever and removes all washing up – ideal. At cookery school, the fear of getting salmonella from not properly washing up dishes with raw chicken on was drilled into us on an extremely regular basis, so any recipe that sidesteps that anxiety is always very welcome with me. Another reason I love the simplicity of this recipe – essentially chuck everything in a paper parcel and see it again in 15 mins – is that anything this quick and easy gives me no excuse not to eat healthily, particularly when paired with microwaveable brown rice, my new favourite cheat ingredient. Also, these individual parcels are ideal when you’re cooking for one, saving me from eating a chicken casserole for four days in a row. So there you have it – chicken en papillote. Bringing the atmosphere of a Provençal brasserie to a Cambridge college (ish). Who needs the Parisian?

Lemon chicken and asparagus en papillote

I realise that asparagus is horribly out of season (being healthy is proving an environmental ethical minefield – custard creams never have this issue) but I’m sure this would work equally well with green beans or tenderstem broccoli at other times of year. Equally, you could swap the chicken for salmon if you fancy.

Serves 2

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • olive oil
  • dried thyme
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 pack of asparagus
  • 1 packet of microwaveable brown rice

Preheat the oven to 180’C.  Cut two large (30cmx30cm) squares of parchment. Place a chicken breast and half the asparagus in the middle of on one square. Drizzle with olive oil and season generously with salt, pepper and a sprinkling of dried thyme. Lay three slices of lemon over the chicken breast.

Bring the edges of the paper up and scrunch together to seal the chicken and asparagus parcel – like a Cornish pasty. Repeat with the other chicken breast and remaining asparagus and lemon on the second paper square. Place both parcels on a baking tray and cook for 15minutes.

Two minutes before the chicken will be ready, pop your rice in the microwave. Remove the chicken parcels from the oven, place on plates with the rice and open at the table.

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.