Giant veggie samosas

Being a Cambridge student leads to a lot of questions when I get home. ‘Is everyone incredibly posh? Do you know anybody related to a Lord or Earl? Did everyone go to Eton?’ My answer to all these is, perhaps disappointingly, no. I found myself getting slightly swept up in the Cambridge bubble though when I exclaimed in Cambridge, ‘Oh, this Sainsbury’s doesn’t have any filo!’ Happily, my very #firstworldproblem must have been heard by the Sainsbury’s gods as a few weeks later there it was alongside the puff and shortcrust.

Giant veggie samosas

My initial plan had been for a spinach and filo pie, but that had long been made at home and gone by the time this filo was found. Samosas were the main result of a brief ‘filo recipe’ Google, but I was sceptical that with my highly limited store cupboard ingredients they would turn out bland. Luckily, I gave them a go anyway and I was so pleasantly surprised! It turns out a generous hand with the curry powder can bypass the myriad range of spices and herbs that would normally provide some complexity of flavour. These proved highly therapeutic to make due to the repetitive buttering and folding of pastry, and highly addictive to eat!

Giant veggie samosas

Makes 6

  • 1 onion
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced to 1cm chunks
  • 100g butternut squash, peeled and diced to 1cm chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3 large handfuls of spinach
  • 2 handfuls of peas
  • 1 heaped tbsp. of medium curry powder
  • 75g butter
  • 1 packet filo pastry
  • nigella seeds, for sprinkling

Finely dice the onion and sweat in a drizzle of oil until soft. Add the sweet potato and butternut squash and cook until cooked through, adding a splash of water to stop them sticking and stirring regularly, around 10-15min. Add the remaining veg and curry powder and cook until the peas are cooked through and the spinach wilted. Leave to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Melt the butter in a mug in the microwave. Unroll the filo, keeping the pastry you are not working with covered to prevent it drying out. Take one sheet of filo, lay it flat and brush with melted butter. Fold in one third of the pastry lengthways towards the middle. Brush again with the butter and fold in the other side to make a long triple-layered strip.

Place one tablespoon of the filling mixture at one end of the strip, leaving a 2cm/1in border. Take the right corner and fold diagonally to the left, enclosing the filling and forming a triangle. Next, fold again along the upper crease of the triangle. Keep folding in this way until you reach the end of the strip. Finally, brush the samosa with more butter, sprinkle with nigella seeds and place onto a baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the pastry and filling. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the samosas are golden and crisp,

Pea, crème fraiche and mint gnocchi bake  

We’re entering that complicated period of early spring where I spend the majority of my time dressed for the wrong weather. It will be sunny, you’ll think March is a warm month, you’ll go out in a jacket instead of a coat for the first time and discover those spring skies are deceptive and it is still only 7’C. The following day you’ll have learnt from your mistakes. You wrap in cashmere and a puffa coat… and slowly roast as the weather reaches unprecedented highs. Streets in March and April become a cheery mixture of people dressed for strongest summer or darkest winter – like the Mediterranean in December, when British tourists head south for festive sun and locals baulk at the idea of temperatures below 20’C. But enough weather chat – this is the dish to get you through this tricky time.

Pea, creme fraiche and mint gnocchi bake

The flavours are fresh and light – ready for spring – but baking it briefly provides that cosy warmth should it still be needed. Gnocchi is one of my favourite dishes due to being so speedy to prepare and I could cook it endlessly. Normally I drench it in pesto and bacon (which is entirely delicious) but this fresh way incorporates some extra vegetables into my diet and is just as tasty. Enjoy!

Pea, crème fraiche and mint gnocchi bake
Serves 2

  • 1 packet of gnocchi
  • 100g peas
  • 3 tbsps crème fraiche
  • handful of mint
  • cheddar, to grate

Preheat the grill to 200’C.

Boil the gnocchi and peas together for 3-4 minutes, until the gnocchi floats to the top. Drain and return to the saucepan. Add the crème fraiche, mint and generous grating of cheddar. Stir together and tip into a small baking dish.

Top with more grated cheddar and grill for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbling. Enjoy!

Sausage, kale and tomato casserole

Before university, I used to cook or bake at home on average once a week. This gave me plenty of time all week to decide what I was going to cook and wait for inspiration to strike. It might be a recipe I read, an advert that made me crave something, watching an episode of Everyday Mary Berry. Now that I cook for myself every day, its pretty easy to run out of inspiration. My ideas tend to come from trawling through BBC Good Food or Delicious magazine until I spot something to work from. Or, in the case of this casserole, my friend kept mentioning she was having sausages for her tea. This made me crave sausages, which made me look in my fridge and see what needed using up that I could cook with them. And so a sausage, kale and tomato casserole (with a few peas thrown in for good measure) was born.

Sausage and tomato casserole

Sausage, kale and tomato casserole

Serves 3

I prefer to roast my sausages and add them to the casserole at the end, rather than fry them in the casserole dish at the beginning. Frying them probably adds extra depth of flavour, but I can’t be faffed with turning a spitting sausage for 15 minutes and hoping it cooks all the way through and doesn’t just char on the outside. If you are a more patient soul than me, try frying them first, removing whilst you cook the onion and then returning to the pan before the tomatoes and chicken stock.

  • 6 sausages
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 100g peas
  • 200g baby kale
  • sprinkling of thyme

Preheat the oven to 220’C. Line a baking tray with foil, add the sausages and roast for 20-25minutes until cooked through.

Meanwhile, finely dice the onion. Cook in a large saucepan in a glug of oil over a gentle heat until soft and beginning to caramelise. Crush the garlic clove, add to the pan and cook out for 1-2 minutes.

Add the tinned tomatoes, chicken stock, thyme and plenty of seasoning. Simmer for 10-15minutes until thickened and reduced slightly.

Add the peas, baby kale and cooked sausages. Stir to heat everything through. Serve and enjoy!

Chicken, ham and sweetcorn chowder

This chowder could just as easily be called ‘A vehicle for all the vegetables you optimistically bought at the start of the week and now need to use up asap because they’re clogging up your fridge’. Not quite as straightforward as chowder but equally accurate. I smuggled a leek, half an onion, peas, a potato, sweetcorn and asparagus into this, and I’m sure if I’d had some carrots or broccoli knocking about they would have gone in as well.

Chicken, ham and sweetcorn chowder

This recipe is a very similar premise to chicken fricassee which I make a lot, but bulking it out with a potato makes it a one pot meal that’s even easier. It’s the perfect hearty and filling dinner for this time of year, and although it requires a little bit more chopping and stirring than a lot of my meals, it also makes enough to last you several nights. I like to make this on a Friday to last me over the weekend, so that at the weekend I can focus guilt free on baking instead!

Chicken, pea and sweetcorn chowder

Serves 4

  • butter, for frying
  • 1 leek, halved and sliced
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
  • 1tbsp plain flour
  • 350ml milk
  • 2 slices of ham
  • 175g tin sweetcorn
  • 100g peas
  • 25g chives, finely chopped

Fry the leek in the butter in a medium saucepan or Le Creuset dish until beginning to soften. Add the chicken and continue to cook for 5mins.

Add the potato and plain flour, and stir everything together to coat the mixture in the flour. Pour in the milk and season generously with salt and plenty of pepper. Cook for 10mins, stirring occasionally, until the potato is nearly cooked.

Add the ham, sweet corn, peas and any other rogue veg you need to use up! Cook for a final 5 minutes to heat the veg. Remove from the heat once the potato is cooked through. Stir through the chives and ladle into bowls to serve.

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

Gnocchi with peas, pesto and bacon

DSC_0132

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!