Confit shredded duck, miso plums and yuzu dressing

I remember once at cookery school getting thoroughly upset because I just couldn’t master an espagnole sauce. Every time we had to make it I got all nervous, found the whole thing a huge palaver and it never turned out right. However, after a while I realised that actually, not being able to master an espagnole, a word I’d never even heard of a few months before, was not the biggest flaw in the world. There were several other examples of that throughout my year at cookery school; moments where words you’d only learnt existed the day before suddenly ruled your day. A dish of ‘Bavarois, tamarillos and lebukchen’ was my clearest example – gobbledegook one day, three deal breakers the next.

This dish wasn’t quite up there with that, but it was still an adventure to make. I’d obviously heard of miso and yuzu, but I’d never actually cooked with them myself. Hunting down the red miso in Sainsbury’s, the little bottle of yuzu juice in Waitrose and then racing back to Waitrose at the last minute after realising the recipe called for duck legs that were already confit and not just regular ones all meant that this salad was quite the mission to get together. After all that though, it came together fairly speedily. The temptation to wrap the shredded duck up into pancakes with plum sauce and spring onions instead was tempting I can’t lie, but I’m glad I stuck with giving this a go. Tangy, fruity and peppery – all the flavours balanced into one intriguingly moreish plateful. The full recipe by Rose Prince is on The Telgraph website here – enjoy!

Green chicken noodle salad

Stir-fries are a staple student food that I’ve never quite got on board with. Baked beans – yes, basically every Saturday lunch all my life, keep going with that cheese on top please. Pasta – doesn’t matter if we are talking carbonara, pesto, mac and cheese, two minute tortellini, I’m in. Chicken nuggets on the way home from a night out – best part of the night. But stir fries are not a regular part of my repertoire. I’d never even made one until last summer and whilst it was surprisingly tasty, they’re still not part of my regular cooking patterns. Hence why I was slightly stumped when I got major cravings for noodles last week with no idea what to do with them.

I feel like it would be quite a stretch to call this a stir fry, but it certainly satisfied my noodle cravings. I’ll hold my hands up and say this is extremely simple – acting both to solve my craving and to use up some bits and bobs in my fridge. At first I found it a little bland, but then found myself eating a vast bowl of it and requiring high levels of self-restraint not to tuck into the portion I’d saved for the next day. It’s essentially a dish I would usually make with couscous but the noodles made a welcome change and made it a heartier dish. Maybe now I’ll work my way up to a proper stir fry. Baby steps.

Green chicken noodle salad
Serves 2

  • 400g fresh egg noodles
  • 1 chicken breast, roasted
  • 2 spring onions
  • small bunch of mint
  • 1/3 cucumber
  • 3 tbsps olive oil
  • ½ lime, zest and juice

Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a frying pan. Tip in the noodles and stir until warmed through. Meanwhile, finely slice the spring onions and mint, and dice the cucumber. Mix the olive oil and lime zest and juice.

Add all the ingredients to the warm noodles. Season very generously with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

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.

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.

IMG_1023

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.

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