See Ya London, Hola Espana


Richmond Shoot 2, originally uploaded by jaxies.

Mini-post today, sad to say no recipes but that’s because… I’m off to Spain for a week! So here’s a photo of me instead, taken last summer by the boyfriend. See his work here or his Flickr photostream here.

I wasn’t planning on bringing my camera to Espana, but after a quick Skype sesh with the boyfriend I’ve decided that it will go in my luggage, mostly because we plan on going on a few adventures around the south and it’d be foolish not to bring the camera to play with and go on photo excursions. Yes, we are that couple.

Sorry, little distracted, someone outside my window is gunning their car like crazy at nearly 1am. Anyway.

The appearance of said camera hopefully means that I’ll be able to take a couple of food-related photos and then post about it when I get back, but don’t get your hopes up – I’m notoriously bad at taking photos in actual restaurants/eateries because I’m a wuss. People stare at you when you’ve got an SLR pointed at your food and you’re leaning backwards trying to get the best shot possible. In fact, when I first got my Nikon D60, I was in Wagamama’s with my best friend and because my go-to lens (of two) is my 50mm I was leaning right back off the bench to snap my ramen. I was leaning so far back the waiter walked into my head. Luckily he was pretty cool about it, and even asked me as I was leaving if I’d managed to get some good shots of my food. As a matter of fact, I did. This was our edamame with chilli and garlic:


Summer, She Is Here


This week I officially finished all of my work at University (finally) and have spent the past couple of days drinking, drinking, and, er, drinking. I did make a lovely roast pork with beautiful potatoes dauphinoise last night, but um, I was drunk. So I didn’t take photos. Sorry.

HOWEVER. I do have something beautiful for you! The past few days have been super hot. I’m talking 30 degrees celsius hot. It’s been lovely. And today is my last day in the house I’ve lived in all year with my lovely housemates Jess and Nat, so I thought we should have a cream tea party to celebrate.

Cream teas are quintessentially British. Along with strawberries. And usually you have them when you’re sitting outside in a sunny spot which will quickly turn into a thunderstorm as soon as you take your first bite of the glorious scone, clotted cream and jam.


Spinach & Ricotta, A Heavenly Combination


So last night’s dinner party was a real hit. The chicken was delicious and crispy, the roast potatoes weren’t as crispy as usual, but the inclusion of sweet potato was definitely a good idea, and the roasted carrots and zucchini were delicious. Dessert were the aforementioned brownies, a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and a handful of raspberries. In fact, it was all so good that I didn’t manage to take any photos before it all got vacuumed up. So next time. Until then you’ll just have to take my word for it: it was good.

So tonight’s dinner was created out of a handful of things that were leftover in my fridge and store cupboard. I’m that girl that can make a meal out of anything. I had butter, flour, milk, spinach, ricotta, some leftover salad from last night which I dubbed the Mediterranean Salad, some Serrano ham and some lasagne sheets. Hello Spinach & Ricotta Lasagne.


Everybody Needs More Polenta In Their Lives


I am possibly the world’s biggest advocate for polenta. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I can’t emphasise enough how great polenta is. Seriously. It’s definitely up there in my top ten foods. Now I’m not talking about the ready-made blocks of polenta you buy from the supermarket, fry up or grill and then are disgusted over how tasteless and bland it is, no. I’m talking fresh-from-the-pot-my-mama-shoulda-been-Italian-I-love-it-so-much polenta.

I like to buy my polenta from Carluccio’s because I can get a huge bag and it lasts me a long while. It is quick-cook polenta so technically not “authentic” but it’s still darn good, and it makes your life a little easier. For really authentic stuff I’d probably need to move to Italy, somehow get myself adopted into an Italian family and then learn their family polenta secrets, but in the meantime this’ll do me just fine.

The great thing about polenta is just how versatile it is. When wet it works amazingly to sop up all the delicious juices from other food, and when you’ve let it cool it hardens and then you can fry or grill it to perfection (or, if you’re feeling peckish and can’t be bothered to heat it up, just eat it as is).

Normally, the way I make it, I use a base of chicken or vegetable stock mixed with a bit of milk, then at the end add a knob of butter and a very large handful of grated parmesan cheese (Parmigianno Reggiano, not the pre-grated kind, I always use real ingredients in my cooking, not fake ones!). I then eat it with some homemade bolognese sauce (I usually make a vat of this and keep it in the freezer for quick meals, I’ll post the recipe next time I have to make one, at the moment I’ve still got a large box in the freezer!), a little more parmesan on top and some freshly torn basil leaves. Perfection. If I have any leftover (which is rare because I’m a glutton) I pour it onto a baking tray, let it cool, cut it into triangles and store it in an airtight box. Try frying it with a little olive oil in a pan until crispy (be careful, it spits quite a bit because of the nature of polenta) – it goes a real treat with a glass of white wine!


Gooey, Ooey, Delicious Brownies


Sorry for the lack of posts recently – I’ve been snowed under with Finals. Have a mini-break now before the last exam and last paper at the end of this next week, so catching up a little! Also, in case you didn’t know from me practically shouting about it to the heavens, my post David’s Pappardelle was recently selected to be one of Foodbuzz‘s Top 9! So thank you!

I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth. In fact, of all the candy in the world, chocolate is probably my least favourite. When I was at school and we had a tuck shop (I think this is a very British concept – it’s a school-run snack store that’s open during break (recess), lunch and after-school) all of my friends used to buy chocolate bars, and I would maybe buy a packet of crisps or a soda. I just didn’t get the appeal of chocolate – I don’t like the flavour that’s left in your mouth afterwards, or the sticky gungy feeling at the back of your throat. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the brownie. My experience of brownies were dry, big fat chunks of tasteless cake, a bitter cocoa flavour and distinct feeling of dissatisfaction afterwards.

That is, until very recently, when I discovered this brownie recipe which apparently was Katherine Hepburn’s family’s. I originally found it on Epicurious.com but have since adapted it slightly to make it mine. I would say that this recipe is fool-proof – both times that I’ve made it they’ve turned out perfectly – but when I gave it to my best friend to tackle whilst I baked some bread, she somehow managed to turn the whole thing into a giant, greasy slab of weirdness. So this might not be all that fool-proof, but it’s still easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.


She Ain’t Pretty, She’s My Omelette


Today I was going to blog about the pasta I made last night, and it was going to be simple and tasty, but after I made this omelette I decided that this was by far a better recipe, and a lesson.

I can’t flip omelettes to save my life. I am what you’d call an ‘Omelette Retard’. Instead of turning over and becoming amazing-looking beautiful little omelettes, I have a monstrosity that is overstuffed, tearing, and, well, ugly. It’s also brown from sitting in the pan too long, probably too oily and calories? Don’t even talk to me about calories. However, despite the fact that my heart sank when I realised I wouldn’t be able to make a beautiful omelette that would be worthy of photographing (and my sweet potatoes were ‘caramelising’ (aka. burning) in the other pan, proving once again that multi-tasking in cooking does not work that well for me), I took one bite of this and I nearly cried tears of joy. TEARS. OF. JOY.

It tasted amazing. There I was fretting over the fact that it wasn’t pretty and I hadn’t styled it nicely, but at the end of the day it tastes phenomenal. So let that be a lesson to me – freaking out over the fact that it’s not the prettiest dish in the world is stupid. If it tasted terrible that’d be a whole different kettle of fish (like last night’s failed deep-fried okra which would’ve been fantastic… if I hadn’t tried to substitute cornmeal with polenta which just tasted too much like fried okra coated in uncooked polenta. Waste of two eggs, a bag of okra and half a packet of polenta! Was so disappointed I threw the whole lot away without even photographing it) but it didn’t, it tasted great.


David’s Pappardelle


A few months ago I came back from my friend’s Hen Party in Berlin and fell really ill for about two weeks. I think it may possibly have been a strain of Swine Flu, or, at the very least, a pretty bad case of the flu. I completely lost my appetite, felt nauseous all the time, was running a high temperature, didn’t eat for a week and lost about a stone. To make things worse, my mom had to go to Hong Kong for a few days, which meant that I was looking after myself at home.

Thankfully, my lovely boyfriend had a few days off from work and came over to help look after me (and, of course, then got ill as well, but for those few days he was awesome!) and force some food down me. This was one of the dishes that he made me towards the end of the week when I could actually eat again (he also made me chicken noodle soup from scratch and the world’s most onion-y omelette: yay antioxidants!) and I’m not sure if it’s because I started getting better so I associate this dish with good memories, or because it was just so darn tasty, but I’ve been a little obsessed with it ever since. However, being me, I have bastardised it a little from David’s version, but I think it’s the kind of recipe where you can make it your own.


Fast But No Food (For Now)


Just a quickie to say that I’m back from Portland but haven’t been doing any cooking worth noting. Have a list of stuff that I’m going to get on with over the next couple of weeks, however, so expect some tasties soon!

Until then – peace and love.
Jax x