Monthly Archives: April 2012

Broccoli and feta tart – work lunch

For this weeks’ lunch I’m going to have homemade tart or quiche. I think this becomes a quiche due to the egg content, but either way this should make 4 portions which is ideal as I’ll be out for lunch for one midweek meeting.

Pastry – You could use a shop bought base if you really have no time!
50g softened butter
50g wholemeal flour
50g self raising flour
A few drops of water

8 pieces of tenderstem broccoli
3 eggs
220g crème fraiche
175g feta

Practical things
1 tart dish with a removable base, buttered
Preheated oven set to 180C

First make your pastry adding the butter and flour to the food processor and pulsing until the mixture looks like small crumbs. Then pour in a small amount of water while the processor is still on, until the mixture comes together into a ball. Then place the pastry ball into cling film and sit it in the fridge for about half an hour.

Now crack the eggs into a jug and whisk, then pour in the crème fraiche. Next chop the feta into small chunks and mix this into the egg mix.

Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll out onto a floured surface. Make sure the pastry is large enough to sit into your buttered tart dish. Prick the base with a fork all over, to stop the pastry rising. Now add the tart to the pre heated oven for about 20mins.

As the tart will serve 4 portions I used 8 pieces of tenderstem broccoli. Cook these for a short time making sure that the broccoli still has a crunch and doesn’t go soggy.

When the 20mins are up take your cooked pastry out of the oven and create your tart. Add the broccoli to the base and pour over the egg and feta mix, now put the tart into the oven again for a further 30mins.

Allow to cool and then slice up for your lunches! Alternatively serve this up with salad while it’s hot. If you are dividing this into 4 portions, 1 portion is 435 calories.


Riverford at Oxfork


Last month I wrote about the Oxford Bake Off and how I wanted to challenge myself more in the food world. While there were no bake offs for me this April I set myself up to go to a food event in Oxford at Oxfork. Oxfork had been on my list for a while, so an event evening seemed like a perfect reason!


Riverford supply ‘organic veg and lots more to your door, they began in Devon supplying to 30 friends and now supply 40,000 boxes a week to homes around the UK from their regional farms. The event was a showcase of Riverford ‘Jake the Veg’, this sounded like a good night.


On arrival I was welcomed with a glass of Prosecco or Organic Apple juice, there was a variety of Riverford cheeses on the counter, which were available for nibbling for the whole evening. A very pleasing start to my night already, I do love cheese!


I was shown to a 6 seater table and waited for a few minutes to see who would be joining me at this Riverford event. It was long before I was joined by 5 other women, 3 work colleagues and 2 friends. Once introductions were made and a cheese runner was selected for the evening, we started to take a look at what was on our table. The Riverford brochure, our evenings menu and our crudities board.


The crudities were varied, there was the usual crisps, celery, carrots, peppers and then the spring onions. Spring onions weren’t really solid enough to work with the dip, which caused amusement around the table! The dip was delicious, it was a thick dip, definitely suited to chunky vegetables. The ingredients were nuts, garlic and possibly a hint of chilli. The kick that the dip gave was pleasing and moreish to all 6 members on my table.


When the crudities were finished and the board was taken away we were given our starter. This was a stunningly green starter: lentil and chard soup. The bowls were all varied, my bowl seemed huge in comparison to some, but it certainly gave a homely feel to our meal.


What is PSB? This was the question on my tables lips. One woman next to me knew the answer! I’ll tell you later. So you’ll have to keep reading if you don’t already know…
The main course: PSB, orange and cumin carrots and potato rosti. I think the carrots had been soaked in orange the flavour was strong and worked very well with the carrot and cumin combination. The reaction on the table over our plat of veg, was I thought very interesting. One comment was that some other guests had never been so full of vegetables, luckily for the two vegetarians, we had not had this problem before!


The dessert was Rhubarb cake with rhubarb compote and crème fraiche. This wasn’t the tables favourite dish, it would seem that rhubarb wasn’t that popular on our table. I thought it was at least something very different, I’ve never tried rhubarb in a cake and I would try it again, but perhaps with warm compote next time.


Our table choice of wine was red, there was some wines in the tables brochure, a bottle for £9.However our wine was not the same as advertised and came in at a higher price, clearly we hadn’t ordered from the brochure. This caused some surprise and annoyance on my table, but I don’t feel that there was a need to complain. I paid £25 a month ago for what I considered to be a great event, and I wasn’t disappointed. So that night the ‘expensive’ wine and a tip was all I was paying for, in my eyes £7 is a good night!


Throughout the night conversation flowed easily at our table. We talked about Oxford restaurants and bars; the favourites, the disasters and the one off times. Oxfork looks small from the outside but it is certainly bigger on the inside. The vibe is relaxed, it feels like your front room, if you had a really nice front room! Our table decision was that Oxfork was certainly unique, it has something that Oxford has needed for a while. I’m glad it’s so local to me!


Thank you to Oxfork for hosting a great night, I will keep an eye out for the next one and I have already raved about the event and your place to anyone that will listen. For more information on Riverford Organic here is the link:

What is PSB? Purple Sprouting Broccoli!

Work Lunch – Quinoa salad

I heard about Quinoa  about a year ago, I’m sure that’s later than some people, but have you tried it yet? I have, and it’s definitely an alternative to couscous, which is refreshing. If not then do, at least once! Here is a salad that I’ve made myself this week, nice and easy and no need for cooking.

Quinoa 2 packets – I used Merchant Gourmet Red and White Quinoa
Small tin of tuna, drained
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
cherry tomatoes halved (about 10+)
Pre cooked Beetroot about 5 small beetroots
Salt and pepper
Mint leaves (a sprig)

I bought a packet of instant quinoa, which can be eaten hot or cold, two packets should last for the week in this lunch salad mixture. A cheaper way would be to buy a dried packet, as you can with pasta and rice but I’d wait to see if you like it first, before buying bucket loads.

Empty the two packets of quinoa into your lunch box. 
Then open a can of tuna, drain, then empty the tuna into the lunch box.
Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a good drizzle of balsamic vinegar and mix, be sure not to make the quinoa too wet, this is just to make the salad moist.
Half the tomatoes and quarter the beetroot and add these to the mix.
Now season this with salt and pepper and add a couple of torn mint leaves. Seal up your box and take this to work and enjoy.

The rules?  I don’t think there aren’t any! Take a look in your fridge to see what you would add to the quinoa mix, prehaps broccoli florets, or asparagus, or mackerel.

Spaghetti with crab and mint

I’m currently looking for tasty, healthy dishes without spending lots of money.  I picked up my Lucas Hollweg book this morning, ‘Good Things to Eat’, as he usually creates dishes that involve simple and delicious ingredients. I turned to page 173 and saw Spaghetti with crab and mint, it shouted fresh and tasty to me, so that was this evenings dinner.

100g wholemeal spaghetti
100ml extra virgin olive oil
2 slices of wholemeal bread
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
Sprinkling of crushed chilli flakes
125g crab meat, taken from a small dressed crab
Handful of mint leaves
Juice of half a lemon

Step 1.
Cook the pasta, following the instructions on the packet. I used wholemeal spaghetti which took 11 mins.

Step 2.
While it is bubbling away, heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan and add the breadcrumbs, garlic and chilli. Until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown. Dont let anything burn! Remove the pan from the heat and sit to one side.

Step 3.
Season the crab meat well. Drain the cooked pasta. Now stir in the crab, half of your mint, the lemon juice and the zest, and a drizzle of olive oil. now plate up your pasta and sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture that you created in step 2 and top this with the rest of your mint.

Pasta is filling, so it’s great to find light pasta options especially in spring. The lemon, mint and crab worked well together, as expected! The chilli is a must, whether you like hot food or not, I think you’d find it bland without it, and you don’t need much.


This dish reminded me of summer and being near the sea, so if you are feeling the need to be on holiday, at a low-cost, pour a glass of crisp dry white wine, and try this dish.


Easter Sunday starter – haddock eggs

This weekend I was making a starter fo 8 adults. As it was Easter I wanted to make something different. My friends who were hosting had suggested a quails egg salad. So with this in mind I hit the cook books and the internet for good salads involving quails eggs, there were plenty. The ‘haddock scotch eggs’ caught my eye. I had seen them on a TV program a long while ago but I’d not had an opportunity to make them, until now.

I picked up my smoked haddock from the Oxford Covered Market, at Haymans Fisheries. My quail eggs took a little while to source as the butchers wasn’t open on the Friday, so I eventually found these in Tescos, hiding next to the larger eggs.

400g potatoes, cut into chunks
400g skinned smoked haddock, cut into large chunks
16 quail eggs
25g butter
2 tbsp milk
50g plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
100g breadcrumbs
sunflower oil, for frying

Watercress dip
100g bag watercress
1 tbsp lemon juice
150ml mayonnaise

Once I had all my ingredients, it was time to get to work. I did the bulk of the work the night before. The creation of the scotch eggs was a fiddle, so it was certainly worth making these the evening before. I think it’s best to explain this in steps so to follow see below:

Step one.
Tip the potatoes into a large pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil.
Then tip in the haddock and then the quail’s eggs into the same pan.
Cook the eggs for exactly 2 mins, then remove them and place them into a bowl of icy cold water.
Continue cooking the haddock until it flakes, and the potatoes until soft.
Drain the fish and potatoes well.
Now mash with the butter and milk until you have a thick mash. Set aside to cool.

Step two.
While your fish mash is cooling, you should start to peel the eggs. This is the fiddly part, so do this with some music on, or with someone to help.
Once the eggs have been peeled sit these on a plate
Set yourself up with the following: 1 plate with your flour, 1 bowl with your 2 beaten eggs, and another bowl with your breadcrumbs.
I didn’t expect there to be an issue with breadcrumbs but I certainly had a big issue. My first batch of breadcrumbs refused to crumb, so I wouldn’t recommend what I did first time around: Grabbing frozen bread out of the freezer, toasting it and then attempting to whizz this in the blender. BIG FAIL.
Round two of breadcrumb making: involved non frozen bread – MUCH BETTER!

Step three
When the fish and potato mixture is cool, pat out spoonfuls and mould them around the eggs so that they are completely encased. This sounded simple enough, but it really does involve you getting a bit messy!

Step four
Now for rolling the covered eggs: first the flour, then the beaten eggs and finally the breadcrumbs. I had expected these to look elegant and small, however they didn’t really resemble the original image that I had seen. I think practice is needed. Once all my eggs were ready I sat these in the fridge overnight, as suggested.

Step five
For the watercress mayonnaise, I blitzed the watercress with the lemon juice until finely chopped, then stirred through the mayonnaise, you can add half mayonnaise and half creme frais if you wanted a lighter option. This was done a day in advance. 

Step six
This was the part that was most nerve-wracking, it was about an hour before lunch and the next step involved the frying. Would they collapse? Would they burn? Eek! It would be too late if something went wrong now…
I heated a good layer of sunflower oil in a frying pan – I used a wok as this allowed for a better base for the hot oil, so that I could rotate the scotch eggs with my tongs. watch the eggs carefully until they are crisp on all sides, then sit them onto kitchen paper. I served this with green beans tomatoes, all for dipping into the watercress mayonnaise.

Per serving: 294 calories, Serves 6-8
Time to create: allow a couple of hours from start to finish on the day before. then you are just looking at a matter of minutes to fry the next day.

Work soups – Lentil and citrus soup

So I suspect we’ve all had a lovely break over the long weekend, you’ve got back home from your travels and it’s back to work tomorrow. Maybe you’ve had a couple of large meals over the weekend and you don’t feel in tip-top shape?
Well if you make a bit of time this afternoon you could make this soup for your working week.  
I want to kick my week off to a good start, so I’ve made ‘Lucas Hollwegs’ Lentil and lemon soup, with a few alterations, dependant on what was in the fridge.

Time to make: 1 hour – 10mins chopping, 45mins simmering.
Calories: 724 / 181 per portion for four.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
salt and pepper
200g green lentils – should have been puy lentils
leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
zest and juice of small lime, should have been a lemon
2  pints of vegetable stock
A splash of orange juice, this wasn’t included but as I didn’t use a large lemon I wanted some more citrus flavour.
2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, stir in the chopped vegetables and a pinch of salt. keep this on a low heat, cover and sweat gently for 10 mins

Add the lentils, thyme, lemon juice & zest, orange juice and stock. Simmer over a gentle heat for 40-45 mins, or until the lentils are soft. Remove the bay leaf.

Liquidise half of the soup and add this back to the lentil mixture. Taste and season. Stir in the spinach leaves and leave to wilt.

When cooled pour your soup into your container and take to work.
This should serve approximately 4 portions, ideal for the short week.

The Fishes

I live within the Oxford ring road and something that has always appealed to me about Oxford is the ease of getting to the nearby countryside, drive, cycle or walk in the right direction and bingo!  North Hinksey Village proved this point to me again.

It was a warm dry Friday night in March The Fishes looked lovely, with the surrounding countryside and no hint of the city centre in sight. All be it 10mins around the corner.
I’d heard about The Fishes from various people, never in much detail but enough was said that I wanted to see if I was missing out.

On entering The Fishes you walk into the bar area, it looked comfortable, a good place to meet with friends or family, or coming in from a walk in the surrounding area.
As we walked down past the bar slightly clueless as to where to go for the restaurant area, we were greeted by a staff member who offered us a choice of tables, one in the bar and one in the conservatory.

The Fishes menu includes: free range, organic and sustainable produce. It’s clear from the website and the staff that the food quality is important.

To start:
I had the Chilli and Crab in filo pastry with chilli sauce, I love spice and crab so this had my name on it. The filo was fried seep or shallow, I’m not sure but I enjoyed the crunch.

For mains:
My OH had the steak, standard, but it made him happy. To be fair it’s not something he has much of. Going out with a pescetarian does vary the menu but it doesn’t usually allow for much steak. It was enjoyed at a medium/rare level slightly more on the rare side but I think from the reaction it was preferred.

I really wanted the Tuna when I first saw the menu, however the tuna came with crushed sweet potatoes & chorizo, I’m sure I could have asked for it to be swapped but as I was presented with a specials board full of other fish options, I didn’t need to be picky! (maybe next time!) The specials included Coley options, Hake, Risotto and Chicken.
I opted for the Hake with wild garlic and new potatoes. The wild garlic tempted me to this, and yes it was worth it. The fish was cooked well it fell away easily from the fillet and melted in my mouth.

For dessert:
It had to be the cheese board. We were presented with a chunky block of wood topped with: Four varieties of cheese, Apples, Celery, Chutney and Biscuits. There are never enough biscuits with a cheese board, I think it’s a tradition amongst cheese boards, but more were offered, which was a nice touch.

The specials board was in fact cheaper than my original Tuna option, so a cost saving thanks to chorizo. The Fishes menu has a variety of prices and meals, so you could eat here happily on your own budget and appetite.

Other things to note
We went out for an evening, and due to darkness drawing in we didn’t get a good look at the garden that stretches down to the river. I imagine this would be perfect for a Saturday or Sunday lunch, so I should return again.
I don’t have a dog however if I did I would take him or her for a drink and a bite to eat. There are plenty of footpaths around the area and when we went there were plenty of four legged friends in the bar, looking very comfortable.

It’s definitely on my list to re visit over the summer months, and if you haven’t been I can confirm you are missing out.