Archive for the 'Vegetarian' Category

New friends, new routines

The three months since I last posted have been incredible ones. At first I was simply preparing to leave for university, wondering if I would like the people on my floor, how many friends I would make, if those friends would be genuine ones. It was exciting, enticing and absolutely terrifying all at once.

Then, suddenly, I was in the car with my dad, driving down across the border into England with the boot and back seat filled with my things. Pulling off the motorway to go into Durham I saw a large painted sign hanging off the fence of the East Durham College. The large black and red letters read ‘Should have gone to Collingwood!’. We both laughed and I felt welcomed before I had even arrived.

Being a collegiate university, Durham has many faces and communities, both in college and inter-college ones. Collingwood is relaxed, friendly and a tad eccentric with a reputation for being the loudest, most vocal college. More signs painted in black and red were hung on the lane into college, welcoming the freshers and reassuring their parents that they would be looked after. The fresher’s week that followed was a whirlwind of activities and parties, new faces and umpteen repetitions of ‘Sorry, what was your name again?’ as our memories struggled to cope with matching so many new people to their names, courses and origins.

The weeks began to disappear as we learned those new names and the personalities behind them. Some faces became those of acquaintances, the people you say ‘hi’ or ‘morning’ to in the corridor, others became the faces of floor mates and friends. We all settled into the routine of lectures, tutorials and seminars, which days we needed to wait for a friend to get back before lunch, the days another friend would be absent from dinner.

I found a group of friends and our evenings gradually formed a pattern of movie nights or nights out. We swapped clothes and ideas, one discovered I had never seen an entire episode of Friends and immediately sat me down to start from the beginning. We clapped in time to the opening tune and I have a feeling at least two Friends posters will go up in our house next year.

Suddenly it was the end of term and we were sitting down to the college Christmas dinner. We pulled crackers, put on the hats and sang along to the Christmas songs flowing from the speakers. We laughed and took pictures and enjoyed the best meal the kitchens had produced all term. I looked round the table and suddenly felt very grateful I had taken a year out between school and university. If I hadn’t I would not have found such an amazing group of people. They make me laugh and smile, they throw their arms around me and squeal in my ear that I’m ‘so cute’. Sometimes they debate a little to hard over the smallest of issues, get a little too excited or blurt out the most inappropriate (though hilarious) things but they’re my friends and I wouldn’t swap them for anything or anyone.

Now I’m back home, my friends have scattered to various corners of the country and the globe, one getting on his flight just in time and another winding up stranded in London as Heathrow closed its doors. It’s a little strange to be home and without the group I’ve spent so much time with but it’s also nice to be back in Edinburgh and back in our kitchen.

Red cabbage is something that reminds me of family and Christmas. Not every teenage girl will smile and bounce across the kitchen when she comes home to see her father chopping red cabbage and apples into a pan but I do, regularly.

Dad’s Red Cabbage

2 large onions, chopped
small knob of butter
large spoonful of caraway seeds
3 apples peeled, cored and chopped (preferably 1 bramley and 2 coxes)
half a large red cabbage
balsamic vinegar

Fry the onions with the caraway seeds and butter until soft in a medium sized pan then add the apples.

Shred the cabbage and add to the pan. Once hot turn the cabbage over until slightly fried.

Add a splash of balsamic vinegar then pour in hot water until half way up the cabbage and bring to boil.

Add the nutmeg (roughly a ¼ nutmeg or until the smell rises out the pan when stirred in) then turn down the heat and simmer until soft (1 – 1.5 hours).

Season with a little salt and pepper before serving.

Ruby, thank you for your comment on my last post. Opening my email to that message was like an extra little christmas present.
Merry Christmas


Broccoli Ginger Soup and Dinner Chez Jim’s

The first time I saw Jim Haynes it was when my dad leaned forwards to turn up the sound of a new After Eights advert and cried ‘That’s Jim!” He’d been a customer at the Paperback Bookshop, started by Jim, in the sixties. He describes a visit to the bookshop as more like a social event than a purchase.

Jim cofounded the Traverse Theatre and the Writer’s Conference, which later transformed into the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and later moved to Paris teaching Media Studies and Sexual Politics at the University of Paris.

He’s lived in Paris ever since and when a house guest offered to cook for Jim and his friends the precursor to his weekly dinner parties started. Over thirty years later more than 100,000 people from around the world have dined at Jim’s on a Sunday night. Every week he opens his home to nearly a hundred people, most of them strangers to him and each other, and invites them to enjoy good food and better conversation.

I have been lucky enough to attend four dinner parties, so far, and stay with Jim for two weeks. I have fond memories of helping the cooks prepare a meal big enough for one hundred people with just one or two to help in a small kitchen stocked with catering sized equipment. I was taught to separate eggs for the first time before separating all 48 of the yolks the trays of trifle required. I scrubbed potatoes and chopped chocolate and at one point ended up serving when a certain Icelandic volcano’s eruption resulted in the Irishman who often serves being stranded at home on the Emerald Isle. What made the experience so incredible wasn’t the food or my first real taste of cooking that would later become a passion. It was the people I was surrounded by. Each one from a different place, with a different background and a different character but somehow all coming together into one seamless evening.

When I returned to Paris two weeks ago I took my friend to Jim’s party. We slipped through the gate into the long lane lined with ateliers and then eased our way through the chattering, multicultural crowd to reach the door.

“Hi, I’m Jim.” He smiled as we entered, then suddenly recognised me and cried “Oh, my God!” He ticked our names off on his guest list and introduced us to everyone in the room.

As the evening progresses you can always hear Jim crying, “Who doesn’t know Antonia?” or “Joanna, meet Aude!” before encouraging said guests to talk and get to know one another. He somehow manages to turn a crowd of strangers into groups of friends engaged in passionate debate and exchanging contact details in no time, and build an indescribable atmosphere to support them. Perhaps it’s the way he goes about introducing people or maybe it’s the fact that he seems to radiate hospitality and enthusiasm. Whichever it is I’m sure people have made lifelong friends or met future partners at his parties. Eating with others has always been a social affair but Jim takes this to a whole other level. This incredible person is a one-man social network; facebook has nothing on Jim Haynes.

This soup was served at the first dinner party I attended and sounds bizarre but tastes lovely.

Broccoli and Ginger Soup (serves 3)

500g broccoli, roughly chopped
400ml chicken stock
500ml water
10-15g fresh ginger, finely chopped

Put all the ingredients in a medium sized saucepan and boil until the broccoli is cooked.

Use an immersion blender to blend the mixture into a thick soup then serve.

Memories of Italy and Ravioli from Scratch

When I think about Italy my mind darts to various things. The flowing delicate gowns of Valentino, pictures on the news of the Pope emerging onto his balcony in the Vatican City to speak, the bizarre irregularity of the leaning tower of Pisa and creamy rounds of soft mozzarella.

Italy fascinates me with its archaeology and its food. Strolling along the streets of Pompeii knowing the stones beneath my feet would have looked the same to the people who ran from eruption of Vesuvius centuries ago was an incredible experience. Seeing glimpses of their lives, preserved in the ash until they were dug out: a charred bed, the detail in a wall painting depicting a political slogan, the delicate decoration on the walls and floor tiles in the houses. A gap in the wall of a first floor room allowing a glimpse of a table and chair still in place as if waiting for the people who used them to return.

In the evening in Sorrento I remember vividly the moment I walked into a Gelato shop. It went all the way across the block from one winding little street to the other and the counter covered the same distance. Ice creams and sorbets in glittered in dozens of radiant colours from under its smooth curved glass, adorned with small panels displaying their flavour in curling script.

While the sorbets of Italy are fabulous the pasta is better still. Whether it is long strands of spaghetti decked out in crimson tomato sauce, small parcels of ravioli hiding spoonfuls of some fragrant mixture or simple penne with nothing but olive oil and a few herbs.

I love pasta of any kind but ravioli best of all. Sadly my allergy to cow’s cheese means I can only glance wistfully at the packets of ravioli on the shop shelves. On occasion I can have it in a restaurant. My love of ravioli drove me to attempt making in from scratch and make it gluten free and dairy free for my mother to eat.

Mushroom, Leek and Onion Ravioli (adapted from La Cucina Veneziana by Gino Santin) [serves 4]

250g plain gluten free flour (I substituted in 50g of hemp flour the first time I made this which had a slightly different flavour)

3 eggs

1 onion

1 leek

125g mushrooms

Tomato paste

Chop the mushrooms, leek and onion finely and fry in a little olive oil, add tomato paste to taste in order to bring the mix together slightly.

Make a well in the flour and crack the eggs into it. Mix them with your fingers, slowly bringing in flour from the edges of the well until a firm, slightly sticky dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead with clean dry hands until it is smooth and elastic and no longer sticky.

Take sections of the dough and roll out with a floured rolling pin until paper-thin, try and keep the shape in a rough rectangle. Place spoonfuls of the vegetable mix about an inch in from the edge and roughly an inch apart. Fold the other half of the dough over and gently press down around the mounds of mix. Cut into ravioli shapes by pressing down with a cookie cutter or a butter knife. If you run out of time or get tired of rolling the dough out make little balls of dough and press into the top with a fork to make pasta gnocchi.


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