Antonia Landi

Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

Lunch x2 – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on February 22, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Picture: Antonia Landi

Nothing is sadder and less appetizing than a few bits of bread, thinly covered with a bland filling, straight from the supermarket fridge. We all eat sandwiches like that far too often – I say, it’s time for a change!

 

Britain is a nation of sandwiches; there are no two ways about it. And while I love a good, decadently filled homemade sandwich that has fresh veg and fillings poking out at the side, I dislike nothing more than those awful, cold and soggy sandwiches you get with your ‘meal deal’. Who wants to look forward to that? No wonder people can’t find the joy in cooking and eating if all they live on tastes, well… horrible.

I haven’t made many videos that work well as lunch, because I often told myself that people wouldn’t have time for that in the morning. I’m one of the laziest people you’ll ever meet and no matter how much I enjoy cooking, I don’t want to wake up half an hour earlier every day just to spend it on the stove. But this term I find myself eating at university a lot, and since I prefer preparing my own food instead of paying over the odds for something substandard, I always take a packed lunch with me.

The great thing about these two recipes here is that they work wonderfully in single servings, taste delicious and they are so quick to prepare. I bet any of you that you could make either of these dishes in six minutes or less. I’m not even joking.

These are only two of many recipes that can be re-arranged, re-developed or invented from scratch that work great for lunch. If you have a day off, treat yourself to a warm lunch, or if your work has a microwave, even better. The tuna and broccoli noodles are quickly becoming a favourite dish of mine, and the couscous salad is easy to transport, superquick and supereasy to make. But whatever you want to take with you, do invest in a good lunch box. Don’t do it like me, you’ll have tuna leaking all over your bag and you’ll be smelling it for weeks! Although I must say, I do enjoy the company of the cats I’m attracting.

 

Both recipes feed 1

 

Couscous salad:

75g couscous

Enough boiling water to cover

50g feta cheese

2tbsp raisins

1tbsp pine nuts

Salt, pepper

Olive oil

Pinch of cloves and/or nutmeg (optional)

 

Tuna noodles:

1/2 can responsibly sourced tuna in brine

1 ‘nest’ of egg noodles

150g frozen broccoli

Salt, pepper

Soy sauce (optional)

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

And finally, have a look at these great links for inspiration and information.

Fed up with the usual sandwiches? Me too, and so is Hugh! Follow this link for a great guide on how to make lunch tasty, everyday.

If you’re unsure about where you can get responsibly sourced fish, here is a list of Supermarkets and their involvement in sustainable fishing.

If you have leftover couscous may I suggest making it into a tasty quiche? This recipe looks so fantastic, I might just have to try it myself!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Bread – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on February 16, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Picture: Antonia Landi

This week, I’ve decided to make myself sound like a bit of a hypocrite and declare bread to be ‘better than toast’. Well, let’s just put it this way: All bread can be good toast but not all toast is necessarily good bread. In fact, once you’ve baked your own I’m convinced that little else will satisfy you just as much.

Bread is such a basic thing that we rarely stop to think about it. Supermarket bread is readily available at any time of the day and stays soft for days, but rarely sports a great crust. Of course, you could go to an artisan baker, but I’m somehow reluctant to pay a fiver for a loaf that I could just as well make at home. And yet, baking bread doesn’t really catch on with the younger generation. I don’t know if it’s because it’s seen as something old-fashioned to do, or if people are put off by how long the whole process takes. Granted, it’s much quicker to go to your nearest store and buy some than make your own, but homemade bread ages far better and gives you endless possibilities. Besides, you could make your whole flat smell of freshly baked bread and snack on a warm loaf afterwards. What’s not to love?

There are no two ways about it: making bread does take time. But that doesn’t mean that this is a bad thing! Schedule your bread-making on a day you have lots of little things to do, that way you can cross things off your list while you wait for the bread to rise. Make the dough and then tidy your flat, knock the bread back and skype with your parents afterwards, stick it in the oven and do your nails while you wait.

If you’ve never baked bread before I would really urge you to take your time with this recipe. Get a real feel for the dough, see how it changes beneath your hands while you are kneading it. After all, breadmaking is an ancient tradition and so vital. Take your time and think about what you are doing; you’re effectively transforming three basic ingredients (water, flour, yeast) into food with only your hands and some heat. You can probably already tell, but I really find something almost magical in making bread.

It is needless to tell you just how many different kinds of bread you could make. Wholemeal, with seeds, sweet, savoury, you can play around with different flours like spelt and rye, make a tin loaf one day and then burger buns the next – I could go on forever. Take this very basic recipe, memorize it forever, and run with it. Quite honestly, the best advice about breadmaking I can give you.

Makes one loaf:

500g strong white bread flour

7g dried yeast (1 sachet)

2 tbsp olive oil (optional)

1-2 tbsp salt, to taste (optional but recommended)

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

And finally, have a look at these great links for inspiration and information.

Want to know more about baking your own loaved? Check out this website for a thorough bread baking 101.

Once you’ve made your loaf you can either eat it as it is or make it into this heavenly creation (hint: goes down great at parties!).

And finally, don’t ever get tempted to throw out hard bread. There’s still plenty of life in it!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Homemade chocolates – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on February 8, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Picture: Antonia Landi

Yes, it’s that time of the year again. The shops are filled with bears holding up hearts, roses are basically shoved in your face and everyone is supposed to be happy and in love. But why not use this time to treat yourself to some handmade sweets?

It’s Valentine’s Day alright. Quite possibly the worst holiday of the year. You either feel under pressure to make a romantic gesture to your partner, or supposedly need to feel bad because you don’t currently have a partner. Either way, it’s not very cheerful, is it. So instead of spending money on some horrible stuffed animal, get a few bars of chocolate and make the magic happen! Celebrating Valentine’s Day should be about the people that you love, be it friends or family. And trust me, after they’ve tried these delicious chocolates, they will love you.

Working with chocolate is really tricky and easy to mess up. Many people will tell you that you’ll need to temper it by closely monitor the chocolate’s temperature and suggest a myriad of techniques to aid you in your quest for the chocolate of the century. The truth is, as long as you don’t get water into your melted chocolate, you’ll be just fine. True, the chocolate you’ll produce won’t be glossy and shiny, and won’t have that characteristic ‘snap’ when you bite into it; it’ll look and taste more like a truffle. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad! So stop faffing about with your thermometer and let’s melt some chocolate.

Melting chocolate is pretty straightforward. The only two things that could go wrong is if you accidentally get water into it (remember, even a tiny amount can ruin your chocolate, so be extra careful) or if you burn it, but if you’re as impatient as I am, that isn’t likely going to happen. The great thing about making these yourself is that you can personalize them to suit the person you are making them for. Think about their favourite chocolate and customise: chopped or whole nuts, dried fruit, tiny marshmallows, experiment with layering two kinds of chocolate or add a small amount of cereals – there is so much you can do. There is no right or wrong – think about what you like and then make it! This is a great opportunity to really bring your ideas to life.

I find working with silicon moulds easiest – when you choose one, make sure you take its shape into account and go for the one with fewer details. For example, it’s easier to get the chocolate out of a heart shape than it is to get all the corners of a star out without breaking anything. It takes about 4 hours for the chocolate to set, but  I would suggest leaving it to set overnight. And if you have leftover melted chocolate, simply dip some fruits in it and let them to cool on a baking sheet. There’s nothing like a few sweet treats to reward yourself!

 

Makes approx. 20 chocolates:

150g white chocolate

150g milk chocolate

150g dark chocolate

Fillings like cereals, nuts, dried fruits, dried chilli flakes, marshmallows… be creative!

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

And finally, have a look at these great links for inspiration and information.

 

If you’re up for making chocolates but you don’t have a mould, or you want to make something a bit more sophisticated, why not try making your own truffles?

For the future Chocolatiers among you and for those who want to know the tricks of the trade, here is a great and simple guide on how to properly temper chocolate.

And if you’d rather keep the chocolates for yourself but still need a gift for your loved one, have a look at these great ideas for homemade presents.

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Film Review – The Iron Lady

In Entertainment, Film on February 8, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Picture: The Guardian

Writing this film review is a minefield for so many reasons. The most obvious of all being the subject matter, Margaret Thatcher. Hated by so many people, it has always been a kind of mystery to a foreigner like me why and how exactly Britain’s first ever female Prime Minister gained this larger than life reputation. I know that this is a difficult topic to write about, not only because of the politics involved. Granted, I might not be the most informed person to have seen this movie, but I think this has been quite an advantage. Instead of being tainted of my parents’ opinion of what was undoubtedly a very difficult time to be alive in Britain I can watch the movie with an open mind.

Cinematographically, The Iron Lady is an excellent movie. Margaret Thatcher’s life holds all the key ingredients to make up an interesting and gripping story. With the aid of regular flashbacks, the viewer follows Thatcher’s life and career in politics from the very beginning to the bitter end. A grocer’s daughter that first gets elected leader of the Conservative party and then Prime Minister of Britain against all odds – Hollywood couldn’t have written it any better. After all, it’s the controversial characters that make the best entertainment.

Thatcher’s life is being shown to us by several flashbacks. The framing device is that of a tragic old lady suffering from dementia – Thatcher at her lowest point in life. Although this kind of framing does make sense, I would have liked to see bigger chunks of the film devoted to her life in parliament. Due to the nature of the flashbacks the film sometimes comes off as bitty, and lacks the complete immersion of the viewer into this beautifully crafted story. Instead, we are constantly taken back to present-day Thatcher, merely a shadow of herself and being treated like a child by those around her.

Meryl Streep’s performance of Margaret Thatcher is indeed what makes this film so unique. Her acting is absolutely impeccable; from her mannerisms and looks down to the utmost detail like the position of her feet when sitting, or the ever-present slight pout. Streep’s co-actors are just as talented, although none of them are terribly central to the story. Even Thatcher’s husband Dennis (Jim Broadbent), who has from the very beginning of her career stood beside her, plays only a secondary role compared to the icon herself. The actors’ costumes and makeup are almost scarily accurate – again, it is obvious that a lot of thought went into the crafting of Streep as Thatcher. It is these little details that make the film so compelling to watch. From the very beginning it is clear just how much work has gone into making this movie so aesthetically accurate, and the level of attention to detail is simply admirable.

For being about one of the most polarised political figures in Britain, The Iron Lady has little to do with politics. I have seen a lot of people claim that it somehow glorifies Thatcher’s persona, and while I do not deem myself an expert in these matters, I am bound to disagree. Far from being a feel-good movie, The Iron Lady is a gripping and often tragic tale. Thatcher’s own politics and decisions are merely depicted as factual and stand on their own for the viewer to decide what to make of them. Streep’s role certainly isn’t that of a jolly happy-go-lucky feminist who defeated the men at their own game. It is simply that of a power-driven woman who strongly believed that she did what she thought best.

The Iron Lady is an immensely rewarding film to watch – compelling, genuinely interesting and thought provoking it stands above all that Hollywood has recently churned out in a desperate attempt at making millions.

Antonia Landi for Trisickle.

Egg Fried Rice – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on February 1, 2012 at 11:16 am

Picture: Antonia Landi

There really isn’t much to say about today’s recipe, apart from that it’s quick, easy, and just delicious!

 

 

Fried rice is one of those treats that we all indulge in, but rarely think to do ourselves. A staple in any Asian restaurant and take away, fried rice is a very British way of having Chinese. It’s just foreign enough to tickle our taste buds with unusual flavours, but it’s still made up of ingredients that we know and love.

 

Today’s fried rice is supposed to be served as a main dish, but it can very easily be transformed into a side by halving the amounts. If you’d prefer a more substantial meal, try adding some ham to the dish. And if you’d like to be a bit more fancy, I’ve got just the recipe for you! Just have a look at the links at the bottom of the article.

 

I often used to make egg fried rice with simple vegetable oil – it’s cheap and it works. But if you really want to take your dish that little bit further, do invest in a nice bottle of sesame oil. There are two kinds of sesame oil out there: light and dark. Dark sesame oil is made out of toasted sesame seeds and has a stronger and more complex flavour. Both work wonderfully with today’s dish, just keep in mind to use less oil if you choose the dark one, as you don’t want it to be overpowering. If you feel like it, try seasoning the dish with a dash of soy sauce.

 

Last but not least all I can tell you is to run with it. There are so many things that you can add to a simple egg fried rice to make it as complex or as simple as you like, from a grown up seafood version to a very simple side of fried rice with spring onions. Think of your favourite ingredients and then make them work together. You’d be surprised at how quickly you can invent new recipes!

 

Feeds 2:

100g uncooked long grain rice, cooked as per instructions

2 eggs

1 large carrot

1 packet baby sweetcorn (usually 175g)

1 handful frozen peas

4 spring onions

Sesame oil

Salt, pepper, soy sauce (optional)

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

And finally, have a look at these great links for inspiration and information.

 

Nobody I’ve met has ever really been sure of how to properly cook rice. There are so many methods I won’t even get involved in it! If you are looking to achieve heavenly fluffy rice, follow this link.

Feeling fancy? Here is a great Thai version of fried rice, just begging to be teamed up with a glass of chilled white wine.

By far one of the most useful websites on the internet, Love Food Hate Waste has great tips on what to do with leftovers and how to make food go further.

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

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