Pork Belly Ramen

I am calling this dish ‘ramen’ because ‘bowl of broth with things in it’ isn’t a great title for a recipe. However, this is in no way authentic ramen, and I am sure that any Japanese people would be completely horrified that I am calling it that. I have never been to Japan so I have probably never even eaten authentic Japanese food.

It is delicious though, so it’s not all bad.


I fed this to James and he gave it the thumbs up, so you can rest safe in the knowledge that is has been tested on, er, one other person. Still, it feels right for the season to me: it’s warm and fragrant, and feels quite wholesome and nourishing.

In other news, I am not such a fan of January. I know this is not scientifically true, but it does actually seem to be getting darker in the mornings rather than lighter. I was planning to do some food photography first thing today, and then realised I couldn’t because at 8am it’s still properly middle-of-the-night pitch black outside. Also, if it keeps raining like this then it’s definitely going to flood here.

Anyway, instead of moaning (okay, fine, as well as moaning), I am going to re-watch one of my favourite YouTube videos. It’s of J.K. Rowling being a goddess. The woman can do no wrong.

She’s amazing. Yes, technically watching that video was twenty minutes of procrastination, but now I feel much more positive about the world.

What were we talking about? Oh right, ramen. Or ‘ramen’.



Since this is not real ramen and there is no authenticity to be corrupted, there is no disadvantage to messing with the recipe below and using whatever you have in the fridge. Try another meat or cut it out entirely, switch it up with the vegetables, up the chilli if you like it spicy: anything goes. I’ve listed the ingredients I used as a basic guide.

If you wanted to start with raw meat, you could cook it in the broth to add flavour and make that stage of cooking longer.

This should make enough to serve two people generously.


300g cooked meat – I used pork belly, but leftover chicken would be great, and duck would be lovely
Handful of dried mushrooms (say about 10 g)
Thumb sized chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and diced
1l vegetable stock (or dashi, if you can get hold of it, which I can’t)
1 tsp miso paste
1 tsp umami paste
2 pak choi
handful of radishes
1 fresh chilli
1 large or three small spring onions
2 eggs
2 nests of rice noodles (or insert your preferred noodle here)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil


  1. Put your dried mushrooms and chopped ginger in a large, deep frying pan (preferably one with a lid) and cover them with the stock. Stir in the miso paste and umami paste. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes with the lid on.
  2. While the broth is simmering, prep your pak choi by separating the leaves and the stems and slicing them. Thinly slice your radishes, chilli, and spring onions. Add the stems of your pak choi to the broth to cook. Bring a small pan of salted water to the boil, add your eggs, turn the heat down so the water is simmering gently, and cook them for 6.5 minutes – use a timer. When the time is up, immediately get the eggs out of the pan (saving the water) and run them under cold water until the shells no longer feel hot, then peel them and set aside.
  3. For the last 3 minutes of broth cooking time, add the sliced pak choi leaves to the stems that are in there already.
  4. Pop the noodles into the pan of boiling water and cook them according to pack instructions – usually only 2-3 minutes. When cooked, take them out, run them under cold water, and drain them well. By now, your broth should be nice and flavoursome. Take if off the heat, add the soy sauce and sesame oil, stir and taste. Adjust seasoning as needed. When you’re happy, put your drained noodles into the broth to warm through.
  5. When ready to serve, put the noodles and broth into wide, shallow bowls and top with the vegetables. Halve your eggs and add one to each bowl, and then finish with the meat and any additional garnish.



Leiths: Foundation Term, Week 8

The eagle-eyed amongst you might notice that every picture in this post is slightly blurred, as if I have applied some of sort ‘hazy glow’ Instagram filter to them. Do not be alarmed – you are not drunk. Or perhaps you are reading this on your phone at 11pm in a pub, in which case, do please continue. This week my phone camera has been somehow wounded, and as I’m hardly going to lug my proper camera to school on top of all the other nonsense I have to tote about every day, I have no other means of taking pictures. I thought irritatingly blurry pictures were probably preferable to no pictures at all. The main issue is that I can’t fix the camera and I’m not due a phone upgrade until the beginning of 2017, so I think I am going to have to get used to the drunken Instagram vibe.

This week started off pretty rough and slowly limped into being better. We had our mock practical exam on Monday, and I was feeling alright about it. I’d practised the dishes over the weekend and I had a solid timeplan, and basically wanted to get through the morning and put it behind me. Mock exam meant mock exam conditions, so no talking to your fellow students, which feels very odd after eight weeks of working while Jack sings nineties pop hits and we all discuss whether or not our chicken is cooked through. The atmosphere in the kitchen was much more tense than usual as everyone got down to business, but I worked steadily and moved through my tasks at a good pace, and when Ansobe called the service time I was all plated up and ready to go, and reasonably happy with what I’d made.


What a naive fool I am. It turns out my fish was overcooked, my dressing was too acidic and ‘horrible’, my crushed potatoes were too crushed, my presentation was dated, my soup had been heated for too long and was too thick and under-seasoned, my bowl was too hot… I cant even remember all the things I did wrong now, but I think the only thing I did right was hitting my service time, and that doesn’t do you a lot of good if your food is awful.

I was very happy to put that morning session behind me and, luckily, our afternoon dem was with Peter Vaughan, an engaging, passionate presenter who worked and spoke at 96 miles per hour for his whole talk and successfully distracted me from feeling sorry for myself. It’s always good to have someone visit from the outside world and remind us that it is possible to have a career in food and love it, and that once we get to the end of this year we will actually, technically, be qualified for something. He fed us delicious, healthy food – always good to reset the balance when I am currently using brownies as my main energy source – and I left feeling much better.

Tuesday morning was very much the calm before the flood/tornado/storm for us, because the other half of our class were preparing their buffet for 32 people and we were quietly making a nice salmon salad in the corner and icing some cakes. I thought my salmon way yummy and ate the whole thing as a slightly odd 10.30am snack. The less said about plastering cakes with royal icing the better (the cake trolley they were on was in the hall, which got very hot, causing all the icing to start melting off the cakes so we had to do them again. I may have had a bit of a sulk about this), but all in all it was a very relaxed morning while the other half of the group cooked us a buffet lunch that was beautiful and absolutely delicious.


In the afternoon we had another guest demonstration, this time with Jane Nemazee, who is a bit nuts in the absolute best way. We were thoroughly entertained throughout her session, and though it was probably halfway through the afternoon before she actually got round to cooking anything, I enjoyed her stories about her career so much that I couldn’t have cared less. I think it was the first time everyone clapped at the end of a dem.

On Wednesday morning, our half of the class had to cook a buffet for 32 people. I had been worrying about it for three weeks, so was very much looking forward to crossing the finish line. We had been given a tight budget to work to and had to choose our own menus, cost everything, and buy all the ingredients ourselves. Our final menu was:

  • Beef and booze mini pies
  • Mushroom and mozzarella arancini with thyme and aioli
  • Roasted root vegetables with rosemary and feta
  • Winter crunch slaw with honey mustard dressing­­­
  • Kale salad with figs and pomegranate
  • Gingerbread with pears, pecans, and cinnamon cream
  • Apple, cardamom, and oat crumble

Despite the usual last minute rush to hit the service time, everything went pretty well and people seemed to enjoy the food. I had about three pieces of the gingerbread, which was so good that I ate a chunk of it out of tupperware like a starving wolf on my train home, despite being given serious judgy looks by the suited businessman next to me.


In the afternoon we had a presentation from Belazu, during which we had our first olive oil tasting – not quite as enjoyable as wine tasting but very interesting nonetheless – and also got a try a balsamic vinegar that was so insanely, weirdly delicious that I ended up drinking it right out the little cup as though it was some high-end liqueur. We also had a mildly terrifying theory revision session with Claire, in which I realised quite how much I have to learn for our theory test this coming Friday. It’s lots. Lots and lots. Excuse me while I bury my head in this nice pile of sand over here.

Thursday felt like a comparatively relaxing day after the buffet mayhem of the days that had come before it. We had a morning session with another guest teacher, Jenny Chandler, who showed us some delicious Spanish food, including an empanada (huge Spanish flat pie) that was so tasty that some people decided to go home and make it immediately. We then got to enjoy a buffet cooked by the other group for lunch, before having a fairly gentle afternoon of making yet another shortcrust pastry case for our Friday flans and going over some core skills that we needed to practice. I chose to practice steak and bread, a decision definitely motivated by a desire to learn rather than a desire for a steak sandwich.

Our Friday morning dem was a lovely way to end the week, as Michael and Annie did a session on freelance cooking and dinner parties for us. Annie worked as a freelance chef before teaching at Leiths, and so was able to answer everyone’s questions about why word of mouth business is important and how exactly it is possible to cater for a wedding party of 150 out of a home kitchen. We got to spend the morning sampling dinner party dishes, before heading upstairs for another fantastic buffet lunch, and then spending the afternoon cooking pork and baking apple tarts. I genuinely spend all my time now either eating, cooking, talking about food, or deciding what to eat next.


I completely messed up the cider sauce for my pork in about six different ways, but my little apple tart came out quite pretty and James ate the entire thing as a late night snack, so I hope it tasted alright too.


Next week is our final full week of teaching, and then it’s the practical exam the week after, before our beautifully and ridiculously long holiday starts and I must get to thinking about this whole Christmas thing. Also, I should really spend less time eating and more time wedding planning.

And if anyone out there knows how to fix phone cameras then please let me know. Seriously.


Meat, Broccoli, and Cashew Coiled Phylas Pastries

Secretly, I don’t like punting. Please don’t tell Oxford City Council, because I’m not sure you’re allowed to live here if you don’t like punting. And I’m pretty settled. I don’t want to be chucked out.

Don’t get me wrong – I love boats, and I love living on the river. Punting, however, is an entirely different thing to proper boating. It’s always so much better in quintessentially Oxonian pictures than when you’re stuck in the actual experience.

The problem is that once you’re sitting in a punt, you’re stuck sitting in a punt. It’s not very comfortable, and it’s always either too hot or too cold. It gets boring fairly fast. You move along the water very slowly. You are attacked by swans and wasps. You are always worried about losing your wallet or your phone in the grimy water.


What a moaner I am! Sorry to start this blog off on such a negative note, but I am only doing it to be able to segue into talking about the one thing that I love about punting adventures: picnics. Picnics are the only reason that I continued to go punting all the time throughout university. People would lure me in by saying ‘Come punting with us! Come on! We’ll have a picnic!’

I can’t resist a picnic.

I don’t know what it is about eating perfectly normal food in a picnic setting, but put cheeses, pork pies, and strawberries in a basket and plonk it all on a blanket outside somewhere and I am there. I love the ritual of choosing, making, and compiling all the various components of a picnic. I love packing things into bags and baskets and cool boxes and lugging it all outside and lying down on a patch of grass somewhere and eating far more sandwiches than is nutritionally advisable.

Nowadays, I am free from the social obligations of punting (there’s a first world problem if ever I did hear one), so I can transition into picnicking with abandon and delight. I mean, it’s August in England, so as I write this I am looking out of the window at a grey sky and pounding rain, but otherwise the time is ripe for a good old summertime picnic gorging-fest.

So, next time the planets align and we have a) sun and b) free time, we will definitely be having a picnic and I will definitely be making these.


Source: The concept of phylas pastry is one I found in the fantastic Honey & Co. Baking Book, which I have rhapsodised about on this blog before. I’ve since looked it up, and I cannot find any other references to phylas pastry on the whole of the Internet. Admittedly I didn’t look massively hard, but it didn’t come up in a Google search, so I think the concept might be theirs. However, although I have used their spiral pastry idea, the filling here is my own invention and I have changed a lot of the proportions from the original recipe, so this is very much my version.

Notes: This recipe makes four very hefty pastries. They go well with all sorts of salads in the summer (and probably in the winter too). I would say that a hungry person could eat a whole one, but half of one of these pastries will still be a very adequate serving for a less hungry person.


glug of oil (olive or rapeseed)
1 large or 2 small onions, finely diced
250g pork mince
250g beef mince
3 tbsp Ras el Hanout spice blend
6 tbsp chopped cashew nuts
1 small bunch of tenderstem broccoli, chopped into small pieces
500g block ready made all-butter puff pastry
1 egg, beaten and seasoned, for egg wash


  1. First, make your filling. Heat your oil gently  in a large deep frying pan, or wok, and pop your diced onions in to cook. After five minutes, turn up the heat and add both your pork and beef mince to the pan. Cook the meat over a high heat for at least five minutes, stirring it and breaking it up to make sure it browns evenly. Turn the heat down a little, and stir in your spice, nuts, and broccoli. Cook for another couple of minutes, then take it off the heat and leave to cool. The filling must be completely cold when you make the pastries, so pop it in the fridge once it’s cool enough. You can also make it the day before.
  2. Preheat your oven to 210C/ 190C fan/ gas 7. Dust a large surface generously with flour, then roll out your pastry to a rectangle of 60cm x 25cm. I actually measure this, because it’s always bigger than I think. Cut it vertically into four 15cm x 25cm rectangles. Take the first rectangle, and place a line of your filling down one long edge of the pastry. Push it together a bit with your fingers to make a long, dense line of filling. Roll up the pastry so that you get a 25cam long pastry cylinder full of meat, making sure the join is on the bottom. Roll it up into a spiral. Repeat all this three times. I am completely cack-handed and awful at this sort of thing, and I found it totally doable – it’s not as fiddly as it sounds.
  3. Place all four pastries onto a lined baking sheet, brush with egg wash, and bake in the hot oven for 25 minutes until golden and crisp. Turn your oven down to 190C/ 170C fan/ gas 5 and keeping cooking for another 15 minutes. Enjoy the pastries hot or cold.

Holubtsi (Ukrainian Stuffed Cabbage)

When I was eighteen, a childhood friend and I went to Russia together. We’d been friends when we were young, but had barely seen each other as teenagers. I am sure it must have been more complicated than this, but as I remember it, she basically rang me out of the blue and said ‘Do you want to go to Russia this summer?’ and I said yes.

I had lived in Siberia as a child, but didn’t have any memories of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, where we were planning to go. It was only when I looked at a map that I registered that the place where we had lived, Bratsk, was about 3,250 miles east of Moscow, which perhaps explains why we weren’t exactly popping over there regularly. It probably goes without saying to those of you who aren’t as geographically idiotic as me, but Russia is bloody massive. Incomprehensibly, awe-inspiringly, mind-bendingly huge.

So that’s why my childhood memories of Russia are mostly of snowy wastelands and apartment blocks and queueing for hours to buy meat and nearly being blown away by gale-force wind before my father caught my arm and held me like a balloon (true story), as opposed to of cities like Moscow.


The food, though? I don’t really remember much of the Russian food I ate as a child. I remember what my mother fed us, but that was whatever she could get her hands on, rather than anything particularly authentic. When I went back when I was eighteen, though, we stayed with Russian hosts and got some of the real deal: I remember us both being slightly taken aback at being served bowls of fuchsia borscht with sour cream for breakfast one day. We ate chicken stew with cabbage and dumplings, drank vodka at stupid hours, and tried as much Russian chocolate as we possibly could. There’s a fairly intense tea culture in Russia (which was a bit unfortunate for me as I really don’t like tea) and everywhere we went we had cups of it pressed upon us in welcome as we crossed the threshold.

You may have noticed that I am rambling on about Russian food despite the fact that the title of this post clearly states that this recipe is Ukrainian. My only defences are a) Ukraine is very close to Russia so I reckon I can at least try and make the argument that they have similar cuisine (based on no factual knowledge) and b) eating this, I was reminded incredibly strongly of the Russian food I ate when I was eighteen, which then sparked this rambling reminiscence.

Hey, it’s my blog, I can write whatever rubbish I like.


Source: I picked up this book – Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine & beyond, by Olia Hercules – on a complete whim. I haven’t had much of a chance to explore it yet, but there are loads of interesting looking recipes.

Notes: I messed around with this a bit, so this version isn’t exactly echt, although I did so based more on what I had in than thinking that any real changes needed to be made.


Basic tomato sauce – whatever your usual recipe is will be fine, as will sauce from a jar if you are pressed for time
1 large Savoy cabbage
250g minced beef
250g minced pork
150g brown rice, parboiled for ten minutes and drained
(the original recipe called for 40g barberries, but to be honest, if I can’t get it at the supermarket then I am not going on a special trail for it and I have no idea where you would get barberries from).

to accompany

sour cream


  1. Make your tomato sauce (or open up your jar), and pop it into the base of an oven proof dish. Preheat your oven to 160C/ 140C fan/ gas 3.
  2. Carefully tear around twelve large leaves from your cabbage, and blanch them for three minutes in a large pan of boiling salted water. Refresh them in cold water, and then drain them as thoroughly as you can on kitchen paper.
  3. Mix your beef, pork, and rice together in a bowl (I always find this easiest using my hands) and season liberally. Place an egg sized lump of the mixture onto a cabbage leaf, fold the leaf up around it to make a parcel, and place the parcel in your tomato sauce. Repeat until all the mixture is gone. I am absolutely terrible at this sort of thing but found it completely fine – it’s easier than it sounds.
  4. Pop your dish in the oven and cook for around half an hour, or until each parcel is cooked through. Serve hot, with a bowl of sour cream and dill alongside.