Dalston is not a large or lively village, but it is a lovely one.
Every vac, the return home to the tip of the country is always a bit of a culture shock. Not that Oxford is a particularly large city, or a modern one at that, it still comes as a surprise to be suddenly surrounded by nothing but greenery, the sound of tractors and sheep. Sometimes I do tend to get slightly carried away (as one would if there were no other distractions) and imagine it to be somewhat like Austen’s Highbury (albeit a lot more northern). And yet, village life does have its curious charms that you only seem to appreciate, or miss, when away. While the bakers has closed and the candlestick maker (if there ever was one) probably did not make it out of the Georgian Era, we do have a butcher, Mr. Pigg (not a fabrication), a Co-op and a couple of eateries providing all that we need.
Despite having only one friend in the village, (everyone seems to be over 70 or under seven) I will always have very warm feelings towards it; I grew up here, went to school here, learned to drive here and everyone knows who I am (the closest I will ever get to a BNOC perhaps).
Still, the thought of potentially spending the next six months in this village is a frightening one. It seems we will all have to make our own stimulations, and so I will cook. I’ll share my recipes, both those I make on the regular in my small kitchen in Oxford, with little money and little time, and the more attractive, ‘Instagram worthy’ stuff that, lets be frank, no-one really has the time or willpower to execute. Until now that is.
“Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start”
While I never envisioned myself quoting the Sound of Music, desperate times call for desperate measures. If it’s the only film on daytime TV I guess I will have to get used to it.
I am not a morning person. In fact, I am so not-a-morning-person that when living at home my family tend to avoid me for the first half an hour of my daily existence in any effort to avoid getting the day off to a bad start. Nevertheless, if I am going to get used to this vac, and beyond, well, I will have to wake up early(ish) and become productive(ish). I’ve found the best way to do this is to have a proper, relaxing breakfast.
Usually at Uni, breakfast is not a fun time. It’s always porridge, undercooked and under-seasoned, shovelled down my throat as I rush to my 9ams. Yet, this new found freedom has given me the chance to experience something completely revolutionary: breakfast with flavour. Something only worthy of continental holidays surely?
The real joy of these recipes is that you will already have most of the stuff required for them in the cupboards and they are super easy to customise and leave bits out if you can’t make it to the shops. They also really don’t take up much of your morning to make and, if you have got the time, you may as well use it to start your day on the right foot.
Yoghurt and Granola Bowl (but better)
This was my breakfast the first morning I woke up in the vac.
It was super easy, quick (and can be made quicker) and made me have a positive outlook for the rest of the day because it tasted So. Damn. Good.
It is essentially half a bowl of granola (I think mine was just a mixed nut and seed granola from Morrisons but use whatever tickles your fancy) and half a bowl of Greek-style yoghurt. I stirred a spoonful of homegrown rhubarb and ginger jam through the yoghurt (use whatever jam you have, something not super sweet like apricot might be better), added some slices of caramelised apple and drizzled with honey.
Ok so who realistically caramelises apples for breakfast? Definitely not me- usually that is. It only took me five minutes in the morning and was, I have to say, worth it. You simply add a chunk (roughly 10g or so) of butter to a pan until it melts and sizzles and then place in slices of an apple. Sprinkle over half a tablespoon of sugar (light brown, golden or something less refined works better) and a shake of cinnamon and let it all melt and coat the apples in a sticky glaze, turning them over and swirling the pan every now and then. The best bit is that one apple provides enough for two servings so I have some ready to go for next day! If this still seems too much of a faff, simply leave the apples out or just eat them raw. It will still be delicious.
Raspberry and Almond Posh Porridge
The reason I eat so much porridge at Uni is because it’s filling, healthy and keeps you going until lunch- essential if I have three hours of lectures or labs. It is also ridiculously cheap to do with one kilogram of oats costing less than a quid. This porridge is a version of what I usually have that but spruced up a so it’s a bit more luxurious.
Porridge is just oats and milk for best results mixed to about a 1:2 ratio (I do use water or water-milk mixes if I’m feeling particularly stingy) . For this porridge, I use almond milk as it adds to the nutty flavour, but any milk/milk alternative will do. Cook the porridge on low-medium heat with a splash of vanilla extract and a shake of nutmeg (if you’ve got them in your cupboard) until it’s as thick as you like. While it’s thickening, use a fork to mush up four or five raspberries with a teaspoon of sugar. Serve up the porridge with this cheats raspberry coulis on the top and a sprinkling of ready-toasted almonds (optional) for an extra crunch.
Lazy Day Lemon Pancakes
If these pancakes were a day they’d be Sunday. They take a little longer but are a real treat for breakfast or a brunch- best enjoyed in bed! These are the ‘drop scone’ type pancakes and are light, fluffy and drowned in lemon syrup. To make the batter mix 150g of flour with a tablespoon of sugar, the zest of a lemon, a teaspoon of baking powder and half a teaspoon of cream of tartar. Then, whisk in one beaten egg and around 150ml of milk to make a thick but smooth batter. Cook the pancakes in a frying pan for three-minutes either side or until just turning a nice golden brown.
Now, another personality trait of mine is that I don’t do anything half-arsed. I guess this is a good thing if you’re one of my biochem tutors- it’s not so good if you don’t like lemons or think making syrup for breakfast is a step too far. To make the very-lemony lemon syrup, add the juice of the lemon you zested and two spoonfuls of sugar to a little pan and heat while the pancakes are frying until the sugar dissolves and the syrup thickens. When you’re ready to serve, dust icing sugar over how ever many pancakes you reckon you can manage and drizzle, or douse, in syrup.
Some extra tips: Use an orange instead of lemon or make them boozy with a splash of limoncello or cointreau in the syrup. This batter will make at least 12 pancakes so usually I pop the oven on to 100-150 degrees and leave any cooked in there to keep warm until they are all ready.