Bergamot oil in cooking / food writing piece for olive magazine

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Original article on olive online here.


 

What is it?

Bergamot orange, sweet lemons, citrus bergamia… the fruit from which we get bergamot oil goes by all manner of names! It’s also got nothing to do with the bergamot herb, although they do boast the same fragrant aroma. Little appears certain about this elusive citrus fruit, but we can comfortably describe it as tasting somewhere between a sour orange and a sweet lemon.

On its own the flavour is balmy and slightly overpowering, but it works well when added to marmalades, vinaigrettes and, of course, earl grey tea. This paradigm of British tea culture contains a blend of Indian and Sri Lankan black teas flavoured with bergamot essential oil (extracted from the skin of the fruit, as with other citrus oils).

Why is it meant to aide relaxation?

Bergamot oil is sometimes used in aromatherapy, associated with reducing stress. The flavonoids (aromatic antioxidant compounds) found in bergamot are considered to ease nervous tension and anxiety, while also having the potential to stimulate serotonin and dopamine activity (relaxation and sedation hormones).

In fact, bergamot oil is supposedly so relaxing that it could actually decrease mental alertness. Guess we ought to save that earl grey for after work, then! We don’t need much persuading to go for afternoon tea, but if our fragrant brew is this miraculous we’ll be making it a daily ritual.

How can you cook with it?

At olive we love the fragrant undertone bergamot adds to our bakes and cocktails. The most straightforward way to incorporate it into baking and cocktail making is by adding or infusing earl grey tea leaves; easier to source than bergamot oil in its pure form, and with a more rounded flavour.

Try tea-soaking dried fruit to make earl grey teacakes; add a bag to stewed plums for plum and earl grey pound cake; or grind up the leaves with icing sugar to sprinkle over our cream tea waffles with cherry-berry compote.

We’ll take any excuse for a breakfast cocktail and adding in tea gives us the perfect reason. Mix cold earl grey to gin, crème de peche and lemon juice for a Hollingsworth iced tea cocktail; or steep it in gin and combine with lemon and sugar syrup for an earl grey martini.

Savoury recipes can also benefit from a bit of citrus fragrance. Impress dinner party guests by using the dry tea leaves to smoke your own salmon for our tea-smoked salmon with cucumber and lemon.


Written by Pippa Cole, November 2016


 

What? No cheese? Risotto confessionals

Risotto and Parmesan, Parmesan and Risotto. One melts teasingly into the other. It just works. The Bonnie and Clyde of Italian cooking, just the idea of tearing them apart leaves one weeping salty tears of dairy disappointment. But it really needn’t.

Garlicky courgettes, the right rice, and a little fat at the end, these are the basics of a satisfying, cheese-free, springtime risotto.

Start with courgette and garlic

Thinly slice courgette batons and dry fry (no fat) on a medium heat with a pinch of salt.

Once starting to brown, add a thick slice of garlic (skin on – I tend to just chuck in half a clove when cooking for 1-2)

Use Carnaroli rice

Add rice and continue to dry fry for a further couple of mins.

Carnaroli rice lends a creamier texture to risotto and holds its shape better (hence no need to add piles of Parmesan for textural purposes).

Reduce to a low heat and add vegetable stock a little at a time, stirring regularly.

Once the rice is just off cooked (a fraction too al dente), add whatever fresh greens you fancy – peas, broad beans, wild asparagus (or thin strips of regular asparagus).

Add another splash of stock to cook the greens.

A little fat at the last minute

Once this liquid is absorbed (not dry but without significant watery excess) add a little butter or dairy-free spread (I add just under a tsp when serving 1-2).

The fat and remaining liquid will emulsify, resulting in the creamy texture expected. Don’t skip this step, it’s only a little fat and makes the difference between a satisfying meal and a noticeably pious health food.

Stir for about 30 seconds and serve.

[For 1 good serving I use: half a courgette, a pinch of salt, half a garlic clove, 60g carnaroli rice, veg stock, half a tsp. butter/avo spread, handful of fresh greens – usually peas and asparagus]


Eating healthily on a student budget / Collaboration piece with the Independent

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Original article on the Independent online here.


As the new term approaches, take heed of some tips and cheats from student bloggers in the know

Written by Amanda Cashmore


Meal preparation

Nobody wants to spend their Sundays making bulk meals for the week ahead, but it is one of the best ways to ensure that your lunches are done for the week.

Nothing is worse than a Wednesday morning scramble to find something to put in your wraps, and this way you can’t be tempted to nip and grab something unhealthy from the library shop.

Student food blogger Pippa, 21, advises buying a few staples and basing your meals around them: “Sweet potatoes and spinach practically became my middle names in first year, I used them as the basis of a number of meals, but changed them up with a modest collection of spices.

“Stock up on cumin and garam masala for spiced dishes, paprika and barbeque sauce for something a little smokier and keep a couple of window herbs (coriander and rosemary would be my shout) for tray bake and one-pot dishes.

“With this small collection to vary the flavour, you don’t need to shop with an ingredient list the length of your arm.”

Don’t punish yourself

Pippa advises students to “plan in the occasional lunch/brunch trip and you’ll keep those cravings at bay the rest of the week.

“Have a weekly revision brunch with friends and use the café space to work after you’ve eaten. It’s not something you can do every day, but it’ll hopefully give you a sufficient café fix to boost your mood.”

Go veggie

Pippa advises fellow students to cut out expensive meat cuts and replace them with meat free alternatives: “Do this without ethos or agenda, merely with thoughts for your pocket.

“You’re soon going to crash through your budget if you try to base every meal around meat, especially prime student cuts like chicken breast (one of the most expensive and least flavoursome in my humble opinion – at least buy thigh if you need that meat hit).

“Get your hands on tinned pulses, dried are even better value, but as if we’ll ever remember to pre-soak.”

Try and spruce up your packed lunch

According to Pippa, cous cous is a cheap and easy way to spice up your lunchbox: “Cous cous is an absolute saviour. Instantly more exciting than a sandwich and a cheap way to add bulk to a salad.

“Throw in some feta and roasted veg; add a spoonful of leftovers from the night before (be it fajita mix, spicy one-pot or veggie stew); or simply chuck in some hummus and grated carrot, beetroot, courgette or any salad ingredient you fancy.”

Another favourite (and cheap) veggie is beetroot, which Chloe likes to work into her lunches: “Chop some of the vac-packed stuff and roast with salt and pepper for around 20 minutes. Let cook then toss with lentils and salad leaves. Goats cheese is also good here if you want to be a bit more fancy.”

Buy cupboard staples like oats, pasta and eggs

Chloe praises healthy staple ingredients: “You can’t go wrong with pasta (just weigh out a proper portion), and I find oats are great for breakfast, but you can also turn them into cookies.

“I also think eggs are pretty good value for money, and I like lentils/beans for bulking out meat dinners cheaply.”

House dinners

Coordinating with other friends or housemates can help lift the burden of cooking, saves money and is much more fun than cooking and eating alone.

Setting a regular date to dine together on a rota of cooking and buying the food versus doing the washing up is a great idea way to save money and socialise.

Buy fresh produce loose

Buying packs of vegetables are both more expensive and do not allow you to buy as much as you need – one person cannot possibly eat a big bag of fresh food, and it will go to waste alongside your cash. Simply buy exactly what you need for the week to save surplus and money.

…But also buy in bulk

In terms of food that will keep long term (tinned food, pasta, sauces) then do buy in bulk. If products that you like are on offer – buy them and stash them for later on.


March: moving home and some chestnut flour brownies

It’s funny really, I’m getting more used to moving into new homes than I am to feeling ‘at home’. This month marks the seventh house swap of the year abroad, not including the all too brief trimonthly visits home, and I’m getting rather accustomed to having little in the way of familiar home comforts. Enviably decorated ‘lifestyle emporiums’ stock various interior design books on the various ways decluttering your home will declutter your life. So far I’ve found regular house moves via Ryanair lead to quite the empty bedside table.

Ryanair wing

New home number eight is in the historic centre of Perugia, central Italy. My winter ski guiding stint led to quite the writing drought (excluding a collaboration piece I am very proud to have written with the Independent) however I am now firmly back at my desk. Many of the recipes from the italian living section stemmed from my first visit to Umbria three years ago as a (very informal) au pair so upon returning here, this time as a trainee food writer and journalist for saperefood.it, it seemed time to reopen the laptop.

A calmer life than I’ve come to be used to, week one in Perugia has provided plenty of time to wander, read and bake. Setting up a new home every few months can be a challenge, but getting straight into the kitchen gives me the sense of ‘homeliness’ that unfamiliar surroundings struggle to provide. These chestnut chocolate brownies were the result of my first foray back into baking.

Chestnut flour brownies

For both budget and ‘cultural immersion’ I am aiming to use the most readily available ingredients here in Perugia. Ground almonds and cinnamon creep into many of my bakes at home, but here I found farina di castagne (chestnut flour) to be far more present so it seemed an excuse to experiment. Keeping in line with my budget aims, I’ve kept the recipe as simple as possible. I love creating recipes with 101 exotic ingredients but, when starting from empty cupboard shelves, it pays to keep it simple.

Recipe makes 12-14 brownies

100g butter • 200g cane sugar • 75g cocoa powder • 35g dark chocolate

[melt together in a saucepan over a low heat]

3 eggs • Large pinch of salt • Half tsp baking powder • 75g chestnut flour

[mix all together]

[Pour into a square tray 20cm/20cm greased and dusted with chestnut flour • Cook for just 15 minutes at 150 degrees c (fan) until the top looks firm but the centre still wobbles]

 

 

 

November

So much for sleeping when I’m home, I’ve been back from France a month and I’ve since spent two weeks back in the food mag world in London, styling and writing for olive, and now I’m in Switzerland. Working. Life doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all. No surprises there then.

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staff ski day

My early placement in France meant that I went without a summer holiday (I don’t expect anyone to bring out the violins, I haven’t exactly painted a worthy sob story), so I had three-four months over Christmas to play with before my Italian placement in Spring (and then undoubtedly returning to Hossegor for summer. Can’t think why). Not wishing to stay in the UK, another ski season seemed the sensible option and I spent most of exam season completing interviews for Powder Byrne, looking for a more ‘legitimate’ ski job than my last chalet girl role. Thankfully my slightly tense timetabling wasn’t to waste and I now have three months ahead of me in Switzerland/Italy as a ski guide/satellite resort manager. I even get to use my Italian (and attempt to learn German).

flims laax

I had three weeks between returning from France and starting the season so, after a week of running round the UK seeing friends and family (and making a desperate attempt to unpack and repack my life), I returned to London for a couple of weeks of food writing, assistant styling and testing.  I’ve done bits on and off for the last three years, so I didn’t want to fall out of the game for 15 odd months. Back at olive, I was able to publish a few articles, assist on a couple of shoots and test their Christmas cover recipe. Oh it was good to be back.

 

on shoot with olive magazine – testing the Christmas cover recipe

Reluctant departures are becoming an unfortunate recurrence of this year abroad, but thankfully it’s never more than a few days (hours) until the next challenge. So yes, after a two day turn around at home, I am now in Switzerland. There are currently nine of us here, setting up the 40-man staff chalet and getting all the kit ready to transfer to our respective resorts… and the chef just has to test out our guest menus on us. Such a shame. There are angry Swiss drivers, inconceivable quantities of champagne and chocolate (sadly not for us) and a fair bit of skiing. Yes, I think I could get used to this.

October

Surreal. My final few weeks in Hossegor coincide with the QuikPro 2016 competition, stage nine of the international surf tour. This is the World Cup of the surf world. Sports journalists from across the world descend on this tiny town for two weeks only. Scaffolding, TV crews, PR teams, security, hoards of fans. The tourism lull of September was merely the calm before the storm. Somehow I’ve found myself in the middle of it. Official press pass in hand, I’ve been thrown from press conferences to private parties; from product launches in boutique hotels, to interviews with the world number one on french TV. I’ve peaked too soon, surely life is about to go downhill. This can’t be happening.  In fifteen minutes I went from french, to english, to italian and back to french – each an unscripted, unprepared interview with some of the biggest names in surf. Assuming that I’d have no chance of scoring the key players, I prepared for the ‘lesser known’ surfers on the circuit, only to find myself in reaching distance of the heavy hitters. Too good an opportunity to miss I decided to ad-lib.

competition paraphernalia

It’s been two weeks of orchestrated carnage. Up at seven each day to cover the comp, back to the studio in the evening to help host the live news round up, then out again on various surf-related social events. Wholeheartedly reluctant to go home, I am at least ready to leave out of sheer exhaustion if nothing else. Hossegor, you did not disappoint.

competition crowds and quiet(er) mornings

 

September

The line between work and social begin to blur this month as our radio team dwindles to the core few. French interns return to university and I find myself sharing the editor’s office. We’ve already lived together for a couple of weeks in August, add to that a daily 9-5 and you have yourself quite the friendship. Rightly or wrongly we know more about each others lives than most and the odd work break is invariably a gossip over the sixth coffee of the day. Work tasks have mounted but the lack of other interns means an increase in my written work for the website, undeniably useful to check in on my formal written french. Gossip sessions lend themselves to quite the vocabulary range so, combined with published writing, I’m receiving quite the 360 degree language tutorial.

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lunch-break surfs at La Sud

Hossegor life continues to veer from normality; there’s lost dogs, A&E visits, tattoo conventions and live music in unknown locations. I am still tattoo-free. Hossegor has the perplexing ability to rose-tint, skin is more bronzed, more toned – a tempting canvas for  a souvenir tattoo. But I am not yet suffering from amnesia, I can still hark back to drizzly British winters where the perpetual layer wrapping and radiator pumping saps any remnant of my summer glow. We’ll leave it for now.

August

secret surf spot

Seaside serenity has gone on holiday for a month, Hossegor is well and truly in tourist season and the crowds have descended. Surfing is now an assault course of bobbing heads, careering beginners and angry locals; while driving has become little less than a circus on wheels. I think it’s about time I go into hibernation. Fortunately this coastal carnage has coincided with a rather timely house swap. I’m staying with my boss for a couple of weeks while a rather enormous surf camp descends on my usual surf house accommodation. Tucked away a little more in the countryside I’ve actually managed a moment or two to myself, worked on my skating, spent evenings reading on the beach and found a secret surf spot with the help of a few locals. I’ve even caught up on some sleep. Even at its worst Hossegor still seems to be one of the best places in the world.

downtime antics

Certain events are becoming routine: Sunday afternoon almond milk iced lattes and acai bowls with Nina (fellow intern and embodiment of french chic); Monday interviews with local chefs for radio material; and Wednesday night grillings on the evening music show (rebuffing relentless sarcasm live on air is quite the french lesson!) Interviews are becoming less scripted and English only enters my head when I phone home, this is proving to be quite the language immersion.

Nina found a friend – Surf FM girls

July

The one month mark seems the right time to say that life is starting to settle down, a routine is being found and homesickness is beginning to dissipate. Not quite. I’ve barely found time to think let alone miss home and, quite frankly, I’ve given up any hope of routine and settled (with no reluctance) to a life of wonderful chaos. Work hours may be fixed (almost), but my job title seems to change with the wind. Journalist in the day time, I have found myself warming up the crowds at a music festival, pulling pints at a live gig and handing out magazines at a surf film premiere. More than just ‘business french’, life with Surf FM has thrown me in at the deep end when it comes to conversing in different environments, whether through luck or preparation, somehow I’m still swimming and I have no desire to slow down.

Anglet surf film festival – Surf FM live

July marked the beginning of my live shows (podcasts available here). Every Friday at 11am the last song dips and it’s my turn to speak. An hour of interviews, recipes, song recommendations and general foodie chit chat fill the program and that’s me. I return home (to Little Italy… see June post) to cries of ‘Dio fa, sei famosa, ti abbiamo sentito alla radio nella macchina stamattina!’ (dear God you’re famous, we heard you on the car radio this morning), this job is dangerous for my ego but it’s damn good for my languages. I will become insufferable for the sake of academia. It’s all rather odd being on local radio, mostly (I mean, almost entirely) unknown outside of this small surf capital, Surf FM gets its fair share of local air time. Hearing my french voice reading the weather coming out of a car radio at the beach is one thing, but having someone come up to me in a bar and say ‘non mais c’est toi, c’est toi qui fait l’emission Surf Saveurs sur Surf FM. Je l’ecoute tous les vendredis!’ (no, it’s you, it’s you who hosts the Surf Saveurs program on Surf FM! I listen every Friday!) is quite another.

Les Estagnots

If I’m starting to sound rather sickening, I can assure you that surfing soon stomped on any arrogance. So far I’ve lost my board twice, been kicked out of the water for surfing too near the bathers, and rudely asked whether I’d borrowed my board from a friend as it was far too good for a surfer of my ability. There’s nothing quite like patronising insults being hurled at you by an angry french lifeguard to quell any arrogance building up on a Monday morning.

June

road-trip stop off: Ile de Noirmoutier

Somehow we arrived. Full of confidence, devoid of all mechanical knowledge, we arrived on sheer luck alone. Having rectified a minor technical malfunction just north of Bordeaux with the classic ‘turn it off and on again’ technique, we reached our destination (Hossegor, South West France) without any need to charm the AA into making the journey. It was here, on the 14th June 2016, that my two road trip companions left me to continue my own travels. Time to get serious about this.

a Hossegor 9-5

Who am I kidding? My oh-so-serious life is that of a salty haired, sandy toed, food loving surfer (an average one at that) who has somehow wrangled a gig on a french radio station, teaching the french how to cook, hosting interviews and reporting the weather. Yep, you heard it. The laid back surfer vibes are most definitely prevalent here, my editor saw nothing untoward about leaving me to research, produce and host (live, in french) a weekly cookery show to the french.

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the studio

35 hours a week are now spent in an office-cum-studio, planning programs (thankfully I don’t go live until July) and getting my head around a whole lot of tech. This isn’t exactly stressed office life; we have a dog, I go wetsuit shopping in my lunch break, surf before (and after) work and meet and greet local artists for evening music shows. It’s all started disconcertingly well.

Mango Tree juice bar – Les Estagnots

Oh and I almost forgot about accommodation, I’ve somehow ended up finding what can only be described as France’s answer to Little Italy; a huge surf house two minutes skate from work and a five minute drive from the beaches, staffed and populated almost entirely by Italian surfers and instructors. I think my mother is unsure whether to be nervous or jealous. The plan was initially to stay here for a couple of weeks whilst I found more permanent accommodation, but when I ended up in a cosy room (which opened out onto the hammock-dotted, pine tree-lined garden) with a couple of other seasonnaires it just seemed rather silly to leave. Two weeks booking? Make that four months. Evenings pass in a raucous babble of Italian (thankfully my other language) as great pans of pasta are cooked en masse and plans to head to town for live music get pushed later and later into the night. I speak french 9-5, italian 5-2am, and I’ll sleep when I’m home.