Thursday, 15 November 2007


I am going straight out after work today, wearing one of my favourite new sweater dresses (so rare to find something stylish that you can kid yourself is also practical), to an opening at Analogue to enjoy Russell and Julie's hospitality. I will be attempting to eat something before I get stuck into a few beers, maybe a falafel wrap from Meditteranean Gate, maybe a juicy Wannaburger cheeseburger, who knows, these are just two of my favourite easy Edinburgh options.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007


I don't know about you but when I try a new recipe I am always a little nervous. There are times when I know that, even if it isn't amazing, it is unlikely to be a disaster but there are also times when I am just plain scared. If a recipe is very different to anything I have made before then the fear sets in and if it is a new bread recipe then that fear is multiplied, just count the ways it can all go wrong. I have spent the requisite hours on a bread recipe only for it to be inedible; the disappointment is magnified by all those wasted hours spent waiting for dough to rise, and the time spent scraping dried on dough off the counter is too frustrating to remember.

So, tonight I decided to try two new recipes which summed up my fears perfectly. I didn't even think about it going wrong until I got home and realised that this is dinner and that if it didn't work two hungry people would be searching the cupboards for a quick fix.

I had the flatbread recipe stored away in the recipe file that lives in the back of my brain for a while and had thought that it would accompany a basic salad with some grilled goat's cheese but then I saw the recipe for wilted spinach salad with warm feta dressing on Epicurious and decided that, yes, this would be dinner tonight.

It was a good meal but I will say this. That salad is hearty. I normally look at salads and think we'll eat more of it than the recipe says, the only time I don't is for Nigella portions. So when this recipe said serves four I thought 'well it will be dinner for two with maybe a bit extra'. No, it is big, but maybe I should have realised this all along, after all a dressing made with a whole packet of feta was never going to be anything other than rich (and delicious). It's a meal, not a side, and not a starter, unless you are very hungry or serving very small portions.

And the bread, well it says to add more flour if the dough is sticky. My dough was sticky to the point that I couldn't touch it without it adhering to my hands in a completely unbudgeable way. I must have added at least another cup of flour to get it right, so plan to have extra flour and just see what your dough does. Mine came right in the end so I have to hope yours will as well.

I'll refer you here for the salad recipe as I made it exactly but I amended the flatbread recipe a tiny bit.

adapted from donna hay magazine, August/September 2007

2 tsp of active dry yeast
1 tsp of caster sugar
1 1/3 cup of lukewarm milk
2 1/2 cups of plain flour (plus extra for dusting and extra just in case your dough is as sticky as mine)
1 tsp of table salt
1 tbsp of olive oil

2 medium onions, sliced
a small pile of thyme leaves
sea salt
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil

Put the yeast, sugar, and milk into a bowl and mix to combine. Set aside in a warm place for five minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (355 F). Place the flour, salt, oil, and yeast into a bowl and mix until a smooth dough forms. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for five minutes or until smooth and elastic, add extra flour to the dough if it is sticky. Return the dough to the bowl and cover it with a tea towel. Set the bowl aside in a warm place for about 30 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

While the dough is resting add the butter and oil to a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and most of the thyme and leave to cook over a low heat until the onions are soft and caramelised.

When the dough is ready put it onto a lightly greased baking tray and press it out to about 1cm thick. Top with the onions, the remaining thyme and a little sea salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden.

Sunday, 11 November 2007


So, a few glasses of post-work wine on Friday turned into having Chinese food delivered to the house before falling asleep on the sofa. Saturday was lunch at Spoon (I am smacking myself on the wrist for forgetting to take any pictures but will one of these days and, in the meantime, if you are looking for a great Edinburgh cafe just get yourself to Blackfriars Street), followed by a visit to Analogue, a few quiet drinks, and then home to munch on toasted pita with dips and some baked feta while watching High School Musical (it was on, and it seemed just right for our slightly frazzled state, and we had never seen it, and I'll stop making excuses now and say that yes we did actually enjoy it).

But, finally, today dawned bright and cold and we set off to have lunch in the famed Anstruther Fish Bar. A quiet drive along the Fife coastal road, great haddock and chips with mushy peas (they deserve the reputation), and a wander around the harbour made for exactly the type of Sunday we all needed.

On the way home we stopped off for a quick walk in Crail and a quick fireside drink in Elie. The East Neuk of Fife really is a beautiful part of the Country.

Thursday, 8 November 2007


After sharing my happiness at finding Epicurious (it has clearly been around for a while but never mind) I was equally joyous at discovering that delicious.magazine has started up something similar. You can search for recipes, read articles, and save all those recipes that would normally be forgotten in the ever growing stack of Donna Hay, delicious, Gourmet, Olive etc. etc...

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


When it comes to Christmas I am vehemently anti-sprout and as that is the only time anybody ever tries to make me eat the overboiled stinky little things I am free to be anti-sprout for the rest of the year as well. But, my resolve has been weakening. I keep hearing people trying make me think there might be more to the sprout than meets the nose. They talk about cooking them in butter and keeping the crunch and suddenly this all sounds a lot more appealing.

Happily the start of the sprout season has coincided with my favourite recent internet find, Epicurious. It was love at first sight with the recipe box facility and one of the first recipes I saw and saved was for fettucine with brussels sprouts and pine nuts. Well, in the making fettucine became fusilli and I added two rashers of bacon that needed to be used but try it, it's a good one. If you're still a sprout sceptic it might just start to turn you, I can certainly feel my mind starting to embrace the sprout. Who knows maybe I'll be merrily eating a big bowl of boiled sprouts come Christmas...

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


On the odd occasion when I know I'm eating alone in the evening I have a good think about exactly what I want and, sad though it is, more often that not what I want is steak. The idea that men are the red meat eaters just isn't true for us, I am definitely the more carnivorous and so a big slab of steak is mostly a solitary indulgence.

If I am buying good steak, and I am, then I want it to taste of itself so no faffing is required. I season and oil the meat, cook it in a hot pan, leave it to rest, and eat. Sometimes I have a pile of frites alongside and sometimes just a salad. Today is a frites day (I say frites but what I actually mean is McCain thin cut oven chips) and I have decided to attempt the previously unattempted, home made mayonnaise. This is on my fear list, if a recipe tells you how to rescue it when it all goes wrong it doesn't make me very positive about my chances but today I just thought why not, after all there is always Hellman's if it all goes horribly curdlingly wrong.

After a bit of rummaging I unearthed a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe that had appeared in The Guardian a little while ago and would be perfect for finally using the local extra virgin rapeseed oil that I had bought.

Now that I have made it and eaten it I can say this, it was easier than I thought it would be and definitely not scary. I made two changes to the ingredients, I didn't have any anchovies so I left the fillet out and I used white wine vinegar instead of cider vinegar. I had to add more salt, more pepper, and more vinegar which may have been down to the lack of anchovy and different type of vinegar. I enjoyed this mayo but I wasn't blown away by it, essentially I didn't feel like I had used 250ml of oil in an amazing way. I won't make this particular recipe again (unless you can convince me that using anchovy and cider vinegar will make a vast difference) but I will try again, maybe Delia next time.

Monday, 5 November 2007


We don't really do pumpkin in Britain. We buy oversized pumpkins in October ready to carve into ghoulish grimaces but I'm willing to bet, that just like we did as children, most people scoop seeds and flesh straight into the bin (believe me when I say that I admire you if you do, and have always done, differently). I remember seeing recipes for using up the pumpkin flesh but there was always something about them that made it unlikely I would ever bother, maybe just the size and weight of dragging a pumpkin home.

But then, last week, in the run up to Halloween, I started to see recipes on US sites that called for canned pumpkin and they started to sound tempting, particularly a recipe for pumpkin bread on Culinate. Surely the leap from loving banana bread to loving pumpkin bread couldn't be too big? A small search for canned pumpkin ensued (those of you used to buying it from any local store should know that it isn't always easy to find here) but I eventually found it jarred and looking a lot like pureed carrot baby food. All that remained was a small division exercise to make a recipe for one loaf instead of two and I was ready to go. It takes all of five minutes to make and 45 plus to bake. I managed to wait about another five before cutting a slice and deciding that spreading it with cream cheese and washing it down with a glass of milk might well be a wonderful thing, try it you'll see.

from Culinate and the Jes Burns collection
makes 1 loaf

2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1/2 can (8oz) pumpkin
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1 cup caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 350 degrees F). In one bowl mix together the eggs, oil, and water then mix in the pumpkin. In a different bowl mix the remaining dry ingredients together. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet and scrape the batter into a greased loaf tin. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean (mine took closer to an hour but it is worth checking at 45 minutes as this will depend on the consistency of your pumpkin puree and the size of your loaf tin). Turn the loaf out of its tin and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, 4 November 2007


A weekend away and the intention to write a post on paper yesterday to satisfy my duties, instead I found myself documenting the Autumn colours so you get a small photo montage to sum up the weekend and the knowledge that we ate very well - butternut squash salad, passionfruit mess, and pancakes with blueberry maple syrup to name just some of the treats...

Friday, 2 November 2007


While I am obviously delighted by the opening of any new cupcake supplier does anyone else think that buttercup cake shop is a little too close to buttercup bake shop? Oh well, never mind they look great, definitely one to visit on my next London trip.

Thursday, 1 November 2007


On the first day of this, hopefully, monumental month (I keep reading this back as 'monumental moth' which is a terrifying picture, I have a deep fear of moths and now a deep hatred as our resident clothes moths spent the summer eating the thumbs of my Icelandic gloves) I have decided to ease myself in with a treat (obviously always a tough decision). We are lucky enough to live close to a fantastic little bakery called Circle. It used to be a French cafe and bakery but when Circle took over the bakery remained, much to our joy. The baguettes are very French (good chewy but solid crust, nice air holes, and fabulous flavour), the sourdough is addictive, and the croissants are like the butteriest dreams of croissants that you count yourself lucky to find in France let alone in a corner of Edinburgh. But today is a pain au chocolat day.

As a child on holiday in France being allowed to go to the bakery with my sister to ask for crossants, pain au chocolat, and a baguette was a highlight and when I realised that French children drank hot chocolate out of bowls I was in heaven, why couldn't all breakfasts be this way?

As I grew up I switched my morning allegiance to caffeine but that love of dark chocolate encased in pastry stayed with me ready to be indulged when the mood hits. I mean, how could you resist...