Friday 28 December 2007


This year, for the first time, there were just two of us for Christmas. We had a luxuriously lazy brunch of smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, and bucks fizz. We went for a walk in the enjoyable calm of Christmas Day at a time when everyone else must have been sitting down to lunch and then we went home and cooked. I had planned to cook enough to guarantee leftovers and succeeded admirably in this aim (maybe a little too admirably but cold Christmas food is never bad). My main motivation in cooking enough veg to feed a small army, or at the very least a large family, was to make the Christmas bubble and squeak from 'Feast' which I had made and adored last year.

Nigella gives a recipe of sorts but you really just need to bung all of your leftover vegetables (I used roast potatoes, roast parsnips, carrots, and brussels sprouts) into a food processor with a spring onion or two for freshness, whizz it all up, and then add enough beaten egg to just bind the mixture; it should still be fairly solid so start with one egg and add another if this isn't enough. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and then add the mixture, cook slowly on the hob then finish the top under a medium grill. Mine took about 10 minutes on the hob and another 5 under the grill but obviously this depends on the relative size of your bubble and squeak. When it's cooked, slide the bubble and squeak out onto a plate and slice. Eat it with your cold roast meat or just on its own with a sprinkling of sea salt and some mayonnaise or chilli sauce for dipping.

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...

Wednesday 31 October 2007

NaBloPoMo (or... what the hell am I thinking)

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon something that, in my ignorance, I had been oblivious too until now (I guess this is fair enough, I started blogging in January so why would I know about a November event). NaBloPoMo, or to use the full name National Blog Posting Month (it should really be WoBloPoMo as it isn't actually limited to one country), is a challenge to write and post every day in November.

I have decided to go for it but with one slight concern (aside from the obvious worries about inspiration and energy), this weekend I will be staying in a cottage with no internet access, which is obviously a hindrance for blogging (apart from that I am totally looking forward to the food, wine, bonfire, sparklers, and fireworks). So, trying to find a suitable solution I looked into mobile blogging but, nope, Vodafone in the UK won't let me do it. Anyway, as the electronic world is determined to thwart my plans what I will do is this... on Saturday I will write my post on paper and will photograph it showing the date to prove I wrote it on the day. I will have written but you will just have to read it on Sunday, I hope that's fine with the Gods of NaBloPoMo? Now back to compiling the list of potential topics...

Saturday 13 October 2007


I love this time of year. It has started to get a little cooler but is not yet so cold that I don't want to leave the house. It is getting darker but not yet so dark that all of the time not spent at work during the week is spent in the dark. We seem to have had a mild October so far but that doesn't stop the need for warmer and heartier food, it just alters the way that food needs to appears on the table. It isn't yet time for stews, soups, and pies (although Monday was so wet and cold that I found myself buying a steak and ale pie from the butcher for dinner) but the scarf around my neck and the slow drift of leaves onto the pavement suggests the time has come to move away from summer and towards the shorter days to come.

With this is mind I pulled out 'roast figs sugar snow,' Diana Henry's ode to winter cookery from countries where they really know how to make it through the cold and dark months. Often this means comfort in the form of heartwarming stodge. I have nothing against the comforting properties of a tartiflette but we're not quite there yet so I turned to a roast squash salad with lentils and goat's cheese for tonight's dinner which turned out to just be a pleasurable nudge towards winter and the promise of a new season's cooking.

ROAST SQUASH SALAD WITH LENTILS AND GOAT'S CHEESE from roast figs sugar snow by Diana Henry
serves 6

1.5kg butternut squash
salt and pepper
olive oil
30g butter
250g goat's cheese, broken into small pieces

For the lentils:
275g Puy lentils
1/2 a small onion, finely chopped
1 small stick of celery, very finely chopped
15g butter
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

For the dressing:
1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
A smidgeon of dijon mustard (I used 1/2 tsp)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Good pinch of caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds and fibres. Peel and cube into rougly 2cm chunks. Put the squash into a roasting tin, dot with the butter, drizzle over the olive oil and season well. Roast for 15-20 minutes until the squash is tender. Turn it occasionally so it doesn't dry out or scorch.

While the squash is cooking rinse the lentils and put them in a pan, cover them with cold water and bring them to the boil. Cook the lentils until they are tender which can take anything from 15 - 30 minutes so check them frequently as you don't want them to start falling apart.

While the lentils are cooking sauté the onion and celery in the butter and oil until they are soft but not coloured.

Make the dressing by mixing together all of the ingredients, season.

When the lentils are cooked, add them to the pan with the onion and celery and stir. Add two thirds of the dressing and the chopped parsley and season well.

To serve put a mound of lentils onto each plate and top with the roast squash. Dot with the goat's cheese and drizzle with the remaining dressing.

Thursday 4 October 2007


Yesterday, while trying to wake up, I was reading a few of my favourite blogs and as usual my mouth was watering when I read Orangette. I love this blog, the food is invariably gorgeous (and Molly shares my love of banana bread), the writing is honest and personal, and the photography is uncluttered and beautiful, if you don't read it yet you really should start. So, yesterday I read Molly's account of a recipe from Casa Moro and very quickly decided to recreate the meal I had eaten in Moro in August.

Have I mentioned that we went to Moro? Probably not as I was in deep blogging malaise over the summer, completely unable to cook or write, I even wrecked a batch of blueberry muffins that I have made a million times before. In August we had a weekend in London and as part of that weekend we managed a trip to Moro. I had been itching to go since buying Casa Moro a few years ago but somehow none of our rushed trips to London had seen it happen - another oddity that has just occurred to me is that I still haven't bought the first Moro book. Anyway, on a hot August night we found ourselves in the restaurant imagining how great it would be to regularly pop in to eat a few tapas at the long zinc bar instead of having to get our fix in one fell swoop. We were ravenous and guzzled the bread (twice over - oops) and, discussing the meal over dinner last night, both agreed that we would eat everything we had again in a second (although maybe not in one sitting). The flavours were beautifully matched and although we had struggled to finish our main courses we somehow convinced ourselves that ice cream would be a good idea, it was.

That evening in Moro I had wood roasted chicken with pistachio sauce and tabbouleh. Obviously I can't quite manage wood roasted chicken in my flat so basic oven roasting had to suffice but with very little effort I found Moro recipes for both tabbouleh and pistachio sauce in The Observer Food Monthly. I did some shopping, some (a lot) of chopping and stirring and we sat down to a passable, and very tasty, imitation of the meal I had been served two months ago. If you make the sauce don't both trying to chop pistachios in the food processor, it just reduces the outside of the nut to dust while leaving the rest whole, I found a mezzaluna much more useful for this rather long winded task.

serves 4

85g fine bulgur wheat
400g tomatoes, diced
4 spring onions, finely chopped
3 small bunches fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped (use a very sharp knife or mezzaluna so that the herbs don't get bruised)
1 small bunch fresh mint, roughly chopped

For the dressing:
1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt
1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp of ground allspice
2 tbsp of lemon juice
3 tbsp of olive oil
sea salt and black pepper to taste

According to the recipe with fine bulgur all you have to do is wash it well in a sieve and shake it dry and it will have absorbed enough water for it to swell. If, like me, you can only get medium bulgur, it needs to sit in cold water for 3 minutes to swell before it is put in the sieve.

Mix all of the salad ingredients together and then make the dressing by adding the garlic, salt and spices to the lemon juice so that the flavours disperse properly and then stir in the olive oil. Toss the salad just before you are ready to eat and finally check it for seasoning.

serves 4

100g shelled unsalted pistachios
2 tbsp of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 dtsp of finely chopped mint
1 dtsp of lemon juice
1 tsp of caster sugar
7 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp of finely grated lemon zest
4 tbsp of water
1 tsp of orange blossom water (optional)
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Finely chop the pistachios by hand or in a food processor. Mix together with the other ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Saturday 29 September 2007


I can't resist buying a new Nigella book as soon as it comes out so as soon as I got back from holiday (well a few days after if I'm being honest) I went straight out to buy Nigella Express and looked through it a few times mentally bookmarking some must try recipes.

On Wednesday I made coq au riesling which was delicious, but then chicken thighs, leeks, bacon lardons, and mushrooms are never going to taste bad when they are cooked in a whole bottle of wine so that wasn't a huge surprise. I stupidly didn't buy the nice easy boned skinless chicken thighs that are recommended but went to the butcher and bought whole legs and proceeded to get very frustrated doing a very bad job of trying to bone them, definitely not one of my skills. We ate it with buttered linguine which was perfect but annoyingly hard to eat and there's a single portion left in the freezer for a solitary supper.

Then on Thursday as part of a ridiculously busy session in the kitchen I made mini meatloaves, rocky road and chocolate-chip cookies. The meatloaves came out looking more like giant meatballs and while they were good straight from the oven and eaten with a green salad they were so much better cold and dipped in mayonnaise (for me) and English mustard (for Chris). The rocky road and cookies were to sell at a Macmillan charity coffee morning at work, they were both good although I could have made the cookies a little smaller and flattened them a bit as they didn't spread as much as I thought they would and the rocky road was great but super rich, a small piece went a very long way.

Needless to say I'm pretty pleased with the book (but questioning just how express some of the recipes will end up being) and have more recipes waiting to be tried so let's see if they all live up to the first few.

Monday 24 September 2007


So we're back, and no not just from yet another long extended absence from cooking and blogging (ok well a bit of that), this time we're back from holiday. One week in Chicago, one week in New York, lots of time with some very good friends, good food, and most importantly of all sunshine. After the worst summer I can remember I had forgotten how good it feels to leave the house in a skirt and a summer top with no worries of chills or rain later in the day, on the first day I was hatching plans to move somewhere where the seasons mean more than just slight variations on mildly crap weather.

After an early flight from Heathrow and the stunning sight of Greenland's coast we somehow managed to stay awake long enough to shock our bodies straight into the correct time zone and woke up on Sunday to the promise of dim sum, the Chicago jazz festival in the sun, and finally more Chinese food courtesy of Ed's Potsticker House. A quiet labor day followed with a trip downtown and a dinner at home but on Tuesday we were treated to a trip to the Vienna Beef factory for lunch, the quantity of toppings on the Chicago style dog was pretty ridiculous, more toppings than hot dog, and I'm still more than a little scared of the fluorescent green cucumber relish. I definitely prefer the simpler NYC style hot dog with bun, sausage, maybe a little sauerkraut, mustard and maybe some ketchup.

We went to the other end of the scale for dessert and made a trip to the Vosges Chocolate shop in Lincoln Park - so so good, I particularly loved the hibiscus caramel and the peanut butter chocolates, but I wouldn't say no to anything from there (except maybe the bacon flavoured chocolate). A lazy architectural river tour in the sun rounded off the afternoon nicely and I'll just gloss over the slightly disastrous evening meal in Greektown...

Wednesday was our friend's birthday and we celebrated in style. An Italian Beef sandwich for lunch (drool inducingly good) followed by a bottle of wine at the top of the John Hancock Center and finally the main event, dinner at Schwa. I loved the small dining room where we were treated to a table looking straight into the kitchen. The only people working at Schwa are the chefs; they seat you, cook for you and present the dishes. We went for the nine course tasting menu and, while I won't go into every dish in detail, I will gladly pause to remember the thyme ice-cream (a whole bowl would be a beautiful thing), the surprise extra course of a quail's egg ravioli topped with truffle infused butter (I would go back for a repeat appearance of this, I wanted more and I wanted to lick the plate clean), and the dried prosciutto slices which I could eat out of a bag like crisps.

After a quietly hungover day that involved a lunch of a pulled pork sandwich for me and an oyster po' boy for Chris, a visit to a few galleries, and dinner with friends we were set up for (oops) another hungover day to be spent in the single minded pursuit of a Chicago stuffed pizza. After a few false starts we ended up at The Art of Pizza. I've been trying to describe this meal and all I can say is that you think you know what these look like but until one of these monsters is sitting in front of you waiting to be eaten you really have no idea. One slice was more than enough but somehow that didn't stop me having a little more and feeling like I was slipping into a cheese coma later in the night.

Having eaten our way around Chicago we were ready for New York and arrived to a room on the 37th floor of our hotel and a stunning view.

New York was a New York tends to be, busy with way more to do than you could ever manage in a week but there were definitely a few highlights. We went up to the top of the Rockefeller Centre twice during our week. Once on Sunday afternoon and then again on Friday night, it's great. It was quick to get in, quiet both times, and there is loads of space to wander around and see the view and, dare I say, it is better than the Empire State Building. I know everyone should go to the top of the Empire State Building and it is a must see but the main benefit of the Rockefeller is that your view actually includes the Empire State Building.

New York food obviously included pizza (vastly preferable to the Chicago variety), bagels, two visits to the burger heaven that is Shake Shack, and a Magnolia Bakery cupcake but a standout was Pearl Oyster Bar.

I had read about this place a few times and heard very good things about their lobster roll. Our friend from New Hampshire, who is an expert on New England style seafood, loved the bucket of steamers to start but they weren't really for me (the bellies were a little too squidgily large for my precise texture requirements). The lobster rolls were stuffed to bursting with beautifully cooked lobster in mayonnaise and what looked like a basic hot dog bun seemed to have been dunked in butter and toasted (imagine Homer Simpson when he thinks about food and this is a pretty good impression of how this memory makes me feel). Then there were the skinniest little straw fries I have ever eaten and all I can say is yum. It isn't a light meal so be prepared to do nothing afterwards but go and eat and enjoy.

The one big letdown of our trip was lunch in Balthazar. I had been looking forward to this but we won't be going back. The people on the door were friendly, the well executed bistro classics that I expected were good (not exceptional but good), the busboys and wine waiter were great but our waitress was bad. I've been a waitress and I know what a horrible job it is but please don't ignore us and then trip over yourself to fawn over the next table, don't try to change our minds over the wine we want and then forget what we've ordered (three times), don't come over to check how the food is and not bother to listen, and don't recommend a dessert (yet another menu item that you just love so much you have to tell us about it) when we've told you that all we want is an espresso. Balthazar is clearly a little too pleased with its position in the New York social scene and that attitude just isn't for us.

Ending on a happier note, one day it poured with rain and we took ourselves off to have lunch in the bar at The Modern (Moma's restaurant). There is a three page menu, and the sizes of the courses increase from light starter to main through the pages. We ordered two lighter courses each and it was the perfect quantity for a delicious leisurely lunch, good unobtrusive but attentive service, a glass of wine, and a wonderful dark chocolate and pistachio dessert to finish. I would go back in a flash and it is open all afternoon and evening so perfect for a late afternoon lunch on a lazy day.

Anyway, one horrible bout of jet lag later we are finally getting back to normal. Life is calming down, the weather is getting cooler and, as usual, that will be my cue to get back in the kitchen and start cooking again. The swift post holiday purchase of the new Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver books are already inspiring me to get going.

Wednesday 1 August 2007


Some days (more often than not) chocolate is necessary, occasionally the only thing to eat is lots of buttered toast, but yesterday I needed cake.

I spent the morning wondering how best to tackle the cake craving only managing to come to the conclusion that it must include chocolate. I went to the Broughton Delicatessen for lunch and bought a salad box of chickpeas with red peppers and feta, couscous with dried fruit and nuts, and spinach with green beans and baby corn, but somehow didn't want a slab of the fabulous looking chocolate cake that they had on the counter, I had to make my own to satisfy this very specific urge.

So, having eaten my lunch and read this week's copy of 'Grazia' (the only acceptable way to read celebrity gossip) I made a quick trip around my favourite blogs and quickly found a banana bread with chocolate and cinnamon sugar on Orangette. As our freezer is overflowing with very over ripe bananas this was perfect. If you can't wait for your bananas to defrost then do what I do and just chuck them on an oven shelf as the oven is warming up. I had to make a couple of small adjustments to the recipe, I don't own a square cake tin (another thing for my wish list) so had to use a 20cm round springform tin which meant that the cooking time was about 10 minutes longer. I also didn't top the cake with the full 2 tablespoons of sugar because, as I was sprinkling it on, it seemed a little too much. Anyway, the cake was delicious and is still delicious today. The perfect antidote to my craving.

Tuesday 24 July 2007


Our kitchen is a frustrating place to be at the moment, I have been trying to take pictures but it is impossible. I normally rely on our bright under cupboard lights and cooker hood lights to light the worktop properly as our main lights are completely pathetic. However, a while ago one of our under cupboard lights went on the blink, literally. It flickered on and off before deciding whether to grace us with its presence while we prepared dinner and now it is just off and if we even try to switch it on in the hope that it will show a sign of life it interferes with our radio reception, and as BBC Radio 2 is our usual dinner accompaniment this is not good. Now, as if this wasn't annoying enough, our whole cooker hood has stopped working, no extractor fans and no lights. So we are in gloom and, as I'm sure you all know, gloom and digital cameras do not mix. Without photos I am never very inspired to post but after my recent long absence I decided that this lack of photos could not put me off.

On Saturday it was cold here, in a way that shouldn't happen at the end of July, with all the flooding in England recently I can't really complain but I do still feel pretty hard done by this summer. We went for a walk in town and got wet before deciding to go for a drink while we decided what to do about dinner and somehow found ourselves back at the old standby of lamb burgers in pitta bread but this time the burgers were flavoured with zahtar and the pittas were spread with baked feta for a salty taste of Greece. I have touched on baked feta once before but it deserves a place in the spotlight.


1 block of feta cheese
1/2 red onion finely chopped
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Drizzle of olive oil

Place the feta in a large square of tin foil and top with the onion, lemon juice and oil. Seal the foil parcel and sit it on a baking tray. Place in a hot oven (a precise temperature doesn't matter here as we're talking cheese softening not precise cookery so any medium/hot setting will do) and leave for 20 minutes before unwrapping and devouring. It is good as a dip or as a sandwich in pitta bread with salad. This is best eaten straight from the oven as it does harden up again eventually.

Wednesday 18 July 2007


...and I'm finally writing again. Is anyone still there, are you still looking? I'm sorry. I've been writing and rewriting this post for a week now wanting to make up for my slovenly approach to blogging but all I have is this, a brief summary and a promise of better things to come.

Our holiday in the Lake District was just what we wanted and needed, some sunshine, a little too much local ale, and a gorgeous cottage. But since then life has taken a turn for the worse. We've had too much to think about and on top of it all have barely seen summer.

I was starting to feel exhausted coming to work in a procession of soggy shoes, the bottom of my jeans wrecked from soaking up the endless rain, and giving the local takeaways way too much business (I'll introduce you to our favourites one of these days). But, last week, things started to look up. I found bargain flights for our trip to Chicago and New York in September (and am already dreaming about sitting in Madison Square Park with a Shake Shack burger), we went out for a great dinner and drank cocktails until 3am, we made brunch and went for a walk in the Botanics, and then last Wednesday I turned 28.

I don't believe in working on my birthday so we woke up a little late and the sun was finally shining. Chris went to pick up my birthday cake along with some croissants and pain au chocolat from our local bakery. We slowly got ourselves ready, booked a three night trip to London to coincide with a one day festival, and headed out to eat lunch on the terrace at Oloroso. One relaxed lunch, one and a bit bottles of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, two sale tops, one new bottle of Marc Jacobs cucumber eau de toilette, a lip gloss, and a few cocktails later and all was looking a bit rosier in our world. We drank some more, ate some cake, enjoyed the day and on Thursday woke up to more rain.

Still, all was well and I had a birthday party to plan. On Saturday Chris and I went to buy mojito ingredients (mojitos three times in one week is possibly a little excessive no matter how much you kid yourself that all that mint and lime goodness cancels out the rum) and food. Having spent an age trying to decide what to make we eventually spent Saturday afternoon preparing courgette fritters, pea and garlic crostini, caponata topped crostini, cheesy feet shaped biscuits, houmous, baba ganoush, and some cocktail sausages from Crombies. We cooked our food, drank with our friends, and saw the sun come up at 5am. Needless to say Sunday was a painful experience with the one bright point of a very juicy cheeseburger.

Monday 18 June 2007


Just a brief update before we jump in the car for four nights in the Lake District.

On Saturday night I walked for 26.2 long miles. Saturday was miserable but despite the mud at the start it was surprisingly fine and, as it is nearing midsummer, the sky started to lighten at 3.30am so by the time we reached the sea it was dawn. Anyway, aside from the supportive cheers of drunk guys out on a Saturday night, one of the highlights was stumbling past three very supportive husbands who had driven down to the route with a camping stove to make bacon sandwiches and tea for their wives and their walking group. The wives had continued walking but the husbands still had plenty of food left so were doling out bacon rolls to anyone who wanted one, which we did and it revived us amazingly well at 5am. We finished shortly before 9 and I went home and fell into bed incapable of movement. If you fancy doing the moonwalk next year I recommend it, just do the training and be prepared to lie in bed all day afterwards, oh and try not to be too grouchy when the wonderful volunteers tell you there's not long to go even though you still have five miles left and are already exhausted!

Wednesday 13 June 2007


More hugely uninspired days in the kitchen last week but on Sunday we went to Taste of Edinburgh. It was busy and we didn't see any of the cooking demonstrations (mostly because I had wanted to go on Friday to see the lovely Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall but was at work and wasn't so bothered about the Sunday people) or attend any of the tutored drink tastings but we did eat a few of the restaurant sample dishes. The stand outs were squid with chorizo from First Coast, Slow Cooked Pork Belly from Tigerlily, and Pistachio, Curd and Chickpea Cake from David Bann and along with all these small dishes we drank a few (more or less) drinks.

It was fun and I would have enjoyed it enough but there was one event that shines above all others, I ate a strawberry and I enjoyed it enough to buy two punnets to take home. Anyone who knows me will know that this is nothing short of a miracle. The next day Chris wondered if my strawberry enjoyment was down to the cava, or maybe the beer, or perhaps the capirinha, but I ate them the next day and was similarly wowed so, joy of joys, I now like strawberries (well, sometimes, if they're in season and the juiciest sweetest strawberries imaginable).

After my hallelujah moment Taste was over but we were just getting going so headed off to a bar for mojitos. A few in and we needed food so, bad girl that I am, I ordered food (or should I say carbs) for the entire table - fries, garlic bread with mozzarella, bread with houmous, and olives - all washed down with prosecco. Yes it tasted incredible and yes I had a killer hangover on Monday at work.

p.s - the cupcake bra is nearly finished so should be able to post a picture of it before the walk on Saturday!

Tuesday 5 June 2007


let me apologise for my silence. It wasn't intentional but I have done nothing in the kitchen for a long time. A very busy two weeks has lead to a lot of meals out and too many takeaways.

It all started when, at the last minute, my Mum popped up for a few nights and we took off for a two night whirlwind tour of Scotland. We saw lochs, mountains, ospreys feeding their chicks, Glencoe, Ben Nevis still topped with snow, even a red squirrel, and rounded it all off with a trip to the Blair Atholl Highland games.

I spent the rest of the week catching up on sleeping and working and then on Saturday went for a 20 mile walk as my longest training session prior to the moonwalk. The funny thing about pushing yourself to walk for 20 miles is that you start to appreciate the little things a lot. I have never appreciated a cheeseburger as much as I did after walking solidly for six hours, taking off my shoes at home was heaven, and an hour long hot bath is the ultimate in luxury when every muscle is screaming. I'm feeling back to normal now, just in time to do it all again and then some on the 16th.

After spending Saturday is exercise gear when Sunday came and a long lunch beckoned I was ready to feel attractive again. I donned a Diane von Furstenberg wrap, blue/grey tights (it may be June but it is still not bare leg weather in Edinburgh), and dark green heels and set out for lunch at Oloroso to take advantage of their fantastic Sunday lunch deal using a voucher we were given for Christmas. Smoked salmon followed by an incredible (and immense) plate of medium rare roast sirloin, spotted dick with custard and a couple of glasses of wine and my sugar and iron levels were back on track after the walking. If you're ever in Edinburgh on a sunny day I definitely recommend heading to Oloroso and grabbing one of the sought after roof terrace seats to enjoy what is probably the best view that can be had while enjoying your tipple of choice in the city.

Tuesday 22 May 2007


Apologies for the extended silence. After a very uninspired week I had grand Saturday plans involving a lot of baking and my first ever attempt at making pasta. However, a phone call stopped it all (except the baking but more on that shortly) in its tracks and instead we jumped in the car and headed north for the night. After a boozy night in Kinross we headed to Loch Leven castle to sit in the sun and finished off the day with fish and chips on the waterfront at Anstruther in Fife.

Luckily before we left I managed to get the planned and necessary baking done. I know that baking doesn't seem like the most obvious urgent task but for the past few months I have been baking cakes to sell at work. I am taking part in the Moonwalk in Edinburgh on June 16th along with three workmates and the cakes are a small part of our fundraising efforts. As Team Cupcake we are making the most of our name by baking (and eating) lots of cakes and will be wearing decorated cupcake bras on the night (not just for fun, it is one of the requirements of the walk), I may even let you see the final design. So, I made a chocolate and banana loaf using the recipe from 'How To Be A Domestic Goddess' and a gingerbread cake using Nigel Slater's recipe in 'The Kitchen Diaries'. We also had passionfruit cake, lamingtons, anzac biscuits, and chocolate brownies. I'll be baking more for Tuesday so if anyone has any great ideas feel free to share.

Friday 11 May 2007


Anna tagged me for the '5 things you may not know about me' meme. I decided to keep it food related as, let's face it, there are a million and one non food things that you don't know about me; my misery about The OC getting cancelled (and my crush on Adam Brody), my absolute hatred of U2 (you don't need to tell me just how alone I am on this one), and the fact that I was scared of the people on my wallpaper when I was very small. Anyway, now that I have given away a few non food things here goes:

:1: When I was about seven I pulled out a tooth on a wham bar (a chewy lurid pink bar embedded with fizzy E numbered stuff). One minute it was there and the next I had a hole in my gum and a tooth stuck in the bar.

:2: When I was five a neighbour said they would give me a Cadbury's Wispa (why oh why have these been discontinued...) if I tasted a strawberry. I took a tiny bite, spat it out and then demanded my Wispa.

:3: The first (underage) drink I ever ordered in a pub was a bottle of K cider. I don't even like cider but I wanted to sound like I knew what I was doing when I went to the bar and this is what my friend was drinking.

:4: I hate full fat milk. I love single cream, double cream, whipped cream, clotted cream, and any other creams but I can't stomach full fat milk.

:5: Finally, as a neat link into something else and definitely something no one but me knew until now, here is what my fridge looked like when I went home for lunch today.

Sam posted an unedited photo of her fridge last week and since then bloggers have been opening up their fridge doors to the world. So, the 100% honest contents of my fridge are as follows:

Top shelf :: leftover wild garlic pesto, Bonne Maman apricot jam, Bonne Maman wild blueberry jam, Duchy's Originals strawberry jam, goose fat, houmous, Philadelphia, tuscan flavoured apericubes (a gift), 1 Cadbury's light chocolate mousse.

2nd shelf :: milano salami, Keen's Cheddar, Cropwell Bishop white stilton, feta, halloumi, parmesan, selection of mini French cheeses, Sussex slipcote ewe's milk cheese, 5 large organic eggs.

3rd shelf :: low fat probiotic strawberry yoghurt drinks, 4 organic cooking chorizos, marinated anchovy fillets, Lurpak butter, skimmed milk.

4th shelf :: 1 bottle of peroni lager, 1 bottle of Sauternes, an open jar of passata that needs to be thrown away, a carton of passata, Tropicana, semi-skimmed milk, oak leaf lettuce in the foil covered bowl, 2 open jars of Sacla pesto, cornichons, caperberries, 2 squeezy tubes of Hellman's mayonnaise, 1 squeezy tube of low fat Hellman's mayonnaise, sweet chilli sauce, scotch bonnet chilli sauce, squeezy bottle of chilli sauce, ketchup.

5th shelf :: out of date puff pastry (oops), 2 bottles of tonic water for G&T, 1 bottle of bitter lemon for tequila and bitter lemon (yum), 1 bottle of Corbieres white wine.

Drawers :: asparagus, spinach, red onions, onions, carrots, wild garlic, mint, chillis, ginger, garlic, spring onions, 1 lemon.

And in the door we have :: unsalted butter, Cornish butter, garlic, mint jelly, wholegrain mustard with Irish whiskey, Irish relish, porcini pate, English mustard, 2 open jars of Maille Dijon mustard, homemade harissa (not homemade by me, a gift from a friend made to his grandmother's recipe), Zabar's coffee beans (a gift from New York), Fairtrade ground coffee, Hardys Pinot Noir Chardonnnay bubbles, 2 bottles of Corbieres (one open and almost empty), 1 bottle of Fuller's organic Honeydew beer, skimmed milk.


Thursday 10 May 2007


I was staying with my parents at the weekend enjoying a few days of doing very little. Unfortunately, the near constant glorious weather they've been having decided to do a runner just in time for my arrival but I guess being able to relax and sit in the sun was just too much to hope for. While I was away Chris phoned to say that, following our success with wild garlic last week, his friend and workmate Scott had announced that he knows a great spot for picking these pungent leaves and had presented him with a huge bagful for our enjoyment. After waking up at the crack of dawn on Tuesday morning to get my flight back to Edinburgh I wasn't much in the mood for cooking so yesterday was the first opportunity to make a dent in our bounty.

Following a good root about online I found Gastronomy Domine and a recipe for chicken wrapped in wild garlic and pancetta. I planned on just making a slight variation on this with some salad and new potatoes but then started wondering whether there was scope to make some kind of salsa verde or other accompaniment for the potatoes using the wild garlic. After more rummaging around I fell upon a recipe for sauce verte in 'How to Eat'. As far as I can tell this is just supposed to be a slightly mustardy mayonnaise with added herbs but Nigella suggests adding capers and cornichons to make it more akin to a mayonnaise bound salsa verde. I used caperberries as we had no capers and (putting my hands up to a mayonnaise crime) I used Hellman's as we always have it in the fridge. The chicken stayed tender and juicy inside and the combination of crisp bacon, garlic leaves and chicken was definitely one to be repeated and adapted for the many non wild garlic months. The sauce was sharp from the caperberries and cornichons and a great thing to quickly whip up as an alternative to plain mayo or salsa verde. I think that flat leaf parsley may stand up a little better than the wild garlic to being paired with such strong flavours but it still worked well, so give it a go and see what you think.

serves 2

2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts
about 8 large wild garlic leaves
6 rashers of bacon
a little olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200° C. Lay out the rashers of bacon in two sets so that three rashers are snugly nestled up to each other. Top each set with four wild garlic leaves and a chicken breast. Season with black pepper and tuck the ends of the bacon around the chicken. Place the chicken into an oven dish presentation side up. Drizzle a little olive oil over the ends where the chicken breast is peeking through so these don't dry out. Cook for 30 minutes, turning halfway so that the bacon becomes crispy all round. Serve with the sauce verte, new potatoes, and a green salad.

serves 2

3 tbsp of finely chopped wild garlic leaves
2 tsp of finely chopped cornichons
2 tsp of finely chopped caperberries
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp of dijon mustard
enough mayonnaise to mix all of the ingredients into a thick sauce
a little extra virgin olive oil to slacken the mixture, just add it slowly until it is at the right consistency for you

Mix together all of the ingredients in a bowl adjusting the seasoning and quantities of mayonnaise and oil as required.

Now I just have to work out how to use the remaining 50 leaves...

Thursday 3 May 2007


I was very suspicious of vegetables as a child. Actually I was suspicious of most things as a child, so cautious of new things that my Mum had to hang new clothes in my wardrobe so I could get used to them before I would wear them (I'm making up for that now). Anyway, if it wasn't potatoes, carrots, peas, or sweetcorn then I wasn't about to eat it. Then, one day, asparagus became a part of this list for one simple reason - melted butter. My grandparents would occasionally come to stay during prime asparagus season and they would go to one of the local farm shops and would buy gorgeous fresh asparagus. They would boil it until it was just cooked and then we would have it with lashings of melted butter. I think there is something to be said for getting children to eat vegetables by serving them with melted butter but I'm not sure the cardiologists of the world would agree. So, after many years of eating asparagus I wait all year for the British season. I don't want year round asparagus from Peru, I want British asparagus in May and June and I want lots of it. Last night my first asparagus of the season was served with a side order of chicken and Jersey Royal potatoes. I put some butter on the asparagus and I ate spear after spear after spear. My future asparagus encounters this season might be a little more restrained, but only a little.

Tuesday 1 May 2007


Last week, when I was in Valvona's (our local Italian deli) buying a sandwich for lunch, I had a look at the fresh produce and spied some bags of wild garlic leaves, or ransoms. I knew that I wasn't going to get around to much cooking when I saw them - hence the conspicuous lack of any posts - so I left them behind with the intention of heading back for them before the season came to an end. After a bit of online research into what to do with the leaves I went back yesterday and bought two bags, some pine nuts, a new block of parmesan, and a packet of gnocchi ready to make wild garlic pesto to serve with gnocchi. The finished pesto initially smelled like a garlicky freshly mown lawn which is much nicer than it sounds and, when we added it to the gnocchi, the taste of garlic was definitely but subtley there (I say this as a garlic addict so please accept my unreserved apologies if you make this and it blows your head off). I made way too much for just the two of us so am planning pasta with wild garlic pesto for dinner tonight. So, if you see wild garlic leaves in the greengrocer (or know what they look like in the wild) give it a shot. I'll give you the quantities for the amount I made which is enough for at least four servings on pasta or gnocchi with a little leftover for spreading on sandwiches or eating with boiled potatoes.


about 50g of wild garlic leaves (thickest part of the stalks removed)
50g of pine nuts
2 tbsp of grated parmesan
extra virgin olive oil to loosen
salt and pepper to taste

Either finely chop the wild garlic leaves and pine nuts or blitz them in a food processor. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and stir in the parmesan before adding enough extra virgin olive oil to loosen the mixture. Taste and season as required before adding to gnocchi.

Monday 23 April 2007


Since Sam, from Becks & Posh, put out the call to arms, bloggers from around the world have been flocking to celebrate English food and to proclaim loud and clear that it is not a joke. I made my cream tea but the feast of Sussex foods that I had planned was not to be, unfortunately my home county wasn't very obliging in the search for local producers willing to deliver to Edinburgh but I will make my fantasy Sussex meal one day soon. However, I am glad to say that Sam has had entries from all over the world. There are cucumber sandwiches from Anne in Stockholm, a ploughman's lunch from Beccy in Ireland, shepherd's pie from Catherine in San Francisco, Kedgeree from Freya in Essex, and a proliferation of roasts and puddings and cakes and tea. I was going to post a full round up but instead I'll direct you towards Sam's round up of the event over at Becks & Posh. I think there is enough here to prove to all those doubters that English food deserves a better reputation.

Saturday 14 April 2007


Since Sam from Becks & Posh announced that she would be running Fish & Quips, an English food event, in time for the much ignored St George's Day I have been thinking of things to make. After running through a number of options I think I have finally decided but, in the meantime, I decided to go for a precursor to the main event. When I was a lot younger I used to love baking scones, this wouldn't be very interesting apart from the fact that I didn't much like eating them. I used to make them and then tuck into a crumpet or a piece of toast while everyone else enjoyed my scones then, one day, it all changed and I realised what I had been missing, I also realised that the only time I really like having strawberry jam is on scones and that even though I don't actually like strawberries anything else just seems a bit wrong. So today, in preparation for an afternoon of excitement watching the Grand National, I decided to make myself a cream tea. This is usually seen as being pretty posh so here is my slightly more relaxed version, the essentials are the same but the tea is made the way I drink it at home.

I went back to the old faithful scone recipe from Delia, bought fresh clotted cream, Duchy's Originals strawberry jam, and got baking. The scones were as good as only freshly made scones can be, the clotted cream was rich and yellow with that gorgeous crust on top, and the jam was superb. And to wash it down I made my perfect mug of builders' tea, for those of you not versed in this wonderful tradition here are the basics:

1) put a teabag into a mug
2) boil the kettle
3) fill the mug with water
4) leave the tea to brew for a minute before squashing the bag around a bit with your teaspoon. The point (in my mind) is to extract as much flavour as possible from the teabag without letting it start to taste stewed as stewed tea is horrendous.
5) fish out the teabag
6) add sugar if you take it, I take one teaspoon
7) add a good slosh of milk
8) drink

I know plenty of people who hate tea made like this as they find it way too strong but I love it and even though I don't drink tea very much it is always taken like this. Finally, sit down and tuck into your scone and drink your tea and try not to be too disheartened that your one bet of the year was leading all through the last fences but still managed to not even place.

Thursday 12 April 2007


It's funny how you can look through a recipe book almost endlessly and feel like you know it back to front and inside out and then, unexpectedly, stumble upon a recipe that you just hadn't noticed before. Last year I did just that and discovered lahmacun in 'How to be a Domestic Goddess'. Maybe I hadn't noticed it before then because I had been scared of yeast but, once I had made some bread and pizzas, I was finally ready to spy the recipe for these little spicy flatbread pizzas. I tried them, and I made them again and again and again. Then, one day, I had been to the shops and had bought all of the necessary ingredients for the lahmacun but when I got home I realised that I was tired and didn't really feel up to kneading dough to make dinner. The lamb mince went into a bowl with all of the spices for the lahmacun, got squooshed together with my hands, and formed into little burgers to be cooked in the oven before being sliced and stuffed into pitta breads with garlicky yoghurt dolloped on top and a little salad. We had these for dinner on Tuesday and I tried to take a photo, I really did, but some things sound and taste a lot better than they look so I'll just have to leave you to imagine these.

This is the amount that I make for 2. If we're being greedy it makes two stuffed pittas each, but we have (once) had leftovers and they make a good sandwich the next day as well. One word of warning, the garlicky yoghurt becomes very pungent the next day. I took leftovers to work and every time someone opened the fridge there was a waft (some might say a reek) of spicy lamb and garlic.

500g lamb mince
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp of cumin
Large pinch of allspice
Large pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons tomato puree

1 small pot of greek yoghurt mixed with one minced garlic clove and some sea salt

A few salad leaves

Put all of the ingredients into a large bowl and, using your hands, combine all of the ingredients until well mixed. Divide into eight equal sized pieces and shape them into patties before putting them into an ovenproof dish. Bake at about 200°C for 20 minutes, turning once to brown all over. Once the burgers are cooked, warm through one pitta per person, slice up a burger or two to put into the bread, dollop some of the yoghurt on top, add some salad leaves, and eat.

Monday 9 April 2007


I've been enjoying hot cross buns for many years now but they have always been bought in, ready to be slotted into the toaster before slathering in butter. This year I decided it was time to make my own. After perusing a few recipes I was finally left trying to decide between two and eventually opted for what seemed the easiest from Nigella Lawson's 'Feast'. I wasn't completely sure about how well the yeast was behaving as I was making these and after baking them I have a sneeking suspicion that I should have left them to rise either slightly longer and in a warmer place or, done as suggested in the recipe, and left them to rest overnight in the fridge. Having said that, it is also possible that making them with a wedding-induced hangover wasn't the best plan as my patience levels weren't at their highest. Anyway, I understandably had a nagging feeling that these weren't going to be the hot cross buns of my dreams (you know the ones - light, golden, and looking the way they should actually look) and the feeling became reality as they came out of the oven looking like very misshapen rock cakes - lumpy, slightly rectangular, with only the faintest sign of the cross that I had dribbled onto their tops. Still, not to be too deterred, I dutifully brushed them with a sugar glaze and once they had cooled warned that they might not be the lightest bit of bakery in the world but, appearances aside, they still managed to taste remarkably like hot cross buns. True, they were a little denser than I would have liked, but the bun that I toasted and covered in butter to have with coffee this morning was actually pretty good. So, a success of sorts but maybe, next time, I'll take my time a bit more, try not to make them with a hangover, and try that recipe that sounded a little harder. I guess we'll see if that approach is any more successful this time next year.

Sunday 8 April 2007


Apart from the obvious joy to be had in overindulging in rabbit and egg-shaped chocolate, another reason to love Easter is the four day weekend that heralds the start of Spring for those of us lucky enough to work in places that honour public holidays. In anticipation of a Friday at home (for me at least) we invited friends over for dinner and I spent the week looking forward to spending the afternoon pottering round in the kitchen preparing a meal. I love deciding what to cook for people but I particularly enjoy being able to take the opportunity to make a pudding. I had initially planned to make some lemon souffle tartlets which I had read about on Orangette (and which will definitely make an appearance one day) but when I looked at the recipe again I realised that I hadn't made a start on the pastry early enough and as I wasn't feeling brave enough to chance drastically reducing the resting times I needed an urgent plan b, one that preferably wouldn't involve going back to the shops. I looked through a few of my most trustworthy books and eventually decided on the lemon-frosted pistachio cake from 'The Kitchen Diaries' which would only require a small substitution of orange blossom water for rosewater and slightly less coverage with the lemon frosting due to a serious shortage of icing sugar. The cake is moist from the pistachios, almonds, and orange juice, and feels like a relation to those little semolina cakes that are drenched in fragrant syrup but the icing moves it more into the realm of traditional teatime cakes, either way it is delicious.

LEMON-FROSTED PISTACHIO CAKE (adapted very slightly from Nigel Slater's 'The Kitchen Diaries')
serves 10-12

250g of butter
250g of caster sugar
3 large eggs
100g of shelled pistachio nuts
100g of ground almonds
An orange
1 tsp of orange blossom water (or rosewater if you have it)
60g of plain flour

100g of icing sugar (or less if, like me, you forgot to buy it and have almost run out)
2 tbsp of lemon juice (reduce a little if you're using less icing sugar)

Preheat the oven to 160° C. Line the bottom of a non-stick 22cm cake tin (I used a 20cm tin and it needed about 10 minutes extra to cook) with baking parchment.
Cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between adding each egg. Blitz the pistachios in a food processor to turn them into fine crumbs and then add them, along with the almonds, to the butter, sugar and eggs. Add the zest and the juice of the orange and then stir in the orange blossom water and, finally, fold in the flour.
Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 50 minutes, covering the top lightly with foil for the final ten minutes. Check that the cake is done by inserting a skewer, it should come out quite clean with no wet mixture stuck to it. Leave it to cool in the tin before turning out.

Make the icing by mixing the icing sugar and lemon juice together until smooth and then pour it over the cake. If you have any leftover pistachios use a few to decorate the top of the cake. Leave the icing to set and then serve and enjoy.

Tuesday 3 April 2007


After happily buying a few Jamie Oliver books from his Naked Chef days I gradually started to be less interested in him in print, I still enjoyed his TV programmes and watched each and every series but his books were no longer a must. I debated buying each and every one but there always seemed to be something more interesting around. However, my resolve broke when I saw 'Jamie's Italy' and I decided it was time to give him another try. I watched the programmes and read with interest about the stir that he had caused by killing a lamb and then I bought the book and mentally noted a few interesting recipes. Until now though this initial interest had only translated into repeatedly making the very good pizza recipe (I have discovered that I love making home made pizza and am actually jealous of the people who have decided to build pizza ovens in their back gardens as this would definitely be my first choice piece of garden cookery kit).

Anyway, yesterday I decided it was time to finally try a different recipe, I wanted to make a simple pasta dish so turned to baked pasta with tomatoes and mozzarella. The sauce is just onions, garlic, dried chilli, tomatoes, and basil all cooked together to be later layered with pasta, parmesan and mozzarella. This came out of the oven bubbling and smelling good but I immediately realised that next time I may reduce the cheese quantities as there was a little (actually a lot) too much mozzarella, which made serving it nearly impossible as the strings of cheese stuck to the baking dish, the plates, and, at one point, my hair. Anyway, cheese overdose aside it is delicious and will hopefully be just as delicious when I go home shortly to reheat a portion for my lunch with a mental note to check my hair carefully before coming back to work.

Sunday 1 April 2007


For someone who absolutely hates any sign of mush in a banana it may seem odd that I love making banana bread but, in my eyes, it is the only thing worth cooking with bananas. It is the perfect thing to bake to eat through the week and I am always secretly glad when we have a few blackening bananas needing to be used. For a while now I have been using the banana bread recipe in 'How To Be A Domestic Goddess', I leave out the nuts and the alcohol soaked fruits and include some chunks of dark chocolate and it is fantastic, it has never let me down so is the obvious choice whenever the banana bunch is past being edible. Today though, when I saw those over ripe bananas, I remembered my promise to make new recipes from my books and decided that this was a perfect, and easy, opportunity. I went through the books and decided on a recipe from 'Jane Grigson's Fruit Book' for banana bread with walnuts. This recipe was simple and fuss free, just flavoured with the bananas, the walnuts, and a little cinnamon. It cooked in exactly the hour that she specified (which always makes me view recipes very favourably), came out of the tin without any sign of a struggle, and when I cut a slice it had a sweet crust enclosing a beautiful moist interior. I think this might just be a new favourite.

Tuesday 27 March 2007


I've been on holiday for the past week and enjoyed some time in Sussex, London and Copenhagen, seeing some family, some friends and visiting some shops. While it wasn't a very foodie break it still comprised a few good moments. In London we visited Dover Street Market. I had been curious about this place for a while but my interest was really sparked when I discovered that the Rose Bakery had opened a London outpost on the top floor. I first heard about the Rose Bakery when I spied the book and immediately had to have it, an acid green cover containing well designed and beautifully photographed pages to show off the many tempting recipes. Since then it has been on my ever growing list of places to go to the next time I am in Paris, right up there with Pierre Herme and Lauduree. We meant to just have a look, but as soon as we stepped onto the fourth floor the smells meant that, all of a sudden, it was time to stay for lunch. We both had a tart with salad, bacon for me and corgette and red pepper for him, and they were delicious. I wanted one of the little round carrot cakes but couldn't quite manage, maybe it is time to try the recipe.

After a few very cold days in London we headed to Denmark expecting that the weather could only be worse. When we arrived to a cold and grey afternoon we wrapped up and prepared to brave it for a few days. However, the next morning we woke to clear blue skies and that is how it stayed until we left, we even managed to sit outside comfortably, a joy after too many months in stuffy buildings. On Friday night we visited friends and were introduced to the Danish phenomenon of Easter beer. Apparently special Christmas and Easter beers are released every year and we were treated to a can of the Tuborg beer, this particular Paskebryg (Easter beer), is known as 'Kylle Kylle' which I think means Chick Chick although anyone who knows better can feel free to correct me. We really enjoyed this and particularly liked the chick on the cans and bottles. I was definitely more taken with this than with the obsession with liqorice, I don't mind liqorice but I think eating salted liquorice must be an acquired taste.

Tuesday 13 March 2007


I had seen the Broughton Delicatessen as I walked past the entrance to Barony Street on my way to other places and had thought 'I must go in and see what it's like.' It is scary how many times I sometimes need to remind myself to go somewhere and so it was that last week I finally went in for lunch. I was having one of those days and was desperate to escape so decided to make the most of my lunch break and sit in.

The sun was shining though the large window onto the tables that are covered with red and white spotty oilcloth and I picked one where my back would be warmed by the all too rare March sunshine. I decided on a baguette with rare roast beef, mustard creme fraiche, and rocket. If you order a sandwich to go you just get the sandwich but if you order it to sit in it is a thing of beauty. It comes on a wooden board with a few olives and a selection of the day's salads. I had roasted vegetables, spinach with crumbled black pudding and some chickpea salad all sitting next to my sandwich. I sat, I read, I thought, and by the time that I left I was both satisfied and relaxed and, best of all, it had only cost 90p more than the simple takeaway sandwich. Since then I have been back for more takeaway sandwiches and have looked properly at the shelves piled high with good things to take home and eat, wonderful cheeses, beautiful local eggs, bread, and fabulous home made cakes. I'm already thinking about going for a salad box bursting with good things for lunch tomorrow. There aren't enough of these little gems around so the Broughton Delicatessen will definitely be getting my lunch money.

Saturday 10 March 2007


Last Saturday I went to my first cookery class since the days of school lessons in Home Economics (I'm still not sure that learning how to put chocolate icing over a bought swiss roll can actually be classified as learning to cook). Thankfully this one day course at the Edinburgh School of Food and Wine was both more fun and more informative than the dreaded HE (which was only ever surpassed in awfulness by needlework classes). During the course of the day I was thrilled to realise that, contrary to previous experiences, I really like lentils. So, after cooking and devouring our three course lunch the chef for the day said that there was just time for a short lesson in the basics of making truffles and proceeded to show how sublimely easy it is to make these chocolatey treats. Since then I have been eagerly wanting to try for myself, so with Nigel Slater's 'Real Foods' in hand I got started. 200g of Lindt 70% chocolate melted into 125g of warm whipped cream, an hour in the fridge to harden a little and I had my truffle mix. I had planned to roll the truffles and dip them into melted white chocolate but soon realised that this was a little too delicate for my first truffle attempt so I settled for rolling them in Green & Black's cocoa powder, which is hardly a bad compromise. Now that this first basic truffle is out of the way I am imagining new and endless possibilities, a few spices, a little fruit, possibly some alcohol...

Friday 2 March 2007


Over the years I have had my fair share of kitchen disasters. I have made inedibly salty bread (don't ever try to guestimate 5g of salt), attempted disappointing recipes, forgotten to add the eggs to a cake, and enjoyed chickpea mush that should have been fritters. I am a natural born worrier, if it is a part of my life (and sometimes even when it isn't) I'll worry about it and the consequence of disasters, no matter how few and far between, is that trying something new makes me nervous, particularly when that something new is not written down in trustworthy book form.

So with some trepidation I approached the hob to try a pasta cooking method that I first heard about last May while reading Chocolate & Zucchini. I had stored this away in my head for future reference and, when it finally resurfaced from the disorganised chaos, I mentioned it to Chris who said that his Mum cooks pasta in stock using this method. Well, we had some homemade chicken stock in the freezer (speaking of kitchen disasters I'll come back to my frozen stock one day soon) so I defrosted it and got cooking.

With a pan of hot stock keeping warm on the hob, I measured out enough fusilli for the two of us, added a teaspoon of oil to the pan to coat the pasta and then added enough stock to just cover the pasta, handily enough this was exactly the pint of stock that I had defosted but I suppose it depends on the pan you use. I left the pasta to simmer and absorb, stirring occasionally and topping up with water from the kettle as the stock disappeared into the pasta.

While the pasta was busy cooking I started thinking about how to dress it up a little. I peeled two garlic cloves and popped them into the pan with the pasta to start infusing it with garlic. I left them in there for about five minutes, then fished them out and dropped them into a smaller pan with a knob of butter and a pile of thyme leaves. I heated this so that the butter would melt and the thyme would soften with the taste of garlic adding to this pan as well. When the pasta was cooked (which took longer than boiling pasta but not a lot longer, just keep watching and stirring occasionally and top up with liquid as necessary) I took the garlic cloves out of the butter and thyme sauce and threw them away and added the sauce to the pasta. Served with a little black pepper and some parmesan I think this method will be making frequent reappearances on our table.