Sunday, 31 July 2011

Homemade Naan

I've been really bad about baking bread since we moved to Edinburgh...I am not sure why, it isn't like I haven't had the time...I just haven't been doing it.  I am trying to get focused and get motivated and have been looking at soda bread recipes, multi grain recipes, baking with rye flour...different things to get me going again.  To ease myself back into it (like it is so hard....) I made this easy Naan recipe on Friday night to help streeeeetch our left over curry.

I was actually really pleased with myself.  These Naan were puffy, had a good texture and tasted pretty close to the real thing (except that the bottom wasn't as nicely toasted as the top...maybe a quick flip over next time).  The dough was tough when I was kneading it, and I wasn't really convinced that it was going to rise at all...but sure enough after 15 mins resting it had risen a bit and was soft when I poked it.  Divided into 4 pieces, it rolled out surprisingly well.  I topped these Naan with nigella, black mustard and cumin seeds and then brushed them with a little oil once they had baked.  Easy Peasy...and oh so tasty!

Friday, 29 July 2011

coffee and home!

As I wandered around town yesterday looking in the windows of different cafes, counting my pennies in my pocket, my mind turned to the half container of buttermilk in my fridge (from the disastrous cornmeal blueberry muffins).  I need to use that up...why pay for a scone and a cup of coffee when I can make some at home??

So home I went...evaluated the supplies in the kitchen and got down to the task of finding a recipe.  My standby scone recipe from Canadian Basics called for one egg...I had no on to the next recipe for Classic Scones  from delicious magazine a few months ago.  It is WI approved so I had to give it a try!

Looking at the ingredient list I couldn't help but feel a bit dubious...there were only 3 ingredients...self raising flour, butter and sugar, no egg...the proof is in the pudding, or so they say.  So I followed the recipe (substituting buttermilk for whole milk) and the results were great! Light, moist, tasty.

Best scones in Edinburgh?...I don't know.
Best coffee?...definitely not.  

Thursday, 28 July 2011

My take on Pasta alla Norma

I first ordered Pasta alla Norma at a little Italian Restaurant off the Blvd. Saint-Germain in Paris and instantly fell in love with it...soft aubergines stewed in tomato sauce and topped with ricotta cheese (at least I think it was soft ricotta).  Aubergines are something that I am forever trying to make taste great at home (when I have the courage and time) but more often than not they tend to taste better (for me) when cooked in a when we go out for Indian, Chinese, Italian...I often order something with aubergines.  

Last week I made a salad with aubergine and last night I tried my hand at my own version of Pasta all Norma, substituting the ricotta for goats cheese.  

Please forgive the splatters on the side of the bowl...I barley had time to snap this pic...I was starving! 

My Norma sauce is made by sautéing half a chopped onion in olive oil until soft, ( I've started adding a Tbsp or two of boiling water from the pasta pot to the onions at this is supposed to help break them down...I've been watching Lidia Bastianich on Food Network and she always adds some water to the onions) then in with half an aubergine cut into little cubes (spongey middle bit cut off) and a pinch of chili flakes, and fry that (stirring, stirring) for about 5 mins until soft and just starting to turn golden.  Then in with half a tin of chopped tomatoes and a pinch of sugar, and simmer until the aubergine is nice and soft (I usually add a few Tbsp of pasta water now and a again as the sauce cooks down).  While the sauce is simmering I cook the pasta, and just before it is ready to come together I stir in about 50g of soft goats cheese and a handful of basil leaves.  The goats cheese makes the sauce really creamy and gives the sauce that little know....that zing that goats cheese has.  

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Belleau Kitchen Random Recipe Challenge: My Favourite Cookbook

This month's Random Recipe Challenge, hosted by the wonderfully talented Dom over at Belleau Kitchen, saw me fickly tossing cookbooks aside to choose my favourite.  Seriously...this was one tough decision...I love all my cookbooks equally (I do) and I tend to obsess over one at a time, greedily flipping thorough pages and selectively cooking my way from cover to cover.

Currently, as you know, I am obsessed with Denis Cotter's For the Love of Food...but I can't say that it is my favourite...just my flavour of the month.  Sticking with the veggie theme...I can't deny that my mostest favouritest cookbook on my shelf is....the fabulous...Plenty by the incredible Yotam Ottolenghi.  Many of you will know that I publicly drooled my way through this book when I was gifted it last year, and have been quietly exploring recipes missed out the first time round.  I have a few standby recipes...soba noodles with aubergine, stuffed onions, broad bean know...standbys.

I have to admit now...that I kinda sorta cheated a bit...sorry Dom.  The original random recipe that was chosen (gimme a number David...) was OKRA....I'm sorry...I just couldn't do it...I couldn' random selection number two was the incredible looking Multi-Vegetable Paella.  I hadn't made this recipe yet, so that was a bonus!!

I am not a huge fan of paella...I find that the rice is never cooked properly for me...even in a restaurant.  Then again, I have never been to I reserve final judgement for when (and if) that day ever comes.  This recipe was alright.  In theory I loved it...lovely rice cooked with onions and peppers then topped with grilled artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, olives and broad beans (Ottolenghi loves broad beans)...I just wasn't convinced....but I think that comes down to my genetic disposition to stir rice...I can let long grain rice mellow...but when it comes to Paella and Risotto...anything slowly cooked in stock...I need to stir (I'm half figures).

Final verdict....I still love Ottolenghi, and this dish looked just wasn't for me.  I would, however, take the different components and transfer them to a risotto without cheese (or is that sacrilege?).

Monday, 25 July 2011

Baking Disaster...Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins

Oh dear...

The oven wasn't set high enough...I don't know if I looked at the fan temperature but didn't set the oven to fan...or just didn't set it high enough...or what. Needless to say...these gorgeous Blueberry Cornmeal muffins didn't rise...they spread...and they spread faaaaaar.  What a disaster! 

At least they still taste good...sigh. 

A Wilderness Adventure, River-side Picnic and a Gorgeous Tart

What an adventure! We took the bus out to Dalkeith Country Estate this weekend and spent a good chunk of time wandering (sometimes aimlessly) around the trails and through the forest and fields and along the riverbank.  We managed to take a wrong turn at some point...and there was a moment where I was like...ok just keep following the river...we'll be ok...and then...the next trail marker appeared out of nowhere! Phew!

We made the wrong turn after we had stopped for our picnic lunch on the banks of the river.  I'd like to think that the reason for the wrong turn was because we were still talking about how great our picnic was...but it probably was because we had been turned around and weren't really paying attention.

Picnic Grub: Toast with butter, picante sardines, lemon sardines and rice salad...and raspberries picked from the hedgerows along the path!

Returning home exhausted, hot, sweaty and a little bit grubby neither of us felt much like eating.  I had planned to make a quiche and salad for supper (to last us two nights) so I went ahead and made it thinking that if we didn't eat any it was no big deal...

Needless to say by 7:15 we were both more than happy to sit down and stuff our faces!! This quiche is made with ricotta cheese, it is light and fluffy and creamy.  The pastry is smeared with dijon mustard (mummy's trick),topped with chopped cooked spinach, the ricotta mixture (3 eggs, 250g ricotta, 1tbsp chopped basil and 100ml milk) and then finished with halved cherry tomatoes.

For two people who weren't hungry...we still managed to eat half of it!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Weekender Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day...we all know this...but during the week it is hard to manage more than a bowl of corn flakes (sometimes with half a banananana on top) or a slice of toast with peanut is not like I am rushing to get to work (not yet at least), I just don't have the desire or hunger to eat much more at 7:30 in the morning!

On the weekend...however...I feel differently.  Even if I am up with the sun I manage to actually FEEL like breakfast...something different...but not necessarily a fry up, besides we rarely have fry up essentials in our fridge just waiting to be used (everything has a purpose...everything has been rationed...budget budget budget).

After my inspiring treats at Edinburgh Larder and Leo's Beanery I've started to make my own porridge with milk (a real treat) on the weekends and jazz it up with fruit and honey and molasses sugar and...well anything, really.

This morning it was Banana, Nectarine and Blueberries with Molasses Sugar (and some more milk) with a large cup of coffee...just the thing to get me ready for the weekend.

If you are interested in more obscure ways to jazz up your porridge...check out the Oatmeal Project on Tastespotting...with salmon and avocado...or as a base for eggs benedict...

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Veggies Veggies Veggies (and a bit of cake!)

Yesterday was all about the veggies...well...anything not sweet.  I think I actually had a headache from sugar withdraw!! I only managed four small slices at the Cake Club but that was enough to totally crash my system...amazing! 

I turned to the trusty For the Love of Food and greedily flipped through the salad pages to find something...anything...that would restore balance to my body (and prepare me for a cake treat in the evening...yes I managed to hold off until then!).  The weather somewhat forced my hand (cold, wet, dreary) to choose Denis Cotter's Warm Broccoli, Aubergine and Chickpea Salad.

Like most of the recipes in this book the ingredient list is exhaustive, and I used pretty much every pot and pan in my cupboard...but the finished product always...amazing!

The aubergine is roasted in the oven until soft (and crispy?), the broccoli is steamed, and the chickpeas are warmed through with garlic, chilli and cumin seeds...this is all tossed together with bulgur, spring onions and chopped tomatoes and then dressed with a yummy lemon yoghurt dressing.

My favourite bit was the addition of toasted sunflower seeds coated with soy sauce...amazing in this salad and a new "trick" to add to my repertoire.

DO NOT FEAR Cake Eaters...we enjoyed two largish portions of left over devil's food cake last night! Enough to return me to a sugar coma...

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

SHHHHHH it's a secret...Edinburgh Clandestine Cake Club

Edinburgh ladies (and gent) sure know how to make cake...and eat it too! Yesterday evening I attended (with some trepidation) the second meeting of Edinburgh Cakes Ladies' Clandestine Cake Club at Frederick's Coffee House.  I will not lie...I was I tenderly wrapped my cake in foil and slowly made my way over the cobbled streets so as not to damage the icing too much I couldn't help but think about how my cake might stack up...was it really Cake Club worthy?  Only one way to find out...

The event was themed...The Last Cake on Earth...and the only stipulation...cakes must be full sized (no cupcakes).  I actually had a lot of trouble deciding what to velvet...chocolate? I finally settled on Nigella's Devil's Food Cake from her Kitchen book.  I love Devil's Food, moist chocolate cake with a thick, glossy chocolate ganache icing.  I'll be perfectly honest, before "practicing" for this event, I had only made Devil's Food Cake from a mix...sometimes Duncan Hines really is THE only option...but, I am converted, this cake is light, it is moist, it is full on chocolatey and the ganache is easy to make and even easier to devour!

Walking up the stairs to the cafe I was nervous...seriously...but upon seeing the tables of cake laid out before me and all the lovely ladies (and gent) snapping away like the paparazzi my nerves subsided somewhat.

At six o'clock on the dot the feasting began...and boy do these ladies (and gent) know how to eat cake! I was totally embarrassed by my lack of cake eating skills...seriously! I managed to make my way slowly through 4 slices...Lemon coconut, Red Velvet, Carrot Cake and then a lovely berry loaf cake.  I'll be honest, I couldn't even FINISH them all.  There was something like 25 cakes brought in was incredible.

My cake club virginity truly became evident when people started taking tupperware containers out of their bags and choosing slices to take home....TAKE HOME! I hadn't even thought that there would be cake leftovers! I honestly underestimated the sheer amount of cake.  I snagged a largish slice of ginger cake, another bit of carrot cake and a little bit of my own to take home to enjoy when I can pace myself!

A big thank you to Allison for organising and to Frederick's for the venue (I'll be back...) and, of course to all the amazing bakers and eaters!!

Thursday, 14 July 2011


I love eating out of bowls...actually, I rather eat out of a bowl....even with a fork and knife! Weird, I know! The problem is...the bowls I have...just aren't big enough! Seriously, they aren't....I need some largish shallow bowls...I'm on a mission now to find some.

Yesterday I made a perfect bowl meal...Denis Cotter's Crushed New Potatoes with Courgettes, Cherry Tomatoes and Broad Beans.  Like most of the recipes I've made from For the Love of Food the ingredient list is long, and I used two pots and one large pan...a true labour of love (for food!).

The new potatoes are crushed with melted butter and sauteed spring onions (yum in its own right) and then topped with a sort of summer stew. For the veggies (which are also delicious in their own right...maybe over couscous? maybe served with fish?...) sautee thinly sliced courgettes in a couple of Tbsp olive oil for a few minutes until they start to look soft, then add in a sliced red onion, handful of cherry tomatoes cut in half and a few cloves of garlic thinly sliced...sautee it all for a few mins longer until soft and tomatoes are breaking down...add in 1/2 a cup or so of water and some chopped basil and let stew...then put it all together and devour!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

chilly july

Don't get me wrong...I much prefer the cold to the heat...I love snuggling up under blankets and wearing big chunky sweaters and wooly socks...but JULY!! you gotta be kidding me...

I was knitting these socks in preparation for the fall...but my feet are happy in them July.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Purple purple purple (with green and white)

Purple is my favourite always has been. Sure, I've dabbled with green and orange and red...but purple always comes up tops.  A week or so ago, Dom over at Belleau Kitchen posted a gorgeous blog about the beautiful purple carrots and purple gooseberries he's been growing in his garden...and I was so jealous...I miss my little garden (not that I had exotic purple carrots growing).

To quell the green eyed monster I planned a labour-intensive beetroot risotto for the weekend.  The recipe comes from Denis Cotter's For the Love of Food (I just can't get enough of it)...easy-ish to follow (lots of steps) and promises to deliver a proper beetroot coloured risotto (unlike some which are washed out pink).  To get the intensive purpley colour you have to boil and then roast the beetroot and then puree half of it to add to the stock.  The puree was a gorgeous deep purple colour (and tasted amazing) but when I added it to the turned pink....hmmmm.  I figure either I had too much stock or too weak a stock...or...

The risotto is finished with cooked and peeled broad beans (to add a nice bite), drops of creamy goats cheese (we all know how well goats cheese goes with beetroot), and a drizzle of lemon fennel oil.  Not as deep a purple colour as I would have liked, but really tasty.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

I've been naughty...Part 2

I hate bureaucracy...I am sure we all do...waiting in line...waiting on hold....waiting for a letter...waiting, waiting, waiting...

For the last six years my life has been dictated by forms and people on the other end of helplines or behind counters...I thought it was almost over...I was wrong.

Today I spent 45 mins waiting...waiting for my number to be called...waiting to go into a little office...

Do not frett! The outcome was satisfactory, sure I'm out of pocket...and I'll never get those 45 mins back...and I have to wait for something to come in the least I've done my part.  Ugh...the bast way to cure the bureaucratic blues?? of course!!

After a quick stop at the Museum of Childhood for a poke around I wandered back home via Leo's Beanery in Stockbridge.  This cafe is so...perfect.  Like Wellington Coffee, Leo's in the basement with tables outside as well.  It was busy inside, but the sun was shining (for the moment) so I took a seat outside.  The staff are lovely and were able to help me make up my scattered mind...for instance should I have a small latte or a large latte? Why not a flat white if you like a stronger coffee? The barista suggested (is it still "a" if it is a guy?)...perfect!!

Not as smooth as Wellington Coffee, but tasty and hot.  I wasn't going to have anything to eat (second treat of the week and all that...) but I was tempted by the breakfast menu, and again was helped to decide...scone or porridge?  tough decision...I was told.  Porridge it was (seeing as I had a scone yesterday and rain was definitely on the horizon).  The porridge is made with milk and served with scottish honey and then a choice of toppings...berries it was for me today!

Warmed bananas, blackberries, raspberries and black currants, a wonderful way to energise my day! Leo's Beanery is somewhat out of the way...or at least off the main stretch of shops etc., but it is well worth checking out.

I've been naughty...Part 1

Two coffee treats in one week! The first one was planned...the second...a sort-of reward for battling with the powers that be (well deserved I may add...the treat...not the battle).

Wednesday I wandered along the Royal Mile, visited the Museum of Edinburgh and popped into Always Sunday for a coffee treat.  I've read a heap of rave reviews on the internet and blogs and although I am not a fan of cafes in the middle of tourist heaven I thought I would give it a go.  If it hadn't been raining I would have sat outside, was raining so I took cover inside.  It wasn't packed to the rafters, but it was busy.  A large party of mum's and babies in the front, a couple of groups of business people and some backpackers filled pretty much all the tables.  You have to queue to order, which...if you are in a group is ok...but when you are solo you run the risk of not having a space to seat once you are served.

I ordered a latte and an apple cinnamon scone with butter.  I was handed a cafeteria style tray with my scone (drinks to be brought to the table) and I only JUST managed to snag a table...right by the condiments, right by the cash register.

The scone was pretty good, it was definitely cinnamon...not really apple-y, was light and still warm and a really decent size.  The latte...was...frothy milk...I am talking froth halfway down the mug...not impressed.  But, you know was packed, and it stayed packed...and in the half hour I was there people just kept coming and going.

I am not going to say I won't go back...I would give it another chance (the plain french press coffee looked really good...and the scones were alright) but...there are other places around the Royal Mile that I would rather take my visitors to.  Plus marks for serving the latte in a mug though, and a good selection of cakes and food.

Harsh? maybe...

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

More fresh green food!

Looking back on the last few dishes I have posted I am met with a gallery of beautiful and bold green veggies looking back at me.  Broad beans, courgettes and spring cabbages to name a not fear...I will not fail you today!  Green is on the menu, it seems.

Last night I made yet another fabulous pasta dish from Denis Cotter's For the Love of Food.  Sauteed thinly sliced fennel, courgettes, spring onions and capers tossed in a little olive oil, added to rigatoni and topped with heaps of grated parmesan cheese.  Absolutely perfect for a stormy summer night!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

spring broth for a warm-ish july evening

Enjoyed a really wonderful weekend so full of picnics and sunshine and the tennis that by the time Sunday dinner time came neither of us could manage to eat much of the roast pork I had cooked.  That's ok...leftovers are so much better I into the fridge went the leftovers just waiting for Monday night's supper.

Over the weekend I picked up a booklet of recipes from Waitrose (free) highlighting their new Love Life range (health food) and spied this gorgeous looking bowl of soup.  Of course the recipe called for a range of Waitrose ingredients...frozen stock shots, pulled ham hock...but after a few 21st century urban housewife tweaks here and there we had an equally as stunning meal in front of us.

I substituted the ham hock with the left over roast pork from Sunday night and was really happy with the result.  AND just enough left over for my lunch today!!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Wellington Coffee, Edinburgh...must stop scone treat!

I am overwhelmed with the number of independent coffee shops and cafes lining the streets of Edinburgh. It is becoming difficult to choose where to visit next, I've got my list...gleaned from online reviews and blogs...and I am slowly making my way through.  Yesterday I set out on a the direction of one highly praised cafe...long story short...I wasn't impressed when I walked in the door, so I walked out again...simple as that.  I won't name and shame...mostly because of all the rave reviews I have read, and also because I am not about being negative.  So...I continued to walk along and followed my nose to Wellington Coffee.

I walk by Wellington Coffee on most is always packed (lunch time) and I always clock the big chalk board outside with the sweetest words...Fresh Scones...hooked!

So, in I went.

Inside the cafe is small, there is limited seating but at 11:30 in the morning I was early for the lunch time rush.  Patio seating was full (sunny and warm) but the large basement windows were opened all the way so, after ordering, I plopped myself on a stool by the window and watched the world go by.

Wellington Coffee is owned and...from what I could tell...staffed by Kiwis and DAMN do they know how to make a good coffee.  My Flat White was perfect, it was warm enough, smooth and...a big plus...did not need sugar (unlike some chain coffee stores who consistently burn their coffee...oops what happened to not being negative?).

Now, let's talk about that gigantic scone.  There were two choices, fruit or apricot.  I went for apricot, which came with bramble jelly and clotted cream.  Ok this scone was probably the biggest I have ever seen, and not only was it was taaaaallllll.  The texture was really lovely, and the apricots were a nice change to sultanas.  The biggest plus...the more than generous serving of clotted cream.

David saw the picture and immediately said...can you take me there? Need I say more?

Wellington Coffee