Monday, 19 December 2011

Food Bloggers Unplugged

During the week the lovely Alison over at Hungry Squirrel Cakes tweeted me to say that she had tagged me in her blog...which is totally drool worthy...I went over to have a look...and there was her Food Bloggers Unplugged post! Not only had she mentioned me in her post, but tagged me to take part too! 

Over the last month or so I've really enjoyed learning more about the fantastic foodies whose recipes I swoon over and can learn a little more about moi! 

What or who inspired you to start your blog? 

21st century urban housewife started as a creative outlet and a way for me to keep in touch with friends and family in Canada.  When David and I moved in together (over 2 years ago now) my visa restrictions meant that I  wasn't able to I embraced my "housewife" role and decided to start this blog as a record of that experience.  Since then, I've grown, it's grown, my cooking has improved and certainly developed, the blog has been neglected and then pampered to soothe any hurt feelings.  

Who is your foodie inspiration? 

In real life it has to be my mom and my Aunt Sandi...everything always done to perfection.  In celebrity food world...the great Yotam Ottolenghi...his food is to.die.for...his recipes are to.die.for...the food styling is to.die.for...if I could convince David to graze and eat our way through platter after platter of middle eastern mezze I would be in heaven.  

Your Greasiest most batter splattered cook book is?

This is really hard to tell...the cookbook in the worst condition is my Canadian Basics cookbook...broken spine, stuck together pages, missing index...This is my go to cookbook if I am unsure of long to cook chicken, what the ratio of flour to milk is for pancakes...that kind of stuff.  It also has a killer recipe for butter tarts. 

The best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it and what was it? 

In the spring of 2006 my mom came to visit me and we popped over to Paris for a week (as one does). The day we went to the Picasso Museum it was absolutely pouring with rain so we ducked into the nearest cafe for was local, it was dark, it was crammed with was atmospheric.  Once we were seated it became very clear that the landlady was trying to offload the must have mentioned the Canard 5 or 6 times, but it worked! Mom had the Canard and I had the most incredible platter of goats cheese and beetroot salad with toasts.  It certainly wasn't gourmet, but it was probably the closest I will ever come to having a home cooked french meal.  

Another Food Blogger's table you would like to eat at? 

I think this is probably the hardest question of the bunch. the UK it will have to be Dom over at Belleau Kitchen.  I am consistently amazed at the stuff that he produces...and...they are his own recipes! I am no where near brave enough to experiment like he does.  And...if I was jetting across the pond I would die for an invite to Sue's table from The View From the Great Island ...think seasonal, think comforting...think heaven!

What one kitchen gadget would you like from Santa? (Money no Object)

I'd love to say an AGA or an ice cream maker or something totally over the top...but in reality I'd love it if Santa brought me...a big balloon whisk (this is what I desperately need) and a set of electric beaters...I know it might seem strange but I don't have any!!!

Who taught you to cook? 

My mom.  She always allowed me to help...and was for the most part encouraging, except for that time with the chocolate mousse...when it never really set and dessert was ruined.  When I was at university and living at home I cooked one meal a week for the family, I planned it...made the shopping list (and mom paid...chaaaachingggg) and then I cooked, somethings were great, somethings weren't so great.  But I learnt a lot.  I also spent a lot of time watching The Food Network in my spare time, so Mario , Jamie , Nigella and Ina...kudos to you too!

I'm coming for dinner, what is your signature dish? 

Does cake count? I don't know what I would serve...depends on the season?!! I just know that I would finish it off with a big fat layered and iced devils food cake with ice cream! 

What is your guilty food pleasure? 

This is easy...and disgusting...Kraft Dinner (or Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, or Cheesey Pasta) with ketchup and a cold can of Coke.  Or hot dogs in bread with Lays ketchup chips...

Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn 

When I was in university I had a life sized cardboard cut out of Jamie Oliver in my room.  Come to think of it, he only went into the recycling a year or so ago when I was at my parents' house and was forced to get rid of everything I had left there.  Poor Jamie.  

And now I have to tag 5 other Food Bloggers to answer these questions

Katey at Edinburgh Eats
Cherry at Cherry Ann Art
Linda at Linda Wilks Art
Michael from Me, My Food and I

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Mince Pies...the cause of a minor meltdown

I've been waiting for this weekend for months and months and months! My parents arrive at some point on Saturday and then...the festivities begin!! In preparation for the big arrival I planned on making some luxurious mince better to welcome my parents to Christmas in Edinburgh than with fresh homemade mince pies.  

I've never made mince pies...I've never made mincemeat, either...David's not a fan and I'm quite partial to the M&S Classic pies anyway. 

A few weeks ago the fabulous Hilary over at My Monkfish posted an incredible looking recipe for mince pies...with a twist!! It was the twist that got me drooling (that and the WI seal of approval)...a little dollop of cream cheese under the lid! 

Now...I think I need to insert a DISCLAIMER here...despite the disastrous escapade that ensued Friday night and the tears and flour throwing that inevitably occurred...these are HANDS DOWN the best pies I've tasted and EVEN DAVID LIKES THEM (which is saying a lot since previously he has insisted that I buy mini apple pies for him instead of mince pies).

Because David and I were barely home over the last week we agreed to a cleaning party on Friday night to prepare the flat for my parents' arrival...and I thought, I don't really have the time to make my own pastry and since these luxurious mince pies call for luxurious store bought mincemeat I thought surely I could use shop bought pastry...mistake number one...I was so so so upset with the way that everything turned out.

Wasted 1/2 a jar of mincemeat, 1/2 the batch of cream cheese...all the out came the cold butter, out came the flour, out came the caster sugar and in went my WAY TOO HOT hands...and I got on with making my own flipping pastry...Mymonkfish's recipe uses orange rind and orange juice to make the dough (which I didn't have) so I added a cap full of almond extract...and...while the assembly leaves much to be desired...the taste is INCREDIBLE! 

After moaning on twitter my spirits were lifted by the lovely Jac over at Tinned Tomatoes, thank you Jac! Rustic-looking surely is so much more welcoming than pristine Michelin Star Mince Pies!!! 

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Raisin Cinnamon Sugar Bread

Last year at this time I was thinking about my new year's resolution...what changes in my life did I want to make...and while I didn't decide to actually give anything up or vow to be a better person or anything...I did, however, resolve to make a conscious effort to make my own bread.  I haven't been very consistent, I'll admit it, and after our big move up to Edinburgh I have been spending every second of my free time exploring.  

David's been really proactive the last few weekends, waking up early getting the dough going and I'll admit it, I've been slightly jealous of the loaves and buns he's produced.  I wish I had baked more bread over the last year, I wish I had been brave enough to experiment.  

This week David's been so busy studying for his exams that he "allowed" me to make the bread! I seized my chance and attempted a raisin cinnamon sugar bread.  

I can't remember where I originally found the recipe, it is scribbled down in my recipe book as "White Loaf with variations", that's all the info I have..that and the instructions for making the dough using the dough hook on my KitchenAid.  

It is a basic recipe...500g strong white flour, pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp yeast and 300ml warm water.  Before adding the water I added 1/2 cup of raisins and upped the sugar to 1 Tbsp.  

The KitchenAid was a no-go today (sob) since David studies in the kitchen and he has deemed it too noisy...weep.  And so, I overcame my kneading by hand phobia and got on the with job...and BOY was it satisfying.  The kneading was slightly exhausting but it was so so so enjoyable.  I have been converted! 

After the first rise (and the second kneading session) I rolled the dough out to a rectangle about 1inch thick, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and then folded the bread in thirds into a loaf shape and left to rest in the tin.  Before popping it in the oven (200 degrees, 30-35 mins) I brushed it with milk and sprinkled again with sugar and cinnamon.  

It tastes great...not sweet at all...but I think that next time I would just add the cinnamon at the beginning with a bit of extra sugar. 

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Mini Florentines

My Christmas Menu has been set for a month or so now (ok ok ok a good FEW months) and I have just been waiting for the time to arrive when it is reasonable to START the baking and preparing and all that.  I've ordered all the non-parishables and freezable goods to come early next week and all that is left to pick up are fresh veggies, cheeses and...of course...the smoked salmon (mum and dad's job) and now that it is only a couple of weeks until Christmas the baking has commenced!! 

I made a batch of pretty sad looking gingerbread last weekend and have conceded that they will have to iced in some form (I am not a fan of iced gingerbread...but aesthetics demand it this time around I am afraid!) and yesterday afternoon I turned my hand to making mini florentines.  

It took my practically all afternoon to turn out 3 and a half dozen chewy, buttery, chocolate coated two-bite florentines. And because they only bake for like 5 mins it was impossible to do anything else except sit in front of the oven...

I've seen florentines baked on tv and I wasn't too thrilled about the idea of the batter spreading (plus my baking sheet is dinky) so I used a mini muffin tin instead! It was great...but it meant that I had to wait for each batch to be totally cooled before I could pry them from the tin, which is what actually took the longest amount of time.  

I halved the quantities from  this recipe from BBC Good Food substituting Golden Syrup for the honey.  I love the idea of pouring the mixture straight into a baking tray and then cutting out shapes, which I think I will try next time.  I also have it on good authority that this recipe from The Pink Whisk is awesome as well.  

These were a first for me.  They were tricky only because they require a huge amount of patience and accuracy. Accurate measurements, accurate baking, patiently waiting for them to cool, patiently painting on the chocolate coating, patiently waiting to devour them at Christmas.  

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Buche de Noel disasssster

I've been feeling pretty rotten lately.  On Sunday I was feeling somewhat better and decide to really challenge myself (mistake number one) so out came the cookbooks...and the search began.  I was searching for something chocolately, something to test, something that could be shortlisted for my Christmas meal.  I was flipping through my books, my clippings and my basket of mags...and then I came across Stephane Reynaud's Buche de Noel from 365 Reasons to Sit Down and Eat. Perfect! Buche de Noel...with a choice of fillings- chocolate or chestnut cream.  

Done done done! The filling had to be chocolate...David's request and mum doesn't like chestnuts and I am already putting them in the stuffing and with the she needs a break! The cake was easy to make (even after I realised that I had bought XL eggs...grrrr) and it rolled up really nicely.  So...once cooled I got onto the chocolate cream filling....and this is where it all went wrong.  

The instructions in this cookbook are minimal.  For the most part there isn't much cook's intuition needed, but man I was waaaaay off on Sunday.  The instructions say to melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler and then add in whipped cream.  Not a word about letting the chocolate cool...I should have realised...I mean I kinda did...I let the chocolate cool a little...but well...I guess you can imagine what happened.  The chocolate was too warm and totally melted the whipped cream!! So I tried to rescue it by whipping it all up again...but the butter made it a little bit greasy.  Anyway, I managed to spread enough on the cake and roll it up, cover the top and get it all in the fridge to cool and set.  

While it looks presentable it is not going on the Christmas dessert shortlist...back to the drawing board I go! 

Monday, 5 December 2011

St. Andrew's Day and our first Haggis

I was really looking forward to our first St. Andrew's Day in Edinburgh.  Not that I was hoping to go out to a party or anything...I was simply looking forward to cooking haggis for the first time.  I love haggis...there I've said fact, both David and I love haggis so that isn't an issue.  The issue is the Neeps! EURGH!!! There are few vegetables that I don't like, but unfortunately Swede a.k.a Rutabaga is one of them (along with Parsnips if you are interested) Neeps was most definitely off the St. Andrew's Day menu.

To make up for the dastardly Neeps I cooked up some carrots and mashed them into the tatties, along with some thinly shredded cooked cabbage...a kind of makeshift clapshot.  

I'll admit that the Haggis was a name brand purchase from Waitrose...if I had had more time (and money) I would have ordered one from the local is hard to get there afterwork on a cold and dreary Wednesday.  Hold excuses, the brand name one did us just fine.  It was seasoned well, the texture was great and the end it IS lamb offal so it can't really be that fancy!! 

To bring it all together I made a whisky cream sauce by warming some cream and then adding whole grain mustard and a good shot of Wiser's 18 yr. Canadian Rye Whisky to it. 

The great thing...we can do it all again in January on Burns night!!! 

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Hubby's buns!!! (oh and loaf)

That David has done it again! I fear I am quickly being demoted to apprentice baker in this house as hubby soars up to master baker status!! Last weekend I watched as he skilfully measured out all the ingredients for his seeded loaf (new flour...Waitrose crunchy seeded white bread flour) kneaded it all together, left it to rise, lovingly moved the bowl to a warmer location, kneaded it again, popped into a loaf pan, built a temporary structure to rest it on beside the oven while it was heating up...and then baked it.  It was like watching someone who had baked bread time and time again...but this was only his second loaf! I was in awe...and a little bit more in love (if that is even possible).  

We agreed that this loaf was better than the first one.  The texture was nicer, the crust was crunchier and because it was white flour it rose just that much more.  We pretty much gobbled most of the loaf up with bowls of chunky leek and potato soup...but there was some left for the odd bit of toast! 

This week he tried his hand at know...buns (teeheee) with great success.  I totally distracted him at the final stage (I was getting supper ready) and he forgot to brush milk over the tops so they are a bit "dull looking" (his words)...but man do they taste great!!! 

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Mummy's Kitchen Sink Cookies

After a few weeks of cake I thought that this weekend I would mix it up a bit and try my hand at some of my mummy's signature Kitchen Sink Cookies...oats, chocolate chips, raisins, coconut, walnuts...all mixed together into a yummy scrummy cookie (or 4 dozen).  

This is one of those cookie recipes that you can change up depending on what you have in the cupboard, or can find in the supermarket...or just fancy really.  I know it looks like a load of ingredients, but the recipe makes around 4 dozen decent sized it is totally worth the time and effort! 

At the Edinburgh Cake Ladies event this week some of us were chatting about cookies and using American recipes and the conversation turned to butter...the quality of the butter...the consistency of the butter...the cost...keeping all this in mind, today I used President's Unsalted French Butter and I couldn't be happier with how the cookies turned out, not greasy at all! 

I've just copied my mum's emailed recipe, so everything is in North American...conversions required!!! 

preheat oven to 350F

1) with a wooden spoon cream the following in a very large bowl:
    1 cup butter
    1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    1/2 cup white sugar
   then add 2 eggs (one at a time)
   and 1 tsp vanilla
2)  in another bowl blend and add to bowl #1
     2 cups flour
     1 tsp baking soda
     1/2 tsp baking powder
     1/2 tsp salt
3)  in separate bowl mix the following and then add to bowl #1 :
     2 cups oats
     2 cups mini choc chips
     1 cup shredded coconut
     1 cup raisins or cranberries
     1 cup chopped walnuts
* spoon walnut sized pieces of dough onto trays and push down slightly using either your hands or the floured bottom of a glass
* Bake at 350F for 11- 13 mins until just golden. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

David bakes bread!!!

Before David's wonky cake was even in the oven he said to I want to try to make bread (!!!) I don't know what has come over him...but I am more than happy to sit back and watch him explore his new interest in baking...and if he likes bread making then he can do that and I can focus on the cakes! 

For a first loaf I am really impressed....heck! For a millionth loaf I'd be really impressed.  He used the end of the Waitrose Love Life Malted Seeded bread flour I bought last month and produced a really lovely loaf.  

We both agreed that next weekend we will buy some special white bread flour (maybe seeded) and see the difference in the dough and the rise and everything...but we both really like this malted flour and will definitely be using it again.  We were really good and let the loaf cool before cutting into it (I love freshly baked bread slathered with butter and jam) and enjoyed it as part of a very posh homemade ploughman's! 

So, I'm thinking about getting David a bread making book for xmas...any suggestions? recommendations? must buys? 

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Chocolate Ginger Beer Cake

I've been anticipating baking this cake all week.  Actually, in all honestly I started anticipating baking this cake last weekend while David was slaving away on his wonky cake.  It isn't that I wasn't interested in his cake it is just that I was flipping through the freebie Waitrose Weekend paper we had picked up when buying his ingredients and stumbled upon the most luscious looking cake...deep dark chocolate with a soft white icing...and then I read the title: Rich Chocolate & Ginger Beer Cake...that was it...I was sold (not to mention we had bought most of the ingredients already for David's cake)! 

This cake is dense and moist, and totally chocolatey.  The icing is made with mascarpone cheese, which gives it a really light flavour and texture, but it also meant that I needed to find room in my fridge for it!! The cake is lovely, but it wasn't gingery enough for me.  I'm thinking about adding some candied ginger or ground ginger (or both) the next time.  The icing is a golden colour because I've started using Billington's natural golden icing sugar .  I think the soft gingery colour adds something extra to the presentation of the cake.  

I'm posting the recipe for a couple of reasons; it isn't available on the Waitrose website, but I also changed the method to suit me and my stand mixer (I don't have a hand mixer).  

Rich Chocolate & Ginger Beer Cake
adapted from Waitrose Weekend (10 November 2011)

300ml ginger beer (I used non alcoholic)
175g dark chocolate, broken into squares
50g cocoa powder
100g butter, softened
225g light brown sugar
2 eggs
200g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

75g butter, softened
5 Tbsp ginger beer
125g icing sugar
250g mascarpone cheese


-Pre-Heat oven to 170 degrees C, and grease and line 2 20cm sandwich tins (or 1 20cm spring form pan).

-Put ginger beer, cocoa powder and chocolate in a heat proof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.  Leave until the chocolate has melted and everything is smooth and glossy, whisking every once in a while. Remove bowl from heat and leave to cool, about 15 mins.

-Sift flour and baking powder together into a small bowl.

-Once chocolate is cool cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, followed by flour.  Mix until just combined.  On low speed pour in about a 1/4 of the chocolate mixture and beat in to loosen batter.  Add remainder of chocolate mixture.

-Pour batter into prepared tins and bake in oven for 25-30 mins (about 50 mins if making in one spring form pan).  Cake should be just firm to the touch but tester should be clean.  

-Leave to cool for 5 mins before loosening sides of cake from tins.  Leave in tins to cool.

-Once completely cooled remove from tins and prepare for icing.

-For icing: cream butter and icing sugar together, slowly adding ginger beer.  Beat until smooth and creamy.  Add mascarpone cheese and beat until just combined.  Use 1/2 of the mixture to sandwich the two cakes together and the rest to decorate the top.

**I baked this as one big cake (I don't have sandwich tins) and found cutting it in half pretty difficult, so would recommend baking as two cakes. I also had trouble with the icing, the butter reacted against the ginger beer and it took beating it all by hand (ouch my arm) for it to come together before adding in the mascarpone.  Because of this I added about 3 Tbsp more icing sugar to help thicken it up. Regardless, this is a very easy cake to eat!!**

Sunday, 13 November 2011

David's Wonky Cake

Although last weekend's Beetroot Cake went down well with my colleagues...and my tummy...there was one person who was not convinced, not impressed and wouldn't even finish his piece! So...we made a deal.  I would make him anything he wanted (Chocolate) but he had to help.  And help he fact David pretty much made the cake himself...with a little help from me.  There was a lot of starting and stopping and double checking...but in the end...into the oven it went.  

And out of the oven it came...

Um....not too sure what happened here, well actually we have a pretty good idea what happened...the springfrom pan wasn't assembled properly...resulting in a wonky cake and burnt cake batter on the floor of the oven.  

Never mind though...a thick layer of ganache and no one's the wiser! 

David's Wonky Cake is a combination of two of our favourite cake recipes, Tessa Kiros's Marble Cake from her book Apples for Jam, and Nigella's Ganache from her Devil's Food Cake recipe in Kitchen.  We halved the ganache recipe and there was just enough to cover this wonky 8" cake.  

I am hoping that one day I will come home to a cake made just for me!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Nigella's Sweet Potato Supper

This meal, although really easy to throw together, is slightly grander than most of our regular Friday night "it's the weekend" kind of grub.

Bright orange sweet potatoes roasted with asparagus, pancetta and cloves of garlic...what is not to love? The recipe comes from Nigella's Kitchen...recipe sadly not basically wash and dry the sweet potatoes, cut them into 1/4s (rounds) and then roast with asparagus spears, whole cloves of garlic (in skin) and cubes of pancetta...all tossed in a few Tbsp of rapeseed oil.  The recipe says to roast it all for 30 mins and then turn sweet potatoes over and put it all back into the oven for another 30 mins.

When it came out the sweet potatoes were tender and caramelised and just gorgeous...the asparagus was wasn't inedible, but it was pretty crispy. I'd say it was down to the spears being too thin for the length of time they were in the oven...or they were in the oven too time (and there will be a next time) I'm going to toss the asparagus in a little oil and add them after the first 30 mins.

This dish is sweet and salty and...crispy, and surprisingly filling.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Random Recipes does No Croutons Required!!

What a totally fantastic challenge this month! Kudos to both Dom and Jac for being brave enough to host this joint challenge! The theme this month...soup! Perfect for the weather, perfect for the time of year and perfect for me! I try really hard to make at least one big batch of soup a week...something to serve for a meal and then to stretch out over 2 or 3 lunches at work.

Keeping that in mind, my choice wasn't entirely was planned...but it was one of those last minute selections that required a trip out to the grocery store.

The link for this month's recipe comes from one of my favourite time wasting websites, Tastespotting.  I spied it last weekend when I had a spare hour or so to surf and came across this recipe on Elana's Pantry for Butternut Squash and Apple Soup.

This soup is easy to prepare, you just chuck it all in and sauté for a bit until adding the stock.  I made it with veggie stock, making it veggie...but use chicken stock if you like.  The cinnamon was a really nice, seasonal addition...but I think next time I would use less...and maybe less apple.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Beetroot Poppy Seed Cake...perfect Autumnal Baking

When Nigel Slater baked this cake on his tv show last year I couldn't wait to try it, and for some reason it has taken me until now to actually do it! It is not like I haven't looked at the recipe about a million times...sheesh...I just haven't managed to do anything about it.  But I have been thinking extra hard about it over the last couple of weeks, especially after seeing all the fat beetroots on display at the farmer markets here in Edinburgh.  And so...this finally happened! 

Good ol' Nige says that the beetroot in this cake acts like carrots in carrot can't really taste them.  Well, I don't quite agree.  This cake has a deep earthy flavour...which does taste like beetroot.  But, that's fine with me...cause it tastes great! The poppy seeds add a great texture and the cake itself is really moist.  The glaze on top is a icing sugar and lemon juice mix.  I've been using unrefined icing sugar...and although it looks white in the picture, is actually a tan colour (the poppy seeds really cover it up though!).  

I'm entering this cake for Karen and Kate's Tea Time Treats challenge for November.  I think it is a bit of a stretch on the Ginger and Bonfire treats theme...but...if I had been on task it would have been made yesterday for Bonfire Night...and it is so earthy, and smokey and Autumny! I'm also entering it for Jac from Tinned Tomatoes Bookmarked Recipes November round up.  

Bonfire Chilli for a chilly bonfire night!

It gets dark early up here in Edinburgh.  By 4:30 last night the sky was almost completely dark and the first fireworks could be heard (but not seen...weep) and although I wasn't going out to a bonfire party I thought I'd prepare a warming chilli full of heat and a little BANG! 

I had been looking at Nigella's Cheesy Chilli recipe from Kitchen, she uses some ingredients like chorizo and cocoa that I wasn't prepared to go out and buy especially for this I compared it to the quick chilli recipe in my stand-by Canadian Basics cookbook and another in Jamie's Ministry of Food and thought...hey! I can do this... 

It wasn't like that gloopy...possibly from a tin...chilli you get at pubs on baked potatoes, it was chunky and tasted fresh (if I do say so myself).  I basically softened a finely chopped onion and finely chopped green pepper in a little bit of oil and then added a couple of really fat cloves of minced garlic and the spices....smoked paprika (to replace Nigella's chorizo), cayenne pepper, ground coriander and cumin, and a little dribble of oil to keep the spices from burning.  Once that was all mixed up I chucked in the mince, browned it all and then a tin of tomatoes, about 125ml of water and a tin of kidney beans (drained). After 15mins of boiling with the lid on I added a grated carrot and a really fat green chilli sliced into rounds.  That all simmered with the lid off for about 30 mins, until it was thick and everything was soft...and then...salt and pepper and chopped coriander (which I found lurking in the back of the fridge...still fresh!).  

I have to say I just eyeballed the measurements.  The recipes I looked at all called for one tin of tomatoes and about 125ml of water or stock to 500g meat.  I used about 2 tsp of paprika and a good sprinkle of cayenne.  I doubted the amount of heat...but thought...well I can always add Tabasco later...I didn't need it though!! 

Served with tortillas, plain yoghurt and grated cheese this warmed me right up! The only thing missing...the guac :( I had a huge serving and still managed a little bit left for lunch today and 3/4 of a large ice cream tub full in the freezer for another night! 

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Wholewheat Pizza Crust...a Friday night treat!

David and I used to treat our selves to delivery pizza a lot when we lived in Chelmsford.  Sure, it was a treat...but it seemed to happen pretty know, often enough that we started to get coupons mailed to us personally...anyway...once in a while I would make my own dough from scratch, but now that we've moved up here I have been making it more often.  

I remember my mum making fresh pizza dough when I was little...mixing the dough up in the morning, putting it into a covered bowl and letting it rise all day on top of the fridge.  Simple right? how more simple does it need to be? Well...I haven't quite managed to master the making the dough in the morning bit...but in reality pizza dough tends to have more yeast in it than bread it doesn't need more than 45 mins to rise... the door...warm water, sugar and yeast mixed together before even taking off my coat...and then relax for 10 mins (take off coat...unpack bags...etc etc etc.) Once the yeasty water mixture is all frothy you just add it to a couple of cups of flour, with a pinch of salt, and mix...adding a bit of flour at a time until soft and doughy. have a good 45 mins while it rises to get toppings ready...unload the dishwasher...put on a load of laundry...etc. etc. etc. 

Last night I used 1 3/4 cup white flour and 1 cup wholewheat flour to make my dough, and once the dough had pretty much come together in the bowl I kneaded it for about 5 extra mins by know...get that gluten working.  

I wouldn't say the dough doubled in size...but I suspect that was due to the combination of flours. I will say that it was soft and stretchy and...once cooked...really light.  

When I plan on making a pizza I like to buy a jar of spicy tomato pasta sauce (something chunky more than saucy)...I use about half and then freeze then rest for next time...same with pepperoni...use half, freeze half. It might seem a bit stingy, but it means that for about £2.50 I can sauce and meat two pizzas...the rest of the toppings...a few mushrooms and a bit of green pepper were left overs from during the week. For this pizza (number 2) the only thing I had to buy especially for it, was the cheese.  

Thrifty and tasty!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Dan Lepard's Honey Nut Muffins

I've been so jealous of everyone tweeting about Dan Lepard's new book, Short and Sweet.  It is at the top of my Christmas List and I just don't know if I can wait wait wait all those weeks to get my hot little hands on it. 

Lucky me though...Dan is also the baking guy for the Guardian, so I think I will just about manage to hold out until Christmas.  During the week he tweeted a teaser for this weekend's recipe... Honey Nut Banana Muffins...well I was hooked! Not only did I have some sad looking bananas at home...but as well all know, Muffins are my "thang".  

I've been pretty lax in my muffin making lately, so I thought...what a great way to get back into the routine!   These muffins are easy to all muffins, you pretty much just mix it all into one big bowl.  The batter is nice and thick, making filling the muffin cups easy (about two spoonfuls in each cup) and they puffed up a treat! 

Try will be so happy with the result! 

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Malted Cluster Bread

OH I am so happy that I've gotten back into making bread.  After the success of Dom's pumpkin bread earlier this week I thought that I'd use some more of the Waitrose Love Life malted seeded flour to make another cluster bread, minus the pumpkin.  

I used my standard Kitchen Aid recipe; 500g flour, 1tsp yeast, pinch of salt and 250ml warm water so the loaf was smaller than the pumpkin loaf (20cm tin instead of 23cm), making the rolls slightly more manageable.  We aren't really a sandwich household...much prefer a hunk of bread with butter and cheese than a neatly made sandwich, so a cluster loaf suits me just fine! Plus...I can freeze the individual rolls.  

I'm not sure what Paul Hollywood would say about the texture and crumb etc.  but I think it's great! 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

yum yum aubergine with buttermilk sauce

My visit to Ottolenghi last weekend has had me furiously flipping through Plenty selecting and prioritising new recipes to try.  Hands down number one just had to Aubergines with Buttermilk Sauce especially after the amazing aubergines I had last Sunday.  

I love aubergines, but sometimes I find that I have trouble cooking them just know, so that they are soft and not spongey or bitter...anyway, this recipe is simple to follow and totally worth the effort it takes to bash the pomegranate seeds out.  

This dish is meant to be served as a starter, but it is so easy to eat as a main course with some...oh I don't know...falafel or couscous...I halved the recipe, seeing as I'm home alone this weekend...but kept the whole clove of garlic in the sauce (good thing I'm sleeping alone...that's all I have to say)! I can't wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow!

Friday, 21 October 2011

It's a little chilly up here...

Chunky Beret to keep my head warm (and stylish!) 

I knit this really comfy and warm beret over a few hours yesterday afternoon.  Knit using Rowan Cocoon merino/mohair mix this beret is luxurious and bound to keep my head warm this winter! 

Quick Chicken

I've had this past week off from work and have managed to get all sorts of housewifey things done in that time.  Don't get me wrong, I love my job...but sometimes I secretly yearn for the days when my visa prohibited me from working...those were the days that I could potter in the kitchen, I could make grand meals, I could bake during the week...sure sure I was bored out of my mind half the time and miserable being on such a tight budget...but still...

Wednesday night I made one of those dishes...those I've-been-at-home-all-day-so-I-have-the-time dishes. Except it turns out it didn't take me all day, it took an hour...when I planned the meal I just assumed that it was a dish a couple hours in the making...and then when I took a peek at it Wednesday afternoon...well it turns out I only needed to start it at 5.  The recipe is a scrap stuck into one of my notebooks, it might be from delicious or olive magazine...

This truly is a one pot dish...and with some selective shopping, it needs very little "prep".  Chicken pieces, baby new potatoes, trimmed green beans and a creme fraiche mustard sauce.  On Wednesday I added in some chunks of butternut squash left over from making Pumpkin Cluster Bread earlier in the day, and did have to cut the thighs away from the a little bit of work, but in theory all you have to do is...

Place 6-8 chicken thighs in a baking dish, scatter about 500g baby new potatoes and a large handful of trimmed green beans around the dish and then pour over the sauce...mix together: 150ml chicken stock, 4Tbsp creme fraiche, 2 Tbsp honey, 2 Tbsp grainy mustard, and salt and pepper.  Bake in 200 degree oven for about 40-45 mins, until juices run clear.  

When we sat down and started to eat I said to David..."see what I can do if I don't have to work..." and he said "I was just thinking that..." and, well, I couldn't tell a lie..."actually, it only took me an hour start to finish..." 

I'll be back at work on Monday.  

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Belleau Kitchen Pumpkin Bread to bring me back to baking...

When I saw Dom's post for pumpkin cluster bread last week I knew that I was finally going to get back into bread making.  For months...I have been saying "I really should bake some bread" blah, blah, blah...and finally, with some time off and some fantastic inspiration I settled into making some pretty spectacular bread. 

Making this bread reminded me why I should be making my own bread...why it is such a fantastic skill and experience.  Whenever I make bread...I doubt myself. I get this sinking feeling in my stomach for the first 20 mins when the dough is rising...and then, after an hour when it has doubled in size (if it has doubled) I am in awe of the magic, of the rise, of myself.  

I substituted butternut squash for pumpkin and used Waitrose's new Love Life Malted Seeded white flour, and was really happy with the results.  I had forgotten the salt completely, but I think the maltiness of the flour made up for that.  After about 30 mins in the oven I took the bread out of its tin and  continued to bake it on a baking sheet to crisp up the outside and bottom.  

This is such a great loaf to get me back into baking, the anxiety alone gave me such a rush.  I've filed the recipe away for special occasions...I think it will be amazing along side a huge bowl of homemade soup after a long country walk and I've put half the rolls into the freezer for another day... 

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Ottolenghi cravings satisfied...

After work on Friday I hopped on a train, armed with 4 slices of cake, and made my way down to London for...what I can only describe as...a weekend of food, friends, and laughs.  It was my first real trip back to London since we moved up here, and I realised that there are a few things I really do miss about the city...and a heck of a lot of things that I don't...but in the short time I was there I managed to visit a few favourite haunts and discover one or two newbies.  

I won't bore you with all the details...but highlights include Lebanese dinner at Meza Restaurant in Tooting Bec (highly must book ahead), a not so relaxing wander around Borough Market with a chorizo sandwich and still cider, a 45 minute queue for Monmouth Coffee, homemade cottage pie (thank you Hannah), a posh night out in Putney, battling the Arsenal fans at Highbury & Islington station, buying veg at Newington Green Fruit and Veg...and finally an incredible lunch at Ottolenghi Islington.  

Those of you have been following for a while will know (and appreciate) my total obsession with Ottolenghi's food...making it at home and devouring it as take away or in the restaurant.  There is something just so magical about the platters of gorgeous salads and equally hypnotising cakes displayed in huge piles in the windows.  How could you NOT stop in? 

Imagine standing in a queue for an hour with this within easy reach? I am surprised I didn't clammer over the servers and start my feeding frenzy! I did manage to control myself and mentally prepare all the different combinations of possible meals...once seated I was able to really focus on the task at hand and select the ultimate salad combination...

If you haven't been to Ottolenghi before there are basically 4 options for a sit down meal...3 or 4 salads or 2 or 3 salads with a main.  The portions are totally generous (I had been watching with my eagle eyes while in line remember) and with an amazing selection of desserts 3 salads is my ultimate option.  I've had a main before...and while they are totally yummy and offer a meat option...I prefer to gorge myself on aubergines and tahini and squash and lentils and cheeses and all those amazing I mention the desserts?? 

Roasted Butternut Squash with figs and feta, aubergine with tahini (to.die.for) and a red cabbage, beetroot and apple slaw...really hard to decide the best of the three.  In most cases aubergine wins hands down every time, just because it is something that I find really hard to get just right at home...but in this case I think the butternut squash and figs came out on top...figs are a total budget blowing treat! 

Dessert was my all time favourite flour-less lemon polenta cake...for which the recipe is a closely guarded secret! This cake is amazing, and I have sung its praises before...moist, pistachio filled and so lemony...perfectly teamed with a latte.  

Dearest Yotam...please oh please come up to Edinburgh and open a would be welcome with open arms, eyes, tummies and mouths! 

For those of you in London, or passing through...if you haven't experienced Ottolenghi yet...just do it! But be prepared to queue (it is totally worth it)!  For now I am saving my pennies for my next trip...they have recently opened a Brasserie off of Regent Street called Nopi and from the menus on line it looks like I will be breaking into the piggy bank! 

Monday, 17 October 2011

Shhhhh it's a secret...the 3rd meeting of the Edinburgh Cake Ladies

It is hardly a secret...the word is well and truly out...the Edinburgh Cake Ladies are in print! Last Thursday I attended the 3rd meeting of the Edinburgh Cakes Ladies, hosted by the wonderful Hilary of My Monkfish fame.  

The theme this time...Bake Your Fear...

And my fear I did bake...I've been nervous about making this pumpkin roll with orange cream for a while.  The recipe was given to me by my brother's girlfriend...who just happens to be a fantastic baker.  While the original recipe is for a gluten free treat there are instructions for regular flour.  

I've never made a swiss roll/roulade cake before so I was pretty nervous...and the fact that a large group of spectacular bakers was going to be sampling something I had not made before...yikes! Well...I tell a small lie, I did practice the cake over Thanksgiving weekend...mere days before the ACTUAL event. the event itself...what an evening! There was a fantastic sugary buzz in the air all night and I managed to try more cakes than I did at the previous event, where I ashamedly only ate 3 slices...shame shame.  The selection of cakes were incredible and I was totally in awe of each and every one of them.  I loved the selection, I loved the effort everyone made, and I loved loved loved the cake.  

If the baking of a new "fearful" cake wasn't enough...a journalist from Scotland on Sunday was writing a feature about the EVENT and there was a photographer shooting what seemed like billions of snaps...

Read the Official Blog for links to other member's entries...and for further info about the spectacular Edinburgh Cake Ladies!! 

Oh! The groovy photo of my cake was taken for the Facebook album...can you believe I didn't get one decent snap of my cake?? 

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Happy Birthday Hubby!

Poor David has to share his birthday with Thanksgiving...last year I made a pumpkin pie for his birthday/thanksgiving dinner...this year he asked if i could make him something not pumpkin for his birthday.  

Me: Not pumpkin?? But it is Thanksgiving!!!???

Downtrodden Hubby: is my birthday...

Me: oh...right...ahem...whatever you want the light of my life (I'll just make me a pumpkin something anyway!)

Downtrodden Hubby: That's chocolate cheesecake that model made on TV yesterday looked good?

Me: As you wish...

The 'model' he was talking about is Lorriane Pascale.  I have to say I'm not a huge fan of the show's format, but for the most part her recipes are simple, homily, I found out on Monday night...totally doable! 

This no bake chocolate cheesecake  was a cinch to put together. The only difficulty I had was piping the white chocolate on the top and then swirling the STILL WARM had cooled too much (thank you makeshift piping bag malfunction)...but it still tasted good.  For a no-bake cheesecake I was really happy with the outcome.  The biscuit base is thick and crunchy, the cream cheese middle is pretty creamy...I think it needed a bit more chocolate...but still tasty...and the top firmed up nicely.  

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Thanksgiving Tourtiere

No turkey at my house for Thanksgiving this year...very hard to source up here in Scotland this time of year (surprisingly, turkey drumsticks are in abundance but not the actual bird)...and...well...for two people one bird is quite possibly just too much (i know leftovers are even better...but...).  

This year I decided to try something new, but something that I knew I would like...Tourtiere.  For those of you born outside of Canada or the northern United States a Tourtiere is a classic French Canadian meat pie filled with minced pork.  

The recipe I used came from the Canadian Basics cookbook and was pretty simple to follow.  You basically braise minced pork with some onion and celery, dried savoury, thyme, sage and a bay leaf until the mince is tender and then you add in some mashed potato to hold it all together, let it cool and then fill the pie.  

gobble gobble indeed! 

Monday, 10 October 2011

Belleau Kitchen Random Recipe Challenge...I'll show you mine...

That Dom has done it again! This month he totally upped his game...getting us all to pair up and choose for each other! No cheating here...not that I would of course...well...ahem...

I got teamed up with the totally inspiring Michael over at Me, My Food and I and after a few emails and random numbers assigned I was faced with the continually avoided recipe for Minted Peas from Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food.  

I say continually avoided...because...well...while I totally love Ministry of Food and would recommend it to anyone starting out in the kitchen...or just as a good go-to for homily meals...the veggie sides have never really inspired or enticed me.  Well! Isn't this what Random Recipes is all about? trying something new...

Now I have tried it, I can't say that I will try it again.  The peas are cooked with shredded lettuce and spring onions and chicken stock and finished with mint...they weren't great...they looked great...but I didn't like them.  

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Saturday nights in...

I think that it is safe to say, and I am not ashamed to admit it, that from now until Christmas I can be found in front of the telly on Saturday nights.  Between Strictly, Harry Hill, XFactor and Wossy Saturday nights are well and truly full.  

To kick the 12 week marathon off last night I whipped up a batch of Jamie's Chicken Fajitas from his Ministry of Food cookbook.  These are simple to make (made even simpler by buying a pack of mini chicken fillets) and even simpler (yet messy) to eat.  If I didn't have to share I would easily pack away the whole thing! 

Annoyingly the avocado I bought last week in preparation was totally over ripe...although still hard...grrrr.  But served with sour cream, shredded iceberg lettuce and the suggested tomato and chilli salsa I easily forgot about the rotten (totally rotten) avocado and therefore lack of guac.  

Monday, 3 October 2011

Burgh Bakes Marshmallows

Katey over at Edinburgh Eats got me drooling last month when she posted about the luscious marshmallow  treats served up by the Marshmallow Lady, Nicole at Burgh Bakes.  I'd been lucky enough to nab a bag of these totally legit marshmallows months ago on my first visit to Edinburgh Larder...and have been craving some ever since! 

I love love love marshmallows (have yet to make my own) and have not been bowled over with the sticky overly sweet pink and white ones I often come across here in the UK.  I pine for the light as air marshmallows from home...the giant bags...the marshmallow eating competitions.  

Burgh Bakes's Marshmallows are not for eating competitions (at £3.00 a bag,I am savouring every last one! Totally worth stretching my budget for!) but there is certainly a competition of willpower going on at our house.  Yesterday, after David speedily ran the Great Edinburgh Run (and I stood at the finish line in my wellies sipping coffee from my Cath Kidston flask) we treated ourselves to brunch at The Edinburgh Larder...where I couldn't stop myself from picking up a bag of Millionaires Shortbread Marshmallows.  

David and I agreed to eat just two each last night with our cup of tea, I actually took the plate into the kitchen after my second...just to make sure there were some left for tonight.  Read Katey's review...visit the facebook page...order won't regret it! 

Saturday, 1 October 2011

teenie weenie

One of my colleagues is having a baby...

Friday, 30 September 2011

Tofu Stir-fry

Chinese take out is probably the one take out David and I treat ourselves to regularly.  We rarely order in indian or pizza...sweet and sour chicken balls wins out every time! The stir-frys I have been making at home lately have really only been my favourite stand-by...cabbage and cashew.  This week I thought I would put a bit more effort into my chopping and made a tofu and vegetable chow mein to rival our local take out restaurant.  

What is your favourite take out order? 

Friday, 23 September 2011

Spanakopita...a delicious experiment

It still amazes me how many times I find myself typing the words "I have never made a..." The great thing about this blogosphere and all the wonderful foody blogs I'm reading is that I am constantly looking for new recipes to try...classic dishes I haven't been brave enough techniques...and even new ingredients.  

Last night's supper was yet another example of all this...

First, the (original recipe) surfaced during the aftermath of the random selection for Belleau Kitchen's monthly challenge...a hastily scribbled recipe for Spinach Pie from Donna Hay's Instant Cook (I suspect I was either babysitting and having a nosey through the cookbooks...or visiting my parents) with yet another note (in a different pen colour underneath) suggesting the addition of Filo pastry...which brings me to the second point, having never baked with filo pastry before...and then thirdly, the new techniques that go along with that...damp towels, brushing melted butter, working quickly.  

In the end I totally made it up as I went along...using frozen spinach I defrosted it and squeezed all the extra water out and then added it to a sauteed chopped shallot and 4 crushed cloves of garlic, some dried oregano and some freshly chopped basil...the added in crumbled feta and a tub of ricotta...mixed it all up...seasoned (I could have eaten it right out of the bowl)...and then prepared to FILO...

Really simple salad last night, but the plan is to eat the left overs cold tonight with hot buttery new baby potatoes! 

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Coastal road trip with my dad!

My dad has been visiting for the last couple of weeks and this past weekend we embarked on a loooong drive from Edinburgh to the North Norfolk coast.  

Upon our arrival at the border the weather turned foggy and rainy and miserable...but the sun came out by the time we reached North Norfolk. We ate really pie, pork belly, roast chicken, cooked breakfasts and enjoyed many a take away coffee (my dad totally spoils me).  But I think my most favourite meal was the lunch we prepared the afternoon before I came back up to Edinburgh. 

On Sunday afternoon we ate at a really nice country pub in Stiffkey, Norfolk called The Red Lion.  They serve local mussels when in season (they weren't), which I've had before...and this time...I was torn...half and lobster or fish pie? hmmmmmmmm...believe it or not....I opted for the fish pie...I wasn't sure about the lobster...well it appeared the almost every other diner was having the lobster! I felt like I had missed out, but then my dad said to me..."If lobsters are in season we can see if the crab guy around the corner has any tomorrow morning after our walk..." 

Well...there was! The fishermen had caught 3 lobsters that morning with their crab haul.  Now...Rick Stein says, in his English Seafood Cookery, that you should never buy pre-cooked lobster...he says you don't know how long they have been sitting on the counter and you don't know how long they have been cooked for.  Well...considering there is a gigantic picture of Rick Stein with the owners of the crab shack hanging on the wall of the shop...we weren't too concerned.  

Coupled with half a dressed Cromer Crab and some salad we gobbled that (lady) lobster right the sun on the back patio! What a fantastic end to a lovely September weekend.