Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Tapas....Scottish Style at Howie's Cellar

The revolving door of guests keeps going...around...and around...and around...when will it stop?...nobody knows!! Despite not being used to entertaining day after day I have been so happy to be welcoming our friends and family to our new home city. 

This past weekend we fell victim to the classic mistake...late lunch...with reservations for an early dinner (had to get off to the tattoo)...the late lunch is something that I have yet to master.  I always find myself thinking...hmmm soup or something light would be best seeing as dinner is not far off...and without fail...BAM! giant sandwich with chips and mayonnaise and dessert appears before me...and, of course, I wolf it all down...every last crumb.  

Saturday afternoon was no exception...and then, at 5:30 I was faced with the nightmare of not really being hungry, but knowing I had to eat before going to our 7:30 show...luckily, I had made reservations for us at Howies Cellar in Alva Street..where small dishes are in abundance!  I've not been to any of the Howies yet, but they had a good write up in the Food and Drink magazine and I couldn't wait to try one...

The focus at Howies Cellar is Scottish ingredients and recipes in tapas style dishes.  Well...wasn't THAT just the answer for four not-so-hungry stomachs...

7 dishes and some bread was pudding and potato bravas, fried brie and chutney, grilled sardine salad, braised beef casserole, penne with scottish beef meatballs in spicy tomato sauce, haggis fritters, and smoked mackerel mousse.  

For the most part it was all pretty good...some dishes divided up well, some not so well (the sardine was really small). 

And, in the end...somehow...I found room for dessert! 

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

guests...a new job...and more guests!

Last weekend saw the beginning of our house guest season....6 weeks in a row of visitors...oh and the start of my new job. It looks like I am going to be super duper busy over the next little while, but will try to stay creative and continue to explore...

The weekend started with an amazing meal of curried cream mussels at Seadogs with chips (and a black ale...followed by raspberry, whisky and honey parfait).  The mussels were to.die.for...I had to hold myself back (a bit) from licking the curried cream off of the shells while I was greedily stuffing my face.  As always, Seadogs did not disappoint.  Drinks were flowing all weekend...including a Canadian Club Rye and Ginger Ale that I was surprised to find on offer at a pretty grubby student well as some refreshing G+Ts...lots of ice...not your standard Dot Branning tipple.  

After eating burgers and chips and onion rings and more crap crap crap us girls lined up for the "healthy" baked potato alternative on Sunday....and when I say lined up....I truly mean it.  The line outside The Baked Potato Shop on Cockburn Street wasn't long enough to put us off...and the boys politely gobbled their Oink rolls (hog roast with stuffing and apple sauce) while waiting for us to go in...order...and emerge laden with baked potato vegetarian goodness.  

This place has endless possibilities...and after much humming and hawing I chose Vegetarian Haggis and a greek spinach salad with butter (of course) to fill the two (!!!) baked potatoes that make up the medium option.  With topping options like hummus, couscous salad, avocado, vegetarian curry and the bog standard beans and cheese it is no wonder it took a while to choose...but MAN was it worth the wait in line.  

As I write this the rain is pelting my looks as if the few days of sun we've just had are over.  Keeping my fingers crossed for good weather for the rest of our guests...

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Berry Muffins...Mary Berry...and a berry cute hat!

I am so excited for the new season of The Great British Bake Off on BBC 2 starring the lovely Mary Berry!! The first episode did not disappoint, and in anticipation (and to while away the terrible weather) I baked up a batch of my favourite muffins with Summer berries and coconut. 

The coconut adds an interesting texture...and I am not entirely in lust with it...but the berries were nice for a frozen mix (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, black and red currants) and they rose really well.  

And...over the weekend I knit this cute little berry pink hat for the impending autumn...

Monday, 15 August 2011

Belleau Kitchen Random Recipe Challenge: Back to Basics

This month Dom over at Belleau Kitchen asked us to go back to randomly select a cookbook and then randomly select a theme...just random.  Poor (but lucky) Dom is in kitchen reno-land this month...but still managing to serve up some pretty brilliant dishes (not so sure about the baked risotto though!).  

Our kitchen here in Edinburgh is such a breath of fresh air compared to the box I was cooking in in Chelmsford, there is counter space, there is floor space, there are drawers...heck there is even a table! I don't know how I'll ever cope with an itty bitty kitchen again (let's hope I never have to).  

This month I well and truly played by the rules...randomly selecting the Canadian Basics Cookbook (randomly fitting the Basics theme)...and letting the cookbook do the recipe selecting for me (the spine is well and truly broken)...

Black Bean Soup 

Simple to make if you can find tinned black beans, which I couldn't...but I did find them dried and soaked and cooked those up...and once that fiasco was over it really was just a case of sautéing some onion, carrot, celery and garlic with ground cumin, chilli flakes...adding in the cooked beans and some stock...simmering and then whizzing up.  

Totally back to basics!

Addendum: Regarding the baked risotto comment...I've tried Dom's recipes before with great success and it is my own sheer need to stir risottos that has lead to panic attacks just with the thought of a baked risotto...this is my cross to bear...mine and mine alone. 

My new favourite tipple

Canadian Rye and Root Beer over ice

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Blasted fridge door!

The morning after we received our grocery delivery last week we woke up to the fridge door open and everything inside hot hot hot...not just!! Bloomin 'eck! Out come the bin bags (and expletives) and in goes the food...all the food...well, except for the veggies...and the butter which was nicely softened...and the few jars that were cool enough.

There wasn't really that much, in the end, that needed to be tossed out...but there were some pretty major elements...a huge pot of double cream, sandwich meats, know, the more expensive elements of my grocery budget.  Out of everything I had to chuck, there were two major purchases that totally broke my heart...A lovely polish kielbasa smoked sausage and a package of sauerkraut ordered with the anticipation of making one of my mum's favourite meals...Sauerkraut and Kielbasa Stew.  

I had a terrible time trying to find replacement ingredients in my little enclave of Edinburgh...actually, it wasn't too difficult to find the was the sausage that was really difficult, and in the end I had to settle for substituting a name brand smoked sausage.

Sauerkraut, carrots, potatoes, smoked sausage, onion, garlic and tomato paste with was as close to my mum's as I could get it without the proper sausage (although this name brand smoked sausage wasn't too bad...just not quite right)...but it totally hit the spot with enough leftovers to brighten up today's miserable weather! 

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Chocolate Chunk Muffins

Rain rain go't go away...this relentless rain has been the perfect excuse to be a little bit naughty with my new favourite healthier muffin recipe. The plan, as it stands, with the muffins is to bake a batch, freeze half and then defrost them as the week goes on...providing me with a fresh muffin for my morning coffee commute...that's the plan at least...whether it happens or not is anybody's guess.  I have made a list of other breakfast baked goods that I could also prepare in advance (granola bars tops the alternative list) for my morning commute, but then again...I could just mix up the muffin filling to keep things exciting.  Today's rain (and the end of the blueberry muffins on Monday) forced my hand a bit, I was going to wait until the weekend...but the chocolate chunks  and warmth of the oven were calling...

Using my new favourite muffin recipe I substituted 100g of chocolate chunks (about 3/4 of a cup) reserving about 30 for the topping for the muffins.  I took care when filling the cases this time and judged them to be about 2 heaped TBSP of batter each...about 3/4 of the way full.  Once they are cooled half will go in the freezer, to await their fate! 

Mac n Cheese

Anybody who really knows me knows that I love mac n cheese.  For me it is the quintessential comfort can be gourmet can be made from scratch...or come from a is just perfect.  If I were to even write a cookbook there would be a whole chapter dedicated to mac n cheese (I'd even include my gourmet recipe for KD)...I just love love love it.  

Monday night, as the wind was whipping against our windows I whipped up Stephane Reynauld's mac n cheese from his 365 Good Reasons to Sit Down and Eat.  The method was slightly different from what I've  done in the past...but it was easy.  The recipe serves 6 (children...which seemed to escape my mind) so I halved it, and it did us...barely...but once I looked at the recipe again and saw the key word...children...oopsie...I registered my mistake and lamented the fact that there would be no leftovers for lunch...weep weep.  

The method...I've got two tried and tested mac n cheese methods.  The first....the family layers of cooked macaroni and grated cheddar cheese, covered with some milk and baked in the oven.  The second...making a cheese sauce to mix the macaroni into and then baked.  

This one is a sort of cook up the macaroni...and while that is cooking you combine double cream (150ml for 3 children) with  grated Gruyere (or 150g of whatever cheese)...2/3 of that is mixed into the cooked/drained pasta...that is then layered with slices of thick ham and topped with the last 1/3 of the creamy grated cheese mixture.  

The combination of Gruyere and cream alone was enough to break my budget...imagine if I had made the whole all honesty, while I love the taste of Gruyere, it made the mac a bit too greasy for my liking (and normally I do not mind a little grease)...but I did like the method and the layers of ham.  

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Rick Stein's Spanish Lentils..perfect for a weekend lunch!

I love Rick Stein.  I've been watching his Rick Stein's Spain greedily over the last few weeks and, at the end of every programme I say to David...we really have to go to Spain...sadly, we can't...well, not right now at least.  

In the last episode Rick made a gorgeous looking lentil dish with spanish ham and tomatoes and all I could think of was...I need a big scoop of that!  The recipe calls for a few ingredients that I wasn't prepared to go out and buy (budget budget), like wine and Serrano ham, however...with a few 21st century urban housewife tweaks I was able to substitute chicken stock for wine, and streaky bacon for the ham.  As for the lentils, I already had a huge bag of Puy lentils at home, so used those instead of the larger, flatter brown lentils, perhaps not entirely authentically Spanish, but...tasty nonetheless.  

We devoured these lentils with toast and sardines, it was perfect! 

Monday, 8 August 2011

Baking Success! Blueberry Muffins...

Following the taste testing of my banana nut loaf last weekend, where I mixed plain flour with brown bread flour, wheat germ and oatmeal, I thought I might try and substitute some brown bread flour and wheat germ to make guilt free muffins over the weekend.  

After the disastrous cornmeal blueberry muffins last month I wasn't entirely confident in my decision to experiment...but I did some research on substituting brown flour and, in the end, just closed my eyes and hoped for the best! 

Not to brag, but these muffins are incredible! They are light, they are moist, they are packed with bursts of blueberries and they rose beautifully.  Success!! 

I am doubly excited because these muffins have another purpose..they are a practice round...I start a new job in a week and will be eating breakfast on the run...well on the bus...muffins and coffee...maybe not the best way to start the morning but it is sounding pretty good to me...especially if it is these muffins! 

My New Favourite Muffins
adapted from the New Canadian Basics cookbook

1 cup white flour
3/4 cup brown bread flour 
1/4 cup wheat germ  

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt 
1TBSP + 1/4 tsp Baking Powder (I read somewhere that brown bread flour needs a little extra ooompf) 

1cup blueberries (next time I'm going to try frozen summer fruits) 

2 eggs 
250ml + splash milk (I read somewhere that when substituting wheat germ add a little extra liquid) 
1/4 cup flavourless oil 

Preheat oven to 200C 
In a large mixing bowl mix together dry ingredients
Add fruit and gently mix
In a separate bowl combine wet ingredients
Add to dry ingredients and gently mix (it is ok if there are some lumps) and be careful not to smoosh berries! 

Fill 12 muffin cups 3/4 way full, bake 20-25 mins until golden. 
Cool...and enjoy! 

Friday, 5 August 2011

Super Lemony Pasta

Lemon, Cream, Parsley, Butter, Parmesan, doesn't get much more simple than that.  

Last night I made this quick no-brainer pasta dish from the fantastic River Cafe Cookbook Green.  I don't actually have the cookbook...I have a number of recipes furiously scribbled on scraps of paper.  Following my copied out recipe this dish took the time it takes to cook the pasta to bring it is important to make sure that your lovely hubby is actually home and ready to sit down at the table...other than that, it is so easy! 

The original recipe serves 4, so I just halved it and it worked a treat...For two lovely people...cook up 200g of dried egg tagliatelle.  While the pasta is cooking gently warm 150ml of double cream (small pot) in a saucepan, when it starts to bubble just chuck in 60g of butter and the juice and grated rind of two lemons.  Remove the cream from the heat and stir until butter is melted.  By this point the pasta should be cooked...drain it (reserve a little cooking water) and combine with creamy sauce and a huge handful of parsley, salt and pepper and a generous grating of parmesan cheese (if the sauce seems a bit thick add some of the reserved cooking water). Serve...enjoy...and lick the plate! 

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Tasty Taters...a not so quick light supper

Wednesdays after work David plays football with his new friends from dinner is delayed and after running around for 90 mins he doesn't really want much more than a quick bite.  On nights like that I like to find something that isn't too filling but not necessarily quick to make...seeing as I have an extra two hours to make dinner and often more time on my hands than I can bare!   

Last night I made my version of something my MIL makes...that I love! Stuffed baked potatoes...yum yum!

These are by no means quick...they took an hour and a half to make...but, they are super easy and super lazy.  Just pop the taters in the oven and leave to bake for about an hour or so until super soft (nothing worse than half cooked middle tater) and then scoop out the inside...mash it up really good and add in whatever you want! Last night we had red pepper, spring onion and goats cheese.  I brush a little bit of oil over the top of the taters just to make sure they crisp up...and pop them under the grill! 

A perfect and light dinner taking up just enough time to keep me busy until David came home.  

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Where I went today...

National Museum of Scotland: Royal Museum
Really...Good...(but not as good as the ROM...)

Monday, 1 August 2011

Squirrel Nutkin's Banana Nut Loaf

We've been going through bananas super quickly quickly that I haven't been able to grab a couple and set them aside for banana bread...but yesterday I was on the ball...two left sitting in the bowl, one slightly bruised on one side (superficial) I announced...I think I'll make a banana loaf this afternoon...which was met with a happy grin.  

I normally make my mom's banana bread recipe, which is a pretty simple one bowl recipe.  But I felt like I wanted to make something a little bit different and remembered the amazing loaf recipe from Peter Rabbit's Natural Foods Cookbook that my mom used to make every once and a while.  Aren't I so lucky that I was given this cute cookbook to take with me when I left home? 

Squirrel Nutkin's Banana Nut Loaf recipe calls for 3 cups of white flour, or a mixture of white, brown, oatmeal and wheat germ...I opted to mix it up a bit...

The combination of oats and wheat germ with the flour gives this loaf a great have to forgive the bulging middle (this is not a case of cakes resembling their makers) I tossed out my loaf tin before we moved to Edinburgh since the non-stick coating was coming off (nothing worse than that coming off on the bottom of a cake) and only had a silicone loaf mould at hand...which, of course, didn't stop the batter from spreading out (instead of up!)...the bulge is minimal anyway.