Thursday, 25 January 2007


After a very productive first blogging week, a few busy and pretty annoying days at work scuppered my ability to cook and post. Following a few uninspired days at the start of the week, on Wednesday I finally knew exactly what I wanted to eat that night - chickpea fritters with garlic and herb yoghurt in pitta bread. Off I went and bought tinned chickpeas, coriander, onion, garlic, a chilli, some Greek yoghurt and some pitta breads (I briefly toyed with the idea of making flatbreads but this was not the week for being elbow deep in flour). When I got home all of the fritter ingredients (chickpeas, fresh coriander, dried coriander, dried cumin, garlic, a large red chilli, and an onion) went into the food processor and then the mix went into the fridge to sit for a while.

In the meantime I stirred together the yoghurt with some minced garlic, sea salt, dried, and fresh mint and popped that back in the fridge. By this point, and clearly on a cooking roll, I had a remembered a dish of baked feta which we ate in a Greek restaurant a couple of weeks ago. I thought this would match the fritters nicely so took some feta out of the fridge (I always keep feta and halloumi in the flat), drizzled it with a little olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkled over some finely chopped red onion before wrapping it in a foil parcel to go into a medium oven. I checked on it a few times as I had no idea how long it would take to properly soften but it was eventually around 20 minutes. This was a definite success and will be repeated, probably more often than is healthy.

Now, with the frying of the fritters, we move onto the real point of this story. I carefully shaped little patties of the mixture, heated some oil in a large frying pan and dropped them in one at a time. At this they promptly started spitting so madly that I had to grab an apron and my oven gloves to be adequately protected from the very painful little drops of spitting spicy oil. Now fully gloved up, but wishing that I owned some protective goggles, I had to turn the fritters. The first one fell apart, then the second, then the third... by now I was trying to accept that my lovingly crafted mix was, maybe, a little too soft to hold together. I persevered and tried to keep them looking like fritters before admitting defeat and deciding to just scrape the contents of the pan into a bowl to see if it was at least still edible.

Clearly not the most attractive bowl of food but, joking apart, I may resurrect this semi disaster as 'hot spiced chickpea dip' as it was actually really tasty. We spread it on the pittas, topped it with the yoghurt and some salad and tucked into the feta on the side and decided that for a kitchen disaster it had turned out pretty well.

Thankfully Thursday evening required zero inspiration. It was Burns Night and so we celebrated with haggis (meat for him, veggie for me as I am not a fan of offal but 5 minutes ago just managed to hold it together to take the giblets out of a chicken to make stock so I am not a complete kitchen wimp), neeps and tatties - delicious.

Saturday, 20 January 2007


At the start of the week I read about a cupcake challenge at Chockylit's Cupcake Bakeshop. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to test my resolve to be a little braver in the kitchen so I had a think about new cupcake flavours (or at least ones that I hadn't seen before) and soon decided that I really wanted to try a Seville orange cupcake for the perfect mix of seasonality and taste. As this was my first attempt at serious flavour tweaking, I looked through my books and came up with 2 recipes that seemed the most open to adjustment. My first choice was the lemon layer cake recipe from 'The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook'. I halved it to make 12 cupcakes rather than one large cake and replaced the lemon with orange, which sounds simple, but they came out of the oven looking and tasting pretty unappetising and sadly ended up in the bin.

I hate failed attempts at cooking so, after a few minutes of grumpiness but determined not to be deterred, I turned to my next recipe and to Nigella Lawson's 'How to be a Domestic Goddess'. I am a fan of all of Nigella's books and have had success with her basic cupcake recipe before so, with my fingers and toes firmly crossed, I replaced the vanilla extract with 1/2 a teaspoon of zest and a teaspoon of orange juice. This batch came out of the oven looking much more promising so it was time to take a chance on making the icing before I had even tasted a cake.

And so it was back to Magnolia (as I am never one to hold a grudge) and their recipe for lemon buttercream icing. The lemon zest and juice were replaced with the same quantities of Seville orange zest and juice, and while they suggest 4 cups of icing sugar I found 3 to be adequate as the mixture was more than sweet enough at this stage.

A bit of wrestling with a piping bag and they were ready to be tasted (yum - a definite success) and photographed.


125g caster sugar
125g unsalted butter
125g self-raising flour
2 eggs
1 tsp Seville orange juice
1/2 tsp Seville orange zest
2-3 tbsp milk

1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup Seville orange juice
1/2 tsp Seville orange zest

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and line a tin with 12 cupcake papers.
Put everything except the milk into a food processor and blitz until all of the ingredients are combined. At this point add the milk spoon by spoon until the mixture reaches a good dropping consistency. Divide the batter between the cases and bake for 15-20 minutes until the cupcakes are golden and springy to the touch. Remove the cupcakes from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack while you get on with the icing.
To make the icing beat together 2 cups of the icing sugar, the butter, zest and juice. When this is all combined gradually add the remaining cup of sugar until you are happy with the consistency and the taste.
Ice the cooled cupcakes and enjoy.

Disclaimer: the slightly odd mix of grams and cups on the ingredients list is down to the USA/UK recipe mix. I am not yet confident enough to feel happy converting my weights and measures so that they are all in a standard form. I own both scales and cup measures and hopefully you do too.

Friday, 19 January 2007


I have a very bad cookbook buying habit and like nothing better than drooling over new books even though my bookshelves are groaning under the accumulated weight of cookbooks, food writing, novels and my collections of magazines. So, to make a bad situation even worse, yesterday I received three new books.

The first, and biggest (it made my arms hurt when I was reading it last night), is Larousse Gastronomique. I don't think I can tell you much about this that you won't already know, it's big, it's comprehensive and it's absolutely fascinating once you start reading. I spotted a recipe for accra, salt cod fish cakes, which I am planning to try soon.

The second new arrival to the shelves is Real Cooking by Nigel Slater. I didn't do too much in depth reading of this last night but, judging from my successes with previous Nigel Slater titles, I will be making and enjoying recipes in no time.

The third, and looking like a good choice, is The Prawn Coktail Years by Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham. This book is centred around recipes that would have featured in hotels and restaurants of post-war Britain from the 1950's - 70's. I am planning a full menu from the book and while Black Forest Gateau would be a tempting climax I think it will be pipped to the post by treacle tart. I always like a good looking cookbook and the illustrations in this make me a very happy reader.

There is, however, one recipe that I am not at all tempted by. Has anyone ever noticed how some Chinese restaurants have a 'European' section on their menu? If you have then you will undoubtedly have seen that for some unknown reason Chicken Maryland always features here along with omlettes and steak. Last night I discovered what the mystical Maryland actually is and I have now realised that it involves cooked banana which is just very wrong. I understand that this sentiment is not shared by many but the texture of mashed or cooked banana makes me gag, even the act of mashing banana makes me gag although, and they say there is an exception to every rule, I can just about get through the pain for a banana loaf. Anyway, needless to say, I will not be making this classic recipe although if chicken and banana appeals to you I'm sure it is a great.

Thursday, 18 January 2007


My main reasons for starting to write this blog are to try more recipes, gain confidence in experimenting in the kitchen, and, most importantly, to stop falling back on the same old standbys that regularly appear after a long midweek day at work (otherwise known as 'a bowl of pasta with pesto'). Yesterday was looking like it was turning into a 'pwp' day until I remembered a bag of small onions that were sitting in the salad drawer desperately needing to be used. A quick stop to buy some salad, taleggio, and puff pastry and I was ready to make the onion tart from Nigel Slater's fabulous 'Appetite'.

The only part even approaching real work here is slicing the onions (mentally taking note that slicing with a brand new and very sharp Global knife is not very sensible when you are crying huge rivers of onion tears) and watching as they slowly soften and caramelise in butter over a low heat. After this it is just a case of rolling out the pastry (one day I will make my own puff pastry but for now the idea terrifies me - what was that I said about trying new things...) and topping it with the onions, sliced taleggio and thyme. I also used a little herbs de provence to make up for the pathetic amount of thyme that I had in the flat. Bake it in a high oven for 15 minutes and it will emerge golden and oozing with melting cheese.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007


It was cold last night and while a couscous salad may not sound like the most obvious choice for a winter's evening there is something comforting about some gentle chopping and stirring in a warm kitchen before eating a dish that tastes of summer. I always make enough of this for the two of us to have for dinner and then lunch the next day.

250g couscous
Around 300ml just boiled water
Extra virgin olive oil (plus a little garlic olive oil if you fancy)
Juice of one lemon
Dried mint
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 red or yellow pepper
A few preserved artichokes
A handful of black olives, halved
1 block of halloumi cut into small chunks

Take a large bowl and add the couscous, cover with the water and then cover the bowl and leave for 10-15 minutes. While this is soaking get on with preparing all of the other salad ingredients. Once the allotted soaking time is up, fork through the couscous to separate the grains and stir through about 2 tbsp of olive oil and the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Stir in 1tsp of dried mint. Taste to see if you would like to add any extra oil, lemon or mint, bearing in mind that once the rest of the ingredients are added you may need a touch more of any or all of these. Stir through the rest of the salad ingredients and taste again to check for seasoning. This salad will keep happily in the fridge for a day or two. For a slightly warmer alternative slice the halloumi and cook it for a couple of minutes on each side in a dry frying pan so that it is golden, then serve the salad with the fried halloumi.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007


Yesterday on my walk to work I stopped off at our local butcher, Crombie's of Edinburgh. It is sometimes hard to feel like choosing meat first thing in the morning but I can always be tempted by the range of sausages here. I'm obviously in good sausage company as the owner of Crombie's has appeared in Heston Blumenthal's new book, 'In Search of Perfection', giving Heston sausage making tips.

As usual I couldn't decide on just one type of sausage so picked two each of peppered pork and lemon, mediterranean pork, and pork and caramelised onion. To go with this sausage feast I decided on a basic diced beetroot and spring onion salad and the baked potato salad from Nigella Lawson's 'Forever Summer', which is just the flesh of some baked potatoes mixed with olive oil, lemon juice, sumac, cumin, spring onion and salt. One of the best things about this is that, while waiting for the sausages to finish cooking, we can snack on crispy potato skins sprinkled with maldon salt - a great gin and tonic accompaniment.

As usual I chose to cook these sausages in a medium oven, which produces the perfect sticky skin and means that I don't have to stand watching them like a hawk and can relax in the evening. This is a perfect easy alternative when we want the comfort of bangs and mash but don't want something quite as heavy.

Saturday, 13 January 2007


Saturday is my usual day for shopping and pottering round our flat so today I went into town and came home armed with The Guardian and Australian Gourmet Traveller ready for an early lunch of french toast, bacon and maple syrup with a yoghurt, blueberry, banana and honey smoothie. This is my favourite smoothie combination and knowing how healthy blueberries are almost makes me feel that this is quite a virtuous meal.

I folowed this with a spot of light granola baking. This is the recipe from Feast in its original version and in the suggested chocolate and peanut variation.


I first started thinking about writing a blog 2 years ago, which, incidentally, is also when I found out what a blog was through the lovely Sarah of Sarah Cooks. So 2 years of thinking and delaying later and I figured that as everyone else already has a blog I may as well have one too. So here I am hibernating on one of Edinburgh's endlessly beautiful January days finally making a start. As the title suggests the focus here is on 2 of my big loves, clothes and food, although these are not always the easiest bedfellows as the fluctuating sizes in my wardrobe show. So stews, roasts, cupcakes, muffins, dresses, shoes and shoes and shoes and shoes.......