Tuesday, 20 December 2011

What makes Christmas Christmassy?

Gingerbread hearts

This year I have been super excited about Christmas, as in SUPER EXCITED. I’ve “stepped into Christmas” big style. Imagine a little kid running mad around her living room squealing and winding all the adults up and you are getting close. I think I must be pretty annoying right now. The flat looks like a mistletoe tree has exploded in it, there are little sprigs all over the place just in case. I’m hedging my bets. I have spent many a quiet moment drifting off into a daydream about seeing my chums, spending time with my grandparents and munching on the fabulous festive food that is yet to come . . .

our lovely Christmas tree

In an ode to Christmas I’ve composed a what makes Christmas Christmassy list.

  1. Tinsel in my hair at work (a naff but compulsory accessory in the hospital at Christmas)
  2. Lugging a 6ft fir tree up the 3 flights of stairs to our flat.
  3. The free bar at my boyfriend's office party
  4. Pigs in blankets
  5. Christmas Eve diner with the Glasgow girls
  6. Vacherin Mont D’Or
  7. My Dad’s incredible to-the-minute Christmas lunch planner
  8. Making gingerbread hearts for decorating the tree, twee moi?
  9. Lazy pajama morning on boxing day 
So dear reader, tell me, what makes Christmas Christmassy for you? What makes your day?

gingerbread heart tree decorations

My lovely sister came to stay with me last weekend and in amongst the mulled wine glugging, present wrapping by the fireside and other clichéd Christmassy things to do we made these gingerbread hearts. Tasty and festive, a winning combination.

Gingerbread  - barely adapted from the Hummingbird bakery cookbook
Oven preheated to 180°

400g plain flour
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp salt
180g unsalted butter – at room temperature
125g light or dark muscovado sugar
1 egg
125g black treacle

Sift together the flour, bicarbonate, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
Set aside till later.

Add the butter and sugar to a separate bowl and mix together with a handheld whisk until light and fluffy.

Add in the egg and mix until incorporated.

Scrape down any unmixed ingredients as required.

Add in the flour mixture one tablespoon at a time, continuing to mix throughout.

The Hummingbird bakery advises leaving the dough over night in the fridge but we didn’t have the patience. We used the dough straight away and all was well.

Lightly dust your worktop and rolling pin and roll out your dough until it is about 5mm thick.

Use your cutters to make shapes and transfer onto a tray lined with greaseproof paper.

Make sure you leave plenty of space between them as they can spread slightly in the heat.

If you are making your gingerbread into decorations pierce the dough to make a 5mm hole. We used a chopstick to do this.

Bake for approx 12 minutes.

Leave to cool slightly before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy and have yourself a truly wonderful Christmas.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Baked whole pumpkins with gooey cheesy wonderfulness

Baked whole pumpkins with gooey cheesy wonderfulness
Firstly I would like to start off by apologising for things being a bit quiet here at ‘twicebitten’ towers over the last month. I’ve been backpacking around Northern India and had rather hoped to come back with lots of awesome curry recipes to share with you. Sadly I’ve come back empty handed. None of the recipes from a day at an Udaipur cookschool have met my exacting standards so I thought I would honour the freezing late Autumn weekend with a real comfort food warmer; whole baked pumpkin with lots of lovely cream and gooey cheese. Cholesterol, what cholesterol. This is eating in the danger zone!

Since we got back it feels like one massive Christmas explosion, everywhere I look is party dresses, wreaths and discounted alcohol. I’ve caught the Crimbo bug and boy have I got it bad. It’s certainly more enjoyable than that bout of Delhi-belly I inevitably had (groan).  I guess the reason for my excitement is because it’s the time of year when all my favourite people in the whole world come back to Scotland and I get a fortnight full of long boozy lunches, side splitting evenings and the best hugs around. I can’t wait, roll out the turkey. 4 weeks and counting…

Baked whole pumpkins
This baked whole pumpkin recipe is so simple, it’s great to just pop in the oven, grab the Sunday papers and curl up for an hour before pulling it out and tucking in. It’s lazy weekend perfection. This dish works great like a fondue, dunking your bread into the gooey cheesy wonderfulness or alternatively you can scoop the pumpkin flesh into the cheesy mixture and then smear it on top of something like thick slices of sourdough toast.

Baked whole pumpkin with cream and gooey cheese – serves 2
Oven preheated to 180°

2 small pumpkins or squash such as acorn squash
175g of melty alpine cheese such as comte
125ml double cream
1/4tsp freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to season

Take off the tops of the pumpkins and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
Add the nutmeg, cheese and cream to the pumpkin cavity and pop the top of the pumpkin back on.
Bake in the oven for an hour to an hour to an hour and a quarter depending on the size of your pumpkins.
You may need to cover with tinfoil if they are beginning to look a bit burnt after 20-30 mins.
You can tell when your pumpkins are cooked if you are able to easily stick a knife into the flesh.
Season to taste.

Baked whole pumpkins with gooey cheesy wonderfulness

Sunday, 30 October 2011

What do you say? Chef’s salad

Chef's salad

Today has just been a bit surreal and I’m feeling a little weirded out. Today I walked past the amazing Molly Wizenberg of Orangette fame! It’s not often you happen to pop out for a walk and a baguette and bump into someone you totally admire/kinda want to be on a side street a mere two minutes from your home. It was very exciting but all I could muster was a smile and crimson cheeks. No words would come out but in a way I’m glad. I don’t think I would have been able to talk much sense. The boyfriend who was completely oblivious as to who had just pasted us thought I had experienced a small stroke due to my ever-reddening face. He proceeded to tease my blushing throughout the day. Charming.

I’m not entirely sure why I felt such a strong reaction. I think it may have been because I had just walked passed a person who’s blog posts have touched and moved me, who’s photos have inspired me and who’s humanity has humbled me. The amazing thing was she looked so down to earth and friendly. We were almost in matching outfits for Pete’s sake. We were just two girls, out with friends, taking a walk in the New Town. I guess, maybe in that moment, I felt my aspirations were more achievable. Maybe given enough time I could try to be as creative as her? Maybe given enough effort.

On a completely unrelated note I’ve wanted to share this recipe for chef’s salad for a week or two now. I had it as a starter for our anniversary meal and it was perfectly balanced, wonderfully simple and relied on awesome ingredients. It is a recipe just up my street, just like Molly!

Chef’s Salad – serves 2

1 echalion shallot – very finely cut
50ml vegetable oil
1tsp salt
300g new potatoes
100g smoked bacon lardons
100g comte – cut into 2cm by 1cm (ish) cubes
One head of little gem – cut into 2-3cm slices
50g mixed salad leaves – herby, flavourful leaves work best
2 eggs at room temperature
5 dsp extra virgin olive oil
1 dsp white wine vinegar
1 dsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper
oil for frying

Add the shallot to the vegetable oil with 1tsp of salt, stir firmly and leave to stand.
Add the potatoes to a pan of salted, boiling water and leave to cook over a moderately high heat.
Fry off the lardons over a high heat until very crispy. Set aside on kitchen towel until later.
Add the eggs to a pan of warm water and bring up to the boil, cook for 6 minutes, drain and leave to stand in cold water until later.
Slice the cooked new potatoes and add them to the pan used to cook the lardons, season well and cook until the edges are crispy then set aside.
In a jam jar, add the extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard and seasoning to taste, shake well.
Remove the shallots from the vegetable oil and add them to a large bowl with the sliced little gem, salad leaves, lardons, comte and fried potato slices.
Add the salad dressing to this bowl and mix though.
Peel the eggs and arrange on top.


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Elderberry and damson crumble - Where has all the time gone?


 I’m actually scared how fast time goes by. Autumn snuck up so quickly and winter is doing much the same. It’s bloody dark in the morning for Pete’s sake. I’ve really not made the most of the damson season that is drawing rapidly to a close as I write. I had the best intentions of making damson vodka, damson fragipane… Guess I’ll have to shelf those ideas till next year. I hope they aren’t too dusty in there. Chatting to one of my oldest chums at the weekend we were in such astonishment that we hadn’t seen each other in two months that she checked her diary. Sure enough, we hadn’t seen each other. All that time had gone by and what had I done? Eat, sleep, work, moan, holiday, hoover, kiss, walk, cook, natter, laugh…


My Mum forwarded me Steve Jobs' commencement speech to Stanford University in 2005 and these words resonated greatly with me, “remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only is what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

I guess our time is so precious here on this “pale blue dot”. Death and change really are the only constants. I’m going to make the effort to be more aware of my time and then maybe I wont miss the damson season next year (and might actually do something useful with my evening).

This is a lovely little treat of a recipe. I’ve kept the crumble topping simple, almost like shortbread, to really show off the flavour of the fruit and berries. Elderberries are also a great way to get into foraging as they are easy to recognise and hugely common.

Damson and elderberry crumble with a bit of vanilla ice cream

Elderberry and Damson crumble – serves 4 – 6
Oven preheated to 180°C

For the fruit filling -
600g damsons
100g elderberries (about 10 heads of berries)
70g caster sugar

For the crumble topping -
100g plain flour
40g caster sugar
50g butter (at room temperature)

De-stone the damsons if you so wish.
Add the damsons, elderberries, sugar and a splash of water to a pan over a moderate heat.
Whilst the fruit is cooking make the crumble mix by rubbing the flour and butter together until you get an even, sandy texture.
Add the sugar to the flour and butter mixture and stir.
Stir occasionally till the damsons are soft.
Once the fruit has cooked add more sugar to taste as required.
Add the fruit mixture to an ovenproof dish and add the crumble topping to the top of it and gently pat down.
Cook for 15 – 20 minutes until light golden brown.
Serve with ice cream or crème fraiche.


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Home cured salmon with beetroot

beetroot home cured salmon with rye bread, cream cheese and dill

Sometimes I get an idea in my head, it sticks and no matter what I do, it is hard to shake it out of there. These ideas are almost entirely about food; my brain is a fatty. This recipe is one such example, I’ve been waiting months for the beetroot to appear again on the market stalls. Despite the long wait it didn’t disappoint.  The report card would say, “exceeds expectations”.

salmon with beetroot and vodka (russian porn)

Being shallow, this is an incredibly pretty little dish; deeply pink tinged fringes of the salmon, cut so thin it is almost translucent. The taste was also pretty special; slick, fatty salmon with a hint of umami from the curing liquor. Yummy (even if I do say so myself).

side of salmon with some of the beetroot curing liquor

I served it with rye bread, cream cheese, a smattering of dill fronds and a squeeze of lemon. It was a wonderful simple lunch.

Home cured salmon with beetroot

A side of sashimi grade salmon 500 – 600g
75g sea salt
75g caster sugar
200g grated beetroot
6dsp vodka

Ensure the salmon is clean and remove any remaining bones with tweezers.
Mix all the ingredients, except the salmon, together.
Put half of the beetroot mixture into a glass or ceramic container big enough for the fish.
Add the fish flesh side up and add the remaining beetroot mixture on top.
Cover with cling film and pop in the fridge.
After 24 hours turn the salmon over and cover with the mixture.
Leave the salmon for another 24 – 48 hours.
When you are ready to eat, remove the salmon and rinse it under cold running water briefly just to remove some of the salt.
Pat dry with kitchen towel.
Cut on a diagonal and serve.


Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Wild mushroom tart with lemon and thyme

hedgehog mushroom

Aw how wonderful it is to get away. Last weekend the boyfriend and I headed up to the Cairngorms for some much needed R and R. The boyfriend has been super busy over the summer doing a very intensive art course and last weekend was the first chance we had to get away together. It was nice to get a bit of attention again hehe. We braved the impending autumn, wrapped up warm and set up camp under ancient native Scots pine trees by the side of a little bumbling burn.

some of our mushroom bounty

We took a little walk around Loch an Eilein just as it was beginning to get dusky. It wasn’t long before we came across masses of yummy mushrooms: chanterelles, golden chanterelles, amethyst deceivers, hedgehogs... The boyfriend was super excited to find a perfect specimen of a cep; he was smiling ear to ear. We have been foraging for just over a year now and it’s nice getting to learn more and more; the nuances of each mushroom’s preferred haunt.


Evening came and we headed out for dinner, no mucking around with a camping stove for me. The Old Bridge Inn really does know how to do an exceptional steak, we enjoyed it by the fireside with whisky in hand. It was so lovely to spend some time with the boyfriend, after almost 6 years together we still marvel at how in love we are, I hope we don’t turn into a totally smug settled couple though…

This mushroom tart is great if you have a mixture of wild mushrooms and is quite forgiving if they aren’t in the best nick. If you don’t have any wild mushrooms chestnut mushrooms would work pretty well instead. Having just got back from camping I was in no mood for making my own pastry and bought the readymade variety. I hold my hands up. Guilty as charged your honour. 

wild mushroom tart

Wild mushroom tart with lemon and thyme – adapted from River Cottage Handbook No 1: Mushrooms
Serves 2
Oven preheated to 180°C

250g of all butter puff pastry
25g of butter
½ red onion – very finely chopped
roughly 300g of mixed mushrooms – cleaned and cut into equal sized chunks
2 small cloves of garlic – very finely chopped
breadcrumbs – made from 1 thick slice of white bread
grated zest from ½ a lemon
1 heaped tbsp of grated Parmesan
2 tbsp of chopped flat leaf parsley
couple of sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper to season
1 egg – beaten

Roll out the pastry till it is approx 3 mm thick.
Put the pastry onto a baking tray or into an oven proof frying pan and set aside till later.
Fry off the onion until translucent over a moderately high heat.
Reduce the heat down to medium and add the mushrooms and thyme.
Cook for approx 3-4 minutes till just beginning to soften.
If they are producing a lot of juice, drain this off and continue cooking.
If the pan is looking a little dry add a little more butter.
Add the garlic to the mushrooms and cook for a further couple of minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, Parmesan and parsley to the mushrooms and mix.
Season well to taste.
Add the mushrooms to the pastry, leaving a few centimetres around the edges so that it can puff up nicely.
Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg.
Bake for approx 20 minutes until the pastry has puffed up and turned a golden brown colour.


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Jersey Shore

I’ve spent the last week on Jersey visiting my incredible little sister or Wee Skanky as she is affectionately known. It’s been a week of watching Roman Duris movies, drinking disgusting quantities of Pimms and long, late night chats about boys. I had a really great time.

I thought today dear reader, if you don’t mind, I would deviate away from my normal course of writing a recipe and instead give you a quick run down of my holiday culinary highlights. I hope you don’t mind too much.

I wanted to write about where we had eaten because I was so impressed by the quality of all the food I managed to scoff my way through last week. I wouldn’t want you to miss out…

Not remotely bohemian but it is Michelin starred. It’s the best 3 course meal I think I’ve had for under £25 quid.

No photos of the meal in bohemia, I didn't want to do the photo taking thing in there. Make do and mend with one of wee skanky and me instead.

A sweet little cafe on a pretty square in St Malo. It is a wonderful place to sample the famous Breton galette.

Buckwheat galette for breakfast of course

I’ve been fantasising about the welks for a week now. Simple crustacean pleasure and French café culture personified.

Implements of torture?

crab, prawns, 2 different types of oysters. shrimp, periwinkles and wonderful welks

Cheap, super tasty and generally authentic Thai food from an understated beach hut. The beef massaman curry was particularly awesome.

dicq shack - worth every step of our 8 mile walk

massaman curry from dicq shack


Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Marrow made tasty

marrow made tasty

I’m sitting writing this entry in my sister’s garden in Jersey, it’s sunny and I am, at long last making use of my stupidly overpriced but trendy sunglasses. So far this year I've only had 3 occasions which would warrant wearing sunglasses and that’s not with out want of trying.

sexy marrow

I’m coming to terms with the fact that summer is on its way out. That warm samphire and crab salad may not happen this year, I might have missed the boat. I’ve been noticing the nights drawing in and that cashmere jumper getting put on every so often. Summer is being slowly pushed out the door but for today at least I’m going to enjoy it. The plan for the afternoon is to take a cycle down to the next village. I have a romantic notion of finding a roadside veg stall and a country pub but perhaps at the back of my mind I’m wondering if that all sounds a little too energetic and maybe I’m best staying here, reading my molecular gastronomy book and drinking gin? Oh the joys of being on one’s jollies.

breadcrumbs - very exciting

I think this recipe, adapted from Mark Hix’s “Seasonal British Food”, is prefect for this time of year; light but cosy. However, my main reason for making this recipe was one of curiosity. Can a marrow really be tasty enough to warrant 2 pages in his lovely book? The short answer is yes.

all ready to go in the oven

Marrow made tasty la Mark Hix –serves 2
Preheat the grill to a high setting

1 moderately sized marrow – halved with seeds removed, each half is then cut into 1-2 cm slices
2 slices of bread turned into breadcrumbs – it can be either brown or white, doesn’t matter
1 medium onion – finely sliced
4 cloves of garlic – finely sliced
4 rashers of bacon or cured ham such as Iberico or a 2 inch chunk of saucisson cut into 0.5-1cm sized cubes
couple of stalks of thyme – leaves stripped from the stem
small handful of flat leave parsley – roughly chopped
vegetable oil for frying
sea salt and pepper to season

Grill the breadcrumbs for a few minutes until crisp and golden, remove from the heat and set aside until later in a large bowl.
In the mean time fry the onions in a pan with oil on a moderately high heat until soft and beginning to get gooey, this should take approx 10 minutes.
Add the bacon or whatever you are using and cook though for a few minutes.
Add the thyme and garlic to this pan and fry for another 2 minutes then add this to the bowl containing the breadcrumbs.
In the same pan that has been used for the onion and bacon add in the marrow, this may need to be done in 2 batches.
The marrow is cooked when the edges have turned golden brown and the flesh is translucent.
Season the marrow well with salt when cooking, taste and adjust as necessary.
Once cooked add the marrow to an ovenproof dish.
Add the parsley to the breadcrumb mixture and pour this on top of the marrow.
Season with salt and pepper.
Grill for about 5 minutes.

Serve with some nice crust bread and a glass of wine (compulsory).



Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Pear and cardamom cake

pear and cardamom cake

I’m trying to let go of my perfectionist tendencies. They aren’t always that helpful. Last week I finished “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamont. She said “they keep us standing back or backing away from life; they keep us from experiencing life in a naked and immediate way”. The challenge was on to drop this bad habit of mine.

I know if I want to write better I have to loosen up a bit. A couple of weeks before reading the book my wonderful friend Nic was over. We were having a cooking afternoon in my flat and she made a savoury loaf cake with feta and olives. She broke all the cardinal cake baking rules. She didn’t sift the flour. Gasp. She didn’t wait for the oven to preheat. Gasp. She opened the door whilst it was cooking. Gasp… Ultimately it was fantastically tasty so all my worrying was in vain. It was a really lovely afternoon.

pear and cardamom

As part of an effort to dampen down my "uptightness" I decided to try a new recipe for a cake idea I had in my brain, tempting me, for the past few months. The said cake was a pear and cardamom sponge. This recipe was taken from the fantastic “Girl Interrupted Eating” blog. This blog is really wonderful; full of lovely seasonal, nose to tail type recipes. This cake recipe is essentially a framework allowing you to adapt your cake to the ingredients you want to add. It seemed to good to be true. What if it didn’t work? What if those ingredients were wasted? What about those starving children in Africa? I need not have worried. The cake was delicious, light and intriguing. Panic over. I’ve just taken a few baby steps. The process to try to put things in perspective is one that will continue. The next challenge is to transfer that principle from the kitchen to the world beyond.

pear and cardamom cake

Pear and cardamom cake - taken from "girl interrupted eating"
Oven preset to 175 degrees, 9-inch spring form cake tin

175g butter at room temperature
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
175g of pear- grated
175g self raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 cardamom seeds ground

Prepare the tin by greasing and dusting the tin with flour.
Mix together the sugar and butter with an electric whisk until smooth.
Add in the eggs and mix.
Stir in the grated pear.
Mix the flour with the bicarbonate of soda and ground cardamom, add this to the mixture and fold in.
Pour into a tin and bake for approx 35 minutes or until golden on top and skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.


all gone...on my hips

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Mushroom hunting part 2: the ubiquitous wild mushroom risotto

One of the laws of physics states that for every glut of foraged chanterelle mushrooms a risotto must be made. Yep it’s predictable but it is perhaps it is predictable because it is just so good, a classic if you will. I think keeping things simple is the best way to show these bad boys off.

In my defence of being boring I thought I would write a list of other potentially boring but ultimately enjoyable/good things –

            Sunday papers
Hong Kong style sweet and sour chicken
Holidays in France
Radio 4
Stacy from “Gavin and Stacy”

Convinced? Perhaps not but here is my recipe for wild mushroom risotto anyways.

Wild mushroom risotto
Serves 4

300g of risotto rice - arborio, vialone and carnaroli all work well.
2 large onions - finely chopped
2-3 stalk of celery - finely chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
a large glass of white wine
1 small pot of chicken stock (about a litre)  - keep on a rolling boil throughout the cooking process
400g of cleaned wild mushrooms - chanterelles, hedgehogs and ceps work particularly well, cut in halves or quarters if particularly large
1 tub of mascarpone, about 225g
50g of parmesan
a handful of coarsely chopped parsley
salt and pepper
olive oil and butter

Pop some olive oil and butter in a pan and over a low heat cook the onions and celery. Let these soften for the best part of 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and continue cooking for another couple of minutes.
Do not let the onion et cetra go brown, the idea is that it is sweet and translucent.
Season with salt.

Turn up the heat a little and add the rice, cook for a minute stirring all the time.
Do no let the rice go brown as this will reduce the amount of starch you can get out of it.
Once the edges of the rice have gone clear add in the wine.
It should sizzle as it hits the pan, keep stirring until 70% or so of the liquid has been absorbed.
Add one ladle of the stock into the rice at a time, stirring fairly continuously until most of the stock is absorbed before adding the next ladleful.
The more elbow work you put into your risotto the more gooey starchy wonderfulness it will release, this will ensure you have a lovely unctuous risotto.

After about 12 minutes of cooking the rice pop the mushrooms into a frying pan with a little oil and some butter.
Cook until golden and slightly crispy.

When the risotto is a minute off being ready add the parsley, mascarpone and Parmesan.
The rice will take about 16-18 minutes to cook, once al dente add in the mushrooms, perhaps saving a few for looking pretty on top.
Season to taste.


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Chanterelle pappardelle

chanterelle papparadelle

Life has been very busy recently. I’ve been so caught up with seeing friends I’ve barely had time to sit, think and just be still. It’s been fantastic but by Sunday we both needed to slow it down. Mushroom hunting was the order of the day. We drove away from the city, listening to radio 4 and munching on lemon sherbet sweeties. It was nice just getting to spend a bit of time together.

On reaching the wood we pushed our way through a thicket of nettles and wild raspberries. Once inside it was truly beautiful. Natural, untouched silver birch, pillows of deep sphagnum moss and little shafts of light coming through to hit the forest floor. It was the perfect terroir. It wasn’t the long before we spotted our first chanterelles half hidden away under moss and branches. The ruse of the fallen silver birch leaves often catching us out.

lovely looking chanterelles

We only spent about an hour in the wood but that hour was so restorative. For me there can me few simple pleasures as wonderful as finding your own food especially when it is as tasty as chanterelles. Maybe my enjoyment of foraging is some throwback to some primal instinct but that little bit of time out helped me put a few things in perspective. I felt better.

All our lovely "chanties"

Chanterelle pappardelle – serves 2

150g pappardelle
teaspoon of oil
6 strips of streaky bacon or pancetta
100-300g chanterelles, trimmed and cleaned with the largest ones quartered
2 cloves of garlic, paper like skin still left on
3 sprigs of thyme
30g butter
100ml double cream
handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
½ lemon
sea salt and pepper

Add the oil and bacon to a skillet pan.
Cook until brown and crispy on a moderately high heat.
Remove from the pan and set aside on kitchen paper.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet with plenty of salted water.

You may need to drain some of the oil from the pan. You will only need about 1 tablespoon worth of oil.
Add the chanterelles in small batches to the pan, making sure there is plenty of space between them so that they don’t stew.
Add the garlic and some of the thyme.
If the pan gets too dry add a knob of butter.
Cook the mushrooms until they are pleasantly soft but coloured. This takes a few minutes.
Season with sea salt to taste.
Once each batch is cooked remove the chanterelles from the pan and squeeze a little lemon juice over them and set aside till later.

Once all the mushrooms are cooked add the cream to the pan, give it a good stir to get the flavour-filled bits off the bottom of the pan.
Allow the cream to boil and reduce down so that it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove the garlic and thyme.
Add the bacon and chanterelles to the pan for 1 minute then stir in the parsley and drained pasta.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Roast peaches with Sauternes and lavender

Peaches, Sauternes and lavender - all ready for the oven

Sometime you get it right, sometimes you don’t. I’ve cooked a few blah recipes recently. Namely a disappointing almond sponge cake and a creamy rabbit, leek and mustard stew which frankly freaked me out. I managed to convince myself that it tasted “funny” and couldn't eat it. I think this is due to my nostalgic memories of my childhood pet bunny Shadow (whaaaa). Another culinary low light of late was a full on 3 hour recipe for an authentic Bolognese (made with 3 different types of meat and all). Despite all the effort the boyfriend’s verdict on it was “tastes like mince, as in mince and tatties”. Humph. Just when I was about to hang up my metaphorical apron and go sob into a packet of biscuits I pulled this little number out the bag/oven and all in the world was good again.

Flat peaches

Granted this is a very girly dessert but, without wanting to blow my trumpet, it is pretty interesting. Succulent white peaches, rich, sticky Sauternes syrup and the delicate perfume of the lavender. I think this would go lovely with some goat’s milk ice cream. If you don’t have any lavender you could substitute rosemary or thyme. I nicked the lavender from the flowerbed at the end of my street. My take on the English riots/rampage.


Roast peaches with Sauternes and lavender
Oven set to 175 degrees celsius
Serves 2-4 depending on greediness and volume of ice cream consumed

6 flat peaches or 4 round peaches
20g butter finely chopped
2 tsp of demerara sugar
a glug of Sauternes, (75-100ml)
2 – 3 springs of lavender (ideally use the sprigs that are just beginning to open up)

Half the peaches and remove the stone, add the pieces to an ovenproof dish so that they fit snugly together.
Scatter over the butter and sugar.
Add a glug of the Sauternes so that the peaches are sitting in a Sauternes bath about 1cm deep.
Add the lavender to the Sauternes.
Pop in the oven for about 50 minutes until the peaches are wonderfully soft and the edges are sweet and crispy.


Friday, 12 August 2011

Hello festival/hello lemon, ricotta and poppy seed cake

Lemon, ricotta and poppy seed cake

Well, what can I say; it’s festival time here in Edinburgh again. The world’s largest arts festival is on my doorstep, literally, Boy don’t I know it. The price of a pint has doubled and walking down the road seems busier and more touristy than the face painting stall at Disney Land. The poncho brigade is out in force.

Despite all my dour negativity I am actually hugely excited about this year’s festival mainly owing to the fact that some of my very closest friends back in the city for a little while. It’s nice just to know they are about and not hundreds of miles away in different cities and countries. I feel so lucky to have such awesome pals. It is making me smile just thinking about them and the things we have planned over the next few weeks.

Another benefit of the festival is that in amongst the dross there are some real gem performances out there. Here is a list of the events I’m going to, my Edinburgh Festival 2011 recommendations if you will.

Ben Howard – folksy, finger picky guitar on communion records (08.08.11 – been and gone)

The Animals and Children Took to the Street – 1927 Theatre Company (19.08.11 – 28.08.11). Eerie animation come cabaret come awesomeness. Stylistically and thematically impressive. The guardian describes it as “restrained malevolent tastefulness”.

The World According to Bertie – Andy Jordan Productions (11.08.11 - 29.08.11). This play is adapted from an Alexander McCall Smith book. I know it is going to be amazing as it has one of my amazingly talented friends in it.

Sold – (12.08.11 – 29.08.11). Devised theater based around human trafficking. It is supported by and features the smart graduates from Central School of Speech and Drama where Laurence Olivier and Judy Dench studied.

Andy Parsons - (20.08.11-28.8.11) Comedian with a funny voice.

Part of living in Edinburgh is finding your self extremely popular during the month of August. We have been hosting A LOT this week and have wheeled this cake out on a couple of occasions. This is the best lemon and poppy seed cake recipe I have ever tried. Hand on heart. This cake is wonderfully light, rich but still tart.

Lemon, ricotta and poppy seed cake (adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days)

For the sponge -
190g caster sugar
190g butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs
190g plain flour plus extra for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
4 tbsp poppy seeds
zest of 2 lemons
25 ml milk
80g ricotta

For the lemony syrup –
juice of 1 lemon
50g caster sugar

Preset the oven to 170 degrees C.
Grease a loaf tin with butter and dust with flour.

With an electric whisk cream the sugar and butter together for a few minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one.
In a separate bowl add the flour, salt and baking powder together.
Add a 1/3rd of the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir in.
Add a further 1/3rd of the flour to the mixture and stir in.
Add in the milk and stir.
Add the remaining flour and into the mixture and stir.
Add in the zest and ricotta and mix well.

Pour the mixture into the greased loaf tin and cook for about 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the sponge comes out clean.

While the cake is cooking you can get started on the lemony syrup.
Add the sugar, lemon juice and 100ml of water to a small pan.
On a medium heat bring to the boil and remove from the heat when the syrup has reduced by half.

When the cake is cooked, leave to stand for a good 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cook completely.
Add the syrup whilst the cake is still hot.


Sunday, 7 August 2011

Unexpected pleasures – beluga lentil salad

Beluga lentil salad

I am ashamed to admit it but I am probably a creature of habit. I guess I am just less spontaneous than I once was. Get up, work, walk, diner, shower, sleep. Last week my usual program of events was altered by a train derailment and my evening was all the better for it.

It has got me thinking about how I would like to be more open to the possibilities that are out there every day. Maybe there is so much more I could do? Am I really making the most of my time on this “pale blue dot”? All very scary and metaphysical questions but for me the scariest thought in the world is lying on my death bed wishing I had spent more time being creative, being with friends, seeing the world… instead of watching sh*t TV. Maybe I’m worrying prematurely, I am only 24 after all. Fingers crossed I’ve got a few years left in me yet.

Due to the derailment I had to get off the train a stop early and instead of catching a bus or walking the shortest route back I made the most of the late summer sun by walking along the riverbank. Here are a few photos I took with my phone. I don’t think they really capture the peace and sense of age of the landscape. It has this lovely, forgotten and ancient atmosphere, all very romantic.

Tired feet

I would describe both my walk along the riverbank and this beluga lentil salad as an unexpected pleasure. I’ve always had a rather nonchalant attitude towards lentils, a bit too rough and earthy maybe, but these beluga ones are richer and creamier but still more delicate than their dhal making counterparts. The creaminess is cut through with the vinaigrette and spring onions and the earthy hint is lifted by the freshness of the parsley. Good ol’ Nigel Slater, that boy never puts a foot wrong in my opinion.

Beluga lentil salad served with grilled courgettes and iberico ham - just as Mr Slater suggested

Beluga lentil salad – adapted from Nigel Slater’s Tender Volume 1 (highly recommended)
Serves 4 as part of a lunch

For the lentils
200 g of beluga lentils
600 ml chicken or vegetable stock – ideally homemade as commercial stocks will have more salt which can toughen the skin on the lentils

For the dressing
4-5 spring onions – finely chopped
a clove of garlic – crushed
a large handful of flat leaf parsley – roughly chopped
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Have a quick look and rummage through the lentils, sometimes there can be debris in the packet.
Pop the lentils into a sieve and run under cold water for a minute or two until the water is clear.
Add the lentils to a pan of simmering chicken stock.

In the meantime make the vinaigrette by adding the dressing ingredients together and mixing.

Taste the lentils after 10 minutes but they may require up to 15-20 minutes cooking.
The lentils should be tender but still with a little bite when they are ready.
Drain using a sieve and run under cold water for a minute or two.

Put the lentils in a bowl and pour in the dressing and give it a gentle mix until all the lentil are coated.

Season to taste.