Thursday, 31 July 2008

In my larder - wholegrain mustard

I love wholegrain mustard - it is a very versatile ingredient and it sprang to mind because I ran out a few weeks ago and realised what an essential it is. Some of the things I use it for are:

On roast beef or ham sandwiches - yum
To add to chilli con carne, my chicken tortilla recipe, beef stews, sausage casseroles, tomatoe pasta sauce (you don't taste teh mustard so much - more it deepens the tomatoe flavour)
With creme fraiche makes an excellent sauce for over steak or beef sausages
With olive oil and some balsamic vinegar makes a fab and quick basic salad dressing
Mixed with olive oil and then used to dress potatoe wedges before cooking - gives them a kick and bite

Perfect store cupboard ingredient!

Other blogs

More blogs!

My main cooking geographically speaking is either old fashioned Scottish/UK or Italian but I also like exploring what other cultures have to offer. One of my good friends, Kirsten, married a South African guy called Jason (their wee boy Jonas is my godson and he is a right wee cutie). Jason held braai's (BBQs) when they lived in Dundee and so we got to try out some SA style dishes. I have found a blog called Vanielje Kitchen and one called CookSister both of which are about women who come from South Africa and you will find SA recipes there. I will definitely be exploring for some good recipes on their blogs.

Other blogs

I have spotted two blogs recently that I liked. The first is one that focuses on three things particularly close to me heart - it is called 'The 3 R's - Reading, Ranting and Recipes'. Lelo's cold chicken pie looks particularly tasty.

The other blog is called 'Portobello Kitchen' and focuses on Tessa cooking from ingredients she gets from the Portobello market which is right on her doorstep. I can't imagine how wonderful it must be to have such a market right there and ready to be explored - I am very jealous! I like the trout and beetroot recipe on the front page at the moment - haven't tried it yet but it looks amazing.

The only thing better than making food yourself is reading about and blogs are a great way to find tips and hints as well as recipes developed by home based foodies that often throw up something new and tasty to try.

Carrot Cake

After trying the excellent carrot cake in Sherlock's in Whitby I thought I would give making it a shot. I have never made carrot cake and so I had a search on the UKTV food website and got a recipe from Roopa Gulati that looked easy enough for a beginner. The recipe is good and the cake itself was very tasty. However, I ran into the issues I often do when using recipes and following them to the letter - that they don't always adhere to the instructions! The recipe said 20-25 minutes for cooking and but in my fan oven it took 50 minutes and teh last ten minutes I put the temp up. So next time I will adjust the time. Also, the icing was 'gloopier' and ran quite fast when icing the cake and I think needs more icing sugar. But none of these things is a criticism in a negative way. The thing I like about cooking is discovering something new and then adapting it to your kitchen, oven and tastes. So, we will polish off this first attempt and then next weekend I will 'refine' the recipe with my own additions and then post about whether it improves it or not. This to me is teh exciting bit, going on a wee adventure with ingredients and the like and developing a recipe that is yours and suits your needs and tastes!

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

A sandwich to try

I haven't tried this yet but intend to over the weekend - I got it from the Channel 4 website - it sounds great:

Makes 2
Ready in 20 minutes

* 4 slices white bread, freshly cut from a round country loaf
* 4 tbsp good-quality fresh pesto
* 150g Taleggio cheese, cut into slices
* 50g SunBlush tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
* Good handful wild rocket
* 4 slices Parma ham or pancetta
* 2 medium eggs, beaten
* 1 tbsp olive oil

Method: How to make the ultimate summer sarnie

1. Spread 2 slices of the bread on 1 side with the pesto. Top with the Taleggio cheese and scatter with the SunBlush tomatoes, followed by the wild rocket. Sandwich together with the remaining bread slices and squash down slightly. Wrap 2 slices of Parma ham or pancetta around each sandwich.

2. Soak each sandwich in the beaten egg for 3 minutes each side.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium-low heat, add the sandwiches to the hot pan and fry for 6 minutes, turning halfway, until the Taleggio is melting and the Parma ham or pancetta is golden. Transfer to kitchen paper to drain.

4. Cut each sandwich in half and serve with plenty of napkins.

It sounds mouthwatering and even if I don't get a chance to try it out this weekend wanted to keep a note of it and share it.

Holiday to Robin Hood's Bay

I have been on holiday the past week with my sisters and brother and the assorted partners. Seven folk in all made for a fun and busy holiday! Of course, for me one of the great pleasures of a holiday is the food - eating out, picnics, the excuse to eat bacon butties every morning all add up to make a holiday good fun.

We rented a self catering cottage called Hill Cliff which was a great place to stay. I like to self cater because it means you can use the local produce to cook with and makes a change from eating out the whole time. We got old yorkshire chutney from a shop called the Shepherd's Purse in Whitby which went on our picnic sandwiches and, a taste of home, found Fife strawberries in the Co-Op for pudding. We had fish and chips in RHB and in Whitby. But two highlights for me were discovering Sherlock's in Whitby and going to Betty's in York.


There is nothing I like more than a good old fashioned cafe that does tea and coffee and excellent cakes. Unfortunately, our tyre had a puncture and we had to get it fixed so on the second day Andy and I left early to find a garage with the idea being we would meet up with the others in Whitby. Well, misfortune turned into good fortune. Having left the tyre to be fixed we headed into Whitby and because we were early decided to find a cafe to have a cuppa in. I bought one of those tourists maps and saw that the Flowergate and lots of cafes on it so we took a stroll and found Sherlock's.

As you can tell from the title, there is a strong link with Sherlock Holmes - but not in a plastic-themed way. This cafe is panelled in dark wood with shelves of leather bound volumes and tables and chairs that are olde worlde and mismatched in a quaint way. What really took our breath away were the cakes on display in the window - absolutely saliva inducing.

We popped in and I had toast and butter and tea (teapot was excellent) and Andy had a scone and a coffee. All were lovely with good prompt service. We were so taken with the place that we returned the following morning for breakfast where we sampled teh smoothies - fresh made and tasty - and the next day for cake. The lemon cake tasted like the lemons had been picked the day before and the carrot cake was moist and had a cinnamon flavour that complemented the carroty-ness wonderfully. Each time the service was consistent and all of our orders were perfect. It is not often I can 100% recommend somewhere but I can with Sherlock's.


Anyone who has been to York or visited yorkshire will have heard of Betty's - and it is an institution well worth it's reputation. The cafe and tea rooms opened in 1919 and serve beuatiful cakes, small bites and afternoon teas. You usually have to queue for a table but it is well worth it. The tea room has kept its art deco style with elegantly mirrored walls and displays of teapots throughout the ages.

While everyone else had tea/coffee and a slice of cake, Damian and I opted to share an afternoon tea. It was exquisite. It came on a three tiered cake stand with ham and chicken sandwiches, scone, jame and cream and a selection of three cakes. The sandwiches were lovely - the ham was what I call 'real ham' - not your processed slices but proper ham, and the chicken was evidently actual roast chicken. The scone was light and fruity and delicious and teh cream was clotted and thick and silky. The wee cakes were a treat - a slice of fruit cake, a lemon Madeleine style cake and a profiterole. All were just perfect and we really enjoyed them.

And for the others, their cake portions were very generous - I hate a skimpy slim serving of cake. Alice had fruit cake and Wenslydale cheese - three lices of cake accompanied with three pieces of cheese. And Andy's ginger cake was two generous slices of a ginger loaf. The ginger was sticky and in good sized chunks. If you are in York I would definitely visit Betty's. It is a bit pricier than other cafes but it is absolutely worth it.


I love sausages - with mash, in a roll, with breakfast or in pasta sauces and stews. This meal is one that is tasty and easy to do and also looks impressive.


Good quality sausages, 3 per person (from your butcher or when I am lazy from the Tesco Finest range. I particularly like pork and chilli ones and sometimes I try and get a variety of flavours to give the dish a bit more interest)
Red onions, peppers, portobello mushrooms, baked potatoes - 1 for every two people
Cloves of garlic
Wholegrain mustard

Putting it together

Grill the sausages and then keep them warm in the oven. I don't have a separate grill and oven so this is how I have to do them. I like the skins quite crispy and this also helps with the way it is served later on.

Slice the baked potatoes into wedges and toss in some olive oil and, if you want to add a bit of bite, some wholegrain mustard. Place on a baking tray in a hot oven and roast for 35-40 minutes or until tender on the inside and a bit crispy on the outside.

Slice the red onions into quarters, peppers into large strips and place them on a baking tray with the mushrooms. Drizzle with olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar. Add some garlic cloves to roast too. Place on a baking tray in a hot oven and roast for 20-25 mins or until cooked.

Now, you can just sling this all on a plate and it will taste wonderful and everyone will be happy but if you want to be a bit posh I do the following. Take the sausages and cut lengthways on the diagonal. Set aside. Take the roasted veg out of the oven. Place a mushroom in the middle of each plate and pile on the red peppers. Surround the mushroom with the potatoe wedges and then take the diagonal cut pieces of sausage and layer over the peppers. To finish, place the red onions like a garnish and drizzle over the juices from the baking tray. This makes a posh looking presentation of the food on the plate and despite it taking no time or skill at all will impress your guests!

Monday, 14 July 2008

Random thoughts on tea

I am what some call a 'tea jenny' - jenny being scots for 'a lot of something' and means I like to drink a lot of tea. I reckon I drink about 10 cups of tea a day. I used to drink only normal tea - with Yorkshire Tea or Twinings English Breakfast being my bags of choice. The past few years I have become addicted to peppermint tea after drinking it when I was ill with a bad stomach. Peppermint tea is really refreshing and can be drunk hot or cold. This means that when I am at work and forget about my cuppa, it is still good to drink when cold!

I can be quite particular about my tea. I prefer it made in a tea pot although when just making it for myself this seems a bit of a palaver so I make it in the cup (very bad practice). At work I have a one cup teapot that sits on top of a matching cup. It is white with brightly coloured spots on it. When making tea from a pot I warm the pot first - you have to take the chill off it else your tea will cool too quickly. And if I have time I also warm the cup.

Not everyone feels the need to eat something along with a cuppa but I come from a family who loves a wee biscuit or nibble with their tea. I love jaffa cakes although I prefer Tesco blue strip ones. Yes, the cheapest jaffa cakes you will ever find - but the cakey base is a bit crisper and I can get a bit of bite out of it. I love ginger and two nibbles I like are Anna's Ginger Thins, swedish style biscuits. They aren't always easy to get a hold of although deli's often do them, as does Ikea. My second ginger delight is Border's Dark Ginger biscuits - mmmm. They are pricey at £1.55 a box for ten but they are very much worth it. The dark choc and ginger combo works a treat and rather than the usual dry, dusty gibger effect you get from a lot of ginger biccies these ones are moist and chewy.

My favourite teapot is one that I bought with money left to me by my Gran - who was the tea jenny queen so it is quite fitting - made by Freud. It is metal with a wodden handle and is round with a spout that makes it look like a wee pig. It keeps the tea piping hot and it makes the best cuppa. It is hard to put your finger on it, but the right cuppa has a taste all of its own.

Sunday, 6 July 2008


I love homemade guacamole - shop bought really isn't the same.

2 avacadoes
3 cloves of garlic
olive oil
lime juice

1. Cut the avacadoes in half and remove the stone and remove the skin. I don't know how the professionals do it but I slide my thumbs in and under the skin. Messy, but easiest way.
2. Peel and crush garlic. Put gralic and avacadoe into a sturdy bowl.
3. Add olive oil and lime juice. You want enough oil to make it more of dip and lime juice to taste - it cuts through the creaminess of the avacadoe nicely. It also delays the avacadoe browning.
4. Take a fork and break up and mash the ingredients together. If you like it smooth you can process but I like it rugged and chunky.
5. Add pepper and salt to taste and serve with the tortilla recipe orwith your favourite crisps to dip in front of the TV or a movie.

Chicken Tortillas

I don't know whether this is authentic or not cause I made it up but it is one of my husbands favourite meals. We had it last night for the first time in ages and I had forgotten how good it is.

tortilla wraps (I used Tesco organic ones - lovely and soft)
chicken breast - 1 per person
1 red pepper
2 large portobello mushrooms
1 onion (can be red or white)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chilli
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
tomatoe puree

1. Slice the onion in half then chop - this gives you long strips of onion. Add to wokwith 2/3 slugs of oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes.
2. Slice pepper into strips, Slice mushrooms into long slices. Slice chicken into strips.
3. Add chicken to the wok and sprinkle with the spices and add the mustard. Cook for 10 minutes.
4. Add the peppers, mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Add a couple of squeezes of puree and enough water to make a sauce - not watery, just enough so that it isn't dry. Cook for 10 minutes.
5. While the filling is in its last ten minutes, wrap the tortillas in tinfoil and pop in the oven for 5 minutes to warm up.
6. Put the tortillas onto seving plates and spoon the mixture onto one half and fold the tortilla over.

I like to serve this with chips - home or out the freezer - with some homemade guacamole and some creme fraiche. The key lime pie makes a great dessert for afters.

Key Lime Pie

I fancied something refreshing that would be light and cleansing on the palate - the weather has been so muggy and this recipe is just right for a summer pudding.


175g/6oz ginger or digestive biscuits (I prefer using ginger)
2 tbsp caster sugar
half a tsp ground cinnamon
85g/3oz butter, melted
400ml/14 fl oz canned condensed milk
125ml/4 fl oz freshly squeezed lime juice (around 6-7 limes)
finely grated rind of 3 limes
4 large egg yolks
your preferred flavour of ice cream to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 160/325 and grease a pie plate. I have a loose bottomed 23cm/9inch flan one that I use and it is good for extracating thepie and serving it on a nice dish. Then grate and squeeze your limes.
2. Put the biscuits, sugar and cinnamon in the processer and whizz until crumbed - but now ground into a powder. Then add in the melted butter and whizz until it is moist.
3. Spread crumb mix ino pie dish and press down over the bottom and up the sides - I use a tbsp.
4. Put the pie dish on a baking sheet and pop into the oven for 5 minutes.
5. Beat together the milk, lime juice, lime rind and egg yolks ina bowl until well blended. I like to grate an extra lime and save it for decoration.
6. Remove the pie dish from the oven and pour in the filling. spread it out to the edges. Put back into the oven for 15 minutes. The filling should be set around the edges but a bit wobbly still in the middle.
7. Leave to cool completely and then chill in the fridge for 2 hours. Sprinkle with the lime rind and serve with ice cream/fresh fruit/cream.