Friday, 22 August 2008

nick nairn cook school

When we are in Tesco we sometimes browse the recipe book selection and a week or so ago saw this book at a good price and decided to give it a shot. I haven't ever used a Nick Nairn recipe before and we both liked the look of the section on techniques. It doesn't just explain the techniques in text but has very good accompanying pictures for each step. I mean, unless you have been shown how do you know what egg whipped to a 'ribbon' state looks like?

So, with my birthday coming up Andy perused the recipe book and suggested he make the flourless chocolate cake. It involved whipping up egg whites and then egg yolks with sugar - using seven eggs no less - and folding in melted chocolate to make the cake. The cake is a strange one because it rises hugely and then when you cool it it collapses in on itself - usually you don't want a collapsing cake but for this one the idea is to make sure through all your whipping and gentle folding that it rises high with even air bubbles and then collapses gradually and evenly until you get a light, moist and rich sponge that is between a mousse and a dense choclate sponge.

Well, I have to say I would have been fairly daunted by this and, while there were a few exclamations at points during the baking, Andy turned out an amazing cake that was choc cake heaven! He served it with creme fraiche and ginger sauce which really complemented the Green & Blacks dark chocolate used in the cake. What more could you want - a husband that makes amazing chocolate!!

Mason and Cash mixing bowls

One particularly important piece of equipment for me is the mixing bowl. I like a traditional Mason and Cash mixing bowl - the ceramic ones with a cream inner and darker cream/mustard outer side. I like the weight they have so they don't go skiting off the surface and they are good for keeping your mixture cool. Plastic I don't mind for things like tossing veggies in olive oil before roasting but I don't like the idea of using them for other stuff. You can get them from John Lewis or from M&C direct. I think it is important to find what works for you and then you will be more inspired on those days when you woudl like to make a victoria sponge but aren't quite managing to move your body and do it. Knowing you have good, fail proof equipment that you enjoy using can make all the difference. But then, maybe it is just me who creates relationships with inanimate objects!!!


Everyoen is different and so I don't really go in for those lists of utensils you must have if you are going to be a good cook. But I do like hearing about what others couldn't live without in case it gives me inspiration and I love browsing the Lakeland Limited catalouge for that tool you can't imagine you could now live without.

I am quite an intuitive cook - usually I judge whether the cake or roast is done just by looking at it and relying on my internal clock (I can't turn up on time for anything to save my life but for some reason the lack of time keeping skills doesn't stretch to the kitchen). But, I got this wee cake tester skewer from Lakeland that is in fact very useful in case you are making a recipe for the first time and just want that assurance it is baked/cooked all the way through. The tip turns red when your food is done which is handy if you are making a much bigger roast than usual and are not quite sure if your guesswork is going to prevent upset tummies later on.

I also got the Kenwood Flexible Spatula - I hadn't used a spatula since living at home and used wooden spoons instead and I had forgotten just how much more cake mix you can ensure ends up in the cake and not the sink with a spatula.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

A few days ago I attempted to make for the first time a lemon drizzle cake. I really like lemon cake, particularly after a heavy meal. It is cakey and dessert-like but the lemon gives it a freshness and zing that makes it seem light and almost healthy as a choice (even though I imagine it isn't!).

One of my favourite cookbooks is 'The Complete Farmhouse Kitchen Cook Book'. My mum gave me an old copy she had and it has been a regular source of good recipes and old favourites. So I used the recipe on page 322 which was really easy to do and produced a really good cake - the only thing I felt was that there was a bit too much syrup for my liking - it made the cake almost too lemony so next time I will probably half the quantity.

Tangy Lemon Cake

125g/4oz butter
175g/6oz caster sugar
Grated rind and juice 2 lemons
2 beaten eggs
175g/6oz self-raising flour
A little milk
50g/2oz granulated


1. Cream butter, caster sugar and lemon rind until fluffy
2. Gradually beat in eggs
3. Mix in flour and add about 4 tbsp milk to soften mixture - should be soft enough to drop off end of spoon when shaken gently
4. Grease a 1kg/2ib loaf tin
5. Bake in a moderate oven, Gas 4, 350F, 180C, for 45-50 minutes until risen and golden, firm on top and shrinking from the sides of the tin
6. Just before cake is ready to come out of the oven, prepare the lemon syrup. Heat lemon juice and granulated sugar gently until sugar is dissolved
7. As soon as cake is out the oven, while still in the tin, pierce top all over with a skewer and pour over the syrup Leave in the tin until cold.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Boiled Egg Sandwiches

Yesterday I had out in a good session at the gym and was looking forward to some salad and fruit for lunch sitting in the sun. But instead the rain came down and rather than summer it felt like winter. So, instead of healthy but cold salad I made a favourite treat that was warming comfort food. I took an egg and boiled it and when it was done scooped it out into a cup and mashed it with salt, pepper and a knob of butter. I then slathered it on a toasted white roll and ate it with a hot cup of peppermint tea. It was delicious! Much better for curling up with a book and watching the rain come down than a salad!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Blue Bowl

I have lots of crockery and cooking equipment in my kitchen - bowls, jugs, plates etc. Some is cheapo 'when I was a student' stuff and some, like my royal doulton and midwinter dinner services, are very expensive. But there are some pieces I have that are special not because of their cost or what brand they are but because they have sentimental value or are perfect for a particular kitchen activity.

I have a small studio ceramic jug that is used for measuring rice because a jugful is exactly what we need for two. It is also great for measuring milk when making doughs and batters. It isn't a measuring jug, its just that it is the right size for what I need it to do. And I have a wooden spoon that is my 'porridge' spoon - it is the right size for my smallest saucepan and is the one I always use.

Well, today I broke one of my blue earthenware bowls. I got given two blue bowls wth matching squat chubby mugs by my Aunt Rose when Andy and I were first engaged made in Arran. I don't know which pottery although now I have broken one I wish I did. The bowls were used for our breakfast because they are just the right size for Andy's muesli and my porridge. I have a thing about bowls - it is really difficult to find a breakfast bowl that isn't either too shallow (so the milk etc splashes about) or too deep (and your food seems to disappear into a bottomless pit). And these bowls were perfect. Anyway, I broke one today and it made me feel quite upset. I have my breakfast in it every day I am in Dundee.

I don't know if other folk also feel this way about what are inanimate objects but when you have found a piece of kit that does exactly what you want it to do and then it breaks or is lost for me that is unsettling. I guess we will now fight over who gets to use the left-behind bowl.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Carrot Cake

And just as I have been thinking about carrot cake and polishing off the last slice today I saw this recipe on the Guardian website.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Special Tuna

I found this recipe today when I was looking for inspiration for healthy stuff I can take to work or eat in Ediburgh. The holidays have seen a slight tightening in the waistband so some healthy eating is in order (particularly if I make anotherc arrot cake next weekend). This recipe is from my friend Shona who finds it difficult to eat wheat and dairy and uses that storecupboard favourite - tinned tuna.


Tin of tuna drained (friendly to dolphins only!)
1 pepper chopped finely
1 red onion chopped finely
2-3 carrots shredded
2-3 tsp of tomatoe puree
2 tsp pesto (whatever type takes your fancy)
salt and pepper to taste
Cheese to top if you like - mozzarella or parmesan is good)


Combine tuna and veggies in a bowl
Add pesto and puree, mix, then season to taste
Leave for 15-20 minutes to let flavours settle and infuse
Can be served hot or cold, with a baked potatoe, in a sandwich, with pasta (wheat free if you need it), rice and as a side. Great for lunches along with some bread/roll.

I sometimes double the quantities so I can have it for dinner and then for lunches for a couple of days.

Rock Buns

These are simple little cakes that can be made up really quickly if you have folk coming round at short notice for a cuppa and want to give them something homemade instead of out of a packet. Also, although they are past their best after 2-3 days, for those who can't see good food going to waste, if warmed up in the oven and spread with butter they make a good snack for supper. These are my husband Andy's favourites - he likes to take one in with his lunch to work!


8oz s/r flour
.5 tsp salt
4oz firm margerine
3oz caster sugar
3oz currants (or any dried fruit you like)
1 beaten egg
2 tbsp milk


Put flour and salt in a bowl
Rub in margerine (or use food processor for ease)
Add sugar and fruit and mix
Mix to stiff consistency with milk and egg
Grease a baking tray and 'plop' the mixture on using two milk-dipped forks - the buns are meant to be all rough and pointy
Dredge with caster sugar (this 'fixes' the buns, otherwise they will spread out into one another across the tray)
Bake for about 12-15 mins, gas 7, 425f, 220c or until firm and golden
Cool on a wire rack for a couple of minutes - but they taste good warm out the oven so have a pot of coffee or tea ready so you can indulge!