Friday, 27 February 2009

Oaty goodness!

I love a bowl of porridge - I make it at home and serve it with maple syrup and it is a great breakfast - fills you up, is tasty and (apart from the syrup possibly) healthy.

But at work I can't make it in a pot and want something fast and quick. When I stay in Glasgow I tend to have breakfast at the office so want something easy but filling. Nicola (who works with me) told me about Quaker Oats So Simple and I am now hooked.

You open the packet, put oats in a bowl, fill packet with milk (handy way to measure it), add to bowl, zap for 2-3 mins and stir and serve. Perfect every time and only a bowl to wash up - no pots! I am not used to microwave cooking but I like this a lot. And if I work late it is a good snack to have and better than a bar of chocolate!

Also - porridge is the subject of a research study into whether porridge can reduce the side effects of type 2 diabetes - how cool to get to eat porridge as part of a study?

Thursday, 26 February 2009


I have seen Rachel Allen's food show and her recipes always look tasty but fairly easy to fling together - so I bought her book 'Rachel's Favourite Food'.

Haven't tried a recipe yet but can't wait till Sunday when I can try out a few - having given it a read through this is one cookbook that is in fact about easy peasy home cooked food. As much as I like Nigella and Jamie sometimes I just want something simple and that doesn't take two hours to cook!

No 24 hour room service?!?!

I haven't had a huge amount of time to blog lately as I have been buzzing round Scotland for work. So not much cooking going on! But I have become very attuned to eating on the road - and trying to do so healthily. Not easy. But what I have discovered are two shops that ease the pain - Boots and M&S.

I love M&S anyway - it is pretty much how I survive living between two houses. There is an M&S at Edinburgh Waverley and one at Glasgow Central - so easy to access. And teh food is yummy yummy for convenience and it tends to be more health focused too. Particularly like the 'count on us' range and I often buy the stir fry ready-prepared veggies and some prawns for tea. And for lunch on the move their sushi and beef rolls are filling, healthy and low in fat etc so not as stomach bloating as always eating sandwiches. Very different to my approach to food in Dundee!

In fact, I would love to learn how to make sushi and make up my own fillings.

Boots is also good as it does a healthy range too and it does really tasty thai chilli crunchies from their shapers range for a wee treat.

Of course, I have to eat in hotels some nights and as I am often arriving late room service is important when you have been dashing about all day. And last night I stayed at the Royal Highland Hotel in Inverness - which advertised 24 hour room service. So I got in at about 11pm, unpacked and put teh kettel on, picked a tasty sounding tuna and red onion pannini from the menu and phoned reception. And promptly got told there was no 24 hour room service and the kitchen staff had all gone home!

I wasn't very happy - nothing worse than being hungry, thinking you can get food and then being told you can't. The emergency Toffee Crisp I had in my handbag kept me going but wasn't really what I was after. And when you are trying to maintain some kind of order to your eating chocolate for supper isn't ever very good.

And these days I feel it is really important that I eat regularly and properly. I can't run on empty the way I used too, and it isn't good for you, plus I find if I don't get a balanced diet I get my chronic fatigue symptoms back and feel out of sorts.

This means I am always looking out for ways to eat when out and about - in fact, my wee notebook I take everywhere with me has started to resemble a geographical study in where I can find and M&S to where I have meetings and regular trips!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Valentine's Day

Andy and I don't go in for big fancy stuff around Valentine's Day - we tend to take turns to cook a nice dinner or order a take away! We sometimes take a day out somewhere but we don't usually go out. This year it was Andy's turn to sort out Valentine's Day and I have to say he did a great job!

We use Google Calendar a lot to keep track of dates and what is going on as I am often away with work. And a couple of weeks before the 14th I spied an email letting me know I had an invite in my Calendar. It was from Andy and he was asking if I would be free at 6.30pm for dinner in a secret location with a sexy/smart dress code! How exciting! Well, of course I had to check my busy social diary and break a few hearts but I said yes.

So where did my romantic husband take me? There is a new-ish restaraunt in Dundee called the Playwright and we had been there before for cocktails but not for food. I was a bit worried going out for food on the 14th would mean being surrounded by heart shaped ballons and being forced to order from a menu based on pink food and smutty innuendo for the name's of the dishes.

Thankfully, the Playwright steered clear of this the only nod to Valentine's being a single red rose alongside your dessert. A nice touch though was that they closed the cocktail bar to anyone who didn't have a reservation, so after dinner there was no crush at the bar and the noise/busyness levels didn't get too high.

We both had the scallops to start which was a good choice - meaty but not too heavy and with some nice cripsy potatoe rosti and cured ham. Then Andy had the beef - a huge doorstep that was cooked to perfection that he rather reluctantly gave me a wee taste of. I had the duck, which was served with parsnips, potatoes cooked in stock and grapes. The duck was really tender, cooked to just the right balance of pinkiness inside and not too fatty.

But the best part of the meal (apart of course from the excellent company!)was the chocolate and Grand Marnier terrine. It was bliss - very chocolatey but not heavy and a good sized portion. There was a lot of mmmm-ing and ah-ing and licking of the spoons!

We then had cocktails at the bar - I stuck to Pink Collins and I was very impressed with Andy's Victorian Mojito which replaces rum with gin - very tasty. We did join my sister and her friend Ruth for a quick drink at Underground but felt that the mad dancing could be left in their capable hands and us old folks toddled up the road - happy, full and perhaps a little bit tipsy.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Monkfish and pasta in a special tomatoe sauce

The only thing about the tomatoe sauce that is special is really that I made it up out of my head!

Monkfish is one of my favourite fish and is good and meaty and so can take quite strong flavours. This is what I made for tea a couple of weeks ago for Andy.


Monkfish - enough for two (it cost £7 - I don't know the weight - I just picked a piece I thought would do!)
Cherry tomatoes
Chopped tinned tomatoes
Garlic - 2-3 cloves
Baby onions - eight
Creme fraiche
Pasta - for this dish I used orichhiette pasta


Skin onions but keep whole. Add to large pan with couple of glugs of olive oil. Heat slowly.
Crush garlic and add to pan and stir.

Cut cherry tomatoes in half and mix in a bowl with some garlic and olive oil, pepper and salt. Leave to steep.
Add chopped tomatoes to pan when onions go opaque and garlic is giving off a lovely garlicky whiff!
Simmer and let reduce for about half an hour.
Put monkfish in a dish, drizzle with oil and lemon and salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake in the oven. Should take about 20-25 minutes.
Spread tomatoe halves on a roasting tin and put in oven ten minutes after fish.
Boil water and add pasta - bring to boil, simmer for 10-12 minutes.

Drain pasta and add to tomatoe sauce with a spoonful of creme fraiche. Serve pasta onto a plate, top with slices of the monkfish, scatter the roasted tomatoes over the top. Voila!

If you want to be all fancy you could add some white wine to the onion/garlic bit at the start.

It was very tasty and also felt angelic because it is a healthy dish too.