Friday, 31 July 2009


Blogging may be even more erratic than usual as we are moving house! We will be moving through to Stirling next weekend and I am spending my time packing and organising for the move. Andy and I will be making our favourite dinners though the last two nights we have in Dundee so will blog about them when I get the chance. Saturday night Andy will be making mushroom risotto and his amazing chocolate cake and on the Sunday I am doing roast beef with all the trimmings. I haven't decided on a pudding yet - I think Andy will have a say in that!

Monday, 20 July 2009

carrot cake

A while back I blogged about a recipe for carrot cake that I used and thought was really good but that the timings, for me anyway, were a bit off. So this weekend I gave it another shot and here is the recipe I am now happy with!

150g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp cinnamon powder
150g caster sugar
250g grated carrot
100g shelled walnuts, chopped
150ml corn/vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1tsp vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
Grease and line a cake tin
Sieve flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and cinnamon powder in a mixing bowl
Stir in the caster sugar, walnuts and carrots - mix well

Pour in the oil, eggs and vanilla essence and stir well

Beat mixture for one minute
Put the cake batter into the tin and bake for 60 minutes
Remove and leave to cool for five minutes before turning onto a cooling rack
leave to cool completely

For the icing:

50g butter - room temp
75g cream cheese - full fat
Half a teaspoon of vanilla essence
100g icing sugar

Beat the butter until smooth then add the cream cheese and vanilla essence
Gradually stir in the icing sugar
Spread the icing over the cake

This pic turned out a bit weird - I don't know why - my lack of photography skills perhaps!

If you like you could keep back a handful of walnuts and decorate with them.

If you want to cut the cake in half and have icing inside too - up your icing ingredients by a third. You can do it with the original recipe but I like plenty of icing!!!

sunday baking and cooking

Last Sunday I had a bit of a blast on the cooking and baking - I felt like doing a bit of baking and trying something new for Sunday dinner. So, I made some rock buns, some shortbread and tried out a new recipe for scallops and chorizo for our Sunday dinner.

I decided on shortbread as Andy drew my attention to my rather amazing collection of cookie cutters yesterday - by way of demanding they be put in their own box rather than getting tangled up in the kitchen drawer. I hadn't quite realised how many I have myself. So they now have their own home and they are gonna get used today!

I also decided to cook scallops for the first time. I cooked them with chorizo and sweetfire beetroot salad. I don't know what the recipe was but I saw beetroot and scallops on a plate together on a clip of Masterchef I saw the previous week. So I decided to wing it on the details of the actual recipe and devise what I thought would produce what I saw on the tele and see what happens. Having never done scallops I was a wee bit nervous so had a pizza in the freezer in case it all went horribly wrong.

Anyway - as you will see from the links to the dishes, it all went very well and the dish is now part of my repertoire. I do think though that while the quality of the scallops is paramount and goes without saying, the quality of the chorizo matters too - while the chorizo used was pricier than what I usually get at the supermarket it was really worth it and in fact you could use less as a result.

The shortbread was wolfed down at both our workplaces so felt quite happy with that too. It goes without saying that Andy devoured the rock buns. I am not sure what it is about them he likes so much but if that is what keeps him happy who am I to complain!


I love shortbread - it reminds me of my Gran - both for the shortbread she would often have in the house (bought from M&S - she didn't cook or make things herself - just made sure we all had a good sweet tooth developed!) and for all the coffee mornings she would take us to as kids. My Gran knew in detail all the best coffee mornings in Ayr and we got a good education in how to form a strategy for getting the most out of a jumble sale and how to nab the best cakes.

And shortbread is easy peasy to make and quick to cook - so you can whip up a tray of biscuits really quite easily and take the glory for what your guests will perceive as hours of hard work in the kitchen. You can make shortbread into the traditional round marked out for slices but I like to use lots of different cookie cutters instead. I have a cat, moon, teapot, airplane, butterfly, star, gingerbread man and loads more.

The recipe I use is taken from the Farmhouse Kitchen Cook Book - a bible of cooking for our family if ever there was one.

225g/8oz unsalted butter, room temperature
125g/40z caster sugar
325g/12oz plain white flour, sifted

Put butter in a bowl and beat until soft
Mix in the sugar until creaming
Mix in the flour using hands if necessary. The mixture should be firm - like shortcrust pastry.
You can do each of the above stages in the food mixer if you like
Knead until smooth and free of cracks
If you have time, leave it to rest in the fridge for 15-30 mins
Use half the quantity to roll out to 1cm thickness and then use your cookie cutters to cut out your biscuits
With the second half, cut out more biscuits or roll out to a circle 1cm thick, flute the edges and mark with a knife into eight sections to make a shortbread round
Place your shortbread onto a greased baking sheet, pin prick on the surface to let the air out and stop bubbles forming
Bake for around 30 minutes until just lightly golden - to much cooking and the shortbread will turn bitter
When still warm dredge with caster sugar

This recipe is also good for making shortbread fancies to go with strawberries and ice cream.

scallops and chorizo

Andy and I were in Bridge of Allan last Saturday and stopped in at Clive Ramsay's deli for lunch and a look round the shop. I picked up some amazing chorizo and decided that, inspired by a recent Masterchef clip I had seen, to do scallops and chorizo for Sunday dinner.

We got scallops from the Tesco fish counter - a new fishmonger has opened up in Dundee that I will need to try out but bad planning on my part meant we were reliant on what Tesco had to offer.

I also made the Moro inspired sweetfire beetroot salad that I have become a bit addicted to as an accompaniment with rosemary and garlic potatoes and a basic salad. That with some ciabatta to soak up the dreamy juices and we were both as happy as clams (and not as scallops!).

I made the potatoes first and popped them in the oven to keep warm as the scallops and chorizo need quick cooking. The beetroot can be prepared in advance too - just don't add the dressing until the last moment though else it will turn a bit too pink!

I cut up the chorizo and pan fried for about 5 minutes and until the orangey oil that chorizo holds started oozing into the pan. You don't need to have any oil in the pan to fry the chorizo as it has it's own wee store of it and you don't want to dilute the flavour.

I then removed the chorizo from the pan and added the scallops. The scallops cook in the chorizo oil and pick up the smokey flavour and orange colour. They took about 5 minutes to cook and I used five scallops each.

Then, for the last minute, add the chorizo and give the pan a good shake and stir.

To serve, I popped the scallops and chorizo, potatoes and salad on a plate, served the beetroot separate so you get to manage the pinky ooze, and we had pear cider to go with it. Not sure if pear cider would be the suggested tipple but it worked for us.

The chorizo was amazing - sweet and smokey with a tang of saltiness which really enhanced the meaty scallops. The beetroot gave a fresh, light and zingy contrast as chorizo and scallops are really quite heavy - certainly five scallops each was enough to make you very full. The potatoes I just love with anything and the garlic sat well with the scallops. Good bread is a must to soak up the orange juices on your plate - and to scoop up the yoghurt sauce from the beetroot.

To say we were satisfied understates how sated we felt at the end of the meal!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

smart women

It probably isn't something you would pick up in my posts about my favourite cleaning products or my lust for chocolate cake, but I am quite the left wing feminist - and take my feminist politics pretty seriously - but that doesn't mean you can't be light hearted and I have found a company in America called 'smart women' that produces various items, mainly stationary/gift type stuff, that has slogans such as 'smart women get to the point' emblazoned on them.

The website does have a shop but it is for American distribution only. I have found suppliers in the UK though at Tatty Devine (who also do funky jewellery). Waterstones also stock the range in their stores and online - although the online shop isn't great to navigate.

So, if you need some post its and quite like giving people food for thought beyond teh kitchen, then go take a wee look!

oldies but goodies

There are lots of modern devices that make life a lot easier - particularly on the domestic front. But sometimes there are products that, while they may not be hip and cool, do what they promise to do and have yet to be bettered at doing it. I was reminded of this when doing some cleaning this weekend. We will be renting out our flat soon and so there are lots of jobs to be done including shining up all the chrome in the kitchen. Of course, it all gets a clean regularly like the rest of the kitchen but every so often you need to go a bit further than that to get a really good deep clean and sparkling shine. I also had a lot of kitchen equipment that will need to go into storage and wanted to give everything a really good scrub - my thinking being if it goes in super clean then it won't be so much hard work to deal with when we unpack it eventually.

The thing is, while I use things like Flash cleaning fluid etc, they just don't hit the spot when I want to really scrub, buff and shine. When I want to go all for broke I break out 'the pink stuff' which a is a grainy pink paste my Mum introduced me to. Maybe you all have gleaming pots that sparkle and blind you in the sun - me, I have clean pots but every so often like to scrub the bottom of them to return them to shop bought brilliance and I admit to not carrying out this task every time a I use them. The pink stuff is amazing for this, shines up your sink and draining board and is very good at things like cutting through the grease build up you sometimes get on cooker hoods and suchlike.

Today, though, it isn't easy to get a hold of the pink stuff. Old fashioned ironmongers stock it but with ironmongers themselves becoming scarce I was worried about my supply. So I turned to the always reliable internet and found a website that stocks the pink stuff plus a variety of old fashioned domestic products. It is called the Carbolic Soap Company.

They do all sorts of old fashioned bits and pieces including 'lifebuoy soap' which my gran used to talk about - and often threaten us with a good scrubbing with - when we were little.

So I have ordered a good supply of pink stuff and will be browsing their website for other older, but still the best, items for keeping everything ship shape!

Monday, 6 July 2009

coffee table

I like having plenty of surface space - mainly because I usually have a couple of books, magazines and papers on the go at any one time - not to mention needing space for the essential pot of tea and to pile my mobile, pda and diary on. So this table by matthew hilton is perfect - you can have it as one large surface or split it up across a room depending on what you need at any given time. of course, at £1495 it isn't exactly a bargain but I love the lean, clean lines and jigsaw styling.

I found the table on the apartment company site which is american but has cool ideas and suggestions which I then search for to see if there are uk based suppliers.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

sunday dinner this week

it's gonna be take away curry!!!

summer sunday dinner

I love a roast and I love eating big for Sunday dinner but it has been quite warm and humid the past two weeks plus I am trying to eat light and healthy since being poorly, so for Sunday dinner last week I went for something a bit different. I wanted to have some fish and then to have some mezze type dishes to pick and choose from.

The menu is:

Tuna steak with -
beetroot and yoghurt
aubergine and goat's cheese (warm salad)
Pitta bread

followed by the tangy lemon tart I made yesterday.

I made the tuna steak simply by frying the two steaks for about 10 minutes - they were quite thick and so this meant they came out medium.

Click on the links to get the recipes!

beetroot and yoghurt salad

I love beetroot - it is very colourful and the flavour compliments so many things. For years I didn't eat beetroot at all and coming back to it I realised what I had missed. I tend to go for fresh beetroot rather than in a jar - and because I am sometimes lazy - buy it from the veg section in the supermarket rather than cook it myself. This dish is easy to put together and light and fresh. It is great for injecting some colour and the creaminess of the yoghurt is a good partner with the beetroot.

200-250g beetroot
a squeeze of lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley
sea salt and black pepper
clove of garlic
2tbsp greek yoghurt
splash of milk

Slice the beetroot up how you like it and spread over a plate
chop up the parsley roughly and mix in a bowl with the lemon juice, oil and salt and paper
drizzle the parsley mix over the beetroot - this can be done an hour or so before serving if kept in the fridge

crush the garlic clove into a paste with some of the salt
put the garlic in a bowl and mix with the yoghurt
add a splash or two or milk to thin the yoghurt to a sauce-like consistency
drizzle over the beetroot just before serving

This dish tastes really zingy and fresh - the yoghurt gets pinky tinges to it too. Some warm pitta bread is great for scooping up those last bits of sauce and beetroot. I haven't tried it yet but I reckon it would go great with some lamb as lamb usually needs something that will cut through the richness of the meat. Or as a side salad at a bbq. Just make sure your top is black or you have a major bib on!


This is a really good fresh and light salad. It's great as part of a main meal, or as part of a mezze spread. I got the recipe from the Moro cookbook which is a great cookbook for middle eastern and eastern med food, particularly mezze style dishes.

serves 2
40g bulgar wheat
200g cherry tomatoes
couple of small bunches of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 small bunch of mint, roughly chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt
two pinches cinnamon
2 pinches allspice
2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
3 tbsp olive oil
sea salt and pepper

cut the tomatoes in half, deseed, then chop in half again
prepare the bulgar wheat - go with the instructions on the packet - I usually boil for 10-15 mins then rinse with cold water to serve in a salad
mix the tomatoes with the herbs and bulgar wheat
make the dressing by mixing all of the ingredients apart from the olive oil together - this is because they will mix better without the oil - then add the oil
toss the salad in the dressing just before serving

aubergine and goat's cheese

I just made this up because I had the cheese left over from a salad and the aubergine from a pasta sauce.

half an aubergine
2-3 slices of goat's cheese
olive oil

slice the aubergine up so you have thin round slices
heat a 1cm pool of oil in a frying pan
fry the aubergine slices up and drain on paper towels
you may have to fry the aubergine in batches so once the slices are drained keep them in a warm dish in a warm oven
when you are ready to serve, place the aubergines in your serving dish andthen crumble the goat's cheese over the top
season with some salt and pepper if you like

The cheese will warm a bit being on top of the aubergine and start to melt a wee bit. This is a good warm salad to have alongside cold dishes in the spring or autumn when there is still a nip in the air.


I love the Yves Pinch Design desk the best, but this is also a great desk. In fact, it is more expensive than Pinch so I feel if I ever splash out on it I will be 'saving' money - haha! This is a much more colourful desk and perhaps would be best in a very modern setting. I feel the Pinch desk could look good in a trad or modern setting. I love the use of colour though and the curvaceous legs - maybe this is because it was originally designed by George Nelson as a 'ladies' desk?

It's £3316 and you can take a peak at

Friday, 3 July 2009


Wallpaper hasn't been something I have ever been into. I have preferred either plain cream walls or big and bold colours painted direct on to lining paper.

But a french company called 'domestic' has some wallpaper designs that look more like cool, graphic design posters - even the kids ones are amazing - except for your walls.

Elizabeth David - saviour of the British diet and also a sharp critic!

Elizabeth David changed forever the way we eat in Britain. She introduced pasta and olive oil - now everyday staples - to the UK palate and challenged the restaurant trade to move beyond recreations of what you got at home or at boarding school. Some criticise her as being terribly middle class and pursuing a cuisine that was only accesible to the upper and middle classes - and a cuisine that you would only have discovered if you had the financial aently bility to holiday in the Med, which the vast majority of Brits could not. But like her or not, she brought about the most radical shift in how we see, eat and consider our food. But the reason for this post is that recently Peter Ross, a librarian at the Guildhall library in London, has unveiled the annotated notes David made in the margins of the cookbooks she owned and occasionally reviewed. Ross has been carrying out this work for many years and is now ina position to make available the notes she made. Some of them are quite cutting - and blunt- criticising fellow food writers and particular dishes - which of course if you didn't think anyone else would see them they possibly would be. For the full story head to the Guardian where you will find the cuts.


In my continued obsession for round houses, I am often on the look out for interior solutions that involve curves and/or fitting into a round structure. Well, I have found a company called Metris Kitchens who have a range called Peninsula Curve - and their curvey kitchen is just beautiful.

It reminds me a little of 1930s ocean liners and a slight art deco-ish hint - I think it is the sinuous lines of the surfaces. I would probably go for a different surface than what is here but I love the fact that it is curved. After all, who wants sharp edges - cooking and baking to my mind is more subtle than that and therefore needs a more stylish approach and to my mind this is it. I can see shiny, white Mason & Cash baking bowls lined up and ready to be filled with ingredients and mixtures destined for decadent feasts!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

steak baguette

This is a good quick and easy meal to make up and tastes great. This serves 2.

two baguettes
bag of salad leaves
whatever salady veggies you have - tomatoes, cheese etc
packet of roast beef slices from supermarket
whatever sauces you like and have in your cupboard - brown, horseradish etc
two baked potatoes
salt and pepper
squeeze of lemon juice - jif or fresh - whatever you have

slice the baked potatoes into wedges, drizzle with oil and put on a baking tray
pop the wedges in the oven to bake for 25-30 mins
cut up all your salad items and mix up in a bowl with olive oil, squeeze of lemon juice, salt a pepper
unwrap the beef and pop in a dish covered with foil and put in th eoven 5 mins before the wedges are ready
pop your baguettes in 2-3 mins before the wedges are ready
when the baguettes are warm, slice them and put them on plates, load up with the beef and serve with the wedges and salad

If you don't want wedges, some crisps are good. If you don't want a full salad, you can put some sliced tomatoe and cheese inside the baguette instead.

This dish looks impressive and my husband likes it but is really more about assembly than cooking - easy peasy!