Thursday, 28 February 2008

Today's blog is brought to you by the letter G!
Adam works part time at the courts with me, well I say 'works' but mostly his time is spent browsing through Face Book and making strange noises (not all of them with his mouth). There should be an entire blog devoted to the little gems of wisdom that Adam comes out with throughout the day, and they generally get weirder as the day goes on. Yesterday Adam told me that I remind him of Grover from Sesame Street. I was intrigued and also a little worried that he was able to reference from Sesame Street.
'Grover, Sesame Street's gregarious blue monster, continues his new role as "Global Grover" in Season 37. In this segment, Grover introduces children to the world around them, and teaches them to be sensitive and respectful of our differences. He brings back, in the form of short films, something he has learned about cultures from around the world. In Season 37, Grover travels to such places as Germany where he learns about thatched roofs, he learns how to make imprint paintings in Bangladesh, and he learns about Puffins from Iceland. Needless to say, Grover accomplishes this with the childlike exuberance that has been making young viewers laugh (and occasionally cringe) for more than three decades. He is excitable, caring and compulsive—a combination that proves particularly volatile when he rushes into situations without analyzing the consequences. Children connect with Grover when he is confounded by adult logic, and share his fantasy of competence and control when he becomes "Super Grover," a problem-solving super hero who can do no wrong.'
Well of course you want to know which Sesame Street character your most like, well here's a link, you can then e-mail it to 20 people or what ever.
Just a quick entry to let you know that Jamie Oliver has an entire episode devoted to the Brassica family. Excited?
This weekend Jamie's cauliflower and broccoli cannelloni will most certainly be on the menu.
Also whilst on the topic of Jamie Oliver I'm going to buy his book next month because I've enjoyed his Jamie at Home series, think its definitely one for the summer months though.
Series 2, Jamie at Home Episode 13 - Summer brassicas
Channel Four Thursday 28th February@20:00.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Remember the chocolate biscuit Club? “If you like a lot of chocolate on your biscuit join our club”, -well there isn't a club, but if there were and if say the chain of command was decided upon by the sheer amount of Club bars you could eat, then the fatty at the top had better watch out for me!
I'm not the only one who enjoys the odd Club:
Dear Jacob's BakeryI am writing to you in my official capacity as secretary of the New Mills Invalids Club. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the club, and we mean to celebrate the occasion in some style, whilst at the same time giving club funds a much needed boost. To achieve this we intend to manufacture and sell to the general public a chocolate biscuit. We are confident that we have the expertise to accomplish this as four of our members used to work for the local sweet and confectionery factory - in fact it was because they worked at the local sweet and confectionery factory that they became invalids, having caught various parts of their anatomy in the machinery, but that's another matter.
Read on its great:

Monday, 25 February 2008

Mince and Tatties
You don't get more Scottish than this. This is what you want to eat when its raining and cold, which is why its hardly surprising to find that practically every one in Scotland was brought up partly on mince and tatties. Yes Scotland has a rich and varied food culture, but as with so many thing its the most basic recipes that we love most; Mince = Good, Mash = Good!
Makes enough for 2 loons or 3 lasses.
225g mince (my butcher was out of beef stake so I had to use lamb mince)
1 tbs cooking oil
1 onion chopped finely
carrot chopped, small pieces (optional)
350ml Stock (preferably beef, and more or less depending on how watery you like your mince!)
2 cloves Garlic (leave out if your looking for 100% authenticity)
freshly ground salt and pepper
Tatties (potatoes, medium sized with skin on)
2/3 tbs milk
Mint sauce
To a pan of boiling water add a pinch of salt and your potatoes and boil till soft about 15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the crushed garlic and the diced onion, fry until lightly coloured. Add the mince and brown, mixing and breaking up the mince as it colours. Add the chopped carrot if using. Continue to fry the mince for 8 minutes then slowly add the stock to the pan. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until cooked. Throughout the cooking time you can add a little more stock if you think its not looking moist enough. Season with plenty of salt and pepper.

When the potatoes are boiled drain the water from the pan and drop in a large nob of butter and a splash of milk. With a potato masher give the potatoes a good pounding, I prefer mine left quite chunky, but smothered in butter and black pepper.

Serve with boiled peas mixed with a teaspoon of mint sauce.
-Remember, this is absolutely not prescriptive cooking add to and subtract from it as you see fit, some people like to add a splash of good old Worcestershire sauce and I personally cant resist a sprinkle of cumin mixed into this, but I do try and hold back and I feel its my duty to inform you that the more sparse I have been with ingredients the better this turns out! Just remember this is simple Scottish fare so no tomatoes or Mediterranean herbs, or you'll have a bolognese sauce!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

My local Asian green grocer 'The Spice Shop' (Yes they're on-line... and Yea I carry their card in my wallet) well they have started to stock Kulfi, this is a south Asian Ice cream. Its great especially after a spicy meal, the ingredients include milk, sugar, almonds, pistachios and cardamom.
Oh and its in a pot!
Mataka Kulfi
Thai curry
Make this when your short on time but still want something substantial. There's something remarkably comforting about this green curry; it ticks all the boxes in terms of comfort, its sweetened with coconut milk, warm and spicy, quick to make and the crunch of the green beans reminds you its healthy!
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
2/3 spring onions shoots, chopped
1 tbsp mild green curry paste, (I use 'Thai Taste -Gang Keow Wan'
1 chicken breasts, boneless and skinned chopped into small pieces (sometimes I use chicken wings 5/6 pieces per person or boneless thigh meat, I prefer this more tender meat)
250ml coconut milk
100ml chicken stock
2 tsp Thai fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
Fine green beans or mange tout (as many as you like, and any other vegetables such as peppers cut into strips)
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil (sometimes I substitute basil with coriander- If thats what I have in the fridge!)
Heat the oil in a wok or pan and chuck in chopped spring onion and garlic if using. Add the curry past and then throw in the chicken pieces, mix until all the chicken in coated in the paste. Stir fry the chicken for a few minutes until sealed and then add the coconut milk and a little of the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer. If the sauce seems to be drying just a splash of stock. Add the fish sauce and the sugar. Continue simmering the curry for a further 6 minutes or until cooked.Add the basil and serve with boiled white rice.

Monday, 18 February 2008

This is Arida's recipe, she works with me. Arida is very nice and is from the Baltic states but people keep asking her if she is Polish which annoys her a little.
Chop a cauliflower in to small pieces and boil until tender. Melt some butter in a pan about 30g and chuck in a diced onion. Once the onions are crisp and golden drop the cooked cauliflower into the pan as well. Mix everything together until the cauliflower is coated in the butter, add some more butter if needed. Sprinkle with lots of fresh ground Pepper! I'm thinking some cheese would go well on this, something to complement the strong flavour of the cauliflower and not compete with it! any ideas?
Enjoy topped on to some seriously toasted, crispy ciabatta!
Did you know?
-It's high in vitamin C (100g of cauliflower provides over 70% of the recommended adult intake!) and is also a good source of vitamin B6 and folate (vitamin B9).
-The stinky smell often associated with cauliflower is from the sulphur released during cooking. Want less stink? Cook it less!
I'm going to make a cauliflower curry some time soon!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Today's Sunday paper was the Times:

Smugglers cash in on handbag dog fad
I blame Paris Hilton!

Delia Smith changes the way we eat in new book
Delia does a 'cheat' cook book... surprise, surprise, every one else has. I think these books are supposed to be encouraging for hesitant cooks, but when the first ingredient for lobster soup is canned lobster soup... is this cookery or assembly.

'Premium' foods are less healthy than budget brands.
-I must admit I'm a fool for Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' or Tesco's 'Finest' range, and will generally try a supermarket 'premium' brand when its released. Today we read that they are in fact much unhealthier than the regular brands. I don't think that this should be new to anybody, of course they are; 'our creamiest ever' 'our sweetest ever', generally means unhealthy... But oh so good.

How did Aberdeen get in such a pickle?
This article starts: 'Everyone agrees that the Granite City has an alcohol problem...'
I did think in the back of my mind, but didn't know it was national knowledge! To summarise there's lots of money in Aberdeen and not much to do, all the bars are concentrated on a short stretch of Union street meaning that a lot of people with money are around the non moneyed, (ghastly) leading to crime and violence fuelled by alcohol. Ha, apparently we need an east end for the poor to socialise and... batter each other.
Chicken Pie (Ballal's trick pie)
boneless chicken meat 400g (I used thigh)
2x celery sticks chopped in to 3cm pieces
bouquet garni (or table spoon dried herbs)
bay leaf
tbs cooking oil
1 large onion chopped finely
4 cloves of garlic minced
mushrooms (button, chestnut etc.) sliced
1 stick of celery chopped
½ carrot diced (optional)
25-30g butter
2-3 tbs flour
300ml stock (strained water the chicken was cooked in)
1tsp each dried herbs (parsley and thyme)
Flour 1tbs
1 egg beaten
puff pastry 250g
Serves 3/4
Preheat the oven to 220ºc.
Cut meat in to small pieces of about 2cm and put in to a pan of boiling water along with the the celery, bouquet garni (or herbs), salt and bay leaf. Use plenty of water as this will be used as the stock later. Keep the water bubbling and the pan partially covered, the chicken will need to be cooked in this way and will take between 15 to 20 minutes.
Heat the oil in a pan and when hot add the onions and garlic fry them but do not let them burn or darken too much. Once the onions have softened add the remaining vegetables (if using) and gently fry until soft then remove pan from the fire and empty the onion/vegetable mix on to a plate and set aside.
Make your rue:
Pour the cooking water from the now cooked chicken pot through a sieve into a jug ready for use in the rue. Give the bouquet garni a good squeeze catching the flavoursome juices in the jug. Also discard the celery and bay leaf from amongst the chicken pieces.
Melt the butter in your pan and then add the flour and mix into the melting butter, you can now slowly add your stock to the pan whilst constantly stirring, keeping the heat very low. The trick with the rue / white sauce is that you can adjust the quantities as you wish in order to get the perfect consistency. It needs to be neither too thick nor to thin.
To you rue you may now add the cooked chopped chicken and the plate of softened sliced onions and vegetables, stir in so that every thing is coated.

Now comes the hard bit; trying not to eat this subtly fragranced, warming and delicious mixture, which now needs to be poured into a pie dish ready for the puff pastry covering.
Cover a clean cooking surface with the flour and roll out the puff pastry to a size that will cover your pie dish and a thickness of about ½cm. Place it over the dish and cut off the access edges. Push down the edges covering all the filling. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg and pierce with fork to let out some of the steam.
Place your pie in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden and crispy.
I had my pie with some minted peas and boiled potatoes;
cook frozen peas as per pack instructions pop into a bowl and stir in a knob of butter and a teaspoon of mint sauce.
Boil potatoes drain when cooked and drizzle with a little garlic oil, sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

I love this salad, I could eat it every day and it goes down particularly well in the summer, when the ingredients are especially fresh. I was going to call it Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil salad but a little research reveals that its actually called Insalta caprese and its from the Italian island of Capri!

There's a bit of debate about the exact make up of the salad particularly regarding the addition of vinegar. I use it. I believe that the Italians do not use it because they use firm, slightly green tomato's that are tart in themselves. I on the other hand use large, fully ripe and gloriously red tomato's whose sweet flavour go wonderfully with the sharp yet warm tang of balsamic.
You will need mozzarella as well, as fresh as possible; the type that comes in water is what you want and not the tough stuff that is usually used on pizza. I find that the poorer quality mozzarella is tougher and less milky than the good stuff! Also make sure that mozzarella is brought to room temperature before use, which will make sure the cheese is flavoursome.
I usually have a potted basil plant on the go so have plenty of basil at hand, I like to use whole leaves but you can also chop them.
Use the best extra virgin olive oil that you can get! The only other ingredients you will need are a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Slice the tomato and mozzarella to a reasonable thickness (¼ inch) and layer on your serving plate, pick the basil leaves and scatter over the plate, or alternatively place leaves between the tomato and mozzarella slices. Carefully pour over the extra virgin olive oil, I like a good glug drizzled all over use your thumb to make sure it does not overflow.
I like plenty of black pepper ground over my Insalta caprese and just a pinch of salt.
Now you can decide whether you will use vinegar or not, if you do I advice you ONLY use aged balsamic vinegar. The sweetness will really complement this salad but remember not to use too much.
There you go, that's Insalta caprese, there are no rules to making it but fresh, good quality ingredients are definitely worth using.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Fish and chips for grown ups!
Coated herb salmon with home made chips

2x lightly smoked Salmon fillets
2 tbs oil for shallow frying
For the fish coating you need:
4 tbs bread crumbs
1 tsp dried basil
1tsp dried thyme
½ tsp curry powder (mild)
For the chips:
2 large white potatoes
2 tbs vegetable fat
3-4 garlic cloves
seasoned plain flour

-The potatoes need to be chipped thickly, then put in a pan of boiling water with a pinch of salt
boil for 10 minutes. Make sure that the potatoes do not over cook and become to soft.
-Meanwhile make the coating for the fish. Combine all the coating ingredients in a large mortar and grind till quite fine. Brush the fish with some oil and pat on the dry coating.
-Heat the oil in a pan until hot and then carefully place the fish in without shaking off too much of the coating. The salmon fillets will need approximately 8-12 minutes frying time with a turn halfway through. Keep the heat medium to low.
-Once the potato chips are boiled drain the water from the pan and drop in the vegetable fat, pop the lid back onto the pan and let the fat melt and coat the chips. Once coated sprinkle the flour over the chips. Give them a quick swirl in the pan to make sure they are all covered.
Spread the chips evenly on a greased baking try and spread the whole garlic cloves amongst them.
Put under a hot grill until crisp and golden, about 10-12 minutes. I also drizzled a teaspoon of garlic oil over my chips.
-Serve your fish and chips with a wedge of lemon and a crispy salad with a tart dressing. I also made a quick sauce requiring:
Two table spoons of mayonnaise, a good squeeze of lemon, a teaspoon of water to thin it out a little and three finely diced baby gherkins (or spring onions), mix all the ingredients together plus some freshly ground black pepper.
Mushy peas are also a favourite with fish and chips! (Get them out of a can)

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Have I mentioned that I want a dog? I've wanted one for years? I'm not yet able to have one because I rent my flat, so animals are not allowed (although I have a cat! shhh). Realistically I wont have one for a few more years, I know this, but I'm still a little obsessed; I have Italian Greyhound books on the coffee table, Weimarana pictures as my desktop background and Dachshund slippers! So needles to say that on my daily walk home from work, when I pass my local vet surgery I have a little peek through the window, just to see what's sniffing about. Anyway today as I left work the beautiful winter sunshine of the morning was gone, instead the thick Scottish harr (sea fog to you and me) was making it difficult to see 10 yards ahead, so, as I'd walked past the vet's I noticed that the door was just being opened, of course I immediately spun around AND continued to walk backwards, wondering what sort of hound would come bounding out. But instead of seeing anything I hit my heel against a mini bollard and proceeded to fall on may back! This in front of an audience of queued cars and on top of my humiliation, disappointment; as I see a man leave the vet practice with a hamster cage!
When I got home I made Fish and Chips!

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

I'm a 22 year old part time student part time worker living in Aberdeen which is the 3rd largest city in Scotland. It has amongst other accolades the title of 'Oil capitol of Europe' this is why some have come to know Aberdeen as being the Dallas of UK...!
Ok, you want to know more about this crazy city! So, Aberdeen is also The Granite City! This is because... many of the buildings are made with granite. This is great during the Summer months (the pluralisation of 'month' might be stretching the truth a bit), because the buildings shine like silver, but during winter, (most of the time) Aberdeen just looks incredibly grey! Bring your own S.A.D light.
Food wise I'm just beginning to explore Aberdeen, there are a number of great restaurants as you would expect from any largish city, but being on the coast and with its fishing history there are many wonderful fish markets for fresh fish. Head inland for numerous little farmers markets dotted around the outskirts of the city and throughout Aberdeenshire. Aberdeen is also a Fair Trade City (We've got signs on the side of the road at least).
I love to cook! So that's what this blogg is mostly going to be about; the recipes that I try, the books they come from, where I get ingredients, experiments and mistakes! As well as cooking I like eating at restaurants ('just wait till your metabolism slows down' they say!?), so I'll also be giving my verdict on as many as possible hopefully!
I'll also mull over some other interesting stuff...
-The fun: Scot's Speak, T.V. shows, Books, Dog talk!!!
-The not so fun: Humdrum of my dead end job (which of course I'm only doing until I realise the funds for my own café!!)
-The imagined: My own café :( My Dogs :(

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad!
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