Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Home Alone!

We had a long weekend at home with Andrew's family in Oxfordshire. Whilst we were there we tried some of Andrew's dad's wide variety of flavoured vodkas, from grapefruit, lemon, black cherry and rhubarb. We got some good tips and cocktail recipes, so watch this space.

Andrew went to Fort William for some site work on Tuesday for a couple of days, so I am home alone!

Last week before we left for England, I managed to give my supervisor chapter 1, so now I have moved on to chapter 2. Woo hoo!

The veg box arrived today with the driver running to my door to escape from the rain. When I was down south it was 22 degrees. I was thinking that I will have to stop making soup for lunch. The weather has changed again, so I think we will be OK on the soup for a little longer.

In the box this week:

  • Purple sprouting broccoli
  • Leeks
  • Salad leaves
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Beetroot
  • Swedes
I made some leek and potato soup and soda bread rolls for lunch. Here is picture of my table on a Wednesday lunchtime, this is actually tidy for me. Hmmm, maybe I wasn't working hard enough today. . .

Monday, 21 April 2008

Pickling vinegar

At Christmas Andrew's mum gave us a huge jar of pickle onions to take back with us. This jar has lasted us well and is still going, but I know that I should get a head start on making some more. I copied the recipe down from Andrew's Mum's book. So tonight I start the first step in making my first batch of pickle onions.

First of all here is the recipe:

  • 24 black peppercorns
  • 24 cloves
  • 2 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tbsp allspice (I used berries not ground)
  • 2 2tbsp dried chillies (I used flaked)

You put all the spices in a glass bowl and add two pints of vinegar. You then put the bowl over a saucepan which has some water in. Cover the bowl with a plate. Then bring the water to boil, take off the heat and let it steep for 2 hours.

Then strain out the spices and bottle the vinegar. You can add the spices to cold vinegar and steep for 6 weeks but our supply is running out!!!

I now need to go and buy some onions/shallots before the next stage, watch this space . . .

Finishing the lemon and lime vodka

Last week I finished the lemon and lime vodka to add to our growing collection. First of all I filtered it using a big funnel and a coffee filter. This takes a while so we usually do it over an evening topping it up and leaving to filter overnight. Then on Wednesday I made some sugar syrup. I did this by dissolving 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water. This made over 1 cup of sugar syrup. I added a cup first but it needed more so I added the rest. It still has a lot of its alcohol taste, which usually goes when you make liquers with soft fruits like raspberries.

We will store one small bottle in freezer ready for consuming. Its OK not the best we've made, which by the way was the blackcurrant vodka we made last summer. Looking forward to summer when we should be making some blackcurrant vodka and raspberry vodka. The rhubarb vodka still has 3 weeks of shaking before we filter it!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Waste not want not

After a Saturday morning and early afternoon in the lab, I had a bit of a lazy afternoon. Now Andrew has a full time, he can only spent evenings and weekends writing his thesis. So thats what he did on Saturday.

For dinner we had chicken curry from Nigel Slater's Real Cooking. I love this dish so much. One of the things that makes this dish is that you take the chicken thighs out of the sauce after they are cooked and put them into the oven to give a crispy skin. I love chicken skin so much, it's the first thing I have taste of after a chicken has come out of the oven after a good roasting. As Nigel says its not authenic but who cares when it tastes so good. Andrew prepared some flatbreads to go with the curry, which was also accompanied by a beer for a hard days work. Oh, and some mango chutney from the Jam Kitchen @ Craigie's Farm. Its the best I have tasted! There was loads of sauce left over from the curry so we kept it for dinner on Sunday.

Today we made our way to Loch Lomond so Andrew could do some climbing. I held the rope as the climbs at Ardvorlich were too hard for me. It was so nice to be outdoors after being in the lab all week.

When we got back and I prepared a vegetable curry by boiling potatoes, carrots and swede. Then I fried them with some mushroms and then added the sauce and left it simmer for a while. If possible the sauce tasted better today and it meant that the sauce wasn't wasted.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Brain food

After a day sat in front of the laptop scratching my head and not getting very far, I decided that I needed some brain food. So I went hunting in the freezer and found some trout fillets. So I decided to cook them in parcels. I also made some potato boulangerie to go with it. Basically I peeled some potatoes and finely sliced them. I finely sliced an onion too. I put some of the onion at the bottom of a greased small casserole dish then half of the potatoes. I then put some more onion and some finely chopped garlic, seasoned with pepper. I then finished with more potatoes. I poured over 250 ml of vegetable stock. Seasoned with pepper and dotted some butter over the top. This was covered and put in the oven @ gas mark 5 for 60 mins.

I then made the parcels. Chopped a leek and divided it between two sheets of tin foil. I placed the trout fillets on top, then some lemon slices on top of the trout. I also placed some butter on top of the lemon and seasoned. I then folded over the tin foil and sealed two sides. Then poured in some vermouth and sealed it up. After the potatoes had been in for 60 mins, I put the trout in for 20 mins and took the lid off the casserole dish to brown the potatoes.

I can't really say that I feel any brainer, but fingers-crossed that I will feel the effects of the fish oils soon!

The Veg Box arrived, this week we have:

  • Purple sprouting broccoli
  • Beetroot
  • Cauliflower
  • Leeks
  • Swede
  • Celeriac
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Onions
My brain has started to think about what to with the veg, thats not good it should be thinking about my PhD!!!!


Andrew usually makes the pizzas, apparently he's better at it than me! So after reading We Are Never Full's post about pizza, I had a craving for a decent pizza. Let's face the pizza's you usually get in a restaurant are over-priced and not that great!

We had some fennel salami and olives in the fridge so it seemed like a good topping. Andrew made the bases and sauce whilst I was still at work.

The pizza was great and we have another one for lunch. Yum, yum and it makes a change from soup and a roll.

Andrew used to make pizzas a lot when we at uni, so he is much better at it than me.

I started to filter the lemon and lime vodka last night. So all I have to do is add a sugar syrup. I'll put photos up later and let you know how it tastes!

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

A wee tipple before bedtime

If anyone starts reading this blog regularly I'm sure they will start to realise that I really like drinks. I don't have a problem, I just really like the feeling of sitting down with you mates and sharing a nice drink and chat. It does have to be alcoholic - there is after all nothing like a good cup of tea...

Anyway, I've gone slightly off track. At the farmers market at the weekend we finally found some British rhubarb on sale (we couldn't believe when our local grocer seemed only to stocked rhubarb from Holland! I thought that Britain had the rhubarb triangle?). We bought the rhubarb to make some liquor, so last night I start the process off. I used a recipe from a book I bought last year called The Alaskan Bootleggers Bible. This is a great book showing how to make all sorts of home brews - I really want to have a go at making cider, but not having an apple tree or the room for a press makes it something for the future. Luckily liquor require little or no space and equipment.

So I chopped up around four stalks of rhubarb and mixed it with a equal volume of sugar and slightly more vodka. This is going to left to steep for about 4 weeks, being shaken everyday. It will then be filtered and left to mature for another 4 weeks. So I'll let you know in June what its like.

Don't worry its not really blue - thats just the bottle!! Its really a pleasant pink colour.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Roast Beef

During the day we went to try and find somewhere for Andrew to climb and for me to hold his rope. But the place we had in mind, we couldn't find the rock face. Sounds stupid, I know, but it's harder than you would think. Especially in a place with loads of rocky outcrops. We went to a place near Aberfoyle, it was a lovely day and I really enjoyable drive.

When we got back I started to prepare the roast dinner. I had been craving one for ages. So I roasted the topside that I got from the Farmers Market. We had all the trimmings, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and parsnips. For veg, we had cauliflower (well I did, Andrew didn't!), red cabbage braised with apple and carrots. We didn't have lunch that day so this was two meals in one. So we ate 12 roast potatoes and 11 Yorkshire puddings. I know that I could have frozen the Yorkshires but we were hungry!!!!

I know that the French called us "les rosbifs" but I don't see how that can be used as a put down. I love roast dinners, especially beef. It reminds me of being a kid but also growing up and learning how to make the components of the meal. If I was told that I had to choose my last meal, it would be a roast dinner hands down. Not that I don't appreciate other countries dishes. I just prefer a good roast dinner.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Farmers Market at last!

I've been counting down the days till this weeks Farmers Market. We haven't be able to go the market for about a month. The meat drawer of our freezer has been getting low and need of re-stocking. I had a massive list but I had to restrain myself. We got to the market nice and early as you can see from the photo.
The first stall I went to was Puddledub Pork, I bought some bacon, bacon bits, pancetta, chorizo sausages and their dubliner sausages. I bought chicken thighs from Gartmorn Farm, I think these are destined for a curry. I bought some lamb neck fillets to make Jamie Oliver's kebabs. Braising steak and topside for roast tomorrow! Smoked haddock, toulouse veal sausage, arran blue and finally rhubarb which will be used to make rhubarb vodka. Here I am at the front of the queue paying for my rhubarb:

After the Farmers Market, I went over to the lab to try and get some more work done. When I do lab work at the weekend I seem to get so much more done. So I managed to prepare enough samples for the next week.

We had a chilled out afternoon. Then pasta with pancetta, leek and mushroom with creme fraiche for dinner. This recipe was taken from Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food Book. Something simple, before a nice Sunday roast dinner tomorrow.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Keep on swimming . . .

Yet again, I sat in front of my laptop trying to get on with my thesis. At the moment I feel like Dory from Finding Nemo. Keep on swimming, keep on swimming. I have to finish this thesis in 6 months otherwise I don't get, sounds simple!

Anyway, the veg box arrived. This week we had:

  • Celeriac
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Cauliflower (don't tell Andrew!)
  • Spring cabbage
  • Leeks
Tonight we had a risotto, I haven't had one for ages. So I raided the freezer and found some chicken. So we had a risotto with leek, chicken, sweetcorn and cabbage.

I also pickled some beetroots which was left over from the box. I got the recipe from yet another blog, Fresh as a daisy. I made 3 jars, I will try and leave them to mature for about a week. Not sure that I can wait that long but I will try.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Some fishy looking pasta!

Yesterday I made the first soup of the week. After reading a recipe for parsnip soup on Musings from a Stonehead's blog. I was inspired to make my own. It was pretty much the same recipe, except I added 1 tsp of mild curry powder after the garlic was soft and let it cook out for a minute before adding the potato and parsnip. I left out the bacon, only because the freezer is low on meat at the moment so we don't have any!
I had the soup for lunch today, it was superb. Today I had a really busy lab day. I only had one tea break! It seemed to working well when I left at 7pm, so fingers-crossed. When I got home, Andrew was dishing up, perfect timing. As you can guess from this blog, Andrew rarely gets in the kitchen. Not because he can't cook far from but because I like cooking so much. Dinner tonight was tuna balls with pasta and homemade ciabatta from the freezer. It was really good. I was so tired from the lab that it was good to eat straight away.

After dinner I decided to make some seeded soda rolls to go with our soups at lunchtimes. I usually make these in batches, normally when one of the food shops in byres road has buttermilk. I made 20 rolls, which should last us a couple of weeks. Right, I need to go to bed. Lab work is tiring.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Preparing for the week ahead

We had a day outside yesterday, trying some climbing at a new venue though we didn't get much done there. So today we got some chores done. I went into the lab in the morning to run some more samples and check the instrument was behaving itself. I came back and Andrew had cleaned the flat. Then we had cheese and pickles for lunch.

Andrew wanted to make my blog look a bit prettier, so I thought I should make some rock cakes. These are one of Andrew's favourite cakes, so he didn't mind either. As you can see from the picture that he even likes the cake batter! It is one of the joys of making cakes. I think you will agree that blog does look much nicer now, All due to Andrew's hard work!

I also made some savoury muffins for Andrew's lunch. They were sweetcorn, ham and cheese muffins. Andrew is on site at the beginning of the week, so th should make a good lunch.

  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 50g cheddar, grated
  • ham sliced, couldn't say how much about 50g.
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 150ml yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 198g can sweetcorn, drained
  • Heat the oven to 190oC/gas mark 5. Grease a muffin/bun tin.
  • Mix flour, ham and cheese in one bowl. Mix the other ingredients in another bowl with 4 tbsp of water.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix to combine.
  • Spoon into the muffin tin and bake for approx. 20 mins until golden.
  • Cool on a rack.
Tonight's dinner was a Moroccan inspire stew with lemon cous cous. This months beansprouts challenge is to eat one vegetarian meal a week. So this is a nice warming recipe to try.

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Veg ( I used 2 carrot, 1 small swede and 4 smallish potatoes), chopped
  • 2tsp ground cumin, 1tsp turmeric and paprika, 1/2 tsp ginger and allspice
  • 1 tin of chopped toms
  • 150ml of veg stock
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • a handful of apricots
  • 2 tsp harissa paste
  • Gently fry the onion and garlic until soft. Then add the veg and fry for 5 mins.
  • Add the spices and cook for a minute.
  • Then add tomatoes, stock, chickpeas and apricots. Cook until veg are soft.
  • Just before serving, stir in the harissa paste.
  • Serve with cous cous.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

OK, I have an addiction . . .

Its not too bad, but I feel I should acknowledge it. So here it goes . . .My name is Serena and I am addicted to blogs.

It doesn't take over my life. But I do like to read them, a lot! My lab work usually requires an instrument to run the samples that I have prepared this means that I spend a lot of time in front of a computer analysing the data. So to break the monotony, I check google reader to see if anyone has written something new. I have 3 different folders, climbing blogs to see what local climbers have been up to. What I call self-sufficient blogs like Beansprouts, Musings from a Stonehead and The accidental smallholder. These blogs contain useful tips which I hope to use when I realise my dream of having a smallholding. These blogs are a bit life envy really. But I am sure that my dream will happen, though I am far from it right now! The last folder contains my food blogs, this includes blogs from The Guardian and Good Food but also from individuals like We Are Never Full and Domestic Goddess in Training.

It is this last blog which I found a recipe I had to try. Irish Mocha Cupcakes, as soon as I saw these I had to make them. The recipe did not disappoint. I made them on Thursday evening and I had with tea in the afternoon on Friday with the girls at work. They had 2 each so they must have liked them! I didn't pipe the icing, so they don't look as fancy as the originals. I added walnuts on the top.

See my addiction isn't that bad, it ends with cakes for everyone!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

In the need of something comforting

The weather in Glasgow on Tuesday was awful. The normal for Glasgow really, wet and windy. As I was looking out of the window in the office at Uni, I decided I needed something comforting. So whilst on the way home, I bought some honey and mustard ham from Kember and Jones. Andrew was home before me so he started making some potato wedges. Yep, we had ham, egg and chips (well wedges). This dish reminds of the leftovers at Christmas. But it was just what was needed after a busy day.

I also started a batch of lime and lemon vodka, used this recipe from It just uses the zest of 2 limes and 2 lemons, so I need to think of something to use the juice of the fruit. It should only take two weeks. We will taste it after 2 weeks and decide whether it will need some more time. Everytime I am in the kitchen I give it a good shake.

Wednesdays battle with thesis went much better this week. I started the 2nd chapter, as I needed to run a couple more samples before the 1st chapter is finished. In our veg box this week:

  • Cauliflower
  • Spring Cabbage
  • Celeriac
  • Swede
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Carrots
I made soup from the vegbox recipes website for the rest of the week. Dinner was a ham and pea frittata after the boys getting back from climbing.