Friday, 30 May 2008

Asparagus risotto

After picking our own asparagus last weekend and watching the first episode of River Cottage Spring. I now had a taste for it. So for dinner tonight we had Nigel Slater's asparagus and lemon risotto from The Kitchen Diaries book. Its very simple just add asparagus (which have been prepared and chopped into bite sized pieces) after adding the first couple of ladles of stock. When the rice is cooked, stir in some parmesan and the juice and rind of a lemon.

As the asparagus season is so short you really need to make the most of it. I am sure that I will post more asparagus recipes before the season is over.

Dhal Wars

This week in Veg Box we got:

  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Spring greens
  • Spinach
  • Rhubarb
  • Carrots
  • Onion
  • Potatoes
Andrew suggested that we had lentil dhal. I prefer to make mine with red lentils whereas Andrew prefers to use brown lentils. So here is my recipe, I am sure that Andrew will put his recipe on later.
  • 200 g red lentils
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 handful of spinach
  • 1 lemon
Put lentils, onion, red chilli, ginger, spices and tomatoes into a saucepan. Top with water, bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 mins or until lentils are soft. Then add the spinach and lemon juice, stir. Make sure the spinach has wilted and serve.

Andrew prefers the brown lentils as they keep their shape better. My dhal has a much softer texture.

We had it topped with yoghurt, served with rice and Andrew's flatbread.

A New Experience

Last weekend we went to back to see Andrew's family in Oxfordshire. Going to Andrew's is always great, I always come home with a new recipe from Andrew's mum (Lynn). Who is the only person I know with more cookery books than me. On Saturday we went asparagus picking. This was a new experience for Andrew and I.

We picked just enough for Sunday lunch, which was roast lamb. The asparagus was griddled, it was lovely. This was my first asparagus of the season. Which is very unlike me. Usually as soon as British asparagus is in the greengrocers, its in my basket and shortly afterwards on my plate.

We left with lots of goodies, a tigerella tomato plant, some basil, blackberry jelly and some of Andrew's dad's (Adrian) blackberry vodka. Another flavoured vodka to add to the collection. We are looking forward to the soft fruit season, so we can make even more.

Here's Amy (Andrew's sister), Lynn (Andrew's mum) and I enjoying our time in the asparagus fields.

Once again, we had a great time in Thame and it went too quickly!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Yet more brain food!!!

OK, I may now be taking the fish is good for your brain too far. But we had hot smoked salmon pasta from

Hopefully my efforts to eat more fish will be seen in more words being added to my thesis files!!! The things you do to finish a PhD!

Happy Birthday Em!

Today is my sister's birthday. For part of her birthday present I made her some skittle vodka. I remembered her telling me about it ages ago and wanted to make some for her birthday. It was so easy, I added 4 packets of skittles (minus the green ones, they make it go a funny colour) to 500 ml of vodka.

The skittles dissolve in the vodka in a couple of days. Then all you do is filter it. I'll let you know what she thinks.

Whilst researching how to go about making this vodka I came across this website by some students at Warwick Uni, who clearly have too much time on their hands!

Brain food pt 2 . . .

The thesis is slowing turning my brain to mush. So I am stepping up my campaign to save my brain. I have been having tinned tuna as part of my lunch this week. On Monday we had kedgeree. When I first knew Andrew, he told me that he didn't like fish. Well, he does now. He loves smoked fish the best, I use smoked haddock in my kedgree. I always put something green in my kedgree depending on what we have it can be kale, spinach or peas.

First of all you need to poach the haddock in water and milk, 300ml of each. Put the fish into a pan with the liquid bring to a simmer and then turn off and leave to cool. When the fish is cool enough to touch, flake it and put it aside. I then cooked an onion (sliced) in a pan with some oil until soft, then add the rice (175 g) for a couple mins. Then add 2 tsp of curry powder. Some peas were then added and 400 ml of the poaching liquid and cover. Let this cook on a low heat for 10-15 mins until the rice is cooked. I served the rice with the haddock on top, with a soft boiled egg and lemon.

The battle to save my brain against the evil thesis continues . . .

This week in the veg box (just a small one this week) we got:

  • Little gem lettuce
  • White cabbage
  • Rhubarb
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Onions

A new delicacy for the BBQ.

On Sunday we went to our friends Emilie and Tom for our first barbecue of the year. I had made some burgers (Jamie's botham burgers), potato and pasta salad and also a chocolate tart. Emilie had made some chicken kebabs, Angelique made a lovely bean salad and brought some sweetcorn.

The men of course congregated around the BBQ, why do they do that? However, Emilie, Angelique and I had made most of the food, so I supposed they should have contributed some how.

Here is Tom cooking the sweetcorn.

We were stuffed having munched our way through burgers, sausages, kebabs, sweetcorn, salads. However, when Patrick and Stephanie arrived we managed to make room for something special. Patrick had bought two Camemberts. We were all intrigued. So here is what he did, he placed the Camembert in the coals and left it for 10-15 mins. We then spooned the oozy cheese onto bread. I have had baked camembert and it was pretty much the same. Yum yum. The next time you have a BBQ, try it.

Here I am getting ready to dig in. Angelique is trying to hide behind the tree, unsuccessfully.

I love cheese and will always make room for it, even if I feel uncomfortable at the end of it. We had a great day and even the Glasgow weather played along.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

By the skin of my teeth . . .

I have been meaning to do my submission of Pixie's Putting Up event for ages but the thesis keeps getting in the way! So anyway here it is, onion and chilli marmalade. A while ago I made Jamie's pepper and chilli chutney from Jamie at Home which was wonderful. So I decided to make an onion marmalade with a bit a kick.

(Based on a Rachel Allen recipe)


  • 25 g butter
  • 675 g onions
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 100 ml balsamic vinegar
  • 250 ml red wine
  • 6 red chillis
Melt the butter in a saucepan, add onions, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir, then cover and cook for 30 mins over a gentle heat stirring from time to time to prevent it sticking.

Char the chillies ( I do this on my gas hob). Then put them in a bowl and cover them with clingfilm. Scrap off most of the charred skin. Remove the seeds and slice the chillies.

Remove lid, add vinegar, wine and chillies and cook uncovered for 30 mins. Stirring every now and then. Pour into sterilised jars and cover while hot.

I used the marmalade for a fancy cheese on toast for lunch after a frustrating morning of thesis writing.

I just spread the onion marmalade on the toast and then covered with cheese and grilled. Yum yum.

I would say that there was probably just a tad too much chilli for me. Next time I will put just four in. My mum would love it. Maybe she might get the other jar. I am sure that she will thank Pixie for that. For my birthday, in March, I got a lovely chutney pan and I look forward to using it for the next event.

Monday, 19 May 2008

A Tale of Two Restaurants

I love eating out. Trying new things and food that is beautifully cooked.

Last Tuesday was Andrew's birthday, so we went out for a meal. We went to The Sisters Restaurant at Kelvingrove. We had a lovely meal. I had scallops to start, chicken for main and melting chocolate pot for dessert. The Scallops were a bit of a treat and the chicken was moist whilst the skin was crispy, yum yum. I have a bit of a soft spot for this restaurant and always recommend it to people who enquire for a good restaurant. Of course, our meal was quite pricey. Hoever, we could have had the pre-theatre menu but chose not to.

On Friday we went out with some friends from work. During the day I was trying to work out where we should go. We don't go to the city centre very often, so our knowledge is quite limited. So we asked around, but no-one could help us. So I consulted a few web resources, the first being the list. I looked on their hit-list and saw a restaurant that looked good, Ad Lib. The selling point was their gourmet burgers. We thought that would be great for an after the pub meal. I thought I should make sure so went on 5pm and it seemed to have some good reviews. So I booked a table. When we arrived at the restaurant we were greeted with the news that one of the chefs had walked out, so there would be a bit of a wait. Fair enough. However, when I booked the table they took down my mobile number and could have called me to let me know. So I pointed this out and asked if we could have some snacks to keep us going. They gave us some nachos, good customer service.

Then the food arrived. . . .

They were not Gourmet burgers. First of all they were tiny. I wouldn't have been bothered but they were much smaller than the buns. Hmmm, not good. The chips tasted of cardboard. Salad was probably from a packet and so was probably everything else. It just was disappointing. I hate that feeling, it could have been so good. I didn't want a Michelin star dinner, just a decent burger. Which isn't that hard, surely?

You don't have to pay a fortune to have good food, we have been to several good restaurants where the food is good and affordable. For example Henderson's and Wannaburger in Edinburgh, Mother India and Ichiban in Glasgow. With pre-theatre meals places like Two Fat Ladies and The Sisters are made more affordable.

Overall it just made me sad that meal was bad, especially as the night had been so good. And although I did consult with the my friends before making the decision, I feel partly responsible. So next time, I will try and find a word of mouth recommendation. Which I usually do. If not we will be heading to The Sisters again. Which means I will be eating out less.

OK, rant over. For now away . . . . .

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Frittata for the climbers

It's amazing how bored I get in front of laptop these days. This week I have doing data analysis, which is as boring as it sounds. On Wednesday I wanted something different for lunch so I made some different salads. I made Jamie's pasta salad, potato salad and a carrot salad. I had it with some tinned tuna and some bread. Of course making the salads did allow to spend sometime away from the laptop, which was a happy coincidence.

The Veg Box arrived this week:

  • Baby Cauliflowers
  • Spinach
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Parsely
  • Rhubarb
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
The presence of spinach was a happy one, as I was going to Dumberton with Andrew and Stuart. I remembered a recent post from cottage smallholder for frittata. I thought it would be good crag food. We had a great evening in the sun and they actually managed to climb something too. The frittata was great way to finish the evening. Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of the frittata but this one of the boys enjoying the frittata will have to do.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Are our fingers looking green to you?

On Sunday we started are first adventures in growing something for our plate. Its no secret that my google reader is full of cooking blogs. But its also full of people who grow their own produce, from Stonehead with his fields of wonderful produce to people like My Tiny Plot and Fresh as a Daisy who make the most of their smaller plots. The idea is that I read these blogs and learn lots of tips for the day we get our own little plot. I know what people are going to say we should get an allotment but we will be getting our PhD's soon, hopefully. And we don't know where we will be next.

So on Sunday we planted some tomatoes plants and herbs in some window boxes.

We also did a window box with some cut and come again salad leaves, including rocket. Have to say it brightens up the flat.

I have to say I was quite (I think Andrew will say that was a bit of an understatement) excited when I saw that the salad seeds had started to germinate. This could addictive, however we only have a finite number of window sills!!!!! This could be a limiting factor.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Thanks to Stonehead and Thumper

Well this weekend has to go down in history - Serena relinquished her vice like grip on the kitchen and I cooked dinner on both Saturday and Sunday night! After an afternoon rock climbing at the local crag at Dumbarton we returned home and I made Jamie Olivers sweet cherry tomato and sausage bake. I've made this several times now and it lovely, just the sort of cooking that I enjoy - one pot simple cooking with loads of favour. We got the both red and yellow tomatoes from the Partick farmers market as well as a large circular veal sausage. This was British veal produced in a very ethical way.
Just as we were leaving the farmers market we stopped to look at a venison stall. To our joy we found that the bloke was also selling rabbit. We have been looking for a source rabbit for ages. We both first tried rabbit in a recent trip to France and loved it, but haven't seen it on sale anywhere over here. So we headed home with a portioned up rabbit trying to think what to do with it? Serena, being the blog reading fiend that she is remember that there was a recipe on Musing of a Stonehead. So after a day pottering around (I'm sure Serena will post about this later) I made an unprecedented second night return to the kitchen.
Both of us were constantly drooling over the pan the rabbit was cooking. It smelt and looked fantastic.
Thinking the bunny might have been a bit long in the tooth as the meat was difficult to get off the bone, but then I guess that's a risk to take with wild game. Still the taste was great. I think rabbit will be hopping into our bag again. Thankyou Mr Stonehead.

Pasta, rice or potatoes . . .

This is the usual thoughts that go through my mind when thinking about dinner. However, I had been browsing through one of my favourite vegetarian books, The Cranks Bible. There was a recipe that jumped out at me which was puy lentils with roasted veg. I always forget lentils! There are two versions of this recipe, a winter and summer one. On Wednesday, I made the winter one with swede, carrots and beetroot. The Puy lentils are cooked with lemon, onion and herbs, with spinach stirred in at the end to just wilt it. It was a great recipe. Easy and perfect for a summer day.

For dessert we had some rhubarb compote with yoghurt, yum.

I also made a potato and spinach frittata for lunch the next day which was also great.

The Veg Box arrived and this week we got:

  • Spinach
  • Spring cabbage
  • Beetroot
  • Cauliflower
  • Purple sprouting broccoli
  • Rhubarb
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Onions

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Summer finally arrives

On Bank Holiday Monday we got out of the city and went and spend some time outside. So we went for a walk up Ben A'an. It was so hot and there were some great views on the top. Before we left I got some bacon out of the freezer in preparation for purple sprouting broccoli pasta. However, on the way back we passed Gartartan Farm Shop. So we went and bought some beef, more specifically steak.

I only had one recipe in mind. It was Jamie's again, seared carpaccio of beef with roasted beets, creamed horseradish, watercress and Parmesan. It meant that I could use some of beetroots from the veg box.

This salad is great and means I can use my Le Creuset griddle pan, which makes me happy. We had it with ciabatta that I made the other day. It may not have been what was planned but it was wonderful.

Even more bread!

On Saturday night I made yet another ferment for bread. This time I was making some for when we have cheese. So I decided to make pain de campagne, as it was described in my bread book as sourdough's little brother.

Sunday afternoon was spent making the actual bread after making the dough, I left it to rise for an hour and a half. I then reshaped it and left it for another hour. It was then divided into 4 to make Serena and Andrew sized breads.

Before they were baked, I cut round the top. I really like making bread but I need to stop as the freezer is getting full. Maybe I should change a profession and become a baker.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Thanks to Jamie and Hugh

I have to say that I love Jamie Oliver, I have most of his books. There is actually one missing from my collection which I am sure with be remedied at some point. When we went to the Farmer's Market I bought some lamb neck fillet, which was only destined for one recipe: Jamie's grilled lamb kofta kebabs from Jamie at Home. I have made this quite a few times now and its lovely. So thats what was for dinner on Sunday.

There was a difference this time as I also made my own tortilla breads for the kebabs. I used a recipe from Hugh's River Cottage Year. He says its basically a pizza base recipe. I left it to rise for an hour before dividing the dough into 8. I then rolled them into what should have been round flatbreads but they were a bit mis-shapen or rustic. All you do is cook them in a dry frying pan for 2-3 mins the first side, popping any air bubbles and for 1 min the other side.

The kebabs are served with salad, onion which has been seasoned and slighty "pickled" in lemon juice. It was served with homemade chips and washed down with a nice red. Thank you Hugh and Jamie.

A nice healthy lunch!

On Saturday I went to the lab to do some work in the morning. For lunch we had Nigella's Hot Mushroom Sandwich, which is actually found in Nigel Slater's Real Food. When we first discovered this recipe we ate it quite a lot. Which is probably not a good thing as it isn't the healthiest meal, oh well. I remember when I worked for Sainsbury's during my summer break from University and some of the friendlier customers used to ask me what I was studying. So I told them that I was doing a degree in nutrition and they would reply "well don't look to closely at whats in our trolley". Little did they know that as nutrition student I knew what was healthy and what wasn't but that didn't mean that I always ate the good stuff. Everything in moderation if you ask me.

Anyway, all you do for the sandwich is make a garlic and parsley butter, put it on top of the mushrooms and cook in an oven until they are soft. We then put a generous coating of Dijon mustard on the bottom of a soft roll, then put the mushroom on top, squeeze on some lemon. Finally you mop up the buttery mushroom juices with the top of the roll. Delicious.

For dinner Andrew cooked Hugh-FW's leek rarebit, which was very yummy as well.

Thursday, 1 May 2008


It's always nice to have some bread with a meal. So as well as my soda bread rolls I also make ciabatta. I have used this recipe a couple of times. On Tuesday I made the ferment, a mix of flour, yeast and water that would need to be left covered for 17-24 hours.

Wednesday night I finished making my ciabattas. Next I had to make the dough which consists of flour, yeast, salt, olive oil, water and the ferment.

This is dough after it has proved for 1 and a half hours:

Then after it has proved I shaped it. I decided to make two loaves that are big enough for me and Andrew to share. I also made some rolls which should be enough for 1 person. After shaping I left them to rest on floured tea towels for 30 mins.

I part-baked them and then wrapped them up ready for the freezer. This means I can cook them from frozen, which takes about 15 mins.

The rolls look huge, but I am sure that Andrew won't mind. Andrew loves bread it's his favourite carb. Personally I couldn't choose but Andrew loves his bread.

I have to say its very rewarding making your own bread. The recipe I used comes from one of my favourite books: Dough by Richard Bertinet. The recipes tend to make a lot of bread but its handy if you don't have time to make bread everyday. I am sure that I will have many more posts of bread that I have made from this book.