Archive for October, 2010

There’s no such thing as too much garlic. Many people will disagree with that statement but tough, I’m writing this blog not you. I would put garlic in my coffee given half a chance. So imagine how excited I was when I found an entire farm shop dedicated solely to this pungent little vegetable.

While we were on the Isle of Wight we spent a day driving around the island and since I have a homing beacon for anything food or wine related, I made a bee line for the local vineyards and farm shops…which is how we discovered the Garlic farm.

Tucked away on a quiet farm road, you are greeted by a cosy log cabin building with great big baskets of garlic in the doorway wafting their sulphoury sweet fumes into the air. Rows and rows of garlic chutneys, pickles, sauces, marinades, drizzles,  and even garlic beer (yes I also thought that was a step too far at first but as I said, no such thing as too much garlic). Just to the left of this alliophile paradise is another even more comfortable looking room with a log fire in the corner, flagstone floors softened with a Persian rug, and slate specials boards dangling tantalisingly from the ceiling advertising the day’s tummy pleasers. Outside is a sheltered terrace where you can eat (weather permitting) with a view of the lawn and the slightly mismatched family of resident peacocks and guinea fowl going about their daily wanderings.

The farm is owned by the Boswell family who’s love affair with garlic has lasted more than 30 years and has resulted, luckily for me and other garlic lovers, in a successful farm shop and licensed cafe. I know most people reading this wont be able to just nip down to the Isle of Wight for a nose around so the good news is there’s an online shop as well which sells a selection of the afore mentioned plethora of garlic produce.

If you do land up in their neck of the woods though I would seriously recommend lunch in the cafe. The head chef, Charlie Bartlett, must know what he’s doing because I had such a scrumptious lunch that I came back for a second one before we left. On our first visit the sun was out so we sat on the terrace and munched our way through a plate of crispy fried whitebait with home made tartare sauce and malted bloomer bread door stopper and the most delicious and tender steak sandwich I have ever tasted. For round two, I had the trout and spring onion pot with garlic croutons, side salad and a balsamic dressing and Ross had the beef stew with dumplings, no disappointments there. Delicious.

Having been let loose in the shop I came home with a bag full of loot, including the garlic farm cookbook and a bundle of smoked garlic, so the first thing I did when I was back in my own kitchen was cook something. The weather here was pretty miserable (a common theme you will have noticed) so I chose a roasted garlic soup recipe with potatoes and leeks but instead of the elephant garlic it called for I decided to try the smoked garlic bulbs so that they would be the star of the show. Despite the eye watering aroma coming from the brown paper bag they were stored in, the smoked cloves are very mellow and sweet so I chopped and added a few extra cloves near the end as well as roasting the whole bulbs in the oven for a proper garlic bite.

You can adjust the amount and type of garlic in this recipe to suit your own tastes as long as you remember the following rule. The finer you chop the garlic and the less time you cook it the stronger the flavour will be. If you keep the cloves whole and roast them they will be much gentler with a more caramelised flavour.

Pumpkins aside, you couldn’t get a more appropriate recipe for Halloween than this and you can be safe in the knowledge that no vampires (or co-workers, family and friends for that matter) will come near you with a bowl of this in your tummy.

Happy Halloween!

Smoked Garlic Soup with Parmesan and Sage Toasties

Adapted from the Garlic Farm Cookbook. Serves 4-6.

  • 2 bulbs of smoked garlic plus a few extra cloves (if you are using un-smoked garlic you may not need the extra cloves)
  • olive oil
  • 4 leeks, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 250ml white wine
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 slices  white bread person
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan per person
  • few sage leaves

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Cut the top off the garlic bulbs so that the flesh is exposed, drizzle with olive oil and wrap in tin foil. Roast for 1 hour until soft and golden.

Squeeze the flesh from each clove into a pan and add the onion, celery leeks and potatoes and a dash more olive oil. Fry for a couple of minutes, then add the wine and cook until the wine has reduced by half. add the stock, salt and pepper and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Near the end, add the chopped garlic cloves. While the soup is cooking, gently fry the sage leaves in a large frying pan for a minute. Cut the crusts off the bread and make into sandwiches with the parmesan and a couple of sage leaves. Then carefully place them into the same frying pan and squash down with a spatula. Fry until golden on each side and cheese has melted.

When the soup is ready take it off the heat and blend with a hand held blender or in a food processor and then serve with the cheese toasties and garnished with the remaining sage leaves.


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It’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve written anything. We have been down in the Isle of Wight to say goodbye to Ross’s gran who passed away and since we got back I’ve been trying to decide what I wanted to write about the trip.

Obviously this week was about family not food and in large parts very sad, but strangely it was also very happy and did revolve around food quite a lot because the whole family was packed into one house talking about their shared memories, laughing and eating together and it was lovely to watch and be part of.

The only thing I actually cooked myself all week was bread and butter pudding. At the time the main reason for this was a profusion of left over buttered rolls and milk which needed to be used up but I think its the perfect recipe for this post because it embodies for me all the things I wanted to express about this trip.

Comfort. Family. Memories. Things that are worth hanging on to.

This was actually the first time I’d ever made B&B pudding myself (or custard) as my own granny always used to make it when I was little which is probably why it makes me think about family so much. This time Ross’s family were the guinea pigs and thankfully it turned out well (Granddad managed two portions and polished off the rest the next day so I’m taking this as a sign of success). The pudding lived up to all my memories – soft and spongy with delicious crispy edges and sweet chewy currants. I wasn’t totally happy with the recipe though because I thought the bread was a bit bland so I came home and made it again last night with a few tweaks. I added more spices and orange zest instead of lemon which gives the pudding an extra warmth. You might think I shouldn’t mess with tradition but I think it adds a little extra zing to a perfect classic. You could go one step further and use brioche or cinnamon bread instead of white bread but this will give you a good basic recipe to play around with yourself.

Hopefully it will come in handy when you need to bribe your grandparents (or some one else’s grandparents), get rid of left over bread or just make something on a grey day that will comfort your heart and your tummy.

Bread and Butter Pudding with Homemade Custard

Adapted from a recipe by Delia Smith.

Serves 4 with one extra portion depending on how greedy your guests are and 1 pint of custard. I have never been a massive fan of custard but I’m converted by home-made custard and the pudding just isn’t the same without it (its also a lot easier than I thought).


  • 8 slices bread
  • 50 g butter
  • 60 g currants
  • 250 ml milk
  • 50 ml double cream
  • 50 g caster sugar
  • grated zest of ½ an orange
  • 3 eggs
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (or ground if that’s all you have)
  • pinch of allspice
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tbsp of brown sugar


  • 1 pint milk
  • 55ml single or double cream (you can use single but I already had double for the pudding)
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp cornflour

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.  Butter the bread and cut each slice of buttered bread in half. last night I made mini puddings in ramekins – if you are doing this then cut out a circle from each slice with a cookie cutter or the upside down ramekin and keep the crusts for the top layer.

Arrange one layer of buttered bread over the base of the baking dish, sprinkle with half the currants, a dusting of cinnamon and brown sugar and then cover with another layer of the bread and repeat.  In a bowl combine the milk, cream, caster sugar, orange zest and spices. Whisk the eggs, first on their own in a small basin and then into the milk mixture. Pour the whole lot over the bread and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes (if you are making in ramekins they will only need 25-30 min). Don’t panic if the pudding looks very wet, the bread will soak up all the liquid as it cooks.

While the pudding is baking, make the custard. Bring the milk, cream and vanilla pod to simmering point slowly over a low heat (if you don’t split the vanilla pod you can rinse and dry it and use it to make vanilla sugar but its up to you). Remove the vanilla pod and take the milk off the heat.

Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornflour together in a bowl and then pour the hot milk and cream on to the eggs and sugar, whisking all the time. Return to the pan and over a low heat gently stir until thickened. Pour the custard into a jug and if the pudding isn’t ready yet you can cover with clingfilm and stand the jug in a bowl of hot water to keep it warm.

When the pudding is ready, serve it warm and drowning in custard.

p.s. I also want to tell you about this amazing garlic farm we went to but I’ll leave that for next time x

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Bung-it Pie

Yesterday was my birthday. I had planned to make this meal yesterday but I dragged a very patient fiancé shopping to turn my birthday money into a pile of loot so we landed up at Nandos for an evening feast instead.

Having stuffed our faces with peri peri chicken wings and sweet potato mash we came home and I decided to pre-prep my original menu for tonight instead (partly because I had all the  ingredients and partly because one of my purchases was a set of le  Creuset bean pots that I’ve been coveting and they are so pretty they had to be used). This recipe is actually based onSophie Dahl’s Shepherd’s pie with champ but the beauty of this dish is that you can use it to finish off any veg you have, hence the title (you can bung anything in the cupboard in it).

Bung-it Pie

I had tomatoes and a courgette that needed to be used but you can put any veg in and change the ratio of veg to mince to suit. I’ve noted where an ingredient can be swapped for something else or removed as a guide.

Champ topping

  • 3 floury potatoes
  • small handful frozen peas
  • knob of butter
  • 3 spring onions, chopped
  • 30ml milk
  • 75g extra mature cheddar, broken into chunks
  • pinch of smoked paprika

For the filling

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 courgette chopped into small pieces (optional)
  • 400g tinned tomatoes (or 4-6 fresh tomatoes, chopped and a tbsp of tomato puree)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 medium red chilli chopped (or ½ tsp tabasco)
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 80ml red wine
  • 100ml veg stock
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary (or 1/2 tsp of dried rosemary)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar if you don’t have any balsamic)
  • 250g beef mince (or lamb mince)
  • sea salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. For the champ topping, heat a pan of salted water, add the potatoes and bring gently to the boil, then simmer until the potatoes are nearly cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.

For the filling, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and gently fry the chopped onion, garlic, carrots and celery for 5-10 minutes, until softened. Turn the heat up and add the mince. Fry until browned and then add the courgette, chilli and garlic and fry for a further minute.  Add the  remaining filling ingredients, turn down the heat slightly and simmer until the sauces has reduced and veg is soft.

When the potatoes are almost cooked, add the frozen peas and cook for a few more minutes until the peas are tender (you can make your mash ahead or use left over mash in which case you can just boil the peas separately). Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat and fry the spring onions  for 2min. Add the milk and heat through. Drain the potatoes and peas and mash roughly. Add the warm milk mixture to the potatoes and continue to mash until combined but still chunky. Spoon the beef mixture into a medium pie dish or individual pie dishes and top with the champ. Poke the bits of cheese into the mash and sprinkle with smoked paprika. Bake the pie for 25-30 minutes, or until the potato is golden-brown. If you have made the filling ahead of time and its cool it make take slightly longer to heat through (test the middle by inserting a butter knife and touching quickly against your lip to make sure its hot).

For the pudding half of my birthday menu I decided to try a Pannacotta recipe from Gordon Ramsay’s Healthy Appetite.  Its light and refreshing after a heavy meal which is a refreshing change from recent sweet things I’ve made and as a result is going on my list for Christmas pudding options! The original recipe has a blueberry sauce but I had some strawberry sauce in the freezer which I used instead.

Strawberry Pannacotta

Serves 6

  • 600ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out (keep pod)
  • 125g castor sugar
  • 4 sheets of gelatine
  • 200ml natural yoghurt
  • 250g strawberries
  • 3 tbsp honey/syrup/sugar
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Put the milk, sugar, vanilla seeds and pod in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves and then bring to a simmer. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water to soften.

As soon as the milk starts to bubble remove from the heat, drain and squeeze the gelatine leaves and add to the milk. Stir until dissolved and then leave to cool. Strain through a fine sieve (must be fine otherwise you will have bits of vanilla pod which doesn’t affect taste but looks a bit odd).

Once completely cool, add the yoghurt to the milk and pour into 6 pannacotta moulds (I used ramekins as I didnt have these). Cover with cling film and chill for a few hours or overnight.

Boil the berries, sugar/honey and lemon juice until syrupy and cool. To serve, turn the pannacotta out or serve in the moulds with the sauce.

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What a week.

My new kitchen is finally in working order (and I choose the words working order as opposed to finished because its still not actually finished… trials and tribulations of which I wont go into) but on top of the chaos the building work has caused in our little house, I’ve had an exam to write (at 4pm on a Friday afternoon after a 3 day intensive course which frankly is just cruel) and roof disasters to deal with (‘disaster’ may be exaggerating slightly but its been a bad week).

The net result of all this is that I havent had any time to sit down and work on my blog so this one is a bumper summary of the week’s cooking adventures with a couple of recipes I wanted to share.

First something old…

Last sunday I was in the mood to bake. I’ve been thinking about cheese muffins for a while because I used to have them all the time in South Africa but the Scots dont seem to have discovered the joy that is the savoury muffin. There are 3 versions from my past that particularly stick in my head – the ones at our school tuck shop which I used to eat every week for 5 years of my life; the little ones that my friend’s mom used to make for parties at her house and were particularly addictive (thanks Mrs Shepherd!) and the ones at Mugg & Bean coffee shop which always had stomach-grumble-inducing flavour combinations and were large enough to double as a lethal weapon if flung at someone’s head.

So, to satisfy my nostalgia and my Sunday food cravings I decided to make my own and thankfully the results turned out to be worth writing about. I mixed some chilli in with the cheese in this batch for a bit of kick but they can be made without or with any other spices or ingredients that compliment the cheese.  They are great on their own with a cup of tea or as a side with a bowl of soup and my favourite way to eat them is just cut in half , toasted and lathered in butter. Hopefully they will remind some of you of home. And hopefully they will introduce some of the rest of you to the tummy comforting effects of the cheese muffin.


Something new…

Having made the muffins, there was still a biscuit shaped hole in my Sunday afternoon. I’ve never actually made biscuits and I wanted to try something new so I made these sugar biscuits from another blog I’ve discovered on my wanderings. I was going to make them into sandwiches with different fillings but they turned out to be really big (they spread quite a lot when they’re baking) so you wouldn’t ever get one in your mouth if they were stuck together. They were good on their own but not very exciting so I dipped the bottom of each biscuit in dark chocolate. The result is a chewy vanilla biscuit enveloped in a lovely velvety little chocolate sock, especially velvety when dunked in a cup of hot tea or coffee!


Another highlight of my week was dinner on Wednesday night. We were back at Howies in the west end for a celebration with family and it was every bit as good as the first visit. I tried the duck liver pate with onion chutney this time as well as my favourites from before and it was delicious, very creamy and full of flavour.

The rest of the week is a bit of a blur and not as productive due to previously mentioned evil exam. I did make a new batch of pizza dough before things descended into chaos – I use a recipe from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros and it never fails (further praise for Tessa, her pizza dough recipe and my homemade tomato puree recipe to follow soon!).

I have to end this post by telling you about the pudding I had last night.  It was so rich it just about put us all to sleep but it was so worth the soporific effects for the heavenly experience of eating it and all the week’s stresses melted away in one mouthful. We were visiting friends and my friend Dawn, who is as mad about baking as I am, introduced me to these little chocolate sponge puddings by Nigella Lawson. These babies are seriously good, you HAVE to try them.

Just don’t eat them before driving or operating heavy machinery.


This week’s recipes…

Cheese Muffins

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp hot paprika
  • 1/4 sweet paprika
  • 2 cups grated mature cheddar cheese (the stronger the better)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • small handful of parsley, chopped
  • Optional – 1/2 a red chilli or a few sweet piquante′ peppers (e.g. Peppadew ones you can buy in a jar), finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade and grease a muffin tin. If you use muffin papers it’s still worth greasing them as the muffins tend to stick to the paper if you try and eat them when they’re still hot. Otherwise leave them to cool completely and they shouldn’t stick but who has that much self control?

Sift the flour twice, holding the sieve as high as you can to air the flour as much as possible. Then add the baking powder, salt, sugar and paprika and mix gently. Add the grated cheese and chillies or any other ingredients you’ve chosen.

In a separate bowl mix together the egg and milk and then fold into the flour mixture, being careful not to over mix. Pour the batter into the muffin tray so each one is 3/4 full and sprinkle with grated cheese. Place in the oven for 12 minutes or until the muffins bounce back when you touch them. Let them cool slightly on a rack before serving. They keep for about 2 days in an air tight container if you have enough restraint to make them last that long.

Sugar biscuits with chocolate socks

Adapted from Eat, Live, Run.

Makes about three dozen large biscuits but I recommend making them smaller which would also produce more.

  • 4 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 100g dark chocolate for dipping

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. Combine the sugars together and then add the vegetable oil, vanilla extract, salt, eggs and bicarb. Whisk well to combine. Add the flour and stir. The dough will be semi-dry. Roll out little balls of dough on a lined baking sheet. Press each dough ball with a fork to flatten and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for eight minutes. Transfer the biscuits to a rack to cool completely.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Dip the bottom of each biscuit into the chocolate and smooth with a spatula. Leave on a tray to set and then store in an airtight container.

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It’s Saturday evening and I’m just about to sit down and relax with a gin and tonic (followed by several glasses of red wine) but I thought I’d pause to write a quick post about this brilliant little cafe that we had a late lunch at today.

Being a dutiful South African I am always on the look out for anything from home, especially food. I discovered this place a while ago and I’ve since been in a few times to pick up some grub and some goodies to take away with me. The place is Zulu Lounge – a tiny, cosy little cafe on Morningside Road that serves coffees, soups, sandwiches and delicious baked treats all with a South African twist. Today’s feast was biltong (air dried beef – its like Marmite, you either love it or you hate it), feta and avocado wedged between two hunks of whole wheat bread and toasted. This may seem like an odd combination which was what I thought until I tried it the first time. It’s good, I promise.

I topped that off with a koeksister (for the non native readers that’s essentially a twisted plait of dough that’s deep fried and soaked in syrup – yes, you might as well rub it on your hips) and a Rhino. Before you phone customs and the RSPCA let me highlight this wasn’t a real one. A Rhino at the Zulu Lounge is a hot chocolate with honey and hazelnut syrup, smothered in cream and drizzled with toffee sauce – as if the koeksister wasn’t enough.

Well I waddled out of there with a happy smile on my face (and some more biltong in my handbag) so I thought I’d spread the South African love and tell you all to get your back sides in there next time you’re in Morningside and try the wildlife for yourself.

You cant miss it, its the shop covered in giraffe print…

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Strawberry Happiness

If these cup cakes don’t make you happy, whether you are making them or eating them, its official…you have no soul.

To all those of you who do have a soul and want the recipe, you can get the cake recipe here and the icing recipe here. It turns out the recipe actually makes just shy of 50 cupcakes (they must have bigger muffin papers in America – I had to force feed my friends at work to get rid of them all) so I emerged from the kitchen about 4 hours later, having baked in batches and lovingly iced each one. By the way, this is made slightly less laborious if you use a spatula to trowel the icing on.

Warning: consistent accidental ingestion of icing during application causes extreme nausea.

I’m fairly sure the butter cream icing is lethal in large doses but the cupcakes are really light and fluffy because of the whipped egg whites, even with the little chunks of gooey strawberry through them and because its real strawberry and not flavouring they are a bit more grown up than your average strawberry cupcake. Mine don’t look as sophisticated as Huy’s but I didn’t use the whipped icing on his recipe because I knew it wouldnt keep long enough to eat all the cupcakes so I chose the Martha Stewart one instead for this batch (yes I used a Martha Stewart recipe, I am officially a nerd. Delia next).

Enjoy ♥

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I am still kitchenless. This has resulted in a week of microwave meals, Chinese take aways and no culinary adventures to write about. However, I decided to write today because we had such a sumptuous feast last night that I thought the restaurant that prepared it for us deserved a mention.

Our friends are up from London for the weekend so I booked us a table at Howies so that they could have something Scottish and because I know the food is reliably good. Having said that, I chose the one on Alva Street (there are 4 in Edinburgh) which I hadn’t been to before but was most convenient for us. It had just changed its menu to a tapas style selection of small dishes which sounded interesting too.

Howies Cellar

We arrived at 7pm to an empty restaurant and a lingering smell of fresh paint (they had reopened the night before). My heart sank, thinking I had picked a dud, but the staff were very welcoming and the decor was warm and friendly so we sat down and ordered drinks. My first drink was the apple and marmalade martini special. And special it was! Also by this point the other tables had filled up around us almost like magic and the atmosphere was picking up.

Next, food. The waitress recommended we have about 3 dishes each so we ordered one of nearly everything on the menu. The first few plates arrived and I wondered whether we had ordered enough but by the time everything was on the table it looked like the banquet table in a medieval castle. And it was delicious. There were too many dishes to mention but my favourites were the sweet, smokey herrings with potato salad and the mini haggis spring rolls with pear and onion relish. My only criticism was the batter on the calamari and the stuffed mushrooms which was a bit tough and chewy but everything else was perfect.

I was enjoying the food and the company so much and we guzzled everything so quickly that I forgot to take a picture to wet your appetite but I would definitely recommend you go and have a look for yourself if you are in Edinburgh and your tummy is grumbling.

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