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I got an early Christmas present a couple of weeks ago when a drenched postman turned up at our door with two huge boxes full of individually wrapped goodies from Tuscany.

The exact source of the treasure chest is Fattoria La Vialla – an Italian family farm which, thankfully for us, delivers their beautiful produce by postal catalogue to your doorstep. Because they turned out to be so delicious, I’m taking a short break from mince pie making to spread the word. No sponsorship. No freebies. Just good enough to write home about.

I ordered some of their home-made biscuits, wine, cheese, preserves and the best panetone I have ever laid hands on. I’ve already eaten half of it on my own (as well as nearly two packets of biscuits if I’m being truthful). I should add that the salamis also arrived much larger than the little bits that were left by the time I got around to photographing them.

Each wine is comprehensively explained in the beautiful catalogue with details of the grapes and tasting notes. As promised, the Chianti was perfect with the strong pecorino cheese and sweet pepper jam but my favourite of the wines is the Spumante Le Chiassiae (named after the Italian word for sound – “chiasso” – after the sound of a hoe on the vineyard stones) which seems to go with just about anything, including the sweet biscuits and panetone, and is refreshingly light and fizzy (and low in sulphites so its easy on the head!).

So if you haven’t finished stocking your Christmas cupboards and you want to treat yourself with something special and still relatively inexpensive based on the quality, you can order a catalogue from their website. The catalogue is in itself a work of art and a drool inducing read so I recommend you have a look. They are extremely helpful and were more than happy to oblige my request for a bespoke order of bits and pieces instead of the standard packages and hampers.

Happy shopping!

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It’s nearly time to go…

I’m finally off to get married in Gozo and then use my honeymoon to eat my way around Sicily. So because I might not be able to post anything for a month I decided to write one final bumper post – a collage of pictures and recipes from the last two weeks of last minute chaos which have stopped me writing all the things I wanted to post on their own.

I did somehow find time in amongst work and wedding preparations to eat a lot of delicious things and even make a few of them myself. So this is my week in pictures…

Roseleaf – Ruby red risotto and a Madhatter!

Great little restaurant down near the docks in Edinburgh which has hats all over the walls, serves cocktails in teapots and produces some seriously good food. The Madhatter cocktail is brilliant!

Cheese and Cherry Scones (adapted from Goodfood magazine)

Not together, a batch of half cheese and the other half cherry. Remember that amazing scone recipe I mentioned…

  • 450g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g cold butter, diced
  • 284ml buttermilk, halved into two portions
  • 2 tbsp milk plus extra for glazing
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g glace cherries, chopped
  • 50g mature cheddar, grated
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Combine flour, 1/2 tsp salt and bicarb and rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Put half this mixture in another bowl.

For the cheese ones, add the rest of the salt, cheese and paprika. For the cherry ones, add the cherries, sugar and vanilla. Now mix in half the buttermilk and milk into each one and bring together to form a soft dough. Press out on a lightly floured surface to about 2cm thick and cut out with cookie cutters to form rounds. Place on a floured baking tray, brush the tops with milk and bake for 12-15min until golden and risen.

Chocolates, Calissons, Marzipan Fruit & Marron Glacé

A very generous gift of Puyricard Delicacies in return for the cakes I bring in to work when I’m in the mood bake.

Cherry & Coconut Cakes – made these as a birthday cake for Dawn last week

  • 225g butter
  • 225g self  raising flour
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 50g glace cherries
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 4 tbsp warmed cherry or strawberry jam
  • 100g desiccated coconut
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter a 12 hole muffin tin. Cream the butter and sugar and beat in the eggs one at a time. add the vanilla. Fold in the flour and chopped cherries and pour into the muffin tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and cooked through. Remove and turn out on to a wire rack to cool. Dip the tops into the warmed jam and then the coconut.
And last but not least… The Daddy Steak Sandwich
  • 2 large rump steaks
  • 2 long ciabatta rolls
  • 1 punnet of chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1tsp english mustard powder
  • 1tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 2tbsp mayonnaise

Fry the onions and mushrooms together until soft. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and continue to fry gently until the liquid has evapourated. Season and fry the steak until medium rare (usually a couple of minutes each side, depending on how thick your steak is). Combine the mustards and mayonnaise and spread on both halves of the warmed rolls. Add the steak and top with mushrooms and onions. Ta da!

Speak to you all in a month, wish me luck!

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When it rains it pours! I’ve just got so busy at work that I didnt get around to writing at all last week. I barely had time to cook and eat anything, never mind contemplate pausing long enough to take a picture and say something intelligent about my food. So as penance for my radio silence I leave you with two recipes this week.

Both have a common theme of cheese, which goes against my current pre-wedding theme of healthy eating (which come to think of it isn’t much of a theme since I spend as much time breaking it as sticking to it), but when the going gets tough…the tough sometimes have to indulge in a little cheese…

Cheese Muffins 3 ways

I have made cheese muffins on this blog before but I just got a new book called Ratio by Michael Ruhlman, which I was prompted to buy after reading this post by Chocswirl and I was dying to put some of the lessons on basic baking ratios  into practice (looking back at the recipe I used before I now know why these turned out better – butter!)… plus we needed something for lunch on Saturday.

This, combined with an inability to choose between making several different flavour combinations that Dawn and I had found in other recipes, resulted in this recipe for 6 of each. If you want to try the Ruhlman ratio out yourself then use this recipe for flavour inspiration only and go with the ratio for a basic muffin batter – 2 flour : 2 liquid : 1 egg : 1 fat – to make whatever quantity you need (the ratio is by weight not volume).

Basic batter (makes 18 muffins)

  • 375g plain flour
  • 375g milk
  • 187g melted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Pizza Muffins

  • small handful of sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 50g grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 red chilli, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil

Parmesan and Herb muffins

  • 50g grated parmesan (we actually made these with cheddar as we didnt have any parmesan so you can use either)
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • few sprigs chopped thyme
  • 1 sprig finely chopped rosemary

Feta and Caramelised Onion Muffins

  • 50g crumbled feta
  • half an onion, finely chopped and fried until golden and soft
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped and fried with the onion
  • 1/2 sprig finely chopped rosemary

Prepare all the flavourings in 3 separate bowls and preheat the oven to 180°C. Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a large bowl and set aside. Combine the cooled melted butter with the milk and eggs and beat until combined. The butter will start to solidify if the milk is too cold but it doesn’t effect the end result so don’t worry. Divide the batter into 3 equal portions and the flavourings to each one. Spoon into silicone cups or a lightly greased muffin tray and bake for 25min until golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Turn out onto a rack and cool slightly before serving (yummy with a lathering of garlic and herb cream cheese!).

Grilled Pork Loins with Caramelised Red Onion, Apple and Smoked Applewood Cheese

I owe Dawn for this recipe too. At some point during the muffin making proceedings she mentioned making pork loins topped with apple and cheese  like this and I immediately started thinking about how good that would be, especially made with Smoked Applewood cheese.  So by last night I was thinking about nothing else and had to make it today to get it out of my system. The sweet apple is perfectly balanced with the smoky cheese and caramelised onion, just served with a simple mash. I don’t know why I didn’t think to try this before.  Thanks D!

  • 2 pork loin steaks
  • 1 eating apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 50g grated Smoked Applewood Cheese
  • pinch of dried thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 large potatoes, boiled and mashed, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Heat a splash of olive oil in a pan and fry the onions until browned. Add the garlic and grated apple and fry a few minutes more until the mixture is softened and caramelised (don’t fry too long or the apples will get mushy).

Take off the heat, season with the thyme, salt and pepper and set aside. Heat another splash of oil over a high heat and fry the pork loins briefly on each side to sear the outsides. Place them on a baking sheet and top with the apple and onion mixture. Add the grated cheese and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the steaks are cooked through and the cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Serve on a portion of mash (drizzle over the juices from the baking tray or gravy as optional).

Hope that makes up for last week’s absence and gives you something to perk up your week. Happing cooking! ♥

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There’s nothing more satisfying than an excellent food experience when you least expect to have one… I’m getting ahead of myself though. I have so much to write about the weekend that I almost  don’t know where to start.

Let’s start, as one always should, with cake.

The road to this cake started out with a speed bump or two. In fact, less speed bump, more ten car pile up. I have been dying to try out one of Nigella’s “chocolate cake hall of fame” recipes since I took ownership of her book Feast (the source of inspiration for the winter spice muffins in my last post). So when my other half expressed a cake craving I forbade him from buying anything off the shelf and promised to make him something better. I got home, only to discover I was missing key ingredients for the flour-less chocolate orange cake I had set my sites on. Given I had promised I would deliver chocolate wonders and it was howling a gale and pouring with rain outside ( yes, again), I decided to make do instead of going out again and try the honey chocolate cake for which I had all the bits and pieces.

I knew it probably wasn’t going to turn out as planned when I combined everything and it was closer to chocolate soup than cake batter. Not to be defeated though and ever trusting in Ms Lawson’s foolproof recipes, I poured it into the tin which then started to leak chocolate all over the kitchen. Still hoping to salvage it, I placed the tin on some baking paper in a roasting tray and quickly put it in the oven in the hope it would cook before the whole cake landed up in the tray.

It turns out the tray trick works but the cake batter was past hope. After 2 hours in the oven it was obvious a skewer was never going to come out without being covered in a clump of goo, never mind clean. So I admitted defeat, although we still picked off all the cakey-ish cooked bits round the edge which eaten warm, made a just-about-acceptable chocolate cake fix.

I’m not one to accept defeat but I couldnt work out what had gone wrong with the first batter so this weekend I decided to try again with the chocolate orange cake I had planned to make in the beginning. You start by boiling whole oranges for 2 hours, blitzing to a pulp and then combining with the other ingredients in a blender once cool. It couldn’t be simpler but not content with disaster number one, I managed to put the oranges on and forget about them for a few hours so that the pot boiled dry and luckily didn’t burn my new kitchen to the ground before Ross mentioned the odd burnt orange smell emanating from the stove top. Thankfully the crisis was averted (oven cleaner works wonders on burnt pots as long you clean them well afterwards by the way) and I managed to salvage the oranges and finally produce something that could be considered a proper cake – a dense, damp chocolate crumb full of sweet citrus undertones. Although according to Ross, it’s not cake if it doesn’t have any icing so I had to whip up some chocolate orange and cinnamon butter cream to top it off as Nigella’s recipe was for an unadorned version.

By the time I was finished I could only manage one slice (I still haven’t learned to heed my own health warnings about ingesting significant amounts of icing during the baking process) but according to the family guinea pigs the recipe was a success and with all the orange and cinnamon it’s suitably festive for this time of year! So if you’re looking for a very simple chocolate cake that keeps well (I’m trusting Nigella on this as this one didn’t last long enough to prove the theory) then as long as you keep an eye on the oranges, this one couldn’t be easier!

On Saturday we decided to get out of the house and go window shopping in Morningside again. Before I go any further I have to mention the Cheesemonger we discovered and the little veg shop next door. I wandered into the Cheesemonger and was immediately greeted by a serious pong and a whole hoard of cheeses from all over the world. Once I had managed to take it all in I chose a wedge of Tallegio and then, noticing my overwhelmed expression, the helpful staff reccommended I try the Prima Donna. Well lets just say there’s a sizable chunk taking up all the space in my cheese drawer. I would definitely reccommend you go past if you are in the area and ask the guys behind the counter to help you pick something new to try (IJ Mellis – check out their website for info). I plan to go back every week until I’ve worked my way along the counter from left to right. On the way out the door I stumbled across these beautiful squashes in the neighbouring convenience shop, which have already been roasted and devoured with a honey ginger pork fillet (I’ll have to post that recipe some time as well).

It was positively glacial outside so after putting our spoils in the car and a brisk walk up the road we agreed it was time to stop somewhere cozy for lunch. Most of the trendy coffee shops were packed to the rafters with shoppers who clearly had the same idea as us and we were about to press on up the road in the hope of finding something at the other end when we passed an Indian with a 5.95 lunch special and plenty of spare tables. Normally empty tables  aren’t a good sign but since we were bone cold and ravenous and it looked all snug and welcoming inside, we thought why not?

Well I wouldn’t normally have thought to have an Indian meal for a Saturday lunch but I think I’ll be making it a regular occurrence from now on, especially over the winter months. The name of the little restaurant we had landed up in was The Clay Oven and they definitely know how to cook. The lunch special consisted of a sabzi pakora starter, a handful of curry options and your choice of tea/coffee or ice cream to finish. It might not sound very out of the ordinary but the food was so delicious that it didn’t need any fancy frills or modern twists.

The onion and vegetable pakora was perfectly crunchy and spicy and perfectly balanced by their tomato ‘special’ sauce (I remembered to take a picture just in time – the poor quality is testament to the hurry I was in to get back to eating). For my main I chose the sweet and sour Pathia curry which I hadn’t tried before and can safely say is going to be my number one choice from now on whenever its on a menu (by this point photos were the last thing on my mind).  After mopping that up with a fluffy naan bread the size of my head, we waddled back out on to the street with satisfied grins and slightly rounder profiles, not to mention much warmer tummies.

 

Flour-less Chocolate Orange Cake with Butter Cream Icing

The cake recipe belongs to Nigella Lawson and the butter cream is my own concoction.

  • 1 large or 2 small, thin-skinned oranges
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 50g cocoa
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 50g cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Icing:

  • 250g icing sugar, sifted
  • 125g softened butter
  • 50g melted dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 an orange
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Put the whole oranges in a pan with cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 2 hours, or until soft. Drain and when cool, halve the orange and remove any big pips. Pulp everything in a food processor.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and butter and line a 20cm spring form cake tin. Add the eggs, baking powder, sugar, bicarbonate, almonds and cocoa to the orange in the processor. Run until you have a cohesive cake mixture. Pour and scrape into the cake tin and bake for 1 hour.

Cool the cake on a rack while you make the icing. Cream the sugar and butter together and mix in the melted chocolate, cinnamon and orange zest. Add the orange juice a little at a time until the icing is the right consistency.  Cut the cake in half and spread both halves with icing. Put back  together and serve!

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