31 October 2012

Sandwich of the Month and Cookery Course

This month for No Croutons Required I asked for some imaginative sandwiches and that is exactly what I got.

Unfortunately the voting poll let me down and reset set itself each night, so I had to think of another way of finding a winner. This was when I turned to one of our coolest cafes in town. Jessie's Kitchen.

Ross from Jessie's Kitchen very kindly took over voting duties and he was very impressed.

29 October 2012

New in my Kitchen #1

From time to time I am sent a new product to try or I stumble across something new myself. I thought I would take a few minutes to share my latest discoveries with you.

Sometimes I will like a product, sometimes I will love it and occasionally I will hate it. Do let me know if you have made any great new discoveries.

26 October 2012

Savoury Puffs for Bonfire Night

The dark nights are closing in and it feels like winter.

The dread excitement builds as Christmas hurtles towards us, but first we have some fun.

photo: Mr Empey/Flickr
Bonfire Night

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

A strange ritual in Britain, where we remember a night in 1605 when Guy Fawkes used 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Houses of Parliament, to kill King James I and restore a Catholic government to power.

He failed.

He hanged.

23 October 2012

No Croutons Required - Sandwiches

For this month's No Croutons Required, I wanted you to focus on what is often served alongside soup or a salad.

The humble sandwich. 

No Croutons Required
October 2012

name:  Johanna
location: Melbourne, Australia

Johanna made her own vegan cheeze sauce and fake (tofu) bacon for this taco.
Cheeze sauce, rice, kidney bean and corn stew, and avocado, bacon and tomato salsa in a crispy taco.
I wasn't sure I would like this at first, but once I read the recipe, I knew I really would. 
Great entry Johanna!


19 October 2012

Making Macarons

French Macarons

Everyone talks about how difficult they are to master.

There has to be a secret to them and lots of little tricks to perfecting the perfect macaron.

On my quest to find out about all these little tricks, I attended a macaron class at JoJo's Danish Bakery in Edinburgh, accompanied by my lovely cousin Claire (A Kiss of Cookies). I was fizzing up with anticipation and armed with a large tub (after attending an Italian breadmaing class at the bakery, where we made enough bread to feed everyone in the street).

I have to say I am a little disappointed.

Macarons are only meringues with ground almonds folded in. It's one of those secrets, like what really happens during childbirth (don't ask). Well maybe not quite like that, but still......


17 October 2012

Falafel & Hummus Bagel

In a lunch rut?

You have to try this bagel!

A toasted sesame seed bagel, spread with tangy mango chutney, then given a generous layer of spicy falafel, topped with sweet, crunchy grated carrot and finished off with a generous dollop or two of creamy homemade hummus.

This is a supreme sandwich! The flavours and textures are perfect and you may groan as you eat it, much to the amusement of your colleagues.

If you haven't tried homemade hummus, try my recipe for lemon & coriander hummus. It is so easy & quick to make and tastes much better than shop bought. You can also leave out the coriander and just add a squeeze of lemon for a more traditional hummus. My husband isn't keen on garlic, so when I make it for him, I just add about a quarter of a clove. Yes, he is a wuss!

print recipe

Falafel & Hummus Bagel
This is one of the best sandwiches I have had the pleasure to eat. I made mine with homemade hummus, but you can use shop bought hummus.

  • 1 sesame seed bagel
  • 2 tsp mango chutney
  • 3 ready to eat falafel
  • 1 small carrot, grated
  • 2 large dollops hummus

1. Cut your bagel in half and toast it.2. Spread the bottom of the bagel with mango chutney, then top with falafel, grated carrot and hummus.3. Enjoy!
Total time:
Yield: Serves 1

Graham and I are having these for lunch today again and I can't wait. Roll on lunchtime!

15 October 2012

5:2 Diet - Simple Tomato Sauce

In my opinion, you just can't beat a simple, fresh tomato sauce on pasta. It just sings with flavour. It's also a low calorie sauce, which is great if you are on a diet.

For those of you who don't know, I'm following the 5:2 diet. I'm finding it really easy and I've lost half a stone so far, which is pretty good considering I was on holiday a couple of weeks ago and that week was filled with restaurant meals and lots of wine. I seem to be losing 1lb a week.

13 October 2012

Very Tipsy Truffles for National Chocolate Week

Welcome to the fourth post in my Food In Fiction Series and some very tipsy truffles for National Chocolate Week.

I have noticed more and more the tie-in between food and fiction. As foodies, I am sure you love when food takes centre stage in a novel and when the author kindly includes some recipes, well that is just an added bonus.

The fourth title in my series is Wedding Tiers by Trisha Ashley.

I have long loved Trisha's books and there isn't one I have missed yet. I saved the latest two titles for going on holiday to Cyprus. This time my suitcase wasn't so heavy with books as I loaded my kindle up, so more room for new shoes, but that is another story.

There is a strong element of food running through Trisha's book and indeed some of her characters are foodies themselves, which leads me to suspect Trisha is a bit of a foodie too.

Several of Trisha's books are set in the neighbouring villages of Neatslake and Sticklepond in Lancashire and we often get to revisit some of the characters which is lovely and leads to a bit of anticipation when you start a new book.

10 October 2012

Fig, Prune & Avocado Milk

You'll all have heard about my new toy by now, I am sure. It's my brand new Vitamix.

So far I've made smoothies, pesto, pâté and I made Cooper a pinkalicious raspberry and vanilla milkshake.

I decided it was time to make a milkshake for me. Something a bit more luxurious. Something more suitable for adults. I used figs, prunes and avocado and flavoured the milk with cinnamon. I really enjoyed it. Something quite different. The flavours were spicy and warming.

My Vitamix blends very smoothly, but if your blender isn't as powerful, you could strain the milk before serving it.

You could also heat this milk for a comforting winter drink.

07 October 2012

Floods, Food and Fancies

I should have shares in Groupon. So far I've purchased 24 deals. We have had days out, restaurant meals, I've bought gifts, been to a foodie festival, enjoyed baking classes and we've had 4 mini-breaks this year. I've saved a fortune, done things and gone places I wouldn't have thought of, if they hadn't popped into my email inbox everyday.

The mini-breaks have definitely been the highlight for me.

We have been to Aviemore, which is in the Cairngorms National Park, in the Highlands of Scotland, Killin, which sits at the western head of Loch Tay, to the East Coast of Scotland and a fairly new hotel, right on the beach a few miles from Girvan and finally,  last week we headed down to Yorkshire.

Yes, it was flooded!

03 October 2012

Lentil, Courgette & Thyme Burgers

I had a craving for a burger, but not a supermarket burger, something a bit more deluxe. Deluxe veggie burgers aren't easy to find, so I had to make them myself.

I had a look in my fridge. My options were courgettes, red peppers, carrots, spring onions and potatoes. I stood gazing at them for a while (I am determined to have less waste from my salad drawer) then decided on courgette, red pepper and spring onions for my burgers.

01 October 2012

Cookery Course Competition

Breadmaking course at Jojo's Danish Bakery in Edinburgh.
I like to hold a giveaway each month as a reward to my loyal readers. It is just a bit of fun really.

This month I have a particularly good competition that is open to my readers in the UK, or anyone who has a visit to the UK planned in the coming months. 

The prize is a cookery course/class worth up to £100.

You don't need to worry about the location, because we won't book the course for the winner until we find out a bit more about their interests and location.

I learned to cook when I left home and went to art college and it seems that a lot of other people also learned to cook once they went to College or University.  In fact Endsleigh recently did a study that shows that almost two thirds of students learn to cook at university with 61% cooking their very first meal at University. 

The first recipe I mastered as a student was macaroni cheese, but not from a packet, oh no, the old fashioned way with a roux. 

My mother taught me how to make a cheese sauce from a roux before I left home and it served me well. In fact my student friends were quite impressed. Little did they know that it was all I had in my repertoire and the rest of my meals consisted of toast, salads and baked potatoes. 

Meals out tended to be a visit to our local pizza restaurant, Pizzaland. I don't know if you remember Pizzaland, they did the most amazing garlic bread, which was a sort of small pizza dough baguette that was filled with garlic butter. When you torn into it, the garlicky butter oozed out. It was so good! I still think of it from time to time. They also did a student special, which involved a very small pizza and a baked potato filled with grated mozzarella. Very cheap, but tasty.

Here are a few photos from my students days for you to laugh at:

In my studio, you can see how stylish I was.
My husband aged 18.
Matric card. Look at those curls!
Henna red hair & stripes.
Sunglasses may have helped here!
Photo booth hell!

To enter this competition, I would like you to tell me about the first dish you mastered. If there is a story alongside it, then please do tell it. Did you astonish yourself with your skills as a chef or did it all go disastrously wrong? I really look forward to reading your stories.

This competition will run until 8am on Wednesday 31st of October 2012. I will be using a random number generator to choose my winner and will announce the winner alongside the winner of this month's No Croutons Required

There are no extra entries this month. I just want to hear your stories.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored competition, the prize is provided by Endsleigh. 

No Croutons Required - Sandwiches

It is the start of another month and the year is whizzing by at a rate of knots.
(must "avoid cliches like the plague!" -John Cooke)

For this month's No Croutons Required, I would like to focus on what is often served alongside soup or a salad. I am thinking of the humble sandwich. 

Toasted or plain, I would like you to come up with an interesting sandwich. The only stipulation is that it must be suitable for vegetarians. Here are a few ideas to inspire you:

  • Artisan Bread
  • Bagel
  • Baguette
  • Bloomer
  • Brioche 
  • Chapati
  • Ciabatta
  • Crêpe
  • Croissant  
  • Crumpet 
  • Flatbread 
  • Focaccia 
  • Muffin
  • Panini
  • Pitta Bread
  • Roll
  • Sliced Bread
  • Soda Bread
  • Sourdough  
  • Taco
  • Toast
  • Tortilla Wrap

  • Entries must be in by 20 October 2012. 
  • Mention me as host and link here. 
  • You may use the logo in your post. 
  • As usual the winning entry will receive a winners' badge for their blog.

Please add your sandwich to the linky below. More information can be found here.

Good luck everyone! I look forward to receiving your entries.