Breadmaking the Italian Way

On Saturday I went to Edinburgh with Cakeyboi aka Stuart to review lunch at A Room in the West End (scroll down for the review) and to attend a breadmaking course at Bellini Cookery School in Edinburgh.

The course was kindly set up for us by lovemycourse, a website that offers over 62 thousand courses across the UK.

We picked a breadmaking course, but there are all sorts of courses. Photography, art & crafts, beauty, computer software, creative writing and web design, to name but a few. You can also set up your own courses and add them to the site. A good idea if you are thinking about setting up your own business.

We got there in plenty of time, people who know me may question this, but we did. We had a browse at the other independent shops on the street and a lady approached us to ask if we were there for her pumpkin carving course as we were looking in her shop window. It sounded fun, but we had other plans so we declined.

Bellini Cookery School is part of Gino's Italian Kitchen, a small cafe that sells homemade Italian food. It is owned by Gina Giubarelli and Chef Angelo Cimini. Chef Angelo is up early every morning cooking and baking for the cafe.

Gina introduced us to the cookery school and told us a bit about Chef Angelo's background before we got started. Chef Angelo was quiet to begin with, but as soon as he started baking his Italian passion for food came to the fore. 

We all started off the the same basic recipe, but each of us decided if we wanted to make a white or brown bread, then we decided if we would flavour our dough. 

On a recommendation from Chef Angelo, I made a brown bread filled with walnuts, raisins and lemon peel, which is a great pairing with blue cheese.

Chef Angelo only uses extra virgin olive oil, his family grew their own olives and the extra virgin olive oil was plentiful, so they used it for everything and he has carried on the tradition.

First we (Cakeyboi demonstrates) rubbed the olive oil into the 00 flour.

Next we added our extra ingredients and salt and tossed through the flour.

Then we made a well in the centre of our flour and poured in our fresh yeast dissolved in some warm water. Next we pulled it altogether into a dough, then we kneaded the dough until it was elastic. It was then popped back into our bowls, covered with clingfilm and left to prove in a warm spot above the oven. Once it had proved we shaped the dough and baked it until it was crisp and golden.

Here is a couple of wee videos of Chef Angelo kneading the dough and then finishing of some focaccia. I always think it is interesting to watch how it is done. There are so many techniques.

.....  and a few photos from our class.

Cinnamon was a popular addition in the class. I made small cinnamon rolls too, however Chef Angelo hated the cinnamon, it made him sneeze dreadfully, although he kindly left the room for that.


Some of the bread we made.

Tapping the base & listening for that hollow sound, which indicates it's ready.

We really enjoyed our class. There was only 6 of us in the group, so we really got individual help and in between baking we learned some knife skills and made the most amazingly tasty bruschetta.

Highly recommended!


Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. The course was arranged and paid for by lovemycourse. I was not expected to write a positive review and any opinions expressed were my own.

A Room in the West End

Yesterday I had a trip to Edinburgh.

I love Edinburgh and don't visit often enough, but I was on a mission.

Stuart (Cakeyboi) and myself headed to the capital to visit A Room in the West End and to attend a breadmaking course at Bellini Cookery School. Lunch and then baking. I think you will agree that this is a great foodie day out.

While we were baking, Cooper and daddy went to have fun at the National Museum of Scotland.

They had a great time, but Cooper reported back to me that the hippos had gone to another museum so other children could see them and that the bug clock, which was our favourite, wasn't there anymore, so he thought it was probably being fixed.

Stuart and myself made our first stop at Teuchters Bar. The upstairs as you walk in is a traditional bar with pub grub on offer. A rather nice menu actually and well priced too, but it wasn't the pub we were visiting. We were heading down the stairs to the restaurant.

Photo from

A Room in the West End is one of two popular city bistros that offers modern Scottish dining in a relaxed atmosphere. The other is A Room in Leith.

Downstairs is a cosy restaurant, with low lighting, simple wooden tables and chairs and a mural along one wall. On entering you instantly feel welcome and relaxed.

The restaurant filled up while we were there, but it was still cosy and you were far enough away far the other tables for a quiet chat.

The lunch menu offered Starters and Puddings for £4.95, Mains for £9.95 or you could go for 2 courses for £13.95 or 3 courses for £16.95. We went for the three courses. Just so we could properly sample the menu. Honestly!

We were brought some lovely fresh bread and butter to tuck into while we waited for our meal. For our starter, Stuart and I both went for Pan-fried Halloumi on Crisp Rocket with Artichoke Tapenade and Balsamic. I love Halloumi, so this was a great starter for me. The halloumi was well cooked and the tapenade was particularly good.

The other starters on offer were:
  • Tomato and Basil Soup (v)
  • Smoked Ham Hock and Harissa Broth
  • North Atlantic Prawn, Smoked Salmon and Dill Frittata with Beetroot Salsa
For main course, Stuart went for the Pan-Seared Calves Liver with Skirlie Mash, Roasted Cherry Vine Tomatoes, Drambuie and Thyme Jus. It was the skirlie mash that made the decision for Stuart as he loves it. I had heard of it before, but wasn't sure what it was. Apparently it is like the stuffing inside a white pudding. It's mashed potatoes with cooked onions and oats. I really must make that sometime!

I had the Sweet Potato, Scallion and Pecan Couscous Cake with Sunblushed Tomato Coulis. It was really good. The cake was crisp on the outside and creamy within. It went well with the coulis, but I was glad of the side vegetables we were given to share. It did need the extra texture.

The other main courses on offer were:
  • Chargrilled Chicken Breast with Chorizo and Chickpea Cassoulet and a Sweetcorn and Cider Cream Sauce
  • Grilled Fillet of Cod, with a Smoked Paprika Rosti, toasted Stornoway Black Pudding and Green Olive Crème Fraiche
For dessert, Stuart had Coffee, Frangelico and Pecan Tart with Raspberry Coulis, which he really enjoyed. I had a taste, but I'm not keen on coffee, so this wasn't one for me. 

I had the Dark Chocolate Tart with Dark Cherry Compote. It was good, but I think it could have benefited from some creme fraiche or cream to cut through the bitter chocolate.

The other dessert option was:
  • Clava Brie and Applewood Smoked Cheddar with Quince Jelly and Crieff Oatcakes
I would definitely return to A Room in the West End. It would be a great place to take friends or family. Good quality, locally sourced food, comfortable surroundings, friendly but unobtrusive staff and it was all reasonably priced. I think a return visit to the bar upstairs for lunch is also on the cards. If they allow children of course, as many of the bars in Edinburgh don't have a family licence.

A Room in the West End 
and Teuchters Bar

26 William Street

0131 226 1036  (a room in the west end)

0131 225 2973  (teuchters)

Peter Knight/John Tindal owners
Stephen Hill  general manager
Scott Morrow head chef 

Disclosure: I was invited to A Room at the West End to sample the menu and did not pay for the meal. I was not expected to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own.

Blended Soups for No Croutons Required

This month I challenged my readers to make blended veggies soups for No Croutons Required. 
It proved to be a popular topic and I have 17 colourful and droolworthy soups to share with you.
I usually enjoy a chunky soup, in fact some of my soups are more likes stews, but I have to say, I really enjoyed the blended soup I made and I'm looking forward to try some of these entries too.

No Croutons Required
October 2013
Blended Soups

Chef: Louise
Location: Cotswolds, England, UK

Louise is watching her weight, so she shared with us this low calories coup that is only 1Weight Watchers ProPoint per serving. Sounds good to me and it looks like a gloriously rich and flavourful soup.
I'm new to Louise's blog and had a wonderful time looking around. She is a temptress with the most beautiful photographs. A great find!

Chef: Tina
Location: London, England, UK

Tina tackled the peeling and chopping of a squash, which is never quick or easy, but she decided it was well worth it for this comforting bowl of soup. I agree with her totally and I love that bowl.

Chef: Claire
Location: UK

I have to admit I wasn't sure what flavour this soup would be, the name didn't give me any clues. It probably should have, but no. Hominy consists of dried maize kernels which have been treated with an alkali in a process called nixtamalization and are used in Mexican cooking. Claire thinks it tastes like corn tortillas. This intriguing soup also contains roasted peppers, spices and coconut milk.

Do pop over to Chez Cayenne, Claire has had a re-design and her blog is looking tip top!

Chef: Janet
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Another intriguing soup, this time a soup Janet made especially to take along to a potluck. In case you don't know, a potluck is a gathering of friends, who all take along a dish.

Yams or sweet potatoes, parsnips and carrots make the base of this soup along with lots of delicious spices.

Chef: Bintu
Location: UK

As the dark nights draw in, Bintu gets here soup post out as many of us do. For this challenge she has made us a creamy butternut squash soup spiced with cardamon and ginger,

It looks truly scrumptious Bintu!

Chef: Louisa
Location: Herefordshire, England, UK

Isn't that the most gorgeous photo O Louisa's children helping with and getting stuck into the soup?

A traditional leek and potato soup brought bang up to date with the substitution of sweet potatoes. The soup is given a creamy finish with creme fraiche. Thanks for the lettuce knife tip Louisa, I shall be buying one for Cooper.

Louisa submitted a second soup, but Lisa and I only accept one per blogger, so I shall just add a quick link. Please feel free to visit Eat Your Veg to see the Roasted Roots Soup.

Chef: Laura
Location: Reading, England, UK

Laura had a wonderful week and this soup finished it off beautifully. A healthy and low calorie soup that is packed with the flavour of courgette and basil, finished off with some semi-skimmed milk. Such a glorious colour too!

Chef: Annie
Location: Kuching, Malaysia

This is another new blog for me. It's this the best part of challenges, all the lovely new bloggers you get to meet?
Anyway, back to the soup. The quality of the tomatoes really makes the difference in this soup. I wish we had such superior quality heirloom tomatoes here in the UK, but more often than not tomatoes are rather disappointing. Tomatoes, white bread and cucumbers are the base for this fresh, inviting soup. Best served chilled!

Chef: Vohn
Location: Scotland, UK

Vohn has made us this magnificently green soup from local produce. She wanted to use up some of the last of the season's courgettes. The flavour is given a good zing from the addition of mint. What a fabulous idea!

Chef: Jacqueline
Location: Dundee, Scotland, UK

This is my entry for this month's challenge. It comes from a recipe card provided by the Scottish Government to encourage people to eat in season.

It was a real winner, with such a lot of flavour and even better, I worked out that it is just 119 calories  and 31p per serving.

Chef: Johanna
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Johanna was not sure about using lettuce in this salad, but after trying it she was converted. It's such a great way off using it up before it ends up in the bin. I sometimes do this too, as I hate throwing out salad leaves. Doesn't Johanna's soup look gorgeous. Such a vibrant colour.

Chef: Jen
Location: UK

Jen has embraced Autumn with this carrot soup that is given a creamy finish with some red lentils. She flavoured her soup with  some dhana jiru spice blend which she makes herself.
A perfect seasonal soup!

Chef: Lisa
Blog: Lisa's Kitchen
Location: UK

The next soup up is by my lovely friend and co-host Lisa. Lisa was inspired to make this soup after looking through her new copy of Great Homemade Soups: A Cook's Collection. She adapted the soup and added some toor dal to make it satisfyingly filling. Lisa has a copy of the book to giveaway, so if you are a reader from the US or Canada, do pop over and enter

Chef: Caroline
Location: London, England, UK

As you can see pumpkins and squash are popular this month. I think we all get so excited when Autumn turns and we see the pumpkins in all their bright coloured glory. Caroline too advantage of some seasonal squash and made this glorious creamy soup.

 Recipe: Pumpkin, Apple and Sage Soup

Chef: Laura
Blog: Knead Whine
Location: Reading, England, UK

Laura decided to jump on the pumpkin bandwagon, her words and not mine. I think she has done something pretty special actually. What an awesome pairing of flavours! And....... low fat too! Win/Win!

Gorgeous soup Laura!

ps Laura also got overexcited and submitted two soups. You can pop over to her blog to have a look at her Quick Secret Ingredient Soup.

Recipe: Fridge Bottom Soup

Chef: Sarah
Blog: Dinner with Crayons
Location: London, England, UK

Sarah is such a good girl! We could all learn from her. She actually does an inspection of what she has left in the fridge and tries to use it up before doing her weekly shop. I am more likely to start of with a plan, then it goes to pot and not a soup pot. I forget what I have in the fridge and then buy what I fancy. I bow down to your superior knowledge Sarah and I think your soup looks brilliant!

Recipe: Creamy Chickpea Soup

Chef: Curry Leaf
Blog: Experiments, Emotions, Experience with Food
Location: India

Also named easy lazy soup. This one is very easy to make. Onion, garlic and chickpeas spiced with cumin and coriander. Puree for a smooth finish.


Recipe: Sweet Potato, Lime & Ginger Soup

Chef: Elizabeth
Blog: Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary
Location: Scotland, UK

Elizabeth served up this mashed sweet potatoes as part of her Thanksgiving meal and used the leftovers to create this beautiful soup. A rich soup full of garlic, ginger and coconut milk. It sounds glorious!

What a roundup! I think you will agree it was one of the best for a while. How to choose a favourite? And that is exactly what I want you to do. Use the voting poll and vote for the soup that you love the most. The winner will be announced at the end of the month and will receive a winner's badge for their blog.
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