Friday, October 28, 2011

Edinburgh

So last week I went on a trip up North to the mighty city of Edinburgh and some of its rural towns. I was there for a wedding but spent a few days getting reacquainted with one of my favourite places. I've already told you about the fantastic breakfast I had at Urban Angel here. I didn't mention it but I went back for the exact same thing again the day after. It was that good.


I also had to stop by Peter's Yard at the Quartermile and have coffee with a cardamon bun. It's the classy version of my usual choice - the cinnamon bun - and is every bit as good. The perfect elevenses choice. (My sister would be so proud of my embracing hobbit like eating habits.)


More coffee is to be found at Artisan Roast on Broughton St. Superb flat white makers and general coffee loveliness in the tiniest of spaces. Finding good coffee in Scotland is something of a trial - people here seem to think milky, watery coffee tasting mulch is good and I mostly just avoid the stuff but I will go back to Artisan Roast again (and again and again) because the coffee is fantastic. The tiny shop is warm and welcoming too and makes for a good escape from the ever present Scottish rain.


I also sampled the latest cupcake bakery to hit Edinburgh. Bibi's comes originally from St Andrew's where it has a cult like following. It's store, on Hanover St, is all pink happiness and there are a number of different flavours on offer every day. I selected red velvet. It was good but not bowl-me-over amazing. The sponge was a little dry for my taste but the icing was nice. Other flavours we sampled included mocha, peanut butter, oreo cookie and vanilla.

Last on my list of things to eat was haggis. I know I know. Many of you have run away from the computer in disgust already. But, I confess, I actually like haggis. Its spicy, meaty goodness is the perfect feel good food against the cold. I had mine in a pub which is possibly the best place to eat such fare, with a large cider to wash it all down.


Post!

Look what arrived in my postbox this morning! Too exciting and just in time for Halloween and the Day of the Dead.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Eggs

How much do you love poached eggs? I love them most because I find the proper poaching of an egg to be beyond my skill level and patience. Finding a proper poached egg is rather challenging though and it's even more challenging finding a poached egg enrobed in a good hollandaise. However I succeeded in finding both last week on my trip up North to the lovely Edinburgh. I had a few places and items on my list that were must do's but a trip to Urban Angel was definitely at the top. And I'm glad to say they did not disappoint.

You can choose the accompaniments to eggs Benedict at Urban Angel, and you don't have to have it with the traditional ham. I had mine with crispy bacon. And a side order of roasted tomatoes so that I could pretend I was being healthy. So winning. The whole thing would have made a nutritionist have a heart attack but it was so good I can't help but think it should be included as part of a balanced diet at least once a month. I now have the incredibly difficult task of finding something similar to satisfy cravings here. Or alternatively making frequent trips to Edinburgh when the craving becomes overpowering.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Potato Salad

Potato salad seems to be a dish of some controversy. I don't think it needs to be, it's just that people seem to have very strong opinions about it. Like whether the mayonnaise needs to be home-made. Or what herbs to include or exclude. Whether there should be raw onion or shallots or spring onions. If you should include eggs. The potato salad. It's a minefield.

I don't often eat potato salad. It wasn't something that featured a whole lot in my childhood and it's featured even less since then. It reminds me of summer Sunday lunches where everything is cold and eaten off paper plates in the garden, and you spend half your time trying to a) sit elegantly on the grass without tipping your plate sideways and b) warding off the dog who's doing his damnedest to push you over. I can't really think of a good reason why potato salad is such a non-event in my life though. It's super easy to make, requires few pots and pans and is decidedly satisfying in that way that dishes made solely of carbohydrates always are.


This particular salad occurred to me last week when I bought a bag of baby potatoes and then promptly wondered what to do with them. They've been skulking in the back of my cupboard every since, waiting for me to remember to buy mayonnaise. (Sorry but life is short and my skills at this particular moment do not stretch that far...) I like my potato salad still slightly warm so that the mayonnaise is almost melting into the potatoes. I also like it with a lot of parsley (flat-leafed), some shallot, finely chopped and some salt and pepper. I made enough today so there would be left-overs for lunch tomorrow. I kept trying to remind myself of that as I stole more from the pan. I also like to add a soft boiled egg. It just adds an extra something that makes this whole meal seem slightly decadent. 

  
There is no actual recipe for this. Boil enough potatoes for whomever you are feeding. I like baby potatoes and normally do about 4-5 per person, dependent on potato size. I leave the skin on. Once they're cooked through, drain and replace on the heat for 30 seconds just to dry them ever so slightly. Then stir in about 2 tablespoons of mayo, again you'll need more for more people. Add to that some chopped parsley, shallot and salt and pepper. Serve whilst still warm with an egg if you're so inclined.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Breakfast with Figs

I'm getting all excited now about my trip this weekend. I'm heading up to Edinburgh for a friend's wedding and I'm going to get to catch up with a myriad of old friends, drink a rather large amount of wine and eat at all my favourite places. I've got that restless-can't-settle feeling that causes you to clean your bathroom and hoover the entire house in an effort to keep busy. It also means that I'm neglecting the already mountainous amount of work I have to do (and the frightening amount that will await me when I get back) because I can't concentrate. Not now. Not when there is so much excitement and anticipation in the air.

It also means, in my case, clearing out the fridge and eating anything that might go off in the small time that I'm away. This amounts to a fair amount of food as it happens. I went a little crazy in the grocer last week and I've already gushed about how excited I was about the figs I found. (Obsessed much, me?) So the remaining two figs have been looking at me guiltily all week and I finally made them into breakfast yesterday. I didn't need to go in to the office yesterday (one of the many joys of being a PhD student) and so I took my time over breakfast.  I thought about the breakfast so much, I was even organised enough to start it the night before.

Yes. I am that person. Anyway, starting it the night before entailed putting the oats into a bowl and covering in with milk before storing it in the fridge overnight to swell. Hardly an effort. The next day the oats was all silky and plump. I transferred the oats to a pan and heated it very slowly with a little extra water until it was cooked. Whilst that was happening I sliced my figs, drizzled them with honey and a little butter and baked them in the oven until they were falling apart and mushy. Queue figs onto porridge and heaven. In a manner of speaking. Totally winning start to the day.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Balsamic Fig Salad

I love me a fig. There is something so voluptuous and sexy about them. That is if fruit can every really be either voluptuous or sexy. The fig comes pretty close in my opinion. I got all excited yesterday when I found some on offer that were perfectly ripe and purple and exquisitely beautiful in every way. The fishmongers in my new village doubles as a grocer and has fantastic produce at a fraction of the price of the supermarkets - all round winning indeed.



Anyway, I planned to have the figs in a salad for lunch but I got completely sidetracked and then went bouncing around the Goose Fair so they were relegated to dinner. Not that this is a bad thing. I had sliced the figs open and drizzled them with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Then, because I got sidetracked, they sat marinating for a few hours on the kitchen counter. When I returned home from the Goose Fair (exhausted and over-stimulated by lights and noise) I put the figs into the oven at 180C for half an hour. The result was a perfectly cooked fig with a syrupy balsamic glaze. I had already thrown together a salad of rocket leaves, feta, avocado, salami and toasted pumpkin seeds. Atop this I added the figs and drizzled some of the balsamic oil from the pan. Easy, fabulous dinner with minimal effort.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Beans on Toast

 Some nights this is all I can manage for dinner. 



Baked beans on marmite toast and a fried egg shaped like a rabbit. (Well, sort of.)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Chopping Boards and Knives

I'm an epically excited about my new chopping board. Yes, I know what you are thinking. How can you get excited about a chopping board? It's easy. It means I can now actually chop stuff. And make things. It's a beautiful piece of wood that weighs a ton. It nearly took my right arm on my walk home yesterday. But it's so lovely and there is so much potential around it that I can help but smile every time I walk past it.


I wrote the above this morning. The chopping board is still making me smile but in a twist of universe karma my knives arrived this afternoon. Honestly, today just couldn't get any better. So tonight, for the first time since mid August I made myself a dinner that included chopping things and sauteing things. It was almost total bliss. (For the record, total bliss right now would be making cake - craving - but in that department I'm still sadly lacking.)

It wasn't a terribly exciting dinner, just roasted butternut salad. But everything about it was superb. I roasted the butternut with the skin on. I'm sometimes partial to skin, sometimes not. I left my peeler back home (I question now why) so skin on seemed miles easier. I drizzled it with a little olive oil and some black pepper. If you have garlic to hand (I don't yet) I'd throw some cloves in too.


Whilst that was roasting I elegantly placed some leaves on a plate (elegantly being code for chucked generously) and added some sun-dried tomatoes and feta. (I would normally be a little purist about this salad and not add the tomatoes but I can't seem to get enough of these at the moment and so am eating them on almost everything.) For the leaves I chose mostly rocket with some lettuce variations thrown in for good measure.


In a saute pan I then heated some pumpkin seeds (I say heated because as I am working from a hob and not gas things took a long while to get going) and added in some bresaola that was skulking in the back of the fridge looking grumpy.  Once the pan had heated I added a little olive oil and fried it all together. Once the butternut was done I dumped it and the bresaola/seed mix onto the leaves. Et voila. Instant dinner happiness.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Jam

I'm a little obsessed with this jam at the moment. It's sublime. It's luxurious. I want to eat it on everything. And I mean everything. It's made from purple raspberries. The idea of purple raspberries captures my imagination so perfectly that I think I may have died and gone to jam heaven. I'm going to have to make a special trip to get some more. Let's face it, it's not going to last very long.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The first foray into actual cooking

This morning I made my first attempts at actual cooking in this new kitchen. For the last week I've been eating things that could be cooked in the oven (but required no actual preparation from me) and things that could be microwaved. I know. I feel like a traitor to the cause. But this morning I felt like eggs. And toast. And then I found some potatoes that I'd saved from a previous meal and some tomatoes that were languishing in the bottom of the fridge and it became obvious that scrambled eggs with these random fillings were in order. In the real world I'd have made a frittata but that requires an oven that can fit a large pan and my oven can barely fit a mouse (not that I'm cooking any of those). So this messy business is what I settled for. And it was surprisingly good too. Especially considering it took all of 3 minutes (once the plate had heated up - honestly, I don't understand this cooking without gas thing. It's beyond me.) It doesn't really look like much that's appetizing. If I'd been concentrating I would have taken the potatoes and tomatoes out whilst I did the eggs and then added them back in at the last minute along with some feta. I wasn't concentrating so I ended up with a yummy mess. There are worse things I suppose.