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Vanessa Kimbell’s lovely caraway and parmesan muffins pass the test

26 Jan
Caraway and parmesan muffins baking.

Caraway and parmesan muffins baking.

Vanessa Kimbell put out a call to the food blogger community recently, asking for willing testers for the recipes in her next book, Prepped!. The concept is unique: every recipe leads to another one, linked by a flavour. Linked recipes are sensible and educational but also inspirational. When every recipe you cook leads onto another one, even the timid cook will begin to see how dishes link and how ingredients or entire recipes can be re-purposed or redressed. And since the focus is on cooking when you haven’t got much time, these recipes offer near immediate satisfaction. I look forward to seeing the final book when it comes out in June. In the meantime, I’ll be eating caraway and parmesan muffins.

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Favourite gadget: silicone muffin cases

18 Jan
Corn muffins in ever so clever and bright silicon cases

Corn muffins in ever so clever and bright silicone cases

Silicone bakeware is great. It is easy to clean, comes in bright colours, stored away small, is light-weight and is non-stick. Pretty and easy to use.

I recently bought a bunch of muffin cases in the Habitat sale and find myself making muffins every second day. To have a good reason to make muffins, I’ve been experimenting with egg and dairy free corn muffins. Corn muffins because I love American corn bread. Egg and dairy free so that my vegetarian, dairy sensitive and currently detoxing live-in can have some too. (Hush. Don’t mention the sugar.) The recipe below yields six to eight moist corn muffins with a good chilli warmth. They go well with soup and make an easy breakfast for lazy people, like me. They are a fast way to make a tasty snack. Should you, like e rucola, have decided to spend a week eating only what you yourself have cooked, pack these when you go out.

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Quick bites … Ruthven’s at the Dean Gallery

17 Jan

QUICK BITES …

Ruthven’s is something of an Edinburgh institution it dates back to 1983. Before the museum closed for refurbishment, their restaurant at the National Portrait Gallery was a favourite lunch places for me.

Now part of Heritage Portfolio, Ruthven’s continue to operate a “scratch” kitchen ( everything cooked from scratch), at various venues including the Gallery of Modern Art and the  Dean Gallery. (Non-art lovers can be easily bribed by the prospect of tea).

Cafe Newton, Dean Gallery

Cafe Newton, Dean Gallery

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The joys and pains of specialist cafés

7 Jan
Sometimes, all you want is a good cup of coffee (or tea) and a bit of quiet.

Sometimes, all you want is a good cup of coffee (or tea) and a bit of quiet.

There are so many cafés in Edinburgh now that to compete, cafés have to become centres of excellence, specialists in one thing or another. Some are specialists in coffee. Others are specialists in something else: books, chocolate or bread, for example. Or tea. The tea house is a relatively recent addition to the Edinburgh scene and since they all serve coffee, offer hot beverages and cake I count them in the café family.

Some specialist cafés make their specialism work for them and some fail to wow you. Why is that?

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App solutely gluten free recipes?

29 Dec

You might be thinking of trying gluten-free foods or you may have been diagnosed as intolerant to gluten. I am sure you’ve found already how many staples have wheat in them. Trying to create  tasty alternatives to some of the items found in the free-from aisles will quickly seem a must.

Recently, one of my weekend guests needed to avoid all wheat. How best to tackle his requirements? Rather than purchase a special recipe book, I decided to dip into Phil Vickery‘s Gluten Free cooking app.

I love browsing through cookery books, I also use recipes from online sources but this was my first attempt at using a recipe App. I am not sure whether all Apps are so counter-intuitive (please do let me know)? Also, I am not particularly tidy when cooking, you can tell the recipes I cook from regularly – they are often rather splattered. So, using my iPhone was going to be tricky (and sticky)!

Gluten free bread

Gluten free bread

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Spice up with saffron – Lussekatter

19 Dec

As regular readers know, we have a strong Swedish thread through the blog (not least due to co-author Caroline being Swedish). Back in October, I spent a few hours in the Peters’ Yard bakery – a wonderful experience. I was lucky enough to meet the man behind their fabulous recipes Jan Hedh was in Edinburgh to talk about his new book Swedish Breads and Pastries which I recommend for the serious baker.

Now, I know you are all frantically busy, but you might just want to try this recipe when you have some time. Easier still, pop into the bakery and try them.

You’ll need to set the raisins to soak a few hours in advance. Saffron is best used in moderation, you might just want to use a few strands the first time you make the recipe.

Jan Hedh’s Saffron Buns/Lussekatter

(makes 20 buns)

Saffron Buns (s-shaped buns on the right of the picture). Courtesy of Peters' Yard
Saffron Buns (on the right)

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Who lives there? Making a gingerbread house

15 Dec
Three houses, waiting for a lick of icing. And a sweet or two.

Three houses, waiting for a lick of icing. And a sweet or two.

The ultimate Christmas decoration to me isn’t a Christmas tree but a gingerbread house. I remember listening outside the kitchen as a child while my mother swore and burned herself on the caramel used to put the house together. As soon as she was finished, the caramel hardened and her hands wrapped in towels and ice, it was my turn. My turn to make the gingerbread house mine with sticky icing and colourful sweets.

I’ve only made one gingerbread house since I came to Scotland but that was a corker of a house. Ever so pretty, it was. This year, rather missing the practice, I invited friends to join me. Here are our creations and a recipe so you can make your own.

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Christmas Cake – no excuses, you can make your own

24 Oct

A really good Christmas cake is within your grasp. This is a really easy recipe that is quite forgiving if you don’t have exactly the right ingredients. If you have to substitute anything, just ensure it weighs the same. First of all you gather all the ingredients and let them seep in alcohol for a week. You make an easy cake mix and combine the two and cook – simple. Do make this as soon as you can, to allow it to mature.

You’ll need a square cake tin about 20cm across and baking parchment or greaseproof paper.

For the soak

500 grams of raisins
200 grams of currants
100 grams of chopped dates
50 grams of dried cherries (not glace) if you can’t find these, use dried cranberries
3 tablespoons of each of the following: brandy, kirsch, whisky, port and water. You can use rum, Cointreau, grand marnier or sherry instead. Or, if use the 12 tablespoons of one alcohol and 3 of water)
1 teaspoon each of ground cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence (the pure sort)
1 tablespoon of dark brown sugar (or demerara)

Method

In a saucepan, put all the ingredients and warm through until the sugar is dissolved. Take off the heat and let it cool.
Scrape all of the ingredients into a box with a lid and put into the fridge. Try to remember to shake the box each day.
A week later, you are ready to make the cake. You’ll notice that the dried fruit has plumped up and smells wonderful!

Cake ingredients

250 grams self-raising flour (or plain plus 2 tsp baking powder)
250 grams soft brown sugar (or Demerara)
250 grams of butter
5 large eggs beaten
50 grams of mixed nuts

Method

Mixing the fruit and cake mixture together

Mixing the fruit and cake mixture together

Before you start making the cake, grease your tin and line it with greaseproof paper or parchment. Turn the over on to Gas mark 3, 170 degrees.

For ease, make the cake in a food processor or use a hand-held whisk.

Whisk the butter and sugar together until well mixed, Add a little flour. Add the eggs little by little until all used up. Spoon in the flour and mixed nuts. Put this mixture into a large mixing bowl with the fruit that’s been soaking and mix well.

The cake mixture in the lined tin

The cake mixture in the lined tin

Carefully spoon the mixture into the tin, making sure that your lining stays stuck to the edges of the tin.

Cook for approximately 2 1/2 hours. PLEASE CHECK REGULARLY. The cooking time seems to vary greatly – particularly if you have a fan oven. Use a skewer to test if it is ready – it should come out clean.

When it is done, leave it in the tin until cold. Turn out and store in silver foil until needed.

Store the cake in foil until needed

Store the cake in foil until needed

Edinburgh’s best French cheese and macarons?

18 Sep

I’ve known Cedric Minel for 6 or 7 years since he set up the curiously named Cheesee Peasee. I think he is one of Edinburgh’s best kept secrets. Those in the know make regular pilgrimages to his authentic French cheese van parked on Meadow Place on Saturdays to purchase his produce and practice their French.

Cedric once worked for another cheesemonger in Edinburgh, but was not satisfied with the quality of the cheese they were importing from France, so he set up his business. Focussing on cheese with an appellation controllee mark of quality, he imports cheeses from all over France. He once explained to me that the appellation controllee ensured that the quality is good year round rather than dipping when the cows have different fodder to feed on.  The cheeses are simply delicious. A favourite of ours in Reblochon, but there is something for everyone, from harder Comte to soft, soft goats cheese. Don’t wait to seek him out.

Reblochon Cheese

Reblochon Cheese

So where do the macarons come in? Some months ago, Cedric suggested I try one of the first experimental batches  he had made. The macaron was lovely, but he was not totally happy with the results. He spent  time refining the quality, taste and appearance. Today’s macarons are simply gorgeous – as you can see I couldn’t wait to taste before taking the photograph. You can purchase them by the half-dozen in pistachio, lemon, vanilla or chocolate and passion fruit.

Macarons

Macarons

If you can’t get along on a Saturday morning, visit Cuthbert’s cafe Monday to Friday and you can enjoy one with a great coffee.

www.cheesee-peasee.com – a little out of date unfortunately

@cuthberts

Celebrating cupcake week 2010

9 Sep

What a lovely week to celebrate, I hope that you discovered Kelly’s red velvet cupcakes?

Alice Rose Cakes and Cookies

Alice Rose Cakes and Cookies

I am always curious as to why people start up a business and how they found their passion, so  I asked some cupcakers (is there such a word) to share their experiences. In this post, Alice Rose who is starting up a new business distributing cupcakes across the UK (yum!)

Like many great people, Alice’s inspiration came to her in the bath. Three years ago, she’d left university with a business degree but wasn’t sure what she really wanted to do. Her Ah Ha moment was to become a cake decorator. The first cake she made was for her own birthday whilst she was doing up her own house. She had to contend with a really old cooker the previous tenant had left behind and the only work surface available on top of the fridge! She wishes she had taken a photo of that first effort, to see just how far she has come. Night classes at college followed to learning basic royal icing skills then more modern sugar paste techniques.

Tennis theme cake and cupcakes

Tennis theme cake and cupcakes

Cupcakes have become increasingly popular amongst her customers but she also makes an equal amount of large celebration cakes combined with cupcakes as well.

Cupcake Canapes

Cupcake Canapés

Alice explains “Cupcakes are so flexible, you can add them to a children’s party bag or customise them with a company logo. The range of flavours are also endless – traditional puddings are now lending their flavours to cupcakes including black forest gateaux and banoffee pie. I have also  just started creating cupcake canapés which are bite size and are in an edible case for easy eating”. Not surprisingly, her favourite pastime is creating new flavours and of course, sampling them!

An alternative wedding cake?

An alternative wedding cake?

I was keen to hear more about the cupcake delivery system. Alice explains “My partner and I are setting up a delivery system working with a team of independent cupcake makers and decorators across the country. Once we receive an order on our Direct Cupcakes website, we commission the bakers to create the order for us and deliver. We are planning to launch it in the next couple of weeks.

If you are interested in getting involved, visit the website, or send Alice a tweet @arcakescookies