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Soup for beginners – a bad idea, or a good one?

5 Oct

Inspired by the cook book workshop with Nell Nelson, I’m considering writing a cook book. I’m not looking for publication, it’s purely a test of my writing skills. These are my thoughts. Please let me know what you think.

  • Audience: absolute beginners. I’ll be writing for teenagers and young adults with little previous exposure to cooking and the kitchen.
  • Aim: I want to help beginners get to know their ingredients and get comfortable using them, hopefully encouraging them to experiment a bit.
  • Format: A downloadable PDF laid out so that recipes can be printed on an A4 sheet and used in the kitchen.
  • Distribution: My website and this blog. And any other website that wants it.
  • Chapters: Read this first – tools, techniques, ingredients (store cupboard and freshly bought); Now cook – basic soup recipe, followed by recipes for a variety of vegetable-based soups (carrot, leek & potato, red pepper, broccoli & stilton, spinach, onion, sweet potato).

It’s not a huge project, I have most of the recipes written down already and would mostly have to work on the Read this first chapter. It could, realistically, be done for the new year. The question is whether it should be done.

Celebrate National Cupcake week with Red Velvet Cupcakes

4 Sep

National Cupcake Week (13th to 19th Sept) is just around the corner and what better way to celebrate than by making a batch of classic Red Velvet Cupcakes?

Often called the Devil’s Food Cake, the origins of Red Velvet Cake are have been shrouded in myth. The earliest recipes date back to the 1920s when boiled beetroot would be added to the cake to give it its glorious red colour, nowadays we tend to use food colouring. It can be difficult to get the really red colour with liquid food colouring. I’ve used recipes that ask for 6 tbsp of food colouring when even with the whole bottle included they still come out reddy brown. To avoid the hassle I use Sugarflair sugar paste colouring in my cakes as it’s stronger and gives the guaranteed colour you want.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes

The unsweetened cocoa, buttermilk and vinegar included in this recipe means your cakes will not taste as sweet as traditional vanilla cupcakes. This is balanced out with a cream cheese icing which is both sweet and tart at the same time. Also don’t panic if your cakes turn out a little dense, you haven’t overbeaten the flour. Traditional American cupcake recipes such as this are much denser than more the traditional British fairy cakes we are used to.

Red Velvet Cupcakes (makes 12)

You will need;
• 140 g sifted self-raising flour
• 60 g butter at room temperature
• 170 g sifted caster sugar
• 1 large egg at room temperature
• 2 tbsp sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
• ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
• 110 ml buttermilk
• 1 tsp cider or white wine vinegar
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 4 tbsp red food colouring or ½ tsp of red sugar paste

For the icing;
• 300 g cream cheese (should work out to be a whole tub of Philadelphia cheese)
• 60 g butter at room temperature
• 1 tsp lemon juice
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 340 g of sifted icing sugar

Preheat your oven to 170C or Gas Mark 3 and line a muffin tin with 12 muffin cases.

Using either a stand or hand mixer, cream your butter until it is light and airy gradually adding in the sifted caster sugar. When the sugar and butter are completely mixed together add your egg and continue to mix until you have a smooth mixture.

(If you are using a liquid food colouring mix the cocoa powder with the food colouring together in a separate bowl in to a smooth paste before adding to your main mixture.)

Add the cocoa and food colouring and vanilla extract to the main bowl and blend well until you have a smooth red mixture. You can optionally add a little more red food colouring here if you feel your cakes aren’t red enough. Add some of the flour and mix then add some of the buttermilk. Alternate this way until both have been fully incorporated in to your cake mix. Separately add the bicarbonate of soda and the vinegar together before throwing this in to your cake mix, blend your mixture for around a minute more before equally dishing out the mixture in to the waiting muffin cases.

Place your cupcakes in the middle of your preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, use a skewer to check if your cakes are cooked in the middle before removing them from the oven and letting them cool in the pan for 5 minutes before placing them on a cooling rack.

For the icing cream the butter, cream cheese, lemon juice and vanilla extract together until equally combined then gradually add in the icing sugar a little at a time. You can either smear this icing over your cupcakes or using an icing bag to pipe your icing on.

Writing a Cook Book – Workshop with Nell Nelson

24 Aug
Nell Nelson on the cover of her book, Eat Well with Nell

Nell Nelson on the cover of her book, Eat Well with Nell

Edinburgh Book Festival will, of course, cover food. I attended a work shop on how to write a cook book with Nell Nelson, writer and nutritionist of a wonderfully engaging and cheerful disposition. You might have seen Nell in The Woman who ate Scotland where she travelled around the country sourcing and tasting many local ingredients and foods. This time, Nell took us on a tour of cook book writing, from idea to publication. She even had us practice by writing a recipe for humus she made right there (you’ll find my version below). Continue reading

Dumpling dipping sauce

3 Aug

Danielle wrote about Chop Chop in Leith in June. The wonderful people who brings you Chop Chop dumplings are good enough to freeze some of them for your private delectation. Here’s my favourite dumpling dipping sauce, tasty and versatile, to eat with Jian’s potstickers or your own, home-made dumplings.

Dumpling dipping sauce


  • Light soy sauce
  • Sherry or rice wine vinegar
  • garlic, finely chopped or minced
  • fresh ginger, finely chopped or minced
  • fresh chilli, finely chopped
  • fresh coriander, finely chopped

Optional ingredients:

  • Peanut butter, crunchy or smooth
  • Basil, finely chopped
  • Lime juice


  1. Mix garlic, ginger, chillies, vinegar and soy sauce to taste.
  2. Add coriander.
  3. Serve.

A note on amounts

Typically, you’ll use 1 part vinegar to 2 parts soy, and as much of the flavourings as you want to achieve the flavour you are after. If this is your first ever time, take 1 small clove of garlic, half an inch of ginger, a handful of coriander leaf and half a medium chili. As you get used to the sauce, you can add or subtract amounts to suit your taste.


  • For a satay-style sauce, add a couple of table spoons of peanut butter and mix thoroughly.
  • For a Thai-inspired sauce, swap vinegar for lime juice and coriander for basil.


The Swedish Trilogy, 3: Crispbread

27 Jul
Crunchy and tasty artisan crispbread

Crunchy and tasty artisan crispbread

There’s more to bread than fluffy white stuff. My Swedish heritage means that I have very particular ideas about what makes good bread. White toasting bread isn’t it. Toasting bread in general, isn’t it. I accept a baguette, can deal with foccacia and adore pumpernickel. I hunt high and low for sturdy rye bread, a sweet and sticky syrup loaf and proper crispbread.  Not Ryvita. Real crispbread.

Continue reading

The Swedish Trilogy, 2: Snaps

22 Jul
Working up an appetite and a thirst

Working up an appetite and a thirst

Midsummer. On the terrace sit 15 people, tired from dancing around the maypole, eating a traditional Swedish buffet (you know it as a smörgåsbord). There’s cheerful talk and much praising of the various dishes. Almost everyone has a glass of beer or cider at their elbow. Suddenly one of the hosts lifts a shot glass and suggests a song. Everyone bursts out in cheerful singing before raising their shot glasses and taking a hearty swig. Swig taken, the glass is lowered and eye contact is made with the other diners. Eating and chatting resumes. Continue reading

Cookbooks that work – back to the basics

20 Jul

I have rather a lot of cookbooks. In fact Mr EF made me count them recently and I astonished to find I have around 150. Much of one bookcase is stuffed with them.

Some have proved disappointing – the glossy pictures and hype amount to little. Others, well cooking has just moved on so much and what they propose just doesn’t tempt me. Some I use on a very occasional basis, but are good all the same. (Have to confess that I use the Delia Smith Christmas countdown each year). Then there are the others that become firm favourites – recipes you trust, that taste fabulous and hit that particular need on that particular day. I’ve also one dating from 1911 that I’d love to try some recipes from one day. Continue reading

The Swedish Trilogy, 1: Coffee

13 Jul
Coffee should be dark and bitter.
Coffee should be dark and bitter.

It’s early on a summer’s morning and I have just ordered an Americano in a rather nice cafe in a suburb of Stockholm. The barista makes a double espresso, pours it into a cup and tops it up with filter coffee. The result is extremely strong and packed with caffeine. There’s a good reason for why I don’t send it back.

Continue reading

Muesli – easy, tasty and good for you! (Recipe)

29 Jun

I’ve had a few requests for my muesli recipe, which has evolved from a recipe found on and from my chef friend Annette.

You’re probably like me, there is always one ingredient that you really do not like in any muesli mix. If you make your own, you can pop in your favourite ingredients. Just keep to the proportions and you’ll find this mix easy and quick to make and even quicker to eat.

Edinburgh Foody Muesli Recipe

Edinburgh Foody Muesli Recipe

Edinburgh Foody Muesli

5 cups of porridge oats
1 cup of seeds (mixed selection of sesame, flax, pumpkin, sunflower ….)
1 cup of nuts (mixed selection of walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia …)
3/4 cup of runny hone topped up with 1/4 cup of oil (walnut, rape seed  or similar)

1 cup of mixed dried fruit (apricots, cherries, cranberries …. )
1 cup of toasted coconut flakes (from Real Foods)

Large tray(s) with a lip and silicon paper or similar


Place first 3 items in a large bowl, chop roughly any larger nuts.

Melt the honey and oil together until hot but not boiling. Add to the large bowl and mix thoroughly. Turn out onto a large baking tin in an even layer (you might need two trays). Put the bowl aside for later.

Put in the oven at 200 degrees C (400 F)  and cook for about 15 minutes until light brown, mixing up once. This will very much depend on your oven, do not let it get burnt! You’ll find the mixture at the edges starts to brown first,  mix up to make it consistent.

Turn back into large bowl. Let it cool. When it is cool add remaining ingredients (fruit and coconut) and mix well. Put in a sealed box and enjoy!

Experiment and you’ll find your perfect mixture. It keeps for ages  in a sealed container

Please do let me know how you get on!

A recipe for slow cooked turbot

24 May

Inspired by our meal at 21212, I tried cooking some slices of turbot slowly.

First problem: get oven to exactly 6oC. Discovered that the dial settings are hotter than they’re marked.

Once I’d sorted that with an oven thermometer (which took 15 minutes to find – we don’t use it that often!), I popped the fish in, neatly parcelled with a tablespoon of wine, herbs and a few peppercorns.

After one hour, the fish was cooked. Finished it off with a little butter on a slow heat in a frying pan for 30 seconds. The result was a little disappointing –  it needed far more seasoning. I am guessing the herbs need higher temperatures to release their flavours. The texture of the fish was lovely though. One to refine a little further

Has anyone had the chance to use a water bath – I am sure that’s the way forward!