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Flowers and starch – making Turkish delight

18 Nov
Turkish delight. Home made, no less.

Turkish delight. Home made, no less.

I was in Nargile for a slap-up feast in June. At the end of a meal, when we were all fit to burst, the temptress waitress brought in a small plate of Turkish delight with the bill. It was fabulous and I ate several pieces. I was reminded that good Turkish delight is a beautiful thing that I wanted to learn how to make. I’m talking about the original, gelatin-free version. It makes a nice gift and is my sweetheart’s favourite candy. So I scoured the Internet for instructions and set out to learn how to make perfect delight. Here is what I learned.

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Favourite ingredient – black (beluga) lentils

13 Nov
Black lentils on a white plate

Presumably, they're called beluga lentils because they look like beluga caviar.

Black lentils. It doesn’t sound great, does it? You’ll be surprised. These pulses are fabulously flavourful, an attractive dark colour and surprisingly versatile. I’m a little obsessed with them at the moment. They are aromatic, with hints of cinnamon and cloves. I imagine that they are good for all kinds of things, and like them in an easy dinner-for-two salad. Recipe below.

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Love cooking: Cooking as entertainment?

19 Oct
Love Cooking Show - Ainsley Harriott

Love Cooking Show - Ainsley Harriott

The Playhouse Theatre was the rather unlikely location for a day of cookery demonstrations by TV chefs this week. In such a large theatre, could an audience do the chefs justice?  After rather cringing at the Tiggerish personality of Olly the “wine guy” from Saturday kitchen (did he have to do the same Mexican wave ‘thing’ at each demonstration?), we settled in for an entertaining evening.

I’m often frustrated by not being able to see what the chef is preparing  – here this was overcome by a roving camera woman taking close-ups. These were alternated with fix camera shots. What a great idea, so simple and really effective.

I am not really sure why the words Ainsley Harriott invoke  a forceful response – I guess he is rather like Marmite, either you love it or you don’t.  I’ve been a fan since trying to find an interesting cookery book for a beginner chef. She  found that his recipes were easy to follow, tasty and effective.

We were entertained with charming stories about Ainsley’s family – one of his aunties would smuggle mangoes into the country in her underwear in the sixties – and plenty of useful cookery tips. The recipes were colourful and vibrant (and tasted pretty good too). And the sight of Ainsley limboing across the stage? Well, that won’t be forgotten soon.  His philosophy – learn to cook so you can enjoy eating with friends – who can argue with that? So were we entertained? Yes, and we learnt a few things too.


(from the Love Cooking Recipe Book)

Caroline and I sneaked up on the stage to taste this cooking – delicious. I just had to have a go at the cornbread muffins. I’ll certainly make them again. These are best eaten warm. They’re really easy to freeze and reheat.

Ainsley Harriott's Chilli Cornbreak Muffins

Ainsley Harriott's Chilli Cornbread Muffins


50 gr butter
150 gr self-raising flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tsp salt
2 teaspoons baking powder (EF: yes you do need this as well!)
1/2 tsp black pepper
150 gr yellow cornmeal (or polenta)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
300 ml of buttermilk or milk with juice of half a lemon
1 chili, de-seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs (whatever you have to hand) or 3 teaspoons of dried herbs

Paper or silicon muffin cases and tin.

Pre-heat oven to 180 deg C.


1. Melt butter in pan or microwave and use some to grease your muffin cases. (EF :If you have silicon cases you do not need to do this)

2. Sift the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into a bowl, then tip in the pepper and cornmeal. Stir to combine.

3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and quickly stir in the eggs, buttermilk (or milk mixture) and butter and mix until smooth. Fold in chilli and herbs until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the paper or silicon cases.

4.  Cook for about 20 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. (EF I found you need less time with a fan oven).

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.