Thursday, January 31, 2013

Frome - fabulous friends, falafels and frangipane

Today was a good day. One of those days that started off pretty average and unexpectedly turned out to be pretty blooming special.

Whilst in Frome waiting to meet my good friend and climbing buddy, Vicky, I came across a row of little artisan shops (Black Swan Arts, Bridge Street). One that particularly caught my eye was the fabulous Knopf Designs, who make unique jewellery and gifts. I found a ring perfect for me, made from a piece of vintage china and reduced! I had to have it, very apt for the upcoming tearooms (couldn't resist buying Mum one too).

Vintage Tea Cup Ring
Lunch was at Divas CafĂ© which to be honest, didn't look that exciting from the outside (probably the drab weather's fault) but turned out to be perfect for us. We had a lovely lunch, falafels with chilli jam for me and antipasti platter for Vicky. The falafels were good with tasty accompaniments and fresh salad.

After eating the plates clean and feeling pretty stuffed, the obvious thing to do was to eat cake. After procrastinating over what to have (very important decision), we chose the apricot frangipane and carrot cake, deciding to share. They did not disappoint and we were two happy customers.

Look at those cheery faces, nothing like a good piece of cake and a cup of tea to make you smile.

We parted without saying good-bye as she will come to visit me in Scotland.

On the way home, passing through Bradford On Avon, I halted to a stop after spotting a Herbalists, The Natural Pharmacie. I have been after some passionflower and skullcap for a while, eagerly I entered and met the inspiring Iria. After an informal "consultation", Iria made up a tincture of passionflower, skullcap and valerian. The hope is that it will calm me down, ease my anxiety and help me sleep more soundly. Not asking a lot am I?

Another purchase was a "Hotterdog" fleece for Olive, who being a greyhound, feels the cold. I thought it would be nice and cosy, especially with the move up north imminent. Looks rather fetching, if I may say so myself.

"Thanks for my jumper"

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Leaving Lunch

As from today I am officially unemployed, soon to be self-employed. It feels flippin fantastic to be free, but also a little sad to be leaving my colleagues. We lunched at Mezzé, The Green Dragon, Downend, Bristol. An obvious choice, near to the office and the food is pretty good but the slow service really lets it down.We had to wait about 20 minutes for our sides after being served our main courses (a real bugbear of mine) and poor old Mike was waiting ages for his hoisin duck sandwich.

Lucky me had some fabulous leaving gifts, very appropriate for my new ventures, including a gardening kit of gloves, various seeds and seed trays. Handing me the gift Rachel said, "I don't know what half the veg are, but I'm sure you'll know them!", guess she was probably referring to the Lady's Fingers, it made me chuckle.

Other gifts included soon-to-be very useful matching mixing bowls and measuring cups also "My Little Afternoon Tea Book", packed full of scrumptious looking recipes. Ah they know me so well! (Thanks Lizzie, I'm glad you opted for the baking choices rather than the mittens!). I have already bookmarked the Cider Crumble Slice (in homage to my old home in Somerset) and the Walnut and Orange Biscotti recipes. Watch out for them on the Menu in the upcoming Tearooms!

Returning home and hurriedly walking the dogs before dark, I stumbled across the first snowdrops I have seen this year. How apt for today, representing new life and new beginnings. Thanks world.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Recipe - Cranachan

Cranachan, a traditional Scottish pudding of oats, cream, whisky and raspberries. A refreshing alternative to trifle (see my Tipsy Laird recipe) and the perfect dessert to follow a heavy dinner such as haggis, neeps and tatties (see yesterday's post).

Recipe - Cranachan (serves four)


450g fresh raspberries (keep aside a large handful to top the puddings)
570ml of double cream
90g of oats (I used jumbo, rolled oats)
A good glug of whisky (approximately 8-10 tablespoons, depending on how boozy you like it)
Approximately 5 tablespoons of honey
A small handful of fresh mint leaves
(Optional - a large pinch of both ground ginger and nutmeg)


Spread out the oats in a large frying pan.

Lightly toast over a low-medium heat, until the oats are slightly golden and smelling "toasty".

(Optional - sprinkle a large pinch of ground ginger and nutmeg over the oats and stir through).

Set aside and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks.

Stir in the whisky, honey and oats.

Gently fold in most of the raspberries.

Gracefully dollop into suitable dishes (I used drinking glasses as all glass bowls are packed for the move!).

Top with the remaining raspberries and fresh mint leaves.

Delicious and oh so easy.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Recipe - Haggis, Neeps and Tatties with Whisky Sauce

Last night was Burns night and twas celebrated in our household with a Burns supper (see Wednesday's post).

Here is the recipe for the main feature, the haggis, accompanied by neeps and tatties and cranachan for pudding (recipe to follow).

Recipe - Haggis, Neeps and Tatties with Whisky Sauce (for four)


One appropriately sized haggis (only two of us were eating haggis, smoked haddock for me)
750g of neeps (swede or turnip) peeled and cut
1 kg of peeled tatties (potatoes) choose a good mashing variety e.g. Maris Piper
1 heaped teaspoon of ground nutmeg
Plenty of salt and pepper
200ml of double cream (150ml for sauce and a large glug for the mash)
2 tablespoons of mustard


Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

Follow the preparation instructions on your haggis. Mine were to remove the haggis from the outer packaging, wrap in foil and place in a suitable dish in approximately 2 cm depth of water.

Bake in the oven for approximately 1 hour.

Whilst the haggis is cooking, prepare the neeps and tatties. Peel both and cut the neeps into approximately 1 cm cubes and half the tatties if they are large.

Pop the neeps and tatties into two separate large saucepans of salted water.

Bring both pans to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until they are soft enough to mash, approximately 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the whisky sauce.

Add approximately 50 ml of whisky to a medium-sized hot saucepan and if you are feeling brave set it alight (I wimped out and just heated it on the hob to burn off alcohol). If you do choose to set it alight, please be very careful!

Add 150ml of double cream to the pan, stir in approximately 2 tablespoons of mustard and season.

Allow the sauce to gently simmer away until it has reduced by about half.

Mash the tatties with a large glug of cream, some butter and plenty of seasoning. Keep mashing until smooth.

Mash the neeps with plenty of butter, pepper and nutmeg. No need to try to get a smooth consistency with the neeps, leave them lumpier than the tatties, providing a nice contrast in textures.

Set aside the sauce and the mashed vegetables but keep warm.

Remove the haggis from the oven, it should be piping hot and the skin should be tight (looks like it's about to burst) .

Cut the haggis open and spoon onto hot plates along with the neeps and tatties (I also added some sauteed sprouts).

Drizzle some whisky sauce over the haggis and serve.

Don't forget a wee dram to toast Burns and yourselves and your guests and Scotland and...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Recipe - Kicking Kedgeree

Yesterday, with haddock that needing eating up and determined to not venture out to the shops, kedgeree seemed like a sound dinner choice. This is my adapted version of the classic dish, with extra vegetables, spice and of course heat, hence the name.

Kedgeree is a classic British breakfast dish traditionally made with curried rice, smoked fish, boiled eggs and parsley. The origin of the dish is questionable. The main school of thought is that it started life as an Indian rice and lentil dish, khichari. Thanks to the British Raj and the colonisation of the sub-continent the dish was apparently adapted into something more familiar to those serving in India and when they returned home, brought the dish with them.

The other theory is that the dish originated from Scotland and was taken to India by Scottish troops where it was adapted and adopted as part of Indian cuisine.

My money is on the Scottish origin, either way it's a classic and oh so simple and satisfying.

Traditionally, smoked haddock is used but other fish such as cod or salmon work well.

Recipe - Kicking Kedgeree

Ingredients (serves four)

2 large haddock fillets (mine were unsmoked, that's what was in the fridge)
300g of brown rice
600ml of vegetable stock
1 diced onion
1 crushed clove of garlic
2 tablespoons of medium curry powder (depends how hot you like it)
2 teaspoons of turmeric
2 teaspoons of chilli flakes (or one whole chilli finely chopped)
1 teaspoon of onion seeds (or mustard seeds)
1 handful of fresh parsley
1 large handful of finely chopped kale
1 large handful of frozen peas
4 medium eggs
1 lemon


In a large pan gently fry the onion and garlic in olive oil for a few minutes until softened, add the spices and cook for a couple of minutes more.

Add the rice and stir through until the rice is well coated in the oil and spices.

Pour in the stock and simmer with the lid on for approximately 30-40 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, boil the eggs for approximately 7 minutes (which should leave the yolk slighty runny).

Remove the eggs from the boiling water and leave to cool. Once cool enough, peel off the shells and set aside.

Season the fish and fry in a pan with a little oil over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes, until just cooked.

Once cool enough, flake the fish into quite big chunks and set aside.

After the rice has been cooking for approximately 20 minutes add the peas and kale.

Stir through and leave to simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked through and the water absorbed.

Gently stir the flaked fish and fresh parsley into the rice.

Cut the egg into quarters and add to the dish.

Season to taste and serve with a lemon wedge.

(Scottish?) Kicking Kedgeree

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Burns Supper

Burns night is nearly upon us; whisky bought, haggis to catch, and neeps and tatties on the shopping list.

It is only right that we celebrate the occassion in our household, to honour our Scottish heritage and our future. It is now only a fortnight until the big move up there.

Burns night is a celebration of the life and work of the national bard, Robert Burns (1759-1796). The first Burns supper was actually held on 29th January believing that to be his birthday, afterwards it was discovered from parish records that his birthday was actually on the 25th.
Burns Supper will be a simple affair in our household, finding a piper may be a stretch too far. Haggis with neeps and tatties and cranachan (recipes to follow) for pudding is the plan so far and a wee dram or two.

Traditional Burns Supper
A formal, traditional Burns Supper would begin with guests being seated, followed by grace, often "The Selkirk Grace". Although not actually written by Burns but recited by him at a dinner given by the Earl of Selkirk.

The Selkirk Grace
"Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit."

The supper often starts with soup, Scotch Broth or Cock-a-Leekie being popular choices.

Piping in the haggis
Guests would stand and welcome the main attraction, the haggis, accompanied by a piper.

Address to the haggis
An honoured reader would read aloud, Burns "To a Haggis", knife poised ready. On cue, the first cut of the haggis would be made.

Toast to the haggis
The audience would raise their glasses and shout, "The haggis!"

Main Course
The haggis would then be served traditionally with neeps and tatties.

Clootie pudding (boiled fruit suet pudding),Typsy Laird (Scottish trifle- see my recipe) or Cranachan (basically oats, cream and raspberries drenched in whisky- recipe to follow) are popular choices.

Tipsy Laird (Scottish Trifle -see my earlier recipe)
Of course the meal would be served with wine, ale and whisky freely flowing. The haggis itself often being doused with neat whisky or a whisky sauce.

A toast to Robert Burns and renditions of his work would often follow, along with toasts to the guests.

The supper may close with a roaring version of "Auld Land Syne" with guests joining hands and singing as one.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Vintage Emporium, London

As mentioned yesterday, I had the pleasure of popping to The Vintage Emporium for a quick cuppa and cake whilst in the city.

The Vintage Emporium, 14 Bacon Street, Brick Lane, London, E1 6LF
At entrance level there is a Victorian style tearoom that offers a delicious range of homemade cakes (two gluten-free options) and a range of teas and drinks. They also offer a Breakfast and Lunch Menu.

The lower floor is home to a boutique of antique clothing and accessories (and the loo).

It is a fascinating collection of clothes, hats, shoes, bags and more. If only I had the occassion (and money) for a beautiful, silk Victorian wedding dress.

I got lucky and managed to find a seat and indulged in a proper mug of chai tea and a slab of indulgent gluten-free chocolate and banana cake.

Delicious gluten-free cake and big brew
An evidently popular place with several people arriving and swiftly leaving due to no tables being free.

Evenings events include live music nights and life drawing.

Definitely one to check out.

Monday, January 21, 2013


The weekend was spent in bitterly cold London, with my hands wrapped around hot, steaming cups (stupidly forgot my gloves) and praying not to slip on the icy pavements. I survived and even managed a fall-free run Sunday morning, just.

If you don't know already I am a bit of a country girl (soon to be Highland lass) and although a regular visitor, I'm always fascinated by what the big city has to offer. A busy weekend of lectures left not much time to explore, just quick lunches and food on-the-go. 

During a quick lunch break and perusing a local menu, I couldn't help but notice the ever-increasing amount of nutritional "codes":

Choice and information can only be a good thing but with up to five or six "code" letters following some of the menu options, it could be a little over-whelming.

I visited the "Vintage Emporium" cafe and shop (off Brick Lane) where I enjoyed (briefly) mooching around the shop and wolfed down a generous slice of chocolate and banana (gluten-free) cake. It takes a lot of energy to keep warm, right?! More on this fashionable, fabulous place to follow.

Gluten-free chocolate and banana cake and massive mug of chai tea
At Paddington I found myself deliberating about what to eat on the train home. If you are not hankering after a burger or baguette, choices aren't that great. I opted for salmon and tuna sushi from YO!Sushi which tasted good but disappointingly the "wasabi" accompaniment did not feature wasabi at all (see my previous "Wasabi" post). Horseradish, high fructose corn syrup and plenty of artifical colourings are listed among the ingredients.

So-called "Wasabi"
I'll see you in a month London.

Friday, January 18, 2013

"I Could Eat A Horse" (no, not really)

As a nation of horse lovers, the idea of eating our four-legged friends would be readily rejected by many of us. However, it was revealed in the News this week that we have been eating horse meat surreptitiously. One would assume "beef" products to be the culprits, cheap beef burgers and the like, but "gourmet" products (chorizo, pastrami and salami) have also been adulterated.

Would you?

Did you know that we were actually eating horse long before we befriended them and approximately one billion people across the globe eat our equine friends?

Horse is commonly featured on menus in China, Russia, Asia, Mexico, Italy, Belgium and more.

For you carnivores out there (not being one myself) horse meat is apparently rather tasty and lean. One of the reasons being that they themselves are fussy-eaters, unlike cows, consuming grain and grass and not easily persuaded to eat meat and bone-meal feed.

I am not suggesting for one moment that anyone should eat horse, what we choose to eat is a very personal and individual decision. However, we should be able to trust food labels to make an informed choice.

Interestingly, a source of this recent scandal is a food processing company in Ireland. Apparently, the horse meat was an unknown addition from a European supplier, reading beneath the lines, there is an air of irony about all this. Reportedly, the number of horses slaughtered in horse-loving Ireland has risen from around 800 in 2006 to 7,000 in 2011. Most of the carcasses being shipped to Europe, little did we know that they were returning home disguised as beef. "What goes around, comes around", springs to mind.

This scandal raises serious concerns about how we, as a nation, make and look after the food that we eat.

In 2010, the government split responsibilities for food inspections, creating a more complex system. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is responsible for food safety and meat inspections but food labelling and composition falls under the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Additionally, the FSA's meat hygiene budget is reportedly being cut by 12 million over the next four years. It has been admitted that testing is not routinely carried out because products laced with horse do not pose a risk to public health. Hmmm, if I had found out I had been unwittingly eating morsels of dog, I'm sure I would be very ill indeed.

It is also worth noting that the scandal was discovered by the FSA in Ireland, not in the UK.

There could be some good to come from this, maybe people will hesitate before chucking processed burgers and meats into their trolleys instead opting for proper cuts of meat.

Whatever your food choices are, just make sure you know what you are eating (or at least try your best).

A Four-legged (and rather gorgeous) Friend

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Herbs Glorious Herbs

Herbs enhance dishes greatly with flavour and colour. They look good, smell good and do you good.

Recently I heard Jamie Oliver say, "If herbs didn't exist, I'd give up cooking tomorrow".

Ambling around the local supermarket earlier this week I noticed that a packet of fresh herbs was more expensive than a whole herb plant. Why...? Surely that is a nonsense.

The cost of fresh herbs in supermarkets is quite shocking, a 25g packet of fresh coriander for 80p, that is £3.20/100g.

At a time when many of us are having to watch our spending, fresh herbs will be viewed by many as a dispensable, luxury item and find themselves woefully left on the shelf.

A trip to the local greengrocer may be cheaper or how about growing your own? Herbs, in most cases, are tough, wild plants that will thrive in the lush conditons of a garden. I have grown herbs in pots, usually basil, mint and coriander and have begun planning a herb garden for Scotland. I will let you know how I get on...

Beautiful Basil

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


If you know me, you will know that I love hot food and I do love a bit of sushi, therefore, it won't surprise you to hear that I am a fan of wasabi.

Wasabi Paste - do not use to brush your teeth!
What is wasabi?
Wasabi (Wasabia japonica) is a plant often referred to as Japanese horseradish. It is not actually from the horseradish species but it is a member of the same family, Brassica, which includes cabbage and mustard. It is native to Japan, growing naturally along stream beds in river valleys and is notoriously difficult to cultivate.

Wasabi heat
The heat is like with horseradish - fiery and clean, it will blow your head off if you are not careful!

How is wasabi sold?
The root is used as a condiment and is very hot and strong in flavour.
The root shoot (rhizome) can be used fresh,  finely grated. Try online retailer The Wasabi Company, if like me, you are finding it hard to find in the shops. Often sold in the shops in powder form or as a paste (in a toothpaste-like tube). Powders and pastes may contain very little wasabi, quite often 4-5%, or even none at all, subsituting the real thing for horseradish or mustard.

Health Benefits
Wasabi is alleged to have anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic properties. According to legend, in ancient Japan it was used to counter the effect of food poisoning.
I'm betting it could be very effective at clearing blocked noses and sinuses.

Nutritional Information
Wasabi is a source of fibre, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and magnesium.

Recipe Ideas
In traditional Japanese cooking, wasabi is served alongside sushi and sashimi, added to miso soup or made into a dipping sauce.

How much do you need?
Due to the strong heat the amount of wasabi used in cooking varies greatly depending on the individual, try it and see how much you like.


Try mixing wasabi into mayonnaise to use as a dip.

Recipe - Wasabi Mayonnaise:
One tablespoon of mayonnaise
A small squeeze of paste or (if you are lucky) fresh, grated wasabi
A finely chopped fresh spring onion
(A dash of soy sauce - optional)

Wasabi Mayonnaise
Serving Suggestion
Try wasabi mayonnaise as an accompaniment to grilled fish or meat. I had mine this evening with mackerel and green vegetables.

Mashed Potatoes
Stir into mashed potatoes before serving, try adding some chopped spring onions.

Wasabi Butter
Mix wasabi with softened butter, serve on crackers with smoked salmon, blini, crostini etc...

Soba Noodles
Add wasabi and fried vegetables to soba noodles.

Wasabi Deviled Eggs

Wasabi Bloody Mary
Subsitute horseradish for wasabi paste.

Wasabi Ice Cream
This seems to be popular at the moment, also combining with chocolate in desserts (like the chili and chocolate trend).

And on and on...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Recipe - Fabulous Fish Pie

This warming, fabulous fish pie really hits the spot after a day out in this cold snap.

Recipe - Fabulous Fish Pie

Ingredients (for four servings)

For the filling
220g fish pie mix (I used salmon, haddock and pollack)
200g king prawns
Approximately 15g of corn flour
1 onion
Approximately 10 whole cloves
150ml of semi-skimmed milk
150ml of fish stock
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons of mustard (I used Dijon but any would do the job)
25g of butter
Olive oil

For the topping
200g fresh spinach leaves
500g of potatoes (Maris Piper) cut into large chunks
A handful of grated cheddar (optional)
1 tablespoon of ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper


Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

Boil the potatoes for approximately 30 minutes, until soft enough to mash.

Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a pan and add the raw fish and prawns. Add the onion (halved and studded with the whole cloves), milk, fish stock and bay leaves.

Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes until the fish is just cooked through. Remove the fish and set aside.

Strain the cooking liquid and also set aside, for the sauce.

In another pan, melt the butter with a little olive oil and stir in the corn flour. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes until well mixed and smooth.

Lift off the heat and add the fish cooking juice gradually, whisking it in.

Return to the heat and whisk until the sauce boils and thickens, then stir in a dollop of mustard to taste.

Drain the potatoes, then mash until smooth.

Heat the spinach in a pan with a little water until wilted then drain.

Add the spinach to the mash with plenty of seasoning and nutmeg to taste. Stir thoroughly.

Place the cooked fish into a suitable baking dish and pour over the sauce.

Top with the mash and spinach, add a sprinkle of grated cheese if you wish.

Bake in the oven for approximately 30-40 minutes, until golden.

Serve piping hot (mine was with peas, cabbage and roasted cumin carrots), enjoy.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Vintage Crockery Wanted

The countdown to the move is well under way. Fingers and toes crossed, in little over three weeks we will be on the road from Wiltshire to Scotland.

I have started collecting pieces in preparation for the vintage themed tearooms.

I have been frequenting local charity shops on the hunt for tea-sets and built up quite an impressive and very pretty collection.

Yesterday, I was treated to the most gorgeous Foley "Ming Rose" tea set, for the amazing price of £25.00.

Foley "Ming Rose" Tea Set
Next on the shopping list, cake stands for Afternoon Teas.