Another weekend at home… it’s raining!

Week 1 of teaching has gone without major damages… how reassuring to wake up on this Saturday morning realising that! I like my new students and this semester smells so much better!  the weather is not that good though… Edinburgh is covered by grey skies… and I could only manage a flying visit at the garden. It was good to catch up with Cornelia, though.  Sweet peas will have to be started soon in the propagator and pots for various other plants will have to be in the offing from next weekend, so let’s hope for better weather then!

Anyhow, last night hubby and I paid a visit to our favourite spot, Al Dente on Easter Road… Giuseppe (Graziano’s right hand man and chef extraordinaire) helped us beat the January blues and mark our 1st 6 months together as a married couple, which is great.  We shared a starter of simple tomato bruschetta and then hubby had a luscious plate of orecchiette with tomato, rocket and ricotta salata, whereas I enjoyed a bowl of cream of fava beans topped with caramelised onions… and assorted grilled veg to complete the meal.  Amazing stuff, I can tell you. If you want to eat like the real Italians in Italy do in Edinburgh look no further, Al Dente is the place. 

Yesterday we also found time for a great discovery… the Mash Tun, also on Easter Road.  On this side of the city, i.e. in the East between town and Portobello this pub is a truly good spot.  Good beers (and a  nice food menu looking at it… and at the happy faces of the punters enjoying its offerings) and nice atmosphere, it made for a nice pre dinner drink spot, so we will surely go back again.

Lunchtime today came… and I was emboldened by reading the 1st issue of the Real Bread Campaign newsletter, True Loaf, of 2014. So much so that last night I fed my sourdough starter and this morning set about 600g dough to prove to make the feature recipe of the newest issue of True Loaf, i.e. feta and spices pasties.  Just pasties, made with proven bread dough and filled in our case with crumbled feta, olives and a spoonful or so of harissa paste… well, hubby had the real thing and said they were delicious.  As for me, I swapped the feta with fresh rocket from the garden and yes, it all proved tasty indeed.  Three cheers for this great recipe and for the Real Bread Campaign, such a good bunch of people and a strong support for all us amateur bakers out there.  

Now, back to the sofa before more household chores… i.e. helping hubby with new furniture.




Under pressure… in cooking, that is!

I am not a terrible kit-mad person, but this was a very good addition, once I moved in the new house… i.e. a pressure cooker. 🙂 Mine is not fancy at all (just £24 in a high street retailer, the one with the catalogue!! ;)) but works a treat.  So, since coming back I said to myself, how about trying it? Well, I can tell you, it works a treat and for a fraction of the time. OK, not everything comes out nice (I still love my aubergines and peppers roasted more than I do stewed) but for soups and casseroles, especially those involving cereals and legumes, it is ace!

So, with the help of an Italian recipe book (but hey, my local library here has quite a few that are easy and reliable so take a look on your shelves before you buy!) herewith some good solutions for the question ‘what do I eat when it is late and I am tired?’…

Spelt and puy lentil stew

for 1: 30g dry spelt, 25g puy lentils, soaked for at least 6 hours; 1 can chopped tomatoes, 1 clove of garlic, 300g of mixed chopped veg to your liking (I used celeriac, courgettes and leeks) and a small bunch of kale, shredded; 1 tsp parsley, 1 pinch chilli pepper, 1/2 tsp sage; 500 ml boiling water, 1 tsp bouillon (veg).

Combine the ingredients in the pan of the pressure cooker, then pour in the boiling water; close the lid and put on a high heat til the cooker starts whistling (check the instructions of your pan though!); when it does, lower the heat and start timing (about 20min). Once the time is up, use the quick method to release the pressure and open. You may need some extra time for a less watery consistency–in which case make the stew boil on high without the lid for 3/4 min.

Barley, cannellini and cauliflower soup;

For one: 25g barley, 35g dried cannellini beans, both soaked for at least 6 hours; 1 small cauliflower, washed and cut in florets; 1 clove garlic, 1 tsp sage, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1/4 tsp garlic salt; 450ml boiling water and 1 tsp bouillon (veg).

Follow the method above; this time you will need 25 min from when the pan starts whistling.

And today, I charmed my hubby with the pressure cooker… by making spicy pumpkin and sweet potato soup.  It took only 12 min to cook and it was really delicious. The recipe was from the Metro (the free sheet you can get in most cities, you would be surprised at how good the recipes are sometimes! :)) and came from a famous company producing soup… I made it with a different type of squash but it worked alright all the same!

And now… back to the papers! 😀


Back to base…

Yes, I know, I’d promised a post on our New Year’s Eve and Day plans. However, the start of the year came and since then we’ve been busy with family, practical stuff, coming home, going back to work, you name it!
Anyhow, before telling you of my recent cooking endeavours since coming back to Edinburgh, I thought I’d update you on our New Year’s celebrations!
we spent the night between 2013 and 2014 in the company of friends… so lovely to catch up with my dearest Valentina and Tiziana and her families and also with another friend, also called Valentina, whom I’d not seen in ages! we shared a very tasty meal of offerings from the various households. The traditional courses of lenticchie and cotechino were all there… we also had a starter of pasta with roasted vegetable sauce and various other delicious things… our contribution was a casserole of carciofi alla romana, i.e. globe artichokes stuffed with mint leaves and garlic and stewed in olive oil. I had made them home under the direction of my Mum, who has declared me fit to cook them on my own, yay–the signs of adulthood I suppose! 🙂
As you know, no Italian household, literally leaves Capodanno go without lentils and cotechino (more information on cotechino here:; my friend Valentina cooks them in bianco, i.e. first she boils them for about 15 min, then she drains them and stews them in olive oil, with garlic, a carrot and some celery til well tender; In my house instead we cook them in tomato sauce… take your pick I suppose! 😉
on the Day, I prepared lunch for everyone: lasagne (one with Bolognese sauce, the other white with bechamel and mushrooms), followed by lamb chops in breadcrumbs and fried… and various other things, like roasties, grilled radicchio and green salad. In the afternoon family joined us to celebrate my GrandMother’s 101st birthday–she even had a handwritten letter from Rome’s City Mayor, of which she was rightly chuffed! 😀
And then it came… the end of our holidays. 😦 last weekend was v peaceful and we just doodled along around the house, ordering furniture (delivery is for next weekend!) and generally getting back to normal. Among my few new year’s resolution is to offer a more varied non-veggie diet to hubbie… hence I made a decision of having a more regular routine of butcher’s and fishmonger’s visits. My first round to the butcher’s in Portobello resulted in the purchase of chicken supreme, which I made in casserole wrapped in Parma Ham and served with mash. Hubbie was pleased! the other thing is, I have been following my steam diet through to Scotland and now I have a secret weapon, i.e. a pressure cooker along with my steamer… it is an amazing piece of kit!
So, the next post will be about my recipes with it… but for now, here we go, the lamb chops for any lamb lover out there!
For 4
4 lamb chops, cut from the ribs and still on the bone; ask your butcher to cut almost all the meat loose but leave it still on the rib
2 beaten eggs, with pinch of salt
250g breadcrumbs
olive or sunflower oil
Dip each chop in the egg mix, then pass in the breadcrumbs, making sure they’re well coated;
heat the oil in a deep frying pan (a wok would work well) til almost smoking then fry the chops, turning them twice or three times till well fried and golden. Serve with lemon wedges.