Lunch with the experts… and a good chat!

Tuesday 18 February–a rather grey and wet day but one I’d been looking forward to as I eventually managed to have lunch with a celebrity friend of mine… you know, us Total Food Geeks in Edinburgh–we’re really a creative bunch and some of us are truly amazing!ย  So, 1:15 pm saw me meeting up with my friend Blythe… yes, the man behind the fantastic website Lunchquest.ย  If you are in Edinburgh and need a steer to a place for lunch or dinner, look no further, it is a really amazing resource.ย 

We had arranged to visit Beirut, on Nicholson Street… after its makeover I was looking forward to this visit… however, its opening hours at lunchtime have been erratic… hence we retreated to the Olive Tree Bistrot, on Marshall Street, just across the way.ย  The place was quiet and the service good and attentive–it was especially nice to see the manager and one of his pal enjoying a Greek coffee–enough to set my tastebuds going! Blythe had a bowl of soup followed by borek–in true questing style! ๐Ÿ™‚ I enjoyed a mixed salad which was great–olives, red cabbage, tomatoes and lettuce accompanied by a warm pitta, what can a girl ask for more than this??

The meal was good; the Olive Tree is a place that deserves being patronised as the food is fresh and hearty and the service attentive and kind…ย but more to the point, it was the conversation that made the difference: I had not seen Blythe for ages, so it was great to catch up and hatch plans for the next few months’ activities of TFGE! I think that we may have a chutney event soon–cue to me suggesting that we may invite a pal who’s chutney and jam queen (please Lucy, let’s organise another outing to Scotland soon!:D), look up ‘grab your spoon’ and you’ll find out more about her!–and well, we’ll see for the rest.

Now, I raise a mental toast to my pal Blythe–thanks again for the chat and please let’s not wait so long for a replica! ๐Ÿ™‚

Longer days… yippie!

The beauty of February is not just about lots of birthdays to celebrate… it is mostly about days starting to get visibly longer! ๐Ÿ™‚ This struck me on Friday evening as I was walking from the Library in George Square to Doctors’ to meet my lovely friend Alessandra! The sky still had some daylight in it… what a relief!

Anyhow, this weekend was good and pleasantly busy… yesterday I started my pots in the garden, with dwarf beans, that are among the favourites of my fab lady garden owner Cornelia… and I have also seeded some Little Gem Lettuce in one of the beds, which is good.ย  Last night we enjoyed a performance of Scottish Opera–Don Pasquale by Donizetti, so good fun!–followed by a late Indian dinner at the Red Fort in Drummond Street… honest and hearty food, tasty and served by kind and attentive staff, just what one needs! head there if you are at the Festival Theatre, it is just across the way!

Today, the winds were really high… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I took 3 extra minutes on my 12 miler and at one point the wind sent me on a spin on my feet, go figure it out… STV reports a gust of 83 mph in Edinburgh, I suspect it may have been that one, or a close relative anyhow!

Lunchtime saw me experimenting with turkey breast for hubby… I had taken advantage of a special offer on turkey at my local supermarket… so, I thought I’d put that to use.ย  I cooked the breast slices wrapped with ham and pancetta in olive oil, and a handful of sliced mushrooms,ย with salt, pepper, garlic, parsley and rosemary.ย  It took about 30 min to get them done–you are never too careful with turkey and poultry generally…–but hubby appreciated!

So, just for you…

For one

150g turkey breast, cut in 2 slices

1 slice each of pancetta and Parma Ham, each cut in half lenghtways

1 tsbp olive oil

4 medium mushrooms, cut in thin slices

1 clove garlic

1/2 tsp each of dried parsley and rosemary

1 pinch each, salt and white pepper

Sautee the garlic in the olive oil in the pan til soft; meanwhile wrap the turkey slices in the ham and pancetta; place them in the bottom of the pan, add the herbs and seasonings then cover the pan.ย  Cook on a medium heat for about 10 min–take care that the turkey sizzles a bit–then add the mushrooms, cover again and cook for another 20 min on a slightly less fiery heat.ย  Serve at once.ย  Good with garlic bread–asย  hubby chose to have it–or potatoes and salad.

Next up–lunch with a friend… a very knowledgeable one at that!

Ciao… ๐Ÿ™‚

Italian cooking for Italian pals… :)

Next up it is, as I promised. ๐Ÿ˜‰
So, last weekend the Italian club got together for lunch! Long time no see at least all together–we usually meet up, with my dearest Alessandra, at the Doctors’ pub every so often after work, but any other occasion is good, and what better than having also Paolo’s company?
I made, as a true Roman, pasta cacio e pepe, followed by agnello arrosto con patate and salad… for me, a small tray of roasted veg… and also fresh bread and homemade oatcakes–Ah, everyone should go and take a baking class with Colin Lindsay at Bread in Fife, he’s amazing and the skills he transmits are there for life!
Pasta cacio e pepe is super easy, a true staple. Cook spaghetti al dente (about 80g per person) and drain reserving a couple spoons of water. In a warmed bowl mix the spaghetti well with grated Pecorino romano (I’d say, for 4 people grate about 80g of the stuff), a good glug of olive oil, 1 tbsp or so of fine breadcrumbs (for consistency, but optional) and a good tsp of ground black pepper.
And so is agnello arrosto… preheat the oven at 200C; for 4, peel, wash and slice about 1.5 kg potatoes; place them in a roasting tin, seasoning with olive oil, rosemary, garlic and sage (I leave the cloves of garlic whole and unpeeled); top with about 300g per person worth of lamb (shoulder on the bone is best, ask the butcher to cut it in slices or similar for ease of serving), seasoning with the same herbs as you go. Roast in the oven for around 45 min.
Alessandra brought cake–cantucci and schiacciata fiorentina… delicious, and both dairy free, yay! ๐Ÿ™‚ I have not got a recipe but these can help…
For cantucci: http://lacucinaitalianamagazine.com/recipe/crisp-tuscan-almond-cookies-with-vin-santo
And the schiacciata…
http://www.tuscanrecipes.com/recipes/schiacciata-fiorentina.html
This recipe calls for 1 cup milk but Alessandra had replaced it with extra orange juice diluted with water, delicious all the same!
Ciao… ๐Ÿ™‚

End to radio silence…

Oh well, so sorry… January turned into a very fast and furious month… hence my blog silence! Never mind… having turned 35 yesterday I thought I’d update these pages with the latest goings-on in the garden and the kitchen!

Gardenwise, we’ve been busy preparing the new growing season. the bed levels are now raised and the soil has been duly composted.ย  My lady Cornelia and I have had frequent confabs about plans, which is good! ๐Ÿ™‚ so, the sweet peas are seeded and will be germinating under cellophane in the sun, and the cauliflower seedlings, also going in boxes on the warm windowsill of the shed, will be ready for transplanting at the end of April, which is just perfect timing.ย  The broad bean plants are now about 1/2 ft tall, and this is really promising… and yes, the alliums have indeed sprouted, hoorai!

๐Ÿ™‚

The last 2 weekends we welcomed friends… first, our old neighbours, Annice and Ollie, who came for Saturday lunch–potato, tomato and pepper soup, onion tart and fresh bread and salad were the staples!ย  and then, the Italian club, i.e. Alessandra with American hubby Tony and dear pal Paolo came for spaghetti cacio e pepe e agnello al forno con patate last Sunday.ย  Just fab time to catch up! And finally, yes, yesterday hubby took me out to celebrate my becoming an old woman… we had drinks at the Mash Tun, who’s aleady featured on these pages (and even on a very busy night of footie and rugby did not disappoint! :)) and then dinner at Rivage… really good Indian food, good service and further evidence that to have a good night, for us sitting in the East of Edinburgh, Easter Road is the place!

So, recipe-wise…

Pepper, tomato and potato soup (for 4)

1 carton passata

3 red peppers, roasted and peeled (I do this on the griddle pan, about 8 min on each side, then wrap in a paper bag and leave to cool–the steam makes the peeling super-easy!)

4 medium spuds

1 clove garlic

1 red onion

1 pint veg stock

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp herbs–I use a mix of oregano, parsley, basil and a pinch of chilli powder

Soften the onion in the oil, then add the garlic; after a couple of minutes add the potatoes, sliced, and the passata. Stir well and leave to simmer for 4/5 min then add the stock. Simmer for another 15 min til the spuds are tender. Meanwhile, whiz the peppers in a food processor.ย  Add them to the soup, simmering for another 10 min.ย  Take the pan off the hob and using a hand-held blender cream it, then add the herbs and return to the hob for another couple minutes.

Onion tart (for 4)

500g onions, mixed (red, yellow and white, to your taste)

1 tbsp olive oil

for the pastry

350g plain flour

120g margarine

1 pinch salt

125ml water, warm

1 egg beaten.

Make the pastry by rubbing the marg in the flour, then add the egg and mix with a fork; add the water and salt and mix to a pliable dough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 15 min.

For the onions: heat the oven to 190C; peel the onions and cut them in wedges; in a baking tray, slightly oiled, mix the wedges with the oil and, if liked, some garlic salt and cider vinegar; add a tsp sugar and then bake in the oven for about 12 min til softened.

Roll out the pastry and line a 22cm diam tin, oiled and floured with it; bake blind for 8 min, then take out and pour the onions in the case; return to the oven for another 15/18 min.

And for the Italian recipes… next up!

๐Ÿ™‚