… and we’re back! Total Food Geeks Edinburgh hit the road again!

Those who may care to follow my Twitter feed (why would anyone but my husband and sister do that is a mystery to me but here goes, I do have a few followers! 😉 :D) may have noticed a big burst of activity, including the posting of pictures and various chit-chat on Thursday evening and also early on Friday morning… now, this is for all sorts of marvellous reasons all of which can be summed up in one sentence… Total Food Geeks Edinburgh are back, and have celebrated new starts at Cafe’ St Honore on Thursday night… thanks to the fabulous care of genial head chef Neil Forbes and manager Dave and all the staff!
We gathered just after 7 around a big table to share a lovely, tenderly constructed for us, dinner and several slices of sourdough bread to mark Sourdough September (the Real Bread Campaign, of which I am an enthusiastic member will love this! https://twitter.com/AriAround/status/515555196869816320/photo/1). My friend Blythe from Lunchquest, Marie Joelle who is also a colleague of mine, the unbeatable David, aka Pie and Beans, and his wife and a new comer, Mike all shared the chat, the discussions over next endeavours, the interesting and ever stimulating conversation about anything from restaurants to seasonal produce to trips to various European countries and of course, the wonderful offerings that Neil and Dave had tabled for us.
We started with a panzanella salad, which suited me, the vegan, to a T!, and gravlax with pickled cucumber and rye sourdough… and then a roasted leg of lamb which Dave carved for all and a cassoulet followed. I got treated immensely well, with a veggie casserole topped with Portobello mushrooms
… and to finish Dave arrived with bread and butter pudding and treacle tart (https://twitter.com/AriAround/status/515233606999216129/photo/1)and the vegan, well… how about plum crumble?
Cafe St Honore is a brilliant place and Neil Forbes has been a supporter of TFGE since the start… he’s a real inspiration for all the restaurateurs in Edinburgh and Scotland, in my view, for his commitment to good, seasonal and nutritious food that nourishes the soul and the body and is good for the environment. It was a memorable evening and well… we are back now, so follow our communal blog!
Our next open night will be on 16 October, this time at Hula Juice Bar on the corner between Victoria Street and the Grassmarket… thanks Susan and Marie for being kind hosts!
For now… this blogger is off to knitting circle after a morning in the garden… where this rose said hello! http://t.co/4z0ejmKf8c


Being a student in Edinburgh? Want to eat healthily and heartily? then you need a veggie bag!

What a windy day has been… faced with an afternoon at home waiting for the gas man (who by the way has not turned up yet, and it is 5pm, grr…), I bagged my papers and ventured toward the bus stop… in time to remember the letter I had received from my lovely suppliers of fruit and veg (all organic and local!), i.e. Bellfield Organic Nursery in Abernethy, just up the road in Fife! This wee note said that there would not be a delivery today as my delivery man (good ol’ John!) was on holiday… so, what is a potentially hungry girl got to do? A quick mental scan… and hey presto, the answer–the Hearty Squirrel Co-Operative! This amazing student enterprise ensures that our students and staff are kept well fed, by providing veggie bags and dried goods once a week from an outpost in the basement of the George Square Lecture theatre… and hopefully also from a location at King’s Buildings, hopefully from next week! For the princely sum of £4, I took home a bag of inviting, nutritious veggies, i.e. a large marrow, a good handful of potatoes, onions and carrots, a bag of salad leaves and, joy of the joys, a cucumber! I was lucky enough to find a bag, actually–they’d all been either sold or reserved by the time I got there (note to self: send a message next time!)–and could not be happier at the result!
I have to say that I am full of admiration for our students who, on a voluntary basis, staff the stall and provide this fabulous service with a smile… for many years, since I started teaching in various capacity in Universities, I have been concerned at what our students eat… today Universities hardly ever have proper canteens and sometimes the prices applied to food and hot drinks are not exactly affordable for all… Hearty Squirrel is a great idea as it encourages students to cook simple and fresh meals by using good produce and most of all shows that it is possible to eat well on a budget!
Today has been a bit of a stop gap but I will endeavour to support Hearty Squirrel and their efforts more as time goes by! The veggies were really fresh and I simply cannot wait to put the salad in my lunchbox for tomorrow… I bet it tastes wonderful! Not to mention that with them tatties… only a good gateau can do!! Thanks Hearty Squirrel… and for all of you out there…
1) this is the Co-Op website: http://heartysquirreledinburgh.weebly.com/
2) and since I mentioned it… here goes my vegan, personal take on potato gateau!
for 2 persons
4 large potatoes, washed, peeled and cut in chunks
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
1/2 tin of kidney beans, pureed (in a blender or mashed with a fork)
3 tbsp Engevita yeast flakes
salt, pepper and chilli pepper to taste

In a pan boil the potatoes til tender, then drain and mash with a fork or by pushing through a sieve with the back of a spoon. In a frying pan, fry the onion in the oil, then add the pureed beans and let it bubble away for 5/6 min til it starts to thicken, then remove the frying pan from the heat; heat the oven to 180C. Smear an oven dish with some oil or vegan margarine; spoon half of the mashed potatoes in the bottom of the dish, then top with the bean puree; season with salt, pepper and chilli, then pour over the remaining potatoes. Even the top layer with the back of a spoon, then top it with the yeast flakes. Pop in the oven at 180C for about 15min til nicely brown.
This makes a quick, simple and seasonal dish. You can replace or add to the bean puree other ingredients. I tried mushy peas (yum!) or mixing the bean puree with leftover veg such as soft peppers that have seen “better days”, shall we say?, or even vegan slices.
Serve with bread and a nice glass of wine…
Have a good evening all!

Baking adventures part II–it is challah time!

Last weekend we enjoyed some truly lovely, balmy weather… ok, the mornings were a wee bit foggy, but hey, whos’ been put out by them? 🙂 Not me! I hopped on my wee car last Saturday to spend a day baking at Bread in Fife, with the fabulous Coling Lindsay, for yet another class… I was joined by Gordon and by a mother-and-daughter combination, Sally and Jenny. Focus of the day–festive leavened sweet bread and rolls and also some savoury offerings, i.e. pierotskis and Staffs oatcakes.
I had been looking forward to this class for a long while… and was rather surprised at being able to bake challah and see it rising well. So tasty! As for the St Lucia’s rolls, these were less successful for some reason… but with the nights drawing in, I shall make a couple more go-s at it before the 11 December! 🙂 Once home I was very proud of my offerings… hubby was at a conference all day and only got back late after a slap-up dinner with his politicos pals and drinks… and feasted on the rolls, so since he’s enjoyed them… who am I to say that they were not really “accomplished”? 😉 😀
On Sunday the challah was very well received as accompaniment to leek, swede and sweet potato soup… and there is another loaf in the freezer as I could not wait to repeat the experiment!
This weekend we’re resting… I had a long week at work, so today I just pottered around, made veg broth for lunch and went for a run… I look forward to running the RoadBlockRun tomorrow in aid of Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland in Holyrood park–this is a great organisation whose mission is v close to me due to my family members’ stories! http://www.chss.org.uk/. Donations are welcome–I shall be going around with my form next week, folks at work and among friends, so be prepared to dig deep! 🙂 for more info see: http://www.chss.org.uk/supportus/fundraise-for-us/events/roadblock-run/
Seriously, for anyone wishing to learn how to bake, from the basics all the way to more difficul feats, Colin is your man–he’s kind and enthusiastic and truly caring in conveying the best and clearest instruction to all his guests… and you also get to meet cool people at the classes! I mean, it does not happen v often to share a table with a v talented portraitist student!
For more information, look Colin’s webpages up!
and now, off to Vigil Mass and then hopefully I shall meet my pal Matt from Pax Christi days and his fiance’ Jenny, yay!

Garden news… it’s flowers all around

… and of course, no Saturday would be, well, Saturday, without a long foray in the shared garden… after a spot of Church cleaning with the ladies at St Ninian’s in Restalrig, that is!
Today I had to do a good pruning of the flower plants whose blossom had gone… but hey, the roses are still making a fabulous, scented showing, what a joy! My lady Cornelia, my garden partner, was delighted to hear that our buddleia is already showing blossoms, of a tender white colour… look if you do not believe me:https://twitter.com/AriAround/status/508215041150431232.
This is promising, especially as I have another 2 of these at home!
And near the front door, well… the penstemmen I had planted a few months back is now covered in purple and says hello to visitors! https://twitter.com/AriAround/status/508214861684539392
What can I say… last year it was all veg growing for me and the rest was just keeping tidy… now I must confess I am warming to this flower business! Bulb planting in next up–got some for tulips and still half a bag that my Mother-in-Law had given me… as a gift–my surprise bulbs as I have no idea what they are!! Oh well, will update soon! This is what is all about… Edinburgh Garden Partners has given me really a new lease of life–I cannot imagine my weeks without the visits to the garden, to Cornelia and of course, to Charlie handsome cat!
So, want a garden but have no space? Or have a garden but cannot look after it? This is the way to go! follow @EGPgrapevine and visit: http://www.edinburghgardenpartners.org.uk/

Salad days have never been so easy for vegans… with BloomBox!

Summer beckons fresh and easy lunches and dinners… and salad is a prime option for me. OK, you could argue, it is a daily staple for you, which is true–when you can rely on a nice staff fridge and have little time to go out to lunch, salad at the desk with a cuppa and a piece of fruit is the way to go! And this summer has seen a great addition to the lunch scene in Edinburgh, with the arrival of BloomBox! This is a fabulous service which allows us vegan (even accidental ones like me!) to enjoy fresh, seasonal and nutritious salads that are delivered on a bicycle in key spots of the city! I got to know about BloomBox thanks to the all-knowing, all-smiling Blythe, aka Mr Lunchquest. This venture has started through crowdfunding which I unfortunately could not contribute to as I was too late chipping in… but then, this did not prevent me from becoming an enthusiastic customer!
The salads are amazing and change with the seasonal offers… I am especially happy to vouch for this–yesterday’s offering of mixed kale, salad leaves, nasturtiums and lentils and spicy chickpeas represent very well the offerings of my salad patch which I gathered this morning in the garden! 🙂 All served, if you wish, with a slice of fab sourdough bread from the guys at Andante bakery and a juice shot… well, what could one want more??
Bloomboax deliveries happen at key points of the city, one day in New Town and another in the Old Town/Southside. Check the website out for the map, instructions, information about the project, the menus and prices… See: http://www.bloomboxsalads.com/#foryou
The key action you have to take in order to secure your salad is to follow the bike! Twitter (@bloomboxsalads) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/bloomboxsalads) will guide you!
And of course… if you leave the box in the fridge it will be good to go for dinner… as I did last night! I cannot begin to tell you, best dinner in a week in which I had been working flat out…
Who would have imagined? Such a simple idea, yet absolutely amazing! Thanks a lot, BloomBox! 🙂

Harvest time!

Life has been super busy since we got back from holiday! The garden has filled me with joy though: I have eaten so many Victoria plums that I have now had enough but it is so satisfying to eat one’s own produce! Blackberries are still plentiful and today saw me making some blackberry and apple chutney… nice and spicy with ginger, mixed spice and some extra vinegar (to preserve) and cinammon! this is the recipe I used…
OK, many of you my frown at the selection, but I needed something quick on my smartphone earlier on! 🙂 Had I had time I would have rung my lovely friend Lucinda, who runs the magic business Grab Your Spoon and the eponymous blog (check it out, it is amazing! see here:http://grabyourspoon.com/) and had a good chinwag, finished with a request for help but I also had to coordinate lunch for hubby… today it was spicy celeriac and apple soup. This is extra easy really…
For 2
1 medium celeriac, peeled and cut in 1in pieces
2 medium cooking apples of your choice (I used one Bramley and one Jonagold), cubed
1 small onion, sliced
2 tsp tomato puree
1 tsp each of curry powder of your choice and turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
1 pt and 1/4 veg stock (or same amount of boiling water from the kettle and one veg stock cube! ;))

heat the oil in a pan and sweat the onion for 5/6 min; add the tomato puree and spices and mix well til coated. Add the cubed celeriac and apples, mix well with a wooden spoon then pour over the stock. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and, if you like, some extra spice and then take off the hob. Cool slightly then blend to a cream. Return to the pan for a minute or two. Serve in bowl topped if you like with yoghurt or soy yoghurt or cream!