Winter Warmer day… and we try more new recipes!

This blustery but sunny Sunday saw lots of runners on 10K and 5K going up and down Arthur’s Seat for the Winter Warmer Race. This was a fabulous run, in aid of the British Heart Foundation, for which I did a very successful fundraising–thank you all, friends, colleagues and family for your generosity, in support of a charity whose work is really important… especially after what happened to my husband in early October and to my Mamma last year, I am so aware of this!
I finished on just over 45 min on 10 and half km, give or take which was good–the wind was fierce!–and as the 1st female on 10K! 🙂 Yay!
Best of all was to get a big hug from hubby who was at the finish to greet me–how lovely he is, and how amazing to have him!! 🙂 🙂
Back home I thought we deserved a nice lunch… having been Hallowe’en, how about pumpkin? I just had a butternut squash, so I thought, why not?
Hubby got a nice supreme of chicken roasted with garlic, olive oil and rosemary and again, not a hint of salt in sight! It was served with roasted squash wedges, dressed in the same way… he said it was very tasty, which warmed the cockles of the heart of this wifey! 🙂
I had the same squash stewed in a bit of veg stock with cavolo nero and a handful of chickpeas that were leftover from the week… the seasoning was amazing, I must say: just crushed garlic and red onion, rosemary, oregano and it was so fragrant.
I also made a pumpkin pancake, with mashed pumpkin, flour and some soy milk in which I had dissolved a pinch of cream of tartar… it had all started from reading a fab recipe, which is also very good, I recommend it!, by one of the food writers I admire the most, Jack Monroe, for pumpkin scones (you can find it here, top notch!… so I thought, why not pancakes?
The recipe is easy and follows… for the next time I make these I shall try and cook them thinner, so they will require less browning!
For 4/6 pancakes
200g squash flesh, steamed and mashed
100g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 and 1/2 tsp cream of tartar, dissolved in 2 tbsp soy milk
your seasoning of choice–mine was rosemary, tarragon and a pinch of garlic granules
In a bowl, combine all the ingredients till you have a thick batter–add some water if you need to, it depends on how “watery” the squash is itself. Lightly smear the bottom of a non-stick frying pan with oil, then heat it on the hob; pour about 2 tbsp of the batter in the pan and allow the pancake to cook on one side and then flip to the other (I use a plate to help turning them). Work your way through all the batter. Serve with your favourite choice of vegetables and pulses for a savoury meal… but if you change the seasoning to, say, cinammon, nutmeg and maybe cloves these will also be good as a sweet course.
Happy November all!


End of October–more experiments of the low salt variety!

As those of you who read this blog know, my husband was unwell at the start of the month… among the prescriptions is eating with less salt. We do this anyhow, but still… it is not easy to measure up, even when you make things from scratch. In any event, it has been an interesting journey! Last night, for instance, I had got a very lean pork steak from the butcher–with fennel seed, vegetable ragout and potatoes and lots of herbs a very happy husband left the dinner table! 🙂
Seriously, it is amazing how much taste you could get by just finely chopping leeks, onions, swede and carrots and cooking them with just a spoonful of hot water, olive oil and fennel seed and herbs such as marjoram, tarragon and oregano.
So, for you all…
serves 1
1 lean pork steak, about 150g in weight;
about 100 g chopped mixed veg, i.e. onions, leeks, swede and potato (i.e. what you’d use for veg stock!)
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp marjoram, 1/2 tsp tarragon, a pinch of oregano
1 clove of garlic, crushed

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the fennel seed; when it starts to brown add the garlic and the minced vegetables along with a tbsp of water; cover and let it sweat for about 10min til the veg starts to go pearly. Add the pork steak along with the herbs and turn a few times until it starts to cook and is well coated with the seasonings; cover, lower to a medium/low heat and leave it to cook until well done (very well, uncooked pork is truly dangerous!!), about 35min.
Serve on top of tatties (I steamed them).

The Geeks are out in town again–thanks to a fabulous invitation!

October has been a busy and complicated month… what with hubby being convalescing and work, not a lot of time was free for blogging and also for getting together with my fantastic friends, Blythe and Rose and our other fellow Geeks! Total Food Geeks Edinburgh had a memorable open night on 16 October: I could not go, but by all accounts it was great fun. Marie and Susan at Hula Juice Bar were their usual lovely hostesses, so I was pleased to hear accounts of the night on our communal blog!
This week, it felt just about time for another get together… Hubby is well now and back at work, so on Wednesday night I left work and wandered toward the West End: Total Food Geeks along with other fellow bloggers, such as Keep Calm and Fanny On, Edinblogger and Zurika, were invited to taste the new menu at One Square! Yes, you heard me right–the newly re-opened (after extensive renovations) restaurant at the Sheraton on Festival Square. We were greeted by Emma and Andrew, the latter being the General manager of the hotel, for a glass of sloe gin and then we proceeded to the breakfast bar area, which was especially open for us, for a session of canape’ making, followed by drinks–gin and tonic this time, and lovely it was even for someone like me who is not madly in love with the stuff! It was here that we met our magician for the night–Craig, thje head chef guided us in making our own canapes.
Even a vegan like me got into it–next time my folks are around, I shall surprise them with some sushi! I was also surprised to find vegan canapes… avocado salad and gaszpacho, wow!
We then moved to the dining table and that is where the magic really happened! I can only speak for the vegan options… but they were marvellous, made expressly for me–for which I am truly grateful, I am seldom so well-fed and treated so kindly! A starter of beetroot terrine ( was followed by pumpkin soup topped with leeks (here you are: The terrine was accompanied by beet crisps and salad, and was really tasty. The soup was delicate and hearty and the leeks gave it a nice punch. The main courses followed… chickpea burger with curly fries (here you go: and also a tempeh burger, which was amazing, served with spinach and vegetables (see here: Vraig came often outside to ask what we thought and was also happy to answer questions. I found it interesting that he does not use gram flour as a densing agent for the burger, and instead prefer grated broccoli. The taste was delicious, so I shall try! 🙂
Puddings were also good… berry jelly and sorbet ( was followed by almond pannacotta on fruit soup… unfortunately I ate this before tacking a picture, sorry! 😉
Drinks were paired artfully to the meal… I especially enjoyed the cider (Thistly) which matched well the starter.
In all, I left One Square with a happy heart: this visit confirmed that there are some amazing chefs around who can feed vegans really well, with art and also kindness. It is truly encouraging–now I know that next time I visit this restaurant, which is going to be soon, I can only ask when I am booking.
Truly good things are going on in Festival Square! Thanks Craig, Emma and Andrew and all the staff for welcoming us Geeks and especially this vegan. And vegans in Edinburgh–for a tasty meal in truly elegant surrondings I recommend One Square. Together with Cafe St Honore’s wonderful Neil, Craig is bound to become a favourite of the vegan tribes if I have any part in it!

Autumn is here… and I experiment…

The leaves are yellowing and down, and I have to say that the trees in Holyrood Park are breathtakingly beautiful now that their colours range from green to orange to rusty yellow. For reasons to do with my hubby’s health (not to worry–he’s had a scare, and me too, but is now on the road to recovery and doing well) I have been working from home a lot (with profit, which is really a good feeling as I thought I would be distracted!) and have had the chance to take in the surroundings of Arthur’s Seat from one side, of Figgate park from another and of Portobello beach in the distance. All good for the soul, I must say!
My shared garden continues to bring gifts–the radishes are getting fatter and so the cabbage, a couple of which are nearing picking time! 🙂
Most of all, because of hubby’s convalescence, I have been exploring the joys of low salt cooking. Now, you will say, ‘you cook without salt most of the time anyhow’ but still, sometimes this stuff is hidden in apparently harmless condiments… and also it feels that there are things that you can’t simply cook without! 🙂 this is far from the truth of course!
So, last weekend saw me making chicken casserole with tomato passata, onions, garlic and lots of oregano and basil and no salt! Hubby appreciated it immensely… and yesterday, I cooked him pork chops on the griddle pan without fat and salt… just a sprinkle of fennel seed, as nonna Lina (the grannie of my cousins Francesca and Massimiliano) used to do on her grill outside the kitchen in the old house in Via della Stazione in Oriolo Romano. Brought back happy memories… and was served with colcannon mash cooked with leeks, a tbsp or 2 of milk, no butter or oil and a pinch of mixed herbs. Again, no salt or fat in sight.
This was a variation on this recipe:
I just substituted leeks for the cabbage and mixed swede with parsnips, plus cooked the chop with fennel seed, but hubby liked it a lot.
As for the chicken casserole, well… last rays of summer IMHO, due to the tomatoes! 🙂
For one
2 chicken drumsticks
300ml tomato passata
1 small onion
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp each of dried oregano and basil
half tbsp vinegar
a handful of pitted olives
1 small pepper torn in strips

In a saucepan heat the passata on a medium heat, then add the onion, garlic and the pepper strips and simmer for 5/6 min, then add the chicken drumsticks and the olives. Adjust the herbs–you may need a tiny bit more oregano especially–lower the heat slightly and leave to simmer for 30min til the chicken is cooked and tender. Up the heat, add the vinegar and let it boil off. Serve with rice or bread or both!
Tomorrow we’re expecting hubby’s Mother… plan is making Cullen Skink, to a lady from Banff… erm… either that or chowder, which may, after all be safer… plus homemade bread and pineapple upside down cake… wish me luck! Coffee break over…

… 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! 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 ( 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!

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:
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! 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:
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!