January blues… who has them? Not here!

January has been a good and momentous month I must say! A good time to catch up with friends and get going again with my favourite passtimes…
My garden was in need of a tidy-up but I was glad to find some colour in it–look here, if you have not seen this pic already on Twitter!

I met with my good friend Blythe for lunch as well… it is always good to hear about adventures in the Lunchquest world… our venue of choice was Circus Cafe on St Mary’s Street which, in a good mezze style, treated us well… even this vegan was happy at this sight!

Yoga classes have also resume with my lovely teacher Lisa at Holyrood Yoga–and she’s already promised us a workshop in the next weeks, so watch this space…

Most of all, it felt really good to be back in our home… and for me to be in my kitchen! Lots of soupmaking happened, alrgely also as a reaction to the cold weather… high hits have been parsnip and Bramley apple soup and one of my favourites, tomato and pumpkin!
Hubby also enjoyed a big bowl of Cullen Skink last weekend–by all accounts, according to him I am becoming an expert… so, if you wish to try…
Tomato and pumpkin soup (for 2/3)
1 carton tomato passata
1 medium squash or pumpkin
1 onion
1 veg stock
350ml water
1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
1 tsp basil
1 clove garlic.
Peel the pumpkin and cut in cubes. Wash thoroughly. Meanwhile, heat the oil and sweat the garlic and onion in it for 5/6 minutes. Toss in the pumpkin cubes, then cover with the passata and stir well. Dissolve the stock cube in the boiling water and then pour over the soupy mixture; cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Uncover, add seasonings and herbs and let simmer til all is tender. Take off the heat and liquidise.
Cullen Skink (for 3)
1 piece of smoked haddock, about 400g in weight
4/5 medium potatoes, cut in cubes
about 400ml water
1 bay leaf
2/3 tbsp milk
In a pan, heat the water and dip the fish into it. Simmer gently til it is cooked through. Meanwhile, steam or boil the cubed potatoes til tender; once cooked tip in the bowl of a food processor about 3/4 of them and blend to almost creamy; mash roughly the others.
Take the haddock off the water but reserve the stock. Take our also the bay leaf and discard. Tear the haddock in piece, take the skin away and eliminate any scales.
Bring the stock back to a gentle simmer and then, with the help of a whisk or fork, blend in gently the mashed potatoes into it til creamy; add the haddock along with the roughly mashed spuds; add most of the milk and boil gently for another 5 to 10 minutes til all is nice and creamy and not runny.
My mother in law who is from Banff thoroughly approved… isn’t that unusual that such high praise should be awarded to the Cullen Skink made by an Italian?
🙂 🙂

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Italian cooking for Italian pals… :)

Next up it is, as I promised. 😉
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! 🙂 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… 🙂

Early Christmas gifts…

Yes, I know… less than 2 weeks to Christmas and we’re still hard at work. However, for me Christmas has come early in a way… in the shape of my sister, my brother in law and my nephew Adriano Marcello! They gave me the best present ever in coming to visit us in Edinburgh!  We had a fantastic time going around the Christmas Fayre at St Andrew’s Square, playing with the great machines in the National Museum of Scotland (we could not get Adriano out of those rooms, they’re great) and driving around the city and the coast!!

Hendersons’ was the best place ever for dinner on Friday night–the Bistro was very welcoming and Adriano among all enjoyed his burger the most!

Hula at the bottom of Victoria Street treated us delightfully–Susan and her staff do an amazing job even when they are very busy… my guests commented a lot about how good the food was, how attentive the staff were and so on… Susan, your place is amazing, let’s have a proper hello next time I stop by for my evening warm juice! 🙂

Saturday night? Oh well, it could not be anything but al Dente!  Graziano and his people offered us a real treat–Adriano got stuck in a mansize plate of spaghetti al ragu’. We shared starters–the new addition of vellutata di fave (smooth cream of fava beans) topped with caramelised onions being a great addition!  :)–and then had tasty mains… I had not had orecchiette in ages, thanks Graziano!  Al Dente is my favourite by far here in Edinburgh when it comes to a special treat like this.

And finally, well… Sunday lunch was had in our home.  I made roast lamb in the oven with potatoes and we also had tomato and oregano pasta… finished with salad and for pudding… well, mince pies!! All in all, I must say–if Christmas is the season for family and for giving, I have received lots of both already, for which I am truly grateful and happy… now on, to the wait til our family celebrations with my folks. Roll on!!

🙂