thegrumblingtummy

"No love sincerer than the love of food"


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Vive la France!

 

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Mireille Guiliano famously wrote a book some years ago entitled ‘French Women Don’t Get Fat’.  I’ve read the book and think that she may have forgotten to mention the magical willpower of the average French woman.  I am not big on willpower and  I was well on the way getting very tubby following two weeks eating in France. It is the only explanation I can think of!

Our French adventure was in the Calvados region of France in beautiful Normandy.  B was ecstatic as to him it was all about trundling round WW2 museums and seeing lots of tanks and gunning placements, whereas for me it was all about mucking  around on stunning beaches and eating lots and lots of food.

France has often been hailed as one of the great food centres of Europe, however until now I have been seriously underwhelmed.  In Paris we sat through several bad meals and indeed my only fond food memory from the French capital was a rather fine Croque Monsieur served without fuss in a simple café.  In Carcassonne the food was no doubt wonderful, but as I’m not a fan of cassoulet I was rather out on a foodie limb in that particular region.

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Normandy was a game changer as far as my ratings of French cuisine goes.  All along the spectacular coast there are a string of beautiful seaside towns, unsullied by arcades and the‘taps aff’ brigade. The beaches are stunning and all about wholesome seaside fun – think sandcastles, kite flying, swimming, candy floss and boules.  The pretty resorts most importantly are also  littered with great places to eat  …. and eat we did.

Here are a few of the highlights for your digestion…

THE NOT SO HUMBLE CREPE

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As we were just along the coast from the  Brittany, home of crepes, we did expect them to be rather on the good side and we were not disappointed.

Some notes about this very French speciality – first off a crepe has a sweet filling, those with savoury fillings are called galettes. I ate both in abundance. Second interesting fact is that most of the galettes in Normandy are made with buckwheat flour, which is gluten free.  This allowed me to ignore the cream and cheese involved in some of the fillings and focus on the fact that it sounded healthy – it ought to be noted that most of my crepes included cream and indeed cheese in some form or fashion.

There were many, many fillings to choose from but my BFF crepe was filled with crème fraiche, potatoes, lardons, onions and mushrooms,  and I am betting a hefty daud of garlic too.  I ate this particular offering all over Normandy – from the delightful Le Crabbe Vert in St Aubin sur Mer all the way to the best example in a café in Bayeux.

The wee grumbling tum is notoriously hideous at eating on holiday, normally zoning in on one food stuff she will deign to eat for the entire trip.  This holiday we lucked out with her decision to  eat two types of food, once of which was Crepe with Nutella.  She ate this daily and as she has a little tiny tummy, mummy often had to help out – shucks!

The best crepe I sampled was in the lovely Crab Vert restaurant in St Aubin Sur Mer. topped with beautiful freshly stewed apples and calvados.  We are not talking a hint of calvados in this after dinner treat – it was full on blow your head off calvados – and it was rather splendid.

THE CIDRE

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When in Normandy!  With around 600 cidre producers in this region and hand painted road signs directing you to where you can buy and taste every few miles, there is little doubt that this is Normandy’s national drink.  This is a part of the Norman culture that I embraced with open mouth!  I like cidre anyway but the Normandy version seemed so much better than the brands available in Scotland.  Not overly fizzy yet not flat like scrumpy – somewhere pleasingly in-between. Or maybe it was just the sunshine!

Coming in three varieties – dry, sweet and corked (twice fermented with more sparkle) – cidre is not traditionally served in a glass but in a bowl.  A cidre bowl is rather like a large round coffee mug or a small soup bowl.  I am not sure if this enhances the taste but it sure is fun.  As with most local drinks when travelling, cidre is pretty cheap to buy and we were well stocked up for the whole trip ……. and beyond.

We were however a little over-enthusiastic on our return and have run dry, so if you are planning a trip to Normandy …… could you?

THE MOULES AND FRITES

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Normandy is a haven for lovers of Moules et Frites.  I have never in my life eaten as many mussels. I pretty much stuck to the same version of this classic every time I ordered– Moules Normandie. This is a variation of the classic mussels and white wine, instead the  mussels are served with cream, onions and cidre. Everywhere I tasted this the mussels were  beautifully plump, amazingly fresh and the sauce was to die for.  Perfectly crispy frites were reserved for dipping in the creamy sauce, it really is the best of all foods.

There is a garlic version of this dish which I attempted one evening and trust me when the French feel the need to include the word garlic in the description of a meal it is Def Con One on the garlic breath alert.  I spent the rest of the night trying hard NOT to speak to anybody and there was definitely no snogging for me.

If you like mussels (and I do) then you will never ever be disappointed in a Normandy restaurant.

THE CAKE

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The discovery of a particular pink patisserie in the heart of the beautiful city of Bayeaux was when it all went wrong for me.  It was the beginning of the end of any pretence that I was trying to be healthy.  This particular patisserie was a sight to behold –  beautifully decorated in bright fuchsia candy stripes, pink regency style chairs, elaborate plump feather cushions and the largest patisserie counter I have ever seen.  We were dumbfounded and incapable of any decision making.  The poor waitress had the  patience of a saint as we asked a 6 year old to choose from about 100 sweet treats (eidgets!).  It all became rather stressful at one point.

Eventually I settled on an almond cake which was divine.  Sweet perfection.  The game was now a bogey as far as a cakeless trip was concerned and this was the first on many sweet downfalls …….. the first is always the best!

THE CAMEMBERT

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The official cheese of Normandy – Camembert.  If you are going to have an official cheese then what a variety to have.  Camembert is served up in so many different ways in Normandy – from crepe fillings and moules camembert to salads, whole baked cheeses and pizza toppings!

My all time favourite Camembert creation was in a restaurant  in the beautiful town of Honfleur.  We sat by the harbour in the baking sun drinking ice cold cidre and eating a gorgeous crisp fresh salad topped with pieces of Camembert lovingly wrapped in filo pastry and deep fried  until the filo was warm and crisp and the cheese was molten.  The salad was topped with salty warm bacon. The best use of Camembert ever!

THE SUPERMARKETS

It is impossible to ‘whizz’ around a French supermarket or ‘pop in quickly’.  French supermarkets are there to be savoured and one must take ones time drinking in all the delicious food there is on offer.  We were relatively near a Hyper U and spent more time than is normal wandering around the ailes.  The cheeses, the array of cold cuts, the riot of colour in fresh produce, the wine, the cidre.  In an ideal world I would have dumped the husband and the kid  for an hour or two, and spend a few hours procuring items to take home with me in a spare suitcase sized cooler.  A girl can dream can’t she.

BEST OF THE REST

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Never underestimate the beauty of the simple croque monsieur.  I have had several and they never disappoint. Okay I do admit that this is really a glorified cheese and ham toastie but glorified it is none the less. The cheese is a fabulous gruyere, the ham is generally of superb quality, the bread is sweet and fluffy and it is fried up with a bubbling bechemal on the top. I find it hard to knock the humble croque monsieur.

In Arromanches I had the most wonderful Tarte Tatin I have ever tasted (not that I have tasted that many).  The pastry was so light and airy and the apples were ludicrously fresh and sweet. All of  that plus caramel and a dusting of icing sugar – divine.

In Falais, home to William the Conqueror I ate the most divine cheese cake of my life . The key was in the base which seemed to be made from a buttery salted caramel biscuit.  It was simultaneously crunchy, moist, sweet and salty.  This was a show stopper.

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I could of course go on …… but I am sure you have read enough so I will leave things there. Suffice say that the food in Normandy possibly surpassed Italy and that is saying something.  We are returning to France next year – this time to Brittany – watch this space….

 

 

 

 

 

 


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WHAT’S UP JANUARY?

Have you got the January blues?  Over here at Grumbling Tummy HQ I am feeling pretty chipper.  Despite being ‘under consultation’  (a cute new word for redundancy)  and being a few pounds heavier than I am comfortable with, all is pretty good.  As my granny said – the world is your oxter (its not a spelling mistake clever clogs – my granny was just a bit quirky)

So today I have decided to ramble on a bit about what is exciting me this January on the food front.

BIG BURNS SUPPER FESTIVAL IN DUMFRIES

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I am beyond excited to be heading off this weekend on my first ever ever bloggers trip,  visiting Dumfries for a weekend of food and tourism.  It is eagerly anticipated by both myself and my trusty assistant for the weekend (Miss P T who is along for the ride).  I actually can’t think of anything I would rather do than be away with my bestie tasting lovely food, seeing beautiful sights and meeting other bloggers .  The only thing jeopordising my happiness  is the snottery coughing husband and daughter at home.  I am trying to outrun the cold by dosing myself up on echinacia and vitamin C as well as generally trying to avoid my family where I can.  So far so good!

You may be aware that In 2015, Scotland will be celebrating the ‘The Year of Food and Drink’, showcasing the wonderful local produce and gastronomy we have to offer, from the land to the larder.  This trip celebrates all that is wonderful about Scottish food as well as well as marking the birth of the Bard at the Dumfries Big Burns Supper Festival. There is lots going on in Dumfries on Rabbie’s birthday weekend.  For more information on both the Big Burns Supper and Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink click here.  Big Burns Supper 2015 and here  Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink 2015.  There will of course be lots of blogging and tweeting galore around this trip – so more to follow.

CURRY NIGHT IN 

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January also marks the grand ‘curry night in’ at the De Vries household.  V who is a truly wonderful cook has been travelling back and forth to Dubai for a while and has accumulated an array of wonderful spices.  Whilst teasing me with talk of these powdery delights I announced a curry night round at their gaff.  Nothing like inviting ourselves.  I expect great things, especially as Santa gifted V the wonderful Persiana cook book for Christmas.

LET THEM EAT CAKE

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The best bit about my cakes is licking the spoon before anything hits the oven.  They always taste OK but a light and fluffy texture eludes me, besides I just don’t have the patience to get it spot on.  With that in mind I depend on the wonderful work of www.scottishperfections.com to create special occasion cakes for me. They are based in Fife and made this wonderful cake for my Dad’s 80th birthday lunch.  I have commissioned a Tinkerbell cake for my gals 5th birthday and can’t wait to see it.  B tuts a lot and would just as happily buy a cake from Asda,  but I can’t quite explain the pleasure I get from these works of wonder – and besides they taste so much better.

ANOTHER DAY ANOTHER DIET

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Despite claiming that all diets suck and that I am never every going on another diet ever ever again.  I am going on a diet.  I know, I know.  This time it is the turn of the GI diet.  A bit retro these days but it is pretty much sensible eating (which I have a bit of an issue with).  Clearly beginning this in earnest will be after the weekend detailed above.  I did this diet before and did quite well but that was back in the day when willpower seemed to be part of my mental make up.

For those of you who live under a stone and have not heard about the low GI diet, this is what expert Patrick Holford has to say about it.

“The secret to successful weight loss isn’t starving yourself; nor is it limiting your food choices or following a rigid pattern of eating. It is simply keeping your blood sugar balanced and your food choices healthy. This will not only help you to lose weight, but will also give you more energy and plenty of welcome side effects, such as better skin, improved digestion and enhanced mood.”

Here are the 5 commandments I need to try to follow

1. Eat plenty of fiber-rich vegetables , beans  and fruit
2. Limit potatoes to small side dishes.
3. Choose grains in their least processed states. For example, replace refined and white breads with stone-ground whole wheat, sourdough, or pumpernickel. Swap jasmine and arborio rice for basmati, brown, or long grain. Instead of processed cereals like cornflakes and instant oatmeal, stick with old-fashioned oats .
4. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, and drink no more than one cup of 100 percent fruit juice daily.
5. Consume protein and fat at most meals and snacks.

CLEAN EATING

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Dumfries marks a haitus in my attempts to eat clean, however after I have had my fill on that trip I will be back on the wagon and will aim to bring you some cleanish recipes.  This will kick off with a warming butter bean stew brought to us by the wonderful chef at Energise Body & Soul.  These guys run a luxury retreat in beautiful Northumberland and spend their time getting lucky residents into shape through healthy and nutritious meals,  bespoke fitness plans,  heaps of fresh air and hot tub relaxation. I hope to try a retreat myself in the coming months  …………  but for now I will cook!

 

In the mean time if you know of anybody who wants to hire an enthusiastic part time marketeer then you know where to find me!!  Happy rest of January guys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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THE SEVEN MEALS OF CHRISTMAS

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Christmas really was a festival of gluttony round at the Grumbling Tummy HQ.  It started off well but ended with both myself and B rolling around the lounge in a fug of chocolate lethargy, lifted only by the occasional cherry brandy.

I have actually been far too busy actively eating to blog but here is a quick catch up on how I managed to gain half a stone in 2 weeks.  Eat your heart out Katie Hopkins.

THE GALS LUNCH – CAFÉ MARLAYNE, EDINBURGH http://www.cafemarlayne.com/

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It all began with a rollicking gals lunch at the wonderful Café Marlayne in Thistle Street.  It’s a tiny bistro style restaurant and on that particular Sunday afternoon it was occupied (in the main)  by our party of girls in Christmas cracker crowns.  The food was rather overshadowed by lots of chat, general over excitement and wine.  You can read my review of Café Marlayne from a previous and more sedate occasion here: http://wp.me/p2NKGd-gQ

On the Menu: I dined on Boudin Noir with sautéed potatoes, bacon and mustard dressing.  I know that the boudin noir is actually from France and it is really lovely.  This was followed by a gorgeous beef dish which was melt in the mouth (the wine has impaired my recall of the name of said beef dish but it was delish) served up with seasonal vegetables.

DATE DAY – OROCCO PIER, SOUTH QUEENSFERRY  http://www.oroccopier.co.uk/

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The traditional Christmas date day with B came a mere two days later.  Bravely fighting sinusitis I agreed to earn my lunch by walking across the Forth Road Bridge to our lunch venue – Orroco Pier in South Queensferry. The star of the show at this stylish restaurant is without a doubt the view.  It is nothing short of breath-taking.  We had the best seat in the house and watched the sun set and the rail bridge light up as we enjoyed our feast.  buoyed up by Nurofen with codeine (genius).

On the Menu: we kicked off the date with a mulled cider for me and a mulled beer for B.  The Mulled beer won the day both for being unique and for its spiced honey notes.  After an acceptable starter of prawns I moved onto a traditional turkey lunch.  This is the only time I ate turkey over the whole season and it was lovely.  It was all finished off with an enormous cheese plate which included a delectable runny brie.  All washed down with prosecco and wine.

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THE BIG DAY – THE RUSSELL HOTEL, ST ANDREWS  http://www.russellhotelstandrews.co.uk/

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Feeling a little rotund at this point, our next big day out was the 25th– Merry Christmas.  Following my tradition of eating scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and oodles of lemon juice, we made our way via the folks to the Russell Hotel in St Andrews. The Russell is the sort of hotel that inspires loyalty.  On booking we requested the same table as 2013 and lo and behold so did the threesome next to us.  It was deja vu but in the best possible way. My only complaint about this stonking 4 course meal is that ALL of the portions were way too big.

On the Menu:  It went something like this: duck liver and plum pate served with home-made oatcakes which were curiously sweet but rather nice.  I suspect this oatcake would have been just as happy dipped in a cup of tea.  This was followed by a spiced sweet potato soup which was pretty good but a wee meal in itself.  I then moved on to Roast Ribeye of Prime Scottish Beef with a Wild Mushroom, Shallot & Madeira Jus & Yorkshire Pudding.  This was divine and melt in the mouth.  Feeling it a bit I considered skipping dessert but in for a penny in for a pound as they say – bring on the Christmas pudding complete with sparkler!  All washed down with copious amounts of red wine.  Why was my waist band digging in I pondered?  Why indeed.

BOXING DAY LUNCH WITH THE DE VRIES CLAN –  SWEET CHESTNUT, DUNFERMLINE

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Oh but we were nowhere near finished yet.  A trip to our local carvery was the main event on boxing day along with our friends and assorted children.  I had quite a lot of wine at this lunch  …… because I could! The relatively new Sweet Chestnut which is part of the Marstons pub chain, serves perfectly good fayre in a child friendly environment which was just what we needed.

On the Menu: I wanted to have breaded mushrooms with a garlic dip however most of the little shrooms were naked by the time I ate them.  My darling daughter having stolen their crispy coating by the time they got to my mouth. They were followed by a rather pleasant vegetarian fandango with all the trimmings including an oversized Yorkshire pudding.

SPOT OF LUNCH DARLING – KUSHIS, DUNFERMLINE http://www.khushis.com/

On the 27th I was beginning to experience that toxic feeling where everything is just a little bit pudgy and out of kilter.  Remember that in-between these meals out there was the chocolate mountain at home. However I did not feel bad enough to argue with “shall we have a spot of lunch at Kushis darling”.  I like Kushis as a lunchtime venue – they do a cracking deal and thankfully the portion sizes are relatively small.

On the Menu: vegetable pakora and popadoms of course followed by chicken korma.  Washed down with a bottle of beer.

PARENTAL VISIT  – THE ADAMSON,  ST ANDREWS  http://theadamson.com/

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A visit to my parents on the 29th marked my favourite meal out over the whole holiday season.  The Adamson in St Andrews is just a bloody good restaurant with amazing food which is absolutely consistently fabulous every time you go.  It looks the business, the staff are fantastic, the presentation of the food is sublime and it always tastes like heaven.  I cannot recommend the Adamson enough.

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On the menu: I felt smug starting with their superfood salad  – this is a veritable health explosion of beetroot, walnuts, squash, quinoa, lentils, pomegranates and yoghurt dressing. I then ordered the blade of beef with confit potato,  pear tart, spinach and red wine sauce.  This rendered me speechless.  Not an easy thing to achieve.

AULD YEAR’S NIGHT, THE PETTINGER THOMSONS, EDINBURGH

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Food and entertainment on this auspicious occasion was provided by the Pettinger Thomsons.  We started off by popping in to the free family celidh at the Chambers Street Museum – huge amounts of fun.

There was good food, party poppers, happy children, plenty of fizz, giggles, fireworks and slight hangovers the next day.  All good!

On the menu: We started with two of my favourite foods – scallops and chorizo – yum! Mr Pettinger had been busy in the kitchen the day before preparing the main event and  his now famous beef bourguignon which was served with Miss Thomsons equally famous potato dauphinoise.  This was accompanied by green beans and a delicate swedge of puffed pastry.  After a fair smattering of prosecco (we brought along a magnum) I was the only one with space for homemade sticky toffee pudding with oodles of sauce and cream.

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So that was it for eating out and being entertained – wafer thin mint anybody?

I didn’t even include the Christmas drinks on the 20th where I gorged on little spiced Thai chicken sticks and camembert or the day when I invited the same friends around to feast on mince pies, chocolate marzipan, cinnamon stars and wine.

Now as wonderful as it has been a line has finally been drawn.  Enough is enough.  My waist line is bulging (and that is putting it politely), my hair has lost its shine and despite a very posh new moisturiser my skin is flagging.  As much of 75% of your body is made up of water I believe, however I fear that most of my water has been replaced with baileys, prosecco, red wine, cherry brandy and amaretto.  I am done!

Christmas was a whole heap of tasty fun but like any ride it must come to an end.  In January I am ditching the nonsense and trying to eat clean rather than down right dirty.  Expect the blog to fill up with clean eating, nutritious soups and stews, refreshing smoothies and salads with pizzaz.

Keep tuned in!


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La bonne bouffe en Belgique

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One of the many chocolatiers in the Galerie st Hubert

Roughly translated as great grub in Belgium which is what this post is all about.

A couple of weeks ago my mum and I took off for a mini break in Belgium.  She was mostly interested in the shopping and I was mostly interested in the food.  I had heard that the food in Belgium was outstanding and with national treasures such as chips, chocolate, waffles and beer it is easy to understand why.

We did not have the most auspicious start to the trip from a gastronomic point of view.  Half an hour before our flight my poor mum was to be found in the public conveniences being a little bit sick – a wee bug we thought (actually the onset of shingles!) My hopes of eating our way around Belgium began to fade.  However she is a trooper and thankfully rallied pretty quickly – onwards and upwards – quite literally.

We were staying at the fantastic Dominican Hotel which is bang smack in the centre of Brussels.  It is a Boutique Hotel full of design genius and quite possibly the nicest gaff I have ever had the pleasure to stay in.

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Hotel Dominican – the courtyard

This is of course a food blog not a travel blog so first of all a word about chocolate.  In Brussels the chocolatiers are impressive both in quality and quantity.

 Belgian chocolates are rated as some of the best in the world and believe you me they take it all very seriously!  There are thousands of varieties to choose from, Truffles and pralines galore and of course  with Easter only a week away they had gone all out with fantastic eggs, some of them larger than my four year old!  The  Galerie Royale St Hubert is a stunningly beautiful and achingly sophisticated walkway which houses a selection of restaurants and shops  and It is also choc-a-bloc with chocolatiers – yum!

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Easter madness

I bought some chocolate (of course) but there is no need to put your hands in your pockets to sample this Belgian speciality.  Samples abound in the choccy shops of course but the real treat was the amount of freebies you are given in coffee shops along with your drink.  In one memorable and rather adorable tea room in Bruges we ordered a coffee and were given 4 chocolates and a flourish of whipped cream to boot.  It seemed rather excessive but you will not find me complaining about such decadence.

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Free chocolates with coffee and cake – obscene but we liked it

 

We were based in Brussels but we travelled to both Bruges and Ghent and it was in Bruges that I sampled the best waffle I have come across.  Again we were in a coffee shop which dished out chocolates willy nilly (cue sugar rush) but it was the waffle with chocolate sauce, banana and cream that stole the show for me.  The waffle was large (always a very good start) and light as air.  The banana made me feel worthy and who can resist lashing of warm silky Belgian chocolate sauce and whipped cream.  “Do you know you can buy waffle machines?” said mum.  I tried to ignore her and I am still trying to ignore that such wonders exist – it would be a very bad idea for me to be able to recreate such splendour in my own home.

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Heaven was found in Bruges

 

A word about eating in the right place and eating in the wrong place.  Everybody knows that you should never ever eat in  the restaurants with all the lovely outside seating around the main squares.  Great for a drink but when it comes to eating you are looking at daylight robbery for  rather substandard produce.  But for some inexplicable reason we found ourselves doing just that in Bruges.  It was at this average establishment that I came across the Croque Bolognese.  I am not sure what I expected but I was a little taken aback when I received a standard Croque Monsieur with big dollops of  bolognaise all over the top of it – literally.  I couldn’t help but wonder what John Torode would have said about this had it turned up in the Master Chef kitchen.  It was two meals in one and the bolognaise make the toast all soppy.  It didn’t actually taste too bad – it was just really odd! Finished it all to make sure there was something else in my tummy apart from a great big goblet of Leffe Blonde.

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It is an obscenity really but I ate it all up

I once went to Verona and after perusing the beautiful shoe shops  I settled on a pair of black boots.  Leather boots from Italy, how fabulous I thought, Italian leather I thought.  I thought wrong!  On getting the boots back home I noted that they were “made in India”  There is a point to this story.  We stumbled across the most achingly Belgian cafe in Brussels located in the Galerie St Hubert.  Let me paint you a picture – artisan breads lined up behind the counter, coffee and hot chocolate served in bowls not cups, everything is organic, everything is wonderful,  it is my absolutely perfect cafe.  Each day I have a huge bowl of oats with almond milk, cranberries and walnuts – it is divine.  Mum feasts on organic boiled eggs with artisan sourdough soldiers.  I looked forward to breakfast every day – this cafe was an absolute highlight for me.  One of a kind, what a find.  Except it wasn’t!  When I got home and goggled this fantastic venue to rekindle memories I realise that it is indeed a chain.  There are dotted all around Europe and there is some in London.  So although it is still absolutely wonderful it is not quite as unique as I had hoped.  If you are in London or Europe then you ought to give it a try – there is one in Notting Hill!  Le Pain Quotidien

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I loved this cafe – not quite a unique as I thought

 

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Artisan breads and pastries galore

 

 

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Oats, rice milk, walnuts and cranberries – breakfast of champions – and me!

 

The other stand out meal was in a little brasserie recommended by the staff in our hotel, they promised a taste of Belgium.  It was called ARCADI and was a small bustling Bistro serving delicious and affordable food and seemed to be frequented by lots of locals, always a very good sign.  The tables were small and a little bit cramped but I thought it all just added to the old style Brasserie feel.  Food here is simple and tasty.  I opted for a crepe with chicken and vegetables and mum opted for the famous chicken vol-au-vent with fries.  My crepe was extraordinarily tasty considering the inside included spicing rather than a sauce and the vol-au-vent looked sublime.  It is true what they say about fries in Belgium – they are special – so so crisp on the outside and beautifully fluffy on the inside.  Tis a rare gift.  The staff were friendly, the wine was flowing and the lemon meringue pie to finish was fit for a king.

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The wonderful Arcadi

 

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Vol-au-vent and chips – how deliciously 1980s and very Belgian

Some notes to finish off

A note on chips – I planned to have a big poke of chips slathered in mayonnaise at some point in my trip.  Not a difficult thing to achieve considering these are offered on every corner, but it just didn’t happen!  I even visited the chip museum and learned that French Fries were so-called because American soldiers mistakenly thought that they saw French soldiers making them when they were in fact Belgian.  But when it came to the cafe selling fries at the end of the tour I had to decline having just eaten the croque bolognese obscenity and a vat of beer!

A note about beer – bloody love Belgian beer.  Pretty much stuck to the blonde beers and as I was with mum it was not a boozy break but what I had was glorious.  Nothing beats a glass of beer the size of your head in the sunshine.

Note on Ghent –  go there!  It is truly beautiful and a bit more real than Bruges, which to my mind is a very pretty outdoor museum with lots of shops. Ghent is amazing and I will return.

Final note on Belgium  – it is a superb place to visit.  Most people  looked at me blankly when I said I was going there for a long weekend.  The unspoken word was WHY?  I will tell you why:  it is clean, sophisticated, beautiful, friendly, historical,  a shopping heaven, cultural and best of all it has great food.

 

Beautiful Ghent

 

 

 

 

 


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2014 FOOD FESTIVALS – MAKE A DATE

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Here are the 2014 dates for all these fantastic foodie events going on this summer and beyond.  So grab your diary and save the date.

Again this year I apologies to my friends south of the border – there is just too much going on down there to list.  I hope that you might be tempted to pack your weekend bag and take a trip to try out the bonny festivals North of the border …

Have I missed an event?  Let me know and I will add it in

TASTE OF GRAMPIAN 7 JUNE  THAINSTONE CENTRE, INVERURIE  http://www.tasteofgrampian.co.uk

One day event giving you the opportunity to meet local producers and sample the food from Grampians larder.  Expect beautiful smoked salmon, creamy fudge, shortbread and much more.

OPEN FARM SUNDAY  8 JUNE  http://www.farmsunday.org 

This is free and takes place in locations across Scotland.  Farms open their doors or should I say gates to allow visitors to experience the smells of the farmyard and really get in touch with the land that feeds us. So come and feed your senses on Open Farm Sunday. At a farm near you.

CRAIL FOOD FESTIVAL 14 & 15 JUNE  http://crailfoodfest.co.uk/

This great two-day festival includes an indoor food market with the addition of a Tasting Hall this year. You can also learn to cook up s storm at the Chef’s Theatre, take part in the popular lunch at the Harbour and for little ones there is a full children’s programme planned. It’s a cracking one to go along to and this blogger is again proud to be part of the blogging team – watch out for my very cheesy post!

 

HOPETOUN HOUSE HORSE TRIALS AND COUNTRY FAIR  26th – 29th JUNE http://hopetounhorsetrials.co.uk/

For a really relaxed day out listening to a spot of live music and eating some fab food head to the Hopetoun Country Fair.  For many the main draw of the weekend is the horse trials but I can take or leave neighing beasts. For me it is all about the food.  It is a small festival with a big personality.  You will find great food to taste and once you settle down in the beautiful surroundings you won’t want to move.  This was a winner for me last year.  Read the blog about it https://thegrumblingtummy.org/2013/08/12/a-litte-festival-with-a-big-personality/

 

AFTERNOON TEA ON A STEAM TRAIN – throughout the summer http://www.bkrailway.co.uk/

Ok so not a festival but a great thing to do and worthy of a mention on my summer food list.   Enjoy a traditional afternoon tea of freshly made sandwiches, cakes and homemade scones with clotted cream and Scottish jam served with a pot of coffee or tea aboard a lovingly restored steam train.

 

ROYAL HIGHLAND SHOW 19 – 22 JUNE http://royalhighlandshow.org/

Foodies – trot past the tractors and  coos and head straight for the food hall where there are almost 100 companies featuring their quality products as well as a line-up of some of Scotland’s top chefs demonstrating their culinary skills.  The Highland Show is a fantastic day out (especially if the sun shines). Its a busy one thought so sharpen these elbows.  It is also not the cheapest festival in town but well worth it.

PITTENWEEM ARTS FESTIVAL  2 – 10 AUGUST http://www.pittenweemartsfestival.co.uk

Not a  food festival of course BUT it is one of my favourite festivals of the year (not only because it was where I grew up long before  there was a sniff of an arts scene).  In between seeing the art EAT some food.  There is a big tent selling top-notch grub down at the harbour and various fabulous places to hang out for cake and coffee too.  Finish your day off with fish and chips from Pittenweem’s chippy.

FOODIES FESTIVAL 8,9,10 AUGUST http://foodiesfestival.com/event/edinburgh-inverleith-park/

This huge foodie event is again held in Edinburgh’s Inverleith Park.  It really is a must for any foodie.  As well as hundreds of stands showcasing fabulous local produce there is a cake and bake theatre, chefs theatre, a children’s cooking theatre,  pop up restaurants and so much  more.  I somehow managed to find myself in VIP section last year with fizz – fingers and toes crossed for this year!

DUNDEE FLOWER AND FOOD FESTIVAL 5 – 7 SEPTEMBER https://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/event/42

Despite all my good intentions I missed this wee gem last year and hope to rectify the situation this year.  This three-day (ticketed) event  is Tayside’s top lifestyle event.  The Festival offers the best in food, horticulture and live entertainment, with a packed weekend programme including free cookery and gardening demonstrations, children’s activities, a craft fair, live music and TV celebrities. Now what’s not to love about that.

ABERDOUR FESTIVAL  1 August – 10 August http://www.aberdourfestival.org.uk/

This is the second non specifically food festival I have included. I briefly lived in Aberdour and really liked this festival and it does include food – honest.  There is a beach day where you can partake of the BBQ whilst watching the fabulous regatta, eat home made cakes which are always on sale and it is always nice to watch people struggle on the Donkey Brae Run whilst you sip on pimms and munch a puddledub burger (hope Puddledub are there this year – they normally are!)

FORTH BRIDGES FESTIVAL EVENT – SCOTLAND INVITES THE WORLD FOR LUNCH – 6  September

http://www.forthbridgesfestival.com/events/scotland-welcomes-the-world-to-lunch/

This particular event is part of the ten day Forth Bridges Festival where heaps of exciting things are going on. This lunch takes place in both North and South Queensferry and commemorates the first Forth Bridge crossing in 1964. Visitors and local diners will enjoy a delicious taste of Scottish food and drink at decorated tables  set up in both towns, linked via large screens . The  food will have a distinctly 1960’s flavour and guests will be encouraged to dress in 1960’s garb.   As well as the lunch there will be a food market.  All in all this sounds like a great fun and rather unique event.  Keep an eye on the website for details on tickets.

HUNTLY HAIRST FOOD AND FARMING FESTIVAL – 6 & 7 SEPTEMBER http://www.huntlyhairst.co.uk/

Huntly Hairst is a great celebration of local producers, food and farming.  I am a bit early in posting my events listing this year and Huntly Hairst have not confirmed there programme of events as yet but safe to say it will include a big old farmers market an a variety of competitions for those who reckon they are a dab hand at baking!

LOCH LOMOND FOOD AND DRINK FESTIVAL 6 & 7 SEPTEMBER  http://www.lochlomondfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk/

This festival, now in its ninth year promises “tasty trials, sumptuous suppliers, festival fun and interesting information” .  20,000 folk flock to the area for this festival  – that in itself speaks volumes.  Definitely going into my diary.

SCOTTISH FOOD AND DRINK FORTNIGHT 6 – 21 SEPTEMBER  http://www.scottishfoodanddrinkfortnight.co.uk/

A luscious fourteen days celebrating all that is fabulous about Scottish produce.  There are tastings and special events across the country so keep an eye out on the website for more details nearer the time.

GOLDEN SPURTLE PORRIDGE MAKING CHAMPIONSHIPS  4 OCTOBER http://www.goldenspurtle.com/

The 21st annual World Porridge Making Championships will take place in the Scottish Highland village of Carrbridge. So good it has to go on the list.

BBC GOOD FOOD SHOW 17 – 19 OCTOBER  http://www.bbcgoodfoodshowscotland.com/

Head over to this blinding event at the SECC. Its huge and you should get your elbows at the ready but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  It is one of the best places to try and buy the best of Scotland.  In attendance amongst others – Ade Edmondson, James Martin, James Morton, John Torode,  a lone hairy biker, Tony Singh.  To be honest John Torode alone would make me part with my cash.

 

ST ANDREWS FOOD AND DRINK FESTIVAL 22 NOVEMBER – 6 DECEMBER (provisional dates)

http://foodfest.visitstandrews.com/

This is a  grand celebration of  Fife’s wonderful produce, natural larder and renowned chefs.  There will be chef demonstrations, tastings, special Festival menus in venues across town, an extended Fife Farmers’ Market with pop-up restaurant, and events involving a wide range of delicacies.

 


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The Lust List

image of St Monans East Pier Smokehouse & Cafe provided by www.avocadosweet.com

image of St Monans East Pier Smokehouse & Cafe provided by http://www.avocadosweet.com

This is quite simply a list of the restaurants I would most like to visit (at the moment) and my reasons why. Just to make your mouth water I have also given a flavour of their wares by including what I would choose from their current menu.  I am starting small  but I have no doubt that this list will grow arms and legs as the year goes on.

The Lust List though short is diverse,  from decorated restaurants  to rustic al-fresco dining and locations stretching from my home county of Fife down to my beloved North Yorkshire.

I would be  keen to find out if you have visited any of these restaurants and if so what you thought of them.  Also please let me know which eateries are on your Lust List.

I plan to create a page on the blog for the Lust List so that I can add to it as time goes by and include links to  reviews, should I be lucky enough to be a patron of these fine establishments.

Without further ado …

CHAMPANY INN

Linlithgow  – www.champany.com

champanayIf you live in Scotland the chances are you have heard of the Champany Inn,  which is located in the hamlet of Champany just outside the historic market town of Linlithgow.  This luxury restaurant with rooms is described as a “haven of excellence” and indeed they were the proud winners of Restaurant of the Year Award 2013 (CIS Excellence Awards).

Beef, Beef, Beef.  That is what the Champany Inn is all about and they do it to perfection.  There is a Chop & Ale House for a faster and  possibly less expensive meal but no, not for me.  If I am going to dine here I want the full candlelit experience.  I want to sit in the bar with an aperitif and gaze with wonder at the rock pool (yes in the bar) which contains oysters and lobster from Loch Gruinart ready to be fished out fresh for surf and turf!  I want to wander past the chill cabinet on the way to the restaurant where magnificent cuts of beef are displayed and know that this is where my meat will come from.  I want to experience the old world charm and opulence of this famed restaurant – and at only £22.50 for a Monday to Friday quick lunch I just might!

What would I eat?

In for lunch (lets face it, it would be lunch) – Stilton salad followed by the Champany Pot Roast and topped off with Hot Malted Waffles (worth cancelling my embargo on sweet treats for one thinks)

THE ENDEAVOUR

Staithes,  North Yorkshire – www.endeavour-restaurant.co.uk

staithes-from-cowbarMy first date with my B was a weekend away (yes really) to the pretty little seaside village of Staithes in North Yorkshire.  We stayed in the rather cold “True Love Cottage” and had whale of a time. On our first visit to Staithes there was no restaurant and I remember  chittering with cold in a phone box attempting to order pizza to be delivered to the Cod and Lobster pub!

In subsequent visits I couldn’t help but notice that a rather lovely restaurant had popped up – The Endeavour.  The Endeavour is housed in a 200 year old building and consists of a dining room and 4 en suite rooms.

It is a stylish sort of place – all egyptian cotton sheets and Farrow and Ball paint.  The food looks rather splendid as well with fresh fish,  lobster and locally sourced meat. To be honest they don’t have the best website so information is scant,  but I have peered in the windows and studied the menu which has resulted in its inclusion in my foodie lust list.

The lovely picture is you will see not of the restaurant (could not find one decent one) but of the lovely village of Staithes.

B if you are reading –  I am thinking for the next big birthday – a night here with food – revisiting the start of it all!

What would I eat?

Grilled goats cheese served with homemade onion compote followed by King Scallop ‘Cardinale’ – King Scallops sauteed with shallots, mushroom, tomato and garlic served in a pastry case finished off with a Strawberry and Raspberry Pavlova.

THE LOBSTER SHACK

North Berwick harbour  – www.lobstershack.co.uk

shackOne glorious summers day 2 years ago we discovered the Lobster Shack in North Berwick.  Coffers were running low and lobster was not on our agenda that day, but this  al-fresco dining experience has been on my lust list ever since.

It is indeed a small shack, set up at the side of the ludicrously quaint old harbour. Interestingly the Lobster Shack was one of the inspirations for James Robb who is the proud owner of the East Pier Cafe (also on the lust list).

The Lobster Shack is the perfect setting on a balmy day to enjoy fish as fresh as it comes  – from boat to plate – washed down with a crisp white wine. You can either sit on one of the tables and chairs dotted around the harbour or head to the beach with your super posh lobster lunch. This coming summer I do believe I have a date with the Lobster Shack.

What would I eat?

Fresh North Berwick Lobster with garlic and herb butter served with homemade chips and mixed leaves along with a large chilled glass of Pino Grigio Via Nova.

 POMEGRANATE RESTAURANT

Edinburgh – www.pomegranatesrestaurant.com

pomThe bright and contemporary Pomegranate is owned by the team behind the award winning restaurant Haman.  As you may have guessed the speciality here is food from the middle east –  Morocco, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.

Olives, pitta, honey, sesame, dates, mint, chickpeas, sumac, aubergines, mint and lamb – I absolutely love the fragrant flavours of Middle Eastern cuisine.

Here you can either indulge in a selection of hot and cold mezze dishes such as Hummus Shawarma (hummus topped with thin marinated slices of  lamb fillet) and Baly Merishke (lemon scented chicken wings straight from the BBQ) or you can order from the utterly delicious array of main courses including the wonderful sounding Chicken Koobideh (minced chicken breast, marinated in tomatoes and turmeric with a hint of green chilli & parsley).

I am writing this knowing that all I have for dinner tonight is some home made tuna fish cakes and I feel a growing sense of dissatisfaction with my lot.  I want spice and fragrance and oomph – ach well!

I think that this would be a fantastic venue for a girly get together so girls if you are reading – this is my next suggestion!

What would I eat?

I would opt for the mezze style of eating  

Dish one –  Fatoush  – Lebanese style salad with shredded lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, radish, fresh
mint and cubes of toasted flatbread, seasoned with Iranian summac

Dish two – Soujuk – spicy Lebanese sausages sautéed in tomato, green pepper, garlic and chilli

Dish three –  Bayengaan – slow roasted baby aubergines, stuffed with rice, yoghurt & traditional spice

THE EAST PIER SMOKEHOUSE & CAFE

St Monans, Fife –  www.eastpier.co.uk

East_Pier_Inside_avocadosweet.com_This may not be on the hit list for long as there are whispers in the Cameron household of a visit very soon.

I was brought up in Pittenweem which is only a mile away from St Monans, and am delighted that The East Neuk now has a phenomenal reputation for fantastic local food – the secret is out!  This particular eatery was recommended by my friend Rachel, who is a lady of exceptional taste – its a goody!

The North Berwick Lobster Shack (also appearing on the Lust List) and a Prawn Shack in New Mexico were the inspiration behind the East Pier Cafe which is run by James Robb.  It’s canteen style service makes this the antithesis of fine dining.  You place your order, wait for your food then find yourself a seat.  Here it is all about the food and from what I can see the decor ain’t half bad too.  It is achingly simple seaside chic; all exposed white rafters, French stove and windows looking out to sea.  What better setting to enjoy the freshest seafood in town.

There is a great review of this cafe over on www.avocadosweet.com .  They also allowed me to use this lovely picture – thanks guys.

What would I eat?

In for lunch – smoked Pittenweem Langoustines with herb mayonnaise and lemon

In for dinner (£18.50 2 courses) – Seared scallops with a Vanilla Chilli dressing followed by Smoked fish curry with Salmon, Haddock and Mussels

THE ADAMSON 

St Andrews – www.theadamson.com

adamsonThe Adamson is housed in the the old post office building in the heart of St Andrews . Although the building is historic the interior is very contemporary and sophisticated with clean lines, tastefully exposed brick and great lighting.

St Andrews has a superb reputation for good eating and I hope this new kid on the block is just as good as my current St Andrews Faves.  The credentials are looking good with Julie Lewis, who includes a stint with Martin Wishart in her impressive cv,  heading up the team.   At the helm in the kitchen you will find a man who was good enough to impress Gregg Wallace and John Torode –  Scott Davies was the runner up in the 2013 programme ‘Masterchef: the Professionals’.

The food is  classic brasserie cooking with a modern twist and the menu is pretty extensive.

What Would I eat?

I would nibble on a mini baked loaf with olive tapenade, olive oil and balsamic vinegarfollowed by a Roast Chicken Salad – beetroot, smoked almonds, squash, baby spinach and lentil dressing

I think I might find it hard to resist having a dollop of Rum & Raisin ice cream (my favourite flavour)

THE TIEL

Auchtertool – www.tielrestaurant.co.uk


teilThe Tiel is located in a tiny village a stones throw from where I live in Dunfermline.  B and I ventured into this little inn years ago for a very nice pint but it has since been completely refurbished and metamorphosed into a very desirable  restaurant.

I have heard whispers about this restaurant and it appears to be a bit of an undiscovered gem.  Then again perhaps I am just the last to hear about it, wouldn’t be the first time.

To be honest The Tiel had me at the mention of Sunday newspapers and roaring fires but it is fair to say that the food is reputed to pack a punch as well.  At ‘The Tiel’ they promise “good honest quality food” with a focus on sustainability, freshness and seasonality.

The Teil looks relaxed, informal and charming and a good restaurant so close to home is manna from heaven.

What would I eat?

From the lunch menu:

Chicken skewers steeped in a fiery ‘bang bang ‘marinade with crispy salad of leaves, cantaloupe
melon, beansprouts topped with sesame seeds

Followed by  breaded monkfish medallions served with chips, house salad and a tartar and dill sauce


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Savoury Scones – bring on the sub

sconeOver the Christmas break I ate  a lot of sugar.  This was not your run of the mill indulgence in Christmas cake  and the odd  box of roses, this was gluttony of the highest order.

Mid way through the holidays I was forced to  retire to bed due to ‘overdoing’ it with a certain banoffee pie, but this was not  the last straw for me (it really ought to have been).  The last straw came when I could not manage a second piece of  stollen at the home a friend.  I felt weak, shaky and nauseas – think it is referred to as a sugar hangover.  This particular stollen hailed from a small family bakers in Germany and was exquisite. I was unable to take one more bite!  I was done.

I have talked on the blog before about my failure to find my sugar off switch and my belief that it is addictive (for some at least).  Seems I am an early adopter for once as this view seems to be everywhere just now.

So yet again I took the decision to ditch added sugar as much as I could.  No sweets, cakes, chocolate or biscuits, as little processed food as possible (never going to ditch ketchup), and rejecting any food that has sugar in the top three ingredients.

I draw the line on fruit – fruit is good for you and I can’t cope with the idea that fruit is in any way evil.

Trouble is I find giving up these things harder than giving up smoking and harder than tackling a dry January, so roll in the substitutes!

My favourite substitute ‘de moment’ is SAVOURY SCONES.  They look cakey, they feel cakey and despite being savoury they taste sort of cakey.

I got started with a fantastically simple recipe from www.bbcgoodfood.co.uk for Mediterannean Scones which were flavoured with olives, sun dried tomatoes and lovely crumbly feta.  Served warm with lashings of salty butter these would be brilliant as part of a savoury spread of continental meats and cheeses,  but also worked brilliantly on their own with a nice cup of mint tea and as a nice breakfast alternative.  I was hooked! They take about 10 minutes to make, 20 minutes to cook and they taste superb.

I started to experiment buy adding alternative ingredients.  So far I have tried:

  • Grated Cheddar and Courgette
  • Parmesan and Spring Onion
  • Pancetta and Parmesan

You can find the recipe on http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1867/mediterranean-scones.

Have you any other great ideas for savoury scones?  Tell me and I will try them, I am on a roll.