thegrumblingtummy

"No love sincerer than the love of food"


Leave a comment

Eating Northumberland

On Thursday the Grumbling Tummy ensemble headed down to Northumberland to spend some time with the lovely Pettinger-Thomson’s who were holidaying for a week in Embleton.  The PT’s are brilliant at sharing their  holidays with us and food and wine always plays a starring role in proceedings.

The weary travellers arrived at 6 on Thursday to the welcome call of “cheese straws anyone” from Senior PT,  who has a  penchant for these buttery treats.  Cheese straws down the hatch, followed by a much welcomed glass of red and it was time to get the kiddy’s  to bed and tuck into the feast being prepared.

I am a strictly one pot cook who flaps at the idea of juggling timings of several dishes.  Cat, chief cook of the PT brigade is however the queen of cooking many dishes at once and producing an array of scrumptious dibbley-dabs.  The whole kitchen was bathed in the aroma of exotic spices as Cat nonchalantly cooked up an Indian feast.

Photo 28-03-2013 20 35 40Using a lethal Delia/Jamie combo we were treated to two different types of rice, home-make vegetable pakora, chicken and chickpea korma, red onion salad, chappatis and naan bread.    It was to quote the youngsters “amazeballs”.  Spicy, zingy and moreish!  The pakora had some surprise hunks of chilli lying in wait to blow your head off but that was brilliant too and there was plenty of the red stuff to dilute any spice shocks we encountered.

Photo 28-03-2013 20 34 44 Photo 28-03-2013 20 35 20

After staying up till 2am putting the world to rights over far to many glasses of red wine with Cat, I was what one might call crispy the next day, otherwise known as hungover to buggery!  Food was going to be a kill or cure experiment.  Following a bracing walk along Embleton beach we found ourselves in Seahouses which is a slightly faded wee Northumberland coastal town.  Extreme temperatures mixed with tiny tots led us to the indoor play area, much to the horror of senior PT!  Soon however there was happy faces all round as we sipped hot chocolate and watched our mad children throw themselves around the soft play area.  Too hungover to move we decided to stay in the indoor play emporium to eat.  This may surprise you considering my horror of food in soft play areas but this was an entirely different proposition.  You see,  it was owned by the same folk that had the fish and chip shop next door and guess what the soft play menu consisted of?  Result!

Three fish and chips and one scampi and chips set things right for the weary troops.  I had the scampi which was crisp and golden on the outside and all roasty toasty and soft on the inside, with oodles of tartar sauce to dip.  The chips weren’t the crispiest but I was hungover so they were a gastronomical delight as far as I was concerned.Photo 29-03-2013 13 24 36

A quick look at the beautiful Bamburgh Castle and it was time to bid farewell to the PTs.  We had only travelled a few miles however when we felt the need to stop off once again for re-fuelling.  This time in a tiny and rather odd little farm tearoom called ‘The Oxford’.  It was off the beaten track and the sunny conservatory was empty but for one lovely local couple.  This little tearoom was a gem – tea served in lovely big flowery pots and a limited but tasty choice of sweet and savoury treats all made on the premises, using produce from the farm.  Millionaires Shortbread for me which hit the spot and a rather  impressive meringue and ice-cream with a strawberry coulis for B.

We were so impressed with the beauty of Northumberland that we are looking at going back in September for a week of  beaches and gastronomic pleasure!

Advertisements


1 Comment

Do You Remember the First time?

As you grow up your life is full of  firsts that leave their indelible mark – first kiss, first love …

But this of course is a blog about food so I am going to take  you along with me on a nostalgic journey,  revisiting some of the foodie firsts that have made their mark on me.

One of my very first food memories is of Ketchup, which I discovered aged 4. I have no idea why I hadn’t experienced Ketchup before then, perhaps my family were just HP junkies.  Mum had rather bravely taken me on holiday to Jersey on her own for a ten-day break in a lovely hotel in St Helier.  Amongst the memories of feeding orangutans in the zoo, mum contracting food poisoning, choking on an ice cube,  and my beloved ‘Jersey Ted’ is the memory of my saucey discovery .   I can’t  really remember if I loved the taste of it back then but  that is almost irrelevant – I was 4 and it was a truly wonderful thing that came in a red plastic squeeze bottle.  I can take or leave tomato sauce these days, but sometimes when I dip a chip in it I see that little girl with the funny little page-boy haircut being excited about the discovery of   this exotic brightly coloured condiment on  (almost) foreign soil.

In common with many kids I hated vegetables.  The unimaginative use of veg in the early 80’s didn’t aid the cause much,medium_27079122 boiled to oblivion and plonked onto the plate as a necessary evil.  Mum and dad being good parents would ensure I got my veg quota by employing ingenious yet devious methods such as blending them with more palatable foods.  My status as committed veg hater was about to change when we attended a  family wedding at the Grosvenor in Glasgow.  Adorned in a straw boater and lace gloves I felt quite the thing as I took my place at the kids table.  We were served tender roast beef,  crisp roast potatoes and a curious green bundle which was totally unfamiliar to me.  Despite my trepidation on discovering that this was indeed a vegetable, peer pressure made me taste it.  It was amazing, I loved a vegetable, and that vegetable was BROCCOLI .

Zip forward to my 20’s – I once accompanied my manager in a London trip to attend a meeting, and we were taken out  to a lovely Thai Restaurant for lunch.  I had never tasted Thai food, seen Thai food or even considered Thai food before –  I had no idea what to expect.   My first thought when the Green curry arrived was that they were a bit off the mark on their rice cooking (surely it ought to be fluffy) and that their sauce could probably do with a dab of cornflour (so thin).  Then I tasted it – OH MY!  I was stunned by Thai food and still am.  I adored the delicate yet spicy flavours, the sweetness of the rice, the creamy coconut milk.  Thai became my favourite type of food there and then and I am pleased to say it is still up there.

medium_265546693Friends can be great for introducing you to new experiences.  My mate Charlotte has taught me a lot about food over the years, and  although I have caught up now, her tastes were much more sophisticated than mine when we were in our 20’s and early 30’s.  She introduced me to the dark art of shelling prawns  (which had always terrified me) Over a lunch at Browns in Edinburgh a combination of wine and Charlotte gave me the courage to order a plate of the critters, which she then taught me to expertly shell.  Doesn’t seem like a big thing but for me it was a revelation. I bloody love big fat juicy prawns with lemon juice squirted all over them , eating with my hands and getting acceptably messy.  I can’t quite believe I was approaching 30 before I tried them.

I had always “quite” liked black pudding but Stornoway Black Pudding is something else entirely.  I first tasted this on a trip home from Skye around 6 years ago.  We stayed over in a tiny place called Dornie and got ridiculously drunk in a local bar.  The next morning I was possibly the most hungover I have ever been in my life,  but somehow made it down to breakfast.  I vividly remember tasting the black pudding on the full Scottish breakfast served up to me that day –  it was bloody marvellous.  The slightly purple hue devoid of all these horrid little white fatty bits on other black puddings.  I thought that this smooth textured delight tasted divine – onion and pepper and gorgeous black puddingy puddingness – YUM.

I could go on forever boring with you with my first tastes and experiences: why the taste of parsley transports me back to my home economics class, my first taste of sticky toffee pudding in the Breadalbane Arms in Dundee and why a scotch pie has to be served with a buttered morning roll, brown sauce and a cup of tea.  But I will quit whilst I am ahead.

I would love to hear about some of your foodie memories, we all have them.

Drop me a line!


10 Comments

Loaves and Fishes

baked AlaskaThere have been 5 main loves in my dad’s life to date –  his family, his “wee dug”,  the North Sea, Michael Schumacher and food.

You could say that food was in his blood.  His Father Jimmy was a baker with his own shop in the fishing village of Pittenweem, both sons were trained  in the family business. Dad didn’t follow the floury career path in the end but the skills he learned stayed with him and fuelled his life-long passion for food.

Instead of loaves Dad concentrated on fishes,  trawling the North Sea every week for most of his working life.  Although  no gourmet he was a naturally good cook and was in charge of  keeping the hungry crews he sailed with over the years happy with wholesome and simple dishes such as mince and tatties, cullen skink and skirlie.

skirlieRecipe for Skirlie (great with a chicken dinner or with mince and tatties).  Melt 50g of butter and add a finely chopped up onion.  Cook till the onion is soft.  Add in 175g of oatmeal and season well.  Cook on the hob for about 15 minutes and away ye’ go.

Mum and I did not eat fish! I  didn’t like fish simply because my mum didn’t like fish (makes sense when you are 6).  A  fisherman’s family who won’t eat fish –  it really was ludicrous. I did like fish fingers but they didn’t count.  They were a banned substance in the Taylor household amid many tales of fish eyes and guts. Dad did finally get me on board so to speak with a simple version of Cullen Skink.

Dad’s easy Smoked Fish in Milk – Pop a piece of smoked fish  in a dish, cover with milk, add some onion slices, a knob of butter and a wee bit of tomato. Cook in the microwave  and serve up with lots of fluffy white bread to soak up the juices.  Simple and satisfying. Sometimes we added a potato or some grated cheese!  It was a flexible affair.

Like most homes in the 70’s and 80’s tastes were pretty simple – roast beef and yorkshire puddings, mince and tatties, steak, chips and onion rings, stews (I am sure it was the same in your house).  Sole Veronique was not a family staple,  but it was what mum and I decided to  prepare in a bid to impress Dad one Saturday evening.  His reaction was a bit like Peter Kay’s Garlic Bread sketch.  You know the one,  Garlic ……….. and Bread!!!  Same scene Fish… and Grapes… and Wine!!!   Not a raging success but as cooking entered celebrityville, Dad did embrace the new and it became our new shared interest.

Baking was where he really excelled.  He was and is an avid fan of all things sweet as it rather evident from his substantial girth.  You don’t get to be on first name terms with the staff of Fisher & Donaldsons for no reason!

He is most well-known for his shortbread, little round beauties dusted in sugar. Hard to stick to one or two and brilliant dunked in your tea.  He has always been a bit Machiavellian with his baking in my opinion.  Is taking shortbread to the reception staff in the Doctor’s surgery, the traffic wardens who walk the streets of St Andrews and the ladies who work in the bank a form of bribery? You decide!

shortbreadDads Shortbread Recipe.  4 0z butter, 2 0z sugar, 5oz flour, 1 oz semolina.  Cream butter and sugar together until light, fork through the flour and semolina.  Draw the mixture together with your fingers to make a dough. Roll out and cut into rounds.  Prick all over with a fork and put in an oven at 170 for 40 minutes or until the colour of pale straw.

He is the only person I personally know who has successfully made Baked Alaska.  Cue another Peter Kay moment  –  Ice Cream …. in the oven.  What’s that all about?  It was as I remember gorgeous but not something I would be brave enough to contemplate making even now.  Hats off to Mr Taylor for impressing us with this remarkable feat.

Even when things did go wrong on the baking front it was often so very right.  My love of toffee stems from his attempt to make tablet.  We never did get tablet but we did get a tray of amazingly gooey toffee.  Much better than tablet in my opinion and probably why I can’t pass a packet of Thornton’s special toffee to this day.

On most weekends we  trooped off to either St Andrews or Kirkcaldy  when I was a kid. Both of which were home to The Pancake Place..  The Pancake Place was a sweet tooth haven.  I believe there were savoury options available but my family swiftly bypassed them, tucking into sizeable american style pancakes with our favourite teeth rotting toppings.  Lemon and sugar for mum, maple syrup and cream for dad and chocolate sauce with nuts and cream for me. We loved these pancakes so much that Dad mastered making even bigger versions at home.  We would have them on a Saturday night with lashings of maple syrup and too much cream whilst watching Dusty Bin (3-2-1).  The pancakes became legendary!

I could write a book of memories of my Dads cooking and baking and probably a sequel on my Granny who was a demon baker.  But I will stop here …. for now!

Unfortunately Dad can no longer bake which is sad (though my hips give a sigh of relief) so it is nice to remember all the fabulous “tasty bites” he is famous for.

I am not a baker, principally because I am also a sugar addict and I eat EVERYTHING that I bake.  But perhaps I ought to at least try to keep the family skill alive and haul out the Kenwood Chef he gave me recently to give it a go.  Wish me luck!


1 Comment

2013 Recipe Challenge – Courgette and Feta Pie

innerdsI thought as it was the fist week of my challenge it was worthy of a blog.  Most weeks however I will just pop my progress onto the Challenge Page of the site.

This first week’s recipe was taken from a book called “The Best Traditional Recipes of Greek Cooking”. This particular book has been chilling out on the book shelf for no  less than ten years.  It was actually bought by BC when he visited Santorini with my predecessor (pulls childish petulant face).  I do love Greek food but flicking through this book has been the furthest I have got …  until now.

My original intention was to cook a lamb mince-pie but the method was a bit vague and to be honest I couldn’t work out what the hell to do with the semolina!  So decided instead to embark on a simple Courgette and Feta pie, made even more simple by the fact that it is not really a pie – no pastry involved.  This would be more accurately be described as a baked  fritatta. It was very simple – easy as pie you might say.

This is how simple it was:  saute  a few sliced courgettes and a few chopped up spring onions in a ludicrous amount of olive oil ( I know olive oil is healthy … but that much of any oil is questionable! ). Beat up three eggs and mix in a pack of feta (crumbled) and a whole bunch of chopped parsley.  Mix in the courgettes and onions, pour into a non stick tin and pop in a medium oven for about an hour.finished pie

I was nervous and there was a nice pizza lined up on the subs bench, but thankfully that was not necessary as the ‘non’ pie was delicious. As I mentioned, it is similar to a fritatta,  however baking really intensifies the flavours and the feta oozes beautifully through the egg.  I served it with olives, rocket, Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall’s Roast Honey Tomatoes and some simple roasted peppers. It was a resounding success and is now on the rota of  “cheap n’ simple meals” that make it into my weekly meal plans.

The last slice was popped into  a Tupperware tub with some salad and taken with me to work for lunch the following day. Served cold this pie was even better, making it a brilliant option for lunch boxes and picnics.

I know that on week one Nicola from www.eatwithoutwheat.blogspot.co.uk cooked up Pheasant, what did you do?  It’s not to late to join in.

In week 2 BC chooses the dish from Jamie’s American book.  More on that next week but I am praying to God it is not the Beer Butt Chicken!!


1 Comment

Hot Date at the Bonham

chicken liver parfaitLast week I was lucky enough to be taken on a hot lunch date to The Bonham; a boutique hotel which houses one of my favourite restaurants in Edinburgh.   I  therefore make no apologies for the fact that this review might be a bit on the gushy side.

The Bonham is one  of the marvellous Town House Company hotels which also includes the wonderful Blythswood Square in Glasgow.

Situated in Drumsheugh Gardens , The Bonham is easy to miss.  No neon signs or a-boards hint at what lies beyond the elegant frontage.  Understated elegance continues inside the Bonham where the interior decoration  is  simple and contemporary with more than a hint of luxury. There is a lovely feeling of space in the restaurant, beetroot tart finpossibly because they have not attempted to cram every available space with tables.

I must have eaten in the Bonham around ten times now and I have never once been disappointed in any aspect of my dining experience –  this lunch was to be  no exception

We chose to eat from the Festive Menu as it was our Christmas ‘date’. This was an amazing £25 per person for three courses which includes half a bottle of wine per person.  We normally opt for a “Boozy Snoozy Lunch” which is even more remarkable value at £22.50 a head for three courses and half a bottle of wine each.  The quality of the food makes this the best darned deal in the city as far as I am concerned.

Christmas dinnerTalking about quality food …

I wanted everything on the menu as usual, but in the end decided to start with Beetroot tart fine with horseradish cream and goats cheese.  BC went for the Chicken liver parfait with crispy shallots, truffle jelly and toasted brioche.  Oh my goodness what a fine start to a meal.  BC’s Chicken Liver parfait was in my humble opinion worthy of awards  –  superbly smooth with an intense flavour and a  crispy shallot surprise.  I did prefer BC’s starter due to the intensity of the flavours but my more delicate starter was also a sure-fire winner.  The goats cheese was delicious and this is something I plan to emulate for this year’s New Year’s lunch.  Watch this space!

Slow cooked rib of beefWell it was Christmas so for my main course I opted for  Roasted brown turkey with duck fat roast potatoes, parsnips, red cabbage and cranberry.  The serving of meat was generous and cooked to perfection.  I am not the biggest turkey fan but I do like it when its done well and it was.  The cranberries were terrifying at first.  After popping a fork full in my mouth I realised that these sour little critters were best smeared ‘sparingly’ on my meat where they served their purpose beautifully.  The lightly spiced red cabbage tasted amazing and is definitely something I would like to add to my Christmas repertoire.

BC opted for Slow cooked rib of beef with smoked potato puree, wilted greens and a bourguignon sauce – wowzer!  This dish was something special. The super succulent meat (of which there was a lot)  effortlessly slid off the bone.  The potatoes were extremely smoky and I have no idea how they achieved this but hey ho the Christmas pudding parfaitresult was lovely.  The wilted greens were green and wilted and very nice indeed.  Again god dammit I liked BC’s main course a teeny tiny bit more than my own.

Surprisingly there was still room in my ever-expanding Grumbling Tummy for a dessert.  Vanilla rice pudding with caramelised pears was the truly triumphant pudding which I opted for.  Rice pudding is so old school and brings back memories of my granny’s cooking,  however granny Hill never included vanilla, and any pears were straight from the tin.  This version of the retro classic was divine.  Can’t be that hard to make, can it?  Might give it a go.

Finishing as he started BC chose a parfait – Christmas pudding parfait with warm brandy custard.  It lrice puddingooked stunning and tasted lovely but I was far too engrossed in scoffing my own dessert to take much more notice than that  I’m afraid.

So another hugely successful Bonham lunch was complete and we happily rolled out of the restaurant bidding farewell to the marvellous staff  and continued rolling to the wonderful Bon Vivant in Thistle street where we finished off our date with a couple of glasses of Tempranillo wine.

Happily sated and a tiny bit tipsy we headed home to plan our next trip to the Bonham.


Leave a comment

Spicy Bean Quesadilla

As easy as it is tasty

As easy as it is tasty

Don’t you sometimes yearn for something to eat at the end of the day which sets your taste buds tingling?  Yet more often than not you have neither the time or the energy to muster a masterpiece.

My Spicy Bean Quesadillas score very high on taste and don’t entail slaving over a stove – hot or otherwise.

My hardest days of the week are those spent running around after my lovely but ever so demanding wee girl.  It is on these days, when I am virtually on my knees by 6 o’clock, that this recipe comes to my rescue.  A once-a-week favourite at The Grumbling Tummy HQ.

It started life as ‘Refried Bean Fold Over’ from my well-thumbed copy of  Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s superb  ‘River Cottage Veg Everyday’.  Although the original recipe was perfectly lovely, I have tweaked and twisted it a fair bit along the way.  Hugh used pinto beans, has no lime juice or coriander in his recipe.  I guess most importantly,  he does not give his recipe the quesadilla  treatment.

Big thanks to Hugh for giving me all the nuts and bolts of this fantastic spicy treat.

So without further ado here is the recipe:

Ingredients

One red onion, 3 good-sized tomatoes halved,  a large can of beans  –  Hugh uses pinto beans but I often opt for Kidney beans –  both nice, a good handful of chopped coriander, couple of cloves of garlic, half  a red chilli,  the juice of half a lime,  a pinch of cayenne pepper, soft tortilla wraps (6), cheese ( as much as you like really), sour Cream

Method

Chop and fry the onion until soft

Add the garlic and the chilli 

Life is not too short to grate a tomato

Life is not too short to grate a tomato

After a few minutes take off the heat and grate the flesh of the tomatoes straight into the cooking pot – discarding the skins.  Life may be too short to stuff a mushroom but it is not too short to grate a tomato, so don’t be tempted to chop rather than grate.  It takes seconds! Return to the heat and cook for a few minutes until the juices thicken a little then add in your drained beans and the juice of half a limeGet a tattie masher and mush it all up – I like to leave it a bit chunky but this is personal tasteAdd a pinch of cayenne and the chopped coriander and stir

Spoon this  lovely spicy bean mixture onto the three wraps and smother with grated cheese.

Pop another wrap on top and then shallow fry for a few minutes on each side until browned and crispy.

Serve with salad and sour cream.


2 Comments

Border Biscuits are Deliciously Different

The call to try out a tin of Border Biscuits ‘Deliciously Different’ collection could not have come at a worse time.  The gym classes had re-commenced, the shopping list was treat free and I was determined to concentrate on slimming down for Christmas (thus enabling me to eat like a hog without guilt over the festive period).

But as the postman delivered the fateful tin I knew my plans were doomed.

For a brief moment it did cross my mind to ration the biscuits over the course of the week,  but in the end I  invited a couple of mates round and tanned the entire tin in one session – job done.

Established in 1984 Borders Biscuits are a relatively new kid on the block in biscuit terms, but they have certainly made their mark, being sold in almost all supermarkets and indeed across the world.

Did they stand up to the taste test?

There are six varieties of biscuit to choose from in this tin:

  • Black Forest cookies
  • Lemon souffle cookies (my short sighted husband thought they were called ‘Lemon Sniffle Cookies’ and lo a new name was born)
  • Strawberry and cream shortbread
  • Chocolate and walnut brownies
  • Chocolate and orange shortbread
  •  Toffee apple crumbles

My stand out favourites were the Black Forest cookies; largely due to the generous chunks of cherry and chocolate. The tartness of cherry counteracts the sweetness nicely.  Both chocolate based biscuits in the tin  had a really light and fluffy texture.  Not sure if fluffy is considered correct biscuit terminology but suffice to say it is a good thing.

The other ‘fluffy’ biscuits were the Chocolate and walnut brownies  (they were definitely biscuits and not brownies). These were lovely but a few more walnuts would have been brilliant.

My second favourite in the tin had to be the Lemon souffle (aka Sniffles).  The citrus tang worked so well with the sweet biscuit and it was rather a nice dunker too. Same goes for the Chocolate and orange shortbread – nice contrast and actually quite festive.

Toffee apple crumbles – heck what’s not to like really?  Thankfully they didn’t “transport me back to childhood with the taste of the fairground”.  As a child of the 80’s the taste of the fairground was slimy hot dogs and teeth rotting  pink candy floss.

I wasn’t blown away by the Strawberry and cream shortbread, a wee bit sickly sweet for me (I can’t believe I am actually saying that!) Although it hasn’t stopped me having another few bites, just to make sure.

So is this tin worth buying?  The answer is a resounding yes,  but only if you are prepared to lose all willpower and demolish them in one go.

Not in the box but deserving a special Grumbling Tummy mention is my all time favourite Border biscuit – the Dark chocolate ginger.  Spicy, with a great snap – I just love them to bits and will be stockpiling these for the Christmas period.

A mild grumble from this Grumbling Tummy is calling biscuits cookies and brownies.   I know its a little bit picky and I am not normally a purist but they are brilliant biscuits and proud to be so.

Well done Border Biscuits – triumph in a tin  

The Border biscuits ‘Deliciously Different’ tin retails at £7.50.