Chilli jam and the quesadilla of dreams

ImageGreetings chaps! Here’s your ticket to chilli jam heaven:

  • 10 mixed peppers, diced
  • 10 chillies, diced
  • 8 tomatoes, skinned & diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, chopped

So, mix together in a saucepan one cup of caster sugar and three cups of white wine vinegar. Add all the chopped ingredients and boil to a jammy consistency. This can take a reasonably long time – maybe 45 minutes. Keep an eye on it. Don’t over-reduce it or it will be too thick and will taste burnt.

This makes about 3 jars worth – it will keep for months if you pour it into hot, sterilised jars. If you keep it in the fridge once opened it’s still fine for a good month.

This is great on burgers and in sandwiches – particularly with chicken and cheese. My personal favourite use for it is to make the following quesadilla:

  • 1 tbsp chilli jam
  • Couple of slices of smoked cheese
  • Red onion
  • Olives
  • Cubed chorizo

^ Spread the jam over half of a flour tortilla, sprinkle the other ingredients on top then fold over & toast in a hot pan (no need to even oil the pan) til golden brown and oozing with melted cheese…  Something about the sweet kick of the chilli jam with the smokey cheese taste and the occasional morsel of olive makes this quesadilla stand head and shoulders above its peers. I’ve eaten one of these for lunch for something like the last 8 shifts running, and I’m really not a creature of habit when it comes to food.


Pie in the sky

James didn’t win the Bake-Off but I didn’t mind due to the unexpected revelation that he was a show-off Unionist in the final – shocker! I like my wooly-jumpered men to be ardent Nationalists thanks very much…

Speaking of which I went with one of the above (not James, a wooly-jumpered Socialist chef, swoon) to La Valle Blanche in Byres Road and spent a highly enjoyable afternoon troughing my way through their unbelievably good value lunch deal. Clementine, celery & Pecorino salad with chicory, almonds and mustard dressing – what a starter! Then Coq au Vin, Pedro Ximenez Tiramisu, double espresso, bottle of red wine… Not exactly recession-busting when we’re dealing with two individuals with such lack of self-control when it comes to decadent food and booze. Don’t regret a penny.

Next culinary outing was a trip to the Fyne Ales brewery with the State Bar regulars. Day commences with a classic pie:Image

The State Bar is probably not where pies go when they die. We all enjoyed them nonetheless. Delighted that allegiance to a pub is rewarded with such excellent outings – crisp cold sunny day and a slow winding trundle along the Rest & Be Thankful on a bus full of excited State patrons taking photos like this:


When we arrived we got wired into an excellent selection of ales, my favourite being one part of their IPA Project – mmm. Also had pie no. II of the day – a far more upmarket steak number. Needless to say there was some serious overindulgence once the entourage was back in the State Bar, Paul – he of the sexy jumper and the left-wing ideology – leading the hangover charge with a round of sherries. Grim.

A note on pies: Joe Hill the trade unionist is credited with inventing the phrase “pie in the sky”!

Vegetable adventures

ImageThat beaut is the contents of a £10 veg bag from the intriguing Locavore in Skirving Street. I fear that the tenner bag might be a bit over-ambitious – especially considering the next two days I’m working and won’t be eating any meals in the house. Seems ludicrous to take your lunch to work when you work in a kitchen…

Anyway, inside the amazing bag was the following:

  • 1 vast pumpkin
  • 5 carrots
  • maybe 1lb potatoes
  • few parsnips
  • a wee green cabbage
  • 1 swede
  • a bag of tomatoes
  • 4 onions
  • a sneaky bag of kale
  • AND a brown paper bag of pearl barley complete with orzotto recipe!

What a bargain! All that for a tenner, and it all comes from local farmers and allotments as well. Ideal. Only downside is that all that bounty is crammed into a brown paper bag, and tends to spill out insidiously through holes in the bottom one potato at a time for several meters, until an old man shouts “Hen, yer tatties are falling oot” (oo-er) and you have to scrabble under parked cars collecting them….

Aaanyway, it’s great to have such a load of stuff in the flat, have had a good evening reading through recipes for the week – these guys have loads of crackers for things like kale.. Not sure what to do with the old kale really, I’ve only ever had it in sausage stews in the past and I was never overly impressed with it. A challenge! That’s for later on in the week though.

Tonight I used a few of the vegetables with some stuff already in the flat to make this broccoli pasta:Image

For 2 (big) portions:

  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 4 rashers smoked bacon
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 5 or 6 small tomatoes
  • 1tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 100g small tube pasta

I blanched the broccoli for a couple of minutes then left it draining while I sauteed the chopped onion, garlic & fennel seeds with the bacon until all was respectively soft/crispy-ish.

Cooked the pasta in some good salty water while adding the roughly chopped tomatoes, tomato puree & sugar to the onions/bacon mixture; it got ten minutes or so to simmer together. A pinch of sugar! Is a great thing in a tomato sauce. Once the pasta was ready I drained it & mixed it into the sauce along with the broccoli.

This was a good autumn dinner – I love the taste of a dash of fennel seeds in tomato sauces, and broccoli in a hot bacony delicious sauce is definitely a good thing. I like the small pasta as well – I used much less of it than I would of linguini or something like that and it made the dish more like a minestrone stew with pasta than a plate of pasta with sauce.

During the week I’ll do some kale experiments! I’ll definitely make some pumpkin gnocchi on Wednesday night too. I always liked butternut squash more than pumpkin so I think it’s a good plan of attack to cook it with loads of cheese, butter and sage which would make most things taste dynamite. Never made gnocchi before! Also will be striving to impress my dining companion…

52 (c)love garlic chicken


Good day! Thursday’s endeavour was this long-hankered after chicken roasted with 100 cloves of garlic. Finance dictated a wee chicken and less garlic than the original. 52 cloves in fact. What a nerd to have counted the cloves… I fiddled about with various recipes – one was a decadent sounding French number (40 cloves) with cream and Cognac, the other was from the Leon fast food book 2 which had the full 100 cloves. In the end it was not as garlicky as I had wished for, though the roasted cloves were dynamite squeezed out into buttery mashed potato. Ate it with some squeaky green beans and a bottle of white wine – all in all a very civilized dinner.


  • 1 of your finest free range organic chickens…
  • 4 bulbs of garlic
  • 100g butter
  • handful of thyme
  • olive oil, lots of

A skoosh to make – smear the butter over the chicken, add a handful of fresh thyme, loads of salt and black pepper. Chicken slots into a wee roasting dish with the garlic around the base and then gets a hearty amount of olive oil over it. Roasted the brute at Gas Mark 6 for 20 minutes then Gas Mark 4 for 1 hour 20 minutes (time depending on the size of the chick in question – Delia says 20 minutes per 450g plus 10-20 minutes extra) then let it sit for 10 minutes before carving.

Air Meal from the past – lemon & mustard seed chutney

Last night I was reading Food For Free again, and found a few tantalising recipes to try out. The finest was Alexis Sawyer’s 1857 Universal Devil’s Mixture (“…rub each piece over with the following mixture, having made a deep incision in any article of food that may be subjected to this Mephistophelian process…”) but due to the absence of a number of key ingredients (fresh horseradish, Durham mustard) I decided to first go for this mustard seed chutney. Richard Mabey makes some gentle suggestions that one could be out in the hedgerows picking wild mustard seeds, and while I’m all for foraging in principle I draw the line at feckin’ mustard seeds. The hour’s simmering time drew some complaints from other members of the household but it was well worth a slight tear in the eye to have such a tangy and delicious condiment at the end of the process. Something of the marmalade about it…

Lemon & Mustard Seed Chutney

Peel & slice 4 medium onions. Slice 5 lemons thickly & discard the pips. Mix, sprinkle with salt and leave for 12 hours. Add 1oz mustard seed, 1 tsp allspice, 1lb sugar, 1/4lb raisins and 1pt cider vinegar. Bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour. Makes 3-4 jars.

Incidentally, while looking into Durham mustard for future production of the Universal Devil’s Mixture I found this extremely interesting article about said mustard. I never knew that “keen as mustard” comes from the name of a mustard-making firm, Messrs Keen and Sons. Or that it’s been around these Northerly parts since the 15th Century under the spelling “mwstert”.

1.1 Blinis

Russian Blinis

  • Mix 2 eggs with 1 tablespoon of white sugar and 3 cups of milk. Add 1/3 teaspoon of salt, half a cup of flour and whisk thoroughly. The flour can be sifted to remove lumpy particles.
  • Heat the frying pan. Lightly oil the pan or spray with cooking spray. Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter, or as much as desired, into the pan. Tilt the pan to spread the batter out evenly. When the edges look crisp and the centre appears dry, slide a spatula carefully under the blin and flip it. Cook for about 1 more minute on the other side, or until lightly browned. Gently move the blin onto a place. Place a little butter on top, and continue to stack the blini on top of each other.
  • To serve, spread with desired filling and roll into a tube or fold the blin twice in half to make a triangle. Blini can be served with butter, sour cream, black or red caviar, as well as fillet of sturgeon or salmon.

This recipe arrived a few months ago on a postcard from Russia. I’d made blinis before, with Katherine, small fluffy ones we ate with smoked salmon and gherkins at my parents kitchen table. They were much thicker though, not like this recipe which called for 3 cups of milk to 1/2 a cup of flour..

My decadent Garnethill penthouse is a mere leisurely stroll away from the Maryhill Road Lidl, which meant I got all the blini ingredients and toppings as well as four huge bottles of lager for under ten buck. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it Marks & Spencer two dine for a tenner. Unimaginative.

The postcard had some quite good serving suggestions along the lines of sturgeon and caviar; in the absence of these items in Lidl I settled for peppered mackerel, creme fraiche, cornichons and some slightly unnecessary smoked sausage for the savoury course, and a jar of cherry jam for the dessert round of blini.

The recipe itself: probably quite good if you don’t follow my lead and triple the quantity of flour because the batter looked a bit peely-wally. They look like crepes in the picture – I roundly ignored this evidence and thickened the mix up to the detriment of the blinis. They turned out too thick and stodgy, not like those tasty ones you get in the Russian restaurant in the Trongate where they roll them up like enchiladas and bake them..

The card says to butter each one while piling them up – not sure if this is to stop them sticking but even with a thin scraping of butter between each shift of blinis they ended up incredibly buttery and quite decadent-tasting as a result. 

Nicest filling: peppered mackerel & cornichons

Worst filling: Cherry jam (cheap jam + overly buttery pancake was a bit of a sickly combo even for the most sweet-toothed pig of a diner e.g myself).