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”!

Good food from September

ImageBurger with rocket mayo, Stilton, bacon & rocket. I made the burger, the bun and the chips! Image

Squashes outside a fruit shop in Shawlands.ImageDoughnut prototypes at work inspired by the Great British Bake Off – if James doesn’t win there’s going to be some kind of revolt! Followed him on Twitter the other day – felt like a bit of a creep but was totally vindicated when all he does is update with charming patter and photos of himself in Fair Isle jumpers. ImageSchnitzel and pierogi in a Warsaw milk bar.Image

Fife farm shop heaven!ImageMore Fife farm shop delights..ImageAhh lemon meringue pie, I love you.

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…

Wild Garlic & Rosemary Oil Foccacia


An old one this, from the start of the summer. No wild garlic for months now!

The wild garlic got relegated to the fridge overnight yet was still in excellent nick the next day. I adapted the original recipe a little due to lack of ingredients (ahem, Parmesan) and availability of others (rosemary growing in the back green!).


  • 600g strong white plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 level teaspoons easy-mix dried yeast
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 400ml warm water


  • 50g ramsons, washed and finely sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 30g of Galloway cheddar, yes my friends this is the most Scottish of focaccia
Rosemary Oil
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed with the blade of a knife
  • 3 or 4 strips of lemon peel (pare it off with a vegetable peeler)
  1. Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add the liquids and mix with a wooden spoon. Knead that bad boy on the kitchen table for at least 10 minutes. I like this technique: 
  2. Once the dough looks good get it back into a clean bowl and leave it covered with clingfilm for a few hours til doubled in size.
  3. Now, our man says to line 2 baking trays that are about 22cm by 32cm  with baking parchment, I used one big one but there was a fairly high proportion of dough to crispy topping, and I think that splitting it between two smaller trays would be a better idea.
  4. Divide the dough into two and press into the trays. You’re going to leave it to puff up again so it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t fill the whole tray. Sprinkle the prepared wild garlic and cheese over the top, and add plenty of salt and pepper. Leave to rise for about 40 mins.
  5. Preheat the oven to 220ºC gas 7
  6. Make the rosemary oil: combine everything in a pan and heat over a very gentle flame – nothing should be frying here, you just want to infuse the oil with the flavours of the other ingredients. 10 minutes should do it, then strain the oil into a measuring jug.
  7. Once the dough has risen, poke holes into its surface with your fingers and then drizzle with the oil, which will collect in pools in the depressions. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and the top is nicely browned. Lift out of the trays using the paper and place on a cooling rack, sliding the paper from underneath so the steam can escape and preventing the bread from going soggy.

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”.

Air Meal from last summer…

Puff candy reminds me of primary school trips to Largs and Millport. Everyone would spend all their money in Nardinis and the wee pokey shops on the seafront, buying things like puff candy and sticks of rock and macaroon bars. To this day I would rank the Crunchie very highly in a Top 5 sweetie poll.

Making the stuff feels like alchemy, bubbling it up in a saucepan until the magic golden caramel colour is reached, and then hurling the bicarbonate of soda into the swirling depths and watching the bubbly eruptions it causes. The only drawback is the sneaky colouring of the Golden Syrup which can fool one into thinking the stuff is sufficiently caramelised when this is so not the case. Puff candy Mk. I produced a sad tray of pale, bubbly gum which refused to set even when left overnight. Puff candy Mk. II (made with the aid of the sugar thermometer) was much more satisfactory, a deep orange hue with a central strata of tiny caverns. The full tray in its unbroken state looks quite like the surface of the moon which is very appealing. It would be amazing to portion the mix out into greased ring moulds of biscuit cutters and produce even more accurate moons, definitely one to try out next time!

Puff Candy / Honeycomb

  • 300g sugar (I used 200g caster sugar and 100g light brown sugar due to contents of kitchen cupboards, I would do so again in future as I think the darker sugar gave the finished product a darker, more intense taste)
  • 200g Golden Syrup
  • 100ml water
  • 2 heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda
Line a brownie pan or baking tray with lightly oiled tinfoil. The size of the tray will dictate the thickness of the puff candy – spread in a thin layer over a large baking tray the mix will produce a slightly different texture than if poured into a small, deep sided pan. Heat all the other ingredients in a deep-sided saucepan ’til the mix turns a dark amber colour and reaches 150 oC. Sieve in the bicarbonate of soda in order to avoid over-working the mix and removing the bubbles. Pour into the lined tin and leave to cool before breaking up. To cut the puff candy into blocks, run an oiled knife over it before it has totally hardened and then break it into blocks along the lines.