Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Pasta With Pan-Fried Pumpkin, Walnut And Parsley Sauce.

Today we are going to be rushed in the evening so I made our main meal of the day at lunchtime and we'll just have leftovers or sandwiches for tea.
I found this book (Cooking With Pumpkins And Squash by Brian Glover) in the library and decided that I would like to try and do more with pumpkins and squashes at this time of year as I have never really done anything with them before.

The kids love pasta and I can guarantee they will eat all of their meal if it is some kind of pasta so I chose the punpkin pasta recipe.  I usually shop at Tesco as it is close but I decided that if anywhere would have a selection of interesting pumpkins and squash it would be Sainsbury's (we're staying at my Mum and Dad's house just now otherwise I would go to my local fruit and veg shop which is brilliant).  How disappointing to find that all they had were butternut squash or carving pumpkins.  I bought a small carving pumpkin but I'm sure this recipe could be done better with something a little tastier.

Recipe (Serves 4).

Ingredients - 

150g walnut halves
3 fat cloves garlic, peeled
5 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp walnut oil
5 tbsp double crea, or creme fraiche
small bunch parsley
freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
650g prepared squash, cut into 1cm thick slices or chunks
1-2 pinches dried chilli flakes, crushed (I just used chilli powder as it's what I had to hand)
400g pasta of your choice
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated parmesan, to serve

Method - 

1. Preheat oven to 180 (350) GM 4.  Put the walnuts on a baking tray and toast them in the preheated oven for 5-6 minutes, making sure they don't burn.  Chop 50g of the nuts roughly and set aside then put the remaining 100g in a food processor.
2. Blanch the garlic in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, drain and rinse.  Put the garlic in the processor with the walnuts, add 2 tbsp olive oil, the walnut oil and cream.  Whizz to make a paste.
3. Set aside a third of the parsley, the whizz the remaining two-thirds into the sauce.  Chop the reserved parsley and set aside. Leave the sauce in the processor for now.
4. In a large frying pan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat, add the squash and chilli flakes and cook, turning the squash now and then, until it is tender and lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta.
6. When the pasta is cooked, drain, reserving 4-5 tbsp of the cooking water.  Whizz enough of this water into the sauce to make it creamy, then season with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg.

7. Toss the pasta with the squash, remaining walnuts and parsley and the sauce.  Serve with parmesan.

Tasted good.  As I suspected, the pumpkin was a little bland.  I also found the sauce a little dry so next time I will either try it with the cream rather than the creme fraiche or add a little more oil.  Great tastes for Autumn, though and very filling.

It's a nice little cookbook too.  I might try something else before putting it back to the library.  

Sunday, 24 October 2010


So stovies are a very traditional Scottish dish.  This is proper warming fuel food for sustaining farmers on a cold day.  So let that be a warning that it is very calorific.  Stovies varies around the place but this is how we make it around Aberdeenshire.  The photo of my finished version is pretty unappealing.  I used gravy granules and too much gravy at that so it doesn't look as good as it usually would.  It still, however, tasted very fine!  This dish is something we will quite often make to use up left over roast beef from a Sunday dinner.  As you can see, I am not in my own house.  My Mum has taken my Dad to Geneva for his birthday so we are house- and dog- sitting for a few days.  And before they left Mum made a birthday dinner of roast beef so we have all the lovely leftovers to ourselves.
Stovies is served around these parts with oatcakes and pickled beetroot.
A friend of mine was buying me lunch one day in a cafe and I told her I would like some stovies with beetroot.  She thought the beetroot was just something weird I did and was a bit taken aback when the waitress offered her beetroot with her stovies as if reading her mind.  

Anyway, here's how to make it (I don't think there is an actual recipe for the stuff as everyone makes it differently and just bungs together what they have so no quantities or timings given) - 

So you need some tatties, an onion or two, your leftover roast beef, some beef dripping and your leftover gravy (we had no leftover gravy so I used gravy granules and made up some quick gravy, but obviously it's better with homemade gravy or beef stock).  You can obviously use any fat you prefer but beef dripping gives the best flavour by far.

Melt the dripping in a large pan, Peel and cut your tatties into slices of about £1 coin thickness, chop the onions.  Throw into the pan and leave covered on a low heat, stirring every now and then until the tatties become translucent and soft.

Chop your beef into bite sized pieces.  I like my stovies chunkier than this usually but I cut everything up smaller for the kids if I'm feeding them too.  As you can see, my parents like their meat well cooked!

Serve hot with the beetroot and oatcakes and a steaming cup of tea.  Mmmmmm.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Camera Cake.

Last year for Dad's birthday I made an ice climbing cake as that is one of his hobbies.  It was one of the first cakes I had done so it's not great and a little child-like.  Here's a photo - 

Another of his hobbies is amateur photography so this year I made a model of his camera for his cake.  It is not very professional as I have never been taught how to do it properly.  I would love to do an evening class at some point in cake decoration and learn how to get smooth lines and sharp edges.  Nevermind,  here is the process in photos anyway.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

A Tale Of 12 Kitchens by Jake Tilson

Well, this is a fairly eccentric book and I'm not entirely sure what I made of it.
I found it in my local country village library and, on flicking through it realised there was a chapter on Aberdeenshire so I immediately checked it out.  On actually reading the chapter on Aberdeenshire where he cooks in his in-laws farm kitchen I realised that I can pinpoint fairly accurately where this farm is and that it's only a few miles from here.  Presumably that's why my local library had a copy.

That photo at the top looks just like my home.  It is strange reading a book which is so familiar.

How to describe the book?  Well, it's really a memoir of food in his life from the first house he remembers living in with his parents through to his current place with his wife and daughter.  So, a big chunk of the book is set in and around London, he also spends long summers in Italy, he talks about the cooking at his wife's parents home in Scotland, and there are periods of time where he lived in different parts of America.  The book is filled with family photographs, pictures of food he is nostalgic about, hand-written recipes, etc.  Most of the reviews I can find really rave about the book eg 'An enchantingly evocative kitchen memoir... fascinating and delicious... an exhilarating work of art around his love of food.' (Claudia Roden ), 'a wonderfully personal and evocative scrapbook-cum-recipe book ... serves up thoughts, touching memories and some very tempting grub' (THE OBSERVER ).  I'm not sure that it thrilled me as much as these reviews would make me expect.

There is a stark contrast between books that have been designed to within an inch of their lives and this which has real photos and collages of pictures collected by the author himself.  This makes the nostalgia feel very real - it is not fake or manufactured.  And there are thousands of images so it is intriguing to flick through.  It certainly made me feel nostalgic and I enjoyed my own reminiscences.  This was especially the case as the Aberdeenshire section has photographs of the countryside and villages where I actually live and all the food he talks of is my own childhood food.  However, the writing wasn't as engaging as I had hoped.  I ploughed through the book because I loved the pictures and, essentially, I wanted to get to the bit about Scotland but a lot of the time I was skimming a bit.  He does have an interesting story.  His parents were artists so he seemed to have this amazing bohemian upbringing.  And they started off in a one-room shop as their home before moving on to grander things.  I love the stories about their big farmhouse kitchen table which was the centrepoint to loads of gatherings of artists and friends.  Food was obviously very central to their lives.  Some of his travels in the California desert are particularly quirky too.  However, I still found my mind wandering at bits and wishing he had cut down on the text.

I also feel that there aren't many recipes I would particularly want to use from the book.  A lot of his creations are simply that - things that you might throw together yourself because you had them at home.  A bit of student experimenting.  Nothing wrong with that but not something I would want to copy, particularly.   The only recipe I am going to photocopy from the book before giving it back to the library is one for Aberdeenshire butteries.  It has never occurred to me to make these as they are available in all supermarkets, shops, bakeries around here but I do wonder if the home made version might be worth trying once.  It looks a bit of a faff though so I'll probably get Steve to make them for me.

One thing I only noticed at the end of the book is that he has a huge interest in typefacing.  In each section he has put the headings in a particular typeface that he has selected (and, in some cases designed) himself to match the country he is discussing.  In the Aberdeenshire section he used the indivudual tiles that we have here to make up street names.  In fact, I had never even noticed that they were unique.  They are so familiar to me and this is the first time I have really paid attention to the fact that nowhere else uses the same lettering for their street names.

Another interesting section is where he collects some pictures of packaging he happens to like.  I love poring through this.  I just wish he had made this section bigger and cut out some of the slightly long-winded text.

In conclusion, I'm really glad I picked it up; I gleaned some nuggets of information that I loved; I enjoyed the voyeuristic aspect of looking through his family photos; I was genuinely amused by his child-like enthusiasm.  However, I would maybe suggest borrowing this from the library rather than paying for it.

A painting by his daughter.  He doesn't say how old she was when she did it but I think it is fantastic.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The Cake Slice Bakers - Challenge 1 - October 2010 - Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Pound Cake.

This is my first challenge as a new member of The Cake Slice Bakers.

I believe they cook a recipe each month from a book for a year.  The book they have chosen for this year is  Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman.

I got myself a copy of this from Amazon and I'm really glad I did.  The main idea of the book seems to be for people who like to bake fairly simple cakes but have a cake on the go all the time.  What a lovely idea - just to keep a cake on the counter (in a beautiful glass cake stand with dome, of course, wee Christmas hint to my husband if he is reading) for anyone to help themselves to at any time.

The chapters divide the book into - snacking cakes, round cakes, loaf cakes, Bundt cakes, crumb cakes and angel food and chiffon cakes.  No, I have no idea what those last two are but I'm looking forward to finding out.  I think I will probably have to buy my first Bundt tin at some point too.

It is an American book so I have bought myself some cup measurements and thought I would try baking the American way.  I have already started scribbling notes inside the book to remind me where a conversion is needed.  Most importantly, I now know a stick of butter = 4oz = 113g.  Previous to this, I would have just dismissed any book which used US measurements so this opens a whole new world of baking to me.  I think that's the whole point of a baking challenge isn't it?  To broaden my horizons.  And, of course, I would never have ever used pumpkin in baking before either, so two "firsts" with my first challenge. 

So, the first recipe - Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Pound Cake is brilliantly seasonal.  The only problem was getting hold of any tinned pumpkin as it is not really available in the UK and all the online shops importing stuff from the US were out of stock due to a shortage.  I just kept pestering them, though, and finally managed to get myself a couple of tins.

The cake was really easy and quick to make and it came out well.  Easy to slice, looked good and tasted perfect for Autumn - a little bit earthy but sweet and with oozing dark chocolate.  Lovely and moist too.  It lasted less than a day.  We all ate a fair bit earlier in the day and then my in-laws unexpectedly came round so it was great having a freshly baked treat just sitting there to serve to them.  Once I get my lovely cake stand with the glass dome, this will definitely be one of the cakes I will have sitting at the ready inside it.

Recipe below.

Serves 8.
9" X 5" loaf tin.

Ingredients - 
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
pinch nutmeg
1 stick (4oz) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
1 cup miniature dark chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Method - 
1. Preheat the oven to 350F, 180C, GM 4.   Grease and flour a 9" X 5" loaf tin.
2. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, cloves and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl.
3. Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 mins.
4. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the eggs, one at a time.  
5. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
6. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.  Bake the cake until it is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, 55mins to an hour.
7. Let the cake cool in the tin for 5 minutes, invert it onto a wire rack, and then turn it right side up to cool completely.
8. Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the fridge, wrapped in plastic, for up to 1 week.

To see the results of the challenge by other Cake Slice Bakers, visit the the cake slice blogroll.
Can't wait for the next challenge. 

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Autumn Day.

Well I say Autumn but it was positively wintry today.  It was 6 degrees and has dropped to 4 degrees now and we have had several hail/sleet showers.  Brrrr.  Good day for staying at home and having comfort food.

So, here is just a taste of what we have to eat in a day.
The boys and I started with granola then toast and jam and a few grapes.

We then decided to get on with painting some autumnal leaves (I stole the idea from Brandy - brandyscrafts).  I left them in their pyjamas as it is easier to just throw them in the washing afterwards instead of trying to keep their clothes clean.

After they had helped a bit with the cleaning up and we had left the leaves to dry, we shared a pomegranate for snack.

We then headed outside to play with our dog, Bob, for a while.  We got rain, sleet and hail while were out and I kept expecting the boys to ask to go back in but they were actually pretty stoic.  Hardy Aberdeenshire boys.

So, by the time we came in we needed a hot, comforting lunch.  Generally I don't really cook at lunchtimes - we just have really easy food eg sandwiches, toasties, soup.  Today, I had just the answer - baked tatties, beans and cheese.  Oooh these went down so well!

We had yoghurts afterwards then the boys went for naps.  While they sleep (usually about an hour) is my time for a cup of tea, some chocolate and a chance to get on the computer for a while.
When they woke, we had yogurt coated raisins for snack.

We then stuck the painted leaves to the windows.  The boys were very proud and couldn't wait to show Daddy when he got back from work.  Please excuse the various states of pyjamification.  Their clothes got soaked while we were out in the sleet so when we got back in, I just put them into jammies again.  I know, I'm a slovenly mother, but it's the holidays, and jammies days are good!

So, then I sent the kids to play with their toys and I got the tea made.
A really simple curry.  Cheating as I used a curry paste - just to use up the rest of the jar from the kedgeree the other night.  I fried some onion and garlic with the paste then added diced lamb.  I added a tin of tomatoes and some stock then put in a low oven for nearly 2 hours so that the lamb cooked slowly and became beautifully tender.

Just tangerines for the boys for puddies. And just for completeness, Bob got his usual kibble and some lamb's heart.  Lucky dog.

At bedtime I let the boys have some chocolate drops with their cocoa just because they had been pretty good through the day.

So, thanks for getting this far in my little - "a day in the life...".
It was a fairly heavy calorie day but the weather just made us feel the need for comfort food.

And, of course, important to remember to brush your teeth...

Goodnight. x

Monday, 18 October 2010

Eating Place Review 8 - Tearoom at Haddo House, Methlick, Aberdeenshire.

As you can see, I have renamed these posts Eating Place Reviews rather than Restaurant Reviews which just wasn't appropriate a lot of the time.  If I tried to subcategorise every place we ate at, it would drive me up the wall so I have settled for this.

Haddo House
AB41 7EQ
0844 493 2179

Haddo House is a National Trust Property with extensive grounds.  Today I went with Bob - the dog, the two boys and a family friend.  We walked Bob, fed the ducks, had a play at the playpark and then we went to the Tearoom for lunch (thanks to my family friend).

This is my favourite time of year at Haddo - the trees are beautiful in their Autumn colours and the boys love hunting for conkers.  I came home with my pockets bulging with them!

We come to Haddo fairly frequently as it is great for walking the dog and it costs me nothing to park all year round as we are NT members.

So, to the tearoom.  This is situated away from the main house a little bit in what I think were the old coach houses.  They have changed it recently to counter service rather than table service but the menu remains the same.  There were only a few tables available today as most of them were reserved for a coach tour.  People who came in after us were unable to get a table at all and were a little miffed.  Of course, the coach tours must give them a fair chunk of their income so I'm not sure what they could do about that.

The other slight problem with the tearoom is that the toilets are across the courtyard in another building.  Not a huge problem but today we had an anxious moment as when a 3 year old asks to go, you usually need to go pretty quickly.  Well, unfortunately, Adam wanted to go at the exact moment the coach load started to file into the place.  We stood there for five minutes before one member of the tour finally stood back and held the door open for us.  It's okay, though, we made it in time!

They have boxes for kids which include a bun with cheese, tuna or one other choice (sorry, brain not working), a carton of fruit juice, crisps and a yoghurt or an apple.  I think these cost about £4.  Because, I wasn't paying, I don't have the receipt to remind me.  Sorry.

Adults have a choice of soup, sandwiches, toasties and baked potatoes.  I had a gammon and mustard sandwich which was served with a lovely fresh salad, coleslaw and crisps.  And the sandwich certainly had plenty of gammon in it.  That cost somewhere between £4.50 and £5.

The best thing about the tearoom is the big selection of beautiful homebaking.  The boys and I shared a chocolate tiffin traybake thing but we were spoiled for choice.

Service was from very friendly waiting staff.

The opening hours vary with the seasons so it is worth checking the website before turning up. 

Lunches are good but what I would really recommend this tearoom for is a cup of tea and some fantastic homebaking after an Autumn walk around the lochan.