28 January 2014

An Apology to the People of Eccles...

Who watched Sport Relief Bake Off?
It was great to have Bake Off back on our screens, if only for a few nights and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the celebs getting stuck in!
Like them, I had never made eccles cakes before and after seeing the delicious (if what slightly misshapen!) ones on the Bake Off I thought I ought to give them a go!
I've made puff pastry before- which is well worth the effort if you have time, but this recipe uses rough puff which is a little easier and less time-consuming.
Mine don't quite follow the original traditional recipe as I didn't have all the ingredients in the cupboard and aren't quite the right shape so I too make an apology to the people of Eccles!
They are delicious still warm served with a little double cream!

Also if you're in the Cotswolds region the first week of February, make sure to check out BITE festival. It's a food festival in the North Cotswolds and the programme looks amazing- you have the chance to taste the delicious cooking and patisserie skills of some really big names in some beautiful rural locations as well as taking part in really creative foodie events.  Unfortunately I can't make it this year but would have loved to attend the Afternoon Tea with Claire Clarke MBE! So make sure to get your tickets soon as they are going fast! I've only got a few more days at uni and then I'm heading down to London for a few weeks for some very exciting work so I'll keep you updated!


For the pastry:
225g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
200g chilled butter, cubed
1/2 lemon, juice only

For the filling:
115g currants
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2tsp  lemon juice
Small knob of unsalted butter
30g sultanas
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4tsp ground ginger
1 lemon, zest only

1 egg white
A little caster sugar


To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and mix.  Add in the chilled, cubed butter (I use unsalted) and cover the butter in the flour with a large metal spoon. (Be careful to keep the butter in clear lumps.)

Then mix 180ml chilled water and the lemon juice together and gradually pour it into the flour and butter. Using a round-tipped knife, cut across the bowl, turning as you go to chop the butter into the flour. Don't worry if the mixtures looks very wet and gloopy- it's meant to be, so just keep working with it until it starts to form together into a very soft dough.

Then using a dough scraper, quickly turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured work surface and quickly shape it with your hands into a very rough rectangle shape! You may have to sprinkle the dough and your hands with a good dusting of flour to be able to handle it! You're trying to get the dough into a rough 30 x 20cm rectangle.

Then with the rectangle vertically in front of you, fold the bottom third of the pastry up onto the middle third and the top third down onto the other thirds. I know this sounds a bit confusing but just stick with it!- it will be worth it!

Then rotate the pastry a quarter turn, roll out slightly into the rectangle and repeat the folding.
Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up.

Meanwhile make the filling:

Soak the sultanas and currants in the vanilla extract and lemon juice. You could also add a little dash of sherry if you want your filling to have a bit of a kick!

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and then stir in all the other filling ingredients including the soaked currants and sultanas.

Once thoroughly mixed, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Once the dough has chilled, remove it from the fridge and roll into the original narrow rectangle and repeat the folding, the turn and the rest in the fridge as before. Do this three times in total. (Throughout the process make sure you keep the rolling pin and the work surface well floured.) Once you have finished the folding and rolling stages you should still be able to see, if only faintly, the lumps of butter in the pastry- this is what gives it that lovely flaky structure.

To assemble the eccles cakes, preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.

Roll the pastry out to the thickness of about 3mm and cut out 6 big circles. Lay these circles out on a plate and wrap in cling film before chilling in the fridge again for another 10 minutes.

Then lay these circle out on the floured work surface and place a large teaspoon of filling in the middle of each one. Pull the edge of the pastry rounds around and over the filling and then pinch together to seal. Turn each one over so that the seal is underneath and you are left with a little round patty full of the fruit mixture. Repeat for the rest of the pastry rounds and then place them all on a lined baking tray, Flatten slightly with a rolling pin so that you can just see the fruit showing through the pastry.

Beat the egg white with a fork in a small bowl for 2-3 minutes until frothy. Brush over the tops of the eccles cakes and then sprinkle with a little caster sugar.

With a sharp knife, make three of the traditional small diagonal cuts on top of each cake and then bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until gold brown and the pastry loved and puffed up.

Adapted from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/eccles_cakes_75687

23 January 2014

The Edinburgh Larder

The Edinburgh Larder prides itself on bringing the "taste of the country into the heart of the city" through its natural decor full of beautiful wooden furniture and traditional period features as well as through producing delicious seasonal food from local producers. 
It's just round the corner from me in Edinburgh and has been on my list of places to visit so I was really pleased when they invited us for supper this week. I've been to the cafe which is situated just off the Royal Mile and serves delicious breakfasts and lunches but the bistro is even better, combining an artisan bakery in the daytime producing great breads and pastries with a cosy, relaxing restaurant in the evening. 
They have kept the decor very simple and rustic with big hanging lamps and woven throws. The little booths are perfect for a romantic meal but they also have a bigger dining space through the back which would be great for renting out for a big occasion! They are hosting a big Burns Night supper event this Saturday with talks from their speciality suppliers and if I wasn't hosting a big Come Dine With Me Society Burns Night dinner then I'd be there in a flash. 

There's something about restaurants in Edinburgh- they all seem to have a huge sense of respect for Scottish local produce cooked beautifully but simply and presented in a very natural way- the Edinburgh Larder reminded me of the cookery style and approach of another of my favourite Edinburgh restaurants, The Timberyard. It's just my sort of cooking- perfectly cooked fish and meat served alongside hearty broths and seasonal veg but perhaps it wouldn't suit those real meat lovers who are looking for a big steak!

The menu is just the right size and not overwhelming. We started with hot smoked salmon and horseradish pate on homemade toast and pan roasted pigeon breast with spelt, game broth and pickled chanterelle mushrooms. 

The rich gamy pigeon was cooked well and went perfectly with the spelt and carrot broth- which still had a good bite to it and a great contrasting texture. The chanterelle mushrooms were an unusually sweet but interesting pairing.  Be careful not to fill up on bread beforehand though as the serving was quite big!

The pate had a citrus tang and a clean, fresh taste and was the perfect light starter served alongside their toasted homemade bread.

This was followed by crispy roasted duck leg with caramelised onion, broccoli and mash. Now I'm a big fan of duck and often order it when eating out as I tend not to cook it much at home. All the components of the dish were cooked well however with the generous helping of duck it could have done with a bit more sauce and a little something else to make the dish sing. The mash however was velvety smooth and very moreish!

We also had plaice served with fennel, kale and a celeriac puree which was my favourite dish of the evening. The fennel had been cooked just enough to rid it of its bitter harshness and paired beautifully with the smooth and earthy celeriac puree and the fish which just flaked into delicate pieces.

We also wished we'd ordered some of their infamous beef dripping chips that passed us by to another table- they looked divine!

Even after two courses, we couldn't resist their pudding menu and ordered a pear and cobnut cake to share. I really liked the addition of the pear puree on top and it was served with an oatmeal and marshmallow ice cream that was a appropriate accompaniment. 

I wouldn't hesitate into recommend the restaurant but next time I think I'll be a bit more adventurous than choosing my favourite roasted duck and I'll go for one of their fish mains as it was particularly tasty! - I have my eye on their Cullen Skink, a Scottish soup made with smoked haddock. 

 I also felt the menu was very fairly priced with starters at about £5-7, mains between £12-17 and desserts at £6.50. 
They also have set menu options available for lunch and pre-theatre dinner which is a great deal. 

I'll definitely be back and hope to visit for one of their big events!

17 January 2014

Salmon, Spinach and Nutmeg Quiche with a Spelt and Wholemeal Crust

Have you ever made wholemeal pastry? I didn't have any normal flour in the cupboards and so reached for a mixture of wholemeal and spelt flour for these quiches instead. After trying wholemeal pastry I don't think I'll ever turn back for savoury tarts as I love the mild nutty taste that gives the pastry more character. 

Ingredients: (to make 4 small individual tarts)

240g bag of spinach leaves

2 small salmon fillets
1tbsp chopped dill
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp dry white wine

175g wholemeal plain flour
50g spelt flour
Pinch of salt
110g slightly soft unsalted butter
1 egg

2 eggs
100ml double cream
50ml milk
Salt and pepper
2tsp grated fresh nutmeg
1tsp chopped fresh dill


To make the pastry:

Measure out the flours and add both to a large mixing bowl. Add in a pinch of salt and stir together. Add the butter to the flour and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Slowly stir in a teaspoon of cold water and continue to add small amounts until the mixture comes together to form a soft dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

To cook the salmon:

Lightly oil a large piece of extra-wide tin foil. Lay the salmon fillets on top and season with a little salt and pepper. Sprinkle over 1tbsp of chopped fresh dill and then spoon over the dry white wine. Bring the tinfoil together at the top and scrunch over to seal into a parcel.

Lay the tin foil parcel on a baking sheet and cook in a preheated oven at 150 degrees C (fan) for 15minutes. Then remove the salmon from the oven, turn the oven up to 180 degrees C (fan) and put a thin baking tray into the oven.

Meanwhile add the spinach to a large saucepan along with 3tbsp water. Put the pan over a high heat until the spinach is wilted and then remove from the heat. Once the spinach has cooled lightly, use your hands to squeeze the spinach to get rid of as much liquid as possible and then put aside.

Once the salmon has cooled, remove the skin and then flake the salmon into the bowl with the spinach.

Roll out the chilled pastry dough on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin and then line four greased tart cases with the pastry, making sure the pastry is pushed into all the ridges. Using a rolling pin, roll over the top of the case to remove the excess pastry from the edges.

Then put a square of baking paper into each case and top with baking beans to stop the pastry from billowing up.
Put the pastry cases on the preheated baking tray in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes until they begin to turn golden. Remove them from the oven and then remove the baking beans and paper. Egg wash the base and sides of the tarts with a beaten egg and then return to the oven for another 7 minutes until crisp and golden.

To make the filling:

Measure out the cream and milk into a jug. Whisk together with the eggs, a pinch of salt and pepper and the chopped dill and grated nutmeg.

Once the pastry cases are cooked, remove them from the oven and fill evenly with the cooked salmon and spinach mixture. Then pour over the eggs and cream to just below the top of each tart.

Return the tarts to the oven for 12-15 minutes until the egg mixture has set and then allow to cool slightly before eating.

These quiches are perfect for lunch served alongside my carrot, beetroot and cashew nut salad.

11 January 2014

A Fresh Salad to Start the Year

How are all your new years resolutions going? If you've decided to eat more healthily and stay fit, then the food you eat doesn't have to be plain and dull. Healthy food can be delicious if you use fresh, tasty interesting ingredients. Below is a lovely salad for these cold January days and it's even better served with a piece of warm quiche or some ricotta cheese.

My new year's resolution is to write a regular diary and document my photos better- I have a rubbish memory and haven't updated my photo albums for a few years so it would be nice to have some of my new favourite photos from my travels up on the wall!

I'm about to head back up to a very busy new term in Edinburgh. In order to make the most of the last part of our holidays, my flatmates and I took a little trip to Paris to lounge in cafes and patisseries and sit and people watch all day. We were graced with some beautiful Parisian weather and enjoyed some delicious french pastries- it's all a complete novelty to me now that I am eating wheat again!

I've included some of the photos from the trip below- it's one of my favourite cities and at this time of year it's a lot more peaceful and slow-paced and so the perfect atmosphere just to wander through the street and enjoy its main attractions without the flurry of tourists!- the view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe on a sunny january afternoon is amazing!


4 small carrots
1 large raw beetroot
2 eating apples
Large handful of cashew nuts
2tsp nigella seeds
Large handful fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
Juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1tbsp balsamic vinegar


Peel the carrots, beetroot and apples and grate (leaving out the apple cores.) Add the grated ingredients to a large mixing bowl and then finely chop the parsley. Mix in the parsley and nigella seeds and squeeze over the lemon juice.

Then add the cashew nuts to a frying pan and heat over a medium heat. Toss the nuts over the heat for about 3-4 minutes until they begin to turn golden- be very careful to keep an eye on them as they can burn very quickly!

Add the cashew nuts to the salad. Lastly make your dressing by mixing together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a spindle of salt and pepper. Dress the salad and serve.

Notre Dame Cathedral- you can take a look inside the cathedral and climb up to the top if you fancy- it's a beautiful cathedral with very detailed stained glass windows and gothic architecture.

The padlocks on pont de l'archevĂȘchĂ©

An early morning stroll along the La Seine

The Louvre

Cafe Angelina- a famous, grand tearoom in the centre of Paris- set in a beautiful old building and with an amazing selection of cakes and pastries!

Laduree macaroon shop

The view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe!

Merci department store