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Monday, 31 December 2012

Review - The Dogs, Hanover St, Edinburgh


The Dogs, Edinburgh

For the last few years, myself and Nicola have always taken a little city break in Edinburgh between Christmas & New Year, and this year was no different. So whilst the Capital was getting ready for its Hogmanay celebrations, we were making the trip along the M8 in readiness for two days of shopping, eating and drinking.
Visitors to Edinburgh are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out. Outside of London, Edinburgh has the highest number of Michelin starred restaurants in the UK, while the usual suspect chain restaurants are well also well represented. However the thing that makes Edinburgh a great place to eat out is the huge number of independent bars, restaurants, delis and bistros that are all within walking distance of the main shopping areas.
The December issue of Olive Magazine had highlighted The Dogs on Hanover street as somewhere worth checking out, and as it was just round the corner from our hotel, we decided to head there for lunch.
After checking into our hotel, we took the short walk to The Dogs and began climbing the almost endless flight of stairs, passing photographs and statues of various dogs along the way, to be welcomed by a cheery member of staff asking if we had a reservation. I hadn't thought to book, and considering the fact that we had arrived about half pat twelve on one of the busiest days of the year, maybe I was being optimistic that we would get in, however we were quickly shown to a table and advised that there would be a short delay in our food order being taken. Over the next couple of minutes the restaurant quickly filled and I'm sure that had we arrived much later, we probably wouldn't have been so lucky.
The interior of The Dogs is simply furnished and decorated, while the menu is a simple A5 printed list of the traditional food available on the day. Whilst the surroundings give the impression of a 'no-frills' dining experience, when the food arrived at the table, our perceptions were immediately changed.

Devilled liver & bacon

My own lunch of Devilled Ox Liver, was one of the tastiest meals that I have ever eaten. Huge chunks of medium cooked liver, smoked bacon, sauteed onions & mushrooms, on a thick slice of toast, in a rich gravy that packed a spicy kick. My taste buds were dancing with every forkful!

Haggis, black pudding & bacon hash with fried duck egg

Nicola had ordered the Haggis, black pudding & bacon hash, which came with a fried duck egg on top. Again, this plate of food was an explosion of flavour. The black pudding was spicy, the haggis and crisp bacon added great texture and the rich duck egg pulled everything together.
We loved the fact that neither dishes need any seasoning, which is saying something these days. However the thing that we loved most the portion sizes served on the day menu. At lunchtime, I don't want a full plated meal, and on a cold winter day I don't want a sandwich, so in my opinion The Dogs have got it just right on how much to serve up at lunchtime.
Our lunch cost less than £20, including a glass of wine each, and tap water was served without asking. The service was efficient, especially as the restaurant was almost full. Rest assured that the next time we are in Edinburgh I will be sure to book a table as I would be disappointed not to go to The Dogs again.
Keep up to date with The Dogs on Facebook and Twitter.


Thursday, 27 December 2012

5 Questions - Rice n Spicy

I've written before about the fantastic range of fresh and local produce that I can buy at the Clarkston Farmers Market. The last market of the year was on the Saturday before Christmas and as I had a few orders to collect, I made my way to market on a very cold and wet morning. Despite the poor weather, all of the stallholders were in high spirits, everyone looking forward to putting their feet up to enjoy Christmas with family and friends. After collecting my chipolatas and streaky bacon (for the perfect pigs in blankets) from Lochbyre, some pâté and terrine from Creeside Charcuterie, a collection of sorbets from Thorntonhall Farmhouse Ice Cream, a delicious Christmassy biscotti from Vanilla Buffets, and plenty of tasty treats from The Wee Fudge Company, I noticed that there was another newcomer to the market.

Rice n Spicy is run by Rashed Ghani, who was busy cooking up samples of spicy rice and flavoursome keema curry, filling the air with a spicy aroma. Rice n Spicy want to share the authentic taste of the Punjab, which has been passed down through the generations from traditional family recipes. Rashed's aim is to share his own love & passion for cooking with the people of Lanarkshire and beyond.

Here's Rashed's story;

How did you get started?

I have always had a passion for cooking and this year has presented the opportunity, due to redundancy, to share this with a wider audience. This started as an idea in June with a tasting session with a friend who I had not seen in over 10 years and has gone from a concept to a fully running business in just over 4 months, this has involved a tremendous amount of work from food legislation to converting my garage into a fully commercial kitchen.

What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?

Research your market and listen to customer feedback, don't be afraid to follow your dream if you truly believe in it and finally invest both time and finance to do things correctly, never cut corners. If a job is worth doing, do it right.

Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?

In 5 years time I would like to see 'Rice n Spicy' become well known throughout Central Scotland and beyond as a brand associated with quality Punjab cuisine, known for its reputation of using quality ingredients and providing good honest food. We are working hard to increase our customer base and have already started supplying small retailers and offer mail order throughout the UK.

If you could only have one of your own products, what would it be & why?

Now that's a hard question to answer, personally I feel that the tastiest curries are vegetable based ones. For this reason it would have to be baby aubergine and fresh new potato curry, my absolute favourite, lightly garnished with fried homegrown spring onions and garlic chives.

You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?

That's too easy! The one person that I would invite would be the inspiration behind Rice n Spicy, my Dad the late great Abdul Ghani. All my recipes are based on his traditional style of Punjab cooking. On the menu would be his slow cooked Lamb curry served with his traditional roti and homemade fresh mint chutney, I've mastered the chutney but still working on achieving the taste that will take me back to my childhood for the lamb, it's a work in progress.

Indian takeaway wasn't in my thought process when I left the house in the morning but after sampling the keema curry, I was keen to try the other dishes, so Saturday nights dinner was easily taken care of. I love vegetable dishes so chose the chick pea curry, and saag murghi (chicken & spinach curry), along with pilau rice.
All of the dishes came in 650ml packages declined to serve two adults easily, although I'm sure that with some starters and naan bread, there would be enough in the two dishes to serve four.
Our dinner was delicious. Both meals were full of flavour, the chick pea curry cooked with fresh tomatoes, chillies and potatoes, packed a spicy punch. While the chicken and spinach was heavily flavoured with cumin, coriander and garam masala.
Chick Pea Curry & Saag Murghi
Lanarkshire Farmers Market have done a fantastic job in putting together a great lineup of local producers, and I'm sure that Rice n Spicy will be a brilliant addition to the regular markets. I normally look forward to the last Saturday of the month as I know that it's Clarkston Farmers Market day, or as it will now be known.....Curry Night!

Keep up to date with Rice n Spicy on Facebook and Twitter.



Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Recipe - Tamil Nadu Fried Rice, inspired by Cafe La Ola, Puerto del Carmen

Cafe La Ola, Puerto del Carmen

When myself and Nicola were in Lanzarote earlier in the year we made sure that we sampled as much of the local food as possible, as well as trying out some of the more popular restaurants in the resort.

Halfway along the recently refurbished 'Strip', sits one of the most popular venues in Puerto del Carmen. Restaurant La Ola, which is always busy with diners keen to try the extensive meat & fish menu whilst enjoying the stunning panoramic sea views. Downstairs, Cafe La Ola has a much more laid back approach to things with a restaurant, bar and club that attracts the hip and trendy people with a combination of Asian fusion food, fantastic cocktails, and loads of Spanish influenced entertainment.

The menu downstairs had caught our eye earlier in the week, coupled with a free Flamenco show and one of the best collections of rum this side of the Dominican Republic, we booked a table for the Friday night. The interior of Cafe La Ola has a Moroccan feel to it, scattered with red, orange and gold cushions. Look around after dinner and you'll see guests puffing on hookah pipes, the fruity orange scented smoke wafting in the breeze.

Whilst the decor may be Moroccan in style, the menu is exclusively Asian in origin. We chose to share a starter of Mixed Tempura, slices of pepper, courgette, asparagus, chicken and king prawn, deep fried in crisp batter. To follow, Nicola ordered a Korean beef dish that consisted of strips of tender fillet beef, red peppers, in a rich peppery sauce. I had ordered the Tamil Nadu fried rice which is the inspiration behind this post. The dish that was served to me was one of the tastiest rice dishes that I've eaten, a flavoursome combination of fillet beef, bacon, leek, red pepper, asparagus which was stir fried with green curry paste.

Tamil Nadu fried rice

When we arrived home from our holiday I set about trying to recreate the dish from memory. I've since made the Tamil Nadu fried rice a couple of times and each time it takes me back to our night at Cafe La Ola.
Ingredients (serves 2)
  • 100g cooked rice
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 red chilli, sliced
  • 2 small leeks, sliced
  • 1 tbsp green curry paste
  • 4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
  • 1 chicken breast, shredded
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 eggs
Method



  1. Put the chicken in a bowl with the soy sauce and rice vinegar. Set aside until needed.
  2. Heat groundnut oil in a wok until it smokes. Add the bacon and stir fry until the bacon begins to crisp up. Remove the bacon and set aside.
  3. Add the chicken to the wok and stir fry until cooked through. Once the chicken is cooked, remove from the wok and set aside.
  4. Keep the heat in the wok before adding the peppers, leek, chilli. Stir fry for a few minutes our until the vegetables have begun to soften. At this point, add the the curry paste and continue to stir fry the contents of the wok.
  5. At this point, you can now add the bacon, chicken and rice into the wok. Continue to stir fry until the rice is heated through. If you think the rice is a little dry, you can add a little soy sauce or oyster sauce.
  6. To finish, fry the two eggs in a separate pan until they are cooked to your own preference.
Tamil Nadu fried rice
To serve, spoon the fried rice into two bowls before topping with the fried egg. The Indonesian dish, Nasi Goreng is traditionally served with a fried egg on top, however it is common place in Asian cooking for the meal to be topped with a 'star egg', or 'top egg'.

This fried dish is bursting with flavour, the smokiness from the bacon, mixed with the spices from the green curry paste, work brilliantly together. I used leeks and peppers because those were vegetables used back at Cafe La Ola, but you could use whatever flavours you prefer but the star ingredient in this dish is the green curry paste.
If you're ever in Lanzarote then try to find time to try the food at Cafe La Ola, the atmosphere, setting and entertainment make Cafe La Ola a great place to spend time. Keep up to date with the team on Facebook.








Thursday, 13 December 2012

Recipe - Home Made Beef Burgers

I made a decision over the weekend that homemade burgers would be on the menu one night this week. With that in mind, I asked a question on both Facebook & Twitter, looking for some inspiration and maybe a cheeky wee secret ingredients or two that I might be able to add to my own burger recipe. Within a short time, I had lots of different suggestions for ways to jazz up my burger, but settled on adding some oyster sauce as suggested by JD, a food blogger from Edinburgh, and some beef stock as suggested by Zoe and Benn from La Cantina.

Ingredients (serves 2)


  • 250g minced beef
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1/2 Oxo cube
  • 1/2 tsp Unami paste
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1 slice mature cheddar, thickly cut
Method

  1. Put all of the ingredient in a bowl and mix until well combined. Season with a little black pepper. You shouldn't need salt as the oyster sauce will do a job here.
  2. Divide the mixture into four and shape into individual patties. Place a half slice of the cheddar onto two of the patties before covering with the other two. Pinch the beef together to seal the cheese in the middle.
  3. Heat a little oil in an ovenproof frying pan and once the oil is hot, carefully place the patties into the pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes on one side before turning then place the pan in a preheated oven 190C for a further 5-6 minutes.
8oz homemade burgers
Serve the burger with your own preferred condiments. Tonight I kept it simple, with just mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and cheese, served in a toasted ciabatta roll.

Homemade burgers
The burgers were deliciously juicy and packed full of flavour, and the melting cheese in the middle was a lovely little twist. Including any preparation time, these burger were ready to serve in just over twenty minutes. So the next time you're thinking about using the fast food burger chains as an easy answer for dinner, why not make your own burger instead? You'll be glad that you did!



Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Recipe - Baileys Chocolate Truffles

Baileys truffles

As Christmas rapidly approaches, it's only a matter of time before we are all knee deep in boxes of shop bought sweets and chocolates. It's always good to have a supply of treats handy just in case friends and family drop by to help celebrate the festive period, but why not impress your guests with these easy to make home-made truffles instead. (Recipe courtesy of Olive Magazine)

Ingredients (makes approx 20)

  • 120ml double cream
  • 80ml Baileys Irish Cream
  • 15ml whisky
  • 175g dark chocolate 70%, chopped
Method

  1. Gently heat the cream with the Baileys and whisky but take care not to boil. Pour the warm mixture over the chopped dark chocolate and stir until smooth. Chill until firm, but not solid - you want to be able to sheep the truffles easily.
  2. Scoop out spoonfuls of the mix and roll into walnut-sized balls. Roll each truffle in cocoa powder or grated white chocolate then chill until needed. Remove from the fridge about 15 minutes before you need them.
Baileys truffles rolled in cocoa powder

As I sit here with my coffee whilst enjoying the last few truffles from this first batch I'm already thinking of the various combinations that I need to try next. Try replacing the Baileys with Cointreau for a lovely chocolate orange. Or what about using crème de menthe, Chambord or Tia Maria? However as its Christmas time, I think my next batch will be infused with kirsch to give a wonderful Black Forest flavour.





Tuesday, 27 November 2012

5 Questions - Creeside Charcuterie



Creeside Charcuterie
For years, I couldn't even pronounce the word 'charcuterie', let alone understand what it meant! However now that I have aged in years, I now know that 'charcuterie' is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products , such as bacon, ham, sausages, terrines, galantines, pâtés, and confit. Charcuterie, which translates from the French language as 'cooked flesh', was originally intended as a way to preserve meats before the advent of refrigeration, although nowadays they are prepared for the flavours that come from the preservation process.
A couple of months ago, my local farmers market announced that there was a new exhibitor heading our way. Our market already had a great range of local producers offering fresh fruit and veg, fish and shellfish, chicken, pork, beef, lamb, venison (which some folk think is dear, but I think reasonably priced), plus a wide range of speciality breads, home baking and fudge. After a little thought, it made perfect sense that the new kid on the block was Creeside Charcuterie, owned by Sarah Redman. The missing link?
I was excited to meet with Sarah when the market came to town mainly because it fell on the same weekend that I was hosting my famous tapas night, and hope that Creeside could supply me with some cured meats. The current range of products available include various pâtés and terrines, plus an incredibly more-ish hummus. Unfortunately for me, the range doesn't include Serrano style ham or chorizo sausage (yet), so I had to make do with the delicious Shepherds Pâté which fitted in very well with my cheese and meat selection.

Here's Sarah's story;
How did you get started?

In April 2012, having sold our large commercial dairy farm and ice-cream business in Cornwall, we opted for an easier life! We bought Creeside Farm, a 200 acre farm on the banks of the River Cree in the far corner of South Ayrshire. With my background in food (former chef and ice-cream maker) and hubby busy farming Black & Belted Galloway cows & sheep, I wanted to use local produce (and eventually our own home produced meat) to create an artisan product – Creeside Charcuterie was born.

What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?

You need to enjoy what you are doing, believe in your product, be resilient and prepared for lots of hard work.

Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?

Instead of cooking in my own kitchen I would like to convert one of our farm buildings (don't tell hubby!) and be able to produce terrines, parfait and pate for the wholesale market and sell direct to farm shops, deli's and small independent shops. I would also like to have an online shop and be able to provide a postal service too.

If you could only have one of your own products, what would it be & why?

My Chicken & Pistachio Terrine – it's something a bit different, looks amazing and tastes fab. I'd serve it with some local salad leaves, homemade bread and some of our own Red Onion Marmalade.
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?

I would invite my husband. We both run busy businesses and have a young family so find that getting quality time alone together is very rare! I really don't mind what we have to eat as long as somebody else is doing the cooking and washing up! No matter what is on the menu, we must have plenty of champagne to accompany the meal.

I've now met Sarah a few times at the market and been able to sample most of the products available. Everything that I've tasted has been full of flavour, so with myself responsible for preparing Christmas dinner this year, I think that I may have to take the easy route and order a couple of tubs of the homemade chicken liver pâté for our starter. I'm sure that my guests won't mind if I take a little shortcut when they sit down to their Christmas lunch and get a taste themselves.
Keep up to date with Creeside Charcuterie on Twitter and Facebook.





Sunday, 25 November 2012

Review - Tron Bar & Kitchen, Glasgow

The Tron has been a familiar landmark in Glasgow's Merchant City, easily recognised by the 16th century church steeple. In fact, the home of The Tron Theatre has always played an important part in the rich history of the old industrial city. The building started life as St Mary's Church in 1637 before being almost completely destroyed by a fire which was started by a couple of drunken members of the notorious Hell Fire Club in 1793. The only part of the building to survive was the now famous steeple which was incorporated into reconstruction work by the architects, James & Robert Adam. Over the years the building has been place of execution, a meeting hall, a market and a store house, a police station and a theatre.
Whilst long respected for its theatrical offerings, The Tron Bar & Kitchen is gaining a reputation for offering good food. In addition to traditional pre-theatre meals or after show drinks, the kitchen serves up light lunches, snacks and wide range of homemade meals.
As LittleGems Jewellery was exhibiting at a craft fair that was being held within the Tron last weekend ,( and I was helping), we were able to try try out their excellent value lunchtime menu.
Goats cheese & red onion marmalade sandwich
The menu boasted a wide selection of light snacks and sandwiches as well as hearty burgers and baked potatoes. The range of fillings for the sandwiches was huge, and after changing her mind a few times, Nicola decided to get the goats cheese and red onion marmalade sandwich. What she received was two massive doorstops of fresh bloomer bread, filled to the gunnels with creamy, slightly salty goats cheese and a tart marmalade of red onion which gave the perfect balance to the distinctive flavours of the cheese. The sandwich was served alongside a garden of mixed salad leaves dressed in a light mustard dressing.
Brocolli & Stilton soup with Coronation chicken sandwich
Although I was tempted by the sound of their homemade burger, I decided to order the 'soup and sandwich'. I don't know why but I had been expecting a creamier soup, however the chef had kept the soup very simple using just stock, broccoli and a little Stilton. The soup was deliciously flavoured and well seasoned. To accompany my soup I had opted for the Coronation chicken sandwich. Like Nicola's sandwich, mine was packed with tons of filling and loads of flavour. The Coronation chicken was a fanatic blend of diced chicken breast, mayonnaise, and curry powder, served with dressed salad on two huge chunks of wholegrain bread.

Pint of West Brewery Lager
The bar serves up a wide range of bottled and draught beers and lagers including locally produced St Mungo which is brewed less than a mile from the Tron at West Brewery on Glasgow Green. The award winning German style lager was a perfect way to round off my lunch.

Lunch for two including a pint of lager, a diet Coke, and a packet of crisps came to just over £13. With excellent portion sizes packed with flavour, we would definitely return in the future.

If you're ever near Trongate and in need of some sustenance then make sure that Tron Bar & Kitchen is somewhere in your thought. Keep up to date with Tron Theatre on Facebook & Twitter.



Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Recipe - Cottage Pie

Homemade cottage pie
After a fairly disappointing summer and a very short autumn, winter has arrived and looks set to be a cold one again. I generally don't mind the cold winter months as it means that I can start cooking traditional one pot dishes that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face and a little warmth in the tummy.
With one of these dishes in mind, on Monday evening I prepared my own twist on the classic Cottage Pie. The term 'cottage pie' has been around since the late 18th century when the potato was introduced as an edible crop for the poor, with cottage meaning the modest dwelling of a rural worker. The dish was prepared by lining a pie dish with mashed potato, a filling of leftover roast meat was added before being topped with more mashed potato and then baked. This is of course not to be confused with shepherds pie which is made using mutton or lambs mince.
Not much has changes over the years, cottage pie is still as popular now as it was then. My own recipe has a little twist that I think works very well.

Ingredients (serves 2/3)


  • 250g lean steak mince
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 1 oxo cube
  • 150g cauliflower ,cut into small florets
  • 100ml soured cream
  • 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 40g strong cheddar, grated
  • 250g potato, floury potatoes work better for mashing
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Dash balsamic vinegar
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce
Method
  1. Cut the potatoes into small chunks and boil in pan of salted water. When the potato is cooked through, drain before putting back in the pan with a little milk and a couple of knobs of butter, then carefully mash until you have a smooth consistency. Remove from the heat and stir the egg yolk through the potato. Set aside whilst you prepare the rest of the pie.
  2. Heat a little olive oil in a pan, add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until softened. Add the mince to the vegetables and keep stirring. Once the mince has browned all over, add a splash of Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar. Keep stirring, making sure that the liquid has fully evaporated. Crumble the oxo cube into the mince and stir through. You may want to add a little splash of water to the pan but be careful not to add too much. The mixture should be glossy but not saturated. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Add the cauliflower to salted boiling water and cook for 5-6 minutes. The florets should be al dente. Drain the water from the pan before stirring the soured cream, mustard and grated cheese through the cauliflower.
  4. To assemble, layer the mince into the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Top with the cauliflower mixture before spreading the mashed potatoes over the top.
  5. If you are planning on serving when you make it, place under a hot grill for 5-10 minutes until the potato is golden and crispy. I made mine the night before I was planning on serving it so needed a longer cooking time. If you are doing the same, cover the dish with tinfoil and place into a preheated oven 170C. Cook for 25 minutes then remove the foil, cook for a further 20 minutes until the top is crispy and the pie cooked through.

Cottage pie with tenderstem brocolli














To serve, spoon a generous amount of the piping hot cottage pie onto a plate alongside your favourite veg, with a little gravy on the side. The secret layer of cauliflower cheese work well with the creamy mash, adding another texture dimension to this classic and comforting dish.





Saturday, 17 November 2012

Review - Livorno Fish & Chips, Clarkston, Glasgow

Earlier this year there was much excitement in Clarkston as word spread of a new Italian fish and chip shop that was soon to open. Work on 'Livorno' started back in April or May, with rumours spreading that they were ready to open towards the end of June. After months of anticipation, Livorno eventually opened a couple of weeks ago with little fanfare.

As I was helping LittleGems Jewellery with a craft event last night, I had little time to prepare dinner so it made perfect sense that we try the new 'chippy', eager to see if it was worth the wait.


Livorno Fish & Chips, Clarkston
As part of an opening offer all suppers are priced at £2.99 for a limited period. Normally when we get dinner from the chippy, we usually get a fish supper and a single black pudding to share between us, but last night I took advantage of their opening offer and bought two suppers.

When I opened the box containing the fish supper I was surprised to see only one fish! These days, it is normal to have two battered fish in a supper, (which is why we share ours). I have a big issue with the 'Two Fish System'! The world bangs on about overfishing and using sustainable fish, yet the fish and chip shop industry serve two fish as a standard occurrence. Why? Maybe someone in the industry can answer that one for me?

Anyway, last nights fish was huge! A giant piece of delicious flaky haddock, in a light and crisp batter, that ran the length of the box, served on a bed of very nice, fluffy chips.


Fish supper
After being surprised by the sight of just one fish, I was surprised a second time when I opened the other box to see two black puddings! Had I stepped into some weird 'chippy' parallel universe?


Black pudding supper
We both love black pudding, the spicier the better, so you can imagine the excitement of having two! Unfortunately, the excitement didn't last. The black pudding was dry and mealy with virtually no actual flavour, which was a huge pity as it was served within the same brilliant crisp batter as the fish.

Despite the disappointment with the black pudding, overall we were impressed with Livorno, and would happily recommend giving them a try the next time you have a hankering for Scotland's other national food. The portion sizes were great, especially with the offer price. I don't know what the real prices will be, but based on the size of the portion I still expect it to offer great value.



Thursday, 15 November 2012

5 Questions - Yumm! Bakery

Yumm Bakery

The first mention of the cupcake can be traced as far back as 1796, when a recipe notation of "a cake to be baked in small cups" was written in American Cookery by Amelia Simmons. In previous centuries, before muffin tins were widely available, the cakes were often baked in individual pottery cups, ramekins, or molds and took their name from the cups they were baked in. This is the use of the name that has remained, and the name of "cupcake" is now given to any small cake that is about the size of a teacup. The name "fairy cake" is a fanciful description of its size, which would be appropriate for a party of diminutive fairies to share. While English fairy cakes vary in size more than American cupcakes, they are traditionally smaller and are rarely topped with elaborate icing.

No matter where you live, I'm sure that there are plenty of highly skilled cake makers producing a huge range of imaginatively flavoured, beautifully decorated works of art.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Pamela, Creative Director of Yumm! Bakery, a cupcake company based in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire. Yumm! Bakery believe that every day is a day that should be celebrated with cupcakes. Here's Pamela's story;

How did you get started?
Whenever I went over to my in-laws house, my mother-in-law (who sadly passed in 2011) always had home baked treats and goodies...she inspired me in my late 20s to take up baking with a passion. It became a running joke amongst my friends and family that I would never turn up without some baked treats for them to test and tell me what they thought. Yumm! Bakery grew slowly as a pipe dream over many years of people telling me I should sell my cupcakes. That eventually grew into something more during a long exciting talk with my husband on a Sunday, and by Monday morning Yumm! was born.

What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?

Do you research - find out who your competition is, what their pricing is, who they target and how you can make yourself a little different. I think this is such an important step that a lot of people over look. You have to know your competition.

Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?

I would like to be a cupcake brand in Glasgow - a company that sits along side some of the well known Glasgow Cupcake Companies that people know. And maybe a shop!

If you could only have one of your own products, what would it be & why?

This is so difficult because everything I bake I love, that's why I make them. I have recently started selling CakePops which I am a little in love with because they taste amazing. But for me I think its got to be my Caramelised Banana Cupcake with Peanut Butter Frosting it tastes so moreish...YUMM!

You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?

Originally I had a whole answer about Robert Pattinson because I think he is gorgeous, but when I read back my answers I realized that it wouldn't be R-Patz and I couldn't pick just one person. I would have to have the people I love most - my family both those with me and those who have passed. I know this is cheating but I figure its my last meal I can be a little difficult & demanding.

To eat? It would have to be cupcakes of course!

Delicious cupcakes

A couple of weeks ago when I was helping LittleGems Jewellery at a craft event, Pamela and Yumm! Bakery were set up on the stall next to us. With a massive collection of cupcakes and cake pops on offer, it wasn't easy to pick one to take home, so I picked two instead!

The cupcakes above were both fantastic. The cake with the star on top was salted caramel with a home made cinnamon shortbread star and the other is a maple choc chip, which was my favourite. Yumm! can deliver fresh baked cupcakes to your home or workplace across Glasgow & Lanarkshire. Check out the website for more details or keep up to date on Facebook or Twitter.






Monday, 5 November 2012

Review - Torres Tapas Restaurant, Glasgow

Torres Tapas Restaurant & Wine Bar, Glasgow
This weekend I have been busy helping LittleGems Jewellery with some of the many Christmas craft events that she will be attending over the coming seven weeks. After a long day at an event at Cottiers Theatre organised by the Glasgow Crafters Co-operative in Glasgow's West End, we made our way into the city centre to make use of a voucher that had been given to Nicola for her birthday a few weeks ago.

As many of you may already know, Nicola and me both love tapas. We have eaten at Torres once before and were very surprised at the authenticity and quality of the tapas that they served up, so were both looking forward to returning tonight.

Torres have been offering various deals through Groupon and other deal websites, tonight our voucher was good for any six tapas dishes to share plus a dessert each. The menu has a wide range of traditional Spanish tapa and paella, as well as some Mexican influenced dishes. After ordering the house sangria, which was prepared to order, we picked Croquettas de Pollo, Patatas Bravas, Ensalada de Queso de Cabra, Pinchitos de Pollo y Gambas, Chorizo y Butifarra Negro, and Gambas Pil Pil.

Patatas Bravas, Butifarra & Chorizo, Croquettas de Pollo
Gambas PilPil, Pintxos de Pollo
As we waited for our food to be prepared, we began to wind down with our sangria, a great blend of red wine, lemonade and plenty of chopped apple, lime & lemon. It didn't take long before our tapas began making their way to the table. The patatas bravas were crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and covered in a rich smoky tomato sauce. The salad was good mix of dressed leaves and red onion with plenty of creamy cubes of goats cheese. The chicken croquettes were ok. Crispy with a good chicken flavour but maybe lacking a touch of seasoning, although not a patch on my own croquettes de pollo. The Gambas Pil Pil were great, four huge prawns cooked perfectly having been marinated in a blend of chilli, lime and garlic. Nicola's favourite dish was the pinchitos de pollo y gambas. This was cubes of chicken and prawns marinated in a salt, pepper, lemon juice and mustard before being skewered and cooked on the grill. My own favourite was the superb combo of chorizo y butifarra, thinly sliced smoky chorizo served with a deliciously spicy black pudding.
Crema Catalan, Baked New York cheesecake
With six emply plates sitting in front of us, we were full..... well almost full. After a quick look at the dessert menu Nicola ordered the New York Baked Cheesecake, whilst I opted for the traditional Crema Catalana. Both of the desserts were very nice, the cheesecake was light and creamy with just a slight wobble. The Crema Catalana was one of the better versions that I've tasted outside of Spain, a delicious creamy, eggy custard set under a crisp burnt sugar top.
Each of the dishes that we ordered were packed with flavour, however the portion sizes were not huge. As we were using a discount voucher I'm not sure if the portions sizes are any different than if we were eating off of the à la carte but as most of the tapas dishes are priced individually between £2.50 - £4.00, I would be a little disappointed at paying full price for the small dishes served tonight.
I would happily recommend the food at Torres but make sure to look online to see if you can find a deal. The food at Torres is authentic and tasty, coupled with the value offered through the Groupon or 5pm.co.uk vouchers, you'll be hard pushed to find better value for money tapas in Glasgow.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Recipe - Linguine with Meatballs, Garlic & Spinach

Linguine with meatballs & spinach
At a recent farmers market I had purchased a pack of ginger & spring onion meatballs from Lochbyre Rare Breed Meats. My plan was to serve the meatballs with pasta although I wasn't sure whether to serve with a cream or tomato based sauce. In the end, I decided that a tomato based sauce would be too overpowering for the delicate flavours in the pork meatballs.
Ingredients Serves 2
  • 150g dried linguine (you can use whatever shape pasta you prefer)
  • 250g meatballs
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 inch ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 4tbsp soured cream
  • 2tbsp soft cheese
  • 50g spinach leaves
Method


  1. Heat a little oil in a pan, brown the meatballs before removing and placing in an ovenproof dish. Put the meatballs in a preheated oven 180C for fifteen minutes.
  2. Heat a little more oil in the pan and add the garlic, ginger & spring onion. Fry for a few minutes before adding the soured cream and soft cheese. Stir the contents of the pan together, you can add a little milk to loosen the mixture.
  3. Cook the pasta and drain, retaining a little of the cooking liquor in the saucepan. Pour the creamy sauce over the pasta, stir in the spinach leaves and meatballs. The heat from the pasta will help the spinach wilt and cook through.
To serve, divide the creamy past between two bowls before covering with a generous amount of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. This dish took just twenty minutes to prepare, give it a try and let me know how you get on.

Meatballs with linguine


Sunday, 28 October 2012

Have Your Say and Win £250

In 1979, Tim & Nina Zagat created the Zagat Survey, the first organised guide of New York restaurants based on the feedback of independent diners. Over the years, the survey has grown to cover over 70 cities across the globe, as well as adding guides for hotels, shopping, airlines, zoos, music, theatres and movies.

In the early days, the guide was available to buy as a book, and more recently by a paid subscription on its website.

Google acquired Zagat last year and as of May this year, Zagat reviews and ratings are now tightly integrated into the Google services, and the Zagat.com site became free to use.

A complete survey of Ireland has just been completed and Zagat are busy gathering reviews for Edinburgh & Glasgow and want help from you. Diners can win £250 of restaurant vouchers – by reviewing where they love to eat out. Zagat are looking for the kind of things that people would say to their friends – whether the decor is good, the music is loud/quiet, what the best dish, basically all the reasons someone would want to go.

To have your say on the best places to eat in Glasgow or Edinburgh, simply follow the link and get reviewing. You never know, your next meal might be on the house!