Friday, 30 December 2011

Poached Salmon with Herb Dressing.

Now this is a lovely light, healthy and refreshing dish to counteract all the excesses of Christmas.

For Random Recipes this month, Dom asked us to make space for new Christmas pressies by choosing a cookbook to donate to charity and cooking a random recipe from it before giving it away.  I did have a look at all my books but as we moved house this year, we had already done a massive clear out and the only books we had left were ones we really wanted to keep.  

I did, however, remember that a friend of mine had been clearing out some of her old copies of Everyday Food magazine by Martha Stewart and had given me a great big bag of them.  I had intended to go through them all and pass the ones I had finished with to another friend of ours.  Well, it had been some time since I had passed any on to her so I thought I could use one of them for this challenge and get started passing on the magazines again.

The recipe randomly chosen was from Issue 51 of Everyday Food from Martha Stewart and I have changed it quite a bit. The original recipe can be found on the Martha Stewart website here.

Recipe - Poached Salmon Salad with Herb Dressing.
Serves 4.

4 skinless salmon fillets
zest of 1 lemon, peeled into strips
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
sea salt and ground pepper
1 clove of garlic
200g creme fraiche
1 handful fresh tarragon leaves
1 handful fresh parsley leaves
1 packet of baby salad leaves
1/2 cucumber diced or handful cherry tomatoes, halved

1. Place salmon in a pan and cover with cold water.  Add lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil over a high heat.  Cover, remove from the heat and let stand until salmon is opaque throughout, about 15 mins.
2. In a blender, combine creme fraiche, lemon juice, garlic, tarragon and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.  Blend until smooth and set aside.
3. Divide salad and cucumber/tomatoes over four plates.  Top with poached salmon (leave whole or flake) and drizzle with dressing.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Food Bloggers Unplugged.

Susan from A Little Bit Of Heaven On A Plate started this series in November to have a bit of fun and get to know some of the people behind the food blogs better.

I have be kindly tagged by C from Cakes, Crumbs and Cooking and the lovely Little Macaroon.

I have to answer ten questions and they don't look easy!!!  Here goes - 

1. What, or who inspired you to start a blog?
To be honest, I really can't remember what went through my mind and made me start one.   I think I just wanted to keep a kind of journal of my boys growing up and helping us in the kitchen.  It was supposed to be just for me to look at and was probably born of my compulsive need to record photos of them along with my obsession with food.  I had no idea then what a wonderful community it is.  I certainly had never heard of all the challenges there are.  Nowadays this blog is really a vehicle for me to be involved in the challenges - making the same thing as other people (sometimes something I wouldn't have thought of making if left to my own devices) and having people to share our chat about the recipe and how it went. I notice, however, that my second ever post was a restaurant review - not sure why I wanted to do that.  I LOVE reading reviews in the weekend papers but can't think why I wanted to start doing my own.  I'm certainly not a writer.  I would like to improve my writing, photography and cooking skills but am happy to do that over the long term as the main priority for my time just now is my boys (then my dog, Bob, then my husband (Sshhhh - don't let on he came after Bob!) and then I suppose work has to be prioritised to some extent).

2. Who is your foodie inspiration?
Hmmm.  I think my love of food ultimately stems from my parents.  They are not hugely into cooking but they can both cook and both fed me very well as a child.  They do LOVE their food and sharing food has always been central to our family life.  My Grandma inspired me greatly.  She grew huge amounts of her own fruit, vegetables, herbs, cut flowers until she was well into her 80s.  She made huge stores of chutneys.  We used to bake together but my favourite memories are of just spending time with her and my Granda in their garden eating strawberries or peas or whatever straight from the plant.  I'm sorry my own children don't really have that.  I think I'll have to make more effort for next year.  Maybe I could grow some peas in a container?  They were my favourite.
And, of course, my favourite food writer is Nigel Slater.  He speaks to me.

3. Your greasiest, batter - splattered food/drink book is?
I have an old jotter from my Mum's school cookery class.  I don't make much out of it but it does contain my favourite truffle recipe.  It is a mess.  I also have my Grandma's old book where she noted down recipes - well, I think my Dad must have it somewhere.  I'll need to ask him for it.  I would like to recreate my Grandma's chutney next year when the gooseberry season comes round.
I also have a very old book called Cookery In Colour which belongs to my Mum and has the recipe we use for Christmas cake.  I made my cake from it last month and am feeding it sherry.
Of the books which actually belong to me, I think Nigel Slater's Appetite is the most used.

4. Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?
I am not a particularly well travelled person.  The main reason is that I have always had a dog or dogs so we tend to holiday in Scotland.  I have been abroad a few times when in between dogs or only for a weekend when my Mum and Dad could keep the dog.  Does England count as another country?  If so, we had a meal at Gordon Ramsay's at Hospital Road.  It was a special treat to us both for our 30th birthdays from family and friends who clubbed together.  It was very special.  We were allowed into the kitchen where we chatted to Mark Askew, his executive chef, while watching Claire Smyth do her thing at the pass.  I must say the service was outstanding.  Jean-Claude Breton welcomed us and immediately made us feel at ease.  We didn't feel at all intimidated and were made to feel very comfortable.  A really special one-off meal.  Notice I haven't mentioned the food much.  It was outstanding but meals are particularly special to me because of the occasion and who I share them with.  That weekend was when my second son was about 9 months old and so having time to have a meal just Stephen and myself was one of the most amazing parts of it.  

Another memorable meal was pork, black beans and rice in Cuba.  A really simple, almost peasant meal but it was our honeymoon so, again, filled with wonderful memories.

5. Another food bloggers table you'd like to eat at is?
Well, Little Macaroon's.  I have already had the pleasure of eating at her table several times but she has been away for nearly two years and we miss her.  She likes the same sort of food as I do and she is very much about family times.  She would have our two families eating together with the children sharing what we were eating.  In fact, before she left she set up a "supper club" and invited ourselves and other friends round for a meal where we all contributed something.  It was great fun.  It would have continued if they hadn't gone away.  I wish I could remember how she had worded her philosophy behind it.  Oh actually - I have just managed to find the original message on facebook.  Hmm should I quote her or is that a bit cheeky? Okay, here's what she said (hope you don't mind Macaroon, but I love this and it sums up what I'm trying to say in the whole waffly paragraph), "It’s about wanting our kids to grow up with fuzzy memories of homes always filled with colourful, merry, creative and interesting people."  

6. What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?
I would like a meat thermometer and digital scales.  My analogue scales were a wedding present and I love them but the kids have been playing with them and I can no longer get them to weigh anything under 100g with any kind of accuracy.  In fact, I don't know if they weight anything at all with accuracy.  I'm happy enough just guessing, though, just now.  

7. Who taught you how to cook?
My Mum.  I can make a lot of good basics - bolognaise, chilli, lentil soup, broth, mince and tatties.

8. I'm coming to you for dinner what's your signature dish?
No idea.  I'll probably panic a little but go for something really easy - something made ahead and then just brought out of the oven to the table so I don't have to stress about cooking while you are here.  I might make a lovely oxtail stew.  Not if you're vegetarian, of course.  Hmm what would I make if you are vegetarian?  Probably something from Shaheen's lovely blog. You see, I am not having people around often enough to have tried and tested signature dishes.  I have my Mum and Dad round from time to time but I tend to experiment on them and make something different every time.

9. What is your guilty food pleasure?
I have plenty of these.  Not sure I have any particularly interesting ones.  I suppose a mince pie from the baker's (a Scotch pie) is something I love and only have every now and then as it is a health disaster.  A buttery (or rowie or Aberdeen roll) is the same.  Aberdonians LOVE them but they will kill your arteries, I'm afraid.  Worth it, though!

Here's a photo from

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
I'm diabetic.  I'm insulin dependent and was diagnosed when I was 17.  I do not eat any differently to anyone else.  I choose to adjust my insulin to accommodate my eating.  I do, however, have to take quite a bit of effort over that to ensure I am not damaging my health and I don't think it would necessarily suit everyone.  If you are an insulin dependent diabetic and are interested, ask your diabetes doctor about the possibility of getting on a course called DAFNE - dose adjustment for normal eating. 

Wow, that was quite hard going.  I hope I haven't bored you all to death.  If so, you can blame C and Macaroon. ;-)

Now, I have to tag 5 other people to do this.  If I tag you, please take part if you want to but don't worry if you don't - there is no pressure associated with this at all. And sorry if you have already been tagged.  We're all a little inbred round these parts. ;-)

Chris from Mince and Skirlie
Kelly-Jane from Cooking The Books
Maria at The Goddess's Kitchen

Just What The Doctor Ordered...


Yes, after my last post trying to get the world to eat more fibre, it was timely indeed that this week's Short and Tweet challenge was to make Dan Lepard's Rye and Apple Cake.  The recipe can be found in Dan's new book, Short and Sweet, or by searching on the Guardian website.  

Choclette mentioned that she uses rye flour when baking her cakes and I realised I have never tried it and almost always use plain white flour in my baking.  Well that is to change right now.  This apple cake is one of my favourite apple cakes and I was very taken with the rye flour.  The uncooked mixture tasted absolutely beautiful - like caramel apple porridge.  I was particularly surprised by how soft the cake was.  It was very decadent and didn't at all taste like something you would expect to be good and wholesome!  I even treated myself to two large slices for breakfast this morning.  And how smug do you think I feel when I give my boys a lovely slice of delicious cake and laugh up my sleeve at how much fibre there is in it?

  Now I can't wait to try Dan's chocolate brownies made with rye flour and I also want to try some breads. Zeb Bakes has lots of good information on baking breads with different flours. 

So, I have made a few things from Short and Sweet now.  Using and enjoying this book seems to make me rather more on-trend than I am used to being.  The fact that everyone is raving about the book makes me want to find faults with it so I'm not just going along with the fashion but it really is a very good book.  I imagine that is because he has been baking these things and adjusting the recipes for years and he does know a thing or two about baking.  It really is a book written by the expert rather than a celebrity offering hastily put together.  If you don't know Dan Lepard's recipes I would suggest looking through them on the Guardian website and maybe trying one or two of them.  You will soon be hooked and decide to buy the book.  Personally, I think the book is set out very well and with lots of useful information and tips.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Wholemeal Loaf.

Our computer died.  Oh how I struggled without it.  I do a lot of work from home so it was a bit of a disaster.  It also means I am behind with my blogging and I missed two of the challenges for Short and Tweet

It's okay, though, as I managed to get up and running in time to post this wholemeal bread.  Now this is not a very exciting or flashy recipe.  But it works, it is easy, and it is wonderful.

Obviously this is a recipe from Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet.

I won't post the recipe but obviously you can find some of Dan's recipes on the Guardian website.

Now, this bread is made with entirely wholemeal flour which made me worry it would be quite dense.  It's not.  It is lovely.  It has a crunchy crust which contrasts with the soft and light bread inside.  I first had it with butter - perfect - then for breakfast with strawberry jam.  The lovely chewy and nutty flavoured bread is the perfect partner to sweet strawberry jam.  I then made ham sandwiches for my lunchbox and they were beautiful.  I much prefer wholemeal to white bread.  It has more taste and more texture and then there are the obvious health benefits. 

But are they so obvious?  

Wholemeal bread is a great source of insoluble fibre which pulls fluid into the stool and decreases the transit time of food through your digestive tract (doing exactly what many laxatives do - would you rather a tablet or horrid drink or just a great piece of bread?).  This helps to reduce constipation (and therefore things like anal fissures and piles) but also reduces the risk of colorectal cancer.  I know that I'm probably preaching to the converted but you would be amazed how many children I see in my surgery with constipation caused by a diet poor in fibre.  These children have all sorts of problems now - constipation is a very painful problem, some children then get encopresis which is an unpleasant leakage of faecal matter (imagine how much of a social problem this is for tired Mums constantly having to clean soiled pants to older children who are ridiculed for pooping in their pants or being smelly) and, of course, -  in later life they will suffer from the discomfort of piles and a higher risk of bowel cancer.

Sorry, I didn't mean for this post to turn into a big nag but it is so important to prevent these problems and so very easy.  I say easy but I am well aware of how difficult it is to get children to eat what you want them to eat.  I do think it helps if they see their parents eating a diet high in fibre and eventually you should be able to persuade them to do the same.  As you may be able to tell, I am slightly obsessed with getting my boys eating lots of fibre.  I'm not perfect at it but I am trying.  We very rarely eat white bread.

I hope I haven't upset anyone who wasn't quite expecting to be told about yucky stuff like this when they came to read about bread but maybe it is better that we talk about these things. 

If anyone is having any problems with their child being constipated or soiling - please see the fantastic resources from ERIC

And for another good