"No love sincerer than the love of food"


Smashing Pumpkins

The lovely bright orange leaves are now falling from the tree outside our bedroom window,  signalling that winter is just around the corner.

As the weather gets colder, BC’s nose is officially on snow alert (he swears he can actually predict snowfall by smell) .   For me hat and scarf weather means dragging out the soup pot to cook up some lovely hearty soups to warm both body and soul.

As the shops are full of pumpkins at the moment I thought I might try my hand at pumpkin soup.  My mum brought me an old ‘Maggie’s Centre’ recipe book just the other week and it was here that I found a fabulous fiery soup recipe to experiment with (out of pumpkin season you can make this soup with butternut squash and I’m sure it would be just as tasty).

Here’s how it’s done:

Chop up a pumpkin and boil it until soft then mash it up

Fry up an onion, a couple of garlic cloves, quarter or half a red chilli (depends how hot you like it) and around half a teaspoon of grated ginger  for  a few minutes until the onion is nice and soft.

Add the mashed pumpkin along with a splash of Worcester sauce, 1/2 a beef stock cube, a teaspoon of sugar and four cups of vegetable stock to the pot and simmer for about 20 minutes or so.  Add 1/4 of a pint of single cream a few minutes before the end.

Then liquidise or blitz with your hand blender, and voila!  A little smattering of parsley to bring it all together and you will have yourself a lovely fiery seasonal soup.

The verdict:

Empty plates all round and seconds served up for BC.  A winner set to become a staple in my winter repertoire.

I suppose the ideal scenario is to cleverly carve out all of your pumpkin flesh, leaving behind a shell from which to carve out a fabulous pumpkin lantern to delight your kids with.  At Grumbling HQ we are sadly not that clever (although it is not from the lack of trying).  We did start out with this in mind but it was a bit of a hatchet job to be honest.  So I am sadly off to Asda now to source a plastic lantern with good old battery power.

Try out the soup and have a smashing pumpkin filled Halloween

1 Comment

Taste Sensations at the BBC Good Food Show

McIntosh's Olive Oils

This week I managed to acquire a pair of free tickets to the BBC Good Food Show. Big thanks to .

A food show of any description generally makes my head and wallet spin in equal measures and this extravaganza was no exception. With a disgruntled toddler in tow – “mummy, this is not a play park” –  I set about tasting as much as I possibly could before she imploded.

Without any further ado, here is a run down of my favourite taste sensations of the day:

Mrs Tilly’s Fudge Fudge, macaroon and tablet made by hand using traditional methods, and boy does it show. Melt in the mouth, moreish, sweet and delicious. The highlight for me was their orange fudge, you really have to try it. Back at base BC and I devoured a substantial quantity of this new-found treasure.

RUBIS The Luxury Chocolate Wine Yes I know … chocolate wine. Somebody took two of life’s greatest pleasures and combined them into one delicious product –  a heady mix indeed. I plan to wow future dinner guests with this after dinner treat.

Trotters Independent Condiments I call the chutney I tasted from these guys Christmas Chutney, but having looked at their website it is clear that I just made that name up. I reckon the delightful chutney I sampled was the seasonal plum and apple. This lovely chunky chutney was flavoured with ginger and cinnamon to give it a beautiful seasonal feel,  the perfect partner for the Christmas turkey.

Eat Balanced Pizzas A business that promises I can enjoy one of my favourite foods without the guilt, I was sceptical. I could live on pizza alone and was keen to try this new innovative product because to be honest I couldn’t get my head around how a ‘nutritionally balanced’ pizza could taste good, but bloody hell it does! It’s delicious and healthy, giving me the perfect excuse to double my portions! This is already available in the supermarkets so guess what’s in my shopping basket next week?

Burtree Puddings . Sticky Toffee is surely the King of all puddings. I think of myself as a bit of a connoisseur (well I have eaten enough!) and let me tell you this company produce the King of the King of puddings. I’m not surprised they have won awards aplenty. A really light sponge with a perfect toffee sauce – I can’t wait to try their other sweet offerings.

Mackintosh of Glendaveny .  These guys produce, press and bottle extra virgin rapeseed oil at their Aberdeenshire farm offering a grand alternative to olive oil.  I loved dipping little pieces of bread at their beautifully presented stand. Favourites for me were lemon infused oil, chilli infused oil and a rather special garlic oil.  I read recently that they’ve won a contract with Tesco.  Not a fan of Tesco, but well done them and at least I know I can easily source as much of their lovely oils as my heart desires.

Charles Macleod’s Stornoway Black Pudding  One of my all time favourite food heroes and therefore not a new discovery by any stretch.  But to my mind they deserve a mention for producing such a ludicrously mouth-watering product.  My wallet spontaneously flew open at the sight of their stand and I am now planning a hit list of black pudding based meals – first up is a warm salad with black pudding and chorizo – yum.


The Cook School Scotland who let my mesmerised two-year old sit in on their ticketed event and produced a special chocolate pudding and ice cream just for her . She has been talking about it ever since, so kind and so generous, thank you guys.

Leave a comment

Jamie …… it wasn’t pukka

I have been a Jamie fan right from the start.  The loveable “mockney”  – known as the Naked Chef –  burst onto our televisions and stole our hearts with his fresh style of cooking and a whole new type of culinary banter.  Delia had certainly never told me to preheat my oven to “full whack” before and everything being “pukka” didn’t even irk me.  I bought all the books and for a time they were my gastronomic bibles.

So imagine how excited I was to learn that Jamie’s Italian was opening in Edinburgh.  Let me tell you …. very excited indeed.  So it was that this week when mum was on her annual shopping spree to the Capital, I decided to take her to Jamie’s Italian.

The restaurant is located within the refurbished Assembly Rooms and at first glance it looks mighty impressive.  Jamie’s team have  pimped up the already grandiose setting. It does look amazing but the choice of  a deep red for the walls was a bit oppressive for my taste – but each to their own.

I am stalling on the food which should be the main part of this blog, but to be honest there is not a great deal to say about it.  It was “fine”.  What an awful word to describe a meal in a restaurant owned by one of Britain’s top chefs. Perhaps I expected too much.

The breads with balsamic and olive oil I chose to start with were actually quite lovely –  a little tin container with around 5 different breads stacked inside – it was quirky and delicious.  I opted for a pasta dish as a main course : slow-braised fennel sausage ragu with “Torrione” red wine, served with Parmesan & crunchy, herby breadcrumbs.  Sounds grand and it was “quite nice” (ouch!) if a little on the cool side.  And that’s all she wrote really.

Underwhelmed and more than a little disappointed, we didn’t hang around for dessert, opting instead to head for the fabulous Scottish Cafe where the cupcakes are as beautiful as the view.

Sorry Jamie, I love you dearly, but definitely a case of more style than substance at Jamie’s Italian in Edinburgh.


Mmmm Mitchells …

Pictured: scallops with chorizo, wilted spinach and balsamic drizzle, chocolate brownie with clotted cream.  Eaten at in St Andrews

Sunday was one of these perfect bright crisp Autumn days.  At a loss on what to do to entertain the little one we decided the best option was to actually let granny and grandpa do the entertaining whilst we headed out for a bit of lunch.

I am fortunate in that my parents live in the coastal town of St Andrews.  Not only is it undeniably beautiful but it also has  a pretty vibrant food scene.  However,  despite the large number of eateries my husband and I find it almost impossible to resist our very favourite St Andrews eatery – Mitchells Deli.

And so it was that we found ourselves once again sitting in Mitchells drooling over the menu.  One of my favourite things about Mitchells (apart from the food)  is the interior decor.  The seats are covered with recycled tweed jackets, the cutlery is presented in recycled Lyles Golden Syrup tins, the tables are rustic and there is the most amazing ceiling light made from empty wine bottles.

Before I get to the food, our “regular waiter” deserves a mention.  He is the most camp, most fabulously flamboyant east coast American.  Without fail, he makes me feel as though I am eating in downtown Manhattan – straight out of Sex and the City – love him!

And finally to the food:  I plumped for a starter course of scallops with chorizo on wilted spinach.  I find it very hard to say no to scallops or chorizo, so an easy choice.  The scallops were enormous and cooked to perfection – lovely and seared on the outside and really soft and juicy on the inside.  The chorizo was extraordinarily succulent – its oil imparting a really nice flavouring for the rest of the dish.  Only problem was that there was not enough!

I then proceeded to tuck  into a bowl of  parmesan chips – very crisp then fluffy – as they ought to be AND a jar of humus with little gherkins to dip.  An odd choice perhaps but then I can be a little odd sometimes.

Had not had to let my belt out thus far and so  felt fit to tackle a warm chocolate brownie with clotted cream.  It was sublime but I like my cream ALOT and I did feel that the dot of cream would have been better as a great big dollup.  But perhaps that is just my absolute greed shining through.

We rolled (quite literally) back to base, both feeling that the cake was perhaps a step too far – but with cake like that what choice did we have?

Already planning our next escape to Mitchells Deli – they have a great festive menu that may have to be sampled.


In praise of porridge

PORRIDGE: “chiefly British a dish consisting of oatmeal or another meal or cereal boiled in water or milk” (Oxford English dictionary)

GRUEL: “a thin liquid food of oatmeal or other meal boiled in milk or water.” (Oxford English Dictionary)

Remarkably similar descriptions aren’t they? Grey, glutinous, gloop. I have had a dim view of porridge for most of my adult life. And yet my family have historically been fans of this ‘breakfast of champions’.

My Grandpa ate a bowl of porridge every morning along with a portion of prunes to keep him ‘regular’ , which says it all really!. The porridge was made with water and not sweetened but instead seasoned with a pinch of salt – real porridge for real men. My Dad is also a fan of porridge. Mum routinely prepared a batch in the trusty slow cooker of an evening where it would happily gloopify all night long ready to be dished up for breakfast. Again it was a strictly water and salt affair.

Tampering with this tried and tested formula was sneered at and so I chose sugar puffs. However this blog is in praise of porridge; for despite the shaky start to my education in porridge, I am now an avid fan.

The first indication I had that porridge need not be a form of torture was during a stint working as a chamber maid in Edinburgh’s Balmoral Hotel, where the breakfast menu included “porridge laced with brandy and double cream”, sounded tasty.

However, it is not until recently that I have fully embraced this oaty feast, and now that I am out of ‘sneer’ shot of my family I feel free to tamper with “real man’s porridge”.

Here are my current favourite porridge combinations: Grab a couple of handfuls of porridge oats and chuck em’ in the pan along with milk, cinnamon, sultanas and a very generous drizzle of honey. Cook on a slow heat until nice and smooth (not gloopy) and pour – voila! Healthy and tasty. I often add chopped banana, a handful of blueberries or chopped nuts at the end, depending on how the mood takes me.

Not sure if it is correct to include my cold oaty brekkie in an article about porridge, but its my blog so I shall. It is adapted from traditional Swiss Bircher Museli. Before going up to bed, I throw a good couple of handfuls of porridge oats and sultanas into a bowl and add apple juice – just enough to cover. The next morning I stir a nice big teaspoon of honey and enough yogurt to give it a nice smooth (not too runny) consistency. Again, depending on what takes my fancy on the day, I finish by adding a combination of grated apple, chopped banana, blueberries and nuts.

There are lots of simple recipe ideas out there for both porridge and bircher but I suggest you just freestyle on this one, it makes breakfast much more of an adventure.

So let’s hear it for porridge – my breakfast of champions!!


Nuts about squares!

The finished article

Treatment of my sugar addiction was compromised recently at a playdate, when a well-meaning friend arrived bearing a cache of peanut butter squares.

There are two things that make me go weak at the knees (in food terms).  These are, in no particular order, peanut butter and tray bakes.  The two combined are truly a match made in cake heaven.

Peanut butter for me has to be crunchy and eaten as god intended – straight from the jar.  My husband is always complaining of the discarded peanut butter stained spoons strewn around the house, but it falls on deaf ears, I am beyond help.

Tray bakes – easy to make and even easier to eat.  They are the champions of church fetes and coffee mornings across the land and they are what stands between me and size 12 skinny jeans.

The other playdate mums appreciate a sweet treat as much as anybody else and duly helped themselves to ONE.  I on the other hand helped myself to THREE.  I was vaguely embarrassed but it was tray bake nirvana and I couldn’t help myself.

So today I sat the toddler in front of Goldilocks and the Three bears (again)  whilst I set about making a batch of these little gems for myself.  Like most tray bakes they are a doddle to make and within the hour they were done. Without the embarrassment of others witnessing my greed, I happily made my way through not three but four in a row.

Hurrah for peanut butter squares – a fabulous find indeed.

The original recipe comes from Lorraine Pascale and calls for dark chocolate but it is actually a little bitter, so when I make them again (and I will) I will use the 50/50 dark/milk combination used by my friend.

Try them out for yourself.