"No love sincerer than the love of food"

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Quesadillas, an obsession?

A quesadilla is a wheat tortilla or a corn tortilla filled with cheese, a savoury mixture, and/or vegetables, often cooked on a griddle, then folded in half to form a half-moon shape. (Wikipedia)


In the last few months the humble quesadilla has become my absolute go to food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  Smashing the boundary of what can actually be termed a quesadilla I am constantly finding more and more interesting ways to serve them up.

The obsession really ramped up a gear when B trotted off to Argentina for a week leaving me in sole charge of the six year old (gulp). We did grand me and the nipper but by the time I had put her down at night and tidied up a bit there was little time left to whip up something tasty for dinner, even pasta seemed like too much trouble.  Enter the quesadilla – a bag of tortilla wraps and a seemingly inexhaustible range of fillings saved the day. Add to that a chilled bottle of San Miguel and I had a meal fit for a queen.

Before long my notoriously picky daughter got in on the fried sarnie act.  Once you find something this one will eat – you stick with it and with it and with it.

I don’t really need to tell anybody how to make a quesadilla.  You get two tortilla wraps and fill them like a sarnie then fry them in some oil so that the filling is nice and toastie and the tortilla is nice and crispy craspy – simples!

I will share some of my favourite fillings:




Cook some finely chopped red onion, garlic and chopped chillies in a little olive oil.  Once softened add cumin, lime juice and a can of kidney beans.  Smash the lot up with a fork or a mini-masher (do you get such a thing – if not then you should).  Use this as your filling and top with cheese.  Serve with lashings of soured cream.


Left over chilli with grated cheese and thinly sliced avocado.  Go easy on the meat mixture or you will have to eat it with a knife and fork.  Can get a bit on the sloppy side.


Sliced cooked chicken breast with grated parmesan and a healthy dollop of pesto – what is not to like


A personal favourite – a few slices of prosciutto topped with a hard or semi hard goat’s cheese.  Crumble some walnuts over the top and finish with a drizzle of honey before serving.


Grated cheese, sliced cooked chorizo, sliced avocado and liberal dusting of paprika


Mini Grumbling Tummy Favourites:

Quesadilla filled with mashed banana and nutella for a breakfast treat.  Treat! Who am I kidding? This is now a staple

Cheese and beans – again like the chilli go easy on the beans due to the slop factor

Cheese and ham or cheese and sliced frankfurters

I realise the little one’s choices are lacking in worthy ingredients like kale or even the odd carrot chucked in – but then they wouldn’t be her favourites would they? Besides when this kids eats anything with gusto we go with it.

Nice to be back after a rather long Christmas break.  Now I am off to fry up a quesadilla.


photo credit: <a href=”″>Sharp Cheddar Quesadilla with Fresh Apple Salsa via photopin (license)

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December Shout Out



Without a shadow of a doubt THE best mincemeat pies on the market today are ALDI’s  Specially Selected Luxury Mince Pies.  At £2.99 for six they are slightly more expensive than your average ALDI offering but by god they are worth every penny.  I am not a lone voice either,  the Independent judged them third best in their list of 15 great mince pies for 2015.  For me what makes them super special is that they are not huge yet very deep filled, topped with almonds and somewhere in there, there is a smattering of marzipan.  How can you resist.  Well I haven’t which brings me on to the next thing on my list of shout outs for December.



Well if one is stuffing one’s face with ALDI mince pies and squirty cream most nights of the week then it is wise to at least attempt to be healthy at the start of the day.  My husband bought me a Breville Active Smoothie Maker from my birthday in November and it is one of the best things I have ever been given.  It is simply the most quick, simple and clean ways to make a smoothie.

A blueberry and banana combo are top of the smoothie pops at the moment but I can also recommend going for banana, mango and coconut milk for a truly tropical taste.

If you say you don’t have time for breakfast then you must buy one of these bad boys.  It is really a case of ‘blend and go’ with stylish little bottles which are great to shove in your  hand bag/man bag to drink on the move.



In November I was invited to a My Secret Kitchen event by my friend Vickie, who despite running around after three small kids, one big kid and running her own training business  has somehow managed to squeeze another venture into the mix.  As an agent for My Secret Kitchen  she offers an extensive range of spice blends, oils, vinegars, tea blends and other yummylicious treats which are a delight to the senses.

I love cooking but I am also just a little bit lazy and therefore spice blends are ideal for me. Something that can transform Monday’s mince into a mexican treat bursting with flavour in the blink of an eye gets a huge thumbs up.

I would have liked to order pretty much everything displayed on the table at the party, however products as lovely as this do not come with a bargain price tag …….. but as my granny use to say, you get what you pay for.  She possibly never said that but I am rolling with it.


In the end I ordered a bottle of Lime Oil – used liberally in a range of couscous inventions thus far.  Fajita spice blend – used in a chilli, a smashed bean and lime tortilla and just sprinkled over a fried cheese flat bread sarnie.  Finally I purchased a Shawarma blend which I have used in little lamb patties.

I also signed up to a rather exciting option called Flavour Stacks. Each month I will receive four mini pots of MSK products each with a recipe card.  Thrilled by the idea of NEVER knowing what is coming my way.

I suggest having a little look at the website to view all of the amazing products on offer or contact Vickie if you are in the Fife/Edinburgh area. Vickie from My Secret Kitchen



WOO HOO!  Check me out frequenting Michelin Star restaurants this month.  I actually thought that I was off out for a pub lunch and shoved my jeans on.  “Is that what you are really wearing” chimed in my rather anxious looking other half.  Though I thought he was very rude I changed into a skirt anyway.  Turns out he had only booked us into Martin Wishart’s in the Port of Leith for a lovely spot of fine dining!  He is racking up the brownie points at the moment, that husband of mine.

“Classically French, proudly Scottish,and simply delicious cuisine.”

So is it worth the hype.  Well in a word YES.  All of the dishes look heavenly as you might imagine and each meal has an intensity  that you only find in a handful of restaurants across the country. You can also expect an explosion of flavour with every single mouthful at Martin Wisharts.  The food was a joy!

We were presented with a lovely selection of amuse bouche prior to our main meal, and for me the stand out ‘bouche’ was the Beetroot Macaroon with Horseradish Cream. One word – clever and anther word how? Intense flavour and lovely textures with a delightful horseradish hit.

The Artichoke Veloute with the surprise layer of chestnut puree on the bottom was an amazing starter made even better with the addition of langoustines.

I am not a fan of ‘foam’ in my meals in any shape form or fashion.  I do understand that foam is rather a benchmark of molecular gastronomy,  but really I do find it a pointless and rather distasteful food trend.  HOWEVER I could overlook the addition of foam on my main dish of cod due to the fact that the fish was cooked to perfection and the flavours surrounding it were superb.  A fantastic delicate dish.

And to finish  – a bitter dark chocolate tart with popcorn and salted caramel ice cream.  Well what can I say.  Stunning, absolutely stunning.

I took no photographs or notes (hence the vagueness of this review).  It just didn’t seem the right setting to start clicking away. I regretted my decision towards the end of the meal when I spotted a woman with a camera roughly the size of her own head feverishly clicking away.

The lunch menu is only £28 which is amazing value for a restaurant of this standing.  One or two wines however and you will soon see your bill rack up.  So go along and have some lunch and water – it is a fantastic experience.

So off  I go into the holidays where I shall no doubt gain several pounds eating multiple mince pies, chocolates, prosecco and anything else I can lay my paws on with the cry of “ach well it’s Christmas” seeing me through to the New Year , at which point I shall finally stand of the scales. After rocking and keening for a while I shall set upon a new diet and start the process all over again.  Hurrah for Chirstmas!!

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Simple Fishy Pie


Despite growing up in a small fishing village as the daughter of a fisherman – I am not a big fish eater.  This was I suspect a great source of irritation to my dad who could not quite comprehend why the only fish related product I would eat whilst growing up was scampi and fish fingers.  I now realise that I like the taste of fish but unfortunately I was so heavily influenced by my mum’s terror of finding fish bones and choking to death that eating fish for me is a laborious task.   It tends to involve a process of detailed poking, prodding and swirling the fish around endlessly in my mouth to triple check for bones .  It does not involve much enjoyment at all.  The only fish I do eat with any regularity is salmon and this is the base of this very simple (if not quite standard) fish pie.  You can pretty much use any fish that you like as I am sure you are not as phobic about the humble fish as I am.


I am unsure if this is technically a pie but it is certainly pie-esque and best of all it is speedy, taking less than 30 minutes to prepare and get into the oven for cooking. It tastes delicious and with much chat about Popeye the Sailor man to combat spinach objections, I have even got my incredibly picky daughter to eat it all up.  It is also stonking reheated the next day for lunch.  I hope you enjoy it.



300g salmon fillet, 500g potatoes,  150ml creme fraiche, one onion, sprig of fresh thyme, half a glass of white wine, clove of garlic, bag of spinach, big handful of frozen peas, 40g grated cheddar cheese , gm breadcrumbs.


  1. Boil the potatoes
  2. At the same time pop your salmon with a little drizzle of oil into the oven (180 degrees) to cook for around 20 minutes
  3. Whilst all of this is cooking away chop up the onion and cook in a little oil with the garlic and thyme
  4. After about 10 minutes of cooking the onion pop in the glass of wine and cook for a further 4 or 5 minutes
  5. Add the spinach to the onion and wine and pop a lid on to allow the spinach to wilt – this only takes a few minutes
  6. Meanwhile whip out the salmon and mash the tatties
  7. Mix the spinach/onion concoction with the tatties and add the creme fraiche and seasoning.
  8. Add the peas to your nice creamy mashy mix
  9. Flake the cooked salmon and fold this in gently
  10. Pop the mix into a shallow casserole dish
  11. Mix the grated cheese and breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the fishy mash
  12. Cook at 180 degrees for around 20 minutes at which point the top will be delicious and crispy and the inside of the pie toasty hot and delightful.







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Brace Yourself for Soup and Slops


If you are expecting a post full of luscious foodie finds or fabulous restaurant reviews then perhaps this particular post is not for you.  No …. this is a post from deep within a puddle of foodie despair. For some it may seem like a cry for help, to others it is simply a whinge fest.

At the ripe old age of 43,  vanity and dental advice has led me to get adult braces.  The 6 Month Smile sounded like a lovely simple option which would result in a beautiful straight teeth after a fairly short period. When the lovely dentist mentioned my deep bite and pointed out that I would need a bit of filling material behind my two front teeth I didn’t give it a second thought, I was just dazzled by the prospect of straight teeth. I did not realise (possibly because I am a numpty) that this would mean that I would be essentially unable to chew for a good chunk of the treatment.  Indeed as only my two front teeth make any contact with another tooth my chewing currently is limited to what I can squish with my tongue and the roof of my mouth.  I don’t even want to think about the elastics which come into play in a few months (don’t ask).


As well as the non chewing situation it is actually pretty horrid to eat with braces on.  Everything feels a bit wrong and anything more sturdy than soup gets stuck in the little blighters.  I can’t even seek solace in the bottom of a full bodied and comforting glass of red for fear of staining the nice white wires.

For many of the ‘food is fuel’ brigade the implications are not terribly tragic and I totally understand it if you think that I  am being a tad melodramatic about the whole affair.  After all half of America seem to be in braces not to mention the legions of British school children who went through this rite of passage. Food wise  I am trying to be creative but between you and I it’s a tough gig and I would definitely welcome any mushy recipes from you guys.

So here are my highs and lows of brace life so far:


  • There is a total amnesty on the consumption of pudding.  A big fat chocolate melty pudding with chocolate sauce and clotted cream is doable and mushable and god dammit I will eat it.
  • At the risk of sounding ridiculous – the thought of Christmas without mulled wine is appalling and try as I might mulled cider is not holding the same appeal.  I may learn to love it but for now the idea of missing out on that deep red warm hug of winter is more than a bit of a shame.
  • A similar Christmas downer is the outlawing of nuts. Crisps I can suck but I can assure you that sucking a crisp in not quite as satisfying as crunching it.  I guess the clue is in the name.
  • NUTSEaster as a festival will be a chocolate fest this year.  Chocolate melts in a warm mouth and therefore no chewing required.  I have discovered I can motor through a  pack of chocolate buttons at break neck speed using the insert, melt, swallow routine. I intend take this to the max this Easter.
  • I love soup so trying lots of new varieties will be really interesting PLUS soup is one of the few foods which doesn’t irritate the pants off me whilst eating it.  This week I am making a lovely split pea, chilli, lime and ginger soup from Nigella which should shake things up a bit.  On the downside I have to pretty much order soup every single time we go out for lunch in a cafe.  It might cut down on menu browsing time but it does get a little dull (and its only been a week).
  • I have lost weight which is always welcome.  In fact it is one of the best diets I have ever been on as is stops grazing in its tracks. Week 1 and I have lost 4lb and no will-power required.  Like most diets however it is not one you can stick to for life.
  • I am drinking a stupid amount of white wine and not sure if this is an upside or a downside.   I am sure it will all calm down or perhaps I will just get through the next 6 months in a wine induced haze.
  • Holidays are normally about food – eating out, trying new things.  The foodie shine on my upcoming holiday at Ribby Hall, Lancashire is tarnished.  Eating out is now preceded with a rising level of anxiety.  Why stress about eating out when I can have mac cheese made from teeny tiny ‘soup pasta’ at home.
  • MAC CHEESEThe return of nursery food is oddly welcome in autumn.  Our household menu is full of mashed potato with cheesy creamy sauces, shepherds pie (with the veg pulverised), soft flaky poached salmon. macaroni cheese, silky soft risottos and lots of soft mashable sponge with custard.

6057076521_a3d285f24aWhat am I missing and what will I eat when it is all over?  Well stornoway black pudding for one.  It is nice and soft but oh the carnage of poking black pudding out of my brace for the following 2 days makes it an absolute no no.  MEAT –  pulled pork is something I would love to eat at the moment or a juicy steak. Cashew nuts will be top of my list as will bread and pizza.   Strangely I miss salad and biting into whole fruit.  Mainly when it is all over I am looking forward to running my tongue over my teeth and not over a contraption and being able to eat whatever I choose but most of all I am looking forward to having great teeth.

In the mean time if you have any interesting recipes for sloppy food then let me know – be delighted to receive them.

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Finds of the Summer

By in large its been a bloody awful summer hasn’t it?  I have sat in my garden exactly twice so far which makes me regret all the flowers I bought to tart it up a bit for the season.  And now I read that August is set to be a wash out.  Well pooh to summer – just bring on boots season and be done with it I say.  At least I can take solace in the discovery of three new places to eat this summer.

The Crepe Shack at Tentsmuir

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This is possibly my favourite discovery this summer.  The Grumbling Tummy collective headed off sometime in June for a healthy walk in Tentsmuir Forest.  On the way I was berating anybody who would listen about a lack of bottled water and moaning generally about our rubbish preparation.  As we drew into the car park we saw that our crisis would be averted as there seemed to be a mobile food van parked up.  Brilliant I thought  – water and a greasy burger for after the walk.  I honestly was rather excited by the prospect.  However as we drew closer I was – well quite gob smacked to see that the mobile was indeed something called the Crepe Shack.  It was like an oasis – not only was it adorably shabby chic but the owners had popped a few bistro chairs and tables out in front for their patrons.  More importantly the crepe shack menu was to die for.  I can tell you that walk was so much easier knowing that the Crepe Shack would greet me at the end.  I just about broke an ankle dashing to the shack on the way back.


Savoury options included wonderous fillings such as brie with home made chutney and wilted spinach, halloumi or goats cheese with spinach to name but a few and oh the sweet fillings.  OH MY  as that silly girl from 50 Shades would say – Mr Gray had nothing on these sweet pancakes my dear I would retort.  Nutella and banana or nutella and coconut, honey with banana and oats, classic maple syrup, lemon and sugar and more……

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BUT did they taste any good? Ladies and Gents, these were the best darned crepes I have ever tasted anywhere and that includes Italy and France – so there.  They were absolutely divine and as you have had a big old hike they are 100% guilt free.  Also good to note that if you are one of those people who like me should really make an effort not to eat gluten to avoid looking permanently up the duff  (maybe that is just me) then these guys make it easy with gluten free crepes on offer.

The Walled Garden – in-between Kincardine and Dunfermline


My new boss over at Kidney Kids Scotland told me about this place only a few weeks ago and I have been twice now and lining up the next visit.  I found it hard to believe that such a place existed in such close proximity to my home without my knowing about it.  A walled garden with a fantastic cafe/restaurant and a little produce shop.  Surely not!

The walled garden is the brain child of Keith Laing and Anne Crawford who up until a couple of years ago had their cafe in one of the potting sheds in the grounds.  Now they have an airy and stylish 70 seater cafe/restaurant that welcomes visitors with gingham table cloths, patchwork upholstery, fresh flowers and a plethora of beautiful wood.  I also spotted a wood burning stove which bodes well for the winter months.

The setting is stunning as is the range of cakes under shiny glass domes that greets you.  Onto the cakes later …..


The menu is fresh as fresh can be and they always seem to have a lovely range of specials.  On my first visit I opted for a salad with warm black pudding and avocado.  This beautifully simple little salad also included freshly podded peas which transported me back to my granny’s back step aged 9, eating more than I put into the bowl for tea.  There really is nothing to beat a freshly podded pea – you can tell one a mile off.  B chose a simple baked tattie with tuna, cheese and salad and as filled bakers go it was a winner.  I had the delight of fresh local strawberries and cream for dessert but nearly fainted with pleasure when I tasted a little bit of wee GTs empire biscuit and a forkful of Mr GTs lemon cake.  This sort of cemented my return a mere week later.  This time we brought friends who were equally impressed.  I chose the lemon cake on this coffee/cake venture and my companions chose chocolate cake, coffee and walnut cake and a scone with jam and cream.  All cakes were delicious.  My lemon cake (and this seemed to be echoed around the table) was so light and fluffy and not a bit dry.  I learned that Joyce who works in the cafe  pitches up early in the morning to bake all of the beautiful sponges on offer.  By god that home made freshness shows – thank you Joyce.


This is a brilliant hidden treasure.  After a walk in Devilla forrest it is the perfect place to head for lunch or an afternoon treat.  Can’t recommend the Walled Garden highly enough.

The Stage Door Bistro in Dunfermline

Dunfermline is has not really been known for its top class nosh in recent years so this new kid on the block has rather blown me away.


This Bistro (one of the finalists in the Scottish Food and Drink awards this year) is wonderful in every way and former accountant Deborah and award winning Bib Gourmand Chef Michael are a fantastic team.  Deborah, whose Rockabilly style is utterly perfect gives her diners a fantastic personal service and is extremely knowledgeable about both the food and wine.  The interior is very French bistro with fantastic jazz tunes from yester-year playing in the back ground – perfect. Behind the scenes Michael has created the most marvellous French  menu and the only issue for me with was deciding what to have. I literally could have eaten every single thing on the menu  – though not in one sitting.

How do you choose between slow cooked pork belly with butter beans, sauteed spinach and grain mustard; slow cooked beef bourguignon served on creamy mash with green beans;  the blade steak special;  pan fried supreme of chicken with peas a la Francais and butter carrots.  There was more !!

Choose one must however.  I kicked off proceedings with a rather amazing Duck Rillete with Artisan Bread and Chutney. You probably know this already but a rillette is:

“a preparation of meat similar to pâté. Commonly made from pork, the meat is cubed or chopped, salted heavily and cooked slowly in fat until it is tender enough to be easily shredded, and then cooled with enough of the fat to form a paste.” 

This dish was every bit as full flavoured and rich as it sounds – I could have eaten this forever.  It was my first rillette but not my last.

Slow cooked pork belly was always going to be the winner for me – hard to resist really.  The pork belly was absolutely perfect.  Still with form but falling away easily the meat was perfect and what a lovely match butter beans  and spinach were with this dish.  The sauce (not too much) was rich and delicious and I have no idea what might have been in this feat of genius – but that is what it was to my taste-buds.

The wine was flowing and despite having two very rich meals I opted for Sticky Toffee pudding with cream.  Well you simply can’t go wrong with that can you?  No you certainly cannot.  It was fantastic – enough said.

I WAS STUFFED – all a good way but lets face it that was one rich feast.  It was marvellous – great company, beautiful wine and three absolutely excellent dishes.

I hope that they win their award and I hope that the bright lights of success don’t draw the team away from Fife.  My third hope is that the good people of Dunfermline who spend too much of their time high tailing it over the bridge to Edinburgh try out this fantastic restaurant and realise that what they have on their door step is every bit as good as the best restaurant they can find in the capital.

Its late and I have warbled on enough – my other top tip if you are interested is the Fire Station Creative in Dunfermline but more about that another time …

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A Jaunt Around the Highland Show


Last month we took a jaunt around the Royal Highland Show.  The sun was being a wee bit shy though thankfully the rain was kind enough to stay away from the proceedings on the day that we attended.

I have gone to the Highland Show for quite a few consecutive years now and the main focus of my attention is always the Food Hall which is impressive both in terms of size and quality. There are always plenty of familiar faces to be spotted and its great to stock up on products that I only seem to see from show to show.  Then there are the new faces with delectable foodie delights that I have never tasted before and that is always a real treat.


The whole no sugar malarkey has not been going too well for me to be honest and events like the Royal Highland Show do not help, especially when businesses like THE BROWNIE BAR exist. The Brownie Bar was set up by two Geordie sisters and the business is still based in Newcastle (I am grateful for the distance as are my scales). They bake the perfect gooey brownies in the widest range of flavours. Everything from chocolate, bailies and nutella through to raspberry and almond are incorporated into their sinful treats.  I tried to walk past them because well – they are pretty evil.  But then I spotted an unusual item on their stand.  Was it a cookie or a brownie? Hell it was both.  They call it the Corker – a chocolate cookie with a gooey brownie core.  Who would do such a thing?  The bloody Brownie Bar that is who.  My resolve was dissolved as I wrapped my gob around a super tasty brownie cookie concoction.  The taste was amazing … like really amazing with only a small after taste of guilt.


One of my favourite old timers at the Royal Highland Show are SUPER NATURE who do a wonderfully diverse range of flavoured oils.  The one oil that I am always very keen on and always stock up is Lime Oil which is just fresh, zingy and screams summer. Supernature cold pressed rapeseed oil is produced, harvested and bottled at Carrington Barns. Unlike most oilseed rape grown in Scotland, they choose a spring rather than a winter variety, which is planted in April and harvested in September. Its natural rapid growth means that there is no need for the use of any herbicides or fungicides.  All as natural as you can get – hence the name.

What on earth is it good for?  Well I am glad you ask.   Here is what I have done with my small bottle which has run out already (need some more).

  • I rub it on salmon or chicken before shoving in the oven along with other herbs and or spices
  • I drizzle it on all of my salads
  • I add it to cous cous when it is cooked to give a lovely zing
  • I pour some in a little bowl and dip pitta breads into it whilst nibbling on feta or halloumi
  • I marinade prawns in it before a bit of flash frying
  • And the list could I am sure go on …….. buy it and try it


I am a big fan of SUMMER HARVEST and  I always plump for their oils and vinegars but this year I went feral and opted for a mayonnaise  – wild I am! I was attracted to their mayo largely because of the colour – a beautiful smooth yellow and I am also aware that my love of Hellman’s is probably not the healthiest.  Made with rapeseed oil this mayonnaise looks and tastes so, well homemade.  I would love to make mayonnaise but frankly I don’t really have the time and this is absolutely the next best thing.  In fact scrap that – this is much better.  It is smooth rather than thick and gloopy and tastes delightful.


This week I made my friend a wee al fresco lunch of salmon salad drizzled with Summer Harvest mayonnaise and it was divine.

The guys behind Summer Harvest hail from the Strathearn Valley in Perthshire.  Everything needed to make the rapeseed oil used in their products comes from their 400 acres – from the crop growing to the pressing of the oil.


My final pick of the pops is a company called Organic Blending who produce a fab range of organic sprinkles, spices, marinaes, gravies and stuffings from their HQ in Glasgow.

They were cooking up a storm from their stand at the Highland Show – chicken, onions and pepppers with one of their sprinkles, Organic Sweet Chilli Exposion.  This is described as a sweeet burst of organic chillies and peppers with a kick! It sure was.  I asked what else went into the dish they were preparing and the only other ingredient was a touch of olive oil.  Offered this heady concoction of good taste and time saving simplicity I was sold.  I have since cooked every week with this fantastic sprinkle – I have rubbed it on fish and I have done the do with the chicken and peppers and served it up with cous cous.  It is delicious and a great addition to the kitchen.  For somebody who does not always have the time to chop up chillies and garlic and a dizzy mix of other spices this does the job nicely.

I admit at some shows to writing about products I genuinely loved to taste but did not perhaps end up buying (you can’t buy em all) but this year every one of these products (apart from the brownies as that would be wrong) has landed in my cupboard and are either finished or well on their way.  Most of them are time saving ways to deliver REAL flavour to my cooking without me having to do all the work.  They are this cooks best mates and maybe they can become yours too ….. go on give them a try.

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I may be sitting here in chilly drizzly old Scotland but my heart is still meandering along the shores of beautiful Lake Garda.  I was again lucky enough this summer to spend just over 2 weeks based in Peschiera Del Garda – soaking up the sunshine, watching the beautiful people and eating like a king.

Yes this is the Italian edition of the Grumbling Tummy, packed with mouth watering highlights from my trip.



Most restaurants in the pretty towns and villages in Lake Garda are quite traditional in their style so it was lovely to experience something a little different when we visited Vecchio Mulino Beach Bar and  Restaurant.  This is only a 20 minute walk along the lake from the town of Peschiera – a walk that takes you past stunning homes, paddling spots, pedalos, swans and a little harbour.  The lakeside location is stunning!  There is a real buzz about this cleverly designed restaurant – it is airy and stylish “beach chic”.

The menus come in the forms of hard backed books with stunning full page photographs of each and every dish – it was a real page turner.  This stylish take on a menu made everything look so lovely it was hard to choose – but choose we did. I opted for salmon with pancetta covered in corn meal and accompanied by roast vegetables in thyme oil.  B chose stuffed anchovies.



The highlight of my main course was the veg.  Slices of courgette, peppers and aubergine standing to attention in a beautiful glass jar and generously doused in fresh tyme and good quality olive oil – the aroma was tantalizing and the taste was none too shabby either.  The salmon was perfectly cooked and altogether this was a lovely balanced healthy meal.  I am always delighted when abroad to see fruit appear so liberally in the dessert menu and not just atop a chocolate torte but with pride as the main performer.  It takes the guilt away from having a dessert and I do wish British restaurants would follow suit.  On this menu there were some simple yet stunning fruits doused in a little dark chocolate  …… you need no more than that to please me.  Delicious!  The meal seemed healthy until wee GT got her dessert in the form of a GIANT candy floss.  Wonderful gimmick for the kids and unfortunately parents find it hard to keep their greedy paws away from it too.



We were so impressed with this restaurant we returned there for our last meal, and despite there being a family of  dogs (the size of small horses) in attendance (with their owners of course) it was just as lovely.



This is what keeps you alive as a peely-wally Scot tottering around Italy in a mini heat wave.  To the common man this is really a Slushy – but oh they do them so well in Italy.  I have no idea if they are abound with sugar and chemicals but they taste much more natural than the specimens we have here.

The flavours are fantastic – cherry, mint, strawberry, mango, melon and then of course the obligatory bright blue one (definitely chemical) which wee GT seemed to gravitate towards.

On a hot day they are nectar and on the day we decided a 5 mile lakeside walk in 84 degrees  was a good idea they were a life saver.



The fabulous thing about food in Italy is the freshness and simplicity of everything.  Brian ordered Tuna on our final day and what arrived was a plate of very simply char grilled tuna topped with toasted sesame seeds.  The tuna was was so fresh it was almost jumping off the plate.  Having only ever cooked supermarket tuna (shameful but true) I believed that it was meant to be a brown gray colour – isn’t it?.  Turns out this is not true – it is indeed meaty pink and mouthwatering.


Veal is something which I remember eating as a young girl but as you know it is a meat which fell seriously out of favour in the United Kingdom.  Not so in Italy where veal appears on just about every menu.  One of the most popular ways to serve veal is with a Marsala sauce accompanied by some simple roast vegetables.  If you have not tasted veal it is  pink and tender with a sublime taste all of  its own – somewhere between pork and beef –  It is quite subtle.  The sauces in every restaurant were so fresh and intense and entirely lacking the glutinous texture of so many  encountered here. I loved being reunited with veal.  I know that in the UK  we had an ‘ethical’comeback in the form of Rose Veal, but it is not really common place and people are generally still quite anti-veal.  We are missing out.



You cannot write a blog on Italian food without writing about the nations favourite GELATO!  You don’t have to seek out ice cream in Italy, simply cast your eye down any street and you should be able to spot countless places to tempt you with their array of beautiful flavours.  I find it hard to get past creamy pistachio and wee GT opts for the disgusting blue number (what it is it about blue food and this child) every time but there is a serious number of tempting flavours to be had and as well as traditional ice cream there is frozen yogurt and an array of sorbets on offer. On a hot day to somebody with a sweet tooth there is nothing more pleasurable than wandering along the narrow streets of a charming Italian town happily licking an enormous ice cream.


Uno Crepe con nutella is a much used phrase when in Italy.  Crepes are of course French , however the Italians seem to have embraced this sweet snack with gusto and there are crepes available on every street corner and on many menus.  The most popular filling by far is nutella and you know how I feel about nutella – yum.  The next best thing to wandering around a charming Italian town with an ice cream is wandering around a charming Italian town stuffing your face with warm crepe, gooey chocolate spread and a dusting of icing sugar.


When your husband looks at you over a meal and delivers this line “this is so good it makes me want to cry” you know you are somewhere good.  Last year we stayed in a fairly awful airport hotel in Milan on the way  home.  The surrounding area of Milan’s Malpensa airport is not exactly ritzy and there is nothing much going on . On arrival we headed out to the only restaurant near the hotel and all I could say was thank the lord it was closed.  It looked less than appealing with its dirty white plastic chairs in the outside dining area. This shabby eatery looked more caff than restaurant.

Fast forward to this year when we were staying at a much better hotel and had done our restaurant research.  Trip Advisor praised a little restaurant called SARMANCANDA, awarding it many stars and rave reviews, and  so  the hungry travellers went on search of this oasis in a desert and lo what did we find – tatty restaurant from the year before.  This time it was very open and called SARMANCANDA.  We ventured in.  The place was absolutely buzzing with a mix of airport hotel folk and lots of locals. The interior was really pleasant and not overly traditional with a proper bar area and the kitchen in full view –  and let me tell you there was nothing manky about it.  It was actually a pretty romantic candlelit hideaway if it was not for the five year old at our table.


We had a deluxe anti-pasto of meats and cheeses to start.  It was beyond fantastic  (I think this was where B delivered his killer line) There was pancetta which was edged in cinnamon, an array of other fantastic local meats and three or four stunning cheeses. We asked the waitress about the cheeses and she was amazingly knowledgeable but not having expected this level of fabulousness I wrote nothing down.  Sorry!  The platter was set off perfectly with honey and an intensely flavoured carmalised onion chutney as well as a mild mustard dip for the hams.


Had I not wanted a pizza quite so much I might have tried some of their special meals,  which included rabbit, lamb and various amazing fish dishes.  But I had a pizza which was beautiful and Bs Calzone was the size of his head and tasted marvellous. However the star of the show as far as I was concerned was dessert.  In the more tourist orientated Lake Garda there is a standard fare of gateauxs, cheese cakes and ice cream sundaes in restaurants and I am not sure how much of these are actually made on the premises.  On this menu we found some beautiful home-made offerings including short crust pastry ravioli, filled with a ginger jam, delicately floating on a lake of vanilla, mint and thyme custard.  This dessert was nothing short of sublime and the decision to share one portion was a bad one.


I would recommend this restaurant to everybody who finds themselves floating around the area of Malpensa airport in Milan – go seek it out.


The Italians are very child friendly –  forever ruffling their hair or tickling them under their chin whilst murmuring bella bambina.  Restaurants also welcome children with open arms but step away from the non tourist areas and you will not find a ‘children’s menu’. This is because in Italy children eat what their parents eat and don’t get the chance to opt for the dinosaur shaped nuggets and chips.  Now I am not being high and mighty about this as my child lived off  frankfurters, ,chips and air on holiday, I am in awe more than anything.  As well as not cow towing to fussy eaters in restaurants you will not find much in the way of kid branded food in supermarkets. No spaghetti in the shape of letters, animals or peppa pig characters (god knows we looked!).  Kids seem to eat …… real food.  They are also welcomed into restaurants for dinner when our pre-schoolers are entering the land of nod because they tend to eat with the family and if the family is going out to eat at 8 then hell so are they – and it is really nice.  They do have a siesta which helps them to stay up a lot later however I was more interested in the inclusion of kids in family meals.  All too often I rustle up something for the wee one that “she will like” before packing her off to bed so that I can have something devilishly hot and spicy to eat and some peace and quiet. Perhaps I can learn something from the Italian way. My little girl has serious eating issues due to a medical condition so we might not manage to steer her away from the sausage so easily but we will be eating out with her in the evening more at weekends and also making sure that we all sit down together at least a few times a week for a family meal. I am sure I am not the only one who could improve in this area.

So that’s it from Italy  ………………… next stop Dublin!

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Hello Summer we all cried just a week or so ago as we lolled around in sandals and packed our trusty jumpers away.  And then it seemed I had blinked and seven months had passed for we had snow ……. yes snow and hailstones.  Surely it must be December?

In the narrow chink of loveliness mini GT and I spent some lovely time in our garden.  We have a smallish paved noisy garden next to a big road but the nipper and I love it anyway.  First we had the “melty cheese” experiment which involved putting a piece of cheese on a plate and sitting it in the sun whilst looking at it intently to see what it would do (it didn’t really melt much to the disappointment of mini GT) Then there was playing with the hose – it makes me a bit ashamed as I know there are people with no water to drink  – but honestly 10 minutes of giving her free reign with a water hose is ten minutes of blissful peace!


Then I decided to make home made ice lollies.  We had been told earlier in the week by the wee one’s  dieticians that we were not to worry a jot about a healthy diet but rather just get little miss to eat whatever she wants to get her weight up BUT I reckoned I could kill two birds with one stone in some home made lollies.

I picked up these cute lolly moulds from ASDA for the princely sum of £2.  Into the blender I added a handful each of strawberries and raspberries, a spoonful of honey, a little bit of gold top super creamy milk and lots of full fat Greek yogurt.  There are no real quantities, I just experimented till I had a smooth tasty mixture.  In the moulds it went and into the freezer for about 4 hours.  Now here is the trick – to get the lolly tray to actually give you your lolly you have to stick it in hot water for about a minute to loosen things off.


The result was fantastic – I loved them as did my husband.  But what did little Miss think?

Well despite initial excitement (possibly because they were pink)  she handed a half eaten lolly back to me and gave this critique ;

“Its ok mummy I suppose but it would be better without all that fruit”

What are you gonna do?

My next trick with the lolly mould will be nutella and banana lollies (that will trick her) and also coconut milk lollies with mango.  You should give it a go as the possibilities are endless and lets face it they can keep in the freezer till the snow passes.

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Ardross Farm Shop

Fear not – I have not given up on the Grumbling Tummy.  It has just been a very busy time what with getting a new job with a fab charity and all. Into my second week at Kidney Kids Scotland so feel I can breathe now and get writing again. To get me back into the swing I am posting about my trip to Ardross Farm Shop today which some of you may have already seen on the Crail Food Festival website as it was an assignment for them.
So here you go …… get ready for your mouth to water.  Once you have read this you will be beating a hasty path to Ardross or at least your own local farm shop if you live further afield.
I was delighted to be asked to be part of the Crail Food Festival blogging team again this year and even more delighted to learn that my assignment would take me to Ardross Farm Shop in Elie. I had heard Ardross mentioned for quite some time in rather hallowed tones and had always wanted to pay it a visit – well you know how much I love a good farm shop!
The rain stayed away on the morning the Cameron family headed up to Elie and we were all in fine fettle.  N was fixated on the possibility of seeing a cow and having a go on a tractor.  I was just – well – hungry and B saw the farm outing as an excuse to don his hunter wellies.
The Pollock family have been in the farming business for generations, having moved east from Ayrshire to this stunning part of Fife.  They have a herd of very happy and healthy Stabiliser cows,  which may little bit smaller than some other breeds but they virtually calf themselves and are great at suckling due to a pretty stress free birth.  The calves get all the good nutrients from their mother right away which bears future rewards in terms of a robust immune system.  The cows at Ardross live their lives in the great outdoors,  grazing on nutrient rich meadow pastures or crops which are being produced on the farm itself.
This is the second farm I have visited in the last year and what has struck me with both has been the emphasis put on the welfare and happiness of the animals.  It really is of paramount importance to the Pollock family that the herd are raised in a traditional manner in as stress free an environment as possible. I was interested to learn that when cows are reared in this way there is little need for the use of antibiotics – this just makes good sense to me.  The meat from the cows I met is made into a mouth watering range of roasts, sausages, burgers, beef olives and more. I will get onto the taste test soon but I can let you know now that it is damn fine.
Of course it is not just about the beef here at Ardross – they also grow more than 50 varieties of vegetables,  and apart from one of two compromises their shop is faithful to the seasons and the veg is picked fresh every morning.  I learned a little about how unique this is and how old some of my super market produce might be by the time it makes its way onto my plate.  You don’t want to know but what you probably want to do is get ye to your local farm shop.
The shop is award winning for a reason.  As soon as you walk in you are greeted with a riot of colour from the freshest and most inviting vegetable display I have ever seen.  The last time I saw fresh produce that looked this good was in the outdoor market of France or Italy when I have been on holiday.  It is a million miles away from the display of plastic wrapped ‘same size’ offerings in the local supermarket.
Ardross sell both meat in the chiller and a large range of frozen meat.  This is so that they can keep things as fresh as possible for their customers. As it was a while before we were heading home we bought a fair abundance of meat from the chiller.  Beef Olives were first in the basket – a favourite from childhood when I called them Biffalows. Junior suggested sausages (of course).  Burgers for the boy and some  beef to create a hearty stew.  To accompany our array of meat we were gifted an amazing veggie box which included a carrot which was taller than a bottle of wine!  Other goodies included a swede, beetroot, kale, cabbage and onion.  As well as their own produce there is also an array of goodies from  artisan suppliers – in went fudge, cheesy straws and some gourmet crisps.
For those of  you who are thinking that this farm shop malarkey is ok if you have the money can I just tell you that the meat and veg at Ardross is  keenly priced making it affordable for all of us to eat good food.
They have come along way from a painted shed with a bell which sounded in the farm-house signalling to the family that they had a customer. Ten years on and the family (for it is indeed a true family affair) have not only a successful farm but a thriving farm shop on their hands.  Nikki who is at the helm of the farm shop has grand plans for expansion but her dreams are kept in check by her sister who is an accountant turned farmer,  and indeed one of the most exciting and interesting young farmers I have ever come across.  Anyway watch this space with regards to what happens next.
So how did the food actually taste?  Fantastic.  I have here a picture of the stew I made, which would have been nice with any meat ( I am a very good stew maker) but was absolutely stunning with the beef from Ardross.  It was melt in the mouth and tasted like stew my granny used to make before we all went to supermarkets.  I included the carrot, onion and kale in the stew and on the side I made a celeriac and carrot mash with lots of crème fraiche and pepper.  It was beautiful.
This blog could last forever but I must attempt to wrap things up a little with some final observations.  It never feels to leave me in awe when I meet people who have so much passion for what they do, and that passion never fails to shine through in what they produce.  Rob, Fiona, Nikki and Claire are the most passionate family I have met  – they live and breathe their business and you can’t help but be infected by their enthusiasm.
So this summer I suggest we all reconnect with our food and good first  step is paying a visit to Ardross Farm Shop.  I may live 45 minutes drive away but I know I will be back.

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How I made friends with food again

Goats cheese salad

Goats cheese salad

The title sounds a little odd for a food blogger, but to be honest I had fallen a little out of love with food of late. I just couldn’t seem to eat what I loved without suffering consequences and so food was lacking its usual lustre.

I have as you know been on every diet under the sun. Compared to your average bear  I am quite greedy, I am (was) completely addicted to sugar and I was gaining more poundage every month than I could lose.  Most importantly however I was unhappy with it all and dreading heading to Italy – home of the slim, the healthy and the glamorous – feeling less than splendid.

Salmon terrine

Salmon terrine

I stumbled across the Harcombe diet in Waterstones and I won’t bore you with all the details but essentially I decided Zoe Harcombe’s regimen may suit me as it promised to banish my dreadful cravings for sugar.  There are three phases to grapple with.

Phase one is the most harsh and lasts for only 5 days.  This involves eating meat, fish, eggs and veg along with one portion of brown rice a day and a portion of live yogurt each day.  The results were for me dramatic – I lost half a stone in that time and after 5 days without any sugar I felt a little more in control. I also felt a brand new sensation – hunger.  At first I thought I must be starving myself but as it turns out this is what balanced eaters feel coming up to meal times. Being a constant grazer real hunger has become rather alien to me and so it took a while to realize that this was normal.

Lamb filled peppers

Lamb filled peppers


Phase two is where you introduce the rest of the dairy family back into your life as well as wheat and fruit – whoop whoop.  I welcomed dairy with verve and loved the fact that full fat is king on this way of eating.  Lovely creamy full fat butter,  creamy cheeses and sinful full fat greek yogurt and indeed double cream made me very happy.  For some reason I did not reintroduce wheat – not quite sure why to be honest but I have still not eaten pasta or bread.  The main rule in this phase is not to mix fat with carbs.  This led to me eating a pretty low carb diet which I was surprised to be happy with.  It also made me triple my vegetable intake which can only be a good thing.  The other golden rule is to NEVER eat processed food which again is not really a bad thing although vaguely impractical at times.

Rice cereal with fruit

Rice cereal with fruit

Phase three is about maintaining your weight and this is where I am at the moment .  Phase three rules are simply –  don’t cheat too much and don’t cheat too often. So you basically stick to not mixing and not eating processed food most of the time but hey ho if there is a party or you are at a mates house then chill a little and go with the flow. The not mixing rule is easy at home but boy oh boy it is a royal pain in the ass when you are eating out so glad to be able to relax on that a bit –  I guess this is the old 80/20 rule.  I have genuinely loved eating this way as an average day can look like this, Porridge with banana, cinnamon and oat milk  (this is a carb breakfast) then a lovely goats cheese salad for lunch (a fat meal)  and in the evening I might eat something like lamb kofta with a huge salad and halloumi followed by berries and double cream (fat meal heaven).  And I lose weight on this!!!!

More berries and full fat yogurt

More berries and full fat yogurt

So anyway I am happy and eating well and feel hugely more energetic and healthy. It is the first diet that is sustainable for me yet like an alcoholic I still find sweet treats an issue and there is always an element of willpower going on.  Every diet says that it is not a diet but a lifestyle change but to be honest I think that is a pile of poop.  This is a diet of sorts, though not one that counts calories, points or any other odd measurement BUT it does take a certain amount of will power.  There has been the odd slip up but at last have found a diet that is enjoyable with good results so clambering back on the wagon has not been so onerous.  I have lost a stone in a month and am delighted with that and shocked at how little effort it took.

Low carb moussaka

Low carb moussaka

The pictures throughout the blog are a selection of the food I have been eating on this diet – not too shabby don’t you think.

I envy friends who just manage to eat healthily without a second though but that didn’t work out for me in the end and so this is my new way of eating and I hope that I can keep it up.

Italian delight

Italian delight