"No love sincerer than the love of food"

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Eating Northumberland

On Thursday the Grumbling Tummy ensemble headed down to Northumberland to spend some time with the lovely Pettinger-Thomson’s who were holidaying for a week in Embleton.  The PT’s are brilliant at sharing their  holidays with us and food and wine always plays a starring role in proceedings.

The weary travellers arrived at 6 on Thursday to the welcome call of “cheese straws anyone” from Senior PT,  who has a  penchant for these buttery treats.  Cheese straws down the hatch, followed by a much welcomed glass of red and it was time to get the kiddy’s  to bed and tuck into the feast being prepared.

I am a strictly one pot cook who flaps at the idea of juggling timings of several dishes.  Cat, chief cook of the PT brigade is however the queen of cooking many dishes at once and producing an array of scrumptious dibbley-dabs.  The whole kitchen was bathed in the aroma of exotic spices as Cat nonchalantly cooked up an Indian feast.

Photo 28-03-2013 20 35 40Using a lethal Delia/Jamie combo we were treated to two different types of rice, home-make vegetable pakora, chicken and chickpea korma, red onion salad, chappatis and naan bread.    It was to quote the youngsters “amazeballs”.  Spicy, zingy and moreish!  The pakora had some surprise hunks of chilli lying in wait to blow your head off but that was brilliant too and there was plenty of the red stuff to dilute any spice shocks we encountered.

Photo 28-03-2013 20 34 44 Photo 28-03-2013 20 35 20

After staying up till 2am putting the world to rights over far to many glasses of red wine with Cat, I was what one might call crispy the next day, otherwise known as hungover to buggery!  Food was going to be a kill or cure experiment.  Following a bracing walk along Embleton beach we found ourselves in Seahouses which is a slightly faded wee Northumberland coastal town.  Extreme temperatures mixed with tiny tots led us to the indoor play area, much to the horror of senior PT!  Soon however there was happy faces all round as we sipped hot chocolate and watched our mad children throw themselves around the soft play area.  Too hungover to move we decided to stay in the indoor play emporium to eat.  This may surprise you considering my horror of food in soft play areas but this was an entirely different proposition.  You see,  it was owned by the same folk that had the fish and chip shop next door and guess what the soft play menu consisted of?  Result!

Three fish and chips and one scampi and chips set things right for the weary troops.  I had the scampi which was crisp and golden on the outside and all roasty toasty and soft on the inside, with oodles of tartar sauce to dip.  The chips weren’t the crispiest but I was hungover so they were a gastronomical delight as far as I was concerned.Photo 29-03-2013 13 24 36

A quick look at the beautiful Bamburgh Castle and it was time to bid farewell to the PTs.  We had only travelled a few miles however when we felt the need to stop off once again for re-fuelling.  This time in a tiny and rather odd little farm tearoom called ‘The Oxford’.  It was off the beaten track and the sunny conservatory was empty but for one lovely local couple.  This little tearoom was a gem – tea served in lovely big flowery pots and a limited but tasty choice of sweet and savoury treats all made on the premises, using produce from the farm.  Millionaires Shortbread for me which hit the spot and a rather  impressive meringue and ice-cream with a strawberry coulis for B.

We were so impressed with the beauty of Northumberland that we are looking at going back in September for a week of  beaches and gastronomic pleasure!

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Do You Remember the First time?

As you grow up your life is full of  firsts that leave their indelible mark – first kiss, first love …

But this of course is a blog about food so I am going to take  you along with me on a nostalgic journey,  revisiting some of the foodie firsts that have made their mark on me.

One of my very first food memories is of Ketchup, which I discovered aged 4. I have no idea why I hadn’t experienced Ketchup before then, perhaps my family were just HP junkies.  Mum had rather bravely taken me on holiday to Jersey on her own for a ten-day break in a lovely hotel in St Helier.  Amongst the memories of feeding orangutans in the zoo, mum contracting food poisoning, choking on an ice cube,  and my beloved ‘Jersey Ted’ is the memory of my saucey discovery .   I can’t  really remember if I loved the taste of it back then but  that is almost irrelevant – I was 4 and it was a truly wonderful thing that came in a red plastic squeeze bottle.  I can take or leave tomato sauce these days, but sometimes when I dip a chip in it I see that little girl with the funny little page-boy haircut being excited about the discovery of   this exotic brightly coloured condiment on  (almost) foreign soil.

In common with many kids I hated vegetables.  The unimaginative use of veg in the early 80’s didn’t aid the cause much,medium_27079122 boiled to oblivion and plonked onto the plate as a necessary evil.  Mum and dad being good parents would ensure I got my veg quota by employing ingenious yet devious methods such as blending them with more palatable foods.  My status as committed veg hater was about to change when we attended a  family wedding at the Grosvenor in Glasgow.  Adorned in a straw boater and lace gloves I felt quite the thing as I took my place at the kids table.  We were served tender roast beef,  crisp roast potatoes and a curious green bundle which was totally unfamiliar to me.  Despite my trepidation on discovering that this was indeed a vegetable, peer pressure made me taste it.  It was amazing, I loved a vegetable, and that vegetable was BROCCOLI .

Zip forward to my 20’s – I once accompanied my manager in a London trip to attend a meeting, and we were taken out  to a lovely Thai Restaurant for lunch.  I had never tasted Thai food, seen Thai food or even considered Thai food before –  I had no idea what to expect.   My first thought when the Green curry arrived was that they were a bit off the mark on their rice cooking (surely it ought to be fluffy) and that their sauce could probably do with a dab of cornflour (so thin).  Then I tasted it – OH MY!  I was stunned by Thai food and still am.  I adored the delicate yet spicy flavours, the sweetness of the rice, the creamy coconut milk.  Thai became my favourite type of food there and then and I am pleased to say it is still up there.

medium_265546693Friends can be great for introducing you to new experiences.  My mate Charlotte has taught me a lot about food over the years, and  although I have caught up now, her tastes were much more sophisticated than mine when we were in our 20’s and early 30’s.  She introduced me to the dark art of shelling prawns  (which had always terrified me) Over a lunch at Browns in Edinburgh a combination of wine and Charlotte gave me the courage to order a plate of the critters, which she then taught me to expertly shell.  Doesn’t seem like a big thing but for me it was a revelation. I bloody love big fat juicy prawns with lemon juice squirted all over them , eating with my hands and getting acceptably messy.  I can’t quite believe I was approaching 30 before I tried them.

I had always “quite” liked black pudding but Stornoway Black Pudding is something else entirely.  I first tasted this on a trip home from Skye around 6 years ago.  We stayed over in a tiny place called Dornie and got ridiculously drunk in a local bar.  The next morning I was possibly the most hungover I have ever been in my life,  but somehow made it down to breakfast.  I vividly remember tasting the black pudding on the full Scottish breakfast served up to me that day –  it was bloody marvellous.  The slightly purple hue devoid of all these horrid little white fatty bits on other black puddings.  I thought that this smooth textured delight tasted divine – onion and pepper and gorgeous black puddingy puddingness – YUM.

I could go on forever boring with you with my first tastes and experiences: why the taste of parsley transports me back to my home economics class, my first taste of sticky toffee pudding in the Breadalbane Arms in Dundee and why a scotch pie has to be served with a buttered morning roll, brown sauce and a cup of tea.  But I will quit whilst I am ahead.

I would love to hear about some of your foodie memories, we all have them.

Drop me a line!

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That’s Amore


Despite what you may think, I don’t actually live in St Andrews but I am there a lot at the moment – hence the many reviews that pop up on Photo 10-03-2013 13 18 29my blog about restaurants there.  I would actually love to live in St Andrews if I could afford it,  but for now I will content myself with regular visits to the folks,  who are fortunate enough to live there.

For quite some time my parents have been raving about an Italian restaurant in St Andrews called Little Italy.  It’s the place they choose time and time again to impress visiting friends and relatives and is a restaurant which, in their eyes, can do no wrong.

Now when comes to dining out my parents are just a bit critical and my interest was piqued. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait long to try it out for myself – the traditional Mothers day food and wine extravaganza!

Tucked away in Logies Lane it is quite easy to miss Little Italy and even if you do stop to have a gander, the outside betrays little of what is in store for your taste buds.

Once inside it is hard not to get a warm fuzzy feeling. All of the dining takes place in one square area which is filled with the buzz and Photo 10-03-2013 13 42 52chatter of happy diners.

Shunning the fashion for contemporary Italian restaurant design that is popular these days, Little Italy is refreshingly retro/authentic.  Red and white chequered tablecloths, wooden chairs, red candles in wine bottles and flowers on the tables.  It is familiar and charming and you know that here, it is all about the food.


 To begin I chose one of my perennial favourites –  Melanzane Parmigiana.  This dish was a sight to behold and I am pleased to say that the taste didn’t disappoint.  The aubergine was velvety, the tomato sauce rich and the hot bubbling cheesy topping perfectly alternating between crispy and “gooey” (I am not sure if gooey is a good description of luscious mozzarella, but I am sure you get my gist).

Have you ever eaten a dish and found yourself audibly groaning with pleasure – I am sure you know what I mean?  Well that was the response prompted by my second course, Tagliatelli Boscaiola. Brilliantly cooked pasta coated with wild mushrooms, white wine, cream, Photo 10-03-2013 13 58 26fine Italian sausage and all seasoned to perfection.  It was to die for!

Unfortunately I remained on my diet wagon (wine has no calories you know) and so skipped dessert.  Next time Tiramisu, you will be mine.

I am often told off for forgetting to mention the choices of my dining companions and this review is no exception (must try harder). The truth is that I am usually so eager to dive into my own food that I forget all about what my companions are having until it is too late! Suffice to say that mum thoroughly enjoyed her food as she always does in Little Italy, and she is a harsh critic indeed.

Little Italy is a restaurant that does not rely on trendy websites (it has none), fancy frontage or elaborate interior design.  They know that week after week they will be full because they have the most important thing just right – the food.

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Hot Date at the Bonham

chicken liver parfaitLast week I was lucky enough to be taken on a hot lunch date to The Bonham; a boutique hotel which houses one of my favourite restaurants in Edinburgh.   I  therefore make no apologies for the fact that this review might be a bit on the gushy side.

The Bonham is one  of the marvellous Town House Company hotels which also includes the wonderful Blythswood Square in Glasgow.

Situated in Drumsheugh Gardens , The Bonham is easy to miss.  No neon signs or a-boards hint at what lies beyond the elegant frontage.  Understated elegance continues inside the Bonham where the interior decoration  is  simple and contemporary with more than a hint of luxury. There is a lovely feeling of space in the restaurant, beetroot tart finpossibly because they have not attempted to cram every available space with tables.

I must have eaten in the Bonham around ten times now and I have never once been disappointed in any aspect of my dining experience –  this lunch was to be  no exception

We chose to eat from the Festive Menu as it was our Christmas ‘date’. This was an amazing £25 per person for three courses which includes half a bottle of wine per person.  We normally opt for a “Boozy Snoozy Lunch” which is even more remarkable value at £22.50 a head for three courses and half a bottle of wine each.  The quality of the food makes this the best darned deal in the city as far as I am concerned.

Christmas dinnerTalking about quality food …

I wanted everything on the menu as usual, but in the end decided to start with Beetroot tart fine with horseradish cream and goats cheese.  BC went for the Chicken liver parfait with crispy shallots, truffle jelly and toasted brioche.  Oh my goodness what a fine start to a meal.  BC’s Chicken Liver parfait was in my humble opinion worthy of awards  –  superbly smooth with an intense flavour and a  crispy shallot surprise.  I did prefer BC’s starter due to the intensity of the flavours but my more delicate starter was also a sure-fire winner.  The goats cheese was delicious and this is something I plan to emulate for this year’s New Year’s lunch.  Watch this space!

Slow cooked rib of beefWell it was Christmas so for my main course I opted for  Roasted brown turkey with duck fat roast potatoes, parsnips, red cabbage and cranberry.  The serving of meat was generous and cooked to perfection.  I am not the biggest turkey fan but I do like it when its done well and it was.  The cranberries were terrifying at first.  After popping a fork full in my mouth I realised that these sour little critters were best smeared ‘sparingly’ on my meat where they served their purpose beautifully.  The lightly spiced red cabbage tasted amazing and is definitely something I would like to add to my Christmas repertoire.

BC opted for Slow cooked rib of beef with smoked potato puree, wilted greens and a bourguignon sauce – wowzer!  This dish was something special. The super succulent meat (of which there was a lot)  effortlessly slid off the bone.  The potatoes were extremely smoky and I have no idea how they achieved this but hey ho the Christmas pudding parfaitresult was lovely.  The wilted greens were green and wilted and very nice indeed.  Again god dammit I liked BC’s main course a teeny tiny bit more than my own.

Surprisingly there was still room in my ever-expanding Grumbling Tummy for a dessert.  Vanilla rice pudding with caramelised pears was the truly triumphant pudding which I opted for.  Rice pudding is so old school and brings back memories of my granny’s cooking,  however granny Hill never included vanilla, and any pears were straight from the tin.  This version of the retro classic was divine.  Can’t be that hard to make, can it?  Might give it a go.

Finishing as he started BC chose a parfait – Christmas pudding parfait with warm brandy custard.  It lrice puddingooked stunning and tasted lovely but I was far too engrossed in scoffing my own dessert to take much more notice than that  I’m afraid.

So another hugely successful Bonham lunch was complete and we happily rolled out of the restaurant bidding farewell to the marvellous staff  and continued rolling to the wonderful Bon Vivant in Thistle street where we finished off our date with a couple of glasses of Tempranillo wine.

Happily sated and a tiny bit tipsy we headed home to plan our next trip to the Bonham.


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.