Quick and Clean Fragrant Noodle Soup

asian noodle soupMy Rachel, the ‘pop picker’ for food to glow, is smack in the middle of exams. And what does a teen with a heavy diet of exams need? Yup, home cooking. They may want crisps and chocolate and those horrid, blue caffeine-loaded drinks, but we know – and they do too – that good food, in steady doses, is what brain and body need under stress. And a three-hour paper on teleological ethics (nah, me neither) sounds pretty stressful to me. Continue reading

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Spicy Seaweed (or Kale!) Popcorn + A Happy Life Lesson

spicy-seaweed-popcornOnce upon a time, in a land far, far away, lived a girl. She was an ordinary girl. Not a wallflower, but not a high-flyer either. She was loved by her family, got on well(-ish) at school, had the requisite number of boyfriends and breakups, and battled the occasional outbreak of pimples with spot cream and floor gazing. In short, ordinary. But one day, empty of wallet and loathe to keep tapping a generous-to-a-fault father for yet more money, she decided to get a Saturday job. So, armed with a short resume consisting of kid’s movie reviewer for the town newspaper, church choir member, and zero retail experience, this girl left the house. More in hope than expectation. Continue reading

Black Tarka Dal with Tamarind Sauce and Jhal Muri

dal-with-jhal-muri-and-tamarind-sauceAfter last week’s one ingredient recipe (labneh) today I hit you smack in the chops with this multi-ingredient, multi-step dish. It may look a bit daunting, but really, if you have  made a dal (or even lentil soup) before this is just a slight elaboration. Essentially this is a thick, fragrant dal (which basically just simmers away quietly to itself) topped with some fresh chopped bits, a quickly-made sauce (no chopping, just warming) and an Indian snack mix.

To make it easier, prepare the dal ahead and just warm it through when you want to eat. If pressed for time, skip the sweet-tart sticky sauce and just spritz with lime or use a prepared tamarind chutney. Definitely keep the crunchy stuff.

I don’t know why I am trying to talk you out of the whole shebang because it isn’t difficult, and the result is texture and flavour heaven. I could eat this stuff every day.urad-dal Continue reading

(Leftover Roast) Potato and Ham Soup with Dijon

roast potato & ham soup
You may be reading this while tucking into a sumptuous feast of cold leftover turkey, ham, goose or turducken sandwiches, and sides of cold roast potatoes, cranberry sauce and Brussels sprouts, etc. We love Boxing Day leftovers in our house – my favourite is leftover cornbread dressing, which this year I spiked with black pudding for a Scottish twist on a Southern US staple.

But this year I saved back some roast potatoes and ham to make this unbelievably easy soup. It’s no looker, at least the way I present it, which is just as I have made it, ready for serving to my family who of course don’t want to wait while I faff with styling and garnishes. The secret, I think, is the Dijon mustard, a healthy dollop of which balances the flavour of the sweet leeks and ham, and adds an extra piquancy that is often lacking in leftovers. I won’t natter on about it as I want to get back to watching rubbish telly and planning my attack on the after-Christmas sales. I am sharpening my already-pointy elbows in anticipation of the latter. Edinburgh shoppers, you have been warned.roast potatoesroast potato & ham soup

(Leftover Roast) Potato and Ham Soup with Dijon

A quick and dirty soup using Christmas leftovers, and a little bit of store cupboard nous. A little less quick and dirty version would be to boil up freshly peeled potatoes and fry off some pancetta, but there is something satisfying – and let’s face it, smug – about transforming leftovers into something so quick and different. You could also add in some chopped cooked Brussels sprouts for another flavour dimension. Any vegetarians who have not been deterred by the title, this is just as good without ham.
3 fat leeks, trimmed and most of the green removed, white chopped
2 tsp rapeseed oil
125g (or more) leftover roast ham (or turkey or pancetta), cut up
400g leftover roast potatoes, chopped a bit (or peeled and sliced raw potatoes)
700 ml hot vegetable stock
200 ml milk (optional, but increase the stock a bit if leaving out)
2 heaped tbsp Dijon mustard (or more to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the rapeseed oil in a soup pot over a low-medium flame and add the chopped leeks. Let these gently sauté before adding the chopped ham, turkey or pancetta. If using the pancetta, let this cook all the way. Add in the potatoes (roasted or raw) and stock, bringing to the boil before turning down to a fast simmer. Let this cook with the lid on for 15 minutes then pour in the milk and add the Dijon. Let this heat through before taking off the heat and blitzing with a hand blenderstick, leaving a few chunky bits for texture. Serve with freshly ground black pepper.
Makes four good-sized bowls. Easily doubled.

Shepherdess Pie – A Family Favourite Gone Vegan

This will be a shorter post than normal. I am hampered by two things: A deep gash to my finger – all bandaged up and throbbing, held above my heart like you’re told to do; and a very large cat (Max) insisting on sprawling on my lap. And, because he is long and tubby, onto the keyboard. Continue reading

Sweetly Savoury Borscht (vegan beetroot soup)

Recipes, like birds, know no borders. 

Beetroot. Beta vulgaris. Hmm. And borscht. Are you picturing what I am picturing? A weathered babushka – with a babushka – ladling steaming red soup into a tin bowl?

I have that image from actual memory. Not a Grimm’s fairy tale story read to me by my mother on a howling night, but a real live babushka: brown walnut face shyly smiling as she proudly served her national soup to me, a dangerous visitor from the land of Ronald Reagan and Mickey Mouse.  Continue reading

Baked Marinara-stuffed Arancini (Risotto Balls) – low-fat, lemony and delicious

There are some people who don’t like leftovers. That may even be you. It is sometimes me: as I am not a teen-aged boy I  don’t understand the appeal of leftover pizza. But leftovers make sense. Make enough at one meal to do for another: whether chilled and eaten the next day, or wrapped, labelled and tucked in the freezer, never to be seen again to be eaten later.

I do fight my irrational inner distaste of leftovers, tucking into leftover stew or curry (which admittedly always taste better the next day) and forking through salads made from leftover grains with added bits and bobs. All very worthy, time-sparing and cost-conscious. But, hmm, how do I put it? A bit dull? Yes, a bit dull, at least sometimes. I think I might not be alone in this. That’s where this recipe comes in. But first a confession of sorts. Continue reading

Ma Po Tofu: Revisiting A Chinese Classic

You don’t know how much I wanted to title this “Pock Marked Old Woman with a Drunken Sailor.” I could have got a whole new readership on that one title alone. Possibly not a readership whose comments I could publish. More the readership that clicks on ‘certain’ ads, for ‘certain’ products, shall we say.

So I resisted. The reason it was tempting was because, if you remember from awhile back, when I posted Cauliflower and Almond Pizza with Fresh Sauce and Greens, I mentioned this very translation. I did a whole post on odd-to-Western-ears translations, but Ma Po Tofu was my favourite, mainly because it is also my favourite Chinese dish.  Although disputed here in this very odd tale, the classic Sichuan recipe roughly translates as ‘pock marked old woman.’ So, joining in the spirit of poetic namings, I thought that the dry sherry and salmon could be the drunken sailor.  But then you probably wouldn’t want to try what to me is the best Chinese dish ever.  And trust me, you want to try it. Continue reading

Brown Butter Cottage Cheese Pancakes with Roasted Rhubarb

Hope you don’t mind, but I want to throw another breakfast recipe your way. Don’t worry, I’m not sneaking in kale or tofu this time, just a scoop of cottage cheese. Which isn’t too odd if you think about it. Many of you will have had, or heard of, ricotta pancakes. This is just a kind of “poor man’s” version.

And none the worse for the lowering of circumstance. Both the pancakes and the rhubarb are a bit sweet, but not overly so. And the pancakes are quite substantial because of the protein content of the cottage cheese: I wasn’t hungry for ages after having some for breakfast. And no, I didn’t eat the whole batch. Just three modest cakes and a large spoon of juicy pink rhubarb.

Actually, when I was working on this recipe I was thinking of this combo as more of a dessert, but I figure most folk would see this as firmly in breakfast territory. Perhaps I should have waited awhile with this, but as the rhubarb season is so short for many of you – and the roasted rhubarb goes so well with these little brown-butter cottage cheese pancakes –  I thought you wouldn’t mind. I know you are kind that way. Very indulgent of me.  Continue reading

Beef and Winter Vegetable Casserole with Orange and Star Anise

This past week has been an especially food-centric one. Not one in which I cooked a heck of a lot, but we certainly ate well. You see, my younger sis was in town. Not that a visit from her would stop me from cooking – far from it – but as her visit was fleeting, we made the most of her time in my anything-but-boring adopted city. We were out every day, and I enjoyed seeing her appreciation of the beauty and excitement that is Edinburgh at this time of year. From the brightly painted storefronts in individual, boutiquey Stockbridge (Galeries Mirage is my favourite shop) to the grand Georgian splendour of George Street (the Dome is looking particularly stunning), we covered a fair bit on her short visit. Courtesy of Mr A, we even had afternoon tea and a massage – at the posh yet faintly spooky Hotel du Vin and award-winning Zen Lifestyle, respectively. Although the weather was rather chilly and windy, instead of complaining she just wore all of my warm clothes. At once. I even temporarily convinced her that my ‘Russian’ fake fur hat was fashionable. {Julie, I have deleted the photos. Promise} Continue reading