Yes, I have looked at the calendar. Yes I do realise that it is November. I even suspect that some of you will have had to plough your driveway to get to work, or at least switch from shorts to long trousers. In fact today here in Edinburgh we awoke to our first bright and frosty morning – all sparkly sidewalks and retina-searing but ineffective sun. And, here I am blogging about salad. Not a little – possibly acceptable – side salad, but a proper, in your face, entire meal kind of salad. With protein, fat, carbohydrates – the lot. Continue reading
Although, living in Scotland, I no longer celebrate the 4th of July as such – it’s often a work day – it is fun to mark it with some kind of barbecue. If the weather plays ball that is. And so far so good on that score, if you don’t mind it a shade on the cool and breezy side. I know the 4th of July isn’t *just* about barbecues. There’s the whole ‘we are free from the Brits’ thing as well. Not really something that I can celebrate too enthusiastically under the circumstances. Continue reading
Can I get a bit personal for a moment: do you have a culinary crush? Are you mad for Malaysian food (it’s right up there for me)? What about kale: has it jumped the shark, or is it still fanning the flames of your heart (still fanning away here)? Or have you freaked out on freekeh (yet to fully explore, but watch this space)?
Is there an ingredient, cuisine or style of cooking that you love above all others? Continue reading
If you don’t know what a shawarma is, this recipe will not particularly surprise. But, if you know shawarma, you could be forgiven for uttering a popular acronymed Anglo-Saxon epithet beginning with W and ending with F. If you are from the Levant, you will no doubt be thinking an equivalent in Arabic or Turkish. Just perhaps not as rude. Continue reading
Admission time. For a semi-professional cook (if we use the term loosely) I’m not the most brilliant stock maker. Sure, I can make a decent enough chicken stock, or even fish stock if called for, but vegetable stock? Not really. Oh the shame. Continue reading
After the challenges of what is usually a disappointing summer – weatherwise at least – we are often treated to a rather beautiful September. All summer long, folk up and down the country have been chased indoors from picnics, fetes, celebrations and barbecues by plant-ripping hailstones and sudden gusting winds. Sadly, grey skies and Great Britain seem to go hand and hand. You get used to it. Continue reading
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
I hadn’t meant to hit you with tofu straight after the excesses of Christmas. Truly. It smacks of detox and diet, and other depressing ‘d’ words. If you know me, or read me regularly, you’ll know that’s not what I’m about. I’d rather rub chillies in my eyes, or grate my knuckles on a Microplane ® grater than go on a diet. And as for detox, that’s what our livers are for; we don’t need to go on juice fasts, just stop eating rubbish and drinking alcohol (I know, easier said than done). But also if you know me you’ll know that I love tofu. Or rather, I love what you can do with tofu. Bland beyond belief on its own, I grant you, but when even briefly introduced to things with flavour – I’m thinking miso, soy, chillies, citrus, garlic – it transforms from a simpering slab of blah to a delightful dish of mmm. Perhaps I’m overselling the old beancurd, but I really think this simple, straightforward recipe may change your mind. Continue reading
Edinburgh Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres turned 15 this past week. Born from one woman’s idea of supporting those affected by cancer in a beautiful space, and with cancer support specialists, the Edinburgh centre was the first of 15 such centres around the UK. More are being built around the world as I write. Maggie herself, who died before the landmark Edinburgh centre was completed, would be truly stunned at her legacy. It is a remarkable place that means a lot to so many.
As for myself, every time I step through the elegant, transparent front door I am suffused with a sense of calm. Even when I am running late and the rain is lashing down while I’m bringing in nutrition workshop bits and bobs, my breathing slows and my shoulders drop. The natural light, the colourful handmade cushions, the burbling of the ever-on kettle, and of course the wonderful volunteers and staff, make this building so welcoming. Like a beautiful friend who also happens to have a PhD in something useful, the Maggies’ Centres combine form and function to great effect.
The occasion/achievement of turning 15 was marked with a day-long open-house event attended by I don’t know how many hundreds of people: a teensy bit like some fifteen-year olds’ Facebook -advertised birthday parties – minus the smuggled in alcohol and broken furniture. But unlike the parties our teens get asked to this one served soup (I made soup for 300), fresh bread and tables of delicious-looking home-baking. I say ‘looking’ because I didn’t get a chance to sample any. I was too busy getting a ‘soup sauna’, as wit and colleague Issy dubbed it, ladling out this and this. Volunteer Margaret did a fab job with the mental maths and money collecting while I ladled and chatted over my two 37-litre soup pots. It was a terrific atmosphere with lots of laughter, cake eating, and surreptitious ogling of Maggie’s Scotland rugby team calendar. And lots of ‘friends reunited’. Continue reading
By now regular (and cherished) readers will have got the message that I am a) animal-mad, b) a bit of a nutrition geek, c) have a thing for tofu. I am also rather fond of big flavours – clashing, bold, in-your-face tastes and aromas. Maybe it’s because my eyesight is a bit poor, and my hearing isn’t too far behind, but I can’t be doing with too many bland or one-note foods.
Although I do graze from the fruit bowl and pick through the nut jar, I truly have a hard time sitting down and eating, say, a banana – I want it sliced and sprinkled with cardamom. I must be a latent sensationalist, and instead of kite-surfing or gambling I find my thrills with food. But not in a quantitative, all-you-can-eat kind of way (well, not usually); for me it’s about the sensuous meeting of taste, smell, texture, sight and even touch. Think of how much nicer it is to eat corn from a cob, dripping with real butter, than to chase the kernels around your plate with a fork. Or appreciating the pop and sizzle of a stir-fry – the hot smell of ginger and garlic taking over your kitchen, your house. Many a fully-booked Malaysian and Korean restaurant says that I am not alone in my love of big flavours. I suspect that you have such leanings too. Continue reading