Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Come Dine With Me Comeback

What better way to make a comeback on this blog than with a CMWM special! Not the televised version (been there done the whole TV cookery show thing  with Britain's Best Dish), but with a couples version of our own...three couples, three houses, three meals to enjoy.

The first meal of the competition took place in Linlithgow, courtesy of the Storrars. Now I've seen plenty photos on Facebook of their culinary creations, so knew they would be going all out to impress...and impress they did. Let me take you through the evening...

Meet and Greet 

The evening commenced at 8pm with some drinks in the lounge. We had two options; raspberry or rhubarb and ginger. As you can see, the company was very quiet and reserved at this stage (not!)...

Now onto dinner...

The starter - baked figs stuffed with mozarella and wrapped in Parma ham. 

One word sums this up, YUM!

The posh interlude - sorbet

The ante was well and truly upped when we were served a citrus sorbet in between courses. This served as a lovely palate cleanser.

The main - Chinese spiced duck with greens and a plum sauce

By this time in the evening I was salivating with all the aromas coming from the kitchen. We were lucky that it was open-plan and we could see our duck being cooked. As you can see the chef was taking this part of the event very serious!

Once dished up it looked (and tasted) fab...

Desert - chocolate mousse

I class myself as a bit of a chocolate mousse connoisseur, and anyone who knew me around the time that I went on Britain's Best Dish will likely also be known as a chocolate mousse connoisseur, as chocolate mousse was made again, and again, and again until I had it perfected!

Mousse should be fluffy, light, perfectly mixed (and for me on the milky chocolate spectrum) and this one did not disappoint. It even had a little crumble of flake on the top.

Cheese, chocolate and chilli

Just when we thought the meal was complete, out came the cheeseboard and biscuits (with gluten free ones just for me). The cheese was a lovely selection and greed took over at this point. Totally not required, but enjoyed all the same! I even enjoyed a wee glass of port, something I've not really liked before now (but always tried to drink on its own, now I know why it's the perfect accompaniment to cheese).

Now if the meal had finished at that point, well massive thumbs up! However things were about to take a turn for the worse with the chilli-chocolate game. Chocolate I like, chilli...well the photo sums it up...

The entertainment

The hosts, however did manage to pull the evening back by their after dinner entertainment, the table converted into a pool table (I soooooooooo want one of these!).

The whisky stash was unleashed, although I stuck to the red wine. A drink too may for the host perhaps?

Great night, great company, great food.

The scoring

Scores were taken and put in a sealed envelope. The score? Well you will have to wait for blog three.

A huge thank you to the hosts Brian and Sarah, I've never eaten (so much cheese) or laughed so much in a long time. Next time will be at ours and from the cook's perspective...watch this space

Friday, 23 January 2015

Breakfast Beaters

Breakfast can sometimes be a bit of a mixed affair in our house; Master Cook and Little Cook both love their breakfast and will scoff down plenty and I understand the benefits of it, so although I am not one to feel particularly hungry in the morning I never miss breakfast which usually consists of a small bowl of porridge with some honey and fruit.

The two young athletes in the house are at total ends of the spectrum. One will always munch through breakfast and on competition day will sit down to a big hot steaming bowl of porridge. On the other hand the other (who can eat like a horse the rest of the day) just struggles. Over the years we have battled over breakfast and the need to eat cereal and last year I came to the conclusion it just wasn't worth it. My quest then started to look for something quick and easy and I have come up with a few alternatives which he enjoys.

Peanut butter on toast with a smoothie on the side

This is a firm favourite on schools days and the staple breakfast through the week. I invested in an Active Blend smoothie maker and it is amazing! The best bit is the smoothie is made inside the sports bottle so there are no extra parts to wash. If you fill the bottle up it makes three glasses of smoothie, so the boys have one each for breakfast and I take the third into work with me if I am running at lunchtime and I have it about an hour before I run. It tends to separate over the course of the morning but so long as it is kept in the fridge a good shake just revitalises it.

There are thousands of recipes on the internet, berry ones are a firm favourite in our house and the most made one is probably frozen raspberries, milk, vanilla yoghurt and cranberry juice all whizzed together. No measuring required so no two taste the same!

Scrambled eggs on toast with layered fruit and yoghurt

There must be very few who don't like some scrambled eggs on toast (obviously with a wee drop melted cheese through it) and it is quick and easy to make. I usually add a side dish to this and take a glass with some fruit compote on the bottom (this is made with any fruit we have that is overipe and kept in a tub in the fridge). Add to this a good dollop of vanilla yoghurt then sprinkle on top some granola. Easy peasy and very tasty.

Breakfast muffins

These are the new kid on the block and yet to be tried out on the rest of the family (although I have scoffed two of these already this morning and they are delicious). Master Cook is a sprints coach at a local club and coaches athletes from around age 15-17. Having spoken to them and their parents it seems quite a common occurrence that teenagers will skip breakfast or will grab a cereal (breakfast) bar and a drink. Breakfast bars just don't cut the mustard with me, we sometimes use them as a snack during competitions but certainly not a substitute to breakfast. It got me thinking that perhaps they can be enticed with an alternative which could be grabbed in the morning or taken to school (or pop in a rucksack when competing). I had a quick look on the BBC Good Food website (probably my favourite website ever) and quickly found a recipe for grab and go breakfast muffins:


I used wholemeal spelt flour instead of wholemeal wheat flour but for true gluten free I am sure a gluten free mix would work just as well. I also didn't have rapeseed oil so just substituted olive oil.

It says on the recipe they will keep in a container for three days however I think they will be scoffed quicker than that. I would be tempted to prepare the mixture the night before and keep the wet mix in the fridge and the dry mix covered in a bowl. In the morning it's just a case of mixing both together, popping the mixture into the cases and into the oven leaving them to cook while I have time to shower. 

This is maybe a recipe to test drive on the Pitreavie athletes at the National Relay Championships tomorrow. You never know it might just make them all that wee bit faster (just don't tell them no sugar is involved!).


Monday, 13 October 2014

Easy Peasy Gluten Free Pasta

So after a bit of a bad first experience (check out Pasta Almost Disaster)  with the pasta machine, I've been saying for weeks (actually months) that I need to get over my hump and try again.

Armed with some delicious fresh crab-meat from our local fishmongers I was set on crab ravioli (aiming high then). I wanted something fresh so after a quick search I came across this recipe in the Telegraph:

Crab ravioli with tomato and basil

The filling and the sauce seemed easy enough (although I didn't go to the effort of skinning the cherry tomatoes) but the big dilemma was the pasta. I watched a programme months ago and recalled watching a young Italian make gluten-free pasta claiming you couldn't tell the difference so after another (not quite so quick) search I came across the recipe from Michella Chiappa:


Next dilemma was that I didn't have potato flour and my rice flour was out-of-date. I therefore decided to loosely take this recipe and concoct my own...and it worked a treat!

So if you fancy some delicious gluten-free pasta I would seriously recommend making it. It was really easy, tasted yummy and now means I can be more inventive with ravioli, tortellini and lots of other lovely types of pasta.

Gluten Free Pasta

Wheat Free Yes Gluten Free Yes
Makes 4 servings

100g cornflour
250g GF plain flour (I use doves)
2tsp xanthan gum
4 medium eggs
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of salt
Plain flour for dusting

Making the pasta
  1. To make the dough, add the cornflour, plain flour,  xanthan gum and a pinch of salt to a food processor, then pulse to mix. 
  2. Next, put in your eggs and oil. Blitz until everything is well combined. Knead a little to bind and form a dough, then wrap in clingfilm and rest for 30 minutes.
  3.  If the dough is a bit sticky then lightly dust with flour.
  4. If you are using a pasta roller, take a tennis ball-sized amount of dough, squash it flat with your fingers (remember to keep the rest of your dough covered with the cling film so it doesn't go dry and crusty), push it through the pasta roller on the widest setting. Because there is very little gluten in this flour you will find that the dough crumbles as it comes out of the pasta machine. If it does patch the pieces together gently and push through again on the widest setting. Repeat this step until your dough comes out in one piece. Just have a little patience.
  5. Once it comes out in one piece, fold the sheet into 3 pieces and roll through the widest setting. Repeat 3 times until you have a rough square shape, then start working it through the machine, taking it down one setting at a time, until the thinnest setting. You should end up with a long, wide sheet of pasta. You can also roll this by hand using a rolling pin but you'll need some serious elbow grease to get your pasta sheets really thin (about 1 playing card thick).
  6. Once you have it down to the thinnest setting use the required attachment to cut your pasta. 
  7. Place on a tray dusted with the plain flour to dry a little until ready to cook.
 Cooking the pasta
  • To cook the pasta place in a large pot of boiling salted water and cook until al-dente. For tagliatelle this will only take around 30s, ravioli about 3min.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Wheat free - what does it mean to me?

Hello! It's been a while. I've not done much blogging however I have done plenty pondering. Whilst at a friend's over Christmas (which seems a million miles away now) we got chatting about the ups and downs of recognising (and in many cases admitting to yourself) that something in your diet may not agree with you and the implications of cutting it out.

For me it was wheat. I suffered for years (as far back as being a teenager) however it took a lot of persuasion for me to cut it out. Probably because it seemed such a simple solution (why had the GP never suggested it?) but such a drastic one. And at the time it did feel drastic. Cutting out sandwiches, pasta, cakes...all the things I love.

Anyway, this post is about focusing on the positives so here goes. So what does having a wheat intolerance (or "special dietary requirement" as it's referred to) mean to me? Here are my top ten.

It means
  1. Being more in control of what you are eating (as you know what all the "hidden ingredients" are).
  2. Cooking fresh and never relying on ready made meals.
  3. Having lovely home baked goodies every week.
  4. Having more variety, especially at lunchtime. Sandwiches are replaced with soups, salads, baked potatoes or little pots of leftovers from dinner the night before.
  5. Going to a party and not being to eat all the sandwiches, sausage rolls and nibbles from the buffet - but then going home and feeling good that you haven't eaten all the sandwiches, sausage rolls and nibbles from the buffet!
  6. A sense of satisfaction when people taste your food and "can't taste the difference"
  7. Going to a restaurant and liking the fact they go the extra mile with the Gluten Free menu (and trust me, many do these days).
  8. Going to nice coffee shops and having lemon drizzle (polenta) cake or not feeling guilty about eating the crispy cakes meant for kiddies.
  9. Adapting menus and publishing my own ones.
  10. Keeping this blog and writing about my own experiences.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Fabulous Flapjacks

So I hear on the grapevine (well twitter) that Hugh will be rustling up some banana flapjacks tonight on River Cottage Fruit. Well I am afraid to say I won't be following the recipe as I have my very own which I think is the best! I would love to have a battle of the flapjacks but I'm up here in Fife and with Hugh down there in Devon I don't think it's going to happen soon!

With two sons who compete regularly at athletics we find these are a great snack, especially with a son who won't eat bananas but will eat flapjacks packed with them!

Anyway here's my tried and tested recipe.

Wheat Free Yes Gluten Free No
Makes 30  

Ingredients(plain flapjack)

350g butter 
280g demerara sugar
1/2 tin condensed milk
2bsp syrup
500g porridge outs

Optional Extras
2 ripe bananas, mashed
Chopped dried apricots
Chocolate chunks
Pumpkin seeds
Anything you fancy really!

1. In a large pan melt the butter and sugar over a low heat.
2. Stir in the condensed milk and syrup.
3. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the oats.
4. Add any extras (at this point I usually split the mix in two and make two different flavours, a particular favourite of ours is cranberry, apricot and coconut pictured abouve).
5. Put in two baking trays lined with baking parchment. Even the mix out but don;t press down too hard.
6. Bake in the oven for approximately 15min or until the edges start to brown. Don't overcook
7. Leave in the trays until cold then cut into squares.
8. Enjoy!