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Desserts > Raspberry Pavlova 25 November 2006

Posted by cath in desserts, easy, fruit, Recipes.


This is a really quick Raspberry Pavlova you can also eat throughout the winter…all you need is meringues, frozen local raspberries and a tub of double cream.

I like M&S meringues, they use free range egg whites and they are the best bought meringues I’ve tasted.

You can make this dessert in the summer with fresh summer soft fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries etc. But it’s winter now, and I don’t think buying imported strawberries etc. is worthwhile – especially when you’ve got a supply of frozen raspberries. I buy mine from the Strawberry Shop at the farmers market here in Edinburgh.

This pavlova is easy, it makes a great winter dessert as it’s rich and creamy and very reminiscent of summery days. (Of course it makes a nice summer dessert too…when the time comes…)

You will need

Double cream – roughly 1/4-1/3 pint per person

At least a dozen raspberries per person (fresh, frozen or a mixture of other fruits)

1 meringue nest per person

Icing sugar to sprinkle on top


  1. If you’re using frozen raspberries, remove the raspberries from the freezer to begin to thaw whilst you whip the cream. (They do not have to be totally thawed, if they’re still frozen this will cause some of the cream inside the pavlova to freeze – like instant ice cream.)
  2. Pour the cream into a large bowl (see picture below).
  3. Using a whisk (electric assistance is good for large quanities) carefully whip the cream until it holds a peak (see note below for tips).
  4. Now you can build the pavlova. On each plate place a meringue, top with a spoon of cream, then top with half the raspberries. Continue to add a spoon of cream, then a few raspberries in layers until you run out. You can either go high, piling each layer on top of the last, or sprinkle more rasperries around the meringue. For extra indulgence you could make a sandwich with an extra meringe on top. Finish with a rasperry on top.
  5. For an extra sweet, snowy finish, sieve half a teaspoon or so of icing sugar all over the top.
  6. Serve immediately.


Whipping Cream: This can be a little tricky until you get used to it, here are some tips…

preparing to whip cream


  • Use a large bowl, you can get a better whipping action and won’t splash as much.
  • It will take a while before you start to notice the cream thickening, especially if whisking by hand, but it will happen – just persevere!
  • When you notice the cream starting to thicken be careful not to overwhip – the best way to do this (especially when using electric whisks) is to stop now and then and try to form a peak with the cream.

soft peak
beginning to form a soft peak


  • Once you start to get some very soft peaks (they will fall back down quickly if soft), only whisk without electrical help. With a few extra turns of the whisk, you should notice the cream thickening quickly and you’ll soon get a soft yet thick cream.
  • Once it holds a peak – stop whisking.

whipped cream
soft whipped cream


The finished Pavlova


Basic Recipes > Roast Tomato Sauce 21 November 2006

Posted by cath in easy, freeze-friendly, vegetables.
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Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tomatoes


Adapted from a recipe by Hugh F-W, I’ve skipped some of the more fastidious bits – namely the sieving of the seeds and skin from the roasted tomatoes. Honestly – you can do it either way, but I hate waste and have never been bothered by the taste of the whole tomato. This recipe is so quick and simple, you should try it.

The sauce can be quickly made into a multitude of sauces – add lightly fried onions, wine and some stock and you have an instant rich tomato sauce for pasta, add extras like sliced chorizo, olives, extra garlic, a handful of mixed herbs, chillies, anything you like…

You can also add this sauce to many different dishes including meat bolognese, chilli-con-carne, soups. Finally, it makes a pretty good ketchup for burgers or bangers and mash.

I’ll often stick in a tray whenever I’m using the oven, and freeze or refrigerate the sauce for use in other dishes.


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degC.
  2. Cut the tomatoes into halves and fill up a baking tray (or two), placing them closely packed, cut side up, in one layer (don’t stack them).
  3. Sprinkle over some pepper, salt and a teaspoon or so of sugar (especially if you’re using late crop tomatoes – they will be less sweet naturally)
  4. Now roughly crush and chop a couple of cloves of garlic (to taste) and sprinkle them on top.
  5. Finally, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil carefully zig-zagging across the tops of the tomatoes…be careful not to pour on too much, just a fine trickle will do!
  6. Place in the oven for 45 minutes until browned then remove.
  7. Leave to rest for a couple of minutes then deglaze the pan – two options for this, either:
  • Remove the tomatoes and deglaze with a glass of white or red wine, stock or water – boil up the liquid and scrape off all the caramelised residue in the tray then reduce down and add to the tomatoes – you can use a hand blender to very gently break up any large tomatoes or chunks of garlic (but don’t blend smooth as this will break the seeds and produce a bitter flavour).


  • For those who are even more pushed for time, you can actually deglaze the pan with the help of a glass of liquid (wine/stock/water) by just crushing up and heating the tomatoes in the pan all in one go – once the pan’s deglazed the tomato sauce should be thick and slightly caramel in colour.

Ready to Roast

Tray of Tomatoes – Ready to Roast



Roast Tomato Sauce

Roast Tomato Sauce

Fish > Herring in Oatmeal 16 August 2006

Posted by cath in easy, Fish, Recipes.
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Simple ways with fresh fish:

Herring in Oatmeal

Herring in Oatmeal

I bought some herring fillets from the market, usually we just grill them for 2-3 minutes per side in a medium-hot grill, but this time we coated them in a bit of oatmeal (pinhead), salt, pepper and a few chopped sprigs of lemon thyme. Slap them in a frying pan with left over bacon fat (or use some olive oil) and fried for 2-3 minutes each side until golden.

Here they have been served with some new potatoes (boiled with mint), fresh tomatoes, steamed runner beans and a wedge of lemon.

Spicy Tomato Pasta with Homegrown Chillies 22 July 2006

Posted by cath in easy, freeze-friendly, mildly spicy, Recipes, summer, variations, very spicy.
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I’ve been growing chillies in the hottest, sunniest window of the house. Yesterday was finally time to try the first fruits.

I’ve got a mixture of red, purpley and still green chillies on the plant, so we tasted a bright red and a green one.


chillies fresh from the plant

homegrown chillies


An easy dinner, variation on the basic tomato sauce: Spicy Tomato sauce, this one has chorizo, chillies, basil and a ewes milk Parmesan style cheese:

Close up of finished dish

spaghetti with spicy tomato and chorizo sauce


First make your basic tomato sauce with 5 or 6 tomatoes per person.

Once the tomato sauce has cooked for an hour, put on the spaghetti in a large pot with plenty of boiling water.

Use about 2 chillies per person, or to taste. Two of my fresh homegrown chillies were sampled – very hot and fiery with a lovely fresh taste and amazing smell, 4 of these in 2 portions gave a pretty spicy dish). The red chili was hot but mellow and slightly sweet, the green chili was slightly hotter and fresher, more zingy in flavour.

You’ll also need a handful of basil, some grated Parmesan-style cheese, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. I’ve also used some chorizo, but this is optional.


  1. Finely chop the chillies – seeds and all if you want it properly spicy, add it to the sauce on the heat and continue to cook until the pasta is cooked
  2. Roughly chop the chorizo, if using
  3. One the pasta is cooked, drain it and return to the pan with some olive oil, swirl together
  4. Turn off the heat from the sauce, add chorizo, basil and stir through
  5. Serve the pasta, top with sauce and a sprinkling of cheese and a grind of pepper

Spicy Tomato Pasta

The finished dish


Summer Drinks > Iced Coffee 21 July 2006

Posted by cath in drinks, easy, Recipes, summer.
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frothy iced coffee

frothy iced coffee

Iced Coffee

iced coffee

To me, this is the perfect summer drink. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Put on some coffee – I use one of the stove-top espresso makers, quick and easy to use (see below for details…)
  2. When the coffee is done, pour it into a glass jug or mug to help it cool down – if you want sugar in the finished drink, add it now whilst the coffee is hot
  3. Whilst the coffee is cooling you can make the crushed ice – just crush about 4-5 cubes per cup of coffee – I use a manual ice crusher as its only a small amount
  4. Add the crushed ice to some cold milk, add milk to taste, equal milk to coffee is a good starting ratio, you can always add extra milk at the end if required. Use a container with a sealing lid if you have one, or if you want it extra frothy, put the milk and crushed ice into a liquidiser, then blend together with the coffee for 30 seconds or so. If you do this step in advance, keep the milk and ice in the fridge or freezer until you’re coffee is ready and slightly cooled.
  5. When the coffee is slightly cooled, add it to the iced milk put the lid on the container and vigorously shake. If you don’t have a liquidiser or sealed container, then you can just stir everything together. Taste and add extra milk as required.
  6. Serve immediately (or put the jug in the fridge and shake up again before serving

Jug of Iced Coffee

Jug of Iced Coffee


A very easy way to make small quantities (2-3 cups) of coffee is in one of the Italian stove-top espresso makers like this one:

Coffee Pot

Coffee Pot

Add a scoop (roughly 1 tbsp) of coffee per cup, more if you like strong espresso, and fill the bottom up with water up to the line (or underneath the valve)

Put it on a medium heat and after a while steam will pour out of the spout and then stop – that’s it – it’s ready!

You can either drink the espresso, or, add hot milk for a cafe au lait, add hot or cold chocolate milk for a mocha, or add hot water and cold milk for a good strong white coffee

…also good for baking cakes, desserts and even chocolate making. Definitely a worthwhile purchase if you don’t have one.


And what about buying coffee?

Well, I have to say I buy a mixture of good Fairtrade coffee and fantastically flavoured strong (but pure evil no doubt) Lavazza Gold – mainly coz there isn’t a great supply of Fairtrade espresso ground coffee around here, but also it is good :)

We’re still not grinding our own beans – that could be a step worth taking though…


Tomato and Basil Sauce for Pasta 5 July 2006

Posted by cath in easy, freeze-friendly, Recipes, variations, vegetables.
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Tomato Sauce, perhaps the most wonderful thing you can do in the kitchen! Tomatoes are in season right now, so go and buy some and try this!

Pasta and Sauce

Tomato and Sausage sauce with Pasta

garnished with Basil leaves and grated cheese


How to make a basic tomato sauce:

Step 1, buy some good quality tomatoes – preferably from a local source, not the supermarket – honestly they will taste much better. I recommend J & M Craig, Carluke, available from the Castle Terrace Farmers Market in Edinburgh.

Step 2, roughly chop the most ripe tomatoes, skin, seeds and all. For 2-3 people you’ll need about 500g – scale the recipe up or down as required, it keeps well in the fridge or freezer.

Step 3, roughly chop 1 large or 2 small onions and a few cloves of garlic.



  1. Heat some olive oil in a pan.
  2. Add the onions and sweat down on a medium heat until translucent.
  3. Then add the garlic and cook for about a minute.
  4. Now add the tomatoes, stir and cook for a minute or two until they start to soften.
  5. Once the tomatoes are hot, turn down the heat and half-cover the pan.
  6. With the heat on very low, stirring occasionally, cook for about an hour (minimum) until the sauce has thickened and sweetened. Turn off the heat.
  7. Now add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Finally, throw in some chopped fresh herbs, basil or parsley are excellent.
  9. Serve with pasta and top with some grated cheese (Parmesan style)


Final adjustments:

If the sauce is too runny, try boiling it down without a lid until you get the desired consistency.

If the sauce is quite thick, add a few spoons of the water you use to cook the pasta in, again, keep going until you get the consistency you want.

Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil into the sauce at the end for a slightly richer flavour.

If you’re fussy about tomato skin and pips, you can use a sieve or press the finished sauce to remove them, but I think the chunky texture works well and saves loads of time!



As well as the classic tomato and basil, you can combine many different things into this sauce. It also works as a base for bolognese, chilli con carne or anything that needs a bit of tomato sauce.

Add a bit of fried pancetta, cooked sausages, sliced chorizo or salami or anything meaty for a quick meaty pasta sauce (see picture above).

Add mushrooms (fried or cooked in the sauce), spinach, other vegetables, more herbs – rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram for veggie pasta sauces.

Add chillies – I hope soon to be adding my homegrown chillies to the sauce for a bit of a kick…, olives, capers, anchovies…the list is endless.

Try your favourite ingredients…use something different every time. Dinner never got so easy!



Get some really good quality dry pasta – macaroni, penne, spaghetti, spaghettini, linguine, whatever you like. The best pasta is rough on the outside, rather than smooth (which is a quality of mass production).

Summer Drinks > Ginger Beer 9 June 2006

Posted by cath in drinks, easy, Recipes, summer.
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Glass of Ginger Beer

Glass of Fresh Ginger Beer

FreshGingerBeer-brewing and brewed

Ginger Beer – Brewing and Half Gone…

First, thanks to Tracy for pointing out this basic recipe for Ginger beer courtesy of Giles Paterson (see the original recipe here). In my usual way I made a few alterations – basically, the recipe was great, but I wanted it extra gingery and more lemony, so this year I’ve managed to perfect it (she says)! Well, my official taster said it was as good as the Black Isle Ginger Beer, so I’m pretty pleased.
Ingredients and Preparation

An empty, 1 litre bottle (i.e. a tonic or soda water bottle) with lid

1 large chunk of root ginger – peeled and grated to give you at least 2 heaped tablespoons grated ginger

1 lemon – juiced
1/2 cup caster sugar (easier to dissolve than granulated)

1/8th teaspoon dried yeast (the same as for breadmaking…)

Plastic funnel – for getting everything in the bottle (plus a chopstick to poke the ginger down the funnel!)

Preparation Time, 10 minutes. Brew for 24-48 hours, chill for a minimum of 4 hours.


  1. Pour the sugar into the bottle using the funnel
  2. Then add the dried yeast on top of the sugar
  3. Mix the grated ginger into the lemon juice and add this to the bottle.
  4. Now add enough water (I use tap water but you could use bottled) fill about 2/3 or 3/4 of the bottle, put the lid on and shake well until the sugar is dissolved
  5. Now carefully fill the bottle up to about 1-2inches from the top – leaving room for expansion. It’s quite hard to open the ginger beer without it fizzing out of the bottle, so leave more rather than less here.
  6. Put the cap on the bottle tightly then put it somewhere warm – a warm room or airing cupboard/boiler room should suffice. Leave it in the warm for 24-48 hours to brew.
  7. The bottle will become hard after 1-2 days. I usually leave mine for 2 days to get the most flavour and fizz. Don’t leave your bottle in the warm place for too long – there have been stories of explosions, although I’ve not experienced that!
  8. Place the bottle in the fridge to cool, usually overnight or for several hours. This stops the yeast and holds the brewing process.
  9. Once chilled, open carefully over a sink. As we’ve brewed the beer in the bottle, it is quite fizzy and wants to explode out as soon as you open the top, even just a crack. It will begin to fizz as soon as you begin to open the lid, so watch it and go slowly. Be careful and patient. Once opened, it will be easy to open and close from then on.
  10. Pour your ginger beer through a tea strainer to remove the chunks of ginger and serve straight away.

Strawberries and more uses for that Vanilla Sugar… 29 May 2006

Posted by cath in cakes and treats, desserts, easy, fruit, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, shopping notes.
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Yesterday we had fresh strawberries (Scottish) from the Farmers Market, and to be extra bad we were dipping them in my home-made vanilla caster sugar.

The vanilla sugar worked really well with the strawberries…so tick another reason why you should go buy some fairtrade vanilla pods from Barts Spices or Ndali.

If you’re still buying strawberries at the supermarket – stop! These fresh strawberries from the market were much juicier and sweeter, and had a better bite to them than the imported stuff, or strawberries that have simply been travelling and kicking around too much in depots.

Summer is definately here, but the strawberry pick your own time (here in Scotland) is not quite upon us. We should be out picking our own at Lowes farm by the end of June…more about that when the time comes.

Here is another picture in the meantime…


Easy Dinners > Chicken in the Oven 6 March 2006

Posted by cath in easy, mildly spicy, Recipes, Thai food, variations.

Mildly SpicyThai Chicken in the Oven
(and some other variants)

A really easy way of cooking joints of chicken on the bone. The flavours can be adapted to almost anything from Thai (shown here) to Indian, Mexican, Italian by adding different herbs, spices, oils and liquids.

Follow the instructions and you will get both tender, succulent chicken and a golden, crispy skin – yum!

Serves 4 as a snack or starter on it’s own or as a main meal served with steamed rice, stir-fried vegetables and a tomato and mint sauce.

8 Chicken Thighs, Legs or similar, on the bone (leave the skin on)
5 cloves of Garlic, crushed slightly and roughly chopped
1 small red onion or shallot, halved and thinly sliced
2 stalks Lemongrass, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1-2 inches of Ginza (Galangal) or Ginger, shredded or grated
Kaffir lime leaves, shredded
4 crushed dried birds-eye chillies, or finely chopped fresh chillies – to taste
Handful of coriander – stalk, finely chopped; leaves, roughly chopped and set aside
1 teaspoon palm sugar (or dark brown sugar)
2-3 tbsp Fish Sauce
1-2 limes or lemons, halved and juiced, then chopped into chunks
A splash of groundnut oil
Salt, freshly ground pepper, coriander seed and/or cumin seed


  1. Using a large roasting dish, place a large piece of tin foil inside and brush with a bit of oil. Make sure you have enough foil to create a closed pocket around the chicken for the first stage of cooking.
  2. Place the chicken into the foil-covered dish. Then add chopped ingredients except the coriander leaves (reserve for later).
  3. Add the liquids, oil and sugar. Mix well, ensuring each chicken joint is well covered and the lime chunks are spread out in the tin.
  4. You are aiming for a moist, chunky marinade, do not add too much liquid at this stage.
  5. Fold the tin foil into a loose fitting parcel and twist the edges together to form a tight seal.
  6. The mixture can be left to marinate for a short period (30 mins) or a few hours as desired.
  7. When you are ready to cook, heat the oven to 180 degees C, then add the chicken parcel and bake for 30 mins. During this stage, the chicken is steaming, rather than roasting in the oven.
  8. If you’ve left the skin on the chicken, you’ll definitely want to brown the dish before serving. Remove from the oven, turn the oven up to 190 or 200 degrees C and open up the top of the parcel. The chicken should be cooked, so you just need to place it back in the oven uncovered to brown, this may take up to 15 minutes, this also reduces the juices down to a delicious spicy sauce.
  9. Serve hot from the oven, drizzled with the sauce and garnished with coriander leaves. Alternatively, serve cold with salad or in sandwiches.

Spicy Chicken

Here’s what it looks like after marinating, just seal up the foil and its ready to cook.

Serving this as a main meal it goes well with rice or noodles and with stir-fried vegetables such as broccoli with sesame seeds on the side. For those who like it spicy, a mint and tomato sauce can be made as a cooling accompaniment. Simply add some chopped tin tomatoes or peeled and chopped fresh tomatoes to a small pan or frying pan, add some finely chopped mint and a sprinkling of sugar and heat through.

Mexican flavours: lime, garlic, fresh/ground coriander, spring onion, chillies, dark chocolate, lots of crushed cumin seeds, peppers, etc.

Italian flavours: aromatic herbs (i.e. thyme, rosemary), lemon, peppers, tomatoes, bay leaf, chillies etc.

Indian flavours: coriander seeds, cumin seeds, tumeric, cloves, cinnamon, fresh coriander, chillies lemon, peppercorns etc.

Other ideas: Simply use your favorite flavours, herbs and spices to create your own version.

Easy Cakes > Chocolate Crispy Cakes 28 February 2006

Posted by cath in cakes and treats, easy, Recipes.

Cakes and TreatsChocolate Crispy Cakes

Everyone loves these cakes, but I’m posting this recipe especially for Col…these cakes take around 10 minutes to make, after about an hour in the fridge they are ready to eat!

Basic Recipe makes about 12 cakes.

200g Good Quality Chocolate – this can be Dark Chocolate (min 60% cocoa solids), Milk Chocolate or White Chocolate – it should be broken into small pieces of roughly the same size.

1 tbsp butter

1 tsp golden syrup

80-90g Cornflakes (roughly)


  1. Place the chocolate pieces, butter and syrup in a heatproof bowl.
  2. Place the bowl on top of a saucepan of barely simmering water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water in the pan)
    • For white chocolate and/or AGA cooks – boil an inch or so of water in a saucepan, remove it from the heat then place your heatproof bowl on top to melt the ingredients together. The heat from the water should be sufficient to melt everything.
    • Alternatively you can put the bowl in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, in short 30s bursts, stirring each time. When almost fully melted, stop heating and stir well until smooth – the heat of the bowl and mixture should help melt the last few bits of chocolate.
  3. Melt the chocolate, butter and syrup: stir until most of the chocolate is melted and smooth, then remove the bowl from the heat (take it off the saucepan!) and continue stirring until the larger chunks of chocolate are melted and the mixture is smooth.
  4. Add the cornflakes, 1 handful at a time, stiring until they are all thoroughly coated. Then add another handful and repeat until you have a good thick coating on the cereal – you may have to add more or less cornflakes depending on the amount of butter and syrup you added to the chocolate initially.
  5. Place a heaped tablespoon of mixture into each paper case (or place them all on a buttered baking sheet) and refrigerate until set.

Chocolate Crispy Cakes

Valrhona Grand Cru Noir Manjari Gastronomie Chocolate (64% cocoa) makes luxury dark chocolate crispies.
Other cereals could be used instead of cornflakes.

To make much stickier and sweeter versions of the same cakes:

  1. To go with Dark Chocolate, add up to 50g of butter and/or 4 tablespoons of golden syrup to the chocolate and melt together.
  2. With Milk/White Chocolate add up to 25g butter and/or 1tablespoon of golden syrup to the chocolate.
  3. Experiment with other combinations: use different syrups, add dried fruit or nuts, other cereals etc.

Be careful about adding syrup and butter to the White Chocolate cakes – as white chocolate is already much sweeter and more buttery…

When using additional sugar and butter, more cornflakes are usually needed to complete the mix.

white chocolate crispy dark chocolate crispy

Chocolate Melting

Tip # 1: Be careful when melting chocolate! If the bowl is warm and most of the chocolate is melted, REMOVE FROM THE HEAT (this means taking it away from the saucepan and hot water) and continue to stir, allowing the chocolate to melt gently.

Overheating the chocolate will produce a grainy texture. It will look dry and thick rather than glossy and smooth. There is nothing much that can be done with overheated chocolate – for cooking anyway, so start again with a fresh batch.

White chocolate is much more sensitive to heat, so take extra care when melting it.

Tip #2: Microwaving chocolate – be careful not to microwave chocolate for long blasts (more than 30 seconds) as chocolate pieces appear to remain whole and unmelted, but in fact they will hold their shape until you stir them smooth and so they could easily overheat.

Tip #3: Don’t let any water come into contact with chocolate that you want to melt, the bowl and spoon must be completely dry. Don’t add any cold liquids (i.e. extra syrup) to the chocolate once it’s melted. Additions at this time will also produce a grainy texture as they will cause the chocolate to cool suddenly.

What to do with chocolate that has overheated/become grainy?

I’m just about to try some as a chocolate spread on toast…will let you know how that goes (hmm – OK but not very easy to do!). Also melting into cream can usually recover slightly overheated chocolate, but won’t help make these cakes!

You can now print this recipe from here