Monday, 31 January 2011

Weekend (tr)eats

 A trip home generally means a treat or two (which is probably why I do it as often as I can...), and this was no exception. Sadly and annoyingly my camera ran out of battery which is why pictures are slightly limited. This is going to be a long one...

First of all, we have a treat that I gave myself - a Burger King breakfast... I don't know what on earth came over me, but I suddenly felt all virtuous and I only bought a sausage butty. No cheese, no egg, no bacon, no beef, no hash browns. Not even any orange juice.

I ate it on the train, hence the blurry pictures. It was alright. I hate to say it, but McDonald's breakfasts are vastly superior. Their sausages are peppery and salty and savoury - this one was a bit sweet and had a bit of a funny pasty texture. It did have some generic 'herb' flavour and generic 'green' bits, but I was underwhelmed.

Needless to say, I ate it all.

Next up was a quick lunch from Booths. I miss Booths. I think they should expand northwards. A lot. Anyhow we went to the hot counter to get snacks. It smelt amazing, as always. Fat Frank got a rack of chinese ribs and a Cumberland swirl butty. I don't know how he does it - he ate it all, too. And two Creme Eggs. I stuck to a modest 2 chicken drumsticks and some potato salad from the deli counter.

It was delicious, but I was still full from my BK breakfast. The potato salad was nice and minty, and the chicken was especially moist AND greasy. And salty. I don't know how they do it, but it's good.

Tea Friday was smoked salmon as usual - this time I had it with blinis and mustardy sour cream, and really unusually, I shared it with my sister.

Then was the big treat - Pizza Express, the real thing. By which I mean, of course, the restaurant. As opposed to a pizza in a box from Tesco.

Me, my mum, and my two sisters had a girly day out shopping, and we stopped by for lunch. What we like about Pizza Express is how they treat little ones - often the children's menu is just chips and chicken nuggets but here they're specially catered for. They get some colouring to do when you sit down, and their courses are brought as they finish so they don't have to wait for the grown-ups to wade through their pizza.

This time though, my older little sister (is this making any sense?) was brought the children's menu and some colouring. She's twelve. She was not impressed. I thought it was hilarious, naturally. Anyhow, since the children's menu includes dough balls and a cute little pot of veggies, I was allowed a starter (Yes!).

Mmmm, calamari...

My mum had to remind me to take pictures, that's why it's a rather small portion. Most of it was in my tummy. Darn, it was good - soft and salty - not bad for generic frozen stuff. The Caesar dressing seemed a bit odd - I think I was expecting tartare sauce - but my small sister Harriet doesn't like the garlic butter that dough balls come with. I do. And so does squid, apparently...

Here is Harriet's children's menu starter:

Again, this was it half-eaten. But she liked it!

Onto the mains... Small sister had four seasons pizza, smaller sister had pasta and tomato sauce, mum had some kind of chicken-y vegetable-y salad, and I had a Rustichella pizza - 'crispy pancetta, roasted tomatoes, rockets, grana padano, Caesar dressing'. And obviously I had to add hot green peppers to it. I love those babies. Another thing they do is the Romana base - now I'm really sounding like a loser - but basically it's the same amount of dough as a normal base but stretched much thinner, so it's huge and thin. Needless to say I got that too.

Seems I didn't take a picture of the Four Seasons pizza but it's pretty generic Pizza Express - cheese, anchovies and capers, pepperoni, and mushrooms, all assigned their own quarters. Rosie liked it, though I got the anchovies scraped onto my plate. Mmm, fishy.

You can see how crispy thin my pizza was - but it's still chewy and foldable. It was seriously good - almost all the toppings were added afterwards (except the chillies which of course weren't even meant to be there) - so it was all super fresh and delish. The tomatoes were those sun blush ones and the pancetta was crispy - mmmm, I think I'll have this again. Harriet ate all of her pasta and most of the bread things surrounding my mum's salad - shopping makes you hungry even when you are five, apparently. The salad was nice, but not anything special. It is called Pizza Express for a reason, to be fair. My mum liked it though.

We didn't have puddings - did you see the size of my pizza? - but the children's menu is a set price and it includes an ice-cream sundae.


I had a lovely pie and chips that evening and a fabulous roast dinner on Sunday at my friend Hana's house, but I forgot to take pictures. It was wonderful anyway and I ate so many roast potatoes that I didn't eat again until today's lunch.

So, on a scale of one to yummy, this weekend was YUMMY. Top notch.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Sea Bass and Peppers

So today I was so impressed by my chorizo pasta sauce that I decided to take it up a notch. It's a bit of a late post because yesterday there was a party in the kitchen and I couldn't get in to get my tea. Oh, I'm such a party animal. I had ginger nuts for tea. See what I mean?  Anyhow, I had some sea bass in the freezer that needed eating and I thought it would taste nice with the fish.

I fried some bits of chorizo in my lovely le Creuset and added an onion and a red pepper. I fried it down until it was all lovely and mushy.

Then I added some of these. They're really cheap, keep for ages in the fridge and taste a heck of a lot better than any bottled tomato sauce or even just plain tinned tomatoes I've ever tasted.

Mmm. Anyhoo, I boiled it down and added some dried chilli and tons of parsley. I grated the grinder I mentioned in my last post over the sea bass - this is for Justin, the biggest lover of chipotle I've ever come across:

Anyway to cut a long story (well, not very long) short, I fried the fish and served it up - to myself - with some pasta and the sauce and some lemony salad.

I have to admit I stole someone's plate because it was much prettier than any of mine. And I wanted to make it look posh.

Darn, it was good. Enough said.

And the best thing was, I only had to buy the pepper because everything else was just lying around in the fridge/freezer/cupboard. So the poshest meal I've had this week cost maybe 45p. Lovely.

So on a scale of one to yummy, maybe a 17? Ooooh, scrum.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Chorizo and chipotle...

Okay so I really have no time at all today - I'm already late for orchestra - but yesterday I made the best pasta sauce ever, and I feel the need to share it. I bought this tiny cute little pan, and it's perfect for making a portion of sauce for one:

Isn't it cute? Anyhow, I diced a piece of chorizo ('bout 3cm), fried it a bit in some garlic oil, added some of Tesco's chopped tomatoes with garlic, grated (ground? grinded?) in some of the spice mill my mum got me for Christmas - it's salt, smoked paprika and chipotle - and ate it with some fresh tagliatelle. Oh, and I added some fresh parsley at the end too.

I really don't have time to do it justice. It was amazing. Salty, smoky, spicy, garlicky -just fab.

So, on a scale of one to God I'm late for orchestra  yummy, about an 18. It was so good I'm going to have it again tonight and possibly tomorrow. YUM.

Update: I was so late I just had a cheese sandwich. Sob.

Monday, 24 January 2011


When my dad was here I assumed he'd be taking me out for dinner - that's what parents are for, of course; and I'd had my eye on a place called Wudon just down the road. I've had takeaway from it once but we didn't order good takeaway things - we got soup and by the time we'd drunk it everything else was cold and the tempura was soggy. Anyhow, I was eager to try it properly. It doesn't claim to be a particular cuisine - there's Chinese, Thai and Korean on the menu, but it seems to lean mostly toward Japanese. They have a sushi menu too but we weren't there for sushi.

Now, I've never been to a proper Asian restaurant. Sure, I've been to the local Chinese, but not anything remotely elegant. We got edamame and giant prawn crackers -

I forgot to take pictures, which is why they are half-eaten. I've only had these from Bird's Eye, like peas, and they weren't very nice. But these were delicious, though I'm not sure to what extent that was the beans, or my addiction to salt. I've had the giant prawn crackers before, and they were very nice, but pretty standard.

They have a section on the menu called 'wee plates' (we are in Glasgow after all) and they suggest two or three of these with a side. I got pork dumplings, and grilled prawns, with a side of fried udon.

You can just see the dumplings in the corners. The prawns were in a sort of oniony sauce and were delicious. The dumplings I've had before and forgotten - the skins were good but the filling just doesn't do it for me - it tastes a bit too much like a sausage.

The noodles, though, stole the show. They were springy, juicy, salty and slimy (but in a good way). Mmmmm, they were really good. Sadly I couldn't finish them all, but they do these with extras rather than as a side, and I think I'll be back for that.

My dad had some kind of fish rice bowl:

It had prawns, eel, squid and fish roe in. I wasn't a fan - I don't like the fish roe - but he loved it.

I had the most delicious pudding - pears deep fried and coated in hard toffee and sesame seeds. I forgot to take a picture because I was too busy scarfing it down. Oooh, it was good.

So, on a scale of one to yummy, a 16 (excluding the dumplings).

I'll be posting some more of my own food soon, I just had rather a busy week last week with visitors and eating out. Back to home cooking...

Friday, 21 January 2011

Kelvingrove Museum Café

So the sort of go-to place for me on a nasty day or when I have visitors is the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery. I love it - there's a bit of everything, and also it's bloomin' huge. Yesterday was a particularly nasty day, and I had a visitor too, so I managed to kill two birds with one stone. That only kind of makes sense, but it's the closest saying I could think of.

It really was a horrid day.

But we had a lovely couple of hours looking round and having pictures taken with the Giant Irish Moose, and we were lucky enough to catch the organ recital which I've always missed for one reason or another. Anyhow, we were peckish. I've never really had much experience with museum cafés - it's the sort of place you take a picnic to. But it obviously wasn't picnic weather, and the small coffee shop only sold ridiculously over-priced and under-imaginative sandwiches; so we braved the café downstairs, and it was very nice - all sleek white tables and exposed brick.

You have to wait to be seated, and when you get there, there's a funny white thing on the table (which looks a bit like the Tweenie clock, but also like a baby alarm) with buttons on it. 'Bill' and 'Waiter service' were pretty self-explanatory, but 'Child lock' and a rather ambiguous '1' and '2' were slightly more confusing.

None of the sandwich options really appealed to me so I got a 'Winter Salad' -

It was apparently 'roasted seeds and nuts with cous cous, chicory, apple and smoke-roasted venison with walnut dressing'. I haven't had venison before and it was really quite delicious - quite juicy with a nice smoky flavour. There wasn't any apple as far as I could tell, and the walnut dressing seemd to be a couple of walnuts on the side - but I'm not walnuts' biggest fan anyway, so I just left 'em. There was giant cous cous and lentils in the salad, along with some other generic orange vegetable - carrot? Pepper? Overall, it was really nice - miles away from universal student fare - though my friend Emily had a mezze plate which had some very pungent and garlicky feta, so of course once I'd tried that my salt-crazed palate found the salad a bit bland. Maybe it could have done with some garlic, or chilli or something.

Anyhow, the whole place just felt nice and relaxing - most of the people in there were over the age of 50, which is always a good sign, I feel. The bill came to £13.40 which for my salad, Emily's mezze plate and Hana's spicy tuna sandwich I didn't think was too bad.

I think it's the sort of place I'll have to take my Nanny when she comes to visit... I feel a plan forming.

So, on a scale of one to yummy, about a 14.

Thursday, 20 January 2011


Righto, so I didn't do a post yesterday because my friend Hana came to visit and we were too busy eating chicken wings and watching Marple. Which was awesome. But we did go somewhere wonderful for lunch.

A short walk from my house is a little cobbled street called Ashton Lane. It's very student-y - which is in no way a bad thing... It's full of bars, a couple of restaurants, a cocktail bar that has live sexy dancing (we found that out the hard way), a hot dog stand selling awful hot dogs, a cool cinema where you can hire a sofa, and a fabulous place called Ketchup. It's a burger bar (Ketchup Loves Burgers!) selling almost every kind of burger you can imagine. Literally. They had many many many beef ones with all sorts of combinations of toppings, fish, lamb, a whole lot of chicken, and a few 'special' ones - venison, tuna, Kobe beef. Their normal beef is sourced locally and they can trace the family tree of all the livestock, which is nice.

Much to my excitement, we were seated right by the kitchen.

We had to wait about five minutes for our table, but after we sat down, people were being turned away, despite the fact that it was nearly 3.00 in the afternoon. It's clearly very popular - the burgers aren't cheap but they have a 2for1 student deal which seems to be permanently on offer.
It was very busy, so it took a while for someone to come and take our order. There didn't seem to be enough serving staff, but our food came really very quickly after we had ordered. I got a Bacon Cheeseburger; I was going to go for something a little fancier, but I thought as it was my first time there (and I will be back) I'd see what their basics were like.

'...garnished with two thick slices of sizzling, hickory-smoked bacon, mature Scottish cheddar, crisp lettuce, fresh tomato, pickles, and chipotle mayo.'

There's a little (slightly poncy) note on the menu that says all their burgers are served medium, and to ask if you wanted it more well done. I have to say, I've always been a 'cook-my-meat-until-it's-like-a-plank' sort of a girl, so I thought this would be a good place to start manning up. But when it came, it was just the juicy side of well done. I was a bit disappointed, to be honest.

On the other hand, everything was delicious. And I mean, delicious. The tomatoes and lettuce were a bit lack-lustre, but much better than most. The cheese added a really good cheesy flavour, unlike most cheeseburgers. The bacon wasn't very crispy, but it was nice; same with the pickles. Now I'm writing about it, it doesn't seem like it was very good - especially since I'm dissecting it all to bits. But I swear, I left with no other feeling than 'That was awesome.' I suppose it all just worked together really well - and the chipotle mayo added a really nice gentle heat - though it was disappointingly unsmoky. The burger was seriously juicy, the bun was good - it was just delicious.

We also got some chips and onion rings:

I didn't like the chips. They were too squashy, and I don't like fat chips anyway. The onion rings were big juicy rings of onion, deep-fried in a super-ly crisp batter. Mmmmmmmmm.

It was yummy. And with the 2for1 deal, it was only about £7 each. We were so stuffed, we didn't finish the onion rings or the little pots of coleslaw that come with each burger. I couldn't even finish my burger; there was a little piece about as big as a matchbox sitting there taunting me.

Sadly, we were too full for puddings. But here's a picture of one anyway

 They even have their own - yes, you guessed it - ketchup.

You can buy it by the bottle. It was nice, actually - like ketchup but spicy and a lot more tomatoey.

Anyway, it was a lovely, lovely burger bar - the burgers were excellent, the concept is very nice - they even serve milkshakes in milk bottles - and with the student offer it was certainly very cheap. I'm surprised I've only been now, and I'll definitely be back.

So, on a scale of one to yummy - about a 17!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Weekend Cake

I had a friend over for afternoon tea on Sunday, and I decided to make cake. I haven't had apple cake in a good long while, and I only have one sandwich tin here at uni, so I thought it would be a good choice. Because it only needs one tin. Obviously.

The recipe comes by way of an old recipe book that we used when I was small, called Fabulous Food for Kids, or something in that vein. Now, I haven't always loved apple cake. In fact, the horrific truth is that I used to despise the stuff. And in a wave of absolute genius, at the ripe old age of eight or so, I changed the name of the recipe from 'Unbeatable Apple Cake' to 'Unbearable'. I know, right? Why didn't I get into Oxford?

Anyway, I've changed the recipe a bit to suit my obsession with ginger and cinnamon, and here it is:


6 oz. self-raising flour
4 oz. butter
3 oz. soft light brown sugar
about 1/2 lb apples - I used one big one - diced but unpeeled
2 medium eggs
1 tsp each of cinnamon and ground ginger
1/2 tsp (ish) grated nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder (the original doesn't have this in, but it makes it a bit less stodgy and more cumbly)

Grease a 20cm sandwich tin. (Mine was non-stick and I used sunflower oil.) Preheat the oven to 180° C.

This cake has a bit of an odd method - like pastry, though my mum said it's a bit like a giant muffin - and indeed it does have a muffin-y sort of texture. Rub the butter into the flour, then stir in the spices and the baking powder. Add the apple, then the eggs - though a word about the eggs. This is my version of the recipe which is about half the size of the original - which calls for three eggs. I used two, intending to only put about half in once I'd beaten, but I did need them both. Whether my eggs were particularly small I don't know, but beat them in another bowl and add them slowly. You should have a fairly sticky mixture with lots of apple. At this point you can add a handful or two of sultanas - golden ones would be nice - or maybe dried cherries or cranberries - or even, I suppose, chocolate chips, if you were that way inclined. 

Anyway, once it's how you like it, tip it into your tin and shove it in the oven. I cooked mine for forty minutes and it was still a bit squishy (for which read raw) in the middle, but then again I have a rubbish student oven. I'll cook it for fifty next time, but do check yours after forty.

It's good warm, with cream.

 You could also (which is what I meant to do but forgot) sprinkle the top with flaked almonds or some demerara sugar towards the end of the cooking time.

We had prawn sandwiches and cake and then we watched Fast and Loose (which everyone should watch, it's amazing. Fridays at ten on BBC2).

I had carbonara for tea, with my friend Iveta who is aching for a mention. She helped by making me look at flats so the bacon got burnt. But it was still yummy.

And then we watched some more TV. But it was Singing in the Rain, so at least it was improving TV.

So, on a scale of one to yummy, the cake was at least a 16 and the carbonara was maybe a 14.  Good weekend.

Monday, 17 January 2011


I'm a big fan of pizza. So when I saw my favourite pizza of all time (well, cook-at-home pizza) on special offer, I sort of went a bit mad. But it was only temporary. Pizza Express pizza is the best pizza that's ever come out of my oven, and is high on the list of my favourite pizza ever.

Now, people make a lot of fuss about pizza. Is it thin, is it topped correctly, how long has is been cooked for, is it true to its roots - well I have to say, I don't give a fig really. We're not in Italy, we're not even in a restaurant; we're in my kitchen and it's my tea. I like my pizzas thin, but not jaw-shatteringly crispy, I like them topped with not very much sauce and a nice amount of cheese, and I usually want pepperoni on it. Mmmmm. Pepperoni.

Luckily, this Pizza Express one manages to do all of that:

Yum. It's been voted the 'Best Spicy Pizza' in the Observer Food Monthly, which I suppose is a bit of an achievement. Pizza Express pizzas have little cubes of mozzarella on, rather than the ubiquitous grated stuff, which usually creeps me out a bit. How can you grate mozzarella? Isn't it too squidgy? Anyway, I like the effect it has. Little pools of cheese, rather than a blanket. They require you to drizzle over a tablespoonful of olive oil before it goes in the oven. I'm not sure if this is a bit of a gimmick, but it does seem to make a bit of a difference - especially since the little cubes of cheese don't cover the entire pizza, so if you don't drizzle it does end up a bit dry.

While the pizza was in the oven (it only takes 10 minutes), I made a bit of salad.

Pretty standard, really. But the one thing I'm insanely evangelical about is this stuff:

It's delicious. Really, really, good. The garlic flavour is almost sweet - it's not bitter or hot like raw garlic, more like roast. Anyway, it makes the best salad dressing with just a squeeze of lemon.

Then I went to watch some How I Met Your Mother.

What? I'm a student.....

Out came my pizza:

I have to admit, one of the main reasons I like this pizza is those 'hot green peppers'. They're delicious - not just spicy, salty too, and they have a sort of chewy crispy texture. Mmm-mmmmm.

Anyway, it was delicious. And for pudding? Well, I'm still trying to be a bit healthier to counteract the tonsilitis. Ish. Well, also, it was Waitrose, and I couldn't resist...

So, on a scale of one to yummy, at least a 15. YUM.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Tesco should stick to What They Know

So you know the deal. A shop like... Oh I don't know.... Tesco, let's say, decides to sell its own version of something branded. Usually, that works - it's normally quite tasty and probably a good bit cheaper than the brand. (Notable exceptions include Hellmans.) It also decides to sell its own version of everyday things - pasta, milk, bread - well, that's what a shop does. Obviously. It works. Mostly. But when they decide to sell things that aren't branded especially, but are a bit highbrow, it goes a bit haywire. A perfect example is... Hmmm.. Oh! How about this pasta?

It looks pretty, doesn't it?  (Riccioli means curls, which seems a bit unimaginative. Orecchiette means 'little ears'. That's imagination for you.) Now for supermarket pasta, Tesco is usually pretty good. Better than Morrisons or Asda, though obviously not up to the standards of M&S or Waitrose. And I was tempted by this because it was just so cute! And it looked like it might be nicer than the bog-standard Tesco pasta twirls. (Also it was only £1.09.) Here's a close-up - you can see it has a hole through the middle, like bucatini:

Well, maybe you can't. But it did.

I boiled it like you're meant to boil pasta - or if I've been doing it wrong, it was still how I cook the my pasta normally and that has always turned out fine - but it just didn't cook. The outsides were soggy while the inside was still white and hard. I ate it mixed with some butter and parsley and with a small tub of puttanesca sauce I found at the back of the freezer. I'd made these when I got to uni and was feeling all sensible and housewifely. It looked pretty, certainly.

The sauce was good.

I mean, it wasn't awful. I certainly polished it off. But it wasn't as nice as normal Tesco pasta. I was a bit suspicious of the price - it seemed awfully cheap for 'fancy' pasta - but I assume it's an introductory price. I definitely wouldn't pay any more for it. And I won't buy it again. I think it would do better in pasta bakes, so it has a bit more chance to cook through. I'll stick the bag at the back of my cupboard for emergencies...

So on a scale of one to yummy, Tesco, only about a three. Sorry. I'll stick to your industrial sized bags of twirls.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Cocktails of a different sort...

...Of drugs, to be precise.  To keep my three readers up to date (I know you all already know, but just in case someone who isn't my mum stumbles across this by accident...) - I have tonsilitis. Here's what I've been living on:

Tasty. Just a close up of that neon glowing orange gunge:

See that? 'Orange flavour'? Not true. They should really save money and just not bother. It made me gag. Today, I am swapping to the pills.

I can't wait to start cooking properly and eating nice food again. At the moment I'm subsisting on the sort of 'convalescent' food that I come across in all my 1920s cookbooks - poached fish and bread-and-butter. Nice - but dull. I long for pizza and anchovies. I'll start up again when I have something to write about.

So! On a scale of one to yummy? Approximately a -4.

Monday, 10 January 2011


My friend Frank and I hosted a cocktail party a week or so ago. I was lumbered with providing food for eight, which turned out to be not very tricky. My first idea was to go with super-poncy, tiny little canapés, but soon afterwards I realised that a) it wouldn't fill people up (which needed to be done, considering the potency of some of the cocktails served) and b) nobody would like them anyway. So I just went for some good old tried-and-tested faves.

Interesting fact: at Frank's work they spell it like this --> 'coktail' so as not to offend people.

So! I started by making some tzatiki.
This was what I was least pleased with. I mixed some greek yoghurt with some crushed garlic and mint and coriander, and some cucumber that I had grated. It was yummy in terms of garlic and mint, but I didn't like the grated cucumber. It just had a funny stringy texture. I have recipes that call for it to be grated, but I much prefer it chopped.
More food...

These are my friend's photos... She has an amazing camera. Frank's mum made her famous hoummous, and I made cucumber sandwiches. Not traditional, but eveyone seems to like them. The prawns in the glass above are 'King Prawns with Garlic and Parsley', from Marks and Spencer - I bought them on a whim but they turned out to be really delicious. Good and garlic-y.

I also put out a plate of ham, some peppers and carrots, radishes (which nobody ate but they looked pretty), pitta bread and baguette, some yummy mozzarella with basil dressing, and some hot chorizo in red wine, which was delicious but nobody took a picture of it. I had it in Spain at a tapas bar and I thought it might be hard to recreate, but it turned out to be super-easy - literally just chorizo, and red wine. Simple.  Though of course a kitchen in England in January will never be the same as outside in June in Spain.

Earlier in the day I made meringues:

...and because they were a bit funny, I made Eton Mess. Really, really yummy. You can never go wrong with raspberries, cream, meringue and vanilla.

We played Who's In The Hat (best game ever) and I had possibly one too many G&Ts. Then everyone stayed over and in the morning I made pancakes.

I couldn't resist.

So, on a scale of one to yummy, I'd have to say about a 12. It was good food (though that might be the gin talking), but I made the tzatziki wrong and there wasn't enough ponce for my liking.

PS I only got one picture of a fancy cocktail, and it's not a very good one, but I can't have a post about a cocktail party without even ONE picture of a cocktail... So here it is.