Sunday, 26 April 2009


I live in an area in the East of Edinburgh called Leith which encompasses a working port, a (sometimes even sunny) shore lined with bars and restaurants (including no less than three Michelin star-winning establishments) and a very proud community. There circulates a small but nonetheless popular magazine called The Leither for which I have done various odd pieces of writing in the past, but with a new editorship has come an opportunity for me to settle into a more permanent slot as food writer of-sorts. I have been given a page on which to write freely, which is a brilliant opportunity in terms of being published on paper, but also a nice aside to this blog. I hope to give focus to produce which can be found in and around the Leith area which will be an easy enough feat as there are a plethora of food establishments and speciality shops opening left, right and centre.

My first piece will appear in the May issue, and so it was timed conveniently to coincide with the wild garlic season. You'll recall my fondness for wild garlic last year when a dinner of dolmades and pesto had me waxing lyrical about this amazing herb to anyone who'd listen. This year, inflicted with a common cold and a yearning for something non-medicinal to help shift it, I found myself hot-footing it to Valvona & Crolla once again in search of these leaves. Soup seemed like the best thing for the soul but frankly there was no way I was buying wild garlic without making another pesto, it was just too good. A dig around online gave me an idea for parsley and wild garlic soup - both ingredients abundant with nutrients and more to the point, flavour. Whilst we're approaching the end of the all-to-short wild garlic season, if you do come across some I'd urge you to give this a try. It may sound somewhat pungent, but the cooking softens the flavours and an aromatic bowl of delicate green soup is the result, and the pesto stirred into it gives it a fragrant kick. Trust me, if you like garlic, you’ll love this.

Serves 4

For the soup:
knob of butter
2 medium sized onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
1 litre vegetable stock (I like Marigold Swiss vegetable bouillon)
50g - 60g parsley, roughly chopped
50g - 60g wild garlic, roughly chopped

For the pesto:
50g – 60g wild garlic leaves, washed, dried, stems cut off
pine nuts
olive oil

In a pot, melt the butter over a medium heat and gently sweat the onions and garlic with the lid on, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes or until softened. Do not allow to colour.

Add the potato and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for around 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, using a pestle and mortar (or food processor if you’re feeling lazy), pound the wild garlic leaves for the pesto until your olfactory senses are given a right old treat. Add pine nuts, Parmesan and olive oil, tasting as you go along until you are happy with the consistency and flavour.

Add the parsley and wild garlic to the soup pot, cook for a further minute or two until wilted.

Remove from heat and blend.

Season to taste and serve with the pesto drizzled over the top.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


Is it wrong to celebrate your blog's one year birthday when you've been MIA for the last four (and some) months? Perhaps this small private acknowledgement is enough of a nod to it's actual birthday, and then in four months time it can have an official birthday, when the weather will be nicer and we can be giddy and self congratulatory. Look, if it's good enough for Nana Betty it's good enough for this blog.

In keeping with the celebratory theme, I have been doing a spot of baking. Two of my dearest friends are to be married in July and we are all beside ourselves with excitement. It is to be a small affair but nonetheless very special, with close friends, family and the sunshine in attendance. At least we hope so. Edinburgh can be a touch unpredictable when it comes to matters of climate but if the last week or two is anything to go by we might just be lucky.

Ever since Gemma created such a fabulous cake for Sylvie's wedding I've had a hankering to have a go myself, and so it is that I find myself in charge of the patisserie for this affair. To her credit, Gemma went down the traditional route and put together a very impressive three tier wonder of fruit sponges complete with marzipan and royal icing, while I will be going down the less challenging route of lots of oversized cupcakes. But there is some challenge in creating in the region of 150 cupcakes, all of which must look just right, then icing them on the morning of the big day, transporting them to the venue and positioning them just-so on their towering stand.

I want these wee cakes to be delicate and summery, and so when I saw Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa - an absolute marvel and what's more, living my fantasy life) make this lemon yoghurt cake the cupcakes suddenly became a bit of a no-brainer. Topped with rose scented icing, these are going to be perfect (she says, modestly).

So, I had to make some at the weekend - just to make sure they'd work as cupcakes you understand - and work they did. They're delicious. Using yoghurt and oil instead of butter ensures that the cakes have a light spongey texture, and the lemon rind gives them an extraordinary citrus flavour. Of course the original recipe is for a whole cake, which will be just as lovely.

As for the rose scented icing, I absentmindedly picked up rose essence instead of extract and as a result it didn't taste remotely like rose. This, along with a distinct lack of piping bag, meant that it was pretty much doomed from the outset. The search is now on for a good concentrated extract - any recommendations are most welcome, although I've been told Star Kay White are a good place to start. As soon as this is procured it will of course necessitate another trial batch of cupcakes... Well you have to sure don't you?

Monday, 6 April 2009


The main problem with having been away from my blog for soooooo long is knowing how to come back.

A lot has happened since I was last here, so perhaps I'll fill you in on some of that. Thanks to the fragile state of the world's economy, I've been made redundant and find myself languishing the land of the unemployment. Perhaps languishing isn't quite the right word but you get the picture. On the plus side, this has afforded me (another poor choice of words, given my subsequent bank balance) the time and opportunity to do quite a lot of writing - whilst clearly not here - but for other publications, namely The List Eating and Drinking Guide 2009 and another List-affiliated publication called The Larder, a guide to Scottish produce. I've also done a fair amount of writing for i-on, and have managed to secure a quarterly column for them called Everyone's Eating... which examines the food trends that are currently taking Edinburgh by storm (kinda). There's one or two other things in the pipeline too which I'll talk more about once they're confirmed but on the whole it's been a pretty productive time in terms of being published, which is great.

As far as cooking goes, I've got to be honest and say I haven't been doing much outside of the norm and I should even confess to having probably settled for more than my fair share of pizza instead of making something myself, such has been the state of affairs over the last couple few months. However things are settling down a bit now and I've been getting back to grips with the kitchen.

More to follow...

Friday, 3 April 2009


...I'm back...

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