Posted by: lucyinedinburgh | February 3, 2010

Burns Night Cranachan

Monday 25th January was Burns Night in Scotland, the annual evening of drinking whisky, eating haggis and toasts to everyone under the sun by the time we’re finished. We celebrated with Doug’s Mum this year and as well as the traditional haggis, neeps and tatties – those last two are turnip or swede, depending on your part of the world, and potatoes, we also had my favourite traditional desert in the world – Cranachan.

This is a desert that even when I was a useless cook I could still make. It’s easy to make, tastes delicious and contains so many calories that it’s not even worth counting them.

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Posted by: riddles9 | January 30, 2010

White Bean Chicken Chili

Britons, I have news for you: Chili is not meant to be eaten over rice. That’s weird. To be fair, I can’t say that I blame you. Chili should be eaten with good tortilla chips, which you guys generally lack, or with cornbread, which is also hard to come by. However, I have found a chili recipe that I think actually goes quite well with rice, and if you’re really healthy, brown rice.

While my mom has made this for me in the past, I found basically the same thing on epicurious. It’s easy to translate across international lines, because most of the measuring is done be reading labels in the grocery store, not by measuring, whether it’s volume or weight.

I keep it simple:  an onion a bit bigger than a loose fist, a green bell pepper, a lot of garlic, 2.25(ish) pounds of chicken, breasts if you want it a little healthier, thighs if you want it a bit more flavorful and a little cheaper, 2 15-16 ounce cans of some sort of white bean (not chickpeas, that’s a bit strange, but navy, great northern, or white kidneys are all fine), 2 cans of diced tomatoes, and salt, pepper, cumin, & oregano to taste.

Cut the veg. Can I say that my favorite thing about soups, stews & chilis is that it doesn’t matter how I cut the ingredients, it’ll look the same no matter what. So my standard of “smaller pieces than I started with and the same number of fingers” is fiiiine.

Saute veg in a large pot with about four circles of olive oil. While the veg is cooking, cut the chicken into cubes, and add it to the pot when the vegetables are soft and the onions are slightly clear. I add the spices here, use the recipe below as a guide, you can always add more later (I admit, I am a cumin freak). When the chicken is no longer pink, drain the beans halfway (you don’t need to be too thorough), but don’t drain the tomatoes, and add those all to the pot. Let it simmer at a medium-low setting until it’s at a consistency you like. You can serve with cilantro, but I generally skip it. Sour cream goes really well with it.

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Posted by: lucyinedinburgh | October 26, 2009

Smoked Salmon Spaghetti

Yes it’s another pasta dish. And yes I know that you are starting to get fed up with pasta. You’ve had it too many times and you are frankly bored of bolognaise (although wait till I share my bolognaise recipe with you, carefully developed over years by someone who wasn’t me). Anyway this is a creamy delicious pasta dish that isn’t actually as bad for you as you would imagine. It also features smoked salmon which is one of my greatest pleasures in life.

These things are available everywhere. Ok maybe not everywhere but chances are if you forget something it’s not going to be too hard to get hold of in the corner shop near you. If you aren’t both blessed and cursed with the convenience of a fantastic and expensive supermarket closer to you than any corner shop.
To serve 4:

  • 400g Spaghetti / 1 pound – Chances are you won’t even need to buy this. I have about 5 or 6 different types of pasta leftover in my pantry cluttering the place up.
  • 200-250g / 1/2 pound Smoked salmon – I buy smoked salmon trimmings which are perfect for this dish as you don’t have to cut them into small pieces. The other bonus is that they are often cheaper as well.
  • An onion – Chopped up into little pieces.
  • 300ml / 1 1/4 cup Creme Fraiche – If you’re feeling virtuous then buy the half fat stuff and you can still enjoy how tasty this is
  • A lemon – This is very important to this dish. Without the lemon it is missing something. You use the juice and the grated peel to give it a bit more flavour and it really makes the meal.
  • Dill – This is one of those recipes that you can use a whole packet of dill on rather than a few sprigs and then leaving it to go off in your fridge.
  • Salt and pepper

Cook the spaghetti. I’m sure you can manage this. It involves boiling water, adding some salt and then the spaghetti. When the spaghetti is cooked to your liking you remove it and drain it. Ta da!
While this is cooking chop up an onion and fry it. You want to cook it on a fairly low heat so that it goes transluscent and then then stop rather than browning and charring it.
Once this is done take your pan off the heat and add the creme fraiche, lemon zest and juice and half of the dill and stir it together.


Once your spaghetti is drained it’s time to stir it into the creme fraiche mixture making sure the spaghetti is coated all over. Then take your smoked salmon trimmings and add them to the mix. Garnish with the rest of the dill and the black pepper. Gorgeous!


Posted by: lucyinedinburgh | October 16, 2009

Barbeque Rolls

The day that Shannon got married was also my birthday and to distract myself from the fact she was halfway across the world and I wasn’t there we had a barbeque. It was also my first attempt to cater for a large group of people. We were expecting about 40 people to arrive throughout the day so the plan was to have food on the go the whole time. I took charge of salads and sides and generally everything that wasn’t meat related. This meant that most of the barbeque was meticulously planned while Doug’s part was largely ignored despite my various “suggestions”. He did however perk up when we bought a barbeque. And while putting it together he remarked that it was just like Lego. It all came together fairly well and the only real barbeque problem we had was getting it to light in a fairly blustery Edinburgh wind.

rolls 6

One of the things I wanted to do for the day was to make my own burger rolls. I’m not sure why but I have a certain fascination with bread and cake based products – maybe it’s the fact that I can visibly see them rising. Of course I then ended up with two separate recipes that I wanted to try. One of them was Smitten Kitchen’s brioche burger rolls, Deb claims these are the best rolls she’s found for burgers. The other recipe was from Delia Smith who is something of a British cooking institution.

Delia has spent most of her adult life on the BBC teaching us as a nation how to cook. There probably aren’t that many households that don’t have a Delia book from her vast library lurking somewhere in their house. She recently caused outrage by bringing out Delia’s How to Cheat at Cooking which included recipes with ingredients such as pre-made frozen mashed potato. We all threw our hands up in despair at the loss of cookery as an art in this country and then watched the show anyway. Supermarkets over here have stickers with “a Delia cheat ingredient!” on products she featured and after the show aired some of the ones she praised sold out almost immediately.

I suppose there is an issue here about what constitutes a burger roll. In Britain big floury soft baps, like Delia’s recipe, are used for breakfast rolls, burgers and lunches. We can also buy the tasteless sesame topped mass produced rolls but we’re not adverse to using whatever bread product we have handy. I get the impression that in the states there’s a more specific burger roll and Deb’s recipe certainly looks that way to me.

Because there were only 4 of us I lowered the quantities to make 4 of each type. I would be lying if I didn’t say that this was also a test to see if either of the recipes was just too fiddly. I was going to be making quite a few of these so they needed to be fairly easy to throw together (not including the rising stage of course, that is fiddly but it’s the part that I enjoy).

Deb’s Brioche Rolls (makes 8 rolls)

  • 1 packet of dried yeast or activated dry yeast
  • 2 ½ tbsps sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 cups/250g bread flour
  • 1/3 cup/40g plain flour
  • 1 ½ tsps salt
  • 2 ½ tbsps softened butter
  • Optional: Sesame seeds
  1. Sieve the flour together with the salt into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the butter and rub it into the flour until it makes small breadcrumbs.
  3. Shake in the packet yeast (or the activated yeast mixture if you’re using dry yeast), the sugar and the beaten eggs. Stir with a spoon until a dough forms. If the mixture is too sticky keep adding flour. Deb recommends not adding too much flour as it makes the buns tougher but I found to be able to handle it I needed it to firm up a fair bit.
  4. Knead the dough for around 10 minutes until it is fairly elastic when you pull it apart. Then roll it into a ball and put it back in the mixing bowl. Cover it with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and leave it in a warm place until it has doubled in size. I like to turn my oven on for a little while, switch it off before this stage, leave the door open and put the bowl in there so it rises faster. Allow one to two hours depending on how warm your kitchen is.
  5. rolls2 Grease or line your baking tray and divide the dough into 8 equal parts. Roll each into a ball and arrange on the tray making sure you leave a few inches between each roll so they have space to spread out. Cover the tray with clingfilm and allow the rolls to rise once again. This should take an hour or so.
  6. Heat your oven to 400 degrees farenheit/200 degrees celsius/gas mark 6 and place a large pan with a thin layer of water on the floor or bottom shelf. Sprinkle your rolls with a thin layer of milk and then sesame seeds if you wish. Bake for about 15 minutes until they are golden brown. Deb says to turn the sheet halfway through but if you have a fan assisted oven you might not need to (I forgot and they seemed evenly baked). We cut ours open almost straight away and had them warm with burgers. Yum.

Delia’s Breakfast Baps (makes 12 rolls)

  • 450g/4 ¼ cups plain flour
  • 1 ½ tsps salt
  • 50g/ ¼ cup butter
  • 150ml/ ¼ pint milk
  • 150ml/ ¼ pint hand hot water (ie: you can keep your finger in there without it being burnt)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 packet of dried yeast OR activated dried yeast
  • Optional: Sesame seeds
  1. Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.
  2. Rub the butter into the flour until it makes small even sized breadcrumbs.
  3. Shake in the packet yeast or activated dry yeast and the sugar.
  4. Make a well in the mixture and pour in the milk and the warm water. This warmer temperature helps activate the yeast so it gets all bouncy and springy. Stir with a spoon until combined to a dough, adding extra flour if the mixture is too wet and sticky.
  5. Knead the dough for around 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface until it springs back when you push it and is elastic (this isn’t a real word but you get the drift) when pulled apart. Roll it into a ball and put it back into the bowl where it should be covered with clingfilm. It needs to double in size which should take an hour in a warm place (like your turned off oven-see above).
  6. Grease or line two baking sheets. Knead the dough lightly before dividing it into 12 pieces and rolling them into balls. Place them onto the sheets before squashing them lightly into a disc and pressing down into the middle with your thumb. This stops the tops from blistering while they bake. Brush them with milk, add sesame seeds and dust lightly with flour. Cover the sheets with clingfilm and leave to rise again for 20-25 minutes.rolls 3
  7. Preheat your oven to 245 degrees centigrade/475 degrees farenheit/gas mark 9. Bake the rolls for 10 minutes until they are golden brown underneath the floury tops. Delia advises eating them very fresh, I was tearing into mine in about 30 seconds.

Considering Doug’s bias we brought in some independent taste testers. One of them preferred Delia’s roll while the other liked Deb’s more. Doug claimed he couldn’t tell the difference and wouldn’t or couldn’t pick a favourite. So the final say comes down to me – which is exactly what I was trying to avoid in the first place!

So which did I make? I made Delia’s rolls. That’s not to say that Deb’s didn’t taste great, in fact I think I preferred them slightly, they were a little bit lighter and next to all the meat and cheese that was welcome. But to cook for 40 people, Delia’s rolls were just a bit less stressful, took less time to prepare and cook and are probably more variable. People ate them with sausages, with salad and with burgers so for a barbecue as varied as ours I think they were the best choice. Deb’s are delicious and if it was for a smaller group I probably would have made them. I’m curious to see if Deb’s use of a tray of water, which I think was one of the reasons they were lighter, would work with Delia’s recipe.

They went down a treat on the day. And I particularly enjoyed the repeated “you made these?” on my birthday. A girl’s got to get her kicks from somewhere!


Posted by: riddles9 | October 14, 2009

Quick & Easy Pasta

We all know how weeknights can go: you’ve had a long day at work, you’d love a comforting home-cooked meal, but then you realize that you’re the one who’d have to cook it, and you call a pizza place instead. Well, here’s your new replacement. It’s almost as easy as making a pasta with sauce from a jar, but tastes a lot better, and still more or less counts as homemade. It’s based on this recipe, from Real Simple Magazine.

Step One:
Buy a roast chicken.

Ta daaaa!

Step Two:
Boil a box of pasta, and reserve a cup or so of the leftover pasta water.

Pick your favorite short pasta. The original recipe calls for orecchiette, which my local grocery store seems to chronically lack, so I tend to go for shells or, as I did today, campanelle.

Step Three:
While the pasta is boiling, shred the chicken.

If you’re a fancy individual, you can use a fork (or two forks, if you are dexterous in addition to fancy), but if you’re like me, just dig right in with those (clean) fingers and rip ’em up. This is an easy task to delegate, and even little hands could probably do it, but be wary of bones getting into the mix. You can be as thorough in your bone scraping as you want, as long as you get at least the breasts pretty clear, you should have sufficient chicken for the dish.

Step Four:
Getting saucy. This is hopefully stating the obvious, but when it comes to reserving the pasta water, just put a bowl or measuring cup under the colander, just remember not to hold it, because trips to the ER aren’t part of easy meals. Anyway, set your pasta in the colander aside for a minute. The original recipe called for 1.25 cups of reserved pasta water, but I go for 1 cup: throw it back into the pot, but not on the heat. Add a half a cup to a cup of grated Parmesan cheese to the water, and a tablespoon or two of your favorite herbs, as well as salt & pepper to taste. The original recipe calls for rosemary, but I went for a tblsp of basil and another of oregano. You can add more Parmesan to the mix if you want your sauce thicker, or more reserved water if you want it thinner. It will look a little grainy from the cheese:

But that will clear up when you add the pasta & the chicken. Avoid the temptation to turn on the heat, that will cause the cheese to form huge clumps as it melts, and while they’re tasty, they aren’t too attractive. Throw the pasta in first, give it a good stir, and then the chicken. Heating here will just add chicken & pasta to gloms of cheese, so be careful:

I totally did this to show you how wrong it looks. Not because I can’t listen to my own advice. Nope. Totally not that.

Anyway, that’s it. Zero to homemade pasta in under 15 minutes. Throw together a salad and you’re a veritable domestic goddess!

Here’s the original recipe:

Parmesan Pasta With Chicken and Rosemary

Serves 4 Hands-On Time: 15m Total Time: 15m


  • 12 ounces (3 cups) orecchiette pasta
  • 1 3 1/2- to 4-pound rotisserie chicken
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • kosher salt and pepper


  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
  2. Shred the chicken, using a fork or your fingers, while the pasta cooks. Discard the skin and bones.
  3. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 1/4 cups of the water. Return the pasta to the pot.
  4. Add the reserved pasta water, chicken, rosemary, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to the pot. Stir over medium-low heat until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.
  5. Divide among individual bowls and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
Posted by: lucyinedinburgh | October 5, 2009

Prawn fajitas with homemade tortillas and salsa

I think my favourite thing about this dish is how pretty it looks. The prawns, the peppers, the onions, the colours in the salsa, even the tortillas themselves look pretty. See?

Cooking the filling

Cooking the filling

Isn’t it lovely looking? It’s also very quick which is a bonus. You could speed it up even more by buying tortillas rather than making them but they take so little time and taste good enough that I think it’s worth it. This is a great meal to make with someone else as you can tag in and out. If one person concentrates on rolling out and cooking the tortillas then the other person is free to assemble the salsa and throw the other ingredients into a pan (a wok is great for this dish though, as you’d expect from a stir fry).


For the tortillas, makes 8-10, (gratefully borrowed from Tasty Kitchen):

  • 2 1/2 cups/275g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup/125ml of a neutral oil (vegetable or canola)
  • 3/4 cup/175ml water

For the filling, feeds 2, (adapted from Delicious Magazine):

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 pepper (red, yellow or half of each)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (less if you’re not a fan and it tastes fine without)
  • Around 20 prawns (obviously you can use  pre-cooked prawns that just need warming or raw if you’d rather cook them yourself)

    For the salsa:

    • 1 small avocado
    • 1 large or 2 average sized tomatoes
    • 1 small red chilli
    • 1 lime
    • Fresh coriander (cilantro)

      First off you’ll want to make your dough. Combine the dry ingredients together and then with your hands add the oil and water to the mix to make a big squishy ball. Squishy is the best word for this thanks to the oil but don’t worry the texture changes completely. Then roll it into small balls (this recipe should make 8 – 10 tortillas – how many you make depends on how thick you like your tortillas and how big your pan is) and cover them with cling film or a tea towel. Then you leave it to sit but it’s not for that long, 15 minutes unless you can bring yourself to give it longer, which gives you a chance to cut up your veg.

      Letting the rolls rise

      Letting the rolls rise

      I normally use half a red pepper and half a yellow pepper rather than one whole one just because it looks so nice. Cut the peppers and the red onion into strips, this way they’re chunky enough to be manouevered around into your tortilla.

      This is the point where I would veer off to start cooking the tortillas and leave Doug to make the salsa. He’s very good with chillies, mainly because he remembers not to rub his eyes after cutting them up. Not only do I not remember but I also wear contact lenses which makes it rather painful for the next two days. Salsa preparation is quite easy but it is finickity. The chilli should be chopped up nice and small and if you like spicy food then throw the seeds in too.

      Salsa preparation

      Salsa preparation

      You need to cube the avocado and either one large tomato or two normal sized ones and stir these in with the chilli. Then chop the coriander (as much or as little as you like) and add that to the mix and squeeze the juice of a small lime in as well. We found that either half a lime with every last drop squeezed out worked or a whole lime that wasn’t emptied particularly thoroughly worked best or else it was too bitter. If you taste the salsa as you add the lime juice then you can decide which amount suits you. And it comes with the added benefit of eating.

      The finished salsa

      The finished salsa

      God bless the invention of the stir fry, I would not have survived university without it. This next part is very very simple. Warm half the oil in a pan or wok and when it’s hot add the chooped up onion, peppers, garlic and cayenne pepper. Cook them, stirring frequently, for about 8 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. If you’re using pre-cooked prawns then you can add these in for the last 2 minutes or so to warm them through and get them covered in the cayenne and garlic tasting mix. If you’re using raw prawns then it’s best to remove the vegetables and and use the remaining oil to cook the prawns in before combining the two mixtures. Now you’re ready to go if your tortillas are….

      I have a very small counter at home (because of the washing up piling up on half of it) so I only have space to roll out one tortilla at a time. Sprinkle flour onto your counter and onto your rolling pin and take each ball out and roll it into as close to a circle shape as you can.

      Rolling out the tortillas

      Rolling out the tortillas

      As you can see I had great difficulty rolling circles with the dough. I also kept on rolling out tortillas that were larger than the griddle pan I had to cook them with so keep an eye on that. I found I couldn’t roll them too thin either or moving them into the pan from the ounter resulted in the dough falling apart around my fingers. The good thing though is that there’s so many tortillas to practice on that you have time to get better!

      As to the actual cooking, you need to heat a large flat or griddle pan on the hob with nothing in it, no oil or butter, nothing. When the pan is warm transfer one tortilla at a time to the pan and leave it for 30 seconds before flipping it over.

      Cooking the tortillas

      Cooking the tortillas

      Then watch the dough until large bubbles start to appear in the dough from the heat (around 30-60 seconds) and your tortilla should be done! I tend to flip them once more in the pan just to check that the texture of the dough has changed. The only problem is that if you leave them too long they get firm and don’t roll up very well, they crack instead of rolling which isn’t ideal. I think the best way to manage it is to turn your oven onto low and, as the tortillas cook, pile them onto a plate or a tray sitting in the oven. It keeps them warm while you cook the rest and it means you can err on the side of undercooked as the tortillas will have a tiny bit more cooking time in the oven.



      I like to lay out all the different elements on the table and let people make their own fajhitas up there and then. A very lovely dinner for 2 greedy people.

      Posted by: riddles9 | October 1, 2009


      Maybe I’m just not enough of a foodie, and maybe I should go to the farmer’s market more diligently. But I did not know that this existed:

      Do not attempt to adjust the color settings on you monitor. Because this is going to be the purplest meal, and it all started with an innocent purple bell pepper. Then it turned into this:

      Purple bell peppers, purple potatoes, purple onions, huckleberries, red grapes, and blueberries. I know it’s lacking cabbage and eggplant, but after boiling loads of red cabbage for a “science experiment” many, many years ago, I haven’t looked at the stuff the same way since.  And I didn’t think of eggplant until I was leaving the market, but I’m sticking with the “that’s too obvious” excuse and moving on. On to chutney.
      Read More…

      Posted by: Double the Sugar | September 20, 2009

      The differences between British and American Cooking

      The biggest difference you’ll notice is that often the Brits go by weight (as do many European countries, including the French), whereas Americans tend to go by volume.  If you’re really into cooking and want to amass recipes from everywhere, we’d solidly recommend you be prepared for both, and buy a kitchen scale as well as measuring cups and spoons (and preferably ones that show both varieties of measurement, grams/ounces, ml/cups).  Also, most recipes that do things in ratios (breads and pastries are this way a lot) tend to be by weight, not volume.  Either way, we will do our best to post things in both increments.

      Another obvious difference is the different units of measurement.  Not only is there the fundamental grams/ounces, etc, but sometimes the British like to throw in quirky ones, like Stones (14 pounds.  Seriously.), and, more relevant to the issue of cooking, Gas Marks.  Because Farenheit & Celsius conversions weren’t fun enough.

      We quite often find ourselves mixing measurements which a lot of professional cooks recommend that you avoid. Our theory is try to stick to one but don’t worry if it’s just easier to measure a cup of flour and 50g of butter. Chances are it won’t be the end of the world. Baking is the one area you should probably put more effort into as precision is a lot more important.

      The last issue is availability of ingredients, and the fact that ingredient names don’t necessarily mean the same thing.  The British don’t have Graham Crackers and Americans won’t be able to find blackcurrants as easily.  In this blog we will try to offer up country-appropriate alternatives when something doesn’t exist.  But knowing good import stores, both in your neighborhood and online, can help you find almost anything.  But an item simply not existing is a simple issue, differences in how you define ingredients is not. In our experience, American produce tends to be a lot bigger than in the UK, so if you’re following an American apple pie recipe, you might need to pick up some extra apples. And of course, words can mean totally different things in the two countries, like biscuits (a roll type thing you eat in gravy, or a relative of cookies that you eat when sipping tea), pudding (dessert as a whole, or only a select few types of dessert, most of which are provided to us by the Jello company), jelly (like jam, or gelatin?), and sausage (this is generally the same, but in America it’s not always assumed that it’s in casing, especially when talking about Italian sausage). Oh and the issue of spelling, Shannon will spell in American and Lucy will spell in British. It’s just easiest this way!

      Confused yet?  Don’t be.  In the end, it’s all food.  We’ll clear up what we can, and if we aren’t clear enough drop us a line on or leave us a comment here.