Thursday, 1 December 2011

Travelling by train

There is something romantic about train travel that I can't quite put my finger on.

Maybe it's the gentle swaying, the slight nostalgia or the fact that I spent five years of my life travelling the East Coast between York and Edinburgh but I really enjoy it.

Let me caveat that. I enjoy it when the train is warm. quiet and on time !!

Oh and the sunrise is particularly pretty.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Prawn bisque anyone?

I don't know about you, but in my kitchen I have a folder.
A recipe folder into which I put those recipes from magazines, newspapers and dentist surgery copies of Readers Digest that I have torn out with the best intention of making. But never had.

But all this talk about http:/// made me re-evaluate and I dug out a recipe for prawn and fennel bisque.

I'm not quite sure where it came from but I think it was Delicious about 4 or 5 years ago but it looked yummy - a bit of a faff but sounded gorgeous. And given my desire to "de-carb" (*again*) I thought I would try it.

*Warning* this is not an authentic bisque - I never seem to remember to buy prawns with shells on. Oh well, this is my adaption.....

I generally take my prawns out of the freezer in the morning and leave them in the fridge to defrost. Please note the pink bear is optional.

Basically make a broth of onion, carrot and fennel as you would any soup. Then add brandy and white wine. Oh and some fish stock. Then a pinch of paprika and a tin of toms. Boil this for 20 mins, leave to cool a bit then give it a good blend.

The faffy bit is having to 'pass' the whole thing through a sieve. This is what leaves you with a really clear, clean bisque. I guess you are left with less if you have a better blender and possibly more if you have used the shells too.

Don't think about washing the blender - you'll need it again !

Then, warm the bisque, adding the prawns and cook them until they turn pink.

Oh, and then faff no 2. Reblend the bisque until smooth and creamy.

Add some cream and the fennel fronds (which you obviously kept) and there you go.

It might sound like a pain, but if you make the stock and blend but don't add the prawns, then freeze in batches, it becomes an easy freezer dinner.

And oh, I was wrong.... It wasn't Delicious. It was Good Food. And you can find the recipe here: Prawn and Fennel bisque

I hope that Fish is the dish agree that prawns can be easy too :p

Saturday, 19 November 2011

One of those moments: the first picture


The capitals at her insistence - she is no longer 3 and a HALF.

Today was one of those momentous moments - a month or so ago it was when she could spell her name, the month before that when she could count past 10, the month before that tell me what we can make from milk.

Today however, was momentous.

Today, we have a drawing of people.

I'm sure she has been able to do them for a while but when the pre-school bag comes home with 40+ pieces of paper, I have no idea which is hers.

Today, I know. All her own work.

So, from the left we have:

Father Christmas (NO, it''s not Santa, it's Father Christmas) complete with hat and bobble on the end, Me (aka Toots), my dollies, and the small person in the far right is my toddler sister Pip.

What can I say - serious lump.

I know you have all been there, but please join with me in shedding a tear for the first of the people pictures.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Fish is the dish - baked haddock & tomato

Fish is the dish is a new website which is there to help us cook more fish for our family.

I remember my granny always telling me that fish was good for the brain - but I have to say like many things my granny said, I wasn't sure she was right. All that 'if the wind changes your face will stay like that' made me a bit sceptical. But since having Toots and Pip I wondered whether or not she was right. And boy she was.

Fish is amazing - low in fat, easy to eat and filled with vitamins and minerals that you can't get anywhere else. Not to mention the omega3. But cooking more fish is easier said than done. Like many mums I'm never very sure what to do with it...... Until now.

My fish is the dish challenge this week was to make a fish pie. I got sent haddock, smoked haddock and salmon. Mmmm, thinking cap on. I make ordinary fish pie quite a lot but this week I fancied something different..... How about tomato and haddock bake?

I found a recipe on theWaitrose website which looked super easy. And given I had my sister and brother in law over for dinner, easy was the order of the day.

The fish was delivered from Delish Fish in Peterhead and comes individually sealed so that you can use what you need.

This really is a bit of a cheat of a dish - it uses a tomato and marscapone pasta sauce.

Oh and frozen peas.

Top with dill and horseradish mash (to die for) and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.

It was really very tasty - I did mix the smoked and unsmoked haddock and it definitely needed the smoked. My sister and brother in law thought it was fab.

I think there are many variations of this using pasta sauces - the arrabiata would be lovely too !!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Fish is the dish salmon with a twist

I do love fish - well I should, it's my job - but I love feeding the family fish.
But even although I am surrounded by hundreds of recipes, it's not always that straightforward to find something quick and easy (oh and that doesn't use all the pots and pans in the house !!)

I have been doing a salmon pesto recipe for a wee while - I can't even remember where I found the recipe. Oh yes I do, I think it's in Delia's 'How to Cook Vol 2' - my favourite cook book in all the world.

But inspired by our Fish is the Dish work, I decided I needed to find a twist.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Kyloe steak restaurant review

I've been reading with envy some of the fab foodie bloggers and their visits to various gastronomic venues  in and around Edinburgh. Most have involved fantastic surroundings, amazing food and good prices !!

So I couldn't resist but try the newly opened Kyloe restaurant in The Rutland Hotel. It says it's Edinburgh's first gourmet steak restaurant and after reading this review from Nadine Pierce we just had to go and find out for ourselves.

It's not always easy to go out to dinner with two small people in tow and so lunch is often a better bet.  And thanks to having a French class close by on Saturday and a voucher giving us 40% off food, we toddled off to try it.

And impressed we were. From the welcoming staff, to the funky interior, it was a great experience. They were really welcoming to our two monkeys who proceeded to put their sticky mits over every piece of mirror, glass and shiny thing in the place !

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Fish can be frugal: PART 1

I've been reading and listening to such a lot about the horrible state of the economy that it's not hard to start become very consious of money and the increasing prices of things.

I work in the seafood industry and a big part of my job is to try to get people to eat more fish more often - which is why we have launched our new website called Fish is the Dish. Make sure you check it out.

But I've been worried that a lot of people think seafood is expensive. So I've decided to put this to the test.

Here's my fist calculation.

Last night we had smoked mackerel on baked potatoes - based on a recipe from our fab chef Jaqueline O'Donnell from The Sisters restaurant in Glasgow.

I took my prices from today (25/10/11) and here we go:

Per pack Approx 1 serving
Baking potato £1.50 £0.38
Cream cheese £1.34 £0.34
Smoked mackerel £2.34 £0.10
Baby beetroot £0.94 £0.31
Apple - £0.20
Horseradish £0.69 £0.09

WOW Less than £1.50 for a main meal - that's not bad at all.

Not only that but it was easy and super easy for a Monday night supper. I might be able to make a cheap cheesy beany potato for that cost but I'll tell you what, it won't taste as good and certainly won't be stacked with omega-3, selenium, iodine..... don't get me started.

Go on try it - and if you need a recipe mail me at

Monday, 24 October 2011

The Museum of Flight - a family day out.

We've been meaning to go to visit the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune for ages.
We thought that it would be a great family day out and we were absolutely right.

There's lots to see - lots of space for running around - hands on displays. Oh and excellent fish and chips in North Berwick only 4 miles away.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Fish for tea with no prep. Honest.

There is something about a Wednesday night which means I generally have no energy for cooking.
I have plenty of energy for eating, but no energy for the preparation and washing up that comes with it !

So tonight I thought I would try something super easy - with minimum preparation.

And here it is - no prep fish tea !

Oh come on then, I hear you demand?? Oh ok....

I took a loin of haddock which I cut into two and placed in an ovenproof dish.
I then pressed Jamie Oliver's Piri Piri Herb Crust which I picked up from Morrison's.
You can find it here.

I didn't need very much of it and think the tub will last a good while.

I put this in a hot (Gas Mark 7) oven for 15 minutes or so while I boiled some small potatoes and vegetables.

Et Voila. Serve. enjoy.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy right enough.

Give it a try - loads more tips at Fish is the Dish

Monday, 3 October 2011

Take two haddock fillets.....

When I was at the Farmers Market on Saturday buying the scallops for our Saturday night indulgence, I picked up a couple of oak smoked haddock fillets.

These weren't your run of the mill, yellow smoked fish fillets - they were gorgeous, Scottish haddock fillets smoked over oak chips.

I would love to be able to recommend the stall holder but I didn't get his name. But the haddock was amazing.

With one of the fillets, I made home made fish fingers for Toots and Pip.
Very easy - cut the fillet into "fingers" - because it it a butterfly cut, this is really easy. We had eight 'fingers'. We then dipped them in flour, egg then breadcrumbs. The girls liked getting involved.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Scallops... Super fast supper

We love scallops. They are so simple and easy to cook.
Let me tell you how we do them in our house....

I guess the first challenge is where to buy them.
You can get them in most supermarkets - often chilled but usually frozen.
These come from a range of places but ususally they are Canadian - these are great for in a fish pie but because they are quite small don't really lend themselves to being panfried.

I like to buy mine from the fishmonger - that way I can ask where they came from (personally, it has to be West Coast Scottish ideally from Mull or Skye.)

But if you are lucky enough to have a farmers market close buy you can pick up something like this..... for very little.

This little lot of 9 prime scallops cost me only £6. I think that is good value. But I am biased. I love them...

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Cooking the perfect - thanks to Woman's Hour

I'm a bit of a R4 fanatic and can't resist Jenny and Jane on Woman's Hour
Not that I get to listen during the week.... But I can catch up on the website most times.
I've been listening to "Cook the perfect" and been tempted to try many of the recipes.
The fish soup sounds easy and I must be able to master scones although I've not tried either.

But today, inspired by the Lakeland madeline tin I thought I would try my hand at these little delicacies.

The recipe is actually very easy - an egg, sugar, flour and ground almonds and some lemon zest. The challenge for me was the beurre noisette. I'd never made this before and although the instructions said 'low heat, heavy bottom pan, leave for 3 minutes', it seemed to take a bit longer than this and I think I could have left it longer.

It's a case of creaming the egg and the sugar, sifting the almonds and flour and then folding these together before adding your beurre noisette.

Mmmm, then it says leave for an hour. Try explaining that to a 3 year old who wants them now !

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Finding time - saving meals on wheels

I just watched the Hairy Bikers in their campaign to save Meals on Wheels -

I'm a big fan of these guys - I find them very genuine and down to earth.

It wasn't until tonight that I remembered my granny g - no longer with us and a long time on her own.
She relied on MoW - for many years. I remember the smell of her dinners which she loved,
the lady that delivered it - whom she could tell you many stories about.

But none of that mattered.

She was well fed. She had company that we couldn't deliver daily.

Then things changed. The council started delivering microwave meals.
Granny didn't understand the microwave.
She hated it.
She hated the meals.
She stopped eating.
She got confused.

Meals on wheels is a fantastic service when it delivers good quality, hot, fresh food.

The Hairy Bikers are on to something.

I only wish I could find time to help them - or is that me finding an excuse.

Another dilemma to add to the list.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Too young for pocket money

Toots is 3 and a half. That's a big half when it's 15% of your life !

Her behaviour has been very good generally. Well, almost always.
She responds well to a star chart and to gets generally excited when it translates to something more tangible.

But every now and again we have meltdowns. They tend not to be minor meltdowns but great big major ones.  We've had to remove all the toys, we've had a screaming match outside Boots, we've had to threaten to remove dance class. Oh dear. Not the best parenting of a pre-schooler. But what else to do?

I've been wondering if we should take a different tack. What if stars = money and money = magazines. So rather than good behaviour resulting in a treat, good behaviour gets pocket money and then she can decide what to do with it.

I was inspired by the lady on the checkout in Asda who said that her 3 1/2 year old had managed to save up the pocket money provided by her grannny (mum in law) to pay for half of a pair of Ugg boots. So this pre-schooler managed to save £40 quid from her pocket money and bought a pair of boots. I was quite disgusted by this at first. But the more I thought about it the more I wondered if it would work.

I remain unconvinced. But perhaps teaching the value of money at an early age can only be a good thing.

Now where did I put that piggy bank????

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Cleaning is good for the soul

I know you are supposed to do it in spring time. I did - in fact, I cleared out masses of stuff and put it into storage to get the place ready to sell. But I never really did any spring cleaning...

So here I am in September, cleaning, and hoping that it cheers my mood somewhat.

Maybe it's the impending winter that's pulling my spirit into the dolldrums or maybe it's the lack of being able to plan life because we are in the middle of selling (or not as the case may be!!). Maybe it's the continual whining from Toots or the screaming to be picked up by P. Or maybe it's something else.

Why is it that the girls are all smiles for daddy and all grumps for me? Is it me?

In an attempt to clear out my soul, I have "oven-mate"-ed my cooker to within an inch of it's life. It's gleaming. I have vax-ed the hall carpet (what idiot chose cream for a hall carpet with two monkeys.... ooops lets pass over that one). And now I am about to embark on a clear out of all things electronic.

Has it made me feel any better? Not yet. But at least the place is a bit more spic and span. So perhaps when I wake up tomorrow to a clean carpet and a clean oven - and lots more space for lots more things on this ancient old laptop - the world will feel a brighter place.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Lyons Fish stew - an easy dinner !!

Lyons Seafood (they do prawns) have launched some new ready to make meals.
They are available in Sainsbury's and are currently £4.99 - they'll go up to £5.99 sometime soon so they are around the same price as an M&S ready meal.

I thought I would try the Catalan Fish Stew because it is absolutely one of my favourites. I know it's not hard but it's been a long week.

First impressions are good - the veg look really fresh and I can see squid and mussels in the seafood.

It claims it will be ready in five minutes - so here goes.

OK so I've read the instructions and I don't think 2 minutes is enough to cook courgettes so I'm going to change things around a bit.... so rather than do the fish first I'm going to do the veg first and then add the fish....

Two minutes down and the veg are starting to look nice but still a bit too al-dente for my liking....

Seafood and chorizo added - smelling nice.

Sauce added and bubbling nicely. Smelling very bbq. Why would that be???


Tasty, doesn't look much but filling and it really doesn't look like the box !

My summary
- it is fast.
- I prefer to cook the veg first
- not masses of fish but the beans fill you up !
- def needs bread
- not sure what is Catalan about it - him indoors described it as a gumbo
- there's quite a lot of packaging
- think I might buy it for me if I was having a special night in !!!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Mull-ing around

OK so we've been back for a few days but I wanted to share my musings on holidaying in Scotland.

I need to be honest. I love Scotland. I live in Scotland and I love holidaying here.
There is something special about the west coast - especially when the dreaded midge has gone.
If you don't know what I mean.... feel free to have a look  here !

So when we were considering an autumn break, we were keen to return to the Isle of Mull.
This is significantly less far than the amazing Isle of Skye but reducing driving when you have a couple of small people in the back of the car is a good plan. You need to take a ferry - obviously - which goes from Oban, a 3 hour drive from Edinburgh. Apparently.

But the *joy* of Scotland means that some places are a bit more inaccessible. And the word "diversion" sends shivers down the spine. Mmmm, our diversion added some 85 miles, 2 hours and the remaining tank of fuel. I would like to say "luckily I had thought about that" but I hadn't. So there was no milk, no food. Idiot..... Thankfully, daddy picked up SIX bananas which were eaten en-route.

Needless to say, screaming, vomiting, sleeping and screaming again followed. And that was just daddy.

But we arrived. Just in time. It could only get better.

It did - a wonderful cottage at Calgary on the north west of the Island, some amazing weather and a great trip to Staffa.  (Sans kids - the joy of taking the inlaws but that's another story)

Staffa is another island which is the home of Fingals Cave. Now this place is amazing. It is effectively the other end of the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland and is managed by the National Trust for Scotland. I took ooodles of photographs - but perhaps this give you an idea of the place. Well, it doesn't really. Believe me if you are in the area, go. It is stunning. I didn't hear Mendelssohn but was gobsmacked.

Our journey was taken aboard the Hoy Lass thanks to lovely Iain from Turus Mara. Iain has a wicked sense of humour and you feel safe in his experienced hands.  (I love the fact that Turus Mara means journey by sea).  He is quite a character.

When we got home - unfortunately without any significant wildlife sightings - we wanted some local seafood. But the local restaurant was closed......

Thankfully it was raining the next day and we were able to partake of some gorgeous Inverlussa Mussels. We had to take the girls but that's another story too.

But here they are. Inverlussa mussels thanks to Am Birlinn where the food was great but the service could have had more of smile.

There is more to say but I will save it for another day. Next year I think we'll head for Islay. As him-indoors said "more distilleries" as he poured himself another dram of Tobermory Whisky !

Happy days.

Monday, 29 August 2011

OMG How easy is fish pie ?

Now I love to cook. But on a Monday I want something quick and easy.
And I never think of fish pie as that. But it is !!!

So ok, I have to fess up - part of what I do is to get folks to eat more fish. Sounds easier than it is.

And so is the fish pie..... Honestly. Here's what I did.

Toddler tantruming and star charts

Oh what a weekend.

Toots seemed to be grumpy from waking on Saturday. I quote.
"No, not that.", "No, that's wrong", "No, I'm hungry",
No, I want to go to Balamory *now* !

This went on. And on peaking in a crisis outside Boots.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Stuff work - a non-frenetic Friday

Friday's are usually frenetic. I don't know why but getting out the house on a Friday is always so much more painful than any other day of the week. Maybe it's because I'm tired after a week at work or maybe it's because often Thursday night will involve a little glass of vino.

Anyway, for that reason and the fact that it was the last Friday of the Fringe, I decided to stuff work and take the day off....

Thursday, 25 August 2011

The friends you meet in pregnancy are the best friends you'll ever meet

I remember my fantastic midwife Linda telling me the friends I would meet at ante-natal class would become my friends for life if I wanted them to.

Perhaps the contents of my sink will give an indication if this is the case....

Then Claire my insipid health visitor reiterated this when she encouraged me to attend the Tiny Tots class when Toots was only 6 weeks old. What I wouldn't have done to get out of the house and interact with other human beings. So I went. And she was right. Linda was right. Three and a half years later the girls (I hope that isn't offensive) I met then are and remain some of the best friends I have.

We don't get together as often as we would like - most of us have two little people now and so the last year our meetings have been more sporadic.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Is it wrong to swaddle an (almost) toddler?

Toots was a great sleeper. In fact Toots was easy in almost every way. (That is changing as her pre-school self appears: "No mummy, that's just wrong")

Toots went to bed, read a book, gave you a kiss and then went to sleep from about 10 months. Consistently.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

It has to match !!!

Toots is almost three and a half. She has always known her own mind but this has taken on a new level of late. Her *cutlery* have to match.

Now how am I supposed to do that with this rag bag?

Buggy-itis !

I've never really suffered from buggy-itis. You know what I mean, you have bought a "travel system" but didn't like the way it pushed so you bought the iCandy. Then Quinny brought out a new version and you traded your iCandy for the Quinny. The after three punctures you opted for the Bugabo. Then you couldn't get it in your car so you ended up with an umbrella fold anyway.

But I've never really suffered. Until now.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Feeding the family: Delia's Ragu

We are massive pasta fans on our house.

Toots would eat macaroni cheese every day if she could. Threaten a veg in there and she runs a mile. Onion, leek, tomato? No.... just macaroni and cheese. It's ironic as I can't get her to eat cheese at all..... And never have.

But one of the absolute favourites of my girls is Delia's ragu. It looks like a real faff but it's not.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Taking small people to a show: Hairy Maclary and friends

The Edinburgh Festival and Fringe (and Tattoo and Art Festival and Book Festival....) are all in full swing (more info here) and the city is buzzing. There is a wonderful atmosphere but it's not easy when you have to trail around town with Toots and Pip in tow.

Flying solo

So that's him away for a week. To California - where the sun shines and you can't hear your children scream.

I've done three rounds of solo parenting in the last year. But this time I suspect it's going to be more entertaining (is that shorthand for horrible?).