A week in the kitchen – June 2018

I’ve had a good week in the kitchen. I still try to make as much as I can from scratch – with a few cheats – but some days/weeks I feel like I just don’t have any mojo. This week however has been a good week. It makes me happy when I manage to feed the 3 of us fairly decent home cooked food, and makes the treats feel a bit better too.


Merry Kitchen – Week beginning 4th June


Monday : Thai basil pork with sesame pak choi and rice

Tuesday: Chicken carbonara

Wednesday: Meatballs with a spicy Moroccan sauce, roasted vegetables, cous cous and yoghurt

Thursday: Smoked haddock kedgeree

Friday: Mexican bean soup with smashed tortilla chips and grated cheese

Saturday:  Takeaway pizza!

Sunday Scampi/peppered mackerel with peas and sweet potato bites


Breakfast is usually toast or cereal or a croissant at the weekend.

Lunch during the week tends to be sandwiches and soup or leftovers. At the weekend we usually have things like baked potatoes and beans, omelette, selections of wee picky bits (ham, cheese, carrot sticks, sweetcorn, crackers etc) or sometimes brunch – sausages and poached eggs. It depends what we have on and what is in the house. The wee one is fed at nursery Wednesday – Friday so I tend to cook slightly spicier or complicated things on those days.




Weekend Wandering – Sunshine at Foodies and a spot of Cliff Jumping


Yes actual sunshine – what a wonderful surprise! The weather this summer hasn’t been great so to get some actual sunshine and on a Saturday was pretty good. I did get a little bit sunburnt on my neck (apparently I will never learn) but it felt so good to be out and about enjoying nice weather, eating tasty treats and spending time with very good friends. We were at the Foodies Festival  in Inverleith Park in Edinburgh on Saturday.

This year:

I sampled some blackberry gin (I bought a wee bottle, very tasty)

Ate Paella (YUM)

Shared a Twisty Chip (not as tasty as it looks),

Tasted some Peppermint Tonic (Peppermint helps my migraines so will see how this works out)

Tried Peppercorn Sauce (bought some and had it with steak for tea last night)

Loved a jar of Salted Caramel Sauce (Stashed away in the cupboard for a naughty pudding sometime)

And I bought a smoked garlic bulb (to keep vampires away)

We had a great time, Ice Cream was also consumed, obligatory when the sun is out and this year they had allowed a bit more space for the festival which was much better. My friends had brought a picnic rug which was excellent thinking on their part.

Afterwards The Boyo and I arrived back at my friends house early so we stole their dog…. well we took her for a wee walk, then enjoyed a pleasant evening eating pizza and yakking away. My friends only live an hour away but with busy lives we don’t see each other nearly as often as we should. I always enjoy good times in their company and their little 2 year old is the best wee person I know.

On Sunday we got up bright and early with my Dad in tow to go Canyoning with Nae Limits in Perthshire. We got all kitted up with full body wetsuits (not exactly designed for those well endowed in the chest area, breathing was tricky!), hard hats, life jackets, trainers and a climbing harness. Unfortunately when we got to The Falls of Bruar there was just too much water in the river. The rather dismal Scottish Summer scuppered our plans. Instead we went cliff jumping near Soldier’s Leap in Killiecrankie.

My Dad did really well jumping off the various sized cliffs. The Boyo and I did so badly with even the smallest jump that we were banned from doing any more jumps. This caused great amusement to both us and the rest of the group. The Instructors were glad we saw the funny side as really the way we were jumping we were going to hurt ourselves eventually. We did enjoy a swim in the river and watching everyone else tackle big big jumps. My shoulders are suffering today after swimming with all that kit on but the fresh water in the river was really rather nice to swim in. I love the water and I’m happy to jump, I just can’t do the required hop/leap needed to safely clear the cliff and to be honest both the Boyo and I are daft eejits anyway – well suited!

We will go Canyoning another time but I would encourage you to check out Nae Limits if you are in Perthshire and fancy some adventure. They do all sorts of activities, I’m really keen to try Tubing and Whitewater Rafting and they do mini adventures for kids too. The cafe and centre is just off the A9, South of Pitlochry and we enjoyed a good lunch after our activities, so even if you are not the adventurous (MAD) type then the cafe does good food too.


Happy Days 2015

Since my last blog post I have been super duper busy. The end of term mayhem, turning 30, Christmas preparations and a nasty flu all kept me pretty occupied.


Since turning 30 in November I have been reflecting on my 20s and what I would like in my 30s. I have done an awful lot of growing up since I turned 20 and I feel that it is time to really think about things I would like to improve, achieve and be during my 30s.

In my last degree we had to do a lot of ‘self-reflective’ stuff in order to make us better practitioners and whilst at the time it drove me mad (mainly as I had not worked as a librarian at that point so reflecting on how to improve when you are so new at a profession is hard as you have to basically improve everything) I can see that there is value on that. So I am thinking about a list of 30 goals I would like to at least try in the year I am 30. I won’t share them all just now but I’ll give you a bit of a flavour of them as I intend to use this blog to help me along my way.

Firstly something that won’t be a surprise to anyone is that food is involved.

A nice easy to document goal (but perhaps more difficult to achieve) is that I will attempt to cook one new thing a week for the entire year. I attempted this back in 2012 and that is when I first tried out blogging. My first blog attempts fell by the wayside but I did more or less manage to complete my goal. A family bereavement threw me off for a month or two but cooking multiple things in other weeks evened things out. This time I have changed it slightly as I now have my own massive cookbook and cookery magazine collection, so my aim is to cook at least one new thing a week from my collection.

Other goals involved with food are more about being healthy – trying to keep eating veg (previous posts talk about my food aversion), eating more fish, reducing meat consumption and trying to cook as much as I can from scratch and using as little processed food as I can.

I’ll document this kind of stuff in my Foodie Friday posts.

Other goals involve improving my personal flaws. An example is that I am terrible at interrupting people. It is very rude and definitely something I should work on not doing.

Health and fitness feature prominently – upping my exercise is very important and I’ll talk another time about my Jawbone and new found love of Essential Oils.

I am also thinking about learning and using my brain so being more focused at work, completing my chartership and learning new things are all in the list as well.

And finally but maybe most important; having fun, enjoying my life. Be that in doing new things, having fun with my hobbies or spending time with my friends and family, and most importantly just enjoying proper time with my Boyo. I start something next Monday directly related to this and the Boyo and I have already implemented a technology free night every week in the house so we actually do spend time together during the week.

To finish off this blog post for today I’ll share a few photos from our festive holidays. We split our time between Northern Ireland (Boyos family home) and S-W Scotland (my family home). We had a lovely but busy time, Dog walking and Baileys were involved so I was quite happy. Everyone seemed very happy with the presents they received (and I was very happy with what I recieved, lucky girl!). This year I focused less on ‘stuff’ and more on things we can do together. So I have a spa weekend, meals out, Canoyoning, A Murder Mystery night and Kayaking all to look forward to with some of my favourite people this year. How exciting!

Happy New Year!


Belfast Causeway 1 Causeway 2 Hogmanay Maggie Moncrieffe Hill Portballintrae

Foodie Friday (well Monday!) – Simple Bread Rolls

These little rolls might not be the prettiest but they are great for picnics and now that the weather is getting a bit cooler I think they would be perfect dunked into some nice soup. I have a pot of leek and carrot soup ready at home for lunches this week. They are very versatile as well, I think next time I might try them with some sweet flavours for a breakfast treat.

Bread Rolls (makes 12 rolls)

500g Strong White Bread Flour (Tweak: I used a little wholemeal flour to give some more flavour & goodness, overall still added up to 500g)
1 tsp salt
1tsp fast action yeast
1 tsp sugar
300ml water
25ml oil

Flavourings: eg. Pesto, sesame seeds, fresh torn up basil, poppy seeds

I confess I have a breadmaker! So whilst I did bake these rolls myself I did the first knead in the breadmaker… just to save a little time.

Place the flour & salt into a mixing bowl. Mix the yeast, sugar, water and oil in a jug. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix together until it forms a dough and comes away from the bowl. For this you need to use your hands.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead for 5 – 10 minutes. As my chef cousin once told me ‘Bread Kneads Love’.

Pop the dough back into the bowl and cover with cling film. Leave it for 30-40 minutes in a warm place.

Switch the oven on to 200c to preheat . Give the dough another light knead on the floured surface and then divide up equally into how many ‘flavours’ of rolls you are making. I went with 4 types.

So I got each lump of dough, stretched it out a little then sprinkled my flavour over, eg. Sesame seeds. Then I roll it up and repeat, kneading lightly until the seeds/basil are distributed evenly. I then cut the dough into roll sizes, shape a little the place on a parchment lined baking tray.

For the pesto or if you were using a spread (I think something like lemon curd or Nutella would be yum) I stretched the dough out until a rough rectangle, then rolled up the dough like a swiss roll then cut into smaller rolls.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden on top and hollow sounding when tapped on their bottoms.

photo 1


Foodie Friday – Sweet Potato & Gammon Pies

Gosh time flies… we are nearly at the end of summer, I’ve had a busy couple of weeks, catching up with good friends, work and unfortunately a family bereavement but I have a few posts lined up so my blog will become lively once more.


The madness is about to start. Note this section will be library related, scroll down to get to the tasty recipe!

I work in an FE College, the teaching staff have just returned from their summer break, my to do list has grown rapidly and the students are set to return on the 1st of September. It will be chaos and madness and I will be working 42 hour weeks until Mid-October, but the truth is that this part of the academic year is actually my favourite time. I love getting to meet the new students; I remember the feelings of optimism, enthusiasm and nerves of my first few weeks of post-school student life. I also get to ‘teach’ the students about the library and some basics that will help them as they begin their studies. As a former EFL teacher I actually love the induction sessions where my teacher and librarian skills fuse together. I get to meet the students in small groups and my ultimate aim is that they leave the session feeling that they can come to us in the library for support and help… actually remembering how to use the catalogue can wait as long as they feel that they come and ask. Often students are nervous to ask their tutors as they think they will be judged for not already knowing, they don’t want to ask classmates for fear of looking stupid but here in the library we do not judge we just help. Often that is reassuring them that the tutors 100% will not mind being asked. I think as a student especially at the beginning you are so nervous and really lack in confidence, here in the library we aim to be the friendly people who quietly support you and encourage. Often in life we assume people are really confident and capable but underneath we all have the same worries about whether we are doing as well as we can or doubting our abilities. So trying to be friendly and no-judgemental and making assumptions is something I actively try to avoid and when I do I try to remind myself that we never really know what is whizzing through another persons head.


Now I am getting onto the Foodie stuff…. I am soon going to working very long days 2 days a week so I will need to cook a bit more at weekends and feed my freezer with nice meals that are easy to warm up as I know fine well that I won’t be wanting to cook late in the evening and when you are tired it is easy to start relying on potato waffles and chicken nuggets! My recipe this week can be frozen and warmed up. I have made pies but the filling could be a nice casserole dish served with cous cous or salad (if I ate salad) or even nice on it’s own with some crusty bread. However the pies are super tasty and very filling.


So I present to you…


Sweet Potato and Gammon Pies


For a veggie version try swapping the chicken stock for a vegetable stock and adding peppers instead of the gammon.

You will need 4 individual pie dishes or 1 large pie dish, a large pot, a masher and a couple of other bits and bobs which are stated later in the recipe. I bought Individual oval pie dishes from Amazon recently which I plan to use for pies, pasta bakes and other things. Good way of some portion control!



4 x large(ish) Sweet Potatoes – cut into small chunks. Sweet potatoes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, you want to allow for a portion per person, so if you have monster ones then perhaps you will only need 2-3.

½ Onion – Chopped finely

Chicken Stock

Herb Flavour Pot

Hot Water

Black Pepper & Salt for seasoning

Dried Thyme – around a teaspoon

Mustard – 1 teaspoon. I had a hot and smooth mustard but I was planning on using a wholegrain one, so whatever you have available will work fine.

2 large gammon Steaks

Seasoning for the gammon – I used smoked paprika as I had unsmoked gammon steak and felt a bit of smoky flavour would work well with sweetness of the potatoes. I also used a pinch of brown sugar and a teaspoon of a garlic and pepper mix. I love the Organic Blending Company, I always have the Garlic Pepper in my cupboard.

100g Grated Mature Cheddar Cheese

½ block of Shortcrust Pastry

1 egg lightly beaten.



  1. Boil the kettle and pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Prepare the Sweet potatoes and onion, and then place them in a pot. Add the stock cube and flavour pot, thyme and seasoning. Remember the stock cube will have salt so very little salt is needed. Add the hot water so it just about covers the mixture, you don’t want to add too much water at the beginning as the water will be absorbed by the mixture to become the ‘juice’ for the pie, so if you add too much you will have a watery pie. Cover with a lid and simmer the mixture on a low heat until the water has been absorbed and the potatoes are soft and cooked through.
  2. Once the potatoes have cooked use a masher to lightly mash up the mixture. You don’t want it to be smooth but rather a thick consistency with no large chunks of potatoes. Leave the lid on to allow the mixture to absorb more liquid whilst you prepare the gammon.
  3. Place the Gammon steaks into a deep oven dish – during cooking the gammon with create a tasty ‘juice’ some of which will be added to your pie for extra flavour later. Season the gammon with the herbs/spices you have chosen and the little sugar. If you aren’t sure what herbs you would like, have a look at the ingredients of the flavour pot and use that as inspiration. I wanted some seasoning to add a smoky, savoury flavour to balance out the sweetness of the potatoes, hence smoked paprika and my garlic and pepper mix. Cover in tinfoil and cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes (depending on the thickness of the meet) until just cooked. We want the meat to be as juicy as possible so watch not to over-cook.
  4. Once cooked cut up the gammon (I find using scissors I keep for the kitchen easiest) and add to the sweet potato mixture. Add a spoonful of the ‘juice’ from the oven dish to the mixture for extra flavour as well. Give it a good stir, add the cheese, then stir again. Taste and add more seasoning if required.
  5. Now you have a choice. You can use this tasty mixture as meal on it’s own, freeze for later or use as pie filling. I’m going to turn it into pie so for this fill your pie dish or dishes with the mixture until nearly at the top and then prepare the pastry. .
  6. Get your pastry and roll out onto a lightly floured surface. Add a pinch of thyme (and cheese for extra flavour if you wish). Fold over the pastry and roll out again. You want the pastry to be ½ cm thick.
  7. Cut a 1 cm wide strip and use that to cover the edge or you pie dish or dishes. This will give your lid something to grip onto. Using a brush lightly cover this pastry edge with a little beaten egg. Then get a large piece of pastry, cover the dish, cut away the excess and use a fork to press the edge and lid together. Brush the top of the pie with egg to give the pie a nice finish (I have a friend who is allergic to egg when she is visiting I would use just a little milk for this part instead of egg). If you have excess pastry then use it to decorate the top, and brush it with egg. Using the point of a sharp knife make 2 small piercings into the top of each pie to let steam out whilst it is cooking.
  8. I advise placing the pie dish on a baking try to make getting it out the oven easier, cook at 180 for around 30 minutes until the Pie is golden and delicious looking. If you are worried about the pastry browning too quickly, lower the temperature.
  9. Eat the tasty pie. You will be very full afterwards.IMG-20140815-WA006


Foodie Friday – Chocolate Brownies

So today I am going to share one of my never fail recipes: Chocolate Brownies. Chocolate Brownies are always popular. I suggest that if you are going on a picnic then you make them the night before then you must test one warm out the oven with ice cream. – yum yum yum. The rest once cooled are great little picnic treats, or great to bribe work colleagues into liking you. Or just making friends in general!

Makes around 10.
75g Mixture of milk and dark chocolate (whatever you prefer, I use about half and half, all dark is too bitter for my sweet tooth!)
75g Butter
2 Eggs
Splash of Vanilla Essence
250g Caster Sugar (no one said these were healthy!)
100g Plain flour
½ teaspoon Baking Powder

Melt the chocolate with the butter over a pan of simmering water. Meanwhile switch the oven on to warm up, 190c Gas mark 5.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together until the mixture is pale and creamy. Add the vanilla essence and stir in the melted chocolate into the egg mixture.
Grease a tin. I suggest a 20cm square tin. Line the tin with baking paper. Our the brownie mixture into the tin and smooth so it is roughly even, remember the corners.
Bake in the oven for around 25 minutes until the brownies are firm on top and a skewer into the centre comes clean. I like my brownies slightly gooey but if you like them firm leave them a bit longer, but keep an eye on them so the don’t burn.
Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before cutting into pieces – the size is up to you!

I don’t have a photo, by the time I remember they have all been eaten. Oops! I don’t have much more to post today as it is way too hot for my brain cells to work. I long to be by a pool with an icy drink, alas I’ve spent all week in front of a computer and my eyes hurt, my brain is sweltered and once again the sun is supposed to go over the weekend when I’m off to enjoy it, typical!

Have a good weekend folks!


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A week of tasty grub.

(note my phone is being a pain at the moment so photos are delayed, for the moment!)

Well I have to say it has been a good week food wise. For my tea break today I have Twinnings salted caramel green tea and Abernethy biscuits. So a little bit good and a little bit naughty. Something I realised a long time ago is that I have a sweet tooth and trying to cut out all the naughty things I love always backfires. The Boyo sincerely hopes that any future children of ours do not inherit this, however it runs through the whole of my Mums family and I’m not nearly as bad as I used to be! When I was leaving school we had a yearbook made up and a wee blurb was written about all of, mine included ‘emergency dashes to the vending machine for chocolate’. Not much has changed!


So this week as part of my attempts to become motivated and enthused again I decided to resume the challenge I set for myself in 2012. The challenge: I have to attempt one new recipe a week. It can be anything, cakes, treats, main meals etc. but I found it very enjoyable, it makes use of my large recipe book collection, I gain skills by experimenting and practicing and most of all I get to try new things. This included salmon and spinach as well as a lot of cake in 2012 so it isn’t all unwholesome.

So last week I tried out a recipe from BBC Good Food. It wasn’t the usual magazine; it was a Healthy Eating spin-off. I won’t copy the recipe here as that would be a breach of copyright (I am a librarian!). But it was a healthy chilli chicken recipe. If you do find the recipe then I found chipotle paste in tesco but I used a lot of the small jar they sell so I would look for a larger alternative so it would last longer. I made a slight alteration to the recipe; I used passata as both Boyo and I prefer that to chopped tomatoes and it worked out great. Follow BBC Good food on twitter @bbcgoodfood and find other tasty Mexican recipes on their website.


I also cooked a semi healthy curry using the Hairy Bikers Eat For Life Book. I really like this book, it has so many tasty things in and I plan to use it a lot more. My curry was only semi healthy as I added a chicken pakora, an onion baji and a bit of naan bread. In our defence we have not had curry for ages (apart from one night when we were on holiday) I had a day I was working at home and really enjoyed preparing something properly. It was a Madras recipe, I used beef and I had two alterations, firstly I cooked it nice and slowly, over 7 hours in the slow cooker. I had discounted beef and I find that using the slow cooker gets the best result with the meat ending up lovely and tender. Not dry and chewy. The other alteration was that I added spinach towards the end of cooking time. Just trying to get some extra nutrients in. The only other suggestion I have is that if you cook it like me with a slow cooker you may want to use a little cornflour (mixed into a paste) at the end to thicken the curry if necessary.  The Hairy Bikers are also on twitter @hairybikers and their website has a nice selection of recipes (but not this one – get the book!)

On Friday we had a proper treat, I often make something a bit more naughty on a Friday, such as my smoked haddock pasta. This time it was enchiladas. Please note this is my version, I know it is in no-way authentic and it does contain cheats (oops!) BUT it is tasty and my sister demands I cook this every time she visits, in fact sometimes she visits not to see me but just to get fed, nice to know my food is loved.

M’s Chicken Enchiladas

For 4 People.


6 soft  flour or corn tortillas. (I get whichever is cheapest but for this it is often the corn tortillas)

1 500g tub of passata (very cheap in Lidl or Aldi)

3 Chicken breasts, cut into small chunks

Cheese grated up (however much you desire, but basically enough for a sprinkle in each tortilla and some for the top)

Mexican spices. (Buy when on special offer, I got a big tub of fajita spices in The Range)

1 packet of Uncle Bens Mexican style rice. (very often on special offer, this stuff is great!)

About 150ml of boiling water.

You will also need:

a large oven dish, one such as this. I have a big glass one I use. You basically want it big enough to fit the rolled tortillas in but small enough that they will be slightly squashed together as this stops them from unrolling.

A frying pan.

And 2 bowls.


1. Put the oven on to warm up at around 200c.  Cut the chicken into smallish chunks. Warm a little oil in a frying pan over a medium flame. Cook the chicken and sprinkle over the spices. Remember the more you use the spicier the final result. I often add a few chilli flakes as well and if you wish look at the ingredients on the packet of spice and add more of the individual spices to add more flavour if you have them (eg. Garlic, chilli powder, cumin etc.) As you cook the chicken break it into even small chunks. It is a good way of checking to see how cooked it is and for the wraps later you want small pieces.

2. Pour the passata into a bowl and add some hot water. You don’t want it too thin so add the water slowly, stirring until the sauce is a nice consistency. Then add spices, the same rule as the chicken. The tomatoes neutralise the spices a bit so I’d add a fair bit. I’d say the whole sachet if using one of the sachets of spices (Old El Paso for example) or the equivalent. I know this isn’t very exact but for this you have to go with instinct and play around until you get it right according to your tastes. It is kind of fun, just be confident and go with it. Stir away until spices are mixed throughout.

3. Once the chicken is cooked get a ladleful of the sauce and a sprinkle of the grated cheese. Pour this over the chicken and leave to simmer on a low heat as you prepare the rest – think sticky sort of consistency for the sauce and chicken. Most of the sauce is for the top later.

4. Cook the rice according to instructions (usually 2 min), once it has cooked swap and put the tortillas on a plate and microwave for about 30 seconds. Meanwhile put the rice into a bowl.

5. Now we have all the components we are ready to construct. In a tortilla put a tablespoon of rice, then a spoonful of chicken, a sprinkle of cheese. Wrap then place into the dish, nice and firmly at the end. Repeat until the dish is full.

6. Pour over your sauce. Then as much cheese as you like over the top.

7. Place in the oven for 15-20 min, until the cheese has melted and you can’t wait to eat any longer! Everything has been cooked so it really is just about your patience at this point.

8. Serve. 2 tortillas each person. You will be stuffed at the end.

Other notes: This also makes super tasty leftovers. I always make one extra each for the Boyo and I and we have it next day for lunch. It feels like a real treat. You just microwave a portion for 2-3min.  For vegetables I usually quickly fry some onions, peppers and mushrooms in a bit of the fajita spice to have at the side. There is no room for them in the wraps. The Boyo really likes some jalapeno peppers with his.


Thinking about them makes me hungry! Enjoy.

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