Friday, 22 October 2010

Home-made Gnocchi - My First Attempt

Well tonight's little adventure began with a rather messy kitchen and a rather grumpy Susie.   But after a bit of washing and cleaning i tackled a first for me - home made gnocchi.  I used a recipe i found on the net and decided I'd stick to it to see how it went - unlike me as i'm not very good at following recipes to the letter.  I always make them a bit more tasty i reckon!

The recipe was as follows: 2 baking potatoes, 2 egg yolks, almost 2 cups of flour, salt

I love it - the amounts are almost as exact as in my recipes!  Basically you want the potatoes cooked and mashed really really fine (i used a potato ricer) and while they are still warm you add the egg yolks and flour to form a dough that is neither too sticky or too firm. (i had to keep adding flour until it was no longer too sticky so i have no idea how much i actually used in the end, sorry.) I baked the potatoes then scooped put the fluffy insides, as apparently you don't want them too moist which can happen if you boil them.

Then you split the dough into smaller pieces, roll them into long sausages, and then slice them into gnocchi sized pieces.

Drop them into boiling salted water, and once they float to the surface boil for another minute then drain and serve with your favourite sauce.  Yum!

Ideas for improving?  Adding one of the following: nutmeg, garlic salt, crushed black pepper, parmesan, herbs.  Will try some of these soon for sure!

Hot Dogs NYC Style

I like a drunken munch as much as anyone, so East Village, New York, with it’s wealth of late night eateries is the place for me.  So after a few drinks and a climb up a very tall, and very famous building, we decided we would head to a wee hot dog place we’d read about in our “Things to do in New York” book.  Crif Dogs on St Marks Place is a tiny wee blink and you’ll miss it place down a small flight of steps.  The deal is hotdogs, with a huge choice of toppings.  Leaving New York without taking in a dog or two seems criminal and this sounded like a bit more than your usual street vendor fare.  

We spent ages deciding.  In the end i opted for the rather luxurious and rather fattening dog wrapped in bacon with chilli con carne and coleslaw, and Del for the bacon wrapped dog with Teryaki sauce, spring onions and pineapple.  As you’ll see from the pic – amazing!!  Very good value too – and they sell beer.  Plus if you’re wondering why people hang around outside of and keep disappearing into the old fashioned phone booth, I’ve been told there is a rather swanky cocktail bar hidden inside. Go try!

Courgette and Rosemary Soup - Delicious and Healthy!

I always like the idea of courgettes, but to me the reality always seems a little dull and bland.  Trying to eat a wee bit healthier at the moment though so trying to vary me vegetable intake and last night was the turn of the courgette.

After trying something similar in Scott’s of Troon at the weekend I decided to try and make some of this myself.  Delicious and healthy I reckon – if a wee bit green!

3 large courgettes (sliced)
2 medium potatoes (peeled and chopped)
2 medium onions (chopped)
Teaspoon of crushed garlic
Sprig of rosemary (chopped)
Chicken stock (made with 2 stock cubes)
Salt, pepper and sugar to season.
(You could add cream at the end...but i didn't)

 I used my griddle pan to char the sliced courgettes.  I hoped that this would add a bit of flavour to what can otherwise be a slightly tasteless vegetable.  While I did this I sweated off the onion until beginning to get brown and sweet, then added the garlic.   I then added all the rest of the ingredients, brought to the boil, and let it simmer for 20 minutes or so (till the potato was soft).  Then I used my hand blender to blend it all till smooth.  Et voila.....

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Breakfast at Tiffanys

If there’s one thing the Americans do well, it’s breakfast.  Think of those pancakes, those fried potatoes, omlettes, and the amazing spice and flavour of the mexican inspired dishes.  In the UK, and as a non-morning person, my options seem pretty limited.  Who has time to cook before work?  Just now it seems to be yoghurt with nuts and seeds for me.  Pretty boring after a while.  Or there’s the delicate deliciousness of the Scottish fry up – sausage (square of course), bacon, egg, tattie scone, black pudding, beans and toast.  I agree that on the odd occasion there’s nothing better, but really, who can eat this on a regular basis without seriously worrying about their health?

In New York though it’s not so much Breakfast at Tiffany’s as brunch!  I am reliably informed that Brunch is the big thing for New Yorkers.  I have mixed feelings about this.  I like that brunch affords more variety and choice than perhaps breakfast alone.  It’s a kind of crossover, so things that might seem unacceptable at breakfast become fine for brunch.  Let’s take for example our trip to the place of the moment to go for brunch in the East Village – Prune.   Who would ever have thought that spaghetti carbonara would be a sensible brunch option, but there it was.  I opted for the slightly fattening but uber tasty ham and cheese sandwich dipped in egg and deep fried, with two fried eggs and a pot of redcurrant jelly on the side.  Num num num!  If you can be bothered to wait on the “sidewalk” for over an hour for a table, and pay the rather inflated prices, then I’d recommend a trip to Prune.  Apparently they do the best Bloody Mary’s in town...but doesn’t everywhere??

My main gripe with the whole brunch thing is that it essentially involves skipping a meal, and what sane person would ever want to do that?

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


I really must try making this stuff as there’s something so satisfying and tasty about it.  Got a bag on special in Tesco recently.  Other half was working so I was cooking for one.  Made a scrummy cherry tomato and mascarapone sauce which was to die for.  Easy recipe, which i zooped up with some sliced chorizo for round 2 the next night.

Cherry Tomato and Mascarapone Sauce (For one)

Small onion (chopped)
1 garlic clove (chopped)
Handful of cherry tomatoes (most sliced leaving 3 or 4 whole)
½ tsp tomato puree
Glug of white wine
2 heaped tbsp mascarapone cheese
Drizzle Balsamic Vinegar
Pinch sugar and salt to taste
Torn basil leaves to serve

Fry onion till softened, add sliced tomatoes and garlic and fry for another minute or 2, add wine and bring to boil, add mascarapone cheese, tomato puree, sugar and salt to taste and whole cherry tomatoes.  Simmer for  a few minutes adding water if it is reducing too much.  Add Basil and mix with Gnocchi.  Serve with grated parmesan cheese. Yum!

Did anyone happen to see the Nigella Lawson programme very recently where she shallow fried the gnocchi till it was all golden brown and crispy and served it with lamb steaks with port gravy.  She called them Rapid Roastini.  Check them out here.  I will definately be making these soon.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Curry on a budget

I have a pretty well stocked spice rack (it's a spice drawer actually) – owing massively to several trips to a local asian supermarket.  If you are at all interested in saving money i’d recommend this, as decent sized bags of spices of every description can be bought at a much lower cost that a tiny glass jar or refill pack from a supermarket.  I borrowed a curry cookbook – The Curry Bible from Marks and Spencer in fact – and was a bit concerned at the long lists of ingredients needed for recipes.  I’ve found though that once that initial layout has been paid then i have the ingredients to make pretty much any curry i want from the book.  So now curry for us is a budget meal, and can be made using anything that’s around the kitchen, chicken, lamb, mince, veg (frozen and fresh), canned tomatoes and chickpeas, coconut milk etc etc.  Friday night saw me making a quick an inexpensive chickpea curry a la ready steady cook, using up storecupboard and freezer ingredients. It was delicious and cheap – what else would you want!

Easy Chickpea Curry (Serves 2)

Can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
Can chopped tomatoes
Tsp turmeric
Tsp Chilli Powder
2 small onions (2 diced 1 sliced)
Tsp frozen diced garlic
Frozen peppers
Frozen green beans
Tsp Garam Masala
Stock cube (veg or chicken)
Tbsp Vegetable oil (for frying)
salt, pepper and sugar to taste.

Fry diced onion for a few minutes until browning, add garlic and fry for another minute, add turmeric and chilli powder and stir.  Add tomatoes, sliced onions, peppers , green beans, chickpeas, stock cube and water to desired consistency  and bring to a simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.  Add garam masala, leave for couple of minutes, season, then serve. 

Bacco Italia, Shawlands, Glasgow

I love Italian food, though seeing myself as a bit of a culinary wiz when it comes to cooking it, I actually rarely eat it when we go out for dinner.  So, for me to visit the same Italian restaurant twice in two days surely must say something good about the place.  Bacco Italia has been on Kilmarnock Road  in Shawlands for a good few years now.  There’s quite stiff competition in the form of Bella Napoli just a few doors up, but my friend and I were tempted in by the seemingly good value daily lunch deal. £7.95 for two courses and a soft drink seemed like a pretty good prospect on a Saturday afternoon.  

The choices were pretty good.  I opted for the goats cheese and grilled peppers, which came with some nice fresh salad and a balsamic reduction.  Extremely tasty, and pretty filling for a starter.  My friend had the bruschetta – and what a bruschetta it was!!  Huge slab of tasty bread, loads of fresh tomatoes and basil and some sliced salami. For our main we both had the Pasta Aurora.  Lovely al dente Casarecce pasta  in a delicious creamy tomato sauce.  Unfortunately we forgot the soft drinks in our bid for more wine!  Disappointingly, and perhaps irresponsibly, the waiter didn’t offer these to us.  Perhaps my hangover the next day may not have been so bad had he done so – though i doubt it.  One glass of orange juice doesn’t do much when your 3 bottles of wine down!  

Perhaps the hangover and resulting need for food explains why my other half and I decided to make another visit the following day.  Or perhaps I’d talked it up so much he was itching to go.  Either way, down we went for my round number 2.  Couldn’t resist the bruschetta (as tasty as it looked) and my other half had smoked salmon with prawns which he said was pretty good. For main I had the risotto, with tomatoes and Italian sausage.  The sausage was absolutely delicious!  Opted for the soft drinks this time though!
I’d recommend a visit here for a nice lazy lunch.  The staff were very friendly (although one waiter was prancing about in shades for some reason at one point) and the food was top notch for the price. ( )

The Cuban Sandwich

Been doing a bit of reading about this absolute morsel of deliciousness.  The Cuban sandwich was created in Florida in cafes feeding Cuban immigrant workers.  It’s a tasty variation of the ham and cheese sandwich – with roast pork, ham, swiss cheese and slices of till pickle served in Cuban bread.  I think i first tried it the first time i visited New York, but this time we sought out what was rumoured to be the best Cuban sandwich in all of Manhattan.  Quite a claim.  The place was called Cafe Habana ( ) and took a wee bit of finding, which was pretty unpleasant in the torrential rain that decided to go non stop that day!  But i can assure you it was 100% worth it and i’m so glad we made the effort.  Looking over the menu was torture, of course we had to have the Cuban sandwich, it was what we’d come for, but mmmmmmmmmm.  The chicken Diablo Sandwich with sliced “blackened” chicken breast, roasted peppers, mesculin and chipotle mayo sounded like heaven, the Quesidillas amazing, and the sincronozada...num num num!!

We opted though for the Cuban -  Roast Pork, ham, swiss cheese and pickles on toasted Cuban bread.  It did not disappoint.  The flaked roast pork was so moist that the juices ran out of it when you bit into it.  What a revelation!  We also tried a side of the grilled corn which we’d heard was also fabulous, and is also available to take away on a stick.  The waitress brought out two large corn cobs, slightly blackened by the grill lending a lovely smoky flavour i’d never had with corn before, but to make things even better it had been rolled in mayonnaise, lime, chilli powder and cheese.  I cannot begin to tell you how nice this was.  But if you are ever in New York – go try this!  And bring some back for me! 

NB  The pics here are taken from the Cafe Habana website.  We were too busy stuffing our faces to think of photography!

Monday, 18 October 2010

New York – A food lover's heaven!

We’re very recently back from what can only be described as a gastro-trip to NYC.  What a place for the lover of fine food – funnily enough, we had a ball!  There’s too much to describe and do justice to in one single post so i’ll split it up a bit over the coming weeks, perhaps by cuisine type (as we had so many!!).

Stayed in the East Village with my lovely cousin, which as it turns out is a budget foodies heaven.  What a choice there was!

Besides the food New York is a wonderful place.  I’d been before, last year, but felt compelled to go again as it left such a huge impression on me.  It’s hard to describe what I mean, but there is something almost tangible about the city.  It has such a strong and vibrant atmosphere that every time I saw pictures on TV or in films, or heard songs about it, it took me right back to being there and I could almost feel it again.  I’ve been in loads of big cities around the globe, and none have had this effect on me.  No wonder people return again and again and again.

We did all the usual tourist stuff – you just have to don’t you.  There are few things more amazing than standing on top of that skyscraper looking out over one of the most iconic skylines in the world.  Breathtaking! 
If you haven’t been yet, you simply must!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Pasta - a budget's best friend!

I love pasta – it is hands down my favourite kind of food.  I’d happily eat it every other night for the rest of my life.  Had a lovely pasta last night – so fresh tasting and cheap!  We are on a money saving drive right now.  I’ve been put on a tight budget.  And pasta is the perfect budget food i reckon.  Here’s what i did (and excuse the confusing amounts – i don’t measure very well!)

Spicy Tomato and Smoked Bacon Pasta Sauce (For 2 – 3)

Can chopped tomatoes
Tablespoon tomato puree
2 large cloves garlic chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for frying and drizzle for serving
3 rashers smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 onion (finely chopped)
Large glass of white wine
2 red chillies sliced (1 with seeds removed)
¼ teaspoon sugar
Ripped fresh basil leaves
Salt and generous amount of course ground black pepper

Fry chopped onion for 1 minute in olive oil, add streaky bacon and fry till cooked, add garlic and 1 chilli with seeds fry for further 30 seconds and then add wine and bring to boil.  After 30 seconds add tomatoes, puree and sugar.  Simmer for 5 minutes then add remaining chilli, and salt, pepper and basil to taste.  Add a generous glug of olive oil and serve over your favourite pasta. Mmmmm.  Extra tasty with fresh grated parmesan, chopped parsley and a pinch of extra black pepper.