Edinburgh Windowsill Gardening

The lack of a proper garden outside my bog standard Edinburgh apartment building led me to try my luck at windowsill gardening. If ever I needed another reason, it’s my undying love for fresh vegetables, and my disapproval of the sweaty, plastic and polystyrene-wrapped kind you get at supermarkets these days.

windowsill gardening

As much as I’d love to buy all things organic, their current classification as a “luxury item” doesn’t quite suit my graduate level salary.

Instead, I recently bought a few packets of seeds. My perfectly sized, sunny windowsill now serves as my kitchen garden. The basil and radishes I’ve got growing at the moment seem to be doing well with just a sprinkling of water every other day, and a few encouraging words now and again. My flatmate can confirm I shrieked upon seeing my basil sprout its first leaves.

It’s great fun to imagine in a few weeks time I’ll be cooking with my homegrown veg and herbs, adding a touch of flavour to my pasta. As soon as my Lithuanian sets off for America for the summer, I’ll be running to the garden centre for more seeds and a tomato planter. Him being the rational one, he’s forbidden me from buying them until I see whether my radishes and basil bear any fruit…

Unfortunately, basil and radishes aren’t quite enough for me to subsist on. So when I can, I like to support lovely, local retailers like Tattie Shaw’s, Earthy, and Real Foods all conveniently located in and around the area I live, work and play in. During weekends I enjoy nothing more than visiting Scotland’s farmers’ markets

Come Dine With Me: Student / Young Professional Edition Comes to Edinburgh

Come Dine With Me is one of the most fun ways of spending time with your friends. Our edition of the ‘show’ took place over 4 weeks in Edinburgh and saw 4 dinners hosted by myself, Mr Estonian IT Guru, Miss Latvian in Gorgie and Miss Churro (oh how amusing I find it to come up with nicknames for everyone).

If you decide to organise Come Dine With Me amongst your friends, I’d highly recommend opting for the once a week approach instead of 4-5 consecutive nights of dining in the same week. That way the whole experience will be a lot more relaxed with more time to prepare your meals and get other things checked off your to-do list. Though in our case we didn’t set any budget, it might be an idea to introduce that element for an extra challenge and to ensure no one goes over the top, particularly if you don’t know each other that well.

We’re all young and we rent accommodation so our kitchens and ‘dining rooms’ are far from being the most appropriate for hosting dinner parties. Trying to set a dinner table with mismatched cutlery and dishes proved to be quite the challenge but we all handled it well (no breakdowns reported). Eating delectable dessert off a plastic plate in a very basic student residence couldn’t in any way be called glamorous, but it really was immensely fun.

Each cook took their job very seriously and set about putting together a unique menu, but we didn’t know what we’d be served before arriving at the host’s. Over the 4 weeks we got to savour Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Indian and other flavours. With more ups than downs, all in all the food part was deemed a hit. My personal highlights were Miss Latvian in Gorgie’s apple crumble, Miss Churro’s Spanish omelette and Mr Estonian IT Guru’s blueberry cheesecake. I concocted a veggie-friendly meal with 3 dips as starters, a Mediterranean vegetable curry and Latvian strawberry mousse.

We dared to be bitchy and gave each other feedback at the end of the night, focusing on the negatives, as well as points from a scale of 1-10 as they do on the show. Needless to say we laughed… and snorted (yes, we’re a classy bunch so we are). I was ‘abused’ and told that I shouldn’t try to force my friends to become vegetarians haha (P.S. I like meat… occasionally).

Our winner is a young man who should definitely reveal his talent for cooking to the world. From the minute I walked in and saw his hand-crafted menu cards, I knew we had a winner… And the mouthwatering cheesecake totally wowed us ladies. He’s still to receive his £10 worth prize though a wee part of it is in my kitchen cupboard.

Have you ever hosted Come Dine With Me? How did it go? Any tips to recommend for someone planning to organise their own edition? Let me know.

– Miss Red

Food photos courtesy of Miss Latvian in Gorgie. Cheers!

Apple Pie Recipe – In Honour of British Pie Week

My highlight of the week was when a friend turned to me for recipe advice and deemed me her cooking guru. To me, this is a compliment of the highest calibre.

I’ve always liked helping mum prepare family meals. She’s one of those women who never seem to get anything wrong in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to learn not to mess up sometimes… But I keep trying, and so it was that on the eve of International Women’s Day I found myself preparing an apple pie in honour of British Pie Week and our office bake off.

The apple pie in all its glory

After a few successful tries last summer, I decided it was high time I baked “my” special apple pie again. Unfortunately, this time I had to make do with Tesco apples not hand-picked ones from the garden… No matter what apples you use, part of the fun is always the delicious smell wafting from the oven. Here’s the recipe if you ever fancy giving it a go. I like to think it’s a somewhat healthy desert because it uses yogurt instead of a heavy cream.

Ingredients

Shortcrust pastry (I’m lazy and use the ready-made kind)

8 Medium Apples

350ml Plain Yogurt

50ml Milk

2 Eggs

Cinnamon to taste

Sugar to taste

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Instructions

Pre-heat your oven to 200°C.

Prepare your apples by peeling them and chopping them into bite-sized pieces.

Rub a baking tin with butter and line it with the shortcrust pastry. Leave some pastry aside for decorating your pie.

Scatter the apples in the pastry-lined baking tray. Douse them in sugar and cinnamon, then give them a good stir.

Beat the yogurt, milk and eggs into a mixture. Add the vanilla extract.

Cover the apples with the milky mass.

Use the leftover pastry to make a lattice across the apple mixture. Rub the pastry with butter or egg to keep it from burning.

Bung it into the oven for 35-45mins and voila!

My flatmate Miss Bulgaria approved

Eat it on its own or enjoy it with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or custard. Delicious!

Let me know how it goes if you attempt baking “my” apple pie.

– Miss Red

Stirling Food Scene: Excellent Thai at Wilawan

Don’t let the deceptive facade fool you

Wilawan Thai Restaurant has been a Baker Street favourite since 2002, but my culinary escapades only took me there in the final month of my final semester at Stirling Uni. Shame on me! The food and service at this authentic food joint are well above the city’s average.

The restaurant’s only letdown is its unwelcoming facade but once you look past the dated signs and fittings, you’ll find a comfortable and relaxed dining room dotted with Asian artefacts. Service is prompt and friendly, and staff are well informed about the dishes on offer and how to explain foreign-sounding ingredients to clueless customers. Meals come served on traditional dishes and accompanied by a range of exotic condiments. We opted for a selection of starters including Kratong Tong (like a Thai vol-au-vent) and dim sum that were all cooked to perfection and served in generous portions. For mains we chose curries with the group’s favourite being Gang Massaman with just the right amount of spices and tender-cooked lamb. We ate our dishes with coconut rice, the perfect accompaniment. Unfortunately, we were full up and didn’t try any desserts, but settled instead for more wine that’s priced very reasonably.

Choose Wilawan Thai for special occasions. Prices range between £9 – £16 for a main course.

– Miss Red

An Ode to Scotland’s Farmers’ Markets

Food tastes best when fresh and organic. Luckily for us Scotland is home to plenty of farms that grow their own veg and rear their own prime livestock. A lot of the produce is sold at specialised markets held throughout the country. Whatever the season, visiting one is an excellent way to spend a weekend day. Most markets will have stalls selling take-away lunch foods like fresh burgers, not to mention all the friendly folk handing out free tasters. Take your pick!

Stockbridge Market

Stockbridge Farmers’ Market is particularly good for freebies

Stirling’s very own farmers’ market takes place every second Saturday of the month between 10am and 4pm on Port Street. You’ll find  a large selection of raw goods like veg and meat but also baked goods, preserves and other local goodies on offer, including some non-edibles like homemade soaps. Though not available for student friendly prices, see the opportunity to buy organic local fare as a treat. Save a few pennies over the course of the month and let yourself have a healthy splurge that will benefit the local farming community too.

Stockbridge Market

A loaf of Tesco’s Sliced White or a fresh, crusty loaf of sourdough? Hmm…

In Edinburgh, Saturdays see the farmers’ market held on Castle Terrace and on Sundays you can find it in Stockbridge next to the Water of Leith.

If you fancy venturing further afield and making a day out of a visit to a farmers’ market, the Scottish Association of Farmers’ Markets provides a comprehensive list of what’s on and where throughout the week.

Happy shopping!

– Miss Red

Homemade Bread Recipe

Homemade bread

Brunches are the best meal of the day and the ultimate reason to invite guests. And what better to offer starving visitors than a slice of warm homemade bread?

Recently I’ve hosted a couple of brunch sessions and my loaves have been a total hit. The recipe I use is loosely based around the Irish Soda Bread recipe published in The Reader’s Digest Baking Bible but I’ve adapted some of the ingredients to what was available in my pantry the day I first attempted making it.

It’s a heavy, moist loaf and goes well with both sweet and savoury toppings. The size feeds 4-6 people depending on levels of hunger.

homemade bread

Me, the happy baker in my Sunday best

Happy baking and bon appetit!

Ingredients:

350 or 400g plain flour

150 or 100g mix of oats and seeds

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

½ teaspoon of salt

310ml milk and plain/Greek yoghurt mix

fresh homemade bread

Try it with brie cheese!

  1. Preheat oven to 200ºC; grease a baking tray
  2. Sift flour, soda and salt into a bowl, add oat and seed mix, and stir
  3. Mix milk and yoghurt to form a semi-thick consistency
  4. Add milk and yoghurt mix to flour bowl; stir ingredients, knead into a ball shape
  5. Place dough ball on tray, flatten and bake for approx. 30 minutes or until the bread is a golden brown colour and sounds hollow when tapped on the base.

Impress Your Friends With Easy-to-Make Cupcakes

Last Saturday my flatmate and I hosted a lovely housewarming party and decided to treat all our guests to a whole array of snacks. My cupcakes went down a treat so I felt like sharing the recipe that I actually found online. They were easy peasy to bake so, go on, impress your friends with your kitchen skills and invite them round for a cuppa, a cake and a blether. You might want to decorate the cakes with some icing too.

The cute cake cases are a total steal from Ikea!

– Miss Red