Posts Tagged With: cheese

CCC Catchup Post

I’ve fallen a bit behind in making these posts. I somewhat hit the wall the other week, both with isolation more generally and cooking specially. Probably exacerbated by having planned a bunch of filling a warming meals and being faced with an unexpected warm weather spell. I struggled through with some nice but unadventurous pasta salads until a colleague happened to make the most amazing smelling curry and the desire for curry of my own kicked me mostly out of my cooking funk. At least enough to get a batch of sweet potato and lentil korma made and eaten.

This week, however has been much better. On Sunday, I finally got round to making a big pot of chilli, while on Monday I made a generous – if less substantial than the chilli – pot of rice. This proved to be one of my better plans, as I ended up on the road for work unexpectedly and having a quick and easy tea already to be microwaved was a life-saver – there would be no stopping off for chips on the way back from this trip.

After having hit the wall so decidedly, I decided to retrench completely and focus on making old favourite recipes. I’ve been increasingly drawn to the earlier pages in my home-made recipe book, but this week I’ve mostly been cooking from the recipe books that I haven’t looked at in years, the ones I used when I was first properly exploring my culinary passions. The rice dish I ended up making is called Melting Sunshine Rice and is both super straight-forward and super comforting. Basically cook some rice in vegetable stock and with a teaspoon of turmeric, once cooked, add a chopped pepper, a couple of spring onions, a small tin of sweet corn and about 100g of cheese, preferably edam, put the lid back on for a few minutes so the cheese gets all melty and serve. There are few things more satisfying than realising exactly what you most fancy making/eating and then discovering that you do indeed have everything you need for it in the fridge or cupboard. I tend not to keep tinned sweet corn on hand – I generally prefer frozen sweet corn – and I rarely have edam – Babybels are normally travelling snacks rather than cooking supplies – so it felt extra serendipitous that they were all there to hand.

I’d been meaning to bake properly for weeks, I’d even bought some duck eggs off a colleague with a croft, specifically for the purpose, but I kept putting it off. So after the success of my old school cooking, I dug out my Ainsley Harriott cookbook – in all it’s battered ex-library copy glory – and looked up the old faithful that is his blueberry muffin recipe. I was going to make it with raspberries as I knew I had some in the freezer, but when I went looking I found some cherries which got me thinking and somehow blueberry, coconut and lemon muffins became wholemeal cherry and almond muffins, as I had both ground and flaked almonds in the cupboard. It’s the kind of recipe that comes in three different options with tips on substitutions and encourages adventurousness, and everything came together perfectly. I haven’t made muffins in ages, and this batch reminded me why for so long they were my go-to baked goods.

Next up, another old favourite, some English muffins, though these ones get cooked on the stovetop rather than in the oven.

Categories: challenges, covid cookup | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Cheese

Apparently I’ve never made a post here about cheese. I must confess that I’m genuinely astounded because I am a little bit of a cheese-fiend. I always had a marked preference for savoury over sweet as a child and a favoured snack for my small self was cubes of cheese with slices of apple. (I spotted a friend of a friend’s toddler happily munching on that very same snack the other day, causing us all to have fond nostalgia for it, so clearly it’s a getting a baby on solids classic.) Throughout my childhood and into adulthood, I accidentally evolved into the kind of person who if they can possibly add cheese to a dish they will. On crackers, on toast, to thicken a sauce or even in soup. I love cheese. I often joke to people who, on discovering I’m a vegetarian, feel the need to check if I’m a vegan, that I couldn’t possibly give up cheese – ‘giving up meat was easy, giving up cheese, now that would be difficult’. And frankly given how often the only veggie option on offer is macaroni cheese, I’m genuinely glad I like cheese.

For reasons that don’t need explored at this juncture – it was a gift – I happen to own a set of four cheese knives, along with what I think of as a bog-standard cheese knife. (It’s quite old, I think it previously belonged to my parents, I had it as a student due to the aforementioned cheese-fiend status.) I’ve always been a bit baffled as to why there needed to be so many options – surely either cheese is soft enough that you can take a butter knife to it, or hard enough that it needs a specialist cheese knife. It appears I was wrong. Over the last few years I’ve gained a fondness for cheese from the Damn Fine Cheese company – they’re based in Dumfries & Galloway so they’ve become a seasonal treat for me – which is edam-style cheese in a variety of flavours. Theirs is definitely cheese that needs a cheese knife – in fact it was their cheese that made me get my cheese knives out of storage and caused me to bemoan my then landlady’s lack of a cheese knife, in what a dear friend of mine called: ‘the most middle-class thing I’ve ever heard you say’ – though I’ve occasionally had a bit of a fight cutting their cheese although I blamed that on my cheese knife being quite small. For some reason while cutting cheese for crackers the other day I got frustrated with the cheese adhering to the knife and grabbed one of the other options from the box. This was an utter dream, lovely thin slices peeled off the block, ready to apply to crackers.

Clearly I’ve been using the wrong cheese knife. There was only one thing for it; I needed to do some cheese knife research. What else have I been missing out on? Have I needlessly struggled with other cheese when I unknowingly had a tool in the drawer that would have simplified my life? Or could I actually pare down my collection.

Apparently the kind I think of as the ‘bog-standard’ is called a Fork Tipped Spear, good for firm cheeses and serving cheese in general. The one I’d bemoaned the smallness of is a Small Spear, also a hard cheese knife. The knife that came to my rescue was a Flat Cheese Knife which is better for softer cheeses so that fits too. But what about the other cheese knives in my box set? What should I be using them for?

Well for a start one of them isn’t actually a knife it’s a cheese fork, for serving or using like a Carving Fork to spear your older harder cheese in place while you saw chunks off. Realistically for me, it’s strength would be if I’m serving friends a cheese board over the holidays, pairing with the small spear to assist with serving. But the other one, curved like a scimitar with holes in the blade; what’s its game? Well it’s for soft sticky cheese – the camembert, cambozola and castello of the world – which I must confess I tend to only cook with, rather than put on crackers, so I tend to buy in the weight I need for the recipe and then pull apart as necessitated by the recipe. I can see the logic of that knife, even if I personally have no need for it.

I guess there’s nothing for it, there’s no point having this selection of cheese knives and never putting them to use, I need to organise a cheese and wine night for my friends!

Categories: feeling philisophical, food geekery, kitchen gadgetry | Tags: , | Leave a comment

January (and February) in 52 Ingredients

Despite my best intentions, January was something of an inauspicious start to this challenge. I only managed to cook with two new ingredients. If we’re honest, February wasn’t much better, with once again only two new ingredients being tried. That’s almost a trend, but what it also is, is steady progress so we’ll count it as a win and resolve to do better this month. Mostly during February I was finding new and pleasing ways to use up left-over sour cream – I particularly recommend putting a generous spoonful of it into broccoli soup in place of blue cheese.

The problem I’m finding with this challenge is that because I’m only cooking for one person I tend to bulk cook and if you open a jar of something for a recipe it needs to be something that you will use up before it goes off.

Yakiniku sauce
This was a great success. I tried it in various guises in stir-fries throughout January and evolved a preferred method of using it. Two thirds sauce to one third water makes a good consistency for a stir-fry sauce that coats the rest of the ingredients well. It’s a fairly mild flavour, just strong enough to give your stir-fry an unusual but pleasant flavour, without overwhelming the taste of the constituent parts. A little goes a long way when you’re me, so despite being a fairly small bottle I got quite a lot of dinner out of it. Definitely one to buy again, in a bigger bottle next time.

Mediterranean Style Cooking Cheese
Probably the best thing that can be said about this cheese is that it comes in a tub, pre-cubed and with liquid that is surprisingly effective at keeping it fresh. Unfortunately, as I was using it as a feta substitute – some places do feta in the same way but not many of them and usually I loose about a third of my packet of feta – it is disappointingly bland.

Giant Tapioca
This one is a bit of a work in progress. Last year I fell in love with Bubble Tea – hot not cold, and yes, I know, about six years behind the curve – and, on discovering Giant Tapioca at the Chinese supermarket I just had to try making my own. I suspect that my problem is that its not actually the right kind of Tapioca for Bubble Tea because every recipe I’ve followed has turned out poorly. I may have to admit defeat and just make really chunky Tapioca pudding, but in the interim…I still have hope!

Coconut Milk
No, not that kind of coconut milk. I cook with the traditional kind that you get in cans all the time. (Often enough that I know exactly where to go to buy it cheapest and consider it an essential cupboard staple.) This is the milk substitute kind, that you buy in cartons and that is mixed with rice and various other things to turn it into something that works as a substitute for cow’s milk. I’ve been trying it as a milk substitute in various home-made lattes. Particularly in my continuing attempts to master bubble tea. (I tried cooking the giant tapioca in it – that was less than successful.) I doubt it’ll ever replace cow’s milk for me, but it’s a reasonably pleasant substitute if I’m cooking for a dairy intolerant friend, and I prefer it vastly to almond milk.

Categories: 52 Ingredients, challenges | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Cooking the Book – May Edition

I hoped, that last month’s post would knock something free in my brain and I would be able to get back to cooking adventurously and writing about it. It did actually knock something loose, because I managed to hit both my targets for the month within a week of writing the post. Hooray!

I manage to combine both my challenges in one during May by baking something from my new cookbook. Technically this is a more substantial variation on a theme from a previous cookbook of hers. I’ve previously made pesto pastry puffs (and for that matter nutella puffs too) from instructions that were a side-not on another recipe – a way of using up left over pastry. This time they’re the main feature and you’re supposed to fill them with chorizo and lemongrass. I chose to make a vegetarian version picking and mixing from the alternate filling option that the recipe offered to some up with smoked cheese and sundried tomato paste puffs.
Constructing the Puffs
With the chunkier filling these are somewhat more substantial than the previous versions I’ve made, but that’s no bad thing, turning them from canapés to a light lunch. They are absolutely amazing hot, but are a bit claggy cold and don’t re-heat well so I’d recommend only making them when you’ve a few people round for nibbles to help you eat them up while they’re still warm. Either that or just make a smaller batch, or maybe a half batch each of the savoury and the sweet?
Smoked Cheese and Sundried Tomato Puffs

The second one is a bit of a cheat. I wasn’t originally going to count it, but its fun so I’m going to mention it anyway. The recipe book that I’m working through at the moment is front heavy on canapés and cocktails and the like. One of those funny little things, was making fruity icecubes for cocktails and summer drinks. As the weather was rather nice for a sizeable chunk of May – it seems a very long time ago, looking out at the June rain – I decided to try my own version with blueberries. Blueberry icecubes, I’m delighted to report, are rather tasty, though I think if I make them again, I might add a teeny amount of blue food colouring to the water to really make them pop visually. The downside of blueberry icecubes, is that if the blueberry is too close to the top of the cube and end up poking out of the water as they freeze, they sort of pop, and look like they’ve frozen mid explosion. Which is kinda comical looking, but not very appetizing if you’re serving them to someone else. There’s probably a reason the recipe suggested raspberries or strawberries.

Blueberry icecubes

Categories: bake more often, challenges, cooking the book | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment


I’ve talked about the podcast Gastropod previously over on my other blog, as part of my efforts to write more about interesting sound projects. At the time I thought, really I should save it to talk about it over here but it fitted with the theme of the post I was writing too well. However, as I’d only recently started listening to the podcast regularly, I decided to download the previous six months worth of podcasts onto my mp3 player and was slowly working through the backlog. Then one day, the other week, as I synced my player, instead of my unplayed podcasts number going down it went up: by about 50 podcasts. Some glitch in my iTunes caused it to make all the podcasts I’d listened to on my mp3 player since the last sync appear as unlistened to and every single episode of Gastropod from the last two years (including episodes I’d already listened to and deleted) to download. How? Why? Once I’d cleared out the unnecessary duplication I found I now had 30 episodes of one podcast waiting for me. I decided to make a project of it. Listen to the entire back history of the series over the month of April and blog about it!

For clarity, I should explain, Gastropod is not a cooking podcast, it’s a podcast about the science and history of food – though I recommend listening to it with snacks because I’m regularly really hungry when I finish an episode.

(The first thing I noted, having gone right back to the start of the podcast, is how British Nicola Twilley’s accent is in that episode. I knew from listening to later episodes that she had grown up in the UK, but – to me – her accent’s very American so I presumed that either she’d emigrated while still a kid or that her parents were American and she’d moved back to the states. But she mentions in the very first episode her parents teasing her about her American accent – and using her fork US-style – and when she was interviewing an English contributor her own accent got much more English. Not that that’s particularly unusual but it was rather charming to see that play out as her accent was notably more American when she was interacting with her co-host.)

Having now listened to the entire backlog of the show – they just finished the current series – I can thoroughly and unreservedly recommend the show if you enjoy podcasts and reading/hearing interesting backstories about the food and drink that we consume. It is, however, not a podcast to listen to if you’re the kind of person who likes to be able to enjoy their food in an uncomplicated fashion. While both the presenters are omnivores, they never shy away from the dark side of some of the foods they explore, whether that’s the historical or current exploitation of workers or land that has lead to popularity of certain kinds of foods becoming popular and varieties replacing each other, the problematic relationship between food/agricultural science and industrial agriculture, or animal cruelty. A sizeable chunk of their episode on the history of beef in the US explored the connections between current livestock breeding programs and the eugenics movement in the US at the start of the last century. (About half the history units that I took at university were on US history, it never touched on this at all which is disturbing not just because of the subject matter.) Personally, I love that about the show. I’m quite happy to self-describe as a bit of a foodie, but the inherent classism shown by a lot of foodies and a lot of the food theories in general circulation is deeply uncomfortable to me. It’s preferable to me that people know where the food comes from and that they understand the costs and in some cases problematic issues around particular types of food. I like being informed about what I put in my mouth and this podcast is a brilliant source for that. I’ve learned all sorts of fascinating things about food and eating and the science and history behind both of these things. For example did you know that in Ancient Mesopotamia there was a Goddess who preferred act of devotion was to be given cheese? Or the Mafia got started in the citrus growing boom in Sicily that was caused by the English Navy buying lemons in bulk to fend off scurvy? Or, for that matter, that we have bitter receptors not just as part of our taste buds but also in our gut and respiratory systems, and that scientists suspect this may be why people who don’t like bitter tastes are more predisposed to sinus infections? (I’m one of those people; I was so excited to discover that it was an actual legitimate thing!)

I’m a little biased as they did a double bill on food and sound – going clubbing or to a gig and getting that bass thump in your chest is the closest we get to experiencing sound the way a plant does – and sound is my other great passion in life, but really the show is great, it makes me want to write blog posts on the topics they write about pretty much every third episode. Go listen!

Categories: feeling philisophical, food geekery, reviews | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Unseasonal Soup Making

I came across a Billy Connelly quote the other day that seemed particularly apt, “Scotland only has two seasons: June and Winter.” And for a while there it looked like this year June had arrived without bringing Summer with it. (Seriously, it hailed last Friday.) So I’ve been making quite a lot of soup lately.

The first lot came about purely because I had some broccoli in the fridge that was looking a bit sad, so went looking for a recipe to use it up and came across a recipe for broccoli and blue cheese soup. There was a place in my hometown when I was a teenager that did an excellent cauliflower and Stilton soup, and given that I prefer broccoli to cauliflower any day of the week it seemed a good idea. So I grabbed some leeks and a pack of baking potatoes (you’re supposed to use large floury potatoes for it but the shops are rather low of potatoes that aren’t tiny at the moment so baking potatoes it was) and had at it. It turned out to be an excellent and very tasty idea and definitely one I’ll be making again and again in the future. The dollop of mascarpone is pure indulgence but does mellow the whole business out nicely. A delicious success.

It also came with instructions on making your own garlic bread, so I when I had time I ate tasty home-made garlic bread and when I was short of time I had left over fresh baguette to dunk in it. A win all round.

Brocolli & Blue Cheese Soup

Having bought potatoes and leeks, the nature of these things is that there was plenty of both left over, so I obviously made potato and leek soup. But not ordinary potato and leek soup: potato and leek vichyssoise. Yeah. It’s supposed to be made with chicken stock but have crispy pancetta sprinkled on top as a garnish. As a compromise, as I still have random pork stock cubes in the cupboard, I decided to make it with pork stock instead. This was such rubbish soup, just really bland and bleurgh? I seasoned it to heck and still it was bland weird yellowy soup. So we shall not be making that one again. Rarely does Lorraine let me down, but when she does its pretty spectacular.


Categories: being veggie | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Bake More Often: Off-List Edition

I suppose I should really stop teasing with my illusions to an epic weekend of baking and actually talk about what I made shouldn’t I?

Well, it started with Sausage Rolls, we had sausages that needed using up, and in my quest for a recipe to cook them up, I remembered that Sausage Rolls were on my list and not knowing how much puff pastry I’d need grabbed a big pack on my late night supermarket run. (For reference a 1KG pack is too much – I fed a family of three twice, plus lunch for two and still managed a one-person fake-pie for myself on the Monday night!) So having successfully managed sausage rolls, I had a dig through my recipe books in search of something to use up the rest of the pastry. I stumbled across a recipe that struck straight to my childhood nostalgia – vol-au-vents. But what to put in them? The recipe called for feta cheese and pomegranate and in my opinion vol-au-vents should be hot with an equally hot filling. Handily my mum was making ham soup so I pinched some of the meat, she made a nice white sauce and a tasty filling was born.


If I had issues about ‘proper’ baking with the sausage rolls, they were nowhere to be seen with the vol-au-vents. Perhaps it was the cutting out and construction work involved in putting them together, but they definitely felt like ‘real‘ baking. I do take a couple of issues with the recipe as written though. First up, why get rid of the inner circles? Bake them separately and they make cute little hats/lids for the vol-au-vents, judicious application of the rolling pin would doubtless resolve the overly puffed result I got. Secondly, once they’ve been in the oven it tells you to cut out the puffed up centres and discard – cut them out certainly, but they squash down easily enough under the weight of the filling, and if you really want to remove them they make a tasty treat for the peckish cook. Particularly tasty, I find, with mashed potatoes and broccoli.

Vol-Au-Vent Meal

While I had the oven on and was using up things in the fridge, I made some Spinach and Cheese (Cheddar, Parmasan and Cream-cheese to be precise) Muffins. These are an old tried and tested favourite of mine and make an excellent savoury breakfast. A wee 30 second blast in the microwave before eating re-melts the cream-cheese nicely. Handily they also cook in the oven at the same temperature as the vol-au-vents, so I was able to whip them up while the vol-au-vents were chilling/resting in the fridge and stick them both in together.

Spinach and 3 Cheese Muffins

Categories: bake more often, challenges | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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