A sideline project for an IT guy who likes to cook

Month: November 2021


Come on in, lets get you out the wind. What a night! The bins have moved as though they had legs of their own and the garden bench strewn across the lawn. Amazed we slept through the noise that bellowed up and down the blocked chimney that is just behind our bed rest.

I was about to get another sleep cycle in when the door bell went. The postman still out in these weathers. 6:50am and its pitch black out there. Made coffee for two but the boss is still sound asleep as well as the big guy. I’m amazed they didn’t hear the bell or the door being opened and closed. I almost thought I was imagining it. There was no one there when I opened the door and peered out into the black. Thankfully a couple of items in the corner put my mind at rest.

I made it into the office this week on my bike. Pitch black both ways and I’m so out of practice. Possibly the last time before the end of the year. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, the building is being packed up as another way of consolidating operating costs. We will see what the new year brings in terms of the routine, a promise of new space in the building I started at a good twenty years a go.

Food is mainly about naughtiness this week, I made a Christmas cake using the recipe of my wife’s mum (the black box), and in case we get through that I started a brandy dried fruit soak for the next one (which should have been done in October!). Also picked off the Millionaires Shortbread recipe that had been staring at me from the black box for some time. Your definitely welcome to a piece, I will abstain on this round having already had two and I feel I need a 5 mile hike before my next one!

The veg box this week was heavy, a huge turnip, sweet potato, cabbage and carrots with a few other things thrown in for good measure. It’s that time of year where the root veg are really kicking in. For some reason we have red onions coming out of ears and we might be eating turnip for weeks….I can feel a sausage, onion and turnip affair for tea this evening.

The house is starting to stir and so I will call time, another week in the bag and hopefully the madness around Black Friday will stop, and a new madness will take it’s place! Thank you for popping by.

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Natalie the Explorer that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

Ray and an Onion

Mighty Joe
Mighty Joe

If we were having coffee I’d apologise for cutting short my Ray Harryhausen update from last week….see it more as a teaser to this week’s share!

I had a friend up to stay, using the exhibition at the Modern Art Gallery as an excuse for a long overdue get together.  The exhibition started off with a brief who is Ray and how did he get into Stop Start Animation.  He went to see King Kong 31 times!  That is some commitment.  Talked through his dedication and love of technique and then worked through his various input to movies ending in the culmination of the models from Clash of the Titans and Jason & the Argonauts.  Really nice couple of hours looking at a lifetimes work of ingenuity.

We followed it with lunch in the Museum garden, a rare spot of sun cutting through the dreich days which was welcome.  Then we went to see Dune where my sons joined us.  A great treat for the eyes and the effects in stark contrast to those heady days of Fay Wray screaming from the top of the Empire State Building. It only covers half of book 1 apparently and I’m left wanting more.

Dune Trailer

On the writing front, I’ve been stretching my legs by thinking about the humble onion:

Many recipes begin with the humble onion and so it feels right that we start here.  Onions form the flavour basis of so many cooked dishes that I get nervous when we don’t have one in the fridge.  For me they are the unsung hero of a dish, a supporting actor that barely gets a mention but makes the story whole and complete.

There are many ways to chop an onion, the best is the one you feel most comfortable with.  The only instructions I got from my gran was to ’peel and slice’ it.  So that’s what I’ve done over the years.  Gradually I just got in the habit of top and tailing trying to cut as close as I could so as to not waste any at the same time as making it easier to peel.  I’d then slice it in half down the now exposed root, which will give two halves to peel.  From that point you can either slice or dice.

This modest vegetable can take you on a culinary journey, and with a tweak here and there you can jump from flavour base to flavour base.  A simple complimentary flavour through to the back bone of a stew or a curry paste. 

Work in progress which I hope to tackle over the weekend.  On the menu, it’s fairly simple I’m planning a simple cream, onion and pasta dish to aid with the writing. Possibly a roast chicken.  The idea of this weekend is just to take it easy, there’s a few moments where I will no doubt be a taxi driver for the footballer in the house, other than that a weekend of refresh is required.

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Natalie the Explorer that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

a Map or Instructions

Come on in and grab a coffee, I hope you don’t mind I’m on my second cup. We’ve just recently bought a filter coffee maker which is great for that second helping but not good for the caffeine intake!

It’s been a quick week, posted a recipe on Beetroot and Chocolate brownies (there’s still a piece left if you don’t mind it being defrosted from the freezer). I received all manner of feed back from the writing community I’m part of which fuelled my second post on the matter.

In an effort to use some of my holiday entitlement up we took Monday off to shoot the breeze, which coincided with Nigella Lawson being in town.  Thought provoking and fuel for the procrastinating wannabe writer of a cookbook.  She talked about her book, released a good year a go now.   This the start of her shortened tour to promote it, catching up due to the world events we all know about.  Aside from the first five minutes of reading from the front pages of the book she talked from the heart about food.  Taking questions from the audience via a mediator who sat at the side.

What is a recipe?  A good section in her book…..but my thinking and I’d love your thoughts on my metaphor:

Broadly and I know this is a huge simplification.  I think there are two kinds of recipe or lets call them journeys that we can go on.  There are those journeys, that follow a set timetable.  Must leave the house at 9am, to catch the 9:15 bus at the end of my street that will get me to the train station for the 10:04 to London in order for me to get there for a 3pm meeting.   This is very prescriptive set in stone, you know the specific outcome you need, miss that first bus or a connection and the plan is ruined.  Typically this is a baking recipe which has a science to it.  You can make the odd substitution a bit like several busses going from the end of my street to the train station so it doesn’t matter which bus I get on.  Take the wrong train and use a different flour and you know you might end up elsewhere.  These are the recipes you need to stick to the rules.

Then there are the journeys that are about exploring, you’ve made it to Edinburgh for the day and you ask me how to get to the castle.  I present you with a street map, more as a guide.  There are many things I don’t know about like if you’ve been here before, your energy levels or the weather on the day.  Do you want to go the scenic route, via a bookshop or pick up a coffee on the way.  I can guide you to the destination, but do you want to go to the gardens on the other side of the castle or straight up the royal mile.   The map or the recipe is really a guide or the inspiration for the destination and you don’t have to follow it by rote.  If you deviate from the path you will have a different day out, a different adventure and a different learning of your choice.  Don’t have an onion or the street is blocked you can pick up a leek and go round another way.  Bramley apples look tiny  today but the pears look special you can easily make a swap. 

Learning to cook is a journey, its about being able to read maps with a view of getting from A to B.  A recipe is essentially a vessel of knowledge, a memory of how someone took that journey before.  Although some recipes are infallible like the Swiss transport, they probably haven’t accounted for your pans, the oven you use and most of all your experience in the kitchen.  

The rest of the week, was spent ducking in and out of meetings and searching for some daylight when I could. Really starting to feel the dark come in during the day. I can be in one call and suddenly the monitors switch off as an energy saver, I’ll still be on a call and it’s at that point my face is plunged into darkness and I realise I need to switch a light on.

The weekend has been dry weather wise, and with a long time friend up for the weekend welcome as we ramble about town and visit the Ray Harryhausen exhibition. Really something in a time when CGI wasn’t even a twinkle in someone’s eye. Town is more than busy as Scotland take on South Africa at the rugby. Edinburgh feeling like it’s old self in the hustle and bustle. Although I’m keen the world moves on and I with it….I’m nervous.

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Natalie the Explorer that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.


I just recently posted a recipe for beetroot brownies and I also popped it into the writing forum I’m part of which provoked a few comments that I wasn’t expecting. I was just trying to get something out there.

The questions were generous in nature, but made me realise I’d taken something for granted in that I thought everyone knew what a beet root was.  For me they were part of my childhood and I hated them. They came out of a jar and sat on the buffet table at Christmas, all vinegary and sour. They were sliced and prized out with a fork. Extra special when they came out the jar crinkle cut, providing variety on the plate and a change in conversation along with the colour of the napkin.

They never seemed to feature in my Grandads vegetable garden so I never knew until late in life that we could buy these in bunches, typically 5 or 6 at a time, usually the same size for equal cooking time. They sometimes appear in the veg box, caked in mud, but different varieties my favourite being the golden. Once cooked and sliced in a particular way you get an amazing effect visually.

It’s only now through learning to cook that I realise this an awesome sweet root vegetable that provides many nutritional benefits. The tops providing the leaves for many of our pre packed salad bags and the strips of purple that you often find added. Then the root, a ball of purple, similar to a turnip, grown like carrots. Hardy in nature which is good for the Scottish weather.

Beetroot and Chocolate Brownie

Beetroot Brownie

This week there are two beetroot in the veg box, huge bigger than tennis balls and by some mistake we’ve doubled up on the weekly shop.  My mind immediately leaping to beetroot and chocolate as a way to cash in on the bonanza.  Beetroot adds a dense moist texture with a sweetness that means we can use a little less sugar.   This is great as a pudding served with a compote some ice cream or a spoon or two of Greek yoghurt.

Since buying a pressure cooking preparing beetroot has been a doddle.  We typically put it on the potato setting and add a little extra water.  If they are little bigger, they just need a little extra time, a nudge on the pressure dial and a couple of extra minutes. 

20×30 shallow baking tin, greased and lined with baking parchment

Oven at 180°c, 350°f or Gas Mark 4

  • Beetroot: 300g (cooked from fresh, to the point of being soft, peeled and finely grated)
  • Butter unsalted: 250g roughly cubed for melting
  • Dark chocolate: 300g broken into pieces
  • Eggs: 4
  • Caster Sugar: 250g
  • Wholemeal self-raising flour: 200g
  • Salt: a pinch of fine sea salt

Melt the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. As soon as it starts to soften, reduce the heat and add the butter.  Stir until it has melted.

Meanwhile beat the eggs and sugar together within an inch of their lives, a good five to ten mins depending on the speed of the beater.  Looking for pale light and fluffy, doubled in volume.

With the beater on slow, add the melted chocolate mix into the eggs, just looking to combine the two.  Sift the flour and salt together over the chocolate.  Adding the wheat grains back in.  Gently fold this in and when it’s nearly combined fold in the grated beetroot as well.  Don’t overwork this as we are trying to keep the air in the mixture.

Scoop the mixture into the lined tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, remember this will carry on cooking when you take out the oven and we want them to stay moist. 

Leave to cool in its tin on a wire rack, before cutting into squares.

No lie in

We both woke at alarm time this morning without the alarm! It’s like a law of physics, when you don’t need to get up you can’t sleep and then when you do need to get up you can’t.   If it had been a school day we’d have been flat out.  Both in need of that extra hour to refresh.  It’s elusive and for no reason.

We decide to get up and make the best of the dry morning the rain is due around 11, in search of a second coffee perhaps something to go alongside.  We end up at old haunt, nothing taking our fancy on the way.  Soderberg, a Swedish bakery and we know we won’t be disappointed from an eats point of view.  The coffee is good just not big enough.  The service slow, it’s ok there is no rush today.

We swung by the bookshop, I was hoping to check out the new book by Anja Dunk, Advent.  Unfortunately not in stock.  I was also hoping to pick up some wheat gluten, which I’d checked on line to see if the store sold it.  Again though not in stock.  So not very successful.  Then the rain came, with a howling wind to the bite we didn’t hang around.

Back home pre lunch is unusual on a Saturday and I as watch the leaves dance on the wind, the rain at a diagonal with the wind crashing against the windows I’m glad I can stay in the rest of the day.

Dinner this evening is already in the bag, I made a slow cook aubergine and lamb stew Thursday evening so I’m hunting around for a dessert to perhaps fill my time.  The trouble is it will come with a bout of guilt.  There is a tub of sour cream in the fridge crying out to be used and I’m wondering about a cheesecake recipe and wondering if I’d be able to freeze half.  I feel I’ve left it too late in terms of cooling down.  The veg box came with a couple of beetroots almost the size of foot balls so I feel a chocolate beetroot combo might be the way to go.

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Natalie the Explorer that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

Cold Brisk Walk

At about nine last night as we were sitting down for our hour of TV for bed a moment fo dread came over me as I realised I’d not been out all day.  Caught up in work, my thoughts and organising I’d failed to make sure my eyes saw something more than four walls.

Woke in the middle of the night a frequent occurrence, probably related to my lack of external light intake and the whirring in my brain.  I flipped on the radio to help and came across a great little programme on food and the small changes we can make.

One small changeThe Food Chain Your stories of small, achievable changes around food to help the environment.

BBC Sounds – World Service

Thankfully this morning I’m able to make light a priority, a dry morning, crisp and cold.  The cars covered in what looks to be the regular arrival of the frost for the season.  I made it up Blackford Hill, catching the sun as it arrived for the day.  A good round trip of forty or so minutes and I’m feeling better for it.

Right here is…

Keyboard and Fork

I’ve got the words of Debbie Allen in my head as she plays Lydia Gray in Fame….’right here is where you start paying; in sweat.’ …..it plays out as I think about NanoPoblamo21..and the whole post a blog entry every day and I think about the goal to pull a cookbook together, it’s a dream, so I need to start the work and get on with it!

More a reflective ramble  as I try to get back into the habit of writing daily.  I’ve been skirting around the edges for a few days, perhaps weeks if I think about it honestly.  I already feel like I’ve lost the month despite it only being the 3rd.  The things I’ve written never whole in nature.  I dabble with my thinking in OneNote and then share as and when required.   The ideas have been building up and I really want to start shaping the structure of these thoughts.

I also dabbled on Facebook today with a page to share posts on moving forward Scribble & Scran on Facebook, think it needs a few likes to make it real.

One recipe to Rule them all

One Stock A Hundred Soups

Came across this book on my travels over the weekend, kind of aligned to some of my thinking on a couple of recipe spreads.  My thinking that from the basis of an onion you have the foundation for a great many things.  Soup, stews and curries.

This book has the premise that from one stock you have the basis for a number of soups.  On deeper reading, a cup of coffee in hand.  I can see the quantities jump around and the stock is more a pre-requisite to the different recipe.  My thinking is a little different in that the onion will be part and parcel of the recipe…..no discards. Not that I won’t give the recipes a go in this book and learn.

Onion, 2 carrots, 2 sticks of celery and away we go….

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