Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Australia Day Anzac biscuits

I love Anzac biscuits - they're so quick and easy to make. They were originally made for ANZAC soldiers in WW1, sent by their families who, under rationing, came up with these tasty biscuits without having to use any eggs. The biscuits can be chewy or crunchy, depending on how much golden syrup you add and how long you leave them in the oven. I think nearly every Australian kid that did home economics at school has made these and they're one of the few things I can make without looking at a recipe. They're full of coconut and oats and pretty much anything can be added to them - I like to add slivered almonds and dried apricots. As it's Australia Day, I thought I'd whip a batch up - about 5 minutes to mix and 10 minutes to bake makes for a perfect quick-fix biscuit snack!

Anzacs in the biscuit tin

Anzac biscuits
makes approx 20

1 cup plain flour
1 cup porridge oats (quick cook oats will make them chewier if you prefer)
1 cup dessicated coconut
1 cup caster sugar
100g butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
2 tbsp boiling water

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan force and mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl; make a well in the middle
2. Melt the butter in a saucepan and then add the golden syrup
3. Dissolve the bicarb soda in the boiling water, stir into the melted butter and syrup. This will bubble up a bit and is normal
4. Stir the melted butter and bicarb mixture into the dry ingredients to form the dough
5. Roll the mix into small tablespoon sized balls and put onto a greased and lined baking tray. Flatten the balls slightly and allow some room for the biscuits to spread
6. Bake in batches for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Let cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes then transfer to wire rack and enjoy!

This versatile mix lends itself to different variations - add a handful chocolate chips, dried cranberries, sultanas, slivered almonds, ground almonds, macadamia nuts, sifted cocoa or whatever you come up with to the dry ingredients mix in Step 1. Soft brown sugar can be used instead of caster sugar and wholemeal flour can be used instead of white flour which will give a chewier biscuit. If you would like a crunchier biscuit, add 1 extra tbsp of golden syrup but be warned that these will spread out a bit more too.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Burns Supper: Haggis and Whisky Pie

Fair fa' your honest sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye take your place,
Painch, tripe or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.
Address to a Haggis

The 25th of January is Robert Burns Day. This will be my first Burns Supper in Scotland and I think it's amazing that people all over Scotland will be celebrating the renowned poet. Haggis is traditionally served at a Burns Supper and is the most famous of Scotland's dishes - and for good reason, it's delicious. At a formal Burns Supper it is served as the main dish with bashed neeps and tatties and the above poem, "Address to a Haggis", is recited. It is tasty but if you're not a fan of offal it may not be for you - it consists of sheep's heart, liver and lungs, mixed with onion, oatmeal and spices. Haggis would be cooked in a sheep's stomach or intestines traditionally, but these days can also be in a synthetic skin. For the squeamish, it's vegetarian cousin uses the same spices but has lentils instead of offal and is also delicious. I bought my haggis from Crombies on Broughton Street, an excellent butcher's whose sausages and pies also come highly recommended. 

This is an alternative way of eating haggis and this simple recipe combines it with whisky, mushrooms and bacon in tasty pie for and also a good way of using up leftover haggis. I first made this for an international pie competition (that other Scottish option of macaroni pie was thoroughly vetoed), finding it on and have enjoyed baking it since then - it's a very straightforward recipe and easy to make. You should of course serve with bashed neeps and tatties. Here are some other Burns Supper ideas - including a delicious sounding whisky gravy which would go perfectly with this pie.

Haggis, Mushroom and Whisky Pie
Serves 6

1 tablespoon of oil
1 onion, finely diced
250g unsmoked bacon, diced
250g button mushrooms, sliced
450g haggis
150mL chicken stock
4tbsp Scotch whisky
500g shortcrust pastry - I use this recipe or you can use ready made

1 beaten egg or milk to glaze


1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the bacon and onions and cook for 6-8 minutes until golden.
2. Add the mushrooms and cook for a further 2-3 minutes
3. Remove the haggis from it's casing, slice and stir into the bacon mixture with the stock and whisky
4. Cook for 2-3 minutes then allow the mixture to cool.
5. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6
6. Cut the pastry in half and roll out on portion on a lightly floured surface and use to line a round pie dish approximately 23cm in diameter.
7. Spoon the cooled haggis mixture into the centre.
8. Roll out the remaining pastry and use to top the pie, moistening the edges to ensure a complete seal.
9. Use pastry trimmings to decorate the pie.
10. Brush with beaten egg or milk to glaze and bake in the pre-heated oven for approximately 35 minutes, until golden.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Weekend Brunch: Porto and Fi, Newhaven

Brunch can mean different things to different people. When Marge Simpson innocently enquires as to what brunch is, her French fancy man Jacques replies: "It's not quite breakfast, it's not quite lunch but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end. You don't get completely what you would at breakfast, but you get a good meal!" A teacher friend told me about overhearing some girls in his class at Broughton Primary discussing what brunch is exactly - they decided that brunch is just breakfast but with chips. For me, brunch is sometime on a Sunday between 10am and 3pm, somewhere with an all day breakfast menu and involves orange juice, a coffee and the weekend papers. I'm very lucky that one of the closest places for me to go for brunch is also one of my favourites, Porto and Fi in Newhaven. Located by the Newhaven Harbour, there's beautiful views of the lighthouse and across to Fife.

Brunch times at Porto and Fi are 8am til 12pm on Saturday and all day on Sunday (10am til 6pm). The brunches are incredibly popular but the service rarely suffers for it, nor does it ever feel crowded. It's a great place to nurse a hangover (their bacon rolls are perfect for this) or to start off a healthy weekend (porridge and yoghurt with granola) and everything in between. My favourite is an eggs benedict with smoked salmon (£6.35) and they happily accommodate fusspots like me who want the hollandaise sauce on the side. I find poached eggs quite rich anyway and I like to dip away at the sauce, which has an excellent lemony taste and consistency. Other specialties are french toast with bacon and maple syrup (£6.95), scrambled eggs and parma ham on toast (£6.45) and a black pudding and tomato roll (£3.45). There's also good old croissants and toast with jam on the menu too. There are some rather excellent drinks available - smoothies, Bundaberg ginger beer, Luscombe juices and coke floats! Hangover bliss. They're also licensed and often have specialty beers available.

Porto and Fi have a fantastic main menu too, separated into Light Bites and Usual Suspects. The light bites range are all fairly substantial, and the mains are divided into sections From the Sea, Butcher's Choice and Standards. All of the mains are available for £5.95 as smaller portions. Highlights from the main menu are the fish and chips - fresh fish goujons with curly fries served in a pail and the chicken ciabatta which comes with crazy amounts of coleslaw and salad.

For afters there is a wide selection of yummy traybakes and cakes - specialties are their chocolate & beetroot cake and the banana tart. A small selection of organic and specialty foods is available downstairs and you can order hampers for a wee picnic - all part of Porto and Fi's local charm.

Porto & Fi on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Edinburgh Cakes: Loopy Lorna's, Bibi's and Mimi's

Oops. Due to a terminal lack of time before Christmas I have been quite a while without blogging. I have been thinking about and eating a lot of food though, and that's nearly just as good. Specifically, I have been eating lots of cake and here are some reviews and pics from three cake places which opened last year in Edinburgh: Loopy Lorna's Tea House second branch in Morningside, Bibi's Bakery on Hanover Street and Mimi's Bakehouse on the Shore in Leith. These are all big beautiful cakes and cupcakes, laden with frosting - no shy fairy cakes with drippy down icing to be found here.

Cake selection at Loopy Lorna's

The second Loopy Lorna's opened last summer on the ground floor of the Church Hill Theatre. It is a girly but grand kind of place - the floor is pretty printed grass, the space is light and airy with the wood panelling of the theatre not letting the girliness go overboard. A clown called Mrs Mash comes to entertain kids and they have cupcake quizzes - this is yummy mummy territory and kids are happily welcomed. It is still a palace of tea and all of the teapots come with sweet handknitted cosies.

There's a breakfast & lunch menu, afternoon tea, and a tea menu which is extensive without being overwhelming. At the counter is a huge display of towering cakes, luscious traybakes, biscuits and cupcakes too. Everything looks very tempting and I decided to try the summery sounding pineapple coconut cake. This was a sponge heavy with desiccated coconut and piled high with fluffy sunshine yellow pineapple icing. Impressive looking but sadly the sponge was rather dry and although it was tasty, the huge amounts of icing made the experience slightly sickly. I think I just picked the wrong thing though as my dining companions had much more luck with their choices - scones with cream and jam, and an Aero traybake slice. The scones were light, fluffy and deliciously freshly baked and the Aero slice was amazingly good - a chocolatey biscuity base with a creamy mint middle and chocolate and chunks of Aero on top - everyone was jealous of this choice! There is a huge choice available at Loopy Lorna's so you'll certainly find something you'll be satisfied with, even if like me, you're not a fan of large amounts of frosting. Next time I might try a piece of this beauty - one of the most magnificent sponge cakes I've ever seen!

Mega-Sponge at Loopy Lorna's

Bibi's Bakery is a small boutique bakery specialising in cupcakes and brownies. The Hanover Street location is their second branch, having originally opened in St Andrews. Beautifully decorated cupcakes are displayed in their elegant shop front and you can see their bakers hard at work through the window on Rose Street. There's no space to stop so you get to take them home to enjoy at your leisure (or nibble on whilst you are out and about).

Bibi's Bakery cupcakes

All cupcakes and brownies at Bibi's are a very reasonable £1.50. The flavours range from regular victoria sponge, lemon, double chocolate to the more exotic cookies and cream, red velvet, hazelnut latte and blueberry cream cheese, all of them laden with beautifully piped icing. There are always a few different brownie flavours available too - a cranberry & white chocolate flavour was available on my visit. The cupcakes I tried were gorgeous and moist - again, just a leetle bit too much icing for my tastes. I also had a brownie and I really enjoyed this, more so than the cupcakes even. The quality of the chocolate in the brownie could be tasted in every bite - highly recommended! Bibi's also stock cake decorating accessories in store and if you are so inspired, hold cupcake decorating classes. An evening class of 2 hours costs £25 which is great value, a day class can cost £125 and includes extra goodies. You can also pre-order to pick them up for a party or present.

Mimi's Bakehouse and it's gloriously large cake portions

Last on the cake round up is Mimi's, on the Shore in Leith, which is an all round fabulous place to eat. We visited one snowy weekend and were muchly cheered by the hearty food menu - luxury stovies, hot pots, sandwiches you actually want to try, savoury tarts and quesadillas. It's a lovely place to sit down with a cuppa and have a meal - very sophisticated decor of pale blue and black, with the occasional burlesque lady illustrated very tastefully on the walls, and specials written in chalk by the cake selections. And there are some super special cakes here - lamingtons, colourful battenberg, pavlova, whoopie pies - it's great to see these inventive choices, alongside traditional favourites with a twist like carrot and lime cake. I had a very filling roast pork and apple chutney sandwich with crisps and salad and took home a carrot and lime cake and a strawberry meringue to enjoy for afters. The meringue tasted as good as it looked:

The carrot cake was also delicious - dense but still light and with a real lime flavour. I am very keen to go back for an afternoon tea there - you can BYO for a small fee so a very cheap champagne afternoon tea is on the cards sometime soon. They also do cakes to order - I've already signed my boyfriend up to the cake club. Mimi's really have a quality and creativity in their baking which makes it stand out a bit from the others - all of them serve excellent cakes but Mimi's is exceptional baking by any standards.