November is always a tough month. Darker, cooler and always a little harder to motivate the children to get out of the house on time for school. The official Christmas lights ceremony in Edinburgh is on 17th November so that’s a little boost for the family to cheer them up (although many die hard oldies are furious that Christmas seems to be starting earlier each year). This year we’ll have the ice sculptures on George Street open from 10am to 10pm so very much a family event worth taking the children to. With the Christmas markets in East Princes Street market next to The Scottish Cafe and the ice rink will be returning to St Andrew’s Square. Something for everyone all around the city.
To help fund all the family activities never mind the Christmas gifts cheap, hearty, filling and easy dishes are vital to keep the family going. A huge pot of soup and some homemade bread are great places to start to help save some money. My mother always fed us soup as it filled us up and for each extra children she has (I was number 8) all she needed was an extra ladle of water to spin out the pot. Nothing changes we all need a few tricks up our sleeve to make something tasty without breaking the bank. It is hard always coming up with new ideas that you know everyone will like. Often the problem is the favourites are favourites and it’s hard to get them to try something else. My girls love sausages – any kind of sausages so when I’ve been able to hide the beans; pan fried greens with left over baby potatoes and a bit of garlic and dried chilli works really well with a spicy sausage. An omelette with a chopped parsley and leftover potatoes is always a winner. Being creative with leftovers is as important in managing a budget as choosing frugal ingredients. Spices, fresh herbs from your window sill all add incredible cheap thrills. The one ingredient please that I don’t want you to skimp on is extra virgin olive oil. A spoonful to finish a dish adds flavour and well being and it’s value can’t be underestimated. Last month we made a huge decision at The Scottish Cafe & Restaurant at the Scottish National Gallery. We changed a key store cupboard ingredient. We stopped using cold pressed rapeseed oil and moved to extra virgin olive oil, an oil made by our family in Italy, I’Ciacca. The new season oil was pressed on 25th of October and we’re expecting the delivery by the end of this month. While this oil is not Scottish although it has an Italian Scottish heritage it is sustainable, full of flavour and we feel delivers just a little extra elegance to our cooking. Come and try and let us know what you think. The earthiness has been substituted with the fruitiness of the olives and we’re loving it. We very much hope you do to.
Italian Scotch Broth
A traditional broth with a heavenly finishing touch a little pesto with good oil and pungent herbs and you’ll have a winning combination fit for any festival.
200g of dried pearl barley
200g of dried mixed beans, soaked overnight in plenty of cold water
carrots, washed, peeled and chopped
1 baby turnips, washed, peeled and chopped
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, trimmed, washed and chopped
200g of curly kale, washed and chopped
2 litres of hot mutton or vegetable stock
Garlic & Parsley Pesto
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon of salt
2 handfuls of flat leaf parsley leaves finely chopped
3 tablespoons of extra virgin oil
Rinse the beans in fresh water, add to pot of cold water and then bring to the boil
Drain the beans.
In a separate pot bring the stock to the boil and reduce the temperature to a simmer. Add the beans with the barley
Add all the vegetables, but not the kale.
Simmer for at least 1 hour until the beans are tender
Add the chopped kale, cook for another 10 minutes until the kale has dissolved and the soup looks thick.
Check the seasoning
Finally cream the remaining pesto ingredients using a pestle and mortar. Use the oil to obtain a lovely smooth consistency. Add a tablespoon to the soup just before you serve.
Soda Bread bread
This version of soda bread is simple and tasty. It’s much cheaper than an artisan loaf from a fancy bakery and has a great deal of self respect when served with lashing of unsalted butter or dipped into good olive oil – that always works too.
180g of plain flour
180g of wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
300 ml of buttermilk
10g of butter, melted
Sieve all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and form a well in the middle
pour the butter and buttermilk into the well and mix all the ingredients together
the mixture should be dry enough to handle
kneed for a few minutes until all the ingredients are incorporated
form into a circle and flatten slightly
cut a cross on the top of the bread and brush with milk
bake at 200’C for about 30 minutes until golden and hollow when you tap the bottom
cool on a wire cooling tray
Baked Potatoes with Sour Cream, avocado and Chillies
And when you’re looking for a great value cosy filler this is a winner
1 x baked potato
2 x tablespoons sour cream
2 x tablespoons grated cheddar
1 x green chilli , deseeded and sliced
1 x avocado, mashed
Small Handful of fresh coriander chopped
1 x fresh lime
A baked potato washed, skin on, with a few fork marks on the skin and placed on a baking sheet will take about 50 – 60 mins at gas mark 7.
Cut the cooked baked potato in half and season with a little salt add the grated cheese
Top with the avocado then the sour cream
Sprinkle the chilli and coriander and then serve with a wedge of lemon