Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Ox Tail Pie.

In the spirit of total honesty and full disclosure I should probably admit that I am currently procrastinating. I am only 3,000 words in the 18,000 that I need to write before the 3rd April. Having had a productive day yesterday I have now lost the element of fear and consequently so far today have only got as far as opening a word document. Why is it that the subject of oxtail pie seems so much more intrinsically important to my life the a study of Pitt the Younger in political satire?

I have spent the last four years at university bemoaning my degree. Wondering whether it has been a glorious waste of money and a huge self indulgence, putting of facing the real world. In the only state that your parents will ever be proud of you for being unemployed and simultaneously running up huge debts. But now as I am about to set out into the abyss otherwise none as adult life and rip off the plaster of denial, I am beginning to assess with a less embittered sense of academic boredom the value of my university education. I say university education as I believe I have grown as much as an individual as a result of the time spent at university as I have through academia. It has given me the space in a very unstructured environment to determine what it is that I want from life and what kind of person I want to be.  I want to be an achiever not necessarily for financial gain, I don't want to look back at my life and wish what if. I would rather fail with aplomb than never to have stepped into the unknown.

My university education may not have equipped me with industrial skills with which I could instantly fall into the work place as a seasoned professional. As I very well may have been by now if four years ago I had forgone university to head straight for the work place. Four years ago despite feeling like and adult, I thought like a child and wrote like a child. I enter the work place now as an optimistic realist rather than a naive enthusiast.

I had some oxtail stew in the freezer which I thought to ring the changes I would trow together into a pie rather than leaving as stew. Having recently watched Heston make a suet pastry I was inspired to attempt to emulate him. Unfortunately as usual I was laking in equipment to was forced to make it in a cake tin rather than a pudding bowl. The structure was not a sturdy enough shape it seems to somewhat collapsed on its release from confinement. If I had had more time on my hands I would have removed the meat from the juices and reduced them down of thickened with flour. As you can see in the not very good photo the sauce was way to thin. I would also like to take this opportunity to apologise for the poor quality of photos on this blog but we live in a basement where daylight in scarce and I rarely have more than few moments to capture my creations before the boys way into attack.


couple of sticks celery 
1 leek
3 carrots
200g mushrooms
1 large onion
2.5kg oxtail, jointed
250ml red wine
100ml brandy
200g tinned tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
750ml chicken stock
750ml beef stock


Sweat the chopped celery, leeks, onion and carrots. Once soft, remove from the pan and set aside. Return the pan to the heat and add a bit more oil, cook the mushrooms and set aside.

Add a splash of water to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Add the liquid to the cooked vegetables.

Brown the oxtail over a high heat in batches, deglazed the pan in between. Put all the ingredients back in the pan and simmer for 3hrs or until the meet comes away from the bone easily.

At this point it can either be eaten as stew or thickened with flour to fill a pie. If you are making a pie this amount filled a 9inch cake tin and fed 6. I baked it at 200C for 45minutes.

Suet pastry:

300g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
250g suet vegetable or meat
200ml water

Mix all the ingredients together and kneed until you have a smooth dough. Leave to cool in fridge before working.

Friday, 10 February 2012

American Pancakes filled with raspberries and blueberries.

One thing which we do very well in our flat is birthdays. We are all very good at spoiling each other on our birthdays. I was allowed to cook everyone breakfast on my birthday on the condition that I vacated the kitchen for the rest of the day as the one with a thing for men in uniform and oh I have such an expressive eyebrow wanted to cook supper. 

One with an oh so expressive eyebrow is a very good cook unfortunately he tends to way into the wine whilst cooking subsequently forgetting to put his beautifully prepared food into the oven. Thankfully the house guest who never leaves was predictably here for super, now sans tonsils and she stepped in to save the day. Consequently dinner was delicious but also served at half past ten! However, I shall have to forgive him as he bought me a huge bunch of flowers. Which are possibly my most favourite thing.

When we were children we were bribed with these pancakes as a reward for good behaviour in church of a sunday morning. They are really simple to make but unlike normal pancake batter this does not keep you are better to cook the whole batch and them reheat them. 

3 large eggs
120g Self Raising Flour
140ml  milk

pinch of salt
Soft fruit of your choice or chocolate chips work well too.

Separate the eggs and whip the whites to a stiff peak. Add the flour, baking powder and milk to the yolks and mix to a smooth thick batter. Fold the whites into the batter. Place a spoonful of batter into a hot pan wait a few seconds then add the fruit. Once bubble start to appear in the uncooked side of the mixture the pancakes are ready to be flipped.

I have linked this up with Family Friendly Fridays and Fuss Free Flavours Breakfast club

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Mississippi Mud Brownies.

I saw this recipe on an american blog which I stumbled across and thought that they looked amazing. I have adapted the recipe slightly to make them less sweet than the american version. I can testify that they taste as good as they look. Whilst I was making them I almost backed out fearing that the peanut butter was going to be gilding the lilly but it really works as the peanut balances out the slightly sickly taste of the marshmallows.

¾ cups Flour
3 Tbsp Cocoa 
½ Tsp Salt
125g Butter
1 cup Granulated Sugar
¾ Tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
100g Chocolate Chips
½ cup Crunchy Peanut Butter
2 cups Marshmallows Mini or Large 
½ cups Chopped And Toasted Pecans
150g Chocolate 

Preheat oven to 180C. Line an 8×8″ square baking pan with parchment paper. Combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt. 

In another bowl, beat together butter, sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time. Stir dry ingredients into batter. Pour batter into prepared tin and spread evenly. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake in preheated oven for 22-25 minutes.

When brownie is done, put peanut butter in the microwave to soften. This does seem like a lot of peanut butter but don't worry it does work. Pour this warm mixture over hot brownie and spread. Sprinkle the peanut butter covered brownies with marshmallows. Return to oven to bake for 3 more minutes, or until the marshmallows puff. Remove from oven and sprinkle puffed marshmallows with toasted pecans. Let the marshmallow cool. Then pour over melted chocolate and leave to set. When it comes to cutting them up in order to serve use a hot knife to melt though the chocolate and marshmallow as this will give you neater sides.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Places to eat in Edinburgh.

Having now lived in Edinburgh for the four years of my degree I thought I should write a review of my favourite places to eat.  I feel I must also mention the ones which I think are over rated. I like to work in cafes rather than the library as working around my peers stresses me out, they all seem to whined each other up into a permanent state of panic. Consequently I have visited and spent a fair amount of time in a number of cafes in and around central Edinburgh.

Cuckoo's Bakery:

Cuckoo's only opened in my third year but it was just round the corner from my flat. I have spent an awful lot of time in there as it is a great place to work as they don't mind if you sit there all day. They have no internet which I must admit I kind of like as it prevents procrastination. It is a fantastic place to stop for lunch, tea or to grab a take away from. Cuckoo's is loverly and light but on it is also very open and slightly lacking in atmosphere. If you are looking for somewhere to camp out with a book for the afternoon I can suggest better places. However it is undoubtably my favourite place to meet friend for tea in edinburgh.

Their sandwiches are delicious and they have different specials of quiches and soups everyday. But what cuckoo's is really known for is its baked goods. The shop has developed around it's cupcakes, they have a list of standard flavours everyday and then they experiment ontop of this to supplement the menu. They also organise specials to coincide with important dates on the calendar St Valentines, Burns Night and Christmas just to name a few. The cup cakes range in price but on average are about £2 in general I think that they are very reasonable priced establishment.


Rotato is joined to and part of Press Coffee. It is a somewhat student lunch place but that is probably because it is right outside the University Library. Up stairs in Press Coffee they serve very good drinks, sandwiches and soups but it is downstairs in Rotato where the best food is in my opinion. Rotato sell as the name would suggest jacket potatoes they always have very crispy skins and are filled with a generous helping of whatever you happen to choose. This again is not somewhere you would want to settle down in to read a book but it a great place to stop off for a quick lunch. They range in price between £3-£5 for a potato and fillings.

Leo's Beanery

Leo's Beanery is a basement cafe on Howe st that I discovered last year. It is the perfect place to hole up for the afternoon with a good book. As it is in a basement it is quite a dark place but very cosy.They have a selection of books and board games which you are welcome to borrow and they are very child friendly. There are a couple of tables outside for when the weather is good. 

Their food is usually local and seasonal. I don't think that their sandwiches are very good but everything else is delicious. The above photo is of a feta and roast vegetable quiche, all their main courses come with a loverly side salad. My favourite thing when they have it, it is one of their daily specials, is venison burger. They make all their cakes on site and have a particularly good carrot and parsnip cake. The prices range from £5-6 for a main course and £2-3 for a cake. All of the places I have reviewed so far serve the most delicious coffee which is from Artisan Roast a coffee shop on Broughton street which roasts its own beans on site.

I will continue to edit this as the year continues and I have time to go in and get some photos.