Sometimes you just need something sweet. And if you’re trying to be healthy those moments can be your undoing, suddenly you’re tongue deep in a mars bar, hiding snicker bar wrappers under the bed or consuming full jars of nutella using your finger as a spoon. That’s where these come in, they’re are unbelievably delicious, give you energy and don’t have any refined sugar or nasty stuff in them. The only thing you need to watch is that it’s all too easy to polish off a pile of them at one sitting and they’re not very low in calories.
The good thing about these is that you can add and subtract things according to your own personal taste. I would also say really don’t stress about quantities, I never measure the ingredients out, I just add bits and pieces of stuff till it looks like a decent mix.
2 tbl sp oats
3 tbl sp peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, doesn’t matter)
2 tbl sp Maple syrup or agave syrup
2 tbl sp Cacoa powder or dark cocoa powder
Dessicated unsweetened coconut to roll in
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and then squish them together so they form one big, slightly sticky ball. You need it to be a bit sticky so if it feels too dry add more syrup and if it’s way too loose add more oats.
Sorry about the slightly disgusting photo but it should give you a general idea of how it should look.
Put the coconut onto a wee plate, pinch off little pieces of mixture and roll them into balls (it’s up to you whether you prefer a bigger or a smaller ball) and then roll them around until they’re coated in coconut.
Put them into a tupperware box and then store them in the freezer. Keeping them that cold means they don’t go too squishy and stay nice and cold and solid.
Don’t feel confined to just those ingredients either, add in whatever you like, goji berries, dried fruit, nuts, almond butter, just experiment until you find a combo you like.
Happy bliss ball eating.
Last weekend was a hefty one. Since January I’ve been pretty on it in terms of making it to the gym, eating mostly healthy whole foods and being vegetarian but I drank waaaay too much both Friday and Saturday nights and then made the bad food choices that go with that. It was almost like a higher power stepped in though and made both choices so disgusting I didn’t actually want to eat them.
First up was a burger from new place Chequers which is on Great Western Road. It looks a bit like an American diner and the menu is mostly burgers, fries, mac and cheese and cocktails. We both ordered the cheese and bacon burger with a portion of mac and cheese and some skinny fries to share. First of all the burger took aaaages, we were trying to get to another pub in time to watch the rugby and didn’t make it for the start at all. We waited 25 minutes without an explanation, nobody else in the place was eating. Then, when it arrived, Euan’s bun was burnt black but we were so late we couldn’t risk sending it back. The bacon looked like it had just come off the grill at a greasy spoon, all grey and flabby but a bit burnt and the patty was a disaster. It fell apart almost immediately and was then just basically a pile of mince in a roll. I ate about half and gave up. Luckily the mac and cheese and fries were way better.
When I was paying the waitress asked if everything had been OK. I explained what the problems were, gestured to the pile of mince on the plate and they said thanks for the feedback but didn’t take anything off the bill. Not great customer service, I feel like if you’re a new place and someone clearly hasn’t eaten most of their meal and then tells you what was wrong with it you really should make some kind of gesture, to be honest if they’d taken my meal off the bill I probably wouldn’t have written this review of them. I really don’t like slating a new place but if you’re selling yourself as an American style diner in a town saturated with incredible burgers you need to make sure you’re getting yours right and this was so far from right.
After round two of drinking Sunday was definitely a couch day. I am far too old to do two nights on a row these days and so piles of carbs were needed to get me through. We went on Deliveroo, planning to get a Juice Garden, but were really taken by the menu for Roasters, a wee deli up in Partick. We ordered a couple of sandwiches, the classic poutine (Canadian fries with gravy and cheese curd) and some bacon cheese fries. The first disappointment was that we had actually only ordered one sandwich, the beef brisket which was fine. Nothing to write home about but not terrible.
Both fries, however, were inedible. Pale, wadgy and woefully undercooked. I was hungover and hangry and this cruel carb deprivation almost pushed me over the edge. I got onto deliveroo instant messenger and chatted to a lovely lady who assured me that they would contact the deli and see about a refund. That was over a week ago and nothing has come of it. The Boy was a wonderful human and went and got me a chorizo and mozzarella melt from Il Cappuccino which is reliably brilliant and I wish we had just done that in the first place.
I’m not a big fan of not saying nice things about places on this blog but because I tried telling both at the time and they didn’t do anything to make it right and because both came at a time of great hangover vulnerability it feels like something that needed done. One thing I do know is that it’s straight back to the vegetarianism to avoid meat-based disappointment.
Like pretty much everyone I know January began with a groan and a whimper and a promise to stop the terrible abuse my poor body had been subjected to since December the 1st. Mainlining chocolate, baileys and prosecco doesn’t make for a healthy body or mind (well, not when you do it for a whole month without stopping) and some changes needed to be made. The best thing about going on a health kick in January is that everyone else is with you, makes it much easier. The booze was the first to go, we managed 2 weeks without a drink, turns out sobriety leads to lots of clearing out and cinema visits for us. I knew it was time to get back on the gin when I found myself spending a saturday night clearing out that random drawer in the kitchen where you keep drawing pins, batteries and random ousse.
The other thing that had to go was meat. The more I read about cow farts and intensive farming the less meat I’d been eating generally but I decided to see if I could get through January without eating any. And so far I haven’t actually missed it at all. It’s at this point that I become a bit of an apologist for my vegetarianism, slightly concerned that I’m going to be held to account by angry pals ‘but you said!..’ if I go back on it. I still plan on eating meat if I feel like it. I can imagine going to a nice restaurant where the only veggie thing is a risotto or pasta and cracking at a soft, well sourced piece of slow cooked beef. But, in terms of cooking at home, it’s veggie all the way.
And I love it! We decided to sign up to Hello Fresh (a delivery service that provide you with exact ingredients and recipes for 3 meals a week) to get a few more ideas of healthy veggie meals and I’ve been heavily plundering Plenty by Ottolenghi and Veg everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and fully embracing a lot of middle eastern cooking.
It does take a bit of shift in thinking about your meal when you remove meat from the centre of it. I find myself making vegetable smorgasboards or different small tapas style veggie dishes that add up to a full dinner. I’ve got a lot better at making sweet potato and aubergine curries and rib-sticking pulse based stews. I find myself stuffing halves of butternut squash, courgette or aubergine with parmesan, breadcrumbs and pine nuts and filling the other half of the plate with a huge salad. And when all else fails and you’re hungover or short on time there’s always the fall back of veggie sausages and mash.
The main question for me was about how much protein I would be getting, I’ve been getting into weights at the gym as well and need to keep my protein intake up without resorting to eating cheese with every meal. That’s where a post-workout protein shake comes in handy and where eggs, tofu, quinoa and nuts become your best friends. I find the My Fitness Pal app on my phone really handy for checking the macro nutrients of stuff and actually get a genuine kick when it tells me I’ve reached my protein goal for the day. Oh January, you healthy beast.
I’m not sure how permanent this will be or whether, over time, I’ll reintroduce ‘happy’ meat or fish but I do know that trying it for a month has really changed the way I look at how I cook and week days will remain veggie for sure.
Pearl barley risotto is tremendous. I actually think I prefer it to rice risotto and it’s definitely a lot lighter and healthier. Obviously you can adapt this recipe, just leave out the bacon, and ham and replace the chicken stock with veg stock to make it veggie, it’s totally grand with just the butternut squash. You can make it healthier by leaving out the wine and reducing the amount of parmesan.
Ingredients (serves 4 – I like to have some in the freezer, just don’t add the parmesan before you freeze it)
* 300g pearl barley
* 1 medium butternut squash cut into cubes
* 1 – 2 chicken stockpots made up with 500ml water
* Large glass of white wine
* Some dried sage
* 1 onion diced
* A couple of rashers of streaky bacon sliced into small pieces (you can use pre cubed pancetta, it works really well too)
* A good handful of grated parmesan
* 4 slices of parma ham
* Sprinkle the butternut squash with paprika, olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven (180 degrees C) for about half an hour, basically until they are golden brown and soft.
* Fry the onion and bacon pieces in some oil in a heavy bottomed pan (I use a saute pan but if I’m making a big batch just do it in a big pan) until the bacon is crispy and the onion is soft.
* If you have fresh sage add it here, finely chopped and stir through, let it cook for a moment or two.
* Add the glass of white wine and cook until it’s nearly evaporated, stirring a lot.
* Add a ladle of stock, keep stirring and when it’s been absorbed into the pearl barley add another. Keep doing this until the pearl barley is soft enough to eat but still has a bit of bite.
* Put 4 pieces of parma ham on a foil lined baking tray and cook them in the oven until they are solid and crispy.
* Stir through most of the butternut squash, some dried sage and the handful of parmesan. You don’t need to add salt because the parmesan is so salty but some black pepper should do the trick. Give it a taste and feel free to go wild with the cheese.
* Garnish with the rest of the butternut squash and the parma ham crisp.
If you want to make an alternative you can substitute the bacon for chorizo and the white wine for red wine and add some tinned tomatoes. Makes for a really rich winter risotto.
I LOVE SAUSAGE AND MASH! I used to get the Beano every week when I was wee and the sausage and mash they munched on in that always came in the form of a mountain of mash with sausages stuck into the sides. Ever since then I’ve been obsessed.
These days it’s about trying to do it as healthily as possible, I’m a big fan of chicken, turkey or quorn sausages and, until recently, would have them with sweet potato mash. Until I tried cauliflower mash. It’s ruddy marvelous and really easy to make.
Ingredients (serves 2)
1 small head of cauliflower
A good glug of olive oil
A garlic clove cut into small pieces
Salt and pepper
Steam the cauliflower until a knife goes through it easily
Put it into a food processor with the garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper and process until smooth and creamy.
BEWARE – this mash carries a serious garlic punch as the garlic is raw, it’s actually a bit burny. But good burny. You just might not want to breathe on anyone afterwards. As an alternative you could roast up some garlic and then squeeze the puree in, that would make the flavour a bit softer. It would also work with cumin.
These make a great breakfast or snack on the go. They’re easily portable, healthy, keep you full and taste pretty delicious.
Calories – these come in about 72 calories each.
2 rashers bacon/turkey bacon/slices of ham sliced into small strips
1 onion diced
1 red, yellow or orange pepper diced
1 tblspn Low fat cream cheese or half a ball low fat mozzarella
Spray a muffin tin with healthy oil to stop the muffins sticking or line with paper cases
Fry the onion and bacon in a spray of cocounut oil then add the pepper once the onion is soft and the bacon is turning brown. Cook for another few minutes.
Spoon this mixture into the muffin tin, you want the mixture to fill the muffin holes by at least 2/3rds.
Beat the eggs in a jug with some pepper and the cream cheese or mozzarella and then pour the mix into the muffin tins, you want the mixture to come just below the top of the muffin hole*.
Stick them in a preheated oven (about 200 degrees C) and then cook them till they’re nice and brown on top.
You could basically put all sorts of different fillings in here, wee roasted cubes of sweet potato or butternut squash, spring onions, diced courgette, mushrooms chopped up really small and any herbs you like. Just stick in what you’ve got lying around.
*MUFFIN HOLE! I am a child.
It’s no surprise that, as a massive grubber, I’ve been to Italy several times. The land of pizza, pasta and ice cream holds great sway over those of us who like to spend our holidays basking in sunshine, looking at beautiful scenery and stuffing delicious food into our mouths.
We were staying in an incredibly beautiful air bnb villa near a teeny town called Montebenichi. It was utterly rural, half an hour to the nearest shop, dusty, bumpy tracks and windy roads with breathtaking green Tuscan hills.
And the food was, obviously, delicious. Every time we made the trip to the supermarket we’d stock up on piles of cured meats, bread and cheese and that’s what we would have for breakfast and lunch every day.
One of my favourite things about group holidays is sitting round a huge table outside eating and drinking. Everything tastes better in that situation, particularly piles of creamy mozzarella with tomatoes from the garden we were sitting in.
We day tripped it to beautiful Siena one day and wandered around slowly taking in the incredible architecture, the winding streets and the sloping, sun drenched square and stopping every half hour or so to eat.
A couple of Euros bought us a massive slice of ham, mushroom and olive pizza to share with a light, beautifully crisp base which we tore through like we hadn’t been fed in months.
Slightly more expensive was the gelato shop we went to en route to the square.
A double cone (coconut and nutella) came in at 7 euros but was well worth it. I had nutella ice cream three times on holiday. Still wasn’t enough. There were little pockets and seams of pure nutella running through it that made my mouth do a happy dance. Which looked weird.
That night we ate out in Castelnuovo di bardegna. One of the nicest meals I’ve ever had was a wild boar stew in Tuscany years ago on holiday with my parents and, since it’s a Tuscan delicacy, I was keen to have some more.
This plate of wild boar pappardelle was delicious, rich, meaty ragu, soft, perfect pasta. Totally hit the spot.
One of the best things about Italy was the quality of the ingredients, we ate in a lot, just simple recipes made out of stuff we’d bought from the Coop (Jill made an incredible seafood risotto and I tried my hand at one meat, one veggie lasagne) but everything just tasted really good. Partly, I’m sure, because we were on holiday and partly because all the ingredients were just so fresh and delicious.
I ate so much antipasti I’ve had to go cold turkey on bread, meat and cheese for a wee while since we got back. I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t been easy. I woke up in a cold sweat dreaming of fresh bruschetta and bresola the other night.
I love Italy, this was the 4th time I’ve been and, each time, the food has been just incredible. Marry that up with cheap wine, good weather and lovely scenery and it’s a total winner.
Saturday was a Good Day. A Very Good Day. We set out for Let’s Eat Glasgow at SWG3 in Finnieston with relatively few expectations, we got there early, having had no breakfast and I fully expected to be home after an hour or so. Instead we ended up staying till after 5pm, filling our boots, our stomachs and our bags with all the delicious foods and drinks.
The concept was pretty simple, a whole host of Glasgow’s best restaurants (Mother India, Cail Bruich, Guys, Stravaigin, Ubiquitous Chip, Ox and Finch, Crabshakk and The Gannet) and artisan food producers putting on a pop-up restaurant festival and market. Entry was free, food vouchers set you back a modest £5 a dish and the beer was very reasonably priced. There was a tent with some music going on (including our pal Gav Prentice of Ultras who’s excellent), the sun was out and the place was bustling. I heard someone say there had been 3000 through the gate and that was just Saturday. I think we were lucky we got there just after midday because we missed the worst of the queues.
Obviously the food was top notch. We bought 6 vouchers between us and tried as many things as possible. Most of the dishes were pretty small which was ideal for sampling loads.
First up were a pair of crab cakes from Crabshakk served with some salad leaves and mayo. These were a great way to start, light, crispy on the outside and with a slight chilli kick.
We went for the venison and pork gyros from Stravaigin next, they were savoury and meaty and stuffed into delicious flatbread with tzatziki and salad. This was a big portion and properly did the job. If the job is being filling and meaty and gorgeous. Which it is.
Cail Bruich provided the next two courses including my favourite dish of the day which was Loch Duart smoked salmon with pickled cucumber, avocado and frozen horseradish. My god this was good, the frozen horseradish was ingenious, made everything so fresh it jumped off the plate. YUM.
The ox cheek cooked in hay was slightly disappointing in comparison, it came with noodles, some delicious, crispy shallot rings and a really tasty watercress sauce but I felt like the bit of meat itself wasn’t quite as soft and unctious as you’d hope from a bit of ox cheek. Still tasted seriously good though.
We had a break after all that and wandered around the market part with a couple of beers, we ended up buying loads of stuff, sausages and burgers from Clash farm pedigree saddlebacks which we had with bacon and mushroom sourdough from Little Sourdough Bakery late that night. We got venison chorizo from Great Glen Charcuterie and some hebridean sea salt fudge from the Wee Fudge Company (drool). There were also plenty of free samples and a great chance to chat to all the producers about their stuff.
After that it was beers and music in the sun until pudding o’clock. Unfortunately the queues by this point were getting massive so we didn’t manage to get anything from Ox and Finch but our dessert from The Gannet didn’t disappoint at all. We had dark chocolate delice with hazlenuts and a really lovely crispy base. It was chocolate heaven and a great way to round it all off.
I seriously hope this happens again soon, what an amazing way to showcase the fantastic food we have on offer in Glasgow, I’ll definitely be coming along again. Might buy even more vouchers next time…
10 Hallion points.
It’s true that the best weekends always take the longest to recover from and that’s why it’s Wednesday and I still feel like a badger’s bum hole.
But WHAT A WEEKEND. It was the Insider Strathspey Safari, those who’ve been to Insider festival at Inshriach will know just how relaxed, fun and friendly it is, so as soon as we saw the crowd funder page for the Safari we signed up, particularly when we spotted the Gourmet Explorer package which meant you got dinner the night before and afternoon tea on the day of the safari.
This was everything a festival should be – a joyous day-long mystery adventure with incredible music, wonderful people and the sort of experiences that’ll stay with you forever.
It began on the Friday night for us Gourmet Explorers with a four course tasting menu at One Pot Borrowed at Rothiemurcus. Since this is a food blog I’d best describe the food. It was great.
First up were sticky, soft cubes of belly pork with a fresh hit of mango, coriander and chilli.
Then came a crisp lettuce leaf stuffed full of citrusy ceviche and avocado, ceviche can go either way for me, sometimes the texture of fish can hit me in a funny way but this stuff was light and tasty and really well balanced.
The main event was a perfectly portioned bit of grouse breast wrapped in bacon and complemented brilliantly with local chanterelles and a lovely deep sauce.
We had double pudding, the first was a pair of beautifully stripped back acoustic performances from Admiral Fallow and Washington Irving members. The Roy Orbison singalong Louis led in that teeny wee dining room was a pretty special moment.
Pudding number two was a nicely uncomplicated peach eton mess, all chewy meringue and sweet peach which rounded the night off nicely.
A short walk took us to the Old Bridge Inn where Spring Break and Hector Bizerk both killed it, Scottish Hip Hop has never sounded so good, it was a struggle not letting all the dogs out on the Friday and holding some in reserve for Saturday because it was such a good night.
Saturday started with pints at the Old Bridge Inn, plenty of excellent safari suits and animal costumes to gawp at and a safari survival pack with some um bongo and a white lion bar. We all piled onto three coaches and I realised this was my sort of festival when our host (topless with a karate kid headband) offered us all a tot of Umbucko. Any festival with a bottle of buckfast based cocktail is right up my proverbial alley.
First stop was the five lochans, a wee walk into the forest clutching Thistly Cross exchanged for tokens from the back of a landrover by a leopard led us to lochside to listen to some spoken word from Neu Reekie, an acoustic set from Eugene from the Vaselines and a spot of dancing. It was magical, folk were foraging for chanterelles, the dug with two tales was wagging them both and everyone was loving life.
Next stop on the fun bus was Inshriach where Walter and his crew have built the most incredible (and award winning) complex of sheds where they brew their own gin (Crossbill). Here we ate raspberries off the bush while waiting for the portaloo, drank gin and cider, ate fancy (though pretty undercooked) sausages and watched Washington Irving. What Walter and his team are doing at Inshriach is absolutely top drawer, my sister got married there last year and it was great to relive some of the memories and check out all the work that’s gone on to make Inshriach a quirky, awesome and ethically wonderful place. And a worthy shed of the year winner for sure.
One of my favourite moments of the weekend happened next, we arrived on the platform for the steam train at Aviemore to be greeted by some excellent live samba. I haven’t danced that hard in ages, everyone was getting their dance on including a couple of tourists and their kids who’d got caught up in the infectious mayhem.
The steam train was a welcome pause, a chance to sit back and enjoy the view with our afternoon tea and whiskey.
A few sandwiches and a bit of caramel shortcake later we were ready for round 3 – the Dell of Abernethy. After a fond farewell to the steam train we found ourselves roasting marshmallows over an open fire and drinking whiskey and ginger beer while Louis from Admiral Fallow performed in the forest surrounded by hanging lanterns and hammocks. He was joined by Rachel Sermani and I can honestly say I had one of those moments where I was over brimming with joy (and probably booze, I’d been hitting the umbucko hard) and could have hugged every single person at the festival. It was utterly gorgeous.
Last stop of the day on our magical safari was the village hall at Nethybridge for a much needed feed of venison chilli and chicken bites (they were bloody incredible) and a couple more bands.
After that Duncan Harvey played all the tunes I wanted to dance to and we didn’t stop till we nearly fell down, by the time the fun bus came back to take us home I was dead on my feet and satisfied in the sort of way you only get after the best of all times.
Insider – you absolute legends, this festival was a triumph on every level, I’ll be talking about it for years to come, it was a celebration of all that is fun, exciting and friendly and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more.
WE SALUTE YOU!
Ooft, just back from a short break in Berlin and have fallen absolutely IN LOVE with the city. We stayed in Kreuzberg, in this ridiculously pimp loft apartment for ten people, it was so big it came with it’s own scooter and fussball table and was surrounded on all sides by excellent, cheap places to eat and drink.
So we got fully stuck in. Just up the road was a place called Lilly’s burgers, the menu read like a meaty jazz rag, piles of juicy burgers, stacks of bacon, ridiculous, extraneous extras like pancakes as buns, chunks of pineapple and fried eggs. I decided I wasn’t hungry enough for a burger so went for the bacon fries. I did wonder why they cost E8.50. I found out when they arrived.
This was a board piled high with crisp, tasty fries, ridiculously good aberdeen angus bacon which had been charred to a delicious crisp and burger sauce made of plastic cheese which oozed over everything. Definitely the best pre-drinking stomach liner ever and enough for three of us to pick at for half an hour.
Last time I was in Berlin I was obsessed with the falafel wrap I got, so this time, despite the fact we only had 3 dinners there I ate falafel for my tea twice. Just a few doors up from where we were staying on Uberstrasse was a place called Falafel King, it was just a window onto the street and a tiny kitchen where a wee old lady in a headscarf and apron was making falafel magic. There were all sorts of options, fully vegan, extra salad, hummus, feta sauce so I went for just a classic falafel with salad and hummus wrapped up in bread.
It cost E4 and was stuffed full of falafel and salad, the hummus was rich and garlicky and the balls of falafel themselves were gigantic yet light, fried to a perfect crisp and seriously flavourful. I was proper stuffed and didn’t even manage to finish it.
The other falafel came from a place near Gorlitzer bahnhof, we’d been knocking back strawberry daiquiris outside a bar called Hannibals for hours and, rather than get stuck into the average sounding pizzas and nachos they had on offer there, we negotiated the gauntlet of slightly sketchy drug dealers under the railway bridge and got fresh falafel from a place called ‘Falafel’ – does what it says on the tin.
This wee place was lovely, really cool colourful outside seats and just one guy making your food fresh to order. As with a lot of other places we went in Berlin you can just buy a beer from a nearby shop and drink that with your food. Most folk walk about with travellers and we really enjoyed getting a couple of bottles and just sitting outside people watching. This lot of falafel was deliciously fresh, there was mint in with the salad which made everything sing, there was a lightly curried sauce with it and the bread it came in was perfectly toasted with little sesame seeds. And it cost E3.50. I wish more than anything that Glasgow had a couple of amazing falafel\kebab houses like these.
We also went out for Fruhstuck (breakfast) most mornings and, aside from one disappointingly buttery ham and cheese toast we did pretty well.
En route to Badeschiff, this really cool outdoor swimming pool on the river we found an Australian style cafe called Melbourne serving breakfast and got stuck into some sourdough, bacon, scrambled eggs and avocado. Perfect with coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice, which most places seem to do really well. The service was really friendly, the bacon was crispy, the eggs were buttery and the avocado was perfectly ripe. We sat in the sunshine and patted our comfortably full tummies contentedly.
My favourite meal of the week was the last we had. My pal Martha (who fitted into Berlin perfectly with her penny boarding skills and excellent wardrobe) had spotted Fatma and Frida on her travels so we went back for a final breakfast before our flight. As per usual The Boy and I got a couple of options and shared. ‘Karlos’ was a light fluffy omlette with smoked salmon, salad and a couple of bits of melon and ‘Fatma’ was a plate heaving with turkish sausage, menemen (turkish scrambled eggs with peppers, tomatoes and onions), hummus, salad, olives, sundried tomatoes, feta and melon.
It was incredible. The menemen was rich and spicy, the hummus was totally smooth and balanced and it was great having a couple of fresh tasting pieces of fruit to round off the meal. If you’re in Neukolln seek out this great wee place, you won’t be disappointed.
Berlin is magical, it’s possible to eat amazing food on a tiny budget. I just wish we’d had longer there so I could have stuffed my face even more.