Monthly Archives: June 2012

Restaurant Review – The Cellar Door, Edinburgh


I’ve been away for several days (one longer than intended, due to travel issues!)  and have therefore not been cooking.  However, during C’s hen party, we did spend an afternoon at The Cellar Door making chocolate.

We turned up and were immediately ushered downstairs. We were invited to choose a 2 course lunch from the menu, after which we would make our chocolates.  They would be chilled, and lunch would be served after that.  All sounded good so far.

First, the chocolate making.  We were each presented with separate blocks of milk and dark chocolate ganache, and the table was covered in plates and bowls with melted milk, white and dark chocolate, cocoa, nuts, sprinkles, marshmallows, fudge and other treats.  We had to mould the ganache with our hands and fill and cover it as we wished.  It was great fun (though incredibly messy!) and a prize went to C’s bridesmaid I for making the best choccies (apparently they were some of the best they had ever seen on the course – what a teacher’s pet!).  Unfortunately mine suffered significant melting on the journey home, but they nevertheless tasted yummy.

Messy messy chocolatey table. You should have seen our hands…

For lunch I ordered breaded haggis with chutney and salad to start, followed by grilled hake with lemon and herb crushed potatoes.  It had been a toss-up between the fish and a skirt steak sandwich, but I tried a little of the latter from R’s plate.  I was seriously seriously impressed.  The plates were presented beautifully, but there had been no scrimping on the quantity of food.  My haggis was light rather than greasy (which I had feared slightly) and went fantastically with the chutney.  I had never eaten it like that before, and it was delicious.  I would have been really happy with the steak sandwich, as the beef was cooked to rare perfection, was seasoned wonderfully and was served with a delicious-looking homemade coleslaw.  My hake was moist and tender, the potatoes slightly buttery and perfectly herby.

I just had to take a photo of my lunch because it looked so lovely.

I would 100% recommend The Cellar Door.  The staff were friendly and attentive, but not pushy.  The chocolate-making was good fun and perfect for the occasion, but if you don’t fancy it they do cook meals anyway 😉  The thing I found most amazing was the quality of the lunch.  Ordinarily, a 2-course weekday lunch like we had costs only £7.95 per person.  I had to check that price about 15 times because it was some of the best restaurant food I’ve had in a long time, and certainly the best I’ve ever eaten at that price!  I will definitely be revisiting The Cellar Door if I am in Edinburgh again.  My only slight criticism was that the area our table was in could have done with a little more lighting – perhaps a nice standard lamp in the corner.  But all in all it is only a minor thing which by no means affected how impressed I was with the place.

Love love

Gemma xx


Hen Party Cake Part 2 – The Beautification…


So, yesterday I showed you a sneak peek of C’s Hen Party Cake.  Now for the final touches which made it ultra-gorgeous.  I decorated what was technically the base of the cake, because I wanted a nice flat surface to work with, but if you’d prefer a dome of gorgeousness then decorate the top.  I made the icing differently to the Green and Blacks recipe, which calls for the chocolate to be melted first, the butter (around 40g for each 100g chocolate) added and stirred through to the consistency of thick pouring cream.  The icing is then poured over the cake.  You can use this method if you prefer.

For the Frosting

200g Milk Chocolate
50g Unsalted Butter

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bain marie, stirring vigorously until they have reached a spreading consistency.  Using a spatula or palette knife, plaster the frosting all over the top and sides of the cake, paying special attention to the corner where the two meet (it’s a bitch to cover!).  Texturise the icing as you please.  Leave to set at room temperature (fridges do funny things to cakes and the two are best left separate if possible).

The cake after its frosting, with a bottle of pink fizz in the background which I bought for the trip*

For the Decoration

Mmmm, chocolate strawberries!  Even better, chocolate Bride and Groom strawberries!  I found how to make these over at and loved them the moment I saw them!  For these I used a 400g punnet of English strawberries, 350g white chocolate buttons, 400g dark chocolate**, some white and pink pearl decorations bought from the supermarket and a little pink food colouring (don’t use too much or the chocolate won’t set!).  I also sprayed the bride with some edible pearl spray to make her a bit more shiny.  I made 1 bride, 1 groom, 1 vicar (a strawberry dipped in dark chocolate, with a little strip of white chocolate at the top) and the rest were split between male and female ‘guests’.  It takes quite a long time, but I think it was worth the effort!

A strawberry wedding!

Close up of the bride, groom and vicar

And one of their guests!

I’m hoping that the cake will travel OK.  It has to go to London tonight and Edinburgh tomorrow morning, all by train.  I’ll have to update you afterwards to let you know how it went!

*The writing on the bottle reads “Be Sparkling; Love; Taste Life; Be a Star; Celebrate; Spread Happiness or Go Home” I just adored the bathos of the final line and it seemed ridiculously appropriate for the festivities in question!  And who knew that pink fizz could be bathetic!

**There was leftover chocolate, but you need to have quite a lot for the pool to be deep enough to be dipped into.  I’ve put the rest into freezerbags which have been stuck in the fridge for future use in baking (probably next time I decide to make a cake).

Hen Party Flourless Chocolate Cake!


I’m writing this post just after making a special cake for a special someone, but won’t be posting it just yet, in case certain sneaky eyes see it before she’s seen it (if you catch my drift).

My awesome friends C and P are getting married next month, which can mean only 0ne thing: it’s hen do time!

A Man, me, C and P at the Magdalen College Ball 2009

There were a few of us travelling up to Edinburgh for the hen party, and I was charged with the task of making a cake to take with us.  Now, being the social butterfly I am (yeah right!) I’m a bit busy over the weekend, and am working the day before travelling up, resulting in little to no time to actually make said cake.  But no worry – I decided to make it in advance.

Being a group of girls, I decided that chocolate cake was an absolute necessity.  I adapted this recipe from the Sachertorte in my all-time favourite Green and Black’s Chocolate Recipes book.  It describes itself as improving over time, so making it on Wednesday before travelling on Tuesday was no problem.  I had planned to use dark chocolate, but a 400g bar of Dairy Milk in the staff room at work selling for 25p persuaded me otherwise (hence the added cocoa powder to up the chocolate ante).  You’ll have to come back tomorrow to see how I decorated the beauty!  Are you feeling the suspense yet..?

Love love

Gemma xx

Hen Party Flourless Chocolate Cake

The plain cake, awaiting its decoration.

200g Milk Chocolate
6 Eggs
200g Dark Brown Sugar
110g Caster Sugar
150g Ground Almonds
2 heaped teaspoons Ground Coffee
2 tablespoons Cocoa Powder

  1. Preheat the oven to 180OC/350OF/Gas mark 4.  Grease and line a springform cake tine.  Slowly melt the chocolate in a bain marie.  Keep an eye on it and stir occasionally.
  2. Separate 5 of the eggs and add the last whole egg to the yolks.  Whisk the sugar and yolks together until thick and creamy.
  3. Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  4. Stir the ground almonds, coffee, cocoa powder and melted chocolate into the egg yolks.  Gently fold together with the whites, trying not to knock out the air.  Pour into the prepared tin.
  5. Bake for an hour, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Cover the top with foil if it starts to brown a little too quickly.
  6. Leave the cake to cool and store in an airtight container until needed.  Find out tomorrow how I decorated the hen party cake!

5 Spice Belly Pork

Good evening!

We went back to visit our dads this weekend, as it was fathers’ day.  My brothers and I made our dad a delicious roast pork feast (I’ll post a pic once my brother has sent it to me).

I went shopping this morning and decided to go for pork again.  I haven’t cooked belly pork for ages, but it’s super-cheap and delicious when done right.  I adapted this recipe from Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Book.  I paired it with chinese flavours and chilli noodles to cut through the richness of the meat.

Not really got much else to report on tonight!

Love love

Gemma xx

5 Spice Belly Pork with Stir Fried Veg and Chilli Noodles

3 slices of belly pork per person
Garlic cloves
Fresh ginger
75ml stock per person (I used home-made chicken stock)
5 spice powder
Salt and Pepper
Veg for stir-fry
Toasted sesame oil
Soy sauce
Chilli noodles

  1. Use an ovenproof dish which closely fits your belly pork.  Line the base of the dish with sliced onion, garlic and ginger.
  2. Sprinkle with thyme and tarragon and pour over the stock (it should just cover the veg).  Lay the pork over the top, skin-up.  Season the skin really well with lots of 5 spice, salt and pepper.  Cover the dish with foil and cook at 160OC/325OF/Gas mark 3.
  3. Once the pork has slow cooked for around 3 hours, remove it from the oven.  Drain the stock and veg and retain.  Turn the oven up to a medium-high temperature and return the meat to the oven.
  4. Cook the chilli noodles to the directions on the packet.  Stir fry your favourite veg in sesame oil.  I used carrot, courgette, pepper, fennel and mushroom.  Once the veg is cooked through but still crunchy, add the stock from the meat, a dessert spoon of honey and soy sauce to taste.  Allow the sauce to reduce slightly.
  5. Serve the noodles, topped with the veg and pork with the soy-honey sauce poured over the top.

Carrot and Parsnip Soup


I love soup!  It’s easy to make, good for hiding veg that’s slightly past its prime, offers infinite variety and it’s really good for you.  Research has shown that if you’re trying to lose weight, you should eat soup because the exact same meal blended with some water or stock will keep you fuller for longer than if you ate it solid with a glass of water.  If you make soup with home-made stock made from bones, you will also get the kick of a whole load of minerals (particularly calcium) and the satisfaction that you’ve got an extra meal from your roast dinner.

Carrots are great for soup – they’re cheap, they cook pretty quickly and they go with lots of other flavours.  I chucked in the parsnips too, as they were reduced and are tasty with some good strong spices.

Much love

Gemma xx

Carrot and Parsnip Soup

Olive oil
Chilli Powder
Ground Coriander
Stock (I used chicken stock, obviously use veg stock if you want a veggie soup!)

  1. Warm some olive oil in a pan.  Peel the veg and chop into small dice.  Fry in the olive oil for a few minutes.
  2. Add spices in quantities to taste.  I used lots of ground cumin for this soup, but use your own favourites.  Fry the spices for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add stock a little at a time to cover the vegetables.  Simmer the soup until the veg is soft.
  4. You can serve the soup lumpy if you like.  I blended using a hand blender until smooth (add some more liquid if necessary).  You can also stir through some cream or herbs and season to taste.  Serve with some crusty bread or rolls.

Sausage and Mash with Onion Gravy

Hello there

Well.  School is over.  Exams are done.  And today I sat in the house with a headache.  Rubbish!  Hopefully recipes will be somewhat more frequently forthcoming now that I’m home all day with nothing better to do.

Today’s dinner was an old favourite, made with loving care.  It’s not much to look at, but it’s great comfort food when it’s raining outside.  You can, of course, use ordinary potatoes – change it up by adding cheese or garlic to your mash.  Yummy!

I currently have 3 chicken carcasses stocking in the slow cooker, so it made perfect sense for to use the fresh stock in the gravy, but any will do.  The green peppers provide the perfect antidote to the sweet onions and mash, and add a bit of crunch in what can otherwise be a bit of a soggy meal.

Love love

Gemma xx

Sausage and Mash with Onion Gravy

Odd-looking and not especially appetising to the eye, but who cares – it tasted nice!

Good quality sausages (I used Spoilt Pig herby outdoor bred sausages)
Sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
Butter and olive oil
3 onions, thinly sliced (I used 2 white and 1 red)
2 green peppers, roughly chopped
Fresh sage leaves, torn into pieces
2 tsp sugar
Red wine

  1. Heat a dry frying pan on a medium hob and dry-fry the sausages to brown the outsides.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Put the potato in a pan to boil.  Melt the butter with some olive oil in the sausage pan and add the onion, pepper and sage.  Turn down to a fairly low heat and stir occasionally until the onions are softened.
  3. Stir the sugar through the onions, and add enough flour to soak up all the liquid.  Slowly add a glass or two of red wine, stirring all the time, followed by enough stock to make a thick gravy.  Taste the gravy and season well.
  4. Add the sausages to the gravy.  You can leave them whole, or slice them into chunky pieces like I did if you prefer.  Cook for at least 10 minutes, or until the sausages are cooked through (it depends on how big they are and how well done they were after browning!)
  5. Drain and mash the potato (Mine was drained straight into the stock pot).  Serve with the sausages, veg and lots of gravy.  Sprinkle with plenty of black pepper.

Hot and Sour Noodles


The weather is crappy.  It’s miserable and windy and rubbish.  But it’s June and we shouldn’t have to be eating beef stew.  These noodles in their spicy broth makes life seem much much better 🙂  It’s just the right combination of light (so you don’t feel like you’re made entirely out of dumpling) yet spicy (so you don’t feel like you’ve been short-changed out of a decent meal on a miserable day).  It’s also incredibly quick, easy, and pretty good for you too.  I needed to use up the leftovers from our Garlic Lemon Chicken, but it would be great with just veg or tofu.  The advantage of using the chicken is that it had rather cunningly been flavoured with the right kind of things, and when I stripped the carcass down I squeezed the limes which had been in the cavity all over the meat.  Clever girl.  You can also use uncooked chicken, which poaches in the broth like in the Chicken and Sweetcorn soup I made a couple of months ago.

Love love

Gemma xx

Hot and Sour Noodles

Stock (I used ham stock, but chicken or vegetable would be just as good)
Juice of 1 lime
Garlic clove, finely sliced
Galangal, finely sliced
Half an onion
Half a courgette
Red pepper
Tinned sweetcorn
Chicken or tofu (optional)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 red chilli, finely diced
Soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
Egg noodles

  1. Slice your veg into fairly fine strips.  Cut the chicken or tofu into chunks and set aside.
  2. Warm through the stock, sesame oil, lime juice, garlic and galangal.  Add the veg and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the chilli a little at a time, stirring through and tasting.  It is very easy to over-spice so try not to overdo it.  Dissolve the sugar into the soup and season with soy sauce if necessary (I didn’t need to as ham stock is very salty anyway).  Mine wasn’t quite sour enough so I added some cider vinegar as I didn’t have any more lime juice.
  4. Add the chicken or tofu, if using.  Simmer until cooked or warmed through as necessary.
  5. Break some noodles into the soup and simmer until cooked.  Serve immediately.