Thursday, 29 January 2015

Snow day

Baby it's cold outside
I may be pining after Madrid's winter sun, but today, with the snow outside making everything clean and bright, Scotland doesn't look too bad. On the news it reported that something like 49 schools had closed for the day. Those lucky kids will be out with their sledges!

I had intended to write a blog entry every day. I suppose many a fresh faced new-to-blogging blogger sets out with this intention, but then life gets in the way. So I'm not going to give myself a hard time for not writing every day. 

On Saturday we went for a wander to a regular farmers' market that takes place twice monthly in Partick, in the West of Glasgow. This market is managed by City Property Glasgow and alternates between this location and another park in the South of Glasgow. I understand, from chatting to one of the stall holders, that the Southside market is to have a relaunch on Saturday 7th of February in the new location of Pollokshaws Road at Langside Halls.

From Southside Fringe Glasgow Facebook page

The mistake that we made was to go too late. Saturday mornings are for being even lazier than normal, in my opinion, but this meant that once we finally made it down, a good third of the stalls had packed up, or were in the process of doing so. However, there was a good selection of meats, cheeses, continental products (which I wasn't expecting), bakery goods and even a Quesadilla stall, which we took advantage of. There was next to no veg left, which I suppose is a good thing from the growers' perspectives. I don't feel I can make comprehensive comment on the market as a whole, but one of the stand-out stalls for us was that of Petrie Fine Foods from Ayrshire. A very knowledgeable and friendly team with samples of their cheese selection (very important) and other Scottish delicacies such as Black Bun. From their Facebook page I gather that they are going to continue to attend the Partick market, so well worth a visit. We took away some of their Dunlop Cheese and gluten free Oatcakes and have been enjoying them all week. 

I have no photos from this market but I hope to have a more interesting and informative report from the upcoming Southside launch!

In Madrid I was a regular visitor to the monthly Saturday Dia de Mercado farmers market that took place in the circular patio surrounding the Agrarian Chamber building. All producers were based in the region of Madrid, which covers some 8000 square kilometres, and supplied a wonderful and diverse range of organic produce, meat, cheese, dairy products, beers, vermouth, liquors and wine. Each month would feature a particular product: cheese, coffee, tortilla etc, and there would be demonstrations and free food on offer.

Queuing for Madrid Cocido (a typical stew-type dish with chickpeas and pigs cheek)

La Abuela Vieja (the Old Granny) honey
At this market you can buy a wine glass plus vouchers for samples for about 3€ (so cheap, sob!) and work your way round getting steadily more tipsy. In typical Spanish fashion, whole families will go and spend the morning there shopping for organic veg (and storing it in massive shopping trolleys), eating trays of Spanish ham or chorizo sausage washed down with some excellent red wine, socialising and gazing dotingly at the kids as they are apt to do. I loved it.
If you plan a weekend trip to Madrid you simply must go. 
See calendar below for dates. 
Madrid's Dia de Mercado (Market Day) Calendar 2015
Thanks for reading


Sunday, 25 January 2015


Since I last wrote - for the first time - two days ago I have now discovered that some people have actually looked at my blog (apart from my sister and best friend who I shared the blog with). How can this be? I am feeling very much ego puffed (a phrase coined by Harry Hill, I believe) and it is an injection of motivation for me to continue writing about my interests. Be it food, health, travel, trends or nonsense.

On Friday I visited Ox and Finch which is a new (to me) eatery in Glasgow's West End. I went there with a friend and ex-colleague who is always up to date with all things trendy and cool in Glasgow. I don't know if she'll mind me mentioning this, but she is the owner of a lovely boutique in Glasgow: Isabella's Wardrobe. There is a web shop too for all fashion followers. 

The idea of Ox and Finch is that the menu is changing regularly, but is the same for lunch and dinner. The dishes that come are a generous 'tapas' size so we shared 7 which was plenty. Oh, and a delicate and delicious desert. Here is a snap of mine: 

Chocolate and blackcurrant torte

The theme of today is bananas. I haven't yet decided if my blog will have a different theme per post or just a mish mash of my views, things I have been reading about or eating and what's current in food trends. But I wanted to mention bananas as I have eaten a lot recently and I am kind of amazed at how they have come to replace the kinds of bland processed sweet foods that I would eat before (biscuits, cakes, cereal bars) and just how incredibly sweet they taste to a palate that is cutting down on sugar. My most recent discovery is the frozen banana and how, combined with raw cacao powder, milk, peanut butter and coconut oil, it creates a fantastic, moreish chocolate ice cream drink. So unbelievably good. 
We use a Breville Blend Active to whizz it all together in about 10 seconds.

I am looking into the UK NHS' most recent 'Sugar Swaps' campaign.
I don't think until now a national campaign has so blatantly come out and pointed the finger at sugar as the cause of childhood obesity. It has adverts on National Television and is branded in a colourful and appealing way with what looks like Keith Haring inspired plasticine characters. My concern, however, is the suggested 'swaps'. Okay, swapping cereal loaded with sugar for plain porridge: thumbs up. Swapping fizzy drinks for sugar-free drinks? No. Aspartame people. Deadly stuff which you wouldn't knowingly feed your kids if you had seen Sweet Misery. It causes horrible, horrible illnesses. 

'Aspartame is an artificial sweetener, an additive. And it's a chemical. It's not a natural product, it's a chemical. The molecule is made up of three components. Two are amino acids, the so-called building blocks of protein.
One is called Phenylalanine, which is about 50% of the molecule and the other is Aspartic Acid, which is like 40%. And the other 10% is so-called Methyl Ester, which as soon as it’s swallowed becomes free methyl alcohol. Methanol. Wood alcohol, which is a poison. A real poison.'
So, the NHS has some way to go with this. I will write more about this but suffice to say, our national health advising bodies are yet again giving confusing, mis-information to people about so-called 'healthy' options which don't even involve 'real food', just further processed, and downright dangerous, chemicals.

Thanks for reading

Friday, 23 January 2015

Good Intentions

It seems that you can carry an idea around with you for ages and never find the right opportunity to take that first step to bringing that idea to life. I bet this is the case for so many others. How many fantastic ideas we must have floating around in our collective subconscious, never realised for fear, or lack of time, or countless other reasons.
To start a blog of my own, writing about food and health, was one such idea of mine. I've taken the first step. I've started it. Yes, I may be writing this still in my pyjamas in bed, and yes, using my new tablet (thanks Santa) is bridging the somewhat intimidating gap between scribbling thoughts down in a jotter and sitting at the computer ogling a blank screen. 

To quote my favourite film, Strictly Ballroom: 'A life lived in fear is a life half lived.' Never were truer words spoken, Mr Luhrman.

All I'm going to share today is a recommendation to order your organic veg from Grow Wild in Bathgate. 
Since returning from Spain, we've had a weekly delivery (3 in total) and it's a bit like a visit from the produce fairy. You never know what soily treats will be inside that box. (My apologies to Grow Wild for not doing your veg justice with these photos.)
Grow Wild: All grown in Scotland and seasonal..yum

So far we've received the most glorious bright orange carrots, parsnips, big old gnarly celeriac (cooked according to Jamie Oliver), potatoes,  beetroot,  kale, onions, purple sprouting broccoli,  cavolo nero, cabbages, mushrooms,  terrifyingly giant leeks and, my new favourite, swede. Didn't even save the swede for our bard's upcoming birthday this Sunday. Made it into a lovely cheesy swede mash. You can see it in the photo below, nestled against some of the aforementioned broccoli and cavolo nero and beef casserole. (I'm going to work on my food photography skills, I promise) 
Grow Wild UK veg box (featuring slipper)
Beef casserole,  greens and pureed swede with a cheesy crust

Thanks for reading.