Friday, 17 March 2017

Can You Become and "Meal Maker" and Make Someone's Day?

How much food do you rekon your family wastes each week? (cooked or uncooked)
Four bin bags full? Two Tupperware tubs full? One plate full of sad looking leftovers that you just couldn't bear to microwave warm for your lunch today?

Well, what if that food didn't have to become waste? What if that food was able to offer hope, comfort, nutrition and happiness to someone who needs it most? Would you do it? No, I'm not talking about packaging it up and sending it to Africa, I'm talking about popping next door, or into your car and dropping by a neighbour or fellow community member's house to provide them with dinner! Those who are on your doorstep...

Meal Makers is a brilliant initative which has not long some to the Stirlingshire area! Meal Makers marry up those who are willing to donate dinners, with those who need them. So, when you are next cooking up a storm - whether dining solo or as a family - could you set a portion aside for somebody else to ensure, this time, that food it doesn't go to waste?

Fresh, homecooked food is far more than 'just eating', which is why I started up CouthieCantie orignially, to get more people creating it! Through Cookery and Food we chat, we share, we learn, we form relationships and we mend ourselves - as well as others - just a little bit at a time. This is why I will be supporting Meal Makers in Stirling, even through I live in Clackmannanshire.

Hopefully, with support, the Programme remit will continue to grow into new areas but for now, if you can afford to gift one meal a month, or even a week, to someone in the Stirlingshire area, regardless of where you live, please do so. You can gain ideas on what to rustle up via our online streams so why not check out @couthiecantie on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram?  Remember - simplicity is the key.

Bulk up, dish out and do something great today...Who will be 'making' with me?

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Experimenting with My Secret Kitchen

What better way to try something new in the kitchen than from the comfort of your own? Free mini tasting pots have been offered, of just some of our new My Secret Kitchen products, during February and I'm providing some ideas on how to use them best below.
I'm confident you will be as impressed as I am on the quality, taste and variety of the MSK collection and so if your taste buds are tickled by these three, why not book a free 1:2:1 or group Home Tasting in order to gain insight into the other 100+
Book today by emailing or by messaging @NicolaReidMSK
Happy experimenting!
Salsa Dip Mix
  • Of course - make your own salsa! Mix tinned, or fresh chopped, tomatoes with dip mix to taste- add a squeeze of lime for added zing!
  • Make fresh Salsa Verde by mixing olive or rapeseed oil, the zest and juice of limes, chopped parsley and thinly chopped green chilli with salt and pepper, all to taste
  • Tart up your Sunday roast by sprinkling onto chicken;
  • Add heat to your dip mix by blending with creme fraiche, mayo, natural yoghurt or soured cream
  • As with any of our dip mixes - leave to mature in flavour for at least 15 minutes, they get even better with time!
Canadian Steak Meat Rub
  • Of course - use on meat!  Rub your steak in oil (rather than adding too much oil to the pan) before 'patting' Meat Rub into your steak and leaving the flavour to develop before cooking;
  • Sprinkle on roast tatties or veg to bring new taste to the table
  • Mix into homemade burgers or meatballs to give extra depth to your meal
Key Lime Dukkah
  • Of course - scratch make your own key lime pie! (Or cheesecake)
  • Add to natural yoghurt for a healthy treat
  • Sprinkle onto cream topped meringues
  • Add to creme fraiche and serve with pretzel sticks as a sweet dip
  • Or simply, try dukkah dipped fruit - grapes and berries are the best!

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Do you fancy quiting sugar too?

First things first, I am in no way affiliated to the "I Quit Sugar" organisation and I am sadly not getting any foodie freebies,  payment or royalties for writing this post - I just think it's something damn good worth raving about.

On 2nd Feb 2017, Hubs and I will be commencing the 8 week I Quit Sugar programme, for the second time, in our quest to rid our bodies of fructose and reap all the benefits that come with it - clearer skin,  aided weight loss, increased energy and better sleep to name a few! But why for the second time? Did it not work the first?

Well it did,  very well in fact, hence why we are going back for more but we didn't last the full 8 weeks before. Quiting the crappy sugars we are all so accustomed to nowadays is a long term battle to fight and sadly, after 19 days going 'cold turkey' combined with the stress of selling our property and taking on a new refurb project (which we are still in the final throws of finishing off a year on!) we fell back into bad habits and to the convenience of fructose laiden food.

However, during our time with the programme we were extemely impressed with the weekly routine and structure planned out for us,  the weekly batches of very tasty recipes and weekly shopping lists already written for us. It took the need to "think" out of the equation and simply allowed us to learn, and try our best. Along with all of this, we were given regular reading material which explained how we might feel, reassured us that others feel just as bad in the early days (and yes, it was hard) whilst encouraging us to keep going. After about 4 or 5 days we began to feel the benefit of our decision to quit - well worth the fatigue and sore heads. 

You can read more about the programme and organisation here - but as u can tell, I'm a firm advocate and think it's well worth the tenner or so you have to pay per week - not far off what Weight Watchers and Scottish Slimmers will charge you to be weighed and shamed in front of others ;) oh and another thing to mention - you can customise the set of recipes you receive, from winter to summer and veggie to omnivore. During our last stint they were all delicious and I'm looking forward to trying out some new meals in the kitchen.

If you are interested please contact me for a discount code which I used for 15% off ( and I will also add you to a closed, private, group so we can support each other as 'locals'. This is something which I think could enhance the programme even more for all involved but with it being a global programme it is hard to find people nearby.

Any questions, please ask! I looking forward to 'quiting' with you....x

Friday, 6 January 2017

Scratch Made Cordial

Making your own cordial from scratch has maaaany benefits but some of them include:
  1. controlling your sugar intake, 
  2. knowing exactly what's going into to your family's drinks, 
  3. using up fruit which would otherwise have gone to waste and 
  4. getting messy in the kitchen (safely) when conjuring up your favourite flavours!
Furthermore, Cordial isn't a million miles away from "coulis" (a posh fruit sauce!) or even just simple stewed fruit which can top yoghurt and desserts to add extra flavour so what's stopping you giving it a bash? 

To make cordial I would recommend marrying 500g fruit (such as raspberries, cranberries or blueberries) with 300-500g sugar (depending on how sweet you like your syrup) and 3 tablespoons of 'acid' (such as red wine vinegar, cider vinegar or lemon juice). 

Heat these in a pot, stirring often so the sugar doesn't stick,  until everything has dissolved into a pulpy mush.

Once you have achieved "mush" you are then looking to strain this through a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth, you may have to do this in batches depending on the size of your jug or bowl. 

Once strained, place the left over pulp back into the pot and add 300-500ml of water, bring back to the boil and sieve again. Once combined, your syrup should be runny and, well, syrupy! Don't worry if it's quite thick though, you can repeat the process a third time to water down some more, or stick with what you have and impress your friends by calling it coulis :)

For the stewed fruit I mentioned, stop short on step one of completely heating it to mush. So long at the fruits are soft, sweetened and balanced with acid you will have the perfect topping for a New York Style Cheesecake!

These syrups make great treats for kids and delicious mocktail bases for those looking to cut back on alcohol or cut it out altogether. One afternoon, pictured below, I mixed my scratch made cranberry and apple cordial with sparkling water, a squeeze of lime and a dash of My Secret Kitchen Balsamic Vinegars - Blood Orange, Mango and Guava, and separately Caramelised Coconut and Spiced Rum - which might sound odd but are absolutely delicious! If you fancy trying the same you can purchase these vinegars here. Go on give them, and cordial, a go! 

Happy tippling x

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Buttermilk is my New Best Friend

From the lightest of bakes to crispiest of crusts, Buttermilk has become an ally of mine this past week. An ingredient I have previously never given much time or thought to (mainly because it is in short supply in the supermarkets!) I was given the opportunity to try some fresh, local Buttermilk by the Stirling Food Assembly. Always keen for a foodie challenge I gladly accepted and then wondered, "hmmmm what the heck am I do to!?"

I browsed the interweb for some inspiration and also thought about the 'treat foods' I adore. As I stopped my mouth from watering all over my tablet I settled on 'scones' and 'wings'. Both appeared to benefit from the presence of buttermilk, accorrding to Google, and so after doing my usual 'read-five-recipes-and-do-the-bits-you-like-the-sound-of' I proceed to bake and to marinade. 

Now, as many of my friends and family will tell you, despite being 'pro scratch cooking',  I am an appalling baker. Simple bakes always end up a disaster with me (probably because of the methodology named above) and so I didn't hold high hopes for these Festive Fruit Scones. Similarly - I like a crispy skin to my wings, something I have only just perfected through a combination of boiling and baking so I wasn't yet prepared to trial deep fat frying. However, much to my amazement both experiments blew my socks off - something I put purely down the the buttermilk, and not my talent!

Buttermilk is a by-product of the butter making process and sadly much of it, these days, it's put to waste. This is because we aren't using it as much as our Grannies did when they were growing up. The slightly sour properties in buttermilk do something only a food scientist (which I am not) can probably explain and give another level of flavour, as well as a light and crisp texture. 

I'm pleased to say that my Local Food Assembly will be stocking Buttermilk in 2017 but only in limited supply so you must be quick to order! Go on give it a go, experiment one Sunday afternoon, and impress your loved ones when you take your Scratch Cooking to the next level! 

For full details, you can check out my Festive Fruit Scones and my Grill Master Buttermilk Wings by following the links. 

Enjoy! x

Grill Master Buttermilk Wings

Well friends, you know my achillies heel is "wings". Crispy, crooked, sweet, salty, flavourful wings!!

In recent months, I've had to go easy on the spice levels, probably because my stomach has gone on strike from processing the volume of Franks Hot Sauce I used to consume, so I've had to get my kicks in other ways. But luckily it was not just the lip smacking, vinegary spice I loved of the hot sauce, it was the crunch of crisp wingy skin. (Apologies Vegans and Veggies, you probably wana get off at the next stop). Texture is more than half the battle when it comes to the perfect wing - who wants soft, wobbly, pale skin? I have enough of that on my person, I don't need it mirrored in my food.

So in an eternal quest to take my wing game to the next level, I believed Buttermilk and my new range of spice blends held the golden ticket, and I wasn't wrong.  To get good bark on your next set of bird bones, follow these simple steps: 

Rub your wings in My Secret Kitchen's Grill Master - which you can buy here - along with a good sprinkling of granulated garlic, smoked paprika and a pinch of cayenne pepper.  Once all the dry ingredients are in the pool, cover with buttermilk and a good glug of Hot Sauce. Allow this mixture to work it's magic for at least 8 hours - ideally overnight. 
When you are ready to deep fry, heat your oil - safely - to around 190 degrees. To get this crust extra crispy you are going to bake these as well as fry so have your tray at the ready and oven preheated to 220. 

Whilst these are heating, remove your wings from the buttermilk bath, shake of the excess and dip into seasoned flour. (Again, I added Grill Master to mine, but salt and pepper would do the job here too, or even one of the other My Secret Kitchen speciality salts).

Test your oil by dropping a tiny left over bit of batter into the pan, if it browns up nicely it's ready. Gently ease your wings into the oil and avoid moving them around whilst they take colour (around 3-4 mins each side).

Transfer to the baking sheet and cook for a further 12-18 mins until cooked and browned further. 

These wings are abosultely delicious on their own thanks to their smoky American BBQ flavour but in my opinion everything can be enhanced with a little more Franks- I shook on just a little more after baking for good measure :)

Crispy and crunchy, yet the meat within was still moist (sorry, I know people get the creeps when that is said, but no better word for it). If you want to up your Wing Game I certainly recommend Buttermilk and my new mate- the Grill Master Meat Rub. Colonel Sanders, you can take your seat now, Sir. x

Easy Festive Bakes

It's that time of year where every second food item passing our lips seems to be sweet! It does nothing for our waistline but everything for our morale as we hibernate in our pyjamas.
It's also the season we are obliged to entertain, or at least offer up some home baked goods at somebody else's gathering... If like me you dread baking, and don't feel too confident with cakes, then just follow these simple recipes for tasty food gifts this festive season -  you are in safe hands.

Sweet Puffed Tacos with Spiced Apple
Mix apple pie filling with 1-2 teaspoons of My Secret Kitchen 'Country Baked Apple Pie' baking spice and allow the flavours to develop whilst you roll out puff pastry to approximately 3mm in thickness. 
Cookie cut this pastry into circles which are the same size and fill these discs with the apple mix. Pinch the sides of the 'taco' to close over and finish with a light brush of milk to help a sprinkle of Vanilla Sugar stick.
Bake at 180 degrees for 12-15mins or until the sweet tacos are golden. Best served warm.

Festive Fruit Scones
Sift 8oz of S/R flour; 1.5oz of caster sugar and a pinch of salt. Add to this 3oz of butter and 'crumble' it together with clean finger tips. 

Once resembling sand, add an egg, 2oz of dried fruit (I went for cranberries and sultanas!) and 1tablespoon of buttermilk - bring the mix together with a knife. Add another tablespoon of buttermilk and start to bring together with your hand. The mixture should be sticky but not wet. You may need to add one last tablespoon of butter milk. 

Shape and cut into 6 thick circular scones (or 12 miniatures). Bake for 15-20mins at 180 degrees again, making sure the bottoms are 'hollow' sounding when tapped. Best served warm again, with lashing of butter or cream, and jam. 


Proper Crimbo! x