RSS Feed

New look and new website for A Wee Pinch of Sugar.

A Wee Pinch of Sugar has moved to a new site and has a bright new look. If you want to continue following my posts, please go to and sign up to follow the new site.

Hope up you like the new look and I look forward to sharing some new projects and stories with you.


Maw Broon’s Kitchen – Making Great Sauce

There are some things in my fridge that are must have as far as my boys are concerned and that’s ketchup and brown sauce. No matter what other fancy ingredients, foods and sauces  lurk on the shelves, the tomato ketchup and brown sauce are firm favourites with them. The sauces also find their way into several of my recipes and ketchup is also a secret ingredient favourited by many chefs with even the great Michel Roux  using  ‘Tommy Ketchup’ in his shepherds pie.


Broon and tomato sauce, both favourites in our house

Broon and tomato sauce, both favourites in our house

However, we’re prone to a bit of sauce snobbery in our house. We’d never be seen dead with cheap ketchup, it’s always the well known brand, served straight from the the bottle. No fancy sauce dispenser for us, we like to show our label!

But what about a change in brand, what kind of  reaction would that get from the boys. Edinburgh based companyMaw Broon’s sauce had sent tomato and broon sauces for reviewing and of course the best time to test was with the big Sunday cooked breakfast. I’m more of brown sauce fan when it comes to sauce with my breakfast sausage while the boys are long time lovers of ketchup.

Made in small batches from the very best ingredients.

Made in small batches from the very best ingredients.

Both sauces got the thumbs up. The tomato sauce was rich and tomatoey, as you would want from a sauce to accompany food.  The brown sauce ticked all boxes with it’s fruit and tangy flavour and was the ideal accompaniment to our Sunday breakfast.


Maw Broon's sauces were the perfect accompaniment to Sunday breakfast

Maw Broon’s sauces were the perfect accompaniment to Sunday breakfast

Also the sauces have no artificial additives or preservatives,  good enough to be in my pantry and on the table, labels and all!




What’s in your takeaway? Some words on food fraud and a recipe for a healthy lamb kebab

Another week, another food scandal and does it come as any great surprise that the lamb in your takeaway might not what it says on the label. I’d say not really, it’s another scandal in the country’s food industry that’s been plagued by fraud.  60 Samples of lamb dishes obtained from takeaways in London and Birmingham revealed 24 mixed with other meat, 7 of which contained only beef. And, the shocking thing is that the price for this cheap adulterated food is anything but cheap when passed on to the customer. Looking at the  menu for a Glasgow takeaway restaurant, it can cost anything from £4 for a donner kebab, with customers paying up to more than £8 for a mixed kebab. Given this latest scandal, perhaps the label of mixed kebab is more appropriate and obviously you can charge more for that! Multiply that by two or three and it’s an expensive family meal.

Regardless of what action the Government’s Food Standards Agency  plan, as they once again insist they are cracking down on food fraud, there is a more powerful solution. The consumer, the customer, the one who is paying for this seemingly growing fraudulent industry. Why we are prepared to pay for this, never mind eat it is beyond me, but what we can do is become part of a change. Last week I heard Philip Lymberry CEO of Compassion in World Farming comment during the ‘Politics in Food session in Glasgow,  that ‘food chain is under constant attack and we need to meet it with resistance’. The more small changes we all make is what will help that change.  He also said, ‘The revolution in food will come through evolutionery steps’.  

If  being part of that revolution appeals, there’s an easy place to start, cook your own food with fresh ingredients. Food that you can identify and know where it comes from. Not that difficult but everytime I champion this I receive numerous comments, not about being unable to cook but that people don’t have time to cook. Well, sticking my neck out again, that doesn’t wash with me. A healthy meal, especially a kebab can be cooked quicker than the time it will take to organise a takeaway. And on the cooking,  believe me it’s not rocket science, if you can’t cook, it’s possible to learn, even on a very tight budget.

To help you out, I’m sharing the kebab recipe I started making when my sons left home for university and thought that happiness was a donner kebab. It’s quick and easy to make and if time is a problem the meat can be left marinating in the fridge overnight.

A healthy home cooked kebab that beats any takeaway

A healthy home cooked kebab that beats any takeaway

This version is much healthier than any takeaway and can be made with any meat although I usually use lamb leg steaks, and serve on a large round pitta with salad, red onion, tomatoes, raita and a chili sauce.

Lamb kebab. Approx 6 lamb leg steak,  4 tsp Harissa paste- I use Belazu Rose Harissa, 2 tbsp oil – I tend to use rapeseed although olive will be fine.

Place the lamb steaks in a plastic bag , mix the Harissa and oil together and add to the lamb, mix well and leave to marinade either overnight or for a few hours.
When ready to cook, heat a griddle or grill and cook steak for approx 4 minutes each side or to your liking. When cooked serve on pita bread with the accompaniments.

An easy meal for all the family

An easy meal for all the family


Pitta bread…the large round pitta bread from Warburtons are ideal as you can lay kebab on top and fold.
Chopped tomatoes
Sliced red onion
Shredded lettuce

Chili sauce. 250ml Natural yogurt, 100 ml tomato ketchup, 1 tsp chili powder, 1tsp mint sauce. Add ingredients to bowl and mix together.

Raita. 250ml Natural yoghurt, half a cucumber-chopped, 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint, half Tsp ground roasted cumin seeds, pinch of cayenne pepper, Salt and pepper. Add ingredients to  a bowl and mix together.




The packet spice range from Our House of Spice


Products that create shortcuts with cooking are fine by me,  providing I’m using quality natural ingredients that don’t compromise  the finished dish. I was more than happy to cook  the dishes with spice mixes sent to me from Our House of spice . The mixes form part of the ‘spice packet range’ and contain no additives other than the addition of salt. Being a family of spicy food lovers, the two dishes were ideal accompaniments to our Saturday night curry.

The mixes are simply packed with the recipe for each dish on the rear of the label

The mixes are simply packed with the recipe for each dish on the rear of the label

potato label

bombay potatoes


The recipes, Bombay potatoes and Tarka Dhal  were simple to make and the blends are ideal if you don’t have a lot of spices, recipes, or indeed time to spend in the kitchen. With the mixes, all that’s required is the fresh ingredients and a few minutes preparation time. For the Bombay potatoes, oil, potatoes, garlic and fresh coriander and for the Tarka dhal, red lentils and an onion.  Both had a great level of spice and flavour and were ideal accompaniments to our homemade chicken Jalfrezi.

Tarka dhal label lentil dhal


Other mixes in the ‘spice packet range’ include,

  • Raita Spiced Yoghurt Dip
  • Medium Masala Curry
  • Baked Chicken

About Our House of Spice

The Cambridge based company was founded by sisters Nadia and Julia to enable them to share their heritage food and recipes in the same way their mother did with friends and family. Having been brought up surrounded by Indian food and learning from their mother, their experience taught them that food brings people together. The dishes they sell as part of their frozen range and the spice packets use family recipes that have been handed down through the generations to provide the authentic ‘Our House of Spice’ experience at home.


The spice range is available on line from Our House of Spice and you can also read more of their story and products on the website







My ‘Nose to Tail’ project from ‘The Whole Cow’. Corned Beef

5 cow collage

I felt quite adventurous with the next recipe in my ‘nose to tail’ project, cooking every dish in Chef and author Christopher Trotter’s The Whole Cow’ book‘. I decided to make corned beef, a dish I’ve never cooked, but the recipe looked quite straightforward and my local butcher, Drew, shared some of his tips, as well as providing me with a nice looking piece of brisket.


My early memories of corned beef are those square tins with the key and  dinner of what we called corned beef hash, really a mash as it was simply chopped corned beef mixed with mashed potatoes. In some places that’s called Stovies as I discovered when I was in Fife recently. This dish had fried onions and corned beef mixed through the mashed potatoes.

There’s an interesting chapter on preserved beef in the The Whole Cow and it gives an insight into the history of preserving meat – ” Salt acts as a preservative by drawing out the moisture: this stops  bacteria and moulds from growing because they need water to survive. There are two main methods of salting: rubbing with dry salt or soaking in brine, either of which may take a few days or several weeks”.

“Corned beef and the modern English term ‘salt beef’ are interchangeable, ‘corn’ being an old English word for any grain, including grains of salt. The classic recipe uses brisket or silverside (outside or bottom round), kept in a nice spiced brine for up to two weeks, the resulting meat is usually simmered with onions, carrots and bay leaves, until tender enough to cut with a fork. It’s the basis for the traditional English ‘boiled beef and carrots’, North America’s New England boiled dinner and the Irish- American corned beef and cabbage”.

The first stage was to brine the meat and the recipe advises soaking for at least 2 days or up to 7. As it was my first attempt, I decided to go around halfway and brined for almost 4 days. The brining was a simple process, make the salt cure, allow to cool and soak the meat for 2 days.

Brining collage 2


Brine. 2 litres cold water, 300g coarse sea salt, 200g coarse brown or granulated sugar, 2 bay leaves, 3 juniper berries, 1/2 tsp saltpetre (optional)

Put all the ingredients into a large pan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar, then leave until cold. Put the meat  in a deep non reactive bowl and pour over the cold brine. Leave for at least 2 days, or up to 7

The brine can be used for many other types of meat and Christopher  also uses it for ox tongue, pork belly and breast of veal.

Cooking the corned beef was also a simple process, involving a few extra ingredients. 2 carrots, 1 onion studded with 8 cloves, base of a head of celery, 1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary.

Soak the brined beef in fresh cold water for about 2 hours. Put into a deep pan, cover with cold water, slowly bring to the boil and skim off the grey scum. Add the rest of the ingredients and reduce to a gentle simmer, partially cover and cook for 3 hours or until tender. Leave the cooked meat in it’s cooking liquid to cool slightly and then remove from the pan.

I was delighted with my effort. The beef was tender with subtle lingering  flavours of the herbs and spices. Christopher suggests slicing and serving hot with boiled potatoes and mustard or thinly slice for a sandwich, on rye bead with pickles and/or mustard.


corned beef


The cooked corned beef can also be used to make Potted beef, a Scottish speciality sold in most butcher shops. The recipe in ‘The Whole Cow’ includes prunes, which is Christopher’s own take on the recipe, added after a cooking session with a chef  friend.

Potted Beef.  400g freshly cooked corned beef, with it’s cooking liquid, salt and pepper, 10 stoneless ready to eat prunes, ideally Agen, roughly chopped.

Leave the cooked corned beef in it’s cooking liquid to cool slightly, then remove from the pan. Simmer steadily to reduce the cooking liquid by half and then leave to cool.

Chop the beef into small chunks, mixing fat and lean meat, season with salt ( take care if you have brined for a long time) and black pepper.

potted beef


Mix the prunes and add a little of the cooled stock, just enough to moisten ( about 4 tbsp) and then cram into an earthenware crock pot or bowl, cover and place in the fridge. It is best left for at least 48 hours and will keep happily for up to a week.

Like the corned beef, the potted beef was devoured by the Gillon boys before I could take a picture of the dish. It was a delicious and they enjoyed it with toast and chutney. The serving suggestion from Christopher is to serve from the dish with toast salad and piccalilli, but any tangy salsa will go well.



About the author. Christopher Trotter is a freelance chef and food writer, restaurant inspector and food consultant. As Fife’s Food Ambassador, he organises bespoke food tours around Scotland as well as running cookery classes. He is the author of several books, including the whole hog, Scottish Heritage Food and Cooking with Carol Wilson and the National Trust for Scotland’s The Scottish Kitchen  Follow hin on twitter – @CTScotfood or Facebook– /CTSCOTFOOD

ARTWORK – Thank you to Alice Strange for permission to reproduce the ‘cow’ artwork. A full selection of her work can be viewed on her website.






The latest veg bag tales on A Wee Pinch of Sugar

veg bag header


Last weeks bag with courgettes and aubergines gave me a lift, there was a feeling of changing seasons. This week, with little sunshine and more dull days, the veg bag arrived with cauliflower and celeriac and although courgettes had appeared again, I felt a longing need to see the end of the hearty root veg. March is that kind of month,stuck between Winter and Spring.

It had been a slightly quieter week in the kitchen and there was still  a few veg from the previous bag to use up. But with a busy weekend looming, and a lot of mouths to feed it was soon used up.

The week saw the end of the Sport Relief charity event and friend Ellen Arnison over at In a bun dance, was taking part in the adventurous and sporty Team Honk Relay. Being way too energetic for me, I offered to make food to sustain them through some of the Scottish parts of the relay. With an uncompromising weather forecast and the team planning to raft in Perthshire on the Saturday, warm hearty, easy to eat comfort food was the order of the day. A very large pot of lentil soup ticked that box and used up a fair amount of the carrots onions and celery, but thankfully it did the trick for warming up some very cold and wet rafters. My mother and I always disagree over the recipe for lentil soup as she adds leeks and I don’t. She also finely grates her carrots and I chop mine. It’s been the subject of many a discussion but that’s the way I prefer to make my lentil soup.

Lentil soup

This amount will serve around 4. Large ham hough, onion, carrot and any other leftover veg/herbs for stock. 1 litre of water. 8oz red lentils, 1-2 tbsp oil, 2 Onions chopped, 2 celery sticks chopped, 2 large carrots chopped, Bouquet garni of parsley, thyme and bay leaves.

PicMonkey Collage green

Make the stock by adding the ham hough, water and the stock veg/herbs to a large pan. Slowly bring to the boil, skimming off any scum. Simmer for approx 90 minutes. Strain the stock and then return to the pan with the lentils and continue simmering for approximately 10 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables and continue cooking for approx 15 minutes until the lentils and vegetables are cooked. Blend to a smooth consistency. Shred the meat from the ham hough and add to the soup.

The second soup for the week was Celeriac and Spinach. Another one of my ‘green’ soups and also very tasty and nutritious.

1tbsp oil, 1 onion chopped, 1 small celeriac chopped, 750 ml stock – vegetable or chicken, herbs – I used bay leaf and a sprig of thyme,  2 large handfuls of spinach

Heat the oil in a pan and sweat the onion. Add the celeriac, cook for 1 minute and add the stock and herbs. Simmer for approx 15 minutes. Once cooked added the spinach, allow to wilt and blend to a smooth consistency.


Spicy Prawn & Veg Noodles

This is one of those recipes that works well with a variety of vegetables and as usual, I used what was in the veg basket. Other vegetables such as mushrooms, mangetout, green beans, celery, sweetcorn and peppers will work equally well. The prawns can be replaced with chicken or serve without meat as a vegetarian dish.

Quick and easy, healthy veg and noodles

Quick and easy, healthy veg and noodles


1-2 tbsp rapeseed oil, 2 tsp grated root ginger, 1 garlic clove, crushed, 1 red chilli, chopped, 1 courgette, sliced, 1 large carrot, sliced into thin sticks, half of a small head of broccoli, broken into small florets,  3 tbsp soy sauce, tbsp sherry or Chinese cooking wine, small amount of vegetable stock (if required)   4 oz cooked prawns, 2-3 nests of egg noodles. To serve, freshly chopped coriander.

Heat the oil in a wok or a large saute pan, add the ginger, garlic and chilli and cook for 1 minute. Add the remainder of the veg and stir fry for 5 minutes. Add the prawns and heat through.  While the veg are cooking, cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet. Drain and toss with the cooked veg and prawns, add the soy sauce, sherry and if required a small amount of vegetable stock. Serve sprinkled with freshly chopped corriander.


Pasta with courgettes and sun dried tomato pesto

This is another dish that was born out of what was in the fridge and it was packed full of flavour from the pesto and the goats cheese. The pesto had been made for the Team Honk sandwiches  with about 12 sun dried tomatoes, a small bunch of basil, 2 oz grated Parmesan,  2 oz pine nuts and seasoning. Any type of pesto from a jar will also work well.

Courgette and red pesto pasta

Courgette and red pesto pasta

8oz of dried pasta, 1 tbsp oil, 3 shallots, finely chopped, 1 large courgette, approx 150g sun dried tomato pesto, 10 olives sliced, 100ml vegetable stock, approx 4 oz goats chopped cheese,  ( I used Dunlop Dairy, Bonnet, a hard goats cheese). handful of basil leaves.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. In a large pan, heat the oil and saute the shallots for 1 minute. Add the courgette, cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly golden. Stir in the pesto, olives and a small amount of stock if required and  heat through. Add the pasta to the sauce and mix well. Transfer to an oven proof dish, scatter over the goats cheese and brown under a hot grill. serve scattered with basil leaves.


Spicy Rice with Cauliflower and Chicken

The cauliflower was a good addition to this quick and easy spicy chicken rice, made with leftover cooked chicken I had used  in the sandwiches for  Team Honk.

Spicy rice with cauliflower and chicken

Spicy rice with cauliflower and chicken


Serves 4. Long grain or basmati rice, measured to the 14oz Mark in a measuring jug. Add the rice to a pan with 500ml cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, turn to a low setting and cook for approx 10 minutes until the rice cooked and the water has been absorbed. Set aside.

1 onion chopped, 1 garlic clove crushed, heaped tablespoon of curry paste, heaped tablespoon of tomato ketchup, 250-300ml chicken stock, small cauliflower broken into small florets. Approx 8 oz leftover cooked chicken, or any leftover cooked meat. Sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander and serve with mango chutney on the side.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan, add the onion, cook for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, cook for a further minute, add the curry paste, tomato ketchup and 250 ml of the stock and mix well. Add the cauliflower and continue cooking until it starts to soften. Add the cooked chicken, continue cooking until the chicken is piping hot and if needed add the remaining stock. Sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander and serve with mango chutney on the side.

Carrot and raisin cookies

I also had time to bake the carrot and raisin cake/cookies from the  Bellfield Organics newsletter, featured in last weeks post. I opted to bake the cookies and they were delicious.

Carrot and raisin cookies - the recipe can also be used make a cake

Carrot and raisin cookies – the recipe can also be used make a cake



When the cupboards are almost bare….tomato soup

It’s Wednesday,  that means it’s veg bag delivery day and it also means the cupboards are almost bare. No carrots, leeks or celery for soup, but what I do seem to have a lot of, is tomatoes, leftover from the boys visit at the weekend, when they were in charge of the kitchen.

Tomatoes, along with a few other ingredients, make such a great soup and a very quick delicious  lunch. It’s also a nice change from some of the more robust winter soups I’ve been cooking recently. Roasting the tomatoes along with herbs makes them beautifully sweet and a lovely rich healthy soup.

Tomato soup, a nice change from robust Wintery root veg soups

Tomato soup, a nice change from robust Wintery root veg soups


Heat oven – 220/200oc Fan, Gas 5

Approx10-12 tomatoes. I used a mixture of plum,salad and cherry.

A few sprigs of thyme

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt.


1 tbsp oil

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

750ml – 1 litre of vegetable stock . Be guided by the consistency of the tomato mixture and your own preference.

Half the tomatoes, although cherry tomatoes are best left whole. Place in a large bowl with the thyme leaves, drizzle with oil, add seasoning and place on a baking tray. Roast for approx 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion, sauté for 5 minutes, add the garlic, continue cooking for 1 minute. Add the roasted tomatoes along with the tinned tomatoes and stock and slowly bring to the boil. At this stage either blend the soup, or for a more chunky soup, blend half the soup and add back to the pan.

 I served the soup with a drizzle of oil and some torn basil leaves.