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Monthly Archives: April 2014

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.