Saturday, 5 April 2014

Libberton dog
The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA) is Scotland's animal welfare charity.
They encourage kindness to animals, aim to prevent cruelty through education, investigate abuse, rescue animals in distress and find animals new homes.
Scottish Charity of the Year
In 2013 they were named Scottish Charity of the Year and People's Choice winners in the SCVO awards, which they were very proud to receive.
As an animal welfare charity, they receive no government or lottery funding and rely on public donations to continue their vital work rescuing and re-homing abused, abandoned and injured animals in Scotland.
Scottish SPCA inspectors and animal rescue officers save thousands of domestic, farm and wild animals from harm and danger every year, while their vets and staff in their wildlife rescue centre and animal rescue and rehoming centres look after, rehabilitate and re-home thousands more.
Visit their online animal re-homing section to view some of the animals needing new homes including dogs, cats, rabbits and other smaller animals who are all looking for someone to take care of them.
They run an animal welfare education programme in schools, communities and their largest centres. They also campaign for improved animal welfare standards.
Volunteers play a key role working with animals, supporting their education programme and fundraising in their local communities.
The Scottish SPCA is entirely separate from the RSPCA, which operates in England and Wales only. There is no such charity as the 'RSPCA Scotland' or 'Scottish RSPCA'
If you want to help an animal charity in Scotland, you can join the Scottish SPCA for just £1 a week.
You can read their 2012 Annual Review for more information about their work helping animals in Scotland.
If you know of an animal in danger or distress, please call their Animal Helpline: 03000 999 999.
The Scottish SPCA does not put healthy animals to sleep.
Scottish Charity No. SC 006467

Rescue Pets Make Great Pets!

Flynn is an older boy who requires a quiet home.
He enjoys attention however he also enjoys time relaxing and pottering around by himself.
Flynn is looking for someone who can give him the tender loving care he needs, is it you?
If you are interested in re-homing Flynn visit

Help more animals

You can help rescue and rehome more animals like Flynn by joining the Scottish SPCA for as little as £1 per week.
Join today

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

It's been over two months since my last post. It's been very hot and humid over here that it put me off baking for a while; much to the benefit of my new-found leaner figure, since I lost 4 lbs!  Well, now that's been raining for the last couple of days and the temperature is cooler, I am back in the kitchen experimenting with cakes and frostings as usual, trying to create healthy desserts that taste great. This is always difficult with cakes. Sugar is never healthy, especially white sugar. I read that it's as addictive as heroin and it's bleached with bone char and various chemicals. One of this is sulfur dioxide, a compound found in oil and fuel, which is also used as a preservative in dried fruits such as raisins, dried apricots and prunes. Whenever the recipe allows it, I always try to substitute regular sugar with honey or natural brown sugar. Sugar also causes the breakdown of collagen and elastin, which contributes directly to wrinkles. But it's OK to have a  portion of a healthy dessert, occasionally.

I recently came across a notebook of recipes from the 1950s which belonged to my grandmother. Her indulgent chocolate cake recipe included spices and dry fruit, ingredients which I feel are best suited to a winter cake, so I decided to adapt it to my taste and skip those altogether.

I wanted to be back with something chocolaty since I love chocolate and everything that has cocoa in it. Chocolate is uplifting and it's good to know that according to medical researchers, if eaten in moderation, dark chocolate - and cocoa in general - (maybe not milk chocolate, since it's full of fat), is a powerful antioxidant and therefore acts as an anti-ageing and also helps lower cholesterol. 

Ingredients (serve 6):

For the cake:

3 eggs
170 gr brown sugar
120 gr flour
30 gr cocoa
50 gr unsalted butter
2 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the chocolate custard:

1 egg
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp corn starch
1/2 pint milk
1 tbsp unsalted butter

For the frosting:

50 gr unsalted butter
100 gr cream cheese
2 tbsp honey

Cocoa, for dusting.


Prepare the custard by whisking the egg with the sugar. Add the cocoa and corn starch, the milk and place over a low heat stirring with a wooden spoon until the custard thickens. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and allow to cool.

Now on to the cake: Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease a 20cm/8in cake tin with some butter and dust it with flour. 

Beat the eggs with sugar and butter until fluffy. Blend in the rest of the ingredients and stir until smooth. Gently pour the mixture on to the cake tin.

Bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes, or until the top is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Transfer the cake to a serving plate. Cut the cake in half and spread the chocolate custard on the bottom half of the cake, then carefully top with the other half.

Prepare the frosting by blending the butter with the cream cheese and the honey.

Ice the cake all over with the cream cheese icing, using a palette knife. Dust the top with a small amount of cocoa.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Salmon Fish Cakes

Ingredients (Serves 4)

500gr/1lb potatoes, cut into large chunks
350gr/12oz salmon fillets
2tsp vinegar
30gr/1oz/2tbsp butter
3 tbsp single cream
2tsp lemon juice
2tsp chopped fresh parsley
30gr/1oz/1/4 cup plain flour
1 egg white
90gr/3oz/11/2 cups breadcrumbs
vegetable oil
salt and pepper


Boil the potatoes in lightly salted water until tender. 

Place the salmon in a shallow pan with the vinegar and just enough water to cover. Simmer gently until the fish flakes easily. Drain well and flake the salmon with a fork, taking care to remove any skin and bones. 

When cooked, drain the potatoes, peel them and mash them. Mix them with the fish, the butter, the cream, the lemon juice and the chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Form the mixture into 8 cakes and dust with the flour. Beat the egg white in a shallow bowl with 1 tbsp cold water. Put the breadcrumbs on a separate plate. Dip the fish cake in the egg white, then coat with the breadcrumbs. Fry in vegetable oil until cooked and golden brown, about 4-5 minutes on each side.

Serve with tartare sauce and lemon wedges.

Torta al Limone (Lemon Cake)

Ingredients (Serves 6-8)

2 medium eggs
150gr caster sugar
150gr plain flour
1 lemon
40gr butter
3tbsp milk
2tsp baking powder 
1tsp vanilla extract
Icing sugar, to decorate


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease a 23cm/9in springform pan with butter and dust it lightly with flour. 

Grate the rind from the lemon, cut it in half and squeeze the juice.

Melt the butter in pan.

Place the eggs, sugar, lemon rind and vanilla extract into a bowl and whisk until smooth and pale yellow in colour. Stir in the lemon juice, the melted butter and the milk.

Sift the flour and the baking powder into the bowl, stir until well blended and smooth. 

Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 30 minutes. To check that the cake is done insert a skewer in the middle. If the  skewer comes out clean, the cake is ready.

Allow to cool for 15mins. Remove the cake from the pan and place it on a serving dish. Finally, dust it with icing sugar.

Diets of Old Hollywood Movie Stars

Jean Harlow was tiny and perfect. In fact, in the 1930s she had one of the most envied bodies in the celebrity world. However, she had to work hard to keep the weight off. She was a lover of good food but whenever she had a movie coming up she would follow a strict diet of vegetables and salads. Her favourite was the Caesar salad, invented by Italian American chef, restaurateur and hotel owner, Caesar Cardini. After she and Clark Gable discovered it, it became a hit in L.A. and, later, around the world. Jean was also a sport fan. She kept fit by swimming, as well as playing tennis and golf.

Mae West had a lifelong love of fitness and went for daily bike rides into her 80s. She once said: ''I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond." She didn't drink. "I never understood drinking. It isn't good for your looks, and it cuts down on what you are. I never wanted to cut down on what I am.''

Greta Garbo grew up Greta Gustafsson, an overweight, big-footed girl from Sweden. When aged 17, she met director Mauritz Stiller, the first of many Garbo mentors, he told her to lose 20lbs. Louis B Mayer of MGM invited Garbo to Hollywood in the 1920s, but warned her that America didn't like fat girls. She then went on a strict diet of spinach for three weeks to achieve the slender figure she became famous for. 
She enjoyed long walks and was a huge fan of "tramping about the woods." She was a vegetarian and preferred a frugal breakfast and a light lunch.

Bette Davis, on the other hand, was not an advocate for dieting. She once stated during an interview, published on the Sunday Herald on June 19, 1960: 

'' I was lucky to discover the importance of activity. I had always played tennis, swam a lot and ate intelligently - and in moderation, so I never had a problem with my weight or my health.''

Aubergine Parmigiana (Parmigiana di Melanzane): Baked aubergines with cheese and tomato sauce

Ingredients (Serves 6)

1kg/35oz/2.2lbs Aubergines
1 clove garlic
1 onion
2tbsp olive oil
700gr/24oz tomato passata (sieved puréed tomatoes)
1 1/2tsp salt
2tsp caster sugar
1tsp nutmeg
1/2tsp pepper
3tbsp coarse salt
2/250gr/8.8oz mozzarella cheeseballs
100gr/3 1/2 oz Parmesan cheese


Wash aubergines and cut them into 1/2in thick slices. Arrange them in layers inside a large colander, covering each layer with the coarse salt. Place a plate over the last layer, add a weight on top and leave in the fridge for 1-2 hours, to release the bitter juices. Rinse and squeeze well, then grill at 190°C/375°F, for 10 minutes, until soft.

For the tomato sauce, finely chop the onion and garlic. Place the olive oil into a large pan.  Add the garlic and onion and cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes, until soft. Add 1tbsp water if it becomes too dry. Add the tomato purée, 1 1/2tsp salt, the nutmeg, the pepper and the sugar, put a lid on the pan and simmer slowly for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Dice the mozzarella cheese and grate the Parmesan cheese.  Put a spoonful of tomato on an oven dish (25 x 20 x 5cm/10 x 8 x 2in) then alternate layers of aubergines, tomato sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Finish with a layer of sauce and plenty of grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 200°C/390°F for 45 minutes until golden and crisp on the surface. 

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Penne Pasta with Tomatoes and Olives

This delicious pasta dish makes for a delicious light dinner or a healthy packed lunch. Tomatoes and red peppers are rich in the antioxidant lycopene. According to the American Cancer Society (, people who have diets rich in tomatoes, which are the most concentrated food source of lycopene, appear in some studies to have a lower risk of certain types of cancer, especially cancers of the prostate, lung, and stomach. Studies that looked at lycopene levels in the blood found that levels were higher after people ate cooked tomatoes than after they ate raw tomatoes or drank tomato juice. 

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 red pepper, quartered, deseeded and cored
3tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
500g/1lb 2oz tomatoes, skinned (optional), roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1tsp sugar
salt and freshly ground pepper
250gr/9oz dried penne pasta
2tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
75g/3oz stoned black and green olives (cut in halves)
grated Parmesan and basil leaves, to garnish


Put red pepper on a baking sheet, brush with oil then grill for 10min until skins are blackened. Put into a plastic bag and leave for 5min.

Heat 1tbsp oil in a frying pan, add onion and fry for 5min until lightly browned. Add tomatoes, garlic, sugar and seasoning.

Cover and simmer for 10min. Stir occasionally.

Cook pasta for 8-10min in boiling water. Drain, toss with remaining oil.

Stir tomato paste into tomato sauce, add pasta and olives. Skin, slice and add red pepper then toss together. Spoon into dishes and garnish with Parmesan and basil.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Torta di Mele - Italian Apple Cake

Perfect for teatime, this soft cake also makes for a delicious Italian breakfast or a scrumptious after dinner dessert.

Ingredients (serves 8-10)

4 eggs
250gr/8oz/1 cup caster sugar
250gr/8oz/2 cups plain flour
1tbsp baking powder
500gr/18oz apples (use sweet apples like 'Golden Delicious')
125ml/2/3 cup milk
75ml/1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 lemon
1tsp vanilla extract 
1tbsp butter, to grease pan
icing sugar, to decorate


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease a 23cm/9in springform pan with butter and dust it lightly with flour. 

Grate the rind from the lemon, cut it in half and squeeze the juice.

Quarter, core, peel and chop the apples and toss them in the lemon juice (so that they don't go brown) and set them aside.

Place the eggs, sugar, lemon rind and vanilla extract into a bowl and whisk until smooth and pale yellow in colour. Stir in the milk and the oil.

Sift the flour and the baking powder into the bowl, stir until well blended and smooth. Add the apples and gently fold into the mixture.

Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 50mins/1 hour. To check that the cake is done insert a skewer in the middle. If the  skewer comes out clean, the cake is ready.

Allow to cool for 15mins. Remove from the pan and place on a serving dish. Finally, dust with icing sugar.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Orchard Pie

Ingredients (Serves 8)

For the pastry

350g/12oz plain flour
50g/2oz caster sugar
250g/9oz butter, diced

For the filling

3 cooking apples, about 600g/1lb 6oz
3 pears, about 500g/1lb 2oz
2tbsp lemon juice
450g/1lb ripe plums, stoned and quartered
75g/3oz caster sugar
2tsp cornflour
beaten egg, to glaze
extra sugar, for sprinkling


Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5. 

Put flour and sugar into a bowl. Add butter and rub in with fingertips or an electric mixer. Press into a dough with hands. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30min.

Quarter, core, peel and slice apples and pears, toss in lemon juice. Put into a bowl with the plums, sugar and cornflour and toss together.

Knead pastry and roll out on a well-floured surface to form a 35.5/14in circle.

Lift over a rolling pin and drape in a 23cm/9in springform tin. Fill with fruit mixture, fold pastry around top edge of pie tin, repairing any  breaks in the pastry. Brush with egg and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 35-40min until golden, covering with foil after 20min if going too brown. 

Serve warm with custard.

Homemade Yoghurt Recipe

Natural yoghurt is high in calcium and it's a good source of vitamin B12 and folic acid. It also contains 'friendly' bacteria that support the immune system and improve digestive health.

You don't need any starter or yoghurt maker for this recipe. All you need is 1 litre milk and 1 pot whole milk natural yoghurt. 

Pour 1 litre of whole milk into a saucepan and bring to the boil over low heat. Reduce heat and simmer at least 25 minutes until milk reduces to about half. Remove from heat and allow to cool until it reaches a temperature of about 37.5 degrees.

Put 1 tablespoon of natural yoghurt into a bowl. Slowly add the warm milk, gently stirring with a spoon until well blended.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (cling film) and wrap it with a warm towel. Keep warm for about 8 hours or until it thickens.

Refrigerate, covered and eat within 5 days.