The Girl with the Edinburgh Tattoo

Enjoy yourself – it's later than you think!

Archive for the month “January, 2013”

The Strange Death Of The Prime Minister’s Wife…


Here’s my debut novel: The Rachel Redemption – choc full of conspiracy theories, suspense, double crossing, scenes of a sexual nature, cool tough women and men driven to take desperate measures. It’s a blast!

Available as an ebook, you can get it from Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble etc at a very tiny price. You can also check out the first three chapters before you buy. Keep checking my blog for further sneaky peeks!

The Mary Beard Dilemma

..or what the ancient Romans haven’t done for us.

I love Mary Beard – while most arts/history/science programme presenters are so image conscious – or worse still, that studied ‘I’m a serious academic, I don’t care how I look but what’s my best camera angle as I stand on a castle rampart, staring into the distance as the wind blows my hair around in an attractive manner’ – Mary yomps around the ancient Roman sites conjuring up a world so real you can almost smell the faeces and the fish sauce. The woman is REAL. Maybe too real sometimes and she appears like your slightly gauche friend to whom you yearn to give – Gok Wan like – a serious makeover. Go, girlfriend! But how sad is that? The woman is an academic, for chrissake!!

So how should she have dealt with the puerile online grunts of a few misogynist meatheads? The given wisdom is usually to ignore, ignore, ignore which has its place but personally speaking I would have loved for her to have morphed into Jo Brand for a few hours. Apparently a lot of the comments centred on Mary’s vagina, just think of the fun she could have had with her responses: ‘Ever seen a real one? Mine probably would seem huge with your tiny dick!’ Honestly, Mary has chronicled and quoted the crudities and put-downs as given out by countless Romans in times rougher, tougher and crueller than these. Have we/you learned nothing from the ancients?

But the saddest aspect of all this is – these goons have spoilt free speech for all of us – they’ve taken a great democratic device and instead of being witty and creative and choosing a target that really deserves it (I can think of hundreds!) they’ve flung tired old insults at a random target. They have made a good woman have to explain herself, not for what she is or does or even how she looks, but for the way she has had to deal with an annoying little squeak from the other side of the world. Yeah, so maybe at the end of the day: ignore – or insult, whilst demonstrating your superior intellect: puerule qui duros nequeunt movere lumbos!!mary beard

Best ever ‘sonsie’ veggie haggis recipe

‘Sonsie’ can mean a lot of things: pleasing, cheerful, buxom – even. I think this veggie haggis has all those things going for it, and with no animal byproducts is suitable  for vegans or people who would just rather not think about what goes into a traditional one!

A lot of manufactured veggie haggis has a smooth, puddingy consistency which can be a bit stodgy. With its rich combination of lentils, nuts and oatmeal this recipe has a more pleasing ‘rough’ texture and is very easy to make.For best results: make sure all the veggies are finely chopped – a food processor or chopper is ideal but don’t obliterate them! Similarly with the nuts – chop or whizz roughly.This recipe makes enough for 6-8 people so it’s very economical. If you have any leftovers – you can make a very classy meal  by serving it en croute or in a filo parcel. Cut into squares, it’s also just great to snack on cold, yum!

100g onion, peeled & finely chopped
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
100g carrots, finely chopped
100g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
40g red lentils, cooked (but not mushy)
30g black beluga lentils, cooked
900ml vegetable stock
100g red kidney beans (from a tin), mashed
30g peanuts, roughly chopped
30g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
large pinch cayenne pepper
2 tsp mixed spice
200g fine oatmeal
freshly ground black pepper (cracked is even better)

Using a heavy pan, sauté the onion in the oil for five minutes, then add the carrot and mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add stock, kidney beans, nuts, soya sauce, lemon juice, seasoning and oatmeal. Reduce heat and simmer until oatmeal is cooked (10 to 15 minutes), keep stirring and adding extra liquid as necessary. 

Add lentils, mix well and turn mixture into a greased tin or oven proof dish and bake for 30 mins at 190 deg C, 375 deg F or gas mark 5. 

Serve with mashed neeps and tatties (swede and potato), and a glass of whisky – of course!

Alts & tweaks –

This ‘haggis’ is suitable for vegans, if you have a nut allergy however you can always leave the nuts out and add more lentils.

If you can’t get beluga lentils use puy or other kinds of green or brown. Experiment with different types and combinations of lentils if you’re feeling wildly adventurous!

You can also use whatever mushrooms or cooking oil you have to hand, but I find that chestnut and rapeseed give a ‘nuttier’ taste.

Pinhead oatmeal, instead of fine, makes the texture even better but you'll 
have to give it more liquid and time on the stove. You can always use this
time to 'quality control' the whisky you'll be serving up later. Slainte!

Finding Veggie Satisfaction in Edinburgh

Maybe I’ve been kicking around Edinburgh for too long now but I fail to get excited at what the exclusively vegetarian places have to offer.

I was a devotee of David Bann‘s for a very long time but decided to put some distance between us when the cobwebs started to gather on their menu. For old times sake I went there a couple of months ago – I recognised the menu from way back but the quality of the food was something new: just plain shoddy. The bread served with a few (very few for £3.60) olives was actually fried which I suspect was a none too subtle way of disguising stale. A tartlet starter had blue cheese bubbling not very attractively in a dense pastry case. My main was a kind of mushroom, tofu and noodle melange which honestly was like something I’d throw together for a leftovers lunch – only not as nice, as this was fried and soya sauced to within an inch of its life. They failed to redeem themselves with a pudding which sounded nice on the menu but in reality was a stodgy piece of sponge beneath a piece of rubbery lime jelly and a scoop of coconut sorbet which was so overwhelmingly coconutty that it could only be artificial – only recommended if you want to get that 1970’s children’s party experience!

Talking of the 1970’s I guess the next stop on the Edinburgh veggie map would be the various branches of Henderson’s – the original basement one on Hanover Street, the ‘bistro’ around the corner on Thistle Street and the most recent – the former Cornerstone Cafe at the West End of Princes Street. Now, to be fair, Henderson’s wears its hippy credentials on its woven hemp sleeve and it has been going since 1962 – but OMG, doesn’t it show? I mean, there’s revisionist retro and then there’s ‘just can’t be bothered spending out any money on sprucing the place up’. I’d have no problem with this if the food was good and a reasonable price but I can’t actually say that. Quiches, lasagne, croquettes, veg curry/chilli/stew etc. is the kind of cuisine we’re talking, at steep-for-what-you’re-getting prices. It’s counter service at Hanover St and the West End, with the former having that traumatic ‘school-dinners-queue’ vibe at busy lunch-times.

Busy? Well, yes. That’s the thing with exclusively vegetarian places in any city – as a veggie tourist you will want to try them out, and as a veggie resident you have this – perhaps misplaced – loyalty to places like David Bann’s and Henderson’s. But with their central locations and their ability to make a whole lot of profit from making not much of an effort – they can probably survive without my custom.

What are the alternatives, then? Well, for fully vegetarian:

The Engine Shed (St Leonard’s Lane, just up from St Leonards’s police station, along the road from The Pleasance students union/Fringe venue) serves a similar kind of fare to Henderson’s and it is counter service. But it’s a lot cheaper, has light and airy surroundings, a relaxed atmosphere and as it’s run as a Garvald training project you’re helping a good cause by giving them your custom. They’re only open Mon-Sat , 10-4 however.

The Kalpna on Nicolson Street is five minutes walk from The Engine Shed and specialises in South Indian cuisine – with dosas, thalis and that kind of thing. Nothing earth shattering, but nice enough Indian food at not bad prices. The all-you-can-eat lunch-time buffet is good value for £7.50. Across the road on St Patrick Square is Edinburgh’s other fully vegetarian Indian restaurant: the Ann Purna. Now, I used to love the Ann Purna but like David Bann’s, standards have definitely slipped over the years. It used to have a quirky/homely type feel but nowadays seems to have that generic Indian restaurant set-up with a myriad of little niggles – like the placing of (unordered, but charged for later) poppadoms and pickles on the tables. No, thanks, okay? Also last time I ate there I was aware of the diced veg being just a little too uniform, suspicions that were later confirmed when one of the waiters walked in with two full Farmfoods carrier bags! (Please note: the Ann Purna is now closed)

Black Bo’s is currently closed for refurbishment and I believe they are going to start serving meat and fish when they re-open. They’ve ping-ponged between veggie and omnivore in the past and standards were always erratic but I’ll probably try them out – so watch this space.

So where are the best – not exclusively vegetarian, but have a good choice, great atmosphere and value for money – places for the discerning vegetarian to eat? Here’s some personal favourites.

A Room in the Town (Howe Street) has quite a small, regularly changing menu with at least two vegetarian options in the starters and the mains. The food is tasty, imaginative and well presented and they also do very yummy desserts. Prices are around the £22 mark for three course with good quality house red/white at £14.50. There is also BYOB with £5 corkage and early evening deals. (Please note: Black Bo’s and A Room in the Town are now part of Edinburgh history)

The Blue Parrot Cantina (in St Stephen Street ten minutes down the road from A Room in the Town). Cosy, little basement serving Mexican food that’s quite different to your usual Tex-Mex-chains. Enchiladas, and the rest, are stuffed full of fresh veg. Huge portions and small prices. Wonderfully friendly staff as well. In my book the best Mexican restaurant in Edinburgh.

Origano (half way down Leith Walk). Charming, tiny, candle-lit, Italian restaurant with a small but choice menu. Pizzas are their speciality and even though they don’t come from a wood-fired oven, they are made with ’00’ flour so have the desired light ‘n’ crispiness – try their ‘spinacio’ (done Florentine style with a baked egg). Other highlights are their generous antipasti platters to share and a divine tiramisu for afters. Small but very acceptable wine list. (Origano moved to bigger premises further down Leith Walk in mid 2015. Still hugely popular so best to book ahead)

And of course – The Jolly, as eulogised in my ‘Best Authentic Italian Restaurant in Edinburgh’ post.


<a href=””><img alt=”David Bann’s Vegetarian on Urbanspoon” src=”; style=”border:none;padding:0px;width:104px;height:34px” /></a>

Horses for courses?

ImageWhy the big fuss on finding horsemeat in cheaper-than-the-chips-burgers? I take it the tests didn’t take into account the rat droppings and fur that routinely get included in manufacture? Honestly – when meat products can be bought by the carrier-bag-full for the price of a couple of lattes, anyone expecting a wholesome, nutritious and uncontaminated foodstuff must be on drugs stronger than the ones they pump into the millions of (other than horse) animals slaughtered every day. So if you want to avoid the drugs and the droppings – be sensible, be vegetarian!!

By the way –  Keith Harris, you should be ashamed of yourself – advertising Farmfoods with Orville in tow. Someone call the RSPB!!

Gerard Depardieu sighted in Edinburgh shock!

GD pic 4

It does always brighten up one’s morning, whilst stuck on the top deck of a number 33 bus, to view the various types of people trying to make a sneaky exit from The Balmoral hotel. They can be seen slipping into a chauffeur-driven limousine, looking like they don’t have two ha’pennies to rub together, usually with some rough trade in tow, embarrassed as busloads of the Proletariat give them big stares! Actually – I swear I saw Gerard Depardieu leaving there yesterday – but he’s in Moldova, isn’t he? Come to think of it, this person was probably half the size of GD and it may have been a woman, if so – ouch!GD pic 3

Later in the day, at the self check-out at Sainsburys Murrayfield, I noticed a commotion at the neighbouring till: two goth-metal rockers – all flowing hair, black leather and 14-hole-DMs – struggling with the scanner. What was their purchase? Two monster bottles of Lambrini!! I later saw them sharing it out with their mates waiting on the bench outside. Rock and roll, guys!!!

Day ended with seeing the new portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge – which I presume is all part of an effort to cheer up the nation? It’s hilarious – making her look like she’s finally been subsumed into the Royal Family as described by David Icke. Those eyes have a definite reptilian look!

City of Edinburgh Council Recycling Farce

Just phoned CEC to inform them local recycling bins are overflowing yet again – after taking my details guy on phone then informs me their systems are down and to phone back tomorrow. Translated that means: ‘please don’t ask me anything difficult (which seems to be everything), if you do I’ll just pass you on to some other muppet’. Great strategy, guys!

The best authentic Italian in Edinburgh

If you’re looking for the best pizza outside of Italy – avoid the ‘pizza house’ chains (that includes Jamie’s ersatz Italian) and the inflated egos and creaking sense of service in the Little Italy eateries that populate Lothian Road and Hanover Street (think of macho-Italian versions of Miss Haversham without the enthusiasm) – do yourself a favour and get yourself along to The Jolly on Elm Row (top of Leith Walk). Forty-odd different types of pizza, plus the option to create your own from the basics, average price is around £7.50 for a medium size – which is actually quite huge, all cooked in a wood-fired oven with that crucial Naples style base: puffy – but crisp – topped with a proper sugo and not some kind of Dolmio apology. There is also a huge selection of pizza alternatives: pasta etc. but as a veggie I tend to stick with what has made The Jolly famous. If you want a real bargain and need to seriously fill up mid-day you can get a three course lunch for £6.10 (huge choice including pizza) which has to be the best value in town. A decent bottle of wine is around £15 – the house red/white served in carafes is considerably cheaper which, if you’re not fussy, is okay.

However food aside, the main attraction has to be the atmosphere. I don’t actually trust anyone who is snobby about the The Jolly – and these people do exist. Okay, okay the place is big, bright, bustling, filled with kitsch, and may seem ever so slightly chaotic – don’t be fooled, the place runs like a well-oiled machine. But that is why it’s so authentically Italian – there are couples sitting alongside large parties ‘in for The Playhouse’, local single Leithers ‘in for their tea’, delighted tourists and the occasional inebriated local politician (it is rumoured that Alex Salmond gets his pizzas delivered from here but I haven’t actually seen ‘the Pie Man’ on the premises!). Honestly, the only thing missing from the total Napoli experience is the priest sitting in the corner watching the football on the telly. A telly in The Jolly? OMG, that might just be too much!


<a href=””><img alt=”Jolly on Urbanspoon” src=”; style=”border:none;padding:0px;width:104px;height:34px” /></a>


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