Recipe Wednesday: Rice vermicelli stir fry

It’s important to rinse rice vermicelli thoroughly in cold water after cooking to keep them from getting sticky. You can let them sit after rinsing, but rinse them again right before adding them to the pan.  Rice noodles are so nasty when the noodles all stick together and get all gummy! We’ve experimented with those pre-cooked packages of noodles you add directly to the pan and haven’t been impressed – they take a long time to separate, so they don’t save you much time, and they never get that nice slippery noodle texture. In this recipe I briefly boil the green beans in the rice noodle water before draining and rinsing them together with the noodles – this cooks the beans just a little bit, and keeps them crisp and bright green.


  • 5-6 mushrooms, thickly sliced or quartered
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1 thumb of ginger, diced
  • 1 chilli, diced
  • mirin
  • fried tofu (I cheat with a package of frozen, pre-fried tofu from Matthew’s foods)
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • soy sauce
  • Handful of green beans, ends removed, cut into thirds
  • Rice vermicelli. In the packages they are usually pressed into cuboids, and I usually use 3 of these for the 2 of us.


  • Put water on to boil for the noodles.
  • Saute the shallots and mushrooms in veggie oil for 5-6 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, ginger, chilli and a splash of mirin and soy sauce and cook for another minute or two
  • Stir in the tofu and peppers and cook for another couple of minutes.
  • When the water is boils, add the noodles and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add the green beans, continue to cook for another minute. Drain and immediately rinse well in cold water.
  • Add the noodles and beans to the pan with more soy sauce (to taste). Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Torridon Crags

After we got back to the car from climbing the Cioch Nose, we headed north for Torridon via Applecross which seemed to be in full swing as host for some Highland Games. We drove into town looking for supplies and we ended up driving a few miles past to the weirdest shop I’ve seen here yet. In retrospect, I suppose it’s not that unusual to have a big cattle grid right outside the front of the shop, but at the time it seemed odd. We bought some cold drinks and drove through some amazing coastal roads while in the distance huge domes of rock loomed.

Torridon is a small town beautifully situated on Loch Torridon. There’s a small high street with a few shops and a hotel with a very nice gastro pub. We found the free campsite on the next street up the hill and after pitching our tent walked back down the hill to see about supplies and supper. It was sunny and very pleasant indeed. We bought supplies just as the shop was about to close and then looked at the menu for the gastro pub next door. On top of an extensive fresh fish menu, they had vegetarian pizza, excellent beer and a rooftop patio. We enjoyed a nice evening on the patio until it got just a bit too chilly and then it was back to the tent for some sleep.

The next day we drove five minutes from town to park in a passing place under the high crag of Seana Mheallan.  The view to either side of the road is wild and mountainous. There is a nice river next to the road that we must cross, then it’s a steep stomp up the mountainside to an upper rock tier. We were warned that the approach was grim and it didn’t disappoint. After crossing the river we picked up faint trails leading up the steep slope. Thankfully the ground was quite dry at the time. That being said, there were many muddy spots, especially the higher up the hill we got. Most of it required pulling on heather and picking ones way carefully. Finding the right tier was a bit tricky, but find it we did and it looked amazing.

Most routes involved crack climbing to some extent and averaged about 15 meters long. Around 30 routes with most in the HVS-E3 range and on perfectly formed and mostly reliable sandstone with a bit of grit for friction. Shame we didn’t have all day, or all week for that matter since there’s a neighboring crag not ten minutes away on the same tier.

Since we didn’t have all day, we started with the best rated. Fish and Chips (E1 5c ***) bridges up a wide corner to a tricky bulge and continuation crack. I found it quite hard for the grade, but worth it’s stars! The next route Unmasked (HS 4b ***) was a delicate crack in slab, quite a nice change to the previous thuggery. Our final route was Incognito (E2 5b **) in our guide but easier than the first climb. It climbs a compelling steep crack line. This was my favorite of the three.

Back down the slope to the car and home in 3 hours flat! Torridon is nice and close. Can’t wait to go back!

Recipe Wednesday: Sourdough

Sourdough is complicated but with a little practice you will make amazing bread. The instructions below are the stripped down basics. Some steps may need to be adjusted a bit. I learned from a cookbook and my eventual success with making sourdough came through trial and error and a little experimentation and along the way I ate a lot of good bread.

The ferment is basically a container of good quality flour and water left in a warm place for about 36 hours. You can add additional ingredients such as yogurt or honey or fruit. The sugars will feed the yeasts that occur and add to the flavor. The ferment should increase in size and smell like something is fermenting, if it doesn’t it’s not working. I keep about a litre of it in the fridge at all times and it requires feeding about once a week. If it is left out it will require feeding more often. I keep a steady supply by removing 200g for the loaf and then adding back about a half cup of spelt flour and a half cup of water and then returning it to the fridge. Some ferments are quite loose, some more solid. I like to try to keep mine fairly solid. If you have a loose ferment and add too much water the dough will not easily form into a ball.

Ingredients (makes one loaf)

  • 45g spelt flour
  • 350g white flour
  • 200g ferment
  • 325g water
  • 10g sea salt

To Make

  • Combine the flours and the ferment in a big mixing bowl
  • Add the water and mix together
  • Work the dough for 20 minutes. I use a kitchen aid mixer now but I learned to do it by hand using a stretching and folding technique rather than kneading. Add the salt at the 10 minute mark.
  • Lightly flour your work surface and turn out the dough
  • Shape the dough into a ball and then put back into a lightly floured mixing bowl, cover with a baking cloth or towel and let it rest for one hour
  • Lightly flour your work surface and turn out the dough
  • Fold the dough over on itself by pulling and stretching in from each corner
  • Shape the dough into a ball and return it to the lightly floured mixing bowl for several hours. I can begin the process first thing in the morning and put it in the oven by early evening.
  • Preheat the oven to 250°C/500°F with the baking stone for two hours
  • When ready to bake, flour the top of the dough and use a dough scraper to get in and down the sides of the dough in the bowl in order to shape the dough into a ball. Sprinkle the baking stone with corn meal and turn out the dough onto the stone with the bottom of the dough ball onto the stone so the loaf has a nice smooth and floured top.
  • Using a sharp knife cut deep slashes into the surface of the dough
  • Bake for 30 – 35 minutes
  • When finished, cool on a rack before eating


  • The ferment can vary in solidity by adjusting the water to flour ratio and by flavor by using different flours and the addition of fruit, honey or yogurt.
  • Working the dough into a smooth and elastic ball can be achieved using a bread mixer or different hand kneading techniques. If your dough is too loose, you can add more flour but too much and your bread will be very heavy.
  • How fast your dough will rise depends on everything but try to keep it warm and be patient. Try leaving it overnight.
  • How fast it cooks depends on the oven. An internal temperature of 200°C is a good benchmark for a cooked loaf.
  • The designs cut into the dough look cool, but they also help to release the gas in the dough while cooking. A finished loaf with a big air pocket under the surface means the slashes weren’t deep enough.

Recipe Wednesday: Quickie Quinoa

It’s probably not so surprising that we do our most creative cooking when we need to throw something together quickly out of what is left in the fridge. Such was the case when we got home late from the climbing wall last friday and there wasn’t much in the house. Quinoa to the rescue! It’s quick and versatile and nutritious. This is kind of a mexican-style pilaf. You can’t really go wrong with chipotle and pumpkin seeds.


  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 bouillon cube
  • vegetable oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 2 chipotle peppers, diced
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 small yellow pepper, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • handful of pumpkin seeds
  • chopped fresh parsley


  • Rinse the quinoa thoroughly and put it in a pot with 1 cup of water and the bouillon cube. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.
  • While the quinoa simmers, saute the onion and carrot in veggie oil with some salt and pepper.
  • When they begin to soften (5-7 minutes), add the chipotles, zucchini, and yellow peppers. Saute for another 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the the tomatoes and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  • When the quinoa is ready, stir in the veggies, pumpkin seeds, and avocado. Serve garnished with parsley and a little sharp cheddar, if you like.