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Quick bites … Ruthven’s at the Dean Gallery

17 Jan

QUICK BITES …

Ruthven’s is something of an Edinburgh institution it dates back to 1983. Before the museum closed for refurbishment, their restaurant at the National Portrait Gallery was a favourite lunch places for me.

Now part of Heritage Portfolio, Ruthven’s continue to operate a “scratch” kitchen ( everything cooked from scratch), at various venues including the Gallery of Modern Art and the  Dean Gallery. (Non-art lovers can be easily bribed by the prospect of tea).

Cafe Newton, Dean Gallery

Cafe Newton, Dean Gallery

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The joys and pains of specialist cafés

7 Jan
Sometimes, all you want is a good cup of coffee (or tea) and a bit of quiet.

Sometimes, all you want is a good cup of coffee (or tea) and a bit of quiet.

There are so many cafés in Edinburgh now that to compete, cafés have to become centres of excellence, specialists in one thing or another. Some are specialists in coffee. Others are specialists in something else: books, chocolate or bread, for example. Or tea. The tea house is a relatively recent addition to the Edinburgh scene and since they all serve coffee, offer hot beverages and cake I count them in the café family.

Some specialist cafés make their specialism work for them and some fail to wow you. Why is that?

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Spice up with saffron – Lussekatter

19 Dec

As regular readers know, we have a strong Swedish thread through the blog (not least due to co-author Caroline being Swedish). Back in October, I spent a few hours in the Peters’ Yard bakery – a wonderful experience. I was lucky enough to meet the man behind their fabulous recipes Jan Hedh was in Edinburgh to talk about his new book Swedish Breads and Pastries which I recommend for the serious baker.

Now, I know you are all frantically busy, but you might just want to try this recipe when you have some time. Easier still, pop into the bakery and try them.

You’ll need to set the raisins to soak a few hours in advance. Saffron is best used in moderation, you might just want to use a few strands the first time you make the recipe.

Jan Hedh’s Saffron Buns/Lussekatter

(makes 20 buns)

Saffron Buns (s-shaped buns on the right of the picture). Courtesy of Peters' Yard
Saffron Buns (on the right)

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The best bakery in Edinburgh? Peter’s Yard

7 Oct
Peter's Yard Cafe and Bakery

Peter's Yard Cafe and Bakery

For those of you based in Edinburgh, you’ll have probably come across Peter’s Yard Cafe and Bakery when walking through the Meadows or coming through the new Quarter mile development. It’s a sleek glass building with a distinctly Swedish feel to it. Inside, there is plenty of wood, comfortable seating and a relaxed atmosphere. Peter’s Yard opened in 2007 and its reputation grows with every month. Just recently, master baker Dan Leppard writing in the Times, placed the bakery in the top 10 of small bakeries in Britain.  I was keen to find out more.

Preparing Baguettes at Peter's Yard

Preparing Baguettes at Peter's Yard

One morning recently, I arrived at 7 am to watch head baker Georgie Crisp at work. Georgie is passionate about what she does. She admits that getting in to work at 4 am does rather affect her social life, but being head baker more than makes up for it – it is simply her dream job. After completing a general catering course, she started to explore breadmaking. On a two-week stage with Mark Lazenby at Cinnamon Twist in Helmsley, she realised she had found her passion.

Much of bread making is in the preparation, you need to plan and make ahead. Georgie has several different sour dough “mothers” in unprepossessing buckets ready to add to the bread flour. Each need careful feeding each day to ensure it keeps alive.  Sour dough starters are used in all the rye-based recipes. For other breads including baguettes, fresh yeast is used. The baguette dough is made 12 hours before it is needed and placed into a special proving cabinet to gently grow over night.

There is a large French-made cooker with different ovens set at pre-programmed, tried and tested temperatures ready to accommodate a particular recipe. The bread is steamed as it cooks helping a good crust form – Georgie leaves the door of the oven open for a few minutes at the end of the baguettes’ cooking time to make it just that bit crisper. I was very taken with the special “roller blanket” which ensures you can deftly put your bread into the oven without using a peel.

Placing the baguettes on the roller blanket

Placing the baguettes on the roller blanket

In short time that I am in the kitchen, Georgie makes baguettes, foccacia, sweet buns with vanilla filling, cardamom buns and pizza dough and up until 2pm she will make an amazing range of items  including crispbreads (now those you can order online).

Georgie Crisp, Head Baker

Georgie Crisp, Head Baker

George and I agree that baking is magical.

Georgie is certainly a magician and Peter’s Yard probably the best bakery in Edinburgh. Visit soon won’t you? And please leave me at least one bun …

Making Cardamom Buns

The best seller, and my personal favourite, is the cardamom bun. For me, cardamom is the spice that really sums up Swedish cooking  and in this recipe it is the star ingredient. It’s a long, tricky process to make the bun. A basic dough is made and left to rest,  butter, sugar and spice is added and kneaded again. The dough is folded and  threaded through a machine (rather like a laundry press) to make it thinner and thinner, and is folded and thread through again. A filling of cinnamon, butter, treacle and syrup is spread over the dough. Then Georgie cuts it into strips each weighing 85 grammes and deftly twists the pieces before being rolled into a spiral. After another short rest period, they’re baked.

Adding the cardamom bun filling

Spreading the filling on the cardamom dough

Twisting the dough into shape

Twisting the dough into shape

Proving the Cardamom Buns

Proving the Cardamom Buns

The famous Peter's Yard Cardamom Bun

The famous Peter's Yard Cardamom Bun

Peter’s Yard Coffee House and Bakery
Quartermile, 27 Simpson Loan
Edinburgh EH3 9GG

0131-228 58 76
info@petersyard.com
twitter.com/petersyard

Photographs by Brendan MacNeill except exterior shot. A very big thank you for Peter’s Yard inviting me into the kitchen.

Marrakesh – where you should eat (pt 2)

1 Oct

In the second of two reports from Marrakesh,  you’ll find some tips about eating out.

Mint Tea

Mint Tea

Marrakesh has large numbers of riads, perhaps 200 or more. Enterprising owners have refurbished, extended and embellished houses in the oldest parts of town to provide luxurious accommodation. The riads Mr EF and I came across were in quiet locations and in many cases down a maze of tunnels – do arrange to be collected from the airport it is extremely difficult to find where you are going the first time!

Apart from being wonderful places to stay, riads are often the very best places to eat as they have their own dedicated chefs. You don’t have to be staying  at the Riad, but you must pre-book by lunchtime at the latest – just ask someone from where you are staying to book for you they will be happy to do so. When you arrive, just mention the name of where you are staying rather than your own name.  I suggest doing a bit of research – by all means use your guidebook for some tips, but bear in mind they will be out of date. Check out recent reviews on Trip Advisor to ensure which are the very best to try. There are other restaurants in the old quarter, such as Le Foundouk but they are very tourist oriented and the food average (and terrible music). We spent a very enjoyable couple of hours with the Simbade the chef at the Riad El Rimal who very patiently explained how to make a fish and a meat tagine. We’re still experimenting with his recipes and will share them in another post.

Pastilla served as a starter - it is usually round

Pastilla served as a starter - it is usually round

Wherever to you do eat, you’ll find that tagines and couscous are staples on the menu. Do try the pastilla (or bastilla) if it is available. It’s an unusual mixture for British palates, but think of mince pies and you’ll do fine. It’s usually meat (usually pigeon) and almonds encased in a filo-like pastry, topped with icing sugar and cinnamon. Made well, it is delicious!

Vegetarian Sandwich at Cafe des Epices

Vegetarian Sandwich at Cafe des Epices

At lunchtime, try one of the wonderful Moroccan salads made with locally grown ingredients. You’ll find that are served hot (as in the picture below of a delicious tomato and pepper mixture with charmoula spice) as well as cold. Moroccan flavouring is subtle and it is all down to the expertise of the chef as to whether it is really delicious or simply OK.  If you’re hankering after a sandwich, Cafe des Epices is a great place to head to – they even have WIFI. Salads cost around 20 dirhams, tagines from 60 (there are currently 13 dirhams to a pound).

Pimento and Tomato "Salad"

Pimento and Tomato "Salad"

Whilst you won’t usually find fine dining in the old town, there are exceptions. We visit La Sultana on our last night. This is a fabulous hotel right next to the Saadian tombs (well worth a visit). You can dine on French haute cuisine, or take the opportunity to try a range of delicious Moroccan specialities with the most impeccable service and delightful music from an oud player. The prices are European, but well worth it for the ambiance and high quality food – you dine under the stars next to a pool.

La Sultana Hotel - view from our dining table

La Sultana Hotel - view from our dining table

And for those of you with a sweet tooth, do try the Marrakeshi equivalent of baklava.  These are delicious light pastries filled with nuts and fruits, flavoured with rose water – delicious with the ubiquitous mint tea or coffee

Sweet Pastries from Marrakech

Sweet Pastries from Marrakech

A word of caution. Street restaurants will display prices for food but not drinks. This is the way some make their money, literally making a price up on the spot for incautious tourists – watch out for this in Place des Ferblantiers in particular. You can of course eat out at the stalls in the main square (but with caution as I suggested in Part 1).

To stay in a riad, check out Luxury Riads

La Sultana (information on the accommodation only)

Riad Al Rimal Cookery course available (in French only)

Edinburgh’s best French cheese and macarons?

18 Sep

I’ve known Cedric Minel for 6 or 7 years since he set up the curiously named Cheesee Peasee. I think he is one of Edinburgh’s best kept secrets. Those in the know make regular pilgrimages to his authentic French cheese van parked on Meadow Place on Saturdays to purchase his produce and practice their French.

Cedric once worked for another cheesemonger in Edinburgh, but was not satisfied with the quality of the cheese they were importing from France, so he set up his business. Focussing on cheese with an appellation controllee mark of quality, he imports cheeses from all over France. He once explained to me that the appellation controllee ensured that the quality is good year round rather than dipping when the cows have different fodder to feed on.  The cheeses are simply delicious. A favourite of ours in Reblochon, but there is something for everyone, from harder Comte to soft, soft goats cheese. Don’t wait to seek him out.

Reblochon Cheese

Reblochon Cheese

So where do the macarons come in? Some months ago, Cedric suggested I try one of the first experimental batches  he had made. The macaron was lovely, but he was not totally happy with the results. He spent  time refining the quality, taste and appearance. Today’s macarons are simply gorgeous – as you can see I couldn’t wait to taste before taking the photograph. You can purchase them by the half-dozen in pistachio, lemon, vanilla or chocolate and passion fruit.

Macarons

Macarons

If you can’t get along on a Saturday morning, visit Cuthbert’s cafe Monday to Friday and you can enjoy one with a great coffee.

www.cheesee-peasee.com – a little out of date unfortunately

@cuthberts

Macaroon heaven – Patisserie Madeleine, Edinburgh

10 Aug
Delicious macaroons from Patisserie Madeleine

Delicious macaroons from Patisserie Madeleine

We were on the way to Hector’s for coffee and whatever sweet things they may serve when we walked past Patisserie Madeleine and I stopped. They sell macaroons. French macaroons, those nutty, gentle, chewy and crispy little dainties, sandwiched together with ganache or flavoured cream. My favorite thing in the world. This is where we had to go for cake.

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