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Culinary travel – not exactly new

4 Jan

Imagine learning to cook, hot, spicy Indonesian food at 40 degrees centigrade. It happened to me in Manila, capital of the Philippines.

Alas, I’ve not been on an exotic vacation, just a trip down memory lane. I’ve just discovered a cutting from the “Daily Telegraph and Morning Post”, dated 25 July 1962. The author, Jacqueline Rose met up with television cook Pete Alfonso to learn how to make a genuine Indonesian dish. A television cook in 1962?

A little more delving leads me to more information about Mr Alfonso. He was a charismatic Dutch-Indonesian who ran Cafe Indonesia well known for jazz and good food.

Cooking Indonesian Style in 1962

Cooking Indonesian Style in 1962

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App solutely gluten free recipes?

29 Dec

You might be thinking of trying gluten-free foods or you may have been diagnosed as intolerant to gluten. I am sure you’ve found already how many staples have wheat in them. Trying to create  tasty alternatives to some of the items found in the free-from aisles will quickly seem a must.

Recently, one of my weekend guests needed to avoid all wheat. How best to tackle his requirements? Rather than purchase a special recipe book, I decided to dip into Phil Vickery‘s Gluten Free cooking app.

I love browsing through cookery books, I also use recipes from online sources but this was my first attempt at using a recipe App. I am not sure whether all Apps are so counter-intuitive (please do let me know)? Also, I am not particularly tidy when cooking, you can tell the recipes I cook from regularly – they are often rather splattered. So, using my iPhone was going to be tricky (and sticky)!

Gluten free bread

Gluten free bread

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Love cooking: Cooking as entertainment?

19 Oct
Love Cooking Show - Ainsley Harriott

Love Cooking Show - Ainsley Harriott

The Playhouse Theatre was the rather unlikely location for a day of cookery demonstrations by TV chefs this week. In such a large theatre, could an audience do the chefs justice?  After rather cringing at the Tiggerish personality of Olly the “wine guy” from Saturday kitchen (did he have to do the same Mexican wave ‘thing’ at each demonstration?), we settled in for an entertaining evening.

I’m often frustrated by not being able to see what the chef is preparing  – here this was overcome by a roving camera woman taking close-ups. These were alternated with fix camera shots. What a great idea, so simple and really effective.

I am not really sure why the words Ainsley Harriott invoke  a forceful response – I guess he is rather like Marmite, either you love it or you don’t.  I’ve been a fan since trying to find an interesting cookery book for a beginner chef. She  found that his recipes were easy to follow, tasty and effective.

We were entertained with charming stories about Ainsley’s family – one of his aunties would smuggle mangoes into the country in her underwear in the sixties – and plenty of useful cookery tips. The recipes were colourful and vibrant (and tasted pretty good too). And the sight of Ainsley limboing across the stage? Well, that won’t be forgotten soon.  His philosophy – learn to cook so you can enjoy eating with friends – who can argue with that? So were we entertained? Yes, and we learnt a few things too.

Recipe

(from the Love Cooking Recipe Book)

Caroline and I sneaked up on the stage to taste this cooking – delicious. I just had to have a go at the cornbread muffins. I’ll certainly make them again. These are best eaten warm. They’re really easy to freeze and reheat.

Ainsley Harriott's Chilli Cornbreak Muffins

Ainsley Harriott's Chilli Cornbread Muffins

Ingredients

50 gr butter
150 gr self-raising flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tsp salt
2 teaspoons baking powder (EF: yes you do need this as well!)
1/2 tsp black pepper
150 gr yellow cornmeal (or polenta)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
300 ml of buttermilk or milk with juice of half a lemon
1 chili, de-seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs (whatever you have to hand) or 3 teaspoons of dried herbs

Paper or silicon muffin cases and tin.

Pre-heat oven to 180 deg C.

Method

1. Melt butter in pan or microwave and use some to grease your muffin cases. (EF :If you have silicon cases you do not need to do this)

2. Sift the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into a bowl, then tip in the pepper and cornmeal. Stir to combine.

3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and quickly stir in the eggs, buttermilk (or milk mixture) and butter and mix until smooth. Fold in chilli and herbs until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the paper or silicon cases.

4.  Cook for about 20 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. (EF I found you need less time with a fan oven).

Love Cooking – James Martin and Guests

19 Oct
James Martin on Love Cooking, Edinburgh

James Martin on Love Cooking, Edinburgh

 I don’t watch Saturday Kitchen and chances are I’m not going to start after this experience. Although the food looked decent enough, the personality of the cook rather put me off eating it. Saying that, James’ guests, entertaining Oz Clarke and demure local hero Tom Kitchin, made the hour and a half  quite pleasant. Two skilled chefs, a three-course cookery demonstration and wine advice to boot – what’s not to love? Let me tell you.

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)

A little corner of California in Edinburgh

31 Aug

Set in St Stephen’s Street, Stockbridge, Redwood Restaurant has become a favourite with locals and food lovers alike. I caught up with owner and chef Annette Sprague to find out more.

Annette Sprague of Redwood

Annette Sprague of Redwood

What meal did you most enjoy recently?

I’ve just come back from Oaxaca in Mexico. I was particularly impressed with duck breast with tomatillo, pumpkin seed and lentil with mole sauce – wonderful combination. Tomatillo look rather like green tomatoes but are actually part of the Physalis family. There are many variations of mole, but this one included spices and chocolate. Moles are a classic Mexican sauce made from blending dried chillies, spices, nuts, and seeds.  There exist many combinations, with the most well-known being Mole Poblano, which is made with chocolate & chillies (and usually served with chicken).  The mole sauce I had with the duck utilized tomatillos and pumpkin seeds along with chillies et al, but no chocolate (called Pipian Mole Verde).  Absolutely delicious!

What is California Cuisine?

Rather than being associated with specific dishes as Spain with paella or Italy with pasta, California cuisine is about the produce that is grown in abundance in the state and the approach to food that Alice Waters pioneered the cuisine in the 1970s. Until that time ingredients were sourced from abroad, from France, rather than locally!
Although the word fusion is overused it describes Californian cuisine well: dishes are influenced by many cultures, including Italian, Vietnamese and Mexican which come together to create something essentially Californian. We eat outside, we love our meat and BBQs. I think our salads really sum up the essence of California cuisine, fresh and delicious.

Annette's Favourte Salad

Annette's favourite Salad

What inspired you to set up Redwood?

Two reasons, firstly after running a successful catering business for 5 years, I wanted to get away from schlepping all the equipment from one place to another!

Secondly, I was frustrated at the lack of restaurants in the middle price bracket in Edinburgh that provided good consistent tasty food and a good wine list.

How do you create dishes for the menu?

I am inspired by fresh local produce and also my particular passions at the time. I like to develop dishes on themes.  You will definitely see some Mexican influenced dishes on the menu this Autumn!

What has surprised you about opening the restaurant?

I really shouldn’t be surprised by this, but I have found the support from people who live locally amazing. I have many regular customers who recommend the restaurant to friends of theirs and who are loyal fans.

Duck California Style

Duck California Style

What has frustrated you the most about opening the restaurant?

The restaurant has a very small kitchen with no room for a dishwasher. It’s been incredibly difficult employ a good kitchen porters.

How do you promote the restaurant?

We have been lucky enough to receive excellent reviews in many publications including locally based publications such as the List but also through international sites such as TripAdvisor.  We get a huge amount of recommendations by word of mouth.

I particularly enjoy doing cookery demonstrations and classes and plan to do more this coming year. We use Twitter to let our followers know if we have last-minute availability for dinner.

33a St. Stephen Street
Edinburgh EH3 5AZ
0131 225 8342
Booking essential
@Redwood_Edin

The Peat Inn at Foodies at the Festival

26 Aug
Geoffrey Smeddle of the Peat Inn

Geoffrey Smeddle of the Peat Inn

Foodies at the Festival Part 2

What would you say are the perfect elements of a good cookery demonstration?

I’d suggest the following:

  • Articulate presenter
  • Passionate about their craft
  • A sense of humour
  • Engages with the audience
  • Is entertaining
  • and of course most importantly, cooks delicious food.

Geoffrey Smeddle of the Peat Inn in Cupar is self-deprecating and very down to earth and most worthy of his Michelin star. He is obviously passionate about seeking out the best local suppliers. (Mr EF and I were all for driving to his restaurant straight away). We were delighted to have secured a ticket to watch his demonstration at the festival and were in for a real treat. The audience (many of whom had been to his restaurant) hung on every word …

Geoffrey cooked a wonderful dish of halibut and heritage tomatoes in tomato essence. I was lucky enough to try a little at the end: intense, tomato-y heavenly goodness.  Those of you who have the Foodies at the Festival Brochure will have the full recipe but I thought I’d share the tomato essence with you here using the notes we took as he cooked as they are a little different to the printed version.

It’s really important to find ripe tomatoes – J M Craig at the Edinburgh Farmers’ market sell ones for soup which are ideal. Add some of their Claree variety cherry toms, and the mixture will be perfect!

Preparing the tomato essence

Preparing the tomato essence

Tomato Essence (for 2)

  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 6 large soup tomatoes
  • 10 gr fresh basil and coriander torn roughly
  • 1/2 tsp each of black peppercorns and fennel
  • Strip of orange zest
  • Pinch of salt and sugar
  • 100 ml water

Make the essence at least a day before you need to use it.

Chop up the tomatoes, place in a metal bowl with the remaining ingredients. Stir well then crush slightly with a potato masher. Cover tightly with cling film and leave in a warm place. Geoffrey explained that he puts the bowl above his cooker which warms the mixture. We tried the airing cupboard, then the greenhouse as the sun was shining. Leave for about 8 hours.

Place a sieve over a bowl. Now either line with a tea towel, or put a  jelly bag into the bowl. Put the tomato mixture into the sieve or the bag if you are using it. Using a plate or other suitable item, place a weight on top of the tomato mixture and leave to press overnight. Transfer the juices into a clean container and set aside until needed.  To use gently reheat.

The essence was served in a soup bowl with slices of  heritage tomatoes, olives and torn coriander and basil with lightly cooked halibut.

Tomato Essence

Tomato Essence

He told the story of where he was when he heard about his Michelin star – in Our Dynamic Earth eating a cheese and tomato sandwich. Somehow that anecdote summed up the man.