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The sea in a pot – Mussel Inn, Edinburgh

5 Feb
Mussel shells. I eat too quickly to photograph my dinner sometimes.

Mussel shells. I eat too quickly to photograph my dinner sometimes.

I was reminded of how much I enjoy oysters when I tasted some lovely plump ones from AnCuig Seafoods at the Scottish Food show last week. So when it was suggested that we go to Mussel Inn for dinner Friday night I knew immediately what my starter would be. The Mussel Inn isn’t one of the places that AnCuig supplies, and I’m not going to discuss the relative values of oysters, but I will wax lyrical over a meal of molluscs. Ah, a beautiful thing, the mollusc, when fresh, sea-scented and accompanied by a clean white wine.

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Quick tipples: Hollow’s Ginger Beer

30 Jan

I am a huge fan of Fentiman’s beverages. At the Speciality Food Show in Glasgow recently, I was very excited to see two new bottles on the Fentiman’s stand their new tonic (better than any other I have tasted) and Ginger Beer marketed under the name of John Hollows. Due to licencing laws, I was unable to sample the Ginger Beer at the show. But Andrew at  Vino Wines came to the rescue. I popped into their rather classy store in Morningside to pick up a bottle.

Real Ginger Beer

Real Ginger Beer

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Quick bites: The Dogs surf and turf?

24 Jan

Perfect for a leisurely lunch, the Dogs is a firm favourite. Their delightfully short menu has a new edition: Musselburgh Pie – perhaps one of the original surf and turf recipes?

The Dogs, Edinburgh

The Dogs, Edinburgh

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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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What’s in Season – January 2011

14 Jan

It a  time of year when we need those jaded palates revived – not too easy at the moment!

I’m thinking hearty soups and slow cooked stews, lovely fresh fish with delicate sauces … Do seek out some seasonal produce whether you’re cooking or eating out!

A big thank you to Archie from Earthy for his round up on What’s in Season.

Meat and Fish

The game season is largely coming to an end and some bargains are to be had. If you have some room in your freezer stock up now! Get along to your local fish shop and try something new. If you’ve not seen it, catch up on Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall’s Big Fish Fight.

Dabs, sole, mussels, wild duck, partridge, rabbit, hare, pork, beef, lamb.

Fruit and Vegetables

Pear Souffle

Pear Soufflés

Archie’s update:

What to Eat

As we draw ever closer to the ‘hunger gap’ those bleak weeks of late February & early March when nothing is sprouting yet & stores fruit & veg are almost totally depleted it is essential to celebrate the last hurrah of local veggie goodness before the joyous outpourings of spring. Despite the snow (which has knocked favourites like Cauliflower and Shallots from our local list to the continental one) there is plenty of hearty fresh veg in Scottish fields and  the shelves of Earthy right now. Some of it takes a bit work, but always gives back in flavour & goodness more than you have to put in.

In Season and Available Locally

Carrots – Look for dirty carrots since they keep better (the dirt holds in the moisture & stops them drying out). That said we do wash our rainbow carrots – a mix of purple, white and orange – since they are too pretty not to. We just make sure to sell them fast!

Kale – Often referred to as a superfood, kale is loaded with vitamins & minerals. Go fusion and shed it through a stir fry in the place of pak choi or look out for the soft leaved variety ‘Cavolo Nero’ and fry in olive oil & garlic for a classic Italian side.

Perpetual Spinach – Pretty much the last leaf of the year, it needs cooked but along with ricotta it makes one of the world’s great vegetarian lasagnes.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli – The snow has delayed its arrival, but it will be here by the end of the month. My favourite brassica is a versatile beast, but I always come back to just dipping it in some Hollandaise or tonetta (a paste of tuna, oil, capers & onion)

Turnips/Swede – As we come up to Burns Night, must I really suggest what to partner your Neeps with?

Brussel Sprouts – Still going strong, get a bit more adventurous with your sprouts post-Christmas. Think of them as baby cabbages and let your imagination take you.

Parsnips – Roasted parsnips are an absolute joy. If you find them a little tough at this time of year, just cut out the core and they will soften beautifully.

Celeriac – A fellow Earthling put me on to Celeriac Schnitzel which is a total taste revelation. They knock potato croquettes into a cocked-hat.

Cabbages – Lots of varieties but look out for Savoy and January King – Savoys are practically built for bad weather so look out for some really beauties. Lucskos Kaposzta an Eastern European pork and cabbage stew makes it the star of the show.

Thank you Archie!

Do try this Pear Souffle recipe from Rick Stein – really easy!

In season and available from the UK

Chicory, Cauliflower, Jerusalem Artichokes, Shallots, Salsify, Chestnuts/Cobnuts, Apples. Pears

Fruit from abroad

Look out for Seville oranges. Not just for marmalade, these are wonderful in savoury sauces. Look out for lychees, pomegranates and blood oranges too.

Lychees

Lychees

EARTHY

Open 7 days a week 9-7 weekdays, 9-6 on Saturday and 10-6 on Sunday.

Twitter: @earthyfoods

Earthy Food Market
33-41 Ratcliffe Terrace
Edinburgh EH9 1SX

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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Absolutely the dog’s! – Seadogs, Edinburgh

21 Dec
Going to The Dogs. But first, Seadogs.

Going to The Dogs. But first, Seadogs.

Seadogs is a fish restaurant in the popular and successful Dogs chain. The Dogs, the first in the series, offers amazing rustic dishes based on cheap and unusual cuts. It was so popular that they opened Amore Dogs, an Italian version of the original concept. The latest restaurant focuses on fish. I went there for pre-Christmas cheer with a couple of friends a positively balmy if snowy evening in December.

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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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What’s in season – December

16 Dec

Despite all the snow, I know that our local producers are doing their best to bring you the finest produce. Just promise me you’ll buy as much locally as possible?

Meat and fish

Beef, duck, king scallops, oysters, skate, turbot, wild venison, pheasant, haddock, mussels, veal, chicken, turkey, goose

How did they do that? - Christmas apples

How did they do that? - Christmas apples*

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I am disappointed, do you want to read about it?

6 Dec

I am beginning to think that I must be extraordinarily hard to please.

I’ve recently been to four different places – all at different prices points, sizes of restaurant and number of staff – and have thought, well, that was OK but nothing special. This is all part of being a reviewer I know, but when you read other bloggers reviews of the same space and they think it fabulous or note that a restaurant has had consistently 5-star reviews from diners, you do start to wonder.

This restaurant did live up to expectations

This restaurant did live up to expectations - I've deliberately not chosen a local example! A local restaurant with very tasty food served with passion*

I do know that @happy_appetite agonised over posting one review as he wanted to present a fair view and not completely lambast a place – we’re actually not out there to condemn.

I can

  • Tell you  about the top restaurant with almost more staff than customers who couldn’t manage to take a lunch order for 25 minutes for a group in a private dining room?
  • Tell you about the friendliest service ever?
  • Rant about the overuse of the word tapas meaning anything small but delivered at the same price as a full size portion at a standard restaurant
  • Despair over dishes served up purporting to be representative of that countries’ cuisine

All are valid. But most of all I want to tell you about the FOOD –  how ordinary it was. That despite (in some cases) using expensive ingredients, it was bland. But I’d be writing the same review in every case.

That’s why I am so disappointed.

Whatever you do restaurants, please do it to your best ability – continually check and recheck the flavour. Especially in the run up to Christmas. Why should we suddenly have to suspend our desire to enjoy something really tasty.  Is it any wonder, that many of us return to the same place time and again because we know we’ll have a great meal and a warm welcome?

I look forward to your thoughts!

*Scottish plaid (tartan) mash indeed!