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The most seasonal restaurant in Edinburgh?

9 Nov

Many restaurants proclaim they use local, seasonal ingredients. I think I have found the most seasonal restaurant in Edinburgh.

The Atrium Edinburgh - Neil Forbes gathering ingredients

Neil Forbes gathering ingredients

Picture this. I am standing in the Atrium kitchen salivating as dish after dish of prime seasonal food is lovingly prepared: Organic chicken with cep and tarragon cream, Borders roe deer with red cabbage, plum and cinnamon; beef with a sticky unctuous gravy, roasted roots and buttery mash: Isle of Lewis Scallops, Stornoway black pudding and puree of Lewis’ apples (he’s the Maitre D). The atmosphere is calm. Staff coming on shift have checked out the ingredients and cooking methods for tonight’s dishes in case the diners quiz them. The pot washer is rattling into an alarmingly high pile of dishes. A huge stock pot is being fed with roasted bones, trimmings and vegetables and set on to cook for about 12 hours. Continue reading

Mincepies – heaven or hell? Make your own mincemeat

1 Nov

I want you to make your own mincemeat

Make my own mincemeat?  What on earth for? I can hear you cry.

 

Freshly bottled mincemeat

Freshly bottled mincemeat

 

Well, to impress and show off, of course. And, once you’ve eaten a mince pie with homemade mincemeat, you’ll never eat another shop bought again. Guaranteed.

It’s getting on for that time of year when it’s difficult to avoid the mince pie – you know those utterly dry, weird tasting things that are supposed to sum up the Christmas spirit – I think they actually sum up the Scrooge sort of Christmas spirit – mean and grumpy. Continue reading

Christmas Cake – no excuses, you can make your own

24 Oct

A really good Christmas cake is within your grasp. This is a really easy recipe that is quite forgiving if you don’t have exactly the right ingredients. If you have to substitute anything, just ensure it weighs the same. First of all you gather all the ingredients and let them seep in alcohol for a week. You make an easy cake mix and combine the two and cook – simple. Do make this as soon as you can, to allow it to mature.

You’ll need a square cake tin about 20cm across and baking parchment or greaseproof paper.

For the soak

500 grams of raisins
200 grams of currants
100 grams of chopped dates
50 grams of dried cherries (not glace) if you can’t find these, use dried cranberries
3 tablespoons of each of the following: brandy, kirsch, whisky, port and water. You can use rum, Cointreau, grand marnier or sherry instead. Or, if use the 12 tablespoons of one alcohol and 3 of water)
1 teaspoon each of ground cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence (the pure sort)
1 tablespoon of dark brown sugar (or demerara)

Method

In a saucepan, put all the ingredients and warm through until the sugar is dissolved. Take off the heat and let it cool.
Scrape all of the ingredients into a box with a lid and put into the fridge. Try to remember to shake the box each day.
A week later, you are ready to make the cake. You’ll notice that the dried fruit has plumped up and smells wonderful!

Cake ingredients

250 grams self-raising flour (or plain plus 2 tsp baking powder)
250 grams soft brown sugar (or Demerara)
250 grams of butter
5 large eggs beaten
50 grams of mixed nuts

Method

Mixing the fruit and cake mixture together

Mixing the fruit and cake mixture together

Before you start making the cake, grease your tin and line it with greaseproof paper or parchment. Turn the over on to Gas mark 3, 170 degrees.

For ease, make the cake in a food processor or use a hand-held whisk.

Whisk the butter and sugar together until well mixed, Add a little flour. Add the eggs little by little until all used up. Spoon in the flour and mixed nuts. Put this mixture into a large mixing bowl with the fruit that’s been soaking and mix well.

The cake mixture in the lined tin

The cake mixture in the lined tin

Carefully spoon the mixture into the tin, making sure that your lining stays stuck to the edges of the tin.

Cook for approximately 2 1/2 hours. PLEASE CHECK REGULARLY. The cooking time seems to vary greatly – particularly if you have a fan oven. Use a skewer to test if it is ready – it should come out clean.

When it is done, leave it in the tin until cold. Turn out and store in silver foil until needed.

Store the cake in foil until needed

Store the cake in foil until needed

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.

Marrakech – tastes and flavours (Part 1)

27 Sep

Another world awaits you,  a 3.5 hour flight away: Marrakesh.  You can sail to Morocco from Spain, but you’d need to drive another 7 hours after docking in Tangiers.  The short flight time does not really prepare you for the culture shift (and shock).

Marrakech Skyline

Marrakech Skyline

It is hot, very hot. The sort of heat that makes you perspire more every step you take. You will hear French and Arabic spoken. You will see Moroccan women covered from head to toe or in western dress (but always with legs and arms covered). You’ll find hundreds of cars, taxis and donkeys and carts. Everyone is on the move and on the hustle.

It can be a very frustrating place. As much as you want to browse and ask questions, the stall holders want to sell to you and you end up almost not daring to point or to show any interest to avoid saying “no” for the umpteenth time.

Is it a place for foodies?

Yes!  The food is down to earth, healthy and tasty. The flavours are subtle. Just don’t expect finesse or fine dining.

The cuisine goes beyond tagines and couscous – and includes long-braised beef in a ceramic pot that is taken to the local bakery in the morning and collected in the evening. Shoulder of lamb that is cooked until it is so tender it just falls off the bone. Chicken, beef and lamb sold from tiny kiosks with other unidentifiable meats.  Fish is very popular too, caught just a few hours away. Local produce abounds including dates, prunes and apricots and a myriad of nuts, beans and seeds.  There are citrus trees laden with oranges, grapefruit and limes that are transformed into refreshing drinks and thousands of olive trees growing very close to the city. Huge fat local grown tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are the staple ingredients of refreshing Moroccan Salads.

A quick guide for foodies

Sights and Sounds

At the centre of the city is Jemaa El Fna – a vast space that each evening fills up with food stalls. From around 5 pm, the stalls are built from scratch. It’s fascinating to watch the hue and cry, but you’d need to be brave (or have a very strong stomach) to eat there – raw meat kebabs stored in the heat until cooked, no running water … The Moroccan chef at the riad where we stayed, refuses to eat there since one stall holder tried to pass sheep’s head off as beef!

Egg Sandwiches - Moroccan Style

Egg Sandwiches - Moroccan Style

We were fascinated by one stall which was very popular with the locals. The guys appeared to be filling a bread roll with onion, boiled egg and possibly some potato. The speed they were working was astonishing.

Mint tea anyone?

Mint tea anyone?

Mint tea is the staple drink wherever you go, here it was being served from huge samovars. There are even stalls that sell nothing but fresh mint.

Dried fruit stands

Dried fruit stands

Throughout the square there are rows of stands selling similar items set together. In this row piles upon piles of all sorts of dried fruits and nuts. In another area, juice stalls, just in case you get thirsty.

Citrus juice sellers

Citrus juice sellers

Spices

Our spice Guide Abdellatif

Our spice Guide Abdellatif

Most of the spice stalls double up as herbalists – you’ll see weird and wonderful things including minerals used as deodorants and henna as well as the more easily identified spices. Do watch for what is labelled as saffron – it is in fact, turmeric.  The souk is not the place to buy your spices – the prices are high. Venture a little further to the Jewish area and go to the Spice Market near to the Bahia Palace (well worth the 10 dirhams (£1) to visit). We met the charming Abdellatif L’Aadam who revelled in telling us about the spices on his stall including many of his own special blends. Good buys are charmoula spice and ras-el-hanout both difficult to find outside Morocco and staples of the cuisine. (Enter the Spice Market by the entrance nearest the Palace, he’s just inside on the right).

Abdellatif's Spice Stall

Abdellatif's Spice Stall

Coming up soon in Part 2: Eating Out in Marrakech, and a recipe or two.

I recommend the Time Out Shortlist on Marrakesh or the Lonely Plant Marrakesh Encounter

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