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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.

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

No more over-powering sauce please!

16 Sep

Wild mushrooms in sauce, gardnished with a second sauce

Wild mushrooms in sauce, garnished with ... a second sauce

You source the best ingredients you possibly can, prepare them with delicacy and respect, heat them just so and serve them covered in sauce. Loads of sauce. Richly flavoured sauce. And there they lie, languishing in a sea of flavour, their own flavour lost.

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Celebrating cupcake week 2010

9 Sep

What a lovely week to celebrate, I hope that you discovered Kelly’s red velvet cupcakes?

Alice Rose Cakes and Cookies

Alice Rose Cakes and Cookies

I am always curious as to why people start up a business and how they found their passion, so  I asked some cupcakers (is there such a word) to share their experiences. In this post, Alice Rose who is starting up a new business distributing cupcakes across the UK (yum!)

Like many great people, Alice’s inspiration came to her in the bath. Three years ago, she’d left university with a business degree but wasn’t sure what she really wanted to do. Her Ah Ha moment was to become a cake decorator. The first cake she made was for her own birthday whilst she was doing up her own house. She had to contend with a really old cooker the previous tenant had left behind and the only work surface available on top of the fridge! She wishes she had taken a photo of that first effort, to see just how far she has come. Night classes at college followed to learning basic royal icing skills then more modern sugar paste techniques.

Tennis theme cake and cupcakes

Tennis theme cake and cupcakes

Cupcakes have become increasingly popular amongst her customers but she also makes an equal amount of large celebration cakes combined with cupcakes as well.

Cupcake Canapes

Cupcake Canapés

Alice explains “Cupcakes are so flexible, you can add them to a children’s party bag or customise them with a company logo. The range of flavours are also endless – traditional puddings are now lending their flavours to cupcakes including black forest gateaux and banoffee pie. I have also  just started creating cupcake canapés which are bite size and are in an edible case for easy eating”. Not surprisingly, her favourite pastime is creating new flavours and of course, sampling them!

An alternative wedding cake?

An alternative wedding cake?

I was keen to hear more about the cupcake delivery system. Alice explains “My partner and I are setting up a delivery system working with a team of independent cupcake makers and decorators across the country. Once we receive an order on our Direct Cupcakes website, we commission the bakers to create the order for us and deliver. We are planning to launch it in the next couple of weeks.

If you are interested in getting involved, visit the website, or send Alice a tweet @arcakescookies

Useful kitchen gadgets – garlic saucer

8 Sep
Garlic Saucer

Garlic Saucer

This gadget may prove a little challenging for you. I recently promised one of my co-authors one and ended up on a much longer quest than I had hoped as well-known kitchen shop in the USA where I originally bought it no longer stocked it!

But, do persevere, once you have used the garlic saucer (or ceramic garlic plate), you’ll never grunt and groan over ginger or garlic again, each are reduced quickly to a paste.

Does anyone know of a source in the UK? I’ve found some similar ones on Amazon, but the grid is not so regular and even.

Celebrate National Cupcake week with Red Velvet Cupcakes

4 Sep

National Cupcake Week (13th to 19th Sept) is just around the corner and what better way to celebrate than by making a batch of classic Red Velvet Cupcakes?

Often called the Devil’s Food Cake, the origins of Red Velvet Cake are have been shrouded in myth. The earliest recipes date back to the 1920s when boiled beetroot would be added to the cake to give it its glorious red colour, nowadays we tend to use food colouring. It can be difficult to get the really red colour with liquid food colouring. I’ve used recipes that ask for 6 tbsp of food colouring when even with the whole bottle included they still come out reddy brown. To avoid the hassle I use Sugarflair sugar paste colouring in my cakes as it’s stronger and gives the guaranteed colour you want.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes

The unsweetened cocoa, buttermilk and vinegar included in this recipe means your cakes will not taste as sweet as traditional vanilla cupcakes. This is balanced out with a cream cheese icing which is both sweet and tart at the same time. Also don’t panic if your cakes turn out a little dense, you haven’t overbeaten the flour. Traditional American cupcake recipes such as this are much denser than more the traditional British fairy cakes we are used to.

Red Velvet Cupcakes (makes 12)

You will need;
• 140 g sifted self-raising flour
• 60 g butter at room temperature
• 170 g sifted caster sugar
• 1 large egg at room temperature
• 2 tbsp sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
• ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
• 110 ml buttermilk
• 1 tsp cider or white wine vinegar
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 4 tbsp red food colouring or ½ tsp of red sugar paste

For the icing;
• 300 g cream cheese (should work out to be a whole tub of Philadelphia cheese)
• 60 g butter at room temperature
• 1 tsp lemon juice
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 340 g of sifted icing sugar

Preheat your oven to 170C or Gas Mark 3 and line a muffin tin with 12 muffin cases.

Using either a stand or hand mixer, cream your butter until it is light and airy gradually adding in the sifted caster sugar. When the sugar and butter are completely mixed together add your egg and continue to mix until you have a smooth mixture.

(If you are using a liquid food colouring mix the cocoa powder with the food colouring together in a separate bowl in to a smooth paste before adding to your main mixture.)

Add the cocoa and food colouring and vanilla extract to the main bowl and blend well until you have a smooth red mixture. You can optionally add a little more red food colouring here if you feel your cakes aren’t red enough. Add some of the flour and mix then add some of the buttermilk. Alternate this way until both have been fully incorporated in to your cake mix. Separately add the bicarbonate of soda and the vinegar together before throwing this in to your cake mix, blend your mixture for around a minute more before equally dishing out the mixture in to the waiting muffin cases.

Place your cupcakes in the middle of your preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, use a skewer to check if your cakes are cooked in the middle before removing them from the oven and letting them cool in the pan for 5 minutes before placing them on a cooling rack.

For the icing cream the butter, cream cheese, lemon juice and vanilla extract together until equally combined then gradually add in the icing sugar a little at a time. You can either smear this icing over your cupcakes or using an icing bag to pipe your icing on.

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

A Swedish favourite: crayfish party at Joseph Pearce, Edinburgh

31 Aug
Green dill, red crayfish and golden snaps. Life is good.

Green dill, red crayfish and golden snaps. Life is good.

Crayfish. Some countries go mad for these little critters. They are eaten all over the world but they are eaten with particular fervour and ceremony in Sweden. The Swedes  lure crayfish out of the murky waters they favour to pop them into boiling dill-flavoured liquor and transform them from brown-black wall flowers to bright red belles of the ball. It is my immense pleasure to announce that a traditional crayfish party can now be experienced in Edinburgh.

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