Tag Archives: food festival

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

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).

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

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.

Continue reading

Seafood at Ondine Restaurant Edinburgh

30 Aug
Shellfish at Ondine

Shellfish at Ondine

It’s always a bit of a challenge eating out during the festival.  You’re either trying to work out whether you can fit a decent meal in between shows or are reluctant to try somewhere as it will be overwhelmed with all the visitors in town. We ended up with a booking at a very precise 5:45 pm as the table had to be back at 7:15. Having  just seen the Korean show Chef (think kung fu mixed with beat box) we were ready for a delicious meal. Continue reading

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.