Tag Archives: Ingredients

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!

Favourite gadget – Chinese cleaver

2 Dec
A girl and her cleaver. A magical moment.

A girl and her cleaver. A magical moment.

Did I mention that it was my birthday? I did, didn’t I? Well, another of the great gifts I got was this great cleaver. A knife is a cook’s best friend and a good cleaver is brilliant for all your chopping and crushing needs. For many years I had a favourite cleaver, one that my mum bought from a highly entertaining street vendor as part of a complete set of kitchen knives, super-sharp and very cheap. The cleaver and I made friends immediately. Such a handy blade, with complete clearance for the knuckles. The edge perfect for chopping and the side if the cleaver perfect for crushing. But that, the cleaver of my youth, was, as I realised years later when I wrapped it in newspaper, stuck it in my hold luggage and imported it to Scotland, was really quite flimsy and insubstantial. I stopped using it, eventually, feeling let down that it didn’t measure up to my memory of it.

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Father Christmas here’s our cookbook wishlist

29 Nov
Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver

Cookbooks by Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver

I love that delicious anticipation of discovering a new cookbook. The pictures look wonderful, the recipes sound delicious, you can’t wait to get started.

But I get ahead of myself, there’s the all important step of acquiring the cookbook. Yesterday, I was in a bookshop and got chatting to a few people all of whom were looking very unsure exactly what they were doing there. They needed help.

There’s also the cook who’d like to discover something different – maybe try cooking they enjoyed so much in a restaurant. I needed suggestions from people who know cookbooks, have gazed and drooled over them and of course enjoy cooking!  So, with the help of many Twitter followers (thank you everyone!) and a couple of local chefs, here is what WE want for Christmas.  And to make it easy for you, I’ve created an Amazon list with all of those (bar one) listed.  I am currently stumped with the Martin Wishart cookbook, it seems to be out of print!

We’re a pretty adventurous lot with eclectic tastes which makes this list so enjoyable. Please feel free to add some more – there are bound to be some must-have books that should be there.

Chef Recommends

Neil Forbes at the Atrium restaurant: Manual of a Traditional Bacon Curer
Craig Wood at the Wee Restaurant, Queensferry – Martin Wishart’s cookbook

For beginners/basics

Ainsley Harriott – Just Five Ingredients
Jamie Oliver – Meals in 30 minutes
Jame Oliver –  Naked Chef

Simply Inspirational

Rene Redzepi Noma

Two from Thomas Keller The French Laundry Cookbook and Adhoc at Home

The Ottolenghi Cookbook and Plenty

For the baker

The Handmade Loaf from @dan_lepard

The Great British Book of Baking featuring @bakersbunny @pinkwhisk @theboywhobakes

Peter Reinhart Artisan Breads Everyday

Scottish

Sue Lawrence – Scottish Kitchen
F.Marian McNeill  Scot’s Kitchen
Nick Paul – The Scottish Farmer’s Market Cookbook

Exotic

Thai Street Food This has to be the largest cookbook I’ve every seen – challenging to find somewhere to put it whilst you’re cooking from it!

India Cookbook –  Imagine a 1000 recipes to dip into.

Anissa Helou – Modern Mezze

Silvena Rowe – Purple citrus and sweet perfume

Madhur JaffreyCurry Easy

Thomasina Myers – Mexican Food

Comfort Food

Nigel Slater –  Tender  – books I and II
Nigella Lawson – Recipes from the Heart of the Home

The Silver Spoon

What’s in season? November

19 Nov

 

Hand dived scallops

Hand dived scallops

We’re really into Winter mode now the clocks have gone back. The weather seems to have deteriorated too. All the more reason to cook hearty soups and stews and glory in the fruits still available. I was surprised to see blueberries on sale this last weekend, but they really were Scottish! The other delight was to see a pack of Scottish chilis from Scotherbs – these have proved to be delicious.

 

Fruit and Vegetables

Fennel; beetroot; Broccoli, Dirty carrots; butternut squash; Leeks, Onions, Spinach; Swiss chard, Parsnips, russet apples (and many more types), Wild Mushrooms, pears, ceps (last few). And from further afield, truffles, some amazing large juicy pineapples and cranberries

Meat and Fish

Crab, Scallops, plaice (very reasonably priced), Lobster,  Squid, Mallard, Chicken,  Beef, Pork , Turbot

Recipe

Spiced berries

This is a really quick dessert. It can be made from any combination of berries you might have in the freezer or indeed a packet of frozen fruit is fine. It’s also worth freezing a bag of cranberries if you spot some.

Equal quantities of blackberries, redcurrants, cranberries, raspberries and blueberries – you’ll need about 100 grams per person.

1 stick of cinnamon (about 4 cm long)

4 cloves

4 green cardamoms (lightly squashed)

100 grams of sugar (brown or white) – you might need more depending on the fruit you used.

Method

Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cook slowly until the juices run. If you are using cranberries, make sure they have softened, these usually take longest to cook. Remove the spices and add more sugar if very tart.

Flowers and starch – making Turkish delight

18 Nov
Turkish delight. Home made, no less.

Turkish delight. Home made, no less.

I was in Nargile for a slap-up feast in June. At the end of a meal, when we were all fit to burst, the temptress waitress brought in a small plate of Turkish delight with the bill. It was fabulous and I ate several pieces. I was reminded that good Turkish delight is a beautiful thing that I wanted to learn how to make. I’m talking about the original, gelatin-free version. It makes a nice gift and is my sweetheart’s favourite candy. So I scoured the Internet for instructions and set out to learn how to make perfect delight. Here is what I learned.

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Edinburgh’s best kept secret: Matthew’s Foods

15 Nov

I’d like to share what I think is one of Edinburgh’s best kept secrets. Take a trip with me to the Far East, okay the West of Edinburgh.

Matthew‘s Foods is chock full of all sorts of superb ingredients at the most reasonable prices. It’s great fun to explore. Some things are familiar, others are frankly weird and wonderful.

 

Matthews Foods Supermarket

Matthew's Foods Supermarket

 

From the outside you’d probably think it stocks just Chinese ingredients. Not so. You’ll find just about any ingredient you could possibly wish for whether you are cooking Indian, Thai, Korean, Japanese, British and of course, Chinese.

Just inside the front door you’ll find the fresh produce – plenty of unfamiliar and more recognisable items.  Ahead you’ll find aisles of produce  – each aisle seems to gather ingredients from a different cuisine together – this can be a little confusing as you can find coconut for instance  in several different places.

 

Spices from Matthew's Foods

Spices from Matthew's Foods

 

The ingredients are ridiculously cheap, and are offered in small, medium, large and enormous bags. I look at huge bag of cumin seeds and wonder how many years it would take me to get through it and it’s less than £5. There are bags of nuts – a kilo of cashews at little more than you’d pay for 250 grams in a high street supermarket.

At the back there are frozen items – intriguing dumplings, dim sum, seafood, fish and meats – what fun to have a party to try them all out.

In another aisle, teas and dried mushrooms. You often catch yourself wondering exactly what such and such is.  Near the exit, you can find utensils, cleavers, steamers and other kitchen bits and pieces.

I’m a regular visitor and always astonished how little I spend when I’ve stocked up on  umpteen things. There, it’ll be a best kept secret no longer.

So take a little trip to the orient, it’s such fun and very easy on your purse.

Matthews Foods

36 Inglis Green Rd
Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh EH14 2ER
0131 443 8686

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

Whatever happened to… Jacques, The Backstage Bistro and La Bagatelle

4 Nov

 

Map of Tollcross showing the locations of the three restaurants mentioned in this article.

You turn your back for a year or two and suddenly your favourite restaurant is no more.

 

Edinburgh has a lot of restaurants so competition must be fierce. New restaurants open all the time and old ones die and disappear. Sometimes it’s obvious why a restaurant isn’t successful, at other times it is a mystery. Recently, I was walking around Tollcross looking for something to eat and found that some of my favourite restaurants had stopped serving, and another one had gone to seed. The question is why?

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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

Veggie heaven – a vegetarian’s guide to Edinburgh

26 Oct
Henderson's Restaurant

Henderson's Restaurant - steep stairs and good food

A couple of months ago, I wrote about L’Artichaut, a great little French vegetarian restaurant in Stockbridge. At the start, I listed several good vegetarian restaurant and it struck me that a quickie-guide, a longer article that gives a bit more detail, would be useful. Here is a review of three of them: Ann Purna, Black Bo’s and Henderson’s

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