Tag Archives: Ingredients

Culinary travel – not exactly new

4 Jan

Imagine learning to cook, hot, spicy Indonesian food at 40 degrees centigrade. It happened to me in Manila, capital of the Philippines.

Alas, I’ve not been on an exotic vacation, just a trip down memory lane. I’ve just discovered a cutting from the “Daily Telegraph and Morning Post”, dated 25 July 1962. The author, Jacqueline Rose met up with television cook Pete Alfonso to learn how to make a genuine Indonesian dish. A television cook in 1962?

A little more delving leads me to more information about Mr Alfonso. He was a charismatic Dutch-Indonesian who ran Cafe Indonesia well known for jazz and good food.

Cooking Indonesian Style in 1962

Cooking Indonesian Style in 1962

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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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Who lives there? Making a gingerbread house

15 Dec
Three houses, waiting for a lick of icing. And a sweet or two.

Three houses, waiting for a lick of icing. And a sweet or two.

The ultimate Christmas decoration to me isn’t a Christmas tree but a gingerbread house. I remember listening outside the kitchen as a child while my mother swore and burned herself on the caramel used to put the house together. As soon as she was finished, the caramel hardened and her hands wrapped in towels and ice, it was my turn. My turn to make the gingerbread house mine with sticky icing and colourful sweets.

I’ve only made one gingerbread house since I came to Scotland but that was a corker of a house. Ever so pretty, it was. This year, rather missing the practice, I invited friends to join me. Here are our creations and a recipe so you can make your own.

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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!

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.