Sunday, 27 May 2012

Sunday Roast or Barbecue?

No contest really, this weather makes the barbecue an obvious choice everyday. With so many different meats, rubs and marinades available, the options available are endless.

Today I was helping LitteGems Jewellery with her stall at the Newton Mearns Farmers Market and during the quieter periods I had a wander around the other stalls to see what tasty treats were on offer. Edenmill Farm, run by the Gibson family from just outside Blanefield in Stirlingshire, with a wide range of pork, beef, lamb and venison.

After sampling some fresh cooked sausages, I had to buy some of their Aberdeen Angus & Black pudding sausages. I knew that these would tasty great when cooked over the coals, for safe measure I also picked up a pack of Edenmill's pork with ginger & spring onion sausages.

As I waited on the coals getting to that ideal cooking temperature, (which always seems to take far too long), I had a much deserved rest in the garden with a Cuba Libre.

With a couple of the delicious Carmichael Estate lamb burgers that I had leftover from yesterday, as well some chicken breast fillets marinated in Reggae Reggae sauce, and not forgetting the black pudding sausages, I was good to go.

With the good weather expected to stay with us for most of the week I can see the barbecue getting a good run out, I'm glad that I bought so many sausages.

Enjoy the rest of the good weather and long may it continue!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Lanarkshire Farmers Market

So the Spring weather has eventually turned up, although wearing a very good Summer disguise, and the unmistakable smells of backyard barbecues fill the air. The Lanarkshire Farmers Market was in Clarkston today so in preparation for my own outdoor cooking, I made my way down to pick up a few bits and pieces.

They say the early bird catches the worm and today was no exception, by the time I arrived I think the majority of the residents of Clarkston had already been to the market and left the meat suppliers low on supplies of burgers! Fortunately for me, the Carmichael Estate stall had a good choice of both venison burgers, and lamb burgers. I took a pack of the lamb burgers which cooked very well on the BBQ. Both myself and Nicola are big fans of lamb and these burgers definitely hit the spot when served in between a toasted ciabatta.

Another exhibitor at the market was Lochbyre Rare Breed Meat who sell a wide range of home grown meats and who actually rear their beasts only a few miles from my back garden. The early rush had cleaned them out of burgers but I was able to get my hands on some pork ribs and their 90% pork sausages. The sausages are still in the fridge but if this weather continues, they will be on the coals before the week is out. I marinated the ribs in a mix of garlic, tomato pureé, soy sauce, Worcester sauce, honey and syrup, before roasting in the oven and then finishing on the BBQ. If I'm being honest with myself, I maybe cooked them just a few minutes too much and although the meat was tasty, it was maybe just a little dry. In future, I'll be much more careful.

My wife's business, LittleGems Jewellery had a pop-up shop today in one the local childrenswear shops, so to help keep her sugar levels up whilst she worked hard in the high temperatures, I bought her some delicious raspberry & white chocolate fudge from The Wee Fudge Company. I managed to steal a little bit tonight and have to say that I'm surprised that there was any left. It was delicious! There's a knack to making good fudge and I think that these guys definitely know what they're doing.

The final purchase made today was from AleselA, a quality seller of handcrafted beers and ales from microbreweries in Scotland and abroad. There was a huge range of bottled beers that I had never seen before and after a little taste or two, I decided to take home a couple of bottles of beer from The Loch Lomond Brewery. Both beers were very good. Bonnie'N'Blonde is a very refreshing classic pale bitter whilst the West Highland Way is a great summer beer, bursting with distinct citrusy flavours. The West Highland Way was definitely my favourite of the two, in fact it is one of the best beers that I have tasted in a long time.

Lamb burgers, pork ribs, sausages, fudge and handcrafted beers! Not bad for a quick fifteen minute walk round the market. When the farmers markets are in town, try to get along and talk to the suppliers. There are many fantastic products out there that you won't find anywhere else, everything that I tried today was either something that I had never had before or from a supplier that i had never used, but of course I will be sure to try again.

Tomorrow I will be at The Newton Mearns Farmers Market helping LittleGems Jewellery with her stall, as the sun is due to be about for the next few days, I will be keeping an eye out for more new products from the various suppliers on display.



Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Recipe - Braised Pork with Borlotti Beans & Wine

I've mentioned before that there are times when I get stuck in a rut and end up cooking the same dishes over and over. In order to break the cycle, I often get Nicola to look through my magazines & cook books to see if she can see anything that she would like me to make an attempt at. Other times I simply pick out a meal that i know i will enjoy and cross my fingers that Nicola will enjoy it too. Of course, we do have some differences in the things that we like and there are times when I try something new that doesn't make it back to the table for a second time. Thankfully, the meal that I prepared tonight, courtesy of Olive Magazine, will be something that I'll be eating again as we both loved it!

Through the week I like to be able to cook dishes that can be on the table in 20-25 minutes, tonight's dinner was chosen based on the fact that there were very few ingredients and that it looked like a quick and easy recipe to follow.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 pork chops or steaks
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Small glass white wine
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • Borlotti beans, 400g tin
  • Small bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 200g spinach, wilted
Method




  1. Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a wide shallow pan with a lid. Season the pork then brown the meat well all over, including any fat on the pork. Once browned, remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add the onions to the pan and cook until soft and golden. Add the wine, and bubble until reduced by half then add the chicken stock, beans and pork back to the pan. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the pork is cooked through. Mix in the chopped parsley at this point.
  3. Serve the chops on a bed of wilted spinach with the beans and sauce.
I could not believe just how tasty this meal was, especially as the list of ingredients was so small. Quick and easy whilst still managing to be a healthy balanced plate of food. So if you are a fan of flavours, then I'm sure that this delicious dish will become a firm favourite!




Saturday, 19 May 2012

Review - Café Rouge, Glasgow

A couple of weeks ago me and Nicola had been into Glasgow to buy a dress for her to wear to a gala dinner that we will be attending in a few weeks time, so today we were back in Glasgow to get alterations made to the aforementioned dress. Despite the poor weather, the city centre was busy, possible down to the visiting footballs fans from Edinburgh who were through for the Scottish Cup Final, and as a result some of the restaurants off of the main shopping streets were already getting busy as lunchtime approached. We decided to head into Royal Exchange Square to see if we could get a table at Café Rouge, a French style brasserie chain restaurant which is owned by the same group who own Bella Italia and Strada.

Luck must have been our side as we were efficiently escorted to our table just as the rest of Glasgow shoppers walked through the door behind us, if we had turned up five minutes later we may have had to look elsewhere for lunch.

The interior of Café Rouge is decorated in a style that immediately makes you feel that you have been transported to a cosy brasserie in the 5th arrondissement de Paris, with lots of dark wood and polished brass and French vintage art prints.

As you would expect, the wine list contains only French wines, whilst the beer list does extend a little further east to pull in a few tasty offerings from Belgium. As Nicola began to enjoy her LARGE glass of house white, I tried something new by ordering Früli, a delicious Belgian wheat beer with strawberries that has already become one of my favourite beers!

Café Rouge offer an all-day serving of traditional main course meals, lighter snacks and salads as well as a well priced prix fixe menu. Today we both ordered two courses from the prix fixe at a cost of £8.50 each.

Nicola had ordered the Terrine Foie de Volaille, a smooth chicken liver pâté served with French bread. When pressed for some feedback, nice & tasty were the word that were used on more than one occasion, the fact that Nicola had finished before me is testament to how much she enjoyed her starter. Meanwhile I had ordered Saumon Fumé Crostini, which was a starter so simple in its composition that I can't believe that I've never thought to do this myself. Thin slivers of smoked salmon bound in crème fraîche served on soft French bread. If I were to make a tiny criticism, I would have preferred there to be a little more salmon in the mix. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed my own starter and cleared my plate tout de suite!

After our simple yet delicious starters ,we were both looking forward the arrival of our main course. In a previous review, I mentioned Nicola's fondness for a good omelet, so it was no surprise that she ordered the Omolette de Jambon. A light and airy, three egg omelet packed with ham and Gruyère cheese served with pomme frites. Let's just say that I'm glad that I managed to get a taste as soon as the mains arrived because Nicola wasn't in the mood to be sharing her lunch with anyone.

For my own main course, I had taken a little bit of a gamble and ordered the Gauffre au Thon. This was tuna and Gruyère cheese baked on top of a warmed waffle. I'm not sure what I was expecting to see on my plate, but I suppose a posh version of tuna melt would be the best way to describe my main course. The crisp, warmed waffle was surprisingly light, whilst the topping of tuna and Gruyère was seasoned well and deliciously creamy.

We have eaten in Café Rouge on a number of occasion and have always been satisfied. I think the reason for this is down to the fact that the menu is, for the most part, simple food prepared and cooked well. The prix fixe menu changes on a regular basis but always offers a good choice of typically French cuisine at an affordable price.

I know that a lot of people can be a bit stuffy about using chain restaurants, myself included sometimes, but as long as the service is prompt, friendly and efficient, and the food is served hot and delicious, then the chain restaurants will always be places to consider when dining out. Today, Café Rouge ticked all of the boxes and it's only a matter of time before we're back.



Friday, 18 May 2012

Recipe - Oatmeal, Raisin & White Chocolate Cookies

I have recently turned my hand to baking cookies at home. I have always been a big fan of biscuits and cookies, either as a tasty accompaniment to enjoy with a cup of coffee, or as a cheeky snack, but had never tried to make my own before.

Last weekend I had my first attempt at making my own cookies. I had found an easy recipe for oatmeal & raisin cookies that I followed to the letter, right up until I put my tray of cookie dough into the oven and I unfortunately overcooked them. My resulting cookies tasted good but were dryer than I would have liked and as a result were more biscuity than I was intending. Undeterred, I was back in the kitchen tonight in the hope of creating something easy yet delicious, and in less than 30 minutes I had created a batch of American style cookies that I know will become a popular addition to my repertoire.

Ingredients (makes 15-18 cookies)


  • 115g light muscavado sugar
  • 85g butter
  • 1 egg
  • 115g self raising flour
  • 55g porridge oats
  • 100g raisins
  • 70g white chocolate chips


Method




  1. Beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in the egg. Soft in the flour then fold it into the mixture with the oats, raisins and chocolate chips.
  2. Drop heaped teaspoons of the mixture onto a greased baking sheets. You will likely need a few sheets to make sure that the cookies have got room spread while cooking.
  3. Bake for 10-15 minutes in a preheated oven 180C (350F, gas mark 4). Cool slightly on the trays before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies should keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container.


Crispy on the outside but slightly chewy on the inside, absolutely delicious! I couldn't believe how easy it was to produce something so tasty and I know that after you've made you first batch that you'll be baking them for years to come.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Review - The Corinthian Club, Glasgow



In 1842, David Hamilton laid the groundwork on one of Glasgow's most elaborate and richly decorated buildings, both internally and externally. The grand building originally housed the Glasgow Ship Bank before being converted into the justiciary courts in 1929. Now 170 years later, after painstaking renovation work by the G1 Group to bring the 'grade A' listed building back to its former glory, the building on Ingram Street houses The Corinthian Club - one of Glasgow's top entertainment venues.

Housed within this gorgeous 19th century building there are themed bars, restaurants, nightclubs, private dining rooms, meeting rooms and a casino. Last Friday, my employers had booked a large section of the main restaurant to celebrate our end of year delaunch. We had pre-ordered our meal from a set menu earlier in the week, which was just as well as a large number of our group who had never been to The Corinthian Club would have held up the ordering process with their extended oohing and ahhing. Trust me, I did exactly the same when I first walked in off the street on my own first visit.

As we waited on our meals to be served, Noeleen commented on the how the cutlery looked so snug whilst tucked up in it's little bed of napkins.

Our lunch consisted of two courses from a set menu that may have been adapted from the Market Menu and whilst most of my fellow diners had chosen and enjoyed the Carrot & Coriander soup, I decided to go for the Duck Liver Parfait.

The parfait was a deliciously smooth duck liver pâté, served with Arran oaties, wholegrain mustard dressing and a red onion chutney and whilst the dressing was sharp enough to cut through the strong tasting pâté without being too overpowering, I thought that the red onion chutney was just too sweet to bring the flavours of the starter together. Normally I'm a big fan of chutneys, but in this case there was too many raisins and not enough onion for my taste.




As my wife Nicola isn't the biggest fan of salmon I tend not to cook it at home, which means that I order salmon at any opportunity that I get when I'm eating out. I had been looking forward to this dish of Pan-fried salmon, green beans & saffron mash from the moment I had seen the menu options, and when my meal arrived at the table I was happy that I had made the right choice.

My main was very well presented on the plate, the thick salmon fillet was perfectly cooked, with a fantastic crispy skin. Plenty of crisp green beans were accompanied by delicious saffron mashed potatoes and a light hollandaise sauce finished off the dish. I often find that when saffron is used to flavour food, the chef doesn't know when to stop, letting the saffron overrun the other flavours on the plate. This wasn't the case here, I could have eaten loads more of the delicately flavoured mashed potato. One of the downsides of ordering fish is the tendency to find the odd bone, I did manage to find two huge bones but as I spotted them before they left my fork, they didn't stop me thoroughly enjoying my lunch.




As with the starter, I was in the minority when it came to ordering my main dish and most of my colleagues had ordered the Pan Roasted Breast of Chicken with seasonal vegetables and a Diane sauce. The general feedback from those at my table was that the chicken was well cooked, moist and tender, the vegetables gave a good balance but that the sauce lacked any real depth of flavour. I did manage to try a piece of the chicken which was very nice, however I do have to agree that the Diane sauce could have carried more punch. That said, I believe that almost everyone cleared their plates.

All of the waiting staff on service were very attentive whilst the restaurant manger always seemed to be in the background directing his floor staff like a younger, better looking Geppetto. Bearing in mind that they had our group of over 50 hungry diners arriving in the middle of the Friday lunch service I think that all of the staff done incredibly well in accommodating us. The overall consensus is that the quality of the food was very good, whilst the overall value cannot be argued with.

I know that there are a number of my colleagues who plan on returning to The Corinthian Club having enjoyed the food, drinks and salubrious surrounds, and I will definitely be heading back soon as there are a number of items on the Tellers Dinner menu that I want to get my teeth into.

So wether you're heading into Glasgow to do a bit of shopping, or on a night out, there's plenty of reasons to swing by The Corinthian Club.



Saturday, 12 May 2012

250 Years of the Noble Sandwich



When John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, ordered beef served between slices of bread about 250 years ago he probably did not think his request would become a global convenience meal.The story goes that the Earl asked for the particular serving so that he could eat while continuing to play cards and his friends asked "to have the same as Sandwich", according to the British Sandwich Association.


The first written record of the sandwich was in 1762 and the Kent town of Sandwich, which is the earldom of the Montagu family, is celebrating the 250th anniversary of the meal.


Sir Edward Montagu, a prominent naval commander, became the first Earl of Sandwich when he was offered a peerage in 1660. Sir Edward chose the title because "at the time Sandwich was the premiere sea port in England".


"When he was offered the earldom he could have chosen Portsmouth but he chose Sandwich - today we could be eating a Portsmouth."


"The fourth Earl was a complex character.


"He's First Lord of the Admiralty three times but he was a bit of a lad and he did stay up all night playing cards on many occasions."


"Eating of record at the time was service á la française where all the food went on the table at the same time and there was an elaborate ritual of carving, aided by troops of servants," The Earl of Sandwich was eating with his fingers "when cutlery was de rigueur".


"What you have with the sandwich is the shock of informality. He was a daring man to eat in such a way coming from his social background."


"Other people were probably eating in that way anyway but they were people who weren't written about,"


Over the weekend the east Kent town hosts sandwich-making competitions and re-enactments of the moment the fourth Earl of Sandwich asked for the food in bread.


On Sunday the 11th Earl of Sandwich, who shares his name with the fourth Earl after which the sandwich is said to be named, hosts a lunch in Sandwich.John Montagu said: "I am delighted to wish a happy 250th birthday to the sandwich.


"My ancestor, the 4th Earl, could never have imagined that his simple invention would spawn a multi-billion dollar industry, employing hundreds of thousands of people in this country."


Of course, the big question is....... What's your favourite sandwich filling?



Monday, 7 May 2012

Ben & Jerry's Karamel Sutra - It's Naughty!

I'm generally not a big ice-cream fan, but now and again a flavour comes along that catches my interest. Tonight I delved into a tub of Karamel Sutra, one of the new 'Core' range that has recently been released by Ben & Jerry's.

500ml of creamy vanilla ice-cream, rich double chocolate chip ice-cream, and a wicked core of thick, sweet caramel sauce running straight thought the middle. As me and Nicola sat on the couch with two spoons I tried to think of any dubious link that might allow this to be one of my 'five a day', however every time I thought I had found the link, Nicola broke my concentration by passing the tub back to my side of the sofa.

Ben & Jerry's have always had a knack of creating great flavour combinations. This time I think they've outdone themselves. Karamel Sutra is a delicious and naughty way to end the holiday weekend. Next time you're in the freezer section of your local supermarket, do your self a flavour and put a tub of Karamel Sutra in your basket.







Sunday, 6 May 2012

Review - Browns Bar & Brasserie, George Square, Glasgow

Today Nicola and myself headed into Glasgow on a shopping mission to find a dress for Nicola to wear to a Gala Dinner at Celtic Manor Resort in a few weeks. After successfully finding the perfect dress, we made our way to George Square for lunch at Browns Bar & Brasserie.

Nicola had eaten at Browns a few weeks ago with some friends and wanted me to see why she loved it so much. Stepping in off of a rainy George Square, we felt like we had been transported back in time. The interior of Browns has a very decadent feel, reminding me of Rick's Café Américain from Casablanca. Surrounded by polished brass, dark wood flooring, aged mirrors and plenty of green palm trees, and a pianist playing the modern tunes with a classical twist, we were shown to our seats. Our waitress, Stacey, advised us of the specials as well as letting us know that the Signature Cocktails were available today for £4.95.

As we didn't have work tomorrow, cut-price cocktails sounded like a fantastic start for a bank holiday lunchtime.



Nicola ordered the Berry Pomegranate Martini, a blend of Finlandia vodka, Chambord, blueberry, pomegranate & lime. Delicious and fruity were just a couple of the words Nicola used to describe her aperitif. I chose the Kajuma, an adaptation on the cocktail Nicola had ordered, Disaronno Amaretto replacing the vodka and a cheeky splash of Shiraz rounding off a sweet & fruity yet distinctly adult cocktail.




We shared a starter of Roasted Goats Cheese, walnuts, mango salsa with focaccia crostini and raspberry vinaigrette. The goats cheese was salty but creamy and served on the most delicious salsa of fresh mango and chili. All of these flavours were pulled together by the sharp, sour raspberry vinaigrette that was neatly drizzled around the plate.

After such a tasty starter, I was already looking forward to the main courses arriving. As I sat there beginning to understand why Nicola had been raving so much about her previous visit, our food arrived. Nicola is a big fan of the traditional Sunday roast dinner and had deliberated over whether to go for the Roast Pork with all the trimmings or Steak, mushroom and Guinness pie, A tough choice but the pie won out.


I don't think there's anything more comforting than a good steak pie. The chef at Browns knows what he's doing. Under the light puff pastry hat was a rich gravy packed with chunks of melt in the mouth beef, mushrooms and carrots. This was served with an interesting crushed pea mash, this is exactly what it sounds like, soft mashed potatoes blended with crushed fresh garden peas. This dish is proper comfort food, well seasoned and packed with plenty of flavours. If you like steak pie then this will surely satisfy!

When Stacey had rhymed off the specials  earlier, my eyes lit up at the mention of grilled mackerel, so much so that I didn't really look with any great detail at the wide choice on the mains menu. The special was Grilled Mackerel served on a bed of herby couscous with black pudding, with a chili oil and orange dressing.

I love fresh mackerel, and this dish certainly allowed the mackerel to be the star of the show. Four fresh fillets, perfectly cooked and served with a mountain of salad. The couscous was light and fluffy, tossed with sun-dried cherry tomatoes, rocket, baby spinach, red onion and crispy cubes of spicy black pudding. The salad was dressed with a fantastic blend of olive oil, chili oil and orange. Everything on my plate seemed to work so well with all of the other flavours, to the point that I can honestly say that this has been possibly the best salad that I have ever eaten.

After finishing our cocktails, starters, main courses, and not forgetting a couple of glasses of crisp Spanish Airen/Chardonnay, it would have been rude not to see if the desserts were as wonderful as the rest of our meal so far. So purely for the purpose of research, we ordered a slice of Salted Caramel Cheesecake to share.

Cheesecake is one of those things that is either done very well or quite poorly, Thankfully Browns manage to do the former. Rich caramel flavoured cheesecake filling on a crisp, chocolaty biscuit base, topped with a thick layer of salted caramel. As if this wasn't enough for those with a sweet tooth, there was a glossy caramel and lime sauce served around main attraction. This cheesecake was sooooo good and maybe too good for sharing! As I write this post and thinking back to our pudding, I'm wishing that I had only asked for one spoon.

Including cocktails, wine, one starter, two mains and a dessert to share, we were £55. For the quality of the food, the efficient service and the delicious cocktails, I think that we received fantastic value for money. I cannot hesitate in recommending Browns Bar & Brasserie as a top dinner destination, and look forward the next opportunity that I get to head back.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Duck Eggs - Can You Tell The Difference?



Throughout the week, the only time that I would normally have eggs would be perhaps in a salad or as egg mayonnaise in a sandwich, however at the weekend I don't think there is anything better than eggs for breakfast.

I have been buying free range hens eggs for many years from the various supermarkets that I use, as well as occasionally buying fresh free range hens eggs from farmer market. I think most people will agree with me when I say that eggs don't taste quite like the eggs we used to eat when we were children, even the free range eggs from supermarkets sometimes taste and look quite generic.

As the price of hens eggs have increased alongside the rising costs of most food groups, I have found that the noble duck egg has become an affordable and delicious natural alternative. Before World War II, duck eggs were hugely popular until health scares connecting eating duck eggs and outbreaks of salmonella scare ruined their reputation. The evidence was pretty thin but that didn't stop the conscience of the public being questioned. A mass boycott took hold and the egg producers began to concentrate on the easier farming of chickens.

It got to a point where people forgot why they didn't buy duck eggs, they just didn't buy them. Strangely enough, it took another health scare, connections to salmonella and thanks to the anti-egg crusades of Edwina Currie in the mid 1980's to give the duck egg a chance to get back on the table.

Duck eggs are more expensive, costing about £1.99 for six oddly sized eggs. They can be used as a direct replacement for hens eggs, the yolks are larger and higher in fat than a hens egg making them richer and great for baking. They're also packed with vitamins and minerals and provide a powerful protein boost. Admittedly, they have more cholesterol than a hens egg, almost four times the amount, but as I don't eat duck eggs every day I'll try not to think too much about that.




Duck eggs can be cooked exactly the same ways as regular eggs, scramble them, fry them or boil them. My favourite is poached duck eggs. There isn't as much white as a regular egg but the extra big yolk more than makes up for it. There's nothing better than cutting into a perfectly poached egg and watching the soft yolk oozing out over a slice of hot buttered toast.




The best thing about duck eggs is they taste like how eggs used to taste, it's a difficult thing to explain but I think anyone over then age of 25 will know what I'm talking about. Next time you're in the supermarket or at your local farmers market, get yourself some duck eggs and see if you can taste the difference.