Thursday, 21 August 2014

5 Questions - Pizza Pilgrims

Shortlist Magazine is a free weekly men's lifestyle magazine packed with news and features including movies, music, fashion, gaming, mens grooming, food and drink, as well as hard hitting news articles. As I read through my copy of two weeks ago, I became engrossed in a story about two brothers who turned their backs on their regular jobs to become the Pizza Pilgrims.
James and Thom Elliot set up their street food business selling authentic Neapolitan pizza at the Berwick Steet Market in Soho from the back of their imported Piaggio Ape van. Following the success of their approach to street food, it wasn't long before the brothers had the keys to their first pizzeria, adding to the many great eating places in Soho by opening up shop on the corner of Dean Street and Carlisle Street.
The pizzeria keep things simple by offering freshly cooked sourdough pizzas, using the finest ingredients imported from Italy, for both eat-in and takeaway diners.
I loved the story of how two boys followed their dream and felt that their story was perfect for '5 Questions' so after a couple of tweets between myself and Thom, I had everything I needed to get to work.

Here's the Pizza Pilgrims story;

How did you get started?
The idea for Pizza Pilgrims was really born in the pub. We both worked "normal jobs" but really wanted to get into food. Myself and my brother were discussing our options over a pint one evening (maybe a few) and came up with the idea of street food as a good way to get into food without a budget. We quickly settled on pizza - just because no one seemed to be doing it in street food - and the rest just snowballed from there. The idea for the pilgrimage to Italy was born out of it being cheaper to collect the van from there, rather than have it delivered. It turned into an amazing voyage of discovery and the reason for the name of the business! We learned so much on that trip that we had no idea about before!

What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
Hmm - I really am not sure we are really qualified to be giving advice! But I do think in catering the most important thing is to stay positive at all times. You have to remember that people are really visiting you to have a good time - so you have got to be having a good time! Things will go wrong for sure - but positivity will get you through (most of the time!)
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
I really wouldn’t want to change that much (although maybe a Caribbean outpost could work out…). We just want to serve great pizzas, in fun places - and make sure everyone is enjoying the ride.
If you could only cook one of your own products/recipes, what would it be & why?
I personally think a top Neapolitan Margherita is hard to beat. It is the definition of simplicity - and as a result really highlights the difference using quality ingredients makes. It is the measure of any pizzeria - so it is an important one to keep making, improving (and eating!)
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
Easy. Bruce Springsteen.
I have a mild obsession (he is just the best live performer ever, but lets not get started). I feel like he is more of a burger man (just ask Burgers and Bruce - the blog) - but he had Italian heritage. I did see him perform in Naples last year - and he has family from there. I think it would need to be something homely and hearty for that reason - maybe a Aubergine Parmagiana!

James and Thom haven't rested on their laurels and over the last couple of years they have released their first book - Pizza Pilgrims : Recipes from the Backstreets of Italy, which shows you how to make the best pizza. The book focuses on the key ingredients and techniques that will make your pizza stand out from the crowd as well as showcasing other cherished Italian recipes from the brothers. You can buy your own copy of Pizza Pilgrims from Amazon.
As if they weren't busy enough, the boys have also managed to find time to produce their own branded liqueur, Sohocello. With the help of Chase Distillery, Pizza Pilgrims use the most fragrant Amalfi lemons to create their own take on the classic Italian digestivo.

The progression from street food to restauranteurs to distillers and writers has been moving at a crazy pace but there seems to be no stopping the busy brothers as they have recently opened their second pizzeria, this time in Kingly Court off Carnaby Street.
Myself and Nicola love the cool vibe in Kingly Court and we hope to return to London before the year when we will be sure to drop in on the Pizza Pilgrims to see what all the fuss is about.
Keep up to date with the Pizza Pilgrims on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can find out more about Sohocello on Facebook and Twitter.
Some photography supplied courtesy of Myles New.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

5 Questions & Product Review - CurryDave Flatbread Indian Pizza

A few weeks ago I was contacted by the PR people behind CurryDave asking if I would be interested in sampling some 'Currizzas' in Gerry's Kitchen and providing some feedback. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I happily accepted their kind offer despite the fact that I had know idea what a currizza was!
After a couple of emails and text back and forth between myself, the PR agency and Curry Dave himself, I arranged a meet with Dave Gannon in order to collect a collection of Curry Dave goodies.
As it turned out, a 'currizza' is a cunning combination of curry and pizza, although I'm sure some of you had worked that out. On the day that we met, myself and Dave were both pushed for time but we did manage to chat long enough for me to work out that Curry Dave would be a perfect candidate for his own set of '5 Questions', so here's Curry Dave's story;
How did you get started?
I started the CurryDave thing as a quirky way of advertising my Indian cookery lessons. CurryDave was my nick name when I owned and cooked at Poppadums - an Indian restaurant in the French ski resort of Chamonix where I lived for six years. CurryDave in it’s current form as a food brand began properly when we first launched our products into Scotmid supermarkets in October 2013. The original idea from concept to shop shelf took about three years.
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
Be determined and never take no for an answer. Adapt and learn.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
I will be extremely delighted if in 5 years we are an established modern Indian food brand with a broad range of products which are selling successfully creating a large healthy turnover.
If you could only cook one of your own products/recipes, what would it be & why?
I love cooking at home and can't see past doing a classic marinated salmon as a starter - it's very simple and when served with a mint greek yogurt it is amazing.
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
There’s quite a few people I can think of but let’s say Sachin Tendulkar as I’d love to know what the secret is to such sporting greatness and also what he thought of my food.
Menu would be Red Onion bhajee, Lamb kebabs, Chicken Dansak, King Prawn Tikka Masala, Garlic naan and Pilau Rice.
Curry toppings on a pizza isn't a new idea (I'm sure that most of you have seen the local 3-in-1 offer a vindaloo pizza at 3am when you've been heading home from the pubs and clubs) however these are usually margarita pizzas modified by topping with a spoonful of hot curry sauce. Not exactly haute cuisine but satisfying enough to appease the hungry revellers.

The currizza is a much more thought out product as Curry Dave has expertly paired Indian flatbread bases with wonderfully flavoured Indian inspired toppings. The range has four topping flavours to choose from including, Chicken Madras, Chicken Korma, Chicken Tikka Masala, and Spinach & Sweet Potato.
I'm a big fan of pizza and was really looking forward to trying out the hybrid offering from CurryDave. We had our currizza across two separate dinners, serving them with spicy potato wedges and salad. The combination of well flavoured topping on a light naan bread base was great, with myself and Nicola loving both the Spinach & Sweet Potato, and Chicken Tikka Masala currizzas.
I was generously given four flatbread pizzas by CurryDave in return for my honest review on the currizzas and in my own honest opinion, i believe that CurryDave has come up with a winner here and at just £3.00 per currizza I will sure to add them to my shopping list in the future.
(If your quick, for a limited period you can pick up the full range at just £2.25 each from online retailer Ocado)
Keep up to date with CurryDave on Facebook and Twitter.

 Written by Gerry HaughianWritten by Gerry Haughian

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Review - Arta, Albion Street, Glasgow

Last weekend myself and Nicola decided to head into Glasgow take in some of Commonwealth Games atmosphere as well as take in the Merchant City Festival too. As we knew that we would be 'cocktail-ing' later, our first priority was making sure that we had a hearty lunch that would soak up the booze that was likely to come later. Glasgow has no shortage of quality restaurants, especially if you're in and around the Merchant City and after a quick look on 5pm.co.uk we booked lunch at Arta, a restaurant/bar/nightclub which is one of the jewels in the crown of the G1 group.
The nice weather that we had been experiencing had been replaced with showers and strengthening winds which made walking about the festival less fun than we would have liked so Nicola and myself decided to head in for our lunch a little earlier than previously planned, secretly hoping that the sun would make a late afternoon appearance.
When you walk into Arta you are immediately transported from 21st century Glasgow to Renaissance times. Sweeping velvet curtains, antique tables and chairs, leather armchairs, marble staircases and oil painting canvases help turn the former Corporation Cheese Market building into a luxurious setting for food and drinks.
The menu at Arta specialises in Spanish tapas with all tastes catered for. The deal that we booked through 5pm.co.uk was for six tapas dishes with a glass of wine each for £19.95 - as it turned out, this is the same deal that we would have got from walking in off of the street.
We ordered some bread and olives whilst we glanced over the menu. With only six weeks to go until we head off on our summer holiday, the tapas menu had us quickly thinking about some of the restaurants that we love in Lanzarote and as I allowed my mind to wander to my Canarian paradise, I let Nicola choose the six tapas that would be our lunch.
It wasn't too long before our tapas arrived starting with succulent tiger prawns cooked with garlic and chillies. The prawns were great but the best thing about this dish was the wonderful garnish of micro herbs that helped add an additional hit of flavour.
Deep fried calamari in an Estrella Damm beer batter. The squid was well cooked and tasted fresh but both myself and Nicola felt that the batter was too thick and whilst crispy on the outside, it was a little doughy.
The Patatas Bravas were fantastic. Chunks of baked, then fried potato were covered in a rich homemade chunky tomato sauce flavoured with paprika. The sauce was delicious with the smoky paprika working well with the sweetness from the potato.
It's not uncommon for us to order veggie dishes when we have tapas and the peppers stuffed with cream cheese, raisins and pine nuts sounded like something that we would both enjoy. Six peppadew peppers were filled with a blend of cream cheese and raisin before being scattered with pine nuts (which I would have preferred to be toasted). The sweet peppers had a tiny spicy kick that was balanced perfectly by the rich cream cheese, whilst the pine nuts added a crunchy texture. I think if the pine nuts had been toasted, the dish would have been perfect!
Nicola isn't a fan of fishy paella dishes but when she seen the chicken, pork and chorizo paella on the menu, she decided that this would be one of our six dishes. Paella was originally a dish made by Spanish farmers to use up leftovers and this dish was a perfect recreation. There was plenty of meat in amongst the tender savoury rice and me quickly polished of the farmers favourite.
The chicken wings cooked with rosemary and paprika were very nice. The wings had more meat on them than any other chicken wings that we've had in a long time although I would have preferred them to have been cooked for just a couple of minutes longer to help crisp up the skin. (It would also have been handy to have been given some wet wipes to clean our fingers as the wings were very sticky!)
Overall, Arta served up a great selection of well flavoured dishes with absolutely no scrimping on the portion sizes. There were a couple of things that I would have changed or tried to improve but that's more down to personal taste than a complaint. Both myself and Nicola thought that the six tapas and glass of wine each for under £20 was great value for money and would definitely recommend as a good value lunch venue.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Step Inside the World's Most Intimate Martini Bar - The Grey Goose Camionette

A couple of weeks ago, Nicola shared a tweet with me that she had spotted on Twitter where luxury vodka brand, Grey Goose, were running a competition which would give people the opportunity to spend a little time inside the most intimate bar in the world.
Who would have thought that a week later that I would be receiving a call from the marketing people for Grey Goose to arrange our very own 1-2-1 appointment. The prize venue was at Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh and as we both had the Glasgow Fair Monday booked off as a holiday, we were able to make the trip along the M8 to claim our prize.
The prize was a personalise martini consultation with a representative of Grey Goose but before we were shown into the 'mini bar', we were taken up to the champagne bar on the fourth floor where we were treated to one of Grey Goose's signature cocktails, the Grey Goose Le Fizz. Grey Goose vodka, St Germain elderflower liqueur and lime juice are shaken over ice before being topped with chilled soda water to create a wonderfully refreshing drink. We both enjoyed our pre-appointment cocktail and I have added elderflower liqueur to my shopping list because the 'Le Fizz' is a drink that we could both get very used to.
Once we had finished our drink, we were escorted back downstairs to the Grey Goose Camionette for the main event. Grey Goose have loving restored a vintage Citröen delivery truck and turned it into a quirky yet intimate personal drinks bar.
Inside, the bar measures about 1.5 square metres with room for just two guests and the bartender, with all of the available space cunningly used to create a cosy drinking environment. The mirrored gantry, stacked with vodka laden shelves, helps give the illusion of space whilst mini fridges are hidden away under the marble topped bar. On the other side of the bar there were two comfy bar stools that myself and Nicola plonked ourselves onto as we waited on the show to start.
Our personalised martini consultation was presented by Oli Blackburn who is the Grey Goose UK Brand Ambassador. With bar management experience from both Claridge's and The Gilbert Scott, Oli is no stranger to the providing high end clients with luxury service so looking after myself and Nicola would be a piece of cake. I'm not one to believe in coincidence but as we chatted with Oli, it turned out that he was the bartender who had created the 1873, the fantastic the signature cocktail that I had at Marcus Wareing's 'The Gilbert Scott' when myself and Nicola were in London earlier this year.
The traditional Martini was made by mixing gin and vermouth with ice before serving straight up with either a lemon twist or olive as garnish. Initially being prepared using six parts gin to one part vermouth, the martini was a potent aperitif, although over the years the ratios have been changed to suit personal taste, whilst it is now not unusual to see the gin replaced with vodka.
Oli explained that everyone can have their own perfect martini as long as the bartender has a good understanding of the flavours and tastes best suit the individual. Working around the five basic tastes of Salt, Bitter, Sweet, Sour and Umami, Oli questioned myself and Nicola about our favourite meals and food memories. Armed with collective information he was then set about creating our own individual and personalised martini.
With the raspberry and rhubarb being high up on Nicola's list of favourite flavours, Oli expertly mixed 50ml of Grey Goose Vodka, 10ml Noilly Prat, 5ml lime juice, 15ml rhubarb liqueur, and 5ml raspberry liqueur with ice before straining into a chilled martini glass and garnished with an orange twist. The rich fruit flavours of rhubarb and raspberry were balance perfectly by the Grey Goose vodka and Noilly Prat resulting in Nicola being hugely impressed by Oli's handiwork.
My own personalised martini was a more adult affair as my drink was influenced by my fondness for lemon and basil flavours. Oli mixed 50ml Grey Goose Le Citron with 10ml Noilly Prat, 15ml Apple Brandy liqueur, a few drops of orange bitters and basil leaves over ice before straining and pouring into a chilled martini glass and garnishing with a lemon twist. The Camionette was now beginning to fill with the heady notes of basil and lemon and I made short work of my own personalise martini. I have to be honest and stat that I actually preferred Nicola's drink but maybe that just goes to show that my gorgeous wife has great taste.
As our consultation came to an end we finished of our drinks and thanked Oli for looking after us before heading back out onto the sunny Edinburgh streets.
As they say in France 'A votre sante!'
Keep up to date with Grey Goose on Facebook and Twitter for news about event happening near you.


Written by Gerry HaughianWritten by Gerry Haughian

Friday, 1 August 2014

Searching Greater Glasgow And The Clyde Valley For Scotland's Secret Ingredient

Mark Greenaway is on a mission – to discover the secret ingredients that Scottish cooks just simply have to have in the pantry. He has teamed up with foodie flagship event of the autumn, Eat Drink Discover Scotland, and this week they are searching Greater Glasgow and the Clyde Valley for store cupboard secrets!

An area famed for international brands, such as Irn Bru and Tunnocks Teacakes, this Scottish region provides an endless array of pantry treats. The sheltered slopes of the Clyde Valley, with their well-drained soils and moderate rainfall, are home to dozens of orchards, yielding more than 53 varieties of fruit including apples, damsons and plums. Tomatoes are also regional favourites - particularly Clyde Valley Tomatoes, which sell across the country in markets, supermarkets and farm shops. Perhaps a bolognese or a casserole made with local tomatoes will hold the key to our favourite Scottish secret ingredient?

They say that Scottish people have a sweet tooth and those in the West certainly know how to bake to impress! With tablet and fudge producers like the Wee Fudge Company and Katie’s Homemade Tablet, Scottish people are spoiled for choice when it comes to using these ingredients in desserts. Also, Cracking Cookies in Motherwell have created a whole new kind of cookie using some unusual local ingredients, such as lemon, vanilla and honey, and orange and cardamom.

The public is being invited to reveal its favourite Scottish ‘secret ingredients’ by detailing what they are and where they’re purchased. The criteria range from herbs to condiments, alcohol to meats and even vegetables, providing they are either grown or produced in Scotland. Applicants are being encouraged to be as unpredictable, creative and unusual as possible. Mark and the Eat Drink Discover team will draw up a shortlist of the best entrants who will be invited to join him in a ‘cook off’ at the event, where the winner will be chosen. The producer or retailer who supplied the winner with their ‘secret ingredient’ will be given a free exhibition stand at next year’s event.

The team at Eat Drink Discover Scotland spoke with David Craig at Clyde Valley Tomatoes, who said: “Tomatoes have been grown in the Clyde Valley for well over 70 years, but the industry had just about disappeared until we restarted production in 2012. Our goal is to grow tomatoes that are the top of the class for aroma and flavour, and just so happen to be locally grown too.

“As far as Eat Drink Discover Scotland goes - any efforts made to promote hidden ingredients from Scotland's larder get a big thumbs up from us!”Eat Drink Discover Scotland, which is taking place at the Royal Highland Centre between 12th and 14th September, will bring to life the rich diversity of Scotland’s brimming larder by featuring exhibitors from the length and breadth of the country. One for the foodies, it will be offering something for every palate, plate and price range and, with a regional focus, it will be providing opportunities for smaller rural food producers to share centre stage with more established brands. The weekend will also include demonstrations and master classes, such as chocolate workshops, cocktail making, game butchery and craft bakery.

Mark Greenaway said: “It’s all too easy to keep using the same ingredients for the same dishes, so this competition is all about discovering new ingredients and new ways of using them. I’ll be sharing my favourite products from the length and breadth of Scotland on my website’s blog, suggesting ways to make the most of them. But I want others to follow suit and share their favourites with me. This is what food and cooking should be about and, with Scotland’s truly amazing larder, I’m sure I’ll find it extremely difficult to choose a winner."

To read the Greater Glasgow and the Clyde Valley blog please visit www.markgreenaway.com/news

For more information on the competition please visit www.eatdrinkdiscoverscotland.co.uk