18 December 2013

How To Create The Perfect Christmas Cheese Board

HAVING WORKED with artisan cheeses for nearly a year now, I'm really looking forward to making the cheese board for the family this Christmas.

When it comes to choosing cheese for several people (ten in my case), you need to consider other peoples' tastes.  Some like blue cheese, some don't; some like goat's cheese, some don't.  

Then there are cheeses like Brie, cheddar and Stilton - cheeses no Christmas cheese plate are complete without.

Here are my tips for your Christmas cheeses selection:

A recent trip to the I.J Mellis Cheesemonger's warehouse.
  • You're looking for around 50g per cheese per person. This gives everyone a decent taste of everything.
  • Think about styles and textures: hard, soft, semi-soft; cows (milk), goats, ewes; smoked and non-smoked and blue. You want variety.
  • Stilton is at its best this time of year and Christmas sees amazing cheeses like Vacherin Mont D'or come into season.  So consider that for something traditional and special.
  • Pick the right accompaniments.  I firmly recommend Scottish oatcakes like Adamsons of Pittenween or Arran Minis.  Honey and apples are a very classic partners for cheese, while quince jelly is perfect because it works so well with most cheeses.
  • Store your cheeses properly.  Most cheeses (ask your cheesemonger for advice) will easily keep for 10 days if you store them properly. Cheese likes humidity, so keep them in the fridge in a cardboard box or in the veg drawer.
  • Leave the cheeses out for around 45 minutes before eating - this will ensure flavour is maximised. 

My cheese board started with Colston Bassett Stilton.  This is regarded as the finest of Stiltons and, as I mentioned before, is best around this time of year.

There are a few non-blue eaters in my house, so I resisted adding some amazing Scottish blues like Lanark Blue or Dunsyre Blue.

For my goat offering, I chose Ragstone.  It's made by Neil's Yard and I love the soft texture and notes of honey and citrus.

Cheddar has always been one of my most loved cheeses.  I opted for Keen's cheddar as I like the full flavoured, earthiness of it.

Prima Donna is a favourite with staff in the shop and there's no way i could leave it out.  It's always the one i use when people are looking for a special cheese. It's a Parmesan/Gouda hybrid from The Netherlands and it's toffee notes and crystalline texture make this an outstanding eat.

Golden Crosses maturing.
I couldn't resist three-time 'Best Cheese In The World' winner Ossau Iraty.  The milk quality really shines through on this wonderful cheese from the Basque Pyrenees.

Brie De Meaux needs no introduction and is a must for any cheese board, any time of the year.

Smoked Lancashire should prove a popular choice and will give my board a smokey dimension to it.  

Last but not least, I went for something local in the form of Anster.  My dad proposed to my mum in Anstruther, where this cheese is made, so I thought it would be nice to showcase one of Scotland's truly great cheeses at Christmas. 

It's similiar to Wensleydale in texure, but far superior in taste.  It's creamy, slightly sour notes make it one you can really be proud of when we have tourists asking about Scottish cheese.

5 December 2013

Stornoway black pudding, seared scallop with caramelised apple, apple + onion velouté and Parma ham crisp.

Scallops and Stornoway black pudding are just two examples of the fabulous produce we have in Scotland. Not only do they taste great, they also require very little cooking time -  ideal for coming home on those cold winter nights.  Please make sure you buy hand-dived and not dredged scallops. Visit a reputable fish monger (I use Something Fishy on Broughton St.)  and avoid supermarket fish counters where possible.

Ingredients (serves 2)

1/4 Charles MacLeod Stornoway black pudding (or 300g equivalent) 
2x  Scallops
3x  Apples (Granny Smith's are my usual choice)
1 Large onion, finely diced
Caster sugar
Chicken stock
White pepper
Bunch of chives, finely chopped
75ml Double cream
2 Slices Parma ham
Rapeseed oil
20g Butter


1) Turn grill onto high heat. Sweat the onions for the velouté in a medium-hot pan for 8-10 mins until soft, do not allow to colour.
2) Add the apples and gently cook until they start to break down, season, add the chicken stock to cover and cook until apples are soft enough to cut through.
3) While the velouté cooks, place a non-stick frying pan on a high heat.  Place a piece of greaseproof paper on top of the slices of Parma ham, lightly oil the pan and press the Parma ham down flat for 1-2 mins.  Flip over for another minute, ensuring Parma ham is pressed down flat. Set aside on kitchen roll.
4) Blitz the velouté and check seasoning. Set aside in a pan to reheat later.
5) Place the sugar in a dry pan and allow to melt to make caramel.  When sugar turns brown, add a splash of water to stop cooking, then add apple segments. Cook for 2 mins on each side, then set aside.
6) Slice the black pudding to give a flat base and then slice diagonally to create two equal portions (see pic). Place under the grill for around 3 mins, turning after two minutes.
7) Place a non-stick frying pan on a high heat.  Oil the scallops and place in pan for 1 minute.
8) As the scallops cook, remove the black pudding and place in middle of the bowl.  Ladle the velouté into bowl.
9) Turn scallop, add butter and baste.  Remove and place next to black pudding. Place Parma ham crisp in between the two, place apple segments around plate and sprinkle around the chopped chives.

Season and serve. 

Please source your fish and shellfish ethically and responsibly.



26 November 2013

Review: The Grain Store, Edinburgh.

NESTLED AWAY ON the rather enchanting Victoria Street, The Grain Store was described to me as ‘one of the best restaurants in Edinburgh; a real hidden treasure.’ Now there’s an endorsement I simply can’t ignore.

Established way back in ’91, the restaurant has a stellar reputation of cooking Scottish cuisine in a classic style, while keeping it truly seasonal.  They offer a two-course lunch for £12.50 (or three courses for £15), as well as a dinner menu that could easily rival one of the city’s Michelin boys.

The dining room itself is small but spacious and I particularly like the stone arches and view of the bustling street below.I bet it would be rather romantic on a dark and chilli winter evening but on this freezing cold Saturday afternoon, we were most grateful our table was next to a radiator!

The phone rings and I hear the waitress apologise as ‘we’re fully booked.’  That speaks volumes for a restaurant that doesn’t actively advertise or seek the usual recognition from guidebooks and such like.

Sarah recommended the Stornaway black pudding and apple starter having had it on a previous visit, so I opted for that while she ordered the cauliflower and sorrel soup.

This simple dish really allows the quality of the black pudding to shine. The caramelised apple brought a sharpness, while the rich sauce tied the dish together. 

Sarah’s soup was smooth as silk and the sorrel gave a hint of fruitiness to match the earthy notes of the cauliflower.  A hearty portion and seasoned perfectly.

Sometimes service can be over looked but for me, it’s just as important as the food. I enjoyed watching the effortlessness and professionalism of the front of house staff here.  They made conversation with their guests without over staying their welcome and their sincerity was most apparent.

For main, I went for borders pork belly with celeriac puree, kale and raisins.  Pork belly is one of my favourite meats and too often I’m left disappointed when the skin isn’t sufficiently crisp.  

However, I’m pleased to report the skin was superb on this occasion. Box duly ticked.

The meat itself was tender and the fat well-rendered, while the celeriac puree was silky smooth and added an earthiness to the plate .  The  iron-rich kale still had a slight bite to it and the fruity raisins added texture. Perfect winter dish that. 

Braised pheasant with creamed cabbage and confit potato was Sarah’s choice.  The bird was tender and moist, which is difficult to achieve with pheasant and the cabbage added both texture and flavour.

The potato was buttery, slightly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside as expected.  The sauce was so good you could have been forgiving for wiping it off the plate with your tongue.

We admired a rather splendid Pinot Grigio as we entertained vanilla panna cotta with winter berry sauce to finish.  

A good panna cotta has a jelly-like wobble, which this did.  The vanilla was pleasant and the sauce cut through the creaminess of the panna cotta.

 It would seem my friend’s recommendation was spot on. The Grain Store showcase seasonal Scottish produce with classic cooking techniques in an expert fashion and at that price, superb value for money too.

 You can see why it was billed as a ‘best kept secret.’  

0131 225 7635


Mon-Sat for lunch: 12 - 2pm and dinner: 6-10pm
Sunday for dinner: 6-10pm

The Grain Store on Urbanspoon

27 October 2013

Number One at The Balmoral

BASED IN THE basement of Edinburgh’s Balmoral Hotel, Restaurant Number One has proudly held a Michelin star for 12 successive years. 

Dressed in our Sunday best, we were caught by a nasty gust of wind and shower of rain as we gratefully escaped into the hotel from Princes Street.

The warm surroundings were most welcome as the maître d took our coats and welcomed us to the restaurant.

Spacious and tastefully decorated, I have to say I think it’s one of the most exquisite dining rooms in the city.  The rich, lacquered walls and quirky artwork almost lends a French-ness to it and I especially like how it’s carpeted, as it really keeps the volume of clattering feet down. 

A lovely champagne aperitif was a perfect way to celebrate my *cough* 30th *cough* birthday and made us forget the awful weather conditions outside.

After devouring our wonderfully presented amuse bouché, it was starter time and I went for scallops with parsley root and cauliflower (this dish was kindly created for me due to my nut allergy and is different on the menu). 

Perfectly cooked, sweet scallops worked in tandem with the earthiness of the cauliflower and I particularly enjoyed the little pickled onions dotted about the plate.  I’d never had parsley root before but will definitely look for it again.

Sarah selected partridge with cep tortellini and lapsang consommé .  You could see the filling inside the little tortellini as it was so thin and the consommé was aromatic and crystal clear. The partridge was succulent and the woody flavours of the other elements complimented the game to a tee.

I had seen a picture of the dry aged Orkney beef on head chef Billy Boyter’s Instagram feed and I knew I was ordering this before I even set foot in the place. 

There was a superb flavour to the beef and the cooking of it certainly did it justice. The seasoning was bang on and the little crispy onion rings added crispiness to the plate and were a notable highlight. 

There were generous shavings of truffle in there too, which are always welcome and a silky smooth puree just to tie it all together.

I had toyed with ordering the turbot with shellfish linguine, parsnip and sea aster so was glad Sarah did so I could pinch a taste!

The turbot was moist, flaky and an excellent piece of fish.  The pasta was light and the caviar added a slight saltiness to it.  The parsnip puree added a slight sweetness to this accomplished dish and the seasoning was perfect yet again.

The service really stood out for me on a previous visit here and i was pleased that it did again this time around.  I’ve read a few reviews saying this restaurant is snooty and ‘for rich bankers’ - what a load of nonsense. 

The waiting staff were extremely professional and showed sound knowledge of the menu.  They chatted away with real interest and genuineness too. OK, service did slow at points but, unlike several other Michelin restaurants, there wasn’t 46 waiting staff tripping over each other to lay a spoon down and that’s a definite plus for me.

Dessert for me was bramble parfait with apple, cinnamon and fromage blanc.

Beautifully presented, it looked like I was eating my way through a dish Willy Wonka had created.  

The amazing little cinnamon donut brought a warm contrast to the parfait and fromage blanc elements while the berries brought a sharpness. 

I didn’t really think the snow added anything to the dish bar a visual aspect but it was a light and most enjoyable dessert none the less.

To finish, Sarah went for the cheese course.  Not much you can say here really other than there was a good range of quality cheeses on offer and the accompaniments, the raisin bread in particular, married well with the cheese.

I’d particularly like to praise the team for going out of their way to cater to my nut allergy.  Often restaurants, even at this level, neglect to really cater to my allergy properly, which can make you a little nervous about the whole experience.

The food matched the excellence of the service in one of Edinburgh’s finest dining areas.  The seasonality, execution and meticulous attention to detail show why a Michelin star has shone over the restaurant for 12 years.   


0131 557 6727

Open daily from 18:30-22:00            
Number One
The Balmoral
1 Princes Street

Number One on Urbanspoon

11 October 2013

Food World News


 From sea to plate: fresh oysters from The Grain Store
My most memorable meal has to have been at The Grain Store on Victoria Street.  A friend of mine billed this restaurant as 'the best kept secret in Edinburgh' and I would have to agree.  

A two course lunch at this well-established restaurant is amazing value at just £12.50 and truly is modern Scottish cooking and hospitality at it's finest.  Even J.K Rowling herself paid a visit recently.

I  enjoyed a superb dinner at Purslane towards the end of September and found the food and service just as good as my previous visit (see previous review), with a great rabbit dish being a particular highlight.

This for me is still of the best value restaurants in the city and it's great to see the restaurant go from strength to strength. 

On The Menu...

I'm off to Barcelona next week to sample the culinary delights of the city.  I'm particularly looking forward to visiting Formatgeria La Seu, a Spanish cheesemongers run by Kirkcaldy-born Katherine McLaughlin.  It comes recommended to me by Mr. Iain Mellis himself so i look forward to sampling some of Spain's finest cheeses and picking Katherine's brain on all things cheese.

I'm having dinner at Restaurant Number One at The Balmoral hotel towards the end of the month and having seen a lot of chef Billy Boyter's dishes via his Instagram, can't wait to actually get stuck into some actual grub!

In Other News...

Matteo Ascheri is hosting a wine tasting dinner at Field on October 30th.  The four course menu designed by the Field team will pair up with wines from his cellars in Italy with tickets priced at £47.50.

I caught up with Rachel from Field who told me a little about the event:

'Matteo will be speaking about his wines, while the kitchen will be cooking food to match. Richard (head chef) and i both really enjoy wine tasting dinners and think Field will be a great place to host one of our own because of the restaurants small and intimate surroundings.

'Hopefully It'll be the first of many!'

The Wine Gang are back in November at the Assembly Rooms after a sell out appearance last year.  Tickets to this fantastic event are priced at £20 or, for a limited time only, £12 from here http://www.wineganglive.com/edinburgh.php (see code).

Tickets include tastings of over 300 wines priced from £6-£300 and a Wine Walk with one
of the gang.  For more info click on the link above.

Mark from the artisan cheese producing Cooleney farm will be making an appearance at I.J Mellis shops across Edinburgh next Friday and Saturday (18th and 19th).

He will be hosting a free tasting and answering questions on this excelllent camembert/brie style Irish cheese.  You can catch him at the Morningside branch on Friday morning, the flagship branch on Victoria Street that afternoon and in Stockbridge on the Saturday.  

I've been doing a lot of cooking from this amazing garlic from Cadours in France.  Widely regarded as the finest garlic in France, this garlic will keep up until January.

I've made a delicious garlic oil, confit garlic, honey roast garlic and garlic soup to name but a few and the quality is second to none.  It's available from I.J Mellis on Victoria Street while stocks last.

24 September 2013

Spice Up Your Life

FOR MOST OF us Brits, curry will feature on the dinner table at some point in the week, whether it be a take away or a homemade version.  Chilli Papas spice mixes aren’t only healthy, but create a far superior dinner than your normal take away or store bought curry paste.

Darren Mollan founded the company by accident in December 2010 when rushing around trying to rustle up something to feed his four hungry children.

As it happens, his sister-in-law came around to make a curry for New Year’s Day dinner and Darren’s wife Lynn suggested creating a pre-packaged spice mix with instructions on making a healthy curry.

I first met Darren a couple of years back while he was promoting Chilli Papas at a food festival.  He tells me what the venture has been like up to this point:

‘It’s been a rollercoaster of joy, elation and excitement against disappointment, frustration and stress!

‘What has really been amazing is looking back at what we started with: a £20 budget and one mix that we sent to friends on Facebook to sample.

‘Since then highlights have included our first food festival in Crail in 2011, having a celebrity chef like a sample and not believing it was cooked without oil.

‘We especially love meeting new and existing customers; that way you can engage, swap tips and really explain our company ethos.’

I’ve used Chilli Papas mixes a few times and always admire the balance of spices Darren has perfected in the blends.  It’s a real skill to be able to do something like that and I asked the man himself how he creates his mixes and about his passion for cooking:

‘I have been cooking curries for the past 16 years, initially using my Mum’s recipes and then adapting them to suit healthier eating. I have no professional cooking experience but just love to create food and experiment.

‘The original mix (Mandalay) was really created by accident and I perfected it over a six month period. I learnt from this and by guinea pigging the family.  We offer free samples to our Facebook fans to get more feedback and adjust accordingly.’

Recently, Chilli Papas launched a new Gurkha curry mix and Darren told me about the inspiration behind this new tangy and sour Nepalese blend:

‘This is a recipe from an old family friend who was a Gurkha soldier in the British Army. I found it in my Mum’s recipe book and adapted it to fit the Chilli Papas ethos.

‘I think family recipes like this offer a different taste experience for the whole family. In this case, it took a lot of experimenting to get it right, but we got there I think!’

Darren featured on BBC Radio Scotland’s Kitchen Café show a few months back and tells me what it was like cooking on the radio:

‘I was really nervous about cooking on the show as I'm a big fan, but when Penny Latin turned up she put me at ease straight away.

‘What made it very easy was that you end up chatting away about the cooking, the history and a little about Chilli Papas and time just flies. We even had a few laughs especially about a couple of unusual ingredients’

Whilst listening to the show, Darren finished off his curry by crushing some crisps and sprinkling them over the dish.  The presenters were a bit dubious about this at first but once they tasted the curry, really took to the idea:

‘It's all about adding crunch and an additional texture.  I wanted something neutral, that wouldn’t add another flavour like nuts would, so I tried crisps and it worked!’

I think it’s a great touch and often do it with my curries now and trust me - it works!

The great thing about Chilli Papas mixes are that they’re essentially one-pot dishes and really do suit, not just hectic family life, but everybody from busy working professionals to kids that like to cook.

The mixes come with an easy-to-use recipe printed on the card inside; perfect for even the most inexperienced cook.

One of the unique things about the curries is that they encourage oil free cooking, making them low fat and healthy; something that was very important to Darren when developing the product:

Darren is a regular at food festivals throughout Scotland
‘Being a child-friendly product was very important as we have four in our family.

‘As the product is so simple to cook, it’s very easy to get children involved with the preparation and mixing of the ingredients.

‘Our children often beg to be involved and, as well as teaching them where products come from, they'll learn about smell and textures too. This has led to many reviews stating how much they enjoyed using the mixes, from people who are good eaters to those who are fussy.’

Like Darren, encouraging children to cook and learn about food is something that I care passionately about.  Schools do very little these days and it is important to get kids started on the right foot when it comes to food.  What better way to do that than getting the kids cooking a healthy curry?

There are currently ten Chilli Papas mixes available. For a list of stockists and regular updates, check out the Chilli Papas Facebook at: www.facebook.com/redhotchillipapas

23 September 2013

Wines of Portugal Food and Wine Event with Tom Cannavan.

The Grain Store are hosting a special food and wine event in association with Wines of Portugal. The evening  features six of the country's finest wines along side a four-course dinner designed by the restaurant's chefs.

Wine expert and food writer Tom Cannavan will guide you through the wines as you enjoy the wonderful, modern Scottish-style food The Grain Store is renowned for.

Sommelier Kisha Gallagher explains how the event came about:

'Wines Of Portugal approached us regarding a consumer tasting back in June. They are keen to promote the regional differences and indigenous varietals of Portugal to a wider audience. 

'They hope to show the similarities of their indigenous varietals to that of the much better known "garden-variety" ones. Our menu was very much created with that in mind and obviously we have the knowledge of Tom Cannavan to help ease the night along.'

Having visited The Grain Store recently, this promises to be a great night in one of Edinburgh's most intimate and well-established restaurants.  The menu looks amazing and really showcases Scottish produce, as well as a superb array of Portuguese wines.  

The menus includes:

                                                               Ceviche of scallops

                                           Borders roe deer saddle with roasted beetroot,
                                                     red kale & autumn berry sauce



                                                             Lemon tart, lemon sorbet

Tickets: £60 (£10 deposit required).

For book, pop into The Grain Store on Victoria Street or call the restaurant on 0131 225 7635.


15 September 2013

A Day In The Life of... an Artisan Baker

FOR ME THERE’S nothing better than opening your oven and inhaling that wonderful aroma of freshly baked bread.  Jon Wood is one of few artisan bakers around these days and I was privileged enough to catch up with him and find out what a day in the life of a baker is like.

Bakery Andante opened in Morningside nearly three years ago and has grown steadily ever since.  The bakery employs nine people and prides itself on making bread the traditional way - using few ingredients, no additives and, most importantly, giving the dough time to do its job naturally.

Jon lets me in on a few baking secrets and tells me what he thinks sets Bakery Andante’s products apart from mass 
produced supermarket offerings:

‘Our secret is simple – we add time and care.

‘Bread made properly is naturally flavourful and fulfilling, as well as mould resistant and longer lasting. If we add time and care, we simply don’t need to add any more ingredients.

‘Our sourdoughs, for example, only have three ingredients: flour, water and salt. Our wholemeal bread has six ingredients, which when you compare it to an organic wholemeal bread from a neighbouring supermarket that uses 12 ingredients, tells a story in itself.

‘The modern Chorleywood Process or ‘no time’ doughs only use the yeast to give a bloom in the oven and it spends so little time in the dough that it doesn't have a chance to work its magic. 

‘All the additives make it worse, but a lack of time is the main culprit.  I’m always amazed at how sweet our wholemeal bread is given we add no sugar or sweetener.  I believe that it’s simply the slow process that releases the natural flavours and sugars.’

It’s hard graft being a baker, there is no doubting that.  I wondered what a typical day was like for Jon and his staff:

‘Generally, we start at 5:00 a.m. I was keen not to work night shifts on a regular basis, as it would be unhealthy for my family life, and I like that we have warm bread at 9:00 a.m. for customers, rather than bread that’s already been out for eight hours or so.

‘First job is to turn on the ovens and start the morning’s mixes.  We have croissants and some of the bread's ready to go immediately. As soon as the oven is up to temperature, we get them in to bake. 

‘The sourdoughs get turned to strengthen the dough and even out the air pockets, then we start to weigh and shape the breads.

‘We have doughs in three stages: those that have been mixed the day before, and made up; a larger set that have been left in bulk and either chilled to slowly ferment, like our sourdoughs; then those that we mix in the morning.

‘We try and start the sourdoughs for the next day at about 7.30, then move on to prepping the yeasted doughs for the next day.  

‘We mix our baguette dough and leave it overnight to prove slowly; that means that while we have a reduced volume, it doesn’t puff up as much in the oven and we get a much richer flavour. 

‘Home time beckons when we start to prepare our poolishes and feed the sourdough cultures so they are nice and active for the next day.  We clean the equipment, lay out the next day’s recipes and call it a day.’
That sounds like hard but rewarding graft, indeed; one that must require a great amount of passion and determination.  I wondered as to the source of Jon's committment:

‘It’s tempting to say that it’s in my blood as my maternal great great grandfather was a German baker who emigrated to London before WWI, and on my father’s side, my grandmother’s family owned a large bakery in England.  

‘More realistically, my mother used to bake wholemeal bricks, which as a teenage boy I used to devour. 

‘When I left home I missed real bread, finding what was available tasteless and unfulfilling.  After a while, I bought a bread machine and from there I experimented and played, and discovered how much I enjoyed the process as much as the end product. ‘

The Great British Bake Off has done a great deal to encourage people to give home baking a go.  Such shows are not only a great way to get people into the kitchen, but also remind us of the classic cakes and bakes that are engrained in British heritage.

What advice would the master baker himself give to the home cook?

‘Funnily enough I would not call myself a master baker – I’m a hobbyist who has taken it a bit far! I still have a huge amount to learn.  My experience came from reading in books, having a go, doing it again until I got it right.’ That in itself is great advice. 
Jon continues:

‘The best advice has to be “give it a go and don’t feel forced to ‘create’”.  I think that there is a tendency with things like Masterchef, GBBO and the plethora of celebrity chefs out there to think that to do it properly, It has to be fancy with hundreds of ingredients and flavours skilfully interwoven, cooked and presented with precision.

‘Some of the best meals are really very simple and start with great produce.  There is no better meal than a great baguette, some fine cheese or pate, a flavourful tomato and a glass of good red wine or beer.'

Jon’s bread flies off the shelves at my work and I’m amazed at how many people say it’s hard to find good bread in Edinburgh.  With supermarkets growing ever more powerful, it’s important that we remember our amazing baking history in the UK and support our artisan producers.

Once you’ve tried proper bread, you’ll grow increasingly disappointed at having to accept a supermarket alternative – trust me on that one!

‘We need to create opportunities for people to try it and be able to justify why it costs more, but is still good value.  Thankfully, consumers these days are aware that cheap is not best, and to eat good food you do need to pay a bit more. 

‘We also need to promote the benefits.  We know that much of the issues people have with bread is less to do with the product and more to do with the process of how it’s made. 

‘Research in Italy recently found that sufferers of coeliac disease could tolerate properly made breads.  I believe that giving the yeasts as much time to do the work as intended makes the wheat easier for us to digest and unlocks more nutrients.

‘Some legal support would be good too because when the likes of Sainsbury’s (next door to Bakery Andante)  can advertise itself as ‘Your Local Bakery’, when all that happens is that frozen bread, sometimes up to a year old, is merely put into an oven, and when other supermarkets can call themselves ‘Scratch bakeries’ when all they do is add water to a premix, it makes it difficult for consumers to see the differences.

Get along to Bakery Andante and sample the fantastic products Jon and his team have available.  As Jon himself says: ‘Once you’ve eaten proper bread, it’s hard to go back to eating cotton wool and air.’

You can find Bakery Andante at:
352 Morningside Rd, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH10 4QL

28 August 2013

Balsamic Roast Tomato, Beetroot and Red Onion Salad With Smoked Mackerel

Recently, I've been experimenting with really top notch products.  Sure, they cost a little bit more than your average supermarket versions, BUT the better the quality, the further it goes and the difference really is unbelievable.

I popped into Demijohn on Victoria Street to sample their fine range of vinegars and oils and ended up buying some 12 year old balsamic vinegar (I preferred it to the 25 year old one).  The taste was nothing short of outstanding and i instantly had my roasted tomato and red onion dish in mind.

I usually have this as a side to lamb but really wanted to create a lovely salad I could take to work for lunch.

Smoked mackerel has long been a favourite food of mine so I thought I'd use that wonderfully sustainable fish here.

Ingredients (Serves 1)

2 Smoked Peppered Mackerel fillets
1/2 Red Onion, quartered
2 Vine Ripened Tomatoes (or best you can afford), quartered
1/2 of a Beetroot, cut into chunks
2 Garlic Cloves (whole)
12 year old Balsamic Vinegar 
Good Quality Olive Oil
2 Spring Onions, cliced
Parley, chopped
Croutons (optional)


1) Mix a tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar with around four tablespoons of oil (taste and adjust accordingly).
2) Mix the onion, tomatoes and beetroot with the dressing and season.
3) Place in a baking tray in a preheated over (180C) and roast for 45mins-1 hour.  You want the red onion to be soft but still have a slight crunch.
4) Meanwhile, flake the mackerel into generous chunks and chop the spring onions.
5) When roasted, let the veg cool slightly (you could chill it and use it cold the next day).
6 )Mix the mackerel, spring onion and half of the parsley through and adjust seasoning.
7) Sprinkle on remaining parsley.


Demijohn is a 'liquid deli' stocking an amazing range of liqueurs, oils and vinegars to name a a few. Visit them at 32 Victoria Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2JW 

4 July 2013

Festival Foodie Guide

THE EDINBURGH FESTIVAL is soon upon us and I wanted to give visitors to our wonderful city a quick guide to the best places to eat and drink in Edinburgh.  

With such a vast array of great pubs and restaurants, here are my recommendations that'll leave you reminiscing about the Edinburgh food and drink scene for years to come:

Fine Dining


Don't let the 'fine dining' heading put you off here... you simply won't find this level of cooking for better value anywhere in Edinburgh.  Chef Paul Gunning has put together a menu that proudly showcases the finest local produce with stunning presentation and imagination. There's no pretentiousness with Purslane - just excellent and honest food from a chef on top of his game.

33a St. Stephen St., Stockbridge,
Edinburgh, EH3 5AH
0131 226 3500

Pub Grub

Nobles Bar

The perfect place to enjoy great value, top quality food and a great selection of beers and the whiskys.  Proudly using the finest local ingredients, Nobles is a very relaxing place to enjoy a few drinks and food that is far better quality and value than you'll find in the usual overpriced tourist spots. They also have live music on later in the night, which only adds to the atmosphere. Highly recommend their burgers!
44a Constitution Street, 
Leith, Edinburgh,
0131 629 7215

New Kid on the Block


Field opened in January of this year and has made quite the impression on the Edinburgh food scene with it's relaxed approach to fine dining.

From field to fork is very much the philosophy used by chef Gordon Craig, who's background includes some of the finest establishments in the UK, most notably working under the Roux family at The Waterside Inn.

This city centre restaurant boasts a superb menu with a great range of dishes that, not only showcase the best seasonal ingredients, but will leave you wanting to come back for more.

41 West Nicolson Street,
Edinburgh, EH8 9DB 
0131 667 7010

Beer and Whisky

The Bow Bar

For cask ales and whisky this is simply one of the very best bars in town. With over 200 malts, eight regularly changing beer casks and a wide range of beers from around the world, the Bow Bar is a must visit for any beer or whisky connoisseur.

The staff boast expert knowledge of their drink and expertly find something to suit any palette.  You can even bring some cheese over from I.J Mellis cheese mongers over the road and they'll happily sort you out with knives, plates and beers to suit your cheese!

Situated just off the Grassmarket, one of the things i love about this bar is that they don't allow tacky hen or stag parties to disturb your drinking enjoyment! 

80 West Bow, Victoria StreetEdinburghEH1 2HH