24 September 2014

Recipe: Chickpea Curry

THIS RECIPE IS a cracking healthy curry that's my contribution to my family's Indian heritage.

My nan was born in Calcutta (her mother, my great granny is from India and met my great grandad during the war) and one of my earliest food memories was pounding spices in her kitchen with a mortar and pestle.

I make this for dinner once a week, as it takes just half an hour to rustle up and is a tasty way to introduce a vegetarian meal into your diet.  Because there is no meat in this dish, it keeps the costs down, so I like to splash out a little more on organic tomatoes and tomato puree; it really does make a difference to the overall taste..

Sarah makes a little salad alongside this curry, and I love how the acidity and fruitiness from the apple mixes with the spices.

Note: I've used pre-ground spices in this recipe, but investing in spice grinder or mortar and pestle is a sound acquisition.  Pre-ground spices lose flavour far sooner, so try not keep them in your cupboards for any longer than a couple of months. Freshly ground spices also taste better!

Ingredients (serves 2):

1x tin of chickpeas (400g)
1x large red onion, thinly sliced
1x garlic clove
Tbsp tomato puree
2x green chillis, finely chopped
Knob of ginger, grated
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground mustard seeds
1 tsp chilli powder (adjust depending on how hot you like it)
1x tin of tomatoes
Bag of spinach 
Chicken stock (I use chicken but if you're vegetarian, obviously use veg stock)
2x ripe vine tomatoes, chopped
Splash of lemon juice
Coriander, chopped
Oil for cooking
Salt and pepper

Serve with Sarah's salad (and rice):

1x red onion, roughly chopped
1x apple, roughly chopped
2x tomatoes, roughly chopped
Quarter of a cucumber, chopped
Splash of red wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Lemon juice


1) Sweat the onions on a low heat for around 10 minutes, making sure not to colour them
2) Add the ginger and garlic, and cook for a minute.
2) Next, add in the spices. Cook for around 30 seconds to release their flavour, before adding the tomato puree. Cook for a further minute to banish the slight bitterness of the puree. 
3) Add in the chickpeas, and coat with the mix.  Drop in the tinned tomatoes and add a little stock to cover - you don't want to end up with too much liquid. Get the rice on at this point.
4) Give that for around 20 mins.  While that's simmering away, prep the salad and place in a bowl. TIP: never dress a salad until last minute, so keep the lemon juice, salt and oil aside.
5) Add the spinach and fresh tomatoes, stir, and cook for 1-2 mins under the spinach has wilted slightly.  Check seasoning at this point.
6) Plate up

Happy cooking!

12 September 2014

Review: Chop Chop (Haymarket), Edinburgh

IT SEEMS SO long ago that Chop Chop featured on Gordon Ramsay’s F-Word series on Channel 4.  We had yet to visit their original restaurant just around the corner from Haymarket station, and my brother, Steve, had always suggested giving it a bash.

A big smile from restaurant manager Yin greeted us on arrival, proudly giving us a brief history of the restaurant his family opened back in 2006.  Since then, the Chop Chop brand has expanded operations, with a second restaurant established in Leith in 2010, and a Glasgow branch due to open later this year.

We decided to go for the unlimited banquet for two, priced at £20.25 per head. The banquet is a voluminous order: prawn crackers, spicy squid with garlic, boiled pork and coriander dumplings, pan-fried prawn dumplings, cucumber salad, aubergine with garlic, crispy northern beef, seasoned chicken wings, and boiled rice.

The dining room was pretty much at capacity; always a good sign given it’s a mid-month Wednesday evening. Then again, Chop Chop was voted Britain's favourite Chinese restaurant in 2012 and boasts over 20,000 members, so maybe I shouldn't be so surprised. As I decanted the wine (Chop Chop is BYOB, with corkage charges applying), we couldn’t help notice that the table was rather sticky, which was a tad irritating.

The first dish to arrive was the cucumber salad, and I can report that it was utterly delicious.  It was supremely fresh, as you’d expect, with angel hair noodles running throughout, and a tinge of lemongrass adding flavours alongside the nuttiness of the sesame oil.

Next came the chicken wings, which were equally as exquisite.  The batter was crunchy with sesame seeds speckled throughout, with the juicy meat inside making this dish a real star of the meal for me.  It was so good we even ordered another round.

Sarah and I have eaten dumplings just about everywhere in Edinburgh over the past few weeks, so it was interesting to see how Chop Chop would fare, given their excellent reputation for the bite-sized treats. Thankfully, this reputation was justified. The pork and coriander were light and seasoned well, with a subtle taste of the herb complementing the pig.  The fried prawn offering was just as tasty, and it was clear they were hand-made with care and precision.

I was slightly concerned that the squid would be tough and rubbery – I’m still scarred from a terrible batch from a restaurant (that I won’t name back) in Kirkcaldy. However, they were in the right hands here: moist, with an enjoyable hit of chilli and a crispy batter.  In addition, the cucumber salad was super alongside it.

The largest dish was the crispy northern beef, which turned out to be Sarah’s favourite plate of the evening.  Again, layers of flavours, this time from lemongrass, chilli and soy; the little morsels were verging on addictive.  The rice was a little bit dry and bland, but It was edible enough.

I’m a big aubergine fan, and another vegetable element was most welcome.  They were soft, but not mushy, with just about the right of garlic in there.

I hadn’t given dessert a thought until Yin brought it up, and I wasn’t sure how I could manage another course.  I went for sugar string apples (£7.50) with a side of vanilla ice cream at an additional £1.70.  I’m glad I had this pudding, because I would probably never order a dessert in a Chinese restaurant.  As instructed, I dipped the battered apple into ice water to crystallise the sugar, then sunk my teeth through the crunchy, sweet outside, where I was then met with a zingy apple flavour. I enjoyed it a lot more than I had expected.

Sarah ordered mixed fruit dumplings (£3.90), also with vanilla ice cream. The filling was sharp and not overly sweet, with the ice cream creating a sauce for a decent, if unspectacular, dessert.

This was a sterling banquet that we both really enjoyed. I was particularly impressed with the amount of flavour crammed into every plate, and at that price for an unlimited feast, great value for money. We promised Yin we would be back as we left. Maybe we should invite my brother as a thank you…

Phone: 0131 221 1155
248 Morrison Street, Edinburgh, EH3 8DT
Twitter: @eatatchopchop

Opening times: Mon-Fri 12:00-14:00, 17:00- 22:00 Sat: 12:00- 14:00, Sun 12:30-14:30, 17:00- 22:00 (Haymarket)

Mon-Thurs 18:00-22:00 Fri 18:00-22:30 Sat 12:00-14:00, 17:00-22:30 Sun 12:30-14:30, 17:00-22:00 (Leith)

Chop Chop on Urbanspoon

8 September 2014

Review: The Stockbridge Restaurant, Edinburgh

ARGUABLY MY FAVOURITE restaurant sits over the road from The Stockbridge Restaurant, so I felt like a bit of a traitor as I snuck down the stairs into this little grotto on St. Stephen’s Street. Toiling with a cold, I was close to cancelling this review, but this would test my views that good food always helps.

On first impression, the restaurant has a touch of class about it: it’s homely and cosy, yet spacious with walls adorned with rather interesting artwork. Chef/proprietor Jason Gallagher has held two AA Rosettes here for seven years, and his sterling reputation within the industry suggested we will be well fed.

The first page of the menu pays tribute to the various suppliers used by Gallagher, almost a statement of intent if you like.  We perused the a la carte menu, the impressive array of dishes went hand in hand with my hankering for some good old honest cooking.  It’s worth pointing out that an extremely good value-for-money set menu runs from Tuesday-Thursday, with two courses costing just £20.95, and three for £24.95 respectively. I like how it features dedicated dishes rather than watered down versions of main menu offerings, as is often the case.

I started off with braised Ox cheeks with horseradish creamed potato, Bourguignonne sauce and onion rings (£7.95). Presented with an oval-shaped bowl that brought an elegant touch of drama to proceedings, I was worried that in my current state I’d be unable to polish off this mammoth beast of a portion. However, it was such a delightful dish that failing to do so would be verging on rude.  The meat was as soft as melted butter, yet still lovely and moist. I knew the sauce was top notch when the first waft of it graced my nostrils. The crispy onion rings just added a crunchy sharpness to the plate, but I didn’t quite get enough horseradish flavour from an otherwise sublime mash potato.

Sarah began with seared scallops with butternut squash puree, apple salsa with walnuts and Serrano ham (£7.95).  The cooking of the scallops ensured they were the star of the show, as intended, with the walnuts adding texture and earthiness, along with the butternut squash.  The zingy apple salsa was refreshingly pleasant, though I think there was too much of it on the plate.

Arguing over mains, Sarah went for the meritorious roasted rack of Hugh Grierson organic lamb, with braised flank, spinach and roasted potatoes (£24.95), while I selected mallard duck breast with confit leg, Savoy cabbage with bacon, potato terrine and jus at £21.95.

The breast was cooked medium-rare as stated, while the leg just fell from the bone; both elements being equally delicious.  I thoroughly enjoyed the craftsmanship and execution of the potato terrine, while the cabbage was suitably al dente, and added some greenery. The acidity from little pieces of tomato concasse was inspired, with another rich, viscous sauce completing this super main course.

Over the table, Sarah’s rack of lamb had been expertly butchered and was perfectly pink throughout, with the verdict being  that the lesser-used cut of flank was the most memorable part of the dish. The potatoes had clearly been turned by someone that had served their time in classic restaurant kitchens, with another almost lickable sauce binding this robust dish together. Maybe a hit of seasoning was lacking from the mains, but that’s being super critical.

Usually when I’m reviewing I’ll try and pick up any murmurs from other tables, and I was particularly interest by the gentleman at the table next to me, because he had ordered the grilled halibut that I’d toyed with earlier.  I don’t really need to say much other than he got his dish after me, and yet devoured it before I’d finished mine.

We did wait a bit for our desserts, but I suspect that was due to a table of nine (I think) who spoke broken English being seen to; it would be extremely harsh to criticise the highly professional service we received all evening.

With my cold well and truly on the mend, I could enjoy my dessert without thinking of spending the next day in bed.  Vanilla rice pudding with shortbread crumble, apple compote and cinnamon ice 
cream (£6.45) was a solid dessert indeed.  The rice was soft, but still had enough texture to ensure it would avoid the risk of being deemed baby food.  The creamy vanilla-infused rice was offset by the sharp apple, while the cold contrast of cinnamon ice cream rounded off this well-balanced pudding.

For her final course, Sarah ordered a classic banana tart tatin with butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream (£6.45). The pastry had stayed crispy throughout cooking, with the bananas sporting an appealing caramelised top; the butterscotch sauce was top notch, as it wasn’t too rich and sickly sweet. The vanilla ice cream was decent, and as with my dessert, brought a cooling sensation to the palate.

Classic cooking is classic for a reason, and Jason Gallagher showed that he is a true master of it. The standard of cooking made the hearty portions even more welcome, and the setting certainly contributed to the enjoyment of our meal.  It is obvious why two AA Rosettes have been maintained at The Stockbridge Restaurant for so long, and what I will leave with is that it’s the Godfather of the rather eclectic St. Stephen Street dining scene. Oh, and my cold has vanished too…

We drank... Santa Rosa malbec (£24.95). A rather light malbec, with tastes of plum and raspberry. Most sipable. 

Twitter: @stockbridgerest
Email: Jane@Stockbridgerestaurant.co.uk

Address: 54 St Stephen Street
Edinburgh EH3 5AL
Phone: 0131 226 6766

Opening hours: Saturday and Sunday
Dinner: 7.00pm - Saturday 9.30pm, Sunday 9.00pm 
Tuesday - Friday 
Dinner: 7.00pm - 9.30pm. Set menu available Tuesday - Friday.
Lunches available with prior notice, please see website or contact the restaurant for further details
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