29 January 2015

Recipe: Cullen Skink with poached egg

I COULDN'T THINK of a better dish to make on a cold, frosty day than Cullen Skink. Braving the winter chill, I embarked on a stroll towards Leith Walk, where I often enjoy picking up my ingredients.  On the way back, the weather turned for the worse... I hope this trip was worth it!

Leith Walk offers a plethora of cafes, coffee houses and food stores from a diverse range of backgrounds, as well a s few better know brand eateries.   Today, we were making a classic Scottish dish - Cullen Skink -  and visited Welsh the Fishmongers and Tattie Shaws for our required ingredients; it was worth battling the snow storm in the end!

For this recipe, we make a vegetable nage, which is a  light, fragrant stock. For me, fish stock would overpower the flavours of the aromats, but the nage will keep it balanced and add bags of flavour.


For the nage
2x banana shallots, finely diced
1x fennel bulb, finely diced (set half aside for soup)
1x leek, finely diced
2x carrot, finely diced
1x celery stalk, finely diced
Splash olive oil
Pinch of sea salt

2x star anise
6x black peppercorns
6x white peppercorns
Few sprigs of curly parsley
2x bay leaves
Cold water to cover


2x  smoked haddock fillets (please source from a reputable fishmonger and an MSC approved source)
2x diced banana shallots, finely diced
1x leek, finely chopped
1/2 fennel bulb from nage mix
1x garlic clove
500g floury potatoes, diced
Stock from nage, to cover,
200ml double cream
200ml full fat milk
Chives, finely chopped for garnish
Salt and pepper
Rapeseed oil

2x fresh free-range eggs
Splash of good quality white wine vinegar


1) Start by gently sweating the diced vegetables for 7-8 minutes. Add the cold water to cover and bring to the boil.  Add the aromats (star anise, bay, peppercorns) and reduce to a simmer.

2) Simmer for 15 mins then turn off heat. Add the parsley and push to the bottom.  Now add the fish to gently poach for 6-8 mins. Remove with a fish slice and break into chunks. Leave the nage to infuse for an hour. Once cooled, cover fish and place in fridge. 

*TIP* make a large batch and freeze in ice cube trays for a handy stock. 

3) Strain through a sieve then through muslin cloth or a clean tea towel for a clear stock. Place required amount in a pot and heat to just below the boil.

4) Start the soup by sweating the leek and shallot for 7-8 mins.  Add the garlic and the cubed potatoes.  Cook for two mins and season.  

5)   Add the nage to cover and bring to the boil, reducing to a simmer. Cook for around 15 mins or until potatoes are tender,  add the milk and cream.  Stir to combine and bring back to boil.  The soup should thicken with the starch from the potatoes. Reduce to simmer.

6) Meanwhile, boil the kettle and fill a medium-sized pot three quarters full with boiling water.  Add a splash of white wine vinegar and create a 'whirlpool' with a large spoon.  As the swirling water begins to calm down, place in the eggs.  Cook for 1 1/2 - 2 mins and set aside.

7) Add 3/4s of the fish to the soup and serve into hot bowls.  Spoon the remaining fish into the centre of the bowl and place the poached egg on top. Neatly scatter the chives around and drizzle with olive oil and cream.  Serve with some good quality bread.

For information on sustainable fish and a list of suppliers, please visit http://www.msc.org/

14 January 2015

2014: My Year In Food

Reviewing my blog posts from 2014 has brought back some downright amazing food memories. The superb dishes I’ve gobbled up have really galvanised my love of the gastronomic scene in Edinburgh and it was great to  visit Manchester and sample the food scene there . Accordingly, here is my year in food.

It kicked off in style with a visit to the Michelin-starred Castle Terrace, where Sarah and I enjoyed a stunning lunch that fully justified the praise Dominic Jack’s restaurant has received.  If the year began like this, I wondered if such standards could be sustained.
The Peat Inn
Thankfully, there are restaurants like Purslane – my stand out restaurant of 2013 – that would see this level of cooking continue. I am so guilty of not visiting this little gem enough, and it was a privilege to see Chef Paul Gunning’s cooking evolve in 2014. As it happens, later in the year we had dinner over the road at The Stockbridge Restaurant, where their classic cooking style and excellent service truly hit the spot. 

I began studying Gastronomy at Queen Margaret University this year, which allowed me to survey some of the world-class food producers that we have in Scotland.  Inspiring visits to Loch Arthur Creamery, Whitmuir Farm and Peelham Farm, to name a few, allowed me to engage with extremely passionate producers and enhance my beliefs that we have some of the best food in the world. A trip to renowned cocktail bar Bramble allowed us to learn of the history of gin making and a jaunt to the Queen Street bar is now a frequent event on my social calendar.

After having lunch with my brother at The Edinburgh Larder Bistro, I found that their ethos and passion for seasonal produce really stuck a chord with me. It has since become a regular lunch spot of mine, alongside The Grain Store on Victoria Street – one of Edinburgh’s most established restaurants – where I love the honest cooking, extremely professional service, and elegant ambience of the dining room.

In the summer, we took a trip down to Manchester for a few days.  A couple of culinary heavyweights in the shape of Simon Rogan (The French) and Aiden Byrne (Manchester House) had been creating a bit of a buzz in a city more famed for its music scene and industrial heritage.

Manchester House

The French was a truly amazing dining adventure.  You couldn’t help but admire the respect given to the most humble of ingrediens and Rogan’s complete belief in seasonal British produce. This really changed the way I thought about food, and that’s hard to do to somebody like me, of whom food is my life. I’m still a little baffled as to why Michelin chose not to award The French a star – they got it wrong in my opinion – but maybe next year.

Manchester House was great because it was a totally contrasting experience to The French. Quality produce and solid cooking really shone through in this more modern eatery.  We sampled (a version) of Aiden’s winning Great British Menu main course and left wishing we could have stayed for dinner, too!

A Room in... Leith
Being a devotee of seafood and good beer meant that A Room In Leith was a must visit.  The simple, unpretentious cooking was a genuine highlight of the year and I love visiting and treating myself to some wonderful oysters and a pint (or two!).

 I couldn’t write about my year of food and not mention Rivage on Easter Road.  This Indian restaurant offers a brilliant array of dishes that I’ve just about managed to work my way through.  It’s superb value for money and undoubtedly my go-to restaurant when craving some spice.

Burger Meats Bun
Edinburgh is fortunate to host a number of great farmers’ markets, and gathering goodies from Stockbridge Market or the Edinburgh Farmers’ Market has become a welcome part of my weekly shopping routine. 

This year saw Burger Meats Bun arrive in the capital following their successful Glasgow branches opening in 2013. The team here benefit from a background in fine dining, which has allowed them to open a burger joint that focuses on top produce.  I'm a stickler for good burgers, and BMB serves up some of the best!

It has been a pleasure sifting through my food memories of 2014, and I can’t wait to see what this year has in store.