11 June 2017

Garlic butter roast chicken stuffed with chilli chickpeas and patatas aioli

I LOVE A good roast, who doesn't? The thought of having people around and everyone getting stuck in fills me with joy.  The meat has to be the centre piece for me and crispy potatoes are a must.

It's so important not to overcook your chicken, yet so many people do it.  *NEWSFLASH* IT DOESN'T TAKE HOURS TO COOK A BIRD - 45 mins is more than enough for a medium-sized bird.  Remember, it will continue cooking when removed from the oven and resting the bird is crucial.   The beauty of cooking poultry this way is that the butter underneath the skin will gently baste the bird and protect it, giving the leg and thigh meat time to cook through.

Ingredients (serves 2):
1x free range chicken
2x cloves garlic
Handful parsley, chopped
50g butter

1x tin of  organic chickpeas (400g), drained
1x red chilli, finely chopped
1x lemon, zested and cut in half
Maris Piper potatoes,  cut into 2cm cubes

2x heads of garlic
150 ml mayonnaise 

1x avocado, sliced
2x ripe plum tomatoes, diced
1x gem lettuce, sliced
Sea salt
Olive oil


1) Pre-heat oven to 180C. Grate the garlic with a fine grater. Add to the butter with the parsley and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Mash together with your hands. 

2) Mixed the chickpeas with the chilli, lemon zest, juice of one-half of the lemon and parsley. Season. Stuff the other half lemon into cavity.

3) Remove the wishbone from the chicken.  Stuff the cavity with the chickpea mix.  Now, gently run your fingers under the skin of the breasts to separate.  Spread the garlic butter to cover each breast. Push down with your fingers to distribute evenly. 

4) Place in oven for 40-45 mins.  Dress the sliced garlic heads in oil and cook alongside chicken for 20 mins until tender. Meanwhile, blanch the potatoes in boiling water for two mins.  Drain in a colander until no steam appears.

5) Next, prep the salad, minus the avocado (do this just before serving).  Place in a bowl until serving.

6) Remove the garlic from the oven and allow to cool (or if you have asbestos fingers like me, dive right in).  Remove the clove from the skin and vigourously chop, add a pinch of salt and mash with the side of your knife.  When smooth, mix though the mayo, season and add some lemon juice.

7) Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest for 10 mins.  Place the potatoes into a pre-heated deep fat fryer (160C) for 5-6 mins until golden and crisp.  Meanwhile, slice the avocado and mix salad through with some lemon juice and olive oil.  

8) Spoon out the chickpea mix from chicken and carve. Serve.

4 June 2017

Review: No.11 Brasserie, Brunswick Street, Edinburgh

I REVIEWED NO.11 Brasserie nearly two years ago to the day.  We enjoyed a delicious meal at the restaurant of this boutique hotel, just off the top of Leith Walk on Brunswick Street.  It appears that chef Ariel has since moved on so it would be intriguing to see what’s coming out of the kitchen these days.

On first inspection, the menu looked a little bit old school, with dishes like haggis parcels and duck parfait featuring on the starters section and sticky toffee pudding on the desserts.  Nothing wrong with classic but they have to be exceptional versions.
We were choosing dishes from the three-course seasonal menu which would set you back £27.95 so treated ourselves to a tasty raspberry bellini to aid us with our decisions.

I started with the chilli and coriander fish bites with pea shoots and tartare sauce. I suppose this dish set the tone for what was to come.  The fish balls were crunchy on the outside with a visually appealing interior. There was evidence of skilled knife work judging by the flecks of shallot, red onion and herbs but they were so under seasoned that the effort was just lost.  The tartare sauce was bizarre.  Again, the knife work was there with the veg elements, but it was like they were dressed in the watery stuff you drain off the top of a tub of yoghurt.  Not pleasant. Why go to the effort of finely chopping things then ruin them by not tasting and being sloppy?

Sarah ordered the vegetarian haggis and beetroot parcels with Glayva, chilli and beetroot puree. Slightly on the rustic side presentation wise, the filo parcels weren’t as crisp as you’d have hoped for but the filling was earthy and pleasing enough.  The puree was kind of jam-like but offered a fine balance of chilli heat, sweetness and the taste of beetroot that I adore.  Again, this dish just wasn’t sufficiently seasoned.

Pork belly is my favourite meat and I always order it when it’s on the menu.  This one was billed as crispy belly with spring onion mash, fondant carrots and cider jus. Firstly, it was obvious that the skin wasn’t crispy as billed.  It was soggy and disgusting and needed to be crisped up in a hot pan or roasted in the oven – surely any chef can see that before sending it out?  This is my pet hate given my love for this ingredient.  The meat underneath was glorious and had a pleasing note of star anise that works so well with this cut. The fondant carrots still had a little bite but were deliciously buttery.  The mash was verging on the dense side and needed seasoning but was okay overall.  I had expected the cider jus to provide a sharp contrast to the sweet components and the richness of the dish but it tasted of very little.

Fillet of sea bass with red pepper gnocchi, spinach and mozzarella was Sarah’s choice of main and her initial reaction wasn’t great, as the fillet of bass was a meagre one to say the least. On top of that, it the skin was flabby and overcooked.  The gnocchi was tasty with a hint of red pepper to it but the whole thing needed a serious injection of salt and pepper.

Despite being a throwback to the '80s, sticky toffee pudding can be a glorious thing. This one didn’t quite cut it.  The sponge was fine but lacked flavour, though the sauce was tasty.  The ice cream had crystallised so wasn’t nice to eat.  Maybe jazzing it up with a bit of salt caramel would have made it a bit more interesting, but otherwise it was forgettable.

Now, Sarah’s dessert was a real embarrassment. She ordered cranachan, which, let’s face it, isn’t the most difficult of puddings to make. This one was essentially a tower of whipped cream with some mushed up berries through it.  No sign of whisky as per a traditional cranachan, although there was a sprinkling of oats over the slate board.  There was a chocolate spoon present to add some "theatre” but it didn’t need to be there.  Not impressed.

Dinner didn’t quite live up to the heights of last time, which was obviously disappointing.  This seasonal menu is designed to offer value, but I’d suggest you could find a more modern, better executed one elsewhere. Ultimately, I think the errors here were just down to the chef not paying attention to detail and being a bit lazy. What a pity.

Web: http://www.11brunswickst.co.uk/
Address: No. 11, 11 Brunswick Street, Edinburgh, EH7 5JB
Phone: (0131) 557 6910

Brasserie - No. 11 Boutique Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

3 June 2017

A day in the life of... a Food Technologist

FOR THE PAST four months I have been working as a Food Technologist at Queen Margaret University (QMU) in Edinburgh, a place described by my (desk) neighbour, Professor Joe Goldblatt, as “the best small university in the world”. The university is predominantly food and health focused and part of my job is conducting sensory analysis of products ranging from everyday supermarket goods to the most innovative of food stuffs.

Opened in 2014, QMU houses the Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation. The centre is a unique facility that uses academic expertise and cutting edge equipment to work with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to develop their products for today’s market.

The modern campus at QMU has a dedicated sensory suite where we carry out our consumer taste panels. The suite contains 12 self-contained booths where our panelists blind-taste a wide range of products, using their senses to complete a focused questionnaire for us to analyse on our specially developed sensory software. Afterwards, we host a brief discussion on the products which, for me, is the interesting part along with the results because although people have tasted the same items, results can be totally different. It just goes to show that everyone’s palette is unique.

It’s crucial to our results that we make the room as neutral as possible so panelists can form an unbiased opinion. We can control the temperature of the room and use different coloured lighting to alter the room to suit. The panels consist of mainly staff members and the general public who have an interest in food. In exchange for their time, we gift each person a £10 Amazon or John Lewis voucher.

Before the sessions my colleagues and I will have prepared the food and tasted it. This way we have our own opinion on the foods before the panel tastes it, although we remain completely impartial! The fun is afterwards when we compare opinions, usually doing the dishes at the same time – the glamorous part of the job!

From a panelist’s point of view, it’s challenging because it’s not often in life that you are asked to describe food in such a detailed way: aroma, appearance, taste, texture and so on. I got used to it doing restaurant reviews but it can be a little odd for people at first when it comes to articulating your points. How often do you eat something and talk about how sweet/sour/umami/salty/bitter it is!?

You also have no idea what you’re eating – it could be anything from the finest artisanal product to the cheapest bog-standard supermarket version. The hard part for me is that we aren’t allowed to reveal what the products are. Which I secretly kind of like …

    The green-focused campus has won  multiple awards for sustainability 

My colleague, Lucy MacLellan, sat on the panels before joining the team as a Food Technologist at the Scottish Centre for Food Innovation gives me her take on the panels:

"The taste panels are quite a unique thing to be involved in – I'm not aware of any other universities or organisations that run taste panels like QMU. There was nothing similar to these taste panels when I was at university and it's definitely something I would have signed up for when I was a student. I mean, who doesn't want free food?!

“I like the fact that the panels are recruited so publicly – anyone can become a taste panelist at QMU whether you're staff, a student, or not linked to the university at all. There's such a variety of products tested, so there always a panel to put your name forward for. It's exciting that my opinion will be taken into consideration and will make a difference to future products on the market."

I hope this has given you an insight into the consumer panels at QMU. As you can gather, no day is the same and it’s amazing to chat food with a diverse range of foodies. We would love to see more people signing up for the panels to get a taste for themselves.

Website: qmu.ac.uk
Twitter: @ScotFoodQMU