Looking for food for thought?

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Menu Twenty Four

The last month of the year is here and so are the last two suppers of the year. For our penultimate 2010 gathering, the menu is:

To start
Venison carpaccio, beetroot relish.

To follow
Salmon, sauteed cabbage, speck, red wine.

To finish
Spiced winter loaf, honey and rosemary roasted figs, creme fraiche.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Five tips from a Michelin starred kitchen


It's Chris here, taking a break from our kitchen and a step into a very different kitchen, that of Martin Wishart's Cook School.


Recently, I had the privilege of attending a Martin Wishart Cook Course specialising in fish and shellfish. A wonderful gift from past colleagues, I arrived, slightly daunted and unsure what to expect but keen to learn and enjoy what was in store.


While it was an amateur course all the attendees were, as you might expect, pretty seriously into food and the standard was high.


First the chef gave a rough description of the exciting dishes we’d be cooking: pan fried scallops with leek and water vinaigrette, crispy hake galettes and sea bass with fennel and warm tomato vinaigrette.


Each dish was then clearly demonstrated and we were left to our own devices to copy what we saw - preparing then eating our creations. Some of it was new, some of it was familiar but it was great to have the luxury of time to think through and enjoy each stage of the process without the pressure of a table to serve. And, I left with some hints that I thought you may find useful and interesting:


1. It sounds obvious, but use plenty salt when cooking shellfish - cook in very salty water to make sure you get the taste of the sea.

2. When making galettes or fish cakes, shape the mixture then freeze before frying to ensure the cakes keep their shape.

3.When frying a fillet of fish with the skin on, cook on the skin side only for the majority of the cooking time then finish off for 30 seconds on the other side – this will ensure the skin is crispy, not soggy.

4. When pan frying fish, season and oil the fish – not the pan.

5. When seasoning shellfish only use salt, not pepper. Pepper is too strong a flavour for the delicate flavours of shellfish.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Supper Twenty Three

Unfamiliar guests gathered at the Table on Friday as the snow sprinkled from the sky. Fitting then, that the Table was set to echo the deep and crisp and even, with white linen, candles and paperwhites.

The fire was lit, the red wines briefly warmed by it and the diners seated.

It may have been our twenty third supper but it was the first time we have knowingly hosted a chef (yikes). We were again delighted with positive feedback and clean plates all round and especially when "the chef" later commented:

"Fantastic food. I have worked and eaten in many high end places and believe that Chris could hold his own in any one of them. Beautiful place, food and hosting!"

The Table.
Paperwhites.
Wines warming by the fire.

To welcome Pea and pecorino on homemade buttery oat biscuits.

To amuse Chestnut veloute.

To start Kale, fontina risotto.

To follow Red wine braised duck, winter vegetable crumble.

To finish Caramel, sea salt brownies with caramel soured cream.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Menu Twenty Three

Blogger has come back to life and finally allowed me to post this menu, so sorry for the delay.

On Friday, we will be serving:

To start
Kale, fontina risotto.

To follow
Red wine braised duck, winter vegetable crumble.

To finish
Caramel, sea salt brownies.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Supper Twenty Two

More charming guests, including the return of this enthusiastic fan and the first visit of this sensual mind, gathered at our table on Saturday to enjoy our dishes and pray silence (apart from a chorus of mmmmmms) for our melting chocolate risotto.

To welcome Hot smoked salmon mousse on homemade buttery oat biscuits.


To amuse Colcannon soup...

with individual soda breads.

To start Chestnut veloute, fois gras, celariac, smoked bacon.


To follow Pheasant, potato, cabbage pancakes, prunes.


To finish Melting chocolate risotto.



To complete Open cranberry and orange pies.

You can read a review of the highlights here.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Supper Twenty One

Supper twenty one was a special gathering of delightful diners from The Sunday Brunch Club brought together by founder Stephanie for an evening of free flowing wine and chatter punctuated with our winter warming menu. Thank you all for joining us to mark our 21st.

Charlie and Evelyn's Table set with chrysanthemum and cala lillies.

Plain and honey and walnut soda bread.

To amuse A taste of Colcannon Soup.

To start Cured salmon, onion confit, smoked bacon.


To follow Beef casserole, rarebit, broccoli, red cabbage.



To finish Apple, cinnamon brulee, green apple sorbet.

All gone.

We even got a wee try of this fine and unusual Lithuanian wine at the end of the night! Thanks Steve.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Menu Twenty Two

More rich, Winter flavours set the scene for Saturday's diners:

To start
Chestnut veloute, fois gras, celariac, smoked bacon.

To follow
Pheasant, potato, cabbage pancakes, prunes.

To finish
Melting chocolate risotto.

Setting the table

There's something immensely enjoyable and almost ritualistic about setting Charlie and Evelyn's Table, or any table, for supper. Over the course of the last twenty suppers, I have revelled in each opportunity to create a different look for the table, mostly reflecting the seasons but also reflecting my mood and the amount of time I've left myself!

It seems obvious writing this, but one of the main ways to change the look is through a centerpiece, enhanced with crockery, cutlery and glassware. For me this predominantly means flowers.

Over the last year, Charlie and Evelyn's Table has been decked with pine cones, daffodils, pink and red roses, gypsophila, buttercups, hydrangea, sunflowers, vintage fressia, peonies, homegrown sweetpeas, crocosmia, cream roses, yellow roses, munchkin pumpkins, sea holly, anemones and cala lillies.

I have always loved having flowers in my room or home and even in the office, they bring beauty and smiles. This love was certainly deepened during our wedding planning and thanks to our very talented and patient florist at Bels Flowers. And, while I have enjoyed creating very simple arrangements for our table, I have often wished Helen was closer with her beautiful blooms and top tips.

I'm very excited and grateful to say that she agreed to share her thoughts on creating effective arrangements for dinner parties right here. Woo hoo! So, it's over to her:

"Over two years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Rachel and Chris to plan their wedding flowers.



Rachel came to me with wonderful ideas for their wedding, bubbling with quaint touches and we have since become great friends, I’ve even been lucky enough to become part of their family Christmas tradition, supplying a gorgeous family wreath each advent {more on that later}. Part of planning the flowers for Rachel and Chris’ big day involved learning about the history of both of the lovely couple’s family, including Charlie and Evelyn. So it’s now an honour to be a guestblogger and part of the next step of Rachel and Chris’ future...

In this post, I'll be talking about flowers for dinner parties. All the finishing touches to a special dinner really make a night stand out from all the rest... with Rachel and Chris providing the scrumptious, eyecatching and unique food here’s some tips on the finishing touches for your table.

How do you create a simple, stunning arrangement?

I often start with memories from the times when I've received flowers, the ones our parents and grandparents had on the sideboard and in the garden when we were growing up or, maybe, the flowers friends, family or we had at weddings and celebrations.

So, a personal favourite flower of mine to start... the rose. Many different coloured roses have different meanings: the white rose for innocence and purity; peach for desire; pale pink for grace and joy; red for happiness.



Making a rose centrepiece will depend on the type of vases you have. You could do a number of designs or just one. Here are some tips to consider:
With a cube vase, try arranging nine medium/large headed roses for a modern, neat design. Clean and fill the vase with around 5cm of water. Measure one rose stem against the vase, positioning the base of the head on the rim of the vase and cutting the stem at the base of the vase. Be sure to cut the stem on a 45 degree angle and cut the rest of the eight roses to the same length on the same angle. Next, place three roses down each side of the vase and one in the middle. Once the roses are placed in the vase you can perfect the position of the roses to be symmetrical... Done!

Using a fishbowl, you’ll need around twenty roses (depending how big your fishbowl is!) and gather some foliage to add to this natural, handpicked design. Clean and fill the vase around half full of water. Strip the stems of the roses and foliage so they are clear of any leaves which will be below the waterline in the vase. Cut the roses stems on a 45 degreeangle so the stems will sit in the vase with about the half the length of the stem again coming outof the vase. Place one rose at a time going clockwise (so all the stems are going the same way in a spiral) with some foliage stems in between... tweak and position once in situ... Done!





And, for a dish, a very simple, subtle design with three to six roses. Fill the shallow dish around half full up the sides. Cut the stems around 2cm from the head of the roses (the amount you’ll need will depend on the size of the dish). With the last rose carefully remove the petals and scatter across the water to float elegantly! Done! "


Feel free to contact Helen, or comment here if you have any questions and, watch this space as she has very excitingly agreed to share a step by step guide to creating your own Christmas wreath - coming soon.

Menu Twenty One

It's our twenty first and we're celebrating with a supper by special request of Stephanie and her friends at Sunday Brunch Club. We've chosen a menu which features our takes on some traditional, comfort dishes; perfect Winter eating.

To start
Cured salmon, onion confit, smoked bacon.

To follow
Beef casserole, rarebit, broccoli, red cabbage.

To finish
Apple, cinnamon brulee, green apple sorbet.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Shop Scottish

Now then, how to follow a post on knobbly veg. When you live in a top floor tenament, growing your own is not always an option, while you can try. Having someone nearby, or at least in the same country grow their own for you, is however, so you can happily eat Scottish and Craigie’s Farm Deli and Cafe has the answer. Anna Thomson is a big fan and has written this guest post to tempt us and give us an idea of what to expect and some of the unmissable highlights. Our most recent Craigie's treat was this delicious garlic, which is lasting well and appearing regularly at our table.



Here's what Anna has to say:

I remember first visiting Craigie’s about six years ago and it literally consisted of a few shelves of jams and vegetables in a wee farm outhouse. A great example of local produce and farm diversification but a far cry from what you witness when you visit these days.



Wee customer Aidan who won their recent competition to create a new sausage flavour for the butchery.


Craigie’s is one of the most forward thinking farm shops I’ve ever visited. They not only think about the shopping element of their customers’ visit but also emphasise family fun and dining at the same time. Perfect for families, Craigie’s have their own hens and pigs for visitors to say hello to, as well as nature walks, a tractor to climb on and even a dedicated doggie menu for canine members of the family. The cafe sells a huge range of products, catering to every preference.


The dog cafe

Local produce {including knobbly veg - ed} is at the centre of the Craigie’s philosophy. Many of the vegetables on sale are grown on the farm and those that aren’t invariably come from within 50 miles away. The onsite butchery has a superb range of meats from Puddledub Porkand Puddledub Buffalo as well as elsewhere in Scotland. The shelves are packed with local milk, local cheeses, Scottish salmon, oatcakes, muesli, chocolate, British fruit juices and so much more – including the same superb Jam Kitchen jams that I saw on the shelves all those years ago!




The onsite butchery.


A new partnership with Edinburgh School of Food & Wine means that you can also pick up recipe cards in the shop, buy the ingredients whilst you’re there and then cook them once back in the comfort of your own home.

Young mums are starting to find their way to Craigie’s as it offers a great child friendly location that provides plenty of space with fresh and healthy food and drink.What could be better than a natter and a great lunch?!


Increasingly, young professionals are starting to care more and more about the provenance and traceability of what they are eating so there is no better way of guaranteeing quality and high credentials than shopping in a farmer shop like Craigie’s.

I would highly recommend a visit - you’ll always find some Connage Highland Dairycheese, some (OK they’re not Scottish!) of the yummy olive selection and some Puddledub bacon in my basket.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Knobbly Veg

We have just discovered this delicious campaign for knobbly veg and we're thrilled to contribute with our own knobbly veg shots. These beauties were grown by a friend's parents (thanks Mr and Mrs Sanders) and made for the perfect base for our bouillabaisse. You can see the step by step presentation here or a quick glimpse here instead:

From this...


Clockwise from right - a sea creature, a turtle and a baby whale.


...to this

Bouillabaisse, step one.


Have you ever grown your own knobbly veg and would you buy unusual products if they became readily available? Your opinions please.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

We do hen dos

Back when the skies were brighter and you could leave the house without a coat, (and scarf and hat), we took the Charlie and Evelyn's experience north for an atypical, August hen do.

The weekend began at a chalet which was transformed into "Lady Oxen of Ford's Northern Residence" for a murder mystery evening and a wonderful script, based loosely on the hen's life and written with amazing skill by one of the bridemaids, Jen. It was complete with unexpected telegrams, clues and fabulous costumes and characters (and even a couple of outfit changes for me as waitress)!

The tables, all set.


Hen do in progress

Working closely with Jen, and keeping our plans and even our involvement secret from the bride to be, we created a menu which incorporated the bride's favourite flavours including: Stornoway black pudding, lentils and white fish. Here at Charlie and Evelyn's Table, we like to make things easy for your events, so we were also able to take care of the food for the rest of the weekend.
We stocked the fridge for a continental breakfast and afternoon BBQ on Saturday and a full Scottish breakfast on Sunday, meaning all the hens had to worry about was contributing to the costs and enjoying themselves.

Our first hen do dined on:

Friday evening

To welcome
Crudités with butterbean and rosemary hummus (v)
Marrow and coconut soup shots (v)
Stornoway black pudding with baked apple

To start
Pea and leek soup, smoked salmon, cucumber

* Smoked salmon and cucumber, served with the soup (not pictured).


To follow
Pan fried haddock with mild lentil curry, citrus yoghurt and courgette fritters


To finish
Charlie and Evelyn’s house selection of cheeses including gorgonzola mousse served with homemade oakcakes, honey and walnut soda bread, grapes and “to die for chutney”.

Each hen also got to take home a mini jar of chutney as a momento.

Saturday

For breakfast
Mixed melon and strawberry salad
Vanilla yoghurt
Croissants and pan au chocolat
Orange juice and apple juice
Tea, coffee and milk

For the BBQ
Monkfish and pancetta skewers
Homemade beef and haggis burgers
Roasted vegetable skewers (v)
Field mushrooms with chilli oil (v)
Served with homemade ciabatta rolls
Tomato and red onion salad
Green salad Potato salad
Charlie and Evelyn’s house dressing

Sunday

For breakfast
Full Scottish: sausage, bacon, Stornoway black pudding, eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes, potato scones.
Juices, teas and coffees.

And, just to complete the story, here's what the bridesmaids had to say about the experience:

"This is a very belated thank you for creating such a wonderful weekend for us at Debbie's Hen 2010 in August.

You prepared the most wonderful menu, provided a truly outstanding service and took all the stress of catering for so many people away from us so that we could relax and enjoy the weekend.

Not only was the menu you prepared for the Friday evening absolutely delicious, the food for the whole weekend was amazing. I particularly loved the monkfish and pancetta skewers for the BBQ, oh and the home made bread - to die for, you could sell that in the local deli!

I cannot recommend you guys highly enough and tell everyone about how special you made the weekend for us and at an unbelievably reasonable price.

Rachel, thank you so much for getting invlolved in all of the activites and Chris, how you managed to cook such and exquisite meal for so many in a kitchen with no oven and only two electric rings I honestly don't know but it was some of the best food we have ever tasted - very talented.

Thanks again and hope to see you guys soon.

Take care
Jen, Sharon and Laura (Debbie's bridesmaids)."

*As you might imagine, we were a tad busy to take our usual photos, so thanks to one of the "hens" Graeme for these shots!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Supper Twenty

For this supper we had cala lillies as deep as claret and the night sky. A family gathered to celebrate a birthday and we served our favourite fish (from Armstrong's) and finished with iced ginger meringues and a firework of our own. (It was the fifth of November afterall.)



Charlie and Evelyn's Table



Deep, velvety cala lilies.
To welcome Homemade oat biscuits with hot smoked salmon mousse or pea, pecorino and bacon.


To amuse Sweetcorn soup with truffled popcorn.


To start Our signature tuna three ways: mousse; carpaccio; seared.

To follow Our take on Bouillabaisse.

To finish Iced ginger meringue slice, pomegranate.

The birthday girl's pudding, complete with ice fountain!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Holidays are coming...

Starbucks has red cups, The Dome has decorations and here at Charlie and Evelyn's Table, we have easy canape and gift ideas:



Homemade buttery oat biscuits and simple hot smoked salmon mousse.



Pea and pecorino topping on homemade oat biscuits with crispy bacon.

Last week, we introduced these ideas with our first live demo for the Women at Greenbank (WAGS). Email the WAGs Commitee for details. They're organising a Christmas craft fair for next month where you can sell your wares or simply shop.


Buttery oat biscuits, packaged for festive giving.

It was great fun presenting our double act and sharing our story and ideas for easy and enjoyable entertaining and gifts. And we now have some charming, printable pdf recipe cards to share by email (you can print or view at home). We'll be sending them with our next newsletter but, if you're not on our mailing list or really can't wait, email us and we'll send them out right away.


Celebration brownies, for tasting.

The canape ideas we decided to share were those above, which have been successfully tried and tested at our suppers and those which work well as pre prepared options namely, buttery oat biscuits, simple hot smoked salmon mousse, pea and pecorino topping (which can be finished with crispy bacon) and indulgent celebration brownies (with gin soaked berries). We also offered a taster of and recipes for tried and tested courgette chutney and sweet plum jam if the idea delicious homemade goodies appeals.


Pretty jar of courgette chutney with sparking snowflake and gold raffia.

Given my love of packaging, ribbons and gift giving, we also wanted to share some tips on how the oatcakes, brownies and preserves might be presented as presents. Afterall, if you are going to go to the effort of making oat biscuits, brownies or chutney why not share the love and make some cost effective gifts at the same time?


Butterfly packaging and natural raffia.
The jam keeps for up to a year, so is perfect for birthday, thank you or house warming gifts before and after Christmas.


And, back to festive thoughts, jar decked with berried holly.

I also promised I'd share links to suppliers that I've found and used in the past. So here it is:

For holly, take a walk here, let's hope the red berries last a few more weeks yet.

For speedy delivery and useable quanities of jam jars in all sizes (be warned, they also sell hampers, bottles, labels and other jam making equipment).

For simple twine and other divine gifts.

For natural raffia, I got mine from this delightful lady but your local florist is probably a good start or perhaps fellow WAG and florist Carol Walker could help?

For luggage labels, you'll also find small labels and brown paper.

For presentation bags and all manner of bakeware and equipment should your collection need a boost.
For snowflake decorations ( I bought mine as a garland a couple of years ago but, this year, it was so tangled, I thought I'd cut it and use differently.) You can still get similar decorations. These reindeer are cute or this charming and cheap collection of hearts, stars and angels would work well.

And, last but not least, go here for beautiful ribbons, they will arrive beautifully packaged for sure.
Happy preparations, happy eating and of course, happy giving!
If you have any questions, please ask. We'd also love you to leave your comments and, if you do try our ideas, please let us know how they work for you.