Looking for food for thought?

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Sunshine Granola



A wonderful combination of blue skies, blossom, avoiding a parking ticket, getting the keys to our new home, wedding excitement and, our baby girl being taken for a long walk by a doting Aunt and Uncle has left me in a stupidly giddy mood and with time to blog without interruption.

I've been meaning to share this tasty recipe for a while and, given my mood it will be known as Sunshine Granola.

It makes around ten servings, delicious with yogurt (and easier to eat one handed than milk which has a tendency to dribble and drip everywhere). This recipe is an adaptation of one first discovered here.

You will need:

4 tbsp sunflower oil

4 tbsp set honey

250g light or dark brown sugar

400g porridge oats

400g seeds and bashed up nuts, you can vary the mix depending on what you have available (sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and cashews all work well)

A generous sprinkle of cinnamon and grating of nutmeg.

Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Mix together the oats and seeds, add the oil, honey and sugar.
Stir well until combined and seeds/nuts are well coated.
Spread thickly onto an oiled tray (or two).
Toast in the oven for 20 minutes, mixing it up every five to ten minutes to ensure nothing burns.
It will be soft when you take it from the oven and will harden as it cools.
Once cooled, break into small pieces and store rustically in a Kilner jar/Tupperware...

...this leads me to a shameless, self indulgent sedge way. Sunshine granola would be the ideal breakfast to serve camping/outdoors and for that, you simply must stop off at Sarah Raven's fabulous shop, first spotted here. We're already big fans of her cook books and now, I want her home stuff too, all of it - especially this picnic crate:

...happily set for breakfast and prettified with a selection of vases and flowers as styled here.

May the happy, sunny vibes last the whole weekend through!


Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Going the extra (Royal) Mile


I speak with my marketing hat on when I say that the Royal Wedding is the kind of event that has PRs everywhere clutching at any vague link, literally spewing out tenuous royal news releases and hoping to keep clients happy and for some (any) coverage however unlikely.

Having my own blog, I don't need to wish for coverage, I can simply jump on the band wagon and write whatever I wish! And so, I give you my little round up of those creative souls who I believe have gone the extra Royal Mile.

For those who knew me in my past life, as someone who worked on an account that mainly produced millions of plastic vending cups (really), I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this:


And, who can resist the Queen of iced biscuits? Not the iced gem but Biscuiteers latest creations, sweet:




For the more traditional memorabilia, there's always the classic and official tea towel available here:


or a more modern take on the tradtional here:


Then for the younger audience, Early Learning Centre, I applaud thee. Our baby may be a little small for this right now but it's hard to resist. Everyone should have a toy corgi, no?

Other choice pics from around the web include:


Finally, if it all gets too much, a Royal Wedding sick bag, even if you're not a royalist, enjoy the day off and have a bit of fun:




Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Easter Feasting

We don't need much of an excuse to gather friends and family to feast in our household. Easter provided a good focus for our culinary attentions and a new challenge: to cook while balancing a baby in one arm or with such efficiency that the entire feast could take place during sleep time or, as was reality, cook while baby was sleeping and end up feeding her at the table and eating one handed. Who can blame her? She wanted an Easter feast of her own. (And, I admit, I had help chopping the lamb and shelling the langoustine...)

Charlie and Evelyn's informal Easter table.


Tender lamb chump from George Bower's.

Served with a rich red currant jus, sweet potatoes, spring onions and mint.

Double decker strawberry meringue.

And, for Easter Saturday, a shellfish/seafood platter complete with oysters, langoustine, crevettes, smoked mackerel, hot smoked salmon, smoked salmon, dressed crab and lobster. Simply served with Herbie's baguette, mayonnaise, lemon juice and washed down with a clean South African chenin blanc.




You can't quite make it out in the photos above, but this is the look we were going for:

Buy this fishy table runner here.

The menu for Sunday started with chocolate but also featured potato cakes with seafood, pork with braised chicory, green beans with lentils and lots of cheese. Clearly there were too many calories for photos, sorry.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Where the wild things are

Inspired by long walks with our new pram and our new copy of Mark Hix British Seasonal Food we decided to go foraging and see what we could do with wild garlic. It's currently in abundance along the banks of the River Almond and Water of Leith and is a free, tasty, seasonal ingredient.



Top tip - avoid picking from the path side where dogs may well have marked their territory or more! Venture to a higher, less convenient spot for the freshest picks.


Anyway, where was I? Wild garlic smells delicious as you walk passed it and tastes delicious too. It's got a mild flavour and can be used in sauces, soups, salads and risottos. You can use the bulb, stem and leaves. Our first experiment was with a wild garlic and parmesan risotto.



Here's what we (Chris) did:

Serves four.

You will need:

1 white onion
1 leek
1 stick of celery
Olive oil
320g risotto rice (at least)
50g butter
1 glass white wine
3 large handfuls of wild garlic
1 pint chicken stock (this depends on the rice so use more if needed)
Salt, pepper and parmesan (to taste).


Thinly slice one white onion and fry in unsalted butter or olive oil for a couple of minutes.

Add one thinly sliced leek and stick of celery.

Add up to six of the bulbs of wild garlic (the amount is really up to you and depends on the size of the bulbs you forage) again thinly sliced.

After five minutes or so, add risotto rice (about 80g per person or whatever you usually eat) until the rice is nicely coated in the cooking juices - add a touch more butter if the rice is sticking.

As soon as you feel that the rice has absorbed the liquid in the pan, add a glass of white wine.

Once the rice has absorbed the alcohol, begin to add ladles of stock (homemade if possible). Stir constantly.

Keep repeating until the rice is al dente. Season gradually.

At this point add the garlic leaves - a good few handfuls, roughly chopped. This part of the plant doesn't take long to cook. Before serving stir through butter and shavings of parmesan - retaining some to decorate.

Pan fried chicken or a white fish would both work well with this but for a truly simple (and frugal) supper, serve with good bread and green salad. You could also make parmesan crisps to accompany this.


We're also planning on trying wild garlic bread and pesto. Watch this space...

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Martyn's quick white chocolate and raspberry cake


This cake is quick for new mums or chalet hosts or anyone in a hurry. Seriously, it takes about 15 minutes and can be mixed coursely, all ingredients in together.

First mastered and served by a jovial, hungover or possibly still drunk chalet host in 2006 (Val d'Isere), more recently made by Chris and served to baby hungry visitors by a sleep deprived and very new Mum, me. Hopefully this has demonstrated the required level of skill, time, effort and precision. If you try it you'll see it is possible to produce something tasty and easily, without scales.

You will need:

125g raspberry yogurt (the cheap stuff works well supermarket's own brand, one pot. I like Tesco's)
125g (1 pot)caster sugar
375g (3 pots) self raising flour
125g (1 pot) sunflower oil
Four medium eggs
200g (1 bar) white chocolate
A handful of raspberries (optional)

Empty yogurt into a mixing bowl.


Fill pot with sugar, empty into bowl.
Fill pot with self raising flour, empty into bowl. Repeat three times.
Fill pot with sunflower oil, empty into bowl.
Crack four eggs into bowl.
Add white chocolate chunks.


Mix ingredients together until blended to cake like consistency.

Place in tin.

Bake at 220 degrees C for 30-45 minutes, until cake is golden and has a slight wobble in the centre. Please note, this is a moist cake thanks to the oil so a skewer through the centre will never be totally dry. The top may crack too but there are worse things!


Add a sprinkle of fresh raspberries/coulis/jam if you have any and a dusting of icing sugar.

Slice generously and enjoy.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Good enough to eat

It's a girl and we are absolutely thrilled and blessed. She smells of peaches! Please bear with us, this parenting thing is very new... we'll be back soon...

Saturday, 2 April 2011

FAQs

If you're curious, here are our most asked questions (and answers). Please leave any others as comments and we'll reply.

Why did you start Charlie and Evelyn’s Table?
We were intrigued by the pop up movement and read an article about The Salad Club (August 2009). We tried to find an Edinburgh based supper club to dine at and, when we realised there wasn’t one, we thought we’d create our own (January 2010). It started as a new year’s resolution to help us to have monthly dinner parties and indulge our love of cooking and entertaining. It soon spiralled and extended beyond our families and friends.
Who are Charlie and Evelyn and why do you have their table?
Charlie and Evelyn were Chris’s grandparents and we inherited their dining table.
What is the concept?
In three words: eat out, in.
Usually, diners come to us. The Table seats up to fourteen people and you can book as a group or individual places.
Where is the supper club?
We’re based in central Edinburgh, we only reveal our full address to confirmed diners.
What’s the best way to make a reservation?
Drop us an email to join our mailing list and you’ll receive our latest news and alerts to new dates as soon as they are released. We ask that all reservations are made and confirmed by email for our own sanity!
What’s your cancellation policy?
We believe that the concept is based on trust so there’s no strict policy. We wouldn’t charge our friends if they were ill or couldn’t make it for some valid reason.
To date we’ve only had one very rude guest not show up on the night without letting us know so ideally, we’d ask for 24 hours notice so that we have chance to fill the space/s.
Alternatively, other last minute cancellations have covered the cost of the cancelled place/s.
Do you cater for vegetarians and dietary requirements?
Yes, absolutely.
In advance of creating each menu we ask for dietary requirements and strong food dislikes as the menu is fixed. If we are serving a guest with an allergy, we tend to avoid that ingredient/food group all together. If it’s a food preference, we either come up with an alternative for that diner or avoid the ingredient.
What’s the most common food dislike you've come across?
Here’s the top five:
Shellfish/seafood
Mushrooms
Coriander
Eggs
Offal
And, top five most bizarre:
Cream
Melon
Caffeine
Cooked vegetables
Raisins
Where do you source your food?
We hope you don’t need us to tell you that seasonal, local food tastes best. It’s not always possible or practical but we do buy all meat and game from George Bower’s and our fish, seafood and shellfish from G. Armstrongs. We also believe that life is too short for some things (unless it’s a very special occasion) and we regularly buy Patisserie Madeline’s macarons to serve to guests with coffee.
Have you ever had any unusual guests come for dinner?
The whole set up is pretty unusual and we’ve unexpectedly had a huge range of people dine with us. Guests from near and far, young and old and with a variety of backgrounds and professions.
That’s one of the things that makes hosting so special when you pop your head out of the kitchen and see a group of people who would never usually meet, let alone dine together, chatting happily.
How do you get rid of guests if they outstay their welcome?
Truly, the welcome is warm so it’s hard to outstay it. We like to let things come to a natural close and most guests tend to leave by midnight. The record for our latest staying guests is 2.10am but by that point we’d joined them for a glass of wine!
What’s your biggest kitchen disaster?
Probably attempting too complicated menus when we started – meaning kitchen chaos and mountains of washing up. Other than that, arriving at a kitchen (where we were due to serve a four course meal) that only had a microwave and no oven or simply serving ice cream in the extreme heat of our little kitchen.
What’s your favourite place to eat out?
Some of our favourite places include:
Restaurant Martin Wishart - for extra special occasions.
Timberyard - for informal, feel good food.
Taste of Italy - for family friendly, great value, great taste Italian.
Bon Vivant - for tasty bite sized or normal sized dishes to suit your mood.
Pho - exceedingly good, hidden gem.
The Spice Pavillion - our choice for great takeaway (or eat in).
Mithas - for luxury Indian.
Loch Leven Seafood café for the best lunch ever.
Which recipe books do you use most often?
It varies, lots, so we’ll try and update this answer.
Some of our most used include:
Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook (great seasonal ideas), On a plate (South African inspiration), How to Eat Nigella Lawson (for comfort and speed), newly acquired Ottolenghi Plenty (fast, fresh flavours), River Cottage Veg Everyday (encouraging us to be more adventurous with our meat free suppers).
What do diners say about you?
Whenever we need an ego boost, it’s nice to re read some of the comments from our guest book including:
“The last time I felt this at home, I was at home.”
“Delicious food, gorgeous surrounding. Made so welcome, utterly charmed. Thank you so…”
“Lovely relaxed atmosphere, great food and a novel experience to have dinner in someone’s home.”
“I hope he/she is a good baby so I can come back soon!”
“Fabulous food and an unbeatable experience.”
OK enough.
If you’ve dined with us in the past and would like to share your thoughts with others, please add comments to the blog or share on Facebook
Are there any other pop up restaurants in Edinburgh/Scotland?
Yes. Here's our list. Fairly definitive (if slightly rambling), we think!
Try Queen of Tarts for afternoon tea, we loved it. Email thequeensedinburgh@gmail.com
Kitchen Porter for Edinburgh based suppers or masterclasses (read our review here). Email kitchenports@googlemail.com
And,  ADDED APRIL 21st 2011 Delicious looking, My Home Supperclub - expect a very warm welcome, great food and a charming homely experience.
or Honey Wild Supper Club in the Scottish Borders. Emailhoneywildandmannadew@gmail.com
UPDATE NOVEMBER 2011. The supper club scene is thriving, horray!
Crescent Dining fine dining since August 2011.
Table for ten an exciting collaboration, started in October 2011. 
Chai Lounge Edinburgh's first Indian supper club, established October 2011.
Inside Out Chef home cooking with a sharing vibe, established August 2011.
Avant watch this space for a potential new club.
NEW FOR 2012 - updated January 2012
Burgher Burger All about burgers, monthly, by established chefs, popping up at greasy spoons in Edinburgh. Sign up to find out more. (First event February 2012).
A quarterly supper club by the sea, Portobello, coming soon (March 2012).
Pop up afternoon tea by very talented, award winning pastry chef, Ross.
February 2012 - update
Tealicious, a secret pop up afternoon tea club by amazing cake ladies by The Shore in Leith (now running).
A new pop up restaurant coming soon to a place near the Abbey in Dunfermline ( also March 2012)
March 2012 - update
Pig in a Wig new Edinburgh supper club alert (coming April 2012).
May 2012 - update
My Home Supper Club is taking a break from suppers to focus on pop up events, find out more here.
Honey Wild Supper Club is also taking a break to establish The Friand Cake Co.
Inside Out Chef has a new website and a new pudding club.
No sign of Avant, Room 103 in Dunfermline or Pig in a wig.
New addition - Petite Cuisine, hearty French provincial cooking from home in North Edinburgh.
Winter 2012 
New club Under the carpet (first event October 2012). No further updates on blog (Jan 2013).
New for 2013
Bread and butter (opened January 2013).  Two chefs doing their thing at home. We were lucky enough to attend. The food was really outstanding and complete with L'enclume inspiration (one of the chefs worked there). Go.
On a farm in East Lothian (first event February 2013).
New for 2014
The Smoked Duck (first event August).

Do get in touch if you have supper club news to share.

The Albert Roux Feast Dinner


OK, so we didn't actually speak to him but we listened to what he had to say and had dinner "in his company" which was enough to leave us satisfied. I even failed to get a picture but, for the record, he is much shorter than I imagined.

Anyway, last night, we attended a fabulous dinner which marked the start of a student-led food festival Feast 2011. In writing alone, the festival impresses with the support of big name chefs and suppliers and in practice, it began with some enticing and delicious canapes slickly presented and served by students. These were cooked by Raymond Wong (Junior Sous Chef) and Greig Livingston (Commis Chef who began working at the Sheraton aged only 15) who both currently work at the Sheraton.



Chicken liver parfait lolly pop glazed in blood orange.


Pickled red cabbage gazpacho (this looked lovely and tasted good just oddly like pureed coleslaw).

We also nibbled delicious Shetland salmon tartar, smoked, dill marinated and fresh salmon with creme fraiche rosemary crispbread and sensational smoked venison with green lentils and coriander, crisp bread and avruga caviar. Perfectly complemented with Organic Duval-Leroy.

We moved through "the UK's greenest university campus" to our table for more eating.

The menu was:

Tortellini of Borders Roe deer, cauliflower cream, sauce grand veneur cooked by Lynsey McCallum (who traded Front of House for chef's whites in 2009 and is currently Commis Chef at Restaurant Martin Wishart).

This was paired with Cotes du Rhone Les Rabassieres, 2009.


Fillet of North Sea Hake (supplied by our favourite fishmonger Armstrong's), served on a salt cod brandade with crisp potato cooked by Roberta Hall (Sous Chef Castle Terrace).

Paired with Sauvignon de Touraine "Fleur de Printemps", Domaine de la Rochette, 2009. (we were lucky enough to sit next to the sponsor who enlightened us, shared his tasting notes and explained how this wine comes to be less aggressive than the usual Sauvignon - can't wait to get our hands on more of this).


This was followed by fillet of Buccleuch Beef Wellington served with celeriac puree and a red wine sauce cooked by David Miller (Sous chef at The Kitchen). See how our Wellingtons compare here or check out our step by step guide here.

Paired with Chateau du Taste, Cote du Bourg, Bordeaux, 2009.


Finally, a very excellent dessert of Valrhona Macae Chocolate Cremeux, salted caramel, milk sorbet cooked by Graeme Cheevers (Pastry Chef at Restaurant Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond).

Paired with Capercaillie late harvest Gewurtztraminer, Hunter Valley, 2008 ( interestingly, our expert suggested that had he been matching for this course he would perhaps have chosen a light port or red to complement the rich chocolate, pairing this wine with juicy yellow fruits or spicy rhubarb instead).

And then, coffee, tablet and a dram of cask strength Highland Park, Single Malt Scotch Whisky 4.149. Thanks to another diner at the table, we also learned a new way to identify the fruity tones of the whisky, placing a tiny drop into your palm (and rubbing it in just like a very expensive alcohol hand rub) before cupping the hands and inhaling! I've never smelt apricots in a whisky before...

(L-R) Albert Roux, OBE; young chefs Graeme Cheveers and Lyndsey McCallum from Restaurant Martin Wishart; and Martin Wishart.

Having enjoyed all of this it was over to an introduction by Martin Wishart and then Albert Roux for the after dinner key note. He fondly recalled his first visit to Scotland 55 years ago with his family packed into a Morris Miner and several cases of wine on the roof rack (having heard Scotland was dry on Sundays). He travelled north enjoying the hearty Scottish breakfasts in B and B's and eventually reached the "gastronomic desert" of Skye. He camped there and ate well, urging us to recognise that all you need to eat well is good ingredients which Skye has in great bounty. He shared his thoughts on the need for Front of House to be recognised in the UK as a profession, not a lowly job and offered his advice that, those in Scottish hospitality would do well to be more like the South Africans who recognise the potential of tourism and when visitors arrive, smile, broadly and wish unfamiliar faces a genuine and warm "welcome to our country". Having experienced unfriendly, sour faced awkwardness as opposed to a welcome many times over in Scotland, these are wise words indeed: "You have been blessed by the gift of food and beauty. I hope you realise that." Oh, we do.