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Friday, 17 February 2012

Burgher Burger

If you want a ticket you need to be quick. Like, these tickets sell out in under eight minutes, quick. So you can imagine how pleased I was to be invited to the first Burgher Burger event with Chef Neil Forbes, especially as our own kitchen is non existant right now.

This event also marks an new milestone for the pop up dining scene in Edinburgh which I don't really need to say, we're passionate about and, although it sounds gushing, is something we really wished for when we first established Charlie and Evelyn's Table. Now, curious diners are really embracing the concept with a great range of over 12 supper clubs and pop ups to choose from. The diners we sat with at Burgher Burger were a brilliant example of an outgoing, friendly couple, new to Edinburgh and looking for a unique way to discover the city, meet new people and have satisfied bellies! They'd so far tried seven of the pop ups on offer and were still keen for more.

Anyway, back to Burgher Burger. I'd listened and salivated while listening to Neil and Aoife, who is behind the concept, on BBC Scotland's Kitchen Cafe and was excited to get chance to join other eager diners at a venue I'd never visited and to eat a pro chef's ultimate burger menu. I felt I was someway to understanding the challenge he faced as a supper club hostess, working in a small kitchen, to produce the best food we can. I really wondered what it would be like for Neil and his team, out of his usual kitchen, with equipment that probably wasn't fully functioning, no hot pass and a new menu, a far cry from his usual restaurant, but still with the same quality standards. [If you're reading Neil, please leave us a comment and let us know how it was for you.]

We arrived to a buzzing cafe environment, the lighting was low, intimate even, the chatter was loud, the music lively and the retro tables set to be brought alive with something they'd never seen before. We were ready.

Innis and Gunn were in charge of drinks and they were seriously free flowing. The lighter beers, raspberry and Blonde at the start of the meal were my favourite but it would have been rude not to try the Original and Rum cask bottles on offer. Burger eating is thristy work after all.

Slick service was all down to the waiting staff moving quickly and getting the food on the tables and that they did.

The seafood cocktail starter was a real highlight for me. The fresh prawn and crab combination, a simple take on the classic with the added discovery of a mussel or two and some salad crunch. Delicious.

And then, the mighty burger with all the sides you might expect and more condiments than you could wish for (including jalapenos). Mmmmmm.

And finally, as if you hadn't had enough, a very gooey brownie and ice cream.

The combination of the concept, quirky venue, the carefully created atmosphere, the challenge the chef faced and quality of food and beers on offer was winning.

There is a common misconception that because we are such avid eaters and we run a supper club that we feast every night on gourmet menus and only go to "fine dining" restaurants. It's false. The truth is we like things that taste good. Comfort foods like scrambled eggs, a quality bacon sandwich, fresh cauliflower cheese, and of course burgers are all common place and highly ranked in our home but we always use the best ingredients we can get out hands on and we felt that this ethos was something Neil worked to as he put his mind to burgers. As for fine dining, we love to do that when we can but we also enjoy eating in smaller, simpler venues and discovering new ways to eat out in Edinburgh. At the rate the pop up/supper club scene is currently growing, we need to get eating to keep up.

And, if you can't wait until the next tickets are available or you missed out, keep trying but so you don't go hungry, we'd really recommend Friday Night's at Moo Cafe, it's every Friday (not quite as exciting) to satisfy your meantime need for burgers in the Burgher, until you get a ticket for the real deal that is.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Guest post: tales from an oyster lady

Possibly the ultimate food of love, oysters can be a little daunting if you've never tried them before. So if you need an excuse to try them, or maybe even to dish them up to someone special, then we'd like to hand over to a lady who knows a lot more about them than we do. Scottish oysters are the best we've tasted, so here is a guest post by Judith Vajk, offering an insight into life as a oyster farmer, top tips and oyster facts, just in time for Valentine's Day:

"I had my first oyster in 1984 in Saint Vaast, a small seaside town in Normandy known for its oysters. I had moved to France for work and was introduced to Hugo, who worked on an oyster farm. I cannot say I enjoyed my first oyster; I do find that the first one can take you by surprise as you are unsure of exactly how it will taste. However, after a couple more I enjoyed the pure flavour of the sea that is indeed the true taste of an oyster.

[At The Caledonian Company] we farm the Pacific oyster which does not spawn in Scotland but grows happily in our clean, cold waters. The Pacific oyster is an easier oyster to grow than the native Scottish oyster. Natives are slower growing and are not so happy grown in bags – they would rather lie on the sea-bed. We grow our oysters in mesh bags, with varying sized holes depending on the size of the oyster. The bags sit on trestle tables on the sea-bed. At low-tide we drive out on a tractor and get to work, turning the bags, bringing in oysters to be graded for sale. If we did not turn the bags regularly the oysters would grow into each other and we would not be able to sell them individually.

In Scotland, we sell oysters throughout the year. Because they do not spawn here they do not become very milky in the summer months. However, they are probably at their best in the colder months – and naturally chilled! The most common question I get asked about oysters is with regards to their aphrodisiac qualities – surely, that depends on who you are eating them with! But I do know they are the highest food source of zinc – very important in the production of the male hormone, testosterone. The second question is whether to swallow or chew an oyster? I definitely advise to just give the oyster a couple of bites to release all the flavour that is contained within the oyster.

The best way to open an oyster is carefully and with a proper oyster knife! Place the oyster, cup-shape shell down, on a tea-towel; this helps keep the oyster steady. Hold the oyster firmly and taking an oyster knife, put the point into the natural space that is between the two shells at the hinge (pointed) end. With careful pressure gently work the knife between the two shells then twist the knife to ‘pop’ the shell. Bring the knife along, between the two shells, cutting the muscle from the top shell, and remove the shell. Sweep your knife along the bottom shell, releasing the oyster muscle there too.

Oysters are wonderful with a squeeze of lemon, and we do like one or two drops of Tabasco with the lemon. Chopped shallots with red wine vinegar is a delicious alternative and adds a rosy glow to the oyster.

We do supply one wholesaler, Charlie Magee, who distributes our oysters in Edinburgh to fishmongers and restaurants in the city [including supplying Tom Kitchin]. I also attend Perth Farmers’ Market on the first Saturday of the month. Though saying that, I won’t be there in March as we are going to the European Oyster Shucking Championship in Sweden to cheer our son on who is the Scottish champion.

So, how did I get into oyster farming? Well, I married the man who fed me my first oyster!"

Monday, 13 February 2012

Our Valentine's Supper

When we were asked to visit Greenbank WAGs earlier this month, we decided to demonstrate a virtually hassle free, high impact menu which, because the individual Wellingtons can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours, makes them ideal for a dinner party or Valentine's day supper. The menu:

To start
Jewelled chicory salad, blue cheese, mint.

To follow
Venison Wellingtons, green beans, braised red cabbage.

To finish
Iced seasonal berries, warm white chocolate sauce.

The simple salad starter has made an appearance here before.

While the individual Wellingtons (more usually made with beef) have become firm favourites at Charlie and Evelyn's Table. You can see step by step photos here or follow the steps below.

Quantities are rough as it really depends on the size of the fillets you are using but, any leftovers of the mushroom duxelle work really well as crostini topping.

To serve four, you will need:

Four individual venison or beef fillets
2 bags of spinach
2 medium aubergines
350g puff pastry
1 egg (beaten)
Handful of plain flour
Sprinkling of sesame seeds
Four shallots / one white onion
Good section of mushrooms about 300g - we use a mixture of Chestnut, Portobello and Porcini
100ml double cream
Olive oil
Truffle oil
Handful fresh parsley, chopped
Good pinch of fresh thyme
Splash of brandy

Firstly, steam two bags of spinach. This acts as a layer of protection to prevent the juices of the meat leaking through the pastry so this needs to be squeezed out and dried (between layers of kitchen roll) after steaming.

Next, make the mushroom duxelles (minced mushrooms).

To do this, gently fry four shallots or one white onion in a pan with little olive oil. Then add a good selection of mushrooms really anything you can get your hands on - the more interesting the better! Once the mushrooms are cooked, season with salt and pepper and add a generous glug of truffle oil and a splash of brandy. This gives the mushroom a wonderful, intense flavour but if you don't like the taste of truffle, add a crushed garlic clove with the shallot. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir through double cream until it has a soft consistency but isn't runny.
Leave to cool.

Thinly slice aubergine and fry on a griddle pan until lightly charred.

Sear the meat until it is just brown - do not cook at this stage - this is done in the oven later.

Assemble the Wellingtons step by step.

1. Dust a board with flour, roll out the puff pastry to 0.5 cm thick, straight from the fridge.
2. Lay the aubergine on the pastry
3. Add a layer of the mushroom duxelles.
4. Place the spinach on top of the duxelles.
5. Top with fillet.
6. Add another layer of spinach.
7. Fold and seal the pastry using a beaten egg and either your fingers or a fork to make a small pattern.
8. Trim off the excess pastry so you're left with a neat pillow shape.

If necessary the Wellingtons can now be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.

Before cooking brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Cook for 18-20 mins (medium rare) in an oven at about 190 degrees. The pastry should be golden brown and the meat pink on the middle.

Leave to rest for five minutes, cut in half and serve. Serve with braised red cabbage and green beans, or vegetables of your choice.

Finally, a simple pudding, similar to a rather famous version of the dish served at The Ivy.

You will need:
4 portions (size really depends on how fruity you want it) seasonal frozen berries - either fresh which you can freeze or ready frozen berries
500ml double cream
200g Green and Black's white chocolate with vanilla

Lift the berries from the freezer around ten minutes before serving so that they loose their chill.

Warm the cream over a low heat in a saucepan. Finely grate the chocolate (to help it to melt). When the cream is hot but not boiling, stir through the chocolate. You will see the chocolate shavings, melt, almost separate, keep stirring and a smooth consistency will return. Pour the warm sauce over the berries and enjoy.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, 3 February 2012

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