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Monday, 29 August 2016

Welcome back to The Great British Menu

The eleventh series of Great British Menu kicks off this week with the Scottish heats. Ally McGrath, Adam Handling and Michael Bremner are this year’s up and coming Scottish chefs who will be competing under the watchful eye of judge Daniel Clifford, chef-patron of Midsummer House in Cambridge and The Flitch of Bacon, Essex.
This year’s brief is cooking British Cuisine to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s ‘Great Britons’ and the chefs are competing to cook at the first ever televised banquet at the Palace of Westminster.
It’s set to be a dramatic series as past record scores are equalled then smashed. The regional heats also see one newcomer achieve the highest mark ever given in the competition’s history.
The series airs on BBC 2 at 7.30pm Monday - Friday.
Here’s a little more about all our Scottish chefs:
Ally McGrath, Osso, Peebles
Ally returned to his native Peebles in the Scottish Borders and opened Osso in 2007 after earning his stripes under the likes of Richard Corrigan. He and his wife Helen bought out their partner in 2014 and run the restaurant as a relaxed, welcoming, family-friendly venue serving up local produce in an unfussy, natural way. Osso will be offering diners the chance to sample Ally’s competition dishes in the restaurant from September 2nd.
Ally is the only chef on this year’s Great British Menu currently cooking in Scotland, and Osso is the only Borders restaurant to hold a coveted Bib Gourmand Award in the 2016 Michelin Guide, the 6th year in a row!

Adam Handling, The Frog, London
Masterchef The Professionals 2013 finalist Adam Handling already has a luminous culinary career under his belt, apprenticing under Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles before moving to London and then on to Newcastle to head up his first brigade. He then returned to Scotland as head chef at The Fairmont St Andrews.
After moving back to London he led a brigade of twenty-two chefs at St Ermin’s Hotel in St James’ Park. In September 2014, Adam opened his own eponymous restaurant in Caxton Street, London, which won the title Best Newcomer UK Restaurant in the 2015 Food and Travel Magazine Awards. In June 2016, he opened The Frog in Spitalfields – a more casual, relaxed restaurant with playful dishes and Japanese-inspired cooking.

Michael Bremner, 64 Degrees, Brighton
Born in Aberdeenshire, Michael apprenticed at The Pittodrie House Hotel before moving down to London and gaining pastry experience at the Michelin-starred Orrery Restaurant. He then moved over to become head pastry chef at Quo Vadis when it was run by Marco Pierre White, before travelling around Australia.
After stints in Brighton and Canada he returned to Brighton in 2007 to become head chef of Due South. He opened 64 Degrees in October 2013. Focused on social dining it has gone on to win several awards and was listed at number twenty-four in the 2015 National Restaurant Awards.

Juniper Festival to Make Glasgow Debut

The Juniper Festival is making its debut in the west next month after three successful years in the capital. The festival celebrates the ever increasing popularity of gin in Scotland and showcases the amazing range of quality new gins now distilled across Scotland.
The one-day event, which takes place on Saturday 10th September at Glasgow’s SWG3 venue, will host a large collection of celebrated gin brands, appealing to consumers with an appetite to discover, sample and enjoy.
Visitors will be able to sample from a wide variety of gins including Pickering’s, Daffy’s, Caorunn, Minus 33, and Glasgow gin, Makar, each presenting their unique flavours and serves. And a gin festival wouldn’t be complete without tonic of course, and Fentimans and Fever Tree will be in attendance alongside Scottish tonic brands Walter Gregor and Bon Accord. There will also be a range of craft products and food available.
Martin Duffy, founder, Juniper Festival commented: “We’ve had three great years in Edinburgh and have been keen to take the Juniper Festival to Glasgow so it’s great to see this ambition realised in 2016. We’ve got a fantastic selection of gins coming along to provide visitors with an education as well as the chance to try them."
“Since 2012 over fifty new gin distilleries have launched across the UK, with seventy per cent of all gin produced in Britain coming from Scotland, and so the industry really is on the rise both north and south of the border. Each distillery uses its own unique blend of botanicals – no two are the same which I love. We will have gins represented at the event from all over the UK including Glasgow of course, and so there will be a huge range for visitors to sample and explore, and they will also have the chance to attend masterclasses with a number of these celebrated brands so it’s set to be a great day for anyone who enjoys gin or trying something new.”
Tickets are on sale now from Eventbrite, priced at £16.50. The event consists of two sessions: 12pm – 4pm & 5.30pm – 10pm.


Sunday, 28 August 2016

5 Questions - Graham Campbell, Head Chef @ Castlehill Restaurant, Dundee

Chef Graham Campbell first came to my attention when he represented Scotland in series six of The Great British Menu when he went head to head with Glasgow based chefs Jimmy Lee from Lychee Oriental and Jacqueline O'Donnell from The Sisters. Despite his best efforts and some pretty inventive cooking,Graham didn't make it through to the latter stages of the competition. That said, after seeing the show, I quickly added Graham to my 'Chefs I'd like to cook for me' list.
The opportunity to score Graham from the list came recently when I was asked to review Castlehill Restaurant in Dundee. I hope to publish the review very soon but in a little prelude to that, I managed to chat with Graham after the busy lunch service and put my 5 Questions to him.
I knew that we were in for a treat as Graham has a wealth of experience picked up over the years. From his first kitchen job in Oban through, Rochdale at Nutters Restaurant, Paul Heathcote's Longridge, The Ballachulish House in Fort William where he became the youngest Scottish chef to be awarded a Michelin Star, the Lake of Menteith Hotel in Perthshire before a stint at The Monastery in Manchester until he took over the kitchen at Castlehill Restaurant. Graham has earned his stripes and maybe now a star isn't far away with Castlehill being tipped as the first restaurant in Dundee to be recognised by the Michelin inspectors.
Here's Graham's story;

How did you get started?

Started way back when I was 15 in Oban. I didn't really see it as a career but I fell in love with it.

What’s the best piece of advice you would give to aspiring chefs?

"Listen" and get in with a head chef who is a leader - Someone that is willing to get in the thick of it with you, not just a head chef that sits in a office and comes through for service.

Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?

Ideally, I would like to see us in a bigger premises for Castlehill Restaurant and a maybe a few more outlets trading under the brand.

If you could only cook of your recipes, what would it be & why?

It would have to be my highland venison infused with Douglas Fir. The flavour that comes from Douglas Fir is just amazing! When you mix that with the gaminess of the venison, they work wonderfully well together.

You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?

I would have to invite Keith Floyd. Growing up, I loved watching him on TV, traveling all over the world. It was great to see Keith get so excited with the ingredients and show a real passion for cooking. We would enjoy a three course meal with scallops, braised oxtail and chocolate soufflé featuring on the menu.

We loved our lunch at the 2 AA Rosette Castlehill Restaurant (full review coming soon) and after having Chef Graham serve up a creative tasting menu, myself and Nicola are already looking for a reason to get back up the east coast and back to Castlehill.
I would like to thank Graham for taking time out to answer 5 Questions and wish him every success in the future.
Keep up to date with news from Castlehill Restaurant on Facebook and Twitter.


Thursday, 25 August 2016

Support Wedgwood the Restaurant

Edinburgh’s multi award winning Wedgwood the Restaurant is in line to add to its already impressive list of accolades after being shortlisted for the Food and Travel Reader Awards 2016. It is the only Scottish restaurant to be recognised in the Outside London category and is accompanied by some very impressive contemporaries. The list includes multiple Michelin star restaurants including Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume in Cartmel and Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham which hold an impressive four stars between them.

Wedgwood the Restaurant enjoyed numerous successes in 2015, consistently picking up local favourite awards and making the Sunday Times Top 100 Restaurants. This nomination is certain to be the first of many in 2016 as the consistently high standard Wedgwood the Restaurant delivers is recognised.

You can vote for Wedgwood the Restaurant in the Food and Travel Reader Awards here

Wedgwood the Restaurant, 267 Canongate, Edinburgh

To book

Facebook /WedgwoodRestaurant

Twitter @chefwedgwood

After a fantastic dinner at Wedgwood the Restaurant a couple of months ago, I can understand why they have been shortlisted. You can see my review here and if you've eaten at Wedgwood the Restaurant and think that they deserve to win, make sure to cast your vote here!


Thirst Quenching Farm Workers Brew Re-invented for the City

Let's Eat Glasgow, Saisson Beer, William Bros Brewing, Drygate Brewing, Glasgow food festival, craft beer, SWG3

Let’s Eat Glasgow! showcases craft beers, spirits and wines.

SWG3, Finnieston, Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th September

A crisp dry beer style famed for quenching the thirst of parched farm workers has been given a delicious fruity twist to celebrate the Let’s Eat Glasgow! food festival which will take place at SWG3, Finnieston, on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th September.

The specially crafted Let’s Eat Glasgow! ‘Saison’, which has been updated with Scottish gooseberries and elderflowers to add an extra fruity dimension, is a collaboration between the East End’s Drygate Brewery and Williams Bros, one of the sponsors of Let’s Eat Glasgow!

No ordinary food festival, and a sell out when it launched last year, Let’s Eat Glasgow! is staged by the Real Food, Real Folk not for profit co-operative of top city restaurants.

Cail Bruich, Crabshakk, Guy’s Restaurant, Mother India, Ox and Finch, Stravaigin, The Gannet and Ubiquitous Chip created the event, which is free to enter, to celebrate the great food and drink being reared, grown, fished and cooked across the West of Scotland whilst raising money to help tackle food inequality across the city.

The Let’s Eat Glasgow! Saison is available in a can in the restaurants as well as in Valhalla’s Goat and the Drygate Brewery shop in the run up to the festival. It will then be available in draught at the event.

Colin Clydesdale, Chair of Real Food, Real Folk, says:

“As a fundraising event, Let’s Eat Glasgow! is only made possible through the in-kind support of great, like-minded businesses across the food and drink industry like William Bros and Drygate Brewery.

“We’re hugely grateful for the support of sponsors William Bros, Makar Glasgow Gin, Alliance Wine and Glengoyne which are all supporting Let’s Eat Glasgow! for the second year running along with a host of others from across the food and drink industry in the West of Scotland.

“From the visitor’s perspective, their participation, along with the great artisan drink producers in the pop-up market, means we have an incredible food and drink showcase for everyone to discover and enjoy.”

As well as the Let’s Eat Glasgow! Saison, visitors will be able to enjoy vibrant and well balanced Makar Glasgow Gin and great wines chosen by Alliance Wine at the two Real Food, Real Folk bars as well as a whisky-based cocktail blended by Glengoyne especially for the fiesta of food.

Refreshing craft beers from Jaw Brew and Harvieston Brewery as well as a honey beer by Plan Bee will be available to buy in the pop-up market along with fabulous hand-picked wines from Judith Hardy Wines, enlivening Makar Glasgow Gin and a range of spirits from Strathearn Distillery including Scotland’s first brandy made using Scottish cider apples.

The European style market will also feature a wide range of West of Scotland foods, from oysters, venison, rare breed meats, cheeses and fruit through to artisan breads and delicious chocolates and ice creams.

Visitors will also be able to enjoy restaurant food from just a fiver.

The Real Food, Real Folk restaurants will be joined this year by eight guest restaurants - Banana Leaf, CafĂ© Gandolfi, El Perro Negro, Eusebi Deli, Lychee Oriental, Martha’s, The Hanoi Bike Shop and Wee Guy’s - altogether serving 46 dishes reflecting the very best cuisine from Scotland, Europe, Asia and the Orient.

FREE to enter, Let’s Eat Glasgow! takes visitors on a journey from ‘field to fork’.

Other highlights include a small farmyard, entertaining and inspirational cooking demonstrations by guest celebrities and chefs and great live music.

All 16 restaurants are donating their time to the event, which is believed to be the UK’s first major food festival working to help tackle food inequality.

Any profits made by Let’s Eat Glasgow!, including the new ‘Saison’, will go towards Real Food, Real Folk’s work to address food inequality in the city.

Restaurant food vouchers are available now at

Advance purchase highly recommended.


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Easy Recipe - Chicken Thighs with Lemon, Garlic & Thyme

Easy Recipe, Chicken Thighs, Nigella Lawson, Food Network
I normally listen to a bit of JazzFM when I'm cooking dinner but a few weeks ago I noticed that Food Network was now being broadcast on Freeview which means that I can now have the TV on in the background whilst I get creative in the kitchen.
Over the weekend, one of Nigella Lawson's shows was getting a re-run when a chicken thigh recipe caught my eye. Nicola says that she isn't a fan of chicken thigh, claiming that it's too greasy, but this recipe looked delicious so I decided to recreate it tonight.
Easy Recipe, Chicken Thighs, Nigella Lawson, Food Network
Ingredients (serves 2)
  • 4 large chicken thighs, boned
  • 150g new potatoes, quartered
  • 1 lemon
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 50g butter
  • 100ml white wine
  • large bunch asparagus
  • Few sprigs fresh thyme
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C (Gas Mark 6)
  2. Add some olive oil to a baking tray. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper on both sides then place skin side up on the baking tray.
  3. Cut the lemon into 8 pieces then squeeze the juice over the chicken thighs before placing the lemon pieces around the baking tray.
  4. Scatter the pototoes around the chicken making sure not to crowd the thighs.
  5. Bash the garlic cloves then add to the baking tray before spreading the thyme leaves across the top of the chicken and potatoes.
  6. Add the cubes of butter to the pan then pour over the wine before placing in to the oven for 45-50 minutes.
  7. Halfway through the cooking time, layer the asparagus over the top of the chicken and place back in the oven.
Easy Recipe, Chicken Thighs, Nigella Lawson, Food Network
After 45-50 minutes, the chicken should be cooked through and the skin crispy. To serve, divide the chicken, potatoes and asparagus between two plates and get to the table as quickly as you can.
I knew as soon as I took the tray out of the oven that Nicola would be changing her opinion on chicken thighs and sure enough, she quickly gave me her nod of approval. The chicken meat was soft, tender and rich with the flavours of garlic lemon and thyme but the crispy chicken skin raised this dish to another level. I can't get over just how good this dish was, especially when it cost less than £1.50 per head.
As everything is cooked in the one baking tray, washing up was kept to a minimum. This dish is also a time saving recipe as I was also able to prepare everything quickly prior putting in the oven, allowing me to get out for a quick 5K run while the oven done all the hard work.
I'm so glad that Food Network is now available on Freeview and I can't wait to get inspired again very soon!


Monday, 22 August 2016

Can-Do Spirit: Record Growth Sparks Expansion Into Cans for UK Craft Beer Pioneer, Harviestoun

After 33 years of brewing innovation, one of Britain's foremost craft brewers, Harviestoun, is to offer the option of three of its top beer brands in cans. The expansion follows the firm's most successful year to date.
Schiehallion (4.8% ABV) dubbed the ‘Champagne of lagers’ and golden ale Bitter and Twisted (4.2% ABV) are the first of the core range to enter the new format, adding to the brewery's existing offering of cask, keg and bottle.
The range has secured Scottish listings in 80 Tesco stores and 95 Sainsbury’s stores and is expected to roll-out UK-wide in the coming months.
The first batch of 41,500 cans will launch into stores today, retailing in four 330ml can packs with an RRP of £6.
Growing international demand in Europe, North America and China coupled with distribution deals with Majestic Wines, Gleneagles Hotel and D&D London has seen turnover increase by 50% since 2013.
Production has also doubled, increasing capacity to the equivalent of 4.5 million pints a year.
Recent investment of £400,000 in new equipment has supported the growth in production and the creation of 7 new job roles has taken the firm's staff count to 21.
Toby Knowles, Managing Director of Harviestoun Brewery toasted the expansion, saying:
“For over 30 years, Harviestoun has been driven by a desire to pioneer and innovate.
Our canning program is a symbol of our commitment to asking ‘what next for craft beer?’ and creating an unforgettable drinking experience for beer lovers in the UK and beyond.
The last 12 months have been an incredibly exciting period of growth for Harviestoun. During this time we have never lost sight of our commitment to consistency, flavour and quality, which is why we believe Harviestoun continues to grow in popularity.
So whether cask, keg, bottle or can, we are confident our award-winning core range, renowned for drinkability and innovation, will be enjoyed in ways as individual as the people who drink them.”