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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Feria De La Tapa - 1st-2nd October, Puerto Del Carmen

Lanzarote, Puerto Del Carmen, Feria De La Tapa, Gerry's Kitchen
We are halfway through our holiday in Lanzarote and have already had a bellyful of the great food and drink that the island has to offer.
The highlight of our trip will be the Feria De La Tapa (organised by Saborea Lanzarote) which takes place this coming Saturday and Sunday. The tapas festival will see some of the islands best restaurants, local producers, bodegas and craft brewers set up stall in the Old Harbour in Puerto Del Carmen.
Each of the food stalls will be offering tapas, pinxos or small servings of some of their favourite dishes whilst the bodegas will have an almost endless supply of the fantastic red, white and rosé wines available to taste, all for just €1 each. You simply buy a strip of €1 tickets and grab a taster at any of the stalls that catch your eye.
In addition to all of the great food and drink on offer, there will be cooking demos from some of the islands top chefs, live music and activities for children too. The event is always well attended by both locals and holiday makers so if you haven't made plans for this weekend and you're lucky enough to be in Lanzarote, get along to the Veradero from 6pm on Saturday evening or 11am on Sunday morning and sample some of the best food and drink from the island.
To find out more about how the event works, check out this review that I was asked to do for Lanzarote Information last year.


Monday, 26 September 2016

Lerwick Brewery Launch their Beer in Cans

Lerwick Brewery, 330ml cans, craft beer, Gerry's Kitchen
Lerwick Brewery, who hail from Shetland, the most northerly islands in the UK, are joining the craft beer in cans revolution. The brewery have now released their flagship 60 North lager, Lerwick IPA and Azure in 330ml cans.
The brewery already offer their beers in bottles but have recognised the growing trend surrounding craft beer in cans. The USA has led the way on the canned beer front, with lots of popular craft breweries offering their beer in cans rather than bottles, and it already appears that this trend is going to be mirrored in the UK, with a number of craft breweries turning to the canned option.
Canning beers offers a number of advantages over bottling them and Rhanna Turberville, Head Brewer, explained why canned beer tastes better than bottled; “Cans are a much better way of storing beer. They stop it from being damaged by exposure to light which causes a chemical reaction in the beer, altering the taste. They also minimise air contamination so keep the beer fresher. This means our canned beer tastes like it’s just come straight from our brewery tanks”
Isla Mercer, Chief Executive, said, “We’re delighted to now be able to offer our beer in an alternative to glass bottles. Cans are much lighter and easier to store since they can be stacked, so are ideal for maximising space on the shelves of shops and bar fridges. They can also be used for events where glass isn’t permitted”.
Cans of 60 North Lager, Azure and Lerwick IPA will be available in bars and shops around Scotland.


5 Questions - Hazel Magill, Head Chef @ Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle, Northern Ireland

Gerry's Kitchen, 5 Questions, Hazel Magill, Slieve Donard Resort & Spa, Culloden Estate & Spa, Paul McKnight, Hastings Hotels, Gordon Ramsey, Raymond Blanc
Myself and Nicola are not long back from a fantastic overnight stay at the Culloden Estate & Spa, one of six hotels owned by Hastings Hotels, Northern Ireland's premier hotel groups. Earlier this year I published the answers to Executive Chef Paul McKnight's 5 Questions and we were lucky enough to have Paul cook for us whilst we were there (Full review coming soon). The owners of Hastings Hotels had also offered us the chance to stay over at one of their other venues, the stunning Slieve Donard Resort & Spa but due to a lack of holiday days, we had to decline their kind offer. Despite the fact that we couldn't get along, I had read that the Head Chef at Slieve Donard, Hazel Magill, was making a name for herself in the world of food and drink so I fired my 5 Questions off to her to see if she would let me tell her story.

Hazel began her career aged just 17 at Hastings Hotels and quickly rose through the ranks before finding her true love for the finer details and a passion for pastry. After 24 years at Hastings, Hazel became Head Pastry Chef at La Mon Hotel & Country Club building a team over 7 years. When the opportunity to be involved in the opening of Belfast’s first licensed Patisserie Miel et Moi arose Hazel grabbed it and worked to establish the venue as one of South Belfast's most refined and elegant restaurants. Now Hazel can be found in the kitchen of Newcastle's most iconic Slieve Donard Hotel. Hazel also works with cancer charities including the cancer fund for children to organise ‘dinner with a difference’ – where 7 of NI’s award winning chefs came together to create a charity fund raising meal.

Gerry's Kitchen, 5 Questions, Hazel Magill, Slieve Donard Resort & Spa, Culloden Estate & Spa, Paul McKnight, Hastings Hotels, Gordon Ramsey, Raymond Blanc
Here's Hazel's story;

How did you get started?

My career was on I different path, however the last year at school my father passed away so this threw me into a confused spin. I found myself joining my friends on a half catering half business course. As a child I spent my summers away in my grandfather’s country retreat far from the troubles in Belfast. This is where I learnt to bake so naturally I moved towards the catering course.

After my year at a prestigious catering college in Belfast, and at Thames Valley University, where I graduated with a BSc in Culinary Arts, I was introduced to Frank Hughes, in 1990 the Managing Director back then at Hastings Hotels. That is where it all began for me, having flown the nest here, I am back to the nest as Executive Head Chef at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa.

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

​Keep smiling, never give up & never give into panic!! Put the effort in, surround yourself with positive people, absorb & learn from them as I did when working with Paul McKnight the fabulous Executive Chef at the 5 star Culloden Estate and Spa. When something goes wrong take a step back count to ten then start over again. Even the darkest clouds pass sunshine reappears. Always be reflective on your performance even when things go well. I was taught this by some very famous chefs whom I got to cook with during my career at the Culloden, another Hastings Hotel, namely Gordon Ramsay and Raymond Blanc.

Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years time?

Succeeding in my current role; which I view as my biggest challenge to date is my goal. It was totally unexpected and an exciting turn in my career path to become Executive Head Chef at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa, my favourite Hastings Hotel!!

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

Chocolate and Ginger Pave. I am not such a chocolate lover however it's a touch of luxury and pleasure that everyone enjoys, I love the marriage of these 2 flavours combined. Earlier in my career I specialised as a pastry chef and I completed pastry courses in Paris, but my favourite were the chocolate based courses at the culinary institute Le Notre and DGF.

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

As I get older and my next big milestone is on my horizon, it would have to be my parents. Having lost both at early age they did not get to see what I have achieved or the values instilled in me growing up or the person I have become. I am my father’s daughter.

I guess here I could be all false and create a show stopper, however I enjoy time with family/friends which in this industry is a time to treasure. So I would cook something of comfort for me and there is nothing better than simple roast chicken dinner with champ of course coming from Ireland, followed by apple tart tatin with obvious chef twists not to be too boring.

Gerry's Kitchen, 5 Questions, Hazel Magill, Slieve Donard Resort & Spa, Culloden Estate & Spa, Paul McKnight, Hastings Hotels, Gordon Ramsey, Raymond Blanc
Our stay at Culloden Estate & Spa was delightful and having spent a little time on the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa website, I'm disappointed that we had to decline the offer to stay. Oh well, it looks like we'll need to find an excuse to get back to Northern Ireland in the coming months.
I would like to thank Hazel for taking time out to answer 5 Questions and wish her every success for the future.
If you fancy having Hazel cook dinner for you, check out the latest deals available at Slieve Donard Resort & Spa.


Saturday, 24 September 2016

Dunkeld Hotel toasts Gill's Return from Distillery

Gill Donaldson has returned to Dunkeld’s award-winning Atholl Arms Hotel as General Manager, bringing with her extensive experience of Scotland’s hospitality and food industries.

Latterly she was Catering and Events Manager of the Glenturret Distillery in Crieff for five years, working for two different contracting companies. Before that she spent more than three years at the Atholl Arms as Chef and then joint Manager.

Gill is a former Food Hall Manager at the House of Bruar at Blair Atholl and Dobbies Garden Centres. She ran her own restaurant in Edinburgh where she also worked at five star hotels the Caledonian and Balmoral.

Neil Sinclair, who owns the hotel with his wife Christine, commented: “We’re delighted to welcome Gill back with her excellent background in management, food and customer service.”

The Atholl Arms Hotel, whose RiverView has has been voted the Best Informal Dining Hotel Restaurant in Scotland’s Central and Fife region, recently opened a new Garden Terrace on the banks of the River Tay.


Festive Favourite on the Menu at Ednburgh's Hidden Gem

Edinburgh's No11 Brunswick Street Restaurant with Rooms prepares for a busy festive season as figures from Open Table reveal that more families then ever are eating out on Christmas Day.

A staggering 45% increase from 2014 to 2015 shows that restaurants have become a popular option for the big day's family meal with families ditching the home cooking for a relaxed dining experience with no washing up!

Privately run, No11 is creating a home from home dining experience with beautifully prepared food from local suppliers, sparkling décor and exquisite service. Starting from £79, Christmas day diners will be greeted by a glass of champagne, followed by an exquisite 5-course meal all served in the magnificent setting of the Georgian Townhouse.

With a focus on value as well as taste, the restaurant, which is gaining a reputation as Edinburgh's hidden gem, is also gearing up for the annual office lunch and friend get together bookings.

Available from 1st to 24th December the Festive Scottish Menu at No11 is bursting with traditional favourites cooked to perfection using the best Scottish produce.

With two courses starting from £17.95, and three £23.95, the menu features dishes such as Hot Smoked Salmon served with Peashoot Salad and Lime & Crème Fraiche Jelly, Breast of Lothian Turkey Wrapped in Pancetta served with Stornoway Black Pudding Croquettes, Traditional Bread & Herb Stuffing Bon Bons, Whole Roast Carrots and Roast Turkey Gravy and Plum & Roast Chestnut Steamed Pudding with Strawberry Coulis.

Speaking about the inspiration behind the Festive Scottish Menu, experienced head chef Willie Lonnie said: "Christmas is a fantastic time for diners, and chefs, to indulge in rich flavoursome dishes, which is why the menu is packed with festive favourites with a twist.

"The menu, and the setting of the beautiful Georgian Townhouse, has been designed to evoke memories of traditional Christmas sights, smells and tastes."

Owner Susan Grant added: "Christmas is a magical time of year and one that offers the chance to indulge in a meal packed with festive cheer and delicious flavours. With so much going on in Edinburgh, No11 offers the perfect spot for relaxed dining away from the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh's festive streets.

"Every year we open our doors on Christmas Day and absolutely love to see happy diners getting in to the festive spirit - and we hope 2016 will bring just as much cheer as the last."


Thursday, 22 September 2016

Quick Restaurant Review - Harry's Shack, Strand Road, Portstewart

Restaurant review, Gerry's Kitchen, Northern Ireland, Portstewart, Harry's Shack, Fish'n'Chips, Crab claws, Giant's Organ IPA, Lacada Brewery
A few weeks ago, myself and Nicola were kindly invited out to Northern Ireland to by the owners of Culloden Estate & Spa in Holywood to celebrate our wedding anniversary where we were treated to a wonderful evening of food and drink in very luxurious surrounding, the full review will be posted up in the coming weeks. Our return flight wasn't until late in the evening on the Sunday so we decided to spend the day by driving the Causeway Coast Route from Belfast to The Giant's Causeway. We hadn't given much thought to lunch or dinner plans for the day but after a Twitterchat with the FoodGoblin, we extended our drive a little further around the coast so that we could have lunch at Harry's Shack in the seaside town of Portstewart.
Restaurant review, Gerry's Kitchen, Northern Ireland, Portstewart, Harry's Shack, Fish'n'Chips, Crab claws, Giant's Organ IPA, Lacada Brewery
We were on a tight schedule and after a quick stop at The Giant's Causeway, we were back in our hire car en route to Portstewart. It was a beautiful sunny Bank Holiday weekend and as a result, the road ahead was very busy so we called ahead to let the team at Harry's Shack know that we were running ten minutes late. Unfortunately, that wasn't exactly true as I had misheard Nicola when I asked what number on Strand Road the restaurant was situated - I heard 116 as number 6 and after parking in Portstewart in a space that I guessed was not far from our destination, it turned out that we had a mile long walk before we would be eating lunch. Normally this wouldn't have been a problem but we were both starving and the sun was fierce. There's a valuable lesson to be learnt here - I really need to pay much more attention to Nicola in future!
By the time we arrived at Harry's Shack, we were over half an hour late for our table and the staff were turning people away from a very full restaurant. Fortunately for us, the staff had kept our booking open and we were shown to our table at the window which had stunning views over the golden beach and beyond to the Atlantic Ocean.
Restaurant review, Gerry's Kitchen, Northern Ireland, Portstewart, Harry's Shack, Fish'n'Chips, Crab claws, Giant's Organ IPA, Lacada Brewery
Our walk had left us feeling very thirsty and we quickly ordered drinks, Nicola enjoying a couple of glasses of a crisp Sauvignon Blanc while I got my lips around the Giant's Organ - a wonderful IPA from the community co-operative, Lacada Brewery, based in the neighbouring town of Portrush.
Restaurant review, Gerry's Kitchen, Northern Ireland, Portstewart, Harry's Shack, Fish'n'Chips, Crab claws, Giant's Organ IPA, Lacada Brewery
We decided to share a starter, opting for the Crab Claws in Garlic Butter. There's not much that I can say about the starter except wow! The crab claws were delicious. Soft sweet crab meat, cooked to perfection with a pool of garlicky butter for dipping. The only thing missing was a few slices of bread to mop up the remaining butter.
Restaurant review, Gerry's Kitchen, Northern Ireland, Portstewart, Harry's Shack, Fish'n'Chips, Crab claws, Giant's Organ IPA, Lacada Brewery
The main menu had plenty to choose from but as we were at the seaside, we both ordered the fish and chips with mushy peas. We've eaten a lot of really good fish'n'chips but the portion served up by Harry's Shack could possibly be the best that we've had. The huge piece of battered fish was so big that it barely fitted on the plate. There a knack to making a good batter and the chef at Harry's Shack has it down to a tee. The flaky haddock fillet was well seasoned and encased in the most amazing crispy batter that was still crunchy as we got to the last piece. If the fish was good, the chips were even better! Admittedly, they were served in a little stainless steel bucket - as is often the way these days, but I could see by that when the thick potato chips were cooks so well, crisp on the outside and soft & fluffy on the inside. We found out later that the owners of Harry's Shack have been running traditional chip shops across Northern Ireland for almost 30 years - no wonder the chips tasted so good. The fish was accompanied by mushy peas and a sharp homemade tartare sauce - I'm not a fan of mushy peas so I gave mine to Nicola who thoroughly enjoyed them.
We were both stuffed and it was time to get back to the car before making our way to the airport. After the lengthy walk down, I had promised Nicola that we would get a taxi back to the car however after a few attempts at booking the taxi, the staff advised that they were having trouble getting one to come and collect us. Fortunately and before I had to break the news to Nicola that we might have to walk back, one of the staff said that they were going up into town and that they would drop us off. Talk about great customer service?
Our trip to Northern Ireland included some great meals including an Ulster Fry, a Michelin Lunch, and a fantastic tasting menu at Culloden Estate Hotel & Spa but our coastal drive to Portstewart for fish'n'chips may well have been the highlight of our culinary break.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

5 Questions - Esker Gin

Gerry's Kitchen, 5 Questions, Esker Spirits, Esker Gin, Jackie Stewart
Scotland seems to be a huge melting pot (or should that be copper still) of artisan gin producers who are doing their bit to fill the shelves with their own twist on the classic juniper based spirit. I try to keep an eye on new gins coming to market but with so many being launched over the last few years, it's difficult to keep up. Thankfully, I have a few people also watching what's going on and keeping me up to date with gin news that they hear on their travels. Recently, my brother-in-law sent me a message letting me know that his cousin Steven Duthie and his wife Lynne had just launched Esker Gin from their base in Royal Deeside.
Esker gin is created in a traditional copper still with over a dozen responsibly sourced botanicals including heather, milk thistle, peppercorn, citrus and silver birch sap tapped from the trees of Kincardine Estate. Always keen to promote independent producers, I contacted Steven to give him the opportunity to answer 5 Questions.
Gerry's Kitchen, 5 Questions, Esker Spirits, Esker Gin, Jackie Stewart
Here's Steven's story;
How did you get started?
We have always loved gin and tried new gins whenever we can, particularly when a local gin is available wherever we are. We bought a 1 litre copper still and worked on the recipe over a period of nearly 2 years. We chose a mix of locally available botanicals and botanicals that produced the flavours and aromas we liked in a gin and started from there. We enjoyed the journey immensely, as we’ve learned so much over the last couple of years.
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
To have a product you have complete confidence in and are proud of. Your faith and enthusiasm will be obvious.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
A family run business with a range of products on offer and international reach.
If you could only serve your gin one way, what would it be & why?
Over ice with a tonic of your choice and a twist of orange zest. A good tonic compliments the flavours in the gin and the orange brings out the citrus.
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
Sir Jackie Stewart. We are big Formula 1 fans and the stories he could tell from the early years of Grand Prix racing would be just incredible. On the menu would be, chilli prawns (tapas style) to start, followed by fillet steak with hand cut chips for main, and sticky toffee pudding with a good vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Gerry's Kitchen, 5 Questions, Esker Spirits, Esker Gin, Jackie Stewart
The gin market is a crowded playing field but Steven and Lynne believe that they have created a drink that is unique enough to stand out from the crowd. We were kindly sent a small bottle of Esker Gin to try out and I can honestly say that it's one of the better gins that I've tasted in to recent times, the birch sap gives the gin a taste all of its own. Keep an eye out for my Esker Gin review, coming very soon.
I would like to thank Steven for taking time out to answer 5 Questions and wish him and Lynne every success for the future with their gin adventure.
Keep up to date with news from Esker Gin on Facebook and Twitter.