Sunday, 28 April 2013

Recipe - Baked Rhubarb & Ginger Cheesecake

Baked Rhubarb & Ginger Cheesecake

A couple of months ago I attended a cookery class at The Cook School Scotland in Kilmarnock. Whilst there I purchased one of their calendars from the gift shop, to hang in my kitchen. Each month the calender presents a recipe feature in season produce, as well as various offers and discounts to use at The Cook School.
This week, my gorgeous wife was getting something from the fridge when she had been distracted by a picture of a delicious looking cheesecake recipe from this months calendar page. Nicola is a huge cheesecake fan so asked if I would make an attempt at replicating the picture, and with rhubarb in season just now, I set about making my very first ever baked cheesecake.
  • 75g butter, melted - plus extra for greasing
  • 175g gingernut biscuits
  • 175g poached rhubarb - plus extra for decorating
  • 450g cream cheese
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  1. Preheat the oven to 180c, and butter the sides and base of a 24cm cake tin.
  2. Place the biscuits into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles rough breadcrumbs. Alternatively, place them into a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin. Mix the crushed biscuits with the melted butter and press down into the base of the cake tin.
  3. Spread the poached rhubarb over the base before chilling in the fridge until needed.
  4. Beat the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract, and the eggs together in a large bowl until smooth and creamy. Pour over the top of the rhubarb before placing in the preheated oven.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, or until pale golden in colour and only wobbles slightly when you shake the tin.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for about 10-15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen it, and carefully remove the cheesecake from the tin. Transfer to a serving plate then dust with icing sugar.
To serve, cut into generous slices and top with a few chunks of warm poached rhubarb.

Poached Rhubarb Baked Cheesecake

The cheesecake weighed more than 1.5kg so I was surprised that the cheesecake tasted lighter than I had expected. With a rich creamy, almost custard flavoured topping contrasting with the slightly sharp rhubarb layered gingernut base, each forkful was packed with classic flavour combinations. Think rhubarb and custard, or rhubarb and ginger, either way - truly delicious.
Although this cheesecake takes a little longer to prepare than my usual cheesecake offerings, I will definitely be preparing baked cheesecakes in the coming weeks and months, now I just need to think about what flavour to bring to the table when the rhubarb season is over.


Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Review - Bar Soba, Mitchell Lane, Glasgow

Myself and Nicola travelled into Glasgow on Saturday to check out a new craft fair venue that was opening in the city centre. As we had no other plans for the afternoon, we decided to have a few drinks before getting a bite to eat. The craft venue was just around the corner from Browns Bar & Brasserie at George Square so we popped in for our first refreshment of the day and through the wonders of social media, we were able to catch up with a couple of friends who were also in the city centre.
Nicola wanted to have a quick look around the shops, especially the new Paperchase flagship store in the recently developed Buchanan Quarter in the city centre. I've never been sure why girls have such a big attraction to paper and pens, but it was weird to see a grown woman acting like a kid in a sweetie stationary shop.
We had once again use restaurant deal site,, to book our dinner for later in the day - this time we booked the pre-theatre option at Bar Soba, a restaurant that we used to visit regularly. After a little shopping we still had an hour to kill before our dinner booking so took the opportunity to check out a brand new bar and club located in the heart of Glasgow’s City Centre, Swing - which serves up a blend of live jazz, dancers, performance acts and contemporary DJ music. We enjoyed a couple of well priced drinks, soaking up the atmosphere and elegance of the roaring 20’s, whilst listening to Swing's in-house chanteuse Hannah Jackson lay down a few songs with her own unique twist.
We could have happily spent the rest of the evening in Swing but as time marched on we made our way to Mitchell Lane for dinner.
When we walked into Bar Soba, the bar area was already buzzing and it was only six o'clock! We made our way downstairs to the restaurant to find a large group of girls on a Hen Night occupying a large section of the area, fortunately for us, they were still in the early stages of their night so weren't too loud or outrageous yet. We let staff know that we had a booking through and for the second time in a row, the booking hadn't been fed through to the restaurant yet. Thankfully, this wasn't a problem for our waitress and were were quickly seated in the corner of the restaurant. (Far enough away from the Hens)
Bar Soba has an imaginative Asian fusion menu which is served up in a cosy, minimalist setting. The 5pm deal is priced at £13.95 for two courses and a glass of wine from a good sized Pre-Theatre menu.
We always struggle to choose starters and tonight was no different. In the end we chose two dishes that we could share between us, Chicken Sate Ayam and Coconut & Szechwan Pepper Crusted Prawns Skewers. Both dishes were well presented, served on a banana leaf with an Indonesian cucumber salad. The Javan spiced chicken skewers were nicely blackened from the grill and smothered in a wonderful spicy satay sauce. Nicola used the words 'Oh My God' to describe the flavours, and was also disappointed that she had to share the rest with me.
The Coconut & Szechwan Pepper Prawn skewer contained four large tiger prawns encrusted in a spicy, crispy coating served with a garlic & chili aioli. Athough the prawns were very nice, there was definitely room for another skewer on the plate.

With two delicious starters demolished we were looking forward to our mains. Nicola had order Singapore Noodles whilst I was interested in trying one of the vegetarian dishes from the menu. The dish that caught my eye was Malaysian Potato, Paneer & Aubergine Masala Curry in a rich cinnamon & last tomato gravy. This sounded delicious so I was gutted to be told that this wasn't available and had been replaced with a Red Thai Vegetable Curry. With vegetables on my mind, the red Thai curry sounded good to me.
Nicola's Singapore Noodles was a huge bowl filled with sticky pork, chicken and cured beef with spicy curried noodles, black bean and shredded vegetables. The combination of flavours worked well and the addition of black bean gave the dish an earthiness that Nicola really enjoyed.
As Nicola struggled with her chopsticks, I dived into my red Thai vegetable curry. The sauce was full of flavours that I love, with lemongrass & kaffir lime leaves helping balance the thick coconut milk sauce. I'm not sure what combination of vegetables I was expecting to be bobbing around in my sauce, however I was dismayed to find nothing more than two thin slices of mushroom, a few small chunks of aubergine, a solitary cherry tomato, and lots of potato. As I looked jealously across at Nicola, who had ditched the chopsticks by this point, I regretted not rethinking my main course strategy. Don't get me wrong, my dish tasted great but had I known that it was 90% potato then I would not have ordered it.
After two courses I was stuffed but Nicola seemed to have hollow legs tonight and decided that she was having a dessert to finish off her meal. After much deliberation, she decided to order the Banoffee Cheesecake yet I was actually so full that I declined the waitresses offer of '2 spoons'.
When the cheesecake arrived, I was allowed to sample it and immediately regretted not ordering my own! My sister-in-law makes a brilliant Banoffee Cheesecake but Bar Soba's offering definitely runs a close second. Buttery ginger biscuit base topped with a light cream cheese filling, layered with slices of fresh banana before being smothered in sweet sticky toffee sauce. Simple yet delicious!
By the time we finished our meal, the restaurant was filling up nicely and the 'Hens' were beginning to come out of their shells, so instead of making a start on the extensive cocktail list we settled the bill an made our way home.
Overall, we had a great meal. The highlight was, without doubt, the Chicken Sate Ayam starter - one of the best combinations of flavour that we've had in a long time. My only disappointment was missing out on the Malaysian Potato, Paneer & Aubergine Masala Curry, but that just means that we need to get back in the near future.
Bar Soba had always been a place that Nicola and myself have enjoyed visiting and based on our experience from Saturday night, Bar Soba still sits nicely in our favourites list.
Keep up to date with Bar Soba on FaceBook & Twitter.


Sunday, 7 April 2013

5 Questions - Mr C's Hand-Crafted Award-Winning Pies

Over the last year or so that I have been writing Gerry's Kitchen, I have been lucky enough to meet some fantastic local producers and sample the excellent food that they grow, breed or create. Most of the producers have quickly incorporated social media into their marketing and promotion, which in turn has helped me learn about other companies who are operating locally but just haven't crossed paths with me yet. One of the names that I kept seeing being mentioned on Twitter was Acanthus Pies, now rebranded to Mr C's, a Fife based pie maker who make their own twist on the Melton Mowbray style pork pie. As well as making their own branded pies, they also produce pies for a number of meat producers across the country including my own local favourite - Lochbyre Rare Breed Meats.
By all accounts, pieman Robert Corrigan is the 'Mr Kipling' of his genre, so this was a collaboration that I was keen to sample so after a few tweets to both Lochbyre and Mr C's, my pie was on order and ready for collection at the next farmers market.
Here's Robert's story;
How did you get started?

In 2006 I was privileged to be one of 30 “chefs” representing the UK at Terra Madre in Turin with Slow Food. While there, I listened to farmers complaining about chefs, hotels and restaurants using mainly prime cuts of meat and not using lesser cuts of great meat – In other words NOT using the whole animal.
On my return I was looking for a new project in catering and decided to look at high quality hand-made pies , similar to those made under the Melton Mowbray name. I sought out who I considered to be the best makers and arranged to spend time with some of them to learn their techniques. I then returned to Glasgow and experimented with different flour combinations and water quantities – and market tested them on few hundred people , who gave me helpful feedback on the various pastries and fillings.
Once I chose the pastry recipe I wanted to be my casing for my pies I talked to producers at my local farmers’ market. I also contacted Andrew Ramsay of Ramsay’s of Carluke whom I had known for some 10 years and ordered small quantities of pork as well as trotters to make fresh quality jelly
In a very small very labour intensive way using only a wooden dolly and a domestic oven I set to work to get product recognition. This was now 2010.
In 2011 I entered the British Pie Awards and to my great surprise won GOLD for a savoury Cold Cutting Pie. (The only GOLD awarded in the class) our PORK PANCETTA and LEEK.
In 2012 I was in Egypt during the British Pie award and got a customer to bake my entries. Sitting in Cairo I saw on the internet my pies caught on camera and at least ¼ of each pie looked burnt!!!! To my astonishment I received a Bronze award for my Celebration Pork Pie and a Bronze for my Chicken and Ham pie.
My pies also made an appearance on the BBC’s Garrow’s Law drama. In the last series they actually got a good showing (albeit, the pie was to have been deliberately burnt and very hard to cut!!!)

At the moment we make 6 different fillings as a norm in 500g size:
• Traditional Pork
• Savoury Pork (Pork, Sage and onion, Pistachio Nuts and cranberries)
• Pork Pancetta and Leek – GOLD award 2011
• Chicken and Ham – Bronze 2012
• Venison
• Piggy Black – Ramsay’s of Carluke Black Pudding and our Pork Pancetta and Leek mix)
We also make for Peelham Farm a Traditional Pork Pie. Using their organic pork, in addition we make a Ruby Veal and Ham Pie with whole grain Mustard and a wonderful Mutton Ham with Capers pie.
In addition to the above, over the past four Christmases, we have made for Crombies of Broughton Street, Edinburgh, a selection of Large decorated 3lb Pies:
• Traditional Pork,
• Chicken and Ham
• Ploughman’s – Pork top and bottom with Farmhouse pickle and white cheddar cheese in the middle
• Crombies’ own award winning (2011 Scotch Pie Awards DIAMOND -  Crombie's sausage meat and our own pastry & jelly)
• Our own award winning Game Pie – This was new for 2012 Christmas
We also make pies using fancy French-style pie moulds: 1.75 Kilo and 1.85 Kilo Pies in all the six fillings for individual clients for shoots and family gatherings.
• Donald Russell of Inverurie
• Crombie’s of Edinburgh
• Hopetoun Farm Shop
• Cornerstone Deli in Blairgowrie
• The Wee Pie Company in Glencarse
• Peelham Farm (selling to their customers and at farmers Markets)

In October last year we took 244 pies to Turin to Terra Madre where it all began six years before. I had a great three days selling pies mostly in 1/3ds, and over 850 people tasted our pies. It was wonderful to get such good direct feedback from so many international customers
We also made a special pie in September 2012 for the launch of Scotland’s Food and Drink Fortnight in Edinburgh – This was a Scottish Breakfast pie – Pork and smoked streaky bacon, with mushrooms and organic egg at its centre and we added tomato juice to our jelly to make a Breakfast in a Pie.
So far, my fillings have come from tradition and a derivation of my Christmas stuffing recipe of some 20 years ago.
Things haven't stopped for us and just after Christmas after Christmas, we went on to win Diamond 2013 at the Scottish Pie Club Awards, as well as lifting the Maclean Cup for 'Best Scottish Savoury' pie.
I’m considering more ideas for new pies in 2013 including a new chicken curry pie, as well as looking to work with a few producers to make pies using recipes customised just for them. We are also preparing to make one from a sausage mix used by Crombies.

What's the best piece of business advise you can give?

Always under promise whilst making sure to over deliver!

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

To be an established business recognised for high quality with high standards, aiming to push annual turnover over the £500,000 mark.

If you could have only one of your products, What would it be and why?

Our Savoury Pork Pie - (Pork, Apple, Pistachio Nuts, Dried Cranberries, Sage and onion) it was our first biggest seller when I started. It is also a derivation of my Christmas stuffing for more than 27 years ago.


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

My late Mother as she was a true inspiration and never tasted such wonderful pies. The menu would consist of simple classics accompanied with Vintage Bollinger throughout, starting with Inverawe Smoked Salmon & Brown Bread before moving onto a fish course of Grilled Halibut on a bed of spinach. We would follow this with a main course of Roast Aylesbury duck with Orange sauce, Creamed potatoes & seasonal vegetables. Providing that we still had room, a dessert of warm Apple Meringue Pie with fresh custard would be waiting on us. To finish off my last meal, we would relax with a pot of Assam tea and homemade shortbread. Absolute bliss!

I've always enjoyed the concept of the pork pie but often find that the pastry on the shop bought pies can be very dry and tasteless, this was not the case with the speciality pie that we had sampled. The pastry on Mr C's pie was light and crisp yet slightly moist too. The filling of well seasoned Lochbyre pork with pistachios and cranberries was deliciously well seasoned and encased in lovely porky jelly. Initially I thought that pork pie could be served with the traditional Ploughman's Lunch although apparently the Ploughman's should consist of just cheese, bread and beer. Although upon further investigation, it would appear that the Ploughman's Lunch is actually the result of a cheese marketing campaign from the 1960's. Regardless, our Mr C's speciality pie produced for Lochbyre Rare Breed Meats worked well with boiled quails eggs and my very own Blogger's Lunch.
Myself and Nicola both enjoyed Mr C's pork pie and look forward to trying more of the other flavours, with the Piggy Black top of my list.
You can keep up with Mr C's on Twitter. The website is currently a work in progress and I will update as soon as it is available.


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Recipe - Crème Egg Chocolate Brownies

Last week one of my cousins had posted a picture on Facebook of his first attempt at making Crème Egg chocolate brownies. The picture looked so good that I decided that I that i was going to make my own brownies over the Easter weekend.
There are no shortage of internet recipes for Crème Egg chocolate brownies although most of them use the full size fondant filled chocolate eggs. I decided to use mini eggs in my own recipe as I didn't want the sweet fondant filling to overpower the sumptuously rich dark chocolate flavours of the brownies. I think that my adaptation works very well! Give them a go and let me know how you get on.
  • 185g dark chocolate
  • 185g unsalted butter
  • 85g plain flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 275g caster sugar
  • 8 mini Cadbury Crème Eggs, halved

  1. First preheat the oven to 180C . Then,melt the butter and chocolate together, either in the microwave in 30 second bursts or by sitting the bowl on a saucepan of hot water. Once melted set to the side.
  2. In a separate bowl, crack in the eggs and add the sugar and then whisk until the eggy sugar becomes almost mousse like, it will take a good few minutes but it will be pale and will have doubled in volume and size. Next, add to this the cooled melted butter/chocolate and combine it all together.
  3. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and gently fold it in, before pouring the mixture into a regular baking tray. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Once baked remove from the overn and cut the creme eggs in half, gently placing the halves onto the brownies – evenly spaced, then pop back into the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes to melt the creme eggs. Finally, let the brownies completely cool in the tin before cutting into slices.
Cadbury have promised that Crème Eggs will only be around for a couple of short months so don't waste too much time drooling over the picture of my delicious brownies for too long!!


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

5 Questions & Review - Cova Mediterranean Creperie & Deli, Centre West, East Kilbride

As the Easter weekend came to an end, myself and Nicola had big plans to get up early and head down the M74 towards Dumfries with the hope of maybe visiting Castle Douglas and Newton Stewart. However after a longer lie in than we had originally anticipated, we decided to stay closer to home and made the shorter journey to East Kilbride.
We arrived just in time for lunch so decided to check out the food court at Centre West Shopping Centre and see what was going on. As well as the usual fast food suspects, the food court has a few independent restaurants. After a quick look about, we decided to grab a table at Cova Mediterranean Creperie & Deli.
As we sat waiting on our food, I noticed that Cova were on Twitter so I logged into my account and started following them. These days, businesses need to get involved with social media so I was impressed to see that Cova very quickly followed Gerry's Kitchen back. I had initially planned on just doing a review on our lunch but after checking the Cova website and reading about James and Sonia's history, I thought that they had a story that would fit in with my '5 Questions'. James agreed, so after a few tweets back and forward, here's their story;
How did you get started?
My ultimate ambition was to be a footballer but was never quite good enough but having my own business was something that I would always dream about and knew one day I would try to achieve. My wife Sonia, who is from Barcelona and I both worked for BAA (British Airports Authority) and we were always out exploring different restaurants and different food cultures when we both fell in love with crepes. After months and months of researching, negotiating and soul searching we used our life savings to buy a crepe stand from a company in Annecy, France. We negotiated a spot for the summer of 2006 at Glasgow Airport and traded as Crepes on the Go. We were then offered a space at East Kilbride shopping Centre and again we had to take a massive financial gamble but we prepared well and opened in October 2008 as Crepe Ole. It was a small unit offering sweet & savoury crepes as well as Spanish tapas. Quickly we became very busy and had built up a fantastic and loyal clientele. This in turn gave me inspiration and confidence to approach East Kilbride and ask for a more prominent and bigger location. In October 2010 we moved to our new premises and although there had previously been restaurants there that had closed, we felt we had prepared long and hard enough that we had a chance of succeeding. We eventually opened the restaurant 2 months later in December and currently trade as Cova (a name inspired from our daughters names Carla & Olivia)
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
We had a real desire to achieve our dream and what has worked for us so far is that for anything we have set out to do we have researched thoroughly. This gave us the confidence to go all guns blazing on each of our adventures. Along the way on the journey we have worked extremely hard whilst sacrificing so much and a real willingness to learn everyday.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
We are currently exploring different avenues at the moment and as well as this we would like to open at least one more Cova in Scotland before trying our hand at opening a restaurant in Sonia’s home city, Barcelona.
If you could only have one of your own products, what would it be & why?
Can we please have two?? The first one would be our crepes. Crepes are what started our journey, and it is something that we are extremely passionate about. The second thing isn't strictly a product but our team of staff have been fantastically loyal, reliable and hard working. Therefore, we will need to take them to Barcelona with us!!!
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
Easy. Michel Roux Jr to join Sonia the girls and myself. His approach, his passion and attention to detail with food fascinates the life out me. That, and he clearly loves what he does would be enough to inspire the full family. On the menu would be traditional Scottish, Spanish & French. Think haggis & pan fried chorizo crepes!!

On our visit, we were quickly seated at a table overlooking the lower lever of the shopping centre. Due to the wide range of the menu, choosing our lunch was more difficult that it should have been. There is a huge choice of both sweet and savoury crepes, (as you would expect from a creperie), as well as plenty of starter dishes, paninis and sandwiches, plus some fail safe traditional mains like fish'n'chips, burgers and lasagnes. The special 'two courses for £7.95' caught my eye as it seemed to offer very good value for money, so much so that we ordered a chicken liver pâté followed by a BLT sandwich which came with French fries, plus a separate starter plate of deep fried mozzarella cubes. I asked the waitress to bring everything out together so that we could share our own little tapas selection.
Our food arrived pretty quickly and as you can see, there is plenty there to feed two hungry mouths. The deep fried mozzarella came with a sweet Thai chilli dipping sauce that worked well with the crispy, cheese filled cubes. The chicken liver pâté, served with toasted focaccia, was slightly coarse and very strong tasting - which suited me perfectly - my only gripe is that the same Thai chilli sauce was served with the pâté. Don't get me wrong, the sweetness worked well with the strong flavour of the pâté, I would have just preferred a red onion marmalade or redcurrant jelly as a partner for the delicious pate.
We nibbled away at the starter plates before moving on to the BLT, slices of bacon with mixed leaves, tomatoes and a few other roasted Mediterranean vegetables on thick slices of toasted bloomer. Nicola could tell that something was bothering me as I looked at the sandwich,'where's the chicken I asked?' Before being reminded that we were eating a BLT, not a Club Sandwich - Silly Gerry! At this time, I apologised to no one in particular and continued eating my delicious sandwich.
All three plates came with a dressed salad on the side, ensuring that there was plenty to keep us going on what was to become a long afternoon shopping!
Our bill came £13.40, including a can of San Pellegrino Aranciata orange drink - excellent quality & value for money for a restaurant in a food court. All through our visit, the uniformed staff were attentive, polite, and always about if you needed them.
I wish James, Sonia and their staff every success with Cova in East Kilbride and their plans for the future. As previously mentioned in their answers, a couple of other restaurants have filled the flagship space that Cova now occupy and have unfortunately closed down. It's always going to be hard in the restaurant trade but with two people with huge passion for quality and attention to detail running the show, there's no reason that James and Sonia won't be funding my expenses paid trip to Barcelona in order to witness their Spanish launch.
Keep up to date with Cova Mediterranean Creperie & Deli on Twitter.

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