Monday, 31 December 2012

Review - The Dogs, Hanover St, Edinburgh

The Dogs, Edinburgh

For the last few years, myself and Nicola have always taken a little city break in Edinburgh between Christmas & New Year, and this year was no different. So whilst the Capital was getting ready for its Hogmanay celebrations, we were making the trip along the M8 in readiness for two days of shopping, eating and drinking.
Visitors to Edinburgh are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out. Outside of London, Edinburgh has the highest number of Michelin starred restaurants in the UK, while the usual suspect chain restaurants are well also well represented. However the thing that makes Edinburgh a great place to eat out is the huge number of independent bars, restaurants, delis and bistros that are all within walking distance of the main shopping areas.
The December issue of Olive Magazine had highlighted The Dogs on Hanover street as somewhere worth checking out, and as it was just round the corner from our hotel, we decided to head there for lunch.
After checking into our hotel, we took the short walk to The Dogs and began climbing the almost endless flight of stairs, passing photographs and statues of various dogs along the way, to be welcomed by a cheery member of staff asking if we had a reservation. I hadn't thought to book, and considering the fact that we had arrived about half pat twelve on one of the busiest days of the year, maybe I was being optimistic that we would get in, however we were quickly shown to a table and advised that there would be a short delay in our food order being taken. Over the next couple of minutes the restaurant quickly filled and I'm sure that had we arrived much later, we probably wouldn't have been so lucky.
The interior of The Dogs is simply furnished and decorated, while the menu is a simple A5 printed list of the traditional food available on the day. Whilst the surroundings give the impression of a 'no-frills' dining experience, when the food arrived at the table, our perceptions were immediately changed.

Devilled liver & bacon

My own lunch of Devilled Ox Liver, was one of the tastiest meals that I have ever eaten. Huge chunks of medium cooked liver, smoked bacon, sauteed onions & mushrooms, on a thick slice of toast, in a rich gravy that packed a spicy kick. My taste buds were dancing with every forkful!

Haggis, black pudding & bacon hash with fried duck egg

Nicola had ordered the Haggis, black pudding & bacon hash, which came with a fried duck egg on top. Again, this plate of food was an explosion of flavour. The black pudding was spicy, the haggis and crisp bacon added great texture and the rich duck egg pulled everything together.
We loved the fact that neither dishes need any seasoning, which is saying something these days. However the thing that we loved most the portion sizes served on the day menu. At lunchtime, I don't want a full plated meal, and on a cold winter day I don't want a sandwich, so in my opinion The Dogs have got it just right on how much to serve up at lunchtime.
Our lunch cost less than £20, including a glass of wine each, and tap water was served without asking. The service was efficient, especially as the restaurant was almost full. Rest assured that the next time we are in Edinburgh I will be sure to book a table as I would be disappointed not to go to The Dogs again.
Keep up to date with The Dogs on Facebook and Twitter.


Thursday, 27 December 2012

5 Questions - Rice n Spicy

I've written before about the fantastic range of fresh and local produce that I can buy at the Clarkston Farmers Market. The last market of the year was on the Saturday before Christmas and as I had a few orders to collect, I made my way to market on a very cold and wet morning. Despite the poor weather, all of the stallholders were in high spirits, everyone looking forward to putting their feet up to enjoy Christmas with family and friends. After collecting my chipolatas and streaky bacon (for the perfect pigs in blankets) from Lochbyre, some pâté and terrine from Creeside Charcuterie, a collection of sorbets from Thorntonhall Farmhouse Ice Cream, a delicious Christmassy biscotti from Vanilla Buffets, and plenty of tasty treats from The Wee Fudge Company, I noticed that there was another newcomer to the market.

Rice n Spicy is run by Rashed Ghani, who was busy cooking up samples of spicy rice and flavoursome keema curry, filling the air with a spicy aroma. Rice n Spicy want to share the authentic taste of the Punjab, which has been passed down through the generations from traditional family recipes. Rashed's aim is to share his own love & passion for cooking with the people of Lanarkshire and beyond.

Here's Rashed's story;

How did you get started?

I have always had a passion for cooking and this year has presented the opportunity, due to redundancy, to share this with a wider audience. This started as an idea in June with a tasting session with a friend who I had not seen in over 10 years and has gone from a concept to a fully running business in just over 4 months, this has involved a tremendous amount of work from food legislation to converting my garage into a fully commercial kitchen.

What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?

Research your market and listen to customer feedback, don't be afraid to follow your dream if you truly believe in it and finally invest both time and finance to do things correctly, never cut corners. If a job is worth doing, do it right.

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

In 5 years time I would like to see 'Rice n Spicy' become well known throughout Central Scotland and beyond as a brand associated with quality Punjab cuisine, known for its reputation of using quality ingredients and providing good honest food. We are working hard to increase our customer base and have already started supplying small retailers and offer mail order throughout the UK.

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

Now that's a hard question to answer, personally I feel that the tastiest curries are vegetable based ones. For this reason it would have to be baby aubergine and fresh new potato curry, my absolute favourite, lightly garnished with fried homegrown spring onions and garlic chives.

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

That's too easy! The one person that I would invite would be the inspiration behind Rice n Spicy, my Dad the late great Abdul Ghani. All my recipes are based on his traditional style of Punjab cooking. On the menu would be his slow cooked Lamb curry served with his traditional roti and homemade fresh mint chutney, I've mastered the chutney but still working on achieving the taste that will take me back to my childhood for the lamb, it's a work in progress.

Indian takeaway wasn't in my thought process when I left the house in the morning but after sampling the keema curry, I was keen to try the other dishes, so Saturday nights dinner was easily taken care of. I love vegetable dishes so chose the chick pea curry, and saag murghi (chicken & spinach curry), along with pilau rice.
All of the dishes came in 650ml packages declined to serve two adults easily, although I'm sure that with some starters and naan bread, there would be enough in the two dishes to serve four.
Our dinner was delicious. Both meals were full of flavour, the chick pea curry cooked with fresh tomatoes, chillies and potatoes, packed a spicy punch. While the chicken and spinach was heavily flavoured with cumin, coriander and garam masala.
Chick Pea Curry & Saag Murghi
Lanarkshire Farmers Market have done a fantastic job in putting together a great lineup of local producers, and I'm sure that Rice n Spicy will be a brilliant addition to the regular markets. I normally look forward to the last Saturday of the month as I know that it's Clarkston Farmers Market day, or as it will now be known.....Curry Night!

Keep up to date with Rice n Spicy on Facebook and Twitter.


Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Recipe - Tamil Nadu Fried Rice, inspired by Cafe La Ola, Puerto del Carmen

Cafe La Ola, Puerto del Carmen

When myself and Nicola were in Lanzarote earlier in the year we made sure that we sampled as much of the local food as possible, as well as trying out some of the more popular restaurants in the resort.

Halfway along the recently refurbished 'Strip', sits one of the most popular venues in Puerto del Carmen. Restaurant La Ola, which is always busy with diners keen to try the extensive meat & fish menu whilst enjoying the stunning panoramic sea views. Downstairs, Cafe La Ola has a much more laid back approach to things with a restaurant, bar and club that attracts the hip and trendy people with a combination of Asian fusion food, fantastic cocktails, and loads of Spanish influenced entertainment.

The menu downstairs had caught our eye earlier in the week, coupled with a free Flamenco show and one of the best collections of rum this side of the Dominican Republic, we booked a table for the Friday night. The interior of Cafe La Ola has a Moroccan feel to it, scattered with red, orange and gold cushions. Look around after dinner and you'll see guests puffing on hookah pipes, the fruity orange scented smoke wafting in the breeze.

Whilst the decor may be Moroccan in style, the menu is exclusively Asian in origin. We chose to share a starter of Mixed Tempura, slices of pepper, courgette, asparagus, chicken and king prawn, deep fried in crisp batter. To follow, Nicola ordered a Korean beef dish that consisted of strips of tender fillet beef, red peppers, in a rich peppery sauce. I had ordered the Tamil Nadu fried rice which is the inspiration behind this post. The dish that was served to me was one of the tastiest rice dishes that I've eaten, a flavoursome combination of fillet beef, bacon, leek, red pepper, asparagus which was stir fried with green curry paste.

Tamil Nadu fried rice

When we arrived home from our holiday I set about trying to recreate the dish from memory. I've since made the Tamil Nadu fried rice a couple of times and each time it takes me back to our night at Cafe La Ola.
Ingredients (serves 2)
  • 100g cooked rice
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 red chilli, sliced
  • 2 small leeks, sliced
  • 1 tbsp green curry paste
  • 4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
  • 1 chicken breast, shredded
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 eggs

  1. Put the chicken in a bowl with the soy sauce and rice vinegar. Set aside until needed.
  2. Heat groundnut oil in a wok until it smokes. Add the bacon and stir fry until the bacon begins to crisp up. Remove the bacon and set aside.
  3. Add the chicken to the wok and stir fry until cooked through. Once the chicken is cooked, remove from the wok and set aside.
  4. Keep the heat in the wok before adding the peppers, leek, chilli. Stir fry for a few minutes our until the vegetables have begun to soften. At this point, add the the curry paste and continue to stir fry the contents of the wok.
  5. At this point, you can now add the bacon, chicken and rice into the wok. Continue to stir fry until the rice is heated through. If you think the rice is a little dry, you can add a little soy sauce or oyster sauce.
  6. To finish, fry the two eggs in a separate pan until they are cooked to your own preference.
Tamil Nadu fried rice
To serve, spoon the fried rice into two bowls before topping with the fried egg. The Indonesian dish, Nasi Goreng is traditionally served with a fried egg on top, however it is common place in Asian cooking for the meal to be topped with a 'star egg', or 'top egg'.

This fried dish is bursting with flavour, the smokiness from the bacon, mixed with the spices from the green curry paste, work brilliantly together. I used leeks and peppers because those were vegetables used back at Cafe La Ola, but you could use whatever flavours you prefer but the star ingredient in this dish is the green curry paste.
If you're ever in Lanzarote then try to find time to try the food at Cafe La Ola, the atmosphere, setting and entertainment make Cafe La Ola a great place to spend time. Keep up to date with the team on Facebook.


Thursday, 13 December 2012

Recipe - Home Made Beef Burgers

I made a decision over the weekend that homemade burgers would be on the menu one night this week. With that in mind, I asked a question on both Facebook & Twitter, looking for some inspiration and maybe a cheeky wee secret ingredients or two that I might be able to add to my own burger recipe. Within a short time, I had lots of different suggestions for ways to jazz up my burger, but settled on adding some oyster sauce as suggested by JD, a food blogger from Edinburgh, and some beef stock as suggested by Zoe and Benn from La Cantina.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 250g minced beef
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1/2 Oxo cube
  • 1/2 tsp Unami paste
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1 slice mature cheddar, thickly cut

  1. Put all of the ingredient in a bowl and mix until well combined. Season with a little black pepper. You shouldn't need salt as the oyster sauce will do a job here.
  2. Divide the mixture into four and shape into individual patties. Place a half slice of the cheddar onto two of the patties before covering with the other two. Pinch the beef together to seal the cheese in the middle.
  3. Heat a little oil in an ovenproof frying pan and once the oil is hot, carefully place the patties into the pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes on one side before turning then place the pan in a preheated oven 190C for a further 5-6 minutes.
8oz homemade burgers
Serve the burger with your own preferred condiments. Tonight I kept it simple, with just mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and cheese, served in a toasted ciabatta roll.

Homemade burgers
The burgers were deliciously juicy and packed full of flavour, and the melting cheese in the middle was a lovely little twist. Including any preparation time, these burger were ready to serve in just over twenty minutes. So the next time you're thinking about using the fast food burger chains as an easy answer for dinner, why not make your own burger instead? You'll be glad that you did!


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Recipe - Baileys Chocolate Truffles

Baileys truffles

As Christmas rapidly approaches, it's only a matter of time before we are all knee deep in boxes of shop bought sweets and chocolates. It's always good to have a supply of treats handy just in case friends and family drop by to help celebrate the festive period, but why not impress your guests with these easy to make home-made truffles instead. (Recipe courtesy of Olive Magazine)

Ingredients (makes approx 20)

  • 120ml double cream
  • 80ml Baileys Irish Cream
  • 15ml whisky
  • 175g dark chocolate 70%, chopped

  1. Gently heat the cream with the Baileys and whisky but take care not to boil. Pour the warm mixture over the chopped dark chocolate and stir until smooth. Chill until firm, but not solid - you want to be able to sheep the truffles easily.
  2. Scoop out spoonfuls of the mix and roll into walnut-sized balls. Roll each truffle in cocoa powder or grated white chocolate then chill until needed. Remove from the fridge about 15 minutes before you need them.
Baileys truffles rolled in cocoa powder

As I sit here with my coffee whilst enjoying the last few truffles from this first batch I'm already thinking of the various combinations that I need to try next. Try replacing the Baileys with Cointreau for a lovely chocolate orange. Or what about using crème de menthe, Chambord or Tia Maria? However as its Christmas time, I think my next batch will be infused with kirsch to give a wonderful Black Forest flavour.

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