Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Quick Review - Scotts at Troon Yacht Haven

When myself and Nicola head out for lunch or dinner, I have good intentions to post a review but for one reason or another, I end up not getting anything written. I would prefer to post reviews as close to our visit as possible whilst the experience is still in my mind, however life sometimes gets in the way and as the weeks roll on, a review from a time long forgotten doesn't have the same impact. Moving forward, I plan on posting quick reviews on more places that we have eaten. These post will be intentionally shorter that my usual reviews but will still aim to get the experience across.

The first restaurant to get the 'quick review' is Scotts at Troon Yacht Haven. Scotts is part of the Buzzworks Holdings, a growing entertainments group in Ayrshire. The restaurant is very trendy in style with just enough of a nautical theme to remind you that Scotts sits in a raised position overlooking The marina at Troon.

We were at Scotts on Saturday evening for an early bird dinner as part of a 40th birthday surprise for my brother-in-law Philip. We have eaten at Scotts a few times in the past and always enjoyed the food but been let down by poor service. I did have some slight concerns that the service would struggle again whilst trying to serve almost 30 diners, including a handful of attention seeking children. As it turned out, I had no reason to worry as the service provided by all of the restaurant staff who took care of our group was fantastic throughout. All of our group enjoyed their meal so for the purposes of this review, I am only going to talk about the meal that myself and Nicola had.

In addition to the a la carte menu, Scotts offer a fantastic value set menu for those diners who order before 6.30pm, offering two courses for £10.95, with the option of a dessert for an addition £3.75 - Most of our group had no problem ordering from the set menu. I started with the Grilled Goats Cheese Bruschetta, which was a simple, well presented plate full of flavour. The warmed, creamy goats cheese was served a crisp bruschetta and layered on a bed of red and yellow peppers and dressed salad leaves. I really enjoyed my starter and a will look to recreate this dish at home in the coming weeks.

Nicola struggled to choose from the set menu, mainly because her eye kept going to the Gratin of Lobster, Smoked Haddock & King Prawns that was on the main menu. In the end, that is what she ordered to her great satisfaction. The gratin was packed full with huge prawns, plenty of chunks of lobster, and big flakes of line smoked haddock all bound in a rich and creamy cheese sauce. The gratin sat on a mound of the smoothest mashed potatoes Nicola had ever eaten, and was topped with another of Nicola's favourites - pea shoots. The overall balance was wonderful, and Nicola was more than happy with her choice of main courses.
For my own main, I ordered the Thai Spiced breast of chicken with Coconut, Lime & Sweet Chilli Sauce, which was a deconstructed Thai red curry. The overall flavours my own dish were very nice individually, however I felt that this Thai curry was trying too hard to look good on a plate, rather than deliver on all fronts a a menu. I would have preferred that the chicken breast to have been chopped and cooked in the sauce rather than roasted and served with the sauce. I think the chef might have had a bumper bag of pea shoots as they also topped my own dish, I was puzzled as to why chopped coriander leaves weren't the obvious choice as a garnish. Putting all of this aside, I did enjoy my main course. The chicken was cooked well and the coconut, lime & sweet chilli sauce packed a nice spicy kick (although I would have preferred more sauce). I really enjoyed the Savoy cabbage that had been fried with red chilli - an unusual but welcome accompaniment.
As Nicola skipped the starter, she was always going to have a dessert, especially once she seen the White Chocolate and Tablet Cheesecake on the menu. If the main course was rich, this stacked cheesecake was even richer. The super sweet cream cheese filling which was blended with melted white chocolate on a crispy crumb base was presented with a sail shaped wafer and sweet caramel sauce. After two courses of creamy goodness, Nicola struggled to finish so I gladly helped her out.


I took advantage of the discounted dessert on the set menu and ordered Lemon Tart with berry compote. This was one of the nicest lemon tarts that I've had in a long time. The sharp tangy lemon flavour was complimented incredibly well by the sweet mixed berry compote, and the crisp tart base was cooked to a crisp perfection.
As I mentioned earlier, the rest of the party were impressed with the food and service, especially for the price of the set menu. For my own part, the food was very good and I feel that the service that we received has definitely changed my perception on Scotts and I wouldn't hesitate in going back in the future.
Keep up to date with Scotts on Facebook.



Sunday, 23 February 2014

Beating Up Cancer Comes Highly JD Recommended

In a slight break from tradition, I would like to introduce a guest blogger on Gerry's Kitchen. Jurgen Donaldson is a fellow food fan who is currently organising a special birthday bash with the help a number of generous businesses through in the Edinburgh. I wanted to help spread the word of this upcoming event in the hope that it will help raise a little more cash (and awareness) for a very worthy cause. I'll let Jurgen tell the rest of the story below;

Well hi there, and first of all I would like to thank Gerry for inviting me to write a wee post here. First of all let me introduce myself, I'm Jurgen I write a little blog called This year I am turning 30, in itself it's a pretty big milestone however I have the added kicker of it coming to being my 10 year cancerversary. Ok so that's not a word.

To give you the history when I was 20 I was diagnosed with lymphoma, it was bad, really bad infact. Doctors thought it was quite likely I would only live another 6 months, pretty dramatic way to start my 20s. Anyway, thanks to the amazing work of the doctors and nurses of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary 6 months later not only was I alive but I was in remission and on my way to a full recovery.

The last 10 years have been a roller coaster, the good, the bad and the downright ugly but it never leaves me as to how lucky I am to still be here. When you add to the equation that my father and step father both died of cancers it gives you a picture of the level of relief that not just I, but my whole family felt.

Since my illness I have done as much as I can for Teenage Cancer Trust & Cancer Research Uk, fundraising, mentoring patients whatever is asked of me. So for my 30th I am throwing a huge party to raise funds for these two fantastic charities. On the 17th of May at G1 Groups iconic Ghillie Dhu venue, for Glaswegians it's our version of Oran Mor, the party will hopefully bring in 200 people.

With a Great Gatsby theme there will be cocktails, flapper girls, casino tables, a jazz trio playing and an auction & raffle with an incredible list of donations, so far I've had items from:

Mark Greenway & Bistro Moderne

Cafe St Honore



Angels with Bagpipes

British Airways

Tigerlily & Lulu


L'escargot Bleu & L'art du Vin


Edinburgh Larder Bistro

Hotel Du Vin

I'm hoping to make this party one I will remember for the rest of my life and in the process raise a huge amount of money for two incredible charities.

I feel truly blessed to have already received such great support from the local business community and from fellow bloggers like Gerry. So here's to another 10 years of life, living, giving and happiness.

Beating up Cancer comes Highly JD Recommended

We all know someone who has been affected by cancer and it's great to see a survivor like Jurgen fighting back and doing his bit to help others. A big thank you to all of the businesses who have made raffle donations for the night of the birthday bash, if any other businesses would like to make a donation to Jurgens very worthwhile cause then do not hesitate in getting in touch.

Keep up to date with JD Recommended on Twitter



Thursday, 20 February 2014

5 Questions - Our House of Spice

A few weeks ago I attended the Scottish Speciality Food Show at the SECC. Whilst there a met up with sisters Julia & Nadia, not the acting Sawalha siblings, but a pair of sister who work together running Our House Of Spice from their Cambridge base.
Using family recipes that have been handed down over the generations, the sisters produce a range of spice packets and frozen meals that offer their customers the chance to enjoy authentic 'Indian food with flair', in the comfort of their own homes.
Using the Scottish Speciality Food Show as a launch pad to raise public awareness north of the border, Our House of Spice gave away lots of samples sachets of their ready to cook spice blends, including a packet of medium masala to myself.

Here's their story;
How did you get started?
We’ve been lucky enough to have been brought up surrounded by mouth-watering Indian food all of our lives and identified a gap in the market for good quality Indian food.
In 2012, we started to sell our Indian dishes at farmers markets, shows and events. The reaction to our food was extremely positive and as we were using family recipes, the food produced was traditional, authentic and contained no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or MSG. We think this creates a great foundation for an excellent meal and our customers seem to agree!
As we progressed, customers asked on numerous occasions whether it was possible to purchase our dishes outside of these markets and events. It was from here that we diversified into frozen ready meals and spice packets.
What’s the best piece of business advice you can give?
We strongly recommend putting a business and financial plan in place from the outset and to refer and update it on a regular basis to help plan for the future and consider different avenues as the company grows.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
To meet demand and increase growth we intend to make use of a specialist production facility to create our ready meals and spice packet range. This will work alongside the Our House of Spice kitchen which will develop new and exciting dishes. Exporting our products abroad is another ambition of ours.
If you could cook one of your products/recipes what would it be any why?
Our lamb curry is one of our best sellers and a dish we both love! As with all of our dishes, it is based on our family recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation and it really is delicious!
You can invite one person living or dead who would it be and why and what’s on the menu?
We would invite our eccentric grandfather Jim, who sadly passed away before we set up the business. He had an amazing sense of humour and was a fantastic cook. We would love to see his reaction to our curry capers!
The menu would include:
Baked Chicken (our version of tandoori chicken), dhal, Bombay Potatoes and Raita, all served with his Bhatura recipe (Indian bread). Yummy!
I've always been a huge fan of Indian food and would be keen to cook it more at home but always feel that the huge array of ready to cook sauce jars on the supermarket shelves always fall short.
You can create your own curry from scratch, all you need is a well stocked spice rack and a certain degree of knowledge on how to put them all together. Anyone who has looked through Indian cook books will be well aware of just how many individual ingredients can be used to create a truly wonderful tasting curry.
The packet of masala curry spices was put to use by myself very quickly. All I needed was a chopped onion, a tin of tomatoes and 400g of my preferred meat plus some chopped coriander to add just before serving. This dish would work well with chicken, beef or lamb, and I'm sure that a vegetable curry would work just as well. I chose to make my masala with beef shoulder, slow cooking it for a couple of hours in the spices, onion and tomato - only occasionally adding a little water to stop the sauce catching on the bottom of my pan. About two hours later I had an authentic looking curry dish that tasted as close to the Indian dishes that I would order at my favourite Indian restaurant. This was definitely a meal that was very different from the store bought sauce jars that I've used in the past.
It shouldn't have surprised me that the end result turned out tasting so authentic, after all, the recipes have been passed down the girls family for generations. What impressed me most was the simplicity. Nadia & Julia have created a fantastic a product that makes serving up a full flavoured and authentic Indian meal quick & easy. I'm sure that grandfather Jim would be proud of the way that his granddaughters have taken their heritage and created something wonderful.
You can buy the Masala mix and the other spice packets from the range online from the Our House of Spice website. After sampling my own home cooked curry, I'll definitely be stocking up on a few more packets and also be giving the rest of the range a little test drive.
Keep up to date with Our House of Spice on Facebook and Twitter.


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

5 Questions - CC's Wood Fired Pizza Company, Netherlee, Glasgow

Just over two year ago, I wrote one of my first reviews on Gerry's Kitchen. It was for a recently opened, and Glasgow's first authentic wood fired pizza takeaway, CC's Wood Fired Pizza Company. Since then, under the watchful eye of dedicated owner Graeme Rankin, CC's has grown from strength to strength.
Prior to moving house, CC's made for an easy option when I hadn't prepared anything for dinner, although I was always conscious that eating takeaway on a too regular basis can't be good for me. Fortunately for me and the other diners at CC's, Graeme is doing his bit to help me feel happier about ordering pizza anytime that I feel like it. The Concensus Action on Salt & Health was set up as a response to the refusal of the Chief Medical Officer to endorse the COMA recommendations to reduce salt intake, and although the image below isn't the best, it shows that CC's pizzas are prepared using a tiny percentage of salt in comparison to the quantities used by the supermarkets and main high street takeaway pizza shops.
More importantly, Graeme is still able to turn out delicious traditional wood fired pizzas that are great to eat that you won't feel guilty about ordering over and over again.
Here's CC's Wood Fired Pizzas story;
How did you get started?

I had my first wood-fired pizza in Edinburgh 15 years ago and I was captivated by the pizzaiolo who was making my pizza. I had never seen pizza made this way nor had I tasted it baked this way before. I said at that point that I wanted to do that and that I would open my own authentic wood-fired pizza place one day. I was delighted to be the first authentic wood-fired pizza takeaway to open in Glasgow and am passionate about my work.

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

No matter how good a plan you have, people tend to forget that when starting a brand new business you have to allow yourself a minimum of three years to build your clientele. You have to try and make provisions to get you through the difficult stages.

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

I would like CC's to be a recognised brand across Glasgow and hopefully be able to have two or three CC’s providing wood fired pizzas to a much wider audience. It would be fantastic if I could also get a CC's restaurant added to the brand.

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

I would bake a pizza which will be included on our forthcoming menu – wood-fired roasted garlic and peppers with fresh red onion. The infusion of flavours is awesome and the result is a fresh tasting, healthy pizza.

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 invite Mahatma Gandhi. I admire the man’s stance against British Colonialism through non-violence, and the words that he spoke were extremely wise.

More people should take note. The menu would have to be Fish Curry Rice with paratha and naan bread, along with a glass of fresh water. Fish Curry Rice is supposed to be the poor man’s food in India, but as we all know, the poor man’s food often ends up being the rich man’s food, just as we saw with oysters in Glasgow.

With a wide range of traditional toppings plus a few flavour pairings that you might not expect to see on a pizza, the menu has something for everyone.

So next time you're thinking about getting a pizza, do yourself a favour and head over to Netherlee for a real taste of Italy. Who said pizza couldn't be good for you?

Keep up to date with what's going at CC's Wood Fired Pizza on Facebook.



Monday, 10 February 2014

5 Questions - Seasoned Pioneers

I first became aware of the Seasoned Pioneers brand when Delia Smith launched her controversial "How To Cheat at Cooking" book. In the book, Delia sourced a range of pre-prepared foods, (from tins, chilled cabinets, freezer & store cupboard) to help the home cook put together a tasty meal in reduced time. One of the items that she recommended was a collection of spice blends produced by Seasoned Pioneers, a great way of adding instant flavour into a wide range of dishes.
As luck would have it, my local delicatessen happened to stock a small range of the flavour packed silver pouches, and over the years I have worked my way through quite a few little bags of spices. Since the early days when 'the godmother of TV chefs' made reference to Seasoned Pioneers, more well known TV chefs have also given the thumbs including, Nigel Slater, Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson.
I recently attended the Scottish Speciality Food Show at the SECC and was slightly surprised to see Seasoned Pioneers exhibiting. I say surprised, because as someone who has been using their spices for a number of years, I simply assumed that they were a well established brand and a recognised household name. It would seem that that isn't quite the case.......yet.
Here's their story;
How did you get started?
Mark Steene, an avid lover of food and the great outdoors, started Seasoned Pioneers in 1996. He’d been away travelling around the world & on his return home he wanted to recreate some of the fascinating cuisines that he’d enjoyed on his travels.
Frustrated by the limited spices available, he set to work in his Liverpool flat, roasting, grinding & blending spices using recipes gathered from people he’d met whilst travelling.
Later that year whilst skiing in the French Alps, Mark met Matt and after becoming friends they eventually decided to work together, having established that they shared a passion for both the world of spice and the great outdoors!
A few years later, the fledgling company started trading from a small industrial unit in Liverpool but soon outgrew those premises. The company moved to our current location on the Wirral, equidistant between Chester and Liverpool, where we are now a team of nine people.
Things rapidly moved forward, boosted by endorsements for our products from certain celebrity chefs and food writers.
Today we have a repertoire of over 300 herbs, spices, seasonings, chillies, peppercorns, salts and spice blends. We have also branched into the world of gourmet cooking sauces, offering an exciting international range of ten sauces made with our own spice blends.
Matt is now director of Seasoned Pioneers, whilst Mark has taken time out to pursue his love of climbing, hiking & cycling!
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
Put good systems and practices in place from the very beginning, you will be so glad you did when business starts to pick up and you’re not having to rummage through piles of scribbled notes to find that vital piece of information! Don’t over extend yourself financially in the beginning and most of all, do not compromise.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
Going from strength to strength, remaining fit & healthy, with steady expansion & seeing at least one Seasoned Pioneers foil pouch of spice in every kitchen in the nation!
If you could only cook one of your own products/recipes, what would it be & why?
We love all of our products, but at a milestone Birthday party in the garden of one of the team last summer, the unanimous favourite dish was Cajun Chicken. It was a very simple dish, chicken pieces marinaded in our Cajun spice blend, roasted in the oven and finished off on the barbecue, served with lots of exciting salads & breads, but everyone went wild for it! A pack of that spice blend is now packed in the luggage for every weekend away and holidays!
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
We would invite Nelson Mandela.
He was such an inspirational, courageous man and it would be fascinating to talk to him about all that he endured and achieved during his lifetime. Amongst the many issues that he addressed for the good of people everywhere, was his recognition of the absolute necessity of education to break the cycle of poverty, which is particularly inherent in his own country.
We are privileged to have visited and supported a wonderful South African organisation called Breadline Africa. One of their ongoing projects is the provision of libraries for children that would normally have no access to books. These libraries are housed in containers and are called ‘Mandela Day Container Libraries’ of which there are now 35 across the nine provinces of South Africa.
As for the meal that we would serve to Nelson Mandela, our menu would commence with an aperitif of mulled wine. Then, a starter of avocado pears with prawns in a spicy seafood sauce, followed by the traditional South African dish of Bobotie, laden with our spices and accompanied by a green salad of exotic leaves. For dessert we would simply serve fresh fruits and a big wedge of our local Cheshire cheese with home-made sea salt water biscuits!
With over 300 different blends of spices and seasoning, there seems to be no end to the flavour combinations that you can react in the kitchen. Whilst at the Scottish Speciality Food Show, I was given a sample sachet of the Seasoned Pioneers Chermoula spice blend, which I used to marinate a couple of cod fillets overnight before roasting and serving with garlic potatoes and sesame spring greens. The Chermoula, blended to a Moroccan recipe, with paprika, cumin, coriander, turmeric, garlic and black peppercorns, worked wonderfully with the cod and packed a huge punch of chilli heat.
Delia might call it cheating, but I prefer to call it 'helping with style'. I see nothing wrong in using a little help in the kitchen and Seasoned Pioneers offers a massive helping hand, not just with the huge range of spices that they carry, but the website also has a page that is jam-packed with recipes that are influenced and incorporate the little silver pouches. So do yourself a favour and check out the Seasoned Pioneers website, I'm sure you'll find something that gets your taste buds tingling.

Keep up to date with Seasoned Pioneers on Facebook and Twitter.


Monday, 3 February 2014

5 Questions - Marcus Wareing

At the tail end of last year, myself and Nicola spent an action packed weekend in London. We took in a west end show, managed a bit of sightseeing and shopping, and even found time to knock back a few drinks, but the highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly our trip to the two Michelin star restaurant, Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, where we enjoyed our best ever dining experience.
As one of the country’s finest chefs, Marcus Wareing has a rather formidable CV.
Not only did he achieve his first Michelin star in his twenties but he has gone on to win several more, for several different restaurants. He currently holds two Michelin stars for his eponymous restaurant Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley.
During his career Wareing has won many accolades including Restaurateur of the Year at the Tatler Restaurant Awards and was named Chef of the Year by GQ and the AA Restaurant Guide in 2009. He was crowned winner on the BBC’s Great British Menu for his desert, a wonderful English custard tart, which saw him cook at the Queen’s 80th birthday banquet.
Marcus has appeared as a judge in later series of the programme and has also been seen as a guest on Masterchef and Saturday Kitchen.
Unlike many high-profile chefs Wareing still regularly cooks in his own restaurants and can often be seen in the kitchen at The Berkeley.
On the back of the fantastic time that we had in London, I made contact with the restaurant to see whether Marcus would be interested in taking time out to answer '5 Questions' for Gerry's Kitchen, and after a few tweets back and forth, I was delighted that Marcus said yes!
Here's Marcus Wareing's story;
How did you get started?

I first started working for my father at the age of 10, helping him on his rounds as a food and vegetable merchant. However, my first glimpse inside a restaurant was through my older brother, who ran a local restaurant, and I became entranced. I went to a catering college at 16 and my career really began at The Savoy when I was 18. As my experience grew with it came the opportunity to train with some of the greatest French masters including Albert Roux, who I worked for at Le Gavroche.
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
My father was a perfectionist and a workaholic who taught me to invest wisely. This is something I have held onto, hard work and sacrifice is the best advice I could give. I would also maintain that as a business grows, you grow with it - always make the most of the wealth of experience from people around you.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
We have a very exciting year ahead of us. I have just closed Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley to carry out an extensive renovation, we will re-open on March 24th as 'Marcus' and I cannot wait to get started. I have been at the Berkeley for 10 years now and with the new 'Marcus' I intend to do it better than I ever have before. I am looking to redefine fine dining in London, making it more accessible, friendly and engaging, whilst continuing to deliver the food to the same exacting standards we have become known for.
The Gilbert Scott is going from strength to strength. Kings Cross is an amazing part of London to be in, there is such enormous growth in the area and being one of the first to get in before the 'rush' has really helped solidify our place and reputation in this brilliant London hot-spot. I want to keep expanding and growing, whilst maintaining our high standards and reputation.
If you could only cook one of your own recipes, what would it be & why?
I love spending time with my children in the kitchen, they have such enthusiasm and it is great quality family time. So I’d have to choose a dish which I know they would enjoy and we could have fun making together. I recently made a pea and mushroom risotto with my son, Jake, it’s a great dish to teach children about good, tasty, grown-up food!

You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
Margaret Thatcher, I love her gutsy approach, can you imagine what you could learn from her over a one-on-one lunch and how much fun it would be!

I would serve her a roast leg of lamb with minted new potatoes and beautiful spring carrots. For pudding, it would have to be whisky ice-cream- we all know her fondness for a fine whisky so I would probably make it with Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve.
Marcus has spent his entire adult life within the restaurant industry, growing in stature with each passing year. He has cooked for royalty, hollywood stars, top sportsmen & women, as well as countless members of the public, with the changes at the new restaurant aimed at making fine dining something that everyone can enjoy. Myself and Nicola were fortunate enough to enjoy a wonderful afternoon within the claret walled dining room of the old restaurant and now need to start planning our next trip to London in order see what the new fine dining approach at 'Marcus' looks and feels like.
The coming years are expected to be exciting times. With the rebrand and launch of 'Marcus' and the continued relationship with The Berkeley, and whilst The Gilbert Scott goes from strength to strength, I fully expect Marcus Wareing to be a name synonymous with fine dining for many years to come.
I would like to take this moment to thank Marcus for taking the time to answer the '5 Questions', especially with so much going on since the restaurant closed its doors on 18th January.
Keep up to date with everything that's going on at Marcus on Facebook and Twitter. You can also keep up to date with all The Gilbert Scott on Facebook & Twitter.

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