Wednesday, 21 December 2011

York, one week before Christmas

One of my favourite places in England. Lovely city packed with history, fantastic architectire and great spirit. Enjoy this walk along the old town narrow streets, rivrside and amazing railway museum one week before Christmas. I hope it will give you a little break and a chance to catch your breath in this crazy, busy time before Christmas.


Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Sweet and spicy nuts & almonds - Christmas gifts vol. 7

Just a quick list to remind you what we already have in Christmas presents section:
Spiced orange liqueur (arancello)
Rosemary & mint salt
Cranberry & orange jam with vanilla and cardamom

This is one of my favourite snacks. There are many spices combinations when it comes to nuts and almonds, however after several times I found my own and I also use it to flavour the popcorn. The secret I suppose is the salted butter. I thought this year I will place this in nice jar and give it to someone as a Christmas gift, but you can made it for yourself as a really tasty snack. 

Makes 2 jars

200g your favourite nuts or/and almonds (I used 100g of walnut halves and 100g whole almonds)
about 30g salted butter, melted
1 tbsp sunflower oil  
¼ tsp cayenne
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp smoked paprika  
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 level tsp mixed spice  
2 tbsp runny honey
2 tsp sesame seeds   

Heat the oven to 150C and line a large baking tray with some baking paper.

In a bowl mix the butter, oil, 1 tbsp of honey and all spices and then add the nuts and almonds. Mix well so they all covered nicely with the spiced butter.  Next place them on the baking tray, evenly, making sure there are in one layer and possibly do not touch each other. 

Place into the oven and roast for about 10 minutes. Next drizzle with the remaining honey and roast for about 5 minutes, sprinkle with sesame seeds and roast for further 5 minutes. Make sure you check the nuts and almonds because the honey is likely to burn and get bitter. Therefore you have to amend the time of roasting accordingly. 

Remove from the oven and leave it to cool down completely.

Place in the clean jars and seal tightly. These should keep up to one month.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Spiced orange liqueur (arancello) - Christmas gifts vol.6

I am bad, bad blogger. This time last year I had five posts about culinary gifts and his year I am not very well organised. Let me just remind you, or introduce to those who are perhaps new followers, my last years culinary Christmas gifts:

Also please, please fell free to see all my posts from my culinary gifts section, as there are some more chutneys (unfortunately seasonal) and different types of shortbread that I made last year for my hampers. Also this time of the year you can make this caramelised onion, that can cost quite a lot in some delis. In my opinion handmade edible presents are great fun for foodies - either when it comes to making them or be given one.

This is a recipe from some ancient "Good Food" but I have changed it slightly. It's similar to limoncello but it is made with orange and spices. Very nice thing for cold, winter days. Bottled will make lovely Christmas gift. 

Makes about 0.75l

peel of 5 small oranges (really thin, witout this bitter white pith)
small piece of cinnamon stick
vanilla pod (optionally)
3 cardamom pods (I used green)
5 cloves
500ml good quality pure vodka (I recommend Polish rye vodkas)
250g caster sugar 
250ml water 

Place orange peel, cinnamon, vanila pod , cardamom and cloves together with the vodka, seal and leave for about 7 days, shaking each day.

Next add the sugar dissolved in the water, mix, seal the jar again and leave for about 5 days, again shake everyday.

After 5 days strain the liquer into a bottle and you can save cinnamon stick or other items for decoration.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Chicken liver parfaits & best brioche ever

This is one of my favourite things - creamy, almost velvety chicken liver parfait made with a cheap ingredient but almost luxurious. This makes quite elegant (tasty for sure) starter or light lunch, and I definitely recommend a slice or two of brioche to go with this. It has ridiculous amount of butter, almost enough to make you teeth slide on this, but without any doubt this is the best brioche I have made. This recipe by Michel Roux was recommended to my by a friend of mine and after making this brioche I will never look back. I have added some semolina, that did not appear in the original recipe, just to line my tin with something - it is not the best quality equipment so I was little bit concerned that the brioche will not come out easily. The parfaits go well with some cocktail gherkins too.  

Chicken liver parfaits 

Serves 6-10

450g chicken livers, trimmed  
150g butter, plus 50g for the top of the parfaits
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
leaves picked from 2-3 springs of fresh thyme
splash of brandy
2 tbsp double cream ( I used extra thick, 50.5% of fat)
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
freshly grated black pepper

Heat about 30g of the butter in a large frying pan and gently fry the shallots until soft. Add garlic, thyme leaves (save about tsp for topping the parfait) fry for about one minute or so and turn the heat up.

Add the trimmed livers to the pan with the garlic, shallot and thyme and fry on both sides for about 5 minutes. There should not be any blood coming out. Add the nutmeg, cloves and a splash of brandy. Keep on the heat until the brandy evaporates little bit. Remove from the heat and set aside. Let them cool down little bit.

Next tip the livers into a food processor and whizz to a paste, then whizz in the remaining butter and cream. Push the mixture through a sieve - this is boring, but takes about 2 minutes and it is certainly worth for a really velvety texture. Season well with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture between 6 small ramekins and smooth the surface.

Melt the final 50g butter in a pan and let the milk solids settle to the bottom. Place the remaining thyme leaves in the pan and let it infuse for few minutes. Next making sure you skip the milk solids pour a little butter over each ramekin. Chill to set.

To serve, bring the parfaits up to room temperature and you have to serve it with toasted slice of best brioche ever.

Best Brioche EVER 

makes small bread tin

35 ml lukewarm milk
7.5 g fresh yeast  (or 3.5g dry active or 4g instant)
250g all purpose flour
half tsp salt
3 eggs
175g soft butter
1 tbsp caster sugar

some more butter, for a tin
some semolina
beaten egg, optionally

Place the yeast and the milk in a mixing bowl and leave them for few minutes. Next mix them with the flour , salt and eggs until you have quite firm, elastic dough.

Meanwhile using a hand mixer beat the sugar with the butter and next add spoon by spoon of this buttery cream to the dough and mix all the time on a low speed. When last spoon of butter dis incorporated  mix for a little while on the higher speed, then cover the dough with a clean cloth and leave it to prove. It will take about 2-4 hours in a room temperature however I left it in the cold kitchen overnight. After first proving remove some air bubbles but do not be tempted to do this with a punch like with most breads - this dough is too sticky. Use spatula to remove some air. At this stage the dough can be moulded to the shape you like (individual brioches or one brioche in a tin).

Prepare the tin - butter is and sprinkle with little semolina, then shake the excess of semolina.  Place the dough in the tin and cover with a cling film. Leave it to prove again - I left mine in a fridge for whole day and removed from a fridge for about one hour before baking. It can be kept in a fridge up to 24 hours.

Heat the oven to 180C (fan). Brush with some beaten egg for a shiny finish. At this stage you can make a cut in the brioche to prevent the cracking, I was afraid that it will collapse when I do so, so I skipped cutting and my brioche did not crack too much. Bake until golden and the wooden toothpick comes out of it clean.

Remove from the oven, leave in the tin for few minutes and then remove it from a tin to a wire rack and leave it to cool down completely before slicing. Toast before serving but be careful - due to a high content of butter it burns easily, so watch the toaster.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Where to eat? The Kitchin, Edinburgh

First of all I would like to thank you everyone who voted for my recipe in a competition in March. On the Saturday, 26th November we had our meal in the restaurant of our choice - The Kitchin  on Edinburgh’s stylish waterfront. Without shadow of a doubt this experience was worth every penny spent and every minute waiting. Thank you very much! I think I better warn you - this is not a quick review. I just couldn’t stop writing once I started; I had so many things to tell you. I truly regret that my photos are not good quality – I was unable to take my proper camera as I only had a clutch with me so I took an old compact camera and obviously the light wasn’t good enough to take photographs of food. I did not want to use flash too. I hope my enthusiastic words will tell the story anyway.

We were given printed menu and wine list after the dinner 
Let me start from admitting that as much as we both are food lovers we never went to any Michelin starred restaurant as we thought it might be little overpriced and money not worth the whole experience, alcohol served and the ingredients used. Too stiff and too snobby. “Lunch perhaps”, we though. “One day”. Today we know how wrong we were even if you read about the dishes we were served and still think this is far too expensive for the cuts we ate (pig’s head, fish cheeks) I will tell you now: this is not about the food only. Thankfully the food is the most important, but the whole experience is about the service, the atmosphere, the chat with the chef – annoyingly talented, probably one of the best chefs in Europe if not in the world. We are certainly ready to do it again. And again. We are actually planning next trip, around spring time. 
Courtesy of  Stripecom
We both knew from a very beginning that we will go for a tasting surprise menu. It would be extremely difficult to decide and have only three courses from a regular menu, but the tasting menu consists as much as seven courses and it was perfect for us, who did not have a chance to eat at The Kitchin before. What was even better – the menu was based on sea and land products. 

Courtesy of  Stripecom
Courtesy of  Stripecom

We had a very warm welcome and receptionist looked after us very well before we were taken to our table. The interior is stylish, quite plain, and very elegant, of dark woods and shades of grey with very subtle light.  The bar and lounge also area seems very relaxing. We were welcomed by a glass of champagne, as we decided to go for a wine package matching our surprise menu. 

A window opens from the dining room onto the kitchen area itself so the diners are able to see the theatre of cooking and preparation. Men are in charge, Tom Kitchin and about 10 others, also one young female chef. There are also some glass cabinets with gifts that you can purchase from the reception (signed books, vouchers etc). According to me the dinning area can handle between 40-50 diners at once. 

The service was excellent. Very polite, helpful, entire team shines through in what they deliver - quality and consistency. Sommelier perfectly synchronized with the waiters bringing the dishes to our table. To make you even happier he explains where the wine comes from and why they serve it with this particular dish. I think you had enough of this talking and I am sure you would like to know what we had on our menu. The Chef’s land and sea surprise menu is based on the imaginative creations of Chef Tom Kitchin. The menu is, as the name suggests, a food lovers’ surprise, compiled from the very freshest produce. We also decided to go for a Matched Wine Package - a welcome drink glass of champagne followed by a different glass of wine with each course. 

First we had a beautiful blue cheese dip with some nibbles, mainly fresh vegetables and a kind of dough sticks and crispy kind of pancake to dig in this mouth watering, creamy dip. A man with a bread trolley appeared and introduced the whole range of bread to choose from for our starter. We both went for sourdough bread and I have to say it was the best bread (excluding my own, homemade sourdough) I had since I moved to UK over five years ago.  


Celeriac velouté served with chestnuts and apple
(Philipponnat Royal Reserve Champagne, France)

It was a time for a first course: amuse bouche, little soup to cheer our mouths up, as the French name says. It was creamy, velvety, velouté – classic French recipe using a roux and a good quality stock or just simly - velvety thick sopu. Sounds bit heavy? It was not at all. Creamy, sweet soup was complimented beautifully by the crispy tiny croutons and diced and little bit sour apple.

Shellfish Rockpool

A rockpool of West Coast shellfish served with sea vegetables in a shellfish consommé
(Three Choirs, Coleridge Hill, Gloucestershire, England, 2010)

Before the proper starter we had another dish surprisingly served by Tom Kitchin himself. It was a pleasure to meet the chef in person, and it was very kind of him to come out of his kitchen and welcome us. The dish was a composition of few different types of shellfish and sea veg that Scottish coast is proud of: seaweed, prawns, caviar, crayfish tail etc. Chef explained that this is his idea of shore and the tide is coming – the tide was the shellfish consommé poured by the chef over the dish from a little jug. Do you think this is little bit of showing off? Perhaps little bit, but extremely tasty. Shellfish was so fresh that it was almost sweet and the consommé brought is all together so it was all very harmonious.    

Razor Clams (Spoots)

Razor clams from Arisaig, cooked to order and served with diced vegetables,
chorizo and lemon confit
(Semillon “Margaret”, Peter Lehman, Barossa, Australia, 2005)

It was a time for a starter – again something very tasty from a Scottish coast. Razor clams described in Scottish manner (that I absolutely love and I have a crush on a Scottish names and accent!) as spoots were served with a diced vegetables, chorizo and slightly lemony sauce that I just could not leave in the shell – I wiped it with a piece of bread. Very sunny and refreshing dish served with a lemon (lime?) confit.   

Pig’s Head & Scallop

Boned and rolled pig’s head, served with seared hand-dived Orkney scallop and crispy ear salad
(Gewurztraminer Hugel, Alsace, France, 2009

Now it was a time for a middle course. A chef’s signature dish we were told. Boned and rolled head of pig does not sound particularly appetizing, doesn’t it? I tastes so opposite. It was a kind of small cake in crispy crust and the taste of it and the texture was simply divine: sticky, very meaty – the flavours of pork is in this cheap cut not in a pork fillet – I thought to myself.  Served with lovely Orkney hand dived scallop, cumin sauce, crispy pig’s ear and salad that give it a bit of the sharpness – it had a gherkin in it and was similar to a good quality tartar sauce. I absolutely love the idea of using the animal from head to tail and my regular readers know it. I was thrilled to have such a wonderful composition of three flavours, three different textures. Triple pleasure, I would say.  


Seared monkfish cheeks from Scrabster and local red mullet served with risotto 
and a lemon buerre blanc
(Etna Rosso, Tenuta Delle, Terre Nerre, Sicily, 2010)

The middle course was followed by a fish course. I have to say it felt like chef Kitchin knew my favourite food – risotto. It was creamy, served with lemony butter sauce (beurre blanc) Topped with a piece of monkfish cheek – meaty, yet tender and a piece of red mullet – certainly the best fish dish I had in my life. Perfectly balanced, fish cooked to perfection. 


First of the season Perthshire woodcock served with pumpkin, salsify and a sauce ‘salmis’
(Carmenere ‘Orzada’ Odfjell, Maule Valley, Chile, 2008)
Last dish before we had our dessert was a meat dish. I was expecting game dish but what I was presented with did not match my expectations at all. I did not expect to have a woodcock dish made with its breast, leg and… half of the head with a brain still in. I was in a bit of a shock when I saw it first, but when I was given a finger bowl and extra napkin to clean my fingers I grabbed the head and enjoyed it. It was unusual, but nice, not putting me off in any way (yes, you can tell it was a head with the eye holes and the nib). However it was very gamey and I am not a big fan of game – I liked it, but probably this was the only one I probably wouldn’t order from a regular menu again. But who knows? 

Before the dessert was served we were offered a selection of cheese, but we were so full we sadly had to say no. Perhaps next time we will go for it. The cheese trolley was very impressive.   


Spiced pumpkin custard served with maple and pecan ice cream and candied pumpkin
(Kanu Kia-Ora late harvest, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2008)

Oh, the dessert. My lovely, beautiful, mouth watering dessert made of… vegetable. Pumpkin goes very well with the spices so I was not surprised at all by the whole idea. Again it had different textures from velvety ice cream to crunchy pumpkin seeds. For me it was the perfect dessert. 

Encouraged by the look of fresh mint tea we skipped the coffee and enjoyed very refreshing herbal drink together with selection of petits fours – dark chocolate truffle, pistachio nougat, pink macaroon and mini frangipan tart. 100% satisfaction - if I had to choose selection by myself I would definitely go for those four, as these are my favourite things.  I enjoyed every single bite. 

How about the wines? In my opinion the wine selection was very good and matched the meals nicely. But please remember – I am not a wine expert. In the brackets I gave you the names of the wines served with the particular courses. The only one I found little bit not up to my taste was the white wine served with pig’s head dish. I quite understand the idea of serving quite strong flavoured wine with the intensive flavours of the meat however it had something in it that annoyed me little bit. On the other hand I was very pleasantly surprised with a dessert wine; especially that in general I am not w big fan of this kind of wines. It was little bit floral, but not overwhelming the dish. Very good choice indeed! My favourite wines were: the second one served with a pre starter – quite citrussy and refreshing and the red served with a woodcock – deep, intensive, very well complimented the gamey dish. 

Just to finish this long (too long) review let me mention the main idea that seems to be a mantra of The Kitchin - "From nature to plate" presented by an appreciation of the best quality ingredients available from Scotland's fantastic natural larder. It guarantees the best quality and freshness of the food served. It a place where modern British cuisine influenced by French cooking techniques shows everyone who says that British food is boring that it is certainly a time to re-educate about the British cuisine.

With all my heart (and tastebuds!) I recommend this place to a food lovers.

Prices: Surprise Tasting Menu £70.00 per person, cheese supplement £10.00. Matched Wine Package includes a welcome drink; Philipponnat Royale Reserve Champagne followed by a different glass of wine with each course £50.00 per person. Mineral water filled up every time you glass if less than half full £4.00. Service charge is not included; however a 10% Service charge will be added to the final bill of tables of 8 guests or more.

Chef Tom Kitchin and I :)

 The Kitchin
78 Commercial Quay
Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6LX
Telephone 0131 555 1755
Fax 0131 553 0608

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Thursday 12.15pm -2.00pm
                                   6.30pm to 10.00pm
Friday and Saturday 12.15pm - 2.00pm
                                  6.30pm to 10.30pm