Monday, 30 April 2012

Recipe: Tomato and Potato Layer Bake

I am now the proud owner of a food processor. Proud, and overexcited. I've been waiting for it to arrive for 6 weeks (when my mum ordered it as a housewarming present, it was out of stock, so good old John Lewis sourced one for me). This has given me 6 weeks of getting excited about things that I can whizz, chop, whisk, blend, grate, and puree.
First up - a quick and tasty potato dish. This recipe is loosely based on a Delia Smith's Summer Collection recipe that my mum makes a lot. I've sped it up a bit so that it's easier for a week night dinner, and made it store cupboard friendly. Think of it as a really easy and lower fat version of boulangere or dauphinoise potatoes.
Tomato and Potato Layer Bake
Serves 2

500g potatoes
1 large onion, red or white
1 can good quality tinned tomatoes
1 tablespoon virgin or extra virgin olive oil (optional but highly recommended)
1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried basil
Salt and pepper
In a food processor (or with a very sharp knife), whizz your potatoes and onion into thin slices.
Mix together the tomatoes, oil, herbs, garlic, and a generous pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. 
In a large microwave-proof dish, mix together your potatoes, onions and tomato mix. 
Microwave on full for 15 minutes, covered (you could use a plate or clingfilm if you don't have a lidded dish).
Take the cover off, and microwave again for another 5 minutes. 
Ideal served with meat or fish - it would be great for a healthy side to steak. We had ours with roast chicken and a spinach salad. 
Fresh basil, torn up, would also work if you have it, to give a stronger taste 
You could also add in crumbled feta or mozzarella, olives, slivers of parma ham, capers, anchovies - anything really - to make it perfect for a lunch box.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Event: Tea Cocktails at Eteaket

There are two drinks which I am not sure that I could do without. I love tea. I love gin. The thought of combining the two set me off into a spiral of excitement and glee, and that's pretty much why I ended up in the front row at Eteaket's inaugral Tea Cocktails masterclass.

We arrived, and headed round to the back of the shop, where teacups and instruction sheets were laid out for us...
The sheets were really useful - they outlined the cocktails we'd sample, how to recreate them at home, and three ways of getting the taste of tea into a drink (infusing in alcohol, making a flavoured syrup, and using an 'iced' tea). It was a small touch, but a good idea - no need to scribble down notes - the emphasis was on enjoying ourselves.

Our tutor, the lovely Scott* introduced himself and told us a bit about how he got interested in cocktails. He explained how the list works - starting with the 'easiest' to drink, and working back through time to explore a couple of other classic cocktails. One of the lovely ladies from Eteaket was also on hand to tell us more about the teas - together they made a great team.

We started with a tiki-style Rum Punch - a classic 1970s cocktail combining Rum and fruit juices with a chilled Oolong. It was delicious.
Next up came an Earl Grey Aviation. Scott explained that this classic cocktail uses lemon juice to match with gin - as Earl Grey is a citrussy tea, the bergamot and citrus flavours are a natural combination. He also told us how to infuse our own gin (basically empty it into a jug, pop in a couple of teaspoons of leaves, and strain into the bottle after 10-20 minutes/according to taste) and suggested that people might like to try other infusions too. His suggestions of how to infuse Vanilla (split and de-seed a couple of vanilla pods, and leave overnight before straining) went down particularly well.
And finally we sampled a Lapsang Souchong Manhattan. I'm not normally a fan of Lapsang, it's too smoky and overpowering for my taste (i.e. it overpowers the cake), but matching it with a Bourbon whiskey is perfect - it recreates the smoky taste of a particularly fine smoky single malt. The Manhattan was the strongest of the cocktails we tasted, with the Bourbon mixed with sweet vermouth and bitters. It was a good finish to the evening.
If you're a fan of cocktails, tea or both - I'd highly recommend heading along to a masterclass next time they're on. It was great fun, we sampled more than we should have on an empty stomach, and I learnt a lot. I'm looking forward to having a crack at my own Earl Grey infusion, and experimenting with fresh lemonade.

Tea Cocktails tickets were £5 pp, for a 90 minute masterclass.

41 Frederick Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1EP

Scott is a bartender at The Queens Arms
49 Frederick Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1EP

*I should probably declare that I know Scott, and can testify that he makes one of the best gin Martini's in Edinburgh - but that I didn't know he'd be running the Eteaket course!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Recipe: Pork, Sage and Apple Meatballs in a Creamy Cider Sauce

Mr Foodie and I recently combined freezers, which has resulted in an epic amount of sausages. We're talking a kilo of organic sausagemeat, and four or five packets of sausages. I have no idea how, seeing as we're not massive meat eaters, but there's only so many bangers and mash and toads-in-the-hole that a girl can eat, so I've started to diversify.

Pork, Sage and Apple Meatballs in a Creamy Cider Sauce.
Serves 4.

For the meatballs:
500g sausagemeat or minced pork, blended until smooth in texture
generous teaspoon dried sage
1 egg
1 small cooking apple
salt and pepper

For the sauce:
1 onion, finely sliced
300ml dry cider
100g crème fraiche
teaspoon plain flour (if needed)
2 teaspoons grain mustard (or more to taste)
salt and pepper

For the meatballs:
Peel and grate the apple. Squeeze out as much liquid from the gratings as you can - setting the juice aside for the sauce. Pop the meat into a large bowl, along with the egg, sage, and apple. Mix through thoroughly - this will take a while and a fair amount of arm effort. If you think that you've got a bit much egg in to begin with, keep mixing, it'll blend through.
Using two teaspoons to help, break up the sausagemeat into mouthsized balls. Place them onto a lightly floured chopping board while you do this.
Next up, fry the meatballs in a wide non-stick frying pan. Use about a tablespoon of oil - don't forget that pork can be quite fatty so it'll let out some more fat as you fry. You might have to do it in batches if you've only got a little pan, just pop them in the oven in an oven-proof bowl to keep warm if you want to. Try not to move the meatballs around too much as you cook them, or they run the risk of breaking up. When the meatballs are bouncy, rather than squashy, and browned all over, cut one in half to check they're cooked. If no pink remains and they're hot in the middle, they're done. Avoid overcooking, or they'll go dry.

For the sauce:
In the same pan that you cooked the meatballs in, and without washing the pan, fry an onion until transluscent.
Slowly and carefully tip in your cider and any apple juice you may have saved from the squeezing, stirring the bottom of the pan to release all the sticky burnt on bits. Sprinkle on the flour and mix in the crème fraiche.
Add in the meatballs to the sauce and wait for it to simmer down until thickened.
Season with salt and pepper, adding a pinch of sugar to counteract any tartness if you wish, and serve.
 It's hard to make brown food look appetising, but it is, honest.
* I'd suggest serving simply, with potatoes and steamed veggies because the sauce is rich. We went for spinach and lightly fried mushrooms, which was great.
* If you want to bulk out the sauce or stretch your meat for more people, you could add sliced mushrooms - just make sure you fry off any mushroom liquid before adding the cider and cream.
* The sauce would be great with pork of any type - especially chops.
* Cooked meatballs are great in the freezer. Just make sure that they're well cooked and cooled completely before portioning and freezing.
* If you're making for non-alcohol drinkers, you could use a crisp, fresh apple juice. Cloudy type would be best - not too sweet.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Review: The Beach House Cafe, Portobello

I've spent the last few weekends moving house - endless cleaning, lugging, hoovering, attempting to work out what was on the inventory... all of that stuff. I have no internet yet, and am not entirely sure where most of my kitchen things are (in a cupboard, a bag or a box, but I'm not sure which). So for the moment, while I sort myself out, I'll be doing a bit of reviewing.

Last week, the sun shone, and my mum came up for a day. It was rather nice having a 4 day week, and complete fluke that the weather was beautiful. This negated A Drive. The intial plan had been to head south of the city, in search of a nice country pub with a beer garden and lunch menu. Sadly, there's not as many of these around as mum had hoped - she's clearly used to the Dales and Lakes - and the nearest we found was a Brewers Fayre. We carried on, looping back round towards town, and ended up in Portobello.

There's a pub down on the front which I'm a fan of - The Espy - but it was too busy and too dark for us on such a glorious day, and we decided to chance it at the cafe next door. It's not one I've been in before. I can't honestly say I've ever really noticed it. I did, however, fall in love with the interior.
I love the white chairs, sturdy tables and fresh blue walls. I love the 1950s beachy print, the flowers and the light and airy space.

Both mum and I were impressed by the menu, too. Healthy, tasty food - lots of options for vegetarians - and a cute little kids section. There's a nice statement in the back of the menu about chicken and eggs being free range, and as many ingredients as possible being locally sourced (you can read more about this on their website). It ticked lots of boxes for us.
A lovely drinks selection too - lots of tasty soft drinks - not just your usual coke. Including my favourite Belvoir pink lemonade.
We placed our orders, and waited. And waited. And waited. We're talking maybe half an hour here - so long in fact, that the couple next to us had arrived, ordered and had chomped down half their lunch before ours was delivered. We asked the waitress, who apologised, and promptly brought it out.
My meat platter. Generous with the meat, stingy with the butter. Gorgeous bread though, and a nice sweet lightly curried chutney. A deceptively large portion due to the hunks of bread.
Mum's courgette and halloumi salad came with a nice lemony dressing, but was not the biggest portion. Mum had asked for bread rather than the pitta it came with (they forgot, and she sent it back). When the bread did arrive, they rather stingily gave her one slice, cut into two rather than the two wholemeal pitta it had before.

This cafe has so much potential - the view was stunning, the staff friendly, and the food good quality albeit expensive - but the length of time we waited spoiled the experience. The staff (I think there was 4), were run off their feet, and it was well past the main lunch rush by the time we arrived. This was partly due to the enormous queue they had for icecreams and takeaway, which we had to join to pay for our lunch, but it put us off staying for cake and tea afterwards (the cakes did look lovely, although FoodieMum has a 'thing' about cakes being out and uncovered, which is a fair criticism).
I'd go back, but I wouldn't rush back.

Lunch and soft drinks for two: £22

The Beach House
On the corner of Bath Street and Portobello Promenade
EH15 1HE