Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Review: Juniper

Friday nights are usually a bit of a washout for me, which is a shame because really they should be celebrated. After all, for most of us (I know, I know, not all of us) they mark The Start Of The Weekend. They should not be spent watching films in my pyjamas and falling asleep on the sofa before 10pm, which ironically tends to be the earliest night I get all week. 
I’ve been hearing murmurings about Juniper, and it’s neighbouring restaurant Twenty Princes Street for a while, but it never really struck me as somewhere to head to (I am far too much a creature of habit for my own good) until a friend commented on how much she liked it there for an after work drink. A little bit of menu perving, a perusal of the cocktail list, and the discovery of their Friday Fondue, it was firmly on the list. A plan was formed. February Friday Fondue would be had.
I emailed ahead and asked for a window table so that we could enjoy the view of the city skyline, which was probably a good idea as by 5.30, it was fairly busy.
Incredible view of the skyline
We perused the drinks menu, raised an eyebrow at the use of whiskey-with-an-e above the Scotch list, and were slightly overwhelmed by the range of cocktails. We decided to be awkward and went off menu to order a couple of our favourite classics - an Aviation and a Whiskey Sour. 
The fondue dipping agents
Our drinks didn't take long, and the fondue arrived shortly afterwards. We had opted for a chilli and Innis and Gunn infused cheesy sauce (the alternative cheesy option being cider and bacon) which was tasty, but not obviously infused with such a strong tasting beer. The portion of sauce was generous - no worries about running out of cheese before you've finished the crudités and dipping treats. The dipping treats were perfect - a range of crunchy veg and soft meats and fish, rather than the cheap bread and potatoes I had expected to be filling up on (note: if you're ravenous, order a side of chips for a carbohydrate hit).
The fondue was devoured, we were happy, and decided to pick another cocktail for pudding. The mister was unadventurous and opted for the same again, but I was in the mood for something sweeter, and braved the Caramel-Saltra from the menu. 
It was tasty, but I wasn't convinved about Genever as the spirit - it was a bit of a harsh aftertaste, and is traditionally drank neat or with water. I got the impression that this was a cocktail which was trying a bit too hard to be interesting. The little bottle was a sweet presentation tool, but as the mister pointed out (he's a former bar manager, and therefore a bit picky with his cocktails) it meant that I lost some of the effect of the cocktail itself, as the smell and colour were hidden.

We stumbled back down the stairs into the chilly air, slightly tipsy, slightly cheese-drunk. An excellent start to the weekend, one I have no doubt we'll be repeating, although possibly sipping wine instead of cocktails.

Four cocktails and fondue for two: £46
(Apparently you get a discretionary 20% discount for wearing your workwear, but we seemed to miss out on that, presumably as neither of us wear suits to work).

20 Princes Street
Rubbish phone pictures by me - top picture from the Juniper website.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Recipe: Coconut Macaroons

A while ago I posted a recipe for Fifteens, a Northern Irish tray-bake which requires a dusting of desiccated coconut around the outside. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), the only bag I could get was 500g, and therefore I ended up with nearly half a kilo in my cupboard and no idea what to do with it. In an attempt to cut down the contents of my tiny kitchen in anticipation of a revamp, I have been trying to use up all of the random tins and packages. The desiccated coconut, however, baffled me somewhat, and so I did what everyone does nowadays when they are not sure about something. I googled.

Macaroons! Marvellous! 

Most of the recipes I found were American. Apparently they are particularly favoured by the Jewish community as Passover treats, because they don't contain a raising agent or any of the forbidden grains - essentially they are a type of enriched meringue. I'm not sure which came first - these ones or the French ones which are on their way out of being in vogue.

There are four reasons I love this recipe. 
1. It's really easy.
2. It only needs 3 ingredients.
3. It's the ultimate go-to for friends with allergies or intolerances: gluten free, dairy free, and low fat. 
4. The low fat bit means you can eat twice as many. Super. 
Makes about 30.

2 eggs, separated.
125g caster sugar
250g dessicated coconut 
(Optional - 1tsp vanilla extract)

Separate the eggs - you only need the whites. You could use the eggs for custard or mayonnaise. 
Whisk the whites in a large bowl, adding the sugar a tablespoon at a time, until they form "stiff peaks" (or, until they go from see-through to white and firm).
Whisk in the coconut.
If you leave the mix on the side for half an hour, then the coconut will soften slightly, but you don't need to if you're impatient or tight for time.
Using two teaspoons, scoop the mixture into balls, about the size of a walnut, and pop them onto a non-stick baking tray. I found that my metal one, lined with parchment, cooked them better than a silicone one.
Bake at 180C for 8-10 minutes, until they start to turn golden. They will still feel soft to touch when you take them out of the oven but they'll crisp up, so don't put them back or they will dry out. 
Allow to cool on the tray before storing in an airtight tupperware. 

These go really well with hot chocolate or coffee - if you're a fan of glacé cherries then press half a cherry into the top of each ball prior to baking. Alternatively, drizzling them with melted chocolate while they are cooling is always an excellent idea.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Edinburgh: Winter Light

January was busy. That's a good thing - it provided an alleviation of the blues which normally hang around. It's not been a particularly cool and crisp January. The snow hasn't come, so the skies have been less bright, more overcast this year. Without the Christmas lights, it's been easy to feel that it's been a dark and damp month. I've been trying to focus on the beauty of the winter light as the days lengthen. It is definitely a redeeming feature of this time of year. There have been occasional blue skies to enjoy, icy mornings and red skies. Green tips are already starting to come through in the parks. It feels like Spring is on its way.
Morning light, sunrise from Princes Street.
Red sky in the morning. Sunrise on my walk to work.
Sunrise over Calton Hill. 
Winter light on a frosty afternoon. Beach walk, Helen's Bay, Northern Ireland.
Evening light over Calton Hill.