Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Warming Courgette Salad

My grandmother and I used to go to parks to pick up pine cones from the ground.  We'd bring it home, break it apart and out came pine nuts.  Therefore I see no reason why pine nuts are so heartbreakingly expensive in stores.

I love the idea of foraging, or at least having my own little garden with vegetables and herbs.  Too bad I've never been able to keep any herb plant alive for more than a couple of days, and I have absolutely no interest in gardening.  I remember in secondary school our Science teacher told us all to try growing a basil plant to prepare us for parenthood....Yea I'd be a very negligent mother.  I think I just need to find a partner who can keep a garden or better yet, be rich enough to hire a gardener to grow the vegetables of my dreams.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Rye and Caraway Drop Biscuits

First things first, I realize how confusing this is as these look like scones and in my previous post I have vanilla "biscuits" that are more like cookies... Just...British/American confusion, I apologize, I should keep things consistent.  

As I'm writing up this post, there's a rye and caraway bread dough rising happily in my kitchen, Disney songs playing in the background, and I've got an open cookbook on beef in front of me.  This whole studying at home thing is going swell.
Okay, now I've switched to something less embarrassing than Beauty and the Beast.  This is something my friend recommended on Facebook - and on a side note please check out her website, it's not food related, it's just breathtaking photos.  I don't know much about photography but her photos are mind-blowing, and just...they make me feel something.  All good art needs to elicit feelings and hers does.  She also has great taste in music.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Whole Vanilla Bean Biscuits

Pouring rain in this part of Scotland is rare.  Usually it's just that annoying drizzle that's as if God is spitting at you.  Right now it's a proper shower.  The wind's strong, the temperature's cold, and the skies are a miserable gray.  Miserable, yes.  Pure misery is only emotion and word I can use to describe this. People on the streets walk about with their heads down, hair in the face, holding onto fragile umbrellas that are being blown in all directions.  Everyone's squinting and grimacing and you can feel the negative aura. 
So it's an indoor tea-drinking-biscuit-eating day.  Imagine this:  sipping hot earl gray and eating hese vanilla biscuits as you sit by the window hearing the rain beat gently against the window -- it all sounds so romantic but it never is when it rains here, I just feel irritated and miserable. 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Ziggy's (St Andrews)

St Andrews has arguably one of the highest turnover rates when it comes to restaurants. They rarely last through my 4-year degree so it's surprising to see that Ziggy's, the oldest restaurant in St Andrews, has been around for 31 years.

It's an American 60’s rock themed restaurant that is essentially a Hard Rock Cafe. Imagine your typical Hard Rock Cafe: imagine the decor with the signed records and the concert posters, the menu with the burgers and sundaes, and the atmosphere and the music and the waiters -- yup that's it, that's Ziggy's, just smaller, and well, perhaps as an independent business it also has a nice personal touch.  Just like Hard Rock Cafe, you're there for the experience.  The food's not mind-blowingly spectacular in any way, it's decent and you get what you pay for, with £6.95 for a two-course set lunch, and around £15-20 if ordering a-la-carte. 

We began with bruschettas with tomatoes and olives, and garlic prawns and toast. Both were good, just the portions needed to be halved, and the breads more toasted.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Tuna, Black Olive Crushed Potatoes, Green Beans, Orange Mayonnaise, Honey Mustard, Lemon Oil

It's St Patrick's Day and your food consumption should not be limited to boozy green stuff.

Oh I've butchered the tuna, I know.  It stuck to my not-so-well-maintained cast iron pan and I tried flipping it before it formed a proper crust and it tore and fell apart and it was all very emotional.  Shame, because it would've looked much nicer with a proper sear, evenly cooked on both sides, with the right amount of pink in the middle.

On the bright side, it all tasted really nice.  The potatoes were a mixture of soft and creamy withy crunchy and caramelized, speckled with olives that give bursts of flavor.  The secret here was plenty of butter (obviously and unfortunately).  The sauces, a bit dubious on their own in the beginning, I'll admit, but they complement the tuna incredibly well.  Oh and the drizzle of lemon oil at the end -- mmmm. 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Chili Peanut Butter Tart

This is a rich, dense peanut butter tart with a sprinkling of chili flakes on top. 
These photos do it no justice.  I wish I had a slate board. This pie would look really good on a black slate board.  This is all just so..neutral and nude when put on my wooden chopping board.  Everything's just.. sepia. Like some hipster instagram. 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Cinnamon Hazelnut Biscotti

"They don't look very... They look, um...rustic."   Say what you will, they're beautiful and they're f*cking delicious.  I know, I'm completely shameless, but they really are.  I made them late last night and then after the first bite, honestly, the first thing that went through my mind was, "f*cking hell, pat on the back, Maria, pat on the back."
I'm not giving myself the all the credit here, it's yet another recipe by my favorite pastry chef, Christoph Felder. These biscotti are made with almost a meringue base, where instead of just mixing all the ingredients together to form a dough, the eggs and the sugar are beaten for 20 minutes (as specifically stated in the recipe) and then the flour, nuts and cinnamon are gently folded in. These are crisp and crunchy and taste like a cross between brutti ma buoni and biscotti.  Have you ever had brutti ma buoni?  "Ugly but good", as literally translated, they are these Italian hazelnut cookies that are crisp on the outside and almost macaron-like in the middle.  Here's a nice recipe of it if you've never tried them. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Black Olive Quick Bread

Baking requires a specific state of mind.  It's the only time when mise en place - measuring and organizing all the ingredients you need for the recipe - really matters.  It requires precision and attention.  It's not like cooking. It's not a dash of this and a handful of that.  It's not a Pollock painting.

Baking requires serenity.  It begins with a warm house, and all is quiet but the calming buzzing of the oven.  Spooning flour into a bowl, while watching the numbers on the scale.  Pouring in the liquid, as you bend down to be at eye levels with the measuring jug.  Gradually tipping in the cream, and gently folding everything in.  And you let out a sigh and all is well.  Seeing the ingredients amalgamate, and the colors fuse, to form a uniform batter.  Feeling the soft dough against your fingertips and palms, as you knead, and knead, and knead.  It's just you and the calm buzzing of the oven.  The house smells of comfort -- it smells of spices, yeast and herbs.  You're in control, you're focused on the present, and nothing else matters.  Precision and attention and a sense of achievement when you pull your baby out of the oven.  And in that calming and relaxing process, nothing else matters -- baking requires a specific state of mind, and I suppose it's how some people feel about yoga. 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Salmon Three Ways

Cured, smoked, poached, raw, fried to a rosy pink with crispy crackling skin - everybody loves some form of salmon.  I know of fish haters that can tolerate it and vegetarians that break the rules every now and then with it.

As a child I had only ever had salmon in thee ways: baked with a squeeze of lemon at the end, cooked in a tomato sauce, and salmon nigiri sushi. Smoked salmon was disgusting and I was never exposed to anything else.

Here it's smoked pâté on toasted bread, smoked salmon cucumber rolls and miso salmon en croute.  
Last night I went to a friend's house for dinner and she made these salmon yorkshire pudding-like things.  Absolutely delightful, they were so soft and tender with the taste of salmon flowing through them, just delicious.  I love being invited to dinner because, and it may come as a surprise, I love being cooked for.  I think it's one of the nicest gestures in the world, and I'm always so flattered whenever someone invites me to their home for a meal.  Usually it's me cooking or we dine out or it's a potluck but whenever someone makes the effort to cook a whole meal for me, I feel incredibly happy and honored.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Adamson (St Andrews)

Remember Scott Davies?  For those that didn't glue their eyes to the television the whole of last winter watching BBC2 in the evening, he was a finalist on Masterchef Professionals, and he's the head chef at The Adamson in St. Andrews. 

As if that alone wasn't exciting enough, amongst the smart and contemporary decor, the restaurant has an open kitchen where you can see the man himself carefully preparing your food, and yes, I sat as close to him as possible. 

"Classic brassiere cooking with a contemporary twist" the menu has a strong Scottish influence with an abundance of beef, seafood and an exciting vegetarian selection, which is always nice to see.  With the daily set menu priced at £14.95 for three courses and £11.95 for two, it is definitely one of the best places for lunch in town. 

With the a-la-carte menu you're looking at about  £25-30 for a three course meal, which is still excellent for the quality of food you're getting

From the starters I chose pea mousse with crab, pea shoots and caper dressing.
A fresh crab salad speckled with bright green peas and peashoots and a lovely little ball of pea mousse nestled in the middle under the hot crisp potato croquette.  Pretty as a picture, a great balance of textures and colors, just a shame it was over-salted, especially as when you reached the mousse, you were reaching for water at the same time.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Coconut Caramel Brioche Pudding

So many eggs.  I feel like most other bread pudding recipes ask for a 1 egg to 1 cup milk ratio, but this one was 8 eggs to 1 cup liquid.  Plus some mascarpone and brioche bread that just bumped this baby up from comforting to indulgent.

The original recipe asked for challah bread but I just used supermarket brioche rolls.  These brioche rolls always make me nostalgic.  In fact, you'll find that I say that in most of my posts, I either link a recipe to an old memory or I talk about my current life.  It's all about me, it is a personal blog, I'm allowed to be self-absorbed here. 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Hazelnut and Thyme Pesto

This is almost the complete opposite of the traditional Genovese pesto with basil and pine nuts.  It's the basil that, when ground in abundance, makes any sauce fresh and fragrant.  Genovese pesto tastes and looks of summer and vitality.  Not the ones you get in jars that's lying somewhere on the color spectrum between cheap green tea and coffee-stained napkins , but the homemade ones that look of a bright green garden in the sun.  

This is winter. This is up in the mountains hovering over the fire with a mug of hot chocolate.  It's earthy and it's comforting.  
Right now that's what I'm craving.  Comfort.  I want to be curled up on the couch and feel calm and warm and relaxed and serene and just.. still. 
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