8 January 2018

Review: @pizza, Edinburgh

@Pizza (or at Pizza) opened along the West End of Princes Street at the end of November last year.  Nestled down the secluded Charlotte Lane, it's USP is to knock out pizzas in precisely 90 seconds. I usually make my own pizza, which obviously takes a hell of a lot longer, but I’ve been suffering from a bad cold for a few weeks and couldn’t face a hot kitchen after a hard day at work.  Eating out it is then.

A friendly waiter popped out from behind the counter to greet us and take us through the concept.  The emphasis was on creating your own pizza, although there were a few stock recipes on there for the indecisive among us. Names included ‘Mean Greens’, ‘Eat Meat Repeat’ and ‘Heartbreaker’ (descriptions in graphic). There was also a dessert pizza which I thought was a horrendous idea.  Our server informed us that you can have as many toppings as you like and to pop back up when we were ready.

The interior was a little canteen-like and uninviting for my taste – the total opposite from the staff it has to be said. It proved comfortable enough and we were soon having our pizzas constructed by the chatty employees.

To their credit, @pizza have a fair offering of craft beers (Paolozzi and a couple from Stewart's) and sodas, as well as Italian wines to wash down the grub with.  I went for the Sicilian lemonade which did what it said on the tin, while Sarah enjoyed a tasty ginger, mint and lime (both £2.25).

All pizzas are £9.50 and you can choose between a sourdough or ancient grain (spelt I believe) base.  I opted for the former with a classic tomato base. There are a few cheese options, including a Scottish mozzarella-style one, but I went for the cheddar/mozza combo.  Now to the toppings… you begin with the ‘veggie’ section where I added grilled red onions and Tinkerbell tomatoes before moving onto the ‘protein’ area.  From there I decided on spicy Italian sausage and roast chicken. I got to the end of the counter and began to examine this super speed pizza oven.  The oblong-shaped pizza disappeared on the conveyor belt and, sure enough, came out a minute and a half later where you can then finish it off with more toppings, flavoured oils and other bits and bobs.  I went for Stilton which was the pizza creator’s favourite, topped off with a drizzle of chilli oil and a smattering of olives.

First impression was that it was pretty small but it was very filling and more than enough.  The base tasted good but was slightly limp it has to be said.  We had also just spent a week in Bologna where we gorged on some pretty damn fine pizzas, so expectations were heightened. Sarah and I really enjoyed the tasty red onions and I loved when the tiny tomatoes burst open in your mouth, making you feel like this was someway healthy.  The meat toppings had enough flavour, if not unspectacular quality and the Stilton was the real highlight.
The problem was that because it wasn’t baked in a piping hot pizza oven the toppings were never going to amalgamate with the dough and the cheese properly to prevent them falling everywhere -  it got a little messy.

At pizza, to their credit, have a few local craft beers (Paolozzi and a couple from Stewart’s) and sodas, as well as Italian wines, to wash down the grub with.  I went for the Sicilian lemonade which did what it said on the tin.

Overall, the service was the strong point here.  The food was good, don’t get me wrong and I can see the concept going down a storm with the lunchtime crowd and kids alike.  I can see this idea working well in Glasgow city centre, but as far as the capital is concerned, it’ll be interesting to see how this business pans out.

Phone: (0131) 285 5940
Address: Charlottle Lane, Edinburgh, EH2 4QZ.

@pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

24 September 2017

Review: Tinto House Hotel, Symington, near Biggar

I WAS PLEASED to be heading down to Biggar for another review after a successful trip to the Elphinstone Hotel a few weeks back, not just because I was hungry but because I got my car back from the garage this week after someone carelessly bashed into me.  Aside my obvious love of food, I’m also a bit of a petrol head and love a swift jaunt out to the country, observing every speed limit on the way, of course. The Tinto Hotel was completely unknown to us – but would we end up wishing it had stayed that way?

Built in 1914, this country house hotel is located just outside Biggar in Lanarkshire. First impressions were positive as we admired the tasteful interior of the lounge with a cocktail whilst perusing the menu. The offerings were appealing, meaning it required some deliberation before making our choices.

We made our way into an elegant dining room where tables were adorned with white table cloths, and we chatted with the MD of the hotel, who had just about recovered from a busy Edinburgh Festival period.  It was good to hear of the hotel’s ambition and visions for the future, which included modernising the rooms and adding to the current facilities.

I opened with the eight-hour braised ham hock, set in its own jelly with homemade piccalilli, apple puree and bread thins (£4.95).  My usual quibble with this sort of terrine is that the chef assumes that it’s naturally salty, which it is. I’m more than happy to get my recommended 6g of salt a day, and was pleased that this effort was well-seasoned.  It was a generous chunk of tender pork and the accompanying piccalilli was delicious – a little more of it would have been ideal.  The apple puree was delicate and worked well alone with the pork; however, it was overwhelmed by the spice of the piccalilli.

To begin, Sarah had smoked haddock, pea and chive fishcakes with citrus hollandaise and spinach (£5.25). The portion was generous to say the least: two giant pucks served with a smear of a well-crafted hollandaise that had a good zing to it. The exterior of the fishcakes was crunchy and not greasy. They packed a pleasing smoked fish taste to them, but there was little evidence of any of the promised peas.  The spinach provided an earthiness and an additional textural element.

I was hungry given it was a fairly late booking so the 14oz rib-eye steak was tempting, but I was glad I ordered the roast chump of lamb with braised root vegetable puy lentils, crispy kale and sauce vierge (£14.50). The lamb was beautifully cooked and worked perfectly with the sharp liveliness of the sauce vierge. The danger with crispy kale is that it just becomes a grease-fest, but this was expertly executed and brought the promised crunch, as well as a slight bitter edge that I loved.  The lentils were ideally portioned for the dish and still had the desired texture to them.  A very enjoyable main course for under £15.

Sarah decided upon pan-fried duck supreme with celeriac and potato dauphinoise, charred chicory and a cherry reduction for the sum of £14.95. The meat was superbly cooked and tender and the dauphinoise was superb, with visible layers cut easily with a creamy decadence and whack of garlic.  The cherry reduction didn’t quite reach the heights of the other parts, as it was on the thin side and more like redcurrant jelly with cherry pieces added to it. It brought a slight sharpness to the dish and wasn’t too sweet. She really enjoyed the chicory, which contributed a bitterness to the sweet meat, as well as a bit of crunch.

Our server was efficient and clued-up with both the menu and the hotel.  We placed our dessert orders.  Mine was sticky toffee pudding (£4.95) and Sarah’s was warm vanilla poached pear and frangipane tart with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce for the same price.

My pudding was neatly presented; the sponge was moist and enhanced when bathed in sweet caramel with the contrasting temperature of the ice cream.  The best thing about this was that it wasn’t sickly sweet and it was light enough to polish off the whole thing.

Over the table, Sarah’s tart sported some tidy pastry work, although it was a tad dry.  However, there was a soft, juicy pear in the centre and a sufficient amount of almond flavour to please. The ice cream was smooth and silky.

On reflection, this was food that I want to eat – tasty, well executed and unpretentious.  The surroundings and service were warm and ticked all the boxes.  My only regret is that we didn’t just stay the night.

Next time.

Phone: (01899) 308 454
Twitter: @TintoHouse

Address: 44 Biggar Road, Symington, near Biggar, South Lanarkshire, ML12 6FT

10 September 2017

Recipe: Homemade calzone

MAKING BREAD IS one of my favourite things. I've worked on my dough recipe over the past couple of years and I'm really happy with the results, whether it be for pizza dough or a normal loaf.  I had a few bits and bobs needing to be used up in the fridge and, having made a batch of meatballs for mid-week lunches earlier in the day, decided on a bit of a change to my usual homemade pizzas.

You can fill your calzone with whatever you like!

Ingredients (serves 1):

For the dough:

200g organic plain flour
14g dried yeast (two sachets)
Tsp sugar
Pinch of sea salt
Couple of glugs, rapeseed oil
Lukewarm water, as required

For the meatballs:

100g pork mince
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dijon mustard
Sea salt
Black pepper

For the filling:

1 tbsp organic tomato puree
150ml organic passata
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 tsb dried oregano
1/2 red onion, sliced
Few black olives, sliced
1/2 red chilli, diced
1 ball, mozzarella, sliced
Three slices, Milano salami, sliced


1) Pre-heat oven to 180C.  Mix all of the meatball ingredients and roll into equal balls (25g each).  Place on a lightly oiled tray and bake in the oven for 25 mins. Set aside and cut in half when ready to dress.

2) Put all of the dough ingredients in a large bowl. Add water as required and mix until it comes together.  Remove from bowl and knead on a floured surface for around five mins until a smooth ball is formed. Place back into the bowl and leave in a warm place for around half an hour until dough rises.

3) Cook the tomato puree out for a minute.  Add garlic for 10-15 secs, then add the passata.  Cook for 2-3 mins then add the oregano.  Season to taste and allow to cool. 

4) Prepare the fillings as required.

5) On a floured surface, roll out the dough to the thickness of a pound coin.  Spread a thin layer of the tomato sauce over the dough, leaving a couple of inches spare around the edges.

6) Dress with desired toppings.

7) Lightly brush the edge of one half of the dough with water.  Fold over and gently press down to seal.  Now roll the edges of the dough back in towards the centre until it reaches the edge of the filling. 

8) Place in the oven for 35-40 mins. Serve!


29 August 2017

Review: The Elphinstone Hotel, Biggar

HAVING BEEN ILL and house-bound for several weeks, it was good to be back in the swing of things. The Elphinstone Hotel in Biggar was the destination and I can’t say I’ve been on a more beautiful drive for a restaurant review.  But would the food make it worth the trek out of Edinburgh?
Before the visit I was very impressed by the hotel’s website.  It was slick.  Clearly it had had some investment; us restaurant critics appreciate a decent website.  From this I learned the venue was a family-run hotel with a mission statement aiming to provide excellent hospitality and use locally sourced produce, of which South Lanarkshire is blessed. The owners, Robert and Janette Allan, have been at the helm for over 25 years.  I don’t know these parts well, but judging by the talk from the clientele, this establishment is a real pillar of the community. 

The hotel sits on Biggar High Street, which is impeccably looked after and full of independent businesses. We arrived to a very warm welcome where a busy service was well underway, explaining why we could only get a table as late as 8 p.m. There is a small, semi-enclosed bar area on your right as you enter and a couple of paths that lead to other parts of the building. Initial inspection suggests this place is well loved and tended too.  It’s spotless and has a real cozy vibe to it.

The menu is an extensive one to say the least.  There is a specials page at the front, providing a slightly more modern offering, then the usual menu which serves up a mixture of steaks, classics and plates influenced by various countries around the world.  I was particularly intrigued by the ‘Breakfast Stack’ (see menu) but that’ll have to wait for another day.

I love scallops and black pudding and it was a treat to see it on the specials tonight (£7.95).  Accurately pan seared, they melted in the mouth like butter, exploding into raptures of sweetness that’s offset with the warmth and meatiness of the Stornoway black pud. A salty kick and crisp texture from the neat bacon pieces round off this symphony.  My only qualm was that a kick of acidity – a grate of lemon zest – or a dressing of some description was needed to really polish up those notes to a tee.

Sarah also went for a seafood starter with chilli and mango king prawns in breadcrumbs (£5.95) her choice. We liked how the prawns were coated in the chilli and mango jam then breadcrumbed. It was a bit different and tasted great.  The shellfish was moist but the coating was the outstanding part of this dish. 

I was drawn in by the bacon steak from the excellent Ramsay of Carluke for my main – just an example of one of the excellent producers around these parts. This is what I’d call a ‘dirty’ main course, in that it’s not healthy in the slightest – not that I care.  Priced at a generous £10.25, it came with two fried eggs, onion rings, mushrooms, chips and a tomato (the healthy part).  Sadly, the steak is covered by the eggs in my picture, but it looked and tasted amazing. Tender as you like and bristling with smoked pork flavour.  Pig of the finest quality. The onion rings were really light and crisp, with the ‘shrooms superbly cooked.  The chips were fairly run-of-the-mill, but at least they were crisp.

Delving into the specials menu again, Sarah ordered duck breast with wild berry jus and fresh sugar snap peas (£15.95).  The duck was well-rested and beautifully pink inside.  The skin could have been crisper, which wasn’t helped by the sauce been drizzled over it, but it was a sharp and tasty effort that we know works with the bird.  A big dollop of smooth mash was ideal for mopping up the dressing and the sugar snaps were al dente, as expected, and added a freshness to the plate.

It began to dawn on me the scale of the food operation at this hotel as service progressed.  There was a corridor to the left of us that looked packed, then another room upstairs ( a function of some sort, I suspected) also full, yet service was comfortable and the kitchen clearly in control.  While there were a few tourists around, it was obvious that the majority of customers were local and had probably been eating at The Elphinstone for years, if not decades. The owner mingled with guests and a young chap, 
I suspect the son judging by the resemblance, offered particularly impressive service to the guests in our section.

Now desserts were awesome to say the least.  A significant section of the puddings menu consists of a variety of sundaes made with ice cream from local producer Taylor’s of Biggar. I had the ‘Rob Roy’ (£4.95), which comprised of cream, crunch and sweetness from layers of shortbread, vanilla ice cream and a warm Drambuie sauce that transformed a rather fun offering into something more adult. 
Sarah selected the sticky toffee apple crumble option at the same price. It had started pouring with rain by this point so the warmth from the apple seemed appropriate. The tartness cut through the creamy ice cream in what was a truly delicious thing.

We were well looked after at The Elphinstone tonight.  It’s great to see a hotel remain such a strong part of the local community, both in a social sense and in the way their ingredients are used. The stunning drive from the city was well worth it.

Phone: (01899) 220044
Address: 145 High Street, Biggar, ML12 6DL

The Elphinstone Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

27 August 2017

Review: Otterstone Bar & Grill, Victoria Park Hotel, Edinburgh

VICTORIA PARK HOTEL is a small, independently owned establishment on Ferry Road that I often pass on the way home.  Naturally, I am intrigued by their food and drink offerings, especially with it being in such close proximity to my abode. I’ve had a gander at their website a few times but have always been put off by the rather boring menu – it’s old hat.  I came across a Facebook post announcing that they had appointed a new head chef and, figuring they would want to put their own stamp on the menu, duly went to investigate.

Ryan Cattigan, 21, is the new cook at the helm of the Otterstone Bar & Grill and arrives after spending a number of years with the G1 group where he progressed through the ranks at Edinburgh’s Ghillie Dhu. While that may seem young, he comes across as a driven, ambitious chef that has a clear vision for his new kitchen. He spoke about the potential the restaurant has and identified areas where he feels his food could appeal to new and old punters alike. 

The glaring problem with this space (and the hotel in general), is that it needs major sprucing up.  It’s cold and uninspiring.  I’m not saying spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on the latest in uber-trendoid hipster bar kit, but a lick of paint and a bit of imagination can go a long way. The Gosford Bar looks decent and there is a cracking beer garden that could attract people in from the heavily populated area that surrounds it.  Ferry Road is one of the busiest in the city – ideal for drawing in passing trade.

For starters, I had beetroot cured salmon with a radish, fennel and apple salad (£6.25). This dish worked well when eaten together, both flavour and texture wise.  The curing of the salmon really gave it a commendable beetroot flavour that married well with the aniseed notes and crunch from the fennel.  The pea shoots added a bit of complexity with a slight bitter taste coming through at the end.

Sarah opened with pulled pork croquettes with tangy barbeque sauce and salad (£5.95).  I could happily sit with a pint or two watching the football whilst munching on these.  A hefty portion (three would have sufficed but who’s complaining), the crisp coating gave way to unveil a really tasty, moist meaty filling.  The barbeque sauce provided a smoky dipping element ideal for these piggy treats, while a fresh salad almost alleviated the guilt that comes with gorging.

I would revisit braised pork with my main in the form of braised pork belly served with confit potatoes asparagus and red wine jus (£11.95). The presentation was very neat and modern, again a far cry from what you’d expect if you read the website menu.  The pork was very good quality and melted in the mouth.  The skin was crispy around the edges, which were tasty, but I would have liked the whole lot to have been crisp.  The asparagus was impressively cooked, although I don’t like seeing it on the menu out of season.  The potatoes were buttery and also expertly executed with a red wine jus that deserved a thumbs up for both flavour and consistency. Little dots of what I think was a lemon sauce that cut through that fatty meat and enhanced the presentation.

Supreme of chicken stuffed with black crowdie, herby potatoes, veg and a red pepper puree would be Sarah’s main this evening and would set you back £12.25.  The meat was moist with tender spuds flavoured by the promised herbs.  The root veg added sweetness and earthiness.  The puree was smooth and sweet with Cattigan attempting some Massimo Bottura-esque presentation that seem to be a feature in some of his creations.  The dish needed more of that puree or a separate jus just to add a bit more cohesion to it, but you’d happily pay for it.

Unlike the dining room, service was very warm and enthusiastic. Flitting between the bar and restaurant, the waiting staff were efficient and clearly knew what they were doing. Certainly a positive going forward and a sign that there are some building blocks already in place here.

I would end with a good old sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel ice cream (£5.50).  This always reminds me of my old chef/lecturer, Davie Edwards, who claims to make the best sticky toffee pudding ever and sells the recipe for £50 a pop.  This was a decent attempt, as it was light and not too sweet.  The toffee sauce was also pleasingly thick and not ‘just out of the microwave’ hot. 

The other half ordered cranachan with handmade shortbread (£4.50). This was disappointing and not to the standard of the rest of the food.  I mean it was OK in the sense that you’d eat it and not remember it, but it doesn’t live up to the potential of what a cranachan could be. There was a sharp raspberry kick running through the cream and the shortbread added texture, but it just lacked that real punch of whisky and sweetness from honey that’s crucial to a memorable cranachan.

To conclude, this place has definite potential and the brasserie-style food is going in the right direction. It’s well priced and commendably executed. Edinburgh is saturated with quality eateries so in order to thrive, a few quid needs to be spent to bring this restaurant to life.  Hopefully Cattigan’s ambition can be matched by the owners.

Phone: (0131) 454 2060
Address: 221 Ferry Road, Edinburgh, EH6 4NN

Otterstone Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

22 August 2017

The Art and Science of Gin: Edinburgh Gin event at 99 Hanover Street

The Art and Science of Gin, hosted by Edinburgh Gin at 99 Hanover Street, offers a truly unique insight into the capital's long term love affair with the spirit. 

Using cutting edge projection mapping technology and a guided sensory experience (as well as a few samples!) this was a very inciteful event, expertly hosted by the Edinburgh Gin team at one of the city's best-loved bars. 

With three centuries of gin drinking under our belts, you will leave brimming full of knowledge on Gin; a drink whose renaissance shows no sign of slowing. Being a Scot, you will leave proud in the knowledge that we played a big part in the history of it.  Be sure to stamp your 'Gin Passport' on the way out!

Ticket holders can look forward to a welcome drink, a gin tasting session, and a signature serve during the performance.


Set to delight cocktail aficionados and gin lovers alike, this year’s festival marks the launch of Edinburgh Gin’s first ‘Gin Passport’.

Offering a unique taste of the capital’s spirit, festival-goers will explore a series of six pop-up bars in popular locations, including Contini @ the Mound, George Street, Teviot House and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. 

Among the signature serves are classic G&Ts, gin fizzes and exclusive Edinburgh Gin cocktails inspired by some of the city’s most renowned icons; including the ‘Edwyn Collins’, the ‘James Martin Martini’ or the ‘New Town Treasure’.

By collecting a stamp at each of the distiller’s pop-up bars, guests can also lay claim to a complementary drink at Edinburgh Gin’s flagship venue at The Mound.

Art and Science of Gin

Tickets cost £20, buyers must be 18+. ID may be requested. Tickets can be purchased here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/art-and-science-of-gin

Ticket includes a welcome drink on arrival, a tasting session and one signature cocktail during the show.

Dates:  22nd-27th August
Times: 13:3015:0016:30 (duration 1 hour)
Address/Venue: 99 Hanover Street, EH2 1DJ
Venue number: 509
Box Office: 0131 556 6550

28 July 2017

Competition: Win tickets to Foodies Festival in Edinburgh

It's that time of year again when Foodies Festival, the UK's biggest celebration of food and drink, takes over Inverleith Park to serve up a day out that no foodie should miss.  With its usual line-up of top chefs, producers and a tantalising menu of new culinary features, the festival takes place between the 4th-6th August and Phil's Food World has five pairs of tickets for this year's event.

Festival goers can look forward to a celebrity and Michelin-starred chef line-up in the Chefs Theatre this summer, with Scotland’s top chefs showcasing their culinary skills and inspiring the audience with their delicious dishes. There will be a focus on culinary wellness, with farm-to-table dishes, sugar-free cooking and ‘feel good’ food trends. We’re delighted to announce that MasterChef Winner 2016 Jane Devonshire will also be cooking up her family favourites and showing the Foodies visitors how to make gluten-free healthy, comfort food. Prue Leith will also be in attendance!

All you have to do is simply follow Phil's Food World on Twitter and/or Instagram (see links to the right of this page) and email your preferred day Here. A winner will be chosen at random on Monday 31st July.

Good luck!

For more information check out the Foodies website: http://foodiesfestival.com/edinburgh-food-festival/

26 July 2017

Recipe: Roasted vegetable tart with bavette steak and homemade Crowdie cheese

MAKING YOUR OWN cheese is more straightforward than you might think. There are some great cheese making kits out there, but they are pretty costly and not actually necessary. We have made cheese for thousands of years after all! This post will not only will teach you how to knock up your own cheese, but will provide a tasty recipe to add to your culinary repertoire at the same time.

Rennet is crucial in the cheese making process, as it separates the solid curds from the liquid whey. You will find it in Lakeland or online, but lemon juice will do the same job if you can't find it. I also have a plastic pot (see link above) with holes in that allows the whey to drain from the curds as the cheese presses, although you could just do it Blue Peter-style and cut up a plastic bottle. You will also need some cheese or muslin cloth.

I'm using a really cheap and tasty cut of beef here called bavette, which comes from the flank.  Often overlooked in favour of the Rolls Royce cuts like fillet or sirloin, bavette just needs a quick flash in a hot pan - perfect for a steak sandwich or salad.  It's also a useful cut for marinading.

This dish was really created from veg I had in the cupboard that needed to be used up, so feel free to be creative. The difficulty in making good cheese is finding quality milk, so look for organic or visit your local farmers' market*.

Ingredients (serves 4):

1x 500g packet, puff pastry
200g bavette steak
1x courgette, sliced
1x yellow pepper, sliced
2x cloves of garlic, grated
2x medium red onions, sliced
1x parsnip, sliced
1x red chilli, chopped
1x egg, beaten
Sriracha chilli sauce (optional)
Salt and pepper

For the cheese:
1 litre of organic milk
1 tbsp vegetarian rennet (you can use lemon juice if you can't find rennet)
2tbsp good quality sea salt


1) First make the cheese. Warm the milk to 37C (if you don't have a thermometer, dip your finger in.  It should feel just warm and no more). Add the rennet and 1tbsp salt and gently stir.  The curds and whey should begin to separate.  Line the mould with the cheese cloth.  With a slotted spoon, drain the liquid from the curds and pack tightly into the mould, salting with every new batch.  Fold in the cloth and place a glass or tin on top.  Place in the fridge for 24 hours.

2) Bring the pastry to room temperature.  Roll out to the thickness of £1.  With the back of a knife, gently score a rectangle 1 inch inside the pastry being careful not to cut right through. Prick the inner rectangle with a fork.  

3) Place a frying pan on a medium heat.  Add a little oil and gently fry the veg off for two mins.  Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.  Set aside to cool.  

4) Egg wash the pastry.  Layer the cooked veg inside the rectangle, season and place in the oven at 180C for 20-22 mins.

5) While the tart finishes off cooking, place a griddle pan on a high heat.  Fry the steak for 30-45 seconds on each side.  Season and set aside for two mins to rest. Cut into strips.

6) Remove the tart from the oven.  Crumble over the cheese.  Layer over the steak.  Season lightly and dress with Sriracha sauce.

*(I always prefer raw milk, although it's not available to buy in Scotland, you can buy it online here http://www.hookandson.co.uk/RawMilk/)

22 July 2017

Recipe: Mum's biscuit slice

I'VE BEEN ILL recently and have largely been unable to eat.  For somebody who counts their main hobby as food, whether it be reading cook books, looking through menus or actually cooking, this breeds all sorts of frustration. Hunger and boredom are a lethal combination.

I can't remember how I got the idea for Mum's biscuit slice in my head.  It must be a good 10-15 years since she made it, but I had the ingredients in the cupboard and like something out of Harry Potter (or maybe due to hunger), the ingredients just kind of flew out of the cupboard, screaming to be out together. I suppose when you're ill you just crave home comforts.

This recipe is great for a number of reasons: there's no baking involved; there's a spoon that needs licking; you get to bash things with a rolling pin.  I had so much fun making this as a kid. Mum used to use cooking chocolate, which is frankly disgusting, so what I do is make it a little more adult by replacing it with actual chocolate.

Now, when cooking with chocolate (or not cooking in this case) don't be tempted to splash out on Green & Black's or a premium supermarket version - the quality isn't all that.  Instead, go for the supermarket basics bars.  They tend to be around 52-55% cocoa and cost just 30p a bar, compared to £1.50 - £2 a bar for your 'better' versions. I wager £20 that nobody would be able to tell the difference in a taste test. The slight bitterness just makes this treat a little more adult and counters the sweetness from the biscuit base.

Ingredients (makes one brownie tray worth):

3x bars of supermarket basics dark chocolate, broken into squares
300g Rich Tea biscuits
200g unsalted butter
100g Golden Syrup


1) Put the biscuits in a food bag and bash with a rolling pin.  You still want to keep some reasonably sized chunks for texture.

2) Boil water in a saucepan and place a glass bowl onto the pan, ensuring it doesn't touch the water. Place the broken chocolate in the bowl along with 50g of the butter.  Gently stir until melted.

3) In another pan, melt the rest of the butter.  Pour into the food bag containing the biscuits and add the Golden Syrup.  Seal the bag and shake to mix.

4) Pour into a brownie tin and press down with a spoon or palette knife. The base should set fairly instantly so no need to set aside.

5) Pour over the melted chocolate and spread evenly with a palette knife.  TIP: never set chocolate in the fridge.  You will lose the sheen and end up with a dull finish.  The fat from the chocolate and butter will set it naturally at room temperature (allow an hour).

6) Decorate and cut into slices!

I was tempted to jazz it up with some sea salt but decided to stick to the original version!

9 July 2017

Review: Grain Store, Edinburgh

AH, VICTORIA STREET.  The most picture perfect street in Edinburgh? Now, food is a nostalgic thing and that is certainly the case here because on rare Saturdays off, I would always visit the Grain Store for lunch.  It had been a while, but the prospect of returning to the capital’s ‘Old Lady’ was exciting.

The restaurant is on the upper level of 30 Victoria Street, just up from the Grassmarket area of the city.  Its candlelit stone walls, alcoves and wonderful views of the street below make this an ideal date spot.  Opened by chef Carlo Coxon in 1991, this restaurant is a true hidden gem.  Having built up a loyal clientele over the years, the restaurant doesn’t advertise or seek the limelight like other places.

We arrive for lunch where we are greeted by the familiar face of Paul MacPhail who instantly jokes about how long it has been since our last visit. I clock that some of Paul’s photo-sculpture artwork is adorning the old stone walls.  The contemporary think-pieces work in perfect harmony with the old building, but art critic I am not.  To the food…

We would both have the three-course lunch menu for £16 (two-courses for £14) and would open with a pair of Grain Store classics.  Mine being house-cured salmon with pickled cucumber and fennel. You can get a lot of nasty smoked salmons in the shops these days but this one was top drawer.  The meaty, delicate flesh was gently kissed by the aniseed notes and enhanced by the crunch from the fennel.  The lightly pickled cucumber just seasons with sharpness and the slithers of radish adding peppery warmth.  What made the dish was the homemade tartare sauce; packed with flavours, it wrapped this light starter up perfectly.

Stornoway black pudding with apple and watercress from the Grain Store is a favourite restaurant starter in our household and it never seems to impress with its simplicity. The exquisite superfood was cooked with a crispy exterior just how I like it and just goes so well with the sharpness of the apple and spice from the cress.  The Grain Store always impresses in the sauce department and the rich, sticky jus binds this dish together.

The menus here are renowned for game so I opted for the pigeon fillet with pearl barley and celeriac puree.  A perfect lunch dish for me.  The pigeon was beautifully rare and rich; I’ve had mixed experiences with pearl barley but this was tender and nutty – an ideal foil for the bird.  The celeriac puree was smooth as silk, but my one criticism is that I felt more was needed on the plate.

Sarah ordered Mediterranean chicken with seasonal veg.  A tasty thigh and drumstick were matched with a ratatouille-style element and a couple of roast spuds. The dish was brimming with thyme flavours with the veg neatly handled to provide bite and tenderness at the same time.  This dish was also well seasoned.

Dunsyre Blue has always been the cheese course on this lunch menu for as long as I can remember, but due to the unjust handling by the FSS towards the Errington family, the beautiful cheese is currently unavailable (Lanark Blue and a couple of newbies are, thankfully).  Hebridean Blue, which is made by the same people who produce Isle of Mull Cheddar, was its replacement and, in all honesty, I’ve never been a huge fan of it.  But my opinion was altered here.  This piece was stunning and I loved the homemade seeded crispbreads and accompanying chutney, too.

You can’t beat a good pannacotta and Sarah’s pud was certainly up there.  Paired with seasonal Scottish strawberries and sable crumb, the set cream certainly had the desired wobble and was spot on for a light lunch-time dessert.

A triumphant return to the Grain Store that pleased me no end.  Immaculate service and romantic surroundings are always matched with superb food.  No wonder this place has successfully traded for over 25 years. Until next time, old friend.

Twitter: @GrainstoreEdin
Phone: (0131) 225 7635
Address: 30 Victoria Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2JW

The Grain Store Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato