23 July 2015

Recipe: Seafood Chowder

SO MANY PEOPLE have told me that they're "afraid" of cooking fish, but I always say the key is in the simplicity of it. My favourite methods are steaming or, as in this instance, poaching in an infused liquid - both quick, no fuss ways of cooking.  

I firmly believe that meat-laden diets with a lack of fresh veg and seafood are a huge part of health problems in the Western world, so I'm making more of a conscious effort to eat more fish - starting with this speedy recipe.

If I have one key tip, it's to aim to almost undercook the fish, allowing the latent heat finish it off as you plate and take to the table - happy cooking!

Ingredients (serves 2):

1x Scottish haddock fillet, cut into chunks
1x undyed smoked haddock fillet, cut into chunks
Handful of Scottish mussels, debearded and washed
1x small leek, finely chopped
1x banana shallot, finely chopped
1x carrot, cut into brunoise (small cubes)
Pint of fish stock, or water if you don't have time to make it
Large glass of white wine
1x bay leaf
1x bouquet garni 
250mls, double cream
Unsalted butter
1 tbsp tomato puree
4x medium potatoes (I used Cypriot ones here), parboiled and sliced for sauteing 
Handful of dill, picked


1) Begin by melting a knob of butter in a frying pan with a splash of oil.  Once hot, place the potatoes in the pan and season.  Flip the potatoes over when golden and set aside on some kitchen paper when both sides are done.

2) Melt the butter in a pan and begin to sweat the leek, carrot and shallot. Once softened, add the tomato puree and stir for one minute.  Next, add the white wine and allow to reduce by half.

3) Have a tight fitting lid handy and toss in the mussels.  Put lid on and leave for 2-3 mins, occasionally shaking the pot as you go.  When the shells have opened, the mussels are cooked.  Discard any that don't open. 

4) Pass the liquid through a sieve into another pot, picking out the mussels for later.  Now you have all the juices from the mussels in the broth, add the veg back into the pan.

5) Add the stock, bay leaf and bouquet garni.  Bring to the boil and reduce heat to gently simmer. If you have the time, turn off the heat and allow the aromatics infuse for a good 20 minutes.

6) Add the cream and stir until combined. Gently cook for 5-6 mins until it thickens slightly.  Now add the haddock and poach for no more than two minutes. Season to taste.

7) Place the potatoes in the bottom of a bowl and gently ladle the fish mixture over.  Place the mussels around it and dress with the fresh dill.

For information on sourcing seasonal and sustainable fish visit: https://www.msc.org/

Always use a responsible fishmonger. 
Fish comes from Welch Fishmongers, 34 Great Junction Street, Leith, EH6 5LA

19 July 2015

Competition: Win Tickets to Foodies Festival 2015 at Inverleith Park

THIS YEAR MARKS the 10th anniversary of Foodies Festivals across the UK and, not only am I delighted to be part of their official blogging team, I also have two pairs of tickets to give away for the Edinburgh leg at Inverleith Park between the 7th-9th August.

Following the success of last year's event, the organisers have decided to increase the festival by a whopping 50%, meaning more great food, demonstrations from top chefs and amazing drinks across this three-day event.

All you have to do to win is answer this simple question:

On a recent trip to London, I spent an evening in the kitchen with a two Michelin-starred chef, but who was it?

A) Phil Howard (The Square)
B) Marcus Wareing (Marcus)
C) Michel Roux Jr. (Le Gavroche) 

Send your answers HERE and a two lucky winners will be picked at random (please specify which of the three days you would like to attend).


If you don't win - don't fret! Tickets are available on the day or by following the information below.

Tickets are on sale now at www.foodiesfestival.com or by calling 0844 995 1111

Friday adult day ticket £10.00 (£8.00 concession)
Saturday or Sunday adult day ticket £13.00 (£11.00 concession)
3-day adult ticket £20.00 (£16.00 concession)
Friday VIP ticket £35.00
Saturday or Sunday VIP ticket £38.00
VIP tickets include a welcome glass of bubbly, access to the VIP tent with private bar and refreshments throughout the day, priority entry to food and drink masterclasses, a goody bag and a show guide.
All children aged 12 and under go free to all Foodies Festivals when accompanied by an adult.

Open times:
Friday 7th August11am – 7pm
Saturday 8th August: 10am – 8pm
Sunday 9th August: 10am – 7pm

17 July 2015

Review: The Magnum, Edinburgh

GIVEN THE DISTINCT lack of summer we’ve been having, I think this sunny(ish) day has to go down as one of the better ones, as we laud the happy drinkers outside The Magnum on Albany Street. Sarah and I had enjoyed a visit to this gastropub last year, meaning there would be added scrutiny this time around.

As it happens, the same table was free, so we plonked down at the window and admired the surrounding Georgian architecture of the New Town, whilst sipping on a rather refreshing Chenin Blanc (The Veldt Range, 2014 from South Africa, priced at £18.95).

I always lean towards cullen skink when it crops up on the menu, but it was too humid a day (boo hoo)  for a hot soup.  Instead, I ordered beetroot cured salmon gravadlax with celeriac remoulade, beetroot puree and pumpernickel bread (£7.20).  It certainly passed the presentation test, vibrant purples contrasting with lusciously green micro herbs.  The purple parts consisted of deliciously fresh cured salmon and an earthy puree that we know always works, but what elevated this dish was the warmth of wholegrain mustard from the creamy, crunchy remoulade.

Sarah elected to start with The Magnum’s play on haggis (vegetarian in this instance), neeps ‘n’ tatties with a whisky and thyme sauce (£6.50). Three neat quenelles of the above ticked all the boxes: smooth mash, good quality haggis and a well-cooked turnip element were complemented by a light whisky sauce that had hints of thyme, but maybe could have done with a splash more of whisky.

Mains were again a difficult choice due to the appeal of the menu offerings, but I settled (I say like it’s a chore; it wasn’t) for venison haunch with a black pudding croquette, purple carrots and kale with a redcurrant reduction all for the sum of £19.50. Excellent presentation again, in what turned out to be a real satisfying dish.  The tender meat was expertly dispatched and clearly well rested, while the carrots still had crunch and married well with the meat.  I really liked the gently sweated red onions running throughout; they brought texture and, along with the irony kale, colour while offsetting the sweetness of the venison. Eating each element together with that black pudding really gives you maximum satisfaction – delicious.

Pan-fried sea bass with sumac-coated king prawns, croutons, charred red pepper and a chilli and orange dressing (£17.50) was Sarah’s main and, again, the portion size was generous to say the least.  The fish was soft, succulent and sufficiently seasoned, but maybe the skin could have been crisper. I don’t really get the relevance of the prawns, although there was nothing wrong with them as such.  The sweetness and charred notes of the peppers were a real highlight, with an acidity from the orange that sliced through the bass. We debated the fruit and fish combo… it’s still going on, but a good plate of food nonetheless.

For once, I didn’t have a big lunch before going out for dinner and I was glad by the time desserts came.  Mine,  cranachan cheesecake with red berry coulis and raspberry and vanilla compote (£6.50) with the lady’s dish consisting of chocolate fudge cake with cherries in red wine syrup and chocolate ganache (£6.75).

The cheesecake base was thin and short – I distress at seeing thick biscuit bases.  The filling was speckled with oats throughout and, rather pleasingly, wasn’t too heavy.  A more pronounced whisky taste would have been welcomed, but the freshness of the fruit and a top-drawer compote meant that this was an ideal dish to end the meal on.

Over the table, Sarah tackled a light, chocolate pudding that sported an oozy, cherry-laden, fondant-esque centre  The ganache was rich and finger licking good, with the freshness from strawberries harmonising the richness of the plate.

The Magnum had a lot to live up to after our last visit, but it dealt with those expectations confidently, with superbly presented plates of food at reasonable prices.  Well worth a visit if you’re in and around the town centre.

Web: http://www.themagnumrestaurant.co.uk/
Phone: (0131) 557 4366
Address: 1 Albany Street,
                EH 1 3PY
The Magnum Bar & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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