29 May 2016

Recipe: Scottish tablet with whisky and maple syrup

RECENTLY SARAH AND I attended the wedding of her father to Anne-Marie Murphy, who happens to come from over the pond in Canada.  To help celebrate the occasion, I was charged with producing tablet for the wedding favours.  Naturally, whisky and maple syrup would be the flavours of the day on this momentous occasion.

Maple syrup really takes me back to my childhood.  When my brothers and I stayed at my nan and grandad's at Southerton Crescent in Kirkcaldy, nan would make us waffles with bacon and maple syrup for breakfast whilst our pack of Yorkies mooched under the table for bacon.

This was back in the early 90s when maple syrup was difficult to get in the UK, but grandad worked in the States and would bring back bottles of it from over the border.  It's funny, my nan's recipe was passed down through the generations, but they never quite taste the same as the waffles nan made for us.


75g unsalted butter
250gml full fat milk
2 tbsp Golden Syrup
900g caster sugar
397g can, condensed milk
75mls, whisky
200mls maple syrup

1) Melt the butter in a large pan with the milk. Add the sugar.  Bring to the boil for 3-4 mins until sugar begins to dissolve.

2) Add the condensed milk and Golden Syrup then gently stir constantly for 20 mins. The mix should start to thicken. For the maple syrup tablet, add now.

3) If making whisky tablet, add now and remove from the heat.  Beat thoroughly until mix thickens further

4) Pour into a tin lined with baking parchment and allow to set.

5) Cut into desired shapes and serve.  Should keep for up to a week easily.

15 May 2016

Recipe: Onion bhajis - the ultimate beer snack

I LOVE A delicious curry, but I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that I would feel content just tucking into starters at the Indian.  As I knocked up a batch of lamb curry for dinner this week, I just fancied a pick; onion bhajis fitted the brief.  As it turned out, I cracked open a beer and started nibbling at them as I awaited the rice cooking. The spice and crunch of the bhajis washed down with with a cool beer turned out to be a superb combo. 

The beauty of homemade bhajis is that you can create a batch relatively quickly and they're ideal if you have friends around to watch the football and have a few beers with.  If you have the time, allow the batter to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.  

Ingredients (serves 4):

2x medium organic white onions
150g gram flour, sifted
1x green chilli, finely diced
1tsp cumin seeds
1tsb coriander seeds
Seeds of two cardamon pods
Sea salt
Oil for deep frying


1) In a dry pan, toast the spices for 10 seconds.  Place into a grinder or pestle and mortar and grind until fine.  Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the ground spices and the diced chilli.  Gradually add the water and mix to form the batter.  Place in the fridge for around half an hour to settle.

2) Preheat the fryer to 170C. Place the chopped onions into the batter and mix with your hands until coated.  Take a spoon with one hand and grab a pinch of the mix with the other, shaping into a rough ball.  Slowly drop into the hot oil and cook for 2 1/2 minutes until the bhaji begins to float.

3) Whilst cooking, mix some freshly chopped mint with some natural yoghurt and add a pinch of salt and lemon juice to make a tasty dipping sauce.

4) Serve with a cold beer.  Happy cooking! 


8 May 2016

Review: The Black Fox, Leith, Edinburgh

I KEEP THINKING The Black Fox is new every time I walk past it and that I must visit.  Having opened towards the end of last summer, it can’t exactly be classed as new, but after a recommendation from my mate and local resident, James, it was time to sample the merchandise for myself.
There seems to have been a few new gastropubs added to the eclectic roster of Leith Walk bars in the past couple of years.  Lioness of Leith, V-Deep, Serrano Manchego and, more recently, Leith Depot and The Mouse Trap are primed to cater to the every-increasing student population in the area, and that can only be a positive thing.

On this particular Tuesday night, the bar was indeed ticking over with students, and one rather out-of- place old man nursing a pint as if in protest to this modern, craft-beer punting, burger joint. The menu also features a range of tempting hot dogs, as is the trend in this model of bar these days.

Our server is incredibly friendly and I’m delighted to discover they have one of my favourite beers from Drygate on tap.  I swiftly order the old blue burger (£9.65) with a side of onion rings (£3.50). You can see the action happening in the open kitchen and the grub is swiftly served.
Us humans eat with our eyes and this burger certainly had the desired effect.  A giant patty smothered with blue cheese on a brioche bun comes accompanied by a homemade-looking ‘slaw, side salad and a giant dear drop of sauce. The beef patty was cooked competently enough and the creamy blue cheese didn’t overpower the tasty cow. The smoky hum from the bacon was a welcome component and I always appreciate a bun that doesn’t crumble to pieces half way through eating, too. The little salad was fresh with a delicious dressing and the accompanying Cajun fries were both crispy and fluffy with a subtle spice as you’d expect.

Sarah went for the classic steak burger (£8.95) which was very much enjoyed. Neatly assembled, this simple offering relies on the quality of the beef, and thankfully that was apparent here.  Oozing with gooey cheese and matching sides, this burger went down with fair applause. The prices at The Black Fox are very reasonable, with all options bar one priced at under £10 with chips and so on included. 
My only negative would be that both burgers could have benefited from a pinch of seasoning, particularly with the nakedness of the steak burger.

There was an ample amount of positive points to the bounty of burgers on offer at The Black Fox and it will certainly be revisited in the not too distant future.  While it wasn’t the best burger I’ve ever munched down, it still wasn’t without its charms and the food and drink on offer certainly represents good value for money that definitely merit a visit.

Web: http://www.blackfoxleith.com/
Address: 17 Albert Square, Leith Walk, Edinburgh, EH7 5HN
Phone: (0131) 553 2268

Black Fox Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato