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

4 July 2017

Competition: Win £100 of vouchers for Brewhemia, Edinburgh

Phil's Food World has teamed up with Edinburgh's latest opening, Brewhemia, to offer you the chance to win a fantastic prize of £100 of vouchers to spend at the exciting new venue. Boasting a beer palace, caffe, kitchen and prosecco bar, winning this competition would be the ideal way to get acquainted - but you have to be in it to win it!

The site on Market Street has undergone a £2m makeover on the old site of Sportster's Bar and City nightclub at the base of the iconic Scotsman building.  The space comprises of five unique areas, each with their own vibe and story to tell. The exciting food element at Brewhemia is overseen by award-winning Head Chef, Chris McDiarmid, previously of the Ghillie Dhu.

All you have to do to win this amazing prize is this:

1) Follow on Twitter


2) Answer this simple question: Phil's Food World recently reviewed its first three Michelin Starred restaurant, but where was it?

A) The Fat Duck
B) The Waterside Inn
C) Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

Get connected with Brewhemia and send your answer here HERE.  The competition ends this Sunday (9th July) at 5p.m. where a winner will be drawn at random.


Ts & Cs

1) All entrants MUST be 18 years old or over
2) Brewhemia reserve the right to cancel or amend the competition without notice
3) Voucher must be used in one visit to Brewhemia, Edinburgh
4) The prize stated is not transferable and no cash alternatives will be offered
5) Booking must be made prior to claiming voucher
6) You will be contacted by email if you have won the competition

11 June 2017

Garlic butter roast chicken stuffed with chilli chickpeas and patatas aioli

I LOVE A good roast, who doesn't? The thought of having people around and everyone getting stuck in fills me with joy.  The meat has to be the centre piece for me and crispy potatoes are a must.

It's so important not to overcook your chicken, yet so many people do it.  *NEWSFLASH* IT DOESN'T TAKE HOURS TO COOK A BIRD - 45 mins is more than enough for a medium-sized bird.  Remember, it will continue cooking when removed from the oven and resting the bird is crucial.   The beauty of cooking poultry this way is that the butter underneath the skin will gently baste the bird and protect it, giving the leg and thigh meat time to cook through.

Ingredients (serves 2):
1x free range chicken
2x cloves garlic
Handful parsley, chopped
50g butter

1x tin of  organic chickpeas (400g), drained
1x red chilli, finely chopped
1x lemon, zested and cut in half
Maris Piper potatoes,  cut into 2cm cubes

2x heads of garlic
150 ml mayonnaise 

1x avocado, sliced
2x ripe plum tomatoes, diced
1x gem lettuce, sliced
Sea salt
Olive oil


1) Pre-heat oven to 180C. Grate the garlic with a fine grater. Add to the butter with the parsley and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Mash together with your hands. 

2) Mixed the chickpeas with the chilli, lemon zest, juice of one-half of the lemon and parsley. Season. Stuff the other half lemon into cavity.

3) Remove the wishbone from the chicken.  Stuff the cavity with the chickpea mix.  Now, gently run your fingers under the skin of the breasts to separate.  Spread the garlic butter to cover each breast. Push down with your fingers to distribute evenly. 

4) Place in oven for 40-45 mins.  Dress the sliced garlic heads in oil and cook alongside chicken for 20 mins until tender. Meanwhile, blanch the potatoes in boiling water for two mins.  Drain in a colander until no steam appears.

5) Next, prep the salad, minus the avocado (do this just before serving).  Place in a bowl until serving.

6) Remove the garlic from the oven and allow to cool (or if you have asbestos fingers like me, dive right in).  Remove the clove from the skin and vigourously chop, add a pinch of salt and mash with the side of your knife.  When smooth, mix though the mayo, season and add some lemon juice.

7) Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest for 10 mins.  Place the potatoes into a pre-heated deep fat fryer (160C) for 5-6 mins until golden and crisp.  Meanwhile, slice the avocado and mix salad through with some lemon juice and olive oil.  

8) Spoon out the chickpea mix from chicken and carve. Serve.

4 June 2017

Review: No.11 Brasserie, Brunswick Street, Edinburgh

I REVIEWED NO.11 Brasserie nearly two years ago to the day.  We enjoyed a delicious meal at the restaurant of this boutique hotel, just off the top of Leith Walk on Brunswick Street.  It appears that chef Ariel has since moved on so it would be intriguing to see what’s coming out of the kitchen these days.

On first inspection, the menu looked a little bit old school, with dishes like haggis parcels and duck parfait featuring on the starters section and sticky toffee pudding on the desserts.  Nothing wrong with classic but they have to be exceptional versions.
We were choosing dishes from the three-course seasonal menu which would set you back £27.95 so treated ourselves to a tasty raspberry bellini to aid us with our decisions.

I started with the chilli and coriander fish bites with pea shoots and tartare sauce. I suppose this dish set the tone for what was to come.  The fish balls were crunchy on the outside with a visually appealing interior. There was evidence of skilled knife work judging by the flecks of shallot, red onion and herbs but they were so under seasoned that the effort was just lost.  The tartare sauce was bizarre.  Again, the knife work was there with the veg elements, but it was like they were dressed in the watery stuff you drain off the top of a tub of yoghurt.  Not pleasant. Why go to the effort of finely chopping things then ruin them by not tasting and being sloppy?

Sarah ordered the vegetarian haggis and beetroot parcels with Glayva, chilli and beetroot puree. Slightly on the rustic side presentation wise, the filo parcels weren’t as crisp as you’d have hoped for but the filling was earthy and pleasing enough.  The puree was kind of jam-like but offered a fine balance of chilli heat, sweetness and the taste of beetroot that I adore.  Again, this dish just wasn’t sufficiently seasoned.

Pork belly is my favourite meat and I always order it when it’s on the menu.  This one was billed as crispy belly with spring onion mash, fondant carrots and cider jus. Firstly, it was obvious that the skin wasn’t crispy as billed.  It was soggy and disgusting and needed to be crisped up in a hot pan or roasted in the oven – surely any chef can see that before sending it out?  This is my pet hate given my love for this ingredient.  The meat underneath was glorious and had a pleasing note of star anise that works so well with this cut. The fondant carrots still had a little bite but were deliciously buttery.  The mash was verging on the dense side and needed seasoning but was okay overall.  I had expected the cider jus to provide a sharp contrast to the sweet components and the richness of the dish but it tasted of very little.

Fillet of sea bass with red pepper gnocchi, spinach and mozzarella was Sarah’s choice of main and her initial reaction wasn’t great, as the fillet of bass was a meagre one to say the least. On top of that, it the skin was flabby and overcooked.  The gnocchi was tasty with a hint of red pepper to it but the whole thing needed a serious injection of salt and pepper.

Despite being a throwback to the '80s, sticky toffee pudding can be a glorious thing. This one didn’t quite cut it.  The sponge was fine but lacked flavour, though the sauce was tasty.  The ice cream had crystallised so wasn’t nice to eat.  Maybe jazzing it up with a bit of salt caramel would have made it a bit more interesting, but otherwise it was forgettable.

Now, Sarah’s dessert was a real embarrassment. She ordered cranachan, which, let’s face it, isn’t the most difficult of puddings to make. This one was essentially a tower of whipped cream with some mushed up berries through it.  No sign of whisky as per a traditional cranachan, although there was a sprinkling of oats over the slate board.  There was a chocolate spoon present to add some "theatre” but it didn’t need to be there.  Not impressed.

Dinner didn’t quite live up to the heights of last time, which was obviously disappointing.  This seasonal menu is designed to offer value, but I’d suggest you could find a more modern, better executed one elsewhere. Ultimately, I think the errors here were just down to the chef not paying attention to detail and being a bit lazy. What a pity.

Web: http://www.11brunswickst.co.uk/
Address: No. 11, 11 Brunswick Street, Edinburgh, EH7 5JB
Phone: (0131) 557 6910

Brasserie - No. 11 Boutique Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

3 June 2017

A day in the life of... a Food Technologist

FOR THE PAST four months I have been working as a Food Technologist at Queen Margaret University (QMU) in Edinburgh, a place described by my (desk) neighbour, Professor Joe Goldblatt, as “the best small university in the world”. The university is predominantly food and health focused and part of my job is conducting sensory analysis of products ranging from everyday supermarket goods to the most innovative of food stuffs.

Opened in 2014, QMU houses the Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation. The centre is a unique facility that uses academic expertise and cutting edge equipment to work with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to develop their products for today’s market.

The modern campus at QMU has a dedicated sensory suite where we carry out our consumer taste panels. The suite contains 12 self-contained booths where our panelists blind-taste a wide range of products, using their senses to complete a focused questionnaire for us to analyse on our specially developed sensory software. Afterwards, we host a brief discussion on the products which, for me, is the interesting part along with the results because although people have tasted the same items, results can be totally different. It just goes to show that everyone’s palette is unique.

It’s crucial to our results that we make the room as neutral as possible so panelists can form an unbiased opinion. We can control the temperature of the room and use different coloured lighting to alter the room to suit. The panels consist of mainly staff members and the general public who have an interest in food. In exchange for their time, we gift each person a £10 Amazon or John Lewis voucher.

Before the sessions my colleagues and I will have prepared the food and tasted it. This way we have our own opinion on the foods before the panel tastes it, although we remain completely impartial! The fun is afterwards when we compare opinions, usually doing the dishes at the same time – the glamorous part of the job!

From a panelist’s point of view, it’s challenging because it’s not often in life that you are asked to describe food in such a detailed way: aroma, appearance, taste, texture and so on. I got used to it doing restaurant reviews but it can be a little odd for people at first when it comes to articulating your points. How often do you eat something and talk about how sweet/sour/umami/salty/bitter it is!?

You also have no idea what you’re eating – it could be anything from the finest artisanal product to the cheapest bog-standard supermarket version. The hard part for me is that we aren’t allowed to reveal what the products are. Which I secretly kind of like …

    The green-focused campus has won  multiple awards for sustainability 

My colleague, Lucy MacLellan, sat on the panels before joining the team as a Food Technologist at the Scottish Centre for Food Innovation gives me her take on the panels:

"The taste panels are quite a unique thing to be involved in – I'm not aware of any other universities or organisations that run taste panels like QMU. There was nothing similar to these taste panels when I was at university and it's definitely something I would have signed up for when I was a student. I mean, who doesn't want free food?!

“I like the fact that the panels are recruited so publicly – anyone can become a taste panelist at QMU whether you're staff, a student, or not linked to the university at all. There's such a variety of products tested, so there always a panel to put your name forward for. It's exciting that my opinion will be taken into consideration and will make a difference to future products on the market."

I hope this has given you an insight into the consumer panels at QMU. As you can gather, no day is the same and it’s amazing to chat food with a diverse range of foodies. We would love to see more people signing up for the panels to get a taste for themselves.

Website: qmu.ac.uk
Twitter: @ScotFoodQMU

28 May 2017

Feature: Osso's Ally McGrath returns to Great British Menu

CHEF ALLY MCGRATH returns to the BBC’s Great British Menu next where he hopes to improve on last year’s performance that saw him cook for the judges.  On that occasion, Ally ‘s progress was halted by fellow Scot Michael Bremner, whom he will face again in this year’s heats. The Peebles-based chef will be hoping to use that experience to improve his fortunes in the 2017 competition.

Ally opened his restaurant, Osso, in 2007 and it is based in the picturesque town of Peebles in the Scottish borders.   As with last year, Ally will be the only chef from the Scottish heats actually cooking in Scotland with Bremner behind the stove at his Brighton-based eatery, 64 degrees, and debutant Angela Malik running a catering company in London. This year’s brief is centred around summer cooking, where victors will serve their dishes at the Wimbledon Championships – some feather in any chef’s cap (or hat!).

With its relaxed atmosphere and commitment to sourcing local produce, Osso is a firm favourite with the locals in Peebles. The family-run restaurant holds a coveted Bib Gourmand – the only restaurant to do so in the borders.  Ally’s success in the area has led to him recently taking over as Executive Chef at Pebbles Golf Club.  With being so busy, I wondered how the chef found time to practise for this year’s competition:

“I am very lucky that I have such a good team and I can sneak away and try to get an extra hour or so concentrating on the GBM menu rather than the restaurant one. It just takes over everything. You end up thinking about it constantly: is it up to scratch? Does it fit the brief? Can you do it in the time? And then all, of a sudden you go 'Ah! And what about this?!' It's crazy.”

The Scot, who trained under the likes of banquet veteran Richard Corrigan, narrowly lost out on finals week at GBM 2016.  I wondered what he learned from that and if the experience would boost his confidence this time around.

“I think you learn that you've really got to respect the competition and that you need to give it your all.  We had a lot on last year in the run up to filming and I made a couple of mistakes that I shouldn't have; I basically didn't have the time to practise as much as I should have.

“This year I have practised lots more. There has been a lot of fine tuning and tweaking, so I know exactly how I want it. It did boost my confidence a little. You know what's expected and the standard that is required, but I felt the pressure a lot more this year. I really want to go further this year!”

With food tourism such a huge industry these days, a show like Great British Menu can really propel a restaurant into the spotlight, also bringing financial gains to the local area.  Ally told me about the impact the show had on both him personally and the restaurant:

“It has had a huge effect on me and the business. It puts you on a national level and I wasn't really expecting that. We discovered that people were booking for a couple of months in advance, rather than a couple of weekends – it was great. As for the media, it's quite hard to keep up with things after the show airs; last year I basically dealt with Twitter after the show until midnight, then turned it off. It's just crazy!”

 The Scottish heats begin next week (Monday, 29 May) where Ally will compete against Angela and Michael to represent Scotland at Wimbledon.  Unfortunately, Ally wouldn’t give much away about his menu beforehand, telling me to watch out for his dessert:
“I love it! I think it’s amazing!” Be sure to tune in and find out how he does.

You can wish Ally all the best and Tweet him @OssoAlly.

4 May 2017

Review: The Huxley, Edinburgh

THE SUMMER SUN was finally shining on this teasingly mild Sunday morning. The expansive Georgian windows at The Huxley combined with the weather make this the perfect spot to watch the world go by.  I’ve enjoyed the odd burger and hot dog here before (and maybe a pint or three), but today was all about breakfast.

The Huxley is one of two restaurants (steakhouse Kyloe being the other) that can be found inside The Rutland Hotel at the west end of Princes Street, the whole package being the flagship venue of the Signature Group.  We reviewed breakfast at Badger & Co., another of their city-centre ventures, last year and were left very impressed with the whole operation.  That has heightened expectations for this sitting.

Let’s chat about service.  Service is a bit like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get.  It can elevate an average meal or bring frustration to even the finest food.  I was really impressed by the young team at The Huxley.  I’ve noticed over the past year that young staff on the whole barely know anything about the area surrounding their workplace.  Where is the nearest cash point or bus stop? *Blank look* followed by “I dunno”.  Not here, though.  On entering I asked our server about traffic restrictions, vaguely remembering my brother (he’s a councillor) fighting to stop Sunday charges being introduced.  Our waitress demonstrated sound knowledge of the surrounding streets and was very attentive all morning, as were her colleagues. They all seemed to be trained well and singing from the same song sheet.

I ordered a decent coffee beforehand, and Sarah a tasty raspberry smoothie (£4.50). It was so delicious that I just had to have one.  I particularly liked that it was served at the optimum temperature – not brain freeze cold, not too warm -  to maximise the flavours. 

Under the circumstances, I will always order the full Scottish. Breakfasts like this always remind me of getting up at 7 a.m. when I was still a nipper to make Sunday breakfast for my family. The key to pulling it off is using quality ingredients, especially if the price tag is hovering around the tenner mark. The Huxley’s offering is priced at a competitive £9.50 and I begin by diving in to the two types of sausage – one skinny beef, one chubby pork – both clearly from a trusted butcher.  The black pudding is tasty and well-cooked and the bacon is mildly smoky and doesn’t overpower. Eggs are cooked as you like; in my case, fried, which is executed flawlessly. A full Scottish wouldn’t be a full Scottish without a tattie scone and I’m glad this one isn’t just an oily, hard piece of cardboard.  Finally, there’s a disk of inoffensive haggis that I find a bit mushy but tastes fine.

Sarah ordered the smashed avocado on toast with poached eggs (£8.50) and added bacon for a further £1.85.  This dish is a bit pricey for what it is but that’s fine if it’s perfectly done.  And it was.  My pet hate is ‘ripe’ supermarket avocados that are about as ripe as a bowling ball.  Thankfully, this attempt was bang on the money.  The acid test technique would always be the poached eggs.  They were neat in shape and on cutting achieved a pleasingly oozy centre.  There was a welcome smattering of chilli flakes just to add a little life to a very simple but expertly put together breakfast.

I slump into a bad mood if my food isn’t to my satisfaction and that would have been a terrible waste of a beautiful day.  Fortunately, all aspects of this breakfast shone equally as bright.  The service was highly commendable and the cooking competent. I’d happily eat here again.

Web: http://www.thehuxley.co.uk/
Twitter: @TheHuxleyEdin
Address: 1 Rutland Street, Edinburgh EH1 2AE
Phone: (0131) 229 3402

Breakfast is served daily from 8:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Daily menu served from 12 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.

The Huxley - The Rutland Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

29 April 2017

Recipe: chicken stewed with cider and apples

I'M NOT EVEN going to try and take credit for this recipe, other than the addition of garlic.  It comes from one of my favourite chefs Jose Pizarro's latest book Basque.  I've made this recipe a few times while entertaining and it always goes down a storm.  Perfect for a change to the old Sunday roast. The beauty of this dish is that it doesn't take much effort whatsoever.

This book really transports me back to touring northern Spain a couple of years ago, enjoying the culinary offers of San Sebastian and Bilbao in particular.  Food has the unique ability to evoke memories and that's exactly what Basque does.

Serve this with some patatas bravas and slices of a good sourdough loaf.

For me, if you find a great recipe it deserves to be shared, so here you go!


1 medium (1.3 - 1.5kg) free-range chicken
4 apples, peeled and quarters
2 onions, finely sliced
500ml, cider
2 bay leaves
6 sage leaves
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves, garlic
75g sultanas
400ml chicken stock
25g butter
Rapeseed oil
1 tsp caster sugar
Sea salt and pepper


1) Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Heat a heavy-based casserole dish on the hob. Melt the butter and add a splash of rapeseed oil.  Season the chicken inside and out then brown all over.

2) Set the chicken a side and sweat the onions for 8-10 mins.  Add the garlic, sage leaves, bay and the cinnamon stick.  Place one of the quartered apples into the cavity and return the chicken to the pan. Add the cider and bring to a gentle bubble, add the stock along with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Place in the oven for 45 mins.

3) Meanwhile, melt the rest of the butter in a pan with a splash of oil. Add the apple quarters and the sugar. Cook until caramelised and add the sultanas. Add to the chicken around half way through the cooking time. Raise the heat to 200C and take the lid off for ten mins to brown the chicken. Take out of the dish an allow to rest for five mins before serving.

4) While resting, ladle some of the cooking liquor into a saucepan and reduce on a rapid heat.  Carve the chicken and serve with some of the apple, onion and sultana mix.  

Basque is available to purchase by following this link https://www.amazon.co.uk/Basque-Spanish-Recipes-Sebastian-Beyond/dp/1784880264


19 April 2017

Feature: The Story Cafe, Edinburgh

THE STORY CAFÉ can be found at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh and has its own unique story to tell.  The café has been under the ownership of the Edinburgh-based charity Comas since 2016 and sees all profits go to help support, among others, adults recovering from addiction and vulnerable people who have been driven into poverty.

This branch is a slightly more ambitious venture than its sister project, the Serenity Café, which can be found nearby, just behind the Scottish Parliament building. Both offer adults the chance to volunteer and even gain paid employment - truly showing the power of what food can do.

The project offers a range of homely grub from soups and delicious cheese scones to salads, sandwiches and tasty hot options, as well as a range of veggie and gluten-free options.  The food is very favourably priced (hot options are just £6.50), aiming to encourage people in from the busy tourist-laden streets outside, as well as local punters alike.

Pic courtesy of the Story Cafe
It’s a wonderfully bright and fun space to eat in - ideal for escaping the hordes of tourists for a coffee and a bite to eat. The premises are fully licensed and offer a range of wines and craft beers. There is also a tasty children’s menu with dishes priced at just £2.50 (you can also order smaller portions of the full menu at half price) with the added bonus of there being plenty going on to keep the little nippers entertained, including the Storytelling Court and the Storywall.

I caught up with Sinead White from the café who took me through the food offerings: “The aim is to offer homemade dishes that people are familiar with, that are good value for money.  We also like to focus on healthy food and home-baking, aiming to be accessible to as many people as possible”

Pic courtesy of the Story Cafe
There is always an exhibition on at the Storytelling Centre for punters to enjoy if visiting the café, which also hosts shows and various events in the early evening.  You will find everything from music lessons to book groups in this incredibly relaxed space. It has clearly been well thought out in order to offer a broad range of goings on, as well as the actual café itself – well worth a visit.

Tasty grub at an affordable price that sees all profits go towards helping people? What’s not to love? Pop into the Story Café on the Royal Mile next time you’re in the heart of the capital.

Storytelling Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato