the Kitchen on the Kelvin

Recipes, news and reviews from my cubby-hole of a kitchen on banks of the River Kelvin, Glasgow


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Sshhh! Don’t tell your dentist: Mum’s Muscovado Tablet

Muscovado tablet: a delicious twist on a Scottish favourite

Mum’s muscovado tablet: a most satisfying twist on a Scottish classic

I’ve been in turmoil over this particular blog post, unsure whether or not to share a very special family recipe with you. The fact is that my Mum’s Muscovado Tablet is so good that I reckon it could make me millions. But after much tossing and turning and procrastination, I’ve decided to put a stop to my selfish thoughts and share it with the masses.

For anyone who hasn’t had tablet before, it’s a traditional Scottish sweet consisting of sugar, sugar and more sugar. Tooth-meltingly sweet, with a much grainier texture than fudge, it’s widely served up as a complementary side when you order a tea or coffee in any half-decent restaurant, cafe or tearoom across the country.

Many years ago now, my mum decided to road test a Nigel Slater recipe for Muscovado Fudge which appeared in an antiquated issue of Sainsbury’s Magazine. The rich molasses flavour imparted by this sticky, unrefined sugar delivered a scrumptious twist to the standard fudge recipe and – in a stroke of genius – my very clever mother realised how to make it even better: adapt it for tablet!

Her recipe isn’t an exact science but requires a bit of sensory observation. It is, however, well worth the effort and if it ends up a little softer or a little harder than you intended, I can guarantee it will still taste incredible. What’s more, you’ll have a great excuse to keep practicing and get started on another batch! One instrument you will require to guide you, though, is a sugar thermometer.

Ingredients:

500g light muscovado sugar

500g golden caster sugar

300ml evaporated milk

150g unsalted butter, cubed

1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Put all of the ingredients except the vanilla into a large, heavy-bottomed pan and heat gently. Keep stirring to ensure the melting ingredients don’t burn onto the bottom of the pan.
  2. Once dissolved, place the sugar thermometer in the pan. Continue to stir the mixture constantly – for up to 30 minutes – until the thermometer reaches the ‘soft ball‘ stage. You can test this by dropping a blob of the mixture into a bowl of cold water. Rolling it between your fingers, if it literally forms a soft ball it’s ready to come off the heat. Stir through the vanilla extract.

    Boiling sugar: treat with caution

    Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble: stir with caution!

  3. I’d recommend using an electric hand mixer if you don’t want your arm to turn to stone during this next stage. Begin beating the mixture evenly and watch as it expands in volume, turning from glossy and smooth to a more matt and grainy texture. It’s ready when the ripples created by the beaters hold their form for a few seconds.

    Beating will thicken the mixture and turn it from glossy to a silken, grainy appearance

    Beating will thicken the mixture and turn it from glossy to matt with a grainy appearance on close inspection

  4. Pour into a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. The surface will be uneven and swirly, giving it a rustic, rough-around-the-edges Scots charm. After ten minutes or so, cut into bite-size squares with a knife and leave to cool entirely before removing from the tray.

    After allowing the tablet to cool for 10 minutes in the tray, cut into bite-size pieces

    A sweet, crumbly and incredibly moreish treat; perfect with a cup of coffee

The last piece of advice I can offer you is to divide it up into cellophane bags tied with ribbon and distribute it to your friends and family ASAP! They’ll be over the moon when they taste it and you won’t be three stone heavier and toothless.


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Book review: ‘What Katie Ate: Recipes and other Bits & Bobs’ by Katie Quinn Davies

What Katie Ate: Recipes and other Bits & Bobs

What Katie Ate: Recipes and other Bits & Bobs

I’m a real sucker for things that look nice. Ashamed as I am to admit it, text-heavy cookery books just don’t do it for me. It’s the mouthwatering, tantalising imagery that ignites my enthusiasm to try whatever Nigel, Nigella or Jamie has effortlessly thrown together in a rustic yet refined fashion. So when Amazon alerted me to the fact that the debut cookbook of Katie Quinn Davies – author of stunning blog What Katie Ate – was available for pre-order, my restraint didn’t stand a chance.

This is genuinely one of the most beautiful cookery books I’ve ever laid eyes upon. A designer and photographer turned food stylist and blogger, Katie has created a bohemian, laid-back and aspirational aesthetic throughout her book and I’m very pleased to say it combines style with substance.

As a Dubliner living in Sydney, she has adapted very well to the Aussie great outdoors and the pages are strewn with luscious images of barbecue-ready shellfish and vibrant garden party salads. I’m praying this weekend’s weather brings an abundance of sunshine and warmth to Glasgow so that I can get tucked into the sizzling prawns, barbecued peppercorn beef fillet with chilli and herb gremolata and chorizo and potato salad with rocket and manchego shavings. This food is intended for open-air consumption with charcoal and drinks and friends and family.

Dotted throughout the book, however, are lucid references to her stubborn Irish roots. It doesn’t get any more homely than Katie’s fish pie with crunchy bacon and leek topping, Mick’s pork and red wine lasagne and roast pork with apple, apricot and pistachio stuffing. So when I’m craving stodgy, oozing and tummy-pleasing comfort food, I’ll be reaching for this all-encompassing tome all over again.

Here’s a rough critique of the recipes I’ve tested so far:

Beautiful raspberry friands

Easy on the eye: raspberry friands

Raspberry friands: These eye-catching little delicacies made the front cover of the book and were my first stop as a result. Very simply thrown together, the recipe calls for egg whites and ground almonds affording them a deliciously light texture and grown-up, sophisticated flavour. They make an excellent alternative to standard fairy cakes when the occasion calls for something with a bit of elegance. I also threw caution to the wind and used frozen raspberries – knowing full well I was risking soggy bottom syndrome due to the excess liquid they hold – but the friands came out just fine.

Finger-licking good: Sticky chicken with sesame and chilli

Finger-licking good: Sticky chicken with sesame and chilli

Sticky chicken with sesame and chilli: In the introductory paragraph to this recipe, Katie says “This is a great mid-week, easy-peasy, ‘throw-it-all-in-the-baking-dish’ meal. Even though the list of ingredients looks long, I’m willing to bet you’ll find 99% of them in your fridge or store cupboard already”. Aside from being a girl after my own heart with her excessive use of hyphens, she was right: all I needed to pick up were the chicken drumsticks and wings and the sesame seeds for sprinkling over when serving. Honey, wholegrain mustard, ketchup, balsalmic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, red onion, sugar, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper bubble down deliciously to create a very tasty dinner with very little effort involved; until you go to clean the pan, that is!

Packs a punch: Barbecued prawns with Thai dipping sauce

Packs a punch: Barbecued prawns with Thai dipping sauce

Barbecued prawns with Thai dipping sauce: Do not eat these prior to spending time with anyone who hasn’t had them too. The prik nam pla dipping sauce requires a strong hit of raw garlic which rather outstays its welcome. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t try them. With very little cooking required, this dish offers an explosion of hot, zingy and tongue-twisting flavour which can be adapted to suit your own tastes: my generous addition of chopped chillies almost blew the head off Craig’s unsuspecting mother when she had a taste.

And that’s as far as I’ve got with What Katie Ate at present. Aside from being drop dead gorgeous, the Australian fusion cuisine it offers makes a very welcome and distinctive addition to my ever-expanding foodie bookshelf. In a nutshell, I’m a happy customer!


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Glasgow’s best restaurant: Ian Brown Food and Drink, Giffnock

This isn’t a review.

I couldn’t for a second pretend to be impartial, unbiased or remotely rational in telling you about this exceptional little eatery in the southern suburbs of Glasgow because it is – by a million miles – my favourite restaurant.

Just a few minutes’ drive from my boyfriend’s family home, this little bit of heaven in Giffnock is the Barclays’ first port of call whenever something calls for celebration. And luckily for me, I get to join them in savouring the beautiful, locally-sourced food that chef Ian Brown creates from his compact little kitchen in this family-run restaurant.

Ian was head chef at Ubiquitous Chip – long one of Glasgow’s most respected and well-known restaurants – for around 20 years before striding out on his own and, from where I’m standing, it’s going very well.

Booking in advance is crucial if you want to secure a table on a Friday or Saturday night: there are only a few covers and this place has nurtured an excellent reputation for quality food and service. The maître d’, Sheila, is as much responsible for the restaurant’s success as is her husband’s masterful cooking. You couldn’t ask for a more friendly, unpretentious and helpful host and we’ve gotten to know her pretty well over the past couple of years. When we went along one evening last year, Craig’s dad was disappointed to find that his favourite rice pudding was no longer on the menu, but Sheila told us to request it on booking next time and it would be prepared especially for him! Infallible personal service like this cannot be bought and it sets Ian Brown’s far apart from its closest competitors.

As it was Craig’s dad’s birthday last week, our next visit had been pencilled in for weeks and I was brimming with anticipation as the day edged closer.

Finally it was here. To start, I opted for the special of scallop and serrano ham thermidor. Served in the shell, it was clear that if looks were anything to go by, this was going to be a sensational dish. The decadent thermidor sauce mingled beautifully with the sweet, delicate scallop enveloped in deliciously salty serrano ham. While this was always going to be an incredibly luxurious dish, I was relieved to find that the ham ensured it wasn’t too rich to enjoy every last mouthful.

To start: scallop and serrano ham thermidor

To start: scallop and serrano ham thermidor

Next up, my main course was also from the evening’s specials: fillet of roe deer with wild garlic potato croquette, spinach, green beans and peas. As you may have gathered from my recent blogging history, I’m somewhat fixated with venison and my mind was made up from the moment my eyes met the word ‘deer’ on the specials menu. As I’d hoped, it provided a beautiful and welcome contrast to the creamy first course I’d just gleefully devoured. The roe deer, more delicately flavoured than its red cousin, was served beautifully pink in a rich gravy and I was left wanting more.

The main: fillet of roe deer with wild garlic and potato croquette, spinach, green beans and peas

The main: fillet of roe deer with wild garlic potato croquette, spinach, green beans and peas

Then came the dessert to rival all others. The dark chocolate fondant was a regular on the menu and I’d contemplated giving it a go at least two or three times previously, but always opted for something different in the end. I’m certainly a chocolate lover and I like to think I have a pretty good palate for the stuff having worked for Kshocolat, a Glasgow-based luxury chocolate brand which is now defunct, during my student days. ‘Chief Taster’ was not my official title, but I felt duty-bound to test each variety once or thrice in order to offer our customers the first-hand advice they sought . . . Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Anyway, there was no doubt in my mind that the chocolate fondant would be very good given that I was at Ian Brown’s. As I eagerly plunged my spoon into the delicate sponge pudding, the silken chocolate sauce oozed out sensually, just as it should. But I wasn’t prepared for just how divine it would be on the tongue: not too bitter; not too sweet; melt-in-the-mouth with a wonderfully intense chocolate hit. It was perfect. The raspberry sauce and ice cream were good too, but the fondant itself was so expertly balanced that these additions weren’t even necessary. Desserts don’t get any more decadent than this one, and if you happen to find yourself dining at Ian Brown’s anytime in future then I urge you to plump for the dark chocolate fondant.

To finish: dark chocolate fondant with raspberry sauce

To finish: dark chocolate fondant with raspberry sauce

Now I just need to come up with a new excuse for our next visit. I don’t think I can wait until Craig’s birthday in July! It’s the Queen’s birthday and summer solstice next month. Surely they require some celebrating . . . ?


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Street Food Cartel @ SWG3, Friday 10 May 2013

I’ve often wondered why Glasgow hasn’t followed London’s suit in bringing decent street food to us city dwellers.

There’s little doubt that this is an area in which the western world has trailed behind South-East Asia, India and North Africa to name a few, but London has witnessed a burgeoning trade in street food over the past decade as trailers and caravans rapidly pop up in markets across the city. Despite a particularly nasty bout of food poisoning contracted after sampling the street fare in Vientiane, Laos, I still think there’s no better way of immersing yourself in a culture when exploring new destinations. As I can tell you myself, there’s always an element of risk when chowing down as the locals do, but it has to be your best shot at authenticity.

For now, Glasgow’s best effort at street food amounts to a late night burger van calculatedly positioned at Charing Cross to draw in inebriated, unthinking revellers heading west from the debauchery of Sauchiehall Street at 3am. I, for one, would be interested to learn the outcome of DNA analysis on those ever-popular patties.

Fortunately, a collective movement for change is beginning to create some ripples in the dank, stagnated waters of Glasgow’s destitute street food scene. A growing number of forward-looking chefs want to bring real, high quality food to the crying-out-for-it streets of the city. However, dealing with the ever-exascerbating Glasgow City Council was never going to be easy and licensing applications have consistently been rejected. Read about why here if you want to get angry.

In a refusal to back down, Street Food Cartel was born. Put simply, it brings the street food experience indoors as a pop-up restaurant based at SWG3 in Yorkhill. This exhibition space and gig/club venue was the perfect choice for an edgy event like this because it’s already a popular haunt of the city’s moustache-toting, horn-rimmed spectacle-clad hipster community. News of the first event in March would spread like wildfire on social media, prompting extra dates to be added and leaving those who didn’t make it along really smarting. Yes, that includes me.

When the next pop-up was announced, I hopped right on that bandwagon and snapped up tickets for Friday 10th May. Expectations were high. After navigating my way to SWG3 – my third or fourth visit but my first time sans pre-bev – I made my way into the former warehouse through a series of unmarked, un-handled doors, eventually emerging into a pretty large space crammed full of makeshift trestle tables and zealous diners. I was offered a complementary Schiehallion beer or a vodka cocktail on arrival and – being a girl – I opted for the latter. Presented in a glass bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag, it was truly Pinterest-friendly. Unnecessary? Probably. Pretentious? For sure, but I won’t pretend that it didn’t meld excellently with the guerilla-style, illegal warehouse party atmosphere going on. It was tart, refreshing and lovely and I would’ve really liked another, but it was a welcome drink only and didn’t appear on the menu. Unfortunately, I also have no idea what was in it aside from vodka, lots of citrus and lots of sugar, making it rather difficult to replicate at home.

Street Food Cartel: the menu

Street Food Cartel: the menu

Sitting in a group of six – a couple of whom had attended the debut SFC in March – we opted for ‘one of everything, please’. Within just three or four minutes, our end of the table was overflowing with spicy, Mexican fare from Lupe Pinto’s Deli, the Great Western Road stalwart famous for its chillies, chorizo and hot, hot spices. All of it was delicious, coming with soft tacos and sides of guacamole, pico de gallo, jalapenos and sour cream. As a disciple of the mighty chilli pepper, I embraced this spicy offering as a scrumptious kick-start to the system. ‘It all starts to taste the same after a while’, I heard a couple of people in my party utter, but I disagreed. The beef, chorizo and chipotle chilli was brimming with richness and flavour and heat, while the sweetcorn, three bean, ancho and cinnamon veggie chilli was a much more piquant palate-cleanser. For me, however, the chicken tinga was the outright winner. I’m always really impressed when someone takes chicken from a fairly standard filler to a genuinely satisfying feed, and that’s exactly what Lupe Pinto’s did here. The poblano chillies offered it plenty of heat, but the white beans added a smooth, creamy texture that delivered a new layer to the usual formula of (Tex-)Mexican cuisine I’m used to. Teamed up with tender, well-seasoned chicken, the dish was very nice indeed.

You’d think that would be enough, but there were still four dishes to come from scoop. At the forefront of the campaign for street food in Glasgow, scoop is operated from a silver, bullet-shaped caravan that wouldn’t look out of place in a 60s sci-fi movie. Chef Jonathan Macdonald founded the company after spending many years travelling the world and cooking as he went, including a five-year stint as head chef for the McLaren F1 team. A quick glance at the SFC menu tells you that scoop’s style is undoubtedly influenced by global flavours and ingredients. First out were the Thai haddock and prawn cakes which, I can tell you, looked like beautiful golden nuggets atop a crunchy, contrasting herb salad. I cannot, however, tell you how they tasted. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough to go around six people. As a lover of fishcakes, this would have been particularly devastating for me if there weren’t plenty of other dishes to distract me from my anguish. Blending Asian, North African and Mediterranean cuisine, the butternut squash spring roll, beetroot pesto, feta and toasted hazelnut dukkah marked a big in-your-face to those who slate vegetarian food. Flavour, texture and aroma: it had it all. The (insanely tender, gelatinous and melt-in-the-mouth) beef rib and the confit pork belly weren’t far short of divine, but this veggie combination was sensational. Not only that, but it was ‘clean’: it tasted like it was good for me; it offered a welcome lift from the full-bodied, excess of rich, meaty flavours I’d been gorging on all evening. The butternut squash spring roll was easily my favourite dish of the night and I only hope I’ll get to try it for a second time in future.

After finishing off with some of Lupe Pinto’s churros – decent cinnamon pastries and beautiful, bowl-lick-worthy molten chocolate sauce – we were out of there, aware that the next round of eager eaters were waiting with much anticipation to get a hold of our end of the table. There’s no denying that the food was excellent and I’ll certainly be snapping up tickets for the next round, but I do hope that a few teething problems will be addressed. Firstly, it was near impossible to hold a conversation with anyone who wasn’t directly to your left or right because of the beats booming around the cavernous, exposed brick space housing the event. I really commend the addition of a DJ because it emphasised the uniqueness of SFC, setting it far aside from your average restaurant meal, but emerging from dinner hoarse isn’t ideal. I’m no sound engineer, but maybe just turning down the volume a little would resolve this issue I’ve heard quite a few grumbles about. Secondly, I was very keen to sample the Tapatio tequila con verdito, but our round never showed up. As we made our way out 30 minutes after ordering these and not having had a waitress in earshot during that time, I saw the barman pouring six tequilas which were probably bound for our willing necks. There had clearly been a bit of a breakdown in communication which could probably be resolved quite easily with the addition of some more waiting staff.

Street Food Cartel: the aftermath

Street Food Cartel: the aftermath

Sorry I didn’t manage to capture even one tantalising dish for you: an unmistakable animal instinct took hold of our pack and the food was long extinct before I could even consider resting my jaw to grab my iPhone. You can check it all out on the Street Food Cartel Facebook page here.


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Ardnamurchan and the Isle of Mull, Scottish Highlands

A couple of years ago, my dad upped-sticks and moved from the bright lights of Glasgow to one of the most remote places in the whole of the UK: Ardnamurchan. This peninsula in the Scottish Highlands boasts the title of most westerly point of the British mainland and, as a result, it’s a place of genuine rugged beauty. Just getting there is no mean feat, taking around four and a half hours by car, but the scenery encountered along the way makes it well worth the journey. The route winds along the western banks of Loch Lomond before taking on the drama of Glencoe. A short sail on the Corran Ferry marks the halfway point before an unnerving couple of hours on the meandering single track road which connects Ardnamurchan to the rest of the world.

Glencoe

The majestic Glencoe on an exceptionally beautiful day – we hit the jackpot!

Whenever I visit my Dad, I know I’m in for a very good feed. He’s always been an excellent cook and now that his skill is paired up with the beautiful produce from the area, mealtimes are pretty special. Whether it’s venison fillet from the local estate or pork belly from his friend Angy’s farm, the quality of life of the animals grazing there is directly translated into the quality of the meat produced. With an unfettered freedom to roam an area untouched by pollution, the livestock are living a similar life to the one they would have done a hundred years ago, unaffected by industry or modern ‘cram-as-many-in-as-we-can’ farming techniques. It reinforces my belief that free range food – aside from being ethical, too – just tastes better.

The stunning view from my Dad's at Achosnich to Sanna Bay and the islands

The stunning view of Sanna Bay and the islands from my dad’s at Achosnich

I was smart enough to pick up some venison mince to take home with me from the local shop, but now I’m kicking myself that I wasn’t smart enough to buy more of it! Coming in at less costly than decent beef mince, it represents excellent value for money and is incredibly lean. I cooked it up with just a smidgen of oil, chopped onions and beef stock for about 30 minutes. I’ll admit that I expected it to be a little on the dry side, but I was willing to trade this in for a healthy alternative to beef. In fact, it had a beautiful texture and that intense, meaty flavour I can’t get enough of. If I had a regular supply of it at this great price, I would seriously consider using it as a tastier alternative to beef mince in my bolognese and chilli.

This dandy little gent pays my dad a visit for breakfast every morning

This dandy little gent pays my dad a visit for breakfast every morning

We also enjoyed a great little day trip to the quaint harbour village of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull which – despite being on an island – is the nearest hub of action to Ardnamurchan. Just 35 minutes from Kilchoan on a cheery wee Calmac ferry and we arrived at the paintbox-hued seafront which must be one of the most commonly depicted views in Scottish art and photography.

Tobermory seafront, Isle of Mull

Iconic: the village of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull

As the seafront comes to life with tourists during the summer season, it’s home to many gift shops punting locally produced arts and crafts as well as pub, after pub, after pub: our kind of place. Inevitably, our visit centred around the liquid offerings of Tobermory, but we did enjoy a decent haddock and chips for lunch at Macgochans where it was actually warm enough to sit outside in the beer garden and take in the chocolate box views. After spending a couple of hours sampling the Isle of Mull Brewery Island Pale Ale, we paid an impromptu visit to the Tobermory Distillery shop where Craig treated himself to a bottle of the 10 year old malt. As I’m not a big whisky drinker myself, I declined to taste it but now that I’ve read that it offers a hint of spicy gingerbread on the palate, I might just have to reconsider. We’ll see how Craig feels about that . . . Flavour aside, it’s housed in a beautiful green bottle which I plan to upcycle into a striking candle holder when the golden liquor’s long gone.

Craig enjoying a pint of Isle of Mull Brewery Island Pale Ale

Craig enjoying a tasty pint of Isle of Mull Brewery Island Pale Ale

An unusually pleasant Saturday afternoon was topped off when, emerging from the Co-operative having been instructed to pick up some custard doughnuts for my dad (his vice), our path was crossed by a curious, oil-slicked creature dashing only three or four feet in front of us. Incredibly, we had intersected an otter on its way from the sea to its nest somewhere nearby! I only wish I’d managed to capture this rare moment on film, but the sneaky little guy was too fast for me. What had already been a fantastic day became a truly memorable one thanks to our chance encounter with a ballsy little otter.


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Unexpected ecstasy at Carluccio’s, 7 West Nile St

Sometimes the best food experiences happen when you least expect.

With 90 minutes to squeeze in a quick pre-theatre meal before heading to my good friend Gary McNair‘s new one-man-show at the Arches, Craig and I decided to pop into Carluccio’s on West Nile St for a decent Italian feed.

I’d visited the thriving nationwide restaurant chain of Antonio Carluccio a couple of times since this one opened about 18 months ago and I really invested in the energetic, buzzy atmosphere of the place. The food was always above average, too, but for some reason I was never expecting anything spectacular – probably because I was making comparisons with Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian.

Perusing the menu, I was set on choosing something different – having had the Penne Giardiniera more than once previously – and on spotting a venison pasta dish, my decision was made. To me, Antonio Carluccio’s food represents provincial Italian fare, and the Tortelloni di Cervo is exactly what I’d envisage him creating with gusto on ‘Two Greedy Italians’.

Don't let its understated appearance fool you - these Tortelloni di Cervo deliver full-bodied tastebud gratification

Don’t let the understated appearance fool you – these Tortelloni di Cervo deliver full-bodied tastebud gratification

Arriving at my table, the dish had an understated appeal which spoke to me of anticipation; the star ingredient was modestly tucked away inside those golden parcels, gleaming with a simple buttery coating.

With a light dusting of fresh parmigiano and cracked black pepper, the tortelloni were ripe for testing.

Rich, earthy and full-flavoured, the delectable pockets of red wine-braised venison also had a melting sweetness which delivered perfectly balanced flavour with every mouthful. Given that I’m an all-out carnivore, this is genuinely one of the most satisfying pasta dishes I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.

Despite my best intentions of trying something new every time I revisit a restaurant, my senses tell me there’s little chance I’ll be overlooking the Tortelloni di Cervo on my next sojourn to Carluccio’s. All I can do is urge you to try it!


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Foodie gifts from the Dolomites, Italy

Clockwise from top left: bruschetta olive oil toasts, Dolomite honey, Italian patisserie chocolate biscuits, sesame crackerbread, SudTiroler Speck, Alta Badia cheese

Clockwise from top left: olive oil bruschetti, Dolomite honey, Minivoglie chocolate biscuits, sesame schuttelbrot (alpine spiced rye crispbread), Sudtiroler Speck, Alta Badia cheese

My mum has just returned from a week’s hillwalking in the snowy Dolomites and was kind enough to bring me back a really interesting selection of local produce. The South Tyrol region in the north of Italy is a real melting pot of Italian, Austrian and German influences – having been part of Austria prior to the First World War – and this is made very apparent through the cheeses, meats, breads and biscuits produced in the area.

This unpasteurised hard cows cheese, Alta Badia, is matured for 180 days and named after the lush Alta Badia valley it hails from. Smooth, nutty and firm, it bears more than a passing resemblance to gruyère – although less sharp – and is completely delicious! I’ll be having this generously melted over a crouton basking gloriously atop Nigel Slater’s French onion soup.

Smooth, nutty and delicious cheese from the Dolomites, Italy

Smooth, nutty and delicious mountain cheese from the Dolomites, Italy

I’m probably most looking forward to trying this Südtiroler Speck, a juniper-infused cured and smoked ham which is unique to the area and has been afforded protected geographical indication (PGI) status. Sliced paper-thin, it’s essentially prosciutto, but I also fancy chopping it up into lardons and serving it as a tasty addition to salads and brussel sprouts. I think I hear coq au vin calling, too.

Speck Alto Adige (PGI) is a smoked, cured juniper-infused ham unique to the South Tyrol region of Italy

Speck Alto Adige (PGI) is a smoked, cured juniper-infused ham unique to the South Tyrol region of Italy

Judging by the lush and rich landscape of the Dolomites, this honey is bound to be something pretty special. I’m fantasising about marrying salty and sweet by drizzling it over grilled halloumi and figs – if it lasts out until they come into season this summer. Until then, I’m hoping it’ll re-energise my old faithful midweek dinner of honey mustard chicken.

I'm looking forward to drizzling this over a halloumi salad

I’m looking forward to drizzling this sumptuous Dolomite honey over salads, granola and my porridge in the mornings

Now I just need to find the time to get to work in the kitchen with all of these beautiful ingredients. So much food, so little time!