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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Back to basics: fish and chips

A number of years ago, I spent a very happy, carefree semester in Brisbane, Australia, as part of my law degree. I lived in a traditional Queenslander house not far from the winding river named after the lovely city it meanders through.

When I first arrived, I couldn’t believe how great everyone looked. The lifestyle there is one of fresh air and fitness and the people seemed to be exposing their bronzed, taught bodies in a very breezy, relaxed fashion. Within seconds of arriving, I had resolved to become a part of this fresh-faced, glowing club. However, one delicious stumbling block stood firmly in my path, almost literally (in the true sense of the word).

At the end of sunny Heidelberg St, just a few steps from my front door, stood a sandwich board proudly boasting ‘Australia’s best fish and chips’. Down a few steps and across a small, unassuming car park was a chippy I can’t even remember the name of, but a chippy with a difference. More like a fishmonger, instead of ready-fried fish, sausages, pies and even pizzas languishing greasily in a heated cabinet, rows of snapper, salmon, barramundi, cod and calamari glistened appealingly on a bed of crushed ice, only to be fried once the lucky customer takes their pick. Albeit fantastic, this wasn’t enough to prove a vice in my pursuit of wholesomeness.

The beer battered chips, however, were another story. What I had previously known of ‘beer-battered’ was an airy and crisp coating on a piece of haddock or cod. These chips, however, had no such crust. What they did have was a slightly coarse, flavourful bite on the outside and a steaming hot, plump and fluffy character in the middle. The name itself might be a little misleading and what they’d done with them exactly was a mystery to me but, goodness, did they taste good.

Needless to say, I enjoyed those hot chips more often than was wise in bikini culture Brisbane. It wasn’t before long, though, that I moved home to the other side of the world, far away from such temptation. That was until Old Salty’s opened just down the road a few months ago.

I’m very lucky to live just a couple of minutes from what has become the trendiest hub in the city of Glasgow. Crabshakk, The Finnieston, Kelvingrove Cafe and The Gannet (which is wonderful, for the record)  have turned a slightly dogeared part of the west end into the place every scenester wants to spend their Saturday night – and Sunday morning for brunch, snatch. While dining out at any of these establishments comes at a cost, a new and affordable breed of fish and chip shop-cum-cafe has opened its doors right in the thick of it and I’ve fallen hook, line and sinker.

One wet and windy Friday night, Craig and I decided to give the place a test run after I ‘d spotted its opening a couple of days before. The curious name itself was enough to tempt me, not to mention the eclectic look of the place. While that classic chip shop counter remains, don’t expect to find any greasy plastic furniture here; traditional Victorian tiled walls are teamed up with tile-top tables laden with condiments, candles and a bottle of wine if you fancy (which, to little surprise, we did). Arriving at rush hour on a Friday night, particularly busy as you can also take away, we had a few minutes to wait but it wasn’t long until we were shown to a table by a woman, seemingly the owner or manager, with a lively attitude and a smile you couldn’t help but return. The place was certainly buzzing with the anticipation of the treat of a fish supper on a Friday night and it was clear to see that a real melting pot of people were excited about this new haunt.

Both of us were in the mood for a straight up classic of haddock and chips (a very reasonable £7.95 when sitting in) and waited with baited breath – sorry, these fish puns are impossible to avoid – while it was fried to order and delivered to our table piping hot. The chunky fish was beautifully fresh, the batter triumphantly light and crunchy and the chips – forget the triple cooked gourmet variety – were traditional chippy chips done well. My dad, veteran chippy connoisseur, has a real dislike for what he calls “burst chips” and I can safely say these weren’t anything of the sort. As his chippy protege, I’ve made it my mission to visit a few good fish and chips shops over the years (including the award winning one at Anstruther which I felt was a little overrated, especially after 30 minutes of queueing) and, in all honesty, this one, all too conveniently just a couple of minutes from my front door, is right up there with the best. So thank you and screw you for ruining my wholesome, health food ambitions Old Salty’s!

The best comfort food there is

The rarely disputed king of comfort food. Made even better with wine.

Sitting in or taking away, if you’re looking for a satisfying feed at a reasonable price with real atmosphere, Old Salty’s is a very delicious no brainer.

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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!