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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Home comforts: cheese scones

I can't think of a better way to describe these scones than 'scrummy'

I can’t think of a better word than ‘scrummy’ to describe these scones

There’s something so homely about cheese scones that I’m not sure anything can beat them on the comfort food front. I love making them on chilled out Saturday mornings, and my mum even makes them for us fresh on Christmas morning.

Her classic recipe from an old Bero cookbook is probably still my favourite, but a couple of years ago I came across an alternative, more substantial version by baking maestro Dan Lepard for the Guardian. This is what I’ve adapted below, exchanging the buttermilk for good old semi-skimmed (or whatever you have in the fridge) and the parsley for chives. With a hell of a lot of cheese in there, these certainly aren’t one for diet days but they make a perfect brunch dish when you’re not feeling quite so extravagant as pancakes and you don’t fancy eggs (as I never have and never will).

Ingredients:

75g jumbo rolled oats, plus a handful for sprinkling on top
150ml water
50ml milk (I use semi-skimmed but whatever you have in the fridge will do nicely)
1 large egg
50ml sunflower oil
A large handful of chopped chives
200g mature cheddar, coarsely grated
350g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

1. The first stage of this recipe sets it aside from any other scone recipe I’ve known; a porridge style mixture is made by combining the oats with the water in a saucepan and bringing to the boil. At this stage, pour the mixture into a large bowl, stir in the milk and leave to cool.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 220c/200c fan assisted/425F/gas mark 7.

3. Beat in the egg and oil until mixed well and stir through the cheese and chives. Next, add the flour, baking powder and salt, mixing until a soft dough forms.

3. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until around 4cm thick and use a round 6-8cm pastry cutter (I like the ribbed edge best) to form the scones before transferring them to a floured baking sheet. Place them a few centimetres apart to allow for a little spreading.

4. Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle over a little grated cheese and some more oats for a rustic, homely finish.

5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the kitchen smells divine and they are risen and golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack.

6. Enjoy! These are best straight out of the oven with a generous serving of real butter. Later on, a gentle toasting brings them back to life and they freeze pretty well too.

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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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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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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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The most moist Easter chocolate fudge cake

Writing about food is something that I’ve thought about for too long, but somehow there was always something standing in my way – until now, that is. Just last week, the final hurdle between me writing and you reading this was overcome as a shiny, new, functioning oven was installed in the cubby-hole I call my kitchen.

From the moment I met my former oven, we didn’t get on. Droning and loud with a temperamental thermostat, I couldn’t bear the thought of posting photos of cremated cakes for the world to see; even the mighty powers of Instagram couldn’t hide the char. I am most definitely ashamed to admit that at my very lowest point I plunged to the murky depths of microwaving a Victoria sponge sandwich in order to cook the eggy ooze outpouring from a crusty, black shell. Knowing that I’d crossed a terrible, terrible line, I abandoned baking for months.

Now, however, I’m free to resign that sad saga to history. But what foodie marvel could justify my debut blog post from the Kitchen on the Kelvin? I quickly concluded that it had to be something season-appropriate and, as an agnostic Scot, Easter means only one thing – CHOCOLATE.

The manic expressions on the faces of these fuzzy chicks can't fail to bring a bit of springtime fun

The manic expressions on the faces of these fuzzy chicks can’t fail to bring a bit of springtime fun

The recipe for these chocolate fudge sponges and cupcakes was tweaked from the BBC Good Food’s highly rated Naughty Chocolate Fudge Cake – I felt compelled to drop the ‘naughty’ – although I’ve swapped their chocolate buttercream for a more intense, grown-up ganache.

The cake recipe itself is unrivalled, though. The use of oil instead of butter leaves it scrumptiously moist and the all-in-one method makes it almost foolproof.

Ideally, I’d have topped these with speckled Cadbury’s Mini Eggs, but after hopelessly searching the shelves of supermarkets and newsagents for more than 90 minutes, I was forced to accept that I should probably be spending my time attending to more pressing and important tasks like picking up my dry-cleaning and going to the Post Office. I settled for Cadbury’s Flake dust and some inedible fuzzy chicks to add a much-needed injection of colour.

The use of oil instead of butter makes this cake scrumptiously moist and light, too

The use of oil instead of butter makes this cake scrumptiously moist and light, too

INGREDIENTS

For the cake:

[This deeply filled two mini 11.5cm sandwich tins and six generously-sized cupcake cases but would equally suit two standard 18cm/7″ sandwich tins]

175g self-raising flour

2 tbsp good quality cocoa powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

150g caster sugar

2 medium eggs, beaten

150ml (1/4 pint) sunflower or vegetable oil

150ml (1/4 pint) semi-skimmed milk [I’d use whole milk if I had it handy]

2 tbsp golden syrup

For the ganache:

[These quantities left me with a ramekin-full left over – perfect heated up and poured over ice cream for a satisfying and instant mid-week dessert]

150ml double cream

150g good quality dark chocolate [or substitute half for milk chocolate to lessen the cocoa intensity for kids/adult wimps like my boyfriend]

PROCESS

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°c (160° fan) or gas mark 4 and grease and line your tins.
  2. Sieve the flour, cocoa and bicarb and add the caster sugar. Mix well.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the dry mix and add the wet ingredients. Beat until smooth with an electric freestanding or hand mixer – unless you’re looking to build biceps.
  4. Pour into your tins or cupcake cases – the batter will be quite wet – and place in the oven. Leave until risen and firm to the touch. The cupcakes should only take around 15 mins while the sandwich tins will be ready in 25 – 30 minutes.
  5. Leave to cool before turning out onto a wire rack.
  6. You can start on the ganache right away if you wish as it requires an hour or two to cool. Add the cream and broken up chocolate to a pan on a very low heat and stir gently until the chocolate is melted.
  7. Remove from the heat and beat until smooth and glossy. It will continue to thicken as it cools.
  8. I levelled off the rise on each sandwich with a sharp knife – allowing me the benefit of a sneaky taste test – before spreading on the ganache with a flat-edged pallet knife. Sprinkle with Flake dust created by venting your pent-up anger on a sealed Flake with a rolling pin. And if you’re lucky enough to source Mini Eggs – where did you get them!? – they’ll add an unmistakable Easter charm.