Le Serre Nuove – Thoughts from Glasshouses

Food Stories and Recollections

Tag Archives: edinburgh

Golden Pint Awards

As I am a bit of a closet beer fan, and the growth and changing reputation in the UK of beer is simply fantastic,  I thought I would add my twopence worth to the Golden Pint Awards, an annual viewpoint of the state of the beer scene organised by the Beer Bloggers. This year has been very telling for me because I have dramatically changed the way I have drunk beer, not least by being a ‘Brewdog Punk’ and investing in the Equity for Punks scheme, and all the people I’ve meant, new places I have gone to, Brewery’s I have discovered, Beer I have drunk. I look forward to the continued developments of the UK beer scene next year, and trying some more fantastic beer!

Best UK Draught Beer Probably the hardest one for me, the most common beers I drink on draught are from Stewart Brewing and Cairngorm, but the most distinctive I’ve had was Marble Ginger. Simply extraordinary.
Best UK Bottled Beer Kernel Centennial IPA – IPA’s are my favourite style of beer and this one is exemplary.
Best Overseas Draught Beer Sweetwater IPA
Best Overseas Bottled Beer Odell St. Lupulin EPA
Best Overall Beer Great Divide Titan IPA
Best Pumpclip or Label Knop’s Musselburgh Broke
Best UK Brewery Dark Star
Best Overseas Brewery Odell
Pub/Bar of the Year The Rake or The Blind Tiger
Beer Festival of the Year Craig Garvie’s Beer Tastings
Supermarket of the Year Waitrose
Independent Retailer of the Year Cornelius Beer
Online Retailer of the Year MyBreweryTap
Best Beer Blog or Website http://drinkcraftbeer.com/
Best Beer Twitterer Cgarviereg
Best Brewery Online Brewdog
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year Foie Gras and Kernel London Porter
In 2011 I’d Most Like To… Drink more Marble Beers
Open Category: Most Depressing Thing of the YearThe Cask v Kegged debate. Keg beer is not the future just another way to enjoy beer.

How to Warm Up: C&C Soup

Tonight I got cold. I have been quite lucky with the weather recently, because I am fortunate enough not to have to worry about getting to work, mainly because I walk and it takes about 25 minutes whatever the weather, or other daily banalities as I can do must things that way. Edinburgh is nothing more than an ice rink at the moment, this probably sums up the worst weather in 50 years the best, with temperatures averaging about -10 (14). Of course, there are worse places in the world to be but the bureaucratic efficiency of this country has shown its hand again. But the one thing I wasn’t expecting was the heating to break. That really got me today. And I really started to feel it. Even the dogs couldn’t keep me warm. The thing I turn to most when I am really cold is soup. I find there is nothing better than warming me up. I don’t really care what it is, be it tinned Tomato Soup, homemade pumpkin Soup or Beer and Cheese Soup, but it hearty soul food.

With that in mind I attempted to dissect the contents of my cupboards. There isn’t really a lot in there at the best of times, as my wife and I have a habit of getting every few days to try to keep things fresh and varied, and just what we are going to eat. I don’t often eat Celeriac, and I really enjoy it as an accompaniment to fish, The bitter flavour’s help give it a nice sharpness, and I love the combination of this with cider, it is common to see it with apples but I like the added sweetness of the cider.

Cider and Celeriac Soup

500g Celeriac
400 ml Cider (or more to taste)
35g Butter
400 ml vegetable stock
40g Onion (or 1 medium)
90 ml Double Cream

Melt the butter in a pan, and add the onions. Cook for a minute or so until translucent, and add the celeriac. Cook over a medium heat, ensuring the celeriac does not brown, for about 5 minutes. Add the cider and stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Blend. Stir in the cream just before serving to give it additional richness.

Perfect for when you get really quite cold.

Stories from the City

To badly paraphrase a P.J. Harvey record, and whilst walking the dog one evening, I wondered about the food history of Edinburgh and the food that has been made famous here. There are a significant number of Scottish dishes that we all know and love, from haggis to deep-fried Mars bars, and the outstanding quality of the produce you can find is second to none but what is Auld Reckie famous for?

My mind almost instantly turned to a couple of things: chippie sauce on your fish supper and Cock-o-Leekie soup. Even then I only really know Cock-o-Leekie soup as an Edinburgh dish because it has local twist to it: adding whisky. There is also a variant on oatcakes, that get called ‘Midlothian Oatcakes’, which are not as heavy on the oats, and use flour in the recipe producing a crisper texture. Of course, lest we forget that you can get Edinburgh Rock, but for the most part that’s all I could find. Chippie Sauce doesn’t really count as a ‘recipe’, although it is a strange Edinburgh custom. It’s a mixture of Brown Sauce and Malt Vinegar, and a fish supper would be poorer without it. I once mistakenly asked for it in London and got Kebab sauce. You live and learn.

Even consulting the bible of Scottish Cooking – The Scots Kitchen: Its Traditions and Lore with Old-time Recipes – Florence Marian McNeill, first published in 1929 and probably the Scottish equivalent to the Silver Spoon, did not really yield any more results. There is also another book, Edinburgh ‘A La Carte’ – The history of food in Edinburgh – but I think I will need to root round the second-hand bookshops to have any luck in finding. I did eventually find one other dish, something which I have not heard of before and certainly not tried – Edinburgh Fog. It sounds like a play on cranachan, but I hope that it might be tasty with the almonds.

Edinburgh ‘Fog’

300ml double cream
30g castor (fine granulated) sugar
50g small almond ratafia biscuits (macaroon biscuits are a normally substituted for these)
Almond essence
Drambuie / Whisky to taste
30g flaked almonds

Whip the cream until it is stiff and fold in the sugar, almond essence and whisky.  Crush the macaroon biscuits,  and mix well with the cream.  Serve well chilled as a luxury dessert. Sprinkle the almonds over the desert before serving.

What other dishes do you know that originate in Edinburgh? What other dishes should I try? Do you like Edinburgh Fog? Do you have a copy of Edinburgh ‘A La Carte’?

Beer, Cheese, Hefeweizen. Soup?

Is there nothing more satisfying than a decent pint of beer? It has been remarked recently the beer renaissance the UK is going through, and living in Scotland there are whole host of fabulous Brewery’s making different and intriguing beers. Being Edinburgh based you cannot escape the fabulous local brews from Stewart Brewing – who have recently branched out into bottles and I went to their launch night of their first Wheat beer, Hefeweizen, this week.

Intense banana flavour, but with the soft clove and wheat notes you would expect from this type of beer, and clean on the palate, it was a very complex beer that did justice to its name. It is the first time I have ever had that style of beer uncarbonated, which gave way to the stronger fruit flavours, it is refreshingly different and goes to show the versatility and innovation of the UK beer scene, and the plethora of styles and beers that are starting to immerge. Great brewery’s to sample? Anything from Marble, Lovibonds, Kernel, Highland, Dark Star, Thornbridge to name a few, and let’s not forgot Brewdog – who for all their shouting do actually know how to make decent beer. The increase in the availability of US ‘craft’ brews has diversified the market and we are not short of great beer; long may it continue.

In honour of all these great beers, here is a traditional American recipe that I have never seen in the UK. There are great ways to play around with this, mixing the styles of beer and cheese, finding things to add it, and the qualities you use in the recipe for each. Beer is perhaps the perfect combination with cheese. The malt and hops bring out so many different flavours; it brings a completely different slant to the cheese. Perhaps this is why it is the perfect accompaniment to Pizza. This is traditional in the Mid – west where they make some of the best beers about.

Beer Cheese Soup

40 g butter
100g minced celery
100g minced carrots
100g minced onion
100g flour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
300 ml chicken broth
500 ml beer (or a pint)*
300 ml milk
400g cheese*
Popcorn to serve

In a soup pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add celery, carrots and onions, sauté until tender (about 6-8 minutes). Stir in flour and mustard and whisk constantly until smooth and bubbly. Add broth and beer. Cook until thickened. Put mixture into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Return mixture to pot. Gradually stir in milk, stirring to avoid scorching. Simmer for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in cheese and continue to cook until cheese has melted, stirring frequently for about 15 minutes.

Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with popcorn and serve hot.

* Different Beer styles suit different cheeses … Brooklyn Brewery from NYC recommends the following…

– Sharp Cheddar – Pale Ale
– Feta – Wheat Beer
– Mascarpone – Fruit Beer
– American Cheese – Pilsner
– Colby – Brown Ale
– Gorgonzola – Barleywine
– Gruyere – Bock Beer
– Swiss cheese – Octoberfest Beer
– Parmesan – Amber Lager

For me, there is nothing better than the first one, Cheddar and Pale Ale, or more specifically a really hoppy India Pale Ale. I would also add:

Stilton (or strong blue cheese) – Stout
Caerphilly (or mild nutty cheeses) – Milds (i.e. dark malty beers) or Red Ales
Goats Cheese – Hefeweizen

I am going to pick up some of the aforementioned Stewart Brewing Hefeweizen this weekend, some fabulous Goat’s Cheese from Ian Mellis and try this again over the weekend…

Something warm and refreshing whilst freezing at Murrayfield!

Look out on Twitter for the results…

My Favorite Stew

I cannot remember where this came from, but this is one of my favourite recipes that I have played around with recently. I love the way in which venison and chocolate work so well together (Richard Corrigan serves a wonderful chocolate ravioli with venison) and Rowley Leigh was the first chef who I really saw use these ingredients together. The chocolate cuts through the flavours of the meat and really strengthens the taste, adding bitterness and a great sharpness to it. The darker the chocolate the better too (or go the whole hog and use Cacao it is certainly worth it).

Chocolate Venison Stew

1 kilo shoulder (or haunch) venison, diced,
A bottle of red wine (a good Merlot based one would work best.. or a Rioja)
2 tablespoons of olive oil,
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
2 crushed garlic cloves,
a handful of rosemary and thyme,
2 bay leaves,
1 teaspoon of crushed juniper berries,
Half a teaspoon of crushed peppercorns,
Half a teaspoon of salt.

Combine the ingredients into a marinade, add the meat  and leave overnight.

When you are ready to cook you will also need:
2 tablespoons of oil,
100g of Serrano ham fat or fatty bacon, cubed.
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
70 grams of bitter black chocolate, grated.
salt and pepper to taste

Fry the ham or bacon in a casserole dish. Remove just before it the oil discolors, and keep to one side. Pat the meat dry (who make also wish to flour the meat) and gently brown before removing and leaving to one side.. Add the onions and carrots and soften over a medium heat in the same pan. Add the marinade, and bring it to a simmering point (that it when it starts to gently bubble). Return both the venison and ham to the dish, and add the spices. Cook in a low-medium oven (i.e. at about 150) for 1 1/2 hours until the meat is tender. You make want to add a drop of water to ensure the meat does not dry out. Return to the hob, and grate the chocolate into the dish, bringing the sauce back to a simmer point or until the sauce is of a decent thickness. Serve immediately.

This is like cooking the Julia Childs version of Beef Burguignon,  as it take can take a few hours, and most of the techniques are classical: Cooking each element in the same dish first, adding and returning them add at different points as it cooks. Try not to use a too spicy wine (like a Syrah) as it can kill the chocolate flavour, and do not go over board with the chocolate – Dairy Milk will not work either!

Regardless of how long it takes to cook – it is worth the wait and great to banish the Autumn blues.

He got Pretzeled

Soft, chewy, salty. Perhaps with a little mustard. Actually maybe not. That’s a New York thing, and it’s probably French’s. It’s a rather bright yellow, that makes me wonder whether it is a little toxic. Of course it’s not, it is just the vinegar, but it is a little unnerving. Mustard or no mustard, sometimes there is only one thing I want to do for lunch: Walk the 10 minutes up the hill from my office to Falko‘s and stock up on his lye bretzel.

I think it is one of the reason’s why I have failed to detach myself from my current workplace, or at least find a job that still makes it within walking distance. A bad morning can often be solved with a gentle stroll up the hill and immersing myself into some German bread. The array of cakes are second to none, and the marzipan almond horseshoes are so delicate and sweet, they make you crave for more (and perfect with a cup of tea). But I digress, it’s the only place I have found in Edinburgh that sells fresh pretzels, yet it surprises me that they are not more readily available nor there be the demand for them. They appear at the German market at Christmas, but the tradition has never really caught on. I adore making my own, I even import the flour and yeast from a Jewish shop in North Carolina, yet there is still something missing. I think even the Pretzel M&M’s that you can now get (a low-calorie chocolate? Crunchy, salty, sweet?), and act as the perfect accompaniment to an IPA, imply there is something else I should be doing, but what is it?

Walking round New York or Chicago (probably most N.E. cities) pretzels are ubiquitous as the falafel vendors. The German immigrants (well the Pennsylvania Dutch really) of the 18th century first brought the delicacy to the US, and the eat about a kilo’s worth a year. That’s probably about 200. On a recent visit to NYC, I literally dropped my bags off at the hotel and headed to Sigmonds Pretzel Shop in the East Village. I stumbled upon it trekking around, because of their unbelievable quality. I think that’s where the mustard comes in because, for the most part, most street vendor pretzels just taste liked undercooked bread.

The reason ‘real’ pretzels taste so different is because they use Sodium Hydroxide, instead of Sodium Carbonate – and this is the thing I have been missing. Sodium Hydroxide is a caustic soda which can burn and you need a mixture of about 3% in water. It is more commonly referred to as lye, and makes great pretzels because it breaks down the gluten and on the outside of the pretzel which causes the starch to harden giving it its crust (it mixes with Carbon Dioxide as it bakes to form Carbonate), whilst keeping the middle moist.

The shape depends on whether you are eating a Bavarian (which is uniform in size) or a Swabian which is big in the middle and thin at either end. Sigmond’s are Bavarian, and Falko’s Swabian.  A perfect combination for two great cities.

Welcome

Hello and welcome to my blog! I hope to write maybe a column of blogs a week giving some thoughts on latest developments in the world of food, wine and beer… probably Whisky too as I am from Scotland! There is no strict mantra for this blog, and I hope to mix it up with reviews of places, events and things that I do along with way.

I called it ‘Le Serre Nuove’ after the Second Vin of a Italian Vineyard. Serre Nuove translates into New Greenhouses (in the context of the wine it means young vines, new vines and therefore requires a different approach), and it made me think of not throwing stones in glasshouses. I lost my heart in a summer in Tuscany when I was student, and I wanted it represent a second take on food. So there you go. Le Serre Nuove!

The design of this blog will change once I get up to speed with WordPress. Please feel free to comment on anything, or drop me an email, as I will always welcome your feedback.

%d bloggers like this: