Burns Night Bonanza

Celebrate Burns Night with some delicious Scottish recipes

Haggis with neeps and tatties - Scottish food & recipes I’m from Wales originally so celebrating Burns Night was not an important family tradition in the Griscti household. The thought of eating haggis never really appealed to me until I was at university and sharing a house with three Scots, so when planted with plateful, I naturally gave it a go. To my surprise I really loved it. It doesn’t look the most appetising of meals but on the first bite I found it to be flavoursome, light and totally moreish. A few years have passed by since my university days but I still love to celebrate Burns Night with a deliciously tasty haggis, accompanied by my own version of hearty neeps and tatties.

The haggis
We tucked into an M&S Haggis, made by Macsween of Edinburgh. It didn’t fail to impress. It was sweetly spiced, mouthwateringly tender and packed with flavour.  I was particularly impressed that I managed to convert a non-Haggis eater into a haggis lover! “It is sooooo good,” was my friend Nikki’s verdict. I felt it important to include her exact review – thank you Nikki! We both came to the conclusion that if you’re squeamish about Haggis, one bite will completely change your perception. With its light consistency and spicy flavour it almost tastes like a rich type of stuffing, or lentil-based dish. I urge any non-Haggis eaters to give it a go.

To cook the Haggis, simply wrap in foil and place into an oven-proof dish filled with about 2cm of water, then cook in the oven at 180°C for 1 hour 20 minutes. Here’s what I cooked with the haggis…



Kind-of Scottish tatties
This is my own recipe and it works so well with Haggis. It’s a rich, creamy and textured mash with an indulgent crumbly cheese topping.

1) Steam some green cabbage leaves for about 10 minutes, keep the vegetable water as stock.

2) Make your mashed potato the usual way with plenty of butter, salt and pepper but instead of adding milk, add a touch of cabbage water (approx. 2 ladlesful – but judge for yourself: you don’t want the consistency to be too runny). Then add crème fraîche instead of milk. Again judge the amount by taste – you want it to be rich and creamy but not too heavy.

3) Stir the chopped, steamed cabbage leaves into the mash mix, adding a little more cabbage water / crème fraîche if needed.

4) Chop up approx. half a red onion and stir this into the mixture. Transfer into an ovenproof dish, then grate some Cheddar cheese and cover the top of the mash, together with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs and salt and pepper.

5) Cook in the oven for about 25 minutes, until the topping is golden brown.

Caramelised balsamic carrots
1) Chop up and steam your carrots (enough for about four people) for about 10 minutes. Make sure they are not too soft, keeping a little crunch.

2) Chop up half a red onion and gently fry in some butter and a little olive oil until soft. Add a couple of spoonfuls of brown sugar then add the steamed carrots. Let the golden, sugary onions coat the carrots, then add a dash of balsamic vinegar (about 2 tablespoons). Gently cook for about 10 minutes, until the balsamic vinegar has reduced, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Serve your haggis and tatties with honey-roasted parsnips with thyme (posh neeps), and a white wine, onion gravy.

If you’d like some inspiration on foodie treats to stock up on for Burns Night, see my Scottish Food Buys on allabouty.com. Happy Burns night everyone!

Brilliant baked feta with sweet cherry tomatoes

baked feta and tomato dip - starter recipes - food

It’s Friday evening, I’m late home from work, and ambitiously, I’ve invited a gathering of guests over for an impromptu dinner party to celebrate the start of the weekend. Panic sets in – ‘what an earth can I rustle up in less than twenty minutes that looks and tastes fantastic?!” I can cheat and buy some posh nibbles, or I can be inventive and use up the tasty delights that have been sitting in my fridge, patiently awaiting my creative culinary skills. I know I have feta, I know I have cherry tomatoes, and I’m positive there are some herbs lying around that I can make good use of.

Sometimes these creations of mine turn out disastrously, but this time I’m glad to say it’s a complete success, with my dinner guests practically licking the serving dish clean. Rich cherry tomatoes in a sweet, tangy sauce with crumbled, salty feta baked until creamy and delicious. Serve with crusty wholemeal bread to scoop up the delectable deliciousness. It’s finger food at its finest, and allows you time in the kitchen to tackle the main course!

And for the recipe…

This gorgeous starter is packed full of flavour and only requires about five minutes preparation before throwing everything into the oven to work its magic.

Ingredients

● 2 shallots (finely chopped)
● Drizzle of olive oil
● 1 crushed garlic clove
● 1 can of cherry tomatoes in tomato juice (plus a little water)
● Pinch of chilli flakes
● Pinch of dried herbs (oregano or thyme)
● 200g pack of feta
● Fresh oregano or parsley (to garnish)
● Salt and pepper

What to do 

1)    Finely chop the shallots and fry in a little olive oil, until softened.

2)    Throw in your tin of cherry tomatoes with a dash of water, and turn up the heat until the tomato sauce has reduced.

3)    Add your chilli flakes and seasoning.

4)    Once the sauce has thickened, transfer to an ovenproof dish then sprinkle your crumbled feta on top, with a little salt and pepper.

5)    Bake in the oven at 180°C for about 15 minutes.

6)    Scatter a topping of fresh oregano or parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with fresh, baked bread and get dipping!

Head to Joe Allen’s, London, for gourmet burgers and chic cocktails

Joe Allen restaurant London

A New York-style brasserie, with a mighty-meaty American menu

Originally opened in the seventies, this theatre-loving, bustling haunt is where actors, producers, directors and West-End stars would habitually hang out supping on cocktails devouring the classic American fare. It still maintains that element of drama and sophistication, with crisp white linen table clothes, waiters clad in long, knee-length aprons with white shirts and black ties, a singing pianist, sultry, ambient lighting and walls adorned with theatre posters from old musicals and images of iconic American stars.

Joe Allen's restaurant - London restaurants - restaurant reviews - foodThe restaurant itself is has a New York/Parisian brasserie feel, with exposed brick walls and wooden floorboards. Very New York and very cool. Not surprising mind you, seeing as the restaurant itself is styled on its original New York venue, so there’s an aura of the Big Apple’s downtown-chic that emanates throughout. I envisage a swarm of Broadway stars herding into the restaurant to serenade the audience with classic show tunes accompanied by a debonair bow-tied gentleman tinkling on the piano.

We’re sat on a romantic table for two, subtly amused I sit opposite my lovely friend Di, and not on an intimate date with sexy man. To help whet our appetites we quite literally dive into a couple of tongue-tingling old fashioned tipples. I opt for the ‘Bitter Queen’, a combination of gin, Dubonnet, rose lemonade with a subtle hint of orange and aromatic bitters. As a Campari lover, this is just the cocktail for me, and of course helps whittle down our choices from the mouthwatering menu.

Joe Allen cocktail - London restaurant reviews - foodIf you’re feeling famished, Joe Allen’s collection of finger-licking American treats will absolutely hit the mark. We’re both ravenous, so if I’m honest, everything looks good, but catching my eye in particular is the creamy lobster macaroni. Who could resist? And then there’s the choice between succulent fillet steak, spiced baby back ribs or half a grilled chicken. What’s not on the menu we notice are the signature burgers, but we spot the waiters gliding through the restaurant gracefully carrying towering sliders filed with bacon, crisp salad, chunky pickles and bubbling cheese. We simply can’t miss out on sampling the restaurant’s definitive dish. We decide to share a steak and burger following our starters of lobster macaroni and crab salad.

Crab salad bloody tomao dressing - Joe Allen restaurant London - restaurant reviews - foodThe crab salad is divine. Delicate flakes of fresh crab with slices of avocado dressed in a tangy Bloody Mary tomato dressing. Refreshingly light and flavoursome, and the perfect entrée before tucking into a mammoth burger. The mac and cheese unfortunately did not quite live up to expectations. I was expecting a thick, cheesy sauce with chunks of exquisite lobster. Instead I bite into a mouthful of macaroni, that has a runny, milky consistency and I’m forced to play ‘hunt the lobster’. A few tiny chunks surface from the mounds of macaroni. It was ok, but certainly nothing nothing to rave about.

Macaroni and cheese - Joe Allen restaurant London - restaurant reviews - foodOur mains are swiftly presented to us in no time at all. I have a glistening fillet steak cooked in the restaurant’s signature steak sauce, accompanied by a delightful slightly spiced chipotle hollandaise sauce – an absolute taste sensation when smothered over my juicy steak.

Steak with hollandaise chipotle sauce - Joe Allen's restaurant London - restaurant reviews - food

Di is presented an impressive burger piled high with crisp salad, slathers of cheese, sizzling crispy bacon rashers and chunky pickles in a toasted brioche bun. Instantly I have food envy but lucky for me we decide to share! As a true burger buff I’m very particular about my sizzling sliders – but this one ticks every box.  The meat is perfectly pink and meltingly tender, the crispy bacon is covered in gooey cheese and the salad and pickles are crunchy and tasty as I bite into the sweet brioche bun. Heavenly. The chipotle hollandaise tastes great with the burger, alongside the spicy steak sauce, to add a cheeky little kick.

Joe Allen burger - London restaurants reviews - foodTo our surprise both plates are literally licked clean, without a leftover in sight. We have to roll ourselves out of the restaurant from a little over indulgence but overall Joe Allen’s gets a big thumbs up. Great burgers, quirky cocktails and a bustling atmosphere. Definitely worth a visit.

For more information on booking a table at Joe Allens, and to view a sample menu visit www.joeallen.co.uk

Scrumptious sauerkraut with smoked sausages and potatoes

Sauerkraut sausages potatoes recipe - food ideas - dinner recipesThis is without a doubt, one of my favourite food dishes of all time. It’s a flavourfest on a plate. Pickled cabbage piled high with chunky smoked sausages and soft, fluffy potatoes. Admittedly it’s a little of an acquired taste, but if you like strong bold flavours (like myself), then like you’ll love this hearty German dish.

Even as a child, I was always partial to some of the finer things in life, especially when it came to food. Rather than eating the traditional roast chicken and veg my mum had kindly prepared for me, I would insist on devouring a bowl of olives or infuriate her by tucking into some spicy salami. I’ve always loved experimenting with worldly foods. Bearing that in mind, at a very young age I developed a complete obsession with a tasty German dish, Sauerkraut. Anything pickled is a winner in my book, but add sausages to the pan and this is pretty much the icing on my savoury cake…

What you’ll need…
Selection of Polish and German smoked sausages such as kabanos, Bratwurst and frankfurters
4-5 White potatoes
2 cloves of garlic
Jar of Sauerkraut pickled cabbage
Two teaspoons pickled capers
Bay leaf (for potatoes)

How to cook…
1. Slice the sausages into sizeable chunks and fry them off in a large pan with a drizzle of olive oil and crushed garlic. You can keep the sausages whole if you prefer.

2. Whilst the sausages are frying, pop the potatoes on to boil with a bay leaf and salt. You can either boil or mash the potatoes, depending on your personal preference. I usually boil then, in a separate pan fry them off in olive oil and garlic.

3. Once the sausages have browned slightly, add the Sauerkraut and fry off until slightly golden in colour. At this stage you can throw in the potatoes (if you choose) and the capers and mix together on a medium heat for about 10 minutes, this way you will infuse the smoky-pickled flavours. Alternatively you can mash the potato then pour the cabbage and sausage mix over the top. Season to taste and pile up those plates!

Vietnamese Pho with king prawns

One of my absolute favourite meals is Vietnamese Pho. I just love the freshness and aromatic tones of this flavoursome broth. It’s such a cleansing dish packed with spicy ginger, fragrant lemon grass and a welcome kick of fresh chilli. If you’re feeling a little under the weather this is the best dish to warm your cockles, plus it acts as a great decongestant.

I usually go to my favourite Vietnamese restaurant at the end of my road for these culinary Asian delights. Any of you Hackney dwellers will know and frequent the fabulous Tre Viet, and for those further afield who don’t, I would highly recommend. With a mind-boggling array of authentic, mouthwatering Vietnamese dishes, plus the option of BYO, it’s always a preferred option in my book. The prospect of attempting to make any dish myself for the first time is always a little unnerving, especially when you know you can grab the perfect plate less than two minutes down the road and for less than £10; the second option usually prevails.

I decided to bite the bullet the other night and recreate a Pho noodle broth myself. A scary thought, but if it turned out to be complete a disaster I could always skip down the road to the takeaway and pretend to my housemate that I really had made it from scratch.

What I have been missing out on! It turned out to be a huge success. Apart from perhaps cooking the noodles a little too long, everything else was a winner. Vegetables were suitably crispy, the broth was packed with flavour and the chilli kick we were after definitely hit the mark. Plus it was a great warm up for the Comic Relief chilli-eating competition my housemate had entered herself into, and won I hasten to add!

I used prawns for this broth but you can use anything you like; thinly sliced pork, beef, fish or even just veg. The flavours of the broth are so wonderful, the meat or fish is just a welcome addition to the dish.

Vietnamese Pho with prawns

vietnamese-pho-noodle-soup-asian-recipesIngredients

3 red or birdseye chillis
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 stick of lemongrass, cracked with the side of a knife
2cm piece of ginger, squashed slightly
4 spring onions, trimmed and sliced diagonally
600 mls of good quality chicken stock
3 tbsp of Asian fish sauce
Handful of parsley leaves
Handful of basil leaves
150g cooked king prawns
150g rice noodles
100g bean sprouts
100g choy sum (fresh Asian cabbage leaves)
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 boiled egg

Method

1) Place the lemongrass, ginger garlic and 3/4 of the chopped chilli into a pan with the chicken stock. Bring to the boil for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for another 15 minutes for the flavours to really infuse.

2) Add the prawns and the choy sum (fresh Asian cabbage leaves) to the soup, and add three of the spring onions, the fish sauce and the fresh herbs. Leave aside a small handful of each herb for garnishing. Put the lid back on the pan, and leave it whilst you carry out step 3.

3) In a pan of boiling water, cook the beansprouts for 1-2 minutes, or until they are just tender. Drain them and add them to the soup. Place the egg into the boiling water, you need to boil for about 5-6 minutes. To save water add the rice noodles to the egg, and leave to cook for 4-5 minutes. Remove the lemongrass and ginger and from the soup.

4) Remove boiled egg and place into a bowl of cold water. Then peel the shell neatly.

5) Divide the cooked noodles between two deep bowls. Pour a generous serving of your broth and vegetables over the cooked noodles. Cut the boiled egg in half and place on top of the soup.

6) Garnish with a little of the basil and parsley leaves, a few slices of red chilli and spring onion. Serve with a wedge of lime.

Dreaming off eggs Benedict

So I’m having a relatively quiet weekend staying in out of the cold. There’s nothing better than being cosy on your sofa watching delicate soft snowflakes fall outside your window. After having an awesome meal at my friends last night, (a delicious creamy gratin infused with lime and lashings of peanut butter – well worth a mention don’t you think?) I’m feeling inspired to make something a little bit special for breakfast.

This morning I’m craving a classic favourite; beautiful eggs Benedict. My definitive morning choice at any restaurant or cafe. Who can beat smoked grilled ham resting on crispy muffins and perfectly poached soft gooey eggs topped with a rich indulgent Hollondaise sauce? It’s the king of all breakfasts.

It’s not however quite as easy to recreate this tasty little breakfast bite. I’ve only tried Hollandaise sauce a couple of times and both times were mildly unsuccessful! My first attempt the egg scrambled. Second attempt I achieved a gorgeous creamy consistency but went a little overboard on the lemon. Would have been great if I was making fish. Sadly I was not.

Having watched countless cookery programs trying to master the art, here goes nothing …..

To make perfectly poached eggs

20130120-111116.jpg
My little tip is to pop the eggs (in their shells) in boiling water for about 30 seconds. This way the eggs cook slightly so they form a loose shape in the shell. When you break the egg it means it reduces the chances off the egg from spreading in the boiling water.

Next make sure the water in boiling then. Add a tablespoon of vinegar.

Make a well in the water and break the egg into the middle. Poach the egg for a few minutes, until you see that the colour of the egg starts to darken.

Hollandaise sauce
You will need
2 egg yolks
2 tbs white whine vinegar
Squeeze of lemon
Good sized knob of butter about 4oz
A few peppercorns and a bay leaf

Put the vinegar into a pan with the peppercorns and bay leaf, then boil on a high heat until it reduces by half. Strain the mixture separating the vinegar from the peppercorns and bay leaf.

Either whisk or blend the egg yolks together with your vinegar reduction.

Melt the butter on a low heat, then slowly pour into the vinegar reduction and either blend or whisk vigorously if you are mixing by hand. Once the sauce starts to thicken, add a squeeze of lemon and season with salt and pepper.

Finishing touches
Toast two muffins, place some thick slices of smoked ham on top of the muffins and grill for a couple of minutes, then top with your gooey perfectly poached eggs and cover with lashing of buttery Hollandaise. Sprinkle with a little chopped fresh parsley and enjoy a gourmet brekkie from the comfort of your own home.

Happy breakfast!

Hello world!

Eiffel Tower post card

Ooh well isn’t this a little bit exciting…

So after months of deliberating I have finally got myself into gear and set up this little baby! Having spent the last couple of years leaving London on a jet plane and swanning off to many exotic places (yes I am a lucky little madam) I thought it best to document my adventures on the world wide web for all to see.

Just to give you a little bit about me… My absolute favourite pastime is to relax on a beautiful beach with a refreshing cucumber-infused Hendricks and tonic and immerse myself in a good book. Failing that, I’m a sucker for a good snowboard trip. Sometimes plummeting down an icy mountain is remarkably more appealing than a relaxing stroll along the sand. And of course taking in the breathtaking views of the stunning Alps is absolutely mind-blowing.

When I’m not dreaming of running off to sunny beaches or snowy mountains, I can be often found cavorting at festivals, hosting wine-fuelled dinner soireés and generally embarrassing myself ever-so-slightly at any given opportunity. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just no fun to take yourself too seriously, so I’ve learnt to whole-heartedly embrace my slightly goofy personality and pass it off as endearing. Or so I tell myself anyhoo.

I love nothing more than being wined and dined, taken out to fancy restaurants (or being flown to one) and over indulging in some good old gourmet grub. Sampling the latest restaurant menu is the best way to get inspiration for your own cooking, and I love to recreate my own versions of classic dishes. If not to impress friends and the boy, to spice up the weekly food routine and encourage some creativity in the kitchen.

So to briefly sum up, not only do you get to swot up on my latest travel tales, I will also indulge you in a collection of restaurant and hotel reviews, together with some delicious homemade marvels to tantalise those taste buds. Happy reading! x