Friday, 31 July 2009

the best cherries in the world...

... from my native county of Kent. 100% lusciousness in every cherry. Procured from the beautiful village of Sissinghurst - once home to Vita Sackville-West, for the literary types amongst you.
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this twitter thang...

... I've signed up.

Think I might be able to manage 140 characters more often than I seem to manage posting on this blog. We'll see.

Anyway, I'm new to all this, so please be gentle with me. And do say 'hi' on twitter if you've got a moment. I need friends to hold my hands... ;-)

Monday, 20 July 2009

the next best meal in Scotland...

There are times, when you're on the road and travelling around, when you need sustenance. Nothing fancy or adorned with Michelin stars, just something that fills the belly and puts a smile on your face.

There was such a day when The Other Diner and I were in Scotland. We'd been driving around a while on a hot day, were thirsty and hungry, and not a little scratchy with each other as a result. Glucose levels needed restoring, and fast.

Luckily, we wound up in a little town called Aberdour, just a few miles from Edinburgh, but across the Forth bridge.

And there, in Aberdour, we hit upon the Cedar Inn. Better still, on the lunch specials menu, was something we couldn't resist.

Reader, I bring you...

chips and cheese

Chips and cheese!

A venerable Scottish favourite this, as is chips and curry sauce (the choice of The Other Diner, and which lurks in the background of the photo).

Forget fancy cooking - this had everything I needed. The chips were fresh as you like, homemade, and fried to perfection. The cheese was just the right amount, tasty, but not overwhelming. And all washed down with a half pint of real ale. NOTHING could have been better. NOTHING.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

a Provencal dessert MADE FROM CHARD...

Excuse the shouting. I just wanted to make sure you sat up.

It's a dessert.

And it's made from chard. Well, and pastry, too, and a few other things. But it's the chard that makes it.

It turns out like this:

chard tart

And you can move in for that all-important close-up here:

chard tart close-up

actually, that's less close up than the first photo. Darn it. Anyway, moving on...

But. A dessert?

No, I couldn't decide whether someone was having me on or not, either. So the only thing to do was to have a go at it and decide for myself.

And you know what? It's actually very good. It IS a dessert. A pretty amazing one, too. And I reckon that with all that chard in it, you can claim that it's healthy as well.

So here you have it - one healthy tart for dessert. Make it and amaze your friends and mother-in-law. I was given the recipe from the cat-sitter, who got it from a magazine, but I don't know which one because the photocopy I've got has cut off the bottom of the page... If anyone recognises the recipe, please let me know and I'll be happy to give proper credit. Absolutely no copyright infringement intended.

Provencal swiss chard tart (serves 6)

Olive oil pastry
380g plain flour
sea salt
150ml olive oil
2 med egg yolks

Slug of cider or white wine vinegar
400g swiss chard
2tbsp olive oil
40g pine nuts
30g caster sugar
200g young creamy goat's cheese or curd
1 tbsp lemon juice
40g raisins
optional icing sugar for dusting

Egg glaze
I med egg yolk
1 tbsp milk

For the pastry:
Place flour and pinch of salt in the bowl of a food processor, trickle in the olive oil with the motor running, and then add the 2 yolks. Give the dough a stir - it will be crumbly at this point. Now trickle in enough cold water to bring the dough together (about 70 ml), stopping the motor when it starts to cling together in lumps. Wrap dough in clingfilm and chill for at least an hour.

At the same time, prepare filling. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add a slug of vinegar. Trim the ends of the chard stalks and thinly slice the stems and leaves. Add both to the pan, bring back to the boil, and simmer for 3 mins. Drain into a colander, gently press out excess water + set aside to steam dry for a few mins.

Heat 2tbsp oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add pine nuts and fry until lightly coloured, then remove to a bowl. Add the chard to the pan and fry for a couple of minutes until starting to colour. Stir in the sugar and a pinch of salt, blend in the goat's cheese, then add the lemon juice and mix in the pine nuts and raisins. Leave to cool.

Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas 4. Have ready a large baking sheet.

Roll out 2/3rds of the pastry on a lightly floured worktop and cut out a circle 27cm in diameter. Roll our the remaining third of the pastry and cut a circle 20cm in diameter.

Place the large circle on a baking sheet. Spread the filling to within 3-4cm of the rim (to cover the same area as the smaller circle). Score the smaller circel with a few cuts radiating from the centre and lay it on top of the filling. To finish, combine egg yolk + milk. Brush the edge of the bottom circle with the egg glaze and fold the edge over the top circle to seal the pie. Brush pie all over with more glaze and bake for 30 mins. Serve at room temperature, dusted with icing sugar if wished.


Thursday, 2 July 2009

the best meal in Scotland... and Scottish wine

Well, I'm back from holiday - 2 weeks amidst the most stunning scenery by Loch Tay in Perthshire, and the East Neuk coastline in Fife. Scotland is such a gem, it really is. Andy Murray's not bad, either. ;-)

And there are some real food highlights, too. If you wander (well, ok then - if you drive) along the East Neuk coast, you'll come to the pretty little fishing village of Anstruther.

It looks something like this...

Anstruther bay view

... and this...

Anstruther boats

And in amongst the shops on the shoreline, you'll find this:

Anstruther fish bar

You might not be able to make out the wording on the white sign on the left there, but it says "Winner. Fish and Chip Shop of the Year, 2008-09, United Kingdom". Yes, really. The UK's best fish and chips in this wee little corner of Scotland.

So it had to be done, didn't it?

fish and chips

And, oh my, they were VERY GOOD indeed. The fish was haddock - a unique type which is found only off the coast here, and which is smaller, sweeter, and altogether more succulent than other haddock fished and served up elsewhere in the UK. The batter was so light, it was almost tempura-like. Fantastic. The Other Diner and I agreed - this really was The Best Fish and Chips Ever. And we've had a few.

What's even better is that you can wash it all down with some wine. Scottish wine. Yes, you read that right:

Scottish wine

It's one of those other Scottish gems. Little known, but certainly worth knowing. The oak leaf wine bears a passing resemblance to retsina, but is more, well, winey, and less piney.

All in all, a damn fine meal on a gorgeous day (see, it doesn't always rain in Scotland; and the temperature that day was about 25C), in a beautiful part of the world.

So where will you be going on your holiday next year, hmm???

For the avoidance of doubt, the Scottish Tourist Board are not paying me to write this. Although I'm open to offers. ;-)