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Image © The Kitchen

There seems to be a lot on the telly box right now about service, we’ve been enjoying Mary Portas’ undercover shenanigans but even more so Michel Roux’s Service on BBC 2. Tonight’s episode emphasised the ‘theatre’ of dining out and that good service combined with delicious food is the key to a great meal.

The Stovies team are opening up the floor to Mother Stovies for this review which seems apt as she’s definitely got to take some responsibility for our enjoyment of eating out….

We decided to try the The Kitchen Restaurant in Inverness out as it occupies a beautiful building facing the river.  It’s also the sister restaurant of The Mustard Seed which we have visited often, never being disappointed.

We arrived to find the ground floor empty and were shown upstairs, passing the also deserted middle floor to a table quite literally at the door on the top floor.  With the waitress station just in front of us the river was far from in view and we couldn’t help feeling the table had been pushed in as an extra.

Perhaps because the atmosphere felt little lacking we skipped starters and moved straight to mains. My partner tucked in to halibut with a cheese crust and crab mousse. The fish was well cooked and fresh but the crust more a cheese sauce but was enjoyable nonetheless. I chose venison with potato rosti. Two of the three medallions were deliciously medium rare, the third was inedible and unfortunately, the rosti on which they sat was a hard, tasteless, soggy lump. The attentive waitress noticed that my plate was far from clear and asked if there was a problem with my meal. I explained about the rosti and she in turn explained to the chef. A few moments later she reappeared and informed me that the chef said this was what rosti was.

For desert we shared a cheeseboard. It was fairly standard, but there was no explanation of the different cheeses. Tea and coffee were followed, served with a nice piece of homemade tablet .

The total bill for two mains, one cheeseboard, tea and coffee and a bottle of Pinot Grigio was a reasonable £58.  While taking the payment the waitress was apologetic and seemed to feel exposed when responding to customers’ concerns. We feel that we know food, we cook a lot, we eat out frequently here and abroad. We search out restaurants with a good name.  On this occasion, our first visit, The Kitchen let itself down, not simply in serving up a substandard dish – this happens – but more in the limp response to our mildly expressed comments. So disappointing after the Mustard Seed

The Kitchen, 15 Huntly Street, Inverness. Tel: 01463 259119

http://www.kitchenrestaurant.co.uk/

A raspberry ripple with a tipple

It’s Burns night tomorrow and while you’ll definitely have your Haggis, Neeps and Tatties sorted for tea, have you thought about what to have for pudding? The idea of a Cranachan / Cheesecake hybris has been being pondered in the Stovies kitchen for a while and yesterday we finally got down to laying out a recipe.

It tastes a little more delicate and fun than the dish that inspired it and as it looks rather romantic so you could even give it a try for Valentines if you miss Burns Night. This recipe will make six individual cheesecakes or one large one.

Cranachan Cheesecake

150g Rough/handmade type oatcakes. We used Your Piece Porridge Oatcakes
100g Melted butter
300g Fresh raspberries
2 tbsp Runny honey
1 tbsp Whisky – it needs to be a nice smooth/mild one as too much smoke or peat would overpower things. We used Monkey Shoulder
600g Cream cheese
200ml Water
2 tsp Icing sugar
4 Gelatine leaves (or equivalent Vege-Gel)

Crush the oatcakes in a bowl and mix in the melted butter. Pour the crumbs into a 20cm springform cake tin – or into 6 chef rings on a greased baking tray and push down firmly with the back of a spoon. Put in the fridge to chill while you work on the cheesy part.

Soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for 5-10 minutes, until they go floppy. In a pan bring the measured water to the boil, add the gelatine and stir until melted. Blitz 200g of the raspberries and mix with 100g of cream cheese and 1/3 of the warm gelatine mix. In another bowl combine the whisky, honey and remaining cream cheese and gelatine mix.

Take the biscuit base out of the fridge and pour the white mixture over the top. Spoon the pink mixture on top of this and then drag a spoon through to create a raspberry ripple effect, be rough enough to make sure that the ripples go deep into the mixture but be careful not to disturb the biscuit base. Tap firmly on the work surface to settle the mixture then chill for at least three hours in the fridge.

To make the coulis blitz the remaining raspberries (keep a few back for decorating), sieve to remove the pips then mix in the icing sugar and a little water. When you are ready to serve up, run a knife around the edge of the tin to make removing easier, top with the last raspberries and drizzle with coulis.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers

It’s been review-a-rama this week so it’s time to get back to our recipes. We’re still loving getting a big bag of veggies delivered each week from The Whole Shebag, although some weeks we’re struggling to get through it all. Mr Stovies has been on a pickling mission to use up the odds and sods and has concocted this lovely bright Victorian Pickle which is surprisingly easy to make. Perfect with cold meats, cheese or as I found him the other day – eaten straight off the spoon. Enjoy!

1 Clove Garlic
2 Onions
2 Courgettes
1 Cooking apple
1 Pepper – any colour
5 Carrots
1 Bulb of fennel
2 Bay leaves
1 tsp Dried oregano
2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Black mustard seed
1/2 tsp Cumin powder
3 tbsp Cider vinegar
100g Sugar
1 pint Water

Chop all of the vegetables into small chunks. Put all of the ingredients together into a large lidded pan and cook over a low heat for 2 hours. If the mix starts to get dry add a little more water.

To sterilise your jars and lids wash and dry them, then bake in hot oven for ten minutes. Fill with the chutney while both are still hot and seal with the lids immediately.

Old friends and new

We toddled off to William Street to meet friends after work tonight only to find Bert’s Bar and Teuchtars rammed to the rafters. In need of a seat and a really good selection of beers we made a forray into the newly opened Sláinte Mhath. Formerly the Randolph Bar this is a real gem, spacious, but with several cubby holes and booths. For a Friday night things were a lot less raucous than the nearby ‘shiny-shoe’ bars of the West End, but it started to fill up later on with a live folk band due to play.

We weren’t in eating mode but did have a good look at the menu. Far from the usual Lasagne, Steak Pie or Fish & Chips offerings many pubs make Sláinte Mhath’s kitchen serve up Mussel Pots, Confit Duck and Daube of Beef to name a few. It’s definitely on the hit list to eat in soon.

Sláinte Mhath, 3-14 Melville Place, Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 220 1919
http://www.slaintemhathbar.co.uk/

Later we did need to go in search of food. Not being overly hungry we were pondering a pizza from the ever busy Pizza Express when we realised we were standing right outside our old friend Howie’s Cellar. When we started the blog we were really impressed by the new menu and refurb so we popped in to see how things are going a few months on. In a word: Swimmingly!

The restaurant was full and all of the faces at the tables looked happy as larry. The menu has changed with the seasons and a selection of larger dishes for one have been added to please the tapas wary.

The food was just as good as our other visits, a selection of smaller dishes filled the spot but didn’t over-stuff. The atmosphere was buzzing but still intimate thanks to the small interconnected rooms and the bill was as easy to swallow as the pints earlier in the evening.

To read the full Stovies review click here….

And now, time for bed. Good night!

A-har me harties!

Image © Seadogs

The Stovies team were recently invited to an evening out with friends at Sea Dogs in Edinburgh. Not ones to miss a trick in eating somewhere new we jumped at the chance, especially as Sea Dogs had been in our sights for a while…

We started the evening meeting for drinks in The Underdogs, the ‘waiting room’ of sorts for the Dogs’ collection of restaurants around Edinburgh. If you haven’t been in it’s pleasantly kitted out with ramshakle lamps, mis-matched sofas and doggy themed artwork; great for lounging with a large G&T. The short walk up to Rose Street helps to work up the appetite too.

We here at Stovies LOVE sea food (odd that we have few fishy recipes though, we must work on that) fried, baked, steamed, curried, raw – line it up and we’ll demolish it. The idea behind Sea Dogs is that it’s a fish and chip shop that you can dine in…in comfort. The decor is simple, relatively stylish and has some awesome crustacea based wallpaper! Our (somewhat large) group were seated and drinks orders placed.

The menu is fairly small but manages to fit in a healthy range of fish based dishes – there were even a couple of non fish options available (of which I am informed that the veggy paella was particularly tasty). Team stovies ordered spiced whitebait and a cullen skink to start with. The whitebait was lovely, still moist and served with a very punchy aioli. The cullen skink was beautiful, rich and smokey and would put my grannys to shame, thankfully she doesn’t have the internet so will never find out I said that….

Mains arrived after a nicely timed eating break, well, most of them arrived. One of our groups order had been left off but thankfully our waiter dealt with this perfectly and was very apologetic. As mentioned at the start Sea Dogs is a fish and chip shop. The twist is offering a selection of fish and coatings to choose from to make your optimum fish and chip selection. I opted for smoked hake in beer batter, battered and fried smoked fish being one of my favourite things and something rarely seen outside of the Stovies kitchen! The batter was beautifully crispy, the portion size was spot on but the delight here was the massive pile of mushy peas and homemade tartare sauce. Fishy, chippy, heaven. I even convinced the non fish eating member of the group to try some. Score one for the pescatarians!

Mrs Stovies chose stuffed salmon with lemon butter. Although tasty the dish as a whole was very rich and a little heavy. The skirlie stuffing was a hit and the salmon was perfectly cooked but the purple potatoes didn’t go down so well. I suspect she was having a fussy moment as another member of our our group had the same and thought it was spot on. We are sad to report that nobody had space for pudding…

Sea Dogs is an excellent option for dining out in Edinburgh, simple, no frills but good, honest food. The service we received was great and problems were dealt with efficiently. The pleasant surprise at the end of the meal was how reasonably priced it was – £27 a head including tip for 2 courses and lots of vino. We even had a flurry of kisses blown at us from our waiter as he finished his shift and left, priceless!

seadogs, 43 Rose Street, Edinburgh EH2 2NH. Tel:0131 225 8028

http://www.seadogsonline.co.uk/

Breakfast of champions

You can’t beat a good breakfast but there are days when a fry up just isn’t on the cards. A quick rummage in the fridge will usually turn up the ingredients for classic american pancakes. For toppings go for whatever you can find!

This recipe is easy peasy if you have a set of cup measures, if not a jug will do just as well.

Multiply this recipe for how many pancakes you need. Each 1 egg quantity will make four 5-inch pancakes or two hugemungous ones.

1 egg
125 ml milk
125ml plain flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1 heaped teaspoon butter, melted and cooled

Mix together all of the ingredients until you have a smooth batter. Allow to rest for 20-30 minutes.

Heat up a small frying pan and wipe lightly with oil or melted butter. Just dip a piece of kitchen towel into the butter/oil and swish it over the pan.

Pour enough batter into the pan to cover to the edges. When the top starts to bubble and set you’re ready to flip it. The second side won’t need long at all.

Build up a stack big enough to feed everyone and dig in. The genius thing – pancake stack have a strange ability to stay toasty hot for as long as it takes to cook them all

Tom-tastic tart!

Now Mrs Stovies is very partial to tomatoes, and any tomato based dinner is a real winner. This is so simple and quick it’s great for lunch, dinner or even a picnic (we wish!)

 

1 x 212g pack puff pastry
350g mixed tomatoes
Drizzle balsamic
Handful chopped parsley
Lots of pepper
1 finely sliced shallot
Touch of salt
150g young goats cheese

Roll out the pastry to fill a reasonably sized non stick or greased baking tray. With a sharp knife score a line around the edge about 1.5 cm from the edge, using a fork prick holes all over the inner space. Bake the base only for ten minutes at gas 6. Remove from the oven and scatter all of the toppings onto the base. The outside edge should have risen up nicely to give you a sturdy border. Stick it back in the oven and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes.