Monday 31 March 2008

Simple pleasures.

One of my most favourite sandwiches/rolls of all time. Brown roll from M&S, reduced fat coleslaw, reduced fat breaded chicken slices, Coleman's English mustard and a handful of fresh Chives. Might not taste like much but hits the spot.

Mother India's Cafe

Is one of my most favourite places to eat although I don’t allow myself to go there often due to it’s badness (high calorie content) factor. However, it had been a couple of months since my last visit, and I had been for a run that day, so off K and I went.

Glasgow has a large number of Indian restaurants and there seems to be some sort of curry monopoly going on. The most popular ones belong either to the Harlequin group, so include the Ashokas, or the Wee curry shop including Mother India and the Café.
I tend to eschew Indian restaurants thinking they cater for the Western tongue and produce curry that is not only in- authentic but also laden with fat. Althoigh not the healthiest I make an expection for Mother India Café (or MIC as it is affectionately known) for two reasons.
It has on it’s menu a couple of authentic dishes, namely masala dosa, puri's and a spiced haddock dish that is quite similar to the one my mum used to make. It also calls itself Asian tapas, serving smaller portions (which are actually still quite generous) whilst encouraging you to order 3-4 dishes each.This was how Indian food was meant to be eaten. Go to any Indian persons house and what you will get is a table with about 4-5 dishes on it, from which you help yourself. Repeatedly.
I think that this is the origin of my not greedy, but curious nature. It’s in my genes to sample a variety of dishes, not to stick to one. At last a scientific explanation!

Now, myself and K can fairly pack it away and we are lucky if we can finish 4 dishes between the two of us along with Peshwari Naan and a chapati. The dishes cost between £3-4 each so represent good value. There seems to be an odd magic at work: no matter how large our group and how much we order (including booze), when the bill is divvied up it always comes to less than £ 15 each. Magic!
Between us and allowing for K’s odd food exclusions we have sampled most of the menu and hit upon, what for us is the perfect combination:
For me: Lamb Saag, Butter Chicken, a chapati, fried rice, some raw red onion with salt lemon and green chillies
For K: Patina Lamb, Methi Keema Mutter and a Peshwari Naan.

The Butter Chicken is ‘oh so good, but oh so bad’ for you. The sauce must contain both cream and butter in large amounts but is so tasty that I try not to think of it. My normally health conscious friend Rachel has been known to order it and eat just the sauce. It is particularly good with the Peshwari Naan. Peshwari Naan is not something I had ever had before K introduced me to it, and for this I am glad otherwise I would have been 2 stone heavier. It is a naan filled with butter a desiccated coconut which when combined with any manner of savoury curry makes a delightful taste in your mouth. The methi keema mutter is quite authentic and is reproducible at home by following the Madhur Jaffrey recipe in Illustrated Indian Cooking.

All in all I would recommend this place as it has a nice buzz to it, the service is fast and efficient and the food satisfying to both palate and wallet. The only downside is that they don’t take bookings and there usually is a queue. I suppose this is testament to how good the food is, as people tend to be happy to wait no matter how long it is. Best bet if you are in a group, is to take turns waiting in the queue whilst the others pop round the corner to Firebird for a pre-dinner drink!

Beginning of the week soup..

I am not trying to comeover all Nigella but this is a great dish to have on a Sunday or at the beginning of the week. It is tasty but healthy and seems to make up for the excess of the weekend. I am sure that there is a proper recipe for it somewhere and that it is Thai or Vietnamese in origin but one of the things I like about it is that it is not accurate and you can freestyle it according to what you fancy or have to hand.

For the soup itself:

I usually get a pot and fill it up a random amount of boiling water, whatever quantity I think will do two people. To this I add a Gallo organic stock cube either chicken or vegetable. I smash up a clove or two of garlic, add a finely slice chilli (the size and hotness of which depends on your palate), a stick of two of lemongrass samshed up, some lime leaves and let it simmer for about 15 mins. Towards then end I add some fish sauce, and fresh lime juice.

What you end up with is a hot, fragrant fiery broth that feels good for you.

I either drop in

a couple uncooked King prawns until they change colour
or some organic chicken breast to poach
or a fresh mackerel with the head and tail chopped off. This only needs a couple of minutes to cook and the flesh just falls off.
or some vine tomatoes

When serving I get a big handful of raw baby spinach to sit in the bottom of the bowl, (this wilts in the heat of the broth and therefore retains all the goodness) and then pour in the liquor with whichever meat I have used.

To garnish I use what is lying about, so some bean sprouts, some mint and some basil.

Voila! Unami - tastic!

Sunday 30 March 2008

A mini-adventure

Whilst out for a drink one evening, myself and Him Indoors hatched a plan for this Saturday. We were going to walk in a big circle from the flat taking in as many shops and eating emporiums as I wanted on the way. No big deal you might think, but you'd be wrong. It's a very big deal. You see, Him Indoors is not called such for no good reason. He has been likened to that most rare of flowers, the orchid, requiring a very exact and controlled environment to ensure full bloom, namely the warmth, safety and comfort of The Sofa. Him Indoors has been known to spend a whole weekend from Friday to Monday in the flat, not leaving once. So, for him to volunteer to not only leave the flat but go for the walk was quite astounding. It was our mini-adventure and it was unhindered by the wet and the wind.

Our first stop was Sonny and Vitos.

Now, I have a love/ hate relationship with this place and it probably is more to do with me being difficult than anything.

It all started when K and I went for some Brunch at twelve o'clock. Brunch it seems is a convention that occurs everywhere else but here.
I wanted their very fine muesli, he wanted a meat platter.
I was told I could not have the muesli as they stopped serving it at 12. I pointed out that it was only quarter past and could I please, pretty please, have some. 'No' was the reply, and they wouldn't budge. I tried logic with them, it would make them £4.50 and it involved minimum effort- 'No'. I tried humour - did it magically turn into a pumpkin at 12pm? ( well, in my head anyway). I tried stubbornness: 'Oh well then I want nothing. I will sit here and starve whilst my friend eats his meat platter' 'OK then' and off she went. Harrumph.

So, since then I have not been back, which is a shame because they do lovely fresh baked goods and have some tasty deli meats on offer. Probably a case of my cutting off my nose to spite my face.

On our walk we had these tasty drinks to quench our thirst. I had the apple and elderflower which was like a posh version of Coppela and He had the pear and ginger which was more interesting but not as refreshing.

Our lunch destination was a place called Stravaigin 2 which is the sister restaurant to Stravaigin (affectionately refferred to as Strav).

Stravaigin holds a special place in my heart as it is one of the few places that does consistently good food. In addition to this is has a great atmosphere and the staff and nice and friendly. As a result I end up going there pretty much once a week and invariably end up having a burger. It is gratifying to see that this week it was listed in the Food Monthly as one of the 'best places for dinner in Scotland'.

The Stravaigin burger to me is a thing of joy. Nothing else seems to be quite as satisfying, and this is in a place that has a pretty good menu. The chef has a lot of talent, changes the menu regularly and uses locally sourced Scottish produce to produce dishes that are both inventive and tasty. When I have all of this why would I want to go anywhere else? And to go to a place that might be a poor relation? No, I couldn't.

This was a source of consternation to Him Indoors as one of the things that set them apart was that Stravaigin 2 had a larger burger menu, featuring boar and ostrich. It even has a triple burger with beef, boar and ostrich. This had made Him Indoors want to leave the flat, so I succumbed and agreed to go. I was relieved when we got there. It was no competition. I had felt slightly odd going there. I didn't have to worry , even though the staff were pleasant and efficient the atmosphere couldn't in any way compete with the original. Then there was the food. The menu was not as inspired as Strav and there was nothing on it apart from the burger that I wanted to eat (at Strav even though I usually have the burger there are usually 3 or 4 other dishes that take my fancy). Even this I justified to myself as a taste- test, something to compare to the original and the best. Disappointingly, they did not have any Boar or Ostrich.

Undeterred, Him Outdoors ordered the triple burger with beef, Thai chicken and lamb with chili and coriander. This is the beast:

As you can see its quite a mammoth amount of protein. Our friend Damian had joined us and it took the three of us to finish it. Individually the meat patties were very good- moist, well marinaded and charred nicely, but together they made an odd taste sensation.

This was my burger:

Which I have to say was pretty good and not that dis-similar to the one at the old faithful. It comes with cheese, Ramsey of Carluke's bacon and sliced Habanero chillies. At the back is another reason to go to Stravaigin-the chips. These beauties are crispy on th outside and soft on the inside and when sprinkled with sea salt and dunked in mayonnaise, are one of the most heavenly incarnation of the potato to be found.

All this protein and carbs stood us in good stead for our next destination which was the bar at Hotel Dy Vin. We had been there for dinner a couple of weeks ago and Him Indoors had been particularly impressed by the cocktail list and by their execution by the bar tender. Him Indoors is partial to a Martini as is quite exacting when it comes to cocktails.

I had a Londoner, not visible, which had Tanquery 10, St Germain liqueur, sugar syrup and soda in it, and HI had a Lucien Gaudin which had equal measures of Campari, Cointreau, Gin and Vermouth in it. Ouch.

Damian, whose leg you can just see, had a Long Island tea with all the requisite spirits in it, which he quaffed in no time at all. So satisfying did it seem that I had one next, whilst HI had a smoking Martini which involves a Pernod rinsed martini glass, Ketel 1 vodka and 10yr old Laphroaig . Double ouch.

We all agreed that this was a most pleasant way of spending a wet Saturday afternoon and we left friscalating. We toddled home via this very nice deli aptly called Delizique:

Where I purchased these little treats:

Bolo de nata aka Portugese custard tarts. We lucked out, these had just been baked and were oozy and gooey inside. Although still yummy after a day the insides go a bit more solid.

And these:

thin crisp shells of chocolate coated in cocoa filled with liquid salted caramel. Damn fine but damn expensive!

Saturday 29 March 2008

Store-cupboard staple

After the mini-adventure we had planned to have Pizza but the act of writing up our day made me feel quite gluttonous and it was the last thing I wanted. So, ever to the rescue, Him Indoors turned to the cupboard and came up with this:

Now it might not look that appetising but it was very tasty. Tuna, red onion, Japanese 7 spice, soy sauce. I think Nigel would approve.

Khao Phoune or yum, yum, yum.

Him Indoors likes to cook on a Friday, more specifically likes to cook chili on a Friday. When I say chili I mean that Texan Red stuff. In his quest for the perfect Red he has slaved away at the stove every Friday for the last 8 weeks. I never knew there were so many variations. Indeed, I may ask him to write a piece devoted to the Red. Anyway, as I was in this Friday he decided to humour me and cook something else, and this is what he cooked - Khao Phoune.

The recipe came from an article in the Telegraph and can be found here.

This was the second time he made it, so this time round he decided to substitute the chicken for duck and to use reduced fat coconut milk. I have to say that although I like duck for this I think I preferred chicken. I think the next time he may try beef.

First of all he skinned the duck and cut in into bite size chunks.

then he browned the pieces off and discarded the fat.

Then he made a paste out of 2 red chillies, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 inch of ginger, 4 small shallots, 1 stick of lemongrass, some shrimp paste and 3 tbsp of fish sauce.

He fried the paste in some vegetable oil and when it was brown added a tin of coconut milk and the same amount of water.

He then added 2 tbsp of crushed peanuts, the juice of one lime, 1tsp of sugar, 2 tbsp of fish sauce and the duck. This was left to simmer for an hour until the duck was tender. This is the resulting pot of goodness:

In the colander from closest to furthest away we have bean sprouts, garlic sprouts and basil (unfortunately not sweet Thai basil, as none in Chinese supermarket) and in the small bowl there are shallots and cucumber.

To quaff down with this fiery and intensely savoury dish we needed something that could stand up to the heat and flavours and chose this lovely Gewurztraminer.

What I love about this dish, and what made me think it was Vietnamese at first, is the fact that you are able to garnish it to you own specification. To me this is heaven as it allows each subsequent bowl to have endless taste possibilities. What more could one ask for?


When I am pottering about in the flat having a cold beer then these are my favourite things to snack on: hot spicy seaweed

or these: wasabi peas.

Available at any good Chinese supermarket-they are very addictive. The seaweed is the less naughty of the two. At a stretch it could almost be called good for you: containing only seaweed, vegetable oil and chilli flakes. The wasabi peas on the other hand, well lets just say three little letters - MSG. You have been warned!

One of my favourite breakfasts..

During the week I try to be good and have porridge made with skimmed milk for my breakfast, but at the weekend I let myself go and indulge in one of these:

or these:

A toasted cinnamon and raisin bagel, salted butter and St Dalfour cherry jam (preferred) or Mirabelle plum. Mmmh, mmmh. And yes, that is butter.

Friday 28 March 2008

Sat Bains

It was our first wedding anniversary and we wanted something fitting to mark the occasion. We had originally wanted to go to the Fat Duck and Him Indoors had spent 2 hours, two days in a row trying to get a reservation to no avail. Then we thought of Petrus, but it was booked up till September, so we settled on Sat Bains. Now, this makes it sound like our last choice which it wasn't. Sat's restaurant has been on my list for quite a while, but it's location in Nottingham made it the sort of place we were unlikely to go to, until now that is. We decided to make a trip of it and to stay overnight in the rooms attached to the restaurant. The idea of waddling back to our room after a large meal rather appealed.

We booked our flights and even that was a bit of a faff. It seems that there is only one flight on Saturday and that gets in at 10.30 am and then the flight on the Sunday leaves at 4.30 pm. It looked like we were going to see a lot of Nottingham.

I was quite excited by the whole trip. I had watched Sat on the Great British Menu last year and had been intrigued by his Duck egg dish, as many people have been. He has also been getting a lot of press and indeed is on the cover of this month's Food Monthly. As any foodie does, I did my homework on Chowhound and egullet to get some idea of what to expect. We debated long and hard about which menu to pick. I was inclined to push the boat out, this being a special occasion, and do the bespoke menu. £150 for anywhere up to 16 courses, tell them your favourite ingredients and they create a dream meal for you. This appealed to the control freak in me. I get to tell the chef pretty much what I want to eat and he makes it for me in his own interpretation. Ideal. Him Indoors had other ideas: ' I am going to a fancy restaurant. Why would I tell them what I want to eat. I want them to surprise me, to make me eat things I might not have had before'. We therefore went for the surprise menu at £95.

In my excitement I had called a couple of times and had actually spoken to Sat who had picked up. I had also emailed with some queries. I remember thinking that the replies I received by email were a bit 'business-like', maybe my excitement did not transmit through the ether? A few small things irked me. In some of the reviews I had read it seemed possible to request dishes whilst doing the surprise menu, so I did the same. The reply was that as it was a surprise menu, that's how it would be. The only concession was that the duck egg was available as an add on, so I said we would both like to do this. The next thing is a bit nit picky but here goes. Given the fact that we were arriving at 10.30 am I asked if we could leave our bags and if our room was ready any earlier could we be called on our mobile so we could check in early. The response was that no, the earliest would be 3pm. Now, I know this is not a hotel, just family run restaurant with rooms, but they could just have said yes, even if the room ended up not being ready till 3 pm. It made me feel as if there was no flexibility and that it didn't really matter that we were wandering about Nottingham killing time before we could check in.

Anyway. Onto the meal. I did not take any photos, there are some on egullet that will give you an idea of the style of things.

We started off with a roaring meg for HI, and a ok G&T for me.
Then there was the issue of wine. I enquired as to what we would be served so I could pick a couple of glasses accordingly. I was told that as it was a surprise menu we would only find out once it was placed in front of us. I was a bit flummoxed, I have to say. I explained that I could not pick my wine without knowing what I was eating, and the lady although concerned, was unable to help us any further. The best we could do was to ascertain that the meal would be white heavy. I found this a bit odd. I couldn't believe that they didn't know by at least 6 pm what they were serving us and therefore not able to tell us. It would still have been a surprise, just a bit sooner. It's just as well I am not an Oenophile otherwise I think I would have been quite upset.
So, I ended up picking glass of white and of red that we like to drink and went with it.

The fact that I had said via email that we both wanted the Duck egg seemed not to have been passed on to the staff and we were were asked if we wanted this option, to which an affirmative was given. I was also a bit surprised that we were not offered the normal menu to whet our appetites and stimulate conversation about what we might be served. But hey ho.

This is what we had.


Tinned Tuna, Salt Cod Croquette, Pumpkin Soup, Artichoke Soup

The tuna came in cool tin and was refreshing, salt -cod croquette ok, soups good, the artichoke having the edge for me.

Ham, egg, peas

This was good, I especially like the 3 ways of peas- pea puree, fesh peas and pea shoots. I couldn't distinguish the slow cooked egg from a runny egg though.

Scallop, apple, oyster emulsion, tempura

Scallop perfectly seasoned and cooked, worked well with apple. Never have understood why you would Tempura an Oyster, still don't - I prefer them raw.

Foie Gras, fig, apricot

As I have mentioned in other posts, you can have too much Foie Gras. A very rich, decadent dish.

Wood-pigeon, langoustine, cauliflower

This I liked. Langoustine perfectly seasoned and cooked again. An interesting combination which I have never had before. Cauliflower seems to be making a revival and quite right too.

Wild hare, nuts, watercress, chocolate

A classic combination, Hare and Chocolate, which I have enjoyed many a time at Martin Wishart and probably would have again had I not thought been so perturbed by being served 'hare' for a second time. Doh! (see later for an explanation)

Rose, veal, onions, morels, carrot, truffle

Probably my most favourite dish. Tender moist rose-veal, with a delicate interpretation of veg that complimented it well. I could almost see the calf gamboling happily in the woodland forest. And truffles, how can you go wrong with truffles?

Cheese on toast

I had heard about this before, and know that they serve a version in Tapac24 Carles Abellan's place in Barcelona. I was a bit disappointed by it finding it too greasy and the bread a bit sodden. Even the truffles didn't save it.

Moving on to the puddings. These were beautiful, each in their own way. Light, delicate, interesting. Particularly the first and last, which I don't think can be attributed to primacy and recency effect, but more to the inspired combinations. It takes a truly inventive mind with a delicate palate and a reservoir of taste memory to create these.

Yoghurt, pear, liqucorice

Chocolate textures

Creme brulee, plum

Pineapple, coconut, Hibiscus.

Each dish was obviously carefully thought out and there was no lack of technical expertise. Each dish in it's own right hung well together but I didn't think the meal was well balanced. Wood-pigeon, hare then veal. All very decadent and lovely to have, but all powerful and heavy. I could feel my big toe aching but then maybe I am a woose? I found myself clocking what the other diners had and thinking 'that seems a better balanced meal', and feeling a little whistful. Now, to feel this way when, by rights we were meant to have the superior eating experience seems churlish, I know. Maybe it's a case of the grass is always greener. Maybe more expensive is not always better. £65 instead of £95? Who knows.

It was also not helped by the fact that our server told us that two dishes in a row were hare, when in fact one was wood-pigeon and the other hare. Without a menu to consult it was 2 hours later that we realised the mistake. In the meantime we had been sat talking about how odd it was to get two hare dishes in a row and coming up with fantastical explanations for it, including that maybe it was a fancy two-dish 'interpretation of Hare'. But, as HI observed, such a thing would have worked better if served together at the same time, on the same plate. It must be the power of suggestion, I usually have sensitive taste-buds, but at the time I couldn't tell.
One thing I will say is that 12 courses is a lot, even for me and I think we lost steam half way through. I have had meals that have lasted 3-4 hours, RHR, Per Se and Martin Wishart etc, but they were 8 courses max. By the end I could not even take up the offer of looking round the kitchen, something I normally love to do, as all I wanted to do was to lie down.

Breakfast the next day was great. I did not think that I would be able to after the excess of the night before but I did, and I am glad. The highlight for me was the museli, which I think they should package and sell.

It was a fun weekend, but would I go again? Well, I don't think I would make a trip down specially. All the issues I had were minor and about the process itself. The food could not be faulted, the menu planning, maybe. If you lived in Nottingham I could see it would easily be a top choice. However, to have to spend money on flights, taxis and a hotel room in addition to the meal itself makes me want it to be perfect, and the small things niggled at me. That said, Him Indoors has a sister living in Nottingham so never say never.


It was with a mixture of fear and excitement that myself and K made this booking. It was a spur of the moment thing, a live life to the full moment. It was Easter weekend and we thought 'what the hey'. We had a couple of spare bucks burning a hole in our pocket and we were going to be down that way (deepest darkest Ayrshire) anyway, so why not?

Glenapp is part of the Relais and Chateaux group which has many esteemed restaurants within its holdings - Sant Pau and Loius XV to name two. I therefore had high hopes for this meal, tinged with a little fear. It is a renovated castle in the middle of no where and its style is distinctly old worldy - what if its all a big hoax? That Michelin gave it a star last year reassured me somewhat as did the way that they handled our telephone bizarre telephone calls.

The first of which involved K phoning up to say that he didn't eat anything with milk in it and then, when pressed further he caved in and said when I am going somewhere nice and if I like the look of it then I will eat it.' - alright then, so not a food allergy just a fuss bugger.

The second of which involves me phoning up and asking how the tables are set out. My seating arrangement of choice if there are just 2 of us and if it's a fancy place, is to be sat at right angles to my dining companion. I find it much easier to gossip with them than across a table, especially if the atmosphere is somewhat rarefied.

Both of these somewhat odd conversations were handle with good grace by the lady at the end of the phone, so I was in positve mood, the vibes were good and the night looked promising.

Ballantrae is a small, and I mean small, town on the Ayrshire coast. It is about 20 mins south of Girvan. The scenery is stunning and at night looks like Middle Earth ( sad I know). Blink and you might miss it when driving through. To add to the excitement of the evening there are no road signs to Glenapp. You have to be in the know, to go. After getting a bit lost and phoning for directions we managed to get there and were met by a handsome gated entrance that you needed to get buzzed through. The gates silently swung open and we drove up a windy road through what seemed like a wood. The road curves round and reveals Glenapp in all its glory. This is not hyperbole, it is a rather beautiful building. It was bought by the McMillan family in 1994 and their daughter Fay and her husband Graham Cowan spent 6 and half years restoring it after it had lain unoccupied for years. K friends parents live in the coach house and K has some memories of when they moved in..

The door is held open for you by a nice man in a dinner jacket. The owner Fay greets you herself, which is a nice touch. We were led into a lovely grand drawing room with a roaring open fire. We were offered an aperitif and I asked for a cocktail menu. I was told there was not one, but that they could make what I wanted. Despite the good initial impression, I remembered I was in Ayrshire, so decided to play it safe with a gin and tonic. They have a reasonable Gin selection including Hendricks but not Blackwoods, so Hendricks it was. And what a good G&T it was. It was served correctly with the requisite slice of cucumber. Now, I was not asked how I wanted it served and I am giving them the benefit of the doubt that there is no other way of serving Hendricks than with a slice of cucumber, so points on. We sat by the cosy fire sipping our G&T's getting quite comfy on the mammoth sofa. We both remarked that it would be a fine place to come for afternoon tea, and to while away the afternoon, reading, drinking and lazing about before heading in to dinner. We were given the menu to look at and to make our choices for our main course and pudding.

Whilst we sat we were given our amuse bouche which were a sea-bream beignet, Parmesan foam with crisp and cube of pork belly with rhubarb. The sea bream biegnet was good, I usually find cream filled beignet boring but this had flavour to it, the Parmesan foam was very intense-it captured the essence of the cheese exactly and the pork belly cube with rhubarb was a revelation. The rhubarb danced on my tongue. This has happened a few other times. One particularly memorable time was with particularly fine duck dish at Etain before it went under. That dish was like sunbursts. Taste synesthesia. Before Ratatouille came along I thought I was the only one!

Once we had finished our drink we were led into one of two dining rooms. Our room held about 9 tables ranging from 2-3 diners at each. I was pleased to find that my request had been taken into account and we were seated at a table at right angles to each other. Points on. Despite our reservation being last minute I thought our table was reasonable, it was near the front of the room which allowed me to watch the finely orchestrated movements of the serving staff. I have to say they were excellent - unobtrusive, attentive and chatty which was good because otherwise it could have been a staid affair. reading what I have written makes me check myself, I usually don't use such praise laden adjectives, but in this case they were merited.

This is what we had. As it was my first time there I did not take any photos as I am still a bit bashful about the whole thing. Next time.

Friday 21st March 2008

Wild Mushroom Velouté with Cep Foam and Roasted Cep

This was amazing. I have had many incarnations of this dish, the first being at Royal Hospital Road, but this is the best so far. I could have eaten a whole bowl, and then probably been sick. The stock he used for the base was so rich. My mouth is watering just remembering it.

Ballotine of Foie Gras with Spiced Pineapple and Pain D’Epice

This was very clever. I am a bit fed up a Foie Gras. Every restaurant with aspirations to a Michelin Starr serves it these days (recently Hotel Du Vin, Sat Bains, Martin Wishart, No 1 at Balmoral..) , but this I liked. The Pain D'epice was a dusting on the outside of the Foie and the sweet tartness of the pineapple cut throughout the richness and made what can be a very rich dish quite light and pleasant. I know Sat Bains has done a version that has Foie Gras with gingerbread in it. I wonder if the same thought was behind these two dishes?

Roasted Sea Bass with Fennel and Dill Purée and Fennel and Vanilla Salad

The was one of the weakest courses but still good. Sea bass cooked perfectly and the fennel and vanilla combo that I had not had before but which worked.

Roast Brochneil Farm Chicken with Wild Mushroom Risotto, Morels and a Thyme Sauce
Fillet of Cairnhill Farm Beef
with Braised Onions, Carrot Purée and a Red Wine Sauce

I had the beef which I think must have been cooked sous-vide, but forgot to ask about. K had it rare and though it looked rare and was rare it was not bloody. It tasted bloody good though.

Choose from our Scottish Cheese Selection Served with
Rosemary and Raisin Bread and Oatcakes

This was great, you are given a little booklet with about 10 Scottish cheeses. Excellent. At Martin Wishart, my current favourite, they have a lovely cheese trolley but with mostly French cheeses which may not be that surprsing maybe but I prefer British cheese personally. I had had most of their blues before including arran blue(my favourite), Strathdon, Dunsyre and Lanark. They had a couple of Cheddar's whcih I had not had so we had a plate with 5 cuts including Arran, Mull on eother one I can't remember and two soft cheeses. One of which was Caboc. Now this was reccommended to us by our very jolly server, but it was like eating butter. Now those of you who have seen my bagels know I am not averse to abit of butter but after 5 courses, it's a bit much.

Dark Chocolate Tart with Orange Sorbet
Passion Fruit Soufflé with Passion Fruit and Banana Sorbet

Again a weak course, nothing wrong with it but not as inventive or exciting. It is a chocolate tart after all- a safe choice.

Freshly Ground Sumatra Gayo Coffee
with Petits Fours

May we suggest the following wines to accompany
this evening’s dinner menu

White Wine ~ POUILLY-FUISSÉ “Les Vieux Murs” Jean Paul Paquet 2004 £30.00

Red Wine ~ SAVIGNY-LES-BEAUNE Domaine Lucien Jacob 2002 £33.00

Dessert Wine ~ BOTRYTIS SEMILLON 2005
Blewitt Springs Hillsview AUSTRALIA £7.50 per100ml glass

There is not actually a sommelier, but the man who made us our G&T's seemed to know what he was talking about and was very helpful. I had a Pedro Ximenez sherry with my tart which was like drinking rum and raisin ice cream. Lovely.

So, a very fine meal, excellent service, lovely environment with a sense of occasion. I would go back, and am actually in the process of trying to plan my next trip back. I just wish I had taken some photos.

unctous, satisfying, porky goodness

If that's what you are looking for then look no further!

I originally came across it on one of my favourite sites the Amateur Gourmet, and he in turn from Chef Suzanne Goin's cookbook 'Sunday supper at Lucques'. You can get the recipe from here.

This is the second time I've made it, with a few changes of my own. The first time round I thought that a tablespoon and two teaspoons of salt was a bit much, even for me, so I cut this down. I also thought it could stand some tomatoes, so added a tin whilst it was simmering away. Since Him Indoors, adores champ I usually serve that instead of polenta. I guess the important thing is that there is something carb-like to mop up the lovely moreish sauce that this dish creates.

First things first, you will need to check your store-cupboard for the following spices: 1 tbsp cumin, 2 tbsp coriander, 2 tbsp fennel seeds (toasted in a pan then coarsely ground), 1 tsp cayenne.

In addition you will need: 6 cloves garlic smashed up, 1 tbsp oregano leaves (I assumed these were fresh), 1 tbsp thyme leaves, 2 diced onions, 3 diced carrots, 2 diced fennel, 2 bay leaves, 1 chile de arbole crumbled, 600ml chicken stock, dash red wine vinegar.

These quantities are not exactly the same as the original recipe as I found that the salt needed was less than the original, and that I needed more liquid.

You'll need about 3 lbs of pork shoulder. I went to my local Chinese supermarket and ended up buying pork butt which sounds more fun than pork shoulder but I think is actually the same?. This is cut into big chunks and placed in a bowl with the spices, herbs and garlic:

This is then left to marinade for as long as possible, I left mine overnight. You are meant to take it out of the fridge 45 mins before you want to cook it and season it with salt and pepper after its been sitting for 15 mins.

In the meantime pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees and whilst this is heating up, get a heavy bottomed pot, add a generous glug of olive oil and heat it till it smokes. Then brown the meat and let it caramelise:

Then add the diced up carrot, fennel and onion:

make sure to get all the gooey pork fat from the bottom and coat the veg well. Add the bay leaves, chile and the left over garlic and herbs from the marinade bowl.

Cook until the veg starts to brown. Splash in the red wine vinegar and then add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the zest of a lemon and then the pork and put a sheet of tin foil over the pot before putting the lid on (I did not use a layer of cling film as the original recipe suggests as it can have a disastrous outcome, as Adam (Amateur Gourmet) found much to his chagrin). Now this baby is ready for the oven!

Leave in the oven for 2 and a half hours, and when you test it the meat should fall apart. You are then meant to separate the meat from the juices and cook the meat at 200 degrees for another 15 mins, and then return the gravy but to be honest I never have. I have been too keen to get it on my plate and eat it.

So much so that I don't actually have a photo of the end product, only the memory of a very unctous, satisfying porky stew.

sport muffin

K, my somewhat orthorexic friend, baked this the other day. It's full of goodness, oops no sorry, full of whey isolate powder, soya flour, oat milk, cashew butter and other equally yummy things, and helps him in his quest for that six pack.

'Sport muffin - substitiuting taste for health.'

'Could be good, could be bad..'

invariably means bad. Eating out for me is a mixture of about 40% trepidation 50% disappointment and 10% pleasure. With stats like that why do I even bother? It must be the eternal optimist in me or the fact that every once in a while a jem is uncovered and some sort or intermittent reinforcement takes place.

This however, was not one of those occasions.

Bar Soba is a bar that serves Asian fusion snack food. We (myself and my long suffering friend and often - times dining companion K) had popped in to kill some time before going to see The Orphanage (which, coincidentally, was very good if a bit scary - I had to hide behind my hands at least four times. It wasn't, as I had originally thought, directed by Guillermo Del Toro but produced by him, maybe he is saving his energy for the Hobbit!).

Bar Soba started off well (despite it's name, which I think the owners meant to evoke the notion of noodles but in a city like Glasgow it seems more of an oxymoron: Bar Soba/Bar Sober), with a good beer selection and after settling on a
Tsingtao we looked forward to our prawn crackers (good, spicy brown ones) thai beef carpaccio ( bad - dry beef, limp lifeless salad) and chicken ayam satay (so-so chicken moist, but not that tasty).

All in all it was a bit disappointing, with a little more care or more precisely a little more red curry paste in that satay sauce; a little fish sauce and lime juice on the salad, and a little more char on the chicken, this food could have gone from disappointing to satisfying.

See, this is what makes me sad: with a little more thought this could have been a place I could have happily come back to. My friend observed: 'maybe you just expect too much?'. I thought about it and then thought 'No! Why should I lower my standards? Let them raise theirs!'. It might indeed transpire that I am a fussy bugger but I shall continue to expect more, and to get less.

'not greedy. just curious'..

Is something you might hear me say on meeting me, for the first time, whilst out for dinner. What my long suffering friends will tell you is that this translates into two rules for an easy life and enjoyable meal.

1. let me tell you what to order, ensuring no duplications, whilst allowing me to order last.
2. Look the other way while I sneak the first forkful.

What's going on? You might think. I reassure you, it's an act of altruism: think of me as the equivalent of a food tester, I am there to take the fall for you, to make sure everything is alright.

You see, for me, eating out is a paradoxical mix of pleasure and anxiety. Anxiety that the service will be slow, that the tables are too close together, that I will order poorly, or, even worse, that someone else will order the dish I should have ordered.

This anxiety paralyses me to the extent that there are only a couple places in my home town that I will happily eat at, these are tried and tested friends who have yet to let me down.

Maybe I should be called the not so curious eater?