thegrumblingtummy

"No love sincerer than the love of food"


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Howies Edinburgh – finally a reason for makeup

The last time I got dressed up and took longer than 10 minutes on my makeup was in March, 2 weeks before lockdown. Mr GT and I got on a train to Edinburgh and dined at the acclaimed Six by Nico and had an absolutely wonderful time. Little did I know that the next time I would board a train to eat out in an Edinburgh restaurant would be 6 months later.

The venue was Howies in Waterloo Place, a long standing favourite for Edinburgh diners young and old. This time Mr GT was ditched in favour of the bestie. The excitement of food, wine and gossip in Edinburgh – it was almost too much.

After possibly the most civilised (and expensive) glass of wine I have ever had in my life at the Balmoral Hotel’s Bar Prince (successfully avoiding the crowds, actually, successfully avoiding pretty much everybody) we headed to the restaurant.

There are two Howies restaurants in Edinburgh but the beautiful and impressive Waterloo place venue, tucked beneath Calton Hill is the flagship. the Georgian building is actually an old debating hall and it certainly is a bit of an architectural treasure, with a rather grand, spacious interior. The restaurant was doing a swift trade and we were seated in the smaller Calton Room (which can be booked for private dining). It is a slightly less impressive and airy part of the restaurant but still lovely.

Wine ordered (it is BYOB Monday – Thursday but not at the weekend) it was time for the main event. Howies do a fantastic lunch deal of £12.75 for two courses or £15.75 for three courses. Amongst the starter delights there was Whipped Crowdie and Mascarpone with tomatoes, pepper, mint and red onion and Haggis, Neeps and Tatties with Thyme Jus; however I opted for Belhaven Trout Pate with fresh creamed horseradish, shallots, capers and oatcakes.

At Howies the presentation is always rather lovely and the portion sizes are great. Not so small that you plan a burger run later in the day but small enough that you are most definitely going to manage pudding!

There was lots of pate packed into a little glass jar and it was beautifully light and creamy with the capers and horseradish giving it a nice tart edge. I could have done with one more oatcake but perhaps I am just a little on the greedy side. It was a thoroughly enjoyable starter.

It was hard to choose from the lovely array of main courses on offer but it turned out to be a Chicken Pot Pie kind of a day for both of us. The chicken was cooked in Thistly Cross Cider and Sage Cream with a Isle of Mull Cheese Pastry. The pie was a warm hug of a thing, all creamy and warm inside and satisfyingly flaky on top – however I was not really getting the cider or sage. It was lovely but not utterly stunning which is not how I would describe the star of the show.

HOWIES FAMOUS BANOFFEE PIE

Whomever came upon the combination of a crisp biscuit base, layered with bananas, sweet gooey caramel and lashings of freshly whipped cream, is a genius. It is a superb pudding in any restaurant but Howies creation is renowned and it is in my opinion THE ONLY dessert to order. Now this WAS an utterly stunning end to a lovely meal.

We were evicted to accommodate a wedding but thankfully we were allowed to continue our coffees and more wine whilst soaking up some early Autumn sun and watching the world go by.

It was a wonderfully wine drenched, foodie sort of a day and certainly worthy of lipstick.

If you want to find out more about Howies and try it out for yourself then click the link www.howies.uk.com

More from the (not so healthy this week) Grumbling Tummy soon


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Fine Pickings (Blackberry and Apple Crumble)

It was a very rainy Friday when I arrived in North Queensferry to meet my pal Cat for a walk. We would rather have sat in a cosy cafe drinking coffee and eating cake but there was no room at the only inn in the village so we were forced to settle for takeaway coffee and a proper drenching. As we gamely continued on our coastal walk we noted that one side of the path was completely covered in beautiful, juicy, ripe blackberries. I have never seen so many in one place before. So being resourceful, we swigged down the remains of our coffee and set about filling the cup with fruit.

This is not the first time I have picked blackberries BUT it is the first time the fruit has not languished in the fridge until mouldy. I think the only thing that pushed me to actually follow through with making something from these fresh beauties was a timely facebook post from Cat showing a fabulous crumble using her pickings. Not to be outdone, the Grumbling Tummy followed suit. I didn’t really follow a recipe to make the crumble so I may have broken some crumble making rules.

INGREDIENTS

4 medium green apples

A splash of fresh apple juice

Cup of fresh blackberries

3 tbs of caster sugar

75g of plain flour

75g of porridge oats

30g of soft brown sugar

Around 60g of soft butter

METHOD

Pop the apples, apple juice and caster sugar into a pan and simmer gently for around 20 minutes (or until nice and soft)

pour the apples into your crumble dish

Mix in the butter to the flour crumbling with your fingers until it looks almost like breadcrumbs. Fold in the oats and brown sugar.

Add in your blackberries with the apple mix and top with the the crumble mix.

Bake in the over for around 25 minutes or until the top is all golden and the fruit is starting to bubble up around the edges

THE VERDICT

The inclusion of oats in the topping makes a nice change but perhaps a little less indulgent than a traditional crumble topping. It did taste great and I felt a tiny bit smug having made it a touch more virtuous. The fruit in the crumble was absolutely delicious and I am definitely keen to do some more fruit foraging (rain optional). We had the crumble with custard – very traditional and Mr G T’s favourite. MY preferred accompaniment to any hot pud is whole milk. Have you tried it? Its not to be missed. Good in a crumble but heaven with a hot sponge such as Eves Pudding where the ice cold creamy milk soaks into the hot sponge.

So get out there, forage and create!


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A Veganish Feast

Before the news was awash with masks, quarantine and Covid clusters we were all reading about ways we could help to save the planet. Quite a big important task that seems to have been rather forgotten amidst the pandemic.

One of the big things we were told we could do to help was to become vegan or at least a bit veganish. I was launching into a mainly vegetarian diet pre-lockdown which was, for some reason, abandoned in favour of bridies, mince rounds and enormous sausage rolls delivered to my doorstep by Aberdour bakery. We all know what the consequences of that was (I refer you back to the Covid 10 post from a couple of weeks back)

So our first ‘people round for lunch’ event happened a couple of weekends ago, when good friends Vic and Fraser popped round and it seemed a good reason to revisit one of my favourite veganish meals.

The menu was ultimate vegan chilli, salsa, guacamole – so far so vegan – plus soured cream and grated cheese (not so vegan). The pud which we called a ‘Waid Guddle’ (explanation later) was not even pretending to be vegan.

This chilli is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best I have ever made bar none. It came to my attention when my very meat eating boss had a vegan come to stay with her and after a mild panic about what to make, came across this recipe from the BOSCH boys. Thankfully she brought some into the office for lunch the next day and gave me a little taste – I rushed out and bought the BOSCH cook book.

The thing that makes this chilli so fantastic is the use of lots of minced mushrooms, giving it a very bold meaty texture that will satisfy the most confirmed carnivore. Interesting ingredients like chocolate, maple syrup, soy sauce, balsamic and red wine give it an incredible deep, smokey rich flavour. It really is sublime and its not surprising the the BOSCH team call it their Ultimate Chilli. Click the link for the full recipe from Bosch.

CHOP CHOP
https://www.bosh.tv/recipes/ultimate-chilli

I am not sure about you but for me a chilli is not a chilli without the trimmings. A lone chilli with rice is like having turkey with only roasties at Christmas. It is just not right. Nope, you need a good home made salsa, oodles of creamy guacamole, big dollops of soured cream and a grated cheese mountain. Then and only then do you have a proper chilli on your hands. My Guacamole and Salsa also comes from the Bosch book and again are the best and simplest I have found.

For afters I did intend to follow the healthy and wholesome route, honestly I did. I made my own frozen strawberry yogurt, which just included oodles of strawberries, a little tiny spoon of condensed milk and low fat yogurt. At first I topped it simply with some fresh berries – hmm! Then I decided to blitz a bag of Maltesers and liberally scatter that on top, not satisfied with this we decided that a little daub of extra thick cream would be appropriate. Okay so this could have been healthy if it had not been for the Maltesers and cream but it was really rather nice. After the first portion all of the ingredients were brought to the table and DIY dessert making ensued. It really was delish. We thought it shared some similarities to an Eton mess and as my school was called Waid Academy we christened it the Waid Guddle.

WAID GUDDLE

All in all it was a raging success and declared by by friend Vic as the most colourful meal she has seen this year! I do implore you to try this chilli even if you are the meatiest of the meat eaters – you will be converted.

Next time The Grumbling Tummy delves into the world of alcohol free tipples in a self imposed Sober September ….


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Seaside Treasures from The Kings Wark

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It was all sorted! Over a year since our last gathering myself and three of my besties were all set to visit El Cartel in Edinburgh for a feast of delicious Tacos and many margaritas,  followed by a booking in a city beer garden.

As our lunch booking loomed closer we noticed with some alarm that a variety of Edinburgh bars were being forced to shut their doors temporarily due to covid-diners. So as nice as our planned night out seemed  ……. we basically  bottled it!

It was decided that the best and safest option all round was to gather in our friends  lovely Leith flat and have a  get together with good food, wine and banter.

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Lunch Spread

My Leith buddy and her sis hit upon the idea of a take away – but not the normal  run of the mill calorie laden curry or pizza option.  They would not have made the grade for this new, improved healthier version of the Grumbling Tummy (she types whilst munching on a piece of chocolate – organic dark chocolate but chocolate all the same!)

The plan was to order a simple but luxurious take away seafood platter from The Kings Wark in Edinburgh.  I have heard nothing but good things about this Edinburgh institution but I have never eaten there myself.   My  only experience of this venue involves standing drinking around a barrel whilst my friend,  who one can only hope was drunker than me, demonstrated to the assembled group her ability to do a handstand.  Needless to say this was quite some time ago.

The Kings Wark Seafood Platter for 4 people including a bottle of white wine was £60.  I will admit that at first glance I did wonder whether there was enough food to fill four grumbling tummies.  Our hostess perhaps had similar concerns as she had rustled up some new potatoes and rustic bread to pad things out.  We need not have worried – there was more than enough to go around.

The platter itself included: smoked mackerel, lobster, shell on prawns, smoked and poached salmon, mussels and dressed crab complete with some charred half lemons to drizzle over the top.

It looked so incredibly vibrant,  fresh and dare I say it – healthy!  The taste did not disappoint.  The mussels were large,  plump and juicy, the mackerel was bold,  smoky and beautifully flaky,  the prawns were delicate and soft ( I hate a rubbery prawn) and the salmon was cooked to perfection.  The lobster was absolutely heavenly, though there is never enough lobster is there?  The crab  prepared with apple and dill was I imagine a delight to crab lovers, but I am not the biggest fan of the crab.

Thankfully there was oodles of home made tartar sauce supplied – my love of tartar sauce is renowned in my family –  as well as a fresh tart mango salsa which went wonderfully with the prawns and a zingy citrus creme fraiche which I thought complimented the salmon particularly well. There was also a pot of prawn cocktail included which was a nice addition I guess but not wholly necessary.

The surprise hit for me was a little pot containing Scallops Cerviche.  I have a wariness of all things raw and sushi would be in my room 101 food list along with saffron and soft  egg yolk. But I adore citrus and I adore scallops.  I suspended my raw fears for a moment and I am so glad that I did.  They were such a delight, so bright, fresh, soft and delicious.  I would definitely have these again.

 

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Between the beautiful sophisticated platter, some rustic bread and some new potatoes, I felt virtuous.  The pounds should be slipping away.  We did not even have dessert!  That is how good we were.

Unfortunately my intake of prosecco and white wine were not quite so virtuous.  There is definitely some way to go but one step at a time.  There is  journey to every destination and some are more winding than others!

Next up from the Grumbling Tummy:

Bish Bash BOSH  …. a colorful vegan extravaganza

 

 

 

 


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The Covid 10

 

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The Covid-10 is now well known as the average 10lb many of us have piled on over lock down.  Some people have managed to lose weight over the pandemic period, the daughter of one friend has shed over 4 stone.  But these people are as rare as a bike for sale in Halfords.

I personally behaved as though lock down were a cross between an extended holiday and the end of the world.  Venturing out to buy milk and coming back with a £60 panic buy of everything from champagne truffles to tubs of Haagen-Dazs salted caramel ice cream was all too common.  I am ashamed to say that the notion of essentials was completely lost on me when entering a supermarket. In addition to this there was the wine – endless hours moaning about home schooling – whilst quaffing many many glasses of wine.

Then there was the wonderful experience of  eating as a family for every meal with a child who will only eat beige food involving sausages and pastry – tasty but not a recipe for a svelte physique.  Bridies the size of my head did some real damage to my waistline.

So I fell foul of the Covid  10 (and that is a rather conservative estimate) and found myself having to shop online for  trousers in a larger size than I had in my wardrobe to accommodate.  Elasticated waists became my friend.

Not being terribly happy with this in terms of vanity is bad enough,  but then of course we are now possibly facing a second wave of the virus and we know that being overweight does increase the risk of being more severely affected.  As an officially overweight 48 year old woman, I am rather aware that I owe it to myself and my family to shed the Covid 10 (at least).

Diets with points and rules make me feel panicked and lead me to feel like a failure and then I  ………. fail and give up.  So what to do?

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I stopped writing in this blog a while back for a couple of reasons.  Firstly I was finding it hard to find the time,  but in addition I found that my relationship with food was not always the most healthy.  I would often see food as either my best ally or my enemy depending on the day.  As an emotional eater I eat all of my feelings – happy, sad, angry, anxious, depressed  – are all reasons to eat!  As worries about weight became a bigger issue in my life,  it seemed counter productive to spend my leisure time writing and obsessing about food.

However …  I spoke recently to my cousin’s husband who inquired about the blog.  I told him how much fun it had been and how I missed it but also how I was not sure how healthy it was for me.  It was him who suggested I get back to blogging on the Grumbling Tummy with a change of focus.  Perhaps using the blog to go on a journey of healthy eating and finding my way back to a healthy weight. It didn’t seem like a bad idea.  So thanks to Mark,  here I am.  Back on the blog with a new direction.

So don’t expect recipes for deliciously gooey chocolate brownies or the most delectable buttery shortbread on here for a while!  I hope that you will enjoy this journey just as much.

Coming up next I will be reviewing a beautiful looking seafood platter from the Kings Wark in Edinburgh ….


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Not in my kitchen Mary!

 

Mary Berry, God love her, is the latest cook to have a recipe banned from my kitchen. The recipe in question is Two Tone Toffee Chews, or as we call them Two Tone Toffee Chew Chews.

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Molten lava mixture of heavenly things

Young Grumbling Tummy decided that she fancied a little bit of baking with mummy. Being a mummy who loves to eat cake but who tries desperately not to eat cake I agreed cautiously.  She eagerly started flicking through my Mary Berry recipe books.  “This one” she said grinning and pointing at what seemed like a very simple tray-bake.  It was the sort of recipe that mini GT could pretty much handle herself with a bit of supervision which sounds pretty perfect.  Everybody happy!

I will add the recipe at the end but it really is terribly simple – like mars bar crispy cake with butter toffees and coco pops added in. It is the butter toffee incidentally which I believe has caused the distress!

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Mini GT stirring whilst eating a toffee. Grumbling Tummy HQ a bit messy with  many bottles of wine kicking about – ho hum!

As I thought,  the little light of my life thoroughly enjoyed making this tray-bake whilst I simply flounced around the kitchen giving direction and encouragement and feeling vaguely smug.   I was also surprised that my little food hater actually ate quite a lot of this effort – well 5 of the 24 squares over 24 hours.  B also thought it was lovely and had A few squares with a cup of tea.  That leaves 16 squares of Two Tone Toffee Chew Chew left.  I pondered taking them to school or to the childminders but sadly by the time the next morning rolled around there was a problem.  “Where have all the Chew Chew’s gone mummy?” wailed my daughter as she stared into the almost empty box!  Her hands grasped at the two little squares sadly rattling around.  I was speechless! How to explain that mummy just could not keep her paws off of these delectable little toffee squares and spend a whole day and evening making trips to the kitchen.  How is is possible that I ate 14 toffee bloody chew chews!  Even my husband who is well aware of my lack of control around sugar was rather surprised.

So sad to say Mary that your Two Tone Toffee Squares join the likes of Nigella’s Rocky Road and any sort of chocolate truffle recipe at all in growing list of banned recipes.  I simply lack the control to cope!

 

For those of you who do not have a problem with the sweet stuff here is the recipe.

(I have just realised that I have deleted the picture of the actual cakes!  Blogging faux pas extraordinaire!!) You shall just have to make them to see what they look like …… good luck

INGREDIENTS

8oz Marshmallows, 8oz Butter Toffees, 8oz Butter, 6oz Crisped Rice Cereal, 6oz Chocolate Rice Cereal 

 

goo

METHOD

Line a traybake tin with greaseproof paper (I don’t have one of these so used one of my cooking ceramic dishes).

Place the marshmallows, toffees and butter in the pan and

 

 melt. The toffees will melt last and it takes about 10 to 15 minutes for it to be properly melted.

 

Add in all the cereal and mix it all up then pour into your lined t

 

in  and press with the back of a spoon.

Pop in the fridge for an hour then take out and cut up into squares

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Back on it ……

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I have been a very lazy blogger, partly due to that thing called life getting in the way and partly because I have been treading that tight rope of balance with food for a while.  I have sort of been waiting to be slim and happy  and ready to divulge my wonderful foodie finds, but sod it.  Here goes.  Part personal journey, part observation and all moan. Here’s to all the food lovers who like me find it all a bit of a struggle sometimes.

I adore food, far too much, and my love of food has made me somewhat greedy.  There is no real way to sugar coat it.  I am a finish a packet of biscuits once started sort of gal, a stranger to moderation you might say.  I do try ….. god knows I do but I also seem to have a lack of that little thing called will-power.

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All in all it is a recipe for disaster.  I regularly fling myself head first into a few days of wine, cheese and sticky toffee pudding with a big happy smile on my face and then spend the next few weeks (if not months) marvelling at how such a teeny tiny eeny meeny little slip could possibly result in 6lbs on my behind! Unfortunately the heady days of losing your weekend weight in a day or two are long gone.  Apparently middle-aged women (awful term) are tremendously good at retaining fat.  How terribly clever of us!

So I found myself at the start of the year struggling to squish into my jeans and wondering which diet to go onto next.  5:2, sugar-free, Atkins, Weight Watchers, Dukan, Slimming World, Scottish Slimmers, clean eating – the list is endless and NONE of them really work long term.  I have tried most of them.  People who say “this diet does work, I have lost weight on it 10 times, its brilliant” are actually telling me that really it doesn’t work because they have had to go back to it 10 blooming times.  Wake up people!

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Even worse than diets are “lifestyle plans”.  These are basically diets that pretend not to be which is just darned sneaky if you want my opinion.  They are actually more irritating than regular diets and say things like “cleanse your cupboards of all temptation”  Who the hell are these people.  I would like to see the look of Mini and B’s faces if I stripped the house of crunchies and haribos.

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Just eat healthily my rather sickeningly slim chums chime.  Oh really!!  I am a bright cookie and believe it or not I actually know what I should and shouldn’t eat. I just …….. don’t. My main meals are more often than not terrific, however my snacking leaves a lot to be desired.  I once used the popular app My Fitness Pal and day after day it showed on its cute little pie chart that around 50% of my daily calories came from snacks …… and possibly prosecco.

But why oh why is this the case.  Why does person A feel happy with one chocolate digestive with a cup of tea whilst person B will eat half the packet, attempt to hide it from herself and then finally give in and eat the rest really very quickly whilst standing in the middle of the kitchen, guilt kicking in before the last biscuit is munched.

running

I thought upping my exercise might be the answer but I soon learned that running 5K three times a week may be great for me but that I can’t out run a bad diet.  Ooft that was a very hard lesson.  I did spend a few blissful weeks truly believing that a Chinese takeaway, three glasses of red wine and a crunchie would be balanced out by a run. The good news is that I am still running but it is not half as much fun knowing that I can’t eat a chocolate brownie and whipped cream with impunity. By the way the picture above is actually me running.  Sadly I am not the size 10 blond but the slightly larger pink runner at the front with her tongue sticking out!!

Another piece of advice often given is that one ought to eat from a smaller plate.  I tried this and ended up having exactly the same portion balanced precariously in a vertical mound.  Needless to say it didn’t work.

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Then there is the problem of having a social life, and this is a biggy.  Things in life that make me happy are in no particular order; my family, eating out in a nice restaurant, going out to dinner at friends homes, meeting friends for drinks, summer BBQs, finding new fabulous cafes, cooking, running, reading, cake and prosecco.  You get the picture …. food related activities genuinely make me happy.

I am not that interested in going for a healthy walk as an alternative to food when I am peckish, as the lifestyle books would suggest, however I did try something different just last weekend.  Instead of just heading straight to a restaurant for food and wine myself and some girls headed to a climbing wall first ……… and then headed to the pub for food and a few bottles of prosecco to celebrate our achievements.  My climbing wall chums are very naturally slim and just a bit more agile than me, so instead of feeling very healthy and fabulous I felt like a bit of a heifer and images of Bridget Jones’s arse coming down the fire pole in the first movie flashed into my head each time I slid down the rope. All in all it did not do much for my self-confidence – straight to the pub next time.

Now I do not have much weight to lose and some friends I know think I am a bampot and look fine.  I am a bampot and I do generally look fine but every six months there is more weight on creeping on which does not seem to come off.  As this rate it will not be too long before they do not think I am a bampot and do not really look all that fine. Will being slim make me happy ……..  the real answer is of course probably not but it will save me a heck of a lot of money as I am in danger of having to buy a whole new summer wardrobe.

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If you assume from my rant that I am not on a pesky diet, you would be wrong.  Of course I bloody am.  It’s not too bad really, It is Weight Watchers no count which is good as I am rubbish at maths and there is just a great big list of foods from which I can eat as much as I want.  Technically speaking you are meant to eat until you are satisfied – I go a bit beyond that.  For nice treats such as Prosecco and Mississippi Mud Pie I have special points which I do have to count.  Some smug dieters claim that they NEVER eat their extra treat points which makes them bonkers.  I not only eat every point I have but I also earn extra by exercising like a loon.  Weight Watchers don’t necessarily advise this as a sensible approach but sod that – it’s the only thing keeping me going.

So after all that I am losing a few pounds, moving lots and still managing to be just a little bit greedy and that will do for now.

Lots of days out to navigate over the coming weeks and I promise to gather some real foodie material to pass on to you soon.

Till then ………

All photos bar one are sourced from photopin.com

 

 


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The Playfairs- a real treasure

20161220_110106“I have booked The Playfairs for dinner this weekend” said B sounding extremely smug “The Play What?” I retorted grumpily                                                                                                         “Tripadvisor says it is very good” he replied, still smug                                                             “Hmph” I put the phone down

It was my birthday in November and we were having a very very rare night out alone in St Andrews to celebrate.  I had wanted to go to Little Italy (my favourite Italian) however B had not organised it in time and they were fully booked, as was every single other St Andrews restaurant I wanted to eat in.  This my friends is why I was grumpy and having been the one to finally find room at the inn as it were was why HE was sounding smug.  But I had never heard of the Playfairs Restaurant in St Andrews and I knew everywhere decent to eat …….. didn’t I?

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And so it was that we found ourselves with a few hours of precious freedom in St Andrews. Eating out is no good without an aperitif and so we headed to the hottest drinks venue in town – the Adamson Bar.  Not content with having a fantastic restaurant (though I lament the day that they lost chef Michael Smith) they decided to open a bar next door, and what a venue it is.  The design is simple and elegant and the bar is backed by an impressively huge mirrored wall whose shelves are adorned with beautiful bottles of mysterious concoctions. At times the bar resembles the lab of a mad scientist with dry ice potions and infusions being prepared by the skilled bar staff.   Perched on bar-stools we had front row seats to the theatre of cocktail making Heston style. We were a little less adventurous – a simple prosecco  to kick of the evening for me and for B (who was now mostly forgiven) an Argentinian Malbec.

Onto the Playfairs …

The Playfairs, it transpires, has been in St Andrews for a very long time and sits nestled under the Ardgowan Hotel.  The restaurant is a family business which was relaunched in 2012 when son Duncan left his position at the prestigious Gleneagles to rejoin the family as Head Chef.  Since then the restaurant has gone from strength to strength, serving up innovative Scottish dishes.

The Playfairs has a vision –  to be one of the few restaurants around who make everything in-house from bread and pickles to their balsamic onions which take months to make.  Add to this their passion for local produce and seasonality – and you have a winning recipe for success right there.

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So perhaps I don’t know every good restaurant in St Andrews (that hurt!) but the proof is in the proverbial pudding, as it were.

The Playfairs Restaurant is relatively small but oh so warm and inviting.  There is lots of wood and exposed stone with natural grey brown tones used throughout.  It has an absolutely lovely vibe.  A moment here to mention the staff – magnificent!  Our bearded ‘ever so slightly hipster’ waiter was fantastic.  He had a great knowledge of the menu and the wine list and was not shy of recommending dishes or combinations.  He had a great demeanour –  chatty and fun.  It does make a difference to your dining experience I find.  Nothing worse than an ill informed surly waiter.

The menu is pretty extensive with lots of fresh seafood and a lovely grill menu.  I started with Chargrilled Shetland scallops cooked on a rosemary skewer with a crab fishcake and spiced tomato jam Brian decided to go with Shetland Mussels Marinière with white wine, cream, garlic and garden herbs.  First off …. everything was beautifully presented and my shady candlelit pictures do not do this justice.  I have a love hate relationship with crab.  I want to really love it but often I find it a bit overwhelming.  This little crab cake did not intimidate me at all, in fact it tasted rather delicate.  The large scallops nestled on top were cooked to perfection  – plump and juicy with a nice charring on the outside.  It was a perfectly rounded dish.  The success of mussels is based on the actual quality of the shell fish.  These particular wee blighters were fat and tender and there were not too many closed shells to pick out. My favourite part of mussels is often dipping heavily buttered bread into the sauce.  Brian kindly let me indulge (to a point) and I can confirm that it was divine.

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Sticking very much with a Scottish theme Brian decided to order Stovies, Playfair style to follow on from his mussels  Slow cooked Black Isle beef short-rib stovies, bacon and tomato sauce and Playfair’s oatcakes.  Unusually I veered towards the grill for my main course, opting for a Hebridean salmon fillet.  Our wonderful waiter suggested that a bearnaise sauce and roast vegetables would be the best accompaniment and who was I to argue.  After what seemed like rather a lot of wine I was more than happy to make no decisions. Brian’s Stovies looked and tasted splendid but it was agreed that the majesty of my slightly blackened salmon married with perfectly cooked veg and thee most perfect sauce trumped everything! It was really such a simple dish but as we all know simple food is hard to perfect as there is really nowhere to hide.  Every part of this meal was cooked and flavoured to perfection and shone through both individually as well as working beautifully together.  I fell in love with the Playfairs right there and then. 

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As always we managed to fit in dessert. Moderation is a life long lesson for me and I am not a terribly good student.  The sight of Clootie Dumpling on the menu transported me back to my granny’s wee house in Pittenweem,  watching her pour the delicious spiced mixture into the clean cloot to cook.  Lovely as a pudding and supreme fried up for breakfast the next morning.  It was a no brainer – clootie dumpling it was.  Brian opted for the truly crazy sounding option of Irn Bru crème brûlée with rhubarb sorbet, fresh fruit and ginger wine syrup – wowzer.

Well as it goes the dumpling with clotted cream nearly ruined me – it was quite delicious but a tad on the large side.  A heavy old pudding to end a huge meal – I did my best but I was coping none to well by time I conceded defeat.  B on the other hand thoroughly enjoyed his concoction which was at least relatively light – interesting and quirky flavours working really well together.

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I hobbled out of the Playfairs in search of the best digestif that I could find.  We headed back to the lab/bar at The Adamson where I was informed that a  Fernet Branca would sort me out.  It tasted a touch on the medicinal side but it did the trick.  Would highly recommend if you have overindulged on rich food as I tend to do.

For the  uninitiated – Fernet Branca is an Italian type of amaro , a bitter, aromatic spirit. Fernet is made from a number of herbs and spices which vary according to the brand, but usually include myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamon, aloe, and especially saffrom, with a base of grape distilled spirits, and colored with caramel.

What a night, what a restaurant, what a bar.  One thing is for sure …  I did not know all of the good places to eat in St Andrews and who knows where else I have missed.  I doubt there is anywhere hiding that is as good as the Playfairs…… but it might be fun finding out.


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October Fest

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I was not living it up in Germany this October, partaking of large steins of beer as the title of the blog might suggest.  October however was a bit of a food fest for the Grumbling Tummy collective.  Mind you I am not sure which month is not a food fest for us!

The first week of October found us perched on cliffs in a rather fabulous caravan just outside Filey on the Yorkshire coast.  It was a holiday of tromping along windswept beaches and revisiting sentimental spots such as Whitby and Robin Hoods Bay.  Ah that sounds romantic! It was also a holiday of swimming pools, penny arcades, water zorbing and of course EATING far too much!

HUMBLE PIE AND THE BLITZ

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Whitby is one of my favourite destinations of all time for a winter break and the first place we make a bee line for on arrival is a very small restaurant near the harbour called Humble Pie.  Humble pie as the name would suggest sells pies and the odd plate of sausage and mash.  That is pretty much yer lot –  but oh what pies they sell. From your traditional steak and kidney & mince and onion through to lamb and mint, homity and  feta and roast vegetable.  Pies here are served as they ought to be  – with mash, gravy and a choice of beans or mushy peas and the correct way to accompany this meal is with a steaming hot mug of Yorkshire tea.  It is really the best start to an autumnal break.  I opted for a mince and onion pie with and gravy and as always it was splendid.  They don’t have much choice but it is all about perfecting the e pies and they are damned good at what they do.

Humble Pie is brim full of nostalgia from a bygone era, a theme embraced by another Whitby eatery.  The Blitz cafe is a 1940s war time themed cafe complete with Glen Miller drifting from an old Wurlitzer juke box and interesting interior decor which includes sandbags piled up the walls.  For a concept cafe the food was surprisingly good as often such places are all style and no substance.  Aside from having a bit of a random tapas menu,  the theme of the menu is firmly set in WW2.  There are goodies such as bread and dripping,  the battle ground ration board  (ham, cheese, bread, apple and pickles) and ration bags for mini evacuees which included sandwiches, fruit, cake and juice. I plumped for the Welsh Rarebit which is something you don’t see very much these days and it was absolutely delicious.  Huge hunks of bread with bubbling hot melted spiced cheese.  Not sure what they used for flavouring – mustard for sure,  Henderson’s relish perhaps.  What I do know  is that this tasty dish was more than enough to put a smile on my face and provide the fuel needed to get me up the 99 steps to Whitby Abbey.

PROSECCO LUNCH CLUB AT SEASONS

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A LARGE VENISON FILLED RAVIOLI

Back on home ground for a much posher affair with the Prosecco Lunch Club.  We are 4 pals who meet once every two months for a spot of lunch and fizz.  There are rules too …… oh yes there are! So shared interest of food and fizz and a rule and we have us a club.  This month we went to a little restaurant in Edinburgh’s Broughton Street called Seasons.  I was led to believe that this was an unconventional eatery in that we would be given a list of seasonal ingredients to choose from and then a dish would be created – voila!  A bit like Can’t Cook Won’t Cook for toffs. This was not the case for lunches sadly,  so instead we chose from a rather lovely small lunch menu which came at a very reasonable price.

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I THINK THIS IS WHAT WE CALL A DECONSTRUCTED DESSERT

Before I launch into the food,  a  little bit about the restaurant itself.  It very intimate with a  warm Nordic vibe – incredibly tasteful and simple really. Strangely for a Saturday afternoon in the heart of our capital – there was nobody else dining there.  I can only assume that it attracts  food loving couples who flock there of an evening to gaze at each other by candlelight.  Either that or it is actually a restaurant for vampires – take your pick. It is certainly is not the food that was keeping the crowds at bay – for that was very very good indeed.

We all chose smoked duck to start (In house smoked duck – mushroom & black truffle salsa,  blackcurrant,  lamb sorrel,  Scottish brambles) and there were squeals of delight (OK that was just from me) when the duck arrived underneath a little cloche filled with smoke.  It was all very theatrical and Hestonesque when the cloche was removed and the smoke escaped.  We would have applauded if we have not been coughing in unison.  To be honest it was impressive and that duck was moist and tender to a fault.  The intense smokey flavouring was perfectly balanced by the fruit.  All in all a great start.

I then moved onto venison ravioli.  It was actually a single whopping ravioli filled with venison and it was truly delicious. Tender and seasoned to perfection,  it was served with a delightful sauce which was only a tad on the foamy side.  I generally loathe foam on a menu.  I feel (and please excuse my lack of finesse on this matter) that is looks like spit on my food.  Best to be an honest blogger!  However this main course merely hinted at foam without offending me and it tasted wonderful.

My dessert as you can see resembled a deconstructed cheesecake affair full of chocolate soil and dehydrated shards of raspberry.  We were a few wines in at this point therefore the finer points of this course dessert me – boom boom!  Safe to say it tasted heavenly.

With the beautifully presented and unfaltering flavoursome food, the attentive service and pleasant surroundings I would find it hard to find fault with Seasons.  It is a cut above the rest of the non-Michelin brigade but had the feel of a restaurant striving for that status. The only problem for a greedy blogger for me was the portion sizes.  Modest portions have me running for a burger on the way home but as I say – I am just rather on the greedy side.

BUMPER CROPS AND ZOMBIES

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I decided that this summer I was going to grow vegetables for the first time ever and embarked on project tomato.  Easy the Dobbies lady said ….. cannot fail she said.  And you know what?  She was right – in a way.  So I planted the little seeds and before long they sprouted and I was like a proud parent cooing and bragging to everybody who would listen. There were 30 plants in total and I loved them all, chatting to them and feeding them until they were big enough for a second round of re-potting. Bursting with pride I decided it was time to share my good fortune. I kept 10 plants for myself and split the rest between two friends.  My 10 plants grew and grew but alas no flowers appeared.  After an aborted attempt at sheltering them in a temporary greenhouse which fell foul of a gale force wind, I was left with 5 plants and still no flowers.  Finally one little solitary flower on one plant appeared.  I was beyond excited, my faith had been restored.  In the mean time the other 20 plants which had been adopted, were growing like bloody triffids and drooping with the weight of all of the beautiful tomatoes sprouting like wildfire.  Bitter – hell yes!  So here it is, my bumper crop.  One beautiful round red cherry tomato, eaten in a tuna salad on a Friday lunchtime.  It was wonderful.  I am still finding it hard to come to terms with the other treacherous 20 plants but I am getting there.  Counselling helps!

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Do you ever look at pinterest?  Does this not remind you of a classic  pinterest fail?  It is actually from the ASDA magazine and these beauties in case you didn’t know are Sausage Mummies.  Embracing Halloween I decided that I would attempt some mummy, daughter cooking.  As always with mummy/daughter pursuits there is a huge gulf between how I imagine the task unfolding and how it actually unfolds.  After 6 years I still have not got to grips with the fact that the romantic magazine notion of crafting/cooking with your kids is a big fat lie.  You know the one – where they are smiling and engaged, with perhaps a cute splodge of icing on their nose which mum wipes whilst laughing gaily.  Here is how it goes in our house.

Me: Hey look at these, aren’t they fab?  Shall we make them together  N: yeah!

Then after eagerly buying the ingredients (mayo, frankfurters and puff pastry)

Me: OK honey are we ready to make these mummies?  N: I am watching My Little Pony  Me: well why don’t we put that off and do this together  N: you just do it and I will eat them Me: muttered expletives not fit for blog

So I bugger about with the pastry and the sausages on my own and then cook them but the mayonnaise makes them look like depressed mummies – which is ironic!  Anyway I suppose I ought to be grateful that she ate them.  Harumph!

That’s all for October Folks.  November round up coming soon where I swoon over a new restaurant discovery in St Andrews …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Vive la France!

 

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Mireille Guiliano famously wrote a book some years ago entitled ‘French Women Don’t Get Fat’.  I’ve read the book and think that she may have forgotten to mention the magical willpower of the average French woman.  I am not big on willpower and  I was well on the way getting very tubby following two weeks eating in France. It is the only explanation I can think of!

Our French adventure was in the Calvados region of France in beautiful Normandy.  B was ecstatic as to him it was all about trundling round WW2 museums and seeing lots of tanks and gunning placements, whereas for me it was all about mucking  around on stunning beaches and eating lots and lots of food.

France has often been hailed as one of the great food centres of Europe, however until now I have been seriously underwhelmed.  In Paris we sat through several bad meals and indeed my only fond food memory from the French capital was a rather fine Croque Monsieur served without fuss in a simple café.  In Carcassonne the food was no doubt wonderful, but as I’m not a fan of cassoulet I was rather out on a foodie limb in that particular region.

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Normandy was a game changer as far as my ratings of French cuisine goes.  All along the spectacular coast there are a string of beautiful seaside towns, unsullied by arcades and the‘taps aff’ brigade. The beaches are stunning and all about wholesome seaside fun – think sandcastles, kite flying, swimming, candy floss and boules.  The pretty resorts most importantly are also  littered with great places to eat  …. and eat we did.

Here are a few of the highlights for your digestion…

THE NOT SO HUMBLE CREPE

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As we were just along the coast from the  Brittany, home of crepes, we did expect them to be rather on the good side and we were not disappointed.

Some notes about this very French speciality – first off a crepe has a sweet filling, those with savoury fillings are called galettes. I ate both in abundance. Second interesting fact is that most of the galettes in Normandy are made with buckwheat flour, which is gluten free.  This allowed me to ignore the cream and cheese involved in some of the fillings and focus on the fact that it sounded healthy – it ought to be noted that most of my crepes included cream and indeed cheese in some form or fashion.

There were many, many fillings to choose from but my BFF crepe was filled with crème fraiche, potatoes, lardons, onions and mushrooms,  and I am betting a hefty daud of garlic too.  I ate this particular offering all over Normandy – from the delightful Le Crabbe Vert in St Aubin sur Mer all the way to the best example in a café in Bayeux.

The wee grumbling tum is notoriously hideous at eating on holiday, normally zoning in on one food stuff she will deign to eat for the entire trip.  This holiday we lucked out with her decision to  eat two types of food, once of which was Crepe with Nutella.  She ate this daily and as she has a little tiny tummy, mummy often had to help out – shucks!

The best crepe I sampled was in the lovely Crab Vert restaurant in St Aubin Sur Mer. topped with beautiful freshly stewed apples and calvados.  We are not talking a hint of calvados in this after dinner treat – it was full on blow your head off calvados – and it was rather splendid.

THE CIDRE

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When in Normandy!  With around 600 cidre producers in this region and hand painted road signs directing you to where you can buy and taste every few miles, there is little doubt that this is Normandy’s national drink.  This is a part of the Norman culture that I embraced with open mouth!  I like cidre anyway but the Normandy version seemed so much better than the brands available in Scotland.  Not overly fizzy yet not flat like scrumpy – somewhere pleasingly in-between. Or maybe it was just the sunshine!

Coming in three varieties – dry, sweet and corked (twice fermented with more sparkle) – cidre is not traditionally served in a glass but in a bowl.  A cidre bowl is rather like a large round coffee mug or a small soup bowl.  I am not sure if this enhances the taste but it sure is fun.  As with most local drinks when travelling, cidre is pretty cheap to buy and we were well stocked up for the whole trip ……. and beyond.

We were however a little over-enthusiastic on our return and have run dry, so if you are planning a trip to Normandy …… could you?

THE MOULES AND FRITES

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Normandy is a haven for lovers of Moules et Frites.  I have never in my life eaten as many mussels. I pretty much stuck to the same version of this classic every time I ordered– Moules Normandie. This is a variation of the classic mussels and white wine, instead the  mussels are served with cream, onions and cidre. Everywhere I tasted this the mussels were  beautifully plump, amazingly fresh and the sauce was to die for.  Perfectly crispy frites were reserved for dipping in the creamy sauce, it really is the best of all foods.

There is a garlic version of this dish which I attempted one evening and trust me when the French feel the need to include the word garlic in the description of a meal it is Def Con One on the garlic breath alert.  I spent the rest of the night trying hard NOT to speak to anybody and there was definitely no snogging for me.

If you like mussels (and I do) then you will never ever be disappointed in a Normandy restaurant.

THE CAKE

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The discovery of a particular pink patisserie in the heart of the beautiful city of Bayeaux was when it all went wrong for me.  It was the beginning of the end of any pretence that I was trying to be healthy.  This particular patisserie was a sight to behold –  beautifully decorated in bright fuchsia candy stripes, pink regency style chairs, elaborate plump feather cushions and the largest patisserie counter I have ever seen.  We were dumbfounded and incapable of any decision making.  The poor waitress had the  patience of a saint as we asked a 6 year old to choose from about 100 sweet treats (eidgets!).  It all became rather stressful at one point.

Eventually I settled on an almond cake which was divine.  Sweet perfection.  The game was now a bogey as far as a cakeless trip was concerned and this was the first on many sweet downfalls …….. the first is always the best!

THE CAMEMBERT

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The official cheese of Normandy – Camembert.  If you are going to have an official cheese then what a variety to have.  Camembert is served up in so many different ways in Normandy – from crepe fillings and moules camembert to salads, whole baked cheeses and pizza toppings!

My all time favourite Camembert creation was in a restaurant  in the beautiful town of Honfleur.  We sat by the harbour in the baking sun drinking ice cold cidre and eating a gorgeous crisp fresh salad topped with pieces of Camembert lovingly wrapped in filo pastry and deep fried  until the filo was warm and crisp and the cheese was molten.  The salad was topped with salty warm bacon. The best use of Camembert ever!

THE SUPERMARKETS

It is impossible to ‘whizz’ around a French supermarket or ‘pop in quickly’.  French supermarkets are there to be savoured and one must take ones time drinking in all the delicious food there is on offer.  We were relatively near a Hyper U and spent more time than is normal wandering around the ailes.  The cheeses, the array of cold cuts, the riot of colour in fresh produce, the wine, the cidre.  In an ideal world I would have dumped the husband and the kid  for an hour or two, and spend a few hours procuring items to take home with me in a spare suitcase sized cooler.  A girl can dream can’t she.

BEST OF THE REST

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Never underestimate the beauty of the simple croque monsieur.  I have had several and they never disappoint. Okay I do admit that this is really a glorified cheese and ham toastie but glorified it is none the less. The cheese is a fabulous gruyere, the ham is generally of superb quality, the bread is sweet and fluffy and it is fried up with a bubbling bechemal on the top. I find it hard to knock the humble croque monsieur.

In Arromanches I had the most wonderful Tarte Tatin I have ever tasted (not that I have tasted that many).  The pastry was so light and airy and the apples were ludicrously fresh and sweet. All of  that plus caramel and a dusting of icing sugar – divine.

In Falais, home to William the Conqueror I ate the most divine cheese cake of my life . The key was in the base which seemed to be made from a buttery salted caramel biscuit.  It was simultaneously crunchy, moist, sweet and salty.  This was a show stopper.

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I could of course go on …… but I am sure you have read enough so I will leave things there. Suffice say that the food in Normandy possibly surpassed Italy and that is saying something.  We are returning to France next year – this time to Brittany – watch this space….