Thursday, 20 November 2014

Dinner In The Company of Greatness

Marco Pierre White has always been regarded as a great chef. Marco was dubbed the first 'celebrity chef', the enfant terrible of the UK restaurant scene, and at the time he was the youngest chef to be awarded three Michelin stars at the age of 33. After many years of pursuing his ambitions before becoming disillusioned by how the chase for success was intruding on his personal life, Marco made the decision to retire from the kitchen and ultimately handed back his well earned stars. At the time he was quoted as saying "I was judged by people who had less knowledge than me,so what was it truly worth? I gave Michelin inspectors too much respect and I belittled myself. I had three options: I could be a prisoner of my world and continue to work six days a week, I could live a lie and charge high prices and not be behind the stove, or I could give my stars back and spend time with my children and re-invent myself".
These days Marco Pierre White is better known as a restauranteur and somewhat reluctant TV star. Perhaps more recognised as the face of Knorr stock cubes (a product that he has used in his cooking for many years), and also as the head chef on Hell's Kitchen. Marco has also appeared as a guest judge on Masterchef Australia and more recently hosting Marco Pierre White's Kitchen Wars.
Clearly a man who likes to keep busy, Marco has recently signed an agreement with Sanguine Hospitality which will see up to 50 new restaurants using his name across the UK and Ireland. One of the new restaurants was the recently opened Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, housed within Glasgow's Hotel Indigo. Shortly after the opening of the new restaurant, news broke that the great man himself would be making the trip to Glasgow when he would be on hand to offer diners a photo opportunity as well as a chance to say hello to "the godfather of modern cooking".
As soon as I heard that Marco was coming to Glasgow I made sure that myself and Nicola had a reservation. There was no way that I could let an opportunity to meet one of the world's highest regarded chefs pass me by.
On the night, we arrived at Hotel Indigo on Waterloo Street in Glasgow with plenty of time to grab a drink before dinner. Marco Pierre White was sitting in the bar area signing books, aprons and taking time to let diners have their photo taken alongside himself. We had time before our reservation so we took the chance to say hello and make an attempt at some small talk with Marco. Although my nerves were jangling I think I held it together better than the last time I met current and well regarded Michelin starred chef, Jason Atherton. I fact, I even managed to slip a Gerry's Kitchen business card to Marco and ask whether he would answer '5 Questions', so watch this space!
Before long it was time to take our seats in the restaurant and sample the specially created set menu that had been put together by the steakhouse's head chef, Liam Kerr.
First up was a little selection of canapés including cheese gougères and the cutest little jar of potted and shredded ham with crostini and an accompanying glass of champagne. The tiny morsels were packed with flavour and done a great job of whetting our appetites for the feast that was about to be served.
The five course menu kicked of in style with a cauliflower velouté topped with crispy shallots and shredded beef. Me and Nicola love cauliflower soup and this velouté was well seasoned, smooth and creamy. The soft shredded beef and crispy shallots added a big punch of well matched flavour and a great balance of texture. We were served a matching wine with the start, which we were not expecting, and enjoyed an easy to drink glass of South African Chenin Blanc.
Next up was a starter of Loch Fyne salmon, poached in olive oil with pickled cucumber, oyster and watercress condiment. The salmon was poached perfectly, the olive oil keeping the fillet soft and tender, whilst the pickled cucumber salad gave good contrast to the salty oyster and the accompanying citrus sauce.
The main event was 28 day dry aged fillet steak, braised oxtail, spinach purée, pommes Dauphine and horseradish. Two pieces of perfectly cooked, medium rare fillet steak was served on a rich bed of puréed spinach. The strong iron flavour of the spinach was well matched with a mound of shredded oxtail. Pomme Dauphine are made by mixing mashed potato with savoury choux pastry before deep frying. The choux pastry helps give the Dauphine a light airy texture which worked well with the rich meaty flavours on the plate. My only complaint about the main course is that I would have liked a few more pommes Dauphine on my plate - they were delicious! An accompanying homemade horseradish sauce was served inside a scooped out marrow bone with a rich red wine jus was served on the side. The balance of flavours on this well seasoned plate was fantastic, so much so that we didn't need to reach for the salt or pepper.
The main course also had a matched wine served which was a full bodied Argentinian Malbec.
At this point in the meal, there was brief break in service as we made our way back out to the bar area where Marco personalised signed aprons, taking time to make mine out to Gerry's Kitchen! He also signed our menus from the night and allowed more photos to be taken. If you look really closely, you can see that Marco almost smiles!
When we went back to our table, our dessert was served and waiting for us. The Tonka bean pannacotta, Sauternes jelly, honeycomb, pear brunoise and chicory Anglaise was an intriguing pudding to say the least. I'd never heard of Tonka beans before, let alone taste them but when I plunged my spoon into the layered dessert in front of me I was met with a flavour that was incredibly more-ish. This was an proper grown up dessert, very creamy and not too sweet but the crumbled honeycomb, and Sauternes jelly in the base of the glass did bring a playful element to the pudding.
The last course of the night was a simple cheese board served with coffee. There were a two cheeses on the platter, the first a creamy Brie de Meaux, the second cheese was Blue Monday, a blue cheese made by musician turned cheesemaker, Alex James. Now neither of us are fans of blue cheese but the former Blur man has definitely changed our mind as his Blue Monday was really tasty. The cheeses were accompanied with thin oatcakes, a selection of chopped nuts, seeds & dates, and a slice of quince paste. Despite the fact that we were both feeling pretty full after dinner, the cheese board was just the right size to round of the evening meal.
Dinner on the night cost £90 per head which might seem expensive but when you take into account the fact that the meal included champagne and canapés, a specially created five course menu with coffee, two glasses of matched wine, a photo opportunity with a cooking legend, and a personalised signed apron - I think that the night represented great value. The food was fantastic, the service was very attentive and we met a man who has been recognised as one of the world's greatest chefs - overall it's not a bad way to spend a Wednesday evening in Glasgow and definitely one of the best nights out that me and Nicola have had in ages!
This was the first that myself and Nicola had eaten at any of the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse's and we were hugely impressed by the food that chef Liam Kerr served on the night. So much so, that we are planning on heading back in this coming Friday to take them up on their Mo-Burger promotion, an offer running through November where a donation will be made from every Mo-Burger sold to the Movember UK campaign. I can't grow a great moustache but I'm sur that I can manage to eat a tasty burger for a great cause.
Keep an eye on the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Glasgow website for news on special offers or you can keep up to date on Facebook or Twitter.

 Written by Gerry HaughianWritten by Gerry Haughian

Monday, 3 November 2014

5 Questions - BRGR, Great Western Road, Glasgow

The good old hamburger has always been a popular choice, so much so that there are now restaurants all over the world with menus that are dedicated to the noble burger patty. Over the last 18 months Glasgow has been going through its own burger renaissance with dedicated burger restaurants opening all aver the city.
I love a good burger so when I was invited to a launch night of BRGR in Glasgow's West End, I jumped at the chance to head along and see how this new kid on the (butcher) block would compare with some of the others that I had already tried.
BRGR is owner by Chris Lessani and occupies what used to be The Black Rabbit Cafe on Glasgow's Great Western Road. Furnished using reclaimed wood and old window shutters and lampshades from the 1940's, BRGR hopes to wow diners with braw burgers and tasty shakes whilst doing its best to use local suppliers where possible. In fact the meat is sourced from local butcher, Rodgers Butcher whilst Big Bear Bakery supply the soft brioch burger buns.
Here's Chris's story;
How did you get started?
Food has always been a big part of my family; thanks to my dad who is also in the industry (Café l’Etoile and Bar Sporto to name just a few). Any family celebration has always involved food and I knew from a young age that I wanted to be involved in the industry and follow in my dad’s footsteps. I have now worked in the industry for over a decade and funnily enough it began just up the road from BRGR serving fast food in the 727 takeaway!
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
To always stay positive. Running your own business is demanding but is also extremely fun and hugely rewarding and it is important to remember the good times rather than how much stuff you have to do. Positivity is the key to success – remember; there are no problems, only solutions!
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
It would be a dream of mine to expand BRGR further and grow the business throughout the UK. Glasgow seems to be experiencing a burger renaissance but for me burgers have always been an important staple on every menu. We would love the opportunity to take BRGR further afield, serving great burgers, using the freshest ingredients all sourced locally… oh, and introducing our handy ‘hawder’!
If you could only cook one of your own products/recipes, what would it be & why?
It would have to be our Hot Coo burger – a beef patty topped with salami, cheese, chipotle mayo, red onion, pickled cucumber, lettuce and freshly roasted jalapenos. I love food with a bit of a kick in it and we serve this as hot as the customer likes. For me, the more jalapenos the better!
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
Aside from my dad, it would have to be the legend that is Elvis. As for the menu, that's easy! We would eat Coo Tippers until the cows came home, all washed down with plenty of beers.
I have to say that I would be happy to join Chris and The King as they tucked into their burgers - it was the Coo Tipper that I had on the night we visited and it was delicious!
The menu at BRGR is a simple affair with a few beef patty burgers, a lamb burger, a chicken breast burger and a vegetarian option. I chose the house burger - The Coo Tipper topped with bacon and cheese. The burger was hefty size with a soft brioche bun filled with crisp baby gem lettuce, pickled gherkins, red onion and tomato, not forgetting the seasoned patty and three rashers of bacon and sliced cheddar cheese from local cheese-monger, George Mews Cheese.
As I pondered how I was going to get my mouth round this meaty feast, we were presented with an ingenious solution to burger eating engineering. Chris and the team have developed the 'Hawder', a crafty devise for holding one's burger. It's great to see that science is giving a lending hand to the BRGR customers and making eating the might burgers a simple task.
The burgers were very tasty but the stars of the show for me were the delicious sides that were served with our meal. Rich creamy MacCheese, crispy sweet potato fries, huge onion rings and sticky chicken wings all helped add to the BRGR experience. I especially enjoyed the macaroni cheese which was deliciously cheesy with a good kick of mustard.
In addition to the tasty food on offer, BRGR will be specialising in good old fashioned milkshakes made using just rich Crolla's ice cream and fresh milk. (Although there are a few adult shakes available which have a good measure of alcohol thrown in too) We did get the chance to see some milkshakes being made, as well as sample a few of the shakes, however I was more than happy to wash my burger down with some locally brewed St.Mungo from West Brewery.
So if you're looking for great value home made burgers and tasty milk shakes, make sure to check out BRGR Glasgow, I know that I'll definitely be looking for another reason to get back to the West End. Keep up to date with the team at BRGR on Facebook and Twitter.

Written by Gerry HaughianWritten by Gerry Haughian

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Glasgow Gets Ready for the Arrival of Marco Pierre White

FIREWORKS may or may not be on the menu when Marco Pierre White, the charismatic and internationally-applauded chef, visits his first Glasgow restaurant for the first time to host a special Guy Fawkes Night dinner at his Steakhouse Bar & Grill at Hotel Indigo, Waterloo Street....

Marco’s arrival takes place on 5th November and includes a delicious six-course meal created especially for the occasion. Guests in attendance will also receive a signed apron, a chance to meet Marco and champagne and canapés on arrival.

Located in the heart of Glasgow city centre at 75 Waterloo Street, Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill has quickly established itself as the place to be seen since its opening just over two months ago by diners attracted by its unique take on "affordable yet glamorous" cuisine.

Speaking ahead of his visit, Marco Pierre White said: "I’m really looking forward to coming to Glasgow to meet our neighbours and customers who have helped make the restaurant so popular. I expect our Guy Fawkes Night event will be a huge success."

Guests on the day will enjoy a specially prepared six course menu comprising: a cauliflower veloute with shredded beef and crispy shallots; Loch Fyne salmon poached in olive oil, lightly pickled cucumbers, oyster and watercress condiment; 28 day dry aged Scotch beef fillet with spinach puree, pommes Dauphine, braised oxtail and horseradish cream; Tonka bean pannacotta with sauternes jelly, honeycomb, pear Brunoise and chicory Anglaise followed by Blue Monday, Brie De Meaux, dried fruits and nuts and quince with coffee to finish for £90 per person.

Denis MacCann, general manager, said: "As this special event heralds Marco’s first visit to the restaurant, we are expecting an extra special buzz around the place and we very much look forward to welcoming him. His menu for this occasion is exceptionally special, and we can’t wait for our diners to try it out."

Bookings will be taken from 7pm. To make a reservation at this unmissable event, call the restaurant on 0141 226 7726 or visit www.mpwsteakhouseglasgow.co.uk

 

 

 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

5 Questions - Spice Pots

I've been writing my '5 Questions' posts for the better part of two years now, giving independent producers the chance to have their story told and hopefully helping to raise a little awareness to their brand along the way. Most of the the posts have been written on the back of me meeting and introducing myself to producers at food shows or farmers markets, however sometimes forward thinking business owners grab the bull by the horns and approach me, which is what Melanie Auld of East Lothian based Spice Pots did when she got in touch with me through the contact form on the blog. As a relatively new business, Melanie was keen to send me some samples that I could try out in the kitchen and all going well provide a little feedback and maybe provide a little bit of publicity too. There's not many things that are I like more than a good homemade curry so I happily took Melanie up on her offer.
Here's Melanie's story;
How did you get started?
I was an event manager for many years before I had my 3 boys – this would have been a hard job to go back to with young kids due to the hours, so I did other bits and pieces that fitted around my family including a part time cooking job at a Glasgow TV post production house, which I loved. When we moved back to East Lothian, I could no longer do this job but my confidence had grown and I was now edging towards food related jobs.
The idea behind Spice Pots started when my children were tiny, in about 2008 / 2009. I loved to cook curries (I spent 6 months in India when I was 19) but found it increasingly difficult with 3 pre-school kids in the house. Before my husband went to work, he used to measure, roast and grind all the spices I needed to make my favourite curries and put them in a jar.
This took all the thinking out (even something as simple as counting out teaspoons of spices is taxing when constantly interrupted by small people)! However, it took a couple of nudges to launch it as a business in 2013; being turned down for two local jobs and a little money my lovely old Gran left me when she died.
What's the best piece of business advice that you could give?
Sleep on it and share it! I'm learning to take it slow and steady and to take advice from friends and family.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
I would like to have developed more Indian blends and possibly other ranges too. I am still a very new business but have a busy Autumn planned so I'm waiting to see how that goes before making too many grand plans. Ask me again in January!
If you could cook only one of your products, what would it be and why?
Spice Pots lamb bhuna served with brown rice and mint and coriander raita. This curry is so easy and so delicious. It has tons of flavour and is only medium heat so it's a good one for gatherings as not everyone can handle (or likes) too much chilli. And the mint and coriander raita just goes so well with the lamb. It's great for leftovers too – I think it tastes even better the next day- delicious in a pitta with the raita drizzled over!
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – who would it be and why? And what's on the menu?
It would have to more than one I'm afraid....
For the starter, I would invite my Dad (sadly no longer here), my mum and my 2 brothers. Joining us for the main course would be my husband and the wives of my brothers. For pudding, all of our kids , 6 of them, would join us.
My cooking roots are firmly in the traditional camp. I learnt (surreptitiously) from my Mum who would cook soups, stews and Sunday roasts and use loads of fresh produce from the garden. My Mum and Dad had an amazing vegetable garden and we had an abundance of soft fruits too. Mum designed, planted and cared for a beautiful herb garden in an old cattle court – I remember helping to pick out all the stones before the topsoil was delivered! The herbs were all beautifully laid out, and there was a greenhouse and a pond.
On the menu would be a simple starter of artichokes served with home-made, herby mayonnaise or garlic butter. For the main course, roast lamb with minted potatoes and one of the many green vegetables or salad leaves they used to grow.
For pudding, it would be my Dad's favourite – raspberries from the garden, with an abundance of sugar and cream.

Just before I went off on holiday, Melanie kindly sent me five separate Spice Pots to try out. Each jar of Spice Pots comes with their own easy to follow instruction card which walks you through the cooking process and also outlines any addition ingredients that you may need. When I received my goodies I was just about to go off on holiday so made the decision that I would wait until I came home before putting Spice Pots to the test.
With so many traditional curries at my fingertips I struggled to decide which one to cook first but the Goan Beef won in the end. By cooking beef and onions slowly with the contents of the Spice Pots jar before adding a tin of coconut milk, I had a wonderfully flavoured traditional curry. I also added some potato and lots of spinach which added a real depth of character. In fact, I sure that you could easily add any of your own favourite ingredients and be guaranteed a delicious and authentic dish.
I'm all for ways of getting more people back into the kitchen and I think that Spice Pots is a fantastic product that will be a huge help to those that want to know and understand more about Indian cooking.
I can't wait to crack the lid from my next Spice Pots jar.
You can order your favourite spice blends on the Spice Pots Spice Shop, or keep up to date on Facebook or Twitter.


Monday, 20 October 2014

Product Review - Kwan's Kitchen 123 Stir Fry Kits

A few months ago I attended the Speciality Food Show Scotland where I met Stephen Kwan from Kwan's Kitchen. Stephen took time out to answer '5 Questions' and allowed me to give a bit of a background to the Kwan's Kitchen story as well as raise a little awareness to their fantastic range of home cooking sauces and spices.
Last week I caught up with Stephen when Kwan's Kitchen were exhibiting at the recent BBC Good Food Show at Glasgow's SECC when he told me that he has been busy looking at ways to make cooking authentic Chinese food even easier for the home cook, resulting in the new Kwan's Kitchen 123 Stir Fry Kits.
I loved the rich aromatic flavours of the Kwan's Kitchen sauces and spices when I tasted them earlier in the year qnd was excited to try out the new 1-2-3 stir fry kits so picked up three of the four available flavours.
It's difficult to believe that this little box contains so much flavour!
Each kit contains a pack of seasoning, a pack of sauce, and a pack of seasoned oil. With my rice bubbling away, I simply marinated thin strips of chicken breast in the seasoning before stir frying for a few minutes, adding red pepper and courgette strips to the wok. Once the vegetable were cooked through, I added the sauce and a little water and cooked for a further couple of minutes then finally added the fragrant seasoned oil to the wok.
Talk about easy! Less than ten minutes actual cooking time had passed and I was serving up authentic Szechuan chicken dish that both myself and Nicola loved. Roll next week when I will be trying out the blackbean and garlic kit with some fillet of beef.
Check out the Kwan's Kitchen website to find your nearest stockist or keep up to date on Facebook & Twitter.