Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Ardross Farm

There are exciting times ahead in Crail as their first official food festival draws ever closer. With many local producers now confirmed to be taking part in the festival, I was fortunate enough to chat with Nikki from Ardross Farm, whose family firmly do their bit to promote local produce. Having farmed in the local community for over a century, the Ardross family saw the benefits in opening up the fruits of their labour to the hungry folk of Fife. Their venture has proved hugely successful, culminating in a broad customer base, which spans across Fife and beyond. The business has retained its family values, with Nikki now managing the farm shop. Despite the till constantly ringing, Nikki still found time to answer a few of my questions about Ardross Farm shop, and the part they are soon to play in the Crail Food Festival.

How did you become involved in the Crail Food Festival?

I met Graham at a meeting, and at that point, the festival itself was in the early planning stages. We were asked to contribute to this, due to the positive relationship we have with a number of local food producers, and being passionate about local produce, we were more than happy to help.

What were your initial thoughts when you were asked to become involved?

From the outset, I was really excited about the festival. I was aware of how much work would be involved in piloting it, but with the wealth of produce that Fife has to offer, I knew with the right people on board it could be a success. At Ardross Farm, we are ready and willing to fly the flag for anything that helps to put the East Neuk of Fife on the map.

How much of the produce you sell is produced on Ardross Farm?

Around 40% of our sales can be attributed to home grown produce. The majority of the remaining 60% comes from the sale of local products.

Why do you think people are more inclined to shop in supermarkets, rather than make better use of local amenities?

Some people don’t have the option. There has been a decline in local shops recently, and the ones that do still exist don’t have the same buying power as supermarkets. They have the ability to bulk buy, which in turn drives down the price for the customer. For other people it’s a case of convenience. That’s why we were so keen to be involved in the Crail Food Festival, as it’s a great opportunity to show people how spectacular the local produce is, with the added benefit that it’s right on their doorstep.

Finally, what makes Fife produce so special?

We have a melting pot of local produce, the key being in the word local. Why opt for food that has travelled land and sea, when we have a landscape rich in opportunity. With spectacular sea food, fresh vegetables, some of the best barley the world has to offer, not to mention the lamb and venison. It’s the quality of this produce that’s igniting interest in Fife’s food. And when you need a break from your own kitchen, visit one of the many tearooms and restaurants in the local area that are proud users of the local bounty. Being surrounded by all of this should surely help to cement Fife as one of the true champions of fresh, local produce.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Speckled chocolate muffins

As a savoury fiend who turns to wine, cheese and olives in my hour of need, chocolate tends to fall off my foodie radar from time to time. However, I'm not completely inept to the charms of the brown gooey stuff, as the half eaten jar of Nutella in my kitchen cupboard will tell you. I do enjoy chocolate, but there's one thing I find just a little too rich on the chocolate front, and that's the double chocolate muffin. I always struggle to finish one, and as much as I enjoy the moist, chocolatey goodness, I felt that I had to look for an alternative that would result in just a trail of crumbs across the plate.

Speckled chocolate muffins were born of necessity, designed to give me enough of an energy kick to get me through the afternoon, without feeling like I needed forty winks afterwards. Their pale mochaesque colour denotes that of a wholemeal muffin, already relieving some of the guilt you may otherwise feel with the double chocolate variety. On the off chance you're beginning to think that this muffin's a bit wimpy, two tablespoons of Nutella thrown into the mix should fill you with faith that this chocolatey treat packs the proverbial punch. Enjoy!

Without this stuff, we wouldn't have any muffins:

2 tablespoons Nutella

50g chocolate chips

2½ teaspoons vanilla extract

100g caster sugar

60g rolled oats

275ml milk

280g plain flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon of salt

1 egg lightly beaten

100g melted butter

Now for the fun bit:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Grease or line a muffin tray. This mixture should give you 10 muffins.

2. In large bowl, throw in the oats and cover them with the milk and vanilla extract. Stir the mixture, then leave the oats to soak up the flavour of the milk and vanilla.

3. Whilst the oats are soaking, mix the baking powder, flour, salt and sugar in a separate bowl. Now add the chocolate chips and give it a good stir.

4. Add your butter and egg to the oat mixture, followed by two tablespoons of Nutella. Stir the mixture well before combining it with the dry ingredients. Mix the two together until just combined.

5. Spoon the mixture into the muffin tray and bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes. When you take them out the oven, they will smell delicious, but try and resist the urge to eat them, until they have cooled in the tin. Around ten minutes should do the trick. Then turn onto a wire rack and enjoy!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


Whether or not the term 'Cakie' has been previously coined, it was the only suitable adjective I could think of to describe the happenings at Fredericks Coffee House yesterday evening. Comparatively, this event was reminiscent of a convention, perhaps not that far removed from what I'd imagine a Star Wars convention to comprise, lots of over excited people, tongues at the ready with nothing but praise for their favourite topic. Apply this principle to 30 cake lovers, and you should be able to get a feel for last night's event. If only you could actually have tasted the cake!

Upon hearing all us Edinburgh cakies calling, Lynn boarded the train from Leeds, bound to try and test the talents of us bakers that live north of the border. Having firmly established The Clandestine Cake Club, Lynn is a cake expert, who put all her expertise into organising this wonderful event. And weren't the cakes a thing to behold!

Not one for letting food defeat me, my approach to this evening was simple, everything in moderation. I failed to have a whole slice of anything, but a sliver goes a long way, meaning that I got to sample twice the number of cakes I originally anticipated. There were so many combinations, and since I didn't take any individual photos, I won't take you through them all, but I have to say I was bowled over by the quality. The cakes generally were outstanding, and each one more delicious than the next.

My contribution to the evening was my chocolate and hazelnut cake. A rich Italian cake, which unfortunately looked rather modest amongst the more grand baking gestures. But the lovely comments from my cake tasters were touching, and left me feeling proud of my more plain looking contribution.

Last night didn't happen all on its own. There were so many people involved in making it the event that it was, so firm hats off to LynnFredericks and of course the bakers. My mouth's watering and tummy rumbling for the next Edinburgh Clandestine Cake Club.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Treacle Review

This review previously appeared on Edinburgh Spotlight.

It seems that some people get everything right. In the case of the good folks that brought us Hamilton’s in Stockbridge, it comes in the form of Treacle. Situated at the top of Edinburgh’s fashionable Broughton Street, Treacle has become a firm favourite with locals, lured by their ample drinks list, good food, and an atmosphere other Edinburgh bars wish could be bottled and sold.

Upon entering Treacle, it’s hard not to feel trendy. With the exposed brick walls and pop art feature areas, the decor is reminiscent of Hamilton’s, but with a more intimate feel. The menu is varied and affordable, with starters, mains and desserts ranging from £6 to £10.  Incorporating food from the length and breadth of the globe, you would be hard pressed not to find something to satisfy your appetite. I opted for the organic steak and ale pie with home cut chips (£8.95), whilst my dining partner veered to the other side of the continent with his choice of crispy chilli beef noodles with honey and sesame (£8.95). The first thing that struck me as our plates arrived was the unique presentation of our food. The steak pie was served on a wooden board, with the chips oh so coolly presented in a stainless steel pail. They say you eat with your eyes, and this theme was to continue as my dining partners noodles were served in a quirky New York style box, looking just as good as they do on the TV.

As we dived in, our lack of conversation wasn’t the result of nothing to say, but rather due to sheer enjoyment of the wonderful food. My steak pie had a glorious crust, and oozed with sumptuous pieces of steak in a deliciously rich gravy. The chips were thick cut and crispy, the perfect accompaniment to the pie. I washed this down with a large glass of Pinot Grigio Rosé
wine (£4.90) which was sharp and refreshing.

My partner’s noodles were strewn with soft slices of battered beef, before being dressed with sesame seeds and soy sauce. The noodles were perfectly cooked, with just the right amount of chilli to accompany the dish. Add to this a pint of Staropramen (£3.80) and I had one very happy dining partner.

I unfortunately don’t have an ever expanding stomach and was too full for dessert. However, my dining partner’s pudding had me loosening off my trousers and asking for another spoon. Belgian waffles, lathered in nutella, served with ice cream and strawberries. This desert was truly a thing to behold and even by our greedy standards, it was polished off in record time.

After leaving a very happy, if not gluttonous customer, I couldn’t help but think that this establishment really has got everything right. Good food, a great selection of drinks and excellent customer service, I think there is very little more you could ask for.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The last person to visit London?

I know, it’s hard to believe that I hit the ripe old age of 26 before adorning my finest tourist getup and boarding the shuttle to London. My reasons for not having visited our capital city prior to last week were fairly unremarkable. Being the opportunist that I am, I tend to opt for more exotic climates, where my disposition generally becomes a little sunnier. The prospect of visiting a city where I could understand the native tongue was an alien one, but having returned with some of my preconceptions being both met and shattered in the same weekend, it was certainly time for me to give London a true and honest first hand evaluation.

Upon arrival, and after negotiating the Stansted Express, we piled into a taxi, where I was given an impromptu tour of the streets of London. As we made our way towards Mayfair, I was astounded by just how busy it was. Professional looking people charged through the streets, cappuccino in hand, ripe for any sort of networking opportunity. I however was more than ready to find my hotel, and more importantly seek out some lunch.

Our hotel, The Millennium Mayfair exceeded all expectations. Generally, hearing the words ‘free upgrade’ can only have positive connotations. In relation to our beautiful room this was certainly the case. A quick brush and spruce up later we hit the streets of London in search of some good honest lunch time fare. With the lack of Lebanese cuisine in Edinburgh, I decided this would be a trip of firsts, resulting in me opting for a selection of delicious mezze at the wonderful Messina. We opted to share stuffed vine leaves, bread and hummus and pitta breads stuffed with minced lamb. It was a delicious start to our trip.

Stuffed vine leaves

Lamb pittas

Known for our meandering along the streets of Edinburgh, we applied the same principles to London, walking all the way from Mayfair to Covent Garden for our evening meal at Carluccio's Italian restaurant. We shared a typical antipasto, with Parma ham, grilled vegetables and mozzarella, which didn’t disappoint. I followed with spaghetti and clams, whilst Rob opted for the risotto with chicken and asparagus. I loved my pasta dish, which was subtly flavoured with garlic and chilli. The risotto however was overloaded with cheese, detracting from the flavour of the current seasons asparagus. We ended the evening with a selection of homemade ice creams, which were authentic and beautifully flavoured, accompanied by a glass of Vin Santo and homemade biscotti. Overall the experience was good, and for £65, I was impressed in terms of value for money, considering we were in a city renowned for its expense.

Antipasto at Carluccio's

Risotto at Carluccio's

Spaghetti with clams

Not content with all we had just eaten, we could not avoid the entrancing window at Paul's Patisserie. The window was a veritable mix of every pastry imaginable, and with purse in hand, poised to make my selection, I realised that my status as a greedy guts had been firmly rooted. Consumed later on that evening, I would go as far as to say that it was the best cake I have ever eaten. This prompted a return the following day for a fresh baguette stuffed with ham, olives, cheese and salad. Again the freshness and quality were second to none, and I left one happy customer.

Paul's Patisserie window

Baguette from Paul's Patisserie

I had merely uttered the words, “London isn’t quite as expensive as I thought”, when we stumbled across the super trendy nightspot Sketch, where a French martini, albeit the best one I have ever drank, was just shy of £12. Needless to say my purse wasn’t quite heavy enough to last the pace, so I took my jealous self off to a more modest watering hole.

The high standard of the food in London set the tone for everything else, and as a girl who loves culture, interiors, fashion and of course food, I found myself in a city that offered this in abundance. My attachment to Edinburgh is so strong that I failed to see the appeal of living in the hustle and bustle of our capital city, however, I could see why so many people want to make it happen in ‘the big smoke’. I enjoyed London, and being able to finally say I have been there is a welcome alternative to the usual look of disbelief from seasoned London goers, who find it difficult to understand why I haven’t penetrated their bubble. I wait, in anticipation of a return to the red part of our united flag.