ROSEMARY & SEA SALT FOCACCIA WITH CARAMELISED ONION CHUTNEY

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that home baking has become the new cool thing to do during lockdown, with everyone trying their hand at producing home made delicious treats to stuff our idle faces with to our hearts content, if only to pass the time away; Myself included.

So much so that in the first two weeks of lockdown I had whipped up no less than about six different kinds of breads/cakes/bakes – anything that I could shovel in to my increasingly large belly, or punt off on to Grant as a ‘treat for work’ to make sure that if I was going to get good and plump, I wasn’t going to do it alone.

Baking has become like sickly sweet crack to the masses, we all can’t get enough of this wholesome and gratifying activity – if you can actually find any flour that is, right now there’s more chance of spotting a fucking yeti taking a stroll through the park to get his daily exercise.

Since showing off a few successful recipe attempts on Instagram (because if it didn’t make the grid, did I even really bake it..?), some of you have asked me to share my baking ‘expertise’, and even though I’ve ripped most of them straight from Google, I figured why not. I’ll indulge my smug Delia Smith charade and dish out my recipes like hot cakes. Or bread. Whatever.

While I am far from achieving master baker status (ahem…), I like to think that I know a fair bit about food, stemming from ingesting impressive, if not alarming amounts of the stuff like a pro for many years now, so I suppose it makes sense to take a step from my usual role of reviewing culinary offerings in to proving that I can actually produce something not entirely crap myself.

So here it is, my first recipe blog, for anyone who cares. Starting with a pairing that is delicious, savoury and simple, and one that you’ll find yourself returning to for ‘just one more snack!’ all day long.

NB. I take absolutely no responsibility for the amount of calories that may be ingested subsequent to recreating these recipes. I’ve enough to worry about with the state of my own currently gargantuan arse at the moment, let alone anyone else’s.

ROSEMARY AND SEA SALT FOCCACIA

Preparation time – about 30 minutes if you’re as slow as shit like me.

Cooking time – 1 to 2 hours (plenty of time to have a snack while you wait for it to prove and cook).

Serves – I’ll leave that up to you. There will be no judgement here.

homemade sea salt and rosemary focaccia bread

Ingredients

  • 500g strong white bread flour, aka gold dust, plus extra for dusting. Or gold dusting. (I’ll get my coat…)
  • 2 tsp table salt
  • 1 sachet fast-action dried yeast
  • 80ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling (got to get those calories in)
  • 150-250ml of warm water
  • vegetable oil or oil spray, for oiling
  • fresh rosemary
  • sea salt

Method

  1. Dust a large flat baking tray with flour.
  2. Chuck the flour into a big old bowl, add the salt and yeast, then add the olive oil, plus enough warm water to make a soft but not sticky dough. If it’s sticking to your hands like treacle then you’re doing it wrong. Go easy on the water, adding a bit at a time. If you pour it in faster than the first post lockdown pint down your gullet, it may appear to be fucked, but you can fix this. Gently kneading by way of scooping up the dough, scraping any sticky bits on the surface and slapping it back down again for a few minutes will see the dough begin to become ‘pillowy’ and more manageable. The more water that can be added (the full 250ml is great) then the lighter the bread will be. But it can take some perseverance. Also resist the temptation to add more flour as it will make the dough too heavy.
  3. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until your puny weak arms feel like they’re going to fall off, on a lightly floured work surface. The dough will feel stretchy when pulled. To test if it is ready, make a ball with the dough then, using a well-floured finger, (pardon me vicar…) give it a good poke (no more than a ¼in). If the indent disappears by way of the dough springing back then it is ready to shape. If the indent stays, knead for a few minutes longer.
  4. Shape the dough into an oval and place it on the prepared baking tray. Flatten it out to about 30cm long and 20cm wide. Cover the dough loosely with oiled clingfilm, making sure it is airtight.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.
  6. Leave the dough in a warm place for about an hour, or until it has almost doubled in size. Then flour up that index finger again and poke holes in the dough at regular intervals, about 4cm apart, in rows across the dough, pressing right down to the bottom. Shove some sprigs of the rosemary into the holes. Sprinkle some sea salt over the dough and bung in the top of the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the bread is well risen, pale golden-brown and looks tasty as hell.
  7. Remove from the oven, drizzle with the remaining olive oil in a wanky/artistic manner and leave to cool on the baking tray. (DON’T SHOVE IT IN TO YOUR GOB RIGHT AWAY OR YOU’LL BURN YOUR FUCKING MOUTH OFF YOU GREEDY PIGGY).

*Adapted recipe, originally from BBC Good Food.

CARAMELISED ONION CHUTNEY

Preparation time – 5 minutes

Cooking time – 1 hour 30 (ish)

Serves – who the hell cares, it’s chutney FFS. This made a jars worth for me.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp chilli & garlic oil (or olive oil, or butter – whatever you have to be honest).
  • 3 big fat onions, thinly sliced ( I used white, red would work too)
  • 150g brown sugar – or muscovado if you want to be a prick about it.
  • 50 grams granulated sugar
  • salt
  • 150mls white wine vinegar (would probably be better with red but white was all I had so fuck it)
  • A fat glug of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • Sprinkle of chilli flakes
  • Sprinkle of dried rosemary (technical terms…).

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and soften the onions over a medium-low heat for 25-30 mins stirring regularly, until gloriously gooey and awesome. DO NOT LET THEM BROWN/BURN OR IT WILL TASTE LIKE CRAP. They should reduce by about half.
  2. Chuck in half the sugar, crank up the heat a bit , and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are just starting to colour. Lower the heat, then add the remaining sugar, a pinch of salt and all the other ingredients.
  3. Simmer, until bubbling away nicely on a medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the chutney has reduced and thickened to a dark caramel colour, stirring occasionally to check it isn’t stuck to the bottom of the pan and completely buggered. If it’s turned to tar too soon, add a little water and leave to reduce again. To test if the chutney is ready, drag a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan – it should take a few seconds for the juices to re-cover the bottom of the pan.
  4. Spoon the hot chutney into a jar, let it cool fully then bung in to the fridge.

*Actually my own recipe and not one ripped off of someone else for once.

Slices of home made rosemary and sea salt focaccia with a jar of caramelised onion chutney

So there you have it! Freshly baked delicious crisp focaccia with sweet and sticky chutney. Add a chunk of whatever kind of cheese you fancy (but brie is especially good…) in to the equation and that is one happy little snackcident right there. Also try topping a burger or hotdog with the onion chutney at your next back yard isolation bbq for a bit of a taste sensation. You will not regret it!

Happy home cooking folks, and don’t even think about blaming me if you totally screw any of these up.

See you all on the other side when we’re all ready to apply for the next season of Masterchef.

B x

ABERDEEN RESTAURANT WEEK AT SIBERIA BAR & HOTEL [Ad]

Over the years that I’ve been frequenting Siberia, it has had many incarnations, all of which have at some point or another provided me with somewhere to eat, drink, have one too many a late night, and even work in. I must have eaten there a hundred times, but when I was invited to review the menu for Aberdeen Restaurant Week I knew I’d be trying something new and exciting, because if there’s one thing that this bar does well, it’s constantly bringing fresh new tricks to the table.

If you’re yet to get the low down on what Restaurant week is all about, head to my previous blog post which gives you a full overview HERE.

As one of Aberdeen’s most popular and thriving bars located right in the centre of lively Belmont Street, I’d find it hard to believe that there are too many of you that have never visited before, but just in case, here’s the vibe.

With a laid back, open and airy industrial feel, paired with modern furnishings and quirky-cool features, the atmosphere is always on point here, and the bar staff to match.

This bar and eatery is just as popular on a Saturday night when the vast array of flavoured vodka shots are flowing as it is on a chilled sunny afternoon while friends enjoy cold cocktails on on the outdoor terrace.

They will be offering both a separate two courses for £10 lunch, and three courses for £20 dinner option, and wanting to sample as much as possible, we showed up for dinner on a relaxed Monday evening. With a full menu change only recently having taken place, it was fab to see some brand new off menu items coming together to create this ARW offering.

The Starters…

If there is only going to be one veggie option, veggie haggis and oatcakes is a bloody good one in my books. Although missing the promised shredded beetroot which would have added a nice tang, the dish was still well balanced and tasty, with just the right amount of spice coming through in the kick of an aftertaste. A little whisky sauce would have gone a long way to counteract the natural dryness of the oatcakes, but overall this was a flavoursome starter that I would happily eat all over again.

Predictably Grant went for the Cullen skink, an all time favourite of his – so much so that he considers himself to be quite the connoisseur, so his opinion is usually pretty bang-on when it comes to this Scottish classic.

Adding a twist, the smooth creamy sauce was served solo in jug, ready for pouring over a freshly cooked fillet of smoked haddock which was resting on top of a pile of leeks and potatoes. Listed as being served with popcorn clams (which I mistakenly presumed to be a crunchy wee battered version, no?!) I was informed that the clams were actually blended in to the soup, which seems a little redundant, but didn’t make this starter any less tasty. Having a wee taste of Grant’s, I fully agreed with him with the smokiness and seasoning was absolutely on point, and the fish well cooked, flaky and delicious.

The Mains…

This is the part where I get to be all smug and pretend that I opted for the super healthy choice by going for the Scottish Bhudda Bowl – a generous bowl filled with Scottish pearl barley, root veg, whisky sauce and veg crisps. This certainly was a feast for the eyes and the presentation as with everything else so far was beautiful. Spiralled carrot and crisp beetroot made for great texture while the barley was wholesome and filling.

Expecting creamy whisky sauce which is a fave of mine and would have transformed this from a lunchtime to an evening dish, what came with it was more of a mustard vinaigrette, which for me, a bit like the avocado, didn’t really work with it. It was also a bit of a shame to see the same mini turnips that had featured on the starter, which means that if you are vegetarian, you are being served the same element twice, but overall this was still a flavoursome and healthy dish.

Grant chose the Breaded Lemon Sole, and purely on sight, this is a mouth watering plate. Crispy, golden fish resting on top of the chunkiest handcut chips, served with tangy home made tartare and roasted tomato ketchup, and a pea puree.

Siberia have taken a classic fish and chips and elevated it to restaurant standard with care and attention. For once me and my big gob have absolutely nothing else to say about this, other than that it was absolutely Delicious! I predict that this will without a doubt be the best seller during ARW.

The Desserts…(and cocktails)

Now I’m not normally one for a dessert, but one thing that lures me in every time is a sticky toffee pudding. This homemade pud with lashings of toffee sauce served with a quenelle of salted caramel ice cream hit the spot perfectly. It would have been rude not to go the whole hogg and try out a cocktail too, so for me it was the Mint choc chip to wash it down with and round off the meal perfectly.

Why have an After Eight when you can have an After Eight flavoured cocktail, right?

Although fit to burst after his main, Grant rose to the challenge to bring you guys the most extensive review possible and tried out the Mocha profiteroles with vanilla pod ice-cream. Not being a coffee lover I avoided stealing a bite of this one, but he assures me was sweet with just the right amount of coffee induced bitterness. It was well flavoured and garnished beautifully with micro mint and toffee discs.

Grant chose the Elderflower French 75 (which I absolutely did have a taste of) to accompany his pudding. This fresh and tart cocktail worked perfectly to cleanse the palette at the end of the meal and cut through the sweetness of his cream filled dessert.

Don’t forget that Siberia is one of over forty local Restaurants taking part in the latest instalment of Restaurant Week by offering amazing menus and events throughout the week so to get all the goss and plan your eating journey for the week, head to www.aberdeenrestaurantweek.com.

Have a fabulous restaurant week everyone, and don’t forget to share your food journeys with us throughout the week by using the following hashtags:

#COMEDINEWITH US

#ARW2020

Until next time food lovers!

B x

*This blog post is in paid partnership with Aberdeen Inspired, but as always, all views are 100% honest and my own.

TANGO TURTLE – ABERDEEN’S NEW CARIBBEAN RESTAURANT [ad – guest]

Indian restaurants? We’ve got scores of them. Italians? Molto! Burger joints, chinese venues, gastro pubs – We’re practically overrun with eateries from around the continent here in Aberdeen, but one thing we’ve been completely lacking is a taste of the Caribbean… until now!

Tango Turtle is the latest addition to the city centre, offering up some of the finest homemade Caribbean food, in a super cool and laid back environment. I was really excited to be kindly invited along to check out the menu prior to the opening, and Tango Turtle delivered exactly what i had hoped for from the moment we walked through the door.

Located at 9a Little Belmont street, in the above street level unit – which was formerly Kilau the coffee shop – the newly refurbished venue is a ray of sunshine away from the grey cobbled streets. With bold colours, reggae inspired artwork and hanging plants everywhere you look, the restaurant really does give a cool Caribbean vibe, and forms the perfect setting for hosting an equally colourful menu.

Choosing what to eat was always going to be tough, with delicious sounding veggie and vegan options a plenty, and an abundance of chicken and lamb dishes for the meat eaters. Everything sounded so vibrant and enticing.

The starters…

After much deliberation, we settled on the Aloo Pie, (crispy tattie dumplings with a tamarind chutney), and the Bajan flying fishcakes with jerk aioli. Both arrived looking fresh, crisp and delicious. The Aloo Pie filled with soft spicy potato was perfect for dipping in to that sweet tamarind sauce, which brought just the right amount of heat, leaving the tongue tingling after each bite. The sweet potato based fishcakes were subtly spiced and full of flavour, and perfectly accompanied by that jerk aoili. It was a thumbs up from us on both counts here!

The mains…

If we thought choosing a starter was tough, we were practically stumped when it came to deciding on a main. With options such as curry pots, mixed grills, chargrilled burgers and even ‘Ja-maic’a ‘n’ cheese’, and not to mention a host of tasty sounding sides, it wasn’t going to be an easy task, but we settled on the vegan ‘Rundown’ – a tasty veg packed dish with a sweet coconut milk based sauce for me, and the ‘Fried seafood with jerk aioli and chips’ for the OH.

The rundown was a smash hit, loaded with that sweet tasty sauce and served with rice and peas, a roti bread and fried plantain, this dish was the ultimate comfort food and had me planning a trip to Jamaica inside my head. Having drastically underestimated the portion size, I had also ordered a side of sweet potato fries with extra cheese, which came with cheese fondue and well as fresh melted cheese, leaving me very annoyed at myself for not being able to finish these – yum!

The fried seafood came with a fillet of fried fish, and breaded squid and prawns, which were all juicy and well cooked. The only criticism was that the plate lacked the expected punch that the curried spice marinade had promised, but it was tasty and enjoyable all the same.

The dessert…

Absolutely stuffed to the brim from the previous two courses, we ordered dessert anyway through a combination of sheer gluttony and curiosity, because as soon as I had spotted the ‘Bounty patty with rum caramel’ on the menu, it had become an inevitability.

Served in two patty’s – ideal since we’d asked to share, the patty’s were served piping hot and crisp, straight out of the fryer, which meant that that sweet coconut filled chocolate came oozing out of the centre, and I was hooked. The completely delicious rum flavoured caramel was perfection for dunking them in to. This really was the perfect way to end the meal. We were two extremely happy (and full) diners!

Not only does Tango Turtle boast an impressive and vibrant menu in a fun and welcoming environment, but it also plays host to one of the loveliest hosts. Owner Nadim couldn’t have been more accommodating and sweet, checking on us personally throughout the night to make sure that we were having a great time, and that to me is the extra touch that’ll have customers returning time and time again.

Oh and just when you thought this place couldn’t be more amazing, did I mention that it’s also BYOB? Just pay corkage!

You can check out the full menu and book a table over at the website HERE

Tango Turtle is open now, so get booking right away and let me know what you think!

Until next time,

B x

[ad] ABERDEEN RESTAURANT WEEK AT THE CITY BAR & DINER – A REVIEW

Let’s start with a bit of honesty. When I first heard that the restaurant I had been allocated to review for Restaurant week was The City Bar and Diner, my initial reaction wasn’t exactly one of elation. That’s just that wee place out the back of M&S where grannies convene of a lunchtime to have a good chinwag over a cheese sandwich and a scone, right? Don’t get me wrong, if a cheese sandwich was all that was in store for me I still would have been more than grateful, (and I’d review the crap out of that cheese buttie too) it just might not have lived up to my fine dining aspirations.

I’m delighted to tell you all that I couldn’t have been more wrong. From the first time I laid eyes on the menu through to the moment we walked through the door, the excitement continued to grow; by the looks of things I was in for an undoubtedly more sophisticated experience than first presumed.

It was 7pm on a Saturday night, and this bright, mordern space that we had entered in to was jostling with large groups of happily chattering diners. As plates of delicious looking food started to pass below our very noses in the hands of smiling servers on the way to these hungry diners, I knew we were in for a bit of a treat.

Having pre-ordered our meals, we gladly skipped the part of the evening where I spend half an hour carrying out the agonising task of deciding what to eat, and went straight to ordering a couple of nice cold pints from the incredibly enthusiastic hostess. Despite having been kindly offered a nice window seat, we instead chose a quiet spot where we were close to the bar and could have a cheeky nosey in to the kitchen at the same time, and patiently awaited our first course with increasingly loud rumbles coming from our eager bellies the whole time.

The starters…

Expecting a bit of a wait, which would have been entirely reasonable given the large parties occupying the restaurant, we were pleasantly surprised when barely a few moments later, we were presented with our starters. This made one very hungry gal a very happy one! Knowing that we would inevitably end up sharing each others food in the way that couples typically do, we ordered one of each from the veggie and the fish options.

Four cheese risotto balls & smoked chipotle salsa
Smoked haddock chowder with cheese and leek scones

We were immediately struck by the high-end restaurant quality presentation, this was an absolute ‘wow!’ moment, and long gone were those distant imaginings of tea scones with your gran on a Friday afternoon. We were clearly dealing with creative and passionate chefs with a fine attention to detail, and boy did it all smell good!

The risotto balls were just as they should be, crisp and crunchy on the outside, gooey and oozing with cheese on the inside. The sweet and spicy salsa was the perfect accompaniment to cut through the savoury elements. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that I could eat about ten of these…

The smoked haddock chowder was as good and any fish chowder we had ever tasted. You should know that this is a compliment of the highest order coming from the other half who considers himself a connoisseur of Cullen Skink! Buttery, creamy and brimming with chunks of smoked fish and veg, this flavoursome dish was an absolute winner. I seriously considered coming over all Oliver and asking for some more, but resisted knowing that the main was still to come, and our anticipation was now high.

The mains…

With just the right amount of time to pour over how much we had enjoyed our starters, and of course take to Instagram to share our fabulous first course, the second soon arrived.

Sweet & sour jackfruit and vegetable pot pie with butternut squash hash
Cajun fried haddock with sweetcorn, banana and spiced tartare sauce

Seemingly taking us on a culinary trip around the globe, the main course options sang of South America and the carribean. Once again as non-meat eaters, we went for the veggie and the fish option and shared a bit of each. The presentation as expected was well considered and carried out with finesse.

The generously pie consisted of lovely flakey pastry jam packed with jackfruit and veg in a tangy sweet and sour sauce. I’d never seen a dish like this before, but I have a feeling that I’ll be trying to recreate it at home at some point soon! The only room for improvement lay in that while the artfully stacked squash hash on the side was very pretty to look at, maybe a more savoury side would have provided a nice contrast to the already sweet pie.

Next up was the menu item that we were both most curious about. Cajun fried haddock, with banana?! You’d be forgiven for thinking that this sounds a bit bonkers, because it does, but in this instance the unexpected combination just worked. It was absolutely delicious! Having gladly obliged us in our request to hold the bacon, we were still left more than satisfied with the remaining corn and spiced tartare that adorned the gently spiced juicy fish. Again my only (very minute) quibble would have been that the cajun spicing could have been turned up a notch or two, but I’m a bit of a spice fiend so maybe that’s just me!

The desserts…

Full to the gunnels after our first two amply sized courses, there was a moment of deliberation as to whether we could actually cope with the oncoming puddings, but we powered through in the name of Restaurant week – don’t say we’re not good to you guys!

Peanut butter and honeycomb pie with chocolate sauce
Chocolate brownie sliders with vanilla ice cream and [strawberries!]

As these indulgent looking little beauties were placed in front of us, we instantaneously knew that we were going to give them our best shot. My calorie count for the week was about to go clean out the window, but I didn’t care one tiny bit.

The brownies were tasty and dripping filled with ice cream. We didn’t actually notice that they were topped with strawberries instead of the advertised raspberries as we got stuck in. Personally I’m a warm sticky brownie kind of girl, but this was an enjoyable dessert all the same.

The real start of the show however came all wrapped up in this pretty little peanut butter pie, oh my! Sweet, nutty, creamy and with a lightly spiced base, this was an absolutely heavenly way to round off the meal. This was gratification at it’s finest!

After a night of fabulous service and top restaurant quality food, we were ready to roll ourselves home, already planning our next trip to The City Bar & Diner, feeling extremely glad to have found a great new eatery to add to out list of fave spots to dine out.

Remember that this menu is available until the 21st July, and be sure to book your table quoting restaurant week to avoid disappointment!

You can also head to www.aberdeenrestaurantweek.com to check out the rest of the incredible lineup offering you delicious deals all week long!

Enjoy Restaurant Week guys,

B x