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Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Pimp my Beef

I was in Tesco recently and noticed that a “beef roasting joint” was on special offer for £8, not £8 per kilo but the (unspecified) joint was £8 in total; I think it was silverside and was about 1.8 kilos. For £8.

This triggered a bit of a challenge, I wouldn’t normally buy it, and certainly not roast it but was there anything I could do to funk it up? Well, yes – this:

  • 2 big cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp cumin seed (or 2 if you like)
  • 1 unwaxed orange, zested and juiced (in that order)
  • Fresh or dried chilli to taste
  • Salt & Pepper

Roughly chop the garlic and chuck it into a mortar, if you don’t have one then you’re reading the wrong blog. Smash it up with the cumin, some salt (not too much though) and a big lot of pepper before adding the chilli, grind it again. We’re making a paste here so don’t worry about it being too dry.

Add the orange zest and grind for the last time, once you have the paste, add the orange juice and mix well, add a little rapeseed oil if it looks too dry (but remember this is a paste, not a marinade).

Score the beef all over with a sharp knife, not too deep – a couple of millimetres at most, and place in a foodbag; pour the marinade in and leave to soak for a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 24 hours in the fridge.

And then? For best results barbecue for 7 to 10 minutes on each side and then close the BBQ lid and roast for 30/40 minutes depending on the size of the joint or griddle/sear in a pan for a similar time before chucking in a 160 degree oven for 40 minutes – though increase that if have a big joint or you like wrecking your beef by serving it anyway other than rare

Rest for a minimum of 15 minutes and serve with a roasted veg cous cous (surely you don’t need a recipe for that, email if so) and a roasted tomato and red pepper salsa to enjoy...

Review - The Vinter's Rooms

The Vintner’s Rooms have been an Edinburgh institution since 1985, sitting in a stunning building underneath the Malt Whisky Society and pre-dating the Leith culinary renaissance and Restaurant Martin Wishart.


Recently Silvio Praino has bought into the business, bringing a wealth of wine expertise and arguably the best host in Edinburgh to the party. The website describes the food as “Mediterranean Cuisine” and I wonder if Silvio has brought any Italian influence to bear in the kitchen as well..

And so, to the food – Silvio suggested we place ourselves in his hands (I’m not sure if this was standard practice, our companions know Silvio). Hmm, just counted the owner’s name 4 times in 3 sentences, perhaps time to stop using it.

We kicked off with a Parsnip Velouté topped with a brunoise of veg; I do like veloutés but parsnip was a poor choice – it gave a grainy texture and not much to tantalise the palate. It was a bit under seasoned too.

Then came our starter of Sea Trout, served just seared so mostly rare and sauced with a reduced soy dressing, the tout was ordinary and the dressing needed to be reduced more and then spiked with caster sugar and lime juice (or ponzu if you really want to be authentic).

What followed was tortellini of braised green lentils with sautéed wild mushrooms on the side, an entirely misconceived dish – both lentils and pasta need some moisture to accompany them and this sauce-less offering was bland to the extreme. The mushrooms were lovely however, if only the tortellini had been stuffed with them and served with a generous slick of wine/butter sauce (stick some lentils in that if you really want).

Then the ladies were served Monkfish (not too well received) and the gents Veal; the veal was well sourced and cooked (though would have benefitted from a sprinkling of salt) and was sauced well but was accompanied by a bizarre concoction of pommes savoyarde (I think) served in a pie casing. Far too dry and ruined the tatties.

By now the ladies passed on desert and the gents enjoyed the cheese; this was by far the best course – well chosen manchego, pecorino (with chilli) and a great blue whose name I forget. Lovely, and the wines Silvio chose were perfect compliments.

Talking of the wine, Silvio chose a cracking Chilean Tarrango and an amazing Montepulciano (far better a MonteP’ than we’re used to); great choices from an amazing list.

So, conclusions? A crashing disappointment. Remember we were there on “friend” prices, we were charged only £10 per head for the first two courses, but we were also charged £28 each for the main – that’s more than Martin Wishart charges for some of his dishes and this certainly isn’t anywhere near his Michelin starred standard. This review feels a bit wrong, we were there as guests of friends of the owner yet we still felt overcharged for what we had.

I want to say nice things about the Vintners Rooms, Silvio is a lovely chap and great host and the building is stunning (the wine and whisky lists are beyond amazing with some real treasures for those who ask – and can pay – for them); but the food is just pants. Really, I can do better for a dinner party and as there was only 1 other table in the restaurant, I know I’ve cooked better and for more.

Sad really; we so wanted to like this and I’d love to help Silvio. Perhaps I could recommend a good Chef... Here’s a thought, isn’t Sean Kelly looking for a new role? Employ him and I’ll be there every other week.

Chez Roux at Greywalls

So, I’d been looking forward to visiting the new restaurant at Greywalls Hotel in Gullane, East Lothian, since it was announced a few months ago that it was going to be run by Albert Roux under his “Chez Roux” operation; I’d never been fully sold on Greywalls as a dining venue, it’s a truly stunning building but I’d always found both the food and service were just too dated to be enjoyable.


So the arrival of Albert could only help improve things, yes? Well, yes and no.

To start with the food was pretty good for the price - £245 or so for 4 of us, and that included £120 of wine and an automatic 10% service charge (I don’t like these but at least it’s not the more usual 12.5%) so we’re coming out at roughly £25 per head – that’s less than a main course elsewhere.

We kicked off with Crab Tian, Pike Quenelle and Pea Velouté with a Poached Egg; the Crab was pronounced “sublime” and from the little I got to try, it certainly was pretty nice, the Pike was nice but the recipient looked jealously at the Crab and the Velouté had good, clean flavours which could only have benefited from more confident seasoning.

Next along was Seabass for the ladies and Guinea Fowl for the gents, both cracking and certainly no seasoning issues.

And then we finished with the Omelette Rothschild and Crème Brulée; I have to admit that I wasn’t taken with the famed omelette, nothing wrong with the execution but the sweet, soft, egg-white texture just isn’t to my palate. The Crème Brulée was quickly demolished so must have been good.

So if the food was good, why isn’t this an improvement? It’s taken me a while to puzzle this one out, but I’ve concluded it was a mismatch between the styles of food and service; the food is really well executed bistro grub (and priced accordingly) but the service is stiltedly formal – the Velouté arrived in a copper pan and was poured over the egg and broad beans in the soup plate by a waiter (nice touch in a high-end joint but the effect’s lost slightly when the waiter splashes it over the rim). The staff are dressed in a throwback to the ‘80’s and the other diners are dolled up to the nines, suitable for Le Gavroche perhaps but a bistro? All in it made for a slightly uncomfortable atmosphere.

So I guess Dr Ross prescribes a more relaxed attitude, and perhaps a few more lower priced wines on the list; but will I go back? Certainly – it’s on my doorstep, cheaper than Ducks at Kilspindie and far better.