Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Festive Sweet - Snowball Meringue Mountain


Christmas Snowball Meringue Mountain

Here's a treat for a snowy winter morning
- a mound of crisp meringues sandwiched together with caramel cream. You can make your own dulce de lecce using milk or condensed milk, or buy a good quality one to save time.

For the meringues

4 free range egg whites, at room temperature
250g unrefined caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
1 tsp good quality vanilla paste, extract or seeds from one vanilla pod

For the filling
250 ml double cream
3 tablespoons of dulce de lecce

Preheat the oven to 120 centigrade
In a stand mixer with whisk attachment or with a hand electric mixer, combine the egg whites, vanilla and vinegar.
Whisk to soft peaks, then gradually add the sugar in a slow but stready stream until all the sugar is gone. At this stage you should have a thick, glossy meringue which will hold if held upside down. Transfer to a piping bag, and pipe small meringues onto non-stick baking trays (or use silicon paper on a tray) Dry out the meringues in the oven for 60 minutes, then turn the oven off with the door ajar until the meringues are cold.
Whisk the cream until it just holds on the whisk, then fold in the dulce de lecce
Sandwich the meringues together and stack into a Christmassy snow mountain!

Recipe created by James, head chef @ The Elemental Kitchen.

Festive Recipe - Mulled Pears


Mulled Pears
Here's a great way to celebrate the wonderful varieties of pears we have in this country at this time of year - with a little nod to Christmas to help get us in the festive mood!

These are fantastic served with creme fraiche or ice cream, and maybe even a piece of shortbread if you want to be really indulgent.

Serves 5

5 pears, variety of your choice
750 ml (1 bottle) red wine
750 ml water
350 ml unrefined caster sugar
the peel of 1 medium orange, in strips
4 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
1 tablespoon redcurrant jelly


First, prepare the syrup to poach the pears. In a pan large enough to snugly fit the fruit, combine the wine, sugar, peel and spices.
Gently bring to a simmer, while you peel the pears and core (I like to use a melon baller to remove the core neatly). As you peel each one, add to the syrup.
Once all the pears are in the pan, add enough water to just cover them.
Cover these with a circle of greaseproof paper, and simmer gently until cooked (the point of a skewer will go through the pear). How long this will take depends on the size and ripeness of the pears, but usually around 20 minutes is enough.
Once cooked. leave to cool in the syrup until cold.
When cooled, remove the pears, strain the syrup and boil until reduced by half - or until the flavours are as intense as you like. Whisk in the jelly until it dissolves, and then leave to cool.
To serve, simply dish up the cold pears, top with the mulled wine syrup, and add the accompaniment of your choice.

Recipe created by James, head chef @ The Elemental Kitchen for the award-winning
Ardross Farm Shop, East Neuk of Fife.

Festive Giving...


"If you knew what I know about the power of giving,
you would not let a single meal pass
without sharing it in some way".
- The Buddah

Once again, this Christmas, The Elemental Kitchen will be showing our gratitude for the abundance of delicious food & good company we'll be enjoying amidst the natural beauty of the Scottish Highlands by helping the homeless via Street Smart. The Elemental Kitchen is donating 25% of our Chef & Host fee on Christmas Day to the initiative, which provides invaluable support to our nation's homeless people. Restaurants, chefs and their patrons all over Britain are also taking part by adding a voluntary £1 contribution to table bills at the end of each meal. You can go to the Street Smart website to find your nearest Street Smart restaurant. Alternatively, like us, you can make a donation online.

Monday, 5 December 2011

What inspired 'The Elemental Kitchen'?


We've been asked the question a few times - what's behind your name? So we figured it's time to answer here...and like all delicious and lovely things, even our name was created naturally...

You see, here at The Elemental Kitchen we love to celebrate the intimate connection between ingredients we source from nature's elements - rivers, mountains, skies, oceans and fields that you'll typically find just beyond our kitchen window - and the dishes we sizzle up and serve at your dining table.

The Elemental Kitchen - Fine Food From Land & Sea

Find out more about us and our unique approach to bespoke hospitality over at www.elementalkitchen.co.uk

Thursday, 10 November 2011

East Neuk Elemental Experience...

The festive season is almost here and 2012 is just around the corner! We're celebrating by offering some fabulous Elemental Experiences from The Elemental Kitchen, including a special winter package, exclusively available around our stunning coastal base, the East Neuk of Fife.

Retreat to the comfort of your own home this winter, for your very own foodie's experience. We're bringing you this exclusive & limited introduction to The Elemental Kitchen, from January to March. Ideal for all food lovers - beginners, intermediate and more experienced home cooks.

Find out more about our
East Neuk Elemental Experience and our other packages including The Chef's Table, Cooking On Ice and The E-Kitchen at Elemental Experiences.


Recipe - Warming Winter Soup


Slow Roast Garlic & Butternut Squash Soup
As the winter draws in and the winds get colder, this is a wonderful, warming "welcome home" soup. Don't worry about the quantity of garlic; when roasted it loses pungency and becomes wonderfully sweet, adding real depth of character to the flavour of the soup. You can substitute pumpkin or another type of squash - there are lots of lovely varieties!

Serves 4

1 large butternut squash
1 onion
1 bulb of garlic
15ml white wine vinegar
a sprig of fresh thyme
400g chopped tomatoes
600 ml chicken or vegetable stock
olive oil for roasting
salt and pepper to season

Preheat the oven to 180 centigrade

Peel the squash, cut in half and scoop out the seeds. Chop the squash into wedges, half the wedges and place in a roasting tray. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper

Holding the base of the garlic bulb, turn it on one side and, using a sharp knife, cut the top of the bulb off so that the tip of each garlic clove is visible. Place on a square of tinfoil, drizzle the exposed cloves with olive oil, then bring up the corners of the foil and make a parcel, loose enough for some air to circulate around the garlic.

Place the tinfoil garlic parcel in the roasting tin with the squash and cook in the oven for about 40-50 minutes, or until the squash is cooked through and starting to caramelise.

While the squash is in the oven, finely chop the onion and sweat in a little olive oil until soft, five to ten minutes. Strip the thyme leaves from the woody stalks and add to the onions, then add the vinegar, tomatoes and stock, and bring to a gentle simmer.

When the squash is cooked, add to the pan. Carefully unwrap the hot garlic bulb and then, holding the base, squeeze the soft roasted garlic cloves out of their papery skins and straight into the soup.

Liquidise the soup, taste and add salt and pepper. If it is too thick, add a little water or stock and blend again, before serving in warm bowls. If your're feeling decadent, a splash of double cream adds a lovely richness.


Recipe created by James, head chef @ The Elemental Kitchen for the award-winning
Ardross Farm Shop, East Neuk of Fife.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Smoked Signals...





One of our awesome suppliers - The East Pier Smokehouse - has been nominated for a Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award in their food category. The East Pier Smokehouse couldn't actually be more local to us - it's just a stones-throw from our base, right on the harbour in St Monans. We've just voted and wish The East Pier Smokehouse lots of luck! Meanwhile, we highly recommend the smoked dark chocolate...with a warming glass of whisky!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Recipe - Pickled Pears with Strathdon Blue

Blue cheese makes a great savoury accompaniment to the fantastic varieties of pears appearing at this time of year. Strathdon Blue is favourite of mine - a wonderfully creamy Scottish blue which is mild and creamy enough to appeal to all - even doubters of the merits of blue cheese. I like to serve the cheese with lightly pickled pears as a starter - a nice marriage as the sweetness of the pear and sour hit of the pickling liquor (which can double as a dressing) balances out the richness of the cheese. You can vary this recipe to suit your taste, so just go with what you like - if you prefer a stronger cheese like Dunsyre or Lanark Blue, then go with that; you can vary the sweet / sour balance of the pickled pears, too, to suit yourself.

Pickled Pears with Strathdon Blue

To serve 4 as a starter

750ml water
125g caster sugar
150ml red or white wine vinegar
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
6 peppercorns
1 pinch dried chili flakes
2 large pears, or four small
200g Strathdon, Dunsyre or Lanark Blue cheese

salad leaves, to garnish
toasted pine nuts, to garnish (optional)

In a small high sided pan that will take the pears in one layer, make a sour sugar syrup by dissolving the caster sugar with the water, vinegar and aromatics.
Taste the syrup,
and add more vinegar or sugar if you want a sweeter or more sour flavour imparted to the pears. Ideally, we want to taste the vinegar but still have a nice sweet / sour flavour.
Let it come to a simmer while you peel and core the pears (I use a melon baller to take out the core of the pear). As you peel them, drop the pears in the water so they don't discolour. When you've finished, cover with a circle of baking paper - to help keep the pears submerged while they cook.
Gently simmer
until a skewer goes through the flesh - the time it takes varies.....but twenty to thirty minutes is usual. Just check them until done, and when they are, switch off the heat and leave them to cool in the liquor.
When the pears are cold,
they're ready to serve. From here on in, this dish is just about assembly.
If the pears are large, halve them and fan them out, if small, serve one per person.
Serve atop a slice of cheese, or crumble the cheese over the pear, if you prefer.
Some crunch for textural contrast is nice - toasted pine nuts are a good option if you have some.
Drizzle some poaching liquid around; dress with a few salad leaves and enjoy.

Recipe created by James, head chef @ The Elemental Kitchen for the award-winning
Ardross Farm Shop, East Neuk of Fife.

Fall for Fort Augustus...

Oh, we do like to live beside the seaside.....but, as autumn leaves begin to fall, we also really appreciate a trip inland and north to the mountains and forests of the Scottish Highlands. The area around Loch Ness & Fort Augustus is particularly splendid, which is why we were glad to return for another Elemental Kitchen assignment this year. While we do spend most of the time creating delicious breakfasts, lunches & dinners for our clients, it's also a pleasure to get out and about to enjoy the golden autumn hues, before finding somewhere cosy to relax in the afternoon. So, our latest recommendation is The Lock Inn, right next to the canal locks at pretty Fort Augustus. Its solid wooden tables, real log fire, impressive whiskey collection & hearty pub lunches, make this an idyllic stop-off during a highland excursion.

Our latest assignment was organised via holiday agent, George Goldsmith.

Image via here

Monday, 26 September 2011

Delicious New Menus...


Asparagus Terrine
with tomato salad & pesto

Loin of Wild Highland Venison
port-pickled red cabbage, game sauce with bitter chocolate


Iced Heather Honey Parfait
with toasted oat crumble, raspberries & whisky syrup


Our Chef - James - has just created a new selection of mouth-watering sample menus! Take a peek here - Menus @ The Elemental Kitchen . You can also view the recipes for some of these dishes by scrolling through earlier blogs. Bon Apetit!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Recipe - Port Pickled Cabbage

This rich, satisfying cabbage dish with sweet and sour notes makes a wonderful accompaniment to game at this time of year - serve as a great base for venison, grouse, partridge or wild duck. You can vary the sharp - sweet balance according to taste, just adjust the sugar and vinegar to suit. This can be prepared in advance and warmed through just before serving, a great help if you have guests for dinner.

Ingredients

1 medium red cabbage
100g butter
50g demerera sugar
225ml red wine
225ml port
125ml wine vinegar
4 juniper berries, lightly crushed
4 star anise, whole
zest of 1/2 an orange, in strips
salt and pepper

Shred the cabbage as finely as possible - using the slicing attachment of a food processor gives good results and saves time, if you have one.
In a heavy based casserole pan, gently melt the butter.
Add the cabbage and coat in the butter, turning the cabbage over a medium heat until the cabbage begins to sizzle.
Add the demerera sugar, the juniper berries, star anise and orange peel and stir, before adding the wine, wine vinegar and port.
Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.
Bring to the boil, then turn down to a very gentle simmer and cook for two to three hours. At this stage, the liquid will have reduced and the cabbage will be a dark, rich red colour.
Taste, and adjust seasoning to taste, before serving with your chosen accompaniment - pictured here with loin of venison.

Recipe created by James, head chef @ The Elemental Kitchen for the award-winning
Ardross Farm Shop, East Neuk of Fife.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Vows & Vintage...

Here at The Elemental Kitchen we focus on providing bespoke hospitality for groups of 25 or fewer, so we don't often help to create bigger events - like weddings. However, we do make the occasional exception for those that capture our imagination! Last year we created a Wild Highland Wedding at a mountain bothy in the foothills of the Cairngorms...

This weekend we were honoured to provide the bespoke informal banquet & front-of-house hosting for the wedding of a local couple. As the pair described their vision of their perfect day - a down to earth ceremony in their own garden followed by a vintage, eco-friendly gathering at their village hall for family and friends, we knew this was our kind of celebration! Heather & Rich - congratulations, we wish you every happiness for the future. Also, thank you so much for inviting us to join you on your special day. It really was perfectly lovely!

The Menu...

Our Chef, James, designed a delicious 3-course summer buffet, created with ingredients sourced from around the East Neuk and Scotland - free range chicken caesar salad, Crail crab with pickled cucumber & sweet chilli syrup, goats cheese with grapefruit and beetroot, honey & thyme dressing. Slow roasted beef, smoked beef and free range honey roasted ham soured from Penmans of Crail. Hot smoked salmon sourced from Wilsons fish merchant in St Monans. Salads of coleslaw with beetroot; shaved fennel & asparagus with pine nuts; potato with broadbeans, peas, mint and mustard dressing; puy lentils with flat-leaf parsley, feta, lemon and herbs. Desserts of crannachan, strawberry pavlova and chocolate pots. We sourced fruit and vegetables from our local farm shop at Ardross.

Wedding Planning & Decor...

For a group of 100 guests, we sourced all necessary tables, tablecloths, kitchen equipment crockery, cutlery and glassware from John Brown Cater Hire. Meanwhile, the bride, groom, family and friends provided the stunning eco-friendly decor - vintage napkins, the pretty bunting was handmade from vintage linens, the favours were home-made edible hearts, candles were created using vintage cups & saucers and the flowers were all gifted from friend's gardens or picked from the bride & groom's own garden.

The Team - Thank You!

The Elemental Kitchen was assisted on the evening by a fabulous team - F.O.H Host Angie Bruce, alongside Abbie & Scott from The Cocoa Tree Cafe in Pittenweem and last but most certainly not least, Chef Amy McKinney. Again, thank you so much for your efficient hard work, good humour and service with a smile!

A Note from The Bride & Groom...

"Vicky & James, I cant tell you how happy we were with ALL the service you provided. The food was just amazing. Comments about the food from guests was that 'it was the best wedding food we ever tasted', 'variety and standard were exceptional', 'the puddings were to die for, those meringues - wow - vanilla pods in them?'. Just beautiful. Thanks so much also for organising the pies and cheese for us - in the end it would have been so hard to do it ourselves. Vicky you were a fantastic front of house - everything I thought ran so smoothly and the best thing for me was I totally trusted you had it under control and it was one thing I just wasn't even thinking about, I was so unconcerned. Your team were great - hard working, friendly and nice to have around. We are just so happy that you were able to provide us with such a great service all round and that everyone enjoyed the food - there was not one single thing that I wasn't happy with. We love your ethos with food it just fitted so well with ours. I know doing big events isn't your normal line of business but I can't even express how wonderful the whole operation was! Such a massive thanks!"

Heather & Richard :)

Click here to view more client testimonials for The Elemental Kitchen.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Recipe: Tomato & Ricotta Tart


Tomato & Ricotta Tart

This is a real summer dish, good hot or cold, which is perfect for a light lunch, a picnic or as an accompaniment to a barbecue. As it is simple, the key to the flavour of this simple tart is to use really good tomatoes - this is all about letting the main ingredient sing.

2 or 3 large tomatoes
200g sheet of puff pastry
250g ricotta cheese
2 eggs
100ml double cream
70g parmesan, grated
salt & pepper to taste
basil leaves and olive oil to finish

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade

In a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, eggs, cream and parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside in the fridge while you prepare the tomatoes and the pastry.

Slice the tomatoes as finely as you can. There is no need to peel or de-seed them.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment, then lay out the circle of pastry (if you are rolling the pastry, it should be about the width of a pound coin, and the size of a large dinner plate)

Lightly score a border around the circumference of the tart, approximately 2cm in from the edge - cut into, but not through, the pastry

Evenly spoon the cheese and egg mix over the pastry, up to the score mark, then lay on the tomatoes in a single layer until you have covered the surface of the cheese mixture.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes until the pastry is crispy and the ricotta mix is set

Just before serving, drizzle with good quality oil and scatter over some torn basil leaves


Recipe created by James, head chef @ The Elemental Kitchen for the award-winning
Ardross Farm Shop, East Neuk of Fife.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Hand Dived & Delicious...


While on our assignment at Knock House on The Isle of Mull, we were very lucky to benefit from the ethics and expertise of Guy Grieve of The Ethical Shellfish Company. We highlighted the company's excellent work as part of our feature We're Hooked over at our sister blog Postcards From The Coast a couple of months ago. Guy's adventures in 'wild gourmet' are well-documented and it's little wonder that he's built up a loyal client base at michelin-starred restaurants throughout the UK. However, thanks to mutual associates, we were able to secure an order and he was kind enough to personally deliver some of the best scallops we've ever encountered! Keep up the amazing work!

Magical Mull....

We've just enjoyed a fabulous few days on assignment with The Elemental Kitchen at one of our favourite country houses, on the magical Isle of Mull. Here's a snapshot of our week....

Statuesque Knock House

Knock House is nestled in the foothills of
the island's munro on Benmore Estate

The house is surrounded by lawns
and includes a children's
play area within the trees

Elegant dining room

From the oven -
just baked soda bread

The Elemental Kitchen's Chef - James -
in the beautifully equipped kitchen

Summer Starter - Hot Smoked Salmon

Our retro VW transporter in the back courtyard

The water is just a few minutes walks from the
house - where the estate's boat awaits guests for
sea-fishing and island excursions

Front-of-House - host Vicky takes time out...

Hello Bambi - a confident deer stops to look
as we point & shoot...with the camera!


Find out what our clients had to say about us at our page of Testimonials.

You can discover more about a holiday at Knock House via our friends at exclusive property & sporting agents George Goldsmith.

For more on our bespoke hospitality, go to The Elemental Kitchen.

For our guide to a mini-break in the island's capital Tobermory, go to our 'Island Getaway' feature over at Postcards From The Coast.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Bon Apetit - Why We Adore Dining A La Francaise...

The Elemental Kitchen has just returned from our beautiful assignment in Corsica - an island floating in the mediterranean, south of France. Lush green mountains, sparkling clear waters, perfect sandy beaches and of course, delicious fresh produce - it's a place that ignites the culinary imagination! When we return from France - especially Corsica - we are always so inspired by their approach to dining. Here are our Top 5 secret ingredients for celebrating the simple pleasure of dining, Corsican-style...

Chef James in our client's kitchen

A few steps away - the private beach

Host Vicky serves lunch...

Secret Ingredient 1 - Simplicity


Tomato & Ricotta Tart

Our French clients love unpretentious, simple & delicious dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They shun elaborate sauces and ostentatious presentation in favour of beautiful colours and flavours that need no embellishment.

Secret Ingredient 2 - Local & Seasonal

The family team at Chez Eva

Corsica's answer to Sainsburys

The fig tree in our client's garden

Local markets provide the very best of ingredients - and they're proud to showcase their truly local produce! What can't be picked from our client's own kitchen garden (see Figs above - which make an awesome ice-cream ) can be sourced from genuine and helpful family markets like Chez Eva - lemons and olive oil, fruit and vegetables, casks of Corsican wines, bread, charcuterie and oh, the fromage....

Secret Ingredient 3 - Sense of Occasion

Aperitif taken on the ocean-front veranda

Table design by EK featuring flowers
from the client's own garden

Every dining experience is embraced with a sense of occasion. Of course, you might expect clients on holiday to make a little extra effort, but it seems eating on the run is just not the done thing, regardless of how rushed you might be. In the airport's fast-food cafe, I observed a couple sit down with napkins and wine, approaching their instant lasagne meal with the same respect one might give fine cuisine. Each morning, even the villa's busy housekeeper took time to sit down at a table to enjoy the fresh fruit served for breakfast. Breakfast and lunch were always taken as a family, at the table. Meanwhile, the evening meal provides an excuse for a little extra attention to detail. Everyone takes time out - just a few minutes - to dress for dinner. Aperitif and canapes allow guests to relax into the occasion. Napkins, flowers and candles create the perfect ambiance for alfresco dining.

Secret Ingredient 4 - Balanced & Light

Salad of Corsican goats cheese, beetroot and grapefruit with basil

I carried a watermelon? Fresh from the local market

Our French clients love the best of ingredients - cheese & olive oil, coffee & wine, breads, pastry & chocolate. They also love to immerse themselves in the ritual of aperitif & canapes, followed by entree, main course and dessert. How do they do it and remain so svelte? The secret is simple - I was once told by a French lady, "I pick my pleasures". It's rare to see crisps and chocolate bars in a French pantry. Instead, at meal times, no delicious ingredient is omitted and it's rare to see anyone pass on dessert - each mouthful is slowly savoured and each course is enjoyed in moderation.

Secret Ingredient 5 - Relaxed

Lighting candles & opening wine

Comfy seats & alfresco fire for this informal banquet

Relaxed vibe - even chef had time out to enjoy the island...

The rituals of dressing for dinner, good napkins, candles and flowers are contrasted and complimented by an informal approach to the actual dining experience. The French really know how to embrace a light-hearted dinner party - young children play in the garden as adults linger over their meal, laughing and enjoying the simple pleasures of delicious food & wine, good company and natural beauty, as the sun lingers in its descent over the mediterranean ocean...

"Thank you a lot for spoiling us so much...
it's always a pleasure when you're with us...

and I don't speak only about the incredible food,
the beautiful decorated tables and the great service!!!!"
- International Client, Corsica

Find out more about bespoke hospitality from The Elemental Kitchen at www.elementalkitchen.co.uk

PS. It wasn't all slaving over a hot stove, check out our mini-guide to the south of Corsica over at our sister blog, Postcards From The Coast.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Bonjour...


We're on assignment in Corsica! Check out a few quick pics of the stunning beachside location, markets and beautfiul surroundings via my iphone over at our facebook page...oh...and don't forget to 'like' us if you please! Merci Beaucoup!

Give us the thumbs up by clicking the 'like' button on The Elemental Kitchen @ Facebook.

Find out more about us at our main website - www.elementalkitchen.co.uk