Thursday, 27 January 2011

The Food of Love...

This Valentines Weekend, The Elemental Kitchen is cuddling up with the very lovely folks at The Cocoa Tree Cafe & Chocolate Shop to bring you a romantic dinner (with live music) at their gorgeous cafe on the high street, Pittenweem, on Saturday 12th February! Of course, sizzling secrets are at the heart of Valentines Day so we're adding the The Elemental of Surprise to our menu, created by The Elemental Kitchen chef, James Lowe. Ok, we'll reveal just a little more.... the menu is inspired by our mutual passion for...chocolate! To reserve your place at this evening of romantic decadence, contact The Cocoa Tree on 01333 311495.
Love Chocolate image via here

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Always serve from the...?

Here at The Elemental Kitchen, we like to balance attentive, unobtrusive service with a relaxed ambience. While this means that we don't always observe the most extreme formalities, we do adore proper etiquette. We believe that it's simply the formalisation and combination of good manners, practicality and consideration. In particular, in a dining room setting, the observation of etiquette helps to create a real sense of occasion.

So, James and I are delighted with the standards being set on the TV show, 'Service'. The host, celebrated chef Michel Roux Jr, is well-mannered, patient and gracious - leading by example. The show demonstrates to both his young candidates and viewers the great differences between service and servitude, highlighting the honourable role of offering genuine, caring hospitality in any setting. One small point though. I was surprised to hear Michel telling his front-of-house candidates to always serve from the.... right! Some respondents to Michel Roux's blog about the BBC TV Show 'Service' - including butlers and classically trained waitrers - were appalled to hear these instructions, having been taught 'serve from the left, clear from the right'. Have they been wrong? Did Michel make a mistake? For many, this may not be one of life's most pressing issues - a mere trifle, if you will - but as demonstrated in the show, in the world of hospitality attention to detail is everything. So, when faced with making a potential faux pas in the dining room, what to do?

Well, some time ago The Elemental Kitchen was given this invaluable and sensible piece of advice from a michelin starred maitre'd and it's relevant to any host in a restaurant or at home. Ultimately, one should always attempt to cause the least inconvenience to the diner. For me, this seems to be the perfect balance between common sense and good old-fashioned (or new-fashioned) etiquette. After all, etiquette is ultimately about being polite and considerate, so just go with the flow, relax and enjoy looking after your guests. How will I serve in the future? Join us for dinner and find out...

Vicky - Host @ The Elemental Kitchen

PS. A few days after I posted my comments here and at Michel Roux's BBC blog, he kindly responded with these thoughts, "the only steadfast rule when it comes to serving is to be as unobtrusive as possible, and to serve and clear with style, elegance and aplomb." So glad that we're in agreement!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Stop Press: Elemental Media...

double click on the article to view in full size

Following The Elemental Kitchen collaboration with Ardross Farm Shop to create a delicious, modern twist on a Burns Supper, we're very pleased to say that our recipe by our chef, James, has been published in The Courier Newspaper and the recipe is also featured in Saturday's Press & Journal (Sat 22 Jan). On the web, you can see posts at Scotland of Food & Drink and at the St Andrews Partnership - Visit St Andrews.

EK @ Facebook...

The Elemental Kitchen has just created its very own Facebook page. If you're a fan of facebook, please go to The Elemental Kitchen @ Facebook to give us the thumbs up!

Burns Supper - A 21st century twist...

robert burns, "great chieftain o' the puddin' race' - address to a haggis

haggis croutons - ready for the oven

ingredients - ardross farm shop, elie

We've teamed up with the Ardross Farm Shop, Elie to bring you a deliciously modern take on the traditional Burns Supper. Our chef, James, at The Elemental Kitchen has created this recipe by celebrating the award winning local produce available from the Ardross Farm Shop.

Roast chicken with crispy haggis crouton, neep fondant and mustard sauce

Serves 4

Preheat oven to 220 celcius

For the fondants

1 large whole turnip
1 tbsp groundnut oil
500 ml chicken stock
60g butter, cut into cubes

For the haggis croutons

4 slices of good quality haggis from your butcher
4 tablespoons of flour
2 eggs, beaten
4 slices of bread
2-3 stalks of fresh thyme
1 small handful of fresh parsley
groundnut oil, for frying

For the chicken

2 large chicken breasts, skin on if possible
olive oil for frying
salt and pepper

For the sauce

3-4 shallots
15g butter
salt and pepper to taste
30 ml madeira
100 ml chicken stock
100 ml double cream
1 tsp dijon or wholegrain mustard
1 squeeze of fresh lemon, to taste

This takes the elements of a burns supper and approaches the ingredients in a different way to give an alternative to the traditional 'haggis neeps and tatties' while retaining the core of what makes it such a fine meal. In fact, there are no 'tatties' here, the neep being treated like potato in the form of a rich, buttery fondant and served with a crispy haggis 'cake'. Try and source haggis from your local butcher, if possible in sliced form rather than the traditional shape, as it is easier to deal with for this recipe.

This dish is really just about assembly of the four main elements, so I will describe them separately. You can prepare the haggis in advance of guests arriving, ready to finish while the chicken is cooking. The sauce can also be made in advance and reheated when needed.

For the neep fondants, peel the turnip and cut into thick slices - one per person, the width of your thumb. Take a pastry cutter and stamp out discs approximately 2 inches in diameter. Heat a pan that will take the fondants in a single layer, add the tablespoon of groundnut oil, and add the neep discs. Cook without turning until they colour, then flip over and just cover with the chicken stock - you may not need it all, depending on the space in the pan. Add cubes of butter to the pan, about 15g for each portion. As the stock and butter heat, the neep will cook and absorb the liquor. When halfway down the side of the discs, turn them again, and continue to cook until the liquid is absorbed and they begin to colour in the remaining butter. When done, they should be soft on the inside, and beautifullly caramelised on the outside. This will take 30 minutes, or thereabouts. You may not need to season, depending on the saltiness of your stock, or if you used salted butter.

For the haggis 'croutons', first, make the breadcrumb coating by blitzing the bread in a food processor with the handful of fresh parsley and thyme leaves. Slice the refrigerated haggis, (if not pre-sliced) in the same manner as the fondants above, but slightly thinner. Stamp discs from the slices with a pastry cutter. Dust with the flour, then dip in beaten egg before dousing in the breadcrumbs. Refrigerate until needed, then pan fry the cakes in a little groundnut oil, until coloured evenly, before finishing in a hot oven until the haggis is cooked through and the coating crisp - this will take about ten minutes.

Generously season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Sear skin side down in a hot pan with a little olive oil. When golden brown, flip over and and transfer to the preheated oven to cook through - this will take anything from fifteen to twenty minutes depending on size. When done, they will feel springy and firm to the touch and a skewer inserted at the thickest point will give clear juices - if there are traces of pink, the meat is not done. Rest in a warm place until ready to serve. I'd suggest that one chicken breast will serve two people for this recipe, as the rest of the dish is quite rich.

For the mustard sauce, sweat finely chopped shallots in a little butter, salt and pepper until soft but not coloured, then deglaze the pan with the madeira. Once reduced to a syrup over a high heat, add half a cup of chicken stock with half a cup of double cream and a teaspoon of dijon or wholegrain mustard, and boil until reduced and thickened - the sauce will coat the back of a spoon when ready. Taste and season with salt, pepper and lemon as required.

To serve, place the warm fondant on the plate with a haggis cake on top; slice the chicken and fan around the base, before drizzling the sauce around. Serve with shredded winter greens.

Selkirk Grace
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
- Robert Burns

Thursday, 6 January 2011

EK teams up with Ardross Farm Shop

We are delighted to confirm that in 2011, The Elemental Kitchen is collaborating with Ardross Farm Shop, Elie on an exciting new project! Together, we'll be bringing you delicious recipes and menus, using wonderful local (East Neuk) produce. We are already huge fans of Ardross Farm Shop and we use as much of their award-winning local ingredients and British produce as possible when cooking for clients. Most journeys to assignments at castles, lodges and private homes around Scotland begin with stocking up on delicious vegetables, fruits, meats, cheese, chutneys, jams and deli produce at Ardross. We'll be posting our recipes here soon. In the meantime, you can skip over to the Ardross Farm Shop website to view our modern twist on haggis for Burns Night and a complete, menu for Valentines Night. All recipes are straight-forward and aim to ensure that your dining occasions are relaxed, hassle-free and delicious!