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