30 March 2013

Baked Sea Bass with Spicy Lentils and Ribboned Courgette Salad

When I'm back from Edinburgh and cooking suppers at home, I jump at the chance to make something tasty and healthy that isn't full of carbs and salt like the canteen food!
I've also been on a bit of a mission to try and cook with more varieties of fish than I'm used to cooking with. A lot of us tend to cook with overfished varieties because we are set in our ways and unaware of just how many other delicious fish there are readily available. 
I think that the best way of cooking the most flavoursome and tender fish is to bake it wrapped in foil in the oven - the juices and marinade surround the fish and leave it perfectly flaky and light.
This sea bass dish makes a delicious supper with just a few simple ingredients accompanied by an easy and fresh courgette salad and spicy lentils. 
It's the perfect supper to enjoy al fresco when spring starts to appear- unfortunately now that I'm on holiday I keep forgetting that the weather I'll be returning to at home isn't quite so inviting! 


Spiced lentils:
400g green lentils
1 large red onion
2 big garlic cloves
3 sticks celery
1 big red chilli
1 large leek
2 carrots
2 big tomatoes
Pepper and salt
100g Chorizo
2tsp chilli powder
1tsp oregano
Baked Sea Bass:
4 sea bass fillets
salt and pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
Large bunch of parsley
Olive oil

Courgette Ribbon Salad:
3 courgettes
50g pine nuts
Juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil
Small bunch of fresh parsley
Small bunch of fresh mint

Salt and pepper
Chilli flakes (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. 
Boil the kettle and put your lentils into a large saucepan. ( I have used lots of lentils as I wanted enough left over to enjoy for my lunches over the weekend so if you're just cooking them for supper, half the amount of all the ingredients for the lentils.) Cover with boiling water and season with salt. Boil for 10 mins and then continue to simmer for a further 30-35.

After you have put your lentils on to boil, prepare your fish. In an oven-proof dish, line the bottom with tin foil and lay your sea bass fillets side by side. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice. Grate over the lemon zest and scatter the fish with the finely chopped parsley. Bake in the oven for 25-30 mins until cooked through but still tender.

To make the lentils:
In a large frying pan, heat a large glug of olive oil. Chop your red onion in a food processor into small pieces and add to the frying pan with the crushed garlic. Turn the heat down and fry the onion and garlic for 5 mins. You want the onions to become tender but not to brown too much.
Next add the celery, chilli, leek, carrots and tomatoes to the food processor and blitz until small pieces. Add these to the frying pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a further 10 minutes and then add the chilli powder and oregano. Turn the heat up slightly and continue cooking until the vegetables become soft and the chilli flavour has intensified. In a separate frying pan, fry the chorizo in a little olive oil until crisp. Add the chorizo to the veg mixture. 

Once the lentils are cooked (they should be soft but still with a slight bite) drain them and mix into the veg mixture. 

Serve straight away onto warm plates. 

The courgette salad recipe is taken from http://www.goodhousekeeping.co.uk/food/recipes/ribboned-courgette-salad

27 March 2013

Spiced chocolate coated marzipan Easter truffles

I feel very lucky to be finally escaping to some much-needed sunshine early tomorrow morning for a few days.
It’s such a shame that Easter this year seems doomed to be covered in snow and frost rather than beautiful spring sunshine and daffodils. However I decided to make a quick little Easter recipe before I head off.

These chocolate truffles are made with homemade marzipan and coated in dark chocolate. The marzipan is spiced with cinnamon and mixed spice and is inspired by the traditional Easter Simnel cake.
I’d never made marzipan before but it is so surprisingly easy to make and tastes ten times better than shop bought!
These truffles are deliciously decadent without being too chocolately- perfect for people who want something a little different from plain chocolate treats at Easter.


90g caster sugar
140g icing sugar
225g ground almonds
1tsp almond extract
2 tsp mixed spice
1 heaped teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 eggs, beaten
200g good quality dark chocolate (I used 70% cocoa)
a little extra icing sugar and spices to coat

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sugars, spices and the ground almonds. Once fully mixed, create a well in the ingredients and add the almond extract and half the eggs. Using a round bladed knife, cut the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients to mix together. If the mixture seems a little too crumbly, add a little more of the beaten egg until it forms into a loose dough. 

Line a baking tray with baking paper and dust with icing sugar. Knead the dough slightly until it forms a smooth ball and then using your hands, shape the dough into equal sized truffles. Chill the marzipan truffles in the fridge for 5-10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water until smooth and glossy. Remove from the heat and let it cool a bit before removing the truffles from the fridge. With two spoons, coat each marzipan truffle in a layer of dark chocolate and then return to the baking tray. 

Once you have covered all the truffles, return them to the fridge to set for 20-30 minutes. Once set, remove the truffles from the fridge and roll them in a dusting of icing sugar and cinnamon until lightly coated.

These truffles will keep well in an airtight container or you could easily freeze them- that’s if there’s any left after Easter!!

You could also add dried fruit to the marzipan mix if you wanted, such as raisins, currants or cherries. 

24 March 2013

Casa Angelina - Vintage Tea Room, Edinburgh

I've been lucky enough to have a fair few visitors to Edinburgh this term and one of the most common remarks they make is that they have never seen a city as full of cafes and restaurants as Edinburgh. The georgian style streets are full of little boutique cafes or deli shops. I've made a pact with myself never to visit a big coffee chain again in Edinburgh as there are so many brilliant independent cafes that deserve local recognition and praise. It's a wonder how they all survive in such a competitive environment but the city appears to be full of cafe fans like me and as each cafe is trying to stand out, there's always something new and exciting. 

When my mum visited a few days ago we came across a leaflet for a new vintage tea room and patisserie, Casa Angelina, on London Street in New Town. It's quite hard to find, as are many of the cafes in Edinburgh that are hidden away down steps but for a new little business it is already flourishing.

It was recently set up by two pastry chefs, who having worked in many prestigious restaurants in London, wanted to create their own place that showcased their passion for good quality food in a vintage and glamorous atmosphere.

From the outside, as you walk down the steps, you can see their cake displays set out in the window with homemade bespoke cupcakes, tray bakes, scones and delicious looking cakes.

However, there are not many tables in the back room which hopefully will be changed in the future, but if you are with a big group I would give them a quick ring to make sure there's space. Although at basement level,they still have a big window in the back room which allows for natural light and creates a cosy atmosphere to sit in.  

It has a elegant and glamarous atmosphere with vintage bunting, ornaments and big lace curtains draped from the windows with beautifully upholstered chairs. 

They specialise in providing a proper afternoon tea served on tiered cake stands and dainty china. However, they also hold vintage tea parties and can supply bespoke celebration and wedding cakes. In fact, two of my uni friends are planning a joint birthday tea party there in which you can dress up in vintage-style clothing, and sit down to a totally glamorous afternoon tea party.

They are also very committed to catering for different dietary needs, especially gluten free and aim to provide at least 3 gluten free options in their daily selection of cakes and baked goods. I have sampled both their gluten free scones and banana bread which were baked perfectly. 

They serve artisan coffee and many different varieties of eteaket loose leaf tea as well as their unique hot chocolate blends including flavours such as lavender hot chocolate. 

It's a gorgeous little tea room serving some of the best cakes around and I definitely urge you to go and support this new local business. 

20 March 2013

Timberyard Restaurant, Edinburgh

I'm really impressed by the Timberyard.
It's different, unique and a new gem in Edinburgh's foodie scene.

It doesn't scream at you from the outside with a wacky exterior, you'd never know what lay behind a plain red door. But once inside, you'll find an unusual natural-style decor and delicious wholesome and seasonal menu.
I instantly loved its interior, piles of timber logs lit by candles and industrial-style fittings with warm atmospheric lighting. You are greeted by a huge open plan seating area and archway straight through to the hard-working kitchen. 

It has just those few extra touches of detail that make you feel really well looked after. The tartan rugs draped over the seats and the wood burning fire are lovely additions. 

I had come across the Timberyard through a local set of Edinburgh restaurant reviews.

The whole feel of the Timberyard is really welcoming and inviting with the odd original feature such as the sound of their own wine distilling that is played as you enter the bathrooms or the water bottles served on huge logs of wood beside your table. 

Their menu is really enticing - intriguing ingredients cooked to perfection. The menu is not at all pretentious but instead offers the best seasonal produce with a focus on just a few great ingredients. 

Their cocktails and drinks menu is also really refreshing. It comprises unique blends of cocktails using ingredients such as lavender, crab apples and sea buckthorn. 

I tasted their warm spiced cider which was a perfect warming drink away from the blizzards outside!

The idea at the Timberyard is to have 3 or 4 courses as the dishes are fairly small, to allow you to sample more of the menu. In order to do this you can start off with "bites" which include dishes such as roast chicken broth and chilled lobster(ranging from £2-4.50), moving to small dishes such as scallops, hake or raw beef (£7-8.50)and then large main dishes such as pork loin, roast beetroot or pigeon (average price around £16). 

The food is imaginative and perfectly cooked using ingredients from local suppliers and foragers with a real focus on sustainability and the environment. 

I had the pigeon with swiss chard, mash and carrots which was really tender and the perfect sized portion. I've also tasted their special of whole Anglessey bass which was delicious. 

The food is really tasty and full of really complimentary and slightly unusual flavours. My starter of raw beef with candied hazelnuts and egg yolk was really interesting and a great combination. 

The staff even let me into the kitchen to take some photos. The kitchen was spotless and it's lovely how it is open to the restaurant so that you can see the cooks at work. 

Beetroot, cauliflower, watercress and heritage potato

The waiting staff were all properly trained- some of the most wonderfully sounding but fairly foreign (to me) ingredients were described and recommended perfectly.

My dessert of a sea buckthorn posset and rhubarb was a really refreshing change from what I would usually choose.

Their cheeseboard was comprised of local cheeses and homemade chutney and the waitress even wrote down the individual cheeses and their origin for us.

The huge wooden doors are a great feature at the entrance.

Definitely a great place to visit- excellent food and a casually stylish atmosphere. 

Square Meal