Monday, October 31, 2005

Blue potatoes from Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes

Inspired by two fellow foodbloggers, I picked up a bag of blue potatoes at Edinburgh Farmers’ Market last Saturday. I remember my mum used to grow few plants of Congo Blue potatoes when I was younger, so I’m not totally new to these curiously coloured tubers. But after I saw the glorious pictures that Nicky & Oliver had posted on their delicious:days, and the spooky mash at Lex Culinaria, I couldn’t resist the urge to buy a bag of weirdly coloured potatoes myself.

Lucy & Anthony Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes specialise on pre-1950 potato varieties, and they sell 12 different heritage potatoes at their stall, including two blue potato varieties – Highland Burgundy (1936) and Salad Blue (early 1900s). I bought a bag of latter one and prepared 2 joyful dishes out of them.

One large potato ended up sliced and deep-fried in sunflower oil, sprinkled with Maldon sea salt and dipped into sour cream:

The rest the blue potatoes were first boiled (which, I'm embarrased to admit, was fun, as I really liked looking at the spotty peeled potatoes):

And then they were turned into a mash (with the help of my cute Spudnik), seasoned with Very Garlicky Company’s Mash Seasoning Mixture:

I served the blue mash with chopped cucumbers and spring onions:

I enjoyed eating this purple-blue mash – it had a lovely floury potato-ey taste, with the hint of garlic. I wasn’t the least bothered by the weird and unusual hue of the mash either.

I also imagine kids would enjoy eating this, so I’ll definitely make it again in a few years then:)

Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes
Tiptoe Farm

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Foodie postcards: The Male and Female Characters

Today is my parents' 32nd wedding anniversary. Here's a postcard I sent them on the occasion. It is another postcard by Annie Tempest, called The Male and Female Characters.

He makes coffee:

She makes coffee:

Yes, I know it's sexist and reproducing gender stereotypes. But my Mum for sure agrees with the message. My Dad, you see, does no 'female' housework. I remember him saying that as he has three women in the house, he doesn't need to contribute to the household chores!!! Aaaargh. (To be fair to him, taking the rubbish out, fixing lightbulbs, heating the house & our wood-fire oven, getting the sauna ready, feeding the dogs, cutting the grass/shovelling the snow etc classify as 'male' tasks in our household, so I guess they both work their fair share).

Most importantly, my Dad doesn't cook. Yes, he can make a strong filter coffee, he's quite good in grilling the meat during summer parties, and he can re-heat the food lovingly prepared by my Mum and left in the fridge for my Dad. But that's pretty much all. There are, however, couple of food memories related to my Dad that I maybe should have included in my childhood food memories MEME.

These involve feeding a baby, feeding 2 toddlers and feeding a family. Which I find hilarious. Here they are:

Feeding baby Pille
My sister Merle is one year, 3 months and 6 days younger than me. Which means that in the glorious hot July of 1975, my Dad was left alone with his first-born (alias me) for a while. When my Granny came to check on her son and first grandchild one afternoon, she found me naked, tied to a tree by foot and smeared with chocolate. My Dad, you see, is a car freak - he was a semi-professional rally driver until my early teens. And on that glorious summer day he felt like fiddling with his racing car. Which can be quite tricky when a one-year-old is demanding all your attention. In order to avoid changing nappies and me 'escaping' to neighbouring gardens, he tied me to the tree, strip naked. And kept me oh-so-content by feeding me chocolates (well, Fluff was unheard of in Soviet Estonia). And that's how my granny found me - a happy naked & extremely content baby playing on the grass under the sun. I still love my Dad dearly, so this unconventional babysitting method was fine, I guess:) Though maybe I should blame my chocoholism on him??

Feeding toddlers Pille & Merle
When we were kids, semolina porridge - mannapuder - was a staple breakfast for kids. My Mum wasn't around and Dad decided to cook porridge for us. The right way to make it: bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan, add some semolina, stir and cook for another 7-8 minutes, until semolina has expanded considerably. Season and serve. My Dad had seen my Mum do this, but he didn't know that semolina expands. So he kept pouring semolina into the milk until he was happy with the thickness and consistency. But only then semolina started expanding.
Let me say, it was not a nice fluffy porridge of my Mum, but an inedible stone hard concoction. I guess we ended up eating chocolate again:)

Feeding himself & the kids
Another food memory related to my Dad involves pasta, or makaronid as they're called in Estonian. My Dad likes pasta that has been boiled and then fried in oil or butter with an egg thrown in at the end. But again, he hadn't really focused on the exact process.
He took a box of dried pasta from the cupboard. Heated some oil and butter on the frying pan and threw in the pasta. .................... Yep, he threw the DRIED PASTA into the oil. Not the leftover cold cooked pasta from night before, like my Mum always did. You can guess the rest..

Anyway. My Dad is a lovely man but not exactly a skilled cook. And somehow the above card seemed very appropriate for today. I guess that's why I sent it to them in the first place:)

Palju õnne, kallid emme ja issi!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A present from a northern neighbour

When I started blogging back in June, I knew only of one other foodblogger and Melissa of the beautiful Traveler’s Lunchbox also happens to be my fellow resident of Edinburgh. Over the last few months some other Edinburgh-based bloggers have been popping by – Anita (originally from Finland) of the Madness of Space Cat, Shauna (originally from Australia) of What’s Wrong Pussycat, 'everyday chef' of, well, everyday chef. And it looks there are other bloggers in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland who read my blog. Thanks!

When I returned from Estonia in August, I met up with Anita for a chat and cuppa and gave her a bar of Fazer chocolate. Fazer is a really delicious Finnish chocolaterier – and as Anita, herself Finnish, hadn’t been at home for a while, she had asked me to bring something. (Fazer is widely available in Estonia, as is the Swedish Marabou. You’d probably have to search for Cadbury like a needle in a haystack).

Well, Anita did go to Finland in October and kindly asked me if there’s anything she can bring me from Finland. There are two food items that I always think of as related to Finland. One is the squishy-squeeky cheese juustoleipä/leipäjuusto, and the other are Karjalanpiirakkat or Karelian pasties (above). Both are widely available in Estonia as well. And though it is possible to make both of them – frying cottage cheese results (apparently) in leipäjuusto, and here is a recipe for Karelian pastries, but making the latter can be quite time consuming (I can personally say, after having baked them once. All worth it though..)

When I met Anita for a coffee last Thursday, she gave me six beauties that she had brought from Finland.

The traditional filling for Karelian pastries is cooked rice porridge, but my favourite is the potato mash stuffed kind (above), and I’m also partial to the carrot mash version. You pop them under a grill, heat them through and then cover with egg butter (well, egg, butter, salt and some parsley for instance).

And then you have these delicious and very filling pastries. They are very popular for breakfast in Finland, but I had them for dinner. And then again for breakfast. And then for lunch. Two each time:)

Kiitos, Anita! And good luck with the new job!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Prune Blogging Thursday: ‘I am so good for you prune cake’

Mmm. Prunes. ‘Give us your best prune recipe or best idea for using prunes’ told David Lebovitz on his blog and do that by October 26th. My first thought is a frustration about the fact that I have not been able to locate plum juice – probably one of my favourite juices of all times - in the shops here in Edinburgh, whereas there is an abundance of ‘healthy’ prune juice. Which is nothing like its fresh cousin.

But after I calm down, I decide to go for it. For various reasons I’ve sadly had to opt out from a number of recent blogging events (the last few SHFs, for instance) – and I’m keen to take part. As David rightly says, ‘prunes are very good for your health; they’re high in iron, with no added sugar but lots of fiber… and yes, they keep you, um, ‘regular’’. And although I had no pruneux de Agen or d’Ente at hand, the own-brand stuff from Tesco has proved rather nice in the past, and I had half a kilogram bag in my cupboard.

As always, I turned first to my Estonian recipe site. You see, if I get to make a nice dish and take a picture of it, I get to blog about it here as well as update my recipe site. A quick search reveals 44 recipes with prunes, most of which are various stews and roasts. I spot two easy and tempting starters though. Firstly, grilled prunes rolled in smoked bacon rashers. Yummy. But instead of shopping for my favourite oak smoked bacon at the farmers market last Saturday morning, I stayed in bed until noon. So no grilled prunes & bacon then.. Secondly, prunes stuffed with liver pate and chopped chives – also nice, but as I’m not sure I want to nibble on prunes and liver pate for the rest of the day, I decide to make a mental note of that recipe for a party later this month.

Instead I go for a cake. A recipe for hapukoorekook kuivatatud ploomidega alias sour cream cake with prunes has been praised by several readers at my Estonian site, and I decide to check it out myself. It’s from the March 22, 1997 issue of Postimees (Postman), one of the main dailies back home. It is not just a healthy prune cake, it’s a super healthy prune cake. In addition to high-fibre prunes, it also contains wheat bran (yep, another super source of fibre) as well as high-fibre rye flour (asking for a barley flour in Edinburgh health food shops resulted in few raised eyebrows, so I opted for rye). Here’s my slightly modified version of the recipe.

‘I am so good for you prune cake’

1 egg
2 tbsp sugar
200 grams plain yogurt or sour cream or crème fraiche
100 ml wheat bran (I used Jordan’s)
200 ml barley or rye flour (or even wholewheat)
2 tsp baking powder
200 grams chopped juicy prunes

Whisk the egg with sugar, add yogurt, wheat bran, baking powder and flour (mix the last two first). Finally add chopped prunes.
Transfer the batter into a buttered cake tray and bake at 200˚C for about 30-35 minutes.
Serve with a cup of tea.

Verdict: recommended. High in fibre, low in fat and surprisingly tasty indeed. Especially with a cup of tea.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

An Indian feast: Brinjal Masala, Chicken korma, Gobi matar & Strawberry Shrikhand

I cooked another dinner for the Estonian gang last week here in Edinburgh. Introducing them to the local cuisine, we feasted upon brinjal masala, chicken korma, gobi matar, strawberry shrikhard, and masala chai . Indian food is extremely popular in Scotland, and here's my version of a home-cooked Indian feast. All cooked from scratch, not a ready made curry paste or sauce on sight, although I did use a shop bought curry powder for the korma. And it was all on the table within an hour. Not bad, I think, for my first full Indian feast..

Brinjal Masala or deep fried aubergines/eggplants.
(Praetud pommuviilud)

The recipe for deep fried aubergines is from the October 2000 issue of Waitrose Food Illustrated, and I modified it only slightly. Instead of 2 large aubergines I used 6 baby aubergines (the long and thin type), which I sliced thickly and deep-fried golden brown in sunflower oil. After draining them on kitchen paper, I sprinkled them with smoked pimento powder (Waitrose prescribed chilli powder, but I wanted something smoky and not too hot) and Maldon sea salt flakes.

Mmm. It must have been good. By the time I finished cooking the rice for the main course, the bowl of brinjal masala was suspiciously empty. It was good then that I ‘tasted’ couple when making them…

Chicken korma

This recipe comes from the World Food supplement of the September 2001 issue of Family Circle. It was the first Indian curry I made from scratch, and I was very pleased with the result. Easy to make, creamy and delicious and very mild curry. Serving a vindaloo to an inexperienced Estonian palates may result in never having to cook a curry to my fellow nationals again, as they’d avoid me like plague. And as I like to cook for friends, I reckoned it’s best to start with something safe and mild as to make sure that I won’t be dining in solitude in the future..


1 tbsp olive oil
4 skinless chicken breasts (cut into bite-sized chunks)
1 chopped onion
2 crushed garlic cloves
3 crushed cardamom pods
2 tsp mild curry powder*
1 tsp turmeric
50 grams of flaked almonds
3-4 dl (low fat) crème fraiche
salt & pepper
225 grams fresh spinach (preferably baby leaf; wash and drain thoroughly and chop roughly)
paprika powder

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add chicken and cook until browned. Remove and set aside.
Add onion, garlic, cardamom, curry powder and turmeric to the pan. Cook on a low-ish heat until onion has softened.
Return fried chicken to pan, add crème fraiche and season with salt and pepper. Heat through and simmer for some 5 minutes.
Add spinach and heat through until spinach has wilted.
Garnish with a sprinkling of paprika.

* I used the Finnish Santa Maria brand that contains coriander, turmeric, fenugreek, cumin and ‘other seasonings’. Whatever that means then:)

Serve with a salad of red onions and cucumber.

Gobi matar or cauliflower and peas with cumin
(Vürtsine lillkapsaroog)

This is from October 2005 issue of Waitrose Food Illustrated. I am a great fan of cauliflower, and usually eat it either boiled and smothered with browned butter and breadcrumbs, or grated raw and mixed with sour cream and seasoned with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon. This was my first ‘exotic’ cauliflower dish, and I really liked it. I imagine it would be lovely as an accompaniment to a piece of grilled meat as well.


salt and pepper
4 tsp ground turmeric
350 grams cauliflower florets
200 grams of frozen petit pois
3 tbsp vegetable oil
5 tsp cumin seeds
pinch of chilli flakes
fresh coriander for garnish

Bring a pan of water to the boil, add turmeric and salt and cauliflower florets. Cook until cauliflower is almost done (like in al dente). Add frozen peas for the last minute or two. Drain (and leave to cool, if you are preparing this in advance.)
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add cumin seeds and fry, until seeds start popping and crackle. Add cauliflower and peas and sauté for 3-5 minutes, until cauliflower starts to colour.
Season with salt, pepper and chilli, sprinkle with coriander and serve hot.

Strawberry Shrikhand or spiced yogurt with strawberries

This was the dessert, published in the Flavours of India supplement of November 2005 issue of delicious. I mixed a 500 gram tub of Total Greek yogurt with some sugar, chopped strawberries, crushed cardamom seeds from 5 cardamom pods, divided the shrikhand between glasses and decorated with chopped pistachios and strawberries. Nice and easy, but next time I’ll add a tiny amount of rosewater for an added exotic touch.

For drinks: beer, water, and finally a nice cup of Chai Masala (from The Whittard of Chelsea, seasoned with cardamom, cinnamon and cloves).

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A fine meal of mushrooms and cabbage

An Estonian friend of a very good Estonian friend of mine is visiting, and as my Turkish flatmate already has some Turkish friends staying in our guest room, this Estonian friend is staying with another Estonian friend who lives just around the corner (got that?:) But I’m in charge of cooking the dinner for a few nights. Not that I mind obviously...

On Monday night the theme was ‘cooking Estonian but not only'. I picked up some mushrooms (sadly cultivated, as chantarelles or any other wild mushrooms are hard to come by in Edinburgh), organic beef mince, a cone shaped cabbage (‘sweetheart cabbage’ – a novelty for me) and some Dolcelatte cheese. And after pretty much minimal effort I ended up with three delicious dishes.

Stuffed Mushrooms
(Täidetud seenekübarad)

For starters, I peeled the mushrooms, removed the stalks (see the above banner), covered with a piece of blue cheese and grilled them in the oven. I served these with a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Putting them on top of some panfried German rye bread ('Mischbrot' that I bought in Göttingen) provided a nice contrast of textures. This was the non-Estonian bit.

Cabbage Roll

Now to the Estonian bit. For the mains I cooked a cabbage roll. Cabbage rolls are beloved autumnal and winter dish back home, but I didn’t feel like stuffing individual cabbage leaves, so I cheated. Again. I mixed the mince, finely chopped onion, crushed Finn Crisp bread (I had no breadcrumbs in the house), an egg, chopped mushroom stalks (my addition), salt, and slightly simmered shredded Sweetheart cabbage. I formed this into a fat sausage and baked in the oven until dark golden brown.

Ingredients for the cabbage roll:
400 grams of mince (pork is traditional, though I used organic beef)
a small head of (sweetheart) cabbage
1 chopped onion
handful of breadcrumbs or 1-2 slices of soaked bread
1 egg
salt and pepper

This cheat’s cabbage roll was served with some boiled Charlotte potatoes, which I tossed in butter, sprinkled with Maldon salt and put into the oven for another 5 minutes.

And everyone could help themselves to some chopped cucumber, grated turnip and sour cream.

Again a lovely night 'eating and drinking (in) Estonian', with some nice food and wine (Torres Sangre de Toro 2003 and The Wolftrap 2004) and another very exciting episode of Without a Trace.

And finally: I had started a bread dough before the dinner, planning to make some delicious Estonian pastries with loads of butter. But somehow the yeast dough didn’t look like it’s gonna like being layered with butter and rolled over and over again like puff pastry. So I rolled it out rather thickly, crumbled the rest of Dolcelatte on top, added a sprinkling of parsley, rolled it up and baked at 230˚C until golden. Delicious as a late night nibble, and perfect as a take along lunch at the office (it was nicely soft and inviting on the following day as well)...

So I planned to make something sweet and Estonian, but ended up with something savoury and Italian-ish. Nevertheless, I was especially pleased with this bread, as I modified the recipe to a great degree and turned it into something nice and 'mine'. Quite an achievement, considering that I usually tend to follow recipes quite closely...

Sinihallitusjuustuleiva retsept

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Weekend party in Germany

I was in Germany last weekend, attending a dinner party in Göttingen, organised as a surprise to my friend Basti by his wife Tina. I know, it sounds quite grand - flying to Germany just for a dinner on Saturday night. And it was grand - I almost felt like a jetsetter (a (no)wedding in Mexico, a dinner party in Germany, you know). Almost - as I doubt if a real jetsetter would fly RyanAir from an airport in the middle of nowhere (Glasgow Prestwick) to an airport in the middle of nowhere (Frankfurt Hahn).

When I got the invitation to attend in August, I couldn't say no. My friends Basti and Tina have 2 sweet kids. Unfortunately the daughter Helena, soon to be 4, was born with a very serious kidney problem, and exactly a year ago my friend Basti gave one of his kidneys to his daughter. Although still requiring medical supervision, little Helena is now a happy little girl with a future. And the party was Tina's way to say thank you to her husband. Basti honestly had no idea what was waiting for him when he got up on Saturday morning! Moreover, he was quite impressed that his daughter was able to keep the secret. You see, the party began at a children's indoor playground. When little Helena told her dad on Saturday morning that she really wants to go there in the afternoon, she had to work hard, as dad thought it is silly to go and play indoors when it was 21 Centigrades outside! After the playground they went for a meal in a nearby hotel, where Basti was led to a hotel suite where he found his suit and ironed shirt laid out on the bed!!! You should have seen his face when he saw some 60 friends from all over Germany - and me from Edinburgh and another friend from Lissabon - turn up at the hotel lobby!

It was a wonderful and very well organised party, with brilliant food, loads of wine, heartfelt and emotional speeches, and energetic dancing until the wee hours of the morning. The 2 hour drive back to Frankfurt, 1,5 hour busride to Frankfurt Hahn airport, the 1,5 hour flight to Glasgow Prestwick, 1 hour train ride to Glasgow Central and another 1 hour train ride to Edinburgh was all worth it!!!

Also - the slice of Hubertus cake I had in a Cron & Lanz cafe at the centre of picturesque Göttingen to calm my tummy (the pre-party excitement:) was yummy. I definitely miss having those continental style dessert cakes in Scotland! I guess I must start making them myself...

Monday, October 17, 2005

Eating Mexican: Taxco

Well, actually I didn't eat much in Taxco. To be really honest, I don't think I ate anything in this buzzing former silver town high up the winding mountain roads. I was still stuffed after the very tasty and substantial late lunch at Hacienda San Gabriel de las Palmas. But if I had been hungry, I may have been intrigued by this establishment.

Maybe next time:)

But Taxco itself comes highly recommended. It's a charming former staging-post on the royal road to the port of Acapulco, and it's known for its magnificent baroque Santa Prisca church (with its golden interior) and red-roofed whitewashed houses:

Friday, October 14, 2005

Eating Mexican: My first ever hacienda lunch

Well, having already posted two stories about my recent trip to Mexico, it is now time to get back to the beginning. Alias to my first full day in Mexico...

I hadn't enjoyed my flight from Frankfurt to Mexico City at all - it felt absolutely endless. I was dead bored after 2 hours (that's 10 hours too early), I couldn't sleep, I couldn't watch the movies (they were only available in German and Spanish, and although I speak 5 languages, these two are unfortunately not amongst them) and so on. So when I arrived in Ciudad de Mexico, I went pretty much straight to bed. It was only on the next day that my senses were more or less alert and I managed to take the first proper look at the city - first from my bedroom window (above) and then in a car. It was a brief look though, as already before lunch we (alias me together with my wonderful hosts Ada & Mauricio and their newest offspring Pablo, right) headed towards south. Destination: Guernavaca, with lunch in Hacienda San Gabriel de las Palmas and early evening drink in Taxco.

It took us about 1,5 hours to get to the hacienda, but it was quite impressive. Founded in 1529 for the Spaniard Hernán Cortés, it is today a museum/hotel/resort/spa and a popular place for weddings and large parties. And it has a very nice restaurant where we enjoyed a rather spectacular and tasty meal. My first ever lunch in Mexico was delicious. My first ever hacienda in Mexico was rather grand. I knew this was going to be a lovely holiday... I sat down at the table, enjoyed the view:

... and then allowed Ada and Mauricio to choose from the menu. It's not often that you get to be in the safe hands of two Mexican foodies (one of them a chef). Here are some pictures (click to enlarge!) with short explanations of my first Mexican feast.

These are really delicious nibbles, chilapas with avocado sauce and creamy goat cheese, topped with deep-fried coriander/cilantro. A real favourite of mine! The combination of avocado and goat cheese was a real success.

I was too busy eating and enjoying our starter, tuna dip with chipotle and totopos, that I forgot to take a picture of that one:)

Here's a lovely plate of delicious pollo con mole y arroz alias chicken mole with white rice.

This dish is called arrachera de carne con nopales, which is grilled meat with roasted peppers and cactus.

Here are some quesadillas de queso manchego (on the front, right) and a Mexican pasta dish fideo seco (on the back, left).

This is the original hacienda kitchen, and me proudly posing in that kitchen:

Hacienda San Gabriel de las Palmas
Km 41.8 Carretera Federal Guernavaca - Chilpancingo
Amacuzac, Morelos, México

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Cooking Greek (or something like that): feta, tomato and rocket gratin

Here's my Monday supper, a faithful recreation of the recipe for snabba vegolådan* alias quick vegetable gratin from the Swedish dairy producer Arla.

I was quite happy with the result, though I used a totally wrong dish for it (too high and too small). Cooking it in a wide and shallow dish would mean a lot faster and much more presentable dinner..

It's not as much Greek as Greece-inspired. After all, it has feta cheese in it. And tomatoes. And rocket. Which must mean it's Greek after all:)

Feta, tomato and rocket gratin
(Lihtne feta-tomativorm)

3 tomatoes, sliced (and drained, if necessary)
200 grams feta cheese, cubed
a small cup of roughly chopped rocket leaves
4 eggs
a cup of single cream
black pepper

Layer the tomatoes, feta and rocket into a buttered oven dish. (I used yellow and red mini plum tomatoes bought at the Farmers Market for extra colour).
Whisk eggs and cream together, season with salt and pepper. Pour over feta and tomatoes.
Bake in the middle of a 225˚C oven for 30-40 minutes.
Serve with salad.

I think it'll be a nice addition to my expanding list of Greek dinner staples (i.e. to accompany my deconstructed moussaka, papoutsakia, meatballs and my feta-spinach pie that I am yet to write about).

* Note that the picture on the Swedish site is wrong, so I've copy-pasted the original Arla picture here, too (top right).

Been there, done that?

There have been various lists of what a true foodie should do around recently in the foodblogosphere. I seem to remember it was kick-started (at least in the UK) by the Observer Food Magazine on May 15, 2005, when it published its list of The top 50 things every foodie should do. The things I can tick off that list are unfortunately very few, though I am happy to note that I have window-shopped (or is that stall-shopped?) at La Boqueria in Barcelona at least. Last weekend Scotland on Sunday (alias the Sunday version of The Scotsman newspaper) published a Scottish equivalent of this list. I've copy-pasted it here with few comments.
It would also be interesting to hear from other foodbloggers who either live in Scotland (Melissa of The Traveler's Lunchbox) or who have visited Scotland recently (Michele of Oswego Tea and Gemma of Pro Bono Baker pop to my mind) if they've done anything that's mentioned on the list..
I will try during the next months (and years) to work and eat my way through the list. Time and financies permitting obviously...

50 things every foodie should do in Scotland
Scotland on Sunday, October 9, 2005
Spectrum: Scotland's larder. Autumn food and drink special

1) Hire Martin Wishart for the night
The Michelin-starred chef, who runs his eponymous restaurant in Leith, now offers a bespoke dining service too. He will concoct a mouthwatering menu for you and your guests and send a team of chefs into your kitchen (who'll offer tips if you're interested) - and they even do the washing-up.
(0131 553 8998,

Book a table at the Witchery
Dine by candlelight in a 16th-century building at the gates of Edinburgh Castle. Nothing beats it for atmosphere, and the food is fabulous. Signature dishes include hot smoked salmon with leeks and hollandaise, and Angus beef fillet with smoked garlic broth. Jack Nicholson, Joanna Lumley, Michael Douglas and many other celebrities have dined here. Afterwards, slope off upstairs for the night in one of its truly decadent suites. Castlehill, Royal Mile, Edinburgh (0131 225 5613,
I ate at The Witchery some two years ago. It was gorgeously atmospheric - and their £10 two-course pre- or post-theatre menu isn't so bad at all.

Go to a fishmarket
Set your alarm clock and catch a live auction at Peterhead fishmarket. You will need to wear a protective white boilersuit and brave the fishy pong, but it's worth it - put in a bid and you'll have the freshest tuna in town.

Monday to Friday at 7.30am, by appointment only (01779 483600 - ask for Andrew Cowe)

4) Make a mean curry
Indian food doesn't get much tastier than at the Suruchi restaurants in Edinburgh. If you're inspired by their use of herbs and spices, sign up to one of the cookery demonstrations which owners Herman and Abha Rodrigues offer throughout the year.
14a Nicholson Street (0131 556 6583) and 121 Constitution Street (0131 554 3268)
Again, I've eaten there with my Danish "host-parents" a few years ago - I cannot really recall what I ate precisely, but it was definitely a pleasant dining experience.

5) Spend a weekend at the Three Chimneys
Eddie and Shirley Spear's restaurant in the north-west corner of Skye is hardly short of accolades. Serving the freshest local produce in a cosy lochside setting, this is one of the most scenic places in Scotland to dine. Stay in a bedroom suite here and you'll awake to a view stretching to the Outer Hebrides. It's the ultimate foodie pilgrimage.
Colbost, Dunvegan, Isle of Skye (01470 511358,
Nope, I have not had the pleasure yet. But I have been drooling over Shirley Spear's new cookbook that looks really good.

Join the Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Fans of cask-strength malt can pick from a vast selection of whisky at the Vaults in Leith and at the society's latest venue, 28 Queen Street, Edinburgh. Both hold regular events, tastings and suppers.
(0131 555 2929,

Order a takeaway with a difference
Fresh prawns and king scallops can be seared to order from the Fish and Chip Van, on the island of Mull, and it couldn't be closer to the source. Eat the day's catch by the Clock Tower or sitting on the seafront with views of the bay. It beats a kebab any day. April to December, noon to 9pm.
Fisherman's Pier, Tobermory, Mull (01688 302390,

Dine aboard the Royal Scotsman
You'll be spoilt rotten on board this luxury train - the rich, seasonal food (which miraculously appears from a tiny galley kitchen), spectacular ever-changing scenery and impeccable service make it a journey to remember.
46a Constitution Street, Leith, Edinburgh (0131 555 1344,

Eat a real Arbroath smokie
Buy a couple of these wood-smoked haddock wrapped in newspaper and tied up with string, and eat them with bread, rocket and tomatoes on the beach in Arbroath - or, better still, at half-time watching the Red Lichties play football at Gayfield Park. Get them at a farmers' market from Iain Spink, of RR Spink & Sons.
Sir William Smith Road, Kirkton Industrial Estate, Arbroath (01241 872023,,

Lick a Luca's ice-cream
With ice-cream made daily to a 100-year-old recipe, a visit to Luca's is the perfect excuse for a Sunday-afternoon outing. There is a savoury menu too, but you might prefer to tuck straight into a magnificent knickerbocker glory. Bibs are optional.
32 High Street, Musselburgh (0131 665 2237); 16 Morningside Road, Edinburgh (0131 446 0233,
Hurray, another one that can be ticked off! Had a small scoop of vanilla ice cream at their Morningside branch just last Friday!

Quaff champagne and oysters
Oysters don't come fresher than at the bar at the head of Loch Fyne. And knowing that the contents of your seafood platter were caught just metres from your seat makes it taste better still. A dozen of these sexy little things costs £11.50.
Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, Clachan, Cairndow, Argyll (01499 600236,

Queue for a fish supper
Some might argue that a sizzling hot, battered haddock tastes all the better for the wait. In summer, the Anstruther Fish Bar has a long line all the way down the street. The owners of this award-winning chippie take great pride in what they do; as they say, you're only as good as your last fish supper.
42-44 Shore Street, Anstruther, Fife (01333 310518,

Satisfy your chocolate craving
Indulge in a chocolate espresso at Plaisir du Chocolat, a French tea shop in Edinburgh. For an even bigger hit, hire its chocolate fountain.
251 Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh (0131 556 9524)
Have eaten at this place
quite a few times and can highly recommend it.

Spend a weekend wine-tasting
Edinburgh's Malmaison hotel has opened a fully equipped wine-tasting room that caters for up to 15 people. Hire it along with head sommelier Johnny Walker, who will guide you through the hotel's lengthy wine list. Follow this with dinner and a night in one of the refurbished rooms. A two-night stay, with wine-tasting and dinner on Saturday night, starts from £199 per person
(Malmaison, 1 Tower Place, Edinburgh, 0131 468 5001,

Cocktails at Harvey Nichols
You'll want a clear, calm and sunny afternoon for a cocktail on the terrace at Harvey Nichols' Forth Floor restaurant, where the views extend to Fife. It's the ideal spot to show Edinburgh off to visitors - or to remind yourself just how much you love the city.
30 St Andrew Square (0131 524 8350,
I have been to Harvey Nick's food section often, but have not had any drinks at the bar yet. But a friend of mine was only recently headhunted to work there as a barman, so their cocktails must be very very good indeed.

Cook some comfort food
Longer nights mean the chance to cosy up to some hearty home-cooking, so give the frozen pizza a miss and sit down to Scotch broth and stovies or MacSween's haggis and clapshot. Guaranteed to bring a glow to a cold weekday evening.
MacSween's haggis is my favourite haggis as well, with neeps and tatties and a wee dram.

Enrol at Nick Nairn's cook school
Roll up your sleeves and don your pinny: the celebrity chef's state-of-the-art cooking school, tucked away in the Trossachs, is the place to hone your culinary skills. With a charismatic team of helpers and the chance to sample your efforts at the end of the day, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares this is not.
Port of Menteith, Stirling (01877 389900,

Support your local butcher
Whether it's for Aberdeen Angus steaks, sliced square sausage or black pudding, Scottish meats are legendary. And they don't come better than from someone who knows just how long your fillet has been hung and where it comes from.
I have a favourite butcher at the Edinburgh Farmer's Market. All my sausages, bacon and pork come from
Puddledub Pork and Fifeshire Bacon Co.

Sugar highs
Casey's sells humbugs, gobstoppers and pear drops by the weight from old-fashioned jars, while Moffat Toffee's speciality is made from a recipe dating from the 1880s. Or, make your own tablet - there's a recipe at
Casey's, 52 St Mary's Street, Edinburgh (0131 556 6082); Moffat Toffee, High Street, Moffat (01683 220032)

Dine on fresh lobster in Crail
Drive up the Fife coast to the picturesque fishing village of Crail. The Lobster Store is a tiny hut on the harbour, where fresh lobster or crab is cooked while you wait. Bring a half-bottle of supermarket bubbly to go with it.

Get an altitude
You could wolf down a baguette and pork pie on an icy chair lift, but refuelling at the Ptarmigan restaurant, the UK's highest (3,600ft), is more civilised. Providing it's not swathed in cloud, you'll enjoy fantastic views as you feast on local produce.
(01479 861336,

Stock up at a Chinese supermarket
Scotland is riddled with takeaways, but could a Chinese supermarket stocking all those elusive ingredients inspire you to make your own chow mein? Try Lims Chinese supermarket in Glasgow.
63 Cambridge Street, Glasgow (0141 332 9399)
There are few nice Chinese supermarkets in Edinburgh, too, so this one I can tick off as well.

Eat cheese
Visit Iain Mellis's emporium for a mouthwatering selection of British and Irish farmhouse cheeses. The best part is, you can try before you buy. There are four shops in Edinburgh and one in Glasgow ( Alternatively, visit his suppliers direct - such as Reades' farm in Tobermory, Mull, for a freshly cut wedge from one of its 50lb truckles (, or Humphrey Errington, at Walston Braehead Farm, in Carnwath (01899 810257).
Indeed. Their shops in Bruntsfield and on Victoria Streets are wonderful!

Take afternoon tea at the Balmoral
With a resident harpist, marble pillars and chandeliers, the Palm Court at Edinburgh's Balmoral hotel is the perfect spot for afternoon tea. If you're celebrating, have something stronger - it's also home to Scotland's only Bollinger bar.
1 Princes Street, Edinburgh (0131 556 2414,

Try something different
Danielle Ellis is passionate about food. Her company offers demonstrations, tasting sessions, meet-the-chef events and walking tours for food lovers around Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Discover the Taste, 86 Belmont Road, Edinburgh (

Take a tip from Claire Macdonald
Wondering where to find the best kitchen knife or the best chocolate sauce? The renowned food writer has launched a range of cooking accessories and cupboard staples, available via her online shop. You can also sign up for one of her three-day demonstrations at her home on Skye.
Kinloch Lodge, Sleat, Isle of Skye (01471 833333,

Go wild at a farmers' market
Not just for the fruit and veg, but more unusual treats too, such as wild boar, ostrich and venison. Street markets are popping up as well - in Leith (which reopens in March) you'll find such gems as the Stoats Porridge Bar (stocking brown sugar, cream, whisky and honey) and Well Hung and Tender's gourmet burgers.
My regular Saturday morning involves a trip to Edinburgh Farmers Market, so another tick-off.

Join the slow food movement
Prince Charles had a point recently, when he urged society to slow down. This movement, which encourages its 83,000 members to savour their food and wine, now has a British branch. It needn't mean slaving over a casserole - taking time to savour a sandwich made with organic bread and a slice of Lanark Blue is an excellent start. (

Catch your own
Dig out your rod and reel. For salmon, brown trout and sea trout, Scotland is an angler's dream.

Toast your last munro with champagne
What could be better than popping the cork at the summit of your 284th and final climb? If you've yet to conquer even one, start planning now. (

Forage for wild mushrooms
Best done with a fungi-hunting gourmet chef, but if you've picked some dodgy-looking specimens on your own, take them to Valvona & Crolla's fungi surgery, where an expert will put your mind at ease.
19 Elm Row, Edinburgh (0131 556 6066)
I haven't foraged for wild mushrooms in Scotland, but I have spent endless hours foraging for various wild mushrooms in Estonia. And I have eaten wild mushrooms foraged by my Russian friend Galina in Scotland. So almost a tick-off.

32) Click on
VisitScotland's latest initiative profiles the top places to eat out, the best food and drink producers and all sorts of regional specialities. You'll never be stuck for dinner again.

Visit the Teviot Smokery
Set in an 18th-century inn by the River Teviot, this Borders smokery produces smoked salmon, trout, duck, homemade smoked pâté and cheese. Just as impressive is its beautiful riverside garden.
Kirkbank House, Eckford, Kelso (01835 850253,

Eat a Fisher & Donaldson custard slice
This bakery is the closest thing Scotland has to an original French-style patisserie. The shop in St Andrews also does Scotch pies and oatmeal skirlies, but this is gooey perfection.
13 Church Street, St Andrews (01334 472201,

Learn how to make sushi
Don't know your nigiri from your maki? Kumiko Hatori offers sushi-making lessons at her home in Glasgow. She charges £40 for two hours - all the equipment and ingredients are provided.
(0141 332 5707,

Dine at Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles
Andrew Fairlie, the Scottish chef of the year, enjoyed international coverage when he cooked for world leaders during the recent G8 summit. Those who have been say his Michelin-starred food is worth every penny. And, remember, if it's good enough for Jacques Chirac...
Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire (0800 389 3737,

Have butteries for breakfast
Best eaten warm with butter and marmalade, these salty Aberdeenshire specialities make a tasty change from croissants. Available especially at bakeries in the north-east.

Go reindeer-spotting
Reindeer meat is a delicacy in Finland, but the herd in Aviemore - the only one in Britain - is free to roam the Cairngorm mountains. The farm puts on daily visits, but you'll be lucky if Rudolph gets anywhere near your plate. It might whet your appetite for some Highland game, though.
The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre, Glenmore, Aviemore (01479 861228,

Make fajitas the authentic way
Spice up your kitchen cupboards with dried chillies, refried beans, spicy chorizo and tequila from the Mexican deli Lupe Pintos. Its website also features a recipe for a mean chilli con carne.
24 Leven Street, Edinburgh (0131 228 6241); 313 Great Western Road, Glasgow (0141 334 5444;
This is probably a tick-off, as I've bought stuff from Lupe Pintos often (remember the Fluff?), though never to make fajitas..

Sign up to a box scheme
You could trudge round the veg section of the supermarket every week, or you could experience the joy of having a whole box of fresh, locally grown goodies delivered direct to your door. Guaranteed to up your fruit and vegetable intake and introduce you to varieties you never knew existed.
See for Scottish suppliers

Order fish from Ken Watmough
The Aberdeen fishmonger has had two royal appointments and been recommended by Rick Stein and Delia Smith. His vast knowledge of fish and seafood has been gathered over 40 years, so if you're wondering how to gut a sea bass, make him your first port of call.
Ken Watmough Fishmongers, 29 Thistle Street, Aberdeen (01224 640321)
Again, almost a tick-off, as I get my fish from Eddie's Fish Market in Marchmont which is used if not by the Royal Family, then by The Witchery restaurant. And that's good enough for me..

Learn to cook in a castle
Myres Castle, the luxury Fife retreat, offers one-day cookery classes in its Victorian kitchen, with renowned chef Christopher Trotter. After-dinner piano recitals in the drawing-room are optional.
Auchtermuchty, Fife (01337 828350,

Dine with the puffins
And guillemots, shags, kittiwakes, grey seals or even bottlenose dolphins, at the Scottish Seabird Centre. There's a cosy café (with an outside deck) offering homemade soups and sandwiches. The food is modest, but the location is stunning.
Scottish Seabird Centre, The Harbour, North Berwick (01620 890202,

Sample Mrs Unis's pakora
Mrs Unis has been distributing her pakora to corner shops in Edinburgh for more than 30 years. Unfortunately, a fire at her factory in May has halted production until next year. In the meantime, check out her restaurant for excellent curries, samosas, bhajis and, yes, pakora.
Mrs Unis, 99-101 Dalry Road, Edinburgh (0131 337 3852)

Enjoy lunchtime culture
The sculpture garden at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, in Edinburgh, is an inspired place for lunch or coffee - and the selection of cakes and Scottish cheeses is hard to resist. The café at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, on Queen Street, is a well-kept secret too.
(0131 624 6200,
Hmmm. I had a lovely lunch at The Gallery Restaurant just recently, in August, but I am yet to be inspired after a cuppa at these two cafes. I should be able to tick off the first one before, as I'm hoping to visit the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition before the end of the month.

Be a honey monster
Make sure your toast never goes without, with a visit to Chainbridge Honey Farm. There is a visitor centre, but you might prefer to get your paws straight on the stuff.
Horncliff, Berwick-upon-Tweed (01289 386362,

Pick your own
Summer entertainment for all the family. In season, raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and brambles run riot across Scotland.
For a comprehensive list of farms, see

Brighten up a grey day at Ndebele
This colourful Edinburgh deli is the place to come for South African delicacies such as biltong and boerewors sausages. Eat in, buy from the mini-market, ask for a delivery to your office (in central Edinburgh) or book it to cater for your own event (weddings included).
57 Home Street, Edinburgh (0131 221 1141,
Hurray, another tick-off! Am quite a frequent visitor to that place - that's where I had my lunch last Friday. Nbedele Salad plate with falafel and some interesting eggplant concoction whose name I can't remember. A very relaxed and nice place.
Sign up for a masterclass
Learn tips from the top at Kathellan Fine Food in Fife. The deli, which is set in 25 acres of farmland, also puts on a monthly class. The next is on Tuesday, November 8 with the food writer Maxine Clark, who will demonstrate venison recipes.
Kathellan, Home Farm, Fife (0871 226 2218,

Eat a deep-fried Mars Bar
Savour that well-known Scottish delicacy at its place of origin: the Bervie Chipper in Inverbervie, near Aberdeen. Best washed down with a bottle of Irn-Bru.
Oh no. I have survived 6 years in Edinburgh without eating this. Is there really no escape???

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Estonian girly night in

I spent last night 'eating and drinking in Estonian' - that's how we've come to call these nights in Edinburgh when couple of local Estonians meet up and 'practice' speaking in their mother tongue:) Yesterday it was three girls, with a fourth one joining us much later for a last glass of wine. We ate, drank wine, looked at my Mexican holiday photos and watched Nathalie on DVD. It was a very cosy and homely night in.

The menu was very simple as well. For the main course: potato-mince-tomato oven pie (see banner). These layered pasta or potato based dishes are increasinly popular in Estonia nowadays, though I cannot remember eating them in my childhood. This was accompanied by a very typical cucumber-dill-sour cream salad. And followed by yet another kama dessert. Which was trickier than I thought it would be. The recipe (scribbled down from a kama packet) is dead simple - mix whipped cream with curd cheese, kama powder, season with sugar and gently fold in some blueberries. I know I can't expect finding kama in the shops here, so I always stock up when at home. Curd cheese (kohupiim) is impossible to find here as well, but either ricotta or quark/kvark work well as substitutes. Blueberries aren't exactly in season, but can be still found in supermarkets. But when I headed to my local Tesco last night, there were no blueberries, no ricotta or quark, and no whipping cream. How frustrating is that exactly!!! Oh well, after popping in and out of several small corner shops, I finally found a tub of ricotta. And double cream - though a lot fatter and less fluffier - had to be used instead of whipping cream. And blueberries were replaced with spoonfuls of delicious home-made blackberry jam given to me by my University mentor in return for a jar of carrots with rosemary and orange. The result was really nice and definitely suitably Estonian finish to an Estonian night in.

Kartuli-hakklihavormi retsept
Kamajahuga mustikavahu retsept

Oh - and here is a picture of my breakfast. My flatmate has a Turkish-Kurdish couple staying over at the moment. And Fatosh, the wife, is a very good cook. She made those dainty Turkish feta-parsley-sesame pastries last night. These were absolutely delicious with my tea this morning:)

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Food in Mexico: Floating lunch in Xochilmilco

According to my guidebook, 'Xochimilco is a throwback to the capital's Aztec origins, with its canals and "floating" nursery gardens'. Apparently the Aztecs created these floating gardens or chinampas to grow various vegetables, fruits and flowers in order to supply the capital Tenochtitlán. If you look at old maps, you can see that Tenochtitlán was a small town surrounded by lots of water. To overcome this shortage of farmland, the Aztecs developed a system of 'floating gardens' that are rooted by willow trees. Xochimilco is on a southern edge of Ciudad de Mexico, and a popular destination for Mexican families to spend their weekend. We went there after a lovely morning at Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño (where I spotted these incredibly rare, incredibly expensive and not particularly pretty hairless pre-Hispanic dogs Xoloitzcuintle!).

You rent a colourfully decorated trajinera or a Mexican gondola/punt and a punter and spend a leisurely hour and half floating on the canal system. And just enjoy yourself. Should you need some entertainment, then there are plenty of musicians, including mariachi singers, who volunteer to break the silence - in our case two cylophone players:

Should you get hungry, there's no need to despair either. Every now and then a floating 'restaurant' would pass by and offer you something, whether it's refreshments, tortillas or maize:

We also spotted few boats with large families on board, who had brought along their cooks who were serving them food on the boat. Again, quoting my guidebook, the punts, 'packed with large groups or families, combined with countless flower- and food-sellers in canoes to create watery traffic jams. But this is Mexico, and chaos is part of the colorful picture'. As we were in Xochimilco on a Thursday afternoon, it was quite peaceful and relaxing. I really enjoyed the trip, but I'm afraid I would have found the full show on the weekends a bit too noisy and chaotic. I am Estonian after all:)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Food in Mexico: exotic fruit, grainy wall and a meal with a view in Tepostlán

Here are few pictures from my second full day in Mexico. Mexico (oh well, I guess this is not gonna be in chronological order). We had spent the previous night in Guernavaca, and on Sunday headed to this small Indian town which is famous for its church, lively market and Toltec (predecessors of the Aztecs) archeological ruins.

The market was indeed lively, colourful and very vibrant - and we admired this interesting mosaic town gate just next to the market. The mosaic is made up of various grains and seeds - I spotted sunflower seeds (pepitas), various dried beans and pulses, different types of rice and peppercorns.

I also really enjoyed exploring the market, and it was here in Tepostlán that I got my first taste of really ripe exotic tropical fruits. On this picture the guy is slicing some cirvela fruit for us to try, I believe. It was really nice, with a hint of watermelon.

Here, on the other hand, I saw, touched and ate my first mamey fruit. Beautiful colour, and lovely taste, though I thought it needed a drop or two of lemon juice. My friend Ada used mamey for a smoothie next morning. And apparently it doesn't require any lemon juice at all. Who am I to argue with the locals:)

We ended the visit with a glass of limonada for girls and a cocktail made of beer, Tabasco and tomato juice for one and milk for the other guy at this nicely located restaurant. Look at the view of Tepozteco mountain (and El Tepozteco pyramid that is hidden in the mist)!!!