Beaujolais Nouveau Dinner

Thursday 15th November

3-courses - £25

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There is nothing quite like the anticipation we feel for the third Thursday in November. For that is the day we welcome the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau. Come along to help us celebrate!

We'll be celebrating the French way at blanc with a selection of sharing dishes to begin, so we ask everyone to arrive at 7pm.

To start, no less than six Lyonnaise-style dishes of bean salads, ox cheek pot au feu, pig snout, pig's ears and of course, smoked herrings. 

Followed by, onglet steak, red wine sauce and gratin Dauphinoise, or
fish quenelle with bisque and Comté cheese, steamed potatoes.

And to finish, cheese or a choice of desserts.

Plus a large selection of Beaujolais crus available by the bottle and glass. Parfait!

Table d'hote - 7pm.

L'escargot blanc
17 Queensferry Street, Edinburgh EH2 4QW
Book now: 
0131 226 1890

Escargots de Barra

Tartine d’escargots de Barra a l’ail et persil

 

The day I went to Barra and everything changed.

Why would I buy farmed snails from France or Indonesia (where most of them come from) when I can source them directly from Scottish islands? Buying from Barra supports the island's economy and my restaurant customers love the idea of eating Scottish snails. It's a talking point.

So, anyone for a Barra snail tartine?

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Ingredients 

Serves 6

  • 1kg fresh Barra snails – starved for three days

  • 1 or 2 handfuls of coarse sea salt

  • 3 litres of vegetable bouillon

  • 20cl beef demi-glace or brown stock

  • 2 carrots – finely diced

  • 2 small onions – finely diced

  • 2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped

  • 1 bouquet garni

  • 2 soup spoons of chopped parsley

  • 2 tablespoons of butter

  • 1 baguette – sliced

  • Sprinkle of fresh chives/parsley or a mixture of both

  • Coarse sea salt and pepper

Method

1. Sprinkle the snails with the coarse salt and leave for 30 minutes. Drain, rinse and wash them under cold running water until clean.

2. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. When boiling, plunge your snails in for five minutes, remove them and immediately place them in icy water.

3. Drain, separate the shells from the snail meat using a toothpick and cut off the guts. Give them another wash.

4. Bring the vegetable bouillon to the boil, add in the snails, bring back to the boil and simmer for about two hours or until soft. Cool them down in the bouillon.

5. In a sauté pan, add butter and slowly sweat the diced onion for 10 minutes then add in the diced carrot. Sweat for another 10 minutes. Add your snails and sweat all together for five minutes, stirring all the time on a low heat.

6. Add in the beef stock, reduce then add in the chopped garlic and the parsley. Finish off the sauce with a knob of butter, taste and season, taste again and season again if needed. Pour into a dish and serve to your guests with slices of baguettes.

Enjoy with a glass of red wine. Bon appétit!

As published on Scotsman, 5 May 2015

Spring Cooking Time

Beef cheeks Marengo

 

With spring taking its time to appear, I imagine we could all do with a hearty, belly-warming dish to put a smile on our faces.

If I’m planning a slow-cooked dish, beef cheeks instantly spring to my mind. Taken from the cows’ cheek muscle, it’s a very tough cut of meat, however, the good news is, this makes it relatively cheap to buy. The beauty of this beef is that if you leave it bubbling away in the slow cooker, or on the side of the stove, to cook for hours and hours, it turns into tender, melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

It’s amazing what memories are conjured up from the simple smell of a dish, and for me, this takes me all the way back to my childhood. We were well fed, that’s for sure!

To me, learning about where your meat is from is an essential part of the buying process. I want to ensure the animal has been treated well, had quality of life, and that the supplier is reputable. So, when buying your beef, make sure you ask your butcher to tell you its provenance story.

This dish went down a treat with my family and friends when I cooked it last week back home in France. I love getting all my loved ones around one table; talking, eating and drinking. There really is nothing better. Slow cooked dishes like this come into their own for occasions like that as they don’t need much preparation on the day. After all, there is nothing worse than being stuck in the kitchen and missing all of the good times that are happening at the dinner table.

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Ingredients 

Serves 4

  • 4 beef/ox cheeks
  • 50cl beef bouillon
  • 40cl beef demi glace or brown stock
  • 25cl white wine
  • 2 carrots (diced)
  • 2 small onions (diced)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 shallot (diced)
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 4 tbsp. plain flour
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • Vegetable oil or duck fat
  • Sprinkle of fresh chives/parsley or a mixture of both
  • 2 tomatoes (peeled and diced)
  • Coarse sea salt and pepper

Method

1. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Once boiling, plunge your tomatoes in for 20 seconds, remove them and immediately place them in icy water. Peel them, chop them up and remove all of the pips. Peel and prepare all of your vegetables.

2. Preheat your oven to 180°C.

3. Clean the beef cheeks by getting rid of any excess fat and trim them whilst leaving them whole. Season the cheeks with salt and roll them in flour whilst tapping any excess flour off.

4. Heat the oil or duck fat in a large cast iron pan or thick-bottomed pot. When it’s smoking hot, brown the meat evenly until golden, then add the onions, shallots and carrots and sweat them gently for 15 minutes.

5. Pour out any excess fat and deglaze the pot by pouring in the white wine, the beef bouillon and stock. Bring to the boil.

6. Once boiling, add in the bouquet garni, garlic, diced tomatoes and season again with salt and pepper. Cover and cook in the oven for 2 ½ - 3 hours until the meat is tender or when a knife goes into the meat quite easily.

7. Take the pot out of the oven and leave it to rest for 20 minutes. Take the meat out and put it aside. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve pressing all the vegetables to extract all of their juices. Pour the sauce back into the pot to reduce until it thickens. Taste and season then put your meat back into the pot and reheat everything together.

8. Finally, add a knob of butter and stir your sauce until the butter has melted, taste again, sprinkle chopped parsley over it and serve.

One point to remember when you’re cooking this dish is to always do what you feel is right. If I feel that I need to add a bit more of this or a bit less of that then I will - follow your heart and you’ll be surprised with what you’re capable of. That is what cooking is all about, after all, using your feelings and sharing good times with your friends and family.

Bon appétit!

As published on Herald Scotland, 10 April 2018

Get Cooking Some Good, Hearty Food

Duck neck pie served with lamb’s lettuce

 

For this great dish, I am serving precious lamb’s lettuce from my garden. It was put in the ground last October and has survived the winter. That's one of the things I love about Scotland. There will be plenty of other lettuce or salad varieties available in your local market, but try to avoid supermarkets if you have fresh, local produce available nearby.

Remember that cooking is about sharing and having fun testing, tasting, trying and mainly entertaining. Whether it is your kids and family or friends, do not hesitate to add ingredients or change this recipe as you wish.

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 Ingredients

Serves 4/6

For cooking the neck

  • 1kg fresh duck neck (special thanks to Gartmorn farm for supplying)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Stock (veal, beef or duck)
  • I bouquet garni

For the mash and vegetables

  • 1 large swede
  • 1 large celeriac
  • 1 large carrot
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 100g butter
  • 2tbsp of crème Fraiche

For the dressing

  • 500g lamb’s lettuce or other leaves
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 2tbsp walnut oil
  • 1tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Method

1. Preheat an oven to 180°C. Peel and wash all vegetables.

2. Sear the skinned duck neck in a roasting tray. Add the onions and carrots and sauté, stirring often until all is a golden colour.

3. When the neck is caramelised and light brown, add the stock and bouquet garni. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid or foil and place in the oven at 180°C. Cook for an hour, or until the meat is falling apart. Leave to cool down.

4. While your duck is cooking, peel the swede, carrot, celeriac and potatoes.

5. Once peeled, cut slices of about 2cm wide of celeriac, carrot and swede.

6. Cut the slices into 3 or 4 shapes of your choice for each vegetable, except the potatoes.

7. Cook the shaped vegetables in salted boiling water until soft, and place in ice-cold water to stop them cooking. Drain and reserve. By now you have carrot, swede and celeriac shape vegetables.

8. Cut the potatoes into big chunks. Put them in a large pot and cover with water. Add two pinches of sea salt, cover and bring to the boil, then simmer until all is cooked. Drain well and set aside.

9. When the duck is cool, shred the meat from the bones, keeping an eye out for very small bones; set the meat aside.

10. Pass the stock through a sieve and add to the meat.

11. Peel, slice and sweat a carrot and an onion for 10 minutes on a medium heat. When soft, add the meat, season well, add the stock and stir. Taste and season again if needed.

12. Butter a dish or a pot that you will use for cooking and serve the pie, and place the meat at the bottom.

13. Finish your mash by crushing the cooked vegetables, add 100g butter and a large spoon of crème Fraiche, stir and taste. Season well and taste again.

14. Put the mash on top of your duck meat and level well using a spatula. Push your shaped vegetables into the mash, add a few cubes of butter and place in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 20 to 30 minutes.

15. Whisk your oils with the vinegar, add in the lettuce, stir it and serve with the piping hot pie when ready. Enjoy with friends.

With spring around the corner, get cooking some good, hearty food.

*Although this recipe was featured on their January special, is a dish you can cook at any time of the year.

As published on Sunday Herald Life, 21 Jan 2018
 

Newton Walled Garden

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Since March, I have been growing and harvesting fresh salad leaves, herbs and vegetables at Newton Walled Garden, just outside Edinburgh.

It is one of the most satisfying things that I have done as a chef. At the height of the summer, the garden was supplying both escargot restaurants with all of our salad leaves and a little more than 50% of all the herbs we need. 

I can't tell you how rewarding it is to plant a seed, nurture it, pick it and then to finally see that produce on the plate. Working with nature and the seasons is vital for a chef. Growing our own produce in the garden has given me a genuine sense of re-connecting with nature and its cycles. Tending the plants on a beautiful summer morning is incredibly fulfilling. It is almost like therapy.

There are several reasons for doing this. Yes, there is a slight economic benefit from growing your own veg and herbs but that hasn't been my main motivation. Being able to grow better quality produce than I can buy from wholesale suppliers is more important to me. 

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In the restaurants, we work hard to source the best quality meat, dairy, fish and drinks. We seek out the best producers we can and work closely with them. I want to be just as rigorous and as discerning with our vegetables and herbs. Growing my own seems to be the best way to do this.

There are good, passionate local suppliers who grow high quality vegetables. Unfortunately, they are not geared up to supply the quantities required in the two restaurants. I don't want to buy from the mainstream commercial suppliers because I cannot trust their products. I don't believe in the methods they use.

Recent events have highlighted problems in the poultry supply chain. We all remember the scandal of horse meat being mis-sold as beef from a few years back. We know there are fundamental problems with both the industrial livestock farming system and the supply chains that take it to the consumer. There is less awareness about the problems with industrial plant farming. 

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I don't want to eat vegetables from Spain or Holland which have been sprayed with pesticide and fed artificial fertilisers to make them grow faster. Nor do I want to feed these things to my customers. By growing our own, I know exactly where my veg comes from and how it was produced. It has integrity. It has verifiable provenance and I can have faith in it.

The produce from my garden tastes better. The flavours are more intense. They are not watery. By growing my own radish, lamb's lettuce or celery, we get a product which has a true flavour of itself. I also believe it is more healthy than commercially grown vegetables. I feel better after eating it and I want our customers to get those benefits too.

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Around 1.3 acres in size, the garden is owned by Mary Fawdry. It has been in her family since 1947 although their connections with the land go back a century. As a child, Mary ran barefoot around the garden. Several decades later, she still works in the garden every day. I am very proud to have a role in the garden's story and very thankful to Mary for sharing it.

One of the reasons that Mary invited us into her garden was that she wanted to see it 'happily used'. She wants to see it have a wider benefit. Being involved in the garden has allowed us to employ a gardener. We also bring groups of school children to the garden and cook with them using vegetables that they have pulled from the ground. 

It all feels good. It all feels right and, I said, working this kitchen garden has been one of the most rewarding challenges of my career. We have plans for developing our work in the garden with Mary. I will tell you about them as they come to fruition. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go and pick some leeks.

Mangalitsa Pigs

Late last year, my favourite type of email dropped into my inbox. It was a completely unexpected email from a farmer in Perthshire who had somehow accidentally acquired some pure breed Mangalitsa pigs.

According to this mysterious email, no-one in the farming world was interested in Mangalitsa pigs. As a chef with a reputation for producing what have been called adventurous menus, perhaps I might be interested in taking them?

To be honest, I didn't know what on earth Mangalitsa pigs were but I didn't need to do much research before I knew that yes, I absolutely wanted them for my restaurants. It turns out that Mangalitsa, a slow growing breed which is expensive to farm, have been described as the Wagyu beef of pork. Like Wagyu, their flesh has a lot of marbling running through it.

Regular readers will know that we like to use Wagyu beef from the Highland Wagyu farm in Perthshire. The thought of cooking its porcine equivalent was enough to make my mouth water. Their name in Hungarian means "hog with a lot of lard" and it is this fat which makes the meat succulent and richly flavoured. All of which means that I couldn't wait to get these pigs in the pot and on the menu. The only problem was that these Mangalitsa were some way off being pot-ready. In fact, we needed to find them a good home for a few months. Somewhere that would take good care of them until they were ready to take a starring role on l'escargot menus. At which point, we will introduce Josiah Lockhart, the General Manager of Gorgie City Farm. I am a big fan and supporter of Gorgie City Farm. We work with them throughout the year. Over the years, they have produced numerous pigs for us; several lambs, mutton and even the odd goat every now and then.

Education is part of Gorgie City Farm's remit and that is something we are very happy to support. If we want the nation to have a healthy relationship with food then we need to know what producing it entails. Kids learning where their food comes from seems like a good starting point. Can you see where this is going? I met with Josiah and asked if he would like to look after my Mangalitsa for me. His eyes lit up like a kids' at Christmas and, a week later, nine pigs were heading towards their new home at Gorgie City Farm.

I really recommend that you take your kids to visit the pigs. Entry to Gorgie City Farm is free and, as you can see from the picture, the Mangalitsa are super cute. With an eye-catching woolly appearance, they look more like sheep than the pink-skinned pigs we are used to seeing. I can't help but imagine that they are the sort of thing that might feature in an episode of The Muppets.

This is what Josiah has to say about them: "It is a great product in terms of the meat but it is also ideal for the farm. It is something unusual and the parents and kids love it. The farm always needs more visitors and the Mangalitsa are one way of bringing them in."          

If you have never seen Mangalitsa before, it is because very few people have. Interest in them is growing but, at one point, they were so rare, that there were only 150 of them in existence. Originally from Hungary, the breed is derived from the Northern European Wild Boar. It is practically unheard of in the UK.

Farmers aren't keen on them as they take a year to reach the right weight. That is about twice as long to rear as more commercial pigs. This makes them an expensive breed to farm. Working with Josiah, I am perfectly happy to rear my pigs at a natural pace. I reckon that the unique characteristics of the meat, partially a product of their slow growth, will make it worthwhile. Some things are worth waiting for.

It reminds me of the way that the market for Dexter beef has developed in the UK. Ten years ago, when I started cooking with it, no-one was interested. Now, it's popular right across the UK. Already, fellow chefs are asking if I have any Mangalitsa to spare. Obviously, I am thoroughly enjoying saying "Non" to them. Although I am not so daft as to think that I will forever remain the only chef in town with a steady supply of Mangalitsa.

I have yet to try the meat but Josiah had some a few years back. He describes it as dark red in colour with intense marbling. The texture is tender and soft while the flavours is said to be like beef but with a slight sweetness.

Interestingly, part of the feed for our Mangalitsa comes from the Pilot Brewery in Leith. The farm takes the waste from their mash and feeds it to the pigs. It will be fascinating to see what effect that has on the flavour.

Our first Mangalitsa from Gorgie City Farm goes to the abattoir in mid-February. We hope to have Mangalitsa on the menu by the end of February. I'm going to ask Rachel Hammond to use some of it to make charcuterie. I have yet to decide how I am going to cook the different cuts of meat but I am looking forward to working with this new ingredient.

In some ways, the farm is similar to l'escargot restaurants. Like the farm, we get very excited in the kitchen when we have an interesting new product to work with and we know that our customers are very open to trying new things.

Roll on February and the first Mangalitsa on our menus!

Shetland Lambs

Shetland Lambs

In the Escargot restaurants we like to use Native Shetland Lamb PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) from Richard Briggs, a farmer from Weisdale on Shetland.

Campbells field trip

Campbells field trip

A fantastic first-hand experience at Campbells Prime Meat in Linlithgow, with senior butcher Gerry Neilson and Edinburgh College's chefs-to-be students.

Ask the butcher

Fred reflects on his appearance at the CIS Excellence Awards and Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards, and highlights the importance of developing relationship with his (and your!) primary producers.

Fashions fade

Good cooking is not about following trends.

Orkney Beef (PDO)

Fred pays a visit to the local butcher in Orkney.