Posts Tagged: food

FRESH EYRE: INTERVIEW WITH JENNIFER HUNTER- PINNIES AND POPPY SEEDS

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Walking into Pinnies and Poppy Seeds the merry, recently-opened shop on St. Mary’s street, just off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, is like falling face first into a butter pillow-topped mattress, welcoming, warm and so delicious. Jennifer Hunter flung open her white-wooden doors on August 1st after converting a dismal Danish cafe into her perfect spot to showcase her artinsanal, pure-butter shortbread and array of home-made pinnies (aprons for all you non-U.K.-based bakers). The pure-butter is not only evident in the smell of the shop, but the seven packs of gold-foil wrapped Scottish butter softening on the windowsill.

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I was introduced to Jennifer by her, ‘biggest advocate and most remarkable customer’ and a mutual friend, Toni. Jennifer invited me to join her for a morning of baking to see her skills in action. I arrived coffees in hand and was greeted by an always smiling Jennifer sporting her white-logoed button-up and green pinnie with matching logo. She already had two batches of shortbread in the oven and several more varieties were well under way. Jennifer had accomplished all this in 30 minutes since early morning start. Her motivation is a trait she gets from her mother. I wondered: would I be able to keep up with her?

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We went straight to work- Pinnies and Poppy Seeds is open everyday except Sunday, I arrived at eight o’clock giving us two hours to prepare the first round of daily baked goods. First up-white chocolate and dark chocolate billionaire shortbread truffles (better than a millionaire- Jennifer aims big!). This recipe developed by Jennifer makes use of the smaller cookies, combining home made caramel and medium-sized crumbs of her original shortbread biscuits. This mixture is rolled into bite-sized balls and then coated in melted chocolate and finally tossed in toasted coconut.

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Jennifer found her inspiration while working at an Edinburgh institution, The Fudge House, while there, she began to notice a stream of tourists coming into the store, asking where they could find shortbread, which is considered our national biscuit. Seeing a gap in the market (Jennifer holds a undergraduate degree in psychology and a masters in management) and coupled with her love of baking she spent a year developing and perfecting her recipe. When she was ready she started selling on weekends at local farmer’s markets. Her impressions, ‘There was enough interest and I thought it might work, but at first I did not think I would end up here with this empire!’

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Jennifer spoke enthusiastically about her mother and grandmother and the time she spent baking with them where she grew up in southern California. In fact her preferred treat and one of her best-sellers, Ballantyne toffee is a recipe passed along to her from her grandmother and angel investor. This top-secret recipe involves a candy thermometer and once cooled is coated on both sides with chocolate and crushed almonds. Jennifer’s family has Scottish roots and according to census records claims a baker from the Scottish borders in her family tree- this was meant to be. The décor of the shop is largely inspired by her mother, green, white and black with gunny-sack curtains. I can just picture Jennifer in her similarly-decorated family home enjoying what she says would be her last meal, ‘her dad’s tri-tip steak from the grill, her mom’s perfectly balanced potato salad and a glass of Californian wine’. Would there be shortbreads for afters? Jennifer did all the refurbishment herself, she takes her role of small-business owner very seriously and is an excellent manager- I enjoyed my three hours under her supervision. She was tough but fair!

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We moved straight into the classic biscuits and Jennifer shared a secret, baking the batches at a lower temperature for about an hour, prevents an over-baked sweet. She also swears by an oven thermometer- never trust your oven! There are about five flavors on any given day at Pinnies and Poppy Seeds, during our session we worked on classic, almond, lemon, poppy seed and cardamon white chocolate. It was a challenge to resist a dough grab and taste- but I did!

Pinnies-and-Poppyseeds-3My favourite and the cutest-looking treats are the ‘shorties’, chubby little shortbreads sandwiched with a ganache of varying flavours, the day we baked, the filling was a white chocolate variety with a swirl of local triple berry jam which is piped expertly onto a very small surface. I had a go and was not as adept as Jennifer who could probably do her piping blind folded. Other flavours she makes in the shortie style are chocolate and a chocolate orange, a new variety she is thinking of creating is Victoria sponge- with butter-cream and a touch of jam. I think Her Majesty might swing by the next time she is in town. How delicious does that sound?

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The recipe process led to my curiosity about flavour development. Her biggest flavour invention is her cardamom white chocolate biscuit and while she admits to not being the first baker to have invented this combination, Jennifer says, ‘more than any of the other tastes, this is the one which I get the most intrigued reactions, and besides the all-butter, is the one which sells the best.’ While she cannot recall the exact origins of this shortbread, she knew she wanted to differentiate it from the other unfrosted varieties and the addition of white chocolate with a pinch of the fresh-ground spice was the perfect finishing touch. While confessing to some flavour-fails, ‘the market was great for that, I would do them [different flavours] and if people did not like them, they would just tell you then and there.’ Several lovely pairings which did not make the cut, ‘ there were some I was surprised that failed- like pistachio and rose, I think it is such a great combination, but nobody bought it, so sadly I do not make it any more. The lavender and honey which I usually do in the shortie did not really sell either.’ Which flavours would you like to see next?

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Swing by and share the shortbread experience with Jennifer, she still has the same enthusiasm for her craft and her customers as she did when she sold her first piece of shortbread, ‘the first person to buy my shortbread was a lovely little old granny. She had a cup of tea with it and I watched her as she took her first bite – she smiled, it was amazing!’

Find Pinnies and Poppy Seeds on twitter: @Pinnies_Poppies

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MACRINA SEATTLE- IN YOUR FACE TASTY

While in Seattle, we were in search for delicious baked-goods and we randomly stumbled upon an event at a local bakery organized by Bread Baker’s Guild of America. The bakery was Macrina and the location was SODO location- South of Downtown and their main baking facility.

We arrived early to and sampled their brunch menu, fabulous- smoked salmon on an onion bialy for me and Ben wolfed down his oven face egg and mushroom sandwich, I think we both had order envy. It was even double iced coffee morning, with the second almond version was with a freshly baked treat or two- a roly poly and a sugar bun- worth the gluten.

For the event, we were greeted by Leslie Mackie, Macrina founder and empress. Her enthusiasm for her profession and her cafes was evident in the way she described the bread we sampled at the start of the tour- my favorite was the baguette made with potatoes, moist and doughy deliciousness. Leslie had a much-deserved sparkle in her eye as she described the success of Macrina and the three locations in Seattle and the growth over the past twenty years. I am in awe of people who have found their passions and have become so happy doing what they clearly love. She also credits the team who support Macrina and its cafes and customers.

The small group was escorted through the spacious kitchen and showed the different areas where the team produces loaf after loaf of bread, flaky pastries, custom cakes and other scrummy treats (buns stuffed with Nutella- hello!). Ben was most fascinated by the bread starter which has been in the Macrina family for ages and is the foundation for many of their delicious breads. The oven set up they have is crazy- a rotating walk-in oven and the main beast of an oven which was built in the bakery and is an engineering marvel with its conveyer belts to transport the loaves into the heat and inject steam to give the best oven-spring and crackly crust.

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Thank you to Leslie, Marina and the team for the warm (literally) welcome in June. We will be back! Until then, we will be baking from the cookbooks (here and here).

BEN HAD A BIRTHDAY

In June, and since I have been posting irregularly since then, I have not had an opportunity to post the photos from our little dinner party. I am sure you have organized more amazing activities for your loved one’s celebration, but this year, Ben wanted a small get-together with several friends, Donal, Fiona, Sarah and James. Classy-surf was the theme of the meal it mirrored Ben’s gift- surf lessons and a coffee-table book full of inspirational surf photos from Leroy Grannis.

We served tasty burgers sandwiched in homemade buns. A choice of toppings- roasted tomatoes, guacamole or caramelized onions to accompany the charred beef or the healthy sweet potato chips. A beachy cabbage salad was served in a small craft paper box. Bamboo plates and cutlery made clean-up a breeze and we could move swiftly on to the dessert- brownie ice-cream sandwiches with freshly made mint ice cream. The birthday boy requested this classic combination. This meal had been our first encounter with gluten since we had started doing our healthy eating and this was so worth giving into temptation for.

We threw together a theme-cocktail, a blue berry margarita served in mini-milk bottles. Paper straws are all the rage these days, they look really cute and add some pizazz to your drink, but after about 10 minutes in liquid, they start to crumble, defeats the purpose of a straw. Have you tried the paper straw? Any tips to get it last? Keep it dry?

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I have to start planning next year’s celebration- it is a big one for my sweet Ben.

HAVE YOU TRIED LOVECRUMBS?

Have you, have you? If you have not and you are an Edinburgh-based cake-lover, you should hustle yourself down to Westport to see the lady bakers (Holly and the gang) and sample the guest espresso they have in the hopper and try to resist the cakes and other baked goods with only free smells of the tasty treats. They have recently hired a new baker who works out of their Leith production kitchen creating combinations like Lemon and Coconut cake, a malted walnut tart, Lemon and Thyme sponge cake, pear frangipane and a beautiful looking Lavendar layer cake.

Ben and I headed for our coffee-fix one recent Sunday after the gym and Ben succumbed to the flour-less chocolate cake, ‘the healthiest option’ according to him as it was gluten free. I looked on in amazement as he lost weight before my eyes while eating this calorie bomb- oh to be Ben!

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You can find more about Lovecrumbs and on twitter: @hellolovecrumbs

They are on INSTAGRAM too ans just posted a gooseberry meringue tart. Can you imagine the tart deliciousness in that slice? Saliva glands activate.

Start drooling NOW!

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We are still on our healthy eating kick with only a few slight setbacks while on holiday (hello tasty beer and some gluten-centric treats), we could maybe even stop calling it a ‘kick’ as it is  becoming an excellent lifestyle, Ben continues to say ‘he has never felt better’. It has forced us to think of our meals as one, two and three in lieu of the traditional three. This makes it easier when you are facing a bowl of breakfast soup. Which is what we have been eating recently.

This version of roasted red pepper and tomato is perfect hot or cold. We had it hot- the first morning and added poached eggs, some avocado and meat garnish for Ben- in this case bacon and it keeps you going (almost) as long as a hearty bowl of oatmeal.

Loads of other cultures favor soup for breakfast. In Turkey they have a lentil-based variety with tomatoes and bulgar called ezogelin çorbası.

Mexicans favour soup, which shares the name with a famous Puetro Rican boy band- Menudo. The liquid version is concocted using tripe and hominy and served with fresh-made tortillas. I must admit- tripe scares me, but if you are feeling brave- here is a recipe.

I might have to give chagua a try when I am in Colombia this fall. This breakfast treat consists of a freshly poached egg in a milky broth, flavored with coriander (cilantro) and onions.

In Japan, miso soup is also an important part of the first meal of the day, not just the way we sample it in the west- pre-sushi. Although it is tasty then too!

I was not brave enough to give congee a whirl when I spotted it in the breakfast buffet during my past trips to China, but now doing some research, I am not sure what put me off, it is a rice porridge, usually had savory. I think it was some of the strange-to-me looking condiments which were used to flavour this breakfast staple which might have put me off.

I think breakfast soup is the way of the future at least here at our place.

EAT UP: TIMBERYARD

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DETAILS FOR TIMBERYARD ARE HERE.

Another Eat Up- Peter’s Yard.

THAI GREEN VEGETABLE SOUP

I mentioned a few posts ago the Whole 30 eating plan Ben and I have been following- we made it our 30 days and are feeling so great we have extended the deliciousness. For 30 days we have said to no to dairy, gluten, pulses, alcohol, peanuts, legumes (lentils), seed oils, white potatoes and sugar. We have been feasting on lean meats, vegetables, fruit, nuts, healthy fats like coconut oil and avocado oil. This recipe from Nigel Slater was almost Whole 30 compliant- just omitting the sugar. We even had to track down a special fish sauce.

Serves 2-4

white peppercorns 1 tsp
coriander seeds 1 tsp
turmeric 1 tsp
lemon grass 2 stalks
garlic 2 cloves
ginger a 3cm lump, peeled
hot green chillies 3 small
groundnut oil 
fresh coriander a handful
vegetable stock 200ml
coconut milk 250ml
fish sauce 1 tbsp
lime juice 2 tbsp
spring vegetables, such as asparagus tips, broad beans, peas450g total weight 
shredded greens, such as spring cabbage a handful
pinch of sugar and soy sauce to serve

For the paste, put the white peppercorns and coriander seeds in a dry non-stick frying pan and toast lightly for 2 or 3 minutes, then tip into the bowl of a food processor and add half a teaspoon of sea salt, the ground turmeric, lemon grass, peeled garlic cloves, ginger, green chillies, 3 tablespoons of groundnut oil and a handful of coriander stems and roots. Blitz to a course paste. You can keep this paste for a few days in the fridge, its surface covered with groundnut oil to prevent it drying out.

In a deep pan, fry 3 lightly heaped tablespoons of the curry paste in a tablespoon of oil for 30 seconds till fragrant, stirring as you go. Stir in the vegetable stock and coconut milk, the fish sauce and lime juice.

Add the asparagus tips, broad beans and peas and continue simmering for 5-6 minutes, then drop in a couple of handfuls of greens, shredded into thick ribbons. Finish the soup with a pinch of sugar, fish sauce, a little soy sauce, more lime.

EAT UP: PETER’S YARD

Given how much time and consequently money Ben and I have spent over the almost two years at Peter’s Yard, I think it deserves a bit more of a shout out. I am thankful they have a loyalty card, take that Peter’s Yard- loads of free coffees.

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The first summer we lived in Edinburgh, it was the only place which opened at 7.00 a.m., this meant Ben and I could have a Friday-morning coffee date. A ritual we still to adhere to week after week when I am around. It is the best way to start the Friday. 

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It is a Swedish bakery with the friendliest staff members who have begun to recognize us even when we cross locations form the original location in the Quartermile area to the new Stockbridge outpost.

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Top treats include the fresh-baked buns- the employees have t-shirts with FRESH BUNS inscribed on the backs. A reason enough to look for a job there, if things do not work out for us in our current roles! I am partial to the cardamon bun and Ben always chooses the ones with custard. 

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They are known for their loaves of bread with impressive oven-spring and uniform crumb. We were gifted a loaf of the carrot variety and I could just feel my eyes getting brighter- a real health food! Their scones always fluffy a real feat when compared to my hockey puck versions. Crammed full of rotating goodness in the form of fruit, seeds and nuts and a savory variety. 

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The past few weeks Ben and I have been following an eating plan called Whole 30 and we have eliminated gluten (and many other things) and have been bun free since April 1, but our coffee dates continue and we take advantage of the free smells!

 Another Peter’s yard visits: I, II, III

ALL THINGS FOOD: GOOD FRIDAY BRUNCH

To celebrate the holiest day of the Catholic calendar, Ben and I hosted a Good Friday Brunch for our newly engaged friends- Australian Sarah and Scottish James. They claim it was their first brunch, but being a well travelled duo, I highly doubt this, but they played ignorant brunchers quite well.

It also happened to be the first time we entertained after my epic trip (the adjectives will get more descriptive as I am distance from this journey!), so I might have gone a bit overboard. 

On the menu:

- Blood-Orange Mimosas

- Cinnamon Pecans*

- Wild-Mushroom Bread Pudding

- Frisee and Celery Salad with Toasted Fennel-Seed Dressing

- Almond Danish*

- Grapefruit Cupcakes filled with Grapefruit Curd topped with Vanilla Bean Butter Cream and a nest of Candied Grapefruit Peel**

Sarah and James were generous with their praise of brunch, it could have been the influence of the blood-orange mimosas with the sneaky addition of Grand Marnier. 

The Easter Bunny hopped by early to drop off mini-cocottes of goodies. He was season appropriate choosing Le Creuset’s rose-colored casseroles for table gifts (a big thing in the U.K.). Ben traded the red neck ties on the chocolate rabbits for pastel ones. 

*- The Cinnamon Pecans and Almond Danish are family recipes and I do not have the patience to type them out, but very similar variations are provided in links. 

**- The cupcakes are a combination of cake, curd, frosting, nests.

We had some fabulous waffles on Easter morning topped with grapefruit sections and the remaining tart curd. A spring explosion. Dont’ forget the whipped cream.

OUT AND ABOUT- TASTY TREATS IN SANTIAGO

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(The menu- only in Spanish)

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(First impressions are everything)

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(So welcoming and love the colours)

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One of our fabulous MBA students from Chile gave me some recommendations of things to do/see/eat while I was in Santiago. As you have probably realized, my priorities tend toward the eating variety, so first up is FOOD! 

There is a lovely, albeit, touristy place called Patiobellevista, which houses numerous shops selling Chilean handicrafts. Think copper and a blue stone which can only be found in Afghanistan and Chile- lapis lazuli (according to the open-top bus tour commentary). Patiobellevista also hosts some inviting restaurants with plenty of outdoor seating- which for a girl who rarely sees the sun living in Edinburgh, al fresco dining was a must.

I was instantly attracted by the outdoor porch setting of Cebichería Constitución,and understanding what this was, I was in. For you non-hispanophones- it is ceviche and it was the freshest tasting seafood I think I have eaten. This mixed-fish ceviche was served with fresh lime juice, a bit of yam, onions and white beans. I also tried some of their fresh octopus with an amazing black olive ‘dressing’ of sorts. I would love to try to recreate these dishes now I am home, hopefully Ben is game. We just need a Mercado Central* in Edinburgh.

*Mercado Central is a huge fresh seafood market in Santiago. I popped in for a look and smell (so fresh, there wasn’t one)! I was kindly asked several times where I was from- I the wide-eyed lost look always gets me in trouble. They make a famous eel broth here- I gave this a pass.

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