Rest and Be Thankful

March 13, 2015

In January of this year my cousin and I decided to go for a Sunday drive. We ended up headed for some seafood at Loch Fyne and take in the sights along the way. Once crossing the Erskine Bridge it is a beautiful drive on up to the loch. Personally it is one of my favourite drives past Loch Lomond. Past Luss and Arrochar. All along the way you see wee signs for mussels, whelks, smoked fish and the infamous Clappy Doo all from the region and all well sought after by foragers and divers to the area.

It was the most perfect day for a drive. Snow on the hills, sun at our backs and mostly clear skies. Breakfast that morning was a quick stop in Dumbarton at a friend of my cousins café which had delicious morning rolls with all beef sliced sausage and a generous portion of HP to top it off also.

As we climbed our way north, we stopped at a beautiful stop called “Rest and Be Thankful”. The name could not have been more perfect for this area. I pondered however how I needed a rest and most importantly what was I thankful for in life. Well you could imagine all the thoughts going through my head but I also thought of the many number of people who stood in that same spot throughout the years of past and perhaps what would possibly command, in their opinion, what to be thankful for?

Could anybody honestly say they are thankful for the delicious food from Scotland? I did, and I was later given the most delicious smoked fish I have had in ages, I think, in return for my thoughts and thankfulness of the food from home. It was perfect!

We had lunch at Loch Fyne Oyster Bar. I nice restaurant and shop with a considerable amount of items on the menu but one item caught my attention right away. Smoked Mackerel.
I love smoked fish. Especially when in Scotland. Arbroath Smokies are probably one of my favourites but I also love both hot and cold smoked salmon, smoked cod and finnan haddies. I’m getting hungry just writing about it!

Loch Fyne kippers were what caught my attention as my cousin orders the smoked salmon variety board. What came next was pure heaven. The kippers were amazing. The smoke was perfect. The taste was perfect and with a slight touch of olive oil and citrus garnish, made the dish perfect.

It made me truly thankful for the skills of the fisherman, the skills of the smoker and the skills of the chef. I was thankful for the opportunity to enjoy such a delight. Most importantly, I was thankful for being in Scotland. Appreciating the short time with family and the memory of my uncle who recently passed.

In reflection, I have a lot to be thankful for in my life. I’m just glad to add another great dish to that list. 046

5.0 out of 5 stars “I was there to cook, and that is all I wanted to do” March 4, 2015

By Ted Parnall

“I was there to cook, and that is all I wanted to do”
This is an excellent book for anyone who wants a better understanding of how a young person, of very limited means, but of exceptional drive and character, can achieve success not only in the competitive field of cooking, but also as a human being. While stories of achievements by members of minority groups are not uncommon, “Ginger” reminds us that hardship and discrimination continue to exist even for the underclass of migrants from Europe.
David Macfarlane tells a very compelling story about a harsh, abusive father, about a passion for cooking, about the important role in his life played by the US Navy, and about his preparation of meals for the most powerful diner in the world: the US President. He writes with a direct honesty and lack of guile, allowing the reader a rare view into a Scottish immigrant’s often hard road through life.
The reader learns to admire Macfarlane’s pride in his work, his humility and even-handed acceptance of diverse cultures and people that he encounters. He expresses his appreciation of the efforts of his superiors to help him get past hurdles, such as his gaining US citizenship, without a hint of entitlement. With his red hair and white skin (hence, “Ginger”), he works in Navy galleys alongside Filipinos and African-Americans and earns respect by both his lack of color-consciousness and his dedication to food preparation as a vocation instead of a job.
This is a great American story, simply told, that will remind the reader of the value of hard work, honesty and passion for one’s work.

http://dunrobin.us/2015/01/ginger-a-kids-journey-from-scotland-to-the-white-house/

Do you remember the scene from the movie ‘Falling Down’, with Michael Douglas where he orders food in a fast food restaurant and goes absolutely ape shit when the burger looks nothing like the picture on the menu board? Well, we have all been there at one time or another in our dining out experience.
The picture is designed to sell to the impulse of what looks appetizing and in almost all cases works for the everyday food that is really not all that special when you get it. Hence the picture!
As a chef, it is important to exceed the expectations of the visual the customer will have in their head usually from the descriptors written in the menu. Imagine picture icons on the menu next time you go to Jean George’s?
Innovating those dishes to handle the tolerance of a quick service or even casual service can and is quite a chore. But it is not impossible. In my upcoming book called “Feeding the Masses”, I talk about this considerably and point out my opinion on why the younger chefs of today have an advantage over us old timers.
You see when I was young, everything had to be based around the classical French way of doing things. My mentors were all classically trained the French way as were there mentors.
School focused around the French way of cooking also so I personally think that left us at a disadvantage. You see if you think about it, being taught that to be a successful chef you must only follow the classics kind of leaves you unimaginative. This of course is only my opinion but I think there is a lot to be said about how we are taught. Especially getting screamed at by the chef reminding you to not think and not deviate from the classical approach of things.
It is important to be in a culture that encourages innovation. One that would embrace a different approach to the pass rather than one that has no room for change.
Todays young chefs have free reign. They didn’t endure the bullying in the kitchen, not to be construed as a negative, and have had the chance to be more explorative in their journey. I envy them for that. If you take a good look around you, you will notice the difference. I see it everywhere I go. I expect to see more of it in Scotland too!
The food of today is beautiful. No matter what the picture looks like on the board, if your unsatisfied with what you get, your eating at the wrong place mate! Go and find that chefs food that will be better than the picture in your head. They are out there……

chakras

Food, in my opinion, is very spiritual. It can and will connect with you whether it be ethnically, favourably, spiritually or necessity. As the spiritual chakra is the energy points of light in our physical bodies I was inspired to use a similar system when working on Modern Scottish Cuisine.

The first point of energy is the mind. We are all taught from a very young age to think rationally before speaking or acting. For me it was what did I expect to get out of modernizing Scottish food? I had to think of the outcome before taking any other action. Envision, if you will, the finished product before any other work is started.

Second, is sight. What will the food look like? It must be appealing to sight and find favour in its appearance.

Third, is smell. Does the dish smell attractively? The bouquet of aroma has a very powerful effect and must be capitalized on at every opportunity.

Fourth is taste. Every dish is judged by all previous points but most importantly by how it tastes. Personally I believe the food from Scotland tastes terrific. My objective here is to convince others to also feel the same way about Scottish food as I do.

Fifth, is feel. With a variety of different cooking methods, I have the ability to demonstrate different textures. Moist heat will soften the food where dry heat will crust it. Taking the same ingredient I can have a variety of textures.

Sixth, the heart. How does this dish reflect the love and attention of the heart. This sense is more important to me than first thought. It should reflect not only how you feel about the dish but if the dish reflects the passion and love of an artist in creating it.

And finally, seventh, the stomach. When we are hungry, we rub it and when full, we do the same. Our stomachs have an incredible way of communicating with us and letting us know how it feels. For me, it is incredibly important to satisfy the stomach and give it nutritious foods when combined with all of these elements mentioned makes for a truly innovative approach to creating recipes.

Now the importance of touching all of these elements is balance. Practice on some of your favourite dishes and see how balanced that dish is and what you would change to improve it. This has proven a very worthy exercise for me in the development of my recipes and I am sure it will for you also.

Independence Chicken

February 9, 2014

indy chicken 025

A good friend of mine and I were having a discussion the other day about Modern Scottish Cuisine and influential dishes that hail from Scotland. He suggested creating a dish that would help inspire the people of Scotland for the upcoming vote on independence and celebrate the flavours of home.

The result is a dish I call ‘Independence Chicken.’ A delicious entree that has familiar flavours with a modern twist. Mike, my friend, wasn’t the only inspiration. I was also inspired by Cock-A-Leekie soup and how to capture those delicious flavours into a main course that would be easy for home cooks and professional cooks alike. The result is as follows:

2 Chicken Breasts, boneless and skin on, seasoned with Celtic Sea Salt & Pepper

2 TBSP Cooking Oil

Preheat oven to 360F / 182C, In a sautee pan, oven proof, over medium to high heat brown chicken breast on both sides, skin side first. Once browned, place in oven till done, approximately 15 – 20 minutes.

While the chicken is in the oven, place the following in a sautee pan over medium heat:

1 TBSP Butter

45g Leeks, julienned and blanched

56g Prunes, sliced thin

then Add:

100 ML White Wine

250 ML Double Cream

Let sauce simmer until thickened. Season with salt & pepper if desired.

Remove chicken from the oven and let rest for a minute or two. On a plate, spoon sauce in center. Slice chicken and place on top of sauce.

Garnish with tattie Scones and your favourite greens. If you would like to try my tattie scones, here is the recipe:

400g Mashed Potatoes, chilled. I like to make them the day before

35g Butter

150g Flour

50g Steel Cut Oats

In a bowl, mix all ingredients but retain 50g of flour for dusting. Once dough is smooth and fully combined, divide into 6 balls. roll each ball onto floured surface into the shape of a rectangle. Then cut into quarters and griddle on a pan with a splash of oil over low heat. Serve hot.

I hope you enjoy making and eating this dish. Share it with your friends and family and let’s get our independence spirit moving on ‘YES’ a full stomach!

Slainte

FOR PIE”S SAKE

February 5, 2014

Image

If there could only be one food that reminds me of home, it would be the Scotch Pie. It is in itself symbolic of all things Scottish. To be honest, it is hard to think of food in Scotland and not think of the pie.

But I do have to be honest and express my deepest sympothy for the way the pie has been treated through the past few years. Made with cheap flavourless greasy mush is unfortunately a descriptive of some pies I have had lately. It’s gotten to the point where I am more satisfied with making them myself but not everybody can do this on a regular basis and even myself, like most of you, resort to buying them in hopes to enjoy but to be honest I hardly do anymore.
I guess this is my way to vent my frustration and would love to see quality back into my beloved pie!
I truly long for the day that the pie can regain it’s favour in my weekly diet. I would much rather pay an extra Pound for a quality pie and I am sure the rest of Scotland feels the same way. So my message is this to all you cheap pie makers out there, “Get the quality of flavour, texture and crust back into our beloved Scotch pie instead of cutting ingredient costs to maximize profits, please!”

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Putting aside, for a moment, all the attention Scotland will achieve this next year with the focus being our vote for independence I would like for you to consider making our cuisine a top topic in all your discussions as well as what’s on your table. Create a BUZZ around the terrific foods that we share with the world in an ever-changing topic of trends which creates ideas of what we will crave.

Each year I read all the trend reports from several sources which offer predictions of where the food scene is going next. As food trucks became all the rage in Los Angeles I couldn’t help but think of the wee caravan I would get my slice sausage on a roll and a cup of tea from in Largs. When small plates were the rage, and still are, I often think of what it was like growing up in a council house where there was eight of us jockeying for position at the dinner table where small plates was the trend every day. A tasting of sorts with a wee bit of fish, tatties and stovies perhaps one day and skirlie, fried eggs and bacon another.

I spend a lot of time looking at previous year predictions and see what hits. Mainly out of curiosity but mostly to see who really has their finger on the pulse of the culinary world. Truth is about 30% of the predictions are really even relevant to what we see the following year. A low percent but still not too bad in my opinion. Take for example an article that I read on trends recently. One chef says “Look for beef to be on trend.” Hardly a prediction in my opinion but with the growing cost of beef from several commodity forecasters I’m not really feeling this one but we will see. I would be more intrigued though if he had said Angus Beef or Highland Beef. Referencing the Scottish input to the beef market would be great in my opinion. Similar to the experience of Kobe beef from Japan and how for a couple of years chef’s went absolutely nuts trying to get it on their menus. The cost is high but that didn’t seem to slow the trend. Wagyu started popping up almost everywhere in America. Even in hamburgers! Can you believe that? Finding the best beef possible and grinding it?

Trends become trends by people taking notice and talking about what is trendy. I hope this happens with our food and would like to see the world be more curious about what Scotland has to offer.

In 2014 I would like to see the following food trends come out of Scotland:

  • Scottish salmon both raw and smoked taking prevalence over any other region as premiere quality
  • Scottish Oats. Steel cut Scots oats will grow in popularity and Skirlie will be relevant in menus
  • Scottish Malt. With the trend being small distilleries making a splash
  • Stovies becoming more noticeable as braised meats and tatties
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