Monday, 21 November 2016

Foraging in Edinburgh: Store with Century General Store

The past few years has seen foraging have a little renaissance, as the principles of slow living and using our green spaces to the fullest have grown in popularity. Century General Store invited us to their autumn event, Store, which embraced these principles and the importance of keeping these traditions alive in a beautiful way, with Anna Canning from Floramedica as our guide.

Edinburgh is particularly green and ripe with foraging opportunities, with parks, forests and hills within the city itself. We can munch on some wild raspberries on a walk on the Water of Leith, find some sloes to make some festive gin or go somewhere fancy like Wedgwood, Aizle or Forage & Chatter for a foraged feast. Anna showed us much more than this on a walk near Century General Store's Abbeyhill branch, in particular that foraging can be done year-round basis.

With expert knowledge, Anna picked out various leaves, trees, berries and flowers which can be used for food and explained the concept of food as medicine. Organic foraged food is supremely nutritious and the variety of ways it can be used is fascinating. Nettles were growing in abundance and it was impressive how Anna was able to pick these with minimal sting. Her experience meant that she obviously had an amount of tolerance helping to prevent this! Nettles are one of the most versatile plants, which can be used medicinally for itchy skin and osteoarthritis, and have been used practically as dye and string. We tried some straight from the ground, crushing it with our fingers and it was very green tasting and surprisingly delicious. Anna also emphasised the respect that we should have for nature when we do forage for food and that we should never take more than we need.

After an hour or two of hunting through the city's leafier areas, it was then back to Century General Store's shop & cafe to try some of Anna's recipes and make use of the bounty we'd picked. She provided us with some information on the plants she'd mentioned and we were then able to make some of her recipes to enjoy. The foraged flora was put to good use in a nettle kimchi, hawthorn tapenade and elderberry balsamic; all super easy to make and delicious. It was so rewarding to know first hand how these plants can be pickled and preserved and just how healthy they are.

We were able to use Century General Store's gorgeous Weck glass jars to store the preserves, which are part of their beautiful homewares selection. It's such a joy to visit their Abbeyhill shop and browse their lux range of interiors which are selected to fit their ethos of making everyday living beautiful. There will be more events coming up with Century General Store soon so keep updated with their new Events page and Facebook page.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Edinburgh is Delicious: Autumn/Winter dining at Checkpoint

Now that November has arrived, it's the perfect time to escape the cold with cosy dinners and comfort food. We were super excited to be invited to try Checkpoint's new autumn/winter menu. Based on Bristo Place where the old Forest Cafe used to be, it's a very large and airy restaurant with utilarian chic wooden tables, black piping and speckled floors. It's easily a hipster hangout but had a very welcoming atmosphere and the wait staff were lovely and attentive.

The evening menu has a bites & bowls section that can serve as nice little sharing starters which is what we did. Asking the waitress for her top picks, we chose the sweet potato fries with za'atar yoghurt and heritage roasted carrots with toasted seeds and honey (both £4). Other interesting starter options include a rose harissa, carrot & tumeric bowl with vegetable bhaji and a chorizo, kale & mixed beans with walnut & spinach pesto (both £5). There's a clear emphasis on seasonal produce and our bowls were full to them brim with these delicious goodies that felt quite nutritious as well as a little bit naughty. The za'atar yoghurt was an excellent accompaniment for both dishes and we should have asked for more as it very quickly disappeared before either dish was halfway through. The heritage carrots were roasted well with some bite retained and had a sweet honey dressing and pumpkin seeds. Sadly this yummy sauce was mostly at the bottom of the bowl so the carrots were not quite as covered in it as we'd have liked.

Main courses were divided into fish/meat options, vegetarian plates, burgers and salads. After much swithering we decided on roast cod & pistou cockles served with pan-fried greens (£13) and the ricotta & Parmesan dumplings, hazelnut and sage brown butter with pumpkin puree (£12). Top picks from the nearly-ordered list were a slow roast duck leg, chorizo braised lentils and butternut squash samosa (£15) and a toasted freekah, roasted pumpkin, Mediterranean vegetables and harissa goats curd salad (£7.50). These flavours and ingredients are some of our favourites so it was a really hard choice and even though we were pretty full from our sweet potato and carrots starter, very much looking forward to trying the mains. They arrived relatively quickly and were beautifully presented. The roast cod was a clear winner, cooked perfectly with crispy skin. The plate was covered with abundant greenery which was beautifully seasoned and delicious to eat. The ricotta dumplings were a very generous size and had the pumpkin puree hidden underneath, with brown butter sauce and whole hazelnuts swirled on the plate. The dumplings could have done with being a little smaller just so the proportions of the dish were balanced as there was a more dumpling than sauce which was a shame towards the end of the dish. But overall it was very tasty and the whole hazelnuts added a nice dimension of crunch.

We were very nearly full so decided to share a dessert of pecan & bourbon pie with vanilla ice cream (£6), which felt very seasonally appropriate. The pie wasn't overly sweet as some pecan pies can be and the vanilla ice cream was divine, with a caramel underneath. An excellent espresso later and we were off back into the bracing Edinburgh air, with our bellies full and smiles on our faces. We thoroughly recommend a visit to try their new menu full of seasonal goodness; it's warm atmosphere and tasty food is definitely worth the journey!