Girl Versus Food

Reviews, recipes and thoughts from a Scottish food blogger

Month: February 2015

The Cook School Scotland

How excited was I to open a voucher for The Cook School Scotland on Christmas Day? Brownie points to Mr GvF! Located in Kilmarnock, The Cook School Scotland offers an ever-changing range of half-day, full-day and evening classes where you can learn to cook anything from Italian cuisine to Thai street food. Since one of our favourite things is entertaining, we chose the Friends for Dinner course.

We arrived just before 10am to tea, coffee and warm scones. The group of 18 was a mixture of couples, friends and some people on their own. They were a sociable bunch and everyone was in good spirits and looking forward to the day ahead.

After being issued with a rather fetching orange apron it was time to get started. We were looked after by Head Chef Andy Beattie, Chef Bobby and a magical behind the scenes team who whipped away our dirty dishes and tidied up during the day. No washing up! Best news ever!

The recipes were broken down into manageable chunks which were demonstrated to the group, before we each went off to our kitchen stations and recreated the steps. There were some laughs along the way as a few people managed to interpret the recipes slightly wrong, but the chefs were on hand to rescue their dishes. During the demos, the chefs shared anecdotes and helpful tips and techniques. They were also happy to answer any food related questions from the class.

Preparing slow roasted duck legs

During the course of the day we made a fantastic three course meal which included ham hock, lentil and porcini soup, slow roasted duck legs with smashed root vegetables for the main and a dessert of an ice cream sandwich with salted caramel sauce. The chefs also demonstrated fresh bread making and created a side dish of cauliflower and macaroni cheese with a herby crust.

Cook's privileges!

Cook’s privileges!

The day went surprisingly quickly and before I knew it, it was 3pm and time to sit down, relax and enjoy our delicious meal over a glass of wine. The course was informative but also loads of fun and whatever your level of experience, I would highly recommend a day out at The Cook School Scotland.


Ice Cream sandwich ham hock, lentil and porcini soup

Review of The Jolly Botanist, Edinburgh Gin Bar

The Jolly Botanist is Edinburgh’s newest gin bar, located on Morrison Street, close to Haymarket Railway Station. As a lover of all things gin, it had been high on my ‘To Do List’ since it opened earlier this month.

When I visited for post-dinner drinks, the bar had a buzzing Saturday night atmosphere. The clientele were a mixture of couples and groups of friends. Despite the place being busy, I only had to wait a few minutes at the bar before being served and I also managed to find a seat at a long table with bar stools.


I counted around forty different gins on the extensive drinks list which has helpful suggestions on which tonic and garnish would be best paired with each. I decided to try out something different and went for Opihr – an oriental spiced gin which was lovely and warming on a cold February night. I followed this up with a Rhubarb and Ginger liqueur from Edinburgh Gin. Mr GvF opted for a deliciously crisp Scottish Caorunn gin which was garnished with apple. Next time I visit I would love to see even more Scottish craft gins like Rock Rose, Eden Mill and Daffy’s.

The bar has had a £730k renovation to transform it in into something completely unique. The Victorian style decoration is quirky and theatrical and I loved The Jolly Botanist winged character adorning one wall. In keeping with the shabby chic décor, the drinks were served in heavy crystal glasses. The toilets were clean and beautifully decorated with shiny white tiles embellished with oriental blossom.

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I’d definitely like another rendezvous with The Jolly Botanist soon and next time I hope to sample their food and some delicious gin cocktails which come in gorgeous tea cups on stems.

Cheers from Girl Versus Food! ximage4

Monkfish with Smoky Aubergine Puree

I’d been wanting to cook a monkfish dish for ages and when I came across this Tom Keridge recipe I knew it was ‘The One’. You need to start this recipe the night before but it’s definitely worth it! I found this dish ideal to enjoy on a Friday night because it doesn’t leave you feeling too full to enjoy a couple of glasses of wine afterwards and it was a big hit with Mr GvF. Read on for my step by step guide.


INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

2 large aubergines

2 tbsp cumin seeds

2 tbsp coriander seeds

olive oil

100ml double cream

2 lemons, zest of 1, juice of both

salt and pepper for seasoning

450g of monkfish tail, skin removed

2 tbsp of butter

100g green olives

1 tbsp drained capers

4 salt packed anchovies

1 red chilli

2 tbsp of chopped flat leaf parsley




1. This part I found strangely fun! You want to char the skin of the aubergines to impart a smoky flavour into the flesh. Light two rings on your gas hob and place the aubergines directly into the flames. Use tongs to keep turning them, it should take 5 to 10 minutes to get the outside of the aubergines nice and charred.Cooking aubergine

2. Put the aubergines into an oven preheated to 180C and bake for 35 minutes then leave to cool.

3. Once the aubergines have cooled, cut in half and scoop out the flesh. Be careful not to get any of the burnt skin stuck to the flesh.smoky aubergines

4. Chop up the aubergine flesh with a sharp knife until it forms a puree. Don’t be tempted to use a blender as this will allow the moisture to soak into the flesh when we actually want to get rid of the moisture.

5. Put the aubergine puree into a sieve over a bowl and leave to drain overnight in the fridge.

6. About an hour before you’re ready to eat, take the monkfish tail out of the fridge. The monkfish has one large bone running down the middle. Using a sharp knife cut the flesh off the bone so that you have two equally sized fillets.

7. Sprinkle salt over both sides of the fish fillets and leave them to come up to room temperature.

8. You can make the dressing at this stage by chopping the anchovies, olives, chilli and capers. Mix them up in a bowl along with the parsley, a tablespoon of olive oil and the juice of one and a half lemons. Season with salt and pepper.

9. With whole spices you really need to heat them to get the full flavour. Put the coriander and cumin seeds in an overproof pan and cook them in a preheated oven at 180C for 10 minutes, shaking them around half-way through.

10. Grind the seeds up in a pestle and mortar to form a fine powder.

11. Heat a little olive oil in a medium sized pan and add one and a half tablespoons of the spice mixture. Cook for 2 minutes and then add the aubergine flesh.

12. Cook for another 2 minutes then add the double cream, the lemon zest and the juice of half a lemon. Season with salt and pepper, stir well and set aside.

13. Wipe any excess salt off the fish and then sprinkle over what’s left of the spice mix.

14. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and cook the fish for 6 – 8 minutes, turning regularly to ensure the spices don’t burn. Melt the butter in a small dish in the microwave. Monkfish, like steak, should be left to rest after cooking. Spoon the butter over the fish and leave to rest in a warm place for 5 minutes.

15. Reheat the aubergine puree and put a few generous spoonfuls on each plate. Slice up the monkfish and place on the plate. Spoon over the dressing you made earlier.

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Valentine’s Menus 2015

Although, I’m not a massive fan of card and present buying for Valentine’s Day, I think any excuse to enjoy a delicious meal with someone you love should be jumped at! I’ve done the hard work for you and below is my pick of what Edinburgh and Glasgow have to offer this year.

If you’re a seafood fan I would recommend trying Gandolfi Fish in Merchant City. I’d definitely opt for the monkfish tail Bourguignon for my main (£21). Alternatively, Fish restaurant in Edinburgh has a Valentine’s menu which comes in at a very reasonable £30 including a glass of Prosecco. The roast scallop starter with apple is a classic combo not to be missed!

If you fancy something a bit different, why not try out pop-up dining experience from The Scratch Series? Chefs Ben Reade and David Crabtree-Logan, who have worked in some of the UK’s top kitchens welcome guests for supper Thursday to Saturday at Iglu in Edinburgh. For £45 you can try out their ever-changing seven course tasting menu.

Sharing’s caring and I love the idea of the Valentine’s Sharing Menu at The Butchershop, Glasgow. Priced at £49.95 per person, the starter is a sharing platter which includes house cured salmon. You can then look forward to a 500g Chateaubriand steak for the main followed by a selection of three desserts.

Right now is Perigord truffle season and Pompadour by Galvin are making the most of the seasonal delight with a truffle risotto starter. The Pompadour dining room is just gorgeous, perfect for a romantic meal. There are three course and five course options depending on when you want to dine.

For a really special treat, it has to be Number One restaurant at The Balmoral Hotel. The Michelin-starred restaurant is offering a 6 course or 8 course Valentine’s Tasting Menu. The menu includes delights such as smoked salmon with caviar and quails egg along with an Orkney beef fillet main.

Whatever you get up to, here’s to a love and food-filled Valentine’s Day!

Girl Versus Food x

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