Sunday, 24 February 2013

Nonna's Kitchen Review - Edinburgh

Nonna's Kitchen is an Italian restaurant in Morningside, Edinburgh. Until this visit I'd never been but I'd heard good things about it from a few people. It's smaller than I expected inside, but with modern decor and bright flowers on the tables, still with an Italian feel. I'd booked at the last minute and got an early table for a couple of hours, but on arrival the place was packed with a mixture of friends, families and couples. It was cosy and convivial, with a small army of waiters watched over by the matriarch who seemed to be in charge.

The Arancini
In addition to the main menu I was extremely impressed by the waiter who reeled off from memory a long line of specials, exquisitely detailed and with great knowledge of each dish. A lot of these included fresh seafood dishes for both starters and mains. From the specials we chose the Arancini for a starter, one of my absolute favourites. Risotto rice shaped into balls, filled with cheese, breaded and deep fried, they were served with a tomato sauce. This was both rich and fresh in flavour and the Arancini were perfect. The crumb was crispy, the rice hot with a creamy but not claggy texture. Inside the cheese oozed out and everything was set off nicely by the slight fragrance of a touch of basil.

For mains we chose one of the specials and one dish from the a la carte menu. The special Pumpkin Ravioli was served in a cream sauce with hazelnuts, very rich but delicious. The pasta was cooked well and filled with slightly sweet pumpkin flesh. The hazelnuts added a good bit of contrast and texture to the smooth pasta, filling and sauce. We also had the Pizza Quattro Formaggi. The base was a good one, thin and not too much crust. The cheeses were a mix of mozzarella, gorgonzola, taleggio and pecorino. The gorgonzola gave it a strong, gutsy taste but was not too overpowering and you could taste all of the cheeses individually. It was one of the best four cheese pizzas I've had for a while.

Pumpkin Ravioli

We didn't order any extras, desserts or coffee but we did have a decent bottle of the house white, and a complimentary small plate of fresh bread with butter, oil and vinegar was served after ordering. Service was excellent. As well as our waiter with the incredible memory, the wine was brought to us unopened to ensure it was the right one. It's little touches like this which impress and rounded the whole thing off to a most enjoyable evening. The dishes and ingredients were authentic and you can tell that a lot of care, effort and time has gone into making the place a cut above your average Italian. Two courses for two plus one bottle of wine and service came to £55 but we thought it was worth it for the excellent food and service. They also offer a short but decent lunch and pre-theatre menu.

Pizza Quattro Formaggi

 More details Nonna's Kitchen 45 Morningside Rd Edinburgh EH10 4AZ

Sunday, 3 February 2013

A Burns Supper

25th January is Burns Night, the birthday of Rabbie Burns and celebrated not just in Scotland but by Scots or poetry lovers worldwide. A Burns Supper can vary from a formal dinner with all the trimmings such as poetry, piping, toasts and tartan, to a relaxed meal with friends and family. Haggis must be served, a Scottish dish of offal, oatmeal and spices traditionally encased and boiled in a sheep's stomach. At grand occasions the cooked haggis is piped in on a platter and Burns' poem 'Address to a Haggis' is recited. As part of the ceremony the haggis is sliced open with great drama during the poem to show the 'gushing entrails'. It's honestly tastier than it sounds. As well as the haggis there is plenty of whisky, toasts give to Burns, the laddies, the ladies and just about everyone else and sometimes ceilidh dancing.

In this Edinburgh household there are no Scots but we still enjoy the tradition of serving haggis for Burns' night, even if we eat it all year round. It's January and the days are dark and dreich. You really don't need much of an excuse to cook up a big celebratory meal, drink whisky and cosy in against the chill north winds that howl round the walls of the tenements.

Traditionally a Burns Supper starts with soup, however these days there's often a smoked salmon or seafood starter such as a tartlet or terrine. This was no different, I made a simple vol-au-vont of smoked salmon, eggs, capers and red onion. Starter sized vol-au-vonts are easy to make and are sturdier than you might think for holding the raw filling when you pour it in. It's important though that you can fit all the filling into the pastry; making this dish from memory instead of a proper recipe left me with extra. Instead of wasting it I cooked it up on the hob as scrambled egg when the vol-au-vents were nearly ready and put it on top.

Smoked Salmo Vol-Au-Vont

For the main course I bought the haggis from my local butcher, they sell them in all sizes from a small sausage to a chieftian-sized pudding. The haggi are made by a local producer, AJ Hornig in West Calder, that are also famous for their black pudding. The butchers here sells at least three types of black pudding as well as white pudding and haggis all year round. In Scotland it's commonly served in a fried breakfast.

Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Back to the dinner (or supper). My haggis was only small so I boiled it in it's casing for 30 minutes. I don't have a microwave at the moment but in the past they've been really good for cooking haggis in minutes with the same results. I recommend it especially if you've got a lot of people and/or cooking to do as it means one less pan on the stove. This haggis was hearty and spiced with lots of flavour but not too rich or gristly.

I served the haggis with the traditional accompaniments, mashed neeps (swede) and tatties (potatoes). The spicy haggis suits fairly simple vegetables to go with it. Neeps are called neeps or turnips in Scotland, swedes in England, and swede turnips in Ireland...I think. It's complicated. They're also called rutabaga in America. A bulbous root vegetable that needs a bit of effort when peeling, chopping and cooking, it's often grown for cattle feed. I mashed the neeps with carrots to make a coarse puree, then served them with a simple mashed potato and the haggis.A whisky sauce is often served here, I made a cream and peppercorn sauce enriched with a bit of butter at the end. It was probably a bit too thick, but very tasty.

Dessert is often cranachan, a dessert of raspberries, oats, whisky and crowdie, a scottish cheese. I made my blueberry cranachan, which contains none of the above so calling it cranachan is stretching it a bit. It is however a delicious mixture of stewed blueberries, crushed amaretti biscuits, yoghurt and honey. The blueberries bring a great colour to the dish. It's also reasonably light after a rich dinner of entrails, root veg, butter and cream!

Blueberry 'Cranachan'