Rampant Scotland Book Review
Relish Scotland - Original Recipes from the Region's Finest Chefs
Title: Relish Scotland: Original Recipes from the Regions Finest Chefs
Authors: Duncan Peters (editor)
Publisher: Relish Publications
I must admit ordinary cookery books don't usually inspire me. They are too often full of warmed-over recipes or try to corner a niche market, be it pasta, pudding or poultry. Most recipe books languish unused on the shelf alongside that exotic ingredient bought for one dish and never used again. Up until now the book most splashed with the evidence of actual cooking is that of Marguerite Patten, one of the earliest television "celebrity chefs", presenting her first cookery programme on the BBC way back in 1947.
Now chefs do inspire me. I am lucky enough to meet many of Scotland's top chefs while writing features about food or reviewing hotels and restaurants for The Scottish Hotel Awards. These often unsung kitchen heroes always speak about their craft and ingredients with a knowledge and passion that raises their work to a skill, an art form - perhaps even a gift. While I will never attain their culinary mastery, the Relish Scotland book at least allows a further insight into their world and reveals some of their signature dishes. The fine selection of Restaurants and Hotels are scattered across the nation with great places to eat in Glasgow and Edinburgh, from Dumfries and Galloway to Skye, from Scottish Borders to Aberdeenshire.
The picture on this page shows a group shot taken at the launch party for the book, with many of the hoteliers, chefs and restaurant owners.
The foreword by Nick Nairn rightly celebrates the abundance of Scotland's larder, a passion shared by the chefs featured. The contents section is attractively set out, almost menu style with starters, mains, desserts and restaurants so that you can mix and match or reproduce a complete meal. The sections themselves give an introduction to each of the establishments and are attractively illustrated by excellent photographs of the venues, chefs and the finished dishes. The recipes comprise ingredients list and (for the most part) commendably short method instructions, which do inspire an attempt at a dish that might grace the tables of one of Scotland's finest restaurants.
Reader, I marinated it. Inspired by the idea of emulating one of the country's best chefs I actually used the book to make dishes for a dinner party. Dishes - Watercress soup with home made gnocchi, Kedgeree risotto with poached quail's egg - that were new to me, without rehearsals, and the results were good. The featured chefs' jobs are probably safe but I did achieve something close to fine dining. Only occasionally in some recipes does a chef's level of knowledge leave us a little behind with a lack of guidance - like "until it is cooked" - or a term like "chiffonade", which may have you reaching for the dictionary. On the other hand it does come to the rescue with helpful reminders like "remove the cocktail stick before serving!" The "Larder" section provides a useful resource for everything from hand dived shellfish to cookery schools. Even if you don't want to roll your sleeves up and get into the kitchen it's an attractive guidebook to some very fine places. Like the restaurants that it features it's a book to relish and is well worth revisiting.
Glasgow restaurants include Rogano, The Grill Room and Michael Caines at Abode; in Edinburgh there's Cucina at the Hotel Missoni, Forth Floor, Harvey Nichols, and Wedgwood. Further afield are some charming places to stay and eat: Cameron House, Loch Lomond, Glenapp Castle, Dumfries and Galloway and Kinloch Lodge, Skye.
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