25 Jun 2014

SC#38 | Tomato and mustard tart

Summer, yum.

This week I had some old friends stay over. The day started as one of the warmest we'd had recently so I got very eager for a welcoming and hearty summer dish, but it needed to be quite free of time constraints. My friends were coming back from a year living in Mexico (as you do) and I wasn't expecting them to be exactly on time... They were three hours late.

This is a long-time classic of mine (and probably the whole of Southern France). It's so easy and so tasty. All you really need is a sharp knife.

Well, and a few other things:
- one pack puff pastry
- 4-6 large tomatoes, nice and ripe
- 2-3 tbsp Dijon mustard
- some fresh basil
- salt and pepper

- First, preheat your oven to 180°C. Then plan what you will be serving your tart on. The size of the dish/tray will help you determine the size you should roll your pastry out. (I rolled mine way too big.) Then on a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry and transfer it to a baking-proof tray.
- Spread the mustard on the pastry, making sure you get right to the border. Add more or less depending how mustardey you like your food.
- Slice the tomatoes and arrange them on the pastry, leaving 1-2 cm on the sides. Then roll the sides in as to create a nice crust.
- Chop the basil and sprinkle on the tart, with some rock salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Cook for 40 minutes or until the crust is golden.

Serve it warm or cold, and accompany with some salad if you wish. Bon appétit !

14 Jun 2014

Postcard from Edinburgh

For someone who enjoys new experiences, different cultures and, well, travelling, I have done very little of it since the beginning of university. I really want to get better at it as it really combines all my favourite things. It's just a matter of learning to be a bit spontaneous with it. This is kind of what happened this time!

One of the cities I had wanted to visit most since moving to the UK is Edinburgh. Me and the man booked a little get away for a weekend far from work and studying and it was great. Apart from the rain. Did you know it rains a lot in Edinburgh? It rains A LOT in Edinburgh. (True story: we made it 15 minutes in Edinburgh before popping in a shop to buy waterproofs.)

So what is there to do in Edinburgh?

Lots. First, you want to simply walk around. Edinburgh is such a beautiful city. It feels very homely and easy-going, and obviously, full of secrets. I'm not one for ghosts and sombre vaults but even in well-lit, non scary places there is a feeling that there is more to this place's history than is known. Incidentally if you're a history buff, you're in for a great time. Edinburgh is a city full of stories. Visit Edinburgh Castle for some great ones of Scotland and its relation to the UK (plus I hear the Military Tattoo is the best attraction to see if you're in town in August); check out the National Museum of Scotland for a bit of everything, from art to industry, nature, and of course Scotland; and if you're into that, go for a ghost tour...

It's also great to get out of the beaten track. Don't walk and walk the Royal Mile; instead trot to Stockbridge for a walk by the water, or wander through the Meadows and stop for coffee at Peter's Yard (more on food later). The best though, is to hop on a bus to Gilmerton for a tour of Gilmerton Cove. These underground chambers and passages were first discovered in the 18th century... and that's about all they know! Not only is it a fantastic mystery and such an interesting story, the tour is also great to know more about the region and its past, as all the (many) theories to explain its origins are linked to local people and events.

What if I'm thirsty?

Edinburgh has many excellent bars. For cocktails, head to The Devil's Advocate, just off the Royal Mile. Not only does the place look absolutely lovely, with a fantastic looking extra-tall backbar and a chilled-out vibe, the cocktails are also a treat. If it's later at night, try speakeasy Panda & Sons, which hides behind a barber shop window on Queen Street. You'll feel super cool knowing it exists, and the cocktail menu is incredible. If you're into mezcal, Vida Villa! was something else. We also really liked Dirty Dicks, a classic little pub on Rose Street with a fantastic quirky decor (including lots of golf memorabilia).

Now let's took about the real stuff: where should I eat?

Oh man. One thing we learned over the four days we spent there is that Edinburgh is full to the brim with great restaurants, pubs and breakfast spots. I'm sure there is a much more than what we tried but here are some favourites from our stay.

© The Atelier
The Atelier — My favourite, first. At The Atelier we had incredible food — beautifully designed dishes, with flavour combinations that worked so well, cooked to perfection, and delicious. The real plus is that it was all very reasonably priced for such quality. To whet your appetite, here is a selection of what we had...

Left — Beetroot & goat cheese cake, chutney puree, orange gel, balsamic caviar. Middle — Chorizo poached cod loin, blue shell mussels, saffron gnocchi, butterbean puree, spinach, shellfish espuma. Right — Rhubarb parcel, mascarpone pave, roasted lemon marshmallows.

© Arcade Bar
Arcade Bar — We walked past this 'haggis and whisky house' in the middle of the afternoon and stopped to have a look at it... When we walked past a second time, hungry and drenched from the pouring rain, we knew we had to try it. Arcade have the absolute best fancy pub classics I have tried in a long time. Their award winning sausages are actually the best bangers I've ever had. Plus, their staff is super friendly and the place very inviting. A great lunch spot!

© Peter's Yard
Peter's Yard — Perfect for indulgent snacks and breakfasts, this Scandi bakery-cum-café was our best random find of the weekend. I recommend the Quarter Mile branch which has a lovely outdoors area and so, so much bread, cakes and fantastic buns. Come and come again if you're into coffee and pastries (but they do lunch too, and apparently really nice pizzas!)

Pinnies & Poppy Seeds — They call themselves 'the butter way of living'. Need I say more? Buttery, crumbly shortbreads in different flavours (loved the lemon sugar and raspberry) in a cute little shop. Great souvenir from the 'burgh to nibble on the (nearly) seven-hour train ride home.

© Leo's Beanery
Leo's Beanery — This quirky café in Stockbridge feels like home. It's one of these places you'd love to spend a whole day, sipping on tea and watching time go by. We popped for breakfast; the menu is fairly classic but the food very nice, and I really did like the interior. Try their scones, they're yum.

Any final tips?

As I mentioned above, waterproofs are a must. Some Scots have told me it does stop raining at times but I did not see it... I'd also recommend good walking shoes, as Edinburgh goes up and down quite a lot and is great to explore on foot. Finally, staying-wise I'd suggest checking out Airbnb. It was my first time using it and I enjoyed the experience: we stayed in a really central flat, in a large and comfortable room, for less than the price of a hotel room. Plus if the owners are around, you get to chat with locals and know all the best spots!

That's it for my Edinburgh travel diary. I hope you enjoyed the tour! Now where should I go next...? xo