The Scotch Whisky Experience and Amber Restaurant

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Now I love a drink and if I’m honest, I’m not that fussy. Wine, beer, spirits, liqueurs bring them my way and I’ll happily knock them back! My ability to handle shots of alcohol that surely no one likes (Tequila and Sambuca spring to mind) is one of my finer qualities (some might say my finest). However there is one chink in the armour, one drink I cannot get along with and that is whisky. So heading to the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh with 3 people who feel pretty much the same way may seem an odd choice to spend an afternoon but we had sound reasoning. Most people don’t like the taste of strong drinks such as wine and coffee the first time they try them. You persevere though and they end up being (in my case) your favourites!  So going in with an open mind and hoping to leave nearly born whisky enthusiasts we headed to the end of the Royal Mile where the whisky shop, experience and restaurant is located.

We started off with lunch at the Amber restaurant which is upstairs. This really is a hidden gem!  Even if you don’t go to do the experience its worth popping up to the restaurant as its a quiet haven from the hoards of tourists and also an absolute bargain with 4 courses for £27. The friendly waitress came over and rattled off the menu. We all momentarily panicked thinking we had to remember and pick what we wanted but actually it was a tapas style serving of traditional Scottish food so you get to try a little bit of everything (my favourite type of meal).

The starter was smoked salmon and cream cheese on sourdough, ham hock terrine and a black pudding bon bon. The salmon and ham were very well prepared and yummy but the bon bon was the real star of the show! Served warm it was full of flavour, soft and crumbly and almost melted in your mouth.

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The main course was, beef, lamb and a monkfish soup. The beef was incredibly succulent and tender and the sweet potato it was served with was not overly mashed with just the right amount of seasoning.  The lamb itself was nice but unfortunately it came with a massive amount of fat. The potato stack was a little bland and could of done with a good sprinkle of seasoning between the layers.  The monkfish chowder was creamy and flavoursome. I would have liked a little more fish in it though as my portion seemed to contain more potato then fish.

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The dessert was a vanilla panna cotta with poached rhubarb and lemon sorbet. On paper this sounds like an odd mish mash of flavours but in reality they worked really well together. The rhubarb was stewed so it was still firm with a strong rhubarb flavour and not a horrible mush. The vanilla panna cotta was creamy and smooth whilst the lemon sorbet had a lovely but subtle lemon flavour with no bitterness.

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Then came the main event, the whisky and cheese.

The brie was nice although it had a slight cabbage taste. The whisky .. well I would love to give you a description of the floral and fruity notes of this beautiful drink but being honest all I could taste was a strong and constant burn as I tried not to gag. Not to be deterred though we still had the whisky tour to go on which part of consisted of finding the right whisky for your palate.

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The tour is really good fun. You start off on a little ride which takes you around the process of whisky making. In a nut shell barley is fermented in water, then left to age in oak caskets and then distilled. One fact I thought was very sweet is 2% of whisky yield is lost by the fumes evaporating and this is called ‘the angels share.’  After the ride is finished you go into a tasting room and listen to a talk on whisky. They tell you about how whiskies from different regions have different flavour profiles.

Highlands – Floral tones like vanilla

Lowlands – Citrusy tones like grapefruit

Speyside – Fruity tones like banana

Islay – Smokey or earthy tones.

Blend – A blend can be a mix of 15 – 50 different types of whiskies. It is a difficult art to master as blends are often branded and need to be consistent, and the different malts making up the blend will vary from year to year. The Master Blender makes the blend and checks them all to ensure a consistent product  (mostly by smell rather than taste).

After talking through the flavour profiles you get to choose and try the whisky you think you will enjoy the most. I chose a malt from the highlands which is meant to have hints of vanilla in the hope that may counter act the gag inducing burn. Whisky tasting attempt number two didn’t go any better than whisky tasting number one.  It may have hints of vanilla I’m not sure but as my throat was burning and I was trying not to be sick it was quite hard to pick up any delicate tasting notes.

The ride and tasting room on the Scotch Whisky experience.

The ride and tasting room on the Scotch Whisky experience.

The next room is incredible! It is the collection on which the whisky experience is founded on and is very impressive. Claive Vidiz collected over 3500 bottles of whisky and the overall worth must be astronomical (we did ask but one of the clauses in the contact when he sold the whisky collection was the selling price would remain a secret). They are mostly unopened but I don’t blame him for not drinking them!

A very small part of the collection!

A very small part of the collection!

The whisky experience is great fun but unfortunately none of us have been converted into whisky lovers, if anything it has intensified my dislike!  If you do have a spare afternoon in Edinburgh though, I would definitely recommend it and if you are a whisky fan you will be in heaven.

Fletchie Stars 3 out of 5 ***

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Restaurant Review – The Witchery Edinburgh

 

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The Witchery is a stunning restaurant in the heart of Edinburgh. Located at the top of the Royal Mile, just a few metres from the castle, it is a gothic building which really embodies the history and spirit of Edinburgh.  Below street level, with only a few tables, there is a warm and relaxed atmosphere. The walls and ceiling are covered in oak panelling and it is dimly lit by candlelight. You feel like you could be in the 16th century merchants house, who the building was originally built for.  

The food overall, was excellent. To start I had the pigeon with a grilled potato terrine and onion mayonnaise. The pigeon was rare and cooked perfectly. The terrine was thinly sliced potato and sweet potato layered and wrapped tightly in streaky bacon. It looked very attractive and was a good accompaniment to the pigeon. It’s nice to have something a little different to the usual root vegetable puree that pigeon is often served with.

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For my main meal I had juniper smoked loin of venison, with potato, parsnip puree, kale and chocolate oil. Again the meat was succulent, tender and cooked to perfection. The potatoes were delicious and the chocolate oil brought the whole thing together very well. I would recommend having a side and the peas with bacon were great.

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Last but definitely not least was the dessert. I chose the dessert selection and have never been as excited to get stuck into a pudding when this beast came out.

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There was a single origin Madagascan chocolate tart, which was delicious but incredibly rich. I was slightly disappointed as I didn’t get any fruity flavour which I usually get when eating Madagascan chocolate. There was a tonka bean crème brulee, which was the least enjoyable part of the dessert. It didn’t taste too bad but was more like a cheesecake with a hard set texture rather than the wobbly custard loveliness you would expect from a crème brulee. The passion fruit and mascarpone trifle was the most delicious part by far. Creamy mascarpone with sweet and slightly sharp passion fruit complemented each other perfectly. The orange blossom ice cream was light and refreshing and the flavour was excellent. There was also a small pana cotta, pistachio biscotti and madeleines which were all executed very well.

If you are visiting Edinburgh and are looking for a cosy place to spend an evening, this is definitely it! The a la carte menu is expensive but there is also a set menu 3 courses for £33 which is incredible value.

The Witchery gets 4 out of 5 Fletchie stars ****

Jumping on the Creme Egg Brownie Bandwagon!

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After seeing these bad boys all over Facebook and Twitter, I’m finally jumping on the bandwagon! Incredibly easy to make (the hardest part is unwrapping all the eggs without scoffing the lot), incredibly bad for you but absolutely delicious! I used my favourite brownie recipe and mini Creme Eggs.

Ingredients

250g butter

100g cocoa powder

500g golden caster sugar

4 eggs, lightly beaten

100g flour

2 packets of mini Cadburys Creme Eggs

Method

Unwrap the Cadburys Creme Eggs and place in the freezer (this helps them keep egg shaped when baking)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line and grease a baking tin (I used a 20 x 28cm)

Melt the butter, cocoa powder and sugar together on a medium heat in a large pan. You need to stir like crazy to make sure the mixture doesn’t burn.

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Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes and then add the eggs a little at a time (if you add when the mixture is still piping hot they may curdle)

Add the flour and combine well.

Pour the brownie batter into the prepared tin, saving a few spoonfuls to help cover the eggs

Decide how you are going to cut your brownies and then place the eggs in the mixture, so each brownie will contain 1 egg.

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Use the left over mixture to spoon over the eggs so they are completely covered.

Bake for 45 minutes (check after 30 mins and cover with more greaseproof paper if they are starting to go to dark on top)

Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Once cool cut into squares. I also melted some white chocolate and made some yellow icing to flick over the top.

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Enjoy!

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Coconut Brittle – Product Review

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Product Review – Coco Gourmand Coconut Brittle

I am a big fan of nut brittles and have tried all different types. On of my favourite recipes is a peanut brittle cheesecake (which I will post next time I make it). I have never seen coconut brittle before though so I was intrigued to try Coco Gourmands home made offering.  According to the back of pack it is inspired by a traditional Guadeloupe confection called ‘Dentelle de coco’. The ingredient list shows it is simply made with just sugar, butter, spices and lots of coconut!

Appearance wise it is a lot darker then you would expect from a caramel and looks almost chocolatey. It smells lovely though like spiced toffee. The texture is good, its hard (but not teeth shattering/trip to the dentist so) and melts into your mouth without any pieces sticking to your teeth.

The initial taste is the dark molasses caramel with a hint of warm spice coming through. Then comes the sweet and subtle coconut, which works really well. Caramel and coconut is definitely a flavour combination I’m going to use in my baking. This is a must try for any coconut fans out there.

xxx

Healthy (ish) Chocolate & Ginger Mousse

Image I will happily admit I may have a ‘problem’ with chocolate.  I lust after artisan chocolates the way most women drool over designer shoes. If you looked at my Google search history you would find questions such as ‘is it possible to be addicted to chocolate digestives’ (many agree with me it is!). I’ve tried giving it up but when I inevitably give into ‘one little piece’ its like blood to a shark. So I’m now trying a crazy idea called ‘moderation’. With this whole ‘moderation’ idea I can consume chocolate at the levels acceptable for a young women and not like Augustus Gloop on a bad day. I’m also looking for lower calorie ways to get my chocolate fix and thought a low calorie chocolate mousse would be the perfect way to start! I adapted an online recipe and it was delicious! The recipe I started from was 170 calories a serving but I substituted sugar for Truvia so my version will be even lower in calories.  The mousses are so chocolatey but the warmth and flavour of the ginger comes through really well and stops them being too sickly (although even I would struggle to eat more then one serving, another bonus). They have a light airy texture and under 200kcal a serving for something very indulgent!

Ingredients to make 4 servings

  • 85g Green & Blacks dark chocolate with ginger
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 ½ tsp Truvia (if you use sugar use 1 tbsp)
  • 50g Greek yogurt
  • Raspberries to decorate

How to mousse it up

Break the chocolate into a bowl. Mix the cocoa powder with 3 tbsp cold water and add the paste to the chocolate. Melt the chocolate and paste together over a pan of hot water. The melted mixture will be rather thick. Add boiling water,1 tbsp at a time (I added 3) until you have a shiny and loose mixture (like the picture below).

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Set aside and leave to cool

Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Add the Truvia and then whisk until thick and glossy.

Add the yogurt to the cooled chocolate and beat well.

Gradually fold the egg whites to the chocolate/yogurt mixture with a metal spoon a third at a time. Be careful not over mix as you will lose the volume from your mousse.

Spoon into 4 espresso cups or ramekins and leave to chill for a few hours or over night. Serve straight from the fridge with a few raspberries sprinkled on top. Enjoy! Image

Afternoon Tea at the Ritz

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Any one who is in a long term relationship knows you can get stuck in a bit of a dating rut. Weekends become housework and DIY time and who needs to leave the house once they have Netflix! You find your favourite restaurants and bars and tend to stick with what you know, which is why when two of my friends told us about  ‘alphabet dating’ my husband and I decided to give it a go. The premise is quite simple you take it in turns picking a date, working your way through the alphabet and planning a date around your letter.

Neil decided to start (well he lost rock, paper, scissors) so today was my surprise ‘A’ date. He told me to dress smartly but nothing else. We headed into London and I must admit to being incredibly thick and not guessing the date. I guessed Ascot, abseiling (the dress smart could have been a bluff!) and everything but the real date – afternoon tea. It wasn’t until we were actually outside the hotel I realised how high he had set the bar on our first date. Not just afternoon tea but afternoon tea at The Ritz!

Inside The Ritz is the epitome of opulence. The decorations are very lavish with lots of fresh flowers and chandeliers everywhere. Dress code is very strict; men have to wear ties (I saw a bloke get chucked out for not wearing one), which adds to the feeling of glamour. Afternoon tea is served in the Palm Court. It is a beautiful room with large birdcage chandeliers, gold statues and lots of floral displays. We also had a harpist play in the background, which is a lovely touch. Although it’s a posh, formal setting the atmosphere is very relaxed with a nice level of chatting and I felt very comfortable and couldn’t wait to get stuck into the cakes!

We had a glass of pink champagne to start as its Valentines weekend then had a look at the tea menu. There is a large selection of loose-leaf teas to choose from and after telling the waiter I needed longer to decided I didn’t think I could really just go for standard English. I went for Lapsong Souchong Imperiale which is a large black leaf tea from Fujian, China. It is smoked over pine fires to give a smoky taste. I am so glad I did as I absolutely loved this tea and I’m going to have to buy some! Tea is served in traditional silver pots with tea strainers and pretty china cups.

Me concentrating on not spilling my tea!

Me concentrating on not spilling my tea!

Neil enjoying a sandwich

Sneaky pic of Neil enjoying a sandwich

The afternoon tea itself consists of sandwiches, fresh scones with strawberry jam and cream (or cream and jam but I’m not about to wade into that argument) as well as an assortment of pastries and cakes. The sandwiches and scones were lovely but nothing out of the ordinary. The pastries were delicious and some of the nicest I’ve ever had! I had an amazing vanilla slice and banana mousse cake.

The vanilla slice was perfect not to sweet with flaky pastry. The banana mousse cake looked gorgeous and tasted even better. A biscuit base with chocolate mousse centre surrounded by banana mousse, which was light and full of banana flavour without tasting synthetic at all.

The amazing banana mousse

Closeup of banana mousse, it deserves one!

Cakes and Scones!

Cakes and Scones!

It really was an unforgettable afternoon. Yes it is very expensive but you are paying to experience not just the food but also the ambience and surrounding of one of London’s most famous hotels. It is by far the nicest afternoon tea I have ever had and the service is impeccable. The staff are incredibly attentive without being intrusive and everything is refilled if you ask. You do feel transported to a more glamorous era (I expected to see Poirot enjoying a scone) and definitely something to add to the bucket list!

Beer Bread

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Product Review – Barrettsridge Beer Bread

Happy belated Valentines everyone! I got an extra special Valentines delivery, even better then flowers. My Flavourly box. Flavourly is a company that ‘deliver deliciousness’. If you sign up you get sent a box of random foodie items every month. I’ve had all sorts from maple and bacon popcorn, to raspberry salad dressing. The boxes can be a bit hit and miss (Januarys seasonal ‘health kick fruit bars’ left a bit to be desired) but on the whole it’s a great mix of products and a brilliant way of keeping up with new food trends.

Amongst the goodies this month was an olive and rosemary beer bread mix by Barrett’s Ridge. I’m not usually one for instant mixes (as lets face it they usually don’t rise and taste like cardboard) but having being very pleasantly surprised with a cranberry and white chocolate muffin mix in a previous box I had quite high hopes.

Firstly it couldn’t be easier to make. You empty the mix into the bowl and add a 330ml bottle of beer. It fizzes up in a very satisfying way and smells amazing. A quick mix and you scrape into a loaf tin and pop straight I the oven for 45 minutes (no kneading, no proving). I also melted a little butter and brushed over the top, which I’m glad I did as it came out a lovely golden colour and made a better crust.

We had the bread warm from the oven with a generous slab of butter. Admittedly it looked a little flat and very ‘rustic’ but I would still be happy to show it off.  First bite it tastes incredibly salty but that dies down as the other flavours come through. You get a slight background note of rosemary but nothing too overpowering which is good. It’s a very rich in flavor and slightly dense in texture so one slice is enough (even for me – the queen of carbs). I loved it but I can imagine it could be too salty for some people. I couldn’t really taste the beer, which is a shame as it did give an amazing aroma.

It is incredibly easy, and mess free to make.  I was quite boring and just added the beer and made a loaf but if I bought a packet I would add nuts and seeds and make mini loaves or muffins. They also do a range of flavours such as chilli and garlic or Italian cheese. It is expensive at £6.95 but if you want fresh, warm bread with no hassle this is a great product.