"It seems like a city built on precipices, a perilous city. Great roads rush down hill like rivers in spate. Great buildings rush up like rockets." GK Chesterton, 1905
"In Scottish English phrases such as good food are pronounced with vowels of equal length." British Library, accents and dialects of the UK.
"I took my aunt for a meal in Stirling. It was a restaurant that specialised in Scottish ingredients, lots of game. We all ordered, grouse, rabbit, hare, deer. The waiter came to my aunt, pencil poised, she looked up and asked "Have you got anything else on the menu other than all this vermin?"' Supper club guest
"Do you know about 'writer's block'? It's the area in Morningside where all the writers live... JK Rowling, Alexander McCall Smith, Ian Rankin. Let me tell you a story - JK Rowling went into the local supermarket. She bought a chicken. When she arrived at the till, the cashier, an older lady, said: 'Chickens are two for the price of one!'. JK murmured that it was fine, one was enough. The cashier's voice rose in pitch and volume 'Twooo for one, hen!'. JK desisted, saying that one was really enough. 'Gooo get one! If you don't want the free chicken, give it to someone else!'. In the end the richest woman in the UK, after The Queen, accepted her free chicken." Supper club guest
"Edinburgh is 'tight'. It's hard to get to know anybody from here. They go to school together, to university together, then they join the same law firms. That's why supper clubs are great, we can meet people" Supper club guest
"They used to say, If you see a table and chairs in the street in Edinburgh, it's an eviction. Things have changed. Now we can drink on Sundays. The Church no longer rules." Supper club guest
"There aren't any Scottish people in Edinburgh. I'm a scouser, and I've worked with whisky for 20 years. I ask people their surnames here, it's things like 'White' and 'Brown'. They aren't Scottish. The real Scotsmen have orange beards and are running around in the heather in the highlands up north." Supper club guest
"Becoming a capital has given us confidence." Supper club host
“I‘ve never been to Edinburgh before – I didn’t realise it was so beautiful. I love that whole mountain in the middle of the city thing.” Dido
I've been to Edinburgh several times before: for the millenium Hogmanay, which was a disappointing ticket-only event, where every restaurant shut at 6pm and we starved; to photograph musician Paul Haig for a record company; to protest in 2005 at the Anti-Poverty march, staying and running a bario kitchen at the anti-G8 camp in Stirling. Each time I felt shut out of the city, I met no one from here, I learnt nothing.
I was invited by Aoife Behan who runs My Home supper club. I'd noticed her stylish photography and writing on blog posts on Find a supper club, become a fan. Her typical Edinburgh flat and her great taste in home ware, much of it 'utility china', are beautiful.
I am right about supper clubs. You meet the locals. I've learnt more in one weekend by attending three supper clubs than on all the other visits.
Here is Aoife's menu from Saturday night:
Dhokla and Green Coconut Chutney
Ms Marmite Lover’s Twitter curry
Kahdi Okra and Potato
Jewelled Basmati Rice
Chai Pannacotta with Mango Sorbet & Pistachio
It was very interesting to eat my own recipes from my book, some of which Aoife had served...in fact it was a relief as it showed that they worked!
Meena (right) of Chai Lounge supper club, just starting in Edinburgh. Meena helped Aoife to prepare the meal.
Hibiscus Fizz in 'Eternal Beau' glass. My mum had the whole set from the 1980s, I'm sure it's going to be a modern classic. Going to start looking for the glasses myself. Aoife is a bit of an Ebay queen, and a supper club is great excuse.
Loved the little yellow Dhokla.... Aoife gave me the recipe:
Dhokla Recipe , steamed savoury semolina cake
250ml coarse semolina
250ml plain yoghurt
5ml crushed green chillies
5ml crushed ginger
5ml enos(effervescent fruit salt)
5ml mustard seeds
5ml sesame seeds
finely chopped corriander (optional)
desicated coconut (optional)
Mix all ingredients together besides Enos and leave for min. Boil water in steamer. Add Enos to mix and mix throughly. Steam for 20min on medium heat. Make topping by heating oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and sesame seeds. pour over dhokla and finely chop the corriander and sprinkle on top together with coconut.
Kahdi was poured over the jewelled rice, a sweet and sour warm yoghurt sauce that I've not had before.
Pastel Utility China from 1930s until the present. A favourite at cafes and seaside b n b's.
Chai pannacotta and mango sorbet garnished with Pistachios. Delicious!
My home Supper club, an elegant room.
Morning sunlight in Aoife's gorgeous Edinburgh flat. We spent most of the weekend drinking tea and chatting. My favourite occupation!
On Friday night I visited Karen also known as Honey Wild. She has a supper club in Innerleithan on the Scottish Borders. She cooks everything from scratch and seats up to 30 people. Her son and neighbours help her.
Supper clubs in Edinburgh are very concerned by Health and Safety. It seems that the local council are not promoting small businesses but making life rather difficult. The major concern was getting a separate hand washing sink. Although Karen already has two sinks she has to get a third and resorted to drilling a whole in her countertop for another. Ridiculous. In times of recession, Environmental health Officers need to get a perspective and not hamper start up businesses. Every supper club I've visited has much better hygiene than most restaurants.
Classic Edinburgh architecture: it's a stone city of a multitude of greys flecked with yellow and amber
On Sunday we visited Crescent Dining for Sunday lunch. Callum the chef is the son of food stylist Lesley Evans and food photographer Laurie Evans. He has good genes!
Son on the left, dad on the right.
Lesley on the right is a Miss Jean Brodie style hostess, looking after her 'creme de la creme' guests.
My smoked salmon mousse with cucumber pickle and home made crispbreads.
A colourful and seasonal stuffed squash was the vegetarian main.
Lesley had some nice art: on the right is a limited edition piece by Rachel Whiteread.
I paid in Scottish pounds. Still, once a guest paid me in Brixton pounds.
Callum's Steamed stem ginger pudding recipe:
For the syrup:
2 chunks of stem ginger cut into thin slivers
5 tablespoons stem ginger syrup from the jar
4 tablespoons golden syrup
For the pudding:
150g golden caster sugar
150g unsalted butter
200g self raising flour
75ml milk (whole or semi skimmed)
3 chunks stem ginger, chopped finely
1 teaspoon ground ginger
- Generously butter a 1.5 litre pudding basin.
- Place the slivers of stem ginger into the basin.
- Mix together the stem ginger syrup with the golden syrup. Pour over the stem ginger slivers in the pudding basin.
- In your steamer, ensure that you have enough boiling water to come halfway up the basin. However, I used a steamer basket, so my sponge didn’t sit in the water. Both ways work just as well.
- Now make the pudding: cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. - Beat in the eggs one at a time, alternating with the flour.
- Pour in the milk and beat until smooth.
- Stir in the chopped stem ginger and the ground ginger.
- Spoon into the pudding basin. The basin will not be full as the pudding needs room to rise.
- Cover the top of the basin with a centrally pleated piece of baking paper, and another of foil.
- Secure with string and steam for approximately 1 ½ hours. A little more won’t cause any harm.
- Remove the foil and paper and run a knife around the edge of the pudding before turning out.
- Turn the pudding out onto a lipped plate, in order to ensure that you don’t lose any of the syrup.
- Serve straight away with hot custard.
On Saturday morning I visited the farmer's market with warm and friendly Edinburgh supper club hostess Wendy, @insideoutchef. It's such a hive of enthusiastic food talent, reminds me of the second phase of supper clubs in London. Here this girl is making Scotch pancakes as tasting beds for her jams.
I bought Peter Pan style lace collars, so cheap between £2 and £4 at Herman Brown.
Old Town charm.
Samples of whisky which ideally should drunk with water sold at The Whisky Shop. Buying whisky is a great investment.
I took the Caledonian sleeper home. I love sleepers. It felt like I was on the Hogwarts Express returning to muggle land. JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter at a cafe in Edinburgh while she was a poor single mother on benefits.
Dawn: I thought it was going to Kings X, but went to Euston instead. I was a bit confused.
Aoife's blog post on the weekend.
Honey Wild's blog post on her supper club.
Crescent Supper Club's post.