CARINA Contini says her proud Italian Scots heritage influences all of her culinary ventures – from The Scottish Cafe to Cannonball
We have three venues and the same number of children and there are many similarities.
Like our offspring, our businesses have completely different personalities.
Our Italian heritage shines through at Contini Ristorante with our weekly deliveries from the markets in Italy, which provide the taste and flavour of sunshine from our grandparents’ homeland. The Scottish Cafe & Restaurant is as Scottish as Robert Burns with 70 artisan suppliers showcased and celebrated. Sustainable practices define every single choice, from the cold pressed rapeseed oil to the hake (not haddock) that features in our fish and chips as it’s the best catch from our local waters at this time of year. (I suppose if we had to choose a fish to align with each restaurant then The Scottish Cafe would be Peterhead hake, Cannonball would be wild fresh halibut and Contini Ristorante is fritto misto.)
And then there is Cannonball at the top of the Royal Mile. Its ice-cream parlour connects us to the moment our grandparents landed in Scotland, and our dining room has the most stunning views of Edinburgh Castle, reminding us who and where we are now – second generation Italian Scots and so proud of that fact.
The Japanese are wonderful at frying fish and make the loveliest and crispiest tempura batter. The Italians however like it light. So go for spanking fresh fish, washed and dried then tossed in flour and fried.
1 When frying you have to take care, be attentive and don’t get distracted. If you don’t have a sealed fryer, a large cast iron casserole will do the job. The trick is to get the oil up to a constant temperature of around 170C. If you haven’t a thermometer then the best way is to get the oil to the temperature where it sizzles when you add the fish, but doesn’t spark.
2 Dip the dry fish in the seasoned flour, shake off any extra and fry in small batches until golden. Don’t overcrowd the fish.
3 Place the fried fish onto a tray with greaseproof paper and store in a medium oven while you are frying. Serve immediately once all the fish is fried. Remember to turn off the heat from the oil and allow to cool.
WILD GARLIC CRÈME FRAÎCHE MAYONNAISE
Wild garlic is abundant just now. On its own it can be overpowering but the crème fraîche ingredient makes this lush.
1 First wash the wild garlic then blanch in boiling hot water for 30 seconds.
2 Drain and refresh in cold iced water. Drain again and pat dry. In a food processor, blend the wild garlic until you have a paste and add the egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice and salt. Set the machine to slow. Very, very slowly drizzle the oil in a tiny amount at a time into the blender.
3 When the mixture starts to thicken, you can add a little more oil until the texture is of thick yoghurt. Fold in the crème fraîche and serve with the fritto misto.
WATERCRESS, FENNEL, APPLE AND SPRING ONION SALAD
This salad has the taste of spring. The sharpness of the lemon and spring onion balances the fried fish.
1 Place the watercress, apple and fennel on a platter, sprinkle with the spring onions, olives and mint leaves.
2 Season with a little salt and then generously spoon the lemon juice and oil over the salad.
3 Finally grate the orange zest over the top and serve.