Shrove Tuesday heralds the start of Lent, where temptations come in all flavours for Carina Contini of the Scottish Cafe
Patience is a virtue, they say. I’m short on virtue and long on vices, especially during Lent. Despite years of practice, my virtue has never lasted 40 days and 40 nights. Chocolate, cake and in my later years, Cosmopolitan cocktails, have broken my best intentions.
I have one very unexpected virtue – our kitchen garden. Amazingly it has helped me develop the saintly skill of patience.
With the warmer months heading our way, the garden will get me back outside into the fresh air, slow me down and inspire me to marvel at the beauty of nature.
Running a restaurant gives you a “getting the job done now” mentality. Speed matched with quality and consistency is our daily driver. But a garden, operated by nature and the power of the elements, is completely outwith our control.
We’re still in the Lent period for gardens, as I see it – the time when last year’s sowings are all or nearly finished and the spring shoots still haven’t matured.
However, Erica, our head gardener, has been busy, and nature is preparing itself for the growing period that’s just around the corner. An increase in light levels and a temperature rise is all we need to turn our patience into the virtues of home grown food.
Amazingly we have still got enough spinach, rainbow chard and sprouting broccoli, but, even more miraculously, our new season rhubarb is blooming already.
We’re also growing our restaurant family. Suzanne and Natalie at the Scottish Cafe, and Sarah and Renee at Centotre, each won scholarships in the Hospitality Industry Trust’s Emerging Talent Awards.
My husband, Victor, and I have spent 40 years nurturing our business and the team. As the garden grows, it’s great to see them blossom as well.
These pancakes are great for informal dining when you’re with friends who are patient enough to wait for the next pancake to come hot out of the frying pan. If you prefer savoury treats, they are perfect for Pancake Day on Tuesday.
1 Pan-fry the spinach in a little butter over a low heat until the leaves have wilted. Transfer to a colander and leave to drain in the sink. When cool, squeeze any excess water from the spinach, then chop it very finely. Set aside.
2 To make the batter, cream together the crowdie, egg yolks, spring onion, flour, zest and juice of one lime in a bowl. Season to taste.
3 Fold the spinach into the mixture. Beat the egg whites until stiff in a clean, dry bowl then gently fold them into the spinach mixture.
4 Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, but don’t add any butter or oil. The pan should be at a moderate, even temperature. Ladle 1 tbsp of your batter mixture into the hot pan. Leave it until it is cooked enough so you can flip it over. Cook for 1 minute until the underside has coloured, but not burned.
5 Serve as a starter. As a dip on the side, mix the yoghurt with the garlic, juice of one lime, olive oil, coriander and mint leaves.
Crab is in season so it is really cheap at the moment. It works well as part of this very classy, but easy soufflé.
1 Grease six individual 150ml ramekins.
2 Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6.
3 Melt the butter in a pan, then add the flour. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture starts to bubble. Add the mustard powder and mix through. Slowly add the milk and whisk well to stop the mixture forming lumps. When all the milk has been added, increase the heat and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and beat in the egg yolks.
4 Season and set aside.
5 Beat the egg whites until stiff. Set aside.
6 Fold the crabmeat, 50g piece of cheddar and dill into the mustardy sauce until evenly mixed.
7 Gently fold in the beaten egg whites using a metal spoon.
8 Transfer the mixture to the greased ramekins and bake in a bain-marie in the oven for 15 minutes.
9 While the soufflés are cooking, make the sauce. Heat the cream in a pan over a low heat, then add the grated cheddar and cook until melted. Season with a little salt and pepper and keep warm over a low heat until the soufflés are golden brown and risen. Using a tea towel to hold the hot ramekins, run a knife between the edge of the soufflé and the ramekin. Upturn on to a soup plate then pour the hot cheese sauce all around.
A sweeter version of the classic Cosmpolitan. Who says a little vice in moderation isn’t good for the spirits?
1 Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
2 Pour all of the ingredients into the shaker, fix the lid and shake vigorously for 12 seconds.
3 Strain into a chilled martini glass and decorate with a wedge of fresh, raw, rhubarb.
200g young spinach leaves
25g unsalted butter
2 eggs, separated
1 small spring onion, finely sliced
50g plain flour
zest of 1 unwaxed lime, and juice of 2 unwaxed limes
salt and pepper to taste
200ml full fat yoghurt
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
100g chopped coriander
handful mint leaves, chopped
60g unsalted butter
60g plain flour ½ tsp mustard powder 300ml full-fat milk, chilled 4 eggs, separated
200g crabmeat (from 1 large crab)
150g Isle of Mull cheddar (100g grated)
25g dill, very finely chopped
500ml double cream
salt and pepper, to taste
50ml cranberry juice
50ml rhubarb compote or cordial
juice of half a lime