THE great British pub comes in many guises, each different in menu, dishes, style, atmosphere and food ethos.
Some, over the years, have garnered a bad reputation for offering mass-produced fast food, but in recent years a new genre of pub has emerged serving quality food, with talented chefs recreating classic dishes in a modern way and making the most of their local suppliers, offering much more than just a pie and a pint.
Britons can sometimes be a little timid about eating out in more formal establishments and the pub has proved so popular because it’s about casual dining and simple foods. It’s almost Britain’s answer to the French bistro – fantastic food served in a relaxed setting. A good pub can not only offer a great place to eat and drink, it can also have an incredibly positive influence on communities. Indeed, it can even change the way we eat and cook at home.
Over the last few months, pub food is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. Along with fellow chef Dominic Jack of Castle Terrace Restaurant, my wife Michaela and our food and beverage director Philippe Nublat, we have opened the doors of our new Stockbridge pub, The Scran & Scallie.
The name just seemed to fit because it really is all about the scran – good, honest, simple dishes that make the most of the very best local produce.
Some of our favourite meals as a family have been those long, lazy Sunday pub lunches. It’s a real joy to relish a hearty meal that tastes comforting, fresh and home made. Sometimes, you can’t beat a burger made using the best local Scotch beef; a creamy, comforting fish pie; fresh fish lightly battered served with some home-cut chips; or even a wholesome stew made with cheaper, but no less tasty, cuts of meat.
Simple pub dishes usually have a few things in common – they are timeless and big on comfort. It’s something you know, something you trust. Often it’s those humble classic recipes that can be the best.
Creating our new menus, Dominic and I had the chance to have fun with those classic dishes. Some of the recipes we’ve been inspired by are over 100 years old, but we have managed to modernise them.
Our aim is to create a place that feels like a home from home. A place, above all, where you know the food is just as important as the drinks. We really believe a classic pub menu should showcase very simple dishes – when they are done well and served in the right setting, they can be incredibly tasty.
Our menu will change with the seasons and we will offer dishes like haddock and chips, home-made burgers and even our own home-made pork scratchings. It will be complimented by some forgotten dishes like tripe and ox tongue, calves’ liver and bone marrow. We like to think there’s something there for everyone. Fish pie is one of those comfort foods of choice for many and we’ve loved having a chance to bring new flavours and textures to this classic dish.
Fresh local seafood is the key, so if you’re trying it at home, a visit to your fishmonger is an absolute must. You can use any firm fish, but pollack, cod, haddock and salmon all work well. I also like to make my home-made fish pie stand out by adding langoustines as they showcase one of Scotland’s finest ingredients and they also add a different texture, which I love.
Another great dish that is based on a traditional French recipe – but still calls on some of Scotland’s finest shellfish – is moules frites or, simply put, mussels and chips. It’s a real pub classic. When done well and made from scratch, close your eyes and the taste makes you feel you could be dining in the most superb of French restaurants.
We want to show people that pub food can be fuss free yet delicious, if it’s cooked from scratch, with passion, using the best available ingredients. We want our pub to offer food that inspires you to try classic recipes at home and give them your own twist or modern flavour. For us, it’s about reviving some classics, but showing that they can still be done really, really well.
• The Scran & Scallie opens today at 1 Comely Bank Road, Stockbridge, Edinburgh (0131-332 6281, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Moules Marinière Serves four
2 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced 1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1.2kg mussels, washed and debearded
300ml white wine
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
In a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan, sauté the shallots in olive oil until soft and translucent.
Season to taste. Add the garlic, bay leaf and thyme.
Over high heat, add the mussels to the shallot mixture and toss to coat. Pour in the wine and cover with a lid. Cook for five to seven minutes until the shellfish begin to open – discard any that do not open.
Remove from the heat and mix in the freshly chopped parsley.
Serves four to six
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
2 lt milk
2 fillets fish of your choice, firm fish works best but it can be anything from pollack or cod to haddock or salmon (roughly 600g)
1 fillet smoked fish for flavour (about 200g)
1kg Maris Piper potatoes
1 egg (for egg wash)
4 tbsp flour
2 tbsp grain mustard
To prepare the eggs
Cover eggs with water and place over heat. Bring to a boil and take off the heat. Allow to sit for ten minutes then cool before peeling.
To make the béchamel
First bring the milk to a simmer in a small pot and set aside.
In another pan, melt the butter gently over medium heat then add flour and stir until the mixture is smooth.
Now begin adding the milk a little at a time to avoid lumps. Keep adding milk and stirring, until you have a rich, creamy sauce.
Allow to cook slowly for five minutes then add the grain mustard. Set aside.
To cook the fish
Gently heat the two litres of milk, taking care that it does not boil over. Add the raw fish and poach in the milk for three to four minutes. Add the smoked fish and poach for a further three to four minutes. Carefully remove the fish and set aside.
Peel the langoustines and gently poach them in the same milk for two to three minutes. Keep the heads for decoration. Set the milk aside to use in the mashed potato.
To make the mashed potato
Pre heat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Place the potatoes on a tray and bake in a hot oven until crispy and soft. While still hot, scoop out the flesh, discard the skins and pass the potato through a drum sieve to remove any lumps.
Heat the milk used for poaching the fish previously and add 2 tbsp of butter and fold through the potato mixture. Season to taste.
To make the pie
Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Butter a baking dish and start to make the pie by first spreading a small amount of béchamel on the bottom of the dish. On top of that spread the poached fish and quartered eggs. Spread with the remaining béchamel.
Top with mashed potatoes, langoustine heads and brush with an egg wash. Place baking dish on a tray and put in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.