Monday, 5 May 2008

BANK HOLIDAY BLISS

So here we are, at the end of a lovely sunny bank holiday weekend. Spent with friends, it's been quite eventful.

Friday night saw the start of the weekend in Glasgow with Carrie, who was visiting from London where she is a Features Writer for a Wedding glossy. She seems to be always jetting off to some glamorous destination on a press trip - having recently returned from Safari in South Africa, she spent last week in Paris and is off to the Seychelles next week. I, of course, am not jealous AT ALL.

Another perk of her job is to road-test 'wedding nights' in the country's swankiest hotels, and this is a perk which she often shares with friends. Last Easter weekend we stayed in a suite at the Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge, where we laughed our heads off during a very long and entertaining dinner in their Michelin Star restaurant Foliage. It was a veritable battle to get through the seemingly endless plates of food - not because they were bad, but perhaps stuffing our faces with cakes at Laduree an hour before our dinner reservation wasn't the best idea in the world. Indeed the food was extraordinary, but the service was even more so. I will never forget the running commentary which accompanied every one of the many courses and bottles of wine, and the waiter who was so attentive he walked me to the ladies room and then ran to the table after me when I tried in vain to get back without him noticing.

This year, she invited me along to stay in Glasgow's Hotel du Vin at One Devonshire Gardens. I've been fortunate enough to stay and eat there before and have always enjoyed it so was looking forward going again. Dinner was included and the food was undoubtedly very good, but we couldn't help but snigger at the 'air' (aka foam) gracing nearly every dish.

I decided to have a 'just one' drink with dinner, having been tee-total for the past few weeks in preparation for the Bupa Great Run Edinburgh 10k. A bottle of wine later and a declaration of that old 'in for a penny...' chestnut, I saw fit to consume my body weight in alchohol and ended the evening at 2.30 on Saturday morning, watching Super Nanny in the massive bed and nursing a Gin and Tonic... oops. Needless to say, after a breakfast of eggs benedict to soak up the offending alchohol, Saturday was spent cursing my stupidity and drinking copious amounts of water in a vain attempt to correct my wrongs.

Despite my spectacularly ill-timed fall off the wagon and subsequent hangover-from-hell, I ran in the aforementioned race yesterday and it was quite an experience. Edinburgh is a hilly city and the weather was warm and humid so it was a challenge, and Friday night's antics certainly didn't help. However it was great fun with a real sense of achievement at the end. Rowan, Alex and Richard cheered me on at the finish line and we celebrated afterwards over lunch in The Ship on the Shore in Leith. Needless to say, I won't be drinking between now and the next race on the 18th. No really...

I was flicking through the May issue of Olive magazine in the hotel in Glasgow when I came across a recipe for Chicken Baked with Globe Artichokes and Lemon. Now having already previously waxed lyrical about my obsession with chicken and lemons, I won't be a bore, but adding artichokes into the mix? Hello! I'm there! I love artichokes. When I was little my Mum used to simmer them in a big pan of water and serve them whole with bowls of vinaigrette containing chopped boiled egg. I still love to dip the leaves into this gloopy mixture before scraping off the sweet flesh with my teeth. And those beautiful chargrilled and marinated artichoke heart antipasti that the Italians do so brilliantly - I could happily eat by the bucket load. So it was a bit of a no-brainer really when I considered what to make for dinner tonight.


We are so lucky in Edinburgh to have Valvona and Crolla, a fantastic and renouned Italian specialist food shop and wine merchant (and purveyor of particularly good aforementioned chargrilled artichoke hearts). The smell alone is as good a reason as any to pay a visit and if you're feeling at all weary, a trip to Valvona's will almost certainly lift your spirits. There I found some beautiful little purple artichokes nestling amongst the vegetables and a lemon so huge and regal with it's glossy leaves intact I couldn't resist it.


I think people are often put off using artchokes because of the perceived amount of preparation required but it's really quite easy. For this recipe you need to cut off the stalk flush with the base, pull off the tough outer layer of leaves and trim the remaining ones with scissors. Cut off the pointed top, cut into quaters and remove the indigestible choke. Place in a bowl of cold water with the juice of half a lemon to stop it from going brown.







The recipe was so straightforward that I used it rather as a guide rather than a step by step set of instructions. In a nutshell: I took 4 small onions cut into wedges and layed them in the bottom of a large casserole with a couple of lemons cut into quarters, 4 garlic cloves which had been squashed and the prepared artichokes, then topped this with a good slug of white wine and a drizzle of olive oil. I then placed the chicken on top - cleaned, seasoned, stuffed full of lemons and with a little butter pushed carefully between the skin and flesh on the breast to keep it moist. Into the oven at around 190 degrees for about 20 minutes per 500g plus 30 minutes.

When the chicken was ready I placed it aside to rest, drained some of the lemony juices to eat with the chicken and stirred a handful of chopped parsely through the vegetables in the pan. Served simply with a basic green lettuce to mop up the sticky juices it was a delicious end to the day.


No dessert tonight but I must just tell you about my new favorite thing - The Ginger People's Original Ginger Chews from California. I came across these by chance on a recent trip to Beets (to buy more Clipper Chamomile and Lavendar tea - another fixation of mine) and frankly I think I need to go back and buy their entire stock. They. Are. So. Good. If like me you love the fiery taste of a good strong ginger beer and the warming sensation as it slides down your throat, you'll love these. Good for nausea too, they are are the bees knees.

2 comments:

Carrie said...

I don't think there'll be any supernanny and chips in bed in the Seychelles. Rubbish! Wish you could come...x

carine said...

you can not even begin to imagine how much i wish i was in the seychelles... after the day i've had, being 5000 miles away would be just the ticket x

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