Friday, August 21, 2009

Wing Sing Inn

I try to steer clear of restaurant reviews, and I certainly have no intention of turning my blog into a platform for my dubious opinions about other people's cooking. (I prefer to keep it as a platform for writing about my own dubious cooking.) However, when you find yourself fantasizing about a restaurant when you are away, and visiting it as often as you can when you are back, then maybe it's time to give it a mention.

The Wing Sing Inn (147-149 Dundee St, Edinburgh, 0131 228 6668) specializes in northern Chinese food, and caters primarily for an Asian clientele.

I have to admit that I am not a Chinese food specialist, and I suspect that our ordering was a little idiosyncratic and far from authentic. After beginning with hot and sour soup, we ordered some shredded potato with fried chilli from the cold (kickshaw) options. (I think the shredded potato is blanched but not for long enough to remove its crunch, then served with a dressing. In other words, the potato is still slightly 'raw' from a western point of view. However, it is absolutely delicious. I've now eaten it three or four times at the Wing Sing, and I'm planning to track down a recipe for it and have a bash at reproducing it. Watch this space.)

Next up were some hot and spicy crabs. These are individual velvet crabs (I think) which are fried with chillies and garlic. After picking all the available meat out of the shells and claws, I discovered I could actually crunch through the claws and shells, too.

Spicy fried crab

Staying with the spicy, fried theme, we ordered szechuan fried chicken. This was a large plate of small portions of chicken leg and wing, with the bone in, fried with szechuan peppers and chillies. The szechuan pepper tingles rather than burns, although it also builds, and by the end of the dish my tongue was comfortably numb, as Pink Floyd might say.

Spicy Szechuan chicken

We finished up with some yu-hung aubergine (stewed aubergine with minced pork) which was delicious. It's always a good sign when a restaurant dish makes you rething the way you cook an ingredient at home, and this one has definitely changed my approach to aubergines. (A lot of the dishes in the 'vegetable' section actually contain meat, but the last time I visited Wing Sing with a vegetarian, the chef was quite happy to adapt the aubergine by removing the pork.)

As always, I came away with a slight feeling of regret that the meal was over and I hadn't managed to eat all the things I wanted to on the menu. So if anyone fancies some shredded pig maw with spring onions in chilli oil (cold), some salt and pepper frog legs, or just some simple braised spare ribs with potatoes, please bear me in mind!

Spicy Spanish lady

Beetroot mash

I love mashed potato, but I'm not quite willing to serve it up as the centrepiece of a meal. However, turning it shocking pink by adding some beetroot to it somehow seemed to make it more able to take the limelight. The end result is a bit like a solid version of borscht, the cold Russian beetroot soup served with a dollop of sour cream.

6 medium-sized potatoes
4 cooked beetroot
2 tablespoons of cream cheese

  1. Peel and quarter the potatoes and boil in lightly salted water until completely cooked. Strain into a bowl, retaining the cooking water.
  2. Chop the beetroot into small pieces, and add to the cooked potatoes, together with the cream cheese.
  3. Mash the potato and beetroot mixture, adding as much of the retained cooking water as necessary to create a light texture. Season with salt and pepper.

Thank the Lord for vegetarians!
One of my less appealing traits is a fairly deeply entrenched prejudice against vegetarians. My official line is that it is merely fussiness elevated to the level of ideology, a cry for attention which should be firmly ignored. However, like many bigots I also preface my ravings with the claim that "many of my best friends are ...", and in this case it really is true. Despite my hostility to vegetarianism as a creed, I like having vegetarian guests for supper and am grateful to them for inspiring me to be a little more adventurous in my vegetable cooking. No vegetarians = no pink mashed potato.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chicken kebabs

Spain (or at least Cadiz) has a surprisingly primitive barbecue culture. For somewhere where the weather is reliably good for 6 months of the year and intermittently so for the other 6 months, I can never understand why there is not much tradition of outdoor cooking and that most gaditanos limit their barbecues to tossing some sardines onto a grill.

Despite this, a lot of Spansh food is actually well-suited to barbecues, and these little chicken kebabs are really just my version of the pinchitos de pollo which are commonly found in both butchers' and restaurants.

1 kg of chicken breast
4 teaspoons of mild curry powder
4 tablespoons of sunflower oil

  1. Cut the chicken breast into large chunks.
  2. Mix the curry powder and sunflower oil in a large bowl, cover the chicken chunks in the mixture, cover with clingfilm and marinade in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
  3. Thread the chicken chunks onto wooden skewers (3 or 4 pieces per skewer) and cook over a hot barbecue.
  4. Serve in a hot tortilla wrap (toasted over the barbie), with some salad and sauce.

Playing with fire
No doubt this defies every rule in the health and safety manual, but I think kids should be allowed to barbecue too. Here is Carmela expertly placing some kebabs and sausages on the grill.

And here is grillmeister Sammy, checking to see whether the flames have died down yet.

Barbecued Chinese trout in tinfoil parcels

Barbecued fish is great, but is not quite as robust as meat or vegetables. If you are doing whole fish like sardines or small mackerel, then a little grill holder is good, as you can cook them in this on top of the barbecue. Another good technique for fish is to marinate it and cook it in a parcel of tinfoil.

1 trout, gutted and cleaned
1 large chunk of fresh ginger
2 spring onions
2 teaspoons of light soy sauce
2 teaspoons of sesame oil

  1. Cut off the trout's head and tail, and cut it into 3 equal-sized sections. Put the trout in a bowl.
  2. Mix the marinade ingredients together, then pour over the trout, cover with clingfilm and leave to marinade in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  3. Wrap each piece of trout in a piece of foil and cook over the barbecue until done, turning once (at least 8 minutes and maybe more, depending on the heat of your barbecue).

Hands off my camera
One of the curses of digital cameras is that they break down the barriers between what is a toy and what is not. This means that kids feel free to grab them and take hundreds of awful, out of focus shots with them which their parents then have to spend hours deleting (usually after midnight). However, I really liked the one below and spared it from the usual cull. Well done Sammy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Summer barbecue

If I could, I would happily spend all summer cooking on a barbecue. However, as I choose to spend my summers living in a 2nd floor flat in Scotland (with an extra flight of stairs down to the garden, at basement level) daily barbecue use is not really an option. We do try to throw at least one barbecue party every summer, and do a bit of spontaneous barbecue cooking when the mood strikes us.

The only recipe on this post is one for having a good time, and it goes like this.

2 barbecues
plenty of meat, fish and vegetables
1 gardenful of people

Light the barbecues. Once the flames have died down and the charcoal is covered with white ash, cook the food and serve it to some of your favourite people. Thank you all for coming.

And don't forget the babies
We seem to have had a bumper crop of babies this year. Here are just three of them: Yago, Iain and Ellis.

Hip to be square
My trusty old barbecues finally rusted away last summer, so I had to replace them. Usually, in an annual triumph of hope over experience, Scottish shops have piles of unsold barbecues by late July and you can pick them up at half price or less. Unfortunately, this year, the retailers seem to have learnt their lesson, and I had to do a lot of phoning around before I finally tracked down a couple of barbecues. One of them is shown below. (Lurking in the background, under the Outback cover, is my neighbour's rarely used gas-fired barbecue. Pah!) Apart from my preference for charcoal over gas, I also prefer square to round, and will have no truck at all with deep kettle style barbecues.