Carina in Print: The Scotsman magazine, July 2017
Carina is a regular contributor to The Scotsman magazine. In her latest column, for July, she gave away some of the secrets of a very magical dessert. Read it below….
My “wee” brother John Mark was a real Paul Daniels protégé. He’s really my big brother but when you have four older brothers you need some identifying features, and he’s the youngest of them. My mother was at the peak of her French fancy phase when Jean Marc was born but her son, who inherited my father’s practical Cockenzie touch, insisted on a name change.
Anyway, magic tricks were John Mark’s forte. This week is the Edinburgh Magic Festival so I’ve been reminiscing about his repertoire: card tricks out of the newspaper, the disappearing water trick, and – best of all – snappy chewing gum packets and pastilles dipped in chilli. To this day, I still can’t eat a Jelly Tot! It was all good fun, so he tells me.
Cooking, for those in the know, is a bit of a magic trick. There are times that a good cook can conjure up a minor miracle from a few scarce ingredients that are in the fridge or larder. I couldn’t live without a fabulous bottle of extra virgin olive oil, some garlic, lemons, fresh chillies and a few fresh herbs. Armed with these tricks, the humblest dish can be magically transformed. And, of course, the correct amount of that alchemy brought by a pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper: seasoning alone can create magic. Don’t let anyone confuse you, learning to cook is no trick. Use the freshest ingredients, follow the seasons and you won’t go wrong. Keep it simple and even Houdini will be impressed.
Now, for a lover of magic like John Mark, there is no more fitting dessert than a Baked Alaska, and I make one once a year as a treat for his birthday. Ice cream that goes into an oven and comes out perfectly cold despite the furnace that’s kept it company for the last five mins? Extraordinary! JM, I owe you one for this year. It’s an open invitation. Because I think you’re magic.
Fresh Crab and Watermelon Salad
We have variations of this salad both at Cannonball Restaurant and Contini George Street. It’s also delicious with some warm, toasted, thick, crunchy bread and you can serve it like a loose pate instead of as a salad. Very moreish!
- 120g fresh prepared crab meat
- 60g crème fraiche
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- 50g watermelon, seeds removed, cut into cubes
- 8 baby gem lettuce leaves
- 2 radishes, trimmed and sliced
- Scattering of baby herbs
Wash the baby gem leaves and radish, then dry and split the salad between two plates
Mix the crème fraiche, cayenne, lemon juice and seasoning in a bowl.
Fold the crab into the crème fraiche mixture, check the seasoning, and add more lemon or cayenne if required.
Spoon the crab onto the salad and finish with the watermelon and the baby herbs.
Enjoy straight away.
Chilli BBQ Chicken
I love this chicken at this time of the year. If you are cooking on the BBQ you may want to cut the chicken into pieces, marinade and then grill, sometimes this can be safer than trying to cook a whole chicken.
- 3 green chilies, seeds removed and finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1 whole unwaxed lemon or 2 preserved lemon, pips removed
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle.
- Generous pinch of salt
- Large handful of fresh parsley, leaves only
- Large handful of fresh coriander, leaves only
- 5kg/3lb 3oz free-range or organic chicken
Spatchcock the chicken – this involves removing the backbone but you can do it the other way if you want to and cut between each breast. Trim any excess fat and the tops of the legs.
Lay the chicken, skin side up onto a roasting tray. Using the palm of your hand, press the chicken down to at either side of the wings to flatten out the chicken.
Cut the lemon in half and remove any seeds, then place it along with the chillies, garlic, herbs, olive oil, and salt into a blender or food processor until smooth.
Pour this mixture over the chicken and gently rub in. Leave to marinade for at least an hour.
Sprinkle some more salt over the chicken and a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil.
Roast at 220°C/425°F/Gas 7 for 15 minutes so the skin becomes lovely and tasty, then lower the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 and cook for another 40 minutes or so until the leg of the chicken easily removes from the carcass.
If you have the BBQ set up the chicken can be left to marinate for about 2 to 3 hours and then roasted outside until carbony crispy and really delicious.
This is a truly magic dessert both in its dramatic appearance when it arrives at the dinner table and its deliciously indulgent taste. And you don’t need to wait for a birthday to enjoy it.
Serves 4 – 6
- 1 sponge 20cm in diameter
- 250ml vanilla ice cream
- 300g berries of your choice, washed and dried
- 3 large egg whites weighed
- Double the weight (of the egg whites) of caster sugar
- Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 220C and make sure you set the tray in the oven so the Baked Alaska will fit without scraping across the top of the oven.
Place the sponge on a baking tray and scoop the ice cream on top
Scatter the berries over the ice cream and place back in the freezer while you beat the egg whites.
Choose a spotless bowl and beat the whites with salt until stiff. Very slowly add the sugar, a dessert spoon at a time, to the eggs while they are still beating.
When all the sugar has been added the egg should be stiff like soft meringue
Remove the tray with the ice cream from the freezer and then cover the whole sponge, berries and ice cream in the meringue. Make sure there are no gaps as the meringue acts as insulation and stops the ice cream from melting.
Sprinkle with a little extra sugar and bake in the oven for 5 minutes until the meringue is toasted.
Enjoy with a drizzle of fresh cream. Magic!