I’m still warming up to this blogging lark so I left the camera alone for a few days at the risk of offending my girlfriend, who’s probably getting a bit fed up of having to wait for food to be photographed before it can be eaten. However, that doesn’t mean we stopped eating so here’s a quick summary of my food weekend.
The sun was shining on Deeside on Saturday so it was definitely weather to get outside. A 2 hour walk along the Dee between Banchory and Crathes followed (with a short rest to watch anglers getting very frustrated at salmon leaping out of the water nowhere near where they’re casting) and was then itself followed by a couple of pints in The Douglas Arms while watching the football scores come in. After such a strenuous afternoon a good feed was in order.
We’ve been to Franco’s before, situated down a lane beside The Stag Inn at Banchory, but since the last time we were there I’d heard it was under new management so it was interesting to see if it had changed. First glance at the menu points to minor adjustments rather than wholesale overhaul, with a few dishes changed slightly and a couple replaced but the general feel of the menu remained the same as last time we visited.
My starter of great big prawns, wrapped first in basil leaves then prosciuttio and fried in batter, was brilliant. Served with a spicy mayonnaise, I could have greedily eaten dozens of these. The basil and prosciutto was a great twist on what can be a predictable starter, definitely an idea I’m tempted to borrow in the future.
Now just after the starters came the two things that annoyed me about the meal. First, a bloke with a guitar started singing Blue Moon and then as soon as they took the empty starter plate away they came back with the main course. Now I like fast service but that was a bit extreme! The bloke with the guitar I’ve encountered before. He seems to be on rotation between Franco’s and it’s sister restaurant, Borsalino’s in Peterculter. Generally I don’t mind him, but this was the 3rd time I’ve had him play over a meal and by now I’d noticed that he has a limited repertoire of songs which he plays in the same order each time. He was also sitting immediately behind our table. Which was a little bit too close to be honest. The lightning fast service was the more annoying of the two though. I really needed a break to finish digesting the starter before being confronted by the main course, especially in an Italian restaurant that doesn’t usually skimp on portion size! Having said that this was the only mis-step from the waiting staff throughout the meal, otherwise they were excellent.
My main course was gnocchi in a creamy ham and mushroom sauce, with mozzarella on the top and baked in the oven. The gnocchi was soft and spongy, perfect for soaking up the sauce and delivering that lovely mozzarella to my mouth. My partner’s veal dish was just as good. The meat was juicy, tender and not at all overpowered by the cheese sauce it was served with. The volcanically hot sideplate of generic veg was not so good, but that’s a minor niggle.
A white chocolate and raspberry pavlova and a warm apple pie rounded off a great meal before we sauntered back to the pub we’d spent the afternoon in to see out the rest of a pretty great Saturday.
Sunday arrived to a sore head and a lot to do. Both of these were my own fault, the first because I decided it would be a good idea to have a very large whisky when I got home on top of the beer and wine I’d already drunk that
evening day and the second was because I’d invited my brother and his wife round for a Sunday roast.
A quick whiz round the supermarket to get the weekly shop out of the way was followed by roast prep. Out came Leith’s Cookery Bible and the yorkshire pudding batter was made and placed in the fridge to until needed. Then it was back to the supermarket to get everything I’d forgotten (beer, cheesecake and ice cream as it turned out) before getting stuck into preparing the veg. A few shallots were peeled to go into the roasting pan with the beef, which was just seasoned heavily with sea salt and pepper. While that was starting off in the oven the tatties were peeled, par boiled and fluffed up before going into a bowl with some olive oil, salt, pepper and a lot of fresh rosemary. Then they went into a roasting pan and joined the beef in the oven.
At this point the guests arrived, beer and cider was poured and then I realised that I should still be cooking. So an ovenproof dish was introduced to oil and then heated in the oven for a few minutes. Into the hot oil I poured the pudding batter and then it went into the oven to rise gloriously. Carrots, parsnips and courgettes were chopped, covered in oil and seasoned before being added to the tatties then it was back to the beer.
I don’t often cook for guests because it’s nowhere near as enjoyable as cooking for the two of us. The main reason for this is that I start worrying and stressing about timings and getting it right, wanting to impress my guests and make them think I’m some kind of culinary genius rather than an overly enthusiastic amateur cook. It also leads to more washing up. Anyway, true to form I screwed up the timings a bit and the beef was ready before the pudding which I think needed another 5 or 10 minutes to really finish rising. However ignoring that little hiccup the food wash dished up with the addition of some Just Bouillon gravy (cheating I know, sorry) and it was brilliant. Ok, the pudding might have been a little under cooked but it was huge and the beef was perfect. Star of the show was the roast tatties with rosemary along with the rest of the roast veg. Brilliant Sunday food greatly enjoyed by the four of us along with a few drinks. A fine way to end the weekend. Maybe I should just relax about cooking for others and do it more often…