Like many people, I was absolutely hooked on the recent BBC series “The Restaurant Man”. Polpo founder Russell Normal helped aspiring restaurateurs follow their dreams of opening their first establishment with all the attendant risks, trials and tribulations. A huge percentage of restaurants and cafes close within the first two years – survival requires long hours, careful planning and relentless enthusiasm. Three sisters who have done just that – and with some considerable success – are Gillian, Nichola and Linsey Reith.
Situated in Quarriers Village near Glasgow, their cafe provides a welcome response to the traditional view of Scottish food. Amid the greasy spoons and chain restaurants this offers something very different – healthy, homely and delicious. Their eponymous first cookbook echos that philosophy – there isn’t a deep fried mars bar in sight. It’s split into several sections covering all you’d expect from a cafe – brunch to dinner and salads to sharing platters. The recipes themselves are reassuringly simple and well within the reach of any home cook – they use sensible ingredients, basic techniques and bridge a huge range of culinary styles. There’s pulled pork, hummus, jammy pieces and french onion soup – something for everyone.
Taking the book for a spin I cooked an entire meal with a nicely Mediterranean theme to match the stunning weather outside. It was only a couple of hours of effort and I managed to get everything I needed at my local supermarket.
Flatbreads and Hummus
Despite many forays into making bread, I’ve never actually tried a flatbread. The sister’s recipe uses a blend of wholemeal and white flour and a healthy dose of baking powder to give it a little lightness. You make a dough which is then rolled flat and cooked on a griddle giving you lovely char marks. Served warm with their lemony, rustic hummus it’s great.
Yoghurt, Mint and Rosemary Marinated Lamb Skewers with Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad
Yoghurt in marinades isn’t just a Greek affection, it has a scientific basis too – helping tenderise the meat. This one is laden with lemon, rosemary, garlic and healthy hit of a mint. After a night in the fridge the result is excellent – soft, juicy lamb with a delicate herby backbone. The salad is rather nice as well – I was a little nervous about the watermelon, but it works really well with the olives and cheese resulting in a light, refreshing, summery dish – it would be perfect for a barbecue. I ended up breaking out some more flatbreads to soak up the citrusy charred orange dressing.
Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Tarts
While I initially balked at blind baking individual tarts in a muffin tin, it’s absolutely worth the effort. The pastry is gorgeously short and crunchy while the gooey chocolate ganache filling is the stuff of dreams. I’m not normally a fan of combining fruit and chocolate, but this genuinely works. Served with a splodge of thick double cream and a scattering of strawberries it’s a perfect dinner party dessert you can prepare the day before.
It’s a fantastic book – beautifully shot and scattered with commentary from the girls whose passion for food shines through. It’s a little like stumbling across someone’s family cookbook. It’s eclectic, interesting and most importantly – very tasty. Reading through it you can’t help but be tempted and start jotting down recipes to try. It would make a great present and i’ll definitely be handing out copies to people in the near future!
“Three Sisters Bake” by Gillian, Nichola and Linsey Reith is published by Hardie Grant Books and available now, RRP £20.