Tofu Making in Vietnam

1 September is National Tofu Day. Time to celebrate? No, I’m not a fan of the stuff either. But it does give me an excuse to write about my first hand experience of making the stuff. Well, almost first hand. It was our first full day in Vietnam, and also the first day of 2020.…

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Eat Out to Help Out & Other News

I know I said that On The Side would be taking a break and wouldn’t return till September. Well, fortunately, this column is more flexible than its editor. I was penning a review and added a section about the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out (EOTHO) scheme. It then dawned on me that as this…

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Chef Watch – Stuart Muir, Dine, Edinburgh

CHEF WATCH Featuring Stuart Muir, chef and co-proprietor of Dine, Edinburgh   How long have you been a chef? I started work as a commis chef at age 16 so 35 years ago now … Why did you become a chef? I used to go fishing and shooting with my father when I was young…

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The Gastronomical Me by M F K Fisher – Book Review

I have to say that the readership numbers for the book reviews in this column have been a bit on the slack side. This surprised me a little. If you are interested enough to read this blog, I thought you might appreciate being directed to people who really can write, as opposed to my scribblings…

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B is for Banana

It was an early holiday in what is now the not so far east which opened my very blinkered eyes to the topic of fruits from the tropics. On visit to a fruit farm/botanical garden I tasted fruits which I thought I knew. I was amazed that they seemed so different. Slowly it filtered into…

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Food and Racism: An Interesting Debate

This column will travel a very long way to avoid political comment; however, I was alerted for the very first time to this possible issue by reading some of the considerable commentary following the death of George Floyd. Black Lives Matter is not a new organisation. As a network, it was formed in 2013 by…

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A is for Avocado

Avocado Small

From time to time on the old website, Tom Cooks! would feature one particular ingredient and develop from there. Many of you have commented over the years that you have enjoyed the *history/useless trivia (*delete whichever you fancy) which went with that. For my own part, I thoroughly enjoy the research, in particular the often…

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Chef Watch – Paul Askew, The Art School, Liverpool

Paul Askew Small

CHEF WATCH Featuring Paul Askew, chef and proprietor of The Art School, Liverpool   How long have you been a chef? This year I celebrate forty years in the hospitality business, starting as a 15 year-old kitchen porter. Why did you become a chef? Singapore provided me with one of my first and greatest inspirations…

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The Narcissistic Fish by Scottish Opera

Narcissism in a professional kitchen? Whoever could imagine such a thing? No point in mentioning names, but anyone with more than a passing interest in food has encountered, either in real life or on screen, a chef who struggles to squeeze his ego through his own restaurant door. Similarly there are many kitchens where there…

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Victory In The Kitchen by Annie Gray – Book Review

Annie Grey

So many books, especially biographies, disappoint. It is therefore the greatest of pleasures to read one which delivers far, far more than it promises. The subtitle of Dr Annie Gray’s latest book is, accurately but prosaically, The Life of Churchill’s Cook. In the introduction we learn that it is a biography of a lady named…

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Restaurants Post Lockdown – What Next?

Stay Alert Small

The slight easing of the lockdown rules combined with some summer weather has lifted the national mood. For us foodies who most miss the joys of eating out, what does the future hold and when? On The Side spoke to three players in the Edinburgh restaurant scene, Vikki Wood of The Wee Restaurant, Campbell Mickel…

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Chef Watch – Roberta Hall, The Little Chartroom

Roberta Hall Small

Featuring Roberta Hall, chef and co-owner of The Little Chartroom, Edinburgh and finalist in the Great British Menu How long have you been a chef? I have been a chef for 20 years. Why did you become a chef? I did one week’s work experience at The Tower Restaurant when I was 16 and I…

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I don’t use gadgets much…

I don’t use gadgets much, but a recent article in the Observer Food Magazine gave me pause for thought, as if we needed any more free time at present. Jay Rayner was writing of cooking in lockdown, and how he felt the need to use precisely the right tool for a specific job, even if…

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Orodeal – Birth of a Legend

It is said that the most successful people in life are those who made plans early and followed them through rigorously. Apparently, on leaving university, Michael Heseltine scribbled down his goals on the back of an envelope. The list read – 25 Millionaire; 35 Cabinet Member; 45 Leader of the Party; 55 Prime Minister. All…

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Chef Watch – Campbell Mickel, Merienda

Featuring Campbell Mickel of Merienda and Exec Chef Cuisine. See below for details of how to order their amazing food even during lockdown. How long have you been a chef? I started cooking full time when I was 15….February 1986. It was strange being so young out working 50 hours a week until very late…

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Lamb? Yes, please, but at Easter it ain’t Scottish

Lamb Rack

On many dinner tables this Easter Sunday, there will be a roast. Not as large as if the family was coming to visit, but lots of you will maintain a traditional feast on a smaller scale. And for many, perhaps even the majority, that will be sheep meat, almost certainly lamb. That’s a very fine…

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TV Chefs – Who Gets Your Vote?

Keith Floyd Small

Here in Johnston Towers not a huge amount of TV is watched in normal times. Each of us has our own guilty secrets. And we also have guilty TV watching habits, some of which simply cannot be shared, lest divorce follow, at least as soon as lawyers’ offices reopen. So, sadly, you will hear nothing…

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Chef Watch – Craig Wood

Craig Wood Cropped

Featuring Craig Wood, chef and co-owner of The Wee Restaurant, North Queensferry and The Wee Restaurant, Edinburgh. Obviously the restaurants are closed just now, but there is a fantastic takeaway and delivery service available from North Queensferry. See below for details. How long have you been a chef? 32 years. I started part time at…

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Restaurants – Let’s Stay Together

Boarded up restaurant

Lovin’ you ever, whether, times were good or bad, happy or sad… The Today programme aside, at home I listen to radio relatively rarely. One exception is the occasional half hour of Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs. Today featured the mellifluous (note to self – must look that up in the dictionary) tones of the Reverend Al…

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Roast Beef No More – Blame The Railways

Steam Engine

From time to time I have mused idly as to why we talk today of roasting beef in an oven, yet baking potatoes. The latter term is correct. Traditionally roasting is done by exposing food to a naked flame, either on a spit or grill. Until watching a recent BBC programme on the history of…

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Restaurants: The Economics of The Madhouse


My mother was the worst of all. In addition to having a great head for figures, she was a very talented cook. No, those weren’t the failings. But take her to a restaurant, then unless she took an immediate like to the place or the people (this happened about 25% of the time) she could…

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And Another Daft Thing!

Stupid People

One of the great things about social media is being able to hear so many of the unbelievably stupid things heard in restaurants, principally (but not exclusively) said by diners. Please let me have examples, the dafter the better.   Thanks to Janet Hood for this example from her chef husband Alastair, concerning an organic,…

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