Food Drink

Eat out, drink up

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Edinburgh’s Monster Mash has truly - as the song goes - ‘caught on in a flash’. Our tasters tried out the selection of the Southside café’s signature dlSh. Words: Barry Shelby

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than the continent gave the world the potato. Food writer Jeffrey Steingarten is correct when he says that it is ‘the most important vegetable in the world‘. Arguably the best way to prepare it (with roasting in goose fat perhaps a close second) is to mash. At Edinburgh’s Monster Mash, chef Paul Nelson follows a recipe he inherited from his mother, although the quantities are presumably different. In a given week, the café goes through some 3()()kg of potatoes the kitchen cooks them in 10kg batches at time. That’s a lot of mash.

‘The key is not to overcomplicate it,’ Nelson says. He uses peeled Maris Pipers from Aberdeenshire. They go into cold salted water, are brought to boil and immediately cut to a simmer until they slide off the knife. Potatoes can be ‘temperamental things’, Nelson says. The cooking time varies as no two sacks of tatties are created equally, apparently. ‘You can never tell exactly how long it will take.‘

A hand-cranked mill made by Mouli reduces the strained spuds to a rough consistency. Then full-fat milk and butter are added, while steady mixing by wooden spoon creates the final product. ‘Soft to the taste but firm’, Nelson says. As the café’s bespoke sausages from Crombies need to rest against the mash on the plate, it needs to have a reasonably firm peak. ‘Nobody likes mushy mash,” Nelson adds.


(5) As the menu says, ‘plain and simple'. The house mash looks a bit rough around the edges but it's really quite smooth although miles away from being a puree. ‘It reminds me of my mum's cooking.’ says one of our tasters. The seasoning is subtle; a touch of black pepper and hint of salt but ‘the butter is what really shines through'. Here is the

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(3) Our least faVOurite. but perhaps the tasting was unfair. A mix like this would really benefit from an accompanying Monster Mash banger perhaps a veggie version such as spinach. leek and cheese or a hearty Auld Reekie with smoky pork and beef. Certainly the whole grain seeds add to the texture (as one taster says: ‘it looks glamorous“) and flavour is not as tart as some mustard mash can be. Call us old- fashioned, but it was more Vampira than Candyman.



(4) Disappointingly mild, it might have benefited from a sharper variety of cheddar. ‘It has a nice stringiness: you can really see


In one of the nice touches at Monster Mash, gravy comes in a single serving boat. Along with the potatoes, we sampled some. Monster Gravy

A classic, if thin. brown gravy. honestly more like a broth. Perfect for keeping the tatties' edges warm but a tad runny for cur liking. Tomato Gravy

(6) The menu's vegetarian option made without any meat stock. Thick but not gloopy. perfect for coating a pile of mash. Alas. the taste is more like tomato flavouring than real fruit. Onion Gravy

(2) As the menu said: ‘caramelised onions mixed with beef stock and red wine reduction'. Perfect. Hearty gravy with a nice tang - “just on the right side of sweetness’ was one comment. ‘I stand by this one' was another. Pick of the lot.

the cheese.‘ But overall we were victims of our own raised expectations. However modest the addition of cheese. we felt

that simplicity was superior.


(1) How can such a simple addition make such

a difference? Folded in roughly chopped. raw green onions lift this mash into the pantheon of potato greats. Served with a crater-full of melted butter at the top. it is the most aesthetically pleasing. as well. ‘Wow.’ says a taster. ‘I like that one a lot.‘ Another's experience in

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Ireland confirms the Champs authenticity. It's ‘fresh. cleaner not cloying on the palate'. Our only negative comment is ‘no good on a first date“. Accurately named. then. the surprise winner. When it comes to monster mash, here is the shit-kicking Alien of the batch.

Monster Mash, 4a Forrest Road, Edinburgh, 0131 225 7069.

Sideliislies News to nibble on . . .

I GORDON YUlLL 8. CO lN Glasgow has become 257 West Campbell Street. Now under the sole ownership of David Brown. the venue continues its brasserie-style menu under the direction of chef de cuisine Alan Winning. After polling the customers. however, the selection has been tweaked. Sample dishes include pan- fried calves' livers with sage mash or baked fillet of halibut \fiennoise.

I AFTER HALF A DOZEN years as chef at the Basement on Edinburgh’s Broughton Street, Darren Mclaughlin has opened his own eponymous restaurant at 34 West Preston Street (0131 668 4946). He describes the food as European influenced using mostly Scottish produce. Typical dishes are roast rump of lamb with chive mash or seared tuna with roast plum tomatoes. The 30- seat restaurant will run a fixed price menu for the festive season.

I ON THE FLESHMARKET close. the one-time takeaway. Neville's. has been transformed for a second time in the year to become a tapas bar and restaurant. Chiquitin. The menu features Spanish dishes like chick peas with chorizo or lamb stew in red wine as well as other exotic treats such as Arabian baked trout or Thai basil chicken.

I GOURMET GLASGOW: Simple Recipes for an Easy Life is a new cookbook featuring recipes from 35 notable Glasgow restaurants. Edited by restaurateur Alan Tompkins, it includes recipes from chefs such as Geoffrey Smeddle at Etain, Donald Flanagan at Cafe Mao, Jim Kerr at Dining Room and Sandro Giovanazzi at La Pannigiana. Published by Black and White, Gourmet Glasgow costs £16.99.

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13-27 Nov 2003 THE LIST 1 13