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Mark Greenaway: a turn-up for the books

30 August 2016

When Mark Greenaway found out that international foodies were surprised by the quality of Scotland's cuisine, he wrote a book to celebrate the nation's culinary clout. Karen Peattie reports

Greenaway's elegant restaurant in the city's New Town - which he co-owns with partner Nicola Jack, who runs front of house - clearly holds special appeal for the Scottish crime-writing fraternity. Novelist Val McDermid is a fan, as is Ian Rankin.

Indeed, Rankin has written the foreword to award-winning chef Greenaway's debut cookbook, entitled Perceptions: Recipes from Restaurant Mark Greenaway. "It's no secret that Ian drinks in the Oxford Bar, which is just around the corner from the restaurant," Greenaway says, "and if you've read any of his books, you'll know Rebus drinks there too."

Restaurant Mark Greenaway may attract the occasional celebrity, but it's the food that takes centre stage here. On a dreich Tuesday in Edinburgh, the chef's eight-course tasting menu is a culinary adventure on a par with a plot from one of Rankin's novels - because you never quite know what's coming next.

Every tasting menu has its personal highlights, of course, and on this occasion those include an oxtail broth served at the table in a Napier coffee maker, boasting flavours that pick up pace as the ingredients infuse, and a Scottish hake fillet featuring Greenaway's renowned shellfish cannelloni. The quirky salmon, dill, kuzu - served in an egg box - is another.

This menu confirms just how ambitious and talented the chef is - Greenaway's innovative creations and theatrical approach are designed to intrigue, impress and, ultimately, delight. He may be reluctant to describe his style as "fine dining" but that's very much the public perception.

"Do you think so?" he asks. "I like to think I put a modern twist on traditional dishes and bring in new techniques to have a bit of fun. To me, the words 'fine dining' suggest a style that's very formal and a bit stuffy. We don't make you wear a suit and tie, do we?"

But he points out: "You can add the drama and do the quirky stuff, but if it doesn't taste good, you're on a hiding to nothing.

"That's why you have to choose your suppliers very carefully and nurture good relationships with them," Greenaway continues. "You build up mutual respect and you know they won't let you down."

Greenaway spends a lot of time talking about his suppliers. He waxes lyrical about the duck from Gartmorn Farm in Clackmannanshire - and having just tasted his roasted duck breast and confit duck leg, there's no question he's chosen well. Others include Katy Rodger's Artisan Dairy at Knockraich Farm in Stirlingshire and Natalie Crayton's Hebridean Sea Salt.

So it comes as no surprise that Greenaway devotes space in his cookbook to his suppliers. "It's only right that they are recognised," he says. "The book isn't just my story, it's about the suppliers too. I want people to know who they are because they are part of my success.

"I chose the title Perceptions because Scotland is internationally renowned for its ingredients, but from my experience promoting Scottish food around the world, not always its cuisine. The perception of Scottish food needs to change."

So that's one of the reasons for producing a cookbook. "I thought long and hard about it," says Greenaway. "I'd been playing around with the idea for a while, then I thought that as well as sharing my recipes, I'd tell my story from the beginning - how I got into the business, why I became a chef, who's given me my motivation and my journey over the last 20-plus years.

"It's a big book - over 250 recipes including some brand new ones - but it's laid out in such a way that people who know their way around the kitchen at home can replicate them. It's not a coffee table book - it's a book for home chefs and professional chefs alike."

Greenaway is clearly passionate about Scotland's larder - just a few weeks ago he was in Singapore, where he participated in the British Club Singapore's Best of British festival as part of the Queen's 90th birthday celebrations. But it was probably his trip to Bangkok as a Scottish food ambassador as part of Visit Britain's 'Great' campaign four years ago that sowed the seeds for Perceptions.

"The first question I asked was 'What is your perception of Scottish and British food?' and I was shocked when the only dishes they mentioned were the likes of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and fish and chips. I felt I had to do something to change that."

With two series of BBC's Great British Menu under his belt, numerous other TV appearances, three AA rosettes and other awards and plaudits too numerous to mention, does he have a Michelin star in his sights? "Who wouldn't want a Michelin star?" he asks. "I want to win awards, but it's more important to me to look after my customers - it's my name above the door, after all.

"Awards will gain you respect but they don't guarantee success as a business. And when you own your own restaurant, that's what you're doing - running a business."

He points to his eponymous restaurant's previous incarnation at Picardy Place in Edinburgh. "It's where we first opened in 2011 and we did well, but it was also a bar and whisky bar as well as a restaurant, plus it had five bedrooms," he explains. "I had a business partner and as we became more successful we agreed that I'd move on and do my own thing.

"We moved here in January 2013. It's been hard work, but it's not just about what comes out of the kitchen," he continues. "Nicola has such an incredible eye for detail, so all the interior design is down to her. It's not the easiest of spaces as the kitchen is downstairs - we have to replace the carpets every three months as they take such a hammering."

Does he consider himself to be a celebrity chef? "No, that's not me," he laughs. "I didn't do Great British Menu to become the next Jamie Oliver, but I admit I absolutely loved the experience and it gave me a lot of exposure."

Renfrewshire-born Greenaway left school at 15 and got his first job as a kitchen porter at the Cartland Bridge Hotel in Lanark. He then moved on to jobs at hotels including Gleneagles and Murrayshall in Perthshire, had a stint in Australia, and then returned to Scotland for spells at One Devonshire Gardens, Kilcamb Lodge in the Highlands and Dryburgh Abbey Hotel in the Scottish Borders.

"I think the turning point for me came when I went to Australia," he explains. "In the 1990s, Australia was ahead of its time and doing foams and jellies, using water baths and so on. It was an exciting time to be there."

"There are also light bulb moments when it all falls into place," says Greenaway, "and one of those was reading White Heat - I'd never seen food like it and I knew that's what I wanted to aspire to. Marco Pierre White changed a generation of chefs."

What does the future hold for Mark Greenway? "At the moment I'm concentrating on the restaurant," he says. "The book took so much longer than I expected - it was hard going at times. Working until 2am wasn't unusual.

"I've also got time to look around a bit more and see what else is happening in the industry," says Greenaway. "I think Edinburgh's doing very well and at the top end of the market you have around 10 restaurants that are all very different, which means that while you're not really in direct competition with anyone else, you're still chasing the same customers.

"We work closely with the main hotels and have built up relationships with concierges who will hopefully recommend us. Food tourism is becoming really big - people come to us, the Kitchin, Martin Wishart and others during the same trip and they're coming to Edinburgh on the back of our reputation."

Finding and retaining good staff can be challenging, he admits, but Restaurant Mark Greenaway has a steady core team both in the kitchen and front of house. The restaurant works with the Young Scot organisation to offer work experience placements to school leavers aged 16 to 18, and Greenaway is also an ambassador for the Prince's Trust.

Maybe 20 years from now one of them will have opened their own restaurant, inspired by Mark Greenaway? "I certainly hope so," he says, taking his leave to return to his kitchen.

Perceptions: Recipes from Restaurant Mark Greenaway, published by Relish Publications, is available from Amazon andwww.markgreenaway.com

Scallop, dashi, sea vegetables

Serves 8

For the dashi broth ½ red chili
1 sheet dashi kombu
1½ sheets nori seaweed
250g white miso
250g brown miso
3l water
1 bunch lemongrass (crushed)
100g ginger (peeled, sliced)
250ml soy sauce
50g honey
75g coriander

Place all ingredients, except the coriander, into a large, tall pot and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for approximately 1½ hours. Bring back to the boil and add the coriander. Remove from the heat immediately and cover the top of the pot with cling film. Allow to steep for one hour.

Remove the cling film, pass through a fine chinois and leave to separate. Pour the separated liquid through a muslin cloth and discard the sediment at the bottom.

For the rice wine vinegar jelly 200ml rice wine vinegar
150ml soy sauce
150g caster sugar
5 leaves gelatine (soaked in cold water)

Place the vinegar, soy sauce and sugar into a pan and bring to the boil. Dissolve the gelatine into the mixture, then pass through a fine chinois into a container. Set in the fridge for two hours.

For the pork crackling 20g pork rind crumble
Vegetable oil (to deep-fry)
Sea salt

Deep-fry the pork rind crumble at 210ºC until puffed up - this should take approximately 15 seconds. Transfer to a clean J-cloth, season with salt and allow to dry out in a warm environment.

For the soy caramel 200g caster sugar
200ml soy sauce

Heat the sugar to create a dry, golden brown caramel, slowly adding in the soy sauce. Bring to a rapid boil for two minutes before removing from the heat and passing through a fine chinois.

For the scallops 16 scallops
Sea salt
Rapeseed oil (drizzle of)

Selection of picked sea vegetables (depending on the season, these could include channel wrack, beach coriander, sea aster, sea plantain, sea purslane or samphire)

Prepare ahead. Remove the scallops from the shell and wash thoroughly, removing all of the skirt and roe.

Reserve the roe and store the scallops in the fridge. Dehydrate the roe for 24 hours on the dehydrator's highest setting.

Once dry, blend in a Thermomix to a fine powder, season with salt and pass through a fine chinois.

Wash the shells and dry well.

Finely slice eight of the scallops, and rest them in eight of the clean shells. Season with a little salt and top with a teaspoon of the jelly, some sea vegetables and puffed pork crackling.

Heat up the dashi broth. Meanwhile, heat a non-stick frying pan with a drizzle of rapeseed oil. Dip one side of each of the full scallops into the dehydrated roe and place in the nonstick pan, roe-side down. Cook for two minutes. Turn over and cook for a further two minutes, then season with a little salt. Remove the pan from the heat and rest for two minutes.

To assemble

Dot the soy caramel on each plate, top with a roasted scallop alongside a shell containing the raw scallop, pork crackling and seasonal sea vegetables, as pictured. Each guest should be served a raw scallop, a cooked scallop and a jug of piping hot dashi broth.

Instruct guests to pour the dashi broth over the raw scallop and to eat the pan-roasted one while the other scallop cooks.

Cranachan

Serves 6

For the duck egg and whisky set custard
10 duck egg yolks
260g caster sugar
600ml double cream
350ml milk
50ml whisky
10 leaves gelatine (soaked in cold water)

Prepare ahead

Place the egg yolks and sugar into a mixing bowl and whisk until doubled in volume and fluffy.

Place the cream, milk and whisky into a heavy-based pan and bring to the boil. Pour the hot liquid over the egg yolk mixture, place the mixture back into the pan and cook out to 85ºC. The mixture should be thick and coat the back of a spoon.

Add the soaked gelatine, then pass the mixture through a fine chinois into a blender. Blend on full power for 25 seconds to get rid of any air and pour into ring moulds, 5cm in diameter and 6cm in height, but filling only three-quarters of the way up the mould. Leave to set in the fridge for 24 hours.

For the raspberry and whisky leather 300g raspberry purée
25ml whisky
45g caster sugar
¼tsp crytex

Prepare ahead. Blend all of the ingredients together and pass through a fine chinois. Spread the raspberry mixture out thinly on silicon mats and dehydrate for 24 hours at 60ºC.

Once the leather has dehydrated, cut into squares 12cm x 12cm then scrunch each square up randomly to achieve height. Once these cool to room temperature they will become crisp and very fragile.

For the raspberry and whisky granita 100ml whisky
150g caster sugar
500ml hot water
300g raspberry purée

Prepare ahead. Pour the whisky, sugar and water into a pot. Over a low heat, dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved, mix in the raspberry purée. Pour into a 30cm x 30cm tray and store in the freezer. Scrape the mixture every 30 minutes with a fork and leave in the freezer until completely frozen. This should take anywhere between 2-6 hours depending on the freezer.

For the frozen raspberry cells 100g fresh raspberries

Place the raspberries on a tray lined with silicone paper and transfer to a freezer. After two hours, crumble the raspberries into cells and freeze in an airtight container until required.

For the praline tuile 500g caster sugar
50g flaked almonds

Add just enough water to the sugar to make a paste and place over a high heat. Take this to a deep caramel, then add in the almonds. Pour onto a tray lined with silicone paper and allow to cool. Break the caramel into rough pieces and blend in a food processor to a fine powder.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line a flat baking tray with silicone paper. Pass the praline powder through a sieve onto the silicone to create a fine layer. Any leftover powder can be stored in the freezer and used for other dishes.

Bake for five minutes until the praline melts back down and creates a fine sheet of caramel. If a few holes form, dust on more praline powder and re-bake in the oven until melted back together.

For the honey granola 200g rolled oats (toasted)
126g flaked almonds (toasted)
80g brown sugar
80g honey
60ml rapeseed oil
6g vanilla salt

Preheat the oven to 150ºC. Place the oats and almonds in a large bowl. Combine the sugar, honey, oil and vanilla salt in a pan and dissolve the sugar over a low heat. Pour the mixture onto the oats and almonds and mix thoroughly. Spread onto a tray lined with silicone paper and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden brown, mixing occasionally. Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.

For the crystallised almonds and white chocolate 150ml water
200g caster sugar
200g almonds (toasted)
150g white chocolate

Pour the water over the sugar in a large heavy-based pan and bring to the boil while stirring. Take the sugar syrup up to 135ºC. Pour the nuts into the pan and stir with a wooden spoon until crystallised. Leave to cool on a tray lined with silicone paper.

Melt the white chocolate. Using a small fork, pick up each almond and dip into white chocolate. Allow any excess chocolate to drip off before transferring onto a silicone mat.

For the burnt honey clotted cream 400g honey
500g clotted cream

Place 300g of the honey in a large, heavy-based pot over a high heat and whisk constantly.

Caramelise the honey to a deep golden brown. Remove from the heat, add the remaining honey and whisk until incorporated. Skim the excess fat off the clotted cream and discard.

Put the cream into a bowl and slowly add the caramelised honey to the cream, whisking constantly. Keep whisking to a set cream. Refrigerate until required.

To assemble

30 fresh raspberries

Scatter some of the granola over the base of each plate. Top with one of the set custards standing on its side. Sit the crumpled up raspberry leather next to the custard.

Scatter five raspberries and some of the frozen raspberry cells over the dish.

Using a teaspoon, rocher two spoons of the honey clotted cream onto each plate.

Lightly crush the almonds and scatter over the dessert. Break up the praline tuile and stick into the set custard and honey clotted cream.

Finally, scrape the granita once more with a fork and scatter over the whole dessert.

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

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