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Cooking with Jessica Elliott Dennison in Edinburgh, UK

One may say this was dream come true territory, getting to learn about seasonal spring cooking with one of our cooking idols Jessica Elliott Dennison at her café and studio in Edinburgh during the 2023 Spring Series

It was a beautifully warm and very bright day in Glasgow as we boarded the feather-strewn train (thank you Harry Styles) to Edinburgh. We were in high spirits, having maypole danced on a Scottish Island the day before and were very excited to finally visit "Elliott's"; the mythical place frequently mentioned in all of our Jessica Elliott Dennison books. With our trusty café Nero coffees in hand, and an episode of off-menu in our ears off we set for the capital of Scotland.

Once we arrived we had some time to kill, so spent some time trying to get off the Royal Mile and getting a real taste of Scotland by perusing for the worst magnets we could find at "Thistle do nicely. This included a wonderful incident where Lizzy tried to jiggle a spring headed Nessie (also now know as Nessica) which set of a chain reaction of falling jiggling Nessica heads

Once we were off the mile, we marched down to Marchmont having a quick smoothie and cheese scone pitstop on the way. And then, it was time. We had arrived on Sciennes Road and after a little dithering, gathered with the people outside to await the event. And suddenly, Jess! There she was! In the flesh! and wearing a jumpsuit which perfectly matched the colour of the Elliott's exteriors.

We were greeted by Jess' mum, who gave us a drink made with a lemon cordial (made with some preserved lemon juice which gave it a salty kick) mixed with wine or water and we settled in on our re-purposed school chairs for a masterclass in spring cooking.

Jess began by serving us some tempura fried seasonal vegetables - including nettles - as we talked amongst ourselves. However, these were eaten too quickly for pictoral evidence as they were highly delicious. We were then given a short introduction to Jess' background, her mum and their family heirloom, the citrus juicer. This was needed, because our first lesson was how to make ricotta! This seemed like a big, scary task, but Jess is all about making cooking simple, accessible and delicious. Although making your own cheese can seem daunting, her way of talking us through the process and little tips and tricks gave us the tools we needed to do that ourselves. This even included the physical tools as her mum really kindly gave us all a piece of cheesecloth at the end to make our own at home. You can see the ricotta behind Jess in the photo below, draining in its cheesecloth!

This ricotta was then used to make dumplings for a miso broth. Jess makes a point of creating recipes for home cooks (a.k.a. normal human people who cook at home) and the miso we all have lurking in the back of our fridge is a great addition to a dish to give a lot of flavour with little effort.

The idea behind the seasonal cooking demonstrations at Elliott's is to celebrate local and British produce, as well as making the most of these ingredients, and boy oh boy did this dish hit all of those targets. As well as having the show stopper of the ricotta dumplings (which were mixed with foraged wild garlic) an abundance of peas, leeks and asparagus were used to create a wonderfully vibrant green miso broth, contrasted with the pink pop of thinly sliced radishes on top. We got to enjoy this with a crisp glass of white wine. If you want to try the recipe for yourself, Jess has put it up on the Elliott's website.

After we had all enjoyed our beautifully aesthetic broth, it was time to learn how to make a galette. These are mentioned in Jess' book Lazy Baking, but this time we were making a seasonal one with the last of the forced Yorkshire rhubarb. Jess showed us how to make pastry from scratch, stressing the importance that cooking doesn't need to be perfect, rather, that it is the imperfections (such as larger chunks of butter in the dough) that make the dish even more delicious. We then were taught how to make a frangipane with roasted almonds, learning some tricks like just leaving the mixer running to mix the frangipane while you do some chores. The rhubarb was then roughly chopped and scattered on top of the frangipane covered pastry, the edges folded round, and the whole delectable bundle popped into the oven

The galette was then served with a very naughty, but totally delicious mixture of double cream and clotted cream.

Afterwards we got the chance to talk with Jess, visit the Elliott's café and bask in the gloriousness of a sunny Sunday in Edinburgh. That of course meant a visit to a second-hand bookshop round the corner, and avoiding an incredibly long queue for Mary's Milk Bar which was probably for the best given the cream we had had with the rhubarb gallette....


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