The Gardener’s Cottage, Edinburgh

Gardener's Cottage interior

I visited Edinburgh two years ago and fell in love with the place. Coming back for a weekend, I was determined to make the most of the city’s great culinary scene. I’m one of those planning types for whom half the fun of a holiday is in planning what to see, do and most importantly eat beforehand. As a child I constantly moaned when my dad stopped to check the menu of every place we passed or brought us across cities to find a place he’d read about and now I do the exact same. Genetics, eh?

The Gardener’s Cottage was high on my list of places to try, and we scored a last minute 9:30pm booking. Despite being in central Edinburgh, the name is not a nod to the faux-rustic vibe. The restaurant is actually in a Victorian cottage in the middle of a park. A kitchen garden leads you in, with all sorts of interesting vegetables and herbs on display.The place is pretty small, with probably enough room for 30 or so people in the two front rooms. You’re dining at pretty close quarters to the people around you, this is not a place for the claustrophobic. The decor is cosy with some industrial style finishes and graphic artwork. Like the living room in a cool interiors magazine.

Gardeners Cottage Menu

Our table was slightly delayed, but we promptly found glasses of cava put in our hands as we waited at the picnic benches outside. After a week of mainly American fast food in DC I was excited by their wholesome sounding menu. We ordered a bottle of reasonably priced Picpoul de Pinet, and were promptly presented with an off-menu starting dish of roe deer rilletes and sour dough bread, that could easily have been a starter in its own right. Our actual starter was a vivid purple borscht with a tangy cheese straw. I’m guessing the smokey flavour from the soup could be credited to the home made smoker I spotted out in the garden. This was followed by a refreshing little salad of barbecued leek, quail egg and apple. The main course was a perfectly pan fried piece of hake, balanced with a creamy celeriac puree and bright green parsley puree, the combination of which tasted like a fresh and modern take on your grandmother’s parsley sauce.

A palate cleansing sorbet and granita with apple, lemon and fresh garden herbs prepared the way for cheese and dessert. The cheese course consisted of my personal favourite, goats cheese, along with some homemade crackers and honey. Finally there was  pleasantly tart and creamy mix of rhubarb, meringue, rye bread and homemade junket (a kind of strained cheese we were told). It was a very pleasant ending, not too sweet or overwhelming.We were also presented with a gorgeous Riesling dessert wine, again to apologise for our very brief wait for a table.

Gardener's Cottage Table

While the food was lovely, the staff and general atmosphere really made the evening. It felt more like the best dinner party you’ve been to then a restaurant. It’s cosy and informal, the staff are friendly and chatty, and very accomodating. From our vantage point we could see the food being prepped in the kitchen, which I always enjoy. We traded stories about living in Holland with our waiter (all of us had spent time there) as we paid the bill, and felt very at home. So much so, that I rather conspicously whipped out my ridiculous giant camera to take some pictures of the lovely space. My phone photos of my food did not fare so well in the soft light, so you’ll just have to trust me that everything looked, and tasted great.

The Gardener’s Cottage

1 Royal Terrace Gardens, London Road , Edinburgh ,EH7 5DX

Tel: 0131 558 1221


Drunken Cockles

Drunken Cockles



Cockles have a pretty longstanding association with Dublin, thanks to Molly Malone. Every schoolchild in Ireland (and Denmark apparently) learn it in school, although the bit about her being a lady of the night on the side is usually glazed over. I didn’t realise it had such international appeal until I came across a busker singing it at Dupont Circle on my first night in Washington DC last week.  You don’t see cockles much in Dublin these days, possibly due to the rumour that they were in fact the cause of Molly Malone’s death, but you can visit her decidedly voluptous  statue instead (nicknamed ‘the tart with the cart’ in true Dublin fashion).

I’ve actually only spent about a week of the last month in Dublin, so this recipe actually comes from my recent time in Holland, and combines Dutch cockles with spicy Turkish lamb sausage. Lamb and seafood may seem like an odd combination, but apparently it’s traditional in Wales, and does actually work well together, so bear with me. The recipe is adapted from Food 52. It serves 2 as a main meal with crusty bread, or 4 as a starter portion.



  • 500g cockles
  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1/2 head of fennel, thinly sliced
  • 2 spicy lamb sausages, skins removed and sliced into small chunks
  • 250ml white wine
  • 150ml cream
  • Chopped fresh parsley (optional)


  • Soak the clams in a large bowl filled with salty water and leave for twenty minutes.
  • Strain and repeat this three times to get out all the grit.
  • Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan over low-medium heat and saute the shallot and fennel for 10-15 minutes until soft.
  • Add the garlic for the final three minutes.
  • Add the sausage meat, increase the heat a bit and cook until browned all over (about five minutes).
  • Add the wine and bring to the boil.
  • Add the cockles, cover with a lid and cook for five or six minutes until they are open.
  • Add the cream for the final two minutes of cooking.
  • Sprinkle with parsley and serve with some nice bread (you won’t need to season it, the cockles are very briney)

Leiden, the Netherlands


I’m in the middle of some rather unlovely law exams at the moment, so blogging has had to take a back seat.  The one benefit of the exams was a two week study break, which I was able to spend in Leiden. While lugging 20 kilos worth of textbooks across Europe was not ideal, it was nice to be able to spend time in my old home town.

Leiden was my home for a year and a half.  It was also where I started this blog. Canal Cook took its name from the fact that on a sunny evening, my friends and I would cook dinner and eat it outside on the canal banks. Leiden is a very underrated university city, between Amsterdam and The Hague known for its law school which was what first drew me there. It is definitely the most beautiful place I have ever lived, so in lieu of a regular post I want to share some photos from my last trip. I was given a fantastic DSLR camera as a lovely Christmas gift, so I may have gone a bit overboard with the amount of photos I took.

Leiden Leiden1 Leiden3 (1)Leiden7 Leiden6 Leiden5Leiden9Leiden10Leiden8 (1)




Singapore (ish) Noodles

Singapore Noodles

Singapore noodles are a stalwart of Chinese takeaway menus the world over. They are also a contender for most misleadingly titled dish, as they have nothing to do with Singapore and are apparently unheard of there. Apparently they’re actually a traditional Cantonese style dish in Hong Kong, so where the name comes from is anyone’s guess.

Every year on St.Patrick’s Day I find another culinary mystery: corned beef. Every American food blog and website features this, and it is as far as I can tell *the* definitive dish for St.Patrick’s Day among Irish-Americans. I’ve never actually seen it or tasted it in Ireland, but then again we also don’t have green beer.The closest I am getting to celebrating Paddy’s Day this year is using green and orange highlighter pens on my study notes, but it’s lovely to watch it being celebrated all over the World. My former homes of Australia, England and Denmark have joined in, with the Sydney Opera House, the London Eye and the Little Mermaid turning green. Last week, Amsterdam city council sent letters to all of it’s Irish residents in Irish to invite them to vote in their local elections. As a nation, we seem to turn up everywhere you look.

At least my Singapore noodles are Irish(ish) featuring green peas, white leeks and orange carrots. There are a million different recipes for Singapore noodles, none of them the same. The one defining feature is the curry powder which gives a distinctive taste and a yellow tinge you will spend ages washing off your bowls and frying pan. You can really use any veg you want, but these are my favourites. I’m not a fan of eggs, but they can be added and usually are. If you want a vegetarian dish, skip the bacon. Serves 2

Happy St.Patrick’s Day!


  • 175g very thin rice noodles or vermicelli noodles
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 large leek
  • 1 carrot
  • Handful of fresh peas/cooked frozen peas
  • 65g bacon, diced
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons tumeric
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • Some chili powder or chopped fresh chili pepper (optional)
  • A teaspoon or two of neutral oil


  • First, leave the noodles to soak in boiling water for just under a minute until softened, but not completely soft.
  • Leave to dry in a sieve or colander for at least 30 minutes, tossing occasionally so they don’t clump.
  • Thinly slice the veg (I usually peel the carrot into thin strips using a potato peeler).
  • Combine the rice wine, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and half the curry powder in a bowl.
  • After thirty minutes, toss the noodles in the soy sauce mixture to coat completely.
  • Mix together the curry powder, tumeric, ginger,garlic and chili.
  • Cook the bacon in a large wok or frying pan big enough to hold all the ingredients with a little bit of oil (you shouldn’t need much, the bacon will give plenty of grease).
  • When the bacon starts to crisp, add  the ginger/curry powder mix and saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn (burnt garlic has the worst smell and taste that will haunt your kitchen).
  • Add the veg,mixing well with the bacon/garlic/ginger and cook until they’ve softened and reduced to about half their size (about 5 minutes).
  • Add the noodles and sauce and cook for a remaining 2-3 minutes.
  • Serve immediately.

Dulce de Leche

Dulche De Leche

I’m firmly ensconced in study land at the moment, which means any recipe that is a bit time consuming and smacks of procrastination is doubly enticing. Stirring a pot of sugary milk for two and a half hours seems infinitely preferable to learning how to calculate Capital Acquisitions Tax. I’ve also rearranged the cutlery drawer, my kitchen cupboard, planted up a window box and tabbed the bejaysus out of all of my textbooks in lieu of actually reading them. 

Dulce de leche (milk jam/confiture de lait) is a thick, creamy caramel substance made from cooked milk and sugar. It can be thick and spreadable, or more liquid and pourable. It features heavily in South America but is still a bit niche in Ireland. 

The cooking process needs a bit of a trial and error approach. I looked to both Smitten Kitchen and Farmette’s recipes, which cautioned against both too little and too much heat. At first I erred on the side of caution and kept mine very low. I’m still getting the hang of temperature control on my new gas stove. After a while I realised nothing was happening and turned up the heat. Soon the colour started to change and things started to happen. Something just above a gentle simmer seems to be the best approach. This recipe doesn’t make a huge amount considering the amount of milk involved, you end up with about 300ml or so of dulche de leche. The length of cooking time depends on the consistency you want, whether it is pouring and a bit liquid, or thick and slightly jelly-like.


  • 1 litre full fat milk
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)


  • Put all the ingredients in a high sided pot or saucepan.
  • Bring to the boil, being careful not to let it bubble over, as the milk can very suddenly rise dramatically.
  • Lower the heat, and cook on a medium-low heat for 1.5-2.5 hours, stirring every 5-10 minutes.
  • Leave to cool, and store in the fridge in a clean jar for up to one week.

#MyHomeTownGuide – Five Gourmet Spots in Dublin

Fiji Water Hometown Guide

Partner Post

Dublin’s culinary scene has gone through a boom over the last few years, with new restaurants opening every week in the city. The strength of Irish food lies with fantastic ingredients like organic beef, freshly caught fish and artisan cheese. Dublin has a lot to offer foodie visitors these days, and there is more than can be included here to try, but these five places represent some of my favourite things about Dublin’s gourmet scene right now. What are your favourite places in your hometown? Add your favourite photos to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #myhometownguide to win.

1. L.Mulligan Grocer

L.Mulligan Grocer is a truly Irish gastropub. The idea of serving anything other than a toasted cheese sandwich has not traditionally found much favour in Dublin, but L.Mulligan has mastered the art of high quality casual dining in a cosy pub setting. The pub sells craft beer only (no Guinness) along with a careful chosen selection of wines from small producers and whiskeys from all over Ireland and Scotland.The menu features traditional Irish dishes like cockles and mussels and boxty with a gourmet flair, each with a suggested craft beer pairing.  In the past few months, this has almost become a second home for me and the welcome there place is always great. You can pop in for a drink, a bite to eat, or both.

L.Mulligan Grocer, 18 Stoneybatter, Dublin 7

L Mulligan

L Mulligan Grocer

2. Temple Bar Food Market

The Temple Bar Food Market has been an institution in Dublin over the past twenty or so years. Run every Saturday in the heart of Dublin’s slightly touristy Temple Bar quarter, the market showcases the best in Irish food. You can buy anything from Irish artisan cheese, to organic vegetables to locally fished oysters. The market sells both ready to eat food and ingredients, and is open rain or shine. You can sample one of Ireland’s less celebrated culinary inventions, the breakfast roll, here if you dare. It combines all the ingredients of an Irish fried breakfast into a baguette, and is not for the faint of heart.

Temple Bar Food Market, Meeting House Square, Dublin 2

Temple Bar Market

Temple Bar Market

3. Etto

Etto is a recent addition to the Dublin scene and has been receiving rave reviews left right and centre. The owners and chef have recently returned from London and have brought with them some great inspiration. Small plates with an Italian flavour or larger mains are served, like chicken liver and lardo terrine, and gnudi with brown butter and sage. The menu changes regularly, but my favourite pork belly and smoked eel croquettes are a definite must-try. The wine list is well chosen, and they are pioneering the idea of excellent wines and proseccos served on tap. The perfect place in Dublin for a relaxed, casual meal.

Etto, 18 Merrion Row, Dublin 2

Image Courtesy of Jenny Mattews

Etto: Image by Jenny Matthews

4. Fallon & Byrne

Fallon and Byrne has everything a foodie could possibly want. They combine a gourmet supermarket, deli, wine bar, cocktail bar and restaurant across three floors in their city centre location. You can get every possible ingredient on the ground floor, along with some great coffee, sandwiches and cake while the upstairs restaurant offers a more formal setting in one of Dublin’s loveliest dining rooms. My favourite part personally is the huge wine cellar in the basement where you can enjoy a glass (or a few) of wine along with some cheese and charcuterie plates for a reasonable price.

Fallon & Byrne, 11-17 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2

Fallon and Byrne

Fallon and Byrne

5. The Greenhouse

To celebrate special occasions, the Greenhouse is my favourite spot in Dublin. Chef Mickael Viljanen combines flavours from his native Finland with local ingredients to create a fantastic modern Irish cuisine with a Nordic flair. Dishes are complex with contrasting and complimenting flavours. Great use is made of local seafood, and foraged ingredients. The lunch menu is particularly good value for the level of cooking on offer. Although it doesn’t have a Michelin star (Yet!), this is my favourite place to experience real Irish fine dining. A place to push the boat out.

the Greenhouse, Dawson St, Dublin 2

Foie Gras Royal

Foie Gras Royal at The Greenhouse

Show us your favorite spots to eat, stay and play in your hometown and win a getaway to any of the US cities featured in Earth’s Finest City Guide! To participate, just upload an image of your favorite spot in your hometown to Twitter or Instagram with hashtag #myhometownguide and tell us where you live and what makes the image special and you will be entered to win automatically

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Fiji Water as part of their #myhometownguide campaign.

Forest Avenue, Dublin

Forest Avenue

Dublin is a small enough city, but the culinary scene has been buzzing for the past year or two. Forest Avenue is a recent opening that has garnered a lot of attention from local foodies which I had been looking forward to trying for quite a while. After making a 9:30pm booking, I was riddled with guilt. I’m always worried when I get a last sitting booking that I’ll be keeping people from their homes. I needn’t have worried, both when we arrived, and when we left, the place was absolutely buzzing despite being a Thursday. It was a welcoming spot to visit. I love the decor in Forest Avenue, it has a definite Kinfolk kind of vibe to it. Very spare and elegant, with nice details like the neutral toned cushions and the stag’s skull on the wall. The kitchen is open and  amazingly serene, with the pass lit up by some gorgeous copper lamps.

Forest avenue bread (1)

On Wednesdays and Thursdays, Forest Avenue offer a great value ‘neighbourhood menu’ with two courses for €27 or three for €33. There are two options per course so between us we managed to try everything. A great start was provided by some amazingly light potato bread and dense crusty bread with a cinnamon and aubergine spread. I went for a blue cheese, pear and walnut starter. I’m not quite sure what was involved, they had run out of the original starter dish on the menu but this was delicious. I had veered away from the duck liver starter, worried that it would be actual pan fried duck liver, but instead it was a beautiful parfait that tasted very much like foie gras.

Cod Forest Avenue

A further theatrical touch was added by the waitress grating a whole fresh horseradish root over neighbouring plates with a microplane. I went for the beef cheek which was a rich, melting piece of meat accompanied by a gorgeous carrot puree, kale, onions,  horseradish and the most flavourful boiled carrot I have ever tasted.  It was an elegant and tasty riff on flavours you find a lot in traditional Irish cooking. Both dishes had lots of simple flavours combined beautifully. The cod main with mussels and leeks and a Jerusalem artichoke puree was equally delicious, even for someone like me who isn’t a huge fan of cod.

Forest Avenue Cheese

We had planned to go with two courses, but the food was so fantastic we continued on with a dessert and a cheese plate. The dessert was an elegant take on the nursery classic rhubarb and custard. The cheese was the Irish farmhouse classic, Milleens. I like to see Irish cheeses on the menus in Dublin, we have a lot of fantastic artisan cheeses around at the moment and I can’t understand when places to defer to French or Italian classics instead. The wine list was short but well curated, with a nice selection by the glass so we were able to pair with each course. They also have some craft beer choices, which is a huge plus in my book. Unfortunately, I’ve managed to forget what exactly we drank, but I definitely remember a fresh tempranillo and possibly a Riesling. Either way, we had four glasses between us and all of them were lovely. Forest Avenue is a great new addition for Dublin, and well worth a visit.

Forest Avenue, 8 Sussex Terrace – Dublin 4 – Ph: 01 667 8337


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