MasterChef contestant, Gordon Craig, owner of Edinburgh restaurant, Taisteal, shares food loves and hates
What’s your favourite ingredient?
My favourite ingredient always changes throughout the year and depending on what I’m currently cooking. At the moment, it’s king crab legs with yuzu sweet chilli sauce. The legs are really big, so there’s lots of sweet white meat, which tastes great alongside the sauce. Yuzu is one of my favourite citruses to cook with. It’s from South East Asia – a place that’s a major source of inspiration for me.
Do you have a guilty food pleasure?
I don't really eat take-aways or fast food, but I do have a weakness for chocolate. My favourite brand is Lindt, and I have some every day before I cycle to work.
Tell us about your first food memory?
One of my earliest food memories that involves actually making something myself is when I got an ice cream machine for my 13th birthday and started experimenting by making loads of different ice-cream. Some of the results were great, others were pretty bad. I remember doing my own version of a mint choc chip, but instead of chocolate chips I bought packets of Mint Poppet sweets, then scraped off the chocolate, leaving the mint centre, and incorporated those into a chocolate ice-cream. Back then there weren’t the same creative ice-cream options available commercially as there is now, so melting down a Toblerone and adding it to the crème Anglaise ice-cream mix felt pretty innovative at the time. These days, in the restaurant we serve vodka and caramelised white chocolate flavour as well as a tonka bean ice-cream.
What’s your favourite Scottish restaurant, deli or cafe?
It has to be The Walnut, which is at the top of Leith Walk – not far from Taisteal. It is owned by my friend Byron. There are only 22 seats, so it has a great atmosphere when it is busy. I love what he has done with it and the food he is producing – it does a particularly great value set lunch and dinner menu.
What would be your last supper?
I suppose this could also count as my guilty food pleasure, but it has to be a perfect tuna toastie. I have this as a treat whenever I have time and I always add a touch of Nando's sauce to the mix. I use Warburton’s Toastie bread with lots of butter on the outside.
Starter or pudding?
It would definitely be a starter. I do love a dessert, but starters are my favourite course for two reasons – usually you're hungry, so they always taste the best and because they are small, they always leave you wanting more. I have some of my favourite starters on the Taisteal menu at the moment. There’s a cauliflower and Parmesan fondant with crispy kale and squid ink risotto with crispy mussels.
Do you have any food hates?
I am not a big fan of beetroot and horseradish wasabi. I ate a lot of beetroot when I was younger and eventually just developed an aversion to it and I've just always hated horseradish wasabi for some reason or other.
What starters, main and dessert would be served at your dream dinner party and who would you invite?
The starter would be large Scottish hand-dived scallops, baked in a Goan curry, and for the main I’d go for a cote de boeuf with caramelised onions and a red wine jus. For dessert, I’d go for any take on cookies and cream, as it’s my favourite dessert combo. My dream guests would be Jay Z (for the music), Martin Scorsese (for the movie chat), Angela Hartnett (for the food chat), Dave Chappelle (for the laughs) and, of course, I couldn’t not invite my wife.
What's the next food trend?
I think plant-based diets will become even more mainstream than they are already and you will see some great chefs getting on board to push this trend forward.
What's your favourite drink?
Yuzu sake. I tried this in Italy on my honeymoon and loved it so much that it's been on the drinks list at the restaurant ever since. My non-alcoholic drink of choice is very stereotypically Scottish as it’s a can of diet Irn-Bru.
What's your favourite geographical foodie destination?
Everywhere I’ve been in Asia I have fallen in love with the food and drawn loads of influence from there when designing my own dishes. If you look at my menu, you’ll see the Asian inspiration running right throughout, from starters such as pork daube ravioli with apple, red onion and miso Hollandaise to a main course of pan-fried sole teamed with nori dauphinoise, onions and shellfish bisque.
Craig’s Modern European restaurant Taisteal is at 1 Forth Street, Edinburgh, call 0131 557 2209 or see www.taisteal.co.uk for more information. They’re currently offering two courses from the a la carte menu for £30, or three for £35.