By Helen Cross

In the Spotlight With...Carina Contini, Edinburgh chef and restaurateur

With a real passion for food and Scottish produce, Carina Contini and her husband Victor run three successful Edinburgh restaurants: Contini George Street, Cannonball and The Scottish Café. As well as supporting local producers Carina also has her own kitchen garden to supply her restaurants, and released a cookbook in 2014 full of seasonal recipes, Carina Contini’s Kitchen Garden Cookbook. She was also the first woman to be asked to join the Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance. We put her under the spotlight this month to unveil what makes her tick.

Sum up in three words the ethos behind the three restaurants. Fresh, Simple and delicious. 

What has driven you to carve out a career in the food industry? The love of a very lovely man! I met my husband Victor 25 years ago, and we set up our first restaurant together back in 2003. That said, a love of food is also in my blood: my family came here from Italy and settled in East Lothian where they ran fish & chip shops and cafés.

What makes the Scottish food scene stand out? It's been said by far better people than me, but our natural larder here in Scotland is the best. We work with more than 70 Scottish suppliers across the three restaurants – this includes Pelham Farm and Campbell Prime Meats for meat, to Bellhaven Smokehouse and the Ethical Shellfish Company for seafood, to to Secret Herb Garden and Uncle Roys for all those extra special flavours and flowers. In addition, we grow our own produce in our kitchen garden for our menus. The range and quality of ingredients just gets better and better each month.

What are your plans for the next five years? 2017 has been a massive year for us: we’ve just completed a refurbishment of Contini George Street which saw the interiors completely redesigned and a whole new menu concept introduced, focusing on sharing lots of little plates of fabulous Italian food. And now the Edinburgh Festival is around the corner again, always a hectic time. For the next five years, if I can look after our customers, nurture our team, search for new products from our wonderful suppliers, strive to do an even better job each day, and love my family, all will be well.

What is your greatest achievement to date? Victor is still married to me after 24 years! 

What Scottish produce can always be found in your fridge? Butter, milk and any fruit or vegetable in season.  I can never have enough! 

What five dishes should everyone be able to cook from scratch? Mayonnaise. A tasty plate of pasta. A steak - medium rare. Roast a fillet of beautiful fish and meringues. If you have the skill to do that you can do anything - almost! 

Who are your five dream dinner party guests and why? My father - 23 years is a long time not to see someone you love. My father was a perfectionist.  He was clever at working as little as possible, and getting everyone else to pick up everything else, but he was loved in abundance. He was a foodie.  I remember him heading to the harbour to buy fish off the boats at Cockenzie, then on to the meat market at Chesser to buy whole cows long before nose to tail was fashionable, then off to the dairy to buy the milk in churns. Each and every farm each product my mother needed for the business was bought direct. It was fresh, simple and totally delicious every time. I’d add my three children to the party, as they never met their Nonno. And then Victor, because he'd be so proud. 

What would be on the menu? Lobster Thermidor to start, as that was his favourite - and mine too. Then a roast chicken, as the children don't like shellfish (where that came from, I have no idea), then to finish, homemade meringues and ice cream with hot fresh raspberries. We’d wash it down with a bottle of champagne – some very old fashioned Moët. I've not tried it in 23 years – I think I should! 

What sound track would be playing? "You'll never know just how much I love you”.


Blackberry Clafoutis 

When it comes to late summer seasonal fruit, blackberries are the jewels in the crown that shine bright. And there has been an abundance readily available surrounding our house, which we’ve been picking daily on our walks over the last few days. Although needless to say, more have made it into my toddlers tummy before reaching the Tupperware box.

However, with our first haul my mini sous chef and I made one of my favourite puddings, clafoutis. Super easy and a super delicious pudding to round off dinner at the weekend, or for breakfast the day after. Give it a whirl, before the blackberries vanish.

1. Begin by preheating the oven to 180'C and lightly grease a pie dish with butter.

2. Place four eggs, 75g of caster sugar, 300ml of double cream and 1tsp. of mixed spice into a bowl and whisk all the ingredients together until frothy.

3. Sift 35g of plain flour into the mixture and whisk until smooth.

4. Place 500g of blackberries into the baking dish, pour over the egg mixture and bake for 60 minutes or until set and golden. Serve with Greek yoghurt.

Store Cupboard Essentials...

  • If you like doughnuts, you will love Tantrum Doughnuts located in Glasgow's West End. These doughnuts are unlike any shop bought doughnuts. Made by people, not machines they not only taste delicious but they also look like works of art. Choose from a range of imaginative flavours including Candied bacon and French toast glaze, Pistachio and Hibiscus or my personal flavour Crème Brûlée. (
  • Piccolo is one of the fastest growing baby food brands on the market, providing parents with a balanced range of smooth, organic fruit and vegetable purées, made only with natural ingredients, ensuring little tastebuds are introduced to exciting new flavours as well as a varied diet from as early as possible. Drawing inspiration from the Mediterranean approach to health and wellbeing, Piccolo champions fresh ingredients, which are lovingly used to create nutritious food packed full of flavour to be be shared around the table with friends and family. New recent recipes include lamb ratatouille, salmon fish pie as well as blushing berries and for those who like the taste of the exotic, banana, coconut and baby rice.(