Restaurant Takeover

Outstanding Gluten-Free Dining at Locanda de Gusti

For our December meal, we decided to visit an established Edinburgh favourite, Locanda de Gusti, in its new home in Dalry Road.20141204_211943

With a party of 14, we brought together new and existing members of the Geeky fraternity. Two of our newer recruits, Gillian and Claire, both of whom are coeliac, so adhere to a gluten-free diet, have taken the helm on writing up our thoughts on the evening, not least because the gluten-free offering was every bit as impressive as the vegan selection at One Square.

Claire’s Verdict
Eating out when gluten free can be a challenge. Edinburgh is a city where options are plentiful, but there are still times when I feel, as a diner, I am treated as more ‘special needs’ than special. You know, you see the menu, it all looks really tempting and dishes that should be gluten free, somehow aren’t. Then you order, and the plate looks pitiful compared to your dining companions – half the good stuff is missing and you are left wishing you had stayed at home.

Thankfully for us coeliac, gluten and wheat free diners, Locanda De Gusti is one of those standout places that offers loads of options so you are left feeling exceptionally special.20141204_192657

The Total Food Geeks had arranged to try the tasting menu at Locanda De Gusti and we sampled an immense amount of food. The dishes were too numerous to mention as we tasted four courses of Locanda delights, as well as polishing off all the stock of their excellent house red.

Starters included grilled vegetables, prosciutto, mozzarella (three types) which were all great, but I LOVED the octopus and the pomegranate dish which was so fresh.

We then had pasta and gnocchi – again all gluten free, apart from the ravioli. My own favourites were the gnocchi (as this is often not suitable for me in most restaurants) and I loved the papparadelle with wild boar.

We continued on with mains of meat, fish and vegetarian options. I loved the squid in hummus and the parmigiana, but I was defeated by this point and couldn’t eat any more.

You see the excitement was building, despite the sheer amount I had just eaten. I hadn’t actually had tiramisu in a decade. I had checked out the menu previously and realised that this was indeed another gluten free option, hence the excitement. Was it worth it? Yep, it was. Sponge soaked in marsala with coffee and cream and oh, my, it was worth squeezing in an extra couple of mouthfuls. The lemon cake with lemon crème anglais was another winner. That beautifully moist sponge, so light and delicate but with the perfect hint of citrus, was divine.

So, I’m desperate to go back to Locanda de Gusti and experience those gluten free delights. It will be a question of trying to decide what to have…

Gillian’s Verdict

As a newbie to the Total Food Geeks gang, I was excited to start my festivities with them and experience the tasting menu at Locanda de Gusti.20141204_192946

Though I have largely avoided Italian restaurants since my coeliac diagnosis, I had heard lots about Locanda’s emphasis on GF cooking and was excited to finally see what they had to offer.
Upon arrival I was also glad to see Claire, another coeliac, who hadn’t visited Locanda before, either. This certainly added to the experience and enjoyment of the dishes.

Now to the menu: though we originally expected to have three courses of tasting dishes, by the end of the evening we were lucky to experience all four! You’d be amazed how ‘totally full’ foodies can suddenly find another stomach for a surprise dessert selection, another bottle of wine and some amaretto shots.

The sharing style of these events can be really difficult for a coeliac to feel part of due to a typical lack of choice or cross-contamination. But thankfully out of the extraordinary number of dishes brought out to us I can only remember the bread (though we were brought our own rolls), the ravioli and the croquette dishes that weren’t gluten free and at no point did I feel I was missing out.

Consequently I quickly lost track of all the various dishes brought for each course. 20141204_220235

My highlights included some delicious lentil stews, a smoked honey baked cheese, slow-braised pig cheeks, an octopus and pomegranate salad, lemon squid, baked sea bream, a meaty ragu pasta and some lovely light lemon and tiramisu sponge-based puddings to end.

As you can see we were not short of great-tasting food, the pasta and sponges are some of the best I’ve tried in Edinburgh. Consequently I don’t think I’d eaten that many of my favourite foods in a very long time. A huge thanks to all at Locanda de Gusti; may they continue with their great wholesome dishes and gluten free options!

The Geeks


Total Restaurant Day Geeks!

securedownload-5Restaurant Day is a fantastic opportunity for amateurs to try their hand at creating a menu and running a restaurant for the day and for professionals and business owners to experiment and collaborate outside the confines of their existing enterprise. Total Food Geeks teaming up with Giovanni’s, on Northfield Broadway, was the perfect example.>

Founded in 2011 in Helsinki, this carnival of food has now spread across the globe, with more and more countries playing host to one-day, one-off restaurants that pop-up, then disappear the next day.

We managed to pull together our ideas, find a location and make it happen with only a few weeks notice. So imagine what can be done a bit more time and more willing volunteers across Edinburgh!

Our idea focussed on reusing leftovers, with Zero Waste Scotland’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign offering excellent support.

Read other reflections on the day from Scran Salon, Arianna, and Edinburgh Foody.

We had excellent fun organising our little event. Here are the recipes from the day. Try them out and let us know how you get on.securedownload-4

The Geeks





  • 600g of mixed mushrooms
  • 2 onions
  • Garlic
  • 3 bread rolls
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ras el hanout
  • vegetable stock

This is a soup that has converted friends who were either mushroom sceptics (texture issues, mainly) and/or mushroom soup sceptics (too icky creamy), but it’s never going to be a looker. It should ideally be a rich brown colour, once made.

To get there, start with onions in a little butter and oil. If you have some garlic add it in – I forgot on this occasion. Add in whatever mushrooms you have to hand. Today, I used some chestnut, some oysters and some whites.securedownload-2

Cook them down for a little while until things are colouring nicely. Then comes the magic ingredient – ras el hanout.

Translating as something like “top of the shop” (ie the best spices in the place), as with most (if not all) spice mixes, I’m sure ras el hanout has its origins in a utilitarian use of small amounts of leftover spices, blended together to make them into something more than the sum of their parts. Well, that’s my excuse for using it here, anyway…

Shop-bought versions vary wildly. They tend to have a backbone of black pepper with dried rose petals in there, but ratios and other elements (cumin, paprika, chilli, cardamom etc. etc.) can differ markedly. I was using a shop-bought one from Sainsbury’s which I think works well. Use it sparingly – I reckon half a teaspoon tops will do the job.20141115_123218

Now, the next ingredient is left over bread. You can crumb this or you can just tear it up, as you’re going to blend the soup later anyway. I was using day old breakfast rolls and given they were quite floury, I added then in a few minutes earlier than if using bread, just to make sure the dusty flour cooked down and didn’t muddy the flavour later on.

Now top with stock. I cheated and used stock cubes – if we were being true to the leftover spirit, I’d obviously have lots of stock floating around. I was keeping things veggie today, but chicken stock always works well.

It doesn’t need lots of cooking from here; 10-15 minutes works fine.

Blend roughly. You want to retain a rustic texture, so blitz it in short bursts with a hand blender then assess how it looks.

Because bread has been used to thicken, this has a major impact on the seasoning. The rolls I used today meant no additional seasoning was required. It’s likely if you use better bread, which may have less salt in it, you’ll need to season up at this point.And that’s that!securedownload



  • 2 heads of broccoli
  • 2 onions
  • Vegetable stock
  • 1 big bunch of rocket

This is a simple and straightforward one, with a little leftover twist at the end.

A lot of broccoli soup recipes advise cooking the broccoli very lightly then blending, so bright green colour is retained. I find you often end up with something bright but flavourless with this method.

For me the way to go is to start with onions and the chopped stem of the broccoli, sweat them down slowly, then add the florets. Top with stock and give the broccoli a good cook through.

Now to address the problem that you now have a pot of liquid that looks completely horrid, once you’re ready to blend the soup, add in a big load of green leaves. I used rocket, which saves on having to season with pepper, but spinach or a mix of various other leaves would do as well. This returns the green colour, adds a little extra flavour from whatever you’ve used, but you have a more rounded broccoli flavour that comes through.

I like blue cheese in broccoli soup, but I know that’s a divisive one, so crumble a little as a topping if you fancy.

Vegetable Pasties

I was inspired to prepare and bake these by the fact that all too often after Christmas lunches or dinners there are a lot of leftover broccoli, parsnips, Brussels sprouts as well as bits and pieces of cheese.  For our outing at Restaurant Day I chose the greens… however, you can make the pasties with any leftover veg and cheese you fancy!

For 12 pasties

Pastry: rub 85g margarine in 400g of plain flour, add a pinch of salt and then enough cold water to bind in a pliable pastry.  Roll out and knead it for a couple of minutes, then wrap in clingfilm and chill til required.  Mix the cooked vegetables, cubed cheese and herbs and seasonings of your choice in a bowl; add a couple of medium eggs, beaten and mix again.  Roll out the pastry and cut in rounds–I used a cereal bowl but you can use also a large cookie cutter if you have it.  Place a spoonful of filling on one half of the round, then close the other half like a flap on top and seal with some cold water or oil.  Bake for 25min at 190C.  You can brush them with beaten egg white for show! 🙂

Spicy Carrot Cake

This recipe is great for using up left over carrots, either store bought or an end of season glut if you grow your own. Its also handy for finishing off spare eggs and self raising flour (which doesnt keep for long) and the icing will use up any cream cheese you have lying about in the fridge.

  • 350g dark brown soft sugar
  • 300ml sunflower oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp orange extract
  • 400g self-raising flour
  • 4 tsp cinnamon plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 400g grated  carrot
  • 100g desiccated coconut
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 150g cream cheese
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 250g icing sugar

Whisk together the sugar, oil, orange extract and eggs until well combined and sugar is dissolved (much easier with an electric whisk). Sift together the flour, spices and bicarb of soda and fold into the wet ingredients. Add the carrots and coconut and fold through.

Spoon the mix into a greased 8×16 inch tray bake tin (can be divided into two sandwich tins to make a single cake) and bake in a 170°C oven for 30-40 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin/s before turning them out.

For the icing, cream together the butter, icing sugar and cream cheese, adding a little sugar at a time. Mix in the orange zest. Cut the cake into squares or rectangles and ice each one. Dust with cinnamon to finish.