• Berry Good: Fruit Soup

    • 28th July 2015 - 9:31 pm
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    This month’s theme for the Year of Food and Drink is ‘Summer Fruit and Berries.’ I think we can all agree that I’ve become adept at making tenuous links between these themes and soup, so I hope you enjoy July’s offering.

    img49lLet’s rewind a little to the start of the month. Several of Union’s staff were away on holiday, travelling across Europe on trains, planes and automobiles. Upon their return, Dumbo’s Lieutenant, Floss, had a soupy curiosity to share. She had ventured to Budapest and had heard talk of Hungarian Fruit Soup, although unfortunately hadn’t been able to try any.

    After a little discussion, we at Union felt fruit soup wasn’t something we could bring to the masses. Each year, we’re asked about cold soup, which we haven’t sold since our first summer - we offered the same soup hot and cold and no one wanted it chilled. We’ve found that generally if you fancy soup for lunch it’s because you want something hot. And so along the same lines, we reckoned that if you’re after soup it’s because you want something savoury. Fancy a fruity flavour and you’re going to grab a juice from Tupiniquim instead.

    But in your own home, things are different. The recipes I’ve looked at for Hungarian Fruit Soup would make great dinner party palate cleansers, desserts or perhaps even as a slightly radical accompaniment to a BBQ, if you imagine a combination of slightly sour dark fruits paired with rich, smoky meat.

    As far as I can see though, a fruit soup is like a fancy compote. It basically constitutes choosing a fruit, boiling it with sugar, blending it and stirring through a little yoghurt or sour cream. Maybe you go crazy and add some lemon zest, a stick of cinnamon or a vanilla pod. Apparently strawberries benefit from a drop or two of rosewater.pyo-pic2

    But then I stumbled on something a little more interesting. No, not Polish strawberry soup with semolina pasta through it (make of that what you will) but a sour cherry soup with shallots, red wine and tarragon. If you were looking to avoid something overly sweet mid-meal I really think it would work. You could also easily substitute the cherries for Scottish blackcurrants or blackberries, which are in season at the moment - you can pick your own berries at Belhaven Fruit Farm and Cragies Farm, both near Edinburgh. Just grab a basket, fill it up and pay for the weight of your fruit. So who fancies giving it a go?

    If you feel inspired to make a fruit soup, we’d love to hear from you! Post a picture on our Facebook page or Tweet us. Better still, bring in some for us to try and we’ll swap you a portion of whatever we’ve got for sale that day. What a berry good deal.

    This is the seventh in a series of blogs reflecting on the monthly themes of the Year of Food Drink in Scotland. Read May’s on whisky and June’s on the future of food.

    Image Credits; Soup - williams-sonoma.com, Strawberries - belhavenfruitfarm.co.uk

  • Back to the Future

    • 29th June 2015 - 9:53 pm
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    Union of Genius kitchen expansion

    View from the new kitchen in to the old

    It’s almost three weeks now since our Kickstarter campaign ended. We were absolutely thrilled to receive a total of £13,651 from 160 wonderful backers, whilst the love and support of soupfans was felt even further across Edinburgh and the internet.

    The successful completion of our campaign ties in nicely with this month’s theme for the Year of Food and Drink: The Future of Food. With our newly acquired funds under our belt, the future can start to become the present at Union. In fact, work has already begun on our new unit next door, where special hardcore electricity points are being installed for all our blast chillers, fridges and freezers. In a month or so, all our cold storage will be in the new kitchen and only cooking and packaging will be done in what will be the old kitchen. For Union’s staff, moving around will become less like a game of Pac Man with each relocated fridge.

    Our kitchen expansion will also contribute to the wider future of food in Scotland, by creating new jobs. Industry leadership body Scotland Food and Drink has set an ambitious target for the food and drink industry to be worth £16.5 billion by 2017. There are many routes to this goal (and we’re on track, don’t worry) but one significant push for growth is through building careers. It’ll require more interest in the sector from young people and more places to acquire and practice skills. Hopefully our new kitchen and the growth of our wee soup company will be able to provide such opportunities.

    When I returned from holiday last week, I found a door-shaped hole in the wall between our two units. Standing in the new unit looking into the existing kitchen felt like a glimpse of the future. The kitchen buzzed with the movement of staff; chopping, cooking, cleaning. There was the hum of the fridges, the whine of the blast chillers and the familiar notes of the latest 70s playlist on Spotify.

    Meanwhile, I stood silent and still in the dark, surrounded by nothing more than chipped plaster, watching silver knives, pots and paddles glint in the bustling kitchen next door. The familiar savoury scent of Caldo Verde wafted through to the new unit where I was watching. It was strange to think that in a year’s time I could be on the other side of the door looking back at where I stood now and see those levels of activity in here. A bit like time travel, really.

    See you in the future, soupfans.


  • Whisky Me Away

    • 26th May 2015 - 8:07 am
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    We all love soup. But sometimes, you need something a little stronger. Fancy a dram?

    For the Year of Food and Drink, May is whisky month. And as has been pointed out on our Kickstarter page, soup and whisky share one significant similarity (apart from being liquids). To taste their best, both soup and whisky need time for their flavours to come together.

    But it turns out they have something else in common: both are loved by Elaine Mason. You see, Union of Genius is part-fuelled by whisky. It’s one of Elaine’s passions, second only to soup (most days). So I asked her to share her favourites.

    Lagavulin Whisky“I like peaty whiskies and I especially like smoke, so I'm a rather large Islay whisky fan. Set me down near a Caol Ila or Lagavulin and I'll cuddle either of them for hours,” Elaine enthused. “Bunnahabhain is a comfort whisky for me - I find it smooth and gentle. It has light peat and a bit of smoke. The Lagavulin Distillers Edition is sherry-cask finished, and is truly amazing. Very rich and smoky, with the sweet-savoury flavours turned up to 11.”

    If you fancy trying any of these, I recommend Bennets in Tollcross, Bow Bar in the Old Town, Whiski Rooms on the Mound or Teuchter’s Landing at the Shore.

    Elaine had an even better suggestion though. “The Malt Whisky Society [in the New Town] is really worth exploring. They list and describe their whiskies by flavour, so you can discover new things. They go for the unusual and only have limited numbers of any whisky, so if you like one, buy it straightaway. Don't think you'll go back for it later because it'll be gone, forever, and you'll be left mourning that perfect whisky which got away.” Noted.

    Gregor and meSince Elaine had told me that “whisky is such a personal thing. One person's favourite is another person's mouthwash,” I also asked my pal Gregor, who runs rare whisky bottler Lady of the Glen, if he could offer us a few alternatives. He recommended their 20 year old Secret Speyside, “a single malt which is nice and fruity, with more tropical notes,” and a 20 year old Glen Garioch, “another sweet whisky, except with a more toffee and nutty taste profile. It would be ideal if you were having a tasting to try this before your big peat monsters!”

    You can buy Lady of the Glen whiskies from their site, but like the Malt Whisky Society, once it’s gone, it’s gone. Imagine if you had a bottle though. You could have a celebratory dram from it, after you helped us reach our Kickstarter goal. Just sayin’. Find out more and back us here.


  • Soup Ahoy! #SoupStarter

    • 10th May 2015 - 7:35 am
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    An Unexpected But Exciting Opportunity

    2015 is proving to be another exciting year for Union of Genius. We’ve already become suppliers to some great new independent outlets such as Cobolt Coffee, Greenmantle and Souped Up. We were also thrilled to be chosen as the official caterer for a group of Edinburgh nurseries, helping to ensure that their youngsters are guaranteed a healthy, nutritious meal from a very early age.

    And now, another interesting opportunity has arisen - but at an unexpected time. The unit adjacent to our current kitchen in Leith has become available and we can expand into it this summer. This is an amazing, rare chance to grow our business efficiently, during a period that’s quieter for us and without having to relocate from our existing facilities. However, this is also slightly ahead of our expansion timeline, meaning we don’t have the capital in place to kit out the new kitchen just yet.

    Consequently, plans are afoot to raise the cash with a little help from our friends. (Hello!) All I’m saying is, follow #SoupStarter on Twitter and like our Facebook to find out what we’re up to. And remember: you need soup.

    Amy & the team

  • Six Delicious Beer and Soup Pairings

    • 26th March 2015 - 4:26 pm
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    March’s theme for The Year of Food and Drink is ‘brewing and distilling’ and apparently, it’s 5,000 years since brewing began in Scotland. But it's far more recently that the trend for craft beer has gone “hopping” mad: two-thirds of the 80 breweries in Scotland have been running for less than 10 years. Stalwart stouts and dependable lagers can still be found, but you can expect to see them alongside APAs, lambics, doppelbocks and barleywine. Craft beer may be seen as ‘hipster’ right now, but ready your glass, because a beverage renaissance is coming to the boil.

    Of course, soup has been part of Scottish food culture for thousands of years too. And like beer, it can adapt to myriad variations. The likes of Masterchef have already brought fancy liquid foodstuffs such as jus, veloutes and consommes in to our homes. And with its innovative flavours, perhaps our very own Union of Genius, Scotland’s first dedicated soup cafe, has sown the seeds of change for soup consumption. Craft soup bar, anyone? Read more

  • On Food and Love

    • 26th February 2015 - 4:00 pm
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    February's theme for the Year of Food and Drink is 'The Food of Love.' As a single lady, however, I'm more consumed by a Love of Food. ("If you like it, you should've put an onion ring on it.") Don’t think I use food to compensate for other areas of my life though. Cheeky. All I’m saying is, the way to my heart is through my stomach your ability to choose us a great place for dinner Friday night. And in today’s food-obsessed culture, I’m pretty confident that I’m not the only one.

    Let’s go back to the beginning. A desire to eat and deriving pleasure from it is basically an evolutionary response to the body's needs. Similarly, enjoying some kinds of food more than others is a physiological reaction to the nutrients that have benefited us in the past. That’s why junk food gives us so many problems. Delicious high-energy carbs and sugar, once necessary for survival, now leave us piling on the pounds as we lead less active lifestyles. Read more

  • Traditions: Just ‘Been There, Done That?’

    • 30th January 2015 - 8:42 am
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    2015 is the Year of Food and Drink in Scotland and each month is themed. I was surprised when I learnt that January’s theme was ‘traditions.’ Focussing on the past rather than new beginnings seemed an odd way to kick off an exciting year, as I hadalways thought of tradition as something archaic, quaint and set in its ways.

    Screenshot 2015-01-27 10.58.05But then I caught myself off guard. I was participating in a Twitter chat, #ScotFood, where foodie enthusiasts discuss questions on a theme. We were asked, ‘What does traditional Scottish food mean to you?’ I suddenly realised I actually thought traditions are capable of being fluid and dynamic:

    Really, that’s what’s great about traditions. They’re not simply static rituals, confined to one narrow definition or purpose by repetition. Instead, traditions are more like language: they evolve depending on who’s using them and why. And this is particularly true of traditional foods. Read more

  • So Predictable? Foodie Trends 2014 & 2015

    • 21st December 2014 - 3:59 pm
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    No-one can see in to the future, but that doesn’t stop any of us pondering what trends the coming year may bring. 2014 was no different, with predictions for the food industry made left, right and centre at the end of 2013.

    Looking back, I’m not sure the Guardian’s suggestions of insect bars, kale lollies or 3D-printed food have gained much traction, but perhaps I move in the wrong circles.

    However, I can see that championing locally sourced food was bang-on. I also agree we’ve seen an increase in better quality comfort foods, such as pizza and chicken wings. These elements combined have added fuel to the fire of street food outlets. Our love of pulled pork, noodles and curry dominated festivals and made markets more attractive throughout 2014. Read more

  • Happy Birthday to Union, Happy Birthday to U!

    • 22nd October 2014 - 10:26 pm
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    Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of when wee Union of Genius cafe first opened its doors. Congratulations and hip hip hooray!

    Union of Genius soup cafe turns 2 years old and we start trading on Dumbo the soup van

    This time last year! Our cafe turns 2 years old and we start trading on Dumbo the soup van after a deal with JP, the man behind One Feeds Two.

    For our birthday last year I wrote a blog that looked back on Union’s growth and development over the previous year. I reflected on how far we’d come and introduced you all to our newest team member, Dumbo the Soup Van.

    It’s safe to say that our third year has been no less awesome than its predecessors. The cafe has gone from strength to strength; Dumbo successfully cut his teeth on the festival circuit; we've taken our soupy wares to several new Edinburgh eating establishments; newest soup-pals Ruth, Audrey and Charlie have grown our team immeasurably.

    But I thought, you can’t always be looking back and living in the past, can you? So this year, let’s look to the future. What’s in store for Union of Genius in its fourth year? Read more

  • Bags of Fun

    • 16th October 2014 - 11:33 pm
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    5p carrier bag charge

    Brace yourself, dear reader, for this blog may be the most fascinating thing you read all day. This Monday October 20th everything changes: a new charge for single use carrier bags is being introduced.

    What is the charge?
    The minimum is 5p. So I guess it might depend how generous I’m feeling. No one really likes 5p, do they? What a silly little coin. But I don’t think Elaine will let me charge my favourite of the coins, £1 (so gold!), so yes, the charge is 5p.

    Has it been proven to work elsewhere?
    Yes, the same scheme was introduced by the Welsh government in 2011. There was a 20% increase in own bag use, up to 80%, which is significantly more than in England where a similar scheme without a charge exists. Read more