On 25th January 2017, Wednesday; we celebrate the life of Robbie Burns.  Many of us have often gone to organised Robbie Burns Nights where the festivities begin with The Selkirk Grace followed by a procession of pipes, tributes and toasts paid to the haggis before a dinner of ‘haggis, neeps and tatties’ followed by speeches; The Immortal Memory and a Toast to the Lassies with a reply to the Laddies.

Generally there is also much revelling in between and a bit more than a wee dram of whiskey (always scotch) must be consumed.

Finally the evening is called to a close by everyone being asked to stand, hold hands and sing Auld Lang Syne.

However, for those of you that want to give this a go at home, without the traditional order of ceremony only need follow my recipe ideas below for a fuss free feast of an evening.  All recipes below are easy to follow whether you’re creating this for a couple of you or a gathering a friends.

Robbie Burns Supper for 4 people

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Starter: Cock-A-Leekie soup
Main: Haggis with ‘neeps and tatties’
Dessert: Cranachan

Plenty of whiskey to drink!

Cock-A-Leekie Soup

This is a restorative Scottish soup consisting of leeks in chicken stock, often thickened with rice or barley.  The original recipe calls for prunes during cooking.

Ingredients:img_4074
2 leeks
2 whole chicken legs
chicken stock or water to cover
8 Pitted prunes (optional)

Method:
Halve the leeks along their length and remove any grit they may have trapped in their layers.  Chop sauté them in a pot with butter.  Always sauté leeks in butter! Add the chicken legs and top in stock or water.  Once the chicken is cooked through, remove the legs, strip the meat from the bones and discard the skin.  Return the chicken to the soup and add your pitted prunes.   Serve piping hot.

 

Haggis with ‘Neeps and Tatties’

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Cooking haggis is not difficult at all – you can boil it, oven cook it or my favourite approach, microwave it for 5 mins!  Neeps can be interpreted as either parsnips or turnips but I tend to favour swede (yellow turnip) and tatties, potatoes.  No need for gravy as the whiskey over keeps everything moist.

Ingredients:
1 small haggis serves 4 people – pick a larger one should you wish.  Nowadays you can also get vegetarian haggis.
6 large maris piper potatoes
1 large swede
butter
cream
seasoning to taste

Method:
Peel the potatoes and swede and boil separately until they are soft.  Once soft, drain them and mash them into a smooth puree with a knob of butter and a splosh of cream.  Season to taste.  Follow the cooking instructions on how to cook the haggis – I generally cook it for 5 mins in the microwave!  Serve as you wish – a wee dram of whiskey is traditionally poured over the haggis on serving.

img_4071Cranachan

Is a very simple pudding to make – imagine layers of flavoured cream, raspberries and oats.

Ingredients:
300ml pot of double cream
2 tablespoons honey
a decent slosh of whiskey
2 punnets of raspberries
6 tablespoons of toasted porridge oats

Method:
Toast the porridge oats under a hot grill; keep your eye on them as they turn burned very quickly!  In a bowl whisk the double cream, honey and whiskey together until soft peaks form – this should be billowy and not over whipped.  In serving glasses, layer, the oats, raspberries and flavoured cream.

Auld Lang Syne!


At this time of year there is nothing more welcoming and homely than bowl food/soul food.  As the temperature drops outside and evenings close in, a bowl of something warm and full of flavour is just what you need.

Cradling the bowl in one hand (close to your chest for added warmth) and spooning soothing soups and stews into your mouth; hugs you and keeps the chills at bay.

This great one pot wonder of lentils, pumpkin and chorizo is a great winter warmer guaranteed to put a smile on your face with every spoonful.  If you’re worried that it would take ages to prepare and cook, think again!  Chop everything into roughly the same size and put into a pot with the lentils and water.  I put it together straight after work and had dinner ready within the hour.

Lentils, pumpkin & chorizo 


serves 2

Ingredients:

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1/8th of a pumpkin

1 cup of lentils

2 cooking chorizo sausages 

2 tomatoes

Chopped parsley 

Water from a recently boiled kettle

Method: 

1st: Peel and chop the onion and pumpkin and add to the pot with the crushed garlic and chopped tomatoes.

2nd: Stir in the uncooked lentils of your choice and top with water.  I used 1 cup lentils to 2 & 1/2 parts water.

3rd: Slice the chorizo and add to the pot.  Simmer gently for 40mins to 1hr. Season before serving.

Blue Monday

Posted: January 16, 2017 in Uncategorized

Banish away the threat of Blue Monday with this warming lentil, pumpkin and tomato one pot meal!

Photos & recipe to follow…

This is the ultimate in food porn.  Scoop it straight out of the jar with your finger, spread it on toast, bread, crackers, cold cuts, cheese, a generous tablespoon stirred through spaghetti…

Ingredients:

500g Cooking Chorizo

1 large white onion finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

85g light muscovado sugar

3 tbsp Sherry vinegar

2 tbsp maple syrup

100mls strong black coffee

 

 

Autumnal Supper

Posted: November 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

Having been caught in the torrential downpour and squelching my way home, all I could think about was nursing myself back to cosy with a treat of an autumnal supper.  Something to warm the soul as well as shake the cold out of the house.

I walked through the door, still in my rain coat and wellington boots I turned the oven on and went about the kitchen collecting the ingredients I was going to need for my perfect autumnal supper of slow cooked lamb shanks and spiced pear crumble.

Slow cooked lamb shanks and spiced pear crumble

For the lamb shanks:

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My perfect lamb shanks start off with garlic, rosemary and anchovies, yes, anchovies, (don’t tell anyone about this as they’ll turn their nose up at this!)  Mash them to a pulp in a pestle and mortar.  Stab the lamb shanks and smear the garlic, rosemary and anchovy pulp all over.  Brown the lamb shanks in a hot pan.  Once browned all over, remove the lamb shanks from the pan and add a chunkily chopped onion and sauté until soft.

In the meantime top and tail some carrots and slice along their length. If you have any tomatoes that need using up, chop these and add them to the pot.

Return the lamb shanks to the pot and add a glass of red wine – if I’m not opening a bottle of wine to drink I tend to use a small 187ml bottle (I buy 5 for £5 when they’re on offer).  Add the carrots and cover in a good quality stock.  Chop a few more anchovy fillets and garlic and add to the pot.  Push a couple of bay leaves and sprigs of rosemary into the liquid.  Top with water and bring to the boil before placing in a moderate oven (170˚C) for 2½hrs or until the meat is falling off the shank.

Nearer the end of the cooking time prepare whatever potatoes you want to serve your lamb shanks with.  I par-boiled some new potatoes, peeled off their skins and then sautéed them in hot oil with garlic and rosemary.

For the spiced pear crumble: The spiced pear crumble takes its inspiration from a ginger cheesecake with poached pears that I occasionally make.  Peel and slice a couple of pears and sauté them in a pan with butter, sugar, star anise, a sprinkle of cinnamon and ground ginger.  Stem ginger in syrup adds another dimension to the crumble.  Finely chop some stem ginger and add this to the sautéing pears and add some of its syrup straight from the jar.  Once the pears become soft decant into an oven proof dish.  Sprinkle your crumble mix on top and add some flaked almonds.  Don’t add any more sugar to the crumble at this point as the pears in ginger syrup are quite sweet.

Put the crumble into a moderate oven at 190˚C for 15mins or until the fruit is bubbling through and the top is golden brown.  Serve with custard, cream or ice cream – I tend to favour a scoop of clotted cream…

Now that is sure to have you warmed through and protected from the rain.

 

 

 

When day and night are of equal length and druids encircle Stonehenge; the moon grows fat and glows blood-red.  Summer turns to autumn.  Farmers and their families work hard to ensure their crop comes in before the first frost.  It’s harvest time.

The more delicate crops, beans and leafy greens, get picked first.

The pumpkin, large, round and orange, peaking out from under its deep green leaves, soaking up every last ounce of summer sunshine until eventually it too must be picked.  But whilst the rest of the crops are ready to be consumed, the pumpkin has another month to develop.  As it further ripens, its starches turn into sugars giving the pumpkin its sweet taste.  The pumpkin needs this time to mature and for its skin to harden.

Come late October, the pumpkin has reached perfection.  The excess of them meaning that they get churned out as Halloween pumpkins but for others, it is time to give thanks to the hare, the spirit of the land, for a bumper crop in this year and for the next.

And a whole pumpkin baked in the oven, a la river cottage, can’t be anything less than delicious!

Whole Oven Baked Pumkin

Ingredients:

1 whole pumpkin

250g Grated cheese (Gruyére,cheddar, emmental, etc)

300ml Double cream

500ml Vegetable stock (or chicken stock should you prefer)

2 Bay leaves 

Rasp of Nutmeg

Salt & pepper

Method:

1st: Pre-heat your oven to 190°c. Place the pumpkin on a baking tray and cut the top quarter off the top of the pumpkin. Reserve to one side.

2nd: Scoop out the seeds from the interior and any fibrous bits.

3rd: Fill the pumpkin with the cheese.  Use any cheese you wish, I used a packet of pre-grated cheese which had a mix of Emmental, Gruyére, Cheddar and Red Leicester, but you are more than welcome to stick to one cheese or combinations of cheeses that you prefer.

4th: Pour in the pot of cream.

5th: Add the bay leaves, nutmeg and salt & pepper.  Top up the pumpkin with your choice of stock but make sure not to fill it to the brim.

6th: Put the lid back on the pumpkin and place it in the oven for approx 1hour (this can take any length of time from 45mins to 1hr 15mins), until the flesh comes away from the pumpkin’s skin or a knife can be pushed through (careful not to pierce the skin).

“At this point the pumpkin is in real danger of collapse.  The larger the pumpkin, the greater the danger!  Don’t panic, it will look deflated but will taste delicious.” HFW.

7th: Fish out the bay leaves and serve piping hot.

If there is any leftover, scoop the remaining flesh out and blitz with some extra cream, cheese & stock.

The perfect pumpkin recipe to celebrate this fantastic gourd and welcome in those longer autumnal evenings.

Mushroom

Posted: October 14, 2016 in Autumn, Uncategorized

After Wednesday’s rain and already having had to reach for a pair of PJ trousers mid-night is proof that summer has waved goodbye and autumn has walked through the door.

During autumn, the fresh produce that becomes available to us is that of the forest.  Vivid greens having transformed themselves into the colours of the earth over the hot summer months.  And even though we all associate the gourd: pumpkins and squashes, as autumnal feasts, for me autumn is all about the mushroom – which incidentally celebrates National Mushroom Day (usa) on 15th October!

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Most fungi like to grow in moist areas and will therefore be most prominent after wet periods.  For optimal growing conditions the temperature needs to be quite mild, making mid-autumn and spring ideal mushroom growing seasons.

Some wild mushrooms, like morels, only make their prominence in springtime especially after the rain.  During the autumn months, trumpet shaped chanterelles and porcinis can be found in the countryside.

shroom1Mushrooms can be found in supermarkets all year round (button, shitake, portobello, oyster and other varieties) but these have probably been cultivated for supermarket sales.  Wild mushrooms (chanterelle, porcini, morels, truffles, cepes) will only be found in season but are increasingly sold at farmers’ markets.  Should you be unable to source wild mushroom varieties – which is a problem I’m struggling with at the moment – then reconstituted dried mushrooms will add great depth of flavour to any dish you are trying to create.

Butter, garlic and parsley – the holy trinity – in the life of a mushroom!

Woody herbs such as rosemary and thyme are also great with mushrooms.  I always sauté mushrooms in butter with garlic, thyme and rosemary for fragrant-flavour and a sprinkling of chopped parsley for its fresh grassy hit on the palate.

Below you will find some great mushroom recipes to help celebrate your perfect autumnal Mushroom Day:

Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients:

risotto

  • Dried mushrooms
  • Button/chestnut mushrooms
  • Risotto Rice
  • Chicken stock
  • Shallots or Spring onions
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • dry sherry/vermouth
  • parmesan
  • salt & pepper
  • parsley

 Method:

1st: Prepare a litre of stock and keep it warm on the hob. Use any stock you wish – I prefer chicken and not vegetable stock and generally use a stock pot. Both need to be mixed with hot water. I don’t make my own stock as have neither the inkling nor the need.

2nd: Place the dried Porcini mushrooms into a bowl and cover with hot water from a recently boiled kettle to reconstitute. Leave for 10mins.

3rd: In a saucepan add some butter and olive oil. Once foamy, add a couple of finely chopped shallots (shallots are more authentic in a risotto than spring onions). Sautée until the onions are soft and translucent.

4th: Add the risotto rice to the saucepan and slick with the oniony, buttery mixture. Keep stirring the mixture so that it won’t catch on the bottom of the pan. Once you hear the rice begin to fry in the pan, pour in a glass of dry sherry. Mix into the rice mixture and let the alcohol boil off.

 5th: Add ladlefuls of warm stock to the rice. As one ladleful of stock is absorbed add the next. Don’t let the rice become waterlogged as what you want is the rice to slowly cook whilst at the same time releasing its sweet, creamy starch. This stage will take approx 15mins until all the stock is absorbed.

If using fresh mushrooms, at some point chop them and add to the mixture to cook them with the risotto before moving onto the next stage.

6th: Drain most of the porcini mushroom liquor into the risotto, chop the rehydrated mushrooms and add to the risotto, make sure to retain the bottom of the liquor which will be full of grit. Take off the heat and mix in a decent knob of butter and a good handful of grated parmesan cheese. Check for seasoning. Clamp on a lid and let it sit for anything from 2-5mins.

Serve with a couple of drops of truffle oil and a green ribbon of extra virgin olive oil, a subtle grating of parmesan and a scattering of freshly chopped parsley. 

Mushroom Arancini Balls

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Mushrooms on toast

img_3167This needs no recipe but remember to use a medley of mushrooms; dried, wild and shop-bought, and serve on a decent slice of rustic bread.  No plastic bread here!  Don’t overcrowd the pan as you cook the mushrooms, otherwise the ‘shrooms will become waterlogged.  Season well with salt, pepper and garlic and add your medley of herbs.  At the very end of the cooking process, squeeze the tip of a lemon over the mushrooms – too much will ruin the dish.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle more chopped parsley over.

Cheesey Mushroom Melts

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Ingredients:

  • 1 or 2 large mushrooms per person
  • Slice of blue cheese per mushroom
  • Thyme leaves
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoning

Method:

1st: Put the grill on high.  Clean and trim the mushrooms removing any grit and gnarly parts.

2nd: Put a large knob of butter into an oven proof pan, place the mushrooms stem side up and drizzle olive oil and sprinkle thyme leaves over.  Season.  Cook on the hob until the mushrooms are soft all the way through.

3rd: Baste the mushrooms in the melted butter.  Once cooked, place a slice of blue cheese on each mushroom, drizzle in olive oil and place in the hot grill.

4th: Take out of the grill once the cheese has melted and serve.

Use your imagination on how to use these mushroom cheese melts: serve in a bap as an alternative to a veggie burger – the meatiness of the mushroom works well here.  Boil pasta and serve the mushroom melt over and grate parmesan cheese over the plate, steak and chips and cheesy mushrooms.  Or at its simplest, serve on slices of rustic sourdough toasted bread – which is just a great Sunday supper!

I’m currently working on a mushroom, pear and blue cheese tart with walnuts; mushroom works with blue cheese, blue cheese works with pear, walnuts work with all three.  Might be a great idea, could be a natural disaster– I’ll let you know how that turns out.

These are just a few of my favourite mushroom recipes to help you celebrate Mushroom Day 2016.

Remember there are plenty of other mushroom recipes that you can research online such as mushroom stroganoff, stir fry beef and mushrooms served with noodles, or sauté mushrooms, stir in some cream and parmesan cheese and pour over drained pasta – to name a few ideas.  If you want to be adventurous go for it – just stick to flavour combos that you know will work, tweak them and make it work with the flavours you like.

So whether you’re creating a mushroom duxelle for your beef wellington, rolling mushroom arancini or braving the weather to go out foraging for the best truffles money can buy, remember; autumn wouldn’t be autumn without the beige-white flesh of a fungi.

Regardless of the change in season, I am still refusing to bring out the duvet!