Monday, 4 March 2013

Scotch Eggs

Back in the saddle again - after a not-so-brief hiatus from writing. (I've been cooking up a storm but not quite finding time to write things down so I've got a long list of recipes ready to blog - watch this space.)
Kicking off with Scotch Eggs - a ubiquitous supermarket and garage snack - its easy to see why people don't think very highly of them but when home-made, they turn from a greasy pre-packed factory-made snack to a brilliant packed lunch staple ... make more than one batch at a time because they will disappear quickly. I'm not quite certain why I'm so focussed on picnic food at this time of the year. Temperatures still in the minus... we are equally likely to wake up to snow, sunshine or frost. Maybe I'm making outdoor food becuase this is my favourite time to walk in the hills, or get outdoors and enjoy the beginnings of spring. Either way this recipe can provide you with the most perfect picnic food (but if you eat them indoors with the heating on,  I won't tell.)
This is a simple recipe that relies on good ingredients... fresh eggs, really good sausagement and home-made breadcrumbs create a perfect scotch egg... if you are planning to use wooly sausages, don't bother making this recipe - buy a wooly scotch egg from the supermarket instead.
Scotch Eggs

6 large eggs
250g good sausages
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch dried thyme
2 tbsp flour
100g fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
vegetable oil for frying

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook four of the eggs for 6-7 minutes until they are hard-boiled.
Drain then peel and leave to cool.
Beat the remaining two eggs together in a bowl and set aside.
Remove the sausage meat from the skins. Mix together the sausage meat, thyme, cayenne pepper and some black pepper with 2 tablespoons of beaten egg until well combined.
Divide the sausage mixture evenly into four portions. Flatten out to form a thin patty. Wrap a patty around each boiled egg. Smooth out the join and make sure there is no egg left exposed.
Roll the scotch eggs in the flour, then dip in the beaten egg and roll in the fresh breadcrumbs. Repeat to make sure the eggs are well coated.
Half-fill a deep, heavy-based pan with the vegetable oil and heat to 170C/340F,  Fry the scotch eggs 2 at a time for 4-5 minutes, turning the eggs occasionally until golden-brown all over.
Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
Serve the scotch eggs hot, sliced in half to show the bright yellow interior or cold as perfect picnic food.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Bacon, Lentil & Tomato Soup

6 inches of snow falling overnight means waking up feeling the need for a big pot of soup on the stove and maybe a toasted cheese sandwich on the side. I'm looking forward to getting a huge backlog of recipes tried, tested and posted.... the photos have been taken and uploaded... time to get back in the saddle again. And today - stuck at home, car under a blanket of white is the perfect opportunity to get started.

The cupboards are bare and the fridge is as empty as it has been in a long time but I'm not keen to venture out as the snow is still falling. A rake around finds lentils, stock and tinned tomatoes. Perfect soup ingredients. This has been my favourite soup recipe for oh... about 25 years... It sustained me through college years, through long, cold winters and briefly with the removal of the bacon, through my vegetarian years. I hope it sustains my kids the same way - its a quick, cheap and easy soup to throw together and still feels like a treat - especially on a cold wintery day.

Bacon, Lentil & Tomato Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stick of celery, diced
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 cup red lentils
1 litre chicken stock
salt and pepper
3 slices of bacon
Small handful of chives, chopped finely
Sour cream
Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan, add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and saute till soft and aromatic(around ten minutes).
Sprinkle the paprika on top and stir through.
Next add the tomatoes, lentils and stock. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Taste and season with salt and pepper.
I prefer this soup blended and smooth but if you like your chunky, don't blend it at all.
While the soup is simmering, grill the bacon till crispy and chop.
Serve the soup topped with bacon bits, sour cream and chives.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Ecclefechan Tart

Crumbly pastry filled with a rich, dense fruit filling. Sound familiar? Its a sort of mince pie to eat year round instead of only at Christmas. A traditional Scottish Borders tart, Ecclefechan Tart comes from a wee village near Dumfries (not far from England) and this recipe appears to be its major export.

Variations abound depending on which baker you speak to and whose family recipe you manage to scrounge. Orange or lemon zest, cinnamon, walnuts, bright red glace cherries all appear in one version or another, occasionally a little ground almonds appear in the crust but research suggests that this instantly stops being an Ecclefechan Tart and transforms into a Borders Tart... oh the politics to be found in a dessert.

My version has walnuts for crunch, cherries for much needed colour, a weeny bit of orange zest for zestiness and absolutely no almonds in the crust.

Ecclefechan Tart

for the pastry:
225g plain flour
140g butter
2 tbsp ice cold water

Place the flour and butter in the bowl of a food processor and blitz for a few seconds until you have a crumbly texture. Add water a teaspoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to chill. Roll out and use to line a 23cm tart tin. Line the base with foil and fill with  baking beans and bake for 10 mins. Remove the foil then bake another 5 mins then remove from the oven.

for the filling:
75g butter
175g dark soft brown sugar
2 eggs
2tsp red wine vinegar
150g sultanas
50g currants
25g glace cherries
100g walnuts, chopped
zest of one orange

Melt the butter and beat together with the sugar, eggs and vinegar. Add the fruit and nuts and zest. Pour the mixture into the pre-baked pastry case and bake at 180C for 25-35 minutes. Cover the tart with foil for the last ten minutes to prevent the topping from burning.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Toffee Apple Crumble

Oh my, this might just the best thing I have eaten all winter. I am not usually a huge fan of desserts, and particularly those stick-to-your-bones, winter warming desserts so many people love in the cold weather but the flavours in this crumble are unbelievable morish. A dessert, perfect for february when local produce is running low and pickings are thin at the farmers markets. Waiting for spring to arrive with its new season rhubarb and asparagus isn't quite so hard with recipes like this at your fingertips. Rich caramel brings out the best in the apples and a little oatmeal in the topping adds extra crunch and nuttiness to the crumble, all that is missing is a jug of thin cream to drizzle over.

Toffee Apple Crumble

100ml water
225g granulated sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
30g butter
1kg apples, peeled, cored and chopped into chunks
250g blackberries or other berries

75g plain flour
100g oatmeal
150g butter
150g sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4
To prepare the toffee apples, put the water and sugar, syrup and butter into a saucepan and heat till simmering.  Reduce the heat after the sugar has melted and add the apples and cook, stirring gently, until just soft. Put the apple mixture into an ovenproof dish, dot with blackberries and set aside.
To make the crumble, rub the flour, butter and sugar together in a bowl with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir through the oatmeal then sprinkle the crumble evenly over the toffee apple mixture and bake in the oven for 20mins, or until golden and bubbling,

Serve with a drizzle of cream or custard.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Vietnamese Pork Lettuce Wraps

Thank goodness, I am in the home straight of this dieting business... Most of January has been spent hungry, tired and fixated on food. The silver lining is that I have discovered some amazing recipes in my obsessive state. My main saviour has been chilli, if I add enough of it to any dish, I don't seem to feel quite so hungry.

The real challenge has been to avoid too many carbohydrates, and as I love bread (and especially sandwiches) more than any other food, I have taken to wrapping everything I can find in lettuce instead. 

To serve, spoon some of this morish, strongly spiced pork into buttery lettuce leaf then dip in the salty sauce. It may not be a truly authentic dish but it certainly pilfers the flavours of Vietnam to brilliant effect and produces a dish that feels far from frugal.

This would make a good starter or canape with its strong gutsy flavours and quick preparation, or for a slightly more filling main course, add some rice noodles tossed with sesame oil.

Vietnamese Style Pork & Lettuce Wrap

Dipping Sauce
6tbsp fish sauce
2tbsp lime juice
1tbsp sugar
1 hot red chilli, thinly sliced

500g stir-fry pork
2 cloves garlic
1tbsp fish sauce
1tsp lime juice
1tsp sugar
zest of 1 lime
1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped
1 tbsp ginger
1 hot red chilli, thinly sliced
2tbsp vegetable oil

1 butter lettuce to serve
For the dipping sauce:
Whisk together the sauce ingredients and set aside
For the pork:
Combine everything except for the oil together in a bowl and marinate for a couple of hours or, if you have time, overnight.
Add the vegetable oil to a wok and heat until it begins to smoke.
Stir fry the pork in the wok for 3-4 minutes until cooked through and starting to brown.
Remove from the heat and serve with the lettuce and dipping sauce

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Potato & Chorizo Fritatta with spicy bravas sauce

I'm in a quandary... trying to juggle my need for post-excess healthy eating with the urge for winter comfort food to keep the cold out. My answer so far is to have a little of what I like along with a huge salad that threatens to take over my plate (and hope that I'm not still hungry at the end of the meal), oh and to swap wine for gin and tonic.... less of a healthy lifestyle change and more of a necessary calorie reduction.

Fritatta can be a very healthy option packed with spinach and tomatoes and beans (next week's plan) and although potatoes and chorizo will never be the healthiest choice of filling, it addresses my need for a bone-sticking, warming, comforting meal that leaves me feeling fuller longer.

Crispy on top, meltingly tender inside with a spicy tomato salsa drizzled over, this satisfies all my january needs.
This fritatta makes 4 regular portions or 6 small (slightly more diet conscious and frugal) ones

Potato & Chorizo Fritatta with spicy bravas sauce

2 large baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
75g chorizo sausage, chopped into small cubes
2 tbsp olive oil
5 eggs
2 tablespoons of skimmed milk

Boil the potatoes for around 5 mins until just cooked, then drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large, deep, ovenproof frying pan and fry the chorizo for 4-5 mins until the oil turns orange.
Add the potatoes and fry for 1 min with the chorizo.
Whisk the eggs and milk together and add to the pan, stir gently to distribute the eggs around the potatoes and chorizo.
Cook over a low heat for five minutes until the fritatta starts to set then finish under a hot grill till golden brown and set on top.

Bravas Sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 tsp paprika 
1/2 tsp chilli powder

Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and fry for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, tomatoes, tomato purée, paprika and chilli powder and bring to the boil, stirring. Simmer for 10 minutes until thick.

Serve the fritatta with a little sauce and a green salad. 

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Smoked Trout Mousse

Smoked trout mousse livened up with a little caviar and cucumber - isn't it pretty? I think the colours on the plate are amazing, and its a great quick canape for holiday events.

The past few weeks have already been packed full of parties, family gatherings, end of term parents get-togethers and dinner parties. So full in fact that I am running out of time to do the usual Christmas things like shop for presents and plan Christmas dinner.

In store this weekend is a book group night in, a friend's drinks party and a day out at the movies with the family. The only way to manage hectic days like these is to have a repertoire of very quick, but very beautiful, festive and tasty dishes to turn out of your kitchen. This one has minimum effort and maximum impact on a plate.

Smoked Trout Mousse with caviar

450g smoked trout fillets
250g cream cheese
5tbsp creme fraiche
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper

to serve:
1 cucumber
a small pot of caviar (or some thin strips of roasted red pepper)

Flake the fillets of smoked trout into a food processor making sure none of the skin is attached.
Add the cream cheese, creme fraiche, lemon and cayenne pepper.
Blitz until light and fluffy. If its too thick, add a little more creme fraiche or a dribble of milk to thin the mixture down. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

to serve:
Slice the cucumber into 1/2cm slices, top with a dollop of the mousse and a tiny dot of caviar or a little roast red pepper if you prefer.