Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Red Cabbage with Cranberries and Rioja

Time to get cracking:  a week long creative project, interspersed with lots of parties, a significant amount of chocolate and far too much Champagne. I am trying to lay down a few more things in the freezer, just to get ahead of the game for the weekend and to ensure that I don't spend the whole of saturday in the kitchen when I could be playing with the toys and relaxing with guests.

There are traditional dishes that a Christmas table needs to keep the ancestors happy. Roast potatoes, root vegetables and red cabbage are just a few of them. Even if there is only one person remaining in the house who likes red cabbage, you can't miss it out. This version has the sharpness of cranberries and Granny Smiths melded with the warmth of Rioja and a little zing of chilli to finish. A perfect foil to the richness of a Christmas roast.

Red Cabbage with Cranberries and Rioja
1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced thinly into half moons
1 small head of red cabbage, finely shredded
2 sharp eating apples (I used Granny Smiths), grated
100g fresh cranberries 
3tbsp soft brown sugar
350ml rioja or other fruity red wine
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the onion and fry slowly until softened but not coloured.
Add the cabbage, apples and cranberries to the pan and mix together well.
Sprinkle the sugar over the mixture and add the wine and hot pepper flakes (if using).
Cook at a very low heat for around 1 1/2 - 2hours until soft and melting together.
Season to taste with a generous sprinkle of salt and allow to cool.
The dish is now ready to freeze or leave in the fridge for up to 2 days until needed. The flavours improve with age.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Kilted Sausages and Cranberry & Apple Stuffing

Living in fear of being snowed in has led me to a new and very lovely place in my life: I am really quite organised for Christmas. Presents have been bought or (hopefully) are on their way. Cakes have been baked for home and for the Green Apple Cafe, canapes have been made and frozen and only interesting side dishes remain to be considered.

There is something so depressing about kilted sausages in a supermarket pack. Usually 12 miniature sausages with a wafer thin wrapping of bacon in a huge plastic pack. Why depressing? Well either you need lots of packs or you are getting one or at best two tiny sausages with your Christmas dinner. "That's enough for me," you might say, and while I might agree with you on the day, it is simply too frugal for that particular meal. So I need to make mine at home. Not rocket science but one of those little side dishes that is worth a little bit of time and effort sourcing the ingredients. A good butcher for the chipolata sausages (get lots), well cured bacon, I found some maple cured streaky bacon. Then simply run the flat of a knife along the streaky bacon to stretch it out a little thinner, then wrap each little sausage in a little kilt of bacon. Cook alongside the turkey as you would a very small pack of supermarket sausages. It is well worth a drizzle of maple syrup with a light hand just a few minutes before you take them out of the oven to accentuate the sweetness of the bacon.

A proper recipe this time for Cranberry stuffing. Another simple recipe but with the best ingredients, it makes a special addition to Christmas dinner. Either buy good sausages and split their skins to remove the sausage meat or speak to your local butcher and ask for their best shop-made sausage meat. This stuffing can be used in the traditional way to stuff a turkey but I prefer it cooked seperately

Cranberry, Apple and Pork Stuffing
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
500g good quality sausage meat
100g fresh cranberries, roughly chopped
2 green apples, peeled and grated
zest of one tangerine or small orange
1 egg

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
In a heavy frying pan, heat the oil, add the onion and saute until transluscent but not coloured.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
In a large bowl, stir the onion together with all the other ingredients until well combined. The easiest way is to knead with your hands.
Either roll the mixture into small balls the size of walnuts or press into a loaf tin.(If you must, use it to stuff the turkey but this makes the turkey even harder to cook so I prefer to cook it seperately as a side dish)
For walnut sized balls, bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until cooked through. For stuffing baked in a loaf tin, bake for 45-60 minutes until golden and cooked throughout. Serve with turkey or with any roast dinner.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Fig and Goat Cheese Biscotti

Don't know about you but I have done the trawling through busy shops, wading through slushy car parks, rushing to the post office for last posting dates and late night list making and now I am more than ready to get started on the nice bits of Christmas. You know? The bits that make it all worthwhile. Decorating the house with the children, wrapping presents with the Pogues playing in the background and making Christmas biscuits: It's time to turn on the oven and get into baking mode, snowy stars to hang on the Christmas tree for the kids and these gorgeous savoury biscotti for me. 

The cheeseboard is my very favourite part of any meal and at this time of year, the usual water biscuits and oatcakes are just not good enough. These biscotti are dense, rich and a great addition to a cheese platter although I quite like them on their own with a cocktail. You can't beat the mix of strong flavoured cheese with the intense sweetness of dried fruit. You could replace the goat cheese with a blue cheese or even with a strong cheddar. However, if you make them, it is definitely worth making double and giving these away wrapped in cellophane as a gift.

Fig and Goat Cheese Biscotti

350g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
100g soft goat cheese, crumbled
100g soft dried figs, chopped into 1cm chunks

Pre-heat the oven to 180C
Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl.                                                       
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.
Add the wet ingredients into the dry along with the goat cheese and figs.
Mix together until the dough comes together, if it is too dry, add a little more milk until you have a workable dough.
Form into two long, wide logs (approx 7cm x 30cm) on a baking tray and bake in the oven for around 30 mins until risen and golden.
Allow to cool a little then cut the logs into 2cm wide slices.
Put these back on the baking tray and bake again for 10-15 mins till golden and crispy.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Brandied Chocolate Cranberries

Now this is a proper Christmas recipe to get you in the mood: cranberries, chocolate, alcohol all encased in a wee nothing-at-all of a nibble. Seasonal music is playing, snow is falling heavily outside so I am having an urge to create completely frivolous food , the sort of food you only have time and inclination to make during the holidays.

I found these Chocolate Cognac Cranberries in the American Oprah Magazine and such is my love of those extremely Christmassy berries, I was excited to find a new way to play with them. This recipe is fiddly to make and very messy but so grown-up and delicious it is worth all the effort. 

Brandied Chocolate Cranberries
300g sugar
juice of one lemon
300g fresh cranberries
150ml brandy
100g good dark chocolate (I used Green and Black's maya gold)

Put sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with 500ml cold water.
Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Lower the heat to a simmer then add the cranberries and heat for 1 minute.
Strain the berries and allow to cool.
Toss the cranberries in the brandy and marinate for a few hours or overnight.

When you are ready to coat in chocolate, drain the cranberries (reserve any remaining liquid and use as the base of a champagne cocktail) and allow them to dry a little  on some greaseproof paper.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave, then use two forks to toss each cranberry in the chocolate then place on greaseproof paper to set. Store in the fridge or freezer. Serve after dinner with coffee.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Butternut Squash and Beetroot Crumble with Dunsyre Blue

Ok, so we live in a small village - the shops here are great, but even they have been challenged this week with erratic deliveries and limited stock. I have been desperate all week to make a huge pot of winter beef stew (maybe with a touch of dark chocolate and a little cinnamon, reminiscent of a mole sauce) or a pot of my mum's amazing lamb stock soup but instead of beef or lamb bones, I left the ravaged shop with a pack of beetroot and a large butternut squash. 

Butternut squash risotto? Goat cheese and beetroot salad? I wanted (needed?)  rich, warming, comfort food. Something to match the weather, to warm us up after a day of sledging and trudging and shivering. This was rich, creamy and so calorific, it almost defeated the purpose of eating such healthy vegetables. Next time, I might make it with a base of tomato passata and marmite instead of cream but either way, with crusty bread, it will make a wonderful snow day lunch. Tomorrow however, I am venturing out to the big shops in Edinburgh and I WILL come back with beef and chocolate so bring on the beef stew.

Beetroot and Butternut Squash Crumble
1 butternut squash, peeled (approx 500g)
1 250g pack of vac-packed beetroot
1 284ml carton double cream
75ml milk
salt and pepper 

Preheat your oven to 190C.
Thinly slice the butternut squash and beetroot and layer in an ovenproof dish. Season each layer with a little salt and pepper.
Whisk together the cream and milk and pour over the vegetables.

for the crumble mixture:
100g butter
100g flour
75g oatmeal
100g Dunsyre Blue, (or other earthy blue cheese) crumbled
50g Parmesan cheese

Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. 
Stir in the oatmeal and blue cheese. 
Scatter the crumble mixture over the vegetables then sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 45 minutes.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Midnight Macaroon Bars

10pm this evening. "Mum don't forget I have to dress up in World War 2 clothes and take in a World War 2 packed lunch and sweets tomorrow to school"
And incidentally, yes I had forgotton. I called my mum for a chat (which I have been meaning to do since the WW2 packed lunch idea was first mooted) and quizzed her about rationing and wartime food. And, other than nipping down to the shop for spam or corned beef, this was the best idea we came up with... and I am so glad we did.

These wee Scottish sweeties are made of mashed potato and sugar - basically it was a way to make a little bit of sugar go a long long way - then tossed in dark chocolate and finished by rolling in toasted coconut. A very special treat when there were few treats around but no less one today. These could easily become a staple with coffee after dinner. Apologies for the dodgy photographs but as I said - it is nearly midnight and I need them for school tomorrow.

Almost a recipe for Macaroon Bars
As much mashed potato as you have left over (at least 3 tbsp)
A big bag of icing sugar
A small bar of chocolate
Some dessicated coconut

Whisk the icing sugar into the mashed potato until you have a firm but pliable dough, don't be surprised that it goes almost runny before it starts to firm up, just keep adding icing sugar until it reaches the right consistency.

Shape into long thin bars or small squares.(squares are best to serve with coffee... bars are best as wartime snacks for hungry 10 year olds)

Chill in the fridge for 30 mins.

Melt the chocolate.

Toast the dessicated coconut under a grill for a few minutes until golden, watch it carefully as it burns very quickly.

Remove the squares of fondant from the fridge, coat in the chocolate and then roll in the coconut. This is a messy business, I found it helpful to have lots of spoons and a jugful of hot water to clean them off handy.
Chill for 30 mins till the chocolate sets hard.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Almond Citrus Cake

Soaked in sugar syrup flavoured with cinnamon, oranges and lemons, this cake is unbelievably luscious, glossy and moist. I first ate cake like this on holiday around the Middle East, where tooth-meltingly sweet desserts rule and almonds grow wild. It makes your whole house smell of summer sweetness and christmas spice all at the same time.

Over the past few years, I have tried out various almond cake recipes (and burnt off the bottom of my two favourite le creuset pots by boiling whole oranges dry for one in particular.) I have begged details from Dubai cafe-owners, old English ladies and gleaned hints from all sorts of cookbooks. This recipe has been kicking around my friend's kitchen since the 80's where it first appeared in the London Evening Standard, I've rejigged it a little to make it completely gluten-free.

Don't miss out the sugar syrup, it is the whole point of this cake but do serve it in little squares as the sweetness may overwhelm those with more delicate sensibilities.

Almond Citrus Cake
50g gluten-free breadcrumbs
200g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
1 1/2 tsp gluten-free baking powder 
200ml vegetable oil
4 eggs
finely grated zest of 1 orange
finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon
85g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
1 tsp orange flower water (optional)

Grease and line a square (22cm) cake tin with greaseproof paper. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
In a large bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, sugar, almonds and baking powder.
In a seperate bowl, whisk the eggs, oil and zest together.
Add the wet ingredients into the dry and mix thoroughly.
Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for around 30 minutes until the cake is golden brown and a skewer dipped in comes out clean.

While the cake is cooling, heat all the syrup ingredients in a small heavy based saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring all the time to ensure the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes until the mixture thickens to a syrupy consistency. Pierce holes all over the cake and pour the syrup evenly over the top of the still warm sponge.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Split Pea Soup with Spiced Butter

(Aka my favourite soup in the whole wide world ever).
So simple, so luscious, and quite bizarrely - given the frugal nature of the ingredients - so decadent.  Based on a Nigel Slater Moroccan soup recipe but with alternative spicing, this has been a staple of my winter kitchen for years. 

I make this soup at least once a week, it is perfect for small children and anyone who hates spicy food as the spice mixture is added fresh at the end.  Although the soup is elevated to a new level with the zing of fresh spices, omitting them altogether still leaves a rich, comforting and nourishing soup.

Split Pea Soup
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
500g yellow split peas
2-3 pints chicken or vegetable stock 

Heat the olive oil in a heavy based saucepan, add the garlic and onion and saute till transluscent and aromatic. Add the split peas and stock and simmer for at least an hour. Keep an eye on the level of stock and top up with water if required. Split peas can absorb an astonishing amount of liquid on their way to tenderness. When the peas are beginning to soften and break up, blend the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy.

Spiced Butter
100g soft butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
4cm fresh ginger, grated
2 fresh red chillis, chopped finely
2 spring onions, chopped finely
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped finely

Squash all the ingredients together till well combined. 
Roll into a log shape, wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge to harden.
Serve the soup just a little too hot with a slice of spiced butter melting luxuriously on top.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Beetroot Brownies

It's been too long, I have not written for weeks... my cafe hours have extended and the workload seemed to double overnight and something had to give..... unfortunately it was the thing I love to do most! Blog I missed you, I won't leave you alone again. I just needed the inspiration of my big sister turning up and nagging me to get back to it.

The good thing is that I have huge, long list of recipes all waiting to be photographed and written up so back to business. This recipe is based on a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall article from a newspaper clipping years ago and is now one of my absolute favourites. Rich. luscious, more chocolaty than you can imagine, these brownies don't taste of beetroot any more than carrot cake tastes of carrots but the sweetness of the beet adds an extra depth of flavour and somehow exaggerates the flavour of the chocolate. 

Beetroot Brownies
250g dark chocolate
250g butter
250g caster sugar
3 large eggs
150g self-raising flour
250g beetroot, boiled until tender or a  250g pack of vac-packed beetroot

Preheat oven to 180°C.
Grease a brownie tin (20 x 30) and line with greaseproof paper.
Grate the beetroot on the finest setting of a grater and set aside.  
Break the chocolate up and chop the butter into small cubes. Place in a double-boiler or in a microwave for 30-45 secs until just melted.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until light and thick, then add the chocolate and butter mixture and beat together until smooth.
Fold in the flour then stir in the grated beetroot.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and tap gently on the counter top to eliminate any bubbles and give a smooth finish.
Bake for approx 20 minutes until a skewer pushed into the middle should comes out sticky but clean.
Remove the tin from the oven and leave on wire rack to cool.
slice into bars and dust with icing sugar to serve.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne Cupcakes

Doesn't this look gorgeous. Ok, so its stretching the truth a little to call it a cupcake but it definitely holds lasagne and isn't it sweet? I made a big pile of them in all different flavours to serve at the cafe and another pile for visitors heading out for a loch-side picnic, next I will try them as little mini cupcakes for a party.

Lasagne is one of my all-time favourite comfort foods so a mini portable version seemed like a cute idea. In Scotland we can't be too complacent about the weather at any time of the year so planning a summer picnic becomes a hazardous activity. We made the cupcakes, then double wrapped them in foil to keep them from cooling down too quickly and sent them on their way to warm up our guests as they sat appreciating Loch Lomond on a blustery summer's day.

As well as the spinach/ricotta cupcakes there are butternut squash/goat cheese and venison/Isle of Mull cheddar cupcakes.
Oh and they freeze well so can be defrosted and heated up in a warm oven for a speedy supper, how cool is that?

Lasagne Cupcakes (spinach, ricotta and walnut)
2 tbsp olive oil                                                                                      
1 pack (170g) filo pastry sheet              
1 pack fresh lasagne sheets
Good quality tomato sauce (bought or home-made)
300g fresh spinach, cooked and with any excess liquid squeezed out
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
50g walnuts, chopped roughly
250g ricotta cheese
100g grated parmesan cheese 

Prepare a muffin or cupcake tin by spraying or brushing lightly with oil. Cut filo pastry into squares slightly bigger than you need to fit your muffin or cupcake tin. Line each cupcake tin with 2 layers of filo pastry, one on top of the other with the excess hanging over the edges.  Stir the walnuts and nutmeg through the spinach. Cut circles of lasagne to fit the cupcake tin with a cookie cutter.

To assemble:
In the bottom of each cupcake, place one layer of lasagne. 
Next top with a tablespoon of tomato sauce, then a spoonful of spinach. 
Finally top with a dollop of ricotta and another layer of lasagne. 
Repeat until your cupcake is full. 
Top each filled filo pastry "cake" with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. 
Bake in the oven for around 15 minutes until brown and gorgeous.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Mango Lime Coleslaw

What makes coleslaw coleslaw? I think its the cabbage because otherwise this recipe would just be a stunning little salsa. Instead, with the addition of some shredded cabbage, it transforms into a fresh take on traditional coleslaw. The dressing is lighter, healthier and zestier, the vegetables sweet and summery.

How on earth did we live before Google. I saw a recipe for mango coleslaw on Smitten Kitchen's site and wanted to try it immediately but didn't have all the ingredients so googled mango coleslaw and discovered a whole new world of fruity coleslaws that will be starring in my kitchen all summer. 

This gorgeous version is based on Smitten Kitchen's recipe with a few tweaks according to what I had in the cupboard. We ate it served on flatbreads with smoked mackerel. Gorgeous.

Mango Coleslaw
1 mango, sliced thinly
1 head chinese cabbage, chopped finely
1 red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
2 roasted red peppers sliced thinly
1 handful salted peanuts, roughly chopped 

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
Grated zest of 1 lime
1 hot red chilli, finely chopped
3cm of root ginger, grated

Throw all the fruit and vegetables in a large bowl and stir well.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over.
Leave an hour or two to allow the dressing flavours to mix.
Just before serving, sprinkle with the peanuts.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

I don't like big cakes. I've tried ordering slices of victoria sponge in cafes, or triple layer carrot cakes in tea shops but I simple can't get over the feeling that I am stealing a piece of someone else's cake. I like to have my own cake. I don't care if it's big or small as long as it is all mine. So after years of skirting around the issue, trying to persuade myself to eat slices of cake from dessert trollies, I have decided that from now on I will only be eating cupcakes and other individually packaged treats (obviously brownies and other tray-bakes are not included in this declaration, that would just be silly). 
So at the cafe, individual cakes are definitely the order of the day. We have already had lots of cupcake orders for children's parties (these banana cupcakes were for an 8 year old's birthday party) so my plan this summer is to expand my repertoire of cupcakes and get lots of practice at pretty decorative frosting. There are worse things that seeing the summer stretch ahead filled with piles of flavoured cupcakes: cappucinno and espresso, mojito and strawberry daquiri are just for starters.

Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Chocolate Fudge Frosting
25g butter
25g cream cheese
2 tbsp cocoa powder
200g icing sugar
1 tbsp milk

Beat the butter and cream cheese with a wooden spoon until soft. 
Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into the butter mixture and beat until well blended.
Add a tablespoon of milk if necessary to reach a thick spreading consistency. 
Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge until the cupcakes are cool. 

Banana Cupcakes
170g butter
170g caster sugar
170g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs, whisked together
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 medium bananas, chopped 

Preheat the oven to 180C
With an electric beater, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add a tablespoon of flour and fold in to the mixture.
Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the batter mixing well, then fold in the flour, baking powder and salt. 
Gently stir the bananas into the mixture
Line two muffin tins with 18 cases and divide the batter between them.
Bake for 18-20 minutes until the cupcakes are golden brown. 
Cool on a wire rack then top with chocolate fudge frosting and decorate with dragees, smarties or chocolate chips. 

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Scotch Whisky Glazed Salmon

I've not been cooking at home properly for a few weeks now. Too much reliance on good weather and a barbecue means that now the sun has disappeared, I am left wondering what we usually live on. Cooking in the cafe all day means that evening meals mid-week need to be healthy and summery but quick and easy to give me a break from the kitchen.

Looking for a robust flavour to add some interest to a piece of unremarkable salmon, something that would stand up to the smokiness of the barbecue but not drown out the delicate flavour of the fish I was hunting around in the cupboard and came across a collection of malt whisky bottles with a shot left in each. Finally deciding on a lightly peaty Talisker whisky, I marinated it for an hour or so then griddled it on the barbecue. adding a gorgeous rich smoky depth of flavour to the fish.

This could be thrown on the barbie and cooked in minutes to serve with a salad but if you are rained off, it is just as lovely on the griddle as the whisky brings its own distinctive smokiness.

Scotch Whisky Glazed Salmon
4x150g (6oz) salmon fillets
2tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Scotch whisky (I used Talisker but any good flavoured whisky would do)
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp orange juice
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Mix together the whisky, honey, soy sauce, orange juice and garlic in a ziplock bag.
Add the salmon fillets and marinate for 1 hour 
Heat the olive oil in a griddle pan or heavy frying pan.
Place the salmon fillets in the pan skin-side down and baste with the marinade.
Fry for 2-3 minutes then turn and fry the other side for a minute or two until the fish is opaque.
Remove the fish to a plate, drizzle with the juices from the pan.
Serve with green salad.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Broccoli Soup with Blue Cheese Croutons

Wordle: UntitledIt has been such a beautiful week that I have laid aside all thoughts of cold weather soups and instead have become obsessed with salad platters, barbecue food and picnic parties. The Green Apple Cafe has been busy but we are approaching the new summer season and I need to plan a whole new menu. I'd love to attract tourists holidaying the in the area and families looking for a relaxed place to visit during the summer holidays as well as keeping all our regulars coming to the cafe during the summer break.

We are open thursdays and fridays all through the summer holidays and seasonal salads, tapas-style plates and freshly made paninis and sandwiches will be on the menu along with frappés, milkshakes and smoothies. All this warm weather food means I am experimenting like mad at home trying to come up with new salads, soups and fresh flavours for summer. Blue cheese and broccoli are a magical combination, the blue cheese transforming the soup from a light and frugal meal into a rich and complex supper dish.

If the weather stays as beautiful, come and enjoy the gardens and playpark. If the skies open, just come along and enjoy the food! 

Broccoli Soup with Blue Cheese Croutons

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, crushed
500ml vegetable stock
350g broccoli, chopped roughly
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped into small cubes
Salt, pepper and fresh nutmeg
4 thin slices of baguette or other crusty bread
2 tbsp olive oil
100g blue cheese

Preheat the oven to 160C.
For the soup:
Heat the oil in a saucepan and sauté the onions and garlic together until soft.  
Add the stock and broccoli together along with the chopped potatoes. 
Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are tender. 
Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. 
Season to taste with salt, pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg.

For the croutons:
Brush the bread with olive oil then top with sliced or crumbled blue cheese (depending on the texture of the cheese)
Place the slices on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until the bread is crispy and the cheese melted. 
Cut the bread into small squares. 
Serve the soup scattered with a few blue cheese croutons.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Treacle Scones

I've abandoned my blog these past few weeks. There has not been a moment to spare between getting the cafe up and running, creating menus, shopping, testing, advertising and trying to get up to speed with all the legal paperwork required. We've been catering birthday parties, business lunches, training days and somehow trying to create routines and organise the cafe into the bargin. So trying out new recipes has not been a problem, just finding the time to write them down and take photographs of them!

This month I have been experimenting with scones, cranberry and orange, vanilla rhubarb, blueberry, cheese and dill and maple syrup. Many of our customers love the traditional plain scone that has been a staple of most cafe menus for many years but most seem to be attracted to the more unusual fruit-filled versions.

In search of a toffee flavoured scone, I started to search through all my oldest cookbooks. Treacle scones are a very old-fashioned and traditional Scottish tea-time treat. All the leather bound cookbooks I've inherited have recipes, and all the wee Scottish cookbooks picked up on holidays or in charity shops feature their own versions. This is an amalgam of various very similar recipes. The treacle (molasses) can be replaced by golden syrup for a lighter version.

Treacle Scones
225g self-raising flour
55g butter
25g caster sugar
Half a teaspoon of cinnamon
2 tablespoons black treacle
Pinch of salt
Approx 115ml milk

Pre-heat the oven to 220C/Gas 7.
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl.
Rub in the butter lightly until the mixture has the texture of breadcrumbs.
Stir in the sugar, cinnamon and treacle then add just enough milk to make a soft dough.
Bring together and roll out on a floured board.
Cut into rounds with a 10cm pastry cutter.
Butter a baking tray and place the scones on this.
Brush with a little milk and bake for 12 minutes until golden and aromatic.
Cool on a wire rack and serve dripping with butter and jam.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Thai Spiced Sweet Potato Soup

The weather gods are on our side this week, West Linton must be in favour. The sun is out, the sky is blue and the cafe is buzzing.

We are working hard to get word out about the Green Apple Cafe, dropping flyers, setting up a facebook page, tweeting regularly, I hope it gets everyone in our local area to come by and visit, catch up with friends and try out our new menu. Every day we make fresh soups, salads, paninis and lots of yummy cakes.

At home, I am testing out new soup recipes to add some spice to the summer menu. If we have the predicted "barbecue summer" we will be needing some fresh and light flavours to entice people in so we are experimenting with flavours from hotter climes: India, Thailand and the Middle East. We've had curried butternut squash soup, chicken noodle soup with lemongrass and ginger and today, a gentle sweetly spiced Thai soup with creamy coconut milk and a little bit of a chilli kick.

Thanks to everyone who has come out to support us in our first few weeks, I hope you all come back again soon.

Thai Spiced Sweet Potato Soup
1tbsp vegetable oil onions, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
2 heaped tsp Thai red curry paste
1 can coconut milk
1 litre chicken stock
1 kilo sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Fresh Thai basil or coriander to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Saute the onions and garlic gently until soft - around 5 minutes.
Stir in the curry paste and fry gently for anonther minute or two to release the flavours from the spices.
Add the coconut milk and chicken stock, bring to a simmer and stir to blend.
Put the sweet potatoes  in the pan and simmer for 15-20 minutes until they are soft.
Blend the soup to a smooth puree then season to taste with salt and lots of black pepper.
Sprinkle with basil or coriander and serve with hot naan bread.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

Don't you just love spring. Sometimes it seems forever coming, I spend weeks on wee forages into the garden looking for buds, checking the herbs for signs of new life and then eventually feeling the delight at finding those first tender stems of rhubarb poking through their big cabbage-like leaves.

Most of those early signs of life are snapped up by my boys for the traditional Scottish treat of raw rhubarb dipped in a pot of sugar but I managed to spirit a few away to try these muffins.

Green Apple Cafe is a week old now and the fresh food and home baking seems to be going down well with those who have ventured way out into the countryside to find us. This week we've been trying out all sorts of recipes: oatmeal biscuits, rocky road cookies, cupcakes, tray bakes and scones to name just a few but just for today I need to make the most of this meagre bounty from the garden. I started with rhubarb scones, then made rhubarb crumble cupcakes (definitely coming back to those) but my favourite of the day is rhubarb strawberry muffins. On sale with coffee tomorrow.

Rhubarb Strawberry Muffins

150 g rhubarb
1 tbsp sugar
280g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
85g caster sugar
1 egg
125 ml whole milk
150 ml strawberry yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2oz melted butter
5 strawberries

Chop the rhubarb and place the rhubarb and a tablespoon of sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add just enough water to cover. Cook gently for around 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool while you prepare the muffin batter.
Prepare the muffin tins. Preheat oven to 180C.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar.
In a seperate bowl, whisk the egg, milk, yogurt, butter and vanilla together.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir to combine. The batter will be slightly lumpy.
Add the prepared rhubarb and stir through the muffin batter.
Top each muffin with half a strawberry.
Spoon into muffin tins and bake for 18-20 minutes.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Bring It on!

Yeah..... bring it on!!! After weeks of anxiety, I am getting really excited about the cafe@The Hub opening this week. We'll be open tuesdays, thursdays and fridays initially will extend the opening hours soon. The plan is to start out with a fresh and simple menu and build our repertoire slowly. But still, I am obsessively testing all sorts of soup and panini recipes this week just for fun. 

When the cafe opens, we'll be rotating sandwiches, testing out fillings and chatting to visitors to see what our customers would most like to see on the menu. Meantime, I am devouring cookbooks, blogs and cafe menus and taste testing any and all sandwich fillings I come across. Really it is the best excuse ever to spend all my time making cakes and going out for coffees - all in the name of research.

This sweet and sour relish is one of my favourite condiments. Its strength is beautiful with blue cheese, the richness cuts through the sharpness of goat cheese and its balsamic sweetness adds depth of flavour to beef or roast vegetable paninis.

Today's lunch will be roast beef sandwiches with caramelised onion relish. A little blue cheese adds depth, a slick of mustard adds bite and a handful of rocket adds a peppery crunch but I love it best served simply with rare beef.

Caramelised Onion Relish

4tbsp olive oil
4 large red onions, finely sliced into half moons
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Saute the onions gently for 30-40 minutes until soft and golden. Add the garlic for the last few minutes of cooking and gently stir through the gelatinous oniony mess. Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar and stir well through the onion mixture. Bubble gently for a minute or two to allow the sweet and sour flavours to meld then season to taste. Keep in the fridge and use within a week or bottle as you would chutney or jam (in sterilised jars) where it will keep in the pantry for months.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Dark Chocolate and Stem Ginger Cookies

I've been a cookie monster this week. I've made Scottish shortbreads flavoured with lemon zest, with cardamom and with vanilla seeds (more of those later). I've made American chewy cookies with chocolate chips, marshmallows and smarties, I've made Smitten Kitchen's World Peace cookies and I've searched for the perfect adult-friendly chocolate cookie.

Grown-up cookies are not too sweet, not too sugary and not too colourful. They have rich and decadant flavours and sometimes traditional, sometimes startling combinations. This is my favourite recipe of the week so far but we are still in the development stage.... I have a feeling these might become biscotti before the week is out. To be continued.....

Dark Chocolate and Stem Ginger Cookies
345g plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
250g butter
200g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 tbsp chopped stem ginger

Preheat the oven to 175C.
Beat the sugar and butter together until light and airy.
Whisk in the beaten egg and vanilla extract.
In a seperate bowl, sift the flour together with the cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
Stir the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Then stir in the chocolate and ginger. Bring the mixture together, it will be soft. Scoop walnut sized balls of dough and spread out on cookie sheets - give them lots of space, they will spread out.
Bake for 12 minutes then allow to cool slightly on the baking trays, they will firm up as they cool.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Fresh Soup, Hummus and Roast Vegetable Panini, and a Lovely Cake to Finish

I have not written very much for the last couple of weeks. Life just got in the way. However, now I am very excited and more than a little bit nervous to say that I have taken on the lease on a very lovely local cafe. I am currently on a vertical learning curve (and I've hardly done anything yet) working out rules and regs, ordering and suppliers, insurances and decor.... I've barely had time to plan out all the fun bits (the food and the drinks that is) so any and all suggestions welcome - cakes, sandwich fillings, salads etc etc etc.

I will be asking for more help and ideas and writing at length later but for today, I really need to get back to feeding my family. They are soon to contract scurvy, as these past couple of weeks, most of my time has been spent at the computer and very little making lovely food.

Much as they need a good solid vegetable-filled meal, they are going to spend another week eating cookies, cakes and tray-bakes while I test out recipes for the cafe.... I'm sure there will not be too many complaints!

Fruit Crunchies
100g butter
75g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
100g self-raising flour
a pinch of salt
100g porridge oats
50g finely chopped dates
50g finely chopped dried apricots
50g finely chopped pecan nuts

Preheat the oven to 160C. Prepare a cookie sheet.
On a low heat, melt butter, sugar and syrup together.
In a seperate bowl, sift flour and salt together and add the oats, dried fruit and nuts.
Add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients in the bowl.
Bring together to make a dough. Add a tablespoon or two of water if needed.
Roll the dough into around 20 walnut sized balls.
Place on baking tray and press down with the palm of your hand.
Bake for 12minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack.
Serve with cold milk or hot coffee.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Goat Cheese and Spring Onion Muffins

Savoury muffins! Love them or hate them? I wanted something mild but tangy, light but dense to serve with a steaming bowl of soup. The soup was traditional, hot and unremarkable: red lentils, a little bit of carrot, some onion and garlic, stock, but these muffins elevated it to a new level. Strong goat cheese (I used a sharp crumbly one) melting into the smooth creaminess of the soup is the perfect partner for a mild soup. They are also beautiful made with blue cheese and walnuts.

Goat Cheese and Spring Onion Muffins
220g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
240ml milk
100ml vegetable oil
1 egg
150g goat cheese, crumbled
4 spring onions, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180C. Prepare a 12 hole muffin tin.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
In a jug, whisk the milk, oil and egg together. Add the cheese and spring onions to the wet ingredients. Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined. Fill the muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes until golden and aromatic. Serve warm.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Spinach and Lemon Hummus

In this wee recipe I am trying to quietly insinuate more vegetables into our family diet. We manage our five-a-day and eat a lot of fruit but sometimes I think my repertoire of family-friendly (read 6-year-old friendy) vegetable dishes is going in ever decreasing circles. So although I throw fresh veg into every soup, fritatta, stir fry and casserole, (and even the odd cake and cookie) I am, like every parent I know, always trying to find ways to make vegetables more enticing.

Hummus starts life as a pretty healthy snack, tahini, chickpeas, garlic and olive oil all make it one of the better mid-morning or lunch options, but to give it an iron-rich kick and produce the most beautiful colour, throw in a couple of big handfuls of fresh new season's greens and give it some zing with lots of fresh lemon juice and zest. As I've said before on this recipe with crispy lamb, I love hummus and my family eat an unhealthy amount of it each week so any variation on a theme is worth a try. For a little bit of added crunch, throw a handful of toasted pine nuts over the top just before serving. Serve with baked pitta chips or chopped crudites.

Spinach and Lemon Hummus           with baked pitta chips

For the hummus:
2 large handfuls of baby spinach leaves
400g tin chickpeas, drained
1 lemon, juice and zest
2 tbsp tahini
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
100ml olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp plain greek yogurt

Wash the spinach and, while still wet, throw into a heavy based pan. Put a lid on, turn the heat on and allow it to steam in its own liquid for a minute or two till wilted. Drain off the cooking liquor in the base of the pan and squeeze out the spinach to remove any remaining liquid.
Blend the spinach with all the rest of the hummus ingredients together in a food processor until smooth.
Spread thinly across a large plate.

For the baked pitta chips:
4 pitta breads
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sea salt

Heat the oven to 180C.
Cut the pitta breads into small triangles. Lay out on a baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over the top. Sprinkle a little paprika and sea salt on to each triangle.
Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes till fragrant and golden.  

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Muscovado Baked Beans

Will this winter never end? Will the snow never go away? Will the temperature ever rise above zero again?

I've never felt so desperate for spring to arrive as this year. Even on days like today where the air is crisp, the sun bright and the buds beginning to emerge - you know, the very best kind of winter day that reaffirms all you believe about living and loving the seasons, I am desperate. I have to brace myself to even leave the house now because I am dog tired of thick snow, extreme cold, black ice, wearing layers and seeing my own breath.

The only thing to do in the face of such despair is cook. So back to winter warmers, I've been hunting through my vast cookbook collection and through piles of newspaper clippings and recipes written on scraps of paper to find something that I have not made in a while, something to simultaneously warm our bones against the onslaught of this endless Scottish winter and properly cheer me up.

Muscovado Baked Bean Crumble (a mouthful in more than one way)

A good glug of olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp paprika
2x 400g tin haricot beans (or 250g dried beans, soaked and cooked according to pack instructions)
1x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp dijon mustard

(optional 2 tbsp plum chutney)
150ml beer (I used corona)
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the crumble topping:
100g cold butter
100g flour
75g porridge oats
100g strong cheddar cheese

Pre-heat oven to 200C.
To make the beans:
Heat olive oil in a heavy based pan and saute the onion and garlic till soft.
Add paprika, beans and tomatoes. Stir well then add the sugar, ketchup, mustard and chutney if using. Stir well then add beer to thin the sauce a little. Season with thyme, a few grinds of black pepper and a hefty pinch of salt. Allow to simmer gently for around 20 minutes to allow the flavours to combine. Add a little water if required.

For the crumble:
Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then stir in the oats and cheese.

To assemble:
Put the beans into an ovenproof dish and top with the crumble mixture.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden and burbling.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Banana Yogurt Muffins

I've been on the most wonderful hillwalking trip to the Lake District for the weekend, eating rich food and hanging out with my girlfriends. Gorgeous though it was, I've come home totally exhausted and planning to eat less, drink less wine, run harder and generally get back to basics with food. 

To this end, as well as organising lots of long runs and quiet nights, (it should last a week or so!) I am trying out healthier breakfast and snack recipes. I'd rather go hungry than find myself eating healthy food that tastes of nothing so need to find ways of getting the health benefits while making food that really tastes great. These muffins are unbelievably morish (maybe not such a good thing) but have a healthy dose of bran and natural yogurt.

Banana Muffins with yogurt and bran
250g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g caster sugar
75g bran
3 small overripe bananas
4tbsp vegetable oil
4 tbsp natural yogurt
100ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180C. Fill a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.
Put the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate, sugar and bran into a bowl and mix well.
In another bowl, mash the bananas together with the oil, yogurt, milk and vanilla. Whisk together well.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir together until only just combined. Fill the muffin cups and bake for 15-20 minutes until risen and golden.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Yorkshire Pudding with Goat Cheese and Chutney

This week I've been trying out new recipes to showcase my sister's fantastic chutneys. ( just in case I have not already mentioned it/emailed it/expunged at length on how fantastic she is.)

Similar to American popovers,these Yorkshire puddings are usually served alongside a sunday roast and are often made in a single large tin with the fat and juices from the roasting joint of meat.

I've removed the meat juices, replaced the fat with olive oil and added some goat cheese (don't tell anyone from Yorkshire) to the batter resulting in a rich cheesy golden crust with a meltingly tender centre. They are the perfect foil for the smoky undertones of whisky peach chutney or the rich sweetness of fig and ginger. (Oh and my kids ate two dozen of them variously flavoured with goat cheese, parmesan and cheddar as after-school snacks this week - a huge hit!)

Yorkshire Pudding with goat cheese and chutney
300ml of milk  
4 eggs
salt and black pepper
220g flour 
A couple of tablespoons of olive oil
6oz young goat cheese

Set the oven to 220° C.
Beat together the milk, eggs, salt and pepper.
Add the flour, give a good whisk and let the mixture stand for at least half an hour.
Drizzle a little oil into each of the holes in a 12 muffin tin (or 24 hole mini-muffin tin for canape sized yorkies.)
Put the tin in the oven.
When the oil is very hot and sizzling, add the Yorkshire pudding mixture in each tin, filling them about two thirds full.
On top of the batter, add a large teaspoon of goat cheese to the centre of each yorkshire pud.
Return it to the oven and let them cook for 20 minutes until beautifully puffed up and golden.
Serve while hot with good chutney.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Quickest Ever Canapes -a book group special

I met with the girls in my book group last night. They are a discerning bunch and whoever hosts our monthly catch-up always tries to provide interesting food as part of the evening's entertainment.

So, my turn last night but between working a ten hour day, feeding the kids and trying to make the house presentable to adults, I didn't have much time to prepare unusual and stylish nibbles to accompany wine and book chat. Instead I had to fall back on a favourite quick but gorgeous d-i-y canape.

If you have time and inclination, make your own blinis, otherwise, buy them in and use all your creative skills assembling a platter of blinis, salmon and creme fraiche for everyone to help themselves to.

Lemon Vodka-Creme Fraiche Blinis
300ml creme fraiche
3tbsp lemon vodka
Zest of one lemon, finely grated
1 tbsp capers, chopped

Whisk together the creme fraiche and vodka then stir through the lemon zest and capers

To serve:
Smoked Salmon
Blinis - either home made or shop-bought

Friday, 12 February 2010

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

I love these - (reasonably) healthy pancakes. I can't bring myself to eat porridge for breakfast. Well maybe once a year on a really cold day when I have flu and want to stay in bed. Aside from that I have to get my health fix by sneaking it into other recipes. Oatmeal is full of nutrients, it is thought to have cancer fighting properties as well as reducing the liklihood of heart disease. Basically something really should eat whether we like it or not.

So another day... another pancake recipe. With bananas, oatmeal and a hint of vanilla whisked in to this batter, these are rich, filling and incredibly morish. 
These go down well with kids with a tablespoon of peanut butter whisked into the batter or served with peanut butter instead of honey. Roll on Pancake Tuesday.... although I have not quite decided what we'll be eating that day! 

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes with orange blossom honey drizzle

1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg 
1 tbsp sugar
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
Milk to mix
A little oil 
Orange blossom honey to serve

Whisk together flour, oats, bicarbonate, baking powder, egg, sugar, bananas and vanilla. 
Add enough milk to make a thick pourable liquid.  
Heat a griddle or heavy frying pan on a medium heat. 
Lightly oil the pan.
Pour a couple of tablespoons of batter per pancake onto the pan. You may be able to fit three or four small pancakes on the surface.
When the surface of the pancakes have become covered in bubbles, flip them over using a palette knife and cook on the other side.
Once cooked on both sides, remove to a warm plate and cover with a tea-towel until ready to serve.

After each round of pancakes, lightly oil the griddle or pan once more.
Serve with a drizzle of orange blossom (or other) honey.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Blueberry Scotch Pancakes with Maple Butter

Pancake Tuesday approaches. In typically British style, there is no mardi gras or carnival to celebrate the season, just a big build up to a single day with a different sort of dessert! Although typically as soon as the reminders appear in the shops, you know the sort of thing - lemons and sugar by the till,  golden syrup in Warhol-esque towers in the middle of aisles, my boys start craving pancakes three times a day.

So Pancake Tuesday is still almost a week away and we have already exhausted our supplies of flour, baking powder and syrup having had pancakes for breakfast, after school snack and (just once so far) for dinner. We are now aiming to try a new pancake every day until next tuesday. Our latest incarnation is fruit filled and topped with the most gloriously morish butter.

Blueberry Scotch Pancakes
1 cup plain flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 egg
1 tbsp maple syrup
milk to mix
2 tbsp blueberries
a smidgen of vegetable oil 

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and bicarbonate together.
Whisk together the egg and maple syrup.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry then add enough milk to make a thick but pourable liquid.
Heat a griddle or heavy frying pan. Lightly oil the pan.
Pour a couple of tablespoons of batter per pancake onto the pan.
When the surface of the pancakes have become covered in bubbles, flip them over using a palette knife and cook on the other side. 
Once cooked on both sides, remove to a warm plate and cover with a tea-towel until ready to serve.
Lightly oil the pan in between rounds of pancakes.
Serve a stack of blueberry pancakes with a dollop of maple butter.(below)

Maple Butter
4tbsp butter
4 tbsp maple syrup
Whisk together till blended.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Spicy Hummus with Crispy Lamb

Middle Eastern and North African food is a wee passion in my kitchen. Whenever I search for dinner ideas, I return again and again to the books that experiment with flavours of the east: Claudia Roden's 'Arabesque', Sam Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi's 'Ottolenghi: The Cookbook' and Sam and Sam Clark's Moro books among others. For me the attraction is in the aromatic spices, slow cooking and liberal use of beans and seeds.

Hummus is one of my favourite foods of all time, we eat our way through an astonishing amount of hummus each week, served with salad on flatbreads for lunch, as afterschool snack with carrots and sugarsnaps, or as late night snack with pitta bread and a glass of wine.

No matter how good some of the shop bought versions are, it never tastes as good as when you make it yourself. Hummus itself takes five minutes to throw together but this recipe transforms it from a simple dip into a more luxurious starter or supper.

For a vegetarian version, liberally sprinkle with toasted pine nuts, or with chickpeas cooked in place of the lamb.
Spicy Hummus with Crispy Lamb

For the hummus:
400g tin chickpeas, drained
1 lemon, juice and zest
2 tbsp tahini
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
100ml olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp plain greek yogurt

For the crispy lamb:
100g minced lamb
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp harrisa or chilli paste
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Blend all the hummus ingredients together in a food processor until smooth.
Spread thinly across a large plate.
Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and saute the minced lamb till browned. Add the harissa, cumin, coriander and cinnamon and cook gently for around 5 minutes until the lamb starts to become a little crispy.
Scatter the lamb over the hummus and sprinkle the smoked paprika over everything. Just before serving anoint with a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and serve with flatbreads.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Smoked Fish Fritatta

The sun shines gloriously, fooling you in your cocoon that it is warm and spring-like outdoors. When you emerge, the weather nips and the air burns your lungs with its chill. So I've been in the kitchen more than usual this week experimenting with traditional Scottish winter food. It suits the weather and our sense of local and sustainable food but if you're not careful, you might find yourself eating turnip in various forms for six months of the year. Because of that, smoked fish and meat is common in Scotland, helping excite our taste buds and encouraging our winter diet to stray from the ubiquitous tunip.

This whole week has been spent in a fug of smoky air. I've had smoked haddock fishcakes, Cullen Skink, smoked salmon kedgeree and more than one flavour of fritatta. Today it smells like breakfast time in a wee country B&B. Smoked fish, whipped eggs and creamy potatoes are cooking placidly on the hob making a delicate but dense fritatta.

I love smoked fish, not just salmon but trout, mackeral, haddock even smoked mussels and crab. Only gentle cooking and some simple companions are needed to serve as a foil for its strength and showcase its gutsy flavours. This is based on a traditional Cullen Skink soup, rich, creamy and dense but, departing from tradition a little, it has light curry spicing.

Cullen Skink Fritatta
250g smoked, undyed haddock
100ml milk
6 eggs
100ml double cream
2 tbsp butter
1 leek, finely sliced
1 tsp medium curry powder
2 potatoes, cooked and diced
Salt and Pepper
Small bunch parsley

Poach the fish in the milk and enough water to cover for 4-6 minutes till lightly cooked. Drain and set aside
Beat the eggs and cream together till light and fluffy. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a frying pan and saute the leeks until soft and melting.
Add the curry powder and cook gently for a minute or two. 
Add the potatoes and stir gently for a few minutes to meld with the leeks and spices.
Flake the fish into the fritatta and pour the eggs and cream into the pan.
Cook on a low heat until the fish is cooked through and the eggs begin to set.
Sprinkle with a few grinds of pepper, some parsley and a scant 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt. 
Place the pan under a preheated grill until the frittata is set and golden on top.
Serve with oatcakes and salad and a curry spiced chutney.