With the English invasion by Scottish MPs now complete, haggis is well and truly back on the menu. Many a person recoils at the word 'haggis' much like Davy Cameron recoils when the name Nicola is mentioned....however there is much myth and misinformation about this famous Scottish dish.
Ahh, Spring. My favourite season and it’s here. Increasing temperatures, growing day light house and the yet absence of flocks of tourists into my city. Even without the food, it’s bliss. Add the advent of spring pea, spring lamb, and asparagus and I’m veritably on cloud 9.
This week I decided to celebrated the new found spring in my step (get it?) with one of my favourite recipes for the season: pea and mint mousse with lemon oil and a parmesan crisp. Refreshing, not too heavy, seasoned off with sharp lemon and some crunchy Maldon sea salt; it is the perfect dish for this time of year.
Serve as a starter or lunch dish and swap out the parmesan for grana padano if you want to make it vegetarian.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
Half a bag of frozen peas
2 sprigs of fresh mint, stalks removed
Juice of half a lemon
1 heaped tablespoon of natural yoghurt
1 tablespoon of parmesan
Pinch of Maldon sea salt
For the parmesan crisp:
Parmesan, as finely grated as possible
For the lemon oil:
Just liberally squeeze lemon juice into some olive oil and whip it up with a fork. About 1 parts to 4, or according to taste.
Garnish: natural yoghurt (optional)
1. For the mousse; boil some water and tip the frozen peas in. Leave, on heat, for around 2-3 minutes until they’re warmed through, beginning to float, but aren’t soft or mushy. Sieve and run under cold water until cooled through.
2. Put in a blender with the mint, yoghurt and parmesan and blitz until finely blended. Season with the lemon juice and Maldon salt, to taste. If it’s a bit dry, add a little more yoghurt – but you want the consistency to be fairly thick; enough to be able to hold its shape. Put in the fridge to chill until ready to serve.
3. For the Parmesan crisp: heat the oven to 180C. Line the back of a baking tray, or a silicone baking sheet, with baking paper. To stop it blowing around in a fan oven, you can pour some oil on the tray and use it to stick the paper down. Get a chef ring, place on the sheet and scatter a heaped teaspoon of parmesan into it so that a thin circle of parmesan is left on the tray when it’s removed. Repeat this until you’ve got as many circles of cheese as you want.
4. Bake in the oven for around 8 minutes until the parmesan has bubbled and is just starting to think about going golden – you don’t want them to brown though so keep a close eye on them. Take them out at this stage, remove from the sheet with a spatula and leave to cool on a rack.
5. Plate up: use a mould to shape a neat circle of the pea and mint mouse onto a chilled plate. Drizzle the lovely lemon oil all around, perch the parmesan crisp on top of the mousse and serve immediately. Enjoy – the true flavour of Spring.
If you follow my blog, you'll know that a dessert beloved to me is the classic tarte tatin. Delicious, oozing with fruit juice and caramel; what more, really, could a girl want. And when Spring comes around and those beautiful Braeburn apples are in season, my heart starts beating for my favourite treat; a true flavour of Spring.
Recently I scaled things down and added a few quirks of rosemary and salt. It works really well. The rosemary adds an earthy, fragrant layer sitting over the succulent apple. The salt's the real star though. Caramel and salt naturally pair well anyway. Salt, as a natural flavour enhancer, brings out the sweetness and slight bitterness of the caramel and binds the whole dish together. In addition, I think there are very few things in life more beautiful than tiny, exquisite little flakes of sea salt (obviously, Maldon), perched on top of something tasty.
These make great individual desserts or canapes for a party.
Ingredients (makes 12 mini tartes):
Equipment: a muffin/ cupcake metal baking tray
1 350g pack of all butter puff pastry, rolled out to about 3mm thickness and cut into circles the size of your cupcake tin holes. An easy way to do this is to make a cardboard circle cut out the same size, then use it as a stencil on the pastry, cutting pastry circles out with a knife.
3 Braeburn apples, peeled, cored and cut into six
200g white granulated sugar
1 sprig of rosemary
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out (and kept!) and pod
Maldon sea salt
1. Preheat an oven to 180C.
2. Put the sugar and water in a heavy based frying pan and leave over medium heat without stirring until the sugar has dissolved in the water and it’s bubbling away. Continue over medium high heat until the mixture thickens into a syrup and then begins turning a deep golden, caramel colour. When it’s turned, stir in the butter and season with a healthy pinch of Maldon sea salt.
3. Lay the apple slices, vanilla (seeds and pod) and the rosemary in the caramel and cook on both sides for around 3-4 minutes, until cooked through, but still firm. Let cool for a couple of minutes so that the caramel isn’t burning hot to handle and remove the rosemary and vanilla.
4. Place your apple slices in the bottom of the cupcake tin slots, probably around two per slot depending on the size. Spoon in some sauce in each.
5. Lay your pastry circles over the apple, and try to tuck the edges down the sides and under the apple a little bit, so that it bakes hugging the apple (see the photos below).
6. Bake in the oven for around 10 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and crisp. Remove and leave to cool for a couple of minutes. While the tartes are still warm (otherwise they’ll fuse to the tin), flip them out carefully with a spoon. Serve warm.
Herrings are a fabulous, and most underused, ingredient. Usually extraordinarily cheap, rich in omega oils and, most importantly in my book, delicious - I can't understand why they aren't used more in day to day cookery!
They are most commonly seen picked, in their 'rollmop' form, however are also tasty simply fried. Follow the below recipe to get some delicious rollmops that will keep for up to a month. Yummy in a salad, on toasted rye bread, or munched on simply alone.
Recipe adapted from the fabulous one by dear Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Extras: 2 sterilized 500 ml jars
1. Submerge the herring fillets in the salt and water and leave to brine for at least 2 hours, chilled.
2. While that's going on, make the pickling liquor. Put all the ingredients except the fresh dill into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and leave to cool.
3. After two hours, take the fillets out of the brine and pat dry. Roll the fillets up, skin side out, from tail to head end and pack into the jars, along with the dill. Pour the liquor over the top so it covers the fish. Seal the jars and put in the refrigerator for 3 days to pickle. They'll be best after around 5 and will keep for up to a month, refrigerated.
Sometimes in the morning only something sweet will do. This recipe is for those times.
Banana, crisped and sweet with caramelised sugar, gooey and rich french toast, slightly sour yoghurt, spiced with rose water, all drizzled in a warm orange syrup. A creation of dreams.
Recipe (Serves 4)
For the French Toast:
4 thick slices of good white farmhouse bread
4 tbsp butter, melted
4 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp granulated white sugar + some extra to sprinkle
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tsp plain flour
For the syrup:
90g granulated white sugar
Zest of 1 orange (unwaxed)
3 bananas, not too ripe
1 tbsp butter
2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
50g natural yoghurt
1 tsp rose water (more, to taste)
1. For the banana: slice the banana diagonally into 1 cm thick slices. Heat a thick based non-stick frying pan until hot. Scatter the sugar inside the frying pan and place the banana slices on top and leave undisturbed until crisp, and caramelised brown. Turn over and caramelise the other side. Finish by chucking in the butter and using it to loosen up the banana slices from the pan, if they are starting to stick.
2. For the syrup: put all the ingredients into a saucepan and simmer on high heat until the mixture reduces to form a syrup. It should be just thicker than water, but not so reduced that it starts to turn brown and caramelise. Reheat when you need it.
3. For the rose yoghurt: mix the yoghurt and rose water together. Taste - add more rose water to taste.
4. For the french toast: mix 2 tablespoons of the melted butter with the eggs, sugar, salt, flour and cinnamon. Heat the rest of the butter in a frying pan until bubbling. Soak the bread in the egg mixture, 30 seconds for each side and then lay into the hot frying pan. Cook for around 2 minutes on each side, until golden. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with a little sugar.
5. Plate: lay the hot french toast on a warm plate, and place pieces of the caramelised banana on top, drizzle some of the yummy hot syrup over and then finish with some drizzles of the rose yoghurt. Serve immediately.
Not to conform to the Yorkshire stereotype, but ooo by gum, I do love a pie. And I do struggle to find a good pork pie especially outside of the North. There's a decent place in Borough Market, but it's nothing like home; juicy, salty pork, achingly flavoursome jelly and crisp, yet crumbly, savoury pastry that just tastes of the pig. Bone quivering. If I was a princess and life was a Disney movie, my prince could forget about a ring or jewels or what not....just present me with a pork pie and I'm yours. Thinking about it, I should probably add this fact to my Tinder profile.
This recipe is a reet good stab at an excellent one. It takes about a day in total to make and get chilled, so make the day before and add it to your slap up weekend lunch table.
Buy the best pork that you can - it's the star of the dish so make it good and make it British.
Ingredients (makes 1 pie):
125g lean pork, e.g. loin
125g fatty pork, e.g. belly
4 rashers of smoked bacon, cubed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 heaped teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped (stalks removed)
1 heaped teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
250g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
2o0ml ham stock
(Or make your own by boiling up some pork bones with onion and herbs, reducing the stock and leaving to cool and set)
Extras: approx. 11cm pork pie tin
1. Cube the pork into small cubes, maybe half a centimeter across. Put into a bowl with the bacon. Season with the cayenne, pepper, salt, thyme and sage and mix together thoroughly. Set aside to let the flavours infuse while you make the pastry.
2. For the pastry, warm the milk and half the lard in a saucepan on low heat until the lard has melted. Leave to cool.
3. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut the remaining lard into small cubes and rub into the flour with your fingers to form breadcrumbs. Then make a well in the centre and gradually mix in the cooled milk and lard mix, to form a smooth dough. If it's too dry, add a bit more water, and be aware that it might not need all the milk lard mix too - use your judgement.
4. Preheat the oven to 160 celsius. Divide the pastry into 2 - one large lump and one small one.
5. Roll out the large lump until it is maybe 4 mm thick. Line the tin by carefully laying it into the tin and pressing it around the sides. It will probably break at this stage, since the pastry is quite brittle. Don't worry about it. Patch together the holes as best you can and just make sure that there are no gaps.
6. Roll out the small lump to form the lid. A good tactic is to roll it out and then cut around the tin - it should be the same size that way.
7. Spoon the pork mix into the tin. Pack it in but not too tightly or you won't be able to fit the jelly in later. Put the lid on top and seal the edges by pinching the pastry together. Make a small circular hole in the centre of the pie top to let steam escape and to allow you to pour the jelly in later - I use a knife to cut a small cross and then use the handle of a wooden spoon to push through.
8. Decorate the top of the pie now if you like with some leaves cut out of the excess pastry. Brush the top of the pie with the beaten egg - this gives it a lovely glossy shine when it has been baked.
9. Place the pie onto a tray and bake in the centre of the oven for one hour. After one hour, cover the top of the pie with a piece of damp baking paper to stop it browning further, turn the heat down to 140 celsius and cook for another hour.
10. While this is baking, make up your jelly mix by combining the ham stock and gelatin. Use the instructions that come with your gelatin, and leave to cool completely.
11. Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool. Once cooled, put a small funnel in the hole in the top of the pie and pour in the jelly, until it fills up the whole pie. Put the pie in the fridge and allow the jelly to fully set for a couple of hours. Eat and enjoy.
Recently I've fallen back in love with Haggis. Admittedly, our relationship had only been on a brief break, and it certainly made our reunion all the sweeter. Before we split, things between us had gotten a bit stale. You couldn't separate it from its old pals, neeps and tatties, and it was all too often doused with whisky, reeking of booze and disappointingly, inevitably limp.
But now, Haggis has changed its ways. I see it in a whole new way and can't keep my hands off it! I'm loving spicing it up and every day I can't wait to come home and try new things with it.
Jokes aside, all the above is true. Haggis is so much more than something you eat once a year at Burns night, boiled in a stomach and served with a whisky cream sauce. I had my eyes opened recently at a Haggis and Indian tasting where they took this very Scottish ingredient to the East and most successfully! Since then I've been experimenting at home. From sandwiches to the below recipe, the results have been both tasty and surprising. Be brave, give it a whirl; it won't bite and it probably won't even 'baa'.
Ingredients (Serves 4):
260g Macsween's Haggis (For this recipe I used their AMAZING venison one, but you can use their normal or vegetarian one as you like)
1 egg, beaten
Vegetable oil for frying. Enough to fill a saucepan at least 2 inches.
For the sauce:
1 bunch fresh coriander
1 bunch fresh mint
1 red chili (more or less to taste)
2 cloves garlic
Juice of half a lemon
1.5 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1. Begin heating up the oil gently over a low heat. It will take a while to heat and you don't want to bring it up too fast, so put it on a low heat and let it warm while you prepare the rest. It is hot enough when you drop a breadcrumb into it and it sizzles fairly vigorously.
2. Remove the Haggis from its skin and break it into chunks. Microwave it on high for about 2 minutes until it is cooked.
3. Season the beaten egg with salt and pepper generously.
4. Take a handful of Haggis and roll it into a ball about one inch across, or whatever size you'd like it to be. Dip it in the beaten egg, and then roll it in the breadcrumbs until it is evenly coated.
5. Carefully lower it into the hot oil and deep fry for about two minutes, until it is golden brown and crisp all over. Remove and place on kitchen paper (to soak up the oil). Repeat until all the Haggis is used.
6. To make the sauce: simply blend all the sauce ingredients in a processor/ blender/ pestle and mortar until it forms a paste with about the same consistency as a loose pesto (or a ketchup!). This can be made in advance and kept in the fridge until ready for serving.
7. Serve the crisp Haggis balls immediately with the spicy coriander dip. Enjoy.
Borek are traditional Turkish pastries, cigar shaped and filled with cheese and herbs. The pastry around the outside is crisp and the inside is salty, fresh with herb and soft. I love them served with Tzatziki, a yoghurt dip with cucumber and mint, or just with plain unsweetened yoghurt. Although you can buy them ready made in Middle Eastern supermarkets, and most restaurants in Turkey serve them as standard, they are really easy to make yourself at home. Give it a go.
Ingredients (Serves 4):
Yufka pastry sheets (1 pack is more than enough) or filo pastry sheets
300g feta cheese
1 egg, beaten and divided in 2 portions
1 handful of mint, chopped (no stalks)
½ handful of coriander, chopped (you can use the stalks)
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
Water (for sealing the borek)
1. Preheat an oven to 220 Celsius
2. Place the cheese, herbs and half the egg in a bowl and mix together thoroughly. Add the lemon juice and season with a little salt and plenty of pepper.
3. Cut the pastry into triangles by slicing into 2 long rectangles and then slicing each rectangle diagonally repeatedly to get many even thin triangles – like slices of pizza in shape and about 2 inches wide (at the base of the triangle).
4. If you’re using filo, use three layers as it is very thin. Lay one triangle (or 3 stacked on top of each other if filo) in front of you, with the base of the triangle away from you and the pointy end closest to you. Place 1 tablespoon of the filling at the base end and roll the base end up and over it, then roll it up to the pointy end, flattening it a bit as you go and rolling it into a thin cigar shape.
5. Seal by wetting the pointy tip and pressing it onto the cigar. Place onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Repeat.
6. Brush each cigar with the other half of the beaten egg completely. Then brush with olive oil.
7. Bake for around 15 minutes or until they are golden brown and crisp. Keep an eye on it for this after about 12 minutes. Serve warm, with tzatziki or a plain unsweetened natural yoghurt dip.
This chilled pea and mint soup, served with goat's cheese and garnished with garlic cress and almonds, is a great, fresh starter or lunch.
Even better, you can make it way in advance and simply assemble at the point of serving.
Ingredients (Serves 4):
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
800g frozen peas
700ml good quality chicken stock
100g natural yoghurt
Good olive oil
Juice of one lemon
100g soft goats cheese or curd
salt & pepper
blanched, shelled almonds
optional: garlic cress (try your local supermarket)
1. Heat some oil in a pan over medium heat and saute the onions for about 8 minutes until they are soft and translucent, though not browned. Add the garlic and saute for a further 3 minutes.
2. Add the frozen peas and stock and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the peas are soft.
3. Remove from the heat, add the mint leaves and blend in a food processor, or with a hand blender.
4. Pass the mixture through a sieve to remove the pea skins and to make sure the soup is beautifully smooth.
5. Place into the fridge and leave until chilled (about an hour).
6. Stir in the natural yoghurt, season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Taste to check if it needs more seasoning or acid, adjust if required.
7. Pour into bowls, and crumble some of the goats cheese on the top. Garnish with the almonds and garlic cress. Finish with a drizzle of good quality olive oil.
If you have been following this blog even with the smallest modicum of interest, you will undoubtedly have picked up that, well…I like butter. For me, it makes almost everything taste nicer. This is excluded from those occasional Mediterranean healthy type recipes I occasionally like to indulge in, mostly when in the Mediterranean or when feeling exceptionally guilty about my food intake.
Consequently, I was always going to love this recipe. Croque Monsieur is a classic French recipe, although actually describing it as such bestows it a glamour that its reality does not in fact possess. Croque Monsieur is literally the French Parisian ham and cheese toastie. Legend tells us it came about as a work man’s lunch. The work men one day left it by a radiator and came back to find it all hot and melted. They enjoyed it so much that the recipe stuck and the Croque Monsieur which we all drool over today was born. Farmhouse white bread spread with Dijon, good ham, gruyere cheese. There the Croque Monsieur recipes differ – some have a béchamel on top for extra goo (but consequently can’t fry it in butter), some (Raymond Blanc) opt for wholemeal bread, others INSIST on crusts off, some grill, some free, etcetera, etcetera, slobber slobber slobber.
My method is fairly simple. Essentially, you construct your sandwich and then fry it in a pack of butter and truffle oil. Only a casual whole pack. Best served with truffle mayonnaise and a light salad (to keep your calories down). This gives it a deliciously melty inside, strong with the cheese and pungent from the mustard, and a buttery crisp outside that isn’t oily at all.
This will fill you for the day. Great lunch or dinner.
(If you want to hear this cooked - check out the radio show that we cooked it on at the bottom of this page).
Ingredients (Serves 2):
4 thick slices of fluffy white farmhouse crusty breads
Gruyere cheese (approx. 100g, but who’s counting)
2 slices good quality ham
200g salted butter
Serve with salad & truffle mayonnaise (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 180 Celsius.
2. Slice the bread.
3. Spread the bread with Dijon. Add a slice of ham and the cheese. Top with the remaining slice.
4. Heat the butter in a pan until frothing. Add a drizzle of the truffle oil. Add the sandwich. Fry on both sides for about 2-3 minutes, until golden brown and crisp on both sides.
5. Remove from the pan and dab with paper towel to remove excess grease. Put on a tray and put in the oven for 5 to properly melt the cheese.
6. Remove, slice and serve.
Listen to this cooked here on IngoodTaste at ZoneOneRadio:
Our Apprentice special with Raymond Blanc - at the end of it I cook up this Croque Monsieur....take note of the crunch.
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