Stovies

I am rather particular when it comes to stovies.  Sometimes when we’re out for a walk on a chilly day, we’ll stop in at a pub for some lunch.  If there are stovies on the menu (a hearty Scots dish of potatoes slowly cooked with dripping and onion), I’m always tempted to order them.  They are perfect cold weather fodder.  Problem is some folk have funny ideas about what makes stovies and, more often than not, I’m disappointed by what I’m served.

Now, these “folk” with their “funny ideas” do, admittedly, tend to simply be from areas of Scotland other than Aberdeen.  Usually, I’m all for regional variations, variety being the spice of life and whatnot.  But, really, who puts sausages in stovies??

Stovies should be moist but not runny.  The potatoes should be sliced thickly and disintegrating, not chunky or mashed.  And the meat, the meat should be shredded beef or lamb; it should not be chicken or corned beef or – splutter – sausages.  Finally, stovies should be served with oatcakes and beetroot.

Do stovies this way and you’re doing them right.  :)

Stovies (to be made the day after a roast dinner)

(serves 4)

2 tblspn dripping or butter

3 onions, sliced thickly

800g floury potatoes, peeled and sliced 1cm thick

100-200g leftover meat, shredded (lamb or beef)

2 tblspn meat jelly

1/2 cup of lamb or beef stock 

Salt and pepper

  • In a heavy based pan, fry the onions in the fat until soft and just starting to turn golden.  Remove pan from heat and pour onion and fat into a bowl.
  • Build layers of potatoes, onion/fat and meat, adding a little sprinkle of salt and pepper each time.  Once all the potato etc has been layered add the stock and meat jelly and place back on the heat.
  • Heat until the liquid starts to boil then reduce heat to low, place lid on the pan and cook gently for an hour.  Check occasionally to make sure they haven’t dried out and add a splash more stock if they look like they might.
  • Serve with oatcakes and fresh or pickled beetroot.

Lentil & Chorizo Bolognese

The London Marathon is only 12 weeks away and I’m training hard.  Up to 13 miles at the weekend now along with dark weeknight runs.  Between this, wedding preparations and challenging times at work, life is pretty full on right now.  Enjoying it all but it’s keeping me away from the kitchen, especially during the week.  Hooray for Sundays!  Sundays are for soup making, bread baking and stocking piling the freezer with food for quick weeknight meals.  The following lentil bologese/ragu/pasta sauce/whatever you want to call it is one of my current favourites.

Lentil & Chorizo Bolognese

(serves 5-6)

200g chorizo, skinned and chopped into 1cm cubes

A little olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 stick of celery, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tspn oregano

250g green lentils

1 tin of tomatoes

Chicken or vegetable stock

Parmesan cheese

  • Warm a little olive oil in a medium pan.  Add the chorizo and fry gently until the paprika-y fat has been release and the sausage is crisp.  Remove using a slotted spoon and put aside.
  • Fry the onions, carrot and celery in the oil for 5 minutes or until softened slightly.  Stir in the garlic and oregano and cook for a minute more.
  • Add the chorizo back to the pan along with the lentils, bay leaves and tin of tomatoes.  Stir well to combine then add enough stock to just cover the lentils.
  • Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.  Add more stock during the first 30 mins to keep the lentils just covered in liquid.  Once the lentils are almost cooked, stop adding stock and let the liquid reduce to a thick sauce.
  • Serve tossed with tagliatelle and grated parmesan cheese.

Selkirk Bannock

Selkirk is a town somewhere in the Scottish Borders.  I’m not entirely sure where.  I’ve heard it’s lovely but I’ve never been there and I know only two things about it.  1.)  It’s the home-town of my friend and the artist who designed my banner, Faye Anderson.  She’s an extremely talented artist.  Animal lovers, you may want to check out her work here.  And 2.) I have this town to thank for my favourite tea loaf.

Selkirk Bannocks are enormous fruit loaves which were traditionally made with leftover bread dough.  In Scotland (and possibly the rest of the UK?) we call this type of enriched, sweet bread a “tea loaf”.   I’m guessing this is because a slice of this spread with butter or jam or both would typically be eaten with a cup of tea mid-morning or afternoon.   It makes a lovely breakfast too though.

I tend to make a smaller loaf than is traditional as there are only two of us in the house.  That said, it keeps well for a couple of days and can be eaten toasted for a good few days after that.

Selkirk Bannock

450g bread flour

Pinch of salt

1 tspn dried active yeast 

30g caster sugar

250ml luke warm milk

75g butter, cut into cubes and softened

200g sultanas

1 small egg, beaten

  • Add the yeast and sugar to the warm milk and stir.  Leave for 15 mins until yeast froths slightly.
  • Meanwhile, add flour and salt to a large bowl.
  • Stir the yeasty milk into the flour and stir to form a sticky dough.  Knead well for 10 mins adding a little more flour if necessary.
  • Place dough in an oiled bowl and leave to rise in a warm place for at least an hour or until dough has doubled in size.
  • Remove dough from the bowl and pull out into a flat shape.  Gradually add a little of the butter and some of the sultanas and knead through thoroughly.  Repeat until all the butter has been amalgamated and the sultanas and evenly spread through the dough. This is a sticky, greasy process.  It does amalgamate eventually, I promise!
  • Shape dough into a ball and place on a floured baking sheet.  Cover with a big bowl that won’t touch the dough and leave in a warm place to double in size again.
  • Meanwhile heat the oven to 180oC.
  • When dough is risen, brush generously with the egg glaze.  Place in the oven and bake for 45 mins or until golden all over and hollow sounding.
  • Cool and serve sliced and smeared with butter and/or jam.

Salted Rosemary Bread (and some more good news)

My second piece of good news is that I got a place in the 2014 London Marathon.   Delighted!  I’ve ran this distance twice before in the Loch Ness Marathon, a great race with beautiful, peaceful route and a fantastic atmosphere amongst the runners.  It’s one I’ll most definitely do again (and maybe again after that) but, for now, I am looking forward to next year where I’ll be running a route with far less climbs (man, I hate the Dores hill) and more shouts and cheers from crowds the whole way along.  I’ll be fundraising nearer the time for the MS Society and Brain Tumour Research.  If you’d like to sponsor me,  keep an eye on this space in early spring for details.

Today’s recipe is a loaf.  The basic bread recipe is one I’ve published on these pages.   The addition of rosemary to the dough and the sprinkle of sea salt on top makes this a real treat of a snack.  It needs nothing more than a smearing of good quality butter.

Salted Rosemary Bread

(Makes one big loaf)

300ml warm water

1 tspn dry active yeast

400g strong white flour

1 tspn salt

1 tspn chopped fresh rosemary

Olive oil

1 tspn sea salt crystals 

Extra flour

  • Add the yeast to the warm water and set aside until the yeast foams a little (around 10 mins).
  • In a large bowl stir together the flour, salt, and rosemary.  Add the yeasty water and stir to create a wet dough.  Leave for 5 mins.
  • Smear a little olive oil onto your work surface and plop the dough out onto it.  Knead for a couple of minutes.  (You might need to add a tiny bit more flour if the dough is really too sticky to do anything with but don’t add much.  I just dip my hands in flour a couple of times if need be.)
  • Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a teatowel.  Leave in a warm (not too hot!) place for 30 mins until doubled in sized.
  • Knead the dough for a couple of minutes again and place back in the bowl for another 30mins.
  • Final stage.  Line a baking tray with baking paper and dust with flour.  Place dough onto work surface and pull into a flattish rectangular shape.  Roll dough up lengthways and tuck the ends underneath.   Place seam side down and cover with the tea towel again.  Leave to double in size in the same warm place.
  • Meanwhile, heat your oven to 210 oC (or 200 oC if fan assisted).   When oven reaches the right temperature place a cake tin of hot water in the bottom of the oven.  Leave for 10 mins to let the oven get steamy.
  • Brush the risen dough lightly with water then sprinkle with the sea salt.  Dust lightly with flour then use a serrated  knife to make 3 slits across the top of the loaf.  Place in the oven and bake for 40 mins until golden.
  • Leave to cool on a rack before eating.

Finnan Haddie Tart (And Exciting News)

(Loch Achilty)

So let’s start with the exciting news.  Next year, September to be precise, I am flying out to the  United States of America to teach a week long Scottish cooking course!  It’s taking place in North Carolina at the John C Campbell Folk School and I’m ridiculously excited about it all.

I reckon this is going to affect the blog in two ways.  Firstly, there are going to be a lot of Scottish recipes appearing on these pages in the coming year.  This is something that readers have requested in the past but I’ve never really acted on it.  With 30-40 recipes to perfect before next September, you can expect a range of traditional Scottish recipes along with some modern favourites and dishes that make the most of Scottish produce.   Secondly, I reckon I’ll be blogging more frequently.  A demanding job and difficult personal situation has led me to neglect this space in the last few years.  I like to think this project is going to revive my blogging efforts and that I’ll be around more often.  That’s the plan, anyway!

So let’s start today with Finnan Haddie Tart.  Finnan Haddie is cold smoked haddock.  It can be poached in milk or grilled or roasted and served as is but most folks associate it with the rich soup, Cullen Skink (recipe here).  The following recipe uses the smokey, creamy flavours of Cullen Skink but in the form of a tart rather than a soup.  It’s really rather lovely served along side a big salad and some crusty bread.

Finnan Haddie Tart (adapted from Sue Lawrence’s Scots Cooking)

(serves 6)

For the oatmeal pastry:

200g plain flour

25g fine oatmeal

125g cold salted butter, cut into chunks

1 egg

1 tspn olive oil

For the filling:

1 onion, chopped finely

2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1cm cubes

350g finnan haddie (smoked haddock) or other smoked white fish, must be undyed

200ml milk

100ml crème fraîche or double cream

Salt and pepper

Handful of parsley, finely chopped

3 eggs

  • First make the pastry.  If you are lucky enough to have a mixer, simply pop everything into the bowl and process briefly until the ingredients come together in a ball.  Otherwise, rub the butter into the flour and oatmeal until fine crumbs have formed.  Stir in the egg and oil and form a dough.  Chill the dough for an hour before rolling and using to line a 28cm flan tin (preferably loose bottomed).  Chill again for 15 mins.  Line the pastry case with foil and fill with baking beans (I use dried chickpeas).  Bake in a 190 oC oven for 20 mins.  Remove foil and beans and bake again for 10 mins.  Remove from oven and leave to cool.
  • While the pastry is cooling, fry the onions in oil over a medium heat until translucent.  Add the potato and continue to fry, stirring frequently, until potatoes are almost tender (approx 15 mins). Set aside.
  • Poach the fish in the milk for 5 mins.  Remove the fish from the milk and flake, taking care to remove all bones.  Mix the fish with the potatoes and onions.
  • Add the crème fraîche and egg to the milk.  Beat then season with salt and pepper.  Stir through the parsley.
  • Scatter the potato/fish mix evenly in the pastry case then pour in the liquid.
  • Bake in a 190 oC oven for 40 mins.
  • Best served warm rather than hot.