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.
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
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.
Marco has a new cousin and some serious competition in the cutest canine category.
The last and best bit of news is that D and I are engaged and are getting married next summer. We’re both feeling a bit giddy right now. :)
Rather than a recipe, here are some photos from the past year taken on my phone. It’s been a good year.
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
1 tspn sea salt crystals
- 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.
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)
For the oatmeal pastry:
200g plain flour
25g fine oatmeal
125g cold salted butter, cut into chunks
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
100ml crème fraîche or double cream
Salt and pepper
Handful of parsley, finely chopped
- 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.
The dark nights are beginning to draw in. I like it.
Also, there’s a rabbit living in our garden. I like that too.
When we returned from Italy I had a list of three dishes I wanted to learn to make.
The first was Aubergine Parmigiana. Our hotel served a to-die-for version for lunch and I’ve been trying and failing for several weeks to recreate it.
The second was a dish I ate in the fantastic Leon di Oro in Riva: Tagliatelli with Black Truffles and Vezzana Cheese. I kid you not, the restaurant version is perhaps the nicest thing I’ve ever eaten. Ever. Looking forward to making that once truffles come into season later this year.
And the third was Taglierini al Limone, a delicate, fresh pasta dish that I ate in a little trattoria in the lovely town of Arco. It’s been very simple to recreate and, being so light and so simple to make, it has been my post-run lunch of choice this summer.
Sigh. I miss my lazy summer lunches.
Taglierini al Limone
200g taglierini (This is a slim, delicate tagliatelli type pasta that cooks very quickly. If you can’t find it, angel hair pasta would work well or linguine.)
Juice of one lemon and 1/2 tspn of the rind grated finely
3 tblspn extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese
2 tblspn finely chopped parsley
- Whisk together the lemon juice and oil until emulsified. Bash the garlic clove with a rolling pin and pop it in the liquid to infuse.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta. Drain reserving a little of the cooking water.
- Immediately after draining, add the pasta back to the pot. Remove the garlic from the lemony oil (you just want a hit) and add the oil and cheese to the pan. Use two forks to lift and toss the pasta, working the cheese and lemony oil evenly through it.
- Serve scattered with a grinding of pepper and a scattering of parsley.
So simple. So good.
Baked Feta with Tomatoes
100g Feta cheese
Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tblspn black olives, chopped
1 tspn capers
Leaves of one sprig of fresh thyme or a pinch of dried
- Preheat oven to 200 oC.
- Place feta in a small oven proof dish and break up a little. Scatter the tomatoes, olives, capers and thyme over the top and drizzle with a little olive oil.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is just beginning to go golden.
- Serve with flat bread.