I didn’t used to be good at making shortbread. Sure, I could whip up a decent base for Strawberry Shortcake or Millionaire’s Shortbread but I had never produced a biscuit that I thought was good enough to eat unembellished with a strong cup of tea. This had to change once I had accepted the invitation to teach a Scottish cookery course in the USA, of course. Scotland = shortbread,
So I tried out some recipes. A LOT of recipes. Recipes from books, from blogs, from friends and from family and, though some of the latter ones were hugely successful in those individuals’ hands, they just didn’t work for me. And then I tried The Three Chimney’s recipe.
For those of you who don’t know, The Three Chimney’s is a restaurant on the west coast of Skye (pics of Skye here and here). I’ve only eaten there once and, having gone for the 9 course tasting menu plus matching wine flight, it almost bankrupt us. Totally worth it though! The food was amazing, the restaurant is beautiful, the service friendly and helpful, and after 5 hours of wining and dining, I left feeling like the large amount of money we had spent had been a bargain.
Now I don’t remember if I had the shortbread when I ate at the restaurant but my lovely Aunt Anne gifted me the cookbook last year and it was here I found the Three Chimney’s recipe. And it was perfect. Delicate, melting, buttery and not too sweet.
I can’t, in all good conscience, reproduce the recipe here as I didn’t alter a single thing. You can find it here, however.
Try it; you won’t regret it.
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)
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.
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.
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.