(Spot the ‘deliberate’ mistake.)
2014 was always going to be busy. Wonderfully so. My plans were to run the London Marathon in April (4 hours 11 minutes!), get married in July and go to America to teach a Scottish cookery course in September. All fabulous but all requiring a lot of preparation. It was do-able though. Then I got a new job. It’s also fabulous but the time and energy I’ve been devoting to it on top of the time and energy spent on the wedding etc has left me with little time or energy for my usual pastimes of experimenting in the kitchen, taking pictures and blogging. I haven’t even been reading much!
Today I decided to have a wee holiday and do nothing. By nothing, I mean I went for a long walk with Marco in the woods; I baked some bread and a lovely batch of shortbread; I read for a few hours in the sun and I took a picture of my lunch. That’s it in the picture below. It was a simple lunch but it was lovely. Perfect for a sunny lazy day.
Avocado & Goats Cheese Spread
(enough to spread on two English muffins)
1 perfectly ripe avocado (don’t even bother with a hard fruit)
2 tblspns soft goats cheese
A squeeze of lemon juice
Dried chilli flakes
Sea salt flakes
- Simply mash the avocado and goats cheese together along with the lemon juice.
- Spread on crusty bread or crackers or (my favourites) a toasted English muffin and sprinkle with chilli flakes and sea salt.
So, it turns out that there are a limited amount of weeks in a month, days in a week and hours in a day. And within these constraints, I have found, it is not possible to do everything one would like to/needs to. Hence, the blog inactivity.
I will return at some point though. :)
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 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
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
- 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.
2013 was pretty good…
2014 is looking very exciting indeed!
Wishing you all a Happy New Year. x
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.