It’s not always possible to find a decent tomato in the north of Scotland. Even in the height of summer, homegrown ones can be insipid and have an odd chalky texture. And raw tomatoes are one thing I’m very fussy about. They have to be good or they have to be cooked.
There will be no turning my nose up at tomatoes this summer, however. There are beautiful, ripe, flavoursome specimens to be found everywhere and I’m eating them at most meals.
This was today’s breakfast.
The tomatoes need to be ripe, the olive oil needs to be good and the flavours need some time to fuse.
Chop or slice a handful of ripe tomatoes and place in a dish. Season with flaky sea salt and black pepper. Pour over about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a teaspoon of cider vinegar. Stir and leave to sit for half an hour.
Toast a bagel (or other bready item) lightly. Use a spoon to gather up the tomato-infused oil at the bottom of the bowl and drizzle evenly over bagel. Top with the tomatoes, another sprinkling of seasoning and, if you fancy, some shaved Parmesan cheese.
Also good with balsamic vinegar rather than cider vinegar.
Risotto Bianco with Rocket and Parma Ham
2 tblspn olive oil
2 tblspn butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 sticks of celery, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
250ml dry white wine
350g arborio rice
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock (homemade)
2 handfuls grated Parmesan
- In a large pan, heat the oil and butter over a medium heat until melted. Add the onion, celery and garlic and stir to coat. Reduce heat a little and cook gently for 15 – 20 mins until vegetables are soft and translucent but not caramelised.
- Meanwhile, heat the stock in another pot until simmering. Reduce heat to keep stock hot but not simmering.
- Increase the heat to medium high and add the rice. Stir to coat with oil and combine with the veg and cook for a minute. Add the wine and let it bubbly up, stirring occasionally.
- Now for the relaxing part… Reduce the heat to medium and add a ladle of stock to the rice and stir with a wooden spoon firmly, massaging the rice until all of the liquid is absorbed. You want the rice and liquid to just simmer at a gentle blib not vigorously. Keep adding the stock and letting it absorb until the rice is almost soft and the last ladle has been absorbed. Taste for seasoning at this point, adding salt and pepper to taste. Don’t be too liberal with the salt as the Parmesan and Parma ham will also add salt.
- Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the remaining butter then cover and let sit for a couple of minutes.
- Stir well again then serve topped with parma ham and rocket.
Last week I turned 40. It wasn’t awful. Partly because, well, that’s how old I am, and partly because I did so in Rome. It took the edge off… 😉
We fell in love with Nashville last summer. Oddly, it was David’s choice of destination on the trip. I’m the country music fan but he was the one that suggested it and continued pushing for a visit, even though it was out of our way. So visit we did and we loved it.
Nashville’s a good looking, laidback town with great food, super friendly folk and an unbelievable music scene. The latter may seem like a rather obvious statement but we couldn’t get over just how much good music was available all over the city, all the time. We’d go back in a shot.
Nashville Hot Chicken is a must-eat when you visit. Moist fried chicken with a blow-your-head-off coating placed on a slice of white bread and served with pickles. I knew I had to learn to make it when I returned and that’s exactly what I’ve done. My waistline may never recover. 😉
Nashville Hot Chicken
8 chicken legs and thighs
200ml tabasco sauce
2 tblspn brown sugar
1 litre vegetable oil
1 tblspn chilli flakes
2 tblspn cayenne pepper
1 tspn smoked paprika
1 tspn garlic powder
1/2 tspn cumin powder
1-2 slices of white bread per person
- The day before you eat, make the brine. Add the sugar, tabasco and two heaped tablespoons of salt to 1.5 litres of water. Heat gently on the stove until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Let cool. Once completely cool, add the chicken, ensuring it’s completely submerged. Pop in the fridge over night.
- For the hot oil coating: Add 100 ml of oil to a small frying pan. Stir in the chilli flakes, cayenne, garlic powder, paprika and cumin along with a teaspoon of salt and a good grinding of pepper. Heat gently until the oil warms up and the spices combine – do not over heat, you just want the oil to become aromatic. Set aside.
- Remove chicken from the brine and pat dry with kitchen roll. Warm an oven to 50oC. Tip plain flour into a shallow bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Heat the rest of the vegetable oil in a large pan (it should be about 3″ deep) until 175oC. Cook three pieces of chicken at a time by dredging them in the seasoned flour, shaking then placing in the oil. The chicken should cook for 10 mins then be turned. Highly recommend that you read and follow these instructions for perfect fried chicken. Place cooked chicken on a rack in the warm oven while you cook the rest.
- Once all the chicken is cooked, gently heat the oil again then brush generously all over the chicken pieces.
- Serve chicken on slices of plain white bread with plently of dill pickles. I like to have a small jug of the spiced oil available for those of us who like our hot chicken extra hot. 🙂
We ate a lot of cornbread this summer and not all of it good. Often I found it too cakey and extremely sweet . When it was good, however, it was fantastic. Stand out cornbread experiences included my friend, Nanette’s kitchen, the dining hall of the Folk School and an excellent brunch in Marché Artisan Foods, Nashville.
Since returning I’ve made this version by Anna Jones several times. It’s a coriander and chilli spiked version made with cornmeal and fresh corn. Not very traditional, perhaps, but a cracker of a recipe.
PS If you don’t know Anna Jones, I highly recommend her cookbooks. All dishes are vegetarian and I’m yet to find one that underwhelms me.
I forgot we had red currant bushes. In years past, what little crop was produced was eaten by the birds. Not sure what happened this year but we have more red currants than we can handle! Red currants have topped salads and cereals and they’ve been made into jelly and cordial. The best way to eat them is by the handful straight from the bush but these muffins are a close second for me.
Red Currant and Almond Muffins
150g plain flour
100g ground almonds
3 tspn baking powder
50g caster sugar
225ml milk (plus extra if required)
60g butter melted
1 cup red currants
1 tblspn almond extract
- Preheat oven to 190oC and butter a muffin tin.
- Sift together the dry ingredients into a large bowl then stir in the red currants until evenly distributed.
- Briefly whisk together the wet ingredients and add to the bowl. Use a large metal spoon to fold ingredients together. Do this briskly and do not over mix. Add a little extra milk if required.
- Spoon batter into tins (approx ⅔ full). Bake for 25 mins until risen and golden on top.