Fig and Walnut Bread

Sundays are for long walks with Marco and baking bread.  This morning there’s a distinct autumnal chill in the air.  It’s not quite hat weather but it’s not far off.  We’re heading to our favourite woods to chase pheasants (Marco) and pick mushrooms (me) and when we return, I’ll make my current favourite bread: Spelt, Fig and Walnut.

I’ve taken to kneading my bread by hand again.  For a while there, I was using a mixer to do all the work and a fine job it did of it too.  Missed the therapy of working the dough myself, though.  It feels oddly right now that those 15 minutes have returned to my Sunday routine.

Fig and Walnut Bread (Got the idea for this bread from the back of the Doves’ spelt flour package.  I’m not so keen on bread make entirely with spelt though.  This ratio was more to my liking.)

300ml tepid water

1 tspn dried active yeast

1 tspn brown sugar

150g spelt flour

350g strong white flour

1 tspn salt

6 dried figs

1 teabag

75g walnuts

A little oil

  • Add the yeast and sugar to the water and set aside for 10 mins.
  • Sift the flours and salt into a large bowl. Add the water and use your hand to mix to a rough dough.
  • Turn out on to a clean surface and knead for 10 – 15 minutes until dough is silky and pliable. Place in a lightly oiled plastic bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for an hour or two until doubled in size.
  • While dough is rising, briefly toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan then chop roughly. Soak the figs in hot tea for 30 mins, blot dry then chop roughly.
  • When dough is risen, tip on to a lightly floured surface and knock the air out. Stretch dough out into a flat rectangle and sprinkly across the nuts and figs.  Roll dough up then knead again for a couple of minutes until filling is evenly distributed and dough is holding together again (it’ll be a little tricky at first but it will happen).
  • Shape into a ball and place on lightly floured baking sheet. Cover ( I put a big plastic bowl upside-down over the dough) and leave to rest in a warm place for another hour.
  • Meanwhile, heat the over to 190oC. Make sure there is a baking tray heating on the shelf below the one you’ll put the bread on.
  • When the dough is risen, sprinkle with a little white flour then slash diagonally three times. Place in the oven.  Pour a cup of water into the hot baking tray then shut the door quickly.  This will create lots of steam to give you a good crust.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes. Bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  • Let cool completely before slicing.

Very good with some salty butter and/or sharp cheddar.

Un-dull Dhal

I fell out of love with dhal a few years ago.  Before then I’d regularly make big batches for the freezer and it was a weekly staple when life got particularly hectic.  One day I just couldn’t face it anymore.  Like the macaroni cheese of my childhood, I’d eaten it too often and its uniform taste and texture was no longer comforting; dhal was just dull.

There’s a happy ending, though, as recently I discovered this dahl.  It’s the same lentil stew but with a mix of spices and quickly fried ingredients mixed through at the end.  It utterly delicious and each mouthful a little different than the one before.  I an enamoured once more.

Tarka Dhal (adapted from an epsiode of Saturday Kitchen where a Goan chef cooked for Rick Stein)

For the lentil stew:

Oil (ground nut, coconut, sunflower – not olive)

1 large onion, sliced thinly

3 medium tomatoes, quartered

2 garlic cloves

1 tspn turmeric

200g lentils

Water

Salt

For the “seasoning”:

Oil (as above)

1 tspn mustard seeds

1 tspn onion seeds (optional)

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 green chilli, chopped finely

3 garlic cloves, chopped

4 medium tomatoes – skinned, deseeded and chopped

½ tspn astofoetida (optional)

Heat a good glug of the oil over a medium high heat.  Once hot, add the onions and tomatoes and cook for approximately 6 minutes until onion is soft but not coloured and tomatoes are collapsing.  Add the garlic and turmeric and cook for another minute. Stir in the lentils then add enough water to just cover.  Add a pinch of salt then bring to a simmer.  Cook for 30 mins until the lentils are softened and the water absorbed.  You’ll probably need to add a little more water every now and again.

While the lentils are cooking, make the tarka.  In a large frying pan, add the mustard and onion seeds to the oil.  Place on a medium high heat and cook until the seeds start popping.  Add the onion then cook for a minute.  Add the garlic and chilli.  Cook for a minute.  Add the tomato and asafoetida and cook for another minute.  Remove from the heat and stir into the lentils.  Finally, stir the coriander and a good grinding of pepper into the dhal.

Jeow Mak Keua

 

I took part in two cooking courses last summer: one in Vietnam and one in Laos.  Despite preferring Vietnamese food generally, it’s two Laos dishes I’ve found myself making most at home.  The first is stuffed lemongrass.  It’s a cracker of a recipe and I’ll share it very soon.  The second is Jeow Mak Keua – a very spicy aubergine dip/paste.  It’s one of my favourite things right now.   I like to eat it with brown rice and nothing else but it’s very nice as a side dish for grilled meat.

Jeow Mak Keua (As learnt at Tamarind cooking school)

1 medium aubergine 

1 large red chilli

2 fat cloves of garlic

Fish sauce

1 spring onion, chopped

Small handful of coriander. chopped

  • Prick the aubergine all over then thread it on to a skewer along with the garlic and chilli.  Cook under a hot grill or on the BBQ until charred on the outside and soft on the inside.
  • Peel the garlic and chilli and pound to a paste with a pinch of rock salt using a mortar and pestle.  (Remove the seeds from the chilli if you don’t want it too hot)
  • Peel the aubergine and cut into rough chunks. Add to the mortar and pound with the chilli/garlic paste until combined.
  • Stir in coriander and spring onion then add fish sauce to taste.

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.

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.

A BBQ of Lamb Koftas & Fattoush

After 10 days in Italy we returned home to Scotland to blue skies, balmy breezes and a garden which had exploded with flowers and berries and green, green, green.    Temperatures have been consistently above 20 oC  and we’ve had a BBQ every other night.  Marco and I walk in a field of wild flowers first thing in the morning then in the cool woods in the early evening.  After many years of wet, windy and grey summers, we are finally getting a summery summer.  Well done, July.  Well done!

The best BBQ meal we’ve had so far was lamb koftas, grilled aubergine and a colourful, tart Lebanese salad, fattoush.  The fattoush recipe is below.  Not 100% happy with the kofta recipe so I’ll wait until I’ve tried that again before I post it.  It won’t be long though.  Looking forward to having this meal again soon!

Fattoush

(serves 4)

1 large cucumber

3 pitta breads

 6 medium perfectly ripe tomatoes

2 handfuls of parsley, chopped finely

1 handful of mint, chopped finely

6 radishes

3 spring onions

For the dressing:

3 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 heaped tspn sumac

  • Cut the cucumber into 2 cm chunks and place in a colander.  Sprinkle salt over the cucumber and leave.  After 30 mins, shake the cucumber to remove moisture and pat dry (no need to be thorough) with a clean teatowel.
  • Meanwhile, peel and deseed the tomatoes then chop roughly.
  • Toast the pitta under a hot grill until crisp and leave to cool.
  • Slice the radishes finely and chop the spring onion.
  • Mix the dressing together by putting the ingredients in a clean jar then shake vigorously.
  • Break the toasted pitta into bite sized chunks and toss with all the vegetables.  Drizzle with the dressing (you may not need all of it) and toss gently.
  • Serve immediately so the pitta retains some of its crispness.

Kale & Goats’ Cheese Pesto (and a word about Google Reader)

The monthly village market was on this morning. We’re off on holiday on Tuesday so I didn’t come back with my usual bag loads. What I did get was a big bunch of kale, a sour dough loaf and, my current favourite thing, some hard mature goats’ cheese from the Cromarty Cheese House.

Lunch was a delight.

Kale and Goats’ Cheese Pesto

(makes a small jar full)

200g kale, tough stalks removed and shredded roughly

75g walnuts

50g hard goats’ cheese, grated finely

Rind of a small lemon

1 garlic clove, minced

Extra virgin olive

Salt & pepper

  • Bring a pan of water to the boil and drop the kale in. Cover and simmer for 1 minute. Drain and cool.
  • Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan then whizz in the blender. Remove to a bowl
  • Squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the kale then pop in the blender with the garlic and lemon rind  and a good glug of oil. Whizz this too.
  • Now, I prefer to combine for here by hand. It’s a rougher texture and I prefer that. You might want to continue whizzing in the blended. Either way, add the walnuts and cheese to the kale along with a decent pinch of salt and pepper.

Serving suggestions:

  1. Spread on toast and top with tomato
  2. Stir through pasta
  3. Dollop on a baked potato

Before I go, I’ve just found out on Smitten Kitchen that Google Reader (the way many people keep up to date with blogs) will be no more as of tomorrow. I’ve switched to Feedly. It was simple to import my Google Reader favourites to it and it has a rather lovely layout. Hope I don’t lose anyone when Google Reader retires. 🙂

Sabzi Bhaji (Mixed Vegetable Curry)

As much as I enjoyed my weekend of scone hunting, cooked breakfasts, seven course meals (really) and other food based indulgences, it is good to come home to my own kitchen and some lighter meals.   One of our favourite meals at the moment is the below Sabzi Bhaji, a mixed vegetable curry which is extremely tasty, very filling and very good for you too. I tend to cook a big pot each month and freeze double portions for weeknight meals.   This week, however, we’ve been enjoying it so much we’re gradually working our way through the pot I made on Wednesday afternoon and neither of us are even nearly fed up of it.  Luckily, it’s not a very calorific dish so it’s helping us atone for all the black pudding that was consumed last weekend.  🙂

Sabzi Bhaji

(makes 6 portions)

2 tblspn oil, ghee or groundnut or vegetable

3 onions, chopped

2 inches of ginger root, chopped

6 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp chilli flakes

1 large potato or two small, peeled and chopped into 1.5 cm dice

2 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1.5 cm dice

1 cup of frozen peas

1/4 head of white cabbage, sliced and cut into 3cm strips

100g green beans, cut into 2cm bits

400g tin of chickpeas

400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tblspn garam masala

Optional – Coriander and yoghurt to serve

  • Whizz two of the onions, the garlic and ginger in a blender until they form a rough paste.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy based pan over a medium-high heat.  Add the paste and fry for 10 mins to soften the onions, stirring often.
  • Add the spices to the pan and stir well.  Cook for another 5 minutes adding a splash of water if the mixture starts to stick.
  • Add all of the vegetables including the chickpeas and tomatoes to the pan.  Fill the tomato tin with water and pour it in too.  The liquid should be just below the top of the vegetables.  Stir well to combine.
  • Bring to a boil then quickly reduce the heat.  Simmer for 45 mins – 1 hour until all the veg is tender then stir in the garam masala.
  • Serve topped with yoghurt and coriander alongside some flat breads or basmati rice.

Tomato Relish

In a parallel universe there is a Wendy who regularly sits in her garden enjoying the last of the evening sun whilst having barbeque after barbeque after barbeque.  In this reality, however, summer has been monumentally disappointing in terms of temperature and sun-appearance and this Wendy has managed to have one barbeque in two months.  And I had to wear two jumpers.

Not to worry.  In every other respect the summer has been fantastic and burgers can, after all, be cooked inside.  Recently we’ve been eating them topped with this rather lovely, chunky tomato relish.

Tomato Relish – Two Jars

(Adapted from Made at Home Preserves by Dick and James Strawbridge – lovely wee book)

125g brown sugar

200ml white wine vinegar

500g cherry tomatoes, halved

1 medium onion, chopped finely

1 tspn dried chilli flakes

1 tblspn onion seeds

1 tspn paprika

1/2 tspn ground ginger

3 tblspn capers

Approx. 4 medium gherkins, chopped finely

  • Warm the vinegar and sugar in a pan over a medium heat until sugar dissolves.
  • Add the tomatoes, chopped onion and spices to the pan and bring to the boil.  Reduce heat immediately and simmer gently for 45 minutes.  Add the capers and gherkins and stir well to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour into sterilised jars.
  • Will keep in the fridge for at least six months.

A Summer Roast

It’s June and it’s 11 oC here in the Highlands.  Perfect running weather and perfect roast dinner weather.  Perhaps if you live warmer climes, the thought of turning on the oven in the month of June makes you shudder.  Does it, sun-dwellers?  Does it?

If it does, then read no further.  Come back to this post when the temperatures dip and you are once more able to face turning that dial up.  But do come back because this is a wee cracker of a meal.  The flavours are light and summery and the meat is moist with a layer of crisp crackling.  It’s the potatoes who are the star of the show though.  As the lemons break down and the pork  begins to release its juices, the new potatoes soak up all that flavour and become slightly gooey and caramelised on the outside.

Best served in a sunny conservatory with a glass of white wine and thoughts of warmer days.

Roast Pork and New Potatoes with Lemon and Thyme

(serves 4, with leftovers for sandwiches)

1.25  kg rolled loin of pork (boneless), skin scored

Salt and pepper

500g new potatoes (I’m guessing the weight here!  It was about 4 passion-fruit-sized potatoes each) scrubbed and halved

2 lemons, cut into 12 slices

1 tblspn fresh thyme leaves (half that if using dried)

Olive oil

  • Preheat oven to 220 oC.
  • Use a mortar and pestle to bash up the thyme leaves with a generous few pinches of salt and pepper.  Rub a third of this  mixture into the skin of the pork.
  • Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat and sear the joint on each side for a minute or two until golden.  Place in a roasting tin and set aside.
  • Add the potatoes to some cold salted water.  Bring to the boil then drain immediately.
  • Add the potatoes, lemon, thyme mixture and a glug of olive oil to a bowl and combine well using your hands.  Scatter the potatoes around the pork joint.
  • Roast in the oven for 20 minutes then reduce the heat to 200 oC.  Roast for a further 1 hour and 10 minutes, making sure you turn the potatoes every so often.  Check the meat is cooked through by either ensuring the juices run clear or inserting a meat thermometer (I use the latter technique – it’s less fiddly than removing the meat to a plate).
  • Remove from oven.  While you let the pork rest for 10 minutes before carving, pick out the lemon rinds from the potatoes and use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes from the fat to a warmed dish.
  • Serve the carved meat with the potatoes, lots of steamed green veg and a dollop of grain mustard.