Spring Greens Spanakopita

A really beautiful dish.  It makes everyone go “ooooohhhh” both when it’s brought to the table and when they try it.  Best served slightly warm rather than hot.

Spring Greens Spanakopita (adapted from A Modern Way to Eat)

1 large leek, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely

400g spring greens (stalks removed and roughly chopped)

200g spinach

Zest of ½ lemon

200g feta (crumbled)

3 large eggs

Small bunch of parsley, chopped

1 heaped tblspn chopped dill

6 sheets of filo pastry

Olive oil for brushing

  • In a large pan over a medium heat, sauté the leek in little olive oil until soft and silky. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more.
  • Add the spring greens to the pan along with 2 tablespoons of water. Cook for two minutes until the greens have wilted then add the spinach.  Cook for another 3-4 minutes until all the greens are wilted and tender.  Remove from the heat and drain in colander lined with muslin or a large sieve.  Leave to cool then squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the greens.  Don’t skip this step.  Soggy spanakopita is not good.
  • Add the eggs, crumbled feta, lemon zest and some salt and pepper to a large bowl. Add the cooled greens and mix well to combine.
  • Lightly oil a 20cm loose bottomed cake tin. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush each sheet of filo then place it in the tin, gently pushing it down (take care not to rip it!) The filo should rest in the bottom of the pan and hang over the sides.  Repeat with the remaining sheets of filo, changing the angle of the sheets so they don’t lie perfectly on top of one another.
  • Once all the filo is in the tin, add the greens mixture, again, using a wooden spoon to gently push the mixture down.
  • Use your fingers to pull the filo over the top of the mixture, scrunching it to create pretty layers on top. You shouldn’t be able to see any greens once you’re done.  If you can, tear up another filo sheet and block the holes.  Brush the top with a little more oil.
  • Bake in a 200oC oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and push the pie out of the cake tin.  Return to the oven and cook until the pie is golden all over (another 10 mins).
  • Leave to cool for 30 mins then serve warm.

A Simple Onion Tart

Let’s ignore the fact that I’ve been gone for three months, shall we?  Yes?  Super.  Accept this cute photo of Marco as an apology and we can just move on.

In fact, let’s just continue where we left off and pretend the following promised recipe isn’t terribly, terribly overdue.  It’s a recipe for an onion tart.  It’s very simple but it’s very, very good.  We’re having it tonight with a lentil and greens salad (will share that soon too) and some rosemary bread.  And I’ll undoubtedly polish off the leftovers for breakfast tomorrow morning – this is not a dish that lasts long in our house!

Onion Tart

330g plain flour

½ tsp salt

75g cold salted butter

75g lard

Cold water

5 medium onions

Knob  of butter

Glug of olive oil

½ tspn dried thyme

50g parmesan cheese

150ml milk

150 ml double cream

2 medium eggs

  • Sift the flour and salt into a bowl.  Cut the butter into cubes and throw in the bowl.  Quickly and vigorously rub the fats into the flour.  Lift your hands high above the bowl to make sure the mixture remains airy.  When the flour and fat are combined and resemble breadcrumbs, begin to add the cold water.  Start with 30ml and mix in with a knife.  Add water tablespoon by tablespoon and mix until the mixture starts to come together.  Use your hands to create a smooth ball of pastry.  Place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for an hour.  (See Delia’s instructions for more detail.)  This makes more pastry than you’ll need.  I freeze the leftovers.
  • Meanwhile, slice the onions to 5mm thickness.  Melt the butter and oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat.  Add the onions and cook slowly.  When the onions begin to go translucent, add the dried thyme and continue cooking.  I like my onions to be soft and just starting to go golden, for a sweeter tasting tart, cook the onions until golden and caramelised.
  • In a jug, briefly whisk together the milk, cream and eggs with a little salt and pepper.
  • Roll the pastry out to the thickness of a pound coin (3mm?) and line a 23cm fluted tart tin with it.  Line with baking paper, add baking beans or dried chickpeas and blind bake for 25 mins in a 180oC oven. Remove the beans and paper and bake for a futher 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven.  Add the onions to the base of the tin and half of the cheese.  Pour over the milky/eggy mixture and top with the remaining cheese.  Bake in the oven for 30 mins.
  • Remove from oven when golden and set and let cool for 20 mins.  This tart is much taster when warm rather than hot.

An Avocado & Goats Cheese Lunch

(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.

Selkirk Bannock

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.

Selkirk Bannock

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

200g sultanas

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.

Salted Rosemary Bread (and some more good news)

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

Olive oil

1 tspn sea salt crystals 

Extra flour

  • 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.

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. 🙂

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.