Cornbread and Beans…

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.

Red Currant and Almond Muffins

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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
Pinch salt
50g caster sugar
1 egg
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.

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.

Perfect Shortbread (and a pretty sunset)


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.

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.

The Squash

Half of the Kabocha squash and the rest of the purple sprouting broccoli that  I bought at the local market was turned into a bulgar salad.  The recipe I followed looked a bit fussy and I was not at all convinced variety of ingredients would come together as a cohesive dish. Happily though, I was wrong; it was really, really, really good. Even David, who is not always enthusiastic about veggie food,  loved it and didn’t even ask to top it with some chorizo.  Result!

Recipe can be found here.  I used bulgar rather than barley (changing the cooking times, obviously) and roasted pepper rather than sundried tomatoes (find the latter insipid).

 

Smokey Tomato & Rice Soup

The days are starting to stretch and we have snowdrops under our birch tree.  I bought a bunch of daffodils at the supermarket last weekend and there’s a cherry tree down our road that has a few blossoms on it.  I’m not saying Spring is here or even that it’s on its way, but I am  slowly starting to remember what spring is like and that’s really rather nice indeed.

All this said, it was -5 oC this morning and my fingers almost dropped off scraping frost off the car.   Soup season is most definitely still here.  This one’s a cracker.  🙂

Smokey Tomato & Rice Soup

Olive oil

2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

4 plump garlic cloves, finely chopped

25g rice

25g red lentils

1 tspn smoked paprika (you may need to increase this if your smoked paprika isn’t really smokey)

1 tspn paprika

1 tpsn cumin

½ tspn cayenne pepper or chilli powder (if your smoked paprika is hot you won’t need this  – taste the spices)

500g passata (sieved tomatoes – you could use normal tinned tomatoes but the consistency will be less velvety)

1.5 ltr chicken or vegetable stock (made from a cube is fine)

150g frozen sweetcorn

  • Heat a good splash of olive oil in a large pan.  Add the onion and celery and fry gently until softened (about 10 mins).  Add the garlic and spices to the pan and stir well.
  • Cook for another minute before adding the rice, lentils, passata and stock.  Simmer gently for 20 mins.  Add the sweetcorn and cook for a futher 10 mins until the rice and lentils are soft.
  • Season and serve.