Ever since we went to Edinburgh during the summer, my beau, Jon has been craving haggis. It was the first time he had ever had it and he was immediately enamoured with the taste and texture.
He was therefore thrilled when I managed to pick up two for €7 in M&S and suggested that we have a Burns Nicht celebration. A quick query to my parents indicated that they would also be interested in such an adventure. So last Monday, on Burns Night itself, I dropped over with a haggis, a bag of rooster potatoes and the smallest turnip I could find. We had all the ingredients for haggis, neeps and tatties.
We set the haggis to boiling for an hour and half and then I had to run out the door to help out at the local Girl Guide company. My dad however, took over the cooking baton and whipped up some very tasty mash and made the executive decision to mash the turnip up with some carrot to make it a little more palettable.
I returned to the house to find the haggis keeping warm in the oven while Jon and my dad discussed which whisky would be best to serve with the meal. In the end we had two on the table, Glenfiddich and Laphroaig. I preferred the taste the Glennfiddich myself as it had a pleasant honey after taste. The Laphroaig I found a little too medicinal in taste, but according to my parents it had been better when it was originally opened and had a very peaty, smokey flavour.
The haggis itself was very tasty. I went for M&S's normal haggis rather than their organic lamb version. The only complaint was from my dad who would've liked some sort of gravy with it as he found the meal a little on the dry side.
Jon read out the traditional Address to a Haggis, the text of which I've put in below for your perusal, he was the best of us to read it as he comes from Nothern Ireland so his accent it close enough to the Scots' to our ears. We then went through the poem making a rough translation for my mum, who was curious to know what a couple of the verses meant.
All in all it was a very enjoyable evening and I still have another haggis in the freezer for scoffing later in the year. Did anyone else, celebrate Burns Nicht? Or does anyone have any suggestions for a sauce or gravy that we could serve with the haggis to make it wetter for my dad?
Address to a Haggis
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hudies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o' need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut ye up wi' ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Then horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Tho' bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whistle;
An' legs, an' arms, an' heads will sned
Like taps o' thrissle.
Ye pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware,
That jaups in luggies;
But if ye wish her gratfu' prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!
So now that we've made our pastry, what are we going to do with it? Well today's recipe is a savoury pie that is ideal for using up leftover chicken or turkey. You can also add ham, bacon or pancetta to it to make it taste really special. However, make sure you taste it before adding salt if you do add the ham. The pie is also really tasty heated up the next day for lunch.
Preheat the oven to 200°C, and prepare the pastry as before, leaving it in the fridge to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Next, chop up the onion and garlic and leave to one side.
Then chop up the carrot and mushrooms into cubes and again, leave to one side.
Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Once the onion has turned translucent and soft, add the mushrooms and cook until the juices start to run out. Now lower the heat on the hob and shred the leftover chicken into the pan. If, unlike me, you're organised, you can also chop the chicken into cubes beforehand and just add to the pan rather than shredding it in.
Let the chicken cook in the pan for about a minute, just to get the heat through it. Next, add in the chicken stock and increase the hob temperature until the stock starts to boil then reduce to a simmer.
Add in the peas, carrots and cream if you are using it. I think the cream adds a nice sweetness and a smoother texture to the sauce, but it's not necessary.
Stir through the cream and taste the sauce. Add the mustard and taste again. I taste a lot during the next few steps to make sure that I have the perfect tasting sauce.
Season with salt, pepper and herbs. Dried mixed herbs or herbes du provence are good, but if you can, use a mixture of fresh thyme and sage for a really delicious flavour.
Leave the chicken mixture to simmer over a low heat so that the sauce thickens a little while you prepare the pastry topping. Dust a clear and clean bit of counter space and remove the pastry from the fridge. Flatten out the pastry and roll it out first in one direction, then flip it over and turn it at right angles to its original position and roll it out again.
Repeat this until the pastry is large enough to cover the oven proof dish the pie will go into. You can check this by placing the dish on the pastry or just hovering it over it and ensuring that there is a good margin of pastry around it.
Time to check back on the chicken mixture. If it's not as thick as you would like it to be, mix 30g of flour or cornflour together with 150ml of water, ensuring that they are well integrated and pour a little at a time into the chicken mixture and bring to the boil. This should start to thicken the sauce. Just a note that before pouring in each bit of the flour-and-water mixture, make sure they are well mixed or you will get lumps of flour. Remember to taste the chicken after adding this thickener to ensure you still like the flavour.
Once the chicken mixture is how you would like it both in taste and texture, pour it into the oven proof dish and spread it out so that the chicken pieces are evenly distributed.
Move the dish over to beside where you have laid out the pastry. Now for the tricky bit, putting the pastry onto the dish. One way to do it is to carefully roll the pastry on to a piece of greaseproof paper and then roll it up onto the rolling pin and then carefully roll it out along the top of the dish. The other way is just to lift the pastry up very well and place it over the top of the dish. I did the latter in this case. Then cut or tear off the over hanging pastry and leave to one side. The remaining over hanging pastry can be folded along the edge of the pie.
If you have a pie blackbird, you can either insert it after the pie lid has been put on or lover the pastry around it letting the beak poke a hole in the pastry. I would use some of the leftover pastry to seal up around the blackbird and to seal any other gaps. The leftover pastry can also be used to decorate the top of the pie. This is something I like to have a little fun with.
Just before you put the pie into the oven, brush the pastry with a little milk or egg wash, this is not necessary but it does help the pastry to glaze nicely while cooking. Then put the pie into the oven for 20 mins or until the pastry turns a golden brown.
Serve the pie either on its own or with a side salad.
You can also make a vegetarian version of this pie by leaving out the chicken and adding more mushrooms, perhaps portobellos, and replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock. Let me know how you get on with this recipe or if there's anything I could've made a little clearer.
This is the second in the "Back to Basics" posts that I will be doing. Today it's pastry, something a lot of people think is difficult, but it's really not. The most important thing to remember is that everything should be cold. This recipe is a very simple short crust pastry that I use for everything from pies to quiche.
Before we start, I'm going to confess that I changed bowls half way through, as I realised that it is quite hard to see a yellow mixture in a yellow bowl. Anyway, on with the recipe!
Measure out the flour and put into the bowl. It's best to sieve it, but I'm not going to lie, I am very bad for not doing that, however, the pastry still comes out okay, but not as good as when I sieve it. Next, put in your very cold butter or marg, cut into lumps.
Now comes the tricky part, making sure that your hands are cold before handling the mixture. I'm lucky in that I have bad circulation in my hands which tends to make them cold most of the time. However, if you have warm hands it's a good idea to run them under the cold tap. When your hands are nice and cold, rub the butter into the flour using your finger tips until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs.
Next, add the (very cold) water slowly mixing it into the dry ingredients. Two tips here: I measure the water into a jug for easier pouring and I use a knife to start off the mixing of the wet and dry ingredients together, once it's gotten going I use my hands to pull the mixture together. Make sure you take off rings and watches before start otherwise it gets very messy, and it isn't the most hygenic either.
If there is too little water, pieces will be flaking off and the pastry will be very crumbly and you should add a little more water. If there is too much water then the mixture will be sticky and you need to add a little more flour.
The perfect pastry will be slightly tacky to the touch but otherwise smooth. Wrap the finished pastry in clingfilm or a sandwich bag and put in the fridge where it can cool before you roll it out. It's good for the pastry to have at least an hour in the fridge but don't worry if you need to use it sooner than that.
Let me know how you get on and if you have any questions at all regarding this or anything else, please let me know.
This week and last week I have been mainly cooking warm winter dishes. I also have a growing urge to bake some bread, as there is nothing nicer than warm bread with butter melting into it, but I digress.
The cold water has me making a lot of soup, but I've also been trawling around the web looking for other interesting winter dishes to try. The Daily Spud has provided a couple of classics in the form of borscht and and interesting take on neeps and tatties. The former I might try with my mum as she's been getting a lot of beetroot lately in her organic veg bag, the latter I really want to try but my beau is not a fan of turnip, so it'll have to be on an evening that he's not around.
On Tuesday I discovered a brace of stew recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on the Guardian's site and made this delectable beef stew with cheddar cobbler. It was really tasty freshly made but we've also been enjoying it warmed up for our lunches at work. Jon's opinion on it was "Yum!", which means I'll be adding this into my regular round of dinners.
One of my other favourite food blogs I Can Has Cook? has also been cooking up stew, using that encyclopedia of online recipes the BBC Good Food Recipe site. She's gone back to her roots with an Irish stew, which has reminded me that I must ask my mum for her Irish stew recipe.
What are your favourite winter dishes? Do you cook anything unusual during the winter? Let me know, I'd love to add another dish to my winter repetoire.
Apologies again for the slight delay in the posting of this, but I'm going to blame the snow which distracted me all week and weekend forcing to make comfort food in large amounts. Dishes like this shepherd's pie. I'm going to refer to this recipe as shepherd's pie, but you can use beef mince instead of lamb mince, and then it's called cottage pie. I hope you enjoy it.
First off, preheat the oven to 200°C. The next thing to do is prepare the potatoes and get them ready for boiling, while they're cooking you can prepare the rest of the ingredients and then everything should be ready at the same time when you want to assemble the pie and put it in the oven.
First peel the potatoes, and cut down to manageable sized pieces. I would generally cut large potatoes at least in to halves, if not into thirds.
Next, put them into a large pot and cover in cold water. Once they come to a boil, reduce the heat so that they're simmering. They should be ready in 20 minutes from this point.
While the potatoes are cooking, it's time to prepare the other ingredients. First chop the onion and finely as you can, crush the garlic and leave both to one side. Then peel the carrots and finely chop. If the carrots are quite fresh, a scrub with a hard bristled brush, such as a nail brush, will suffice instead of peeling.
Heat some vegetable oil in the frying pan over a medium hot hob and add the garlic and onion. When the onion has softened and turned slightly translucent add the lamb mince, brown thoroughly, then crumble in the beef stock cube.
Next add the carrots, peas and enough water to make a gravy like consistency. Don't worry about adding too much water as it's better if it's a little too wet than too dry as the potato will absorb some of the liquid later.
Now comes the seasoning, add Worcestershire sauce, herbs, salt and pepper to the mince mix, tasting as you go.
Once you're happy with the taste combination, pour the mince mixture into the oven-proof dish. At this point you can add a little more water if you think that the mixture needs it.
Now back to the potatoes. To check that they're properly cooked through, stick a knife in them and if there is no resistance then they are good to go. Drain the potatoes, season with salt and pepper and add the butter. Start mashing. If the potato seems a little crumbly, add a splash of milk to make to it cohere.
When you have a nice smooth consistency of mash, put a lump of it on top of the mince and start to spread out with a fork. Continue doing this until all the mince has been covered over.
Once the pie is complete, sprinkle the cheese over top and place into the oven to cook for 20 minutes or until the cheese/potato is golden brown.
Once the pie comes out of oven serve immediately with a side salad or just on its own. This is also really good to heat up the next day for lunch. Let me know if you make it and how you get on or if you have any questions.
Apologies for the lack of post over the last couple of weeks. I was caught a little on the hop by Christmas and everything that goes with it.
However, normal service will resume on Friday with a nice recipe to take you into the weekend.
I hope you all had an enjoyable break and ate some delicious things. We celebrated a traditional Danish Christmas on the 24th starting off with Risengrød, a rice porridge dish that you serve with butter, sugar and cinnamon. This was followed by roasted pheasants with pancetta and pear, and side dishes of mashed potato, red cabbage and broccoli. After that we sang some carols and then opened some of our gifts.
On Christmas Day we had people over to our house after church for nibbly bits of cocktails sausages and M&S's Bacon and Cheese rolls. We roasted our turkey seperately from the stuffing for the first time this year, and were a little suprised at how much faster it cooked. A lot more of the stuffing was also eaten when it was outside of the bird. I think we'll probably do the same next year.
We had prepared the ham the day before so that all it needed was the glaze. Our side dishes were buttered carrots, roasted parsnips & potatoes roasted in goose fat. In all the kitchen chaos we completely forgot about the brussel sprouts, so we had them on Stephen's Day sauted with bacon.
We didn't have dessert either day as we were all just too stuffed from the main event. Though some (okay, maybe a lot) of chocolate was consumed later in the evening.
We got all our meat from our local craft butcher and it was totally worth it as the flavour was brilliant. The ham in particular was especially good this year and was the first of the leftovers to vanish.
My other big meal over the festive season was New Year's Eve dinner. I made a starter of a carrot and ginger soup following the same process as I did here and using the last of the turkey to make a really good stock for its base.
I also roasted my first goose and made some really good stuffing for it too. The stuffing was made with sausage meat, chestnut puree, dried apricots and breadcrumbs. It was based around this outside-in stuffing recipe from the BBC recipe website and tasted delicious. The goose came out really well and I served it with roasted potatoes (using the excess fat from the goose) and carrots.
I finished off with Delia's Lemon Curd Layer Cake, which was the perfect finish to the meal as it's sharpness really cleared your palette and it was sweet without being overly filling.
All in all my family and I ate far too much food but it was all so good, it was very hard not to.