Main Courses

Haggis with Scallops, Caramelised Pear and Beurre Blanc Sauce

Yes, I know it sounds revolting and I was met with considerable apprehension when I announced that I was serving this up. But after the first tentative mouthful, it was proclaimed as really tasty and a culinary success! Haggis, let’s face it, gets bad PR but honestly, this is a really rich, lovely winter dish. Written up here as a starter, it can also be served as a main course, adding green vegetables (steamed leek and cabbage) and potato (Dauphinoise would work well). So, give it a go and be happily surprised!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x 450g good quality Haggis (I used Simon Howie’s Haggis Company).

Splash of olive oil

12 good sized scallops, hand-dived if you can spare the pennies

Sea salt and black pepper

for the beurre blanc sauce

2 shallots, finely chopped

20ml white wine vinegar

40ml white wine

40ml water

75g butter, cut into small chunks

Sea salt and black pepper

for the caramelised pears

50g butter

2 tablespoons soft dark brown sugar

3 pears, unpeeled, cored and chopped into 1 cm pieces

What to do…

To cook your haggis, follow the instructions that it comes with. In my case, it was simply to wrap the haggis, skin and clips intact, in foil and pop in a saucepan of water, bringing it to the boil before gently simmering it for 45 minutes.

For the sauce, pop the shallots, vinegar, white wine and water into a saucepan and cook on a moderate heat until the liquid is halved. Remove from the heat and add the butter chunks one at a time, using a balloon whisk to ensure that each chunk is fully blended in before adding the next. Once it is all added, season with salt and pepper and return to the hob, keeping it warm on a low heat.

For the caramelised pears, heat the butter and sugar in a small saucepan on a moderate heat until they are both melted, stirring regularly. Tip in the chopped pears and gently stir them in, ensuring they are all evenly coated with butter. Reduce the heat and just leave them in the pan for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. They will finish up golden and delicious.

Finally, about five minutes before you are ready to serve, splash a little oil in a frying pan and when it’s hot, chuck in your scallops. Fry them for two minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Season.

To serve your haggis with scallops, caramelised pear and beurre blanc sauce, simply provide each person with one generous slice of haggis in the centre of the plate, topping it with the seared scallops, scatter the pears around the side and drizzle the beurre blanc over the pears.

The vinegar and wine in the beurre blanc sauce provide a gently, slightly sharp contrast to the richness of the haggis and the sweetness of the pear provides a perfect foil to the meat’s depth of flavour. It really works beautifully – simply delicious!

Inspired by…

Loch Fyne Restaurants currently have a version of this on their menus. I hope my interpretation does it justice!

How Easy…

Not difficult but loads of pots and pans, especially if it’s being served with accompaniments for a main course.

Whilst the haggis is cooking, you have plenty of time to make the beurre blanc and then the caramelised pears, just keeping both of them warm until you are ready to serve.

Lovely, Comforting Lasagne

Sooooo lovely and comforting, both to make and to eat – this is such a lovely family supper dish

Serves 6

What you need…

Ovenproof dish (mine is 20cm x 30cm)

Splash of olive oil

1 kg minced beef

500g minced lamb

150g mozzarella, torn up

A handful of fresh sage leaves

Lasagne sheets, fresh or dried (enough to cover your ovenproof dish three times)

for the tomato sauce

Splash of olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary

3 bay leaves

2 x 400g tins of chopped Italian tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato puree

for the white sauce

1 litre milk

Pinch nutmeg

½ onion, peeled and sliced

Small handful black peppercorns

80g butter

60g plain flour, sieved

120g – 150g grated fresh Parmesan

Sea salt & black pepper

What to do…

Heat a large, deep frying pan with a splash of olive oil. Slowly fry the garlic until lightly coloured, then add the rosemary, bay leaves, tomatoes and tomato puree. Cook gently for 45 minutes with the lid on.

Add the meat to your tomato mixture and simmer for 20 minutes, creating a tomato and meat ragu.

Meanwhile, put the milk, nutmeg, onion and black peppercorns into a medium sized saucepan and bring gently to the boil. Melt the butter in a third saucepan (large) and tip in the flour. Mix well to form the beginning of a roux sauce (it will look like a glossy ball). Gradually add the flavoured milk – one ladle at a time and through a sieve (you don’t want all the peppercorns and onions in there), stirring it well until you have a thick, smooth white sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes, then take off the heat and add Parmesan and seasoning.

Remove the rosemary and bay leaves from the tomato and meat ragu.

Preheat the oven to 180c / 350 f / gas 4 and butter a large baking dish.

Cover the bottom of the dish with lasagne sheets. Then cover with a thin layer of your ragu. Then cover with a thin layer of the white sauce. Repeat with a further two sets of layers – pasta, ragu and white sauce – ending with white sauce. Scatter over the torn mozzarella and sage leaves.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and let your lovely, comforting lasagne settle for maybe 10 minutes. Serve with a fabulous, robust bottle of Italian wine.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

It is easy but does take time: you need to be in the right mood. Choose your music, open a nice bottle of red and enjoy the process. The cooking smells are wonderful and definitely contribute to the enjoyment of this dish. There are however loads of pans to wash up but….it’s worth it! I wash them whilst the lasagne is in the oven so that when I sit down, I’m totally relaxed.

 

Roast Breast of Duck with Plum and Apple Tarte Tatin

A fabulous Autumnal treat that looks and tastes so sumptuous and actually isn’t that difficult to make. Whoever you make it for will be very appreciative! It’s rich and ever so slightly decadent!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 tartlet tin, with 4 8cm holes, greased

1 9-cm cookie cutter

200g ready-made puff pastry (unless you’re on Bake Off, who has the time to make it?!)

2 apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

2 plums, stoned and roughly chopped

5 little knobs of butter

4 dessertspoons of honey

30g shallots, chopped

250ml port

500ml chicken/game stock (made from a stock pot and water)

4 duck breasts, similarly sized

225g spinach

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6.

Score the skin on the duck breasts in a crisscross pattern and season well. Put aside for the moment.

Making the jus/sauce: melt the first knob of butter in a saucepan and add the shallots, cooking for five minutes on a low heat. Add the port and stock and reduce until the sauce coats the back of the spoon – about 15 minutes. Set to one side – it doesn’t have to be boiling hot to serve but you may want to reheat just before serving to make sure it’s still runny rather than starting to set.

Making your tarte tatins: in your tartlet tin, place a knob of butter in the centre of each ‘mould’ and pour over one dessertspoon honey over each one. Mix together the apple and plums and then take a handful of the mixed fruit, piling it on top of the honey and butter.

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 5mm and, using your cookie cutter, cut out four 9cm circles and place over the top of the fruit, tucking the sides in so that you have four upside down tarts. Pop in the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, take a heavy frying pan, turn the hob heat up to a medium high heat and cook the duck breast, skin side down, in the dry pan for about nine minutes, then turn the breast over and cook for a further six minutes. Keep an eye on it – it can scorch quite easily (as evidenced in my photogograph!)

Towards the end of the duck cooking time, wilt the spinach in a pot with just a couple of spoonfuls of water and little salt for two minutes.

To serve, place a mound of spinach on each plate and top with one tarte tatin, removed from the tin and served fruit side up. Put the duck on the plate and drizzle the jus/sauce around the plate.

Delicious doesn’t cover it! This recipe for Roast Breast of Duck with Plum and Apple Tarte Tatin is a rich, lovely treat, ideal for dinner party. Halve the ingredients and make a sumptuous romantic dinner for two.

Tips…

You’ll have some pastry left over – you could always re-roll it and create another few fruit tatins but for use as desserts or perhaps a couple of Apple Roses (see my other recipes).

I use Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients frozen chopped shallots – quick and saves all that crying!

Inspired by…

Julian Owen-Mold

How easy…

It’s really easy providing the duck breasts are the same size and therefore cook evenly during the same time. It’s quite smelly and the hob will be a mess at the end, but it’s worth it and surely, if you’ve done the cooking, someone else should clear up!

 

Baked Glazed Gammon

 

For many years now, we have reserved the baked gammon for Christmas Eve. When the present-wrapping is all done and all the preparation is finished for the big day, it’s time to sit down for hot gammon sandwiches in squishy, chunky fresh bread, washed down with a glass of fizz. The aroma of this wonderful dish cooking in its final stages is something I will always associate with Christmas but we do sneak it in a couple of other times throughout the year. The spirit of Christmas should be with us all year around, after all!

Serves 8 with left overs

What you need…

1 x unsmoked gammon joint, weighing about 4 kg

1 carrot, cut in half

1 onion, cut in half at root

1 celery stick

1 bay leaf

10 peppercorns

for the glaze

8 tablespoons good quality marmalade

2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard

2 tablespoons black treacle

A handful of cloves

What to do…

Soak the gammon overnight if you’re having it for lunch or all day if you are having it in the evening. Discard the soaking water before starting.

Put the gammon in a large saucepan, cover with water and add the carrot, onion, celery, bay leaf and peppercorns. Bring to the boil, cover and then turn down the heat to a low simmer for 2¾.

Pre heat the oven to 180°c / 350f / gas 4

When the gammon is cooked, remove from the cooking water and set aside to drain.

Make the glaze by mixing all of the ingredients (except the cloves) together in a bowl.

Cut the rind off the gammon, leaving a thin layer of fat. Score the fat diagonally in a criss-cross pattern and then stud with cloves all over. Put the gammon in a roasting tin, brush/spoon over the glaze and bake for about 30 minutes until sticky and golden. The smell will make you swoon! Serve your Baked Glazed Gammon with warm gorgeous doorstep bread and salted butter. Yummy!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

The easiest baked gammon recipe I have tried and soooooo delicious!

 

 

Broccoli, Anchovy and Garlic Pasta

We love pasta in our house as the number of recipes evidence! This one is a lovely, light and fresh dish with the vitamins of broccoli and the tangy edge provided by the garlic and anchovy. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese finishes it off perfectly! Really yummy!

Serves 4

What you need…

2 heads of broccoli

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

12-16 anchovy fillets, depending on your taste – I love them!

2 hot chillies, de-seeded and chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

Dried pasta (see tip)

Sea Salt and black pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

What to do…

Chop the broccoli into florets, halving them if they are big ones.

Take a big saucepan and bring to the boil salted water. Add the pasta and cook following the instructions on the packet (mine normally takes about 12 minutes).

Whilst the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok to a medium heat, adding the garlic, anchovies and chillis, smashing up the anchovies as they warm up. Keep the oil warm but not spitting.

Four minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, add the broccoli florets to the pasta water.

Drain the pasta and broccoli and add them to them to the other pan, tossing them in the oil. Season to taste and serve with a generous your broccoli, anchovy and garlic pasta with a sprinkling of Parmesan. Quite simply delicious!

Tip…

I tend to use gluten-free pasta, simply because it doesn’t weigh down my digestive system like the normal option. Eating pasta with gluten makes me feel uncomfortably full and also very tired at the end of the meal – capable of doing nothing but collapsing in front of the TV. Gluten-free definitely suits me better.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy….

Ever so! Great lunch or quick supper

Chicken Breasts and Sun-Dried Tomatoes with Tarragon and Paprika Sauce

One of my favourite supper dishes to share with family and friends, it’s easy to prepare, light and really flavoursome

Serves 4

What you need…

5-6 skinless chicken breasts

8 tablespoons lemon juice

2 rounded teaspoons paprika

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped

Knob of butter

12-14 sun-dried tomatoes

300ml double cream

Salt

Chilli powder

Bunch of rocket leaves to garnish

What to do…

Put lemon juice, paprika, garlic and tarragon in a bowl, mix together.

Slice chicken and add to mixture. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes at least.

Melt butter in a large, deep frying pan/wok.

Add chicken mixture and cook gently for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, slice the sundried tomatoes in half.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from pan and set aside.

Bubble pan juices fiercely for two minutes, reducing slightly.

Remove from heat and slowly stir in the double cream.

Bring the mixture back to the boil and boil for 2-3 minutes or until it has thickened slightly.

Season with salt and chilli. Return chicken to pan and add in sundried tomatoes and warm through.

Serve chicken breasts and sun-dried tomatoes with tarragon and paprika sauce with rocket scattered over. It goes really well with some garlicky pasta on the side or garlic-fried green vegetables such as shredded cabbage and leek. Lovely!

Inspired by…

Josceline Dimbleby, The Almost Vegetarian Cookbook

How Easy…

One of the few main courses that I can produce whilst chatting to visiting friends – I normally have to focus completely on the cooking!

Scrumptious Risotto

There is something wonderfully satisfying and calming about making risotto – it needs time to do it properly but isn’t complicated. And then there’s the sheer pleasure of eating it – it definitely fits into the ‘comfort food’ category.

 

Risotto Bianco -the basis for all my risottos

Serves 6

What you need…

1.1 litres stock (chicken, fish or veg, as appropriate)

2 tablesp. olive oil

a knob of butter

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

4 sticks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped

400g risotto rice

300ml dry white wine

Sea salt & black pepper, to taste

What to do…

Heat the stock. Put the olive oil and butter into a separate pan and add the onion, garlic and celery. Cook on a low heat for 15 minutes without colouring. This is called a ‘soffrito’. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.

The rice will now begin to lightly fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute, it will look slightly translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring – it will smell fabulous!

Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn down the heat and simmer so that the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and massaging the creamy starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take about 15 minutes. Taste the rice to check that it is cooked. If not, carry on adding stock (or boiling water if you’ve run out) until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. Check seasoning.

Remove from the heat. For a basic risotto, add 70g butter and 115g freshly grated Parmesan. Stir well. Place a lid on the pan and allow to stand for 2-5 minutes. This is one of the most important elements of making the perfect risotto, as this is when it comes amazingly oozy, like it should be. Serve and enjoy that beautiful creamy texture.

Variations…

Seafood Risotto

Use fish stock. When you have just two final ladlefuls of stock to go, add in four scallops, sliced horizontally, and 2 fillets of salmon, skinned and chopped into cm-sized chunks plus, a handful of clams and/or mussels if you fancy.

Once you have removed the risotto from the heat, squeeze in half a lemon’s juice and 250g raw prawns, stir well to make sure all the prawns are totally covered by the hot rice. As per Risotto Bianco, place a lid on the pan for 2 – 5 mins before serving. Bellissimo!

Mint, Asparagus, Peas & Lemon Risotto (pictured)

Use vegetable stock. Trim and cook 400g asparagus in boiling, salted water until al dente. Chop 1 tablesp. mint.

When you have just two final ladlefuls of stock to go, add in the al dente asparagus, chopped mint and a couple of handfuls of frozen petit pois. Squeeze in juice from half a lemon and stir well.

As per Risotto Bianco, place a lid on the pan for 2 – 5 minutes before serving. Delish!

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Use vegetable stock. Fry 200g wild mushrooms (cleaned and torn up) in a splash of hot oil for a minute or two until they begin to colour. Season with salt and pepper. Add 4-5 cloves chopped garlic, a small bunch thyme leaves and 1 tablesp. butter and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes.

Once you have removed the risotto from the heat, add the Parmesan and butter as per Risotto Bianco and stir in 1 small bunch finely chopped flat-leaf parsley. Add the mushroom mixture, squeeze in juice from half a lemon and stir well. As per Risotto Bianco, place a lid on the pan for 2 – 5 mins before serving. Divine!

Tip…

Dried porcini work fabulously in this risotto. You just need to remember pop them in boiling water for 20 minutes before cooking with them.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

Really, really easy as long as you have the time to let the rice become oozy and the flavours develop.

 

 

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