Thursday, 30 December 2010

New Year Ham with Black Eyed Peas and Braised Cabbage and Onion

Yesterday on this blog I featured pork and mentioned how there are many cultures around the world in which eating pork at New Year is considered to be a bringer of good luck. I thought that I would continue this theme today and expand on it slightly. I am therefore featuring boiled ham (as it is any type of meat from a pig which is considered lucky,) as well as black eyed peas which are also considered lucky to eat at New Year and cabbage, which is believed by many to bring riches in the coming year. I hope very much that if you are one of the millions of people who see a dish incorporating cabbage and immediately think, "I hate cabbage!" you will at least consider the way in which I have prepared it here before dismissing this offering altogether...

This recipe is for four people.


2lb piece of boneless, boiling ham
1/2 white cabbage
1 medium white onion
1 clove of garlic
14oz can of black eyed peas in water
6 whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper


The ham has to be cooked completely before anything else is started. Wash the piece of ham and place it in to a large pot. Stick the whole cloves in to the ham, crack the black peppers in a pestle and mortar and add them also. Note that the ham should not be salted, as it will have been cured with salt. Pour in enough cold water to completely cover the ham and put on to a high heat until the water starts to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for one and a half hours, topping up the water as required.

When the ham is cooked, it should be removed from the water with a carving fork and a large slotted spoon and transferred to a small bowl to rest. It is better to use a bowl than a plate, as this will catch the escaping juices. Cover the bowl while the cabbage and onion and the black eyed peas are prepared.

The cabbage should be quartered, the core cut out and each quarter sliced. The onion should be peeled, halved and also sliced. The garlic clove should be peeled and finely chopped. The olive oil should be put in to a large pot, brought up to a medium heat and the cabbage, onion and garlic all added. Season with salt and pepper and cook on a medium heat, stirring frequently for seven or eight minutes.

The black eyed peas should be poured in to a pot and heated for three or four minutes. Take care not to let the liquid boil. They should then be drained through a colander and are ready to serve.

The ham should be carved while the peas are heating and the cabbage and onion finishes braising. This delicious, lucky New Year meal may then be plated and served.

Tomorrow on this Blog

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve - Hogmanay here in Scotland - and I will be featuring my final recipe of 2010. I will also, however, be looking at New Year Resolutions, specifically in relation to food, and I hope very much that you will stop by to take a look.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Traditional Scottish Steak and Sausage Pie with a Twist

There are a great many people in Scotland for whom New Year would simply not be New Year without the traditional steak and sausage pie, as pictured above. Steak pie in Scotland is very often considered to be as much of a New Year tradition as whisky. Around the world, of course, there are a great many different foodstuffs associated with New Year and a very popular one is pork. In many countries and cultures, pork is considered to bring good luck for the coming year when it is eaten as part of a New Year meal and this gave me an idea. Steak pie in Scotland is usually comprised of beef steak and beef sausages. What I have done here, however, is a piece of blatant fusion cooking, by making the steak pie with leg of pork steak and pork link sausages.

Steak and sausage pie is frequently served with any of a great many different accompaniments. It can be served with roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, or even chips as in this instance, as well as a wide and varied choice of vegetables. In this post, I am focusing on how to make the steak and sausage pie only but if you want to know how I prepare chips, you can find the full instructions by clicking here. The dwarf green beans which I am also serving as an accompaniment are simply washed and blanched in boiling water for five minutes.


1lb leg of pork steak
4 pork link sausages
1/2lb puff pastry
2 pints fresh chicken stock
1 small beaten egg for glazing
Salt and pepper


If desired, you can have your butcher fully prepare the leg of pork steak for you by chopping it in to bite sized pieces. Alternatively, cut it yourself but do not discard any remaining fat. This is required to keep the meat moist. Put the steak only in to a dry pot and bring it up to a medium heat. This will cause the fat to begin to melt and allow the pork to seal and brown in its own juices. Stir the meat constantly during this process. It should only take two or three minutes.

When the pork is sealed, add the heated chicken stock and bring to a simmer for one hour. After this time, add the pork links for a further half hour's simmering. In order to minimise the chances of the sausages bursting, position them round the edges of the pot and ensure that the stock does not boil. Note that you may be required to add a little boiling water to the pot at this stage to ensure all the meat is covered.

After what will have been a total of one and a half hours simmering, turn off the heat, cover the pot and set it aside to cool for at least an hour. Building the pie when the meat is hot will cause steam to make the underside of the pastry soggy before it has a chance to start cooking.

When the steak and sausage is cool, add it to a 10" by 7" ashet or similarly suitable dish. Add enough stock to almost cover the meat and come within about an inch of the lip of the dish. Put the oven on to preheat to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6.

On a clean, dry, floured surface, roll out the puff pastry until it is large enough to cover the dish and slightly more. The excess is used to crimp the pastry in place around and over the edges. Beat the egg and use it to lightly glaze the pie, before making two or three slits in the centre to allow steam to escape during cooking.

The pie should be placed on a baking tray and in to the oven until the pastry is risen and golden. This will vary from oven to oven but will generally take anything from thirty to forty minutes. When the pie is cooked, remove it from the oven and set it aside to cool slightly for around ten minutes, while the finishing touches are made to the remainder of the ingredients.

A pie of this size will provide two very generous servings or up to four smaller servings. I hope that you will try either my alternative steak and sausage pie this New Year, or the original version, and add a little bit of Scottish Hogmanay to your New Year celebrations. You may even wish to follow it up with the traditional Scottish malt whisky, raspberry and cream dessert, Cranachan, and a Gaelic coffee!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

A Hearty and Satisfying Fry Up to Soak up the New Year Booze

New Year is almost certainly the time of year when a majority of people over-indulge in terms of alcohol consumption. Although it is unlikely to make you drink less, eating hearty meals during this period will most certainly help your body cope to some extent with these alcohol excesses, ensuring that you feel less ill at the time and particularly afterwards. I well remember as a young man starting out on my drinking, "Career," having it drummed in to me by especially my grandmother that if I had to go out drinking, it was vital that I had a good lining in my stomach beforehand. The meal she most often advocated was an old-fashioned fry-up, cooked in lard in what was an absolutely delicious but certainly less than healthy fashion.

Although I am not trying to pretend that the fry-up I have prepared here is a healthy eating option, I have at least exchanged the lard for oil and tried to retain the hearty aspects of the meal with just a touch less cholesterol.

Ingredients per Person

2 beef link sausages
1 slice of black pudding (blood sausage)
2 rashers of bacon
1 egg
1 slice of bread
3 closed cup mushrooms (stalks removed)
1 medium to large tomato (halved)
Half a white onion (sliced)
Sunflower oil for frying
Salt and pepper


It is important to remember when cooking eggs - especially when frying them - that the egg should never be cooked straight from the refrigerator. It must be removed at least a couple of hours in advance and allowed to come up to room temperature if you are to know anything like the best effect.

You will need two frying pans to make this recipe, at least one of which should be fairly large. To the large frying pan, add around a tablespoon of sunflower oil. Put the two link sausages in to the pan and cook on a low to medium heat for ten minutes, turning occasionally. After this time, add the black pudding and fry it for approximately five minutes each side (depending upon the thickness of the slice) until cooked.

The tomato, mushrooms and onions can be added to the pan after the black pudding has been turned.

When everything is in the pan, place a large dinner plate in to the oven and put the oven on to heat to 225F/100C/Gas Mark 1/4.

While the sausages and black pudding complete their last few minutes of cooking, cut a hole in the centre of the slice of bread using an egg cup. This is to accommodate the egg yolk. Add some oil to the second frying pan (which must be non-stick) and bring it up to a fairly high heat before adding the bread. Fry it for a couple of minutes to effectively lightly toast one side and then turn it over. Break the egg in to a small bowl and then carefully pour it on the bread, ensuring the yolk goes in to the hole.

The sausages and black pudding should be removed from the frying pan and transferred to the hot plate in the oven to keep warm. The bacon should then be added to the pan with the vegetables to fry for a couple of minutes each side. At this stage, the pan with the bread and egg should be placed in the oven. This will complete the cooking of the egg without having to turn the bread again and spoil the presentation.

When the bacon is ready, the meal can be plated up and served - with the HP Sauce being optional.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Leftover Roast Chicken and Fried Leftover Mash, with Roasted Chestnut and Celery Salad

The Christmas and New Year holiday period is the time of year where leftovers form a huge part of many meals. Whether it be leftover turkey on sandwiches, leftover trimmings picked at as snacks, or leftover cakes and desserts eaten when desired, millions of people are looking to ensure that the excess food which they bought but were never likely to need does not go to waste. This recipe is therefore devoted to leftovers. It is composed of leftover roast chicken and mashed potatoes, with an interesting and delicious little salad served as an accompaniment. (Note that the salad was a last minute experiment but it did work very well!)


4 slices of leftover roast chicken breast
3 tbsp leftover mashed potatoes
1 celery stick
1 tbsp raisins
6 chestnuts
2 tbsp low fat natural yoghurt
Mixed pickles of choice
Salt and pepper
Butter for frying


It is important to start the preparation of the salad first. This is principally so that the raisins can soak up some of the yoghurt liquid, both that they may soften and that the salad will not be too fluid. The celery stalk should be washed and sliced across the way to a thickness of 1/4". The celery pieces, raisins and yoghurt should be mixed together in a small bowl, covered with clingfilm and refrigerated.

Although I have eaten roasted chestnuts many times in my life, I had never attempted to roast them myself until a few days ago. I therefore did the obvious and consulted Google for instructions/advice. I used only a few chestnuts on each occasion but the first four or five attempts were disastrous - the chestnuts were not only over-cooked but, frankly, wholly inedible! It actually quite literally left me wondering whether the people who published these recipes had indeed actually ever attempted them...

It is only fair, I feel, in this respect that I present the perfect recipe which I discovered for roasting chestnuts:

How to Roast Chestnuts

When the chestnuts are ready, they should be left to cool before being halved to peel them and then halved again in to quarters. Make sure that you remove the brown inner skin, as well as the shell. The quartered chestnuts should then be mixed in to the yoghurt salad and the dish returned to the refrigerator.

A little bit of butter should be melted in a non-stick frying pan. The cold mashed potato should be compressed in to a ball and flattened in to a disc, exactly the same way as when making hamburgers. It should then be fried in the butter over a medium heat for around five minutes each side until nicely browned.

The chicken should be arranged on a plate, the fried mashed potato added and a spoonful of salad and pickles of choice served as a final garnish.

Friday, 24 December 2010

A Three Course Christmas Dinner for One Person

A few days ago on this blog, I looked at Christmas dinner ideas for one in respect of vegetarians. It is entirely possible of course that non-vegetarians will also be looking for Christmas dinner ideas for one person, given that purchasing a large turkey or goose is unlikely to be a viable option. This is most likely to be the case where someone is spending Christmas alone but could even be for a sole non-vegetarian at a Christmas dinner party!

Christmas Dinner Appetizer/Starter: Smoked Mackerel Salad with Yoghurt Dip

This incredibly simple recipe requires quite literally no cooking. The smoked mackerel is purchased vacuum packed from the supermarket.


1 smoked mackerel fillet (or smoked salmon)
4 large lettuce leaves
1/2 small red onion
1 tbsp low fat natural yoghurt
2" of cucumber
4 small fresh mint leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


The dip served with this dish is essentially a very simple Indian raita. This should be prepared first. Simply half the cucumber lengthwise, down through the core, scoop the seeds out with a teaspoon and discard them. The flesh of the cucumber should then be finely diced, the mint leaves finely chopped and the two stirred through the yoghurt.

The lettuce leaves should be shredded and the red onion half finely sliced. They should be mixed together with salt and pepper before being arranged on the serving plate, beside the raita in a small bowl.

It is likely that the skin will still be on the smoked mackerel fillet but this can easily be peeled away by hand. The mackerel should then be broken in to large flakes and arranged over the salad immediately prior to service.

Christmas Dinner Main Course: Chicken Casserole with Fried Potato Slices and Brussels Sprouts

This delicious chicken casserole is easy to prepare, fairly quick to cook and both warming and delicious on what may be a very cold and biting Christmas Day. I bought a quarter of a whole chicken, incorporating breast and wing, from my local supermarket for this dish but it can be made with any chosen part of a chicken.


1/4 whole chicken
1 small onion
1 small carrot
1 stick of celery
2 pints fresh chicken stock
1 medium potato
5 or 6 Brussels sprouts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sunflower oil for frying
Little butter
Pinch of ground nutmeg


Put your oven on to preheat to 375F/190C/Gas mark 5. Put a very little oil in to a non-stick frying pan and brown the chicken piece over a high heat. This should only take a couple of minutes. Do not wash the pan at this stage as the potato will be fried in the remnants of the chicken juices.

Peel and quarter the onion and wash and roughly chop the carrot and celery stick. Add the chicken to a large casserole dish and arrange the chopped vegetables around it. Pour over the heated chicken stock and place in to the oven for around forty to forty-five minutes.

The potato should be washed and dried but not peeled. Slice it across the way to a thickness of 1/4". When the casserole is almost ready, add a little more sunflower oil to the frying pan and bring it up to a medium heat. Add the potatoes and season well with salt and pepper. Fry for 8 to 10 minutes each side, depending upon how brown you wish them to be.

The casserole should be removed from the oven once the potatoes are in the frying pan. This is to allow the chicken to rest. Remove the chicken only from the dish to a heated plate and cover with foil.

Please be careful not to overcook your Brussels sprouts. This is the most common reason why so many people find them unpalatable. They should be washed in cold water and any loose or discoloured leaves removed and discarded. Do not remove too much of the stalk or make a cross in the bottom. These actions serve only to cause your sprouts to break apart during cooking. Boil for a maximum of 8 to 10 minutes (depending upon the size of the sprouts) in lightly salted water. Drain well and toss in a little butter and ground nutmeg.

The casseroled vegetables should be arranged on a plate and the chicken piece on top. The sprouts and potatoes can be added and the dish served.

Christmas Dinner Pudding/Dessert: Apple, Mincemeat and Rum Pie with Fresh Cream and Chocolate Dusting

This delicious pie can either be made in advance and served cold/slightly warm or be ready to be added to the oven when the chicken casserole is removed. I have made it in a quantity which would easily serve two generous portions - as one portion of a dessert like this is rarely enough and the second portion can be enjoyed perhaps as a late night snack.


2 Bramley apples (or other apples suitable for cooking)
2 tsp granulated sugar
Juice of quarter a fresh lemon
2 tbsp mincemeat
1 tbsp dark rum
4oz puff pastry
1 small beaten egg for glazing
1/4 pint whipping cream
Small piece of milk chocolate and sprig of mint for garnish


The apples should be cored, peeled and roughly chopped. They should be added to a large saucepan with the sugar, lemon juice and around a tablespoon of cold water. The lemon juice will stop them oxidising and discolouring. They should be placed on a medium heat until they start to break down. This will take about ten minutes. They should then be transferred to a pie dish and allowed to cool.

The mincemeat and the rum should then be added to a saucepan and heated until the liquid begins to simmer. This will boil off the alcohol which would add a bitter taste and also make the pie perfectly suitable for children or teetotallers. The mix should then be spread evenly over the apples and again allowed to cool.

When the fruit is cooled, the puff pastry should be rolled out large enough to cover the pie dish and placed on top. The pastry should overhang the dish edges slightly to allow it to be crimped in place. The pastry should be glazed with the beaten egg and a couple of slits made in the centre to serve as steam vents. The pie should then be placed on a baking tray and in to the oven at 375F/190C/Gas mark 5 for thirty-five to forty minutes, until the pastry is risen and golden.

The cream should be whipped just until it begins to form soft peaks. It should then be spooned over a portion of pie on a plate and the chocolate grated over the top. The small sprig of mint forms an attractive final garnish.

You can find lots more tasty Christmas dinner ideas for one or more people via the links below:

Christmas Dinner Ideas for One Person
Christmas Dinner Ideas for Spending Christmas Alone

I hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas and next week I'll focus on some ideas for a New Year dinner or two...

Friday, 17 December 2010

How to Make a Vegetarian Christmas Dinner for One Person

There are two obvious reasons why anyone would have to consider how to make a vegetarian Christmas dinner for one person. The first is where the diner is a vegetarian who will unfortunately be spending Christmas alone. The second is where one person attending a Christmas family dinner is vegetarian and alternatives to roast turkey and chipolatas have to be determined. Although I am not a vegetarian, I have published many vegetarian recipes in the past, including a few on this blog, and decided that this dedicated vegetarian feature may prove popular.

I have tried in this three course recipe to make the dishes both appealing and tasty, while at the same time fairly quick and straightforward to facilitate a larger number of alternative meals also being prepared.

Vegetarian Christmas Starter/Appetizer: Cucumber, Tomato and Mozzarella Cocktail


1 4oz ball of buffalo mozzarella cheese in brine
1/2 large tomato
2" of cucumber
2 fresh mint leaves
Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


The tomato should be halved by simply cutting at alternate forty-five degree angles around the circumference and all the way through to the core. The two halves thus formed can simply be twisted apart and one half placed on the serving plate. The cucumber and mozzarella should be sliced to a thickness of approximately quarter of an inch and arranged alternately in a circle around the tomato. The mint leaves should be roughly torn and scattered on top. Note that basil leaves are an excellent alternative to mint.

There are some people who do not like olive oil on their salads, so if you are not to be eating it yourself, it is always best to check. The bulk of the preparation of this dish can be done an hour or two in advance but the mint, oil and seasoning should not be added until immediately before service.

Vegetarian Christmas Main Course/Entree: Mixed Vegetable Platter


2 large potatoes
2 large carrots
2 tbsp frozen peas
2 large fresh mint leaves
Tsp freshly chopped coriander/cilantro
Little bit of butter
Salt, pepper and malt vinegar


The potatoes are cooked in two different ways for this recipe and at different times. The first potato should be peeled and cut in to bite-sized pieces. The pieces should be added to a pot of cold, lightly salted water and put on to heat. When the water is boiling, the heat should be reduced to achieve a simmer, which should be maintained for twenty minutes. The potatoes should then be drained and returned to the pot with more cold water. They should be set aside to cool in the water while the rest of the ingredients are prepared.

The second potato should now be peeled and roughly chopped. This is the potato which will be mashed so it should be put on to boil and simmer in salted water for about twenty-five minutes. The carrots should then be peeled and chopped and added to a separate pot of cold water. They should be boiled/simmered until soft and should be ready at the same time as the potatoes.

About ten minutes before the boiling potatoes and carrots are scheduled to be ready, the cooled potato pieces should be dried with kitchen towel and added to a deep frier for seven to eight minutes until golden.

When the carrots and potatoes are ready to be mashed, the peas should be added to some boiling water for three minutes while the other ingredients are plated. The potatoes should be drained and mashed with a little butter and the torn mint leaves. The carrots should be drained and mashed with a little butter and the coriander/cilantro. The mashed vegetables should be plated with an ice cream scoop.

The roast potatoes should be drained on kitchen paper before being put on the plate. The peas should be drained and seasoned with salt, pepper and malt vinegar before being added as the final touch.

Vegetarian Christmas Pudding/Dessert: Orange and Mint Jelly with Cream

The dessert course of any meal is of course the one which is most likely to suit vegetarians and omnivores alike. There are few occasions where a separate dessert has to be made for vegetarians - vegans naturally being a different matter. Perhaps, therefore, if you are preparing a vegetarian meal for one of your guests, all of your guests may like to join them in this delicious fruity and tangy creation?

Ingredients per Serving

4 fl oz fresh orange juice
1 leaf of gelatine (or according to manufacturer's guidelines)
4 fl oz whipping cream
2 mint leaves plus small sprig for garnish
Little bit of milk chocolate for grating


This dessert recipe requires to be started at least a couple of hours prior to service. That is to allow the orange and mint jelly to set.

The leaf of gelatine should be placed in to a bowl of cold water for five minutes to soften. While this is happening, the orange juice should be placed in a small saucepan with the two mint leaves and brought to a gentle simmer. The softened leaf of gelatine should be added to the gently simmering juice for a couple of minutes. Note that it is important not to let the liquid boil.

The liquid should be left to cool slightly before being poured in to a small glass serving dish. The mint leaves should at this stage be removed and discarded. When the juice is cooled completely, the glass should be placed in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours for the gelatine to set.

The cream should be whipped to form soft peaks before it is carefully spread over the jelly and formed in to a peak in the centre. The glass should then be placed on a serving plate before the chocolate is grated over the top and around the dish as a garnish. The small mint sprig forms the final touch and should be gently placed in the top of the cream.

I very much hope that if you are vegetarian, or simply have a vegetarian Christmas dinner to prepare, I have given you a few ideas as to what you can make on Christmas Day. I will have more Christmas related posts to come over the course of the next week as we get nearer to the big day - though what is to come will be largely non-vegetarian...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Sausages and Mash in a Giant Yorkshire Pudding

Bangers and mash is a traditional British classic dish, as is Yorkshire pudding. This is almost a combination of the two, though these small, skinless pork sausages can not really be classed as bangers. What I have also done is make this an incredibly simple Yorkshire pudding, which does not require that the batter be left for any length of time to rest.


5 skinless pork sausages
1/2 small onion
2 medium potatoes

1 egg
1 rounded tbsp plain (all purpose) flour
1 tbsp milk
2 tbsp sunflower oil

Basil for garnish if desired


There is no disputing the fact that Yorkshire pudding batter should be rested whenever possible. I have found, however, that this simple recipe can be used very effectively a mere fifteen to twenty minutes after it is prepared.

The egg and flour should be beaten together in a bowl before the milk is added and the mixture beaten to a smooth and fairly thin batter. The bowl should then be placed in the refrigerator. The sunflower oil should be added to a deep casserole dish around 8" in diameter and the dish added to the oven. The oven should be put on to preheat to 425F/220C/Gas mark 7.

When the oven and casserole dish are heated - after around fifteen to twenty minutes - the dish should carefully be removed from the oven, the batter poured in and the dish returned to the oven for thirty to forty minutes, until the Yorkshire pudding is well risen and golden.

As soon as the Yorkshire pudding batter is in the oven, the potatoes should be peeled, roughly chopped and added to a pot of cold, slightly salted water. The pot should be put on to a high heat until the water boils, which should then be reduced to achieve a simmer for around twenty-five minutes.

The sausages will take around fifteen minutes to fry, in a little sunflower oil, in a non-stick frying pan. They should therefore be put on to cook some ten minutes after the potatoes begin to simmer. The onions should be fried with the sausages, for a time period according to taste: some people prefer them well caramelised, others prefer them all but raw.

The potatoes should be drained and mashed with a little butter. The Yorkshire pudding should be removed from the oven and sat on the serving plate with a slotted spoon, before being stuffed with the mash. The sausages and onions should be stuffed randomly in to the mash and freshly torn basil leaves used as additional garnish if required.

My beloved HP Sauce? Yes - that can also be added if desired!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Steak and Black Pudding Pie with Pan Roasted Potatoes and Honey Glazed Carrots

This steak and black pudding (blood sausage) pie recipe is one which I devised myself but the concept is not of my creation and I only learned of it through coincidence. About a week ago, a family member of mine visited the small Scottish town of Aberfoyle and happened to go in to a local butcher's shop. This particular shop was selling a variation of the traditional Scotch Pie, incorporating steak and black pudding instead of the more traditional minced/ground lamb. I became the lucky recipient of two of these pies for a taste and I enjoyed them so much, I decided to come up with my own version. Rather than create the smaller, individual pies, however, I thought I would make a puff pastry pie, capable of serving two people.


1/2lb stewing steak
1 6oz black pudding
5oz puff pastry
2 pints fresh beef stock
Beaten egg for glazing

4 medium potatoes

2 large carrots
1 tbsp liquid honey
Pinch of grated nutmeg


The stewing steak will firstly have to be cooked. It should be added to a large pot and quickly browned and sealed over a high heat. The beef stock should be added and brought to a simmer. Different cuts of steak will take different lengths of time to tenderise in this way, from one to two hours. When the steak is tender, the heat should be turned off, the pot covered and the steak allowed to cool for at least half an hour.

While the steak is stewing, the potatoes should be peeled and chopped in to bite-sized pieces. They should be added to a pot of cold water, the water brought to a boil and simmered for around twenty-five minutes until soft. They should then be drained and added to a pot or basin of cold water to cool completely.

When the steak is cooled, the oven should be put on to preheat to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6. The steak should then be added to a pie dish. The black pudding should be sliced in to 1/2" thick discs and arranged on top as shown. If you can only get slices of larger black pudding, simply chop it in to smaller pieces and arrange it in a similar fashion. Be sure to remove and discard the rind that may still be on it. Enough stock should then be added to come to within an inch of the top of the pie dish rim.

The pastry should then be rolled out large enough to slightly more than cover the pie dish, laid on top and pressed down to seal around the edges. The pie should be glazed with the beaten egg, steam vents cut in the top and placed in to the oven for thirty-five to forty minutes, until the pastry is risen and golden.

When the pie is ready, it should be removed from the oven and left to rest briefly while the carrots and potatoes are cooked. The carrots should be scraped, sliced and chopped in to approximately two inch pieces before being stirred in the mixture of honey and nutmeg in a bowl. They should then be spread on a baking sheet and placed in to the still hot oven for fifteen minutes.

The potatoes should be drained and dried in a clean tea towel. They should then be deep fried in hot oil for eight to ten minutes, until beautifully golden, and drained on some kitchen towel. The dish can then be plated up and served.

Great Christmas Gift Ideas for Cooks 2010: Ice Cream Makers

It may seem strange for me to suggest ice cream makers as a Christmas gift idea for cooks when many people reading this will be able to look out of their window at a blanket of snow and ice! The fact is, however, that ice cream is an extremely popular dessert all year round, not just in the summer. Any cook who has their own ice cream maker can not only experiment extremely effectively with different textures and flavours, they can very possibly save a considerable amount of money in the longer term.

Below are just a few examples of the bargain ice cream makers currently available on Amazon, for delivery right to your door. Click on any link for further details or to browse the options in full.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Lemon, Rosemary and Thyme Roast Chicken with Roast Potatoes

Roast chicken is a magnificent dinner dish at any time of year but especially on a cold, snowy night. The problem I often find with roast chicken, however, is that too many people over-complicate the roasting process. There is often too much emphasis placed on how to season the chicken, how and whether to stuff it and even how often to baste it. The preparation method I have used for this lemon, rosemary and thyme roasted chicken truly could not be much simpler and I hope to convince you that roasting a chicken need not be much more complicated than would have been boiling the egg from which it once hatched...

When roasting this chicken, I used simply the following:

1 4lb free range, organic chicken
1 whole, fresh lemon
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme

While the oven preheated to 375F/190C/Gas mark 5, I submerged the lemon in a pot of boiling water, where I let it simmer for ten minutes. I put the rosemary and thyme on a dessert spoon, which I then carefully inserted in to the cavity of the chicken and gently shook it around, to disperse the herbs as evenly as possible. After ten minutes, I removed the lemon from the water with a fork and held it in place on a chopping board in this way while I carefully pierced it several times with another fork. I then put it in to the cavity of the chicken and the chicken on to a non-stick baking/roasting tray. Heating the lemon in this way has the effect of causing the juices to escape and steam heat the chicken from the outset of the cooking process. I then put the tray in to the oven - no salt, no butter, no oil - for twenty minutes per pound and twenty minutes over, in this instance one hour and forty minutes. I did not baste the chicken, nor open the oven at all while it was cooking.

The roast potatoes which I served with the chicken were roasted in the fat of the chicken but do require to be cooked beforehand. They are small, new potatoes, so I added them (washed but unpeeled) to some cold, salted water as soon as the chicken was in the oven and brought the water to a boil. I then reduced the heat to allow them to simmer for half an hour. They were then drained and submersed in cold water until a few minutes before the chicken was ready. This process serves to expand and then contract the flesh, leaving the skins easily removable by hand. This takes seconds per potato as it literally just slips off the flesh by rubbing it with your thumb and should be done immediately prior to removing the chicken from the oven, otherwise the potato flesh will start to go black.

When the chicken is removed from the oven, it must be left to rest. If you are not using the chicken fat to roast potatoes, simply leave the chicken in the roasting tray and cover that with foil. If you are using the tray and fat to roast your potatoes, transfer the chicken to a heated dish, cover it with foil for fifteen minutes and leave it alone. Add the potatoes to the fat, swirl them around and stick the tray back in to the oven for around fifteen minutes.

When the chicken has rested, you may wish to carve it in a traditional sense. I prefer not to, especially with such a small bird. I like to separate it in to breast fillets, legs and thighs and wings. I do this with a sharp carving knife by cutting through the skin and flesh and the leg/thigh and wing joints before pulling them free and serving them as a choice of chunky and enjoyable chicken pieces. The way I do this is pretty similar to the way in which I butcher a whole chicken.

The skinned potatoes will take about fifteen to twenty minutes to cook in the chicken fat, which is perfect timing for carving (in whatever form) and serving your chicken. The peas are frozen and were simply added to boiling water for a few minutes before being drained and served immediately.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Spanish Tortilla with Bacon

There are certain times when, for whatever reason, we haven't been able to make it to the supermarket to purchase what we intended having for dinner. This may be due to time constraints, other circumstances beyond our control, or any one of a number of reasons. Today, my reason was the weather. The snow, the cold and the horrendous road conditions led to me taking a look in the cupboards and the refrigerator to see what I could come up with for dinner from the supplies I already had available and thus eliminate the need to go out.

I had plenty of eggs, bacon, onions and potatoes - among other ingredients - and quickly decided to make a Spanish style tortilla with bacon. Tortilla is a word which refers to different foodstuffs in different countries but in Spain it refers to a type of substantial omelette, incorporating vegetables, usually onions and potatoes. I had a bag of mixed vegetables in the freezer, some of which I decided I would boil up to serve as an accompaniment.

Ingredients for the Tortilla

3 eggs
4 rashers of bacon
1 medium to large potato
1 small onion
2 or 3 fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil


A Spanish tortilla will normally incorporate the potato and onion in a chunky and rustic fashion. I decided to take a slightly different approach on this occasion and use a finer and more symmetrical approach. I therefore sliced the potato and onion to a thickness of perhaps slightly just under 1/4". I used 7 slices of potato and four of onion in this dish.

It is necessary to cook the potatoes and the bacon prior to assembling the Spanish tortilla. Cooking the onion is optional but I have in this instance elected to do so. I added some olive oil to a frying pan and fried the potato slices over a medium heat for four minutes each side, the onion slices for one minute each side and the bacon until it was cooked but only just and not crisped. Note that this should be done in batches but there is no need to keep the component parts warm as they will be reheated during the cooking of the actual tortilla.

There are clearly no rules for assembling the Spanish tortilla. What I did here, however, was firstly wipe the pan (carefully - it will be hot!) with some kitchen towel. I then added some more olive oil and brought it up to a medium heat before forming a circle comprised of a potato slice, then onion, then potato, then bacon and repeat. I scattered the roughly torn basil leaves over the top of the meat and vegetables, before beating the eggs, seasoning them well with salt and pepper and gently pouring them over the top. The forming tortilla should be cooked over a medium heat until the egg is almost completely set.

The frying pan should then be placed under a preheated, overhead grill for a couple of minutes to finish setting the egg. When this is achieved, you may wish to scatter some grated cheddar cheese over the tortilla and put the pan back under the grill just until this melts and begins to bubble.

The Spanish tortilla with bacon is then ready to be served and consumed. You can either eat it as is, or half it to serve two, accompanied by perhaps the mixed veg I have used and some pickled beetroot. You may also wish to note that Spanish tortillas are also frequently eaten cold and are every bit as delicious.