Friday, 26 March 2010

Seared Sea Scallops on BLT Salad with Oven Roasted Potato Slices

Seared Sea Scallops on BLT Salad with Oven Roasted Potato Slices

Scallops are one of my all-time favourite foodstuffs. Their incredibly sweet, delicate flavour and texture is an eating experience in itself, which means it is vitally important that one be extremely careful not to overcook scallops, or to serve them with anything which will overpower their flavour. I have eaten scallops raw - straight from the shell - only minutes after they were hand-plucked from the seabed, I have eaten scallops poached and I have eaten scallops seared in a pan, as in this recipe. Regrettably, I have also had another eating experience with scallops which illustrates perfectly why it is so necessary to be careful when cooking or serving scallops...

It was while living in Edinburgh a few years ago that I visited a top, "European," style restaurant - I will not name the country for fear of causing offence! - to mark a special occasion. (Though believe it or not, I can't remember specifically what the special occasion was!) I knew that it was going to be an expensive night but, well - everyone needs a treat now and again.

As soon as I saw scallops on the menu, I knew what I was having - there was no further decision to be made. I duly ordered them and - given the restaurant's reputation - awaited them as a child would Santa Claus on Christmas morning. I can still remember my horror when the plate was laid before me - I even did a mental check to make sure it wasn't April 1st! The scallops had been completely covered in what was no doubt an elaborately prepared sauce - but to me, given what it was covering, appeared as no more than a destructive yellow slime, equating to an oil-slick on the ocean. I looked up at the young waiter and he looked aghast because he no doubt saw my reaction. I was so shocked, though, I couldn't speak and forced myself to eat the preparation. Needless to say, I tasted nothing of the scallops as their flavour had been completely over-whelmed.

That meal for two (OK - including the wine) cost me mere pennies less than £250.00 (almost US$400.00) and needless to say I never ventured near the establishment again, nor would I ever recommend anyone else do so. Although I had long since known the way scallops could be overwhelmed in such a fashion, that was my first - and hopefully last - experience of it!

Islay May 2008 091The scallops which I cook with come from the cold Atlantic waters off the West Coast of Scotland (pictured are the beautiful but treacherous waters of the Sound of Islay.) The fresher they can be obtained, clearly the better and although I generally leave the coral attached (looks almost like an orange tail) the ones used in this recipe had already had the coral removed prior to me obtaining them.

This recipe is for one person.


6 or 7 baby sea scallops
1 medium potato
2 rashers of unsmoked bacon
6 cherry tomatoes
2 lettuce leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little sunflower oil for cooking the potatoes


It is first of all necessary to get the potato slices on to cook. The oven should be put on to preheat to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6. A baking tray with circa a tbsp of sunflower oil on it should be placed in the oven to heat simultaneously. Note that putting the potato slices on to a cold baking sheet with cold oil will simply cause them to stick to it, absorb the oil and be ruined. The potato should be washed, dried (but not peeled) and sliced in to 1/4" thick discs. When the oven is heated, they should be seasoned with salt and cooked on the baking tray for half an hour, turned after 15 minutes.

When the potato slices are in the oven, the two bacon rashers should be placed in to a dry, non-stick frying pan and heated gently at first (to release some of the fat) until fairly crisp. It is the fat of the bacon in which the scallops will later be cooked. When done, the bacon rashers should be patted dry, thinly sliced and added to a mixing bowl. The tomatoes and lettuce leaves should then be washed and dried before the tomatoes are halved and the lettuce shredded. The tomatoes and lettuce should then be added to the bowl with the bacon and seasoning added in the form of freshly ground black pepper only - the bacon should provide all the salt required. The ingredients should be stirred and covered until required.

Seconds before the potato slices are to be removed from the oven, the pan with the bacon fat should be put back on to the heat, at maximum. The potatoes should then be removed from the oven and placed on a plate covered with kitchen towel to be dried. A second sheet of kitchen towel should be placed on top.

When the frying-pan is virtually smoking hot, the scallops should be added and cooked for thirty seconds each side - no more. They should then be removed from the pan and the meal plated up as shown in the top photograph of this post.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

How to Make Beer Can Chicken - by The Thrillbilly Gourmet

Today, I am taking a complete break away from the norm on, "What Should I Have for Dinner Tonight?" I am essentially taking a back seat and featuring a guest blogger on the site. This is something which I will do from now on, on a fairly regularly basis, and I will endeavour to provide as much variety in cooking style and recipe ideas as I can.

I would like to introduce you today to The Thrillbilly Gourmet from Tennessee, USA. Like me, The Thrillbilly Gourmet has no formal culinary training but has learned her craft both through experience and through knowledge acquired from others in a whole host of different ways, over a period of time.

The Thrillbilly Gourmet will show us in this post how to make beer can chicken, in a simple, no-nonsense fashion. Even better, she will do so in the form of videos, taking us through the process from start to finish.

I would seek only to point out at this stage that UK readers/viewers should use lager for this recipe for best effect, rather than ale/bitter/stout. Save the latter options for cooking with stronger flavoured meats such as beef, in the form perhaps of Steak and Ale Pie. I would also heartily recommend that where circumstances and budgetary considerations permit, free range, organic chicken should be used in this or any chicken recipe.

In this first of two videos, The Thrillbilly Gourmet will take us through the process of preparing the chicken for the grill and actually getting it on the grill. Sitting comfortably? Click the arrow in the centre of the screen below to start the video...

It goes without saying, of course, that in order to prepare this truly delicious dish, one requires a suitable grill. It may well be the case that you already have one and, if so, great! If you don't have a grill or barbecue suited to making this recipe, however, or perhaps you simply feel that yours is past its best and requires replacement, here are a couple of options you may wish to consider on both and Simply click on the relevant image for further details.

(Note that I have included one gas and one charcoal grill in each instance.)

You may be thinking that now the chicken is on the grill, all you have to do is wait until it is cooked, remove it, cut it and eat it. As we shall see in the second video, however, that is not the case. Don't make the mistake of failing to watch the second video in full if you truly want to enjoy beer can chicken at its very best!

Once again, The Thrillbilly Gourmet takes us through the required process...

Well, I hope that you are hungry and off to arrange to try this recipe out for yourself. Thank you for watching the videos today and I hope that you enjoyed the deviation from the norm. If you want to see lots more videos from The Thrillbilly Gourmet and discover more of her mouth-watering recipes, you can do both via the link below:

The Thrillbilly Gourmet (aka Dixie Mockingbird) on Hub Pages

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Homemade Beefburger on Mashed Potato Pate Bun

Hundred Percent Beefburger on Potato Pate Bun

Burgers can on occasion - especially when they are of the fast food variety - be an extremely unhealthy food option. I have for a long time been on the look-out for ways on which to improve upon this factor and make the much-loved burger a healthier meal consideration. It was the sheer coincidence of having some leftover mashed potato to use up that gave me this idea yesterday and I have to say that I was delighted by the way in which it turned out.

This was also an experiment in that when I make burgers, I usually add something to the meat and very much use different types of meat. It may be egg, breadcrumbs, fresh herbs, onion, or a mixture of two of these ingredients or more. On this occasion, however, I decided to make the burger purely from beef, other than of course some seasoning in the form of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

This recipe is in the quantites required for one serving.


1/4lb minced/ground beef
2 tbsp cold mashed potato (incorporating salt and butter)
2 tsp plain (all-purpose) flour
4 lettuce leaves
1 tomato
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sunflower oil for frying


The mashed potato can of course be of the leftover variety or it can be prepared specifically for the purpose of making this meal. If it is to be made specifically, it should be seasoned with salt and mashed with a little butter, before being covered and left to cool. At that point, the flour should be mixed through it.

The burger pate should be prepared simply by seasoning the beef with salt and pepper and rolling it in to a round ball with lightly floured hands. It can then be flattened in to a burger shape between the palms and fried over a medium heat in a non-stick frying pan with a little sunflower oil in it for around ten minutes each side.

When the burger is cooked, it should be transferred to a hot plate and covered with foil to rest and keep warm. The heat in the pan should then be turned up to high.

The floured potatoes should be rolled in to two balls, slightly bigger than golf balls, again with floured hands. They should then carefully be flattened to circles about three to four inches in diameter and added to the hot pan. I fried them for three minutes on one side and two on the other. This had the effect of making one side golden and the other only slightly coloured, just as the two sides of a conventional burger bun would be.

One half of the burger, "Bun" should then be put on to the plate, coloured side down and the burger sat on top. The second half of the, "Bun," should then be added, coloured side uppermost. I was amused to find at this point that gravity caused the edges of the top potato pate to curl over and even better create the image of a burger in a traditional bun.

The lettuce leaves should be shredded, the tomato quartered and the salad arranged around the burger, prior to serving, as shown above.

NB I would recommend that you eat this burger with a knife and fork - attempting to pick it up in your hands may prove rather messy!

Do you want Further Help in Making Fast Food Healthy?

Whenever we contemplate healthier eating, very often we will recognise what we believe to be the inevitability of giving up fast food. The good news is that this is absolutely not the case. What have to do - as in the recipe above - is come up with new and innovative ways of preparing the traditional fast foods at home, in a healthier fashion.

In this fabulous book, Devin Alexander looks at more than seventy-five fast food recipes which can be prepared in a far healthier fashion than they would be served in a fast food restaurant and shows you how to prepare them at home. The book is even discounted at the moment - but then again, what price your family's health?

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Aberdeen Angus Fillet Steak with Garlic and Leek Pastry Bombs

Garlic and Leek Pastry Bombs Ready to be Cooked"What are garlic and leek pastry bombs?" is likely to be the first question asked by a great many who come across this blog post. The simple truth of the matter is that garlic and leek pastry bombs (pictured right, ready to be cooked) are a meal accompaniment which I, "Created," entirely by accident, from ingredients which I had available, when an inopportune telephone call caused me to burn the filling which was supposed to go in to the pastry. That is the bottom line but does not change the fact that they are absolutely delicious and it is guaranteed that I will be making them again.

The following recipe is for two people.


2 Aberdeen Angus fillet steaks
2 small carrots (scraped and chopped in to discs)
1 small leek (with at least 6" of green leaf)
4oz puff pastry (chilled)
1 clove of garlic
Pinch of dried sage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little milk
A little butter
Sunflower oil for frying the steaks


I have prepared the instructions for making the garlic and leek pastry bombs in great detail, with a number of photographs included to assist you in the process. To avoid repetition and to save time and space, these instructions can be found by clicking here. They will open in a new window.

Fifteen minutes prior to the garlic and leek pastry bombs being ready, the carrots should be added to some salted, boiling water and simmered gently until the pastries are ready. It is thereafter important to remember, that as well as the required cooking time, the steaks will have to be rested for a few minutes prior to serving. These 1/2" thick steaks, I cooked in a very hot pan, containing a little sunflower oil, for about a minute each side, before removing the pan from the heat and allowing them to rest as they were for three or four minutes. I have stated many times that I enjoy a steak best when I can feel the blood dribbling down my chin but I am aware that is not everyone's preference and the cooking time may be adjusted as required.

When all the components of the meal are ready, the carrots should be drained through a colander and the meals plated up for service as shown below.

Aberdeen Angus Fillet Steak with Garlic and Leek Pastry Bombs

Friday, 12 March 2010

Scottish Game Pie with Roasted Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

View from Glen Branter Forestry PathThe beautiful, sparsely populated areas of Scotland means that Scotland has a very wide range of wild game to choose from. Everywhere from Glen Branter (pictured right) in beautiful Argyll, to the stunning heart of Scotland in Perthshire, to the rugged majesty of the Highlands and more, wild game from pheasant and grouse to the magical red deer can be found aplenty. Most Scottish Game Pie Recipes will include a mixture of the different types of game. My recipe featured and pictured below, however, includes only my own personal favourite: venison.

It is worth pointing out, perhaps, that venison is a word which can actually cause a little bit of confusion on a planetary scale. The word venison is - by literal definition - a generic term, used to apply to the meat of many related mammals such as deer, elk and caribou. (I almost included moose as an example in the previous sentence, before I realised that could really confuse matters as, to many Scots, a "Moose," is a mouse - most definitely not a form of venison!) In Scotland and indeed throughout the UK, however, venison and deer meat will almost always be considered to be synonymous.

This recipe for two people is in no way difficult to prepare but the length of time required to do so is due to the long, slow cooking time required by the venison.


3/4lb diced venison haunch
1/2 medium sized onion (roughly chopped)
6 button mushrooms (halved down through centre)
5oz puff pastry
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 pints fresh beef stock (No, I never get tired of saying it: none of those disgusting little chemical cubes!)
3 large potatoes
14 to 16 Brussels Sprouts
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper
A little milk for glazing the pie
Sunflower oil for deep frying


The first step is to cook the venison. Wash any excess blood off it and dry the meat with kitchen towel. Put it in to a large pot along with the onion and brown it over a high heat, stirring continously with a wooden spoon. Add the beef stock (pre-heated) and the thyme and simmer for two to two and a half hours until the venison is tender. The liquid may very well require to be topped up at some point during this period and simple boiling water may be used. The mushrooms should be added at the end of the simmering period, stirred through, the pot covered and the meat allowed to cool.

The oven should be put on to pre-heat to 200C or equivalent. The venison, vegetables and stock should then be transferred to an appropriate pie dish. The pastry should be rolled out to a thickness of between an eighth and a quarter of an inch and placed carefully on top, taking care to seal the edges. The pie should then be glazed with a little milk and a couple of slits made in the top to allow steam to escape during cooking. The pie should be placed in to the hot oven for thrity-five, to forty minutes, until beautifully golden brown.

The potatoes should be peeled, chopped and boiled in salted water for fifteen minutes. After which time, they should be thoroughly drained and added to hot oil for a further ten minutes, until crisp and golden.

The Brussels sprouts should be cleaned and simmered in boiling water for no more than eight to ten minutes, depending on the size of the sprouts. Any longer will see them over-cooked and soggy. One of the main reasons why children don't like Brussels sprouts is that they are forced to eat them in this distasteful fashion. When the Brussels sprouts are thus cooked, they should be drained before being returned to the pot and swirled in a little butter and a pinch of ground nutmeg.

This delicious Scottish Game Pie with roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts may thereafter be plated up and served, as shown below.

Scottish Game Pie with Roasted Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

Would you like to find out more about Wild Game and Wild Game Recipes?

There are presently two excellent books available on both and featuring lots of great information on everything from how to clean wild game, to how to cook it, to some great recipe suggestions. For your convenience, I have linked to both of them with handy and panels below.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Pan Fried Fillet of Scottish Rainbow Trout on Fresh Salad Bed with Dill Potatoes

Pan Fried Fillet of Scottish Trout with Salad and Dill PotatoesAlthough I love cooking and love eating what I cook, it is rare for me to enjoy something so much that I actually contemplate having the very same thing again the following night! I am writing this blog post less than half an hour after eating this pan fried Scottish rainbow trout with salad and dill potatoes but that is exactly what I am considering.

It may seem like a strange thing for a Scot who loves fish and seafood to say but salmon and particularly trout could never be classed among my favourite types of fish. I have for some reason always preferred the sea fish that are the likes of cod, haddock, whiting, herring and mackerel. When I used to go fishing on a regular basis, it was almost always sea fishing which I did, almost never freshwater fishing in Scotland's inland lochs or rivers. I am not sure whether going sea fishing was because I preferred to eat sea fish, or preferring to eat sea fish is because I preferred sea fishing. That conundrum is a bit like the chicken and the egg for me!

Regardless, perhaps I have now changed my mind about trout. Although I have cooked salmon in precisely this fashion many times, I have for some reason never before tried it with trout. I hope that my enthusiasm is infectious, however, and that you will try this out for yourself.


1 Scottish rainbow trout fillet, skin on (wild brownies are equally acceptable)
2 medium potatoes
1/2 small onion (very thinly sliced)
4 lettuce leaves (shredded)
1 tomato (for garnish)
Pinch of dried dill
Tbsp of plain flour
Sunflower oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Splash of white wine vinegar


The first step is to get the potatoes on to boil. They should be peeled, chopped and added to a pan of boiling, salted water, to be simmered for twenty to twenty-five minutes until moderately soft. They should then be drained, added to a bowl with a little butter and the pinch of dill, stirred carefully and left to cool slightly and the flavours to infuse while the trout fillet is cooked.

The flour should be placed on a flat dinner plate and seasoned with salt and pepper. The skin side only of the trout fillet should then be placed flat down in the flour to be lightly coated. Any excess may be gently shaken off prior to adding the trout fillet to the pan.

A little sunflower oil should be added to a non-stick frying-pan and brought up to a medium heat. A little butter should then be added before the trout is placed in the pan, skin side down. The heat should be turned up to medium to high and the fillet cooked for three to four minutes until it can be seen to have cooked almost all the way through. The heat should then be turned off completely and the fish turned over to finish cooking while the salad is quickly assembled.

The sliced onion and shredded lettuce should be added to a small bowl and seasoned with salt, pepper and a tiny splash of vinegar before being mixed well together. Preparing the salad too soon in advance will cause the lettuce to go limp and spoil the final effect. The salad should then be arranged on the plate as a bed for the fish before the remainder of the ingredients are then assembled, the trout being plated skin side up.

At the top of this post, I have included a photograph of this recipe with the skin still on the trout. It is down to personal preference whether you wish to serve it this way or to remove the skin prior to doing so. In order to remove the skin, simply catch one end of it and gently peel it free. The assistance of a knife may be required at this stage but I found tonight that it was not and the skin peeled away perfectly cleanly and easily.

The dish is featured again below with the skin this time removed.

Fillet of Scottish Rainbow Trout with Salad and Dill Potatoes