With a coastline as extensive and diverse as Scotland’s, it’s not surprising that seafood is so popular here. The process of salting and smoking fish was originally a method of preserving the fish to enable long storage. Although not necessary as a means of survival anymore, smoked fish - salmon and haddock in particular - is commonly enjoyed all over the country because it’s simply delicious! I recently had great pleasure in making Cullen Skink - the traditional Scottish soup made with smoked haddock - but since it has been so warm recently I wanted to do something a bit less hearty and filling. Some sort of salad seemed like the best thing to do, so I just warmed the fish gently in some milk, and flaked it over a simple salad of baby spinach, spring onions and courgette sliced thinly into ribbons. Topped finally with a poached egg, simple but delicious.
- 2 arbroath smokies
- 4 eggs
- 60g of baby spinach leaves, washed
- 1 courgette
- 3 spring onions
- extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt and cracked black pepper
- 1 lemon
- 200ml of whole milk
Fill a large pan with water and bring to the boil. Turn down to a barely trembling simmer and leave. Place the smokies in a wide based pan and cover with the milk. Poach gently, not boiling, turning the fish frequently, until just warmed through. Set aside.
Thinly slice the onions at an angle, then place in a large mixing bowl along with the spinach. Season with olive oil, salt and pepper and a little squeeze of lemon juice. Cut the courgette into quarters lengthways and cut out the soft pulp from the middle. Carefully cut into long ribbons. Season with sea salt and olive oil, then add to the bowl of salad.
Carefully poach the eggs until just cooked. While the eggs are cooking, arrange the salad into 4 bowls. Flake the smoked fish over the top, and finish with the poached eggs, seasoning with a little salt and pepper.
Roast Pork Fillet, Grain Mustard Sauce
Pork fillets are easily obtainable and relatively inexpensive, but the best thing about them is they usually come with trimmings attached to them which must be removed before cooking; and with these trimmings you can make a quick and delicious homemade sauce with no pre-made stocks or artificial seasoning. Just simple fresh ingredients. This recipe is one of the easiest and most delicious things to do with a pork fillet, and personal favourite of mine. Grain mustard is a classic pairing for pork, and combined with creamy mashed potatoes and cabbage, it’s an absolute winner!
- 2 pork fillets
- 1 savoy cabbage
- 50ml of double cream
- 4 Maris Piper potatoes, or King Edward
- 65g of unsalted butter
- 30ml of whole milk
- sea salt and cracked black pepper
- ground white pepper
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 shallots
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig of sage
- 100ml of cooking brandy
- 1 teaspoon of wholegrain mustard
- vegetable oil, for cooking
Heat the oven to 170C. Prick the potatoes with a skewer, then place in the oven for about 1hr 30mins, until soft and cooked through. Cut the potatoes in half, then scoop the potato from the skins and either mash with a masher or pass through a sieve. Place into a wide-based pan, and over a medium-low heat, add ½ teaspoon of salt, and mix. Add 30g of the butter, one dice at a time, then add the milk. Continue to cook out until you have a completely smooth, silky texture. Adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper if need be.
While you’re waiting for the potatoes, make the sauce: trim the pork fillets of all sinew, and cut off the small head or “chateau” from the end. Cut all the trimmings approximately 1cm dice. In a large, heavy-based pan, heat 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over a high heat. Season the trimmings with salt and black pepper, then fry until golden all over, and strain in a colander. Meanwhile, thinly slice the shallots, and crush the clove of garlic. Add the shallots, thyme, bay, sage and garlic to the same pan and turn the heat to medium. Add a pinch of salt, and gently cook the shallots for about 10 minutes, until they are soft. Add the pork trimmings back to the pan, along with the brandy. Boil, and reduce until completely dry. Now cover with cold water, and boil to reduce until dry. Repeat this 3 times, but on the last time, only reduce by half, then strain the sauce into a separate pan. Add the cream, and continue to reduce until you have a nice sauce consistency. Lastly, add the mustard, and mix.
To cook the pork fillet: heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large heavy-based pan over a high heat. Season the fillets all over with salt and white pepper. Fry the fillets all over until golden and caramelised. Place the pan in the oven for 3 minutes. Remove from the oven, and add the remaining 25g butter. Heat until foaming, then add 1 sprig of thyme and 1 crushed clove of garlic. Baste the pork fillet for about 2 minutes, turning over after 1 minute. Cook until the pork is still slightly pink in the middle. Transfer to a rack and leave in a warm place to rest for at least 10 minutes.
Prepare the cabbage: Remove and discard the dark green outer layers. Take the inner leaves off and remove the woody veins. Thinly slice the cabbage, then set aside. Heat a little vegetable oil in a wide-based pan over a medium-high heat, and saute the cabbage, with a pinch of salt, until lightly coloured. Turn the heat to low, then add the remaining 10g of butter. Cook gently until cabbage is tender taste, and add more salt if needed.
To serve, place a spoonful of the mashed potato in the centre of the plate, with a spoonful of cabbage next to it. Slice the pork fillet, and place on top. Spoon the sauce over.
Of all the delicious things in the world to eat, crab is easily one of my favourites. It’s got an intense flavour of the sea and it’s succulent, sweet and juicy. In short, it’s fantastic. Preparing crab involves a bit of work and is fairly time consuming… but it’s a labour of love and something I’d urge everyone to try. Cooked in generously seasoned water, the beautiful white meat is excellent whilst still warm, eaten straight from the shell. It hardly needs anything more, although mix it with a little mayonnaise, herbs and lemon juice and you have the beginnings of a delicious salad. I’ve been wanting to write a crab recipe for a while now, but found it difficult to think of a really photogenic looking dish that wasn’t just a rip-off from one of the restaurants I’ve worked in. The custard part of this dish is similar to a crab creme brulee that we did at Wedgwood, and it’s really tasty. The sweet flavour of crab infuses really well in cream, and the fresh herbs added at the end finish it off beautifully.
- 1 brown crab
- 1 carrot
- 1/2 leek
- 1 fennel
- 2 star anise
- 1 thyme
- 600ml of whipping cream
- 50ml of whole milk
- 1 parsley
- 1 dill
- 1 tarragon
- 1 baby gem lettuce
- 1 spring onion
- 1 chives
- 2 pieces of medium sliced white bread
- 6 egg yolks
- cayenne pepper, or piment d’espelette
- 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons of croutons
- sea salt
Fill a large pan with water and bring to the boil. Season generously with salt (it should be almost as salty as the sea.) Drop the crab in the water, bring back to the boil, remove from the heat and allow to cool for at least 40 minutes. Remove the crab from the water, and place on a tray.
Break off the claws, and smash them carefully with a hammer or large knife, trying not to smash into too many small pieces. Separate the meat from the shell, trying to keep it in nice big chunks. Repeat the process with the legs. Now prise the body from the main shell of the crab, and remove and discard the lungs (“dead man’s fingers”). Cut the body in half and carefully scrape out the meat with a crab picker or use the handle of a teaspoon. Cut the pieces in half again and scrape more out - you’ll be surprised how much is hidden in all the cavities. Carefully check the crab meat for pieces of shell, cover and place in the fridge.
Heat the oven to 200C. Place a roasting tray in the oven until very hot, then add 3-4 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Smash all the crab shell into small pieces with a heavy knife or rolling pin, then place in the roasting tray. Stir once, then return to the oven for 30 minutes, stirring halfway.
Meanwhile, thinly slice all the vegetables, keeping the carrots separate. In a large pot, fry the carrots and star anise in a little vegetable oil with a generous pinch of salt, until lightly coloured. Add the rest of the vegetables and sweat over a medium heat for about 20 minutes.The shells should be lightly coloured. Deglaze the tray with the white wine, and reduce until dry. Add the shells to the pot of vegetables, and the tomato, roughly chopped. Add the cream to the pot, and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 30 minutes, then roughly chop the herbs (reserving some chives and dill for the salad) and add to the pot. Cover with clingfilm and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
Pass the crab cream through a fine sieve, rinsing the shell pulp with the milk. Discard the pulp. Taste the cream and adjust the seasoning if it needs. Weigh the cream, and then place 1 egg yolk for every 100g of cream in a separate pan. Boil the cream, then pour slowly over the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Now heat the crab custard over a low heat, stirring constantly with a plastic spatula to ensure it doesn’t stick. When it is thick, and coats the back of the spatula (should be 80C), it is ready. Pour into 6 wide creme brulee dishes, filling only to 2mm deep. You may have some custard left over which you can just set in separate ramekins to be enjoyed on their own. Place the ramekins in the fridge to set, for at least two hours.
To make the crab salad: finely slice the lettuce and the spring onion, cut the reserved chives and pick the dill into fronds. Place everything in a bowl with the picked crab meat, the croutons and add just enough mayonnaise to lightly bind it together; you may not need all of it, it depends on how much crab meat you have. Season with sea salt if it needs, and lemon juice. Divide the mixture into 6 and place in the middle of the custard ramekins. Finally sprinkle over a little cayenne pepper.
Roasted Mushroom Soup
I have long been an advocate of the humble button mushroom. It’s one of these ingredients that’s so commonplace, I reckon it’s not appreciated to its full potential. A staple in your greasy breakfast fry-up, or as a mediocre ‘cream of mushroom soup’, the button mushroom is actually so much better that you might realise. They are high in umami – the taste that makes things savory – and they have a lot of powerful flavour locked inside. One of their characteristics is that they have an extremely high water content, making the flavour rather bland until you have reduced the moisture. I’ve also found that when you fry them in a hot pan with a pinch of salt until they’re dark and caramelised, the flavour is amazingly intense and savory. This is what gave me the idea of doing a roast mushroom soup. It’d be better than the average mushroom soup as it would be a rich golden colour, instead of grey, and the resulting flavour would be all the more powerful.
- 450g of baby button mushrooms
- 1 onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 2 rashers of streaky bacon
- 3 sprigs of rosemary
- 1 1/2litres of chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons of sea salt
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
Set 12 mushrooms aside, and slice the rest of them in half. Sprinkle the halved mushrooms with the sea salt so they’re evenly covered, then place in a colander set over a bowl. Leave in the fridge for about 6 hours, or overnight.
Heat the oven to 180C, and put a medium sized roasting tray in to heat up. Briefly rinse the mushrooms with cold water, then squeeze them with your hands to remove as much moisture as possible. Pat them dry with kitchen paper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in the roasting tray, then add the mushrooms along with 2 sprigs of rosemary. Roast the mushrooms, tossing occasionally, until they are dark and caramelised.
Meanwhile, thinly slice the onion and garlic, and dice the bacon. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium pot and fry the bacon over a high heat until crisp. Turn the heat down and sweat the onion and garlic slowly for about 20 minutes, until soft and sweet. Once the mushrooms are nicely coloured, remove the rosemary from the roasting tray and add the mushrooms to the pan of onions. Add about 1 litre of chicken stock - enough to just cover the mushrooms - and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover with a lid, and simmer for 30 minutes, topping up with chicken stock when it reduces too much.Blend the soup in a food processor on full power for 5 minutes, until you have a silky smooth texture. You may need to add a little more stock to get the required consistency.
To finish; slice the 12 reserved mushrooms in half, season with salt and saute them to get a nice roasted colour. Pick the leaves from the remaining rosemary sprig and fry these in olive oil until just crisp. Scatter the mushrooms and rosemary over the soup along with a drizzle of olive oil.