Saturday, 26 July 2014

Simple Summer Chicken Salad with Ayrshire Potatoes

Poached chicken and summer vegetables salad with Ayrshire potatoes

We have certainly had a considerably better than average summer in Scotland this year so far, with many hours of bright sunshine and temperatures soaring. This means that if you have a greenhouse and/or vegetable patch or garden, you may well have a lot of salad veg ready for the table. This recipe is an easy, tasty and healthy suggestion for using homegrown lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, or any similar ingredient you wish.

Final preparations are made to chicken for poaching

Ingredients (Serves Four)

1 free range, organic chicken
2 red onions
1 large carrot
1 mild green chilli pepper
1 mild red chilli pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 bay leaves
Salt and black pepper
2 pounds (900g) baby Ayrshire new potatoes
3 free range, organic eggs
2 small lettuces
2 medium tomatoes
1/2 medium to large cucumber
Wedge of unsalted Scottish butter
Scattering of dried dill

Chicken poaching vegetable accompaniments


It's not essential but - where it hasn't already been done - I like to cut the lower, bony leg parts and the parson's nose off the chicken as a first step. This gives the chicken more room in the pot. Sit the chicken in a large stock or soup pot, initially breasts side up.

If you don't have a large stock or soup pot, there is a danger that you will get to this stage of the recipe and find you don't have a pot large enough to cook the chicken as described. That would not be a happy situation to find yourself in! Amazon is of course a great place to pick up bargains like this and above is just one example apiece of the countless items of this type currently available on Amazon UK and Remember that, where cared for properly, these pots last for many years and can be used for a huge variety of purposes. A very worthwhile purchase in anyone's book.

Chicken, vegetables and seasonings prepared for poaching

Wash, top and roughly chop the carrot and chilli peppers. There is no need to peel or scrape the carrot and no need to remove the seeds from the chillies. Peel and quarter the onions. These vegetables are of course merely suggestions for making stock and represent what I had in the fridge requiring to be used. You could use white onions instead of red and bell peppers or celery instead of the chilli peppers, to name but a few suggestions.

Add the vegetables and herbs to the pot with the chicken, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Pour in enough cold water to comfortably cover the chicken and put the pot on to a high heat until the water just starts to boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot and let the chicken simmer gently for half an hour. After this time, use two large slotted spoons to very carefully turn the chicken on to  its breasts side and simmer for a further half hour in the same way.

After what should be a total of one hour's simmering, turn the heat off and leave the chicken alone to cool in the liquid for at least a couple of hours.

Baby Ayrshire potatoes ready for boiling

When the chicken is pretty much cool, wash the baby Ayrshire potatoes and add them to a large pot. Pour in enough cold water to comfortably cover the potatoes, season with salt and bring to a simmer for about twenty minutes.

Cooling hard boiled eggs for peeling

When the potatoes are simmering, put the eggs in to a pot and add enough cold water to completely cover. Bring to a simmer for eight to ten minutes, depending upon the size of your eggs.

Take the pot to the sink and run cold water in it until the eggs are cool enough to handle. Crack the shells carefully on a hard surface and peel. Return the eggs to the pot full of freezing cold water and cool them quickly in this way to stop the blue/grey discolouration forming around the yolks.

Rapidly cooling peeled hard boiled eggs

Lift the chicken carefully from the cool liquid to a large plate. It looks pretty unappetising at this point but don't worry - the meat will be beautiful and moist when you get rid of the skin and pluck it from the bones.

Poached and cooled whole chicken

Pull the chicken apart in any way you wish, peel off and discard the skin and pick the flesh off the bones in bite-sized lumps, laying them as you do so in a separate dish.

Poached chicken meat is removed from bones

The tomatoes and cucumber should be washed in cold water and dried with kitchen paper. Pick the leaves individually from the lettuces, put them in a large colander and wash thoroughly under running cold water.

Vegetables for simple summer salad

If you have one of those spinning salad driers, you should of course use that. Alternatively, you could do what I do and lay the leaves in a single layer on half a clean tea towel before folding the other half over the top and patting dry.

Drying washed lettuce leaves

Shred the lettuce leaves and add them to a large serving dish with the chicken. You may well have too much chicken meat. If this is the case, it will keep covered in the fridge for a couple of days to be used for any one of a number of alternative purposes.

Chicken pieces and shredded lettuce are added to salad serving dish

Carefully toss the lettuce and chicken to combine, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper.

Chicken and shredded lettuce form main salad bed

Cut the tomatoes in to wedges. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways and chop in to crescent shaped wedges. Lay both at regular ontervals on the salad bed.

Tomato and cucumber wedges are added to chicken and lettuce salad

I carefully quartered the eggs with a sharp knife. Look closely and you will see no discolouration around the yolk. That's a result of cooling them quickly, submerged in cold water.

Quartered hard boiled eggs

Lay the eggs on top of the salad. You could if you wish also scatter with a freshly chopped herb such as chives at this stage. Season with a little more salt.

Hard boiled egg quarters are arranged on top of salad

Drain the potatoes at your sink through a colander and return to the empty pot. Add the butter and dried dill. Stir carefully with a wooden spoon until the butter is melted and the potatoes evenly coated. Transfer the potatoes to a serving dish and take both dishes to the table to serve.

Butter and dill is added to drained Ayrshire potatoes

Friday, 25 July 2014

Food Stalls at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games

Food stalls in Glasgow's Merchant City Commonwealth Games fan zone

This short special feature sees me taking a wander through Glasgow's Merchant City, one of the designated "live sites" or "fan zones" for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The visit took place yesterday (Thursday) morning when I had occasion to visit Glasgow. I had a very short amount of spare time in the City Centre so I decided to take a brief look at what the Merchant City was offering in food terms before proceeding to where I had to be.
Commonwealth Games fan zone in Glasgow's Merchant City

So what was I expecting/hoping to find? I was expecting to find a wide variety of foods from around the world, to offer variety and choice for visitors. Even at what was barely 10am, I certainly wasn't disappointed in that respect. Non-Commonwealth countries like France, Italy and Spain were especially well represented, which I perhaps found a little bit surprising. The foods on offer though largely smelled and looked good - shame I wasn't hungry. A goat curry was one of the first dishes to catch my eye - but at £7.50 a portion, I'm not so sure I would have indulged even if I had been starving...
French creperie and Brazilian coffee stall

What I was hoping to find was a variety of fresh Scottish produce, which by its very nature also frequently represents healthier eating options. Although I did find one stall offering a variety of healthy burgers - with an option for Aberdeen angus beef - I was otherwise largely disappointed in this respect.
Healthier option burgers incorporating meats of the world

I couldn't help but feel as I walked what an opportunity these food ares represented for promoting real Scottish food - top quality Scottish food - to visitors from dozens of countries around the world. Okay, this is but one location in Glasgow where food stalls are to be found during the Games and yes, it was early in the morning. First impressions matter, however, and my first impressions of a high profile location could certainly have been a lot better.

Italian and Spanish food stalls

As I got right to the very end of my brief wander through the Merchant City, I was delighted to find two British produce stalls side by side. Snowdonia Cheese and particularly of course The Hebridean Food Co were very much more what I had been hoping to find. The only sad part was that I was now verging upon being late for my appointment and didn't have time to stop, look at the food on offer and perhaps make a purchase or two.
Hebridean Food and Snowdonia Cheese

I will need to be back in Glasgow at some point next week and am hoping to make more time to explore the street foods on offer in greater detail, perhaps later in the day, and even hopefully in more than one location. I wonder if I will be more impressed overall by what I find?

Bars in Glasgow's Merchant City prior to opening time

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Scottish Cheddar Cheese, Tomato and Onion Open Toastie

Scottish cheddar cheese, tomato and onion open toastie

This simple creation is based on a lunch I remember my Dad used to prepare on summer weekends when I was a child. He used tomatoes from his greenhouse, onions from his garden, Scottish cheddar cheese and ordinary sliced white bread to make the open topped toasties. I've largely remained true to that recipe with the significant difference being the bread I have used. This is a Granary Hob freshly made in the bakery department of my local supermarket.

If you're looking for a simple, quick and fairly nutritious summer lunch, why not give this a try?

Granary cob loaf

Ingredients per Toastie

Thick slice of granary bread (or similar)
1 medium tomato, sliced
2 or 3 slices from half a peeled white onion
Slices of Scottish cheddar cheese as required
Salt and black pepper
Freshly chopped parsley to garnish

Tomato, onion and Scottish cheddar cheese


Toast the bread on one side only under your grill (broiler).

Granary cob slice is lightly toasted on one side only

Lay the tomato slices interspersed with a few strands of onion on the untoasted side of the bread. Season lightly at this stage with salt and pepper.

Tomato and onion slices arranged alternately on untoasted side of bread

Lay the cheese slices on top of the tomato and onion. You may have to cut them up a bit to achieve an even covering. Press down lightly.

Cheese slices pressed down on top of tomato and onion

Carefully lift the assembly on to your grilling tray and grill until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Season with some black pepper and garnish with the chopped parsley.

Cheese, tomato and onion toastie is seasoned with black pepper

Monday, 21 July 2014

Scotch Beef and Root Vegetable One Pot Stew

Scotch shin of beef and root vegetables stew

Beef stew of one type or another is not only hugely popular in Scotland but in a great many countries around the world. The beef stew I recall when I think back to my childhood was similar to the filling for a traditional Scottish steak pie. Stewing beef and sausages were the main ingredients, with carrot and onion usually added as well as that old British family favourite instant gravy, Bisto. 

This recipe is different firstly in the sense that I am using shin of beef. This is a cut of beef which often knows an unfortunate reputation as being fatty and tough. It is indeed both if it's not cooked properly but when slowly stewed in the method described below, it is succulent and delicious. I've also used an increased number of vegetables and although I would normally use homemade beef stock, I have here kept it ultra-rustic and used simply water.

Shin of beef and root vegetables for stew

Ingredients (Serves Two)

3/4 pound (330g) approximately piece of shin of beef
1/2 medium white onion, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and black pepper
1 pint hot water (equals one and a quarter US pints)
12 baby Ayrshire new potatoes, washed but whole and unpeeled
1/2 Swede turnip (rutabaga) peeled and chopped to one inch (2.5cm) chunks
1 large carrot, washed, topped and tailed and chopped in to large chunks (do not peel or even scrape)
Freshly chopped parsley to garnish

Shin of beef and onion


When you lay the shin of beef on your chopping board, you will very often see that it is almost segmented due to the marbling. Try to chop it where possible through these natural divisions and you will know even greater final results. Regardless, you want to chop it to bite sized pieces. Be sure also not to discard any of the fat. It will render down during cooking, keep the meat moist and tender - and add huge amounts of extra flavour to the stew!

Shin of beef is diced, seasoned and ready to be browned

Boil your kettle and measure out a pint of water in to a heatproof jug.

Pour the vegetable oil in to your stew pot and add the beef. Season with the salt, pepper and thyme. Turn the heat on to medium and brown and seal the beef, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon. This should take a couple of minutes.

Onion is added to browned beef

Add the onion to the beef and sautee for a further minute or so to soften.

Water is added to beef and onion

Pour the water in to the pot. Be careful of any potential sputtering/splashes. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer as gently as possible for two hours, stirring occasionally. It's unlikely to be necessary but you can add a little more boiling water if required.

Root vegetables are added to stewed beef and onion

The carrot, potatoes and Swede turnip should all be added to the stew at the same time.  Stir them through carefully to combine evenly.

Root vegetables are stirred through beef stew

Bring the stew back to a simmer, cover and cook for a further half hour. Be sure to taste for seasoning and adjust with extra salt and pepper.

Beef and root vegetables are spooned in to serving plate

Use a slotted spoon to divide the beef and vegetables between two serving plates. Pour over a little of the liquid stock and garnish with the chopped parsley.

Tucking in to Scotch beef and root vegetables stew

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Scottish Cheddar Cheese and Duck Egg Summer Salad with Oatcakes

A hard boiled duck egg is served with cheese, oatcakes and a simple salad

Salad is an ugly word for many people. Images may be conjured up of a plate of limp, brownish lettuce, soggy tomatoes (or even worse - under-ripe!) and shrivelled slices of cucumber. The truth is of course that salad is a term which covers an endless list of possibilities and salads can be made to contain any number of ingredients. The conventional salad element of this dish is basic but the ingredients are of a high quality and are served with three classic Scottish food products.

Fresh duck eggs

I honestly can't understand why duck eggs are not more popular and widely available. I think they provide a really tasty alternative to chicken eggs and the truth is that duck egg recipes can be adapted from virtually any dish which calls for chicken eggs. I'm very lucky in that I can regularly find fresh duck eggs in my local fishmonger's (Strathclyde Seafoods on Hill Street in Wishaw) but the fact that I don't know any other shop in my immediate area which sells them highlights the availability problem. If you want to find them in your area, you could try the search engines (search for "duck eggs" along with the name of your town or city), local farms/farm shops and local farmers' markets. Give them a try if you haven't done so before - hopefully you will get a very pleasant surprise!


1 fresh duck egg at room temperature
1 medium tomato, cut in to wedges
2 inch (5cm) piece of cucumber, cut in to half discs
3 leaves of Scottish iceberg lettuce, rolled and shredded
Salt and pepper
2 Stockan's oatcakes (or oatcakes of choice)
3 slices of Scottish cheddar cheese, halved diagonally to form wedges
Freshly chopped parsley to garnish
Duck egg ready for hard boiling


Put the duck egg in to a small pot and add enough cold water to ensure it is comfortably covered.  Put the pot on to a high heat until the water starts to boil. Reduce the heat to achieve a moderate simmer and continue to simmer for ten minutes.

Hard boiled duck egg is quickly cooled

After ten minutes' simmering, carry the pot carefully to your sink. Lay it in the sink and run in cold water for a minute or so, until the duck egg is cool enough to handle. Crack the shell all over by knocking the egg just hard enough on a hard surface and peel the shell away.

Hard boiled and peeled duck egg is cooled

Fill the pot with fresh cold water and lay the duck egg in the water for five minutes while you prepare the rest of the salad. What this does is cool the egg quickly and prevents that bluey-grey discolouration forming around the edges of the yolk. This tip works exactly the same way with chicken eggs.

Scottish iceberg lettuce, tomato and cucumber

The lettuce leaves, tomato and cucumber should of course be thoroughly washed in fresh cold water and dried before they are prepared.

Salad ingredients are seasoned and combined

Put the salad ingredients in to a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Carefully fold/stir with a spoon to combine the ingredients and evenly disperse the seasoning.

Stockan's oatcakes

There are a great many varieties of oatcakes available in Scottish shops and supermarkets and over the years, I must have tried most of them! I honestly don't ever recall tasting a variety that I totally disliked but obviously I have my preferences. My favourite kind of all is Stockan's oatcakes from the Orkney Islands and if you haven't already, I strongly recommend you give them a try. If you can't find them locally, you can actually buy them several packs at a time on both Amazon UK and

Salad, oatcakes and Scottish cheddar cheese are plated

Lay the oatcakes at opposite corners of a square plate and the Scottish cheddar cheese wedges on top. You will find it much easier to use your hands than a spoon to arrange the salad in the other two corners, making sure you leave room in the centre of the plate for what will be the duck egg halves.

Hard boiled duck egg is halved and seasoned

Take the duck egg from the water and dry carefully with kitchen paper. Sit it on a chopping board and half carefully lengthways with a sharp knife. Season lightly with salt.

Lay the duck egg halves on the plate and garnish with the chopped parsley.

Hard boiled duck egg is plated with cheese, salad and oatcakes