Monday, 24 November 2014

Haggis and 5-a-Day Seasonal Scottish Vegetables

Haggis is served with a selection of five different seasonal vegetables

How do you like to serve your haggis? With the traditional tatties and neeps, perhaps combined with butter, chives and white pepper to form clapshot? No doubt both a tasty and traditional method but this recipe takes the idea a little bit further and while clapshot is served with the haggis, so too are an array of other Scottish seasonal vegetables to make up the five a day nutritional recommendations all on the one plate.

Fancy giving this idea a try this St Andrew's Night, or maybe on Burns' Night 2015? I should point out only that I prepared this meal as a dinner for one (myself) but hungry as I was, that proved overly ambitious. You could easily serve this dish as a sharing platter for two.

Scottish winter vegetables


1 single portion haggis (circa half a pound/227g)
1/2 medium Swede turnip (rutabaga)
2 medium baking potatoes
1 large parsnip
2 medium carrots
10 to 12 Brussels sprouts
2 ounces/50g approximately of butter
White pepper
1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives
2 teaspoons freshly chopped coriander (cilantro)
2 teaspoons Scotch whisky marmalade
Generous pinch grated nutmeg

Individual portion haggis


When you buy a haggis of whatever size, it will almost certainly be already cooked and merely require reheating. There are several ways in which this can be achieved and you are better following the advice on the pack or that of your butcher when the haggis is purchased fresh. The way I like to reheat it though is by wrapping it in foil, adding it to some cold water and bringing the water up to the gentlest of simmers. A small haggis like this will need to simmer for about twenty-five to thirty minutes.

Haggis ready to be very gently heated

The potatoes and turnip should be peeled and chopped to circa one inch pieces. They go in to a pot with plenty of cold water. The water is then brought to a simmer for circa twenty minutes until the vegetables are just softened.

Tatties and neeps ready for boiling

You will notice that I haven't peeled the carrots or parsnip. I simply scrubbed them thoroughly, topped and tailed them and roughly chopped. The skins contain vitamins and afford texture to the meal. Unless I am mashing them or the skins are particularly grubby, this is how I generally prepare carrots and parsnips.

Like the potatoes and turnip, the parsnips and carrot are chopped, added to salted cold water and brought to a simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes.
Parsnip and carrots ready for boiling

The sprouts are the odd ones out in this meal. I always follow the old fashioned rule about cooking vegetables which states vegetables growing under the ground should be added to initially cold water, while those that grow above the ground are added to boiling water.  The sprouts were therefore added to a pot and salted before I added boiling water from a kettle, brought them back to a simmer and simmered for seven or eight minutes until just softened.

Brussels sprouts prepared for cooking

It's worth pointing out that your kitchen is going to get pretty steam filled with this lot all cooking at the same time. Make sure you therefore have your extractor fan on, or a window open, to avoid excessive condensation.

When everything is just about ready, put your serving plate in to your oven at its lowest setting to preheat.

Haggis and vegetables gently simmering away

Drain the potatoes and turnip first, through a colander at your sink.  Return to the pot and let them steam off for a few minutes while you attend to the haggis. If you don't let them steam like this and lose their excess moisture, you will have soggy, gloopy mash/clapshot.

Haggis is unwrapped and carefully cut open

Lift the haggis from its pot with a large slotted spoon to a small bowl or plate. Carefully unwrap the foil using oven gloves before cutting open the skin. Spoon the haggis in to the centre of the plate and return the plate to the oven.

Haggis forms the platter centrepiece

Add some butter and white pepper to the potatoes and turnip. Mash with a hand masher.

Haggis and neeps are mashed with butter and white pepper

Only when they have been mashed should the chives be added to the potatoes and turnip. If you add it beforehand, the chives will simply become caught up in your masher.

Chopped chives are added to mashed tatties and neeps

Carrot and coriander is a very popular soup but the combination also works well on a plate in this way. When you have drained the carrots and parsnips, separate them between two pots (I used the pot that the haggis had been in for the carrots). Add a little butter and the coriander to the carrots and gently shake the pot to combine.
Butter and coriander is added to carrots

Honey is a popular addition to parsnips so why not whisky marmalade? This marmalade is made by a family friend and is absolutely delicious. I tried this idea once a while back as an experiment and have used the idea many times since. Simply add the marmalade to the parsnips and swirl the pot to melt the marmalade.

Whisky marmalade is added to carrots

Drain the sprouts and add the remaining butter, seasoning with the nutmeg.

Butter and nutmeg is added to Brussels sprouts

The plated haggis can then be removed from the oven and the vegetables arranged as shown.

Haggis and assorted vegetable platter is ready to serve

Friday, 21 November 2014

Scottish Sirloin Steak, Egg and Cheesy Chilli Chips

Griddled steak and fried egg on toast with spicy, cheesy chips

Steak, egg and chips is a Scottish and wider British classic dish. It is enjoyed by millions on a regular basis and, provided above all that the steak is cooked properly, is delicious in its simplest form. This little experiment, however, introduced a new dimension to the recipe by adding cheese and sliced chillies to the chips. Be warned, however, that this can be hot - even when ostensibly mild chillies are used! - as the seed membranes which contain the heat are left fully intact.

Scottish sirloin steak

Ingredients (Serves One)

1 large baking potato, peeled and sliced/chopped in to chips
1 sirloin steak
Vegetable oil for griddling/frying
Salt and pepper
1 red chilli, sliced in to discs
1 green chilli, sliced in to discs
2 ounces (50g) Scottish cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
1 egg
1 thick slice of bread cut from farmhouse loaf or similar
1 garlic clove, peeled and lightly crushed
Shredded basil leaves to garnish

Parboiled chips ready for the fridge


If you make chips the same way I do, you will need to start their preparation well in advance. This is the three step method of firstly parboiling then cooling the chips in the fridge, frying once and recooling before frying a second time. You don't of course have to use this method and can prepare the chips any way you choose.

Oiling sirloin steak for griddling

There's no doubt that griddling gives a steak a superior appearance on the plate and it also cooks it more quickly. It is vital, however, that you bring the cast iron ridged griddle pan up to a searingly hot heat before you put the steak anywhere near it. You should also oil the steak rather than the pan and I find a pastry brush is perfect for this purpose.

Starting to griddle sirloin steak

I have over the years encountered a huge difference of opinion - even between top chefs on TV - regarding whether a steak should be seasoned before or after frying/griddling. I can only therefore go with my own experience and state that I find the results to be infinitely superior where the steak is seasoned only after it is cooked. When the steak was oiled and the griddle was ultra hot, I therefore laid the steak carefully on the pan with cooking tongs.

Sirloin steak is turned in griddle pan

The cooking time will vary depending upon how you like your steak served and on the thickness of the steak. I gave this steak two minutes each side.

Sirloin steak is left to rest

When the steak is done, lift to a heated plate, season with salt and pepper, cover with tinfoil and leave it for eight to ten minutes to rest while you prepare the rest of the meal ingredients. The chips went on for their second deep frying as soon as the steak came off the griddle.

Sliced chillies and grated cheese for chips

Drain the chips on a plate covered with kitchen paper, seasoning them with salt, while you bring your grill/broiler up to a high heat.

Chips are laid on small roasting tray

Lay the chips as shown on a small roasting tray, roughly in a single layer.

Cheese and chillies are scattered over chips

Scatter the chips with the cheese and chilli mix, trying to space the chilli slices out as evenly as possible.

Cheese is melted over chips

Put the tray under the grill until the cheese is melted.

Pan is lightly oiled for frying egg

Use a scrunched up sheet of kitchen paper to create a film of vegetable oil only in a small, non-stick frying pan. Bring up to a medium to high heat.

Egg is broken in to bowl for adding to frying pan

When frying eggs, breaking the egg firstly in to a small bowl not only makes it easier to add to the frying pan, it allows you to season it in advance.

Frying egg

Gently pour the egg in to the frying pan and reduce the heat after about twenty seconds, once the egg is clearly going to hold its shape. The egg is ready sunny side up as soon as the white is set all the way around the yolk. This takes about three minutes.

Thick slice is cut from farmhouse loaf

Put your bread on to toast until golden on both sides.

Toasted farmhouse bread

Lay the toast first of all on your serving plate and rub with the crushed garlic clove. The garlic is of course entirely optional but does add a little extra twist to the flavours of the dish.

Rested sirloin steak is laid on toast

Lift the rested steak with a spatula on to the toast.

Fried egg is laid on sirloin steak

The fried egg can be lifted straight from the frying pan on to the steak. You should also find that the chips are bound together by the melted cheese and can easily be lifted on to the plate with your spatula.

Cheesy, chilli chips are plated with steak and egg on toast

Scatter the basil over the egg and enjoy this delicious variation on a classic Scottish/British dish.

Tucking in to steak, egg and cheesy chilli chips

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Spicy Scottish Whiting Puff Pastry Fish Pies

Mini spicy fish pies are served with carrots, parsnips and peas

A traditional British fish pie is usually a combination of different types of fish in a bechemel sauce, topped with mashed potato. While I love fish pies of that type, I wanted here to create something a little bit different with the second freshly caught whiting I had been kindly given. I began therefore by having a look through my cupboards and when I came across a small can of tomatoes and the remainder of the Mexican fajitas spice which I used to prepare the steak bridie I featured on this blog last week, the beginnings of this idea were formed.

Starting to prepare spicy sauce for fish pie

Ingredients (Serves Two)

8 ounce can of chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
Handful of mixed sliced bell peppers (capsicums)
1 teaspoon fajitas spice mix
2 medium whiting fillets, skinned
1/2 pound premade puff pastry
Flour for dusting rolling surface and pin
Butter for greasing ramekins plus extra for cooked carrots and parsnips
Beaten egg for glazing
2 medium carrots
2 medium parsnips
3 or 4 tablespoons frozen peas
Generous pinch ground nutmeg

Chopped whiting is added to spicy tomato sauce


Pour the tomatoes in to a small to medium saucepan and add the pepper slices and fajitas spice. Stir well and heat until the mixture reaches a gentle simmer. Continue to simmer as gently as possible for ten to fifteen minutes - stirring frequently - until a lush, thick sauce is formed.
Whiting in spicy sauce is left to cool completely

Roughly chop the whiting fillets and stir carefully through the sauce. Cover and leave to cool completely.

Buying premade puff pastry is much quicker and easier than making your own

Start your oven preheating to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.

Although this pastry will make four small pies, I cut it in half and cut the pie cases and lids two at a time. I just feel it makes it easier. In order to get the right size of circles, you will need to measure your ramekins and find appropriate "templates" in your kitchen supplies. I found this bowl was ideal for cutting cases that allowed a bit of an overhang all the way around the edges for crimping.

Cutting the cases for the spicy whiting fish pieces

In a similar way, this drinking glass was the perfect size for cutting lids.

Cutting the lids for the pies

The ramekins should be carefully and evenly greased inside with butter.

Ramekins are greased with butter before the pies are assembled

Carefully place a case circle in to each ramekin. Take your time and ensure it fits snugly, with an even overhang all the way around.
Pie cases are carefully fitted in to ramekins

Take a teaspoon and add some of the cooled spicy whiting mix to the ramekins but do not overfill (see below).

Spicy whiting mix is spooned in to pies

Sit the lids on top and lightly eggwash.

Lids are added to filled pie cases

Crimp the edges and eggwash the crimps. Cut a small vent in the centre of each pie with the point of a sharp knife and sit the ramekins on a roasting tray.

Pies are crimped, glazed and ready for the oven

Cook the pies in the oven for thirty to thrity-five minutes until golden. Leave them on the tray for a few minutes to cool slightly.

Spicy whiting fish pies removed from the oven

Scrub, top and tail the carrots and parsnips. You could peel them if you wish but I didn't. The skin contains texture and vitamins. Roughly chop to evenly sized pieces and add to a large pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a simmer for about fifteen minutes or until just softened.

Chopped carrots and parsnips ready for boiling

Use oven gloves/mitts and carefully tip the pies out of the ramekins, loosening them around the edges with a blunt knife if necessary. Sit them on a wire rack to rest. They will stay warm while your vegetables cook.

Spicy whiting fish pies are rested on a wire rack

The frozen peas should be added to a pot of boiling water for two or three minutes.

Frozen peas are added to boiling water

Drain the carrots and parsnips well and return to the empty pot. Add some butter and the nutmeg and stir carefully to ensure even coating.

Butter and nutmeg is added to drained parsnips and carrots

Plate two pies and half the carrots and parsnips on each of two serving plates.

Spicy whiting pies are plated with carrots and parsnips

Drain the peas and add them to the plates last of all.

Tucking in to spicy whiting fish pies and assorted veg