Saturday, 31 January 2015

Homemade Pea and Ham Soup Recipe

A Slightly Modern Twist on a Classic Soup Recipe

Homemade pea and ham soup

I remember when I was a wee boy my Gran making a wide range of delicious homemade soups. Although she would sometimes use chicken or even beef as a base, more often than not the soup process would begin with a meaty ham end being boiled up to make stock. The meat from the ham end would ultimately be contained in the finished soup. She would often include dried split peas (soaked overnight) in the soup, as well as potentially a number of other dried pulses and fresh vegetables.

In this soup recipe, I am using frozen peas. This is not simply for convenience but also because frozen peas contain all the locked in freshness of peas straight from their pod. I am also including a couple of not so commonly used vegetables as part of my modern little twist. The results - I promise you - were excellent.
Large piece of boneless ham

It was when I came across this bargain piece of boneless ham in my local supermarket that I decided to make this soup. Yes, soup is best made with meat on the bone but the flavours of ham in particular are robust enough that I was confident this idea would work.

Ham is soaked in water overnight

It's not absolutely essential but I do steep ham (particularly bonless ham like this) in cold water overnight to get rid of some of the excess salt before I boil/poach it. I feel the risks of the stock proving too salty - even though plenty of bland ingredients are to be added at a later stage - make this effort worthwhile. After all, it is possible to add salt at a later stage in the unlikely event it should be required.

Ingredients (Seves 6 to 8)

4 pound (1.85kg) piece of boneless, unsmoked ham (you will have plenty left over to use for other purposes)
2 sticks of celery
1 medium white onion
1 medium to large carrot
6 whole cloves
Black pepper
Stalk from a head of broccoli
1 medium baking potato
1/2 a medium Swede turnip (rutabaga)
Bag of frozen peas (500g/just over 1 pound)
Stem (white part) only of one medium leek

Vegetables for basic ham stock


Take the piece of ham from its poaching water, weigh it and place it in a large soup pot. Wash and roughly chop the carrot and celery sticks, peel and quarter the onion and add them all to the pot with the ham.

Ham, vegetables and seasonings are added to soup pot

Add the cloves and season with some black pepper. Pour in about four or five pints of cold water, ensuring the ham is fully covered.

Ham and vegetables are simmered to make stock

Bring the water to a gentle simmer and continue to simmer for twenty-five minutes per pound (450g) of the ham's weight, plus an extra twenty-five minutes.

Boiled ham is left to cool slightly

Carefully lift the ham from the water using two carving forks and sit it in a deep plate to cool slightly.

Tasting slice cut from boiled ham

It is of course essential to slice off a small piece to taste...

Straining partly cooled ham stock

Cover the stock and leave it for about an hour to partly cool before straining through a fine sieve suspended over a large bowl.

Strained ham stock

Discard the vegetable pieces and set the stock aside until required.

Broccoli florets cut from stalk

A broccoli stalk may seem like an unusual inclusion in any recipe. However, when we buy broccoli heads, we usually cut off the florets and use them while the stock is discarded. That is a lot of unnecessary waste over a long period of time. As I was cooking broccoli later that night, I decided to use the stalk in my soup.

Potato, Swede turnip and broccoli stalk

I chopped up the broccoli stalk in to roughly one inch pieces before peeling and similarly chopping the potato and turnip half.

Bag of frozen peas

The ham stock was poured back in to the (washed) soup pot and the brocooli stalk, potato and turnip were added. This combination was brought a simmer for twenty minutes before half the frozen peas were added for another three or four minutes' simmering.

Vegetables and peas are simmered in stock to make soup base

Turn off the heat and leave the combination to cool for at least half an hour. This is simply a safety precaution as blending liquids that are too hot can cause all sorts of problems.

Soup base is blended until smooth

Blend what will become the soup base in stages, adding each blended amount to a large bowl as you work. When complete, return the full amount to the soup pot.

Bleneded pea and ham soup base

The leek stem should be washed. Cut off the root end of the stem and discard before slicing in to approximately quarter inch discs.

Medium leek stem for soup

Add the leek to the soup base and bring to a simmer for about fifteen minutes.

Sliced leek is simmered in soup base

I cut around a third of the ham off to incoporate in the soup but I found even this was too much and some of it was hastily incoporated in a sandwich with English mustard. A quarter of this piece (around a pound) is plenty.

Wedge is cut from cooled ham for including in soup

I used my hands to tear the ham in to bite sized chunks but you can pull/chop it as small as you wish.

Ham for soup is pulled by hand in to rough chunks

The rest of the ham was sliced and refrigerated to be later used in both a main meal and some sandwiches.

Remaining ham is sliced and refrigerated for later use

Add the shredded ham and the remaining frozen peas to the soup. Simmer for three or four minutes to ensure everything is heated through and your delicious soup is ready to serve.

Remaining peas and ham are last to be added to soup

Friday, 30 January 2015

Rolls and Sausage and Tattie Scones with Cheese, Beans and Onion

Taking a Scottish Breakfast Favourite One Step Further

Traditional Scottish rolls and sausage with cheese, beans, onion and tattie scone

This was a total spur of the moment experiment which I'm please to say worked very well. My original intention was simply to have a couple of rolls and sausage for brunch one day last weekend but then I remembered I had a couple of tattie (potato) scones requiring to be used up.  Tattie scones are a common addition to rolls and suasage in Scotland of course (particularly in Glasgow and surrounding areas) but perhaps the only further common addition would be either tomato ketchup or brown sauce. I decided on this occasion to take matters a little bit further in the name of food experimentation and enhancement.

Sliced sausages are firstly gently fried in oil

Ingredients (Serves One)

2 sliced/Lorne sausage
Vegetable oil for frying
2 tablespoons baked beans in tomato sauce
6 slices Scottish cheddar cheese, or as required
2 tattie scones
1/2 a small onion, peeled and sliced
2 Scottish morning rolls

Heated beans are spooned on to sausages on rolls


Pour some oil in to a non-stick frying pan and bring it up to a medium heat. Fry the sausages gently for four or five minutes each side until done. When you have turned the sausages, put the beans in to a small saucepan and on to a very gentle heat to warm through, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.

Cheese is arranged on top of sausages and beans

Cut the rolls open and lay the sausages on the bottom halves. Lay the cheese on top of the beans and place on a tray under a hot grill (broiler) until the cheese is melted and bubbling.

Tattie scones and onions are quickly fried

While the cheese is melting, briefly fry the tattie scones and onions in the pan vacated by the sausages over a moderate to high heat.

Cheese is melted over sausages and beans on rolls

Carefully lift the roll halves to a plate with a spatula. Sit a tattie scone on each roll, followed by the onions and the roll tops.

Tattie scones and onions are laid on sausages, cheese and beans

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Scotch Shin of Beef and Buckfast Tonic Wine Stew

Beef and Buckfast stew with mash and sauteed Savoy cabbage and onion

Please, don't be put off by the title of this dish. Buckfast tonic wine is a pretty controversial product in West Central Scotland in particular and has been for many years - I know. I'm not getting involved in the intricacies of the Buckfast pros and cons but as a boy growing up in Lanarkshire, I had more than my fair share of "Buckfast sampling experiences." Never for a second though would I have believed that a couple of decades on from my last taste of the tonic wine would I be not only using it in a food recipe but sharing the results with a wider audience in this way. I hope you'll bear with me as I explain how this recipe came about and how delicious it actually turned out.

In late 2014, I attended an event where venison and Buckfast stew was on offer, I suppose as a form of street food. I sampled the (pretty expensive!) stew and although it was very nice, I couldn't even begin to taste the Buckfast and would never have known what was in it if I hadn't been told. That's not the way I like to do recipes. If I tell someone that a particular item represents a principal ingredient in any dish, I want them to be able to taste it and not be left in any doubt - without, of course, the flavour proving overwhelming. So here we go: my hopefully well balanced Buckfast and Scotch shin beef stew. It works - and I promise, I honestly believe it works very well!
Scotch shin beef and Buckfast Tonic Wine

Shin of beef is my favourite cut of beef. It is often scorned as being fatty and tough - but that's only the case if you don't cook it properly. Cook it long, slow and gentle and you will find it quite literally melts in the mouth. If you're in a hurry and can't spare the time, you could of course use standard stewing beef in exactly the same way as described below with simply a shorter cooking time.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

1 pound (450g) shin of beef
2 tablespoons vegetable or sunflower oil
Salt and pepper
*1 large onion, peeled and sliced (use half for the stew and half to sautee with Savoy cabbage)
Half a bottle of Buckfast tonic wine
3/4 pint (400ml) fresh beef stock
1 medium to large carrot, scrubbed, topped and sliced in to quarter inch thick discs
3 medium baking potatoes
4 leaves from Savoy cabbage
2 tablespoons olive oil
Little bit of butter

*Shallots (maybe a couple, peeled and roughly chopped)  would also work very well in the stew

Shin beef is roughly diced


Chop the shin of beef to around one inch cubes. Pour the vegetable or sunflower oil in to a large stew pot and bring it up to a medium heat.

Browning shin of beef

Add the beef to the oil and season with salt and pepper. Stir with a wooden spoon over a medium heat for a few minutes until the beef is evenly browned and sealed.

Sliced onion is added to sliced shin of beef

The onion (half of it only, remember) goes in to the beef next for a further minute's gentle stir frying.

Buckfast and beef stock are added to beef and onion

Pour the Buckfast and stock in to the pot and bring to a low simmer for one hour (covered), stirring occasionally.

Carrots are added to the stew half way through cooking

After an hour, add the carrot to the stew and bring back to a simmer, leaving the pot uncovered for a second hour of cooking.

Tough inner cores are cut from Savoy cabbage leaves

When the stew has around twenty-five minutes left to cook, peel and roughly chop the potatoes. Add to a pot of cold, salted water and bring to a simmer until just softened - around twenty minutes.

Wash the Savoy cabbage leaves and cut out the thick, woody and tough central core from each leaf.

Beef and Buckfast stew is ready to serve

When the potatoes are just softened, the stew should be about perfect. Drain the potatoes and return them to the empty pot. Very importantly, leave them to steam off for four or five minutes, while you cook the cabbage and onion. If you don't, your mash will be soggy and pretty unpleasant.

Starting to sautee Savoy cabbage and onion

While the potatoes are steaming off, pour the olive oil in to a small frying or sauteeing pan and bring it up to a fairly high heat. Add the sliced Savoy cabbage and remaining onion, seasoning with salt and pepper. SImply stir fry for around two or three minutes until both are just slightly softened. You don't want to overcook them that they become soggy.

Add some butter to the steamed potatoes and mash with a hand masher. Your meal is then ready to be plated and enjoyed.

Tucking in to beef and Buckfast stew

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Haggis Sausage Rolls and Other Nibbles for Burns Night

Haggis Sausage Rolls

Haggis sausage rolls served with chive garnish

A large plate of haggis, tatties and neeps or perhaps a Scottish steak and sausage pie is probably what most people think of when they think of meals for Burns Night. If you are simply eating at home, however, you may not want to go to the bother of preparing a formal meal and prefer instead to enjoy a loosely Burns themed buffet with your family and perhaps friends. These are just a few ideas for Burns themed finger food and nibbles that can be enjoyed informally in front of the TV.

Prerolled puff pastry and single portion of haggis

To make twelve of these little haggis sausage rolls, you will need a half pound (225g) haggis and three-quarters a pound (325g) pre-rolled puff pastry. Both should be removed from the fridge about twenty minutes before use to reach room temperature. You will also need a beaten egg for glazing the pastry and a little vegetable oil for greasing the roasting tray.

Haggis meat is squeezed from skin

Start by putting your oven on to preheat to 210C/425F/Gas Mark 7. Cut the haggis open and squeeze the meat in to a bowl. Use your hands to divide it in to three equal portions.

Strip of haggis meat is arranged across beginning of puff pastry

Open the pastry and part roll it out on a large chopping board as shown above. Take one-third of the haggis meat and squeeze/shape it in to a large sausage about an inch from the edge of the pastry.

Beaten egg for glazing

Lightly glaze the pastry on the far side of the haggis meat to help it stick and roll/fold it over the haggis.

Puff pastry is folded over haggis strip

Lightly press down to seal the pastry and use a sharp knife to slice along and free the large haggis roll.

First long haggis sausage roll is cut free

Cut the long roll in half and then each half in half again to form four haggis rolls, each around two inches (5cm) in length. Repeat the full process twice more until you have twelve haggis rolls.

Haggis sausage rolls are cur from long strip

Lightly oil a large oven tray and sit the haggis rolls on it, ensuring the pastry joint is on the downside. Glaze carefully with more beaten egg.

Haggis sausage rolls are glazed and ready for the oven

Bake the haggis rolls in the oven for about twenty-five to thirty minutes until raised and beautifully golden.

Haggis sausage rolls are cooled on wire rack

Lift the haggis rolls to a wire rack to cool briefly (or completely) before transferring to a serving plate. Chopped chives make an excellent, optional garnish.

Haggis sausage rolls

Venison Pate on Oatcakes
Scottish oatcakes and venison pate

Oatcakes are commonly eaten with butter, cheese, or just about anything with which crackers would be served. In this instance, I decided to spread them with some venison pate. Although the pate is not Scottish (it is French, bought from the German supermarket, Lidl), venison is of course a hugely popular foodstuff in Scotland where it is widely farmed and prepared.

Mexicana spicy cheese

The oatcakes and pate are delicious as is but it so happened I had some Mexicana cheese in my fridge. This cheese is spicy (just like haggis!) so I sat a slice on top of each oatcake and really enjoyed the results.

Mexicana cheese is laid on venison pate oatcakes

A few chopped chives again make an attractive garnish.

Venison pate on oatcakes with Mexicana cheese

Vegetarian Roast Mushroom Pate on Oatcakes
Vegetarian mushroom pate on oatcakes

Pate is probably most commonly made from pork or chicken livers so vegetarian pates are not something most of us will often come across. It was in my local supermarket recently, however (Morrsions), that I came across this interesting sounding roasted mushroom pate with garlic and thyme. It is produced by Castle McLellan in Kirkcudbright in the south of Scotland. I am of course no vegetarian but I decided to give this stuff a try as I do like a lot of foods which are vegetarian or even vegan friendly.

Scottish oatcakes and roast mushroom pate

I also served this pate on oatcakes with an additional slice of toamto and some sliced basil leaves. It was delicious.

Spreading roast mushroom pate on oatcakes

Scottish Duck Egg and Chive Sandwiches
Scottish duck egg and chive sandwiches

I'm stretching a point with this one perhaps but essentially I'm thinking clapshot (mashed potatoes and turnip with chives) when I take some fresh Scottish duck eggs, hard boil them and incorporate them on sandwiches with chives. Similar colours to clapshot...

Fresh Scottish duck eggs

As a rule of thumb, three duck eggs should comfortably make two rounds of sandwiches. Put the duck eggs in to a pot of cold water and on to a high heat until the water starts to simmer. Reduce the heat to maintain the simmer for about ten minutes.

Preparing to boil duck eggs

Take the pot to your sink and run cold water in to it until the duck eggs are cool enough to handle. Crack the shells on a hard surface and carefully peel.

Hard boiled duck eggs are mashed with butter and seasonings

Put the eggs in to a bowl. Add a little butter, some salt and a little white pepper. Mash with a fork.

Chopped chives are stirred through mashed duck eggs

Chopped chives are stirred through the eggs after they are mashed.

Mashed duck eggs and chives is spread on bread

Spread the egg mix on a slice of bread, top with a second slice and cut to serve.

Scottish duck egg and chive sandwiches are plated