Friday, 20 March 2015

Vegetarian Scottish Cock-a-Leekie Soup Recipe

A Simple Vegetarian Equivalent to a Classic Scottish Soup

Vegetarian cock-a-leekie soup sees the chicken replaced with potatoes

I realise of course that the two principal ingredients of cock-a-leekie soup are chicken and leeks, so the idea of creating a vegetarian version may seem a little bit crazy. After all, how can it still be cock-a-leekie without one of the main ingredients? The reality is however that vegetarianism is significantly on the increase in today's world and it was after I shared a traditonal cock-a-leekie soup recipe on this blog a few months back that I gave thought to how I could create a vegetarian version. The obvious answer was to simply miss out the chicken but of course I had to replace it with something. Keeping it simple, I opted for potato and was delighted with the final result.
Baby potatoes and leek for vegetarian cock-a-leekie soup

Ingredients (Serves 6)

3 pints fresh vegetable stock
Stem only of one large leek
8 to 10 medium baby potatoes
Salt and pepper
6 ounces pitted soft prunes
Chopped flat leaf parsley to garnish

Chopped potatoes and sliced leek for soup


Wash the leek and potatoes thoroughly. Slice the leek in to discs about quarter of an inch thick. Quarter the unpeeled potatoes.

Potatoes and leek are added to vegetable stock

Pour the vegetable stock in to a soup pot. Add the leek and potatoes and put the pot on to a high heat to reach a simmer. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer for about twenty minutes or until the potato pieces are just softened.

Prunes are an essential ingredient in authentic cock-a-leekie soup

Prunes genuinely are an ingredient in traditional cock-a-leekie soup - this is not some strange addition I have devised! When the soup has been simmering for about fifteen minutes, add the prunes and stir. The prunes require only to be heated through.

Prunes added to cock-a-leekie soup

Taste the soup and season as required. Ladle in to bowls and garnish with the chopped parsley.

Vegetarian cock-a-leekie soup ladled in to serving bowl

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Griddled Scottish Scallops with Soured Cream and Chives on Toast

A Perhaps Unusual but Truly Delicious Way to Serve Scallops

Griddle seared Scottish scallops, soured cream and chives on wholewheat toast

If pristine Scottish scallops are to be enjoyed at their very best they must be cooked simply and ideally served simply. I know it's not always the case but there is a danger that this second consideration can lead to us being a little bit unimaginative when it comes to enjoying scallops. Bearing this in mind, I came up with this simple but hopefully unusual combination. I wasn't sure myself how it would work but I'm pleased to say I thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope you'll give it a go.

Fresh Scottish king scallops

Ingredients per Serving

3 slices from a wholewheat bread stick
3 Scottish king scallops
Scottish rapeseed oil for oiling scallops for griddling
1 tablespoon soured cream
1 teaspoon chopped chives plus extra to garnish

Slices are cut from a wholewheat bread stick


Lightly toast the bread slices on both sides under your grill (broiler) while your griddle pan is coming up to a searingly hot heat. You should at this time also combine the soured cream and chives in a small bowl.

Wholewheat bread slices lightly toasted

I know that the coral (orange bit) is often discarded from scallops but I personally think that is a waste. It may not be as succulently delicious as the main muscle (white bit) but it is perfectly edible and enjoyable. Scallops are expensive enough without throwing a large part of them away!

Starting to griddle oiled scallops

Drizzle the scallops with rapeseed oil and very gently rub it all over them with your hands. When the toast is ready and the griddle pan is smoking hot, carefully lay the scallops on the pan with cooking tongs. They will take at the very most thirty seconds each side to cook. Be very careful not to overcook them or they will be rubbery and even inedible.

Soured cream and chives is spread on toast

While the scallops are griddling on the first side, divide the soured cream and chive mix between the three slices of toast and spread out towards but not all the way to the edges.

Scallops are griddled on their second side

Turn the callops with your cooking tongs to fry on their second sides before lifting them on to the soured cream toast. Garnish with the extra chives.

Scallop laid on each slice of toast and soured cream

Friday, 13 March 2015

Connage Highland Heart Brie Style Cheese

A 100% Scottish Cheese Made in Traditional French Fashion

Highland Heart cheese with salsa and duck egg on oatcakes

When I was recently fortunate enough to win a Connage Highland Heart brie style cheese in a Twitter competition, I wasn't sure what to expect. Brie is a soft, mild, creamy French cheese and cheese production is of course a great source of national pride in France. Could this multi-award winning cheese from the far north of Scotland measure up to the only type of brie with which I was previously familiar? Well, I didn't have to wait long to find out as my prize was delivered within just a couple of working days.

Although I was desperate to try the cheese, me being me, I didn't want to simply cut it open and eat it up with crackers and maybe a bit of apple and a few grapes. While I'm not for a second suggesting there's anything wrong with enjoying any cheese that way, I am a born experimentalist with food. I therefore took a few days to ponder some options and came up with three very different ideas for sampling this new (to me, at least) cheese. I hope you'll take my word for it, get hold of some of this wonderful cheese and give at least one of these ideas a try for yourself. Check out the link to the relevant section of the producer's website in the previous paragraph for lots more info and purchasing details.

Connage Highland Heart with Salsa and Duck Egg Oatcakes

Duck egg is put on to boil

This first serving suggestion (see picture at top of this post) may seem a bit overly imaginative but I based it simply on things I personally love. I believe that's the best way to come up with serving suggestions for any foodstuff.

Ingredients per Serving

1 duck egg
1 medium tomato
2 inch (5cm) piece of cucumber
1 garlic clove
2 medium basil leaves
1 tablespoon Scottish rapeseed oil (try this instead of olive oil - if you've never tried it before, I think you may be in for a very pleasant surprise!)
Little bit of butter for mashing egg
White pepper
4 oatcakes
4 slices Highland Heart cheese
1 small cherry tomato
Small basil sprig to garnish

Seeding and chopping tomato and cucumber for salsa


The salsa could and of course should be prepared in advance if you have time to let the flavours better infuse but it's not essential. Otherwise, start by adding the duck egg to a pot of cold water and put the pot on a fairly high heat until the water starts to simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer for eight to ten minutes. If you wish to use a chicken egg you can of course do so but reduce the cooking time by a couple of minutes. If you're wondering where you can get duck eggs in your local area, try fishmongers (honestly - that's where I get mine!) or farm shops/farmers' markets. I love them as they are that little bit richer than chicken eggs and duck egg recipes are every bit as versatile.

Cut the tomato in half and the cucumber piece in half lengthways. Scoop out and discard the seeds from both using a teaspoon then moderately finely dice.

Combining ingredients for simple salsa

Pour the rapeseed oil in to a large glass or stone bowl. Add the tomato and cucumber. Peel the garlic clove and grate in to the bowl. Roll the basil leaves together and finely slice before adding. Season with salt and pepper. Stir well.

Mashing duck egg with butter and seasoning

When the duck egg is ready, lift the pot to your sink and run cold water in to it for about twenty seconds until the egg is cool enough to handle. Crack the shell on a hard surface. Peel and add to a fresh glass bowl. Add a little butter and season with salt and white pepper. Mash with the back of a fork.

Stockan's oatcakes from the Orkney islands

I wouldn't even like to guess how many different types of oatcakes there are available to buy in Scotland but for me, Stockan's oatcakes from the Orkney Islands are almost certainly the best I've tasted.
Salsa and mashed duck egg oatcakes are arranged on serving plate

Take four oatcakes and add salsa to two and mashed duck egg to two. Arrange on a plate.

Highland Heart brie style cheese

I'm sorry the photo of the cheese is not great. That was my camera/lighting that caused that, not the cheese!

Slices of Highland Heart cheese are arranged between the oatcakes

Take four slices from the centre of the cheese and arrange them as shown between the oatcakes. Cut the tomato three-quarters of the way through vertically and horizontally. Open it up and sit in the centre of the plate before garnishing last of all with the small basil sprig.

Highland Heart Cheese and Scottish Smoked Salmon Sandwiches

Scottish smoked salmon and Highland Heart cheese sandwiches

I know there is a bit of a perception that smoked salmon is only for the rich and is out of the price bracket of ordinary people. While that was once probably true, it's far from being true in modern times, especially in Scotland. There are many wonderful smoked salmon vacuum packs available in supermarkets which really afford an extra special taste to any food creation.

Scottish oak smoked salmon

This simple sandwich couldn't really be much easier to prepare as there is no cooking involved whatsoever.

Ingredients per Serving

2 slices of bread
2 decent slices (maybe 3 ounces/75g?) smoked salmon
3 or 4 lettuce leaves
1/2 small red onion
4 to 6 cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper
4 slices Highland Heart cheese
2 or three basil leaves
Glass of dry white wine (chilled) to serve (entirely optional)

Simple salad garnish ingedients


Finely slice the onion. Keep a third of it back for the sandwich. Separate the rest in to strands and combine in a small bowl or deep plate with the halved tomatoes and washed and shredded lettuce leaves. Season with salt and pepper.

Combining simple salad components

I've got to be honest in that I usually put butter on any sandwich, irrsepective of what's going on it. In this instance, however, I restrained myself and began by laying the smoked salmon on a slice of dry but very fresh bread.

Smoked salmon is laid on first slice of bread

Next on to the sandwich went the sliced Highland Heart. The remaining red onion was finally chopped and scattered on top before the basil leaves (rolled together before being very finely sliced) were added.

Highland Heart cheese, diced red onion and basil are laid on smoked salmon

Add a second slice of bread, press down moderately firmly and slice from corner to opposite corner then again.

Smoked salmon and Highland Heart cheese sandwich is sliced to serve

There are only three sandwich portions on the plate. That is for two reasons. The first is that a corner had to be reserved for the salad. The second is that I had to of course sample/taste the dish for quality before sharing it...

Scottish smoked salmon and Highland Heart cheese sandwiches are plated

Arrange the salad in the fourth quarter of the plate and serve with the white wine if desired.

Simple salad garnish is plated with sandwiches
Highland Heart Devils on Horseback
Highland Heart cheese and dates wrapped in bacon

Devils on Horseback are simply dates or prunes wrapped in strips of streaky bacon. They are commonly served as finger foods at parties. I decided to take the concept a little bit further and include some of my Highland Heart cheese.

I bought a pack of pitted dates and one of what I thought was unsmoked streaky bacon. For American readers, what we call unsmoked streaky bacon in the UK is what you would most likely call side pork. When I opened the bacon pack, however, it was definitely not what I would call streaky bacon. It was more like a cross between back bacon and streaky bacon without being either... Still, there are times in the food world where one has to make the best of one's given ingredients and this was precisely just such an occasion. Please therefore "imagine" that unsmoked streaky bacon was used here and note that the taste and enjoyment of the dish was unaffected.


6 slices of unsmoked streaky bacon (side pork)
Rapeseed oil for frying
6 basil leaves (optional)
6 cubes of Highland Heart cheese cut to size
6 pitted dates

Pitted dates and unsmoked streaky bacon


Pour some rapeseed oil in to a non-stick frying pan and fry the bacon until just cooked. Don't cook the bacon until crispy or you will never be able to roll it up. This dish is just as good served cold as hot, so having to fry the bacon in batches is not really an issue.

Bacon is gently fried

When the bacon is cooked, lightly shake it free of excess grease with cooking tongs and lay on a board. If using, lay a basil leaf at one end.

Basil leaves are optional additions to Highland Heart bacon wraps

Lay a piece of Highland Heart cheese on top of the basil (or straight on to the bacon).

Highland Heart cheese is laid at one end of bacon strips

Lay a date on top of the cheese and carefully roll from the cheese/date end. Secure with a cocktail stick or even a toothpick to arrange on a plate and serve.

I hope you've enjoyed these ideas for serving Highland Heart. I'm very grateful to Connage for the experience to try their product and will certainly be buying it again in future. Who knows? Maybe I'll share some further future serving suggestions right here on this blog...

Pitted dates are laid on Highland Heart cheese pieces