Dinner, Pork

One of my favourite go-to meals when we have a couple of guests over is chili and since it’s almost Halloween I thought a pumpkin chili would be season-appropriate (I may be going slightly pumpkin daft this season!). I’ve now got two carved pumpkin and another one to come, but I’m slightly dubious as to as to whether they will actually keep for a week without rotting. I’m keeping them in the fridge anyway with their faces still to be carved so fingers crossed!

I’d usually put pork mince in the chili rather than pork belly, but alas, the grocery shop was completely out of pork mince, so I opted for sliced pork belly instead. After all, pork belly is probably one of the tastiest, cheapest cuts you can get, and it did add a lot of flavour to the chili.

I’m going through the slightly unsettling process of preparing for my VIVA which takes place in exactly two weeks from now. On one hand you can’t really know what’s coming so it’s difficult to know exactly how to prepare, but on the other hand you don’t want to show up having no idea what’s happening! I even had a nightmare last night of showing up for the VIVA completely unprepared and without any notes – the horror! Luckily there’s still plenty(ish) of time to prepare properly. In the meantime, I can hopefully cook away some of those pre-VIVA nerves.

Pork & pumpkin chili

300g sausages, sliced (I used Cumberland sausages)

300g pork belly, sliced

400g chopped tomatoes

400g pumpkin, diced

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

300ml meat stock

2tbsp chili powder

½tsbsp sage

1tsp Cinnamon

Fry the sausages and pork belly in a large pan – you won’t need any extra fat to fry them. Once properly browned, add the tomatoes, pumpkin, onion, garlic, stock and spices to the pot and boil on low heat for at least an hour. I served the chili with rice, nachos and pico de gallo.

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Dessert

Running the risk of jumping on the oh so done bandwagon of pumpkin spice recipes I decided to try my hand at a pumpkin mousse. After all, the combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves combines some of my favourite flavours so why not? The mousse is slightly different in that the base is made from quark, a type of high protein yoghurt-like soft cheese which is a lot more common in Sweden than the UK. In Sweden it often goes by the brand-name Kesella and I do kind of miss all the different flavours you can get over there. Anyway, using natural quark as the basis for a mousse worked very well and I’m definitely going to try out other flavours with a similar base in the future too.

Pumpkin mousse

250g pumpkin purée

1 gelatine leaf

1 tsp pumpkin spice (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves)

125g quark

½ tsp vanilla extract

50g sugar

100g double cream

Candied pumpkin seeds

10g butter

10g brown sugar

20g pumpkin seeds

To serve: biscoff biscuits

Soak the gelatine leaf in cold water for a couple of minutes until it's soft. Gently heat half of the pumpkin purée in a pan and add the gelatine leaf, stirring until it’s completely dissolved. Combine the mix with the remaining purée, the pumpkin spice, vanilla extract, sugar, and quark. Whip the cream and gently fold it into the mix. Portion the mousse into bowls and leave to cool until serving.

Stir together softened butter, sugar and pumpkin seeds and spread out on baking parchment. Cook in the oven at 200c for around 5-7 minutes. Top the mousse with the candied pumpkin seeds and crumbled biscoff biscuits.

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Dessert, Fruit, Scottish, Food and Names

I’ve long wanted to combine my cooking with name research and with my thesis having been submitted, this seemed like an excellent time to do it. Something I rarely thought much about before I started studying names is the naming of food and drink, and how different dishes and produce receive their names. Of course, many of these dishes have long histories and cultural associations attached to them, but first and foremost I’m interested in how they received their names. I’m mainly looking at food of Scottish and Scandinavian origin, but in the future, I’d love to look further afield too. Although raspberry season is over it seemed apt to begin with a dish which has (fortunately or unfortunately depending on what your opinion of it is) become iconic to the stereotypical idea of Scottish food. The brambles are in season though, so I deviated from the more common path and added brambles to my crannachan. When you start looking into the history of the name though, the addition of brambles actually seems more appropriate than raspberries!

Marian McNeill's recipe of 'Cranachan or Cream-Crowdie' in The Scots Kitchen (1974 [1926])

Crannachan

It might be obvious to most Scots that crannachan is a Scots Gaelic word, but what does it actually mean and why do we call the dessert crannachan? Gaelic crannachan can be translated in two different ways: either as a ‘kind of churn’ or ‘beaten milk, a Hallowe’en treat into which a ring is put’.[1] There’s a surprising lack of references to the context in which the Gaelic harvest-treat with the ring in it would be eaten, and even after having spoken to several fluent Gaelic speakers (thanks to Alasdair Whyte and Aonghas MacCoinnich for their thoughts on the subject) I wasn’t sure of its exact nature. However, in DASG (the Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic https://dasg.ac.uk/en), although most entries refer to crannachan as a churn, one passage from Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica asserts that ‘crannachan Samhna = Hallowmas crowdie, ordinarily fuarag’.[2] If we look at Gaelic fuarag, we’re on slightly firmer ground and according to South Uist folklore: ‘At Hallowe'en oatmeal is mixed in a basin of thick or beaten cream and the thimble, sixpence, button and ring put in. The guests sit around the basin, each with a spoon, and eat it until a reward is found in a mouthful.’[3] This does indeed seem to closely parallel the dessert described above, and it seems that Gaelic fuarag and crannachan refer to similar dishes. The question is, how and when did it turn into the dessert we know today, and is it derived from the churn or the harvest dessert? It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when it started being thought of as a typically Scottish dessert, but it seems likely that one of the first references of it as such is to be found in Marian McNeill’s The Scots Kitchen where she writes that: ‘This is a very old dish, commonly served in farmhouses on festive occasions. In the Scottish National Museum of Antiquities, there is to be seen, in the section of domestic articles, one of the old fro’ing sticks, having a wooden cross surrounded with a ring of cow’s hair at one end, formerly used for beating cream and whey.’[4] So, we return to the churn once again and it seems plausible that the name primarily stems from its meaning as a churn used to beat milk or cream, with an awareness that it’s also the name of a dessert in Gaelic, but that the initial usage of the name in Scots is not a direct reference to the Gaelic harvest-dessert described above.

Interestingly, although the addition of raspberries is mentioned as an option, there is nothing about this which defines the dish itself, and I don’t see any reason to view raspberries as inherently superior to other fruits and berries. Besides, in her later recipe collections, McNeill does actually write: ‘Throw in a few handfuls of fresh ripe berries – blueberries, raspberries, or brambles, or others’.[5] In fact, if we view crannachan as being in any way related to harvest activities and Hallows’ Eve, it seems to me that brambles are a far more suitable option since they’re found later in the season than raspberries, and lasts well into the autumn. Whatever the exact nature of its adoption into Scots to be viewed as a traditional Scottish dessert, it seems like similar dishes, essentially consisting of some type of creamy oats, have been around in both Gaelic and Scots speaking areas long before it was ‘standardised’ into what we know as crannachan today. However, I think it’s worth keeping in mind that it wouldn’t be culinary blasphemy to add other fruits than raspberries to a crannachan!

Cream-crowdie?

When reading about crannachan I came across the addition of crowdie (a type of Scottish fresh cheese) in some recipes. Funnily enough it seems the addition of the soft cheese crowdie[6] is actually a confusion resulting from the fact that the word crowdie also has a different meaning, referring to ‘A mixture of oatmeal and cold water, etc. eaten raw. Sometimes also used of porridge or brose and hence of food in general’,[7] which makes cream-crowdie a logical name for crannachan!


[1] Dwelly, E. 1901-11. The Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary. < http://www.dwelly.info/>

[2] ‘crannachan’, text 59006, Corpas na Gàidhlig, <https://dasg.ac.uk/index.php>

[3] ‘fuarag’, text 49, Corpas na Gàidhlig, <https://dasg.ac.uk/index.php>

[4] MacNeill, M., The Scots Kitchen (1974 [1926]), 266-7.

[5] McNeill, M., Recipes From Scotland (1994 [1946]), 79.

[6] CROWDIE, Crowdy, Croudie, Croodie, n. A kind of soft cheese. Scottish National Dictionary (1700-)

[7] CROWDIE, CROWDY, Croudy, n. Scottish National Dictionary (1700-)

Bramble crannachan

There are plenty of recipes out there which give a basic, conventional recipe for a crannachan, so I’ve decided to give a slightly altered recipe here. Of course, since I’m arguing that brambles are the ideal berries for a crannachan, that’s what I’ve used here:

Serves 2-3

Oatmeal crumble

2 tsp sugar

10g butter

150ml oats (I used a mix of steel-cut and rolled oats)

Bramble coulis
150g brambles (fresh or frozen)

1tbsp sugar

Topping

150g fresh brambles

50g mascarpone

100g whipping cream

20ml Scotch whisky (optional)

To make the oatmeal crumble, melt the butter and stir into the oats along with the sugar. Spread out on baking parchment and bake in the oven at 200c for 5-7minutes.

Gently bring the brambles for the coulis to a boil along with the sugar and let it simmer for a couple of minutes to thicken. Leave it to cool.

For the topping, whip the cream and mascarpone together and stir in some of the brambles.

Layer all the ingredients in a bowl, glass, or jar. Finish with a layer of oatmeal crumble.

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Beef, Dinner, Scottish

A friend brought over some casserole steak so what better way of using it up than making a steak pie? The ale is not a necessity, but it does add flavour and Brewdog is one of my favourite beers, although I usually opt for one of their IPAs. Apparently (according to my SO at least) I’m a culinary heretic for putting mushrooms in the stew, but I didn’t think the idea of mushrooms in a steak pie was quite as horrible as he implied! This is actually the first time I’ve ever made a steak and ale pie myself, and it’s a pleasant surprise how tasty it is when homemade.

Steak and Ale pie

20g butter

200g pork sausages, cubed

500g stewing steak, cubed

25g flour

1 yellow onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

250g chestnut mushrooms, quartered

450 ml beef stock

2 tbsp tomato purée

1 330ml bottle brewdog dead pony club, or other ale

300g puff pastry

1 egg (yolk), beaten

Toss the steak in the flour and fry together with the sausages in the butter. Add the vegetables and pour over the stock, ale, and tomato purée. Leave to simmer without a lid for around an hour. If the stew is too thin you can add some extra flour to thicken it.

Roll out half the puff pastry until it is large enough to line an ovenproof dish with at least a couple of centimetres to spare. Prick the pastry with a fork and line it with baking parchment and fill with rice or baking beans. Bake for 15 min at 180c.

Let the pastry cool slightly before filling it with the cooked stew. Roll out the remaining puff pastry until it is large enough to cover the dish. Brush the edges with a beaten egg before placing the sheet over the dish. Bake in the oven at 180c for 30 minutes, making sure that the puff pastry has a nice golden colour.

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Baking, Dessert, Fruit

Autumn is well and truly here in Scotland and I’m absolutely loving it. I decided to undertake some impromptu baking, meaning that the fridge is now full of plum pie. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever made a ‘proper’ shortcrust pastry and the recipe here is a basic one from BBC Food, where the instructions are also more thorough (http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/shortcrustpastry_1278).

The filling is an experiment of my own and I wasn’t entirely sure how it was going to turn out, but the combination of honey, mascarpone and pistachios is hands down one of the tastiest combinations ever – definitely worth a try in other desserts too!

Shortcrust pastry

125g plain flour

½ tsp salt

55g cold butter, cubed

30-45ml cold water

Crumble the butter into the flour and salt until a fine crumbly texture is formed. Add the water and work the dough together and wrap in cling film. Leave in the fridge to cool for 15 minutes. Flour a surface and roll the dough out so that it is slightly larger than your pastry tin. Gently place it in the tin and press down the corners. Prick the pastry with a fork evenly. Place a baking sheet over the case and fill it with baking beans or rice, pressing down into the edges. Bake it for 15 minutes at 180c.

Filling

100g butter, softened

100g icing sugar

20g honey

2 eggs

175g finely ground pistachios

50g flour

100g mascarpone

6 large plums, sliced

100g brambles

Beat the softened butter with the icing sugar, honey and eggs. Gently fold in ground pistachios and flour. Finally, fold in the mascarpone. Spread the mixture into the pre-baked pastry case. Layer sliced plums and brambles in a nice pattern. Bake for ca. 50 minutes at 175c.

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Dinner

I brought some local wild boar meat with me from Sweden – close to 2 kg in fact. Including the freezer bag, it took up most of the space in my suitcase, and I was silently wondering what security would think if they decided to search my bag, but the transportation luckily caused no issues in the end. This ragù works well for meal prepping and lunches are sorted for the rest of the week now. Much like a lot of other people lately, I’ve started trying to do more meal prep to save time and energy and it’s been going pretty well so far. I took the next step and bought a bunch of meal prep containers with compartments, so I've got no excuses not to do it now!

One of the benefits of having a partner who is in the food industry is the accessibility to kitchen equipment and tableware. After having struggled for a while to get my hands on the style of tableware I like, I was kindly gifted several awesome plates and bowls by Sue (@Sue_Genware), the sales manager at Neville UK, and I finally got a chance to use one of them!


Slow cooker wild boar ragù

900g boar meat, cut into chunks

2 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, chopped

200ml red wine

1 tbsp Knorr Touch of Taste liquid beef stock

400g tin chopped tomatoes

5 ripe tomatoes, chopped

3 cloves

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp dried thyme

Salt&pepper

Fresh parsley, chopped

Seal the boar meat in half the olive oil and transfer to the slow cooker. Heat the rest of the olive oil and add chopped onion, letting them brown slightly. Add the wine and let it boil for a couple of minutes. Transfer the onions to the slow cooker and add all remaining ingredients except for parsley. Leave to cook on LOW for around 6 hours. Towards the end, stir in chopped parsley. Serve with tagliatelle.

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Dinner, Beef, Swedish

I’m back in Scotland, having spent a couple of weeks travelling for work and getting a couple of days of sightseeing in. For someone who hates flying it’s a relief to leave the five flights in less than two weeks behind me. The viral death trap that is flying has led to me catching a pretty bad fever though so I’ve been in bed trying to recover for the past two days and I’ve been living off ice cream and oranges.

I was over in Sweden for a flying visit before going back and I didn’t mind the opportunity to enjoy some of the best Swedish autumn produce – lingonberries and chanterelles! And no, I didn’t pick them myself unfortunately, but they’re still very tasty. I brought back probably about 3kg of wild boar meat currently in the freezer – any ideas as to how I could divide this in two without defrosting it?!

I’m sad to say that the lingonberries are not part of this dish. In between packing and cooking dinner I completely forgot that these lovely little berries should’ve been part of this dish. We froze some of them and added them to gin cocktails instead so no losses.

1.2kg Roast beef

Sprigs of fresh thyme

5 garlic cloves

1 onion

1 tbsp olive oil

100g Butter

Chanterelles (as many as you can get your hands on!)

1tbsp Knorr Touch of Taste beef bouillon

Salt&pepper

Rub the roast beef with oil, thyme sprigs and salt&pepper. Cook for 30 minutes at 225c, then lower the temperature to 190c and cook for another 30 minutes. The inner temperature should reach 60c for a nice medium.

Melt the butter in a pan and add the chanterelles with some salt. Once the beef is ready leave it to rest for around 20 minutes. Pour any juices into the pan with the chanterelles and add some Touch of Taste bouillon. Slice the roast beef and add to the pan, top with fresh thyme. Serve with toasted ciabatta.

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Baking, Dessert, Chocolate

I’m back in Scotland again after having spent a week over in Sweden to celebrate my wee mum’s sixtieth birthday. We pretty much spent three days cooking for her party, but I think we both were happy with the results and it’s been a great week. It’s back to reality again and I’m still(!) finishing the last editing for my thesis. It’s crazy how much longer the process is than you realise, but on the other hand I’ve largely managed to avoid one of the nervous breakdowns which seem to be characteristic for the end-of-thesis-submission.

Anyway, I’ve been using a lot of white chocolate lately and since the cherries are in season, why not make some white chocolate and cherry brownies for dessert. I’d probably leave them in a bit longer next time since they were on the gooey side, but still seriously delicious and super easy to make. I managed to stuff my face with half of the cherries while making the brownies too so all in all, a success.

White chocolate and cherry brownies

Makes 16 – 180 kcal / square

100g butter

200g sugar

1tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

150g flour

½ tsp baking powder

100g white chocolate

100g white chocolate chips

100g cherries (pitted)

Whisk together sugar, eggs, and vanilla until thick and fluffy. Melt butter and white chocolate on low heat and stir into the sugar mixture. Gradually stir in flour and baking powder. Fold in chocolate chips and half the cherries. Spread the mixture on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Bake in the oven at 180c for around 20 minutes. Leave to cool and top with chopped pistachios and the remaining cherries. Serve warm with ice cream.

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Dessert

I hope everyone else has been able to enjoy some of the beautiful summer weather lately! The only downside for me has been making sure that my (ginger) Scottish SO doesn’t melt away in the heat. At least you learn to appreciate the few days of warmth and sunshine living up north, and there’s something special about going outside in the morning, feeling like you’re abroad rather than at home. I’ve been trying to experiment with plating and making different new dishes, but this weekend has honestly been a disaster cooking-wise and out of all the things I’ve tried, this dessert is the only result I’m happy with. I’ve tried a couple of different types of honey cake before, never being very keen on the results, but this one’s perfect. Depending on preferred consistency you could either use finely chopped hazelnuts or ground hazelnuts, but I think the texture from the chopped hazelnuts makes the cake. The other ingredients used for plating has been a matter of preference really. We managed a brief IKEA trip yesterday and of course that means stocking up on cloudberry jam, so I wanted to make something with that. The orange also adds a bit of tartness which goes well with the sweet honeycomb so I’ve ended up with an orange-themed dessert plate.

Toasted hazel and honey cake

225g butter

225g honey

Zest from 1 orange

100g brown sugar

3 eggs

150g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

150 ml toasted, chopped hazelnuts

Melt honey and butter along with zest in a pan and leave to cool. Whisk together eggs and sugar and gradually stir in the flour and baking powder. Finally, stir in the butter mix and hazelnuts. Line a baking tray with baking paper and pour the batter into the tray. Bake in the oven at 180c for 40 minutes. Leave to cool and cut into square pieces. 

Honeycomb

100g caster sugar

30g honey

½ tbsp bicarbonate of soda

Bring the sugar and honey to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let the mixture boil for a couple of minutes until it starts darkening slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the bicarbonate. Spread out on baking paper and leave to cool before breaking into pieces.

Meringues

1 large egg white

60g caster sugar

¼ tsp cream of tartar

Whisk the egg whites until foamy. Gradually stir in the sugar and cream of tartar, whisking until very stiff peaks form. Pipe small round meringues onto baking paper. Bake in the oven at 100c for around 40 minutes for small meringues.

Plating

Honeycomb pieces

Mini meringues

Diced orange

Chopped hazelnuts

Cloudberry jam

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Dinner, Chicken, Korean

It’s a strange thing how quickly you phase out once something occupies most of your time – I was hoping to get in at least a weekly update of the blog while finishing the thesis draft, but that obviously didn’t happen! I’m hoping now that things have settled down a wee bit I’ll be able to update more regularly. I handed in the draft last Monday actually, but I’ve still been catching up on things and finishing off little bits. At this point I've pretty much given up trying to explain to people why the process of finishing your thesis takes so long (with draft submissions, final submission, viva, corrections etc.), but it really has been a life defining experience and I'm very grateful to have been given the opportunity to do this for the past four years.

Since the weather has been fantastic here I thought it was time to get a barbecue going. For some reason, I’ve never actually done it here in Scotland. It made sense, I suppose, when I lived in a second floor flat, but no excuses anymore! Back over in Sweden our family always get in a couple of grill sessions and it’s always a special treat. Anyway, I decided to get a small portable grill, but slightly underestimated the weight of the grill, charcoal, and other groceries so I barely managed to get it home. Once we got started, the fire didn’t take properly at first, but after half an hour of desperately combining kindling, charcoal, lightning liquid and cardboard(!) we got a perfect temperature going. Besides, we managed to produce enough smoke to set off the fire alarm indoors. Despite everything, the actual skewers are easy enough to make and who can resist some Korean barbecue?

Dak bulgogi skewers

Serves 4

600g chicken thigh fillets (boneless), diced

250g chestnut mushrooms, halved

100g bunched spring onions, cut into 10cm rods

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 minced garlic clove

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp sriracha

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp rice wine

2 tbsp brown sugar

Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce (soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, lemon juice, sriracha, honey, rice wine, and brown sugar). Pour over the remaining ingredients and coat well. Marinade for at least an hour. Thread alternate layers of chicken, mushrooms and spring onions onto skewers.

Maple dipping sauce

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp sesame oil

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp sriracha

2 tsp sesame seeds

Mix together all the ingredients for the dipping sauce. Once the grill is ready, cook the skewers for around 12-15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Serve with rice.

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