Vegetarian, Lunch, Dinner, Pasta

Unsurprisingly, the weather here in Glasgow has turned colder in January than in December, and we've had a couple frosty, but sunny days. My cooking mantra for this year has thus far involved being as lazy as possible, but as the weather gets warmer I’m hoping I’ll get some more energy.

Although I'm not a vegetarian, I try to be conscious of the amount of meat I eat and I'm a strong supporter of the concept of 'week-day vegetarianism' where you eat vegetarian food for four or five days out of the week (it obviously doesn’t have to be during the week-days!). I should really be posting more meat-less recipes, so as the second recipe this posted this year is this super quick pasta recipe that I made for dinner yesterday which pretty much takes as long as boiling the spaghetti.

Serves 4

Mushroom and parmesan pasta

300g sliced mushrooms (I used portobello and chestnut)

250g spaghetti

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1tbsp (truffle or olive) oil

200g crème fraiche

50g parmesan, grated

30g rocket

A couple of sprigs of thyme, stems removed

Cook the spaghetti with plenty of water according to the packet instructions. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan on high heat. Add the garlic and let it cook for a minute before adding the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are nearly ready, then remove the pan from the heat and add crème fraiche, the cooked spaghetti, parmesan, rocket and thyme. Finish off with salt and black pepper to taste.

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Scottish, Lunch, Vegetarian

Happy new year! It’s a strange feeling to start the new year being back in Scotland and being completely finished with my thesis and honestly, it seems surprisingly daunting! The upside will be that I should have more time for cooking this spring and that also means more time for names and food research which is something I had to put to the side when I was completing my corrections.

I thought I should begin the year with a season-appropriate wintery recipe which uses kale and blue cheese, topped with pomegranate. If you end up with too much kale, the crisps are very tasty on their own too. Funnily enough, I read on Reddit just yesterday that based on UK Google searches, there is an incredible upsurge in the interest in kale in January with people viewing it as a health food. It is a lovely winter green though and it would be a shame to confine it to kale smoothies, hence the sandwich option...

Serves 2

Kale crisps

125g kale, roughly chopped

10g oil

Salt

4 slices of sourdough bread

100g blue cheese (I used Strathdon blue)

1-2 apples, sliced

2 tbsp crème fraiche

50g pomegranate seeds

Wash the kale and dry thoroughly. Place on a baking parchment and drizzle over olive oil and salt. Bake in the oven at 170c for around 20 minutes, or until the kale is crispy.

Top each of the slices with crème fraiche, sliced apples, blue cheese. Finish with the kale and pomegranate seeds.

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Baking, Christmas

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas! I'm spending Christmas in Sweden, but the gingerbread village had to stay behind in Scotland (I highly doubt transporting it on a plane would've been possible!)

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Breakfast, Scottish

A while ago MacSween got in touch with me asking if I would be interested in creating a Swedish themed breakfast recipe made with haggis. As a name-researcher, I think it's pretty cool that the name MacSween is originally of Scandinavian origin (from Old Norse Sveinn) so there's already a Scandi-Scottish connection there! In my mind, any typical Swedish breakfast has to include a couple of slices of good bread, so I decided to make a variant of one of my favorite Swedish breads called Kavring, which is a spiced, slightly sweet rye bread made with rye flour, syrup, and spices. The lingonberries add tartness to both the bread and the dish, but they can be skipped since, after all, they’re not the most easily accessible ingredient here in Scotland!

Since it’s a breakfast dish, I opted for the ‘Haggis in a hurry’ which only takes a couple of minutes to prepare. The bread worked really well with the haggis and of course you can’t have a proper breakfast without eggs! Non-Scots are usually a bit sceptical about haggis, but if you get the change, definitely give it a go, it’s delicious!

In cooperation with MacSween

Serves 2

Prep: 20 mins Cooking: 70 mins

Bread

200 ml buttermilk

100 ml plain yoghurt

150 ml black treacle

1.25 tsp bicarbonate of soda

300 ml (160g) plain flour

300 ml (175g) rye flour

½ tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground fennel seeds

1/2 tsp ground aniseed

Handful of fresh or frozen lingonberries (optional)

10g butter


Haggis, eggs, and spinach

130g MacSween haggis in a hurry

2 tsp olive oil

100g baby spinach

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 eggs

Handful of fresh or frozen lingonberries for serving (optional)

Salt and pepper


  • For the bread, grease a bread tin with the butter and dust it with flour. Mix all the dry ingredients together (bicarbonate, flour, salt, fennel, and aniseed) and stir in the buttermilk, yoghurt and treacle. Carefully fold in the lingonberries if using. Pour the batter into the bread tin and bake at 175C for around an hour. Leave to cool before slicing.
  • Heat half the oil in a pan and lightly sauté the spinach for a couple of minutes. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  • In a different pan, fry the eggs and haggis until the eggs are ready and the haggis is hot.
  • Serve the spinach, eggs, and haggis over the rye bread and finish with lingonberries.


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Baking, Dessert, Christmas

In anticipation of my PhD VIVA (the final examination where you defend your thesis), I entered somewhat of a blog hiatus with the intention of being hard at work revising my thesis. In all honestly, more time was probably spent being anxious and reading about worst case scenarios online, but in the end it went better than I'd hoped for and I've now only got minor corrections to do before I'm finished, which is what I've been working on for the past month.

It's a good thing I'm returning to cooking right in time for the Christmas season, so, I thought it was definitely about time I posted something. St Lucia's day which is widely celebrated in Sweden is two days away from now and the typical Lucia treat consists of saffron buns known as 'Lussekatter'. I decided to make something different, but still in the spirit of Lucia and I ended up with these lovely wee treats.

Saffron macarons

100g icing sugar

100g ground almonds

2 egg whites

Pinch of salt

50g caster sugar

1tsp water

0.5g saffron, ground

Cardamom & coconut buttercream

80g butter, softened

200g icing sugar

50g coconut cream

1tsp cardamom, ground

Mix together icing sugar, almonds, and saffron. Stir together caster sugar and water in a saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved completely and has a slightly syrupy texture. Whisk the egg whites along with the salt until stiff peaks form (you should be able to turn the bowl upside down!). Gradually add the melted caster sugar, whisking until the egg whites are glossy. Carefully fold the mixture into the almond and icing sugar mix. Spoon it into a piping bag and pipe into circles on baking parchment or a silicone mat. Leave to set for 30 minutes, occasionally tapping the parchment or mat to break any air bubbles in the macarons. Bake at 170c for 10 minutes and leave to cool.

For the filling, make sure that the butter is softened. Mix together all the ingredients with an electric whisk until a smooth cream is formed. Fill a piping bag with the buttercream and once the macarons are cool, pipe filling onto one macaron, sandwiching it together with another one. Store in the fridge to avoid the buttercream getting too soft!

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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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