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 Sous Vide cooking 

 

 Sous Vide Cooking 

This is an extension of the system of poaching which became popular at the start of the century.

The food is vacuum packed in plastic bags and cooked in a thermostatically controlled water bath for a number of hours.

 Equipment 

The basic equipment you need is a vacuum sealing machine and a temperature controlled water bath. These can be expensive: at Sousvide tools an external vacuum and sealing machine costs ~£100 whereas a professional, internal bag system will set you back £700 - £1000.

Buying a custom water bath for home use will cost £250 - £350 whilst professional machine cost £500 - £1000. However, we use a slow cooker filled with water and controlled by a thermostat costing ~£100, (codlo et al), and I’m told a rice steamer also works well.

 Bags 

There are two types of bag, ones good up to ~60°C and ones OK to ~95°C. The high temperature are a little dearer but I use them for everything.

 Processes 

You can cook just about anything Sous vide and much has been made of 60 minute, 62°C eggs, which I've never tried and which strictly isn't Sous vide as the egg is just placed directly in the waterbath. I do intend to try poaching salmon Sous vide some time.

There are a number of books and on-line articles on the science behind sous vide and slow cooking in general. Douglas Baldwin is one of the most often quoted.

I find the most important point, particularly if you’re cooking an intrinsically tough piece of meat like Ox cheeks, is the transformation of collagen connective tissue to gelatine: the tough-to-tender transition. This occurs at 68°C so anything ~ 70°C does fine.

Anything above 80°C for meat will start to seriously denature the meat and you can dry out food just as well in a bag as in an oven.

Another source of possible concern when people first consider Sous vide cooking, is the bacterial content of ‘low temperature’ cooked food. Is food cooked at 60°C or less going to be safe? The answer’s ’yes’ so long as it’s cooked long enough. You can find the details on the net but cooking meat for several hours, even at 50°C, would kill all bacteria.

 Finishing 

Most sous vide meat recipes will need to be finished. Part of the flavour of meat comes from the Maillard reaction which needs something above 150°C which you’re not going to get in a waterbath!

It’s possible to brown the meat before sous viding it but, in most cases, I prefer to do this after the cooking.

 Sous Vide cooking 

 

 Ox cheeks 

 Ingredients 

About 6oz/person of raw cheek.
Onion
Seasoning.

Other recipes use herbs such as Rosemary, Bay or Thyme but use sparingly as the Sous vide process really extracts a lot of flavour. I prefer to let the meat speak for itself.

 Preparation 

Lightly salt and pepper the cheeks. *
Peel and cut in half an onion per package and pan sear the cut surface for flavour.
Vacuum pack the seasoned cheeks and seared onion and sous-vide for 12 hours at 80°C.

The packs can be frozen at this stage until you need them.

 Finishing 

Transfer the cheeks to a casserole with some vegetables and a measure of red wine. Grind a little more salt* over the cheeks and casserole for one hour at 150°C and a further hour at 120°C.

Twenty minutes before serving, remove the cheeks from the casserole, discard the vegetables, (‘though I eat the onion!), strain the stock into a small sauce pan and replace the cheeks in the casserole and rest at 100°C.

Reduce the stock until it starts to thicken. *This is why you need to be sparing with the salt. Too much at an earlier stage or the use of a stock cube or similar, will result in a sauce which is far too salty. When the desired consistency has been reached, add a small knob of butter to glaze the sauce. If you feel that the sauce is a little sweet from the vegetables you used, add a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Serve the cheeks with vegetables and mashed potatoes.

 Sous Vide cooking 

 

 Oxtail 

 Ingredients 

Other recipes use herbs such as Rosemary, Bay or Thyme but use sparingly as the Sous vide process really extracts a lot of flavour. I prefer to let the meat speak for itself.

 Preparation 

Despite what I said before, I first brown the pieces of tail. If you like a thick sauce, toss the sections in seasoned flour before frying.
Peel and halve an onion per pound of tail and pan sear the cut surface.
Season the pieces of tail if you didn't use seasoned flour and bag them and the onions and sous-vide for 24 hours at 80°C.

As with cheeks, the packs can be frozen at this stage until you need them.

 Finishing 

Transfer the tail to a casserole with some vegetables and, perhaps, a measure of red wine and casserole for one hour at 150°C.
Remove the pieces of tail from the casserole and strip the meat off the bone, discarding the bone and pieces of cartilage.
If you have the time, set aside the meat and decant the stock into a bowl and chill in a fridge or freezer until the fat layer hardens. Remove the fat, return the meat, etc. to a casserole and cook for another hour at 120°C. If you haven't got time, just cook for another hour at 120°C after the intital hour at 150.

Serve, again with a mash.

 Sous Vide cooking 

 

 Five spice Pig cheeks 

 Ingredients 

 Preparation 

Mix the marinade, whisking it to disperse the garlic paste and incorporate the Five Spice powder. Marinade the cheeks for 12 - 24 hours in the fridge, shaking the box every six hours or so.

Package the cheeks and Sous Vide at 80°C for 12 hours. The packs can be frozen at this stage until you need them. Retain the marinade, dividing into a number of portions to match your portions of cheeks. It too can be frozen but won't ever set hard.

 Finishing 

Mix a thick glaze from honey or brown sugar and a little of the thawed marinade or some Soy sauce and powdered Five spices.

Take the thawed cheeks from their bag, rinse out the bag with a little boiling water and put the juices in a bowl with the rest of the marinade.

Pan fry some chopped spring onion and sliced ginger and set them aside.

Pan-fry the cheeks. Reduce the heat and add the glaze and turn the cheeks in the glaze until well-coated and slightly caramelised. Remove the cheeks and place in a serving dish in a warm oven.

Add the juices and marinade to the pan on a low heat and dissolve any remaining glaze. Return the onions to the pan, add a spoon of garlic paste and use high heat to reduce the sauce to your desired thickness.

Pour the sauce over the cheeks.

 Serving 

Serve with boiled/fried rice or rice noodles and stir-fry vegetables.

 Variations 

 Sous Vide cooking 

 

 Duck legs 

Sous vide duck legs is as near as you will get to a duck comfit without having everything slathered in duck fat!

 Ingredients 

One leg per person
Seasoning.

 Preparation 

Prick the skin and season the legs and pack in a bag. We find three legs/bag is about right. Cook at 80°C for at least six hours.

I wouldn’t recommend freezing these as they’d be liable to dry out during the re-heating. If you start them first thing in the morning, they’ll be ready for dinner.

 Finishing 

Pre-heat a grill and, when at full heat, open the bag, decanting the juices into a separator to be used as duck stock for soup or a sauce and duck fat for your roast potatoes.
Lay the legs on a grill tray skin side up, add a little more salt and grill for no more than 10 minutes. Any longer than this and the legs become too dry. If they’re not crisp enough for you after this time, finish them of with a culinary blow torch.

Serve with potatoes roasted in duck fat, vegetables and a sauce for the duck, we like plum and ginger or orange.

Plum & Ginger sauce

* When freshly made, the Ginger is very pronouced but this is less so when thawed after freezing.

 Sous Vide cooking 

 

 Chicken breasts 

This isn't an earth shaking recipe but it is a good way to deal with cheap chicken.

It's the case that many cheap packs of chicken have been injected with water to bulk them up. The process, also known as 'plumping' or 'enhancing', can amount to nearly 20% of the product and should be, but often is not, declared on the packaging,

Leaving aside the ethics of all this, the result can be that, when such chicken is cooked, the water is lost leaving very dry meat.

Sous Viding at 62°C for 3 - 6 hours will cook the chicken but retain some of moisture to give a more palatable meat.

I package the raw chicken with a small nob of butter, a single leaf of Tarragon per piece and a few twists of salt. Once cooked it should then be frozen until required and is ideal for salads, (Chicken Caesar), and sandwiches both cool and toasted.

It can also be used in cooked dishes but should only be added with enough time to heat it through: any longer and you're back with dry meat!

 Sous Vide cooking 

 

 Ribs 

Use racks of ribs as they’re easier to handle than loose ones.

 Ingredients 

 Preparation 

If you’re using a sticky marinade, just brush the meat side of the ribs with the sauce. If you use a thinner marinade, soak the ribs for 10 -12 hours. Vacuum pack the ribs without having one piece on top of another and cook for 12 - 20 hours at 80°C.

The packs can be frozen at this stage until you need them.

 Finishing 

Thaw the ribs well in advance and pre-heat a grill. Place the ribs on a metal sheet covered in oven paper and grill for 5 minutes to dry out the top, meat, surface. Brush on more of your chosen marinade and grill for a further 5 minutes. If you don’t dry off the ribs, the marinade just runs straight off.

As with the duck legs, any longer than this and you'll dry out the ribs. Again, finish off with a blow-torch if neccessary.

Serve as a starter, (or make bigger portions for a main course!).

 Marinades *

We use Stubb’s Original or Hickory Smoked with a little added chilli sauce, (McIlhenny’s tabasco or similar), or make our own Five Spice.

 Five spice marinade 

The quantities are deliberately vague as the amount of each constituent is a matter of taste. You should have about 200ml of marinade for four racks of ribs.

Mix in a jug. beat with a whisk to distribute the powder and paste and pour over the ribs in a plastic box. Place in the ‘fridge for at least 12 hours, shaking and inverting the contents every few hours.

I used to keep the excess marinade for use when finishing the ribs but it just runs off. It could, perhaps, be reduced until it's more sticky but what I do now is mix a few teaspoons of honey or dark sugar with a little Soy, just enough to make a thick, sticky mixture which will stick to the ribs when brushed on for grilling. If you really like the Five Spice flavour, add a little more of the powder to this final garnish.

 Sous Vide cooking 

 

 Pork crackling 

This was/is served as an appetiser in a London restaurant with a trio of dips; a mild mustard, a delicious lemon mayonnaise and an unmemorable third.

I asked our waiter to ask the Chef for the recipe, expecting to be told to mind my own business or that it was a trade secret, but got the instructions given below.

 Ingredients 

Good quality pork skin. Don't be tempted into buying a pack of cheap skin. It's likely to have an unpleasant aftertaste.

 Preparation 

Salt the skin side, vacuum pack and Sous vide for 24 hours at 60ºC

Scrape off any remaining soft fat, cut the skin into pieces and bake in a low oven for 24 hours. As this is just to dry the skin, 50ºC will do.

 Finishing 

When your're ready to use it, deep fry the pieces in hot oil when they'll puff up like prawn crackers.

Serve with desireable dips.

 Sous Vide cooking 

 

 'Steamed' lamb 

Lamb can be steamed for Indian and other Asian cuisines in a rice or vegetable steamer but a good, easy and quick approximation can be done using Sous Vide.

The most flavoursome cut of lamb for a curry, biryani, etc. is from the neck; we use neck filet which is becoming very popular and, hence, more costly. But remember, it's almost a truism that the more tough a cut of meat, the more flavour it will have and, using Sous Vide, even the toughest cuts can be made tender. *

Dice about 1 lb. of neck filet of lamb, salt it and place in a vacuum bag in a single layer. I do not include any herbs or spices as these can add too much flavour and without them, the lamb is ready for anything.

Sous Vide at 60°C for 5 - 8 hours for neck filet and 80°C for more tough cuts. This can be used right away or stored in the fridge for up to two days or frozen until needed.

* If you use a really tough cut, (something like scrag end of lamb which was used for Irish stew in Liverpool), extend the time up to 24 hours.

 Main Meals 

 

 What is a Recipe 

Browsing the web for recipes for Pilau rice, I came across the following,
"Take a pack of mixed vegetables and poke several holes in it with a skewer..."

Now this isn't a recipe! It may be an acceptable way to cook frozen vegetables but a recipe requires more than that.

Another example. I found a reference to 'Egg drop soup' which sounded a bit like the Chicken and Sweetcorn soup which I like, so I looked up the item and found,
"Take a pint of good chicken stock and ...."
No mention of where to get your 'good chicken stock' and certainly not how to make it. *

These are not recipes. At the best they're insructions on how to assemble food which might be quite tasty and nutritious but a recipe requires more: it requires you to take control of as much of the process as possible; to start from as basic as set of ingredients as possible and to do your OWN thing with them.

Incidently, more nonsense exists on the Internet concerning browning meat than probably any other subject. See here for our views on browning meat.

* Our recipe for Chicken stock

We make stock from the remainder of a roasted chicken which we cook without stuffing but with Bay and Rosemary in the body cavity and sprinkled with our own chicken seasoning which contains salt. At the end I'll list changes to be made for other starting points.

Take the carcase and strip off any useful flesh. This can be kept for adding to a soup made from the stock. In our case, Cock-a-Leekie soup, or Chicken vol-au-vent.

Place the carcase in a pressure cooker with chopped onions, (leave the skins on for colour), celery and about a pint of water. Cook for 25 minutes and leave to reduce the pressure.

Strain through a coarse Colander. The stock can be used 'as is' or frozen for later use. This stock will set to a jelly when cool and can be diluted by up to 50%.

You don't have to use a pressure cooker but the cooking time will be in hours if you don't.

The stock can obviously be made with fresh pieces of Chicken but what else do you do with a carcase? If you cook a Chicken with any form of stuffing this will cause the stock to be cloudy and over-seasoned by the type of stuffing. Nowadays, I always cook stuffing separately from the fowl; even for the Christmas Turkey.

If you don't include Bay and Rosemary in the roast Chicken, these should be added to the stock pot. You can also add Oregano/Marjoram but I don't recommend Thyme if you're going to use pressure cooking; the flavour becomes too dominant. I try to limit the number of herbs or spices in a dish as I feel too many tend to mask each other.

If the Chicken wasn't salted before roasting, add salt. I council against adding pepper until you know what the stock is to be used for.

We use the same method with Duck and Turkey carcases.

Some stock recipes suggest the use of white wine with the water. I've tried this and can't tell the difference. Just drink the wine!

Whilst we're on stocks, we might as well include,

Our recipe for Beef stock

 Ingredients 

 Method 

Cut up the Onion and Celery into large pieces and place with the Beef on a roasting tray. Sprinkle with salt and cook in a 200°C oven for an hour, then lower the temperature to 150°C and cook for another hour. After this time the meat should be very well cooked; almost burned: maximum Maillard reaction!

Place all of the meat and vegetables into a small slow-cooker with a ½pt. of water and cook for at least 12 hours. NB the addition of red wine at this stage DOES make a difference!

Strain the mixture into a bowl which is then placed in the fridge to solidify any fat before skimming this off and packaging the stock for freezing.

 Main Meals 

 

 Bridies 

I needed to get this one published quite quickly as the Bridie is in the process of being registered with the EU as having 'Protected Geographical Status' and, as this is intended to only cover Forfar, Glamis and Kinettles, (Why Kinettles?), it will become illegal for me to refer to these pasties as 'Bridies'!

This, and the next two recipes, all utilise the same basic procedures; a meat mixture is bound together by egg and kept moist by the inclusion of bread.

Ingredients for six bridies

Hot water Pastry

Filling

Method

 Main Meals 

 

 Beef Burgers 

The amounts are based on 1lb., (450g), of beef but I usually make at least twice this amount.

Ingredients


triple cooked chips, onion rings or sautéd onion, relish, pickled walnuts, gherkins, coleslaw, etc.

 Venison burgers 

Venison is a much leaner meat than beef so it's a good idea to introduce a little fat to keep them moist. The recipe is as above with the addition of 100g of belly pork and only one or two onions.

* Mincing tends to release the fluids, (Myoglobin), in the meat, hence the need for the bread to keep the mixture moist. It would be interesting, but too time consuming for me, to prepare the meat by chopping it finely, as is done for a beef tartare.

 Main Meals 

 

 Meatballs 

This recipe is based on several published for Swedish Meatballs.

Ingredients

* It should be born in mind that Nutmeg is now an illegal psycho-active substance under UK idiot legislation.

† This will give a coarser texture than commercial meatballs. If you like, the mixture can be minced again with a medium disk but I find that this tends to give a mixture that is a little dry and we prefer the coarser mix.

‡ The best description I can give you is 'about half a heaped pinkie nail', if this is any help!

 Main Meals 

 

 Seared Scallops in a cheese sauce 

Ingredients

Method

* Which cheese you use depends on your taste. Parmesan is nearly too strong for the scallops and you should consider Gruyere or Cheddar as an alternative. I recommend Parmesan for the topping in all case.

 Main Meals 

 

 Pan fried Tuna with a Caper & crème fraîche sauce 

Ingredients

Method

* Capers come in a variety of sizes and should not be confused with Caper berries. The best are the small, non-pareil.

† If you prefer it, the Tuna can be grilled. In this case, oil the steak just before grilling and make the sauce with a very little garlic paste sweated in butter before adding the crème fraîche and capers.

 Main Meals 

 

 Saffron/Tumeric Rice 

Ingredients This will serve three.

Method

* This method will not work if you cook your rice with a set amount of water which is all destined to be absorbed at the end of the process. The time required to infuse the water with the spices will reduce the amount of water by evaporation by an unknown amount.

† Different recipes list different spices: select the ones you prefer. I deliberately don't use any ground spices other than Turmeric, as I find these tend to make the rice look 'dirty'.

‡ Use Saffron if you can afford it. In this case, cook a little longer than one hour to colour the rice.

 Main Meals 

 

 Chorizo and Chickpeas 

This can be served as a lunch in its own right or as a Tapas. The quantities will provide a lunch for three or six portions of Tapas.

Ingredients

Method

* Cooking Chorizo is soft whereas eating Chorizo is hard and liable to stay that way, no matter how long you cook it!

† I've tried cooking dried Chickpeas but, even after an hour, they were inedible. They could be pressure cooked but a tin save a lot of time!

 Main Meals 

 

 Pasta 

There's a lot of rubbish going around about pasta: how to cook it, how to eat it. Some of this is dealt with on other sites but it does no harm to repeat it here. I appreciate that, to some people, it isn't rubbish. However, whilst I agree that ingredients, implements and processes are essential parts of good cooking, I can't accept that tradition has any part to play in how food tastes.

 Eating 

A common misconception is that you should serve pasta by pouring a sauce over a heap of pasta. You don't. You add the cooked pasta to the sauce and mix it so that all the pasta is coated with sauce.

Another misconception is that, outside of Italy, we have too much sauce with our pasta. This is to a certain extent true but depends on the position of the pasta course in a meal. In general, pasta is served as a starter rather than a main course in an Italian meal and, in this case, should not be over-sauced. I can remember having Tagliatelle as a starter in a Scottish restaurant and being given so much that I struggled with my main. However, we tend to have pasta as a main course and, in this case, be liberal with the sauce.

It is also said that each sauce should have a different form of pasta and that Italians can get very heated about wrong matches. e.g. Spaghetti Bolognese is a heresy. Maybe this is the case, but I like to keep things simple and I see no problem in eating Spaghetti with any sauce.

I don't see how a small diference in thickness can make any real difference in the TASTE of a meal. However, if any Italian chefs wish to prove me wrong, please provide complimentary tickets for a series of tastings.

My personal take on this is that ribbon pasta, Spaghetti, Tagliatelle, Linguine, are all good for taking up limited amounts of sauce, whereas the hollow ones will hold a larger amount! Sheets are for Lasagna and thin sheets are for making Ravioli!

 Cooking 

Adding oil

You may have heard that you should add olive oil to cooking pasta to stop it sticking. It doesn't work. To stop it sticking, cook in enough water to allow each piece/strand to be separate.

Salt

Most recipes warn of under salting but you can't over-salt pasta. Use at least two tablespoons for a batch for three people.

Timing

Now for the biggy: al dente!

It took me a long time to work out what this is all about. I read descriptions which referred to a 'white dot' or a 'white ring' in the pasta but it eventually dawned on me that they were talking about dried pasta.

Now, I do use some dried pasta, basically Macaroni, as our pasta machine doesn't have an attachment for extruding tubes. However, this is usually used for a variety of baked dishes or soups and isn't fully cooked beforehand.

The best description of 'al dente' that I've been able to find is the "the pasta should be chewy". No! Not for us. I suspect that this as another of those concepts promulgated by some restaurants who want to cut their cooking times to decrease their service-cycle time.

Actual Times

I cook ribbon pasta for about 5 - 8 minutes and Lasagna sheets for about 3 minutes as these are going to get further cooking in the oven.

I've seen warnings, "don't overcook your pasta or it will decay to a mush": not our pasta! My wife has a flock of hens which love pasta, (and rice), and who get any spare bits that are going, including the trimmings from sheets for Lasagana which I've inadvertently cooked for 20 minutes without it going mushy. I reckon it depends on what you put in your pasta. *

As with everything, cook it until it is as you like it.

Rinsing

Some advise not to rinse pasta when it's been cooked and to "keep a cup of the starchy water to add to the sauce to make it creamy" Well, I rinse our pasta in boiling water and, if I want a creamy sauce, I add cream! If you follow my recommendation for lots of salt, a cup of the cooking water will make your sauce inedible.

 Recipes 

* The pasta

Ingredients

Method

† The numbers refer to Imperia pasta machine settings where 6 is the thinest.

Meat sauce

In deference to the traditionalists, I'll not call this 'Bolognese' sauce, (but that's what I think it is!)

It's an example of how we cook a lot of our meals: buy in bulk at Farmer's market time, cook up a LARGE amount and freeze for future use. The amounts in the following recipe usually do three of us for three or four months.

Ingredients

Method

‡ This sauce is also very good as a filling for a baked potato, topped with grilled Cheese.

White sauces

 A minimalist Pasta meal 

Melt a little butter in a sauce pan, add the Pasta, (Spaghetti is best), with ground black pepper. Mix and serve!

This may not be good for you but it's delicious.

If you really have to have protein, grate some Parmesan over it.

 Main Meals 

 

 Beef Tartare 

Ingredients [This makes a starter for two or a single main course]

Preparation

* Chopping and mincing allow the Myoglobin to leak out making the beef far less succulent than it should be.

 Main Meals 

 

 Variation on a theme: Beef Carpaccio 

These variations take the basic idea of a dish but change it to suit our taste in such a way that, whilst it can no longer be called by its original name, you can see where it's come from. The original Carpaccio, as created in Harry's Bar, used no marinade nor was the Beef seared.

Ingredients [This makes a starter for two or a single main course]

Preparation

* You can also use Venison and, in fact, I prefer this to Beef.

† I don't recommend using a wet marinade for this. I tried it and it leached out the Myoglobin from the surface of the Beef.

‡ Don't overdo this or you'll be faced with a block of frozen steak which will need to be sliced with a small chainsaw. In fact, I think it's enough to just chill the meat. It will do if you can cut it into 1/8" slices.

 Main Meals 

 

 Variation on a theme: Kedgeree 

These variations take the basic idea of a dish but change it to suit our taste in such a way that, whilst it can no longer be called by its original name, you can see where it's come from.

My problem with Kedgeree is that I don't like Indian spices with fish. I think that in most cases the spices completely override the flavour of the fish. I still remember having Monk fish in a highly recommended Indian restaurant where the spices not only killed the Monk fish flavour but also any hint of fish of any sort!

As well as leaving out the Indian spices, this dish uses Arbroath Smokie instead of Finnan Haddy or ordinary smoked Haddock. I feel that the hot-smoked flesh of the Smokie is superior to either of the above for cooking; having a deeper flavour and buttery texture.

If you are unfamiliar with the Smokie, do find some to try. It's one of the few fish in Scotland to be granted Protected Geographical Status, largely due to the efforts of Bob Spink, (See also Soups, Spink Skink).

This makes a starter or lunch for two or a single main course

 Main Meals 

 

 Duck Breasts with Apple and Black pudding 

Ingredients

These quantities are for a main meal for three people. Reduce for a starter or increase for a larger group.

* We prefer desert apples for this dish but use cookers if you want a more tart taste. However, these are liable to crumble into Apple sauce!
† Use the best of your local puddings. Orkney and Stornaway puddings are highly regarded in Scotland.
‡ If you like them really crisp, then don't fry at all but do remember to dress them with lemon juice to stop them going brown.
§ See here for our recipe for Plum and Ginger sauce.

 Main Meals 

 

 Variation on a theme: Mussels 

These variations take the basic idea of a dish but change it to suit our taste in such a way that, whilst it can no longer be called by its original name, you can see where it's come from.

Ingredients [This makes a starter or lunch for two or a LARGE main course]

* The dish is intrinsically salty due to the brine retained by the Mussels. It's no good giving them extra washes as the brine is within the shells and won't come out until they open as they're cooked.

† There are those who believe that the broth is the best part of the dish and I still remember with pleasure the broth from Robert Lam's Mussels at 'The Butterfly', Pier 33, San Fransisco, now unfortunately closed but Mr Lam is presently the Chef de Cuisine at Perle, Montclair Village, Oakland.

 Main Meals 

 

 Mushroom Risotto 

Ingredients For two people

* Use a selection of different varieties of Mushroom.
† Alternatively, use 50ml each of dry white wine and Fino Sherry.
‡ The problem is knowing when to stop! If you add too little stock, the risotto will set on the plates after it's served! Too much and it will be too sloppy.

 Main Meals 

 

 Duck with Plum sauce 

Ingredients (For three people)

Preparation

* See here for our recipe for Plum and Ginger sauce.

 Main Meals 

 

 Steak, Kidney & Ale Pie 

Ingredients For 5 - 6 people

* If you leave out the Kidney you've got a Steak & Ale pie!

† Your choice of Ale, Innis & Gunn is popular in Scotland. We use Guinness Extra Stout (Original), when we can get it!

‡ See here for our views on browning meat.

 Main Meals 

 

 Browning meat 

There is a website, liberally illustrated, which states that you 'brown' ground Beef, (Mince), by putting it in a frying pan with a little water and heating it until the pink colour goes away!‽!

Lets deal with what you're NOT doing,

What you ARE doing is improving the dish by creating a range of aromas and flavors by the Maillard reaction. So, when asked "Is it necessary to brown meat?", the answer is "No", but, if the question is "is it desireable to brown meat", the answer is an emphatic "Yes".

The Maillard reaction occurs between 140°C and 165°C so you must reach at least the lower temperature and anything above the higher value is liable to burn the meat. This is why the suggestion to add water to the meat is so stewpid: as long as there is water present in the pan, the temperature will be little more than 100°C. This is also why you should only process the meat in small quantities: add too much and the pan cools, liquid is driven out of the meat and you're just stewing it.

What you do is to heat a frying pan to medium heat, 160°C -170°C, and add the meat in small enough quantities so that any liquid released is immediately evaporated. We do this with all Beef, sliced, diced or minced; most Pork and occasionally Chicken, depending on the dish, and for all of our Duck dishes, (See Duck breasts, Duck with Plum sauce and Duck legs)

You may find references which say that you shouldn't brown floured meat as all you're doing is browning the flour. Whilst it's true you are browning the flour, (it wouldn't act as a thickener without this), it's not 'all' you're doing. The flour sticks to the meat by virtue of the myoglobin present and myoglobin is a liquid protein which will undergo the Maillard reaction just as readily as the solid, muscle proteins.

 Main Meals 

 

 Baked Ham with Cloves and Orange 

This recipe has been on our Christmas list for at least years. We serve it on Boxing day when we feed family; in years gone by there could be 15 - 20, so we provided a buffet of which this was one of the main items.

It's based on a description of a baked Ham by a friend of an aunt of mine in the 50's

Ingredients

Preparation

* Use a Ham on the bone if you wish. Meat cooked on the bone should be more flavoursome but, in this case, very difficult to slice so we went over to boneless!

† You may have difficulty in finding a container large enough for this. We use an aluminium jelly pan. The idea is to remove some of the salt from the ham but see § below.

‡ This is far more difficult than you may think and gives the lie to statements like "I didn't really mean to stab him!"

¤ This cooking regime tries to mirror that of boiling a Ham. We boiled one once and had to throw away a quarter of the meat!

Serving

§ You'll find a lot of liquid with the Ham and may be tempted to keep as stock for soup but check it first as, depending on the cure of your Ham, it's often too salty to use.

☀ Don't cut away too much of the fat as this is where the Clove flavour lies. Hang up the pieces of skin for the tits: they love it!

 Main Meals 

 

 Lasagna 

The main problem I find with a Lasagna is to adjust the amount of pasta to match the sauces. We use a 2 x 2 layer system with an inital layer of meat sauce then a layer of Bechamel then repeat these two layers with a thin layer of pasta between each layer.

We slice the Mozerella and add it to the white sauce layers as I find it gets a little too well cooked if put on top.

We top off the last layer of pasta with grated Parmesan.

Vegetable Lasagna non di Firenze *

This is the same as a meat sauce Lasagna but with the sauce replaced with a portion of our Minestrone mix at the storage stage. The mixture must be reduced for some time otherwise the Lasagna will be too wet.

* The name comes from an unfortunate experience we had in Florence.

We had taken a tour of the city which included lunch and were horrified to be served a vegetable Lasagna which consisted of tinned mixed vegetables between layers of pasta: no sauce, no herbs, no nothing! The crime was further exacerbated by the pudding, which consisted of a frozen block of ice-cream à la Walls at their worst; this from the city that invented Gelato!

I don't know if I was more put out at the idea that we wouldn't know the difference or the insult they were doing to their own cuisine.

 Main Meals 

 

 Seafood Tagliatelle 

Whilst we use the basic Bechamel with additives for meat Tagliatelle, I use the following sauce for a seafood Tag. which is derived from a Tesco recipe!

Ingredients (for two people).

Method

Any sea food can be used but we like Prawns, previously pan fried in Garlic oil, or smoked or hot smoked Salmon.

 Main Meals 

 

 Triscuit Chips 

Method

* Overcooking at this stage will result in most of your chips flaking off an ending up as bits at the bottom of the fryer!.

† The objective is to dry out the outer layer of the chip so that it gives a crunchy shell at the final stage.

 Main Meals 

 

 Biscuit Roast potatoes 

Method

* Rice-Bran oil is used as it has one of the highest boiling points of all vegetable oils, (smoke point: 232ºC), and so reduces the amount of smoke in your kitchen.

 Main Meals 

 

 Champ 

Ingredients (for three people).

Method

* Some recipes use milk instead of cream and mash the potaoes rather than just breaking them up. I feel this gives too soggy a mixture.

 Main Meals 

 

 Duchese potatoes 

Ingredients (for three people).

Method

* Many recipes don't use the egg white. I think this would make the final result very heavy and I'm not prepared to even try it as an experiment!

 Main Meals 

 

 Dauphinoise potatoes 

Ingredients (for three people).

Method

* It can be difficult to know how much fluid you need and too little or, particularly, too much will spoil the dish.
Try this the first time you make it: after the potatoes have been soaked in water, transfer them to the dish to be used and pour over enough cold water to just about cover them. Remove the potatoes and pour the water into a measuring jug which will give you the volume of milk and cream mixture needed for your circumstances.

† Which topping you use depends on your taste: as for some other recipes, we feel Gruyere and Parmesan are a little strong so we use Cheddar,

 Main Meals 

 

 Potato salad 

Ingredients

Method

 Main Meals 

 

 Baked potatoes 

This isn't really a recipe but just a tip for cooking baked potatoes.

Few people with a microwave oven bother to just bake a potato: nowadays you micro them. However, a potato just cooked in a microwave has a rather rubbery skin and a better way is to use a convection or fan oven to either start or finish the process.

I pre-heat the fan oven to 250ºC then give the potatoes 10 minutes at this heat to crisp up the skins. It's better to do this for 10 minutes at the end of the process but that only works if you're using a cold filling: hot fillings usually need to be grilled off which gives some of the same effect.

 Fillings 

Cold: much the same as for sandwiches.

Hot: Cheese or Italian meat sauce. Split the potato, add the filling, grate some Parmesan over it and finish under the grill.

 Main Meals 

 

 Steak 

Ingredients

Method

Serve with triscuit chips, what ever selection of Onion rings, Pickled Walnuts, caramelised red Cabbage, fried Mushrooms, etc. takes your fancy and a green salad.

* Which steak? This all depends on your taste. I know a Chef who swears by Rump but, whilst I would agree with him as to its flavour, I like something a bit more tender with a little more fat. I prefer filet providing that there is some marbling. As a second choice, I go for Rib-eye. Sirloin is my third choice due to a layer of connective tissue below the fat and you don't want to remove the fat.

† The objective here is to sear the outside of the steak to develop the maximum Maillard reaction, (see here), and then to cook the inside of the steak to suit your preference for Blue, Rare, Medium or, (Heaven forbid!), Well done.

‡ Don't leave this sitting around too long without the steak in the pan or you'll end up with Beurre Noire or even Beurre Flambe!

§ How long to cook? This depends on the thickness of your steak and how long you seared it but, as a rough guide, I give a 1" filet about 5 minutes, ( 2½ min. each side), for Rare; 8 minutes for Medium and 10 minutes for Well done.

I presume you're familiar with the test for 'doneness' involving holding your thumb to various fingers whilst pressing the ball of the thumb? A variation of this for those of us stricken with 'Popeye' deformity is to rotate the elbow joint of the arm concerned and prod the bicep with a finger. When your hand is palm down; this is Rare, at 90º; Medium and palm up corresponds to Well done! I don't use any of these as most people aren't happy to have their steak prodded by the Chef's finger.

• You may not be aware that steak or any other dish goes on cooking whilst it's resting; so don't cut this short. (information from a Raymond Blanc TV program).

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Minestrone soup 

Ingredients [Serves six]

Preparation

The mixture at the 'freezing' stage can be used as a sauce for a vegetable Lasagna.

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Brocolli stem soup 

Ingredients [This makes three portions]

Preparation

Serve with a freshy baked bagette.

* If you're using frozen Lemon grass, use a whole stem. If it's fresh, just half a stem.

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Carrot & Orange soup 

Ingredients [This makes three portions]

Preparation

Serve with cheesy bread, (See Cheesy bread).

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Variation on a theme: Spink Skink 

These variations take the basic idea of a dish but change it to suit our taste in such a way that, whilst it can no longer be called by its original name, you can see where it's come from.

Cullen Skink is made with Finnan Haddy which is cold smoked Haddock whereas this uses Arbroath Smokies which are hot smoked Haddock.

The 'Spink' comes from Ian Spink's Smokie recipe book, "The Arbroath Smokie Bible", where he uses the name 'Cullen Spink' for a variation on the traditional dish. Our recipe differs from his in that it is based on a fish stock made from the bones and skin of the Smokies which we believe is sinful to just throw away!

For more informnation and a Link to Ian Spinks website, visit the Kedgeree site.

Ingredients

Preparation

* The soup will thicken with standing, (i.e. as it's being eaten), so serve it a little less thick than you might ulimately want.

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Scotch Broth 

Ingredients [Serves 8]

Preparation [Serves 8]

* The traditional meat is Mutton or Lamb and, one imagines, that the bones for the stock and the meat came from left-overs. If the meat and meat stock are left out, this is a vegetarian meal. Our recipe for a simple Beef stock can be seen here.

† It's usual to use yellow splits for this recipe but you could use green if you prefer. See Ham & Pea soup for more information.

‡ We recommend 'Pentland Brig' Kale: bred in Scotland from girders.

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Duck broth 

Ingredients [Serves 8]

The method is as described for Scotch Broth.

The only real difference is that the garden Peas are put in the pot about 10 minutes before serving with the Duck meat and the chopped Sugar-Snap/MangeTout being added just 5 minutes before the end.

* See Sous Vide, Duck legs.

† You may use either green or yellow splits in this recipe. See Ham & Pea soup for more information.

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Mushroom soup 

Ingredients [Serves 3]

Preparation [Serves 8]

Serve with cheesy bread, (See Cheesy bread).

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Cock-a-Leekie soup 

Ingredients

Preparation

* See here for our recipe for Chicken stock.

† Some people, (and recipes), prefer rice to potato but I'm usually outvoted!

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Ham & Pea soup 

Ingredients [This serves 5 - 6]

Preparation

*We used to believe that green split peas were dyed yellow splits but there are two different varieties of Pea used to make them: Pea soup needs to be green!

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 What's in a Sandwich? 

These aren't recipes but just a list of what we like in sandwiches. Maybe you haven't tried some of them?

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Toasted Egg sandwich 

Eggs make excellent toasted sandwichs but you must have a sandwich toaster without a central, diagonal divide. We bought ours in Teneriff years ago.

Any sort of sliced meat can be used but I think some form of Ham is best.

You can skip the meat altogether and just have an egg or, if you cut the bread very thin, two eggs.

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Egg & Chive sandwiches 

These are the sandwiches my wife serves when folk visit the garden. There's is a rumour that some people don't give a damn about the garden but just come for the sandwiches!

Ingredients [This makes a plate of ~ 4 rounds of sandwiches = 16 dainties]

Preparation

The secret of this is that the eggs are freshly laid, the bread is freshly baked and the Chives are fresh out of the garden.

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Cheese bread 

Ingredients & method

If making Onion soup, you can use your soup bowls as a template to cut circles of bread which are toasted on one side and then cheesed as above. However, you'll need to lay a knife and fork to eat this or there'll be soup all over the place!

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Garlic bread 

Ingredients

Preparation

* I used to crush cloves of Garlic for this but Garlic paste gives a more homongenous mixture.

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Vinaigrette dressing 

I know this isn't a savoury but it fits in best here!

Ingredients

Preparation

* Most recipes use Olive oil but I find this is a little too dominant when used on a salad.

† If you can't get green Pepper, use black but this can be a little too hot.

This can be topped up at least once with more oil and Vinegar.

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Garlic Mushrooms 

Ingredients [This serves 2 - 3 as a starter]

Preparation [This assumes you're going to freeze them.]

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Marmite 

I’ve noticed in recent years a propensity for certain stand-ups to make disparaging remarks about Marmite. These, usually from the trans-atlantics or antipodeans, take the form of, “Marmite, what’s that about then?”

I understand that the required answer isn’t, “£1.10 for a 125g jar”. In fact, no answer is expected: this is a universal opening for any topic and is merely designed to generate applause.

I find it difficult to understand what has generated this antipathy. In the case of the southern stand-ups, I believe they have a similar product know as Vegimite. Unless this is simply co-incidence, it shows some confusion between the suffixes ‘mite’ and ‘ite’, Israelites are people who come from Israel, Vegimite comes from vegetables and so Marmite must come from Mars?

The only rational explanation I can think of is that they think Marmite should be spread like Peanut butter or jam and have tried to eat a slice of bread slathered in the stuff.

This is not what you do. For starters, Marmite needs to go onto toast not bread.

 Marmitic toast 

Toast your bread to your chosen degree of browness. Incidentally, if we have been able to put men on the Moon and create the LHC, why can’t we invent a device which will cook toast by colour not time?

You then spread a thin layer of butter on your toast. Now we come to the Marmite! Take a small amount on your knife. A blob about the size of your little finger nail is sufficent for one slice of toast. Keeping the knife blade almost vertical, scrape a very thin layer onto the toast.

Eat and enjoy!

You can now see why bread won’t do; it’s too soft to take the Marmite off the knife and well-buttered toast is too slippy.

Marmite is made from yeast extract, a product first created by German chemist Baron Justus von Liebig in the late 19th century, and is an excellent source of umami due to its high concentration of glutamic acid and it’s also fortified with vitamins B1, B2, B3, B12 and Folic acid.

What is there not to like?

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Hummus 

Ingredients

Preparation

* If you wish, you can use dried Chic peas but they will need to be cooked for a very long time, (one reference quotes 28 hours of soaking followed by 4 hours of cooking!): even the tinned ones need to be cooked to soften them.

† These quantities depend on your taste. I use 3 cloves of Garlic, 20g of Sesame seeds and half a Lemon.

‡ You can use Tahini in place of the seeds but don't use toasted Sesame seed oil. As has been said elsewhere, this makes you Hummus taste like a Chinese carry-out!

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Guacamole 

There are many Guacamole recipes online and this one isn't particularly different.

What it does is keep to our theme of basic simplicity. Many of the recipes use Cilantro, (Coriander). Now there's no way that Coriander can be a traditional ingredient of a South American dish: it's native to Western Asia and Southern Europe. If you like it; use it but don't call the dish 'Guacamole'!

Many recipes also use Tomatoes. These could be original but I don't think so. Again, add them if you like them but dice don't blitz.

Guacamole is sometimes described as a 'five minute recipe'. Well, it can be made in that time but should be left several hours for the flavours to mingle before you eat it.

Ingredients

Preparation

* As I'm sure you know, the problem with Avacado is knowing when they're ripe. A sign in your supermarket stating, "Ready to eat", is no guide. The test of trying the stalk end to see if it's loose or gently squashing the fruit are useful but remember a lot of other people may have had a prod at it before you.

† The amount of Chilli is deliberately left vague as it depends so much on individual taste. We don't like a lot of Chilli heat so I use about a quarter. If you really like it hot, you don't need to de-seed it but you're unlikely to taste the Avacado!

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Crab dip 

This isn't really complicated enough to qualify as a recipe but it's so good!

Get a pack of Crab claws, (Namara Hebridean claws are good), and pick out all the meat. Mix this in a basin with Helman's mayonnaise. Chill, then use as a dip with Bread sticks, etc. For even quicker preparation use Namara Crab claw meat.

 Soups, Sandwiches & Savouries 

 

 Taramosalata 

As usual, there are many Taramosalata recipes online but, in this case, with some notable differences to the usual set.

The first difference is that, for a change, most of the recipes have the same or a very similar list of ingredients. The second difference is that there are wide variations in proportions.

The dish is based on fish roe, (please don't call it 'caviar': caviar is the roe of the Sturgeon), and bread or, less frequently, potato and it is the ratio of these which varies the most: from 5 bread : 2 roe down to 2 bread : 5 roe. It seems to depend on how much you actually like the taste of fish roe!

The quantities described below are a first stage experiment and liable to be changed in the future.

Ingredients

Preparation

* Many of the recipes call for Carp roe but I've never seen this offered in Scotland. Use smoked Cod roe if you can get it.

† Some of the recipes call for slightly stale bread. I can't think why!

‡ You need Onions rather than Shallots for this one.

 Cakes and Puddings 

 

 Millionaire's Shortbread 

This recipe came from Moira's aunt who lived to be 103 on it.

Ingredients

 Cakes and Puddings 

 

 Carrot cake 

This recipe came from my sister-in-law who is Gluten intolerant. However, even the tolerant say that's the best Carrot cake they've tasted.

Ingredients

Method

 Cakes and Puddings 

 

 Lemon Cheesecake 

Ingredients

Method

 Cakes and Puddings 

 

 Christmas pudding 

This is my mother's recipe which I've eaten every Christmas for years, 'though I expect some changes to the recipe were needed in the war years. The original recipe uses Currants as well as Sultanas and Raisins but we don't care for these. If you use them, then the total weight of dried fruit should be 500g. We've also left out mixed candied peel.

The amounts shown will make three, 1pt. puddings which will keep for three years.

Ingredients [One pudding gives two small portions for three people]

* We make our Breadcrumbs by drying slices of our bread in a low, 90W, microwave oven and then blitzing them in a Coffee grinder.

† Brandy is used in England but this is Scotland.