Category Archives: Starters and snacks

Technology, how I love you…

Friends, I apologise: it has been far too long since my last post. A new laptop and a new iPad mean that I’ve been having a bit too much time configuring and reordering data and very little doing any special cooking.

The good news is that my iPad is now blog enabled so I will likely be posting more often.

To make it up to you all I’ll add two new fast recipes for you today. The first is the delightful soup I made for lunch today: fennel & celeriac. Get one of each, chop into small pieces and put in a pot with 1/2 cup of water with a teaspoon each of butter and veg or chicken bouillon powder. Once the veg is soft, zizz until smooth, adding milk if required. finish off with a generous dollop of crime fraiche or yogurt and a generous grinding of pepper.

Enjoy immediately.

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Simple Winter Soup

A few days ago, we dined at Cail Bruich.   As a wee starter, they served a lovely little veloute that was just perfect for the weather we’ve been having in Glasgow.   I was eager to attempt a recreation and mine came out slightly different but equally delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp butter
  • 500g of celriac, finely diced.
  • 1/2 can of chestnut puree
  • 1 generous splash of vegetable bouillon stock or a stock cube
  • Splash of double cream or whipping cream
  • salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste.
  • 1 tart apple, such as Bramley.

Instructions:

  1. In a pot, melt the butter.
  2. Add the celriac and allow to soften slightly (it’s okay if it becomes slightly golden, but not brown).
  3. Add chestnut puree, seasoning, and stock, then cover with water.
  4. Bring to a boil and simmer until celriac edges become slightly softened.
  5. Zizz until smooth.   Mix in cream.
  6. Peel and chop apple into tiny dice just before serving.   Add a heaped teaspoon of apple (about one quarter of a small apple) to each bowl before serving.   Pour in soup.
  7. Serves four.

 

Hearty Hearthy Earthy Potage

The weather in Glasgow at the moment is horrendous.   Strong winds, cold rain… and grey skies that make it seem dark by two in the afternoon.   Last week we even had hurricane force winds.

Given that weather, all I really want to do is curl up in front of the fire with a warm, hearty bowl of soup.   When I was a kid, mom always started supper with a soup in the winter (and sometimes in summer).  The game for us kids was to guess the ingredients.

If you are trying to lose weight, or ensure you get your 5 a day, then soup is an excellent way to achieve those goals.  You can easily make a soup using just vegetables and with very little fat or carbs, while increasing fibre intake.

This week, I made a very nice soup that I wanted to share:

  • 1 butternut (or other) squash, halved and seeded.
  • 1 onion, quartered.
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 red bell pepper, quartered and seeded.
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup of tomato juice
  • seasoning to taste – I used cayenne pepper, paprika, celery salt, and nutmeg.
  1. Arrange the vegetables on a baking tray.
  2. Bake vegetables in a medium oven until the edges become dark.
  3. Remove from oven and remove the peel from from the pepper and the squash.
  4. Put all the vegetables and seasonings in a blender with the tomato juice.
  5. Liquidize. (you may need to add a bit more tomato juice to get the desired consistency)
  6. In a pot, heat the soup once more to the desired temperature.
  7. Serve with a dollop of yogurt and a piece of rustic bread (if desired).

Roasting the vegetables gives them an earthier flavour and allows you to soften the onion and the squash without adding water for a richer flavour.

 

 

Fennel, Courgette, and Tarragon Velouté

I recently had the unexpected visit of a dear friend, Danielle.   This necessarily required going out for a nice dinner – as much as I love cooking, I wasn’t going to waste a moment of our short time together in the kitchen.

Instead we went to the Ubiquitous Chip in Glasgow.   They served us an amuse-bouche: a demi-tasse of fennel, courgette, and tarragon velouté.   It was lovely, but much too salty to my taste.   Still, it was an inspiring combination and I decided to experiment.

You can make this as a potage if you prefer, but I find that putting it through a strainer after processing, to create the velvety texture (from which the term velouté is derived) kicks this up a notch from a casual family soup to a sophisticated and elegant starter.

You will need:

  • one fresh fennel bulb – sectioned then thinly sliced.
  • two small courgettes – diced.
  • A pinch of salt (I used flor de sal I brought back from Portugal, but any nice sea salt will do)
  • Optional: celery and / or onion, finely chopped.
  • A generous bunch of fresh tarragon.
  1. Add everything except the tarragon to a pot and add just enough water to cover.
  2. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer until the fennel is tender.
  3. Remove from the heat and add the tarragon.
  4. Purée liquid, tarragon, and vegetables together until smooth.   If desired, put through a sieve.
  5. Serve with a dash of sour cream (optional) and topped with a few fresh tarragon leaves.

Faux foie gras

Alright people… is there anything more ostentatious than foie gras?   Problem is, it’s mighty tasty too.   What’s a person to do?

Here’s my substitute:

  • Empty a pack of chicken livers into a pot.
  • Cover with sherry (a good Xeres does well for this)
  • Add a pinch of salt.   Cook over high heat until the livers are pink on the inside (they’ll continue to cook for a little while even off the heat.)
  • Put in a food processor with an equivalent weight of cold butter. Zizz until liquid.
  • Pour into a suitable container and refrigerate until cold.
  • Serve on melba toast.
About 10 minutes all told, for about 1/10th of the price of a foie gras.

Champignons à la Grecque

Why not just Greek-style mushrooms?  Because I’m pretty sure that this recipe is actually French, though inspired by Greek food.

Prepare your mushrooms (button mushrooms work best whole, but bigger mushrooms may need to be cut up. )

In a pan over high heat, cover the bottom with a layer of olive oil and add 4-5 bay leaves, some thyme, and 4-5 juniper berries.   Add your mushrooms and the juice of one lemon or one lime and stir for a few moments until the mushrooms start rendering their water.

Cook over a medium heat until the liquid has reduced by 1/3.

Refrigerate.

Serve cold on croutons.

(or use to make crostada – that’s lovely too!)