Category Archives: Seasonal

My New Toy

For a long time, I waffled between the desire to have a pressure cooker, and the terror of having one explode in my house. If you you think that is silly, recently a friend of mine was badly burnt by opening his pressure cooker while it was still pressurised. He’s made a full recovery, but not before a week of significant pain and some quite heartless jokes from his ever sympathetic friends.

As luck would have it, a Canadian company has devised an enhanced pressure-cooker-slow-cooker.  It’s my new favorite toy (although not by much, my new oven that doubles as a proving drawer and my purple KitchenAid stand mixer are still high in my affections).

Still, we’ve never eaten so many braised, stewed, steamed foods as we have since the Instant Pot arrived.  The best part?  I can now whip up chili using cheap cuts of meat (beef shin comes to mind!) in less than half an hour.  Here’s the recipe if you’re feeling peckish.

 

  • 500 grams of a cheap cut of beef (shin works fine for this!) – diced
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • splash of sunflower or similar oil.
  • Chili flakes to taste
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of beans (I like Heinz Fajita beans but use whatever is to hand!)
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped.
  • [Optional] chopped celery
  • Fresh coriander and sour cream to garnish
  1. Set the Instant Pot to Saute and add the oil.
  2. In a bowl, combine cumin, cinnamon, and flour.  Toss the meat in mixture to coat.
  3. Tip coated meat into the hot oil to sear and brown. (It’ll tend to stick a bit, don’t worry about it.)
  4. Add the chili, tomatoes, onions, and celery if you are using.
  5. Add a little bit of water.
  6. Change to Meat/Stew setting. Change time to 25 – 35 minutes (depending on how small you’ve cut up the meat). Close lid.
  7. Once the time is up, use the quick release method to release the steam.
  8. Remove lid and add the beans, stir through.
  9. Spoon into a bowl with a generous topping of sour cream and coriander.

Serve with boiled rice or flour tortillas.

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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.

 

 

In a jam…

My view on jam is this: why bother making plain jam in flavours you can get at the grocery store?  This week, I’ve made two variation on strawberry jam, and it’s a real quandary which I like better.

Option 1: Strawberry-ginger:  This is a combination that I love.   The main point in making strawberry cordial is so that I can add some to my ginger beer.   This has all that concentrated summer delight in a single jar.

Option 2: Orange-infused Strawberry vanilla jam.   This was an experiment.   But seems to be Des’s favourite at the moment.

In both cases the basic recipe is the same:

4 parts strawberries

3 parts sugar

Clean and hull the strawberries then quarter them. [Tip:  If you want to make cordial, mash up the strawberries with 1/4 of the sugar and allow to sit overnight.   You can then strain them and the liquid is the cordial that you can add to drinks, etc.  Use the strawberries as normal.]

In a large-bottomed pot, combine remaining sugar (or all of it if you skipped the cordial bit] and the juice of a lemon if you are making the ginger version, or the juices of a lemon and an orange if you are making the vanilla version.

For the ginger version add a generous amount of finely minced ginger (use fresh ginger that you mince yourself.   The pre-minced version might have preservatives etc. that will react in unpredictable ways with the jam).   I used a piece that was about the length of my hand!  Before adding the fruit, run the syrup through a sieve and reserve the collected ginger while returning the syrup to the heat.    You can gradually reincorporate this at the end so that you can exactly incorporate it to your taste.  If you want very spicy jam, you could add a chili at this point.   I didn’t.

For the vanilla version, add finely chopped orange zest.   I used about 1 tablespoon of fresh zest for 1 kg of fruit.

If you want to add a thickening agent add it now. I used agar rather than gelatine because one jar is ear-marked for a vegetarian friend.    If you don’t want to use a thickening agent, then use equal weights of sugar and fruit.

Bring to a boil stirring often.  Remove the fruit, leaving the syrup and allow that to boil down by three quarters.    Return the fruit and heat through. Add the vanilla or minced ginger.

Pour into sterilised jam jars.   I can’t be bothered with wax rings etc.   I just fill the jars right to the top and seal them while they are hot, creating a vacuum.

Allow to cool then label.

Enjoy.

Cucumber & Mint Salad

Last week, a coworker explained to me that he really needs super simple recipes for supper.    With the great weather we’re having here in Glasgow, what immediately came to mind is a simple cucumber and mint salad. And when I say simple…

  • 1 cucumber cut up into chunks
  • 1 plain greek yogurt
  • 1 generous handful of fresh mint leaves (finely chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
In a bowl, thoroughly mix everything except the cucumber.
Then add the cucumber.
Serve cold.

Cottage Pie

What North Americans call Shepherd’s Pie is what Brits call Cottage Pie.    Shepherd’s pie here is made with minced lamb.   Nothing wrong with that, but if I have mince lamb, it’s going into moussaka.

My mom’s been sending emails about how it’s 32C with high humidity in Montreal.   Here in Glasgow, it’s much cooler – and wetter.    It’s been pouring this morning.   There are even rumours of snow in the Highlands!   I love that about Scotland – one day I’m making light summer fare and eating in the garden, then next the mood turns to wintery meals.

So… tonight I’m making cottage pie.   Cottage pie is kid favourite – and a great excuse to sneak in some extra veg if you have kids, or a man, who aren’t keen on plant-based foods.  If you are in this situation you’ll like the Sneaky Veg Mince recipe I posted earlier.

If you are trying to cut back on calories or carbs, you can substitute half (or all) of the mash potatoes for mashed cauliflower.

Cottage pie is simply a three layer construction: mince, kernel corn, and mash.

For each person:

  • 75g lean minced beef per person (or double if you aren’t using the veg mince)
  • 75 g Sneaky Veg mince
  • 1/2 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • garlic
  • a dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • a generous grind of pepper
  • a bell pepper (if you like them)
  • herbs and spices to taste (I’ll likely add cumin which I love, cayenne pepper, thyme, and some bay leaves).
  • 1 tsp of flour
In a pan, cook the mince and onion together until the meat has browned and the onion is translucent.  
Add everything else and take off the heat.   Pour in the bottom of an oven proof dish.   Cover with the corn (if you got frozen, thaw it in the microwave; if you got canned, rinse thoroughly).
Prepare  your mash.   I like to plan 1 good sized potato per person or 1 small potato+ 2* the volume of cauliflower.
Spread over the corn.    Sprinkle with a good paprika.
Bake at 180C for 35 minutes.   Serve immediately.

Tarte aux framboises et chocolat blanc

I was going to serve just berries as dessert.
I’ve decided that I want something more romantic/special for tonight.

So….

I’ve upgraded fresh raspberries into a white chocolate and raspberry tart.

This took less than 10 minutes to prepare – because I always have cake cases in stock. If you live in Scotland, you can get them for two quid at your local farm shop (the one I go to is Dobbies at Braehead).

In a double boiler, I melted some white chocolate with the juice of half an orange and some finely chopped orange zest. I spread this on the cake base and then arranged the fresh berries. Et voilà. 🙂