Local Produce

Our local food producers have just lost access to their markets for this year. Covid-19 means they can’t sell seafood to Spain, local ingredients to tourists, stock restaurants. This is a hard time for us all, worried about our health, our relatives and our futures. 

Please support your local food producers. Find out who is the nearest, and see if there is a way of working cooperatively. 

In Benbecula, a small group of volunteers is working on getting a new website launched. The plan is that it will use the Eat Drink Hebrides branding. Local food producers will register with basic information on stock, when and where. Each producer will need to manage their own payments, preferably using paypal or contactless payment. The group is taking advice from Environmental Health to ensure that it is all done safely. 

 
I’ll update you all when it is all up and running. In the meantime, buy very local produce, eat all those spring eggs, fill the freezer with fish, and be glad that we live here. 

Pheasant casserole

A shout-out to all of you who are thinking about seeking out the food in your freezers in an emergency, to all of you who have found a couple of pheasants in there. I love a good basic pheasant casserole, it works very well in a coq-au-vin style stew. This version is from Norman Tebbit’s recipe book ‘The Game Cook’. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 50g butter
  • 1 pheasant (I usually joint the pheasant but you don’t have to.)
  • 120g streaky bacon, lardons or similar
  • 1 large onion
  • 200ml red wine
  • 600ml stock
  • 225g mushrooms, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • Bayleaf
  • Pinch of dried thyme leaves (or use a bouquet garni)
  • 1 tbsp flour blended to a paste with 25g butter

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 170C
  • Melt the butter in a large frying pan and brown the pheasant, transfer to a large casserole dish
  • Saute the bacon in the frying pan, along with the finely chopped onion, until the onion begins to brown
  • Add the fried onion to the casserole dish, along with the wine, stock, herbs, salt and pepper. 
  • Cook in the oven for a couple of hours. 
  • When the pheasant is almost cooked, add the mushrooms. 
  • Once the mushrooms are cooked, you can thicken the stew with the butter/flour mixture. Adjust the seasoning, and serve

I like mashed potato and celeriac with this casserole.

There are other options to add flavour to this casserole. A spoonful of rowanberry jelly or red current jelly adds a fruity twist, or you could add a little cooking apple. Another option would be to add a splash of cream at the end. You could swap the onions for shallots or leeks. 

Lamb and prunes (Persian Style)

This is a classic combination of lamb and prunes, found across many cultures and cooking styles. This particular recipe is from the north west of Iran, near the border with Turkey. It is totally delicious and relatively easy. I found the recipe in the magnificent book ‘Nightingales and Roses’ by Maryam Sinaiee. Of course, we don’t have 100% of the ingredients in South Uist, but she makes suggestions that helped me to adapt to local circumstances. 

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 400g lamb neck fillets or lean tender lamb (I used boned lamb chops)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp madras curry powder
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 8 dried apricots, chopped in half
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 3 tsp salt 
  • 100g yellow split peas
  • 8 prunes
  • Oil to fry the potatoes. 

METHOD:

  • Heat 2 tbsp cooking oil in a heavy pan, and fry the onions over a medium heat until they are browning. 
  • Add the meat, turmeric and curry powder, and continue to stir and cook until the meat is browned. 
  • Add the tomato paste, cook for another couple of minutes, and then cover the meat in boiling water. Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour and a half, until the meat is tender. 
  • Meanwhile, soak the apricots in water for at least 30 minutes
  • Meanwhile, cook the yellow peas – put them in a small saucepan and cover with water, and simmer over a low heat. The peas should be soft but still firm. Drain and rinse with cold water. 
  • Meanwhile, peel and dice the potatoes, and put them in cold water with the salt. 
  • When the meat is nearly tender, drain the apricots and add to the stew along with the prunes and split peas. Add a little water if needed to make sure all the ingredients are covered. Bring back to the boil and continue to simmer until the peas are soft. 
  • About 30 minutes before serving, check for seasoning. Drain the potatoes, and fry them in hot oil for about 10 to 15 minutes until golden and crispy. 

Serve the stew with the fried potatoes on top. This goes well with plain rice. 

Leek, yoghurt and potato soup

This is a twist on a classic combination, created by substituting ingredients from the fridge. We have storms this week, with a high risk of no food deliveries onto the island, and I didn’t want to use the last of the milk to make this soup, so I used Greek yogurt instead. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large leek
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 1/2 an onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic (optional)
  • 25g butter
  • 300 ml hot marigold stock
  • 200 ml yogurt
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp dry sherry

METHOD:

  • Clean the leek, and chop finely; start by cutting lengthways into 4, then slicing. 
  • In a largish pan, melt the butter, and add the leek, onion, potato and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and cook on a very low heat for around 10 minutes or more.
  • Add the yoghurt and the stock, and bring back to a simmer. Simmer for a further 15 to 20 minutes, so that the vegetables are very soft. 
  • Use a soup wand or blender to make a very smooth soup. Add the sherry, and check the seasoning. 
  • You could garnish with chopped herbs, but it was delicious without. 

I served this with homemade oatcakes. 

 

Carrots roasted with pomegranate molasses and harissa

We live on a small island, and although our local shops generally do very well for range and price of stock, some ingredients are hard to come by. I have some rather exotic recipe books, and so I have become better at substituting and messing around with recipes to make them fit. 

Pomegranate molasses adds a fruity sharpness to the dish, and helps the dressing to stick to the carrots. The harissa is hot and fragrant at the same time. 

This time, I had some random carrots, so I turned to Ottolenghi’s book, Simple, and adapted one of his ideas, and I made this. I served it with bread, cheese, and an aubergine dish. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp rose harissa (or ordinary harissa)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (or 50/50 melted butter and oil)
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 400g carrot batons
  • salt
  • Coriander leaves to garnish

METHOD:

  • Heat the oven to 220C
  • In a small bowl, mix the cumin, honey, harissa, oil and molasses with a good pinch of salt. It should be the consistency of mayonnaise. 
  • Add the carrot batons, and stir to coat in the mixture
  • Line a baking sheet with tin foil, and spread out the carrots. Roast them for 15 minutes or so, until they are beginning to brown but still have some ‘bite’ to them.

Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with coriander leaves. 

Turkish red lentil kofte

This is the last of the five recipes that I learned in Turkey, at Cookistan. There was another recipe for poached stuffed artichoke hearts, but artichokes are not readily available locally, so I think I will stop with this one. This is so easy; filling, tasty and vegan. 

In this recipe, the addition of the wheat to the lentils adds texture to the mixture, so that it can be formed into small and tasty kofte balls. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 200g red lentils
  • 2 to 3 cups of water
  • 125g fine bulgur wheat
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp pepper paste
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 spring onions
  • a handful each of mint, parsley and dill
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Rinse the red lentils then boil them in the water; bring the water and lentils to the boil, then turn down to simmer, partially covered until they are soft. There should be a little water left at the top of the cooked lentils.
  • Add the bulgur wheat and mix well. 
  • Fry the chopped onions in olive oil until soft, then add the tomato and pepper paste and continue to fry for another minute, before adding the spices. 
  • Add the onion mixture to the lentil mixture and stir to combine. 
  • Chop the herbs and spring onions finely, and add to the lentil mixture, season and mix well. You might need more than a teaspoonful of salt to taste. 
  • Form the mixture into kofte balls; take large walnut sized pieces of the mixture, and shape into small ovals. 
  • Serve the kofte balls on a bed of lettuce leaves. 

These taste better the following day, when the flavours have developed. They are very filling, and completely vegan. 

 

Chickpeas in a tomato and onion sauce with baharat spice blend

This was a portmanteau of a recipe. I had several recipes that looked very similar, so I took ideas from each one. This tastes really good and it is filling. We served it with kale braised in butter and pepper. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cans of chickpeas
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp sweet pepper puree
  • 1 tbsp baharat spice mix
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp date syrup or pomegranate molasses
  • OPTIONAL – 2 green peppers, chopped, or 450g spinach, chopped and cooked
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped mint and parsley, to garnish

METHOD:

  • Chop the onions finely, crush the garlic, and cook slowly in the olive oil for at least 10 minutes
  • Add the Baharat spice mix. If you are using green peppers, slice them thinly and add them to the onions, and cook for a further 5 minutes. 
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, pepper puree, and bring to a simmer. 
  • Add the chickpeas, and simmer until they are hot and tender. 
  • Add the salt, pepper, lemon juice and date syrup or pomegranate molasses. Adjust the quantities to taste. If you are using spinach, stir this in now. 
  • Garnish with chopped herbs before serving. This can be served hot or cold. 

 

Braised eggs with leeks, lemon and zahtar

We are about to head off to a family gathering, and so tonight’s supper was composed of items that needed to be eaten. This included a very chunky home-grown leek and some fresh local eggs. This served 3

INGREDIENTS:

  • 20g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 chunky leek, sliced into 1/2 cm slices
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice, or 1 preserved lemon, finely chopped
  • 150ml marigold stock or other simple stock
  • 125g baby spinach
  • 3 large eggs
  • 45g feta cheese
  • 1 dessert spoon zahtar spice mix
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Melt the butter into the olive oil in a small braising pan which has a lid that fits well. 
  • When the butter starts to foam, add the chopped leeks and cook over a medium heat for 3 minutes or so, until the leeks soften. Season with a little pepper while the leeks are cooking.
  • Add the cumin, lemon and stock, and boil rapidly for 5 minutes or so to reduce the liquid.
  • Add the spinach, and cover, cook for a minute until the spinach has wilted right down.
  • Use a spoon to make nests for the eggs in the mixture. Break the eggs into these depressions. Sprinkle crumbled feta over the top. Cover with the lid, and braise for 4 minutes, until the whites are set and the yolks are runny. (I wonder if crowdie would work). 
  • Sprinkle with Zahtar spice mix, and then serve immediately, with fresh bread. 

 

Beetroot dip/spread

I  made this dip from Ottolenghi’s book, Jerusalem. We had it as part of a meal that included a hot bean and leek dish, some salmon, and bread. This was the best bit. The spices I got mail order from Seasoned Pioneers

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 medium beetroot, about the size of a tennis ball
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 small hot red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 250g Greek-style yoghurt
  • 1.5 tbsp date syrup 
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 level tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp za’atar spice mix
  • 2 spring onions
  • 15g toasted hazelnuts, roughly crushed. 
  • 60g soft goat’s cheese or sheep’s cheese, crumbled. 

METHOD

  • Wash the beetroot, and cook without peeling. I boil them in water for an hour, but you can also bake them for an hour in the oven. 
  • Once they are cooked and cooled, peel them and chop them roughly. 
  • Put the garlic, beetroot, chilli and yoghurt in a blender, and puree. I used a soup wand to do this. 
  • Mix in the date syrup, salt, olive oil and Za’atar. 
  • Transfer the mixture to a serving dish, and garnish with chopped spring onions, goats cheese and toasted hazelnuts. A drizzle of olive oil is good as well. 

This is best served at room temperature, with bread. 

Red Soup

Red lentils, beetroot and tomato puree. This is a great soup. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 beetroot, a bit bigger than a tennis ball
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 sticks of celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil or other vegetable oil
  • 120g red lentils
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Boil the beetroot for an hour, then cool, peel and chop. 
  • Gently fry the chopped onion and celery in the olive oil for five minutes or so, add the chopped beetroot and stir. 
  • Add the stock, tomato puree and lentils, and bring to a simmer. Keep simmering for 30 minutes. 
  • Puree the soup with a soup wand, and then add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve with brown bread. Lovely, tasty, filling, red.