Bramble season in the Hebrides, much later than on the mainland. The blackberries we picked last weekend were sharp and flavourful, juicy and small. I’ve frozen some for making bramble jelly later, but I made a crumble for Malcolm, because he loves it.
1 very large cooking apple
around 200g blackberries
1 tbsp date syrup or dark brown sugar
a pinch of cinnamon, or allspice
180g self-raising flour
Preheat the oven to 180C
Make a crumble mix – rub the butter into the flour and then add the sugar. You can add porridge oats, ground nuts, use brown sugar, or add spices if you wish.
Peel and chop the cooking apple, and then combine with the blackberries and the date syrup and allspice (or other sugar, sweet spice).
Put the fruit evenly in the bottom of an oven-proof dish, then cover with the crumble mix.
Bake for around 30 minutes, then serve with custard or cream.
This looks so beautiful, adding flowers to salad, and the extra flavour that they bring just lifts the whole thing. I usually make a basic Greek-style salad and layer the flowers on top. The ingredients depend on what is available. I add the ingredients in layers, only mixing together when serving.
This is so tasty. The goose needs to be chopped pretty small though.
100ml olive oil
4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced finely
1 medium onion, sliced finely
2 medium carrots, sliced finely
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 wild goose breast, sliced thinly and then cut into small squares
250g coarse bulgar wheat (I bought mine online from Turkishop)
Preheat the oven to 200C
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, and fry the potato slices. As the potato starts to brown on one side, flip the slices over. Keep stirring and flipping. Once the potato is done, put it into a large casserole dish.
Next, fry the onion slices and carrots together in the remaining oil in the frying pan, for at least 5 minutes over a medium to high heat.
Meanwhile, slice the goose and put it in a layer over the potato.
Once the onion is done, layer that over the goose.
Put the stock into the frying pan and bring to the boil, and season with salt and pepper.
Put the bulgar wheat over the top of the carrot and onion layer in the middle, making a mound.
Pour in the boiling stock, cover and bake in the oven for around 20 minutes.
Let the dish stand for around 5 minutes before serving.
It is time to make the most of what is in the freezer. I am avoiding going out as much as possible, and eating some of the odd ingredients that are stashed in our freezer. I often take inspiration from recipes from the internet, adapted to what I have. In the freezer, for this recipe, I had some venison diced for stew, and I also had an old pack of membrillo, a quince paste that is generally served with Manchego cheese.
500g diced venison
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp black pepper, ground
200ml red wine
1 tbsp membrillo paste
salt to taste
Marinade the meat for at least two hours, and preferably overnight, in the wine and olive oil, seasoned with black pepper and dried rosemary.
Strain the marinade and set aside.
In a casserole dish, fry the venison in a little more olive oil,
When the meat is browned, add the strained marinade, stock and membrillo paste.
Cook in a slow oven, around 140 C for around 1 1/2 to 2 hours, when the meat should be tender. Season to taste
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’.
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
225g mushrooms, chopped
salt and pepper
Pinch of dried thyme leaves (or use a bouquet garni)
1 tbsp flour blended to a paste with 25g butter
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.
For Christmas, we had pot-roast venison, with a lemon and horseradish gravy. We had a lot of venison for two people, so I also made this curry. It is adapted from a very odd recipe from the BBC website – the quantities were mad, and didn’t match between imperial and metric, so I sort of made up the gaps. It was delicious, although rather hot. I’d like to make it again, so here is what I did.
I am lucky to live in a place where wild venison from red deer is readily available. This year I have bought my venison from South Uist Estates. We’ve now got rather a lot in the freezer, and the Christmas Day menu is sorted.
Tonight I made a casserole using the recipe in The Game Cook by Norman Tebbit. I did add a few variations, couldn’t help myself. It was very very good.
900g shoulder of venison, diced
100g smoked pancetta, or streaky bacon cut into 1cm cubes
2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
150ml red wine
100g mushrooms, roughly chopped
Bouquet garni (I used the mystery herbs with added bayleaves)
a couple of good shakes of Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
150ml red wine
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp brandy or rum
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
6 black peppercorns
Peel of 1/4 orange, shredded
Put all of the marinade ingredients in a plastic box with a secure lid. Add the venison, shake it all around to mix, and then leave overnight in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 170C
Take the venison out of the marinade, wipe off the chopped onion and orange, and set aside. Strain the marinade and save that as well.
Heat the oil and butter together in a large casserole dish, and gently fry the pancetta. Once it starts cooking, add the chopped onion, carrot, garlic and celery, and continue to cook until the vegetables are beginning to brown.
Toss the venison in the seasoned flour, and then add the flour, herbs and meat to the pan. Keep stirring the meat in the pan until it starts to brown.
Once the mixture is really dry, add the marinade, the red wine and the stock, a good splash of Worcestershire sauce, and bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer. The liquid should cover the vegetables and meat.
Add the mushrooms, check for seasoning, and then put the casserole into the oven for a couple of hours.
Serve with mashed potato, and a green vegetable. Try adding celeriac to the mash, or serving with roasted parsnips.
This is a bit of a riff on a Persian recipe, but as I didn’t have some key ingredients, I went off-piste. This is probably frowned upon by the purists, but it was delicious.
2 wild goose breasts, sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cumin
500g carrots, cut into batons (about the size of your little finger)
1/2 tsp saffron water (a tiny pinch of saffron in boiling water)
Heat the oil in a large casserole dish, over a medium to high heat. Add the chopped onions, and fry for around 10 minutes until they are browning. You’ll need to keep an eye and keep stirring to stop any sticking or burning.
Add the goose, turmeric, cinnamon and cumin, and fry until the meat is browned.
Stir in the tomato paste, salt and pomegranate molasses, and cook for another couple of minutes, until it is all hot through.
Pour in enough water to cover everything by a couple of centimetres. and bring to the boil. Season with salt and pepper, turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer gently for an hour and a half.
Heat the butter in a frying pan. When it starts to foam slightly, add the carrot batons, and lower the heat. Gently fry the carrots until they start to brown slightly around the edges.
Add the carrots to the stew with the saffron water. If needed, add a little more water to the stew. Bring back to a simmer, and then keep cooking until the carrots are very soft.
We have some wild goose breasts in the freezer, and I am always looking for good ways to cook them. Somewhere I have a traditional goose soup recipe to try, but before I could test it, I came across a recipe for a lamb dish in Nightingales and Roses by Maryam Sinaiee.
A kind friend gave me a large paper bag that contained around 400g of chanterelle mushrooms, foraged from a secret location on the mainland. These are a rare treat, and are best cooked simply, going well with garlic and butter.
90g unsalted butter, divided into two
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped, or half a large onion.
Salt and pepper
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
60ml dry white wine
400g chanterelles, brushed clean (halved if large)
120ml double cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
A good pinch of dried oregano
Juice from half a lemon
200g tagliatelle or pappardelle
Melt half the butter in a medium saucepan, and fry the onion over a medium heat until softened.
Season with salt and pepper, and add the garlic, cooking for a further couple of minutes.
Stir in the wine and continue cooking for another couple of minutes, reducing the sauce down.
Add the remaining butter, and when it has melted, add the mushrooms. Continue to cook, stirring from time to time, for a further five minutes.
Stir in the cream, oregano and a good grating of nutmeg, and continue to cook until it thickens a little, about another two minutes.
Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the instructions on the pack.
Drain the pasta, return to the pasta pan, stir in the sauce with the lemon juice, and adjust the seasoning if required,