Hollandaise sauce

This is an important sauce at this time of year, when asparagus is in the shops, the sun is shining, and a light supper is called for. Hollandaise sauce is the perfect method to help butter and lemon juice to stick to food, just thickened with egg yolk. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 150 g unsalted butter 
  • 2 large egg yolks 
  • 2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper 

METHOD:

  • Put the butter in a small pan over low heat, and as soon as it has melted, take it off the heat. 
  • In another pan, half fill with boiling water, and put a small trivet in the bottom. Put over a low flame so the water stays hot. 
  • In a heat-proof bowl, beat the egg yolks with the vinegar, and sit them over the boiling water. 
  • Straight away, start pouring in the molten butter in a slow stream, beating the eggs all the time. A small balloon whisk is ideal. 
  • The sauce will be quite thick; add the lemon juice and keep beating, and season with salt and pepper. 

You can vary the lemon juice, salt and pepper to your taste. 

 

Broccoli and mushroom stir-fry with black bean sauce

This is a good basic stir-fry recipe, and you can use just about any vegetables. Finely sliced courgette, mange-tout peas, slivers of red and green pepper, all work well. At the moment the co-op in Creagorry seems to have lots of fresh egg noodles in the reduced section for vegetables, so we used those. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 450g egg noodles
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 250g broccoli
  • 250g mushrooms
  • 1-2 carrots
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 200ml vegetable stock (I used marigold stock)
  • 2 tbsp black bean sauce 
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2cm cube of fresh ginger (approx)
  • 1 tbsp dry sherry such as Tio pepe, or Shaohsing wine. 

METHOD:

Prepare the ingredients:

  • Cook the noodles in boiling water according to the instructions (some noodles are sold ready-cooked) – rinse in cold water.
  • Chop the carrots into thin slices, cut on a slant. Cut the broccoli into small florets, and the stems into strips 5cm long. Wipe the mushrooms clean, and slice with the stems still on. 
  • Finely chop the ginger and garlic
  • In a small bowl, put in the cornflour, then slowly add the stock, and mix to a paste. Add the black bean sauce, sesame oil, and sugar. If it has gone lumpy, you can remedy this with a soup blender. 

Start the cooking

  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large wok over a medium flame. When it is hot add the garlic and ginger, and stir a couple of times. 
  • Add the mushrooms, broccoli and carrots, and 3/4 tsp salt, and stir and fry until the vegetables are all hot, it doesn’t take long. 
  • Pour in the sherry, cover and turn the heat to low. Cook for a minute, so the vegetables are very lightly steamed in hot sherry. 
  • Uncover, and add the cornflour/black bean mixture. Turn the heat up a little and add the noodles. Keep stirring and mixing so that the noodles are hot and the sauce is thickened. 

An alternative is to fry the noodles separately, treating them like a large pancake in the bottom of a frying pan. Fry without stirring for 3-4 minutes, and then when the noodles are crispy on the bottom, flip over and fry the other side. When serving, put the noodle pancake on a plate and pour the vegetables and sauce over the top. 

 

Classic Champagne Cocktail.

Lockdown holiday – I work in healthcare, so I have been out at work most days, but now I have a week off. I’m planning on lots of things, including using my exercise hour to clear litter from the verges around and about. I am also going to be trying out some cocktail recipes. This cocktail is delicious. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 sugar cube, or a level teaspoon of caster sugar
  • 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 150ml Champagne
  • A twist of lemon peel

METHOD:

  • Put the sugar into the bottom of a chilled champagne glass and add the bitters. Let the bitters soak into the sugar
  • Pour in the champagne carefully; it will fizz up a lot
  • Run the lemon peel around the rim of the glass and then drop it in. 

Prawns, Garlic, Chillies, Mustard Seeds

I made these with prawns from DA and Tina. There are some great food producers locally, and they need our support, having lost their overseas markets during the Covid-19 pandemic. DA and Tina have had such a good experience selling their catch locally, they may be able to continue working this way in the future. 

https://eatdrinkhebrides.org.uk/ takes you to an evolving website for purchasing local produce.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 kilo of prawns. 
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 to 2 chopped green chillies
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 15 curry leaves or 10 basil leaves
  • 5 tbsp peeled chopped tomatoes (or grated tomatoes)

METHOD:

  • Shell the prawns (easier if they are quickly cooked first)
  • Put the prawns in a bowl with the cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt and chillies, and mix well. If you are working ahead of time, they can be covered and kept in the fridge for a few hours. 
  • Put the oil in a wok, medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. After a few seconds they will start to sizzle and pop. 
  • As soon as the mustard seeds start popping, add the chopped garlic, stir and then add the prawns and curry leaves. 
  • Stir a few times, and then add the grated tomatoes. Turn the heat to low and simmer for two or three minutes. 
  • Serve immediately. 

We served the prawns on a bed of noodles, but they could be served as a starter on their own, or with rice. 

Potato, cauliflower and coconut curry

For when your husband comes home with a random cauliflower. It is a longish list of ingredients, but it is very very good. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 small to medium cauliflower
  • 100g creamed coconut
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 100g tomatoes
  • 2.5cm cube of fresh ginger
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 2.5cm cinnamon stick
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 hot green chillies
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 6 curry leaves
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 4 eggs (optional – leave these out for a vegan version)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala 

METHOD:

Prepare all the ingredients.

  • Boil the potatoes, then cool, peel and chop them into 2cm dice.
  • Separate the cauliflower into small florets, about 2cm across at the top. Cook the florets for a minute in boiling water, then drain and rinse in cold water. 
  • Pour 500ml boiling water onto the creamed coconut, and stir so it is all melted in. 
  • Peel and chop the tomatoes. 
  • chop the ginger and garlic, and put them into a small blender with a spoonful of water, and blend until smooth.
  • Finely chop the onion
  • Finely chop the chilli peppers
  • Boil, cool and peel the eggs and cut in half. 

Next, start assembling the dish. 

  • In a wok or large deep frying pan, heat the oil. When the oil is hot, add the fenugreek seeds and then the cinnamon stick. 
  • After a couple of seconds, add the chopped onion, and turn the heat to medium, stirring and cooking for a couple of minutes. 
  • Add the ginger and garlic mixture, and the chopped chilli peppers. Cook for another minute. 
  • Add the tomatoes, turmeric and curry leaves. Cook for another couple of minutes. 
  • Add about a third of the coconut milk, turn the heat to low, and simmer. As the sauce reduces, keep an eye and stir from time to time so it doesn’t stick. 
  • Add the potatoes, cauliflower, 1.5 tsp salt, another third of the coconut milk, stir and bring to a simmer. 
  • Add the rest of the coconut milk and the lemon juice, stir and then put the eggs in carefully, spooning the sauce over the eggs. Cover and simmer for a few more minutes. 
  • Sprinkle with garam masala before serving. 

This is good with flat breads such as chapati or roti. 

Spinach Lasagne

Covid-19. We are staying in as much as possible, and I am systematically going through the ingredients in the freezer, seeing how long we can stay in between shopping expeditions. The top shelf is now down to some cooked beetroot (we’ll have to find something to do with that later)

The second shelf had several half-tubs of ricotta cheese and quite a bit of spinach. This is such a good recipe, I didn’t have to think that hard about what I was going to make. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 50g butter
  • 40g plain white flour
  • 600ml milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • another 50g butter
  • 700g (approx) spinach
  • 250g ricotta cheese
  • 125g parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • around 150g oven-ready lasagne sheets

METHOD:

  • Make a bechamel sauce: Melt 50g butter in a small pan, and add 40g flour. Cook for a few minutes, so that the mixture is smooth and well-mixed. 
  • Slowly add the 1 pint of milk, stirring all the while. Add the bay leaf, and cook slowly, stirring, for ten minutes. The sauce should be thick and smooth.
  • Remove the bayleaf, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Use a soup wand to make the sauce extra-creamy.
  • Set the oven to 200C Gas 6. Grease a dish that measures 20cm by 30cm and around 6cm deep. 
  • In a very large pan, melt 50g butter and add the spinach. It might be a tight squeeze to get it all in, but it will cook down in about five minutes. You might need to squish it in with a spatula or spoon. 
  • Stir in the ricotta cheese, garlic, half the parmesan and a grate of nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. 
  • Assemble the lasagne. The first layer is sheets of lasagne. Then around a quarter of the bechamel sauce, and then half the spinach. Next, a layer of lasagne, then another quarter of the bechamel and the rest of the spinach. Finally, another layer of lasagne, the rest of the bechamel, and then the rest of the parmesan. 
  • Bake in the oven for around 35 minutes. The top should be golden brown, and the pasta should be tender. 

Prawn risotto

Eating locally caught prawns, delicious. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 200g prawns, cooked and peeled
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 40g butter
  • 200g risotto rice
  • 200 ml dry white wine
  • 500 ml stock, simmering
  • 50g parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:

  • Fry the onion very slowly in half of the butter, until it is soft and translucent. 
  • Stir in the rice and continue to cook until the rice is glossy and hot. 
  • Pour in the wine and heat until the alcohol has evaporated. 
  • Add the stock slowly, allowing the rice to absorb each ladleful before adding the next one. 
  • When the rice is almost cooked, about 15 minutes in, add the prawns, and continue to cook, adding the stock as before. 
  • When the rice is cooked, but still a little firm to the bite, remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the remaining butter, parsley, parmesan and adjust the seasoning. 
  • Serve after a couple of minutes, in warmed bowls. 

Venison Stew with Membrillo

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. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g diced venison
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 200ml red wine
  • 200ml stock
  • 1 tbsp membrillo paste
  • salt to taste

METHOD:

  • 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

I served this with kale tops and mashed potatoes. 

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.