Courgette and Tomato Gratin

Although the ingredients for this recipe appear simple, it requires careful cooking to get it right. If you do not cook the ingredients down properly, it can be slightly bitter and watery. Done well, it is amazing, more than the sum of its parts.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 70g butter
  • 800-900g courgettes
  • 1 tin organic chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • Wholemeal breadcrumbs

METHOD:

  • Use a peeler to peel the courgettes lengthwise. Do not peel completely, leaving a few strips of the green skin. Then slice them into thin rounds about half a centimetre thick.
  • Put the sliced courgettes in a colander and salt them, and leave them to drain for at least half an hour. Put a plate on top of them to press them down.
  • Put the chopped tomatoes, 10g of butter, chopped parsley and the garlic in a medium pan with salt and pepper and simmer very slowly to make a very thick paste.
  • In the meantime, put the sliced courgettes onto a tea-towel and mop up all the surface water, getting them as dry as possible.
  • Cook about half of the sliced courgettes in 20g of the butter. Start by gently melting the butter; do not let it colour brown. Add the courgettes and cook on a low heat until they are transparent. Repeat for the rest of the courgettes and another third of the butter. Doing them in two separate batches allows you to cook all of the courgettes properly.
  • Amalgamate the tomatoes and the courgettes, and put the mixture into an oven ready dish. Smooth down the top and strew with breadcrumbs, just a light layer. Dab a little more butter over the surface. Put the dish in the top of a hot oven (around 190C) for 25 minutes and serve very hot when the surface is a deep golden brown.

This would be a good accompaniment for pork or lamb, or served as a light meal with a baked potato .

Spicy fried potatoes

I think of these as tiny square spicy chips – they should be crispy and flavoursome. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • Around 700g potatoes, diced to around 1cm cubes
  • 5 tbsp veg oil, such as rapeseed or sunflower oil
  • 1/8th tsp asafoetida
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli powder, such as Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat, and add the asafoetida, mustard seeds and cumin seeds, and let them sizzle for a minute, so that the mustard seeds pop. 
  • Add the potatoes, stir and sprinkle in the turmeric. 
  • When the potatoes start to brown, add the coriander, cumin, chilli and salt and turn the heat up to hot. Fry for another couple of minutes so the potatoes are crispy on the outside. 

A great side-dish, or serve with a fried egg on top. 

Carrots with dill and hot green chillies

I must have first tried this recipe in the 1980s, it is hand-written in an old jotter that I used to copy out some recipes clipped from newspapers. I remember collecting recipes from the Sunday Times; they ran a series by Madhur Jaffrey about regional recipes around the Indian subcontinent. 

I have some very large carrots still to harvest this year. I grew a yellow variety that has a very firm flesh ideal for adding to stews, and for this dish. There’ll be more carrot-based dishes to come. Most spices are available in local shops. I bought some of them from Seasoned Pioneers, who retail spices online. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cm ginger root (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/8 tsp asafoetida
  • 2 hot green chillies
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 20g chopped dill leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt

METHOD:

  • Peel and slice the carrots, peel and finely chop the ginger
  • Heat the oil in a karhai or wok over a medium heat. When it is hot, add in sequence the cumin seeds, asafoetida, ginger and whole chillies, stirring between each addition. 
  • As the ginger begins to brown, add the sliced carrots, coriander and turmeric. Stir and fry for a couple of minutes
  • Add the dill and salt, turn the heat to low and cover with a lid. Cook for another couple of minutes, until the carrots are cooked. 
  • Remove the carrots from the oil and drain away most of the oil. 

This is delicious as a side dish, with rice and a range of other curries. Last night I was just on my own so I had it with a little bit of nan and yoghurt.

Sika venison loin – ‘Wellington’

I am lucky. I know someone who had some extremely high-quality sika venison available, and I got a couple of cuts. One cut was a lovely 450g  piece of meat, the loin. Sika deer are smaller than our red deer, but in evolutionary terms, are quite similar. They are originally from Japan and neighbouring countries in the far east, and are an introduced species in Europe. 

I made this dish based on a recipe from Gordon Ramsey, adapted to suit. Remember to take your time, as the ingredients need to be chilled and resting in between bouts of cooking. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 450g sika loin
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • around 400g mushrooms
  • 50g butter
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1/2 glass dry white wine
  • Salt, pepper, a grate of nutmeg
  • 2 packs of prosciutto, around 10 to 12 slices
  • 320g jus-rol rolled puff pastry (one pack)
  • 1 egg, beaten, or one egg yolk beaten with a little water

METHOD:

  • Heat the oven to 220C
  • While it is heating, put the meat on a roasting tray, brush with olive oil, and season with pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool, then chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes
  • Chop the mushrooms to your preferred texture, 
  • Heat 50g butter with 2 tbsp olive oil, add the thyme and the mushrooms and fry gently for around 10 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft. 
  • Add seasoning, and the white wine, and cook until the wine has been absorbed. Don’t worry if the mixture seems loose, the venison needs a little oil. Once the mushrooms are cooked, remove the thyme and set to cool a little. 
  • On a clean linen cloth or clingfilm, lay out the prosciutto so that it is about double thickness, overlapped and about the length of the venison. Spread the cool fried mushrooms over the prosciutto and then place the venison on top. Use the cloth or cling-film to roll up the venison inside the prosciutto, and to tighten the parcel together. Put this in the fridge to rest. 
  • Take out the pastry, lay it out on the paper it came wrapped in, and use a rolling-pin to neaten it up. Unravel the venison/prosciutto parcel and place it along one side of the pastry, so that there is space to fold the pastry over the top. Think of a giant Cornish pasty. Before you fold over, brush the bare pastry and the top and sides of the venison parcel. Fold the pastry over, press and crimp to seal the edges, and transfer back to the roasting tray. Brush the surface with the egg wash, and use the back of a knife to mark diagonal scores along the pastry.  Chill for 30 minutes.
  • Heat the oven to 200C. Cook the Wellington for 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to stand for around 10 minutes before slicing into thick portions.

We served this with celeriac and potato mash, and garden carrots simmered in a little white wine, butter and thyme. 

Persian Vegetable Stew (Yatimcheh)

There were some aubergines reduced in price at Neillie’s shop, and I had most of the rest of the ingredients already, so I tried out this recipe from ‘Nightingales and Roses’ – really delicious and also vegan and virtuous. Best served with flat bread and Greek yoghurt. 

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 8 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 aubergines (or 2 if they are large) – 1cm slices
  • 6 red onions
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried lime powder (optional, I got mine online)
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced.
  • 1 large red pepper – cut into 2cm pieces
  • 4 tomatoes – 1 cm slices
  • 2+ potatoes – peeled, 1cm slices

METHOD:

  • Put a couple of spoonfuls of the oil in a frying pan, and fry the aubergine slices in a single layer in batches; cover the pan and fry for 4-5 minutes until one side is brown, then turn to fry the second side. Add small amounts of oil as required for each batch. Set aside the fried aubergine. 
  • Chop two of the onions finely, and fry in a couple of spoonfuls of oil over a medium heat for around 10 minutes, until golden brown. Stir in the turmeric towards the end of the frying time. 
  • Meanwhile, mix salt, pepper, chilli and lime powder in a small bowl or cup. 
  • Use a large wide casserole dish. Put 2 tbsp oil in the bottom. Slice the remaining onions into 1cm slices, and arrange them across the bottom of the dish in a single layer (you may need more or less onions depending on their size). Cover with the fried aubergine, then 1/3 of the spice mix, half of the fried onions, and then half the sliced garlic. Then add the red pepper, the rest of the garlic, the rest of the fried onions. Next, a layer of sliced tomatoes, the rest of the spices, and a layer of sliced potatoes. Put the lid on the pan. 
  • Bring to a simmer on the hob, then turn the heat to very low and cook for at least an hour, until the sauce has reduced. If it looks as if it is drying out, add a little hot water. 
  • Serve with rice or bread, and a bowl of yoghurt. 

 

Blue cheese and spinach baked potatoes

More in the baked potato series. I learned a few more things this week. Bigger is not better, it just causes trouble with the baking. A good size potato is 300g, more is a bother. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 potatoes for baking: 600 to 700g
  • Butter
  • 3 tbsp cream
  • 60+g soft blue cheese
  • 200g spinach 
  • 20g pecan or walnuts, lightly toasted
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Heat the oven to 220C
  • Rub the potatoes with oil and salt, and bake in the oven for around one hour. 
  • When they are done, remove them from the oven, scoop out the potato flesh, and return the skins to the oven with a little butter to crisp them up. 
  • Meanwhile, mash the potato with the rest of the butter, the cheese and milk, and a good grating of pepper. Pop the mash into the microwave on high for around 1 minute to melt things together a little
  • Wilt the spinach in a pan for around 15 seconds, with a little salted water. Squeeze out the water and whisk into the mashed potato
  • Return the mash into the potato skins and pip back into the oven until ready to serve – around 10 minutes. Sprinkle the toasted nuts onto the potatoes before serving

The second time I made this, I left out the spinach, and served them with kale tops as a side dish. 

 

Baked Potato with tuna mayonnaise

This year I grew some massive potatoes, and they are great baked. I am working through a list of possible recipes. I came across one that involved making a mayonnaise with tuna as one of the base ingredients. It looked good, it contained capers, lemon juice, egg yolks and a can of drained tuna. 

Now, I haven’t bought tuna since the early 1980s. I went to look to see what was in the shops, shelves of different varieties, some in brine, and some in oil. I stopped buying it, and most other commercial catches of white fish, because of worries about fish stocks and environmental damage.

Surely, I thought, things have changed. I looked into whether the tuna fishing industry has improved its practices. Well, only just, in that tuna stocks have recovered a little. However, within the tuna-fishing industry there are problems with sustainable fishing, by-catches, and human rights. 

  • Bluefin tuna is the largest and most expensive, found in sushi as a delicacy. It is severely overfished and exploited, critically endangered as a species. 
  • Albacore tuna is most likely to be canned. Overfishing is threatening the populations in the Altantic. 
  • Skipjack tuna is smaller, and the most commonly consumed. It is overfished in most areas. 
  • Yellowfin tuna is overfished world-wide. Larger fish in breeding condition are being removed from stocks at a rate that could lead to collapse of their populations. 
  • Bigeye tuna is similar to yellowfin, and is considered to be overfished world-wide.  

The recipe looked delicious, but it is off the menu. How can you help? Read more, don’t eat tuna.

  • https://www.britannica.com/explore/savingearth/the-trouble-with-tuna
  • https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/tuna
  • https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/challenges/sustainable-fishing/

 

Potato and carrot curry

We have lots of delicious potatoes, so when my daughter came over, we cooked this curry. It uses coconut milk along with spices to make a fragrant curry. We served this with a salad of grated beetroot, flavoured with toasted cumin, and dressed with lemon juice and salt. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil, or other vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp whole black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp yellow split peas
  • 2 whole dried birds-eye chillies
  • 10 basil leaves
  • 1/2 can chopped tomatoes, or a couple of medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • a small pinch of cayenne
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 400g potatoes (we used charlotte) and 100g carrots (we used yellow carrots) – cut into 2cm large chunks
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • Chopped coriander leaves

METHOD:

  • In a medium saucepan, heat up the oil and then add the mustard seeds, yellow split peas and chillies. After a minute or so, they’ll start popping. Add the onions and basil leaves as soon as this happens. Turn the heat down a bit and cook until the onion has softened. 
  • Add the coriander, cayenne, tomatoes and garam masala, and stir to mix. Add the potatoes and carrots along with around 250ml water and the salt, bring to the boil and then simmer on a low heat for 15+ minutes
  • When the potatoes are cooked, add the coconut milk and fresh coriander leaves, and heat through, stirring. 
  • Serve with other dishes, for example a salad, or dal, or a kale dish. 

Marrow, fennel and tomato stew

There is a tale in here, as to how I had a good marrow. Susannah had four ailing wee plants, she said they were squash plants, could she plant them in the open in my garden. I was a bit doubtful, I have never had much success with growing curcurbits in the open in South Uist. The plants weren’t great either. 

I planted out the best three, and one died. Now, in September, when the gales are beginning, they are flowering, and they appear to be courgette plants. I have a few tiny courgettes. I left the first one to get big, thinking it was a squash plant, and I ended up with a small marrow, weighing about 1 kilo. Marrows are just big courgettes. 

So I made this stew. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 small marrow, or 1kg of large courgettes
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 small fennel bulb, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 50ml dry sherry or dry white wine
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes, or 500g of tomatoes peeled and chopped
  • 1 tbsp wine vinegar

METHOD:

  • Halve the marrow lengthways, and remove any seeds. Chop into chunks, arrange in a colander on a plate and salt it so that excess moisture is removed
  • Heat the olive oil over a medium heat, and add the rosemary and fennel, frying this for a couple of minutes
  • Add the onions, chilli and fennel, and gently fry for around 10 minutes
  • Add the garlic, and continue to cook for another couple of minutes.
  • Drain the water off the marrow, and add to the pan with a good grating of pepper, and cook, stirring regularly for another ten minutes. I usually read a book and stir after every couple of pages. 
  • Add the sherry or wine, and stir to mix all the juices together, and let this simmer down and reduce before adding the chopped tomatoes and wine vinegar. Bring to a simmer and cook at a very low temperature for around half an hour. 
  • Adjust the seasoning, and then serve garnished with oregano and rosemary. It might need a bit of salt, and it works well to let it sit and develop. 

This can be customised. Try adding a tin of beans with the chopped tomatoes, or some capers. Some waxy potatoes, cut into cubes works well. I have reheated it with a layer of sliced potatoes on top, baked as a pie. 

Yesterday evening, I served it with a grilled pork chop, pitta bread and goat’s cheese. 

Italian potato pie

My potatoes are getting harvested, and I am trying out potato recipes. The first lot that I lifted were Arran Pilot, with white flesh that mashes very well. I made this from a recipe in Elizabeth David’s ‘Italian Food’. I also used some local free-range eggs. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Kg of potatoes that mash well
  • 100g Gruyere or Emmental cheese, sliced
  • 75g cooked ham or Italian sausage (I used Fonteluna sausage from Valvona and Crolla), sliced
  • 2 eggs, boiled for around 7 minutes and peeled
  • 3 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 75g butter
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste

METHOD

  • Peel and boil the potatoes until cooked, around 16 minutes. Mash them with about 40g butter and the milk, and put them through a mouli or potato ricer to make a very soft smooth mash. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. 
  • Grease a dish with butter (I used a small lasagne dish) and then coat the bottom and sides with 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • Put half the mashed potatoes in the bottom of the dish, then add the cheese, ham and chopped boiled eggs in a layer. Cover this with the rest of the mashed potato. Sprinkle the rest of the breadcrumbs over the top and dot with butter.
  • Cook the pie in a hot oven (around 200C) for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is golden. 

I served this with shredded kale. It is good with any green vegetable, or with a green salad.