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.
- 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
- 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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
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.
- 2 potatoes for baking: 600 to 700g
- 3 tbsp cream
- 60+g soft blue cheese
- 200g spinach
- 20g pecan or walnuts, lightly toasted
- salt and pepper
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
This year I grew Japanese kale, it seems to really enjoy our local growing conditions. The leaves are quite tender, and very good in a stir fry. The flavour of sesame seeds goes very well. The basic ingredients of the sesame sauce are sesame, soy sauce and a pinch of sugar. I have also added mange tout to the kale with great results. You can use sweet cooking sake instead of the sugar, if you have it.
The Japan Centre is an excellent place to find good quality ingredients and recipes. I haven’t quite sussed how to put a Japanese menu together, this is meant as a side-dish. I served it with ginger noodles. The Japan centre suggests serving with plain rice, or as a side-dish, or as part of a Bento lunch.
- 200g kale, sliced across the leaves, discarding any tough stems
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted and ground in a pestle and mortar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp cooking sake or 2 tsp brown sugar and 1/2 tsp water
- Mix the toasted ground sesame seeds with the soy sauce and sake
- Put about 1cm water in a large pan with the kale, bring to the boil and simmer for around 5 minutes, stirring the kale to make sure it all cooks.
- Once the kale is cooked, drain, and mix with the sesame sauce.
A middle-eastern dish that is very much more delicious than you might suspect.
- 1 can of chickpeas
- 1 red onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 potato, peeped and diced
- 1 large tomato, peeled and diced
- 225g green cabbage, cut into 1.2 cm squares
- 50g chopped dill leaves
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp salt, or more, to taste
- Black pepper
- Put the chickpeas, onion and 850ml water into a large pot, and bring to a simmer, and cook for an hour.
- Add the potato, tomato, cabbage, dill, tomato paste, salt and another 100ml water. Bring to the boil, cover and turn the heat to very low, simmer until the potato is cooked.
- Add the black pepper to taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.
There were several reasons to cook this tonight. First of all, we have a lot of fresh vegetables in the garden, and Malcolm requested plain cabbage, no messing with stir fries or salad, just lightly boiled, seasoned and buttered. Next, we had some lamb in the freezer, and I wanted to test out a new mincer. Also, we have some lovely potatoes coming in, the crop we are eating just now is Arran Pilot, and I wanted to see how well they mashed. They mashed very well indeed.
- 1 tbsp oil (I used olive oil)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 medium carrots, in small chunks
- 500g lean minced lamb
- 500ml lamb or beef stock
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 900g potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
- 75g – 85g butter
- milk, to achieve consistency
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat the oil in a large pan, and when it is hot, add the onion and carrots, and cook over a medium heat until the onion is softening
- Add the minced lamb, and turn the heat up, browning the mince
- Add the tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce and stock, and bring to a simmer.
- Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, then uncover and simmer another 20 minutes to reduce the liquid. Season to taste with pepper and salt, if required.
- Boil the chopped potatoes in salted water, and drain. Mash with the butter, and a little milk to make a soft smooth mash.
- Add the mince to an oven-proof dish, and then put the mashed potatoes on top, using a fork to make patterns that will crisp up in the oven.
- At this point, the pie can be frozen or put in the fridge for cooking later
- To cook the pie, bake for around 30 minutes. Leave to stand a few minutes before serving.
To cook the cabbage, I cut it into wedges, cooked it for around 5 minutes in boiling water, then I poured the water off, and added salt, pepper and butter.