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Courgette, broad bean, beetroot and feta salad – home-grown cooking

Recipe - courgette (zuchinni), broad bean, feta and beetroot salad

A terrific salad featuring home-grown beans and courgettes.

One of the key reasons for relocating to Scrumptious Scran Villas some two and a half years ago was the garden. It’s on a big slope, as we live opposite a burn (brook, to those of you in England- shire), but pretty much south-facing. This probably won’t mean much to those of you who are not green fingered, yet the main thing to consider is that this means it has great potential for growing fruit and vegetables.

A couple of years of renovating said villas – well more a modern-ish Dutch town house, but this isn’t an interior design blog  – has meant that to date the garden has been maintained rather than developed, and things are about to get worse before they get better in terms of landscaping. The final piece of the building renovation jigsaw involves an extension that will result in a kitchen-diner. This development will provide a great cooking and entertaining space but of course will also cause havoc in the garden too.

Courgette in garden.
There’s no hiding, my lovely courgette!

Ultimately however, I imagine that I shall stroll out of the French doors of the kitchen, in a style akin to Nigel Slater, to gather herbs and vegetables from the terraced raised beds (any tips on these greatly appreciated) but for now I have to make do with a relatively compact veg patch.  And for a number of reasons, this hasn’t been at its most productive this year.  The French beans have been disappointing, and the beetroot and spinach seedlings all succumbed to slugs and snails (if only I could find an organic control method for these that really worked).

However, all is not doom and gloom, because growing conditions in south-east Scotland this year have been ideal for two crops; broad beans and courgettes. And it just so happens these rate as two of my favourite ingredients.  There is something delightful in gathering these from the garden knowing that I have tended to them, that they are organically produced and, whilst it might be purely psychological, that they taste all the better for it.  So what to cook with my vegetable harvest?

Well certainly I wanted the flavour of the courgettes and broad beans to shine through, so it couldn’t be a dish that featured anything else that might be overpowering.  Also, gathering summer crops is, well, indicative of summer so something a bit lighter would be appropriate, even if the weather in Scotland hasn’t exactly been continuously scorching.

Broad beans and courgette from the veg patch.
Just some of my home-grown haul.

So a sumptuous salad seemed to fit the bill, where blanched beans and char-grilled courgettes are centrepiece, but complimented with deep sweet-earthy flavour provided by beetroot (preferably roasted) and salty sharpness added by a smattering of feta cheese.  Add a fresh grassy-aniseed note from dill, piquancy from green spring onion, and bring it all together with a good quality dressing, and the result is a tasty, satisfying and fresh summer dish, that can be served warm or cold.

The recipe is makes enough to amply serve two as a tasty supper, or could feed more as a great accompaniment to likes of grilled pork chops or some chunky, roast fish steaks, should you wish not to stick to being vegetarian.  And of course, the vegetables don’t have to be home grown.  But eating this dish would undoubtedly bring a smile to your face if they are.

Serves two as a decent supper.

Courgette, broad bean, beetroot and feta salad

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By Scrumptious Scran Serves: 2
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cooking Time: 15 minutes

A tasty spring/summer recipe salad featuring fresh vegetables and tasty Greek cheese.


  • For the salad
  • 1-2 courgettes (depending on size) around 200-250g, plus a couple of tablespoons of oil for brushing
  • 200-250g broad beans - post podded.  You can double pod them if you want, but I like the outer skins and life is too short
  • A couple of medium sized beetroot, either bought ready cooked (absolutely fine, if not in vinegar) or peeled and roast until tender in the oven (about 30 minutes)
  • 100g of decent feta cheese - use a reduced fat variety if desired
  • A couple of small spring onions, chopped
  • A tablespoon of chopped dill.
  • For the dressing
  • 1 tablespoon of decent vinegar – good quality cider or sherry vinegar would be ideal
  • 3 tablespoons of decent oil – I used cold-pressed UK rapeseed oil
  • Half clove of garlic, very slightly crushed
  • Sea salt and black pepper to season.



Put a griddle on a medium heat, and whilst it comes up to temperature, slice the courgette into medium rounds no more than a centimetre thick.  Brush each of the courgette disks on both sides with a little oil.


Place the courgette disks on the griddle (you may need to do this in batches) and grill until they begin to soften and exhibit lovely charred lines, then turn over and repeat on the other side. Set aside.


Whilst cooking the courgettes bring an appropriately sized pan of salted water to the boil.  Drop in the broad beans and return to the boil, then cook for around 3-5 minutes (depending on how chunky the beans are) until just tender.  Drain the beans from the hot water and then immediately transfer to an appropriately sized bowl filled with cold – ideally iced – water to stop the beans overcooking.


Cut the beetroot – which is either pre-bought (but not preserved in vinegar) or previously roasted – into 1cm or so cubes.


Break the feta cheese into chunks which are also around 1cm cubes.


Place the garlic clove in the bottom of a small bowl.  Pour in the vinegar and oil, season with salt and pepper, and then lightly whisk for a few seconds. Rest for a couple of minutes for the garlic to infuse the dressing, then whisk again until the dressing begins to emulsify. Leave to rest again whilst the salad is assembled.


In a roasting dish, layer the courgettes, beans, beetroot, feta and onion, sprinkling a little dill on each layer. Remove the garlic from the dressing, and whisk again until smooth before pouring over the assembled salad.


Gently toss the salad as it is served to distribute the dressing evenly around the salad ingredients.


Recipe: Pa amb tomàquet – A mighty-vine Catalan tapa

Mighty vine: Pa amb tomàquet – catalan tomato and bread tapa.

Scrumptious Scran‘s take on a classic Catalan recipe. Hopefully some of you out there – possibly, my Dad at least – may be aware that my previous post on Scrumptious Scran was a foodie travelogue encapsulating culinary discoveries made during a recent visit to Barcelona.  Publicising such musings on social media, as is the want of most food bloggers, I was a bit surprised to be accused by some, seemingly, smart Alec that the article was ‘completely oblivious to its [Barcelona’s] culture.’  ‘How odd’ thought I – or words to that effect.  For what could typify a city’s, region’s or country’s culture more than the food and drink that is uniquely associated with it?  For it effectively represents a place’s history and literature on a plate, or in a glass.

And when it comes to Barcelona and Catalunya, there is one dish that ultimately typifies the culture there.  It is uncomplicated, harking back to when what is now modern-day Catalonia was much more rural, and certainly less of the industrial powerhouse it has become in modern times. It uses locally-sourced ingredients, and stems from a time when wasting any food – even stale bread – would be treated with disdain.  I talk, of course, of the straightforward yet exquisitely delicious tapa/dish that is pa amb tomàquet, which literally translates as ‘bread with tomato’.

Pa amb tomàquet is a dish that is ubiquitous in Catalunya, being served from high-end restaurants to neighbourhood canteens, as well as consistently cropping up in the kitchens of practically every household. It’s also a dish that is ideal for easy dining on warm summer days, so great for an alfresco lunch or supper back in the UK, when the sun is shining. And what’s more it takes just minutes to make and involves the use of just four or five ingredients; bread, tomatoes, salt, garlic (optional but adds real flavour and a little kick) and olive oil.

So if you fancy a bit of Barcelona on a plate, back in Blighty, here’s my guide as to what you will need to make your own, pretty authentic,  pa amb tomàquet, and the achingly simple process for putting the dish together.  ¡Salud!

Serves 2 as a tapa or part of a light lunch.

Pa amb tomàquet - Catalan bread and tomato tapa

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By Scrumptious Scran Serves: 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cooking Time: 10 minutes

This is a dish that is ubiquitous in Catalunya / Catalonia, Spain, being found in high-end restaurants to neighbourhood canteens, and most homes. It involves few ingredients, is extremely easy to prepare, and tastes utterly delicious.


  • 2 large, thick slices of rustic bread - sourdough is really ideal for this.
  • 2 tomatoes, halved - these should be ripe and sweet with not too much acidity, and ideally posses a pulp that isn't too watery.  Catalans traditionally use tomàquets de ramallet (tomatoes still on the vine) so go for properly vine ripened heritage ones, if possible.
  • A clove of garlic, peeled and halved - a nice fat juicy clove is ideal.
  • Olive oil - the best quality one you have in the kitchen, a fruity, extra-virgin, Spanish variety would be right there in terms of flavour.
  • Course sea salt.



Heat a grill to a medium heat.  Place the bread on a tray under the grill and cook for a couple of minutes each side until just beginning to turn very slightly golden.  Remove, and allow to cool slightly.


Sprinkle the bread with a few grains of the sea salt, then gently rub one side of each slice all over with the garlic, so that it releases its oil on the surface. A little salt on the bread will help with this.


Rub the same surface of each slice with the tomatoes.  The pulp of each tomato half should cover the bread leaving just the skin behind.


Generously drizzle the olive oil over the tomato-laden side of each slice, and sprinkle with a little more sea salt, to taste, if desired.  Consume with gusto and a crisp, cold beverage.


  • 2 large, thick slices of rustic bread – sourdough is really ideal for this.
  • 2 tomatoes, halved – these should be ripe and sweet with not too much acidity, and ideally posses a pulp that isn’t too watery.  Catalans traditionally use tomàquets de ramallet (tomatoes still on the vine) so go for properly vine ripened heritage ones, if possible.
  • A clove of garlic, peeled and halved – a nice fat juicy clove is ideal.
  • Olive oil – the best quality one you have in the kitchen, a fruity, extra-virgin, Spanish variety would be right there in terms of flavour.
  • Course sea salt.

Preparation and cooking

  1. Heat a grill to a medium heat.  Place the bread on a tray under the grill and cook for a couple of minutes each side until just beginning to turn very slightly golden.  Remove, and allow to cool slightly.
  2. Sprinkle the bread with a few grains of the sea salt, then gently rub one side of each slice all over with the garlic, so that it releases its oil on the surface. A little salt on the bread will help with this.
  3. Rub the same surface of each slice with the tomatoes.  The pulp of each tomato half should cover the bread leaving just the skin behind.
  4. Generously drizzle the olive oil over the tomato-laden side of each slice, and sprinkle with a little more sea salt, to taste, if desired.  Consume with gusto and a crisp, cold beverage.



Hake, tomato & anchovy-stuffed olive roast – happy recipe & ingredient tinkering!

Hake, cherry tomato, & anchovy-stuffed green olive roast
Tomato and anchovy olive hake-bake.

Hake, tomato & anchovy-stuffed olive roast recipe – “The pimentón imparts a lovely wood-fired spiciness.  Rather than Nocellara olives, my version of the recipe uses Spanish green Manzanilla olives stuffed with anchovy puree.  This brings a wonderful, subtle seafood umami flavour to the dish but doesn’t overpower the flavour balance at all.”

When it comes to recipes, and cook books for that matter, I’ve always been a bit of a magpie. I love perusing and using them to discover how other enthusiastic cooks and foodies have combined familiar, and not so familiar, ingredients to make an enticing dish.  I remember as a child thumbing through the volumes of my parents’ Supercook magazine collection, reading in wonderment the instructions on how to prepare, what seemed in the 1970s, seemingly exotic meals.  As a student, I used to snip recipes from the Sunday supplements and save them in scrapbooks for future reference. Nowadays, I can just as easily do such snipping online, of course. Yet I still love turning and gazing at the pages of cookbooks both new and old.

Now I’m not sure if it’s down to my scientific background, but much as I savour a good recipe, it’s not often I don’t think about having a wee tinker with it.  The thought “I wonder what it would taste like if…” frequently pops into my head.  Usually my experimentation is subtle; I might substitute Rosemary with Thyme, or add a further – hopefully complimentary – spice or vegetable to the mix of ingredients.  Sometimes things go well, sometimes they are not so successful, but I like to think my tinkering never produces any total disasters.  And truth be known, I suppose it’s through exactly this process that the multitude of variations in such standards as, say, pasta Bolognese, or fish pie, come into existence.
A successful example – at least to my taste buds – of my ‘freestyling’ involves a super, yet straightforward, recipe I happened across in this year’s Olive magazine calendar.  It’s for a tray roast involving cod wrapped in Parma ham, and cooked with cherry tomatoes and Nocellara green olives. A cinch to cook and, as both JML and I agreed, delicious and quite healthy to boot.  But when I thought about cooking it again a few days later, that little voice inside my head piped up “I wonder what it would taste like if it the emphasis was a bit more Spanish than Italian?”…

The cherry tomatoes and onion that form the backbone of the original recipe remain constant. But into these I stirred a generous pinch of smoked pimentón, and added two or three plump cloves of unpeeled garlic.  The latter are just to subtly flavour the sauce component of the dish, rather than dominating it, and are removed before serving. The pimentón imparts a lovely wood-fired spiciness.  Rather than Nocellara olives, my version of the recipe uses Spanish green Manzanilla olives stuffed with anchovy puree.  This brings a wonderful, subtle seafood umami flavour to the dish but doesn’t overpower the flavour balance at all.  If you struggle to find anchovy stuffed olives, you could substitute a couple of finely chopped tinned anchovies, stirring them into the tomatoes just before the white fish is added.
Can of anchovy-stuffed olives.
Gorgeous – cooked or not!

And talking of white fish, whilst I do like haddock and cod (as used in the original recipe) I couldn’t resist using that quintessential Spanish choice that is hake (merluza).  This is a member of the cod family, and is abundant in UK waters, but most of what is caught finds its way to Spain which is definitely our loss, as the flesh is sweeter and finer textured than its more oft-consumed cousins.  A decent fishmonger should be able to supply ample hake loins fairly easily.  Following the Spanish theme, it was only natural that I wrapped the hake in Serrano – rather than Parma – ham.  I’m aware that both varieties of hams are similar in that they are salted and air dried, but Serrano ham tends to have a higher fat content and is cured longer than its Italian counterpart, and I think this gives it a greater depth of flavour.

Finally, to the herbs.  Olive’s recipe calls for the use of flat leaf parsley, which provides a fresh, grassy note to the dish.  However, I decided to swap this for two additions that gives a bit more intense flavour of the Mediterranean, in the form of a couple of sprigs of marjoram and bay leaves from the garden.   The only other change made was that I scaled down the quantity of ingredients to cater for two, as opposed to six, people but the recipe can easily be scaled up to cater for six or more.  So my Spanish-inspired recipe is set out below, whilst the original, Italian influenced, version from Olivecan be accessed at the magazine’s website.  Why not try both versions and tell me what you think?
Serves 2 people.  Great accompanied with steamed broad beans or a green salad, and crusty bread.
  • Half a red onion or two small banana shallots, roughly sliced
  • 250g of cherry or baby plum tomatoes
  • Two plump cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • 1tsp of smoked pimentón (paprika)
  • Olive oil
  • Two loins of hake, around 125-150g each
  • Two-four slices of Serrano ham
  • 200g tin of green Manzanilla olives stuffed with anchovies
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked pimentón (paprika)
  • 2 bay leaves – preferably fresh
  • 1 sprig of fresh marjoram, leaves removed from stems (use half teaspoon of dried marjoram if fresh is unavailable)
  • Salt and pepper to season

Preparation and cooking
  1. Heat the oven to 220C / Fan 200C / gas 7. Place the onions, garlic and tomatoes in a small, shallow roasting tray or dish.  Season with salt and pepper – remember that the olives will impart some saltiness to the dish.
  2. Add three dessert spoons of olive oil (approximately 30ml) and the smoked pimentón, bay leaves, and marjoram and toss all the ingredients together until everything is nicely coated in the oil and pimentón.   Place in the oven, and roast for 15 minutes.
  3. Whilst the tomatoes and onions are roasting, wrap each hake loin in a slice of Serrano ham (you may need two slices if the loins are particularly plump).  Take the roasting tray out of the oven, add the olives and stir into the tomato and onion mixture.  Place the Serrano-wrapped hake on top of the tomatoes and olives.
  4. Return the roasting pan to the oven and cook for around a further 15 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through and the Serrano ham has started to turn crisp.  Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary, and remove the garlic cloves before serving.

Hearty spring eating – Spanish-inspired stew with lamb heart, chickpeas, peppers and olives

Spanish-inspired stew with lamb hearts, peppers, chickpeas and olives.
Spanish-inspired stew with lamb heart and chickpeas.

The transition from late winter to early spring can be a bit of a disorientating time of year.  In terms of weather – and I speak here as a Scot – one minute clear blue skies and bright sunshine hint of a glorious summer that is, hopefully, to come. Yet within an hour or two the wind changes direction, leaving the populace shivering in horizontal sleet.

Cooking and eating at this time of year can be equally hit and miss, especially when trying to use seasonal ingredients. On one hand there can be a longing to dine on fresh, green produce, but it’s usually still too early in the season in late February or early March for many spring crops to be making any sort of meaningful appearance. On the other hand, days are still quite short and nights can sometimes be frosty, perpetuating winter-time yearnings for hearty meals.

At a time when fresh, local ingredients can be limited, it’s sensible to make best use of what is available. And if you are a meat eater one thing that is synonymous with spring is lamb. Make mention of cooking with this delicious meat and most people automatically think of a roast leg, slow cooked shoulder, or grilled chops. Smashing as all these joints may be, my northern English heritage possibly makes me a wee bit more adventurous.  After all, as a child I was no stranger to the delights of cheap, cheerful and flavoursome cuts such as tripe, chitterlings and trotters.

I remain an adventurous omnivore to this day, even though JML and I are attempting to cut down on our meat consumption for a number of ethical and environmental reasons.  And I heartily agree with the ethos of Fergus Henderson – chef, restaurateur, and author of Nose to Tail Eating – that if we are going to kill an animal for food, we should make use of as much of it as possible. Basically, as Fergus maintains, “You should be nice to your offal”.  All of which leads me to this recipe for a Spanish-inspired stew featuring chickpeas, olives, peppers, and lamb hearts.

I actually can’t remember how the original recipe for this Hispanic-influenced casserole came to my attention, but it’s a dish I have been regularly cooking, and refining, for years. It’s straightforward, economical, and – most importantly – very tasty, combining the earthy flavours of chickpeas and cumin, sweetness of red peppers, fried onions and tomato, umami notes provided by mushrooms and olives, and subtle spiciness originating from smoked pimentón (paprika), thyme and a pinch of dried chilli.  Left to feature just the above ingredients it’s a hearty vegan dish.  Sometimes however I like to add chunks of chicken thigh or pork shoulder to give things a meatier twist. So why not lamb hearts as well?

Like any cut of meat that comes from a part of an animal that has to do a lot of work, there are two ways that cooking heart can be approached: either very quickly over a high heat; or long and slow using a low level of heat.  In a similar way to the preparation of squid, any other approach will result in the flesh being tough and chewy.  Quickly browning the chunks of lamb heart and then slowly casseroling them with the other ingredients gives an intense depth of flavour to this stew recipe, with the meat being tenderly rich, definitely tasting of lamb, but also with a note of gaminess akin to wild duck or grouse.  And not only will the dish taste great, but pride can also be taken from the fact it uses a very reasonably priced cut of meat that might not usually see light of day at the butcher (although any good butcher should have little problem supplying lamb hearts, and they are now even available in some supermarkets).  So as winter moves to spring, why not try something that is a hearty celebration of the changing seasons, in every sense?

Serves four, accompanied with crusty bread and steamed vegetables.


  • Lamb hearts (around 450-500g) washed, excess fat and sinewy tissue at the top of each heart removed
  • One medium Spanish onion, or four banana shallots, peeled and medium sliced.
  • One large red pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • Four plump garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
  • Two large Portobello mushrooms
  • Olive oil for frying
  • 3-4 teaspoons of sweet smoked pimentón (paprika), depending on taste.
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin (freshly ground, if possible)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes (to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme or a sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1x400g tin of chopped plum tomatoes
  • 1x400g of chickpeas in water
  • 200ml of dry white wine (if you wouldn’t want to drink it, don’t cook with it!)
  • 10-15 pitted black olives
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
  • 2 bay leaves – fresh if available
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning

Preparation and Cooking

1. Put a lidded casserole pan over a medium heat and add two tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the onion and red pepper, fry off for five minutes, stirring well,  and then turn down the heat to medium low. Continue cooking for a further 15-20 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the onions and peppers are soft and starting to take on a little colour, but not brown. Add the chopped garlic, stir well and sauté for a further few minutes until the garlic softens.

Onion, pepper and garlic sweating off in a casserole pan.
Onion, pepper and garlic sweating off.

2. Whilst the onions and peppers are cooking prepare the other key ingredients. Cut each heart in half – depending on their size you should have three or four heart – and then cut each half into four, to form bite-size chunks.  On a clean chopping board, wipe the mushrooms free of any compost, half them and then cut into thick-ish chunks.

Lamb heart being prepared for cooking.
Lamb heart being prepared for cooking.

Mushrooms, cleaned and chopped into chunks.
Mushrooms, cleaned and chopped into chunks.

3. Put a heavy base frying pan on a medium heat and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  When the oil is hot fry the chunks of heart briefly on each side to seal and slightly caramelise them, but do not cook through. You may need to do this in batches to ensure the heat in the frying pan doesn’t fall too significantly, which will mean the meat steams and doesn’t fry.

Mushrooms, cleaned and chopped into chunks.
Lamb heart chunks being lightly browned.

4. Set the heart pieces aside and add the mushrooms to the remaining oil and juices in the frying pan. Fry off the mushrooms until they soften and take on a little colour, and also set aside. Maintaining a medium heat in the frying pan, deglaze it with the glass of white wine, cooking until the alcohol has evaporated and the wine has reduced slightly.  Pour the wine into the casserole pan containing the onions, pepper and garlic.

5. Add the pimentón, chilli and cumin to the casserole pan together with the thyme and bay leaves. Stir into the onions/peppers briefly.  Next add the heart and mushrooms to the casserole, followed by the chickpeas (with around half the liquid drained from the can) and the chopped tomatoes. Finally add the tomato puree and olives and give everything in the casserole a good stir. If the stew looks a little dry or thick add a little more water. Season with a few good turns from a black pepper mill, but only add more salt right at the end (as necessary), as the olives will impart this during cooking.

Smoked paprika being added to Spanish-inspired stew.
Smoked paprika being added to Spanish-inspired stew.

6. Preheat the oven to 140 or 150 degrees Celsius – depending on if it is fan or conventional – and bring the contents of the casserole pan up to a simmer on the hob. Put the lid on the casserole pan and place in the oven for 2.5 – 3 hours, giving a gentle stir and checking the contents have not dried out every hour or so (if the stew looks a bit dry add a couple of tablespoons of water).  The stew is ready when the heart pieces are cooked to very tender, but not quite falling apart.  Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Spanish-inspired stew ready for the oven.
Spanish-inspired stew ready for the oven.

 Serve with crusty bread and steamed green vegetables (spring greens or cavolo nero are ideal).


Recipe: ¡Viva Tortilla! – A scrumptious take on “Spanish omelette”, to welcome the return of al fresco dining

Spanish tortilla based on a "Moro" recipe.
Spanish tortilla based on a scrumptious “Moro” recipe.

When I was a wee lad, there was an advert on TV hailing from a major food producer.  It extolled people to be exotic in their cooking by preparing a “Spanish omelette”.  I can’t remember exactly which non-egg ingredients said dish was meant to include to make it “Spanish” other than frozen peas. I suspect some of you are realising which major food producer was the sponsor of the advert…

Exotic eating was very much in vogue in the 1970s, which represented a time of transition in terms of the UK’s culinary heritage.  Historically, British cooking had been diverse and inventive, but coinciding – and probably as a result of – the great wars of the 20th century, our relationship with food seemed to lose its way.  Wartime rationing meant that our cuisine became bland and mundane.  At least until we discovered, and took to our hearts/stomachs, food from across the world.
Like many people growing up in urban areas of the UK in the 70s I became aware of, and fascinated by, the increasing prevalence of restaurants serving the food of India (technically, more usually that of Pakistan or Bangladesh), China and Italy.  This growth in “exotic” new fare was no accident, but resulted from those who emigrated to the UK from across the globe during the last century expressing their culture in culinary terms, and sharing this with people already resident here.  And we Brits loved it!

Yet surprisingly, there was one culture that Britons became increasingly familiar with during the 1970s and 80s that seemed to have scant influence on our eating patterns.  With millions of us annually jetting off to Spain each year, why was it that the superb food of that country failed to become ingrained in our culinary psyches?  Maybe it was because the nature of the package holiday meant that holidaymakers from the UK had only limited exposure to authentic Spanish cooking.  Or perhaps (at least until the relatively recent economic turmoil within Europe caused significant migration) there simply wasn’t a large enough Spanish community within the UK to provide a genuine Iberian dining experience for those returning from the fortnight of sunshine on the costas.

This all goes to explain why the pea-festooned “Spanish omelette” of my youth bore little resemblance to the “tortilla española/de patatas” I first sampled in Barcelonan tapas bar in the mid-1990s.  It is a dish that exemplifies the, often, uncomplicated nature of Spanish cuisine (although Ferran Adrià might dispute that assertion). Fundamentally it comprises merely three ingredients; onion, potato and eggs – plus seasoning.  Yet it is also a dish the flavour of which is substantially greater than the sum of its parts, simultaneously being sweet, earthy and rich, but also fresh tasting.

In an ideal world, tortilla de patatas should be enjoyed on a sunny Spanish terrace, accompanied by a cool glass of beer.  But as balmy spring weather starts to make its presence felt in the UK why not rustle up this simple and delicious dish to be enjoyed – hot or cold – as part of some home-based al fresco dining?  The recipe below is pretty authentic, being my evolution of one contained within the truly splendid Moro – The Cookbook.  Rather than deep-fry the potatoes (as the original recipe requires) I prefer to parboil them until they are just cooked, drain them and allow any excess moisture to steam away.  I have also been known to add a small green pepper to the onion, to give an even greater sweet-earthy, grassy accent.

The 10 tablespoons of olive oil used to fry the onions may sound excessive, but this is needed to effectively confit these to the point that the sugars they contain become caramelised.  Turning the tortilla using a plate can also be somewhat tricky, so I have been known just to pop the pan under the grill to ensure both sides are properly cooked, as my adaptation indicates.  The outcome of the above tinkering is a dish that is delicious whether enjoyed hot or cold – and without a frozen pea coming anywhere near!

Provides 6-8 portions


  • 2 large Spanish onions, medium finely sliced
  • 1 small green pepper (optional), medium finely sliced
  • 10 tablespoons olive oil
  • 700g potatoes (Cyprus or any firm, waxy potato), wiped clean and medium sliced
  • 6 eggs, organic or free-range
  • sea salt and black pepper

Preparation and cooking    

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan and when hot but not smoking add the onions and pepper (if using) with a pinch of salt. Give them a good stir, reduce the heat to low, and cook very slowly for about 30-45 minutes (stirring every five minutes or so) until golden in colour and sweet in smell.  Remove from the heat, drain, and reserve the oil.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes by placing a large saucepan, just cover with water and add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer until just cooked (about 8-10 minutes). Drain in a colander, return to the saucepan and allow any remaining moisture to evaporate.
  3. Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk briefly. Add the onions and potatoes and mix together. Taste for seasoning. The mixture may only need a little pepper.
  4. Pour the reserved onion oil into a frying pan approximately 20cm across, and set over a high heat. When the oil begins to smoke pour the tortilla mixture in with one hand whilst shaking the pan with the other. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the underside is golden brown – usually about five minutes.
  5. Take a plate of a similar diameter and rest it over the pan. With both hands and two kitchen cloths carefully invert the tortilla on to the plate. The uncooked side will still be fairly runny so watch out! Turning the tortilla helps to give it its distinctive shape.  
  6. Turn the heat to high again, pour a little extra olive oil into the frying pan and slide the tortilla back into the pan runny side down and tuck in the edges. Cook for another 3 minutes.   Alternately, place the pan under a hot grill for a couple of minutes until the uncooked side of the tortilla becomes firm and golden.
  7. Both sides of the tortilla should now be golden brown in colour. If not, it requires a little more cooking. The tortilla will be cooked if the middle feels solid. If it still feels a little soft continue to cook until firmer. Remove from the pan and slide it onto a plate. Allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting into diamond shapes. 

The tortilla is also delicious served cold.

The original version of this recipe can be found in ‘Moro – The Cookbook’ by Sam and Sam Clark, published by Ebury Press, ISBN: 0-09-187483-1, 25.00


Recipe: Fresh meets mature – Mutton braised in sherry, garlic and rosemary, with char-grilled asparagus and salsa verde

Mutton in sherry with asparagus and salsa verde
Mutton, asparagus, salsa verde – yum!

Sometimes, it can be good to mix things up a little, especially when it comes to cooking. Pairing a just-in-season ingredient with one that is more mature. Matching fresh and vibrant flavours with those that are more rich and complex. During spring – when new-season crops become ready to harvest, and certain produce from the preceding year matures – it can be a great time to partake in this form of culinary experimentation. As I found out last weekend…

With JML in the USA on business, rather than rattle around Scrumptious Scran Towers by myself I decided I would head for Edinburgh Farmers’ Market to purchase something interesting for Sunday lunch. In terms of vegetable ingredients I already had a specific idea in mind. Early May means that we are smack in the middle of the British asparagus season, and for me this has to be one of our finest, home-grown, seasonal vegetables. I love the fresh grassy flavour to be had from the bright green spears, and it is an ingredient that really doesn’t need much in the way of adornment.

So, with the vegetable component of my Sunday repast taken care of, my attention turned as to what to pair with it. The idea of a nice cut of lamb sprang to mind, but unless you are someone who favours very early spring lamb, it’s a bit too soon in the season for Scottish-reared examples of this meat. Plus, for me, early spring lamb can be a bit underwhelming in terms of flavour. This is why I often go for cuts from more mature incarnations of sheep, in the form of either hogget (over one year old) or mutton (over two years old). These have a much greater depth of flavour, and the meat benefits from longer, slower cooking which all combine to produce some mouth-wateringly good meals.

Schmoozing amongst the stalls at the farmers’ market I was delighted to encounter the pitch occupied by Annanwater blackface and blackface-cross lamb and mutton. Blackfaces are an ancient Scottish breed of sheep, which are both slow-growing and ideally suited to the rough upland grazing found in many areas of Scotland, including the Borders region of Dumfries and Galloway, where the Annanwater farm is based. And nestling on their stall I spied an appetising-looking neck cut of Blackface mutton. Combined with the right ingredients, this richly-flavoured succulent meat would make an ideal pairing for my asparagus. But how to cook it?

Stairwell herb garden
My little plot in the stairwell.

Well, I took inspiration from Spain, deciding to slow braise the mutton with a combination of garlic, rosemary and sherry. The rich, near-gaminess of mutton sits really well with other bold ingredients, and slow cooking ensures not only that the meat is beautifully tender, but also that all the flavours combine splendidly. But I didn’t just want the mutton and asparagus to sit disparately on the plate. I wanted to add something that linked their respective richness and freshness. So thank you to Delicious magazine, and the article in the May 2014 edition by Debbie Major on salt marsh lamb, for giving me the idea to pair garlic, citrus and herb-laden salsa verde with the rest of my dish. Even better, I was able to use herbs from my stairwell herb garden in preparing the sauce.

So if you are looking for a flavour-packed lunch or dinner that balances spring fresh and carefully matured ingredients do give my recipe for mutton braised in sherry, garlic and rosemary, with char-grilled asparagus and salsa verde a go. You taste buds won’t be disappointed.

Serves 2 (ingredients can be multiplied up to feed more).


For the meat:

  • Neck of mutton joints (allow around 250g per person)
  • 1 or 2 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped (to taste)
  • A couple of large sprigs of rosemary, leaves removed from stems and finely chopped
  • A large-sized glass of dry sherry – a good quality Fino would be ideal
  • 2tbsp of olive oil for frying
  • Salt and pepper to season.

For the asparagus:

  • 1 bunch of British asparagus
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to season.

For the salsa verde:

  • 1 fat garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • A bunch of fresh mint leaves (about 20g) roughly chopped
  • Small bunch of flat leaf parsley (about 10g) roughly chopped
  • 2tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1tsp Dijon mustard
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • A good glug of olive oil – 50-100ml, depending on taste.

Preparation and cooking

Neck of mutton:

  1. Preheat your oven to 140 degrees Celsius.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan, over a medium heat. Remove the mutton from any packaging and season with salt and pepper. Brown the meat on all sides in the frying pan, and remove to a plate.
  3. Place a heavy, lidded casserole pan over a medium heat and add the sherry. Whilst it is resting on the plate, cover the mutton with the garlic and rosemary. Transfer the meat and any remaining garlic and herbs to the casserole and bring to a simmer for a minute or two, to boil off the alcohol from the sherry.
  4. Tightly cover the casserole pan with a sheet of aluminium foil (to ensure a good seal) and then put the lid on top. Place in the oven for between 3 and 4 hours – depending on the size of your mutton joints – until “fall apart” tender.


  1. About 20 minutes before the mutton is ready, heat a griddle pan on a high heat so that is comes up to a temperature to allow char-grilling.
  2. Trim any woody ends from the base of the asparagus spears. Pour the olive oil onto a backing tray and season with salt and pepper. Roll the asparagus in the seasoned oil, until well coated.
  3. When the griddle is blisteringly hot, put on spears and cook for a few minute each side, until the asparagus is tender with charred lines.

Salsa verde:

  1. Place the garlic, herbs and capers on a chopping board and chop these into a course paste.
  2. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the lemon juice, mustard and sufficient olive oil to make the mixture into a thick sauce.

Plate up the asparagus, mutton (add a couple of spoonfuls of the braising sauce to each serving), and add a good dollop of salsa verde.

baking/ cake/ Edinburgh/ polenta/ recipe

Recipe – Zesty lemon drizzle polenta cake

A lemon polenta cake in a cake tin
Deliciously zesty lemon polenta cake.

A thought entered my head the other day.  “I really must post more recipes on the blog that involve baking” is how the thought went.  Those of you who are regular followers of Scrumptious Scran will know from my “quaking baking” post that my control-freakery makes me a bit afraid of cooking bread, cakes and tarts.  I’m generally fine mixing the ingredients together, it’s when these riches have to be abandoned in the oven – a bit like a parent leaving a child on its first day at school – that I start to fret.  I mean, what if they just sit there without doing what’s expected of them?

Lemon polenta cake mixture in a cake tin.
Cake mixture in lined tin, ready for the oven.

I had mixed feelings a couple of weeks ago, when one of my work colleagues – who knew I was a food blogger – suggested I might want to contribute to a charity bake sale at work, in aid of Sport Relief.  Deep down, I knew this was the sort of challenge I needed to encourage me to have another bash at a baking recipe.  But what if the dish I produced was rubbish and nobody wanted to buy any of it?  Oh, the potential shame!  In order to avert such a disaster I would have to choose my recipe carefully, deciding upon something that was relatively simple to prepare, pretty foolproof to bake, AND that looked and tasted good.  It also occurred to me that it might be nice to produce something that wasn’t entirely based on flour, eggs, butter and sugar.

So, following a bit of anxious preparation and cooking last night, today I arrived at my work’s Sport Relief bake sale proudly clutching, what I at least thought, a pretty good looking lemon drizzle polenta cake.  A deep yellow disc made shiny by the addition of lemon syrup, not only did it look pleasing, it actually tasted pretty good – and that isn’t just my immodest opinion.  A number of my colleagues who purchased a slice of this unusual take on a sponge also pronounced it to be very tasty indeed.

By substituting polenta and almonds for flour, this cake has a firmer texture than traditional sponge, but is still light and moist.  The addition of the juice and zest of four lemons give it an intense citrus kick, which provides a great contrast to the nutty sweetness provided by the other ingredients.  But for me, the really alluring thing about this recipe is that it is so simple and straightforward execute. It could easily be made in advance of a dinner party, and turned into a really posh pudding through the addition of a fruit compote, or some decadently indulgent Pedro Ximénez sherry and raisin ice cream.  So even if you – like me – are not a natural baker, dust down your cake tins and do give this a try.

Thanks to Dove’s Farm for originally posting this recipe on their website.


  • 150g unsalted butter.
  • 150g castor sugar.
  • 3 large eggs.
  • 75g ground almonds.
  • 75g medium ground polenta.
  • 4 lemons, zested and juiced.
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder.
  • 50g sugar.

Preparation and cooking

  1. Preheat your oven to 170C/Fan 150C.
  2. Oil a 20cm cake tin and line it with baking parchment – I prefer silicon coated.
  3. Beat the butter – take it out the fridge in advance to ensure it is soft enough – and 150g of sugar together until smooth, pale and light.
  4. Beat the eggs into the mixture, one at a time.
  5. Mix in the ground almonds and baking powder.
  6. Stir in all of the lemon zest and half the lemon juice.
  7. Gently stir the polenta into the mixture
  8. Spoon the mixture into the lined cake tin so it forms an even layer.
  9. Bake for 40-45 minutes until firm and golden.  Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the tin.
  10. Put the remaining lemon juice into a saucepan with 50g sugar.
  11. Boil gently, stirring regularly, for around 5 minutes, until a thick syrup is formed.
  12. Poor the syrup of the surface of the cake, and allow to fully cool before removing from the tin.
beef/ beer/ Belgium/ Carbonade Flamande/ casserole/ recipe

Recipe: Bravo Belgium! – Carbonade flamande, or Belgian-style beef and beer casserole

A pot of carbonade flamanade - Belgian beef and beer casserole.
Flaming tasty – Carbonade flamanade ready to eat.

It’s nearly the middle of March, so as a “foodie” I suppose I really should be clambering to the likes of Edinburgh Farmer’s Market to fill my bags with early spring vegetables in order to cook a recipe that’s both fresh and tasty. Well that’s all well and good in theory, but whilst southern England may have been basking in double digit temperatures last Saturday, in Scotland it certainly didn’t feel very spring-like. Consequently my yearning for comfort food continues, meaning that last weekend I decided to draw inspiration for dinner from the Low Countries – Belgium to be precise.

Softening carrot, onion and celery by frying.
Sweating the veg until soft.

Belgium has a surprisingly varied and rich cuisine, featuring really great meat, fish and vegetable dishes that often have overtones of influence from neighbouring cultures and countries. I’ve heard it joked that Belgium food combines the straightforwardness of the Dutch, the portion control of the Germans, and the cooking skill of the French. We all know that, in terms of food and drink, Belgium is particularly famous for three things: fries (frieten/frites); chocolate; and beer. What might not be so obvious however it that the Belgians have not only mastered the art of producing a fantastic range of excellent beers, but also cooking with beer as well.

Chunks of beef shin coated in seasoned flour.
Chunks of beef shin coated in seasoned flour.

Ample chunks of shin of beef, combined with complementary vegetables and a few herbs and spices, and simmered slow and long in a bitter-sour-malty beer. This is basically carbonade flamande (or in Flemish, stoverij or stoofvlees, which sounds pretty close to the Scottish “stovies”), often described as Belgium’s “true national dish”. It is a sumptuous casserole where a tough cut of meat softens superbly – through slow cooking – and melds its flavours with the acidic-sweetness of the hoppy beer and aromatic vegetables to produce a rich gravy. It’s both splendid and really simple to prepare.

Chunks of beef frying in a pan.
Beautifully browned beef shin chunks.

Over the last few decades in the UK we have become pretty well accustomed with using wine as an ingredient in our cooking, and there is nothing wrong with that. Yet such culinary influence comes from Southern Europe, and we – like the Belgians, Dutch and Scandinavians – are historically northern European in cultural terms. We share the fact that beer has long been our alcoholic tipple of choice. So why not go a bit Flemish and cook, as well as sup, with this smashing malty-hoppy ingredient?

Serve carbonade flamande with mashed potato, or even better, just-fried frites. Thank you Belgium!

Bubbling beef and beer casserole.
Bubbling beef and beer casserole.
Together with sides, this dish should easily serve four people.


  • 800g of stewing steak – preferably shin of beef – with any excess fat and sinew removed, and cut into 2-3cm chunks.
  • 1 large onion, peeled and medium sliced.
  • 2 large sticks of celery – medium sliced.
  • 1 medium-large carrot, scrubbed and cut in large-ish chunks.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed.
  • Olive oil for frying.
  • 2 bay leaves, fresh if available.
  • 2 large sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from stalks.
  • 2 tablespoons, or so, of plain flour (enough to coat the beef).
  • 1 teaspoon of hot, smoked paprika.
  • 1 teaspoon of redcurrant or cranberry jelly.
  • Around 500 ml of brown Belgian beer (such as Leffe Brune) or a good quality, local, dark, hoppy ale.
  • Salt and pepper.
Preparation and cooking

  1. Preheat your oven to 140 degrees Celsius.
  2. In a medium to large, lidded casserole dish heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over a medium heat. Add a pinch of salt (this helps stop the onion catching). Add the chopped onion, carrot and celery, stir and fry for five minutes, then add the crushed garlic and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the flour, smoked paprika and a good pinch of salt and pepper to a lidded plastic storage container, big enough to hold the beef chunks, and mix together. Add the beef to the container, securely attach the lid and give a good shake to thoroughly coat the beef with the flour mixture.
  4. Heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and add a good glug of olive oil – about a couple of tablespoons. When the oil is hot, add the floured chunks of beef and brown on all sides. You may need to do this in batches to avoid overfilling the frying pan, in which case the meat will steam instead of sear.
  5. When browned, add the beef to the casserole dish containing the softening vegetables, and stir. Turn up the heat to high and throw in the bay leaves and thyme and then carefully pour in the beer – BE CAREFUL, it will bubble and steam fiercely at first.
  6. Stir in the redcurrant jelly, and allow the ingredients to come to the boil and then simmer for about five minutes to let most of the alcohol from the beer to evaporate.
  7. Cover the casserole dish with its lid then place in the oven for at least three hours, until the meat is so tender it is possible to break up a chunk of the beef with a fork. 
  8. The slow cooking, together with the flour coating on the beef, such have produced a thick beer gravy. However, if you prefer a thicker sauce remove the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon and place in warmed dish in a low oven, whilst rapidly simmering the gravy until it reaches the desired consistency. Return the beef and vegetables to the gravy, check and adjust the seasoning and serve.
blog/ food/ ham hock/ recipe/ soup/ split peas

Recipe: Peas please me, and ham it up too! – Split pea and ham hock soup

A bowl of pea and ham soup
Pea and ham soup – a real winter warmer.

In my last review on Scrumptious Scran – for the excellent The Apiary bistro – I mentioned how, at the end of a long winter, we often need something comforting (food-wise) to provide a bit of cheer. Spring, may be about to bring us warmer days and the year’s first crop of fresh produce, but even March can have a wintry sting in its tail.

When we can now skip to the supermarket to purchase out-of-season asparagus jetted in from South America, or fresh tomatoes grown at any time of year, it’s easy to forget that historically during this season people would mostly be cooking with produce harvested the preceding year, and preserved to last through the winter. Personally speaking I think that some of the best comfort food to be made uses these preserved ingredients, and a fine example of this can be found in a steaming-hot bowl of split pea and smoked ham hock soup.

Split peas, vegetables and herbs in a pan about to be boiled.
Split peas and flavourings about to be cooked.

There’s something truly lovely about the look of this deep khaki-green concoction, punctuated with pink flecks of meat. But if it looks good, it tastes event better. Drying the peas imparts a really earthy mellowness to them, totally different to the taste of these legumes when fresh out the pod. By salting, then smoking the hock (or hough), the rich meaty flavour of this cut is further enhanced and transformed to yield (once simmered for a couple of hours) tenderly smoky, almost gamey meat. The further addition of good quality stock and some complimentary herbs and spices all combine to produce a splendidly tasty and filling dish. And what’s more, given that the ingredients are usually pretty cheap, it makes for an economical meal, too.

Smoked ham hough (hock) simmering in a pan.
Splendid simmering smoked ham hock (hough).

Now it occurred to me that though this is a traditional dish, it isn’t one that can be enjoyed by non-meat eaters. However, I did think that the recipe could be adapted, leaving out the smoked ham and substituting in its place a couple of (rehydrated) dried sweet peppers, together with a teaspoon or two of smoked pimentón (paprika). This should provide a complimentary contrast in texture to the peas, together with an intense, smoke-tinged flavour. I’d be interested to hear back from anyone who tries the vegetarian alternative, but in the meantime I give you my own take on this scrumptious, winter warmer (with split peas and ham hock).

  • 1 smoked ham hock of good quality – I tend to use those from Simon Howie.
  • 500g packet of green split peas, soaked in water overnight.
  • 2 small onions, peeled.
  • A large carrot, scrubbed and chopped into large chunks.
  • 3 bay leaves – fresh if you can get them.
  • 4 cloves.
  • A couple of sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from stalks.
  • About 1.5 litres of chicken or vegetable stock.
  • Salt and pepper.

Preparation and cooking

  1. Place the ham hock in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Place in the fridge and soak for 24 hours – changing the water a couple of times – to remove excess salt resulting from the curing process.
  2. Drain the ham hock and place in a large pan and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer for an hour and a half or so, until the meat is “fall off the bone” tender. Remove and set aside until the joint is cool enough to handle.
  3. Stud the onions with two cloves each. Place in a large pan together with the pre-soaked split peas, carrots and bay leaves. Cover with the stock (add a little more water if necessary) and bring to the boil. With a slotted spoon, remove any foam that rises to the surface. Turn down the heat and simmer the peas until soft (about an hour or so). When soft, remove the onions, carrots and bay leaves. Add the thyme leaves and either mash the peas, or puree with a hand blender if you prefer a smoother soup.
  4. When the hock is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and any excess fat. Using a couple of forks separate the flesh in strands, and then add to the pea puree. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper as required. If the soup is very thick add a little water, then heat through until just simmering and serve in warmed bowls, with fresh bread and butter as an accompaniment.

blog/ Edinburgh/ food/ haggis/ neeps/ recipe/ Robert Burns/ supper/ tatties/ whisky/ wine reduction

Recipe: Going for the Burns (supper) – A reconstructed take on haggis, neeps and tatties

Reconstructed Scottish classic – haggis, neeps & tatties.

This is set to be an interesting year for anyone living in Scotland – a county that has been my home for the majority of my adult life. Firstly, 2014 has been designated the year of Homecoming Scotland – a programme of events and activities showcasing all that’s great about Caledonia. Secondly, for sports fans there is golf’s Ryder Cup, and the excitement of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games – having experienced London 2012, I personally can’t wait. Oh, and there is September’s referendum on whether Scotland should become an independent nation again, which will have repercussions, whatever the result…

It’s somewhat appropriate then, given that this is such a big Scottish year, that a Burns supper was my first celebratory meal of 2014. For those not familiar, Robert (or Rabbie) Burns is Scotland’s national bard, an 18th century poet, writer and lyricist, claimed as an inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism, and author of works that include A Man’s A Man For A’ That and Auld Lang Syne. Burns suppers are traditionally held each 25 January to mark the poet’s birthday and celebrate his life and work.

A Burns supper may vary from formal to casual, but will almost always have three elements in common: the reciting of Burns’ poems at some point in proceedings; the partaking of a “nip” or two of Scotch whisky; and a main course that consists of haggis, neeps (bashed turnips or swedes) and tatties (mashed potatoes). This is very traditional Scottish fare, historically eaten by people of limited means. The vegetables used were cheap and plentiful, and haggis consists of lamb offal – usually liver, lungs and heart – mixed with oatmeal, onion, suet and spices, all encased in a sheep’s stomach and simmered in water.

Chieftain of the pudding race ready for cooking.

Haggis might not sound appetising to everyone but it is the original “nose to tail” food, and tastes delicious. And these days, equally tasty vegetarian versions of the “chieftain of the pudding race” – as Burns called the dish – are readily available. This got me thinking that tradition is great, but tastes evolve and progress. Scotland’s culinary scene is now very different – and dare I say much more diverse and sophisticated – to how it was even a couple of decades ago. So why not try a reconstructed take on haggis, neeps and tatties for Burns night or indeed any other dinner that takes one’s fancy?

 So I give you a stack of whisky infused haggis and crushed neeps with chilli and sage butter, topped with a garlic and thyme flavoured fondant potato, and served with stock and red wine reduction.  At the risk of appearing immodest, it tastes as good as it looks. As Burns so eloquently put it, in Address to a Haggis.

And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin’, rich!

Oh, and remember – you don’t have to limit haggis, neeps and tatties only to Burns night. It’s a great dish for any autumn or winter evening…

Recipe will feed two people generously.


  • One small haggis (either meat-based or vegetarian) of good quality, such as those made by MacSween or Simon Howie
  • 1 small, or half a large, turnip (swede) peeled and cut into 1-2cm cubes
  • 1 very large or two large potatoes, peeled
  • A few fresh sage leaves, lightly crushed
  • 1 red chilli – deseeded if you prefer less heat – finely sliced
  • 250ml of good quality chicken or vegetable stock (for the fondant potatoes)
  • Around 400ml of good quality beef or vegetable stock (for the reduction)
  • A large glass of decent red wine – about 250ml – if you wouldn’t drink it don’t cook with it, is my rule!
  • Unsalted butter – for frying the potatoes and adding to the ‘neeps.
  • A good nip of decent whisky – see guidance on wine (above)
  • A couple of cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
  • A couple of sprigs of thyme
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste.

Preparation and cooking

  1. Cook the haggis as per the maker’s instructions – I always think traditional simmering is better than microwaving, even if this takes longer.
  2. Place the turnip (swede) chunks into a saucepan, fill with water and add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and cover, cooking until the chunks become tender (about 10-15 minutes should do it).
  3. Whilst the turnips are cooking gently melt a good chunk of butter (about 30-50g) in a saucepan and when this begins to foam add the crushed sage. Turn off the heat. Now add the chilli to the butter and sage, swirling the mixture around for a few seconds, and set aside.
  4. To prepare the fondant potatoes trim the top and bottom off the peeled spud(s) and cut out two round shapes about three or four centimetres thick – a cookie cutter can help with this and if you want to be really “cheffie” trim off (turn) the edges to make a bevelled shape. Set aside in a bowl of cold water with a squeeze of lemon until ready to cook.
  5. Once the turnips are cooked drain them and add the sage and chilli butter – having first removed the sage leaves. Mash until getting towards smooth but still with a bit of texture (you are not looking for a cream). Season to taste and set aside until the haggis is ready.
  6. When the haggis is cooked remove the minced contents from the surrounding casing and place in a bowl. Pour in the nip of whisky and stir into the haggis “meat”. If it is a decent specimen, it will need no further seasoning.
  7. Lightly oil a non-stick baking tray/sheet and the inside of two cooking rings – around 10cm in width and 6cm tall. Place the rings on the baking sheet, divide the haggis between each of them, and firm down with the back of a spoon. 
  8. Next divide the crushed neeps between the rings, to form a layer on top of the haggis. Firm down and smooth the top surface. Brush with a little melted butter. Put the stacks into a preheated oven to 170 degrees Celsius for around 25mins, until thoroughly warmed through.
  9. Put the stock and wine for the reduction in a saucepan and place on a high heat. On a fast simmer reduce until 2/3 of the liquid has evaporated. Keep an eye on it and turn off the heat, and re-warm before serving, if the reduction is quick. You should be after a moderately thick, silky sauce.
  10. Melt a good lump of butter in a medium size frying or sauté pan, over a medium heat. Drain the potatoes and pat dry. When the butter is foaming put the fondants in the pan and fry for around five minutes until the side in contact with the pan becomes golden. 
  11. Turn over the potatoes and fry for a further five minutes – or so – until the other side is also golden. Add the stock, followed by garlic and thyme, cover and simmer until the potatoes become tender. Keep warm.
  12. When the haggis and neeps stacks are ready, carefully remove them from the cooking ring and place each one on the centre of a warmed dinner plate. Arrange a warm fondant potato on top of each stack. 
  13. Spoon a generous serving of the wine and stock reduction around each stack, and serve.

Although traditionally haggis, neeps and tatties are served on their own, they go well with green vegetables, such as the braised leeks that accompanied my take on the dish.

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