Browsing Category


asparagus/ broad beans/ monkfish/ recipe/ salsa verde/ tomatoes

Recipe: Spring fresh – Sautéed monkfish cheeks, with salsa verde, and asparagus and broad bean salad

Sauteed monkfish cheeks with salsa verde.
Green and tasty.

For me, spring is one of my favourite times for cooking with seasonal produce. Don’t get me wrong, I also love autumn for its rich abundance of fruit, vegetables, fish and meat. Yet after a long winter – where the choice of fresh produce can be limited – there is something revitalising about being able to once again cook with a harvest of fresh, green ingredients.

So having purchased some “just from the sea” fresh monkfish cheeks from Clark Brothers fishmongers, I decided to keep things clean-tasting by simply sautéing the fish and pairing it with a salad of spring vegetables and vibrant green salsa verde. This classic, Italian sauce makes a great accompaniment for meat and fish, with the fresh flavours of the parsley and basil being complimented by savoury background tones provided by the capers and anchovy, and the acidity of the lemon juice.

For the salad, I turned once again to British asparagus – I always try and make the most of this vegetable during its all too short season – matching this with the first of this season’s tender broad beans, and roast baby plum tomatoes. I also added a few toasted walnuts to provide some crunch and flavour contrast to the zippy freshness of the other salad ingredients.

With all those fresh flavours this certainly is a recipe that should put a spring to anyone’s step.

(This recipe should serve four as a substantial lunch or light supper)


Salsa verde

  • A few leaves of fresh wild garlic, finely sliced, or one clove of garlic, crushed
  • A bunch of basil leaves – a good handful
  • A bunch of flat leaf parsley – also a good handful
  • 5 or 6 tinned anchovy fillets
  • A teaspoon of capers – drained of brine or washed of salt
  • A good squeeze of lemon – around a tablespoon, to taste
  • Half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard (optional).
  • Olive oil – good quality extra virgin
  • Ground pepper, and salt.


  • A large bunch, or two smaller bunches, of British asparagus
  • A good cupful of broad beans, podded and outer skins removed 
  • Around a dozen baby plum or cherry tomatoes, more if preferred, halved
  • A handful of walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • Around 45ml of good quality balsamic vinegar
  • Around 50ml extra virgin olive oil – sufficient to make a vinaigrette with the vinegar
  • Half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.


  • Half a kilogram of monkfish cheeks, rinsed, dried and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper.
  • Two cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • Olive oil for shallow frying.

Preparation and cooking

  1. Start by preparing the salsa verde by coarsely chopping the parsley and basil.
  2. Place the herbs in a food processor and add the garlic, capers and anchovies (if you don’t have a food processor, continue chopping these ingredients until finely chopped, then place in a bowl).
  3. Add the lemon juice and mustard and whilst whisking/whizzing drizzle in the olive oil until a thick, shiny sauce forms. If using a food processor, be careful not to overdo it!
  4. When the sauce has formed, check the seasoning – due to the salt in the anchovies and capers, you may only need to add pepper. Transfer to the fridge until ready to plate up.
  5. In a large saucepan, bring sufficient salted water to cover the asparagus to the boil.
  6. Trim the ends from the asparagus spears and cut stems into thirds. Place in the boiling water and cook until the asparagus just turns tender. Drain and refresh the spears in cold water to stop them cooking further.
  7. Preheat an oven to around 180 degrees Celsius. Drizzle a little olive oil onto a roasting tray. Place the tomatoes on the tray and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and allow to roast until just soft – this should take around eight to 10 minutes depending on the size of the tomatoes, but do keep an eye on them to ensure they do not overcook.
  8. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the broad beans until they are just turn tender – if they are small this will be a matter of just a few minutes. Drain and refresh with cold water to prevent further cooking. 
  9. In a heavy based frying pan dry toast the walnuts for a couple of minutes, then set aside.
  10. In a small saucepan, place the balsamic vinegar over a medium heat and reduce by half – this intensifies the flavour and means less oil is required to make the dressing.
  11. When cooled, add the Dijon mustard to the vinegar and whisk in sufficient olive oil to create a smooth vinaigrette – season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  12. Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat and add sufficient olive oil for shallow frying. Add the whole, skin-on garlic cloves and move around the pan occasionally for a few minutes, so that the oil becomes flavoured. Do not let the garlic burn, as this will make the oil bitter. Remove the garlic cloves.
  13. Fry the monkfish cheeks – in batches if necessary – until slightly golden on each side and just cooked on the inside. As the cheek meat is not too thick, this should only take a few minutes. Cover the fried cheeks with foil and keep warm while the salad is assembled.
  14. In a bowl, combine the asparagus, broad beans and walnuts, pour over ¾ of the vinaigrette and toss. Divide the salad between each of the serving plates and place the roast tomatoes on top, drizzling these with the remaining dressing.
  15. Place a portion of the monkfish cheeks on each serving plate and spoon a generous serving of the salsa verde next to these.
  16. Serve, placing the remaining salsa verde in a dish on the table.

asparagus/ crab/ recipe/ tart/ Valentine Warner

Recipe: Quaking baking – Crab and asparagus tart

Crab and asparagus tart.
Crab and asparagus tart with a crisp green salad.

I have a confession – possibly a shocking one, for a foodie. I’m a bit nervous when it comes to baking. With the popularity of the likes of The Great British Bake Off, it might appear a bit strange that an alleged foodie is intimidated by making bread and cakes; baking is so in vogue, after all.

Given my upbringing, this shouldn’t really be the case. My grandmother was a fantastic baker. She lived right next to my primary school, and I would always call round on the way home to be greeted by the smell of cupcakes fresh out of the oven, or – my particular favourite – a slice of freshly cooked apple pie. And this being the 1970s there was no resorting to packet cake mixes or pre-prepared pastry. My gran made everything by hand in a tiny kitchen, and without the assistance of a food processor.

Given how much I love cooking I don’t know why baking causes me such trepidation. Maybe it’s the control freak in me. Whereas with a casserole, roast or risotto you can keep checking how things are progressing; basting here, adjusting the seasoning there, but with baking it’s much more of a leap of faith. Ingredients are assembled, in common with any recipe, but bear little resemblance to how the finished dish should turn out, and there is no opportunity to sample and adjust things once the bread, cake, or tart is dispatched to the oven for the heat to work its alchemy.

So I thought it was time I pushed my cooking envelope, as it were, and did a wee bit of baking for the blog. Also, as my recipes to date have been pretty carnivorous, I also thought I would cook a shellfish and vegetable-based dish, proving to my pescatarian friend Christine – the women behind the excellent Vegemite on Oatcakes foodie blog – that my cooking isn’t just about meat.

Sticking to my guns in terms of trying to use seasonal ingredients wherever possible, I decided to have a bash at Valentine Warner’s mouth-watering recipe for crab and asparagus tart. All ingredients were purchased from Edinburgh Farmers’ Market (bar the flour and butter for the short crust pastry) – see my previous post for a spotlight on suppliers. For a vegetarian alternative, the crab could be substituted for a flavoursome, but not too sharp, cheese such as Emmental. This will complement the asparagus without overwhelming it.

So was my baking apprehension justified? Well, combined with a green salad the tart was delicious, with sweet/savory crab and the fresh – yet earthy – asparagus being perfect partners. So much so that the slice I had earmarked for today’s lunch was snaffled by my other half. Maybe I should bake more often…


  • 300g shortcrust pastry or 1 packet ready made
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 bundles of British asparagus
  • 50g /2 oz butter
  • 1 small onion very finely chopped
  • 1½ tsp tomato puree
  • 1 generous tsp Dijon mustard
  • 300g / 9 oz soft fresh brown crab meat
  • 300ml / 1 ¼ cups single cream
  • 2 medium eggs, free range
  • A heavy grind of black pepper & salt to taste (I also added a pinch of smoked paprika)

Preparation and cooking

  1. You will need 25cm /10 inch loose bottom tart case
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/ 375°F Roll out out the pastry into a thin sheet large enough to line the tart case. Lay the pastry into the tin allowing any excess to hang over the edge.
  3. Screw up a a sheet of baking paper and lay on the pastry in the tart tin. Cover with baking beans to weigh the pastry down.
  4. Place on a baking sheet and cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Remove the paper and beans and cook the tart case for a further 5 – 6 minutes to crisp the pastry bottom. Remove from the oven and while the pastry is hot paint the entire case with the beaten egg. Using a sharp knife trim the excess pastry from the tart rim.
  6. Cut the asparagus spears in half and drop into boiling salted water, as soon as the water comes back to the boil cook for exactly 1 ½ minutes. Drain, cool in cold water, drain again and dry thoroughly in a tea towel.
  7. Melt the butter into a saucepan, add the onions and cook gently until soft and golden brown (about 10 minutes). Stir in the tomato puree and mustard then cook gently for a minute or so more. Finally, add the brown crab meat, the cream, salt & pepper, and stir it all together Remove from the heat and while continuously beating, break in the 2 remaining eggs, beat in well. Leave to one side.
  8. Scatter the asparagus into the pastry case, pour the filling over and carefully return the tart to the oven & cook for approx 25-30 minutes.The tart is nearly done when you give the tray a little shake and the filling wobbles slightly in the middle. It is important to take the tart out at this time as it will go on cooking, you want the filling soft rather than overset.
  9. Serve warm, or at room temperature, lovely with a crisp green salad.
chicory/ Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall/ kidneys/ Moro/ offal/ recipe/ sherry/ Spanish/ venison

An offal-ly nice adventure – riñones al jerez (kidneys with sherry) with braised chicory

A glass of tasty sherry.
A nice glass of Amontillado.

Inspired by a recent Guardian article by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on both the sustainability, and fantastic flavours, associated with cooking offal, I decided to post about my own recent foray into using these cheap and versatile ingredients. Now I know offal isn’t for everyone – my other half included – but as Hugh astutely points out, “If we kill an animal for meat, surely it’s respectful to make the most of every scrap?”

Last weekend, with my offal-loathing other half out of town, I decided to swing by Edinburgh’s Farmers’ Market on the hunt for some under-used ingredients with which to cook. I was immediately drawn to some tasty looking venison kidneys on the stall of Fletcher’s of Auchtermuchty. Obviously, venison is a great sustainable, free range product and deer offal – such as the kidneys I plumbed for – has a deserved reputation for great flavour.

Having purchased the main offal ingredient for my supper, the next task was to decide what to pair this with. This was a straightforward choice. As I’ve previously mentioned, I am a big fan of Spanish food. My liking of Spanish cuisine has been significantly inspired by the cooking of London’s Moro restaurant, and their first cook book contains a simple yet delicious recipe for “Riñones al Jerez” – kidneys with sherry, to me and you.

Thankfully, gone are the days when – for many people – the word ‘sherry’ conjured up a mental picture of a dusty bottle of the sickly-sweet ‘cream’ variety, that only left the drinks cabinet at Christmas to provide a tipple for Great Aunt Agnes. For a useful beginner’s guide to how great and versatile sherry can be, check out Andrew Sinclair’s blog in The Guardian. For this recipe go for a dark, dry Oloroso, or slightly lighter, amber Amontillado, but in either case make sure the sherry is good quality.

Kidneys with sherry is a dish that is packed with big, bold, rich flavours and therefore needs an accompaniment that can hold its own and provide a nice counterpoint in terms of taste. A vegetable that really fits this bill is chicory. Though approaching the end of its growing season in April, it’s still possible to get decent specimens of this bitter-flavoured leafy veg, and it’s great braised in butter (which adds a nutty tone), a squeeze of lemon juice, and splash of apple juice (which together provide an accent of sweet and sour). The bitterness of the chicory will lessen and take on the flavour of the other ingredients during the course of a slow braise.

So, whether it be kidneys (or indeed any other offal), chicory, or sherry, why not give more common ingredients a day off and try something just a bit different?

Riñones al jerez (kidneys with sherry)
(thanks to Moro – the cookbook for this recipe)


  • 4-6 lambs or venison kidneys
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil 
  • ½ large Spanish onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 125ml dry oloroso/amontillado sherry
  • A sprinkling of sweet smoked Spanish paprika
  • Sea salt and black pepper

Preparation and cooking

Cover of "Moro: The Cookbook".
  1. The kidneys should come with the outer layer of fat removed. Remove any remaining external membrane, slice each kidney in half lengthways, and use a pair of scissors to snip away as much as the white gristle as possible. Then slice each kidney into bite-sized pieces (half or thirds depending on the size of each kidney.
  2. Heat the olive oil over a low to medium heat and fry the onion, stirring continually, until golden.
  3. Turn up the heat, add the garlic, and fry for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the kidneys and fry on all sides until sealed (but be careful not to let the garlic burn, or it will make the dish bitter).
  5. Season with salt and pepper and then add the sherry, reducing the heat immediately.
  6. Simmer for a minute or two to drive off the alcohol, but do not overcook – it is important that the kidneys are ever so slightly pink, tender and juicy in the middle when served.
  7. Check the seasoning and serve immediately with the braised chicory and some crusty fresh bread , to mop up the sauce.

Braised chicory


  • A good knob of unsalted butter (about 25g)
  • 2 chicory heads, cut in half along the length
  • Juice of half a lemon, combined with the same amount of water
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) of apple juice
  • A couple of sprigs of time
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation and cooking

  1. Melt the butter in a wide pan – with a lid – on a medium heat.
  2. When the foaming of the butter subsides, place the chicory in the pan with the cut side to the pan bottom.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and add the thyme and bay leaves.
  4. Cook for a few minutes then check to see if the underside of the chicory has started to turn golden.
  5. Add the lemon juice, water and apple juice, and place the lid on the pan, cooking for a further 15-20 minutes.
  6. Turn the chicory (carefully, as it will have softened) and finish cooking for a further couple of minutes, to ensure it had fully softened, without going mushy, then serve.
Chicory being sauted.
Chicory, about to be finished.


Recipe: “Hogget” the limelight – slow-cooked overwintered lamb with anchovy

Hogget (lamb) about to be slow cooked.
All ingredients in the pot – now to casserole!
The first four months of 2013 have been extremely tough for Scotland’s livestock farmers, as the unseasonably cold weather and heavy snow extending into, what should be, Spring has had a devastating impact on sheep and cattle herds. As recently reported in the Farmers’ Guardian, the situation is so dire it could even threaten the existence of what were previously financially robust farms.

It’s even more important, therefore, that the meat eaters amongst us do our bit to support Scottish livestock farmers by shunning imported products which can be found lining the meat counters of many supermarkets at this time of year, and instead buy quality meat reared in Scotland. Not only does domestically-reared produce taste great, it also doesn’t generate the “food miles” associated with importing beef from Argentina or lamb from New Zealand (see footnote).

Although it is still very early in the season for this year’s Scottish Spring lamb to be found at market, you can still pick up quality home-grown fare in the form of overwintered lamb – or hogget – which is usually between 12 and 18 months old. This tends to have a richer flavour and firmer texture than spring lamb, whilst not being as fatty as mutton (meat from sheep over two years old).

Lamb/hogget is a tremendously versatile meat, and can take a lot of flavours being thrown at it, without being overwhelmed – think, for instance, how well it stands up to the spices used in a tagine or saag ghosht. It might seem an unlikely pairing, but a great flavour accompaniment for lamb is anchovy. Yes, I did say anchovy!

Having picked up some overwintered lamb shank and neck fillet at the weekend, I decided to slow cook it in my own adaptation of a Nigel Slater recipe for lamb shanks with anchovy. As well as using neck fillet – together with some lamb bones to give the sauce even more flavour – I choose to use white wine, instead of red, for a lighter flavour note in the sauce, and also added thyme to the rosemary and bay leaves. This still gives a fantastically flavoursome sauce, where the addition of the fish brings out the full flavour of the meltingly tender meat, yet without adding an obviously fishy taste. Even my other half – who is usually not a big fan of anchovy – loved the dish, so why not give it a go? I’m convinced you’ll find this unusual surf and turf combination a winner.

The following recipe will provided two people with hearty portions.


  • 2 x over-wintered (hogget) lamb shanks, or 600-800 grams of neck fillet
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced or crushed
  • 4 anchovy fillets (they type from a tin or jar), chopped
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 250ml/8fl oz chicken or beef stock
  • 250ml/8fl oz white wine
  • A handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Preparation and cooking

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C/300F/Gas 4.
  2. Season the lamb shanks/neck with the pepper. Brown them in a casserole with a little olive oil.
  3. When the shanks are slightly browned add the roughly chopped onions and garlic. Chop up two of the anchovy fillets and add to the casserole. Take the rosemary and thyme leaves of the sprig stalks, if desired, and to the casserole together with the bay leaves. Then add the stock and the wine and bring to a simmer.
  4. When simmering, put the lid on and bake in the oven for two hours, with a little turn of the shanks halfway through.
  5. Remove the meat to a serving dish and leave to rest in a warm oven. The shank meat can be stripped from the bone at this stage, if desired. Slow cooking should make this very easy to do.
  6. Finish the sauce by adding two more chopped anchovies and a handful of chopped parsley. Bring the sauce to the boil, check the seasoning on then pour over the resting lamb meat and serve.

The dish is great accompanied by creamy mashed potato and steamed purple sprouting broccoli, or kale.

[Footnote: although some studies suggest New Zealand lamb is a sustainable product, the Canadian report Fighting Global Warming at the Farmer’s Market indicates that the greenhouse gases generated by transporting half a kilogram of NZ lamb into Canada are over a thousand times greater than transporting locally-reared lamb to market.]

Subscribe to receive email updates from Scrumptious Scran