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Saturday, 24 September 2011

Shortbread for the weekend

Holly makes the best shortbread and I asked her to share her secrets and her recipe here. You can check out other wonderful things she makes and her quest to feather her nest over on her blog. In fact, make some shortbread, grab a tea, coffee, whisky or wine and click here.



Ready to bake.

Ready to eat.

I have tried many different shortbread recipes in the past, but this one is by far the tastiest. It is adapted from a recipe by Anta who serve up big mugs of tea and generous portions of cakes and biscuits at their Highland showroom in Fearn...definitely worth a visit if you're ever on the north-east coast!

Since I began using this recipe it has been baked in heart shapes to celebrate weddings and engagements, in
holly leaf shapes to be given as Christmas presents, and in sweet little rounds just to be enjoyed at home.

To make 25-30 small biscuits, you will need:

8oz butter - I use salted
3 and a half oz caster sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
3 and a half oz corn flour
8oz plain flour
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 150C. Grease and line a baking tray or two.
Mix together the butter and sugar.
Mix in the corn flour.
Mix in the plain flour and pinch of salt.

My mixer is not very good, and there is a lot of flour, so I have to use my hands towards the end to bring the mixture together. But once you have a soft, but not sticky, dough, flour a work surface and roll out to a depth of about 2cm.

Cut into any shapes you like and use a fork to prick holes in the tops.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Transfer to a cooling rack, and while still warm sprinkle with caster sugar (the heat will make the sugar stick to the tops and in the holes you made with the fork).

Enjoy with tea, coffee, whisky, sweet wine, the list is endless - this shortbread goes with everything!

*Step by step photos by Holly except for the ready to eat shot which is mine!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Canapes for ladies

When ladies gather, this time to mark a retirement, it's an occasion worthy of some delectable bites.
Hot smoked salmon mousse on homemade buttery oat biscuits.

Prawn, cucumber ribbon and mint spoons.

Pea and Pecorino toasts.

Brioche toasts, chicken liver pate and nectarine pickle.

Party pieces - Scottish fruit skewers with chocolate coated blueberries.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Rosemary spiced nuts

We love nibbling on nuts but plain nuts can be a bit predictable so, for E's Christening, we thought we'd try something a little sweet and spicy. They taste delicious and we're already planning on making them throughout Autumn (it's arrived here) and as Christmas gifts too (yes, I did just say that), they go very well with a cheese board.

You will need:

150g pecans
150g almonds
150g walnuts
1 tablespoon butter, melted
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon sea salt flakes

What to do:

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Put the nuts in a large bowl.
Melt the butter, pour over the nuts and mix so that they are coated.

Spread the nuts onto a baking tray or two.
Bake until golden (probably around six minutes but keep an eye on them every couple of minutes and turn/shake them to prevent burning).
Combine the rosemary, dark brown sugar, cayenne pepper and salt flakes in a large bowl, add the toasted nuts and mix well.

Serves ten for nibbles only but as these are incredibly moreish and keep well in an airtight container, it's safe to make double quantities. Enjoy and if you're a fan you should also try this recipe for chai spiced almonds, another perfect cold weather snack.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Simple supper

I was looking for a very quick Tuesday tea featuring some delicious home grown rhubarb. A brief leaf through Nigel Slater's pages and I decided on a roasted rhubarb and pan fried mackerel combination, served with cous cous to allow the stronger flavours voice across the palate. There's no recipe, it was very simple but it worked (and was probably quicker than a more usual Tuesday pasta dish).

Being filleted in wonderful Armstrongs.

Simply picked, washed and chopped.

Ta da!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The happiest of birthdays

To celebrate my birthday, I was whisked away to North Berwick harbour for the yummiest feast at The Lobster Shack . If you can drive there don't delay or plan a visit from further afield, it's open until 2nd October (12-6pm) and the combination of the freshest shellfish, excellent cooking and presentation, the wine list (including champagne), views and the casual atmosphere can't fail to impress.

From nature...

...to plate (of sorts).

The harbour.

The shack.

And finally, to finish of the trip, a stroll on the beach and an ice cream. E's tiny toes experienced sand and icey sea for the first time. Happy birthday to me.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Festival canapes

Back when The Festival was in full swing, we found a corner of calm among the glistening, bright shelves of sweet smelling bottles to present some Scottish canapes and escape the hustle and bustle in favour of some pampering. We met some lovely ladies too.

Dunsyre blue cheese mousse on homemade buttery oat biscuits.

Scottish berry skewers with milk chocolate drizzle.

Northern shores hot smoked salmon, mousse on home made buttery oat biscuits.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Vegetarian "wellingtons" by Chris

What's hiding in these pale parcels you may ask?*

A sweet, herby mixture of aubergine and puy lentils.

Adapted by Chris from Yotam Ottolenghi with the idea of creating a vegetarian wellington as an alternative to these.

Makes two main course sized parcels or four starter sized.

You will need:

2 medium aubergines

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

200g Puy lentils

3 carrots

2 celery sticks

1 bay leaf

3 thyme sprigs

1 onion

Olive oil

12 cherry tomatoes (halved)

1 tsp brown sugar

Chopped parsley

Puff pastry

Grill the aubergines and turn them frequently to prevent them burning. After about 45 minutes they should be ready.

Remove their skins, and scoop out flesh into a colander. Leave to drain, transfer to a bowl and mix in some of the red wine vinegar. Allow to cool.

Cook the Puy lentils with one of the carrots and one stick of celery, the onion and bay - keep in large chunks as these will be removed.

Cook for 20 mins or according to instructions then drain and remove onion, celery, carrot and bay. Mix through olive oil and vinegar.

Cut the remaining veg into 1cm cubes and mix with tomatoes, oil, sugar and salt.

Mix this cubed veg with the aubergines and lentils in a bowl, it should be moist but not too runny otherwise it will soak through the pastry.

Using puff pastry (homemade or bought) spoon the filling onto the pastry and make into parcels using an egg wash to seal and glaze.

Bake in the oven for 25 mins at 180c until the pasty pastry turns crisp and golden.

Serve with a crisp green salad and crème fraiche or a wedding style picnic should you feel the need.

*Sorry, I only managed a before shot.

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