Looking for the positives in this crises, I have noticed an increased interest in localism. When we first went into lock down, the supermarkets kept running out of things and it was the local corner shops who worked tirelessly to keep us supplied with all the basics. But it is not just them who have been working hard to accommodate covid. Here in Fife we are lucky enough to have a great network of superb farm shops and by their very nature being farms are also growing things. This, I believe has helped make people aware of what is grown here and when. I keep working away at my Celebrating Seasonal Fife project and it is great to see Pillars http://www.pillars.co.uk/ Bowhouse https://www.bowhousefife.com/ Ardross https://www.ardrossfarm.co.uk/index.php Blacketyside http://www.blacketysidefarm.co.uk/ Balgove https://www.balgove.com/ all making it work. Food form Fife has played it’s part and we as the consumer are keeping these wonderful places going. How lucky are we to live in Fife.
Like so many others, a lot of my business dried up during this year, all my events vanished and the various food tours and workshops I had booked with Cruise ships and American golf tour companies all gone. Out of the blue and through a friend of my wife’s I got a job as driver / cook! For a photo shoot in Italy. It was wonderful, but to cut a long story short on being shown round our villa the property manager said . “ there is the garden over there help yourself to whatever you like” so I did! October in Italy is like putting a child in a sweetie shop. I made tomato soup and sauces for pasta and pizza from the copious quantities on the vines. I used courgettes and aubergine in a sort of ratatouille and roast aubergine with the local olive oil in a dip. There were beans as well not to mention rosemary and pink peppercorns.
So I am going to focus on seasonality, ours is a little different from southern Italy! But none the less still exciting and fortunately I now have enough of my vegetable cook books to be able to choose dishes based on the season we are in.
So with Christmas over the horizon what better than to give a series of 6 vegetable cook books as a great present. There will always be a book “in season” Right now as we approach November roots are the thing , so here is a recipe for carrots
CHICKPEAS WITH CARROTS AND CHARD
A simple accompaniment for fish or lamb but a good dish on its own. You can use canned chickpeas to save time, but cooking them yourself with garlic adds great flavour!
100g dried chickpeas soaked in water overnight.
1 head of garlic
2 tblsp olive oil, plus more to dress
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Clove garlic, crushed, with a little sea salt
300g carrots, diced
Tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp tomato puree
200g chard, stalks removed and finely shredded
1 tblsp chopped mint
Hebridean sea salt and ground black pepper
1 Drain the chickpeas and put into a pan with the garlic head sliced in half through the middle; cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for an hour or so until tender.
2 Drain, remove the garlic, season with salt and pepper and a little olive oil.
3 Heat 2 tblsp olive oil in a pan and gently sweat the chopped onion to soften, add the crushed garlic, chard stalks and carrots and continue to cook for 10 minutes.
4 Stir in the tinned tomatoes and the puree, and cook to thicken slightly.
5 Tear up the chard leaves into manageable pieces and stir into the mixture with the mint; check for seasoning and add some more olive oil.
Oh and if any one is planning a photoshoot and needs a cook and a driver? I’m your man! Have skills will travel!! email@example.com
buy this book or all the books here https://christophertrotter.co.uk/shop/
Use your favourite sausage for this; it doesn’t need to be anything fancy just a good pork sausage. You can also add some spice like cumin or paprika, just after the garlic stage. Only peel the potatoes if the skins are particularly blemished or hard. Most of the nutrients are just under the skin which you lose if you peel it.
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 onion peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed
500g Ayrshire epicures cut in a chunky dice
Hebridean sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
1 Cook the sausages in the oven and cut into small chunks.
2 Separate the kale from the stalks and chop the stalks quite finely, and shred the leaves.
3 Take a frying pan and add the oil and sweat the onion with the kale stalks for a few minutes. Stir in the diced potatoes, and colour lightly. Add garlic , the salt and the shredded kale, stirring to coat.
4 Lower the heat and add the water and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes.
5 Remove the lid, raise the heat and add the sausages. The water will all evaporate; mix through thoroughly and check seasoning.
These sprouts appear in the spring but you can also use purple sprouting. The name Dragon was given to me by Archie McDiarmid of Luvians Bottle shop who suggested a great wine to go with it- Leitz Dragonstone Riesling; brilliant wine and who could resist Dragon Sprouts with Dragonstone? Indeed!
255g Dragon (kale) sprouts, trimmed
2 tbsp cold-pressed rapeseed oil
1 jar of Chillilicious chilli “shot”
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic sliced
2 tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp honey
1 Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the chilli shot and allow to cook, stirring for a few minutes.
2 Carefully add the vinegar and immediately throw in the sprouts and garlic. Stir-fry for a few minutes and then add the soy and honey. Check seasoning and serve.
Delicious on its own or with a pork dish.
I have just bought my seed potatoes in readiness for planting shortly and it made me think about the all the Fife connections to potatoes and how the IAD theme fits in. Well, needless to say you don’t need to look hard. In Auchtermuchty, there is a bronze plaque to Archibald Findlay who developed many potato varieties and helped feed a hungry nation during the first world war. Such Innovation is typical of a Fife farmer, as a result of his pioneering spirit other businesses linked to his potatoes grew up in Auchtermuchty.
So when you are visiting Fife call into Auchtermuchty not just for Jimmy Shand and the Reid Brothers but to see the building Findlay used to store his seed potatoes.
You will see “tattie” boxes all over Fife with the names of the farm or grower on their side. The steak barn at Balgove Larder is built with them!
So here is a recipe for you to use with this most fabulous healthy ingredient;
I have used Mayan Gold potatoes for this recipe but why not Innovate yourself and use a different variety maybe even one that Archibald Findlay developed. Pentland Dell and Maris Piper were both developed from his breeding stock.
4 large potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
A little cold pressed rape seed oil
Sea salt such as Hebridean
Set the oven to the 250C gas 9
Cut the potatoes into chunks lengthwise
Wash in cold water and dry on a t towel
Coat lightly in the oil and spread over a roasting tin and cook for about 30 minutes shaking occasionally until crisp and browned.
I really enjoy writing these little veg books because of the research I have to do and the discoveries I make about the vegetables. For instance Kale, my latest book really is the quintessential Scottish vegetable. Church bells in Edinburgh were named after it, as when they chimed at noon it was the signal for working people to go for their midday meal – probably of kale! The mothers of the children in Glasgow and Edinburgh tenements would call out to their bairns “ Come in for your Kale” meaning their meal and of course inevitably it would contain Kail or cabbage of some sort in a hearty broth, You got meat if you were lucky! Kale is the great vegetable which in the middle of January, in a snow drift and all else has failed in the garden it will be sticking up above the white carpet, its green black or red leaves glinting in the watery winter sun. Kale is obviously ubiquitous across Europe as the same plant has so many names; for instance the marketing boys got on the Cavolo Nero bandwagon pretty quick and this lovely almost black leaved kale sells for a premium in London delis Or try Lacianto or even Dinosaur its all the same, simply Black kale!
Since the first book Beetroot the process has simplified, I choose a vegetable usually after much discussion with friends and then in the winter early spring set to on the research and writing. Then comes the photographs and I am so lucky having Caroline as my wife as her food images just bring my simple food alive. People say that the picture makes you want to reach in to the books and pick up a piece of what ever it is. Others say it just makes them want to go straight into the kitchen and have a go. We try to do 4 or 5 in a shoot and Caroline uses only natural light and we are lucky where we are as her studio has large south facing windows and on good days we even go outside! The variety of back drop is important but the main ingredient is her skill at capturing the right angle and composition. It’s a lot of fun!
Whatever your reaction I am just delighted that more people are being a bit more adventurous with their vegetables. The recipes are not designed to be closed but to open up your imaginations to remembered flavours and to experiment. Once you have a technique or two then you can go ahead and experiment, what’s the worst that can happen? You make soup!! The important thing is to understand the seasons buy fresh and locally and get into that kitchen, and share some good food. I don’t really have a favourite but here is a seasonal idea – with pheasant! Here is the recipe!
BRAISED PHEASANT BREAST WITH KALE AND PUY LENTILS
Kale is really good with big flavours and provides colour in what might otherwise be a dull-looking dish.
200g puy lentils
2 tsp vegetable oil
4 pheasant breasts
2 tsp butter
1 onion peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
2 sticks celery, cut to a small dice
2 medium carrots, cut to a small dice
200g kale roughly chopped
½ tsp Hebridean salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Rinse the lentils in cold water and then place in a pan and cover with water bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, drain and set aside.
2 Take a liddable pan and set it over a medium heat and add the oil. Dry the pheasant breasts on kitchen paper and brown on both sides, raising the heat as needed; remove and set aside.
3 Lower the heat, add the butter and the chopped onion, sweat gently to colour a little and then stir in the garlic, celery and carrots, add the lentils and water, enough to cover. Place the pheasant on top and cover. Cook gently until the water almost evaporates.
4 Take out the pheasant; stir in the kale to wilt, and cook for a few minutes. Season with a little salt and pepper. Serve with the pheasant on top.
August is here and the summer is pushing on, It’s been a busy time with cooking classes both here and in people’s homes. and food tours in Fife and Perthshire. I will be in Loch Lomond on Saturday 29th August again, hope to see you there.
One of my favourite foods at this time of year is a proper gigot chop, a lovely piece of meat from the leg with the bone still in the middle helping keep the moisture and flavour in. On a barbecue its great but of course make sure that you buy Scottish lamb. The flavour is much better.
Simply dry the chops well with kitchen paper and rub with some olive oil, ideally if you have time, leave them in some oil with crushed rosemary for about 20 minutes
To cook; season lightly and place on the hot part of the grill and sear on both sides. Then over a reduced, less fierce heat, cook for a few more minutes. Then lastly position upright to cook on the fat side, this cooks the fat thoroughly and allows the meat to rest a bit to make it more tender.
Serve with the salsa below and some colourful salads.
450gms ripe tomatoes, blanched, skinned and seeded
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 shallot finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Zest of a lemon finely chopped
2 tbsp wine vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 Dice the tomato into quarters
2 Combine with the herbs, garlic, shallot and lemon zest.
3 Whisk together the oil and vinegar, combine all ingredients.
Thanks to Caroline Trotter for the photo
Welcome to my July recipe. Beetroot is just coming in to season and is delicious both hot and cold. I will be using beetroot at the forthcoming farmers market in Kirkcaldy. I am also at the fringe by the sea in North Berwick Friday 9th August.
This is a gorgeous rich dark cake which I make using Luckie Ales Porter, you can get it from Luvians in Cupar or St Andrews wine shop but any dark ale will do. The remains of the porter bottle could be used to down a few oysters. Well it was Valentines day!
Once cooled you can turn it out and serve like that or create a sort of Carrot cake topping with 200g soft cream cheese 130g icing sugar and 120 ml double cream. Whizz together in a food processor and spread on top of the cake.