Archive | Scotland

Whisky Sour Recipe

 when Christmas was cancelled …

Besides the finger numbing painfully cold weather, I love being in Scotland around the start of the year as the Scots really know how to celebrate.  Not only do they bring in the New Year, or Hogmanay as it is called there, with great style but only a few short weeks later they are back partying hard celebrating the life and works of their most famous poet, Robert Burns. These events obviously all require copious amounts of whisky which is why this postcard recipe shows you how to make the most stupendous whisky sour cocktail.  Perfect to start your evening in style or for when you can’t drink any more neat.

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Hello….

Hello ….

When Adele took an unbelievably long break and gave us nothing new in what seemed an eternity she instantly won our forgiveness and grabbed back our attention by belting out the simple word “hello” !

I am no Adele. I do I realise I have also been absent a long while, in blog terms that is. I am not sure you would all appreciate me singing at the top of my lungs to you some slow lament that was likely to induce tears, for one reason or another, so I hope this picture of a very pretty dessert of apricot clafoutis will do the trick.

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Recipe | Venison pasties

Its raining……nothing.

Skiing, when snowfall has been, poor gets rather tricky. Beach holidays without the sun are pretty miserable. Camping in torrential rain is not much fun ( well actually camping in any weather is not my idea of fun) and fishing weeks without water are impossible.   So when I headed up to the beats on the river Findhorn ( this is a technical term for parts of the river you fish and not a highlands music festival in case you wondered) it was somewhat alarming it had not rained in a while and none was imminently due.

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Recipe | Garlic, garlic and Pheasant casserole

Phestive Pheasant Phun…

“Welcome to Scotland, Its -6 °C”! the cheerful staff at Enterprise car hire chirped.

I think if they had looked closely at my 5 layers, hat, gloves, fur lined boots, hunched shoulders and hopping around moves, they would have been well aware that I had totally sussed that part of the situation out.

Winning top prize for the most polite and helpful car hire location ever they helped me gather my luggage which included suitcase, aprons, knives and half a butchers shop, chip through the ice cube in which my car was apparently hiding, triple checked I had everything I needed and knew where I was off to then practically waved me off with off with marching bands and a ticker tape parade. I glanced in the mirror as I slipped through the exit barrier to witness the dabbing of wet eyes and the Enterprise team dishing out moral boosting hugs (OK that last bit I actually imagined but they were just SO unbelievably nice). Heart and mood well warmed I headed northwards to Perthshire to cook for a weekend that promised to be filled with fun, pheasants and frivolity.

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In keeping with a proper modern day but nod to the traditional ‘shoot weekend‘ there was to be a balance of hearty food, healthy food, game, games, cocktails, drinks, fresh air, very late nights and very early mornings. By the time I had unpacked the shopping the fridges, larders and cold rooms were bulging with lush ingredients, the butter and cream supplies looked top and everyone was excited…including the spaniels.

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As the heart of the weekends activities were focused around pheasants this postcard recipe is of course championing this delicious, iron, potassium, vitamin B and protein rich meat.

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I often feel it is a great shame that many people generally dismiss all game when cooking, shopping or choosing from a menu. It can have wonderful flavour and is generally less strong or ‘gamey’ that many people assume, especially since it has long since moved out of the macho /over hung maggot infested era. Perhaps people have issues with its firmer texture, distinct of the hill flavour, potential lead content and wild lifestyle but for me that is part of the attraction ( well maybe not the lead bit).

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Pheasant makes an excellent substitute for chicken in most dishes, it just needs a little extra care and attention when cooking. The fresh meat is available in the UK from the 1 st October to the 1 st February and/or if you know anyone with countryside connections there is high probably there will be one lurking in a freezer near you. Pheasant meat is lean so care has to be taken not to over cook it as it will dry out but when successfully done the taste rewards are great. Young birds at the beginning of the season are often more tender as they have not been flying around or had to toughen up as the weather turns colder. It is in the first few months I like to roast the birds whole or quick fry the breasts. As the season goes on and the bird ages they can toughen up so it is best to slow cook or braise them with plenty of liquor. This postcard recipe is perfect for pheasants around now as the slow cooking and lashings of juice will ensure it wont dry out.

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This week

Every home should have: pheasants

I used: 121 eggs

They consumed: 16 packs of butter

I love : Thomas Goodge crockery

I’m driving : an ice cube

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Garlic, Garlic and Pheasant casserole

This is a great dish for this time of year, slow cooking ensures tender and tasty results for the pheasant and the garlic hit may help ward of *vampires and colds

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Feeds 6

3 heads of garlic

5 tbs extra virgin olive oil

3 pheasants jointed into legs and breasts (use the rest of the carcass to make a delicious stock for soup or risottos)

3 tbs olive oil

12 leaves of bay

3 leeks washed and cut into 2cm rings

2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced

¼ bottle dry white wine

200ml cider

2 tbs chopped parsley

Pre heat the oven to 170 °C

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Peel all the garlic cloves and put 3 to one side. Gently fry the rest in a large pan on a low heat in 2 tbs of the olive oil until lightly golden then place to one side.

Turn the heat up to a medium and add another 2 tbs olive oil. Sear all the pheasant pieces on each side, season with salt and pepper and place into a casserole dish.

Add the last of the oil to the pan and sauté the onions and leeks until just softening (about 10 minutes) then mix in with the pheasant.

Add the garlic, wine and cider, season with extra salt and pepper then cover with baking parchment then foil.

Bake for 1 ½ hours stirring half way through, the meat should be tender and prepared to fall off the bone, if not cook for another ½ hour.

To serve

Finely chop the 3 remaining cloves of garlic and sprinkle on top with the parsley.

This dish is delicious with mashed potatoes or celeriac.

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*Garlic health benefits and vampire repelling qualities are diminished once cooked.

 

Next stop… Pre Christmas Christmas near Toulouse

 

 

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Recipe | Venison Scotch egg

My Fair Lady meets Braveheart

From an early age much of my time has been spent on and off stage so I’m well aware of what it takes to make a production run smoothly. All going well on the face of it we see the actors entering and exiting at the appropriate moments,  impressively and seamlessly remembering their lines (we hope) and brilliantly drawing us into their world.   What we tend to forget as an audience member however is how much work has to go on backstage to achieve all this.

People have been working tirelessly on costumes, props and  scenery.  Directors, musicians , techies and other crew have all shed blood, sweat and probably tears to get the show on the road and not to mention the gentle cajoling , ego massaging, support and camaraderie that has gone on to hold it all together by everyone.

What has all this got to do with venison sausage rolls I hear you ask?! And how can she possibly link this thespian theme to her latest job cooking for a Highland partridge shoot? Well…

Up on the Cawdor estate near Inverness, it’s hard not to get drawn into a dramtic mood, not least because it is the home of the Scottish Play (or Macbeth for those of you who are less superstitious). Add 42,000 acres of extraordinary Highland landscape, endlessly changing light, some of the best field sport in the country and boundless amounts of fresh air and you can understand how one can easily become theatrical. 2017-01-20_0002

Shoot jobs are always busy as there are a lot of hungry men (and more and more so women) to feed.  Despite November being quite late in the season to still be eating outside the group was game to have their lunches up on ‘the hill’, the in the know term for on the moor.

I am always delighted to to be heading out on these adventures, braving the elements, dirt tracks and overcoming the challenges of transporting and serving a top not lunch to the middle of nowhere. The shooting crowd are definitely a set who love their food so ones efforts to go all out are always appreciated.

As the chef your day starts early in the lodge kitchen doing a big cooked breakfast and preparing the elevenses baskets for the game keeper to takeaway for the gun’s mid morning snack. Once breakfast is cleared away the preparing and packing up of a top notch lunch to be served way up on the hill can begin.

Food has to be carefully packed along with tables, tablecloths, plates, candles if the day is dark, flowers, wine (of course) and fire wood into the trusty Range Rover and driven across narrow bridges, winding tracks across babbling burns and reversed down slippery paths to a bothy hidden in the depths of the moor. Undoubtedly more fun than an office job I imagine.  Once there, everything is unloaded come rain or shine or wind (though often in Scotland a bit of all three) and set up, the wood burner lit, hot soup made ready to serve and the wine opened in anticipation for the arrival of the hungry and often cold and wet guns.

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On one of the days on our way to the bothy we had to pause on the hill as the beaters (people with flags energetically waving them on command whilst walking down a hill to flush the birds towards the guns and not Harry Potter like children on broom sticks playing quidditch), were making their sweep ahead of us.

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Turning on our radio to the channel that the head  keeper and beaters were using we received  instructions to wait there for a wee while longer.  Not wanting to scare the birds off course we switched off the engine and due to our remote location and therefore lack of signal to Radio 4, listened into the “ backstage” working of the shoot.

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Like a director of an enormous production (think Aida on a Verona scale) the head Game keeper directs his backstage crew to flush the actors (partridge in this case) onto the stage (the area surrounding the pegs) where the eager audience (the guns) get to take their shot.

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In this case however the actors (partridge) are more temperamental than the worst of divas and it takes great skill and combined effort to get them to fly where and when you want them.

Listening to the instructions was a bit like listening to the shipping forecast, you enjoy it and are strangely addicted but don’t quite understand all that is said.  None the less it was hard not to get swept up in the team effort of getting the birds in the right place and the building excitement of whether it would pay off.

“ Flag up, flag up !!!!! “ was repeated many times and moments later a flurry of flag waving from the guys and girls on the hill.

“I canny see Eion , get oot ‘o the gulley” !! also seemed to be a popular communication.

The crackly line coupled with the heavy Scottish accents meant I couldn’t follow the script exactly but the most entertaining moment was when one group of partridge was spotted flying too far left, the beaters were directed to reposition themselves sharpish to correct the flight path and I distinctly heard in My Fair Lady meets Braveheart style from one of the keepers:

“ come on…come on!…come on !! …come on Beaters, move yer bloomin’ arse!” .

The ripple of gun fire a moment later indicated the move was successful and that the guys on the hill had done a good job. Then came the sound of the horn indicating the end of the drive and our cue to get a move on to the bothy to set up lunch.

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During a lunch the game keeper will inform the head of the party their current bird count ( bag), if their booked number has already been met and if it has if they would like to carry on, for a second act.  Invariably  the answer is yes, unless the weather has turned really foul, so once the feast is finished they all had back out for a few more drives.

At the end of the shoot day, once the show is over, everyone returns back to the lodge and the day’s bag is laid out for the count. The beaters, dog handlers, game keepers and guns gather round for a wee dram and exchange highlights and tales of the day and it is at this point that the backstage crew can take their bow and be thanked for a tremendous show.

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For this postcard I want to share with you my new favourite snack I like to make for the elevenses basket namely venison scotch eggs.  To qualify for a good elevenses shoot snack the food has to be able to survive  transportation, easy to eat with one hand, hearty and  suitable for ketchup or Tabasco (that’s a must according to Lord L who apparently is a connoisseur when it comes to elevenses).

Scotch eggs are totally worth making from scratch as you can get the eggs perfectly cooked ( unlike the obligatorily over cooked shop bought ones)  and the meat perfectly seasoned.

These Venison ones have the advantage that the meat is known to be full of minerals and iron and is low fat.. which in my book translates as you don’t have to feel so guilty about scoffing a whole one.  I have to say on a personal note that when Lord L is not looking you should also try it with crab apple jelly as its mix of tart and sweetness pairs beautifully with game flavours.

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This week

Best bag: 434

Best Bag: Bottega Veneta

Every home should have: A piper

I used : 94 local eggs

Butter usage : off the charts

I’m driving : a Range Rover

 

 

Venison Scotch Eggs

Makes 8

800g venison mince

2 slices white bread

10 eggs

splash of milk

200g bread crumbs ( panko are the best) placed in a small bowl

100g cornflour, placed in a small bowl.

1 litre veg oil for frying

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Bring a pan of salted water to the boil.

Gently plop 8 eggs in and cook on a high heat for 7 minutes.

Gently drain and fill the pan with cold water and a few handfuls of ice.

Once the eggs are cool peel them.

In a large bowl season the venison mince with salt and pepper.

Break the bread into bits, crust and all, and splash on some milk and 1 raw egg. Mush about then mix well into the mince ( if you are feeling fancy you can add 2 cloves finely ground clove and 1 tbs of finely chopped parsley but for me home made venison scotch egg is excitement enough).

Take 1/8 of the mince and wrap around 1 of the cooked eggs. It is easier if your hands are wet.

Repeat with the other eggs.

Then break the last egg into a bowl and add a splash of milk and beat. 

Dip each of the meat wrapped eggs into the cornflour, then egg mix then breadcrumbs.

It is less messy if you dip every egg into the cornflour, then every egg into the egg, then finally the breadcrumbs otherwise you end up with breaded fingers.

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Pre heat the oven to 200°C

Heat your oil in a deep pan, When hot ( a small lump of bread when dropped in should go brown and crispy in seconds) fry the eggs individually until golden ( a minute or so) then lay on a flat baking tray nicely spread apart.

Once they have all been fried, bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes.

Remove and transfer onto a wire rack to cool a little.

Eat warm or cold as the perfect elevenses snack.

 

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Next Stop …Thanksgiving

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Recipe | Barbecued flatbread with sprinkles

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Hatched, matched and dispatched

The wild salmon and I were both caught leaping for joy at the prospect of spending some jolly time on the river Findhorn, though clearly with very different motives.

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My annual journey to the Highland river banks to cook for these fisherman is undoubtedly one of my favourite jobs.  Not only is the setting outrageously pretty with the wild flowers and sparkling, ever changing river and the company fascinating for various reasons but in my opinion there is nothing that comes even close in salmon perfection as cooking and eating the Scottish wild variety.

Its texture, colour and above all flavour cannot be beaten. Like a child impatiently waiting for Christmas morning I can hardly bare the wait until I am handed the first one and there is such poetic beauty in knowing it was hatched, matched and dispatched in pretty much the same spot.

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Cooking for a fishing party often seems much more relaxed than other field sports jobs I do as daylight hours are less scarce and timings do not revolve around an army of others, the number sometimes required for a days shoot is something to be seen! I noted my fishermen this year clearly felt very relaxed and I had to restrain myself from shooing them out of the lodge in the morning to maximise their time on the river bank and therefore increase the chances of them bringing me back a salmon to cook with.

‘Extra bacon and sausages for those slipping in a pre breakfast fish” I joked ( but not really)  as we got to day two and no one had bought me back so much as a story of how they wrestled and put back a tiddler.

Fortunately the  competitive streak amongst the group began to kick in and by day three the after dinner fishing trips had started.  The gentle evening light is particularly good for the sport apparently as its harder for the fish to see you and not as some think because they are feeding as they do not eat while back in the river.

My previous postcard Quite the Catch explains more about the wild salmon’s incredible life and journeys from river bed to ocean and back.

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This year on the Findhorn river there is a 70 % catch and release policy with anything caught over 9 lb, basically meaning you need to catch two over 9 lb before you can keep one, which also basically meant they had to get their fingers (rods) out.

Day four after breakfast the trail of 4 x4’s  headed off to their various beats ( sections of river they can fish) and I was on red alert as we had all agreed, today must be the day.

The tradition is to beep the horn of your vehicle as you return to the lodge if you have been successful, so my ears spent all morning being  as pricked as a spaniel’s. The horn was also the signal for those in the group already back to dash out with a wee dram ( it was G and T’s if you returned empty netted so a pretty win-win situation if you ask me).

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I am delighted to report that during the second half of the week  the wild salmon became more compliant and so the horns more frequent. The weather too also started to play ball and created perfect conditions for BBQ lunches on the river bank.

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Relatively obsessed (ok, totally), with BBQ s from my years as a chef at Moro restaurant where I fiercely fought off all the boy chefs from the charcoal pit I have firmed up some strong opinions about how to properly grill as well as tips and techniques.

Cooking BBQ s on river banks in Scotland has also perfected my skills at lightening them up as bursts of wind and rain are not uncommon. I confess one weather challenged day 2 packs of firelighters and the entire Sunday Times were invaluable.

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At this point ,with summer coming up, I would like to take this opportunity to say my main concern if ever asked to go and cook a BBQ for a client is when they lead me down the garden path and unveil…the gas fuelled beast.

My views are if you are planning a BBQ and have a gas one, don’t bother.  You are better off just cooking inside. Gas adds very little in terms of flavour to your meal and they rarely stay hot enough, even the really expensive ones and believe me I know.

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Swiftly moving on ( and off my very high horse) with BBQs now on the agenda my days were anything but relaxed but were certainly a lot of fun. Balancing breakfast cook and clear up with lunch prep and packing it was a fast and furious start to the day.  Once the trusty Range Rover was loaded chock-a-block with food, drinks, tables, charcoal and fire lighters I headed to the assigned fishing hut. Upon arrival at the chosen bucolic spot the boxes and kit were unloaded, a makeshift outdoor kitchen erected, the table laid, BBQ lit and the final bits of prep started before the hungry and often slightly chilled fisherman began to surface.

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They would be welcomed with a tin cup of warming home made soup then the grill themed lunch would follow. Over the week they had fillets and legs of estate venison, grilled crispy skinned chicken, pork chops, whole bass, bream, squid and of course wild salmon.

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Packing for these BBQs is like a memory game, you couldn’t forget anything and if you did ,well you had to get creative. The week confirmed my approach that with BBQ’s, simple is generally best and at bare minimum all I critically needed to remember to pack was;

The meat or fish

Olive oil

A lemon

And some fresh herbs.

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I feel sauces are always important as you generally don’t create much gravy / juice with this method of cooking so jars of fresh horseradish, salsa verde, chilli sauce, home made mayonnaise and tartar sauce made a fair few appearances.

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One of my favourite foods I cooked over the week, that came a close second to the grilled and whole foil baked salmon was the fresh flatbreads, that helped make ‘posh’ kebabs. Home made flatbreads at a BBQ is pretty much a must for me as not only is it a fun activity that a few people can get involved with but they are also the perfect vehicle for grilled fish meat, veg and sauces so I have made them this weeks postcard recipe.

This week

Eggs: 157

Butter: 19 packs

Salmon caught: 9

Salmon caught leaping: 23

Kilos of charcoal used: 18

Every home should have: access to a few beats ( and I don’t mean a ghetto blaster).

I learnt : You can tell a Findhorn salmon as they are the prettiest ( possibly source slightly biased).

 

Barbequed Flatbread

Makes about 8 large circles

You can knead and rest the dough then transport it to the riverbank / bbq to grill in a bowl with some lightly oil cling film on top. 

500g White Bread Flour plus a few handfuls extra for rolling

2 tsp. Dried Yeast

1 tsp. Fine sea salt

300ml – 350ml Warm water

1 tbs. runny honey

1 tbs Olive oil plus a little extra

1 tbs plain yogurt

2 -3 tbs of Sprinkles e.g. sumac, poppy seeds, zatar or crushed salted cumin

1)In a large bowl mix the flour and sea salt

2)In a jug stir the yeast into 300ml of the water with the honey, leave for 5 minutes (it should have started to foam) then pour into the flour and start to mix.

3)Add the olive oil and yogurt and knead on a clean surface for about 10 minutes.  The dough should be quite wet so if it feels stiff add a little more warm water.

4)When smooth and elastic place it back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to double in size, this will take about an hour in a warm kitchen.

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5)To roll the flatbread make sure you have a hot clean grill. Roll all the dough into equal sized balls (in-between a golf and a tennis ball is good).

6)Lightly flour your work surface and one by one roll the balls into circles or ovals about 2 – 3 mm thick. Lightly brush one side with olive oil and then scatter on your choice of sprinkle ( my current favourite is sumac mixed with ground cumin).

7)Grill on both sides on a high heat for a couple of minutes till golden. Serve as soon as possible.

If doing a batch you can lightly wrap them in foil and give them a quick flash on the bbq to warm them up.

These are delicious with juicy grilled meats, vegetables or fish or with dipping sauced like labneh, hummus, salsa verde ect.

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Next stop…cooking for a group cycling the Pyrenees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Recipe | Pheasant au Vin

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 Fun and Game

At this stage in the game season I have noticed it is definitely the keen beans, the obsessed and the hardy that do most of the shooting in Scotland. It is of course still incredibly beautiful up there and yes there should still be a good bag of game to be had BUT it can also be bloody cold.

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So those that really love it and have a certain amount of experience at the climate are still game to don their tweeds and Barbours, be up and out at a reasonable hour and spend all the light the day gives standing in the great outdoors battling wind, rain and the cold in order pursue their love of field sports. I am always impressed (and possibly slightly smug as I get to spend the day in the toasty warm kitchen).

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Food, being an integral part of the weekend, needs to be plentiful, delicious, regular and warming. It was mentioned on the third day however of the long weekend that one of the guests began to feel like a fois gras duck as they pretended to waddle back out into the cold after lunch.

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We had designed the menus so firstly guests could help themselves which seems to be the most popular way these days especially when eating over a couple of days and people’s appetites vary and secondly that they contained lots of interesting vegetable dishes and winter salads to keep a healthy balance.

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It definitely should be noted that due to the tremendous energy needed all round for a shoot weekend, a lot of food is required. Long sociable dinners, early (ish) mornings, 5 to 6 hours out shooting (this in itself is impressive as lifting a gun to your shoulder at regular intervals requires  certain degree of  stamina and fitness) and of course the weather all make it a fun but full on weekend.  From a chef’s perspective, it is of course also rather full on and from a gun dog’s… well the excitement is exhausting!

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This week:

Eggs consumed: 91

Every home should have: T. Goodge China

Butter consumed: 13 blocks

Dogs ‘helping’ cook: 5

Mince pies verses clementines personally consumed: 2:1

I’m listening to: John Tavenor

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Recipe

Cooking with game at this stage in the season can require a little more love and attention. Often the meat is slightly tougher as it has been cajoled into flying about the place and had to start to contend with cooler weather.

For this dish it simply means cooking the breasts and legs separately or adding the breasts to the casserole dish at a later stage this is so they get a shorter amount of cooking time and the legs can slowly cook so everything becomes tender.

Chips of course are irresistible but I have noticed many people prefer not to be deep-frying things in their home due to the smell it can create. Homemade oven chips are a great solution and are very delicious (though if I am being honest, I would not win a chip battle against some duck fat triple fried chips).

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Pheasant au vin with confit garlic oven baked chips.

Serves 4

1 brace of pheasants plucked and cleaned

3 tbs butter

3 tbs olive oil plus

4 banana shallots peeled and chopped in half lengthways

6 bay leaves

1 small bunch of thyme

12 sage leaves

8 slices of streaky smoked bacon (Heston is currently selling a range in Waitrose which is top notch)

2 leeks washed and chopped into 2 cm chunks

1/3 bottle of good red wine (don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink)

12 chestnut mushrooms

400ml game stock (can be made out of the pheasant carcasses)

Confit garlic

2 heads of garlic

2 tbs olive oil

Chips

100ml veg oil

600g waxy potatoes

Pre heat the oven to 180 °C.

Peel the garlic cloves and mix with the 2 tbs olive oil. Roast in a baking dish for about 10 – 15 mins or golden and soft. Keep to one side.

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Wash and cut the potatoes into chip shape.

Bring a large pan of salted boiling water to the boil and blanch the chips in 2 batches for a couple of minutes  (you want the water to come back to a boil and bubble for a minute). Drain.

Lay them flat on a tray lined with baking paper and let them steam for a couple of minutes.

Drizzle with the veg oil then roast at the top of the oven for about 1 hour, turning occasionally.

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For the pheasant au vin

Separate the breast and leg meat

In a large frying pan, heat the 1 tbs oil and 1 tbs butter then gently sear the meat till golden.

Season with salt and pepper and remove to 2 casserole dishes (breasts in one and legs in another).

In the same pan, gently sauté the shallots in another 1 tbs of butter and olive oil, when golden, split between the casserole dishes.

Finally in the frying pan, add the last of the butter and olive oil and sauté the leeks, bacon and herbs for about 10 minutes, split between the two casserole dishes.

Deglaze the frying pan with a splash of red wine and add to a casserole dish then split the stock and red wine between the two, and lightly cover with baking paper then foil.

Bake the legs in the oven for about 1 – 1 ½ hours, the meat should be tender and the breasts for about ½ hour, they should be just cooked through.

Bring out of the oven, combine the two casserole dishes and stir through the confit garlic. Check for seasoning then serve hot with a sprinkling of parsley and the chips.

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Next postcard from party central W11 London…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Recipe | Poached pheasant with ginger, garlic, chilli and lime.

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How to poach a pheasant…

This week I am delighted to be back up in the magnificent highlands cooking for various grouse, partridge and pheasant shoots.

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I should quickly clarify the title of this postcard, as I have already had to dig myself out of trouble from the gamekeeper for remarking the pheasants lolling around the lodge seemed quite stupid. He seemed quite defensive at this remark (almost as if I had insulted a family member) and bristled that they soon learnt to fly quick enough when flushed across the hills. Having seen them in action he was of course right.

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To make amends I thought I would comment from a chefs perspective how wonderfully plump and in good condition they look and how tender they were at present, this definitely put me back in his good books as he was quick to proudly agree (and I am pretty sure his feathers puffed up in pride).

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So to note, this postcard is about poaching pheasants form a culinary angle rather than the illegal “ Danny the champion of the world” style.

Pheasant season opens the 1 st October and runs to the 1st February. From a chefs perspective I think now the time you really want to get hold of them. Still young and tender from not too many flights, their meat is really delicious and can be treated like a decent chicken so great for roasting, frying and poaching. As the season goes on they still maintain their wonderfully distinct flavor but become more suited to slow cooking as they will need tenderizing.

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This postcard recipe is based on the idea that poaching a tender piece of meat not only gives you a delicious supper but also has the excellent knock on effect of providing a tasty liquid you can then use in broths, soups / risottos / pasta dishes ect….

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Various countries have their ‘go to’ poached meat dishes like in Italy they have Bollito Misto a dish originating in north, consisting of poached beef, veal, cotechino ( sausage) and chicken. It is often served with mostarda ( a ‘blow your socks off’ mustard candied fruits) and salsa verde. Bollto Misto has been appreciated for centuries and was particularly enjoyed by an Italian prince in the 1800’s when he used to sneak to the small town of Moncalvo, hunt wild game, enjoy a dish of bollito with his friends and then go off and frolic with his favorite mistress.

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In France they have pot au feu, translating as ‘pot on the fire’, which usually consists of beef, turnips, carrot and onions and is also a dish that has been around for hundreds of years. The dish of poached chicken ‘poule au pot’ was used back in the 1600’s by King henry IV as a standard of living he wanted all to be able to achieve. He proclaimed that he wanted even the poorest of peasants to be able to enjoy it on Sundays. Sadly this was not the case as meat was generally too expensive so the peasants really did have to be ‘poach’ their meat from the local lord.

This postcard recipe uses game but gives a nod to more Far Eastern flavors like chili and ginger which I think makes a refreshing change for the seasoned shooter who probably by now have had their fare share of hearty traditional game meals.

But phirst before I share the recipe here are some phun pheasant phacts from Philippa.

A male pheasant (cock) may have a harem of up to 7 hens (lady pheasants)

On average they will have a clutch of 10 eggs.

For some cultures the pheasant is symbol of luck, as apparently a Burmese hunter found an emerald in a pheasant he had caught, he went back to where he supposed it had been roosting which led to the discovery of an emerald mine.

When cruising the pheasant will fly around 30 mph but with a wind and when being flushed (disturbed by the beaters) they can fly up to 60 mph making it a pretty fast moving target.

This week:

I’m reading The miniaturist, Jessie Burton

I’m not reading: Danny the Champion of the world

Best bag: 373 (though the most stylish one is that metal clutch in the fall Valentino collection)

Every estate should have: bantering gamekeepers

I’m loving: the young and tender game birds

I’m driving : Range rovers / defenders / kia estate

Butter count: 25 packs and rising

 

Poached pheasant with lime, garlic and coriander.

This dish would be great as a restorative lunch broth or you could add noodles/ rice / vegetables / chopped green lettuce to make it more filling.

The sprinkling at the end of raw garlic, lime and coriander totally makes this dish, though is possibly not first date stuff unless you both go for it.

Makes about 4 bowls of broth.

1 whole pheasant plucked and cleaned

1 tbs cardamom pods

½ tbs caraway seeds

1 tbs fennel seeds

1 tbs coriander seeds

50g fresh ginger peeled and roughly chopped

1 large medium red chilli – to taste

25g coriander

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To serve

The zest of 2 limes

2 finely chopped cloves of garlic

2 tbs finely chopped corriander

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Give your pheasant a quick wash then place in a large saucepan with some roughly chopped red chili with seeds and membrane in tact (the amount depends on how hot you like it), the cardamom pods, caraway, fennel seeds, the spring onions ends and the ginger and some salt and pepper.

Fill with cold water to just cover the pheasant then place on a medium heat and bring to a simmer.

Cook for about 30 minutes – the pheasant should just be cooked the best place to check is inside the leg then leave with the heat turned off for ten mins.

Remove the pheasant and cover loosely with foil.

Strain the liquid into another pot then reduce by about a 1/3 then check for seasoning and chilli heat. Add the rest of the spring onions finely chopped on an angle.

In a small bowl mix the lime zest, garlic and coriander.

To serve, slice the breasts and take the meat from the leg bones. On a low heat gently warm the meat in the stock.

Ladle some meat and liquid into your serving bowl and sprinkle with the garlic mix.

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Next postcard celebrates national Honey week…

 

 

 

 

 

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Recipe | Spiced banana cake with maple syrup and honey

whisk

Caught between a midge and …

Within minutes of arriving at the lodge in the Highlands I was faced with a dilemma.  It reminded me of the funny quandary questions children often ask like:

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Would you rather be chased by a herd of angry elephants or a pack of hungry wolves? Or would you rather have to run 100 miles carrying a bicycle or swim 100 miles wearing roller skates and a riding hat etc.

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My choice was:

Would I rather be eaten alive by midges or keep the kitchen window shut and practically boil alive in my Autumn attire.

I took my chances with the midges for a bit until we had regulated the inside temperature but with them being particularly ferocious this year I wonder in hindsight maybe I should have just got back into my summer kit despite being in the Highlands in late September and it exposing more flesh to midge attack.

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I used to have a sure fire way of avoiding midge bites, which was to slap on Avon Skin So Soft every morning – as recommended by the Army and anyone used to being Summer / Autumn savvy in Scotland.  I was put off however when I fairly recently lent out a bottle to have it quickly returned suggesting that it wasn’t the best thing to put on oneself, as it smelt of oil used by strippers.  I didn’t enquire further…

My week in Scotland was cooking for a party of stalkers.  Having done a fair few of these kind of jobs now, I felt I knew the drill.  Big cooked breakfasts, groaning table spread of hams and cheeses, buns and sweets to take as pieces on the hill, afternoon tea consisting of freshly baked cakes and lashings of tea served by roaring fires and a hearty evening meal to help refuel after their 7 hour day stalking up, down and across mountain and moor.

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Everything was as expected, accept for the breakfasts. In the entire week I didn’t make one traditional cooked breakfast.  There were boiled eggs galore, a really delicious quinoa style porridge that I was inspired to make with almond milk, toasted nuts, grated pear and orange soaked raisons, a few American style pancakes, 2 kippers and 1 round of eggs benedict, but no requests for sausages / bacon  / mushrooms etc.  I guess this really shows that even in the most traditional of set ups peoples tastes, ideas and approach to food really are changing.

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Stalking – the managed and selective shooting of deer – is generally seen as part of the essential management of a healthy and sustainable deer herd.  With no natural predators numbers must be kept in balance with what the delicate habitat can support. As deer are prolific breeders numbers can quickly grow to the point where, unchecked, they will cause significant crop, tree and flora damage as they expand their range to seek out food sources especially in the winter months when starvation sets in due to excess numbers. Maintaining the size, balance and welfare of the herd proportionate to what the hill can naturally support is the objective of any good sporting estate and this takes much effort, skill and expenditure to achieve which is partly offset by the revenues generated from stalking.

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The stalkers or ghillie  (the persons accompanying the guest up the hill) job is to lead the party (generally of one or two ) to within range of the animal so it can be safely and cleanly shot.  They have to know which ones are eligible for shooting, often the older or weaker ones, and get themselves into a safe position so a clean and successful shot can be taken.   This can mean walking and crawling for hours in what may seem the wrong direction so no one is seen and the wind doesn’t carry the stalkers scent and alert the deer/stag.

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With such full-on days you can see why it is so important on these weeks to be well fed.  The hills are super steep, the weather can be hot, cold, misty or raining (possibly all of them within the hour when in Scotland), and there is only one way up and down and that is by foot.

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Afternoon tea is one of the best moments for me as I love it when the guests arrive back rosy cheeked, exhilarated and exhausted from the day but when they see the roaring fire, hot pots of tea and big slices of cake, massive smiles of delight break out and the stories from the day’s adventures begin.

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For this postcard recipe I would like to share one of my current favorite afternoon tea treats, a spiced banana and maple syrup cake.

 This week

Stags shot : 1

I’m driving: a VW Passat estate  – favourite hire car I have had, there is a little tiger in the engine and its as smooth as a peach to drive BUT sadly their turns out o be a devil in the exhaust.

Cooked breakfasts eaten: 0 (!?!?%@**)

I’ve learnt: 1724 tonic is the cream of the crop when it comes to a perfect G and T.

Every lodge should have: at least 2 roaring fires.

The in vogue gift for your host: home grown veg.

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Banana cake with maple syrup and honey

 For me this is the perfect banana cake, not too sweet, hints of spice and not too dense.

 3 ripe bananas peeled

2 tbs orange or apple juice

130g room temperature salted butter

2 free range  / organic eggs

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ nutmeg – grated

2 tbs maple syrup

100g soft brown sugar

250g SR flour

 

Pre heat the oven to 170 ° C

Grease and line a 1 ltr loaf tin.

 In a free standing mixer beat the bananas till mushed, add the juice, butter, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, syrup and sugar and beat for a couple of minutes.

 Stop the mixer. Scrape down the sides then beat for another minute.

 Stop it again, add all the flour in one go and then beat on a low speed for 1 minute and the mixture is totally combined.

 Scoop the batter into the loaf tin and bake on the centre shelf for 40  – 50 mins or a cake skewer comes out clean.

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Next stop,  I’m making a pre rugby match feast at Twickenham, Australia vs. England.

 

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Recipe |Horseradish Sauce

whisk

Fishing for condiments

There were members of my second group of jolly fishermen and women (‘fisherpersons’ is probably the PC way forward here) who have been making their 7 hour trip north to the River Findhorn in the Highlands for over 60 years.   Their secret to a successful week of fishing is to stop off on the way and throw a wee dram in the river and obviously have one themselves. Does it work…?

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Well on return to the lodge a victory toot would be sounded if bringing back a salmon.  There were 8 that week – one of them signaling the catch of a magnificent 11 lb. salmon, so the whisky clearly did its magic.

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Having done the week enough times the group had a slick routine and knew a thing or two about fishing. One of the founding members of the group told me how they always took all their salmon home frozen and my face must  have dramatically fell as he came back later that night after a roast pork dinner with,

“The group wondered if you would like to cook one of the salmon for us?”

“Yes !” I said, probably too quickly.

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As per my mantra I cooked the wild salmon simply, pan fried achieving a crispy skin and served with some herby mustard lentils and roasted fennel.  The guests loved it and all piled into the kitchen afterwards agreeing that fresh salmon (as supposed to have having it frozen then defrosted) really was spectacular.

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They then enquired if I myself fished.  Teasingly, I mumbled something about not really being sure if trying to stand in a chilly fast flowing river where I may or may not catch a salmon or even old trout  was my idea of an entertaining day.

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Their jaws dropped and then they lurched into lyrical enthusiastic speeches about the joys of fishing (that got them to bite like a trout on a mayfly I giggled to myself). Within minutes I admitted I was won over and could see by their love and their energy for the subject that it was indeed a sport of skill and even thrill.

You have to read the river, the weather and what you think the salmon might be up to that day all while abiding by certain etiquette.

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Some types of hooks, like sharp spinners, and all live bait are banned as are deemed unsporting.   Once you have chosen the appropriate fly there is the casting bit where you throw your line onto the river trying to gently place it so it sweeps across the river near to where you think a salmon may be lurking. This is done hundreds of times a day and takes many a year to master.

If you are lucky / skilled enough to get a salmon to bite you then have to ‘play’ it, which means attempting to keep it on your line whilst battling the river and the fish until one of you gives up.  This can last around 15 minutes or more.  If you are planning on returning the fish, remembering there is a 70 % return policy to keep stocks healthy, you must think about where to land the fish (grassy banks are much less harmful than stony areas) and that ideally you will use a net to bring it in.

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The thrill naturally is the achievement of bringing one back which  I can easily see the appeal in.  There really is nothing like the taste of the firm orangey pink flesh of a wild salmon. Though if you want to try one yourself, as it is illegal to buy the Wild Scottish river caught ones, it means if you have  befriend a successful fisherman, or go try it for yourself.

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Fishermans Chef

This week;

Every home should have: a selection of tweed caps

Instagram ‘Likes’ results for cute puppies vs. tofu: 89% landslide victory for …puppies  (Instagram phollowphilippa).

I’m driving: a Land Rover Defender (which has a fun GI Jane effect).

Breakfast bacon eaten: 233 rashers

I learnt : Fishing is fun.

I’m obsessed with :cardamom

I’m reading : Tatler

You should read: my Battle of Waterloo inspired recipes in The Field magazine.

 

Horseradish sauce

 After these few weeks of seeing lots of salmon I still stand firm and believe when cooking it do as little possible.  So for this postcard recipe I will give you the recipe for fresh horseradish sauce, which makes and excellent condiment with simple pan-fried salmon and of course a slab of roast beef!

 

200ml double cream

300ml yogurt

1 tsp. Dijon

1 tsp. sugar

Juice from ½ lemon

1 tbs. white wine vinegar

Sprinkle of salt

100 – 300g of horseradish

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Fresh horseradish can vary greatly in heat, use the graph below to see how much to use (though probably best is the taste test).

 

Crying after (Minutes) Horseradish (g) 
1 100g
3 -5 200g
7 + The whole stick

 

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Lightly whip the cream.

Stir in the yogurt, Dijon, sugar, lemon juice, white wine vinegar and salt.

Peel the dark skin from the horseradish then finely grate.

Add immediately to the cream mixture and stir.

Taste to check balance.

It is worth leaving for 20 mins. and then tasting, as the flavours will develop.

Serve with beef or best of all a piece of wild salmon.

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It was certainly an exciting few weeks and I confess the geek like excitement of getting to cook wild salmon next to the river it was caught on has still not worn of. Now, having had more than my share of fresh air, I have packed my bags and am headed for the fair city of Dublin…

 

 

 

 

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