Archive | Scotland

Recipe | BBQ wild salmon with grilled baby gem and salsa verde


Quite the catch…

This week I headed to the Scottish Highlands to cook for a salmon fishing week on the River Findhorn, lots of big breakfasts, afternoon teas, help yourself suppers and best of all bbq s by the river …

“Oh, its easy to find, you cant miss it !” My client called from the Landy Defender as they headed off to the river.

So I jammed the trusty old Range Rover to the brim with boxes, bags of charcoal and food supplies and headed to the ‘middle beat fishing hut’ wherever it may be (for you non -fishing folks a ‘beat’ is a part of a river you fish). On the upside I knew the that it was going to be by the river, what worried me was getting lost in part of the 70 000 acres of estate I had to drive through to get there and then possibly not being found till the grouse season started in August…


I found the hut (fear not, I am not posting this from the wilderness) unloaded the kit, laid the table, set up my outdoor kitchen and fired up the bbq. As I was in Scotland it of course started raining as soon as I had struck my first match, it then got a little windy and then to my delight/relief the sun came out.


On the first few days nothing was caught so I ended up cooking lots of meat on the coals; chicken marinated in thyme and lemon, pigeon with zataar and lime , Gressingham duck breasts with just with a sprinkling of salt. All delicious but no fish!


On day three spirits were still high amongst the group, despite the changeable weather and lack of salmon. I began to feel I was more keen for them to catch one then they were, I even briefly considered going on strike until they had but then   with the intervention of St Peter, the skill of the fisherman and with help from the ghillie ( a knowledgeable attendant to the fisherman) the group triumphantly bought back that night to the kitchen two silver beauties.

Hello tomorrow’s lunch!


Wild Scottish salmon really are quite extraordinary creatures and have the most challenging of lives and seemingly endless name changes. They start as one of around 7000 eggs laid by the ‘hen’ salmon deep in river bed gravel. 90 % of these generally survive and once hatched they are then called Alevins. Born with their own pack lunch (a yolk sack) they lurk in the gravel for a few weeks then once ready start to fend for themselves. Sadly with limited feeding grounds and a lot of competition at this point only about 10% make it to the next stage.


The fighting few that survive (now called ‘ Parr’) spend a year or two in the river but with threats of summer droughts and / or floods they still haven’t hit easy street. After a couple of years, come spring time some of the larger fish that have made it start drifting out towards the sea and you guessed it they change their name once more and now answer to ‘Smolt’. The smolts travel in shoals and as they reach the estuary they are often picked off by predators or fall victim to human pollution.


Those that make it to the sea for their first winter are obviously not called salmon as that would make it far to easy, no they are called Grilse. Our British Grilse can be found anywhere from Faroes to Greenland so its no wonder they build up an appetite and can double in size.   The 10 % that survive their sea voyage then start to swim back to the river (cleverly very close to where they hatched as eggs) in order to do some breeding of their own and are called….Salmon !


Spawning generally takes place from October to January. Once back in the river the fish do not eat at all and they start to loose their knight like silver and develop a colourful breeding dress (pinks and red ARE the new silver for these guys). Once a fish has spawned its called a kelt (come on keep up!) they look really thin and are not allowed to be taken from the river.


If the salmon survives all this (though few do) it will head back out to sea and bravely attempt the same routine again the next year.


As you can imagine with this precarious lifestyle their numbers are not huge so, as like with many country pursuits, there is much etiquette and rules to abide by which I shall delve into in my next postcard.

 This week;

Salmon caught: x 2 , a 8 lb and 9 lb

Salmon released: x 3

Pears eaten : 45

Puppies on lap helping to drive: 2 cocker spaniels

I’m reading ; The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton

Transport : Range Rover, Kia estate (zippier than you think), Fly B airplane, Airport bus ( with an unusually cheerful driver).




Bbq salmon with grilled lettuce and salsa verde.

 A few years back I cooked for a fishing week (but much further up north) when they came back with their first salmon the triumphant fisherman reluctantly handed it over to me.

“Please don’t do too much to it..”

they then proceeded to hover around the stove while I prepared supper.

I totally agree that when the salmon is this good very little should be done, some heat and a wedge of lemon at most. I also think when its really good it works best served ‘medium rare’ so if you are lucky enough to get some wild salmon don’t be too keen to cook it completely through.


Prepare the bbq so its hot , the coals have gone grey and the grills are clean.


Grilled salmon

Salmon, allow about 200g of salmon per portion

Maldon Salt

Olive oil


Check the salmon has been properly descaled and that any bones have been removed ( a pair of tweezers works perfectly for this job).

Season with a pinch of salt and brush lightly with olive oil (salmon is naturally fatty son doesn’t need to much cooking fat)

Grill skin side down first and only turn once the skin lifts off the grill.

Best served medium rare and by the river it was caught from!


Grilled lettuce and hallumi

You can try grilling most lettuce but for this lunch I used baby gem (frisse, romaine, iceberg and even rocket – when kept on its root also work well).


Baby gem, allow ½ per person


Olive oil


Pinch of red chilli flakes


Wash and dry the lettuce,

Cut in half and sprinkle with salt, pepper and a small drizzle of olive oil

On a hot grill cook on all sides till slightly blackened and starting to wilt (a couple of minutes)

Remove from the heat and serve warm with a squeeze over some lemon and a sprinkling of chilli flakes.


Salsa verde

I really think this is the best sauce with this fish as the tangy acidity pairs particularity well with the fatty rich salmon.


1 big bunch of flat leaf parsley (about 30g ) washed and dried

1 tbs. tiny capers from brine

5 salted anchovies fillets, rinsed and bones removed

2 tsp. mustard

5tbs Olive oil

Juice from half a lemon


Finely chop the parsley and pop into a bowl

Add the mustard, capers and anchovies and mix

Stir in the olive oil and finally the lemon and some pepper.

Check for seasoning but as anchovies and capers are salty it generally doesn’t need much.


Having had much fun on the river all week, learnt a lot and bbq ed practically everything I can think of I have waved good bye to my clients I am now changing beats to cook for another fishing week but this time turning my attentions to packed lunches. For this postcard recipe I will share with you my bbq salmon lunch recipes.




Recipe |Baked eggs with spiced tomato, chickpeas, yogurt and coriander



The Brunch club…

Anxious texting, emails, and phone calls preceded the start of the weekend.  The hosts and I were keen to make this season’s final pheasant shoot end with a bang (literally for the pheasants) and the Met Office red weather warnings littered with negative temperatures and snowstorms were not helping. I dressed in 5 layers from head to toe (I’m turning into such a softie southerner) and donned my boots to head north….


Travel plan A was vetoed as my car (stationed in the Borders) was snowed in, so I thought I would try my luck with the train in order to travel from Edinburgh to Perth.  Whilst scooting across town from airport to train station I noticed a charming element to Edinburgh, well actually there are many. Even if it is howling a gale and the chilled rain is lashing down everyone always queues very politely at bus stops, preferring to brave the elements rather than form a disorderly queue huddled under the shelter.  I don’t know what the‘Edinburghers’ would make of the T.F.L. shenanigans.


The train was quiet and much to my surprise out of the window was….. a perfect bright sunny Winters day which turned almost tropical when I arrived at my destination (well a barmy 1 °C and plenty more sunshine).  Ha! So much for red weather warnings.

My first task was to do the mammoth shop that every shooting weekend requires, although I had lugged up half a cow and some fish with me on the train. Zooming around the shops, I admit I can never quite believe my calculations…10 packs of butter, 90 eggs, 5 pots of double cream, the ½ a cow… but come the last meal of the weekend and seeing the nearly empty larders and fridges I am always relieved I stocked up.


A shoot weekend will often consist food wise of Friday night dinner, Saturday breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner and Sunday breakfast and then Sunday lunch.  The host this time however opted for a Sunday brunch, which I have to say, was a wild success.  After a few impressive days of feasting, partying and the occasional glass or two of wine, having then to scoff  a Sunday lunch can seem a bit of a hurdle as far as eating stamina goes.  Brunch however is great; it allows the guests time for a lie in, the food is naturally designed as a great cure for any possible hangovers (I know a cooked breakfast can do this too but Brunch somehow seems more digestible) and there is still time for a Sunday morning walk before everyone has to toddle back to their homes.   I tell you it’s all about Sunday brunch!


Brunch is said to have kicked off in the late 18th century and was delightfully described as the Sunday meal for “Saturday night carousers,”.  This postcard recipe is the spiced baked eggs I cooked as part of theirs.


Job done, bags packed, the remaining pheasants are enjoying their end of season survival party and I’m heading to London to cook for some ‘ladies what lunch’…..


This week:

Is a better one to be a pheasant.

I’m travelling with my hot water bottle.

Every home should have: an Aynsley Gravy Boat

4.5 kilo of potatoes were scoffed.

Its ALL about brunch



Baked eggs with spiced tomato, chickpeas, coriander and yogurt

Serves 4

1 tbs olive oil

1 red onion finely chopped

1 clove garlic finely chopped

10g washed coriander, stalks finely chopped and leaves roughly chopped

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. finely chopped red chilli (more or less depending on your heat preferences).

800g tinned tomatoes

1 tin canned chickpeas drained and lightly rinsed.

4 free range/ organic eggs

2 tbs yogurt

2 spring onions roughly chopped


In a wide deep pan (I used a wok) that you can put a lid on gently fry the onion and garlic in the oil.

Once softened (about 4 minutes) add the spices and chopped coriander stalk, fry for a further minute.

Add the tinned tomatoes and chickpeas, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 10  – 15 minutes stirring occasionally. You want a tasty sauce that s not too dry or wet.

Check the seasoning and when perfect crack the eggs into the tomato mixture, place a lid on top and cook the eggs till for about 4 minutes (ideally you want a cooked white and runny yolk).

Slip out onto your serving plate and garnish with dollops of yogurt, a sprinkling of spring onions and the coriander leaves.



Recipe Game Pie


I Only have pies for you …

I knew this was going to be a top class job when I was the told the driver who was to collect and take me to the Scottish shooting estate was called James. I had then assumed that one of the gamekeepers would be called Mellors (but it was not the case). Despite this minor over sight I came to learn that my destination, Cawdor Estate, is where some of the top shots and field sport lovers come to get some of their best days shooting of the season….


I was based at their lodge (Drynachan) and with a professional kitchen, impressive game larder and access to some of the finest seafood in the UK it was a delight to whip up the copious amounts of meals these sorts of jobs require. However when not frantically cooking I did have time to make a new friend…


Now I know they say Dogs are a girls best friend …oh no wait that’s diamonds, anyway this spaniel became excellent company and entertainment for those occasional evenings we didn’t have clients in the lodge or I fancied taking a bracing walk on the moors.


Now lets says you are a spaniel and you need to get from A to B. There are 4 choices to get there

1)A pebble track.

2)A fast running chilly burn

3)Some nice sheep mown grass

4)Clumps of bracken and heather.


Which one would you take? Well if you were a spaniel you would take route 4 and leap into heather and bracken and with gazelle like attitude bound your way towards B, then having reached B you would return to A through the chilly water possibly stopping for a quick drink and submersion then as route 4 was so much fun you would return to B bounding back through the bracken. Also at some point you would roll your eyes at your boring walking buddy who decided to take route 1.



Having spent the time up there cooking so much game I thought I would give you for this postcard recipe a dish that can use it all  – a perfect winter warming Game Pie.

 This week;

Lords a’ leaping spied; 0

Salmon a’ leaping spied; 3

Portion of pies made; 266

I’ve developed an unfortunate liking to caviar ( the really good stuff)

Im reading: My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk


Game Pie

Serves 12 – 14

1 kilo venison haunch (chopped into 1 inch square pieces)

4 hare haunches (de boned and meat chopped into roughly 1 inch square pieces)

2 pheasants (skin off and breasts diced into 6)

4 partridge (skin off and breasts diced into 4)

4 grouse (skin off and breasts diced into 4)

100g plain flour

(you need about 2 kilos of game meat in total and although it is ideal to have a good mix if you are lucky enough to have a freezer brimming with game use what you have).

6 tbs. olive oil for the meat and 2 tbs extra for the vegetables.

4 red onions (peeled and small diced)

1 head of celery (washed and small diced)

8 crushed junipers

4 crushed cloves

1 tbs rosemary finely chopped

1 tbs. thyme finely chopped

200ml sloe gin

200ml red wine


Game Stock

Game bones

2 x peeled white onions

5 x bay leaves

1 tbs. black peppercorns

1 tsp. juniper berries

5 sprigs of thyme

1 head of garlic chopped in half (you can leave the skin on)

2 x sticks celery


To assemble the pie;

350g short crust pastry

300g puff pastry

1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tbs milk


First make a game stock

Take all the carcasses from the birds (and the bones if you have them from the venison haunch) and give them a quick rinse. Put them in a large pot and cover with cold water, add the onions, garlic, bay, thyme, juniper. Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer and let it cook for at least an hour…


Pre heat the oven to 160°C

Place the flour in a large bowl and season well with salt and pepper

Toss all the chopped meat in the seasoned flour.

Put a large frying pan on a medium heat, add about 2 tbs. of the olive and fry 1/3 the meat until brown then place in a large roasting dish. Repeat in batches with the rest of the meat and olive oil.

Once all the meat has been browned deglaze the pan with the sloe gin and wine and pour this onto the meat.

In the same pan and with the 2 tbs. extra of olive oil fry the vegetables and spices/ herbs till slightly caramelised.

Add this to the browned meat.

Strain the stock and pour enough on to cover the pie mix .

Place a layer of baking paper on top then cover tightly with foil.

Bake in a 160 °C oven for 3 – 4 hours (all the meat must be tender.

When cooked remove from the oven, check for seasoning and allow to cook completely.

Pre heat the oven to 180°C.

Line a pie dish with short crust pastry

Add the cooled game pie mix then top with puff pastry rolled to fit the top of the pie dish.

Crimp the edges and brush with the egg yolk/ milk mix.

Stab a few holes in the pastry to let the steam out ( otherwise you will get a soggy pie) and if you have any spare pastry you can decorate with a few pastry leaves.

Bake in a pre heated oven 180°C for 50 mins – 1 hour – the centre need to be piping hot and the pastry golden.

Serve with buttery mashed potato and some greens.


Next stop…London for the start of the Christmas party season…





Recipe | Apple and Pear Tart


Autumnal fruity tart…

The Scottish skies were dark and foreboding, the rain relentlessly lashed down and the wind whipped across the hills.  Not my favourite traveling weather but it would certainly add a challenge to my journey.  Heading north from Biggar to Perthshire I had stopped at William Ovens butchers to collect my meat.

Butcher 1 says

“Be careful now Philippa with wind like this you’ll be wanting to avoid the Forth Road Bridge, turn off the road before you get to the … “

and off he went explain to me some clever route I could take.

I nodded and thanked Butcher 1 for his help and concerns and agreed it sounded sensible to avoid the bridge.

Then as I was paying the bill Butcher 2 quietly says

“Aye you will want to be careful Philippa, but if I were ye I would take the 3rd road after the turn then head west before you re-join the road at …….”

and he spieled off another route I should take

I nodded and thanked Butcher 2 for his help and concerns (but quietly was feeling a little confused and none the wiser as to how to get there).

Then Butcher 3 offered to take the boxes of meat to the car.

“ Now, now Philippa, you don’t want to be taking those routes, you should take the bridge but turn off after you reach….

And then I got route number three.

“Ring us if you get lost !” They chorused as I closed the car door and drove off.

“Crikey”! I thought and pulled up out of their sight and turned on my trusty sat nav, who although I am convinced always takes me different routes just to keep me reliant on it and occasionally freaks out in remote locations, and is not that keen on going anywhere too hot, it always gets me there one way and/or another.

As I headed north the weather began to clear so the drive was not that bad and as the countryside was in its full Autumnal glory it was all rather stunning and enjoyable.


Arriving at the house it was straight into action. I was cooking for a weekend pheasant shoot for 10 guests; breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea and 4 course suppers plus canapés and cocktails.  Out of the car came the 10 dozen eggs,12 packs of butter along with the kilos of meat, cheese and you will be glad to hear 9 big boxes of fruit and vegetables as lots of side dishes and big interesting salads had been requested.


One of the things I love about cooking for this client is that although they have probably been hosting these sorts of weekends before they had even learnt to walk they are not afraid to try something new and step away from tradition whilst still keeping great style.  We had planned amongst other things; a curry night, a Middle Eastern feast, a pulled pork lunch and some American style breakfasts.   I hoped the guests would arrive hungry…


With the nippy November air, some bracing outdoor sport and partying from dawn to dusk the guests did have a great appetite. Yet again I was impressed by the stylish guests; the ladies coming in from their days shooting, swapping their Land Rovers and Labradors for Loubtoutin’s and Lacroix, and the gents discarding theirshooting sticks and spaniels in favour of smoking jackets and spats (ok I am exaggerating about the spats).  It was a grand weekend.


For this postcard recipe I am going to give you the tasty Autumnal fruit tart I served for dessert on Saturday lunch, its a delicious  way to use the abundant amount of apples and pears that seem to be stacked in everyone’s cellars at the moment.  It also is quite a light dessert which is perfect if you have several days of feasting and working your way through 10 dozen eggs and 12 packs of butter in a weekend….



This week

I’m driving; A4 Audi.

I learnt; 12 packs of butter are easier than you think to go through.

Spaniels fought with for a space next to the Aga; 2

Every home should have; a butlers pantry.




Apple and Pear Tart

This is a great light Autumnal dessert  it has a pear puree underneath then the baked slices of apples on top.

Serves 10 – 12

1 block ready rolled all butter puff pastry

4 – 6 ripe pears (depending on size)

4  – 6 apples (depending on size)

4 tbsp. Demerara sugar

1 tsp. sugar

75 g salted butter

½ nutmeg grated.


pre-heat the oven to 180°C

Unroll the pastry and put it on a flat baking sheet lined with baking paper.

Lightly score the entire sheet in a 1 inch diamond pattern (being careful not to cut all the way through)

Peel the pears and chop into chunks, discarding the core.

Cook the pears in a saucepan with 1 tbsp. of the sugar and the grated nutmeg.

Cook until soft then blitz to a smooth puree. *

Cool a little then smear all over the puff pastry.

Peel and thinly slice the apples into thin crescents (discarding the core)

Layer in lines across the puree.

Dot the butter over the tart and sprinkle with the rest of the sugar and the cinnamon

Bake for 30  – 40 mins until golden.

Serve warm or cold with something creamy eg. calvados ice cream, yogurt, crème fraiche or of course cream!


* When I first made this dish I whizzed up poached pears that I had used for something else, which worked out perfectly.  When cooking the pears in a saucepan I had to cook it a fairly long time to evaporate a lot of the juice the ripe pears produced so you have to judge it for your self.



Next postcard from the magnificent Cawdor estate in the Highlands.





Recipe | Baked ham with marmalade glaze


I am looking for someone to share an adventure……..

That’s what she should of have said, but instead she merely asked:

“Can you drive”?

“Sure” said I… “Where”?

She smiled and pointed to the moors and beyond…..


I confess I was warm and comfy in the snug shooting lodge, happily finishing the icing on my coffee and sour cream cake to serve later with lashings of hot tea.  However the picnic lunch I had prepared for the Guns had to be taken to the farthest bothy in the land and so we packed the trusty Land Rover and boldly headed off into the depths of Mordor ….


Ok I admit all the fresh air may have been getting to my head and although it wasn’t quite as epic as the Hobbits journey ( no dragons, goblins or forest dwelling spiders) it was as an adventure none the less.   The first obstacle was a long narrow bridge across a ferociously  gushing river burn– with only a rabbits tale tail of width either side to spare, we somehow made it across.   Next came a long steep climb into the hills with a shear drop one side and a track filled with crevice like pot holes, we slowly edged our way up and made it to the top.   What a view I thought, I could see for miles (although I also remember thinking I could also see there was no bothy for miles) ….


It really was extraordinary scenery and I was beginning to quite enjoy the drive when I swung a left, headed down a hill  only for me to spy my next challenge.

My heart was beginning to sound like the flutter of a grouse’s wing, the adrenalin building up .  Apparently I had to drive through a torrent of a burn.  No idea how deep it was or if there were any more pot holes under the water to deal with I remembered my training (thanks dad) from having to drive in last year’s floods in Southern England and crept on through.


 “Go back?” I thought. “No good at all, go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do!  JRR Tolkien.

As my companion was cheerfully telling me the bothy lay beyond the next horizon I  reflected on the brief I had been given for this job  – “food that is easily transportable”.  Definite understatement.  I nervously kept glancing in the back to check all the bouncing boxes of goodies we had packed were still intact.   I also remember thinking as the rattle of the cutlery box got louder and louder as we picked up speed over the straight parts of track that this would be a great way to make a dry martini.


Eventually arriving at the bothy we jumped out and began to unload the feast. At that point Gandalf ( or I could have misheard his name and maybe it was Randolph) appeared from the other direction in his tweeds to help.  A thorough sweep, a few tartan rugs and a roaring fire set the perfect tone for a warming lunch on the hill.  There were flasks of leek, potato and chive soup, slices of marmalade roasted ham, a hearty salad of  roasted autumn vegetables and quinoa,  almond tarts,  wedges of cheese and jars of chutney.


I admit it was quite bizarre waiting in the middle of nowhere, in a hut with a huge table groaning with food, then suddenly seeing about 15 Land Rovers hove into view, pull up outside and disgorge their tweed clad cargo to have their lunch, then set off again.   I am going to call it “Extreme Picnicking” .


We made it there and back again in one piece and I admit I enjoyed it so much I quickly volunteered the next day to go back  up to the moors with the lunch having found a new penchant for off road driving.  However while I am back at the lodge and have Wi-Fi let me share with you my baked/ roasted ham recipe that although you might not need for any picnics during what time is left this year it would make a great addition to your Christmas spread.


This week

I am off – roading in a Land Rover defender

Dragons slayed  – 0

Extreme picnics cooked for 5

Times driven through pot holes- 87 ( I dodged no. 21 on the way back)

Ham eaten  – 16.4 kilos

Things learnt  – Philippine saying   – shake the tree before you sweep the leaves.

Every home should have…a distant bothy.



 Marmalade Baked Ham

A 3 kilo one makes about 20 thin slices

1 large  uncooked Ham joint (I find most joints I buy do not need a pre soak to get rid of the salt but worth asking your butcher).

2 apples cut in quarters

500ml dry apple cider

1 tsp cloves

1 tsp juniper berries

2 tsp black pepper corns

 200g marmalade


Place the ham in a large pan with the apple, cider, cloves, juniper berries, pepper.  Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer and put a lid on. Cook for 20 mins per 450g.  If the liquid level drops below the ham top up with boiled water. 

Once cooked carefully take out (reserve the liquid as it makes a great stock for pea and ham soup) take off any casing, skin and most of the fat. Score in a diagonal pattern.

Smear the marmalade onto where the fat was and roast in a pre heated 200°CCoven for 15 minutes or until the marmalade has caramelised.

Leave somewhere cold to cool completely ( about 4 hours) then slice thinly as and when needed.

2014-10-29_0011 2014-10-29_0006  


Next postcard recipe from Perthshire…





Recipe |Pan fried grouse breasts with hazelnuts and caul fat


Caul of the Wild


“Where you off to next?”

“I’m off to cook for a stalking week.”

“Stalking?! What’s that, sounds dodgy’? My friend asked.

“Well…. Its where you head into the hills dressed in tweeds, cashmere and Barbour’s, crawl around in the mud and heather and scramble over rocks and walk for absolutely miles from sun up to sun down, hoping to spot, stalk then shoot a stag”

“Oh, I see… that sounds exhausting! Do they always get a stag”?

“ not always”

“So essentially then they could just be walkers”

“well yes, I guess…but much better dressed”.


When cooking for these stalking weeks you don’t have to hit the ground running, you have to hit the ground with the speed and power of a hunting panther, then maintain the pace all week.  I love it.


The weather, as always in Scotland, was spectacularly indecisive. We had everything from bright sunshine to thick silent fog, rainbows and rain…and that was just Monday morning.


Arriving at Inverness airport I picked up the hire car and started heading north. Dashing into shops along the way to do a serious larder stock at the speed of light   – you are never sure where your nearest shop will be. The only major obstacle on the first day is finding the lodge you are meant to be cooking at. They are generally in the middle of nowhere with drastically beautiful surroundings but harder to find than the lost city of Atlantis.


You can’t enter the lodges (when rented) till about 4 pm, then its straight in the kitchen to unpack, check out the equipment and get supper on the go.  This frenzy of activity continues the rest of the week with hearty breakfasts, big table spreads for guests to take as “pieces” (pack lunches) on the hill, afternoon teas then 3 or4 for course dinners.


Some of my favorite things I cooked that week was a beef rib roast that could have been taken from a dinosaur and a roast chicken that was 6 kilos . When I told my mother this she said, 
“Yes darling, its called a turkey,”


With out a doubt however the most exciting part of the week was being bought brought back the caul fat off the stag.  As beautiful and impressive as a piece of Sophie Hallette lace, this intricate fatty membrane surrounds the stomach.


Most game does not have much fat to it  ( think pheasants/ venison/ grouse etc.) so chefs will often cook it in pork or goose fat. I have always tried to avoid this as I find its just too bawdy in in comparison, caul fat I have decided is really the perfect one to go for. Its gentle gaminess is definitely “of the hill” and there is that great satisfaction of using as much of the beast as possible.


For this postcard recipe I will share with you a dish I whipped up the night the stalkers bought back the caul fat from the wild;

Grouse breasts coated in hazelnuts and fried in caul fat with chanterelles and parsley.


This week;

I’m driving: a Vauxhall corsa – without the boy racer attachments.

Eggs soft boiled for breakfast: 27

Percentage increase of not shooting a stag having had kipper for breakfast  88%

Percentage of clients stylishly dressed for stalking 100%




Grouse breasted rolled in hazelnuts and fried in Caul fat with chanterelles

Serves 4

8 grouse breasts

a piece of caul fat approximately 15cm x 15 cm

100g ground hazelnuts

100ml milk

1 egg

200g chanterelles cleaned and ready to use

1 small clove of garlic finely chopped

1 tbs roughly chopped parsley


Beat the egg into the milk.

Dip the grouse breasts into the milk/egg mix then remove and shake of any excess liquid. Dip into the ground hazelnuts.

In a frying pan render the caul fat down on a low heat for about 10  – 15 minutes – lots of lovely fat should melt into the pan.

Turn up the heat and fry the hazelnut-coated breasts for just over a minute each side.

Take out the pan and put aside to rest. Remove the caul fat, turn up the heat then add the chanterelles.

Fry for a minute then add the chopped garlic.

Fry for a further minute then add the parsley

Serve the grouse breasts on a warm plate with a few chanterelles scattered on top.


This would be delicious as a lunch and served with an autumnal salad or for dinner served with greens and mashed potatoes.


I am now heading south to West Sussex to do some pre Christmas freezer filling and cook for ananotherjolly shooting party….



Recipe | Plum and meringue Ice cream


The battle of the plums..

Before I tell you about the battle of the plums I am delighted to announce the completion of my first short cooking video for The Field magazine, which can be viewed by clicking the link below.

The Field Video

The video was done with the expertise of the wildly talented, energised and patient film maker

Megan Horvath ,

 And now for the plums….

It was hard to resist the temptation to pull over every five minutes to take photos of the magnificent Scottish landscape on my drive through Stirlingshire. With an unfamiliar kitchen to conquer and a lunch to get on the table I resisted, well mostly….


I soon learnt there were lots of exciting elements to this job, a freezer full of locally shot game, a beautiful walled garden containing lots of produce and a fantastic ice cream machine that was 32 years old. Being of the same vintage we bonded instantly.


If you read my last postcard you will know that I had just been in Toulouse where there was also a garden full of produce. What I might not have emphasized was I had almost become obsessed with the impossible task of making use of all the plums. Every time I went outside I would spot another plum tree laden with fruit, I would take a deep breath scramble up a ladder then diligently pick as much as I could and turn it into something. So it was with mixed delight when in Scotland the first thing I saw in the garden was this…


With that many plums, one of us is going to break I thought before I got distracted by the charms of the rest of the garden.


As you can imagine the week’s menu did have numerous appearances of plums but luckily the family and guests were also quite happy simply eating out of a constantly over flowing bowl so I resisted the need to slip plums into every dish.



This week’s postcard had to be a plum recipe and with the help of the impressive vintage ice-cream machine I give you my plum and meringue ice cream.



I am now in Dublin for 72 hours shore leave then I weigh anchor and set sail, well jump on a plane really, and head to Perpignan  in Southern France.


This week

Plums picked: I can’t even think about it.

Spaniels at my feet: 2

Every home should have: a dinner gong



Plum and Meringue Ice cream


I love putting crushed meringue through ice cream as its obviously delicious and encourages you to use up the egg whites straight away.


Serves 8


Pre heat the oven to 110° C and line a flat tray with non-stick parchment.


5 egg whites

Caster sugar (Twice the volume of the egg whites)


In an electric mixer whisk all the whites on high speed with half the volume of sugar.

Once it has become stiff start adding the rest of the sugar in 3 stages over 10 minutes.

Once all the sugar has been added whisk for a further 5 minutes.

Spoon out onto a tray so it is roughly 5 cm thick and bake for 2 – 2 ½ hours or until the bottom is firm.

Once cooked take out and leave to cool


For the plum swirl

400g plums cut in half and the stone taken out.

300g caster sugar

2 tbs vodka or gin


Put the plums and sugar in a saucepan and cook on a medium heat until the plums have yielded their juice and the mixture has reduced slightly then add the vodka


Ice cream custard base

5 egg yolks

100g caster sugar

450 ml double cream

150 ml whole milk

½ tsp ground ginger

½ teaspoon (no more as it is too dominating) ground cinnamon

1 vanilla pod split in half


Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick ( about 3 minutes with an electric whisk)

Meanwhile in a saucepan bring the cream, milk, spices and vanilla so it just reaches boiling point,

Immediately strain the hot cream into the egg yolk mix, whisking the whole time.

This should be enough to thicken and cook the mixture but if it hasn’t return the mix to the saucepan and slowly continue to cook stirring the whole time with a spatula.

Once it is thick enough to coat the back of the spatula take it off the heat and poor into a bowl to cool.


Churn the ice cream until half frozen then scoop out into a bowl.

Spoon in the plum mix and crumble in a few handfuls of meringue (you wont need to use it all)

Give it one stir then transfer into a freezer proof container and chill until frozen.


Notes and tips

When cooking out the custard base of ice cream you must stir constantly otherwise you will get scrambled eggs.


Adding sugar and alcohol to ice creams, particularly fruit based ones will help it from not freezing rock solid


If your ice cream machine is not very powerful you may want to quickly blitz the churned ice cream in a food processor to get rid of any ice crystals that have formed.





























Recipe|Crab cakes with chilli sauce


Feeling crabby ?

I have just come back from cooking for a delightful dinner party in the magical city of Edinburgh. Having recently made quite a few trips here I have to admit I am falling for its charms. Effortlessly classy and littered with magnificent pieces of architecture it really is a grand place. The dinner was for 18 guests and was being held just because the hosts felt like throwing a party for their friends! My day started early as I had to drive into Edinburgh and I wasn’t sure what the traffic would be like, luckily my biggest obstacle seemed to be getting out of the drive…


The days menu read as follows…



Mini crab cakes with chili sauce

Red radish with butter and salt

 Roast cherry tomato, mozzarella and hazelnut pesto crostini

Black olive and anchovy tapenade with oregano crostini

Pea, pecorino and mint crostini

Smoked salmon with warm blini with sour cream and mock caviar



Rare roast fillet of beef with freshly grated horseradish mixed with crème fraiche and yogurt 

Goose fat roast potatoes with new season’s garlic and rosemary

Green lentils with mustard and soft herbs

Roast beetroots and carrots with thyme and butter

Vignole  –  asparagus, artichokes and peas cooked in white wine, pancetta and mint.

Green salad with rocket, baby gem, linseed, herbs and French dressing


Gooseberry and meringue ice cream


There is a definite trend of changing the format of dinner parties. I find a surprising number of clients are keen to move away from sitting at the table for hours and labouring their way through countless courses. Instead more canapés /amuse bouches are being ordered and eaten with the pre dinner drinks, the starter skipped altogether and the main course to be served help yourself style to suit everyone’s portion control ideas. I personally think both the formal sit down and this more casual approach can work really well, but it’s about knowing your guests and how relaxed you want the occasion to be.


For this postcard recipe I will share with you one of the pre dinner nibbles that went like hot cakes… well they were actually hot cakes with crab and chilli sauce. They make a super tasty nibble or you can up the size and serve it as a starter or main course with some salad and coleslaw.


On another note….


The Observer Magazine has launched their 2014 food awards, with a category for Best UK based Food Blog. I would be delighted if you fancied voting for me and Voting can be done on line at   you can vote by:

1)registering your email with the Guardian

2) via a face book account

3)with a google+ account.


Many thanks to anyone who feels compelled to do this!





I am now re -packing for sunnier climes and skipping off to the south of France to cook down near the Camargue…


Crab cakes with Chilli Sauce

Chilli Sauce

1 red chilli

½ tspn sherry vinegar

½ tsp cumin

1 tsp finely chopped coriander

1 tsp olive oil

1)Finely chop the chilli (discarding the seeds)

2)Mix in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

This can be made at least several hours in advance or until you are ready to serve the crab cakes.

Crab cakes

Makes 12 bite sized crab cakes or 4 big ones

40g breadcrumbs
½ tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of paprika
2 tbsp parsley finely chopped
250g white crabmeat, in chunks
1 egg, beaten
Plain Flour, to coat
Vegetable oil, to cook

1)Put the breadcrumbs, mustard powder, seasoning and parsley in a bowl and stir well to combine. Add the crab and stir gently

2)Add the egg and mix

3)Roll into balls then flatten gently into disks (they may seem a little fragile but they will firm up a bit and seem to hold together when cooked).

4)Chill for 30 minutes.

5)In a frying pan set on a medium heat add 1 tbs vegetable oil. Fry the cakes till lightly browned each side and hot all the way through ( about 1 1/2 minutes each side).

Serve immediately with a ¼ tsp of chili sauce on top of each and garnish with a small rocket leaf for a flash of colour.



Recipe |Never out of fashion dressings


A different kettle of bird..


The beautiful birds strutted their stuff across the wild Scottish landscape, unflappable  despite the fact they were being furiously shot at.



No, I was not cooking for some illegal out of season gun gathering but rather for a couple of fashion shoots with the rugged rocks, rusty heather and babbling burns as the back drops.  Most of the crew had travelled up from the big smoke and I think slightly taken aback by the sheer amount of fresh air we have up here.  They say an abundant presence of lichen and moss indicates excellent  air quality. This seemed to be the place to get ones air ‘fix’…


I love watching different industries at work, it fascinates me the high and lows of other peoples jobs and how they react when the pressure is on (having spent years in London kitchens I am no stranger to shouty professionals).  I have to say after watching these production crews hard at it, they had military like efficiency yet with great charm they got the job done. From my kitchen window I could see the tops of their heads pass by. As the long day progressed and as the hours of useable light diminished, the efficient walk used in the morning began to pick up speed. Getting this and that prop and or bringing out the next piece of perfectly pressed garment, they were practically sprinting past when 5 o clock came, yet never once raised there voices or became any less than perfectly polite.  Perhaps the fashion industry and the military could do a group project and world peace would ensue….or at least we would all be better dressed.


Planning a menu for these sorts of jobs can be tricky. Firstly there is the dynamics. There could be lots of figure conscientious types, happy to push salad leaves around a plate or there might be lots of people lugging stuff about working up a big appetite.  The other element is timing. This is one of the few occasions that I cook for where the food, although still obviously has to be delicious, it is not the central part of the day ( I know can you believe it)?!. The team might be making the most of a sudden change in the weather  – it can happen a lot in Scotland, or perhaps they suddenly need to break early so they can go off and get a long afternoon stint done.  The chosen food has to be able to sit there for at least a couple of hours with out loosing any of its razzale dazzle.


Here was one of the days menus


Breakfast from 7 am

Fresh Fruit salad with home made yogurt and granola 


Bircher Muesli


Crispy bacon, american banana and blueberry pancakes , maple syrup 

Scrambled and poached eggs to order


Cereals, toast, jams, marmalades



Lunch x 30

Pulled pork – shoulder of pork slow cooked with apple, white wine and fennel then shredded and served warm


Broccoli, sesame seed, coriander and spring onion salad with soy and ginger


Tabbouleh salad with roasted courgettes, peppers, sweet onion, parsley and tahini dressing


Soft buns



Pressed Chocolate and hazelnut cake with mascarpone and raspberries ( gluten free)

Fruit platter


Afternoon Tea 


Scones with clotted cream and jam

Gluten free scones

Gluten free chocolate fridge cake



Thai green chicken curry

Slow cooked Beef curry

Spiced Chickpea and cauliflower curry 

Saffron rice

Poppadoms, raitia and chutney

cucumber and carrot salad with lemon dressing



Salted caramel ice cream 


Rhubarb, meringues and mascarpone with cream, vanilla and orange



Another part of the days menu was to provide lots of snacks through out the day so as well as the mandatory fruit baskets there had to be cookies, shortbreads, rocky roads etc. There also had to be some gluten free  treats as 1 person in a group of 30 was intolerant,  What surprised me that within 4 hours of their arrival not only had 23 giant chocolate chip cookies been scoffed but it was the gluten/ wheat free choices that had been delved into rather than the normal version.  With that noted I  started making most of the treats all with wheat / gluten free flour.  They surprisingly mostly came out really well and I don’t know if I would have been able to tell which was which. Apart from my scones which came out as flat as the Somerset levels and if there was any photographic evidence I would be banned from joining the Women’s Institute  for life.




In the end we opted for lots of salads on the menus to accompany any mains so there was ample choice for people who wanted to eat really healthily .

For this postcard recipe, I will share with you some of the dressings used on the salads and with the promise of warm weather creeping up on us it could not be better timing. Its great to have a few different bottles made up so they come easy to hand and make every salad a taste sensation.

The week, having flown by, is now over and my bags are packed, next job is a dinner party in Edinburgh…

Recipe | Never out of fashion Dressings

I would never serve a salad naked ( unless strictly instructed by a client)  as not only does the oil help us absorb more vitamins from the vegetables but the dressing really does bring the salad to a whole new level.


Maybe have about 3 on the go and try and use them within a couple of weeks as they will loose their sparkle.  Scale the quantities up or down depending on the amount of salad-fests and visitors you plan to have.  Good olive oil and vinegars are so important and generally salads are so simple they rely heavily on quality.

Dressings are generally best made in a big bowl, always start with throwing in the salt first then pouring in the acid (lemon juice/ vinegar etc ) as this dissolves the crystals.


Lemon dressing

Salt /pepper to season

2 lemons

6 tbs olive oil


Throw some seasoning in a bowl, whisk in the lemon juice then olive oil. Store for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.  Bring it out an hour before use and shake before pouring.


Not really a recipe I know, but surprisingly delicious on leaves and raw vegetables like fennel, radishes, blanched asparagus and also really great with salads that have lots of herbs.

For a more middle eastern twist add a tsp of sumac (a dried red berry that has a citrus flavour) or a tsp za’atr ( sesame seeds with dried oregano/ thyme/savory).




Soy, ginger, lime and honey

2 tbs dark soy

juice of 1 lime

1 tbs honey

2 tsp finely grated or finely chopped ginger

4 tbs sesame oil


You Dont really need salt for this dressing as the soy is salty. Whisk everything in a bowl adding the sesame oil last.


This dressing is fantastic with salads containing spring onions, grilled broccoli with toasted almonds or  a cold glass noodle one with peanuts and coriander.


Dijon, honey and apple

I make this dressing more than any of the others, particularly great with avocado, bacon and goats cheese salads. When I come to the end of the dijon mustard jar I usually make the dressing straight in the pot and just shake it.


Salt and pepper to season

2 tbs white wine vinegar or cider vinegar

1 tbs runny honey

2 tbs dijon mustard

3 tbs apple juice

6 tbs olive oil


Whisk everything in a bowl adding the olive oil last.



Order is everything with this dressing or you will just get a lumpy split mess


salt and pepper to season.

1 tbs Tahini

1 tbs lemon juice

4 tbs water

1 tbs olive oil


Add the ingredients in order shown, whisking all the time.


This is dressing is of middle eastern influence and is delicious with chopped salads and green salads and also makes a great sauce for fish and chicken.  I have had it served as a dip with warm grilled flat bread which was amazing ( for this it is served thicker so reduce the amount of water added to 1 or 2 tbs)



This dressing more than all the others is about quality.  There are a lot of cheap frauds out there calling themselves balsamic vinegar but they are nothing like the real McCoy.  Proper, good balsamic is expensive as it is a long and wasteful process (lots of evaporating). Read the ingredients list, it should always start with ‘grape must’ and will  be a minimum of 12 years old.  Splash out on a bottle of the good stuff and use sparingly, it is truly worth it.


I generally use a good (ish) balsamic for salad dressings then sprinkle a few drops of the really great stuff on top  of the dressed salad-  you don’t need much.


salt/pepper to season

1 tbs balsmic vingar

2 tbs oilve oil


Whisk all together.


With its Italian roots this dressing goes perfectly with salads that include cheese like mozzarella, pecorino and parmesan,  it is great tossed through mixed grilled vegetables or served with  bitter leaves like chicory and radicchio (the sweetness contrasts with the bitterness  of the lettuce so well ) and served with salty parma ham .





Sherry Vinegar and sweet paprika

If making a spanish slanted meal use this dressing, its great tossed through a warm bean or chickpea salad with sausage and parsley or with a salt cod and tomato salad.  It can of course be used with green salads and cured salty meats like serrano ham as well, and makes a nice change form always having a balsamic dressing.


salt and pepper

1 tbs sherry vinegar

2 tbs olive oil

1 tsp sweet smoked paprika


Whisk all the above ingredients together.








Recipe | Roast Pheasant with apple, bacon, cream and wholegrain mustard


               Out damned shot! out, I say…


Hello and welcome to Philippa Davis postcard recipes 2014!  Having consumed 1 (or 3) Clementine Iced Margaritas too many over my New Year holiday I sadly cannot give you the accurate recipe.  I remember there being lots of juicing going on by others, a lot of tequila  being poured by me and having fun smashing ice to the right size but the rest is a haze.  I can assure you they are delicious though and I promise to be better food blogger next time and share the recipe…




Swiftly moving on to 2014 and re – donning my chefs apron I headed off for a shooting job on the Cawdor Estate near Inverness, home to many game birds and beasts, wild salmon and of course Macbeth.  The train journey up from Edinburgh was through thick swirling mists, then pretty snow scattered grounds and by toiling streams bubbling with dark waters.  So foul and fair a day I had not seen, though they do say in Scotland if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.  A show stopping landscape greeted me upon arrival, along with the sound of cackling pheasants, perhaps celebrating they had made it thus far through the season?




I was to cook at Drynachan Lodge  for a party of 14 and was excited to be asked to laden my menus with game from the estate.  Woodcock on toast for breakfast, Roast pheasant for lunch ( this postcards recipe) and Braised mountain hare with dried porcini, red wine, chopped watercress  and tagliatelle smothered in butter and parmesan for dinner.




To finish that days feasting something wicked this way comes to the table in the form of dessert.



 Pavlova with blackcurrants picked from the garden in summer.


I hadn’t cooked hare before and had assumed it was mostly off limits for shooting.  The mountain hares from the estate ( whose fur turns a beautiful white in winter) had been affected a few years back with ticks and so numbers were being kept down to stop it from spreading. Fortunately they still remain edible.  It always amazes me the immense task of managing a wild environment and the careful balance that must be kept for everything to survive. If problems like ticks are not dealt with in one fell swoop the ecosystem can become unbalanced.




The days shooting kicked off well with clear skies, excited dogs and stylishly dressed guns ( a person shooting) heading off to their first pegs.




At the end of the day the head gamekeeper will give a little de brief and let the guns know how many birds were shot and often lay out a display of the days bag.  Then the exhausted but happy dogs can collapse back into the land rovers for the ride home and the game keepers, beaters, flankers,  pickers up ( those collecting the shot birds) and guns can head off for afternoon tea and wee drams to celebrate the days success.




This weeks statistics

Macbeth quotes precariously weaved into postcard, 6

Pheasants/ partridge shot, 348

Cream consumed, 1260ml


This weeks transport

East coast train from Edinburgh to Aviemore

Landrover Defender ( oh boy, are they fun)

Airlingus flight to Dublin



Next I am off to the fair city of Dublin to catch a glimpse of the tart with the cart….



Roast Pheasant with apples, bacon and cream and wholegrain mustard

serves 4

2 oven ready pheasant

4 rashers of unsmoked streaky bacon  cut into 1 inch pieces

4 sticks of celery, 2 carrots, 2 red  onions all diced into approx 1 cm squares

2 bay leaves

300ml pear cider

2 apples ( I used Braeburn) quartered and core removed

200ml double cream

1 tbsp wholegrain mustard.

olive oil, salt and pepper


Remember when roasting pheasant  – what’s done cannot be undone, and dry pheasant is not a joyous meal so this dish needs your full attention.  By half roasting half braising the birds you should get a delicious result and remember look out for shot.

1)Season the pheasant with salt and rub them with a little olive oil.  Sear them in a frying pan on all sides on a medium heat then place into a roasting dish.

2)In the frying pan add a tablespoon more olive oil then add the onion, celery, carrots and bay leaves. Fry for about five minutes until they have just started to cook then scatter this around the pheasant with the chopped apples.

3)Add the cider to the frying pan, bring to the boil then add to the pheasants. Season with pepper.

4)Place the pheasants into a 190 c oven and check after 30 mins.

( The best place to see if a bird is cooked is by looking in between the thigh and breast, when poked with a knife you should clear juices running from the meat).

5)If done ( or nearly done) add the cream and stir in the mustard.  Then rest for 10 minutes under a loose piece of foil in a warm place ( or pop back in the oven for another 5 – 10 minutes if you think they need longer to cook).

Serve with mashed potato and greens, I used curly kale and topped it with parsnip chips.






Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes