Archive | Scotland

Recipe | Pappardelle pasta with braised pheasant , cavolo nero, cream and nutmeg


    I am pretty sure it was The Spaniel, in the Billiard Room with the Cream Tea

that left a trail of muddy paws for the house keeper to deal with…


Having finished the job in Hampshire, with clear roads and a little bit of luck, I got back to Dorset in time for a late afternoon tea with my parents.  Then I was soon setting off to Perthshire in Scotland where I was to cook for 12 guests attending a pheasant shoot in a magnificent setting near Blairgowrie next to the River Tay.




Cooking for shoots is frantically fun.  Before sunrise the days work begins preparing breakfast and packing the elevenses into wicker hampers along with the sloe gin and tumblers.




While the guests are out on the first drives of the morning, this is when the beaters ( people with sticks) walk towards the line of guns stirring up the pheasants into the air,    the house is busy tidying up breakfast and preparing for lunch.

Outdoor pursuits and nippy weather can work up quite an appetite so lunch is hot, hearty and needs to be served sharpish as everyone is keen to get back outside to get a few more drives done before the light fades. Then its back in for afternoon tea, then pre dinner drinks and snacks, then dinner itself which is usually another hearty affair.




As you can imagine the kitchen is non stop and I have to say I relish the challenge these sorts of jobs present.  Super organisation is the key as there is little time to pop to the shops for something that has been overlooked. Now, the restaurant trade taught me many things but did not present the experience of working with a carpet full of dogs beneath my feet. This is a new and fun challenge.  My new canine friends were all desperately hoping I would drop that juicy tray of slow roast pork belly or leave the mallards resting just in reach of their delicate mouths.  Thankfully by the second day they were all so exhausted from the days shooting they happily slinked off to bed when told and curled up to dream of the sound of the gun and falling pheasants.



I was thrilled to be told by my client that there were pheasants and wild ducks to be used from last weeks shoot and could I think of something other than the normal roast for them.  As excited as a gun dog at the sight of tweed my mind was soon racing with ideas and the prospect of using game from the estate.  For this postcard recipe I would like to share the lunch dish of pappardelle pasta with  braised pheasant, cream, nutmeg and cavolo nero.  Here is how the days menu read.






Black pudding, poached egg, crab apple jelly and granary toast

French toast with crispy bacon, maple syrup and berries


Chorizo, chestnut and butternut squash soup ( with pheasant stock)

Home made sausage rolls

Squares of rocky road

Pre lunch nibbles

Bloody Mary

Scottish smoked salmon with horseradish, creme fraiche on raddichio



Pappardelle pasta with Braised pheasant, cavolo nero, nutmeg and cream

Poached quince, chicory and walnut salad with balsamic dressing


Coffee, cheese board and brownies

Afternoon tea

Scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam

Lapsang souchong tea

Pre dinner drinks

Whisky sour cocktails

Quince and plum syrup with iced rum, lime and mint


Pancetta and parmesan Arancini with slow cooked tomato and aioli

Chicken liver and brandy pate with celery sticks and crisp bread


Slow cooked wild duck with cinnamon, saffron rice, crispy onions, fried aubergines and cumin yogurt


Salted caramel ice cream

Whisky and raisin ice cream

Vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate sauce



Pappardelle pasta with Braised pheasant, cavolo nero, cream and nutmeg

serves 4

1 brace of pheasants

1 white onion  finely chopped

4 bay leaves

glass of dry white wine

50g butter

2 large leeks

5 rashers of streaky smoked bacon cut into 1/2 cm chunks.

100g grated parmesan

about 20 leaves of cavolo nero (centre stalk removed)

300 ml double cream

1/2 nutmeg

2 egg yolks

400g pappardelle pasta



Braised pheasant

Remove the breasts and the legs of the pheasant (make a stock from the bones)

1)In a baking dish mix the legs, chopped onions, bay leaves and white wine, season with salt and pepper then cover with foil.  Bake for around 3 hours at 120 c or until the meat is tender and falls off the bone.

2)Leave to cool then shred the leg meat. ( you can use the onions and juices to make the base of a soup, you could add it to the pasta but I prefer not to have onions through the sauce).

3)In a frying pan on a medium heat add 1 dsp olive oil and fry the breasts seasoned with salt.  Cooke for about 4 minutes on each side or until just cooked through then leave to rest covered in foil.


1)Blanch the cavolo nero ( tough central stalk removed) in a rapidly boiling salted water until just tender ( approx 3 mins)

2)Slice and wash the leeks ( I cut mine in half length ways then into 1 cm semi circles)

3)In a frying pan add 50g butter and 1 tbs olive oil, add the leeks and chopped bacon then season. If you have a rind of parmesan chuck this into the pan while the leeks are cooking. Cook on a low heat until the leeks are tender ( about 10 minutes) then add the cavolo nero. Keep warm.

4)In a large bowl whip the cream until semi stiff and add the grated nutmeg, parmesan and 2 egg yolks.

Cook the pasta as per packet instructions.

Drain the pasta then pour immediately into the cream mixture along with the warm leeks and cavolo nero.   Slice the breast meat and add this along with the shredded pheasant.

Serve with extra freshly grated parmesan on top and a little extra grated nutmeg.


This weeks transport; Mercedes E class, Easy jet flight to Edinburgh, Audi A4 estate.


Shoot statistics

271 Birds

12 packs of butter

7 Spaniels

1 labrador

88 free range eggs




Next I am off to the south of France to cook for pre Noel celebrations and use the gluttonous amounts of black truffles, mushrooms and oysters that are so bountiful at this time of year in that part of the world.



The week of the hunter


Recipe | Parsnip chips and Celeriac, swede and beetroot  gratin

There is a secret dress code for the flight to Inverness in Scotland. For those in the know you will see them wrapped in yards of tweed and snuggling quietly in plush cashmere.  The outfit is generally finished off with a Barbour jacket, looking a little shabby and expected to be around half the age of the wearer, a shinny stiff new one would never do.  These tweedy sporting folk are on their way for a week of shooting, fishing or stalking in and amongst one of the stunning Scottish highland sporting estates.




Last week I cooked for a delightful group of appropriately beautifully dressed stalkers on the Wyvis estate near Dingwall.  To get to the fabulous lodge they had taken for the week my sat nav and I braved the single track that ran through woodlands and along the mysterious loch for absolutely miles.  Actually my sat nav freaked out half way along the track and pleaded we turned back. Ignoring its lack of adventure I drove on and finally arrived at the lodge with its welcoming open fires, wood paneled walls and impressive collection of mounted stags heads.






Catering for these sporting weeks is a huge amount of fun for a chef as client’s calorie counting is invariably suspended.  The day starts with full on cooked breakfasts including a pre course of porridge giving me the chance to try out the spurtle I found in the kitchen dresser ( if you don’t know what one is you are making your porridge all wrong)!




Once breakfast is over, a table groaning with sustenance for the stalkers day on the hill must be laid out with delights such as honey baked ham, cold roast beef, soft rolls, crisps, cheeses and high energy treats like chocolate fridge cake and flapjack.




The stalkers ( creeping after red deer in this case ), having spent the entire day walking, crawling and lying in heather, rocks and scrub return ravenous from their day. Therefore pots of loose leaf tea, freshly baked gingerbread or my trade mark coffee, cardamom and cinnamon cake and savory treats like home made sausage rolls or cheese straws were always an appreciated welcome home.




Come evening, with the fires briskly burning and the sun firmly set beyond the loch the hunters were ready to feast. They dined upon wonderful traditional food that could have come straight out of a Dickens novel; Roast ribs of beef with Yorkshire pudding, Haunches of venison with parsnip chips and goose fat roast potatoes, Cinnamon duck breasts with bacon and pearl barley and Roast chicken with creamed spinach and honey carrots — no one was left wanting more!




Then there were the puddings; Steamed Golden Treacle with custard, Classic Creme Brulee,  Apple tart tatin, Pressed chocolate cake, Lemon Tarts……I wont let on how many packets of butter that is but I am now thinking of buying shares in the local dairy.




I am intrigued about stalking, every time I go to cook for such an event I learn a little bit more and am deeply impressed by the amount of work that goes into running a sporting estate. The Ghillie  ( assistant, advisor and guide to the stalker) has to know the terrain extremely well. Sudden mists may fall which can be treacherous for those unaware of their surroundings, they also have to be super fit as the day will consist of a marathon trek.  They must know their deer herd intimately. It is their livelihood and the wild herd must be managed properly with only certain beasts allowed to be harvested by the stalkers to leave a healthy herd of a size that the hill can sustain throughout the lean winter months. It is not unusual to be stalking a stag for hours to eventually get close enough to examine it properly, only to realise that it is too fine a beast to take.




This postcard has two recipes for excellent accompaniments to venison – Parsnip Chips, and Celeriac, beetroot and swede gratin with nutmeg and gruyere. So get excited about the thought of eating venison – it is an extremely delicious, low fat, sustainable, native, free range, mostly organic meat that gives even good roast beef stiff competition In fact I am so smitten with deer at the moment I am in the throws of persuading the family to make it this year’s Christmas dinner!






Parsnip Chips

serves 4

2 parsnips

500ml vegetable oil



1)Peel the parsnips

2))Keep peeling off strips until you are just left with the core ( discard this or, as I got to do, feed it to the wild boar!)


  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and have ready a plate with a piece of kitchen towel on top.
  2. Carefully drop small handfuls of the parsnip strips in the oil ( it should sizzle)and shallow fry them until the turn golden.
  3. Remove with a slotted spoon onto the paper and sprinkle with salt

This can be done 1 – 2 hours in advance of the meal

Celeriac, beetroot and Swede  gratin

serves 4

150 g Beetroot peeled and thinly sliced

200g celeriac

200g  swede

200ml cream

200ml milk

1/2 nutmeg, 1 bay leaf

100g grated gruyere cheese



  1. Bring the milk, cream, bay leaf and nutmeg to a gentle boil in a pan.
  2. Layer the celeriac, beetroot and Swede in a baking dish and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Pour over the cream mix
  4. Sprinkle over the cheese and cover with parchment then foil, place on a baking tray ( this will save cleaning the oven floor if any of the cream mix bubbles over)
  5. Bake at 170 c  for 1 1/2 hours, check that the root vegetable are cooked by inserting a knife then remove the foil and parchment and bake for another 20mins to brown the top.

Serve hot with the roast of your choice…… providing its venison.


  Kitchen clean and bags packed I am now zooming off to the other end of the country to a harbour town near Chichester…





















Recipe | Reach for the Skye a.k.a. Whisky Raspberry and Mint Cocktail


A  bonnie trip……

I knew I had reached West Coast  Scotland. Sun, rain and mist battled to be the prevailing weather, all within ten minutes. Dark and glistening burns tore through the moody purple heather that carpeted the craggy rocks and my mobile phone signal became as rare and elusive as a golden eagle.








My destination was the Isle of Skye, one of Scotland’s most stunning west coast islands. A place brimming with opportunity to do strenuous activities such as walking, climbing, fishing and boating – I just came for the food.  There were several renowned restaurants that I had been longing to try and the local venison, scallops and wild mushrooms had been begging me to eat them. The trip also provided the opportunity for me to visit my first whisky distillery.





I will try and write about the process of whisky making but it is hard to relay the truly magical bits to you.  The Goliath noise the handsome machinery makes when grinding the malted barley into grist, the divinely scented warm air that fills the factory as the brewing process begins or the excitement of watching the bubbles rise in the gigantic tubs of pine wood  as fermentation takes over the wort ( the sugary juice produced by soaking the malted barley in unfiltered water ‘aff the hill’ ).




Only after these stages does the beery alcoholic liquid pass into the distillery room  — which looks like a mix of the old Moscow sky line and Willy Wonka’s experimenting rooms.




The stills ( large copper vessels) used for boiling  the liquid to separate the water from the alcohol are a different shape for each distillery, each apparently helping to add their unique flavor to the whisky ( I have it on good authority that this is romantic tosh, though I cant help but like the idea).  The liquid is distilled twice in Scotland and passed through an eccentric looking spirit safe  during  each distillation to measure alcohol content.



The spirit  is then poured into barrels and left to rest for a legal minimum of three years to be called whisky although most single malts are left for at least 8 – 10 years and others even longer.  The longer it is aged in the barrels the more mellow and complex the flavors become and of course the greater the price.  The barrels are usually second hand American bourbon ones , these are cheaper to get than other barrels as legally bourbon must be stored in a new barrel so there are lots of them.  Whisky can also be stored in other wood like sherry, Maderia or claret.




During storage in the earth floored locked warehouses, 1 – 2 % of the whisky is lost through the barrels by evaporation and this they call the “angels share” .  If you consider the amount of barrels aging whisky in Scotland at any given time thats one big continuous hangover for the angels.




I am going to give you a cocktail in honor of my new found deeper appreciation for whisky, try it before the summer is over to make the most of the juicy raspberries.  At great expense to my head I tried it with various whiskies and found the west coast peaty /smokey ones like Laphroig or Talikser went stunningly with the raspberries and mint.  I am anxious that Scotland may not let me back in if I start sloshing their single malts into cocktails but maybe I could persuade them if I made them one of my ‘Reach for the Skyes”





”Reach for the Skye”

Serves two – twice!

Sugar syrup

100g caster sugar

100g water


Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool

200 ml whisky – a smokey single malt if you dare.

juice of one lemon

juice of two limes



In a shaker  (I used a kilner jar) add the cooled sugar syrup, whisky, lemon and lime juice,  16 ripe raspberries  – or there abouts, 10 bruised mint leaves (rub then briefly between your hands) and 8 pieces of ice.  Close the lid and shake for at least 30 seconds.  The aim is to muddle the raspberries with the rest of the ingridiants to get a crimson liquid.  Pour over ice placed in your chosen drinking glass and add a few fresh raspberries and mint leaves to garnish.





Well its back to work for me and I am heading to the  Languedoc Roussillon region for what promises to be a fun week of cooking…..





Heading for the Scottish hills

Having patted the dog, waved goodbye to my folks and navigated the hills and winding lanes out of the West Country I have to admit I felt slight pangs of loss.  What could I do to buck up my spirits?  Find a new taste sensation of course. My journey to Edinburgh to cook for a bon voyage lunch just happened to be perfect timing to visit the Royal Highland Show and so discover a tasty delicacy.


For those of you who have not been to this great event and own a tweed suit or even a Barbour, you have completely missed the party.  The Royal Highland Show is a celebration of all things country, indeed it is regarded as the highlight of the Scottish Farming calendar.


Upon arrival, having first checked out the farriers, sheep shearers and country land owners tent I was heading off to find the gun dog demonstration when I became distracted by a queue of people calmly standing in billowing clouds of smoke.

Some Scots are known to thrifty , so it came as great surprise to witness a whole long line of them eagerly handing over their cash in exchange for a paper plate, a wooden spoon and a smoked fish. I joined the line, happily parted with three pounds and tucked into the flaky morsels of my first Arbroath Smokie. Wow, I had almost forgotten that smoked fish could be as good as this, no alarming orange flesh or acrid bite just a delightful creamy bronzed smokey fish.



Now with geographical statues – i.e. you have to be a haddock, hot smoked in an up turned whisky barrel within 5 miles of the town of Arbroath on the east coast of Scotland, to win the title of the Arbroath Smokie, this delicacy has protection from poor imitations.  The internet shows many suppliers that will send Arbroath Smokies to your door, I was eating ones produced by the renowned Iain R. Spink  –



Having gobbled all mine I rejoined the queue and bought some for the lunch party the following day.


Setting out the table for guests to select from the groaning spread ( there was honey roast ham / new potatoes with basil mayonnaise, fried garden sage and toasted  almonds / celery, apple and fennel coleslaw / Lanark blue cheese, puy lentil and walnuts with crab apple jelly dressing / arbroath smokies and more..) the table looked like it needed just one more thing- a few bunches of flowers.  Heading outside, the garden had some magnificent lilacs which I knew would look great and then looking over the vegetable patch I had an idea.  The curly kale, now finished but bearing beautiful yellow flowers and about to go on the compost would make an excellent arrangement.

Feeling in an adventurous mood I nibbled  a few of the curly kale flowers on the way back to the kitchen, very edible I thought so sprinkled a few on the potato salad, decorative and edible; how useful.



The next Postcard;

Hopping on a plane I am heading for warmer climates, swapping my old worn out Barbour for my summer dresses, sunglasses and flip flops I am off to one of my favourite regions to work in, Provence…


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