Tag Archives: smoked salmon

Laughter, tears, whisky and exploding Haggis

Burns night table setting

Please someone remind me NEVER to plan another supper club when I have raging PMT. Tell me kindly and from a safe distance to check the calendar and rearrange the date!

The new kitchen

Having said this I don’t think my guests suspected that I was a raging mess of hormones, only my long-suffering helpers in the kitchen. I’m sure from the point of view of the diners, that the night was a beautiful, calm occasion, which after the main course went out and most of the stressful bit was over, I enjoyed immensely and was dead excited as it was the first supper club since the new kitchen was installed.

Hobz and me preparing veg

Another downside of the PMT was that I became a clumsy, vague, moody cow. I drop things, break things, make a mess of stuff and for some reason my cooking always goes up the chute too. Things invariably take twice as long to prepare and what is normally the simplest of things becomes a complete mission. It all goes completely wrong and I end up getting stressed and rapidly descend into panic mode.

My weekend of horror started on Sunday when I thought I would prepare the Tipsy Laird (really just a glorified trifle made with home-made sponge soaked in whisky and orange juice rather than the usual sherry, home-made custard, raspberries, grated white chocolate, lashings of cream and topped with toasted almonds and oatmeal), bake the bread and prepare the stocks and base for the soups….sounds simple right? How wrong you would be….the only thing that went right was the making of the vanilla sponge for the base of the Tipsy Laird.

On Sunday I faffed around the kitchen, distracted and moody, whilst an array of visitors sat around the kitchen table nattering and drinking tea. I soaked my sponge in whisky and fresh squeezed orange juice, lined the bowls and got on with custard making trying to converse with my friends. With eight egg yolks in the recipe I was almost squeezing the eggs out of the poor chickens (I used the whites to make meringues for the kids for tea so they wouldn’t eat the trifle)…the teen floated around saying “what can I eat?” No, not that I replied…or that…before she sulked off saying “I can’t bloody well eat anything in this house”!!

In my dazed state I must have stopped stirring that bloody custard for 2 minutes: when I turned back it was on its way to becoming scrambled egg!!!!….Molly, one of the kitchen table tea drinkers ran back to her house swearing she knew a remedy…the other half was packed off to Tesco’s for emergency custard (the chickens weren’t going to lay enough eggs to cover another attempt) and I fumed and panicked in equal measure. To compound the problem I couldn’t get on the internet in my house. It hadn’t worked since the teen was on the computer at the weekend….One of the great mysteries of life is how teenagers manage to hex technology so successfully and then swan off claiming it worked perfectly when they left it….

Ten minutes later Molly phoned. She said that if I stirred in two tablespoons of double cream and then whisked like fuck, it should be ok. I was sceptical, my custard looked beyond redemption, but I gave it a try. To my joy it worked, the custard was saved, I tried to phone the other half to call of the custard chase but too late, he returned with three pints of Tesco finest custard. Having turned my attention to bread making I put all the ingredients in the bread machine and low and behold, it wouldn’t work. No amount of pushing buttons, switching on and off and even a gentle shake would get it to work. Eventually the other half got it going, I’ve no idea how…it is a running joke in the house that he can fix anything with a Hoover and a screw driver, but I’m not convinced that would work with the bread machine.

So then I turned my attention to soup making, surely boiling a chicken with some leeks and picking Arbroath Smokies apart would be simpler. Well, the chicken bit was ok, but the Smokies proved to be hell. In fact I’m not keen to see another smoky as long as I live. They are the boniest fish ever and I had to make sure all the skin and bones were removed from a dozen of them…even if they were delicious www.llandudnosmokery.co.uk/home.php?/home

Arbroath smokies

Not only was the soup time-consuming to prepare but it must also have been the most expensive soup I’ve ever made, but I have to say the result was fantastic!! It took me at least two hours to pick over them. By the end of Sunday I was totally frazzled. I went to bed hoping Monday would be less stressful.

Thankfully I had the house to myself all day, no kids to distract, no other work to do except prepare for the evening. The furniture had been moved round on Sunday night, my Dad would be there later to help as well as Hobz (the waitress) who was coming in after school. All good….and yes everything proceeded according to plan, smoothly even…. Tipsy Laird ready, bread made (although the machine did give up the ghost again on Monday when I tried a second loaf and no coaxing in the world would make it start again), Cullen Skink made and Cock-a-leekie finished.

Apart from Dad’s train being late and having to hang around at the station waiting for him, we were still on target. Hobz arrived and all was good, vegetables peeled and ready to cook (had to blag a few saucepans because we ran out what with all the soups, vegetables and different Haggis to cook and heat)…until the Haggis went in the pot.

I’d had the real McCoy sent down from McLays a master butcher in Glasgow (www.shop.scottishhaggis.co.uk) along with a couple of their vegetarian Haggis. It was enormous and looked fantastic. The instructions told me to preheat a large pan of water but not to boil it, I followed the instructions…popped in the Haggis and two minutes later the skin came apart. The Haggis had exploded in the pan….”NOOOOO” I shouted…Hobz came in and said “what’s happened?”….the Haggis…I pointed at the pan….its exploded!! We both stared into the pot, Oh fuck…we both said together as we watched the skin shrink further….we finally shook ourselves out of our dumbstruck stance and found spatulas etc…we lifted it out of the pan before it disintegrated further and wrapped it in foil and put it in the oven in the hope that it would cook it slowly and we would still be able to serve it on the side….then, in a state of panic I drove off to Tesco to hunt out a Haggis fit for addressing…..5 miles it is to my nearest supermarket!! I got there to be told that they didn’t sell Haggis….further panic stricken I went off to Morrison’s where I’d seen Haggis on sale….I screeched into the car park…ran into the shop to find a few left on the shelf…I got a couple and managed to get home again before 6.30!!…

Dad, Rosie B and me

By this time the teen and other half were home, they got changed and joined in the preparation. Both looked exhausted and completely unprepared….. Having had a quick change myself I set about setting out the remaining bits for our guests arrival….the whisky, salmon and bread was set out and the only thing that I anticipated would be on the late side was the main course…. Once 7.30 arrived and our first guests were knocking on the door we were pretty much ready to go and all I had to do was stress about the tatties, neeps and Haggis cooking…. We had eight guests in total (one cancellation on the night due to sickness) and everyone was seated on one large table, the perfect arrangement so it transpired. Colin, who arrived in kilt, sporran and even with his own ceremonial dagger to stab the Haggis, led a toast following my hosts welcome and got proceedings under way. I think at this point we had three bottles of whisky on the table and my Dad had already had a few to begin with!!

Smoked salmon, home made brown bread and 12-year-old single malt

The salmon and bread were passed round and the girls went off to find out who wanted cock-a-leekie and who wanted Cullen skink…. In the kitchen all was not exactly calm, but under control….. The conversation flowed as did the whisky and wine….I explained to everyone the saga of the Haggis and our Scottish guests, who were obviously Burns night veterans, stated in a matter of fact way “Oh yes, that happens all the time”….I slumped in my chair. If I’d known that I’d have not got so stressed about it!!

Cock-a-leekie soup with Julienne of prunes and buttered leeks

Cullen skink

Once the starters and salmon were cleared away and following a brief false start sorting out the music we played the piped music that we’d been given (we do have a local bagpiper in the village and we had tried to get hold of him to book him but without luck, he wouldn’t have been able to play in the house but we hoped he might be able to play in the street and piss the neighbours off!!!!). We welcomed in the Haggis….obviously the Morrison’s ones didn’t look half as impressive as the original ill-fated one, but at least they were intact. Colin then addressed the Haggis, reading from an obviously well-thumbed copy of Burns poetry. The Haggis was served with tatties and neeps mashed with plenty of butter and a drop of cream….the one from Glasgow was noticeably richer and tastier than the Morrison’s ones…and the vegetarian Haggis was delicious….it reminded me almost of a particularly good stuffing or maybe a nut-roast.

Addressing the Haggis

Stabbing the Haggis

The entertainment continued after the main course with a moving rendition of “My luve is like a red red rose” sung by my Dad who is a folk / sea shanty singer singer and actor (www.hogeyemen.com/id7.html). At this point the last two days of stress and anxiety, high emotion and PMT got the better of me. The main course served I let go and cried my eyes out in the corner much to the bemusement of the dinner guests….of course my Dad was more than happy to have such a dramatic response to his moving song. What was also beautiful was the way Rosie, Hobz and the little un all sat huddled on the stairs looking through the banisters at the entertainment below, this made me even more emotional and I cried even more.  Unfortunately i didn’t get a picture of them as they had the camera to video Dad…but i can’t seem to upload it here so i will try the Facebook site.

It's hard to make Haggis look really appetising...so best to just serve it as it comes...this was a combination of the authentic and the Morrisons one

As usual I forgot to take photos of crucial parts of the supper...this is the remains of the second bowl of Tipsy Laird!

I then attempted to compose myself and make a toast to the immortal memory of Burns, which I certainly bumbled over. Mike then read Robert Burns by William McGonagall, a tribute to the poet and Sonia finished off with Kate O’Shanters tale traditionally read at Burns suppers in response to Tam O’Shanter and following a toast to the lassies…which in our case was brief since we didn’t feel that we really fitted the bill as ‘lassies’ and all the men felt they were too long in the tooth to be toasting ‘lassies’ anyway.

We followed the entertainment with some Tipsy Laird, coffee and cheese and bannocks for whoever still had room.

The supper club girls Rosie B and Hobz

The night was great fun, but probably not the best idea on a school night. We were all shattered the next day, the other half had already had a dreadful day at work and he had to come home to this, so his head wasn’t really in it and Rosie skipped out on her homework. One of the homework’s was English so I wrote a letter apologising for her not completing the assignment, but ensuring the school that if she had waitressd at a very literary night and had probably learnt a lot about Robert Burns. The teacher responded by letting her off the homework…which Rosie thought was as good a result as the supper club was!

Denise x

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The forgotten recipes of Christmas and new year

I promised so many people during the Christmas period that I would stick my recipes on the blog. Most of these promises were broken. I was so busy to-ing and fro-ing, trying to keep up with other work, making Christmas presents, preparing supper clubs and ferrying kids between their social dates, that sitting down and writing recipes on the blog fell by the wayside.

Now i shall make it up to all those people to whom I promised particular recipes, whilst adding a little bit about the origins of each recipe  as I go along.

Forgotten recipe number 1: Christmas pudding-for the very nice man on the Bangor to London train, whose name i didn’t get. I know it’s late, but maybe next year huh?

The littleun and me showing off our puddings

I have been making my Christmas puds this way ever since I moved to Wales, which will be 20 years ago this May. The recipe is slightly adapted from one which I found in an old Sainsburys recipe book.

Sift 175g (6oz) plain flour, 2 teaspoons ground mixed spice, 1 generous teaspoon cinnamon and half a teaspoon grated nutmeg into a large bowl. Mix in 175g (6oz) fresh brown breadcrumbs then rub in 175g (6oz) softened butter.

Stir in 175g (6oz) soft brown sugar, 350g (12oz) sultanas, 250g (8oz) raisins, the same amount of currants and 75g (3oz) mixed peel. Add the grated rind and juice of one orange, 2 beaten eggs and 120ml of brown ale (or stout). Give it a good mix, don’t forget to have a wish and then turn it into a greased 1.75litre (3 pint) pudding basin (or two smaller ones like we did). Cover with a pudding cloth or greaseproof paper and a sheet of foil pleated in the middle and tied on with string. Steam for 6 hours topping up the water as necessary.

Allow to cool and then replace the greaseproof paper and foil with fresh and store in a cool dry place. These can be made up to 4 months in advance and they get better with time. When you are ready to serve them, steam again for about 2 hours, turn out onto a warm dish, douse well with warm brandy and then ignite.

Christmas pud ablaze

Forgotten recipe number two: smoked salmon and sour cream blinis: for the can can girls who became addicted to blinis at our kids Christmas party

A couple of years ago I was given a book which contained cocktail recipes and snacks for cocktail parties. It came from NEXT of all places, but this blini recipe has been an overwhelming hit ever since I first gave it a go.

blinis in progress

Mix a 7g sachet of yeast and a pinch of sugar into 250ml of warm milk and leave to stand for a few minutes. Place 160g plain flour in a bowl (you could replace 60g with buckwheat flour for a slightly different taste) and make a well in the centre. Add 2 egg yolks (save the egg whites til later) and milk mixture and whisk until combined and smooth. Cover the bowl with a teatowel and leave to stand in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Melt 20g of butter and stir into proved mixture, season and then fold in one-third of the egg whites until just mixed. Fold in the remaining egg white gently until just combined.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan. When hot drop in a dessertspoonful of blini mixture to make a rough circle, this gets easier with practise, although I kind of like the free form appearance of each blini. Cook until bubbles begin to form on the surface then turn over. This should only take about 30 seconds each side and they should look light brown in colour. Drain on kitchen paper and leave to cool. The mixture should make about 40 blinis.

When they are cool put a dollop of sour cream on each and a strip of smoked salmon (which I got from Jody at the Llandudno smoakery www.llandudnosmokery.co.uk/home.php?/home ) top with a sprig of dill and if liked quarter of a teaspoon of salmon roe.

Forgotten recipe number 3: White chocolate nipples and chocolate truffles this is for everyone that said “oh my god, those truffles are gorgeous”….

This was the first year I attempted to make proper truffles with chocolate on the outside instead of icing sugar, cocoa or chocolate sprinkles (the cheats approach). It was also the first year I made white chocolate truffles. Both were very much trial and error. My first attempts ended up with a fine white coating on the chocolate. I needed advice, so I phoned a friend. She told me that my chocolate needed to be hot and then I had to make then very cold (i.e. put them in the fridge until set properly). Leaving them to cool at room temperature in our old, damp houses just meant that the condensation discoloured them. They still tasted nice though!!

My second attempt was better.

The White chocolate truffle recipe took me back to 1986. The place was Bishopstrow house in Wiltshire, an upmarket hotel where I went to do work experience whilst doing my chef training. Unfortunately I was distracted. It was a long hot summer, I was a wayward teenager and he was a hot young chef called Martin Zalensky. The encounter was brief and i have no idea where he is now, but his recipe has stood the test of time, to remind me of a heady misspent summer.

500g of white chocolate couverture, 175g double cream, 65g glucose, 75g butter.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Bring the cream and glucose to the boil then add to the chocolate. Cool down a bit then beat in the whipped butter. When its cool and set scoop into balls….when I first did this back at Bishopstrow House, the summer was so hot i had to stand in the cold room because the chocolate melted too much.

Cover in melted chocolate couverture….I found this difficult i have to say. White chocolate doesn’t have as much cocoa solids as dark and it either got too hot and went powdery or was not hot enough. I tired mixing in alcohol, butter, you name it but the problem remained. If anyone has any tips I’d love to know!!!

home-made truffles

If there are any recipes I missed out, which I have promised please remind me and I will add them too

Denise xx

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