In the second instalment of our guest blog posts, Scotland’s best-loved cookery writer Sue Lawrence shares some tips to help you cook your way through the lockdown.
In these challenging times, I like to get into the kitchen and put on some wonderful music (not more NEWS, please!) – Chopin or Mendelssohn’s piano pieces are my preference – and cook some simple yet tasty dishes.
If you are using up larder ingredients, don’t ignore tins of chickpeas, butter beans or haricot beans: make a simple hummus by whizzing these up (drained) with some tahini, olive oil, cumin and garlic. Serve this with pitta bread to dip. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have some meat in the freezer, serve with quick-fried minced lamb zapped with ras el hanout or Za’atar from the spice cupboard.
If you have loads of onions kicking around, fry these, thinly sliced, in butter until nicely browned (stirring often). Then, sprinkle in a spoonful of flour, stir madly and gradually add about 500 ml hot beef stock and stir till blended. Season, add a splash of red wine vinegar, and serve this simple onion soup either as is or with croutons topped with grated cheese (preferably Mull Cheddar).
If you have some Stornoway Black Pudding in the freezer, make my Black Pudding Cheese Scones from A Taste of Scotland’s Islands (p108) to go with the soup. See the full recipe below!
If you have a tin of condensed milk, some lemons and oats, turn a few pages on to the divine recipe from the Island of Luing for Lemon Oat Bars (p147) to go with your mid afternoon cuppa.
Stornoway Black Pudding Cheese Scones
This recipe was inspired by Isle of Lewis baker Mairi Ord’s Twitter post of ‘marag’ (Gaelic for black pudding), apple and sage scones. Like me, Mairi favours using Stornoway black pudding. I like the black pudding just with cheese. Eat warm with a dod of butter – with soup or, if you make them very small, as canapés, split and topped with a smear of tapenade and a dice of tomato.
Unless you want the entire dough to look grey, ensure the black pudding is chilled before you dice and then fold in gently so that the small pieces do not break up.
450g plain flour
2 rounded tbsp baking powder
125g butter, cubed
175g grated mature Cheddar (I like Isle of Mull)
200g black pudding, skin removed, diced
2 large free-range eggs
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and rub in the butter. Stir in the cheese, add a pinch of salt and, folding in very gently, the black pudding.
Place the eggs in a measuring jug, stir lightly then add enough milk to make up to 300ml (about 150ml). Stir lightly, then add most of this to the mix (enough to make a softish dough), and gently combine with floured hands. Bring together gently (you do not need to knead, only bring the dough together) and place on a floured surface. Pat out till about 3cm high. Using a fluted cutter, cut out 10 large scones and place on a lightly buttered baking tray.
Brush the tops with any liquid left in the jug (add a splash more milk if necessary) and bake near the top of a preheated oven (220C/425F, gas 8) for about 12 minutes or until golden and well-risen.
Remove to a wire rack and leave until barely warm before splitting and spreading with butter.
Finally, from Scottish Baking my favourite flapjacks.
Flapjacks with Bits and Pieces
Makes 18 – 24
Flapjacks are not traditionally Scottish, but they seem to sit very nicely here, given their oatiness!
These ones are bulging with all sorts of goodies – I have suggested certain seeds, nuts and fruits but you can substitute many other types. Chopped dried apricots, chopped almonds, dried blueberries or cranberries are all good.
You can omit the flour and use all oats (in which case use 400g / 14 oz oats); this gives a slightly chewier texture and is less easy to cut into neat slices, but is perfect for those who prefer to avoid wheat flour.
175g/6 oz butter
3 tbsp golden syrup
150g/ 5.5 oz light muscovado sugar
350g / 12 oz porridge oats
50g / 1.75oz plain flout
0.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
50 g / 1.75 oz raisons, dried blueberries or dried apricots
50g / 1.75 oz desiccated coconut or toasted chopped almonds
25g / 1 oz sunflower seeds
25g / 1 oz pumpkin seeds
Melt the first three ingredients together, then stir in the oats, flour and aa pinch of salt. Stir in the remaining ingredients and tip into a lightly buttered Swiss-roll tin (23 x 33cm / 9 x 13 in), spreading out to level the surface.
Place on a large baking tin (in case of spillage) and place on the middle shelf of a preheated oven (180C/350F/Gas4) until golden brown but still slightly soft – about 18–20 mins – then remove to a wire track. Cut into bars while hot, but only remove from the tin once cold.
Enjoy, and take care!