Tag Archives: valentines day meal

Poached eggs

9 Feb

Ages ago I promised to tell you how to make the perfect poached egg.

Well, it looks like I’ll be having a few more poached eggs soon, as we have just got another two chickens. I thought they might be called Charles Darwin and Jane Austen (after significant authors in our collections at the National Library of Scotland where I work)… but now that they’re home, I’m not so sure. Pictures will of course follow but it’s such a dreich dull day that I can’t bear to take pics yet. They are both Wyandottes: one white and the other blue. The white girl is big and bumptious, and blue is petite and very shy. And neither can be seduced by food – I gave them a scattering of warm sweetcorn, which my other girls would hoover up in the space of seconds.. and the new girls weren’t really interested.

Anyway, there will no doubt be further news of my family of chooks, but for now, let me tell you how I make the perfect poached egg.

Poached egg

Get the freshest eggs you can get.

You do know how to tell if they are fresh or not? You pop them in water and see if they float or not. If they sink to the bottom then they are oh so fresh; if they float to the top I’m not sure I’d eat them. Somewhere in the middle is probably ok.

And the reason this happens is that there is a membrane inside the egg, and over time the gap between the membrane and the eggshell fills with air to make a wee air pocket, hence the egg floats.

OK, so now you’ve got your eggs, you’re ready to make the poached eggs.

  • Boil a kettle full of water
  • Pour the hot water into a wide pan (possibly a deep sided frying pan type thing)
  • Add a pinch of salt and about 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar (don’t add more, you don’t want your eggs to taste of the vinegar – it’s just added to help the egg whites stay together and not stray all over the pan)
  • Put the pan on a REALLY low heat – you hardly want the water to bubble at all
  • Break your egg into a tea cup
  • Lower the tea cup with the egg in it towards the water, at a 45 degree angle, then slowly and gently tip the tea cup and slip the egg into the water
  • Repeat for as many eggs as you have (but don’t overcrowd the pan)
  • Now, let them just sit there in the almost boiling water for about 3-5 minutes, depending how fresh the eggs were and how soft you like them
  • Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon (which was always called a holey willie when I was a child and I still find it hard to resist calling it that!)

Serve on fresh buttered toast. Of course. Preferably with a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper.

Other things to have with a poached egg on toast

  • Black pudding – classic and delicious, needs nothing else
  • But if you’re being fancy, add some scallops (and perhaps swap the toast for some spinach)
  • Bacon
  • Ham with or without hollandaise sauce
  • Marmite – trust me, it works
  • Smoked salmon



Scottish Tapas

8 Jul

My favourite sort of lunch at home is what my Mum would call ‘little bowls of this and that’. The rest of us call it a Wolffe Lunch. The table groans with plates of this and bowls of that, with things to nibble and with salads you want to pile onto your plate. The worry is always that the thing you’ve got your eye on will be passed round the table the OTHER WAY and there will be hardly any left by the time it gets to you. No need to worry though, there is always plenty.

I’ve adapted the Wolffe Lunch, of course. And this weekend it has included homemade baps, beetroot and orange salad, warm chilli sweetcorn fritters, prawns in chilli lime dressing, tabbouleh (with fresh herbs from the garden), a cheese board, dressed crab, homemade mayonnaise, salad leaves from the garden, and cucumber from the greenhouse. I never knew that cucumbers tasted like that, always thought they were like watered down versions of a flavour – but this was sweet and aromatic in a most surprising way.

So, what do you want first? The fritters? OK then, here we go.

The chilli sweetcorn fritters were entirely inspired by finding a half can of sweetcorn in the fridge. And the purchase of this month’s Olive magazine.

Chilli sweetcorn fritters with prawns

  • 100g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1 duck egg or 1 egg, plus a yolk
  • 80ml milk
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped nice and fine
  • 100g or so of sweetcorn (about half a small tin)
  • sunflower or rapeseed oil for frying
  • 200g prawns
  • 1 red chilli, sliced fine
  • spring onions, sliced fine
  • juice of 1 lime and lime wedges to serve
  1. Put the prawns in a bowl, and sprinkle over the chilli, the spring onion slices and the lime juice. Set aside while you make the fritters
  2. Sift the flour, soda and a pinch of salt into a big bowl
  3. Make a well in the centre and add the egg, yolk and milk
  4. Beat with a wooden spoon, or balloon whisk till you have a smooth and thick batter
  5. Add the sweetcorn and chilli
  6. Heat oil in a frying pan on a medium heat
  7. Spoon tablespoons of batter into the pan and fry for a minute or so till you see bubbles on the surface. Turn over and cook for another minute or so, till golden, puffed and cooked through
  8. Drain on kitchen paper.
You’ll probably want to serve these while they’re still warm, so think about that before you get started… just make sure everything else is ready to go before you start frying. The batter can be made and left for a wee bit before you fry.
They’d probably be tasty with a choice of dips – salsa, hummus, cream cheese and chives. I’d also like it with mango salsa I was introduced to by the inimitable John Murphy. John is someone very special – he’s a philosopher, a therapist, an alcoholic and a cattle rustler (ex). And so much more.
That Mango Salsa
Cut up a mango into chunks. Add a clove of garlic, chopped up fine (or smooshed if you prefer it that way), a sliced up red or green chilli and the juice of 1 lime.
Eat immediately if you want, but it’ll be much nicer if you can bear to leave it for 24hours. The other things in your fridge might not thank you though.
Oh, and don’t even think about making these fritters if you’re on a diet. Unless of course you think you can limit yourself to just the one. Which you can’t. Trust me.

Eat your greens… introducing the greenest soup ever

10 Dec

This morning I had the most delicious breakfast: buttery scrambled eggs and grilled rashers of smoked back bacon from our local butcher.  I really don’t miss my carbs at breakfast time!

My heliboy was out on a mission (fitting a friend’s dishwasher) so I was without a car and kicking around the house.  I could have gone out and put all the garden furniture back where it belonged, after Hurrican Bawbag did its worst on Thursday.  But my wellies were in the car, on the mission.

So, I knitted for a while (Christmas gifts to be made) and then poked around the fridge to see what soup I could make for lunch.  It wasn’t terribly inspiring I have to say, but there was a bag of spinach, and a leek and some onions and potatoes.  It was looking like spinach soup.

Spinach soup

A knob of butter

1 leek

1 onion

1 medium-large potato

1 bag of spinach

chicken stock cube

some grated nutmeg

  1. Finely chop the onion, peel and chop the potato into small chunks, and slice the leek.  I prefer to cut the leek lengthwise and then chop it, so all the slices are half moons.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan, and chuck the chopped veg in on top
  3. Sweat the veg, stirring regularly
  4. Grate in about 1/2 tsp nutmeg, adn throw in the chicken stock cube
  5. Pour in boiling water.  Oh, I don’t know how much, about 3/4 kettle full I think
  6. Stir, then leave to simmer for about 15-20 minutes (and I really don’t care if you leave the lid on or not while it’s simmering)
  7. Check the potato and onion are cooked, then add the whole bag of spinach to the soup
  8. The spinach will quickly wilt down – stir it through and let it simmer for another 3-4 minutes
  9. Zizz it up with a hand held zizzer.  Or do it in a liquidiser if you like washing up
  10. It won’t go completely smooth, but will be completely tasty
  11. Test for seasoning – add freshly ground black pepper and more nutmeg if needed
  12. It would look pretty with a swirl of cream, or a dod of creme fraiche.

This is a subtle, light soup and would make a lovely starter to a big rich meal.  Or even a not so big rich meal.  Enjoy.

Pork with apple and sage

8 Dec

Some things are just meant to go together: scallops and black pudding, hot buttered toast and marmite, candlelight and a jacuzzi bath. And pork and apples.  And sage.

So, this evening, while Hurricane Bawbag is was doing its worst out there I was cooking up a storm in my wee kitchen, creating another delicious low-carb supper: pork with apple and sage, with savoy cabbage.

Pork with apple and sage

a knob of butter

a glug of olive oil

2 pork loin steaks, about 1″ thick

1 apple (I used a British cox as I am a bit of a fascist about eating our homegrown orchard fruit in this country – and cox’s are so tasty)

about 100ml dry cider

2-3 TBsps creme fraiche

a few sage leaves finely chopped

  1. Melt the butter with the olive oil over a medium heat, till the butter is foaming, but not burning
  2. Place the pork in the pan, and season with salt and pepper
  3. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side
  4. While the pork is cooking, peel the apple and cut in half.  Remove the core, by cutting a V shape with a sharp knife
  5. Cut the apple halfs into slices about 1/4″ thick and add them to the pan, squidging them in between the pork loins
  6. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, turning the apples over once or twice, till they are soft, and slightly caramelised at the edges
  7. Now chuck in the cider, sage and the creme fraiche and stir it around
  8. Turn up the heat and let it bubble away
  9. Ideally you want the sauce to reduce a bit so you haven’t got too much of it, and it’s not too thin.. if it’s all too wet, you might want to remove the pork for a bit, so it doesn’t dry out too much, but you still get the sauce reduced

This was delicious served with lightly boiled savoy cabbage.  It could comfortably have garlic and onions added, but really it doesn’t need them – the sharp sweetness of the apple, combined with creaminess is a perfect accompaniment to the pork.

If you want this to be more low fat, use half fat creme fraiche (and less of it), and don’t bother with the butter.  And remove all fat from the pork loin.  But really?  Why would you?  I lost 2lbs this week – from eating good filling protein rich meals, with lots of greens, but no carbs.  And believe me, this is much more fun than going low fat!

Citrussy meaty goodness

10 Nov

I’d got into a bit of a cooking rut.  Or perhaps a meat rut.  I’d buy mince (for meatballs, chilli or bolognese sauce), and chicken (almost infinite possibilities) and beef (stew of some description, more recently in my new slow cooker).

So I realised that if you keep buying the same things, you’ll keep making similar things.  And I bought some pork loin steaks.  Is that even what they are called?  I’m low carbing (love how I’ve turned that into a verb, I low carb, you low carb, we low carb… we all become diet bores!).  And then I had a quick flick through a recent copy of delicious magazine (why do I so that when I already own so many cook books?) for inspiration.  This was utterly delicious and quite unlike anything I would have normally made.

Pork with orange and thyme

The zest and juice of 1 orange

a few sprigs of fresh thyme

2 pork loin steaks

1TBsp muscovado sugar

  1. Splash some oil into a frying pan over a medium heat
  2. Add the orange zest, and the thyme.  You can throw in the whole sprigs if you want, or just the leaves
  3. Fry for about 3 minutes, till the zest is crispy, then take the zest and thyme out of the pan and set aside
  4. Season the pork with salt and pepper and add to the pan.  Cook for 3 minutes each side, or until browned and cooked through
  5. Remove pork from pan and set aside
  6. Deglaze the pan with the orange juice, and add the sugar.  Simmer until well reduced.
  7. Add everything back into the pan again and warm through.
  8. Serve with savoy cabbage.
OK, you could serve it with lots of other things, but I’m still low carbing so it was just perfect with a big mound of bright green savoy cabbage.

It sounds more complicated than it is with all the taking out of the pan and setting aside – just make sure you have a wooden chopping board to rest the meat on (or a warm plate) and you’ll be fine.




Broccoli and stilton soup

1 Oct

So, when Tesco builds a new store, they do all manner of strange discounts.  We have a new Tesco in the valley and today there were bags and bags of broccoli for only 10p each, all marked ‘TEST’, but all looking like fresh and scrummy broccoli.

They also had enormous whole salmon reduced from £35 to £10. I think they were about 8lb weight. But since G’s sister had already bought a whole salmon earlier in the week and stuffed our freezer full of salmon steaks I resisted that particular temptation.

And grabbed the bags of broccoli.  And a wedge of stilton.  You see where I’m heading don’t you?

Broccoli and stilton soup

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 medium large potato, chopped into small chunks

about 1.5l veg stock

1 large head of broccoli, cut into small-ish chunks

about 100g stilton in chunks

  1. Sweat the onion in a heavy based saucepan with a wee bit of oil or butter.
  2. Add the potato and sweat for a few minutes.
  3. Add the hot stock (or boiling water from the kettle and a stock cube). Cook for about 10 minutes, till the potato is cooked.
  4. Add the broccoli and cook for a further 4 minutes or until the broccoli is cooked.
  5. Add the stilton and smoosh it all up with the electric zizzer.
Perfect for a quick light lunch.  And I’ve heard a rumour that it is good to freeze.
Oh hey… if you have a lovely soup recipe and want some recognition… go here: http://www.newcoventgardensoup.com/competition

Chicken liver pate

25 Sep

OK.  So it’s a cooking weekend.  I could add the beef stew (a sort of boeuf bourguignon, but only because I added red wine) but I think I’ll leave it for another day.

Today my nephew made pizza for lunch, and very tasty it was too.  I made a salad or two to accompany it, and to be honest hardly any salad got eaten, but that’s the way of salad when there’s pizza about.  Even pear, blue cheese and toasted walnut salad with a honey dressing.  Ah well.

But after lunch I made chicken liver pate.  It’s so easy. Why don’t I make this all the time?

I looked up a number of recipes, and then went my own way, incorporating what I’d learnt, but not being a slave to the recipe.

The starting point was that I had 270g of chicken livers.  I popped them in a small bowl (actually a souffle dish) and covered them in milk, and then abandoned them in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Then I finely chopped a shallot and gently gently cooked it in its own body weight of butter.  Once it was deliciously soft, I added a chopped clove of garlic.  You could of course have squidged the garlic through a garlic press, but I think life is too short for cleaning garlic presses.  Anyway, the last one I had I squidged the garlic into a dish and ended up having to fish out lots of wee bits of metal from the supper.  The holey bit of the press had sheered out with the pressure of the garlic. Not nice.

OK, soften the garlic in the buttery goodness for a wee while.  Add thyme or sage or bay if you have any. Or marjoram.  Marjoram was all I could find, so that is what we’ve got.  Thyme would have been much much nicer.

Way before you added the garlic, while you were listening to the gentle cooking of the shallot, you should take the chicken livers out of the milk and popped them on some kitchen paper on a plate.  Soak up the milk a bit and then pick over the livers and remove any green bits, or any stringy fatty bits (you know those bits that join two lovely livery bits together). Don’t be over fastidious about the stringy bits – but be as pernickety as you like about the green bits.  Eeek.

Once the garlic has been doing its thing with the butter and shallots for a while, add the chicken livers in.  Turn up the heat a bit, but not too much – you don’t want anything to burn, just to cook.

The livers will only need 4-5 minutes to cook – they should be soft brown on the outside, but still pink on the inside.

Now, plop it all into a liquidiser.  And liquidise.

Once it is all combined, add more butter.  I’d left the butter out on the side all morning so it was deliciously soft, but it will melt quickly anyway in the hot pate.  For 270g of livers, you should add about 140g of butter in total (including what you used to cook the shallots and garlic).  I didn’t weigh anything, but I think I added about that much, judging by how much wasn’t left in the packet!

Now, put the pate into a dish.

Melt enough butter to pour over the top of the pate to make a seal.  Once the butter is melted, spoon it over the top of the pate.  Only use the oily butter which is on top, and throw the liquid white whey away.

A true professional would have added a herb to the melted butter and let it steep for a while to add extra flavour to the finished pate. I didn’t bother.  And I’ll bet it’s delicious anyway.  You can also add madeira or brandy as you cook the chicken livers, but I don’t think it needs it.  Unless of course you are looking for ways to use up those bottle ends of brandy or madeira.

Enjoy with sourdough bread or toasted white, if you’re eating carbs.  If not, have it with a big salad of spinach with sweet cherry tomatoes.  Even an onion relish/marmalade.

Now, I’ve discovered there are lots of apples in the garden, needing to be made into something.  I think it’s time for apple chutney.




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