Here we are in August and enjoying the last of the summer weather. The sun is still hot, but it’s dark now at 9pm and there can be a nip in the air.
The swans that hatched cygnets on the pond near my house are half grown now, I’ve been watching them grow all summer.
It’s harvest time on farms all over the country, winter barley is probably all harvested by now, but spring barley, wheat and oats are still standing in the fields.
Harvest is one of my favourite times, I love the dusty smell of ripe barley, the roaring sound that combine harvesters have when they’re working and the sense of excitement (or stress if you’re the farmer) and anticipation during harvest time.
As a child I remember having a ride in the cab with my Dad and being mesmerised as the combine header effortlessly cut and scooped the grain into the machine. Watching the tank of grain empty into the waiting trailer and the skill of the tractor driver as he drove along side, so that the combine didn’t have to waste time stopping.
When the weather was good and dry, the men would work through night to bring the grain in, as a child there was a tangible feeling of excitement and urgency to bring the harvest in dry.
With Scottish weather there was usually a dodging of showers, a wait in the morning before the dew had dried and then a natural break in the evening when the dampness came down.
Here’s what I have been making in August…
Ricotta, Walnut & Herb Aubergine Rolls
These are great, eat them hot or cold.
1 medium aubergine
2 tbsp olive oil
100g ricotta cheese
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tbsp chives, chopped
20g sundried tomatoes, drained & chopped
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp ras en hanout spice blend
Small clove garlic, chopped
Salt & pepper
Wooden bamboo skewer, soaked in water for a few mins.
1 tbsp yogurt
1 tbsp tahini paste
1-2 tbsp water
- Heat the grill to a high heat, slice the aubergine into 5mm slices, you should get 6 and brush each side with a little oil. Put onto a baking sheet and grill on both sides until golden brown. Remove and cool on kitchen paper.
- Heat the oven to 200c/400F/Gas6.
- Mix the chopped sundried tomatoes, walnuts, parsley, chives, balsamic vinegar, garlic & ras en hanout together. Season to taste, divide between the aubergine slices and spread over them in an even layer.
- Roll each slice up and thread onto the skewer to keep everything together. Either eat the rolls as they are or place back on the baking sheet and bake in the oven for 10 mins.
- Mix the yogurt, tahini and enough water to make a creamy, drizzly dressing.
- Serve on a bed of salad with the dressing drizzled over the top.
Raspberry Maple Caramel Choux Puffs
I made this instead of a birthday cake. You can make large choux buns or more bite size profiteroles. The recipe is in three parts. You can have the puffs in the freezer and finish off on the day.
Serves 6 to 8
100g plain flour
Pinch of salt
- Pre heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6
- Put the butter and water into a heavy based pan and melt over a low heat. Sieve the flour onto a piece of greaseproof paper.
- When the butter has melted in the pan, turn the heat to high and bring quickly to a rolling boil. Tip the flour into the pan, remove from the heat and beat with a wooden spoon until the ingredients come together into a dough and stop sticking to the sides of the pan. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
- Beat the eggs together, then add to the dough a little at a time, beating well to incorporate the egg. The mixture will split initially, then come together as you beat them in. Only add enough egg to make a dropping consistency. If you are using large eggs, you may not need them all.
- Take spoonfuls of the mixture and space out onto a baking tray, teaspoonfuls for profiteroles, dessert spoons for buns. The pastry expands a lot, so don’t crowd the tray.
- Sprinkle a little water onto the tray and put into the oven for about 30 mins
- Once cooked, remove from the oven, make a split or hole in the bottom of the puffs to allow the steam to escape. Return to the oven for a further 10 mins to allow the puffs to dry out.
- Cool and the puffs are ready to use.
225g Granulated sugar
- Put the sugar and water into a heavy based pan. Heat gently until all of the sugar is dissolved.
- Bring to the boil and bubble to evaporate off the water & caramelise the sugar to a mid brown colour.
- Remove from the heat and using a fork or tongs, dip the top of each puff in the caramel. Set aside on a plate or tray to cool. Be very careful doing this as the caramel will give a bad burn if it touches your skin.
Raspberry Maple Filling
4 tbsp maple syrup
250ml fresh vanilla custard
300ml double cream, whipped
- Mix the custard, cream, maple syrup together. Fold through the raspberries, split the puffs and spoon in the filling.
Chicken & Chorizo Paella
With schools back, my kids really appreciate warming comfort food for their supper.
300g chorizo sausage, cut into large chunks
4 chicken thighs, with skin and bones
1 large onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
200g paella rice
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful of black olives
Handful of chopped parsley
200ml white wine
Salt & pepper
- Trim any excess skin from the chicken thighs, put skin side down in a cold, heavy based, shallow pan. Put the pan onto a medium heat and allow the pan to heat and start to sizzle the chicken. Add the chorizo chunks, cook for 10 to 15 mins to brown and crisp the chicken skin & chorizo. Once the skin is brown and crisped, turn the chicken over and cook for a few minutes on the other side. Remove the chicken and chorizo from the pan.
- Pour off any excess fat, add the sliced onion, pepper and garlic. Fry until starting to soften, then stir in the rice and fry for a few minutes more, stirring for time to time.
- Add the saffron to the pan, followed by the wine. Bring to the boil and add the water.
- Stir through the halved tomatoes to the pan with salt & pepper.
- Nestle the chicken and chorizo back into the pan, scatter over the black olives, put a lid on the pan and turn the heat down low. Cook for 30 mins.
- Once ready, taste and adjust the seasoning, scatter over the parsley and serve.
Mexican Style Crispy Fried Squid
Squid is very versatile, at this time of year it comes straight out of the river Forth, so it’s very local.
2 medium fresh squid or 4 to 6 frozen depending on size
4 tbsp cornflour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp smoked paprika
Rind of 1 lime
4 tbsp natural yogurt
½ tsp chipotle paste
1 medium carrot
Oil for frying
- Clean the squid or ask your fishmonger to do it for you. If using frozen squid, just defrost.
- Cut the squid into rings, keep the tentacles whole. Dry on kitchen paper.
- Half the cucumber and remove the watery central core. Shred the cucumber either with a julienne peeler, coarse grater or spiraliser. Shred the carrot in the same way. Divide onto 2 plates.
- Mix the yogurt and chipotle chilli paste, season with salt & pepper. Put into a serving bowl.
- Mix the cornflour, salt, pepper, smoked paprika and lime rind together. Add the squid and toss well to coat. Cut the lime into wedges.
- Heat about 5mm oil in a frying pan. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle a cube of bread, add the squid, you might have to do two batches and fry for about a minute, until the squid is golden and crisp. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon & drain on kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining squid if necessary.
- Divide between the plates and serve immediately with a wedge of lime.
Mango & Avocado Salsa
Cooling and fruity, a great accompaniment for burgers, salmon, chicken, chilli etc
Serves 2 – 4
1 large or 2 small mangoes
1 large or 2 small avocados
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 medium red chilli, finely chopped
Lime juice to taste.
Salt & pepper
- Peel the mango, use your knife to make diagonal cuts approx. 5mm wide, going through the flesh and down to the stone. Turn the mango and make similar cuts in the opposite direction, so that you end up with square shapes in the mango flesh. Cut down now in slices to end up with diced mango. Put into a bowl.
- Halve the avocado, remove the stone and slice through the flesh in the same way as the mango. Pinch the skin of the avocado to squeeze the flesh out of the skin into the same bowl as the mango.
- Mix through the finely chopped red onion, chilli. Season with salt, pepper and lime juice.
Slow Cooked Lamb under a Blanket
This is a delicious way to cook lamb, slow cooked with herbs, then finished in the oven with a blanket of creamy yogurt and egg. Make sure the lamb is well browned and tender before transferring to the oven.
1 tbsp olive oil
800g boned shoulder of lamb, trimmed & cut into good size pieces
Salt & pepper
2 large cloves garlic
1 tbsp chopped oregano
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
40g white basmati or long grain rice
300ml whole milk Greek yogurt
Nutmeg to grate
- Heat a large shallow pan on a high heat. Add half of the butter and the tablespoon of oil. Once melted, brown the meat well on all sides. Pour off any excess fat, reduce the heat a little, stir in the garlic & herbs, then add the water.
- Reduce the heat to low, put a lid on the pan and cook slowly for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until the lamb is tender. If the pan starts to dry out, reduce the heat a little more and top up the water.
- Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4
- Melt the remaining butter in a small pan, add the flour and mix together to make a roux. Remove from the heat, add the yogurt and stir to combine. Put back onto a medium heat and stir for a few minutes until beginning to bubble. Remove from the heat and stir in the eggs.
- Put the rice into the bottom of an oven proof casserole, spoon over the tender meat and juices. Top with the yogurt sauce and put into the oven. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Serve with green vegetables.
Cock-a-leekie is a traditional Scottish soup, traditionally made from the first spring cockerel after the winter. We don’t live like that anymore, but it’s really important to use good stock. Here’s my version.
Serves 6 – 8
3 leeks, cleaned and sliced
3 chicken thighs, skinned
3 rashers bacon, chopped
1.5ltr good chicken stock
Salt & pepper
- Put the skinned chicken thighs into a medium pot with the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the thighs from the stock, cool, remove and reserve the meat from the bones. Reserve the stock.
- In a large pan melt the butter and add the chopped bacon. Fry for a few minutes to cook, then add the leeks. Fry until softened, add the stock, reserved chicken and prunes. Simmer for 10 minutes, season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.
Barbecued Herb Salmon
I saw Jamie Oliver doing this, here’s my version, using herbs available from my garden. It’s important that the skin is still on the fish and the coals are around medium heat.
Serves 4 – 5
Piece of salmon, equivalent of 4 portions, skin on
Rind & juice of 1 lemon
Approx 2 tbsp each tarragon, mint, parsley, chives
Salt & pepper
- Score the flesh of the salmon down to, but not through the skin.
- Mix the herbs and lemon zest together and push into the scores in the salmon flesh.
- Squeeze over the lemon juice, season well with salt & pepper.
- To cook, wait until the coals are past their hottest heat. Put the fish into a barbecue fish basket and place on the barbecue skin side down. Cook for about 10mins, turn and finish for 5 minutes. You should have crispy, browned fish skin and soft, juicy, just cooked fish with a slightly darker pink tinge in the middle of the fish flesh. Allow to sit for 5 mins off the barbecue before serving.
Watermelon & Elderflower Gin Fizz Cooler
Serves between 4 and 8 depending on the size of watermelon. I had a large one and quantities are based on that. I made this up without the gin so that drivers and children could have a non-alcoholic version.
Elderflower cordial to taste (about ½ bottle for a large melon)
1 – 2 limes
Mint sprigs for garnish
- Cut the top off the watermelon. Use either a melon baller or knife to cut out some balls or cubes for freezing. Allow for 3 or 4 pieces per person. To freeze, spread onto a non stick paper lined tray and freeze separately, keep in a freezer bag once frozen.
- Scoop the remaining flesh from the watermelon into a large bowl and puree with a hand blender. Strain the juice through a fine sieve or piece of muslin.
- Pour the resulting juice into a large jug and add enough elderflower cordial to taste.
- To make up, use a tall glass, add a couple of pieces of frozen watermelon and an ice cube. Add a squeeze of lime and gin if using. Top up with watermelon juice to half way up the glass and finish with soda water. Top with a sprig of mint
Gluten Free Summer Pudding
I took my kids fruit picking just before they went back to school & rather than putting it all in the freezer, I decided to make a summer pudding. I don’t particularly like the texture of soggy bread however so I simply omitted it. In order to help the pudding keep its shape, I added a little gelatine. It got the thumbs up and the summer pudding flavours are perfect.
Serves 6 – 8
900g mixed summer fruits – I used raspberries, strawberries, brambles and blackcurrants
100g caster sugar
- Soak the gelatine – put 3 tablespoons cold water into a small pan and sprinkle over the gelatine. Set aside for the gelatine to absorb the water.
- Put the black currants, brambles, half the raspberries and half the strawberries into a large pan and warm slowly, stirring from time to time.
- When the fruit juices start to run and the currants are soft, add the sugar. Stir and warm to melt the sugar, then add the remaining raspberries and strawberries and remove from the heat.
- Melt the gelatine over a low heat and when dissolved, stir into the fruit mixture.
- Pour into a 1 ltr bowl, pudding basin or mold, cover and set in the fridge overnight.
- To turn out, dip the pudding bowl in hot water for a few seconds to melt the outer layer of juice and turn out onto a serving plate.