While I was getting over my food fussiness I really struggled to get into game. I think it was a combination of the rich flavour and the idea of tucking into Bambi and Thumper that put me off.
I was converted to venison when I was given a haunch of wild red deer that a pal at work had shot and cleaned himself (he had a license, please do not attempt this at home!). I marinated the haunch in red wine and juniper berries and slow cooked it and it was just melt in the mouth.
Wild venison is difficult to come by, but the farmed stuff you can get in most supermarkets is still delicious. My local Asda does two venison steaks for £4 – that’s cheaper than beef! Other game is trickier to get hold of but I would highly recommend checking out Hopetoun Farm Shop near Broxburn, West Lothian who have a good range of seasonal game. We’ve ordered our Christmas meat from here the past two years and it’s been fab. They also have an online shop and can deliver to your home. Otherwise your best bet is probably Sainsbury’s where I found rabbit and pheasant.
This was my first attempt at a game pie and since I like to save time where I can, I bought in the pastry rather than making it (total cheat, I know). The original Hairy Bikers Game Pie which this recipe is modified from has a how-to for short-crust pastry if you want to give it a bash.
- 20cm oven proof pie dish
- ceramic baking beans
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1kg mixed game meat (e.g. venison, pheasant, rabbit, partridge etc), chopped
- 100g bacon lardons
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 celery stick, sliced
- 150g chestnut mushrooms
- 25g plain flour
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly
- 250ml red wine
- 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 packet ready-rolled short crust pastry
- 1 packet ready-rolled puff pastry
- 1 egg, beaten
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan and brown the meat in batches. Transfer the meat to a dish and set aside, repeating the process as necessary.
- In the same pan used to cook the meat, add the bacon and the onions. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the celery and the mushrooms and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
- Sieve in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring well. Add the bay leaves, cloves, redcurrant jelly, stock, red wine and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the meat back into the pan and bring the pan to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for two hours, or until the meat is tender.
- While the meat is cooking, preheat the oven to 180C/360F/Gas 4. Grease a 20cm pie dish with butter.
- Line the pie dish with the shortcrust pastry making sure you press into the corners of the dish.
- You need to blind bake your pastry to avoid a soggy bottom (nothing worse!) Line the pastry with baking parchment, then fill with baking beans. If you don’t have baking beans you could use rice or lentils. Just remember to line with the baking parchment or you’ll have lots of crunchy bits to pick out of the pastry!
- Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Remove the beans and discard the baking parchment.
- Once the meat is cooked, allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Then fill the pastry case with the game meat mixture.
- Place the sheet of puff pastry over the pie dish. Trim off any excess pastry with a sharp knife and then crimp the edges. You can use a fork for the crimping or try out one of these fancier techniques on BBC Good Food. Prick the pastry several times with a fork to create holes for steam to escape. Decorate the top with the excess pieces of pastry (I used a reindeer cutter).
- Brush the pastry lid all over with the remaining beaten egg, then bake the pie in the oven for 30 minutes until the pastry is golden-brown.
Close your eyes… and imagine the Spanish sunshine! This authentic tasting paella is perfect for a family meal or having friends around for dinner. Do your prep in advance then serve the finished paella in the centre of the table and watch everyone dig in. I cooked this up for friends last week and it was clean plates all round. Buen provecho!
2 chicken breasts cut into small chunks
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
100g of chorizo, sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
1 tsp turmeric
1 pinch of saffron
½ tsp of cayenne papper
1tbsp of paprika
300g of paella rice
250ml white wine
1 litre chicken stock
3 tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
200g of cooked and shelled prawns
50g frozen peas
1 lemon, cut into wedges to serve
- Cook the chicken in a little olive oil and the paprika. When the chicken is cooked through, set to one side.
- In a little more olive oil, gently fry the onion and garlic for 3 – 4 minutes. Add the chorizo and red pepper and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Add the turmeric, saffron and paprika followed by the rice. Stir well so that the rice gets coated in the spices and chorizo oil.
- Add the wine and once the rice has absorbed this, start to add the chicken stock, a bit at a time. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook. It will take about 15 – 20 minutes for all the liquid to be absorbed and the rice to become soft.
- Once the rice has softened, add the cooked chicken, prawns and frozen peas. Cook for another 5 minutes.
- Lay the lemon wedges on top and serve.
For me, tomato soup is one of my warmest memories of food as a child. Of course given my earlier fussiness I would only eat the tinned variety which came in an unnaturally vivid shade of red. My tastes might have moved on from the late 80’s/early 90s but tomato soup it is still a favourite comfort food for me.
As soon as autumn beckons (around the 18th of August in Scotland) I always make a batch of this delicious creamy tomato and red pepper soup. It’s modified from a Gordon Ramsay recipe and it’s always been a great success for me. It makes 6 bowls and also freezes well.
I like to serve with Irish Soda Bread; this BBC Food recipe is super quick and fresh bread is always a winner!
2 red onions, peeled and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 tsp paprika
Pinch of chili flakes
8 or 9 ripe tomatoes (about 1.5kg worth)
1 red pepper, seeds removed
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 litre chicken stock
100ml double cream
- Preheat the oven to 180C
- Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the soft, seedy part.
- Put a roasting tin on the hob over a medium heat. Add some olive oil and then the onions, garlic, paprika and chili flakes. Cook for approx 4 minutes, stirring well to coat the onions and garlic in paprika and oil.
- Place the tomatoes and peppers on top, cut side down. Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat up slightly and cook for around 5 minutes.
- Stir well and then pop the roasting tray into the oven for 25 minutes.
- Put the tray back on the hob over a medium heat and add the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 mins.
- Add the cream and mix well and simmer for another 5 mins.
- Use a blender or stick blender to get the soup to your preferred consistency, I like it smoother but you can go more rustic if you like.
The Queens Arms sounds kind of like an old man’s pub and upon first entering you could be forgiven for thinking that you had stepped back in time. Situated on Frederick Street, the place has a quirky, cosy interior with a cool copper bar-top and book-lined walls. The restaurant/bar has a relaxed vibe that would be perfect for a during the week date night or catching up with friends. The Queens Arms just had a kitchen refurbishment last month so I was keen to try out the refreshed menu.
It goes without saying that the conversation was flowing as my dining partner for the evening was the lovely Ashley of whatwouldrubywoo. Over dinner, we planned some festive fun including catching a special showing of our favourite Christmas film, Elf. Watch & Wolf is a festive movie night run by Jelly & Gin where you get bite sized food and cocktails to eat and drink along with the characters in the film. How fun does that sound? They are also showing Gremlins and the Wizard of Oz.
The menu in The Queens Arms is as quirky as the surroundings and includes an interesting selection of sharing dishes such as ‘Desperate Dan Inspired Pie of The Day’. Ashley chose a meat free starter and main – not because she’s vegetarian but because those options looked so damn tasty! The parsnip and sage fritters were yummy and her pumpkin beetroot risotto main was the most gorgeous shade of pink.
I, on the other hand, opted for ham hough and black pudding lollipops to start. That’s right; meat on a stick! And yes they were as awesome as they sound even though I couldn’t quite bring myself to pick them up and eat them ChupaChups style. I followed this with pork belly served with lentils and cider gravy. With the generous portions we didn’t strictly need a dessert but we couldn’t resist sharing a creamy vanilla cheesecake with bramble compote. Our dinner at the Queens Arms was decent value, with the bill coming in at £50 including a couple of glasses of wine. Last but not least, a wee mention of our charming (Spanish?) waitress Anna, who was on the ball throughout our meal with an attentive and friendly service (note to self: must return to try Queens Arms Sunday Roast).
Ashley from whatwouldrubywoo.com
These Mississippi style sticky ribs are delicious and easy to make. Be warned – this is messy finger food at its best so maybe not one to make if you’re still at the ‘composed’ stage of your relationship! In fact the BBQ sauce is so good that I have been tempted to drink the remains once or twice. Classy!
I’ve developed this recipe from a Hairy Biker’s one. Their cooking technique involves a barbeque – not the most practical for November in Scotland, so I’ve modified this accordingly!
- 25 g light soft brown sugar
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp mustard powder
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
Finger licking barbecue sauce
- 200 ml tomato ketchup
- 100 ml water
- 75 ml cider vinegar
- 150 g light soft brown sugar
- 3 tbsp maple syrup (honey is fine as an alternative)
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 3 garlic cloves finely sliced
- A pinch of chilli flakes
- Ideally start the night before so your ribs can marinade overnight. Otherwise an hour of marinating time will still make your ribs delish! Mix the dry ingredients for the rub in a bowl.
- Remove 3 tbsp of the mixture and put in a medium pan. Set aside the pan – this will be used to make the barbecue sauce later.
- Add the olive oil to the remainder of the dry ingredients in the bowl to make a paste. Massage the paste into both sides of the meat. Leave to stand for an hour or overnight if you have time.
- Preheat your oven to 170C. Heat a roasting tray on your hob with a little olive oil. Add the ribs and brown for 5 minutes until they are coloured on all sides.
- Transfer the roasting tray to the oven and cook your ribs for 1 hour, turning half way through the cooking time.
- While your ribs are cooking it’s time to make the BBQ sauce. Add the ketchup, water, vinegar, sugar, syrup, Worcestershire sauce and garlic into the pan containing the 3 tbsp of Mississipi rub. Bring to the boil over a medium heat and then leave to simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Make sure you stir regularly so the garlic doesn’t get stuck and burn.
- Take the pan off the hob and pass the sauce through a sieve to remove the pieces of garlic.
- When the ribs have been in the oven for an hour, remove and use a pastry brush to apply some BBQ sauce to both sides of the meat. Return the ribs to the oven for a further 10 minutes.
- Serve the ribs with the rest of the barbecue sauce for dipping or drizzling. I would accompany with sweet potato chips and plenty of napkins!
I’ve had a lot of things delivered to my door over the years… healthy snack boxes, beauty boxes with cosmetic samples and countless party dresses. But something I’ve never had pop through my letter box is a booze delivery!
I was intrigued when I was asked to go along and try out the new Tipple Box product. For £24 a month you can get a delivery with all the ingredients you need to make around 8 glasses of craft cocktail.
I was really impressed to see the quality of the products in the box – Fever Tree mixers and Chase spirits. The pack comes with easy step-by-step instructions to create each cocktail. I tried out the gin based Strawberry Tipple and the vodka based Lady Marmalade… both delicious!! This would be fab for a girls night in and how good would it be to come home from work on a Friday to find a TippleBox waiting for you? Looks like I have a new addition for my Santa list!
Ubiquitous Chip has been a Glasgow institution since the early 70’s. The restaurant’s cobbled courtyard is filled with foliage and twinkly lights which transported me a million miles away from a cold November night in the city. Who would imagine (without Google) that the Ashton Lane venue used to be an undertaker’s stables?
Seated next to the fish pond, I had my fingers and toes crossed I wouldn’t be asked to choose my dinner from a live selection! Thankfully it’s not that kind of plaice (geddit?) and koi carp was off the menu. There was, however, a lovely seafood selection including Islay scallops and Shetland cod. In the end, I opted for a double deer delight; venison haggis with mash potato to start and roe deer haunch for my main. No pics of the food unfortunately as the aforementioned twinkly mood lighting does not equal good photographs. But trust me when I say, you’ve never seen haggis look as pretty as this! The roe deer was cooked medium-rare and melted in the mouth.
There was a great selection of wine and the knowledgeable sommelier was happy to let us sample a couple before coming to our decision.
‘The Chip’ as it’s affectionately known can’t be matched for its unique charm and delicious menu of locally sourced produce. If you’re a game lover, I would recommend checking out their upcoming Game Supper which is a very reasonable £30 per person and sounds like a great way to celebrate St Andrews Day.
Bored of the same old sandwiches? Try out my recipe for Thai style chicken and sweet potato soup. It’s perfect for autumn with warming ginger and a chilli kick. It’s also super easy to make and the recipe will produce enough for 4 large bowls. The recipe is based on a BBC Good Food one which I’ve tweaked after making it several times.
I find the chicken protein combined with the ‘good carbs’ keeps hunger in check until dinner time. The coconut cream can be swapped for reduced fat coconut milk if you want to make the soup a little more calorie friendly.
I like to use these bags of pre-chopped butternut squash and sweet potato from Asda. It’s a bit of a cheat but if you’ve ever struggled with hacking up a rock-hard butternut squash then you’ll appreciate the time-saving here!
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red chilli, sliced
2cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 stalk of lemongrass, bashed with a rolling pin
2 tbsp red Thai curry paste
200g sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
200g butternut squash, peeled and roughly chopped
750ml chicken stock (use 2 stock cubes)
200ml coconut cream
2 chicken breasts cut into small pieces
1 lime, juice and zest
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp Thai fish sauce
- Heat a little oil in a pot – my favourite for Thai food is groundnut oil, but olive oil will do fine if you don’t have this. Add the red curry paste along with the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and chillies and cook for 3 – 4 minutes on a low heat.
- Pour in the chicken stock and coconut cream and add the butternut squash and sweet potatoes. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Fish out the lemongrass and discard. If you’re lucky enough to have a blender (I got one for a wedding gift) then transfer the soup to this and whiz until smooth. If not; you can pick up a hand-held stick blender for less than a tenner in most supermarkets. Blitzing with a hand blender will only take an extra few minutes.
- Pour the soup back into the pot and add the raw chicken pieces. Simmer for another 10 minutes and take out a piece of chicken to check it’s cooked through.
- The finishing touch is to add the lime juice and zest, the sugar and fish sauce. This gives the authentic tangy Thai flavour. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!