Tonight is Burn’s Night, in which the Scots eat Haggis and drink whiskies, recite Burn’s poetry to the sound of bag pipes and generally have a song and a dance around one of the weirdest food stuff possible!
I happen to really enjoy Haggis and I share with my Franco-English brood a very candid love for the full flavours of this ancient and mythical dish. So we usually share at least one Haggis with friends during the months of January or February. The Haggis itself is best bought from your butcher and if you follow the instructions you should be set ! What I suggest here is what to do the next day with the left-overs – I always buy generously and so the left-over is quite plentiful. You could always just purchase a small haggis, cook it for the time required and use it in this recipe. I reckon this starter is an easy and user-friendly introduction to the real thing…
Ingredients for 6 tartlets:
A sausage shaped haggis ! Perfect
- 500g of Haggis (cooked and cooled)
- one egg, beaten
- Fine oatmeal or brown flour
- Duck eggs, 6
- Maldon salt
- Little glass of whisky
Poach the duck eggs directly in boiling water (with a spoonful of vinegar added) or in small darioles moulds stood in one inch of boiling water. Count 3 to 4 minutes after boiling point to get soft boiled eggs. Rinse under cool water, peel and reserve.
Put one spoonful of rapeseed oil in a skillet and heat up.
With oiled hands, shape 100g of haggis in round tartlet shape or flat pat tie and brush both sides in the beaten egg. Add a bit of water with your fingers if this helps. Sprinkle the fine oatmeal over and then fry both sides in oil. Repeat for 6 rounds.
Drain the excess oil on some kitchen towel then serve the Haggis base with one poached egg on top and sprinkle some salt over.
Serve with a sprinkle of whisky on the haggis base.
Each guest will cut the egg : the soft yolk mingling with the spicy haggis meat and the alcool gives a lovely and very unusual mouthful. Some bag-pipe music might always be enjoyable at that point but if you want to really get the full experience of Burn’s Night you can always try reciting the traditional address or heading to a Scottish pub during the next three or four weeks and seeing how it is done properly!
In any case, this is a night for loud and rowdy fun and for eating things you never thought you would love! Never miss an opportunity to party, is my honest advice for this new year. And may the memory last long after Burn’s Night is over…
I took no picture of the starter sadly but here is a picture of the whole Haggis, ready to be cut up, the night before…
A robust and fragrant Haggis
Tagines make ideal winter dishes
As a child, I used to spend most of my Christmas holidays in Morrocco where my maternal grend-parents used to live. So Christmas is not necessarily associated for me with snow or Fir trees but more often with donkey rides in the garden, fish for supper and an exotic, tenderly arranged nativity scene or crèche in the ‘salon’ where my parents and grand-parents would take us to on Christmas morning. Tagines were served to us as a warming winter dish and they are the perfect antidote to cold and dark winter evenings. With warming spices to suffuse the soul and limbs, they also represent the easy option of a perfect one-pot no-fuss meal.
Chicken lemon in tagine dish – Serves 2 to 3
For the marinade:
- 1 frozen chopped chilli cube or two pea-size drops of Harissa paste
- 200 ml water
- 70 ml olive oil
- Ras el hanout or M’rouzia mix, 1 Tbsp
- Cumin 1 Tbsp
- Ground Coriander 1 tsp
- Pinch of safran
- Fresh coriander
- Fresh parsley
For the stew:
- Cubed skinless chicken breast with wing bone (2/3 breasts) or oyster thighs -ask a good butcher!
- 1 large red onion cubed
- 2 / 3 lemons in brine quartered
- Zest of half a fresh lemon
- 2 big handful of garden peas, fresh or frozen
Note that a few quartered potatoes can be included as an option, as in the image above – I tend to give those a miss if I am trying to recover from excessive festive indulgence… Check the water if you have added potatoes and add if necessary towards the end.
Lay all the meat and put the vegetables in the dish, then mix the marinade in a small jug and pour on top of the dish. Cover and cook on medium to low heat for 45 min. Do not open the dish too often, if ever. Chuck the peas towards the end. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh parsley.
All the world’s spice under a tent
I know this is not barbecue weather and I am not suggesting you set one up in the rain! On the contrary this is fake barbecue food so perfect when you want to “pretend” and enjoy the taste of a barbecue without the hassle or indeed the health risk of charcoal meat… The Tamari sauce and Chipotle chilli give the meat a lovely, smoky taste and appearance but no burning needed.
Chipotle is a fiery and delicate chilli from Mexico and here I have paired it with Cajun spices, bought on a market in Martinique.
Crispy and blackened by the spices
- One or two pork ribs rack
- Tamari sauce 100ml
- Olive oil 50ml
- Cajun spice 1 Tbsp
- Chipotle chilli powder, 1tsp
- Treacle, 1 Tbsp
Get trimmed pork ribs in preference, with just enough fat to sizzle.
Put all the ingredients and spices into a bowl and mix well. You might need to heat the treacle so it blends with the other ingredients.
Put the marinade over the meat, massage it in with your fingers and leave in the fridge for ½ hour if you can.
Put the racks into your roasting oven on the roast setting and leave it to cook for 2 hours max at just over 160 degrees. It needs to slow roast so the meat is melting and literally falling off the racks.
Serve this to share with your fingers and add a green salad on the side.
The spices, the Tamari and treacle, all give it the distinctive charcoal colour and a great taste. All done in the oven and no outdoor BBQ to clean afterwards!
It is also quicker to make than most spare ribs recipes I know and it tastes just right.
Figs are one of my favourite fruit and the season is sadly so short… Therefore I cannot resist buying them when I happen to find them on a London fruit stall. I found these in Bayswater as I was coming out of my exam room last week and bought a huge bag of it. The smell was all I needed to feel on holiday again…
This recipe was inspired by a dish my friend Sandrine made for us once at her beautiful place Le Domaine des Clos in Provence. Sandrine is married to a childhood friend of mine and I love spending time with them in the summer because they love what they do and they do it well and their friendship is one of the things that I always can count on when I head back to my birth town. I had kept a fragrant memory of this meal and especially of the plump figs, stewed in thick juice and creamy goat cheese that were served as a starter.
Fruit stall in one of Berlin’s markets
- 10 to 12 figs, unpeeled and washed
- 200g of fresh goat cheese
- 150 of cream cheese
- Handful of chopped basil
- Cracked pepper
Wash and cut the tail end of the figs.
Slice them and arrange in an oven proof dish.
Mix the goat cheese and cream cheese together – This is only for the local version as English goat cheese tend to be dryer ; whereas elsewhere you might use a fresh creamy goat cheese on its own.
Drop dollops of the cheese amongst the fruit. Add pepper and basil leaves.
Bake in a hot oven for 30 minutes until the fruit are cooked and the juice has thickened. It is usually even better reheated the next day!
Serve as a starter with some Muscat de Rivesaltes or Sauternes. I adored this with a bottle of Macia Batle Dolce from Mallorca – a sweet white with remarquable balance and powerful aromas of white flowers and almond.
Figs and cheese
For this I advise you to use a proper pointy tagine dish but a heavy pan with lid will do if you can not have the real thing. The pointy shape of the dish does concentrate flavours wonderfully and makes a great centrepiece on the dinner table. Do not forget to soak the unglazed underside of the tagine prior to using it to avoid cracking in the feat. I use a heat diffuseur as well over the hob.
A moroccan tagine
- M’rouzia (or Ras El Hanout), 1 tbsp
- Chicken stock, 1 large glass
- Passata, 100m
- Olive oil
- Pomegranate syrup, 2 Tbsp
- Diced chicken, 1 with bones and skin
- Celery heart,1 diced
- Carrots, 3 or 4
- Prunes, one handful
- Roasted almonds, one handful
- Parsley and coriander to serve.
Fry the chicken in a pan with a little olive oil and turn each morsel a few times for about 15 minutes. Toss the M’rouzia mix over and roll the chicken in the spices until coated, add some salt, then reserve.
Lay the sliced onion at the bottom of the dish, place the chicken bits over. Cut up the celery heart and the carrots lengthwise and pile on.
Drain the chicken juice from the frying pan into a jug, add the passata, some more spice mix (M’rouzia is a current favourite but Ras el Hanout is good too). Then blend in some pomegranate syrup or grape molasses – in sale from any good middle-eastern grocer. You should have about 250ml of liquid. Add a bit of water if you need too, then pour it all over the meat and vegetables.
Cover and cook on low heat for 45 min to 1 hour. Add the prunes at the end and give a little more heat for 5 minutes. Check the liquid level: the juice must be thick and reduced but still there to give moisture to the dish.
To serve, sprinkle with chopped parsley and coriander, a small amount of roasted almonds and 3 tbsp of fresh pomegranate seeds. The mixed fruity and nutty flavours are great against the saltiness of the meat!
You can serve it on it own or with steamed bulgur wheat. I love bulgur and it loves me back: it is impossible to fail and I really like its rough nuttiness better sometime than a silky couscous.