Tag Archives: starter

Burn’s night haggis and duck egg tartlet

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…

A sausage shaped haggis ! Perfect

A sausage shaped haggis ! Perfect

Ingredients for 6 tartlets:

  • 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

A robust and fragrant Haggis

Asparagus and broad beans risotto with miso and Umeboshi flavours

An all singing, all dancing vegetarian dish to shake our bodies out of the summer slumber! This is as rejuvenating as an outdoor yoga class or a jog in a bluebells’ wood. The miso and Umeboshi (marinated prune paste) are very good and calming for the intestines and will help restore depleted energies. You can find the miso paste and the umeboshi paste in Japanese shops and most health shops in the UK. The Japanese use them to restore intestinal bacteria after an illness or a course of antibiotics. The umeboshi is quite tangy and salty in taste so you will not need to add any salt if you use it – Especially combined with Miso.

You can do without those weird and wonderful ingredients and replace them with a good chicken or vegetable stock if you prefer .  I just wanted to include a healing and strengthening aspect into my recipe . Both versions are delicious.

Ingredients list:

  • 1 shallot
  • olive oil
  • 10 asparagus
  • handful of frozen or fresh broad beans
  • 250g of arborio or other risotto rice
  • 50ml of white wine
  • 600ml of boiling water
  • soy cream to finish
  • 1 Tbsp of umeboshi plum paste
  • 2 Tbsp of white miso paste (or 1/2 cube stock)
  • Pepper to finish

This quantity serves 5/6 as starter portions or 3 as main. Halve all quantities to cook a plentiful meal for one! There should be just a bit left over for the dog.

This month is the perfect time to use up the latest asparagus and broad beans from the garden or allotment. They are still coming up on market stalls at a bargain. I have even seen them recently at a Pick-your-own farm!

Chop up the shallot and fry it in a little olive oil.

Then throw in the rice and fry that too until the grains look transparent.

Add the wine and simmer until it is almost gone. Then add half the stock and continue simmering and turning. The secret of a good risotto is to add the liquid in stages and to keep the mix soupy and wet until the end so it does not dry too much as it cools down in the plate. Keep simmering and adding stock until the rice is cooked.

Meanwhile (or previously), you have washed and trimmed the asparagus and steamed them. The broad beans need to be shelled but not pre-steamed.

You need to season with the umeboshi and the miso paste about 5/10 minutes before the end- not before because boiling would destroy a lot of the healthy bacteria.

Add the asparagus stalks but keep the tips aside. Add the broad beans as well towards the end of the cooking and cover. Rice usually takes 20 min in all.

Dress with a dash of cream, some pepper from the mill and serve warm but not hot.

Decorate with fresh mint!

Decorate with fresh mint!

Here I have used fresh peas and decorated with fresh mint from the potted garden.

Ricotta stuffed flowers in tempura

Flowers in parcels

Flowers in parcels

Eating flowers in summer is one of life’s simple luxuries.

I have got a courgette flowers “beignet” recipe on the blog already but this one is our Sicilian version and I love it for the sharp freshness the ricotta gives against the fried batter. Here I used the same batter recipe as before.

This light snack makes a perfect starter to a summer dinner party.

Ingredients list:

  • Per Courgette flower:
  • Ricotta, 1 Tbsp
  • Salt and pepper to flavour

Season the ricotta and drop a spoonful inside each courgette flower. Delicately close the petals around and dip this into a light batter. Shallow fry in a bit of rapeseed or sunflower oil. Once brown – it takes a few seconds- lay each parcel onto kitchen towel to drain the excess oil.

Serve warm as soon as they are done.

Ricotta filled flower

Ricotta filled flower

Tatin of tomatoes, basil and fresh cheese

This dish was devised to make use of the sometimes quite insipid but otherwise good looking cherry tomatoes you find around the supermarket aisles in all seasons nowadays!

They look lovely in this simple tart and their taste is enhanced by the toffee flavour of the sauce they have cooked in. This is indeed a savoury take on the all too traditional Tarte Tatin. You need to cook it in a pan that can both go on the hob and in the oven. I use a cast iron Le Creuset one with small side handles.

You will bake it with the crust up and then put a large plate over and turn it upside down to present it with the crust down! No need for Houdini’s skills: this is quite a simple manoeuvre  if your pan is not too heavy.

Ingredients list:

  • Cherry tomatoes, 500g
  • Roll of puff pastry (all butter)
  • Sugar, 1 Tbsp
  • Wine vinegar, 3 Tbsp
  • Mixed herbs such as thyme, rosemary or fennel seeds
  • Basil leaves
  • Grated parmesan
  • Black pepper to taste
Herbs and tomato tart

Herbs and tomato tart

Melt some butter and olive oil with one spoonful of sugar: Get it to a light caramel point. Chuck some wine vinegar in and reduce.

Fry the tomatoes in the caramel, whole, and leave them to steep for auntil soft. Cut some basil leaves over, grate the parmesan and add a little pepper. Shake the herbs all over.

You can also put a few dollops of fresh ricotta or goat cheese around the tomatoes. This stage is optional and the version shown on the picture did not include this: In fact you can modulate the Tatin theme by serving it with fresh cheese on the side, as you would serve an apple Tatin with fresh cream.

Lay the sheet of puff pastry over, tucking the sides in like a traditional tatin.

Bake for 30 min at 18O until nice and brown.

This I made several times this season for dinner parties and it’s always turned out   pretty and tasty. All you ever want dinner party food to be!

Perfect gems

Perfect gems

Butternut, goat cheese and honey filo tartlets

This is an old favourite with a sweet twist. The combination of butternut squash,  fresh goat cheese and honey works miracles on your taste buds and it is VERY difficult to be satisfied with only ONE of these tartlets… You have been warned! They make a lovely starter , pretty and dainty, for a dinner party – and because they are the opposite of fuss, they do belong to this blog…
Select a very soft, fresh goat cheese from a good cheesemonger for best results. I go to Beillevaire in Montpellier street for their gorgeous dairy products and the most delicious truffle oil, by the way…
 Ingredients list:( per mini tartlet)
  • Filo sheets, 1 per mini pan
  • Butternut squash, diced (1 cupful)
  • Olive oil
  • Liquid honey, 1tsp
  • Pepper and salt
  • Soft goat cheese, 1 Tbsp
Rub the diced butternut with the olive oil and some sea salt flakes.
Roast for 15 min until soft, at 200°C. Reserve.
Fold you filo sheet in four like a hankerchief : Put several layers of filo brushed with a little oil into a a few large muffins holes or  individual tartlet pans . The tray in the photo has several dips for smallish tarts and is ideal!
Chuck in some roasted squash with torn bits of cheese. Fill it up nicely.
Sprinkle with mace and black pepper.
Put under a hot grill until the cheese has melted and the filo turns a nice golden colour. Watch out for it tends to burn quickly! Drop a little honey all over the cheese.
Serve straight away as filo sheets tends to soften as they cool down and I love a crispy light base for this.
PS: if you are in France and can’t find any COURGE MUSQUEE, try it with pumpkin: it’s just as delicious.
Nutrition notes: Filo is a great and tasty alternative to the usual pastry base for tartlets. I use it all the time for convenience and nutritional reasons. Half the  pastry and twice the taste! What’s not to like?