Independence Chicken

February 9, 2014

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A good friend of mine and I were having a discussion the other day about Modern Scottish Cuisine and influential dishes that hail from Scotland. He suggested creating a dish that would help inspire the people of Scotland for the upcoming vote on independence and celebrate the flavours of home.

The result is a dish I call ‘Independence Chicken.’ A delicious entree that has familiar flavours with a modern twist. Mike, my friend, wasn’t the only inspiration. I was also inspired by Cock-A-Leekie soup and how to capture those delicious flavours into a main course that would be easy for home cooks and professional cooks alike. The result is as follows:

2 Chicken Breasts, boneless and skin on, seasoned with Celtic Sea Salt & Pepper

2 TBSP Cooking Oil

Preheat oven to 360F / 182C, In a sautee pan, oven proof, over medium to high heat brown chicken breast on both sides, skin side first. Once browned, place in oven till done, approximately 15 – 20 minutes.

While the chicken is in the oven, place the following in a sautee pan over medium heat:

1 TBSP Butter

45g Leeks, julienned and blanched

56g Prunes, sliced thin

then Add:

100 ML White Wine

250 ML Double Cream

Let sauce simmer until thickened. Season with salt & pepper if desired.

Remove chicken from the oven and let rest for a minute or two. On a plate, spoon sauce in center. Slice chicken and place on top of sauce.

Garnish with tattie Scones and your favourite greens. If you would like to try my tattie scones, here is the recipe:

400g Mashed Potatoes, chilled. I like to make them the day before

35g Butter

150g Flour

50g Steel Cut Oats

In a bowl, mix all ingredients but retain 50g of flour for dusting. Once dough is smooth and fully combined, divide into 6 balls. roll each ball onto floured surface into the shape of a rectangle. Then cut into quarters and griddle on a pan with a splash of oil over low heat. Serve hot.

I hope you enjoy making and eating this dish. Share it with your friends and family and let’s get our independence spirit moving on ‘YES’ a full stomach!

Slainte

FOR PIE”S SAKE

February 5, 2014

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If there could only be one food that reminds me of home, it would be the Scotch Pie. It is in itself symbolic of all things Scottish. To be honest, it is hard to think of food in Scotland and not think of the pie.

But I do have to be honest and express my deepest sympothy for the way the pie has been treated through the past few years. Made with cheap flavourless greasy mush is unfortunately a descriptive of some pies I have had lately. It’s gotten to the point where I am more satisfied with making them myself but not everybody can do this on a regular basis and even myself, like most of you, resort to buying them in hopes to enjoy but to be honest I hardly do anymore.
I guess this is my way to vent my frustration and would love to see quality back into my beloved pie!
I truly long for the day that the pie can regain it’s favour in my weekly diet. I would much rather pay an extra Pound for a quality pie and I am sure the rest of Scotland feels the same way. So my message is this to all you cheap pie makers out there, “Get the quality of flavour, texture and crust back into our beloved Scotch pie instead of cutting ingredient costs to maximize profits, please!”

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Putting aside, for a moment, all the attention Scotland will achieve this next year with the focus being our vote for independence I would like for you to consider making our cuisine a top topic in all your discussions as well as what’s on your table. Create a BUZZ around the terrific foods that we share with the world in an ever-changing topic of trends which creates ideas of what we will crave.

Each year I read all the trend reports from several sources which offer predictions of where the food scene is going next. As food trucks became all the rage in Los Angeles I couldn’t help but think of the wee caravan I would get my slice sausage on a roll and a cup of tea from in Largs. When small plates were the rage, and still are, I often think of what it was like growing up in a council house where there was eight of us jockeying for position at the dinner table where small plates was the trend every day. A tasting of sorts with a wee bit of fish, tatties and stovies perhaps one day and skirlie, fried eggs and bacon another.

I spend a lot of time looking at previous year predictions and see what hits. Mainly out of curiosity but mostly to see who really has their finger on the pulse of the culinary world. Truth is about 30% of the predictions are really even relevant to what we see the following year. A low percent but still not too bad in my opinion. Take for example an article that I read on trends recently. One chef says “Look for beef to be on trend.” Hardly a prediction in my opinion but with the growing cost of beef from several commodity forecasters I’m not really feeling this one but we will see. I would be more intrigued though if he had said Angus Beef or Highland Beef. Referencing the Scottish input to the beef market would be great in my opinion. Similar to the experience of Kobe beef from Japan and how for a couple of years chef’s went absolutely nuts trying to get it on their menus. The cost is high but that didn’t seem to slow the trend. Wagyu started popping up almost everywhere in America. Even in hamburgers! Can you believe that? Finding the best beef possible and grinding it?

Trends become trends by people taking notice and talking about what is trendy. I hope this happens with our food and would like to see the world be more curious about what Scotland has to offer.

In 2014 I would like to see the following food trends come out of Scotland:

  • Scottish salmon both raw and smoked taking prevalence over any other region as premiere quality
  • Scottish Oats. Steel cut Scots oats will grow in popularity and Skirlie will be relevant in menus
  • Scottish Malt. With the trend being small distilleries making a splash
  • Stovies becoming more noticeable as braised meats and tatties

Evidently, too many people turn their nose up to my beloved national dish. I am often left wondering why especially when there are so many other foods that also contain offal and are loved by the same people who won’t try haggis. I’m left scratching my head.
This situation has left me to think about how to present haggis in my upcoming book. I have looked at it from every angle. The spice, the oats, the organ meat itself, the cook process and lastly, how it is served. Traditionally it is served with neeps and tatties but I have found some risk takers dishing it up in other forms as well but still not really hitting the mark as far as enticing the rest of the world to eat it regularly and not just on Burns Night.
While I contemplate what it is that might possibly need work to make it modern, I have to admit that I seriously overthought this one. The haggis itself is a beautiful dish. Most often overcooked and underseasoned but certainly a beautiful dish. A dish deserving it’s very own poem written by Scotlands most famous poet? Aye, it is!
Described by words like reekin, gushing and glorious I have to wonder are we diluting this glorious dish with sides undeserving? Where did the neeps and tatties come into all this anyway?
Honestly, in my opinion, this is where we lose the interest of the dish. It’s not the haggis, it’s the 2 lumps next to it that don’t compliment the dish at all. If neither are mashed then possibly just possibly it is enjoyable but here is my take on the whole trinity of things.
Texture. That’s right, the texture is too soft. Soft haggis, soft potatoes and soft neeps all mashed up and offering nothing to the diner except a distant memory of baby food.
I say forget the neeps and tatties. Even if you fry both, it is still lost because I just don’t see how they go together permanently. Well, let’s just say it is a work in progress but a mushy supper is typically not on anybody’s plans for a good meal so no wonder it is hard to sell especially if it is all 3 your selling!
I will continue my work on this and hopefully come up with something of a solution. If not, the book will just have to simply include haggis all by itself. Either way that’s not too bad in my book.
Cheers,

Address to a Haggis
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
‘Bethankit’ hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis

The Scottish Fork

September 13, 2013

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As I work towards the completion of my next book, “Modern Scottish Cuisine”, I can’t help but envision the importance of not only what the food will look like on the end of a fork right before it hits the taste buds but most importantly “How does it represent Scotland?”

Although both questions are important, I have to lean more toward how does it represent Scotland. My approach at first was always to take the old recipes, modernize them up in a neat and trendy package and hope the public likes it. As I develop the recipes and approach the process as a product developer, I have to be honest and say this is morphing into it’s own dynamic outcome. I have then took a long hard look at what was it that made me start on this journey and reflect upon the emotion that has brought me to where I am today.

Modern Scottish Cuisine isn’t about the old, I must confess, it is about the new. How do we rediscover what it is about our food and what have we missed?

I am especially happy to reflect on the products, flavors and textures of the foods for the book. But the real story is that of what the food represents. It represents Scotland.

 

I am anxious to get this one complete for a lot of reasons but most importantly to share with anyone interested or even peak the interest of who might not have been otherwise. In my ‘Scotland is Delicious’ campaign, I encourage both native and decendants of Scotland to make the classical dishes Scotland is known for. To share our dishes with family and friends and especially our children so they do not forget the sights, smells and flavours of old.

Those are the true comfort foods I remember and also never want to forget. I think one traditional Scottish dinner isn’t too much to ask to help save our culinary identity, do you?

Yes Vote in 2014 will put Scotland’s Cuisine on the Map.

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Just about every culture I can think of has some type of flat bread or product indigenous to the need for a dough type product intended to enrobe foods, provide nourishment and most of all be easy to hold. This idea is thousands of years old and has evolved with the times into meeting the necessity of staying relevant with changing generations that crave traditional foods but with trendy combinations and presentations.

The tattie scone should be no different, I would think, but it is. It has played a very important part of being identified with the Scottish breakfast and while working in tandem with the traditional Scottish slice sausage, the tattie scone has helped identify the Scottish breakfast from any other breakfast in the British Isles. It is as Scottish as the Scotch Egg yet suffers from a similar fate in the assumption that it is only good if served before 10 AM.

I saw this an an opportunity to expand upon the traditions of the tattie scone and help re-shape a future of this delicacy to reach the other day part opportunities that loom beyond breakfast. I let my imagination run wild. My first order of business was to change it’s shape. In an effort to do what I could with the scone I found it most restricting using the pre-packaged form of sliced triangular shaped portions to not work so well in its current form with the exception of cutting those pieces into smaller triangles and serving with sliced smoked Scottish salmon, cucumber cream, a slice of boiled egg and a dollop of caviar on top. Sort of taking the place of a classical blini if you will.

I proceeded to make my own and from there I was impressed by the versatility of the tattie scone. I first made a large circle, thinner than store bought, and fried it off. Instead of cutting into triangular sections I left it whole. I then steamed it to make it pliable. Filled it with slow roasted pulled beef, carrot shreds and onion. Rolled it up similar to a large spring roll or burrito. It turned out great. I took the trimmings from the dough and after rolling paper thin, fried them up and since the sandwich I made reminded me of a burrito, I made a sort of nacho platter out of the fried trimmings with crumbled sliced sausage, green onions, diced tomatoes and crumbled Shropshire Blue cheese. Wow, it worked perfectly. I kept traditional Scottish flavours and shaped them into a modern presentation that I would hope more restaurants in Scotland would serve to their guests. Now I only need to think of what to call it! 

As I went on, it seemed as though the ideas just started flowing. Some things worked while others not so well like making a meat pie with the scone dough. Well, I thought it was a good idea at the time. At the end of the day my point was made though. Our food from Scotland is delicious and with a little ingenuity we can expand upon what we have and share it with the world. That is the whole idea of Modern Scottish Cuisine….. to share it with the world.

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