Cooking People

What a whopper!

One of Willie’s chooks must be feeling the effects of Spring, because a couple of days ago she produced this stonker of an egg.

Not a chance of it fitting in the eggcup! If you visit the plots you’ll recognise her immediately. She’s still lying flat on her face, beads of sweat on her brow, stars rotating round her head and fanning herself with a feeble wing. If you get close you can just hear her moaning “I’m never going to do THAT again!”.

Fur, feathers and pig’s pancreas

Take the above ingredients, mix with genetically modified soya and ultra-white flour containing bleach and add an impressive array of chemicals, enzymes and E-numbers. Et voila! What’ve you got?

A plastic-wrapped supermarket loaf of bread! (See the Herald Magazine article “FAKE BAKE“.)

Oh yuck! Ugh!! Ick, ick, ick!!!

We’re off to The Millwheel in town for some organic unbleached bread flour, and we’re going to get our hands sticky with dough.

Granny Blanc says “What did I tell you?”, and a lot more involving “When I was a girl …” and “No self-respecting person …” etc., etc., and smugly offers her recette for Pain Rustique, made by fermenting a starter in the traditional way.

To make the starter:

Put 325ml (11fl oz) water into a large jar and sprinkle in 2tsps dried yeast. Leave it for about 5 minutes, then stir to dissolve. Using a wooden spoon, stir in 250g (8oz) unbleached strong white flour and cover the jar with a tea towel. Leave to ferment at warm room temperature for a couple of days, stirring the mixture twice a day. It should be bubbly, and have a freshly sour smell.

To make the dough:

Pour 200ml (7fl oz) water into a small bowl and sprinkle on 1tsp dried yeast. Again, leave for 5 minutes and stir to dissolve.

In a large bowl mix 50g (1 3/4oz) rye flour, 325g (11oz) unbleached strong white flour and 1 1/2tsps salt and make a well in the centre. Measure out 250ml (8fl oz) of the starter and pour into the well with the yeasted water. (Reserve the remaining starter in the jar – see later.)

Using a wooden spoon, pull the flours into the well from the sides of the bowl and mix until you have a stiff, sticky dough. (If the dough is looking a bit dry, you can gradually add water 1 tbsp at a time.)

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead well until it feels smooth and elastic. (Granny says the texture of the dough should feel like pinching someone’s earlobe. We’ll let you work that one out.) Put the dough in a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 2 hours. Knock back, then leave it to rest for 10 minutes, otherwise it will have a life of its own when you try to shape it.

Shape the dough into a plump round ball, place it on a floured baking sheet and cover with a tea towel. Leave it to prove in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Alternatively, it can be proved in the traditional way by placing the dough in a small round basket about 20cm (8in) in diameter, lined with a well-floured tea towel. This helps the ball of dough to keep its shape, and should give you a nice basket pattern on top when you invert the proved dough onto a baking sheet.

When proved, lightly dust the loaf with flour. Using a very sharp knife (Granny uses a scalpel …) cut three parallel slashes about 5mm (1/2in) deep across the top, then another three in the opposite direction.

Bake in a pre-heated oven (220C/425F/gas 7) for about 1 hour. The loaf should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped underneath. If you can bear it, leave to cool on a wire rack, then enjoy with plenty of butter.

To refresh the starter:

Add 125ml (4fl oz) of water and 125g (4oz) to the starter remaining in the jar. Ferment at warm room temperature for 12-24 hours before refrigerating. Warm to room temperature before use. If you don’t make bread regularly, the starter should be “fed” every two weeks by discarding half and replacing with equal quantities of flour and water.

Jess’s Tablet

Using thumbscrews and the rack, we’ve extracted from Jess her Secret Recipe for her unbelievably delicious tablet, which we’ve all wanted for so long.

Actually, she gave it up quite willingly … and here it is:

4lbs granulated sugar

6oz butter

14 fl oz milk

Melt butter on a gentle heat in a large thick-bottomed saucepan.

Add the milk and sugar.

Bring to the boil, stirring regularly, then simmer slowly for 20 minutes, again stirring often, scraping any crystallised bits in from around the pan sides.

Add a large tin of condensed milk and bring back to the boil.

Simmer for a further 20 minutes, or until the mixture has reached “soft ball” stage. (Put a teaspoon of the mixture into a jug of cold water and you should be able to roll it in your fingers.)

Remove from heat.

Add a teaspoon of vanilla essence and beat for 5 minutes or so until it becomes thick and grainy.

Pour into a greased tin (10″ x 15″) and leave to set, marking it out into squares before it is solid.

Tablet to die for! Thank you, Jess!

Tommy Toes

A recent short article in The Scotsman referred to medical research which shows that cooked tomatoes have anticarcinogenic properties – gentlemen in particular should take note, apparently. According to the Super Nutrients Handbook* all heat-processed tomatoes are beneficial, so even that ketchup on your bacon butty counts! This recipe is quick and tasty, and the filling can also be used to stuff mushrooms or peppers.




For four portions:


2 beefsteak tomatoes, halved

A little olive oil



100g/4oz wholemeal breadcrumbs

100g/4oz pine nuts, chopped

4tbsps flat or curly parsley, chopped

Snipped basil leaves – quantity to taste

50g/2oz pitted black olives

Juice and zest of ½ a lemon

140g/5oz feta cheese, finely crumbled

A good grinding of black pepper


Pre-heat the oven to 200oC/gas mk 6.

Arrange the halved tomatoes (cut side up) in a shallow roasting dish, stabbing the central cores a few times with a pointed knife to make sure they cook. Drizzle with olive oil and roast for about 10 minutes until they’re beginning to soften.

Meanwhile, put the breadcrumbs, pine nuts, parsley and basil into a bowl. Add the olives, lemon juice and zest and feta cheese. Season with pepper to taste and mix well. Add a little olive oil if the mixture seems rather dry.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven. Leaving the flesh inside the skins intact, cut and scoop out the cores and seeds. If you like, chop the cores finely and mix into the filling.

Pile the filling into the tomatoes, pressing it down well so it doesn’t fall out as you heap it up.

Bake the tomatoes for a further 10 minutes or so, until the flesh is soft and the feta cheese is melting.

Serve on their own with a green salad and crusty bread to mop up the tomato juices, or as an accompaniment to other dishes.


*Super Nutrients Handbook – The hidden power in plant foods that can benefit body and mind, by Lyndel Costain and published by Dorling Kindersley. We got our copy years ago from the Millwheel in Oban. It now seems to be out of print, but there are second-hand copies available on Amazon and it’s well worth getting hold of a copy. Makes you look at brussels sprouts in a whole new light, for one thing!


Ideally, this should be left to mature for four weeks before using to allow the flavours to meld, but it’s still excellent used straight away. It keeps very well indeed, so you could make some after Christmas to use up the packs of dried fruit, the fresh fruit and the plonk that you’ll still have lurking in your cupboards, and store it away for next year. How efficient!


500g  each of sultanas, raisins and currants

75g mixed peel

750g cooking apples (peeled, cored and roughly chopped)

500g suet

500g dark brown sugar

Grated rind and juice of 1 orange and 2 lemons

1tbsp mixed spice

50g blanched slivered almonds

4fl oz each of dry sherry and brandy (or whisky, or rum according to choice and what you have)


The traditional way to make this is to put the dried fruit and cooking apples through a coarse-bladed mincer – you know, the old-fashioned ones that you clamped to the table – but no doubt one of those food-processor gadgets will do the job.

Tip the coarsely minced fruit into a large bowl, add all the other ingredients and stir well. Cover and leave for three days, stirring several times.

Sterilise some jam jars by washing them in clean water and placing them in a low oven – this recipe will fill about seven jars. Fill the jars to within about 25mm of the top and, if you like, pour in an extra tablespoon of your chosen spirit. Cover, seal and label, not forgetting to write on the date – or the year, at least!

Comfort food


Serves 4

This is the lunch or dinner equivalent of your breakfast porage – comforting, filling, and keeps you going. “Sticks to your ribs” as old Granny Blanc used to say.

Put 4oz (125g) of wholemeal breadcrumbs into a large bowl.

Into your blender goblet put:

1 finely chopped onion

1 finely chopped garlic clove (if you like)

4oz (125g) grated Cheddar cheese

2 of Willie’s eggs

3/4 pint (426ml) milk

1 tsp mustard (made, not powder)

A good grinding of black pepper

Whizz until well blended, tip into the bowl with the breadcrumbs and stir thoroughly. Pour the mixture into a greased shallow baking dish and bake for 30 minutes at 200C/400F/Mark 6. Top with more grated cheese and return to the oven for another 15 minutes, or until beautifully risen and dark golden.

Excellent on its own with pickled baby beets or baked tomatoes. Also makes a good accompaniment to bacon, sausage and tomato for a satisfying Sunday brunch.


Bet you didn’t know …

… it’s National Cupcake Week! Those are the little buns that people on this side of the Pond used to call fairy cakes – or butterfly cakes if you cut off the domed top of the bun, spread on some buttercream icing, cut the dome into two “wings” and poked them at angles into the icing.

Not to miss out on the fun, here’s a recipe from the BBC GoodFood website which will probably have the kids heading straight for the kitchen to get baking.


Easy Chocolate Cupcakes

Easy chocolate cupcakes


300g dark chocolate, broken into chunks

200g self-raising flour

200g light muscovado sugar, plus 3 tbsp extra

6 tbsp cocoa

150ml sunflower oil

284ml pot soured cream

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract


Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4 and line a 10-hole muffin tin with paper cases. Whizz the chocolate into small pieces in a food processor (or do it the SauvignanBlanc low-tech way by putting the chocolate into a plastic bag and hitting it with a rolling pin until you have the desired size of bits!). In the largest mixing bowl you have, tip in the flour, sugar, cocoa, oil, 100ml soured cream, eggs, vanilla and 100ml water. Whisk everything together with electric beaters until smooth, then quickly stir in 100g of the chocolate bits. Divide between the 10 cases, then bake for 20 mins until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.


The cupcakes can be frozen at this stage, and given a quick blast in the microwave to refresh them before icing.


To make the icing, put the remaining chocolate bits, soured cream and 3 tbsp sugar in a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring, until the chocolate is melted and you have a smooth icing. Chill in the fridge until firm enough to swirl on top of the muffins.

Liz’s Luscious Lemon Mousse

Liz Davies has sent in this recipe, which she says is absolutely gorgeous!

Lemon clipart picture

Lemon Mousse.
Serves 4-6 depending on how greedy you are.
300ml carton double cream
1 big juicy lemon (or 2 hard ones) juiced and zested
60 gr caster sugar
2 egg whites
1.  Put the cream, lemon zest and sugar into large bowl and whisk them together until the mixture starts to thicken.  Add the lemon juice and whisk again until the mixture thickens further, don’t let it get too stiff or you won’t be able to fold in the egg whites.
2.  Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks and then fold them into the lemon mixture.  Spoon the mousse into glasses or ramekins and chill.  Decorate with extra zest if you like.
Lemon clipart picture

A meal in itself

Cheese and Oat Loaf

¾ tsp fast action dried yeast

400g / 14oz strong white flour

15g / ½ oz butter

1 tsp sugar

1 x Willie’s white egg

100g / 4oz porridge oats

100g / 4oz mature Cheddar cheese, grated

40g / 1½ oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1tsp mustard powder

330ml water

Put all the ingredients in the bread pan in the order specified by your bread machine.

Bake on wholewheat setting, medium crust.

The wholewheat setting takes a long time, but allows the bread to rise so that it’s beautifully light. The smell of the baking loaf will make your stomach growl, but try to stop yourself cutting it the minute it’s done, because it won’t slice properly and will end up soggy.

Toasted and spread with butter and Marmite, a slice of this loaf is a meal in itself.

A recipe from Tina – obviously inspired by tonight’s lovely weather!

Warming Supper for a very wet and windy night!
One large onion
2 medium spuds – chopped into chunks
2 carrots – sliced
2 sticks of celery – sliced
Add: 220g red lentils
       1 large bay leaf
       1 veggie stock cube
       plenty of water
       1 tablespoon of tomato puree
       salt and pepper to taste
Stir about. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
Eat with fresh, warm, crusty bread or pitta.
Serves 4 people/3 hungry people/2 ravenous people.  Enjoy!