NEIL'S RECIPES: STRAWBERRIES AND CRÈME FRAÎCHE SORBET

by Cafe St Honoré in


I have to admit I have a soft spot for Coupar Angus, where we buy our strawberries. My father is from there and our family have a long history in that wee village. I have very fond memories of being sent to my Auntie’s for a summer ‘’at the berries’’ and eating as many as I could pick! I can still remember the taste of the ham and tomato rolls my wonderful Auntie made for our packed lunches. It is wise not to play around too much with our brilliant strawberries. Keep at room temperature and just a rinse under the tap before eating. And with this cracking crème fraîche sorbet it’s perfect on a hot day ‘’at the berries’’!

Image: Paul Johnston,  Copper Mango

Image: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS 

1 to 2 punnets of strawberries – I get mine from Coupar Angus – husks removed, gently washed and at room temperature

A few sprigs of mint or sweet cicely

750g crème fraîche, I use Katy Rodgers

375g unrefined caster sugar

325g water

50g glucose

Juice of half a lemon

METHOD 

To make the sorbet, start by making a stock syrup by bringing the water, sugar and glucose to the boil and simmering for 3 minutes. Allow to cool and retain a little for a coulis. Whisk in the crème fraîche then add lemon juice to taste. Chill and freeze in an ice-cream machine following the manufacturers instructions. Keep in the freezer until required.

To make a coulis, take a handful of strawberries and place into a liquidiser with a squeeze of lemon juice and a little of the stock syrup and blitz until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve into a squeezy bottle for ease of serving.

Before serving, ensure the berries are room temperature, as they taste so much better. Fill 4 bowls with halved strawberries and squeeze over the coulis then top with a ball of sorbet. Garnish with some fresh mint or sweet cicely. 


NEIL'S RECIPES: CHOCOLATE TART

by Cafe St Honoré in


Lovers of rich chocolate will adore this, although I can only manage a small slice. Of course, it all depends on the ingredients you use. I’m using Montezuma’s organic dark chocolate just now, and adore it. The trick to this dish is to trust your oven and serve the tart on the day you make it. It’s just not the same the day after! 

Image: Paul Johnston,  Copper Mango

Image: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Makes on 9-inch tart – but small, individual tarts work very well too

INGREDIENTS

9-inch pastry case, lined

275ml double cream

200ml whole milk

400g dark chocolate, I use Montezuma’s

3 whole eggs

Cocoa powder for dredging (optional)

For the pastry (this will give you some for your freezer for next time):

600g plain flour, sifted

185g icing sugar, sifted

215g unsalted butter, diced

3 eggs, cracked and gently whisked

METHOD

Cream the icing sugar and butter together for a few minutes until light in colour. Add the flour and scrape down the sides of the bowl before adding the eggs - a little at a time - to make a soft, wet paste. Chill for 20 minutes then roll out and line your pastry case and allow it to rest for a further 20 minutes in the fridge.

Remove from the fridge and cover the pastry with greaseproof paper or a triple-layer of cling film, add baking beans and bake at 180°C for 35 to 40 minutes, until just golden and crisp. Remove the baking beans and greaseproof paper.

Meanwhile, warm the cream and the milk together in a pan until it nearly comes to a boil. Then remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Mix well with a whisk, and then allow it to cool gently for 5 minutes or so.

Add the eggs to this mixture one at a time, stirring gently as you do. Then pour this mixture into the blind-baked tart shell and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until there is no wobble when you gently shake the tray.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before removing carefully from the tin. Dust with cocoa powder (optional). Cut into slices and serve with crème fraîche.

A top tip is to use a sharp, hot, wet knife to cut the tart into perfect slices.


NEIL'S RECIPES: SCOTCH BEEF CARPACCIO

by Cafe St Honoré in


Grass-fed organic Scotch Beef contains significantly more vitamins and minerals than non-organic, grain-fed beef; and its fat has a higher content of Omegas which are crucial for our health. Hung correctly and matured for further flavour and tenderness, it is almost effortless to prepare and cook with beef of this standard.

This dish is named after a Venetian painter and is usually served with a little olive oil, lemon and white truffle or Parmesan. It’s totally raw, truly delicious and perfectly safe to eat. Serving raw beef is a real test of the quality of the meat and the provenance of the cattle. I’ve made this dish using many different cuts of beef for this in the past, but here I’m using fillet. It is expensive, but consider this a special dish to be savoured. 

Image: Paul Johnston,  Copper Mango

Image: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

250g piece of fillet of Scotch Beef, trimmed and silver skin removed

1 tablespoon cold-pressed rapeseed oil

1 large tablespoon Arran mustard

Good salt and pepper

250mls cider vinegar

250mls water

250g unrefined caster sugar

400g mixed veg for picking e.g. cauliflower, carrot, onion, courgette, red pepper

A few aromas like star anise, cinnamon or thyme for flavouring your pickles

A few salad leaves

A few shards of Corra Linn or Bonnet cheese

METHOD

Firstly bring the vinegar, water and sugar to the boil on the hob with your chosen aromas and simmer for 3 minutes, then season with salt and pepper.

Blanch the pickling veg in boiling, salted water for 2 minutes until just starting to soften, then refresh under cold, running water. Then place them into the hot pickle liquor. Once done these can be stored for weeks in a sterilised jar.

Season the beef all over with salt and pepper then get a heavy frying pan very hot and add half the rapeseed oil. Then very quickly sear the beef all over for a couple of minutes maximum. This is just to remove the raw outer layer of the beef.

Make a paste with the mustard and the remaining oil, then season with salt and pepper. Rub this paste all over the just-seared beef and wrap it very tightly in cling film until it resembles a sausage. Make sure it’s firmly secured and tie the ends so it won’t unravel. Then place the beef in your freezer for about an hour. You don’t want it to be frozen solid, just to be firm.

To serve, simply remove the beef from the cling film and slice very thinly with a very sharp knife and arrange on a plate. Season with salt and pepper, then some salad leaves and some pickled veg. Lastly, add the shards of cheese and a final seasoning.


NEIL'S RECIPES: CARAMELISED ONION AND CLAVA BRIE TARTS

by Cafe St Honoré in


This is a very tasty dish and one that is on the menu a lot at Cafe. It’s simple to create, even if you have a go at making your own pastry. The slowly-cooked onions add truly amazing flavours to the dish. And the purple sprouting broccoli, very underused in my opinion, adds another layer of deliciousness, and pairs really well with the creamy Clava Brie from Connage Highland Dairy near Inverness. But you could try a different cheese, like a Lanark Blue, for a stronger flavour.

Image: Paul Johnston,  Copper Mango

Image: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Makes 4 small tarts

INGREDIENTS

250g plain flour

125g unsalted butter, diced small

Cold water to bind the pastry

12 slices of organic Clava cheese

2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced

A good handful of purple sprouting broccoli, woody stalks removed

Good salt and pepper

50ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil

A few sprigs of thyme

METHOD

To make the pastry for the tart cases, add the plain flour and the diced butter to a mixing bowl and rub together until they resemble breadcrumbs. Then add a pinch of salt and trickle in enough cold water to make a good pastry dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for an hour or so to rest.

Pre-heat your oven to 180°C and lightly grease and flour 4 small tart tins. Remove the chilled dough from fridge and flour your work surface. Cut the pastry into four evenly-sized pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Then roll each ball into 2mm-thick circles and place into your cases, trimming off the edges of any excess pastry. Blind bake with greaseproof paper (or 3 layers of cling film) and baking beans for 40 to 50 minutes - until the tarts are crisp and golden brown.

To caramelise the onions, heat 25ml of oil in a pot then add the sliced onions. Season with salt and pepper then put the lid on and cook on a medium heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally. The onions should be golden and caramelised. Remove from the heat and stir in a few sprigs of thyme.

Divide the onions between the 4 tart shells, then lay 3 slices of Clava cheese on top of each tart and trickle with a little oil. Top with some thyme leaves and season again. Gently warm the tarts under the grill or in the oven.

Next, bring a pot of water to the boil and blanch the purple sprouting broccoli for 3 to 4 minutes until tender. Remove from the water and season.

Divide the broccoli between 4 warmed plates and place the tarts on top. Trickle any remaining oil all over the tarts and broccoli, and serve.


NEIL'S RECIPES: CÔTE DE BOEUF WITH TWICE-FRIED CHIPS, ROASTED GARLIC, MUSHROOMS AND WATERCRESS

by Cafe St Honoré in


Côte de Boeuf is French for beef rib. It makes the perfect sharing dish and is a real treat. Why not buy your beef from somewhere other than the supermarket for a change. Try your local butcher, farm shop, farmers’ market or order online from an organic farm. And as I always suggest, try to buy the best you can afford. This dish needs all the elements to make it work: the chunky twice-fried chips dusted with good Scottish salt; watercress for the peppery hit, roasted garlic to smear over the meat as you eat; and the juicy mushrooms that are so full of flavour. A big glass of red wine always goes well with this dish.

Images: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

500g côte de boeuf

1 tablespoon cold-pressed rapeseed oil

2 bulbs garlic, peeled

1 bulb garlic, top 2cm removed

2 sprigs of thyme

A few flat mushrooms, whole

3 large potatoes, peeled

Oil for frying the chips

A big bunch of watercress

Good salt and pepper

A small knob of butter

METHOD

Marinate the beef in the cold-pressed rapeseed oil, peeled garlic bulbs and a sprig of thyme for at least one hour.

Place the garlic bulb in a sheet of tin foil with some salt and a knob of butter. Scrunch up and roast for 45 minutes in a medium-hot oven.

Cut the potatoes into chip shapes and fry at 130°C in a fryer for 7 to 10 minutes - until just cooked. Remove the chips and turn the fryer off.

Place a griddle pan on the hob and cook the mushrooms for 5 or 7 minutes on one side, then turn them over to cook through. Keep warm.

Sear the marinated beef on an oven-proof griddle to create a criss-cross pattern. Then season and place the griddle in a moderate oven with the thyme and butter for 7 to 10 minutes for medium rare, or longer if you like it more well-cooked. The longer the cooking and grilling the more well done it will be. Allow the meat to rest on a clean plate in a warm place so it becomes more tender and easier to carve. Any resting or cooking juices can be simply drizzled over the steak as you serve.

Turn the fryer up to 190°C and submerge the chips in the hot oil and cook until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes.

I like to serve this dish on one large wooden board with a few slices carved into the beef and all the other components scattered around. I suggest squeezing the roasted garlic over the beef and the mushrooms before you tuck in, it’s delicious!


NEIL'S RECIPES: VENISON STEW AND DUMPLINGS

by Cafe St Honoré in


This has to be one of my very favourite dishes to eat when it’s cold and wintry. My children always ask for it for dinner and it’s so easy to make - they can both make it from scratch! If venison is difficult to find, just replace with beef or lamb. I prefer to use proper suet, so ask your butcher or stallholder to get you some. Keep it in the freezer in small bags and take out as and when you need it. Add whatever veg you like but always include carrots, onions and turnips. Top tip is to keep any leftover gravy to use in stews and casseroles. Remember to pop the lid on after you’ve added the dumplings, 30 minutes before serving.

Images: Paul Johnston,  Copper Mango

Images: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

500g diced shoulder of venison, beef or lamb would be as good

2 local carrots, washed, peeled and diced

2 medium-sized onions, peeled and roughly chopped

1 wedge of turnip, peeled and diced

500ml really well reduced good beef stock

200ml leftover gravy or sauce

½ a cinnamon stick, optional but a hint of spice in winter adds something special.

1 glass of red wine

1 sprig of thyme

1 bay leaf

Good salt and pepper

100g self-raising flour

50g proper beef suet, minced, packet suet would do!

Herbs e.g. chives; horseradish, mustard, optional flavourings for the dough balls

Extra flour for dusting

1 tablespoon cold-pressed rapeseed oil for frying

METHOD

Add the oil to a hot casserole dish and fry the diced venison until golden brown. It will take a few minutes on high heat. Season with salt and pepper and add the diced carrot, turnip, onions and the cinnamon if you’re using some and fry for a further 5 minutes until you achieve a good colour.

Still on a high heat, add the wine and reduce slightly. Then add the thyme, bay leaf, gravy and stock. Season again and bring to a simmer.

Place in a hot oven (180°C) without a lid for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Then turn down the heat to 150°C and cook for a further 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so to ensure the stew doesn't dry out.

Meanwhile, make the dumplings by adding the flour to a bowl and stirring in the minced suet and salt, then combining with cold water until you have a rough dough. Don't overwork the dough. You can add any flavourings you like such as chopped chives, horseradish or mustard.

Divide the dough into 4 balls - you may need extra flour for rolling as it can get quite sticky - and plop them into the stew pot after the first 3 hours is up and place the lid on. Turn the heat up to 180°C again and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve at the table in the dish it’s cooked in.


NEIL'S RECIPES: PEASEMEAL AND HAM SOUP

by Cafe St Honoré in


Golspie Mill in Sutherland produces incredible stone-ground peasemeal flour made from ground yellow peas. It's an absolute revelation, and simple to use. This traditional Scottish ingredient was popular in days gone by because it was cheap, filling and very tasty. Just by adding a hot stock, some butter and seasoning you’ll make a substantial soup, to enjoy on its own or with added ingredients like ham. By choosing peasemeal from Golspie Mill, you’ll ensure this tradition will be carried on. So, throw away those instant soup packets, this is a thousand times better!

Image: Paul Johnston,  Copper Mango

Image: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS 

4 tablespoons peasemeal

500ml hot stock or water (ham stock is good)

A knob of butter

A handful of leftover gammon or ham (or cook a ham hock and flake the meat off - after braising for 3 hours in just water, retain the stock for the soup)

Salt and pepper

A large pinch of curly parsley, roughly chopped

METHOD

Boil the stock or water and season with salt and pepper. Add the butter.

Next, add the peasemeal flour to the hot liquid and whisk vigorously for a few minutes. Check the seasoning and add more butter if required.

Let it bubble for a minute then pour into warm bowls. If it seems too thick, just add a little more liquid.

Crumble on the ham, gammon or hock and garnish with the chopped parsley. Serve steaming hot.


NEIL'S RECIPES: BREAD AND BUTTER PUDDING

by Cafe St Honoré in


In the colder months, this is one of the consistent favourites at Cafe St Honoré. Full of sweet, vanilla flavours and rich custard, it’s the perfect way to use up stale bread. With the addition of plumped-up, juicy Californian raisins and a touch of mixed peel, it’s a warm and welcoming friend when it’s chilly outside. It is a rich one this, so don't eat too much, and serve with a little pouring cream at most.

Image: Paul Johnston,  Copper Mango

Image: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS 

Half a loaf of leftover bread, crusts removed. Panettone or brioche are also good.

250g unsalted butter, melted

500ml double cream

1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out

3 egg yolks

150g sugar

1 whole egg

1 small handful of Californian raisins and mixed peel

2 tbsp jam or marmalade, warmed. I like home-made plum jam.

METHOD

Rub an ovenproof dish with a little of the melted butter.

Slice the bread 1cm thick and submerge in the melted butter. 

To make the custard, heat the cream and the vanilla pod on the stove until it comes to the boil, turn off the heat and leave to infuse for a few minutes. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until thick and creamy, and whisk into the cream. Whisk in the whole egg as well.

Layer the butter-soaked bread with the custard and raisins and mixed peel, repeating until you reach the top of the dish. Don't put fruit on the top layer as it will burn in the oven.

Bake in an oven at 180°C for 45 minutes until hot. Top with a few more raisins and mixed peel, then spoon warm jam over the top. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving.


NEIL'S RECIPES: GRILLED LAMB CHOPS WITH YOGHURT AND CUCUMBER

by Cafe St Honoré in


This recipe is inspired by a recent family holiday to the wonderful sun-baked island of Crete. I'm using best end of lamb here but you can use gigot chops. I'm going to suggest you cook it a little more than medium. I usually like my chops rare but to be true to Crete, I think a more well-done chop works better with the tzatziki. It's good idea is to marinade the lamb in a little olive oil with thyme and fennel seeds the night before cooking.

Image: Paul Johnston,  Copper Mango

Image: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

Allow for 3 to 4 chops person - ask your butcher or stall-holder to French trim them

A few sprigs of thyme and marjoram

400g 10% full-fat natural Greek yoghurt - try Total, it’s very good, but a organic one is would be even better

1 medium-sized cucumber

1 small clove garlic, crushed

Good salt and pepper

A drizzle of olive oil – from Crete if you can

Half a lemon

METHOD

Place a griddle on the hob to heat whilst you marinate the chops in olive oil, thyme and marjoram (reserve some of the herbs for garnish). Aim to get the griddle to a moderate heat.

Grate the cucumber into a bowl. Squeeze the water out of the cucumber and mix in the yoghurt and crushed garlic. Season with a little salt and pepper.

Remove the excess oil and herbs from the chops and place onto the griddle and cook for around 5 to 7 minutes on each side in total - check them as you go and turn frequently. Don't cook to well done stage, but don't cook too rare either.

At the end of cooking, season the chops and squeeze over the juice of half a lemon. Serve with a huge dollop of the yoghurt mix and garnish with some marjoram and thyme.


NEIL'S RECIPES: CRISP LOCH CRERAN OYSTERS WITH SAUCE GRIBICHE

by Cafe St Honoré in


Given that oysters were once the food of the poor, it's hard to believe that they are now perceived to be a luxury, as they are relatively cheap to buy. They’re full of lots of healthy stuff too and so tasty. I was told that Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is built on oyster shells, as in days gone by there were oyster sellers on every street corner and the discarded shells were tossed away. I love a freshly-shucked oyster, simple and clean. I try to persuade doubters to try them by describing the taste as that intense, refreshing feeling you get when you jump into the sea for the first time on holiday. Cooked, they are equally delicious!

Images: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

Allow 4 to 6 oysters per person

1 tablespoon of plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper

1 egg, beaten with a splash of milk

1 handful of breadcrumbs or Panko breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons cold-pressed rapeseed oil for shallow frying

1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped

1 hard-boiled egg, white and yolk chopped separately

1 tablespoon of cornichons and capers, chopped

1 tablespoon of chopped parsley and tarragon

4 tablespoons of mayonnaise

A few fennel fronds for garnish

A squeeze of lemon juice

Some course sea salt, mixed with a little water, to place the oysters on

METHOD

Be very careful not to puncture the oyster flesh when removing them from their shells. Ask your fishmonger to do this for you if you prefer, but make sure you keep the shells.

Roll each oyster through the flour, then the egg wash, then breadcrumbs and set to one side.

Clean the oyster shells for serving.

To make the sauce gribiche, gently mix the chopped egg and mayonnaise, then add the shallot, cornichons, capers, parsley and tarragon, and a splash of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Mix together gently.

Place a frying pan on the hob and bring it to a medium heat before adding the oil. Once the oil is hot, gently cook the oysters, being careful not to burn them. Turn them often and cook for a minute or so either side. Remove the oysters from the pan and dab them with kitchen paper.

To serve, place the wet salt on to serving dish, arranging the oyster shells on top. Return the cooked oysters to the shells, placing a dod of sauce gribiche and a frond of fennel on top of each. Eat immediately.

 

 


NEIL'S RECIPES: CROQUE MONSIEUR

by Cafe St Honoré in


This is a very tasty version of cheese on toast but so much better with the addition of ham. Use a melting cheese to make it even more gooey. Emmental is good but I'm going to use a good British cheddar here. Keens from Somerset is rich and smooth with a nutty finish. Use the best ham you can from the butcher’s shop or market (they usually have brilliant whole hams). Oh, and you will definitely need a napkin for the goo!

Image: Paul Johnston,  Copper Mango

Image: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

8 slices of good white bread, thinly sliced

4 thick slices of good, proper ham

200g Keens cheddar (or Emmental or Gouda), grated

50g plain flour

50g unsalted butter

500ml whole milk, heated

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Good salt and pepper

4 handfuls of salad leaves

METHOD 

Firstly make a white sauce by melting the butter in a pot with the flour and cooking on a low heat until it’s cooked through, just couple of minutes or so. Then gradually add the hot milk to the flour mix a little at a time. Stir continuously.

You should end up with a smooth white sauce (use a whisk if there are lumps!). Then add the Dijon mustard and half the cheese. Season to taste and set to one side.

Next make 4 cheese and ham sandwiches using the remaining cheese and the ham. Submerge the sandwiches in the white sauce for a few minutes until it is all absorbed. Grate a little extra cheese on top of the sandwich if required and bake in a moderate oven until the sandwich is golden and warm.

Serve with a simple salad tossed in a nice, sharp French dressing to cut through the richness of the sandwich.


NEIL'S RECIPES: ISLE OF WIGHT TOMATO AND SOURDOUGH PANZANELLA

by Cafe St Honoré in


This is one of the simplest and most delicious salads you can make. A wonderful combo of stale bread, salty, zingy capers and sweet, fat Isle of Wight tomatoes. I love it and serve it in many ways at the restaurant: with grilled fish, or a simple goats’ cheese, but I also love it on its own. The addition of Summer Harvest bramble vinegar gives it a wonderful rounded flavour and makes it something special. Originating in Italy it’s a brilliant way to use up leftover bread. We use day-old sourdough fried in butter, oil and salt to bring it back to life. This salad is great at a barbeque, and can even be made the day before.

Image: Paul Johnston,  Copper Mango

Image: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1/3  loaf of sourdough, crusts removed

A big handful of Isle of Wight tomatoes, cherry toms are good

1/2 cucumber, seeds removed

1 Ramiro pepper, the long red ones

1 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 tbsp capers

A small handful of basil and mint leaves

50ml Summer Harvest bramble vinegar

75ml Summer Harvest cold-pressed rapeseed oil

A few radishes

A knob of butter

Good salt and pepper

METHOD

Heat 25ml of oil in a frying pan and add the butter. Meanwhile, cut the bread into 1cm cubes, and then fry them in the pan tossing and seasoning all the time until they just start to turn golden. Set to one side on kitchen paper.

In a large bowl, mix the finely chopped red onion with the vinegar then remaining oil; it takes the harshness away by adding it first.

Dice the pepper, cucumber and cut the cherry toms in half, then add to the bowl with the capers. Slice a few radishes and add those to the bowl as well.

Next, add in the croutons then rip the basil and mint leaves gently (being careful not to bruise them) and add to the bowl too. Season and mix gently.

Use your taste buds to figure out if it needs more of this or that. Serve with grilled meats, fish or cheese. Delicious! 


NEIL'S RECIPES: MUSSELS WITH GARLIC, SHALLOTS, CREAM AND TARRAGON

by Cafe St Honoré in


I've said it for years, mussels are the perfect fast food. They don't take long to cook, are tasty and healthy, and are a great base to add different flavours to. Here I've opted for the classic garlic, shallots, wine and cream combo, but have chosen tarragon as the finishing herb. I love it in this dish. Try this using the Shetland blue shell mussels - they work a treat as they’re big, fat and so sweet.

Image: Paul Johnston,  Copper Mango

Image: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1kg Shetland blue shell mussels

1 large banana shallot, finely chopped

100ml white wine

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

250ml double cream

A small handful of chopped fresh tarragon

A squeeze of lemon (optional)

METHOD

Clean the mussels and remove the beards, then place them in a large pot with a lid on a very hot stove. Add the shallots, wine and garlic.

Cook with the lid on for a few minutes until the mussels start to open then add the cream. Continue to cook until all the mussels open. Any that haven’t opened, either discard or check to see if they are good by prising them open.

Next add the chopped tarragon and a squeeze of lemon (if you like). Don't mix them too much, just give them a shake in the pot. Serve at one whilst they’re steaming and hot. Enjoy with a glass of the same wine you used to cook them. And remember those finger bowls!


NEIL'S RECIPES: ARRAN WHISKY AND OAT PARFAIT

by Cafe St Honoré in


Last month I set off from the Ayrshire coast bound for Arran. After a wonderful (if slightly choppy) hour on the ferry, the island appears standing majestic and strong, looking like a location from Lord of the Rings with its snow-capped peaks welcoming us. What a spectacular sight it is!

Stepping onto the jetty at Brodick, we’re met by Kim Ryan who will be our guide for the day, along with Gordon Kinniburgh from Arran Cheese. After a quick bag drop at the Douglas Hotel, a splendid Edwardian hotel with grand rooms and a great restaurant, we’re ready for the tour.

I'm here with a few others as a guest of Taste of Arran, to learn about the fabulous produce on this beautiful island. After a short drive through the pretty countryside, our first stop is to see how the famous Arran Mist and Arran Blue are made. These cheeses are only made in small batches and only ever released when they’re in perfect eating condition. I like this approach, and it's inspiring to see true artisans at work. Callum the cheese-maker is very knowledgeable and answers all our questions.

Next stop is The Arran Butcher Shop, a family-run business that’s been operating for decades and is still going strong. They make their own black puddings and haggis, as well as selling many cuts of meat including ‘coos tail’ (or oxtail), which I love.

Time is precious, so next we head off to see the production of oatcakes at Wooleys of Arran, a traditional family bakery. It’s a relatively small operation and it’s great to see the staff working together to create a very distinct-tasting oatcake. 

Finally, we just have time to make a brief tour of the distillery (a bottle was bought!) where we meet Taste of Arran’s founder Alastair Dobson, who does a wonderful job making ice-cream at Arran Dairies as well as spreading the word about this unique Island. I must thank our guide Kim who was brilliant. Let’s show our support - when you see the name Arran - buy it!

How to describe this pudding? Iced, smooth, oaty, rich, with bright egg yolks and that distinct whisky. I’ve used a 10-year-old Arran Malt with notes of citrus and honey followed by vanilla and butterscotch on the palate. It makes a wonderful parfait. I’ve only recently started to appreciate whisky properly and am better at distinguishing all those complex flavours. I know some people don't really get it, but go on, give it a try!

Image: Paul Johnston,  Copper Mango

Image: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Serves 4 

INGREDIENTS

4 organic egg yolks

125g caster sugar

100mls water

500mls double cream

A good splosh of 10-year-old Arran whiskyA handful of pinhead oats, lightly toasted

A handful of porridge oats, fried in butter and sugar until golden

A few Scottish strawberries

Sweet cicely for a garnish

 METHOD

Add the water and the sugar to a pan and gently bring to the boil. It must reach soft-ball texture, so it looks like a clear syrup. Whisk the egg yolks and trickle in the sugar solution a little at a time - you can use a Kenwood for this - until the mix is full of volume. Allow this mix to cool for about 10 minutes.

In a clean bowl, semi-whip the cream until it reaches ribbon stage. Then gently fold it into the egg yolk and sugar mix, using a cutting/folding action.

Add the whisky to taste, then the toasted pinhead oats and combine. Pour into a terrine mould double-lined with cling film and freeze overnight.

To serve remove from the freezer, tip the parfait out of the mould and remove cling film. Then cut into slices and place on cool plates and serve with a few berries, some sweet cicely and some of those buttery sugary oats. Now eat!


NEIL'S RECIPES: WILD SCOTTISH RABBIT, BUTTER BEANS AND PRESERVED LEMONS

by Cafe St Honoré in


Rabbit is a delicious meat, hugely versatile, sustainable and local. Try wild Scottish rabbit and use the back legs and shoulders for braising, or cooking slowly in duck fat like a confit. The loins can be quickly sautéed and kept quite rare. Served with a few butter beans and a kick of preserved lemon and thyme, it’s lovely and simple, hot or cold. Don't be afraid to have a go at butchering your own rabbit, it’s good fun and you’ll be so chuffed if you get it right. I usually leave the hind legs on the bone during cooking as it seems to stay moist and juicy that way. And remember to add lots of parsley! 

Image: Paul Johnston,  Copper Mango

Image: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1 large organic unwaxed lemon

1 large cup of course salt

1 whole wild Scottish rabbit

250g duck fat

A few sprigs of thyme

A clove of garlic

200g butter beans, soaked overnight and cooked in water gently for 1.5 hours until just tender

A small handful of curly parsley, chopped

100ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil

A knob of butter

1 shallot, finely chopped

Good salt and pepper

METHOD

To make preserved lemons simply make a cross cut 2/3 of the way down the lemon and fill with salt, put the remaining salt into a jar and submerge the lemon in this for a month turning every 2 to 3 days. After a month, remove from the salt and rinse. Scrape out the insides and discard - it’s the pith and the peel you want. Chop finely.

Heat the duck fat and with the thyme and garlic, then add the seasoned front and back legs of the rabbit. Cook for 2 to 3 hours, submerged in the fat, until tender. Don't overcook.

Add the chopped shallot to the rapeseed oil and gently cook on the hob on a low heat until the shallot is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the preserved lemon, and the butter beans.

Remove the cooked legs of rabbit from the duck fat and flake the meat into the bean mix and stir.

Heat the butter in a pan and fry the loins for 3 to 4 minutes being careful not to overcook. Slice and add to the bean mix.

Stir in the parsley and check the seasoning. Remember, the lemon is a little salty but a wonderful addition to this dish.

Serve in a bowl - not too hot - a bit like a warm salad.


NEIL'S RECIPES: ROAST LEG OF LAMB WITH BOULANGÈRE POTATOES

by Cafe St Honoré in


For this recipe it has to be a British leg of lamb. I would recommend buying from a farmers’ market or a good local butcher. Ask about the breed, whether its organic or even the name of the farm. It’s good to get to know what’s available and learn about the different tastes. At the restaurant we use Grierson Organic Perthshire lamb and Richard Briggs Native Shetland Lamb - both different but both delicious. Don't overcook the leg, simply rub with oil and salt and lay on a trivet of roots with garlic and rosemary before roasting. And make sure you allow it to rest properly. Bring the whole joint to the table to carve, you'll get lots of oohs and aahs!

Image: Paul Johnston,  Copper Mango

Image: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1 leg of excellent lamb, bone in

1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1 bulb of garlic, halved

A sprig of rosemary

4 or 5 medium-sized potatoes, washed, skins on  

2 leeks with outer layer removed, cut into 2-inch pieces

500ml good chicken or lamb stock

A few knobs of butter

25ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil

Good salt and pepper

METHOD

Heat your oven to 200°C.

Firstly, rub the leg of lamb with half the rapeseed oil and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Place about 1/3 of the onion on a roasting tray with the half bulb of garlic and the rosemary. Place the lamb on top and add a small glass of water (c100ml) to the tray.

Place the tray in the oven and roast half an hour, then turn the heat down to 150°C and cook for a further 45 minutes to an hour. After about 15 minutes add the leeks, season again and baste with the juices. Cook until the leeks are just soft (about 45 minutes), basting as you cook. Once it’s ready, remove from the oven and let it rest for at least 10 minutes.

Whilst the leg is roasting, fry the rest of the onion in the remaining oil for about 20 minutes on a low heat until softened and starting to brown. Season and keep warm.

Next, slice the potatoes. You want them to be very thin, so use a mandolin or slicer if you have one. Then start to assemble the boulangère. In a ovenproof dish, layer up the slices of potato and onion, pouring over the stock and seasoning each layer as you go. Add a few dots of butter on top and place in the oven for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. Long enough for the potatoes to soften and soak up all the stock.

To serve, place the dish of boulangère potatoes on the table and carve the meat at the table, placing some leeks on each plate as you carve, and top with the cooking juices.

A wee tip: if you like garlic, squeeze the cooked, roasted garlic bulb onto the lamb as it is resting, before you carve.


NEIL'S RECIPES: VICTORIA SANDWICH

by Cafe St Honoré in


If I am honest, the current Mrs Chef makes the best Victoria sponge I have ever tasted! So, cap in hand, off I went and asked for the recipe. It really couldn't be easier, it's almost an all-in-one method that takes just a few minutes to prepare. Just make sure you butter and flour your tins and pre-heat your oven before you start. Cake-making for me is entering bandit territory but this is easy to do, trust me. Serve with jam and cream in the middle and a dust of icing sugar is compulsory. Have it as a pudding, or as an afternoon slice of heaven. It truly is the best.

Image: Paul Johnston,  Copper Mango

Image: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Makes 1 cake

INGREDIENTS

340g unsalted butter, softened

340g unrefined caster sugar

1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped

6 free range eggs

340g self-raising flour

5 or 6 tbsps whole milk

250ml double cream, whipped to ribbon stage

Half a jar of raspberry jam, it must be raspberry

Icing sugar to garnish

METHOD

Pre-heat your oven to 180°C, and line two 10'' cake tins with butter and a dusting of flour.

Mix the butter, sugar, vanilla seeds, eggs and self-raising flour in a food processor on a slow speed until combined. This will take about 4 to 5 minutes.

Then trickle in the milk (about 5 or 6 tablespoons) until you get the desired cake-mix consistency.

Divide the mix between the prepared tins and smooth gently with a wet palette knife. Then place the tins on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for around 25 minutes. Don't over cook - trust your instincts! Test by inserting a cocktail stick in the middle - if it’s still wet when it comes out then it’s not ready.

Allow the cooked sponges to cool for 10 to 15 minutes in the tins, then remove and place on a cooling wire until completely cold.

To assemble, take one sponge and slosh on the jam, be liberal. Then gently smear on the whipped double cream. Add the top layer of sponge to this and dredge with a cloud of icing sugar. Place in the centre of your table and enjoy with mum and a cup of tea.


NEIL'S RECIPES: SMOKED MACKEREL PÂTÉ, PICKLES

by Cafe St Honoré in


This recipe is almost too easy, but what is wrong with that! You might prefer to buy ready-made (at a hugely inflated price) but this doesn't take long and tastes so good you will make it time and time again. And it’s cheap! It’s good for packed lunches, and will help with the new year detox as it’s packed full of Omega oils. Oily fish used to play a huge part in our diet, but now sadly we need to fortify our processed foods to replenish these good things in our diets. Try it with oatcakes and a dollop of horseradish, or some pickles. Or just with a simple salad, a squeeze of lemon juice, a twist of pepper and pow! It's that good. Try using peppered mackerel for a wee hit.

Image: Paul Johnston,  Copper Mango

Image: Paul Johnston, Copper Mango

Makes enough for several servings

INGREDIENTS

3 fillets of smoked mackerel

2 tablespoons of crème fraîche

Juice of half a lemon

A twist of pepper

250ml cider vinegar

250ml water

100g sugar

A few spices (star anise, peppercorns)

A handful of vegetables like carrots, cucumber and onion, peeled and cut into nice shapes

A teaspoon of good salt

A few oatcakes

METHOD 

Firstly make a pickle by boiling the spices, vinegar, water, salt and sugar together for a minute.  Then add the vegetables to this liquor. Remove from the heat and put in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. This can be stored for months if you don’t use all the pickles at once.

To make the mackerel pâté, blitz the mackerel with the crème fraîche in a food processor until smooth. Then add the pepper and lemon to taste. It should be nice and smooth.

Keep the pâté in a tub in your fridge until required. It’s perfect with oatcakes and those pickles!