Claire MacDonald

Claire MacDonald

Recipes: The light fantastic

I have only recently discovered salmon which is sold in filleted pieces, like raw salmon, but which is lightly smoked. It is simply delicious. What a find – it is so useful, so quick to cook (as with all types of fish), but just a bit more interesting, with the slight smoked flavour.

Shepherd's delight

AT FIRST glance, it might seem that my healthy eating kick for 2007 (see last Saturday) was rather short-lived. Not so. The meat pies about which I hope to set your taste buds tingling do not include that most famous of takeaways north of the Border, the Scotch Pie. Nothing makes me feel so alien to Scotland as a Scotch meat pie, with its grey pastry and content. It makes me shudder just bringing it to mind - though Godfrey, my husband, loves them.

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Bangers and class

Is there any other food that varies so widely as sausages, in terms of quality and flavour? Sausages have improved vastly during the past decade, no doubt due to the fact that we have all become far more discerning in what we eat.

Mix, bake and enjoy

Now is the time to be making your Christmas cake.

Slow and sumptuous

One of my campaigns is to encourage everyone to buy and cook less expensive cuts of meat once in a while. Far too many people thinking of beef make straight for steak, whether fillet, rump or sirloin. But skirt, or shin, of beef has the best taste when cooked long and slow. And surely no stew can beat an oxtail, cooked with plenty of root vegetables? It's the same with lamb - too often leg or rack of lamb is the only considered purchase.

Rooster booster

Rooster is a wonderful variety of potato that ticks all the boxes that any cook and discerning eater could possibly want. It is neither too waxy, nor too dry and floury. It roasts, fries, mashes and bakes to perfection, and it has a very good flavour. The perfect spud, in fact. I love them.

Melt in the mouth

Goats cheese is proof that it is perfectly possible to dislike a food intensely and then to change. I loathed goats cheese until, on a trip to France many years ago, I was cajoled into trying it cooked. I have never looked back. I simply love the stuff now.

Core values

WE ARE in the peak British apple (and pear) season. YET Each year it grieves me to find apples from mainland Europe, as well as from other continents, for sale in our supermarkets. I feel sure I am preaching to many of the converted, but I do urge you to buy only British-grown fruit and vegetables, not least to support our farmers.

Love me tender

The only protein that we as a family can all agree on is chicken - and I realise many other families must be the same. But you must buy the very best you can find, which means a bird that has been raised organically - and allowed to mature naturally. You'll notice the difference both in flavour and texture. You'll see, too, that when stock is made from an organic carcass, the result, on chilling, is jellied.

Black beauty

We tend to think of black pudding as an exclusively Scottish dish, but of course it's not - although where it is made does matter.

The white stuff

I feel strongly about milk, SO I rejoiced when, several months ago, I heard an organic milk farmer on Radio 4's Farming Today echo what I always say at cooking demonstrations; that it is such a waste to buy skimmed or even semi-skimmed milk.

Fruits of autumn

THE different varieties of British-grown plums have a short season which varies according to the weather. There are two types in particular which I think it is a waste to cook. Victorias and Greengages are perfect when they are ripe and should simply be eaten as they are - they are positively bland when cooked.

Better late than ever

IT IS THE second weekend in September and why, you might well be wondering, are strawberries a subject for this time of year? Well, during the summer I discovered the best-tasting strawberry variety I have encountered for years, and it fruits right into October. It's called Jubilee, because it was brought to fruition in the Queen's Jubilee year. We get ours from Bruce's of Balmyle.

Catch of the day

FISH is fantastic food. Fish is fast food. Packed with protein, it is incredibly good for us. To my mind, the people who make up the Scottish fishing fleet are our unsung heroes, facing danger on a daily basis to land us the wealth of flat fish, white fish and shellfish for which our country is celebrated.

King of the Festival

Throughout Festival season in edinburgh, many households have a steady stream of visitors, all wanting to feast on culture. What to give these guests to eat can pose a dilemma. Booking a table in one of Edinburgh's many excellent restaurants once or twice lifts the responsibility from the host or hostess, but realistically there is going to be a lot of eating in.

Preserve with zest

I love all cooking, but I think I love making jam (and marmalade) best. There is something so clean, and so satisfying, about making jam - and the house is filled with the fragrance of fruit.

Bean scene

TOMATOES APART, the summer vegetable from this country that I love best during the mid- summer months are beans. I give them plural status because beans come in a variety of species.

Layer cake

In my experience, most people love puff pastry, whether hot or cooled. In summer, millefeuilles are a treat as the finale to a lunch or dinner, but they are not something to make at the last minute.

Simply delicious

NEW potatoes are among the many treats you encounter if you eat seasonally, but they're only worth buying if they're British. New potatoes are first ready in southern parts of the UK, gradually progressing north. The earliest are Jersey Royals, closely followed by Cornish, Pembroke and Ayrshires, then finally we are into our homegrown Skye new potatoes.

Treat your greens

Watercress is my favourite of all salad leaves. We buy it year-round in bags in the supermarket, and it boosts our intake of iron and vitamin C as well as folic acid during the winter months. Watercress is particularly good in salads containing a variety of other ingredients, which are all enhanced by its slightly peppery taste.

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