A budget conscious menu doesn’t have to compromise on flavour, says Neil Forbes of Cafe St Honoré
With all the dinging and donging merrily on high far behind us, January is the time to rein in the spending, but not the flavour. I like the combination of healthy winter veg along with cheaper cuts of meat.
For example, go for slow-cooked dishes like stews, casseroles and braises – things we crave in these cold winter months. At Cafe St Honoré, we are currently serving coq au vin, using organic Perthshire chicken from Hugh Grierson Organic Farm, slowly cooked in red wine; as well as cottage pies and beef bourguignon. They all go so well with a good, buttery mash. This kind of food makes us feel cosy and safe, and creates warm memories for our children and loved ones.
My earliest food memory is my granny’s soup, made with a proper stock that bubbled away at the back of the stove for what seems like forever, with ingredients including barley, root veg and chicken meat (scraped from the carcase). I imagine that I can still taste it now – what a lovely memory. If you fancy a change from soup this month, give these three dishes a try – they’re all packed with flavour and perfect on a cold day.
4 free range eggs
4 slices Macsween haggis
1 large leek, cut into long strips
a few salad leaves
1 tbsp Arran mustard
100ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil
1 tbsp chopped chives
salt and pepper
asplash of vinegar
1kg of diced lamb or mutton
2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 litre good stock
6 to 8 large potatoes, peeled
50g butter, melted
50ml rapeseed oil for frying
salt and pepper
a small sprig of rosemary
3 large Bramley apples, peeled and cored
2 pears, peeled and cored
a handful of dried fruit such as apricots or figs
350g unsalted butter
250g unrefined caster sugar
2 pinches mixed spice
300g plain flour
a handful of oats, pinhead or jumbo are great
WARM SALAD OF MACSWEEN HAGGIS, LEEK AND POACHED EGG
After attending a recent haggis dinner hosted by the wonderful Macsween family, I’m falling in love with this delightful dish all over again. Search for their limited edition flavours like the Three Bird – made with pheasant, smoked duck and grouse – it’s stunning. Their vegetarian haggis is also worth a mention, as it’s full of flavour too. All haggis goes well with poached egg, I’ve just jazzed it up a bit with some leeks and an Arran mustard dressing.
1 Cook the leek until just soft in a large pot of boiling, salted water – about 3 to 4 minutes – then refresh in cold water and set to one side.
2 Put a pan of cold water on to boil, then add a splash of vinegar. Just before it comes to the boil, swirl the water to create a vortex and crack an egg into the centre. Poach each egg for 3 minutes.
3 Meanwhile, pan-fry the haggis until it’s golden on both sides and thoroughly hot.
4 Make a dressing with the mustard, rapeseed oil and seasoning.
5 In the centre of each plate, place the slices of haggis topped with a ‘nest’ of leeks – a place to rest your poached eggs. Scatter a few salad leaves and drizzle with the dressing. Top with chopped chives.
It’s cold outside and I want to eat proper, non-poncey food. I love this recipe. We cook it at home and leave it in a low oven while we go for a walk, or get the garden ready for the spring months ahead. Try using mutton if you can get it and, as always, your first stop should be the farmers’ market. For a really inexpensive version use breast or belly of lamb, it’s very cheap! And do leave the fat on – that’s where all the flavour lies. Trust me, you’ll love this dish.
1 Fry the lamb or mutton in the rapeseed oil until really dark and coloured brown. This will help the colour and flavour. Place in a casserole or oven-proof serving dish.
2 Colour the onions and carrots in the same pan and add to the casserole dish. Season and add the rosemary and stock.
3 Cover with a lid and cook for 90 minutes on 180C/Gas Mark 4 until the meat is juicy and tender.
4 Meanwhile, peel and slice the potatoes about ½ cm thick and lay on top of the stew. Season again and brush with melted butter. Cook for a further hour until the meat and potatoes are soft and there’s a crispy, golden top.
5 Serve piping hot with shredded cabbage, cooked in butter.
WINTER FRUIT CRUMBLE
My favourite pudding is a crumble. Use whatever fruit you have leftover, experiment with different varieties of apple or pear, try adding a different spice like clove or cinnamon, or even using brown sugar in the topping. You’ll know when your crumble is ready when there are tinged (almost burnt) toffee bits on the edge of the dish. Serve with cream (double of course), ice-cream or custard and you’ll be very happy.
1 Melt 100g of butter in a pot and add the diced apple and pear plus half the sugar. Cook on a medium heat until the fruit is just starting
2 Roughly chop the dried fruit and add it to the apple and pear mixture with a pinch of mixed spice. Spoon this mix into an ovenproof dish, or 4 ramekins.
3 To make the topping, rub the remaining butter and sugar together. Then mix in the flour, oats and another pinch of mixed spice.
4 Scatter the topping onto the fruit and place in a moderate oven for 45 minutes at 180C/Gas Mark 4 until golden and crunchy. Serve piping hot with cream, custard or ice-cream.