Thursday, 30 July 2015

Summer Fruit Vodka Jellies

Selection of summer fruit vodka jellies

Vodka has in many ways become the spirit of choice in Scotland in modern times, particularly perhaps among the younger generations. It is therefore entirely appropriate to consider different ways in which vodka may be served in unusual and tasty ways. While vodka fruit jellies are very popular, it's maybe not quite so common that they be made with fresh fruit which can be bought from any supermarket at this time of year. The fruits included on this page are merely suggestions and a wide variety of alternatives would work equally well, especially those which can be sourced fresh locally.

Selection of fresh summer fruits


Small tub fresh blueberries
Small tub fresh raspberries
1 medium sized ripe pear
Large wedge of fresh lemon
16 fluid ounces vodka
4 fluid ounces sugar syrup*

*You can buy sugar syrup but it is incredibly easy to make at home and I've shown how a little bit further down the page

Diced pear flesh is soaked in cold lemon water


Peel and core the pear. Finely dice and add immediately to a bowl of cold water with the lemon wedge. This prevents it from oxidising and turning brown.

Blueberries are rinsed under cold running water

Wash the blueberries and the raspberries separately in a colander under running cold water. Drain well.

Sugar is measured out for making sugar syrup

If you are making sugar syrup from scratch, all you do is begin by measuring out equal quantities by volume of sugar and water. For the amount required in this recipe, I used a small drinking glass of each.

Sugar and water are the only ingredients in sugar syrup

Add the sugar and water to a small saucepan and gently heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, just until the sugar is fully dissolved. Remember, you will then have to measure out precisely four fluid ounces and not simply use the whole amount you have prepared. Measuring out both liquids accurately is essential if the gelatine is to set to the right consistency.

Leaf gelatine

Gelatine is also available in powdered form but I think leaf gelatine produces far better results. Follow the instructions on the pack to determine how many leaves you need and how it should be incorporated in to the liquid. In this instance, I had to begin by soaking four leaves of gelatine in cold water for two or three minutes until it is just softened.

Gelatine leaves are soaked in cold water

While the gelatine is soaking, you can add the fruit to the ramekins. This set is unusual in that it is comprised of seven ramekins but you can use as many or as few as you wish, simply adjusting the ingredient quantities accordingly.

Fruits are ready for vodka jelly solution

Drain the pear pieces and three-quarters fill two of the ramekins. I lightly crushed the berries before using them to similarly fill two ramekins in each instance but this is not essential. In the case of the seventh ramekin, I combined a little of each of the three fruits.

Gelatine leaves are melted in warmed vodka and sugar syrup

Measure out the vodka and sugar syrup in to a pot and heat until bubbles only just start to form around the edges. Turn off the heat. It's imperative not to heat any further or you will boil off the alcohol. It's also important that the liquid is not too hot when the gelatine is added or it will affect the setting qualities.

Lift the gelatine leaves from the steeping water and squeeze out as much moisture as you can in your fisted hand. Add to the warm liquid and stir until fully dissolved. Add to a jug and carefully fill each ramekin to the brim. Cover and leave to cool and partly set. Lift gently to the fridge and leave for a minimum couple of hours before serving chilled.

Sweet serving suggestions for vodka jelies

You can serve these fruit jellies any way you wish but what I did here was take a couple of very popular Scottish sweet treats and serve them in small portions with the jellies.

Millionaire shortbread and macaroon bar platter

Simply cut small pieces of millionaire shortbread and Macaroon bar and lay them out on a serving plate.

Raspberry vodka jelly served with macaroon and millionaire shortbread

Serve a fruit jelly with a piece each of the shortbread and macaroon.

Tucking in to raspberry vodka jelly

If you want a healthier option, you could try mix and matching the fruits. In this instance, I served a blueberry vodka jelly with a couple of pear wedges.

Blueberry vodka jelly is served with fresh bear

Try spooning small amounts of the jelly on to the pear for a deliciously refreshing, fruity treat.

Blueberry vodka jelly on pear segment

Friday, 29 May 2015

Highland Game Buffalo Burgers on Rolls with Bacon, Egg and Wedges

Buffalo burger on a roll with bacon and fried egg served with potato wedges

I am always on the look-out for new foodstuffs to try and genuinely do get a real buzz when I come across something really different and appealing for the first time. This usually happens when I'm travelling or visiting a new supermarket/shop but occasionally I find great new products much closer to home. In this instance, I was taking a browse around my local Morrsions when I happened to spy this new product from Highland Game. I'm very familiar with Highland Game and enjoy their venison products on a regular basis so I didn't hesitate when it came to picking up a pack of these burgers to sample.

Scottish Highland Game buffalo burger

I'm actually not sure whether this was the first time I had ever tasted buffalo but it was certainly the first time I had ever tasted buffalo burgers. What I decided to do was take the traditional, American burger concept and adapt it a little bit to incorporate more Scottish products and concepts.

Baby potatoes ready for boiling

Ingredients per Person

1 Highland Game buffalo burger
6 or 7 baby new potatoes
Scottish rapeseed oil
2 rashers of back bacon
1 large egg
1 large Scottish bread roll
Malt vinegar (optional)

Boiled potatoes are steamed before being left to cool


It's necessary to first of oil cook the potatoes by boiling and allow them to cool completely. Simply wash but don't peel them and add them to a pot of cold, salted water. Bring the water to a simmer for twenty minutes or so until the potatoes are just softening and no more. Drain through a colander, allow to steam for a few minutes then cover and leave to cool.

Starting to griddle buffalo burger

The burger here was griddled rather than fried. This is a great way of getting the outdoor barbecue effect during a cold, wet Scottish summer. If you don't have one of these sturdy pans, you really should consider picking one up for a bargain price on the likes of Amazon and introduce a whole new dimension to your cooking. Alternatively, you can fry the burgers but do note in particular that they will take significantly longer to cook in a conventional frying pan.

In order to griddle the burger, the griddle pan should firstly be brought up to a very high heat. This will take a few minutes. While this is happening, oil the burger lightly on both sides with rapeseed oil - never oil the griddle pan directly.

Lay the burger carefully on to the hot griddle pan and cook for about four and a half minutes each side.

Boiled and cooled potatoes are halved for deep frying

The cooled potatoes should be halved lengthways for deep frying. They will need to be deep fried at a fairly high heat for about five minutes until crisp and golden.

Egg is broken in to small bowl for adding to frying pan

The egg should be broken in to a small cup or bowl in preparation for frying and seasoned with a little salt. This makes it much easier to add to the frying pan for around three minutes frying over a medium heat. If you want some more good tips for frying eggs this way, check out the video immediately below by clicking on the arrow in the centre of the screen.

You could if you wish flip the egg over and serve it "over easy" or with the yolk completely cooked.

Griddled buffalo burger left to rest

Lift the buffalo burger from the griddle pan to a plate, cover with foil and leave to rest for a few minutes.

Frying an egg sunny side up

Pour the egg carefully in to the hot, lightly oiled frying pan, remembering to reduce the heat after twenty seconds or so to low.

Griddling bacon rashers

The bacon rashers should be lightly oiled on both sides. They will take only a minute each side in the hot griddle pan to cook.

Deep fried potatoes are drained on kitchen paper

Drain the potato wedges on kitchen paper on a large plate.

Griddled bacon is added to bottom half of bread roll

Lift the bacon rashers on to the bottom half of your cut open roll on a serving plate.

Buffalo burger is added to bacon bed on roll and wedges are laid alongside

Lift the buffalo burger on to the bacon rashers and plate the wedges alongside, seasoning the potatoes with salt and vinegar if required.

Fried egg is laid on buffalo burger

Lift the fried egg carefully on to the buffalo burger and lightly close the roll over to serve.

Buffalo burger with bacon, fried egg and wedges is ready to serve

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Scottish King Scallops Poached in Milk Canapes

Selection of canapes featuring Scottish king scallops poached in milk

I love scallops and cook them usually in one of three ways. The first two are popular in that I griddle or fry them but this method of poaching them gently in milk is perhaps not quite so well known. It is actually a foolproof method for ensuring they are cooked to perfection every time and don't become overcooked and rubbery as can so easily happen with these delectable but delicate little morsels. This way of serving the scallops as part of canapes was an experiment but I think it worked very well and the canape bases/additional toppings are of course infinitely variable. The following is precisely how I made this particular selection of Scottish king scallop canapes.

Bread (toasted) and crackers form the bases of the cnapes

Ingredients for 8 Canapes

8 Scottish king scallops
2 slices of bread
4 crackers of chosen type(s)
2 teaspoons tomato salsa
2 teaspoons soured cream with chives
2 teaspoons quail pate
Milk as required to poach scallops (roughly 3/4 pint)

Pate, tomato salsa and soured cream with chives for canapes


The cooking time required for this recipe is very short so it is advisable to do as much of the serving preparation as you can before you actually start cooking. I decided to serve four different types of canapes. Two of the crackers were to be spread with quail pate and two served plain with the scallops. I got these bases ready as my first step.
Cracker canape bases ready for poached scallops

Scallops are often purchased with the coral or roe (the orange bit) already having been discarded. Alternatively, many people remove and discard it at home before cooking the scallops. While it's true the coral is not as succulent and tasty  as the main scallop mussel, it is perfectly edible and enjoyable to eat, so why not leave it attached? With the price you may well have paid for your scallops, it's best to get your money's worth as much as possible!

Scottish king scallops added to poaching pot

Put the scallops in a pot or saucepan and pour in enough cold milk just to ensure they are completely covered.

Milk is poured in to pot to cover scallops

Put the pot on to a medium heat. The scallops are ready as soon as the milk just begins to simmer - don't let it get anywhere near a boil. At this stage, the scallops should be promptly removed from the poaching liquid with a large slotted spoon.

A drinking glass is used to cut circles from toast

The scallops will only take around two to three minutes so make the toast as soon as they are put on to heat.

Toast circles ready to form bases of canapes

Use a slender drinking glass or similar to cut two circles from each slice of toast.

Canape bases are ready for poached scallops

Spoon the tomato salsa on to two toast circles and the soured cream with chives on to the other two. Lay the toast circles on your serving plate or board.

When the scallops are removed from the milk, lay them on a plate, from which they can be lifted individually with tongs to top the prepared canape bases.

Poached scallops removed from milk pot

Monday, 25 May 2015

Wee Willie Winkie Sausages and Mediterranean Vegetables Casserole

A lightly poached egg makes the perfect casserole topping

I've featured Wee Willie Winkie sausages a couple of times before on this blog but if you're unfamiliar with them, they're simply small, skinless pork sausages which are very popular in Scotland with children. They also make perfect cocktail sausages. They are usually gently fried before being served with fairly simple accompaniments. In this instance, however, I decided to bring these favourites from my own childhood in to the twenty-first century and incorporate them in a tasty casserole made from a selection of Mediterranean style vegetables. I have made the casserole a little bit spicy but that is optional, as is serving the poached egg on top.

Wee Willie Winkie sausages and Mediterranean vegetable selection for casserole

Ingredients (Serves Two)

12 ounce tray of assorted Mediterranean style roasting vegetables
Pack of 20 Wee Willie Winkie sausages
14 ounce can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
1 red chilli pepper, seeded and moderately finely diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
Pinch of dried basil
Pinch of dried oregano
Few drops of Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper
2 eggs
Freshly sliced basil leaves to garnish

Herbs and spices for casserole


Start your oven preheating to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 while you are assembling and preparing your ingredients.

Prepared garlic and chilli for casserole

Put all of your ingredients in to a large casserole dish. Make sure there is plenty of room in the dish as you are going to have to stir them well to combine.

Sausage and vegetable casserole ingredients are added to cooking dish

Use a wooden spoon to gently stir,turn,fold the ingredients together until fully mixed.

Sausage and vegetable casserole ingredients are carefully stir folded together

Put the lid on the casserole dish and place it in the oven for half an hour.

Cooked casserole is gently stirred before being left to rest

Take your casserole from the oven and lift the lid off (careful of escaping steam). Gently stir/fold again to make sure everything is coated in the sauce. Put the lid back on and leave to rest for five minutes while you poach the eggs.

Egg ready for poaching

The way I poach eggs, it's only really possible to poach one egg in the pot at a time. If poaching two eggs, you could either do one at a time or use two pots as I did.

The video below shows my egg poaching process in full. Simply make sure your speakers are turned on and click on the arrow in the centre of the screen to play.

The eggs in this instance were poached for three minutes.

Poaching egg in water and vinegar

While the eggs are poaching, divide the sausage and vegetable casserole between two deep serving plates with a slotted spoon.

Wee Willie Winkie sasuages and vegetable casserole is plated

Use a clean slotted spoon to lift an egg on to the top of each casserole serving.

Poached egg is lifted on to the top of the casserole

Garnish each plate with the finely sliced basil leaves.

Poached egg is garnished with some finely sliced basil leaves