Hairst bree is Gaelic Scottish for ‘harvest broth’ and is also known as hotch potch. It is traditionally made with mutton or lamb neck, although you can use lamb shanks if you prefer. The vegetables in this soup tend to be anything which is in season locally. Hairst bree is a hearty, substantial dish, and it would have been filling and comforting for outdoor workers after a cold day in the highlands. This chunky dish is part soup and part stew, or ‘stoup’ if you like. Lamb is a natural choice in a country where sheep are numerous and often fare better in the harsh climate than cattle, thanks to their warm wool.
We are using swede (rutabaga), carrots, spring onions, beans, peas, cauliflower, and lettuce to make this, although you may substitute any other vegetables depending what is in season and available locally. Consider broccoli instead of the cauliflower, or potatoes instead of the carrots. Fresh mint and parsley also go into the dish, and both of those combine beautifully with the hearty lamb flavour, and suit the dish well.
A lot of Scottish cooks will keep this simmering away for a large part of the day, but you might prefer to cook it until the vegetables are ‘just’ tender rather than until they are only just holding together. Ladle generous servings of this hairst bree into mugs or bowls and serve piping hot. This is a robust soup which is filling enough to pass for an evening meal, rather than a mere appetiser or snack. Consider serving some crusty rustic bread on the side which can be used to sop up every last drop of this flavour-packed soup. Continue reading
Lamb shanks always make a delicious meal and they are easy to work with. It is hard to overcook them because they have quite a high fat content. In fact, if you keep the heat quite low (we are using 180 degrees C/350 degrees F here but you can go lower and cook longer) you will be able to see when the shanks are cooked. If the meat is still clinging tightly to the bone, they need more time. If the meat is coming away from the bone and very tender they are done. So there is no need for meat thermometers or cutting into the meat to check with this recipe. In fact, it is simple enough for a cooking novice.
We are cutting little pockets into the lamb and filling them with a butter and herb mixture, then sitting each shank on a bed of garlic, adding a splash of white wine, enclosing them in foil packets and baking them until perfect. If you want to add some vegetables between the garlic and lamb, consider adding a couple of finely sliced carrots, a finely sliced onion and a finely sliced leek to the recipe. Else make vegetables to serve on the side.
You might remember lamb shanks being much cheaper a few years back and, if so, you are right! Unfortunately this cut of lamb has recently come into vogue with celebrity chefs favouring it in recipes. This of course pushed up the demand and therefore the price. However, lamb shanks still work out cheaper than some other cuts, such as lamb cutlets, for the amount of meat you get. Continue reading
This old-fashioned lamb pie which dates back over 100 years combines lamb with fruit and spices. It is known as Devon or Devonshire squab pie, Gloucester squab pie or West Country squab pie. In Devon, this is often served with clotted cream on the side; outside of Devon, usually not. A squab usually refers to a young domestic pigeon but this pie has been made with lamb for many years. It is thought either the original pie was made with pigeon or the name comes from ‘squabble’ which means to have a disagreement about whether to make meat pie or apple pie (since this one contains both).
This very tasty pie contains lamb, apples and spices, and has a pastry lid. It is hearty and filling, and therefore perfect comfort food for the cooler seasons. It can be made as one large pie or you can use separate ramekins to make portion-sized servings. There are various versions of squab pie. In fact, in the US it is actually made with pigeons. Agatha Christie, a famous English crime novelist, created a variation with hard boiled eggs.
Devon squab pie is one of those ‘at risk’ British classic recipes because only 3 percent of teenagers surveyed in Britain had ever tasted it. Despite this, if you are interested in historical British or English recipes, Devon squab pie is worth making, because the combination of lamb, apples and spices works really nicely, and the puff pastry crust on top is delicious. Serve this with mashed potatoes and vegetables. Continue reading
Haggis is world-famous as a Scottish delicacy. A lot of people talk about it but not everyone knows exactly what it is or how much work goes into making the perfect haggis. This famed dish is made with offal, oats, onion and spices. The mixture is stuffed into a sheep’s stomach and then served with ‘neeps and tatties’ (translated from the Scottish, that means swede, turnip or rutabaga and mashed potatoes). This is a traditional Burn’s Night supper. Burn’s Night falls on January 25 – Robert Burns’ birthday. He was Scotland’s bard and wrote a poem ‘Address to a Haggis’ because he loved this unusual dish.
Depending where you live, some of the ingredients might be hard to find. Not everyone has access to offal, so you might have to visit an ethnic shop and buy a readymade haggis if you cannot find the pieces needed to make this homemade version. The idea of haggis might not be immediately appealing, but if you like meat, you will probably enjoy its nutty texture and hearty, meaty flavour.
Haggis is believed to date back to ancient times, when as many parts of the animal as possible would be used after the hunt to make a meal. Today, a ‘dram’ (of Scotch whisky) is the traditional accompaniment to haggis, neeps and tatties, whether you are making it for Burn’s Night, another special occasion, or just to see what all the fuss is about and enjoy something unusual for your dinner. ‘Vegetarian haggis’ has been sold since the 1960, using pulses, vegetables and nuts instead of meat, but we suggest making the authentic kind at least once. After all, can over 5 million Scotsmen be so wrong? Continue reading
Shepherd’s pie is usually a simple mixture of ground lamb, vegetables and a creamy potato topping, but this recipe takes the basic concept and adds some tweaks. Although the ingredients might sound like an unusual combination, this is a really tasty recipe for the whole family, and you can even make double the amount and freeze the cooked pie in individual portions. The potato and parsnip topping is flavoured with turmeric, chilli, cilantro (fresh coriander), lemon juice, and butter. This goes on top of the lamb mixture, although of course you can use ground beef rather than lamb if you prefer.
The meat sauce is flavoured with curry powder, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and chickpeas. You can swap the chickpeas for frozen green peas if you prefer. Indian food is really popular in the UK, and in fact there are more curry houses in London than India! We have taken inspiration from the British love for Indian cuisine, adding some spice to this classic English dish for an unusual, delicious result, although you can reduce the amount of spice if you prefer.
You do not need to serve a side dish with this, since you have meat, vegetables and potatoes in the one dish, but if you want to, consider broccoli, asparagus or another green vegetable. You can either make one large shepherd’s pie or else make six individual ones if you have six ovenproof ramekins. If you love shepherd’s pie recipes but are in the mood for something a little more exotic, try this recipe. Continue reading
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