Carina is a regular contributor to The Scotsman magazine. Last month she created some delicious, belly-warming Autumnal dishes, perfect for this blustery weather.
My 11 year old recently said, “Mummy where has this year gone? I can’t believe it’s autumn already.” Oh my goodness when the babies feel life is flying by how will us oldies cope.
Earlier this year I had the privilege of meeting Hamish from the Secret Herb Garden. We’ve been thrilled to receive deliveries of his beautiful flowers and herbs throughout the summer and now we have an even more exciting product coming from his secret garden. Flower Gins.
The three core Gins from the Secret Garden Range are; Cornflower and Chamomile, Rosa Gallica and Lavender and Echinacea.
There are a vast range of fantastic gins in Scotland, but these Secret Herb Garden ones are very different and definitely worth a try. Hamish is home growing and harvesting all the flowers for each gin and the results are quite spectacular. We’re hosting a one off gin tasting with industry experts to hear what they have to say about it. The hidden secret is, the gins miraculously change colour when you add tonic water. Alchemy and illusion all in one glass.
Autumn is a beautiful time of the year. There is the excitement of Halloween and Bonfire night and then Christmas is waiting like an enormous present under the tree. So as the cold nights draw in, we need some good food to warm our bellies. Cottage pie is my children’s favourite and a real home comfort. Let’s let this old favourite lead the way for the change in season.
Kitchen Garden Cottage Pie
Adding vegetables to the mince makes this pie lighter and sneaks in all the really good vitamins without anyone under eight even noticing.
SERVES 4 hungry big kids
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
1kg beef mince
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 large carrots, cut into small cubes
1 small squash, cut into small cubes
1 small turnip, cut into small cubes
1 litre hot beef stock or 2 tsp Bovril dissolved in 1 litre boiling water
salt and freshly ground black pepper for the potato topping
500g Maris Piper potatoes salt
50g unsalted butter
100ml full-fat milk
Put the olive oil in a heavy-based casserole dish and when it is hot, add the onion and fry until golden but not browned.
Add the mince and fry over a hot heat until browned. Season with salt and pepper, then add the carrots, squash and turnip. Add the stock or Bovril, reduce the heat and simmer for about 1½ hours until the beef is tender. Alternatively, put the lid on the casserole dish and bake in a preheated oven for about 1 hour at 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4.
Meanwhile, make the potato topping. Peel and cut the potatoes into quarters and put in a pan with salt and cold water to cover. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Drain and mash with the butter and milk. Leave the mash slightly wetter than normal as it will dry when baked.
When the mince is cooked, transfer it to a 1.5kg deep pie dish and pipe the mashed potatoes on top. Alternatively you can use a palette knife to spread the potatoes evenly on top, then drag a fork over from side to side, creating little ridges. These will crisp when baked to give a lovely crunchy topping.
Bake at 200ºC/400ºF/Gas 6 for 25 minutes if you’re cooking the pie straight away or at 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4 for 1 hour if you’re baking it from cold.
Jerusalem Artichoke, Almond and Apricot Fritters
With the first frost we’re able to harvest the Jerusalem artichokes. I love their nutty flavour. These fritters are great for a pre dinner treat.
350g Jerusalem artichokes
2 tbsp flaked almonds
50g dried apricots coarsely chopped
50g plain flour
½ tsp salt
1 red chilli, deseeded and coarsely chopped
50g coriander leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp light olive oil, for frying
Coarsely grate the Jerusalem artichokes and shallots into a large mixing bowl.
Add the almonds, flour, salt, chilli, apricots, eggs and coriander leaves. Mix to make a batter.
Half fill a shallow frying pan with the olive oil and put it over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add a drop of the batter. It should bubble immediately; if it spits, the oil is too hot. When the oil is the right temperature, add a few tablespoons of batter at a time and fry slowly, turning occasionally until golden all over.
Cut a fritter in half to check it is fully cooked, otherwise the centre can be runny and will taste awful. Remove onto kitchen paper or greaseproof paper to drain. Repeat until all the batter is used up.
The fritters will sit in an oven at 150ºC/300ºF/Gas 2 for up to 15 minutes.
Rose Crema Cotta
This recipe is inspired by Hamish and his delightful gins. It’s heavenly.
3 sheets of gold leaf gelatine
750ml double cream
100g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
25ml of Rosa Gallica gin
Put the gelatine in warm but not hot water to soften for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, put the cream and sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan. Split the
vanilla pod lengthways, scrape out the seeds with a sharp knife and add
the seeds and the pod to the cream.
Add the gin. Put the pan over a low heat and, using a wooden spoon, stir to dissolve the sugar. When the cream starts to get hot, a heat haze will rise from it. At this stage remove from the heat and discard the vanilla pod.
Remove the gelatine from the water and squeeze the water out. Add to the cream and stir until dissolved. Pass the cream through a sieve into a pouring jug, then pour into 5 individual 150ml ramekins or moulds. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then cover with clingfilm to stop a skin forming.
Refrigerate for 6-8 hours until set, or overnight.
To serve, remove from the fridge. Run a knife between the edge of the cream and the ramekin, then place the ramekin in a small bowl of boiling water for a few seconds to slightly melt the cream. Tip the cream out onto a dessert plate. Serve with a some dried rose petals and another measure of gin if you’re not driving!