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Issue 59 - The Hostess Trolley's Last Days

Scotland Magazine Issue 59
October 2011

 

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The Hostess Trolley's Last Days

Sue Lawrence gives us a few informal dining tips from her new book

These days both family meals and entertaining are far more informal.

Gone are the days when you’d have to spend ages polishing the silver, shining up the crystal glasses, soaking the oasis for the flower arrangements and starching the napkins. The tyranny of the hostess trolley is gone forever! Well, it certainly is in my house… And whether it’s just a midweek family supper or a casual Sunday lunch for friends, the emphasis is on informality. Things are casual and relaxed as befits a far more easy going generation ; and also befitting a generation that is frantically busy most of the time and so when entertaining, like to relax with simple fare at a simple table.

In my new book Eating In, the emphasis also follows the trend for contemporary dishes cooked, as often as possible, from local ingredients. There are straightforward recipes that are both modern and yet somehow linked to the past.

Modern twists on the Scottish classics such as Partan Bree risotto or Cullen Skink pie bring an old dish right into the 21st century, but also give a reverential nod to the traditional dish of old.

Hot smoked salmon tart with rocket and crème fraiche

During a visit to the Outer Hebrides, we had Salar hot-smoked salmon in many guises – with scrambled eggs at breakfast, in salads as starters and in sandwiches at lunch. I visited the Smokehouse near Lochcarron on South Uist to see the production. The salmon comes from Loch Duart then the cleaned filleted fish is dry-salted the salt rinsed off then hot-smoked over oak chips until moist and flakey.

Pastry
200g / 7 oz plain flour, sifted
125g / 4½ oz unsalted butter, diced
1 large free-range egg, beaten

Filling
3 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
300g / 10 ½ oz hot-smoked salmon, flaked
50g 1¾ oz rocket, roughly chopped
3 large free-range eggs
The grated zest of 1 lemon
200 ml / 7 fl oz creme fraiche

For the pastry, place the flour and butter in a food processor with a pinch of salt. Process briefly then, with the machine running, add the egg.

Bring together with your hands then clingwrap and chill for half an hour or so. Then roll out to fit a deep, 23cm / 9” tart tin, prick all over and chill well, preferably overnight. Fill with foil and baking beans and bake blind at 190C / 375F / Gas 5 for 15 minutes then remove the foil and cook for a further five to 10 minutes until just cooked. Remove and sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the base while still hot. Then cool.

Scatter the salmon over the base then top with the rocket, pressing down a little.

Stir the eggs, lemon zest and crème fraiche together, seasoning with salt and pepper then slowly pour over the rocket, so it seeps all over. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes until set and tinged with golden brown. Serve warm or cold with salad.

Crab Linguini

During our trip to the Outer Hebrides, we ate some fine crab. We visited Kallin Shellfish and bought some boiled crab claws at their little shop at Grimsay, North Uist. It was late afternoon and the weather stunning so we thought we would stop and have them as pre-prandials with some wine. Unfortunately all we had was some warm wine in a bottle as the temperatures had been unnaturally hot. So I asked the girl at the shop for some ice and she gave me some gauze-wrapped ice cubes which we presumed were normal ice so we cut off the gauze and plopped the cubes into our wine, only to discover many strange bits floating upwards : these were cubes of iced gel which rendered the wine sadly undrinkable. The crab was, however, delicious.

Serves 2
2 tbsp olive oil
1 fat garlic clove, peeled, chopped
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
Large handful of cherry tomatoes
400g tin of tomatoes
250g / 9 oz linguini
125g / 4½ oz fresh white crabmeat
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
The grated zest 1 small orange

Heat the oil in a pan then saute the garlic and chilli in the oil for a minute then add the tomatoes, stir together then tip in the tinned tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and cook for then length of time it takes to cook the pasta. Boil the linguine.

Just before you drain the pasta, add the crab to the tomatoes, stir well to heat through then add the parsley and orange zest just before serving, having checked seasoning again.

Toss together with the linguini and serve in warm bowls.

Carrotcake cupcakes

Makes 12
250 g / 9 oz carrots (2 large carrots)
150 g /5½ oz light muscovado sugar
150 ml /5 fl oz vegetable oil
3 large free-range eggs, beaten
150 g / 5½ oz self-raising flour
1 rounded tsp ground cinnamon
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
The grated zest of half an orange
100 g / 3½ oz raisins

Frosting
300g / 10½ cream cheese
The grated zest of half an orange 55g /2 oz icing sugar, sifted

For the cakes, first peel and finely grate the carrots. (It is important they are not coarsely grated.) Using a balloon whisk, whisk together the sugar and oil, then gradually whisk in the eggs.

Sift together the flour, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and orange zest and fold these into the mixture, using a wooden spoon.

Stir in the carrots and raisins and combine thoroughly.

Spoon the mixture into 12 prepared cupcake paper cases in a muffin tin. Bake in a preheated oven (180C / 350F / Gas 4) for about 20 minutes or until well risen; a wooden skewer inserted to the middle should come out clean. Remove the cakes to a wire rack.

For the frosting, beat everything together then use to top the cakes.