Bikers as great cooks? Oh, yeah!

Published 2:28 am Saturday, September 14, 2013

We have just returned from a wonderful trip to Scotland. As some of you probably know we like to go there. It is beautiful country, more sheep than people, the weather is cool, and it is easy to get around even on the left side of the road. My husband does all the driving and says he enjoys shifting gears and driving on the left side of the road (on those single tracts there is no left or right). To each his own, I suppose. It gets rather tight in some areas. I love those warning signs, “Oncoming traffic in the middle of the road!”

We spent some time looking at castles (will report on that next week) and doing some shopping. They just have the best store called House or Bruar, which has wonderful cashmeres and woolens. I did my cold weather clothes shopping in one afternoon.

We had some rainy days and evenings and enjoyed watching BBC Scotland. I found a cooking show, which I had never seen before, and it was a take on the show ‘Two Fat Ladies’, which was on PBS stations in the states several years ago. One of the ladies died, so the show ended. This show was called ‘The Hairy Bikers;’ now how funny is that? They are not very good looking, fat too; and yes, they were pretty hairy (long beards and long hair). Si King and Dave Myers are the hairy pair. I watched their show and actually bought two of their cookbooks. So I guess their looks did not turn me off!

I cooked from one of the cookbooks as soon as I returned. The name of the cookbook was The Hairy Bikers’ Family Cookbook. These are family recipes which are comforting and basic Scottish cooking. I found most of them interesting, but I had to convert all the measurements which took some time since they did not do it for you. I chose to cook the recipe they had done on the show I saw which looked really yummy and was a recipe from their youth. It is really delicious and everyone in your family should like this recipe. The recipe calls for mince which is our ground beef.

From The Hairy Bikers’ Family Cookbook, published in Great Britain in 2010.

Mince and Dumplings

Serves 6

2 Tbsp. sunflower oil (found this oil at Whole Foods)

1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 celery sticks, stringed and finely sliced

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 lb. lean minced beef, I used grass-fed

1 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes

2 tbsp. tomato purée

2 cups beef stock (can use beef cubes)

1 cup red wine

Pinch of sugar

1 bay leaf

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 cup self-rising flour

¼ cup butter (I use only Kerry Gold as it is from grass-fed cows and Whole Foods has significantly lowered the price!)

½ tsp. sea salt

2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or flameproof casserole dish. Cook the onion, garlic, celery and carrots for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften and lightly color. Add the beef and cook with the vegetables for another five minutes until the mince is no longer pink. Stir regularly to break up the meat.

Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, beef stock, red wine, sugar and bay leaf. Season with a good pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

To make the dumplings, put the flour in a bowl and stir in the butter, salt and parsley. I put all this in the food processor and added enough cold water until a soft ball was formed. Only about 1/3 cup of water is needed. Take the soft, spongy dough and make 12 small balls.

Stir the mince well and remove it from the heat. Drop the dumplings carefully on top of the mince.

Cover with a tight-fitting lid and return to medium heat. Cook for 18-20 minutes or until the dumplings are well risen and light.

It you want them brown on top, finish them for a few minutes in the oven under the broiler.

This is one of those comforting dishes that will be great on a cold winter day. It was still good this week even with our summer heat still going strong.

The Hairy Bikers’ other cookbook is on light Indian food. But we will save that for another day!