Pauline McAloon Master Chef contestant – Following her bliss the Scottish Way!
Imagine this scenario: One day your husband comes home and says “I heard that they are holding a casting call for the new season of “Master Chef” with Gordon Ramsey. You should try out.” Some of us would laugh it off, while others might think, “The last thing in the world I need is Gordon Ramsey telling me my food is raaaaaaaaaw!” But if you are Pauline McAloon, you take your husband’s advice – and encouragement from your two children – and the next thing you know, Gordon Ramsey is trying your Salmon & Haggis En-Croute with homemade Puff Pastry and telling you he loves it!
While Gordon may have loved Pauline’s salmon dish, he soon sent her home because he didn’t like how she peeled and chopped apples! It was a hard pill to swallow for the self-trained home cook, but considering she made it to number 38 out of approximately 38,000 people who tried out, she is a winner in our book. “Mr Ramsey, he is a Scotsman, and a proud Scotsman” says Pauline. “It was a dream come true to serve my Scottish dish to him.”
“I was one of the older ones for sure, by a long shot, but that’s okay. I held my own! I was just myself – I didn’t pretend to be anyone else, wearing my tartan apron and my kilt; I wanted to fly the flag and I wanted to fly it for a lot longer than I did, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Pauline started cooking nearly 25 years ago when, as a new bride, she was living in a small village in the highlands of Scotland. In a place where there were more sheep than people, she had to find something to keep her busy. “I swear to God it’s true!” says Pauline. “There was about 2000, sheep and 900 of us!” It’s a long way from Scotland to the United States where Pauline and her husband moved nearly 12 years ago, after he was offered a job he couldn’t refuse. Later, Pauline started working in real estate investing, and her husband changed careers and joined her. They were working together in that business when her husband encouraged her to try out for Master Chef!
“I give anything a go if I need to! I think I am invincible like most women do!”
Pauline is one of those people that you speak to for just a few moments and you feel like you have known her forever! Her passion for cooking, and life in general, is very evident. Like many passionate cooks, her love started early, as she was growing up on her Mum’s good Scottish home cooking. Memories of her Mum, now 80 years old, cooking everything from scratch over a wood fire and the children having baths in a tin tub in front of a roaring fire, were the inspiration to create those warm memories for her own family. After I spoke with Pauline, she was going to do some baking for a Scottish friend, to give her “A wee bit of home”!
Now that Master Chef has aired and the show is over, Pauline is deciding what to do next. Right now she is working on a cookbook of her favorite recipes, many of which are variations of her Mum’s old recipes, but with a 21st century twist. “I don’t know if cooking will ever earn me a living”, says Pauline. “I am working on my cookbook, and if it gets published, great. If not, it’s a legacy for the future of what Mom has done.”
“Skye” Seafood Pie By Pauline McAloon
Skye is an Island off the North West Coast of Scotland, known for its incredible Langoustine, Lobster, Salmon and Bonnie Prince Charlie, of course.
I was born and raised in Scotland and had the pleasure of living in the Highlands of Scotland for 12 years. That gave me the opportunity to really experience “Traditional Highland Cooking”, and this is where I really found my passion for cooking fresh local ingredients.
We are not known for our food in Scotland, but we have access to the most amazing fish, seafood and game…all of which are a part of our every day menus. I love this recipe because you can adapt it to whatever your budget is. You cold use mussels, clams, tilapia, cod, ling…just about anything, although I wouldn’t use sole.
Just stick to the basic recipe, but you can use whatever seafood and fish you love. You can also change out the potato topping for pastry to make a more elegant dish. Endless possibilities.
Serves 4 – 6 Oven 350 degrees. Time: Prep 20 minutes Cook 15 minutes
6 large Langoustines
1 Lobster Tail 8-10 ounces
4oz Smoked Haddock or any smoked fish of your choice
Note: undercook the seafood and fish slightly; it will cook further in the oven.
4 tbsps plain flour
4tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup full fat milk
1 cup single cream
Large glass white wine
4 large Potatoes
2tbsp chopped Basil
1/4 tsp curry powder, optional (this is my secret ingredient in this pie, it gives it warmth but you can’t quite detect what it is)
Pinch of nutmeg.
2 bay leaves
Strong Cheddar cheese (Scottish if you can get it.)
Peel and boil potatoes till fork tender. Mash with butter and season.
Drop the fresh Basil into boiling water for 15 seconds, and then put into an ice bath to stop cooking. Pat dry, chop and add to potatoes.
Cook lobster in gently boiling water for 1 minute per ounce. Take off shell and chop into bite size pieces. Pan fry the Scallops in a little butter, 2 minutes per side. Remove, set aside, add more butter, and cook langoustine/shrimp for 3-4 minutes. Remove and set aside. Cook fish (of your choice) till slightly undercooked. Chop all the seafood into bite size pieces…not too small.
Put all the seafood and fish into an oven-proof dish.
Melt butter in pan with flour to make a roux. Gradually add milk till incorporated, add bay leaves and cream, do not boil. Add wine, nutmeg, curry powder and season to taste. Infuse very gently for 1 minute and remove bay leaf. Pour over fish.
Gently pipe or fork potato over top. Grate the cheese and sprinkle on top of potato.
Heat pie gently in oven till very lightly golden and cheese melted, about 15 minutes…. No more or fish will be overcooked.
Pauline McAloon, is a Scottish born wife, mother, and business woman who lives with her family in California. She appeared on Season Two of Master Chef. You can follow her on Twitter at @PaulineMcAloon.