Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On the Menu: Scottish Food

Yes, we did, but No, we didn't.

Aaah, Scottish food.  When I said to people that we were learning about Scotland this week, EVERYONE asked me (tongue in cheek) if we were going to make haggis.  Well, yes we did. Did we make the traditional dish of sheep innards,spices,oats and suet packed into a sheeps stomach and boiled? Umm, no.  For many reasons.  That dish is probably something that you need to have grown up eating to enjoy, but the basic idea of "meat" with spices and oats cooked together sounded ok.  My friend, Stephanie O'Dea the slowcooker guru, has a hilarious post on her blog about trying to make a "real" haggis.  I learned a lesson from that post and made her Americanized version instead.  I'm sure my family is happier about that.  We also had some Cock-a-leekie soup which got a few jokes going  none of which are fit for family audiences.  And since my husband and brother have been so willing to try all the new foods (the kids had pb&j), I made some delicious Scottish shortbread for dessert!  The recipes are coming but first lets learn a little about Scottish cuisine.

Oats, sheep or lamb, fish, potatoes, onions and leeks are featured in many Scottish dishes.  With lots of rivers, streams and the ocean all around, its easy to see how fish is plentiful and easy to come by.  The sheep have plenty of green grass to fatten them up and the potatoes and onions are hearty and grow well in the climate.  Oats are the grain of choice for a hearty morning bowl of porridge and makes a tasty filler-upper.  Scotch Whisky is apparently the official drink of the country and I tell you my kids have never slept better!  Just kidding, I just wanted to see if anyone actually reads this :)  Like most of Great Britain, tea is a very popular beverage (2nd to whisky).  The names of the foods that are served in Scotland are the best! Rumbledethumps, cock-a-leekie, clapshot, and hotchpotch.  Food should be this fun!  Now the recipes for our Scottish feast.

"Americanized" Haggis

Recipe came from my friend Stephanie's blog. Her cookbook is pictured in the crock pot.  You should buy it :)
For the recipe you will need:
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground lamb
  • 1 small red onion chopped
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 tsp each cayenne pepper and black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pinch each of ground nutmeg, ground cloves, and ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 c beef broth
1.  Mix all the ingredients (except the broth) in a bowl. Smush to combine really well.
2. Form a ball or loaf or whatever shaped you'd like and put it in slow-cooker.
3.  Pour broth over top.  Cook on low about 7 hours or 4-5 on high.  I put mine in at 12 on low and at 4 turned it to high and it was ready to eat by 5.

I've never had the real haggis and I don't think I'm brave enough to ever try, but many people say it's actually very good.  I'll never know but I can tell you that this version IS actually very good.  My husband and brother both made faces when I broke it to them that we were having haggis but they both liked it - especially with ketchup.  It's basically meatloaf but with a different flavor from the spices.

Cock-a-leekie Soup

This is another traditional dish - different recipes had potatoes, rice or barley.  We made the barley version.
For the recipe you will need:
  • 4lbs chicken - bone in and most of skin removed
  • 10 c water
  • 1 onion chopped (I left this out because there were already so many leeks and I love my husband)
  • 1/3 c barley
  • 1 can condensed chicken broth. (I used boullion)
  • 5-7 leeks cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks celery sliced
  • fresh thyme - 1 sprig
  • fresh parsley - 1 T
  • salt and pepper to taste
1. Put chicken, water, barley and onion (if using) in a large soup pot.  Bring to boil then reduce heat to low.  Simmer one hour.
2. Remove chicken from pot and separate the meat from bones.  Return meat to pot and add broth, leeks, celery, herbs and salt and pepper.  Simmer 30 minutes until leeks are tender.

I thought for sure my husband was going to hate this soup.  I have never had leeks before and thought they were very oniony because they look like giant green onions.  And there were LOTS of leeks! Once they boiled in the soup for a few minutes they were delicious - not oniony really, almost like a celery taste.  We crumbled some crackers into our soup and really enjoyed it on a cold night.  The kids ate some of the broth with their crackers and had a sandwich. 
Because we all ate our dinner like good little Scots, I made dessert.

Scottish Shortbread

This recipe was given to me by an old friend whose mother was from Scotland.  So easy and delicious!
For the recipe you will need:
  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter unsalted
  • 1/2 c sugar.  I used Splenda 
  • 2 c flour
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t baking powder
1. Cream butter and sugar together.  You can use a mixer but a spoon or fork works fine too.
2. Add rest of ingredients and slowly fold it all together.  It will look totally not like dough - sort of like crumbs
3. Dump it onto pan and press it out about 1/4" thick.  See how it all came together? Poke it a few places with a fork.  It should make a rectangle about 10X12 inches -give or take.
4. Bake at 350ยบ for about 20 minutes or until lightly golden.
5. When they come out of the over score it with a fork where you want them to separate.  When they are cooled you can just break them on the score lines.

These are flakey and delicious and buttery and YUM!!! You can incorporate all different kinds of flavors with fruit zests or different spices and they are so easy to make!

I hope you try some of these recipes and that you are enjoying the blog.  Please leave any comments you have - I'd love to hear it!!