Thursday, August 14, 2008

Around the World - Scotland

I considered putting in a Scottish poem by Robert Burns, becuase he writes in a Scottish dialect and you can't understand half of what he says. But the one I wanted, "Address to a Hagis" is a little longer than I wanted to post here. The recipes are long enough as it is! But I would encourage you to click on the link to the poem and see if you can figure out any of it. :-)

Haggis is a big part of traditional food. I considered, for about 2 seconds, making it to post. but I wasn't sure of where I could procure a sheep stomach in Boise... I had it while I lived in England. It's actually not bad if you try it before they tell you what's in it! One of our friends from our church was Scottish, married to an American, and he invited our church to a Scottish day at their home. He showed us the whole traditional procession, with the swords and the bearing of the Haggis formally to the table. The "Address to a Haggis" is then read over it. It is sliced and served alongside "neeps and tatties" (rutabagas, swedes, or yellow turnips and potatoes mashed seperately). It must be eaten hot, or so we were told, to taste the best. I actually liked it. Look it up to see what's in it... but don't do it before a meal...

Whisky is also a huge thing. Exported all over the world, nobody has been able to duplicate it. As I don't drink I found this interesting, but not the most stirring thing about the culture. What I did find fascinating is that they use a lot of oatmeal. Not our American, no nutrients left, minute-cooking variety. A real, long cooking, hearty oatmeal. Eat as porridge, or use raw as breading on fish, or roast and serve with fresh fruit and cream!

Our first course this evening was a soup. I did a stew for Ireland, I know, but the name of this soup was too funny. I present to you Cock-a-Leekie Soup (Chicken and Leek Soup).

5 lb stewing chicken, disjointed
2 1/2 quarts water
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 lb package leeks, sliced
1 1/2 uncooked cups rice

*Note- I used 6-7 boneless, skinless, chicken thighs. I usually burn my hands while trying to get the meat off the bone, so I wished to avoid that. And while the dark meat gets tender the longer it cooks, the white meat gets drier and is not as good. When doing a soup, by all means cook the dark meat for a while but add the cut up breasts closer to the end of the cooking time so they are done but don't have time to get tough and dry.

Wash the chicken parts thoroughly. Place in a heavy saucepan with the water. Cook for about 2 hours, or until tender. (It took my thighs about that long with the lid on and they were shredding consistency without being really mushy) Add the salt and pepper at the end of the first hour of cooking. Remove the chicken and keep warm. Skim any foamy bits off the top. Your water should have gone down a little. I added about 2 cups and 2 bullion cubes at this point.

Add the leeks and rice to the water. Cook about 25 minutes. The rice will absorb a lot of the water, so add more water and bullion as you need. I ended up needing an extra 2 cups and 2 more bullion cubes by the end. Remove the bones and add the chicken to the soup. Or shred it in big shreds and plop it back in. :-) Cook another 5 minutes to heat through.

The rice, seriously, absorbs a lot of water in the soup. You will need to add water or it will be a really thick ricey stew. I found it needed a tad extra salt. And when you reheat, have some stock/broth or other liquid on hand, since the rice absorbs water in the fridge too!

Next up, our dinner rolls! I have previously posted the recipe for these here, so find no need to post it again. I made these exactly the same as the already posted recipe, although here the photo was taken after all the flour was taken off. I banged the rolls on the pan a bit, tapped them with a knife... Most of the flour came off and what was left wasn't enough to bother anyone but the pickiest of the eaters. And she got over that when we told her to dip it in her soup. (That is soooo good, by the way!) Cut in half, a little butter, and you are in heaven! These are nice and chewy, a substantial roll. Feel free to make them whatever size you need.

Dessert! What meal is complete without dessert? And what kind of desserts in Scotland don't have Whisky in them? Not many it turns out. So I did some shortbread, pictured first, and then a toffee. Cookies and Candy!

Scotch Shortbread. Normally, when you take it out of the nice, prepackaged box, it doesn't have all those little holes in it. Well, it's the taste that counts. I will give you the recipe how I made it, and then some suggestions on how to do it a slightly easier, less messy, and hopefully less hole-y way.

1 pound (2 sticks) real unsalted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup cake flour
2 tbsp cornstarch

Alright, the fun part. I should have taken pictures of my hands here, I tell you what. My directions said to combine the sugar and butter together on a board. No bowl. So I take my slightly cooler than room temp. butter and plop it down on the very clean counter. And then I put the powdered sugar on it. First off, it doesn't knead in like flour to dough. Second, when one has warm hands and handles real butter, the butter softens a whole lot. I was taking a knife and scraping my fingers and palms off periodically. And the counter.

Then I was to sift the flour and cornstarch over the butter/sugar and mix that in "by hand". Oh. Boy. After calling in my husband to measure out the ingredients for me, getting them off the shelves with my hands was hard enough, and dealing with the shocked stares and laughter on his part, I got them sifted over the butter. And started "mixing". Or attempting to. Bear in mind that my kitchen was a little warm from the pot of chicken simmering away, the candy I had previously made, and the warm oven that was rising the bread dough. More scraping the "dough" (this stuff makes a mockery out of that glorious word) off the countertops and my hands.

Greased (what a laugh) and floured the pan. Attempted to pat the dough in per the directions, used more flour to do so. Baked and watched it bubble and watched the bubbles not disappear from the final product. Watched little children, husband, and friend devour it anyway!

Okay- now for the directions I would recommend. Use room temperature for mixing. Use a mixer and a bowl. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the flour and cornstarch, mixing until it is smooth. Scrape the "dough" onto a large piece of saran wrap. Form into a ball,sort of, with the wrap and place in the fridge for about 10 minutes. Just enough to let it firm up a bit, but not to let it get too hard. Grease and flour an 8-inch square pan. Preheat oven to 425. Pat the dough into the pan (it is not intended for rolling). Prick holes with a fork. Bake at 425 for 5 minutes, then reduce to 350. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until it is lightly browned. Let sit for a few minutes to cool a little, and then cut into squares. Let cool the rest of the way before taking out of the pan.

Hopefully this will help not make a mess, and take care of the holes all over the cookie. Although, it still tasted pretty darn good!

Helensburgh Toffee -

You would think a toffee would be stretchy and chewy. Not this one! It has a consistency more like that of British fudge. Just a little drier than our American version. Have a glass of water or milk nearby because it is really sweet!

1/4 cup (1/2 half stick) unsalted butter
2 cups caster (superfine or bakers) sugar
2 tsp light caro syrup
7 ounces (very small can) sweetened condensed milk
4 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, then add the sugar, syrup, condensed milk, and milk. Heat very gently until all the ingredients dissolve. Then bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue to heat, stirring gently, until the mixture has reached 240 degress, or soft ball stage.

Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Beat well until thick and creamy. This took about 2-3 minutes for me. Pour into a shallow greased pan (just like regular toffee) wait a few minutes to let the top harden and mark into squares with a knife. (Just mark, don't cut all the way through or it will drag through the top and look funny.)

When all the way cool, cut into squares and store in an airtight container.

The kids loved this. It tastes like a creamy toffee, but won't kill your jaw! Very easy to make, and came off the pan after soaking during dinner with hot, soapy water. (not like caramel). My friend kept snitching pieces. :-)

We all enjoyed the soup, the kids thought it pretty neat that it was chicken and rice, like Campbell's. (All that hard work? Jeez...) The rolls were a huge hit. (great with jam) and dessert was very well recieved. All recipes I would make again, plus, the soup has a hilarious name. The kids laughed over that F.O.R.E.V.E.R!

1 Tasty Tidbits:

Stephanie said...

Cock-a-Leekie is a funny name for a soup! That meal sounds so wonderful. Now I really do have to try those Scots Baps. They do look good! And I had to laugh about your shortbread-making experience. I wish I could have been there to help and get all messy too!