Tonight was a first. After years of somewhat obsessing about the poet Robert Burns because of a Torchwood PBEM roleplaying game, I finally pulled out the stops (for a poor graduate student living at home with her roommate, dog and roommate’s cat) and cooked my first Burns’ Night dinner. Now, I know that the traditional Burns’ Night feast involves haggis and lots of recitation of Burns’ poetry in a particular ritualistic type order, but I’ve never eaten haggis, therefore, I wouldn’t even dream of trying to make it. Not to mention that I’m not entirely sure where I would go to purchase sheep stomach, so that’s pretty much a moot point. Now, I have said that I’m willing to try haggis one of these days if someone who knows how to make it really well does so and offers me a taste. That’s pretty adventurous of me because at one time, I wouldn’t have done that at all.
Anyway, so about a year or so ago, I bought these three different cookbooks. One is British recipes, one Irish and one Scottish. I decided to mine the Scottish one for a tasty sounding meal for Burns’ Night, and instead of finding little to choose from, I found almost too much to narrow down what sounded the best. This is the book if anyone is interested in looking for it, and it seems like there are tons of fantastic recipes in it:
I have a feeling that I’m going to be dipping into this book frequently for recipes because there are a lot that sound really tasty. But for this meal, I confined myself to three “courses,” each adapted a little to what I had on hand. I made the Chicken and Mushroom Pie on page 166, the Kailkenny on page 184, and a variation on the Blackcurrant Tart on page 213, only I used blueberries instead of blackcurrants because I had blueberries on hand. Now as you can see, this book gives two different types of measurements and oven temperatures, which is good because I didn’t have to sit there and figure up conversions for the amounts.
CHICKEN AND MUSHROOM PIE (Serves 6)
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup hot chicken stock
1/4 – 1/2 cup heavy cream (my adaptation)
1 shallot, chopped (my adaptation; original calls for an onion)
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup wild mushrooms, sliced (I used crimini mushrooms)
1 lb cooked chicken breast meat, cubed (I boiled the chicken until it was just done and still very moist)
1/2 cup frozen peas, optional (I didn’t use peas)
salt and black ground pepper to taste
beaten egg to glaze (optional)
For the pastry
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, diced
1/3 cup shortening, diced
6-10 tbsp chilled water
1. To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Sprinkle withthe water until the dough holds together. If the dough is too crumbly, add more water.
2. Gather the dough into two balls and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
3. Heat the oven to 375°.
4. To make the filling, melt half the butter in a heavy pan over a low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until bubbling. Add in the hot chicken stock and whisk constantly over a medium heat until the mixture boils. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then whisk in the cream. Seaon to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
5. Heat the remaining butter in a large non-stick frying pan and cook the shallots and carrots over a medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the celery and mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes, decreasing the heat so nothing burns. Cook everything together, stirring occasionally, until everything softens.
6. Add the cooked chicken to the sauce and stir in to mix. Spoon in the veggie mix until everything is coated thoroughly. Season if necessary (I didn’t have to add anything else because the butter and little bit of salt and pepper were quite enough).
7. Roll out the first ball of dough on a floured surface then line the pie pan (preferably a deep one) and poke with a fork across the bottom. Add in the filling and make even. Roll out the second ball and cover the other, pinching the edges (or scalloping them or fork-pressing them, whichever you prefer) then use a knife to cut small slits in the top to allow the steam out.
8. Place in the oven on the higher rack and bake for 30 minutes until the pastry has browned. Serve hot.
KAILKENNY (Serves 4)
This is a mashed potato combination dish, originating from the north-east of Scotland. Normally the cabbage is boiled, but it is more nutritious (AND TASTY!) to quickly fry it, keeping in the goodness. Kailkenny makes an excellent accompaniment to any meat dish.
4 potatoes peeled and cubed
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup heavy cream (my adaptation)
1/4 of a head of cabbage, washed and finely shredded/chopped
3 pats of butter (original called for olive oil, but I thought frying the cabbage was tastier with butter)
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1. Boil the potatoes for 15-20 minutes or until soft. Drain and mash with 1/4 cup butter and cream. Add in the salt and pepper and set to the side.
2. Melt the butter in a frying pan and add in the cabbage, stirring until all of it is coated with the butter. Add a little pepper (if you want) and keep stirring until the cabbage is soft.
3. Add the cabbage into the mashed potatoes and stir until it’s mixed in thoroughly.
BLUEBERRY TART (Originally Blackcurrant tart; Serves 4)
1 cup blueberries (washed)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon (this is my addition)
9 oz ready-made puff pastry
1. Heat oven to 375°.
2. Place blueberries in bowl and coat with sugar and cinnamon. Set aside. In hindsight, I think I might have coarsely chopped up the blueberries so that they would spread onto the pastry more evenly. I think the results would have come out even better than what this one did.
3. Roll out pastry to about 1/8 in thick and cut out to roughly the size of a cereal bowl.
4. Spread the blueberries over the center, keeping them at the very center to leave room for the edges to puff up.
5. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve, if you want, with a dollop of whipped cream.
*I figured out why this tart came out much too done. I was an idiot and baked it for 30 minutes instead of 15, and of course, the blueberries rolled too much and there wasn’t enough of an edge. Well, now I know, so I’ll try again soon!
Everything was wonderful, even the slightly too-toasty blueberry tart. I’m still full but all I can think of is getting up right now to heat up a piece of the leftover pie or even the kailkenny and just stuffing my face until I’m too miserable to move! I think the chicken and mushroom pie and the kailkenny (or even the butter-sautéed cabbage) are going to become regular things to make!
To round off our Burns’ Night meal, The Roommate and I needed something a little on the strong side to toast the Poet and Alien (the alien thing comes from the Torchwood game. Trust me, it’s fun and geek-worthy!). Now, neither one of us are big Scotch drinkers, Kass even less than I am. But we have a liquor outlet store in town, and they sell a lot of those wee bottles of alcohol that you get on an airplane. So we went there the other day, and I bought a little bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label. It was just enough, and we were able to raise our glasses and toast our ‘host’.
Now it wouldn’t be a proper Burns’ Night without the recitation of one of his poems. While I love several of his, and several are really raunchy, I’ll leave my readers with probably one of his most well-known of all:
A Red, Red Rose
O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ ’twere ten thousand mile!
Here is one of my favorite actors, Alan Cumming, reading this poem.
Enjoy the food and the poetry!