Tag Archives: tablet

Robbie Burns night

Hey! It’s the 200th entry! Woot!

Today, January 25th, is a pretty big day for two reasons. As I type this, the State of the Union is being delivered to millions of TV sets and will outline public policy in the U.S. for the next year. The other reason is one that is centuries old, and while it may only meet the amount of drinking as the first, it certainly yields good food: Robbie Burns Day.

Robert Burns is Scotland’s national poet, despite the fact that he died 215 years ago. His friends celebrated him after he died, then all of Scotland did, and now pockets of people all over the world do. There’s a program of events that involves readings, toasts, and of course lots of scotch drinking. We prepared a night of Scottish food and helped three people celebrate their first Robbie Burns night, which is always fun.

We started the evening with Scotch eggs, which I just tasted two years ago. They always seem to please. Of course, deep-frying anything is a pretty good way to make it enjoyable. We made it with a mustard sauce which I found here that was easy to make and matched the eggs very nicely. The recipe for Scotch eggs themselves didn’t come from that site, but from a book from way back titled The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors with the entertaining subtitle “Recipes you should have gotten from your grandmother” and is reproduced below. A note on the recipe: if you buy spiced sausage meat as we did, you’re good – the meat can elevate this dish from good to fantastic quite easily. If you buy unseasoned, use the seasoning in the link above – it looks pretty tasty and would have pretty much the same effect. Either way, seasoning is the way to go.

The haggis was next, with full pomp and poetry (my terrible Scottish accent got complimented, but only because I was the only one willing to read Address to a Haggis), along with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes, mashed and roasted) and peas (not a Scottish tradition, but some colour was needed). We ended up making Pretend Haggis, as 1) it’s very difficult to get the real haggis ingredients without lots of planning, and 2) our plan for haggis with some organ meat got put off by a butcher who didn’t order a heart. Fake haggis it is! It was still quite tasty – the oats provide a pleasant, different texture, and the lamb and liver gave a very different taste to the entire project. No picture, as it just looked like a meatloaf – no sheep stomach or sausage links to put it in.

tablet

Finally, we finished with Scottish shortbread and tablet, two treasures I discovered when I was in Scotland. The shortbread turned out great, though it wasn’t as buttery as I remember it from Scotland. I think they used twice as much butter as I did, and I used a lot of butter – butter makes any dessert heavenly. The recipe also came from The Frugal Gourmet book.

I was quite nervous about the tablet, though, which I got from A Wee Bit of Cooking, which is a really good cooking blog. There were lots of warnings in the recipe about how you could screw up, but somehow I managed to evade the dire predictions and have it turn out. I think the key is patience, low heat, and arm strength (for stirring). You can’t ever stop stirring and you have to be able to stay there and do that for up to an hour before you can walk away. That’s hard, especially if you have something else on the go. I did the shortbread first and was going to start the tablet while it was baking, but wisely decided to separate the two activities.

All in all, a successful meal and a successful celebration of Robert Burns. And maybe we’ll take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne!

Scotch Eggs

8 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, at room temperature
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1.5 lb bulk pork sausage
1 c dry bread crumbs
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
6-8 c peanut oil for deep-frying (I used vegetable oil)

Coat each hard-boiled egg with flour. Divide the sausage into 8 equal parts (or just grab a bunch as needed and smash it out, like I did).
Make a patty out of each bit of sausage and use it to to each egg completely. Mix the bread crumbs, sage, and salt. Dip the sausage-coated eggs into the beaten eggs; roll in bread-crumb mixture.
Heat the oil to 375* for deep-frying. Deep-fry the eggs, 4 at a time, 7 minutes’ minimum. Drain. Serve hot or cold.

Scottish Shortbread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 c sugar
1/2 lb butter, softened

Place all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and blend well. If you have a heavy-duty electric mixer, cut in the butter with the machine. If not, do it by hand with a pastry blender.
Knead the dough by hand for just a moment and form it into a circle 3/4″ thick on a nonstick baking sheet and flute the edges (I had to put some flour down and roll it with a rolling pin, then use a thin plastic sheet to pry it up and place it on a baking sheet. Then again, I wanted a nice, smooth top. Definitely flute the edges, though.) Prick the whole circle with a fork. Bake in a preheated 325*F oven for 30 minutes or until it just begins to turn a light golden brown. Allow it to cool for a few minutes, then remove it to a rack for final cooling. When cool, the cookie can be cut, but the Scots simply break it up into pieces and serve it with tea.

If you wish to form smaller cookies from this recipe, just remember to watch the baking time. Smaller cookies will cook more quickly.

scottish food – non-deep-fried stuff

Scotland has a reputation for enjoying anything deep-fried. While I saw ample evidence of this while there, there are a number of delicious foods that aren’t deep-fried available there as well.

The first of these foods that I fell in love with was Scottish shortbread. A simple snack, it totally entranced me and I had to stop myself from chomping down more. Delicate in taste and texture, incredibly buttery, it was a wonderful snack while I was sitting in the back of the car. I’ve since found a couple of recipes for it on allrecipes.com. It’s going to take a a bit of playing around to get it right and I’m eager to try the recipe with spices (I made the plain one with just eggs, flour, and sugar for Christmas). Shortbread is one of my favourite kind of cookies, in case you hadn’t noticed.

At the same place we bought shortbread, Adam also picked up some lemon cheese. If you haven’t heard of it before, don’t worry, most haven’t. Lemon butter might be a more accurate term, at least in my mind. It has a consistency somewhere between apple butter (nice and spreadable) and honey (not as sticky, but thicker than apple butter). And wow is it ever lemony! Great on toast. Well, as long as you like lemon.

My favourite food item bought from this little tourist stop along Loch Lomond, however, was Scottish tablet. It’s a sugar bar, essentially, with milk, all boiled down perfectly. Check out the recipe on A Wee Bit of Cooking. I want to try making it but am waiting until I have a large block of time to devote to it. Anyway, it melts on your tongue (even more melty than shortbread) and tastes like a perfect piece of well-made candy – sweet, but not sickeningly so. It has a vanilla taste to it due to, well, vanilla.

Lastly, one cannot visit Scotland and avoid haggis. Everyone makes a big deal about what’s in it, but after reading Fast Food Nation, I’m always leery of beef in the states. At least when you’re eating innards you know they’re going to get thoroughly cleaned because everyone knows where they’ve been. Once it’s in your mouth it doesn’t taste any different than any other meat. Haggis always seems to be serves as haggis, neeps, and tatties, with neeps being turnips and tatties being potatoes. It’s pretty chilly up here even in the summer, so root vegetables making up 2/3 of the most famous dish of the region makes sense. I love turnips anyway, so it was a special treat. And a treat it was. I had the dish twice, once in a fancy restaurant (pictured here, the dish, not the restaurant) with oat crackers and a scotch sauce and once at a local pub with just the basic three ingredients and little pepper. Really fills you up well.

While these may not have been the healthiest dishes one can eat, they were like eating lettuce and celery compared to the darker side of Scottish foods: the deep-frying.