Burns Supper


(Jenn and Suzanne at Burns Night)

“My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer –
A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.”
~ Robert Burns

On January 25th, Scots, those of Scottish ancestry and poets all over the world celebrate the life and poetry of Robert Burns by celebrating Burns Night and hosting a Burns Supper.

I meant to post this yesterday, but since our -30 F weather hit, our connection has been sketchy at best. Now that we are past sub-zero temperatures, it seems to be waking up again! Hope it lasts!

January 25th is the birthday of Robert Burns, the famous Scottish bard and poet. Traditionally on this day those that celebrate their Scottish ancestry prepare a dinner of haggis, a traditional Scottish dish with neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes), recite An Address To a Haggis , a Burns poem, toast with whiskey (single malt) and spend the evening with family and friends, reciting the poetry of Burns and having a grand old time.

I have always been fascinated with Scottish culture, myth and history. I have studied it quite a bit over the years and have always felt a deep connection to Scotland. When I had the good fortune to visit Scotland several years ago, I kept experiencing déjà vu. Due to my interest in all things Scottish,  I even hosted a fabulous Burns Supper many years ago. I had connections to NYC at the time and was able to procure a traditional haggis and prepared it with all the traditional trimmings.

My dad’s ancestors come from Paisley, near Glasgow. Although that is pretty much all I know about them. His surname is Barr, of Irn-Bru fame, although I don’t think there is any relation.

This year, after finding my birth family I came to learn that I have quite a lot of genetic Scottish ancestry as well. My maternal great-grandparents came to the USA from Glasgow, and through this lineage I am proud part of the Boyd Clan. I also have some Scottish ancestors through my genetic paternal line.

With my new found Scottish heritage, I decided starting this year, I am going to celebrate Burns Night every year, by preparing a traditional Burns Supper. This year, to kick things off, we invited our friend Suzanne, a haggis-phobe to join us for our Burns Supper. I was able to order a haggis from Scottish Gourmet USA . It was shipped frozen, over night. The haggis comes pre-cooked so it just needs to be re-heated, and the vegetables need to be cooked. The ingredients are simple, lamb, oats, beef liver and spices. While I was boiling the tatties and roasting the neeps ( I used rutabaga and turnips mixed) I went about preparing the dessert: Cranachan.

Cranachan is layers of Drambuie infused whipped cream, toasted oats and raspberries. I had some homemade granola which I used in place of the toasted oats. It is a light, yet delicious dessert and so easy to make! I did not get a picture of my cranachan, because we ate it too fast! But this one from BBC Good Food should give you the basic idea, and a delicious recipe to boot. We used raspberries that we picked over the summer and canned. It was delicious.

We started off with oat cakes, smoked salmon, cheddar cheese and a very un-Scottish glass of Malbec.

We presented the haggis, and listened to this roaring raucous version of the address at the table.

“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.”

~Robert Burns

Then we toasted with a dram of Glenlivet 12 year and dug into the food. It was delicious – and despite being a haggis-phobe and declaring emphatically many times that she does not like lamb, Suzanne really enjoyed the haggis. I wish her husband Bob had been able to join us (next year!), but he was away on business. But we got pictures to prove it!

We had an absolutely wonderful night talking about all our animals, crazy journeys in life, languages, cultures and many other assorted topics over several hours. We had a wonderful time and I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Baking The Gluten-Free Way: Scones

Before I get into this post, I would ask that if you haven’t read my last post on what you can do to save small farms and the local food movement, please read it! Important legislation is about to be passed that will allow the FDA to have greater control over the ability to execute raids, seize products and force recalls on small farms and artisan food producers. The bill can be used to strategically drive small producers out of business all in the name of food safety! So please read the post and see what you can do to help!

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When I first announced that I was doing a gluten-free experiment, I got a lot of emails and facebook inquiries about baking gluten-free. People wanted to know if I was going to un-lock the secrets to gluten free baking. Many in this world are addicted to bread and baked goods, and so it is a reasonable first reaction – how will you bake if you are gluten-free?

For me, I have never been a huge eater of bread, and have been eating gluten-free about 80% of the time over the past year. The other 20% accounts for the occasional times we go out to eat, or when I was making sourdough spelt pizza dough once a week, or enjoying a sprouted wheat roll a few times a month. So although I do enjoy a croissant or a crepe once in a while or crave a sandwich sometimes, bread is not a staple of my diet. However, I am married to someone who has very different needs than I do – growing up in Italy, a day with pizza, pasta AND bread, is just not a good day. Without some good carbs at every meal, my husband feels tired. So I had to find a way to fulfill his needs while at the same time being able to eat some too if I wanted to because honestly, I don’t have time to bake 2 different types of bread each week.

Creating a gluten-free bread that can satisfy someone who is used to artisan Italian bread, is a difficult task. Anyone who has ever baked a sourdough or yeast bread knows that there is an art and a science to it. Introduce gluten-free flours to the mix, and it becomes even more of a project. For anyone who doesn’t know, gluten is the agent in wheat that makes bread and pizza dough stretchy and elastic. This creates that fluffy and wonderful texture present in artisan bread baking.

I am not ready to tackle gluten-free sourdough baking just yet because it is just too complicated and too much of a commitment in time and ingredients, until I make my decision, on whether or not gluten free is going to be a way of life for me. I am still on the fence about it. After almost 2 months of GF eating, I haven’t noticed much difference in the issues I was hoping to make a difference, and many of the gluten-free flours are giving me problems. As I write this I am beset with stomach pains.  I also am not happy that many of the gluten free flours are full of starches that convert to sugar quickly – rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, etc. Nor am I comfortable with all the gums – guar and xanthan that seem to be a part of every gluten free baking mix. I am however excited to announce that I have found a fantastic source for gluten-free sourdough baking, and I will be sharing that source soon and likely trying my hand at it as well because I will tell you, this is artisan style bread! It is truly revolutionary!

Anyway, to make a long story short, I decided to start with something simple – scones. Scones are very versatile, because you can make them sweet or savory. They are a little more “bready” than my normal bread substitute, oat cakes and therefore, a nice change of pace. I used the recipe here from the back of the Bob’s Red Mill Sorghum Flour package as inspiration, but adapted it to fit in with my soaking flour methods. The soaking in yogurt, buttermilk or kefir allows enzymes and other friendly organisms to break down the phytic acid, an organic acid found in all grains (and legumes) that may make the digestion of grains (and legumes) harder for some people, like me!

I made a sweet version, and then a savory version using oat flour and oats. These were the best gluten-free baking attempts I have made to date, when it comes to “bread”. It is nice for a quick breakfast or great with a cup of tea as an afternoon snack. Whether gluten-free or not, I think you will enjoy these scones!

“Sweet Version”

INGREDIENTS:

1 ¼ cup sorghum flour
½ cup tapioca flour
2/3 cup of plain yogurt
1 ½ tsp cream of tartar
¾ tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
¼ tsp salt
4 TBS maple sugar
4 TBS butter cut into ½ inch slices
1/3 cup chocolate chips
2 tbs milk

“Savory Version”

1 cup gf oat flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup sorghum or tapioca flour
2/3 cup of plain yogurt
¾ tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
¼ tsp salt
4 TBS butter cut into ½ inch slices

METHOD:

In a medium bowl combine flours and yogurt, let sit on counter overnight (you can skip the overnight step if you are not into soaking, and can just can combine ingredients in the food processor immediately).

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In food processor combine flours and other dry ingredients. Pulse on and off to combine ingredients. Add butter and pulse 15-20 times until dough resembles large curds. Scrape dough into a bowl and fold in the chocolate chips, if making the sweet version. Pat the dough onto the baking sheet into an 8-inch circle ¾ inch thick. You can brush the top with 2 TBS of milk, if desired. Bake 12- 15 minutes or until lightly brown. Cut into 6-8 wedges.

Smoked Trout Chowdah

smoked trout chowder chowder

It seems a little strange to be writing about a chowder recipe when it is sunny, bright and about 80 degrees outside. But we have had some cooler temperatures these past few weeks, and a lot of rain. These conditions are perfect for a nice big bowl of chowdah and so that is exactly what we had.

The inspiration came when we got our seed potatoes delivered from Seed Savers a few weeks ago. Some of them had not quite gone to seed yet, and so in true Leftover Queen fashion, I decided to use them to make several batches of potato puree, as well as some delicious homefries for breakfasts and for lunch one day a quick German Potato Salad. Call it practice for harvest time. I left one of the pint jars of puree out, to make a batch of potato leek soup, until I picked up some smoked trout at the grocery store, and a plan started to come together in my mind!

This chowder was delightful, and certainly something I will be making again, as we will have copious amounts of potatoes (75 feet of plants) to eat this fall and winter! It reminds me of something you would eat on the coast of Ireland, or one of the Herbridian islands of Scotland, especially because we enjoyed bowls of it with delicious crunchy oat cakes and slices of cheddar alongside.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pint of potato puree
2 c. water
¼ cup cooked, cubed potatoes
4 small garlic cloves, minced
¼ c. sliced leeks
¼ cup sliced fresh oyster mushrooms
¼ cup green peas
¼ cup spinach or other dark greens
juice of one ½ lemon – save the other half
olive oil
salt and pepper
4 ounces smoked trout, shredded

METHOD:

In a large pot combine the potato puree and water, until it is well mixed and has a uniform consistency.
While this is happening, in a skillet sautee the potatoes, garlic, leeks, mushrooms, peas and greens in a nice drizzle of olive oil. Once the veggies are soft, put them in the pot with the puree and mix. Add the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then crumble up ½ of the smoked trout and mix into the chowder. Cook all together for about 5 minutes. Serve with slices of lemon (Preserved lemon would be amazing with this) and the rest of the trout, divided evenly on top. Serves 4

Recipe: Scottish Oat Cakes

oat-cakes_with-salmon-and-creme-fraiche

Scottish Oat Cakes with Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraîche

Weird Food Rule that Jenn lives by #1: Try to eat foods that humans have been eating for the past 200 years, at least, and try as best you can to eat “traditional” foods from your ancestral region of the world.

Weird Food Rules that Jenn lives by #2: Do this 80% of the time you eat.

Hey, it works for other animals, so why shouldn’t it work for us? We are animals after all. My small dogs do better eating dog food with animal products that they could easily catch in the wild – like fowl and poultry and their eggs (and as close to their natural state as possible). But, not so good on beef or venison. I know we can’t all be wild foragers, but it is good to keep this principle in mind when we choose our mainstay foods. I know I think I feel better when I do this as much as I can,  but I trust my dogs, because they don’t have the placebo effect.

Well it is no surprise to those of you who read my blog regularly that I am a huge fan of Mediterranean cuisine. I grew up in a primarily Southern Italian American family, eating lots of olive oil, garlic and tomato sauce. I love wine, olives, pita bread, hummus and cheese. In fact, quick meals are often comprised of many of these things. Antipasti, tapas and small plate eating is my favorite way to make a meal. These are all super healthy foods, that are a mainstay of my diet and will continue to be, because they are so darn good and good for you and well, super tasty. However, all my life, I have also had a strange love for other foods, from more colder climates. Things like salmon, brunost, wild game (especially those with antlers), lingonberries, blackberries, blueberries, seaweed, wild mushrooms, beets, turnips and sauerkraut. I find myself really CRAVING these foods. As well as other foods that can be found in both parts of the world like cheese, yogurt and other cultured dairy products.

oat-cakes_preparing

Preparing Dough for Oat Cakes

So it was interesting for me when I got the results of my DNA test to find out that I have 100% Northern European ancestry, with heavy British/Western Isles connections on all sides, and quite a lot of recent Scottish influx. So in my quest to fulfill more of my Weird Food Rule #1 combined with my quest to find a good cracker recipe, I decided to try making Scottish oat cakes. People of the Western and Northern Isles in Europe have been eating oats and porridge for quite a long time. Oatmeal is good for us, and so I thought this would be a good recipe to experiment with.

It really and truly is a great recipe. It covers all my requirements – significantly more oats than flour, no white flour, holds up well with a pre-soak of the oats and flour – and works really well with buttermilk as the pre-soaking agent.

Buttermilk is an amazing liquid, and extremely easy to make. It is what raw milk becomes when it sours, like yogurt sours (DISCLAIMER: DO NOT try this with pasteurized milk, it ROTS, as opposed to sours, due to the lack of beneficial bacteria and is not safe to drink). Buttermilk is a actually a probiotic food. Even those who are lactose intolerant can generally consume it, since the healthy bacteria makes it easier to digest. I have been making cultured buttermilk (by using store bought milk and a powdered culture) regularly for the past several months. Buttermilk uses are many: pancakes, biscuits, bread, cakes, muffins, and of course these oat cakes. It makes all of these baked goodies nice and tender and airy. I have even drunk buttermilk straight from the glass, on occasion in lieu of kefir and it works well in smoothies, too.

oat-cakes_with-cheddar_cheese

Scottish Oat Cakes with Cheddar Cheese and Brunost

These oatcakes are a great vehicle to serve with cheese – I like brunost, Roberto like cheddar. Also good with homemade crème fraîche and smoked salmon, even salami. Or you could try butter and jam or raw honey for a sweet treat! 🙂

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Nourishing and Comforting Shepard’s Pie

shepards-pie_on-dish

Shepard’s pie has got to be one of the most comforting meals around. I love this dish, and this is THE BEST one I have ever made. The most rewarding thing for me, since I have started cooking exclusively with Happy Meat, and local and organic vegetables, is when I make simple dishes like this, that I have always loved and made a billion times before, and realize how much better it tastes when you are using the freshest and best ingredients you can find.

Ingredients really do matter – not just in terms of health, but also in terms of taste. It really does take it up to a whole new level. I can attest to this, because even Roberto, can taste the difference. He will marvel at how good it tastes, and wonder how it can be so, since I used the same ingredients – and then he will realize that it is because the quality of the ingredients have changed since the last time I have made this. Lately he has been saying that everything I cook is the best thing he has ever tasted! Now, I know I am a good cook, but I can’t take all the credit.

Making a dish like Shepard’s pie, doesn’t take much effort – and the cost is minimal – even when you use the best of ingredients. All it costs you is about 10 – 15 minutes of prep time. The rest of the work is done in the oven, or on the stovetop, where you don’t have to do anything, but smell how good it is!

This meal is less than $3 per person – and that is with a hefty man-sized portion. Less than a fast food meal, or something out of a box or a bag – way better for you too, and I guarantee a thousand times tastier. Even your kids will love this one! This meal can serve six, but Roberto and I ate half each – divided over 2 meals – and that was under $3 per serving. Seriously.

Treat yourself to something good and hearty tonight!

shepards-pie_cooking

INGREDIENTS:

5 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks – I used Idahos
water
butter
cream

8 oz. of reserved potato water
1 tsp better than bouillon, beef
(or you can use 8 oz. Homemade beef stock)
splash of wine or stout beer
1 TBS non-GMO cornstarch

1 lb of grassfed ground beef
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 small onion peeled and cut into small chunks
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup of mixed leftover roasted potatoes (sweet and white)
handful of corn
handful of peas
sage
thyme
salt & pepper
Malt vinegar

METHOD:

Boil the potatoes until tender. Reserve 8 oz.of potato water. Hand mash potatoes with butter and cream, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

If using better than bouillon instead of homemade, in a small saucepan, mix potato water and bouillon, and stir together. Heat over medium, and add a splash of red wine, or stout. Whisk in 1 TBS of corn starch, and keep whisking over heat until gravy thickens. Then set aside.

In a cast iron skillet place ground beef, carrots, onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat until eat begins to brown, and veggies start to soften. Then add your leftover veggies, corn, peas, and spices. Mix together. Pour gravy over top, and stir. Then dollop the mashed potatoes on top and spread evenly over the top of the other ingredients. Sprinkle a hearty bit of malt vinegar over top for that real pub taste!

Enjoy!