Posts Tagged ‘holiday’

Ae Fond Kiss For Burns Feast’s Disreputable Dish

January 26, 2010

Admitted anglophile that I am (please note ongoing reference to PG Tips, football-that-has-nothing-to-do-with-yard-lines and Cadbury as evidence), I thought it only fitting to dedicate this latest post to Britain’s holiday romp known as Robert Burns Day.

Image: Library of Congress

Also widely observed as Burns Night, this annual January 25 celebration commemorates the birthday of Scotland’s greatest romantic poet and lyricist Robert Burns – affectionately known as Rabbie Burns, Scotland’s favourite son, the Ploughman Poet, the Bard of Ayrshire and in Scotland as simply The Bard. Ringing any bells from your English Comp I days? How about lines like, “O my Luve’s like a red, red rose.” No? Okay, fine. Forget the verse. Let’s move on to the main draw in toasting an 18th-century ladies’ man: the Burns Supper.

Now, obviously, this is my kind of holiday, lauded in spot-on form with a HUUUUGE tablespread of traditional goodies and Scotch whiskey. Lots of whiskey. For background, the first Burns Supper was held at the bard’s own birthplace Alloway cottage in 1801 and for several years commemorated Burns’ July death as well as his January birth. Speeches and toasts were made to the poet’s “immortal memory,” with poetry recited between courses – a tradition still continued today. Here’s a complete rundown of formal supper festivities from the Robert Burns World Federation. But for our sake, the basic need-to-knows include Cock-a-Leekie soup, neeps and tatties (turnips and mashed potatoes), and the main culinary star of the evening… Scottish haggis

Okay, before any retching noises or browser-refreshing ensues, I beg you to indulge a girl’s earnest attempt in vindicating this subject of near-mythical villainy. What is it about haggis anyway? Where or how Americans developed this sense of misguided repulsion is beyond me – as if raw fish or street vendor mystery-meat-on-a-stick is any more reassuring? We serve Foie gras on silver platters, slather sauerkraut atop our corned beef on rye. Nacho-flavored cheez-whiz, now that is frightening. And yet a little innards, oatmeal and spice have us running for the highlands? Unfathomable.

So when I found myself wandering the streets of Edinburgh on a cold, dreary September afternoon back in 2008, there was no question in my mind that I was going to give haggis a try. Our little traveling party had maneuvered into a cozy dining room overlooking the Royal Mile, an elegant retreat from the bitter chill outside with delicate china and linen tablecloths. When the waiter took our order, I didn’t flinch in my delivery. If there was ever a time and place, this was it. What arrived at the table a short time later resembled nothing like the bulging, reeking balloon stuffed with boiled sheep parts of lore:

Sitting atop a shallow pool of light whiskey gravy, the haggis was warm and nutty, with rolled oats and peppery spices folded into the minced meat. A layer of mild yellow turnips and buttery tatties made the dish hearty and delicious – almost like shepherds pie. Also had to give our server extra points for the cute, albeit touristy, touch of topping all with a Scotland flag in miniature. I had no trouble cleaning my plate (with the help of two other would-be naysayers).

So why all the haggis hubbub? Maybe a big part of the mystique lies in the fact that since 1989, haggis has been banned from import to the US following a mad-cow disease outbreak in Britain. Not that it’s caused ongoing concern across the pond: haggis sales grew 19 percent in 2009 alone. What makes this year’s Burns Feast especially big news is that the USDA is expected to lift its 21-year restriction, relaxing legislation on imported meats that has prevented sale of the Scottish staple stateside.

Who knows, by next year we might all be able to finally stomach (pun fully intended) Scotland’s “great chieftan o’ the puddin-race.” Until then, I say cheers to Burnsy and the whiskey-fueled feast he inspired.

Fare thee weel, thou first and fairest!
Fare thee weel, thou best and dearest!
Thine be ilka joy and treasure,
Peace, enjoyment, love, and pleasure!


2010, From Scratch

January 7, 2010

So wow, the entire holiday season has come and gone already! Cannot believe it’s been so long since my last post, and sincere apologies to all, as both the writing and cooking have taken a literal back burner to that stretch of madness spanning three epic food-for-all calendar dates. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year – all of which, now a blur of belly-blessed treats that cannot begin to be recalled except in creeping scale increments. Kinda like a trip to Whole Foods: somehow you’ve blown $75 and yet have no idea what you’re eating for dinner upon reaching the parking lot. But oh, was it worth it. After all, there’s only so many winter-wonderful recipes and gift basket engineering a girl can withstand before trading the pie tin for pinot and joining the holiday merriment beneath flurries of twinkling lights.

Though, I do think that befitting the occasion, there should be some sort of countdown involved – a wrap-up of the foodie best-in-shows, Holiday Edition 2009. Get those crackers and noisemakers ready…we’re off:

'yule' want to cozy up with a batch asap!

5. Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies – Easily my new favorite and the coveted prize of any cookie exchange. Hershey’s dark chocolate and peppermint-white kisses make these as festive as they are delicious. Also solves the dilemma of leftover candy canes – crush and sprinkle on top for added crunch. Using store-bought sugar cookie dough, it just doesn’t get any easier. Special thanks to The Recipe Girl for this gem.

4. Peet’s Coffee – The warm cranberry-walnut scones, pillowy milk froth, dark kenyan roast and a slow-down-&-sip soundtrack is a California morning staple. And what little tree could be properly trimmed without a Peet’s Coffee & Tea Christmas ornament? Love and latte for all.

Flickr photo courtesy of David Lebovitz (daveleb)

3. Christmas Stollen –  Our lovely friend Inge is kind enough to bake up and share her delicious traditional German stollen each year, and it’s quickly become a personal favorite. Forget the doorstop-double fruitcake jokes; this treat is light and crumbly, with sugary icing and an addictive balance of fruit and spice. Orange and green citron add holiday zest. Toasted with a smidge of butter, stollen will disappear faster than you can say “Dankeschön.”

2. Dundee Marmalade – Once confined to a permanent shelf life, my newest flavorite would not have been discovered without the former entry, perfectly paired as they are. I never cared for the orange jelly stuff, but the bits of real candied orange peel make James Keiller & Sons marmalade perfectly sweet while still a bit tart – not overpowering or gummy in the least. It seems the UK company knows they’re doing something right, too, since the spread has been around since 1797. Bonus points for the elegant, white porcelain jar that makes tea time that much more refined.

1.  A New Year’s Eve dinner affair to remember – What better way to ring in 2010 than with good friends, good food and a very good rose from Moet & Chardon? On the menu: shrimp arrabiata pasta, warm spinach salad with gorgonzola, bruschetta trio, vino and a little (okay, make that a lot of) bubbly. 2010, you’re looking good so far… (pictures to come soon!)

So cheers, everyone, to a bright New Year chock-full of tasties ahead!

~ Cin Cin from the grego girl