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Burns Night 2014
Un-Burns Supper
Bloody Puddings

I'm skipping the whole Burns Supper extravaganza this year, mainly due to laziness and a lack of guts :)
However, I do have a fantastic concept for next year, and so I'm here to stake my claim to it: wrapping the haggis in gold leaf!
Extensive research reveals no prior art.
See that Golden Haggis? I invented that...

Whilst I'm here inventing things I've decided we need a Scottish alternative to the fasting period Lent. I'm calling it Bent - it's when we feast on porridge and haggis. And whisky. For forty days.

So anyhoo, I invited Flora to share my Un-Burns supper of black pudding and salad. I figured that's about as un-haggis as you can get whilst keeping to the spirit of the thing. Plus it's a salad - so it's dead healthy too!

In the process of making the salad I discovered an excellent combination of flavours for marinating mushrooms which meant that I ended up with a surfeit of marinated mushrooms, which led inexorably to disappointingly mediocre exotic stew. And a surprisingly well matched Caribbean-styley pumpkin mash handily using up a few more of my leftover pumpkins. Yes I still have leftover pumpkins. Yes they're still edible. They've been living in my icebox spare room.
Some days it just seems the cooking will never end.

Which leads me back to the black pudding. Though I bought the ones for our Un-Burns Supper, I've been wanting to have a go at making some for ages, particularly since I came to grips with making my own sausages. So I finally motivated myself to actually do it, having chased down a butcher willing to give me a bucket of blood. Unfortunately he was only willing to give me a very large bucket of blood. Which is soooo much blood. I decided to be creative with the puddings I made and concocted a chocolate and an apple flavoured variety to serve as the starter for a particular meat-oriented (which of mine aren't?) bloody non-romantic Un-Valentine dinner I had in mind. Well, when you get to my age...

Useless Polder Meat Thermometer
Of course the bloody puddings might have come out a bit less bloody and a bit more black if I hadn't invested in a bloody useless comedy meat thermometer courtesy of Polder which works just long enough for you to throw away the receipt before displaying only joke temperatures. I blame my equipment. And no, it isn't an accident, I've tried two of them and they both do the same thing.
Fool me once - shame on you; fool me twice - I'm a fucking idiot!

Anyway - I won't be making black puddings again anytime soon, fun though it was I ended up with blood everywhere. And it took hours to hose off. Also now I've got yards and yards of black pudding to eat.
I've enticed friends around to share them.
I've given them away at work.
I've filled my freezer with them.
I've created a (quite tasty) mixed-vegetable white mustard sauce to eat with them.
I'm bloody sick of them!

Golden Haggis
Haggis covered in gold leaf
meat main
Ha! I'm staking my claim to this one.
Job Done!

Ingredients
Method
Cook your haggis.
Paste it with gold foil.
Serve.
I wonder if you could get silver foil into the neeps and tatties to go with?

Black Pudding Salad
meat salad
Which just goes to prove you can make a salad out of anything.
Or does it just prove you can call anything a salad?

Serves 4

Ingredients
Method
Reduce a bottle of cider or apple juice with a splash of cider to a coating sauce. Set aside.

Grind the pumpkin ring spices of your choice together with a little salt and mix with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.
Slice a small pumpkin into rings, peeling and removing the stringy centres as you go.
Rub them thoroughly with the spice blend, then lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast at gas mark 6 for 40 minutes or so until soft and a little crusty.
About half-way through add a few bacon slices which should become all crispy. Dry them on kitchen roll when dark and cooked through. Don't let them burn.

Using a sharp knife, peel and segment half to two-thirds the grapefruit, cutting away the membranes, pith and pips. Collect any juice for the salad dressing. Juice the rest.
Add the grapefruit pieces to a variety of salad leaves to make a mixed salad, mix up the dressing ingredients (about twice as much oil as juice) and dress the salad.

Gently fry black pudding slices in a generous puddle of fat. Drain when cooked.

Slice an apple horizontally into rings, cutting out any tough or seedy core. Pat very dry with kitchen roll, sprinkle with caster sugar and caramelize with a blowtorch.
I've still found no effective way of persuading the caramel to stick enthusiastically to the apple slices. Drying helps, but isn't a solution. Using icing sugar doesn't help.

To serve, place a pumpkin ring in the centre of each plate. top with a slice of black pudding, drizzle over some scrumpy reduction, and top with a caramelized apple slice.
Lay around the mixed leaf salad, mushroom salad, and crumble over some of the bacon.
If there's one good thing to come out of this salad it was my inspiration to use lemongrass to dress the mushrooms.
That was yumsk!

Mushroom Lemongrass Salad
veg vegan raw salad
Mushrooms marinated in a delicately oriental dressing of lemongrass, lime juice and garlic are really gorgeous, though the aromaticism can be overwhelming if you add too much, or leave for too long. It behoves you to be selective about the accompaniments.

Although I thought this minimal version was perfectly adequate, you could try enhancing the dressing with other characteristically Asian ingredients. The main challenge will be the need to strain out the hard and stringy pieces of lemongrass if you want to use the whole stalk.
They might be acceptable left in a cooked sauce, but most definitely not in a mushroom salad. You might find the purple centres of the stalk sufficiently soft, or perhaps you could use the lemongrass just to flavour the oil before straining?
Some additional flavouring ideas:
  • mint
  • coriander
  • fish sauce
  • rice vinegar
  • sugar
  • shallots/spring onions
  • soy sauce though not my idea of a good match
  • chilli (dried/paste/sauce/fresh)

Ingredients
Method
Chop up the lemongrass and blend with the oil and lime juice.
I used lime:oil about 2:1, and I heated up my (olive) oil before adding the lemongrass and blending just the two. But that was because my lemongrass was a bit on the old side and I wanted to extract every last drop of flavour.
Leave the flavours to develop overnight, or as long as possible, then strain out the lemon grass pulp.
Add crushed garlic and season.

Wipe the mushrooms clean and halve or quarter them, according to preference, and pour over the dressing. Cover and set aside for a few hours or overnight. Don't chill them so much that the oil congeals. Serve within a day or so.
Delightful combination of flavours.

Slow-Cooked Beef in Lemongrass
meat main
I devised this to use up my mushroom lemongrass salad, which was starting to collapse a little, with the mushrooms shrinking and exuding their moisture into the dressing.
A mushroom lemongrass salad stew if you will.

Unfortunately, I made a strategic error. All the wonderful lime and lemon aromatics in the dressing are evaporated off by the long cooking. What I now realise I should have done was add the dressing at the end. Like a, well, a dressing!

Also, the idiot butcher I went to persuaded me to buy a rather nice-looking and reasonably priced hunk of rump steak for my slow-cooker. Another mistake - though it was very tender, at the end of 8 hours of stewing it had lost all flavour and consistency.
A pointless sale for the butcher, since I won't be using him again - what's the use of buying meat from someone who doesn't understand how to cook it? I should have stuck with my instincts and insisted on a better-muscled cut like shin or leg, chuck, blade, thick rib or even neck.

Finally - if all that wasn't enough, my onions remained stubbornly uncooked after everything else (especially the rump) was falling apart. I knew I should have browned them first.
Ah well, onto round two...

Serves 6

Ingredients
Round One
Peel and grate the ginger, add to the lemongrass salad. Peel the lychees, halve and discard the stones, add to the salad.
Cut the meat into 1" cubes, mix with the salad (assuming you have enough dressing!) and leave to marinate overnight.
Now get out your slow cooker. Peel the shallots; wash and chop the celery; top, tail, peel and clean the radishes; stir into the slow cooker pot along with the marinated meat, leftover salad and dressing.
I also threw in a few extra mushrooms and lemongrass stalks because I had them to use up.
Set the cooker to low and leave it to do its thing for 8 hours or so.
Serve with a pumpkin coconut mash.
OK, but don't do this :)

Round Two. Probably
Here's what I should have done:
Cut the beef into cubes and brown them in a little oil then set aside.
Peel the shallots and fry until nicely caramelised, shaking frequently. Stir through the grated ginger, then remove and set aside. De-grease the pan with rice wine or saki and scrape out into the slow cooker.
Add all the ingredients to the slow cooker except the mushroom lemongrass salad. And maybe the lychees - which disintegrate quite a lot. Add them towards or at the end. Throw in a few extra mushrooms, then set the cooker to low and leave it to do its thing for 8 hours or so.

Just before serving, pour in the mushroom lemongrass salad, reheat if necessary and serve.
Yeah, now that sounds better!

Pumpkin Coconut Mash
veg side
A surprisingly good mash.
Goes really well with a slow-cooked beef in lemongrass stew.

Serves 4

Ingredients
Method
Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, lightly oil and roast cut-side down on a baking tray at gas 5-6 for 1-1½ hours until a knife penetrates easily and the skin is starting to blister away from the soft flesh.
Mash with the other ingredients.
Season.
Caribbean tasty!

Vegetables in White Sauce with Mustard
veg sauce side
This is basically an extension of a long-time favourite easy side dish - creamed leeks. You can add to it any vegetables you like, or have hanging around - I had leeks, broccoli and cauliflower.

If you want something a little more upmarket, then you can simmer the milk and infuse it with onion, bay leaves, cloves and finish with a grating of nutmeg as if you were making a classic bread sauce. Of course after going to all that trouble you'd probably skip the mustard.

Ingredients
Method
Make roux frying equal quantities of flour and butter until softly coloured, then gradually whisk in enough milk to make a smooth thick white sauce. Leave this gently cooking uncovered for 15 minutes or so until it becomes rich and glossy while you cook the vegetables.

Chop the leeks into generous slices and wash them thoroughly. Separate broccoli or cauliflower into florets. Cut any other vegetables into suitable chunks. Fry the vegetables in a large pan until they take on some caramel colour. Add them in the order they will need to all be cooked through at the end. It might make more sense to cook them independently, and reserve them together in the serving dish for later when each batch is done.
You can also boil or steam your veg. This works fine with leeks cut into 2" slices; add to boiling water, bring back to the boil and cook for 5-10 minutes until tender, but not collapsing.
Enrich the white sauce with a dash of cream and a grating of nutmeg (if you like).
Pour the sauce over the vegetables in their serving dish, dress with mustard and serve.
Goes very nicely with leftover black puddings :)
The presentation is improved if you hold back a few vegetables to scatter on top.

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