Wednesday 30 January 2013

Burns Night - a celebration of an old-school cookbook

As I've mentioned in years gone by, for us Burns Night doesn't have a lot to do with poetry and pageantry and everything to do with an excuse to eat haggis. Haggis suits my philosophy of trying to eat nose-to-tail (but not kidney, except in steak and kidney pudding, otherwise ick), it's inexpensive and it tastes delicious. It really does.

This year we kept the haggis element pretty simple. Just heated through in a roasting tin with a bit of water and covered in foil. We had it with rumbledethumps - partly because they are a bit more nutritious than straight neeps & tatties, partly because they are absolutely delicious and partly because the name is brilliant - and a mustard and whisky sauce.

I also made a dessert.

The Australian Women's Weekly Dinner Party Cookbook is a great cookbook. It's also a cracking historical document. It doesn't have a publication date in it, but it does have Publisher: Ita Buttrose, which means it must have come out between 1978-1981. Cookbooks don't really tell you what people were eating at any given time, but they do indicate what people were aspiring to eat.

This one suggests firstly that people were into giving dinner parties with multiple courses and fancy china and glassware. It also gives the impression that breadcrumbs were very popular (out of thirty-one menus fifteen feature a crumbed starter, main course or side dish) and that seafood pates were the order of the day (six of them, seven if you count taramosalata). But the big thing about it is that it indicates that Australians were ready to try some new things and explore some different cuisines. It features Austrian, French, Indian, Greek, Italian and Chinese-inspired menus, presented in a very accessible (i.e not strictly authentic or using exotic ingredients) way.

Not all of the dishes have stood the test of time. I won't be serving tinned asparagus in any guise, or making "caviar pate" from liverwurst, ketchup and salmon roe, or topping crumbed steaks with slices of avocado and mustard sauce. But this book probably has more recipes that I have actually made and made often than any other (except for the AWW Italian Cooking Class Cookbook). The korma curry is excellent (if not actually resembling any korma I've seen elsewhere), the chocolate ice cream balls are old favourites, the ginger gelato is the simplest possible ice cream and the apricot yoghurt slice is divine.

The whisky oranges with Atholl Brose cream, however, is probably the one single dessert I have made or eaten most often in my life (my mother started making it long before I was legally allowed to buy whisky). Orange segments, steeped in a whisky syrup and served with billows of whipped cream flavoured with more whisky and honey. The perfect combination of cool, zingy citrus, bland cream, booze and sweetness. Very hard to beat.
Of course, I am almost incapable of leaving well alone, so this time I tinkered with the recipe to make a sort of whisky orange parfait and used blood oranges. I made a ginger oatmeal brittle, following this recipe, but adding ground ginger instead of the cinnamon.

After a couple of hours macerating, I drained the juices from the oranges and warmed them up on the stove, adding a couple of sheets of soaked gelatine. I put the jelly in the bottom of the glasses, let it set a bit, then added the orange segments. I mixed the oatmeal brittle with half of the cream and put that in the glasses, then topped it with the rest of the cream and a couple of prettier chunks of oatmeal, then chilled it for a couple of hours to set.

It was delicious, but I can't honestly say it was an improvement on the original - just a nice variation.
There were some leftovers of both the haggis and the rumbledethumps. Which is a good thing because it means our portions were sensibly sized. It was also a good thing because it meant that we got to eat the leftovers for lunch the following day. Bubble and squeak is the traditional name for these sorts of leftovers, fried together, but I thought a better name for this is rumble and squeak. The leftovers were just mashed together roughly and fried in a pan in a little butter, then finished under the grill. If we'd been hungrier a fried egg on top would be good.


Gemma said...

I remember my Mum having similar cookbooks and I loved looking at then when I was younger. You did a much better job with Burns Night than us - we went for a few beers and then had some homemade pizza!

ali said...

I only get to eat haggis when I visit my British relatives or my dad's cousin in Fala Dam, Scotland, where I believe I had it for the first time. It is SO good. I need to find a good source for it here in the states. That dessert looks divine. It it similar to a fool? I tried to make my dad a rhubarb fool once, and he liked it, but he said it wasn't quite proper. What a yummy dinner you prepared!

Alicia Foodycat said...

Gemma - homemade pizza is always good!

Ali - you can't get an authentic one in the US, unfortunately, because lungs, which are one of the main ingredients, can't be sold for food. Fools are usually equal amounts of fruit and cream rippled together, so because in this the cream is kept separate it isn't quite a fool.

Bettina Douglas said...

NB other people's mothers kept their cookbooks - what a useful library you have! That is one book that was not duplicated in Bill's collection.

Angie's Recipes said...

Haggis and the rumbledethumps...they are completely new to me.
The orange dessert in whisky syrup looks wonderful!

Joanne said...

old cookbooks are so interesting to cook from as you see how the trends have changed. Sounds like you made a delicious meal!

Purabi Naha said...

The book looks so good! I loved the picture of whiskey oranges. This recipe looks delish!

Alicia Foodycat said...

Mother - yes, you were very kind to let me keep them!

Angie - you've never heard of haggis? I am amazed!

Joanne - I know, they are so fun!

Purabi - thanks!

grace said...

okay. rumbledethumps might be the most awesome name for a dish ever, plus it sounds pretty tasty too. :)


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