Country #4: Scotland

Friday, February 4, 2011

When one thinks of great, life-changing food, one does not usually think of Great Britain. It is not known for subtle sauces, delicately charred meats, bright green crunchy vegetables. No; what has always come to my mind is the color brown. Boiled things. Mush. However, one thing that Great Britain really does right is the mighty stew. Slow cooking of various types of meat that makes the house smell wonderful and warms your stomach in the cold of winter.
Before the potato was introduced in Scotland, there was a reliance on barley or oatmeal, because wheat was comparatively difficult to grow due to the damp climate. Various types of cured seafood was very common, since the Scots tended to be a mobile culture with great access to shoreline. During feudal times, there was a huge divide between the rich and poor; the wealthy had a varied diet of both domestic and hunted game, seasoned with exotic spices. Those in power put restrictions on hunting, so the poor were reliant on whatever animals they could keep, and tended not to kill them but rather use them for dairy products. When the did end up killing an animal, they would use all parts of it (haggis, the national dish of Scotland and something that I will NOT be making) is an example of both portable cuisine that is also very utilitarian in its makeup.
So we return to stew. I will say, it is mushy and not my favorite stew ever. Buuut, when it’s cold and snowy out, sometimes a girl just needs a big bowl of stew.
This turnip took me forever to find.

Slow Cooker Scottish Beef Stew
(based on
A little oil for browing meat
1 lb Stewing Steak, cubed (purchase the best quality you can afford)
1 large onion, diced
4 oz bacon, diced
2 table spoons of oatmeal
1/4 small turnip, diced
1/4 lb mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon passionfruit jelly (the recipe calls for red currant; I’d recommend a darker jam than I used)
1 pt mushroom stock (the recipe calls for beef stock; I’d recommend sticking with the beef, except that I loooove mushrooms)
Half a bottle of beer
flour for thickening

Brown the stew beef in a little oil. Toss them in the slow cooker. Add the onions and saute for a few minutes, then add the bacon and saute until slightly browned (not all the way cooked like you could for breakfast).  Turn off the stove and add the oatmeal; stir until evenly distributed. Add the diced turnip and mushrooms.

Put everything in the slow cooker. Add the tomato paste, jelly, stock, and beer. Put on low, and cook for a couple of hours, then add some flour to thicken. Continue to cook for 8-10 hours total, on low. Serve with dumplings over rumpledethumps.

Scottish Dumplings
(based on
1 ½ cups flour
2 ¼ tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried parsley
1 ½ tsp Italian seasoning
¾ cups margarine (Smart Balance)
⅓ cup plain yogurt
Chopped cabbage (for vegetarian dumplings)
2 strips bacon, chopped into bits and fried up crispy (for bacon dumplings)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Work the margarine in with your hands until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the yogurt and mix until a soft dough forms. It’ll be a little sticky; if you need to, add some more flour.
Form the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Make an indentation in the middle of the ball with your thumb and push the filling (cabbage or bacon bits) into the dumpling. Pinch the sides of the dumpling closed around it so that there is no filling showing.
Boil a pot of water. Once the water boils, add the dumplings and boil for about 10 minutes. Add them to the bowls of stew!

Rumbledethumps (mashed potatoes with cabbage)
(based on
3 large potatoes, boiled, mashed
½ head Napa cabbage, boiled for about 10 minutes until soft, finely chopped
mix in pot with
⅓ cup margarine (Smart Balance)
⅓ cup milk

Peel and chop the potatoes into about 1 inch pieces. Put them into a pot of boiling water and cook until a fork goes in easily (like you would for mashed potatoes. Drain them, put them back in the pot, and mash ‘em up.
Roughly chop the cabbage (you don’t need to use Napa, but that’s what I had), and put them into a different pot of boiling water while the potatoes are boiling. Cook for about 15 minutes, then drain and chop finely. Add them to the pot of mashed potatoes with the margarine, milk, salt, pepper, and paprika. Stir until incorporated, and place into an oven-safe serving dish. Bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes or until the top is browned.
P.S. I bet this would taste delicious with some cheese melted on top!


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