Crowdie Cranachan

My homeland of Scotland has produced a fair number of indigenous dishes, many coming out of the mists of time and borne abroad by several centuries’ diaspora of woad-painted Picts – there can be few corners of the planet that don’t at least have a nodding acquaintance with the haggis and it’s accompaniment of neeps’n’tatties, with the attendant skirl of pipes and hopeless wails of its victims. Other recipes tend heavily towards high quality beef, lamb and game, rich in sauce and lipids, but generally a far more pleasant culinary experience than offered by many Northern European countries – cabbage is NOT a major feature. And let’s not mention deep-fried Mars Bars here, OK?

One such recipe is the famous Scots dessert of Cranachan. While other modern recipes make this from large quantities of double cream and little else, this is my own, slightly lower-fat, variant, which starts with the fancy that mediaeval Scots would have had more cheese than cream lying around, and so eschews the crudity of cream for the subtler taste of soft cheese. Here I’m using the traditional (Viking-era) Scots skimmed milk soft cheese, Crowdie (Gruth if you’re a Gaelic speaker), updated for modern tastes with a proportion of slightly sweeter Mascarpone. If you can’t get Crowdie, Ricotta makes a passable substitute.

Preparation time: 10 minutes;
Making time: 15 minutes;
Chilling time: overnight, by preference.

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Thai Poached Salmon with Basalmic-glazed Mushrooms

This isn’t a genuine Thai recipe – it’s one I dreamt up on a Saturday afternoon, and one of those, “what have I got in the fridge” moments, inspired and focussed by the imminent and ad hoc arrival of a dinner guest. But it worked, so here it is, listed for two people – adjust quantities to suit:

Total preparation time: 20 minutes;
Cooking time: Main course 20 minutes, rice 45 minutes, mushrooms 5 minutes;
Zen time: About two hours.

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On Drinking a Wine That’s Older Than Me…

There are wines which pour, make a satisfactory glugging noise in the process and which caress, stimulate or assault the senses with varying degrees of complacency or excellence. These are the things we tend to drink from day-to-day, often as an accompaniment to other activities and, quite possibly, largely unremarked in their passing. There are also still a few wines which should be consistently avoided, either on the grounds of gratuitous toxicity or market-engineered blandness.

Then there are those wines which you approach on tip-toe and preferably from behind, to catch them unawares, and hopefully in a state still more fit for drinking rather than for use in hand-to-hand combat. These are the ones where you can have no idea whether they’ll come roaring out of the bottle after years or decades of confinement, looking to slaughter the innocent and drink their blood, or which will slide smoothly forth, with a casually doffed cap and a cultured ‘good evening’, in best Leslie Philips intonation. The mere opening of such requires commitment, nerve, and a brief offering to the gods of viniculture that they haven’t turned to purest paint-stripper over the years. The drinking of them requires both physical and mental preparation, and a clearing of both mind and palate in hopeful anticipation of joys to come.

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