Scotch Eggs for Spring Equinox (Ostara)

 

The Spring Equinox is tomorrow and there is no better symbol of this day than the egg. Long held across many cultures as the utmost symbol of fertility, birth and new beginnings the egg, humble yet a perfect food should be featured on your menus tomorrow. If you happen to have chickens this is a good day to thank them for all the hard work they have done keeping you well fed with nutrient dense fuel – as the days have been getting longer since the Winter Solstice, our chickens have been producing more and more of nature’s perfect food.

Ēostre is the name of an Anglo Saxon Goddess of the Dawn who was celebrated during the month of April and so her name has been given to the festival of Easter. This connection with the Spring Equinox and Ēostre is why the Christian celebration of Easter includes decorating colorful eggs, egg hunts and the like.

Scotch eggs are a beautiful culinary tribute to the equinox. A hard-boiled egg, covered in a shell of sausage, cracked open and devoured- now there is a great way to celebrate! We made our Scotch eggs using eggs from our own hens and homemade sausage we made from our pigshare this fall.

While we are talking about history, the origin of Scotch eggs is not known. The earliest printed recipe is from 1809, although the London department store Fortnum and Mason claims they invented in in the mid 1700’s. What we know for sure is that Scotch eggs are a popular picnic food in the UK. They are usually served cold, although in the US and other places they are served in gastropubs hot and usually with some kind of accompanying sauce.

Scotch eggs are simple to make (see the step by step instructions with photos below in the recipe). Just boil some eggs and mold a nice layer of sausage around them. I coated mine in a little bit of cornmeal, and then browned them in a hot skillet with olive oil. Then I transferred them to a hot oven to cook evenly for about 10 minutes. They are a delicious breakfast or a nice snack, definitely perfect for a spring equinox picnic.

INGREDIENTS:

4 eggs
1 tsp salt
Glug of vinegar
¾ lbs sausage
½ cup cornmeal or 1/2 cup almond meal to make it paleo
Olive oil

METHOD:

Boil the eggs. To make perfect boiled eggs, place eggs in a pot of cold water (use enough water to cover the eggs), to the water add a tsp of sea salt and a glug of vinegar. Put a lid on the pot and put on a burner over high heat. Once the water begins to boil, turn the heat off and set a timer for 12 minutes. Immediately remove the eggs from the water and run them under cold water or place them in a bowl of cold water. After about 5 minutes they will be cool enough to touch. At this point peel the eggs and set them aside.

Preheat your oven to 400 F and start heating up a cast iron skillet over low heat. Next take ¼ of the sausage and make a flat pancake out of it and place one egg in the center and carefully wrap the egg entirely in the sausage, then roll the whole thing in corn or almond meal. Do the same procedure using the rest of the eggs, sausage and corn or almond meal.

Add some olive oil to the cast iron skillet – enough to cover the bottom about ¼ of an inch. Place the Scotch eggs in the skillet and brown on all sides. Then place in the oven on a cookie sheet and cook for about 10 minutes. Can be served immediately, or cooled and refrigerated for picnic food!

Hunter’s Chicken and Clapshot

Once you become a farmer (and a hunter) certain things you never would have thought of before become hysterical. Like the idea of “Chicken Cacciatore” or Hunter’s Chicken. When chickens become part of your life, you start to imagine how a dish like this ever came to be, as “hunting” for chickens really makes no sense – there are very few wild chickens in the world, and raising animals for meat hardly equates to being a hunter. Historically, the dish seems to have been made with rabbit, which definitely makes more sense but it seems that even in Italy, where the dish originated, chicken is often used. For me it is just another reminder of how detached we are as a society from where our food actually comes from.

Semantics and doom aside, this dish is a definite favorite all over the world. In fact, the recipe I used to make this version of Hunter’s Chicken, is from one of my favorite cookbooks – Scottish Traditional Recipes: A Celebration of the Food and Cooking of Scotland.

A picture of the recipe even graces the front cover of the cookbook! However, this recipe seems to me to be a bit of a cross between the Italian Pollo alla Cacciatora and the French Coq au Vin. Perhaps because the Scottish and French had a very famous historical alliance, it is likely the Scots also learned about the cuisine and culture of the French. Since I was using a Scottish recipe for this dish, I decided to pair it with Clapshot – a mixture of mashed potatoes and golden turnips (or in this case a rutabaga), a classic Scottish side dish. I also used the Italian classic, Chianti wine to prepare the dish.

No matter the origins of this favorite dish, it is perfect hearty fare for the end of winter, or a quick spring cold-snap. The best is that most of you probably have all the ingredients already available in your freezer or pantry! Making this a quick and easy dish to prepare in a snap!

You can prepare it in a Dutch oven, cast iron skillet, or as I did, in my Tagine.

*This is also a good time to remind you, if you are interested in following my homesteading activities, please check out my blog Got Goats (and sheep too)? and the corresponding facebook page!

Hunter’s Chicken (adapted from Scottish Traditional Recipes)

INGREDIENTS:

2 TBS olive oil
1 TBS butter
Half a chicken (or 4 chicken portions, like whole legs)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
14 oz can of chopped tomatoes
2/3 cup of dry red wine
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 rosemary sprig finely chopped
4 oz. fresh field mushrooms (or portabellos), thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:
Heat oven to 350 F. Heat the oil and butter in the vessel you will be using to cook the dish. Add the chicken and fry for 5 minutes, remove chicken from the pan and drain in paper towels. Add the sliced onion to the pan and cook gently, stirring often for about 3 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes and red wine. Add the crushed garlic and chopped rosemary; bring to a boil stirring constantly. Return the chicken to the casserole, turn to coat with the sauce, cover with a tight fitting lid. At this point you can either keep it stove top and simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or you can add the mushrooms, season the dish with salt and pepper and place in the oven for about 45 minutes. Serve with Clapshot (see recipe below).

Clapshot (adapted from Scottish Traditional Recipes)

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb of potatoes
1 lb of rutabaga (swede)
¼ cup butter
¼ cup milk or cream
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper

METHOD:

Peel potatoes and rutabaga, then cut into evenly small chunks. Place the cut vegetables in a pan and cover with water, add about a tsp of salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer until both vegetables are soft, about 15-20 minutes. Drain the vegetables through a colander, return to the pan and allow the vegetables to dry out a bit over low heat, stirring often to prevent sticking. Melt butter with the milk in a small pan over low heat. Mash the dry potato and rutabaga mixture, then add the milk mixture. Grate the nutmeg and mix thoroughly, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cooking from the Pantry: Chicken with Artichokes, Garbanzos and Tomatoes

I have a few food goals this year; one is to start creating meals solely from the pantry and freezer. We are fortunate to be well stocked in those areas – for the past two years we have been buying whole or half animals for meat and also started raising a batch of meat chickens every summer and I do a lot of canning, preserving and freezing (as well as storing root vegetables) from our summer garden.

But I am like every other foodie, I love going food shopping and I found that every few weeks, when we would go, I would come home with enough stuff to basically feed us without dipping into the reserves too much. I was cooking the meat, using some core products from the pantry but kind of turning a blind eye to the preserves and such. I guess that is the folly of this modern world, where even those of us who are hyper-aware about where our food comes from, who take extra time and effort to grow food and preserve it and who cares deeply about sustainability still can be dazzled by all the fresh fruits and vegetables at the markets. Humans can be so silly sometimes…

I decided that this pattern of mine had to end.  So I started by pretending that my house was the market, and I started shopping here and realize that we have so much bounty! I also started going through all my many shelves of cookbooks and marking recipes that I would like to try. Then I took the next step, and actually make a document, listing and categorizing the recipes. Then once a week, we look at the list and pick out several things to try – maybe 3 dinners, some breakfast and lunch ideas, a dessert or two, several sides or salads, that kind of thing. Then I put the meals on a dry-erase board and that is our menu board for the week, leaving some days open for spontaneity and of course pizza night (every Friday).

This is a creation I came up with on my own, but I think in the coming months you will see that I am drawing inspiration from many cookbooks of various genres. I am excited about this project as it is keeping me creative and entertained in the kitchen, exploring some new cuisines I haven’t spent much time with lately and learning some new techniques.

This dish is very simple and extremely flavorful. The best part is that everything I needed was at home. The chicken is one we raised and the other items came from the pantry or freezer. Since we live in a rural area, we have found that shopping in bulk (through Amazon Prime, mostly) saves us a lot of time, money and gas, so we stock up on interesting things, like artichoke hearts. I hope you enjoy this recipe, good enough for Sunday night dinner, without much effort.

INGREDIENTS:

1 TBS lard (When I am browning meat I like to use lard, so I can get it nice and hot without smoking – and lard from healthy animals can be a healthy part of your diet in moderation – no Crisco! That is not real lard).

4 whole chicken legs

Salt, thyme and basil to taste

1 tsp red wine vinegar

1 can of artichoke hearts (we use Native Harvest – their cans are BPA free)

½ a leek, sliced thin

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 jar or can of chick peas (I use dry beans, soak them, partially cook them and then freeze them in canning jars for easy use, but you can use canned if you like)

1 can of diced tomatoes (a small can – I know Eden Organics has BPA free cans available)

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

 METHOD:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat a cast iron tagine, cast iron skillet or dutch oven on low for about 5 minutes (this makes it hot but prevents burning) and add the lard. Rub the chicken legs with the herbs and spices. Brown chicken on all sides and drizzle with red wine vinegar. Add the artichoke hearts, leeks, garlic, chick peas, tomatoes and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Place the lid on and let slow cook for 2 hours. Serve with bread and butter.

Black Pudding Stew and Bannocks

 

January is a big month for those of us with Scottish heritage. We start the month off with the celebration of Hogmany or Scottish New Year. This tradition comes from the intermixing between the Norse and the Scottish in Scotland. The 12 Days of Christmas, actually comes from the original 12 days of Yule , and Hogmany is the end of that celebratory time, as the new Gregorian year was rung in.

Then January 25th is Burn’s Night when Scots and those of Scottish ancestry the world over celebrate the life and poetry of Robert Burns by celebrating Burns Night and hosting a Burns Supper. I hosted my first proper Burns Supper in a long time last year and plan to do it again this year.

So in the meantime I would like to share with you this dish inspired by one of my favorite foods that I don’t get a chance to eat very often- black pudding, or blood pudding/sausage. I know a lot of you are probably gagging right now. But blood pudding is truly a sacred food. As the name implies it is made from the blood of a slaughtered animal. Usually sheep, sometimes pigs but it can also be made from cattle, duck and goat. This food really exemplifies nose to tail eating and as a farmer, I believe in using the entire animal, and that includes its blood. I have not had a chance to make it yet, but I do plan to in the future.

I must admit, the first time I had black pudding, I didn’t know what it was. I think that helped my taste buds truly enjoy it without thinking that I was supposed to think it was gross. I am so glad no one told me and just let me enjoy it.

The making of blood sausage is common the world over and can be found in nearly every culture. Generally it is made of the blood, some kind of fat and fillers depending on the culture – in France it is known as Boudin Noir, made with chestnut flour and cream, it was made on the Navajo reservation where I lived, prepared by the women with blue cornmeal, in Norway I ate Blodpølse as part of Christmas Eve traditional fare where it is served with other cured meats and Rømmegrøt. So although it might not be very popular in certain places and have a high “yuck” factor among many, it is part of the traditional diet of probably all of our ancestors and to be respected.

Last year when I ordered my Haggis from Scottish Gourmet USA for our Burns Supper, I also bought some of their black pudding or Marag Dubh. It can be eaten fried up for breakfast and served with eggs, or used in dishes, like this stew I made with beans and mushrooms, creating a wonderfully flavorful dish with a certain je ne sais quoi coming from the addition of the black pudding. It is just like anchovies in Italian Puttanesca sauce, if you don’t tell people it is in there, they will love it, licking their dish, while swearing how much they hate anchovies.

I served the stew with another traditional Scottish favorite, gluten free Oat Bannocks to sop up all the delicious sauce.

Open your mind and be adventurous this new year! Join us for a Burns Night celebration and try some black pudding!

Black Pudding Stew

INGREDIENTS:

2 TBS of butter
2 slices of bacon
¼ large onion diced
1 clove garlic
½ cup re-constituted dried mushrooms (save the water)
½ lb black pudding, crumbled
¼ cup red wine
½ cup mushroom water
1 TBS Flowers of Scotland
¾ lb Christmas Limas, cooked
1 cooked potato diced

METHOD:

Be sure to cook your potato and beans ahead of time. Melt the butter in a hot skillet (preferably cast iron). Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook with the onion, garlic, mushrooms and black pudding. Once the bacon is browned and the onions soft, add the wine, mushroom water and cooked beans. Simmer on low for 25 minutes over low heat, covered. Take off lid and add the flowers of Scotland and cubed potatoes. Reduce liquid until the stew is nice and thick. Serve with bannocks. Serves 4.

Bannocks

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup GF oat flour
½ cup coconut flour
¼ cup tapioca flour/starch
¼ tsp salt
2/3 cup of yogurt/kefir/buttermilk
1 egg
2 tsp baking powder

METHOD:

Mix first 5 ingredients together and allow to sit on the countertop for 8 hours, or overnight. Next day place it in a food processor and add the rest of the ingredients, pulsing until the dough is nice and crumbly. Preheat oven to 400F.
On a floured surface press dough into an eight-inch circle about ¾ inch thick. Bake at 400F for 12- 15 minutes. Serves 6-8.

Potato-Leek Fritters

 

This year I fell in love with leeks. I have cooked with them before, but not often. I know it might sound strange but leeks intimidated me. There are all these stories about how you have to clean them so well, etc. and I just didn’t think they were worth it. I know, go ahead…*gasp*

I have since learned the error of my ways. This year, our CSA grew leeks and so they were on offering every week and more plentiful than onions, so I started really using them a lot. I have come to adore their wonderful sweet flavor and they looks so beautiful in dishes – and cook much faster than onions.

Some of my favorite dishes to use leeks in are the Buckwheat Noodles with Mushrooms and Sour Cream that I shared last time and basically anything with potatoes…these fritters being right up there. We grew a wonderful crop of 4 varities of heirloom potatoes this year, and I must admit they are the best potatoes I have ever eaten. So flavorful and wonderfully earthy. I now understand why the French call them pommes de terre or apples of the earth.

I should have posted this as a leftover holiday dish, but honestly these are so good, that they are worth making mashed potatoes for! We enjoy these alongside eggs for breakfast, or for dinner as a side dish. In fact, they could probably be perfectly satisfying as a main dish! Just make them!

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups of smashed potatoes (I like gold fleshed potatoes for this)
1 large egg, scrambled
½ cup of sliced leek rings
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp of herbs de Provence
½ to ¾ cup of garbanzo bean flour – enough so that the patties are easy to form
Lard or butter for frying
Sour cream or hot sauce (or both!)to garnish

METHOD:

Heat up a cast iron skillet on low until nice and hot. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and shape into patties (will make about 8-10 depending on how big you make them). Place lard or butter in the pan and melt and fry patties on each side for a total of about 5-7 minutes per patty. I generally have the oven at 250 F and put the finished patties in the oven to stay warm. Serve with sour cream/hot sauce and enjoy!

Your Favorite Posts of 2011

 

I really want to take a moment to thank all of my readers and blogging friends for your support this year, both on this blog, as well as through Facebook and Twitter! As social media grows, it seems more of our interactions together take place on other websites, for example my Facebook page and Twitter account has amassed so many followers, I am just astounded and overwhelmed. I have really enjoyed getting to know many of you this way! Thank you!

It is hard to believe another year of blogging has gone by! Getting these posts together every year is always a great look back on all the wonderful food we have enjoyed. I hope all of you reading this also had a great 2011 and are all looking forward to 2012! Here are the top 10 posts from this year. If you enjoy something that I post, please click the “like” button at the top, to “like” it on facebook, also feel free to tweet about it or leave me a comment. This is very helpful to me to know what kinds of posts you all want to see!

Please leave a comment and let me know what kinds of posts you would like to see on this blog in 2012! Happy New Year!

 

NUMBER 10: Breakfast of Champions and my First YouTube!


 

Number 9: The BEST Gluten-Free Pancakes EVER

 

Number 8: Drying Apples For Winter Storage

 

Number 7: Raw Avocado Chocolate Pudding

 

Number 6: Coconut Milk Panna Cotta Parfaits

 

Number 5: Musings on Homesteading

 

Number 4: How to Make Kefir at Home…and Why You Should!

 

Number 3: DIY Holiday Gift Series: Dairy-Free Decadent Chocolate Truffles

 

Number 2: Making Yogurt at Home: Filmjölk

 

And your favorite post of 2011: Number 1: Got Raw Milk? Food Freedom Fighters!


Rømmegrøt: Gluten Free Sour Cream Porridge

 

One of my favorite holiday foods is Rømmegrøt – a traditional Norwegian dish, a sour cream(rømme) porridge(grøt) typically eaten on Christmas Eve. I make it every year; it is one of our holiday traditions. I would say though it is delicious to serve any time during the cold winter months.

Last year I made another porridge type dish called Trondheim Soup, a gluten-free porridge. So this year I decided to devise a gluten-free version of Rømmegrøt. I have always made it in the past using cream of wheat, which obviously wasn’t going to work anymore.

Rømmegrøt is a rich, flavorful, stick-to-your-bones kind of food. Perfect for cold weather! It is also a tradition in Norway for children to put out a bowl of porridge for the Nisser–the elves on Christmas eve! Although these elves have nothing to do with Santa, they are associated with and originate from Norwegian farm life. These are the elves that look after the farm animals–and in return for their protection, they want their Christmas porridge on Christmas Eve, so of course we oblige, we owe it to the sheep, goats and chickens!

Rømmegrøt is very easy to make, it is a one pot meal. Don’t be alarmed by the amount of butter, cream, etc. in this dish, if you are using high quality fats, this is good for you, especially in the cold of winter. The most essential ingredient is the rømme – a very high quality full-fat sour cream. We use Green Valley Organics Lactose Free sour cream because Roberto is having trouble with dairy these days, and having good lactose free products just makes life easier. Just make sure the sour cream you use doesn’t have gelatin or other stabilizers added. Or you can just make your own!

Milk is another important ingredient. I used some local raw milk from Applecheek Farm, but you could use any organic milk – raw if you can, or grassfed if you can’t find raw. The only other things you need are a thickener – I used oat bran this year and then some salt. This delectable porridge is then topped with a pat of butter to make the all-important smørøya, literally: “butter island” (isn’t that awesome that there is actually a word for that?), cinnamon, sugar and dried currants or raisins. In Trondheim where I lived, this dish is traditionally eaten as the main meal on Christmas eve with a variety of dried cured meats. If you like you could try serving this for breakfast, or even dessert. It is just that good.

Rømmegrøt (recipe adapted from The Norwegian Kitchen)

INGREDIENTS:

1 quart of high quality, full fat sour cream
3/4 cup oat bran
1 quart of full fat milk
Salt to taste
Toppings: butter, cinnamon, raw cane sugar and dried currants or raisins

METHOD:

Simmer the sour cream for about 15 minutes over low heat, stirring often. Stir in the oat bran and bring to a boil, while continuing to keep an eye on it and stir often to prevent burning. If butterfat leaches out of the cream, remove it and save for later. In a separate saucepan, bring milk to a boil and use it to thin the porridge to the desired consistency. Then season with salt. You can use the reserved butterfat to swirl on top of the porridge to serve (instead of creating a smørøya). Serves 8. Recipe can be easily halved.

Norske Pannekaker: Grain-Free Norwegian Pancakes

(Norske Pannekaker: Grain-Free Norwegian Pancakes with Red Currant Jam and homemade Maple Breakfast Sausage)

I know I promised everyone another really great quick, easy, healthy and delicious DIY Holiday Gift in the series , but we had a little setback this weekend. We lost one of our bunnies, Lady Sassafras AKA “Sassy”. It was completely unexpected and so really left us in an emotional mess. Needless to say we were not feeling the joy of the season, so I decided instead of contaminating the last recipe with my bad energy mojo and sending it out to my loved ones, I will just save it for next year! Sassy will be missed and is in our hearts, a sweet fluffy bunny who always had an adventurous spirit despite a genetic disability she was born with that did not allow her use of one of her back legs.

(RIP Sassy)

As I have mentioned many times on this blog over the years, when this time of year rolls around I am always reminded of the time I spent in Norway and I like eating Norwegian or other Scandinavian inspired foods. This year I have really been getting into pancakes, so far we really love these Buckwheat Pancakes, Coconut Flour Pancakes and Oladyi (Russian Yogurt Pancakes) made with buckwheat flour.  But I was really missing those tender, almost crepe-like pancakes that melt in your mouth that I ate so often in Norway.

We spent a few days in Quebec for my birthday again this year , and we happened upon a European grocery, and we got a lot of really delicious items, including some wonderful red currant jam. Norwegians don’t use maple syrup very much and instead regularly use jam on pancakes and waffles.

On our return I decided to start looking for gluten-free (preferably grain –free) pancake recipes that would work for Pannekaker to eat with the jam. I knew I would be eating more grain over the holidays, which tends to not be so good for me, so if I can find grain-free substitutes it is better. I experimented with a few until I came across this one from Tropical Traditions for Coconut Flour Crepes. In fact they have a lot of great coconut flour recipes there. These were perfect, they really “ate themselves” to quote my husband. The only thing I did differently was use butter to fry them, instead of coconut oil – which I am sure would be great too, but Norwegians do love their butter. I served them with more butter, sprinkled cinnamon and topped with the red currant jam.

Roberto seems to have developed an intolerance to cow’s milk (even raw). So we do a lot with coconut milk these days while we are waiting to breed our goats so we can get some goat milk (hopefully this summer). However, if you want to try another version, with heavy cream and without any flour at all, Soli from I Believe in Butter whose mother is from Sweden, gave me this recipe her mom developed. I am sure they are fantastic and taste super authentic  – they are pretty much the same as Norwegian pancakes anyway, but each country likes to claim them for their own and why not? They are awesome! Try some today, for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even as a holiday dessert!
For more Norwegian Scandinavian recipes that are great from this time of year please check out the recipes on this link.