Food

Ode to an Outlander Living in Canada

I’m sure Outlander’s Head Cook Mrs Fitzgibbons would be impressed
by my homemade Pigeon Rolls and Scotch Eggs!

Around this time of year, just before Rabbie Burns Day on January 25th, I tend to think about hearty Scottish fare. Possibly that’s because it’s usually still cold at this time of year but more likely its due to me thinking about what I’m going to make for our Burns’ Supper next week (more on that later) and I am eager to get my creative juices flowing and return to my Scottish roots for inspiration.

A few years ago, (turns out it was five years according to FaceBook), I dipped into my Outlander Kitchen cook book by Vancouver Chef Theresa Carle-Sanders for inspiration for some delectable appies to make. If you an Outlander fan like me, you will love this book.  If you visit the website (linked above) you will find tons of Outlander inspired food and much, much more.

I’d never heard of Outlander until we moved to Canada just over 14 years ago. I think it was the second Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) we had in Edmonton, when we went to one of those huge gala dinners at the Marriott Hotel attached to the River Cree Casino. As I was handing my coat over at the coat check, the lady remarked how much she loved my accent and asked if I’d read the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon, an American author.  Of course I hadn’t but she described the story so well, I was intrigued. For those of you who don’t know about Outlander, the main character Claire travels back in time after touching one of the ancient standing stones in a circle in Scotland. This happens during her second honeymoon with her husband Jack to rekindle the relationship after being separated for so long during the second world war. She was transported back 200 years to the Highlands of Scotland and comes face to face with Jack’s nasty ancestor … and falls in love with a young, good looking Highland warrior with flaming red hair.

I was curious so I started the first book and got hooked. They are a tumultuous read, a rollercoaster ride of romance, blood and guts, history, mystery and adventure.  There is a little something in the series for everyone.  I was delighted when the books took to the screen and saw the first movie length episode in 2013 when we first moved to British Columbia. I was even more thrilled when I recognized the filming locations … many of which were in my home county of Fife!

Although the story is set in the Highlands of Scotland, and Fife is technically in the Lowlands, I think the location scouts did a fantastic job of finding historically appropriate and beautiful locations to include.  I reckon the show has done wonders to boost the Scottish tourist industry as well. The last time we were home, we did a mini tour of some of the locations by ourselves to get some photos which included Covenanters Hotel in Falkland which doubled as the hotel Frank and Claire stayed in during their honeymoon.  It was when she looked in the antique shop window at a blue vase in the first episode that I clocked where she was.  It’s the antique shop nextdoor to the violin shop opposite the fountain.  Falkland is literally a stone throw from our home town of Glenrothes and such a beautiful village. Then there was Culross which doubled for the fictitious village of Cranesmuir in the book where Jamie (the Highlander) and Claire rescue a young thief whose ear was pinned by a nail to a post for punishment and where Geillis is sentenced to burn as a witch. Dysart Harbour was used to portray the French harbour Le Havre when Jamie became a wine merchant in Paris. So many fabulous Fife historical places were used. In fact, there are now numerous Outlander Tours you can go on!  Next time we go home, we will definitely be checking that out.

Back to food. I think I did Outlander’s head cook Mrs Fitzgibbons proud the night I made her Pigeon Rolls and Scotch Eggs. Of course I put my own wee twist on them, as is the prerogative when you’re cooking at home and nobody is watching. When I was making the Scotch Eggs, it reminded me very much of my mum as they were one of her specialties we enjoyed often in the 70s. At the time of the photograph above, I’d never made them before and didn’t realize how much fun it was.

If you feel inspired to give it a go, I warn you, they are completely moreish, I’ve included the original recipes in their entirety from the Outlander Kitchen website below. While I would love to make the recipe with actual pigeon, I don’t recall seeing that sort of thing in any of the butcher sections of the local supermarkets over here on the Canadian west coast. The chicken thighs worked wonderfully and the results were amazing.

I always set out to make a decent batch of whatever I’m making, so that I will have extra for the freezer to enjoy another time … but in reality, the food is usually polished off before its even had a chance to cool! I’m going to take as a compliment to the chef.

ROLLS WITH PIGEONS & TRUFFLES

Recipe makes eighteen 2-inch sausage rolls.

Ingredients:

  • ½ ounce (15 grams) dried morel or porcini mushrooms
  • 1 pound (450 grams) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped
  • 2 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or truffle oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ¾ cup Panko-style bread crumbs
  • 1 recipe Short Crust Pastry, chilled
  • 1 large egg

 Method:

  • Cover and soak the dried mushrooms in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Lift the mushrooms from the water with a fork to leave the grit at the bottom of the dish. Press down on the mushrooms in a small strainer to remove as much moisture as possible. Chop coarsely.
  • Combine the mushrooms, chicken, bacon, celery, shallot, thyme, olive oil, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse 8 to 10 times until the mixture is well combined and the texture of sausage meat.
  • Scoop the sausage mixture into a bowl and add the breadcrumbs. Mix together with your hands until well combined.
  • Spread a piece of plastic wrap at least 24-inches long on the counter. Form half of the mixture into a long 18-inch sausage on top of the wrap and roll the meat tightly in the plastic. Turn the ends of the wrap in opposite directions until very tight and secure with tape if necessary. Repeat with another piece of plastic wrap and the other half of the sausage mixture.  Freeze both sausages for 15 minutes while you roll out the pastry.
  • Move the rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 425°F.
  • Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon water to make an egg wash.
  • On a lightly floured board, roll out the pastry into a rectangle 10 x 18-inches Cut the pastry in half lengthwise so that you have 2 pieces measuring 5 x 18-inches. Unwrap one of the chilled sausages and place along the long edge of the pastry. Brush the edge furthest from you with the egg wash then roll the sausage in the pastry leaving about a ½-inch overlap. Pinch the join firmly closed, then roll the seam to the counter and rock the sausage gently to flatten and even out the join.  Repeat with the other sausage and remaining pastry.
  • Brush the tops and sides of the pastry with the egg wash. Using a sharp knife, cut each sausage into nine 2-inch pieces, and place seam side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Cool at least 15 minutes on a rack before serving.
  • Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days. Warm slightly in a 300°F oven to recrisp the pastry.
  • Freeze the assembled, unbaked rolls for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the fridge before baking as directed.
  • Any dark poultry meat works – duck, game hen, quail, or even actual pigeon – look for squab, which is the common culinary name for farm-raised pigeons less than 4 weeks old.
Scotch Eggs are delicious served with tangy Dijon mustard!

SCOTCH EGGS

A Scotch Egg is a boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and baked or deep-fried. Traditionally, Scotch Eggs are served with a tangy Dijon mustard sauce on the side. It’s a popular picnic food across the UK and handy as a snack on the go when you are travelling.  Mini versions are also popular, known as savoury eggs which contain smaller boiled eggs such as quail or chopped egg which might be mixed with mayonnaise and/or chopped bacon. I’ve tried a modern version of Scotch Egg where the yoke is a little runny but that is definitely not for me!  

Ingredients:

  • Eggs – 6 (see notes)
  • Vegetable Oil (for frying) – 3 to 4 Cups
  • All Purpose Flour – ½ Cup
  • Salt – ½ tsp
  • Cayenne – ¼ tsp (optional)
  • Egg – 1
  • Dried Bread Crumbs – 1½ Cups (eg Panko)
  • Sausage – 1½ lb (see notes)

Method:

  • Place the 6 eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a full rolling boil, remove from the heat, cover, and set aside for 10 minutes.  Drain, then cover the eggs with ice water until cool to the touch.  Remove from hot water, cool completely and peel.
  • If frying your eggs, heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high to 350° F.  If baking your eggs, preheat oven to 400° F.
  • Assemble the breading station:  stir together the flour, salt and cayenne in a small bowl or plate.  Beat the remaining egg with 1 tsp of water.  Place the breadcrumbs in a small bowl or plate.
  • Flatten about 4 oz. of sausage into a patty in the palm of your hands, and form it around the egg.  Repeat with remaining sausage meat and eggs.  Roll the sausage-covered eggs in the flour to coat lightly, roll in the beaten egg, then in the bread crumbs to cover evenly.
  • Deep fry until golden.  Drain on paper towels.  Alternatively, bake in the preheated oven until light golden, about 25-30 minutes.
  • Serve hot or cold.

Notes:

  • Hard boiled eggs made from farm fresh eggs can be difficult to peel.  Use 7-10 day old eggs to make it easier.  Store-bought eggs will be fine at any age.
  • Pork breakfast sausage is traditional – but you can use any sausage your heart desires.  Beef, turkey, even veggie!

Until next time!

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