Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Scottish Snow Day

The first year I worked for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, I worked in the Scottish Kitchen. We hosted home cooks and professional cooks from Scotland to share their knowledge and stories with the public. Although some of the public asked if Braveheart was an accurate depiction of Scotland, the participants did have a favorable impression of America as a whole.
hey I had a snow day the next day
Part of my job was to keep things running in the kitchen; prepping recipes, getting ingredients and keeping people happy, which let’s be honest is not hard to do in a kitchen. In fact, one of the women I met became so close with me that we were giggling like small children all day. We actually were told to keep it down inside the prep tent, because our laughter was coming through the stage and distracting the audience. Oops.
Now you may think that she and I were similar in age but she was about 40+ years my senior. And if you have ever wanted to meet Mrs. Doubtfire in person, that was her. Towards the end of the two weeks we were together, I had to work with her on stage; asking her questions and leading a discussion about the culture of food in Scotland. I’m pretty sure no one in the audience understood a word of what we were saying, because we were finishing each other’s sentences and laughing uncontrollably at the thought of having store bought biscuits if I ever came to visit. Can you imagine! Store bought! Ha!
Working in that kitchen with all the wonderful people I met, was what really pushed my love of cooking, and my comfort around food. The ease with which meals were prepared, advice offered and satisfaction reached was inspiring. We actually ended up making meals just for other Scottish participants because the ache for home grew throughout the festival. We had a constant parade of participants, volunteers, and staff at the kitchen tent flap, looking for shortbread, lamb curry or Scotch broth.
I got my own mini cooking lessons from women and men alike in that kitchen, and we whipped up such delicacies as cod’ head stuffed with oats and cod liver oil, haggis and black pudding. All of which was wonderful, although I could do without the cod’s head again. Most of the recipes I learned were hearty, comforting, and inexpensive to prepare. That is just the thing we need this winter.
This recipe is easy and very inexpensive. It can be stretched out with vegetables, and can be made in a crock pot or on the stove. You can get creative with the dumplings, or just keep it as simple as can be. When you take a bite, remember that this warmed many a person on a cold and foggy (or snowy) day.

Mince with Doughballs
Although the name is not that pretty, this rustic meal comes together with an almost exotic flair. The original recipe calls for just ground beef, onions, gravy powder and dumplings. But I like to add some root vegetables to make it a complete meal. If you want to make this is a crockpot, follow the steps up to the dumplings, reduce the liquid by about ½, and set on low to cook all day. But this only takes about forty-five minutes start to finish (including chopping time) if you want to make it all in one shot.

1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 medium carrots, diced
1 medium rutabaga, diced
2 medium potatoes (I used Eastern Potatoes, because they will hold their shape)
1 pint beef broth
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. ground all spice
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

For the dumplings
6 oz. of self-rising flour (about 1 1/3 c)
3 oz. margarine (about 2 Tb.)
¼ c. chopped parsley
Ice water (about 2 Tb)

Brown the meat in the bottom of a large dutch oven. Drain off any excess fat, and add onion and garlic. Cook until fragrant about 3-5 minutes. Then add the remaining vegetables, stirring to combine. Pour in beef broth, scraping up any brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Add all spice, bay leaf, and Worcestershire sauce. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20-30 minutes.

When the vegetables are tender, taste the sauce mixture and adjust seasonings as needed. The sauce should be thick, if not, make a quick slurry of cornstarch and water, and stir into pot. Next, combine the flour, parsley and salt. Rub the margarine into the flour, until combined, and small pea sized balls form. Slowly add water, stirring just until the dough holds together. Be careful not to overwork the dough, or the dumplings will be very dense.

Drop dough by the spoonful onto the top of the ground beef mixture, cover with a lid and steam the dumplings for 7-10 minutes, until they are plump and cooked through.

Serve in bowls or  deep plates with a doughball per person.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, good. An alternative to Shepherd's Pie; I always need new ground beef recipes. Are you going to post a recipe for Haggis? ;-)


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