Vegetarian haggis, for breakfast?

Veggie Haggis

A herby taste with an interesting texture would about sum up the experience.

Seeing vegetarian haggis offered on the breakfast menu of an Edinburgh hotel this week it would have been rude not to. As you can see, the wee haggis is a rissole of an affair sitting on top of the potato pancake and takes it place alongside the more usual veggie sausage and other traditional cooked items.

Long-term readers of this blog will know that I’m not the biggest fan of vegetarian versions of meat products (remember the debate the veggie black pudding sparked) but putting those objections aside, it was an interesting breakfast addition.

In fact it wasn’t dissimilar to the veg black pud experience with the overriding taste produced by the mixture of herbs. Texture courtesy of barley and it was a good compliment to the sweetness of baked beans.

I’ve since learned that the holy trinity in this regard is the addition of  a glass of Merlot. Seems unlikely but……. perhaps not for breakfast

Panic!!! Christmas is five weeks away

turkey
The soon-to-be scene?

With just a month to go of course it’s time to panic. The Observer food monthly may be smugly telling me there’s heaps of time left to bake up some “cheese straws that are as easy as keeping goldfish” to go along with my (as yet unrealised) craftily conjured Christingles, all accompanied by beverages made from ingredients sourced laconically from the summer hedgerows of Dorset plus of course pickles which utilised that imaginary allotment over supply which I’ll effortlessly pull from the pantry – in one months time!!!

(And if you believe that, then a fat man in a red suit will surely be forcing his way down your central heating this winter.)

It all seemed a good idea back in August when the invites went out. Then, my mind’s eye conjured up the niece and nephew singing carols with their cherubic features all aglow in the candlelight as the snow gently pattered against the seasonal window displays, the adults sipping sloe gin or whisky macs by the fireside after indulging in a satisfying display of culinary excellence from yours truly.

It was to be the Christmas of all Christmases – no tantrums, domestics, indigestion or nausea. No, it would be the softly lit, haze of family warmth which all the supplements and magazines assure us is perfectly achievable for the faultlessly organised modern woman.

But the reality has been a heavy workload for the past quarter of a year so, as of this minute, that vision remains firmly where it started – in the mind’s eye.

OK, I’ve ordered the turkey (but what if the post goes missing?) and there is a container of something intended to be sloe gin festering in a corner of the living room which remains undecorated in both the seasonal, and DIY, senses of the word. Merry Christmas everyone!

Plus I’m not sure any of the nine -12 people expected (and just why exactly can’t they confirm exact numbers at this late stage? Waiting for a better offer?) realise I’ve never actually done a Christmas dinner.

No, this is a debut performance on the most hyped up eating day of the year. No pressure there then.

To help me get through this season of plenty, I’ve decided to blog about it here – consider it a form of therapy if you will.

And while I get to grips with all that entails over the next few weeks, the first challenge is purely one of logistics in suddenly increasing a two person household to something resembling a vaguely more stressed and worn version of The Waltons – with added baggage.

So first dilemma of the festivities – is it acceptable in the world of domestic goddessery that the season demands to ask guests to bring their own plates to be filled?

Foodie Twitter list started

A lot of people seem to find their way to this blog via Twitter – the microblogging tool I’ve been a big user of for a couple of years now, and which I find invaluable for introducing me to all sorts of foodies and other great contacts to do with my regular work as a journalist.

The platform has recently rolled out the ability to create lists which looks like an easy way to create a group of share interests which will help me keep up and share all the latest foodie news and views.

It’s called ‘fellow foodies’ and can be seen here.

As you can see, it’s small a perfectly formed at the moment with some of the food tweeters I follow most closely, mostly, but not exclusively, from the north of England.

It’s a work in progress so, if you’re  a foodie who should be included, tweet me and let me know.

Wartime lessons for the modern cook

Rationing
Rationing

This seemed a fitting thing to blog about on Remembrance Sunday, a cookbook which teaches a lesson about making do and reminds us that the kitchen hasn’t always been about cling-wrapped, imported abundance.

The Thrifty Kitchen is now on sale offering traditional, tried and tested recipes that are far from being austere, but instead manage to gently remind us about the importance of seasonal food and creative use of what’s available.

In the forward to the book, Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall explains further:

“Housewives were proud to play their part in helping the war effort. Many, self-taught, embraced the art of cooking enthusiastically. They used the limited resources ingeniously, respecting the available ingredients and avoiding waste. Above all they were prepared to put the time in to get a good meal out.”

She goes on to refer to an event when a group called the London Housewives’ Association gathered in Trafalgar Square in 1954 to burn a giant replica of a ration book in celebration at the end of rationing.

The Thrifty Kitchen
The Thrifty Kitchen

So the book maybe something of a tribute to the wartime cooks’ fortitude, but it most certainly isn’t dull.

In the starters, how about the wild garlic soup from Darina Allen (of Irish slow food fame), followed by Mark Hix‘s roast cauliflower with devilled lamb’s kidneys and who could resist blackberry and apple brumble from Rebecca Law.

As well as great savoury dishes, there’s also recipes for some indulgent looking cakes, jams and juices which have been donated for publication by cooks at all levels –  from big names such as Delia, right down to my own debut appearance in a cookbook. (My recipe is for Cullen Skink which is a traditional Scottish smoked fish soup).

As well as celebrating those wartime cooks, and remembering some of the traditional recipes which have been served up across the UK for decades (think delights such as scouse, faggots and lemon curd), the book has been put together to raise money for the charity Independent Age.

Independent Age works to keep thousands of older people independent and out of poverty by providing them with practical support, financial help and lifelong friendship.

It’s a charity which is making a difference to the lives of many who actually lived through the hardships of the wars we remember today.

I was happy to support them in my small way – and I hope you are to.

The Thrifty Kitchen, Wartime Lessons for the Modern Cook is published by Independent Age and costs £9.99.

Please note, if you order the book via the links in this blog post (perhaps a perfect Christmas present for the cook in your life!) it should trigger an affiliate micropayment to myself, which I will donate to the Independent Age charity too).