January 25th is Burns Night in Scotland. Let me rephrase: it’s Burns Night everywhere, it’s just that not everyone knows it. We celebrate the life and works of Rabbie Burns, one of our smashing poets, and we do it by eating and drinking – so often that is the best way to celebrate something, don’t you think? Burns was born on January 25th so it’s kind of like a big birthday party for him, except he doesn’t get to eat any of the cake, given that he died in 1796.
The traditional thing to have is a Burns supper, which is a plateful of haggis, neeps and tatties. I know a lot of people – many Scots among them – have a bit of a shudder when someone mentions haggis. I am not one of those people. I love haggis, and even tried to make my own, once. In fact, that was my first Rock Salt post, three years ago! You can read all about my ‘hoxxis’ here. You can do a lot of different things with haggis if you stop thinking of it as various organs mashed up and stuffed in a sheep’s stomach and start thinking of it as another kind of meat. I understand that some do find the first part difficult to get past; I can’t think why. Anyway, like I said, you can use haggis in lots of different ways, but sometimes it’s best just to stick with something simple. Meat and two veg – it doesn’t get much simpler than that.
Oh – neeps are turnips. You might call them swedes. We do things differently in Scotland.
Um, and tatties are potatoes. You probably knew that. In a Burns supper you have both neeps and tatties mashed. Another word for mashed is ‘champit’ – as in ‘champit tatties’. There, you have learned a Scots phrase today.
So, for Burns Night this year, a friend and I had three courses of Scottish inspired food, the main of which was your basic, time-honoured Burns supper – it looked like this:
I snipped some chives over the turnip; this was my only nod to fancification.
To warm up our appetites before embarking on the filling adventure that is haggis, we had some little canapes. On the right, blinis and (sustainably sourced) Scottish smoked salmon. On the left, mini oatcakes and Black Crowdie cheese. Crowdie is a thick, tangy cream cheese made in Scotland, which I’ve just found a recipe for and may have to attempt to make myself.
Side note: said recipe requires ‘freshly sour’ milk. Does that sound like a contradiction in terms to anyone else?
Anyway, I’ve had Crowdie before, but never Black Crowdie – I was excited to give it a try, and this seemed to be the perfect time. Black Crowdie is a log of Crowdie rolled in cracked black pepper and pinhead oats. To serve it, I just sliced it as best I could – it is crumbly but just about do-able if you use a sharp knife and take care. Add some little oatcakes and there you have it – an easy canape.
Now, to pudding. The main feature of this post, allegedly, and yet I’ve spent all these words without mentioning it once. I was keeping you in suspense, you see. Though if that’s really what I was doing I’d have done well to name the post a bit more mysteriously… Yes, cranachan verrines it was, and I must say I was so pleased with how they turned out. This was a first attempt at the recipe, and I’ve tweaked it a little to present to you here, so be warned: here be dragons. And by dragons I mean, of course, an untested recipe.
Cranachan Verrines (makes two):
For the base:
- 4 Dean’s Oat Biscuits
- 1 tbsp and 1 tsp honey
For the sweet cheese layer:
- 140g Skinny Crowdie
- 1 tsp your favourite whisky or whisky liqueur (like Drambuie)
- 5 tbsp golden caster sugar
- 2 tsp double cream
For the raspberry layer:
- 150g raspberries
- 3 tbsp jam sugar
- 4 tbsp double or whipping cream
- 1 – 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 2 tsp oats
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
Now, this may have begun to look complicated, but it’s not really. Each layer is easy to put together and it can all be done in the space of an hour, then put aside to chill for a few hours, or overnight.
So, let us begin. I started with the Dean’s Oat Biscuits. I used their stem ginger ones, but the original plain ones might have been a better choice in retrospect. They are oaty and buttery and delicious, and I smashed them up with a hammer to make crumbs.
Oh alright, I put them in the food processor.
Then I heated up the honey and mixed it through, then split the mixture and pressed gently into the serving glasses. On my original attempt, I added too much honey and pressed down too firmly, and accidentally created biscuit cement. I’m sure it’ll come in handy for something in the future, but it did cause us some dessert difficulty.
Next, the cheesecake layer. Scoop the Crowdie out of it’s wee tub and put it in the food processor, which you have wiped the biscuit crumbs out of, or put it in a bowl and prepare to use a wooden spoon and brute force. Add the cream, whisky and sugar, and process or stir until fully mixed and smooth – the Crowdie is a little grainy to start with. You can play with the measurements of the booze and the sugar until you get the taste you’re happy with. Split this mixture between the serving glasses, on top of the biscuit base, and smooth over with the back of a teaspoon.
The raspberry layer is probably the most complicated, and that’s really only because you’re heating them up and keeping an eye on them until they form a loose jam. Reserve eight of the nicest looking raspberries, then tip the rest into a small pot and add the jam sugar. Heat at medium high until the fruit has all broken down and you just have red soup with seeds in. It will be thick and sticky and ROASTING HOT so be careful. Strain the rasbperry puree into a bowl through a fine sieve, pressing all the fruit through with a spatula until all you’re left with in the sieve is the pips. Place the reserved raspberries round the edge of your serving glasses, on top of the cheesecake layer, then spoon over the raspberry puree.
Finally, whip up the cream and sugar together until thick and holding soft peaks. Spoon enough into each verrine to fill the serving glass, or until you think you have enough – this depends how much you like whipped cream, I suppose.
Then, put the oats and sugar in a frying pan over a high heat, and toast until the sugar caramelises and the oats are brown and fragrant. They will probably form little clumps, which is absolutely fine. Let them cool down, then use a spoon to sprinkle them over the top. Do not pick them up out of the pan with your fingers. This is important.
Let the verrines rest in the fridge for a couple of hours, or overnight, then serve with love and a cry of ‘heeeeee-ooooch!’. The heeooching is optional but I quite like it, and you don’t get a lot of opportunities to do it in everyday life.