Kelly…out of the Kitchen.

I’m off to Scotland – by the time this post auto-publishes, I’ll be in the air and on my way to Edinburgh! I’ll spend the night with family outside of Stirling, then a few days in the capital city before we head north to Inverness, stopping in St. Andrews on the way. From there we’re off to Fort William, where we’ll climb Ben Nevis and get some quality time with the great outdoors. We stop in Oban before making our way back to the Lowlands to Glasgow, and then finally to Edinburgh to fly back home 10 days later.

So it’s one more hot toddy for me before I fly fly fly away. Goodbye for now, readers. See you in 10 days. And, since I’ll be gone when it’s time to say it, Happy Thanksgiving!

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Hot Toddy.

Another recipe in preparation for my eagerly-awaited trip to Scotland. In one month, I’ll be hiking through the Scottish Highlands, wrapped up all toasty warm in a scarf and mittens and a new pair of boots. The days will be short this late in the year, and the weather will be cold but otherwise unpredictable. I’ve done a good bit of traveling so far in my life, and I don’t think I’ve been anywhere more romantic and almost eerily tranquil as Scotland in wintertime—I can’t wait to go back. I’m looking forward to indulging in a bit of Scottish cuisine (including haggis, eek!) and will do my best to appreciate Scotch whisky, though I know very little about it. If any of you, dear readers, have the knowledge and inclination to educate me on the ins and outs of Scotch, I would much appreciate it. For now, I’ll mix up a hot toddy before bed and drift off to sleep, dreaming of fog and heather.

INGREDIENTS

1 tsp honey
4 tbsp just-boiled water (or more—dilute as needed!)
3 tbsp whisky
1/2 cinnamon stick
tiny pinch nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

Squeeze honey into teacup. Add grated nutmeg and cinnamon stick.

Pour water over honey and add whisky and a squeeze of lemon juice. Stir to dissolve the honey, and drink up.

Shepherd’s Pie.

It’s been a year and a half since I last went to Europe, and it is definitely time to go back—and for this trip, it’s Scotland that’s calling my name. The first time I visited Edinburgh and the Highlands, I spent just a short weekend there, while I was at college in Ireland. This time, I’ll have a good 8 days of listening to those dreamy Scots accents—and I don’t think I can survive the month I still have to wait! Ever since we booked out tickets, my travel buddy and I have been getting together to plan and just get excited about our trip, and this weekend, our afternoon took a culinary turn, in the form of this shepherd’s pie. That, plus two bottles of homemade mulled wine with brandy, a couple of Yorkshire puddings, and Braveheart. Anything worth doing is worth doing right.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/4 lb stew beef, cubed
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, sliced into coins
1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp tomato paste
3/4 cup red wine (we used a cabernet sauvignon)
1 1/2 cups beef stock
1/4 tsp curry powder
3 medium potatoes, washed and cut into large cubes
whole milk
2 pats of butter
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

DIRECTIONS

Season the flour with salt and pepper and place in a bowl. Toss beef in the flour, shaking off the excess. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pan and cook beef until just browned on all sides. I cooked the beef in two batches so as not to crowd the pan. Set the beef aside.

Add more oil to the pan and add the carrot and onion, with a sprinkle of salt. Cook until softened, then add the mushrooms and cook an additional 5-7 minutes. Add the beef back to the pan with the tomato paste, bay leaves, wine, stock, and curry powder. Stir well, bring to a boil, and then cover and turn down to a simmer. Cook until the beef is fall-apart tender, at least 2 hours.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a pot full of cold salted water. Bring to a low boil and cook until fork tender. Drain potatoes, then mash with milk and butter, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Mix in most of the shredded cheese and the parsley and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a casserole dish or pie pan. When the beef is cooked to your liking, remove the bay leaves and pour into the dish. Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the top and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Place the dish on a tray, in case it bubbles over in the oven.

Bake until the cheese is melted and the potatoes start to brown a bit on top, about 25 minutes. Highly recommend serving as we did: with yorkshire pudding, mulled wine, and Braveheart. Aye, it’s quite a feast!

Scottish Shortbread.

Scottish shortbread and black tea are good friends. Ever since they first met, they’ve just clicked. They try to hang out as much as possible, but sometimes it’s hard to find a free afternoon. So next time shortbread wants to get together with tea, offer up your kitchen as a meeting place. Then, while they’re chatting away, quietly sneak up behind them…and chow down. Trust me, they’ll never see it coming. And this shortbread recipe (from one by Lorraine Pascale) will definitely help you forget how much butter you just ate.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/4 sticks butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp brown rice flour (this gives a nice texture, but feel free to substitute with all-purpose flour)
pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

Cream together butter and sugar. In a separate bowl,  combine flours and salt. Add flour mixture to butter and sugar in 3 parts, stirring between each addition. The texture of the dough should be very crumbly but hold together when pressed.

Now, press the dough evenly into a pan. I recommend a spring-form pan or a tart tin with a loose bottom, so that you’ll be able to remove the crumbly shortbread without breaking it. If you’re not using a tart tin, crimp the sides with your fingers so that you have a pretty little border. Then, use a knife to draw 8 pizza-shape segments, and pierce each segment a few times with a fork. Place dough in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Just before the 30 minutes is up, preheat oven to 325 F. Remove shortbread from oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until just starting to turn golden. Cool completely, slice carefully (it’s very crumbly), and serve with tea–but give the friends a minute to say hello before you start to nibble elegantly.