Dee: “We wanted to cook a Scottish themed meal for our New Year’s Eve meal, and my initial plans were for venison with whisky sauce and neeps and tatties, followed by black bun. However, after further planning, it changed quite a bit.
We realised that Burns Night was coming up and I was keen to cook another Scottish meal for that, so postponed the whisky sauce and neeps and tatties for then. We kept the venison, which we needed a sauce for, so decided to use some of the cranberry gin which we had left over from Christmas. We’d seen a chef using sloe gin for a sauce with venison, so wanted to experiment with our cranberry gin to see if the two would make a good match.
The starter was easy to organise as I have two oatcake biscuit recipes to try, so used one version here, with the other to follow on Burns night.
We decided to leave the black bun as we’d only just finished a heavy-duty Christmas cake so didn’t want to overdo things with another dense fruity bake. We both love shortbread so quickly agreed on that instead.
We wanted to sample some Scottish craft beers with the meal, but there were less of them available than we expected. However, we found three promising looking brews, with a Scottish Ale brewed in Belgium, which we classed as a bonus beer.
A nice single malt highland whisky, which I’d been given for Christmas, rounded off the night in style.
The accompanying music wasn’t Scottish so I won’t write about it here, but we have plenty of good tunes lined up for Burns Night”.
To Eat: A Scottish New Year’s Eve Feast
Starter: Scottish Oatcake Biscuits with a choice of topping
Recipe from ‘Bread’ by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter
Dee: “This was the first time I’d made my own Scottish Oatcake biscuits, so I was a little nervous about a baking disaster but fortunately they turned out fine. The dough, made from oatmeal, fat, salt and water was very crumbly and wouldn’t form the flat discs I wanted until I approached it with wet hands. Once in the hot pan however, the task became easier, although a steady hand was required as the finished biscuits were still quite brittle. I topped mine with some smoked salmon, while Jay went for some left over Chutney from Christmas. A simple salad of shredded lettuce dressed with rosemary and garlic vinegar and whisky smoked salt completed the starter plates. This was a great starter with small portions of fairly delicate flavours, which didn’t over-face us before the main course was ready.
We have another oatcake biscuit recipe to try out, so will be trying that one out for Burns Night on 25th January.”
Main Course: Roast Venison with Cranberry Gin Sauce and Clapshot
Dee: “We used the recipe in the link above as a starting point, but modified it a bit in order to fit with what we had in mind. We didn’t marinate the meat, but coated it in a mixture of goose fat, orange zest and juice, chopped rosemary and salt & pepper. We inserted rosemary sprigs into cuts made in the meat as specified by the recipe, and roasted the swede and potato that we were going to use for the clapshot in the same roasting tin. We made the sauce separately by reducing down some cranberry gin mixed with a little of the leftover coating mixture for the meat. Then when the meat came out of the oven and had rested, we added the cooking liquid and resting juices and reduced that down to finish the sauce. We made the clapshot by mashing together the roasted potato and sweded and finally added salt & pepper and finely chopped green parts of a couple of spring onions, as the chives in our garden were too tough last time we tried them a few weeks ago.
We were both very happy with the way the main course turned out. The meat was good and tender with just the right amount of pink, the clapshot tasted all the better for the infusion of the roasting juices, and the sauce was strong, silky and fruity.”
Dessert: Scottish Shortbread
Recipe adapted from one in an old Sainsbury’s magazine
Dee: “We only baked a small amount of shortbread, enough for the two of us, as any larger quantity would have been eaten up far too quickly, and found a recipe in an old issue of Sainsbury’s magazine for ‘Victorian Shortbread’ which was easily scaled down. The recipe called for egg, which we decided to leave out, and also rice flour, for which we substituted semolina. I was faced with my second crumbly dough of the evening, but managed to gain control of this one without increasing any of the quantities or adding any further ingredients. The finished product was tasty enough, with the expected crumbly, ‘melt in the mouth’ texture, but if I was to bake it again I would add more butter and perhaps a little more sugar as it wasn’t quite as sweet as the other shortbreads I’ve tried before. We enjoyed our shortbread with a glass of Glenmorangie Highland Single Malt Whisky in some seriously heavy whisky tumblers which we’d bought earlier in the day.”
To Drink: A selection of Scottish Craft Beers
Beer 1: Red Kite Ale
Tasting Notes said: “A soaring amber ale with a perfect balance of citrus and malt. As the name suggests, this amber ale lifts the spirits by infusing classic British hops with a malty backbone to create this medium bodied thirst quencher. It's the perfect year-round beer - refreshing in summer and satisfying in winter.
A corker with a winter vegetable soup and equally at home when sharing your mouth with a Glenmorangie 18-year-old malt”.
Dee said: “Chestnut Brown colour, and very subtle on nose and palate, with hints of fruits and toasted nuts. A very nice accompaniment to our delicate starters”.
Jay said: “Like this one a lot. Good drinking strength”.
Beer 2: Tornado
Tasting Notes said: “Open a bottle of Tornado and get blown away by the natural power of the Citra hop. Crafted with a robust malt character to compliment the tropical fruit and resinous pine of the Citra hop”.
Dee said: “Sharp and strong tasting IPA with sweet citrus notes. Again, ideally matched with the main course that it accompanied”.
Jay said: “Clean, refreshing and citrusy”.
Beer 3: Alba Scots Pine Ale
Tasting Notes said: “A traditional Highland recipe, popular in Northern Scotland until the end of the 19th Century. This "triple" style ale is spiced with sprigs of spruce and pine, harvested in the spring and brewed with only a small token handful of hops . Break out the goblets and pour with abandon. Rich, tawny and best enjoyed at Room temperature”.
Dee said: “Rich, golden colour, with a completely unexpected hit of floral and berry-like flavours. We enjoyed this straight after the main course, which worked very well, as I would definitely recommend this beer as one which needs no accompaniment. The distinctive flavours are such that it is best enjoyed on its own”.
Jay said: “Sweet ale with a very unusual aftertaste. Need to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy it, as I would be with lambic beer, cider or Pimms.
Bonus Beer: Gordon Finest Scotch Ale
(This is actually a Belgian Beer so, for the purposes of this review, it’s included it as a ‘bonus’ beer)
Tasting Notes said: “Born in the luminous moors in an environment of untamed lochs and haunted Scottish castles, the ale Gordon Finest Scotch is so generous that it is willingly shared. Its white, unctuous foam, in total contrast with the dark brown elixir, is a pleasure for the palate. The connoisseur fraternity will recognise the authentic Scotch : the soul of the Scottish Highlands.
Gordon Finest Scotch, the original Scotch for more than a century !
Gordon Finest Scotch’s promising bouquet tells no lies. The bitterness brought by its aromatic hops combines with its sweet flavour of distinctive roast malt, a mixture bringing an irresistible warmth with so many elements shimmering on the palate. It leaves a full-bodied, sweet finish”.
Dee said: “Conker brown body with a very light beige head that quickly subsided. Taste was of strong toffee with a lingering sweetness”.
Jay said: “Burnt sugar. More burnt sugar. Good though”.