Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Scotland, Australia, China ...

.... all without leaving home ! Last week was Burns' Night, Australia Day and Chinese New Year so a busy week in my kitchen.

I love to cook themed meals, for us, for family events or when friends come round for dinner. This week was all for us starting with Burn's Night. Neither Hubby nor I have any known Scottish blood but we do appreciate other's celebrations and in Robert Burns case we certainly have enjoyed his work evey year as he's the author of the meaningful song Auld Lang Syne.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 

And never brought to mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And auld lang syne! 

For auld lang syne, my dear, 
For auld lang syne. 
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne.

It's definitely a Scottish theme for our Burns' Night supper starting with Scottish mussels. I have to hold my hands up and say I didn't prepare them myself but bought a pack complete with sauce from Aldi. They were so meaty, a good quantity with a creamy sauce and from Scotland!

Mussels for our Burns' Night starter
Of course if we're having mussels we have to have Picpoul de Pinet - for me there is no better wine to accompany these gems from the sea. Later this year we are actually visiting Pinet in the South of France and hopefully trying this wine with fresh seafood.

Picpoul de Pinet used to be a french secret but over the last couple of years has become widely available in supermarkets and wine stores. This bottle was from Asda, full of green crisp apples it was perfect.
My favourite wine with seafood
It has to be haggis, there is no other main possible and to me if you don't do haggis it's not Burns' Night. However we have a variation of neeps and tatties and I made a creamy peppercorn sauce.

Burns' Night supper 
Great flavour in our Macsween Haggis 
And so to pud - raspberries in cream served in a bandy snap basket. I cannot vouch for the raspberries coming from Scotland and I certainly didn't make the brandy snap baskets but we did enjoy the pud !

Our special treat on Burns' Night is a Bobby Burns cocktail - I only make it on Burns' Night, it's quite strong but perfect over ice (we have whisky stones so the cocktail doesn't get diluted) when settled on the sofa after our super supper. It's so easy to make:

1 shot of whisky
I shot dry vermouth
1 tablespoon Jagermeister

Our trip to Scotland over the following evening we popped Down Under as it was Australia Day. No kangeroo steaks or bbq thanks to our winter rain but we did have lamb steaks. My way of celebrating Australia Day is with a very good bottle of Australian red, there's lots to chose from but my favourite wine producer is Yalumba. One day I hope we'll do a trip to the other side of the world and when we do Yalumba will be my priority visit.

In 2015 Hubby and I were priviledged to attend Yalumba's evening in Chester where we met Louisa Rose their winemaker, a great evening which you can read about on my previous blog post Butcher, Baker and Winemaker.

In our wine rack we have a bottle of Yalumba Y Series Shiraz Voignier 2013 with it's striking horse artwork label depicting life when horses were used for transport.I really like this wine with it's dark cherries, fine tannins and hint of white pepper.

However it is still on our rack waiting to be enjoyed as we decided to open another Yalumba - The Scribbler 2012. At Chester we had The Signature with our main, and wow what a wine. The Scribbler is it's younger sibling being of the same Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz pedigree.  Matured 12 months in oak The Scribbler is full of dark juicy fruits with the merest hint of soft spice and smooth tannins. For me a perfect way to raise a glass to Australia.

Yalumba - The Scribbler
Our final overseas trip was to China - Chinese New Year ringing in the year of the Rooster. I enjoy cooking chinese food although it can be a mad panic at the end to get all the dishes out together as most chinese food is cooked quick in the wok.

I made sticky bbq pork which is becoming one of my all time favourites, so easy to do and reasonably priced as it uses belly pork. I cut the pork into cubes and boil in stock for two hours, drain and dry thoroughly before frying in oil adding the sauce last minute so all the pork is coated. Prawns with water chestnuts and noodles in sweet chilli sauce was our other dish along with seasame oil stir fry vegetables - quite a feast.

Homemade Chinese feast for New Year celebrations
Extra Special Pinot Grigio (Asda)
To go with our meal we chose a bottle of Extra Special Pinot Grigio 2015, not my usual choice of white wine but it does pair well with Asian food. This bottle was from Asda, a light colour with an equally light nose. It's flavour was full of apples and pears with a touch of minerality. A light wine that did match very well with our meal.

We didn't have pud with our chinese meal but I made up for it Sunday with a real pudding/beer lovers treat - Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale. Wells have been brewing since 1876 and this ale for me is just heaven. The aroma is like the kitchen on baking day, its flavour full of dark sugar, toffee, and caramel. Wells are quite right when they say 'this beer offers full contentment in a glass'.

Liquid pudding - so yummy 
All in all quite a journey around the world, all without the hassle of packing, airports and hotels, although as I said one day we'll hoepfully take a real trip Down Under.

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