Monday, January 17, 2011

Burns Birthday Marks Height of Winter

For me, the arrival of the poet Robert Burns birthday on the 25th of this month coincides with a desire to eat some boiled nettles and nibble on homemade oatcakes. Unfortunately for me, I did not put up any nettles last year, so I’ll have to settle for something tamer…perhaps lamb’s quarters or seaside plantain.

Oatcakes, though, are easy. I once adhered to strict measurements when making these most basic of Scottish snacks. But no more. Now, I just pour a big slug of rolled oats into my food processor and put it on high for a few seconds. The resulting product is like a grainy kind of flour.

Next, I add a handful of flour, a pinch of salt and perhaps two tablespoons of cooking oil. This I mix with some water and then fashion into a ball, which is then flattened with a rolling pin.

After that, I cut the flattened oat dough into little rectangles and place these in my toaster oven for perhaps 10 minutes. With the heat on high, I watch until the oatcakes begin to show just the tiniest bit of browning. That signals that they are done.

I never grow tired of eating oatcakes and can easily make a glutton of myself.

Another Scottish treat that I never seem to have enough of is smoked salmon. A week ago, a friend gave me a huge, smoked filet. Today, seven days later, it is gone.

In marking the seasons, I consider Burn’s birthday the peak of winter, the pinnacle of the season. The coldest weather of the year usually hits around the bard’s birthday.

Despite the cold and snow, it seems refreshing and even invigorating to try some Scottish fare and perhaps tip a glass to one of the most beloved poets of all time. To the immortal memory.

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