Free Range Haggis

Studying, Eating, and Drinking in Scotland


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A nice whisky is good for the soul.

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Having just posted about clean living… here’s something about drinking good whisky.

Ben Nevis 17 yo Highland single malt. 510 bottles available. 46 %, aged in a bourbon hogshead.

Ben Nevis Distillery is situated near the bottom of Ben Nevis peak (1,344 m; 4409 ft.) the highest point in Scotland.

I purchased this fine bottle from Cadenheads on The Royal Mile the other day. If you’re heading to Edinburgh for a visit and fancy picking up some whisky, make sure you stop and talk to Marc at the shop. They are knowledgable beyond belief and are sure to point you in the direction of something you will enjoy.

This particular tipple isn’t chill filtered or artificially colored. There is a certain pleasant stickiness to it that I associate with non-filtered whiskies. This one in particular has a long finish that rolls across your tongue. The aroma is slightly buttery. The notes say soft spearmint and white chocolate. The taste is slightly fruity and has a pleasant citrus edge to it. This is a fine dram.

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Clean Living

Since Saturday Lisa and I have been trying to eat healthier. Well, I guess I’ve been trying to match her in her level of healthiness. There has been too much celebrating lately: too much rich food, too much sensory evaluation.  Last Friday was the Former Brewing Students of Heriot-Watt pub-crawl. After a relatively mellow evening, we decided to call it a night. On our walk home we stopped by the chippy. I don’t know why but instead of getting the regular, chips with salt and sauce, I decided to get some curry rolls. What a mistake. Three hours later I awoke to some significant stomach “distress,” and spent the rest of the night praising the porcelain god. Loudly.

The next day I decided it was a good time to take a break from the norm and get a cleanse going. This week I’m trying to focus on vegan, whole foods. As little processed food as I can, and as much time in the kitchen as I can manage. It’s been going well so far. I love being forced to develop new recipes, and experiment with flavors. Here’s a peak at what’s been coming out of my kitchen in recent days:

Saturday Night: Tabbouleh and Carrot “Spaghetti”

Lisa and I both love Tabbouleh. Bulgur is so quick to prepare and when paired with a handful of fresh herbs, and lots of fresh vegetables it turns into something pretty special. The flavors in this dish will continue to evolve as well. I had leftovers for lunch on Sunday and the lemon/herb flavors really seemed to pop. The second dish we made was a mostly-raw vegan carrot “spaghetti.” I peeled carrots down to nothing using a vegetable peeler to create the “noodles.” To these I mixed thinly sliced red peppers, cherry tomatoes, and parsley. The sauce was made out of a few tablespoons of tahini, tamari, sesame oil, olive oil, ginger, and garlic. So good. It is best to let the vegetables sit with the sauce before you serve it. The flavor packed into this simple dish was great. Both items were so easy.

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Tuesday Lunch:

I got a recipe for vegan rice bowls that I can’t get enough of. The best part for me is the sauce. Apple cider vinegar provides a tang that is complimented very well by umami from tamari and nutritional yeast flakes. I add a little tahini and sesame oil as well to round it out. Apart from the sauce, the rest is whatever you have in your fridge. All the produce over here is top notch so it’s hard to go wrong. This has been a good way for us to use up bits and bobs of vegetables. Today I had a few different options:

Here I have chopped cucumber, spinach, broccoli, green onion, and avocado.

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And here I have peeled carrots, chopped red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, and fresh ginger.

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I really like brown rice with this. We’ve tried it with quinoa too but it just doesn’t seem to absorb the sauce quite as well. Today I threw two quarter sized pieces of ginger in while the rice was cooking.

Once everything is prepped you basically just throw it all together:

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Here is an outline of the recipe:

Cooked brown rice

chopped vegetables: spinach (a must), cherry tomatoes, broccoli florets, carrots, avocado, red pepper, ginger, green onions, cucumber

Sauce: 1/2 c nutritional yeast flakes, 1/3 c tamari or low sodium soy sauce, 1/3 cup organic apple cider vinegar, 1/3 c water, 2-3 tbsp tahini, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 thumb sized piece ginger minced, 1/2-3/4 c vegetable oil, 1-2 tsp red chili paste.


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Burns Night Dinner

As you might expect, being enrolled in a Masters program dedicated to brewing and distilling has its perks, namely great “social gatherings.” The highlights this year have been Canadian Thanksgiving, American Thanksgiving, and most recently Robert Burns Night. I’m always amazed at the spread offered at these events: beer, whisky, and endless amounts of homemade (or dormmade) goods. It’s enough to satisfy every hedonistic culinary tendency. Some obviously are better hands in the kitchen than others, however one thing is sure that everyone realizes the link between good food, good alcohol, and good company.

 Robert Burns is regarded Scotland’s national poet. The celebration of his birthday on January 25th marks a celebration of all things Scottish. The Burns Night supper is a staple celebration here in this country bringing everyone together in honor of neaps, tatties, kilts and tartans, beer and whisky, and sweet, sweet haggis.

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I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard Scottish and English cuisine belittled. I believe these criticisms are without merit. The normal fare maybe doesn’t present itself with the same grace that French food does, but the thoughtful and consistent use of local ingredients create full flavors and mirror the national pride held by the people. There have been many efforts to raise the image of Scottish and English cuisine: like Tom Kitchin who uses classic French techniques and fresh, local Scottish ingredients.

For our Burns Night Supper, our gracious host prepared two of the most enormous haggis (haggi?) that I’ve ever seen. Together they were as big as my whole torso. To begin the night, Marc recited a Robert Burns poem in honor of the haggis. You can find a snippet of that magic moment HERE. Other party goers brought neeps and tatties (potatoes and turnips), Lisa and I brought Cullen Skink, which is not something you’d refer to your ex as, but rather a smoked haddock chowder of sorts. So good. You can find the recipe HERE. There was a cask of Real Ale, and endless bottles of whisky. What a night. 


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Lambic Beer

I hold lambic in the highest regard. The tradition that surrounds this special beer is wonderful. Brewing one of these styles truly is one of the dark arts of brewing. The complex microflora seen in lambic fermentations are all traditional “beer spoiling” microbes. Things that brewers have nightmares about. These beasties can be hard to kill, hard to isolate, and worst of all some of them can outcompete your house yeast.

Lambic is controlled legally by an appellation controlee much like champagne. This restriction states that a beer cannot be called a lambic if it has not been brewed within a certain radius around Brussels. The mystique surrounding this beer has produced rumors suggesting that there is “something in the wind” in this area which produces the best microorganisms for production of this beer. A growing number of American craft brewers are beginning to produce “lambic-style” beers inoculated in open “cool-ships” much like the traditional belgian brewers. The results are looking good so far!

I’ve uploaded a paper I wrote last semester I’m quite proud of. Here I look at lambic fermentations, and explore the question: is there something in the wind around Brussels, or can a authentic tasting lambic-style beer be brewed anywhere?

Lambic


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Dorm Room Sour Beer

For a long time I’ve been interested in sour beer. My first real introduction to the style was while I was working at Red Rock Brewing Co in Salt Lake. My boss Kevin Templin always spoke of sour beer as if it were magic, and of blending sour as the “dark arts” of brewing. The secondary fermentation that goes on during aging can transform a good beer to a great one: creating nuances that only harnessing the microbial wildlings can achieve.

My latest foray into sour beer production is with a Berliner Weisse style beer. I developed the idea for this project while talking to Brett Ellis from The Wild Beer Co (http://wildbeerco.com). The beer only has a 10 minute boil to try and leave some of the malt protein, adding body to the finished product. For this beer I’ve decided to eschew Saccharomyces yeasts entirely and have selected Lactobacillus delbrueckii and Brettanomyces bruxellensis. L. delbrueckii is a homofermentative microbe, meaning it metabolizes sugar and produces only lactic acid as a result. Lactobacillus is a common “beer spoiling” bacteria found widely on all types of surfaces including brewer’s malt, drains, and dirty hands. Brettanomyces is a yeast which is able to ferment a wider range of sugars than saccharomyces, aka regular ol’ brewers yeast. As a result of this wider metabolism, Brett beers are generally dry and can be quite delicate in flavor. With these two yeasts, this beer will end up being bone dry with a refreshing, tart finish. I’ll bottle condition these with Champagne yeast producing tiny bubbles just waiting to have a dance party in your mouth. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

Here is the bare bones recipe:

67% Pale Malt; 30% malted wheat; 3% munich

Tettananger hops ~5 IBUs

OG: 1.040 FG: ?

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Intro

I kind of see this blog as being there to inform all you people. I’ll post pictures and stories of brewing, cooking, drinking, traveling, studying, you name it. Hopefully this will be an outlet for the results of my Masters thesis project, and be able to spread the word on brewing research being conducted here at Heriot-Watt.