The 25th January, as all Scots know, is time to celebrate the great Robbie Burns and his paean to the glorious haggis puddin'; despite the Ewing's Scottish heritage the event is usually celebrated in our house with a Rob Roy and the Taggart box set. This year I decided to push the boast out and make a Scottish themed (if untraditional) supper of Scotch salmon with mashed neeps and kale, and riff on the old favourite cranachan.
Cranachan is a classic Scottish desert, traditionally served at harvest time, but now seen pretty much all year round. As well as generous amounts of Scotch whisky, heather honey and cream (or crowdie, a fresh, Scottish cream cheese, often used in the past) the recipe uses raspberries. As raspberries are at their peak in late Summer what can you do when you get a fancy for it when the mercury dips below zero?
In the past the answer would probably have been not much. But living in the refrigerated age we were lucky to have bagfuls of berries squirrelled in the freezer, just perfect for cravings like these. The remains of our haul gathered on busy afternoons at the local PYO last year, and while all the raspberries had been eaten almost as soon as they had been picked, we did have some tayberries left.
The Tayberry is a cross between a blackberry and raspberry, which is (whisper it) even better than either in my opinion. Slightly firmer, with a flavour balanced perfectly between sharp and floral the tayberry is seldom seen for sale, as they are almost impossible to harvest successfully on a commercial scale, but they are well worth looking out for, or even growing your own.
Although the flavour of soft fruit is preserved well by freezing, the berries do become pretty soft when thawed. Although this won't effect the taste of the finished cranachan, it does tend to hamper any chance of building up pretty layers of fruit, cream and oats (I gently mixed the fruit and the cream together for my version). Next step was the pinhead (or steel cut) oatmeal used for crunch. Of course I only had the rolled kind, normally used for porridge, in the cupboard. No matter, into a frying pan to toast anyway. I then whipped some cream, added a good glug of Scotch - the one ingredient I did have -and stirred through the toasted oats, local Home Counties honey and the berries.
A slightly unconventional Southern spin on a North of the border classic perhaps, but certainly very tasty and a welcome splash of colour in the winter gloom. (Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall makes a very good version of this with new season forced rhubarb and orange liqueur that's well worth a try too.) Whatever the flavour combination serve with a wee dram, and some Scottish shortbread if you're feeling fancy.
Tayberry and Honey Cranachan
500g tayberries or raspberries (frozen are fine)
2 tbsp caster sugar
100g oats, rolled or pinhead.
500ml double cream
4 tbsp whisky
3 tbsp runny honey, plus extra for serving
Defrost berries if using frozen, or pick through, rinse and thoroughly dry fresh ones.
Put the oats and sugar in a dry frying pan. Toast gently, (stirring frequently to prevent burning) until the sugar has melted and the oats are golden. Leave to cool.
Whisk the cream into soft peaks, then carefully fold in honey and whiskey.
To serve mix the toasted oats (reserving a few for decoration) and the berries into the cream, and then spoon into glasses (Alternatively you can spoon the fruit, oats and cream into separate layers).
Whichever way top with a sprinkling of oats and a trickle of honey, and serve.