8/17/2018

Big Lou's Butteries or Bacon Rolls


If any of you are familiar with the novels of Alexander McCall Smith, particularly the 44 Scotland Street series, you will have heard of Big Lou.  She is a delightful character, proprietor of a little Edinburgh coffee shop.  All of his characters are well drawn and unique, some uniquely annoying, some just charming and others fascinating.  Big Lou is an autodidact with a heart as big as herself.  

This particular book, A Time of Love and Tartan, is 12th in his series. As per McCall Smith's style, it is a humorous, even comic, delightfully,  thought provoking, ramble between the lives of his various recurring characters, couples and families, living at 44 Scotland Street, in their various flats.  Some others are featured as well who have moved on, but remain a part of things.  Of course, I would recommend you begin the series with the first novel, 44 Scotland Street.  Such enjoyable reading, all of them.  From the Publishers:
 "When Pat accepts her narcissistic ex-boyfriend Bruce's invitation for coffee, she has no idea of the complications in her romantic and professional life that will follow. Meanwhile, Matthew, her boss at the art gallery, attracts the attention of the police after a misunderstanding at the local bookstore.
Whether caused by small things such as a cup of coffee and a book, or major events such as Stuart's application for promotion and his wife Irene's decision to pursue a PhD in Aberdeen, change is coming to Scotland Street. But for three seven-year-old boys--Bertie Pollock, Ranald, and Big Lou's foster son, Finlay--it also means getting a glimpse of perfect happiness..
Alexander McCall Smith's delightfully witty, wise and sometimes surreal comedy spirals out in surprising ways in this new installment, but its heart remains where it has always been, at the center of life in Edinburgh's New Town."

So, back to Big Lou, who was preparing bacon rolls when I had to stop reading, and make a note to do some foodie research.  Before moving to Edinburgh, Lou's first job was a long term stint in an Aberdeen Nursing Home.  Here we had a background clue to the type of roll she might have been making.  It seems Aberdeen is known for a particular breakfast treat - rolls known as butteries, due to the high fat content.  These needed to be made and tried.  As it turns out they're quite tasty, a sort of cross between roll and Croissantgood with jam as well as bacon.  An egg might also be sandwiched in there.




Aberdeen Butteries
250g butter
125g lard (or all butter, which is what I did)
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
500g flour
2 teaspoons of dried yeast
450ml warm water
Pinch of salt

This Aberdeen buttery recipe should make about 16. (I cut mine in half, so as not to eat too many.)

1. Make a paste from the yeast, sugar and a wee bit of the warm water and set aside. (Note - I don't know about the "wee" bit, I used about 1/4 cup, then added the rest of the water with the flour, as I didn't think a "paste" would bubble properly, but what do I know?)

2. Mix the flour and the salt together. Once the yeast has bubbled up add this and mix well to a dough and leave to rise.

3. Cream the butter and lard and divide into three portions.

4. Once the dough has doubled in size give it a good knead then roll into a rectangle about 1/2 " thick.

5. Then spread one portion of the butter mixture over two thirds of the dough.


 6. Fold the remaining third of the dough over onto the butter mixture and fold the other bit over - giving three layers. Roll this back to the original size.

7. Allow to cool for 40 minutes. I chilled in the fridge. (it's warm here)

8. Repeat stages 5-7  twice more.

9. Cut the dough into 16 pieces and shape each to a rough circle (another note - I wanted more of a roll shape and made balls) and place on lightly floured baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between each piece to allow for expansion of dough.
10. Cover and let dough rise again until doubled or about 45 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 375°F (160°C) oven for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.


Butteries are named after their high butter content. They are also known as morning rolls and rowies and are a traditional Aberdeen roll. The best way to describe their look and taste is a saltier, flatter and greasier Croissant. Which doesnae sound nice, but rowies are really delicious and filling for breakfast. Aberdeen butteries can be eaten cold and many shops, garages etc sell them pre-buttered for anyone snatching an on the go breakfast. 
Legend has it that the buttery was made for the fishermen sailing from Aberdeen's harbour. The theory is that they needed a bread that would not become stale during the two weeks or more that they were at sea. The high fat content meant the bread also provided an immediate energy source.[1]
(1) "Aberdeen butteries". Information Britain.


As if you'd need any extra butter? What a lovely breakfast treat, and at our house anyway, there's enough for several days. This post will go over to Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event, hosted this week by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen.  Be sure to visit for lots of good food and books.

8/10/2018

Bifteck Hache a La Lyonnaise! for Eat the World - France

So, I have joined a new Challenge group, called Eat the World!  This month the group is virtually visiting France, and every month, under the direction of Evelyne of CulturEatz, we visit a new country. Since I love exploring other countries and especially food, this should be a fine adventure.

On the subject of books (don't worry, things will connect eventually) I've been working my way through the wonderful novels of Nevil Shute, and finally decided it was about time I reviewed one.  This most recent read, The Far Country, is as well written as his other books, but with the added very interesting context of England and France as compared to Australia, in the years following WWII.

Up to now, I had no idea of the horribly impoverished state England and Europe were reduced to post WWII.  Probably a result of reading too many "cozy" mystery novels set in England. The end of the war did not mark the beginning of better times at all.  In fact, things got worse for quite awhile.  Probably due as much to the "new era of Socialism" as to the loss of all those young men. This novel takes place in the Korean War years of the '50s, and taxes are rising continually, rationing is even more strict, and meat almost totally unavailable. People are starving to death (usually the elderly who don't ask in the right places for help or are ashamed to) in both England and France -  Italy as well from what I've read in other books.

8/02/2018

The Language of Bees and a Drink to That!


There are a number of authors I go back to again and again, but have never posted about.  We need to remedy that situation. Immediately.  A favorite of mine has been Laurie R. King, with her Mary Russell series, a woman in partnership with Sherlock Holmes (yes:)), solving mysteries and raising bees.  This one I've just finished, The Language of Bees, is ninth in King's series.  I do recommend beginning at the beginning with the first, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, or On the Segregation of the Queen. Also a totally excellent read.

From the Publishers, on The Language of Bees:: 
"For Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, returning to the Sussex coast after seven months abroad was especially sweet. There was even a mystery to solve—the unexplained disappearance of an entire colony of bees from one of Holmes’s beloved hives.But the anticipated sweetness of their homecoming is quickly tempered by a galling memory from the past. Mary had met Damian Adler only once before, when the surrealist painter had been charged with—and exonerated from—murder. Now the troubled young man is enlisting the Holmeses’ help again, this time in a desperate search for his missing wife and child.
Mary has often observed that there are many kinds of madness, and before this case yields its shattering solution she’ll come into dangerous contact with a fair number of them. From suicides at Stonehenge to the dark secrets of a young woman’s past on the streets of Shanghai, Mary will find herself on the trail of a killer more dangerous than any she’s ever faced—a killer Sherlock Holmes himself may be protecting for reasons near and dear to his heart."

7/18/2018

Amazing Food from Garlic and Sapphires

On this round of Cook the Books Club we have been reading and getting inspired by Garlic and Sapphires, a Ruth Reichl memoir, hosted by moi.  Like Miss Ruth, I am a woman who goes through life seeing the comic absurdity at play all around me.  Perhaps why I so appreciate her writing.  The disguises she literally got into here!

And, I absolutely love her many transfixing culinary descriptions. For instance, on the occasion of a meal at Jean-Georges' restaurant in the Trump Tower, in a hastily put together disguise: "'A little amuse bouche as a gift from the chef,' (which should have been the clue she was made) murmured the waiter, setting down a minuscule porcini tart framed by a delicate salad of tiny herbs.  I ate slowly, first the lacy licorice-flavored chervil, then sturdy, spicy wild parsley, and finally the aggressive little fronds of dill.  Poring through them I discovered a single leaf of lamb's quarter, bits of sorrel, dandelion, chickweed.  I followed the flavors in my mind until the walls vanished and I emerged into a deep glade that grew more distinct with each bite.  It was disappointing to come out of the woods...."

At that same meal there are creamed morels, spooned over asparagus.  That certainly caught me up, along with everything else.  But, perhaps something I could manage, when asparagus is back in season.  Later, there was Salmon with a Moroccan glaze, wild mushroom dumplings, scalloped potatoes, Risotto with Lobster and rosemary, Gougeres, and so on and on, throughout this tribute to food and the inventive chefs she encountered during her tenure as food critic for the NY Times.

6/28/2018

Scintillating Dishes from Indian Cookery

Being a long time fancier of Indian food, I was happy to order, and receive so quickly, Indian Cookery by Sameen Rushdie, recommended by Beth Fish over at her site, Beth Fish Reads.   Her brother, Salman, who seems to have loved his task as official taste tester for his sister's book, certainly has a way with words, and as it turns out, Sameen is also an excellent writer. I enjoyed her comments and many interesting reminiscences on food, her past, the culture, and her mother's cooking.

In the book, regarding chicken:  "'My children only eat chicken,' my father would remark sarcastically to emphasize just how thoroughly spoilt he thought we were.  In the subcontinent chicken is the most expensive meat available, and has become synonymous with good living, hospitality and privilege."  She found things to be much different upon moving to England, and remarks: "Personally I was very pleased to find chickens put in their place in the West.  It is true that I have always been fond of chicken, but the pomp and snobbery surrounding it in the subcontinent did make it a little hard to swallow."

6/21/2018

Stuffing Spinach and Finding Family

An absorbing novel on surviving family life after the death of one's mother, finding one's birth mother and birth sister, wanting to have a real family, dealing with rejection, managing the teenagers of one's boyfriend, and much more, The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness, by Maddie Dawson.  Terrific stuff, with tongue in cheek good humor.

Of course, it's probably easier to manage teens if they're not related to you.  Must be why she did such a good job in that corner at least.  I loved the story, back story and development of all the characters.   Here's a quote, from when Nina is on her way to the re-cycling place after her mother's death.

"And then I went outside and got into my Honda Civic that held the portable commode and the IV pole and the shower chair, all of which I'd spent an hour wrestling into the backseat before leaving the house, and I jerked the car into reverse, pressed on the accelerator - and immediately got my tires stuck in the pile of snow by the curb.
     I did everything you're supposed to do - cursed, banged my hand on the steering wheel as hard as I could, and then, when that didn't work, I rocked the car back and forth, pressing on the gas, then turning the wheel - but it got progressively worse with every attempt.  The tires kept burying themselves deeper and deeper in, and what had been snow under the tires was now turning to slick ice. There was a squealing noise, and after a while, the smell of something burning.
     I mashed on the accelerator so hard that the car lurched forward, and the commode in the backseat took the opportunity to jump into the front seat and pin me down with its aluminium legs.
     Sometimes when you're moving from the old to the new, the universe likes to remind you who's in charge by spinning your tires on ice and then throwing a toilet at your head.
     At least that's the lesson I took away from it."

6/15/2018

Lilikoʻi Glazed Roast Duck - Never Change

I've read and enjoyed several of Elizabeth Berg's novels, and this book is definitely one of her best.  Never Change - is a winner, with totally engaging, if occasionally frustrating characters (as in real life) who finally face their need for change in a sometimes sad, lovely, and inspiring story.
From Publisher's Weekly:

Myra Lipinski has been lonely all her life; she trained as a nurse "because I knew it would be a way for people to love me." Now 51, she lives alone with her dog and works as a visiting nurse in Boston, caring for an array of eccentrics that includes the feuding Schwartz couple, the feisty DeWitt Washington and the anxious teenage mother Grace.

Resigned to spinsterhood, Myra is secretly thrilled when her agency assigns her to care for a former crush, Chip Reardon, who has returned to his parents' home with end-stage brain cancer. In high school, Chip was a golden boy, athletic and clever, out of ugly duckling Myra's league. Now, though, he and Myra strike up a friendship based on their mutual loneliness and on Chip's resistance to his parents, who want him to pursue aggressive treatment for his cancer. Chip prefers to die peacefully, a decision that only Myra seems to understand.

5/31/2018

A Meal for Women in Sunlight

Frances Mayes has written another ode to Tuscan living, this one fictional.  Women in Sunlight is her novel, written memoir style. It's the story of a writer living in Tuscany, in a lovely hillside village. (Sound like anyone we know?)  Mayes has also written Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany, Every Day in Tuscany and Sunday in Another Country, among others.

Mayes describes the locale so beautifully though, we'd all want to relocate given the chance. Possibly.  In this novel, the expat poet, Kit, meets her new neighbors, three older, retired women, also transplants from America, and they all become best friends forever, with lots of great meals, romance and good times along the way.  That's it in a nutshell.  However the individual stories are well told and woven together. They draw one in, each woman with  her unique character and history, so we want to know how things end up for them.

There is plenty of wonderful food described, as noted.  More than could be reasonably mentioned here. I happen to love a novel that incorporates what people are eating.  Suggesting reality really - we eat - not always a feast, admittedly, though often memorable.  If there's no discussion at all, you have to wonder about a whole, often delicious aspect of life going missing.  Do those people not eat, or is it just unimportant to them?  I know there are folks who consider food merely a necessity for survival.  And cooking an activity that must be got through.  Too sad.

5/17/2018

Mapo Tofu and a Memoir of Eating in China

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading our latest pick for Cook the Books Club - Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper, a Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, by Fuchsia Dunlop, this round hosted by fellow Hawaii resident, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen  Dunlop writes a mostly delicious, sometimes revolting, entertaining, well researched and fascinating account of the food, culture and the peoples of that humongous country, mixed in with just enough history to punctuate her tale.

Fuchsia starts out as a young student of the Chinese language and culture, then embarks upon learning to cook Chinese as well, in the city of Chengdu, Sichuan province.  There she attends the premier Sichuan culinary school as their first foreign student, a woman at that, in a class of about 50 young Chinese men.

Fuchsia continued to travel widely in China and recounts her many adventures over the years with wit, humor and style. She began what became a long term odyssey by deciding to eat whatever was going, and stuck by that, consuming what a majority of us would consider truly horrifying food.  Not just every bit of an animal, but including the odd critter and bug in the mix; some of which may have started out as frugality in hard times, but have come to be considered exotic and expensive delicacies for the wealthy.  Her title is evocative in that sense - sweet-sour.