Festive food

I had Christmas foodie-project on the agenda today but before I got started, I went for a brisk walk up the glen, despite the wind and intermittent rain. Now that we’re down to minimum livestock to take care of, life has taken on a more sedentary pattern. Not good, so I’m determined to GET OUT THERE on a regular basis! At the top of the glen is a memorial…

memorial It’s in memory of Donald MacDonald, born in 1750 here in the glen. He was responsible for committing  classical bagpipe music to print for the first time in 1822 , thus “preserving for posterity a heritage of music which covers the history of the Highlands.”

HamsAnyway, cobwebs cleared and feeling a bit wind-battered, it was back to the kitchen for some Christmas food preparation. It’s a shame that we can’t have smell-o-blogs because honestly, if there’s something which smells festive, it’s a ham plucked straight from the cure; delicious, dark, sweet and decadent, but you’ll just have to take my word for it I’m afraid! However, the foodie-project today was to bone a chicken and stuff it, which makes a lovely, easy to carve roast.

chickenBoning the chicken is a slippery, time-consuming affair. Basically, cut off the parson’s nose and wing-tips, place the bird breast-side down, cut along the backbone with a sharp knife and carefully scrape the meat away from the carcass. Snap the leg and wing joints where they are attached to the carcass when they are revealed, then continue to scrape the meat away from the legs and wings. When most of the leg/wing-bones are revealed, pull them towards you so that you essentially turn the limbs inside-out. Gradually work at the remaining rib-cage/breast bone taking care NOT to damage the skin where it’s attached to the breast-bone; gently does it! And there you go, one floppy chicken! (And some great bones for stock!)

boned chicken

Place your chicken on a large piece of foil and prepare a stuffing of your choice. I used a mixture of cooked onion, minced pork, chopped cooked ham, chopped, dried, ready-to-eat apricots, red currants, grated orange rind, ground coriander, parsley and thyme. Place the stuffing in the centre of your chicken…

stuffed chicken

…then fold over one side of the meat to a central point, followed by the other side overlapping the edges and making a giant chicken sausage! Fold over the foil to make a tight parcel…

chicken sausage

…and turn it upside down in a roasting tin so that the original breast side is on top. Roast in the usual manner but increase your oven temperature for the last 10 minutes and split/peel back the foil to brown the skin.

So, that’s the chicken dish completed and another completed project is my painting of Patches. My first attempt was a diasaster and I’m not overly happy with my second attempt! Essentially, being a white wee puss doesn’t work well with my usual pen and ink technique, resulting in more of a watercolour – not my strong point! My mum-in-law bought me some pastel pencils some time ago and I think that maybe they would be the perfect medium for Patches. I’ve never used them before so I’ll have to read up about them and have a go!


And finally, regarding another indoor pastime, reading, I think I mentioned a couple of blogs back that I was reading a book called ‘A Discovery of Witches’ by Deborah Harkess. I enjoyed it and while looking over all her research material at the end of the book, a book called ‘The Seven Daughters of Eve’ by Bryan Sykes caught my attention and maybe you’ll see why…

“In 1994 Professor Bryan Sykes, a leading world authority on DNA and human evolution was called in to examine the frozen remains of a man trapped in glacial ice in northern Italy. News of the discovery of the Ice Man and his age, which was put at over five thousand years old, fascinated the world. But what made the story particularly extraordinary was that Professor Sykes was also able to track down a living generic relative of the Ice Man, a woman living in Britain today.

How was he able to locate a living relative of a man who died thousands of years ago? In The Seven Daughters of Eve, Bryan Sykes gives us a first-hand account of his research into a remarkable gene which passes undiluted from generation to generation through the maternal line and shows how it is being used to track our genetic ancestors through time and space. After plotting thousands of DNA sequences from all over the world he found that they had clustered around a handful of distinct groups. In Europe there are only seven. The conclusion: almost everyone of native European descent, wherever they live in the world, can trace their ancestry back to one of seven women, the Seven Daughters of Eve. He has named them Ursula, Xenia, Helena, Velda, Tara, Katrine and Jasmine.

In this remarkable scientific adventure story we learn exactly how our origins can be traced, how and where our ancient genetic ancestors lived, what their lives were like and how we are each living proof of the almost miraculous strength of our DNA which has survived and prospered over so many thousands of years to reach us today. It is a book that not only presents the story of our evolution in a wholly new light, but also strikes right at the heart of ourselves as individuals and of our sense of identity.”

I was thrilled to discover that our local library has a copy and I’m about a third of the way through it. It’s a fascinating read and Professor Sykes has a real talent for explaining a complex subject in a plain and easy to understand way – with humour in parts too! I think that he’s probably one of those people who is passionate about his subject and that passion just can’t help spilling out and infecting anyone who cares to listen (or read).

Merry Christmas!


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6 Responses to “Festive food”

  1. Gill Hulse Says:

    Just caught up with all your news, love the recipes and Patch’s portrait. Have a very happy Christmas and hope to see you in Janary xxx

    • garybuie01 Says:

      Merry Christmas Gill! The recipes turned out great, Patches not so much I’m afraid! Looking forrward to seeing you too – weather allowing at that time of year!

  2. dayphoto Says:

    I think you portrait of Patch is very well done. I also enjoyed your bit of history. Our son-in-law and our grandson (McCormick by last name) are learning to play the bagpipes. We are all delighted.


  3. garybuie01 Says:

    Thank you Linda! Well done to your bagpipe scholars too, although you might want to put them in a distant outbuilding on your farm during the early days!!!

  4. eastwitching Says:

    What a treat to share your posts about life in the glen and your cooking and art activities. That chicken looks fab that you prepared and I think Patches is a very sensitive painting! Keep on doing more. Happy 2012.

  5. garybuie01 Says:

    The chicken was delicious and worth allthe slippery hard work! As for Patches, you’re very kind but I think she deserves better. I got some new paints for Christmas, Derwent’s Inktense Selection, and when (!) I master them, I might revisit Patches. I’m tackling our muscovy ducks at the moment.

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