This time of year is when I really feel like I deserve a treat. With the cold wind blowing during my walks with Ella this week I must have burned extra calories.
Sweets offer us a boost in energy. Numerous ingredients gives a combination of flavours and benefits. A decadent dessert is comfort food on steroids. Therefore, making Millionaire Shortbread is completely justified. What is Millionaire Shortbread, you ask? Let me tell you…
Martin and I discovered this wonderful dessert in Scotland a few years back. We were there in March and it was bone-chilling damp cold (I don’t know how kilts can keep anyone warm in that kind of weather!)
We ducked into a cozy cafe in Edinburgh after having visited the Surgeon’s Hall Museums at the Royal College of Surgeons.
(It might sound creepy, but this place is well worth the visit if you are in Edinburgh, full of interesting exhibits and amazing facts. ) Amidst the aromas of black tea and coffee in the cafe we spied a row of squares among the usual pastries, layered and elegant. Once I saw the name I knew we had to sample one.
I can’t find any information on where the name Millionaire Shortbread comes from – it must be just because the layering of shortbread, caramel and chocolate all in one bite makes you feel like you’ve struck it rich.
I didn’t get the recipe from the cafe, and the ones I found needed tweaking so I added my own Scottish-Canadian twist. They aren’t hard to make, all they take is a bit of patience as the layers set. While you wait I recommend thinking of with whom you will share them, as they are addictive and one really is sufficient.
Once you have settled in with your hot beverage and squares of decadence, you might want to continue the Scottish theme. There are many topics of discussion – one of my favourites is the Outlander series of books, written by Diana Gabaldon – which have now also become a TV series. (If you’ve been in a hole and haven’t heard of Outlander, these stories tell the tale of the love between a post-war nurse and the Highlander she meets when she tumbles through time to the 18th century. Their love stands not only the test of time but also numerous historical events.) What better way to while away an afternoon with a friend than to muse on possible alternate lives and love that transcends all obstacles?
By now you are probably thinking I’ve gone overboard, but that’s because you haven’t tasted Millionaire Shortbread. Just go make some. Then you’ll know what I mean.
I am sending my column this week from Scotland, where we are busy sampling local fare.
Today we were in Stirling where we spent a few very interesting hours at Stirling Castle, a pivotal spot in many Scottish battles throughout history and the home to many well known monarchs. We even got to tour the great kitchens where they prepared the food for the people at the castle, armies and royals. (More about that in future columns.)
It was exciting to envision another time and what it must have been like but I was happy to head to a more modem place for lunch.
We stopped at a pub called Nicky Tams (a Scottish expression denoting your going-out duds, as in “this is a place you could wear your Nicky tams!”). The barman was most gracious and made us feel quite cozy. He recommended a local beer called Bitter and Twisted which was lovely, just like the humour on the label. That really put us in the mood for Scottish fare so it seemed appropriate to have “haggis, neeps & tatties”. For those of you who are not familiar with the Highland brogue, this refers to a traditional blood sausage served with mashed turnips & potatoes. For dessert, we shared a “cranocken”. It was a delightful and whimsical dish that mixed raspberries with a whiskey infused whipped cream and crumbled shortbread, then topped with a few roasted oats. It made me hum 🙂
As I sampled this taste of Scotland and thought about tradition, I remembered as a child eating Mom’s meatloaf with mashed turnips and potatoes. I wondered, was this some modern variation on a theme? And didn’t she make a dessert too, that was about taking strawberry jam and whipped cream with graham biscuits? It seems to me she used to say I was a favourite recipe of my Gran’s (great grandma) – she made it when my Gramps was little.
So are we taking bits of our culinary heritage along whether we like it or not? My Mom’s family, the McMurchys, left Scotland eight generations ago. My Gran was a pioneer, but in Canada, living in a mud house on the prairies when she was a young married woman. It doesn’t seem all that far fetched though, to think that all those generations would have looked to create similar meals if possible, and likely found some comfort in an adaptation of an old favourite.
I felt strangely warmed to know that perhaps I had completed a sort of culinary circle of time. Food is always a wonderful combination of having an adventure and coming home, and I had managed to do all of that. I bet tonight if I concentrate (or perhaps after a glass of good scotch) I may even see an ancestor or two in a back booth.
NOTE: The barman at Nicky Tams said there is an old fellow who haunts one of their back booths; the felllow’s granddaughter (now aged 80) was in the pub one day and mentioned that her grandad had been a regular and had in fact passed away one afternoon right in the middle of drinking his pint. Perhaps the beer is just good enough to make people believe such things… Or perhaps it is the power of the haggis, neeps and tatties 🙂