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Warming the cockles of my heart

In honour of Hot Toddy Day, and because I plan to binge watch the last few episodes of Outlander tonight, I thought it fitting that I share a good recipe for the drink that is supposed to be the perfect cure for a dreary winter and the mood we often have to accompany it.

hot toddy

I am generally a fan of hot drinks on a cold day, and I do love trivia, especially as it pertains to food and drink. Toddies not only have a connection to Scotland but also to the American Revolutionary War, so they make a perfect fit with the Outlander story. Of course, some Outlander fans would say you don’t need a hot drink to warm up while watching such a sexy romantic tale, but well, better safe than sorry!

It is said that the first use of “toddy” for a drink was in India, where the fermented sap from a toddy palm was used to sweeten a cold drink in British colonial times. This recipe of a spirit with lemon, spices and sweetener made its way back to Britain, and it was the practical Scots who decided it would work well hot as a cure for the common cold.

Believing strongly in the power of preventative medicines, the Scots made the hot toddy a popular beverage. Their presence during the time of the American Revolutionary War (just like Jamie Fraser in the Outlander stories) was what brought the drink to North America. It is said the colonists liked the drink for liquid courage, but I think perhaps it might just have been to stave off the cold, damp weather.

I was a bit surprised a recipe wasn’t included in the Outlander Kitchen Cookbook, one of my favourite themed recipe collections. outlander kitchen cookbook(It contains so many other wonderful gems that I will use that common old Scottish phrase – “dinna fash” – if you’re thinking this makes it unworthy. On the contrary, I recommend it most highly for anyone with even a passing fancy for Scottish tastes and a love of history.

You can use the spirit of your choice to make a toddy, but here I’m offering what I believe would be the Scottish recipe. Lemons wouldn’t have been common in Scotland or America in the times of the colonists, but feel free to add a slice of lemon if you’d like a more worldly twist.

Spices too are adaptable; traditionally the slice of lemon is stuck with a few whole cloves before it is dropped in the glass, and a cinnamon stick garnishes the drink. If you’re feeling adventurous, a few pink peppercorns or a slice of ginger root can kick things up a notch.

I believe that a Highlander such as Jamie Fraser would have chosen a smoky, peaty Scotch like Laphroaig, but if your tastes are more mellow then perhaps a Glenmorangie would be to your liking. Feel free to experiment with different options. Just remember not to do it if you have to get up and drive afterwards.

Claire Fraser would undoubtedly have a stash of spices in her medicine kit, knowing the benefits of such things as cinnamon and cloves. With their time in the Caribbean, I like to think she might still have had a few treasures that could have helped raise the spirits of a toddy drinker, and perhaps eased the jolt from such a forceful libation.

As a last tip, I’ll offer a few tips on the vessel you use:

  • if you use a glass, put a metal spoon in the glass before you add the hot water. This will conduct the heat and prevent it from cracking.
  • if you choose a metal mug, remember it will conduct the heat very well – even handles can get hot, so be careful. It would be a shame to waste a good drink by dropping it on the ground.

 

SCOTTISH HOT TODDY

Instructions: Add 1 1/2 ounces of Laphroaig 10 (or another Islay Scotch) and 1 teaspoon of honey or maple syrup to a heat-safe glass. Season with lemon or orange, studded with a few whole cloves if desired, and a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon. Heat 3 ounces of water to a near-boil and pour into glass; stir until honey is dissolved.

Slàinte!

jamie fraser drinking

‘‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…

In our house, Christmas was a big deal.

Decorating the tree was a major undertaking, usually requiring a few days to get everything tight. (Yes, we were a “one strand of tinsel at a time” kind of family.) Gifts were all thoughtful, and their wrapping was to be done with care. Everything was meant to be savoured.

Christmas Eve was inevitably busy, with last minute gifts to wrap amidst visiting friends. But once dinner was done, we settled in. Final preparations were near.

Every year of my childhood we read Clement C. Moore’s classic, once the cookies were set out for Santa.

Santa had to get a sample of each of the baked goods we’d made that year. I remember my mom explaining he probably wouldn’t have room to try them all, having to see everyone around the world.

I used to be able to recite all the verses… my favourite was

My mom usually read the story, but one year we were lucky enough to have Gramps there – he knew The Man in Red personally, so that was extra cool.

As soon as the story was finished, my brother and I would kiss our parents good night, and then it was off to bed to await the magic. I don’t remember dreams of sugar plums but I did sleep well.

I still get up in the morning to check and see what Santa sampled.

I hope there is magic in your heart too – you do know that Santa checks in anyway, even if you don’t put out cookies, right?

Are we there yet?

I’m sorry there was no post yesterday. It was still grey, still cold, still windy… nothing new except my third cold of this winter. I’m afraid I had nothing pleasant to say and no chicken soup in the freezer so I wasn’t good company for most of the day.

In my mood, I could see the forest and the trees but not the pleasant pink of the sky.

Thankfully the day ended with a trip back in time. (Since we seem to be going backward weather-wise, this seemed fitting.) We dressed for the Great Gatsby Party on the SS Sicamous and danced the night away. Shaking my fringes was the perfect way to forget my sinus blues.


As a result of a tough week, I am taking a wellness day. No work out, no to-do list – just a simple day with low activity. I’m sorting through old recipe clippings; do you remember back in the days of newspaper articles, magazine pages and recipe cards ? I have a whole collection in binders among my cookbooks and from time to time I sort through them for new inspiration. That, a walk with Ella and a bit of housekeeping will be the extent of my day.

I’ll be back up to snuff tomorrow, I promise. I’ll share my inspirational finds in the coming weeks, and no doubt spring will show up just as I run out of ideas for comfort food. It’s shaping up to be one of those years when things don’t happen as soon as one might like… kind of like those car trips as a kid when it seemed to take forever to get to the destination. I will keep practicing the enjoyment of the journey, and work on not getting stuck in an unpleasant turn of the road.

on the way there we are always impatient, it seems. On the way back we have time to relax. Reminiscing is like heading back, isn’t it?

See you tomorrow.

Yes, we have garden tomatoes!

winter-troops-2013

It’s the dead of winter here. Even though we don’t have big snow drifts anymore, there is no such thing as fresh-grown local produce in January in the Okanagan. At best we have local food that has been stored, but usually that means apples and root vegetables. As a chef I once worked with said one winter, “How much parsnip soup can one person eat?!” But here at Rabbit Hollow, we have been very fortunate.

This past summer’s bounty was particularly delicious, and it continued longer than usual even for this pocket of Canadian paradise. I use edible flowers from the garden for our catered BBQ events with The Chef Instead, and I was able to do that this year up until the very end of November. img_3624 img_3633 I didn’t harvest the last of the vegetable garden until after Thanksgiving (in October for us Canadians, a time when frost is usually on the ground in most parts of the country). We have a wonderful root cellar which this year held summer and winter squash, potatoes, tomatillos, peppers, carrots, green tomatoes and apples (in case you’re wondering, the apples have to be kept in a separate room or they hasten the spoiling of everything else). I’m not trying just to brag here; I want to put things in perspective, so you won’t think I’m offering “alternative facts” when I say we used the last of our stored veggies in tonight’s salad. Yes, we have no bananas, but we did have garden tomatoes (insert cheeky emoji here to help justify my title).

There’s something especially inspiring about eating our hard-earned produce in January. Such a meal deserves special treatment. And it got said treatment. My hubby was inspired to make a delectable blue cheese dressing and make a wedge salad highlighted by our harvested morsels.

Now you may still be unclear on why I titled this post the way I did. It comes down to terroir. Nowadays it’s not difficult to buy any vegetable I want at a grocery store. But most tomatoes this time of year don’t taste like much. Even after they have ripened in my basement, my garden tomatoes still have the beautiful complexity of homegrown produce. They taste like summer. So did the last carrots and the roasted pumpkin. We savoured every bite. Iceberg lettuce never tasted so good.

wedge-salad-happy-gourmand

A Slippery Slope

I have really had a hard time this winter. First the snow and cold were late in coming, then they came with a vengeance. Days on end went by with more than frigid temperatures and grey skies. And now, in just the last two days, we have gone from deep snow and cold winds to warm breezes and a swampy slushy mess. I was in snowshoes on Wednesday and today I had to wear gumboots, but the snow was still deep enough to slosh over top and soak my socks.

In case you haven’t guessed already, the current weather quite fouled my mood. Cold is hard for those of us who like to be warm, but one can dress for it. Grey skies are often seen as gloomy, but their pervasive nature can be overcome by more cheery activities. Where we live, there are no sidewalks but rather fields and orchards, so my daily walk with the dog is a more rustic endeavour. When we get to this time of year it becomes a swampy slushy morass, and then with a bit more melting it is a mud bog. It smells a bit of composting leaves and of course mud. Walking through it is frustrating at best, since it’s a case of two steps forward and one slippery step back. Imagine walking through a field halfway to one’s knees.gumboots-in-slush

I guess the universe must have heard my cries of dismay. I received an article by email today that raised my spirits and even made me giggle. Here I was bemoaning the slush, and what should I get but instructions on how to cook with it – ingenious!

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Epicurious for saving the day, and my sense of humour. I hope you enjoy these ideas as much as I have.

How to Cook with Snow

 

 

 

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