Category Archives: Scotland

Converted Churches find Inspired Uses

We interrupt this regularly scheduled Luminaries broadcast to bring you this very interesting trend:

Churches Converted for Creative Uses

I haven’t been to any churches lately for the purpose for which they were designed. Mainly because the churches of Portland are NEVER OPEN.

nw trinity church portland oregon

But my all-time favorite, due to geographic location, has to be Leakey’s Bookshop, Inverness, Scotland.

leakeys bksp fb page cover

Leakey’s has got it all: bloody history as a witness to the aftermath of Culloden, a roaring fireplace in the middle of millions of fragile pages, and not to be outdone, the best millionaire shortbread I’d ever had, at the cozy, 2nd level cafe.

What if you’re tied down to the East Coast of North America however, but you’d like your own patch of stained-glass sunlight, filtering down to entrance you as you peruse works of art? Never fear. Enter Colouratura, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada:

colouratura art gallery nova scotia

(By the way, I discovered Colouratura on my 2012 road trip to Nova Scotia, which also resulted in a certain Dulci’s Legacy…;-)

But what if you still can’t avail yourself of this pleasure, since you live all the way Out West, perhaps near Portland, OR? A-ha! On a Craigslist run for an armchair one day, I  came across this beauty:

battleground wa coffeehouse and deli

I asked about a casual, local spot, and the folks with the chair directed me toward a bunch of chain restaurants. Then they bethought themselves of one other place that I might like, ‘if I went in for that sort of thing.’ Boy, do I ever!

Let me tell you, their deli sandwiches are delicious, and hearty. And it seems like they’ve got some serious latte art going on, judging by their Facebook page. It was hard to get everything in for an interior shot, but here’s my attempt.

interior battle grounds cafe WA

 

So what do you think- will you be haring off to experience on of these finds What’s the best converted use you’ve seen for a church?

Images via BoomerPDX, Leakey’s Bookshop, Colouratura Gallery, and Taste Life Twice

 

 

Cooking Challenge the Second

Before the lamb there was a different challenge, one that my heart was definitely in, but my head a bit reluctant to take on:

The Traditional Clootie Dumpling

(distantly related to the great haggis, which is hunted each fall in Scotland)

So why clootie dumpling, you ask? Why not flapjack (a delicious treat bound with honey I discovered courtesy of Mull Magic) or a proper baked bread like the Selkirk Bannock? Why choose a fruitcake-dumpling hybrid that needs to be half-boiled, half-steamed, then dried, all with equipment that looks like foreign instruments of torture (this may be a slight exaggeration, but the unfamiliar can be terrifying)?

Well, that’s what you’d be asking if you already knew about my weakness for British sweets. If you didn’t yet know about that, welcome. Have a look around the place.

Actually, I can pinpoint the source of my determination to make Clootie Dumpling: my visit to the Culloden Visitor Centre cafe, one cold August day in 2011. (P.S. I tried those haggis crisps on my most recent visit, verdict: tasty, but not habit-inducing)

Problem Ingredients: Suet & Sultanas

I did a fair amount of research (read: hemming and hawing) before actually committing to making it by buying ingredients. There was the issue of suet, for one. What was it, and was it necessary? After reading through a goodly number of British pudding recipes, I concluded it was. No messing about with Italian olive oil, French butter, or American margarine. You can read about the animal fat and its uses here. Also, what about sultanas? They seemed to be another elusive ingredient States-side, at least going by the local co-ops and natural foods stores.

A question to a Whole Foods employee was answered with the fact that if they were golden raisins, they wouldn’t carry them because the processing of drying grapes for raisins darkens their color, and any chemical means to stop this process for a golden color would not be allowed by their store. Whoo-ee! Well it’s an answer, anyway.

mise en place clootie dumpling

The pound or so of suet was divided into cup-size amounts and frozen. It was very different to handle, kind of like a malleable candle wax that was stuck in cheesecloth. The cheesecloth part of course was some fibrous netting of muscle fibers or something, but I didn’t look up the physiology to be able to tell you what, exactly. Sorry/ you’re welcome?

Now for the recipe. I had plenty of possible ones to choose from, Scottish cookbook hoarder as I am, the question was which one to use?

I ended up going with the common elements in each, and improvising along the way as to cooking times. The dough seemed to come together in a ball well enough, so I floured up the cheesecloth and plonked it into the boiling water.

dumpling before clootie

Problem Process: A Heatproof Plate

Here’s what was supposed to happen in the large pot. Turn a heatproof plate upside down in the water so the dumpling will have something to rest on, and not come into direct contact with the bottom of the pan. Plus, don’t tie the cheesecloth too tightly, as the dough will expand a bit.

There, in two instructions, lay my undoing. I didn’t have a plate I wanted to risk breaking, since I was none too sure about the heat conducted by air in the oven and that conducted by water in a pot. I went for a ramekin as the sturdiest item I did have, but the ball of dough was already too big to sit nicely on that. Curses!

‘Not too tightly’ then turned into ‘not tightly enough’ as the rowdy bubbling of the water made the ramekin pitch and toss and turn the ‘clootie’ this way and that, loosening the tie and letting some of the sugar and spices leak out to color the water, as you can see. (Maybe if I had a sailor to show me how to tie knots?)

Afterwards I went to ask the staff at Kitchen Kaboodle about the heatproof question, and two ladies both thought any plate that worked in the oven should work in boiling water. Hmph! All that , and I should have just asked sooner. Well, now YOU know!

And by the way, ‘clootie’ comes from the Scots word for cloth: ‘cloot’ which was used to tie up the dough. You didn’t think you’d be learning this much from this post, did you?

trouble in the pot clootie dumpling

You can also see my attempt to prevent the chaos from continuing, the long wooden spoon balanced on top and piercing the knot to hold the open part up and away from the water. However, the roiling, boiling water was too much and ended up pulling the spoon down into the pot too, many times over the several hours needed.

It reminded me of the adventure in canning tomatoes, actually. I took a class for it, then made a successful attempt at canning some glorious tomatoes from DC’s harvest last summer. They are still in my cupboard, waiting for the right moment. (Now that I’m moving again, that would have been last week, but oh well. We do what we can, right?)

I finally settled on putting a cloth over the pot lid, both to keep the steam in better (since the spoon let it out), and provide some friction to prevent the spoon from falling, but I had to keep tending to it every 15 minutes for almost three hours. This was the reveal moment:

unveil of clootie dumpling

And it was none too pretty, so I didn’t take a photo!

But down below is when I got it into a low-heat oven to ‘dry.’ This was traditionally done in a basket or pot by the fire. (Not in Portland, OR though)

roasting clootie dumpling

Verdict: Delicious

Finally! The pale, mushy outside could have been due to either the water getting in or not drying it long enough in the oven, or both. It did NOT look like the pictures of clootie dumpling that I’d seen, with their smooth, dark surfaces, so I do have that to aspire to next time.

However, the inside was very good, with the fruity flavor of raisins and currants mixed with sweet dark notes of sugar cane.

finished clootie dumpling

It even worked well as leftovers, heated in a microwave with water-speckled paper towels as is my wont, and drizzled with cream, since I couldn’t be bother to knock up a custard (see first definition here, for all you Americans with dirty minds).

I look forward to being in my own kitchen and trying this one again, as it was one of those food memories that demands satisfaction.

 

*Please note these are affiliate links to Amazon.com. This means if you click through and purchase something from Amazon, I receive a tiny percentage. Thanks for supporting those pursuing their dreams in any way possible! :-)

Scottishness: it’s up to me

A few days ago, I came across this song, called Dawning o’ the Day, by The Corries.

 

No, The Corries are not some 80s alternative-rock band. They are a Scottish folk duo that were extremely popular in the 1960s and 1970s, and I got hooked on their Youtube videos when I was doing all my research into Scottish history and literature and arts last year. This song came up for the first time this week, and a particular verse stuck out in my mind:

“It’s no use in thinking it’s too late for changing
No use in thinking that it’s not up to you”

This blog, as I hope you have noticed, is about ways to get UNSTUCK. The last post was pulled out of my  desire for some encouragement- even if I had to give it to myself! When I heard those lyrics, it was just what I needed. I was climbing out of a trough of worries and woes onto a grassy knoll where I could once again feel in control of my destiny, my hand firm on the tiller.

I’ve often wondered why I, and others, feel drawn to a certain period of history, or a certain group of people. What does it tell us about ourselves? Anything?

My friend Erin Kurup recently posted about her young (and continuing!) obsession with pioneers. In her words: “There it was – the connection between past and present, between my childhood heroes, who trekked across the American wilderness so many years ago, and what I am doing today,” i.e. being a entrepreneur, chasing a crazy dream.

Powerful stuff, isn’t it? So what do I gather from my obsession preoccupation love affair with all things Scottish from the 18th and 19th centuries? I think it has something to do with being downtrodden, being at the end of your resources, feeling sidelined, missing the identity which you were once justly proud of… and building back up, starting over, and never losing hope.

There is a strong thread woven through Scottish arts and crafts to this day that preserves the belief in their right to rule themselves. While Irish songs are comparable in their anti-English sentiment, the Irish end up sounding either antagonistic or mournful, while the Scots seem to scorn the Brits or just carry on being proud, acknowledging their loss but not letting it be the end of them. A very interesting difference.

I am preserving what was good about my past experiences, but not fearing to go forth and create new paths, just like the Scots settled new lands after they were chased out of their own homeland. For:

“It’s no use in thinking it’s too late for changing
No use in thinking that it’s not up to [me]”

 Who’s with me?