Scones and shortbread honor Scotland's great poet

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

In Scotland and throughout the world, wherever there are Scots they will congregate to celebrate their common heritage and honor the poet, Robert Burns, on the 222nd anniversary of his birth at Ayr, Scotland, on Jan. 25, 1759.

There are many people of Scottish descent living in Maine. Among them is Jean Armour Hunt of Newcastle, a descendant of Burn's wife, Jean Armour. Mrs. Hunt was instrumental in organizing the St. Andrews Society which holds an annual dinner of authentic Scottish foods to mark the poet's birthday.

That first dinner started with hors d'oeuvres of Rob Roy herring and Brigadoon bridies which are sausage rolls followed by cock-a-leekie soup.

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Cornish game hen with a sauce was substituted for Isle of Skye grouse. There were bashed neeps or mashed turnips; potatoes called tatties, and Ayr string beans, as well as oatcakes and scones. Dessert was whipped syllabub and shortbread.

Whether or not your roots are in Scotland, you may still want to prepare a dinner of some Scottish foods. Cock-a-leekie soup would be most welcome on a cold winter night. Its curious name derives from the fact that originally the broth was made with a tough old fowl or rooster, requiring long cooking.

For your main dish, a steak and kidney pie, boiled lamb or mutton, sole or finnan haddie would be appropriate. Cock-a-leekie Soup 1 chicken, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds 6 cups rich chicken broth 1 cup water 4 large, firm leeks 1/2 cup uncooked rice 1/2 cup chopped parsley Salt to taste

Place chicken in a casserole, add broth, water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, or until chicken is extremely tender. Transfer chicken to another dish, letting the broth continue to simmer.

Trim off root ends of leeks and 4 to 6 inches of the green bottoms. Split and wash them. Drain well and cut crosswise into very thin shreds. Add to broth with rice. Cover and cook until rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Add parsley and salt to taste. Serves 12.

The chicken is generally not served with the soup, but used later for salads, sandwiches, or other dishes.

Finnan Haddie would also be appropriate to serve at the St Andrews dinner. This fish takes its name from the small fishing village of Findon, 6 miles south of Aberdeen, Scotland.

Finnan Haddie is delicious baked or broiled and the leftover flaked cooked fish is often used for creamed finnan haddie or a finnan haddie casserole which sometimes includes potatoes and hard-broiled eggs. For a dinner group, Bakes Finnan Haddie is an easy and tasty dish. Baked Finnan Haddie

Allowing about 1/2 pound smoked fillets per person soak fillets in warm water for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. Place in pan, cover with milk and bake in a 400 degree F. oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

The following potato-cabbage dish is a Scottish specialty which sounds similar to the Irish Colcannon. It has the unusual name of Rumbledethumps! Rumbledethumps (Potatoes, Cabbage and Scallions) 2 pounds potatoes Boiling water 3 teaspoons salt 4 cups coarsely shredded green cabage 3/4 cups sliced scallions 1/3 cup milk 1/2 cup butter or margarine 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Pare potatoes and cut each in quarters. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan in 1/2 inch of boiling water to which 1 teaspoon salt has been added. Cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes until fork-tender. Drain. Return pan to low heat, shaking to dry potatoes. Meanwhile, place shredded cabbage in a medium saucepan in 1/2 inch of boiling water to which 1/2 teaspoon salt has been added. Cook, covered, 8 to 10 minutes, or just until tender. Drain well.

Heat scallions with milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt.Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer 10 minutes. In saucepan, with electric mixer at medium speed, beat potatoes with a 4 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper.

Beat in scallions and hot milk. Continue beating until potatoes are very light and fluffy. STir in cabbage, combining well. Heat over low heat 5 minutes. Turn Rumbledethumps into heated serving dish. Make a depression in center and fill with remaining butter. Serves 6 to 8.

I had not fully appreciated oatcakes until I visited Edinburgh and stayed at the Sherwood Guest House at 42 Minto Street. J. Macniven Smith, the proprietor, prepared a hearty breakfast for us each morning which his wife graciously served. Along with the bacon eggs, toast, hot breads and jam, there were always oatcakes. Oatcakes 6 cups rolled oats 3 cups unsifted all-purpose flour 1 cup sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 2 cups vegetable shortening 5 tablespoons cold water Whole wheat or graham flour

Mix oats, flour, sugar, salt and soda together until evenly blended. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal. And cold water, 1 tablespoons at a time, blending after each addition, until mixture easily forms a ball.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Flour a board with either whole wheat or graham flour and form dough into 2 balls. Roll each into a rectangle approximately 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 3-inch squares and bake 15 to 20 minutes , or until slightly browned on top. Makes 4 or 5 dozen 3-inch squares. Oatcakes will be better if you wait a day before serving them. Keep tightly stores in a container.

Scones are so popular throughout Scotland that one writer has recommended such cakes for "beauty to the skin and sweetness to the temper." Scones may be cut out in rounds like biscuit dough or made on a girdle, the Scottish word for griddle. They seem to require that bitter orange marmalade that was originated in Scotland. Girdle Scones 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour 3/4 teaspoon baking soda 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar 1/8 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon sugar 4 tablespoon butter 3/4 cup buttermilk

Sift 2 cups flour with baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar in large mixing bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender or knife until thorough blended. Stir in buttermilk. Turn out onto floured board, kneading with remaining 2 tablespoons flour for less than 1 minute.

Divide in 2 pieces. Roll one to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut into quarters. Heat lightly oiled griddled to medium hot. Bake scones 5 minutes on one side until risen and nicely browned, then bake a few minutes on the other side. Repeat with remaining dough. Makes 8 scones.

Whatever you select for dessert you will not want to omit Shortbread, those short buttery cookies. These can be made in various shapes. The bell-shaped ones are called Petticoat Tails, for they were inspired by ladies' petticoats circa 1700. Designs can be pressed on the cookie dough with a lightly floured Spritz cookie plate, cut glass tumbler, or other household item with a deep patter. Shortbread may also be decorated by brushing the unbaked cookies with milk and sprinkling with the decorating sugar. Scotch Shortbread 1 cup unsalted butter, softened 10 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar 2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour Milk Decorating sugar (optional) Icing (optional)

In a medium-size bowl beat butter and sugar. Work in flour with a wooden spoon until a stiff dough forms. Gather dough together into a ball. Roll out on lightly floured surface to a 3/8-inch thickness. Cut into decorative shapes with a 2-inch floured cutter.

Place on ungreased cookie sheets 1/2 inch apart. Mark entire top of dough with tines of fork. Bake in a 325 degree F. oven for (c) $S minuntes or until cookies are slightly golden brown. Shortbread should be quite pale. Cool on wire racks. Leave plain or decorate as indicated above. Makes about 4 1/2 dozen.

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