Outlander Kitchen Makes a Great Pie
Jamie and Claire. Just say those two names and many of you already know to whom I refer. I am a full on and unapologetic fan of Outlander, both the books and the TV series. I fell in love with Diana Gabaldon’s characters, Jamie and Claire, in the early 1990s when I read the first book in the series, and over the years I have read and re-read each of the eight…that’s right eight installments of an amazing saga that begins just after WW2 in Scotland and then goes backwards and forwards in time with characters that I find myself thinking about with great regularity. These are big fat books, the kind that draw you in on a cold winter’s night, as well as on a late summer afternoon. Truly, I’ve stayed up until the wee hours reading just one more chapter, only to get up in the morning and head right to the couch with a mug of hot coffee and continue on reading. I LOVE these books, the story, and the characters!
So, imagine my absolute delight when I learned that Outlander Kitchen: The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook was to be published. Now, for those of us who cook and bake, a cookbook based on a very popular book and TV series could be an iffy thing if an author or publisher merely want to sell books to make a quick buck without real culinary expertise in the pages. But in this case, Outlander Kitchen is written by chef, food writer, and Outlander fan, Theresa Carle-Sanders and she has done a great job creating recipes that are well crafted, easy to follow, bringing to our plates and palates meals that could have been made long ago (now of course with modern ingredients), and each with an appropriate snippet of text from one of the eight Outlander books.
I emailed Theresa several years ago asking her about Mrs McClintock‘s Receipts for Cookery and Pastry (1743) which is the classic book on Scottish cooking of the Jacobean era…you know all that great Outlander stuff, and I was delighted when she sent me a response. But, it wasn’t until this year that our relationship took off when I bumped into her literary agent at a food conference. “Oh I love your dress!” “Are you Kate?” “Yes, I am!” And a few moments later she said, “I must connect you with Theresa.” Good as her word, she did, and since then Theresa and I have been sharing the excitement of both of us having our first books coming out this year. Theresa’s was released today, June 14, 2016. I can only imagine the excitement that she is feeling right now as she goes off to her first book event in Vancouver, BC from her rural home on Pender Island. I received a free review copy of Outlander Kitchen the week before the release, tried four different recipes from its pages, and I want to tell you about each one.
- Goat Cheese and Bacon Tarts
- Mrs Graham’s Oatmeal Scones
- Hot Broth at Castle Leoch (Brown Chicken Stock)
- Jenny’s Hare Pie
First of all, each one of the recipes I tried was yummy even when I adapted the scones and pie dough to be gluten free so I could enjoy them, too. I hope you will forgive me, Theresa!
I couldn’t help but take a picture of the Goat Cheese and Bacon Tarts on this little plate with handpainted forget-me-nots. The search for the tiny flowers is how Claire’s incredible journey begins when she returns to Craigh na Dun to find them. (You really must read these books…I dare you not to get pulled in after just three pages!)
They were perfect to take to a gathering of my knit-wit group that meets bi-weekly ostensibly to knit together. Sometimes we actually do knit but more often than not we simply indulge in good food, good wine, and good conversation. The Outlander Kitchen recipe called for goat cheese and I didn’t have any, so I thought to myself “Well, what would Jenny do if she didn’t have goat cheese?” (In the books, Jenny is Jamie’s sister and Claire’s sister-in-law.) The answer I heard her give me was “Just use whatever you have, Kate.” In this case it was some Kerrygold Cashel Blue Farmhouse cheese. Otherwise I made the recipe mostly as listed but since I didn’t have any poppyseed either, Jenny said “Dinna fash yourself.” So I went right ahead. Then I thawed and baked up some frozen puff pastry I had on hand, and finished it off with sage from my herb garden. The tarts were delicious just as they were. And, if you don’t have puff pastry, the spread is equally yummy on crackers. Trust me on this. 😉
The next recipe I selected to try was Mrs Graham’s Oatmeal Scones. I’ve made plenty of scones over the years including many made with oats and I wanted to see if Theresa’s recipe would hold up if I used my own gluten free flour mix. The result? These are right up there with some of my favs and the recipe works beautifully with my mix! Because of using gluten-free flour, mine were more pale on the top than the golden brown that the recipe says they will bake up to, but this did not stop me from enjoying them once cooled, and be sure to let them cool all the way or they will crumble! I enjoyed these two slathered with a big pat of Irish butter and some Frog Hollow Nectarine and Plum Conserve. I took the ones that remained over to my good friend Zorba and her husband Hank (another wonderful man like Jamie) so I wouldn’t gobble them all up myself. It is always good to share. Yes?
OK, are you ready for recipe number three? This one is absolutely amazing! I made Jenny’s Hare Pie. That’s hare as in rabbit! I used to have pasta with rabbit sauce when I lived on a small island in Washington’s Puget Sound long ago in the days of my carefree youth but hadn’t had it since then. When I saw that Theresa had included a recipe for hare pie, I knew I had to try it.
Leigh Olson, who worked on the Pie Cottage portion of the photo shoot for Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings and Life, returned to Pie Cottage for a weekend retreat with her own “Jamie” (a/k/a Eric). We located a rabbit at the local butcher shop in town at a very reasonable price..actually less than half what they were going for in the big city of Seattle. Oh the joys of rural living! Eric broke down the hare and flattened the pieces with a sturdy rolling pin while Leigh made a gluten free dough with some grated sharp cheddar also from Kerrygold.
Now hold on to your hat as this next secret ingredient may have it flying off. I had on hand some frozen rendered bear fat, and I thought it might be a little more authentic to make the dough using it. As much as you might be screwing up your face right now and saying “Ewwwww, bear fat”, a crust made with it is so light and tender you might find yourself weeping tears of joy. There is no bear flavor AT ALL if you get the bear fat from a “twigs and berry” bear, and not one that has been eating fish. You can’t buy bear fat, but if you know someone who is a hunter they might be willing to give you some. This fat has a completely different texture and consistency which I’ll write about one of these days. Anyway, I digress as is my want. Let’s get back to the pie!
Once the Hot Broth at Castle Leoch (delicious!) was made, I added the cut up rabbit along with some vegetables. We did find a small omission in the recipe of if and when to put the bacon in but all it took was a quick Facebook message to Theresa to confirm exactly what I thought the answer would be. Of course it would go in the filling because just about everything is better with bacon. Yes? When everything was cooked, thickened, and cooled, the filling was folded into the waiting unbaked gluten-free pie shell, and a full top crust that I had just rolled out covered it all. We popped it into the oven and poured out some whiskey to toast to Jamie, Claire, Jenny, and all of our favorite Outlander characters who feel like family to Leigh, Eric, and me. Yes, all three of us are fans!
When the pie popped out of the oven we carried it out to the deck and took a few pictures while it cooled.
A quick call to my neighbors, Omma and Joe, with an invitation to join us for supper and soon they walked through the door with happy hellos, a lovely appetizer, and bottle of wine. A simple green salad with vinaigrette, and a dessert of Frog Hollow peaches and plums accompanied our convivial evening, and one that felt as if it could have taken place on Fraser Ridge.
I’ll be sure to try more recipes from Outlander Kitchen plus I’m already thinking of a variation of Jenny’s Hare Pie using chicken and adding either gooseberries or red currants or maybe both!
Thank you Theresa Carle-Sanders for a wonderful cookbook! Thank you Diana Gabaldon for giving us Jamie and Claire. And even if you aren’t an Outlander devotee, get this cookbook. I think you will love it.