Monday, January 30, 2017


It's been so long since my last blog. No excuses! Hopefully this will be the first of many this year. Already feeling good writing it.

What has brought me back were two big events on the calendar this month, both separated by 8,000 miles, and cultures apart. Scotland and China both celebrated last week with traditions which go deep into the history and culture and although both very traditional both would be celebrated in each other's country.
What I am talking about is Scotland's Burns' Day followed two days later with Chinese New Year. I was happy to have a foot in each camp. Normally there is a big celebration here in Shanghai for Burns' Day, however with Chinese New Year so close on it's heels everyone was so busy with the Chinese festivities, and as this involves a week long holiday, many ex-pats had left the city in search of sunshine.

I was not to be deterred from celebrating our Bard and although it was just my husband and myself and I'm sad to admit a tin of haggis, the tradition would be upheld come hell or high water. I prepared my cock-a-leekie soup as usual. That's chicken and leek to the uninitiated, and with a tin of haggis and a frozen swede and carrot puree from M&S, it was the best I could do as there are no neeps here in Shanghai, I set about making my traditional Burns' night dinner. As I didn't have a real haggis I went for chicken stuffed with the haggis served with a whisky cream sauce, roast potatoes and the aforementioned M&S puree. So not traditional in the true sense of the occasion, but would be a good alternative, and I had no complaints from my husband as we sat down to eat.

With a creamy cranachan, which is a cream infused with whisky, honey, toasted oats and raspberries the meal was complete. This day cannot be allowed to pass without a celebration in chez Muir.

Two days later I turned my skills to preparing a dinner fit for Chinese New Year. We would be celebrating with friends the following night but on the eve of the New Year we would sit at our table and celebrate the coming the year of the rooster. My husband is a rooster.

Peking Duck, ribs and steamed dumplings were on the menu. It started smelling good as the duck roasted in the oven. Throughout the cooking I carefully removed the duck fat to use at a later date. I'm thinking roast potatoes or rillettes. (more on this to follow) When the ribs hit the wok more aromas filled the kitchen. It was smelling good so that was a good start. My attempt at making Chinese Pancakes was not 100% successful, but not as bad as to spoil the meal. 

So with different table covers and plates from the Burns' Supper I attempted to inject a Chinese ambience to accompany tonight's dinner.

It all went down well and we had done our bit to embrace cross cultural events. Not too difficult as food being an important part of both celebrations I was more than happy to partake.

My time in the kitchen over my husband very kindly did the tidying up. Suddenly the thought of my carefully collected duck fat came to mind. Would he realise as he saw the jar sitting what it was? My fears were justified. It had been washed away with the rest of the debris. So I'll have to wait until the next time I cook a duck before I can have duck fat roasted potatoes and next time I'll make sure that either I do the clearing up or I make sure I let him know in advance. 

So from Robert Burns may I say

"Here's tae us,
Wha's like us
Damn few and they're a' deid

And from China I want to say

Xin Nian Kuaile.
Happy New Year.

I hope to keep blogging more regularly in 2017, the year of the rooster.