Monday, 30 January 2012

A New Take on Haggis and Neeps

A Trio of Haggis with Turnip Batons, Piped Potatoes and Whisky Sauce
The traditional fare at any Burns celebration is haggis, turnip and potato or in the vernacular, haggis, neeps and tatties. However, the peasant charm of the dish somehow struggles to overcome the normal inelegant presentation, where three dollops of the key constituents jostle on the plate, either dry or floating in an anonymous brown gravy. This year for my Burns day guests I made a special effort to upgrade the presentation, inspired by the efforts of amateur and professional TV cooks on Masterchef. I split the haggis three ways. First of all I made some small haggis filled pies, which turned out very well, the flavour of the pastry seemed to work with the filling. Then some small haggisburgers, scented with fresh thyme. For these the dry haggis mixed with the herb was bound with beaten egg and formed using a pastry cutter then dipped in more beaten egg and coated with Ruskolene.  A few minutes frying on either side turned them a nice golden brown colour. Finally as a tribute to my Yorkshire guests, I made some mini-Yorkshire puddings and stuffed them with Rosemary scented haggis, completing the trio.
The turnips were carefully cut into batons of two different lengths and boiled in salted water for 45 minutes before becoming too soft. The potatoes were boiled then mashed with butter and cream to fluidise them enough to pipe into small neat mounds. For gravy I followed Delia Smith's version of whisky sauce but cheated at the end by adding some cream. The final presentation is in the photograph. All the plates were cleaned and as far as we know Robbie didn't turn in his grave!

The Stuart Agenda by Alan Calder, published by Willow Moon publishing of New Orleans. e-book at and amazon .com and Barnes and Noble. Paperback at amazon.com or direct from the author

Friday, 6 January 2012

The Stuart Agenda-Reviews so far

Take a New Year look at The Stuart Agenda by Alan Calder. Set in the future, it’s a political conspiracy where Stuart scion, Robert strives to recover the throne of Scotland as the country at last goes independent. Reviewers (4and 5 star) have enjoyed the patriotism (Braveheart style), passion, royal romance, intrigue, espionage, murder and the settings in Scotland, England and France.
      All the Amazon reviews are reproduced in detail below.  The Kindle edition price has been reduced by 10% at
     A paperback edition is also now available only on the US site. 

‘For anyone who likes their history and politics liberally mixed with a good dose of fiction, this is a great read. The author clearly knows his subject matter very well, and in due course pays tribute to most of the myths, fantasy and intrigues which go to make up Scottish history and contemporary politics. At times Dan Brown and Michael Baigent, this novel is essentially Alan Calder's own take on events past, present and future. I particularly enjoyed the episodes set in France - clearly much-loved and experienced by the author. Like much of the Stuart legend the novel is at times a tad over-romantic; but it remains an absorbing experience throughout. Thoroughly recommended by this demanding reader!’

‘The Stuart Agenda takes an audacious idea and then weaves an ingenious, pacy plot spanning approximately twenty years into the near future, with the threads of Bonnie Prince Charlie's historic tale cleverly woven through it. In the charismatic Robert Stuart, Captain of the Scottish rugby team, the author has created a thoroughly modern young national hero for Scotland. A host of other characters are also very well depicted - a particular favourite of mine was the elephantine Jim Robertson, the leader of the Scottish Independence Party. The surprising twists and turns of the action are played out against a well described scenic backdrop of epic beauty, particularly the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and the vineyards of Provence - this is a novel which would make a fantastic film. Highly recommended!’

‘With the Nationalists settled in power in Scotland and talk of a referendum, we now have a book about a newly discovered Stuart heir to the throne, already a national hero as captain of the Scotland rugby team. Set during the 2020s, this well researched and well written book is a fascinating mixture of Scottish history and present day politics interwoven with a good deal of fiction. Add to that the authors detailed knowledge of the Highlands and all things Scottish, as well as the south of France, The Stuart Agenda is a good read and to be recommended.’

‘The author knows his Scottish history and the Auld Alliance, and brings it right up to date with a tale of what might happen sooner than we may think. Come the Scottish referendum, who knows, the Scots might just think a bright young King of Scotland would make a better leader than Alex Salmond and his friends. Strangely plausible, and a good read.’

‘This is a well written book exploring an origonal and exciting idea. What if . . . A charasmatic heir to the Scottish throne exists? Alan Calder is a wonderful writer and The Stuart Agenda is a wonderful book. I recommend this if you want something different.’

‘A very entertaining read, very topical - leaves you with food for thought. Will have to wait and see what happens .... !’

‘Just finished the Stuart Agenda by Alan Calder - what 'if' there was still a Stuart Bloodline directly descended from Bonnie Prince Charlie - could they challenge the Windors????? This is the basis of the story. It takes you from Scotland to France and back again - a brilliant first novel!’

‘The Stuart Agenda is a brilliant, page turning, holiday read. It grips the reader right from the start. I particularly like the way it is set in the future with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as King and Queen. There is patriotism (Braveheart style), passion, politics, espionage, murder, intrigue, royal palaces and rugby! Highly recommended.’

‘Set just a little into the future, 'The Stuart Agenda' takes this fascinating idea and makes an exciting, intriguing story from it. Fact and fiction blend throughout as we follow Robert, the charismatic heir to this Stuart Agenda, as he strives to win his heritage and, later, his love. Part political thriller, part adventure, part romance, this is a novel set in the highlands and lowlands of Scotland, through the vineyards of France and the English royal courts. If you are looking for something a little different and also an exploration of what might have been, 'The Stuart Agenda' will keep you reading.’

‘The author has brought an unusual, and to my knowledge novel twist to Scottish politics, with the aim of linking the quest for independence from the United Kingdom with restoration of the Stuart monarchy. As a plot for a novel it works well! The story covers three years in the 2030s. Alan Calder's love for his native Scotland is evident from the landscapes and cityscapes he paints in words, be they the grim moors at Culloden, the beauty of Skye, or the small and cozy feel to the city of Edinburgh. He is no less able in conveying the ambience of the sporting events large and small, and the pageantry of formal events including a royal wedding. No more on that topic, or I'll give too much of the story away! There's plenty of political bickering within nationalist circles, and the long arm of the dirty tricks brigade in the secret services on both sides of the Channel cast a shadow over events, plus the formidable foes, the Hanoverians. What starts as a story where the possibility of modern violence (as against past violence) seems remote, develops into a climax of violence and even a touch of SciFi as a control mechanism. A good read!
To date this book is available only as an electronic version. It deserves to appear in hard copy.’

‘An interesting and unusual book in that the main theme of the book addresses a political reality that few Scots and citizens of the UK have thought about if independence ever comes again. Should Scotland become a republic or stay within the Commonwealth? The author takes this idea and moves at high speed (at times a little too fast) through the machinations of the factions who would or could be involved in such an independence scenario at some time in the predictable future. Easy to read and a page turner ideal for the beach or travel and, best of all, leaves you with a significant issue to ponder.’  

The Stuart Agenda by Alan Calder published by willowmoonpublishing .com  
Kindle and other reader versions available at and and from Barnes and Noble. Paperback edition available from