SCOTLAND is truly fantastic on Hogmanay and is widely acknowledged as the best place to see in the bells.
It really is a time for community spirit and for gathering friends and neighbours to celebrate memories of the past year and to toast the year ahead. We spent a wonderful Christmas with the family away from home this year, but we’ve made a point of returning in time for Hogmanay in Scotland. The truth is we Scots love any excuse for a party.
I remember New Year’s Eve celebrations, even when I was growing up, always being about locals gathering together, all bringing great food and, of course, plenty of drinks. Every good Scottish party ends with dancing too – that’s always the sign of an excellent night.
For us, the best way to celebrate the arrival of the New Year is to have a sociable meal with friends, enjoying the wealth of fantastic, seasonal, fresh, hearty produce that is on our doorsteps at this time of year.
One of my favourite celebratory winter ingredients is venison. Winter soups and stews are wonderful for warming up but, for me, Hogmanay warrants something a little more special. Venison really fits. It’s an incredible meat if it’s sourced and cooked in the right way. I always ask my gamekeeper to hang my venison for ten to 12 days to ensure the meat is tender and full of flavour.
I find venison always goes down well with everyone at a party or gathering with friends. The deer’s diet of grass and vegetation gives it real depth and is at its absolute best at this time of year if you source it from a quality supplier. And this beautifully vibrant beetroot coleslaw matches the natural colour and flavour of the venison perfectly. The sprouts add some bright green and are a brilliant way to use up any Christmas leftovers, making this a perfect plate that not only looks but also tastes hugely celebratory.
Drinks are obviously an important part of any Hogmanay celebration, and if you’re hosting a party it can be fun to greet your guests with a cocktail. One of my favourites is my own take on the negroni. It is a classic bartender favourite, but it’s a very bittersweet aperitif so can be an acquired taste. It’s normally served with gin, but I like to make it with brut champagne at this time of year so it feels bit more festive. It also makes it a bit lighter and more refreshing so everyone can enjoy it. If you serve it in a tumbler, your guests can sip it slowly before dinner.
A great dessert is another way to share the good times, but often a Hogmanay cocktail can be a wonderful way to end a meal with friends instead. There are so many great things you can do and it gives people something a little different to toast the bells with.
One of our favourite cocktails is a real after-dinner warmer – the whisky renaissance. What I love about this cocktail is that it tastes and smells so fabulously festive. You get a lovely fragrance in the room from the addition of the spices, such as star anise and cinnamon, as well as the orange. It’s like a spirit version of mulled wine – perfect if you’re popping outside to watch the fireworks as midnight approaches.
This cocktail is best served warm. You can add hot water to warm the brandy glass first, to heat the drink, but this does dilute it a little – which is perfect for some but not others. The way we love to serve it, which also creates a bit of theatre for your guests, is to use another glass below.
The first step is to take a tumbler or whisky glass and pour in a small amount of boiling water. You can then place your brandy glass of Whisky Renaissance on top, tipped slightly to the side so it fits perfectly. You just need to leave it there for five to ten minutes until it warms, and the aromas will fill the room.
It’s a lovely touch and never fails to impress guests. But, most importantly, it also tastes delicious and is the perfect end to a memorable night with friends, setting off the New Year on just the right foot.
Roasted Rack of Venison with Spiced Red Cabbage
½ medium-large red cabbage
olive oil for cooking
½ onion, peeled and sliced
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
pared zest and juice of 1 orange
50g soft light brown sugar
50ml white wine vinegar
400ml red wine
1 dessert apple
1kg rack of roe deer venison on the bone
vegetable oil for cooking
1 thyme sprig
redcurrant or rowanberry jelly
First, prepare the cabbage. Cut out the core and finely shred it. Heat a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat and add a generous drizzle of olive oil. Add the onion and sweat for two to three minutes, then add the cabbage and cook for one to two minutes.
Add the star anise, cinnamon and some salt and pepper and cook for another one to two minutes to release the flavours. Now add the orange zest and sprinkle in the sugar.
Add the orange juice and wine vinegar and let it bubble to reduce down. Pour in the red wine and port. Add the sultanas and leave to cook gently for 40 minutes. Peel, core and dice the apple. Add to the cabbage, toss to mix and set aside.
Meanwhile, for the venison, heat the oven to 200˚C/gas mark 6. Heat a large non-stick ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat and add a drizzle of oil. Season the venison joint on both sides with salt and pepper and place in the hot pan. Colour the meat well on all sides, for about three minutes. Add the butter to the pan and let it melt and foam, then add the thyme and baste the joint with the foaming butter.
Transfer the pan to the oven. Roast the venison for 15 minutes, then check; the meat should still be pink inside. Transfer to a warm platter and leave to rest in a warm place for ten minutes. Save any juices in the pan.
Slice the venison and arrange on warm plates with the braised cabbage. Reheat any pan juices and drizzle over the meat. Add a spoonful of redcurrant jelly and a sprinkling of pepper to serve.
25ml malt whisky
25ml VSOP cognac
12.5ml P/X sherry
10ml sugar syrup
1 dot Mozart chocolate bitters
1 star anise
Add the first six ingredients to a brandy balloon. Stir to combine. Add hot water to a whisky glass and allow your drink to warm by resting the balloon glass on its side over the glass. Garnish with cinnamon stick and star anise.
Chef’s Champagne Negroni
30ml vermouth (try Carpano Antica Formula)
50ml Philipponnat brut rose
Stir Campari and vermouth in a large ice-filled rocks glass. Add the champagne. Stir lightly to combine but not to lose the sparkle. Finish with a twist of orange peel and serve.