Murtagh’s Gift to Ellen from Outlander
I caught a strange nonmetallic gleam in the depths of the box, and pointed. “What’s that?”
“Oh, those,” she said, dipping into the box again. “I’ve never worn them; they don’t suit me. But you could wear them — you’re tall and queenly, like my mother was. They were hers, ye ken.”
They were a pair of bracelets. Each made from the curving, almost-circular tusk of a wild boar, polished to a deep ivory glow, the ends capped with silver tappets, etched with flowered tracery.
“Lord, they’re gorgeous!” I’ve never seen anything so…so wonderfully barbaric.”
Jenny was amused. “Aye, that they are. Someone gave them to Mother as a wedding gift, but she never would say who. My father used to tease her now and then about her admirer, but she wouldna tell him, either, just smiled like a cat that’s had cream to its supper. Here, try them.”
The ivory was cool and heavy on my arm. I couldn’t resist stroking the deep yellow surface, grained with age.
“Aye, they suit ye,” Jenny declared. “And they go wi’ that yellow gown, as well. Here are the earbobs — put these on, and we’ll go down.”
Diana Gabaldon, Outlander (Chapter 31)
“Very sensible. I don’t imagine Mrs. Fitz would scream at sight of you,” I agreed. The bannocks were steaming gently in the cool air, and smelt heavently. I reached for one, the heavy boar’s-tooth bracelets clinking together on my wrist. I saw Murtagh’s eyes on them and adjusted them so he could see the engraved silver end pieces.
“Aren’t they lovely?” I said. “Jenny said they were her mother’s.”
Murtagh’s eyes dropped to the bowl of parritch that Mrs. Crook had thrust unceremoniously under his nose.
“They suit ye,” he mumbled. Then, returning suddenly to the earlier subject, he said, “No, she wouldna summon help against me. I was well acquent’ wi’ Glenna FitzGibbons, some time ago.”
Diana Gabaldon, Outlander, Chapter 31
MacRannoch was studying the wizened little man, trying to subtract thirty years from the seamed countenance.
“Aye, I know ye,” he said at last. “Or not the name, but you. Ye killed a wounded boar single-handed with a dagger, during the tynchal. A gallant beast too. That’s right, the MacKenzie gave ye the tushes — a bonny set, almost a complete double curve. Lovely work that, man.” A look perilously close to gratification creased Murtagh’s pitted cheek momentarily.
I started, remembering the magnificent, barbaric bracelets I had seen at Lallybroch. My mother’s, Jenny had said, given to her by an admirer. I stared at Murtagh in disbelief. Even allowing for the passage of thirty years, he did not seem a likely candidate for the tender passion.
Diana Gabaldon, Outlander (Chapter 36)
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)
Buttery and bacony appetizers inspired by Murtagh’s gift of wild boar tusk bracelets to Ellen.
Yield: 12 Boar Tusk Bracelets
- Egg – 1
- Prosciutto or Bacon – 12 slices
- Puff Pastry, thawed – 1 pkg (or make your own with the recipe below)
- Asparagus – 24 tips (about 2” long)
- Parmesan Cheese, grated – ¼ Cup
Preheat the oven to 425° F.
Beat the egg with 1 tsp water to make an egg wash. Line two baking sheets with parchment or a silpat (silicone liner). Cut the prosciutto or bacon slices in half lengthwise, so that you have 24 narrow strips.
On a lightly floured counter, roll out the puff pastry to a rectangle measuring about 8” wide and ⅛” thick. Use a sharp knife to cut 1” wide strips in the pastry. The cleaner the cuts, the better and more evenly the pastry will puff.
Brush 2 or 3 strips with the egg wash on BOTH sides. Cover the remaining strips with plastic wrap to prevent drying.
Holding an asparagus tip on to one end of a pastry strip, wrap the prosciutto/bacon around both, securing the asparagus to the pastry. Repeat on the other end with another asparagus tip and bacon strip.
Handling it gently, twist the pastry ends into a spiral, then lay it on the prepared baking sheet in a horseshoe shape, with the asparagus tips pointing towards the middle. Cover with plastic wrap and repeat for the 12 other tusks.
Dab the tusks with a little extra egg wash, sprinkle with grated parmesan and bake until golden, about 12 minutes. Rotate and turn the pan at 9 minutes, reshaping the tusks if necessary. Work quickly to get the oven door closed ASAP.
Cool on a rack and serve. Recrisp in the oven if necessary.
- The prosciutto becomes crispy and extra salty, while the bacon fat contributes a different, but equally delicious flavour. I made half and half, which seemed to go down well around here.
I interrupt this Outlander moment to draw your attention to the bacon sticks above. This is the way you can sneak Outlander into your Superbowl Party this Sunday.
He need never know.
To draw him even further off the scent, you could make a few of these thingies too — I promise, for better or worse, you won’t have any left of either.
Thanks for listening…you can scroll back up and read the excerpts again…I know you want to. ;) (or keep going for the puff pastry recipe…)
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)
Easier than traditional puff pastry, but still 3-4 hours work. Not for everyone, but I thought I’d throw the option out there just in case anyone’s interested. It beats the frozen stuff the way Murtagh killed that boar — with one hand tied behind its back.
Yield: approx 2lbs. (1 kg) puff pastry
- All Purpose Flour – 3 ½ Cups (440 g)
- Salt – 1½ tsp (9 g)
- Malt Powder (optional) – 1½ tsp (5 g)
- Butter, cold, ½“ cubes – 1½ Cups (340 g)
- Water – 1 Cup minus 1 tble (225 g)
- Lemon Juice – 1 tsp (5 g)
Combine flour, salt, optional malt and butter in a standing mixer on low speed, using the paddle attachment, until butter is the size of large marbles. Add lemon juice and almost all of the water (hold back about 10-20%), and continue to mix on low, adding water as needed to make a shaggy dough that just stays together. The dough may appear slightly dry, but it should hold together when pressed.
(To make the dough by hand, cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or two forks, then stir the water and lemon juice in with a wooden spoon. Use your hands to bring the dough together quickly, lest the heat of your hands start to melt the butter.)
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and press it into a flat rectangle about ½” thick. Wrap tightly with plastic and refrigerate for minimum 30 minutes.
Working quickly on a lightly floured counter, and being careful to use even pressure, roll chilled dough out to a sheet approx 12” x 30-36”. Fold in thirds like a business letter – you have just completed one single fold. Use the rolling pin to gently mark and X in the top of the dough. This helps the layers to adhere to one another.
If the dough is still cold and firm, repeat another fold immediately by rolling the dough towards the open ends until it is 30-36” long, then folding in thirds as above. Wrap and refrigerate 30-60 minutes. If the dough is becoming soft or sticky, cover and return to the fridge before completing the second fold.
Repeat the folding process for a total of 4 to 6 single folds, doing up to 2 single folds back-to-back. Rest the dough for 30-60 minutes between each set.
After all the folds have been completed, rest the dough for a minimum of 30 minutes, or up to overnight. The longer the rest, the easier it will be to roll out the final sheet.
Unless you have a long stretch of open counter to roll the dough out in one sheet, cut the dough in half with a very sharp knife and roll out the 2 sheets separately.
Roll each sheet out to approx 12” x 18” on a lightly floured counter using even pressure and stopping to let the dough rest, covered with plastic, for 5 minutes if it becomes difficult to roll.
- The Boar Tusk Recipe above uses 1 sheet of homemade puff. Reserve the other half for another use (or just make a double recipe of Boar Tusks — who am I to say?) ;)
- Rolled and ready sheets of dough can be gently folded, wrapped well and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 12 weeks.
- The malt helps to give the pastry a deep, rich colour.