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Lamb with Lemon Dumplings

Today (30 July 2004) sees  the highlight of the year in the Muckle Toun o the Lang Holm, the Border town of Langholm, as the Common Riding is held once again. The name Wayne R Irving will be added to the long list of elected cornets who have led the riders out from the town to ride the boundaries of the old common grounds, following the recital of the 'The Cryin of the Langholm Fair'. Horse racing and athletics follow on the picturesque setting of the Castleholm.
 
Langholm Common Riding holds a special place in the hearts of all those born in the Muckle Toun and visitors on the last Friday of July every year include many exiles who are drawn back home for that special day. One such regular was Scotland's greatest poet of the 20th century Hugh MacDiarmid. Born Christopher Murray Grieve on 11 August 1892 in Arkingholm Terrace, Langholm, he spent the majority of his life away from his birth-place but returned as often as possible for the Common Riding. Under the pen name Hugh MacDiarmid, he was the inspiration of the Scottish Literary revival and was a founder member of The National Party of Scotland in 1928. He contributed regularly to the Scots Independent over many years. Indeed the Scots Independent was launched in the same year, 1926, as his greatest masterpiece 'A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle'.
 
Many in Langholm had an ambiguous outlook on the outspoken MacDiarmid, especially after comments he made in his autobiographical book 'Lucky Poet', but now the town proudly proclaims Langholm as the birth-place of Hugh MacDiarmid. You can now follow 'The Hugh MacDiarmid Trail' from his birth-place in Arkingholm Terrace to his last resting plce in Langholm Cemetery. All within comfortable walking distance. A simple headstone marks the grave of this most remarkable Scot but a more unusual reminder of the poet stands overlooking the Muckle Toun and some of MacDiarmid's favourite countryside. The walk to the MacDiarmid Memorial is well worth while - you can drive up to it but it just isn't the same! The Memorial by sculptor Jake Harvey takes the form of a giant book depicting aspects of the poet's life. It is located beside the Langholm - Newcastleton road about two miles north of the town and is well sign-posted off the main A 7.
 
MacDiarmid's life and work was very much inspired by his childhood in Langholm and the surrounding countryside as he wrote in 'Lucky Poet' -
 
'My boyhood was an incredibly happy one. Langholm was, indeed - and presumably still is - a wonderful place to be a boy in....These were, indeed, the champagne days - these long enchanted days on the Esk, the Wauchope, and the Ewes.'
 
The young Christopher Murray Grieve fully explored, as you can still do, the countryside surrounding the Muckle Toun and wrote 'Nae better playgroun could ever ha'e wished'. A countryside which is covered in sheep and inspires this week's recipe - Lamb with Lemon Dumplings.
 
Lamb with Lemon Dumplings
 
Ingredients :1 oz (25 g) butter; 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced; 2 medium carrots, peeled or scraped and thinly sliced; 4 oz (100 g) button mushrooms, wiped and halved; 1 lb (450 g) lean shoulder of lamb, trimmed and cut in 1 inch cubes; 1 medium turnip, peeled and diced; freshly ground black pepper; 1/2 pint (300 ml) dry cider; 1 teaspoon dried marjoram; 2 tablespoons single cream; 1 oz (25 g) flour; 1/4 pint (150 ml) white stock; freshly chopped parsley to garnish
 
Ingredients (Lemon Dumplings): 4 oz (100 g) self raising flour; 2 oz (50 g) shredded suet; salt and freshly ground black pepper; 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley; grated rind and strained juice of 1 lemon; little water to mix
 
Melt the butter in a large flameproof casserole, add the prepared onion, carrot and turnip and cook over a moderate heat for three to four minutes. Add the mushrooms and lamb and cook for three minutes, stirring to brown the meat evenly. Shake in the flour, cook for a further minute, then gradually pour on the stock - preferably hot - and the cider, stirring until the sauce boils and thickens. Add the dried herb and season well with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for forty minutes before adding the dumplings. To make the dumplings, mix the flour, suet, pepper, salt and parsley together in a bowl, add the lemon rind and juice, and mix with a little water to form a soft dough.Flour your handsand shape the dumplings into eight balls. Place them on top of the casserole, cover, and continue to simmer for a further twenty minutes until the dumplings rise to the top again and are light and fluffy. Just before serving, stir in the cream and garnish with parsley. Serves 4.

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