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Beef Cooked in Claret

This week we clear up a query regarding the use of the nine of diamonds playing card used as an illustration in a recent issue of The Flag.  The card is known as 'The Curse of Scotland' and seems to be named as such from the time of the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692.  It is taken to be a reference to the nine lozenges displayed on the coat of arms of the Dalrymples of Stair.  John Dalrymple, 1st Earl of Stair and Secretary of State for Scotland, and King William were the men behind the infamous massacre.

Another explanation is that the card is similar to the arms of the Duke of Argyle, who was instrumental in bringing about the despised Union of 1707:  or again, some hold that 'Butcher' Cumberland scribbled the order of "No Quarter" on such a card at Culloden in 1746.

Others say the 'Curse' is the nine of spades; and give us the reason that news of a great defeat was once brought to the capital written on the back of such a card.  But whatever disasters are associated with either the nine of diamond or spades, they are nothing compared to the one which will be marked next week at Petticur, Kinghorn, in Fife.

719 years ago at that spot, the accidental death of Alexander III marked the end of 'The Golden Age' of Scottish history.  As the historian James Halliday has pointed out Scotland has enjoyed no luck since that unhappy day. 

Sunday 20 March 2005 will see the annual commemoration of 'The Golden Age' at the Alexander III Monument at Petticur at 3pm.  Car parking is available at the nearby Kingswood Hotel, Burntisland.  The main speaker will be David R Ross, Convener of the Society of William Wallace.  This year in August to mark the 700th anniversary of the murder of Sir William Wallace David is to walk in his footsteps from Robroyston to Smithfield, London.  Visit for full details.  We wish David every success in his endeavour which hopefully will be an inspiration to all Scots.

At the time of his death Alexander III was due a massive wine bill to the merchants of Bordeaux and this week's recipe combines Scotland's favourite wine, claret, and her finest meat product - meat.  

Beef Cooked in Claret

For the meat:  4 tablespoons oil;  3 lb (1.5kg) stewing steak, cut into 1.5 inch (4cm) cubes;  5 cloves garlic, crushed;  2 tablespoons flour;  1 bottle fruity, young claret;  salt and freshly milled black pepper; 1 teaspoon sugar;  bunch of fresh herbs

For the trimmings:  5oz (150g) lean bacon;  6-8 very small onions;  14oz (400g) button mushrooms, chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 300F / 150C / Gas Mark 2
Heat the oil in a frying pan and brown the pieces of meat.  Put into the casserole, add the garlic and sprinkle over flour.  Leave uncovered in the oven to continue browning for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time.  Add wine, season lightly, add herbs.  Cover and simmer for 3 hours or until the meat is tender.
Meanwhile cook the trimmings.  Heat a frying pan and fry the bacon till lightly brown.  Add the onions and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes.  Then add the mushrooms, stir, cover and cook gently for another 10 minutes.  Keep aside till serving.
Remove meat from the oven and stir in the trimmings.  Heat through for five minutes and serve with chopped parsley and boiled potatoes.

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