As Scotland decides on its future, we reflect on some of the nation’s tastiest culinary creations…
Scotland is known for its love of deep-fried Mars bars and haggis, but there’s so much more to its culinary repertoire than that – although, of course, we have to admit to being partial to both. Here is some of our favourite, and perhaps in some cases lesser-known, Scottish scran.
P.S. Apparently our blog’s name in Scottish is ‘Scunnered and Blootered’. Catchy title, eh?
Apart from being really fun to say, rumbledethumps to English types is basically bubble and squeak. It typically consists of potatoes, cabbage and onion, but can happily incorporate other vegetables, and is best made with leftovers to achieve the depth of flavour that the double-cooking imbues it with. A handful of grated cheese over the top goes a long way, too, and it can be eaten either a main dish or a side.
Possibly the heartiest, most comforting food in the world. Traditionally, stovies are meant to be made from Sunday roast leftovers – or whatever is left from the stove, hence the name – and generally include potatoes, onions, carrots, gravy and meat like mince, roast beef or corned beef, stewed in stock and lard. They’re best when they resemble a big brown lump of mash, but they can be more solid too. They can be served with oatcakes and are great for soaking up booze. Fed Up & Drunk’s Hannah says: ‘The first time I had them was towards the end of a family wedding in Scotland, when the drinks had been flowing far too freely, and I now crave them at the end of every night out – stodgy heaven.’
Probably one of our favourite Scottish dishes, as it is so rich, creamy and delicious. It’s similar to the thick sort of clam chowder you get in the US, but made with smoked haddock instead – sort of a cross between chowder and leek and potato soup. Traditionally, it’s a local specialty of the town of Cullen in Moray in the north east of Scotland and is made with a species of haddock found there, but it has become increasingly popular throughout Scotland (and the clever restaurants elsewhere in the UK). The rich, satisfying flavour means that it’s often served as a starter at formal occasions like weddings.
Is there anything better than fudge? What about extra-sugary fudge? That’s basically what tablet is. It’s made from sugar, condensed milk and butter, and is just like fudge but more crystalline and with a grainy texture. It’s probably the sweetest thing known to man – perfect for a pick-me-up but definitely not something to over-indulge on, unless you’ve got a free afternoon to loll around on the sofa in a sugar coma.
From the land of whisky and Irn Bru, the title for most drinkable drink is hotly contested, but in our humble opinion Drambuie, a whisky with heather honey, spices and herbs, is a strong contender for the top spot. When added to Scotch whisky, you have a Rusty Nail – one hell of a serious cocktail. As if the flavour isn’t Scottish enough, there’s even a story that Bonnie Prince Charlie invented the drink in his royal apothecary. The sweet flavour makes for a warming drink, so it’s ideal for battling Scotland’s infamous weather.
While many culinary creations have come out of Scotland, legendary Scottish shortbread really takes the biscuit for us. Good buttery shortbread is irresistible, and although it used to be a highly expensive item, reserved only for special occasions and out of reach of the masses, today it is exported all over the world; in fact, the famous Walkers Shortbread of Aberlour, Moray, is one of (if not the) biggest food exporter in Scotland. This beloved biscuit even has its very own holiday, National Shortbread Day, which takes place on January 6th each year.
Recipes have evolved over the years, but the traditional way of making shortbread is to use one part sugar, two parts butter and three parts flour. Our writer Sian tried her hand at an old-fashioned recipe, taken from The Scottish Cook Book (Amberley Publishing), a quirky little cookbook full of recipes from times gone by.
Old-fashioned Scotch Shortbread (from The Scottish Cook Book)
4oz plain flour
2oz rice flour
2oz caster sugar
Sieve the flours into a dry basin, add the sugar and mix together. Put in the butter and work the flour into it by hand, kneading it very well. No moisture of any kind should be added, although to a novice it may appear well nigh impossible to make a paste of the ingredients given. When the mixture has become perfectly smooth and leaves the side of the basin quite clear continue to knead for some minutes, then turn on to a floured board and form into one round cake about half an inch thick. Flute the edges and prick all over with a fork. Lay on a lightly greased and floured tin and bake in a rather slack oven for three quarters of an hour when the shortbread should be a pale yellow colour. Do not remove it from the tin until it is cold.
This shortbread keeps admirably but before using it should be heated through in the oven and allowed to cool, if it is not freshly made.