Better wait on the cook than on the doctor. ~ Scottish Proverb
While writing about 15th century Scotland, I researched the types of food they ate. My findings revealed the ancient Scots had little meat. Their diet consisted mostly of dishes made from oats, barley, and vegetables. Scottish country cooking traditionally used the abundance of fresh local produce to create simple, yet hearty fare.They did eat a limited amount of mutton, but the sheep were kept for wool. Some raised cattle for market and milk. Some ate wild game they stalked and killed, but little time for hunting remained after farming the runrigs and the chores of everyday life. Villagers cooked over a central fire in their black houses or cottages. Cooks in the castles and estate houses of the lairds had more opportunities to devise recipes for meat and game. If the family lived along the sea or loch shore, fish and seafood were plentiful.
A staple of Scotland through the ages is haggis made from sheep pluck. Following is a modern recipe for haggis. You may wish to give it a try.
1 sheep stomach
1 sheep liver
1 sheep heart
1 sheep tongue
1/2 pound suet, minced
3 medium onions, minced
1/2 pound dry oats, toasted
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried ground herbs
Rinse the stomach thoroughly and soak overnight in cold salted water.
Rinse the liver, heart, and tongue. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook these parts over medium heat for 2 hours. Remove and mince. Remove any gristle or skin and discard.
In a large bowl, combine the minced liver, heart, tongue, suet, onions, and toasted oats. Season with salt, pepper, and dried herbs. Moisten with some of the cooking water so the mixture binds. Remove the stomach from the cold salted water and fill 2/3 with the mixture. Sew or tie the stomach closed. Use a turning fork to pierce the stomach several times. This will prevent the haggis from bursting.
In a large pot of boiling water, gently place the filled stomach, being careful not to splash. Cook over high heat for 3 hours.
Serve with mashed potatoes, if you serve it at all. ~ Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown
Scots of old used small amounts sugar and sweetened dishes with honey. Some of the old Scottish recipes have been revised for modern cooks.
The following recipes are from a cookbook compiled by Johanna Mathie entitled Favorite Scottish Country Recipes, Traditional Fare from Hearth and Home.
Porridge Oat Pastry
4 ounces flour
4 ounces porridge oats
4 ounces butter or margarine
Pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
Set oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8-inch flan tin. In a bowl, mix together the flour, oats, and salt. Rub in the butter or margarine, then mix in the egg and knead with floured hands. Press the pastry into the flan tin, fill with baking beans and bake blind for 10 to 12 minutes. The pastry case is now ready for a filling as required. This pastry can also be used as a topping on meat and fish pies.
6 – 8 rabbit joints
Seasoned flour, to coat
2 ounces butter
1 large onion, sliced
2 streaky bacon rasher, diced
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon mustard
1 pint chicken stock
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh parsley
Set oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash the rabbit joints in cold water, pat dry with kitchen paper and roll in the seasoned flour. Melt the butter in a flameproof casserole and brown the rabbit pieces. Add the onion and bacon and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Dissolve the sugar and mustard in the stock and pour over the rabbit. Add the bayleaf and season with salt and pepper. Bring slowly to simmering point, cover and cook in the oven for 1½ to 2 hours or until the meat is tender. Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.
In my work-in-progress, Aine MacLean and her betrothed, William Munro, make a dangerous journey from the Isle of Mull on the Atlantic side of Scotland, to Cromarty Firth on the North Sea side. They ate the typical Scottish fare along the way with an unexpected dish to augment their diet. Following is an excerpt from the story.
My brother ran to me and gathered me in his arms. “Are you hurt, Sister?”
“Nae, Lachie. Sir William reached us in time. Breda and I are fine,” I lied because my body shook from head to toe.
Pushing me away to search my eyes, he said, “You’re shaking. I dinna believe you.”
William turned to the group of guards studying the boar. “Skin and dress the animal. He will make good eating for our journey.”
“Ye’ll have another fine trophy for Fàrdach Castle’s great hall, Laid,” One of the Munro luchd-taighe said with a grin.
“He is a fine one for certain, but dinna keep the head. We have nae room to carry the thing.” William moved to stand over the great smelly beast. Then he turned to me. “We’ll board the birlinn. You’ll be safer there if all is finished here.”