The Secrets of Scottish Cuisine
The weather is getting colder, it’s almost Christmas and our homes smell fantastic! I don’t know about you, my lovely lads and lassies, but I am already thinking of all the delicious dishes I will be eating during these joyous days.
That is why I decided to do some research and learn as much as I can about the cuisine of Scotland, which I am sure it is something you all have thought about.
Scotland’s Most Famous Dishes
Scotland today has a very particular selection of dishes!
I think we all know the most famous one and it’s none other than haggis. It is rather delicious if you try it but, if you ask me, it’s better not to know what it’s made of since its basic ingredients are a sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs. But trust me when I say there is nothing better than eating homemade haggis on a cold and rainy day!
Another favorite dish of mine is the less known Cullen skink. The skink is a thick, creamy soup that includes potatoes, onions, and smoked fish! It’s heaven on a bowl, my friends.
Other well-known dishes of this beautiful country are porridge, bannocks, shortbread, scotch broth, and skirlie. Be sure to check out some of these recipes and, trust me, you will not be disappointed.
However, the Scottish cuisine was not always like that. So let’s take a small trip in time and see what the heroes of our books used to eat!
Scotland in the Middle Ages was not an isolated country, and that is why its cuisine was greatly influenced by that of Italy, France, Spain, and England, of course!
But don’t make the mistake and think that what they mighty Scotsmen ate back then was at all similar to what we eat today. For them, the most common meats included rabbits, pigeons, ducks and swans, peacocks and....even seals!
I don’t think any of us would eat these animals today. But don’t be alarmed, my lovely ones.
Back then, people had many different eating habits. Hunting was their number one source of food and eating meat was never something they would pass on.
A medieval banquet, complete with peacock, mid 15th century. Image source
Peasants’ diet was different of course compared to Lairds and Ladies. Their diet was mostly based on grains, fruits, and vegetables. The meat was rare.
A typical peasant family would grow vegetables, such as onions, potatoes, and leeks in their gardens and they might also have had a cow, which after a while they would sell.
It was a very different world than the one we are living in today.
But besides meat, the Scottish people also had a soft spot for fish. But not just any fish. They preferred to eat pike, eel, and lamprey. Fish was a popular choice among them for many reasons but the most important one was religion.
So, economic standing was not the only factor that affected people’s diets back then. A rather important component was the Church and its religious calendar of feasting and fasting.
But the biggest secret of how the Scottish dishes were so delicious is none other than seasoning. All the foods were mixed with herbs and spices, the most popular of which were garlic, rosemary, cinnamon, peppercorns, mint, root ginger, cloves and nutmeg.
I am sure you have noticed a basic ingredient missing from these spices. One which we use all the time! Well come on, think a little...
Well, it’s the salt of course. If you must know, salt was considered a major luxury and only Lairds and royal families were privy to it.
A Historic Cookbook
Fortunately, there is a rare cookbook written around 1390, that we can read it today, named “A Forme of Cury”. It basically offers a small glimpse of the many Scottish recipes based on swans, geese, rabbits and suckling pigs.
Among the many recipes found in this book, there is one called “The Cockatrice”. I am not sure if it’s something you want—or even can!—make, since the cockatrice is a legendary creature that was half serpent and half rooster. This recipe dictated that half a chicken should be sewn onto half of a roast suckling pig.
If you ask me, I prefer other recipes but it’s surely interesting to know what these amazing people were up to back then!
Well, drinking couldn’t be missing from an article about Scottish cuisine. Scotland is well-known for its amazing alcoholic drinks, the most famous of which is whiskey. However, in medieval times, ale was the most popular drink.
It was brewed most often by women in order to increase the family’s income. But besides its good taste, there was also another reason why ale was so popular. It was because it was more sanitary than water since the latter was very often unsafe to drink!
Ale was brewed from barley and the final product was thick and, sometimes, chewy.
I don’t know about you but I can already imagine a proper Scottish feast. A large table filled with mouth-watering food, delicious desserts and ale and Scottish music echoing in the hall.
Now I can’t wait to start cooking and I might even try some new recipes…
If you try one, please let me know!
Written by Maddie MacKenna