Traditional Scottish Food And Drink
Surprisingly varied traditional Scottish food and drink
Despite its reputation for requiring a certain dash of bravery from its consumers, Scottish food is surprisingly varied.
Yes, you will find the wonderfully controversial 'haggis' on every Scottish menu (and in most chip-shops for that matter) but when it comes to Scottish food, haggis is merely the tip of the iceberg.
Scottish chefs typically combine a variety of seafood and Scottish meat produce such as Aberdeen Angus beef with a number of delicious local vegetables. Fruit is often used to create sauces, purees and sorbets to compliment these largely meat-based meals. Scottish cheese, especially goat's cheese is also a regular feature on Scottish menus.
As a result, Scottish restaurants tend to serve up hearty fare complimented by unique and largely unexpected flavours. Not even the French could turn their noses up at that! If you browse through the menu of the Stac Polly restaurant in Edinburgh, you will be taken aback by the sheer range and diversity of traditional Scottish dishes on offer.
In my opinion, you have not had a truly Scottish experience if you haven't tried the local produce. We might not have 'fois gras' but we have many tasty and memorable 'culinary' delights that you will struggle to find elsewhere. Don't leave Edinburgh without trying them...!
The World Famous Haggis
After years of fooling the English into believing that the haggis was a four-legged creature residing in the haunted valleys of the Scottish Highlands, it was finally revealed that this 'creature' was simply a man-made dish.
Perhaps it was the claim that the haggis had two legs shorter than the others so as to walk in a straight line on the mountain-side that eventually gave the game away...
The reality of the situation is, for some, far more ghastly. The haggis is effectively a sheep's stomach filled with a sheep's heart, liver and lungs, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, salt and stock. Cracking! Waste not....want not.
The stomach should simmer for around 3 hours before being sliced open (to the dulcet tones of Robert Burns' poem 'Address To A Haggis') allowing the contents to literally 'spew out'.
Still with me? Eat this surprisingly delicious stew-of-sorts with turnip and potatoes (neeps and tatties) so you can claim to have enjoyed the most traditional Scottish dish of them all.
It will rank alongside other wonderful life-changing moments like passing your driving test and your wedding day. Don't believe me......?
After conquering the culinary beast that is the haggis, black pudding should be a walk in the proverbial park. Available in every chip shop in Scotland, the black pudding is a local favourite and particularly tasty when drowned in brown fruity sauce.
On entering the 'chippy' simply recite the line, "a black pudding supper please" (black pudding and chips) to warm the cockles of your heart.
What's in it you ask? Well there's no sheep's stomach, I'm afraid. In its place, however, you get pig's blood. Combine that with some fat and oatmeal and you have the humble black pudding.
Of course, Scotland is not the only country where the black pudding lives so it is not strictly Scottish food. However our version is very often covered in batter and deep fried to add a crispy shell. Until you drown it in brown sauce, that is.
So when you order your full Scottish breakfast at 9am on a Sunday morning and the waitress asks, 'mushrooms or black pudding?', you know what to do!
There is nothing better than a good meal with a story to go with it. Stovies is a traditional Scottish meal stemming from times when families were large and food was relatively scarce.
Families would often take the leftovers from the previous night's meal, throw it all together and tuck in. Scottish food at its best! Out of such admirable resourcefulness, stovies was born.
Common ingredients are potatoes (unavoidable in Scotland, it's even a popular surname), onions, beef and lard. The heart's best friend!
Due to its somewhat cheap and cheerful nature, you will struggle to find this dish on any menu, anywhere. So make it yourself!
Nevertheless, stovies is often served at ceilidhs (traditional Scottish dancing party) along with Scottish ale (beer) and whisky to give the participants a spring in their step and a break from their normally exemplary diet.
There are not many enjoyable dishes out there made from leftovers!
Praise be to thee, Irn-Bru, the greatest of all 33cl canned soft drinks!
The recipe for Irn-Bru (pronounced Iron Brew) has never been publicised. There is good reason for that. It's just too valuable. Irn-Bru is only available in Scotland. There is good reason for that. It would spell the end the world's leading soft-drinks.
Pop into any supermarket, newsagent or drinks vendor and purchase a can of this traditional Scottish soft drink and enjoy it in all its orange glory.
Irn-Bru is rumoured to have magical properties making it Scotland's number one hangover cure.
If you should venture into one of Edinburgh's many nightclubs you may see party-goers sipping away on a mysterious orange liquid. Irn-Bru tastes so good with vodka, bottles of the stuff are widely available in bars and clubs.
Scotland's favourite biscuit! Such is the popularity and quality of shortbread, it can be found all over the world. Yet there's nothing like a slice of shortbread to finish off your lunch while wandering down the High Street!
In fact, a couple of slices of shortbread would probably suffice for an entire due to its high fat content and the fact that shortbread is incredibly filling. Two slices usually silences all stomach rumbling.
While whisky is our most important drinks export, shortbread is our most important food export. Put them together and you have a champion combination!
Dentists in Scotland have been making a fortune from Scottish tablet for years. The general consensus of opinion is, however, that tablet is worth losing your teeth for. Yes people, Scottish food single-handedly keeps the dentistry field going...
Tablet is effectively semi-hard chunks of sugar, milk and butter. The mixture is boiled and allowed to crystallise. Sometimes other ingredients such as nuts and vanilla are added.
This confectionery product is widely available in Edinburgh especially along the High Street and in the old town where the vast majority of the tourist shops are located.
Tablet comes in bar form, in boxes and sometimes bags and makes a great gift for someone. Just remember to get them a tube of toothpaste too.
Scottish Macaroon Bar
This is without doubt my favourite confectionery product. Scottish macaroon bars consist of a fondant centre covered in chocolate with coconut sprinkles on top. Delicious.
Apparently, this particular recipe was coined when confectioner John Lees attempted to make a chocolate fondant bar and made a mess of it. In his anger he threw coconut over the top of the bar and my favourite candy was born!
Nowadays, Lees' Original Macaroon Bar is rather unsurprisingly the most popular and readily available macaroon bar on the market. You can buy this in most good newsagents and supermarkets.
However, you will also find other varieties of macaroon bar in the same tourist shops that sell Scottish tablet. Enjoy!
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About the Author
Robbie Leys is a writer for edinburgh-insider.com, an Edinburgh tourist information site providing tips, recommendations and hidden gems from the locals.