Traditional Scottish food

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Iain R Spink with his Arbroath Smokies © James Fraser Photography
Arbroath Smokies

Iain R. Spink shows how he smokes on location in the traditional way.

The A to Z of Winter in Scotland
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  • Haggis and whisky
    Haggis and whisky
  • A bowl of porridge at the Viewfield House Hotel, Isle of Skye
    A bowl of porridge at the Viewfield House Hotel, Isle of Skye
  • Award-winning Scotch pies for sale at the Sugar & Spice bakers in Auchterarder, Perthshire
    Award-winning Scotch pies for sale at the Sugar & Spice bakers in Auchterarder
  • A platter of delicious Scottish shortbread beside a decanter full of Scotch whisky
    A platter of delicious Scottish shortbread
  • Stornoway Black Pudding
    Stornoway Black Pudding

Let us tempt your taste buds with traditional Scottish fare, or why not embark on a culinary adventure to Scotland and sample for yourself the sumptuous dishes the country is renowned for?

Breakfast

You’ll be surprised at what you don’t get for breakfast in Scotland. There is everything from cold starters, including an assortment of juices, yoghurts, fresh fruits, preserves and cereals, to a steaming bowl of porridge, crispy toast, a full Scottish breakfast and a cup of tea or coffee. Impressive, isn’t it?

Full Scottish breakfast

A full breakfast usually consists of a link sausage, bacon, eggs, tattie scone (potato scone), fried mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, buttered toast and the Scottish favourite - black pudding. It certainly is a very complete meal, which will leave you feeling rather full when you finish your last bite. Served typically at breakfast time, but it is also common to feature on the menus as an ‘all day’ dish.

Porridge

No Scottish breakfast would be complete without the ubiquitous dish of porridge. Traditionally made with oatmeal and water and cooked with a touch of salt, it’s stirred with a wooden spurtle, which prevents the porridge from congealing, and served hot in a bowl. It is also popular to add a little milk and toss in some dried fruits as well as sweeten it with a generous sprinkle of light brown sugar.

Kippers

You may also come across strongly flavoured kippers (cold smoked herring) served for breakfast. Once the quintessential British breakfast food in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, kippers are now enjoying a revival. Split in butterfly fashion, from tail to head, they are salted in brine and smoked over smouldering woodchips, and with only 125 calories per fillet and packed with protein, they provide a healthy way to start a day. Find out more about Scottish seafood.

Meat products and dishes

Black pudding

Essentially, black pudding is a mixture of suet, oats, blood, barley and a special blend of spices stuffed in a length of protein casing. You’ll often find it in a Scottish breakfast served in B&Bs up and down the country, but it has recently become popular on the menus of top-class restaurants. It combines very well with pork, chicken, game and seafood as well as fruit such as pears, apple and rhubarb. Such is its importance that Stornoway Black Pudding has been awarded special protected status.

Haggis

Scotland’s national dish is another type of savoury pudding and has been immortalised by Robert Burns’ famous poem, ‘Address to a Haggis.’ Its origins are similar to that of the black pudding, with the main ingredients consisting of minced offal of a sheep, pig or cow mixed with suet, onions, oatmeal, spices and seasoning. Traditionally it was boiled in the stomach of the slaughtered animal but today synthetic casings are more widely used. Slightly spicy with an oaty texture, it is traditionally eaten with neeps and tatties (swede and potato) but it appears in Scottish restaurants and pubs in many other forms, from burgers to bon bons. Sometimes it’ll come as part of a Scottish breakfast, or often you can pick up a haggis supper from a chip shop. Find out more about haggis.

Stovies

The basic ingredients of this winter warmer are meat, onions and potatoes. This stew was traditionally made from the leftovers of a Sunday roast dinner but you’ll find it very easy to make from scratch. Recipes can vary, using chicken, beef, lamb or even tinned corned beef as the meat, and some versions include diced up carrot or swede. Often it is served up with oatcakes and pickled beetroot on the side.

Lorne sausage

Lorne sausage is sometimes referred to as sliced or square sausage for obvious reasons; sausage meat, either pork or beef, is set into a square shape and thinly sliced into portions. Grilled or fried, it is usually eaten in the morning as part of a full Scottish breakfast or in a soft roll.

Sweets and desserts

Cranachan

This simple Scottish dessert comprises of fresh raspberries, whipped cream, honey and toasted oats. For an added punch, a dram of whisky can be added. Top chefs such as Delia Smith and Nigel Slater have put forward their own recipes of how this traditional dish should be prepared and served while Jamie Oliver and Heston Blummental have even suggested cranachan sundae recipes.

Atholl Brose

In recent years Atholl Brose has become another name for the popular dessert cranachan. Alternatively, it can be a traditional Scottish cocktail. The drink, named after the 1st Earl of Atholl, shares many of the same ingredients as cranachan such as honey, cream, whisky and oatmeal brose - oatmeal water.

Tablet

Tablet is a traditional Scottish sweet made from sugar, condensed milk and butter. This sugary confection is similar to fudge but with a harder, grainy texture. It is often flavoured with vanilla, and sometimes has nut pieces in it.

Shortbread

Scottish shortbread is a luxurious biscuit that you can really sink your teeth into. It is made using a generous amount of butter which gives it a crumbly, melt-in-the-mouth texture. They are traditionally baked in a round, flat shape, pricked with a fork and sprinkled with caster sugar.

Clootie dumpling

A clootie dumpling is a rich fruit pudding made with flour, breadcrumbs, dried fruit (sultanas and currants), suet, sugar, spice, with some milk and sometimes golden syrup to bind it. This classic Scottish dessert is best served with a drizzle of cream and a dram of whisky.

Fast food

Scotch pie

This savoury snack is a small, double-crust meat pie filled with minced meat. This traditional Scottish pie has an outer shell of hard crust pastry allowing you to hold the pie while eating it which makes it popular with take-away restaurants, bakeries, and at outdoor events such as football matches. The type, quantity and quality of the ingredients used by an individual piemaker are a closely guarded secret. This gives the scotch pie its distinctive individual character that separates it from a scotch pie made by another producer.

Bridie

A bridie or Forfar bridie is a type of meat pastry or pie, originally from the town of Forfar. The filling consists of minced beef, onions and seasoning. Forfar bakers traditionally use shortcrust pastry but similar products on flaky pastry or puff pastry are occasionally found.

Fish and chips

Fish and chips are one of the nation’s most popular takeaway dishes. The dish consists of battered cod or haddock deep-fried and served with chips. You will find chip shops or 'chippies' in almost every town across the country, the best often found in coastal towns within sight of the fishing boats tied up in harbour. Made before your eyes, fresh and hot in your hands, it's an incomparable takeaway feast.

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