Today my Scottish friend Gwen of An Island Family By Grace is sharing about her country’s traditional foods. I’ve made her traditional Scottish oat cakes and they were easy to make and tasty. While you can’t always go to bonnie Scotland, you can always bring a little bit of Scotland to your family around the dining table.
According to a quote from comedian Mike Myers, “most Scottish cuisine is based on a dare”. If you are squeamish about organ meats and offal, the quote could apply to our ‘national dish’, haggis. However, traditional Scottish foods make up a wide variety, particularly if you look at the different geographical areas of the country.
Scotland may be a small country, one of the 4 nations making up the United Kingdom, but our native foods range from kippers (smoked herring fish), on the east coast, to black pudding (blood sausage), on the Western Isles, to many other things in between.
In Aberdeenshire, Fife, and the central lowlands, oats were traditionally grown, so a common breakfast was porridge, (known in the US as oatmeal). The oats are cooked in water, with salt, and stirred with a spurtle rather than a spoon. Another common use of oats would be in cracker-like oatcakes, using ground Scottish pinhead oatmeal, rather than the rolled oats used in porridge. You can see my recipe for Scottish Oatcakes here.
North East Scotland
I was born on the north-east coast of Scotland, and there are many distinctive foods there which are not common in other parts of the country. For example, butteries (a plain pastry made with- you guessed it- butter!), bridies (a folded-over pastry containing mutton and onions, vaguely similar to the Cornish Pastie from the south of England), and stovies, and mixture of mashed potatoes and minced (ground) lamb or beef.
With Scotland being a small nation with an extensive coastline, and over 790 islands, including the one my family lives on in the Hebrides, seafood is of course often on the menu. As in the rest of the UK, fish and chips shops, where you can buy deep fried, battered fish such as cod or haddock, served with chunky deep-fried chips (fries), with a good helping of salt and vinegar, are found all over Scotland. More traditional seafood dishes however, would be things such as Cullen Skink, a soup containing haddock, potatoes and onions, or rollmop herring, which is pickled. Recently our family caught our own mackerel, which we had fried, with bread and butter!
Other Scottish Foods
Soups and stews are popular traditional foods, probably due to the necessity for some added warmth at many times of the year here! Away from the coasts, Cock a’ Leekie soup, which includes chicken, leeks and other vegetables is well-known, and Scotch Broth, which contains pearl barley, and dried beans or pulses in a mutton stock base, is still popular.
Rich families would have eaten native Scottish game such as venison, grouse and pheasant, and these are still hunted on large Scottish estates today.
There are varieties of cheeses which are native to Scotland, such as the cream cheeses Crowdie, which dates back to the Viking invasions, and Caboc, which is rolled in toasted oats, in a log shape.
Haggis is eaten along with neeps (turnips), and tatties (potatoes), particularly on January 25th, Burn’s Night, in honour of famous Scottish poet Robert Burns.
Cakes and Sweets
The various parts of Scotland boast different types of pastries and cakes, such as Selkirk Bannock, a heavy fruit cake from the borders of Scotland, but of course in the past, poorer Scottish families would not have had access to sugar. Probably for this reason, there are not a huge number of specifically Scottish desserts, however Crannachan is one of them, and is made from whipped cream, honey, fresh raspberries, toasted oats, and sometimes, Scotch whisky.
Food in Scotland Today
Sadly, although many Scottish families like my own still eat a variety of traditional foods of Scotland, the standard Western diet is widespread, and Scotland is now rated second in the world for levels of obesity. However, there remain many traditional foods for sale here, and there are more and more small companies being set up which sell traditional and local delicacies.
If you would like to do a unit study or just a wee bit of summer learning on Scotland with your children, here are some useful resources:
- Outline Map of Scotland
- Tom Kitchin talks about seasonality and food– BBC Education video clip of a Scottish chef talking about seasonal and local foods in Scotland.
- Hebridean Island Life Unit Study– a post from my own blog about the unit study we did at the start of this school year.
- Learning About Scotland- Food for Thought– a Scottish Government website, with printable PDF files on the way we grow and catch food, the Scottish food industry, and Scottish food and health.
- Stornoway Black Pudding– BBC Education clip about the campaign for geographical protection for the famous Stornoway black pudding.
- Haggis Making Video– Actually a You Tube playlist of many different Scottish foods, including how haggis is made.
Do you have any favourite traditional foods, Scottish or otherwise? Please share them with the rest of us!
About the Author
Gwen is a 39 year old Christian, who is married to her husband of 17 years, and mum to 4 children, aged 7 to 14. She lives with her family on one of the Scottish Hebrides islands, and is currently expecting her 5th baby. Gwen blogs about home education, faith and family at An Island Family By Grace.
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