Food in Scotland – tis braw!!

I think what I expected in Scotland was a lot of overcooked meat, boiled potatoes and vegetables, stodgy heavy desserts, and haggis…. whatever the heck that was. Add to that what I’d heard about the full Scottish breakfast: porridge, oatcakes, poached eggs, pork sausage, bacon, blood sausage, haggis, sautéed mushrooms and grilled tomatoes. Let’s just say my expectations were not too high.

Our actual experience was quite different. To be fair, we did have one dinner that fit the stereotype, and all those breakfast options did appear, but for the most part we had wonderful meals featuring all of Scotland’s bounty: beef, lamb, seafood, vegetables, local fruits, and delightful desserts. As for haggis…. it is DELICIOUS; a blend of meat, peppery spices and oats that is very similar in taste and texture to the Hungarian hurka sausage that we love. And the Scots have all kinds of inventive ways of serving it, from hash to “lollipop” balls to layered like a mousse, with and without all kinds of yummy sauces.

As we travelled through the highlands, lowlands, and islands, we saw sheep and cows grazing free everywhere. There are at least 7x as many sheep as there are people, and even more cows. We saw miles of fields of hay being harvested as winter feed. We saw – and ate – brambles (blackberries) growing wild in the countryside. The proximity of the Gulf stream makes for a temperate climate where soft fruits like berries grow almost year round. Sweet strawberries were abundant. Just about every kind of vegetable grows there: from artichokes to zucchini. So much for the “neeps and tatties” (turnips and potatos) stereotype, although those 2 things are definitely mainstays! We also passed by numerous seafood farms for salmon, mussels and more, and checked out the fishing boats bringing in scallops, lobster, lagoustine, haddock and hake.

We made a point of “testing” scones each day at lunch. In general, Scottish scones are larger and somewhat denser than the English tea scones we were familiar with, but we enjoyed them nonetheless!

Here are a few of our favourite meals from the trip:

Dinner at Agua Restaurant in the Apex Hotel Edinburgh Centre. Both Our dinners at Agua began with warm crusty rolls and butter, were accompanied by generously poured California Riesling or Italian Sangiovese, and ended with coffee and a piece of fresh Scottish tablet (what we would call fudge; to Scots, “fudge” is the chewy version)Clockwise from to left: Ham hock terrine, dinner menu choices, Sticky toffee pudding, Isle of Mull Cheddar with sour cherry compote and oat biscuits, Sea Bream
L to R: App: Haggis crumble with mashed potatoes, béchamel sauce, crushed potatoes, sweet turnip mash, and pea sprouts (an upscale version of the iconic Scots “haggis, neeps and tatties”). Main: Chicken supreme with red wine jus, mashed potatoes and green beans. Dessert: Cranachan (stiffly whipped cream, whisky, raspberries and oats)
Dinner at the Inverness Palace Hotel. Apps: Freshly caught wild mountain haggis in Balmoral sauce, and chilled fantail of melon with forest fruits. Main: slow-braised lamb in its own gravy, with mint sauce, green beans, cauliflower florets and baby potatoes. Dessert: warm cherry morello flan with custard
A Typical Scottish scone served with jam, clotted cream, and a pot of tea. This one is from the Inverewe Gardens Cafe
Dinner @ The Kings Arms on the Isle of Skye. Left: App: Smoked Mackerel with horseradish cream. Mains from top: Sweet potato bean and spinach Vegetarian Rogan Josh, cauliflower, braised rice and coriander naan: Highland Beef Casserole with potatoes and carrots Dessert: Scottish ice creams
Dinner at Nevis Bank Inn, Fort William (our best dinner of the trip!!). Left to right: Haggis bonbons glazed with red onion marmalade, grain mustard and whiskey cream sauce; Goat cheese mousse with pickled carrots, pomegranate seeds and chickpeas
Pan-fried fillet of salmon with pea risotto, potato tuile and lemon garlic butter dressing; Cider-braised pork belly with creamy mashed potatoes, buttered greens and caramelized apple jus
Panna cotta with fresh berries and shortbread
Dinner at Loch Ness Inn, Drumnadrochit. L to R: Haggis balls in peppercorn cream: lamb stew with roast potatoes and sautéed “greens” (peas, snow peas, asparagus, green beans, cabbage, broccolini & baby zucchini); coconut panna cotta with pomegranate coulis and mango sorbet
Dinner @ Isle of Mull Hotel and Spa. L to R: Hebridean mushrooms with garlic toast and blue cheese cream sauce; Ardmore smoked salmon with apple and celery salad
Argyll chicken supreme with Parmentier potatoes and braised cabbage; Cod filet with smoked Pancetta cream sauce, Parmentier potatoes and braised cabbage
Smoked applewood cheddar with chutney, oatcakes and grapes; spiced red wine poached pear with honeycomb ice cream
Dinner @ Cuan Mor (“great harbour”) fresh haddock and chips
Dinner at the Black Bull / Kail-Yard Restaurant, Torbolton, South Ayrshire. Top: Haggis, neeps and tatties in whiskey cream sauce. Bottom L: Scottish beef rump roast over mashed potatoes, with braised carrots and turnips. Bottom R: classic sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream

By the way, “braw” is Scottish slang for brilliant….great….fantastic!


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