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Traditional Scottish Food - a menu from the olden days.

Here's traditional Scottish food from old menus. Inspirational or just weird stuff? Ptarmigan, powsowdie, crimped skate and much more. Sheep's head anyone?!

Traditional Scottish Food

Here is a menu of traditional Scottish food for a celebration. It would have been served on a special occasion a couple of centuries ago - making it appear to us quaint and old-fashioned (and with some parts of it possibly unattainable!) now. But it may have some relevance if you are looking to reproduce this type of Scottish menu at a celebration.

A record of traditional Scottish food was compiled by the wife of an Edinburgh publisher and appeared originally in 1826. Amongst many other recipes and food tales, 'The Cook and Housewife's Manual' also gives a complete bill of fare for a St Andrew's Night or Burns Night celebration or any other Scottish national dinner. I have reproduced it here for interest only (with brief explanatory notes).

The Scottish menu below follows a format that has a ‘remove’: according to my old Chambers’ Dictionary defined as ‘a dish to be changed while the rest remain’.

The menu below is well worth a look for its flavours but follow this link for recipes for traditional Scottish dishes.

First course - Friar’s Chicken or Old Scots Brown Soup - (Remove – Braised Turkey)

The chicken part involves making a broth with veal and adding eggs just before serving. Sir Walter Scott ( in ‘The Fortunes of Nigel’ - and I ain’t planning on reading it any time soon) says it was a favourite of King James VI. Meanwhile, the soup is a meat-based long-simmered concoction with slivers of rump-steak added towards the end.

  • Brown Fricassee of Duck
  • Potted Game , Minced Collops

What’s with this ‘brown’ word again? Potted game is probably self-explanatory while minced collops are an early version of today’s Scottish ‘mince’ – still an everyday element in traditional Scottish food. Except that it has an optional addition of oatmeal or barley among other flavourings.

haggis, of various breeds, for sale in a Scottish butcher

haggis, of various breeds, for sale in a Scottish butcher

(Pictured here) Haggis in variety in a Scottish butcher shop. (Sometimes still called a flesher in Scots.) To me, it looks like several lesser haggises paying court to the King Haggis at the back. But maybe I’m reading too much into this. By the way, I don’t know anyone who makes their haggis at home.

 

Haggis

– well, you’d have to have that somewhere, wouldn’t you? An icon of traditional Scottish food.

Salt Cod, with egg sauce ~
(Remove – Chicken Pie)
~ Crimped Skate

– the salt cod is a once common way of preserving the fish, in Scotland and further afield, while the crimped skate was a fairly widespread recipe beyond Scotland too. In my home town, an east-coast fishing port, skate had a reputation as an aphrodisiac. My dad told me that. At least I think that was what he was saying….wait a minute, he’d never have said that. Must be thinking of someone else. Probably an old fisherman.

Smoked Tongue ~ Tripe
in white fricassee

I don’t know about you but this sounds ghastly. Wouldn’t blame you if you skipped this course.

Salt Caithness Goose,
or Solan Goose

– solan goose was the name my father (again) used for the gannet – the northern gannet, morus bassanus. Nobody eats gannets now in Scotland, except for the men of Ness, at the tip of the Outer Hebrides in the west, who have special permission to take a certain number of fat chicks every season from the little rocky island of Sula Sgeir. Though the practice is vigorously defended by the local Gaels, the flavour of these ‘gugas’ is variously recorded but many descriptions seem to include the word ‘vile’. OK, an acquired taste (perhaps as in ‘eat up – it’s your heritage’). This is traditional Scottish food for extremists!

Sheep’s Head Broth

– also called powsowdie. Best way to dissuade you from even thinking about this traditional Scottish food is to quote part of the recipe. ‘Choose a large, fat, young head. When carefully singed by the blacksmith, soak it and the singed trotters for a night….Take out the glassy part of the eyes….then split the head with a cleaver.‘ All right, that’s enough.

(1 Remove – Two Tups Heads and Trotters) ~
(2 Remove – Haunch of Venison or Mutton, with wine sauce and currant jelly)

– tups are sheep, so, no escape from the heads, then? Venison is widely available and popular – the roasting needs care as it is such a lean meat.

Second Course

Second course? Well, that’s what it says in the original. More like ‘final wave’. Anyway, this section moves seamlessly into puddings after a savoury start comprising

Roast fowls, with Drappit Egg,
or Lamb’s Head Dressed

– ‘drappit’ here is ‘dropped’, hence poached. Sorry about the head again, but at least it’s a small one this time.

 

Buttered Partans ~ Small Pastry ~ Stewed Onions

Scallops - just don't overcook 'em.

Scallops - just don't overcook 'em.

Partans are edible crabs, one of the few words that came into Scots (I mean into the northern form of ‘English’ that we speak) from Gaelic. We’d certainly use the word at home. Seafood is a growing component in modern Scots cuisine and widely available – for example, scallops (pictured above), plus what we would have called ‘pra’ans (prawns) sometimes referred to as Norway lobster (Nephrops) or (if posh) langoustines. And lots more. I’m getting really hungry writing this.

Calves-foot Jelly ~ Rich Eating Posset in a China Punch Bowl ~ Blancmange

Aha! The puddings have arrived. This must be third course. The not exclusively Scottish posset is basically a curdled-milk pudding, using some acidic liquor to curdle.

Apple-puddings in Skins ~
Small Pastry ~ Plum-damas Pie

For once, almost self-explanatory – but plum-damas is prune. You have been warned.

A Black Cock, or three Ptarmigan

– just in case one of your guests leans back and says ‘that was lovely, but what I’d really like to finish off with is a ptarmigan‘. Odd to modern tastes, these game birds at the end. Blackcock or black grouse are not that common in Scotland these days – try upper Glen Lyon, that’s where I saw them last. Ptarmigan are our high-altitude grouse, much disturbed by hill-walkers and skiers, though tame by nature and thus easily hunted in the bad old days.

If you want to see a ptarmigan, then there is one on the Applecross page, link below. Also links to Scottish food for special occasions like Burns Night and St Andrew’s Day.  Or find out about Scottish high tea...all just here...