Archive for the ‘scotland’ Category

Family Friend on Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys

Family friend, Anne-Mary Paterson, author of Pioneers of the Highland Tracks, is going to be on Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys this Wednesday.  If she isn’t on in person, she will have contributed in the Dufftown to Aviemore segment.

Saint Andrew’s Day is on its way!

The radio is telling me that it is  Friday week until St. Andrew’s Day.  I’ve been planning for a while, but it looks as if the menu is going to be the same as last year:

Salad:Lanark Blue and Walnut Salad

Soup: Cullen Skink

Main Course:

* the Medley of Roasted Roots
* Venison Medallions in Cumberland Sauce,

* Orkney Fudge Cheesecake

Shock and Awe!

The SNP has announced that it would allow for sme sex unions to become legal in Scotland!

Ministers in the Scottish Parliament have confirmed they would bring forward a bill on the issue, indicating the earliest ceremonies could take place by the start of 2015.

I have to admit that this is pretty shocking news since Scotland has been fairly religious in the past with the National Covenant and not celebrating Christmas until fairly recently.  This is the same stock that the US religious right hail, although we could say the Northern Irish or Welsh try to be religious in the religiousity department.

I’d like to think this signifies that there may be hope for the US to get its shit together, but that may be too much to ask for.

Robbie Burns–The Slave’s Lament

This poem came up during last night’s celebration. There was discussion about Scotland’s part in the slave trade and that Burns almost worked in a plantation. Burns probably have supported the occupation movement since he was for the underdog and downtrodden. Doggone mentioned the the Selkirk grace in her comment to the previous post, which was our opening grace:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.

Anyway, this poem came up and I thought I would add it to my commonplace book and put it out there for others to appreciate:

The Slave’s Lament


It was in sweet Senegal that my foes did me enthral,
For the lands of Virginia,-ginia, O:
Torn from that lovely shore, and must never see it more;
And alas! I am weary, weary O:
Torn from that lovely shore, and must never see it more;
And alas! I am weary, weary O.

All on that charming coast is no bitter snow and frost,
Like the lands of Virginia,-ginia, O:
There streams for ever flow, and there flowers for ever blow,
And alas! I am weary, weary O:
There streams for ever flow, and there flowers for ever blow,
And alas! I am weary, weary O:

The burden I must bear, while the cruel scourge I fear,
In the lands of Virginia,-ginia, O;
And I think on friends most dear, with the bitter, bitter tear,
And alas! I am weary, weary O:
And I think on friends most dear, with the bitter, bitter tear,
And alas! I am weary, weary O:

Wild Dancer commented:

recommend christine Kydd’s version on youtube (on The Complete Songs of Robert Burns: Volume 1) and for the history see the scottish archives listing

Getting ready for guests

Whilst listening to Get it On With Bryan Burnett on BBC Radio Scotland.

He’s hosting a Burns’ Night celebration on the radio.  They are piping in the Haggis, and I have yet to finish the tatties ‘n neeps and boil the cabbage.

But they started at 18.10, and our guests have just arrived!

Gardners Sauce for Haggis

OK, what is a better way to commemorate Burns’ Night than mentioning haggis?

In this case, Gardeners Sauce for Haggis which was made by Edinburgh Preserves who decided to stop making the stuff for some odd reason. I’m not sure why since it was really good.

And Edinburgh Preserves is still in business, which I found out whilst walking in my local market.  I believe they still use the name Gardeners as well.

For all of those who want to buy this sauce and have been trying to buy this sauce, you may want to contact Edinburgh Preserves to say that it was a mistake to take this product off the market.

While you are at it, you may want to sample some of Edinburgh Preserves other products.

Scottish Drinking habits

It may sound odd that at one time the Scottish drink of choice was not whisky (considered crude and provincial) or beer, but claret (Bordeaux Wine). Plentiful supplies of Bordeaux wine were the legacy of Scotland’s medieval ties to France, “the auld alliance,” and every Scottish gentlemen was a connoisseur, with his own preferred vintages and his private cellar. After 1707, as the English taste for port or sherry began to seep northwards, continuing to drink claret became almost a patriotic act. John Home even composed a short verse about it:

Clear-eyed and proud the noble Caledonian stood,
His claret old and his mutton good.
“Let him drink port,” the Saxon cried,
He drank the poison, and the spirit died.

A gentleman or writer would be routinely identified as a “two-” or “three-bottle man,” depending on how much claret he consumed at a meal or single sitting.

Scottish distilling began during the 11th century in Christian monastaries.  The first written mention of Scotch whisky is in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, 1495. A friar named John Cor was the distiller at Lindores Abbey in the Kingdom of Fife. The first taxes on whisky production were imposed in 1644, causing a rise in illicit whisky distilling in the country. Around 1780, there were about 8 legal distilleries and 400 illegal ones. In 1823, Parliament eased restrictions on licensed distilleries with the “Excise Act”, while at the same time making it harder for the illegal stills to operate, thereby ushering in the modern era of Scotch production. Two events helped the increase of whisky’s popularity: first, a new production process was introduced in 1831 called Coffey or Patent Still. The whisky produced with this process was less intense and smoother.

Second, Phylloxera destroyed wine (and cognac) production in France in 1880. Within a few years, wine and brandy had virtually disappeared from cellars everywhere. The Scots were quick to take advantage of the calamity, and by the time the French industry recovered, whisky had replaced wine as the preferred spirit of choice.

It was during the 19th Century that the tipple began to switch from wine to whisky! So, you don’t need to feel to tied to whisky for a “traditional” Scottish meal, unless it’s Burns Night when whisky is the natural tipple due to the connection to Burns, who said that “Freedom and Whisky Gang Thegither”.

There are indeed Scottish wines as well. I am not sure how good they are or their availability!

Deep-fried Mars bar

No shit! I do have to admit to thinking this was a joke when I first heard about it.  It is an ordinary Mars bar normally fried in a type of batter commonly used for fish and chips. It originated at chip shops in Scotland as a novelty item, but was never mainstream. Since various mass media have reported on the practice since the mid 1990s, in part as a commentary on urban Scotland’s notoriously unhealthy diet, the popularity of the dish has spread.

Rumour is that it was invented in the Haven Chip Bar in Stonehaven, near Aberdeen, in 1995. The first recorded mention of the food was in the Aberdeen Evening Express following a tip off phone call to their journalist Alastair Dalton that a chip shop in Stonehaven had been deep frying Mars Bars for local kids.

Here’s the recipe if you are perverse enough to want to try this. I have the “luck” of having a chip shop that makes this nearby if I ever have the urge (that was the “inspiration” for this post).

* 1 Mars bars or 1 Milky Way bar
* 1 cup plain flour
* 1/2 cup cornflour
* 1 pinch baking soda
* milk or beer
* oil (for deep frying)

1. Chill the chocolate bar by keeping it in the fridge, but don’t freeze it.
2. Mix the flours and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) together.
3. Add milk (traditional) or beer (which gives a lighter result) until you get a batter with the consistency of thin cream.
4. Heat the oil until a small piece of bread will brown in a few seconds, but don’t allow to smoke.
5. Remove wrapper from chilled chocolate bar.
6. Coat completely in batter.
7. Carefully lower into hot oil and fry until golden brown.
8. Serve, with ice cream or french fries, if you’re so inclined

One restaurant that serves this calls it a “A serious indulgence! For health and safety reasons, we can’t give you seconds of this.”

I can’t imagine wanting seconds of it.

But, it would be an interesting St. Andrew’s Day after!

And you thought Haggis was disgusting!

Posted 10/11/2011 by lacithedog in Deep-fried Mars bar, food, scotland

Good Lord! Its been over 21 years of Rab C. Nesbitt!

And for some strange reason, I broke down and bought the first 8 seasons on DVD (Along with the scripts–in case I miss something).  For those not in the know, Rab has a very thick Glaswegian accent.  Rab is the lowest of the low, an alcoholic on the dole.  Now, how the hell could that be funny?

Yes, extremely politically incorrect.

The Series began in 1988 on BBC Scotland with the Christmas special entitled Rab C Nesbitt’s Seasonal Greet.  It didn’t become a regular series until 1990.  It’s a much darker form of comedy than most people are used to (even by British Standards): after all it is about an unemployed, Glaswegian alcoholic!  topics ranged from alcoholism to Neo-Nazis to cannibalism to STDs. It has also featured David Tennant as a transexual barmaid who, despite highly speculated gender, holds the affection of everyone.

Here’s an intro to Rab:

Haggis Crisps?

OK, so I am getting ready for a Saint Andrew’s Day feast, as well as doing some forward planning for Burns’ Night and came up with Mackies Haggis and Cracked Black Pepper Crisps. These could be a wild nibble for Burns’ Night!

Yes, I’ve got them!

Lanark Blue and Walnut Salad

So far the St.Andrew’s Day menu is:




* Lanark Blue and Walnut Salad



Main Course

* the Medley of Roasted Roots
* Venison Medallions in Cumberland Sauce,

* Orkney Fudge Cheesecake

Of course, one could argue about the propriety of using something called “Cumberland Sauce” in a Saint Andrew’s Day Menu–so, that is a tentative option! suggests raspberry vinegar in this recipe.  The recipe is something that would be preferable to have had made for one before going forth and trying it (and I loath tomatoes!).

Anyway, here is the recipe for Lanark Blue and Walnut Salad:

Lanark Blue is a Scottish blue cheese that is made from ewe’s milk on a farm near Biggar, south of Edinburgh. Lanark Blue is based on the Fench cheese Roquefort but its tangy and creamy texture belongs only to itself. Here we will take a look at how to make a Lanark Blue and Walnut salad.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

* Mixed salad leaves
* 4 fresh figs
* 115g of Lanark Blue cheese, cut into small chunks
* 75g walnut halves
* 45ml walnut oil
* The juice of 1 lemon
* salt
* black pepper


1. Mix the walnut oil, juice of a lemon, salt and pepper together in a bowl. Whisk well until the mixture starts to ‘thicken’ and becomes emulsified.
2. Take the mixed salad leaves and wash and dry them thoroughly. Tear the leaves gently into managable bite size pieces. Place the leaves into a bowl and toss in together with the dressing.
3. Transfer the mixed leaves and dressing into four different serving plates, making sure that there is a good enough balance of colour and texture of mixed leaves in each plate.
4. Cut the figs into quarters and add 4 to each individual plate.
5. Take the Lanark Blue cheese and sprinkle the chunks over each plate.
6. Sprinkle the walnuts over each plate also, making sure to ‘break’ them up roughly with your fingers whilst sprinkling them.

If you are not sure of which lettuce is best for mixed salad leaves, you could take the issue out of your own hands and buy a pre-mixed bag of lettuce from your local supermarket. If you insist on purchasing the salad leaves individually may I suggest looking for dark green salad leaves, including rocket, and red salad leaves and, to add interest and a bite, some kind of crunchy leaves, such as ‘Little Gem’. It does, of course, come down to the individuals choice so it is worth trying different types to get the taste/texture that you prefer.

If you are not a fan of figs then it is easy enough to make this without them. As an alternative though, rather than doing without anything, why not try nectarines or peaches instead of figs. Simply, wash and cut the nectarines or peaches in half. Make sure to discard the stone. Cut each half into three or four chunks and serve on the salad. If the skin of the nectarine or peach appears to be too tough, simply remove it.

The soup course is still up for grabs with crab soup looking as if it will be what I’ll have over cullen skink and some other choices from Carol Wilson and Christopher Trotter’s Scottish Traditional Recipes.

Nibbles?  Scottish salmon is always on.  There is a packet of smoked salmon nibbles which may be the easier option, but I can get Arbroath smokies.  I think it depends on who I’m having over to join me for this.

Arbroath smokies for Saint Andrew’s Day?

OK, Saint Andrew’s Day is at the end of this month and I am getting my menu together. I was unable to come up with venison for some reason last year, not sure whether it was I decided to prepare late or what. Also, the prices I was being quoted were outrageous for medallions, but I found some for £10.

One down on the menu!

Arbroath Smokies are smoked haddock, which are the speciality of the town of Arbroath. The European Commission registered the designation “Arbroath Smokies” as a Protected Geographical Indication under the EU’s Protected Food Name Scheme, acknowledging its unique status in 2004. That means the only place you can buy them is the town of Arbroath! or from this place online.

I can thank (blame?) Neil Oliver for turning me on to these, but they are tasty as heck–even if the only place you can get them is Arbroath! I have to admit the temptation to order them from this place. Arbroath Smokies Direct says they will deliver smokies in vacuum packages to anywhere in the UK! That sounds like a really a good deal! I do have to admit that I am truly tempted even though I know that smokies are best fresh. But, that’s not always a possibility!

So far there is:

I’m not sure what to use as a starter and if I want more courses than just the appetiser, main, and desert.  I’m not sure if Cullen Skink would be a headache to make.

Maybe some sort of smoked salmon nibbles, but they aren’t Arbroath smokies!

I’m using these cookbooks as resources in addition to what I have above:

  • Paul Harris and Karen Bailey’s A Little Scottish Cookbook
  • Christopher Trotter’s The Scottish Kitchen
  • Carol Wilson and Christopher Trotter’s Scottish Traditional Recipes
  • Sue Lawrence’s Scottish Kitchen

Any other ideas? I have some old menus that I can look at, but this is pretty much a tenative menu.

The nice thing is that Whisky is optional.  Actually, it was traditional to drink Bordeau wine prior to phylloxera.  Whisky really didn’t come into popularity until late in the 19th Century!  So, wine with dinner!

Unless it’s Burns’ Night!

Scottish Haka

I’m still trying to find out which episode of Chewin’ the Fat the Scottish Sobriety Test is on.  That had me over at Youtube.

OK, this is funny.  I’ve seen the Maoris doing the Haka up close and personal at a hangi.  I have to admit its funnier than threatening.  I was a guest which meant I wasn’t going to laugh.

Or do what these lads do…

Little Jock Elliot

This is the Borders ballad Little Jock Elliot:

Wha daur meddle wi’ me?
Wha daur meddle wi’ me?
My name is little Jock Elliot,
And wha daur meddle wi’ me?

I ride on my fleet-footed grey,
My sword hangind doun by my knee,
My name is little Jock Elliot,
And wha daur meddle wi’ me?

In raids I ride always the foremost,
My straik is the first in melee,
My name is little Jock Elliot,
And wha daur meddle wi’ me?

I ne’er was afraid of a foe,
Or yield I liefer wad die;
My name is little Jock Elliot,
And wha daur meddle wi’ me?

I’ve vanquished the Queen’s Lieutenant,
And garr’d her troopers flee;
My name is little Jock Elliot,
And wha daur meddle wi’ me?

Wha daur meddle wi’ me?
Wha daur meddle wi’ me?
My name is little Jock Elliot,
And wha daur meddle wi’ me?

Border Reivers–An armed society is a polite society

Yes, Robert Heinlein’s quote from Beyond This Horizon where duels may easily occur when someone feels that they have been wronged or insulted that is attributed as a custom that keeps order and politeness. The pro-gun crowd has latched onto this cliche from Science fiction rather than looking at a time and place where the citizens were armed, and things were far from polite, the Border between England and Scotland during the 14th through 17th Centuries.

Reiver comes from “reive” is an early English word for “to rob”, from the Northumbrian and Scots Inglis verb reifen from the Old English rēafian, and thus related to the archaic Standard English verb reave (“to plunder”, “to rob”)—they were robbers. This is a society that is probably far closer to what the “gunloons” want than the Western Frontier of the US.

England and Scotland were frequently at war during the late Middle Ages and Tudor period prior to the joining of the Kingdoms under the Stuarts beginning with James VI of Scotland (I of England) . During these wars, the livelihood of the people on the borders was devastated by the contending armies. Even when the countries were not at war, tension remained high, and royal authority in either kingdom was often weak. The authorities in the area could be just as corrupt as the citizenry. The fact that the area was pretty much a lawless zone usually made people a target for depredations rather than conferring any security. They looked to their extended families for security and a “code of law”.

There were other factors which promoted a predatory mode of living. Among them was the survival in the Borders of the inheritance system of gavelkind, by which estates were divided equally between all sons on a man’s death, so that many people owned insufficient land to maintain themselves. Also, much of the border region is mountainous or open moorland, unsuitable for arable farming but good for grazing. Livestock was easily rustled and driven back to raiders’ territory by mounted reivers who knew the country well. The raiders also often removed “insight,” easily portable household goods or valuables, and took prisoners for ransom.

The reivers were both English and Scottish and raided both sides of the border impartially, so long as the people they raided had no powerful protectors and no connection to their own kin. Their activities, although usually within a day’s ride of the Border, extended both north and south of their main haunts. English raiders were reported to have hit the outskirts of Edinburgh, and Scottish raids were known as far south as Yorkshire. The main raiding season ran through the early winter months, when the nights were longest and the cattle and horses fat from having spent the summer grazing. The inhabitants had to live in a state of constant alert, and for self-protection, they built fortified tower houses. They also built fortified barns known as bastle houses> These buildings are a common characteristic of this area and period.

During periods of nominal peace, a special body of customary law, known as Border Law, grew up to deal with the situation. Under Border Law, a person who had been raided had the right to mount a counter-raid within six days, even across the border, to recover his goods. This Hot Trod had to proceed with “hound and horne, hew and cry”, making a racket and carrying a piece of burning turf on a spear point to openly announce their purpose, to distinguish themselves from unlawful raiders proceeding covertly. They might use a sleuth hound (also known as a “slew dogge”) to follow raiders’ tracks. These dogs were valuable, and part of the established forces (on the English side of the border, at least). Any person meeting this counter-raid was required to ride along and offer such help as he could, on pain of being considered complicit with the raiders. The Cold Trod mounted after six days required official sanction. Officers such as the Deputy Warden of the English West March had the specific duty of “following the trod”.

Far from being a polite society, the Borders were a lawless and violent society where brawling was commonplace. The border region has produced some of the best soldiers. The reivers were considered among the finest light cavalry in all of Europe. After meeting one Reiver (the Bold Buccleugh), Queen Elizabeth I is quoted as having said that “with ten thousand such men, James (VI) could shake any throne in Europe.” Reivers served as mercenaries, or were forced to serve in English and Scots armies in the Low Countries and in Ireland.

I should add that it’s perfectly safe these days and a super place to visit for tourism!


George MacDonald Fraser: The Steel Bonnets: Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers
Alistair Moffat: The Reivers: The Story of the Border Reivers
Robert Borland: Border Raids and Reivers
Philip Nixon: Exploring Border Reivers History
Keith Durham and Angus McBride: The Border Reivers (Osprey Men-at-arms Series)
Keith Durham and Gerry Embleton: Border Reiver 1513-1603 (Osprey Warrior Series)
Keith Durham and Graham Turner: Strongholds of the Border Reivers: Fortifications of the Anglo-Scottish Border 1296-1603 (Osprey Fortress Series)

ITV series The Reivers And The Making Of The Borders


Posted 23/05/2011 by lacithedog in scotland