Gastronomes consider Scottish food to be heavy, deep fried, stodgy, oatmeal laden, and full of saturated fats.
It is true that haggis is still popular with cash-strapped university students but you will be hard pressed to find haggis on restaurant menus in this ruggedly beautiful country, famous for among other things, its seafood, smoked fish, whisky, and inventors such as Dunlop (tires), the television, jam, the trench coat, among others.
Scotland never lacked a culinary heritage, but people were poor and could hardly afford to dine out. The best food through the 16th to 19th centuries could be found in homes. Scottish women have always been outstanding bakers and cooks (who can forget the taste and texture of a properly baked Scottish short bread cookie), taking enormous pride in everything they cooked.
The culinary scene is changing rapidly. In the 16th century, the French chefs at the court of Mary Queen of Scots were influential in changing some of the old ways of cooking. Even today, French words still appear Scottish culinary language, i.e jaggot is a leg of lamb (from gigot in French); gooseberries are called grogerts (from French groseilles).
Now that Scotland is more industrialized, affluent and connected tot eh world, and open to all kinds of imported foods, the culinary scene has started to change rapidly.
Markets are brimming with fresh lobsters, scallops, langoustes, scampi, shrimp, haddock, halibut, salmon, squid, smoked fish, oysters, and mussels.
A huge variety of fresh produce and carefully sorted European fruits can be found everywhere, along with traditional root vegetables, cabbage, and potatoes.
Well-trained and innovative young cooks travel to continental Europe, work with famous chefs for a while, and return to open their own restaurants, or take employment in hotels to run huge kitchens feeding thousands daily.
Scotland, being cool, cannot produce wine, but brews excellent beers, and who can beat the taste of Scotch whisky.
Surprisingly, whisky goes well with food and complements many dishes very successfully. Needles to say, an appropriate beer can be found to enhance practically any light or heavy meal.
Below, find few suggestions you might want to try:
Black pasta with scallops (recipe provided) a light delicate, sweetish whisky would be an excellent match.
Serve it diluted with a little water to “unlock` subtle aromas and flavours. Glenkinchie 10 year old, Glenfiddich, Old lowland malt, Highland Park are some recommended.
Braised halibut (recipe) works beautifully with peaty whiskies like Bowmore, Macallan 12 year old, and Laphroaig 10 year old Islay malt.
All are well balanced, distinctly flavoured with a little iodine, to enhance fish specialties and smooth on the palate.
For most people, dessert and Scotch whisky are incompatible. They can simply not imagine one to complement the other, but as always, there are exceptions, and here is one.
Place a light whisky (Dalwhinnie 16 year old) in the freezer for 24 hours and serve it to complement an intense chocolate tart and see how beautifully the two work together. You can also create a Rusty nail (equal amount of Scotch and Drambuie) and marvel at the harmony of chocolate and this delightful cocktail
Needless to say you can match pasta with a light Scottish ale and the halibut with a heavy brew.
Black pasta with scallops
375 grams (12 oz) black pasta
12 large scallops
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 – 4 cup blended whisky
1 cup fish stock
2 tbsp orange juice
1 – 4 cup unsalted butter (in four pieces)
salt and pepper to taste
1 – 4 cup chives (sliced)
Cook pasta according to directions on the package.
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan and add scallops frying for two minutes on each side.
Remove and set aside in a warm oven.
Add whisky to pan and reduce by half, add stock, and orange juice and reduce by half.
Remove from heat, whisky in butter one at a time. Season
Toss sauce with pasta. Divide equally on plates and nestle scallops on top.
Garnish with chives.
Braised halibut with salsa verde
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 180-gram halibut fillets
1 cup hot fish stock
Heat the pan; add oil and fry fish for three minutes one side. Remove pan from heat turn over fish and add stock.
Cover and let rest for five minutes.
1- 3 cup rough chopped Italian parsley
2 tbsp capers surfine
1 clove of garlic
3 anchovy fillets
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tbsp lemon juice
1-2 cup extra virgin olive oil
pepper to taste
Place parsley, capers, garlic, anchovy fillets, and breadcrumbs in food processor and process until finely all ingredients are well mixed. Add lemon juice and olive oil. Process until a sauce forms. Season to taste.
Serve with steamed potatoes sprinkled with dill.