Scottish cuisine

Scottish cuisine

Scottish cuisine is the specific set of cooking traditions and practices associated with Scotland. It has distinctive attributes and recipes of its own, but shares much with wider European cuisine as a result of foreign and local influences both ancient and modern. Traditional Scottish dishes exist alongside international foodstuffs brought about by migration.

Scotland's natural larder of game, dairy, fish, fruit, and vegetables is the integral factor in traditional Scots cooking, with a high reliance on simplicity and a lack of spices from abroad, which were often very expensive. While many inveterate dishes such as Scotch broth are considered healthy, many common dishes are rich in fat, and may contribute to the high rates of heart disease and obesity in the country. In recent times greater importance has been placed on the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables, but many Scots, particularly those of low incomes, continue to have poor diets, which contributes to Scotland's relatively high mortality rate from coronary heart disease.[1]

Scottish cuisine is enjoying a renaissance. As of 2009, fourteen restaurants with Michelin stars served traditional or fusion cuisine made with local ingredients (15 Michelin stars in total)[citation needed]. In most towns, Chinese and Indian take-away restaurants exist along with traditional fish and chip shops. Larger towns and cities offer cuisine ranging from Thai and Japanese to Mexican, Pakistani, Polish and Turkish.



Scotland, with its temperate climate and abundance of indigenous game species, has provided a cornucopia of food for its inhabitants for millennia. The wealth of seafood available on and off the coasts provided the earliest settlers with their sustenance. Agriculture was introduced, with primitive oats quickly becoming the staple.

In common with many mediæval European neighbours, Scotland was a feudal state for a greater part of the second millennium. This put certain restrictions on what one was allowed to hunt, therefore to eat. In the halls of the great men of the realm, one could expect venison, boar, various fowl and songbirds, expensive spices (pepper, cloves, cinnamon, etc.), as well as the meats of domesticated species. From the journeyman down to the lowest cottar, meat was an expensive commodity, and would be consumed rarely. For the lower echelons of Mediæval Scots, it was the products of their animals rather than the beasts themselves which provided nourishment. This is evident today in traditional Scots fare, with its emphasis on dairy produce. It would appear that the average meal would consist of a pottage of herbs and roots (and when available some meat or stock for flavouring), with bread and cheese when possible.

Before Sir Walter Raleigh's introduction of the potato to the British Isles, the Scots' main source of carbohydrate was bread made from oats or barley. Wheat was generally difficult to grow because of the damp climate. Food thrift was evident from the earliest times, with excavated middens displaying little evidence of anything but the toughest bones. All parts of an animal were used.

The mobile nature of Scots society in the past required food that should not spoil quickly. It was common to carry a small bag of oatmeal that could be transformed into a basic porridge or oatcakes using a girdle (griddle). It is thought that Scotland's national dish, haggis, originated in a similar way: A small amount of offal or low-quality meat, carried in the most inexpensive bag available, a sheep or pig's stomach. It has also been suggested that this dish was introduced by Norse invaders who were attempting to preserve their food during the long journey from Scandinavia.[2]

French Influence

During the Late Middle Ages and early modern era, French cuisine played a role in Scottish cookery due to cultural exchanges brought about by the "Auld Alliance",[3] especially during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary, on her return to Scotland, brought an entourage of French staff who are considered responsible for revolutionising Scots cooking and for some of Scotland's unique food terminology.

French derived cooking terms

"Ashet", Assiette-a large platter.[4]
"Cannel", Cannelle-Cinnamon
"Collop", from Escalope
"Gigot" (play /ˈɪɡət/) Leg of Mutton - Gigot.[4]
"Howtowdie", Hétoudeau-a boiling fowl (Old French).[4]

With the growth of sporting estates and the advent of land enclosure in the 18th century, harvesting Scotland's larder became an industry. The railways further expanded the scope of the market, with Scots grouse at a premium (as today) on English menus shortly after the 12th of August.

20th and 21st centuries

Haggis, neeps and tatties

Scotland, in common with the other parts of the United Kingdom, suffered during the 20th century. Rationing during the two World Wars, as well as large scale industrial agriculture, limited the diversity of food available to the public. Imports from the British Empire and beyond did, however, introduce new foods to the Scottish public. But processed foods have become more and more popular, particularly among the youth. The schoolchildren of Glasgow, for example, have been reported as consuming a large amount of processed foods.[5]

During the 19th and 20th centuries there was large scale immigration to Scotland from Italy, and later from the Middle East, Pakistan and India. These cultures have influenced Scots cooking dramatically. The Italians reintroduced the standard of fresh produce, and the later comers introduced spice. With the enlargement of the European Union in the early years of the 21st century, there has been an increase in the population of Eastern European descent, from Poland in particular. A number of speciality restaurants and delicatessens catering for the various new immigrants have opened in the larger towns and cities.

Scottish foods

These foods are tradional to or originate in Scotland.


Cullen Skink
Baud bree
Cock-a-leekie soup
Game soup
Hairst Bree (or Hotch potch)
Partan bree
Scotch broth

Fish and Seafood

Arbroath smokies
Cabbie claw (Cabelew)
Ceann Cropaig
Crappit heid
Cullen skink
Eyemouth pales
Finnan haddie
Smoked salmon
Tatties and Herring

Meat, Poultry and Game

Ayrshire bacon
Black pudding, Red pudding and White pudding
Boiled Gigot of Mutton or Lamb
Forfar Bridie
Chicken tikka masala
Howtowdie with Drappit eggs
Kilmeny Kail
Mince and tatties
Mutton ham
Pottit heid (head cheese)
Potted hough
Roast Aberdeen Angus beef
Roast Haunch of Venison
Roast Grouse
Roast Woodcock/Snipe
Solan goose
Scotch pie
Square sausage


Curly Kail
Neeps and tatties (swede turnip) and potatoes)
Tattie scone (potato scone)





Dairy and Cheese

Bishop Kennedy
Dunlop cheese
Lanark Blue
Dunsyre Blue

Puddings and Desserts

Burnt Cream
Apple Frushie
Blaeberry pie
Carrageen Moss
Clootie Dumpling
Hatted Kit
Marmalade pudding
Tipsy Laird

Cakes, Breads and Confectioneries

Abernethy biscuits
Berwick cockles
Black bun
Caramel shortbread
Dundee cake
Edinburgh rock
Fatty Cutties
Festy cock
Granny sookers
Hawick balls
Jethart Snails
Lucky tatties
Moffat toffee
Pan drops
Pan loaf
Petticoat tails
Plain loaf
Puff Candy
Scots Crumpets
Selkirk Bannock, variations include Yetholm Bannock
Soor plooms


Dundee Marmalade
Rowan jelly
Spiced plums

Scottish beverages


90 shilling ale
80 shilling ale
70 shilling ale
India Pale ale
Atholl Brose
Ginger wine
Het pint
Heather ale
Scotch ale and beer
Scotch mist- a cocktail containing mainly whisky

Non Alcoholic

Irn Bru
Red Kola

Fast food

Scotland's reputation for coronary and related diet-based diseases is a result of the wide consumption of fast food since the latter part of the twentieth century. Fish and chip shops remain extremely popular, and indeed the battered and fried haggis supper remains a favourite. These have been joined in more recent years by outlets selling pizzas, kebabs, pakoras and other convenience foodstuffs. The west coast in particular is notorious for the amount of deep-fried food consumed, and for being the home of such dishes as the deep-fried pizza and deep fried Mars bar. Deep fried döner kebabs have also become notorious in Glasgow. An extreme example of this style of food is the Munchy box.[6]

In addition to independent fast-food outlets, in the sixties American-style burger bars and other restaurants such as Wimpy were introduced, and in the eighties, McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken appeared in Scotland.

Notes and references

  1. ^ David Eyre. "Scotland: Heart of the matter", BBC News Online, 2004-04-30
  2. ^ "Haggis History". MacSweens of Edinburgh. Retrieved 23 October 2006. 
  3. ^ Gail Kilgore. "The Auld Alliance and its Influence on Scottish Cuisine". Retrieved 29 July 2006. 
  4. ^ a b c Brown, Catherine (1989). Chapter 9: "Culinary Interchange". In: Scottish Cookery. Glasgow: Richard Drew Publishing. ISBN 0-86267-248-1.
  5. ^ Scottish executive publications-What Children eat. "Baseline research of implementation of recommendations of expert panel on school meals: hungry for success: baseline report". The Scottish Government. Retrieved September 3, 2010. 
  6. ^ "What is a Munchy Box?"". Retrieved 27 October 2009. 

External links

  • Food Stories — Explore a century of revolutionary change in UK food culture on the British Library's Food Stories website
  • Scottish Food Glossary — A glossary of food and cooking terms specific to Scottish cuisine.
  • Scottish Food — Scottish Food & Drink

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