Scots Christmas Fare
Perhaps my favourite part of Christmas (after opening presents, of course), are the days spent feasting and picking at leftovers until you can’t possibly eat any more. Here’s a compile of traditional Scots Christmas fare, guaranteed to warm your cockles this holiday season. All recipes featured below come from Theodora Fitzgibbon’s book Traditional Scottish Cookery, first published in 1980 and found at a charity shop in Edinburgh (price – £2).
In the 1826 work The Annals of the Cleikum Club, author Dr Regdil wrote extensive recollections of feasts and dinner parties hosted by 17th century Scottish aristocrats. In it he wrote: “… I yield the Scots the superiority in all soups – save turtle and mulligatawny.”
Scotland has a long-standing and excellent reputation for soups, perhaps attributed to the Auld Alliance – the country’s long connection with France. Cock-A-Leekie soup likely originated in France as chicken and onion soup, but by the time it had made it’s way to Scotland in the 16th century, the onions were replaced with leeks. This soup is traditionally served at Christmas time banquets and at Burn’s Night supper, as well as an every day soup in winter.
- 1 boiling fowl about 4lb, (2 kg.) jointed or carcase, leg and wings of a bird.
- 3 chopped rashers streaky bacon
- water or stock to cover
- mixed bouquet garni of parsley, thyme, bay leaf
- salt and pepper
- 12 medium-sized leeks
- 1/4 lb. (125 g.) cooked, stoned prunes
Put the jointed bird, or carcase, legs and wings, and the bacon into a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and remove any scum. Add about 8 of the leeks, which have been well washed and chopped, the green as well as the white part, the herbs tied into a bundle, salt and pepper. Return to the boil, then simmer very gently for about 2-3 hours or until the chicken is cooked. Add a little more water if necessary but do not weaken the stock too much. Taste for seasoning, then strain, picking out the chicken, taking the meat from the bones and cutting it into small pieces. Add to the soup, together with the stoned prunes and the remaining chopped leeks and simmer very gently for not more than 15 minutes. It can be garnished with a very little cream and chopped parsley, but do not disguise the pure flavour too much.
Serves 8 if a whole bird is used, and at least 6 with the carcase etc.
This recipe comes from a Mrs. Buchanan in 1891, and is the traditional Scottish method of cooking turkey. At this time oysters were cheap and pentiful, forming part of the stuffing. It probably gets its curious name from the gobbling voice of the live bird.
- 1 hen turkey about 10 lb. (4.6 kg.)
- 2 oz. (50 g.) melted butter
- 1 pint (600 ml.) giblet stock, hot
- 1 heaped tablespoon redcurrant jelly
For the stuffing:
- 1 lb. (450 g.) sausage meat
- 4 oz. (125 g.) breadcrumbs
- 1/2 pint (150 ml.) milk
- 6 oysters, fresh or canned, optional
- 8 large, peeled cooked chestnuts
- 2 stalks chopped celery
- chopped turkey liver
- 2 teaspoons chopped parsley
- pinch of dried sage
Wipe the turkey inside and out and prick the breast lightly. Then soak the breadcrumbs in the milk and squeeze dry before adding all the other stuffing ingredients, then put this into the body and crop of the bird.
Put the bird in the roasting tin and brush with the melted butter, then add half the stock, cover with foil and roast at 350ºF. (170ºC.) or gas mark 4 for 20-25 minutes to the pound. Baste half way through cooking time, season and add the rest of the giblet stock, warmed. Boil up before putting it back in the oven and continue cooking.
Take off the foil 15 minutes before it is ready to let it brown, and add the redcurrant jelly to the pan juices, stir well, boil up rapidly to reduce slightly and serve separately. Enough for 10.
This traditional pudding is also spelt ‘Cloutie’, from being boiled in a ‘clout’ or cloth. It’s a favourite at Christmas time, with recipes varying from region to region. In the north-east recipes tend to use oats and golden syrup, while the further south you go, breadcrumbs and treacle are called for. Perfect alongside whisky-laden custard or brandy butter, the dumpling should be eaten within two days otherwise should be sliced then frozen. For a boxing day treat, toast or fry slices of the dumpling and serve as part of a full-Scottish breakfast.
- 4 oz. (125 g.) shredded suet, or margarine
- 8 oz. (225 g.) flour
- 4 oz. (125 g.) oatmeal
- 3 oz. (75 g.) sugar
- 1 rounded teaspoon baking powder
- 8 oz. (225 g.) mixed sultanas and currants
- 1 teaspoon each: ground cinnamon and ginger
- 1 tablespoon golden syrup
- 2 eggs
- 3-4 tablespoons buttermilk or sour milk
Rub the fat into the sifted flour, then add all the other dry ingredients. Make a hole in the centre and add the syrup and beaten eggs and mix well. Then add enough buttermilk or sour milk to make a soft but firm batter. If using a pudding cloth dip it first into boiling water and then flour it well before adding the pudding mixture. Tie up, but allow a good space for expansion.
Or the mixture can be put into a lightly greased basin allowing a one inch (2.5 cm) space at the top. Tie down securely and boil with boiling water coming up to the rim for 2 1/2-3 hours. If using the cloth, put a saucer or plate in the bottom of the saucepan and stand the pudding in the cloth on top, then cover with boiling water and cook for 2 1/2-3 hours.
This traditional cake is special to Scotland and eaten all the year round, but especially at Christmas and Hogmanay as once upon a time it was a luxury and reserved only for special occasions. To ensure best results, it should be made from only the finest ingredients and will not have the proper flavour if butter is not used. Originally it was made from oatmeal, but nowadays the finest sifted flour and rice flour are used.
Although shortbread was prepared during much of the 12th century, the refinement of shortbread is credited to Mary, Queen of Scots in the 16th century. The name of one of the most famous and most traditional forms of shortbread, petticoat tails, may have been named by her. This type of shortbread was baked, cut into triangular wedges, and flavored with caraway seeds. The ingredients should be warm and dry.
- 1 lb. (450 g.) butter
- 8 oz. (225 g.) castor sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 lb. (450 g.) sifted flour
- 8 oz. (225 g.) rice flour – if rice flour is not available then all wheat flour can be used, but reduce it to 1 lb. (45o g.) in all.
Cream the butter and sugar together very well. Mix the flours and salt, sift them, then incorporate them gradually but thoroughly until the dough is like a shortcrust pastry texture. Do not knead or roll out as this only toughens it. Press with the hand into two round cakes and if you don;t have a wooden shortbread mould, then put on to an ungreased baking sheet covered with baking-paper. The usual thickness is about 3/4 inch (1.9 cm.) for an 8-inch (20.3-cm.) shortbread.
Pinch the edges regularly with the finger and thumb and prick all over, lightly with a fork. Cook in a pre-heated oven at 375ºF. (190ºC.) or gas mark 5 for about 1 hour, and after 20 minutes reduce the heat to 350ºF. (180ºC.) or gas mark 4 to let it crisp up and get a pale fawn colour. Leave to cool before putting on to a rack.