Project Food Blog Round 2: Finding My Roots – A Taste of Scotland
I suppose you could say I am a true Canadian through and through. My ancestry is a bit of a mixed bag. My last name German, my grandmothers are French and British. I hear there is a Norwegian in there, and according to family gossip, the possibility of an affair with an aboriginal.
However, there is one background that I familiarize myself with more than any other – Scottish.
My now deceased Papa was 100% Scottish despite his upbringing in Montreal. He was fluent in French until the day he died. But get enough rye in him and he could eerily mimic the Scottish tongue spoken by his own father.
My Papa carried his Scottish traditions into his own family. I’ll never forget when my mother explained to me as a child that instead of French toast on Sundays, she ate blood pudding. I was horrified.
Of course, some of my mother’s traditions have trickled down into our family. Holiday meals are always paired with party crackers and paper crowns. We all drink Earl Grey and my mother insists we watch the Queen’s Message every Christmas. Speaking of Christmas, not one goes by without a mincemeat pie. My sisters and I even did highland dancing as children, complete with kilts, vests, and leather shoes.
I mean, just look at us. Our frizzy hair and pale complexions just scream “Scottish.”
When reading over the criteria for the second challenge of Project Food Blog I knew it was time to channel that inner Scot of mine. I can whip up a Lebanese meal no prob, but the food of “my people” has never quite tickled my culinary fancy.
Challenge Prompt: Ready to tackle a classic dish from another culture? Pick an ethnic classic that is outside your comfort zone or are not as familiar with… Try to keep the dish as authentic as the real deal…
Of course, what are Scots known for best? Haggis! I’ve never tried haggis before and was only further intrigued when my mother told me of my great-great-Nana Susan MacLeod (who I am named after) making haggis on the Isle of Skye.
Creates a lovely scene, no?
I thought so until I actually looked up the ingredients to haggis:
1 sheep’s lung (illegal in the U.S.; may be omitted if not available)
1 sheep’s stomach
1 sheep heart
1 sheep liver
1/2 lb fresh suet (kidney leaf fat is preferred)
I tried in vain to find a “healthier” version. I found a few using turkey hearts and necks. An off-base vegan version using lentils. But the more I looked the more grossed out I got by the whole thing. I mean, Scottish cooking isn’t necessarily known for being healthy or delicious. But I was convinced that I could make something without grossing myself, and my readers, out!
I skimmed through traditional Scottish recipes, determined to find something better than haggis, but could still challenge my vegetarian roots. I am still something of a “newbie” to all this meat-y cooking after all.
I ended up finding not one, but two dishes that got me licking my lips and excited to get in the kitchen!
First up: Scotch Eggs.
Boiled eggs wrapped in sausage. Protein + fat doesn’t get much better than this my friends.
Both of these recipes come from the same website, featuring dozens of traditional Scottish recipes. The way they were made hundreds of years ago. The recipe for scotch eggs can be found here.
I began by boiling five eggs, peeling, and dusting them in flour.
The flour is so the sausage sticks. I learned this immediately because I almost accidentally skipped this step!
I cheated a little bit on the sausage. You see, I live close to an amazing local butcher that carries a wide variety of organic sausage meats. In the name of finding a healthy balance, I asked for a pound of chicken sausage meat that he ground up for me on the spot.
The recipe calls for light seasoning, but the sausage meat was already seasoned. So I just started wrappin’!
Once wrapped, it’s time to bread them to hold them together. Just dip in an egg wash and coat in breadcrumbs.
My breadcrumbs were bought at a supermarket. Something I guess my great-great-Nana didn’t have.
Scotch eggs are typically deep-fried but that did not sound appealing to me. Instead, I just poured a whack of canola oil in a pan and turned them a few times.
They still got sufficiently greasy and crispy.
I patted them dry upon removal from the pan.
Then… the moment of truth. Time to slice one of these babies open!
A perfectly boiled egg wrapped in perfectly cooked and seasoned sausage. A Scottish culinary success!!
But wait. There is something Scots love even more than ground animal parts.
And what better way to make that than in a…
Traditional Scottish Oatcake.
This recipe can be found here and also goes by the name “bannocks.” I was drawn to the small ingredient list and simple method of preparation, however I learned there are several methods of making a “traditional oatcake.”
I started with some rolled oats, a pinch of salt and two pinches of baking soda. Yes, “pinch” is the proper measurement here.
The recipe calls for bacon fat, however I don’t casually keep that stuff on hand. Instead I subbed in 2 tsp melted butter. Mixed with several tablespoons of boiling water to get a sticky mix. Rolled into more dry oats and divided into four sections.
I picture Susan MacLeod making these in a cast-iron skillet over a hot wood stove.
I have a non-stick pan on an electric oven.
Cooked until just browned. These were incredibly easy to make.
Suddenly, I’m left with the perfect Sunday Scottish breakfast.