After two years in Scotland, I still get surprised at the differences between the place I live now (Edinburgh) and the place where I grew up (the sunny county of Essex). That’s why I’ve started this series – An English Girl In Scotland – to document what it’s really like, living in Scotland – and maybe help anyone who does decide to move to Scotland! Today I wanted to write a little something about the culinary differences between England and Scotland.
I really didn’t expect there to be big differences in food choices when I moved to Scotland. I mean, yes – I was aware that Soctland had some national foods and dishes – think haggis, Scottish shortbread, whisky and smoked salmon – but it’s actually much more complex that that.
<<I was going to put an image of a haggis in here, but I swear that it would put you off. I swear, they taste far better than they look!>>
I ate haggis before I moved to Scotland (an ex-boyfriend’s parents had Scottish pretensions, so I tried it once or twice during dinner with him) and found it to be far less offensive than I expected. For those who don’t know, haggis is a combination of oats, onion, herbs and *gulp* offal, stuffed into the stomach of a sheep. Now, eating sheep heart, lungs and liver doesn’t sound particularly appetising, but when mixed with herbs and spices and seasoning, haggis actually tastes slightly peppery and quite warming. the texture, once it’s been cut of of the lining, is like a very fine mince, thanks to the oatmeal. Haggis is generally quite cheap and good for you – and believe me, with some neeps (turnip) and tatties (uh, potato) and good gravy, it makes a wonderful winter dinner. You can even get vegetarian haggis (made without any of the offal) which is also really good. Scotland is quite fond of haggis – you can get it deep fried at the fish and chip shop, haggis flavour crisps and even haggis pasties! Scotland offers more than just haggis, however. There are a number of pastry based items which are much loved by the Scots – including Bridies, (which were invented in Forfar, where Stacey is from) and butteries, which are small, salty flaky rolls which are often eaten for breakfast. I’ve never had a bridie, but Stacey claims they’re similar to a Cornish pastie, with mince and onions in shortcrust pastry. Butteries I have tried, and found them a little doughy – I’d rather have hash browns with my breakfast – or ‘tattie scones’ – potato cake slices which are fried and often eaten in a breakfast roll.
Perhaps the biggest surprise to me about Scottish food is how wonderful so much of the local meats are. With so much farmland it shouldn’t be a surprise, but local duck, venison and beef are favourite buys from the Edinburgh Farmers’ Market – and since being here, I’ve become incredibly addicted to black pudding too. Black pudding is a sausage made from pigs blood, along with fat and oatmeal. Stacey and I love black pudding in our bacon rolls in the morning, wth some tomato ketchup, but I struggle to think about what it’s actually made of!
Like many things in Scotland, you can get black pudding battered in the chippie! Battered everything is a pretty big thing in Scotland – from black pudding to white pudding (a bloodless version which includes pork meat and fat with oatmeal) and everything in between! Stacey absolutely loves deep fried pizza, and Scotland is famous for the deep fried Mars bar! It’s pretty bad that Scotland is famous for deep fried food, and I have got to admit, deep fried Pizza isn’t a love of mine – but if you haven’t tasted a deep fried Mars bar, you are missing out! Crunchy on the outside but with melting gooey chocolate inside, and WARM – it’s well worth getting a bit messy!
One of the more annoying things I’ve found about ordering food when living in Scotland comes when trying to order a simple sausage sandwich when I’m hungover… The question you’re almost always asked when you request a sausage roll is ‘lorne or regular sausage?’ – because Scotland really, really likes it’s square sliced sausage. These are logs of sausage meat which are sliced into squares to be grilled or fried – they taste exactly like sausage, but without the skin on the outside. I think square sausage is a bit drier than normal sausage, but it is useful if you’re making a big roll with lots of breakfast items in it!
There are so many other foods which are unique to Scotland which I have loved to try! If you want to know more about culinary choices in Scotland, check back for my next instalment of An English Girl In Scotland!Carley