By: John Gleeson
Recently I found myself in Scotland. Home of Braveheart’s William Wallace, Disney Brave’s Merida (oh I see what you did there Disney, clever) and Calvin Harris. Also home to an abundance of quirky cuisine delights, but it got me thinking, how did these things come about? Worry not, I went and did the digging, tasting and picture taking all in the name of food science.
Traditionally haggis is a mixture of sheep’s heart, liver and lungs with onion, porridge oats, suet and seasoning, stuffed and cooked in a sheep stomach. It’s believed it was originally cooked this way to use the offal (edible internal organs) before they went bad. Sounds delicious right. Surprisingly it is. Nowadays, it’s cooked in a casing similar to sausages with heart and lungs replaced with minced meat. But if you don’t feel like tasting haggis, you can see how far you can fling it, in a haggis hurling contest with the current record at 66 meters. Wow!
2. Smoked Salmon
Salmon is good. Oaky flavours are good. Smoked salmon is divine. Traditionally smoked in a smoking house with oak wood shavings to preserve the fish. Now a days it’s common for production to “paint” on the smoked flavour and store in a refrigerator, slightly more health and safety conscious. But in Scotland and Ireland, they go for the whole “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” method of cold oaky smoking. Pop that smoked salmon on some traditional brown bread, and a gastronomic delight awaits you.
3. Scotch Egg
Eggs are good for you right? And tasty. So why not wrap a boiled egg in sausage meat, then in breadcrumbs and deep fry it. Ok so now it’s not exactly healthy or “low cal” but it’s got your protein, carbs and fat all in one handy ball. It’s supposed to have originated from the 1800s and was a staple at wealthy Victorians picnics. It’s normally a “don’t judge a book by its cover” situation as it’s not the prettiest food, but somehow it is rather fascinatingly yummy. I believe yummy is a technical word.
One of the definitive delights of Scotland is shortbread. Traditionally it contains only three ingredients, sugar, butter and flour in a 1:2:3 ratio and often served at Christmas and Hogmanay. If you’re wondering what Hogmanay is, it’s the Scottish word for New Year’s. Shortbread in its current form, is believed to be associated with Mary Queen of Scots in the 16th century. Homemade shortbread is the most delicious moreish biscuit/cookie you’ll ever try. According to my best friend Wikipedia, the Girl Scout “Trefoils” cookie is shortbread. See the Girl Scouts know how to sell deliciousness.
5. Deep Fried Mars Bar
Well I don’t even know where to start with this. It is literally a Mars bar, battered and fried. Its history is far more modern compared to some other Scottish treats, and the idea was concocted in the 90s and several Scottish ‘chip shops’ claim to have created the dish. Now, I didn’t actually get around to trying this, as I literally couldn’t even handle the idea of it. However, as the dedicated food scientist I am, I asked several people. And apparently, it is incredibly tasty. The Mars bar is frozen before frying so it doesn’t turn to mush, and when served with ice-cream is supposedly one of the nicest desserts. Ever.
Not bad, but in a future article you’ll have to cover cullen skink, auld reekie, Arbroath toasties, cloutie dumplings and bannocks, not to mention the world’s best uisge beatha.
Any road, the deep-fried Mars bar is not any worse than something you’d get in a state fair in the US.
I tried a couple of those. Cullen skink was grand but I didn’t hear about any of the others!