Haggis and the Highlands

I went to Scotland this week and have tried everything from Scottish rope-grown mussels, smoked salmon and oatcakes to Braemar Mist, cranachan, haggis and black pudding. I was not expecting it to be a food-lover’s holiday but I did come away with some memorable eating experiences. I could go on about the landscape which was absolutely epic and breathtaking. I could tell you about my mountain trek up to the bone caves and 13th Century Cawdor Castle or the 4000 yr old burial chambers in a farmyard. But this is a food blog after all, so I’ll tell you about the food.

ike I said, I wasn’t really expecting good food a country famous for it’s deep frying fetish. I never did get to sample a deep fried pizza or Mars Bar, but I did eat lots of fish and full Scottish breakfasts every morning. I never thought I’d try, let alone enjoy black pudding. We stayed a night up in Ullapool, a tiny little sea side village. In these days of online holiday bookings, disappointments are unfortunately, an inevitability. But there are those magic moments when something meets or even exceeds your expectations. The Ferry Boat Inn was one of those exceptions. After a long day of driving through ever-changing countryside, we arrived in Ullapool to a row of white buildings lining the esplanade. We were staying in one of those little white buildings. The pub downstairs was heaving and I managed to snag a table. The food coming out of the kitchen looked great. We sat for hours watching the people drinking, eating, leaving and arriving. I ordered mussels that came out in an embarrassingly large heap with two rolls on the side. The whole night was perfect.

I had some Braemar Mist for pudding in the town of Braemar, a little village inside the Cairngorm National Park. I think it was really just a spin on the famous Scottish pudding called Cranachan, which involves cream, whiskey and raspberry dessert, sort of like Eton Mess but with the genius addition of spirits. It was incredible. I tried a somewhat deconstructed Cranachan at our hotel in Fort Augustus. A Cranachan is made of whipped cream, oatmeal, whiskey and honey. The oatmeal can either be toasted to add a crunchy texture or can be soaked in whiskey or even boiled for something creamier. There’s lots of room for movement with a Cranachan, with¬† raspberries as the most popular modern addition these days.

In the mean time I want to try and make some oat cakes. I have bought the oatmeal, but am now just waiting on the people from a cafe in Keith to get back to me. The Steading was a little cafe in a small town called Keith. In a country where menus abound with sandwiches and chips it was a treat to see salad, soups and proper food on offer.¬† These guys are making honest food, with fresh ingredients and I would recommend it to anyone travelling up that way. It is worth going out of your way for. Everything they served from the home made oatcakes that I had with my ploughman’s salad bowl, to the bread that AT had his sandwich on, was spectacular. It is so hard these days to find cafes that are serving simple, home made food and where there are actual good food smells coming from the kitchen.

All in all a super holiday, in every way. Thanks for the memories (and the calories) Scotland.