ArchiveOctober 4, 2014

Darina Allen: Cullen Skink

The Scots have spoken loud and clear, they will remain in the union but nothing will ever be quite the same again. They have always been intensely patriotic, enormously proud of their heritage, their music, and their tartans even their food which doesn’t necessarily have a sterling reputation in gastronomic quarters. Haggis and neeps doesn’t do it for many people outside Scotland but a good haggis is a mighty dish to warm the cockles of your heart on a cold autumn or winter day.

Here at the Cookery School, I asked both teachers and students to name 8 or 9 Scottish dishes other than haggis. There was a bit of head scratching, then Dundee cake came up, Scotch pancakes, Cullen Skink, cranachan, tatties, Scotch woodcock, Scotch broth, cock-a-leekie, bridies, Scotch eggs, shortbread, bannocks, porridge, marmalade….an impressive ‘off the cuff’ list. Then I went upstairs to the Ballymaloe Cookery School library to root around. I was surprised by how many books on Scottish food I had amassed over the years. Our own Theodora Fitzgibbon’s book ‘A Taste of Scotland: Scottish Traditional Food’ is a gem as is Catherine Browns Scottish Regional Recipes. Jane Grigson’s section on Scotland in her British Cookery is as excellent as you would expect from this much loved and respected cookery writer.

Mark Hix’s book on British Regional Food also has many Scottish gems. Mark points out that “what characterizes most Scottish food is the canny frugality of a northern European peasant tradition”.

Scottish produce tends to be exceptionally delicious, the Highlands are rich with game – grouse, partridge, capercaille, snipe, pheasant, deer……the fast flowing rivers (burns) are still teeming with salmon and trout. Then there are the Highland cattle, Scottish Aberdeen Angus and the blackface lamb.

The soft fruit too benefits from slower ripening in a cooler climate with long summer evenings. Scottish varieties of raspberries, tayberries, boysenberries and loganberries are justly famous.
We haven’t even mentioned the whiskey, the cheeses and the shellfish, langoustine, razor clams and lobsters – much of which is exported.
Even writing this article makes me want to head for the Highlands. Meanwhile, I’ll make do with cooking up a wee taste of Scotland here in Shanagarry.


Scotch Woodcock

Scotch woodcock was once a popular savoury – it makes a delicious easy snack.
Serves 6

50 g(1½ oz) tin of anchovies, drained or 50 g (1½ oz) salted anchovies, soaked then boned
175 g (6 oz) butter
6 slices of bread, crusts removed
4 large egg yolks
300 ml (10 fl oz) whipping or double cream
Salt, pepper, cayenne
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

Mash the anchovies with two-thirds of the butter. Toast the bread, spread on the anchovy butter and keep it warm. Melt the remaining butter in a small heavy pan, beat in the egg yolks – off the heat – and the cream. Season, then replace on a low to medium heat and stir until you have a thick sauce. Do not allow the mixture to come near boiling point or it will curdle. Pour over the toast, sprinkle with a pinch or two of parsley and serve.

19/9/2014 (CS) (17444)
Taken from The Observer Guide to British Cookery Jane Grigson


Scotch Shortbread

The ground rice gives a particularly appealing texture to this shortbread.

Makes 24-32 depending on size

12 ozs (350g/3 cups) plain white flour
10 ozs (285g/21/2 sticks) butter
4 ozs (110g/1/2 cup) castor sugar
3 ozs (75g/scant 1/2 cup) ground rice
good pinch of salt
good pinch of baking powder

vanilla or castor sugar for sprinkling

Swiss roll tin 10 x 15 ins (25.5 x 38cm)

Sieve the dry ingredients into a bowl. Cut the butter into cubes and rub in until the whole mixture comes together. (alternatively whizz everything together in the food processor) Spread evenly into the tin, roll flat.

Bake for 1-1 hours in a low oven, 140-150°C/275-300°F/regulo 1-2 or bake for 20-30 minutes in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. It should be pale golden but fully cooked through. Cut into squares or fingers while still hot. Sprinkle with castor or vanilla sugar and allow to cool. Store in an airtight tin.

20/03/2009 (SH) (5664)


In Ireland all cultures that have cabbage and potatoes put them together in some form. In Ireland we have Colcannon in England Bubble and Squeak but the Scottish version is called Rumbledethumps.

Serves 4

1 lb (450 g) freshly mashed potatoes
½ lb (225 g) kale or spring cabbage, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) spring onion
¼ pint (150 ml/generous ½ cup) cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the cabbage or kale in a little boiling salted water, drain well.
Put the cream into a large pot with the spring onion, bring slowly to the boil, add the potatoes and freshly cooked cabbage. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon for 1-2 minutes. Taste, you could add a lump of butter if you like, the Scots do!

25/8/1997 (CF)

Cullen Skink

Cullen is on the southern shore of the Moray Firth – harbour, white sands, bright fisherman’s cottages, town high on the cliffs – and skink in this instance means soup or broth. Skink is more commonly used as a name for skin of beef, the basic ingredient of beef broth, and so has loosely come to mean soup. On the east coast, smoked haddock is the basic ingredient, and potatoes are used to thicken the cooking liquor – less liquid can be added to make a stew rather than a soup.

Serves 8

1 medium onion, sliced
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) butter
1kg (2 1/4lb) smoked haddock, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
225g (8oz) cooked and sieved potato
900ml (1 1/2 pints/3 3/4 cups) milk
150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) cream
salt, freshly ground black pepper, chives

Soften the onion in butter in a large saucepan. As it softens and turns yellow, put in the fish. Pour in 600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) of water and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Remove the fish, discard the skin and bone, and flake the flesh. Stir the potato into the cooking liquor, making a smooth texture, and add the milk. Put in the fish, reheat and taste for seasoning. Add the cream and chives just before serving.

07/07/2014 (SH) (17198)

Recipe Taken from ‘The Observer Guide to British Cookery’ by Jane Grigson


Crannachan or cream-crowdie has become very much the national pudding of Scotland.

The basic recipe for 4 is simple enough.

60 g (2 oz) medium or coarse oatmeal, toasted lightly.
300 ml (10 fl oz) cream
A little honey or sugar to sweeten
4-5 tablespoons malt whiskey
125 g (4 oz) raspberries

Toast lightly the oatmeal. Whip the cream until it is thick and light with a little honey or sugar to sweeten. Finally mix in 4 or 5 tablespoons of malt whiskey and gently fold in the raspberries.

19/9/2014 (CS) (17445)

Taken from The Observer Guide to British Cookery by Jane Grigson

Scotch Pancakes

Makes 16-18

225 g (8 ozs) self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
30 g (1 oz) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 eggs, beaten
250-275 ml (9-10 fl oz) milk
Butter for greasing and to serve
Fruit compote, cream or fresh berries, to serve (optional)

Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl, then add the sugar. Stir in the syrup, eggs and enough milk to form a thick smooth batter that just drops off the spoon. Heat a griddle pan, or non stick frying pan and rub it with a little butter. Drop in spoonfuls of the mixture and cook for 3 minutes until bubbles rise, then turn and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Put them on some kitchen paper, while you cook the rest. Serve warm or cold, with just butter, a fruit compote and cream, just butter or some fresh berries.

19/9/2014 (CS) (17446)

Taken from British Regional Food by Mark Hix

JR’s Dundee Cake

Our pastry chef at Ballymaloe House is famous for his Dundee cake, he never travels with out a chunk in his bag so fellow train or plane passengers strike lucky as well!
Makes 1 x 18cm (7 inch) round cake or 900g (2lb) loaf

225g (8oz/2 cups) softened butter
225g (8oz/1 cup) caster sugar
grated rind of 1 large orange
4 eggs
225g (8oz/2 cups) plain flour, sifted
50g (2oz) ground almonds
25g (1oz) mixed candied peel
100g (4oz) currants
100g (4oz) sultanas
100g (4oz) raisins
50g (2oz) glacé cherries, quartered
40-50 split blanched and peeled almonds
Preheat oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 and line an 18cm (7 inch) round tin or a 900g (2lb) loaf tin.

Cream butter and sugar until smooth and light. Beat the eggs. Add in three stages alternating with a tablespoon of the flour between each addition. Beat thoroughly. Mix ground almonds, dried fruit and orange rind before folding into the mixture. Fold in the remaining flour carefully. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and arrange the split almonds over the entire top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 2 1/2 – 3 hours until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool.

14/11/2013 (SH) (16640) (JR Ryall, Ballymaloe House)
Hot Tips

Salmon Watch Ireland are holding a conference in Salthill Hotel, Galway they will focus on measures that need to be taken in the freshwater environment to make our rivers more effective in the production of more and stronger smolts.
Saturday 11th October 2.30pm – 5.30pm – Contact:
Date for your diary
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland are running a Small Food Business Start-Up Seminar in Silver Springs Moran Hotel, Tivoli, Cork . They will explain all the requirements needed to get your business off the ground and offer advice on how to comply with the relevant food safety legislation. – Thursday 9th October – 8am – 12.45pm
For further information – – 01 8171310

Get Blogging
Thinking of starting a blog but not sure where to start. Why not join Get Blogging course with Lucy Pearce on Saturday 11th October from 9.30am – 1pm at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. This fast paced course will have you fired up and ready to go in just three hours. What you’ll learn: the basics of blog design, how to customise basic blogging templates, the most useful gadgets and gizmos to use, the secrets behind writing popular posts, how to spread the word about your blog, how to find and keep readers, where to find technical support, the ways that you can make money from your blog.
Lucy teaches blogging in the UK and Ireland and was a key note speaker at the 2013 Ballymaloe Litfest on Food Writing for the Digital Generation.
Booking Essential on 021 4646785 or


Past Letters