< Back to the UK Homepage

Cuisine of Scotland

Why is it that when Scotland’s national drink is enjoyed and revered the world over, its national dish is often the butt of the national joke? Ask any Scotsman the age old question “What is a haggis?” His typical response would be something like …“It’s a small four legged creature that lives in the Highlands and has two legs shorter than the others so it can run around the mountains without toppling over. It can easily be caught by running around the hill in the opposite direction.”Well it appears that the national joke is now beginning to backfire a little, as according to a 2003 on-line survey, one-third of American tourists to Scotland thought that a haggis was a wild animal and almost a quarter arrived in Scotland thinking they could catch one! So, if you wish to preserve your belief in little furry creatures, or if you have just purchased tickets for a “Wild Haggis Hunt”, please do not read any further! Perhaps it is because the truth is a little more frightening than fiction, and too much for a Scotsman to admit that his national dish consists of a sheep’s stomach stuffed with diced innards and typically served with root vegetables, otherwise known as haggis with mashed tatties (potatoes) and neeps (turnips).To be a little more precise, a haggis is normally made up of the following ingredients:

a sheep’s ‘pluck’ (its heart, liver and lungs), minced with onions, oatmeal, suet, salt and spices, all mixed with a stock and traditionally boiled in the animal’s stomach for around an hour.

As unpleasant as this may sound, the end result is a culinary masterpiece which should of course be washed down with a ‘dram’ of the national drink.The exact historical origins of this great national dish appear to have been lost in the mists of time. Some claim that the dish originates from the days of the old Scottish cattle drovers, when the men would leave the Highlands to drive their cattle to market in Edinburgh and the women would prepare a ‘ready meal’ for them to eat on the long journey through the glens. Others have speculated that the first haggis was carried to Scotland aboard a Viking longboat. Yet another theory dates the dish to pre-history, as a way of cooking and preserving offal that would otherwise quickly spoil following a hunt. Dice the ‘pluck’ and then stuff this and whatever other ingredients may available into the stomach, immerse the whole in the water contained within the skin of the beast, and then boil for an hour or two. Nice and tidy, no washing-up required! Traditionally a Chieftain or Laird may have had an animal or two killed for a particular feast, the offal being passed to the slaughter man as his payment. Haggis was always a popular dish for the poor, cheap cuts of nourishing meat that would otherwise have been thrown away. Piping in the haggis whatever its historic origins, the haggis is now as firmly established as a Scottish national icon as the much revered whiskey, and much of this fame can be directly attributed to Scotland’s national poet. Haggis forms an integral part of the Burns supper celebrations that take place around the world each January 25th, when Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns is commemorated. Burns immortalised the haggis in his poem Address to a Haggis, which starts

“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o’ the pudding race!”

Discover More

Scottish Recipes

Discover amazing and tasty traditional Scottish Recipes. Try cooking them for your family, or why not share some of your favourites with us, so others can try them

Discover More

Cullen Skink
Cullen Skink is a thick Scottish soup made of smoked Finnan haddock, potatoes and onions.This soup is a local speciality, from the town of Cullen in Moray, on the north-east coast of Scotland. The soup is often served as a starter at formal Scottish dinners.

Rowan Jelly
Rowan berries can be made into a slightly bitter jelly which in Scotland is traditionally eaten as an accompaniment to game, and into jams and other preserves, on their own, or with other fruits.

Scottish Puddings
Traditional Dishes | Cakes and Puddings. Scotland is notorious for its sweet tooth, and cakes and puddings are taken very seriously. Bakers with extensive displays of of iced buns, cakes and cream-filled pastries are a typical feature of any Scottish high street, while home-made shortbread, scones or tablet (a hard, crystalline form of fudge) are considered great treats. Among traditional desserts:-

Clootie Dumpling
A traditional dessert pudding called clootie dumpling is made with flour, breadcrumbs, dried fruit (sultanas and currants), suet, sugar and spice with some milk to bind it, and sometimes golden syrup. Ingredients are mixed well into a dough, then wrapped up in a floured cloth, placed in a large pan of boiling water and simmered for a couple of hours before being lifted out and dried before the fire or in an oven.

Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert. Nowadays it is usually made from a mixture of whipped cream, whisky, honey, and fresh raspberries topped with toasted oatmeal. Earlier recipes for cranachan or cream-crowdie are more austere, omitting the whisky and treating the fruit as an optional extra. Modern recipes have a high double cream content, while originally this was replaced wholly or in part by crowdie cheese.A traditional way to serve cranachan is to bring dishes of each ingredient to the table, so that each person can assemble their dessert to taste. Tall glasses are also a typical presentation.It was originally a summer dish and often consumed around harvest time, but is now more likely to be served all year round at weddings and on special occasions. A variant dish was ale-crowdie, consisting of ale, treacle and whisky with the oatmeal – served at a wedding with a ring in the mixture: whoever got the ring would be the next to marry. One recipe for cranachan is 3oz oatmeal, 1/2 pint double cream, and 1 tablespoon of whisky. The oatmeal should be toasted in a pan over a high heat then dust should be sifted out. Then the oatmeal and the whisky should be added to the cream that has been whisked. Atholl Brose, are considered more refined. In the summer months, Scottish berries, in particular raspberries and strawberries, are particularly tasty.