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Scottish Cooking and Cookbooks

Except, perhaps, for haggis, traditional Scottish food will be comfortingly familiar to Americans of Scottish descent because so many Scottish recipes have been adapted or transformed into common American fare - consider a hearty barley-vegetable soup (Scotch broth), pot pies (Scotch pies), or what our family calls hamburger hash (stovied tatties, to the Scots).

(For a great resource on Scottish-American cooking, see Kay Shaw Nelson's cookbook, The Art of Scottish-American Cooking - dozens of scrumptous recipes, historical notes on foods the Scots introduced to the US, histories of Scots-American food companies and inventions, eg. Campbell Soup, much, much more.)

Being none too rich and careful of their resources, Scots cooking relies on basic ingredients cooked up to warm the innards and provide strength and energy - what we consider a good "meat and potatoes" diet (though often easy on the meat).

While the lowlanders relied on mutton (and sheep innards are the basis of haggis, a sort of sausage made with sheep offal and oatmeal), the Highlanders always preferred beef and running cattle (and appropriating other clans' cattle) was their way of life. To them we owe the succulent pleasure of Angus beef.

Interestingly, the Scots do not care for pork (the Highlanders despised pigs), even though their Irish ancestors were big pork eaters, so you won't find pork mentioned much in Scottish cookbooks.

Living in a land of isles, lochs and burns, fish and seafood have been Scottish staples from time immemorial - if you want to know what to do with salmon, crab, scallops, and all the rest, the Scots can tell you.

The Scottish people have a strong sweet tooth (as do most Americans) and are famed for shortbread, scones, and other wonderful treats, many relying on honey (heather honey) and berries for their sweet flavor. The "Black Bun" is an extremely rich fruit cake named for its dark color.

Vegetables grown and eaten in Scotland include potatoes, turnips, carrots, cabbage, peas and cauliflower -- all suitable for their climate. Fruits are mostly berries - raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, currants, and more.

Wheat flour is used now, of course, but the traditional oatmeal and barley are still basic to most Scots recipes (and barley is the necessary ingredient for the beverage of choice!). Bannocks are traditional oat and barley cakes baked on a griddle. The Scots make and eat a lot of cheese, particularly a soft white cheese called "crowdie" that sounds similar to cottage cheese.

Scottish cooking, with its emphasis on delicious, easy-to-prepare, and economical meals, is not only fun for the cook, but a sure-fire family pleaser. Additionally, the extensive use of fish, seafood, oatmeal and fresh fruit and vegetables make it healthy as well. The Scots use broth, much more than fat, to simmer food -- the word "fried" occurs rarely. Scottish-Americans can easily incorporate Scottish cooking into their family lifestyles and pass it along to future generations.

Here are some Scottish cookbooks to get you started:

A Little Book of Scottish Baking
A Little Book of Scottish Baking

Short and sweet. Mouth-watering Scottish baking recipes, easy to prepare.

The Haggis - A Little History
The Haggis : A Little History

Clarissa Dickson Wright was co-host of the popular Scottish"Two Fat Ladies" cooking show. This cookbook won't teach you to make haggis, but will amuse you. Five stars.

A Year in a Scots Kitchen
A Year in a Scots Kitchen : Celebrating Summer's End to Worshipping Its Beginning

Just looking at fish and vegies makes us feel healthy and virtuous, but the sweets recipes are in this cookbook, too.

The Scottish-Irish Pub and Hearth Cookbook
The Scottish-Irish Pub and Hearth Cookbook - Recipes and Lore from Celtic Kitchens

The recipes seems more in line with the first part of the title than with the second - including one for Baileys Irish Creme.

Highland Hospitality
Highland Hospitality

Lovely cookbook from Lady Claire MacDonald, prolific Scots food author. Lady Claire takes us on a journey to the best eating establishments in the Highlands and Islands, interviewing chefs and sharing menus and recipes. Spectacular photos of the scenery as well as the food.

A Cook's Tour of Scotland
A Cook's Tour of Scotland: From Barra to Brora in 120 Recipes

An Orkney barley miller, an Isle of Mull cheese producer, a Dundee sausage-maker, and a Brora jam-maker are just a few of the many Scottish food heroes Sue Lawrence meets along the way during her food tour of Scotland.

Simply Scones
Simply Scones

Many rave reviews for this cookbook - great scone recipes that work! It's amazing how many wonderful things the Scots invented.

Scots Cooking : The Best Traditional and Contemporary Scottish Recipes
Scots Cooking : The Best Traditional and Comtemporary Scottish Recipes

Sue Lawrence has collected 120 of the best recipes from her native land. With engaging stories about the origins of each dish, and Lawrence’s own memories of the tastes and flavors of her Scottish upbringing, each recipe highlights methods and traditions that have been handed down through generations.

Scottish Traditional Recipes: A Celebration of the Food and Cooking of Scotland
Scottish Traditional Recipes: A Celebration of the Food and Cooking of Scotland

By Carol Wilson and Christopher Trotter
Traditional recipes shown in step-by-step directions - over 300 color photos

Maw Broon's Cookbook
Maw Broon's Cookbook

By Waverley Books
Based off Scotland's most beloved cartoon family, the nation's favorite, most popular traditional recipes and a true slice of Scottish culture

The Art of Scottish-American Cooking
The Art of Scottish-American Cooking

By Kay Nelson
Wonderful history of Scottish-American contributions to the American culinary experiment, over 200 recipes

Scottish Teatime Recipes
Scottish Teatime Recipes

By Johanna Mathie
One of a delightful series of "little" books with charming illustrations and delicious recipes