Great Scottish Tre

SUNDAY GOURMET

February 21, 1993|By GAIL FORMAN

Scottish cuisine? An oxymoron, many people would say. But they're missing out on an "oat cuisine" of delicious dishes with charming folksy names.

Kay Shaw Nelson, a food expert in Bethesda and a descendant of Nova Scotia Scots, campaigns to defend the reputation of this unheralded -- even scorned -- cuisine.

"People say, 'The Scots don't have anything to eat.' But they've only heard of oatmeal and haggis," says Ms. Nelson, referring to the traditional sausage made of chopped onions, sheep's lungs, liver, heart, suet and seasonings stuffed into a sheep's paunch.

To set the record straight she wrote "A Bonnie Scottish Cuisine" (EPM Publications, 1989; $10.95 at bookstores or directly from the publisher at Box 490, McLean, Va. 22101). In it, she tells of her cousin, a 7-foot-9, 450-pound strongman who toured with Barnum & Bailey Circus. His legendary size and strength were attributed to the large bowl of crowdie (oatmeal and cream) he ate after every meal.

But there's more to Scottish food than oatmeal. Mary Queen of Scots' French chefs and the country's long years of association with France refined the thrifty yet wholesome native dishes. Scottish cooking, goes the saying, is a "pastoral one that went to Paris and took on French airs."

"Famous delicacies have been created by canny Scots," says Ms. Nelson, including orange marmalade, Dundee cake, Drambuie, Scotch whisky, oatcakes, kippers, scones, shortbread, smoked salmon and Scotch broth.

Traditional Scottish appetizers -- kipper and grouse pates, potted shrimp, Scotch eggs (hard-boiled-egg-stuffed fried sausages), Scotch woodcock (scrambled eggs on anchovy toast), game skree (forcemeat), and ha' pennies (Cheddar cheese crackers) -- are the pride of the Scottish housewife.

Scottish waters afford some of the world's best fishing, and the people love fish pies, Tweed kettle (salmon hash named for the Tweed River) and kedgeree (salmon with curry, rice and eggs, a recipe originally from colonial India). Scottish smoked fish is world famous, not only the silky salmon but also herring, kippered herring and finnan haddie.

Aberdeen Angus beef, baby lamb, deer, pheasant, grouse and partridge also figure prominently in Scottish cooking, in dishes such as whisky steaks (flavored with Scotch), poor man's pie (sausages and oats), tuppeny struggles (cubed roast lamb in a mashed potato crust), hotchpotch (lamb and vegetable stew) and inky pinky (cubed beef in gravy with carrots and onions).

The Scots also make the best of kale, cabbage, potatoes, onions, leeks and even seaweed -- vegetables that grow well in their Northern climate. Potato combos are particularly savory: with cabbage in colcannon, with turnips in Orkney clapshot, with cheese in pan haggerty (haggerty means cooked in a ragged, topsy-turvy manner), with cabbage, fried onions and Cheddar cheese in rumbledethumps.

Ms. Nelson calls the art of baking "the glory of the Scottish kitchen," as she discusses bannocks -- unleavened flatcakes; scones; soda bread; biscuits; crumpets; baps -- soft rolls; and muffins. Shortbread, she says, "is a unique Scottish creation." Gingerbread recipes abound. And cookies and cakes, often studded with currants, nuts and candied fruit and perked up

with spices, star at afternoon tea.

RAISIN-OAT SCONES

Scots pronounce the word "skonn" (rhymes with on) and eat these rich and crumbly biscuit-like cakes for breakfast, with afternoon tea or as snacks.

1 cup flour

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup butter, cool and diced

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup milk

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Stir in oats. With a pastry blender or knife, cut in butter until mixture is like fine crumbs. Stir in raisins. Add milk. Stir quickly to make a soft, sticky dough. Gather into a ball. Place on a lightly floured surface. With floured hands knead gently. Use a rolling pin to roll into a 1/2-inch-thick circle. With a floured sharp knife, cut into 12 equal-size triangles. Place on an ungreased baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes or until golden and puffed. Remove to a wire rack. Cool 5 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 12.

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