London is now a capital city where you can eat well, but Scotland has long been proud of having its own, authentic cuisine. It has to be said that the cuisine in London is a fusion, while the Francophile Scots, like the French, enjoy the pleasures of a genuine culinary tradition. The most well-known dishes are haggis, a delicacy, and black pudding, which is the same as French boudin noir, though usually served here with baked beans for breakfast. But is it typically Scottish?
In contemporary Europe, no country – even Great Britain – is an island and even at the dinner table there can be some crossovers. Then there’s game, including grouse, which is so emblematic of Scotland that it’s given its name to a brand of whisky, The Famous Grouse, wild berries, plenty of porridge (prepared the Scottish way), lamb, jams and marmalades and shortbread – dusted with sugar, packed with butter and perfect with tea. Scottish smoked salmon is famous even if these days it’s mostly farmed. But the tradition of smoking wild fish is still alive and well in the little town of Arbroath, on the east coast, next to the North Sea. What’s known in Great Britain as the ‘Arbroath Smokie’ is usually haddock smoked over a hot fire and eaten on its own or cooked up according to a recipe.
Much further south, in the middle of the Scottish Borders just above England, we visited an Aberdeen Angus farm. The breed of cattle is well adapted to the local climate and after visiting the farm, the owner introduced us to their Ten Steak Experience, a delicious and instructive selection of different cuts enabling you to experience the subtleties of the meat’s range of flavours and textures. Highland cattle are another highly prized and rare beef speciality. These imposing, shaggy beasts are the picture-postcard image of Scotland. While we didn’t have a chance to sample their excellent, tender meat, we did enjoy a guided tasting of Scotland’s cheeses at one of Edinburgh’s best cheesemonger’s: Dunsyre Blue, Criffel, Isle of Mull cheddar, Loch Arthur cheddar, Auld Lochnagar etc. Blue, hard or creamy, these cheeses are often hand-made with non-pasteurized milk and can be put up against the best of the competition. They're more often eaten as part of the meal than after the dessert. As far as drink is concerned, they’re best accompanied by port or a good claret. So much for the whisky, but that’s what the Scots themselves recommend.
Beer and whisky
Beer and whisky are the two national drinks. On tap in the pubs you will find a selection of beers ranging from the very dark to the very light. Beer and whisky are both made from a base of malted barley. Get on the whisky trail and visit the distilleries, from the most commercial to the most prestigious: Macallan, Aberlour, Balvenie, Glenfiddic, Lagavulin. Discover the difference between blends and single malts and the variations in the drink that distinguish one region from another region.