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Traditional Aberdeenshire Recipes

Medieval Scots also ate all sorts of creatures we don’t eat today including swans, peacocks, seals, lampreys and porpoises. They ate lots of birds including small wild birds as well as geese and pheasants. Fish was a regular dish as the church forbade the eating of meat during Lent and on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Herring, pike, salmon and bream were commonly eaten as well as eels, which were caught in lochs with wicker eel traps and barbed eel spears.

Doric Food
Birssle, birssle sing the twa broon kippers,

Catched fur the grill bi the North East skippers.
Oatcakes, cornflakes, Da likes haddies,
"Weetabix fur us!" cry growin laddies.

Granda's suppin up pease meal brose.
Gyad, yon's scunnerin. Haud yer nose.
Granda's teeth's in a wee fite mug,
Doon gaes the pease meal glug glug glug.

Mollie the collie chaws an auld coo's been.
The catty gnaws a ratty wi its milk an cream.
Skweel denne's trendy, mine's a pyoke
O chips wi a burger an a can o coke.

Kali frae Bali in classroom three,
Swallaes her chippataes wi a cup o tea.
Dod Jean an Donna sit doon tae dine,
On a parten an a labster frae the ocean brine.

Hame tae teas- snuff the smells aa roon,
Hairy tatties wyte fur Willie Broon,
Pizza fur Peter brocht frae Italy,
Omelette fur Jessie brocht in gay Paree,
Stir fry chukken jist fur Mary Anne,
Paella fur Bella, an chilli fur Sam.

Mary Buchan's waukin back tae stovies,
Mrs Giuseppi's dishin up anchovies,
Jimmy May'll hae a plate o skirlie,
Cullen Skink is on the plate fur Shirley,
An I can tell bi the sea fish bree,
There's buckies bylin on the hob fur me.

On wi the jammies, suppertime noo
Shortbreid cocoa, my kyte's foo!

Scotland has never really been known for it's cuisine. Like many other countries, Scotland's traditional recipes were a result of the food available and it is for this reason that many of the Scottish recipes are closely related to a specific area of Scotland. Scotland's, rather unique, climate, landscape and coastline have led to an amazing variety natural foods; superb beef (Aberdeen-Angus), venison and lamb, freshly caught salmon, trout and shellfish, vegetables and fruit. All have contributed greatly to Scottish cooking.   Thrift is manner in which all Scots recipes are rooted - cheap, filling and nourishing for growin' bairns.

Before Raliegh's introduction of the potato to the British Isles, the Scots' main sources of carbohydrates was gained from bread made from oats or barley. Wheat was generally difficult to grow because of the short season and damp climate. Food thrift was evident from the earliest times, with excavated middens displaying little evidence of anything but the unusable bones. All parts of an animal were used.

The mobile nature of Scots society in the past required food that would not spoil quickly. It was common to carry a small bag of oatmeal that could be transformed into a basic porridge or biscuit.  It is theorised that Scotland's national dish,  Haggis, originated in a similar way: A small amount of offal or low-quality meat, stored in the most inexpensive bag available, a sheep's stomach.

Dr Samuel Johnson, in 1773, comments upon the absence of yeast bread in Scotland. "Their native bread," he observes, "is made of oats or barley. Of oatmeal they spread very thin cakes, coarse and hard, to which unaccustomed palates are not easily reconciled." The learned doctor continues: "The barley cakes are thicker and softer; I began to eat them without unwillingness; the blackness of their colour raises some dislike, but the taste is not disagreeable. In most houses there is wheat flour, with which we were sure to be treated, if we staid long enough to have it kneaded and baked. As neither yeast nor leaven is used among them their bread of every kind is unfermented. They make only cakes, and never mould a loaf.

Dr Johnson, although not given to undue appreciation or praise of the general run of Scottish food, had some flattering things to say about the breakfasts. "Not long after the dram may be expected the breakfast, a meal at which the Scots, whether of the Lowlands or mountains, must be confessed to excel us. The tea and coffee are accompanied not only with butter, but with honey, conserves, and marmalades. If an epicure could remove by a wish, in quest of sensual gratifications, wherever he had supped he would breakfast in Scotland."

The Everlasting Bread

Aberdeen Rowies or Butteries were produced by an Aberdeen Baker to fulfil the needs of the Fishing Trawlers to provide bread that would stay 'fresh' for the duration of their sea going trip.  It soon became the staple breakfast for all working Aberdonians and the casual Savoury Snack which could be further embellished with butter, marmalade, Berry Jams, Syrup etc.  When heated they become soft and doughy. If you ask who makes the Best Rowies in Aberdeen you will get myriad answers.  They are all very good.

Butteries are named after their high lard content. They are also known as morning rolls and rowies and are a traditional Aberdeen roll. The best way to describe their look and taste is a saltier, flatter and greasier Croissant. Which disnae sound nice, but rowies are really delicious and filling for breakfast. Aberdeen butteries can be eaten cold and many shops, garages etc sell them pre buttered for anyone snatching an on the go breakfast. 

Ingredients For Aberdeen Butteries:

250g butter 
125g lard 
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar 
500g flour 
2 teaspoons of dried yeast 
450ml warm water 
Pinch of salt 

Baking Directions For Aberdeen Butteries:

1. Make a paste from the yeast, sugar and a wee bit of the warm water and set aside. 
2. Mix the flour and the salt together. Once the yeast has bubbled up add this and mix well to a dough and leave to rise. 
3. Cream the butter and lard and divide into three portions. 
4. Once the dough has doubled in size give it a good knead then roll into a rectangle about 1cm thick. 
5. Then spread one portion of the butter mixture over two thirds of the dough. 
6. Fold the remaining third of the dough over onto the butter mixture and fold the other bit over - giving three layers. Roll this back to the original size. 
7. Allow to cool for 40 minutes. 
8. Repeat stages 5-7 twice more. 
9. Cut the dough into 16 pieces and shape each to a rough circle and place on baking trays. 
10. Set aside to rise for about 45 minutes then bake at 200c for 15 minutes. 

The one place you could get Rowies on a Sunday morning in Aberdeen was the Torry Bakery and thiers were indeed 'special' very fresh and doughy and hot on purchase which would turn the bag they were served in to warmed grease proof paper.  Brother Jack made a business out of walking some 3 miles to Torry each Sunday morning and returning with many bagfuls of Rowies.  All pre-ordered on the Saturday for all the families in the tenements of Castle Terrace for a thrupenny or more reward per bag.  They paid in advance and he was fully trusted to return the agreed produce the following day and receive his tip.  All other bakers were closed on Sundays in those days.  Perhaps an enterprising  Jewish Aberdonian Baker or one that supplied freshly to the trawlers the following day.  Alas no more Torry Baker or even enterprising Jack to consult on this matter.

A Highland hero for centuries, oats are the healthy, slow energy-release cereal. Oats are adapted to a wide range of soil types, thus temperature and moisture conditions are the usual limiting factors as to where oats are grown. Perhaps no other country uses oats as much in their cropping system as does Scotland. In Scotland this cereal formed the principal article of diet for many years and as the hardiness of the Scotch people is usually attributed to their diet the value of oats as a food cannot be overestimated.

Oatmeal Brose was the true foundation of an expedition, and the correct method of making it must be put on record. A quantity of coarse oatmeal - with salt 'to taste' as they say - is placed in a bowl and boiling water poured over it. The water must be boiling hard as it pours and there should be enough of it to just cover the oatmeal. A plate is immediately placed over the bowl like a lid. You now sit by for a few minutes, gloating. This is your brose cooking in its own steam. During this pause, slip a nut of butter under the plate and into the brose. In four or five minutes whip off the lid, stir the mass violently together, splash in some milk and eat. You will never again be happy with the wersh and fushionless silky slop which passes for porridge. This was the food whose devotees staggered the Legions of Rome; broke the Norsemen; held the Border for five hundred years; and are standing fast on borders still. It is a dish for men. It also happens to taste superbly. We ate it twice a day, frequently without milk, although such a simplification demands what an Ayrshire farmer once described to me as a 'guid gaun stomach'. He is a happy traveller who has with him a bag of oatmeal and a poke of salt. He will travel fast and far.

Dr. Johnson gives a very unusual definition for the word oats: 'a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.' The description reveals his low opinion of the Scots.  That's why England has such good horses, and Scotland has such fine men!
The implement used to stir the porridge was called a spurtle a straight round wooden rod with rounded ends to enable the corners of the pot to be fully mixed in and aid with the pouring with the rod bringing the porridge from the flat of the saucepan sides whilst pouring towards the plate. Some people still call it a 'theevil'. In Shetland the porridge stick is called the 'gruel-tree'

To make porridge the traditional Scottish way is to use the finest Scots porridge oats or a good quality oatmeal. Any own label porridge much more than the more expensive breakfast carton porridge oats. It has a lighter and creamier texture and is easy and quick to make. Ideally soak the oats overnight in the quantity of water needed for each portion. This results in fluffier and tastier porridge recipes and is especially important for those using finer oatmeal.

Use 50 grams of oats per portion to 300mls of water or milk (Cup to 2-1/2 cups). Mix this into a pan and heat on a medium setting on the stove or hob. Stir continuously and once thickened turn off the heat and serve. Those who prefer to use oatmeal, especially medium oatmeal or pinhead oatmeal will need to allow up to 30 minutes simmering time until their porridge recipe is thoroughly cooked. Those wanting a quick meal should stick to Scotch porridge oats. 
Scotch oats, which are also referred to as 'pinhead oats' are chopped, rather than rolled into small pieces and they are chewier than rolled oats. They are used for the most traditional method of cooking porridge, but they take much longer to cook than any other type of oat.
You can also try Alford Mill Fine Ground Oats.
Traditionally you should stir clockwise but stirring this way and anticlockwise would help break up the oats and stop it sticking to the saucepan.

Oatmeal of Alford Excellent product for Porridge, Soups, Haggis, thickening gravies etc available from Waitrose
Hamlyns Steel Cut Oats

McCanns Pin Head Irish Oatmeal - Check their Recipes

Of a Highland Lady
- At this time in the Highlands of Scotland we were so remote from markets we had to depend very much on our own produce for most of the necessaries of life.  Our flocks and herds supplied us not only with the chief part of our food, but with fleeces to be wove into clothing, blanketing, and carpets, horn for spoons, leather to be dressed at home for various purposes, hair for the masons. We brewed our own beer, made our bread, made our candles; nothing was brought from afar but wine, groceries, and flour, wheat not ripening well so high above the sea.  Yet we lived in luxury, game was so plentiful, red-deer, roe, hares, grouse, ptarmigan, and partridge; the river provided trout and salmon, the different lochs pike and char; the garden abounded in common fruit and common vegetables; cranberries and raspberries ran over the country, and the poultry-yard was ever well furnished.  The regular routine of business, where so much was done at home, was really a perpetual amusement.  I used to wonder why - when travellers asked my mother if she did not find her life dull."

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Last modified: 01/09/2013