The Scottish Islands include the Western Isles, the Shetland Isles and the Orkney Isles. These are recipes from the island regions of Scotland, a collection of local and regional recipes handed down within families who have lived and worked on the Scottish islands. All of the recipes below are regionally authentic, originally coming from recipe books published in the 1800s or 1900s, with the weights and measurements adjusted (alongside the old standards) where appropriate for the modern kitchen.
BEREMEAL SCONES – Orkney (girdle recipe)
Make porridge (ground oats) as directed, only make it extra thick. Add a piece of butter the size of a walnut, stir well, then turn on to a baking board which has been lightly dusted with beremeal (barley flour). Knead lightly. Roll out very thinly. Cut and fire on a greased girdle, first on one side, then on the other. Serve with golden syrup.
Beremeal is a creamy coloured whole flour made from bere, an ancient and genetically pure variety of barley grown in Scotland since around 2000BC. Bere is now grown only in the far north of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland and the Western Isles.
SOFT CREAM CHEESE
Allow a bowl of cream to remain in a warm place until sour enough to become solid. Then stir in celery salt to taste and place in a piece of butter muslin which has been scalded in boiling water and rinsed in cold. Tie to the curd and suspend over a basin to drain. Tie more tightly as the moisture drains off, using a fresh cloth each day. In a week your cream cheese will be ready, and whether eaten with salad, oatcakes or biscuits, it is a delicacy.
BRANDERED SPELDINGS – Western Isles
Speldings are haddocks and whitings split open and washed in numerous tubs of water, then sun-dried on nets. There is only one way to cook speldings and enjoy them at their best – on the brander (a kind of ‘open faced’ girdle made with rods). When cooked over the red-hot embers of a peat fire, they are simply delicious. The peat gives a piquant flavour to the sweetness and daintiness of the speldings and makes them, indeed one of the delicacies of the north-east of Scotland. The brander should be made thoroughly hot before the speldings are placed on it.
POTTED HERRINGS (a very old islands recipe)
Get herrings enough to fill up your dish / And into the stomach of each little fish / A peppercorn put, this will give it a flavour / Which, in epicure’s taste, is sure to find favour; / Then layers alternate of onions thin sliced / And herrings and bay-leaves – each layer well spiced; / Then over the whole some best vinegar pour, / Diluted with water – a pint or still more; / Three hours in an oven, with moderate heat, / Will make it quite fit for the hungry to eat.
Clean a fresh herring, cut off its head, open it out flat by splitting it up the back. Take out the backbone and as many other bones as will come with it; dip the fish in fine oatmeal and fry in shallow fat, 3 minutes on each side should do it.
BARLEY MEAL SCONES (girdle recipe)
Stir in enough fine barley meal into 1 quart (1.1 L) boiling milk to make the consistency of porridge. Add 1 large teaspoonful bicarbonate of soda and about 1 tablespoonful salt. Add more barley meal to make a stiffish dough. Cool a little. Take and knead about a tablespoonful at a time on baking-board dusted with the meal. Roll out thin. Cut in flour and fire on a hot girdle on both sides. Spread with butter (treacle or syrup) and roll up. If preferred, half flour and half barley meal may be used.
Have about 1/2 lb (250g) of plain flour, the usual amount of salt to taste. Mix together (no raising agent). Mix with water absolutely on the boil until a nice thick scone consistency. Then cut out and cook both sides on girdle or hot plate. Eat at table as any other kind of scone. Or fry and double over with a slice of cheese in the middle, or any other filling.