Last week, a lovely American family – ‘mom’, ‘pop’ and their 12-year old son booked in for a Scottish cooking class and it was a great success.
Family style cooking
I have run the cooking class with adults, but it worked really well with an enthusiast for slicing leeks, chopping potatoes, flaking fish and rolling up their sleeves and using their hands (clean) to mix sugar and butter together for shortbread.
Oats Rule in Scottish Cooking
The private cooking classes take place in my Georgian 200-year old flat and starts with a welcome drink and chat about Scottish cookery over Edinburgh Gin rhubarb and ginger gin liqueur over ice, plus an Irn Bru for junior – who was intrigued by Scotland’s other ‘national drink’ and my homemade cheese oatcakes. Oats and barley grow better than wheat in Scotland so oats are still a staple of the Scottish diet.
Scottish cookery has always differed from England. The Romans influenced English cooking but as they did not venture far into Scotland, historically Scottish cuisine developed slowly. Scottish cooking methods advanced through the influence of the French at the court of Mary Queen of Scots.
Scottish cooks have always been famous for their soups, haggis (a dish traditionally served on Burns Night) and their baking, especially scones, pancakes, fruit cakes, oatcakes and shortbread.
To the kitchen for the Scottish cooking class…
Then into the kitchen – where guests (hands washed) are issued with Scottish aprons and a knife and chopping board to make the classic Cullen Skink. This lovely filling fish soup originates from the little fishing village of Cullen on the Moray Firth. It is a hearty soup and traditionally made with Finnan haddock (smoked haddock), potatoes, and onions or leeks.
Skink used to mean shin of beef – but as there was so much fish in this fishing town, smoked haddock is used. By poaching the fish in the milk, the fish cooks quickly and flavours the milk. Whilst the chopped potatoes and leeks were cooking, the guests start on shortbread
Shortbread was for high days and holidays
In Scotland, shortbread was an expensive luxury and for ordinary people, it was a special treat reserved for special occasions such as weddings, Christmas and New Year. The custom of eating shortbread at New Year (Hogmanay) has its origins in the ancient pagan Yule Cakes which symbolised the sun. Shortbread has been attributed to Mary, Queen of Scots, who in the mid-16th century was said to be very fond of Petticoat Tails, a thin, crisp, buttery shortbread.
Good quality Scottish butter, flour and sugar and some elbow grease is all it takes and soon the shortbread is chilling in the fridge and the guests are in the sitting room tucking into their creamy Cullen Skink. As they had been tasting as it cooked, I knew they couldn’t complain re size of veggies or softness of the potato! They loved it.
The next course is haggis – no one in Scotland would make their own, unless they had access to a whole sheep or cow, so I serve MacSween haggis ( Veggie available – same spices and oatmeal content as the meaty one) with tatties (potato) and neeps (turnip) and a shot of whisky. I recite one stanza of Burns’ poem – Ode to a Haggis – we don’t want our haggis main meal to get cold!
By this time the chilled shortbread is out the oven and cooling down to the guests to enjoy with tea or coffee and whatever is left is boxed up take away.
Cook with Nell
I can see how the Scottish cooking classes work well for visitors to the city with easy to replicate recipes they can take recreate back home.
Edinburgh Food Safari Scottish cooking Classes are perfect for couples, friends and families of all ages. Minimum number is two guests and maximum is six guests.
Times are either over lunch 11am- 2pm or evening 6.30 – 8.30pm – entails some chopping, but no washing up !
Price is £75 per person
To arrange a time and day which suits your party just contact Nell