Mainland Scotland is surrounded on three sides by sea. Scotland’s islands have historically been populated by inhabitants who were largely self sufficient. Thus fishing has always been a major Scottish pastime – whilst a popular leisure pursuit now, it has often been a crucial activity to ensure Scots have food on the table. Remnants of past fishing culture can be seen in the Scottish Highlands and Islands – for instance the residential area running down to the harbour and sea in Nairn is called Fishertown; the capture, curing and export of herring was a thriving business in the town at the dawn of the twentieth century. Other fish strongly associated with Scotland are haddock and salmon – three famous examples being Arbroath Smokies, Finnan Haddock and Scottish Salmon.
Arbroath Smokies. Scotland’s east coast provides rich fishing ground; Arbroath, north of Dundee, retains traditional methods so well that it has gained Protected Geographical Indication status. This means that a true Arbroath Smokie can only be produced within a limited geographical boundary. An Arbroath Smokie is haddock which has been salted, dried and smoked – the latter process originally taking place in barrels, but as production increased moving to pits which people would often dig in their own back yard. If you are a follower of food you may have come across the smokies of Iain R Spink – a fifth generation Arbroath Smokie producer. If you are interested in Scotland’s past you may be aware of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 – some see this as a defining moment in Scotland’s nationalist history.
Finnan Haddock. This smoked and salted haddock, sometimes known as Finnan Haddie, originated in the village of Findan, below Aberdeen on Scotland’s east coast. Finnan Haddock, light gold in colour, is cold smoked, which means it is still raw when you buy it (Arbroath Smokies are ready to eat on purchase). A Glasgow chef - John Quigley - recommends grilling or baking Finnan Haddie.
Scottish Salmon. Many people I known in England will always look for Scottish salmon when they choose to buy this fish. It is an English version of buying locally sourced food, for it is still produced in the UK and is renowned for quality and taste. Salmon is a huge Scottish industry, with farmed salmon being exported worldwide, America and France being particularly healthy markets. Many Scottish producers have a strong environmental focus, wanting to ensure their salmon is farmed sustainably. Loch Fyne salmon (fresh and smoked) is a case in point – the salmon farmers that supply this product are committed to ecological working.