Oats have for centuries been part of Scotland’s staple diet. Oats thrive in a climate where other crops wither. Scots use oats to make sweet and savoury dishes, many of which have developed over.
Oatmeal is an essential ingredient for Scottish black pudding, traditionally eaten at breakfast. Other ingredients include barley, herbs, pigs blood, spices and suet. As with much Scottish cuisine, the recipe developed from the need to use available ingredients to form nourishing food.
Some call this uncooked porridge. Oatmeal is covered with boiling water and covered to allow the oats to steam cook; butter can be added to give the dish a creamier texture. After a few minutes of steaming milk is mixed in, at which point the brose is ready to eat. The simplicity of the dish means it works well for travellers who can reduce the recipe, if needed, to oats and water. It is considered a hearty way to start the day for those working long hours outdoors. It is also considered useful as a pick-me-up for people who are unwell.
Cranachan is a rich Scottish dessert. Cream is mixed with honey, whisky, raspberries and toasted oats. Sometimes the individual ingredients are left out so that diners can each create an individual pudding, choosing how sweet or strong they want their dessert. Cranachan is sometimes known as Crowdie Cream, crowdie being a soft cheese that was often used for the dish before cream became popular.
Oatmeal is used when making haggis; the primary ingredients are sheep’s lungs, heart and liver. Traditionally all the ingredients were stuffed into a bag made from a sheep’s stomach for cooking. Haggis is consumed in vast quantities on or around 25 January – Burns Night; Robert Burns’ poem Address To A Haggis is usually recited at Burns Night celebrations. Vegetarian haggis recipes normally nod to tradition by including oatmeal.
True Scots will take their porridge with salt, yet the worldwide preference is for porridge with sweetness added whether it be fruit, honey or sugar. In the past porridge would be poured in to drawers and left to harden, then cut in to pieces that were easily portable for workers who could not get home to eat.
Skirlie is a simple dish which Scots have eaten as a complete meal when times have been tight. It is normally served as an accompaniment to other dishes; it is also used as stuffing. Skirlie is made by frying onions and oatmeal in beef suet; the cooked dish is usually seasoned with black pepper.