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Issue 22 - Chance to be a king at the castle

Scotland Magazine Issue 22
August 2005


This article is 13 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Chance to be a king at the castle

Special private events at Edinburgh Castle are highly popular. Sue Lawrence went to find out what was on offer

On November 24, 1440, a ‘Black Dinner’ took place in Edinburgh Castle in the presence of King James II, then aged 10 years old.

A young rival for power, the Earl of Black Douglas, was also invited to dine and at the close of dinner a black bull’s head was placed in front of the Earl – a symbol representing death. He was then tried for treason, taken to the Castle Esplanade and beheaded.

One hundred and twenty six years later when Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to a boy, later James VI in the castle, I imagine there was more of a celebratory banquet than a portentous black dinner.

But nowadays, no-one dining at Edinburgh Castle need fear anything apart from walking uphill over the cobbles from the Esplanade through the Portcullis Gate to the Battery beside the ‘one o’clock gun’ , where you will witness not a beheading but the most glorious views in the city, overlooking the Firth of Forth and Fife, while sipping chilled Champagne and enjoying the most exquisite canapes prepared by the excellent in-house caterers Digby Trout .

Its reputation for good food means that people are clamouring to book events at Edinburgh Castle.

And instead of having the delights of a bull’s head, diners in either of the two castle venues available for hire, the elegant Queen Anne Room or the red-painted Jacobite Room, can enjoy some of Scotland’s finest produce cooked simply and with imagination, from Stornoway black pudding and West Coast scallops to Aberdeen angus beef and orange shortbread.

And before they even get to sit down to dine, guests can visit the Crown Jewels of Scotland, ‘The Honours’ as they are known, comprising the crown made for James V in 1540 and sceptre, presented to James IV in 1494.

But after taking in the glorious views, then being led to dine in style by bekilted pipers, the party can begin. And after the food is cleared and chairs pushed back, the ceilidh band starts up.

I feel sure the Earl of Black Douglas might have preferred to take a whirl on the dance-floor to the Gay Gordons rather than take a walk back down the cobbles to the Esplanade after his dinner in the castle 565 years ago!

To make a booking at Edinburgh Castle, or for further information, tel: +44 (0)131 668 8958 or email

Or visit the website :

The following recipes are from Digby Trout restaurants at Edinburgh castle.

Serves 4
12 king scallops
4 slices black pudding
1 tbsp olive oil

1 stalk lemongrass finely chopped
4 cm piece ginger finely grated
2 red chilis finely diced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 kaffir lime leaves shredded
300 ml/10 fl oz coconut milk
300 ml/10 fl oz fish stock
1-2 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
Juice of 1 lime
Small bunch coriander, finely chopped

1. Heat veg oil in a pan over a medium heat.
2. Add lemongrass, ginger and chili.
3. Cook for 1 minute until softened.
4. Add lime leaves, coconut milk, fish stock, fish sauce and sugar.
5. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir through coriander and lime juice.
6. Grill the black pudding on a medium heat for two minutes either side.
7. Heat olive oil in a heavy based frying pan until almost smoking.
8. Place the scallops into pan and cook for 1-2 minutes until they have taken on a caramelised tinge.
9. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

To assemble: place a slice of black pudding in each flat bowl, top with 3 scallops, pour over the broth and garnish with coriander leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 4
12 baby carrots
12 baby leeks
1 tsp sugar
50 g/2 oz butter
50 g / 2 oz pearl barley
1.5 litres chicken stock
2 celery sticks, diced
2 small onions finely diced
1 leek finely shredded
Chopped parsley
4 fillets of Aberdeen Angus beef
Mustard mash to serve
1. Boil a large pan of water. Add the carrots and part cook for 5 minutes.
2. Drain. Add the leeks and cook for 1 minute.
3. Drain. Add knob of butter and sugar to pan. Melt over a medium heat. Add leeks and carrots. Continue to cook over a medium heat, tossing until glazed and cooked through.
Season to taste.
4. Wash the pearl barley well. Place in a pan with the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer for 30-40 mins until tender. Add the onions and celery and cook for a further 20 mins.
5. Add the leeks, cook for 5 minutes then finish with a large knob of butter and parsley. Remove from heat.
6. Heat olive oil in a heavy bottom frying pan until almost smoking. Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Add to the pan and cook to your liking.
7. Remove from pan and leave to rest for at least 10 mins.

To assemble the dish: place a spoonful of mustard mash in the centre of each plate, top with a steak, arrange the carrots and leeks around the mash, pour over the broth and garnish with chopped parsley and olive oil.

Serves 4

200 g / 7 oz raisins, currants and sultanas
100 ml / 3 1/2 fl oz Drambuie
50 ml / 2 fl oz whisky
30 ml / 1 fl oz stock syrup
Finely grated zest of 1 orange

175 g / 6 oz plain flour
110 g / 4 oz unsalted butter
25 g / 1 oz caster sugar
25 g / 1 oz icing sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 oranges

75 g / 3 oz caster sugar
5 egg yolks
2 vanilla pods
50 ml / 2 fl oz milk
450 ml / 16 fl oz double cream

To make the whisky fruit
1. Place all the ingredients for the whisky fruits in a pan. Slowly bring to the boil.
2. Remove from heat and leave to cool. Decant into a sterile jar and leave to steep for at least 24 hours before use.

To make the shortbread
1. Mix all the ingredients in a food processor until well combined and a soft dough is formed.
2. Wrap in cling film and chill for 1 hour.
3. Roll the dough out on a floured board and cut into rounds. Bake at 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4 for 15 mins or until golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with caster sugar.

To make the crème brulee
1. Mix the sugar and egg yolks.
2. In a pan place the milk and the cream.
3. Split vanilla pods in half and scoop out the seeds into the pan. Add the pods too and heat gently to infuse the vanilla.
4. Pour the cream mix over the eggs. Mix well and pass through a sieve.
5. Place 1 tbsp of fruit and a little of their juice into a ramekin.
6. Carefully pour over the custard. Cook in a bain-marie in the oven at 140ºC/275ºF/Gas mark 1 for 30-40 mins until just set.
7. Sprinkle tops with demerara sugar and brown with a blow torch or under a very hot grill. Allow to cool and serve with the shortbread on the side.