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Issue 61 - The Auld Alliance

Scotland Magazine Issue 61
February 2012

 

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The Auld Alliance

Sue Lawrence looks at the culinary links between Scotland and France

Whenever the Scottish rugby team plays France at Murrayfield, there is not only friendly rivalry but also a strong reminder of our culinary heritage, based on The Auld Alliance, that goes back many centuries. Although most people in both countries would credit the French with more brilliant culinary creations than us, I should like to raise the banner for Scots cooking too.

Of course we were receiving claret from Bordeaux centuries before Mary Queen of Scots had left the country of her birth to live in Paris. (Was it possible she had her cooks rustle up some Scotch broth which in turn influenced the French chefs who came up with pot-au-feu…or is that too presumptuous?) In Scotland we also had links with France many years before England even knew what “cuisine grand-mére” was! So in terms of sophistication, we were up there with the best of them. If only so many non-Scots could desist in finding the very words ‘Scots cooking’ so amusing and bringing up yet again the deep-fried Mars bars doused in salt and vinegar and served with a poke of chips on the side. This is patently unfair, given our world-class produce. How about bringing back pride in our culinary heritage by giving a nod to our alliance with France that goes back to at least the 12th century.

This culinary interchange has also given us new vocabulary. In Scotland we call a large platter an ashet, from the French assiette. We call a leg of lamb a gigot from the French gigot d’Agneau. Sadly I can’t say I recall finding anyone referring to a spurtle in Marseilles, but I don’t see why not; it would be exceedingly handy to stir their Bouillabaisse, which when I come to think of it is not a patch on Scotland’s great fish soups such as Cullen Skin and Partan Bree.

Cooking will have little bearing on any sporting prowess when France and Scotland are rivals on the rugby pitch, but here are some tempting recipes for afterwards.

Collops in the pan
Serves 4

Another link with the Auld Alliance, the word collop - meaning a thin slice of meat (usually beef, venison or veal) - is derived from the French escalope, which means “ a slice of meat or fish of any kind flattened slightly and fried in butter or another fat.”

50g /2 oz g butter
2 medium onion, peeled, sliced into rings
4 thin slices of rump steak mushroom ketchup (or Worcestershire sauce)

Heat the butter and gently fry the onions until golden brown.

Remove with a slotted spoon.

Increase the heat to high.

Cut the beef in two so you have eight thin steaks. Season and add to the pan. Cook for 4 - 5 minutes, turning once, until just done. Do not overcook.

Lower the heat, return the onions to the pan and add about two tbsp mushroom ketchup, stir, taste for seasoning, adding more ketchup if necessary. After a couple of minutes it should be ready to serve, with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

Stoved Chicken Howtowdie
Serves 4

This delicious recipe is based on one in Meg Dods 1829 Manual and is in the French style - the word Stoved from the French etuver- to stew or heat in a stove.
The word Howtowdie is interesting. Its etymology is from the Old French word hétoudeau or hétourdeau which means a capon.

1 free-range chicken, giblets removed
1 white (mealie) pudding, skinned
75g / 3 oz butter 300 / 10 oz g shallots, peeled and left whole
700 ml / 24 fl oz light chicken stock, hot 4 medium free-range eggs
300 g / 10 oz spinach, washed, lightly cooked
1 heaped tbsp cornflour

Stuff the chicken with the white pudding and reclose. Heat the butter in a lidded casserole (one that can go on the hob and in the oven) then add the chicken and brown well all over. Tuck the shallots all around pour over the hot stock and season well. Cover tightly with a lid (if it is not a good seal, use foil and a lid). Place in a preheated oven (180C / 350F / Gas 4 ) for 1¼ - 1½ hours until tender and cooked through. Remove the chicken and shallots to a large ashet and keep warm. Surround with the cooked spinach.

Place the casserole on the hob then, once gently simmering, carefully drop in the eggs, one at a time, to poach. (I like to gently draw the white around the yolk with a slotted spoon as they poach).

After a couple of minutes, carefully remove with the slotted spoon and place on top of the spinach.

Mix the cornflour with two tbsp cold water then whisk this into the simmering stock. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes until slightly thickened.

Check seasoning and serve in a jug with the chicken.

Croque Monsieur
Serves 4

This recipe is adapted from Chef Daniel Galmiche’s excellent book, French Brasserie Cookbook ( Duncan Baird £20)

4 eggs 400 ml / 14 fl oz milk
8 thick slices bread
150g / 5 oz butter
8 slices ham
100g / 4 oz mature hard cheese (Scottish Cheddar of French Comte), grated

Whisk the eggs and milk together in a bowl, season well then soak each slice of bread in the mixture, turning a few times to absorb the liquid.

Melt half the butter in a frying pan then when foaming add the bread and cook for 2 minutes till golden brown and a little crispy.

Turn the bread and add the rest of the butter. Cook in batches if using small frying pan.

Place a slice of ham and some cheese on each slice of bread, top with another slice of bread then press down a little to make a sandwich then turn this sandwich over and cook for about one minute to heat.

Serve hot with a crisp lambs lettuce salad.