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Issue 74 - The Spirit of the nation

Scotland Magazine Issue 74
April 2014


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The Spirit of the nation

How to incorporate whisky into your cooking

There are moves afoot, especially in Scotland, to promote the drinking of whisky with dinner – no wine at all – a concept alien to most people.
At Burns Suppers it is something that is often done (and I must say often with dire consequences, since the same whisky is often glugged down with everything from soup and haggis to cheese and pudding!) but in fact, having particular malts selected to go with each specific dish is a revelation.
I thoroughly recommend holding a whisky dinner, if only to convince those who confess to loathing Scotland’s finest drink that, taken with food, it is a whole different ball-game.
Broad guidelines such as avoiding vinegary or acidic dishes should be adhered to. It is also obvious that to serve a wine-rich dish such as coq au vin or boeuf bourguignon is not only a complete clash of fundamental tastes (grape and grain), it is a waste of good wine and good whisky. There are some flavour matches that might surprise you however. Don't forget – never serve in small sherry-style glasses: large wine glasses are perfect to bring out the full bouquet of malt whisky. Just remember to pour only the tiniest amount in each glass, and to have plenty of still water on the side.
But if you feel you are not ready for this baptism by the dram, then, opt for whisky in your food as an ingredient; to my mind, the best of both worlds. You can choose whichever whisky you like to drink. The only caveat is that if you use a smoky peaty whisky, that flavour will come through loud and clear, so I would not advise for most desserts, but to accompany smoked fish or strong meat or game, it’s a winner! Slainte!

Steaks with pepper and whisky sauce
Serves 2
Serve with mash and quick-fried kale
2 Scotch Beef steaks (rib-eye or sirloin)
olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
25g /1 oz butter
dram of whisky
150 ml / 5 fl oz double cream
2 tsp Dijon-style mustard
few shakes Worcestershire sauce

Bring the steaks to room temperature by removing from fridge half hour before cooking. Rub all over with a smear of olive oil then coat in coarsely ground black pepper.
Heat a frying pan to very hot then once hot, add a smear of oil. Season the steaks with salt then fry until done to your liking, turning once. Towards the end of cooking, add the butter and baste. Remove steaks to a warm plate to rest.
Increase the heat, add the whisky, bubble away for a minute, stirring, then add the cream, mustard and Worcestershire sauce and bubble away until thick then season to taste then serve with the steaks.

Quick-fried kale
Serves 4
75g / 3¾ oz Ayrshire streaky
bacon, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 fat garlic clove, peeled, chopped
200g / 7 oz kale, stalks stripped off, washed, shredded

Fry the bacon in a hot frying pan for a few minutes then add the oil and garlic and fry briefly then remove the bacon and garlic with a slotted spoon and add the kale, stir well then cover, reduce the heat and allow to “steam” for 4 - 5 minutes until the kale is just tender. Return the bacon/garlic to the pan, season to taste and serve at once.

Serves 4
Traditionally made with crowdie (a crofters’ soft, fresh cheese), you can either make with all cream or add in some thick yoghurt to reduce the richness. A wee piece of shortbread on the side never goes amiss.

2 – 3 tbsp pinhead oatmeal
OR porridge oats
300ml / half pint double cream
clear Scottish honey
whisky, to taste
100g tub thick yoghurt
300g / 12 oz raspberries or brambles

Toast the oatmeal, either under the grill or in a dry frying pan, then set aside to cool.
Lightly whip the cream with a spoon or two of honey and a good splash of whisky until floppy then gently fold in the yoghurt and finally most of the oatmeal.
Fold in half the berries then pile into four glasses and decorate with remaining berries and a drizzle of honey and scattering of oatmeal on the top.

Whisky Fruit Cake
Serves many
If you are making this cake with whisky connoisseurs in mind, then try it with an Islay malt. If you simply want a good whisky hit with no discernible smokiness, then use a Highland or Speyside. The malt I often use for this is Glenfiddich 12 Years Old which has a rich fruity flavour that is ideal.
This cake is ideal for Christmas, weddings or indeed just to accompany an essential afternoon cup of tea.

Begin the day before, to soak the fruit in whisky overnight.

300g / 10½ oz raisins
300g /10½ currants
100g / 3½ oz mixed peel
350ml / 12 fl oz malt whisky
150 g / 5½ oz butter, softened
150 g / 5½ oz dark muscovado sugar
3 large free-range eggs
200g / 7 oz self-raising flour
2 tsp mixed spice
40g / 1½ oz ground almonds

Soak all the fruit in the whisky overnight. (If it is really warm – unlikely as it is in Scotland – I put it into the fridge overnight then bring back to room temperature well before mixing with the rest of the ingredients).
Cream the butter and sugar together until soft and light. Add the eggs one by one then tip in all the fruit and whisky.
Sift in the flour and spice, add the almonds and combine well.
Spoon into a lined 8½ - 9” / 22 - 23cm deep cake tin. (I line the sides of the tin with high lining paper which protects the surface from burning. But it is a good idea to cover loosely with foil towards the end of cooking, to prevent fruit poking out burning.)
Bake at 170 C / 325F / Gas 3 for 1¾ - 2 hours or until done, test by inserting a skewer into the centre, it should come out clean. Remove to a wire rack and leave until completely cold before removing from tin.