Yesterday I listed the must-try foods in Glasgow, so to continue with that fine Scottish theme today’s list will center around Edinburgh. I covered the things to do in Edinburgh as part of my second travel destination posts and mentioned the delicious chicken curry pie in Aberfoyle. These are the foods that made our Edinburgh short list, though you can get many of them in either city:
Haggis: This rather gross-looking dish simmers in boiled water an hour or two before being served and it’s no wonder why: its contents. Diced sheep’s liver, lungs and heart are mixed with onions, oatmeal, and special seasonings before being stuffed in sheep’s stomach to cook (though there are vegetarian versions available that look just as unappetizing). This dish is mostly eaten over a large breakfast, but is also served with turnips and potatoes for dinner.
Soor Plums: These hard candies (yes, candy) are sour plum-flavored, bright green boiled sweets that are sold by the quarter-pound in paper bags.
Black Bun: This isn’t the kind of fruit cake that you receive during the holidays as some terrible joke or as your very own “piece of coal.” This fruit cake, which is shaped more like a loaf of bread, contains raisins, currants, orange peel, almonds, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, and allspice at its center that is entirely covered with pastry.
Arbroath Smokies: These special smoked haddock are sold in supermarkets in the UK (and online) by a small group of businesses who use a single recipe from the tiny town of Auchmithie.
Scotch Whisky: No list would be complete without it.
Cullen Skink: Smoked haddock, potatoes, and onions come together in a thick, creamy soup that is a bit like (and also not at all like) good chowder with a stronger taste. It has been called the best fish soup and I dare not disagree (though I do love all sorts of fish chowder).
Clootie Dumpling: It primarily won’t be sold as a whole dumpling, but rather as a slice – a single dumpling can feed roughly 15-20 people. The dessert pudding is made of flour, dried fruit, suet, sugar, milk, spices, and breadcrumbs (sometimes). It is mixed into dough, wrapped in a cloth with flour, and placed into boiling water. A few hours later, the flour-cloth is removed and the dumpling is placed in front of a fire or low-heat oven until the surface is dry and it can be served with jam, cream, or even ice cream.
Edinburgh Rock: This soft, crumbly candy was invented in Scotland and comes in a variety of flavors. They’re mostly sugar, as would be expected, and remind me a little bit of pillow mints in their look and their melt-in-your-mouth quality, but the texture is chalkier and the taste isn’t similar at all.
Oatcakes: This oatmeal-based flatbread is most similar to a cracker and is ideally paired with jam, spreads, or a number of cheeses, though they are often eaten alone as well.
Tablet: This vanilla or whisky flavored confection is made from sugar, butter, and condensed milk. It is medium-hard, more crumbly than fudge and not at all similar in taste, though many compare the two. It is grainier than and not as soft as fudge, though it isn’t as hard as peanut brittle.
Cranachan: Try this traditional Scottish dessert composed of whipped cream, honey, (very fresh) raspberries, whisky, and toasted oatmeal that has also been soaked the previous night in whisky. This dessert looks a little like a yogurt parfait but tastes nothing like it and doesn’t put quite as large a dent into the calorie and carbohydrate daily intake as most everything else on this list.
Forfar Bridie: Meat pastries are common fare in Edinburgh, though the variety might surpise you. Bridies are similar to basic pasties in terms of the filling, which in this case consists of minced steak, beef suet, butter, salt, and pepper, but because they’re made without potatoes, the crust is lighter and flakier. They’re usually triangular or semi-circlular in shape with a hole in the center (or two, if the pastry contains onion).
Take advantage of the fresh seafood that Edinburgh’s proximity to water offers with main courses such as oysters and hand-dived scallops that aren’t too pricey. You can also find wonderful Indian cuisine and English cheeses to add some diversity to your food list. Whatever you do, start with porridge for breakfast to eat like the locals.
– M. Ray Hall