The Great British Breakfast - Pt.2 - The Scottish Breakfast
The second in our series about the Great British Breakfast sees us move North from England to the Lowlands and Highlands of Scotland. A personal favourite of mine, the Scottish breakfast is not a total departure from a Full English and shares many of the core ingredients such as bacon, eggs and baked beans. There are however some additions and variations that make a Scottish Breakfast truly unique from it's other British Breakfast counterparts.
So I'm going to assume you've read the first episode of our series on the Great British Breakfast (If not, you can find it here), so I won't spend 10 minutes waffling on about how the Great British Breakfast is my most faouritest (not a word) meal in the whole wide world, you know this.
So what makes a Scottish breakfast different from the others and is it better?
Ok, so let's break it down, starting with what is the same as most of the others, the core ingredients. Well, you've got back bacon, eggs, baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, tea/coffee and toast with butter and jam/marmalade out in left field. Standard. Like on the "Full English" you will also find Black Pudding on a "Full Scottish" and Stornoway black pudding like Bury black pudding in England, is considered the best in the world.
And then it starts to diverge and get more interesting. Firstly, sausage. Like the Full English, predominantly pork although beef is acceptable if that's your personal taste. However, a traditional Scottish breakfast will have Lorne sausage (more commonly known these days as square sausage) which is basically the same as a pork banger in content but shaped into a flat square patty without any casing. Why? I hear you ask. The reason it's flat and square is simple, it was designed to be the size of a slice of bread to make a perfect sandwich, pretty much the same idea as a burger but for square sliced bread and not a bread roll. "Normal" sausage bangers in Scotland are known as sausage links.
Secondly, the "Tattie Scone" or Potato Scone. This can generally be found in place of the English Fried bread and is essentially a flatbread made from flour and potato and then fried. It's dense and filling bread that generally starts off as a circle and is cut into 4 quarters like you would cut a pizza. It can often be found as an ingredient in a breakfast roll with sausage and/or bacon for a double carb morning hit. Fresh and cooked well, it can be light and crispy, overcooked or stale and it can resemble oily cardboard..
Next up is the ingredient that divides most taste buds (even in Scotland)) and has marmite style following, you either love it or you wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot barge pole. Haggis.
Haggis is as Scottish as bagpipes and Braveheart and whilst it's becoming more popular in other parts of Britain, it's almost impossible to found elsewhere in the world unless it's made by a Scottish expat. Living in South Africa and having a great love for Haggis, I've been fortunate enough to find a butcher in an area where quite a few Scots live and he makes a haggis in the traditional way. Unfortunately due to low demand it's frozen, but it's still better than nothing. I also place a "Tax" on all holiday makers who visit us in Cape Town and ask them to bring me some cans of tinned haggis from the UK supermarket. There is simply no substitute for buying, cooking and eating it fresh though. Sorry, getting Haggmotized there, back to the breakfast.
People who don't like Haggis can be found in two distinct groups. The one's who have tried it and genuinely don't like it (a small number) and then everyone else who knows what it is made from and can't get their taste buds ahead of their mind. The reason for that is that Haggis is the ultimate frugal food, in that it's made from the most meagre of ingredients and arguably some of the bits you traditionally throw away. Whilst there are variations (including vegetarian haggis), the basic recipe is the "Pluck" of a sheep, oats, spices and the bladder of the aforementioned sheep. Now if the bladder didn't get you, the Pluck might. The Pluck is the heart, lungs and liver of the sheep (Essentially the contents of the rib-cage). The whole thing gets minced with the oats, spices, onion, suet and stock and then the mince is pushed into the bladder, which is tied at both ends and then the whole thing is boiled into kind of a pasty sausage consistency which whilst already cooked, is re-cooked before eating, generally fried or interestingly; microwaving actually works well and is recommended as a cooking method .
Traditionally sold still in the bladder, most places now sell it sans bladder in a ball or pre sliced. Now if you read this far and held onto your lunch, well done, you're a foody. What I would say is, those basic ingredients (and the spices are more exotic than you would expect with things like Mace and Cayenne Peeper being used) pack an amazing amount of flavour. Haggis is meaty, peppery and super savoury in flavour so don't let the thought of it put you off, if and when you get the opportunity, be open minded, you might just discover something you love.
Haggis can be used in other dishes than breakfast, most notably, Haggis, neeps and tatties (swede & potatoes), Balmoral chicken (chicken breast stuffed with Haggis, often with a whisky cream sauce) and can even be found at most Scottish Fish & chip shops (a slab of Haggis deep-fried in batter in place of the fish). I could go on all day about the virtues of Haggis but back to the breakfast.
Next up is Fruit Pudding and is getting harder to find on a Scottish Breakfast but is no doubt a staple ingredient for the purist Scottish breakfast eater. Now it's not what it sounds. Don't get this confused with the american love for adding strawberries with a side of bacon or any of that sacrilege, Scottish fruit pudding is savoury and fruity and is made with flour, beef suet and oatmeal on the savoury side but mixed with brown sugar, sultanas and cinnamon on the sweet and then fried. Consistency wise it's similar to haggis but is lighter, almost white in appearance where haggis is dark brown.
And they would be the key differences
As you can see, a full Scottish breakfast is about as heavy as it gets and makes a Full English look almost like a light version. If you consider products with high protien on a single plate include; Sausage (links and lorne), bacon, black pudding, haggis, eggs and fruit pudding, then the potato scone and beans and toast for a heavy carb hit, the fried tomato and mushrooms are not going to save you! Clearly moderation is required when taking down the full Scottish!
Personally, I prefer a traditional banger over the square sausage, I wouldn't swap my english fried bread for tattie scones, I'm happy to forego the fruit pudding BUT I would choose Scottish over English any day for the Haggis alone. It's that good.
Like the English, portable versions are available in the form of sandwiches. In Scotland though, you need to know how to ask for it.
I once went into a chip shop in Edinburgh and asked for a portion of chips and a teacake (a teacake in my home county of Yorkshire, UK is commonly understood as a bread roll). The lady at the counter looked at me as if I was a few sandwiches short of a picnic and asked 'Are you sure love, chips and a teacake? together?", I replied in the affirmative and she went ahead and started shovelling chips into a paper parcel and then reached to the shelf nbehind her, grabbed and started to unwrap a chocolate covered marshmallow cake and popped it into said parcel, wrapped it all up and handed it to me. Being a young and polite boy who respected my elders, I smiled, said thank you and walked out of the shop wondering if there was a village missing an idiot somewhere. I found a spot to salvage what I could from chocolate and marshmallow covered hot chips with salt, vinegar and tomato sauce.
I regaled this story to a Scottish friend a little later and when she finally stopped pissing herself laughing, she informed me that in any part of scotland, if you ask for a teacake, you get a Tunnocks Teacake, which is probably one of the most popular accompaniments for an afternoon cup of tea in Scotland! So let me give you a quick lesson on sandwich etiquette in Scotland:
If you want a ham sandwich (e.g. two slices of bread) with mustard, you would ask for "A piece and ham with mustard please". A sliced bread sandwich is known as a "piece" in many parts of Scotland.
If you would like a sausage roll (as in sausage in a hamburger style bun), you would ask for "A roll and sausage please" the roll comes before the sausage. If you ask for a sausage roll, you are getting pork meat wrapped in puff pastry. Minefield!
So there you have it, the Great Scottish Breakfast. Some marked differences between it and the English version from Part 1.
Next Stop the rolling hills of Wales in Part 3.