A Taste of Scotland’s Islands is the latest cookbook by food writer and novelist Sue Lawrence. In it she takes you on a virtual tour of Scotland’s many islands finding out about the food traditions and history of each place.
The book contains a mix of traditional recipes and more modern ones. Some of the much older recipes, it has to be said, are quite unlikely to be tackled by your average cook these days but it was interesting to read about them nonetheless. One such recipe was for Guga and Tatties. Guga is a baby gannet or fulmar, considered a delicacy, which men from the Ness on the island of Lewis hunt and catch every year from the tiny island, or rock really, called Sula Sgeir in the Atlantic. The author’s suggestion you might want to cook it outside to avoid the smell lingering in your kitchen made me smile! Some of the more traditional recipes include puckle bread from Shetland, cloutie dumpling, haggis, neeps and tatties soup and traditional Hebridean black pudding. More modern recipes sometimes give a Scottish twist to a slightly more exotic dish such as venison lasagne, mushroom risotto with black pudding and truffle oil or Scalpay langoustines with black pudding, chorizo and pea puree. We do like our black pudding up here – can you tell? – and Stornoway black pudding, I can tell you from experience, is one of the best.
I always think the best way to review a cookbook is to follow one of the recipes so I made the Raasay Walled Garden courgette soup with cheese for my family’s tea one chilly evening recently. Raasay is a small island just off Skye which you may have heard from the book or play Calum’s Road. I couldn’t get the Mull cheddar suggested but did stick with the island theme and used some Orkney cheddar instead. The recipe was a straightforward to follow and the soup was delicious.
There were several more recipes which caught my eye including the gin and tonic cake which I might just make using my Harris gin! I also rather like the sound of the sticky apple cake and with winter upon us, it sounds like an ideal Sunday dinner comfort food dessert.
There are some beautiful photographs throughout the book not just of food but of the stunning landscapes of Scotland. Even if you aren’t much of a cook, this book would give you the opportunity to find out more about the rich and varied food traditions of Scotland or the history of the islands and might inspire you to visit one of the islands for yourself.
My thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group who gave me a loan of the copy of the book she was kindly sent by publishers Birlinn Books. We had planned a cooking session together but life got in the way! A Taste of Scotland’s Islands is available now in hardback. It should be available to buy or order from good bookshops or it can be ordered directly from the publishers website here: A Taste of Scotland’s Islands
From the back of the book
Sue Lawrence has been on a personal odyssey – a trip round some of Scotland’s many islands speaking to producers and cooks, gleaning recipes along the way. From islands such as Mull, Raasay, Out Skerries and Luing she has amassed over 100 recipes, mainly created from ingredients and produce she came across in her travels. Some of the recipes are traditional, for example using seaweed or reestit mutton in a soup; others are more contemporary, like Shetland Salt Fish Cakes with Romesco Sauce or Venison Chilli.
This celebration of the landscape and history of the Scottish islands is illustrated with photos of some of the most beautiful scenery in the world and with mouth-watering pictures of the islands’ best cooking. Keen home cooks will find here a whole new world of delicious but easy to prepare dishes, presented with Sue’s trademark warmth and clarity of method.
About the author
Sue Lawrence won MasterChef in 1991, which launched her career as a food writer and journalist. Over the past 25 years she has written for the Sunday Times, Sainsbury’s magazine, Woman & Home, Country Living and the BBC Good Food magazine and has made numerous TV appearances. Her books include The Scottish Kitchen, Eating In and Scottish Baking.