The best Scottish cookery books
Chef and author Christopher Trotter chooses his favourite cookery texts, including books by Nick Nairn, Catherine Brown and Claire Macdonald
A personal selection of inspiring books about Scottish food and cooking by chef and author Christopher Trotter.
A Taste of Scotland – Scottish Traditional Food (Dent 1970)
Having researched and written three books on Scottish food, there is only one person to whom I generally look if I need the final answer. Theodora Fitzgibbon has done the homework, discarded the inedible, re-written the unreadable and generally opened the door for Scottish food lovers the world over. From collops in the pan to stoved potatoes there are endless, delightful historical insights. My copy is battered and worn with use.
A Year in a Scots Kitchen (Neil Wilson 2002)
Catherine Brown’s concern for tradition and a plea for honest food in her earlier Broths to Bannocks makes her perhaps the founder of today’s back-to-basics, no-nonsense real food crusade. A Year in a Scots Kitchen couples her couthy storytelling style with a sense of seasonal eating and simple, earthy recipes reflecting those great Scots qualities of thrift and respect for the farmer. Recipes come with a brief homily on the associated traditions along with useful alternatives.
David and Hilary Brown
La Potiniere and Friends (Century 1990)
La Potinière and Friends is one of my favourite books. While I haven’t cooked every recipe, Hilary Brown has influenced much of my cooking. In his own eclectic style, David Brown's story of the restaurant punctuated by Rolling Stones' song titles is a read in itself. It represents to me a time (the 1980s) when Scottish cooking in restaurants came of age – our gods were Betty Allen at the Airds, Gunn Erickson at the Altnaharrie Inn and David Wilson of the Peat Inn.
Teach the Bairns to Cook – Traditional Scottish Recipes
for Beginners (Scottish Children’s Press 1996)
This book should be compulsory reading for all primary school teachers. Liz takes her young charges through Scottish history from the food angle. From Cullen skink to bridies, basic techniques are all there as well as tips on safety and hygiene in the kitchen. It is without pretension and unpatronising. Never mind teaching kids curries and pasta. This will give them a great grounding.
Claire Macdonald (ed.)
Scottish Highland Hospitality (Black and White 2002)
The Scottish culinary scene is constantly changing with places coming and going as fashions fluctuate. Claire Macdonald, herself no mean cook and writer, has assembled a varied but long serving bunch of great cooks and chefs with some excellent recipes truly reflecting contemporary Scottish cooking. Names and places still stand out, such as Becca Henderson at The Cross and Alan Craigie at the Creel in Orkney. Not just a cookery book but a travel book as well.
The Ultimate Venison Cookery (Swanhill Press 2007)
While many might say that to call a book 'the ultimate' is sheer arrogance, after 30 years of working with venison on her hill farm above Auchtermuchty, Nichola Fletcher has a point. Here is every conceivable way with venison, including preparation from hanging to boning and explanations of what to do with all the cuts including heart, liver and kidney. It’s an encyclopaedia, all infused with Nichola’s natural quirky humour and sound knowledge.
F Marian McNeill
The Scots Kitchen (Mercat Press 2006)
This is a piece of history. Her 1929 introduction rings true today: 'in this age of standardisation,' she says, rallying cooks to the kitchen, 'let us follow in the brave path of our ancestors'. Space does not allow for specific recipes (look to her 1946 publication Recipes from Scotland, for those), but everything is here, interspersed by an entertaining narrative history. Recommended by figures such as Derek Cooper, Elizabeth Luard and Catherine Brown.
New Scottish Cookery (BBC Books 2004)
This is Nick Nairn's coming-of-age book; gone are the elaborate, overworked ideas from his earlier days (I still cringe when I look at the cover photo of Wild Harvest) and although there is use of distinctly non-Scottish ingredients, Nick does encourage his readers at every turn to buy Scottish wherever possible. What comes through in this book is his imagination and deep understanding of textures, flavours and colour. Great photos which make you feel that you could actually cook most of it.
A Cook's Tour of Scotland (Headline 2006)
Any book which has kale as a chapter heading has to be applauded in my view. Each chapter has its own little essay about its subject, often based around Sue's family history but also including details of present-day producers, from Ronnie Eunson's sheep on Shetland to Richard Barclay's Rannoch venison and Iain Spink's smokies. Sue's recipes are imbued with a sense of the past but always looking ahead, keeping things fresh, simple and approachable.
Christopher Trotter is a Fife-based chef, hotelier, teacher and food inspector. He is a member of the Guild of Food Writers and is the author of three books, including The Scottish Cookery Book and The Scottish Kitchen. He now runs Momentum, a consultancy based around quality and innovation.