Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Taste of Scotland's Islands - Sue Lawrence

I've talked so much about this book I keep thinking I've already written about it, but I haven't and it's wonderful so here goes. When James and Tom Morton's book, 'Shetland' came out last year I was hoping for something rather like this - more of an overview of the current food scene on Scottish islands, as well as a look at its past.

'Shetland' was not that book - it's the much more personal reactions of the Morton's to their family life and home. This book visits 20 or so of the hundreds of Scottish islands from Luing in the south west, to Unst (northernmost Shetland island).

Interesting things are happening in Scotland's islands in terms of food. There's access to some fantastic ingredients and they're really being appreciated which makes sense in a whole lot of ways - not least as a tourist attraction. The weather may not always be dependable, but good food stops you caring about it. Food, particularly baking, is also integral to all sorts of community activities.

Chapters are organised by ingredients rather than location (breakfast bakes, soup vegetables seaweed, fish, shellfish, meat, game, berries and rhubarb, baking, cheese, honey and gin) and there's everything here from historic curiosities (comerant soup and home made black pudding) through traditional (cloutie dumpling and shortbread), and onto the entirely contemporary (warm Berry gin compote with rose-petal ice cream).

The recipes look great - there's a lot here that I want to make, starting with the Islay whisky cake, the photography is also beautiful, but what really makes this special is the way it's rooted in the communities Lawrence visits. She has collected recipes and stories from all sorts of people (including a gluten free apple cake from my stepmother which was a nice surprise). It's a generous showcasing of all sorts of culinary activities and personalities from the professional to the home cook with room for farmers, fisherman, and more.

It genuinely does give you a taste of what to expect in Scotland's islands (Mull is the most foody I've visited so far, standards were high everywhere we went, the seafood was spectacular, there's all sorts of meat and game produced on the island, whisky, cheese, biscuits...) it's a book you want to cook from, as well as plan holidays with.


  1. I have not yet been to Scotland this year and now a visit is looking doubtful but I am truly pining to visit again. Perhaps this book might assuage my desire?

  2. It's well worth having a look at, though it did make me want to be back in the islands even more than usual!