If you want a real 'Taste of Scotland' then avoid the fast food joints, restaurant chains and deep fried Mars Bars*.
Instead head to one of the superb eateries up and down the country that focus on simple Scottish cooking using local produce. If you make the effort to visit a real Scottish restaurant you may be surprised at the choice of quality and tasty courses on offer.
What will you find on a Scottish menu?
There are common dishes that you will find in most Scottish restaurants, although they all have their unique way of cooking and presenting them.
Haggis is almost guaranteed on any Scottish menu and for those that haven't tried it I would highly recommend it! Seafood including mussels and salmon are pretty standard along with other fish choices. Our seafood is famous as some of the best and freshest in the world. Meats tend to include a choice of chicken, Scotch beef and lamb. For dessert expect sweet and savoury choices such as a Scottish cheese board with oatcakes, cranachan and sticky toffee pudding.
As Scotch lamb is a common ingredient featured in Scottish restaurants and usually one of my first choices on the menu, I couldn't miss a street food festival celebrating my meat of choice. With a butchery lesson, cooking demonstrations and the chance to try Scotch lamb cooked four different ways, the day was certainly educational.
I learned that Scotch lamb and beef labels can only be used for animals born, raised and processed in Scotland to a quality assured welfare standard. If the meat is only labelled 'Scottish' then they are not necessarily quality assured. I also learned that the Scottish red meat industry employs more than 50,000 people which makes you realise how important using local produce is in supporting the economy and providing jobs.
A butchery lesson and handily positioned posters helped everyone understand exactly where on the animal each cut of meat comes from.
Chef Jacqueline O'Donnell provided regular cooking demonstrations, using Scotch lamb to conjure up some tasty dishes. Jacqueline and her sister Pauline are actually the owners of two of my favourite restaurants in Glasgow aptly named The Sisters. If you are looking for a quality Scottish restaurant then either of their establishments are worth seeking out.
The Street Food Cartel are a collective of Scottish street food traders and four members of the Cartel were keeping hungry hoards happy by serving up their own unique Scotch lamb creations. Dishes included Lamb Massaman curry from Pad BKK, slow roasted lamb shoulder from So La Ti Dough, Barbacoa lamb in soft tacos from Antojita Cantina and braised neck fillet of lamb with cous cous from Scoop Silver Bullet.
All the dishes tasted great and were the perfect example of local Scottish produce being used in versatile and imaginative ways. I particularly loved the Scotch lamb in tacos, a combination I would never have thought of before, yet it really worked.
Scotland may surprise you with it's larder full of healthy, fresh, tasty food goodies and haggis is only one of the many delicacies on offer. If you are visiting Scotland be sure to check out the contemporary and traditional Scottish cuisine at one of the many great restaurants or street food vendors up and down the country.
*Deep fried Mars Bars do exist, however very few places 'specialise' in them and very few Scots have actually tried one (myself included!).
For information and recipes for Scotch lamb and beef visit http://www.scotchbeefandlamb.com/
To find out about the Street Food Cartel visit http://www.streetfoodcartel.com/
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