Clapshot is one of Scotland’s better known vegetable dishes. Fraser Wright discovers its surprisingly rich history and provides a recipe to make your own

Clapshot is one of Scotland’s better known vegetable dishes. Although, it has to be said, there aren’t that many in the first place.

According to F. Marian McNeill (The Scots Kitchen, 1929) clapshot is an Orcadian dish, or rather, clapshot is an Orcadian word. In his book Reminiscences of an Orkney Parish (1920), John Firth remembers eating clapshot with bere bannocks: ‘This vegetarian dish bore the curious name of “clapshot.”’ A spartan, but all the same, filling and nutritious meal.

It is hard to imagine such an elemental mixture of turnips and potatoes, mashed together and enriched with butter, not being made wherever turnips are enjoyed. It is the perfect accompaniment to haggis, or lamb chops, or a rich lamb stew. To clarify, it is the Swedish turnip, or swede, what is generally called turnip in Scotland, which I refer to in this article.

Despite the fact that Scotland has never been famous for its vegetable dishes; it does, however, play a vital role in the British and European potato industry, supplying the finest potato seedlings for commercial growers all over Europe.

Scotland’s cooler climate is perfect for producing potato seedlings which are disease free, producing extremely healthy crops more naturally. This is one of the rare occasions where Scotland’s cooler climate has been an advantage in the vegetable department.

As clapshot is such a simple dish it almost seems silly to write down a recipe for it. Boil turnip and potatoes, bash them, mix with butter etc. However, there are a few things that can make a difference. McNeill includes chives in her recipe. As she was an Orcadian herself, and wrote down the first recipe, chives may be an essential component if you are a stickler for authenticity. Finely sliced chives are so pretty, and apart from their flavour, they have the wonderful effect of making this basic dish look extremely appetising.

However, they are not so essential if they happen to have travelled half way round the world to get to Scotland. The other thing I like to add to clapshot is fried onions, they add a savoury sweetness that transform this dish into something very special. My parents always make clapshot this way when they have haggis and I love it.

The quantities in the recipe below is enough to serve 2 – 3 people. The quantities you make are usually dependent on the size of turnip you buy, either that until you get fed up of chopping it. You need a sharp knife for turnip, otherwise you will be in despair.

Ingredients

• 1 small swede, roughly 500g, (i.e. the size of a grapefruit)
• 3 medium potatoes, roughly 500g (Desiree are of course the best for mashing, but mealy potatoes, such as Golden wonder or Records, are what were traditionally grown in Scotland)
• 1 medium brown onion (optional)
• small bunch of chives (optional)
• butter
• salt and pepper
• nutmeg (optional)

Method

1.Prepare the turnip by removing the outer skin, then cut it into small and even cubes.

2.Peel the potatoes and chop them into cubes. Boil both vegetables in salted water in separate pots.

3.Meanwhile peel and slice the onion as thin as you can, then fry it slowly in a pan with a little butter, or cooking oil, until well browned, sweet and crispy.

4.When the turnip and potato are soft, when they can be pierced easily with a sharp knife, drain them and leave them to steam for 5 minutes to help get rid of any excess water.

5.Mash the turnip and potato together in a pot over a low heat, this helps to remove any excess water, and to keep it hot. Add a generous knob of butter, a grating of nutmeg and grinding of black pepper.

6.Stir half the onions through and save the rest for the top. Check for seasoning and serve sprinkled with the remaining onions and chives.

• See more of Fraser’s recipes at www.redbookrecipes.com/

Like this? See also:

• Scottish festive traditions involving food and drink

• A history of the Clootie Dumpling, including a recipe for making your own

 

About The Author

Fraser Wright

Fraser is originally from Glasgow and lives in a wee flat in Edinburgh. He writes the food blog www.redbookrecipes.com and wants to put Scotland on the map as a place for good food.

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