The Ate to Z of Scottish food and drink part one (A-I)

It's fair to say we love Scottish food and drink - so for a bit of fun, here's the first part of our 'Ate to Z' guide to the country's best produce.

Published 18th Feb 2016
Updated 12 th Sep 2023

Scottish foodies are so lucky. Not only do we have a wealth of wonderful local produce on our doorsteps, we have a burgeoning number of top-notch shops, restaurants and delicatessens, selling artisan products and the best of everything delicious.

So, when gathering the ingredients in order to whip up your traditional Scottish recipes, make sure you don't neglect your local shops.

Bear in mind that, in the best restaurants abroad, our produce is highly coveted. For example, over 41,000 tonnes of Scottish salmon is exported to the US annually, with that number set to rise.

Let's hope that, with the rest of the world cottoning on to our credentials, we'll soon throw off that ridiculous notion that Scottish cuisine is all deep-fried Mars bars and chips and move forward with a real belief that we are providing delicious, healthy cuisine that has and will continue to make the world take notice.

Although it's difficult to condense the best of ingredients, shops, restaurants and recipes into an Eat Scottish A-Z (or Ate to Z), we're going to give it a damn good try ...

A is for Arbroath smokies

Arbroath Smokies. Picture: contributed
Arbroath Smokies. Picture: contributed

Iain R Spink, fifth generation fish-smoker, producer and ambassador says: "I think what sets my Arbroath Smokies apart is their unique freshness. I only ever sell smokies that have been made on the spot, on that day. The best way to eat one is undoubtedly straight from the barrel, when they are hot and juicy.

The next best way to eat them is to open one up, take out the bones, dot with a few knobs of butter, and heat gently (remember, it's cooked already) under a medium pre-heated grill for two or three minutes."

In 2004, the smokie earned Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status, granted by the European Commission. The name Arbroath smokie can now only be used to describe haddock smoked in the traditional manner within an 8km radius of Arbroath.

Other As include...

Michelin-starred Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles | Anstruther Fish Bar, arguably one of the best places to go in Scotland for a fish supper | Arbikie Highland Estate the first single-estate distillery in Scotland to produce both brown and white spirits using traditional Scotch distilling methods | Arran Cheese Company based in Brodick on Arran, this little shop provides some of Scotland's best cheeses - we recommend the whisky cheddar | Ayr Brewery, a great little brewery knocking out some fabulous stouts

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B is for Black Pudding

Stornoway Black Pudding
Stornoway Black Pudding. Picture: TSPL

According to online health retailer, black pudding is ‘going to become a superstar of 2016’.

Lorna Maclennan, director of Charles Macleod Butchers , producer of the ever popular Stornoway black pudding said: “It’s been a staple on the kitchen table throughout the Hebrides for many years, it’s now good to see its benefits being recognised.”

Other Bs include...

Bannock as in Selkirk Bannock, a local treat that's well worth trying | Black Bun the dense and rich fruit cake often used for the ritual of first-footing at Hogmanay | Balblair Single Malt award winning single malt on the idyllic coast of the Dornoch Firth | Balvenie one of the world's best known Speyside single malts | Burns Night one of the best known Scottish traditional celebrations, held in honour of Scotland's national bard Robert Burns | Brewdog, Scotland's most famous (or infamous) craft beer brewery, famed for pulling off some truly interesting marketing stunts and creating innovative beers | Butteries, The rowie – or buttery, as it is also known – is one of Aberdeenshire’s most famous exports.

Ate to Z
The buttery, or rowie, is a popular breakfast item in the North East. Picture: Wiki Commons

C is for Clootie Dumpling

Ate to Z
The Selkirk Bannock. Picture: FW

Clootie dumpling is the traditional Scottish pudding most closely associated with Christmas and Hogmanay, at the least for high days and holidays as a celebration cake. Created using the same method that has been used for centuries, Clootie Dumpling is simply a spiced pudding studded with dried fruits that is wrapped in a cloth and simmered in water for a lengthy period.

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Clootie is a Scottish colloquialism for the cloth used to boiled the pudding, cloot being Scots for cloth.

Fraser Wright, Scottish Food Blogger explains the nation's fascination with this odd little pudding: "The clootie dumpling is a relic from times past. The method for cooking puddings in a cloth is an ancient one, and one that seems to have persisted in Scotland where other places it has died out. Many Scots have fond memories of their grandmothers or their mothers making it."

Other Cs include...

Crombie's in Edinburgh, anyone who knows their bangers says this butcher makes the very best; it has more than 100 varieties of sausage on rotation and the venison and red wine recipe comes highly recommended by us | Crowdie, a traditional crumbly soft cheese, it's best spread on oatcakes and is traditionally eaten before boozing at a ceilidh | Chocolate as in the Highland Chocolatier, artisan chocolates from Scotland's most awarded chocolatier, we love the velvet truffles. | Cullen Skink, a delicious and hearty fish soup traditionally made of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions. | The Chez Roux restaurant at Cromlix is overseen by the legendary French chef Albert Roux.

D is for Distilleries

The beautiful Ailsa Bay Distillery. Picture: Ailsa Bay

Scotland has a proud history of distillation, stretching back to what is thought to be the first mention of Scottish whisky in 1495. Quoted in the accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland – which is held in the Scottish National Archives in Edinburgh – the footnote refers to Fratri Johanni Cor and refers to the King and the request for the Friar to make around ‘eight bols of malt’ or 580kg worth of the water of life.

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From the beginnings as a medicinal liquid through to the modern day and the delightful drink with thousands of variants now enjoyed in hundreds of countries across the world, few other spirits have captivated a country as much as creating whisky has with the Scots.

This proud heritage of distilling the uisge beatha has now spread to the creation of other spirits such as vodka and gin (and now rum), as Scotland gets ready to once again stamp its mark on the global stage, this time with white spirits.

Other D's include...

David Bann in Edinburgh, this top-class restaurant was a the forefront of Scotland's burgeoning vegetarian scene vegetarians when it opened back in 1993 and it is still going strong | Dundee Cake, a famous traditional Scottish fruit cake with a rich flavour | Dark Matter Rum, the first rum ever to be distilled in Scotland (and it's delicious) | Daffy's Gin, another wonderful up-and-coming small batch Edinburgh gin made with the interesting addition of Lebanese mint

E is for Ecclefechan Tarts

These traditional tarts take their name from the quiet Borders town, best known as the birthplace of Victorian essayist Thomas Carlyle. They were once a popular choice in bakeries throughout the country, but the recipe had all but disappeared until Walkers  revived by adding them ton their core range.

E is also for...

Ate to Z
The Edinburgh Rock Factory. Picture: TSPL

Edinburgh rock, a traditional - and well loved - Scottish sweet, which differs from conventional rock and has a lovely soft and crumbly texture | Edinburgh Gin, nestled below the stairs of Rutland Place in the capital sits the Edinburgh gin distillery, their myriad gins are as varied as they are excellent (we recommend the Edinburgh Cannonball bottled at 57.2 % abv) | Eden Mill, Scotland's first craft brewery and distillery set in picturesque St Andrews

F is for Farmers' Markets

The Edinburgh Farmers' Market at the Castle Terrace
The Edinburgh Farmers' Market at the Castle Terrace. Picture: TSPL

Nothing else signifies the resurgence of Scottish food and drink quite like the growing popularity of Scotland's Farmers' Markets. A direct link between supplier and consumer, provenance is now more important than ever in a market saturated with mass produced, cheaply made produce.

Thankfully Scotland now has a great number of Farmers' Markets for you to check out, selling everything from seasonal goods such as vegetables and game to staples like seafood and beef, through to sweets and treats like home-made jams and honey.

Other Fs include...

Finnan haddie, named after the fishing village of Findon, near Aberdeen, finnan haddie is partially boned, lightly salted, smoked haddock which was originally smoked over peat fires. A favourite breakfast dish, it's available whole or in fillets and is best baked, broiled or poached | Farm shops, "I grew up on the farm next door and often visit Loch Leven Larder Farm Shop  for a bite to eat," says Tom Kitchin, head chef and owner of Michelin-starred Edinburgh restaurant The Kitchin. "The surroundings are beautiful and they've done a great job with the shop. Somehow my wife always finds something to buy in there." | Forfar Bridies, said 'to have been 'invented' by a Forfar baker in the 1850s', similar to pasties they are made without potatoes. | Fallen Brewing, modern Scottish craft beer, brewed with care in Stirlingshire

G is for Gin

The Scottish Ginfographic. Picture:
The Scottish Ginfographic. Picture:

Scottish gin to be exact, which now makes up more than 70% of the UK gin producing market.

Scottish gin is undergoing a massive revival at the moment, fuelled in part by the boom in small craft distilleries and by the arrival of whisky companies into the gin market.

The flexibility of the recipes and relative simplicity of its production makes gin the perfect spirit for those looking to create and sell their own brand.

Like an enlightened version of the gin craze era, craft gin distilleries are popping up all across the UK as well as globally. However, it’s those gin distilleries in our little corner of the world that are making some big waves.

Other Gs include...

Garlic,  we've got a taste for it, which we can thank the Auld Alliance for. So, why not pick your own? Wild garlic, tastes great in everything from omelettes to sea bass. Or try products from the Really Garlicky Company, a Nairn-based success story selling a range of top-quality "porcelain garlic" products | Grouse, "The first grouse of the year, after the Glorious 12th, is my favourite ingredient," says Kitchin. "This is such a unique game bird to Scotland and is the envy of the culinary world."

H is for Haggis

Haggis Cann

Considered to be Scotland's national dish, haggis is widely eaten on many days celebrating Scotland’s national heroes and of course, its patron saint Saint Andrew.

Macsween's haggis  is the most popular and, many would argue, the best. Its vegetarian haggis is also superb, accounting for 10 per cent of all its sales.

Other H's include...

The Honours, one of Scotland's most famous restaurants, Martin Wishart opened the first to great acclaim in 2011, closely followed by the second in 2014 | Hanging Bat, Edinburgh's coolest craft beer bar, selling everything from craft ales to microbrews

I is for Irn-Bru

IRN-BRU 2 (1)

As iconic as whisky and as famous as haggis, Scotland’s other national drink is widely enjoyed not just in the land of its birth but also across the globe. Refreshment, hangover cure, national emblem; Irn-Bru is many things to many people, but one thing is for sure, few things invoke as much pride in a Scot as Irn-Bru does.

Other i's include...

I J Mellis Cheesemonger, Edinburgh's favourite cheesemonger. "The owner of this shop, Iain Mellis, has become legendary, with his exceptional products appearing on restaurant menus throughout Scotland," says Roy Brett, head chef of Dakota Forth Bridge | Islay, arguably Scotland's most famous whisky producing region, famed for its peaty whisky and considered to be a whisky pilgrimage by many


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