Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Deadline Recipes: Cranachan, a Taste of the Scottish Landscape

Today Marguerite Kaye shares a Deadline Recipe that she describes as a taste of the Scottish landscape. Join us in welcoming Marguerite to The Pink Heart Society and find out how you can taste this wee bit of Scotland at home.

I love to cook, but I have to confess I’m not hugely fond of making desserts. I think it’s the fact that you have to be a bit more careful with measuring and weighing for cakes and pies. I’m much more of a ‘throw it all in and see if it works’ kind of cook, which makes cranachan, that classic Scottish dessert, absolutely perfect, because you do exactly that, and it works every time.
The Scottish landscape is beautiful, but the combination of poor soil, rolling hills, and our driech climate make it difficult to grow very much. As Dr Samuel Johnson pointed out, our country ‘consists of two things, stone and water’. So our food, like our people, has to be hardy. Until surprisingly recently, in the remoter parts of the highlands and islands where crofting (small subsistence farming) was the way of life, you could only eat what you could grow. Most people kept a cow in the byre at the side of the house. They had chickens. They fished. In their patch of land they grew kale, tatties and neeps. And of course oats, that staple of Scots cooking which the eminent dictionary man described as ‘a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people’.

So cranachan is made with oatmeal. And raspberries, which grow wild in Scotland. They’re tiny and tart rather than sweet, for the Scottish sun is meagre. In the autumn, you can substitute purple brambles (blackberries), which grow alongside the raspberries in the hedgerows. They’re juicier, a day’s brambling will have your hands stained black and your fingers full of thorns.

It’s the thick double cream in cranachan that provides the sweetness, and the honey too, scented with golden gorse and purple heather. But it’s the final ingredient that makes cranachan Scottish. Whisky. That’s w-h-is-k-y, without the ‘e’, which would make it Irish, just in case you didn’t know.

When the Act of Union was passed in 1707, whisky, or uisge beatha (the water of life) was taxed for the first time. As a result, illicit stills and smuggling became a way of life, until the 1823 Excise Act made the cost of a license less than the price of replacing a still trashed by the Excisemen. As you can imagine, ferry men were ideally placed to receive contraband, which goes a long way to explain why some of the best whiskies are produced on some of the most remote islands. Here in Argyll, which is my home, the ferries are still an essential means of transport, and we have distilleries, on the isles of Jura, Isla, Mull and Arran.
Oats, raspberries, cream, honey and whisky. See what I mean when I say that cranachan is a taste of the Scottish landscape? Now see how easy it is to make…

Cranachan (Serves 4)

40g or about half a cup of oatmeal, preferably coarse pinhead but rolled will work
A small punnet of raspberries
400ml or about two thirds of a pint double cream
2 tablespoons heather honey – if you can’t find this, then any runny honey such as Greek will work
About 2 tablespoons whisky of your choice.
The only cooking is in the oatmeal, which has to be toasted. Either scatter it across a baking sheet then toast it under a hot grill, toss it in a very hot pan, or slow roast it in an oven. It should turn golden but not burn, and it should smell nutty.
Crush about half the raspberries (don’t puree them).
Whip the cream until it’s thick, forming soft peaks, then stir in the honey, whisky and crushed raspberries. The amount of whisky really does depend on personal taste, but a word or warning – it can easily overpower the raspberries, so best to put the top up in a glass and drink separately.
Finally, fold in the toasted oatmeal – try to leave this to the last minute so that the oatmeal stays crunchie. Put the rest of the raspberries in the bottom of four glasses, and then put the mixture on top. Finish with a couple more raspberries and a sprig of mint if you’re feeling artistic.
Serve straight away, and enjoy a wee taste of Caledonia.

In addition to giving us this great recipe, Marguerite is giving away a copy of her latest release, Rake with a Frozen Heart, Harlequin M&B Historical, May 2012. Leave a comment for a chance to win. The winner will be announced tomorrow.

Born and educated in Scotland, Marguerite Kaye originally qualified as a lawyer but chose not to practice. Instead, she carved out a career in IT and studied history part-time, gaining a first-class honours and a master's degree. A few decades after winning a children's national poetry competition, she decided to pursue her lifelong ambition to write, and submitted her first historical romance to Mills&Boon. They accepted it, and she's been writing ever since.
To find out more about Marguerite and her books visit her website www.margueritekaye.com


  1. Marguerite! That sounds just fabulous! my mouth is watering on this cool, late autumn day in Australia, thinking about whether I have the ingredients to try this tonight. Yum. Thank you for sharing.

    I love the cover of your new book too. I'll have to look out for it in the stores.

  2. That sounds yummy and easy to make ;) Right now we have an abundance of mango and lychee, wonder if those fruits would work...

    Some day Marguerite, I'm going to visit your part of the world!

  3. *Sigh* Single malt scotch whisky is one of my favourite things in the world. And, Marguerite, I'm thinking Cranachan may well become a firm favourite too. :-) Thanks for sharing a wonderful recipe!

  4. This sounds delicious, fast and easy. I'll definitely be trying this one. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Snookie, I think mangoes and lychees would give you a sweeter version, so you would just need to watch how much honey you used, but I don't see why you can't try it. I'd be interested to know how it turns out if you do.

    Glad I've whetted everyone's taste buds. It's getting near dinner time here, and I've managed to whet my own too! Shame the only ingredient I've got in the house is the malt - now, there's an idea!

  6. And the winner is....Snookie!

    Congratulations! You've won a copy of Rake with a Frozen Heart. I've sent your email address to Marguerite. :-)