Tempting tatties always a treat

FULL CIRCLE: Traditional potato-based Scots dishes are perfect for leftovers or can be cooked from scratch.
FULL CIRCLE: Traditional potato-based Scots dishes are perfect for leftovers or can be cooked from scratch.

Ireland is the country we associate even now with the great famine of the 1840s, so devastating were the effects of potato blight on a population already on its knees.

But Scotland suffered too. Thousands died of disease and starvation, and more than a million people left their homeland in the six years to 1852.

Crop diversity gradually put rumbledethumps, clapshot and stovies back on the table. Although the cauldrons and open fires are long gone, the old potato-based favourites are still popular today.

There are as many recipes for these and similar concoctions as there are cooks. Onions, cabbage and swedes often feature; way back, adding milk, butter and cheese was an option limited to those who could afford to keep a cow.

The wonderfully named rumbledethumps comes from the Scottish Borders. Like Irish colcannon, which it resembles, quantities vary with what is to hand and may include leftover vegetables.

To make it fresh, saute finely sliced onion and shredded cabbage in butter in a large pot over a medium heat until onion is translucent and cabbage wilted. Then add plenty of potatoes mashed with butter, milk and salt and pepper.

Combine veg, transfer mixture to a greased ovenproof dish and scatter with grated cheddar.

Bake until golden-brown on top.

Orkney is the home of clapshot, prepared Scotland-wide for a Burns Night supper while the haggis is cooking. Peel and chop your neeps and tatties (swedes and potatoes), cook separately, then mash in the same bowl with butter or dripping, a little milk, chopped chives and seasoning.

Can be served with oatcakes or with any kind of meat.

As for stovies, ask 50 Scots how to cook them and you will get 50 methods. Most agree that it is a dish of leftovers, made to use up yesterday's sausages, corned beef or the Sunday roast. Like the English bubble and squeak, it's pretty much a free for all.

Heat oil or dripping in a large casserole and soften a chopped onion. Add chopped leftover lamb, beef or whatever, say 200 to 300g, and cook briefly. Peel and quarter 5-6 potatoes and slice a couple of carrots. Add to dish and stir to combine with some salt and pepper. Cover with beef stock, place lid on dish and cook in the oven at 190C for about 45-50 minutes.

Check level of stock - and add any leftover vegetables - about 10 minutes before cooking time is up. Serve in deep bowls with homemade oatcakes.

Today's tattie scone recipe came about after several unsuccessful "goes" - it's quite tricky to get the proportion of flour to potato just right, not to mention the thickness of the scone.

In fact they are more like a flatbread than a teatime scone, though many Scots love them with jam and a cup of strong tea.

A peerless accompaniment to a fry-up, or following your porridge and black pudding, or with scrambled eggs and bacon. Delicious hot, on their own, with butter.

POTATO SCONES (makes about 24 triangles)

500g floury potatoes, such as agria or red rascal, peeled and chopped

50-60g butter

125g plain flour, plus extra to dust

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Put potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water, salt generously and bring to the boil. Simmer until cooked through then drain well.

2. Add 40g butter and mash.

3. Sift flour over potatoes, stir well and season to taste.

4. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to no more than 5mm thick.

5. Place a side plate face down on dough then cut around to shape, repeating until dough is used up.

6. Dust discs lightly with flour and prick all over with a fork.

7. Heat remaining butter in large, heavy- based frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry until golden on both sides (about 5 minutes).

8. Cut into triangles and serve at once, or cool in a tea towel for later.

The Southland Times