Last updated on February 21st, 2020
The Out About Scotland list of easy-to-make recipes that use Scotch whisky as an ingredient
What do you think of when someone mentions Scottish food? Cardiac-arresting mars bars dipped in batter? Diabetes-inducing squares of tablet fuelling hyperactive children? Or do you think of dollops of stovies splatted on a plate, steaming away and looking pretty much inedible?
Scottish food isn’t regarded as the height of culinary sophistication I’m afraid, but to be fair there’s a good reason for it.
This is a country where temperatures plummet in winter and are still fairly rotten in summer, leading to centuries of cooking involving simple meals designed to do nothing more than insulate bodies with a warm layer of human blubber.
But times are-a-changing, and restaurants up and down the land are successfully taking those old recipes and giving them a modern twist that rivals the cuisine of any other country. Well in my opinion they do. I’m not quite sure what Gordon Ramsay would have to say about it.
But traditional meals need traditional ingredients, and here in Scotland we’ve got them by the bucketload. Oats, barley, honey, cream, harvest fruits and Scottish beef and salmon. All world-class staples of the Scottish diet and all in plentiful supply.
But there’s one other ingredient that’s being added to Scotland’s meals in new ways that are both surprising and creative, and it’s also the country’s biggest export after 80’s folk-rock maestro’s Runrig.*
*Disclaimer. I could be wrong in saying that Runrig is a bigger Scottish export than whisky.
Why cook with Scotch whisky?
Whisky is enjoyed across the globe and has an association with Scotland unlike any other product available anywhere else in the world.
Uisge Beatha (‘water of life’ in Gaelic) is a distilled spirit made from fermented barley and water and not much else, yet its variations in flavour across each of the 126 licenced distilleries (and counting) is nothing short of legendary.
Each region – of which there are five in total – has its own unique characteristics, with some being light and sweet and others heavier and medicinal, and it’s this variation that makes whisky such a fantastic ingredient to add to food.
Of course, you’re free to use whichever whisky you like in the following list of recipes but I personally think the lighter, sweeter flavours of Speyside work the best, especially if you’re pouring them into a dessert.
That being said, part of the excitement of cooking with whisky comes from fusing distinct tastes into something that’s better than their individual qualities would suggest.
I’ll list the regions of Scotch whisky and their traditional flavours below so go ahead and play around with the recipes as much as you like. You never know, you might create something absolutely mind-blowing (in which case please message my Facebook page and let me know).
Oh, and if you want to learn all about Scotch whisky from it’s humble beginnings to how it’s made and where each style comes from, check out my Complete Guide to the Single Malt Whisky Regions of Scotland.
- Number of distilleries: Over 60
- Most famous Speyside whisky: Macallan, Dalwhinnie, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich
- Typical flavours: Apple, vanilla, oak, malt, dried fruit
- Number of distilleries: Over 25
- Most famous Highlands whisky: Dalmore and Glenmorangie
- Typical flavours: Fruit cake, malt, oak, heather, dried fruit, smoke
- Number of distilleries: Under 5
- Most famous Lowlands whisky: Auchentoshan, Glenkinchie
- Typical flavours: Grass, honeysuckle, cream, toffee, cinnamon
West coast islands and Islay
- Number of distilleries: Islay – under 10, Islands – under 10
- Most famous Islands whisky: Highland Park, Talisker, Jura
- Most Famous Islay whisky: Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin
- Typical flavours: Seaweed, brine, carbolic soap, apple, smoke, peat
- Number of distilleries: under 5
- Most famous Highlands whisky: Glengyle and Springbank
- Typical flavours: Brine, smoke, dried fruit, vanilla, toffee
Scotch whisky sauce
Let’s start this list of Scotch whisky recipes with the easiest one to make of all – whisky sauce.
Unlike the toffee/whisky sauce I’ll show you at the end, this variation only works with savoury meals, and it’s especially good on haggis and good quality Scottish beef.
It’s quite a rich sauce thanks to the cream but it’s in no way sickly so you can use it at your leisure on anything from your Burns Night supper to your Sunday roast.
For extra flavour, swap out the ground pepper for peppercorns and add extra whisky for more of an alcohol kick. Either way, it’s absolutely delicious.
- 125 millilitres beef stock
- 100 millilitres double cream
- 2 shallots
- Knob of butter and 1 teaspoon cooking oil
- Seasoning to taste – salt, pepper, chervil
- 15 millilitres Scotch whisky
How to make it
- Finely dice the shallots and add to a pan over a low heat along with the oil and butter.
- Add the Scotch whisky to the pan and then add the beef stock. Note that adding the whisky will probably produce a flame.
- Stir the mixture slowly while heating and allow the liquid to reduce by a third.
- Add in the cream and season with the salt and pepper.
- Finely chop the chervil and sprinkle over the top of the sauce.
- Serve warm and pour over your favourite dish – traditionally haggis, neeps and tatties.
Marmalade and Scotch whisky bread and butter pudding
I cover marmalade (which I love) in the next recipe, but this one concentrates on my primary food source as a child. Bread and butter pudding.
Cheap and easy to make, this pudding is a variation that doesn’t use currants, preferring the rich taste of chunky marmalade instead for an adult version of the popular post-WWII dessert.
Scotch whisky works surprisingly well with the sweetness of the marmalade, but only if you use something like a fruity Speyside variation. The strong seaweed notes of Islay whiskies aren’t going to cut it in this dish I’m afraid.
- 8 slices white bread with crusts removed
- 50 grams of soft butter
- 4 tablespoons of chunky orange marmalade
- 300 millilitres full-fat milk
- 250 millilitres double cream
- 3 large eggs
- 1 vanilla pod
- 4 tablespoons golden caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon Scotch whisky
How to make it
- Butter the bread on both sides and spread marmalade on 4 of the slices.
- Place the other slices on top to make marmalade sandwiches.
- Put the sandwiches into a large baking dish in rows.
- Heat an oven to 160 degrees centigrade.
- Beat the milk, eggs, vanilla, milk, sugar and whisky together till you get a smooth consistency, then pour into the dish over the sandwiches.
- Leave to soak for half an hour.
- Pop the dish into the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour until the bread starts to break through the custardy top. Yes, custardy is an actual word.
- Serve warm with double cream or vanilla ice cream.
Scotch whisky marmalade
Staple food source of spectacled bears from deepest, darkest Peru (Google it if you’re not from the UK), marmalade is one of Britain’s favourite breakfast condiments.
This version has a bit of a twist because it’s got a healthy dram of whisky thrown in so it’s probably not great to spread on your morning toast, especially if you’ve got a hangover.
On the other hand, perhaps it’s the perfect hair-of-the-dog hangover cure? Write in and let me know if it works for you.
- 1.3 kilograms Seville oranges
- Juice of 2 large lemons
- 2.25 kilograms granulated sugar
- 450 grams muscovado sugar
- 150 millilitres Scotch whisky
How to make it
- Put the whole oranges and the lemon juice in a large pan and cover with 2 litres of water.
- Bring the water to boil and simmer for 2 hours.
- Warm the sugar (white and dark) in an oven.
- Put the oranges into a bowl and when cooled cut in half. Remove the orange pips and pith and add to the water used to cook the oranges. Put the peel to one side.
- Bring the water to boil for 6 minutes, strain through a sieve and push as much of the pulp through as possible.
- Pour half of the resulting liquid into a pan, cut the peel into chunks and add half of the peel chunks to the pan.
- Add the sugar to the pan mixture and stir over a low heat till the sugar has dissolved.
- Bring the pan mixture to boil and heat for 20 minutes till it starts to set.
- Stir in the Scotch whisky.
- Remove the heat from the pan and scoop up any excess scum.
- Once cooled, spoon the marmalade into jars.
- Serve on warm buttered toast.
Scotch whisky fruit cake
There’s a bit of a theme with Scottish food as it’s generally quite a stodgy – yet delicious – affair, and this traditional fruit cake is no exception.
Similar to a Christmas cake, Scottish fruit cake works brilliantly as a mid-afternoon snack with a cup of tea, and because it’s got a healthy dose of whisky inside it should last a reasonable amount of time without preservatives.
This is one of my favourite cakes and beats a boring sponge cake hands down. Just try it and you’ll see why.
- 1 kilogram dried fruit
- Zest and juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon
- 150 millilitres Scotch whisky
- 250 grams of soft butter
- 200 grams of brown sugar
- 175 grams plain flour
- 100 grams ground almond
- Half teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons mixed spice
- 100 grams flaked almond
- 4 large eggs
How to make it
- Put the dried fruit, zest and juice of the orange and lemon, Scotch whisky, butter and brown sugar into a large pan and heat on a hob at a medium temperature.
- Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Tip the fruit mixture into a large bowl and allow to cool.
- Heat oven to 150 degrees centigrade.
- Place baking paper into a deep 20-centimetre tin.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the fruit mixture and stir till there are no remaining pockets of flour.
- Spoon the fruit mixture into the tin and level the top of it.
- Bake in the oven for 2 hours.
- Allow to cool before removing the cake from the tin.
- Serve at room temperature – preferably with a cup of tea.