National Chef of Scotland, Gary Maclean, tells us how to party the Scottish way in his new cookbook
There’s no avoiding Christmas and Hogmanay – they’re on their way. Get yourself in the mood with a copy of Gary Maclean’s new book, Scottish Celebrations. It features chapters dedicated to this season’s festivities, where you’ll find recipes for Carnegie brie and cranberry bites or turkey Wellington, but also Scottish Weddings, with dishes including twice-baked Mull cheddar souffle. Plus, there are options to suit Burn’s Night, Highland Games & Festivals and other shindigs
What have been your most memorable celebrations?
The cooking ones in amazing places including New York and Chicago. I’ve also cooked a Burns Night Supper at 10 Downing Street.
At home, it's got to be Christmas. I have an amazing time with the family. Our meal is traditional and probably the sort of stuff that my granny would have cooked, but I always make sure there are some surprise dishes along the way. I cook five-courses and everyone gets what they want.
New Year is always a big occasion. My biggest memory of it growing up was, funnily enough, cakes and loads of cream cookies.
To me it’s important to share these celebrations and pass on the traditions to the younger generation. We’re doing that with our kids to start their journey of memories for their own future families.
How long has the book been in development?
About five years. It was originally an idea for a chapter in my first book Kitchen Essentials. I wanted to help people with the big occasions by including a chapter that would provide some ideas and guidance. We ran out of space, but I thought it would be a great idea for a book in its own right. The process of writing and pulling it together with the photography was probably about a year and a half from the first recipe to publication but the research and knowledge is from almost four decades of experience.
Are you ever worried that you'll run out of ideas?
I never worry about that. The main things that inspire me are ingredients and people. I'm always out and about meeting people: farmers, food producers, community gardeners and fishermen. For me, a big part of the writing process is speaking to suppliers as well, including my local butcher, hearing his stories and the best way to do things, and talking to the fishmonger. What’s important is that the ingredients are accessible and speaking to suppliers is the first part of that process.
Who are your favourite cookbook authors, especially Scottish ones?
Back when I started cooking there was no internet, so if you needed inspiration, the only way to do it was to buy a cookbook or eat out. Buying a cookbook was cheaper.
I have a massive collection. Scotland has an abundance of stunning food writers and one of my favourite is Coinneach MacLeod, The Hebridean Baker. I've been lucky enough to spend some time with him, he's done an incredible job promoting Scotland and his books are stunning. I also really love Sue Lawrence’s books. She’s been writing about Scottish cookery for decades. Nick Nairn has also been an inspiration.
Ghillie Bassan is an incredible food and travel writer and has written over fifty books. She has a new book out called Seafood Journeys that I can't wait to get my hands on. As a young chef, the book that I probably used the most was a book called The Great British Chefs. Out in the early Nineties, it featured all the amazing up and coming chefs at the time.
How does this compare to your other books?
With my experience as a chef educator, I always make sure that the recipes have depth. I don't want people just to pick up a book and hope for the best. I want them to fully understand what they're doing, then they'll take that skill onto the next dish. The other thing that really stands out is the stunning photography. Every recipe has a picture beautifully captured by Susie Lowe. In-between each chapter there are some incredible shots of Scottish landscapes, taken by a friend of mine, Stuart Ferguson. We have spent a lot of time together exploring Scotland - every single Munro I’ve climbed has been with him.
Any new creations?
The book features a mix of traditional dishes like haggis, neeps and tatties and some of my favourite new ones including langoustine bisque and winter plum, hazelnut and chocolate cake. I get inspired by ingredients and stories and develop dishes from there. So, there are dishes that are aspirational and others that are perfect for special occasions. There are also fun recipes such as candy apples, snowballs, jam roly poly and humbugs.
Do you serve any of these dishes in your restaurant?
One of the most popular dishes at Creel Caught at Bonnie & Wild in Edinburgh is fish and chips. That recipe is in the book. Anyone who has been to one of my private events or dinners will probably recognise a few dishes as well.
What was your most recent trip to the US and what were you doing?
I’m very lucky. In my role as Scotland’s National Chef, I regularly travel to the US. I recently went to the mountains of New Hampshire to showcase Scottish food and culture at the New Hampshire Scott Highland Games and my last trip was to New York to support the Wallace Awards. These awards recognise amazing people in the Scottish American community who make people’s lives better both in Scotland and the USA.
Gary Maclean’s Scottish Celebrations: Treasured Traditions and Contemporary Recipes from Scotland, out November 9, £26 (Black & White Publishing Ltd. part of Bonnier Books UK). Maclean will be launching Scottish Celebrations at Bonnie & Wild, Edinburgh, demonstrating recipes and signing copies on Thursday 9th November, 7pm. Tickets from £7, www.bonnieandwildmarket.com
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.