Cookbook reveals 250 years of Border recipes

Border Cookery Book Cover
Border Cookery Book Cover

A new cookbook championing Borders produce and featuring recipes from local houselholds over the last 250 years is going on sale this month.

Border Cookery: A Gastronomic Tour of the Borders Past & Present collects dishes from local cookbooks from 1755 to 2010, and acts as a guide to cooking the Borders’ excellent game, beef, lamb, fish, vegetables and fruit.

The profits raised by the sale of the book, which costs £2.50, will fund future local food and drink events which promote Borders produce.

The recipes devised by local cooks over the centuries include, from the 1800s, Sir Walter Scott’s rare roast beef, James Hogg’s ‘rumbledethumps’ and Meg Dods’ ‘chappit tatties’, Mrs Crichton of Selkirk’s potted rabbit and Mrs Bruce’s Scotch kail from 1909, Mrs Lyal of Jedburgh’s baked Teviot trout from 1925, Mrs Bruce’s pigeons in cider from the 1950s, and, from the 1960s, Mrs Inglis of Bowden’s apple vichyssoise and Mrs Thompson of Morebattle’s Trawlerman’s pie.

The cookbook also features more unusual sounding dishes such as fig toffee, Tweed kettle, Gala cream, Egyptian pie, and “scotch woodcock” – a meal of scrambled eggs and anchovies on toast – sourced from a handwritten Border recipe book by Isabella Grant of Cairnbank House, Duns in 1883.

“Take 2 slices of toasted bread, thickly buttered on both sides,” she writes. “Wash and scrape four to five anchovies and chop them fine. Put between the toast and with a sharp knife cut into four or six pieces. Take the yolk of two eggs and ¼ pint cream and set on heat to thicken, but not to boil or it will curdle. Pour over hot toast.”

Another curiosity was a drink called “claret cup”, from a book of hand-written Border recipes dating to 1902. “Put into a carafe jug four slices of cucumber peel sliced thickly and one sliced lemon. Pour on to these one bottle of claret and two of soda water. Add a sprig or two of borage, sugar to taste (about ¼lb) and ½lb of ice cut small. Let it stand on ice for an hour if possible. Strain it before serving.”

Cookbook treasures unearthed from local library archives include Mistress Meg Dods’ Cook & Housewife’s Manual from 1826; The Border Cookery Book from 1909; the Jed-Forest Football Club Bazaar – Some Favourite Recipes, in 1925; the Hawick Cottage Hospital Jubilee Cookery Book, marking King George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935; Favourite Recipes From Border Kitchens, dating to the 1940s, and more, right up to Yarrow Cooks and Eyemouth Fish Recipe Book in the 1990s.

The cookbook was inspired by Will Haegeland and Trond Dalby of the County Hotel in Selkirk, who secured £3,000, donated by Selkirk’s Common Good Fund, to found a new local food festival and print a new Border recipe book.

“The seed for this cookery book was first planted last year in 2011, when a young chef working at The County Hotel visited the beautiful Victorian walled garden at Philiphaugh for the first time,” writes Will in the foreward.

“Tasting fresh fruit and vegetables picked straight from the plant, his first outburst was: ‘This is completely different from anything I’ve ever got hold of in a supermarket!’

“How true that is. The experience inspired him, and encouraged us to think how we could help others share it. And so a new Border food festival, From Plant to Plate, was born, and with it the idea for this cookbook.”

The cookbook was launched earlier this month at the 
Plant To Plate Festival at Philiphaugh Gardens near Selkirk, which aimed to encourage people to grow and cook local fruit and vegetables.

“In taking the food festival project forward, we put our ideas to a local food writer, Sandy Neil, and asked him to create a book about how past and present Borderers cooked local ingredients,” Will added.

“We hope this book will also inspire people to cook with fruit, vegetables and herbs growing in the Borders’ gardens and farms, and with the land’s other bountiful produce: game, beef, lamb, chicken, salmon, trout, sea and shellfish, eggs, cheese, oats and barley.

“The recipes are sourced from over two and a half centuries of Border cookery books, combined with the wisdom of today’s cooks and gardeners in the Borders and beyond.”

The book includes a potted history of Border fare, plus guides to tattie breeds, locally grown fruit and vegetables, and the cuts of beef and lamb in your butcher’s counter. It is currently available in Selkirk from the County Hotel, Halliwells’ butchers and the Scott’s Selkirk shop, and will be distributed to shops across the Borders in the next two weeks.