Crowdie Cranachan

My homeland of Scotland has produced a fair number of indigenous dishes, many coming out of the mists of time and borne abroad by several centuries’ diaspora of woad-painted Picts – there can be few corners of the planet that don’t at least have a nodding acquaintance with the haggis and it’s accompaniment of neeps’n’tatties, with the attendant skirl of pipes and hopeless wails of its victims. Other recipes tend heavily towards high quality beef, lamb and game, rich in sauce and lipids, but generally a far more pleasant culinary experience than offered by many Northern European countries – cabbage is NOT a major feature. And let’s not mention deep-fried Mars Bars here, OK?

One such recipe is the famous Scots dessert of Cranachan. While other modern recipes make this from large quantities of double cream and little else, this is my own, slightly lower-fat, variant, which starts with the fancy that mediaeval Scots would have had more cheese than cream lying around, and so eschews the crudity of cream for the subtler taste of soft cheese. Here I’m using the traditional (Viking-era) Scots skimmed milk soft cheese, Crowdie (Gruth if you’re a Gaelic speaker), updated for modern tastes with a proportion of slightly sweeter Mascarpone. If you can’t get Crowdie, Ricotta makes a passable substitute.

Preparation time: 10 minutes;
Making time: 15 minutes;
Chilling time: overnight, by preference.

Ingredients (for four generous servings):

  • 250g Mascarpone;
  • 500g Crowdie;
  • 50g Crême Fraiche;

(if no Crowdie be available, use 500g Mascarpone + 250g Ricotta)

  • 1 Tbsp comb honey;
  • 1 usefully-sized slosh of whisky;
  • 300g Blackberries (Raspberries if they’re all that’s available);
  • 50g coarsely milled oats;
  • Grated Nutmeg to taste.

Preparation:

Thoroughly mix the cheeses and the Crême Fraiche together, adding the honey as you do. Then stir in a careful amount of whisky and adjust to taste. Then finely grate a little (and only a little) Nutmeg into the mixture.

Toast the oats lightly under a hot grill, being careful not to take your eye off them as you do so.

Prepare four serving dishes … preferably tallish, short-stemmed glasses, and place four Blackberries at the base of each glass. Then fold all bar four of the remaining Blackberries into the cheese mixture, making sure that they are evenly distributed. Then scoop the Cranachan mix into the serving glasses and smooth down, to remove air spaces in the glasses and to leave a reasonably smooth top. Onto the top of each, scatter the toasted oats and then, finally, top with the remaining Blackberries. Put into the fridge to chill, preferably overnight, as this gives the taste a chance to develop.

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