BBC Landward recreates historical recipes from castle archives

By May 22, 2019

The magnificent grounds of Blair Castle welcomed the BBC Landward food van in episodes four, five and six of the latest series. Presenter, Dougie Vipond and Chef, Nick Nairn reimagined dishes from the castle archives including potted trout and haunch of red deer venison, enjoyed by Queen Victoria during a visit to the estate in 1844.

BBC Landward took a step back in time at the ancestral home of the Murray Clan with castle archivist, Keren Guthrie. Together they explored the archives uncovering the estate’s culinary past, including menus and recipes of the dishes enjoyed both upstairs and downstairs.

The food archive at Blair Castle dates back hundreds of years, with some recipes going back as far as the 1700s. All of the dishes served to guests were created using ingredients grown on the land, highlighting the spread of produce available to the estate, as well as the diversity of the palette at that time.

The inspiration for the dish created in episode four of the new series was a potted trout recipe. In celebration of the brown trout freshly caught on the estate, Nick Nairn put a twist on this historical starter and cooked hot buttered trout on toast.

In addition to the food archives, produce used to create lavish dinners in the formal dining room was recorded in household books at Blair Castle. Queen Victoria visited the Highland estate several times, and during a visit with Prince Albert in 1844, a haunch of red deer venison from the estate was prepared and cooked for her. Taking inspiration from this, Nick Nairn cooked collops – the Scots word for medallions – of Blair Castle venison with a whisky and chocolate sauce.

Keren Guthrie, Archivist at Blair Castle and Gardens, said:

“It was wonderful spending time with the Landward team delving into the depths of our food archives. They reinforce the importance that food played in our lives way back in the 1600s bringing people together and 400 years on, it is just as important today. Local provenance has been a trend among chefs in recent years, however, looking back at the castle recipes, we can see it was just as important back then too.

“Everyone enjoyed watching Nick bring back some of the old recipes to life with a modern twist and it may hopefully encourage us all to experiment and try other recipes from the archives.”

Recipes from Blair Castle archives:

Potted Trout – Episode Four

  • Any sized small brown trout may be potted, but it is best that they should run pretty even in dimensions.
  • Cut off the heads and tails; wash, gut and clean the fish without slitting them entirely, and lay them in a stew pan with butter and sufficient salt and mace to season.
  • Add enough water to stew them and no more, the less water and the more butter the richer the dish.
  • Stew gently until all the bones have dissolved, which will probably occupy the whole of a day.
  • When this has been achieved, lift the trout out of the stew dish and pack them closely, heads and tails alternately in a pot, and pour over a covering of clarified butter. Allow it to cool.

Roasting a Haunch of Red Deer Venison – Episode Five

  • Put the haunch upon the spit, then cover it with double kitchen paper well buttered or dipped in sweet oil.
  • Prepare a paste, a quarter of an inch thick, of flour and water, with as butter as will make it stick together.
  • Cover the paper with the paste (particularly the fat part), then put paper over the whole haunch, tied on with twine.
  • A large haunch will take about three and a half hours roasting at a brisk fire. About five minutes before you take it from the fire, pull of all the paper and paste, froth it well and serve it up.

Atholl Brose – Episode Six

  • To prepare the oatmeal, put a handful of oatmeal into a basin and mix with cold water. Pass through a fine strainer, care should be taken not to have the oatmeal too watery.
  • Four dessert spoons of honey
  • Four sherry glasses of prepared oatmeal
  • Stir these well together and put into a quant bottle
  • Fill up with whisky and shake well before serving