Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

In the soup

September 1st, 2007

AN INGIN intil't, a courgette intil't, two leeks, several sticks of celery and a vegetable stock cube all went intil't. I'm sure it was my favourite travel writer, HV Morton, who wrote similarly about the making of a pot of broth which had scraps of beef from the Sunday joint, a handful of barley, salt and all manner of vegetables thrown “into it”. The resulting feast of a meal was served up and put before him for his dinner, except HV Morton would have spoken of his lunch.

We were home after a weekend visit to son James and his family in the Borders and the Doyenne was keen to leave me some soup for my own lunch the following day. There was little in the vegetable rack or the fridge but like any true thrifty Yorkshire girl she made the best of what was to hand. I'm sure I lunched as well as did old HV – and I have the silhouette to prove it.

It was buying a couple of finnan haddies that set off this train of thought. Caroline on the fish van from Johnshaven said folk don't ask for this once popular smoked fish delicacy very much. It's hardly a difficult meal to prepare, even I can do it – just poached in milk, with a poached or scrambled egg, and some spinach on the side. It's the fishy ingredient of Cullen Skink, that most traditional east coast of Scotland soup, and it goes well in kedgeree.

Originating in the fishing village of Findon, just south of Aberdeen they are haddocks split, salted and lightly smoked. My mother used to say that they were smoking haddies in Findon long before the fisher folk of Auchmithie started to smoke what ultimately became the Arbroath Smokie – but maybe I'll be told different!

Scots cooks and Yorkshire cooks have long traditions of thrift and resourcefulness. The Doyenne has told me that in days of yore the Yorkshire pudding was put on the table and eaten first, and the joint of beef held back in case marauding Scots came by and stole the meat. While I'm all for marauding Scots I'm not sure I go for that explanation as the marauding Scots had a habit of coming back the way they went, mopping up what they'd missed.

As for thrift, what can beat the haggis, the culmination of Scottish gastronomic versatility. Oatmeal, suet and the liver, heart and lights (lungs) of a sheep, a large ingin (onion) sliced small, seasoned well and all sewn up in a sheep's stomach. A prime example of waste not, want not, as my father used to ding into me and my sister.

Now, if folk don't ask for finnan haddies sooner or later they'll stop making them and then we'll all say how much we miss them. I know I would.



The ideal Christmas present and stocking filler – Angus Whitson’s newly published collection of Saturday articles, more reminiscences and anecdotes and recipes from the Doyenne’s kitchen   Witty illustrations by Graham Lang.


“Man with two dogs – A breath of fresh air from Scotland”,   available online from the publishers        

Written on Saturday, September 1st, 2007 at 8:20 am for Weekly.