A SCOTTISH WEAKNESS

A SCOTTISH WEAKNESS

It is a well-known source of jokes that the Scots ‘enjoy’ a very unhealthy diet, full of such delights as macaroon (not the dainty French variety, but a sweet made originally it is said from potatoes and sugar); deep fried Mars bars; Tunnocks tea cakes, meals never sullied by vegetables, and all liberally washed down with whisky and Irn Bru(a kind of brown lemonade, advertised as Made in Scotland, from girders.) Whereas there is very good food to be found in Scotland, there is as always a grain of truth behind these exaggerations. We do tend to have a very sweet tooth.

A Scottish delicacy, not available commercially and therefore highly sought after at school fetes and other fund raising events, is Scottish Tablet. This is a kind of hard fudge, not as soft as fudge. It should be crisp and dry as you bite into it, and then dissolve in your mouth. It is highly addictive, almost pure sugar, and extremely bad for you. It is also difficult to make. My mother made it occasionally. She had very few failures.

You need sugar, condensed milk, full cream milk, butter and vanilla essence. There are many variations on the recipe, but generally you heat the milk, sugar and butter. Then you add the condensed milk and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring all the time. You then take it off the heat and add the vanilla essence, when it boils up dangerously in the pan, and then you beat it for 20 minutes.

In addition to being time consuming and tiring, the potential for it going wrong is infinite.

It can be cooked too fast, and just taste and have the texture of boiled sugar. It can very easily burn. It can fail to set sufficiently, in any number of degrees from being a viscous gloop that you can put your finger in and suck, to being set and tasting OK but being too ‘wet’ and not crisp enough.

Once in a blue moon, (perhaps every few years) I get overcome by sugar lust and decide to make some. I have long since ceased to be able to beat for 20 minutes, so I have not attempted any batches since there were children at home to help with the beating. (They were always more than willing.)

But now I have the thermomix. Would it make tablet, I wondered. I looked it up on the internet and to my surprise, found several (quite different) recipes there. I picked one that vaguely resembled what I recalled of my mother’s and gingerly began. There were some additional hazards with the thermomix. If it boiled over when I added the vanilla, it would jam the works. If it set too fast, it would be like a concrete mixer where the contents have set in it.

In the event none of these disasters happened. It took almost 2 hours by thermomix. It tasted good. It set, and the pieces could be marked out. But it was one degree as it were off being crisp enough. Probably I should get a sugar thermometer. I think I should have cooked it for longer and to a higher temperature.

We ate the last pieces yesterday. As I said, it’s very bad for you.

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