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Angus Toffee

This month saw the anniversary of one of the most important, indeed possibly, the most important, battles in Scottish history. The Battle of Dunnichen, Angus, resulted in victory for our Pictish forebears over an invading force of Northumbrian Angles led by Egfrith on 20 May 685. The Picts under Bruide used the local topography to trap the invaders with Dunnichen Hill and Nechtan's Mire playing a crucial role. By employing shrewd tactics, the Picts won an overwhelming victory and the majority of the Angles, including Egfrith, were slain. The battle had important consequences. It permanently checked Northumbrian expansion northwards and ensured that the circumstances existed that the Nation of Scotland could emerge. Indeed without this Pictish victory, Scotland might never have existed. A cairn was erected at Dunnichen in 1985 to commemorate the 1300th anniversary of this momentous and vital Pictish victory.
The Picts are famous for their carved stones and have left us an important record of their Dunnichen victory on a superb carved stone slab at Kirkton of Aberlemno, on the B9134 Forfar to Brechin road. The three Aberlemno sculptured stones are featured in the 'Angus Pictish Trail' brochure produced by SNP controlled Angus Council. Some 19 sites feature on the trail and the guide is intended to give the visitor a taste of the rich Pictish heritage which survives in Angus. The Picts divided their home land into some seven provinces, of which Circhenn, now Angus and Kincardine, was one. Circhenn can be translated as 'the crested one' meaning the premier province and it seems to have given way to the new name of Angus in the late 9th century.
Angus should be on any visitor to Scotland's list of 'places to visit', and remember as well, when seeing the surviving evidence of our Pictish forebears, to add Arbroath Abbey to your list. The Abbey was the setting for the famous 'Declaration of Arbroath' on 6 April 1320 when the Scottish nobles appended their seals to a letter to Pope John XXII asking him to recognise Scottish Independence.
Angus also gives us this week's recipe, Angus Toffee, a treat for bairns of all ages. The use of almonds in many local recipes probably comes from the importation of vast supplies of almonds to the port of Dundee.
Angus Toffee
Ingredients: 1 1/2 lb ( 750 g ) granulated sugar; 2 oz ( 50 g ) ground almonds; 1 oz ( 25 g ) butter; 7 fl ( 200 ml ) milk; 1 tsp almond essence
Melt butter in a pan. Add the ground almonds, sugar and milk. Stir till the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer till it reaches soft ball - 240 deg F/ 120 deg C. To test without a thermometer, drop some of the syrup into a cup of cold water and it should come together into a soft ball when ready. Remove from the heat and beat for about five minutes or until it becomes thick. Add the almond essance and pour into a shallow baking tin. Cut up when almost cold.

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