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Orkney Clapshot

The Scots are very much an international race, not only the make-up of the indigenous population, but the number of Scots and their descendants who have made their mark worldwide. From the Middle Ages onwards Scots, as traders, scholars and soldiers were welcome throughout Europe. With the opening up of the New World, The Americas, Australia and New Zealand, Scots found themselves very much to the fore. The Highland Clearances added, albeit involuntarily, considerably to the numbers but many went willingly to find a future that Scotland, under the Union, could not provide. Over 20 million people of Scots descent are spread worldwide.
This week marked the 125th anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn where General George Armstrong Custer was killed leading his regiment against a force of Sioux and Northern Cheyenne warriors. Among the Scots and those of Scots descent who died on 25 June 1876, it now appears that Custer, himself, might well have had Scottish fore-bears. Two months before his death General Custer replied to a letter from John Cursiter of Orkney who suggested that Custer's ancestors originally came from Orkney. Cursiter, pronounced "Custer", is still a local name in Orkney. General Custer rode to his death in the firm belief that John Cursiter was right in his suggestion.
Now we have no way of knowing whether or not General George Armstrong Custer ever enjoyed the Orkney treat of clapshot, but the poet, the late George Mackay Brown was most certainly a fan - "Clapshot is one of the best things to come out of Orkney, together with Highland Park and Orkney fudge and Atlantic crabs" ( from 'Under Brinkies Brae', published by Gordon Wright 1979 ). One of the great advantages of Orkney Clapshot, as the poet pointed out, is that it goes with everything. It is also delicious just on its own!
Orkney Clapshot
Ingredients : 1 lb ( 500 g ) mealy potatoes; 1 lb ( 500 g ) yellow turnip ( swede ); 1 onion, finely chopped; 1 tablespoon chopped chives; butter and milk for mashing; seasonings - salt and pepper
Peel the potatoes and remove coarse skin from the swede. Cut them both into roughly the same sized pieces. Put into a pan with the onion. Add boiling water to cover and simmer gently till just soft. Drain off cooking bree. Mash everything thoroughly, adding chives and enough milk and butter to make a light consistency. Season well with salt and pepper. Serve with cheese as a meal, or with haggis. This splendid dish will happily accompany stews of fried meats.


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