Land of Oat Cuisine; Travel Scotland Cookery Lessons in Glasgow? Aye, and It's Not All Deep-Fried Mars Bars, Says NORMAN MILLER
Byline: NORMAN MILLER
AT LAST, an easy way to make money. Just tell people you're going to Glasgow to learn about classic Scottish cooking, and then demand payment from everyone - and it was everyone - who immediately mentions deep-fried Mars bars.
It's a shame Scotland inspires such a kneejerk response. Every corner of the country offers local delicacies, from superb Galloway beef in the south to the scintillating seafood of the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.
Glasgow, too, is full of places celebrating the Caledonian larder - fine restaurants, farmers' markets and delis such as Delizique (66 Hyndland Road) and Heart Buchanan (380 Byres Road) which are full of gourmet goodies from Islay pastrami to lobster tails.
And when Brian Hannan decided to offer 'Classic Scottish' as a one- day option at his city centre cookery school, the debut course sold out faster than tickets to a Celtic v Rangers title decider.
Thankfully, Brian agreed to make room for one more earlier this year, but before I got anywhere near a gas ring, I wanted to check out the ingredients.
Farmers' markets are held every Saturday in various Glasgow parks (scottishfarmersmarkets.co.uk), and as I walk into Queen's Park, pale sunshine illuminates a throng crowded around stalls stretched along a tree-lined path.
Cheese lovers nibble Arran Mist triple cream Brie on one stall, Annick goat's cheese rolled in oatmeal on another.
Superb meat and seafood is everywhere - rich dark venison, crayfish still waving their antennae, oysters, scallops.
There's even a stall specialising in rare and unusual spuds, with evocative names such as Shetland Black and Dunbar Rover.
PROVENANCE is proudly noted - Mallaig for scallops, Loch Etive for mussels, Blairgowrie for lamb - the evocative place names somehow adding to the appeal. Surely by now it's time to dine.
The Buttery (0141 221 8188) is a lovely wood-panelled dining room set rather incongruously on the ground floor of a Victorian tenement block on Argyle Street.
Lochwinnoch venison with goat's cheese, cranberry and apple chutney deserves the sort of reverential appreciation appropriate to a restaurant full of reclaimed bits of an old Glasgow cathedral.
All my meals throughout my short break reveal a fresh slant to the idea of 'Classic Scottish'. In the modern dining room at Arisaig (0141 552 4251), Scottish seaweeds and unusual herbs such as lovage add new tastes and texture.
At the trendy Tron arts venue (0141 552 8587), fine Scottish beers accompany my discovery that clapshot is a great locals word for mashed potato and turnip, rather than something to be embarrassed about.
Seared West Coast scallops with cauliflower puree and Argyle wood pigeon wrapped in Ayrshire smoked ham provide further comfort.
I'm about ready to don my apron after all this Scottish tucker, but can't resist one more bit of 'research' the next day at The Ubiquitous Chip (0141 334 5007), the Hillhead institution that's been serving wonderful Scottish food for 30 years.
It's a beautiful space, a plantdraped covered courtyard with a fish pond in one corner and huge whirling fans hanging from girders across the ceiling.
An appetiser of intense, velvety Scottish lobster bisque with apple and ginger sets my taste buds tingling as I wonder how to follow it. Buckie crab, braised Perthshire pig cheek?
In the end, curiosity makes me go for a delicious braised ox heart just to try the oh- so-Scottish sounding 'Skirlie Stovies' that come with it.
Stovies, like clapshot, turn out to be another livening up of humble basics - potato cooked in beef stock, to which you can add almost anything to make variants (skirlie being a rib-sticking blend of oatmeal, onion and butter). …