Unless you are Scottish, or know someone who is, I appreciate you probably don’t have a clue what the title of this post means. Don’t worry, I will explain all. But if you want a short summary, cranachan is a delicious, easy and boozy dessert and it fits in perfectly as part of a Scottish feast that will probably involve whisky. Or just eat it any time. If that sounds good, as I hope it does, then keep reading!
What is Burns night?
If you’re a regular reader, you may remember me mentioning Burns Night before. But in case not or if you need a reminder, it’s a celebration of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns. While you may not know the name, you probably know things he wrote: Auld Lang Syne, To a Mouse (if you don’t know the poem, you probably still know the line, “the best laid plans of mice and men,” thanks to another well-known book), and My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose.
As a child growing up in Scotland, we had Burns recital contests in my elementary/primary school. While we didn’t go all out, my family celebrated Burns Night in a small way by enjoying the traditional meal of haggis, neaps (turnips/swede/rutabaga) and tatties (potatoes). If you go to a more formal Burns Night celebration, the haggis will be brought in to bagpipes playing and then Burns’ poem “To a Haggis” recited as it is toasted and cut into. I’ll admit I didn’t always like haggis, but it grew on me and we even had haggis stuffed chicken as part of our wedding meal.
What to eat for a Burns night celebration
While as I say haggis is the most traditional main, you can vary things and have it more as a smaller appetizer portion, as I do with my simplified haggis (ie ingredients that may be less off-putting but tastes pretty close to the real thing). If you want to avoid haggis altogether, though I would recommend trying it, there are a few great Scottish soups like Scotch broth and cock-a-leekie soup. You could then have my chicken with oatmeal stuffing and whisky sauce for main and this cranachan would make the perfect dessert. Then if you still have space, a few oatcakes with cheese would be the perfect finale.
What is cranachan?
Cranachan is a very traditional Scottish dessert. It’s made with oatmeal, raspberries, whisky, honey and cream, all products that are readily available and high quality in Scotland. Actually traditionally it’s made partly with ‘crowdie’, a local cheese. Some people substitute quark, but using just cream gives a lighter dessert (and it’s more readily available). It’s incredibly easy to make, as you simply toast the oatmeal, whip the cream, then fold everything together. Although in theory you can use regular oats, this should be made with what is often called pinhead oatmeal or Scottish oatmeal (steel cut is pretty much the same). It’s worth using a fairly good whisky as you will taste it, but I’d suggest a more mellow one rather than smoky.
Cranachan is a lovely mix of flavors and while it’s a natural ending to a Burns night celebration, it would be perfect anytime. In fact, since it uses raspberries it’s more of a summer dessert really. But for me, I’d take any excuse, and Burns Night is a good one. Fresh sweet raspberries, smooth cream and that lovely flavor of the whisky coming through. It’s a tasty dessert that deserves to be better known and enjoyed.
- 3tbsp/35g pinhead/steel cut oatmeal
- ½pint/240ml whipping cream
- 1 cup/125g raspberries plus a couple more to top
- 2tbsp whisky
- 2tbsp honey
- Lightly toast the oatmeal either in a dry skillet/frying pan or on a baking sheet/tray under a broiler/grill. It will take a few minutes, but you should start to smell it become a little nutty. Take care not to let it burn. Set aside to cool as you prepare the rest.
- Whip the cream to at least soft peak, if not a little firmer. Gently mash the raspberries - you don't want them completely pureed but at least letting some juice out and a bit broken.
- Fold the whisky and honey into the cream, ensuring well mixed but without making the cream too runny. Fold in the oatmeal, saving ½tbsp to top. Then fold in the raspberries and transfer to serving glasses/bowls.
- Note - some recipes will have you soak the oatmeal in half the whisky overnight. This will give it a softer texture and it will tend to taste more of whisky doing this. Prepare as you prefer - I prefer as above as it is lighter and has a nice texture (and is quicker!). You can also layer the cream and raspberries which will look a little prettier but it's more traditionally mixed and I prefer that way for eating.