24 Oct 2010

There's a Rumblethump in my kitchen

I had planned to write about Arbroath Smokies, but with the news this past week focusing mainly on the dramatic forthcoming budget cuts throughout Britain, my mind has been swirling with ideas of traditional Scottish foods that tick all the boxes of taste, practicality, nutrition and economy.

Smokies certainly tick all those boxes, but they aren’t something I would toss together for an evening meal (for reasons I will explain in a later post).

Flipping through a couple of my Scottish cookbooks, I happened upon recipes for a dish called Rumbledthumps.

Similar to the English “bubble and squeak” recipe, Rumbledthumps may sound like the name of a goofy and loveable cartoon character, but is actually Scots for mixed (rumble) and mashed (thump), and combines mashed potatoes with onion and cabbage to make what was traditionally eaten as a meatless main meal with oat cakes.

After making your mashed potatoes (King Edward is nice and floury), the Maw Broon cookbook suggests frying off the onions and boiling your chopped cabbage (savoy cabbage is great) in a separate pot. However I used Catherine Brown’s method of sautéing the onions for a few minutes then adding the cabbage until it had wilted, thus avoiding the extra washing up.
I didn’t have the chives that both recipes asked for so I added some chopped spring onions. Everything is mixed and smashed together really well (don’t forget to season!), loaded into a buttered baking dish, topped with strong grated cheddar (I used Isle of Arran, one of my favourites) and baked in the oven.

Catherine Brown actually suggests just putting it under the grill to brown the cheese, but Maw Broon says to bake it for a half hour, which is what I did.
After it has been in the oven just 15 minutes, the pervading scent of “something is cooking which will make the world okay“ was already hanging heavy throughout the flat.

Overall, this is easy to make, flavoursome, comforting, Moorish, nutritionally dense and so very cheap. The cabbage lends texture and a slight sweetness and the melted cheese makes it seem richer than it is.
We ate it alongside a beef stew but I found that the stew overwhelmed the flavours of the Rumbledthumps and I wished I had made something a little plainer in order to enjoy the simple goodness of it. I think eating it with oatcakes would leave me feeling too full, but it has been suggested to me to try it with some Lorne sausages, which I think would be perfect.

Final verdict: This is one traditional Scottish dish I will be making again and again throughout the winter.

Have you tried Rumbledthumps? What is your favourite “cheap and cheerful” Scottish dish?

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