Crowdie Cheese, Highlands
Crowdie cheese is, according to some sources, a link with Scotland’s very distant past, the technique or recipe supposedly brought over by the Vikings more than a thousand years ago (though in Scotland their presence continued far longer than in England, Orkney and Shetland owing allegiance to Norway until 1472).
Made from skimmed cows’ milk, it is soft, creamy and tangy, eaten fresh (within a few days of making), the sort of thing every small-scale farmer or crofter with a cow would have enjoyed as daily fare, often as a brose, an uncooked porridge where the cheese is mixed with oats. It is this that Rabbie Burns was writing about in his poem Crowdie Ever Mair, lamenting the struggle of a poor man to provide for his hungry wife and children when once he had been carefree.
The cheese is still popular, one renowned version emanating from Tain. Often it is seen in a form that links the pure dairy product with the brose, i.e. rolled in oatmeal and – rather less traditionally perhaps - cracked peppercorns.
A major component of authentic Cranachan, that moreish and simple Scots pudding, Crowdie has begun to appear quite frequently in rather more refined and sophisticated sweet dishes, still paired by chefs with oatmeal and often flavoured with whisky, but with many other decidedly un-Scottish ingredients added. Whether these improve on the traditional recipe is for the diner to judge.