Traditional Scottish recipe: Ecclefechan tart

Named after a village in Dumfries and Galloway, this wonderful recipe for Ecclefechan Tart comes from top Scottish chef Neil Forbes.

This is a wonderful recipe which I adapted from one given to me by a dear friend of mine, John Webber, who is now teaching at Nick Nairn’s Cook School, but was once the head chef at Kinnaird House in Perthshire

Ecclefechan tart

1 Prepare a blind-baked sweet pastry 10in tart shell and leave it in the mould. I use bottomless tins.

2 Beat the soft butter and brown sugar together until well combined and creamed. Then trickle the eggs in slowly, a little at a time.

3 Add the cinnamon, lemon juice and zest and mix well. Fold in the raisins and walnuts and give it a good mix.

4 Scoop the mix into the prepared pastry case and smooth out with a wet palette knife.

5 Bake at 160C/Gas Mark 4 for roughly 45 minutes, checking and spreading the mix flat as you go.

6 Allow to cool slightly before cutting into slices and serving with lots of crème fraîche.

Ecclefechan Tart

Neil with his creation. Picture: Neil Forbes

Read More at: Traditional Scottish recipe: Ecclefechan tart – Scotsman Food and Drink

The Incredible String Band on German TV’s Beat Club

By Johnny Foreigner

Here’s a three song playlist from The Incredible String Band’s performance on the German TV show Beat Club, recorded September 1970 but not broadcast.

Beat Club was a German music program that ran from September 1965 to December 1972. Co-created by Gerhard Augustin and Mike Leckebusch, the show premiered in 1965 with Augustin and Uschi Nerke hosting.

By the time the Incredible String Band performed, the series was known for incorporating psychedelic (read: cheesy) visual effects during the taped performances. This one is no exception.

The band is in fine form here, still having fun  -despite being recently introduced to Scientology and the crooked music business. As the Scotsman will toast, “To honest men and bonnie lassies!” Well, the lassies were bonnie, anyway.

In these clips, the band plays “Empty Pocket Blues,” “Everything’s Fine Right Now,” and “Irish Jigs.” The singing, particularly Mike and Robin’s respective hi and lo, is fantastic. Both guys were also great pickers, and by this time Rose Simpson, had learned to play a competent guitar.

The “Irish Jigs” clip is terrific, though it sounds more Scot than Irish,. The clip includes some wonderfully kooky dancing (less Riverdance, more Deadhead spinner footwork) from the lovely Licorice McKechnie. I’m a really sucker for Scottish Highland dance. Love it – especially  when the dancer holds hands above his/her head (see Licky at 02:30) with the thumb touching the middle finger, the other three fingers extended in the air. This signifies something important to the Scots, perhaps, “My clan is planning to slaughter your family tonight, Campbell.” With The Incredible String Band, it may have meant something more Boudin Noir en Francais than Scottish haggis: “Okay, so who is sleeping with who, tonight?”

Where are the band members today? Both Heron and Williamson still perform. Rose Simpson left the music biz and lives quietly with her family in Wales. Christina ‘Licorice’ McKechnie was last seen in 1987 hitchhiking across the Arizona desert in 1987.

Best pictures as Aurora Borealis dazzles in night skies across Scotland and the UK

Images of the Northern Lights have been captured from Scotland to as far south as Shropshire in England

On Sunday the Met said the best chances to see the northern lights, also known as aurora borealis, were in Scotland, but “it could be possible as far south as central Wales and England”.

Professor Don Pollacco, department of physics at the University of Warwick, said the phenomenon was caused by “the interaction of particles coming from the sun, the solar wind, with the Earth’s atmosphere – channelled to the polar regions by the Earth’s magnetic field.

“It’s actually a bit like iron filings and the field of a bar magnetic.

“The solar wind contains more particles when there are sun spots, as these are regions on the sun’s surface where the magnetic field is interacting with the plasma in the sun, and the particles can be released.

“Once the particles are channelled into the Earth’s atmosphere they interact with molecules and have distinctive colours (eg oxygen molecules produce green light, nitrogen red light etc) and patterns such as light emissions that look like curtains or spotlights.

“These shapes change quickly over timescales of minutes/seconds.”

Northern Lights taken at Spittal Point Berwick upon Tweed 27/02/2014

Source: Northern Lights: Here are some of the best pictures as Aurora Borealis dazzles in night skies across Scotland and the UK

Halloween in Scotland: 7 ancient Celtic traditions dating back to Samhain

Here are some spooky Halloween traditions in Scotland, some of which have their roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain.

Here are some spooky Halloween traditions in Scotland, some of which have their roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain.

Old Hallow’s Eve has its roots in the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain, which marks the end of the harvest season and the transition into winter.

Bonfires were lit to ward off evil and offerings were left for spirits as the boundary between the otherworld and ours was thought to be blurred.

This tradition has been brought back to life by the likes of the Samhuinn Fire Festival, a modern reimagining of the Celtic ritual with fire dancing and drumming spectacles by Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.

It is a time which has always been associated with the supernatural, with mischief and with dispelling sinister forces.

And, as a result of these traditions, there are many things we Scots do differently at Halloween to the rest of the world. From neep lanterns to celebrating on a different day, here are the origins of some of the most ancient Scottish Halloween traditions.

Neep lanterns


Carving pumpkins for Halloween is an American import, which was most likely inspired by Scottish tradition.

In Scotland, for years faces have been carved into neeps (or turnips) which were then lit to ward off evil spirits before All Saints Day on November 1.

Admittedly these vegetables are much harder to scoop and carve, which probably explains the popularity of pumpkins replacing them.


The Scottish folkloric tradition of guising, or dressing as something else, dates back hundreds of years to when children’s faces would be painted to evoke evil spirits.

As All Hallow’s Eve was thought to bring malevolent spirits to the Earth, the idea was to disguise children as spirits so they would be left alone.

The treats of “trick or treat” are also thought to have been handed down over the years from people leaving offerings on their doorsteps during Samhain, so spirits would leave them alone.

It’s thought tricksters dressed as spirits would nab the goodies, traditionally fruit and nuts, and make off into the night.

In Shetland, children would dress in their Skekling costumes made from straw, which were derived from Norse and Celtic lore. These ‘Skeklers’ would perform tricks in their community.

This all eventually evolved to the trick or treating we know today.

The Scottish town that celebrates Halloween on a different day

For most people around the world, Halloween takes place on October 31 each year.

But in Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, the festivities are instead held on the last Friday of the month. So, in 2023, Halloween will be held on Friday, October 27.

The origins of this tradition, sometimes called ‘Killieween’, are hard to trace.

One local legend is that the tradition is connected to witches, accused of cursing villager’s cows, who were burned on the same day as the cattle market on the last Friday of October.

But this has been disputed by historians as there are no records of witch burnings in the town.

Instead, it’s thought the tradition could be linked to the last Friday of the month being payday, when people had more income to spend on sweets, apples, and Halloween treats.

Apple dookin’

An ancient Celtic tradition, apple dookin’ is a game which is still enjoyed by Scots at Halloween today.

A bowl is filled with water and apples and players must grab the bobbing fruit without using their hands.

Although the origins of the game are not entirely clear, some have argued it dates back to the Roman invasion of Britain when the conquerors merged their celebration to honour fruit tree goddess Pomona with traditional Celtic festivals.

Another theory is that dooking is connected to medieval times when witchers were “ducked” into water to determine whether they were “innocent” or “guilty”.

Treacle scones

Like apple dooking, treacle scones is a game which sees players try to pick up sticky, delicious treats without using their hands.

The origins of this tradition aren’t entirely clear, but scones have been around in Scotland for at least 500 years.

Nut burning

Robert Burns’ 1785 Halloween poem lists some of the many Scottish traditions of this festival, including nut burning.

The line: “Some merry, friendly, country-folks, Together did convene, To burn their nits, an’ pou their stocks, An’ haud their Hallowe’en

The tradition goes that an engaged couple must each put a nut onto the fire. If the nuts burn quietly, the marriage will be a good one. But if the nuts spit, there could be trouble.

Equally a single woman would select a hazelnut to represent each of her potential love interests. If one burned to ashes, rather than popping, custom dictates that would be her future husband.

Kale pulling

Nowadays it may be seen as a hipster superfood, but kale pulling is another classic rite of Scottish Halloween.

The green vegetable would be pulled from the ground after dark to predict a person’s romantic destiny.

The idea is the length and shape of the stalk would resemble a future partner’s height and figure, and any soil left on the plant would indicate their wealth.

In Burns’ Halloween poem, the part “an’ pou their stocks” refers to this tradition.

In a similar vein, another tradition would see a woman walk backwards into a cabbage patch.

The stalk of the plant would give clues to a future partner – gnarled meant old, smooth meant young, and little or no stalk indicated no marriage at all.

Source: Halloween in Scotland: 7 ancient Celtic traditions dating back to Samhain