Scots stuffed fish heads hailed in 1,000 greatest experiences


By Rory Reynolds

AN UNUSUAL Scottish dish has been included as one of the top experiences in the world by a respected guidebook.

Crappit heid – stuffed fish head – was hailed alongside global landmarks, like the Himalayas and ancient Inca ruins in the latest edition of the Lonely Planet’s 1,000 Ultimate Experiences.

The dish can be traced back to 18th-Century coastal communities near Caithness and Aberdeenshire, where poor fishermen’s families survived on fish heads after selling the best cuts.

They would fill the cod heads with oats, onion and liver after boiling the head in salt water for flavour.

The tome, which contains the world’s 1,000 greatest experiences, concedes that crappit heid might sound “less palatable than haggis”, but still lists it alongside taking a gondola ride in Venice and gambling in Las Vegas.

Crappit heid is described in the guide as: “Surprisingly tasty and healthy, with miracle-cure fish oils and plenty of protein.

“The best flavour is achieved by boiling the head in sea water.

“Sadly, it’s getting harder to find crappit heid on Scottish menus as it can be a difficult dish to prepare and the name scares many people away.”

Lonely Planet describes the name of the dish, which is Scottish for stuffed head, as “sounding like an insult an annoying little sibling might direct as the betters”.

Guy Cowan, who owns Guy’s Restaurant in Glasgow, said he tried to make crappit heid a regular feature, but couldn’t face the gruelling gutting process.

He said: “It wasn’t difficult to make crappit heid as is it a pretty simple dish, but it was a bit grim taking the insides of the fish head out.

“It didn’t taste too unpleasant, but I certainly wouldn’t want to have a bowl of it every day.”

The chef added that he plans to put an updated version for the modern palate on his menu.

He said: “I’m thinking of doing a contemporary take on it by wrapping a cod or haddock fillet around some haggis.

“It would be a more sophisticated 21st-century take on crappit heid, but there is no doubt that the name would have to go.

“I just can’t see people ordering something called that, no matter how tasty it is.”

Sue Lawrence, a food writer and TV presenter, described the dish as “deeply unpleasant” saying: “It is almost impossible to make, as fish heads and livers are very difficult to source and it is deeply unpleasant.

“The horrible thing is that cod liver is actually full of worms and I found myself rifling through them before I could add it to the oatmeal.

“I’m glad I tried it once, but I’m not sure I would ever want to make it again.”

The guide has also awarded a place to the English dish of Richmond eel pies.

It says: “The real taste of the Thames is at least two slippery customers, skinned, boned and baked in a pie, usually with boiled egg, sherry and nutmeg.”

“London’s waterways once teemed with these squirmy fish.

“If you can’t stomach a whole pie, the popular Cockney snack of jellied eels tastes a little like pickled herring – if you don’t mind the slimy texture.

“It’s a case of close your eyes and think of Eng-er-lund.”

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